The Serpent's Den of Buried Secrets (cont.)
After she explained the message to him, Marcus sat up clenching the arms of his chair.
"Covaley University? You're sure?"
Abby nodded quietly and asked, "Why?" She knew the university well enough. It was where Demetrius and Marcus both worked for a time. Abby found it nice enough but the areas cut deep into the watery bedrock always seemed to unsettle her for some reason.
Marcus thrust himself out of the chair and rushed over to his phone. Abby followed. As Marcus waited for the operator, he said, "I find it very strange that not only did this happen now but at that place. You see, I was about to mention Covaley University."
Before he could continue, there was a voice on the other end. Marcus stressed that there was a danger to the university in B4. The operator connected him to security, which "took down the information". Marcus glared into the phone and soon hung it up.
Brushing his hands together, Marcus looked at Abby. "Demetrius would always refer to Covaley University. He had one of the lowest areas, the abandoned ones, sealed up. And he'd use the term 'Abby's mother'. I never saw what was down there
Abby reached a hand out to touch Marcus. "Stop. Please. Just for now." Her words were quiet, almost a whisper. Abby could feel only half the words Marcus was saying register inside her head. And, with each one, a nightmarish vision of her father seemed to show more and more. Abandoned rooms. Sealed up. Her mother.
Marcus softly nodded. "Of course. And I'm so sorry, Abby. I know just bits and pieces. I fear I've just made things worse
Abby shook her head. "No. It's okay. I just
I need to keep focused on the Aiborae. I have no idea what to do about them
.but I do have a few ideas. So we better hurry. And bring some of your old candy you keep in the basement. We might need it."
Vivian looked down the hall with Dora clinging close. The door to the stairwell was at the end. She grinned and cracked her knuckles.
She could hear footsteps approaching from behind her. She didn't turn around. Dora did and watched with an excited gaze. Zoe slithered around Dora's neck.
"Everything alright over here? Thought I heard some screaming or something."
Calmly, Vivian turned around. A security guard dressed in the university colors. Young but steely-eyed. He had black, curly hair which seemed to rise like a wave at his forehead.
Vivian answered, "Everything is fine. The little one just got excited. Getting some extra work in. That's all."
He raised his eyebrows, which bent his large ears forward a little. His eyes strayed to Dora and Zoe. He asked, "Is that animal registered with the front desk?"
Vivian pressed her teeth together and fingered the injector in her pocket. There was enough for one more dose. She touched a hand to Dora's head and announced, "These are my girls
." Her mouth fidgeted, as though she wanted to say more, but she held a smile. "And little Zoe here signed in at the front desk
properly." She caressed the head of the snake and Dora gave a happy smile.
The guard lingered and noted, "Good. Then there should be no problem calling upstairs and making sure." Vivian nodded back. She resisted annoyance. While she didn't know this guard's name, she was sure he wouldn't be a problem. Still, she pondered the best way to surprise him. He wasn't armed, after all. Barely given defense training. Just out to make sure no one did anything crazy while intoxicated. Encouraged to report problems and use a stern voice and a strong demeanor when necessary.
He was a good deal taller than her but she knew how to deal with that. He used a small device in his ear to call the main desk. Vivian waited patiently and looked to Zoe. She was coiled and staring at the security guard with her black, green-ringed eyes. Vivian smirked with only the faint puff of a chuckle.
The security guard nodded and he asked for her ID. She passed it to him and he passed it back, listening to his ear piece. Eventually, his stern look relaxed. He said, "They say you came down with snake but your credentials are okay. That sounds kinda odd
what kind of snake is it?"
Vivian touched a hand to Zoe. "She's a special one. Would you like
a closer look?" She tapped Zoe and she launched from around Dora and sunk her fangs into the guard's face. Vivan caught Zoe as the guard screamed and staggered backwards. Passing the snake back to Dora, Vivian gave an appropriate gasp and said, "My word
she's never done anything like that. But it's okay
She fished the injector from her pocket and held it out for the trembling security guard. Although she figured, through the coursing pain, he didn't hear her. She said, with a strong emphasis, "I have the cure."
Abby clutched the bag of candy in her pocket. It was mostly caramels, gumdrops, and chocolates with a little bit of rock candy.
They'd taken the bus near Marcus's house and transferred to the subway route which led right to the university.
The trip gave Abby plenty of time to silently reflect on everything Marcus had said. The chill feeling in her arm lingered like she was sleeping on it. Her eyes twitched. She tried her best to breathe normally. Marcus placed his hand on Abby's hand until they arrived.
Covaley University hadn't changed much for Abby. The entrance had been polished a bit. Someone had changed the font on the sign but otherwise the same old chairs and lights were there with pale-blue counters and carpets.
Marcus lingered behind and glanced around while Abby hurried right for the security desk. She set both hands down and looked at the security guard with a handheld game sitting beside him. He was leaning back and rubbing his eyes. It took him a moment to look at Abby.
"My name is Abby Longbloom. And
I'm not sure how to say this
.You have dangerous creatures in your basement."
The security guard rubbed at his hairline. "Longbloom? A Doctor Longbloom already checked in. Are you with her?"
Abby's body tensed. And she looked back to Marcus. He looked like he was going to take a step towards her but he grimaced and stayed where he was. Abby asked the guard, "Can you
After thinking a bit, the guard shrugged and said, "About your height. Old enough to have kinda fading, grayish red hair. She had this weird green snake with her
one of my guys on level B4 saw her down there and was checking a strange noise. Called me up and I confirmed her. Guess she's a bit odd
you said dangerous creatures?"
Abby nodded. "Can you call that guard back?"
The desk guard kept his finger up, wanting to ask something, but he sighed and dialed for the guard. He rung five times with no answer. A bit of perspiration started to show on his forehead. Abby went around the desk to look at his equipment.
Abby urged him, "Are there cameras? Can you look down on B4?"
He nodded and mentioned, "It's an electronic system which has a method of reading danger automatically." He tapped some keys and immediately frowned. "And it seems like that's down due to maintenance. That happens sometimes, more so on non-class day. I'll pull up the video."
The first couple of camera views were pretty boring. Standard hallways. Empty labs. Dark rooms. Then, the guard stopped. Abby could see the woman the guard described. Marcus approached. Near Vivian Longbloom was a blond girl with unnaturally wide eyes and a security guard screaming on the floor as blue hair flowed over his shoulders.
The guard at the desk jerked back and cursed to himself. Abby turned to him and said, "You need to get everyone out of here right now and lockdown this entire place immediately." He glanced at Abby a moment and then back at the screen. The image on the screen showed a young girl marveling at her oversized, security guard clothes. The blond girl leapt over to hug her.
The desk guard took a breath and nodded before rushing away. It didn't take long before a horn-like alarm sounded with a calm, recorded voice saying, "Emergency evacuation. Please exit to your designated evacuation location."
Soon those on the video responded to the noise. The Aiborae covered their ears. Vivian Longbloom looked around and turned to the nearest camera. Her eyes were staring right at Abby. Marcus came closer and grimaced as he looked at the screen.
Through the speakers, Vivian said, "Is that you there, Abby? Come for a visit?"
Marcus put a hand on Abby's shoulder. "We should go. They'll close things down. It'll be alright."
Abby watched Vivian. There was a small, empty injector in her hands. She put it away in her pocket and pulled out something else. It was black. She smiled a bit as she looked down at it and remarked, "You're very close. I can tell."
With a frown, Abby tried to get a better look at the black object but Vivian put it away quickly. She looked to Marcus but he shook his head and answered, "Never seen that before. I imagine it's
some sort of tracking device." Abby agreed but she shivered at the idea. She looked around. There was no microphone to send a message down. She looked at what the desk guard had used to call the other guard.
She picked it up, activated it, and said, "Who are you? What do you want?" Abby watched the screen for a reaction. Sure enough, Vivian made her way over to the emptied pants of the guard. The blue-haired former guard danced a little with the blond.
Abby took a deep breath and listened for an answer. It was soft but clear.
"Hello, Abby. It's been a long time
. And, yet, I've been with you every step of the way. As for who I am
I'm Vivian Longbloom and I would have been your mother. But Demetrius
objected. He cut me out of his life. He took you away from me."
Marcus shook his head and leaned close enough to be heard. "Demetrius divorced you before you even knew about Abby. For good reason."
Vivian chuckled lightly on the other end. "Marcus
Still tinkering in the banal and the useless?" He pressed his lips together and shook his head.
Abby absorbed this information and frowned. "You didn't answer what you want
or why you're making Aiborae."
Stepping away from the camera a little, Vivian brushed the hair of her Aiborae. They cuddled close to her in their draping clothes. "I want what I've always wanted. A smiling little girl. Now I have two
.and I want an end to what Demetrius has done. I want to destroy the monster he has locked in the deepest basement level."
Marcus clenched his fist. People around were moving quickly, evacuating as the voice continued. Abby turned to Marcus with wide eyes and asked, "What is down there? What has Demetrius done which is so terrible it
needs all this secrecy? And what's in that package you kept for him?"
Marcus looked down at Vivian's grinning visage in the monitor and placed a hand over it. He made sure Abby had the communication device turned off. Then he quietly told her, "As I said
I'm not sure. And I can't say
it's so frustrating. But the package was
essentially Demetrius's last will and testament. And it was a reminder of everything that he was
the best of himself."
Abby felt a warm and wet with bleariness around her eyes. Marcus grimaced and said, "And that's why it hurts so much to tell you."
Taking a deep breath, Abby shook her head and brushed at her eyes. "So you're saying
Marcus shook his head. "No. I don't know
but I feel he is alive. The package was just making sure everything would be okay. Same as all the rest. Everything he did. Everything. It was to make sure you were safe."
From the monitor, Abby heard Vivian's voice. "So
will you come down and play with your little sisters, Abby? Will you come see the truth?"
Abby looked into Marcus's eyes. She knew he believed what he was saying. It just bothered her he wasn't giving more details. She wanted to press him. She wanted to press Vivian. But she knew those Aiborae, if they were like the ones she'd seen before, had only a short time before they started producing venom on their skin. She clutched the bag of candy in her pocket. Marcus shook his head.
Touching Marcus's shoulder, Abby reassured him, "Don't forget. I'm clever and careful. And I know there's a lot more going on here
especially with Vivian. She's planned this
.tracked me. Somehow." Her fingers brushed her goggles.
Marcus clutched her hand on his shoulder. "All the more reason to stay away if she's got a plan."
Abby shook her head. "But I can't let her do whatever she wishes with what Demetrius has down there
and I've been wondering. If she can follow me
then maybe she's seen my journeys. And what if that's where her idea for making Aiborae came from
Though he tried to shoot down that supposition, Abby was resolute. "I'm going down. But I promise to be careful."
Marcus looked into her eyes and let out his breath. "Of course. I'd expect no less from you, Abby." He smiled faintly and added, "I'll make sure it's best stew I've ever made tonight."
Abby grinned widely and told him, "It always is."
There were only a few people in the lobby now. The security guard was gone. Abby returned to the communication device and activated it. She took a long breath in and said simply, "I'm coming down."
She didn't wait for Vivian's answer.