I soaked in the jacuzzi bath for about forty minutes, I was determined to wash away all the dirt, death, and sin from my body. I used damn near half the bottle of some expensive bath tonic and scrubbed myself with vigor, there was a faint aroma of lavender in the air, that aided in calming my nerves.
I hadn’t meant to stay in here as long as I had, it felt so rude but I couldn’t help myself, I was sure Saundra Dee wouldn’t mind as she said to make ourselves at home, yet I still didn’t want to over do it. Once I had gotten out, and put on my cloths, I found out Jerry, Sera, Husk, and Patience were still enjoying their baths, I just shook my head and chuckled.
This place was huge, and state of the art, not to mention beautifully decorated. The house had so many technically advanced marvels, I didn’t even think were invented yet, the last time I seen anything like this was with Zachari at Hunter’s party. Along the side of each entrance, where the light switch would be, there was a holographic interface on the wall panel. It knew who you were as a guest and allowed limited, yet extensive, control of the room you were in. It projected a small three dimensional replica of the estate and showed you where everyone’s exact location was, it color coded if they desired to be interrupted or not, it could even tell you your vitals, like if you should be eating or sleeping.
Unfortunately that feature didn’t really work on me, it said I was in a state of sleep all the time, so I had it disabled. The AI even spoke, but only to the mistress of the house, it didn’t sound like a man or a woman it was something in between, the tone, so uniquely pleasant to the ear. I went to the guest suite where Caiden and Granny were, the woman was so still and so silent, it was like she was watching but she really wasn’t. Caiden was afraid to put her to bed but she needed to rest, he feared she might go into a coma and never wake up, I tried to sell the unlikelihood of that happening with her positive vitals.
He needed to relax, and so did she, we all did. The world was taking its toll, living didn’t come easy anymore, you had to earn it.. you had to want it.
“Lay her down and let her rest, it won’t be long before we’re back on the road, plus you need a shower anyway.. Your scent it strong, and your gonna start stinking soon, I don’t want to have to drag you outside to the hose.”
“Fine, I’ll put her to bed and go clean up.” He said, sounding slightly defeated.
“Dinner is in an hour, please be there on time, we don’t want to be rude to our host..”
“Yes mother, God!” He remarked sarcastically, sounding like an annoyed teen, I just smiled at him as I left the suite.
Once out the door, the AI suggested that I have something to eat, my blood sugar was low and I wasn’t drinking enough water. I said thanks, not even knowing if I was supposed to or not, and made my way to the kitchen. I could smell the aroma before I even got to the dining room, our host had prepared a feast, it was something you would see on Thanksgiving or Christmas, it was a wonder how she had managed it all. There were no other people here, just this sole woman, how did she survive all alone? How had she retained her sanity?
“Oh, Loki! Remarkable timing, you may have a seat here young man, the rest of your comrades will be down shortly.”
“Absolutely, may I ask how you managed such a feat? This is an amazing display..” I inquired, gesturing to the feast before me, the fine china sparkled with engraved embellishments.
“Though I love to cook my own meals, this particular regale is thanks to KITT, the AI is able to replicate recipes of mine that I’ve bookmarked. But, some of these are meals created by KITT himself, I love his flare for baked desserts, those treats are quite the sinful delight.” She sounded so proud of her interactive home, in all honesty it sort of creeped me out to have sentient eyes watching you twenty four/seven, but I couldn’t deny this technology was some next level shit. “You could never tell that he uses the three dimensional replicator to prepare the food, the meals just seem to pop out of thin air, it’s fascinating. Every serving is perfect because he’s copying a meal I made myself, I only save the best of the best, and KITT never disappoints.”
Everyone started to make their way downstairs, as they shuffled in they could see seating was assigned, and they all found their place. She had sat the Wolf to her right and Sera to her left, I was next to him, Tzar was next to me. Caiden sat across from me while Bloodhound was opposite my cousin, Patience was next on our side, and Husk was across from her. Ending out the table were her least favored guests, Jerry and Karishma. They could be seen sulking and whispering, clearly upset about their distant placement. Buster ran under the table, maneuvering through our legs, until eventually heading toward the food KITT prepared for him, even the dog food smelled good.
“So Serafi, my darling, I must hear the tale of your misfortune, I couldn’t imagine having your strength and resilience.. it’s quite admirable indeed.”
“I’d rather not rehash wounds so fresh, forgive me.” Sera answered, looking on edge as she evaded thoughts of the tragic memories, I knew all too well what she was going through.
“No my dear, forgive me, how crass of me to ask such, when the scars haven’t healed. I truly do apologize.”
“None needed.” The younger woman told her, accompanied by a soft smile, as she fingered the dog tags around her neck.
“So tell me, Wolfie, what brings you this far out of the way, is it correct to assume you’re heading to Lost Creek? That would explain the two Pawns, but not the civilians that accompany you..” She was quick witted, inquisitive, and incredibly informed, who was this woman? Why was she so favored?
“Loki has acquired an immunity to infection..” He started to answer, but he was interrupted by the Doctor, she had such an elitist and condescending tone.
“I think we can all agree that statement is a false assessment at this point, any earlier classification of his condition was misguided given the events we’ve witnessed, it’s safe to say he is most indeed infected. The proof is all there, the regenerative ability, the altered speed, strength, and agility. He’s not immune to the virus, his body is in a completely osmotic relationship with it..”
“Regardless, he seems unaffected by the negate mutations, and he hasn’t turned, if anything he is surpassing the limitations of being merely human..” Sera spoke up, defending me, but the Doctor scoffed at her.
“Oh my, this is quite an interesting development.” Sandra exclaimed, grabbing hold to the Wolf’s wrist. “Think of the implications, think of what this could mean, it’s the sign of a new dawn approaching.”
“–Madam, dessert is ready, should you so desire it.–”
“Thank you KITT, please prep the dish to be served.” She replied, sounding as if she was speaking to an old friend.
“–As you wish.–”
“Mama Dee, this is some of the finest dining I’ve partaken of in years hunny, it was truly a treat.” Tzar mentioned to her, drawing one of her warm smiles, she was fond of the pet name some in the group had given her.
“Do you have more money than Oprah, Mama Dee?” Patience asked, the tone of her voice, so innocent and amazed.
“Hahaha, not quite precious, thou I’m hovering in the low end of her arena. Wealth is important but connections are so much better, always remember.. the key to life is who you know.” The older woman answered her, with sage advice, I was taking notes.
“You didn’t seem surprised to see us when we pulled up, it was as if you were expecting us as guests.. what if we were hostiles?” Caiden asked, clearly concerned with the lack of security, that measly gate wasn’t going to cut it.
“Oh, my dear, I knew you were coming as soon as you entered the very outskirts of Bidwell, KITT keeps a keen eye out for intruders and vermin, and we have several concealed weapons systems throughout the area, I had all the workers in town return to their homes, we had bunkers built below for them to live until the crisis is over, or until their presence is truly needed. KITT is keeping a watchful eye over them, and let’s me know when my presence is needed to ease any worries. For instance, there’s a young girl, the daughter of my chauffeur, she suffers from a devastating case of claustrophobia. Once a week, I bring her up for a walk outside, it makes do.” She grew quiet clearly thinking about the townsfolk, I could see she truly cared about them, but there was a legitimate chance they’d never be able to return to the surface.
“So am I to understand, you work for Arkham inc. too?” I asked, drawing nervous eyes from several faces at the table, particularly the Doctor and Jerry. “If there is anyone but me and the dog, NOT on their payroll, please raise your Goddamn hand because this is getting ridiculous..”
“Officially retired, unofficially an active advisor through ownership of eight percent share in the company.” She answered, as if my question unfazed her, she even looked me dead in the eye.
“Did you people cause this? This was all Arkham’s doing, wasn’t it?!”
“That’s correct.” She paused a moment, barely a second, and her eyes moved to the end of the table. “We have one of the lead geneticists on the team that created it, sitting here at this very table.. I would even say she was the lead of the whole project, isn’t that so Karishma, the ReGen project was your brainchild, wasn’t it?” The woman asked, with that never waning polite and classy demeanor, though this time accented by a wry smirk.
“That’s classified information Saundra, I abstain from comment. What I will say, is that anything I’ve done is directly ordered from those on top.” The younger maven replied, a sneer painted across her lips, she was too pretty to snarl so it made her look sort of crazy.
“So are they sitting in some sort of castle in the middle of nowhere like you? Or in some pathetic bunker underground like the pussies they are?!” I had started getting upset and raising my voice at this point, the world had ended at the whim of the elite tampering with things they couldn’t control, I had lost everything I loved for nothing.
“No sweetie, those people are long gone, and away from here.” Mama Dee answered with absolute melancholy, taking a graceful sip of her champagne, like she didn’t register or care that I was freaking out.
“Good, I’m glad they’re fucking dead..” I said, tears streaming down my eyes at this point, the Wolf had put a hand on my thigh to calm me discreetly.
“Oh no, they’re not dead, but they ARE long gone from here, child.” She said while her finger pointed towards the ceiling, several eyes had gotten wide, but I didn’t get what she meant.
“He really launched project Sirius?! They really left us?!!” Jerry exclaimed, I think he pulled some of his hair out, he was freaking.
“No, they haven’t you imbecile, we wouldn’t be of need now if they did.” Karishma scolded him, looking like she was ready to strangle him. “Just shut your bloody trap, you loud mouth!”
“Wait.. What are you people saying?” I asked, still confused, what were they talking about?
“I’m saying they left this earth, my darling.. those responsible for all this have left us here.”
“They abandoned us..” Tzar cried, he was trying to compose himself, it wasn’t working.
“I guess we truly are the Damned.” Sera whispered softly, her face stern.
“Could someone pass the gravy?” Karishma replied in unwavering nonchalance, giving her undivided attention to the food in front of her.
I couldn’t take anymore of this, I felt stifled, like there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room and a blanket was over my head. I rose from the table suddenly, making everyone jump, surely they had thought I cracked. The eyes were one me, they all watched me intently, I had to leave.. I had to get out of here.
“Excuse me..” I muttered, as I departed from the table in a hurry, I could hear a few voices call out for me but ignored them as I ran.
I cut from each grand room to the next, unable to find an exit, this place was immense and easy to get lost in.
“KITT get me the fuck out of here now, please!” I cried, at the end of my wits, feeling so defeated and frustrated.
“–Take the door to your left, keep straight, you will find the nearest exit.–”
“Thank you.. Thank you so much..”
I wiped my tears and ran through the door, and entered another dining room, so I kept going, the next doors bringing me to a kitchen fashioned in stainless steel. As soon as I saw the glass doors leading to the back porch, I made a dash for them, once outside I let the brisk air fill my lungs and found comfort in the cold wind’s embrace.
After crossing the back deck and making my descent down the stairs, I started to walk along a pebble stone trail, following the path wherever it would lead me, unable to stop my gaze from drifting up toward the glittering night sky.