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Chapter Twenty Six

The funny thing about how a doctor's office smells is... it really doesn't.


Sure, you can smell the people, but that's about it.  Places like that are always so sterile that it's almost like you're in outer space.  At most, you might get a whiff of the alcohol they clean everything with, but that's it.  When your nose is so sensitive that you can rely on it almost as much as your eyes, not being able to smell anything is spooky.  I'm not ashamed to admit it, doctors’ offices creep me out, even if it isn't for the same reason most people are creeped out by them.


That's why, when I came to and the first thing I smelled was a doctor's office, I immediately sat bolt upright in bed.


"Where am I?" I blurted out, my mouth running on autopilot because my head wasn't awake enough to form words on its own yet.  The room had white walls, white floors, and a white ceiling.  I was lying on a bed with stark white sheets.  It all had the combined effect of making me feel like I was looking directly into the sun, and I had to close my eyes again before they got burned out of my skull.


"Calm down," someone said.  My breath caught in my throat, and I turned my head to see a man sitting at my bedside.  He was old, what was left of his hair was white, and he had bandages wrapped around his head, covering his eyes. "You're acting like there's a rattlesnake in your bed."


I blinked a few times before my brain woke up enough to recognize him. "Mordecai," I said.


He nodded in reply, his face as solemn as a statue.


"So, that means," I slowly pieced together, "that I'm back in Majestic's headquarters again."


"That is corr—" He didn't get to finish, because I'd thrown my sheet over his head and leaped out of bed, my heart pounding a mile a minute.  I didn't care how I had gotten here, or why, all I knew was that they weren't going to keep me here for much longer.  The door was on the other side of the room, and I made a beeline for it.  I grabbed the handle, threw the door open, and charged out into the hallway.


Or, at least that's what I meant to do.  Instead, the door refused to open, and my panicked brain wasn't able to process this in time, so I ended up running face first into it.


"What the hell?" I asked, stepping back and rubbing my nose.  I grabbed the handle again and jiggled it, but the door still wouldn't open.


"Hmm," Mordecai mused, and I turned around to see him pulling the sheet off his head. "Perhaps there was a rattlesnake in there.  I can't think of anything else that would account for such rude behavior."


"Why can't I get out?" I demanded.


"Because the door is locked."


My face turned red, and a wolfish growl came out of my throat. "I know it's locked.  Why is it locked?"


Mordecai sighed in exasperation. If he had any eyes, under those bandages, he was probably rolling them. "Because you're a dangerous wild animal who nearly killed two people earlier today.  Why wouldn't the door be locked?"


Before I could ask again, the burst open and suddenly I had a bright red gem in my face.


"Step away from the door," Victor commanded me.


"Screw you!" I shot back. "I'm leaving, and—"


"Amber, I will kill you if you don't do exactly what I say.  Step away from the door!"


For a second, I was tempted to ignore him and make a break for it anyway.  I was Majestic's fallback if their other Silverblood died during testing.  They wouldn't just kill me, would they?  There was something in Victor's voice that made me pause, though.  Something that told me he would do exactly what he said without a moment's hesitation.  That gem on his scepter was already glowing and ready to blow my head off of my shoulders, so...


"You sure know how to treat a guest," I said, slowly raising my hands and backing away.  I stopped when the backs of my legs touched the bed.


"Sit down on the bed," Victor said, still standing in the doorway with the scepter pointed at me.  I did as he said. "You've been brought here after the attempted murder of a Majestic battle mage, a battle mage who was assigned to protect you, no less."


"Screw you and Edgar!" I snapped. "I'd be safer without your protection."


Victor ignored me. "Not to mention a second attempted murder on a girl who attends school with you.  A girl who, if I'm not mistaken, was supposed to be a close companion of yours."


My breath caught in my throat.  Stacey... yeah, I did try to kill her, didn't I?  My heart sank into my stomach, and I slumped forward.  What had gotten into me?  Killing Ed was one thing.  I'd probably try again if they gave me the chance.  But Stacey?  My best friend?  And for what, because she'd gotten on my nerves once or twice?


"Is she okay?" I asked in a hoarse whisper.


Finally, Victor lowered his scepter. "Miss Pencilton is uninjured.  We brought her here to make sure of that."


My head shot back up. "You brought her here?  Aren't you supposed to be—"


"She already knows you're a werewolf, stupid girl," Victor cut me off. "There isn't much point in keeping the company a secret now."


I shook my head.  Right now, Stacey was either screaming in terror, or completely mute with wonder.  I honestly had no idea which was more likely.


"I don't know what happened," I confessed. "Ed said something, and suddenly I just... lost control."


"Which is why you're in here, with the door locked," Mordecai interjected. He paused, and then turned to face Victor, who was still standing in the doorway. "With the door locked."


Victor turned his scowl on the blind old man for a second, and then finally stepped further into the room and pulled the door closed behind him.


"What's going to happen now?" I asked, looking down at my knees.  Part of me was rebelling at the thought of humbling myself like this in front of Victor, but that part was buried under my shame and embarrassment.


"We have already begun the process of altering the memories of those who witnessed your little tantrum," Victor answered. "When we’re finished, nobody will remember it."


I breathed a sigh of relief and nodded.  That was good.  I wouldn't have been able to show my face there ever again, otherwise.  I still had a feeling I'd be having flashbacks to that tantrum, as Victor called it, every day from now until I graduated.


Wait a minute...


I looked up again. "What about Stacey?  Does that mean her too?"


"Yes," Victor replied with a curt nod. "Miss Pencilton's memory will be erased as well."


My pulse spiked when I heard that, though I didn't know why. That was good, right? Make her forget the way I'd nearly torn her face off. Make her forget I'm a werewolf altogether. Finally, taking a deep breath, I nodded my agreement.


There was another knock at the door, and Victor opened it to admit another visitor.


"There she is!" he exclaimed, and kicked the door open before Victor had even opened it a crack. He came inside, his white lab coat flying behind him like a comet's tail and his eyes open wide with amazement. One of those eyes was focused unblinkingly on me, while the other stared just as intently at the floor. His crouched down so we were at eye level, and that put his face only a couple of inches away from my own. I leaned back to create some space, and a look of surprise crossed the man's face. Then he broke out in another wild grin and he giggled, making his lazy eye jiggle in its socket like some kind of broken toy.


"Still in excellent condition, I see," he said, standing up and turning around to look at Victor. "Good work, excellent!"


Victor bowed his head. "Thank you, Dr. Lacken."


"She's a strong one," the mad doctor said, looking over his shoulder at me. "She'll be an excellent test—"


"Screw you!" I yelled for the third time, springing back to my feet. Dr. Lacken yelped and ducked, and suddenly the room was colored red by the glowing gem on Victor's scepter.


"Sit down!" he roared.


I met his gaze for a few seconds, and then balled my fists and stayed standing.


"Or what?" I challenged him. "You'll kill me?"


"That is what I said, isn't it?"


I allowed myself a smug grin. "You'd kill one of Dr. Lacken's test subjects? His very, very valuable test subjects? Right here in front of the doctor himself?"


Victor's scowl deepened.


"Oh, this does sound like fun," Mordecai quipped. Through all the excitement, he hadn't moved an inch. "I wish I was able to see it!"


"She's right, of course, Victor," Dr. Lacken said, scuttling out from between us and standing up. "There are only four Silverbloods in existence. We can't go around killing them just because they have a tendency to overreact."


"Overreact my butt," I muttered under my breath. Dr. Lacken was looking more and more like he needed his good eye to match his bad one, but despite my big words I wasn't going to attack a Majestic employee with Victor aiming that thing at my head.


"I suppose that's true," Victor finally consented, and he finally lowered his wand. Just a little bit, though, and then a flash of red energy shot from the gem, blasting me right in the kneecap. I screamed in pain and shock, and collapsed back onto the bed. "But there are ways to incapacitate someone without killing them."


Hot, searing pain was coursing up and down my leg, and I gasped for breath. I looked down at where he'd shot me, but immediately had to look away to keep from throwing up.


I couldn't move my leg.


"Excellent!" Dr. Lacken said. I opened my eyes and saw him staring down at me like I was a baby in a cradle. "Let's get her loaded up, shall we?"


Victor nodded and left the room. He came back a minute later with a wheel chair.


"I was beginning to think that the Silverblood project was over," Dr. Lacken told me, so cheerfully you'd think he was talking about his favorite sports team. He and Victor each took me under the arm and hoisted me into the wheelchair. My head was still reeling from the pain too much to fight back. "But then I got word that someone in the original's pack had undergone the full transformation! I don't think I'd been that happy since the day I dissected my sister's kitten!"


"You're disgusting," I said, and then moaned when they set me down in the chair. My leg throbbed with pain.


Dr. Lacken waved off the remark and headed for the door. "Now all we have to do is figure out what triggered it. What was it that made you different from the hundreds of other werewolves we tested it on?"


Hundreds? Even through my pain, I couldn't help but notice that. Had he really said hundreds? Hundreds of test subjects, and how many of them had been successful? One.


I was about to give him a piece of my mind, dead leg or not, when the burst door open a third time. Dr. Lacken barely had time to dance out of the way before it squashed him against the wall. He spun around, a trace of annoyance finally showing on his face.


"I thought I gave clear instructions that nobody would..." he yelled, but then his voice trailed off when he saw who was on the other side of the door. "Mr. Wrogan! How good to see you!"


Mr. Wrogan had to bend over at the waist to fit through the door, but when he stood back up I swear the room became a little darker— and not because he was blocking out the lights.


"Dr. Lacken," he returned the greeting. His voice was low, like a thunderstorm at the other end of town, and his eyes were as dark as shadows. "I don't recall giving you permission to visit Amber."


"Well, I hardly think I need permission to retrieve one of my test subjects," Dr. Lacken chuckled. His scalp was shiny with sweat.


"Amber is not one of your test subjects," Wrogan said. "I thought I made that perfectly clear the first thirty times you asked me."


"You can't be serious, though!" Dr. Lacken spluttered. "I- she went through the transformation! You said so yourself! This is a breakthrough we had no right to expect. How can you even think about just letting her leave?"


Mr. Wrogan stepped out of the way, and someone else came into the room— and the weirdness level skyrocketed.


"Hey, Lewis," I said, managing to speak through the pain.


The blue skinned, eight armed whatever-the-hell-he-was cooed softly in reply, like a pigeon, and then grabbed Dr. Lacken with all right of his hands, lifting him off the floor as if he only weighed as much as a bag of cotton balls.  The doctor let out a "meep" of fright, but didn't struggle.


"Because I gave her my word," Mr. Wrogan answered. Looking at Lewis, he said, "Take him away and ensure that he doesn't come back."


Lewis cooed his agreement, and left the room, cradling the mad scientist like a baby.


"You too, Victor," Mr. Wrogan said, turning around with some difficulty.


Victor, who had been standing behind me with his hands on my wheelchair handles, did as he was told without complaint.


"I was only following orders," he said when he was in the hallway. "I won't accept a mark on my record for doing my job."


"You know good and well that my authority supersedes Lacken's," Mr. Wrogan shot back. "You knew I had given him orders to stay away from Amber."


Victor's brow creased with anger.


"I was only—"


"You disobeyed me, and you will be disciplined as such. Another year of service will be added to your contract."


"A- another year?" Victor echoed.


"Be glad I don't make it three!"


Victor's hand tightened around his scepter, so much that his knuckles turned white, and for a minute I thought he was going to blast his own boss.


"I'll be filing a dispute with Mr. Vaazkima and Miss Shavver," he spat.


"Do what you will," Wrogan spat right back, and slammed the door in his face.


The room was deafeningly silent without Lacken and Victor in here, and Wrogan rubbed his forehead wearily and sat down in one of the chairs by the wall. It groaned and sagged under his weight, but held.


"This is getting out of hand," he groaned. "Vaazkima and Shavver are trying to take control of this project away from me."


"How horrible," Mordecai sneered. Mr. Wrogan pointed wordlessly at the door, and Mordecai hopped from his seat and hustled out of the room. How he had known Wrogan had pointed, I have no idea. I was learning to ignore little things like that.


"Here, let's get your leg fixed," Wrogan said. He held a hand out, and a beam of white light came out of his palm. It shone on the knee Victor had blasted, and almost immediately the pain went away. I cautiously bent my leg, and sighed with relief when it didn't hurt.


"If you think the project is so bad, then why don't you shut it down?" I asked, looking back up at him.


Wrogan shook his huge, shaggy head. "The Silverblood project is not bad, Amber. We're trying to accomplish something good with it. If a few werewolves have to lose their lives for it, then that is an acceptable price to pay."


"A few?" I shot back. "What happened to a hundred?"


Mr. Wrogan looked away and didn't answer.  I didn't say anything else either, content to let him stew in his guilt.  We sat in silence for several minutes, the only sound the creaking of his chair.  How did that thing manage to hold him up?  Majestic was a magical corporation, but did that mean that literally everything in this building was magic?  Were my bedsheets magic?  Was my pillow enchanted to stay fluffy and cool?  Maybe I'd try to swipe one on my way—


"We need to talk about your friend," Mr. Wrogan said, his deep voice interrupting my thoughts. "Stacey, was it?"


"You're going to wipe her memory, I know," I replied. "Make it so she can't remember anything that happened today.  Victor already told me."


Wrogan took a deep breath, and when I looked into his eyes I saw sadness in them.


"I'm afraid not, Amber," he said.


I sat up a little straighter. "So, you're not wiping her memory?"


Mr. Wrogan shook his head. "No, we are wiping her memory, but we're not just wiping today's events."


My pulse began to race again, and I remembered my initial surge of panic when they'd told me this.


"What do you mean?" I asked.  A pit was forming in my stomach.  I had a feeling I already knew what he meant, and I prayed to whoever might be listening that that wouldn't be the case.  Still, one way or the other, I had to hear it.


"We're wiping her memory," Wrogan told me with a grave look in his eyes, "so that she won't remember you at all."



NEXT TIME: BOOM!  Mic drop!  Other dramatic ways to end sentences!  What do you guys think of that?  Not only did Amber nearly kill her best friend, now she’s not even going to remember her.  A little more of this, and Amber may just go psycho… which may or may not be exactly what I want.  Look, a distraction!  *cartoon running away noises*




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