Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 22

Dr. Layla Kanish looks up at him, a huge grin pasted across her entire face. Tears well up in the corners of her eyes, magnified by the way her glasses have slipped down her face. “I should be really mad at you but I’m too happy you’re okay. I didn’t think I was going to see you again.”

DeMarcus smiles, squeezing her closer. “You need to learn to trust me. I told you I’d be alright.”

“People say a lot of things when they’re trying to be brave. Come on, you didn’t really think you could handle that did you?”

He shrugs, unsure how to answer. Did he think he could handle it? If it weren’t for a weird sort of luck he certainly couldn’t have but when he left her he didn’t know how bad things were. “Hard to say I guess. Wanted to.”

Looking him up and down, she fixes her glasses and looks again. “What are you wearing? This definitely isn’t something you’d pick out.”

He glances at the door, the sounds of Beast trying to get to them still clear. He hoped she’d invite him inside, maybe make some coffee. So far there’s no move in that direction. He looks down at his clothes. A pair of loose jeans and a hoodie. Not his normally sharp sense of dress but it isn’t that bad. “It’s what I could get cheap. I had to get by on what I had left over on my credit cards and it isn’t much. I was going to stop into the apartment and change but when I got there the lock was changed.”

She holds a finger up, looking down. “Don’t go there, at least not yet. That’s when I have to get mad at you and I don’t want to be mad yet. You can afford a lot better than this. We’re all getting good severance packages. Have you seen yours yet?” He shakes his head. “They’re good. You’ll be happy with it but it might take a few weeks to get.”

“Can I come inside? I’d love to sit and relax for a few.”

Her hand covers most of her face for a moment. She looks to be thinking. “If I say yes do you promise not to tell Jesse? I don’t want him to think I’m choosing sides.”

“I’m hoping after I get a chance to talk to him there won’t be sides. Things didn’t go down the way you probably think.”

Hearing the dog still yipping, she crosses her arms and says, “Alright, you can come in but you need to spill, sound good?”

“Fair.”

She pushes her way inside, calling Beast after her so he doesn’t mob DeMarcus. The place is a bit of a mess with several glasses on the coffee table and a bunch of empty fast food wrappers beside them. Blankets are thrown all over the couch and mail’s piled in a stack on the recliner. DeMarcus can’t remember ever seeing Layla’s apartment anything less than spotless. He doesn’t comment on it though, moving the mail out of her chair and sitting down. “I really appreciate it. If I leave I’m afraid I won’t come back.”

Layla walks into the kitchen and the sound of the fridge opening can be heard. “Want anything to drink? I don’t have a lot but I can do water, tea, or coffee if you give me a few minutes.”

“Coffee might be nice.”

The sound of a coffee pot being started brings a smile to his face. Walking back into the room, Layla’s carrying a cup of tea. She moves one of the blankets aside and collapses onto the couch. Beast chases behind right on her heels and jumps up to snuggle. Seeing DeMarcus he wags his tail and hops over onto his chair. His tail goes wild as he runs all over the man’s lap and chest. “Beast, go see her.” He points at Layla and after only a moment the dog does as he’s told.

“Sorry about him. He loves people.” She rubs Beast’s head furiously.

“I know. So where do you want me to start? There’s a lot to tell.”

Setting her tea on a coffee table after one last sip, she leans forward. “Well okay, from what I understand you ended up in the hospital after everything that happened, some weird injury or something they couldn’t talk about. You told Jesse you didn’t want to see him or talk to him until everything was over. Is that more or less right?”

He breathes deeply. Is telling her the right move? Nobody told him there would be an issue if he started talking but somehow when dealing with an unknown government group holding American citizens prisoner against their will that seems to go without saying. He leans forward. “I’m going to tell you the whole story, but it’s going to sound kind of crazy.”

A smirk spreads across her face. “Those are the best stories.”

“This is serious. I think it might even be dangerous so you need to keep it to yourself. Can you do that? I don’t want to get you in any sort of trouble.”

Her smirk’s gone now but she doesn’t look less interested. She takes her glasses off and inspects them. Realizing how dirty they are she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a package of cleaning wipes. “Sorry, haven’t had much need for these the last few weeks. I can keep stuff to myself. I want to know.”

“What do you know about KJC2800?”

Layla’s eyes go wide, though after a minute she seems to get them under control. She sets her cup back down after taking a sip and brushes her hair out of her face. “I think I should ask how you know about that but I’m guessing you ended up in one of the main labs.”

“That’s right.”

“I worked on it. Some, it wasn’t my project. It was Kriss’. I helped him refine it though.” She stops to think for a moment. “I signed non disclosure agreements on this stuff DeMarcus. I can’t risk my severance. Tell me what you know, I’ll let you know if it matches up with what I know.”

Leaning back in his chair, he closes his eyes. She’s going to make this hard. “It’s a mood alteration drug. Meant to put people in a certain state of mind and make them easily suggestible. Useful for interrogations and things like that. That sound more or less right?” He opens his eyes in time to see her nod, biting her lip. “Good news, it works better than you can possibly imagine.”

Her hands start to tremble so she puts them on her knees. “Were you exposed to it? Is that why you had to go away and couldn’t be around people? Kriss was getting close to human trials but we weren’t there yet. There were some weird results in the last round of animal testing.”

“That’s news to me. I don’t know about any trials or anything like that. I was exposed though. To a lot of it.”

“How much?”

“Three canisters of it were shot right as I locked the doors down. They filled the room. I was breathing the stuff for the better part of an hour before the room was blown open and it got into the facility.”

Turning white, Layla puts her head in her hands. “You’re lucky to be alive.”

“I know.”

Peeking over her hands, she quietly asks, “What did it do to you?”

Laughing, DeMarcus leans forward. “You aren’t going to believe me.”

“Try me.”

“Alright, I got powers. I would say things and people would have to do them. Like, I’d say drop your gun and they’d do it. I’d say tell me where your people are and they’d do it. That’s the only reason I got out of that place alive.”

She blinks a few times and stares at him. Grabbing her cup, she takes a long sip, draining the last of her tea. “You’re right. I don’t believe you. That’s insane.”

“That’s what I’m afraid Jesse’s going to say. They had me in an underground place downtown. None of the letters he got were from me. I mean, it’s only been a few weeks. How would multiple letters get here from me that fast?”

“They could have been overnighted.”

“Do I seem like the type of person who overnights things? Come on, really.” He throws his hands up and then buries his head in them.

Layla continues to stare at him. “You’re not joking are you?” He shakes his head. “Hell. That’s not even something we thought about. Why would we? None of the animals could talk to us or tell us to do things. None of them were ever exposed to that much either so maybe this only happens if you breathe in a ton of it.” She jumps backward on the couch. “Wait, you’re not doing it to me right now are you?”

“No.” He shakes his head before putting his hands on his forehead and groaning. “For one, it only seems to work if I’m direct. Asking questions, suggesting things, that doesn’t work. I have to be like, ‘Come here boy.’” He pats his leg as he says this and Beast runs to him, wagging his tail and trying to lick his face. “Down.” The dog sits a little calmer but he’s still practically shaking. “Besides, it wore off. They ran a bunch of tests and the effect kept getting weaker and weaker over time. At first it didn’t last quite as long, then the range got smaller, then it was a suggestion people could shake off if they didn’t really want to do it. It’s gone now. If it wasn’t they would never have let me go.”

“Jesse’s not going to believe you. He’s going to think you’re full of crap.”

“I know, I don’t know what to do.”

Standing, she walks into the kitchen and comes back with a notebook. She starts jotting down notes on a piece of paper before tearing it out and handing it to him. Looking it over, it has a lot of the details of the formula. “I can’t prove it effected you this way but I can confirm a lot of what you’re saying. Hopefully that helps. Did you just get out today?”

“Few days ago. They tried to get me to agree to take more of the stuff and see if it would reactivate but I figured I got lucky enough surviving the first time. Didn’t really care to press my luck.”

“Oh I wish you had. I’d love to know if this can be replicated that easily. There’s so many possibilities. Kind of surprised they didn’t pull me in though.”

“Think they want to keep this quiet.”

“Oh sure.” She tries to take a sip of her tea but the cup’s empty at this point. She gives it a surprised look. “Be right back.” She’s in the kitchen for no more than a minute before returning with another cup. She has a second cup with coffee for him. A little cream and a little sugar, just how he likes. “With Kriss gone though, there’s nobody else who knows more about that stuff. I could have helped. Do you know if they had his notes?”

“They didn’t share a lot with the prisoner.”

She looks down in her cup for a minute. “Fair. This isn’t working. Hang on.” She returns to the kitchen and comes back with a bottle of tequila and two shot glasses. “I need a drink.”

“It’s ten in the morning.”

“Is that a no for you then?”

Thinking for a minute, he shrugs. “Pour me one. I’m going to need all the courage I can get when Jesse gets home.” She pours the shot and hands it to him first without making her own. He downs it in seconds and wishes he had a lime. Without waiting for one though he hands the glass back to her. “Another please.”

Part 21

Part 23

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