I'm sorry about this being so late, but Christmas was rather hectic and I had more work to upload, but I am hoping to be more regular. Anyway, to a reviewer who asked I will get to the rest of the SPLAT gang in good time, try to be patient.
Hope you enjoy what I've written.
"Months after the mess with the Super-Salamander, my dad got a job offer working for the Biogenic Research Centre. We were forced to move to a village where the BRC was based," Dinah said after a few moments of gathering her thoughts and choosing her words, "when we arrived… it was just a basic country village, nothing to write home about…but the BRC was there. From what I heard, their line of work was fairly mundane; they were trying to solve food shortage problems with genetically engineered plants. But there was someone there. Someone none of us thought we'd see again."
"Who?" Angelica asked.
"Rose? What was she doing there?" Lizzie wondered if the Headmaster had done something to manipulate the Carters into going there, but somehow she doubted it since Rose hadn't been involved in Dinah's second encounter with the Headmaster.
"She and her family had moved to the village; I dunno for sure, but I have a suspicion the Prefects' parents were hypnotised as well. Rose's mother might not have known the full extent of what had happened, but she knew enough to know Rose needed to recuperate in quiet. When we realised she was there…," Dinah trailed off with a shake of her head, "when she came round to our new home, we were far from welcoming; Lloyd and Harvey had great reason to be bitter towards her. I was torn myself, a part of me wanted to trust her, but at the same time, I remembered the near sadism she'd used against others while under the Headmaster's control. I didn't know what Rose was going to do next, but one thing troubled me when we spoke to her. Every time one of us brought up the Headmaster, she would say she didn't want to talk about it, and after hearing how she repeated the same sentence a few times…"
"You knew she'd been hypnotised?" Ethan guessed.
Dinah nodded, but her expression was troubled as she remembered that weird time, which she would later see as one of the weirder moments in her life. "Yeah, but I had other things to think about. I befriended a boy called Simon James. He was a boy who was fond of nature, and his room was full of books and posters of badgers, birds, things like that, but he also liked going out late and taking pictures. His family had a history with the BRC; his mother had worked for them before she died in an accident, although I don't know what it was. Anyway, he'd noticed a weird vine-like plant which grew at an incredible rate, and it grew incredibly long when exposed to red light. But at the same time… he'd been seeing signs of wasps in the woods near the BRC."
"Why's that so weird?" Tyler asked.
"Because all the signs were wrong somehow, and it confused him; he left traps around the woods, you know how naturalists leave large pieces of dry wood lying around covered with something sticky to attract them so the wasps chew the wood? Well, Simon did that, but he realised something was wrong. All the signs pointed to a wasp of particularly large size."
Lizzie shook her head and yelped in disbelief. "What? Okay, now I'm beginning to think you're mad-."
"How do you think I felt? Ever since I met the Headmaster, my life had become a sci-fi show for real. One night, I went out with Simon to see what was going on, and Lloyd came out with me, although I didn't know about it, at least not at first. He had an accident and he was knocked into a coma."
"Oh my god," Angelica whispered.
Lizzie agreed with the sentiment. "Was he alright?"
"No, he'd been stung by the wasp, and the hospital staff weren't able to find anything to bring him out of the coma," Dinah closed her eyes as she reflected on those dark days in the village while they'd waited to Lloyd to show some progress. "I tried to find out what was going on and why Lloyd was in the coma; I knew it had something to do with the BRC, and Simon agreed with me. The others….," she shook her head, still unable to believe the sheer stupidity of the rest of the SPLAT gang. Even now it made no sense, and that was nothing compared to how they had come to believe the lies spouted by the hypnotised Rose.
"They didn't agree?"
"No. I later found out Rose had been whispering in their ears, telling them I didn't care about Lloyd. Well, I certainly gave them proof of that," Dinah's face darkened with anger; she had long since forgiven the gang, but she had made it clear if they ever thought that way of her again, they'd regret it. "While I was fielding nasty comments, jokes and all other kinds of bad feelings from Harvey who was lashing out because he was terrified of Lloyd's death without realising or thinking I was upset as well, although unlike them I was actually trying to discover what had happened, I spent most of my time with Simon trying to find out the truth or trying to study the creeper. I had never encountered anything like it in my life. It grew so quickly I was frightened, and I was out of my depth. I took a sample and sent to a scientist, Professor Claudia Rowe," Dinah smiled fondly, remembering the cheerful but brilliant scientist, but her smile faded as she remembered another part of the story. "And we were the only ones who realised anything was going wrong, especially when that doctor came round to the house."
"Doctor?" Tyler stared quizzically at Dinah, surprised by the inclusion of a doctor of all things into this story.
Dinah nodded. "The local GP; she spun a story anyone with common sense would know was full of holes about Lloyd. She used a cheek smear to gather DNA. The police and medical practitioners use cheek smears for collecting DNA. I knew she was lying."
"She was going to the BRC with your DNA, but why?" Ethan shook his head in confusion as he tried to make sense of what he was hearing.
"She was taking my DNA to the Headmaster. Soon, Simon became intrigued enough about the BRC and the strange things going on there, and so he decided to take the law into his own hands. He somehow got into the place; there was a tunnel leading from the BRC to the woods, and he was caught by the Headmaster. And that was when he saw something surprising in the Headmaster's lab," Dinah paused as she shook her head as she remembered this part of the whole mess in that damn so-called picturesque village where everything had spiralled out of control faster than a horror movie, "in the Headmaster's lab, there was this enormous egg. Simon was there when it hatched. And I came out."
"What?" Lizzie and the others said in disbelief.
"It was a clone," Dinah explained further, shaking her head as she thought about the sick plan the Headmaster had in mind that time, "grown from the DNA sample from the cheek smear taken from me earlier, but it was a hybrid instead of a full clone, human DNA mixed with lizard DNA. Simon told me, the Headmaster wanted a subject who was completely emotionless."
She paused for a moment, reaching into her jacket and she pulled out a tablet and after a few moments of manipulating the controls she passed it over to the kids near her. Lizzie's eyes flew open when she saw what was on the screen. It was obviously taken from security footage at the BRC - from what she knew of Dinah and her past with the Headmaster 20 years or so ago, the entire system was probably not digital so the older woman must have taken the footage and put it into a more secure digital format for it to be in this tablet - and it showed a laboratory with bare walls with terrariums full of animals like lizards, and a desk while the tall form of the Headmaster whose face she, Ethan and Angelica had seen at the school.
There was a platform, but what really caught her attention was the massive white egg. It was hatching.
Lizzie turned her gaze to her friends, all of them were looking at egg differently; Angelica was looking at the egg, a slight sense of fear in her eyes, and likewise Tyler looked like all of the worst horror movies he had ever seen were about to come true in real life. Lizzie knew how her little brother felt.
This is not happening. Dinah's lying to us. This video is fake! A part of her mind screamed, but no matter how hard she wanted to deny what she was even seeing, Lizzie knew this was not a fake.
Finally, the egg hatched, and the Headmaster stepped to the side revealing…
It was Dinah.
She was naked and covered in slime and fragments of the egg, but it was Dinah. But there were weird differences, one of her hands was a scaly reptilian paw complete with claws, there was a patch of scaly skin on her face, and…. She opened her mouth, and a long lizard-tongue flickered out.
But that wasn't the scariest thing.
Lizzie did not know Dinah that well, but she had to say if somebody placed the woman she had just met today and placed this girl next to her, then Lizzie would still know who the real girl was. The real Dinah was more human, more emotional. Human. There was no emotion on this girl's expressionless face.
"Why doesn't she have any feeling?" Lizzie asked.
"How do you mean?" Dinah asked.
"She doesn't seem to be human..," Lizzie trailed off, unable to properly describe what it was that was bothering her.
"Ah, its the lizard side, isn't it? The Headmaster chose my DNA because of my intellect, but he spliced it with lizard DNA. Lizards are, as the Headmaster describes them, emotionless. That what he wants; an obedient but highly intelligent race of people to order about. That girl," Dinah poked the screen of her tablet with her finger, "was only a prototype. She wasn't meant to live long, she was only meant to give the Headmaster insights into improving the design."
"Improving?" Angelica echoed, her voice showing how disturbed she was anyone would need to improve a living being like they were something that had just rolled off of a production line.
"Yeah," Dinah's expression was displeased and uneasy, showing she felt precisely the same. "The clone was a work in progress. The Headmaster knew he had the building blocks for a race of people whom he could control, and would be everything he wanted; efficient, obedient, just the kind of people whom he could make decisions for."
The quartet watched the clips from the BRC for the next hour. They watched as the Headmaster took the new Dinah to a workstation after she'd been dressed in basic clothes, and completed some kind of program, and when the girl was finished and the Headmaster congratulated her, the girl could have been a machine for all the praise she received. And then the Headmaster gave her the name 'Eve.'
"Eve?" Angelica echoed, making Dinah pause the clips on the tablet. "As in the creation myth?"
"Yes," Dinah nodded in confirmation.
"He's got an ironic sense of humour for someone who doesn't show humour," Tyler observed.
"Yeah, but I think he did it more out of spite. The Headmaster believes ordinary people are irrational," Dinah explained, "and any talk about things like monsters, goblins, wizards, or magic, and he would say they were illogical."
"Did he ever say any of that?"
"Not that I know of," Dinah admitted, "but whenever someone cried or acted stupidly, he would go off on a rant about inefficiency brought on by emotions. Shall we see more?"
The clips on the tablet showed them everything, but as they saw the video show Dinah who was obviously not her clone, adult Dinah spoke up whenever the Headmaster was not speaking although the kids knew what his plan was. The clone was sent into a small network of tunnels built into the BRC where she would have a set of weapons there to deal with the real Dinah, and Lizzie sent Dinah a curious look.
"Why was he so set on having you two fight each other?" She asked the older woman, who likewise paused the tablet's clip. Lizzie had listened to the Headmaster's coldly given ultimatum, disgusted with how far he was willing to go, although why she expected anything different from a man who had gone away, more than happy with the idea of a bunch of kids being incinerated alive in a tower with no way out, she did not know.
Lizzie had no idea how Dinah had felt at the time that the Headmaster had not only tricked Dinah's adoptive mother but held the key to saving her adoptive brother, too.
Dinah was silent for a moment as she tried to think of a decent answer to the question. "I think he wanted to see which one of us would triumph; me or her. Eve was cloned using my DNA and was spliced with lizard DNA, but the Headmaster gave her enough information about what she would find in the tunnels as I did. I think he wanted to see the whole experience, like the Romans did with their gladiatorial games, but he did it for a practical reason instead of some barbaric pleasure. I think he wanted a first-hand analysis of how he could improve the design of the clones."
Lizzie processed that and she glanced at her friends and her little brother. Strangely it was Tyler's expression which told her that Dinah's statement made sense. And as she thought about it herself, Lizzie had to admit it made sense as well. Dinah had said the clone was merely the prototype for a much larger plan. The clone was imperfect. While she was as intelligent as the real Dinah, the clone - Eve - just was not perfect in the Headmaster's eyes. It made sense the Headmaster would want to place Eve in a strict battery of tests.
But what kind of tests?
How long would the Headmaster have spent tinkering with the genetics of the unholy bonding between a human and a lizard until he believed he had it perfect? Well, whatever the answer was, Lizzie was willing to bet they would never know what the answer was now. But still, Lizzie let her mind wander as she considered what it was the Headmaster had wanted to do with the lizard girl. She knew most new things that came along needed to be thoroughly tested, and yet Lizzie found it hard to imagine the lizard girl would be that good against just one person. They shared the same DNA even if half of the lizard girl's came from, well a lizard. Lizzie wondered if it had occurred to the Headmaster to seek out other intelligent individuals, people who were not Dinah, and test them against her. That would make sense, and it would also help the Headmaster refine the genetic code he wanted to impose on the human race.
Lizzie was snapped out of her thoughts when Rose returned and the Headmaster chided her, and she realised Harvey and the others had gone into the tunnels as well, and he made it clear he had prepared the trap for just one person. Dinah. Now there were three others down there, so the results he wanted would be flawed. While she could see his perspective, Lizzie actually thought it could go both ways since the clone would need to cope with new variables.
But then she looked deeply at Rose.
There was…something familiar about her. Yes, the girl was a stranger and the security footage was twenty years old, so if the girl was still around she would look much older than the young woman on the tablet screen, but Lizzie could not help but think she was familiar… she glanced over her shoulder, and saw Tyler's puzzled but curious expression. She wasn't the only one, her brother had seen it too.
"Did your friends realise Rose was lying to them by that point?" Angelica's question snapped Lizzie back to the present, and she turned her head to look at Dinah.
"Yes," the older woman replied. "They confronted me before I went to the BRC; they accused me of not caring about Lloyd, but at the time I was trying to stop going to the BRC. Rose had been given an order to send me there, so when she was at our house Harvey tried to phone me, and she answered instead. Rose lied to me as part of her programmed instructions to further drive a wedge between me and the others, and she said it was Simon. I shouted down the phone without realising it was Harvey, and he was angry with me when he got back. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I told them the Headmaster was back, and he was behind the creeper and a massive wasp which had attacked Lloyd."
Dinah replayed the tablet's footage. The small gang watched as the younger Dinah tried to get a piece of wing from the enormous wasp (the sight of it frightened Lizzie, and she wondered what other things the Headmaster had been working on in the BRC), while the rest of SPLAT tried to reach her, and the clone Eve tried to follow her orders, while in the main laboratory Rose worked on freeing Simon while the Headmaster busied himself monitoring the whole thing. Finally, a fire was lit, panicking the wasp but Dinah managed to get hold of the wing, while Harvey and the others tried to find her…only to find the clone instead, before the clone and Dinah came face to face.
"That must have been eerie, coming face to face with somebody who was not only your height and build, but had your face," Angelica commented.
"It was," Dinah's eyes crinkled as she watched herself pull the clone away, back to the door of the laboratory. "The moment I saw her…I finally understood the rules behind the Headmaster's scheme; I'd known he was there for a while, but I hadn't been able to prove it despite the evidence. I just could not understand why he was trying to split me from my friends. I didn't understand why he had taken such a step, and I just could not understand why he was meddling with the genetics of wasps and plants. All I did know was there was a bigger purpose behind it. The Demon Headmaster never plays games; he does everything for a reason, and there is always a plan there. But the moment I saw Eve and realised she had been the one to start the fire, I started to understand."
The quartet watched as the SPLAT gang managed to get the clone into the laboratory, but she fell apart - Dinah held up a hand to forestall any questions, just gesturing at them to watch and to listen to what the Headmaster said. They listened as the Headmaster, coldly, explained the clone was a prototype, and she had been genetically programmed to age rapidly and then die. To the Headmaster, she had served her purpose, and she had given him a lot of knowledge on how to improve the basic design.
Lizzie had never been a big believer in god. She might have been when she was younger, but as the years passed, and she grew older and more experienced, she began feeling more sceptical towards such things, but as she watched the screen, she could not help but wonder if there was some higher power at work, because the Headmaster, mid-rant about how he had human evolution in his hands and he was going to rewrite it to create a new race who would be intelligent, efficient, and emotionless like himself, was yanked off of his feet and pulled towards the Evolution Accelerator he had built, and he vanished in a flash of light.
Dinah turned off the tablet. "I won't bother showing you the rest; needless to say the entire creeper grew out of control, and the day was saved… yet again," she added with morbid sarcasm.
"You don't seem happy about it, Dinah," Ethan commented.
"I'm not. All of this… some of it makes me and my friends out to be heroes, but this is not something I would have chosen. We only did what we needed to do because it was the right thing to do, to stop the Headmaster stamp out everything that makes life good, and replacing it with a world where you are locked away in your own programmed mind," Dinah replied.
She had never stopped the Headmaster out of a desire to become a hero. A part of her had been taken by the challenge, of investigating what the Headmaster was doing during his schemes, but the rest of it was because of her own fear, fear the Headmaster would remake the human race into extensions of his will.
"What happened to Lloyd?" Tyler whispered.
"Oh, he was okay in the end; he couldn't remember the whole story, but he was himself again, we all were… all of us except for Rose," Dinah frowned as she added the name of the girl who'd been the acolyte of the Headmaster.
"What do you mean? What happened to her?"
"She disappeared. We forgave her for what she did during the whole mess, but she never forgave herself. Rose was so lost to her own guilt, she slowly withdrew from us, and then… she just disappeared. She packed up everything that meant something to her, and she took some money and then disappeared. She left a letter with her mother, who had also been hypnotised by the Headmaster regularly too, and I think she knew more than she let on, but she knew nothing about Rose's plans," Dinah said grimly. "None of us have seen her since. When I joined the intelligence services and used their resources to determine if there was any sign of the Headmaster, I tried looking for her, but because of the time gap and the lack of new information, the trail had just gone cold, and it doesn't help the police found few leads the first time around."
Lizzie wondered with a frown if she should mention how Rose looked familiar to her, and she played with it in her mind for a few moments before she decided to give it a shot. "Dinah… when I saw Rose's face, heard her voice… she looked familiar, somehow."
Dinah blinked in surprise. "What?"
"Yeah, me as well. We knew she would be older now, but she's definitely familiar; the problem is we dunno who she is," Tyler interrupted.
Dinah looked between the two siblings bemused and surprised, as were Ethan and Angelica. Neither of them had expected the Warren siblings to recognise Rose. "How…familiar is she to you both?" The older woman asked at last.
Lizzie and Tyler shared a look and then turned back to face Dinah. "I dunno, it's hard to explain, but I feel like we've known her… all our lives," Tyler said hesitantly.
"All your lives?" Dinah repeated softly, rubbing her chin thoughtfully for a moment before she manipulated the screen of the tablet. Curious, the teens looked over her shoulders, and they found Dinah had opened a photograph of Rose as a prefect. Lizzie frowned as she studied it closely. Now she had a closeup of the young girl who'd been hypnotised so long ago by the Headmaster, Lizzie and Tyler were given the perfect opportunity to see if they did know Rose Carter.
But they quickly hit a roadblock.
They did not know anyone with a birthmark placed on Rose's face like this and who had lank dark hair and dark eyes… wait. Lizzie frowned as she took in the girl's eyes, seeing something there. She thought to herself for a few minutes, and then her eyes widened, her heart pounding before she reached into her pocket and drew out her mobile.
"Lizzie, what is it?" Tyler asked in concern.
Lizzie didn't answer. She just went to her photos in her phone's memory, and she picked out a photograph she had taken of her mother from their time in America before their return to their home country. She held up the phone and put it to the side, examining the picture of the older woman compared to the younger girl in the tablet's photo. They could see clearly how the general outline of Rose's face matched that of Mary Warren's own features, and the start of Rose's maturity was clearly shown on the tablet's screen. Her breath hitched in her throat, and she heard the gasps from Dinah and Tyler. They had both worked it out.
"Mum," Tyler gasped, and Ethan and Angelica looked between the two siblings in surprise.
Mary Warren was Rose Carter.