"The fact is that we have no way of knowing if the person we think we are is at the core of our being. Are you a decent girl with the potential to someday become an evil monster, or are you an evil monster that thinks it's a decent girl?"
Chapter 1: Weird Sand
With a sigh, Margo resisted the strong urge to roll up the sleeves of her lab coat before starting her work once again. This time she had to stop in order to pull her long brown hair up into a messy ballerina bun so it would stay out of her face and maybe, just maybe keep the back of her neck cool in the sweltering heat of her lab. The time before that, she had stopped to strip herself of her t-shirt, leaving herself in only her white lab coat, white camisole, and the red plaid knee-length skirt she usually wore; even her shoes were off, despite her boss advising against it.
It wouldn't be so bad in there, she knew, if her lab wasn't in a tent in the middle of the desert. But there she was, only three weeks after graduating college with honors and as third in her class, with a prestigious job in the Anti-Villain League. This was the part she had known, as the AVL had head hunted her a year ago.
The part she didn't know until she had been given her first assignment was that the specific lab she was assigned to was in the middle of a desert. Hell, she wasn't even quite sure what she was supposed to be looking for, just that she was to report anything weird about the sand that they kept bringing to her in barrels.
Before she leaned back over the microscope she had been looking into all day, she looked over at the old photo on the desk to her left with a sad smile.
In it was her father, Felonius Gru, her mother, Lucy Wilde-Gru, and her two younger sisters, Edith and Agnes Gru.
Lucy had given her the photo—the last one they had taken as a family before Edith died—before she had flown out to the lab. Agnes had just wanted to mail it to her older sister so it would be a surprise but the lab technically didn't exist, and though their parents could've gotten the location as they both still worked for the AVL, they elected to not interfere with her work. (This was far more difficult for Gru than Lucy, and it was she who had convinced Gru that it would be best to allow Margo to do this on her own.)
Her smile dropped for a moment as her eyes lingered on Edith, wearing her favorite pink hat that obscured most of her blonde hair from view. The photo had been taken only two weeks before Edith had gone to stay with a monk on a Himalayan mountaintop to learn martial arts that few had ever learned before. She was, obviously, beyond excited to go.
However, only a week into her training, the mountaintop dissolved into nothingness before the eyes of a Sherpa and the people he was leading up the mountain. Nothing could be recovered to even suggest that Edith or the monk had ever been there, even though the monk had lived there for fifty years.
Margo turned to look back into the microscope once again to look for what she was now calling "weird sand", but saw nothing odd. She leaned up and grabbed the pencil sitting next to the microscope and wrote down the same thing she had written down the past 108 times: "NORMAL".
This was a good thing, she supposed, but she had been wanting to find something. There had been traces of a strange chemical mixture at the site where the mountaintop had once been that had been found previously in the desert she had been sent to, but the AVL hadn't thought anything of it until then. She was there to find the chemical within the sand and study it to see what it was and why it made the entire peak of a mountain disappear into thin air.
She took the glass slide out from underneath the microscope and grabbed the next prepared one.
The slide slid into place just as easily as the last; Margo secured it in its place before leaning over to check this bit of sand. It, too, was normal.
Sighing, she wrote this down and switched out the slides again.
She did this again with the slide after that, and the one after that too.
But the next slide, she found something odd.
Quickly, she stood straight up and rubbed her eyes to be sure that it wasn't the fact that she was tired making her see things before leaning over to double check what she was seeing.
"What is that?" She muttered to herself. It looked like something was…eating the molecules that made up the sand.
She stepped over to the phone on her desk next to the photo of her family and punched in a number. "Hey, this is Margo."
"Ah, yes, Miss Gru," a distinctly English accented voice said back formally, "have you found something?"
"I think so. It's…weird," she told him. "I think it'd be best if you came down here to see for yourself."
"Alright," he responded, "I'll be there presently."
She placed the phone back in its cradle and went back to the microscope to find, much to her shock, that whatever was eating the sand had progressed significantly. She took the slide out from the microscope and looked closely at the visible bits of sand to see it slowly breaking down. She turned the slide over to look at the label underneath that had the number of the barrel the sand had come from.
"Number one three five," she said to herself as she placed the slide gently back onto the lab table.
She walked over to the corner of the tent where the barrels of sand were being kept so that they wouldn't be in her way whilst she worked, and moved each of the wrong ones out of her way. The correct one was, of course, the final barrel she had come across.
Margo reached to take the lid of the barrel off as the flap of the tent was thrown aside for a thin man who was challenging the heat of the desert by wearing a black suit. His name was Peter Dicks, and he was the leading supervisor of the labs set up in the area. "Margo?" He narrowed his eyes when he saw that she had barrels all over that half of the tent and was about to open the only one still in the corner. The formality that had been present in his voice on the phone had disappeared almost as easily as it had come. "What are you doing?"
She stepped over to him and pointed at the barrel she had been about to open. "That's the barrel the weird sand came out of!"
"'Weird sand'?" He raised an eyebrow.
She nodded and pulled him over to the microscope; she placed the slide back in its place underneath the magnifier. "Look!"
Seemingly skeptical now, Mr. Dicks leaned over the microscope for a few seconds before pinning at Margo with an annoyed look. "Is this a joke?"
"No, it's not. Isn't it weird?"
He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Margo, there's nothing there!"
"What?" She leaned over the microscope again, finding, to her astonishment, that the sand was completely gone. "No, that can't be. Not already! It wasn't progressing that fast!"
Mr. Dicks sighed. "Perhaps you should get some rest."
"No, there was sand—" She went over to the barrel she was going to open before he'd walked in. "It came from this barrel!"
"Margo, darl—" He paused when she, with ease, opened the lid of the barrel, only to find it hollow and empty. Almost as if there hadn't been anything inside at all. "What?" He stepped over to the barrel as well and looked inside. "I authorized this barrel yesterday. It was full."
"That's what I was hoping to show you," she told him. "The sand that I observed under the microscope had something eating away at it. Maybe we can get more from that area so I can record what I see—where's my microscope?" They both looked over to find that not only had the microscope seemingly disappeared into thin air, so had everything that had been on the table, including Margo's coffee.
Mr. Dicks knit his eyebrows together at the sudden disappearance of his scientist's stuff. "What the…?" He and Margo both yelped as the table she had been working off of apparently dissolved from top to bottom. "Get out," he said softly as the floor of the tent was dissolving and Margo grabbed for her sneakers. "Get out!" He took a knife out of his pocket and sliced open the wall of the tent; he shoved Margo into the sand outside and dove out after her.
They sat up in time to see the remainder of the tent dissolve before them.
Margo slipped her shoes on and stood when Mr. Dicks did. "Looks like we found what caused the mountaintop to vanish," she said to him without realizing it.
"It seems so, love," he responded. He gestured to the vehicle behind them where a driver in a white t-shirt and blue jean shorts was staring at where the tent had been in shock. "Let's go back to base. Maybe we can send a team out to recover something from this area later."
Slowly, she nodded and moved toward the Jeep until screaming from the driver alerted them. Seconds later, the Jeep and the driver were both gone, leaving absolutely no sign that anyone or anything that had ever been there.
"Bloody hell, run!" Mr. Dicks took off, knowing that Margo wasn't far behind.
They didn't have to look to know that the sand behind them was dissolving away into nothingness as they ran, they could hear it as a shhh noise coming closer and closer. They were sure, though, the adrenaline running through their veins would push them to make it back to the base hovering not too far away.
But as soon as the base came into sight, the sand caught up to them and they began to fall back into whatever was causing the sand to disappear.
Margo screamed, thinking she was about to die, but fell back against a force field that was holding her and Mr. Dicks in a sphere. She sat up in the sphere and following the energy beam that was controlling it to a familiar large silver vehicle floating above them.
Mr. Dicks looked up at the vehicle with shock. "Who the hell is that?"
"That's my dad," she replied with a smile.
As the sphere was being lifted to the vehicle, they looked back to what had been the desert beneath them, but was now a sinkhole. Even the base that they had been running towards for safety had disappeared into whatever void had consumed that portion of the desert.