I Am Tao (Part 35)

The concrete floor felt cold against his skin and sucked the heat from his muscles. If he remained here motionless like this, his body would begin to ache, but his mind could not force his arms to move. Instead, the solution from the tank dripped down his sides and formed a puddle beneath his back. The ceiling above him swirled in white, burning lights as his eyes came in and out of focus. Somewhere nearby, there would be a folded uniform that was assigned to experiments.

M-21 rolled onto his stomach, using what little strength he had to hold back a dry heave from the sudden rush of nausea. He pulled his knees under him and pushed himself up into a sitting position, already panting from the strain. The experiments had never left him like this before. Not this weak. Was it a new drug? A stronger one? He caught his breath and reached for the shirt on the bench next to him, yanking it over his head. The water from his hair soaked through the collar. Another pause for rest and he slid the pants over his black shorts before collapsing onto the bench.

The drugs were starting to wear off. Dr. Crombel would come in soon either to administer another dose of medicine or to evaluated his condition. Was Regis in another room like this? M-21 leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. He needed to clear his mind. If Regis was in danger, he had to use everything he had to protect that boy. He had fooled Crombel once before when he and M-24 had been offered a new experiment. It would be difficult to fool him twice.

[-] [-] [-]

"Are you okay?"

The boy shivered, rocking back and forth. "Memem."

"Are you okay?" She repeated a little louder this time, shaking his shoulder gently. The boy looked up at her. Confusion covered his face, but his eyes seemed to sharpen at her touch. "Are you ill?"

"Meme-I-me-mm-I'm-meme-im-immm."

"It's okay." She soothed as onlookers passed them by. "Take your time."

"Mem-I-I'mm-mem-im-am-smmm-memem-m-m-m."

"You are?"

"I'mem-mmm."

"I'm going to call for help." Yuna held her phone hesitantly. She promised Suyi not to go to the hospital, but she hadn't planned for this.

[-] [-] [-]

"One down, one to go." Mark happily strode into the observation room. The principal had not moved in the least. He still sat with his back to the glass with an untouched mug on the table. Wasteful. Mark turned his gaze to the other side of the room as he sipped his own coffee. Suyi stood near the glass and anxiously gripped the sleeve of her jacket near the elbow. She tried this hard to meet with the man, and now she didn't know what to say? "The Im Suyi? Heh. What a stupid girl."

A jolt of unease swept through the room. Mark lowered his cup from his lips. His skin was crawling. Trembling. He fixed both hands around his cup to keep them from shaking. The atmosphere felt violent. Terrifying. His heart quickening into a tumult as the aura thickened. There was a presence in the room, a darkness. It felt alive.

Suyi and Jameson stared awkwardly at each other, unaware of what was happening. What about the principal? Could he feel it? Mark turned around to face blue eyes. "Ahhg!"

He jumped back, spilling his coffee over his hands and onto the floor. The principal stood inches away, glaring directly at him. Mark scooted to the side, but the man's eyes followed him. How did he know? He shouldn't be able to see him! The two way mirror prevented that. Principal Lee was only looking at his own reflection, right? He gasped for breath. Why did the room feel so unnerving?

The principal's phone rang, and all at once, the atmosphere dropped to a comfortable level. Mark ran from the room while he had the chance. Whatever that man was, he did not stand a chance against him. Best to finish his work here and disappear as planned.

[-] [-] [-]

Why did she come here? The gray haired man should have protected her. There had been determination in his eyes. He wouldn't have let her come. Did that mean that he didn't know? Had something happened to him? That was it. Of course. Why else would she come here? Jameson carefully clicked on the safety lock, keeping the gun concealed under the table. Of course she wouldn't have come for just to visit him. Still, the idea that someone would visit, it was nice.

Suyi pulled on the fabric of her sleeve in a nervous habit that betrayed her thoughts. She had showed a little bravery when Mark was present, but now that he had left, her vulnerability was starting to show through. Her courage was an act just as it had been when she stopped the fight between him and the school guard.

"You okay?"

"Yes, I'm…" She wiped her sleeve under her eyes. "It's been a bad day."

"Heh," he cracked half a smile, attempting a joke to cheer her up, "that makes two of us."

She nodded, still uneasy. It didn't work.

"He, uh, Mark wasn't trying to…when he grabbed you… He wasn't…" Jameson cleared his throat, unsure how to proceed. "It had nothing to do with you. He did that to get at me."

"It… just surprised me a little." Suyi slid into the chair across from him and pulled her hair over her shoulder nervously. "What about you? Are you okay?"

"You don't have to worry about me." He grunted gruffly but smiled just the same. She was in a difficult position herself, and she was still worried about him. Good girl. "How'd Mark treat you? Ya find him likable? You know, other than what happened here."

"No!" She slammed her hands down on the table a little too loudly and, blushing, tucked them into her lap. "He… I don't know what to think of him. Everything he said felt like it had double meaning, like the way he said my name, and he kept telling me that you were guilty. He said you wouldn't be who I thought you were."

"He, uh, he was right about that, kid." His eyes fell to the gun on his lap and immediately shot up again. "If you don't like Mark, that means he doesn't have a use for you, a reason to manipulate you. He might screw with you a bit, but you're safe for now. Just leave before he changes his mind."

"I'm not going anywhere."

So determined. Jameson sighed. He would be proud of that if she hadn't been using it against him. "Look, I like ya. I don't want a nice girl like you getting mixed up in this. I'm telling you now. Leave."

"I have something that I wish to ask you." She said as professionally as she could. Her eyes motioned toward the glass to signal that she didn't not want to discuss it before an audience. "But we can discuss that later. I'm going to post your bail, Mr. Jameson."

It would be very clever if it wasn't so dangerous. Posting his bail would only attach her name to his, and ruining her reputation would be the least of her problems. "You don't know what you're getting into, kid. This isn't something you can handle."

"It's important."

"Look, I don't know anything about him."

"What?" The word sounded breathless.

Jameson frowned. He had been right. She was here about the gray haired man. "If he's gone, it's already too late. He won't be coming back."

"But-" She choked, tears swelling in her eyes.

"Forget about him." He refused to look away, meeting her tears with practiced callus. He had see much worse. He couldn't let her move him now. He could save just one. "You should leave. I don't know what Mark may have told you, but he didn't bring you here with your best interest in mind."

"Mr. Jameson, I… I understand." Suyi stood and pushed in her chair. "Mr. Jameson, are you really okay here? I could help you."

"I'm alright, kid. I don't need any help."

"Okay." She whispered and walked to the door. The handle didn't turn. Suyi looked at her reflection in the two way mirror. "Mr. Mark, I'm ready to leave now." A minute passed. Two minutes. She looked to Jameson, but his face had already paled with understanding. She didn't need him to tell her that Mark had locked them in.

[-] [-] [-]

"Calm down, Yuna." Frankenstein hushed into his cell phone, interrupting her rushed explanation. "What is this about a boy?"

She held her breath and released it slowly. "I found a boy on the street. He's ill, and I don't know what to do. I've never seen anyone act like this before. I was going to call an ambulance, but Suyi warned me not to go to the hospital. I just… What should I do, Principal Lee?"

What does Suyi know about the hospital? He stood near the glass, feeling for anyone in the observation room. No one was near. He was safe to speak as long as no one was recording the conversation. Even if they were, he could have Tao erase it later. Yuna was the most important thing right now. "What are the young man's symptoms?"

She touched the back of her hand to the boy's forehead. "I think he has a fever. He feels hot. He's holding his stomach like it hurts, and he's mumbling to himself. I can't tell what he's saying, but when I talk to him, he tries really hard to concentrate on what I'm saying. I know he wants to answer me, but he can't get the words out."

"Yuna, get away from that boy and call Tao."

"I can't just leave him, Principal Lee!"

Someone was coming. Frankenstein returned to the table and trained his eyes on the door. He would have to convince her quickly. "I believe the child is contagious. Call Tao. Tell him that I want him to take care of the situation. He will know what to do."

"I don't have his phone number."

"Just call the house phone. He'll answer." Only a few seconds. They were just outside the door. "Yuna, be sure to leave the area. Do you understand?"

A moment passed as she hesitated. "Alright, I will. Goodbye, Principal Lee."

The line went dead as the door opened. It was too late to conceal the phone call, but his mind wasn't on that. Yuna's hesitation. She was lying.

[-] [-] [-]

"Whooooooo-hooooo!" Tao cheered, bounding around the room in excitement. "I found something!"

"What is it?" Takeo asked as he automatically ran to the computer screen instead of Tao's side. "Get over here and show me!"

"Somebody has been searching M-21's name!" Tao laughed, flopping into his computer chair.

"Who?" Takeo asked as his own excitement dropped. M-21 and Regis were definitely in trouble after all, and someone searching M-21's alias didn't necessarily mean M-21 would be with them.

"I don't know yet, but it won't take me long to find out!" He laughed giddily as the phone began to ring. "Did you change your ring tone, Takeo?"

"That isn't me." Takeo shoved the back of his chair, spinning him in a circle. "That's the house phone, you idiot. I'll get it."

"We have a house phone?" Tao trotted along behind him as Takeo walked into Frankenstein's office.

"We're not really supposed to use it." Takeo hesitantly picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

"May I talk to Tao oppa?"