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Chapter 2: "Trepidation"

June 10, 2008|By EVA NIESSNER / Pulse Correspondent

It came as absolutely no surprise to Icarus Shortfuse the next morning that the entire Gemini Institute of Finer Sciences was in chaos when he arrived. People were running around, seemingly randomly, talking quickly. A huge number of reporters swarmed around like biblical locusts. A bulletin board had fallen down, and none of the day calendars had been changed. Elderly Dr. Kragg, a silver-haired man with the features of a Roman emperor, sat in the lobby with a fresh coffee stain on his lab coat.

"Dr. Kragg?"

"Shortfuse, m'boy," Kragg said, "It's a wreck down here! It would do you good to skip work today. We'd like the interns to stay out of this. If only I could "

"What's going on?" This came not from Icarus, but an intern his age and in his same field. Aurora Benjamin had short blond hair that contrasted with her smooth black eyebrows. Lavender contact lenses gave her an ethereal stare.


The old doctor addressed them both. "I suppose it can't hurt you to know, but in case it does, you didn't hear it from me. A specimen from the Confidential Case Quarters was released and it's malevolent."

"What kind of specimen?" Aurora asked at the same time Icarus said, "What do you mean by 'malevolent'?"

Dr. Kragg waved away their questions. "Ask somebody who works at the CCQ, for heaven's sake! I'm having enough trouble with my ticker without getting involved in the details. And then beat it. They're calling the cops."

Calling the cops. Lovely. Icarus hoped they weren't the practically psychic kind who seemed to be able to detect guilt just by looking at you.

Aurora tapped his shoulder. "Come with me! I have a huge presentation today. I'm not canceling without a good reason. I've been ditching my boyfriend for this."

"What do you want me to come for?"

She sighed. "They respect you more. They think I'm immature."

Maybe you shouldn't wear those stupid contacts, then, thought Icarus.

So Icarus found himself being dragged to the offices of the CCQ. Dr. King-Brightsly was sitting at the desk. Unlike Dr. Kragg, Dr. King-Brightsly was poised like a hunting dog with a scent, ready to pounce on the first clue that came her way.

"Benjamin. Shortfuse. Didn't Dr. Kragg tell you to go home?"

The doctor's thick auburn hair was wilder than usual and her silver eyes reminded Icarus of twin guillotines. But Aurora didn't back down.

"You were the one who said be ready at eight sharp to give our presentations!" she said. "I've been working my butt off for this, so I'd like to know what's going on!"

The guillotines flashed menace at Aurora. "This is far more important than your essay on the evolution of Bigfoot, Miss Benjamin. Badenne has been released."

"What's that?" asked Icarus.

"A entity of uncertain nature. The closest word would be 'ghost.' And she's vicious," King-Brightsly said. "We heard about four years ago. Residents in a town in Western Maryland said she haunted a house. Since we at Gemini are investigating the scientific nature of ghosts, we jumped at the chance to acquire a specimen. We managed to contain Badenne in a molecular container that appears to bind the fundamental particles ghosts are made of. But since there's so little research on containing ghosts, the prototype was far from perfect. And now she's loose, due to some some ..."

"What kind of ghost?" Icarus cut in nervously.

"A vengeful kind - one that likes to wreak havoc," King-Brightsly said. "The people who owned the house thought it might have been a poltergeist."

A short, plump secretary walked in.

"A police officer is here to see you, ma'am."

"Excellent," King-Brightsly replied crisply. "Let him in."

To be continued

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