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‘Ah, this is interesting,’ Nicol said, upon staring into the open skull of Josephine Bull, the digital child that had been taken from Marsha Walker’s house. ‘Now I understand why what we were doing hasn’t been working. Just a slight twist on an idea,’ he said, tapping his pen against his tooth as he mentally joined the dots.
He almost fell over his own feet in his haste to get to his notepad.
‘Oh, Hank, you clever bastard,’ he muttered. ‘But I got here in the end.’
He chuckled smugly to himself, keen to apply the final piece of the puzzle.
Despite the lessons Nicol had learnt from studying Laverick’s modification of Josephine Bull, it still took him almost a year to obtain the result he craved.
He felt humbled by Laverick’s work.
And the reason that Laverick had begun this seemingly insane and impossible quest stayed with him always.
The unbreakable love a father had held for his stillborn son.
At times it brought a lump to his throat thinking about it.
But he had so much to thank Laverick for.
He was looking forward to finally expressing his appreciation.
And of course to picking his brains for the best way to continue his research.
Nicol followed Laverick’s lead and made a few dozen prototypes, to ensure that he had the procedure perfect before he began to mess around with Laverick’s head.
Bennett had brought in a decapitated body from a crime scene.
Nicol had watched as surgeons grafted Laverick’s head to the body so skilfully it wasn’t apparent that the two didn’t belong together.
When they had finished, he begun.
It was nerve-wracking stuff, but after a solid month of work, he had Laverick ready to take his first breath with his new lungs.
He closed his eyes, muttered a fervent prayer, and pressed the button on the computer.
Nicol shook his head with dismay when he saw that his months of work seemed to have been in vain.
His head dropped into his hands in utter despair.
He began to weep at the thought of everything he’d endured ending in failure.
A strange gasping sound from across the room made him look up.
The noise repeated as Laverick’s chest rose.
Laverick’s eyelids flew open.
He let out a scream of utter terror, raised his hands up to his face to defend himself from an unseen attacker.
‘It’s ok, Dr Laverick,’ Nicol said, smiling at him kindly.
‘What? Where are those maniac kids?’
Laverick’s hands dropped.
His face bore the most confused expression that Nicol had ever seen.
Then the penny seemed to drop.
Laverick let out a crestfallen groan and put his head into his hands. ‘Oh no, Dr Nicol, please tell me you didn’t do what I think you’ve done.’
‘I managed to track down Marsha Walker.’
Laverick shook his head, despairing, when he realised what had happened.
‘And we managed to take Josephine Bull into our care. I opened up her noggin and finally learned your secrets.’
Laverick sat in a stunned silence, staring at the floor.
‘I’d just like to say that, having seen the finished products, I am in utter awe of your work now. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to say that to you, but really it is something truly impressive. I am in your debt.’
‘You stupid bastard,’ Laverick snapped. ‘What’s dead should stay dead, haven’t you learnt anything from my idiotic meddling?’
‘There is nothing stupid about you or your work, Dr Laverick. You are a genius. And now, with my help, you will live forever. And together, we can make thousands of digital children.’
Laverick’s expression darkened.
A murderous look appeared in his eye.
One hand gripped the edge of the table, the fingers moving but stiff, uncoordinated, like a monkey using tools for the first time.
He pulled himself up, standing on legs that threatened to crumple beneath him.
His chest heaved with the exertion.
Nicol watched, awestruck, as Laverick staggered towards him.
It seemed even Laverick himself was unsure of what he was going to do next.
Then, without warning, Laverick’s shoulders tensed.
Before Nicol could react, Laverick’s bony fist was flying towards him.
There was an audible crack and Nicol fell back, clutching his nose.
Through the tears that began to blur his vision, Nicol saw that drops of blood had begun to fall on the pristine green carpet.
‘I won’t be a part of it,’ Laverick said. ‘Now kill me again. One life is enough.’
Nicol shook his head. ‘I will be doing this with or without you, Dr Laverick. But don’t you think your expertise will help to make the process safer? You can share what you have learnt from the previous generation of children.’
‘I want nothing to do with it.’
‘What would Martin think of it?’
Laverick paused at the door, his hand on the handle.
The right corner of his mouth twitched.
He turned his head for a second, giving Nicol a truly venomous look.
‘Martin is dead. You know that. You saw his body in the freezer. Please never say his name again.’
Nicol faltered for a second upon seeing the murderous expression on the revived doctor’s face.
‘Martin would want you to do it,’ he said, ignoring Laverick’s warning.
Laverick grunted like a wild animal and hurled himself across the room onto Nicol, who was attempting to regain his feet.
Laverick’s eyes were wide and wild, his mouth set in a grim parody of a smile.
His hands were pale claws that wrapped around Nicol’s throat and began to squeeze with terrifying force.
‘I told you never to speak his name again,’ Laverick hissed, spittle flying from his mouth.
Nicol saw black spots blooming in front of his eyes, like the tape running out on an old film projection.
His chest heaved, struggling for the breath Laverick’s hands were denying it.
Then Nicol was coughing and spluttering as air once more filled his lungs.
The attack was over as suddenly as it had begun.
Nicol looked up with startled eyes to see Bennett standing over Laverick, holding a black, palm-sized device.
‘Jax managed to get this up and running,’ Bennett beamed.
Laverick was snoring on the ground, curled up in the foetal position.
‘Good job,’ Nicol said, rubbing his neck which still bore two red handprints.
‘The fuck happened?’
‘Let’s just say he wasn’t pleased to be working on the digital children again.’
‘Well, now this device is paired up properly he won’t have a choice. He is our puppet now and he will do exactly as we programme him to.’
Next chapter is here
Part 3 of the story is linked to one of my other books, Digital Children. If you are interested in reading more about Dr Laverick and his macabre experiments, it is available to buy below: