Sherdan thought about Anya’s test results while he was being driven to London for his interview. If it wasn’t the enzyme that had given her an ability then there was a possibility someone else had done something similar. The only other explanation, was the existence of some higher being or force; a force that wished Anya to be with him and to one day be his wife.
When Sherdan arrived at the news room he did as he had done at the previous interview and became lovely and gracious in an instant. His host, like last time, was female and he charmed her while they were waiting and watched from the edges while the rest of the news was broadcast. He would be last on the air before the weather.
There wasn’t much in the news except the continued chaos in the Gaza Strip. Sherdan smiled slightly. It wouldn’t be long before they had something else in the news; something much closer to home.
Sherdan was waved onto the set when it was finally his time to speak. He was introduced in a very formal way and a clip of the police trying to get into his facility was shown to the viewers.
“Dr Harper, it appears that your facility has technology which the rest of the world doesn’t know about. Could you explain how you’ve managed to keep such advances from the public and what you intend to do with it?”
“The technology is a recent development by the people within my program. As I’ve said before, I give people the chance to start again; to find a new talent and put themselves to use. There are many other great developments and projects thanks to the people who have joined me.”
“Why have you put all these barriers up if people are welcome to join you?”
“The residents who’ve already joined me feel that their privacy is important. They, like me, understand that other people can often feel like they are threatened when a group of people make huge leaps in technology. The feeling of threat can make people do things they regret. The barriers are there to protect my residents from the organisations that might react whether they be a few individuals, a city, or a government.”
“You don’t think that you make the threat appear worse by segregating your community?”
“It potentially does but it’s not meant to. We mean no one any harm and anyone is welcome to join us. I do want my residents to feel safe, however, and this is one of the precautions.”
“Thank you Dr Harper. Am I right to understand that there’s been an arrest notice put out for you?”
“Yes, there was for a few days. The Mayor of Bristol is one of these people who reacts with force when unsure of things. He didn’t like me privatising the roads between my resident’s houses.”
“But that arrest request no longer stands?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Do you have any other surprises in store?”
“Yes. A few at least.” Sherdan smiled, “I’ve not finished with my plans in the slightest.”
“Can you tell us some of your plans?”
“Not very easily. None of them have been fixed. I think the number of people who are part of the organisation will grow and with that may well come changes. I do intend to continue as I’ve started and I think people will be hearing more of us in the future.”
Sherdan’s interview ended there. He’d not really said much. He still didn’t think the time was right to tell people of the abilities the residents had but it wouldn’t be much longer. Eventually someone would leak the information and he wanted to beat them to it.
Thankfully the news reporter did not seem to know about Anya or the minor they had living with them who hadn’t obtained parental consent. No one had even declared her missing yet, despite it being almost an entire month since she had become his prisoner.
It had never occurred to him, until that moment, that someone might be missing Anya. She had family and friends who may not know where she had gone even if they even knew she was still alive.
By the time Sherdan got back it was late evening and he’d narrowly missed another police attempt to arrest him, at the studio. If he’d not left promptly they’d have caught him. There were police at every barrier around the facility so the driver had to keep going past them all rather than turn in.
His chauffeur automatically drove to a small building half a mile away and pulled up into the garage. Built into the floor was a lift that took the car down into a tunnel and allowed Sherdan to travel along into his compound and up into his own garage. He’d hoped not to have to use it yet but the fresh arrest attempt had been unexpected.
When Sherdan arrived back, Anya was in her room reading and, although she remained polite, she didn’t do anything to keep the conversation going. He left her alone again, not wanting the hassle.
He suspected she resented him for hitting her but he didn’t know for sure. He had no intention of apologising for his actions either way. She would have to accept him for who he was. He accepted her, despite disliking her belief system and several other things about her.
The following day, Anya finally asked about her test results. Sherdan hesitated before giving her an answer. Here was an opportunity for him to get her to submit to more tests.
“Unfortunately there was a problem with the blood test. Hitchin would like to do another and will possibly need to do other tests to figure out for sure if it was our drug or not.”
“Oh, that’s odd. Hitchin told me that a blood test should be enough to figure out if the enzyme was the same?”
“Well, at the least, he’s going to need you to do another blood test.”
“I’ll come to the lab with you this morning then,” she replied and put her book down.
Neither of them spoke the whole way over to the main command facility. Sherdan didn’t know how to repair the rift between them. It had always been Anya who had made the conversation progress and all her effort had disappeared.
She didn’t need showing where to go and said goodbye to go into the lab, not expecting him to come too. He couldn’t think of a reason to accompany her and, after a moment’s thought, had to pull out his mobile phone and email Hitchin.
Hitchin had asked for Anya to be sent for more tests but not for the reason Sherdan had told her. Hopefully Hitchin wouldn’t let Anya realise that. The last thing he needed was another reason for her to be angry at him.
When Sherdan settled down to his work in the command bunker he had an email waiting for him from Ellie’s father. He’d figured out where she had gone and wanted her back. Sherdan had to think very carefully about his response.
Hitchin had spoken to the girl and she didn’t want to return to her home. She’d also developed her ability: when she touched people she could tell exactly what they were feeling. A very useful skill.
Sherdan knew to be as polite as possible to what would be a very worried father, and simply explained that Ellie hadn’t informed them of her true age and, upon speaking to her, they had learnt that she still wished to stay. He didn’t point out that forcing her back home when she wanted to be in the program wouldn’t be helpful to her. He wanted to strike up a trustful correspondence with the father, if he could, and tried to sound like he only had Ellie’s best interests in mind.
Sherdan moved on to finding out why he was under arrest again. As far as he was aware, the mayor had dropped the original charge against him. It had proved highly unsuccessful. He soon had Jeremy on the phone.
“Hello friend, I hope you are well?”
“Very well thank you Dr Harper. How can I help you today?”
“I believe I’m the target of another arrest attempt but I’m completely baffled why this time.”
“I hadn’t heard of anything… just let me check our database for why… Ah, yes, here it is. Apparently several of your residents who have left have complained about manipulation and coercion into the program.”
“Can you tell me who, because as far as I am aware no residents have left?”
“I can’t find out who from this database. I’d need to look into it and probe further to see if they’re real complaints.”
Sherdan put the phone down and immediately requested a full check of every person within the perimeter. If residents had left and gone to the police then he wanted to know before Jeremy.
While he waited for all the information concerning his residents and replies to his earlier emails, Sherdan continued to make preparations for the next stage of his plan. His next stint on TV would include a big announcement. It was possible that already strained political relationships would get even worse as a result, and many things would change about their way of life, in a very short space of time.
It soothed him that the entire facility was now self sufficient in every way. They had enough food and water, and a continual source of energy from harnessing many of the different talents the residents had developed.
Sherdan ended his day by going to see Hitchin. Anya had gone back to the house after letting him take more blood. She did not even let Sherdan know she had left, Hitchin had done that for her.
“The samples are the same as last time. There’s the same similar enzyme in her blood work but, the second I tried to figure out what it was, it faded out of the sample. In all three samples, it didn’t fade out until I tried to map the exact molecular structure of it.”
“What are you saying?”
“Something doesn’t want us to know how she got her power.”
“Without doing further tests I can’t say what, whether the enzyme is designed to fade out of the blood once out of the body or if something is helping Anya’s ability to stay a mystery to us. Quite simply, scientifically I can’t explain it.”
“I’ll try to persuade Anya to do more tests.”
“Oh, before you go. Could you check in on the few left in the latest test group? There are three who haven’t figured out what they’ve gained yet and we could do with knowing.”
“Will they all have developed them yet?”
“Possibly not, but it’s rare for three out of twenty not to have one yet.” Sherdan nodded and went through to the ward.
There were two middle aged women and a man in his fifties. He smiled and conversed with all three for a few minutes, checking they were happy and comfortable. Oddly, Sherdan couldn’t see if any of them had a power and definitely couldn’t figure out what they might be. He went back through to Hitchin.
“Sorry friend. I don’t think any of them have abilities yet. Start the next group while you’re waiting for these ones to develop.”
“Of course. Come back soon though.”
“I will come as soon as I can find time.”
Anya waited for Sherdan in his study that evening and he walked in on her before he realised she occupied the room.
“What were my test results?” She asked before he’d had time to acknowledge her.
“It’s not the same enzyme.” Her face lit up. “It’s behaving oddly too. Hitchin would really like to do more tests.”
“I don’t think more are necessary. God’s given me one of your abilities. I know everything I need to know.”
Sherdan slammed his laptop down on his desk. She ignored his anger and left the room. He hesitated before following her all the way to the top of the house.
“I know we don’t agree whether some kind God has anything to do with this, but I would really appreciate it if you let Hitchin do further tests. We just want to know for sure that the change in you isn’t caused by us.”
“You said it yourself: it’s a different enzyme.”
“It is, but it could be a mutated version of our own. For your health…”
“My health!” she interrupted. “Don’t lie to me Sherdan. This is purely your curiosity and disbelief, and has nothing to do with concern for me.”
“I do care about you Anya.”
“You were very good at showing your ‘care’ when you let me be tortured for over two days, and when you locked me up right after.”
“That was before I knew you.”
“So what was meant by hitting me? It’s not the first time you’ve got so angry you’ve hurt me or gone to do so either.”
“Is that what’s bugging you about me?”
“What doesn’t annoy me about you?”
Sherdan glared at her and left the room before he made matters worse. He slammed his way across the hall to his own bedroom. She was impossible. He paced as he ran their argument through his head.
Her Christian beliefs made her stupid. If he even slightly questioned them she got offended and continued assuming everything unexplainable was her God. Sherdan himself wasn’t perfect but he was only trying to find out the truth and do what was best for her. As his future wife he did care about her well being.
When he finally emerged from his room, she had already eaten dinner without him and locked her door from the inside so he couldn’t disturb her. He didn’t know when she’d taken the key, but it infuriated him all over again, especially when he learnt she’d taken the only spare key as well.
Before Sherdan went to bed, he received a reply from Ellie’s father. His email sounded very angry and he demanded that Ellie be sent home as well as expressing his disbelief that she wanted to be there.
Sherdan did not reply right then. He wanted to think carefully about his response and the email had been sent late enough that he wouldn’t be expected to still be awake. The longer he could delay the father going to the police the better, assuming he hadn’t already.
Sherdan didn’t want to have an active arrest warrant when he did his announcement, if at all possible. It would make some parts of the plan significantly harder if there was.