Upon entering Durman's library and quickly scanning the shelves, I was disappointed to find that there were few novels to speak of, just one shelf of volumes about fictional super humans. I took a bright red book off the self and began to examine it.
The man on the cover was impossibly muscular and wore a jumpsuit far too tight to be modest, and he was smiling as if he didn't have a care in the world. A mask much too thin to hide his identity sat on his face.
I rolled my eyes and turned the book over to read the back.
Pharmacist Dr. William Smith, aka the Iron Will has always enjoyed his job as a superhero, but when his girlfriend, super model Foxy Finesse, becomes a little too demanding, Iron Will must make a difficult decision between his girl and his nemesis, Eternity Crusher.
I gave a sharp, bitter laugh before cramming Iron Will back onto the bookshelf. If this was the kind of stuff Dereck had been reading, that would explain a few things.
Summoned by my laugh, Brandon abruptly came around one of the shelves. He glanced at the shelf I was standing in front of. "Found a comedy?" he asked hopefully.
I gestured to the ridiculous title. "Sort of."
He wrinkled his nose. "Ah."
I tilted my head. "So, where do they keep the good stuff?"
Brandon shrugged. "There are a lot of great non-fiction works I could recommend, but they aren't exactly light reading."
I frowned. "So what do you do for fun around here, anyway?"
He shrugged again. Wait was he... blushing? I had to be imagining it. "We have pretty much unlimited computer access, there's a bin of Legos in the faculty lounge, and we have pretty much every athletic activity you can think of, but other than that, not much. This place wasn't designed for kids."
I was so shocked at the realization that he might, just might have a crush on me that I forgot to respond to his last sentence for a moment. I blinked. "Why the Legos, then?"
Brandon smiled a little. "Some of our top researchers like to tinker with them from time to time."
Another blink. "Huh." Somehow, I've always assumed that all scientists do nothing but read heavy-duty quantum theory in their spare time. I never really thought of them having hobbies, let alone ones that involved little pieces of plastic.
I jumped and whirled around when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I found myself facing a tall man wearing an immaculately pressed suit, and his aura radiated power, control. His energy was so intense that it almost hurt to stand by him. I wondered how I had missed him walk up.
Choosing to ignore my skittishness, the man took my hand in his, pumping it. "Ah, you must be Miss Daisy Kendall. My name is Mr. Dennis Durman. You can call me Dennis, if you like. I've been waiting to meet you for a very long time indeed." Normally I resent being called "Miss," but somehow, coming from him, I almost liked it.
He gave me a smile that should have been on the cover of a magazine. "So, Miss Daisy, have you decided wither you'll be staying with us? We'd be so glad to have you, I've heard that you're quite the outstanding young lady, and if we're able to make some revolutionary discoveries along the way, that would be fantastic! Think of all we could accomplish! What do you say? Are you with us?"
Face flushing with pleasure and my eyes locked directly into his, I almost gave him my full, unbridled consent on the spot, but I remembered in time to say the line that Schroder had written for me. "I'd like to visit for just a little while longer before I decide if I want to stay here permanently."
Mr. Durman's face twitched a little before setting itself into a smile again. "Oh, yes, yes, of course. I wouldn't want you to be rushing in headlong without any clear idea what you're getting yourself into. Take as much time as you need. I'm impressed. That was a very wise decision, very wise indeed." His mouth said I was doing the right thing, but something in his eyes told me he was disappointed.
"Well, I really should get going to take care of some business, but please take this gift." He handed me a lightly used ipad. "A full copy of your mother's journal has been downloaded on to it for you to read, and there are a few apps you may find entertaining." And with that he turned on his heel and left the room, leaving an air of majesty in his wake.
Feeling like I was coming out of some kind of trance, I started to get back my bearings. Brandon looked a little shell-shocked, and I couldn't blame him. Watching Mr. Durman can be pretty overwhelming.
I looked down at the tablet and frowned. "Is this really a gift? Or is this a bribe?" Now that the man had left, the thought crossed my mind that he might be trying to manipulate me.
"Good question." Without asking, Brandon took the computer from my hands to examine. "Let me see... yes, this is, in fact, a gift. This one is pretty new, but not the latest model available. I'm guessing it's a castoff from when Mr. Durman upgraded." He gave it back to me.
My frown remained. "Did he seem a little strange to you? I mean, like he was trying too hard to make me like him?"
Novel to come someday soon. Rough draft can be found here