IN MY HEAD I shouted ‘NO!!!!!’ as I flipped over the tablet onto its screen. I had seen just enough to realize there was a weird filter color with words that was somehow overlaid above the moving video, but didn’t keep looking long enough to figure out what it was.
“Shit!” I exclaimed, “That was close!”
I found a pair of gloves in the medicine cabinet and placed the tablet inside a manilla envelope before calling the police. I called David and Kendra and let them know about it too, before meeting the police at the door a short while later. They looked kind of suspicious about it when the screen was black, but took it in for evidence anyways. There was absolutely no sign of forced entry in the house, which made me even more nervous! I paid a locksmith to come out and rekey my locks and add some additional physical locks onto each door. They were contracted to come back and put in an alarm system the next week. David and Kendra told me to expense it all when I got back…
It was late that night by the time the dust finally settled and I found myself laying in my childhood bed. ‘They gave it a solid attempt to use hypnosis on me…’ I thought as I tried sleeping. ‘I’m guessing they’re hoping I’ll pee my pants in court on Monday and they can get rid of me and the case with a Maturosis ruling…’
I had no way of knowing how long ago the tablet had been planted though… I hadn’t been inside the house now in about twenty months. My only hope was that there were fingerprints or some sort of digital fingerprint associated with whoever planted it inside my house.
At some point in the evening, I must have finally dozed off, waking to my cell phone going off the next day.
I looked over and saw it was Aunt Ruth, “Hi Aunt Ruth,” I told her sleepily.
“Hi, yourself,” she said.
“Umm… am I in trouble?” I asked sleepily.
“A little… How come you didn’t tell me that you are involved in that big case against SafeFoods on behalf of Beth?”
I sighed and rubbed the sleet out of my eyes, glad this was an audio call only. “It’s been in the news? I figured you already knew?” I paused, “Honestly I didn’t want to create conflicts of interest if the verdict gets appealed to your court?”
“That big, huh?” She asked.
I sighed, “Big enough they tried getting me last night,” I said and instantly wanted to take back those words.
“What do you mean?” She asked like a mother worried about her kid.
“I shouldn’t have said anything…” I sighed, “I came home to my dad’s house last night and narrowly evaded a hypnosis trap that was set for me.”
“You’re okay?!?” She asked, “You’re sure? Hypnosis doesn’t always appear immediately?”
“I’m sure… I’ll tell you why some other time.” I thought, ‘Thanks Stacy.’
“What exactly is this case?”
“I’m not wanting to create a conflict…” I insisted.
“If the case involves you it automatically probably reaches that anyway Cameron.” She paused, “Besides, it’s my call if I have a conflict of interest, no one else’s.”
“Well…” I hedged, “I guess I’ll give you the overview. A few months ago, now Beth’s dad showed up at the office wanting to file a suit against Serendipity Industries. He didn’t realize I worked at the firm… It was a bit rough,” I admitted.
“Well, I didn’t kick his rear like I wanted to…” I shook my head, “Honestly in the end I would probably have mostly done the same thing he did other than finding a way to at least get in touch with me. Beth and her mom signed up for some sort of product testing service as a part-time job. That Thanksgiving she disappeared; they had just tested something that made them both… Well… they show no signs of cognition,” I told her sadly, “I don’t know if anyone can ever do anything for her or her mom. Her mom was actually the one who signed them both up to test stuff… With her larger body mass, she lasted just long enough to tell her dad what happened before she ended up in an infant state too.” The tears I felt going down my face reminded me this nightmare was far from over, “We’re suing Serendipity and their parent company SafeFoods for them and one-hundred-and-thirty other clients so far that have signed on. We turned in a motion to make the case a Class Action suit and will begin jury selection on Monday.”
“You think the attack last night?”
“I’m sure it was them. Mrs. Harris confronted me by my car too. I have a video of the exchange that’s already in David and Kendra’s hands.”
“You have to be careful Cameron…” she told me worriedly.
“I will… as much as I can.” I wiped another tear away, “Honestly, with Beth like she is now, my whole family is gone… I sometimes wonder if there’s anything more I can really lose.”
“I wish I could hug you right now… Hang in there kid!” she told me. “And your whole family is not gone, you know I’m there for you anytime you need something! And, I expect a call at least once a week so I know you’re okay!”
I smiled, “Yes Mom,” I told her.
I heard her suck in a breath. “You know I really do think of you as another one of my kids at this point, right?”
“And honestly, you’re as much of a mother as I’ve had since I was little. Thank you for caring about me,” I told her.
We hung up soon after and I couldn’t help but thinking I wanted to tell her that I loved her as I did so… it was really quite true!
I showered and got to work on our current case and also did some prep for several others. I spent an hour on video conference with David and Kendra about things before beginning to work around the house on making headway on keep vs. give away/throw away. I started in the last place I wanted to start, Dad’s bedroom, so it would be available for David to sleep in. Kendra would get the larger bed in the guest room that my grandparents used to use.
Going through his stuff was an emotional minefield, and I cried for about two hours straight as I’d frequently come across something that reminded me of him. His clothes were boxed up for charity since they were too big for me. I kept his watches, tie clasps, and other jewelry he had. Mom had left some jewelry that should have gone to my baby sister if she had lived… That made me cry again, but I couldn’t throw that out. That all got carefully boxed to fly back with me as I knew there was a lot of value inside of her jewelry boxes. “Maybe someday I can give them to Beth…”
There were some trinkets from my grandparents and their families that were of sentimental value that I also kept. By the end of the day, I’d managed to pack about twenty boxes, filled trash bags, and had emptied his room out of everything but the furniture. I found myself closing the door so I wouldn’t have to look inside on my way to my bathroom to shower. I was meeting Megan and Meg at Amanda and Fred’s for dinner, and didn’t want to smell bad from all of the sweating I’d been doing.
I’d last seen them when they came for Dad’s funeral… Meg and I used to speak a couple times a month, but living on the other side of the country practically made it hard to keep up my friendships as well as I’d like. Losing Beth had only meant I’d closed myself off more too…
Once I was dressed, I checked that everything was locked up tight, and then climbed inside of my rental car. I had sold Dad’s car, since I couldn’t legally drive it, within a month of his passing. I wished my own car was back with me though as the seats in this car were not nearly as comfortable! I set the navigation on the car's computer and headed towards Amanda and Fred’s house, wondering what might have changed with them in the time I’d been gone.
I was stopped at a stoplight with the car signaling to turn, when I looked back and noticed a blue car with a couple of large men in it. They seemed to be staring intently at my car, but I just assumed it was probably one of the annoyed groups of people who hated the rule-following self-driving vehicle. I knew many Bigs who complained about not being able to speed with more and more of them on the roads blocking them!
The car navigated out to the area where their house was, and I jumped a bit when I realized that blue car was still behind me!
I breathed a sigh of relief when the car went past me as I turned into their driveway, but couldn’t help but think it might not have been a coincidence!
I was soon buzzed in and parked in front of their large house. Meg and Megan were standing out there alongside Bella, who was dressed more like an adult than I’d ever seen her! As if their roles had been reversed, Meg was dressed in a puffy blue gingham romper that had a large butterfly embroidered on it. It was appropriate apparel for a year-old baby… not really for a twenty-eight-year-old. ‘Did Megan go off the deep end?’ I wondered.
Meg ran up to me and squeezed me in a hug, “Cameron!!!”
I squeezed her tightly, enjoying the physical contact with another human being. I pushed her back and asked, “So what’s with the attire?”
She blushed, “I came from daycare… Mo… Megan got a new job and I have to go there during the days.”
I looked at her, “Are you okay?”
She nodded, “It was embarrassing at first… I got picked on a lot because I went dressed how I normally dress. I took some advice from a new friend there though and started dressing babyish and adorable… All of the sudden I was treated a lot better by the staff and other kids!”
“Well, you do look adorable,” I told her with a smirk. “Glad to know Megan hasn’t lost her mind though…”
She came up to me then and gave me her own hug, “It’s good to see you Cameron! I promise I wouldn’t be sending her there if I had another option… As it is, I have Mom watch her one of the days, so she’s usually only at daycare four days.”
“Today just happened to be one of those,” Meg said somewhat sourly. “I was running late, so we didn’t have time to go get some other clothes.”
“How are you doing Bella?” I asked as she stood by. We’d never really grown to be close friends… she was so much older than I was, and I’d been there to see Stacy more.
“Good,” she said and also hugged me to my surprise.
“It’s good to have you back Cam,” Meg told me.
“Thanks,” I said. “I should say ‘hi’ to Amanda and Fred.”
“Amanda’s inside, Fred is out at the grill,” Meg told me.
“Let’s go see them,” I said and followed them inside.
Amanda also enveloped me in a tight hug, “It’s good to see you Cameron!”
“You all as well… it’s been a while!”
We walked outside and the four of us sat down on one of their picnic benches after I greeted Fred with a handshake, and a brief conversation. “So how are you doing?” Meg asked me, “Really doing?”
I sighed, “I saw Beth last week finally…”
“How… how is she?” Meg asked.
I shook my head, “Not good…” I found myself looking at Bella, “I think… she might be further gone than Bella was.”
Bella started a bit at that, but nodded, “I’m so lucky that I had Stacy on my side. It was horrible...”
I nodded, “Yes you were… We all were…”
“We were?” Meg asked.
I looked for Fred and Amanda, but not seeing them I said quietly, “She injected me with nanites freshman year but never told me. She tweaked them before she left… If she hadn’t, I would probably be in a world of hurt right now.”
“What happened?” Bella asked.
“When I made it to my dad’s house last night, I found a tablet sitting on my bed. It activated when it detected me… Nothing happened to me, probably in part because I flipped it over quickly, but I’m pretty sure it was one of those intensive hypnotic video setups.”
“You’re sure it didn’t get you?” Amanda said behind me, making me jump.
“Yes… I happened to look at a clock just before I looked down, and again after I flipped it. The numbers hadn’t changed over, so it was definitely less than a minute, but I’m sure it was only about three seconds…”
“That should have been more than enough if it was one of the advanced types,” Fred said, overhearing us and joining in with a plate of food he placed down on the table.
“It probably would have been if it wasn’t for some help Stacy gave me.”
Amanda’s eyes widened, “You’re the one she told about what she did before she left!”
I shrugged, “Maybe?”
“What did she tell you?”
“Well… I don’t think we should talk about it outside?”
She nodded, “Inside later, we need to talk.”
Our table conversations moved onto more mundane matters, and Meg ended up being more than slightly embarrassed as she became a topic of conversation. Megan and Amanda seemed to be trying to outdo each other with stories of blowouts of their adopted daughters’ diapers for some reason… We were just getting ready to eat dessert when a loud alarm sounded.
Amanda shouted, “Get inside!”
I followed them all inside as they ran, and noted that Amanda seemed panicked! The second we were all inside the door, I watched the special door turn into a solid piece and heard heavy locks slam closed.
She was looking at a tablet, “Looks like they were just approaching the perimeter, they didn’t make it to the wall even.”
I looked over and saw a video of a man I recognized. “They were following me,” I found myself saying.
“Who did?” Fred asked.
“Those guys, they were in a blue car that tailed me leaving the city. I thought it was suspicious, but they passed me when I turned.
“Well, this seems like a problem,” Amanda said. “Let me call Dad.”
I ended up being at their house until far later that night than I planned as her dad worked with some police officers he trusted. “I don’t see these guys in any of our files,” the officer told him. “I do however think they probably work for some sort of private security group…”
‘Probably for SafeFoods,’ I thought to myself.
When they left Amanda said to me, “Can you come talk to me in my workroom?” Once we were inside I watched her do something that I assumed scanned the room, and she asked, “What exactly did Stacy do with you?”
I sighed, “She injected me with nanites to disable the effect of breastmilk freshman year when I accidentally had some of Addy’s when we were making out.”
“Oh…” she said. “That was nice of her!”
I nodded, “Not sure why she never did it for Meg, but I think since she seemed to be determined to just give up, she didn’t want to be cruel to her if she did get adopted… Stacy seemed to think there was some value in not noticing using diapers.”
“Sounds like her,” she agreed. “Did she do anything else to you?”
I shrugged, “She said she did something that would block any of the hypnotic videos and sounds that were out there. Last night was the first time I’d really encountered one since she did that. I saw some sort of filter color at work, so I think it must have helped…?”
She nodded, “Stacy did something like that to herself before she was kidnapped. What you saw is what she described it as.” She looked thoughtful, “Didn’t she tell you of anything else she did?”
“Did she tell you about anything else she did?”
She shook her head, “We can’t talk privately over the dimensional communications. She did allude last year that someone here knew though. Meg didn’t, Megan didn’t, Bella didn’t, Fred and I didn’t… My dad doesn’t know anything else either. That leaves you?”
I shrugged, “She was trying for something to help with the abusive parents here. Something to increase the desire to be loving, instead of cruel? I’ve seen some reports that may be the case?”
She nodded, “Some of the crueler medical procedures have finally been banned here. A few other things for rights protection to ensure Littles are treated as real babies in their treatment. Something that would be abusive to a baby or a child is now considered abusive towards Littles. Unfortunately, it seems like the adoption rate may have rapidly increased though. Fewer free Littles are going to decline their population in a hurry...”
I nodded, “Sounds like it might have worked, but caused some side effects?”
“Maybe…” she said. “You want to stay here while you’re in town for the trial? You won’t have to be in that empty house alone then?”
I smiled at her, “I appreciate the offer, but I really need to get the house cleared out so I can sell it. Kendra and David should be returning Sunday night too and will stay with me.”
“If you change your mind…?”
“I know where I can come,” I told her with a smile.
I was able to hang out with Meg and Megan for another half-hour before it was the former’s bedtime, and I needed to get back home too. It was almost a familiar feeling as I stopped at a grocery store after being at their house.
Unfortunately, I noted the blue car was back on my tail again!
I'll post three more chapters up on Sunday. Please take a moment to give me some feedback with a comment if you're reading! Thanks to those of you who have been doing so! For everyone thank you so much for reading my tale here!