This is the last episode of Lila. Andrey Jones, her former target, has maneuvered Lila into a situation in which she’s being used for cruel lab procedures. But something unexpected happens, and Lila finds herself not only capable of protecting herself, but face to face with an old enemy. In this episode she discovers Andrey’s Jones true purpose for her, and what his plot has been all along.
They gagged and tied me from neck to ankles like a spindle, so all my struggling and screaming are useless. By the time they unload me in a bunker I’m spent, and when the gag falls all I can think about is water, but they don’t give me one drop.
A brightly lit ceiling spins as they turn me and slap me on what feels like a metal plate. Force is no longer necessary to pin my arms and my legs apart in an X-cross, I’m as easy to handle as a ragdoll. Metal cuffs bang shut around my wrists, the edges merciless on my wrist cords. Only when they start sponge-washing the mud off me I realize I’m naked, moaning and whining with my last drop of strength. I pass out.
A splash of ice-cold water brings me back to Dr. Randolph Kalb’s face over mine, his glassy blue eyes curious but devoid of feeling.
“Welcome back,” he says, his voice calm and unmoved.
The metal table swivels, bringing me upright. My stomach revolts and I barely keep from throwing up. Damp strands cling to my face and forehead as I let myself hang, but someone grabs my hair and forces me to look up.
I’m in an all glass-and-steel lab, a glass wall before me. I can make out the reflection of a meager and naked me, gadgets looking like the tools of a psycho surgeon on either side of the panel, the doctor in a white lab coat keeping a grip on my hair.
“Hush now, no need to struggle. Nothing bad is going to happen,” he says with the calmness of a psycho indeed. I can only move my eyes to the side to look at him as a metal band stretches with an automatic sound from the panel over my forehead, pinning me down.
“What are you doing?” I croak.
His grin broadens, making his wrinkles deepen and look like cracks in albino leather. “It will be painful at first. Then it only gets better. And then it gets fantastic.”
“What are you doing with me, Kalb?” I’m starting to sound desperate.
“You know,” he says as he inspects and prepares his gadgets, “There are many well positioned people who would love to be in your place now, Miss –,” he throws me a look of false puzzlement.
“Stop pretending. You know me, you and I met before. I’m Lila Banks, and I used to work with your employers.”
He turns his eyes to a syringe as he pushes the shaft through it, causing a mean-looking liquid to spit out. “You’re Lila now. When I’m done with you, you won’t be Lila anymore. You should be grateful, you know, this is an honor. And a compliment. I never waste gold seeds on arid soils.”
I realize that’s why Andrey Jones had me conveyed to Dr. Kalb – by some twists of life it looks like I lost identity and purpose, ending up a cheap prostitute, but the brains are “good soil” still. The reality goes poignant as Dr. Kalb drives the long needle into my vein. It hurts to a scream, but it’s nothing compared to the slow burn that makes my blood boil in corrosive bubbles.
I cry as my veins seem to blister and dissolve, the heat reddening my flesh. Black patches like paper burning at the edges form on my skin, and my heart pumps like crazy. I gasp, the inability to move adding to the despair.
“Come on, Lila, fight the bondage,” the Doctor instigates. “Let the rage break out.”
Rage, yes, but the agony subdues it. I can hear the Doctor’s cunning lurk behind his next words.
“I’ll lever up the incentive, then.”
The glass wall frosts and then clears, revealing itself as a high tech screen. The face on it eclipses all else besides the pain. I can feel the blood vessels explode in my eyeballs as I look in the face of Ivan Basarab, the man who broke me and betrayed me. It feels like yesterday. He smiles.
A video-call. I bare my teeth in a cry, my fingers painfully contracting into claws. “Bastard!”
I recognize beyond doubt that very male masculinity. It was that combination of testosterone and brains that swayed my loyalties. An animal urge of hurting him swells in the pit of my stomach, and I become all animal instinct. I jolt from the cuffs, but they cut into my skin, making me cry out – in frustration rather than pain.
“You have every reason to be angry,” Ivan says, his voice barely transformed by technology. “I used you and maneuvered you.”
My muscles flex and harden like rock.
“And I had two reasons to do so – your brains got me away from the F.B.I,” he says as if he likes making me mad, or aims for it. “And your body reminded me of the one woman I loved. But I never loved you.”
My senses sharpen, and I can feel Dr. Kalb grinning satisfied by my side. He enjoys the pain in my face. I feel the cuff give in under the flex of my arm, and my fingers wind around it before I’m aware of what’s happening. I hit Kalb with it over the face, and his flesh tears from his facial bone. He takes his hand to his cheek, takes a second to realize what happened, and screams in dread, while Ivan’s grinning on the screen.
“He would’ve driven needles up your every vein, Lila,” Ivan’s voice lowers and deepens, infiltrating my brain. “He would’ve gotten a hard-on at your pain.”
The other cuff flies off, and my other hand as well as my feet come free way too easily. The burn in my body and Ivan’s words energize me like fuel as I advance towards Kalb, who’s screaming with a bloody face, crawling away from me. His eyes are wide in shock, as if he’s looking at a monster. He didn’t expect this coming, whatever this is.
I jump over and straddle him, and when my hands reach for his face I notice – they’re changing into knotty claws coated with thick reptile skin, nails growing out like black iron blades. I stare up at the screen, instinctively searching for an explanation in Ivan’s face. He stares right back at me and reads the question in my eyes. His gaze glows with pleasant surprise.
“Yes, Lila, he didn’t see this coming. You’re strong, you’re a gem. It went so fast, with just one needle. You’re one in a million.”
The fury succumbs to shock, and shock to dread as I fall back from Kalb and look at my hands. They begin to turn back into human flesh as the rage damps down, and Kalb takes advantage. He tries to scramble up, but I’m quick enough of wit to jump and pin him back under me before the unusual strength fades.
“What did you fucking do to me?”
The screen buzzes. My head snaps up – Ivan’s gone. My eyes flash back to Kalb and I shake him hard.
“Where is he? Where’s Basarab?”
He hesitates. I wham his head against the floor.
“Where?” My voice sounds inhuman, even demonic, startling me and making me jump up with Kalb in my hands.
“Northville,” Kalb babbles. “He’s in Northville. Under another name.”
“Northville. Under another name,” I repeat in an angry breath, and let him drop on the floor. The second before he hits it sharp metal thorns fire up from the tiles and pierce his body in so many places that he’s just a chunk of unrecognizable meat. As if he’d never been any more than that. I stare down at him, blinking in disbelief.
The doors fly open and men with guns and tactical gear flood the room. Andrey Jones is the last to enter, casual in his dark suit. The second I see him I bare my teeth in a hiss and launch at him with hands outstretched, the claws growing out from my fingers. He doesn’t move, his reddish-brown eyes fixed and calm. I try to scratch him, but he seems made of marble. And when my reptile-monster hands wrap around his neck, his skin feels cold and soothing like salve over a wound. My flesh goes back to normal as the raging power drains from me, and I fall naked and crying in Andrey Jones’ arms.
He presses his cheek on my head and hushes me, his body warm and accommodating.
“I’m sorry, Lila, it had to be this way,” he whispers soothingly.
“Why? Why did you put me through all this, you sadistic bastard?” I surge, beating his chest.
“Because I needed one of the enemy’s soldiers, and the only way was to have him make one for me. A powerful soldier, who knows their maker. The requirements were very special.”
My body feels ever more human in his arms. I look up at him.
“You have power over me. Do you have power over all his –,” I pause. I can’t believe this is Ivan we’re talking about. “Soldiers?”
“On some more, on some less,” Jones says with a kind and tired smile.
“If that’s the case, then you can’t be wholly human either.”
“I’m a different kind of monster.”
I look down at my arm, where he injected the device on the plane.
“Did you use that bug to control me?”
“No. That was a tracking device. Your body eliminated it when you transformed – too fast, I didn’t expect that. Normally it takes months.”
“Months of this torture?”
“This torture and all kinds of cruel practices. Cutting, ripping, raping. In order to activate the Reptile they need to stimulate a certain amount of rage in certain situations that are very difficult to replicate.”
“That’s why Ivan provoked me,” I realize. Andrey nods.
“If not that, then how did you -?” I don’t find the right words.
“I didn’t use technology, Lila. I told you – I’m a different kind of monster.”
I look him directly in the face. He’s so kind and gentle and darn handsome. It begins to dawn on me.
“You weren’t made in a lab,” I whisper.
“Nor was I made by a man.”
Epilogue with bonus scenes to be released in the upcoming Christmas Stories for Adults on the 22nd of December. Stay tuned!
UPDATE – Lila’s whole story has been published in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.