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March 15 – Stepping Back

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Lisa slipped quietly into the hallway outside the lab, hoping to overhear the two men again–though, granted, she didn’t know if Canergak’s hearing was enhanced, as well as his sight. As she soundlessly neared the doorway, she heard Professor Vartanian say, “She still holds out hope for it, though. I’m not sure you’ll be able to change her mind.”

“I knew that this would be a challenge, and it is why I selected this particular experiment,” Canergak replied. “It was not supposed to be this dangerous for either her or the cat in the cage. But only something drastic will break her of her previous mindset.”

‘We’ll just see,’ she thought rancorously, and stepped inside the lab. Both men turned to watch as her slow steps carried her to them.

“Lisa, what are your thoughts now, considering this specimen?” Canergak asked.

“She is lost, alone, afraid,” she replied intently.

“Would it hurt you as it is, right now?”

She wanted to say no, but she knew that would be a lie. In the cat’s present state, she would lash out at anyone and anything within reach. Lisa nodded, but quickly added, “That doesn’t mean I should stop trying to help.”

“And you were communicating with it, and still believe this? We both heard you yowling to it–was that your language?”

Lisa nodded slowly. Canergak gestured to Professor Vartanian. “Go ahead and tell the Professor how it comes to be that you can speak to cats.” The professor slipped his spectacles off, absently cleaning them on the edge of his waistcoat as he waited for her response.

“I was a cat,” she told him softly. “An evil man took my brain out of my body and put it in this human body, killing the girl who once was in it.”

The professor nearly dropped his spectacles, staring at her after his fumbling catch. “What?!”

Canergak, too, seemed startled. “What was that?” he asked. “What do you mean, he ‘killed’ the girl?”

“She–the original Lisa–is dead. He killed her, and then put my brain, and my spirit, in here.” She paused. “Though I don’t know that he believed in spirits.”

Canergak frowned. “You are sure she wasn’t already dead?” Lisa nodded emphatically.

“A man did this?” Professor Vartanian asked, still looking quite stunned. “A human man?”

“Yes, sir,” Lisa replied, then turned her attention back to Canergak, who was stroking his beard, thoughtfully staring at her. “So you see, sir, I’ve already met a monster. A human man, but a monster.”

“I see.” Canergak still looked thoughtful. “And what did he have planned for you? Do you know what his research was to culminate in?”

“He was going to kill me, sir, so he could see what had happened to my brain, and use what knowledge he got from that in his next experiments.” Lisa let some of the anger and fear she felt toward Canergak color her statement; she didn’t have many other outlets for it at this point.

“And the Lisa before agreed to these terms?”

Lisa shook her head. “He told her she was dying, and asked that she let him use her body after death for his studies. He didn’t tell her what those studies were–nor that he would be the one to send her to death.”

Canergak frowned. “He admitted this to you?”

Lisa’s breath caught, as she realized she was admitting more than someone like Canergak would expect her to know. She certainly couldn’t tell him that she’d gotten some of her information from the spirit of the human Lisa. So, finally, she nodded.

After a moment’s silence, Canergak said, “Lisa, leave us. I believe that the Professor and I must… discuss what we have learned.”

“Yes, sir.” Lisa was glad to escape the confines of the lab, and scurried out the iris door to the elevator. She was up on the main floor and by the front door before she realized she was still in her urchin clothing. Shrugging, she picked up a broom and began sweeping while she waited.

As time passed, she wondered more and more what they might be talking about… and more and more, she regretted nearly everything she’d said. Now *both* of them knew what she was, and so both had that hold over her. But how else could she convince them to let her at least try to help the cat downstairs?

Finally, she heard the hallway door open, admitting the sounds of footsteps and a tapping cane. “Lisa,” Canergak said.

She set aside the broom. “Sir,” she replied, trying to swallow back her apprehension.

“We have been discussing what we just learned together, and have come to the conclusion that you must speak with Professor Rance for evaluation once again. Before we continue more experiments, or anything else that may be… traumatizing, I have asked him to speak with you at length.” He turned to the other man. “Professor, I leave her in your hands. Do what you must.”

“Yes, sir,” he replied as Canergak left. He favored Lisa with a look that was evidently supposed to be friendly, but which produced no warmth in his eyes. “Not to worry, Lisa. I hope you understand we are trying to think of your own safety and well being.” She contented herself with a single nod, not wishing to say anything on that subject yet.

“We will talk tomorrow.” Professor Vartanian turned to the door, then paused, looking back at her over the edge of his spectacles. I must say… if you truly are a cat, you’re very well adjusted.”

Lisa shrugged. “I’ve done what I’ve had to, sir.” She watched him leave, and looked down at herself. Since she wasn’t going back in the lab for a while–certainly not today–she might as well change back into her uniform. She followed where the professor had gone, and called the elevator to take her back to the basement.

((To be continued…))

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