REDEYES Sneaky Excerpt- Chapter Three

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They followed him up the beach to a path bordered by palms, and stepped under the looming growth of bordering trees. Milly didn’t know the names of them all, but the smell of squashed greenery engulfed them as thickly as the heat.

‘Where are we, Professor Ratgrabber?’ Milly asked from the back of the line and he turned his cheek to her, never faltering in his lead of the funeral march.

‘Rahtgraber,’ he said, extending his vowels. ‘This island is built on a volcanic reef atoll. During your stay both sponsors and volunteers will have indelible assurance of security and safety.’

Perhaps he had a script hidden beneath that fine suit, unfortunately for him it was a journalist’s prerogative to ad-lib. ‘Thanks, but where is the island?’

‘We allow internet access,’ he said as though she hadn’t spoken. ‘We have communication abilities, of course. But we also discourage disclosure of the resort’s secure location. You understand, Miss. Threefold.’

She caught Tristen’s gaze before answering. ‘Think so, professor.’

Paddy’s brother had found the courage to ask his own questions now, the first being, ‘Where’s the toilet?’ The second, ‘Will we pass it soon?’

Paddy laughed so hard he shook. Trist just looked desperate until they emerged from the jungle. An obtuse square of a building sat amongst the foliage, and the industrial-sized stoicism seemed to reignite his zeal. To Milly the whole thing looked dilapidated.

‘Come, please,’ said their overqualified guide, and they entered the angular building through freshly wiped glass doors on stiff hinges that didn’t dare squeak. Inside it was too clean. It smelled of water and disinfectant and mops. The cushioning of light grey carpet absorbed their footsteps as they came to three doors, the kind with a horizontal push-to-escape bar and usually no handle on the other side which was comforting.

The professor brought them to a stop. ‘We will activate your neuro-chips without delay as I’m sure you are all excited to begin. Each volunteer and their sponsor go through their own door. There will be time for socialisation afterwards,’ he said, and stepped aside, flat eyes on her. He must be a starer. Some people never quite learnt how long to look at someone, whether they were checking out an ass or admiring a handbag.

Trist moved first, hands loose at his sides and lips pressed into a line. Milly waited, letting him be sure he wanted to keep walking, only then did she follow. The professor leaned in when she passed as though he was going to share something, but he simply leered with the small pupils of presumptuous, elderly curiosity.

She heard Trishy muttering something with the quiet speed of gossip, and comic book boy giggled. They’d noticed her spine.

She looked forward to the questions that would come later, everyone striving to be polite when all they really wanted was gruesome details. They’d begin with ‘how did it feel?’ and graduate to ‘can you turn around on the toilet to wipe your own backside or does someone else do that for you?’ but maybe put with some politically correct terminology. She looked forward to that.

On the other side it was bright as a dentist’s surgery. A male technician in sterile gloves and pale clothes sat beside a small table with a metallic syringe and a wad of cotton, his face had the same shape as a kidney bean.

Someone closed the door behind Milly and professor Rahtgraber strode past them to the Kidney Bean technician. ‘I will do these two. See if the others need you,’ he said in a grumbled aside and the technician fled without saying a word. He picked up the syringe and sat down on the high stool that rolled back on its wheels, but his spider thin legs were long enough to reach the ground.

At the other end of the room, another door opened and a man-boy with a quiff swaggered in holding a computer tablet. He didn’t look up from whatever he typed and the door slowly swung itself shut behind him. He didn’t seem to know they were there as he smiled at the screen and shifted his feet, leaning back against the closed door.

‘This is our chief technician,’ professor Rahtgraber said with untamed annoyance, biting his words out. ‘Introduce yourself.’

The man-boy laughed. ‘He means chief engineer, program designer, and all-round awesome guy,’ he said and finally lowered his computer. He looked them up and down with his tongue pressed into the side of his mouth, and raised his eyebrows. ‘Dr. Roddy Beamer, Phd, EngD, D.C.S.,’ he said, ‘and they’re my credentials, not my full name. You can just call me Lord.’ He grinned at Milly and came forward to extend a hand to her…


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