Of course, HoH weren't done with us. It wasn't long before a rumor was started that, not only were the employees torturing people for 'research', but we were all apparently using
drugs as well. This was no major problem, and it certainly didn't last long. HoH weren't too satisfied that their first plan hadn't worked, however. Three days passed, and, finally, a member of HoH
broke into The Lab and discovered... nothing.
They found exactly what Paul had told them we had. Disguised as a volunteer, they had accepted the free meals, the money, and watched everything that happened to the other people who had signed up. They ran off before they could actually participate in any of the experiments, though they hadn't gained any of the information they had been hoping for.
Paul was only upset that they had taken the money with them, thus stealing it away from someone else who might have needed it. Of course, by that point, the majority of Heisenberg Laboratories Inc. were no longer concerned with Helpers of Humanity.
Paul's health was failing drastically. He refused to go to the hospital, however, and continued to carry out his duties as if nothing was wrong. I wished there was something I could do, but Paul's time was running short, and, whether I liked it or not, the Megaleioths would make sure he died soon. I also began to realize that I was on the brink of inheriting an entire company.
Annie was particularly upset. I learned over those three days that Paul had acted as a sort of replacement family for her, seeing as her single mother died of a stroke only weeks after Annie applied for her job at the age of eighteen. She was twenty three now.
"I don't know." She had sighed as we sat in one of the many break rooms. This one didn't have the vending machines. "It's hard to believe he might actually... leave."
Kumar felt bad, but, being not as emotionally attached to Paul as Annie, his feelings mostly stemmed from sympathy for his friend. I began to notice some of the other employees whispering to each other and wearing mournful expressions, as if he were already dead.
I wasn't sure what to feel. In the past few days (I couldn't even remember how many) Paul had been almost like a... well a father to me. More than my real one had been anyway. I didn't want him to die, not then, not ever, but I knew it was beyond my control. Besides, I wondered if it might be best. He had been looking more and more tired as the days went on, and his cough wasn't getting any better. Maybe he deserved a little peace.
I didn't voice this opinion to anyone though; I'm not that stupid. But, from the looks some of the older workers were giving me, I began to get the feeling they suspected I wanted him to die, as if I were glad to have The Lab all to myself. I tried to keep myself uplifted, to ignore the looks and the emotions that were spreading through the building like a fire, but it became increasingly hard, and, when the news reached me that a contaminated substance had spread a toxic disease to over fifty workers, I nearly broke.
Some idiot (who we never found) hadn't properly secured a strange material that had been sent from some of our outer space friends, and it had killed everyone it touched. It also released a poisonous gas into the air, which killed and injured even more people. There was to be an investigation from the police, though the material had somehow managed to disappear into thin air.
I was scheduled to be interviewed. Giving Paul's current state, the police had pretty much officially considered me to be the owner of The Lab, and thus, partially responsible. The interview had been originally planned for that morning, but they'd moved it to noon after, and I quote, "something came up."
I was in my miniature living room, drinking a glass of water and pretty much doing nothing while I waited for it to be noon. I sighed as someone knocked at the door, but my attitude immediately changed when I saw it was Annie. I let her in without hesitation.
"Nice place you got here." She was smiling, but her voice was shaky, abnormal.
"You alright?" I asked, setting my water on one of the counter tops between the kitchen and the living room.
"Fine." She answered quietly.
Silence. I took a step towards her, forgetting all about my interview, Paul, and everything else. The only thing that mattered to me then was helping my friend, because something, something, was obviously very wrong.
"...You want to watch a movie?" It was lame, but I didn't know what else to do. Thankfully, she nodded and we walked over to the couch.
Just as we sat down, however, there was a knock at the door. I noticed Annie flinch as I got up. When I opened the door to reveal Kumar, he whispered "can I talk to you out here?"
"What's up?" I asked, closing the door behind me.
"I don't know. She won't talk to me."
I kept my voice low. "You think it's about Paul?"
He shook his head. "She hasn't been wearing her glasses for the past few days either." He sighed, rubbing his brow. "I just don't know what to do. I feel helpless."
"We were about to watch a movie. Maybe you should stay. You've known her longer then I have." I smiled reassuringly.
Kumar looked back at me, and, after a moments hesitation, he nodded too. And so, the three of us piled onto the couch; me, Annie, and Kumar. Later, Annie joked that if someone were to take a picture of all three of us, they would title it 'The Most Awkward Three-Way Ever'.
We watched an adventure movie, you know, pirates treasure, guy-gets-girl, that sort of thing. I couldn't help looking at Annie every five minutes though, worried she might either pass out or burst into tears. I didn't think she was really watching the movie. Her eyes were dazed, and every now and then she would rub the engagement ring on her finger, as if trying to draw some kind of comfort from it. I noticed Kumar biting his lip and shifting uncomfortably at various points in the movie.
When the movie was over, it felt like only a few minutes had passed. We started another after a few seconds of unbearable silence. This one was a mystery movie, starring one of those actors everyone but you recognizes. As time ticked on, I began to realize it was almost time for my interview.
"Annie." She jumped a little. "I have to go talk to the police about what happened with that alien goo. You think you'll be alright with Kumar?" I felt like a parent talking to his three year old. After another few seconds of silence, she nodded.
"Good luck." Kumar said as I left.
I did eventually find out what was wrong with her, but that part of the story is quite a ways away. Guess you'll just have to be patient.
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