My Sister the Vampire Book 3: Re-Vamped! (Chapter 8)
"How are you?" Olivia asked gently.
Ivy shrugged. "I'd be better if my dad wasn't so narrow-minded." She moved her bag so Olivia could sit down.
"I don't understand," Sophia said. "Charles Vega has always been the vamp dad everyone wanted." Brendan nodded in agreement.
"Come on," Ivy said with an eye roll. "He never liked humans."
"Remember when he decorated that human lady's house in LA?" Sophia said. "That didn't seem to put his wings in a flap."
"That was just a client," Ivy said, shaking her head. "Anyway," she said, deciding to change the subject, "I looked on the VVV last night to see if I could access ASHH files."
Olivia perked up. "And?"
"I couldn't," Ivy revealed. "If we want to find out anything, we're going to have to go to the ASHH office ourselves."
"Do you think we can ask for our files just like that?" Olivia wondered.
"I wasn't thinking of asking," Ivy replied with a mischievous smile. "I was thinking of sneaking in and digging around."
Brendan spit a gulp of cranberry juice back into his cup.
"Bad Ivy," Sophia said, shaking her finger teasingly. "Bad, bad Ivy!"
Olivia leaned forward. "Could we actually do that?" she asked in a low voice.
"Brendan's dad invited us to the V-Gen offices," Ivy said, "and they're in the same building.
So we already have an excuse to get in and out of the compound. All we need is a distraction," she said, putting her arm around Brendan and squeezing his shoulder, "so we can get in and out of the ASHH offices without anyone noticing."
Brendan frowned. "Is 'distraction' a code word for 'boyfriend'?"
Ivy grinned. "Maybe."
"This'll be interesting," Brendan assented with a playful roll of his eyes.
"How about this afternoon after school?" Ivy proposed with a conspiratorial glance toward Olivia.
"There's no better time than the present," Olivia agreed, and Brendan nodded.
"What about me?" Sophia interjected. "What can I do?"
"Somebody has to stay behind to tell our story," Ivy told her, "in case we end up being abducted."
"You're joking, right?" said Sophia.
A chill flashed over Ivy. "I hope so," she said.
After school, Olivia, Ivy, and Brendan caught a bus to Brendan's father's office complex across town. Brendan had called his dad to let him know they were coming, while Olivia had called her mom and explained that she was doing a research project with Ivy – which was totally true. As for Ivy, she wasn't talking to her father, so she didn't tell him anything.
Eventually, the three of them were the only passengers left on the bus, and all Olivia could see from the window was one gray office building after another, against the wintry gray sky. Arriving at the end of a cul-de-sac, the driver called, "Last stop, Pentagram Court."
Jumping down off the bus, Olivia found herself staring up at a hulking black glass building, glistening in the afternoon sun like a dark jewel. It was surrounded by a security gate, and the bus had let them off right in front of a guardhouse. "Can I help you?" a pale security officer inquired.
"We're here to see Marc Daniels at V-Gen," Brendan announced.
Olivia glanced up and spotted a security camera sitting atop the gate, aimed right at her.
She shifted uncomfortably as the camera looked her up and down with a whir, from her pink corduroy jacket down to her cheerleading sneakers.
"No civilians allowed," the guard said stonily.
"He's expecting all of us," Brendan replied firmly.
The security guard looked unconvinced.
"Brendan, Ivy, and Olivia," Brendan answered.
The guard disappeared into his booth. Olivia could see him through the window talking on the phone. After he hung up, he slid the glass open and handed down three guest passes. As they put them around their necks, the gate clanked and slid open.
Inside the enormous black marble lobby, Mr. Daniels was waiting in his white lab coat. "Ivy, Olivia!" he said warmly, shaking their hands and giving Brendan a quick hug. "I'm so glad you came so soon!"
As they all waited for the elevator, Ivy nudged Olivia's arm and silently nodded toward the building directory that was hanging on the wall.
Olivia's eyes immediately zeroed in on what her sister was looking at:
Brendan's dad's lab and ASHH are on the same floor! thought Olivia. Perfect!
When the elevator doors opened onto the second floor, Ivy, Olivia, and Brendan followed Mr. Daniels to the left, but Olivia used the opportunity to steal a backward glance. There, at the opposite end of the hall past a tall potted plant was a dark wall with ASHH on it in enormous, luminous letters. Beside the letters was a door, and beside the door stood the tallest security guard Olivia had ever seen, fiddling distractedly with a walkie-talkie.
Mr. Daniels continued to the end of the hall, where a glistening sign read V-GEN PHARMACEUTICALS. He turned left and stopped outside a stainless steel door.
He opened the door and led the way into a huge laboratory, filled with blinking consoles and mysterious equipment. A group of people in white lab coats were hunched around a table, arguing in low voices over some papers.
"But how could she have survived the hemoglobic transition?" Olivia heard one say.
Mr. Daniels cleared his throat loudly, and the conversation stopped abruptly. One of the group, a woman with her hair in a bun, tried to subtly turn over the sheets of paper on the table.
"Lab technicians, this is Ivy Vega," Mr. Daniels announced as they all got to their feet. "And this is her identical twin sister, Olivia Abbott."
For a moment, the scientists just stared at them. Then one started clapping, and they all erupted into applause.
Olivia grinned while Ivy shifted in her boots, uncomfortable with the attention as usual.
"What am I, garlic hummus?" Brendan whispered sarcastically as the applause died down.
"The occurrence of identical twins is a unique genetic phenomenon, and there is much we stand to learn from it," Mr. Daniels said. "These young ladies have generously agreed to allow themselves to be subject to our experimentation."
Experimentation? Olivia thought uneasily.
The lab technicians all whispered to one another excitedly.
"Ms. Voxen, will you please prepare the VMG?" Mr. Daniels asked, and the woman with the bun gave a businesslike nod before disappearing. "Everyone else to your workstations." The technicians scurried off in all directions.
Mr. Daniels led the girls past a bank of flickering screens, where two of the technicians sat in swivel chairs, frantically turning dials. As Olivia walked past, the technicians abruptly stood up to face her. "Welcome, welcome," they said nervously, weaving back and forth.
They're trying to hide the screens! thought Olivia.
Mr. Daniels stopped in the corner, where a thick, blocky wooden chair stood on a small pedestal. Across from it, Ms.Voxen stood behind a console. Wires extended from the chair in all directions, and a metal circle hung above it, waiting to be lowered onto someone's head.
"Olivia, you can sit there," Mr. Daniels said nonchalantly, gesturing with his pen.
"You mean the electric chair?" Olivia croaked.
"The what?" Mr. Daniels said. Then he laughed. "Oh, no, that's just the VMG."
Olivia looked at Ivy and Brendan desperately, but they just shrugged.
She tried to put on a brave face as she sat down. Ms.Voxen came and fastened electrodes to Olivia's temples, her neck, and each of her fingers, then secured the metal band around Olivia's head.
"This isn't going to hurt, right?" Olivia quavered.
"Just relax," responded Ms.Voxen.
You didn't answer the question, Olivia thought nervously as she watched Ms.Voxen return to her console and put on chunky sunglasses. Suddenly, Mr. Daniels and Brendan and Ivy were wearing sunglasses, too. They looked like some sort of deranged rap group.
"Commence VMG?" Ms.Voxen asked.
"Commence," Mr. Daniels answered, and Olivia thought she was going to hyperventilate as Ms.Voxen reached behind her and pulled a huge red lever.
As far as Olivia could tell, nothing happened.
But Mr. Daniels and Ms. Voxen started to lean over the console, whispering excitedly and pointing at the screen.
"Is this thing even on?" Olivia asked.
Mr. Daniels looked up briefly. "That's a very interesting question, Olivia."
Olivia thought that was a strange response until it was Ivy's turn. The moment they turned the machine on with Ivy in the hot seat, Ivy's eyelids closed and started fluttering.
"Is she okay?" Olivia asked anxiously from the side.
"Of course. She's simply dreaming," Mr. Daniels explained.
Ivy and I really are different, thought Olivia, impressed that a machine which had no effect on her could immediately put her sister to sleep.
When they were done with the VMG, Mr. Daniels led them through the laboratory on their way to another test. Near the center of the lab, Olivia passed a tall glass box displayed proudly on a pedestal. Squinting, Olivia could just make out two vertical hairs, stretched taut across a metal frame. The strands were labeled OLIVIA and IVY.
It's the hair Mr. Daniels collected at his house! she thought. How cool is that?
Over the next hour, she and her sister underwent one test after another. Neither of them had ever had an MRI before – they had to change into drafty gray gowns and lie totally still inside a huge aluminium tube that made ominous clanking noises. Olivia could just hear Camilla's voice in her head, saying, "It's the year 2030 and you are suspended in a cryogenic pod for your journey."
They were given X-rays, too. Then there were exercise tests, which were so not fair. Olivia must have sprinted like two miles on her treadmill before she collapsed. Ivy hadn't even broken a sweat.
Finally, Mr. Daniels led the girls back to where Brendan was sitting, waiting with their bags underneath a faded public health sign.
"I can't thank the two of you enough," Mr. Daniels said to Olivia and Ivy. "The results of today's experiments could change the way we think about identical twins." He winked at the girls. Around the lab, technicians were buzzing excitedly, comparing notes.
"Can you tell us the results?" Olivia asked eagerly.
Mr. Daniels shrugged. "It could take months, or even years, before we complete our analyses. In genetics, there are often more questions than answers.We'd like to have you back for more tests in one year."
A year? Olivia thought incredulously. Ivy's leaving in like three weeks!
She could tell Ivy was disappointed, too.
Brendan just gave a little cough.
"Allow me to show you out," Mr. Daniels said.
As Brendan stood up with their bags, he started to hack.
"Are you all right, Brendan?" his father asked.
Brendan nodded. "Just a little nauseous and dizzy," he croaked. Then he staggered, and Olivia saw that his cheeks were pink.
Vampires only redden when they're about to faint! she remembered.
The girls' bags fell to the ground. Mr. Daniels lunged for his son as Brendan's legs folded.
"Ms. Voxen! Mr. Azure!" he called, struggling to hold Brendan up.The technicians rushed over.
Seeing Brendan, their eyes filled with fear.
"He must have been exposed to the V-rus!" Mr. Azure cried.
"He's displaying all the symptoms," Ms.Voxen agreed, her voice filled with panic.
"What's the V-rus?" Olivia asked.
"It doesn't concern your kind!" Mr. Azure cried, but Ms. Voxen poked him in the ribs. "I m-mean," he stuttered, "those who never had . . . er . . . chicken pox as children."
"Brendan, can you hear me?" his father asked desperately.
"Father," Brendan replied in a dreamy voice. "Is that you?"
"Mr. Spackle," Mr. Daniels called urgently to another technician, "get the V-rus treatment kit at once!"
As Brendan lay sprawled on the laboratory floor, Ivy stood staring at the sign that hung above where he'd been sitting: V-RUS PREVENTION AND DETECTION. SYMPTOMS: COUGHING, DIZZINESS, PINKNESS, FAINTNESS, AND NAUSEA, it read in huge faded red letters.
She looked back down at Brendan, who was now surrounded by lab technicians. Between their legs she caught his eye – and he winked!
"Ooooohhhh," Brendan moaned, shutting his eyes again. Next to his foot, the corner of a pink compact peeked out of Olivia's open bag where he'd dropped it. He used blush to make himself look pink! Ivy thought.
She grabbed Olivia's hand. "Let's go," she whispered, heading for the door.
"We can't – " Olivia began, but Ivy threw her a meaningful look and then she caught on. "Oh, right . . ." she murmured, falling in behind her sister.
Olivia shut the door behind them and the commotion of Brendan's "emergency" disappeared.
Ivy crept up and peeked around the hallway corner.
At the other end, the lone, giant security guard stood with his arms crossed impassively beside the entrance to ASHH. The office's doors slid open with a mechanical hiss, and Ivy quickly drew back. Slowly, carefully, she peeked out again.
A short bald guy in a black tie and trench coat had come out of ASHH. "Have a good night, Frankie," the man said in a nasal voice.
"Everything's turned off. I'm the last one."
Ivy heard the security guard grunt in acknowledgment as the man made for the elevators.
Ivy turned to Olivia. "The office is empty," she whispered. "I don't see a keypad or card slot or anything. We just have to get past the security guard."
"Who's only, like, the size of the Washington Monument!" replied Olivia.
"And we have to hurry," Ivy added, knowing that Brendan couldn't keep up his act forever.
She stuck her head around the corner again to survey the situation.
About a third of the way down, opposite the elevators, was a fire exit with a sign that said: OPEN ONLY IN EMERGENCY. MANAGEMENT WILL BE NOTIFIED. And on the floor next to the elevators was an enormous potted plant.
"I have an idea," Ivy whispered. "Stay here."
She crawled along the carpet as fast as her vampiric speed would allow, her shoulder tight to the wall. She stopped behind the plant. Her knees ached momentarily from rug burn, but then they instantly healed. Through the plant's leaves, Ivy kept an eye on the guard, who had started pacing back and forth.
Ivy set her feet and took a deep breath. When the guard's back was turned, she pushed off into a front handspring, tapping open the fire exit with the soles of her boots. When the alarm began blaring from the stairwell, she was already tumbling back on the other side of the plant. And I thought I'd never use my cheerleading skills, she thought proudly.
The security guard came charging down the hall. He raced through the fire door to investigate and the heavy door slowly clanked shut behind him. Moments later, the door shook as the guard realized his mistake and tried to open it from the other side, but it was locked.
Olivia ran up, beaming.Together, she and Ivy dashed to the end of the hall. The ASHH doors whispered open obligingly, and they disappeared inside.
Olivia stood beside her sister inside the darkened office. She could make out rows of desks, each one topped by an ancient-looking computer.
Hulking filing cabinets lined the walls.
Ivy fingered a stack of papers on a nearby desk.
"Look how much paper there is in this place," she said in a discouraged voice. "We might as well be looking for a corpse in a graveyard."
Olivia's eyes focused on the only closed-off room she could see: a huge partitioned cube in the center of the office, its smoked glass walls glowing slightly in the darkness. If I were an important file, she thought, that's where I'd be. "Come on," she said.
Luckily, the door was open. Olivia flipped the light switch, and then had to squint because of all the reflected light bouncing around the room.
Stainless steel filing cabinets lined the walls, except in the corners, where there were gleaming glass display cabinets filled with strange-looking artifacts. In the center of the room was a huge stainless steel slab of a table – without, oddly, any chairs around it.
They each took a filing cabinet and started thumbing through folders. Olivia scanned the typed labels: Kulter . . . Kunz . . . Kuzin.
"Everything's filed by last name," she and Ivy announced at the same time.
"What name should we be looking for?" Ivy asked.
"How about Vega?" Olivia tried.
Ivy pulled open another cabinet. "Nope," she said after a moment.
Olivia glanced back down at her cabinet, and a label caught her eye, one that was flagged with a red dot: LAZAR. That's the name the Daniels mentioned, she remembered. Curious, she pulled out the file, which was nearly two inches thick, and opened it.
ASHH CASE ABSTRACT
CASE #: 6765475888-102923
NAME: KARL LAZAR
PROVENANCE: ELDEST SON OF COUNT AND COUNTESS LAZAR OF COVASNA PROVINCE, TRANSYLVANIA
SUMMARY:(1) SUBJECT INVIOLATION OF 1ST AND 2ND LAWS OF THE NIGHT,WITH HUMAN SUSANNAH KENDALL OF ANDOVER, MASSACHUSETTS.
(2) COUNT AND COUNTESS LAZAR IN STRICT OPPOSITION TO RELATIONSHIP.
(3) SUBJECT'SWHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN STATUS: POTENTIAL HYBRID ALERT!
Olivia turned the page, and her gaze fell on a creased black-and-white photograph of a sternlooking vampire couple with their three children: a little girl and two young boys. Behind them, an imposing castle loomed ominously. The Lazar Clan, Covasna read the ornate caption. Count Rolen and Countess Rochette with children Kat, Karl, and Karina.
Olivia peered at the photo more closely. Her gaze fell on a jeweled medallion hanging around the countess's neck.There was a symbol carved in it – and it looked like an eye with a V inside it.
Olivia gasped. Carefully laying the file on the stainless steel table for her sister to see, she pointed with a shaking finger at the countess's necklace.
"It's the same symbol that's on our emeralds!" Ivy whispered.
They looked at each other in shock, and Olivia gripped her sister's hand. "I think our parents' names," Olivia said slowly, "are Karl Lazar and Susannah Kendall."
Ivy's eyes flashed. "Are you sure?" She started flipping through the file frantically as Olivia looked over her shoulder. Suddenly her black fingernail plunked down in the middle of a page.
"Fourteen years ago!" Ivy said. "They disappeared fourteen years ago!"
"Are there any pictures of them?" Olivia asked, her heart pounding.
Ivy summarily dumped the file on the table, and they both started sifting through the papers.
"Anything about them having kids?" Ivy asked.
"No." Olivia shook her head. "Just a potential hybrid alert."
Then Olivia's hands fell on a Xeroxed newspaper clipping from The Andover Rover.The headline read, LOCAL, SUSANNAH KENDALL, 34, DIES IN TRAGIC ACCIDENT. Her breath caught, and she pushed the clipping in front of her sister.
Ivy closed her eyes for a moment and let out a heavy sigh. Then her eyes flew open. "The guard!" she whispered. Sure enough, Olivia could hear faint footsteps outside in the hallway.
Together, they frantically shoved the pages back into their folder and shoved the folder back into the cabinet. Olivia pushed the cabinet shut as Ivy turned out the lights.
The main door of ASHH hissed open.
"Shhh," Ivy whispered to her sister. Olivia backed into a corner as the tall shadow of the guard moved slowly along the glass wall. Ivy saw a display cabinet behind her sister, with a small sign atop it that said ALARMED.
"Wait!" Ivy whispered as her sister bumped into the cabinet.
The guard's shadow on the wall froze, and Ivy and Olivia both held their breaths as the glass cabinet rocked back and forth. Ivy prayed that it wouldn't tip over and shatter. Miraculously, it righted itself.
I'm sure just a bump wouldn't set off the alarm, Ivy thought with relief.
That's when the office flooded with flashing red lights and a blaring high-pitched noise. Ivy and her sister dove underneath the stainless steel table as the guard burst through the door.
Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he gave a confused grunt, and moved around the table to examine the display cabinet. Olivia and Ivy carefully inched to the other side of the table, then slipped out of the door under the cover of the blaring alarm.
The main door to ASHH slid open and the twins raced through it and down the hall.The elevator beeped and started to open as they flew past it. As she rounded the corner at the V-Gen end of the hall, Ivy glanced over her shoulder to see a herd of uniformed guards stampeding out of the elevator toward ASHH.
We made it! Ivy thought, and shared a giddy look with her sister as they walked through the V-Gen lab door.
"Hey!" Brendan waved from his seat in the corner, where he was sipping a large glass of water.
"Are you okay?" Ivy ran over and hugged him with mock concern.
"I'm fine," Brendan grinned. His face was damp – somehow, he'd managed to wipe off Olivia's blush. "It must have been something I ate at the school cafeteria today."
Mr. Daniels appeared behind them. "They must stop putting garlic in everything when so many young people are allergic," he said in a serious voice. He turned to Ivy. "Where did you two disappear to?"
"We were in the ladies' room," Ivy answered quickly. "I was so anxious about Brendan's condition, I suddenly had to go." She tried to look embarrassed.
"You must have been gone for fifteen minutes," Mr. Daniels observed.
"We got locked out," Olivia stammered. "We had to get a security guard to let us back in."
"Oh, no," Mr. Daniels said with genuine concern.
"Well, it appears all of us have had quite an eventful afternoon."
As the three of them skipped out of the office building arm in arm a few minutes later, Ivy and her sister debriefed Brendan on their escapade.
"That's killer," Brendan remarked. "You found out almost everything you could have hoped for!"
"Thanks to you," said Ivy, squeezing his arm.
The sun was starting to set as the three of them sat huddled on the curb in front of the guard hut waiting for the bus.
"Maybe our parents wanted to keep us secret," Ivy theorized.
"From ASHH?" Brendan asked.
"And maybe from the whole Lazar family, too," Olivia pointed out. "After all, the Lazars didn't approve."
Ivy entwined her sister's fingers in her own and looked down at the alternating pattern of pink and black fingernails it made. She lay her head on her sister's shoulder. "At least now we know their names," she said.
"Karl and Susannah." Olivia sighed.
"Karl and Susannah." Ivy repeated thoughtfully.