Expo Collected Files of Kallie Reed

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Resident Witch
Staff member
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A recording device was clicked on. It was a cassette tape recorder, she noticed, and a new one at that. She watched it wind for a second before she really registered what the person in front of her had said. “Dr. Reed, could you please describe your experience with the anomaly for us one more time? I’m sorry, I know this is painful for you. We just need it for the record.”

She shook her curls out and nodded, clearing her throat.[font color=purple] “It’s okay, I understand the need for documentation. I can… I can do it.”[/font color]

The agent across from her nodded in return. She had pretty red hair and a face dusted in freckles.“We thank you for your amazing cooperation on this.”

Kallie bit her lower lip before speaking.[font color=purple] “Well, as I said before, I ordered the turntable from an antique catalog. My husband liked to collect antiques. I thought the turntable would be a nice addition to his collection. It arrived, and I went about setting it up for him. It was while I was doing so that someone tapped my shoulder. I went to turn around when I saw the well-dressed man. He was wearing a suit with an ascot and had thick dark hair. I don’t remember much else I’m afraid. I was frozen the entire day. I couldn’t move at all.”[/font color]

The woman shifted in her seat, crossing her legs. Kallie couldn’t remember her name, even though she had just told her it. All she could remember was the way the blood had sprayed across the ground, and she looked down at her shoes, it was still on her shoes, the blood was still– “And what happened that made it so you could move again?”

Kallie was shocked out of the flashback and a sob was wretched from her throat. She wrapped her arms around herself and sobbed openly. [font color=purple] “I’m sorry, I just. What happened was Carter came home from work. He walked into the house calling for me. I found myself compelled to turn around and face the doorway. He walked into the room and… I’m sorry, can I have a moment?”[/font color]

“Take your time, honey.” The agent clicked the machine off, and then leaned forward, offering her a handkerchief. Kallie accepted it and wiped her eyes dry. Her loose curls fell down around her face, and for not the first time in recent memory, she wished she had just cut them off when she wanted to. Sure Carter liked them but– No, he had liked them. He was dead now. The agent reached out and took Kallie’s free hand. “I know this is hard. You’re doing an amazing job, Kallie. You really are. Are you good to go again? We can take as long of a break as you need.”

[font color=purple] “I’m okay now. We can continue.”[/font color] She finished drying off her face and took in a deep breath as the agent restarted the machine. She nodded to her for her to continue. Kallie’s voice drifted as she spoke, gradually becoming softer and fainter. [font color=purple] “He walked into the room. The well-dressed man appeared behind him. He grasped my husband’s head in both of his hands and twisted it completely off. Severed all the muscles, tendons, arteries, the spine, everything. He ripped his head completely off. The blood splattered everywhere. It got on my shoes.”[/font color]

Kallie looked back down at her shoes, which over the last few hours she still hadn’t been able to take off. There was a dark red crust across the toes.“Stay focused, doctor. I know this is difficult.”

She looked up, breaking free from the daze that had started to settle in. [font color=purple] “Right. I was able to move again after this happened. The man disappeared. Then a few minutes later, one of your tactical teams showed up, and now I’m sitting here, talking to you. You said you're the Welcoming Committee, right?”[/font color]

“We are. We’d like to offer you a choice. We can either give you amnestics, and you’ll forget everything that happened. Or you can come and work for us and help to keep things like this from happening to other people. We know you have a double major in psychiatry and biology. We’d really like to have you work for–”

Kallie shook her head and cut off the agent. She knew what her answer would be the moment they had told her the options.[font color=purple] “I’ll do it. Whatever you want me to do. I’ll come to work for you.”[/font color]

“That’s excellent. We’ll end the recording there.” The agent clicked off the device and then turned a sad smile to Kallie. “You did great, girl. We’ll get someone out here later this week to help you move. I’m sorry that this has had to happen for us to find you. The psychology department at L-14 is going to be so grateful to have you.”

[font color=purple] “L-14?”[/font color]

“I’m sorry, Location 14. It’s where we’re sending you. Their psychology department has been suffering from a recent string of retirements. They’re very short-staffed right now. Of course, I noticed you just finished your second degree in internal medicine. You could always go to that department instead if you–”

Kallie shook her head again. The curls bounced around her face like springs. Furiously she pushed them back behind her face.[font color=purple] “I’ve been a psychiatrist for the last eight years. I will stay one until there’s no longer a need for me to be one. And that won’t be until someone who can do it better comes along. So the psychology department will do just fine. Thank you.”[/font color]\

The agent gave her a once over and nodded, a genuine smile on her face. “You’re gonna be just fine now, Kallie. We’re going to treat you real good at the ACF.”

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She stood in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at herself. It had been approximately forty-eight hours since her husband’s death. She’d spent the last two of those hours scrubbing blood from her oxfords, her hands shaking. The first twenty-four had been spent talking to members of the ACF, the Foundation she would soon be uprooting her entire life to go and join.

Well, what little was left of her life. Kallie had never managed to bond with anyone in San Antonio, where her husband had insisted they move. She hadn’t made any friends in the last three years they had been living there. She barely tolerated most of her coworkers, who treated her like garbage for being a woman. Her own family had died in the first year of her marriage, her parents of a smoking addiction and a heart attack, and her grandmother a year later of old age. There was no one left for her here, not with her husband’s death.

She stood looking in the mirror, her curls falling wildly around her face. There were shadows under her eyes. She hadn’t slept and had instead stayed up all night and cried. She wanted to turn back the clock. She wanted to hold on to the hand of time and pull back, but instead, it kept moving forward, dragging her along with it. Everything was spinning out of her control. She wanted to scream and break everything around her to unleash some of the horrible energy she felt inside her.

Because the worst part of all of this wasn’t even her husband's death. It was how little she felt about it. She and Carter had been falling apart for some time. She loved him still, and grief was definitely there, but she was numb to it. She knew it could be shock, but she also knew it was possible that she just… hadn’t loved him much anymore. They had been working on it, trying to work out the difference that had arisen. He had even agreed to her demand to adopt a child. That had been such a difficult point between the two of them for so long. Kallie had wanted a child and Carter hadn’t.

That would never happen now. And in all honesty, that hurt more than his death did.

And that was why she stood looking in the mirror. She was drowning in the guilt, and there was a constant soundtrack of screaming in her head. She was abuzz with energy, with a trembling fury, with a shaking guilt, with a menacing grief, all of them lingering over her and waiting to crash down and overwhelm her. They were waiting for the shock to disperse. They echoed loudly inside her consciousness as she descended into a never-ending dark hell. Everything was spinning out of her control.

She stood looking into the mirror. Her eyes dropped to a pair of scissors on the counter. She looked back in the mirror. Her waist-length curls bounced like springs, the big loose curls that were always in the way. She couldn’t keep up with the thoughts inside her own head. She picked up the scissors. Everything was spinning out of control.

She started hacking at the curls, chopping them off in large swathes. As she did, the first of the emotions finally hit her. It was grief. It filled every ounce of her being, and she let out a loud sob. She cut off another thick curl and was hit by the guilt. Her sob turned into a scream. She cut off the final curl and the anger crashed over her in a wave. She looked in the mirror at her now shoulder-length partial curls and her breathing picked up. She took the scissors and threw them at the mirror, shattering it. Pieces of glass flung out wildly, one catching her on the cheek, drawing a thin line of blood. She looked at the fractured reflection in the broken mirror, pieces missing. The scissors stuck in the back of the mirror, unmoving.

There wasn’t enough grief. And the grief wasn’t just for him, but for everything she had lost, everything she was going to have.

There was too much guilt. The guilt was for more than just not caring enough. It was for the fact he had died at all.

There was just enough anger. She wanted to smash that stupid record player to pieces and almost had, had the ACF not shown up.

The shock had worn off, and now she was just miserable.

Miserable and alone.

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[font color=darkorange] “She woke up, Kallie, in the middle of the procedure. He made us keep going.”[/font color]

Pepper was sitting there, crying. That was all Kallie could focus on right then, the small flaxen-haired girl who was sobbing. She was curled up, with one hand reaching behind her back to hold the spot they had drawn her bone marrow from. Kallie had only found out after the fact that the girl’s anesthesia hadn’t worked and that she had felt the majority of what had happened. That would have been one thing, if maybe no one had realized. But she had asked what happened, and they had told her, those bastards told her, that she had expressed pain to them, but because they had already started, they just kept going. Better for her to be in pain than for them to have to start over, as it were.

Kallie had never been so furious in her life. Pepper was a child, and one who had always been sensitive to physical sensation at that. Their callousness about the whole thing was really what set her off. They didn’t seem to care at all that they had caused her such severe pain. There was no remorse, no regret, at least for the primary residing doctors. Several of the Class-Cs and the accompanying Class-Bs had seemed appropriately horrified. But the two Class-Ds who had ordered it and performed the procedure themselves were completely unphased.

The moment that one of the other Class-Cs had sought Kallie out and told her what had happened, she had all but actually run to Pepper’s OR, only to find her gone. Then she had run to her CU. And that was how she had found the girl, in her oversized sweater with her hand on her back, tucked as far into the corner of her bed as she could get. Like she was trying to hide, to make herself out of reach. She was sobbing so hard that Kallie felt tears immediately form in her own eyes.

Kallie had promised Pepper the procedure wouldn’t hurt when they had come to collect her after her usual power output testing earlier that day. She had promised. And now that promise had been a lie.

Kallie took a few careful steps into the room, unsure of whether the girl would blame her or not. Pepper looked up and saw her, her sobs causing her breath to hitch in a painful manner. Then, the girl reached out for her, coming out of the corner of the bed. Kallie rushed forward and scooped her up. Tears fell from her eyes onto the girl’s hair.

[font color=darkpink] “It– It hurt so– ahhh– it hurt so much.”[/font color] Kallie felt her heart begin to break. She smoothed the girl’s hair back, holding her tight.

[font color=purple] “I’m so sorry, Pepper. It wasn’t supposed to. That wasn’t supposed to happen like that.” [/font color] The girl curled into Kallie’s arms, and she got further on the bed to accommodate her.[font color=purple] “Does it still hurt? Are you in pain right now?”[/font color]

[font color=darkpink] “Y-yes. Not as– not as bad.”[/font color] Kallie swallowed against the hard lump in her throat. She was going to kill someone over this. Someone’s head was going to roll. She was going to march straight into the location manager’s office and demand their heads on a silver spike.

[font color=purple] “Oh, baby, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” [/font color] The girl’s small hands, smaller than they should have been for a ten-year-old, tightly wound themselves in Kallie’s turtleneck.

[font color=darkpink] “I c-called for you. Wh-when I wo-oke up. They– they said you we-weren’t there.” [/font color] That was like a gut punch. Kallie was supposed to have been there, was supposed to be attending the procedure, but an emergency had come up with Jade, and she had to leave. The emergency had been easily contained, and it had only been then that her friend Dr. Thomas Miranda had come and gotten her. Kallie knew this wouldn’t have happened if she had just let someone else handle Jade. She could have stopped the procedure the moment Pepper began to wake up.

[font color=purple] “I’m sorry, Pepper, I cannot even begin to explain to you how sorry I am. I promise it will never happen again.”[/font color]

[font color=darkpink] “How?”[/font color]

[font color=purple] “What?”[/font color]

[font color=darkpink] “How w-will y-you stop them? You h-have to look after the o-others.”[/font color] The girl wiped her face on her oversized sleeve and looked down, still on the verge of more tears.[font color=darkpink] “Y-you have to be there for them too. How wi-will you stop them?”[/font color]

A lead weight settled in Kallie’s chest. Pepper was right. She had to be there for the other kids, had to protect them and take charge so that she could make sure someone with fewer morals didn’t. She couldn’t always be there for Pepper when they were expecting three new kids to come in when they already had two toddlers and an older teenager. And those were just the ones who were the safest to interact with.

There was very little that Kallie could do if she had to be with one of the other children. There was very little she could do at all, really– Kallie stiffened up. It wouldn’t be a perfect solution. They would still have the ability to run tests on her, but they might be more careful, a little gentler, maybe, if she was the daughter of a Foundation researcher. But it would offer her a level of protection that the children who didn’t have Foundation parents didn’t have. Right now, she had very little protection given her parent’s death. But as Kallie’s daughter, they would all have to answer to her wrath if anything untoward happened.

Pepper had always been Kallie’s favorite. That might have been a terrible thing to say, but her cheery attitude and her happy demeanor had always endeared her to the researcher. She had a bright soul and a fast mind that devoured anything Kallie gave her. Some of the other children were withdrawn and wary, even at such young ages, and Pepper had come to them with no fear and no wariness. She had come to them and she had stayed exactly the same, despite everything. This was by far the worst thing the girl had been through, and she could still see it in her eyes. That spark that made her her.

She sat up straight, taking Pepper by her shoulders and sitting her upright as well. The girl’s face was tear-stained and there was still a hitch in her breathing, but she sat up, looking up at Kallie with eyes full of trust. Kallie brushed the hair back from Pepper’s face and looked into her eyes, searching them.

[font color=purple] “Would you like to be my daughter, Pepper?”[/font color]

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There was a thick stack of papers sitting in front of Kallie. She had signed and initialed every single page. Sitting across from her was a social agent, and sitting next to her was a ten-year-old Pepper, holding onto her arm with a vice-like grip. On her other side sat an ACF-affiliated lawyer. The social agent was flipping through the pages, nodding every once in a while. Finally, she finished, and Pepper’s hand tightened even further. If the agent noticed, she said nothing. Their lawyer was sitting, calm and collected, a small smile on her face.

If the lawyer was calm, that meant that Kallie needed to be calm. Despite how nervous she really was with the forged documents, if the lawyer was calm, she’d be calm. Pepper, on the other end, could barely contain her nerves. Whether that be from her excitement, or from the fact that she knew they were selling a big lie, Kallie didn’t know. It could’ve been either. It could’ve been both. For whatever reason, Pepper clung to her arm like she was afraid someone would take her away.

[font color=darkorange] “Well, all your paperwork appears to be in order. It’s always nice when a godparent actually takes in their godchild and decides to formally adopt them. I love to get these kinds of cases. I only have one question.”[/font color]

Kallie’s heart beat a little faster at those words, but she smiled and asked,[font color=purple] “Of course, what is it?”[/font color] With only the slightest outward indication, Kallie could tell their lawyer was ready to jump in if necessary.

[font color=darkorange] “Well, I see here that her parents died in 2002. What made you wait so long to adopt her? I mean, 7 years is a long time to just have her as a ward.”[/font color]

Kallie let her shoulders relax a little and smiled, tilting her head to the side just a bit to appear more friendly. Kallie was good at faking approachability when she needed to. [font color=purple] “Well, Pepper started school and I have a demanding job, so I was always just barely able to be home in time to pick her up and get dinner done, help her with her homework, and even then I was bringing work home with me. I’m using a vacation day to be here as is. It’s really just been a matter of finding the time.”[/font color]

[font color=darkorange] “Now, I like to make sure the kids are alright with this before I finish signing off on the paperwork, so if I could just talk to you alone for a minute, Pepper, we can get–”[/font color]

[font color=darkpink] “You don’t need to talk to me alone. I want this. I want it more than I’ve ever wanted anything.” [/font color] Pepper was leaning forward in her chair now, her unpinned hair falling into her eyes. She had the most serious expression that Kallie had ever seen on, her little brows furrowed and her mouth set. She was also flushed, as though it was embarrassing her to be so serious. The social agent tilted her head and smiled.

[font color=darkorange] “I have to ask you certain questions, sweety, and they’re usually easier if–”[/font color]

[font color=darkpink] “I’m not doing this against my will, I’m not being abused, and I want this. Please sign the papers.”[/font color] Pepper was stubbornly crossing her arms then, her expression ranging more toward annoyance now. Kallie had no idea where– well, that wasn’t true at all. Kallie knew exactly where she had learned to be that stubborn. Right then, it made her chest swell with emotions, Pride, in having raised her to be strong when she felt like she should be. Love, for the fact that even though they weren’t related by blood, she still took after her. And finally, cingulomania, because she did indeed feel a strong desire to hold Pepper in her arms as tightly as possible.

The social agent gave her a soft look and smiled.[font color=darkorange] “Okay, okay. You’ve convinced me.”[/font color] The woman picked up her pen and began to sign pages, and Kallie felt her heart beat harder than it had in years. Since 1996, at least. The woman flicked through the pages with familiarity, an obvious knowledge of what pages required her signature and which didn’t. Pepper’s hand dug into her arm with a fierceness that made Kallie feel even fuller in her chest.

The social worker reached under her desk and pulled out a stamp, rocking it in it’s ink base. She stamped the last page, a little hard, and then looked up at the two women and the girl across from her.[font color=darkorange] “That’s it, it’s official. You’ll get your new custody documents on your way out. The wait shouldn’t be long, we haven’t had many people through today, especially in this department. I wish both of you an amazing life.”[/font color]

Pepper jumped from her seat and threw her arms around Kallie’s shoulders. Kallie hugged her back, holding her close. She came uncharacteristically close to crying then, a knot blocking up her throat. Hugging Pepper was nothing like hugging other people used to be. It made her feel warm and stirred a gentle feeling in her chest. The last time she had hugged someone was…

She wasn’t thinking about that. Not ever again. He didn’t deserve it.

She grounded herself back in the moment with Pepper as the lawyer talked with the social agent off to the side of them. Kallie knew that nothing would ever be as important to her again as this child was now. Pepper was hers. She could never be taken away from Kallie now, and hopefully, people would be too afraid of her to do anything to Pepper ever again. But for some reason, she wasn’t thinking of any of that. She was just thinking about how tightly Pepper was hugging her, and about how good that felt. She could get used to that.

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