Chapter 4

Lucy led the children to the Damien Mall, a ginormous shopping complex, filled with what appeared to be hundreds of people. The floors were comprised of various colors or marble, including white, beige, and black. The main entrance, which appeared to be the only entrance, was a double glass sliding door. In fact, it seemed like all of the outer walls were made of glass. The main desk in front of the entrance was comprised of the same marble as the walls, a beige marble with crystalline bits. The mall itself was very well decorated. Bright chandeliers hung from the walls and served as lighting. Plants and ferns sat in fancy pots near shops. The shops themselves were mostly clothing boutiques and makeup outlets, with a furniture store here and there.

"Isn't it lovely?" Lucy asked, looking around as they entered.

"It's all clothes." Justin groaned in disgust.

"Don't worry sweetie, they have a massive sporting goods store on the second floor." She reassured him.

That just made Justin's face even sourer. He hated sports, unlike the other boys, and he thought it was rude that she'd assume he liked them.

Meanwhile, Gaia, Skye and Julia were whispering quietly among themselves as Lucy went over to talk to the woman at the main desk.

"Ok, now's a good time to escape." Gaia suggested.

They turned to the door but saw that an Agent was blocking the entrance.

"I'm pretty sure that's the only exit…" Skye gulped, realizing they were trapped.

"Hey, Lucy said that there was a sporting goods store on the second floor. I bet they'll have things we could use as weapons to escape." Gaia suggested.

"Good idea!" Skye cried, almost a little too loudly.

Gaia and Julia hushed her up, afraid that Lucy or the Agent might notice.

"Alright then, let's go!" Gaia pointed to an escalator off to the side, out of sight of the Agent.

"Wait, what about Justin?" Julia asked, nodding over in his direction.

Gaia and Skye exchanged glances. They knew Justin had no interest in resisting, but they didn't want to leave Julia behind…

"Alright, but please don't take too long." Gaia pleaded.

Julia strived over to Justin as fast as she could without arousing suspicion.

"Justin, now's the time to escape." She whispered into his ear.

"I told you, I'm not going to do that!" he replied, a little too loudly.

Lucy turned around from her conversation with the desk clerk.

"What's going on?" she asked, and then noticed Gaia and Skye off in a corner. "Children, come over here." She asked in a sickly sweet tone.

Gaia and Skye then tore off towards the elevator, an Agent soon following them. Julia started running, but Lucy grabbed her hair with her long, manicured fingernails that painfully dug into her skin.

"And just where are you going?" she asked, as she pulled her back. "They'll be back soon, just watch." She sneered.

She led Julia and Justin over to an elevator that was conveniently hidden behind the main desk and some plants. She pulled out a small, round remote control, aimed it at the elevator, and pressed the one red button on it. The elevator door slid open, revealing a cold, metal elevator that vastly contrasted with the rest of the mall. They all stepped inside, Lucy squishing in between them.

"I think we're all going to be great friends." She smiled, in an almost robotic manner.

Julia and Justin exchanged very worried glances. They were obviously both very, very nervous. Julia looked at the round remote control held by Lucy, if she could just grab it…

The elevator door opened to a completely different area. Instead of marble and stone floors and walls, they were all made of a strange, blue steel. The only furniture were plastic tables covered in heavy machinery or equipment. Men and women in lab coats worked with the mechanisms, none of them glancing up to notice us. Only two Agents came to greet us, their black sunglasses hiding their expressions.

"This is where I'll be leaving you. You guys have fun, and don't worry, Dr. Matthews is great!" Lucy reassured us, before stepping back into the elevator, the door closing behind her.

Julia turned to Justin, and saw right away just how absolutely nervous Justin looked. His palms were shaking, and his face was a bright pink. Sweat was pouring down his face, fists clenched, and his eyes were shut tight, since he was close to tears. Julia heard the whoosh of a metal door slide open, and in stepped in an older man, in his sixties or so. His hair was a dark grey, with a bald spot in the middle. He wore a white lab coat, with khaki pants, and brown loafers. Immediately, the scientists turned around and nodded to the man before returning to their work.

"Good evening children. My name is Dr. Matthews." He greeted, slowly walking down the stairs.

Julia and Justin stared at the man blankly, not knowing how to respond.

"I was expecting more of you." He commented.

Justin twitched. Should he tell him that Gaia and Skye are loose within the mall? Or should he just keep that to himself? He knew Julia would never tell him anything, should he trust him?

"Hmm, oh well. The girl is first." Dr. Matthews declared.

The one of the Agents by the elevator grabbed Justin and hauled him off to the left door. The other Agent pushed Julia forward in the direction of the right door. Julia watched as Justin was carried to a cell on the left side. The Agent used the same round remote control that Lucy used on the elevator to lock Justin in. She turned to see Dr. Matthews, and in his lab coat pocket, was an identical round remote control. Julia began getting an idea. After passing two more rooms filled with working scientists, they finally reached Dr. Matthew's personal office.

"Leave us." Dr. Matthews commanded.

The Agent stepped out of the office, closing the sliding metal door behind him. Dr. Matthews' office had the same interior structure as the other rooms, but his room was not lined with tables of gadgets. Instead, there was one large, cocoon shaped machine in the center of the room. It appeared to be attached to many tubes, and it looked like a person was suppose to fit inside its cocoon like structure. Next to it was a small metal table, which contained an assortment of medical instruments, including a container of black liquid that caught Julia's eye. Necrophil , a powerful sleeping drug used during the Age Surgery. Apparently very addictive, it's used among many adults. She also noticed that next to the container was a sharp syringe. Julia cringed at the thought of Dr. Matthews sticking a needle in her. The only other thing in the room was a desk over-crowded with papers. Dr. Matthews was there now, looking through his assortment of documents.

"So, I heard that you didn't cooperate with the Agents when they arrived." Dr. Matthews told her, his back turned to her.

She could escape now, looking at the remote control in his pocket. All she had to do was run up and snatch it from him.

"You know a crime like that is punishable by death." He continued.

Julia turned to him.

"So you're going to kill me?" she asked, frightfully.

"That depends. You see, I've been working on a new and improved version of the Age Surgery. The current version only changes your body, but leaves your mind completely intact. You'll have the body of an adult, but not the mind of one! That is what I've changed. I've succeeded in rapidly aging the brain, implanting the experiences of a natural adult. That's what's wrong with adults who've been aged by the surgery, they have the minds of mere children! That's why I need you!" Dr. Matthews raved, pointing directly to Julia.

Julia was now quite worried as to what Dr. Matthews was going to suggest.

"With my perfected version of the Age Surgery, you will be an adult in body and mind as well!" he stated.

Julia stepped back. "But, I don't want you to mess with my brain! Changing my body is bad enough!"

Dr. Matthews folded his arms. "I was afraid you'd refuse. That's why I'm prepared to make a deal." He began. "For attempting to resist the Agents, normally you would be shot on site. I can still make that happen. And your two friends as well, we can still use the boy." Dr. Matthews coldly told her.

Julia looked around. Would the Agents catch Gaia and Skye? She knew they were good at running, but could they escape the mall on their own, and would they leave without her?