Scientific Study: Testing new drugs! Testing takes place over a period of several weeks. Be prepared to stay away from family/friends for that period of time. Pays between $10,000 and $15,000. Must be relatively healthy and sign waivers/legal forms.

That ad appeared in the paper one day. Out of the blue. Vague enough to peak interest but enough information to get exactly what they wanted. What the lab, Icewyn Industries, really wanted was 'undesirables', but they'd never say it out-loud. The homeless. People without family or friends to miss them. Etc. Useless members of society. But this ad called to those who needed the money, more than anything. College kid with debts. Someone who screwed up and lost everything. Homeless. Kicked out of their family. The same general thought ran through everyone's mind who answered the ad.

Thousands of dollars for a simple drug testing. What could go wrong?

The answer is everything.


1. Crystal: The Beginning

I opened the door to Icewyn Industries, the ad I found in the paper in my hand. The building was fairly large, and pristine-looking. It had offices on the first couple floors, and the rest of the building housed labs and other rooms. There was a woman behind the main desk in the lobby, so that's where I headed.

"Hi... I'm answering the ad for the drug testing?" My voice sounded unsure, almost nervous, and I hated it. I had to be confident to land a spot for this. I needed the money. This was one of my only options left. The woman-Hailey, her nameplate read-barely gave me a second glance.

"Go into that first elevator and go to floor two. Take a left, and it's the third room to your right. They'll handle everything from there." She instructed, pointing at said elevator. Her attention was entirely focused back on her computer and I frowned. She was almost rude to me, and that was not something I appreciated.

"Thanks." I was at least polite. I went to the elevator to head up. Taking a moment, I examined myself in the mirrored wall of the elevator. My plain red hair, thrown into a messy braid. My boring brown eyes, so brown they were almost black. Pale skin. On the short side. Boring. A neat skirt and black combat boots. Over-sized sweater hanging off my shoulders a little, with leaves and vines crawling up the side as a design. My necklace. I reached up and touched it lightly. Why did memories have to be painful?

The elevator stopped, jolting me out of my thoughts. I walked out and down the hall to the room I was told to go to, hesitating before knocking. It's polite. I'm polite. The door opened and I saw a man. White-silver hair. Snake bites-piercings on the lower lip-and a couple of earrings. Tall. What struck me most were his eyes. One was a gold color, and one was a vibrant purple. I realized I was staring and quickly looked away with a light blush on my face.

"Tch. Doc, looks like you got someone else to interview." He said, shoving past me. I blink after him in slight confusion and awe, but walk in when I'm called.

"You are answering the ad, yes?" The man behind the desk in the cozy office asked with a kind smile. "I just need you to fill out some forms and answer some questions. Have a seat." I did as I was told. The man was an older man, his hair greying. He also had very blue eyes and a kind smile, but seemed weary, like he carried much knowledge. An old soul, I decided. His nameplate read 'Brynjar Icewyn'.

"Icewyn? You run Icewyn Industries?" I asked curiously, and he chuckled at my question.

"Yes, that I do. Brynjar Icewyn. And you are?" He handed me a clipboard and pen as he spoke.

"Crystal Belvone." I answered, frowning at the clipboard and the papers that came with it. Legal documents and medical forms.

"These documents are standard medical forms, so we know important medical information, such as your medical history or allergies, or any concerns we should know about. The others are legal documents, such as a confidentiality agreement, meaning you won't discuss what happens here outside until testing is complete and we are ready to release the information, or if there is some sort of emergency that requires you to talk about this testing, as well as waivers and other things. Take your time in reading them and filling them out. In the meantime, do you mind if I ask you some questions?" Brynjar explained. Well, Doctor Icewyn, I suppose. I shook my head while I started on the medical history. "Alright, let's start simple. Tell me about yourself a bit, about your personality." He leaned back in his chair a little and I spared him a quick glance from the papers I was writing on.

"Well... I'm twenty years old. I went to college for about a year and a half before certain... Situations forced me to stop going. I would like to consider myself a kind, trusting person. I'm a little bit of a geek, and I love music. I mean, I really love music. I can play it, both piano and the flute, and I love listening to it." I smile softly. "I was pretty good at it too." I trail off, once again caught up in memories. The doctor nodded in thought, jotting some things down. "I like to garden a little too. I've always liked nature. Call me a green girl, I guess."

"I also enjoy music, of a more classical sense. Would you tell me the reason you're undertaking this trial? You know this is over the course of several weeks. Won't your family and friends be missing you during this time?" He asked, leaning forward on his desk as I started on the more legal documents. I sighed heavily, looking up now to give him my full attention.

"I don't have a family, and I have few friends. Those few friends I hardly ever see as is. More of acquaintances, really. My father passed away years ago, and things with my mother became really tense. When I was 18, I moved out and stopped speaking to her altogether. I went to college, and I was happy. But then, I got word that my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She needed chemo and all kinds of procedures. She couldn't pay for that stuff, and neither could I. A nearly-broke college student with a part-time job to pay for college, and using scholarships for what I can't pay. In major debt. My mother didn't even know I was the one footing the bill for all this stuff because she won't talk to me, and I won't talk to her either. I should use the money from this study for my college. So I can pay for it. Being an English teacher wouldn't pay for all of college easily, which is the career I was pursuing. This money is for my mother. She won't even know. I have one request, and it may seem odd, or even totally wrong. But I beg you... Send the money to my mother. Make it anonymous if you want. She needs a major procedure soon. Send the money now. Paying upfront may be against every rule you have, but it has to be soon. That's why I'm willing to do this." I blurted all of this out in one fell swoop, and turned back to the documents in my lap.

"I believe... We can arrange something." He smiled gently. "You care an awful lot about a woman who hasn't spoken to you in a long, long time."

I shrug. "She's still family... She won't even know I'm doing this, and even if she did, she wouldn't care. She wrote me off a long time ago, but she's still my mother." I sign the last page of the last document, and handed him the clipboard back.

"I'll review these, make sure everything is in order... The testing will take place later in the week, once we have all the candidates and forms in order. Stay close to the lab here, if you can. Do you have a place to stay?" He questioned before continuing. "During the testing period, you will be staying at the labs. This is the central headquarters for Icewyn Industries, but we have labs in other locations, with bunkers and more extensive lab equipment than this building. This one is more of an office building rather than a good lab location. For now, if you can't stay close to this building, there is a floor here with bunkers. We already have two people staying here." He explained, putting the clipboard down and pen in a drawer. I frown in thought. My apartment was at least an hour away, which wasn't exactly close to the labs. I was pretty broke, and couldn't exactly pay for a hotel for a week.

"I don't see another option for me other than to stay here. Who is staying here as well?" I asked curiously, standing up.

"You briefly met one of them, walking in here. His name is Luke Austin. The other is a girl who goes by Wren. The bunkers are separated, both here and at the other location, if being in the same sleeping quarters as a boy bothers you." He shuffled through a drawer and pulled out a paper map of the building. "The bunkers are located on the basement level of the building, below the main ground floor. To give a small bit of privacy to anyone who has to stay here. This should help you navigate." He handed the map to me and I examined it for a moment, before nodding.

"I'll come back after I've grabbed some things from my place." I smiled and left the room, heading out of the building. This was happening. I was doing this. No going back.

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