“She is quite brain dead,” said a male voice in
Confusion. “Who was that? Where am I?” she
“If we turn off life-support, the patient will
typically expire in several hours, perhaps even up to a day later. She will not feel any
Is he talking about me? As her thoughts cleared,
she felt a dull pain in her right cheek and the back of her head. Odd, there was no feeling below her
“I’m here!” She wanted to say it, but her lips would not move. She could
only think it.
“You are certain about the tests? There is no
chance of her recovering?” asked a woman’s voice. It was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Like the other
voice, she could tell that they were very close.
“The tests are wrong!” she thought, but they
could not hear her. She concentrated on her lips first, and then her tongue. She could feel her tongue touching
her teeth, but she could not open her mouth. The effort left her tired and dizzy. As she slid back into
unconsciousness, she thought she saw several small green globes shimmering softly in the
Director Ikarus looked through a cracked door
into the hospital room. A young woman – code named “Sarge” lay in her bed watching television. She was his
greatest accomplishment, his finest possession. Like many in the hospital, she was broken. Ikarus was broken as
well, but not obviously so. To any observer, he appeared to be a nearly bald man, thin, in a black military
uniform. His mind had suffered much more trauma than Sarge’s, but not all at once from an attack. His was from
the accelerants he had used for years to cheat, to develop and exploit his mind faster. He was not crippled like
Sarge, but he was damaged and broken. The wrinkles on his face, and the black shadows beneath his eyes made him
appear much older than he was.
A heavy-set man with somewhat-long grey hair
wearing a blue scrub turned towards Ikarus. “She will be alright. The bleeding in her brain is under control,
and there should not be any more degradation.”
“Will she be able to walk again?” asked Ikarus.
Sarge’s mind would be fine. Walking was less important, but it made his tool more convenient to
“I don’t know,” said the doctor as he looked
down from Ikarus’s face. “I have never seen an injury quite like it. The patient suffered hemorrhaging –
micro-strokes – in at least eight capillaries. I wish you could tell us the mode of
“That is classified.” Even if he told the doctor
what happened, it would not help. Mind attack by a hostile talent. “When can she be
“I would suggest keeping her admitted for at
least two more day to ensure we don’t have any complications.”
“Will there be any restrictions on discharge?
“She can’t walk.”
“Other than that? Is it fine to push her
mentally, as she is able?”
“What is so important that this girl get back
to?” blurted the Doctor, looking aggravated.
“That is classified.”
Her mind was getting better. She could remember
some things, and did not black out as quickly. She felt her head shift slightly over and over. She was
breathing, her lungs shifting body just enough for her to perceive it. She still could not open her eyes or move
her lips, but she could sense when people were around. Even when those around her were not talking, she could
detect them. In the void of her mind, she saw them as small green spheres, no larger than a grapefruit. Every
hour, one of them would come close to her, move her slightly, and ask “How are you doing Miss Sunshine?” in a
young ladies’ voice. She could not remember her name, but did not think that was her was “Miss Sunshine”. That
person moved her and touched her face each time. The touches were painful.
“Am I hurt?” she wondered. Despite the pain, she
liked this person that visited her each hour. Even without her sight, she could identify the nice person – each
of the green globes seemed a little different. She imagined herself swimming, flying towards the globe. As she
approached, the darkness disappeared. She saw a flat white plane covered in blackness. At the very center stood
an attractive woman in a nurse’s scrub.
“Hello?” She could hear herself talking, the
words seemed vocal, but the nurse remained motionless.
She walked towards the nurse, directly in front
of her. Her cheeks still hurt.
“Hello?” Still no response. It did not seem
real, and the effort made her tired. As she relaxed, the white plane and the nurse vanished, replaced again by
total blackness. This journey, or exploration left her exhausted. She stopped struggling to stay conscious.
He was losing his patience. They were keeping
his project here, and there was no tangible benefit. The doctors had their procedures and guidelines, and were
quite unwilling to discharge Sarge. Her training was being delayed. He considered less conservative means to
remove Sarge from the facility. He had the capacity to alter – change their minds, but with the effort came a
cost. He would accept the two day delay.
The entire Shadow Force project had been his
most frustrating endeavor. The first Talent he discovered had been insubordinate and refused to follow even the
simplest instructions. She had been isolated under long-term medication until he could find a way to control
her. His second Talent – code named Sarge was able but crippled. Her mind was damaged, and her reduced life
expectancy was only slightly longer than his. They each had five years, give or take. He had to finish his work
before he expired. The third Talent, code named Hildegard was an unknown. She had ability, but her capacity had
not yet been tested. Sarge and Ikarus had acquired Hildegard less than two weeks ago. It would take some time to
Ikarus frowned at the thought of time. He had
virtually unlimited money and massive resources from the United States government to acquire and develop
Talents. His mandate was simple: acquire and develop other Talents like himself, by any means necessary,
regardless of the cost. Any cost but time, which was far more precious than his other assets. His time was very
In the darkness, images came and went. She must
have been dreaming. Or
remembering. She was swimming. No, diving from a platform into the water, and swimming to the side. It seemed
natural. She was a diver, and it was part of who she was. She saw herself on a bicycle, racing on the edge of a
two-lane street. An approaching car crossed the centerline, careening toward her. She felt herself
She stopped trying to remember, tried to relax.
In the darkness, a two green spheres came into focus close to her. Something was pulling from inside of her,
scraping her throat. She felt nauseated. And then, awful pain. Pain in her chest. Why did breathing hurt so much
now? Struggling to breathe, she tried to relax. The breathing came easier.
“She’s still breathing?” said a voice. It was
familiar, but she could not place it.
“This is not unusual. Her body will keep trying
to breathe, but her oxygenation rate will slowly drop. She will eventually go into cardiac arrest.” That voice
was unfamiliar, cold.
Whatever these two were saying, it did not seem
important. Relax and breathe. Relax and breathe. As she relaxed, she saw many other green spheres at a distance,
out of focus. Blurred, she saw one orange sphere.
She felt drawn to the orange sphere, and
imagined herself flying towards it. She imagined herself as an angel with wide white feathery wings, flying
towards the sphere. The sphere became larger until she sensed it right next to her. Then she entered
Like before, she found herself on a large white
plane. At its center, a short woman with spiked hair turned towards her.
“Hello?” she asked.
The woman looked alarmed, and raised her arms
defensively. “Who are you?” asked the woman.
“I am not sure.”
“We spoke yesterday -- you were here. Do you
remember?” asked the woman with spiked hair.
“Where am I?”
“You are in my mindscape. Where are
She had no idea where she was. Or even who she
was. She struggled to remember, and saw blackness engulf her.
“How are you doing today?” asked Ikarus. He
looked at Sarge -- the second Talent, reclined in her hospital bed.
“My legs still don’t work. I had a visitor
though,” answered Sarge.
“A visitor?” asked
“Someone entered my mindscape this morning. I
think it was the second time – the first time I wasn’t sure it was real.”
“You think you found another Talent? Why didn’t
you tell me after the first time?”
“I thought I was dreaming. The first time, I was
just waking up. I thought I imagined it. But she is real,” said Sarge.
“You have a private room with a guard posted
outside. No one has entered. Do you think this Talent of yours can enter your mind without a line of sight?”
asked Ikarus skeptically.
Sarge sat up on her bed. “Yes, I am
“Do you know who it
“No. She didn’t tell me her name. She kind of
blanked out in the middle of talking to me.”
Ikarus put his fingers on Sarge’s wrist.
Physical contact made entering someone’s mind much easier. “I want to you think about her
Sarge closed her eyes, and
With the image of a young, blond-haired girl in
his mind, Ikarus strode off without another word. Could he be this lucky? Was this image of another
Rocket ran his hand through the disheveled short
hair on his head. He always did this when thinking, and consequently his hair was always a mess. He had not been
home in nearly two days, driven on by caffeine and sugar. He enjoyed his work, and Director Ikarus allowed him
extreme flexibility as long as the continued producing results.
He was intently studying a dark monitor with the
image of a brain. Many locations on the brain were flashing yellow or red. “Stress events” sounded much less
ominous than ischemic strokes, or capillary infarctions. It made explaining things to Sarge
Another monitor started chirping. A flashing
message on the screen said “Incoming call – Director Ikarus”.
“AI, answer,” said Rocket. Dr. Ikarus’s face
appeared on the monitor.
“Rocket, I am sending you an image from my
mind-band. Sarge thinks this person might be a Talent. Can you try to get an ID on her?” asked
“On it,” said Rocket. He opened the image file
Ikarus had sent, and submitted it into Defnet’s P3 database – person, place, probability. Moments later, the
“Her name is Angela Kowolski,” said
“Do you know where she is?” asked
Rocket submitted several queries. “She is in a
hospital. Do you want me to use a HIPAA override? Find out where she is?”
Rocket typed in several commands to the P3
system. “I’ve located her. I sent her specs and bio to your notepad. Do you want her records also? For this
“Yes,” said Ikarus, looking
The monitor with Ikarus’s face went
Ikarus looked down at Angela’s unconscious body
in the bed. Her face was still bruised and puffy. Her head had been shaved, and now was covered in fresh blonde
stubble. Ikarus looked at the photograph on his notepad. Angela was barely recognizable in her current
condition, but the photographs was a clear match for the image shared by Sarge.
As Ikarus touched the body’s hand, a doctor took
half a step towards them, but remained silent. Angela was a Talent, and her abilities were intact.
Ikarus turned towards a short, thin doctor in a
turqoise scrub. Ikarus
looked at his badge, and continued. “Dr. Scheffler, what is the patient’s status?”
“The patient is terminal. She is brain dead, has
a DNR order, and we are waiting for her to expire.”
Ikarus knew she was not brain dead. He was a
Talent, and he could sense Talent in others. If she were truly brain dead, he would not have sensed her
“Aside from her brain, what other difficulties
does the patient have?”
Dr. Scheffler gave Ikarus a curious look, and
answered. “She has a compression fracture at C2 with moderate nerve impingement, but it was not severed. She
also has fractures in her right clavicle, a compound fracture in her right tibia and fibula, and four fractured
ribs. These other injures are all treatable – six to twelve months for a full recovery. It is moot though. The
patient will likely expire in the next twelve hours without life support.”
“With life support, how long would her body keep
“Restart the life support,” commanded Ikarus.
“I can’t do that. Her parents authorized its
removal. We cannot restart it without their permission,” answered Scheffler.
Ikarus studied Dr. Scheffler, and reached out
with his mind. Briefly tuning out reality, he saw Dr. Scheffler in his turquoise scrub on a vast white plane
covered by darkness. In the mindscape. Ikarus focused his thoughts. Life support is
“Restart the life
Dr. Scheffler looked momentarily confused, then
He almost did not recognize Ikarus as he
staggered into his office. Ikarus’s eyes were half-open and bloodshot. Smeared blood and vomit were on his black
uniform. His face and head had several days of stubble growing – Rocket had almost never seen him go a day
“We have the fourth talent. She’s stable now.
Get her whatever doctors she needs, any treatment she needs. Her mind is active, I saw
“How did you get permission to take
“Will this cause
“No. The parents believe they have her cremated
“What happened to you?” asked
“I – the situation demanded that I alter
memories in six people over two days. Didn’t I tell you?” asked Ikarus. He stumbled, and grabbed Rocket’s
“I have not heard from you since we did the P3
lookup on Angela,” said Rocket. He had never seen Ikarus in this state, or been aware of a situation where so
many people were altered in such a short time.
“Are there any immediate contingencies we need
to prepare for?” asked Rocket.
“None. No one will be looking for her,” said
Ikarus as he staggered out.
Too bright! She reflexively closed her eyes
tight, and then cracked them open slowly. Her whole body hurt, especially her face and her neck. As her eyes
adjusted to the light, she saw plain, dull colored walls. Some tubes were attached to her left arm, and a fabric
cuff encircled her left arm loosely. She struggled to sit up in her bed. Some contraption was on her shoulders
and neck. A blue metal door was cracked open.
A thin, scruffy-haired man dressed in a black
uniform entered, stopped a short distance away, and studied her.
Angel squinted, then focused on the man. “Who
are you?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m Rocket. Er, Assistant Director Jenkins, Shadow Force Division. But everyone calls me
Rocket. And, welcome to Shadow Force.”