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1.      Angel  

“She is quite brain dead,” said a male voice in the darkness. 

Confusion. “Who was that? Where am I?” she thought. 

“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 pain.” 

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 neck. 

 “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 darkness. 

2.      Ikarus 

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 utilize. 

“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 injury.” 

“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 discharged?” 

“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? Any limitations?” 

“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.” 

3.      Angel 

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.  

4.      Ikarus 

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 evaluate her. 

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 finite.  

5.    Angel 

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 shudder. 

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 it. 

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 you?” 

She had no idea where she was. Or even who she was. She struggled to remember, and saw blackness engulf her. 


6.      Ikarus 

“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 Ikarus. 

“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 certain.” 

“Do you know who it was?” 

“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 image.” 

Sarge closed her eyes, and nodded. 

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 Talent? 


7.      Rocket 

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 easier. 

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 Ikarus. 

“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 database responded. 

“Her name is Angela Kowolski,” said Rocket. 

“Do you know where she is?” asked Ikarus. 

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 hospital visit?” 

“Yes,” said Ikarus, looking down. 

The monitor with Ikarus’s face went blank. 

8.      Ikarus 

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 Talent. 

“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 functioning?” 

“In theory, indefinitely.” 

“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 authorized. 

“Restart the life support.” 

Dr. Scheffler looked momentarily confused, then nodded. 


9.      Rocket 

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 without shaving.  


“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 it.” 

“How did you get permission to take her?” 

“I didn’t.” 

“Will this cause complications?” 

“No. The parents believe they have her cremated ashes.” 

“What happened to you?” asked Rocket. 

“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 desk. 

“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. 


10.   Angel 

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.” 


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