Who is Aidan Webley? Is he human? Is he a special operative of the Confederation? Is he a psychic of rare ability? One thing he knows for sure is he's loyal to his government. He'll be anything his government needs him to be. Or maybe there is no Aidan, and only a lifeform designed and programmed. Maybe the question should be what instead of who.
The rest of my team waited on me to pull the door code out of the lab tech’s mind. The door was the last thing that stood in our way to our goal. I was special. I had the psychic powers of telepathy and empathy. I wasn’t particularly strong. My telepathy and empathy were limited to reception only, and only through direct physical contact.
I gripped the lab techs head. Beris, another of my teammates, had him pinned and immobilized. The lab tech would not escape from my touch no matter how he struggled.
“Is there any way to shut that damn alarm off?” Follin yelled over the warbling alarm.
“Don’t distract him Follin. The alarm isn’t important. Sorry about that, “I apologized to the man I touched, “Now, what's the passcode to the room?" I asked in as calm and soothing a voice I could speak.
"I'm not going to tell you." It was expected the man would be stubborn. It didn’t matter.
“Is the first character A?” I asked.
9H2PQ, Don't think of it. He’s a psychic. Just delay them for security.
"Security won't be coming to save you. The first five characters are 9H2PQ."
O3, shit, stop thinking about it. Just think of anything else.
The man scrunched his eyes shut and tried to think of any number of other things.
It was time to step up the game. I pulled out an injector of Tamasol and jabbed it in the scientist's leg. It did two things. The first was it would put a human or menvorak into an incredibly relaxed mood. The second was it should force his mind to disassociate itself. The effects were fast acting.
“Now don't think of the password because I'll know. Don't think of the passcode. The passcode to that door. The one you don't want us to get through the one that starts with 9H2PQO3
NIFAO, No no no no, he's using mind tricks on me, uh, why is everything so weird
"Stop, please, get out of my brain. It hurts." The man struggled in vain.
"What are you doing to me," the lab technician gasped.
"Don't tell me the passcode, the one you want to not tell us, the one to that door over there, the one that you've kept hidden, the one you know we shouldn't have."
The man had stopped struggling as much. The detachment of self from being was working.
"The passcode that starts with 9H2PQO3NIFAO."
"I7VHPO4AIFD," the man said out loud having lost the ability to differentiate his internal mind speak from external speech. Sometimes the trick with being a psychic isn’t using your powers, it’s knowing how to manipulate people.
"We're in," one of the other team members spoke. Beris released the man who stumbled towards me unsure of his balance, while I still held onto his head. Follin stepped behind him and stabbed his knife into the man’s brain stem killing him.
Clutching my head, I doubled over, the dead man falling on me. I dry-heaved twice. The damnable implanted bioware refused to allow me to puke up the ration bar I ate earlier.
"Fuck You Fo, Follin." I gasped out. "I hadn't disconnected yet." Another perk of being a telepath and empath. When you're in touch with someone’s mind and they die, it's not fun.
Follin laughed and entered the room.
Someone put their hand on my shoulder. It was Karis, the newest member of our team.
"Aidan, Are you good to go?" I could read her through her touch. Her question wasn't rooted in any concern for my general well-being. She merely wanted to judge my continued usefulness to the mission. She wasn’t one to waste a resource like me.
"Yeah, I'm good to go."
Karis rolled the dead man off me and helped me up. The two of us entered the previously sealed room
“Are you seeing this,” Beris asked, “Is there a network terminal in here?”
This was one hell of an unexpected problem we found ourselves in. Everything we found as far as notes and records was printed on paper. Not even synthetic paper, but actual real paper made from a plant. All of it was stored in these antiquated filing cabinets. Each drawer had its own lock forcing us to pick or force open each one we wanted access to.
Oh, this was good of Mishkos. The bastard definitely knew how to throw a wrench in our plans. No wonder our cyber-ops personnel hadn’t found anything on this facilities network. None of this was on it. Garamond Mishkos definitely deserved the title of villain mastermind, some labeled him.
Our team lead Melvib spoke up, “Ideas, What do we do? We can’t carry all this paper out. How do we get this data back?”
“We don’t have to take the paper,” Karis said. “Our ocular camera and bio-suite’s data storage will take care of it. Even with all this documentation, there should be enough memory for the video recording of it all. It’ll be time-consuming but we need only look at every piece of paper here.”
“Any other ideas,” Melvib asked. None of us had any. “Okay, make it fast. Beris, Holt, and Milta take watch on the three doors. The rest of us, start going through the drawers.
Off to work, I went picking a cabinet to start with. Doing a quick calculation, I counted seventy-eight file cabinet drawers, not including drawers on other furniture and lab equipment. That was thirteen drawers per person with each drawer containing thousands of sheets. They were probably double-sided. At least I didn’t have to really read any of it. Just holding a paper up in front of me allowed my ocular camera to record everything. I just had to look and not read.
Thing is I’m a fast reader. The contents of the material all seemed related to genetic enhancements and work about interspecies breeding and gene sharing.
I knew that humans and menvorak could breed. Somehow our races, despite originating on world's parsecs apart, had 99.8% of our DNA the same. It was all organized in a way offspring were viable. The only viable offspring would be a sterile female, but it did happen
But this documentation wasn’t just about humans and menvoraks. It was about using DNA from the other known races, and many nonsentient lifeforms to make enhancements of several races beyond the norm.
This was illegal. This was definitely the work of the Vale. It seems Mr. Mishkos had dealings with them. The Vale were a faction of society whose primary goal was that of improving the gene pool. After a few accidents, horrendous in nature, most of the stellar governments had passed laws heavily regulating what could and could not be done to the gene pool of their member races. The vale had since then, been forced to work in secret.
The feeling of a rapid series of soft taps to the back of my brain touched my senses. A visual alert for unknown danger flashed across my bio-suite’s display confirming my power had been triggered. “Sixth sense triggered,” I yelled out as I stood up from the drawer and looked around to find a source.
This was my third and last power. Those with any sense of precognition are rare, averaging maybe one in ten thousand for those with psychic powers, and I was one of the lucky few. My services were in high demand by my government. At the moment I was effectively my team's early warning system.
“Shit,” Follin yelled. “I think I set something off.”
The fire suppression went off, spraying everything. I looked up. Was this the danger? It would soak the papers so we’d have to be quick. No wait, this wasn’t water or foam, or even supercooled halon. It was an oil of some sort, smelling somewhere between kerosene and typical hydraulic oil.
“Trap,” I yelled confirming Follin’s guess. A high pitched noise increased in volume drowning out even the alarm. My sixth sense was hammering away on my brain.
“Everyone out of the room now,” Melvib ordered. I washed all emotion out of my thoughts allowing me to focus without useless distraction. Not a power, my mental discipline was a technique I’d learned.
The other team members were scrambling to the closest exit. The teammate nearest me, Karis, slipped on the pooling oil and went down. Calmly I moved, to her, bracing myself on a table, I picked her up by holding onto her upper arm. She managed to get upright.
Already the three doors were shutting, slowly and inexorably they closed. No way the two of us could get to one in time. One spark and we would be dead. Everyone else had made it out. I did a three-sixty view of the room. The only other exit I could see short of blowing a hole in a wall was using a large garbage disposal chute on one of the walls.
I shoved the girl towards the disposal. “The disposal,” stated. Karis was afraid. This was her first mission out of the academy. I could feel her fear roaring through my grasp on her, but it wasn’t a part of me. My dispassion held it in check.
Unlatching the hatch, I threw it open.
“Wait, you expect me to go,” she tried protesting. I didn’t wait for her. Nearly slipping on the slick oil, I roughly forced her in. The high pitched noise changed to a rapid click. I shut the hatch and latched it in time. Fire spread overhead and around me. Instinctively I reached up to pointlessly shield my face with my hands. Even if I’d managed to cover my face, It would have only delayed the inevitable.
Logically I knew the first thing to go was a breathable atmosphere, the oxygen consumed with the burning oil. This would be almost instantaneously superseded by the rapid increase in heat followed just as quickly by a feeling of numbing cold from the lack of working nerves near the surface of your body having been cooked to a crisp. Reflexively the eyes try to shut from the intense heat, but they boil in place. The same goes for your muscles and tissue, all of it is charred beyond use. The flames have taken off your ears and destroyed your hearing and sense of balance. You still kind of have your body map which is misleading because you have no senses to make sense of what’s left.
At that point, you’re effectively dead because you don’t know if you are or aren’t. How long is long when your brain is being cooked?
I had two things going for me during this.
The first was I had one major cybernetic enhancement and that was heavy reinforcement to my skull to protect my precious brain, the root of my power. The second was I had already used my mental power to divest myself of any emotion or distraction when the trap first started.
There was pain. There had been pain. Finally, there was only pure thought. I existed alone, not even able to connect to my bio-suite systems.
No life had flashed before my eyes. Maybe this is the purgatory or limbo many religionists talk of. Maybe I am dead.
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