Monday, June 25, 2012


"I suppose you've heard of that study that was done years and years ago with the children and the marshmallows," she said. Her hair was coiled primly into a bun at the back of her head, but a strand had escaped its hold. She pushed it irritably behind her ear as she leaned across the ladder to the books. "Almost everyone has."

Her glasses were perched on the end of her nose, only slighted moistened by perspiration in the un-cooled library. The sun was streaming through the windows with an intensity befitting a monstrous ball of nuclear fusion. "You give a child a marshmallow and tell her that if she waits fifteen minutes, she will get two instead of one. If she waits, the reward will be greater, but, as anyone who knows much about children, instantaneous gratification is more easily cognisized than far-flung goals and patience."

She pursed her thin lips as she grabs a book from the shelf. "This is not where you belong," she muttered under her breath, sticking the leather volume under her arm which sweat had made iridescent as an oil slick. The shimmer highlighted the muscles of the limb: deltoid, biceps, triceps, brachioradialis.

"Ten years later, and the ones who waited were the most successful in high school, with better grades and better attitudes," she announced, descending from the ladder. "Of course, for many, this lent a certain fatalist view of success as something you are either capable or not. However, people tend to forget what the experiment was about initially."

She set the heavy tome down on the table and wiped her hands on her billowy skirt. She exhaled slightly before going to grip the ladder and move it across the way to the other shelves of books. As it fell against the wood, an explosion of dust mites met it. They danced as playfully as sprites in the morning sun. She took the book beneath her arm again and climbed amongst the hoard.

"It was to see how children could defer gratification. It was to see what methods they used to keep themselves from something they obviously wanted when a greater reward could be attained by waiting. Self-control, in short. Something many adult struggled with, but the researchers wanted to see it in its pure form, in children," she said.

She browsed through the books, pushing the glasses higher up on her nose to better read the titles. "Battering, Battering, Battering," she murmured, peering through the dust-filled haze. She found the place for the book and shoved its brethren aside with a forceful exhale to place it safely within the cove. She descended.

"It turned out to be much about distraction. The ones that tried to focus on the goal by staring at the marshmallow eventually gave into temptation. It only took a second of a stray thought, parsing doubts, and then the marshmallow would be in the mouth. But the ones who turned away, kicked their feet, sung songs to themselves, or played with their hair did much better," she said. She wiped the sweat from her brow, going back to the table scattered with books. She looked down for a moment, examining the assortment of titles, before remembering her place. She summoned the ladder again and set it against a different bookshelf. A woosh of dust met its fall with muffled thump. She climbed again.

"The ones who stopped themselves of thinking about a marshmallow grew to be the same people who could stop thinking about a party when they had a test to study for, the same people to stop thinking about relaxation when work now would bring greater relaxation in the future. Effectively, what they did was a study of metacognition in kindergarteners."

She expressed a small sound of triumph as she spied a book. The fingers that clenched the frayed spine were long, thin, and lithe. They wrapped eagerly around, forcefully as a bear-trap famished for the taste of blood. She descended.

"It those that can think about thinking, and then figure out ways to out think their thinking that are successful. They are our great minds, our scientists and our authors, our composers and our engineers, our philosophers and our, well, not politicians per se, but the ones that stand in the shadows pulling their strings," she sighed. She placed the book on the table with the others. Her nose scrunched as she noted the disorder in their arrangement. She quickly rectified the audacity of the mess by sorting the books into a very linear tower, the larger on the bottom and the smallest on top.

"What separates the most successful of us, that which separated the germ from the chaff, isn't luck, like many claim, but the ability to twist our minds to our own will, to be able to screen out desires without so much of a blink of an eye, to forget, if just for a moment, that which we do not believe we can hear. All of us so-called smart people, are not intelligent because we can remember, but because we can forget." She stared at the books for a moment, with intensity that turned the darkness of her eyes into coals, waiting to ignite. However, the expression fled from her countenance as quickly as it appeared. She smiled placidly before disappearing behind a bookshelf.

"I used to wonder at how such atrocities could be committed in history or in life. Rape, torture, and not just murder, but genocide, again and again throughout time. Someone is always hurting someone. It seems like such a paradox considering we were evolved for group behavior," her voice came from behind the bookshelf, as light and as lilting as it always was. Her slippers muted her steps against the dust-covered stones of the floor, but her voice echoed through the room. It was almost as if she was a thousand miles away or had her lips pressed against one’s ear.

"But, it came to me. It's all about forgetting. If a child can forget a marshmallow exists, then perhaps it would not be so difficult for him to forget the men of his enemy were human. It would not be so difficult for him if he was stood up in war and commanded to shoot because, like the marshmallow, he could forget his target’s humanity. In his mind, he could twirl his hair or sing a song, or whatever was needed to distract himself," she said as she turned the corner. The strand of hair had come loose again. She placed it behind her ear with the patience of a mother hen. 

The book she held against her chest was the largest of all the books on the table. She was forced to lift the previous stack with muscles straining in her arms and deposit it them on the bigger book to maintain the order she created. She smiled with satisfaction, brushing her hands against her skirt once more.

"I know people who claim they could never kill a person, but I know I could. I can make myself forget a person is human. I can make myself forget that he or she had a mother and a father. I can forget and turn the person into an it, and I can forget for a very long time." The smile was still on her lips as she said this. It was worn like a sword and shield, to defend and revenge. 

"Moreover, I know I can forget I forgot. I can cover my tracks in logical reasoning and judicial thought. Once you know how to temper thought, it becomes your liege, to lord over as you please. With thought at my side, I have no doubt I could kill thousands, millions, and never cry. I could watch children be burned or women be raped, and never be bothered to stand against it. I could gut an infant at a woman's breast and be unmoved by her tears, because I can forget and forget that I forgot. I can turn barbaric wrongs into rights, with the propulsion of a shift in electrochemical balance down a few axons," she said, staring somewhere far off as the grin still stuck to her lips. "I could kill you."

The words hovered in a moment, before she continued. "But of course I won't. It is strange, isn't it, that the ability that lets me achieve high goals and the discipline that guides me to knowledge is the same that people use to kill? All the noble people who set off to change the world through sheer force of will are the most capable of bringing it to ruins, all with their ability to wait for another marshmallow. All that is stopping me from murdering and maiming and claiming like a great conqueror of old is, really, that I have no desire to do so. Especially not on such a hot day like this. But, if I did have the desire, all I would need would be a barbarian horde, and history has shown us those are not so difficult to create," she smiled, staring as if expecting a few chuckles to accompany her remarks. None was forthcoming.  

She leaned over the table, so she was at eye with him. "Is there anything more you wished to know about marshmallows, Louis?" she asked.

The boy met her gaze. "No, I don't think so, Miss Grace."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Amethyst - Part Three - Epilogue

Therese was bent over a desk, quickly scanning through a document and chewing on a pen cap when Dr. Ott came in.
“Hello, Miss Evans,” he said.
She jumped slightly, surprised at the intrusion, and quickly removed the pen from her mouth. “Oh, hello, Dr. Ott,” she said, before glancing at her watch. “Don’t you usually come on-”
“Yes, yes, but I just wanted to check up on you,” he said.
“Well, it’s getting better you know. My brain has almost got the filing system down for three sets of memories now. It’s usually only when I dream when they get all skiwampus,” she said. She ran her fingers through her hair. It was getting longer, almost two inches now.
“That is very good. And, how is your position suiting you?” he asked, gesturing to the desk.
“Oh, it’s fine. I think it’s actually really helping with the whole three minds in one head thing. I guess my brain is getting pretty good at taking large amounts of information and separating out what I want and what I don’t. Although, I must admit, some of these reports are pretty dry and needlessly loquacious,” she said.
“Now you know what you put those poor aids through when you wrote up the life stories of Brad and Abdul,” Dr. Ott said, with a rare smile.
Therese faked outrage, “Are you accusing my writing of being boring? I am affronted!”
“There was another reason I came here, Miss Evans,” he said, just as Therese was beginning to turn back to the report she was reading.
“Oh?” she said.
“Yes. They are allowing you to go outside the facility for a vacation, if you will. There will-” he started.
“Really?” she asked, sitting up straighter and turning her completely around to face him.
He grinned at her enthusiasm. “Yes. There will be a small security detail, of course, but you’re not a danger to anyone anymore. There has also been a leak to the investors that your grandfather had created an elaborate hoax and there was not E-VET, so there should be very few people still interested in you.”
“Thank you so much, Dr. Ott!” she exclaimed. “So, where are we going?”
“Anywhere you want, within reason and subject to examination by an external committee,” said Dr. Ott.
“Las Vegas,” Therese said instantly.
“Las Vegas?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “I did not peg you as that type.”
“No, no, no. It’s not like that. There’s somewhere there I need to repay, who if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I would be here. He doesn’t know my name or anything about me. He just lended me some money for a bus ticket,” Therese explained quickly. As she saw the pensive look on Dr. Ott’s face, she added, “I’m guessing this will need to be subject to examination by an external committee?”
Dr. Ott nodded. “Do you know this man’s name and where he lives?” he asked.
“Jason MacArthur, I think. He works at this store. I forget what it is called. If you show me a map of Las Vegas, I can probably point it out. He was just a high-school-aged kid, but I think I should give him back his money, since, well, I, influenced it out of him,” she said nervously.
“I’ll see what I can do, Miss Evans,” Dr. Ott said, turning.
“Thanks again, Dr. Ott,” she said.
“It’s my pleasure, Miss Evans,” he said.

It was strange to see the rush of humanity but not feel them. It was strange to hear their breath but not their thoughts. It was strange to smell their sweat but not their hopes. It was strange to see an open sky again.
“This way, Ruth,” Dr. Ott said, gesturing her through the crowd. She could pick out a few of the undercover men scanning the crowds as Dr. Ott, or her Uncle Jim, usher her through. She tried to take in every face, every building, and every tree in one sweep of her eyes, but there was too much detail. Las Vegas expounded in intricacies, even if her view was darkened by sunglasses.
Time ceased to exist as she relished in the explosion of sights, sounds, and smells. However, the closer they walked to Jason’s shop, the more nervous she realized she was.
She clutched at the money in her pocket at random intervals to make sure it was still there. They had paid her a small salary from her work as an aid besides room and board, and this was her first time actually putting it to use. It was also her first time talking to a normal person who wasn’t a criminal or a government agent in months.
As she reached the shop, she turned to Dr. Ott. “Do you mind if I go in alone?” she asked.
“I’ll give you a few minutes,” he said. “Be safe.”
She nodded and walked in the door as it gave a jaunty jingle.
She took in the shop. It had changed very little since she had been here last. What changed much more was her perception. It was no longer the background of a chase, but a simple, little shop selling groceries and hiring high school students as clerks, like the one sweeping behind a banana stand.
She walked up to him slowly and waved. “Hi, Jason.”
“Um, hello,” he said, barely glancing up. When she did not move, he looked up more completely. He looked exactly the same as he did those months ago. “Uh, do I know you?”
“Well, I was here some months ago. You lent me some money?” There said nervously, ending the last sentence as a question when it was clearly declarative.
“Oh,” he said, in wave of recognition. “You cut your hair.”
She felt up at the short strands on her head. She wasn’t sure if she would normally qualify as having your head shaved for neurosurgery cutting your hair, but it worked. “Yeah. Anyway, here’s your money back. I wasn’t sure how much interest to factor in, but here’s a hundred dollars.”
She handed him the single $100 bill in her pocket. “Uh, thanks,” he said, looking down at it. “Those people, and what you were running from, did you ever, I dunno, find a way out of it?”
“Yes,” she said. “I’m better now. Sorry about your nose too, but I don’t really know how I can pay you back for that.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I got a wicked story out of all of this,” he said with shrug.
“Did you tell anyone?” Therese said, suddenly anxious.
“No, no one would’ve believed me,” he said.
“Oh, thanks again then, for everything,” she said, breathing.
“Don’t mention it,” he said.
“Is there anything else I can do for you? You kinda saved my life,” Therese said.
“You could give me your number,” he said in a way that Therese didn’t know if he was serious or not.
“I don’t really have a phone. It’s complicated,” she said slowly.
“No, no. It’s okay. I was just goofing off,” he said quickly, reddening. “Not serious, you know?”
They were both silent for a long moment. By now, Therese was blushing as well, although she didn’t know why.
“How about a kiss?” Jason said quietly, looking up.
“A kiss?” Therese asked.
“I mean, you don’t-” he started quickly.
Therese stepped forward and kissed him.
An explosion of feeling shook through her lips and into her body. She could taste his hopes, his dreams, his longings in that tender osculation. He had thought about her a lot since she left, and she could see her image flit across the pages of his mind. She saw the violet tank top she wore when she limped into the store.
They broke apart.
Therese was the first to speak. “I have to go,” she said simply.
Jason nodded, attempting to hide a silly grin. “Okay, of course. That’s fine.”
Therese left quickly, still blushing.
“I felt it,” Therese said flatly as soon as she stepped outside and met Dr. Ott. “I felt him.”
“Well, I’m not sure if you’ve done much kissing, but generally one feels the other person,” said Dr. Ott, poorly disguising a smirk.
Therese shook her head. “Not like that. I felt his mind. I felt his thoughts. I felt him. And I saw purple again. I’m not supposed to be able to do this.”
“I’ll call for the car,” he said, retrieving his cell phone.
The black SUV appeared moments later. Dr. Ott was careful to avoid touching her as she stepped into the dark interior. As she pressed her forehead to the window, she kept seeing purple flashes. A sign in front of store, a button on someone’s shirt. It was coming back.
“It’s never going to be over, is it?” she said.
“It was noted that your brain had remarkable neuroregeneration potential. It was probably why you rebounded so quickly even after extensive excision of your brain. It was always a possibility it might come back,” Dr. Ott said. “Dr. Henderson is waiting for you to arrive so she can do an MRI.”
“Is this what’s my life going to be like? Surgery once every couple of months, trying to catch it before my brain goes haywire and kills someone or crushes itself to death? That every time I reach out to people, that part of my brain grows a little bigger, grows a little faster, grows a little deadlier?” she asked.
“It is what you want to make it. If you would prefer, there was some talk at trying chemotherapy to try to kill the rapidly dividing cells, but no one knows what the result would be of that. Like everything with you, it’d be an experiment,” Dr. Ott said.
Therese took off her sunglasses and rubbed her temples, trying to think. There were many, many memories of pain and death to highlight her life with that part of her brain. However, there were also good memories. There was Greg Owens and there was Mittens the kitten. There was the bomb threat and there was nuclear power plant scheme.
“I guess I was born as experiment. It only makes sense that I’ll live as one,” she said quietly. “Maybe this time we can figure out how to regulate its growth better.”
“I am sure it will be a top priority,” Dr. Ott said.
“Do you know why that boy liked me?” Therese asked, still pressing her forehead to the window.
“Why?” Dr. Ott asked, surprised by the turn in conversation.
“Because I represented his one brief brush with adventure and danger. It made him feel unique when he never felt like anything special before. I was his link to something more than just a prosaic life. He worries that that will be all he has,” she whispered. She turned to face Dr. Ott. “I don’t have to worry about that.”
“No, you don’t have to worry at all,” he said.
The car slowed as it reached the airport, crawling through security checks to reach the private plane. Therese could see blips of color sparkling in the peripherals of her vision. It was all coming back.
“Let’s go meet that next adventure,” she said.

Amethyst - Part Three - Chapter Six

She did not see Asma. She looked around wildly for the dancing girl, but there was no flurry of movement, no bright smile to be seen. Then, she saw the shape. It was prostrate near the door. Her orchid dress was torn and bloodied. Her thin legs were splayed and covered in magenta blood, glistening, as if new. Her fingers had been broken along with her arms and legs. Her hijab was missing, revealing a nest of blood-soaked tangles.
Her face was turned sideways, revealing where a knife had made its mark in her eyes, across her cheeks, through her lips. Her nose was broken and she was missing both ears. A dark gash was spread across her neck.
With empty eyes, Asma looked up at her and shed a tear.

Therese stumbled to her feet from her towel in an instant. She ran to the toilet and vomited. She was dead. She was dead. She was dead. Asma was dead. Therese made Asma die, even though Abdul wanted to protect his daughter.
Therese was a monster.
She closed her eyes for a moment, but immediately stretched them open to their fullest extent again. Asma was still there when Therese closed her eyes, still staring back at her, mutilated and beaten. Therese never wanted to close her eyes again.
She grabbed her knees and sat in her bathroom facing the toilet. She was a monster, a killer. No matter what she did, people died. Death followed her like a shadow. She didn’t deserve to live.

“Miss Evans,” a voice called, a white-coat by the sound of it.
“Asma is dead, isn’t she?” Therese asked tonelessly.
“No, no she isn’t. They’re still trying to protect her,” the white-coat said.
“You’re lying to me,” Therese said.
“No, Asma is quite alright. Now, if you please, we would like to escort you to ask Mr. al-Fadl a few more questions,” the white-coat said.
They would take her to Abdul again.  He wouldn’t have been told his daughter is dead. He needed to know. No more lies. She owed it to him.
“Okay. I’ll put on my helmet,” Therese said.
They quickly escorted her back to the room before Abdul’s where she took off her helmet.
“We would like you to ask him more about the leadership and who was involved in this plan. We would also like to induce him to draw a portrait of the Cobra,” a white-coat said.
“Okay,” Therese said, barely listening. She could sense Abdul and his flat mind. He didn’t know then as Abdul would react very strongly to news of his daughter. He should know. He shouldn’t be lied to. No one should be lied to.
They escorted her into his room, and Therese strode across the room to meet him, ignoring the intense pain in her skull.
Abdul looked up at her, as if sensing she was about to say something of profound importance. “They couldn’t do it. She’s dead,” Therese whispered.
She felt his anguish spread into her skull as a scream. His hands tore at his hair and he bellowed Arabic words she didn’t know. He bawled and prayed alternatively. Then, he took her hands in his.
“Please, take away these memories. I can’t stand this pain. Take everything away. Please. Please,” he begged in a whisper. “Make me forget everything. Please. It’s all I want.”
Therese nodded as his pain flooded her. It was more than physical pain. It was the pain that can not be described or explain but felt as if it pierced one’s soul and bathed it in fire. She could not leave him with this pain.
She reached into his mind and gathered up his memories. She took them one-by-one, cutting it away from his mind and pulling it within her own. She took his life from him. She absorbed him and all his memories of Asma.
As she finished, she screamed unthinkingly. The pain within her was too great. She might have collapse, but she didn’t know. Everything was seized in violet. She could not think as memories shuffled randomly through her head and thoughts criss-crossed and backtracked. Her stomach heaved, and she vomited. She try to make herself into a ball and fend off the pain. It was too much. It was too much.
Then, as it climaxed. It was fading away into darkness. Thoughts and memories drifted away until all she was left with was black.

“It’s growing. It has increased by almost 50%,” Dr. Henderson said.
“Then, we’ll inform Dr. Lewis we require his services again. He can expand her cranium again,” Director Schultz said.
“It’s not that simple anymore. You see this region here in her old scan? This was localized area from where her ability originate. Compare this to the new scan. Look at all the regions surrounding it. They’re atrophied. This part of her brain is infiltrating other parts of her brain,” Dr. Henderson said.
“Like cancer,” Director Schultz said.
“Yes. Very, very much like cancer. I would imagine she is already presenting some symptoms: hallucination, vomiting, fainting, erratic mood swings, fatigue, weakness, ataxia, seizures, decrease in appetite,” Dr. Henderson said. “If this isn’t removed immediately, it will kill her.”
“Director Schultz?”
“Yes, Agent Brown,” Director Schultz said.
“It appears as if Miss Evans has erased Mr. al-Fadl’s memory,” Agent Brown said.
“Are you sure, Agent Brown?” Director Schultz asked.
“It is the appearance of it. He know longer holds any of his religious customs. He seems confused when someone told him the direction of Mecca. He will readily speak against Islam if requested to do so. He says he can’t remember his name. He keeps asking where he is,” Agent Brown says.
“That is very, very interesting. It seems Miss Evans surprises us every day now. Dr. Henderson, how long will it be until Miss Evans dies or descends into a coma from this expansion?” Director Schultz asked.
“It’s impossible to know for sure. Obviously this is a very unique case. I would say weeks, at most, days more likely,” Dr. Henderson said.
“Then we still have a little time,” Director Schultz said.
“What are you implying, Director Schultz?” Dr. Henderson asked.
“What she has gives her the ability to save millions. If we can use her once last time-” Director Schultz said.
“You will be killing her,” Dr. Henderson said.
“We will save many more, and we’ll try to save her afterward as well,” Director Schultz said. “You’re dismissed.”

Therese blinked her eyes. She could not tell if she was awake or not. The whole world seemed hazed in purple, but not deep purple, just a purple mist.
She shook her head, trying to clear her vision, but it just increased her headache. Her head really hurt. There were voices, whispered memories and ideas she knew were not hers. She took a moment to try and straighten them out and organize them. It was hard to concentrate, but she did her best. After awhile, she realized she was delineating the memories of Abdul. Through his eyes, he could see his childhood, his first job, meeting his wife, when Asma was born, when his wife died, and when he found out Asma died.
They danced in front her eyes in deep amethyst, not wanting to let her think of anything else. There wasn’t enough room for them in her head. She needed to put them somewhere for safekeeping. She had to put them somewhere.
She stumbled from her bead. Her feet didn’t seem to like to obey her and they recalcitrantly led her to the desk. She grasped for paper and a pencil, and she wrote. She started with Abdul’s birth, and she wrote his life. She wrote of each moment in exacting detail as words spread across the page. She had to write small as she was using up so many pages, but that was okay. She just needed to write everything. She had to write everything as there wasn’t enough room for her to think in her head. She had to put the memories somewhere else.
And she had to put Asma there to. The little girl kept staring at her with her bloodied face and torn clothes. Asma would have to go onto the paper too. So she drew Asma and she wrote. She wrote and she drew. She needed to get them out of her head, but even as she was getting to present in the life of Abdul, he didn’t leave. He was still there. He was still talking.
“Miss Evans!” a voice said loudly.
“Huh?” she asked weakly. There was a voice coming from somewhere else beside her head. Somewhere far away from words and pictures. They were calling for Miss Evans, not Mr. al-Fadl or Miss al-Fadl. Was that her?
“Miss Evans, are you alright?” the voice said.
“I think so. I don’t know. I can’t think straight. My head hurts,” she said slowly, tasting each syllable before letting it escape from her lips.
“Your presence is requested for training, Miss Evans,” the voice said.
“Okay. Alright,” Therese said. She wasn’t done writing Abdul’s story; he was still in her mind. He was still whispering and Asma was still dancing.
“Will you put on your helmet, Miss Evans?” the voice asked.
“Yes, okay. Right,” Therese said distractedly. It was hard to see where her helmet was at when Asma was standing in front of her. She felt it by touch, but it seemed like her fingers didn’t really want to feel. They would rather listen to Abdul’s story.
“Is your helmet on, Miss Evans?” the voice asked.
“Yes, yes,” she said.
They escorted her to the room. It was so hard to concentrate. Her head hurt a lot and it was crowded. There were too many people in it, and they were all talking at once. She couldn’t hear her own thoughts.
“Miss Evans!” a white-coat said loudly.
“What?” she asked.
“You can remove your helmet,” he said.
“Oh,” she said. She removed it. There was another mind now too. It was loud too.
“Miss Evans, we want you to read his mind about his criminal activities than take his memories about them,” a white-coat said.
She nodded dully, and they entered the room.
She walked half-way to the man sitting where Abdul had sat before one of her own thoughts snuck out from between the crush of Abdul’s memory and Asma’s eyes.
“Wait, I don’t want to take his memories. It’s not nice. What if he wants them?” she said.
“What the hell? Who is this chick?” the man asked.
One of the white-coats walked up to her and spoke in a terse whisper, “If you take the memories of his criminal activities, then he won’t be as dangerous. It’s more likely that he could go home.” It was so hard to concentrate with all  the voices, but this was important. She had to.
“Shouldn’t he decide if he wants his memory taken or not? I mean, Abdul asked me to,” she said.
“What the hell? You guys got some freak wiping minds?” the man exclaimed.
“Miss Evans, he knows now. If you do not clear his memory, then he can never leave. You are a secret that cannot be revealed. You must do this,” the white-coat said harshly.
“So she’s some messed up science experiment that I’m not supposed to know about?” the man said loudly. “I can hear you, you know.”
“He will never see the sun again if you don’t take his memories, Miss Evans,” the white-coat said.
“Whoa, hell, I’m on gunrunning charges here. Last time I checked that sure as hell doesn’t get life,” the man said.
Therese needed to think clearly, but it was difficult. Her head hurt so much. It felt like it was about to burst. She needed to think clearly. She had to think. She had to get Abdul and Asma to be quiet for a moment.
“You know, if you’re serious about the life in prison thing. I’d rather have my memory wiped by some freak then spend  the rest of my days in here,” the man said.
“Did you hear that, Miss Evans. He wants you to wipe his memory. Can you do that, Miss Evans? You have to concentrate,” the white-coat said.
Therese looked up at the man. He was out of focus. She couldn’t tell you what his hair color was or how many eyes he had, but she had to help him. He was asking for her help. She had to try to help him.
She stumbled forward to sit down in the chair across from him. “My name is Therese Evans.”
“You know, I don’t think I’m going to remember that?” he grinned, but then grew more serious. “You’re just a little freak, aren’t you? Bet you’re not even legal yet. What did they do to you?” The other voices. They were so loud. Him too, Brad Collins. He was very loud in his thoughts. Her head hurt so much. She needed to concentrate though. She could do this. She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts.
“It wasn’t them. It was someone else,” Therese said.
“Oh, so more than one person has screwed you over. Well, go ahead and do it then,” he said.
She summoned everything she had left and reached out toward his mind. She grabbed at his his memories, but there was no where to put them. There was so little room in her head, but she had to. She had to take them from him, or he would never leave. She had to do this for him, despite the pain. She had to push through. She had to do this.

A spasm of pain more intense than anything she had ever felt through her life shot through her skull. She was falling through purple. Everything was drenched in amethyst blood. She could see nothing but violet, but the voice stayed loud. A thousand voices seem to scream, tearing her apart.
Then, there was nothing.

“They’re dead, Director Schultz,” Dr. Ott said.
“What?” Director Schultz said.
“Dr. Marion, Dr. Bird, and Agent Sondheim. They’re dead. Mr. Collins too,” Dr. Ott said.
“That’s impossible.What happened?” Director Schultz asked.
“It was Miss Evans. Her brain went into seizure while she was extracting Mr. Collins’s memories. It killed Mr. Collins almost immediately. It took a bit longer to overcome the helmet worn by Dr. Marion, Dr. Bird, and Agent Sondheim, but it did. It is recorded, if you wish to see it for yourself,” Dr. Ott said.
“Is Miss Evans dead?” Director Schultz asked.
“Her heart stopped, but she revived. She is under heavy anesthetic. Dr. Henderson has called Dr. Lewis in to operate,” Dr. Ott said.
“Then, all that information is lost. We’ll never know to whom Mr. Collins was selling the weapons or who he bought them from,” Director Schultz.
“I’m not so sure about that. I found this in Miss Evans’s room,” Dr. Ott said.
“What is it?” Director Schultz asked.
“I just scanned through it, but it looks like Mr. al-Fadl’s life story. I think when Miss Evans takes other’s memories, she absorbs them.”
“This must be hundred pages, front and back. Why would she write so much?” Director Schultz asked.
I think she was trying to get it out,” Dr. Ott said. “I don’t think her mind could deal with the two sets of memories it had.”
“That means then that Miss Evans must still have Mr. Collins’s memories,” Director Schultz said.
“Yes, but if her brain was so harried by a second mind, she felt the need to obsessively write every detail of this man’s life, how would you expect it to respond to three? I do not believe she’s stable. Not to mention she just had a seizure that killed four people,” Dr. Ott said.
“She only need to write down names. If her response to having another mind in her head was to write down its contents, then I fail to see how this will be a problem. We will increase security measures in lieu of recent events, but we take her off anesthetic and see if she can write,” Director Schultz said.
“She’s dangerous and unstable, Director Schultz. I do not recommend this course of action,” Dr. Ott said.
“I didn’t ask your opinion, Dr. Ott. This is a risk we must take. You are dismissed,” Director Schultz said.

There was purple everywhere, shifting, bending, glittering in unseen sunlight. It was like staring into a kaleidoscope as the shapes morphed and shifted in an unending succession of motion. Someone had accidentally left her brain in an oven, and it was burning.
“Miss Evans?” There was a voice far away. It was like the calling of a bird, chirping a beautiful song. Miss Evans, Miss Evans, Miss Evans.
Birds and birds and birds, flying away in a purple rain, licking lavender and orchids and petunias with sweet kisses. A little girl dances as her father watches on with a smile.
“Therese,” the voice called. That was her, wasn’t it? Wasn’t she Therese? Or was she Asma? Or Abdul? Or Brad? Maybe she was all of them. But she was Therese, she knew that.
“Yes?” she asked, words slipping awkwardly off her tongue. Yes was such a funny little word. You started by pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth and back. Then, you opened your mouth wide, as if catching a snowflake on your tongue. Then, you brought your jaw shut and shoved your tongue to your teeth, hissing like a snake. Brad had a tattoo of one across his right bicep.
“Therese, can you write down the names of the persons Brad Collins bought guns from and where he sent them?” the voice asked.
“Who?” she asked. It was another funny word. You puckered your lips like a fish and whistled air like bird. Wasn’t there a bird that said who? Asma liked birds.
“Brad Collins. He’s there too, in your mind,” the voice said.
Brad. She was Brad. Brad knew this. He did. “Pen?” she asked. She didn’t know where her hand was. It was so difficult when everything was purple and her head hurt so very much.
“Open your eyes, Therese,” the voice said.
Oh, her eyes were closed. That’s why should couldn’t see. She opened them, and light streamed in. She retracted against the brightness. It hurt.
Something touched her hand. She knew that touch. She opened her eyes and saw her father. Therese’s father. He held her hand in his, strongly. Her mother was there too. And the girls. And Abdul and Asma. And the white-coats. And Brad Collins.
“You have to help me,” she said to Brad. “I need to write down who you were talking to.”
He nodded, and stepped forward. A spasm of violet rocked Therese’s vision. It hurt so much. She could barely see.
“I can’t, I can’t-” she whispered, clawing at her head.
“You can.”
Her father held her hand more tightly. She gritted her teeth and reached for the pen and paper someone had placed beside her.
The motion caused a vat of acid to ooze into her brain, but she held her father’s hand tightly. She had to do this. She could do this.
Brad whispered names and she wrote. But she didn’t just write the names. She wrote everything. Brad was more than just a list of names. So, she wrote of his birth and his childhood, his sister and his brothers, his mom and his dad. She wrote his whole story. She wrote despite the pain. She wrote even as blackness began to overtake purple in her vision. She wrote as the people in her room faded. She wrote until the work was complete with her father’s hand still on hers.
Then she drew Asma with the last of what she had. She placed the drawing in the middle of the report.
“See you soon, Dad,” she whispered as darkness overcame her.

As Dr. Lewis remove her parietal bone, the brain seemed to expand as if the pressure inside her skull had vacuumed-packed her brain. The bone revealed nothing less than a relief sculpture of the brain it held. He noted the appearance and place the bone in the surgical basin.
As he look at the MRI and at the brain it represented, it was easy to tell things had changed since he visited it last. The careful symmetry of the remarkable had been destroyed, and he was left with something that looked like an overgrown tumor. The girl would die if it were not excised.
He cut into her brain to reveal the abnormal area. It no longer looked beautiful. They never figured out exactly how it worked, but they didn’t have the time. It was overtaking her entire brain. Carefully, he began to cut away the tissue. It was only when he had finished did he realize the true extent of the irregularity, the solid mass now sitting in the surgical basin. It had been so much.
“Do you think when she wakes up, she’ll be-?” Dr. Henderson asked as her closed her skull.
“She survived so far, which is more than anyone expected, but I excised a lot of tissue. We’ll have to see,” Dr. Lewis said. “We just have to wait.”

Therese was very tired and her head hurt, as was her norm. However, as she reached up toward her head, something tugged at her hand. She squinted through half-closed eyes to stare at her hand where an IV tube had been tethered to her skin. There was something strange with this picture, but she didn’t know what.
“Good morning, Miss Evans,” a voice said. She knew that voice. It was so very familiar.
“I think you said to me before, Agent Necker,” she said groggily. She tried to focus, but the world was still spinning and hear head still hurt. It itched too. She thought she could see his vague outline at the foot of her bed.
“Didn’t you-?” she asked, looking up at him and trying to find the words to say. They were floating in her head. They were hard to catch.
“Yes,” he said simply.
“But how-?” she started again.
“Special permission,” Dr. Ott said. He was there too. It was hard to focus on him too. It was hard to focus on anyone. Asma wanted to dance and Brad wished to make smart aleck remarks on anything he could notice.
She was Therese. She was also Abdul and Brad, but she needed to focus on Therese Evans right now. She had to be Therese.
“They’re still here, in my head. Brad and Abdul,” Therese said quietly. “How can they be here if you took out my brain. It is out, isn’t it?”
“A sizable portion of it,” Dr. Ott said.
She looked up at him. Something seemed strange. She couldn’t place it. No matter where she looked, something seemed distinctly off, but she could say what. She concentrated, trying to pinpoint exactly what it was.
“They’re dead, aren’t they? The white-coats? And Brad too?” she asked.
“Well,-” began Dr. Ott, but Agent Necker simply nodded.
Therese squeezed her eyes shut as the hole in her chest became too much to bear. She’d killed again.  As she did so, flashes of memories of Brad and Abdul filtered across her eyes. She heard snatchets of conversation and blips of thought. As Brad and Abdul talked, however, Therese counted.
“Twenty-five,” she whispered. “Twenty-five murders through me.”
They said nothing. She continued to count the lives as the voices in her head were drowned out.
“You asked me once who I would be without this ability, Dr. Ott,” she said. “I said I wouldn’t be me. And, I was right. I’m not going to be the same Therese. I’m not going to be that murderer.”
Agent Necker reached out and held her hand. “I’ve known murderers, Therese, and you were not a murderer.”
“I bet Dr. Lewis and Dr. Henderson would be very pleased to see that you are awake. I will go find them,” Dr. Ott said, moving toward the door.
“I best be going as well. I don’t believe anyone outside of Dr. Ott really understands the special permission I was given,” Agent Necker said with a smile betraying a boyish mischief. “Is that alright?”
Therese nodded. “Thank you, for everything.”
“I will see you again, Miss Evans,” Agent Necker said. Therese knew that was a promise. Both men left.
As Therese stared up at the ceiling in her room alone, she realized what had been wrong the entire time that she couldn’t figure out what. She could no longer see red or blue or green. She couldn’t see purple. She was colorblind.

Amethyst - Part Three - Chapter Five

She watched the little girl dance. It was the child’s favorite past time. Small strands of her midnight orchid hair would escape he hijab to tickle her dimples as the girl smiled. She would twist and twirl back and forth across the room with abandon, dancing to music only she could hear. She was just an innocent, little girl called to die.

Therese woke in an instant, rubbing her head. The headache wouldn’t leave and now she saw Asma whenever she closed her eyes. She almost wished the girl would stare at her, condemn Therese of giving away information that could have save the child. But, Asma didn’t. She danced instead, with the gaiety of a child who did not know her fate. However, Therese thought that even if Asma knew she was going to die, Asma would forgive her.
But, Therese didn’t know Asma was going to die. They had said they would protect her. They might yet just keep their word. She couldn’t assume guilty until proven innocent. Most people were good.
She rubbed her eyes and brushed her teeth, thinking about Asma and what would happen to her.
“Miss Evans?” a woman called outside her door.
“Has Asma been protected?” Therese asked, running to the door.
“Yes,” the voice replied quickly.
Therese cocked her head, confused by the quick and blunt response and also her feelings toward it. In her mind, there was no way the woman outside her door was telling the truth, although she did not know why.
“That was strangely fast considering how everyone assured me of how difficult it would be yesterday,” Therese said carefully.
“Is was luck,” the voice responded.
“Really? Where is Asma then?” Therese asked.
“She has been taken into protective custody,” the voice said. The falsehood and deceit were so heavy in the voice that Therese felt she might choke on the fumes.
“How come you’re lying to me? Have you even tried to protect Asma?” Therese asked.
The voice remained silent awhile.
“We hoped to put you at ease before we ask of you a favor,” another voice said, male this time.
“By lying. I do not appreciate it. Please, just tell me the truth; don’t try to lie to me. What exactly is the favor and what exactly has has happened to Asma?” Therese asked.
A silence again. Therese thought she might have heard whispers through the door, but she couldn’t be sure. A third voice answered.
“Steps are being taken to analyze the possibility of extracting Asma. As for the favor, we wish for you to verify the information you reported by asking Mr. al-Fadl to sign your report.”
“Why do you need me to do that? It doesn’t sound like you need a mind-reader for that,” Therese said.
“We want to know his response, and he does not express much physically. If a detail is wrong, it is important we catch it now,” the third voice said.
Therese chewed her lip. “You’re trying to protect Asma then, right? You haven’t done it, but you’re trying.”
“Yes, Miss Evans,” the first voice said. It wasn’t lying this time.
“I’ll put on the helmet thing, then. Oh, do you want the anesthetizer thing back? It’s off my arm, so its not going to do much good in here,” Therese said, spying the device on her bed.
“If you would be so kind, Miss Evans,” the second voice said.
She stared off her helmet for a moment, readying herself. It would be okay. It wasn’t forever. It would allow her to talk to Abdul and explain that they are trying to protect Asma. She had to do it.
She did it in one swift motion her mind condensed into a pinprick. She stumbled, catching herself on her bed and breathing deeply. It was okay. It wasn’t forever. She’d be able to think freely again soon. She grabbed the anesthetic-delivering device off her bed.
“I’m ready,” she said, trying to disguise all the pain in her voice.
The door opened, and the white-coats led her back to the room she’d been in the previous day.
“If you would please hand that over, Miss Evans,” a voice said.
She look around confusedly, trying to figure out how she came to be in the room, where the voice was coming from, and what it wanted. It was too much for her brain. She collapsed to her knees, head in hands, trying to regain control. With her eyes squeezed tight, all she could see was Asma, dancing. She followed Asma’s feet for a long moment before the motion allow Therese’s brain to retract.
“What were you asking?” Therese said, getting carefully to her feet.
“The device?” a voice asked. She saw a hand gesture to her own. She spied the box and attached tubes in her hand.
“Oh,” Therese said, turning it over for a moment, careful to keep her thoughts short and quiet. “You want it back?” She held it out to the white-coat who had spoken. He took it out of her hand and placed it in a pocket.
“Could you please sit down, Miss Evans?” he asked, gesturing to the chair she had sat it when he attached the device yesterday. She nodded and sat.
He attached a new device quickly. Therese hardly noticed. She barely could. She just closed her eyes and watched the dance.
“You can take off the helmet, Miss Evans.”
Therese did not need to be told twice. The helmet was flung from her head in and instant as her brain expanded quickly in the area, gulping fresh thoughts excitedly. She could sense Abdul and his carefully neutral mind in the other room, but an itch drew her attention to the device to attached to her arm. Before, surgical tape had held it in place. Now, several layers of gauze and a tight neoprene cover held it to her arm. She thought there might be surgical tape beneath everything else judging by the feel, but she could not see it. She had the feeling that it order to get it off, you would need scissors, and there were no scissors in her room.
“You don’t want me to take this off again, do you?” she asked.
“As it is secured thusly, an attempt to pull it off could injure you,” a white-coat said.
“That just explains the consequences of trying to pull it off, not why you attached it this way. Why must I have this on my arm at all times, like when I’m alone in my room?” Therese asked, before shaking her head. “It’s okay. You don’t need to answer that.”
“Miss Evans, this is a copy of your report. If you could please get Mr. al-Fadl to sign it,” a white-coat said, handing over a photocopy.  It did not have the portrait of Asma in it.
“I’ll try,” Therese said. They opened the door for her and led her in.
“Hello, Abdul,” she said quietly, sitting across from him. “I’m Therese Evans. Do you remember me?”
He flicked his eyes up for the briefest second as a barrage of thoughts overcame his cool exterior. He thought her supernatural, not normal, of bad intents, and not nice. God was the only one who should be able to look into minds, and Therese was not God.
“I’m really sorry that I had to see your memories. I made them promise to protect Asma though. They’re trying to find out how as we speak,” Therese said earnestly.
He did not believe her.
“She is a dancer, isn’t she? Whenever I close my eyes, I see her, Abdul. She’s very pretty and very graceful. She’s the best eight-year-old dancer I’ve ever seen. And she smiles too, with the light of a thousand suns. Every time I close my eyes, Abdul, I see her dancing. How could I ever harm allow anyone to harm her once I see her?” Therese asked.
He looked up at her dubiously as his ambivalent feelings peaked to the surface. However, he quieted them swiftly and looked at the table.
Therese pushed the report toward him. “I wrote up what I saw in your mind. They’re going to try to stop the attack. I know you don’t want them to, but there’s little eight-year-old girls out there like Asma who could get hurt. We need to protect them. If you could just read through it and tell me if I did anything wrong,” Therese said quickly.
His mind was disconcertingly flat. He refused to notice the papers. His mind was strung as tight as a wire.
Therese sent toward him a river of ease and calm. He didn’t need to worry. They would protect Asma. The faster he verified the information, the faster they could protect Asma. He just had to look through it quickly. It could only help Asma.
He glanced at the papers, considering it carefully, before shaking his head.  He looked at Therese and thought very clearly.
“You do not understand, Therese Evans. These men lie. They will not protect one who is not their own. You can take what you want from me. You have unnatural power to take minds and memories. But I wish you to know that they will kill Asma once you do.”
Therese jumped slightly at such a strong thought. Abdul was speaking to her. His thoughts were filled with pain, agony, and lost. Therese tried to assure him they were good, that they were not lying.
“You did not see all of my memories then, Therese Evans. Look inside me and see how the lies they have told. If you take for them some of my memories. Take for me others. Take for Asma.”
Therese took a deep breath as Abdul stared straight into her eyes, urging her onward. Therese glanced behind her shoulder to where the white-coats were standing. Therese hadn’t noticed it before, but there was a camera. They were monitoring her every motion, but not her every thought.
She turned back to Abdul and nodded. She dove into his mind. He shoved several memories right at the surface, and they passed in a flurry of broken images. He was beaten in prison cells. He was spit upon. No one would tell him the direction of Mecca. They shaved his beard. They would force him out of his cell into work or question whenever it was time for him to pray. They told him they had his daughter, waiting for him. They told him all the other conspirators had been caught. They told him that he would be executed if he did not confess this moment. They lied again and again.
Therese retreated from his mind, staring at Abdul and panting. The graphic images of some of the humiliation and torture they made him endure continued to cycle through her mind.
Therese did nothing for a long while, before she hesitantly responded to Abdul. She could tell when they were lying or not. They said they would try to protect Asma. They knew the information came from him, so it would make no difference. If he cooperated then someday he might be able to live with Asma again. He could just read it. He didn’t have to say anything. Just please, he had to read it.
She didn’t want to hear his retort, she flooded him with calm and ease before he could think another thought. He couldn’t rebel against the strength of this equanimity. He read the document, nodding to denote its veracity.
“Could you please sign it?” Therese asked.
All of his mental walls came up. His mind became closed and flat. He turned his eyes to a blank space of table.
Therese tried to let him know that they already had the report and that they already knew it was from him. Signing it would just make it official. But, he resisted strongly in silence. He did not want to sign it. He thought it would make it more likely that Asma might get hurt.
“Does he have to sign it?” Therese asked, turning back to the white-coats.
They nodded.
Therese turned back to Abdul. She forced upon him all the serenity she could plus the idea that he must sign the report. He resisted. He shook his head. He tried to shake off the tranquility she fed, trying to think his own thoughts. He could not do this. It would hurt Asma. He had to keep Asma safe. He couldn’t listen to his own thoughts. They were made by the betrayer, the thought-manipulator. He had to do anything but sign it.
Therese didn’t know what else to do as she tried to make him calm again. He wasn’t calming. If anything, he was becoming more upset. She glanced back at the white-coats. One of them had his finger on the controller for the anesthetic in his pocket. She didn’t want to go to sleep.
“Please? He really, really doesn’t want to sign it,” Therese said.
“He must sign it Miss Evans. You must make him,” a white-coat said, tapping the controller. There was no please, now, just a very real threat. What would they do once she was unconscious? Would they take her brain, now that she wasn’t using it to help them? After seeing what Abdul had seen, she wasn’t sure if they would even refrain from killing her.
She grabbed Abdul’s hand with her mind. It steadied instantly, at her control. He tried to grab it with his other hand, but she brought it to his side. He looked at her with nothing but unrestrained horror. She did not calm his mind this time, but put it to sleep and brought his body under her control.
Then, she signed the report through Abdul’s hand.
As she released her hold, Abdul’s fell back onto the floor.
“No!” she called. She stumbled from her own chair as she tried to process what she just did and tried to reach Abdul. What had she done to him? Was he breathing? Was his heart beating?
“Miss Evans, please follow us back to the other room. We will send someone else to examine Mr. al-Fadl,” a white-coat said. She ignored the voice, falling to her knees. Her hands shook as they felt on Abdul’s neck, searching for his pulse.
“Stop!” a white-coat ordered with a voice that echoed through the room. She found his pulse. He was alive. She let her hands all in her lap and looked up toward the white-coats. All three of them were staring at her. Two of them had the controllers to the device on Therese’s arm in their hands. The other had backed up behind the other two.
“He’s alive,” Therese said before her headache caught up with her. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. Asma danced.
“Stand up,” a white-coat ordered. Therese stumbled to her feet, using the table that used to sit between Therese and Abdul for support. It felt as if her brain had been immersed in boiling lead. She could barely think. She felt as if she might be sick.
“Can you walk, Miss Evans?” a white-coat asked.
“You have to protect Asma. You have to. I made him sign it. He didn’t want to. He knows if the Cobra sees it, he’ll torture Asma. He knows that there’s now proof that he gave us information. He doesn’t want Asma hurt. But I made him to do it. I forced his hand. I made him. I controlled him,” Therese blabbered. The ache and emptiness in her chest felt as if it might suck the pain in her brain in the vortex it represented.
The white-coats were whispering to one another.
“Can you walk, Miss Evans?” a white-coat repeated.
Walk. Walk away from this room and leave Abdul alone, like an empty shell. She had betrayed him. She didn’t know why. What she did was wrong. She made someone do something. She didn’t even suggest it. Suggesting it didn’t work. She made him do it. She made him work for these people she didn’t know if she could trust.
“Is someone going to check on Abdul?” she asked.
“Yes, a professional has been called for. We must get you back to your room, Miss Evans,” a white-coat said.
Therese nodded slowly and pulled herself upright. She followed them into the other room where she put on her helmet. Then they led her back to her room. She limped more than walked, but arrived there all the same.
Inside her room, she threw off her helmet and stared at the ceiling. What had she done to Abdul? What had she done to Asma? Why did she do it? Why didn’t she just say no to the white-coats? They couldn’t make her. Why did they need a signature anyway?
She closed her eyes, pressing a pillow to her face. Asma twirled across her vision, and Therese threw the pillow away. She didn’t want to look at Asma. She didn’t want to see her. Not when she might die because of what Therese did.
Therese put her heads in her hands, massaging her temples. Why did seem that nothing she did seemed right? Was she just a horrible person? If she let them take out her brain or kill her, then she wouldn’t have to feel this pain anymore. She wouldn’t gamble lives anymore. She could get away.
But she couldn’t. She couldn’t run away, because even if she did, Asma could not. It did not matter if she blocked out the world, it wouldn’t change what was happening.
She would face Asma and explain for herself.
Therese settled herself on her towel and meditated.

She pulled her body up again, ignoring the weight of gravity trying to prevent the task. Asma smiled as she danced around the drawn up body, her mauve skirts flung out in all directions like a flower in bloom.
She pulled the body forward to the desk. She grabbed a pencil and paper, and she drew. She drew Asma a hundred times, dancing, smiling, laughing, singing, flying, with her father, with her late mother. Again and again, she drew Asma’s face. From every angle, with every zoom.
She kept drawing with a passion, trying to keep the child with her that others seemed so eager to make part with this world.

“Miss Evans?” Dr. Ott asked, knocking on the door.
Therese looked up as the pain of her headache hit her. Papers were toss across the room as her eagerness had betrayed no tidiness. There were Asmas everywhere.
“Yes?” Therese said carefully, trying not to reveal her pain.
“Are you alright? You sound a little strained,” Dr. Ott said.
“Yeah, I, well, I just have this headache,” Therese said.
“Like before?” Dr. Ott asked.
“I dunno, maybe? I think it might be worse,” Therese said between clenched teeth.
“I’ll see if we can get you an MRI soon,” Dr. Ott said quickly.
“What about Asma? Are you protecting her?” Therese asked.
“We are doing our best. We understand you care deeply for this girl,” Dr. Ott said.
“I promised her father she’d be alright. I took the memories from his head. I made him signed it. I was the one that physically forced his hand,” Therese explained tightly.
“You physically forced his hand?” he asked.
“I mean, he refused to do it, no matter how much calm I fed him, no matter what I told him. He was too strong-willed, too protective. So, I quieted his brain and I took control of his hand and signed it for him. He had already read through it and said everything was correct,” Therese said quickly.
“I see,” Dr. Ott said. “Do you know what they were planning to do before Mr. al-Fadl was caught?”
“They were planning on running some planes into some nuclear power plants,” Therese said quickly. “It was in the report.”  
“How many would that kill, do you think?”
“From fall-out and everything? They estimated at least a million. They also planned for a collapse of the Western economy would cause starvation for many more,” Therese said.
“The information you extracted saved those people,” Dr. Ott said emphatically.
“Does that mean your not protecting Asma?” Therese asked. “You’re trying to tell me she doesn’t matter since so many more are being saved.”
“Of course we’ll still try to protect Asma, but I’m just informing you that even in the worst case scenario, you should never feel ashamed at what you have done. You saved millions,” he said.
“And killed an innocent little girl,” Therese whispered. “I see her all the time in my head. Whenever I close my eyes, even for a second, she’s there. I don’t want to see her hurt. She’s a dancer you know. I don’t think she has any formal training, but she dances all the time for fun.”
“Therese, you are doing good,” Dr. Ott said slowly.
“Is Abdul alright?” Therese asked.
“He’s doing fine,” Dr. Ott said.
“Please, if you are allowed to say anything, please encourage them to protect Asma. Please?” Therese pleaded.
“I will do my best, Miss Evans,” he said.
“Thank you,” she said.

“Miss Evans can force actions upon people even if their higher conscious refuses,” Dr. Ott said.
“I take it your interview with Miss Evans proved advantageous?” Director Schultz said.
“As predicted, an assurance from authority does little to soothe her worries on morality. However, I thought it important to report that Miss Evans actually controlled the hand of Mr. al-Fadl when he signed the report. He read it of his own accord with nudging from Miss Evans. However, as he vehemently refused to sign, she took his hand and did it for him,” Dr. Ott said.
“How is this different from what she has done before?” Director Schultz asked.
“Before, she suggests things. She calms people down and asks them to do things. This time, she forced. It didn’t matter how opposed he was, she could make him do anything. Nothing can overcome her,” Dr. Ott said.
“This might be useful,” Director Schultz said.
“Another important note is that her headaches have returned, and they are worse than before,” Dr. Ott said.
“We’ll need another MRI then soon,” Director Schultz said. “Isn’t this abnormally quick? I thought it took much more training last time in order to merit surgery.”
“Yes, but perhaps Mr. al-Fadl has proved more intense training that she previously underwent. Maybe growth is easier with a bigger brain. Perhaps it is stress-induced,” Dr. Ott said.
“She is stressed then?” Director Schultz asked.
“Very. She doubts the morality of what she is doing. I believe it is already presenting itself in minor psychosis. She says she see Mr. al-Fadl’s daughter whenever she closes her eyes,” Dr. Ott said.
“We’ll do the MRI tomorrow. Is there anything else of note from your interview with Miss Evans, Dr. Ott?” Director Schultz asked.
“She repeats her request about protection of Asma,” Dr. Ott said.
“Yes, well, that’s impossible if we wish to prevent this attack. If they knew we knew, then we would be dead by now” Director Schultz said.
“I was simply repeating Miss Evans’s request,” Dr. Ott said.
“Thank you for the update on Miss Evans. You are now dismissed,” Director Schultz said.