“Agent Necker, please explain your encounter with Miss Evans earlier today,” Director Schultz asked.
“I first took her to interview Mr. Sanders. She appeared to be distressed by the number of people around her in the Office of Counterterrorism. She couldn’t reach out to Mr. Sanders without touching him as if there was too much interference. So, I allowed her to go in with him. She unselectively calmed and placated those around her, including myself. Then she touched Mr. Sanders.
“She came out and told us he was innocent, repeating the story he told us, despite the evidence to the contrary. She appeared to be distressed, so I removed her back to this building as to alleviate the stress as I doubted she could do much more there.
“It was an experiment of mine. She seemed to be in very much pain. I thought if I asked her to transfer some to me, it wouldn’t hurt her as much. She took some convincing, but eventually she assented. For whatever reason, it appeared to have physically assaulted me. I am told my heart stopped. I do not believe she meant it,” Agent Necker explained calmly.
“Dr. Ott, your interpretation?” Director Schultz solicited.
“I believe Miss Evans has come to realize the extent of her abilities. She is testing the limits of their reaches by lying to the agents and hurting Agent Necker. I believe she has come to enjoy the idea of power. She told me today she did not wish her brain to be fixed. Mr. Greer and Miss Evans appear to be very bad influences on the mental stability of each other. I would recommend keeping them separate. I would also recommend appearing to concede to Miss Evans’ request to leave her brain intact, but on Monday, remove that which she can’t control,” Dr. Ott said dryly.
“I must disagree with Dr. Ott.”
“How so, Agent Necker?”
“I cannot believe Dr. Ott’s description of Miss Evans. She is kind-hearted and good-natured. I believe she truly believes Greg Sanders to be innocent, and I know she did not intend to hurt me. I cannot speak of the relationship between her and Mr. Greer as I have no experience to build from. Even conceding to Dr. Ott’s prognosis, we should not lie to her,” Agent Necker interjected.
“Miss Evans has spent much time touching your mind, Agent Necker. Do you think it wise to trust your impression of her? As to your declaration that we should not lie to her, can you think of an alternative? Besides chemically sedating her, there appears to be no other way to control her. If your prefer the latter means, we could choose that route,” Director Schultz said blandly.
“It seems wrong-” Agent Necker started.
“If I might interject, Agent Necker. There are many things wrong in the life of Miss Evans. It is wrong that she should’ve been genetically manipulated. It is wrong that her family and her friends were murdered. It is wrong that she was forced to shoot her grandfather. It is wrong that an eighteen-year-old girl should have the ability to bring down any government she chooses. I must side with Dr. Ott on this. It is the only way to clean-up this mess.” Director Schultz pronounced.
“But she means no harm,” Agent Necker retorted passionately.
The door opened, and a guard ran in, winded. “Agents, we found Miss Evans in the room of Mr. Greer. She stabbed him.”
Dr. Ott turned to Agent Necker slowly. “I think she means harm.”
Therese did not know what drug they had put her on, but it was strong and powerful.They had not listened long to her before someone had a needle in. She was still conscious, but barely, and only in a dreamy sort of way. It was hard to put everything together. Her mind felt like a balloon, constantly tugging to go explore the sky but unable to go far.
Her name was Therese Evans. She had killed her friend because he was trying to assault and drown her.
She felt a familiar mind brush against her own. She couldn’t summon the energy to go explore it with her mind. Instead, she laboriously opened her eyes. It was Agent Necker. “Hello, Agent Necker,” she whispered. “I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Hello, Miss Evans,” he said.
“They’re going to pick my brain apart now, aren’t they?” she asked. Even through the drugs, she could find a headache cutting through everything, reminding her why she was here.
He nodded. She felt as if she had fallen through the bed. She knew it was coming, but it seemed ghastly to have it be affirmed so simply. She would never be herself again, whoever she was.
“Do you believe I wanted to murder him?” she asked, staring at him. He turned his head aside.
“I do not want to, Miss Evans.”
“I didn’t want to hurt him. I wanted to talk to him. And we did talked. Then he wanted me to go into the tank with him. He wanted to hold my hand. He said that he wasn’t afraid. And when I went in, he shocked me. He tried to rape me, I think. He was drowning me. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get him off me. I couldn’t feel his mind distinctly, but I grabbed enough to hurt him, I think. He still wouldn’t get off. I felt something sharp on the ground. So, I shoved the oyster knife at him.
“I wasn’t trying to kill him. I was trying not to die. I guess it looks kinda bad though. To think, Dr. Ott was right about Neptune.”
Therese looked at the ceiling. “And now I’m going to have a chunk of my brain taken out. Maybe its for the best. I’ve hurt both of my friends I made here with that bundle of neurons. I’m not sure how I’ll be without it, but I won’t be dangerous. I just wanted to help people with it.
“I’m not sure if I told you, Agent Necker. But I wanted to die a lot when I was trying to figure out what I was and why people I loved were dying. I felt evil. Unclean.
“When I figured out that it was my grandfather, not me. It gave me hope. I didn’t want to die anymore. And then you came and talked to me in my room. You told me I could help people. I felt like I could make up for everything that happened before. But I haven’t. More people have died and been hurt. Greg Sanders probably isn’t off any better. I’ve failed.” Therese stopped talking. She felt cold, not physically, but cold from her core out. Or maybe dead would be a better expression. If her father had felt pity for her as a baby, he should’ve just killed her, seen her for the monster she was.
She noticed motion out of the corner of her eye. Agent Necker had stood up. He walked over to the IV post that held the drugs slowly feeding into bloodstream. He turned the valve off. He pulled the tube out of Therese’s hand.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“Therese, the drugs will wear off in about twenty minutes. Then, you can run far away from here. You would need to calm any guards you meet. You should not stop running for anything. You will have to lay low, but you can do good. You are a good person, Therese. You have not failed.”
She looked up at Agent Necker, who was checking behind his shoulder to make sure no one else was present. “Thank you, Agent Necker.”
He kissed her gently on the forehead. “Thank you. Good-bye, Therese.”
He left without another word.
Therese felt the drug wearing off. She slowly shook the fatigue out of herself. She felt weak coming to her feet. Neptune’s scratches were just superficial, and whatever poison he had spoken of did not appear to be contained in his nails. She was fine.
She searched her mind out to people in the halls. There were guards this time. She forced herself to breathe easily, summoning all her calm and equanimity. Then, she let it breathe out into the twinkling lights of minds outside the door. She felt them ease at her command.
Her head ached atrociously. She took another breathe, attempting rein in the pain. Then she opened the door, and no one stopped her. A few men in suits stood in the hall, but they did nothing.
She walked out, feeling in front of her and calming everyone she met. The farther she went, the more people she met. It was much easier to deal with their minds, however, when they were so quiet. They contentedly opened doors and gates for her.
Then, she walked outside, and for the first time in months, she was free.
Someone would eventually come to their sense and find that she was missing. She would have to be faraway by that time. She would need to fly somewhere. She would need to get a different identity. She needed to get away.
Every step she took brought her deeper into the city. She felt their minds crush up against hers. Her first thought was to calm them all, but there were too many, and she didn’t want to interfere with those she didn’t have to. She was drifting away so quickly. She was mingling amongst the infinite field of consciousness. She had to find herself.
She stopped running and sat down on a street corner, cradling her head in her arms. Her name was Therese Evans. She would be chased by the FBI momentarily. Agent Necker had helped her escape, even though she hurt him. He had called her Therese.
“Are you alright, miss?”
She looked up. A police officer was standing three feet from her, staring down concernedly at her. She knew she was a mess.
“I’m fine,” she said, standing up. “Just, um, running too quickly. Got a headache.”
“Alright, miss,” he said, and walked along.
Headache. She was going to die soon because she wasn’t going to get her skull opened up. Her brain was going to squeeze itself to death. Was that better than having her abilities stripped from her and who knew what else?
She didn’t know. Maybe she could go to another country and ask them to cut open her skull. Of course, if the United States’ government found so much interest in her, she could only assume other countries would too. And she would be helpless once she was anesthetized. Maybe the other governments would be worse, and not want to cut up her brain, but force her to kill?
There was no one to turn to. It was no use running. She would die soon.
Her time was short, but it did not need to be meaningless. She had greater control over herself than she ever had before. She could give some small part back to the society she had taken so much from. She affirmed her identity but once. Her name was Therese Evans. She was a murderer. She was going to die soon. But, she was going to help people before she did.
Then, she reached out to the city. She felt the physical pressure of a million minds assault her. She did not let herself be afraid. She knew who she was.
She let go.
The most amazing calm that she had ever felt in her life surrounded her. Her aches and worries dissolved in the mists of the thoughts of a society millions strong. She was just one part of a greater whole. Then, she felt them out for the disturbances and whorls associated with distress.
In the building above her, a little boy had lost his kitten. Three streets down, a couple had found a stray kitten wrestling through garbage. They were going to call animal control.
Therese calmly walked down to the couple and explained to them she knew the owner of the kitten. They gave it to her. Therese walked up the apartment building and knocked on the door of the little boy’s apartment.
A nasally, disheveled little boy with fresh tears in his eyes answered it. His eyes lit up as he saw the kitten in her arms.
“Mittens!” he exclaimed. The kitten mewed in response. She handed the cat over. “Where did you ever find her?”
“She was looking for you,” Therese said, smiling slightly at the boy who was snuggling contentedly with the feline.
She left as she heard the boy shout. “Look, Mom. Mittens is back!”
Therese searched the minds of the city again. She stopped a banker, barking into his cellphone. “You don’t need to worry about your wife. She’s not having an affair. She’s planning a surprise party for you. Act like you didn’t know.”
He looked bemused, but Therese walked off before he could question her further.
“You’ll find your wallet at the hot dog stand you had lunch at,” she told a frazzled looking woman.
“Lucie Manette was a symbol for light in the Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton acted as her antithesis as a character of dark. However, he proves himself good when he takes the place of Lucie’s husband, Charles, at the guillotine. Redemption is a strong theme.” she told a student worriedly hacking at his computer.
“You don’t want to steal that woman’s purse. It is not who you are. Go back and try at the pizza parlor on central. They need a worker right now. $9.00 an hour. It won’t pay for your drugs, but you don’t need them. You’re a good man without them.”
“The post office is two blocks down then four blocks on your right. You can’t miss it.”
“You don’t want to kill yourself. It gets better. Call Denise. She’ll want to talk to you.”
She felt out slowly, letting her mind disperse and breathe through the crowds. She could feel the ebb and flow of the city, its hopes and its wishes. She felt its fears. She felt beneath it all a stream of good, of people wanting to help people. There was hope to be had.
Then, Therese felt them. It was a dark undercurrent of sinister thoughts that whispered as slithered. They were not loud, but soft as the susurrus of the wind and as noxious as poison. She traced them, feeling out their thoughts, their intentions.
There were six people, five men and one woman. They were planning on blowing up the FBI building. They were placing the bomb right now, as they had practiced before. It would detonate in one hour.
She tried to reach out her mind to the criminals to convince them they did not want to go through with it, but they were too far away and too determined. She could not sway them from the course. They were already leaving now.
Therese could not warn the FBI. They would never trust her. If she influenced one of the guards to check in the basement storage closet, they wouldn’t know how to disarm it. She doubt she could control a guard enough to cut the right wires by proxy.
She would have to go.
It was her choice.
She felt the criminal minds. They were in a plumbing van. She reached out to the nearest police officer, impressing on her the suspiciousness of the vehicle. She should probably call the plumbing company and verify the license plates.
Then, she ran back to her prison spreading a fog of ease before her. The guards did not stop her as she ran through the outer gates and into the inner complex. When needed, she politely asked people to open doors for her while feeding them a milieu of calm contentment.
She arrived at the basement closet. She opened it to reveal the tangle of wires and packs of explosives. She reached out her mind to the criminals. A police officer had stopped them. She was asking for papers.
She grasped onto the thread of their bomb building knowledge. She needed wire cutters. She retreated up a flight of stairs and asked a nearby janitor for his. He obliged. She ran back down the stairs.
She stopped spreading the wave of contentment and focused on letting herself fall into the minds of the criminals. It was disorienting as she lost hold of the wholesome, busy tide of the city, but she had to find the plans of the bomb, and they knew how to read them. With their knowledge, she sorted out the wires to cut and in which order.
Distantly, she noted a disturbance above her somewhere. She didn’t pay it any mind. She needed to concentrate.
With steady hands, she delicately plucked a wire from the tangle. She cut it. Nothing happened. She moved to another one, twisted in the midst of a knot. Nothing happened. She cut another and another and another. Nothing happened. Nothing would ever happen.
The door to the closet was pulled open and a bright light was shone down on her face. “The bomb’s disarmed now. The criminals responsible have been pulled over for stealing a plumbing truck,” she said serenely.
She let her mind wander and expand as she was slapped into handcuffs and paraded upwards. This would be the last time when she feel the thrum of humanity, understand the pure consciousness they all shared. She wouldn’t be able to disarm any more bombs soon. She wondered if she would keep any part of herself. Would she know who she was when she woke up? Would she wake up?
It didn’t bother her as it once did. Everything was okay now. Mittens was with her owner. Nate wasn’t going to slit his wrists. Carlos was making up with his wife. Kyle now had a job at a pizza parlor and was going clean. She was just one person, and humanity was very, very large.
She felt Dr. Ott approach. He had a very loud, very tight mind. He was calling to others, ordering her sedated.
“Hello, Dr. Ott. You are a very smart man, but if you want to be a better psychiatrist, remember your patients are people, not problems,” Therese told him, raising her voice slightly to be heard over the rumpus around her. Dr. Ott raised his eyebrows.
Someone found a needle. Sleep was crowding her consciousness back into her skull and into a deep and dark place. “Please don’t take my brain,” she said quietly, and then, no more.
Her bare scalp had been retracted, leaving a red-stained canvas of bone before Dr. Lewis. He carefully picked up his craniotome and cut open the skull along the sutures of her skull, using the boreholes he drilled as guides. He removed part of her parietal bone. It was etched with grooves corresponding to the pink parietal lobe beneath it. There had been a lot of pressure.
He noted the observation carefully, and place the bone in a surgical basin. Carefully, he removed the next bone and the next, until her entire cerebral cortex was revealed. Besides its tight fit within the skull, it looked remarkably normal.
Dr. Lewis looked back once at the MRI images. He had gone through this procedure a thousand times. Still, it was entirely unique. He would never perform something of this magnitude again. Rarely were entire portions of brain excised anymore, except in the case of tumors. It was much easier to simply sever the neural connection in cases of epilepsy and the like. However, apparently, this young woman had remarkable neuroregeneration potential. It would have to be removed.
He didn’t like that he had identified her as a young woman. The moment he began thinking of her as a human meant he questioned the validity of his actions. Was it appropriate to remove part of the brain of a young woman that was not only functioning well but extraordinarily? No, she had hurt people. She could not be controlled. She would only abuse it.
He switched to a scapal and cut delicately into the neural tissue. He heard Dr. Henderson gasp as he exposed the novel region of her brain. It had an almost geometric regularity to the tight spiraling grooves curled on it. He had never seen anything like it before.
He removed his scapal as both him and Dr. Henderson examined it carefully.
“It is quite remarkable,” she remarked.
“It does quite remarkable things,” he returned.
“And we’ll never know how.” They turned to each other, and then back to the brain.
Neither of them moved.
“I, um, think I see some key neural circuits running into it,” he said slowly.
“Oh, yes, I do too.”
“I don’t think I could remove it without killing her.”
“Neither do I.”
“Then, I will have to abort this craniotomy as by the better judgement of myself and Dr. Henderson,” Dr. Lewis announced. Dr. Henderson nodded her support.
Dr. Lewis carefully closed his incision and began reassembling the skull with the help of several bone grafts. It would have a much larger volume now as the young woman would grow into it.
Dr. Lewis felt his heart racing as he did so. He could not destroy it. He could not destroy her. He did not know much about the girl, but what she had was unique.
He hoped he did the right thing.
But just as his indecision and guilt reached a pinnacle. It felt as if something was reaching into his mind, filling it with a warm, tired sort of gratefulness. Just as quietly, it removed itself, leaving only an understanding of one thing.Someone was very happy that he had.