Learning Experience

Learning Experience

By Charles Etheridge-Nunn

 
PROLOGUE
 
A day from now, an island just off the coast of Australia.
 
The recovery team had searched what remained of the complex for hours with no result. The plane crash had no fatalities, but it was quite evident that the destruction of the containment centre had led to the deaths of all the guards, prisoners and the psionic recruits that were sent here.
 
Carl Windebank, one of the lower-level agents on the cleanup mission heard a noise from the rubble and could make out a bloodied hand reaching up. With the amount of prisoners that were on the island as well as the guards, he pointed his MP5 at the hand and called out to the other agents “Heads up! We’ve got a live one!”
 
**********
 
JENNY HICKS
 
Now, a plane heading to a small Archer Foundation island prison.
 
“Hey there,” the fresh-looking, cleanly-shaven young man of no more than twenty-years said as he put out his hand for the girl to shake “The name’s Reece Menear. I’m a telepath. You?”
 
“Jenny Hicks. Psychometrist and synaesthetic empath.” The half-Asian girl looked like she didn’t want to talk and went back to looking out of the plane’s window.
 
“Kewl.” He thought for a second before continuing “That means you see sounds as colours and stuff, right?”
 
Jenny gave a sigh “It means I pick up emotions as colours, sounds, sometimes tastes. I’m training to not need stimulus like that to pick up emotions.” She paused “You’re a telepath, why didn’t you scan me for the information?”
 
“I prefer the conversation. So were you born into the Foundation?”
 
Jenny absentmindedly started fiddling with her hair while delaying her answer “I take it you were?”
 
“Oh yeah, born and bred!”
 
Why doesn’t that surprise me, she thought. “My mother was an agent for the Pan-Asians, she met my dad in New Zealand and they married, but she never told him about her work. When I was growing up they divorced and I stayed with my mum who told me about her life with the Archer Foundation and the Pan-Asians, about her psionic abilities and told me that she didn’t want me working for them, saying that it ruined her marriage and her life. I never told her when my powers appeared or that I signed up to work with them. She thinks I’m doing teacher training.”
 
“Wow. I always figured that being a super-spy would be a big turn-on.”
 
“Not when you’re not allowed to tell them you’re a spy.”
 
She looked further down the plane to see the rest of her new ‘classmates’. Two telepaths held a conversation without even opening their mouths, she could always see a pale glow and taste ozone around telepaths using their abilities. A scruffy and scar-covered pyrokinetic was impressing an impressionable-looking blonde girl by lighting his cigarettes mentally. A biokinetic at the back kept to himself as he stopped himself liquefying at such a height. Finally near the front, their teacher also a telepath smelled quite worried.
 
She snapped back to hear Reece still talking, evidently thinking she was listening to him “I’m still not sure why they want us to see all the old criminals and nut-jobs they’ve locked up.”
 
“Because all the people we’ve scanned so far are willing subjects. In the field we have to scan some of the nastier minds as well as the unwilling,”
 
Reece cut off before she stopped talking, Jenny noticed their teacher, Mr. Walsh as well as the two other telepaths had all frozen. They looked at the cabin doorway where the pilot was, Jenny’s empathy picked nothing up, the pilot was a blank slate. Mr. Walsh tried opening the cabin door, which wouldn’t budge.
 
“It’s too late.” Jenny said blankly, “He’s not there.”
 
Murray Coombs, the biokinetic made his way shakily to the cabin door as we all felt the plane starting it’s descent, he put his hand in the lock and started reshaping itself. There was a click and his almost featureless face contorted into a grin.
 
Mr. Walsh ran into the cabin to see the pilot slumped over the controls, alive, but no more than an empty husk, there was a jolt as the plane tilted further towards the ground. He ran back and said “I want everyone to remain calm. We’re going to crash, that’s inevitable. I’m a psychokinetic, I’ll steer the plane into safety.”
 
He stood in the centre of the plane and Jenny’s sight exploded with loud reds as power bled out of Mr. Walsh.
 
“Are you alright?”
 
Jenny opened her eyes to see the Reece’s inane grin beaming down on her.
 
“We’re alive?”
 
She looked around at a rocky cliff. Reece sat up and gestured over to the hollow shell of the plane, “Teach’ landed the plane, but just about totalled it. We’re all just gathering our wits while waiting for you to wake up, you were the only person to pass out. Murray liquefied himself, but Emily managed to gather him up.” Jenny cast her mind back, Emily was the blonde who the pyrokinetic had been flirting with.
 
Jenny stood up, the cliff went down a lot further than she had thought, the sea air reaching all this way up and helping to wake her up. Mr. Walsh was sitting around all the supplies that he had gathered from the plane, the other students were sitting around a makeshift fire that had all but gone out.
 
“I’m sorry if I delayed our departure.” She said to Mr. Walsh.
 
“Don’t be. I used the time trying to contact the base telepathically to let them know of our arrival, but I’ve been blocked somehow, I can’t even get a message off the island. We needed a rest before the walk to the complex.”
 
**********
 
ANDY BANKS
 
The pyrokinetic of the group, Andrew Banks as almost nobody except Mr. Walsh and the blonde had asked, hated the sea air. His powers were sporadic at best, although he never wanted to admit it to anybody, but in this air he was finding it hard to keep the fire alight. He crouched almost animalistically over it, taking occasional looks towards the others. Emily, the blonde girl was using her psychokinetic abilities to hold the large puddle of Murray, Andy thought that’s what he was called, suspended in the air as he slowly re-formed. Mr. Walsh along with the quiet half-oriental girl walked up to him.
 
“We’re all up now, we’re heading in.” Mr. Walsh said flatly.
 
Andy looked at the small amount of kindling he had found and was starting to burn despite the damp sea air. He shook his head and stood up, running a hand through his scruffy hair before walking over to the other students.
 
Mr. Walsh looked at the giant cold metal building obscuring the small island. “It’s only a couple miles walk, so we should get going. It’ll be dark soon.”
 
The psionic students all gathered themselves together, Andy on the edge of them, watching Murray’s arm starting to pull out of the floating puddle in front of Emily. He felt slightly jealous that Murray was taking up all of her attention but put it behind him. As they started to walk across the rough grass the annoyingly chirpy one trotted up to him.
 
“Bit brusque isn’t it?”
 
Andy looked at him, surprised he was even talking to him, but he replied “I guess so.”
 
“I thought you’d know best, being a pyrokinetic and all.”
 
“Yeah.” He paused, “Is there a reason you’re talking to me? I thought you were running around after than Asian chippie.”
 
“And you with the blonde?”
 
“Touché.”
 
“It’s just that we’re all cold and traumatised by the crash. I thought you could do with some company. I know I do.”
 
Andy felt like an idiot “Sure. Sorry for snapping. I hate wet weather.”
 
The whole group stopped as the Asian chippie gave out a stifled scream. Mr. Walsh stopped her from falling over and helped her back up. “What is it?” he asked.
 
“Fear. Solitude. Hatred. I can feel it from the building.” She replied.
 
Mr. Walsh let her stand on her own “It’s probably the prisoners. This exposure may seem a bit much at first, but you all need to learn how to control your abilities.”
 
Andy sighed and they continued. He didn’t want to sound pompous, so he avoided sharing his feelings on how melodramatic telepaths were.
 
“You’re British aren’t you?”
 
Andy snapped out of his thought “What?”
 
“Your accent. It’s British isn’t it?”
 
“Yeah. I grew up on the streets there, but the Archers found me when I was ten, they gave me basic training and ever since then I’ve helped out on occasional missions.”
 
“You’ve actually been out on the field?”
 
“Yep.”
 
“Wow!” Reece’s inexperience really showed now, his eyes wide and he seemed as bouncy as a puppy “I’ve read about missions and of course, my parents worked for the Foundation, but I’ve never actually been on a mission before. This is the most official thing I’ve done for them so far.”
 
They continued, showing their obvious differences, but both growing a mutual respect for each other while the group made their way closer to the small entrance on the side of the gargantuan metal cube of a building.
 
**********
 
MURRAY COOMBS
 
An eye now, watching the rest of the students and Mr. Walsh walk into the lobby of the prison. His arm twitched as the shoulder started to knit back into shape. Murray had managed to hear most of what had happened, but control of his body had been lost in the crash. He was trying to remain calm and put himself back together, Emily had been helpful with that, but he felt guilty about taking so much of her time. More fingers pulled out of the puddle, the other eye attached to the palm of his hand. It slid back down and appeared next to his first eye, just near to what could be the bridge of his nose.
 
Mr. Walsh pressed the intercom button and gave his code for entrance, but there was no answer. The eyes not yet solidified again rolled over to see the rest of the group. Emily was deep in thought rebuilding him, the twins he had met earlier, Doug and Laura were still talking amongst themselves. The others had drifted over to Mr. Walsh with the empath and Reece with the pyro. He saw concern on their faces but his ears had gone back under his liquid form to where they would be on his submerged head. Night was falling swiftly and they were getting worried, if he was solid he would try to reassure them. Finally Mr. Walsh opened the door, Murray’s almost featureless face pulled out of the liquid and he heard “Guess the comms are out, but don’t worry, they’ve buzzed us in anyway.”
 
Murray’s hands pulled his face further out and with Emily’s help he threw himself onto the floor, his top half solidified but the lower still forming.
 
“Nice to see you with us again Murray.” Mr. Walsh said.
 
“Guh—Good to be back sir.”
 
“Shall we proceed?”
 
“Could we wait a moment, my legs aren’t working yet.”
 
They all stopped as Murray sat against the wall, his legs twitching as his muscles grew back. The pyrokinetic lit two cigarettes using his index finger and passed one to Emily who looked exhausted after such a prolonged use of her abilities. Once Murray could stand they made a start into the complex, Mr. Walsh was helping him walk, but otherwise he seemed fine.
 
The reception was massive and looked much warmer than the exterior. Warm, muted lighting, carpeting, plush furniture, but the room was empty and deathly silent.
 
“Hello?” Emily called out.
 
“Where is everyone?” Andy asked.
 
The twins shot in, their voices speaking as one “The nearest thoughts other than our own are two security guards down the hall from here.”
 
“Thanks.” Mr. Walsh said.
 
Jenny had walked behind the desk and was touching the leather chair behind it. Murray walked up to the desk, leaning on it so he could face Jenny.
 
“What is it?”
 
“I’m picking up memories from this chair. Red. And look—“
 
She pointed at the chair seat before continuing, “Blood.”
 
“You two! Stop dawdling!” Mr. Walsh called as the rest of the team were heading down the corridor.
 
Jenny rushed off, Murray paused to look over the desk and at the blood on the chair. He left, not sure if the finger he saw was imagined from far too many horror movies that he watched as a child.
 
**********
 
EMILY STEPHENSON
 
As the red patterned carpeting gave way to a metal grilled floor, Emily flicked the butt of her cigarette away. When Murray and Jenny made their way back to the group, she had decided to stay at the back of the group as Mr. Walsh led them to the guard room. When the door to the security room opened there was a large metal table blocking the way into the room, Mr. Walsh simply said “Emily, could you..?”
 
Unbothered, Emily tore the table in two with a thought. Mr. Walsh, Jenny and Andy ran in and there was a scream. Emily half-heartedly peered over Doug’s shoulder as the other students ran to the doorway. A security guard held his pistol at Mr. Walsh, they argued for a little bit and Mr. Walsh talked him down. When Doug finally moved out of the way Emily caught sight of the second guard, red lines torn through his bullet-proof armour, revealing the bone in his ribs and left leg. When the dying man’s eyes met hers, she knew she had to get away and backed off around the nearest corner. She leaned against the wall and pulled the squashed pack of cigarettes out of her pocket. Looking at the corner and hearing the muted voices Emily caught her breath again, she had never seen anyone in as much pain as the guard. Emily finally found the one cigarette left she dropped the empty packet onto the floor and putting the cigarette in her mouth while looking for her lighter.
 
The lighter hadn’t been used since Emily had met Andy, he revelled in being able to use his powers to light up for them. She pulled the lighter out of her pocket and brought it’s flame to the cigarette in her mouth when it went out. Emily quickly thought, she couldn’t feel a breeze from the corridor and it was facing in the wrong direction anyway. The hairs on the back of her neck tingled as she sensed a warm breathing from right behind her. Wondering what it was she turned around and…
 
**********
 
BARNEY ROGERS
 
Barney Rogers had sat in the guard post for three hours trying to help his friend who had been gutted like a fish. He had stabilised him, but there were no real first aid kits in the room. When the table was torn away his gun was drawn and he was facing the group before he could even think. As he was about to pull the trigger a voice in his head said “Stop.”
 
Barney lessened his pressure on the trigger. “Who are you?”
 
“I’m Mr. Walsh. I’m here with a group of telepaths for training.”
 
“Don’t you know?” Barney looked at them like they were already dead, “I sent a distress signal out. I told them to blow this place up.”
 
The Asian girl piped in “No they’re not.”
 
“What? How would you know?”
 
The girl looked at her hands, where she had touched the blood “I just know. Why did this happen?”
 
“It’s the Shop.”
 
“What about them?” Mr. Walsh asked.
 
“This is a prison they built. They blew all the locks earlier today and released all the prisoners we had locked up.”
 
“Oh my god!”
 
“Paul and I barely made it out. The head warden got us to seal the exits off. There’s no way anything’s getting out of there.”
 
“So you trapped them all?” the girl asked again.
 
“And our team-mates. But one of them had escaped by the time we sealed it up. He gutted Paul here. I managed to hide us, but now you’re here he—“
 
He was cut off by a scream. The Asian girl collapsed on the ground screaming. The boy and girl who looked the same, Mr. Walsh and the smiling boy all looked like someone had beaten them about the head with an metal bar.
 
“Emily!” Mr. Walsh shouted, looking around. “Where is she?”
 
The Asian girl got up and pointed down a corridor “I can hear it coming from down there. The fear and the hatred, it’s so loud.”
 
“I’m picking up a signal from that way.” The smiling boy agreed.
 
The faceless boy and the scruffy boy started heading down the corridor and Barney got up to follow them “Don’t try to get in his head.”
 
“Why not?” Mr. Walsh asked.
 
“It’s The Reaver. Frankie Midas’ henchman from a few years ago. He gave him coyote genes and attached blades to each of his fingers.”
 
“Kids. Stop.” Mr. Walsh commanded to the kids. “We have to think about this.”
 
“But what about Emily?!” the scruffy boy shouted.
 
Barney answered “She’s dead. If he got to her, she’s dead. We all will be.” He looked over to Mr. Walsh “Have you got a plane or something?”
 
“It crashed.” He replied “But aren’t there planes here?”
 
“Tried them. The Shop sabotaged them.”
 
“Why?”
 
“A message to the Archer Foundation. That they can get to us whenever they want.”
 
**********
 
REECE MENEAR
 
“I can fix it.” Reece remarked.
 
“What?” Mr. Walsh asked, shocked that his ward had any useful skill.
 
Reece looked out of the lobby where they had gathered again and tapped at the window. “I can fix the plane. I just need some parts from the sabotaged planes.”
 
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Andy asked, “We could have fixed it and been away without Emily dying.”
 
For a second Reece looked serious, “I thought there would be other planes here, and I didn’t know anything was wrong with the complex.”
 
“Right,” Mr. Walsh started quite suddenly and coldly “the outside is even more dangerous than in here, so we’ll stay in here. Reece, Murray, find a medikit somewhere to patch Barney’s friend up and seal this floor off so that we can get some sleep and head to the roof to get the parts for the plane.”
 
Reece looked at Mr. Walsh questioningly and asked “Isn’t it a bit risky to send two of us out to find a medikit when the Reaver is out there?”
 
“Nonsense. You’re a telepath, you can scan rooms for his presence and lock down any rooms he’s in. Just consider this field training.”
 
Reece thought of his parents and what they would think, the overconfident smile flashed on his teeth again. “Yeah. Let’s go!”
 
“That’s the spirit.” Mr. Walsh said, “After all, I’ve scanned the floor and wherever he is, it’s not here.”
 
Reece looked at Jenny, giving both of his eyebrows a characteristic bounce up and back down to try and show his enthusiasm, then Murray checked Barney’s identity badge for a name and asked “Hey Barn’, where can we find a medikit?”
 
Barney seemed distracted, he looked at the almost faceless adolescent and mumbled “Infirmary’s down the hall ‘n to the right.”
 
“Kewl.” Reece commented, then he and Murray left.
 
The lights in the infirmary flickered, the evident scene of a fight. Reece looked at the trail of blood that ran from the floor in front of them to the pair of legs that poked out of a large bin nearby, like a broken toy. Reece threw up quite noisily, knocked almost to the floor in horror at this sight. Murray crouched by Reece to help him up “If there’s an upside to all of this. I doubt he’d return to the scene of the kill.”
 
“Oh, yeah, really reassuring Murray.”
 
Reece took out one of the handkerchiefs he always carried, wiped his mouth and dropped it on the floor. Murray stepped into the room reluctantly, looking like the act of stepping into the room would kill him. He looked around him, his eyes almost adapted to the ever-changing lights saw the other bodies of the doctors sprawled over the floor. He reached over to the small box attached to the wall of the infirmary. He tugged it off the wall, ignoring the wet feeling of the blood streaked across the box, then stepped back towards Reece.
 
Reece had frozen, his shocked expression caused Murray to hold still in his tracks as well.
 
“What?” Murray whispered.
 
Reece’s eyes gestured towards the corner of the room. The back of Murray’s head opened up slightly and a small eye peered out to look in the corner. A pair of eyes were looking back at him in the darkness, five metal points flashed as a light flickered on a hand momentarily.
 
“Run.” Reece whispered in a strained voice, “Now!”
 
Murray’s leg muscles suddenly shifted and grew, he bolted forwards at Reece as the clawed savage charged at them. Murray watched as he started to overtake Reece, his elastic hands wrapping the kit in a finger-cocoon. Reece had a quick look back at the creature chasing them to make sure it was there. He saw the blur of fangs and claws closing in on them, but couldn’t pick a single thought up.
 
As Reece closed in on the lobby, he shouted “Close the hatch! The Reaver’s after us!”
 
The truth is he’d only gotten to “Close the hatch!”, Barney suspected something might happened and was at the door lock, he pressed the button to seal it and watched it start closing while the two youths charged towards it. The second half of Reece’s sentence was cut off by Murray having jumped through to the main chamber and having stretched one of his legs to yank Reece across the floor. Reece slid under the door just as it slammed behind him. Their pursuer was sealed behind five inches of thick metal. They were safe.
 
“It was the Reaver.”
 
Barney ran to the front door, starting to enter the codes to seal it off.
 
Reece looked around at the group. Paul, the wounded guard was on the reception desk with the twins watching over him, Jenny was sitting on a chair looking at something by the reception.
 
Mr. Walsh helped Reece up, “Are you alright?”
 
“It was the Reaver. It was waiting for us.” Reece panted “And it doesn’t scan. Telepathy is useless against it.”
 
“And we’ve cunningly just trapped ourselves in.” Murray added, handing the first aid kit to Doug, the male of the twins.
 
“Wrong.” Came an answer from above Murray. It was Andy, he was sticking out of one of the air vents.
 
“What are you doing up there?”
 
“I know how to get out of here.” Andy grinned before dropping onto the floor, using heat waves so he could lessen his impact.
 
“The air ducts.”
 
“You just think he’s too stupid to think of that?”
 
Barney moved on to sealing the windows, he looked up and grimly answered “We had to ventilate the prison somehow. At first there were a lot of escapes, so we posted sentry guns in the vents. They track anything with a heat signature.”
 
Andy smiled, his eyes alight with energy “That’s where I come in. I can mask body heat.”
 
Barney carried on to the last window, “The kid’s good. All we need is some rope and we can all get up there. Then we can sleep in some proper lodgings before we carry on.”
 
Mr. Walsh looked at the twins and asked “What about Paul?”
 
“Stable.” They replied simultaneously, then just Laura spoke, “We are keeping him unconscious, as long as he is not harmed by the passage, we believe he will survive the encounter.”
 
Doug added “He will still need surgery if we escape.”
 
Andy lit up a cigarette and corrected him, “When.”
 
**********
 
BARNEY II
 
Barney had worked in the facility for two years now, but had never seen the air vents. Thanks to Murray transforming himself into a living rope and Andy floating up into the vents, they had made their way up into the confined ducts. It was quite a squeeze, Barney had to ditch his body armour but otherwise he was doing fine. The scruffy pyrokinetic was absorbing all of the local heat, leaving the sentry guns blind. Barney was impressed by these kids, but still had doubts that they would succeed with this mission.
 
Behind him, the twins were making sure that Paul was carried through the vents safely. He was pleased they were able to look after his team-mate as that allowed him to think about how to stop the Reaver. Until his escape, the Reaver was kept in total sensory deprivation. He had been a killing machine that was almost unstoppable, boss Midas wanted it that way when he made him. The Reaver could adapt to any stimuli that was thrown at him, that was his main weapon, once you got past the claws. His adapting abilities were why they had to seal him away and shut off all his senses, so there was nothing for him to adapt to. The Shop had designed the best technology to keep him hidden away in his own little oubliette, but somehow someone had broken him out.
 
Barney called ahead to the pyrokinetic “Kid! We’re almost there, turn left and head upwards.”
 
There was no answer, but the boy followed his directions. He looked back at the twins, they had stopped, waiting for the Asian girl to move.
 
“What is it?” Barney asked.
 
“Burning.” The girl replied, “I feel burning. It’s getting closer.”
 
“We’d better hurry then.”
 
They continued silently, occasionally exchanging worried looks to each other. Barney kept his stoical expression, hoping to be more of a positive influence on the kids. Before his ego had gotten the better of him, the whole group stopped. Underneath them was a light tapping. Mr. Walsh looked back at Barney, his raised eyebrow and concerned expression silently asking Barney if he knew what the tapping was.
 
“Heating’s next to the vents, it’s just that.” He whispered hoarsely, then added “I think.”
 
Mr. Walsh’s curious expression turned into a dubious one.
 
We’d better stay still just in case. The voice in Barney’s head carried the same tone as Mr. Walsh, he guessed it was just his telepathy. The kids looked like they had heard it as well, each one frozen, scared to even breathe.
 
After a minute of waiting, the periodic tapping heading further away down the pipes Paul woke up, his eyes burst open with shock. For the instant before Paul got up, Laura could see the scream he would give as the pain returned, dazed and disorientated, she was sure about it. Reaching out with her telepathy she removed his ability to speak. Paul’s mouth opened and Laura congratulated herself on silencing him, before he shot up and banged his head on the vent.
 
The echo from the head/vent collision carried on down the pipes as far as they could hear. The tapping stopped.
 
Barney’s eyes widened and he flicked his fingers at the people ahead, shooing them onwards. The panic started and the group scrambled over each other to get as far away from the last tapping noise as possible. Up ahead Andy started heading up the vent one turn too early, just to get away.
 
Paul, confused by this reached to the young Asian-looking girl and tried to ask her what was happening. For some reason he couldn’t speak. Laura had scrambled over Paul while her brother struggled with Paul’s grip on the Asian girl.
 
Barney reached back to separate them when a massive tear formed in the vent as a clawed hand cut through it like paper. A second hand reached in and closed around the Asian girl, dragging her down. Paul’s hands let go of the girl a second too late as the section of the vent he and Doug were in fell off of the ceiling and hit the floor next to the clawed monstrosity.
 
Barney almost looked down, going to help, but a clawed hand started tugging at the part of the vent they were in. Backing away, Barney pulled out his gun and shot at the hand, forcing it to let go. Barney crawled up the vent as it started tilting down towards the screaming voices of the two kids and Paul.
 
**********
 
LAURA STARK
 
Laura was alone for the first time in her life. She sat in the corner of the room while the others relaxed for the first time since the plane crashed.
 
The room was the main guest’s suite, well furnished in deep red chairs and a massive double bed in an adjoining room. The guard, the living one, and his new best friend Andy the pyrokinetic had sealed up the doors, windows and vents. They decided that the group should sleep first and then break their way out and head to the roof where Reece could get parts to fix the plane.
 
The group each sat as far away as possible from each other. All now having lost someone they knew, their thoughts were all grieving. Laura could hear all of them, Reece’s thoughts betrayed the smile he had while sitting on one of the plush red chairs. Barney and Andy occupied themselves so they wouldn’t think on what had happened. Mr. Walsh sat by the mini bar and helped himself to the drinks there, drowning his grief out. Murray wouldn’t scan properly, his mind shifting as often as his body.
 
When Barney had stopped busying himself with securing the room, Reece blurted out “Why can’t we just go down there and hunt this bastard down. We just can’t stay here while he kills us!”
 
Barney shook his head “No. The Reaver was made to adapt to anything that he experienced. Fire, acid, freezing, telepathy. Our only way to stop him was total sensory deprivation.”
 
“So we cut him off.” Andy added.
 
“How?” Murray asked.
 
“Blow the building up.” Andy answered, “Is there a self-destruct?”
 
“Yeah. I don’t have the codes for it though. Marc Bull, the chief of security had the codes. When we last saw him he was going to set it off, the Asian girl said he didn’t, I’d guess the Reaver got to him.”
 
While the others talked, Murray left the conversation and sat next to the corner where Laura was “Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”
 
“Mmm?” Laura almost looked interested in what he was saying.
 
“If this Reaver guy is this bad, then what was Frankie Midas like?”
 
“What?”
 
“The guy who made the Reaver.”
 
“Don’t care.”
 
Murray moved a little closer, his body shifting to fit in with the wall next to Laura. He said “How are you holding up?”
 
“Douglas is gone.” Laura looked up at him with almost dead eyes “Since we were born we were linked mentally. We felt what each other could feel. We knew what each other knew. Now he’s dead, how do I know which are my memories and which are his?”
 
Murray wanted to reassure her, but he knew nothing he would say had any effect. Murray put his arm around Laura and she felt herself drifting off.
 
When Laura closed her eyes, all she could see were Douglas’ last seconds, trying to escape from the clutches of the Reaver. The guys were arguing again, this time about who would take first watch while the others slept.
 
“I’ll do it.” Laura interrupted.
 
“You sure?” Murray asked.
 
Laura nodded. She stood up and moved a chair to face the door. Barney directed the others, allocating them places to sleep while Laura watched the door, her eyes closed while her mind watched the room from every angle. Occasionally, Laura let her mind stretch outside the confines of the room, but there was nothing. Figures, she thought, he’s immune to telepathy.
 
When Laura’s watch was over, she telepathically woke Reece. He stood up and as he walked from his pile of cushions, she got out of the chair and started heading to them. As they passed, Reece flashed a little smile to her. Laura sat back on the pile of cushions, Reece had taken them rather than deprive the others of a bed, sofa or chair. Laura kept herself awake, watching Reece as he pulled an orange juice from the fridge and sipped from it while watching the door.
 
After half an hour the slow fight against her eyelids was lost and Laura fell asleep. When she did then the last memories of her brother surfaced again.
 
Doug fell down the vent hitting the Reaver in the back, knocking Jenny off of his claws. The Reaver was on him in an instant and sliced his throat in one swift move before moving on to the girl. As Doug died, he watched the Reaver dart towards the girl, then everything blurred away. Then something spoke to her, not really a voice, but an emotion, “One of them is a traitor.”
 
Laura woke up with a scream, her neck on fire with pain. Murray held her down, he smiled and said “It’s alright.” He gestured at the room and the others, “It’s morning. We’ve prepared to head on, but I suggested we let you sleep. You looked like you could do with it yesterday.”
 
Laura started getting up, “I’d rather you’d have woken me up.” She murmured.
 
“Nightmare?” Murray asked.
 
Laura nodded. Murray answered “Me too. I doubt any of us had a good night’s sleep.”
 
“Not like this.” Laura now whispered to herself. When she realised that nobody had heard her, she remembered just how alone she felt.
 
**********
 
MR. WALSH
 
Iain Walsh stood by the side of the door, now unsealed by Andy as Barney pulled his pistol out and kicked the door open. The group covered their eyes as a tidal wave of sunlight hit the room. Once their eyes had adjusted to the bright post-storm sunlight that covered the corridor, Barney led them across to the next door. Behind him were Andy and Iain, Andy was ready to use his powers, but Iain was there simply as a leader.
 
The most experienced person in the group, Iain felt defenceless. He was a telepath for the Archer Foundation, the only person here who was a fully qualified agent. Iain was also one of the more powerful telepaths in his field, but all of this would be nothing to the upcoming threat. He had seen inside Barney’s mind, his gruff exterior hid a small frightened man inside. If it came to a fight with the Reaver, Barney would end up just like his friend.
 
Iain’s mind stopped wandering and he watched Barney checking up and down the corridor. “It’s clear. Andy, you cover us.”
 
Andy nodded, starting to enjoy his place as Barney’s sidekick. He looked down the corridor while Barney walked up to the lifts. Barney called back “I’ve found an empty lift. It’s broken, but Reece could fix it.”
 
Reece smiled and nodded. He trotted to the lift, which was jammed half-way up the doorway. Barney helped lift Reece into the lift and he had a look around the lift.
 
“Can you fix it from here?” Iain asked.
 
“I think so,” a shout came from the lift, “just give me a minute.”
 
Iain carried on looking down the corridor Andy was guarding. Unlike the corridor they had walked through, this one had only a small amount of light in it, casting long shadows across the hallway. Iain felt a shiver down his spine, it was too silent. Everything was going too well, something had to break.
 
“I think I’ve fixed it!” Reece shouted, “Get in!”
 
“Is it safe?” Barney asked.
 
“If you all get inhere I can test it. There’s a chance we’ll plummet to our deaths, but I’d rather we didn’t separate.”
 
Barney shrugged, then pointed to the others, “Get in.”
 
He helped them in, one by one. When Barney helped Iain get in, they gave each other a suspicious look. Once Iain was up, he gestured to Barney with his hands, suggesting that he would help him up. Barney looked at Iain and for a second Iain thought he could feel a dark thought at the back of his mind.
 
Barney helped himself up to the lift and looked at Reece expectantly. Reece gave a smile and pushed a button, he quickly said “If this kills us all. Just remember this wasn’t my idea.”
 
The small lights on the lift flickered and a humming started as the lift burst into life. Reece’s grin broadened as they waited for the lift to reach the top floor.
 
Downstairs, something moved. It made its way up the stairs, looking for the others, enhanced senses guiding its way directly to them.
 
“We’re here!” Reece shouted, then looked around, fearful his jubilation had stirred some monster.
 
The lift doors opened with only a little help from Barney to pull them apart.
 
The group wandered across the rooftop, Reece rushed off to the nearest wrecks of emergency planes and helicopters. The others watched him work away, looking for useful parts, until he came across a mostly intact-looking plane. He ran inside, then after a minute, he ran back out, his smile bigger than ever.
 
“I’ve found it! I’ve found a plane that wasn’t badly damaged! With a few parts from the rest of the planes I can fix it!”
 
Iain looked around, something was happening and he hadn’t noticed it until now. Laura on the other hand knew exactly what was happening. The betrayal was upon them. Laura had anticipated the drawing of the gun and the bullet hitting Reece, but just as she was about to get up something hit her.
 
**********
 
FINALE
 
Doug lay on the floor bleeding to death, his last sight was that of Jenny as she scrambled away, five red ribbons cut into her midriff spilling blood over the plush carpet. But just as the Reaver was upon her, something held it back. Paul, half-dead, had pulled a knife out of his boot and had stuck it in the Reaver’s back. The knife itself did very little, but the Reaver whirled around and sliced Paul’s head off. By the time he turned back around again, Jenny had gone.
 
Laura then picked up another pattern of thoughts, difficult to read, but they were Jenny’s. She had gone back down to the bottom floor. The blood she had been so fixated on earlier had belonged to the chief of security. All of his last thoughts were there. Including the self-destruct codes.
 
Just before he was shot, Reece’s excitement had gotten the better of him and the subconscious barriers to his telepathy lifted. He scanned the surface thoughts of the group; Andy, Murray, Laura, Mr. Walsh, Barney. Then as the second-long wave of thought went further, he picked up Jenny. After that, his surprise was even greater as he picked up people on nearby islands. He hadn’t used his telepathy to look off of the island since Mr. Walsh had told them it wouldn’t work. Reece thought, why would he have said that if he wasn’t—
 
A shot rang out. Reece crumpled to the floor in an instant. Mr. Walsh’s pistol, that he had been concealing under his jacket until now smoked casually as a merciless look swept over his face.
 
Barney pulled his pistol out as fast as he could, but Mr. Walsh had already gotten into his head. Barney’s hands started to liquidise, the gun slipping between fingers that looked like sticks of melting butter. In reality, Barney’s hands were doing no such thing, but Mr. Walsh used the time this illusion had given him to fire a shot directly at Barney’s head. The recoil from the bullet sent Barney toppling backwards to the floor.
 
Andy’s hands started to burst into flame and Murray’s became a set of blades, much like the Reaver. They rushed in to attack, not knowing that Mr. Walsh had planted an illusion so that they saw each other as Mr. Walsh.
 
Running up the stairs, Jenny heard light footsteps behind her, getting closer. Her body was worn out and bleeding badly, but she was almost at the roof.
 
Mr. Walsh walked to the edge of the roof and looked down. He then looked at Reece, knowing that he was still alive, but bleeding badly. He calmly said “Do you know why I am doing this?”
 
Reece’s eyes looked at where Murray and Andy were attacking each other, both becoming more enraged with each blow, Mr. Walsh increasing their aggression.
 
“Can’t you answer?” Mr. Walsh almost sounded like he was taunting, “I am part of the Shop. I have been working for them pretending to be Archer Foundation agent Iain Walsh for some time now.”
 
Reece looked confused. The man who looked like Mr. Walsh answered what he thought Reece’s question would be, “Why are the Shop doing this? That is a very good question…”
 
Jenny barged open the door to see Mr. Walsh talking to a dead-looking Reece as well as Murray and Andy fighting. A flash of calm in their direction stopped the fighting and drew the attention of Mr. Walsh.
 
“Jenny. My star pupil.” He said callously.
 
“I know about you.” She flatly stated.
 
Mr. Walsh smiled, he could feel the Reaver right behind her. There was a slash and a tearing of flesh. Jenny fell to the ground, the Reaver behind her licked her blood off of his claws.
 
“Good hunt?” Mr. Walsh asked.
 
Andy’s forced state of calm dropped. He charged blindly at the Reaver, generating enough heat to burn the Reaver to the bone on a single hit. The Reaver took the punch, his skin adapting to the heat as it seared him. Then the Reaver took immense joy in tearing the boy apart.
 
Reece turned his head enough to see that Mr. Walsh was distracted. His time to strike was now. Reece used every aspect of his telepathic powers to attack Mr. Walsh.
 
Just as Murray was coming around, Mr. Walsh said “Solid.”
 
Murray’s body complied with the order. Then dropped as a shot from Mr. Walsh’s pistol struck home in Murray’s heart.
 
Mr. Walsh was about to praise himself when he felt a presence in his head. Looking at Reece on the floor he smiled.
 
“Is that it?” He asked Reece. Then he turned his attention on him, as well as his full telepathic powers.
 
What was left of Jenny had been picked up by the Reaver, who looked her in the face. Jenny managed to force her eyes open and gritted her teeth as the Reaver ran a clawed finger down her cheek.
 
“I’m going to enjoy this.” A whispered voice from the Reaver said into Jenny’s ear.
 
Jenny lifted one of her hands, the one that was working. Before the Reaver noticed, she placed it on his face.
 
“No you’re not.” The Reaver’s eyes widened, “Do you feel that?” She asked.
 
There was no reply, Jenny continued “That was Paul Gulasky, he worked here until you killed him. You’re feeling what he felt when he died.”
 
The Reaver let go of her, but she kept going “That was Emily, I only knew her for two days. And Douglas. And Andrew.” Her face turned into a scowl as she ran countless memories through the Reaver’s mind. He was living lifetimes in the matter of seconds.
 
“These are all the people you have killed that worked here.” She then felt her powers increase and dig into his own mind, “And these are the others who you have killed. Each life you have taken, haunting you for the rest of your life.”
 
Jenny let him drop to the floor, he could no longer harm anyone. As Jenny looked at him, she saw what he really was. Just a man. A man who had been altered to become a ruthless killing machine, but underneath he was as weak as any other human.
 
She had lost track of time. Mr. Walsh had his palms around Reece’s temples, Jenny started walking towards him, dragging her bloody right leg behind her. Mr. Walsh gave a smile and got up.
 
“I’ve wiped his mind.” He said.
 
“I don’t care.” Jenny replied. “I found the codes to the self destruct.”
 
“What?” Mr. Walsh realised this was the trouble his telepathic subconscious was warning him of.
 
“It’s going to go off in—,” Jenny used her good arm to pull the other up and look at her watch, “twenty seconds. Do what you will with me. You won’t get out of here alive.”
 
Mr. Walsh perched on the edge of the building and looked like he was about to jump. Jenny walked towards him. She said “I’ve bested your henchman. What do you think I’ll do to you?”
 
“I don’t care.” Mr. Walsh replied, turning around and facing the sea.
 
Jenny made a grab for him, to use her empathic powers on him, but he jumped. Jenny caught his hand as he went, but instead of hurting him, she absorbed memories of his. In half a second she had seen all of his Shop experiences, in too fast a burst to make out what it all meant. Then with a click of his boots, Mr. Walsh’s shoes turned into rocket boots and started propelling him upwards.
 
Jenny tried to hold on, but he looked back and down at her coldly, then said “Drop.”
 
She let go, but managed to throw herself back towards the building. She hit a window near the top floor and fell through it easily.
 
As she landed, if Jenny had looked at her watch, she would have seen that there was exactly one second before the explosion.
 
**********
 
EPILOGUE
 
The recovery team had searched what remained of the complex for hours and with no result. The plane crash had no fatalities, but it was quite evident that the destruction of the containment centre had led to the deaths of all the guards, prisoners and the psionic recruits that were sent here.
 
Carl Windebank, one of the lower-level agents on the cleanup mission heard a noise from the rubble and could make out a bloodied hand reaching up. With the amount of prisoners that were on the island as well as the guards, he pointed his MP5 at the hand and called out to the other agents “Heads up! We’ve got a live one!”
 
Carl helped the other agents to clear the wreckage and finally they managed to pull a body out. It was a young man in what would have been neat clothing and a stylish haircut. His eyes were open, but glazed over.
 
“Do you know him?” Carl asked Scott Fudger, his supervisor.
 
“That’s Reece Menear, one of the psionic recruits. Get him on the chopper.”
 
After hours of sifting through the wreckage, there were no other survivors. Carl was about to leave when he heard an emotion from directly below him. The noise of the emotion seemed to symbolise a need for help. He started pulling the bricks, concrete, piping and other debris aside until he found an Asian-looking girl trapped inside a metal storage cabinet.
 
**********
 
An Archer Foundation sponsored hospital, fourteen hours later.
 
Jenny was sitting up in her bed, looking at Reece who’s bed was surrounded by his family members. They had been called once Jenny told the doctors what had happened to him on the rooftop. They had said his mind had been all but emptied, leaving him a vegetable. She turned her head back and examined her own wounds. Her right leg was suspended in a cast, one of her lungs had been punctured and four ribs had been broken by the Reaver, but had been operated on recently. The five cuts on her midriff and the one on her face weren’t deep enough to do and major damage, but would leave her scarred for life.
 
A neatly dressed man walked up to Jenny. She did not recognise him, but he stood out as a fellow operative.
 
“Jennifer Hicks?” he asked.
 
“Yes.” Jenny’s lips felt like they were cracking as she spoke now, the first time since telling the doctors what had happened when she had woken up.
 
“The doctors told me of your story. It is most interesting. Did you manage to pick up anything from this man posing as Mr. Walsh?”
 
“More than that. I saw everything about him. All of his plans. But I can’t make any sense of them.”
 
“I can help.” He said nonchalantly, “You and Mr. Menear are not the only victims of the Shop’s defection. I am putting together a task force to try and find out what they are up to. When you are well, would you consider joining it?”
 
Jenny’s eyebrow shot up, intrigued. She asked “Would that make me an agent for the Foundation?”
 
“Theoretically yes. You and others are to act ‘outside’ of the Foundation to start with. We have no way of knowing if there are more traitors, or more impersonators like the fake Iain Walsh.”
 
Jenny thought for a second. She looked at Reece again, then back to the strange-looking man. She then said, “I’m in.”