I think that last treatment must have been their last ditch effort to complete my transformation and make me docile. As I thought about it, I don’t believe they intended to do that all at once, but it was a contingency plan if they couldn’t control me. Surely they had come up with a Plan B, as they noticed that I’d disappear into the catacombs under Deep Hawk for days at a time. I had to have been radically transforming long before it was pointed out to me, but the final bits of the transformation were happening quickly. That is to say that the physical transformation was accelerating but my self awareness and memory were reverting back to what they had been before. I suddenly realized that I could smell things that I had never been able to before. I could also hear the minds around me. There were hundreds and hundreds of lost minds, with a few clear ones peppered in.* The lost minds were those that had gone through their own ‘training’, and the clear ones were mostly part of the hierarchy of Deep Hawk. How did I know that? I could hear it directly from them as I made my way through the maze of the facility, looking for clues.
I racked my brain for what little Sasquatch lore I had picked up on TV specials and the internet to see if I could guess at what my new abilities might include. I had never really believed in such cryptids before. I found the mythology entertaining and didn’t discount that there may be undiscovered species, but didn’t honestly believe that there was any non-human, man-like creature in the woods. I had always imagined that were there such a thing, it would be a simple, dumb beast. I did remember however, that some of the Native Americans counted these creatures as another race of man, highly intelligent and even psychic. That belief had seemed absolutely corny. But now, as I could feel the other minds around me, and hear their thoughts, I gave it new consideration. Maybe I could find my wife with my brain…
I came to an abrupt halt on the vinyl floored hall, with no one else around. I clamped my eyes closed and did my best to reach out with my mind. My ears began to ring softly and the hum from the lights faded. I could hear my heart beat. In my mind’s eye, creatures lit up all around the facility like paper lanterns. I searched all that I could find and could not identify Naomi among them. It could be that she was so far gone that her mind had lost enough familiarity that I couldn’t pick her out. But, I was sure I could find someone who knew where to find her.
So, I stretched out the fingers in my mind, looking for familiarity. I explored the people I encountered this way. Most of them were unaware of my mental probing, although a few seemed to react to it mildly. Then, I found a brain that had Naomi’s face in it. This person has seen my wife. I must find… …her. Yes, this was a woman. And… we have met before. In fact, she was there one of the last times I saw Naomi.
My faded memories flashed in my head, and I remembered a dark room with bar stools and miniature men, and Naomi holding a small box, and another woman with her. Claire? I began running again, following my mind through the halls towards this woman’s imprint. As I ran along, I began to come to terms with the fact that I was now different, and that my wife likely was too. Would she remember me? Would she still love me?
That thought was cut short as I became aware of ten – no, a dozen men coming from an adjoining corridor. they were all wearing helmets and carrying rifles. I skittered to a halt and looked around. I didn’t want to have to deal with this right now. I could have easily rushed past the lot of them, but that would have only drawn more to my position. I needed to lose them. I looked in vain for a place to hide. There was nothing – not even a door I could tear open. The first one came around the corner, and I froze instinctively. He was followed immediately by three others. He had his rifle pointed at me and his companions swept to his side. He stopped with his rifle trained on me, but something wasn’t right. I held my breath. He dropped his rifle to low-ready and grabbed the radio from his chest, “We’re all clear in here.”
“No, you are not,” the radio sounded off. It sounded like Havoc on the other side, “He could be right in front of you and you might not know it. You have to look very hard and try to block out the mind games. There’s not a whole lot of directions he could have gone.”
They couldn’t see me? I suddenly remembered the Skunk Yeti and his trick of transforming into General Havoc’s doppelganger and then melting into the wall. Was I doing the same thing? So was that all done with mental projection? Whatever I was doing, I needed to keep it up for just a couple minutes longer. My heart pounded in my ears.
“I’m telling you sir,” the man called back into the radio, “There’s nothing in this direction. Maybe check back with one of the other teams?”
“Please just look a little more thoroughly,” said Havoc over the radio.
The man in the helmet sighed and said to his men, “You heard the boss. Let’s split up here. You six double back and make sure we didn’t miss anything that direction. You five come with me and let’s go down this way.”
I wondered how long I’d been standing there, perfectly still, not even breathing. As he and his other five passed me to continue down the hall, one of them stopped and put his face very close to my body as though he thought he could almost see something there. He slowly poked in front of him with the muzzle of his rifle. I gently and silently lifted my leg out of the swing of his muzzle. There I stood, holding my breath, on one leg in the hall, with this soldier who thought he could almost see me.
Then, his leader turned around and addressed him, “What is it? Did you see something.”
He hesitated for a moment before standing up straight again, “No, it’s nothing.”
“Positive,” he affirmed, “just my mind playing tricks on me.”
I had to silently step out of the way of one of them so he wouldn’t walk into me. Then I realized that I could step silently. When I was running before, I was coming down on my heels which produced a thud that shook the whole floor. Since then, I had noticed that it was far quieter if I stayed up on my toes and the balls of my feet, but that produced a ‘pat pat’ sound. Prior to that, I had not noticed that I was barefoot. There was a special point on my foot now that was behind the ball, that I could put down first, that had not existed on my feet before. It was like an extra flex point in the foot, and when I stepped there, I was absolutely silent. When the men had left the room, I heaved a great sigh of relief and continued to run, this time on that mid-foot flex that I had discovered.
Finally, I made it to the door of a lab. It had a curved, aluminum pull handle on the door, and there was a glass window with security wire criss-crossed in it. I looked inside and saw Claire wearing a lab coat, talking on a phone handset at the far end of the room. Of course, the door was locked. When the handle tore from the door in my hand, she turned around and her eyes got huge. She pressed a button on the phone and hung up the handset, and continued talking, apparently with the phone on speaker. I couldn’t hear what was being said yet, but I saw her lips fomulate, “He’s here now.” I punched out the glass and grasped the door by the window frame. The door bent down away from the frame at the upper corner before the lock bolt and top hinge finally gave up and the door came from its frame.
I heard Havoc’s voice over the speaker phone say, “…was a complete mistake. He’s simply too powerful and we can’t control him.”
Claire screamed as I cleared the distance of the room in a single leap and tore the phone from the wall, smashing it to bits on the opposite wall, right beside the empty door frame. “Hush!” I commanded her. She stopped screaming but cowered and whimpered as though she expected me to hit her. “What is wrong?” I demanded of her.
“Pl-please don’t hurt me. I’m sor-sorry about your wife,” she stammered, “they to-told me that you wouldn’t remember. They said you wouldn’t even be able to speak.”
“What happened to my wife? Is there a reason I should want to hurt you?” I asked her.
“Nothing!” she cried, “just the treatments. She’s perfectly fine though.”
I became aware of another group of soldiers closing in on the lab.
“Tell me where I can find Naomi,” I demanded.
“I c-can’t!” she pleaded.
“Now!” I growled.
As the first rifle muzzle cleared the empty doorway, I quickly drew her in close to me, covered her nose and mouth with my other hand, and held my breath. Five men in helmets came into the lab, carefully stepping over toppled tables and glass shards on their way in. The man in lead queued up his radio, “well, he was certainly here. We have signs of a struggle and he apparently took her with him.”
She struggled in vain against my hold. I knew she wouldn’t be able to hold her breath as long as me, but I couldn’t have her crying out; it would give me away. She squirmed but my illusion held.
I heard Havoc’s voice over the radio, “well, they must be close. When you locate them, take down both of them. I want to find out exactly how much she’s divulged to him.”
“Yes sir,” the men exited what was left of the lab to continue their search.
“I’m going to let go of your mouth,” I whispered to Claire, “and when I do, I want you to be silent. If you bring them back, you won’t have the opportunity to answer any of Havoc’s questions. Do you understand?”
Claire squeaked and nodded her head frantically, her perfectly round, tearing eyes peeking out above my hairy hand. I very slowly released her. She exhaled and gasped for air. “You can trust me, Reid,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“I’m screwed one way or another. They don’t trust me and I was in trouble before you ever got this far. You can trust me,” she whispered as she caught her breath.
“Where can I find my wife?” I asked quietly.
She hesitated again, “do you understand that she’s different now?”
“So am I,” I pointed.
“She may not know you,” she argued.
“I have to try,” I said resolutely.
She sighed in resignation, “all right*. There is a break room on the next level about five doors down. The Electros spend most of their time hanging around there when they aren’t on duty or in training.”
I cocked my head at her, “‘Electros‘? So, my wife is now an Electro?”
“Well, since she’s female, she’s called an Electra, but yes.”
“Is that human?” I asked.
She fiddled with the buttons on her lab coat, “More or less.”
I shook my head and sighed. Then, I made eye contact with her and purred, “thank you.” And then, I took off again.
*Edited on the advice of my pro bono proofreader. 😉