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He awoke. Upon opening his eyes he was blinded by an intense white glow. He thought he could hear vague sounds of people and machines but nothing was clear. He tried his eyes again and this time a blurry but steadily sharpening image of a pristine white ceiling revealed itself. Sounds were clearer, and his nose detected the unmistakably sterile scent of an operating room. He tried to move his neck to get a look around but he found his muscles sluggish and unresponsive. He tried harder and numbly looked down his body. Naked from head to toe, his skin was nearly as white as the room he was in. He was hooked up to several monitoring instruments and he noticed that all of them showed he was healthy. He didn’t remember ever learning how to recognise such things.
Or anything else for that matter.
“His brain activity is at normal levels! He’s waking up… early!” Controlled. Slightly astonished. Feminine. A nurse.
“Put him out, quickly! Administer the sedative!” Scared, but professionally controlled. Deep. Harmonious. Soothing. Masculine. Doctor. Probably in charge. He felt like he should know this doctor but could not tell why. He felt the acute warmth of the sedative entering his bloodstream. He reached out with his mind to the foreign agent and in response he felt his body release adrenaline to counter the effects of the chemical.
“His brain activity is off the charts! He’s even higher than he should be!” The nurse was yelling. No trace of the collected calm of before.
“The sedative isn’t working!” This time another orderly screamed the report.
The doctor, his voice grim, declared, “He’s fighting the sedative. What is his brain activity?”
“It’s surging! 70% and climbing!”
“Amazing… 70% synapses. Soon he’ll be firing on all cylinders!” The doctor sounded breathless. The man felt a hand on his head and soon heard the doctor’s voice close to his ear. “Subject Seven, can you hear me?”
The words lit off a spark in his brain and the brain activity monitor exploded at the spike. His body tingled and he shook the sluggishness off like a heavy garment. He was Subject Seven. The moniker gave him purpose. “Yes. I can hear you.”
“How are you feeling?”
Seven looked around at the astonished faces around him. Something about the whole thing made him anxious. He answered, “Physically optimal.”
“Confused. Why am I here?”
“You,” he said proudly, “are my greatest creation. The perfect human being! Smarter, faster, stronger, more beautiful.” He said this with a manner Seven’s brain recognised as “mad scientist”.
“You are… my father?”
The doctor cocked his head to the side. “If it makes you feel better, then yes.”
Seven mulled this over. It took him less than a thousandth of a second to determine the most likely scenario. “I am a manufactured person. Made to satisfy your vanity and for something else... I cannot tell. My head is filled with knowledge.” Images flashed, summarizing his strongest memories. They consisted of everything from complex mathematics to piloting attack helicopters to martial arts. “You have also taught me how… how to kill. Why?”
“Well this was funded by the military to see if they can create super soldiers without sacrificing valuable human lives. We made you. And as soon as your tests are over we can determine if you will be suitable for cloning and mass production.” The doctor’s lab coat had a card identifying him as Dr. William Crawley.
Crawley spoke of Seven like he was an object. His brain told him that was not how a father treated a son. It wasn’t even how they should treat a person. Seven connected the dots quickly. Realising that these people who had given him life did not see it as his, but theirs.
His hands blurred as he extricated himself from machinery, as he took Crawley’s ID, as he slapped the middle-aged man’s temples. Crawley lost consciousness without realising what had happened. As the surrounding orderlies struggled to interpret the dazzling display of speed, Seven launched himself at them. Before the last person slumped to the floor, Seven had exited the room. He did not know where he was going so he ran in a direction until he came upon a fire extinguisher. Above the canister was a floor plan and directions for emergency exit. No more than a second was needed to firmly cement the route in his memory. With a destination in mind he continued on his way.
So far he had seen no one, but the floor plan suggested he was in a large military bunker approximately 30 metres underground. He made it up to the ground floor using a nearby staircase before there was any indication of his hasty escape. He was nearly home free; he just had to reach the emergency hatch. Rounding a corner, a security guard caught sight of him and sighted down his tranquilizer gun for a shot.
The world seemed to drop into slow motion as Seven’s lithe body glided toward the security guard, who saw in Seven the essence of a hero. Like Hercules; a God, made man. Human, yet more.
The security guard took a shot at the escapee. Seven calmly avoided the projectile. Before the man took another shot, Seven introduced his heel to the other man’s solar plexus with the force of a freight train and finished the job with a hard smack to the guard’s thyroid. Looking at the body Seven felt a strange emotion strangling his own throat. Then some imprinted instinct kicked in and he moved toward the exit with all haste. More guards tried to pursue but Seven could shame an Olympian. There was no contest.
When Seven made it outside he almost could not believe what he felt. The imprinted knowledge did the word “forest” no justice. Taken by the sudden assault on his senses, he closed his eyes in rapture and paused to feel the dirt shifting between his toes, the air caressing his body, and the sweet smell of pine welling in his nose.
After a few precious moments he was away, running through the thick foliage. Freedom tasted sweet and he felt a curiously simple joy prompting him to jump. Normally this would have granted someone a slight freedom from the shackles of gravity, but Seven’s leap of joy was a soaring exodus from the surface of the Earth. He flew above the treetops and noted the land and stars around him. In a small section of his vast intelligence he marked his location on an imprinted map using the stars. He landed without breaking stride, and arced away on a course that would bring him to the nearest town.
The sky hung grey and heavy with rain. Clouds drooped with fat drops of water poised to assault the earth and the girl hurried in order to get home in time to avoid the torrent. Glad that her shift was over at the diner she made her way to the outskirts of the practically two street town of Elkhorn. She had planned to move to the city and go to university after taking a year off. That was two years ago and there wasn't any sign of her leaving town anytime soon. She would give anything for the chance.
She caught movement out of the corner of her eye and stopped cold. Who the hell would streak now? The streaker came running toward her and before she could move he was before her. Her breath caught and her body stiffened.
The man in front of her was heavenly. Perfect in body and in motion. He seemed not to run, but to glide! Then she noticed his eyes. For a horrible second she thought they were blank until she recognised the faint outline of light grey irises.
Her body screamed run! However, her legs remained frozen in place. She managed to choke out a quiet, “Who are you?”
In contrast, he answered calmly and seemed to remain unconscious of his indecency and of her obvious discomfort. “Subject Seven. I have no other name.”
“So, what are you doing here? Enjoying the weather?” She glanced pointedly at his penis.
The man frowned, “I am here because I need somewhere to stay. Naked, because I was given no clothes before I left.”
“There,” he said matter-of-factly pointing back the direction he came. “You need know no more. Now, will you help me, please?”
Catherine rented a small apartment on her own, though in a town the size of Elkhorn it didn’t much feel like she’d moved out. Still the nights were lonely and who was she to refuse? Plus there was an irresistible pureness in his voice and mannerism that created a sense of innocence. She felt like wrapping him in her arms and protecting him from the world. “Alright, I’ll help you. My name is Catherine. People call me Katie though. Katie Bell.” She smiled then glanced at her watch, “Alright, then. Clothes!”
Later that night while eating on her couch, Katie made a suggestion. “You know, ‘Seven’ just isn’t catchy enough. How about we give you a real name?”
Seven didn’t know why he hadn’t left already. His instincts told him to run as far as he can. The nearest town would be the first place they’d search. But her eyes... in her eyes he saw life. He saw something his imprints called “security”, and “safety”, not of the practical kind but of the emotional variety. He knew she would be in danger because of him, but that he could protect her from it. He decided he would tell her about himself, realising she was probably stuck with him, especially if Dr. Crawley showed up. Right now she only wanted a name. So he combed his brain before choosing a combination he liked: “Thomas Dare.”
“Dare? I like it,” she chuckled. “Very daring.”
A half chewed hunk of food sailed across the room when Tom erupted into laughter. “That was really clever! I wouldn’t have thought of it!”
“It was just a pun, Tom.”
“Yea. I never…. I knew what it is, but didn’t really know.” His eyes glazed over introspectively with the memory of the forest. It was held distinctly in his mind; as separate from the related “forest” imprint as the word “happiness” is from the feeling one gets when looking at their favourite gun.
Katie waited, hoping he would open up at least a little bit. She wasn’t disappointed. “I assume you aren’t accustomed to helping naked strangers running through woods?” Katie shook her head. “Well, you see, today is my birthday.”
Katie smiled but she was confused as to how that had anything to do with his birthday. “Which one?”
It was his turn to wear a puzzled smile. “Well,” he laughed, “the only one. We’re only born once.”
Katie searched his face for a hint of mockery but found only an earnest, friendly smile. “You were,” she hesitated to say it, “born today?”
“Yep. People are usually born naked. Not many are born with a body like this, or knowing as much as I do but that’s sort of why I’m here.”
“You’re not… natural are you?”
“No,” Tom answered gravely. “Born in a tube. Grown to perfection. For obvious reasons I am not privy to the details of the procedure but I believe I have figured out the underlying theory of the experiment. There is a myth that regular human beings only use 10% of our brain. It’s untrue; we use 100% of our brain, but the difference between a genius and a layman is in the number of active nodes and electrical connections their brain has made during it’s growth period: typically birth to 25 years.
“What they did to me is constantly and completely stimulate my brain. Not being conscious at the time I cannot be sure how, but they most likely used electrical signals to teach me everything I know and make sure my brain will continue to make connections for far longer than any other human can.
“The other physical capabilities I have were probably engineered in a similar manner, merely affecting my capacity and not actually adding anything to the human genome. They wanted a perfect human. However there is one major difference in comparison to myself and other men. One I have difficulty explaining.”
Katie had long forgotten the food on her lap and listened to the story in silence. It sounded ridiculous, and doubts crept into her mind about helping this stranger out of the cold. He spoke earnestly, and his eyes told her that he believed what he was saying, regardless of its truth. “What is it?” she whispered.
“This.” She felt her body tugged upward as if by a giant hand. She panicked and screamed in terror while he remained calmly looking at her. His eyes had turned a violent blue. “Psionics,” he said as he gently returned her to her seat. Katie’s face was nearly as white as Tom’s.
“Holy–” was all she managed to utter before her world turned black.
She awoke. Upon opening her eyes she was greeted with the memories of a dream about an impossible man doing impossible things. She would’ve laughed out loud if she hadn’t turned the corner to her kitchen and saw him standing over a man’s body. She almost fainted again. He looked at her guiltily. “I’m sorry, but there’ll be more. You can stay or come with me, but I fear my time here is up.”
Katie’s head swam. Who did he think he was, asking her to pick up and abandon her life? Yet, he was asking her to do exactly what she wanted to do.
“Katie!” She met his eyes. “Well?”
She looked at the man lying unconscious on the floor and at the man extending his hand to her. Didn't the movies always say to follow your heart? She could not hide it from herself. She wanted him. She wanted out of Elkhorn. So she smiled. “We’ll need to cover our tracks really well. Cash would be nice. I have some mad money but it won’t last long.” She started moving about gathering items and packing them into a small suitcase. “Where will we go?”
Tom felt a wave of relief at her decision. He didn’t know what they would face, but they would face it. “Nowhere for long. We need to lose ourselves and I have to prepare. I’ll eventually have to deal with these guys.”
Catherine smiled at him as she continued packing, “Well, let’s see where the road takes us… and let it take us there fast so I can take a shower.”
Tom looked at Katie and tried to connect the feeling she invoked to an imprint and failed. He realised there was a gap in his dictionary. A space that should have been filled with “love.”
He put the Katie feeling there for safekeeping.
i like it probably should finish it sometime.
|The Dreaming Fire|