“People are slaves to their emotions. Emotions are slaves to me.”
Haley followed Monique down the corridor to a pair of elevators, where Monique pressed the call button.
“We’re going down?” Haley asked in puzzlement. She’d noticed that the building was only about four levels high at most.
“Yes. Most of our facility is underground. We have more space and we have a more controlled environment for our patients that way. And less people escape too,” Monique replied.
“Oh yes. Before we started going underground, they say that this one guy somehow managed to get on the roof and glide over our fence with a homemade hang glider from bed sheets and poles he broke off from cleaning supplies. I’m not sure how true this is, but isn’t it just brilliant and romantic?” Monique bounced excitedly.
“How is that romantic?” Haley raised her eyebrow, just as the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Both girls entered and Monique waved at the security camera in the corner of the lift before pressing the button for Basement Four. Haley saw that there were fourteen buttons in total: four upper levels, including the ground floor, and ten basement levels.
“Oh yeah, I suppose he’d probably be like, sixty now. Eww.” Monique made a face.
Haley shook her head and the doors slid shut.
“Do you like Zack?” Monique asked suddenly, fixing Haley with a meaningful and piercing glare.
“What? Oh no, not like that. We’re just really good friends,” Haley squirmed a little at Monique’s audacity.
“Alrighty then!” Monique’s bright smile appeared again as she returned to her bubbly demeanor. Haley was a little stunned and thought back to Dr. Michael’s sudden warmth after vetting Zack. Do all shifters have these random mood swings? Then she thought of Zack, the most calm and collected person she knew. No, as long as she’d known Zack, he’d never had a sudden mood swing. At least, not when she was around.
The elevator dinged again and the doors slid open to let cool air slid in from the corridor. It looked like a typical hallway one might find in a hospital: brightly lit, clean, and several doors on either side. Each door had a small window on it. A few people in white uniforms similar to the one Monique wore were unhurriedly going about their business. Another person in a wheelchair that Haley assumed to be a patient was being escorted away from the girls by uniformed staff.
“Come on!” Monique grabbed Haley’s hand and gently tugged her out of the lift. Haley saw that there were two more corridors running down her left and right, similar to the one Monique was leading her along.
“Where are we going?” Haley asked.
“To meet some friends of mine!” Monique bubbled happily.
“I thought you were supposed to show me around,” Haley remarked.
“Well, yeah. But we can do that with my friends. They know more about some places than I do, anyway,” Monique smiled back at Haley reassuringly.
As they passed door after door, Haley couldn’t help but peek into the windows.
“What’s going on in there?” Haley asked Monique and gestured to a man in one of the rooms with his hand on the forehead of a patient lying on a bed. There were several younger people in staff uniforms clustered around the man and they each had a hand on the man’s free arm. They all had their eyes closed, including the patient.
Monique and Haley stopped.
“That’s Professor McNeil. He’s teaching them something. I don’t know what it is, since I’m not connected. Probably some memory thing. Professor McNeil is one of our Architects who live and teach here. Hmm, it’s very serene in there…” Monique replied dreamily.
“What is an Architect?” Haley inquired as they started walking again.
“An Architect is the general classification for someone who deals with memories. Usually, when we ConEx – I mean, mindshift – we’re unable to control what we see in the head of the person we touch. Architects, however, can. They can’t actually control the person, but they can look inwards and call up the person’s memories at will. They say that memories are just neuropathways in the brain, and that recalling a memory is simply a matter of finding the right path. If you forget something, it means the path is broken. The main job of Architects here is to help find and fix broken paths of patients suffering from memory related disabilities, like different forms of dementia and amnesia. Architects are also responsible for our organizing our security personnel.”
Haley recalled the way Dr. Michael dug through Zack’s head.
“Interesting. I suppose Dr. Michael is an Architect as well?”
“Yep! Professor McNeil is a pure Architect, and Dr. Micheal is primarily an Architect with some Mimic abilities. He can create illusions to mess with your senses, both of which are classified as Mimic skills. Professor Michael is also an Architect/Mimic, but he has more than just sensory manipulation.”
“Okay, what are Mimics?”
“Oh Mimics. I hate Mimics, they’re always so arrogant and think that they’re the best of us, simply because that can learn anything they want. Hmph,” Monique pouted.
“You said Zack was a Mimic. He’s not arrogant. He helps people,” Haley countered.
“Hmm… Yes I suppose Zack is alright,” Monique conceded. “Anyway, Mimics are defined by having hypercongnition, the ability to perform mental processes at superhuman speed. Mimics can and usually will branch off to become any of the other three classifications, since they can learn things almost instantly. You’d seldom find a pure, fully trained Mimic. A Mimic’s job here is pretty much jack-of-all-trades. They can work with the Historians on research, they also work well with Empaths for entertaining patients and guests, and can help Architects with solving logistical puzzles.”
Haley was reeling from all the information, but she craved more.
“Tell me about Empaths. That’s what you are, aren’t you?”
“Correct!” Monique clapped her hands joyfully. “I’m an Empath in training. Empaths deal with emotions. We can change the mood of a person by projecting our own emotions into them. The really good ones can do it from a short distance, but most of us have to touch a person. We’re excellent at calming a group down or motivating people or even making someone angry.” Monique giggled. “And we make excellent speeches,” Monique declared unabashedly.
“Yes, you most certainly do,” Haley responded with a smile. Monique was just so likable.
“Our main job here is to interact with the patients. We’re very in tune with how they’re feeling, so we monitor them and make sure they’re comfortable. If needed, we can sedate a patient without using drugs. And, we’re experts in body language. Like, right now I can tell you’re really into all this, even if you’re suffering from information overload.”
Haley blushed. “Sorry, it’s all just so fascinating. It’s a whole new world of stuff I’ve never explored. I’m just really curious, I guess.”
“Oh it’s not a bad thing! Don’t apologize! I enjoy talking and you enjoy listening. Win-win!” Monique squealed. “You really are a Historian yourself. Always curious and mostly quiet. Not to mention your shield. Historians are the only set of people with extracognitive abilities that cannot mindshift. They all have a natural mental barrier that not only blocks people like me from entering, it keeps the Historian themselves from entering the minds of others.
“Remember I said Mimics could learn to be Historians? I meant that they could pick up abilities that Historians have naturally, such as developing a mental shield and holographic memories, which is the ability to revisit a memory and examine it from a different point of view. Of course, it doesn’t work as well if you don’t have an eidetic memory.”
“Wow.” Haley had so many more questions.
“A Historian’s job here is mainly to do research and conduct experiments. Some also help the Architects take care of this facility’s security, since they can’t be attacked mentally. Architects and Historians also usually have reality grounding, meaning they can tell if a memory is true, embellished or an outright product of imagination. They’re also unaffected by a Mimic’s sensory manipulation. See why they’re great for security?”
“I do. But why do you need such tight security?”
“To prevent people from escaping and to prevent people from infiltrating this place. We do have some hardened criminals here for research,” Monique answered blatantly. “They’re here voluntarily, because let’s face it, this place is better than prison. And here we are!”
The girls had reached a door that was labelled ‘Common Room’. Monique opened the door and let Haley go through first. There were quite a few people around their age, some relaxing in front of the TV, some playing board games and some chatting around a coffee table. They all looked up when the door opened.
“Uh… Hi,” Haley said nervously.
“Hey guys! New visitor. Just taking a tour,” Monique called out to the people in the room. Some gave Haley a nod or a wave, but most returned to whatever they were doing. Monique turned to Haley. “Come on!” she said, moving to one of the doors on the opposite end of the room and gesturing for Haley to follow. Haley hesitated, then caught up with Monique.
“Daryl! Ethan! Sasha!” Monique called out to people in the room without breaking stride. The three that were summoned immediately headed to the same door Monique was walking towards. Monique opened it and all five of them piled inside.
Haley looked around. It was a simple discussion room. A round table, six chairs and a white board with markers. Everyone took a seat as Daryl closed the door.
“Haley, let me introduce to you… Beta team. I’m Team Captain!” Monique beamed.
“Um… your cheer squad?” Haley asked.
“We’re not all as high as Little Miss Perky here, darling,” Sasha told Haley.
“Haley is a visitor, but I brought her down here because I wanted to introduce us. She’s an untrained Historian, but her shield is different from a normal Historian’s,” Monique told the group. “Go ahead, touch her!”
At that, Sasha rolled her eyes, Daryl coughed and Ethan’s eyes lit up.
“If you insist,” Ethan joked and reached out towards Haley’s chest. Monique slapped his hand.
“Kidding, just kidding!” Ethan extended his hand to Haley in a handshake. “Ethan Crenshaw, Mimic in training,” he gave Haley a smile that made her heart beat faster. She moved her hand towards his and he took it, raising it up to his face even as he bowed to gently kiss the back of her hand, never once breaking eye contact. Haley giggled.
“Oh wow, you’re good,” Haley said to Ethan.
“I know,” he gave a flirtatious smile and let go of her hand.
“No! I mean,” Haley got flustered. “People like you usually get confused when they realize that they can’t shift into my head, but you were so smooth and didn’t show a change in facial expression at all.”
“I know,” Ethan repeated, his grin growing wider but said nothing more. There was an awkward pause.
“Oh for Heaven’s sake,” Sasha spoke up and extended her hand to Haley. “Sasha Capelia, Architect.” Haley gripped her hand in a firm handshake. Sasha’s eyes widened and she let go.
“Daryl Summers. Historian, like you,” said Daryl with a kind smile, and Haley shook his hand.
Haley’s eyes slid back to meet Ethan’s. In a room full of people who could read minds at a touch, Haley was, not for the first time, extremely grateful for her mental invisibility cloak.