“Judge not a man by his thoughts, but by his actions.”
-Professor Adam Michael, in Understanding People
The door opened behind Haley and I and we turned to see a man in his early thirties enter the office. He wore a uniform similar to the one Monique wore, but with jeans underneath the coat. Haley and I stood. The man did not offer a handshake, so I took that as a cue not to offer mine.
“Hello,” he greeted us. “I’m Dr. Michael. What can I do for you?”
My ears pricked up. We were looking for a Professor Michael, not Dr. Michael. Besides, this Dr. Michael guy looked a little too young to have founded MIND. I said as much.
“My name is Dr. Dax Michael,” he clarified. “Professor Adam Michael is my father.”
“Oh,” I said. “Where is he?”
“My father does not see visitors until they’ve been vetted through, at least by me. Now, what can I do for you, Mr…?”
“Call me Zack. This is my friend Haley,” I gestured towards her and she gave a small wave. Dr. Michael acknowledged her with a nod. “My dad is in the hospital and he’s recovering from a coma. He told me to get him to Professor Michael.”
“Well, Zack, as I said before, Professor Michael does not meet with anyone not vetted by myself. Besides, he’s a busy man.”
“What do you mean by ‘vetted’?” Haley enquired.
“I believe you already know.”
Suddenly it clicked in my mind. If Dad needed Professor Michael to help him with the Historian, then Professor Michael at least must be aware of people like us. More likely, he’s a shifter himself, and since Dr. Michael is his son, Dr. Michael must be a shifter as well.
Dr. Michael wanted to look into our heads. He wanted us to submit to a mental polygraph test.
Two things bugged me. First Monique wasn’t related to either Michael, yet she was a shifter, an Empath. How many more shifters were in this place? I mean, my whole life I haven’t met another shifter outside my family despite the many interactions and overseas trips I’ve taken, and yet I meet two non-blood related shifters in one day?
The second thing that went through my mind was, What would Dr. Michael need to vet us for?
I realized Haley and Dr. Michael were staring at me while I’d been having my epiphany.
“Just figured it out, huh?” Haley sniggered. “So much for reading all those detective novels.”
“Shut up, Hales,” I mumbled, embarrassed that I had zoned out.
“Well? Will you both allow me to vet you?” Dr. Michael prompted.
I hesitated, but then I thought, I had nothing to hide. Anyway, I would be in his head just as much as he’d be in mine.
“Okay,” I acquiesced.
“Fine,” Haley chirped. “But I don’t think you’ll be able to do anything to me. Zack’s been trying ever since we met and he still can’t get in me. My head, I mean,” she added quickly as I looked at her and Dr. Michael raised his eyebrow.
“She has a shield,” I told Dr. Michael. Haley extended her hand towards him and he took it in a handshake. I watched as a confused expression formed on his face, just like my sisters and Monique showed when they first made contact with Haley.
He let go of Haley’s hand and his brow furrowed further.
“So it is true. That is most unusual…” He looked at me. “I will be sifting through your memories and background. It will not hurt, but I will require full access to your entire mind. You may tell me to stop at any time, but if I do not conduct a full search, I will not permit you to speak to the Professor. Do you understand?”
“What are you looking for?” I asked. “It seems to be very tight security for a psychiatric hospital.”
“First of all, this is for Professor Michael, not MIND. You are free to enter as visitors without being vetted, but an audience with my father is not possible without a thorough search. And I need to ascertain your intentions are exactly what you say they are, as well as ensure that you’re not hired for corporate espionage or assassination,” he replied bluntly.
“Also, Ms Lavern tells me you’re what we call an untrained Mimic. I’m curious to find out more about you.”
Interesting. I shrugged and extended my hand.
“One more thing,” he said, raising a single finger. “I must ask you not to extend your consciousness into my mind. I understand that since you are untrained, you will not be able to control yourself. I will construct a temporary mental containment around your mind and as long as you relax, it will hold.”
Okay so I wouldn’t get to see the inside of his head. Bummer.
“Sure,” I acknowledged.
He turned to Haley and said, “You may stay, but please do not interrupt. This should only take a few minutes.”
Haley nodded and Dr. Michael took my hand.
I actually felt myself being stopped from entering Dr. Michael’s mind, even as I felt his presence flow into my head. It wasn’t like the Historian’s shield or Haley’s mental invisibility. It was more like a flowing wire mesh veil. I prodded it and a hole appeared, but it quickly repaired itself.
“Stop playing around,” Dr. Michael admonished out loud. Of course, he can’t mindspeak if I’m not in his head.
I mentally forced myself to withdraw. It was then that I realized Dr. Michael wasn’t just in the conscious part of my mind. He was literally, forcibly digging through my memories. Immediately, I resisted and he stopped.
I made a conscious effort to relax and I felt him sifting again. How was he able to do that? I couldn’t control what I saw in someone’s mind, much less look through their whole life story. If Dr. Michael “heard” that thought, he didn’t answer. It was the weirdest feeling I’d ever felt. It literally felt like someone rummaging around in my head. I have to be honest: my head isn’t exactly the most organized place in the world, so it was more of burglar-ransacking-a-house rather than rifling-through-a-drawer-of-files.
But it didn’t hurt one bit, which was good. It was just… weird. Dr. Michael drew and threw up memories into the conscious part of my mind and I felt him slowly organize my memories into chronological order. I found memories I’d forgotten I’d had! Damn, he was good. He pulled up every single memory I every made, even the embarrassing and personal ones, which I blushed at, but made no comment. It was very professional and I appreciated that. It was as if he’d done it many times before.
That thought hit me hard. How many times had he done this before? Before I could dwell on that, Dr. Michael withdrew from my mind, let go of my hand and walked around the desk.
“Well! You are the empty vessel, huh? Other than that, you are who you say you are. And a pair of sisters, too! You must bring introduce me to them one day. Would you like some candy?” he grinned at me as he opened a cabinet in the side of the desk, which turned out to house a fridge chock-full of various chocolates, sweets and candy bars. He pulled out a KitKat, some Hershey’s Kisses, a long Toblerone chocolate bar and offered them to us.
“Umm… Sure, I guess?” I was craving sugar. I grabbed the Toblerone, broke it in half and gave one half to Haley. His sudden friendliness was a radical shift in his behaviour. Dr. Michael unwrapped the KitKat bar and turned to Haley again.
“Since I can’t ascertain your intentions so I’m afraid I can’t allow you to see Professor Michael. You are most welcome to visit the rest of this facility if you wish; I can have Ms Lavern show you around.”
Haley looked at me and I shrugged as I took a bite out of my chocolate bar. I guess I could see Professor Michael alone while Haley explored. Dr. Michael opened the office door and gestured for us to exit. As we exited, Monique emerged from the adjacent room.
“Ah, Ms Lavern! Would you kindly give Haley a tour while I bring Zack to see Professor Michael?” Dr. Michael asked Monique.
“Yes, sir,” Monique replied and gestured for Haley to follow her.
After a beat, Dr. Michael said, “Come, Zack, my father is waiting for you.” He headed off in the opposite direction of Haley and Monique. I lingered a while longer, watching Haley and Monique’s retreating backs, then turned and caught up with Dr. Michael.