Learn – Chapter Eight

Click here for Chapter Seven

“People with extracognitive abilities are extremely rare, and Mimics just might be the rarest of them all.”
-Professor Adam Michael

“Come along now,” Dr. Michael said.

I hurried to catch up with him and I’d just reached him when he opened the door to a seemingly random room. We stepped inside and Dr. Michael shut the door. There was an intercom system on the opposite wall, which Dr. Michael walked over and pressed.

“Dad, I’ve done the check. He’s clean,” Dr. Michael spoke into the system.

“Very well, wait for me,” a male voice responded.

A few minutes later, an elderly man who had to be Professor Michael strode into the room through the door we had entered by. Dr. Michael met him and they grasped each other’s exposed forearms for a few seconds. It looked like this kind of information transfer was quite common among shifters. I took another bite of my chocolate bar while I waited patiently. They let go and Professor Michael looked at me.

“Bye, Zack,” Dr. Michael threw me a half wave as he let himself out of the room. I swallowed.

“You’re not staying?” I asked. He’d become so friendly after going through my mind. I suspected his formal, no nonsense, Secret Service attitude was just bravado.

“No,” he chuckled. “I’ve got other responsibilities. Besides, my father doesn’t bite… Hard.” He grinned wolfishly at me and shut the door.

“Good afternoon, Zack,” Professor Michael greeted me with a gentle smile.

“Hello, Professor. I suppose you know everything about me already,” I said resignedly.

“Yes, I do,” he replied as he peered at me over his spectacles.

“Then you know the purpose of my visit.”

“Zack, do you know what we do here?”

“Er… fix people with mental problems, I guess?” I shrugged.

“First of all, we prefer the term ‘mental disabilities’,” Professor Michael sniffed and adjusted his glasses. “Yes, we do our best to help them recover, but most of the patients that get admitted to this facility are almost beyond help by conventional means. It’s not that we don’t bother with therapy and whatnot; it’s just that this place is more of a home or prison, to keep extreme cases of mentally unstable people safe from their family, friends, the general public and themselves.

“But that’s not all we do here. MIND is also a recruitment center, training ground and base of operations for people like you and me. I believe you call us shifters, short for mindshifters, which is the ability you possess. Most of us do have this ability, but not all do. We call it Consciousness Extension, or ConEx for short, but, I must admit, your term sounds a lot more apt.

“However, we are not called shifters, because mindshifting, while admittedly the primary skill of most of our kind, it isn’t the only skill we possess. There is no name that encompasses all people with extracognitive abilities, but the general classifications for people like you and me are Empaths, Mimics, Architects and Historians. Historians are the only people who have mental abilities but cannot, as you say, mindshift. I’m primarily an Architect myself, with some Mimic abilities.”

Professor Michael paused and watched me. I wasn’t totally surprised, but I hadn’t expect him to suddenly enlighten me either. I said nothing and waited for him to continue.

“Most of my staff and some patients here have many different gifts. We do have a name for us – people with abilities that live and work here, I mean. When I had just founded this place and my son was much younger, he called us Minders, because of the name of this institution and also what we do here.”

“I get it. You mind the patients,” I nodded in understanding and appreciating the double meaning.

“Yes, there’s that… but we also do other things. Remember I said MIND was a base of operations and recruitment center? Well, we have teams out in the field, tracking down and recruiting people with the same abilities we have and offer them training and protection.”

“Protection? What, you gonna kill them if they don’t work for you?” I asked jokingly.

“No, Zack. We offer them a chance to hone their skills and unlock new abilities they otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. I’m sure you’ve realized by now that whenever you mindshift, you feel hungry, especially for sugar,” he glanced pointedly at the last two sections of the chocolate in my hand. I nodded, put both in my mouth and crumpled the wrapper into a ball.

“Using these abilities quickly drains a body of it’s resources,” Professor Michael continued. “Sugar is the fastest way to replenish your energy, but it’s not healthy. If you don’t have sugar on hand or fat in your body, you start breaking down muscle to fuel your abilities. The longer you use it, the more energy you need. That’s why you probably wouldn’t see an overweight person who had and used extracognitive abilities. And that’s also why there aren’t many of us. Many often don’t live long enough to pass on their skills to the next generation. If they don’t learn to control their abilities and use them sparingly, they could, in a way, think themselves to death.”

I had nothing to say to that, but I did think to the relatives – or rather, the lack of them – on my father’s side. It seemed that Professor Michael’s ominous statement might hold some water. After all, I’ve never met my grandparents, nor are any of my living paternal relatives shifters.

“Naturally, I would like to extend the offer of training in this institute to you. Due to their adaptive nature and no outward distinguishing characteristics, pure Mimics like yourself are extremely hard to find and you would be an invaluable asset once you’re fully trained.”

No wonder Dr. Michael was so excited about my twin sisters.

“Asset? What would I be doing here?” I asked suspiciously.

“Well, most of the time you would be discovering and developing new skills, practicing them on the patients here or teaching new recruits. But most likely you would be in the field. See, sometimes a mental illness or disability is brought on by mental abuse at the hands of someone using extracognitive abilities. For example, I know your father has a Historian stuck in his head and that he momentarily got back control of his body. I’m sure you can see that he could be perceived as having dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality or split personality disorder.

“Imagine someone, say, an Architect, were to repeatedly destroy the memories of another person. That might appear to result in amnesia or dementia. In your father’s case, there would be no offender to find since he caused this himself. However, when a patient with amnesia is admitted to this facility, we first check for foul play.

“This is the third part of what we do here. We locate people with extracognitive abilities and one way we do this is by tracking abusers of their abilities.”

“Wow. This seems straight out of a scifi movie. Very Alphas or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I came here to get help for my dad and I get sucked into a super secret subterranean society of superhumans. Is this one of those government departments that don’t exist? Or perhaps you ain’t on no government list, you straight don’t exist, no names and no fingerprints?”

Professor Michael smiled.

“You truly are a Mimic. Clever with words and always looking for the humorous side of everything. This isn’t Men in Black, my boy, but we might not let some people remember.”

He winked and I blinked. I hadn’t expected him to get the reference.

“What if I refuse? What if I don’t want to be part of your whole brain game?” I challenged.

“Well, I would strongly urge you to reconsider. You might even be able to learn some skills in time to help your father recover faster.”

I hesitated. It seemed a little too good to be true. He was essentially giving me a job offer, with training. My father would be taken care of and I’d have professional help with my abilities. The thought of teaching and fieldwork in the future didn’t appeal much to me though.

“Let me help you make up your mind,” the professor continued. “If you join us now, I could help get your father into this facility and start providing him with the help he needs as soon as tomorrow morning.”

I thought about it. As long as Dad got in and got help, I could leave if I wanted to and I could always quit after Dad recovered. Besides, if I didn’t help him now, where else would I go?

“Okay,” I agreed.

What did I have to lose?

Click here for Chapter Nine

-Jace

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