Tag Archives: Telepathy

Learn – Chapter Nine

Click here for Chapter Eight

“I need to know.”
-Haley Hollingberry

“This is where we have our physical training,” Ethan informed Haley as they and stopped in front of an empty dojo-like room. It was quite spacious, nearly the size of a basketball court, but with no stands. The floor was covered in rubber mats and there were several large foam blocks stacked neatly on one side of the room.

“We usually use it for some self defense, sparring, and parkour practice,” Ethan said. “This is the only place we’re allowed to fight, so sometimes we come here to settle disputes. It’s always fun when you watch two guys going at it in a fight to death.”

Haley gaped at Ethan, who held her gaze with a straight face.

“He’s kidding!” Monique exclaimed and a grin broke out on Ethan’s face.

“Yes, I’m kidding, but we do sometimes like to settle disputes by fighting or just spar for fun, and no one has ever died here. The worst we’ve ever had here was a broken arm. We do have rules for sparring,” Ethan continued. “No weapons allowed other than your mind and body and no hard feelings after the fight. We can and will check.” He gestured to Monique and she winked. “See, each person fights differently. Mimics are considered the strongest in this aspect because they can learn martial arts exceptionally quickly. Ever seen the scene in The Matrix where Neo says ‘I know Kung Fu’? Yeap, it’s kinda like that, except that we actually do need to practice, but once we do, the fights between Mimics are amazing to watch. Sometimes we choreograph fight scenes purely for entertainment.”

“Architects are the second best,” Monique chipped in. “But they have a totally different approach. While some do actually learn some combat moves, the usual tactic for an Architect would be to enter his or her opponent’s mind and make them forget how to fight. It sometimes takes a while to find the right memory, so Architects favour grappling moves.

“Empaths tend not to get into fights at all. We’re usually able to calm people down enough to talk it out. If you do find an Empath in a fight, however, watch out. We’ll attack you by making you feel our pain. The harder you hit, the harder we’ll return the pain to you. There was once this really buff Empath who was able to focus and channel his anger so strongly that he went berserk on his opponent. His opponent was barely conscious and had a broken arm from defending himself. A fight with an Empath that goes berserk is deliciously messy.” Monique licked her lips and Ethan grinned sadistically.

Haley let that sink in. “What about Historians?” She asked in a small voice. Ethan and Monique exchanged glances.

“Umm… as a general rule, Historians don’t fight. They tend to keep to themselves. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve never seen a Historian fight at all,” Ethan mused.

A cheerful little tune played and Monique pulled out her mobile phone.

“Time to go!” Monique bubbled happily and looked at Haley. “Professor Michael wants us in his office in five minutes.”

Ethan took this as his cue to leave. He stepped away, did a theatrical bow to Haley and said, “I bid you adieu for now, m’lady. It has been my pleasure to serve as your tour guide this afternoon.” He smiled, spun on his heel and strutted off before Haley could say a word. She giggled.

“Is he always like that?” Haley asked Monique as she stared at Ethan’s retreating back.

“Almost always.” Monique rolled her eyes. She grabbed Haley’s hand and led her to towards Professor Michael’s office.

***

I had just finished my phone call with Mum, telling her about Dad’s transfer to the MIND facility, when Monique and Haley tumbled through the door in peals of laughter. I made eye contact with Haley, who was clutching her tummy, and raised an eyebrow at her. That just made her laugh even harder. Professor Michael cleared his throat and the girls’ laughter faded, though their silly grins did not. Monique went up to Professor Michael and offered her hand, which he took.

“Hi Hales. Found my replacement, huh?” I mock pouted at Haley, who teased me by nodding unabashedly. Seeing Monique again, I couldn’t help but smile myself. The fact that Haley was laughing so much was quite interesting to me, though. I’d never seen her so at ease with a new situation. Usually I’m the one to break the ice. It was nice to see her making friends on her own.

“Thank you, Monique,” Professor Michael said out loud as he dismissed her. Monique nodded and retreated out the way she came.

“Hello Haley,” Professor Michael greeted her. “I trust Monique has taken good care of you?”

“Yes, thank you, sir,” Haley replied. “I had a good time with her and her friends.”

“Excellent. I understand you have an unusual mental shield. Would you mind if I saw it for myself?”

“Sure,” Haley extended her hand and Professor Michael took it. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, frowned, then opened them and let go of Haley’s hand.

“Remarkable,” he murmured. “That is, by far, the best way I’ve seen a Historian protect herself. You, young lady, have a very useful skill.”

“Umm… Thanks, I guess,” Haley said uncertainly. “I don’t quite understand what that means.”

“Ah, yes, well. In order to understand what your ability means, I must first explain how a Historian’s shield typically works. Usually there is a barrier that we can feel if we try to enter their minds. We can sense the presence of the mind behind the wall so sometimes Empaths can get a sense of what they’re feeling, but usually no one can get past the wall unless the Historian is overpowered by many simultaneous attacks, or he or she consciously pulls down the wall themselves.

“One interesting thing to note is that in a Historian’s default mental state, the shield will be in place. He or she can reinforce the shield by focusing on it, but it takes just as much of their effort to take it down. What I’m saying is, a Historian actually uses less energy leaving the wall up, than he or she does letting it down.

“What makes your case so intriguing is that we can’t sense your mental presence at all. I’m sure you have been informed of this by Zack, or any other user of extracognitive abilities. You are literally invisible on a mental level, which means you are completely immune to all mental attacks. No one can hit a target if there isn’t one to hit, right?”

Haley was silently musing over everything Professor Michael told her. I knew that she knew exactly how her shield – or more aptly – her cloak worked, but the implications astounded me as well.

“Wait, Historians can take down their own shield? How and why would they do that?” I asked.

“Oh yes, of course,” Professor Michael replied. “Mental Shielding is a learnable skill. Historians are just born with it.

“To answer your question, a Historian might lower his or her defenses for any number of reasons. Perhaps to allow an ally into their heads. For example, an Architect might enter to repair some damaged memories. Although, I do admit that is very unlikely to happen, since Historians remember almost everything. A more likely scenario is if there is a lot of information to transfer, or they need transfer it silently. Lowering the wall grants a Historian access to the traditional extracognitive abilities: mindshifting and mindspeaking. As for how set up and take down a mental shield, you’ll learn about it in Professor Acklebury’s class.”

“Class?” Haley asked me inquisitively. Before I could reply, I saw her eyes light up as she realized something.

“Hang on a minute,” Haley turned back to Professor Michael. “You mean I can do the mindshifting thing too?”

“Of course,” Professor Michael replied. “Just as Mimics, Architects and Empaths need to learn how to bring up a mental shield, Historians need to learn how to take it down in order to learn and use other abilities. Would you like to learn how?”

Haley’s eyes widened.

“Normally I wouldn’t allow a Historian to join us without being vetted, but you’re young and, if Zack is willing to vouch for you,” – Professor Michael glanced at me and I nodded quickly – “I will offer you a temporary internship with Professor Acklebury only until you to learn how to bring down your shield. Once you can do that, you must voluntarily submit to a vetting session. Otherwise, I will have to deny you further lessons and entry to this place. I apologize for the harshness, but we really do have enemies in the outside world and we cannot allow even one of them to infiltrate our ranks.”

“Umm… wow,” Haley was speechless. “This is a lot to take in. Could I think about it first?”

“You may,” Professor Michael allowed. “Do come back with Zack tomorrow if you wish to accept my offer. Once trained, you would be an exceptional asset to this organization.”

***

After settling the logistics of moving my Dad with Professor Michael, Haley and I left MIND. I brought her up to speed what happened when I was alone with Professor Michael and, besides telling me about her adventure with Monique, she was quiet the whole way home.

I didn’t mind. I had a lot to think about myself, so I was glad for the companionable silence. I felt like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders since Dad was going to get the help he needed.

Dad was going to be okay.

Click here for Chapter Ten

-Jace

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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

Learn – Chapter Seven

Click here for Chapter Six

“People are slaves to their emotions. Emotions are slaves to me.”
-Monique Lavern

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.

“Escape?”

“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.

Sasha snorted.

“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.

Click here for Chapter Eight

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Six

Click here for Chapter Five

“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.

I blinked.

“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.

“Relax, Zack.”

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.

Click here for Chapter Seven

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Five

Click here for Chapter Four

“I have a bad feeling about this. I mean, they say it’s a research lab. Does that mean the experiment on people?” muttered Haley.

“Always the cheerful one, aren’t you, Hales?”

Haley and I stood outside MIND, which loomed somewhat creepily over us. The welcome sign on the gate seemed cheery enough and the building itself wasn’t dilapidated, but still, knowing that this was a psychiatric hospital gave us chills. The gate itself looked like it could be part of a horror flick. There was a short path from the gate to the building it looked like a typical garden in front, but we didn’t see anyone at all.

“Your dad wants you to bring him to a loony bin?”

“Dad said Professor Michael could help him. He seemed nice enough when I called. At least, his assistant was. Besides, we’re just here to check him out and make sure he can actually help my dad.”

“Yeah, well, I still don’t like this place,” Haley grumbled.

“Thanks for coming with me Hales.”

Haley sniffed noncommitedly as I took a deep breath and pressed the buzzer beside the gate. After a beat, the gate unlatched and opened outwards on it’s own with a creak. We automatically took a step back and Haley grabbed my arm.

“I told you this place was creepy!” Haley hissed. I couldn’t argue with that.

Just as we were about to step in, a girl popped into view from behind the wall beside the gate with a chuckle.

“That gets the visitors every time!” She giggled happily as she pushed the gate open wider to let us come through.

We stared at her. She was pretty and petite, about a head shorter than Haley and I. She had a mischievous grin, two pigtails coming out of the back of her head of her platinum blonde hair that bounced every time she took a step, and she was dressed in a white uniform with the MIND logo over her left breast pocket. She had black eyeliner, black nail polish and black platform shoes. She couldn’t be more than 20 years old.

And she had a really nice laugh.

“Come in, come in! You must be Zack,” she beamed and extended her hand towards me. I took it and was surprised by a firm handshake.

Immediately, all my worry and anxiety left me. I felt relaxed and refreshed instead. I was looking at myself through her eyes and getting bits of thoughts here and there. I could feel her bubbliness and I was aware that she was making a conscious effort to do… something. I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, but it was definitely affecting my mood positively.

My eyes widened in shock as I finally registered her consciousness in my head. My sudden change in emotions had momentarily caught me off guard and I hadn’t felt her entering my mind. She was a shifter! The first shifter I’ve actually met outside of my family! Her name was…

“Monique!” I said as I recognized her as Professor Michael’s assistant, the girl I talked to when I called beforehand.

Monique mentally acknowledged the use of her name and my awareness of who and what she was, then let go of my hand. All the positive feelings I felt took a noticeable dip as my worry for my Dad and whatever unknown things I’d find in MIND returned. She definitely did something to me, but as far as I could tell, it wasn’t harmful.

I realized she must have felt my attraction towards her and flushed.

“Hello, Hales,” Monique turned her thousand megawatt smile at Haley and offered her hand as well.

“Um… my name is Haley,” Haley replied coolly. Monique’s smile faltered. No one but I called her Hales. As they shook hands, Monique’s brow furrowed when she realized that she couldn’t shift into Haley at all.

“Hales, Monique is a shifter too. She’s just being friendly,” I told Haley. Haley’s eye widened in surprise and then understanding.

Monique closed the gate and we started walking up towards the building.

“What did you do to me?” I asked Monique.

Monique turned to me and smiled brightly again.

“I’m an Empath,” she said simply, as if that explained everything. There was a pause.

“What’s an Empath?” asked Haley.

“Okay, normally I wouldn’t tell this to a regular person, but you seem to be aware of our existence and I suspect you aren’t a regular person at all. I can control and change the emotions of other people through touch.”

“Excuse me,” Haley replied indignantly. “I am a regular person. And I didn’t feel you do anything to me.”

“Nope, you’re not regular. And I didn’t do anything to you because I couldn’t. You’re shielded, but not in the conventional way Historians are. It’s like you’re mentally invisible. You’re definitely one of us, though I’m not sure what exactly you are. Perhaps a sub category of the Historian class…?” Monique trailed off.

Haley and I exchanged looks at the word “Historian”.

“What do you know about the Historian?” I asked quickly. We were inside the building and climbing a staircase to the next level.

“Um.. perhaps I’d better let the Professor answer your questions,” Monique said, a little nervously.

We stood outside a door with a label that said “Professor Adam Michael – Head and Founder”. Monique opened the door without knocking, stepped through and held the door open for us. There was no one else in the room.

“Professor!” Monique sang out.

I took a quick glance around the room. It looked like a typical office. A desk with a swivel chair, a bookshelf on the right wall and a window on the left.

“Hmm… He’s not here,” Monique pouted. “Why don’t you two take a seat and I’ll go find him?” Monique gestured to the two chairs in front of the desk. We obliged and Monique disappeared through the door we entered by, shutting it as she bounced out.

Haley and I sat in silence. My mind was whirling with the new information. Empaths, Historians, a new shifter. What was this place?

“So… She’s pretty,” Haley teased and nudged me.

“Shut up, Hales,” I replied, although I couldn’t prevent a goofy grin from forming on my face.

***

In the adjacent room, a man was watching a live video feed from a camera hidden on the bookshelf in Professor Michael’s office. He watched as Monique directed the two visitors to their seats and left the room. A few seconds later, the door behind him opened and Monique entered quietly.

“Sir, they’re in,” she said to him.

“Yes, I can see that. Report,” he commanded. He extended his hand towards Monique without looking away from the screen. Monique moved closer and placed her hand in his.

He’s one of us, probably of the Mimic class. I felt no shield, no emotional manipulation and there was no mental structure of any kind. Untrained, and a lot of potential. He calls it Mindshifting, which sounds better than “ConExing”, if you ask me, Monique huffed. He called me a “shifter”. I can’t enter the girl – Haley – but it’s not because she has a shield; she seems to be invisible. Could she be a variant of the Historian class? Monique informed him, sharing her memories.

It’s possible.

He dropped Monique’s hand without further explanation and steepled his fingers together. They both watched the video feed and the sounds from the other room came through clearly.

“So… She’s pretty,” the girl called Haley was saying.

“Shut up, Hales,” the boy smiled reluctantly.

The man glanced at Monique and raised an eyebrow. She blushed, and he turned back to the screen.

“Is there anything else you need, sir?”

“No, thank you. Tell Dax he can go in.”

Monique nodded and left. A few minutes later, the man watched on his screen as Dax entered the room and greeted the guests.

Click here for Chapter Six

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Four

Click here for Chapter Three

“I have good news and bad news,” I told Anna over the phone. “The good news is that Dad’s awake.”

“He’s awake?!” Annabelle shrieked with joy. I heard Allison shriek in the background at the same time Annabelle did. I rolled my eyes. Twins.

“SHHH! Anna!” I hissed. “I said I have bad news too. Dad’s awake, but it’s not Dad.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Look, come down to the hospital and I’ll show you. But don’t tell Mum yet. I don’t want her to worry.”

“Too late. She heard us.”

I groaned. It was going to be harder explaining to Mum.

“Fine, all three of you should come then,” I sighed.

“Okay! We’ll be there in ten,” Anna said brightly.

I hung up and peeked back into Dad’s room. He was asleep again. It had been about half an hour since he awoke, rasping my name, before falling back asleep a few minutes later. Dad hadn’t responded to any stimuli, but the doctor said that it was normal for a comatose patient to gradually recover, sometimes coming awake only for a few minutes at a time. The waking moments would slowly lengthen as the patient – Dad – recovers. Apart from the obvious, the doctor had proclaimed Dad to be in good health and ought to be able to make a full recovery.

I hadn’t touched him since he woke up.

As I waited for the rest of my family to arrive, I pondered what had happened in Dad’s mind. I started with what I was sure of. Three of Dad’s four prisoners had been faded, the last one being the Historian. I was sure that what I saw wasn’t Dad himself. The way he had looked at me, plus the fact that Dad had wrapped himself in his own prison had convinced me of that. That meant that the Historian was in control of Dad’s body. I wasn’t sure if the Historian’s expanding shield had destroyed the prison walls and faded Dad or not, but I maintained the hope that Dad was alive and still in there somewhere.

I hesitantly extended my hand to touch Dad’s arm, fully expecting a shift to happen, but I felt… nothing. Wait, not nothing. I felt a resistance, like the shield that the Historian had around himself while imprisoned in Dad’s mind. That confirmed my suspicions: the Historian was now in full control. I didn’t feel Dad’s presence at all.

I heard a knock on the door and looked up, pulling my hand away as I did so. My family was here. I got up and gave them all a hug, at the same time updating Anna and Ally on what had transpired in Dad’s mind. Anna pulled away to move to Dad’s side. She touched him, but shook her head. I knew that she, too, wouldn’t be able to get past the Historian’s shield.

Mum looked at us expectantly.

“Zack, you said your father was awake,” she said a little accusingly, gesturing to my sleeping father.

“Yes he was, but he fell back asleep. The doctor said it was normal for a recovering comatose person to have short waking moments.”

Mum moved over to Dad’s other side, sat down and shook him gently.

“Dear, are you awake?” she asked, her voice cracking at the end.

He didn’t respond. A tear slid down Mum’s cheek as she caressed his face. The twins and I took that as a cue to leave our parents alone together for a while. Once we were outside, Ally touched my arm.

Dad really was awake?

Yes. He awoke for a few minutes, called my name and fell back asleep. I shared the memory of Dad waking up and the moment I realized that wasn’t him behind his eyes.

Okay, we can’t get into Dad or sense him at all.

He’s still there. We have to find him. I insisted adamantly.

Yes, we do. But not now. We don’t know what we’re dealing with. Let’s go back and do some research. Besides, he’s resting. Attacking the shield might only hurt Dad.

I paused, knowing that logically that was the right thing to do, but also feeling the urge to just go back in and smash the barrier with the twin’s help.

Fine. I acquiesced.

We went back in to collect Mum before going home.

***

We explained to Mum what had happened, but she was reluctant to believe us. We hadn’t told her about Dad’s ability to consume minds before, so our tale about the Historian taking over Dad was just a little too far fetched for her. She just wanted Dad back, as did all of us.

In the days that followed, the twins and I took turns sitting beside Dad and monitor his condition, so that there at least one of us would be around whenever he woke up. I was there most of the time since the twins had school. Besides, I was due for a break on my job anyway. It was too far for Ally and Anna’s mental link, so we updated each other the old fashioned way: touch.

Dad still woke up intermittently, but each time I knew it wasn’t him. I tried quizzing the Historian about who he was, but he maintained that he was Dad. He probably had access to Dad’s memories so his act was quite convincing. If his eyes hadn’t betrayed him and I hadn’t experienced the Historian’s takeover of Dad first hand, I would have believed he really was my father. Also, the fact that I was still blocked from his mind kept me grounded.

It had been about a week after Dad woke up the first time. I was in my usual spot with my laptop, checking Facebook, watching YouTube videos and generally surfing the web. I hadn’t found much with regards to the Historian; I kept getting the definition of a historian, famous historians and the like.

Dad stirred. I looked up and saw that he was awake.

“Hi Dad,” I said.

“Hey Zacko,” he replied, just as Dad would, though he sounded strained.

I frowned. Something about that made me reach out and put my hand on his arm. Instead of encountering a giant wall, I felt Dad’s consciousness for the first time flowing back into me since he returned. Dad’s mind was quite spacious and for a moment I thought the Historian had disappeared. But no, I felt him and his wall, albeit smaller. Much smaller.

Dad?

I’m here, son.

What happ-

Zack, he interrupted. I don’t have much time. I’ve managed to temporarily block the Historian and regain control. Don’t know how long it will last, but you have to get me to Professor Michael at MIND. Got that?

Who’s that? I asked.

Someone who knows a lot more about our abilities and what we can do. He’ll explain everything to you, and hopefully he’ll be able to fix me, or at least, extract the information he needs.

The wall was pulsating outwards again. I had a thought.

Dad! How do we break the shield?

We don’t. He can’t hold the shield up indefinitely. Professor Michael should be able to do something about it, but in the meantime, don’t attack the shield.

Okay.

The pulses were getting stronger.

He’s recovering. I can’t keep him down anymore.

I know. I love you, Dad.

Love you too, Zacko. Remember, get me to MIND.

He gave me the mental equivalent of ruffling my hair, then released whatever he had holding the Historian down. Dad’s consciousness retracted and the shield slammed back into place. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like my senses had been dulled.

I lifted my hand and opened my eyes. Turning back to my laptop, I started searching for Professor Michael. It was quite easy to find him online.

Professor Adam Michael was the head and founder of Michael’s Institute for the Disturbed, or MIND, a privately owned sanatorium and psychological research lab. He takes in any patient with a severe mental disorder and has published many research papers on his experiments and results.

I decided to pay him a visit.

Click here for Chapter Five

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Three

Click here for Chapter Two

Throwing on my jacket, I grabbed a cookie and stuffed another couple into my pockets as I left the house to visit my father in the hospital.

Dad left to help in the cold war about eight years ago. He wasn’t supposed to tell us anything about it, but there’s no hiding surface thoughts in this family. Shortly after he got activated, we all knew he had to go and there was no way to stop it.

He was one of the best spies in our country. With his mindshifting, he was able to siphon off a lot of crucial information. He was an expert in blending in and also seemed to learn anything he put his mind to. I don’t just mean that in the way parents use to motivate their children. I mean that he could learn anything, and in an unnaturally short span of time, too.

Dad could master any skill he wanted to, but languages seemed to be his forte. It was always so fun going on family holidays because he’d just use his mindshifting to pick up the local language and/or dialects there. In a day, he’d learn how to order food, say please and thank you and ask for the toilet. The next day he’d be able to ask for directions in the local tongue. In about a week, he’d be conversing like a local himself.

Dad would share his whatever he learnt with my sisters and I. We didn’t pick it up as easily as he did, but we were able to get the gist of each language. At the very least, we were able to ask for help if we needed it. Although we shared information mind to mind, Mum would sometimes join in and we’d teach her the old fashioned way. She wasn’t totally useless as you might think. Once she’d learnt enough of the language, she could really become a shrewd bargainer.

As I walked away from my house, I lifted the hood of my jacket over my head and stuffed my hands into my pockets, taking them out only to have a bite of cookie. I was focused on Dad and I didn’t want to be distracted by another stranger’s relationship woes.

Half an hour later, I stood in front of the hospital where my dad was warded. My sisters visted Dad everyday after school, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. Being here always made me feel angry and frustrated. I took a deep breath and stepped inside.

I hate hospitals. It’s partly because there’s always a lot of people with problems but it’s more because it’s cold and depressing. The smell of disinfectant wafted towards me as the glass doors slid open to let me in.

Dad was warded on the fifth floor. That’s where they keep all the patients in comatose. Although I hate all hospitals in general, I actually kind of like it there; it’s quiet, not quite serene, but it would do. There are never a lot of people, just the nurses going on their rounds and sometimes family members of the patients.

I pushed open the door to Dad’s room and padded in. There was no one else in the room but Dad and his roommate, both lying in their beds, each attached to machines monitoring their vital signs. I took a seat beside Dad but didn’t touch him yet.

“Hi Dad,” I whispered. “I’ve missed you.”

I closed my eyes, steeled myself and put my hand on his arm. Instantly, I shifted. Usually, I could feel Dad shift back into me, as I can feel my sisters when we touch. But ever since Dad was brought back in a coma, we couldn’t feel him shift back. It was like he was trapped, and I guess that makes sense. He could still receive information from his senses, so he could still hear and feel me if I would talk to him or touch him. That was how we communicated. I would speak out loud and he’d hear me, then he would think his response and I’d “hear” him.

But that was only during his lucid moments. Most of the time his thoughts were all jumbled up. Sometimes it wasn’t even his thoughts. See, in addition to mindshifting, Dad also was able to “consume” the minds of others. Their consciousnesses, if you will. My sisters and I didn’t even know he could do that until the first time Dad had a lucid moment and told us about it. That was about a week after he returned. It’s been almost three months now, and he’s still been struggling.

According to Dad, in order to consume a mind, the person would have to willingly be pulled, or would have to be in a near-death or unconscious state, such that Dad would be able to forcibly pull that person’s mind into his own. He would also “download” all the memories and experiences of that person and after some processing, Dad would be able to retrieve the information he needed. Normally, he would only be able to obtain surface thoughts through mindshifting and verbal prompts, but sometimes the information he needed would be so huge that the bits that floated into the person’s mind he was shifted into wouldn’t be enough. Depending on the age of the person, Dad would need some time to process and reorder all the memories, deleting any unnecessary information. The older the person, the longer it would take to extract all the memories he needed, since there was more information to process. Once that was done, he’d let the consciousness fade and die by cutting off the energy and nutrients. All his victims had died after he pulled their consciousness, so once he lets a consciousness fade, it’s gone forever.

Yes, it’s very sick and twisted and cruel. But necessary. That’s what made him one of the best. But it’s also what put him in a coma. Dad told us he had tried to consume four minds at once and was knocked out by the sheer information overload. While Dad was down, the four minds had run loose in Dad’s head, causing a lot of mental damage. Dad was only just able to imprison them, but maintaining four mental prisons as well as feeding them took a lot out of him, not to mention all the information he had to process and the repairs he had to make to his mind. We were lucky Dad still even remembered us.

The twins were right: Dad did feel weaker. When Dad told us about the other minds, my sisters decided to document all the memories of the people he had consumed. In the three months he’d been here, Dad had faded two minds, both non-shifters. Of the two that he kept, one we discovered had been a shifter himself, and the other one had a weird mental shield. We had no information about that guy except that he was a male enemy and that it hurt Dad every time he tried to break the shield. Dad calls him the Historian. I can’t even find a wall to hit in Haley; it’s like she’s invisible or camouflaged, whereas the Historian’s wall was obvious and painful.

The other mind Dad had taken was a guy called Lucas. Lucas was a fighter. It was hard for Dad to process his memories because Lucas would keep struggling against the mental prison and did his best to overload Dad again by pushing more memories to Dad.

“Dad?” I asked cautiously.

Hey Zacko, he replied warily. Looked like Dad was lucid. Lucas must have been regaining his energy to fight Dad again. I could feel Dad systematically sorting out the memories as fast as he could.

How’s your mother? he inquired.

“Worried about you. As are all of us,” I replied. “Ally and Anna came by earlier today, but they told me you couldn’t talk to them.”

Dad gave a mental sigh. Yes, Lucas is still being a pest, he muttered. He was playing it cool, but I could feel him slipping.

I’m about to fade him, he informed me. I haven’t got everything I needed, but I can’t keep him around any longer.

“Good,” I said. “Wake up. Come back to us. We all miss you, especially Mum.”

Not yet.

Although the Historian’s shield hurt Dad when he tried to attack it, the Historian himself had been quiet, so Dad saw no reason to fade him yet. Besides, he needed to process the Historian’s memories, so he just left a mental prison dome around the Historian, shield and all.

“Still no peep?” I asked.

None, he replied with a little suspicion. I don’t think I will be returning soon. Tell your mother and sisters I love them.

“I will,” I promised.

Suddenly, I felt the whole room shake. I broke contact with Dad and my eyes snapped open. I glanced around quickly, but nothing was off with the room. I frowned. Then I realized, the tremor had come from within Dad. I quickly put my hand on his arm again.

No, Zack! Get out! he shouted at me. The Historian’s shield was pulsating outwards, each time shaking Dad’s surrounding prison. Each clash between shield and prison wall resulted in the shaking sensation. As the shield expanded and contracted, Dad’s prison wall cracked, crumbled and finally shattered. The shield continued to expand towards Lucas and shattered Lucas’ prison. As the shield moved over Lucas’ consciousness, I felt Lucas himself fade.

Then the shield started expanding towards me.

Dad was doing his best to form a prison around the growing shield but the Historian just kept expanding, easily smashing through Dad’s feeble attempts.

Go! Dad yelled at me.

I snatched my hand away, but not before I felt Dad mentally wrap himself in his own mental prison. I jerked back so hard that I toppled over in my chair and hit the ground with a thump.

I rolled over and pushed myself up just as a nurse came rushing in to find out what was going on.

“Sorry, sorry, I just fell over,” I told her, embarrassed. The nurse helped me pick up the chair and set it right.

“Zacko,” I heard a voice rasp from behind me. I turned to see that Dad’s eyes had opened.

But that was not my father I saw staring back at me.

Click here for Chapter Four

-Jace