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Whoa, long chapter! Read away
For the greater portion of a year, Michael King would not even visit the site of the demolished Mutant Test Center. But after eleven months, he determined it was time to face one of his greatest mistakes. To his astonishment, the location was nothing at all like the burnt wasteland he’d seen on the news eleven months ago; another company had bought out the land and built low-rise apartment buildings there. His astonishment turned to suspicion when he discovered the apartment complex was called the ‘Taylor Low-Rise Apartment Complex’. Suddenly, a man who had been determined he would never see John Taylor again felt an overpowering urge to confront the man.
“You lied to me!” King spat as John Taylor answered the door of his home. Taylor sighed and held the door open.
“Are you going to come in or are you intending to rant and rave at me from my front porch?” King entered and Taylor closed the door behind him. “It’s been a while, Mike. What can I do for you?”
“You can start by telling me where the mutants are!” King snapped. “And what the hell you’re doing with them.”
“Did you hit your head?” Taylor shot back. “They’re dead
, or didn’t you catch the recurring news this past year?”
”Then why would you buy the very same land from my company less than a month later?” King shot back. “I’m not a mindless money-handler, John. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re still withdrawing money from the joint account I created. The greatest withdrawal was two weeks after the... incident. You bought the land and built your apartments.”
“A decent monument for those past, I thought,” Taylor remarked indignantly. “Celebrate the lives of those killed by giving others a place to live.”
“And just how many renters do you have?” King retorted. “Last I checked, yesterday, you had three! Three measly renters in a complex that could house a hundred and twenty families.”
“There are other apartments filled,” Taylor growled. King laughed.
“Oh, I know,” he answered. “But they’re filled with your employees for only God knows what. Well, actually, now I’ve a pretty good idea of what they’re there for too. None of your mutants are dead. The incident with Nova... what’s her real name, by the way?”
“Her name was
Miranda Mitchell,” Taylor corrected.
“The incident with Miranda Mitchell,” King continued, “was not an accident. It was a carefully planned event. Given her powers, Nova would not have been fried in an explosion, chemical or otherwise. Don’t give me that look, John. I’ve done my research... or rather, looked over yours. Nova releases so much heat, such intense heat, anything would be destroyed before it got too close. And as for your others... well, you had Psych, Jordan Elliott, isn’t it?”
“Go on,” Taylor urged softly, falling startlingly silent. King didn’t need any further urging.
“Psych has the dual abilities of telekinesis and telepathy,” he reminded his old friend. “It would have been easy for her to erect a telekinetic barrier, sealing everyone else in the facility off from the damage Nova was about to cause. Then, you moved underground... and built your apartments up top.”
“Fair enough,” Taylor agreed. King was taken aback.
“You mean my speculations are accurate?” he gasped. Taylor nodded.
“Right down to how Nova and Psych used their powers,” he answered. “However, you still don’t know the full story.”
“I should like to hear it,” King snapped. “Especially since it’s still my money financing whatever it is you’ve shifted into doing to these people.”
“They are still volunteers,” Taylor answered. “Well paid volunteers at that, thanks to you. Mike, eleven months ago, the Mutant Test Center was still erect, but so was terrible opposition and adamant support on the streets.”
“I don’t get your meaning,” King interrupted.
“As you may remember, there was a very strong fence that surrounded the grounds of the facility,” Taylor said. “Just outside the fence, crowds gathered. Mutated humans, non-mutants, some in support of the project, some against it. We had a break in or two. It was getting too dangerous. So we did what we thought was best... took the public’s eye off of what we were doing, and forced them to focus on a tragedy. Such things give the community and the country, both humans and mutants something to come together over.”
“I want to see the new facility,” King insisted. Taylor raised an inquiring eyebrow and King explained, “If I’m still financing it, I want to know what goes on.”
Taylor grinned. “Very well. I’ll take you over there right away.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Jordan Elliott was barely conscious when a grating buzz echoed through the small chamber in which she was presently attempting to sleep. Wincing ever so slightly, she opened a single hazel eye and clenched her fist in the general direction of the tiny speaker from which the offensive noise was coming. With a satisfying crunch, the speaker appeared to implode. Then, slowly, she sat up, running a hand through her shoulder-length, dark hair.
"Amazing!" a scientist exclaimed from where he sat, observing everything that went on within Jordan's chamber on a bank of monitors beside it. "She's a lot stronger than any of us expected."
"The neural inhibitor is in place?" another scientist wondered. The first nodded.
"In place and active," he agreed. He flipped the switch on a tiny microphone. "Ms. Elliott, would you mind if we turn your inhibitor up a little?"
Jordan glared up at one of the cameras. "Why do you ask when you'll just do it anyway?"
"Courtesy, I suppose," the scientist answered. He turned a small dial up a couple of notches and watched as Jordan cringed and fell to her knees. Then, he half turned as John Taylor approached, Michael King in tow.
"This is one of the testing chambers," Taylor was explaining. "This one is specifically for Jordan Elliott, Psych."
"That's her, then?" King inquired, frowning a little as he observed that Jordan appeared to be in pain. "What's happening in there?"
"We're testing the strength of her power," the scientist answered. "That thin band you see around her neck is a neural inhibitor."
"That doesn't sound painless," King remarked to Taylor.
"It isn't," Taylor replied. "However, the pain dies off after a few seconds. With Psych, we're up to inhibitor level six. At one, she still had full access to her power. At two, it wasn't much weakened. At four, she could still cause serious damage. We'll see what happens at six..."
"She's stabilizing, Mr. Taylor," the scientist reported. Inside the chamber, Jordan breathed a sigh of relief and sat on the small cot behind her. "According to the readings, her telepathy is almost fully suppressed. Class six telepath."
"Not a six for telekinesis, though?" Taylor inquired. The scientist shook his head.
"Not quite," he answered, gesturing to a computer screen. "See? She'll be at least an eight for teke powers."
Get out... here comes...
The chamber seemed to shake and a couple of the cameras blinked to static. Damn it!
Michael King frowned and stared at one of the functioning monitors. What was that?
he asked himself. Within the chamber, the girl they called Psych almost seemed to hear him. She peered into one of the cameras. Then, deep within his mind, Michael heard a reply.
Who is that?
her voice asked him. Michael grinned. It seemed Psych was just a little stronger than Taylor and his scientists supposed.
My name is Michael King,
he answered. On the camera, Jordan's face screwed up in a near-insane rage.
"Heartless jerk!" she screamed. "Get out of my head!"
Startled by the hatred evident in her voice and by her insistence that he was in her head, Michael took a step back. The chamber began to rattle and Taylor nodded quickly to the scientist, who turned Jordan's inhibitor up to ten. Her screams and the rattling faded and she slumped over backward on the cot, comatose.
"I'm really sorry you had to see that, Mike," Taylor remarked softly. "However, it's been most beneficial. Come with me."
"You lied again," Michael snapped. "She's being held against her will. And she thinks I'm involved."
Taylor nodded. "Coming into the project, everyone was aware of who financed it."
"I want no part of this," Michael growled. "I said from the start that I wanted nothing to do with it if you were going to be holding people against their will."
"Let me show you one more," Taylor said, his tone leaving no room for argument. Without a word, Michael followed his former friend to one more chamber. To his surprise, Michael found that this one held a familiar face; Krista Morrey, the Dominant.
"We'll put you in here for a few minutes," Taylor said, no longer bothering to veil the hostility in his voice.
Michael shouted, his single voice becoming two. Taylor laughed.
"Now that's interesting," he commented. "You're not quite what I thought you were... you're better!"
With a well-placed punch, Taylor knocked Michael backward into the wall of Krista's chamber. Then, as Michael attempted to recover, he was launched backward through the door into the chamber. The door slammed shut with a bang, which startled Krista enough to open her eyes.
"You!" she snapped, recoiling from Michael. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Observing," Michael answered shortly, rubbing his head and wondering how the confident young woman he'd met nearly a year ago could have been transformed into this quivering, fearful girl. "Or at least, I was... they seem to be past letting me do that, though."
Suddenly, Krista gasped. "They turned off my inhibitor..." And just like that, the confident Dominant returned. Fixing an angry glare on her face, she called on her power, saying, "I hate you. Die."
Feeling his heart slow in an attempt to obey the Dominant’s command, Michael grimaced and retorted, "No!"
His heartbeat returned to normal and the Dominant staggered backward, startled.
"What did you say?" she demanded. Michael smirked.
"I said 'no'," he answered. "Didn't you hear me?"
Frustration flooded Krista's face. "I said, DIE!
Though he was not entirely sure what was happening between them, Michael had an idea of it and knew exactly what to do. "And I said, NO!
" he snapped. The Dominant was furious. She knew this would work.
"Die, die, die!"
"No, no, no!"
Michael shot back. With each 'no', the Dominant recoiled until she was backed fully into the corner on her cot. Finally abandoning her suggestive voice, she asked meekly, "What do you want?"
Michael sighed and shook his head. "Believe it or not, I think I've just become a prisoner here, too."
"Well, that's convenient," Krista remarked dryly. "Didn't you want to observe? Now you'll get to experience first-hand what they do to us."
"Right..." Michael muttered. Suddenly, Krista leaned forward urgently.
"Hey," she said. "You're like CopyCat... only stronger. She takes on the powers of others. Listen carefully... if you're conscious enough when they pull you out of here, you have to feel for Tech. Her powers will get us out of here..."
"I don't even know what I'm doing!" Michael protested. Krista rolled her eyes.
"You're a mimic," she said. "You do what others do. You have to..."
At that moment, guards burst into the chamber, taking hold of Michael, and Krista screamed as her inhibitor was reactivated. “Find... Molly...” She managed to whisper. Then, she lost consciousness.
Michael ordered. The guards hesitated. Then, Taylor was beside him and he felt himself begin to loose consciousness as Taylor aggressively stabbed a needle in his neck.
"Release..." he mumbled, and then he went limp in the guards' arms. Taylor grinned.
"Success," he said. "Fit him with an inhibitor... we'll see how strong he is."
And the guards carried Michael away.