The truth is, I didn’t want to practice. I wanted to do whatever without learning the specifics.
When I was younger, I built an ultralight airplane, and my flight instructor told me to fly a few feet off the runway, then land. But I was having none of that and took to the skies. It was awesome and so easy; until I had to land. Turns out those specifics would have saved my landing gear.
But practice, I must according to Olivia. So there I sat, a few hours later, across from billy Jenkins playing brain games and thinking I would rather be flying.
Jenkins seemed amused with this and held out his arms like wings. Then abruptly crashed onto the floor, laughing.
Hours later, I was shifting from body to body, dancing to the jukebox, and getting pretty good at it too. Having Olivia mentor me was paying off.
Without hesitation, I could do it in any position without collapsing to the floor. Although I’ll have to admit, I did miss the exhilaration of my first shift.
But whatever, I was scanning memories, learning new skills, gaining knowledge. And did I mention dancing? I was damn good at it.
“Got me a little blackmail photo now,” came a voice from behind as Jeff’s camera flashed, lighting up in the mirror between a row of unopened bottles.
Jumping down from the bar, I quickly shut off the music and returned to my original. “Funny,” I said.
“Not meant to be.”
“How did you know I was down here?”
“After fixing the mess, you made with Karen, Olivia got worried. She was expecting to find you outside when she arrived. And when you failed to show up hours later, they both got concerned and called me.
“So whatcha got to say for yourself, Travolta?”
“Sorry, Jeff, I’ll pay you for the liquor.”
“I’m not worried about the liquor. I’m worried your drunk ass is going to expose my hideaway.
“So tell me, where did you get the alcohol? And I do not want to hear Jeff’s secret bar.”
After a bit of silence, he continued. “Her eye’s sparkled before the drugs. She was funny, warm––caring. I couldn’t help but love her. You would have liked her, Christian.”
“I saw you standing alone in the rain as we pulled away from the funeral. That’s how I knew. Love does that to a man. Makes him stand in the rain––makes him do a lot of things he would never do for another.”
He looked up, eyes wet but not tearing; finding it hard to show emotion like most men.
“Ready to head out?” I said, giving him an out.
“Not yet. You go ahead.”
“I just need some time to clear my head.”
“I’ll see myself out then.”
“Christian, you really would have liked her.”
I nodded and walked away.
Reaching the stairs, I pushed the up button, causing them to rise, their sound unable to silence the wailing from below.”
Karen stayed in her office overnight, talking with tribal leaders. All claiming to be allies, never knowing, she knew better. It had become a game of wits and primal instinct at this point, with no clear winner by morning, but one thing was made clear. While the spies, one dead, one alive, would be sent back home. The same courtesy would not be extended to others, regardless of their tribal affiliation. The meeting with Jill Hanson had also proved disappointing. Skin contact revealed nothing, and her answers were troubling.
“So you believe she is hiding memories via a hypnosis technique. How is it even possible?”
“Look at it as a redacted memory, stored within her DNA.”
“Can you do it?”
“I know of the technique via my ancestral memories but have no idea how it is done. It was only in the realm of a few who used it to their advantage, just as they are today.”
“So the Chief of Ghost has a pedigree in this realm. And actively used it against us.”
“I like the way you think, but no. Denis is not pure in any way, shape, or fashion. He is a terrible excuse for a man and a pitiful chief.”
“Then how did he ever become chief?”
“How does any weak man, or woman, for that matter, become chief?”
“They don’t. Denis is just a puppet. The puppet masters, I do not know. Now If you don’t mind, I would like to change the subject. After all, this should be a joyful time for us, but here we are, having to deal with outliers and a possible blackout. It’s a lot to take in, and truthfully, I can’t believe you haven’t fled. You’ve only had five weeks of sporadic training in a world that’s falling apart as we speak. And I’m afraid there is nothing I can do to stop it.”
Placing my fingers over her lips, I replied as her knight in shining armor, “I’ll stop it for you, my fair lady.”
Laughter filled the room before the last syllable left my tongue. It continued as we tried to kiss without success.
Sensing trouble, she turned back. But it was too late. A wall had already moved into place, trapping her inside. With no other options, she slowly made her way through the maze as the eerie sound of sliding walls closed from behind. Reaching the killing room, she resigned herself to the moment.
Back in the auditorium, the Wilcox family waited in a panic state for information about their son’s whereabouts. “Have they caught her yet?” asked Oliva.
“I’ll check,” replied Karen, who stood by them, along with Linda, Donnie, and myself.
“Robert, Give me an update.”
“Chief, She’s locked in.”
“Jeff, you and Oliva go with Linda to my safe room. You can observe the proceedings from there. Christain, Donnie, wait for me by exit two while I address the others.”
Karen’s words were not as commanding as before. And the crowd was not as receptive to them. The sudden realization of spies among them had everyone on edge.
“I would like to think all of you for coming here on such short notice. Things are changing fast, and we must meet these new challenges quickly. I have been talking….”
As she continued, Robert’s team went into action.
“Door one secure.” “Door two secure.” “Safety exit one secure.” “Safety exit two secure.” “Where’s Borya Seated?” “Right side, last row, at the end.” “Karen, this is Robert; we’re ready to set the maze.”
“Copy,” she replied, turning the key in front of her.
I watched as walls closed off some hallways while opening others.
“Maze set,” reported Karen. “Linda, we’re ready.”
“Like I said earlier, dark times are coming, and we must remain united. So please reach out and hold the hand of the person next to you. Let this room be filled with the love we have for one another.”
“Borya just got up. He’s headed for door two.”
“Let him go,” replied Robert. “Karen, unlock door two.”
“Why is Terry Cole walking toward Borya? I thought he was working tonight.” she quickly responded.”
“He is; Matt met with him earlier today.”
“Could it be Echo?”
“Arrest both of them right now.”
“Stop!” yelled Robert.
Borya turned quickly to escape, running head-on into Terry and the knife he held in his hand. “I will be the last person you ever rape,” he said, keeping eye contact with him all the way to the ground until his soulless life faded into obscurity.
Mick Turner pulled him off as he shifted to his original. It was Cathy, no tears, just anger.
“You would have done the same thing,” she mouthed off toward the stage, thinking she was talking to Karen.
“Donnie, move in on the Wilcox family; something is going on over there,” said Karen through his earpiece.
“Lex,” said Jeff in anger, “why did you pull away from your mom when she reached for you? I don’t know what’s got into you lately.”
Placing her hands on Lex’s shoulders, Olivia tried to ease the tension but screamed franticly. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY SON!”
Shifting into a mixed martial arts body, Echo began fighting her way toward the exit. Several Elysains quickly shifted to match her strength.
“Let her go, said Karen through the PA system as she unlocked exit one.”
Seizing the moment, Echo shifted to a runner’s body and fled through the door.
The room, hidden behind the stage, was small, and I could feel the tension in Karen’s hand as she released from mine. Over the next few hours she sat quietly, so I amused myself with the security cameras, scanning the entire underground complex.
Linda stepped in around seven for a last-minute meeting, and we ate supper.
Soon after, the auditorium began to fill, and we watched as Carol Jenkins made small talk with Linda, who was now on stage in Karen’s body. Donnie remained seated behind her, trying to avoid everyone.
“Doc,” said Karen into her microphone, “go up on stage and strike up a conversation with Donnie before someone takes notice of his nervousness.”
“You got it, Chief.”
When the clock struck nine, the room fell silent, and Linda began to speak.