Here is the first chapter of Prisoner of the Mind, coming to Amazon on 28 October!
The real tragedy is not just what they did to me and the others. The tragedy is that they never had one moment of hesitation or even one heartbeat of remorse.
–Memoirs of Shaden Mira
The specific genes related to psychics cause brain cells to begin producing certain proteins. These extremely complex proteins allow the human brain to entangle quantum particles. The brain becomes capable of creating a quantum wave function by manipulating those particles. This wave function manifests most often as a localized kinetic energy release.
–Dr. Jonathan Halving, Project Archon Notes.
Shaden froze at the sound of a foot scuffle and then he shook his head.
What’s wrong with me? What would they say at the Academy? Shaden frightened of the dark? Some kind of soldier I turned out to be.
His years at the Centauri Military Academy came back to him in a rush, the tough classes, the long hours of study, the glory of piloting. He felt again the pride of wearing a uniform for the Amalgamated Worlds Military. Those thoughts triggered a rush of memories. Shaden examined every one of them. They almost felt new. He knew them, for he’d lived them, but his memories felt strange. Every memory seemed jagged and sharp, and the more he thought on the past, the more distant it seemed.
And worse of all, they didn’t explain how he came to be here.
He had wandered the cold, empty concrete corridors for what seemed like hours since he had awakened on the damp floor. The passages echoed on forever, empty and dark. Scattered lights spaced along the ceilings provided only basic illumination and cast long shadows along walls and floors.
Shaden had no resources to call upon. He wore a gray sweatshirt and sweat pants. The pockets did not hold his wallet or phone. He had no idea where his watch or academy ring might have disappeared. Despite the chill air, he sweated heavily as he tried to find an exit.
And then there was the old man…
Unlike his other memories, those of the old man were without context. He didn’t remember where he’d seen him. It could have been in a dream, on the street, in a class. There was no sense of time to the memory, no tie to his past. The old man’s face and words were blurred, his face just a haze. Even so, his conversation seemed the most real. The man had warned him that he would soon be a prisoner…
He shook his head. Perhaps it was a dream, he thought, or perhaps this is one.
Again came a footstep behind him, followed by a rustle of clothing. Shaden deliberately ignored the noise and sighed. He refused to give into his fears and jump at shadows. He crouched and his fingers absently traced out letters in the dampness on the floor.
Who was John?
Doctor Johnathan Halving had spent millions in dollars, dozens of lives, and countless hours of his time on Project Archon. It was his passion, his one love, and every bit of his focus went to turning normal psychics into powerful psionic weapons.
After the work of thousands of hours, Halving eagerly awaited the sum total of all that effort, ready to be played out on hundreds of monitors and screens, arrayed throughout his training facility as the two products of all his labor culminated in a final experiment.
Halving moved to stand where he could watch those screens. He was a tall man, with dark hair, a strong jaw, and tan skin. He smiled as he watched one of the screens, showing white, even teeth. A series of scars ran down across one side of his face, faded and old to the point that only an observant person might notice them.
“Our two most promising subjects from the Archon Experiment,” a woman’s voice spoke from behind him. “Let us hope these two don’t kill each other, Doctor Halving.” Her voice was cold and emotionless, more like that of an automated recording than that of a human.
Halving didn’t turn around. He recognized her voice… and her penchant for startling those who worked for her. He just gave a snort, “If they start using their abilities, I wouldn’t care if they destroyed half the complex, Colonel.” He wrinkled his nose at the harsh scent of cheap government coffee. He’d rather do without than drink that swill, but evidently Colonel Givens felt otherwise.
The midnight black uniform of an Amalgamated Worlds Security Branch looked sharp on the Colonel as she moved up to stand beside him. She had blonde hair and dark brown eyes, a pale complexion, and a narrow, long face. Her uniform had the epaulets of security, and her shoulder patch had three white letters on a red background: ESP. “You don’t seem particularly attached to the subjects, considering…”
“Considering I’m ‘one’ of them?” Jonathan Halving chuckled. “I’ve proven my loyalty to Amalgamated Worlds. I’ve hunted ‘my own kind’ for long enough that I have no feeling of attachment to them. These two aren’t even human, really, not after what we’ve done to them.” The Bureau of ESP Security would never have allowed him his freedom if he’d shown the slightest compassion to his fellow psychics. If he felt anything for these two, he must admit, he felt curiosity and interest in their potential and what their potential might fund in future experimentation.
“They were human though.” Colonel Givens said. Her voice went soft, “Some of them even volunteered.” He didn’t fall for her tone, however. She wouldn’t be the first of his watchdogs to try to pretend sympathy to their enemy to lure him into saying something damning.
Doctor Halving chuckled, “You almost sound like a sympathizer and you’re supposed to be my watchdog.” He shook his head. “Volunteer or conscripted, none of them are really human. We removed their memories and cut away their pasts. We programmed them to be what we want them to be. They’re weapons and tools now, nothing more. They couldn’t be anything else, even if we wanted them to be.”
Colonel Givens nodded, her voice solemn and professional once more, “And we don’t want them to be human. We want them to be far more than that.”
Some part of Shaden wanted to focus on the questions, on why he felt so odd, so disconnected. Yet it was too hard to focus. He almost felt like he was a passenger in his own body… possibly in his mind. He fought that feeling, pausing and putting out a hand to the cool concrete wall. This was real. This was solid.
A hand came down on his shoulder. Shaden spun around. He shook off the stranger’s hold and took up a defensive stance. He felt a moment of shock at the speed of his reaction and at how he barely restrained an attack. The effort left him tense and his hands trembled.
It was only a young woman and Shaden felt some of his tension ease. “What do you want?” He asked. Shaden’s eyes flickered over the woman and he noted that she wore similar clothing. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her dark eyes were wide, the whites clearly visible in the light from the ceiling.
She answered him unexpectedly: she kicked him in the forehead.
Shaden stumbled backwards. His attacker pummeled him with blow after blow. His back thumped against the cement wall and the girl’s foot connected with his head again. The universe exploded.
Shaden shook his head. He had fallen to his hands and knees. He turned his face towards his attacker, too stunned to do more than wonder why she hurt him.
He saw her come at him again and Shaden pushed himself to his knees. Something inside him warned that she would not stop… not until he was dead. He felt a sense of pressure build up inside and his back arched and his muscles clenched. As her fist came towards his face, time seemed to slow. He couldn’t move his body, but something inside him reached out and pushed.
Jonathan Halving cursed as the camera and sensor feeds went out.
A heartbeat later, the ground trembled slightly. A light curtain of dust rained from the ceiling. He smiled slightly in satisfaction and then opened an intercom to his waiting reaction team, “It appears one—” the ground trembled again “—or both, of the subjects is a success. Retrieve them both, alive if possible.”
“Alive, if possible?” Colonel Givens arctic voice asked.
The Halving turned to face her. He shrugged slightly and his smile didn’t waver at the cold disapproval in her face. “My personnel are trained veterans. They’re too valuable to throw away if our… precautions don’t allow them to take down the subjects without a fight.”
“The government has spent an awful lot of money on both of those subjects,” Colonel Givens said. “If you terminate either of them prematurely, the significant waste of resources will not go unnoticed.”
Halving shrugged, “Not a waste. What we’ve learned on these two –and the previous failures– will allow us to refine our experiment. If my men have to use terminal force, then replacing the subjects will be more procedural than experimental.” Doctor Halving cocked his head, “And of course, I have no doubt that you have plenty more potential ‘volunteers’ in one of the internment camps in San Antonio.”
Colonel Givens scowled, but before she could retort, a voice from the intercom spoke. “Sir, we’ve subdued both subjects. We’re bringing them up now.”
“Excellent. Good job, Misha,” Halving said. He cocked his head at the Colonel, “See, our disagreement was moot.” When she just gave him a glare he shrugged and spoke into the intercom at Misha, “Any guesses as to the abilities produced?”
His subordinate didn’t answer for a moment, when she did, her voice was thoughtful, “There’s heavy structural damage to this portion of the labs. I’d estimate macro psychokinesis from the damage. Cyrus was able to subdue both subjects. Angel says she saw the female manifest electrokinesis.”
The program director nodded to himself, “Very good. Bring them up to the restraint chambers. Good job, Misha, as always.”
“Thank you, sir.” Her voice was as professional. Then again, she’d never been one to let her emotions get the better of her.
“Done patting yourself on the back?” Colonel Givens said. Despite her facial control, Jonathan Halving noted that some of her own enthusiasm and satisfaction showed through. She had just as much time invested in Project Archon as he did, though without the years of prior research. For that matter, she only saw the output of Project Archon and not the greater benefits. So short sighted, Jonathan Halving thought, as all my government handlers have been, then again, perhaps that is for the best.
“I’ll congratulate myself when the job is done,” Halving answered. “There is still extensive laboratory research and testing to be done. We don’t know if their mental programming held. We don’t know if their minds snapped under the pressures we put them under, like with the subjects of Project Kraken” Halving snorted, “For all I know, they just burned themselves out and we’ll have a couple of lobotomized chimps.” He saw a flash of concern cross the Colonel’s face and he noted it for later consideration. “In any case, once we’ve had a chance to study the data we’ve obtained and then compare it to their quiescent state, I’ll be able to tell more.”
“I’ll await your analysis,” Colonel Givens answered.