As the vibration started to subside, Joseph noticed that everyone in the 'Area 51' meeting hall was in nothing short of a complete panic.
"Listen! We're not hurt! We're no worse off than we were a few minutes ago!"
"Was that an earthquake?" One of the guys dressed in purple asked in a shaking voice.
"No. I'm from California, so I've been through a few earthquakes. I don't know what that was, but it was something else." Ryan said as he looked around for any signs of damage.
"He's right." Joseph nodded, then continued, "That was something mechanical."
"What are we going to do now?" Jude asked as he seemed to be calming.
Joseph thought for a moment, then said, "Ryan, I need for you to stay here, since Lisa's out of action. Try to keep people calm and see if you can get them to brainstorm about what that might have been. If you come up with anything, send someone to 'The Bunker' and let us know. I'm going to do my best to coordinate things from there."
"Sorry. We named the rooms. If you come up with anything, send someone to the Blue and Green room to let us know."
"You can count on it."
"Good." Joseph said with a quick smile at him, then turned to Jude and said, "You guys, go back to 'Paradise' and do the same. Your people are going to need you to keep them calm and let them know that everything is going to be alright."
"But is it?"
"It'll be a lot more 'alright' if everyone isn't panicking. You've got a brilliant mind. I really need for you to think about this to see what you can come up with. I don't know what's going on and I have a feeling that we've got limited time to figure this out."
"I'll do my best."
"Send word if you come up with anything." Joseph said with an assuring smile in his direction, then he turned to Jason and said, "We'd better get going. Your people are going to need you to be strong for them."
"Should I go with you or stay with Jason?" Kenyon asked from Joseph's side.
"Actually, if you wouldn't mind, would you stay in 'The Pit of Despair' for a little bit to help the people there? I haven't seen Mary Nicole yet, so I don't know if there's anyone watching out for her people."
"Yeah. And I'll go back to 'The Bunker' as soon as someone shows up to take over."
"Let's go." Joseph said as he started toward the Purple hallway with Jason and Kenyon following a step behind.
* * * * *
As they hurried down the hall, they encountered a few of the girls in their doorways. They were obviously in pain but also frightened by what had just happened.
The three of them worked as a group to calm the girls and fill them in on what little they knew as quickly as possible before moving on.
At one point, Kenyon quietly asked Joseph if he should offer to heal them. Joseph told him that it might be best to save it, since things seemed to be escalating and they didn't know what might happen next.
As they passed through the Gray and Purple room, Jason went immediately to the few people gathered at the tables and began talking to them.
Joseph and Kenyon continued on down the Gray hallway, committed to their purpose.
They encountered a few more distressed people as they walked, but only spent a minute with them before continuing on.
* * * * *
After leaving Kenyon in the Blue and Gray room, Joseph entered the Blue hallway and was confronted by the sight of Zarah's door.
Without thinking, he walked up to the door and knocked.
He heard a response but couldn't be sure if it were a voice or a low moan.
He reluctantly opened the door and cautiously walked inside.
Zarah was flat on her back in bed, looking as miserable as anyone that he had encountered so far.
"How bad is it?" Joseph asked in a whisper.
"Worse than anything."
"I'll get you some help."
* * * * *
"Kenyon. I know that I told you to save it, but I really need Zarah's help. Is there any way that you could try healing her?"
"Yeah. No one's in here. So there's not anything for me to do." Kenyon said as he stood.
"Just don't go too far. Take the edge off her pain, if you can."
"It doesn't work like that. I can't 'see' like Jason does. When I'm near something that needs healed, it kind of turns on, all by itself. I don't know that it's done healing until it turns itself off."
"Just see what you can do."
* * * * *
"I brought Kenyon to help you."
Zarah fought to open her eyes and the incredulity could easily be seen in her pained expression.
"I'm not sure how this is going to work." Kenyon warned them.
"Just do what you can."
Kenyon knelt on the floor beside Zarah's bed, then held his hands out, about four inches above her midsection.
"What's he doing?" Zarah asked in a pained voice.
"Do you remember when we all figured out about the psychic abilities? It turns out that Kenyon's ability is psychic healing."
"Something's happening." Kenyon said as he gently placed his hands on top of Zarah's blanket, over her lower abdomen.
"Yeah. That means it's working."
"What else has happened? We were in the meeting room and then..."
"I think that we must have been getting too close to something, so they called an unscheduled blackout."
"That feels better." Zarah sighed.
"How are you doing, Kenyon?" Joseph asked with concern.
"It seems to be work..." Kenyon was saying as he fell into unconsciousness, mid-sentence.
"Is he alright?" Zarah asked as she watched Joseph easing Kenyon to lie on the floor.
"Yes. His healing ability drains him. If Jason were here, he could monitor Kenyon's healing and get him to stop before he reaches this point." Joseph said as he did his best to make sure that Kenyon was resting comfortably.
"I don't understand."
"Jason is an empath who can feel other people's physical pain. He can somehow sense what Kenyon is doing and tell him where the pain is and when he needs to pull back, so that he won't pass out."
"There was another thing... like an earthquake. Did that really happen or did I dream it?"
"Unfortunately, it happened. So far, we don't know what it was, but I'm betting that it wasn't a good thing. That's one of the reasons that I asked Kenyon to heal you. If we're going to figure this out, we're going to need your big brain working on it."
"I'm feeling a lot better than I was. I should be able to help."
"Let me see if I can rouse Kenyon, then we'll get out of here so that you can change."
"Is he going to be alright?"
"I think so. It seems that when he uses his ability too much that his body naturally forces him to go to sleep. He should be fine as long as he doesn't use his power again for a little while." Joseph said as he sat down on the floor, then lined himself along Kenyon's side, so that he could drape an arm around him.
"What are you doing?" Zarah asked as she fought to sit up enough to see what was happening on the floor beside her bed.
"Waking him up." Joseph whispered, then moved in to give Kenyon a slow, gentle kiss.
It took a moment, but Kenyon's eyes finally started to flutter open.
"Good morning, sleepyhead." Joseph said as he backed away slightly.
"That's the best way to wake up." Kenyon said with a smile.
"We need to get up so that Zarah can get dressed."
Kenyon looked around in confusion, then asked, "Did I pass out?"
"Yeah. Just for a little bit. Don't worry about it." Joseph assured him as he got up off the floor.
"How are you feeling, Zarah?" Kenyon asked as he accepted Joseph's hand and was pulled to standing.
"I'm better than I was. Thank you."
"We'll be right outside, when you're ready." Joseph said as he gently coaxed Kenyon to walk with him.
"I'll just be a minute." Zarah assured him, then watched as Kenyon and Joseph left the room.
* * * * *
"Do I need to go back to 'The Pit of Despair'?" Kenyon asked quietly as they waited outside Zarah's door.
"No. If someone needs help, they can go see Jason or come to 'The Bunker' and talk to us. I'd rather you be with me."
"Because you're worried that I'll pass out again?"
"No. It's because I know that when you're with me, you've got my back. A lot of people are depending on me right now, and if you'll let me, I'd like to depend on you."
"Yeah. I'll be there. You can count on me."
"Are you guys ready?" Zarah asked as she pulled open the door.
"Ready when you are."
* * * * *
When they walked into the Blue and Green meeting room, Mark immediately asked, "Did you guys feel that earthquake too?"
"It wasn't an earthquake, but yes, we felt it." Joseph answered.
"What was it, then?" Doug asked dubiously.
"That's one of the things that we need to figure out. I've already asked the leaders in a couple of the other rooms to start brainstorming. If they come up with anything, they're going to send someone to tell us about it. We're going to be coordinating the whole thing."
"Before we get started, I'd like to go check on Leah." Zarah said as she stopped at the table.
"Sounds good. I hope she's alright." Joseph said with a smile at her, then watched as she hurried toward the Green hallway.
When he turned his attention back to the table, he noticed that Charity, Brianna and Landra were present, along with the three 'Blue' guys.
"From what we can tell, we're missing two people."
Joseph's first impulse was to be put off by Aaron's abrupt nature, but then his thinking self reminded him that Aaron was socially awkward and tended not to speak at all. In the end, he finally asked, "Do you know who?"
"No. This would be a lot easier if we had paper and pens to keep track of things. All I can really tell you is that rooms one thirteen and room one twenty-one had people in them before we blacked out and now their rooms are empty and it looks like their beds haven't been slept in."
"Room one thirteen is next to mine. That room belongs to Jeanna. I don't remember who had room one twenty-one."
"While we were checking the rooms, we talked to a few of the girls who were awake. We told them that we were going to be in here working on figuring things out and that we'd let them know when we come up with something." Doug added.
"Leah's fine. She just needs her rest." Zarah said as she returned to the table and took the seat beside Joseph, the other side from Kenyon.
"What do you think the chances are that they did the 'earthquake' thing just to put more stress on us?" Charity asked as she looked around the table.
Joseph looked at her with surprise, then said, "I hadn't thought of that. It's possible."
As he was saying that, everyone heard a movement and saw Tammy walking into the meeting room from the Green hallway.
"I just need to check on Mary Nicole." Tammy said quietly as she passed through.
"We're working on brainstorming. Tell Mary Nicole that you're free to join us when you're feeling up to it." Joseph said, sounding concerned.
"We will." Tammy responded before entering the Blue hallway.
"We're never getting out of here, are we?" Doug asked into the silence that followed, directing his question mostly to Joseph.
"Probably not. At least, not alive."
"Then what was the point of the 'Academic Exercises' and all of that?"
"Looking back, all I can think is that they must have had several scenarios in mind: obedient drug-zombies, conditioned slaves, hypnotized assassins... you know, stuff like that. Anyway, at some point along the way, they must have done a cost benefit analysis and we ended up being in the red."
"How sure are you that they're going to try to kill us?"
"I'm becoming more and more convinced of it."
"Isn't there anything we can do about it?"
"Not that I can think of. Of course, some of the things that we've just discovered might end up being game changers... somehow."
"Well, it's looking more and more like the reason that any of us were chosen to be here is because of our potential to develop psychic abilities. Of course, as soon as we've shown them that our abilities have become active, they drug us but... there still might be a way that we can use it."
"Have you figured out any more of the abilities?" Charity asked.
"So far, we know that the Blues can see people's pasts, the Greens appear to be telepathic, the Grays are empathic and the Oranges can heal people."
"Wait! What?" Mark asked with surprise, then looked at Kenyon and asked, "You can heal people?"
"Yeah. But I keep passing out when I do it."
"But we've got girls all over this station hurting so bad that they can barely move. If we've got a way to help them, we should be doing that."
"You're right, of course" Joseph reluctantly admitted. "Why don't you take Doug and Aaron to the Orange hallway and wake up as many of the Oranges as possible so that they can get started healing."
"That won't work." Landra said timidly.
"The Amazons probably aren't going to want to help you... I mean, it might be better if some of the girls asked them."
"You're right, Landra. Thank you." Joseph said with a smile at her, realizing how much of a struggle it was for the usually timid girl to speak up in a group.
"I can go and invite them." Zarah volunteered.
"That'll probably work out best." Joseph admitted.
"I'll go, too." Brianna automatically added, then looked to Landra, silently asking if she wanted to go with.
Although she seemed to be torn by the decision, Landra finally nodded her agreement.
"Before you go..." Joseph said quickly to forestall their departure, "Mark and Doug, would you go down to the 'Confidential' room... I mean the Purple and Gray room, and talk to Jason? Ask him if he can help you find about... six of his empaths with active abilities and send them here to us? If we're going to have healers working, we're going to need to have someone to keep them from passing out."
"Excuse me..." Zarah interrupted.
Joseph looked at her inquiringly.
"I didn't think of it before, but how will we know if their healing abilities are active?"
"When you wake them up, ask them how they're feeling. If they tell you that they feel fine or had a wonderful sleep, then that probably means that they've completely healed themselves. Anyone who didn't heal in their sleep is going to wake up feeling like crap."
"That makes sense."
"If you can get all the Oranges and Grays to meet here, we'll split them into teams and then we can set off doing a mass healing effort. Try for six, but if that's taking too long, just go with what you've got."
When it was obvious that Joseph was finished, Zarah, Brianna and Landra started walking toward the Green hallway as Doug and Mark started toward the Blue one.
* * * * *
Joseph, Kenyon, Aaron and Charity were sitting at the table when one of the girls in blue slowly walked into the meeting room.
"Did you guys ever figure out what that vibration was all about?" The girl asked in a pained voice.
"No. We're still working on that. Did you have any ideas?" Joseph asked hopefully.
Kenyon could clearly see the anguish on the girl's face as she shook her head before withdrawing into the Blue hallway.
After a long silent moment, Kenyon finally whispered, "I wish that there was something I could do."
Joseph could see how much it was hurting Kenyon to know that he had the ability to heal, yet couldn't do anything for a person who was standing before him, suffering.
"If you want to, you can go talk to Jason and see if he can find someone to 'spot' for you."
"Yeah. I'll see if he has someone to spare. But either way, I'll be right back."
"Aaron, would you mind going with Kenyon? He passed out a few minutes ago and I'd just like to be sure that he's alright."
Although the abrupt answer might make one think that Aaron felt 'put out' by the request, Joseph had the feeling that Aaron appreciated being asked to help, he just didn't know how to appropriately express that appreciation.
* * * * *
"So, is Joseph your boyfriend or something?" Aaron asked as he walked with Kenyon down the Blue hallway.
"Yeah. 'Boyfriend' or 'Something' is about as close as I can come to narrowing it down." Kenyon said with a smile, then thought to add, "So far, our relationship doesn't seem to be 'typical'. I don't know what to call it, or how it's going to turn out. But with things being like they are... I don't have anything else to hold onto."
"People don't like me. I piss them off."
"Yeah. I can see that." Kenyon said honestly, in a completely non-judgemental tone.
"I don't know if I'll ever find someone who understands me like Joseph understands you."
"Don't give up, Aaron. I'm not saying that if you keep looking that you'll find someone. What I'm saying is that when you give up trying, then your chances are a lot worse." Kenyon said as they entered the Blue and Gray room.
The three girls in blue in the room were silent and didn't seem to notice them passing through.
Once they were in the Gray hallway, Kenyon quietly said, "In a way, I think you're kind of lucky."
Aaron looked at him with surprise, then cautiously asked, "How's that?"
"You don't automatically fall into line and conform with everyone else. I mean, yeah, it may cause you some challenges when people don't know how to deal with you. But you get to be yourself and have your own independent ideas. Not everyone has that."
"I still think that I'd like to try being 'normal', at least for a day."
"Normal is overrated. Normal is always going around saying things you don't mean and acting like you feel things that you don't, because it's expected. You spend your whole day lying and pretending. And while you're doing that, you're always careful not to do anything that will make it seem like you have any independent thoughts or feelings. After all of that, if you make it through without screwing up and if you're really lucky, you get to do it all again the next day... and the next... forever." Kenyon said as they spotted the Gray and Purple meeting room ahead.
"Is that what it's really like to be normal?"
"Nah. It's only like that if you think. If you're able to turn your thinking mind off and lose yourself in the fantasy, then I guess it's not too bad. If you get good enough at it, you might even be able to convince yourself that you're happy."
* * * * *
As Kenyon and Aaron walked into the room, they found Jason talking with Doug and Mark, discussing what to do next. "I don't know if any of the Grays have had their abilities become active yet. At least, no one's mentioned it, if they have."
"The healers will probably be able to figure out how to do the healing part, but without an empath to 'spot' for them, we're going to have healers dropping over left and right from overusing their abilities." Kenyon injected into their conversation, then added, "And we still don't know what happens to a healer when they go too far. I for one, don't want to find out."
"I'm not saying that I don't want to help, I just don't know what to do."
"Start waking people up and then test them to see if they're empathic."
"How..." Jason started to ask, then looked around the group, with his focus stopping on Aaron.
"If you wouldn't mind helping me, we might be able to make this work."
"What do I have to do?"
"When we go in and wake someone up, all you'll need to do is stand there and be in pain. If they can sense your pain, we'll recruit them."
"You're in pain?" Kenyon asked Aaron with concern.
"Other people's pain is worse than mine. I can live with it."
"As soon as we're done recruiting empaths, I'm going to heal you."
"Shouldn't you save that for the people who need it?"
"It's my ability. I'm the one who chooses who I heal. When we're done, I'm healing you."
* * * * *
"Mission accomplished!" Kenyon said as he walked into the Blue and Green meeting room with Aaron at his side.
Following along behind them was a group of five girls, all dressed in gray.
Joseph recognized Autumn, but while he had seen some of the others around, he hadn't learned their names.
"Thank you for helping us. As soon as we get some healers for you to work with, I think that you're going to be able to help a lot of people." Joseph said to the group.
"What do you need for us to do?" Autumn asked carefully.
"Actually, there's not much that you can do until Zarah gets back here."
"Did I hear my name?" Zarah asked as she walked through the doorway from the Green hallway.
"How did it go? Did you find any?"
"You asked for six, I brought six." Zarah said with accomplishment.
When Joseph saw the girls filing into the room, he recognized Valerie and Madison from 'The Amazon' and Denise, who had been working as security for Korbin in the Red and Orange room.
Before he could say anything to greet them, he noticed a girl, dressed in yellow, at Valerie's side.
Zarah recognized Joseph's look and quietly said, "That's Kimberly."
"It's nice to meet you, Kimberly. I'm glad that you're back." Joseph said to her, then said to the group, "I guess you all know why you're here. The Grays can sense pain, so they can tell you where someone is hurting, this will enable you to direct your healing to where it's most needed. They can also keep an eye on you to see that you aren't depleting your own energy too rapidly. Working together, we're hoping that you'll be able to heal a lot of suffering people."
"Can we get started?" Valerie asked impatiently.
Joseph realized that the girls, the Oranges in particular, weren't comfortable with him telling them what to do, so he looked to Zarah to take over for him.
"I was thinking that we could start with the Green hallway. If everyone will team up, I think we'll just dive right in and see how it goes."
Joseph was happy to see that the girls had no problem with Zarah's plan and they all sprang into action.
* * * * *
"Valerie's got it under control. They'll be fine." Zarah said as she walked back into the meeting room.
"Good. We need you here." Joseph stated as a simple fact.
"When we told Valerie about her healing ability, the first thing she wanted to do was go and heal Kimberly." Zarah said as she took the seat at Joseph's side.
"Did Kimberly mention anything about what happened to her during her time away?"
"No. She blacked out, just like the rest of us, then she woke up. She mentioned that she had some vivid dreams, but she didn't remember them."
"Yeah. That's what Tanner said, too."
"I told the Oranges that when they get to the Orange hallway, they need to see if they can find anyone else who has their healing ability active. It felt like we were running out of time, so I stopped looking when we reached six."
"I think that you've done everything that you can with the healers. Right now, we need to see what we can come up with about the 'earthquake'. I have a feeling that it wasn't just some trick to amp up the stress. I think it means something."
* * * * *
"Joseph! There you are! I didn't think I was ever going to find you!" Kyle said as he entered the meeting room from the Blue hallway.
"Everyone, this is Kyle." Joseph said to the group around the table, then turned to Kyle and asked, "What's up?"
"I don't know what happened. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Korbin got this really bad bloody nose, then he passed out. Nothing caused it."
"I'll go." Kenyon said as he started to stand.
"No. Not without someone to 'spot' you." Joseph said firmly.
"I'll stop by and ask Jason if he has anyone that he can spare to go with me."
Joseph struggled with the decision for a moment, but could see Kenyon's determination to help.
"Okay." Joseph relented, then turned to Kyle and asked, "Will you go with Kenyon? We don't know what kind of a toll the healing has on people and I don't want to take the chance of him passing out again."
"Let me know if you need me." Joseph called after them as he watched them hurry away.
* * * * *
The group around the table were racking their brains, trying to come up with any plausible explanation for what the vibration earlier might have been.
Although they had come up with a few different theories, none of them fully explained what was happening to them.
"The computer stopped working!" A girl in blue said as she hurried into the meeting room.
"What?" Joseph asked with surprise.
"I asked it for a glass of water and it didn't respond. I tried all the different commands that I've used so far and none of them worked." The girl said urgently.
"We'd better go check this out." Joseph said as he stood.
The others around the table did likewise.
They walked as a group into the hallway and each went to their own individual room to see if they could get a response from their own computers.
* * * * *
Joseph tried everything that he could think of, but he had no better result than what Kelly had described.
As he walked out into the hallway, he found a few others already there and from their expressions, he surmised that none of them had any better luck.
"Doug, you remember Jude, don't you?"
"The Red guy?"
"That's right. As far as I know, he's the closest thing we have to a computer expert, especially when it comes to one with a verbal interface. Will you go to the Red and Black meeting room and ask him to try his computer and see what he can come up with?"
"See what he says and report back. Without the computer, we can't get food."
* * * * *
When Joseph returned to the meeting room, he could see that everyone present was as worried as he was.
Unfortunately, he found that he didn't have any words of encouragement to offer to improve the situation.
"Joseph!" A boy dressed in yellow called as he ran into the room from the Green hallway.
"What now?" Joseph asked in a pained voice. He knew from the boy's expression that whatever he was about to say couldn't be good news.
"You need to go to the Red and Orange room, right now!"
"Hold on, Dennis. I've already sent Kenyon down to help heal Korbin. I'm sure that he's going to be alright."
"That's not the problem! Come on, we need you there NOW!" Dennis said as he seemed to be fighting the urge to grab Joseph and drag him away.
Joseph turned to Zarah and quietly asked, "You got this?"
"Yeah. Go on."
"Come on!" Dennis called.
"I'm on my way."
* * * * *
"What's going on?" Joseph asked as he fought to keep up with Dennis.
"Stone and Alyssa figured out the Yellow psychic ability."
"What is it?"
"I don't know the technical term for it... fortune telling or... I don't know... seeing the future or something." Dennis said as they passed several Orange and Gray clad individuals, all hard at work in consecutive bedrooms.
"Do you have that ability?"
"I knew you were going to ask that." Dennis said playfully.
"What's going on? Why does Korbin need me?" Joseph asked, but before he could receive an answer, they arrived in the Yellow and Green meeting room.
"Can you tell me what's going on?" Joseph asked as he stopped.
"We don't have time. Go on. Cory will go with you and explain what we've been able to figure out." Stone answered.
Although Joseph wanted to question further, he could tell that Stone and Alyssa both believed that he needed to keep moving.
* * * * *
Dennis was ahead of them, but Cory was right at Joseph's side as they jogged down the Yellow hallway.
"Can you tell me what's going on and why we're hurrying?" Joseph asked with annoyance.
"Stone and Alyssa both got some of this while we were all isolated, but now they're drugged and can't see anything. Dennis and I have both had our abilities awaken and we've started getting flashes of the things that are going to happen and a lot of different things that might happen..." Cory trailed off.
Without missing a beat, Joseph picked up the thread, "...because the future is unwritten and with every possible decision there are multiple futures as a consequence."
"No wonder they told us to get you. That's right. With the glimpses that Dennis and I got put with what Stone and Alyssa got before the blackout, we figured out that you needed to be in the Red and Orange room." Cory said as they passed through the Yellow and Orange room at a steady run.
Joseph caught a glimpse of a few Orange and Yellow girls sitting in there, but they seemed to be barely aware of what was going on around them.
"What do I need to do when I get there?" Joseph asked as they ran into the Orange hallway.
"That's the thing. We don't know. The only thing that we've been able to see for sure is that if you aren't in the Red and Orange room when you're supposed to be, bad things will happen."
Before Joseph could formulate another question to ask, they rushed into the Red and Orange room, where Korbin was on the floor with Kenyon, holding his open palms over Korbin's eyes.
Although Joseph had a variety of questions on his mind at that moment, the first one to make its way to his mouth was directed at Kenyon. "How are you?"
"I'm fine. Jason's keeping a close watch on me."
"Thanks, Jayce." Joseph said with a smile up at his much taller friend.
After an indulgent moment of basking in the relief of knowing that Jason and Kenyon were safe and well, Joseph turned to Dennis and Cory and asked, "I'm here. Now what?"
"We don't know that. We just know that you need to be here when 'it' happens." Cory answered.
"We just don't know what 'it' is, yet." Dennis added.
Accepting that asking further questions of the pair was unlikely to lead to anything productive, Joseph instead turned his attention back to Jason and asked, "What's wrong with Korbin?"
"I don't know. He doesn't have any pain so there's not much I can do to direct Kenyon. I'm just keeping an eye on him to be sure that he doesn't push himself too far."
Joseph nodded, then turned to the rest of the occupants of the room and asked, "Do you know what Korbin was doing when this happened?"
"We don't know what happened." Kyle answered. "We were all standing here, trying to decide what to do to try and break through this wall when blood started running out of his nose."
"Well, if he wasn't doing anything, was he saying..." Joseph trailed off as he saw blood starting to trickle onto the upper lip of one of the other boys dressed in red. "Jayce! See if you can tell what's going on, while it's happening!"
Jason focused all of his attention on the boy and slowly started shaking his head.
Randa and another red clad boy helped to ease the bleeding boy down to the floor, positioning him next to Korbin.
"I think I know." The boy with the bloody nose said weakly.
Joseph knelt beside him and quietly asked, "What do you know?"
"The Red ability... I think I know what it is."
Randa ran up to the group and handed the boy a handful of toilet paper.
"Thanks." The boy said with a quick smile at her, then began to dab at his nose.
"What's your ability?" Joseph asked.
"Right here." The other red clad boy answered as he moved to be more in the boy's line of sight.
"Would you give me one of your shoelaces for a minute?"
"Yeah. Just for a minute."
"Okay." Ben said before sitting on the floor to unlace one of his boots.
"Help me to sit up."
"Are you alright?" Joseph asked with concern.
"Yeah... Well, maybe. I think I got this figured out, just let me see if I'm right."
Joseph braced the boy so that he could sit up and was supporting most of his weight.
"Here it is. Where do you need it?" Ben asked as he held out his shoelace.
"Just put it on the floor, where I can see it."
Ben did so, then everyone watched and waited.
"I think..." The boy said in concentration.
Joseph's eyes went wide as the shoelace began to twitch and move, all on it's own.
"I was right..." The boy said with satisfaction as the shoelace literally began to slither on the floor beside him.
When the shoelace suddenly stopped moving, Joseph looked down at the boy in his arms with concern and found that he was passed out cold with fresh blood running from his nose.
"Kenyon. Do you think you can stop his bleeding?" Joseph asked suddenly.
"I can try." Kenyon said as he moved away from Korbin and shifted a few feet over.
"Be careful, you're close to your limit." Jason warned him.
"Just let me know when." Kenyon responded, then placed his open palms over the boy's eyes.
Randa was using toilet paper to sop up the blood while Kenyon worked to heal whatever was causing it to flow in the first place.
Joseph looked around and his gaze stopped on Dennis and Cory, standing side by side. "Is this what you needed me here for?"
"I don't know." Dennis admitted.
Cory had a deeply contemplative expression and Joseph waited to find out what was on his mind.
"I don't think so... not yet." Cory said slowly, as though he were looking at something far distant.
"Korbin's waking up!" Kyle happily announced.
Joseph turned to see Korbin's eyes slowly opening.
"How are you feeling?" Joseph asked as he hurried to Korbin's side.
"Alright... I think. What happened?"
"You passed out from a bloody nose."
"Yeah. It's beginning to look like the Reds are telekinetic. If that's the case, your nosebleed could be an indication that your power is awakening."
Korbin seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. He finally slowly said, "I was so focused on that wall, trying to think of anything we could do to break through it that I might have been trying to break through it with my mind."
"You might want to start with something a little bit smaller."
A sudden movement in his peripheral vision caused Joseph to turn in time to see Cory and Dennis running away, down the Red hallway.
"What's up with them?" Kyle asked curiously.
"They say that they can get glimpses of the future and I guess whatever they saw told them that they need to be somewhere other than here."
"Should we, maybe, be somewhere other than here, too?"
"They said that I need to be here for something."
"Did they say for what?"
* * * * *
"What did you need?" Doug asked as he ran into the meeting room, from the Red hallway, directing his question at Joseph.
"Those guys in yellow said that you needed us in here."
Joseph looked past Doug and saw Jude and Tanner approaching. He then quickly asked, "Where are the Yellow guys?"
"When they were done talking to us, they left down the Black hallway." Jude said simply, then asked, "What did you need?"
Before Joseph could answer, a low vibration in the floor caught his attention.
"It's starting again!" Korbin called out.
"The doors! They're closing!" Randa screamed.
Joseph turned and saw that walls were sliding into place on both sides of the room, effectively blocking them off from both hallways.
The vibration in the room was deafening and Joseph once again found that he had to fight to maintain his balance.
* * * * *
"There's something I don't understand." Jason said quietly from Joseph's side, breaking the long silence that had fallen over the room.
"There's a lot of things I don't understand." Joseph automatically answered as his mind fought to process what had just happened to them.
"The Yellow guys brought you here for a reason... I don't get that."
"Maybe it's just so that I could be trapped in the same place with the two of you. I can't think of any real reason for me to be here. But since I can't think of anyone else that I'd want to be trapped with, I don't have a problem with it."
"Are you giving up?"
"I don't know what else to do. We're cut off from food and water. We're cut off from other people..."
"We need to fight. We need to find a way to break out of here." Korbin said as he straightened his posture.
"I saw that wall sliding into place. That thing's almost a foot thick. I don't care how many plastic tables you throw at it, you're not going to break it."
"Yeah. I'd come to pretty much the same conclusion about the inner walls."
"Jude? Did you come up with anything to do with the computers?"
"The vocal interface must have been turned off. None of the verbal commands are working."
Joseph nodded with resignation.
"What do we do now?" Kenyon asked anxiously. It was only then that Joseph noticed that Kenyon still had his palms covering the boy's eyes.
"Whatever happens next."
"What if nothing happens?"
"I guess we die, then."
"Do you really think so?"
The panel in one of the outer walls lit up as the computer voice said, "Level three residents. Self-destruct has been initiated. All personnel are urged to evacuate immediately. Self-destruct in forty-five minutes."
After a moment, Joseph turned to Kenyon and quietly said, "Yeah. I really think so."
"Kyle! Help me!" Korbin barked, then walked to the nearest table and began to drag it.
Kyle ran immediately to Korbin's aid, as did Randa, Doug and Ben.
"Should we help them?" Kenyon asked quietly.
"If you can think of anything that we can do that will make one bit of difference, we'll do it." Joseph said as he watched them use the table as a battering ram against the wall that blocked them from the Orange hallway.
"Kenyon, pull back. You're running out of juice." Jason quietly warned him.
"Oh, yeah. I got so caught up in everything, that I forgot that I was still doing it." Kenyon said as he took his hands off the boy's eyes.
"Thank you for doing that. It felt wonderful." The boy in red said quietly, with his eyes still closed.
"No problem." Kenyon said with a self-satisfied smile.
"Let's look at what other tools we have to work with." Joseph said thoughtfully.
"What do you mean?" Jason asked curiously.
"You can sense pain. Kenyon can heal. Jon has low level telekinesis..."
"Him." Joseph said as he pointed to the boy in red who seemed to be resting.
"Did he tell you his name?"
Joseph thought for a moment, then said, "I think I just knew it."
"What about him? The guy in red beside Kyle?"
Joseph looked at the boy, then said, "Benjamin Lee Slater, age fourteen. He's from Tappan, New York."
"The drugs must be wearing off!"
"That doesn't really do us much good. I mean, it's not like I have laser beam eyes or something useful, like that. I can just see into people's pasts."
"If you're snapping out of it, then maybe the telepaths are too! If we try, maybe we can make contact and coordinate something with them."
"I don't know what good it would do." Joseph said, then turned at the sound of something shattering.
He looked at the group of people who were all now holding separate pieces of the plastic table.
"Does anyone have any suggestions?" Korbin asked as he looked around the room.
When Korbin noticed that he was holding the remains of a table leg in one hand, he absently tossed it aside.
"How solid is the floor?" Ben asked as he stomped his foot a few times.
"If I were to guess, I'd say it's poured concrete." Korbin said frankly, then turned to Joseph and continued, "If I had a jackhammer..."
"Yeah. Sorry 'bout that." Joseph said with an unwilling grin.
A low scraping sound drew everyone's attention.
Korbin made a 'quiet' motion as he flattened himself against the wall that he had just been battering.
"Hello?" A timid voice asked from a gap between the inner walls in what had, a moment before, been a corner.
When a man with brown hair poked his head into the room to look around, Korbin moved like a flash to grab him around the neck.
"Don't let the door close!" Kyle screamed as he ran as fast as he could to block the door open.
"Who are you?! Talk or I'll break your fuckin neck!" Korbin screamed as he kept hold of the man's neck and kept him off balance.
"Korbin! Stop! You're going to kill him!" Joseph said as he ran forward and fought to get Korbin to loosen his grip enough to allow the man to breathe.
"After what he's done to us, serves him right!"
"Korbin. This is Luke. He's not a bad guy. He's only been doing what he's told to do... what he's been raised to do."
"Make one wrong move and I'll kill you." Korbin whispered to his captive before cautiously releasing him.
"Are you alright, Luke?" Joseph asked as he watched the young man fighting to catch his breath. The first, and most noticeable thing was the brown coveralls that he was wearing, but the second was the fact that Luke wasn'ta teenager. The young man was in his early to mid-twenties.
"They said that you guys were smart... I don't know how to turn it off." Luke fought to explain.
"Are you saying that you know where the control for the self-destruct mechanism is?"
Luke nodded, then pointed toward the door that Kyle was keeping propped open.
Korbin immediately started toward the door, but Joseph held up his hand and carefully asked, "If we go in there, is someone going to try and shoot us?"
"They all left. I was going for another load of boxes and they left without me..."
"Jude. You're our computer expert. Will you see if you can figure out how to turn off the self destruct?"
"No. We'll all go with you. There's nothing we can do in here." Joseph said decisively, then looked to Luke and quietly asked, "Are you okay to walk? Can you show us where the self-destruct is?"
"Yeah. We got to hurry." Luke said anxiously then led the way back through the door.
* * * * *
All of them were in awe as they stepped into the cavernous space. The room was enormous and seemed to be made entirely out of concrete.
"Where's the self-destruct?" Joseph asked distractedly.
"Right here. That's why I used this door." Luke said quickly, then motioned to a control console that looked like it came straight out of a 1950's sci fi movie.
"Jude, I hope you're good with legacy computer systems." Joseph said hesitantly as he stared at the electronic monstrosity dubiously.
"I can't even get Windows XP to work right." Jude said absently as he looked briefly at the CRT monitor screen.
"Can you shut it off?"
"Not from here. This is just a display. This... console is dedicated to something to do with water reclamation... I think." Jude said, then walked from console to console trying to identify the purpose of each different workstation.
"Do you know which one of these is the self-destruct?" Joseph asked Luke hopefully.
"No. I thought it was this one, since it said 'Self-Destruct' on the screen."
"Do you think some more brain power might help?" Jason asked as he approached Joseph's side.
"What have you got in mind?"
"Let's see if we can figure out how to open all the doors. The way it all shut down at once, there must be a button or a lever somewhere that will open them back up."
"Luke, do you know where that is?"
"I just sweep floors and carry stuff."
"Korbin, would you get a few people and start opening the secret doors to all the meeting rooms? We can't do anything to help the people who are in their bedrooms, but it's better than nothing."
"Randa, Ben, Jon... you too, Kyle. Help me." Korbin called out.
"Doug, Jason and Kenyon, would you come with Luke and me to see if we can find the release lever?" Joseph asked quickly.
"If you happen to run into the self-destruct console, would you let me know? I still haven't found it." Jude asked frantically.
"Believe me, if we find it, you'll know!"
* * * * *
"Do you know where we are?" Joseph asked Luke quietly.
"In the command center."
"No. I mean, do you know where this base is located? The city or state or... anything?"
"No. My whole life they've been talking about when it was going to be time for all of us to go and do God's work. When they said it was time, they made me take a pill and I went to sleep, then I woke up here."
"Who is 'they'?"
"My pa and the elders... we're not supposed to talk about it."
"Elders? Like a church?"
"Yes. We're the First Order of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints."
"The First Order? What does that mean?" Kenyon asked cautiously.
Having determined that none of the consoles that they were looking at were anything important, Joseph motioned for them to walk to another bank of controls.
"In a church like ours, you can't join and you can't leave. You have to be born into the church."
"Well, from the look of it, even if you can't leave it, it can leave you." Joseph muttered.
"Everyone in my family, everyone in the church, has been trained for all their lives to work here. My grandpa trained my ma on how to be a doctor."
"Yeah, because medical schools are so overrated." Joseph said absently as he tried to comprehend the antique technology that he was looking at.
"Maybe you want to look over there. I wasn't ever even allowed to sweep over there." Luke said as he pointed.
"Stay and check this out. I'll go have a look." Joseph said to Kenyon and Jason.
Doug looked at Joseph inquiringly and Joseph tilted his head, indicating for him to come along.
"Your twelve-year-old sister got married?!" Doug asked Luke suddenly.
Luke looked at Joseph with confusion.
"We've got psychic powers." Joseph explained simply, then slowly asked, "Did your twelve-year-old sister get married?"
"We're not supposed to talk about it."
"She married a fifty-year-old man?!" Doug asked disbelievingly.
"Doug, let it go. Self-destruct... remember?" Joseph asked quietly.
"Oh, yeah." Doug said as they walked up to another bank of control panels.
* * * * *
"This looks promising." Joseph said, then called across the room, "Jude! You might want to have a look at this!"
"On my way!"
"This is sick." Doug said as he looked at all the different small television screens, each tracking the movements of a different person.
"We knew they were watching us."
"We thought they were watching us. There's a difference between making the assumption and knowing for sure."
"I don't see a cancel button, here." Joseph said as he looked carefully at the console.
"Wait! Is that the door control?" Doug asked as he pointed.
Joseph moved around to the control panel that Doug was indicating.
"Yes. I'm guessing that each one of these toggles works a door." Joseph said speculatively. "You flip the ones you want, then you press the big red button to make them all move at once."
"Can you do just one to try it out and see if it works?"
"Yeah. Let's see... I think from the way these things are labeled, that this one should work the door in the Blue and Green room that opens to the Green hallway. Can you see if we have a picture of that on the screens over there?"
"Yeah." Doug said as he hurried around to the other side.
"What's going on?" Jason asked as he and Kenyon approached.
"I think we found a way to open the doors between the meeting rooms and the hallways."
"What about the self-destruct?" Kenyon asked cautiously.
"I think we found that, too. Jude's looking at it now."
"I found the screen. Try the door." Doug called out.
"Here we go." Joseph called in return, then flipped one single toggle before depressing the big red button.
"Good. Then get ready because I'm going to open them all up." Joseph said as he started flipping toggles.
"What does it matter if the doors are open or not if the self-destruct goes off?" Jason asked reasonably.
"With two hundred people brainstorming the problem, maybe we'll be able to find some way around that." Joseph answered with a shrug.
"Don't forget the Whites." Luke said quietly.
"What was that?"
Luke pointed to a central structure in the cavernous space and said, "They keep the 'Whites' in there."
"Do you mean that there's other people locked up in here besides us?"
"I overheard them talking about the Whites, sometimes. I even got to feed them once, when my brother Matthew was feeling sick."
"So, what are the Whites like?" Joseph asked as he started walking toward the enclosure.
"I don't know. I never seen them. I just loaded their food dispensers that one time. The elders never even said that there was people in there, but we all knew it because we loaded up the same 'snail trail' for them as we did for you... and for us."
"Where did you come up with the name 'Snail Trail'?"
"From Matthew, I think. He heard it somewhere and told me about it." Luke said thoughtfully, then quickly added, "Just about everyone called it that... at least when the elders weren't around."
"Kenyon, it looks like your wit and charm reached far beyond our captivity."
"I'd be just fine if it didn't."
As they stopped at the side of the large concrete structure, Joseph quietly asked, "How do you get inside?"
"I don't know. The place where you put the food in is on the corner through there and the corner back on the other side, but I don't know how you get in the middle part, where the Whites are." Luke said honestly.
"Well, being a big concrete cube, there's only so many possibilities. Let's walk the perimeter. If we don't find a door, then we'll just see what we can do from the feeding stations." Joseph said simply.
"Do you want us to go check those now?" Doug suggested carefully.
"Let's do this first." Joseph said as he started walking.
"What's through this door?" Joseph asked as they approached double doors abutting the side of the cube.
"That's the crew area, our sleeping quarters and dining hall." Luke answered.
"Maybe we'll check it out later. Right now I want to see if we can find a way to get the White's out of here." Joseph said as he pushed open the double doors.
* * * * *
"It's weird, it being quiet, like this." Luke whispered.
"What does that door go to?" Joseph asked as he pointed.
"I don't know. I never noticed it being there before."
"From where it's positioned, it probably opens into the White area." Joseph said frankly, then stopped to look at the lock.
"What do you think it would take? A sledgehammer?" Kenyon asked speculatively.
"Luke, do you know where they keep the keys?"
"Yeah. In the lock box in the command center."
"Do you know where they keep the key to the lock box?"
"Yeah. They leave it in a drawer for me, so I don't keep bothering them, asking for it."
Joseph squatted down and looked carefully at the number engraved on the lock, then said, "Why don't you show me where?"
* * * * *
"Do we really have time for this? I mean, with the self-destruct and everything?" Kenyon asked anxiously.
"What do you think the chances are that we're going to be able to shut it off?"
"Somewhere between slim and none."
"By the way I figure it, our chances can only improve with more minds focusing on the problem."
"It's right here." Luke said as he pointed to a box on the wall.
"If you'll go ahead and open it up, we'll see if we can find the key to the White room."
* * * * *
As Joseph waited, Tanner hurried up to him and said, "Jude said that that console is just the interface with all the little computers in the bedrooms and the intercom in the meeting rooms. It doesn't have anything to do with the actual self-destruct mechanism."
"We've got people coming in here from every direction. Tell them what you're looking for and get them to help you find it."
"Jude doesn't think that it's here. He thinks that the self-destruct was triggered from somewhere else. All we've got here is the warning system, telling us that we need to evacuate."
"That's really nice, since we don't know of a way out..." Joseph trailed off, then slowly turned and asked, "Luke? Do you know how to get out of here?"
"No. They pulled the ramp up." Luke said as he pointed toward the ceiling.
"How do you get the ramp to go back down?"
"I heard Matthew say that he didn't like that we can't open it from inside. He said that if there was a fire or something that we couldn't get out unless someone outside let the ramp down for us." Luke said seriously, then asked, "Do you know what key you want?"
Joseph looked into the open lock box, with over a hundred keys, each on a little peg, each with a little tag. It took him a few minutes of searching, but he finally took one key off its peg and looked at the number engraved on it.
"I think we've got the one we need." Joseph said, then noticed that Tanner was still waiting.
"Look. I don't know what to tell you. If there's a self-destruct running, we've got to find a way to stop it... maybe if it was activated from the outside you could try to find a way to call for help."
"Communications! Of course. I'll go tell him!"
"Let's hope that this works." Joseph said as he held up the key and started walking back toward the concrete structure in the middle of the hall.
* * * * *
As Joseph and his crew passed through the double doors, Zarah spotted him and said, "Joseph! There you are!"
"I'm glad to see that you made it out of there."
"Yeah. Have you seen over there yet?" Zarah asked as she pointed to the corner, opposite the one that Joseph had entered from.
"No. We've only made it this far." Joseph answered as he walked to the door and inserted the key.
"We found our missing people. They're all unconscious and hooked up to IV bags. It looks like a hospital over there. I don't know what they were doing to them, but they just left them... they didn't even wake them up."
"Those that work in the medical ward are trained to do only as they are told. They are taught only as much as they need to know and nothing more. I was told never to speak to them and they were told only to speak to me to let me know when they needed cleaning or supplies."
"Hasn't your drug worn off yet?"
"Oh, yeah." Zarah mumbled, then admitted, "I forgot I could do that."
Luke looked back and forth between them, obviously not knowing what they were talking about.
Joseph didn't have any psychic insights telling him, but he nonetheless had the feeling that Luke wore that puzzled expression a lot.
"It's nice to meet you, Luke. I'm Zarah."
"Yeah. It's nice to meet you, too. I never really met any girls who weren't my family before." Luke said with a huge grin.
"Hold that thought." Joseph said, then turned the key.
* * * * *
Upon opening the door, the last thing that Joseph expected to find was a blank wall.
"You unlatch it, down there." Luke said as he moved beside Joseph and pointed.
"Can you show me?" Joseph asked, not seeing what Luke was indicating.
Luke walked past Joseph and undid a small latch at the edge of the wall. After doing so, Luke pushed on the wall, causing it to pivot on some hidden, central axis.
"No wonder we couldn't figure out where the doors were." Jason chuckled.
"You can't keep us in here! Let us out!" A girl, dressed in white coveralls, screamed as she staggered toward the open door.
"Don't worry, Cassie. We're keeping the door open." Joseph assured her.
"Did you stop the self-destruct?" Cassie asked in panic as she finally made her way to the door.
"No. We were actually hoping that you might be able to help us with that." Joseph said as she passed by him.
Joseph looked into the room to find five other people, dressed in white, looking back at him.
"Well, do you want to leave or not?"
All of them got up from the table and started for the door at the same time.
Joseph started to back away and bumped into Jason, who was standing behind him.
"Back up. We're about to get stampeded."
Jason seemed to be frozen in place, staring at one of the 'Whites'.
The boy that he was looking at smiled and said, "Actually, it's Theodore, now. I told you that I'd see you again."
Joseph looked at Jason in time to see all the color drain out of his face. "What's wrong?"
"Close the door."
"Too late." Joseph said as the five remaining occupants of the 'meeting hall' stumbled past them.
The last of the group was Theodore. He stopped between Jason and Joseph long enough to say, "Now things get interesting."
Joseph was confused by the terrified look on Jason's face and wished that he had better control of his gift so that he could 'know' what was wrong with him.
"Remember the self-destruct?" Kenyon asked in an urging tone.
"Um, yeah." Joseph said distractedly, then put a hand on Jason's arm and guided him to walk away from the 'White' area.
As they walked away, back toward the double doors that led to the 'command center', Jason quietly said, "I think you just made things a whole lot worse."
"What's wrong?" Joseph asked as they walked.
Jason shook his head, then said, "Kenyon's right. We need to get the self-destruct stopped before we worry about anything else."
Joseph shared a look with Kenyon, but didn't dispute Jason's words.
* * * * *
"Does anyone know how to stop a self-destruct mechanism? Time is running out!" Joseph asked the nearly fifty people who were milling around the command center and the accompanying area that looked to be something of a machine room.
A boy in white leaned against one of the control panels and said, "If they didn't have me so drugged up, I could probably find out what we need to know. But I can't help you like I am now."
From all appearances, Joseph would be willing to bet that as casually as the boy was acting, he was probably propping himself up like that because he wouldn't be able to stand upright for any length of time.
"I'm sorry, Gary. But I don't think we have any way of helping you with that... unless... do you think that a psychic healer could do anything about the drugs?"
"No. We've tried that. Cassie can do healing, but the drugs are like poison in our systems. Nothing gets rid of them but time... Speaking of time, do you have any idea of when it is? I mean, the day and date?"
"No. I was able to estimate it for a little while, but now I have no idea."
"Do you know what year it is?" The youngest among the whites asked anxiously.
"It's probably still 2012. I don't think it's past Christmas yet."
"2012? I've been here three years!?" The girl asked before breaking down into tears.
"Three years? We've only been here about a month... as far as I know." Joseph said as he tried to find any indication that his estimates of time might have been severely off.
"I've been here almost five years." The boy that Jason had called Teddy, said as he approached.
He didn't give any outward appearance of being drugged, but Joseph supposed that it might just be an act that he'd been able to perfect in the years that he had been having to deal with it.
"They've kept me psychically blinded most of the time, but I saw this day coming. I saw what was going to happen next."
"What? Can you tell us?"
"Don't." Jason said under his breath as he stepped to Joseph's side.
"C'mon, Jason K, don't be mean. Did you know that you're the first friend I ever had?" Theodore asked with a crooked smile that sent a shiver up Joseph's spine.
"How can you call me your friend after telling me all those horrible things?"
"I only told you the truth." Theodore said with a shrug.
"Joseph, don't listen to him. It's true that he can see into the future, but he'll tell you just enough of the truth to get you to do what he wants you to."
"I was a kid with a really, really big psychic ability. Sometimes I used it to hurt people and... yeah, sometimes I used it to hurt them before they had the chance to hurt me. But that's because I could see what they were capable of. I knew what they'd do if I didn't stop them."
"Is that what you did to me?"
"No. You're my friend. For you, I did what I had to do to make things turn out right, so that you'd be right here, right now."
"So, what happens next?"
"That's a good question. Thanks to them chemically blinding me for all these years, I've only caught flashes of the possible futures and I have no way of knowing how many of those futures aren't possible anymore."
"Do you know how to disarm the self-destruct?" Joseph interrupted.
"No. I don't know that."
"Then you guys can work out the rest later... assuming that we have a later. Right now it's looking like we only have about fifteen minutes left to live."
"Tina? How's your flames?" Theodore asked loudly.
"No fire. Not even any smoke." One of the younger 'White' girls responded.
"Jesse? How about you? How's your second sight?"
"Blinder than a bat." The girl who had been crying earlier answered.
Theodore then turned to Joseph and said, "When we're not drugged out of our minds, we're actually kinda useful."
"Any of us who've shown that we have an ability were drugged during the last blackout. It's starting to wear off, but I don't think that any of us are up to doing very much."
"Yeah." Theodore acknowledged, then his gaze shifted to Luke before he slowly asked, "Is it just me, or does someone seem out of place here?"
"Luke works here. He was left behind by his people when the base was evacuated."
"Then why are you asking me how to turn off the self-destruct? You should be asking him!"
"I did. He said that he doesn't know."
"And you believed him?"
"That's my ability. I can see his past. I know what kind of a person he is. Luke doesn't lie." Joseph said seriously, then looked Theodore in the eyes and said, "You, on the other hand..."
"Yeah. Yeah. You can go ahead and tell me how evil I am after we figure out how to neutralize the explosive charges."
"Explosive charges? Are you telling me that you know where the self-destruct mechanism is located?"
"In general, yeah. But it's somewhere that we can't reach it."
"What about the control system? Do you know where that is?"
"About a thousand... or fifteen hundred miles from here... as the crow flies."
"So, there's no way to shut it off from here?"
"Nope. It's possible to neutralize the explosive charges at this location. But it's not possible to do anything from inside this base."
"How sure are you?"
"Since it's my life at stake, let's just say that I was sufficiently motivated to pay attention to that particular vision. But I've been so drugged up for the past few years that I've only been able to get flashes of visions and all kinds of things might have changed since then. But from all that I know, there is absolutely no way that we can disarm or disable the self-destruct ourselves. We're going to need help."
"Greens! Do we have any telepaths who are strong enough to call to anyone outside?" Joseph asked as he looked around at the Greens dotted amongst the other colors.
"Our strongest telepath couldn't call to the far side of this room." Wade answered.
"Yellows? Does anyone have a vision of the future that can give us a hint of what we can do to save ourselves?" Joseph called out to the crowd in general.
"We already did it." Dennis said, with Cory at his side.
"What do we have to do now?"
"We don't know that. We were just able to see that if Luke were killed, then a lot of people would die. You being there to protect him made it possible for all of us to be here now." Dennis said seriously.
"Why didn't you just tell me that?"
"Because that could have changed what you did or how you did it. We just had to get you to be in the right place at the right time, then leave you to it." Cory explained.
"They're right. That's how it works." Theodore said with a nod.
"But what do we do now?"
Cory and Dennis looked at each other for a moment, then Dennis finally said, "There's layers on top of layers of things that could happen and some of them aren't too nice. There's no way that we can see past that. But there's at least a chance that someone from outside is going to stop the self-destruct and rescue us. We need to be ready for that and be sure that no one gets left behind."
"Okay." Joseph said thoughtfully, then looked around and said, "Each leader, take a team to sweep your area to see that we haven't forgotten anyone. If you find someone who is too sick to move, come back here and get a healing team. We've only got a few minutes to do this, make it count!"
"What about Julie? Zarah said that they've got her sedated." Jude asked anxiously.
"Yeah. Actually, there's about eight of them, like that." Tanner added.
"Jayce, can you handle that?"
"Yeah. Kenyon, will you help me?"
"Autumn, will you take a team to check the Gray section?" Jason asked hopefully.
"I've got it!"
As Joseph was watching everyone spring into action, he noticed Theodore ripping the wires from inside a control panel.
Joseph walked up beside him and quietly asked, "What are you doing?"
"This thing generates the tone to put us into a hypnotic state... or at least it used to. No one is going to be using this thing on us again."
"Who would have thought that a retrocog would step up and become the leader? I never saw that coming."
"Retrocognition. It's one of the base abilities of clairvoyance. I never saw much use for it, but you seem to make it work."
"What did you do to Jason?"
After a moment to consider, Theodore quietly said, "I hurt him. I made promises that I didn't keep, then I ran away and left him all alone. The funny thing is, I already knew that I couldn't get away. I'd seen it. I went through all of that for Jason, just so that he'd be in the right state of mind so that he'd be selected for the program so we could be here now."
"I love him."
"So do I." Theodore said simply, then added, "But you don't need to worry about it. I love him the way that seven-year-old best friends love each other."
"Joseph! We found some stretchers. Do you want for us to load up the sedated patients?" Wade asked as he quickly approached with Ryan at his side.
"Sounds good. You can set them down right over there, so they'll be close at hand when the ramp drops down."
"When the ramp drops down? You sound pretty sure about how things are going to turn out." Theodore said with a teasing grin.
"Well, if I'm wrong, who's going to know?"
Well, I'm certainly not a precog, so I'm not going to be able to figure out what happens, other than to say that I sure hope there is another story to follow, and get these people out of there.
Darryl The Radio Rancher