Part 49 of an original tale that delves into the unexplored realms of the human mind. Hired by her lover to find a raven haired beauty, Benjamin Bering must avoid the local police as well as the agents of a nonexistent government agency who are after him and the woman. There are just two problems. The woman is in a coma and her body has been stolen. (Part 1 can be found HERE.)
To my amazement Michelle seemed unaffected by the electrical charges encompassing her body. I wondered if perhaps it was the strength of male body that was making her impervious to the very same energy that had knocked Dave ten feet across the room.
She clinched her fists and closed her eyes. She then cried out, "Enough!
A surreal scene unfolded before my eyes. The room and everything in it seemed to shimmer. Blinking my eyes, they focused again on the room as it had appeared several seconds earlier. The door to the corridor was closed. Michael was gone. Dave was standing on his feet. O'Day's revolver was still in its holster. The only thing different was Michelle's pose with her clinched fists and closed eyes.
A confused Dave was looking down at his body. Brock O'Day was rubbing an unwounded shoulder. Stu, who had been unaffected during Michael's appearance mumbled, "What in the hell was that?"
"It was imagery projected into our minds! It was not real," Michelle shouted. "I was able to interrupt his thoughts. When I did, the visions left our minds."
Stu was scratching his head when he asked, "Didn't you say he couldn't get into our heads unless we're hooked up to those headpieces?"
She nodded, "Yes, I did. I don't know how he did it. His mind is far more powerful that I thought. I don't know ... unless he has somehow managed to interact with the computer or a certain program to boost his brain wave activity."
"Over here!" shouted Dave who had been checking the various lab doors. He opened one of the doors and stepped inside.
O'Day was the next to enter the lab. "It's General Gates!" he exclaimed. "I think he's ... dead!"
We stood in awe for a moment as we gazed upon a curious ovate structure dominating the room. At first observation, one could easily conjure up images of a giant egg being incubated. Its opalescent surface was being fed by a myriad of wires and cables which originated somewhere behind the ceiling and walls of the lab. It was through a four-foot square window that we could see Gates, a grotesque mask of death frozen upon his face.
The others were exchanging glances as I pulled aside a partially open glass door to the strange enclosure in which Gates sat slumped before a futuristic control panel. I reached for his wrist, but the cold lifeless flesh left no doubt that I would not find a pulse.
"What's he in ... a god damned Easter egg?" asked O'Day.
"It's the control center for the whole complex," Dave uttered. "From in there he would be able to run, monitor and defend this place from an all-out siege."
"A siege? What was he expecting ... Armageddon?" Stu barked.
"The gas killed him. He didn't stand a chance." Dave observed. "He exposed himself to the gas. Why would he leave the door to the module open?" He looked at me for an answer to his query.
"You said that he had access and control to the network, right?" I asked him. When he affirmed that fact I mused, "Then he had to have known that the cylinders of gas had not only been changed to cyanide gas, but had also been redirected."
"You're suggesting suicide?" Stu said in shock. "I don't buy it. He was a battle-tested veteran of World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. He would have fought until the bitter end. Suicide? I don't think so."
Michelle spoke up, "Perhaps, sacrifice would be more applicable?"
"I would call it the final act of a desperate man," boomed a voice near the entrance door. Flanked by two of the mysterious government agents, Bishop King was approaching the lab room where we were gathered.
"Ah, the mastermind behind it all, Mr. Bishop King!" I announced.
"Mr. Bering, I'm afraid you are bestowing upon me much more credit than I rightfully deserve," he answered acknowledging me. "While it is true that I've been controlling the purse strings and trying to keep a low profile, I have not in any way sanctioned the mayhem and subterfuge surrounding this research."
"That may be so that your hands are clean, Mr. King, but that makes you no less responsible," I said crossing my arms across my chest. "It appears however, that you have a major division in your ranks as to where that research is going and how it is to be used."
"Yes, I'm afraid I've crawled into bed with some rather gregarious partners, each with their own agendas. I'm sure that I need not define the ramifications of my research to the government," he glanced at the two men with him, "or the military, and you no doubt can see the benefit that it could have to the field of medicine."
Michelle with obvious disdain for him said, "Of course, the government and the military want it all for themselves and have no intentions of sharing with the medical profession."
"Alas," he shrugged, "I'm afraid you are correct." He studied her for a moment and added, "You, Ms Gray in Mr. Black's body, and your transmuted counterpart have caused quite a stir among my greedy partners. I think it is quite obvious why."
"Indeed," she responded. "The wolves are licking their chops! Imagine if you could swap minds with the CEO of your rival company, learn their corporate secrets and then swap back into your original body. Then again, why not sabotage their operations instead?"
"An astute observation as well as an excellent analogy," King asserted. "There is, however, one major problem with the procedure. The minds cannot be returned to their original bodies!"
Michelle's face turned ashen and she began to tremble with anguish. "What? What are you saying? You mean ... I am trapped in this man's body ... for the rest of my life?"
He cleared his throat and took a couple of steps in her direction, "No, that's not exactly what I'm trying to tell you, Michelle. While you cannot return to your body, you are not trapped in that body." He paused to see if what he was suggesting was registering.
"I see," she said in resignation, "You are suggesting that my mind can be transferred into still another body?"
"Wait just a minute!" I exclaimed confronting King. "Aren't we talking about ... perpetual immortality here?" I circled the man and when I faced him again I said, "You're speaking from experience ... aren't you?"
Before he could answer there was activity at the entrance to the lab area. "Excuse me. Excuse me!" Vickie the receptionist called out as she rushed toward me. "Mr. Bering, the EMTs are preparing to transport Susan. There's nothing more they can do for her here. They said they have her stabilized for now, but they are concerned about her weakening vitals. If you hurry you can see her off."
I rushed to the main lobby as if on winged feet. When I burst through the door into the lobby I found that Susan and Rosie were not where I'd left them. Behind the reception counter Mary the other receptionist was still bound to her chair. The rest of the lobby was empty. From the corner of my eye I caught movement outside the main entrance doors.
Outside I was met by Rosie and she was distraught, trembling with uncontrolled tears. I wanted to comfort her but my ears were assaulted by a sudden whine of an engine. Amid an onrush of moving air and debris being scattered across the parking lot I dashed toward the source. I knew the sound and I realized that Susan was not being transported by ambulance, but was being airlifted to a hospital.
I stood helpless as the helicopter rose to a height above the surrounding electric and telephone wires. It hovered for a moment before turning and taking flight above a nearby stand of trees. In a matter of seconds, even though I could hear the beating of the rotor blades, the craft disappeared from view.
Near hysteria Rosie threw herself against me. Even as my arms enfolded her she was pointing to the sky and screamed, "They wouldn't let me ... go with her, Ben? Why? I'm her mother!"
Fighting back my own tears I attempted to console her, "Maybe there wasn't room for any one else."
Tears streaming down her cheeks she looked up at me and asked, "Then why ... why did they let ... her go?"
I placed my hands on either side of her head and peered into her tear laden eyes and asked, "Who? They let who go?"
"Faye!" she shrieked. "Why did they ... why her?"
"Faye?" I exclaimed. "What the hell? What's she even doing here in the first place?" I didn't need this, I thought. What was Faye up to? What was her role in this mess? Was she more deeply entrenched in the whole affair than I had guessed or had imagined?
"Rosie. Rosie!" I shouted. "Where are they taking Susan? Did they say anything?"
It was only after I had guided her back inside and had situated her onto a sofa in the lobby that I was able to somewhat calm her. Vickie came forth with a glass of water and held it to Rosie's lips.
"I tried to get to you sooner, Mr. Bering," she said to me. "Everything was happening so fast. Mr. King took charge and told the men from the helicopter to induce the patient into a coma. He and some other woman were talking to them and the next thing I knew they were rushing her outside." She looked at Rosie and back to me, "I didn't know they weren't going to let her go. That's when I rushed back there to get you."
I stood up and walked over to the door. I roared aloud one word, "King!" My hands were clinched around an imaginary neck on the shoulders of the man. I stared off into the distance where the helicopter had flown. It was happening again! Another patient in a coma being transported to some unspecified location. That location was no doubt part of King's empire, some secret facility under his auspices.
(To be continued in part 50, on Monday, 5/18, with Empire of the Sons.)