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Chapter ? *The Empath Less Travelled By” w/c 1,405

08/11/2011

Chapter X The Empath Less Travelled By

Centre de Recherches General Guisan (CRGG),  Sick Bay, Rutli, Switzerland: Day Date November 2066

 

“We’ve repaired the damage to her skull and treated a minor bleed in her brain. There will be no lasting physiological damage. We’d have a normal person back on their feet in a day or two but…”

Elodie held the Doctor’s gaze and raised an eyebrow when he used the word normal. The Doctor was part of the Détachement de Reconnaissance 10, DDR 10 , the Swiss Special Forces unit in charge of security of at the Centre de Recherches General Guisan. The DDR was famous for operating what was informally called a “Humans Only” policy to recruitment. They were fierce, well-trained troops who didn’t need freak abilities to get the job done. Elodie knew exactly what the Doctor meant by normal.

The Doctor looked away first. He was not ashamed. He just didn’t want openly to challenge her authority.

“Her main problem isn’t physical,” The Doctor said. “ Her Talent seems to have taken over most of her brain activity. It’s as if she’s…”

“…Screaming.” Constantly, endlessly, hideously screaming, “Yes, I can hear her.”

The Doctor looked at Elodie for a heartbeat or two. There was no curiosity or sympathy in that look, simply a recognition of an anomaly that, for the moment, had to be tolerated.

“I’m not sure she can survive that. I’m worried she’ll go into shock and die. I’d like to induce a coma to protect her from the pain. I’d do the same thing with a burns victim. Do I have your permission?”

Elodie could hear the unasked question: or are you going to listen while she screams herself to death just in case she says something useful before she dies?

It was a question Elodie had pondered for the past hour.  The surface of Cassandra’s sphere was still covered in images of storms but she did not appear to be transmitting. It was possible that she was transmitting but only Lolien  could hear her. If that was the case then she could be the only link to Cassandra and breaking that link could cost millions of lives. On the other hand, the screams could just be an echo of the message that Cassandra had sent and Lolien’s pain would be serving no purpose.

Elodie looked at the young woman on the bed, remembered how excited she had been this only yesterday and decided there was only one right answer to the question.

“You have my permission, Doctor. I will stay while you induce the coma. I’ll let you know  when the screaming stops.”

Elodie’s went to the Salle Détente. This was not the kind of recreation room that you would find in other military bases. There was no food, no coffee, no music. There was complete silence, and once the door was closed, complete darkness. The Salle Détente was designed to help Empaths calm themselves, to remove all distractions, to focus only on what needed to be understood.

Empaths made themselves the channel for the emotions of others. When the other was Cassandra it could sometimes feel as if the channel was been cut directly into the Empath’s bone with a chisel. The trick was to let the emotion flow through you without touching you for long enough to harm you. It required focus and balance. It was a little like the old trick of walking barefoot across hot coals. It wasn’t something everyone could do and if you did it often enough you were likely to get burnt.

Elodie came into her Talent before anyone had worked out what Talents were. She’d had a rough childhood and a worse adolescence. At the age of seventeen she was put forward for admission to a psych ward. That was when she had met the Director.

He was not an easy man to look at, with those strange eyes of his. Elodie was not sure she wanted to be in the same room with this man. Then he touched her. Just one finger on the bare flesh of her wrist and his presence flowed into her like a river breaking its banks. It was overpowering and little frightening but it was also magnificent.

“I can see you, Elodie.”he said. “I can see the ability that you have and how you have been hurt by it. I can also see the beautiful thing it will become when you learn to control it.”

At that point, Elodie realised two thing:  the man with the strange eyes was being quite literal when he said he could see her talent and he was speaking to her inside her head without making a sound.

Elodie smiled. The Director smiled back and removed his finger from her wrist. Speaking aloud he said, “Would you like to join my special education program, Elodie? I have a place in mountains where you can see forever. It’s very quiet. You’ll like it there?”

Elodie nodded and what she thought of as her real life began

 

Now, fourteen years later, the Director had asked her to do something that they both knew might kill her.

He’d arranged for a helicopter to bring her to Ouchy so he could brief her in person. He’d listened to her report and then he’d placed his finger on her wrist so he could speak to her without being heard.

“You know how bad this is, Elodie. We have both felt the approach of this event for some months now. We have to do what we can to stop this wave of evil from washing away our world.”

He was filled with sadness, not fear. He was focused on the loss, not the danger. The waste of it all, the loss of all that beautiful potential was almost more than he could bear.

“I need to know what Cassandra knows. I need details. I need them soon.”

She could feel the anger that fuelled those thoughts: his need for control, his sense of outrage at the threat to his world, his knowledge of the price that might have to be paid were weaving together into thick rope of anger.

“Find out what Cassandra knows, Elodie. We can’t afford another Saint Paul’s.”

There was no reproach in this statement. He was merely stating the truth as he understood it. Yet Elodie felt as if he had slapped her. Deep in her heart, she still believed that Saint Paul’s had been her fault. She would not have a second Saint Paul’s on her conscience. She did not think she would want to survive to experience that sense of failure.

“I will not fail you, Director,” Elodie said.

He had smiled at her .

“You have never failed me, Elodie.”

After that there was no more to be said so she flew back to Rutli and Lolien’s screams.

 

In the Salle Détente, Elodie sat perfectly still and slowed her breathing. The task ahead required absolute focus and perfect balance.  Elodie checked her mind and her emotions, searching for a place to stand where she could sustain the balance that she needed. She found what she had expected to find: balance was eluding her.

This was why she had been hiring Empaths. She had been looking for someone who could do work that  she now struggled with. Well, she no longer had that luxury. Now she would have to deal with the emotional baggage that was preventing her from centring herself.

Elodie had been trained to use a Memory Palace to divide her mind into compartments. This was partly a means of making focus easier and more powerful and partly an effort to limit damage if things went wrong. Elodie’s Memory Palace as modelled on the her school in Glion. A huge gothic building, perched on side of steep mountain, was were she had been happiest.

Elodie, went down and down and down until she reached the cellar. Then she lifted a trap door and drop down a few feet to where she could reach a locked wooden chest. A New Britain flag was draped across the chest. It was not something she wanted to touch. Below the flag was a handwritten label saying: DO NOT OPEN  – Saint Paul’s Memory – TREAT WITH CAUTION.

Elodie slipped the flag off the chest, and started to open the lid of the memory of the worst day of her life.

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