The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 11

Athena walked in the round room where the board had sentenced Alan two weeks prior. Alan was still not cooperating with her, and had, in fact, grown more zealous in his confinement. The Board was getting impatient, and they had called a meeting to discuss their options moving forward.
The Board member in glasses, a lanky black man from the midwest, arrived early for the Board meeting and was trying to organize himself at the desk.
“Secretary Glasser,” Athena said respectfully, bowing slightly. Glasser nodded to her, and went back to his work.
The door opened again, and the military official entered with a briefcase in tow. Athena stood at attention.
“General.”
“As you were,” the General replied, and he sat down next to Glasser.
“Have you heard from the Director?” Glasser asked without looking up from his paperwork.
“We haven’t spoken since he called for the meeting, no. Did you hear something?”
“No, no. Just wondering what this is about,” Glasser replied.
The door opened and the other members of the board entered. First, the blonde woman, who was a judge in the Department for Mutated Persons. The second woman, who had short dark hair, was Deputy Director of the Board.
“Deputy Director Jimenez,” Athena nodded. Jimenez ignored Athena, and began addressing the rest of the Board.
“The Director asked me to begin, and he’ll be here shortly. Where are we at with Alan Mitchell?” Deputy Director Jimenez asked.
The Board turned and looked at Athena. She cleared her throat and reported in.
“We still haven’t been able to get information about Marshall Roberts. Mr. Mitchell has proven tougher to crack than previously expected.”
“I say we start phase two, and crack this kid open like an egg,” the General spoke up out of the group. “We don’t have time to just wait for him to soften up on his own.”
The Deputy Director spoke up, “Marshall Roberts’ family must be found. Now, if you’re willing to risk scrambling that idiot’s brain to get your answers, and lose the only feasible lead we’ve had in years… Well, we’ll let the Director know how you feel.”
Everyone seemed wary when the Director was mentioned. Athena didn’t know him, but, from what she could tell, she didn’t want to.
“Don’t try to intimidate me, Miss Jimenez. I’ve seen far too much to be frightened by a little girl from Des Moines,” the General fired back, smacking his fist on the desk.
The Deputy Director didn’t even acknowledge that the General had spoken. Instead, she was shuffling her papers and making notes with a ballpoint pen in the margins. Her silence gave the General pause. The General cleared his throat, looking at the other members of the Board.
The wall opened up and an older man with graying hair and a dark, navy suit entered. The other members of the Board stood from the seats.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” the man said, his light blue eyes shifting from one person to the other. The Deputy Director handed the man his folder with the day’s notes. “Thank you, Sofía. You all can have a seat.”
Everyone sat down, and the Director walked around to the front of the desk to face the rest of the Board.
“Mr. Director,” the General spoke up, “I would like to start our proceedings today with the Marshall Roberts case.”
“As far as I’m concerned, General, that’s the only case,” the Director replied, dropping his folder onto the desk. “I see from the notes that we’re having some issues with Mr. Mitchell’s interrogation.”
“I have advised we move into Phase 2,” the General chimed in.
The Director looked down at his folder, and then looked at the rest of the Board.
“And the rest of the Board members?” the Director asked. Glasser was leaning back in his chair, hand on his face with his thumb under his chin. His face seemed less than enthused.
“I’m not sure that would be prudent,” Glasser advised.
“Our results with Phase 2 have been inconclusive and dangerous,” Deputy Director Jimenez reported, “I told the General as much before you arrived. I think we have to take our time.”
“And I think we’ve waited long enough. It’s great that Marshall came quietly, but his siblings are just as dangerous to this Department. We have to be willing to take the risk. I believe the reward outweighs the risks involved with Phase 2,” the General implored.
“General,” the Director shouted, then his voice became calm once again. “We risk losing our only lead, and you want to use a dangerous, unfounded technique that could kill our lead or leave him in a vegetative state… because you’re impatient?”
The General swallowed the lump in his throat.
“Now, I picked you for this Board because I thought you were level-headed, but my instincts have proven wrong it seems,” the Director continued, his voice calm and menacing.
“I-I-I wasn’t,” the General stammered. The Director raised his head, his eyes looking down at the General at a condescending angle. “I merely think that the longer we wait the more dangerous it will become for this Department.”
The Director hummed, his head returning to a more normal angle. He looked over at the Deputy Director, who had an unsure look on her face.
“Judge Hastings, what do you think?” the Director asked.
The judge sat up in her chair, her blonde hair wagging behind her. She took out her reader glasses, and looked down at the file.
“I think that prudence should win the day,” Judge Hastings replied, “But we also have an objective at risk, and our very existence hinges on our ability to find and neutralize Marshall Roberts’ cabal.”
“We’ve received countless intelligence reports that this group has made countless attacks on our installations across the country,” Secretary Glasser added. “While I agree that the General’s plan is reckless, I do also believe our time is precious. The longer we wait, the more likely a high-priority target will be destroyed by these genetic-terrorists.”
“Deputy Director?” the Director turned to his right-hand woman. She nodded.
“The General has his points, and the rest of the Board has made a clear argument. I think we need to be cautious with any action that might damage the asset,” the Deputy Director explained.
The asset? Athena had remained silent, taking in the meeting with a sense of detached observation. But they were referring to her friend as an asset. He was a tool, a plaything for these people to accomplish whatever they wanted; to be discarded at the earliest possible convenience. Alan was important to them, for now. But the minute he wasn’t…
“…I would advise we give ourselves another round of interrogation, before looking to alternative methods such as Phase 2,” Deputy Director Jimenez concluded.
The Director nodded, pacing back and forth as he took in his Board’s ideas. He adjusted his navy suit, and stepped back a few paces from the curved desk of the Board. A white podium jutted out from the floor, and the Director pulled the touch screen attached to the podium up to his face.
“I am willing to move forward with Phase 2, after another attempt to gain information from the asset, Alan Mitchell. If he continues to be a problem, we will begin Phase 2 with a neural data mine. I will sign off on Phase 2 when we return to assess the efficacy of the interrogation,” the Director typed in his notes on the touch screen, and signed the document with his index finger. “As Director, this directive is legally binding under section 5 of the Genetic Deviations Act. Any one who circumvents my authority, whether intentional or unintentional, will be subject to immediate incarceration under the Department oversight. You are dismissed. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
The Board stood from their seats, shook hands, and left the room to return to whatever their normal lives were. The Deputy Director remained behind to talk with the Director. The Director turned to Athena, his eyes disappointed and coldly discerning.
“I hope that this next interrogation goes far better than your previous record, Operative,” the Director replied, condescendingly. “We’re only as effective as our records show. I hate having to answer these questions to the Deviation Operations Committee. Senators are about as forgiving as you’d expect. Carry on.”
The Director turned to his deputy, “Ms. Jimenez, can you please brief me on our current installation management?”
The Deputy Director nodded, and she motioned for the Director to follow her out of the room. As they left, Athena could hear the muffled voices become blaring thoughts.
“Have you ever witnessed the neural data mine work?” the Director thought as he asked aloud to his deputy.
“Not that I can recall,” Ms. Jimenez replied, thinking further that out of over one hundred test subjects, a majority were comatose. The rest were dead. Athena swallowed hard.
“A rather unfortunate setback,” the Director replied, as they walked through the sliding door toward D block. His thoughts wandered to Marshall. He would stop at nothing until his entire family was destroyed. Athena shook her head, and turned away from them.
Athena walked back toward the B block of the compound, where she thought of Alan waiting for a day that would never come. Athena bit her lower lip, as the B block doors slid open. Now more than ever before, Athena felt completely out of control, and she was afraid there was no way to fix it.

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 10

Hours passed. The interrogation was over, but Alan was still playing it back in his memory. How could Athena do this to the 308? They were friends; at least he thought they were friends. But it was becoming clear to him: she was the enemy. She was just like the rest of the freaks working for the Board.
“Alan,” Athena stood in front of his thick glass cell door.
Alan didn’t get up.
“Hello, officer,” he replied with biting sarcasm.
Athena didn’t reply for a while.

“I’m sorry about Elizabeth.”
“Clearly,” Alan snapped back.
Athena pulled a chair over to the glass wall and sat down in front of Alan. She was no longer in the custom work garb of the 308, but an operator’s uniform. It was all black, with military style pockets on her long sleeve shirt and pants.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Athena asked, her tone compassionate.
“Not with you,” Alan replied and looked up at the camera over his cell, “Now with them.”
Athena looked up at the camera. Several uncomfortable minutes passed, then Athena put her hands on her lap.
“My parents hated my gift,” Athena started.
“Gee, I wonder why,” Alan responded sarcastically.
“I deserve that.”
“Damn right, you do,” Alan replied.
Athena cleared her throat, “My parents didn’t understand at first. It seemed like I was really intuitive, perceptive. I would read their emotions before they even acknowledged them. I wouldn’t come down for dinner because I knew they were mad at each other. Then I started using it against them. I’d play one off the other to get what I wanted. It ended up being very destructive to their relationship.”
“Is this supposed to make me feel bad for you?” Alan questioned.
Athena continued, “Eventually I realized that I was better off being honest with them. I told them what I was doing. I tried to help their marriage. I helped them talk things through, and that seemed to make things better for all of us. And then I stopped reading them. I tried to pretend as though I never read them at all. Life seemed normal for a while. Until I heard my dad thinking about Miss Katherine down the street.”
Alan didn’t say anything.
“I didn’t tell my mom. How could I?” Athena recounted, “About a week later, I came home and the house was really quiet. I wasn’t sure if maybe they’d gone out for the afternoon. Until I walked into the kitchen.”
Alan swallowed loudly.
“My mom was bent over the kitchen sink washing her hands raw. Just scrubbing… scrubbing the layer of skin right off. There was blood all over the place… the sink… the tile… chairs. I didn’t even acknowledge my mom. I followed the blood into the hallway. Then the bedroom. My dad was dead on the floor, shot right in the back. Katherine Waltz was still in bed. I can still remember the look on her face. She was in complete shock. Just eyes wide open.”
Alan locked eyes with Athena.
“I can’t help but wonder if I had told my mom when I found out… They probably wouldn’t be married, but… I mean, how do you come back from that?”
“I don’t know,” Alan replied. “I don’t know.”
“I told myself that I couldn’t let my lies kill anyone else. I know Marshall wouldn’t understand that. He always thinks he can find a win-win situation, but we don’t have those anymore. I just want to control how badly we lose, ya’ know?”
Alan shrugged. He understood Athena. The pain of thinking you could have kept someone from dying and didn’t was a burden he was accustomed to. But was it worth this?
“I don’t want us to lose,” Athena reiterated.
“Why don’t you tell me what to do. How does this end well for me?”
“I don’t know,” Athena said, her voice a faint whisper. “But if you know something about Marshall, you need to tell me.”
“I can’t.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
“I didn’t ask you to,” Alan replied as Athena stood up. She pushed the chair back to the concrete wall across from Alan’s cell, and walked back down the hall.
Alan was alone again. Marshall and Athena had been two of his only friends at the 308. But they had their issues. Alan wanted to be positive like Marshall, but he couldn’t ignore what he’d seen since joining the work camp. People had been imprisoned, beaten, and oppressed. It didn’t sit right with him. Athena was more realistic about their situation, but she was also in the Board’s pocket. She had sold out her friends to feel in control. Alan couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t. Alan decided he wasn’t going to give Marshall up, no matter how bad it got in his cell.


Days passed. Alan hardly saw a soul, including his own. He was left to fester in his own dark thoughts. Was this how they did it? Would he eventually just succumb to the darkness of isolation? He ate very little and talked even less. He was starting to wonder how he would end it, when Athena walked back up to his cell. Athena cleared her throat, trying to swallow the lump forming.
“Back again I see,” Alan said, his voice scratchy and defeated.
“We don’t get to decide what they’ll do,” Athena said. “We can only make our situation better.”
It seemed to be a planned speech to Alan. Athena was firmly standing, no need for a chair.
“You certainly made yours better,” Alan retorted under his breath.
“Just give them what they want, Alan. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
“No?” Alan questioned sarcastically. “You mean I can go back home, with my judgmental parents and their awkward stares. Back to the town that remembers my dead girlfriend, and the freak who got her killed. I don’t have anywhere to go back to.”
“You could go back to the 308,” Athena said, her voice a little less sure than before.
“We both know they would never let that happen, Athena. You seem to be the only one with privileges like that,” Alan said in a low, angered voice. Alan continued, resigned to his sentence, “No, I’m stuck in here now, and the only thing I can do is make someone else’s life worse by cooperating with you.”
“You’ve been rehearsing this,” Athena said in a somber tone.
“So have you,” Alan snapped back. “How long have you been spying on Marshall, hoping he would give you enough information to screw him over? Who does that to their friends? What does that make you?”
Athena’s face was like stone, her jaw tight and tense. She could tell she would fall apart soon if she couldn’t get a grip on herself. She had to stick to the script.
“We don’t have the luxury of having friends, Alan. They don’t let us. Eventually everyone breaks and you do whatever the hell they want you to.”
“No. Screw that,” Alan pointed at Athena forcefully, “That’s bull. We have a choice. We get to decide what to do with the time we have. You can trick yourself into believing whatever you want, but the truth is simple. We don’t have to put up with this.”
Athena scoffed at Alan’s remark.
“We’re both too realistic for you to believe that, Alan. We live on their terms.”
Alan stood up from his cot and came to the thick glass right in front of Athena. She seemed uncomfortable by the change in demeanor.
“I wanted to be realistic – maybe even cynical – about this situation. I really did. You spend enough time talking to yourself in your head, you begin to think there’s two of you. It’s terrible to think you have a friend that’s really just your subconscious kicking ideas back. But you’ve made me realize something, Athena. There’s the prison cell you get thrown into, and there’s the cell you put yourself in. I can tell you, I know which ones worse now.”
Alan looked in her green eyes.
“It’s over, Alan. We lost. They won.”
“It’s not that simple,” Alan replied, “And deep down, you know that too. It might take a while to figure that out, but you will come to realize you’re only as trapped as you make yourself.”
“Funny coming from the man locked away,” Athena rebuked Alan weakly. Alan chuckled, and looked at the thick glass wall between them.
“You know, Marshall is naive. He thinks everything is great, and we just have to make the best of it. And there’s you. You can see the 308 for what it is: a prison. But you also think that we’re stuck following orders, and we’re just whatever they want us to be. But that’s not who we are.”
“Then who are we?” Athena questioned in a patronizing tone.
“We’re special.”
Athena scoffed.
“We’re special,” Alan continued. “We can do things people a decade ago could barely imagine. We could build wonders. We live in a time of miracles. And we’re squandering it allowing ourselves to be prisoners to people who don’t understand and don’t care about us.”
“It doesn’t matter that they don’t understand or care, Alan. They’re in charge,” Athena pleaded for Alan to see reason.
“That may be, but the day will come when no manner of jail cell will hold us back, and nothing will stop us from seeing the light of day. We aren’t meant to rot away. Humans… deviations… they’re the same. We’re the same, and we’re meant to do something amazing.”
Athena could feel tears welling up in her. Either Alan had grown desperate, or the the solitude had cultivated something inside his soul that was bearing fruit.
“What you are implying is revolution,” Athena said, her voice grave with fear.
“I’m not implying anything. I thought what I said was pretty obvious,” Alan smiled.
“They’ll never let it happen, and they will get Marshall’s information out of you,” Athena said, now resigned to the fact that her friend was going to die before he gave up.
“I’m quite content to bide my time. Eventually, they’re going to get board with me. Then they’ll get rid of me.”
“What good is that?” Athena pleaded. “Alan, they’ll kill you.”
“It will be on my terms, and I won’t bring Marshall down with me. We can’t give up what brought us together.”

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 9

Hours. Days. Alan couldn’t tell anymore. He was now clad in a white jumpsuit that had appeared during one of his short naps. Alan could feel his personality ebbing away. Not a soul had come by since the operator had thrown him into his cell.
Alan spent most of his time attempting to train his newfound telekinetic abilities. The only thing he had to work with was his cot, so he spent hours on end trying to lift the cot while he sat up against a corner as far from it as he could.
Once he had successfully lifted the cot, he graduated to lifting the cot while he sat on top of it. That proved a little more difficult, but eventually he was able to raise the cot while sitting on it. Alan wobbled a little in the air, like a gymnast trying to stick the landing.
“Knock it off,” a tinny voice echoed through a speaker in the hallway, cutting off Alan’s concentration in the process.
The cot fell to the concrete floor, and Alan grumbled under his breath. A whooshing sound emanated from down the hall, and the operator walked up to Alan’s cell. His annoyed look spoke volumes.
“Get up.”
Alan stood up reluctantly.
“Turn around.”
Alan rolled his eyes and complied. The cell door slid open, and the operator grabbed Alan by his shirt, then pulled him back into the hall.
“Where’re we going?”
“Shut up,” the operator replied, and he pushed Alan forward down the hall.
The operator took Alan into the D block, a long corridor filled with doors and mirrored glass. Once inside, Alan would no doubt be observed, unaware of the onlookers spying on him. The operator opened the door to D23, and then pulled Alan inside and sat him in an uncomfortable metal chair.
“Wait here,” the operator commanded, then he left through the door they had come from. Alan looked to his right. There was another pane of mirrored glass opposite the doorway they had come in. Alan felt like a rat in a maze. But was he going to get the cheese or the shock?
Directly across from Alan the wall opened up, and a young man in a suit walked in.
“Mr. Mitchell,” the man held out a hand across the table. Alan looked at it suspiciously, then gave the man a confused look. The man looked down at his own hand, and shook his head, “Excuse me, where are my manners? My name is Connor. I’m your legal representation.”
Alan couldn’t help but let out a thunderous laugh that echoed in the room. The lawyer seemed just as confused as Alan. Alan wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Alan replied, then coughed. He continued, “Sorry. But you’re doing a hell of a job, Connor.”
Connor cleared his throat and set his briefcase down next to his seat, then he sat down across from Alan. They shared a brief moment of silence before Connor continued.
“I am here to help you mitigate your sentence through cooperation with the Board,” Connor started.
“Yeah, that sounds more realistic. So what do they want.”
Connor pulled out a folder from his bag and tossed it onto the table. Inside were several photos of Alan standing next to Marshall.
“The Board believes you have access to information about this individual.”
“I know Marshall. Yes. That’s about all the information I have,” Alan replied. He knew it was partially a lie. Marshall had shared a lot with him that night after the bus accident. But he wasn’t about to sell out his friend to help big brother get an advantage over him.
“We – ahem – the Board are aware that you are close with Marshall Roberts. Bearing that attempts to extract information from Mr. Roberts has been fruitless, and operatives have had little success as well, the Board has decided to offer you an incentive. If you can provide us with information on Mr. Roberts’ associates, then the Board will consider your parole from this system.”
“Associates?”
“We are aware that Marshall Roberts has divulged certain details and/or whereabouts of his family to you. This information is deemed an organization imperative by the Director of the Board.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” Alan played dumb, his arms folded over his chest.
“One of our informants is giving us live playback of your thoughts, Mr. Mitchell. Please don’t play dumb with us,” Connor retorted. Alan looked to the mirrored glass. No doubt, a reader was standing behind the glass. Alan considered how selfish a person could be to use their abilities against their own kind. Then he thought of how he harmed Elizabeth. Connor held a hand to his ear, clearly taking in some bit of information.
“Mr. Mitchell, we would be willing to overlook your murder of Elizabeth Dawes if you were to cooperate with the Board.”
Alan could feel a burning in his chest and a lump in his throat. He felt violated. He looked over at the glass, and his look spoke more volumes than his mind possibly could.
“Why don’t you tell whoever’s behind the glass that using my past against me isn’t going to get them what they want,” Alan looked back at Connor. Alan could feel tears starting to form in his glossy eyes. Connor paused for a moment, clearly listening to the other side.
“Your guilt clearly says otherwise, Mr. Mitchell.”
Alan slammed his fist on the table. The chairs and table – though bolted to the floor – shook angrily.
“I’m trying to help you,” Connor replied calmly. The outburst clearly hadn’t shaken him in the slightest. But it wasn’t meant for him, but for the person behind the glass. Alan heard a switch flick and the hallway mirror turned transparent. Alan could see the operator on the other side shaking his head disapprovingly. “Another outburst, and we’ll send you back to your bed.”

Alan looked back to his right at the glass still opaque. He felt like a wounded animal. A wounded animal that was being kicked after the fact. Insult to injury. Alan started to think deeply about his surroundings. The room, the lawyer, the operator, the mirrors, the informant Reader. He felt outside of himself. He looked down and saw the room from above. Outside of himself, he could float around and see what appeared invisible before. The taser strapped underneath the table next to Connor. There was a small switch panel next to the door he had entered. The operator’s hand was on the mirror switch, about to flip back to the opaque function of the window. Alan’s mind floated back to the other side, using his perception to find the other panel. He flipped the switch, and the mirror on his right side turned clear as day.
Alan looked into her eyes, the informant reader’s green eyes. She didn’t realize at first that Alan could see her. But then it became painfully obvious as their eyes locked to each other, like they were caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
“Athena?”

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 8

The next day at the construction site was strange for Alan. Everyone seemed aware that he stopped the bus from smashing into the tree, and that they were all alive because he did. Even Castor was on his best behavior. He still jeered at Alan from time to time, but it had less bite to it than usual. Castor handed Alan a warm cup of coffee.
“Here you go, kid. Don’t say I never gave you nothin’,” Castor cleared his throat. “Now get to work, hero. And this doesn’t mean I like you!”
The comment felt nice enough – if not for Castor’s sarcastic ‘hero’ quip – so Alan took the coffee and enjoyed what seemed like a luxury around the construction site.
“Nice. Coffee,” Marshall said as Alan came up to the crowd waiting for work. “Enjoying the hero perks, I see.”
Alan rolled his eyes. “I didn’t do anything you guys wouldn’t have.”
“But you did do it. That takes guts…”
“Or – you know – a lot of stupidity,” Athena joked, as she walked past them to the food truck. She called out to Alan, “But we’re thankful all the same.”
Work seemed to fly by. Everything was blurry and loud, beams being welded into place and slamming into place with ferocity.
A supervisor’s whistle sounded in the site, and everyone stopped working. At first Alan though maybe someone had gotten hurt, but the real reason for the stoppage was much worse. Alan could see some commotion happening at the front gate. A couple of Board operators were talking with one of the supervisors, then the supervisor pointed at Alan. Alan felt the blood in his veins run cold, a hard pit in his stomach.
“Alan Mitchell, stand down,” one of the operators shouted, his finger pointing through the crowd, and it parted as he walked to clear the distance.
Everyone parted. Everyone except for Castor. Castor was cleaning up the picnic tables where people had left their snacks and had stopped when all the commotion had interrupted his work. He was livid with the operator.
“What the hell do you think your doing?” Castor asked as loudly as he could, his voice echoing across the construction site.
“Alan Mitchell, come with us immediately.”
“Are you punishing him for saving us? That’s messed up, man,” Castor replied, his arms folded over his chest. “Says a lot about what you think of us. You know you’re one of us, right? You’ll never be one of them by selling us out.”
The operator looked past Castor, his jaw clenching in an effort to keep his composure.
“Alan Mitchell, stand down,” the operator replied, “Don’t make me say it again.”
“Castor, it’s okay,” Alan called out and started walking forward, but Castor wasn’t having any of it.
“I’m not moving, man. This is stupid, and you know it,” Castor said in an antagonistic tone. The operator rolled his eyes, and shoved Castor out of the way with a flick of his hand and a thought in his telekinetic head. Castor slammed into the half-constructed building, and his body slumped to the concrete floor.
“Come with me, Mr. Mitchell,” the operator said calmly, and then turned to his partner. “Gerry, grab the other one. Insubordination to an operator. Automatic three strikes.”
The other operator, Gerry, picked up Castor in one hand, and the four of them walked back to a young woman waiting at the gate.
“Prepare for exfiltration,” the operator ordered in his calm tone.

The woman nodded, and held a hand out in front of them. A blue pool of energy spiraled into being, and the operators pushed Alan into it. Alan felt like he was being pulled apart at his extremities. It seemed like someone was pulling his arms and legs to their farthest reaches. Then it all imploded, scrunching together at the center of himself.
Alan was blinded by a white light, but, as he acclimated, he realized he was kneeling in a white room. The room appeared almost seamless, a round structure with no corner and no visible door. The operator picked him up by the arm and pulled Alan into a standing position.
“Move,” the operator commanded forcefully, wrenching Alan forward and onto his feet.
A doorway appeared in the white room, a piece of the wall sliding away, disappearing into the curve of the round space. They entered a hallway, with metal grated floors and solid white walls. Alan looked up at the ceilings, which were long light panels illuminating the bright hall.
“Tax dollars at work, I see,” Alan said sarcastically, and the operator shoved him forward.
“Shut up.”
Alan looked over and saw Castor was still knocked out, his body slumped over and bobbing in Gerry’s arms as they walked. He recalled how intimidated he was of Castro at the beginning, and to see him carried like a child was chilling.
“I’ll take this one to the holding area. Don’t wait on me for the Board meeting.”
The operator acknowledged Gerry, and pressed Alan further down the hall, as Gerry branched off to the left with Castor’s limp body in tow. Alan looked up and committed Castor’s hallway number to memory: A5. A dark amusement came over Alan as he realize that memorizing a hallway number wouldn’t mean much since he would never escape. He heard the stories. No one ever came back from the Board meeting. Now he knew where they went, and it was still as mysterious as it had been before. White halls with metal floors. Seamless disappearing doorways. Long hallways filled with light. No shadows to retreat into. No doubt, cameras everywhere. Alan’s scattered mind catalogued all of these observations for a future opportunity never to come.
The hallway appeared to end in nothing, but Alan soon realized that a doorway would present itself with proximity to the operators footsteps. Perhaps the operator wore something that alerted the doors to part? Alan shook his head at the sheer audacity of his thoughts. What good would it do him to figure out there systems. He was, now more than ever, a prisoner.
As if on cue, the doorway opened itself in front of them in the hall, and they entered in an expansive round room yet again. There was a small table before them with a single chair, and beyond it was a curved, elevated desk where his tribunal no doubt would sit and cast judgment.
“Sit down.”
“But where will you sit?” Alan joked, and the operator slammed Alan into the chair.
“Shut. up.”
“Touchy,” Alan replied under his breath, his eyes rolling in their place. Yet another room without doorways, curved in porcelain majesty. Alan would’ve guessed they were in heaven, if not for the stark lighting and the clear sense that he was about to be punished judiciously and without mercy.
A doorway to his right appeared, and four individuals entered. Two men and two women. They were older, possibly in their late thirties or early forties. One man wore a military uniform while the rest were dressed in business attire, no doubt politicians of some sort. They all carried themselves with a sense of complete boredom. Alan imagined he had pulled a number at the super market and was just another number for them to serve a sentence. The man in the military outfit, sat first and fixed his puffing green uniform. As the others sat the man handed down file folders to the woman next to him, who handed the leftovers to the next person, and so forth until they were holding Alan’s file.
“Alan Mitchell,” the military officer said, his eyes scanning the paper in front of him. He cleared his throat and looked up at Alan. “You are charged with reckless endangerment of the public, destruction of government property, genetic perjury, insubordination, and cross-contamination of a crime scene. How do you plea?”
“Genetic perjury – wha-?” Alan looked around, but no member of the Board seem to be giving his response much notice.
“How do you plea?” one of the women asked again impatiently, her blonde-haired pulled back in a tight ponytail and waving behind her head. Alan swallowed the lump in his throat and looked at the other members of the Board. The center chair was mysteriously empty.
“Mr. Mitchell, this is really more of a formality,” the other man spoke up, moving his eyeglasses back up onto the nose of his bridge. “We have evidence of these crimes. Therefore we have no need for the Director to attend this ruling. If you would plea so that we may move along.”
“Not guilty,” Alan snapped out spite. “I don’t understand half of the charges, so…”
A small screen rose up out of the floor, positioned at an angle so that the accused and the Board could view it. Footage began playing back from the bus accident.
“The accused registers a plea of not guilty,” the second woman replied, her short black hair forming around her face with a sharp line between her dark skin. “Charge number one: reckless endangerment of the public. The accused is seen in vehicle surveillance tampering with the motor vehicle above, clearly causing disruption of the vehicle, the surrounding area, the second vehicle, and the passengers aboard said-vehicle.”
“I was reacting to -,” Alan tried to speak up. The woman gave him an annoyed look.
“The Board finds you guilty. The second charge: destruction of government property. As we can see in the playback, you clearly warp and manipulate government property, causing its full and ultimate destruction. The Board finds you guilty.”
Alan decided he wouldn’t speak up again.
“Charge number three: genetic perjury.”
The charge amused Alan because it seemed like a strange way to talk about his ability. He also couldn’t understand what they meant by perjury.
“Exhibit B of photographic evidence provided by satellite imagery, shows the crash scene in full detail from a top-down view. It clearly shows that the tree is pushed by its roots backward before the bus could make contact with it. This clearly demonstrates that the accused has lied under oath about his genetic deviation. He can not only manipulate magnetic fields, but, in fact, is capable of telekinetic episodes. We find the accused guilty of lying under oath under the Genetic Deviations Act.”
Alan sat in wide-eyed confusion. It never occurred to him that he could move other objects. He always assumed that since he moved predominantly metal materials that he was a Magnet.
“Wait, I didn’t know I -,” Alan started, but was quickly rebuffed by the dark-haired woman.
“The fourth charge: insubordination. As our operator has disclosed, Alan Mitchell and Castor Baynes did not come cooperatively before this tribunal. Therefore they have been found guilty.
“And the final charge: cross-contamination of a crime scene. As shown in Exhibit A and B, the accused knowingly exited the vehicle after the incident and walked over to the civilian’s car, thus contaminating the crime scene as a known genetic deviation.”
The military officer then spoke up, “This Board finds you guilty of all crimes as laid out by the Department for Mutated Persons. Under section 28a of the Genetic Deviations Act, you are hereby taken into the complete and direct custody and care of the Board for such a time as is deemed necessary for full rehabilitation. Appeal is not granted. Dismissed for further questioning.”
The man in eye glasses slammed down a gavel, and the operator picked Alan back up and took him out of the room. Alan was dragged through a new hall with labels of B numbers, and throw into a concrete cell.
“You will be retrieved when we have further questions. Your abilities have very little use here, and we have 24/7 monitoring, so don’t make me return. Have a nice stay.”
Alan looked down at his cloth cot, and then caught something out of the corner of his eye. He stared at the wall across from him. Someone had scrawled in small, jagged letters: Hotel California.

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 7

Finch had everyone in the lobby with the Healer EMT division in attendance to see to the wounded from the bus crash. Alan watched as the break in his arm snapped back into place and the cuts in his arms sewed shut as if by some invisible magic. The person who was helping him, a cold blonde-haired man in his late thirties, ran his hands across Alan’s arm then held up one to Alan’s face. The cut in Alan’s eyebrow sealed, and the man – with no emotion whatsoever – motioned for Alan to step out of line.
Finch continued to yell out in the lobby, “When you are finished, head straight to your room! Do not stop to talk! It is lights out! We have work tomorrow!”
“Alan,” Athena called out to Alan, as he tried to get through the crowd and into the courtyard.
“Leave me alone,” Alan replied back, seeing Athena also trying to struggle her way to the courtyard.
The crowd seemed to reform as a barrier between Athena and Alan. Athena looked over at Marshall who was handling the flow of people back to the courtyard. She gave him an annoyed look, and he stepped over to her.
“Pardon me. Okay. Hem, sorry about that. Pardon me. And Pardon my reach,” Marshall wiggled between people, then grabbed a few coworkers blocking Athena and lifted them out of the way. “There we go.”
“Thanks, Marshall,” Athena said as she ran past him.


 

It was dark in Alan’s room. The only visibility was from the fluorescent lighting outside in the hall, peaking in through the window. Alan sat with his back up against the dresser in his room. His right hand was holding the broken watch, gliding his thumb back in forth across the cracked glass.
“Alan!” Athena’s muffled voice rang against Alan’s door. “Alan, open the door.”
Alan didn’t answer.
“Alan, please, I’m sorry,” Athena pleaded, her forehead pressed against the door. It wasn’t locked, but she didn’t want to push any farther than she already had. “Come on, just open the door.”
No answer.
Marshall walked up behind Athena and motioned for her to go. He knocked on the door, then opened it without waiting for a response. Alan barely acknowledged Marshall’s existence. He was off elsewhere.
“Hey, kid,” Marshall groaned as he sat down next to Alan against the dresser. He wrapped his arms around his knees, and waited in the silence. Several moments passed. “Your arm looks better.”
Alan stared ahead at his twin bed. He had been perfectly fine doing his time, going through the motions, clocking in and out. Maybe it would’ve helped him forget her.
Elizabeth.
“Kid, you seem out of sorts,” Marshall sighed. “And that has Athena worried, and she’s useless when she’s worried.”
No answer.
Marshall groaned and got up off of the floor.
“Try to get some sleep, kid. We’ve got work tomorrow.”
Marshall stepped toward the doorway.
“Have you ever seen someone die, Marshall? I mean, really see them. Not like a viewing or funeral… but moments right after they passed. Did you see the woman on the road?”
Marshall shook his head, leaning into the doorway. Alan still didn’t make eye contact. He looked down at the watch.
“I don’t understand it,” Alan murmured.
“What’s there to understand? Drank too much, and did something stupid,” Marshall said, pushing his hands into his jeans’ pockets.
“I can relate,” Alan said under his breath. “Not the drinking, per se, but I know stupid.”
“I think we all can,” Marshall replied.
The call for lights out rang through the halls. Marshall stood tall in the doorway.
“This isn’t about that girl in the road tonight,” Marshall said with a grim expression on his face. “What’s with the watch, Alan?”
Alan blinked slowly, and looked down at his broken watch, thumb still sliding across the imperfect surface.
“It’s lights out,” Alan replied gravely.
Marshall walked over and sat down on the bed opposite Alan, folding his arms and awaiting Alan’s response.
“You think I’m scared of them?”
“You’re scared of something,” Alan replied back, his voice filled with bitterness, and he finally looked up at Marshall.
“That’s fair,” Marshall cleared his throat. “I can’t make you tell me if you don’t want to, but eventually you’re going to realize we’re the only friends you have, kid. That life you had before – the people you knew – they’re gone, and they aren’t coming back.”
Alan clenched his teeth. “I know.”
“I used to think I’d get out one of these days. I’d do my time, and they’d just let me go when they lost use for me. But that’s not how this works. I made a choice to be here, and that is irreversible. There’s no going back to the way things were for me. Same as you.”
Marshall’s honesty was sobering; sobering in a mood that was already careening toward depressing. Alan looked back at his broken watch, the last vestige of his time in the real world.
“I remember the day Elizabeth gave me this watch. She had this way of joking about you and you didn’t even care. She said to me, ‘I got you this watch so you’ll stop being late for our dates.’,” Alan laughed. “I’ve never been the punctual type. Anyway, I was 17, and she was trying to whip me into shape. I took the hint. Hardly ever forgot that watch, and maybe I showed up on time more often. I don’t remember. I don’t think she really cared all that much about that.”
Marshall sat down next to Alan.
“Athena was asking me about a funny story early tonight, and it just reminded me of this one time… Elizabeth’s dog – the little guy was handful – and he liked to jump at the door of her old metal shed. She kept him in there on cold nights. Well he would just scratch up the door when I came over… all the time. So one night when I pulled up to her house, I heard Ralph – the dog’s name was Ralph if you could believe it – and he was running toward the shed door. So I just reached out,” Alan held his hand out to pantomime his story, “and the door flies open just in time for Ralph to come rolling out into the yard. Dog rolled for probably a good few seconds – felt like minutes – and we laughed our heads off.”
Marshall and Alan laughed at the story. Alan laughed so hard there were genuine tears in his eyes. He cleared his throat and continued.
“Course, Ralph was fine. He was a resilient booger, tongue wagging and jumping at my car after that. Elizabeth rolled her eyes at me, and put Ralph back up and we went out for the night. I guess Athena reminded me that little memories could still be happy memories if you let them.”
Marshall nodded.
“How’d your watch break?” Marshall asked, his head tipping in its direction. Alan looked at his broken watch face, his smile evaporating.
“Some memories are never happy memories,” Alan murmured and wiped the tears of joy from his eyes.
“How’d the watch break, Alan?”
“Why’d you volunteer for this job?” Alan sneered back at Marshall.
“Touché,” Marshall sighed. Alan could see Marshall was struggling with his thoughts. “I’ll tell you one thing – one thing – if you tell me about the watch.”
Alan groaned and handed the watch to Marshall. Marshall looked at the face, the cracked glass. The hands were forever stuck at one point in time.
2:37. The box showed AM.
“It was late. We were driving home from a party. Raining cats and dogs. Low visibility.”


 

Alan smiled at Elizabeth, a fleeting glance away from the road as their car made its way through the torrential downpour. They were supposed to leave the party hours ago, but it was two in the morning, and they were out in the middle of it. Elizabeth smiled uneasily, a tense feeling rattling throughout her body.
“I know, I know. We should’ve left earlier.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Elizabeth said, a feint veneer of humor laid over her uneasiness.
“Yeah, but you were thinking it,” Alan joked, his eyes staring intensely through the windshield.
The wipers were trying their hardest, but there was too much rain. The road was covered in a layer of water, and any little change of the steering wheel created in a volatile movement one way or the other across the road.
Alan tried to fix the defroster on his dashboard. He hadn’t noticed the lights growing larger up ahead. Elizabeth sucked in a panicked breath, and Alan looked up. The car was spinning out of control, hydroplaning toward them, and there was no time to respond. Alan threw his hands on the dashboard as a snap reaction. Their car wrenched to the left. The other vehicle smashed into the passenger side of their car, and Alan’s head smacked into the steering wheel. Everything went black.
The world was blurry when Alan came to. Alan lifted his head, a nauseous feeling slowly fermenting in his gut. He was on a red stretcher, elevated over the deluge. Flashlights kept dancing over his field of view, as emergency workers passed over him as they worked. Alan couldn’t move his head, so he looked as far to his right as he could. He could see Elizabeth in her own stretcher, as one of the emergency workers zipped her up into a black bag.
Alan couldn’t tell if it was the rain in his face or not, but he could feel warm tears trailing down his face as he looked back up into the blinding flashlights.
“Get him to the hospital, the crew will handle the rest of the cleanup. Other driver is paralyzed. Code the woman: DOA.”


 

“Damn, kid.”
Alan took the watch back and held it to his ear. “Hasn’t worked ever since.”
“You know it’s not your fault she died, right?”
“Oh, I know… ‘it was an accident’, ‘you didn’t mean to’…,” Alan trailed off, his face disgusted. “It happened, and if I had just let that stupid idiot hit me, Elizabeth would be alive and I wouldn’t be lifting metal beams in this chain gang for the rest of my life.”
“Maybe, but you weren’t the one who caused the accident. You just had to react. That’s all we can do: react.”
“Is that why you ended up in here? You reacted?”
“I was worried about my family,” Marshall replied in defense, “It was the best I could do in the situation. If I gave myself up they had no reason to look for them. You do crazy things for your family.”
“That’s funny: my folks sold me out,” Alan said with a wry smile. “I guess I wasn’t lucky enough to have a Marshall in the family.”
The room was silent for a few moments. Marshall wasn’t sure how much more he wanted to share with Alan.
“My siblings are special like us. When the government started rounding us up, we went into hiding, but it didn’t last long. We slipped up, and the Board tracked us down to a remote location. If I didn’t turn myself in, they would’ve found my family. It’s worth it just knowing they’re safe now.”
“I was an only child. I guess if I had siblings, I would understand.”
“You understand, kid. It’s why you wanted to take Elizabeth’s place. It’s love. Maybe not the same kind of love, but still love.”

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 6

“Alan!” Athena’s voice echoed inside Alan’s brain, ping-ponging its way between his ear drums. Alan realized he had been staring at a box of cereal turned backwards on its rickety metal shelf. Alan glanced over at Athena who was standing next to him in the grocery store aisle. Alan didn’t really think of it as a grocery store though. There wasn’t produce or meat; really, anything fresh was lacking. Alan looked back at the box of cereal.
“Get out of your head, Alan. We don’t have much time left to get stuff before curfew,” Athena coaxed.
But Alan couldn’t get out of his head because he was still conflicted about what Marshall told him earlier at work. How could someone pick this life for themselves voluntarily? Alan contemplated that some special form of madness was constricting Marshall, pressing him into compulsory labor.
“You get out of my head,” Alan chided, his eyes slowly turning back to look at her.
“I’m not, but don’t make me,” Athena said, an innocent smile.
Alan didn’t wait for her to finish and changed the subject to something that was bothering him.
“When Marshall said we were going to a grocery store, I thought maybe it would have… groceries,” Alan said with a wry grin. Athena gave a short chuckle and looked at their aisle, sparsely filled with mostly boxed cereals and snack foods. The aisles to either side were also compromised of mostly canned foods and other snack foods that lasted a long time.
“Yeah, and they don’t replenish the stock very often. Just don’t lose your toothpaste. They charge an arm and a leg for it.”
“Oh, was I supposed to be brushing my teeth?” Alan joked, and he picked up a box of cereal. Athena punched Alan in the arm playfully. Alan feigned a groan of pain at her fist, cereal shaking around in its box.
“Stop!” Athena laughed, and she put Alan’s box of cereal back onto the shelf. “And you don’t want that. Especially if you won’t be brushing your teeth for the foreseeable future. It’ll rot your teeth, and we can’t ruin that cute smile, can we?”
“Cute smile?” Alan questioned, his smile ear to ear. Athena felt the blood rush to her reddening face. What seemed like an hour was merely a few seconds before Marshall came jogging into the aisle with a basket full of mac and cheese boxes.
“Guys! Mac!” Marshall showed them his haul, his outstretched hands holding up a plastic orange basket filled with an odd assortment of blue boxes with macaroni scrawled in elegant cursive. They rattled as he shook the basket, enthralled with his find. “They never have mac and cheese. This is the best day.”
Alan was still taken aback by Marshall’s revelation early, and now he was aghast that Marshall hardly seemed to care or remember what they had talked about before. Alan didn’t realize he was giving Marshall a weird look until he noticed Marshall giving him the same look back. Athena had been talking in the void of conversation about missing chocolate, specifically dark chocolate in squares, when she noticed the two men were exchanging glances.
“Do I need to give you two a minute?” Athena asked, hands on her hips. Alan and Marshall looked at each other, not sure what the other was thinking. The one who could read minds didn’t much feel like doing it, and she was losing her patience with the deaf and mute routine.
“I can go back to the bus. Nothing looks good to me anyway,” Athena pointed out to the entrance where the bus, and most of the crew, were waiting. Alan nodded. It seemed like the only thing his mind was capable of doing. Athena grabbed a box of cereal, a brain type, and dropped it into Alan’s basket.
“That’s the stupid tax, I’ll see you two boys back at the bus.”
Athena walked out the door, the doorway chiming as she exited. Marshall looked down at the brain distastefully.
“That looks like crap-,” Marshall started, but Alan cut him off mid sentence.
“Are we going to talk about your little reveal earlier? Or are you just going to leave it at, ‘I chose to be here’?”
Marshall cleared his throat. It was a slip up, plain and simple. He’d gotten too comfortable with Alan. Alan had this way of smiling, listening, that made a person want to tell things – secrets – that weren’t meant to be shared.
“Listen, kid, don’t take my words and make them more than what they were,” Marshall said plainly, “I spoke out of turn, and I don’t want you to take what I said as some deep, dark secret to fill up the hours of your mundane workday. Let’s just leave it at that. It’s nothing. It’s not important to you.”
“Fine,” Alan replied, stone-faced but annoyed. “I’ll pretend I never heard it. Let’s get out of here.”
Marshall didn’t believe Alan was going to give up that easily, but he did know that the bus was about to leave without them so it didn’t bother him much to leave it where it was for the time being. The two checked out and got back on the bus, and the computer signaled for everyone to sit down.


 

The bus was full, and people were chatting as the sun sat leisurely right above its final rest for the night. The orange light cast a line across the horizon as the bus made its way back to the 308’s compound.
Athena was telling Alan about her old cat. If the stories were true, her cat was the smelliest cat in all the world. In fact, at one point Athena mistook him for garbage in the middle of the night. She tried to put him in the can, but as soon as she had grabbed the tail, all hell broke loose. Alan had laughed all the way through the riotous tale of the smelliest cat, and so did Athena.
“Do you have stories from back home, Alan?” Athena asked. Alan smiled.
“Yeah, I have stories. I had a childhood,” Alan said jokingly.
“Sometimes we forget,” Athena replied, her eyes looking out at the sun setting. “It can be easier that way.”
“But who would want to forget about your garbage cat?”
Athena smiled brightly, a smile Alan didn’t recognize. Maybe it was the smile Athena wanted to share, or the one she never would. When she realized Alan was looking at her, she stopped immediately.
“Your turn. Tell me a story,” Athena said. Alan turned his body toward her, and looked in her green eyes. He remembered this one time…
“Who’s Elizabeth?” Athena asked quizzically.

Alan wasn’t sure what happened first: the swerve or the collision. Either way the bus that was carrying them ended up colliding with a car and sliding against a railing on the road back to the compound. Sparks flew through the air, and people screamed. But not Alan. He’d witnessed this before.
The bus was careening toward a large oak tree off the side of the road, going at least sixty miles per hour. Alan held his hand out and felt the air brakes screech from the overload. Alan felt the front of the truck: the metal fender, the wheels, the frame. He felt its pulse, the magnetic field. He pressed his mind as far as it could go. The bus groaned to a halt, not three inches from the massive oak.
The crew all seemed to exhale at the same time. Alan didn’t look at his friends, but out the back of the bus at the car they had struck. Alan ran out of the bus wreck and across the street to a small sedan bent up against the railing.
DMP buses were programmed to avoid human vehicles at all costs, even at the expense of the bus and its occupants. But a person could strike a DMP bus if it really wanted to, or if someone had lost control.
Alan looked down at the woman slumped over in the sedan, a bloody air bag ballooned up against her face. Her long brown hair scattered in strands around the bag, mixed with blood and fragments of the steering wheel. The blood in Alan’s veins ran cold, and he could perceive some of it ran out as well. His arm throbbed, bathed in dark blood in the early moonlight.
Elizabeth.

Alan tried to forget. He thought serving his time would dull the memories. But even now she was one the surface, easy enough for Athena to pluck the name out of the air.
“Alan,” it was Athena, standing a few feet away, between Alan and the bus. Alan felt a shiver down his spine, his hairs on his arms standing up. His arm hurt like hell, now that the shock was wearing thin.
“Is everybody okay?” Alan asked.
“More or less.”
Alan didn’t look back, his eyes still set on the woman in the car. She didn’t look much older than twenty, a bottle of alcohol propped up in her dashboard, broken in half.
“Why would she-?” Alan managed to grumble out of his mouth, his throat hoarse and tight. Inside the compound, outside the compound, nothing felt real anymore. Everything was some grand illusion of reality. Everything until this.
“- drink?” Athena finished the sentence. Alan clenched his teeth. Senseless was what it was. Free, not free. Everybody was somehow in prisons of their own. Alan mused that whether he had gone to the 308 or not, he’d still be locked away in some respect. Like the woman who had drank until she couldn’t have the sense to keep on the road, Alan would’ve dulled his memories some other way. Sirens faintly skipped across the hills in the distance, the red and blue lights of the police heading their way. They would soon be back in the compound, left wondering what had really transpired out on the road that evening. The only person who could’ve told them would never speak again.
“Alan,” Athena spoke up, her voice shaky. Alan looked back at Athena. Her eyes were kind; kind and compassionate. “Alan, who’s Elizabeth?”

DMP Update (December 29, 2016)

Hey all,

So I’ve been working on the Department for Mutated Persons this holiday week, and I know there hasn’t been an update since Christmas Eve. Maybe you’re chomping at the bit, or maybe you forgot about the Depart for whats-its. Either way, I’ve been working on Chapter 6, but also working on the end of the book. I’ve had a real breakthrough for how I want the first book to end (yes, the first one!). I decided I wanted to break the narrative into two books because of how the story flows, and what I want to do with the second half just didn’t make sense to be in the same book as far as themes and characters were concerned.

So far this story has been unfolding as I write it. I haven’t made much of an outline, which is not something I normally do; but I wanted to get this first draft out in front of your lovely faces instead of procrastinating. That means the story will evolve over time, and you have the ability to change it with me. So if you have any suggestions for the future of the story, you can comment below, tweet me (@robfike), message me, or email me. Any feedback is crucial to making this the best it can be.

This is also a YA fiction work, which means I want as many middle, high school and college people to see it as possible. I want to know how you guys feel about it: what’s missing? what’s great?

Thanks for sticking with me thus far, and I hope I give you the excitement you were wanting out of this read.

My best,

Rob