Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mind Walkers - Prologue

 

Prologue

Island in the South Pacific

The soles of her feet bled from tiny pieces of coral and shells comprising the beach, but she did not feel the pain, nor did it cause any hesitancy in her headlong flight to find safety.  The need for escape—freedom—was all she could think about; it was all-consuming.  With each agonizing step, she left her pursuers farther behind.  For too long she had been a captive.

Sounds in front of her—a roar looming out of the darkness!  It was only the surf.  The realization came to her as she stepped onto wet sand and felt salt water stinging the lacerations on her feet.  Her blood mixed with foam as the current rushed past her, then retreated to the inhospitable sea.  The water tugged at her, beckoning her to join the countless creatures in the bowels of the ocean where darkness and peace could be found.  Peace.  For a fleeting moment, the temptation seemed overwhelming, invading her consciousness, but she found the will to fight it off.

Raising her eyes, she stared at the stars and the brightness of the moon, so close, but so far away.  In a child-like gesture she stretched out her hand, reaching forward with delicate fingers to clutch the moonlight as her long blonde hair, driven by the constant wind, whipped wildly around her shoulders.  Her eyes were wide with fright, the white around her pupil vivid against her tanned face.  She tore her gaze from the heavens and glanced about, as if seeing the scene in front of her for the first time.  She recognized the place.  It was where they brought her when they let her out of her room during the day for exercise.  For a few brief hours, the interrogation—with its countless prodding questions seeking answers only she could give—would stop and a quasi-freedom would be granted her.  She had come to cherish those precious hours of quiet solitude when she could be alone.

Fire in her brain!  Bright bolts of light arced across her synaptic responses, creating bursts of unbelievable agony.  Doubling over, she grabbed her head with both hands and cried out, her inaudible words snatched away by the sounds of the sea, lost to all but her.  The pain was intensifying.  She fell into the waves, swallowing a mouthful of sea water as the ocean shoved her to land.  She crawled to shore, coughing up the sea.  Lying in exhaustion, she waited for the brightness in her mind to subside.  Instead, it came again!  A wave of unbelievable terror threatened to consume her.  Her very cells were on fire, burning with an intensity she had never experienced, could not fathom.  Why?  What was wrong? As she curled into a fetal position, sobs wracked her frame. The firestorm inside her head destroyed reason, created chaos.  She was alone.  And frightened. 

Finally, she tried to stand but found her equilibrium compromised.  Regaining her feet, she swayed unsteadily like the surrounding palms bending in the breeze.  Where could she go?  Dimly a thought came to her, but she was unable to formulate a plan.  Designing an escape was incomprehensible.  But she knew she could not go back.   She must not let that happen.  Robotically she pushed herself forward, the mere act of placing one foot in front of the other torturous.  Her erratic path etched itself in the sand just above the surf line, her footprints a telltale clue to her pursuers.  She did not care.  The end was near; of that she was certain.

“Over here!”

She panicked when she heard the shout.  They were closer than she had imagined.  Terror seized her and she ran forward blindly, stumbling in the ankle-deep sand and falling.  Pulling herself to her feet, she started to flee again, not realizing she had become turned around. 

Beams of light!  They shot across her, arcing into the night before coming back to illuminate her.  Get out of the light!  Light was the enemy; that much she understood even in her frenzied state.  Beyond that, reasoning was impossible. 

Fire again!  This time she fell as the pain in her head felt like bolts of electricity shooting through her.  Blood started to seep from her eyes and ears and she rolled on the ground, her breathing becoming labored gasps.  Multiple beams of light closed around her until she was encircled by them.  Before her eyes rolled back inside her eyelids, she could make out the dim silhouettes of men watching her, their impassive faces showing no emotion, no kindness.  She had not expected sympathy, nor would she receive any.

Gasping one last time, her chest heaved as her body convulsed and surrendered the struggle.  Mercifully, the lights in her head faded and stillness settled about her as she drifted to a place of inner peace where a delicate beauty enveloped her.  It was much like she had imagined it might be.  As her eyes closed for the last time, she knew she would not have to endure any more pain.  Her contorted facial features relaxed as eternal quietness surrounded her.  Her body lay motionless in the sand beneath a palm tree that waved its delicate fronds above her as if bidding good-bye.  For her, at the end, the setting was idyllic.

The dozen men standing around her did not move for several seconds.  Finally, one of the men dressed in a white physician’s coat stepped forward and placed his finger on her neck attempting to locate the carotid artery.  His diagnosis was quick. 

“She’s dead.  Get her back to the lab so I can perform an autopsy.”

 Without a backward glance, the man turned and started back the way he had come, leaving the other men to carry out his orders.  She was of no use to them dead; only her corpse could reveal clues now.

****************************************************

Colorado Springs

Spring was coming slowly to the mountains this year, its glacial pace allowing the last remnants of snow to cling to the slopes.  A few green plants attempted to push through the earth to signify the birth of the growing season, but so far there were only fragmented indications winter was over.  The snow would hold on another couple of weeks.  Still, the changing of seasons in the Rocky Mountains was a beautiful sight to behold.  Dr. Rodney Hammermill turned from his large bay window with its picturesque view.

He walked back to his desk, slipping comfortably into his oversized leather chair.  A minor setback in the Pacific had added to his current worries.  The death of a young girl—a Mind Walker.  The autopsy was being conducted, and he would not have the results for several more hours.  Tests had to be run; analysis performed.  One thing was already certain: this was a devastating loss to the effort.

Reaching for a file on his desk, Dr. Hammermill scanned the first several pages, reading the handwritten notes that were mixed with laser-printed words.  Her family would have to be notified.  Pausing to look at a picture of the woman, he marveled at her beauty.  Blonde, blue-eyed, only twenty-two years old.  So young to die.  Dismissing her life as he dropped her file, he picked up his phone and called an overseas number.

On the fourth ring an irritated voice answered, “Yes?”

“We’ve had an accident in the Pacific.  The young girl, a Mind Walker, we had hoped would assist in our endeavor is no longer with us.  We’re awaiting an autopsy to determine the cause.”  Dr. Hammermill waited.  Gunter Gutenburg was the shrewdest businessman he had ever met and the wealthiest.  It was not wise to cross him.

“When can I expect the results?”  Gunter asked impatiently.  The stakes were too high for mistakes.

“Within the next three to four days.  The toxicology reports will have to be double and triple checked for accuracy.”

“Notify me immediately.”  Gunter paused, collected his thoughts and continued.  “Have we identified a replacement?  Do we have another Mind Walker?”

“Yes, we have other Mind Walkers, but they must be ready, prepared.  I’ve not yet selected a replacement, but there is a young man showing potential.  I will be contacting the family within the next day or so to solicit their son for experimental tests.  I don’t anticipate any issues.”

“Good.  Stay in touch.”  Gunter hung up without waiting for a response. 

Dr. Hammermill walked out of his office, smiling at his secretary as he passed her desk.  Unfortunately, he thought, science decreed some had to be sacrificed for the good of others.  Not pleasant but necessary.  The evolution of progress dictated such things, and a momentary failure always led to a brilliant revelation.  The path of discovery was fraught with such obstacles.  The orderly progression of things to come would come.

Leaving the three-story structure, Dr. Hammermill strolled down the sidewalk to a local café to meet his wife for lunch.  The death of a young woman on a Pacific Island was almost forgotten.  He would call and get another to take her place, to continue the goal of the organization.

Dr. Hammermill glanced back at his new office in the Colorado Springs Brain Institute.  Recently constructed, it was a showpiece in the local community, blending the architecture of the old with the new.  And all of it had been paid for by people willing to make sacrifices.  He smiled.  It was a new world with new possibilities—if people dared to push the limits of science and explore what they did not understand.   

Read Chapter One

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