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Chapter 45

“What in the world was that?” Elizabeth asked Zuri angrily. Zuri didn’t answer. “That was sloppy and now the entire facility knows we’re here,” she yelled. “We’re going to need to move about two thousand times faster than we thought we would,” she told us. “The only way to free them from his mind is to kill them,” she paused. “You know that.”

“Wait, free them from whose mind?” I asked, my curiosity in the subject growing immensely.

Elizabeth sighed and looked at Zuri as if asking her whether or not I could be trusted. Zuri nodded and Elizabeth began to explain. “As you may have guessed, Dr. Brown is planning something big. We’ve been able to identify that he is taking well-thought-out candidates and basically almost killing them. Then, he is injecting them with a serum made of Baltoid blood, which basically reacts to however he almost kills you and gives you abilities so that something like that never happens again. It’s how Baltoids evolve,” she said. “But only some of his candidates live, and of that only four percent of them receive powers. We don’t know what the difference between those with powers and those without is, but some people do end up with powers like yours and Zuri’s. After the procedure, he sends people to watch your every move to see if you do, and if you have the abilities he wants, he’ll take you here,” she told me. My mind flashed to the three sharks who followed me everywhere but never really talked. Anger flooded my veins as I realized that they had been spying on me, for him. Elizabeth noticed and continued hurriedly as if hoping to distract me. “But don’t blame them,” she said. “Dr. Brown is a Baltoid who can control certain humans’ minds. They didn’t have a choice. He activated their brains, uploaded their info to his and replaced all of it with something else.”

“Why can’t he control my mind?”

“Because you’re part Baltoid now. I call what you are a Combo because you are now a combination of both species," she paused for a moment as if waiting for my reaction to the name she had given my new species. I smiled quickly so she would continue. "A Baltoid has superior brainpower and can therefore resist his Mental Manipulation. Only the people who get powers inherit their intelligence, too. That’s another way he can get you, in case he’s not sure. He designed a test which is given to teachers that tests a Baltoid-Human mind. The teachers think it’s just for some kind of gifted program more advanced than the one their student is already in but really the test was created because Baltoids think and solve problems in a certain way, so certain problems can test whether your mind is pure human or not,” she finished. I sighed at the thought of the test I had taken and completed so easily. There was an awkward pause in conversation where I could almost hear her inner thoughts wondering whether or not to tell me something. Finally, she continued awkwardly. “Now you were extremely intelligent before you were injected with Baltoid D.N.A. That means you are going to be more powerful than any other Baltoid-Human here. That’s why the guards fear you. Dr. Brown knows you’re the only one capable of defeating him and he treats you accordingly. Like none of the other prisoners are put behind the invisible wall you are, they’re given chances to socialize, they get more food, they aren’t tortured day after day, Dr. Brown has been trying to break you from day one,” she told me. I looked over at Zuri, who avoided eye-contact by looking down at her shoes. Had she known?

“Okay, so if I was staying here, what would he want with me?”

“From what we know about the only other person who used to be in your situation, Dr. Brown would have sent you through an eleven-step process which would eventually condition your brain to help him mind-control the rest of the Combos.”

"What happened to the person he tried the machine on first?

Elizabeth shrugged. "No one really knows," she said quietly. "Some people think he died, some people think he escaped, and others think he became part of the machine itself."

"What do you think?"

Elizabeth sighed and glanced down at her lock, gesturing for us to keep moving. I did as I was told as I listened to her explain her personal conspiracy theory. "I think Dr. Brown realized he wasn't the one who would help turn on the machine and sent him... away," she said as if not wanting to tell me where she really thought the first test-subject was sent.

“Why is Dr. Brown doing all this?” I asked.

Elizabeth groaned with anger as if hating Dr. Brown even more for the reason he would do all of this. “Because he wants to go to war with the other Baltoids. He wants to use Earth as a platform for the biggest war in history and he wants to use the human race as his ‘expendable’ soldiers,” she said worriedly picking up pace. “He has invited the current ruling Baltoid to Earth three days from now. It's on that day that the war will begin after he murders the ruler and then activates the mind-control machine,” she paused. “Without you, he’ll only be able to control about a third of the planet, but that’s still enough to almost completely demolish Earth. Plus, he’ll also be able to control many of the world’s leaders,” she said. “With them, another sixth of the population will follow into a slaughter.”

“Alright,” I said, thinking of what I would do if the people I loved were caught in this war. “So what do you need me to do?” I asked, unknowing of the sacrifice I was going to have to make.

Elizabeth sighed and looked into my stormy-sea-colored eyes apologetically. “You need to destroy it.”

“Why’s that bad for me?”

“Because you’d need to use every last ounce of your life-force,” she said. “We’ve done the math…” she trailed off.

“What?” I asked, worry beginning to pour down on top of me and then drip down, seeping into every inch of my body until I was completely covered in the slimy feeling. I knew what was going to happen before anyone even told me. I knew what Zuri was going to say before she even thought it. It was inevitable. All good things must come to an end and no matter how hard we fight to keep them going, deep down, we all know what must be done. Life was about sacrifices. It was a hero’s job to make sacrifices for the greater good even if sometimes they just wanted to live a normal life filled with teenage dramas, grades, boys, best friends, little sisters, and nosy parents. It was a hero’s job to give these things up because they had something more important to fight for and as a hero, it was my job to put others before myself.

Zuri took my hand as she spoke, holding it tightly as if worried I would fade away if she didn’t. “Oliv,” she whispered through almost silent sniffles. A single tear fought its way down her cheek as she continued to speak, telling me what I already knew, not because she needed me to know, but because she needed to admit to herself what was going to happen. “Oliv the machine's going to kill you,” she said.

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