Chapter 1: Escape From Insanity
I am the Xatron. The words rattle around in my brain even as we leave behind the gray box that is me. Now that the barrier is gone, I know that I exist both here, in this body, and there, in that room. Human and Machine.
“Hope!” Lizzie shouts, pulling me out of my reverie.
I look up and notice a guard standing still, staring at us. At me. He opens his mouth as if to speak, and then closes it again.
I touch his mind, and pull in his most recent memories. Three people standing in front of him with brown, black, and blonde hair. They were the three escapees his boss ordered a search for. Sitting alone in the apartment in the morning staring despondently at his bowl of cereal; mourning the breakup with the last girlfriend. Her yelling at him, "You spend too much damn time at that jail! You don't even care enough about me to come home in time for dinner!"
I yank myself away and put up an invisible barrier. He only lost a couple of days of memories. He will be disoriented for a couple of days, but I did a better job controlling my eating this time.
“Don’t worry, we are safe now.” I smile at my two companions and stride past them. His memories tell me the way out of this jail that has held me for so many years.
“Hope, do you know where you are going?” Nathan’s voice is hesitant. He sounds unsure of whether to be scared or complicit.
“Of course. Jacob entered here this morning, and I have his memories of today now.” I am useful now. I am not just some brainless chick getting dragged along.
The barrier that protected me from my own memories is gone. The only barrier left in my mind is the one I created to prevent myself from feeling pain. I know its dangerous, and one day it will break, but for now I leave it.
Behind me my compatriots are slowing, exhaustion tugging at there ankles, so I slow my own stride down.
The memories lead me to a door that is easy to push open, the stairwell. Jacob liked to use the stairs rather than the elevator. Felt it was better for his health and fitness levels.
Guards are moving on the stairs a level above us heading upward. A sound and sight shield should protect us. I marvel at the strange little gray hands that I can see around us, enforcing my will.
This place is a monstrosity. The prison was fifty levels high, built to hold roughly 1,000 prisoners a level.
My level, called the Xatron level by the guards, was luckily on level 10. Only ten stories down to the exit. I raise a finger to my lips, and motion for silence the way I see people do in their memories.
It’s so strange. I used to have no memories to call up, no past no future, and now I can view so many pasts. I can pull on their memories as if they are my own.
We creep down the stairs listening for the stop of guard boots. All I can hear is the slowly fading clomp of the guards heading up the stairs. Most guards probably take the elevator. Ray’s memories inform me that he would take the elevator.
The door to the first floor opens easily into an area surrounded by a clear wall with a door to a large lobby area. There is desk in the middle of the lobby, and chairs around the clear wall surrounding the stairwell. Somehow we have to get through the door into the lobby.
One of the walls has small temporary cells made of metal bars. Two of the cells have people sitting on a bench in them. Four guards lounge near the cells in this lobby, and a woman in the guard uniform stands at the desk in the middle of the lobby. We will have to slip past all of these people.
I struggle to raise the shield of tiny hands to seal us away from sight, and my legs give out. I’m sitting on the floor in a heap, and the shield I just raised is gone. We can’t escape without that shield. I try to push out the hands, but it is too hard, and I let go.
Someone touches my shoulder, and I turn to see Nathan next to me. “Are, are you doing ok?” I can tell this whole situation has rattled him. I’m not sure he ever expected we would get this far. He definitely didn’t expect me and my powers. I thought he would hate me for stealing his sister’s memories.
Instead, he sits next to me, those overly blue eyes staring at me, waiting for me to answer. I shake my head. “No, I don’t think I can raise any more shields. The last shield drained my energy.” I still didn’t understand my power that well. I would seem to be doing fine, and then it would suddenly exhaust me.
“Do you think you can steal the memories of the people in there?” His voice sounded strange, and he was staring past me now, as if trying not to see where the power he desired was coming from.
“I can, one at a time.” Taking memories was the easiest thing to do. The other things were the things that lead to exhaustion.
“I’ll carry you then, and you can steal memories. Take the memories of the guards with guns first.”
“I need to be close to them.” I think about how hard it was to stretch out the hands. I don’t think I could steal memories from across the room. I will probably need to touch them to be able to steal their memories.
Why did my body give out now? I look over at you for an answer, but you stare at me as blankly as ever. You obviously don’t have an answer for me. You never seem to be able to have any answers for me.
“Wrap your legs around me waist, and I will carry you as close as we can get. Lizzie, follow us once we’ve gone to each guard in the building.
I do as Nathan tells me, and clutch his shoulders tightly as he slowly stand up. Will we be fast enough to make it to all the guards?
Lizzie opens the door and Nathan jogs out through the door. Too slow! We are too slow. The guards see us and shout. We make it to the door in the clear wall, but all four are standing there with their short weapons pointed at us. When we open that door, we will die. But if we stay here, guards will come down the stairs or the elevator, and we will also die.
My eyes close, and I force myself awake. I can’t let my own exhaustion kill us. I have to be strong. Nathan is carrying me, I can do this. I force those tiny hands out, push them past that clear door. They fight me. Every second is a struggle.
One hand reaches one of the guards, and I can see her smiling at fiancé as she turns to head out the door. She loves the way his brown hair never stays flat on his head, and how he grumbles about it as if he thinks people care about this.
Sleep. I whisper to her, not wanting to steal anymore memories from her. All of these people have lives that I am stealing.
I force myself to go to the next guard and cling to him. He has his own speeder, and he loves the way it feels to zoom through the buildings on his way to work. He flies past all those people on the public shuttles and stops just short of the garage… Sleep.
I turn to the next guard as he collapses. Two more left. I can do this.
His mother glares at him as he runs out of the house to catch the public shuttle. She doesn’t exactly approve of him still living at home. At least he has a job. Half his friends don’t. Sleep. Why am I seeing these people’s memories from the morning?
Once more. One more person. Actually two more, but the lady at the desk is pointing a gun at us. I reach toward the last one. A man jogging out of the stairwell with black haired woman clutching his back. Her buddies falling to the ground for some unknown reason. Playing cards with them earlier in the morning, joking about this job. Then the image coming through of the escapee from the mid-levels, and laughing that the crazy black haired woman and her blonde haired counterpart would make it down to the lobby level. Sleep.
There are black splotches in my vision. I can see one last person to worry about. The woman at the desk, reaching under the desk.
“Woman, desk.” I whisper, unable to form more words.
Nathan tries to open the door, but it was locked. I couldn’t… Not both. “Leave me, take her out. Need to touch.” Nathan sets me down next to the door. The woman at the desk was holding one of those short weapon things out in front of her, and her hands were shaking. Hopefully she wouldn’t be able to shoot well.
Nathan lifts up my hand, and touches it to the door. I can see the inner workings of the lock, the tumblers to turn. I push, forcing them into place.
… it works.