SWITCH

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Lina’s hand touched my arm and the smell of the mechanically treated air in the office reached my brain. My name floated in the air and I felt my focus shifting back to my aged flesh.

There was a nudge from ground level.”Mmmm, 28 now, many more than before.”

I cleared my throat and sensed Lina’s energy in arms reach. “How are you, here’s a cold water.” A crinkly sounding plastic bottle appeared in my hand. The first object I touched since beginning the session.

“Thank you.” I took a moment to scan the floors below me and confirmed the building was teeming with people. “Did we bring in an HVT while I was under?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know. But there has been quite a commotion outside in secured parking.” Lina moved the thick wall colored curtain away from the far window and peered into the space below.

I grabbed one of the few remaining cookies from the plate and steadied myself to stand. Several hours had gone by and I realized how much Carl helped speed the process. He would walk alongside you in your memory, picking up small clues and overlooked items of interest to discuss after the session. Carl’s talent must have acted as a buffer. I don’t remember being this tired after a regression before.

“Did you log my name as your patient today?” I asked hoping the new doctor was following protocol.

“Yes and no. I put subject 9 of project Virtue,” Lina confessed the lie of omission with a hint of alarm.

“Well, you are going to get a call. Tell them I’m here. If you’re asked, explain I requested the project designation instead of my name since I felt I was being treated like a piece of equipment. You were accommodating my request as you were asked to do.”

“How do you know what anyone has asked of me?” The smile melted from her face. “Of course, there wouldn’t be many secrets kept from you.”

I shook my head no and adjusted my neck. The panic in the floors below was palpable. Some kind of shit hit the fan while it wasn’t looking. My eldest little dark shadow was ready at the door. ”Fine go see what’s going on.” I thought settling back into my chair and deciding what cookie to grab next.

“They just took you from your life. I can’t believe any single agency can have that much power over a person’s life.” Lina dropped back on the couch and pulled her legs under a couch pillow. “What about your rights as a citizen?” She asked.

“I was angry, and I didn’t think any of this world was real. I fully expected to wake up and find it was one of my more realistic dreams. I’m not a citizen or a person in the eyes of my government. I’m an asset and one that can be erased if necessary. All your clients like me will have the same designations. Assets.” Lina stared blankly at me for a moment.

“But you have a son?” She asked.

“The woman listed on his birth certificate died the day of the restaurant robbery.”

“But you worked, you have a social security number and a credit history. You filed taxes and you married and divorced.” Lina protested.

“You wouldn’t be able to find any of the real records. They were all replaced or destroyed. The courthouse where my first marriage license was issued burned down the week after the robbery. Probably faster than picking the record out of the filing cabinets.”

“What have I gotten myself into,” Lina grabbed a soda can off the table and popped the top breaking the otherwise tranquil air around my remaining three little mist pigs. The pile of menus on the coffee table fluttered, several of the colorful pages fell to the floor.

“Pick them up please,” I said into the room. Just as the air arced and pushed them to the floor it arced the opposite direction and pushed the pages up onto the table.

“Good God I will never get used to that,” Lina clutched the couch pillow and lost all color in her face. She was keeping herself motionless on the couch trying not to run away.

I overheard the thoughts of one man called in from home to clean up the commotion going on downstairs. He was looking over the building manifest and calculating all his options. “We are having company, sit up, fix the couch, put on your shoes.” I motioned with my hands and snapped a few times. Lina complied although she had many questions layered on her face. It was only a second later my eldest mist returned with news.

“Man ran, no one find man. Some look to see who is here.” The mist I named many things over the years swirled at my feet regaining some of the energy it lost on its mission downstairs.

“Thank you, North. South, encourage the last human to touch the missing man to look for me too.” I spoke aloud not to show off but to show my process. The air moved enough the displacement was seen and felt. South was a great big mist. It was easily felt by those close to it. Lina shuddered but remained seated on the couch ready to receive guests.

The door lock beeped in the lobby. “Remain calm, no one will hurt you,” I explained quickly. Lina took a deep breath as the door to her office opened. Three men charged in the room, looking in the corners, guns drawn, with shitty looks on their faces.

“Cal” The man questioned taking a few steps forward with his hand extended to me. I took it and his information from the skin contact.

I did know him. I repaired his shredded leg after a messy extraction. “Yes, Colonel Bychick how are you here?” I asked with a fake questioning tone.

“Have either of you seen or heard anyone on this floor, Ma’am?” He asked.

“No, have you lost someone Colonel?” I extended my other hand palm up. Greg Bychick placed his hand on mine, shifted his weight evenly across his two legs, and nodded his head yes.

“Well, well a very bad man indeed.” I could see him, the fugitive. A trim, muscular, and evenly assembled man. He overpowered two guards who underestimated him and took a set of keys. “You know Greg if you can’t train your men properly this will keep happening.” I smiled at the man in front of me. He bit his tongue and smiled back. I glanced at the floor space behind me. “East, West Hunt!” The room was silent. I looked at the other two men standing in the doorway. “Have either of you touched the man we are looking for?”

An unremarkable-looking uniformed man cleared his throat and tried to speak only a whisper of an answer passed his lips. “Speak up damn it,” Colonel Bychick demanded.

“Yes, I touched him.” The man managed to convey on his second attempt.

“Excellent, give me your hand please.” The man seemed apprehensive. “I’m an old lady Sweetie. What could you possibly be afraid of?” Greg made a sound somewhere between a huff and a growl.

The apprehensive man holstered his weapon and extended his hand as if to shake mine. I grabbed the warm hand and pushed past the personal worries about the fight with his wife over tuna in oil or packed in water and who was going to fire their gardener for pissing in the flowerbeds to find the fugitive, and the one time he helped him put on a fresh shirt before being shackled for transport. He touched the man’s rib cage and lower back directly over a kidney.

“Very nice, skin contact near a kidney. That will bring him to his knees, and I can reach the pericardial sac. He will think he is having a heart attack.” With one man holding each of my hands a dizzying amount of useless information began pouring into my mind. I had to laugh.

“Okay now. Tuna in water tastes better in sandwiches. Peanuts grow underground on bushes not on trees like almonds. If your wife’s cat likes to bite you while you sleep feed it treats until it learns to like you or get it a crate. But you need to sleep to perform your duties. You carry a firearm all day for fuck sake. And grow a full set, tell your Gardner to stop pissing in your roses or find another place to work.” I took a deep breath and tried to interpret the information coming from East and West.

“They found him. He stopped running due to the pain. He is in a breezeway between two buildings. It looks clean there’s even an iron bench and a planter box of young tulips. There are cardboard boxes with dividers for bottles. A sanitation number B2356, 1 or maybe 7 is visible on a green trash tote at the end of the corridor. He is taking a breather before heading on to a safe spot. He thinks if he can just stay off the main roads, he can make it through the buildings and parking structures. Do you need him alive?” I asked openly but looked at Greg.

“Ideally, but if that’s not possible.” Greg raised his eyebrow tilted his head. There would be no love lost if I turned the hunt into a recovery.

“Looking up at the sky between the buildings there is no sun or moon visible. Logically he is walking distance from his exit point. The parking lot, correct?” Both men nodded in agreement.

“You know someone is going to retire early over this one.” I chuckled.

“Not if you find him for us,” Greg corrected.

“So a leg and a few years of your career,” I huffed. Greg put his free hand on top of mine and prepared himself for pain.

“Take what you need. I want him alive.” Greg cracked his neck and repositioned his feet.

I leaned in close enough to see the bits of gray hair on his face glisten in the falling afternoon sun. “Never works out when you sell your soul to the devil Greggory,” I whispered.

“You’re an angel to me, Ma’am. I could have died let alone have a functional leg. Evil can’t give life it can only take.”

I laughed at the premise if he knew how much I took to save his leg. He would not think so highly of me. “You do know the devil was once an angel.” I dropped the now trembling man’s hand from my grasp and pushed my palm onto the center of Greg’s chest. I could see our fugitive and I could make Greg see it too. “Map skills are not why they keep me around. Can you see where to pick him up?” I asked letting go of my grip on Greg’s soul.

“I know exactly where he is. I get coffee at a place across from him. It’s close by.” Greg took a moment to relay the fugitive’s location on his radio. The two men who came with him ran out of the room.

“Nobody told me you could do that with other people,” Greg confessed rubbing his chest lightly.

“Others, like me Right?” I asked waving my hands at shoulder height. “Have you given any thought as to what your leg is made out of? There wasn’t enough of it left to reconstruct.” I patted my flat stomach and put one hand on either side of my empty womb. “Female exhaustive are especially useful for trauma situations. We can grow new parts.”

“Grow them from what,” Greg asked.

“The same thing we are all grown from. One man, one woman, one embryo. I take what’s needed and chuck the rest.” The color drained from Greg’s tanned face. He was well-groomed and pampered by some woman who’s love glowed all around him like a golden cloak. “You thought muscle and bone appeared by magic? Everything has a cost, Greggory. You are part Other and part of a large and ever-growing family of half-siblings.” Greg looked sick. I almost felt bad for him. “There is no magic just energy and the concepts we use to make sense of all this shit every day.” Greg smiled and nodded before walking back out the door. He pulled the door shut and swiped the lock with his card.

“That was intense,” Lina panted.

“Pff,” I scoffed. “I won’t even get a per diam for that bit of work,” I explained opening a second cold water. North and South were patrolling the window ledges. East and West arrived back to me almost depleted of energy. The swirled around me for a few moments before falling to the floor like a pile of sleepy puppies. “You look exhausted Lina. I’m heading home.” I sent a text to the car service starting my pickup.

“No, you have to finish. There’s more to that story. There has to be.” Lina stood up and wobbled a bit from her hours on the couch.

“Next week then?” Lina walked to her desk and pulled out her appointment book.

“Yes, can you do the same day and time?”

I nodded my head in agreement. I missed several messages over the course of the day. One from my bank for a direct deposit alert that brought a smile to my face.

“Thanks for getting my paperwork signed. They finally released the hold on my payroll.”

“It’s the least I can do. I see the need for procedures, but I disagree with their tactics. I have five clients besides you now. Thank you for them.” Lina smiled and closed her appointment book.

“A little quid pro quo never hurts.” I put on my coat and gathered my friends for the trip to the first-floor lobby.

The day was an odd one. Remembering everything fresh was double-edged. So many things in my life changed for the better. I really don’t have the emotional capital left to spend on reliving the past.

I added the appointment to my phone calendar while I waited for my car to arrive. There were only a few people on the ground level. The receptionist didn’t take her eyes off me. The doorman looked like he wanted something to say to me but wasn’t going to approach. My car arrived I gathered my coat and walked out into the empty evening air.

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