Chapter Twenty-Four: Natalia
The darkness invited me in with open arms as if it personally called me to join it. I didn't hesitate to accept the invitation. We were good friends by now. It always led me down the right path eventually.
I was standing in a dark hall with a single light hanging above us. My body trembled, but not from the cold. Fear coursed through my veins. I was going to be punished again, I knew I would be. He didn't like it when she encroached on my mind.
I risked a glance over to the two people standing next to me, my mom and dad. "You've come back for more, I see."
I snapped my head to the front. "Please. I can't keep her out," squealed Melinda.
The man emerged from the darkness, allowing me to see him for the first time. He had a strong, square jaw that could easily take a few punches. His cheeks bones protruded as if to tell the world about the unimaginable things they faced and were still standing to tell the tale. His hair was a natural midnight black without a single gray hair in sight. His emerald eyes were blank and cold like steel.
The man stood there in front of Melinda, unmoving. "I'm going to give you a pass today, Telepath. The bosses applaud you on your move tonight at the young Molecular's party."
I moved through Melinda's mind looking for the speech section of her brain. "Why don't you tell me where you are?" asked Melinda for me.
The man smiled. "You're even stronger than we anticipated. It'd be no fun if I solved the puzzle for you, great Telepath."
"When I find you, you'll wish you never took my family."
The man clapped his hands together while chuckling. He was enjoying this. "She's got a big mouth too. You're everything we could've hoped for. Tell you...friend we look forward to seeing them again. It's been a while." The man shot a massive energy blast into Melinda, knocking me out of her mind.
I woke up with a jolt. Every nerve in my body was on edge, brimming with electricity. I closed my eyes and pulled my knees to my chest. The man's image flooded my mind. There was something familiar about his piercing, cold eyes. It was almost like I'd seen them before.
I racked my brain looking for the piercing, cold eyes in my memories, but I couldn't find them anywhere. Tell your...friend we look forward to seeing them again. That's what the man said before he kicked me out of Melinda's mind. Who was he talking about?
I went through the short list of people I knew. I ruled out everyone I recently came into contact with because there was no way the man knew I met them. Also, I hardly considered any of them my friends. I came down to the short list of two people: Alex and Jesse. I flipped through conversations with the two of them, looking for any indication that they may know this TWA officer.
Jesse kept his past private, so there was no indication that the knew any TWA officers. Alex, on the other hand, told me almost everything about himself and what he didn't tell me, I saw as I dug through his mind. Alex had a run in with TWA officers when he was younger. It was a long shot, but it was the only lead I had.
I popped into Alex's room. It was three a.m. according to Alex's alarm clock sitting on his night stand. He was fast asleep and I wasn't going to disturb him, especially if my hung was right. He didn't need to be conscious for the pain he lived through years ago.
I dove into his mind, searching for the one memory I watched bits and piece of over the years. It wasn't hard. Alex kept it close to the front of his mind. It was a wound he carried with him everywhere, everyday. I touched the memory bubble and was sucked in.
Alex, his brother Allen, and his parents were sitting on the couch, watching television like they did every night after dinner. This was the family's one hour of escape from the world around them. Suddenly, the front and back doors were kicked in and people screamed on the top of their lungs, "Don't move." I sat there, as Alex, in utter fear.
The men in different colored jumpsuits swarmed the living room, checking every inch of it. "Clear!" yelled one of the many men.
The sound of boots smacking against the hardwood floor resonated throughout the living room as all of the guards stood at attention. "I'm sorry for the intrusion. We're here for Allen." The man with black hair and piercing green eyes stood in front of us, his hands behind his back.
The man looked like the one I saw with my parents and Melinda, just a younger version. His jaw was just as strong and square, but his cheeks were hidden by naive youth. HIs hair was just as pitch black and his eyes just as blank. The only difference was a twinkle I was able to pick up on in his eyes. It was an odd sight to see.
I had all the information I needed and didn't need to subject myself to anymore of this memory. I attempted to pull myself out, in order to avoid vividly living through Allen's death, but I was stuck. My own mind was absorbed by the memory. It had to play itself out before I could be free.
Alex's parents pulled me and Allen closer to their bodies. "What do you want with our baby?" asked Alex's mom.
The man with green eyes beckoned someone into the room. "I'm sure you're aware of the TWA's policy on rogue Telepaths?" Alex's mom nodded. "You're harboring a rogue Telepath, Mrs. Whitman."
Mrs. Whitman gasped. "That's impossible."
A woman with soft hazel eyes and golden blonde hair walked in with another boy, who was no more than seven years old. She pointed to the wall and the boy stood there with his back against it. I saw his midnight black hair and piercing emerald eyes. He was the spitting image of the man with green eyes.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but the TWA doesn't make mistakes when it comes to the safety of the community."
Mrs. Whitman held onto Allen tighter. Mr. Whitman held onto me as if I was going to slip through his fingers. "He's just a child."
The man with green eyes looked at the officers to his right. They snatched Allen out of his mother's arms, ignoring her cries. Allen kicked and screamed in the most important tantrum of his life, although it did him little good. Mr. Whitman turned my head into his shoulder and grabbed Mrs. Whitman's hand. I could still see the events unfolding before me in the mirror on the opposite wall; it showed me the entire living room.
Allen reached for Mrs. Whitman. "Mommy!" he screamed with tears pouring down his cheeks in heavy streams.
The man with green eyes looked at the boy. "Son, I need you to focus on me."
"Mommy!" Allen screamed.
Mrs. Whitman choked back tears. "Allen, I need you to listen to the nice man. I need you to do that for me. Please."
Allen stopped screaming, but the tears didn't stop. "Are you willing to join the TWA, Allen?"
Allen looked over at Mrs. Whitman. "It's okay, sweetie," she said as she encouraged her son to say yes. "Mommy and Daddy love you." This brought on another episode of tears from Allen. "Don't cry, sweetie."
The man with green eyes sighed. "I didn't want to do this."
Allen's screams became silent. He slowly began to turn red and then purple. His blue eyes bugged out of his tiny skull as he realized he couldn't breathe. Mr. Whitman covered my eyes, but it was already too late. I'd seen enough to know what was happening.
"Please! He's just a child!" screamed Mrs. Whitman.
"The TWA doesn't accept defiance," said the man.
"Mom, what is Dad doing to that boy?" asked the only other child in the room other than me.
“He’s punishing him for doing something bad.”
I heard a body drop to the floor. My stomach dropped. “Let’s go!” shouted the man.
“Mom, is the boy sleeping?”
“No, sweetie. The boy’s gone. He’s not waking up.”
I finally managed to untangle myself from Alex's memory. My own eyes were burning and my cheeks were soaked from tears. I silently stood up, looking over Alex as he slept peacefully and unaware I'd played that traumatic memory.
I never knew how bad it really was from the small snippets I'd watched over the years. I'd seen the trauma's effects on Alex, for sure, but I could never bring myself to see the full event that caused the wreckage.
I kissed Alex on the forehead. I wanted to lock the memory up for him to keep it from doing any additional damage, but I couldn't do that to him. The memory made him who he was. That memory was also the last he had of his brother. He needed it.
I jumped into a portal back to the Rebel base. There was nothing more I needed from Alex.