Chapter 5, Part 4

The figure of Josh nodded respectfully, once again showing that there was more to this boy than vanity and self-righteousness. Next, the image made a waving motion; the metacognite really had a dramatic streak, seeing as his real body was likely motionless, concentrating on maintaining the proxy brain.

Images danced around the focal point of Faye’s inner perception once more, but this time they seemed organized. Unlike the mind-bending, multidimensional array from before these collections of color and movement eventually settled down from their energetic entrance routine and lined up neatly. It was like looking into the infinite frames produced by two parallel mirrors. Except instead of the same picture within each, every single one had different content.

Faye recognized the first scene, which was now directly in front of where she perceived herself to be in this mental plane. Josh had moved to “stand” beside her, as the borders of this first image – a memory – widened and the two found themselves standing in a white foyer.

Suddenly the agent could feel people around her again. Their emotions filtered into her sphere of empathic discernment. Regular, everyday kinds of feelings really, imbued with the sort of vague positivity one would expect from the sorts of people who chose to work at an orphanage.

The South Durvell Federal Orphanage was exactly as she remembered it. Faye gasped as she saw her younger self standing stiffly near the entryway.

“A rite of passage huh…” the girl, thin to the point of jaggedness, muttered.

Faye remembered. She had been thinking about the lost cultures. It had been so long since she had entertained thoughts relating to her childhood interest. For some reason reflecting upon this made her sad, as if remembering a departed friend.

“Pay attention now,” Josh chimed in gently.

Faye wasn’t able to sense the emotions of her younger self. After all, despite the unmatched puissance of Josh’s abilities, it seemed that they were still bound by logic. The auras she was sensing from other people were probably preserved the way they were stored in her memory. However, she could still observe her previous self’s body language, which had just straightened in attentiveness.

Quickly following on the heels of this nonverbal cue was an almost overwhelming sensation stimulating her extra sense. It was familiar and obvious now, but had been forgotten a moment ago due to Josh’s tampering.

Even before the three government agents came into the memory, Faye gasped – for she had become unambiguously corporeal since entering the recollection. “Uncle Derrick!” she exclaimed, as the man’s distinctive face and squinting eyes came into view.

What was it that caused her to anticipate his arrival so spectacularly? Why did she feel excited in his presence? Just as Faye was beginning to ask herself these questions, the memory faded and she was back in the abstract space of her own mind, standing (if such a concept made sense in this place) before an advancing column of framed images.

The next set of moving images in the series – some of them memories, others dreams, and others thoughts and visualizations – passed in a blur, like a landscape viewed through the window of a moving vehicle.

With Josh’s guidance, Faye relived the brief period of time she spent living as Derrick Jones’ legal benefactor before joining the Peripheral Branch. Each conversation was reproduced faithfully, as were the ambient sights, sounds, and even emotional landscapes.

“Mr. Jones, why did you adopt me?” the young woman asked.

 

“Working for the Central Government, I have friends at the federal orphanage. They told me about someone coming of age, who had no benefactor, and whose parents did not have sufficient privileges to keep their assets from being reclaimed by the government. I wanted to help you.”

 

“Why would you do that for me Mr. Jones?”

 

“Please, call me Derrick. I was told you were very smart, that the other children came to you for guidance. I thought I could turn you into a valuable and contributing citizen. If that’s what you want, of course.”

 

The girl, barely an adult, drank up every word the man said. She was utterly enthralled with something about the man’s presence.

 

“Please, let me start right away!”

 

Derrick chuckled. “Alright, when I get back from work tomorrow I’ll look through some job postings, and we can find some entry-level position at a reputable organization for you.”

 

“I want to help you!”

 

The man scratched his head in a calculating manner.

 

“You see, there’s a bit of a problem. My work involves very special kinds of people. I wouldn’t know if you could help me even if you wanted to. I could tell you about the sort of people I need, but the chance of you fitting the description is under one percent.”

 

She looked at him, eyes gleaming. “Please tell me Mr. Jo- Derrick.”

Things were starting to piece themselves together for Faye. Something Josh had done was allowing her to view her past thoughts and experiences from a more objective point of view. Slowly, she was beginning to identify something that had been overwhelming to her younger self, but while still strange and indecipherable, was more tractable to analysis in her current state induced by the metacognite.

Derrick Jones’ emotional aura. It was an enigma. Faye did not want to admit it, but with each passing series of images, something about it was gradually becoming more and more artificial.

“You’re catching on,” Josh said, still unabashedly reading the agent’s thoughts like one of those books the professor had kept.

Without warning, the line of thoughts and memories flickered, then fizzled out. Josh’s projection wavered, and sounds that seemed to originate from the outside world began finding their way to Faye’s consciousness. Somewhere, she heard her name being called.

That voice: it was familiar, comforting.

“James!” she gasped, feeling her real mouth move. Somehow, she was reconnected with external reality.

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