Chapter 6, Part 4

In a spectacular fireworks display, the Josh’s neural construct tore itself into thousands of shining particles. Like embers cast from a fire, they slowly faded as they drifted ponderously downwards.

“This… this is… I am…” the boy sputtered.

Having the full complexity of his manipulations of the physical world thrust upon him had left the metacognite briefly stunned. However, now that he had broken under the strain of maintaining the proxy brain, it would be only a matter of time before he regained control over the situation. At least, that was James’ assessment.

The agent knew he had to act fast. His motor control was returning, but not promptly enough. Had he been standing, he would have been confident that he had the ability to lurch his way over to Josh and subdue him. The problem was that he was still on his knees.

In addition to replacing the functionality of his organs, James’ “repairs” had made him much heavier.

Realizing that he would not likely be able to claim the initiative in time, he called out to the only person in the room who would be capable of doing what needed to be done.

“Faye!”

Glass apparatus around the lab vibrated and clinked together as James roared desperately. Slowly, he turned to look at his partner. Her face was blank, unresponsive.

“Faye!”

In the corner of the room, Dr. Reeves winced, wishing he could have covered his ears. Alas, his hands were pinned by the strange technology he was growing very curious about, despite his surroundings; could it be heavy lepton circuits were already being developed by the government?

In the same way she would break through the morning sleep paralysis that often accompanied her nightmares, Faye jerked to life.

“James!”

She was disoriented, dizzy, and confused. How much time had passed? Where was her protector’s voice coming from?

These questions were almost like shields to Faye. Any time spent answering them kept the questions she did not want to face at bay.

Was what Josh had shown her true? If so, what was she even doing here? As the distressed agent got her bearings she began to face the reality of her life’s motivations and truths crashing down around her. For one trembling slice in time, Faye was unaware of James’ desperation and the task he needed her to fulfill, as she tried to make sense of the existential burdens heaping themselves onto her dazed mind.

“Pull yourself together agent!” James shouted. He didn’t know what Josh had done, but it must have been severe to put the prodigy investigator known for her laser-sharp focus in such a state. “Look in front of you!”

Faye did so, finding temporary refuge in the familiarity of receiving commands, and in James’ voice. What she saw surprised her, and when she didn’t react, James followed her gaze.

Contrary to the kneeling giant’s expectations, Josh was not recovering from his neural trauma. Indeed, the last remnant of his hold over James and Faye’s voluntary nervous systems continued to fade, showing no signs of regaining its former potency.

The boy was still standing, but hunched over. His hands were clenched around locks of light-brown hair. Wrinkles that seemed out of place on such a juvenile face were abundant, as every facial muscle was contorted in what looked like extreme pain. With his eyes squeezed shut, Josh continued muttering, but his speech was now at a level where it was incoherent to the other people in the room.

Relieved, but still on guard, James rose steadily to his feet. All traces of the metacognite’s hold had vanished at this point. He glanced hurriedly at Faye, scanning her face with no small amount of concern, then fixed both eyes squarely on the mission target. If Josh regained lucidity, trying to figure out what why Faye was so unfocused would be all for naught.

Telling himself this to appease his instinct to help a wounded companion, James steeled himself by focusing on the task at hand. He spoke in an even tone now, both to Faye and to himself.

“We need to secure him for transport. Though the hemispherical force projector relies on electronic circuits, he shouldn’t be able to deactivate it once inside its containment bubble.”

James was treating Faye as if she had just come from a particularly trying night in her sleeping pod. In times like that, calmly beginning a preliminary analysis while using slightly more technical language helped stimulate her mind, and she would quickly jump on top of James’ observations and logically expand upon them. It was something James considered her brain naturally suited for, and something he hoped would snap her out of her uncharacteristic mental vacancy.

“R-right. Yes.”

Faye rarely stumbled on her words, but at least wasn’t staring blankly this time. And yet, she hesitated.

“Are you sure we’re doing the right thing James?”

The agent in question was nearly done entering the configuration sequence on the HFP, but the question was so far out of the scope of his expectations that he paused, and went from watching Josh warily to staring back in confusion.

“What’s that?”

“I think we should talk to him.”

James couldn’t believe this! Still on the sidelines, Dr. Reeves cringed as he felt a palpable aura of frustration radiate off of the larger, imposing man.

“You’re confused, agent,” he stated firmly. “Joshua Brooke has demonstrated many times over that he is dangerous. We must contain him while we have the opportunity!”

During this time Josh’s legs had given way, and he was crumpled on the ground, motionless save for a slow, rhythmic swaying.

“Put me in with him,” Faye demanded.

James’ eyes widened. Faye didn’t realize that through him, she was being monitored. It tormented him to see her trash her record with such nonsense. Besides, things wouldn’t be up to them for much longer. Zed was on his way.

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