The lightness of the voice of this ghost of a person was astounding to me. Was she some kind of angel sent to make this life bearable? She stood up; surprisingly steady on her feet made of bones. Scotch stood as well, keeping pace with the girl as she went to a panel of the wall and groped until she found some kind of handle. The whole part of the wall vanished, and another room was revealed. She turned, her eyes elsewhere but her voice right at me.
"Come on, you should meet everyone else." Scotch turned with her, admonishing me for not trusting her.
I sighed and stood, knowing every step could take me closer to my death. Torches dimly lighted the room, real, flickering, fiery torches that cast small circles of light all over the cave like area. A wrap around bar went all around the earthen walls, with people sitting in ones or twos smoking and drinking brightly coloured concoctions out of what looked like ice. There were stone tables with moss-covered chairs placed around them where larger groups were sitting. All of the quiet chatter stopped as I entered the room behind my dog and her blind charge. She wandered over to a group of people at a table to talk and I slid onto a stool at the bar, turning my back to the laser stares of the people in the center.
A green drink slid in front of me, the ice glass not melting at my touch. I looked next to me and saw a long fingered, dark hand holing a cigarette. I picked up the drink and sipped at it, and it tasted like fruit juice. I decided that the silence was too uncomfortable and I broke it.
"You know smoking is bad for you."
I heard a rough, feminine voice chuckle darkly and smoke blew in my face, making me sigh. "You do not say anything about the strange drink, the freaky people or even the stares, you say that smoking is bad for me." I turned to look at this strange observer fully and I raised my eyebrows.
Like my new cellmate, she had clearly once been stunning, but time and experimentation had taken its toll on her face. The scars stretched the length of her face, leaving canyons in her cheeks and neck. Her skin was the colour of rich coffee with cream; it even glowed slightly despite the disfigurations. She took another long drag and looked me in the eye with a piercing black gaze that I meat without fear.
"You do not break eye contact, good." She paused to smash out her cigarette and light another. "I smoke because I eat the energy created by the fire. The embers are my lunch."
I shrugged and looked around at what the different people were doing. Some were chewing on unidentifiable substances, some were smoking and one was breaking off pieces of the tables he was sitting at and absorbing them. "You all are lucky, I have to eat normal food. Down here it seems like a disadvantage."
She laughed again, her voice rasping like a permanent sore throat. "You will learn to eat what ever you can get your hands on. What do you do, your tattoo is individual."
I winced at the mention of the brand on my hand. "I make people, any number of people-" I stopped myself, realizing what I could be doing. I was a weapon waiting to be manipulated; my power was, at the core, limitless. She prompted me with her hand circles, but I shrugged it off and took another drink, maybe pineapple. She smiled a tight-lipped, grin clearly relishing a private joke.
"You learn fast young one. You know what kind of information you hold so you must never tell anyone you do not completely trust. Tell me what I do."
She held out a fist and I glanced at the brand and snorted. The hand with the psychic spiral and a floating rock could not be more obvious. "You are telekinetic. How strong is the question, I think in between because a rock is not something that would normally fly, and it is not a building, which would imply insane strength."
She smiled again and got off her stool, walking to a side and going through an open panel. The stool was quickly taken by a ragged grey house cat the morphed into a thin, short, and not scarred, girl. Her loose, dirty tee shirt and shorts showed signs of years of wear, yet they stayed on her. Her face showed the features of more than the cat I had just seen. Her eyes were distinctly feline, with an elongated, almond shape, but her sharp chin and high cheekbones belonged to a faster animal. Her stringy arms looked like the limbs of cheetah, and she moved with the grace of some kind of stealthier cat, like a lynx or snow leopard.
I looked again, and this time I spoke, "Would it be appropriate to say "cat got your toung to you'?"
She jumped a foot off the stool, her short grey hair all on end as she spun to face me. She relaxed as she saw who it was and she inclined her head to me.
"My name is, not was, Feline. You are?"
I inclined my head in response and thought about what was in my name. My gloomy history was there but here no one cared. "Specter. I can see how you got yours in this life, you handle your abilities gracefully."
She laughed, an almost purring noise in her throat. "I have reverted to being more like what I become because of the experiments on me." She gazed at her lightly furred arms and legs and jerked out lethal looking claws in her fingertips. A hiss came from behind me and I leapt off the stool as a long snake curled around the stool's legs. To the graceful and short Feline, this boy was sinisterly similar. He was tall; at least six foot, and his animal induced features made him look like something from the horror movies of the 1900s. His skin was rough and looked like the texture of a rattlesnake's, his eyes had slit pupils and he had not yet blinked. His face looked a little bit too flat to be natural and his hair was distinctly receding.
I stood nervously as he hissed in my direction, licking his lips. "Who iss he? What doess he do? He sssmellsss wrong, Feline."
She chuckled her deep-throated purr and gestured me back over. "This is Reptile. We are not the most terribly inventive people when it comes to names. Reptile, this boy has newly christened himself Specter."
Reptile made the same head incline as Feline and I copied him, wondering if it was appropriate for me to blink in front of him or not. He looked back at Feline and told her what he had clearly come over to say. "We are tired of waiting, bring the drinksss, he came come if he likesss. We want to ssstart."
She sighed and jerked her head for me to follow, picking up several ice glasses on the counter. Reptile turned back into the vast snake and slithered ahead of us. I noticed many people turned away as Feline passed, trying to ignore her. I tried to ignore them and looked where we were headed. The strangest looking people I had ever seen in my entire life occupied a table in the corner of the room.
They were all transformers, which at once became clear. Reptile had placed himself beside a girl who looked similar to him only she looked more lizard-like, with a ridge noticeable through her barely present hair. A boy who bore a slight resemblance that could have been familial to Feline, looked more feral than she did and more dog like with a darkened nose and fur covered ears. There were two feather-covered girls huddled together, their brown and black feathers more than just down. By far the strangest of them was the rat-like boy who sat farthest back at the table. He was farthest along, twisting a tail between his brown-furred hands as his eyes flitted between his natural predators at the table. His eyes were small and dark amidst all the thick brown fur that covered his entire body.
Feline stood and everyone's sharp eyes flickered between her and me. "This boy will be sitting with us for a while. Some of the people looking at him are not the nicest in the world. He is a loner by nature, so he is uncomfortable with us." I was shocked at how observant this cat-woman was. "He will leave when this is done and go back to the bar."
I nodded my silent assent to her words and the wolf man kicked a chair at me that I took. They began some kind of meeting that the dog backed away from and slid up next to me. I had crossed my arms in such a way to where my brand could be seen. He gazed at it, his eyebrows contracting as his eyes roamed over it.
"You have some kind of uncharted power in the psychic realm. Your name is Specter, but what you do does not seem to affect you as far as you know. My name is Wolf, again not very inventive."
I laughed softly and looked Wolf in the face. His eyes were kind under the initial shell of instinct. "What do they do to make you react like this? Can they do this with any power?"
He laughed, the sound like the friendly baying of a coyote. "No they cannot do this to anyone. Our progression is stopped eventually, but some do not. Both Reptile and Lizard have stopped mostly, and Feline and I are slowing, but the Avians and Rat are both still going full force down the road." His grey eyes looked questioningly at me. "Does that answer your questions?"
I nodded, taking a deep breath to ask the hardest on of all. "What do they do to psychics?"
He shook his head, not needing to explain. I felt a jab in the back of my neck and turned around, searching for the source. I felt a warm hand on my arm and I saw Wolf smiling kindly, showing slightly pointed teeth.
"They have made their needles so fast that you cannot see them. You just got your first injection, my friend."
I stiffened, knowing what kind of havoc I could wreak if I became unconscious. "I need to leave, can you get me out?"
He shook his head, now looking worried. "No one can leave here once they are brought in by one of the blind ones." He jerked his chin to a group of skeletons like the one in my cell. I could see Scotch among them. "We have had some pretty bad things happen on first injections, especially psychics."
The involuntary shaking that started in my hands exacerbated the dawning horror of my situation. "Wolf, I need you to get everyone at least ten feet away from me, now."
He did not pause, but leapt up and told the rest of them what was going on. They spread out, purveyed the fact about my injection to the rest of the room and a hole was created around me as I my arms began to have minor jerks all through them. A buzzing filled my head and an image of a drill going through my hand flashed outward from me. Several shrieks filled the room as I drew the life force out of the moss on the chairs to keep the visions flowing out of me faster than thoughts could form to stop them, and my own life force, going. I fell out of the chair and curled up, trying to force my hands to my ears to make the buzzing stop. The buzzing had become a force, making my skin crawl and my insides curl. I think I was silent but I will never know. When it stopped, my vision was blurred and I had trouble coming to me feet.
Everyone around me looked as if they had been through a terrible ordeal while I had drowned in sound. I realized that I had forced them to go through everything I had imagined in my pain. I smiled weakly and fell onto a dried out chair for support. A boy almost as tall as Wolf stepped forward, his eyes horrified and his hands stretched out threateningly. I felt the force emanating from them and put my hands behind my head and closed my eyes, ready for more torture. I opened them to see that the ring had not dissipated, so I went over to my stool at the bar, wanting to be alone with my thoughts.
I heard and sensed them go back to their seats, wait I sensed them? The transformers had a wild energy, almost uncontained by their narrow forms; a group in the corner was lead by the telekinetic boy and the strangely scarred black girl and they were all similar; most of the rest were a jumbled mass of strange energy that I had not yet met. I felt another slight prick but blocked the buzzing, as hard as if was. I ground my hands into the counter and felt the new sense I had sharpen as this liquid spread through my veins. Someone came in the door next to me, a girl by my guess, her power untapped and I had a vague feeling she was afraid.
I looked over at her and saw she was my age, her rich brown hair cut short so it stood slightly on end. She was short and pale, like most of us, but her eyes were different, they seemed to contain the universe in their navy depths flecked with silver like stars. She stumbled over the stool next to mine and I shoved my almost untouched drink at her. I felt like a war veteran welcoming a new recruit, and yet I could not have been in this place more than six hours. She took a shaky sip of the bright liquid then launched into a speech before I could even start.
"Your name was Caleb, but you changed it to Specter because of your vision projections. They are very good by the way, I had the um, pleasure of experiencing several of them. You also draw power and energy from the world around you."
I was stunned and frightened, channeling it into anger as I grabbed her arm in the tightest grip I could manage. "How do you know all that? I have not told anyone here that stuff."
She tapped her head with her other hand and the meaning of her vague expression and strange eyes hit me harder than a ton of bricks. She could read people, their pasts and maybe even their futures. This was the kind of power that could go anywhere; she might read minds, or control minds, or emotions or almost anything that those starry reaches could hold. She smiled at me, her eyes never focusing on anything in particular and I saw the silver flash and knew what was coming, she would reveal everything like I had been tricked into doing.
"You need to hide yourself, or everyone in the room is going to hear your screams. You just got an injection which will make you go nuts."
She raised her chin and the light melted around her and she vanished. In three minutes she reappeared, her hair filthy and her chest heaving. She smiled in my general direction, thanking me for warning her.