Legacy stood in a huge, white space; he stared up at one of the room's cameras. He actually sensed a presence so similar to his that it gave him pause, though he did not feel an affinity, he felt fear, the power that watched him was what he hoped to never become: merciless.
The door opened and Barnes strode into the room, accompanied by several DIGA agents suited up in heavy ballistic vests and caged Kevlar helmets (reminiscent of those used for hockey); each man, Barnes included carried an extendible electroshock batons – shock prods. As Barnes strode further into the room, he activated his shock prod, the room filled with agents who began to activate their prods. Legacy counted fifteen men with his teacher, he knew what was about to happen but did not want it to happen.
“Legacy, your combat imprints held well against one opponent. I need to see you face multiple hostiles,” explained Barnes.
“I don't know what to do father. What am I supposed to do? I don't know how to fight these people,” Legacy spoke directly to Barnes, the doctor winced when the boy called him father, which was something they had not been able to work out of his student.
“It's there, inside your mind, what you need to beat them. You just need to be given the chance...Begin,” Barnes gestured at his protégée with the prod. Two men charged at Legacy, he effortlessly dodged their swipes and jabs – perhaps this would not be as hard as he had anticipated. A third man joined them; Legacy ducked under the swing of a prod but did not watch the attacker on his left. Searing pain shot through his side and he fumbled, that minor loss of balance was all another agent needed to get him in the solar plexus. He lashed out and caught that man on the jaw but he stumbled backwards, desperate to put space between himself and the agents. “Legacy, you were there for a moment, all you have to do is let instinct take over. I know your mind is a powerful weapon, you must allow it to act without interfering or thinking about the pain you will experience if you fail. You won't fail – trust me, trust yourself,” instructed the doctor, Legacy's pain was awful to watch.
The psychic listened to the words of his creator and took them to heart, let instinct take over and trust his father's counsel. He drew himself up to his full height and waited for the next round. This time, four men thundered at him. The fight was peculiar when he stopped fixating on the cost of failure, the world slowed down and it was as if he was on auto-pilot. A prod sailed towards his forehead, he caught the assailant's wrist and easily flipped the man over his shoulder but still managed to wrest the prod from him. He jabbed the next man in the gut and caught the agent's falling prod. The prod was tossed over the fitting agent's collapsing body and into chest of the man to his left. Legacy swung around in time to duck, the last man's prod swiped at the air above him. Legacy barged the man in the gut with shoulder then delivered a satisfying uppercut.
Legacy looked up and smiled at Barnes, the doctor smiled back and then ordered five men to assault the psychic.
Legacy leapt into the air and kicked a man in the head; he turned mid-air and closed his thighs around the back of another agent's neck. He somersaulted backwards, aided by his telekinesis, and slammed the man beneath him into the ground. The psychic sprang up from his crouched position above the unconscious man; he scissor kicked another agent in the stomach and face. He sensed another attacker approach, and swept the man's legs from under him then span around to fire a tightly wound coil of force into his gut. The floor beneath the agent cracked. He levitated the man and launched him at his final ally. Both men crashed into the far wall.
Barnes did not give any warning for this bout of seven versus one. He joined in the charge as the last agent passed him. The results of this were fascinating; Legacy had really engaged every aspect of those powers.
Legacy swatted aside two men with a motion of his hand, this time into the opposite wall to the one already plastered with his attackers. He motioned his arms inwards and two more men were yanked towards him as if dragged by an unseen rope. When they were about two feet away from him, Legacy threw his arms up and the pair was blasted into the ceiling. The agents to either side of Barnes were plucked away from him and towards Legacy. The boy span them three times around him in a circle behind before he launched them at the walls to his left and right. Barnes was close enough to lunge at his student. The doctor's arm was stuck; he had connected with something solid in the air, an invisible barrier that Legacy had thrown up when he had spotted this father out of the corner of his eye. Worse still, the prod was still discharging charge but it did so backwards, stuck in a feedback loop. The doctor shocked himself over and over again for about five seconds before Legacy channelled all of the energy in the barrier down the prod. The prod exploded with more power than it should have been capable of and Barnes was flung upwards.
When the doctor stopped skidding along the ground, Legacy went over to him and offered his father a hand. Barnes took it and hauled himself up off the ground. He was filled with pride as he surveyed the carnage before him, as he listened to the pained breaths of injured men; Legacy was so much better than he could ever have imagined. “You see, all you have to do is let instinct take over,” Barnes patted Legacy on the back, an action which would not help teach Legacy that he was not in fact his father.
`“No, I also I had to trust you, remember?” replied Legacy, voice devoid of any guile or sarcasm. Barnes' hand had still not left his student's back; he may very well have hugged his protégée if they were not being observed. Barnes knew then that he could never get Legacy to stop calling him father now.
Epoch watched the entire delightful scene unfold via video link from his vantage point, high up in a state-of-the-art office at the centre of London's beating heart. He had just witnessed all of his hopes for humanity play out in moments. Emmerich smiled.
* * *
A month now, he had been here a month and yet the place never ceased to amaze him. The children were the most amazing part about all of this, he was still surprised that every now and then a half-remembered face would appear and tell him how grateful they were that he found them. Marcus had just left such an encounter on the steps of the meeting house where a short Mexican girl had recounted her tale of rescue by the daring Commandant Sewell. Marcus bumped into Ioelu outside of the north-western quad and asked where he could find Philip. Ioelu motioned to the most north-western longhouse and then pointed down. Typical, the doctor was in the lab, Philip never seemed to be away from that lab, and this would be the first time that Marcus had to see him there though.
Marcus stepped behind the teacher's desk in the longhouse and Ioelu pressed a button under the drawer. The entire rectangular area covered by the rug which the desk sat on top of began to smoothly descend. As his surroundings vanished, the earthy colours of the classroom with its wooden furniture dropped out of sight, and was replaced by a world of chrome, steel, whites and a plethora of scientific equipment. “How the hell have you funded all of this?” Marcus was astounded, for an entire month he had been blithely accepting the fact that Philip was always in some laboratory. This was not just some laboratory; this was the nerve centre of the Feral Zone.
“Providence-aligned nations need to work up the courage to ask The Providence about funds it extracts. I mean really, how many miscellaneous expenses can one organisation have?” chuckled Ioelu. He led them through the colossal laboratory which covered the entire area beneath the longhouses and the airfield. They looked to have descended about eleven metres down on that lift, which had since risen back up. Everywhere Marcus looked there were people in lab coats and test subjects in suites, this grand laboratory had to be divided into just over a dozen suites. The number of scientists here could clearly not be housed above ground; Marcus considered just how far underground this complex stretched. Ioelu guided him onto what he could only describe as an airport buggy; a couple of them had passed them by loaded up with equipment. The buggy was at the end of a row of identical vehicles inside of an area marked out by a yellow box.
Ioelu reversed the buggy, there was no steering wheel or pedals, you hardly ever saw those any more unless someone insisted on using the manual steering, just a holographic display above the buggy's glass dashboard. “Dr Albion is in Suite 10 with Dr Sefu's team, we should be there soon,” remarked Ioelu. Marcus nodded his head, he only half-listened to the pilot. Instead he absorbed everything he saw with the time he had. People far smarter than him tapped away at hovering screens and glass tablets, squinted at bubbling chemicals, tinkered with complex machines or prodded at advanced weaponry. At fairly regular intervals a buggy would go past, and a group of scientists on board would be busy discussing something too technical for the old soldier to grasp or they would be there to watch over fragile cargo. This was real progress, not the distasteful, morally grey progress that The Providence heralded which needed to start its infancy where no one could see its ugliness. What Marcus saw actually gave him hope for a world he would be sad to leave behind. The buggy slowed to a stop outside Suite 10, and Ioelu waved goodbye to Marcus as the agent hopped off, he said he had a combat class he was supposed to be teaching in ten minutes on the east course.
As Ioelu departed, Philip opened the door to the suite for him, Marcus had no idea what the key codes were for down here. The doctor was in a lab coat, he hadn't seen him wear one in Africa. Philip had always been shorter than most people and had looked much too young to a doctor in Kinshasa, he still did. That was something Marcus had noticed about Philip, he aged extremely well, better than even Judah had. Beyond his friend was the bespectacled and statuesque Dr Nuanua Sefu, and her team of international scientists – this would help to explain where quite a few of those dissidents had ended up. They were all gathered around to watch a student climb into what looked like a huge Van de Graaff generator. The scientists stepped back and several of them held up devices similar to Geiger counters, all around the generator there were chrome tubes on tripods with a screen on the end facing away from the generator and a mesh at the other. “I'd say a quarter of the innovations here are thanks to my light fingers. Though when I lifted this research from the computers of friends and family members, it was theoretical. Here it is, helping to save lives,” Philip smiled broadly and waved at the experiment before them, “Those tubes are being tested out for the first time today; they give a false colour visualisation of free psions.”
“Huh, I saved these kids and you made sure they stayed safe, and neither of us ever knew what the other was doing. That seems...neat,” Marcus shrugged, his attention had moved to the screens on one of the free psion detection tubes. There was nothing there.
“Neat?” puzzled Philip.
“As in, how we seem to be linked. It's neat, in a universal sense. By the way, are they meant to not be doing anything?” Marcus tapped at the screen.
“Give it a second,” was all Philip said in reply. The definite buzz of electronics washed over the room as the door to dome was closed and the generator activated. Suddenly, the counters and tubes sprang to life in a symphony of clicks and beeps. A flood of little blue circles rushed across the tube's screen, Philip faced the mesh away from the generator and behind them the flood was a gentle stream of blue circles. “Those, Marcus, are psions. Those are what make psionics such extraordinary people. They're the reason Providence technology goes mad when it enters the Feral Zone. Free psions mess with the functioning of most electronic devices, these detectors in here are designed to cope with them – but Providence does not have this advantage.
“Passive psionics create huge fields of free psions in a cloud of electrical charge. I think if we sent a stream of psions at a psionic when they're in this concentrated state, they would become active, like Angelene or Subject 324. Try looking at where we are using the map on your SuperCom,” Philip was happiest when he had a complex problem that needed resolution, his first passion had always been physics but his parents had insisted he study medicine; he had had two doctorates before the age of thirty. Marcus started up his SuperCom, and expected to the see the plain desktop. Instead he saw a blank blue screen and heard an irritating whine. Marcus switched off his SuperCom and grinned at Philip, “The Providence will never figure that out, they think the Feral Zone is inhabited by idiots. I'd love to see the look on Morgan's arrogant face if he knew his beloved nanomachine attacks aren't worth shit out here.”
“Take a picture when you find out, I've never liked that man,” said Philip as he swivelled the tube to face the generator again.
“Phil, you need combat training, there's no way in hell I'm letting you go on that mission back to London without it. I'll be your teacher when you aren't busy trying to figure out how to fire psion streams at some poor kid,” joked Marcus, he paused when Philip's face lit up.
“That's it! I've been so blind! Marcus, I could kiss you!” the doctor threw his arms up and everyone in the room thought he was about to shout 'eureka'.
“That'd be really weird, but I appreciate the sentiment,” laughed Marcus.
“You don't understand! ‘Fire psion streams' is particle acceleration! This place has a bunch of particle accelerators we just need another one in here. We've been working with a bloody Van de Graaff and it hadn't once crossed our minds to get another accelerator in. Dr Sefu! Call the other team leaders, we need to borrow someone's particle accelerators,” Philip dashed over to Nuanua and both doctors began to make notes at blinding speed, soon they were joined by the rest of the team, and the chorus of incredulity at their own stupidity rather amused Marcus. He shook his head and laughed as let himself out of Suite 10, he would not get anything out of Philip today that was below dissertation-level physics.