After lunch, Aleksei followed Hamid into a well lit room about the size of his classroom at school. The walls and floor were covered in rubbery black padding, causing Aleksei to wonder how much tests would escalate. In the middle of the room sat two, ten litre buckets of water, and off to the side were three, large targets.
“What is this room for?”
The doctor turned and answered, “This is where we test your ability.”
“Uh huh,” Aleksei examined his bleak surroundings, understanding the purpose of the padding, “And what do you want me to do?” He watched the doctor’s brown eyes intently as he waited for the reply.
“First,” Hamid pointed to the two buckets, “evaporate the water.”
Aleksei turned and walked between the two containers. He was torn whether he should hold back, or do his best, as both options could be detrimental to his situation. After a resigned sigh, he moved his hands up from his sides and mist started to roll out of the buckets and drift across the floor. Then he moved one arm diagonally across his waist and laid his other arm across his chest, resting his hand on his neck. This caused the fog to drift around his legs and up his body, like a giant boa where it quietly hissed, the vapour seeming ready to strike out. He looked up at the doctor and asked, “What now?”
Hamid felt a tingle of nervousness from the sudden change of the boy’s composure. The Jinn before him now stood confident and menacing. His eyes shone with bored malice, as though it was the doctor who was actually imprisoned. Shrugging off his apprehension, he explained, “See those targets? Hit them with as much force as you can.”
Aleksei nodded, and with casual grace twisted and stretched his arms towards the targets. The 'boa’s' head hissing towards the target. Then he split the rest of its body in two and sent each cloud at the remaining targets, smacking against them, causing a forceful 'whump!' to echo through the room. To finish he pulled the fog in and re-gathered it into its serpentine form.
Dr. Hamid glanced at his tablet, examining the readings from the thermal cameras. The fog had travelled at approximately sixty kilometres per hour and hit with considerable force, though it was a blunt strike. He walked forward to the targets and Aleksei followed him with his eyes. On close inspection he saw that the plastic foam had small, random cuts all over its surface. The doctor theorised that this was probably caused by the rapid rotation of the vapour.
“Interesting,” he said, “can you do anything else? I have been told that you seem to be able to sense the presence of others. How exactly do you do that?”
Aleksei replied coldly, “I can tell when someone intrudes on the vapour."
“I suppose that explains why you were so hard to apprehend.” Hamid replied. “Is there anything else you are capable of?”
Aleksei did not want to reveal much about his capabilities, but on the other hand, it might set up a situation for him to practice.
“I could try to cut that target in half.” he suggested.
Hamid raised an eyebrow, “Huh, give it a try.” he said, watching eagerly.
Aleksei breathed deeply and cleared his mind. He gathered the vapour into a narrow column. Imagining the log he had split back at the farmhouse, he aimed for the top of the target and fired the missile forward, filling the room with a loud ‘hiss’. He then compressed the missile into a narrow wedge and slammed it down diagonally as hard as he could, onto the target. It sawed through the target twelve or thirteen centimetres, before dispersing.
Dr. Hamid checked his tablet again, this time checking the electrodes' feedback from the target. The contact speed this time was eighty kilometres per hour and the force was very similar to a hurled axe. He glanced up at the disappointed Aleksei.
The youth panted, “I could not split it.”
“Alright, I think that’s enough in that area. I am interested in seeing the range of your sensory talent.” Hamid said.
“We can’t do it in here,” Aleksei answered, “this does not come close to my range.”
“One moment then.” the doctor walked to a phone on the wall and dialled. He spoke for a few moments then hung up. “We’re going outside.” he declared.
“Really?” Aleksei was stunned. 'They must be really confident in their security if they are willing to let me outdoors. Of course, they probably have the right to be.'
“Also, The Administrator wants to meet you.” Hamid added.
Aleksei released the fog and immediately his persona stiffened back to the nervous youth he had been before the test. “Fine,” he replied.
Seeing this change, Hamid hypothesised that using the ability automatically stimulated part of the brain associated with an emotion or memory. For Aleksei it seemed to be a sense of confidence, control, and superiority, the opposite of who he normally was. There was also something much darker behind that countenance. The doctor had observed similar personality shifts with other Jinn. Hamid secretly envied them. Being able to change personas at the drop of a coin seemed to be a power in itself; to change into someone else, even if for just a moment.
After waiting for a test to be prepared, Aleksei let outside on the ground and breathed in the fresh air of the late winter morning. The snow was almost completely gone from the ground and the south walls of buildings had greenery shooting up from the soil. He eyed the grounds before him, half-heartedly calculating which direction would be best to bolt.
However the doctor and two guards were more than enough of a reminder that he was a well-kept prisoner, despite how wide and free the sky seemed above him. They now waited for Hamid's superior, of whom all Aleksei knew was that he was called ‘The Administrator’. Finally the doors behind them opened and an older gentleman emerged with the creepy, bald Czech.
Aleksei was not pleased with his audience, particularly The Czech; the two of them shared a momentary glare.
“Dobrae utro, Aleksei is it?” the older man greeted him.
“Da, Dobrae utro,” Aleksei replied, matching the polite tone of the Administrator.
Dr. Hamid explained the situation, “Aleksei here is going to show us the range of his sensory capabilities. Right now I have several staff hiding in the gardens. Aleksei is going to pin point all of them and tell us where they are.”
“Interesting,” The Administrator said, “I look forward to it.”
Hamid nodded for Aleksei to begin.
Aleksei knelt on one knee, put his palms together in front of his mouth and closed his eyes, as if in prayer. Everyone looked closely and silence fell, leaving only the sound of chirping birds and distant traffic. A few seconds longer and The Czech was about to lose his patience, when small wisps of vapour rose from the ground around the youth. Keeping his hands together, he slowly folded his ring and pinkie fingers. The wisps remained stationary for a moment, then dove through the lawn in all directions, like a web. As they went, the streams split up into more wisps, gathering vapour and momentum. Then the web vanished, though if they looked closely, they could see that a thin sheet of mist had covered the ground. Then everything was still. They all waited intently for what would happen next.
Aleksei finally broke the silence as he announced the locations. “There are seven men and one woman, judging by shoe shape. There are two at one o’clock, one at fifteen metres, the other at forty-five metres, and slightly to the left. The woman is around the corner of the building at five o’clock about twelve metres. There are men at three o’clock, nine o’clock, and eleven o’clock at distances of twenty six, seventy-one, and forty-two metres respectively. The remaining two are at twelve and one o’clock, both approximately eighty metres distant, with a birdbath between them that currently has three or... four birds bathing in it.”
As Aleksei was saying all this, Hamid and one of the guards had been radioing the staff as he called out the locations.
“A perfect score, Gn. Sharov.” the doctor exclaimed. “Now, I’m going to tell two of them to move, so I can time your reaction.” He spoke into the radio, “number six, run.”
Aleksei paused a moment then yelled, “Got him, he’s running left towards the bird house.”
“Good job. Now, number two, run.”
“The woman moved six metres away.” Aleksei replied almost immediately, "Also, a man at three o'clock approached by one metre.
Hamid nodded, looking at the stopwatch. “Judging by your reaction times, it takes around one second, every twenty metres of distance between you and the target, for detection. And you have a range of over eighty me--”
“One hundred metres,” Aleksei corrected him. “I can also make it to about halfway across the street beyond the fence.” 'Closer to hundred and fifty metres, but I don't need them knowing that.'
“Impressive,” The Administrator exclaimed pleasantly, as he placed his hands on Aleksei’s shoulders, causing the boy to unwittingly relax. “You’ve shown yourself very capable. You even have perfect distance perception!”
“Capable of exactly what?” Aleksei asked sharply, hoping to reveal their intentions, still trying to shake off the feelings of comfort the man gave off with just a single touch, and the tone of his voice. His mind was screaming to him that this man was the enemy, but his body felt at ease, like he was visiting a long lost friend.
The Administrator chuckled, “You remind me of a nephew of mine, always the impudent one. I’ve decided I like you, Aleksei. However,” he leaned forward to whisper in his ear, “not showing respect, where respect is due, is bound to get you in trouble. Am I right?” he asked in a kind tone.
“Humph,” Aleksei replied, “It seems to me, that being liked by you, has unusual repercussions.”
The older man shrugged, “What can I say? I like to get what I want, and I suppose that makes me a bit childish as well.” He chuckled.
Aleksei bit on the inside of his cheek to keep himself from saying anything unwise.
After a hushed conversation between the doctor and The Administrator, the party left, and with it the overwhelming feelings of goodwill. Aleksei almost gasped, feeling like he had escaped from underneath a pile of blankets. Hamid beckoned to follow him back into the building, and he was nudged on by the two guards. He took one more deep breath of the crisp air before complying.
Chekhov, Anya, The Czech, and The Messenger gathered in The Administrator’s ornate office.
The Administrator cleared his voice and then spoke, “It is about time to move the two subjects. Our base in Kazakhstan is ready to receive them. They’ll be trained rigorously for two months. It’ll be challenging for both, Aleksei in particular, who will likely have considerable difficulty accessing water vapour in the arid environment. However, I have a feeling he’ll do well. Initially, the plan was to dispose of him, but he may prove to be valuable.”
“What does this have to do with us?” The Czech asked.
“I’ll second the big guy. What’s the point?” Anya added.
“Well, the two of you are going to be training them,” he smiled pleasantly as he spoke.
“What?!” Anya screamed. “You’re going to have me stand by and change diapers?!”
“Anya, Anya, Anya,” The Administrator shook his head wearily then rubbed his beard. “This is a great compliment to you. Besides, I only want my best to teach them. They are a valuable investment.”
“Ha-ha,” she scoffed, “flattery will get you nowhere this time. Besides, what do they have to do?” Anya asked irately, pointing at Chekhov and The Messenger.
The older man sighed heavily, “The Messenger will be the overseer of the training. He’ll also provide,” he paused, “well, what he always provides,” he chuckled, then continued, “And Chekhov? I’m keeping him in Moscow. He has an upcoming assignment, following a possible lead in London.”
Anya resigned herself reluctantly. She flopped into her chair and fumed.
The Administrator smiled warmly, “Now that this is all settled, the helicopter should be arriving for them on the roof at around three o’clock this afternoon. Oh and Chekhov, a car will be picking you up shortly afterwards to take you to the airport. Be ready and waiting.” He finished with a brilliant white smile that forced everyone to consciously restrain from returning the expression.
Hamid sat, listening to the conversation through a pair of ear buds. “That I will be,” he muttered in reply.
He sat in his lab and had been listening to everything, via a bug he placed in the air vent, received through a re-purposed mp3 player.
He opened a drawer revealing a gun he had smuggled. “Seems it’s crunch time.” he said quietly, as he lifted the weapon. “It is too bad, those two young people had to get all wrapped up in this.” He checked his ammo, nodding in approval. “Too bad indeed,” he mused, as he concealed the firearm under his coat.
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Feeling almost dead... I have been working 60 hour weeks for the last couple months, but looks like I will FINALLY have a regular 40 hour week. And here I was super eager to be an adult. :' D