Authors: S. Harrison
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Fiction
“Infinity One. Get down here. Right now!”
I let out a huge, bothered sigh and shuffle off the tree branch, dropping to the ground right beside the Lieutenant.
“Explain this,” he says, pointing down at the human-size, army-green robot splayed at the base of the tree. Orange goop is lazily bubbling from the hole my spear made in its chest.
“Do you have any idea how expensive these things are?” he asks, his wide eyes creasing deep lines in his forehead.
“Oo!” I blurt, thrusting my hand in the air like I do in training meetings. “That’s a rhetorical question!”
Lieutenant Brash frowns, and his eyes narrow into slits. “Don’t you dare give me any lip, Infinity One.”
I slowly lower my hand, and Lieutenant Brash grunts in frustration. “Dammit, look what you’ve done. These robots are prototypes, the first of a new generation of advanced robotics, five years ahead of their time!”
Judging by the look he gives me, you’d think I’d killed a puppy or something.
“How many times do I have to tell you? A twist of the neck, a shot with a Taser rifle, or the red button on their back shuts them down. Without damage! You know this! So why the hell do you insist on acting like you don’t?”
“Real enemies don’t have a red button,” I say with a growl.
He looks down at me, the corner of one eye twitching, and I can almost see his thought processes trudging their way through the mud between his ears to the tiny part of his brain in charge of moving his mouth. “Well . . . that may be true, but . . . you were ordered not to break any Drones this time.” He thrusts a finger, pointing right at my nose. “If you can’t follow orders now, then what use will you be on an actual mission?”
I smack his hand away from my face. “Send me on a mission, and you’ll see what use I can be,” I say as coldly and seriously as I can.
Lieutenant Brash looks down at me with an amused sneer. “What? No! You’re not ready. You’re too young.”
I stare right into his eyes. “I’m a weapon. That’s what I was made for, it’s what I am, and luckily for all of you, it’s all I ever wanted to be. I may be only ten years old, but if you give me a real target and point me in its direction, I’ll show you what this weapon can do. I’ll show
The same weird twitch spasms at the edge of his eye, and one corner of his mouth moves a quarter of a millimeter upward. His chin crinkles, just for an instant, and his nostrils flare ever so slightly. He hides it well, but the sum total of his microexpressions equals only one thing. Lieutenant Simon Wigmore Brash, Special Tactical Training Officer, military-clearance-level seven . . . is afraid of a little girl.
For a moment, I think he may not be as stupid as I’ve always thought he is.
The Lieutenant gives me a patronizing smile and thrusts his hand out, palm up. “Your knife, hand it over.”
My hands whip to my side, covering the black-pearl handle of the titanium-alloy combat knife that Major Brogan gave me. Apart from my black-diamond pendant, it’s my prized possession. I frown up at the Lieutenant and grunt through my clenched jaw. “No.”
“Training is over for tonight, Infinity One. Give me your knife. That’s an order.” Lieutenant Brash raises two fingers in the air, and the red laser point of a sniper’s rifle somewhere out beyond the floodlights spots onto my chest. “Don’t make it the last order you ever hear.”
With a hissing breath, I slowly pull my blade from its sheath and grudgingly hand it to him. As he tucks it into his belt, a bead of sweat trickles down the side of his face. A face that I would quite happily punch right through the back of his head.
“Taser rifle, too,” he orders as an almost imperceptible gulp sticks in his throat.
I pull the rifle strap up over my head and barely swing the gun around my shoulder when he quickly reaches out and roughly snatches it from me.
“You’re right . . . ,” he says as he checks the rifle’s chamber and magazine. “You are a weapon. But no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to get it through that thick little skull of yours. We give the orders, and mouthy little girls need to do what they’re told.”
Lieutenant Brash snaps the rifle to his chin, and with a loud bang, the weapon kicks in his arms. Three Taser darts spike me in the chest, and I’m punched backward, hitting the ground hard as a loud hum bores through my body. My eyes flick back in my head, my teeth grind, and my back arches into the air as my whole body is racked with agonizing pulses of electricity. Simon Brash’s voice fades into the distance.
“Take that nasty little piece of work down to Mind Alteration. I think someone needs another attitude adjustment.”
My arms and legs jolt uncontrollably as my fingers clench dirt and leaves in my trembling fists. Even though I know that they’ll try to take it away, I vow to hold on to this moment.
Don’t forget this feeling, Infinity . . . Never forget . . . Always remember . . . Always remember . . .
Always . . .
“. . . remember . . . Oh my god, I remember,” I whisper into the void. My heart is drumming in my chest, and my mind is reeling again. The warm breeze drifting over my body flitters away like a withdrawing veil, and as I feel it wisp from the tips of my toes, the chill of the void returns with a rush and I’m suddenly falling at speed again, the passing darkness rippling my skin. “I remember.”
I found another one of Infinity’s memories.
It was so vivid, so real, and just like before, it felt as if I were right there. I guess, when I think about it, I kinda
there. The ten-year-old me in the back of ten-year-old Infinity’s mind, carried along for the ride like a sleeping passenger.
I’m getting closer to her—I
The more I think about her, the more it helps. But what I just saw was plain crazy. I only experienced a few minutes of her past, but it was so drastically different from how I was raised that in some ways the closer I get, the more distant from her I feel. I try to imagine doing all the things that she did that night in the Seven Acre Wood, and I can’t wrap my head around it. She’s not normal
. No normal human being I’ve ever heard of can do what I just witnessed. The way she saw in the dark like a cat. The way she moved so inhumanly quickly. Not to mention the incredible way her hearing crept through the night like a fog, mapping the terrain like sonar.
I’m suddenly intrigued. And maybe even a little bit envious of her abilities. What else can she do?
Listen to me; I’m thinking about Infinity like she’s completely separate from me, but . . . what if . . . ?
I look down at the darkness whipping against my skin.
The truth is . . . my body
I bring my hands to my face and study them, turning them over. The lines on
palms are the same ones she sees.
I can’t do what Infinity does; Graham said they made me forget, that they wiped the knowledge of her abilities from my half of our mind, but . . . what if Infinity and I aren’t as separate as I think?
I was right there, running through the forest. I was right there, leaping through the night. I felt the spear in
pushed it through the Drone’s chest. I may not have actually done it, but when I was inside that memory, I felt what she felt, spoke how she spoke; I wasn’t Finn anymore. I
I was thirteen when I wrecked my bike and fractured my arm. Infinity showed me that memory, a memory that they locked away from me. But when I healed my arm . . . I was me! I was Finn, not Infinity. Even after all their messing with my head, I was beginning to learn how to do what Infinity does, all on my own! And Jonah just stood there. With that phony look of surprise. Lying to my face. Pretending to be shocked, biding his time until he could lure me underground and wipe the slate clean again. Which is exactly what he did.
But that memory proves that I could do it. So I can’t see any reason why I can’t do those things again.
Infinity and I are two sides of the same coin. I’m positive that I can do anything that she can do, if I can just get inside the right memories and learn how to. I’m right; I know I am.
And there’s one way I can know for sure.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes, trying to feel what Infinity felt when she listened to the songs of the crickets. I focus my mind, concentrating on the only sound there is: the rushing wind of the void. It’s fast, thick, and enveloping and—I suddenly notice—twice as loud as it was a split second ago.
I try to visualize the sound, imagining the noise as a ribbon in my mind, starting from the top of my head, flurrying down over my body.
I can almost see the ribbon in my head, and the noise is twice as loud again. I push deeper into the sound, and it gradually begins to spread apart, the individual strands of the ribbon separating from one another until soon there are thousands of them, each one a slightly different tone. I’m beginning to get excited. I try to imagine that the sound doesn’t exist, that the void is passing through my body instead of over and around it. Nothing changes.
Don’t give up, Finn. If Infinity can do this, then so can you.
I try to imagine the polar opposite of the sound, hoping that the two will cancel each other out like opposing colors of light, but the sound only roars on, undiminished. Now it’s almost deafening, as the howls of a multitude of separate threads rampage through my ears. This is nothing at all like chirping crickets.
Think, Finn. Focus.
Then it occurs to me. The sound of the wind is made up of thousands of threads of vibrations. And what do you do with an unwanted thread? The answer is simple. You cut it.
I imagine the ribbon again, weaving in and out through my ears in a streaming torrent of noises. I gather all the strings together in my mind, guiding them to a single intersecting point and . . . snip.
I’ve done it. I allow myself a little victory smile. Now, if I can do that, then maybe I can learn Infinity’s other Seven Acre secret. I think back to the memory of her alone among the trees, the forest floor shrouded in shadow, two eyes becoming two perfectly circular pools of blue.
I will a tiny hole in the bottom of each pool and summon the same inky droplets of oil I saw in the memory. I’m encouraged when they appear, slowly at first, bubbling up to the surface of each blue circle, gradually widening farther and farther toward the edges, until at last the sapphire rims bordering the pools are only the thinnest of lines surrounding two round slicks of purest black.
Her eyes are my eyes, and when I open them . . . I gasp in absolute wonder. The endless darkness was never an empty void at all. The black was only a veil concealing the truth behind it.
And now, at last . . . that veil is gone.
On the night of my seventeenth birthday, I awoke inside my own mind for the first time, and every night since then, I’ve been lost in a void of nothingness. But now, thanks to Infinity, I can see behind a curtain I didn’t even know was there, and the true nature of my subconscious has finally been revealed to me. I stare, wide-eyed and gaping in amazement, like a little kid marveling in wonder at mystery beyond comprehension. I gulp and utter one breathless word that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of conveying the amazement that I’m feeling.
Laid out before me, stretching far into the distance, is an immense concave circle of thick, undulating clouds. Light flickers in dancing patches beneath the misty skin of the clouds as they slowly revolve around a softly glowing central point. I can’t judge the size of the disc, but it’s huge. It reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of cyclones that were taken by satellites orbiting over the Earth, except instead of the Pacific Ocean beneath it, there’s a gently pulsing, green-tinged expanse broken up by shifting lines of intricate geometric patterns. I feel like I’m seeing a secret that wasn’t meant for my eyes, as if I’m an astronaut discovering a forbidden galaxy.
I glance over my shoulder, and my mind is blown open even further. There, tilting at a strange and awkward angle, is yet another enormous spiral of clouds. It’s as wide as the first one and stretches out just as far in the other direction. With my gaze darting every which way, I try to calm the thrumming inside my ribs with a string of full, heaving breaths.
This is incredible.
I quickly notice that the two gigantic discs of twisting vapor are rotating in opposing directions, the edges overlapping and combining at a massive and turbulent intersection. I thought I was being dragged through the darkness, but I was wrong. Now I can see that I’m fixed to one point, in the midst of the overlap, and the wide gaps between the countless rows of the nearest clouds, as well as the clouds themselves, are rushing past
The pocket of mist that I felt before must have been a cloud passing over me, and every cloud must be a memory. These two huge discs probably contain every experience Infinity and I have ever had. I feel a sense of panic rise in my stomach, my breaths becoming quicker with every passing second. Even if I can wrench myself free and find a way into Infinity’s memories, there are so many, and I know I don’t have enough time to search them all to find the ones that might save us. I’m stranded between a storm of Infinity’s secrets and the swirling clouds of my own stolen life, and I don’t know what to do.
I open my mind to the full sound of the rush and call out into space, “Graham! Bit! Can you hear me?”
There’s no answer, just the horrible noise of the wind in my ears. I’m on my own.
I reach up and grab at my hair. I pull at it, grunting with frustration, tugging it as hard as I can, but it doesn’t give. I scream and yank at it, furiously kicking out with my legs. “Let me go!” It doesn’t budge at all. In fact, the only thing I succeed in doing is sending my body into a slow spin, tightening the hair at my scalp even further. I feel useless, foolish, twisting in the wind, heaving to catch my breath from the futile struggling.
I close my eyes and try to focus my thoughts. “Infinity . . . I need you,” I whisper. “If you can hear me, if any little part of you is there somewhere, please . . . help me; help me save us. Send me a sign that you’re not giving up. Show me a way. Help me find you.”
There’s no answer. I don’t know why I expected one. If she could hear me, she would be fighting to survive. She would have screamed out across our mind. What good am I? Why did I think I could do this? Even ten-year-old Infinity would have a better idea of what to do right now. The moment I think of her, a spark flashes through my head, an echo of colors at the back of my mind. The blurred picture sharpens, and I can see her. Her eyes are closed, and blood is streaming down her little face, but the image fades as quickly as it came; then it’s gone.
“Infinity?” I whisper.
At the mention of her name, her young face flashes into my mind again. Her forehead twitches, and she groans softly.
“Is that you, Infinity? Can you hear me?”
I see her fingers, covered in blood, moving in a creeping motion, crawling like a dying spider across blood-soaked earth.
I scrunch my eyes tighter and try to make the picture clearer. Her fingers begin scratching at the ground, her eyes still closed. It’s an absentminded action, as if her hand is moving on its own accord, a reflex without any purpose. At least, that’s how it seems to me until I suddenly notice something under the dirt, a shiny black surface peeking out from beneath the soil. Her weak fingers scrape a little more earth away, and I can make out a shape; it’s curved and blunt, rounded at one end.
What is that?
A feeble, gurgling breath bubbles out from between her lips. It sounds like she’s dying. Ten-year-old Infinity’s hand suddenly stops moving, and her face goes limp as the image in my mind fades away into nothing.
I scream out, “Infinity!”
She wasn’t really there—she was only a picture in my head—but, in her own way, she was trying to tell me something; I’m sure of it. I thrust my hand out in a futile attempt to get the image back, and my fingers plunge into cold, crumbled earth. My arm recoils in shock, and when I open my eyes, I’m gripping the shiny black handle of a silver-bladed knife.
She heard me . . . and she helped me.
With my heart thumping in my chest, I quickly reach up and snatch a fistful of my hair. I tighten it across the blade and forcefully swipe the knife away in one sweeping stroke, slicing completely through it. The knife vanishes, and the rushing wind is immediately silenced as I’m swept into the whirling streams of memories. I know that I’m moving; I can see the long black strands of my hair speeding away, but it feels as if I’m standing still. If I couldn’t see the two expansive circles swirling against each other, carrying me away, I would swear that I wasn’t moving at all.
I close my eyes tightly and whisper into the silence, “Where are you, Infinity? Please . . . let me find you.”
I look up and around in every direction, sharpening my hearing in the silence and focusing my newly enhanced vision on the nearest clouds. There’s no answer, and the knife turns to dust between my fingers. I try to think of Infinity again, but there’s nothing there; the connection is lost.
This is pointless. I can’t just drift here, waiting for Infinity to send me a message that may never come or hoping that the next memory I accidentally pass through will help in any way at all. I need a place to start looking. I still don’t remember how I ended up lying on a table, bleeding and broken. I don’t remember anything that happened since I was locked in the clean room with Bit and Ryan and the others. If I think of that moment again, the last real thing I saw before Infinity took our body, then maybe I can get somewhere.
I close my eyes and take myself back. I was in that horrible, sterile white room with my back against a wall. There was a Drone walking toward me. I was so scared. I remember the sound of Margaux’s sobs. My heart was racing in my chest as I held my hand up in futile defense. “No. Please,” I begged as the Drone bent down and grabbed me, crushing my fingers. I wince at the memory of the pain I felt as the bones popped and broke. I feel the morbid shock of helplessness again as I watched my fingers splay out in unnatural angles in the Drone’s brutal grip. A chill runs down my spine. It makes me sick to remember all of this. I take a sharp breath, open my eyes, and there, floating just to my left, moving along with me, is a small cloud. Tendrils of mist are spiraling out from it like thin ropes of smoke, twisting toward me and ending on a spot on my forehead.
Is this what it looks like when I remember something?
I try to recall what happened next, and another tentacle of smoke instantly forms between my forehead and the cloud. I see the Drone’s black oval mask morphing its shape, sculpting into the wrinkled, leathered flesh of Nanny Theresa’s face. I see Brody coming to my rescue and Ryan thrown clear across the room like a rag doll. I remember Nanny Theresa taunting me, enjoying my rampant confusion as she threatened to rip my head from my body.
The new string of mist suddenly thickens and swirls faster. Theresa’s gleeful smile sneers into my mind as her hands wrap around my neck, her grip winching tighter and tighter until my breath is squeezed out of me and everything finally, silently, goes black.
That’s all I remember. I watch the lines of smoke dissolve and evaporate as the cloud lazily begins drifting away from me, rejoining the others in their rotation. I’m wondering what else I can possibly do when I notice it from the corner of my eye: a cloud on the right, at the edge of the other vast circle, seems to be following me. I stare at it curiously. It’s very large and dark, like a storm cloud. Some of the clouds closer to the center of the circle of memories are misty, like fog; they’re smoother and longer, more spread out and fuzzy at the edges. But this dark one is thick with undulating billows; it seems newer, more vibrant than the others. It slowly shifts out of its orbit and drifts toward me. There are no tiny tornadoes of smoke reaching out from this one. I don’t know why, but for some reason, the thought of a large dog warily approaching a beckoning stranger comes to mind. Could it be the memory I’ve been searching for? Will it tell me how I came to be bleeding on a metal table beneath Blackstone Technologies?
“C’mon, just a little closer,” I coax. The memory cloud seems to pause, and then, ever so slowly, it begins moving away. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it had realized that I’m not its owner and was going back to join its pack in line.
It’s one of Infinity’s memories. So what would she do?
I quickly clench my fists tightly and focus pure anger at the retreating cloud. With narrowed eyes and gritted teeth, I will it to come to me. I more than will it . . . I
All of a sudden, a tentacle of smoke spirals out from my forehead and shoots toward the cloud, snaking across the space between us and spearing deep into its side. I feel my anger grow, and the swirling tendril attached to my head thickens as the dark cloud begins to shrink. Murky bursts of color strobe all around me, and there are crunching pockets of pain and blaring alarms in the back of my mind. The writhing python of smoke is getting bigger and bigger, swelling into a giant smog that completely envelops my torso.
Half-heard words from cracked sentences of garbled voices swarm in my ears. I scream out in confused frustration, desperately trying to decipher any piece of this sensory assault, swiping at the distorted images with my hands, trying to clear a path to something I can understand. I feel the cloud engulfing my entire body and compressing against me. There’s a momentary flash of gray eyes, wrinkled skin, and silver fabric stretched tightly over the shape of a Drone’s upper body. I’m suddenly filled with rage and power.
The image of Nanny Theresa’s face pasted on a Drone’s body becomes vivid and solid. Bewildered, I reach out again to swat the strobing pictures aside, but instead, my arm straightens like a steel rod, and my fingers spear forward on their own. My hand harpoons through the Drone’s chest, through its innards, punching right out its back in a splatter of thick, synthetic blood. Theresa’s face is an inch from my nose. Her eyes roll back, her cheek twitches, and then her face vanishes, flattening into a shiny black plastic mask.
I forcefully pull my hand out from the hole, and the Drone’s inert body flops to the ground in an orange-goop-leaking heap.
“Finn?” says a weak voice from across the room.
I look over and see a rather pathetic-looking, tousled-haired boy leaning on a chair with an obviously dislocated shoulder.
Out of battlefield reflex more than anything else, I stride over to him, grab him tight before he can complain, and pop the ball joint of his shoulder back into its socket. He grits his teeth and jerks his head back, but he doesn’t make a sound.
This one may have potential.
He looks up at me with a strained smile, and I can’t help but notice his eyes. They’re hazel amber with tiny flecks of gold, but there’s much more to them than that. There’s focus and fearlessness, and a quiet strength deep inside them that I’ve only ever seen in the emerald-green eyes of one other.
The boy stumbles. I quickly move around to his other side and grab him under his good arm. “Thanks, Finn,” he says, gritting his teeth in pain, trying his best to put on a brave face.
“Don’t call me that,” I order the boy as I scan the room, properly taking in my surroundings.
“Finn is gone. My name is Infinity.”
“Finn? Hello, Finn? Can you hear me? I can’t hear her anymore, Dr. Pierce; what’s happened? Is something wrong?”
“You’ve got eyes, girlie; there aren’t many things that are right at this particular juncture in time. Finn has multiple cuts, abrasions, breaks, and fractures; she’s hemorrhaging internally, and there’s a good chance that I’m gonna find a lot of other nasty surprises waiting for me if it comes to the point where I have to perform any kind of serious surgery. Now take that blasted thing off your head and bring me those clamps, gauze, and sutures!”
“Sorry, of course, it’s just that . . . what does it mean if she’s not responding to the Neural Interface?”
“I’m not sure. It could mean a lot of things. Finn might have lost contact because of her head injuries, she could have gone into an irreversible coma, or, cross your fingers and hope like hell that I’m right, she might have gone even deeper into her own subconscious to find Infinity. I don’t have the proper equipment to tell, but I’m hedging all my bets on the last option, and I suggest you do, too. Because otherwise . . . well, otherwise, Finn is simply not going to survive this. And, if Finn dies, then I’m afraid there’s gonna be a lot more people who’ll be following right behind her.”