14. Growth: part two

I sat on my bed gazing out the window, waiting for the sun to sink below the horizon. When it finally did, I watched the moon gently manifest out from the clouds, and pour down its ghostly light upon me. And then I saw the dark silhouette of an owl land on a near by branch, and it looked at me with great big yellow eyes.

For a moment I joggled with the thought of what I planned on doing and wondered how I‘d carry it out. After all, this was something I had never done before…

Well, sort of.

I got up and went over to the closet. From there I pulled down the chest from the top shelf and opened it. Although my mind was riddled with doubt, I remembered that this was something that needed to be done. If I was ever to get to the bottom of this whole mystery, I would have to find that facility and see for myself what was really going on. Nevertheless, I feared if my clairvoyance could really be trusted. It worked when I saw Andrea’s seizure, and when I cracked the code for my father’s laptop, and now it was telling me that this facility held clues to this enigma. I looked at the contents of the chest- the suit, and I ran my hand down its material. I snapped my hand back and closed the chest. My fears were demanding that I forget about what I was thinking, go to bed, and move on with my life. But deep down in the dark secret recesses of my heart was the most powerful desire to carry the plan out. It wasn’t that I needed to do it. I wanted to do it.

I found some old, dark coloured clothes which I haven’t worn in years and threw them on. I made sure there were no labels on them or tags that could easily be identified. “And just where do you think you’re going dressed like that?” called out Id from my mirror.

“Go away,” I commanded. “I don’t want or need your help.”

“It would be in your best interest if you wear that suit, Anthony. It would be a shame if I stole it for nothing.”

“The last thing I want is to wear that thing again. The thought of it simply touching my skin turns my stomach. I don’t even know why I still have it.”

“It would also be a shame if they find your body tomorrow morning riddled with bullets. You are breaking into a complex monitored by men who are most likely heavily armed.”

“So what?” I shrugged. “I ain’t afraid of bullets. We both know what I can do. I’m a ghost, bullets pass right through me.”

“Oh they’ll pass through you all right, taking huge chucks of bone, skin, and tissue along with them.”

“So what are you trying to say?” I asked. “I can’t use these abilities?”

“I’m saying that these ‘abilities’ are finite. You drain yourself each time you use them, so it‘ll be wise to conserve. That’s why I got us that pretty little suit, so that we won’t need to exhaust ourselves phasing through bullets.”

“You mean that thing’s bullet-proof?” I asked, pointing at the suit.

“Do you not remember that night at the last facility?”

“Dude, half the things you show me I forget.”

Id let out a long sigh, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“All right, I’ll wear the stupid suit.”

I pulled the suit out, and instinctively knew how to put it on. The thing felt like my own skin on me, briefly giving me a discomforting feeling. I went over to the closet and discovered my trench coat that I never wore. I always thought it was too large and made me look like I was going to shoot up a school. So I had it hanging there collecting dust, but now I found a good use for it. I pulled it out and dusted it off.

I then put it on over the suit along with its mask and pull over the coat’s hood. With a deep breath, I closed my eyes and let go of all conscious thought, allowing Id to take control. He came with a sudden rush of blood to the head, and the world around me became a dream. My eyes reopened with my pupils once again completely dilated, and a harsh light emitted from within the eyes of the mask, giving off red fire.

I wondered if should use the washroom before I left. “Quit stalling, pussy,” Id replied. And with that in mind, I spun around and leapt right though the window without breaking the glass. The night had begun.

Friday morning my eyes reopened. My first thought was, Shit! Physics test today. Then trying to recollect if I studied the previous night, all I saw was a blur. Like the stop button had been pressed in the middle of recording a video, or trying to remember your deeds at a party during a hangover. I let that marinate in my mind a bit as I went about my morning business. Soon I began to receive bits and pieces of memory. I remembered sitting on my bed, staring at the moon, and then– black. But then slowly but surly it came back to me, like the light of an on coming train. I then saw a vision of what had happened that Thursday night, precisely what happened:

Like witnessing a dream, I could feel the air blow past as he landed in the thickets. The shadows seemed to grow and hide him. Then he took off again with another leap. He ended up near the shore that faced Main Island. The water was calm, a lone buoy bobbed in the black reflective surface. The city could be seen off in the distance: a white corona emanating from the dark horizon. It was me of course, and it wasn’t me. It was Id, and he was on the hunt again.

He was near the Frankford Tunnel which passes underneath the Gellen Channel and links Gellen Island with Main Island. Soon an eighteen-wheeler came lumbering down the highway. Id sat there for a second, judging the distance, and with one faithful leap he was on the roof of the trailer, trench coat flapping in the wind. While on top he laid low, his belly hugging the top of the trailer. As the truck entered the tunnel, the sound of its engine became a powerful roar as the noise echoed against the walls. The behemoth vehicle must have been doing 120 km/h, as the ceiling lamps and adds became colourful blurs. The ride took about four-five minutes before he exited near the industrial district. However, the truck was about to make a right turn off this highway and continue its way towards Green County, so Id had to make yet another leap, this time on a van heading straight toward Lucicrescens.

The van connected on to the Inner City Highway and was on its way to downtown. Miles and miles of countryside and industry passed before Id found himself riding through the heart of the city, not knowing where this ride would take him. The site of skyscrapers, neon lights, pixelated billboards, suspended streets, and maglev lines now dominated the skies. The van didn’t seem to be getting ready to make any turns, and he knew that his destination laid west of here on the mainland. He had to figure out a way to get there. Several concerning moments passed without any sign of this van exiting, then something came to his attention. A maglev line ran right underneath the highway and continued west. An outrageous idea began to brew within Id’s thoughts. And as if it was called at that very moment, a maglev came speeding around the bend. As the van neared the line, he braced himself for a jump. And when the maglev was twenty feet away, Id launched himself into the air and began a free fall. Shit! he thought to himself. He thought he had miscalculated, and he was over twenty stories above the Floor. A reunion between him and the pavement seemed immanent, and it wouldn’t be pleasant. But as if the ground had sprung up to catch him, his feet hit a hard surface; he landed on top of the passing maglev. His knees automatically bent to absorb to impact, reducing sound, but the momentum of the train made him slip and roll. Almost falling over the side he grabbed onto a corner securing his grip. Slowly he stood up, leaning into the fierce breeze coming at him. He was whizzing forward like a surfer on a board as the maglev carried him away.

The night was cool and windy, yet Id had no trouble staying atop the train. His balance was amazing. The ride was exhilarating as the multitude of skyscrapers flashed by, the maglev weaving through this jungle of concrete, steal, and glass. Streets and sidewalks crossed above and below like bridges, and he looked down, down into the river of lights that bathed the Floor below, and beyond that he could see the dark abyss of the alleys. Through the continuous howling of the winds he could hear televisions and music filling up the night. The maglev sped on through the central business district and made its way to the harbour. It had no stops on the way. Already Id could feel the humidity rise, and scent of salt water became present.

The Star Pass East Bridge was just ahead. South of it was the Blue Way East Bridge, and north of the Star Pass was the Iron Wing East. All three of these suspension bridges led straight to Focus Island which sits between Lucicrescens and the rest of Jersey. There was a maglev line that ran underneath the Star Pass that carried commuters to and from Lucicrescens. And sooner than he thought, he had connected to the bridge and was speeding across the Atlantic Strait, the frigid waves were trashing below. He could hear the traffic above him– the cars blowing by and the leviathan eighteen-wheelers trying to keep up. Soon the train began to slow down as it approached the next stop, the end of the line. The maglev then pulled into the station, exchanged passengers, and began to prepare for the trip back. Id knew that he would have to find some other medium of transportation to continue this expedition. He began to transcend that mental limit and stretched out his clairvoyant awareness. He saw a truck seconds away. He leaped off the maglev, shifted into that phantom state and permeated through the road above in an instant. Seconds later he was atop yet another trailer moving fast. The truck raged across Focus Island, passing by residential areas and the amusement park. Eventually it came to the Star Pass West and continued on across it. He looked back to see the skyline in its white halo, a misleading vision. He had finally arrived on the New Jersey mainland.

The truck roared down the highway, Atlantic City was not to far away. But Id’s destination laid beyond that. A good half hour past since he was on Focus Island, and he was already becoming weary of crouching on this roof. It then dawned on him that he had no idea where this place was. Never had he been to this place before, let alone seen it, nor had he tried to locate it on a map. He was traveling by pure gut instinct, being led by nothing but intuition. However, he did remember the location that my father’s laptop gave me. It didn’t give me the address but the specific GPS coordinates, yet I had no idea where it was in the New Jersey countryside. Getting the feeling that he was about to pass his destination, he leapt off the truck, off the highway and into the surrounding forest. There was a cool mist on the ground, and he sat there triangulating the next move. It was during this time when he had the strongest feeling that his destination laid not too far from here, but he had no clue of which direction it laid. He forced himself to silence his thoughts, the myriad of ambient voices speaking to him at the same time. Id transcended into the aura state, and the multitude of voices then became one unified coherent guide.

It told him to push forward- north.

At the same time Id could feel an awesome presence emanating from that direction. It was the source of where he had to go. Without thinking, he jumped straight up into the branches above, and raced across the tree tops with the nimbleness of a squirrel. He moved with such grace that the branches seemed like a solid path way. He continued to traverse the tree tops in this fashion until he reached the point where he was sprinting, keeping at a consistent pace. Finally, he exploded out of the bushes like a cougar. The mighty presence that he was tracking was at its peak. He had reached his destination.

But at first he thought he was mislead, for the place that stood before him was not the industrial facility in he had expected. Instead, a gigantic mansion stood there, ominous in the deep black sky above. This is Department 910-A? Id thought to himself. The place seemed like an old, haunted castle from the 11th century. But not for a second did doubt pass through his mind. He knew this was the place, and his answers laid within.

Without hesitation, he proceeded forward. Like a shadow, he crept closer. He came to a small lot near the front of the mansion where three cars were parked, all Mercedes. Getting inside the place was no issue, for walls and doors were meaningless to him now. The place was dimly lit by candelabra attached to the walls. There was an old musky odour present in the air. Id found himself in a long stretch of hallway that had a dusty matted carpet running the length of it. The place seemed empty, but Id could already hear the breathing of human beings near by and the beating of their hearts. As he looked to his left and right, all that could be seen was the hall running into a dark abyss on either side. Transcending into the aura state, darkness metamorphosed into light, and the opaque walls, ceilings, and floors become translucent. Yellow auras that seemed to float in mid air become visible, allowing Id, the Ghost, to pinpoint every person in the complex. Within a matter of seconds he had a complete mental map of the mansion, everything from the rooms, the basement, and even the plumbing. He then began his covert search for the information that he wanted, trying to piece together the puzzle from what he found, trying his best not to be seen.

Like a wraith that haunts the mansion, he moved from room to room, slipping passed people undetected, looking through secret documents, schematics, and charts that were all linked to Apollo Endeavours. Nevertheless, he found nothing that could be of help. Everything seemed to be scraps of information pertaining to previous projects that were cancelled and cast aside. The mansion’s occupants were all dressed like Secret Service agents, most likely bodyguards or security personnel, and they were indeed armed. Whoever they were, they seemed to be protecting something or someone.

He began to move to the higher floors. There must have been six stories to this place, and he had counted about fifteen men. Still finding nothing that could answer our questions, Id finally came to the top floor. There was a single room with the door left slightly open. Slowly and cautiously he welcomed himself in. It was a medium sized bedroom with a single window on the far wall. The ceiling raised to a point that formed the roof, and an old burnt out light bulb hung from it. This room was pretty much a converted attic. A large bed sat in the corner that had been properly made. Near it was a night stand with a lamp that was illuminating the entire room. Adjacent to the bed near the window was a desk, festooned with notes and folders. Id went over to it to investigate. Suddenly a grim voice rumbled in the dusty air. “Who are you?” it demanded. “What are you doing here?”

Id shot around to see a middle aged man with ruffled dark hair standing by the door. The clothes that he was wearing seemed to have not been cleaned for days, and his five o’clock shadow was already in progress. There was an awkward silence. Id looked into the man’s grey eyes as he looked straight back into the bright red slits of the mask. Then Id recognized him, someone who I had met ages ago as a child. It was Edward Bains.

But he was a mere shadow of his former self. Id wondered what had happened to him. But then he realized that this pause was going on far too long, and that he must respond before this man does something that they both might regret. “Bains,” said Id. “You and I have a lot to talk about.”

Bains looked at him intently and took notice of his attire. “That’s my suit! Give that back to me at once! It belongs to me, you thief!”

Id made a small chuckle. “Finders keepers.”

Bains stood there as solid as a statue. “There are fifteen armed men throughout this place. I don’t know how you got passed them, but at a moment’s notice I could have them all up here, and you’d be carried away in a body bag.”

Id made another chuckle. “Believe me, old man. By the time those stooges reach up here I’d be long gone.”

“Well, we’ll see about that.” At that moment Bains reached into his pocket and pulled out what seemed to be a pager. Just before he pushed a button, Id shot out a stream of electricity from his two figures, and knocked the pager out of Bains’ hand. Bains stood there stunned.

“Now where was I,” Id said. “Oh yes. You were about to tell me exactly what’s going on with Apollo Endeavours, and what it is that you mad scientists were up to in that facility.”

“Are you insane?” retorted Bains. “I will tell you nothing. Not even if you threw death in my face will I open my mouth.”

“Okay,” Id replied. “Let’s see if you can hold your piss.” And before Bains even knew it, Id had grabbed him, pulled him over and smashed him through the window, dangling him above certain death. The wind was howling and it seemed as if a storm was coming along. Bains screamed, fidgeted, and squirmed like a fish out of water as Id held him by his shirt. “Now tell me,” the Ghost pressed. “What is it that you people are up to?”

“A–all right! All right! I’ll tell you. J–just don’t kill me. PLEASE!” With that Id threw him back inside right over the desk. He landed hard on his arm. He then cowered up against the foot of the bed as Id approached him.

“Now, as you were saying…”

Bains looked away as he began to talk. “Three years ago I was appointed by someone high up in the Apollo Endeavours corporation to oversee a new project that involved the latest in biotechnology and genetic research. It was supposed to give us a new type of soldier that is… superior in every way.”

“A super soldier,” Id interjected.

“You could put it that way,” Bains said. “This was funded under the code name Project Archangel, and we experimented on people who were pretty much dead– inmates on death row. But we didn’t intend it to turn out this way. Oh no, we didn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“It… remembered,” said Bains. “It–he still had fragments of his past life, and began to reject all of our psychological conditioning. No matter how hard we tried he just wouldn’t let go. There was something in his mind that just couldn’t be destroyed.

“Consequently, this anomaly led to the point where he came out of stasis and became aware of himself and what was going on. And then it happened. I will never forget that phone call I received that morning, ‘We have lost the subject, sir. It has broken free.’ Then about a week later I’m told that the second part of the project, the development of this Knight Suit had been stolen. At that point I was escorted from my home, moved to an old filthy apartment, then moved again to this damn place. And so here I am, staring the bastard right in the face that’s probably behind all this.”

“Believe me. I’m even more lost than you are,” said Id. There was a moment of silence as the news sunk into Bains’ head.

“I thought the Chinese did their homework.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re not MSS?” asked Bains.

“If you’re assuming that I work for the Chinese government then you‘re mistaken.”

“Well they are our largest competitor and would most likely be the ones to sabotage this project.”

“Good guess, but wrong,” said the Ghost. “I’m self-employed. It was that thing that destroyed the Misty Canyon, wasn’t it?”

“Most likely,” replied Bains nonchalantly.

As he said that with such apathy, volcanic rage boiled within the Ghost, and he fought to maintain himself. “Do you know how many people died because of you. Do you realize that innocent children lost their lives to that thing.”

“This wasn’t supposed to happen!” cried Bains, clearly feeling the guilt.

“Tell me you people have caught that thing,” said Id. “Tell me it was caught and put down like an escaped animal. Tell me you have the situation under control.”

“If we did then I wouldn’t be hiding all the way out here, now would I,” said Bains.

“You mean that thing is still on the loose?”

Bains took a deep breath. “I’m afraid so.” There was a momentary silence.

“How do you sleep at night?” asked Id.

“I don’t,” said Bains with a careless shrug.

“But where would it be?” asked Id. “What would it be doing?”

“It took a lot of damage when our security team tried to stop it during its escape,” answered Bains. “So if anything it probably relapsed into its dormant state to regenerate. It also must have expended much of its energy when it destroyed the Canyon. But soon it will awaken.”

“So the clock is ticking.”

“Don’t remind me,” said Bains.

“Tell me, who assigned you to  this project?” Id asked.

“I don’t know,” he said firmly.

“Fine. Let’s see if some air would refresh your memory.”

As Id motioned to grab him again, Bains said, “All right! Just give me a moment.” He took a minute to collect himself. “He goes by one name and one name only… Him.”

“Who is he?”

“I can’t tell you that,” Bains whispered through clenched teeth.

Submitting to the rage, Id grabbed him once more by the neck, lifted him high off his feet with one hand and said, “Tell me who he is or those men of yours will find your corps hanging by that light bulb.”

Bains eyes went watery as his voice squeezed through his crushed vocal cords. And the words that came out I would never forget. “Apollo,” he crackled. “Michael Apollo.” As those words went through Id’s ears and were processed by his brain, he suddenly lost that intense strength that held up Bains. Id lost his grip and Bains crashed to the floor. Feeling weak at the knees, Id almost lost his balance.

He had to confirm that. “What did you say?”

“Michael Apollo,” Bains replied on all fours while facing the floor.

“You lie!”

“Right you are, assassin,” said Bains. “In my line of work lying is obligatory. But as of right now I’m telling you the truth. Something I haven’t done in a long time.”

The Ghost turned around to indulge in his own thoughts. Now had it been me in there instead of Id, I would have broken down into tears when faced with that kind of news. But Id was like a completely different entity, almost invulnerable to my own emotions; I use the word almost, for the name Michael Apollo obviously fazed him. Nevertheless, Id managed to prevent my dormant emotions from awakening, and focused on the task at hand.

“I suggest you never take that mask off,” said Bains.

Now why is that?

“Because when I find out who you are, I’ll have you killed.”

“You’ve killed enough people, Bains.” Id said. “Let me return the favour.” But without him even knowing, Bains had got a hold on that pager and had signalled for his men to come to his aid. Seconds later a company of men came storming in, guns drawn. But all they saw was a middle aged man with ruffled dark hair, alone. Like Id had already said, he was long gone.

I woke up when the vision was over. What I had seen changed my entire outlook on life, myself, and most of all my father. The debate was over. Now I could say I truly knew who my father was. Mammon. I debated with the thought of confronting him, but I was smart enough to know that that would simply spawn a whole nest of problems. Keeping this knowledge to myself seemed to be the best option. And like what I had realized already, if I were to ever escape my father, I would have to leave this place, this prison of luxury, this place where evil sleeps.

As I walked out of that house I looked back at it and remembered each of the eighteen years I had spent there, knowing that I could never go back there. I knew that letting go wouldn’t be easy, as tears were already pouring down my face. But just as quickly, I wiped those tears dry, straightened myself up, and headed to school. I had a physics test to write.

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