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Aberrant: The Long March - When boredom sets in? [Complete]

Mr Fox

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When you are a Watcher...

((OOC Note: This story is set in a timeline that has no novas.))

Daniel awoke slowly. It had been one heck of a dream and he hadn't wanted to lose it. He had been flying and it had been freakin awesome. He could fly in his dreams and had been off and on for years, at least since he was a little kid, but this dream had been different. Before, the best he'd been able to do was get up to about roof height and skim along slowly or just levitate. Tonight he had zoomed up to the tops of sky scrapers around down town Houston and flown really fast and the coolest thing was looking down and seeing all the incredible detail. He could see all the equipment on the tops of the buildings and one of them even had a roof garden with a swimming pool, and he had flown down and looked closely. It was soo vivid.

He had only been awake a moment thinking about the dream when his alarm went off. Groaning he hit the alarm. Where was the justice in the universe? After a dream like that he had to get up for school... it was the ultimate buzzkill.

Daniel shuffled out of bed and into the shower. That woke him up, unfortunately it also meant the dream faded and was mostly forgotten by the time he was getting dressed. He checked himself out in the mirror as usual, the big pimple that was on his cheek yesterday was faded and practically gone. Thank you for minor miracles. It was going to be a good day, his short red hair wasn't trying to go in fifteen different directions but was staying where he put it. His green eyes weren't bloodshot from staying up playing the MMO last night until 2:00 am. He leaned back and stood up to his full 5'9 height to check out his clothes and noticed his sleeves and jeans were looking a little short, must be another growth spurt. His father was only 5'8" and he had already past what his parents had thought he would be. No one in the family that they knew of was taller than 5'9". He smiled at the thought, he would be fine with staying his current height, but it would be cool to hit six foot and he still had a few years. Jim, his father said he was still growing and filling out during his first year or so in college, that gave Daniel some hope, he was still a bit skinnier than he wanted to be but the weigh lifting and working out was taking care of that. He hated it, but made himself doing it after school every day for a hour in the gym.

He didn't waist any more time with the mirror but raced downstairs to wolf down big bowl of frosted flakes cereal before heading off to school. Classes were more boring than usual, the teachers just blandly babbled on about the different subjects. He did surprise himself by understanding the math equations right off the bat and not having to have them explained a second time like usual. Other than that the day was the usual mix of socializing and boredom. Johnny and Sarah broke up and there was some drama from that when she dumped her tray of food on him and got sent to the office for yelling that he was an asshole with Mrs. Jenkins standing right behind her. He couldn't blame her though, even if Johnny was his friend he was being a jerk, he'd been talking to Britni every night this week on IM for hours. He hadn't even signed into the game last night and missed the raid. Daniel suspected he should avoid touching J's keyboard and mouse now...

Daniel's first clue that things had changed came after school. He started his workout with ten laps around the track and it didn't even wind him, in fact he felt practically charged up like a battery. When he hit the weights he started with his normal routine and was surprised at how light the weights seemed. He added a pair of extra 5 pounds to each side of the bar and started again with the same result. There just wasn't any strain or burn even after doing three sets of 15 reps each. He replaced the two 5 pound weights with a pair of 10 pounders and started again. Still no strain. He doubled checked his count sure that he must have missed a pair of the big 25 pound disks. What the hell? That's 175 pounds, I've never done more than 175 before. He looked around to see if someone was playing some kind of trick on him half expecting to see Ashton jump out and say he was being punked or something. He put the bar on the floor and removed all the weights and put them back on the racks and noticed that they all seemed lighter than normal. Someone was playing a trick, had to be. He looked at the big fifty pounders closely and they sure looked real but they didn't feel like they weighed more than half what they said they should. He moved over to the weigh machines and moved the pin down to 200 pounds. Weight machines were easier to lift on than free weights, but 200 was more than he had ever been able to lift even on the machines.

He sat on the bench and looked around the room at the football players that were working out but no one was looking at him or paying him any attention. This should prove it. The coaches might allow someone to pull a trick with the free weights, but no way would they allow someone to mess with the machines, they're too expensive and it would take hours to pull them apart and replace the weights with fake ones.

He lay back on the bench and placed his hand on the grips spaced a little wider than shoulder width apart. No way was he going to be able to lift this one. He shoved putting all his strength into it and the weights shot up like he was lifting maybe 75. He lowered the weights back down and frowned and looked around. Still no one paying him any attention. Either this is real or these guys aren't in on the joke, no way they could keep straight faces.

Moving the pin down to 400 pounds he tried again and could feel the weight and some strain but it still wasn't his max. He dropped it another fifty to the lowest weight in the pile. Sure enough he could lift it, but it was heavy and he could feel the strain. There wasn't a single football player in the school that could bench 450. He lowered the bar and moved the pin back to 150 where he would normally have had it. He also moved back to the free weights and grabbed a couple 25 pound dumbbells and started doing curls. They were just as light as he expected, but he pretended they were heavy while he watched the others. A pair of big linemen moved over to the free weights that he had been using at first and they loaded up the bar with 200 lbs, two of the big 50 pounders on each side of the bar, and at least two were the weights he had been using. They started their reps and by the tenth there was obvious strain, they were either incredible actors or the weights were real. He put the dumbbells back on the rack and decided to jog the three miles back to the house instead of catching a ride with Amy after band practice. He had to figure this out.

He was till breathing steady when he got home and headed straight to the back yard, there was a big rock that was part of the landscaping that had been in the yard for ages. He remembered his mother insisting that it be moved to the flowerbed by the back door and it had taken his father and two of his friends to move it. Daniel bent to the rock and got a good hand hold on each side and lifted with his knees. It was awkward to hold but the weight was not so bad, he could have carried it if he wanted. His father couldn't lift it off the ground without help. He dropped the big rock back in place. That does it, I could believe the weights at school were a trick, but not this. What the hell is going on?

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Dinner that night was quiet since Daniel was too deep in thought about his new found strength to do much more than grunt in response to questions about how school was that day. After dinner he did get an angry call from Amy, "Where were you? I waited for 30 minutes for you to show up after band and you never did."

That snapped him out of his thoughts, he had totally spaced on calling her. He'd meant to text her and let her know not to wait. She was a good friend, probably his best friend really and he could tell her anything, but he wasn't sure he should tell her about this, so he just said lamely, "Damn Amy, I'm sorry, I meant to text you. I had to split early. My father wanted me home to do some yard work that I didn't do this weekend so I had to cut my workout short. It'll never happen again I swear!"

Amy didn't sound completely mollified, but somewhat appeased she grumbled, "Alright, I'll forgive you this time, but don't expect me to stick around that long in the future. I almost got in trouble for getting home late." The rest of the conversation centered around what had happened to Sarah after the incident in the cafeteria and how lame it was that Johnny was being an ass to her.

After that Daniel was too charged up to do homework or play the game so he snuck out to the garage and lifted weights for a couple hours. He loaded the bar up with all the weights he had to the point that it was bending, but he easily lifted it and did dozens of reps of the various exercises. In the end it did tire him out, but that was only after two hours of non-stop lifting. He went back in and took a shower, and got ready for bed but then found he couldn't sleep. He muscles were a little tired from the workout but he wasn't really tired in the sense of needing sleep and his mind wouldn't shut off. He kept thinking about the new strength he had and what he could do with it. Problem was that there really wasn't much he could do. He didn't look any bigger than he had the day before did he? He got up and turned his light back on and stripped to stand in front of his mirror. He looked himself over checking for any signs of the change. He was maybe a little more toned and cut than he had been, but that could just be the workout he recently finished. He certainly hadn't turned into a body builder over night. After a couple minutes he decided he didn't look different enough for anyone to notice. That meant he shouldn't go bench pressing 450 pounds at school or someone would freak out. It was too late to try out for the football team, the season was half over already and besides, those guys weren't his friends, not really, they tolerated him because he worked out everyday after school in the gym, but a little respect was not the same as friendship. So what did that leave him? Being a little stronger didn't make him some kind of super hero or something. He couldn't go out saving the world by night and be a mild mannered school kid by day could he? He thought about it for all of a second before dismissing the idea as ridiculous. In the end he did two things. He gave up on getting to sleep and decided to play the game instead and he decided to just keep the strength a secret since there wasn't anything he could accomplish with it anyway.

He finally went back to bed around 5:00 am and got an hour and a half sleep, but woke up refreshed like he had had a full night's sleep. Now that is a perk! Checking himself out in the mirror that morning Daniel didn't find any zits at all, his skin was completely clear for the first time in three years. Bonus!

The second day at school went much like the first except that he was more focused. He was paying close attention to what was happening around him and to him. Not much was different but there was one incident that stood out. Mike Malone one of the biggest kids in school, had always picked on everyone and Daniel was no exception. Today Daniel chose not to cave in to the bullying. Not that Mike ever did anything major just used his size to intimidate people. "That's my seat," the 6'5" 275 pound hairless gorilla said as he stood over Daniel in the cafeteria at lunch.

Daniel just looked up at him and smiled, "I don't think so." There wasn't anything hostile in his reply, there just wasn't any fear. He didn't have any idea of his new strength gave him any immunity to pain or damage, but he knew that with his new strength one punch would take the big kid out so there just wasn't the normal anxiety.

Malone blinked in confusion at the reaction. It wasn't something he was used to so he stood up straighter and tried to loom more as he said, "You must not have heard me, I said you are in my seat, move or I'll dump you in that trashcan over there." He gestured to one of the big cans that were scattered throughout the cafeteria.

Daniel stood up and faced Malone looking up into his eyes and again there was no fear, "No you won't, if you try that we'll both end up in the office and probably expelled for fighting. I'm not moving."

Malone thought about it for a minute then laughed and clapped Daniel on the shoulder as if the whole thing had been a big joke. "That's good, I like that! You've got balls Dan. I'm in trouble with the office already for what I did last week to Charlie so I'm going to give you that chair." The big kid chuckled as he walked across the room to another table and intimidated a smaller freshman kid into giving up his seat.

Daniel had been sitting by himself, but the people at the table behind him had noticed the interaction and were grinning. Chad clapped Daniel on the back and said he was impressed. It didn't take long for the rumor to get around that he had stood up to Malone. That earned him a certain amount of general respect from his peers.

Over the next few days he noticed other small but significant physical changes. Along with the strength increase he had also gotten significantly faster and more accurate at anything that involved aiming or hand eye coordination. The bulls eye on the dartboard in the garage was getting worn out from being hit so often. That was the last big thing he noticed for a couple months.

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The months passed in quiet. His parents thought that he had matured and become more responsible and were terribly pleased with the changes they saw in him. In truth it was little more than a side effect of his physical changes, without the need to sleep more than an hour or two each night he did his homework in the wee hours out of boredom when he got tired of the online games. The result was that for the first time in his life he was now a straight 'A' student. It also did not hurt that he was now smarter than he had been. It wasn't that he had suddenly become and Einstein over night, but he did find that his comprehension of his school subjects came much easier at first, he rarely had to be told more than once how to solve a math problem and his memory was becoming nothing short of phenomenal which helped in subjects like history. It was weeks before he noticed that both the physical and mental changes were not static but progressed slowly but steadily after that first day.

In the months after discovering his new strength he continued to work out daily. Given the effort he was putting in the progression seemed natural if extreme, but by the end of the fall semester he estimated that he could likely bench 1000 pounds, and that was beyond natural. It was impossible to test since the school equipment could not go that high and he didn't dare be seen lifting it even if the weight machines or free weights could handle that much. The upside to all of the working out was that he was starting to show the effects, his muscles had grown and filled out and were now starting to be quite cut. He didn't look like a body builder with unnaturally large bulging muscles, but more like an athlete all hard and toned like steel sheathed in silk.

The progress in his physical condition and appearance wasn't the only progress however. Perhaps it was the homework he was doing out of boredom, or just more of the same changes that were improving him but his mind and senses were expanding as well. By the end of the fall semester the girl who was working her ass off to be Valedictorian was starting to cast wary glances in his direction. They were only sophomores and his freshman year he had earned a 'b' average, but with the straight A's he was getting now and the fact that he always knew the answer to questions any time a teacher called on him she was beginning to worry that by graduation he might just catch up. For his part Daniel didn't care about grades, it was just a byproduct of his expanding intellect. What started as studying to relieve boredom evolved into genuine interest to know more, and that in turn led to more reading and learning. In short what was happening with his body was being mirrored in his mind. Just as constant lifting of weights was making him stronger than nature intended, constant flexing of his mental muscles was making him smarter than he'd ever dreamed. One night during Christmas break he was surfing the web when he ran across IQtest.com. Out of curiosity he took the test expecting to come in at the gifted level. To his surprise the score came back 211 which was off the chart and beyond what they labeled as Extraordinary Genius. He grinned, pleased with himself but thought no more of it after signing off for the night.

The next day there were several emails in his inbox from the IQ test website. One was inquiring how he managed to score so highly, the others included a referral to Mensa, as well as other organizations dedicated to high level achievers. The response worried Daniel. He didn't want to suddenly become the center of a spotlight with people asking difficult questions about his sudden improvement. He had seen too many movies about people disappearing into Government labs to be experimented on not to worry that such things might just be true. He might only be a sophomore in high school, but he did have an IQ of 211 and with that many references to such things there had to be some truth to the perception.

He responded to the email apologizing. I am sorry. We did not mean to trick anyone. Some friends of mine and I were just playing around and thought it might be fun to see how high of a score we could get if we all worked together on the test. There was nearly 20 of us total. He added a bit of bad grammar just to throw off the people further. Please don't be angry and I hope we didn't break any rules, we were just having some funz. Please delete the test from your records if you want.

An hour or so later he did get a response that seemed a bit cross, but said that it was ok and no rules had been broken. Daniel was relieved at having dodged a potential bullet. Even so he did check out the Mensa group and the other emails that were referring to other sites dedicated to high achievers. He might not want anyone to know his capabilities, but that didn't mean he wasn't interested. Some of the sites were really very interesting and though it no longer surprised him, he was still impressed that he could follow the discussions on their forums without difficulty. He discovered although he lacked a great deal of the material needed to really understand all that was said, he could nonetheless follow their thought processes and see how they were coming to the conclusions they were even though he didn't have the math or science to know whether they were right or wrong. It spurred him to learn more and he decided to make a trip to the local college library the next chance he could get when the holiday break was over.

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Groundhog day rolled around and Daniel was starting to feel his life had become a bit surreal. It was like some all-powerful genie had granted him a wish or something. Things were just flat out going too well and it was starting to freak him out a little, it was like he was some Mary Sue in one of the bad fantasy novels he'd read. Suddenly he had developed almost super human strength and toughness and his mind and perceptions had grown to the point he could practically see in the dark and could learn Trig and Calculus in two weeks and master it better than his teachers. Not that he was complaining, but it was damned freaky.

The event that had really put it all in perspective had happened that Friday afternoon after school. Mike Malone had never gotten over the fact that Daniel had stood up to him in front of everyone and it had damaged his reputation as a bully. People just hadn't been as afraid of him since Daniel had done that. He still terrorized people and handed out swirrlies and stuffed freshmen in lockers and garbage cans daily, but it must have nagged at him because he found Daniel as he was about to get in Amy's car across the street from the school. The minute Daniel saw the big guy coming he realized they were off campus so there wouldn't be any teachers stepping in and interfering. Mike was out to settle a score, it was clear in the bullies square features. If this had been a cartoon steam would have been curling out of the ears. Daniel laughed before he could stop himself and that pissed off Malone even more. Amy, already in the drivers seat didn't see the other boy coming so it was a shock when she looked over to see why Daniel hadn't gotten in the car yet only to see him tackled and sent sprawling to the ground. She could have sworn Daniel's head had bounced when it hit the curb, she was frozen in shock for a moment and was just drawing breath to scream when her friend jumped to his feet like nothing had happened.

Daniel had been caught by surprise by the tackle, he had expected a punch or some angry words before things started. He had barely felt the contact with the curb and instinct carried him back to his feet while Malone was still on his knees having not completely disengaged after slamming into Daniel. Daniel had grabbed the larger kid and shoved him not thinking about the consequences. Malone literally flew ten feet before slamming into and through the bushes in the yard of the house they had in front of which Amy had parked. That sobered him up. A couple feet to the left and Malone would have impacted with an oak tree and that could have killed him. He was damn lucky that hadn't happened. Once he saw the big kid moving he jumped into the passengers seat and called, "Drive!" Amy, the scream still unvoiced but wanting to come out just swallowed hard and put the car in gear and punched the gas.

"Daniel, are you alright? You hit the curb and I thought your head must have split open, but then you were up and... and you threw Mike like he was a doll." She was obviously grasping for a logical explanation and not finding one.

Daniel responded, "Adrenaline. I'm practically shaking with the reaction of it, it all happened so fast." He was rock steady, but he did his best to fake it. "Do you mind taking me home?"

Amy nodded but asked, "Should we call the police or an ambulance or something for Mike? And don't you want to go to the emergency room and have your head x-rayed? She reached over to feel of the back of Daniel's head to see if there was blood.

He flinched away as it it hurt. "No, I saw Mike getting up, so he should be fine, and no please just take me home, my mom's a nurse she can look at it." He felt of the back of his head and there was a spot where it was just slightly tender, but there wasn't even a bump.

Once they got back to his house Amy invited herself in and wouldn't accept any excuses. "Amy, I need to do homework, we've got a test on quadratic equations Monday."

She just shook her head and brushed past him, "I'm not leaving until you let me look at your head, you could have a concussion."

"But my parents aren't home you know how they are about me having girls in the house when they aren't home," he used that hoping to get her to leave, he and Amy had been friends for years and although she was pretty hot they had never dated preferring to keep things just friends, his parents would trust her in the house and never blink.

"Are you kidding? You mother would kill me if I left you alone after a hit on the head like that." She just walked into the kitchen and turned on the lights. "Now come here and let me look at your head."

"That sounds dirty, I didn't know you felt that way about me." Maybe making a sexual reference would make her uncomfortable and she would leave?

Her breath caught for a second but then she pursed her lips and started tapping her foot angrily, "Don't ever joke with me like that Daniel Morgan Fox, now get over here now and let me make sure you don't have a cracked skull or something. Just because it isn't bleeding doesn't mean there can't be damage, no matter how thick your skull is."

Sighing he moved into the center of the kitchen under the overhead lights where she waited and bent over so she could look. Gingerly at first she moved the hair aside and started feeling for damage then with more pressure. After a moment she stopped and he stood up looking down at her. He hadn't realized until now how much he'd grown over the last few months. He might well have hit the six foot mark. Amy was a good head shorter than him and her head with it's wavy brown hair that smelled of strawberries only came up to his chin now. Her big dark eyes were wide in surprise as she looked up at him.

"But how? I saw you hit that curb so hard you bounced. I saw it!" She sounded confused and angry and relieved all at the same time.

He didn't know what to say. He could pass off throwing Mike and getting back up as adrenaline that sort of thing did happen. People had been known to lift cars to save someone they loved after an accident. There was simply no excuse for slamming your head into concrete and there not being any damage. He knew how hard he must have hit and was surprised himself there was no damage and Amy had seen it all from only a couple meters away, three at most.

He deflated his shoulders hunching. Will she think I'm a monster or a freak? Finally he said, "Lets go out back and sit in the swing and I'll tell you everything."

She still looked confused but resolute. "Everything," then followed him outside. They took a seat on the big porch swing, it was really more like a daybed suspended from the rafters with sturdy chains. He had often slept out here growing up when the weather was cool, it was one of his favorite places to think.

He was nervous as they each sat on opposite side of the swing cross legged on the six inch thick mattress that covered the swing. Daniel grabbed one of the thick back pillows and moved it behind him and propped it against the armrest. Amy didn't bother but scooted closer to him leaning forward, "So talk. What just happened and what has changed with you, for months now you've been quiet. You used to tell me everything that was happening in your life and since the fall you've been shutting me out like we're not best friends anymore." Her big brown eyes glistened with unshed tears.

Daniel melted. No man can handle a woman he cares about shedding tears without trying to comfort and he was no exception. As he stared into her eyes he realized for the first time that she was right. He had gone silent on her and shut her out. He leaned forward and drew her into his arms in a hug that was months overdue for his best friend.

She melted against him sobbing quietly for a few minutes. When she finally drew apart and wiped her eyes they were red but she seemed centered again. "You idiot, don't you realize by now that I love you? These last few months have been killing me." Seeing the shock on his face she drew herself up squaring her shoulders and took on a stubborn look, "Before you say anything, I don't care if you don't love me back. We've been friends since we were kids and best friends since junior high. Somewhere along the way I realized I loved you but you never seemed to want anything more than friendship so I didn't say anything afraid I would ruin everything. But then you stopped telling me things in the fall and... and what you said back there in the kitchen, the 'joke'. It was more than I could take."

She looked miserable but still determined to go on no matter the cost. "You can ask me to leave if you want and I won't bother you. I'll go away if that's what you want. Just don't toy with my heart, ok?"

Even with all his expanded mind and intellect he was completely stunned by the revelation. People are rarely more blind than to the things right under their noses. "I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shut you out, but something happened to me in the fall, something really strange and I didn't know how to talk about it. I was afraid you would think I was a freak or a monster or something." He gestured at the back of his head, "That's part of it, but I have to show you to believe it." He stopped mid explanation, "You really love me?"

He could see the truth in her face and the expectation. He needed to say something or he would hurt her, maybe break her heart. He knew it, but in that moment he could not have spoken to save his life. He was lost in her eyes and stunned by the revelation. His own heart swelled, how had he never realized just how beautiful she was? How did he feel? To his own great surprise he spoke, "I love you too." And it was true. It wasn't the burning passion of the romance novels and Hollywood chick flicks, but it was deep and strong and comfortable and even as he said it he knew the words felt right.

They met in a kiss that wasn't frenzied or urgent or even passionate like the lovers in the movies, with lips mashing and arms flailing, but it was everything that a first kiss ought to be. It was soft and gentle and intense beyond anything he had ever experienced before and passionate in the sense that it expressed a love long felt but never before expressed. He knew that neither had ever kissed before, at least he was sure of that back in the fall before they stopped talking. Even if he hadn't developed a photographic memory over the last few months, it was a kiss that could never be forgotten. they were sophomores and he had been teased by the boys at school about not having had a girlfriend and having never 'done' anything but it had just never seemed that urgent or important to him before and now he realized why. He had been waiting for this moment and just hadn't realized it.

When they finally drew apart there was a smile on both of their faces that said what words could not express. Her hand slipped into his and she squeezed it. "Now tell me what happened before I explode with curiosity." Her face belied her words; she could not have been more serene in that moment if she spent a year practicing meditation with the Dali Lama.

Daniel squeezed her hand in return but then got up and pulled her gently out of the swing and over to the big garden stone by the back door. It weighed at least four hundred pounds. He pointed to it and said, "Humor me and try to move that stone." More than ever he was afraid that she would reject him and shy away in fear when she found out what he could do, but she had to know now.

She looked curious as she slipped her hand free and bent to the stone. She was too smart to try and lift it instead she settled for attempting to roll it over and put both hands on the same side of the rock near the bottom and bended at the knees. She tried, she really did, but in the end all she managed was to rock the stone a little. She gave up after a moment, "Too heavy. What's this about?"

He didn't speak, but just bent at the waist and easily picked up the stone not bothering to use the strength of his legs, it just didn't seem heavy to him anymore, if he tried he could probably have tossed it over the fence from where he was standing. He hefted it up and down a couple times to show how light it seemed then dropped it back into it's indentation in the ground. It landed with a solid thump that Amy could feel in the soles of her feet from two meters away. Her jaw fell open then she closed it. "How?," was all she said. It was clear that belief was not an issue, after what she had seen earlier lifting a big heavy rock was not going to be hard to accept.

Daniel shrugged, "I don't know. You remember that day back in the fall when I didn't show up for a ride home and you got mad because you waited for me?" He saw her nod, "That was the day it happened, or the day I discovered it anyway. I was working out after school in the gym and thought at first someone was playing a practical joke on me. All the weights felt like they weighed a fraction of what they were supposed to. I thought someone had switched the them with fakes or something. I benched 450 pounds and could have lifted more, but that's as high as the weights go. I was so freaked I ran home and came back here." He pointed to the big rock, "My dad and two friends could barely lift that, so I tried and picked it up without a problem. That's when I knew something had changed. I still don't know what happened or why, just that I've changed. I can lift really heavy things and I'm a lot harder to hurt, and I got smarter too."

Amy smirked, "Not too smart. You stopped talking to me and never clued in that I loved you." She took his hand again and murmured affectionately, "Idiot."

Daniel just grinned.

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The back yard was private with tall fences and the porch was screened in so it was really more like an indoor room but it was 'outside' so it didn't violate his parent's prohibition against having girls in the house when they weren't home. Daniel had long ago rigged a pair of speakers up to broadcast what what showing on the tv in the den which was a large 52" that could be seen from the swing. He and Amy had watched many a show in the afternoons after school over the years, but this was the first time they had ever cuddled. He piled up some pillows and leaned back against the armrest and Amy curled up against his side with her head resting on his chest. Being Ground Hog day, several channels all had the movie playing so the new couple watched contented to just be together.

There were a few points during the movie that were missed due to kisses that left both teens breathless. In Daniel's case he was breathless despite the fact that he didn't really need to breath. During Christmas vacation he had discovered that fact by accident during an ill advised dare to jump in a nearly iced over swimming pool at his cousin's house in Michigan. He had long since discovered that cold and heat didn't really bother him so he thought nothing of jumping in the pool, especially since Brad had bet him $10 that he wouldn't do it. What he discovered was that cold and heat might not be so bad but jumping into a pool that was 34 degrees was still a shock to the system and he had involuntarily gasped sucking in a deep breath of frigid water. He almost panicked before he comprehended that he was not actually drowning. In fact his body had already adjusted to the water temperature before he managed to climb out, but had still taken in water into his lungs. His cousin had been quite impressed by the large amount of water that he had coughed out and had given up the $10 dollars without too much regret.

The movie was fun and romantic which suited their mood just fine, but it also brought up questions. Near the end Amy paused the tv and asked, "So, the universe or whatever stopped time and made him repeat the same day over and over to make him learn a lesson."

Daniel nodded. He had seen the movie before, they played it every year. "Yeah, he was a jerk and needed to learn to love someone unselfishly before he could move on."

"So what is the universe trying to tell you?" Amy asked the question that begged answering, "What's the purpose of what's happening to you?"

Daniel thought about that then kissed her on the forehead, "Damn, you are pretty smart too you know that? I hadn't even thought about it that way. I mean when it first started I spent a whole day trying to figure out what I could do with the strength, but I just never came up with anything all that useful. I mean, yeah, I can lift more than the world's strongest man, but not that much more and it's not like I can fight crime or something. It might be all good in the comics but in the real world I'd get sued or thrown in jail for being a vigilante, and I couldn't think of anything else."

Amy frowned, "I suppose you are right, but maybe you aren't meant to do anything right now, maybe you're going to do something important in the future?"

Daniel had considered that, and it was part of the reason he hadn't told anyone about his abilities until now. It was also the reason he was studying so hard. He figured his brain was more likely to be how he could do some good in the world. Getting smarter and inventing a new clean fuel source or cure cancer or something like that. His science teacher, Mr. Newburg, always said it would be someone in Daniel's generation that would grow up to solve the Global Warming problem and all the other issues that his generation had caused. Mr. Newburg was a bit of a hippy but he was probably right.

Finally he said, "Yeah, I think you might be right. I'm studying really hard to learn stuff maybe all this is just the beginning? Maybe I'll learn to fly and shoot lasers from my eyes like Superman." He chuckled not really believing it. "I don't think that's what it's all about though, I think if anything I should change the world by inventing things or curing diseases or something like that. I have gotten a lot smarter so maybe that's going to be my real super power?"

Amy laughed but hugged him tight around the middle. "That would be great, you could do that." She suddenly got shy again, "So if you want, I could help you study sometime if it wouldn't be too dull for you having me around."

He grinned, "Ha, like I'd get any studying done with a beautiful girlfriend present."

She melted into him and lay there her heart pounding and pressed play on the paused dvr.

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More weeks passed and Mike Malone avoided Daniel as if he had the plague. Apparently no one had witnessed the incident after school because there were no rumors running around. Daniel's parents were thrilled that he and Amy were finally dating, having always thought well of her. In all it was an idealic time. Daniel continued to feel as if things were going too well and for many weeks metaphorically continued to look over his shoulder waiting for something bad to happen to balance out the gifts.

When the school year ended and nothing bad ever happened he started to relax, but still felt things were too good to be true. With Amy's help he had continued to study and learn new subjects at a rate of about one a week. It had started with Trig and Calculus but since January he had progressed through all of the higher level maths and sciences including Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and although it was not a science, History. Amy had been very nearly green with envy when he breezed through Chemistry, but he explained that the reason he had such an easy time with it was that he already had mastered the math that it was based on and that made things easier. Amy had signed up for Chemistry for next year and wasn't looking forward to it. She made him promise to tutor her and make sure she got an A.

That was the worst point for him in the spring and since he had discovered his abilities... realizing that the girl he loved would never be his equal and that no one could was a depressing moment. Unless he discovered someone like himself he would always have to play down to their level and he desperately wanted that person to be Amy. Hoping was no use, after weeks of thinking it through he just couldn't figure out any way to find others with his abilities; not that he really wanted to find anyone, what he really wanted was for Amy to become like him. Throughout the spring it continued to be a nagging feeling, but it was somewhat mitigated by their new found love and the discovery of the emotions that every teen goes through with their first serious relationship.

With summer came more free time which meant spending all the time he could with Amy. Two weeks went by with the two love birds spending practically every waking moment together. Finally both their parents suggested none too lightly that they take a break and limit their time. His father explained it to him, "Son, if you keep going like you are no matter how much you love each other, you will start to get on each others nerves and that will lead to fighting and eventually you'll get tired of each other and love or not you'll break up." With his expanded mind Daniel could clearly see the wisdom in what he was being told, but that didn't do much for his emotions. It was a very strange thing to be at such odds inside himself. His mind clearly telling him one thing and his heart the opposite. In the end he and Amy decided that no matter how they felt about it, it couldn't hurt to spend a little less time together. After a couple weeks of more mature time allocation they even had to admit that time apart made the time together more special. But then Daniel considered himself lucky since their parents allowed them to set their own pace rather than dictating when they could and could not see each other. Their parents in turn seeing their advice was not ignored showed the teens even more trust.

During that time he and Amy had many conversations about what he could do with his abilities but never came to any more conclusion than simply that he should work on inventing things that would make the world a better place. With his new knowledge he was beginning to have some ideas on that, but wanted to wait until he was really sure what was feasible or not before committing too much time to chasing down one trail or another.


All of that came to an end one morning with a knock at the front door. His parents were both at work and Daniel was home alone reading up on nanotechnology on the internet, his latest topic of study, he was starting to be pretty sure that nanotech was the future of science and development. When he opened the door he was surprised to see two men in black suits and looking past them he could see a black SUV parked in front of the house. He had seen enough movies to know what it meant. "Good morning. Can I help you?"

One of the men smiled, one did not. The one that smiled said in a friendly way that seemed natural, "Good morning Mr. Fox. I am Jonathan Newcastle, NSA, and this is my associate Henry Boyd also with the NSA. We'd like to talk with you for a few minutes if you don't mind, it shouldn't take more than an hour or so." While the first man spoke the second, Boyd, did nothing but keep an alert eye out for threats mostly from Daniel, at no point did he smile.

Daniel asked, "Should I have an attorney present or something?" He'd studied enough subjects over the last few months to have earned a college degree but Law had not been one of them.

Jonathan chuckled, "No need for that. We're not here to arrest anyone, we'd just like to talk with you a moment and perhaps make you an offer if you are interested."

Making up his mind Daniel invited the men inside, "Come on in." He led the men to the living room. "Can I get you something to drink?"

Jonathan smiled appreciatively, "Sprite would be great, or water is fine." Boyd just shook his head but said nothing.

Once the three were seated glasses in hand for Daniel and Jonathan the NSA agent took a sip of the bubbly drink and spoke, "You first came to our attention six months ago when you took an IQ test online. You score was extremely impressive, my compliments on that achievement by the way, you topped the previous record by nearly 20 points."

Daniel tried to keep his face as blank as possible, "But I told them it was a group effort that there were nearly 20 of us working on the test together, why would you come to see me about that?"

Jonathan Newcastle smiled knowingly, "I don't think so Mr. Fox. May I call you Daniel by the way, you can call me Jonathan if you wish, or Jono, my friends call me Jono."

Daniel nodded, "Sure, that's fine."

"Daniel, people at the NSA monitor that site for the purpose of recruiting those who score very highly or show great aptitude. Our people reviewed the test and there is no way that a group could have scored what you did, the communication time alone would have dropped your score 30 points. You see one of the criteria is how quickly you go through the test. So I was assigned to your case after that to double check our findings. I hope you don't mind, but we have done quite a bit of checking on you in the intervening months. You've had quite a list of library books checked out since then, everything from Advanced mathematics to quantum theory. That's not typical for a 16 year old kid, you've been reading things in the last few months that many graduate students would find challenging. Do you deny it?"

Daniel's only response was a sigh, he was caught. There was no way he could explain away his actions over the last few months if they were watching him that closely, he just hoped that they didn't know about his physical abilities. No need to give away all your cards.

Jonathan chuckled, "So you don't deny it, that's good." He pulled out a folder from a briefcase, "Our country puts a strong emphasis on security and it is partly due to our recruiting efforts among the top .1% that we are as safe as we are today. Our biggest threats are not Darwin award winners who blow themselves up, but rather the cyber criminals and scientists of other nations. We need people like you to join us in the fight to keep America safe. Now here is the pitch. We will pay you a handsome salary, educate you in any area in which you show aptitude or interest, and you'll have the best health care and benefits that money can buy."

Daniel looked at the information in the folder for a moment. The salary was in the six figures and everything looked great except that he'd have to move to D.C. That mean spending lots of time away from Amy and that wouldn't be fun. It also meant giving up having a normal life. No, not completely, he could still go to prom and do the other things as Amy's date, but he wouldn't get to be with friends and the people he'd grown up with. He asked the inevitable question, "So what would happen if I refused?"

Jono smiled his friendly smiled, "Nothing. This isn't a 'join us or else' situation. If you don't want to join us you continue living your normal life and do whatever you wish to do within the limits of the law of course. All that we ask in that event is that you not put your talents to work for any foreign entity. We would prefer that you use your talents for American benefit. Start a company and become the next Bill Gates, or become a Doctor and invent a drug that cures cancer. Just do it for yourself and for America." The salesman was confident in his position he was offering a no lose choice and he knew Daniel was smart enough to recognize it.

Daniel knew it too. He looked through the folder in a little more detail then asked, "This looks like a boarding school, ivy league type. I'm guessing that means my parents would be staying here? Would I get regular holidays to come home to visit?"

Jono's smile broadened, "Of course, same holidays as you would get in public school, and your holidays are yours to do with as you see fit. You can also quit at any time you choose, however, we will require you to sign an NDA, non-disclosure agreement, to keep anything you learn or see in training a secret."

"Ok, I'll need to talk it over with my parents." Daniel wasn't sure if he was happy about this or not. From what he could see of the paperwork it was a good opportunity, maybe a chance to put his abilities to work in a positive way like he and Amy had talked about. Another part of him quailed at the idea of spending so much time apart from Amy, spending only a couple days a week together was way different than only seeing each other on holidays.

"By all means. Despite your obvious talents you are not a legal adult so your parents must agree and sign off on it. Here's my card. I will be in town until Friday, I'm sure your parents will want to speak with me and ask questions, and I would be happy to give you and them a tour of our facilities, all expenses paid."

The two men stood and Daniel stood and escorted them to the door. Jono shook his hand, "I look forward to hearing from you."

Daniel wasn't sure he did, but one thing was sure, his life had just changed no matter what he decided.

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Daniel's Journal:

August 18th:

Where to start? The room I guess. I'm sharing a dorm room with a guy named Ed. Edward Jackson to be precise. He seems ok, pretty geeky really, but nice enough. The room is about the size of my old bedroom at home, but I'm splitting it so really I've got half the room I would at home. There are a pair of small desks just inside the door, but they encourage studying to be done in the library or the common room. I got some big speech about it when I was being given the tour. It's supposed to encourage group participation. Seems like a pain to me, but then I'm not a typical student anymore.

Amy, I think you'd like the place. It reminds me of Hogwarts, old gothic stone buildings and inside it's all stone and polished wood that has seen generations of students come and go. Don't get me wrong, that's just the physical place. In reality it's like a cross between that movie Taps and A Separate Peace that we had to read in school last year. It's like a cross between an Ivy League boarding school and a military boot camp. We start the day with PT running five miles then doing calisthenics. After that we clean up and head to breakfast. That's followed by classes before noon, then lunch then more PT in the after noon, followed by yet more classes. Evening is our time to study or do whatever. It's weird though. According to the Dean there's not a single student in the school that has an IQ less than 145. That's a pre-req for being considered.

Because of that the school is filled with kids from all kinds of backgrounds, it's not just rich kids whose parents are too busy to be bothered, it's kids like you and me. Well, no girls, they have their own school nearby or so they tell me. I miss you by the way. Your picture is on the wall by the desk as I'm writing this and I'm glad it will be only a few weeks before I get to see you again. Running out of time. I'll write more later.

August 21st:

As you know I don't sleep much at night; usually only a one or two hours tops. It's become a bit of a problem. Ed needs his sleep and doesn't like the light on and there's only so much you can sit under the covers reading by flashlight. I am so tempted to quit right now. Only reason I don't is that this place really does offer a good education. The library is superior to the university one back home and that's saying something. Even the classes are worth attending. The instructors are all at least 145 IQ just like the students and they manage to make things challenging even for us brainiacs. Subjects that I thought I had mastered I've been surprised at how big the gaps in my own knowledge were. Seems there is a difference between book learning and real world application after all.

As much as I want to quit, I won't do it. There are other things they are trying to teach me that I really want to learn and I can't get that anywhere else. Before you ask, don't. I love you and I really want to talk to you about it, but they won't let me. It's part of the NDA I had to sign. Maybe someday they'll declassify it and I'll tell you, but until then, I can't speak. Bah, enough of that. I'm writing now from a private place I found. It's pathetically easy to sneak out at night past my log sawing roommate and the student monitors walking the halls. I bring my books here and read and write the journal for you. More later.

September 5th:

<laughs> I finally got caught sneaking out, or rather, I didn't get caught, Ed work up last night after I had snuck out and ratted me out when he realized I wasn't in the room. Heh, that's not exactly fair. He didn't really rat me out, he was concerned when he found me gone and raised the alarm so to speak. I've had some trouble with some of the kids. Being the new kid I catch a lot of the hell, but that doesn't bother me. I can handle myself. I know you and there's no need to worry, just remember what happened when Mike tried to pick on me and put the worry aside. The only thing that would worry me is if someone pushed me far enough to forget the consequences for a moment.

Anyway, no one could find me and they had roused half the students looking for me before I heard the commotion and snuck back to the room. I had to explain to the Dean what I was doing out of my room. He gave me a stern talking to. lol. He also said that they would move me to someplace where I wouldn't disturb anyone with my odd hours....

<evening> This is pretty awesome. They gave me a private room. It's small and wasn't intended to be a dorm room, but it works. It was an old servant's room from back in the days when places like this used to have onsite cleaning staff. I even have my own bathroom. No computer, but it's almost like being back at home except for that.

Sept 7th:

Grr... I was getting shit from being the new kid, now I'm getting crap for being a teachers pet because of the private room thing. I swear if I find shaving cream in my sheets one more time someone is going to be found hanging from the top of the flag pole. I'm really not kidding about that, the ropes are plenty strong enough not to break.

Sept 24th:

Things have been going pretty well. I caught a kid sneaking into my room and made a bit of an example of him and that seems to have cured people of messing with me. No, don't worry, I didn't hang him from the flag pole. I did tie him to the banister and cover him in shaving cream though. His pals got the idea. I told him the next person was going to be shaved if it happened again. lol. It worked.

October 2nd:

I had been keeping my IQ to myself. Bad enough to be the new kid and then to be considered a teachers pet. Since everyone here is a certifiable genius there is a lot of competition and to an extent the pecking order is determined by who has the highest IQ and GPA. I'm sure you noticed the past tense, HAD been keeping it to myself. One of my friends here works in the office during his free period as a result of some prank he pulled last year. He used his access to sneak a look at my records and then spread it around that I scored 211. Apparently that's a record and beats the next closest student by 13 points. Now they really think I'm teachers pet... this bites.

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The first two weeks of school at the Academy were exciting in the way all new things are, but they were only the prelude to what the Academy was really all about. In the third week, each of the boys was given a series of tests that to Daniel seemed very odd. The other boys, the ones who had been through it all before said they were to test for aptitudes. Daniel wondered what they were testing for by asking him to guess what someone was thinking, or being asked to describe places he'd never been to before, or being questioned about his dreams.

The next week it all became clear when he was pulled aside by the Dean and asked to participate in a special curriculum. "Daniel, our primary mission here at the Academy is to give young men like yourself the tools necessary to become top achievers in hopes that you will in turn be a benefit to the United States. After graduation 57.3% of our students go on to become entrepreneurs establishing businesses that grow into major corporations or that do strategic research into important areas of defense. 22.5% go directly into research and development working for the same sorts of corporations that our students form. 19.2% go into politics and become important figures in both major parties."

Daniel listened and a part of him added the numbers automatically and realized that 1% was missing from the total. Since the Dean didn't look like he was going to continue Daniel asked, "And the other 1%?"

Dean Rodger Gladstone smiled. Apparently that had been a minor test. "The other 1% go on to special duties within the US Government."

Daniel waited and nodded indicating the Dean should continue.

"You've already signed the NDA agreeing not to reveal any secrets you might run across here at the school. That goes doubly for what I am about to reveal. You are to keep this even from other students."

"I understand Dean Gladstone, please continue."

"Very well. The other purpose of the Academy is to find and recruit young men that show aptitude with unusual abiliites beyond merely high intelligence; abilities like Telepathy, ESP, Precognition and such. These abilities are extremely rare and generally amount to little more than minor gifts. Useful, but not critical to our nations defense. However, we discovered during the cold war that even minor gifts like these can be very useful in the right situation. You won't be aware of it but nuclear war was actually prevented during the Cuban Missile crisis thanks to an agent who through use of ESP was able to give us critical information that our Spy Sats had been unable to provide. President Kennedy was so impressed that he established the Academy to find and train future operatives. In the 40 or so years since that day we've only found a handful of individuals that have real potential for these things." The Dean paused for breath and to see what Daniel's reaction would be.

"And you believe that I have the potential to be one of those agents?" It was the obvious thing. Daniel would have thought this was all a joke but for two things, they had treated the testing very seriously and he knew that gifts beyond the human norm were not only possible but that he possessed them in the form of much greater strength than he should have for his size.

The Dean apparently saw what he was hoping for and continued. "Good, I am glad you don't consider this offer a joke. Most who are approached think it so. The reason we are approaching you is that you have shown definite aptitude for Telepathy and possibly other abilities, but you are the highest scoring candidate to date in the area of Telepathy."

Daniel was definitely interested. He had not considered the possibility that he might develop non-physical abilities that could be useful beyond just his increased intelligence. Telepathy sounded like fun. "I am very interested sir. When will I begin training?"

Dean Gladstone sat back in his chair and smiled. "Excellent my boy. I am very glad you are on board with the program. There is the matter of some forms first. One thing that is required before we give you training, you must agree to use your gift only for the United States, and never on it's citizens without direction from a proper authority on in the course of your duties."

Daniel just nodded. This would be interesting, but he had a feeling the course of his life had just taken another strange turn.

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The special classes turned out to be pretty boring for the most part. At first there was a good deal of testing. Daniel would sit across a table from a lab coat wearing researcher and was asked to guess what shape was displayed on an index card based on what the researcher was thinking. To his own surprise he guessed the shape correctly a whopping 73% of the time over a period of several weeks, statistically not impossible, but definitely not within the normal range. Progress did not come quickly or easily, but over the days and weeks that followed he started to get a feel for when he was really ‘hearing’ the researcher’s thoughts and when he was just guessing. By Christmas break he could have scored much higher than 73%, but chose to falsify the results to keep the researchers from knowing his full capabilities. As much as he was enjoying the school and what he was learning he couldn’t help but feel that being underestimated would be a big advantage. It wasn’t that he felt there was something sinister going on, but just a gut feeling that the less they knew the better.

It went without saying that the more Daniel began to ‘hear’ other’s thoughts the more he listened to his classmates. Most had thoughts not so different than his own; petty fears, insecurities, and the normal teenaged fantasies. The teachers weren’t so different but there was a certain amount of arrogance to most of them. The more he learned the more he came to understand just how special it was to be chosen to attend or teach at the Academy. From the teachers he learned that a posting here for a 10 year stint would leave a man set for life in terms of money and benefits, or give him the venture capital to start a business in most any area with funds to spare. That appeared to be the motive for a good number of them. They all seemed to have some idea of how to make a fortune after their stay at the school was over.

Over Thanksgiving he was able to go home and see Amy. He had worried that she might lose interest with him gone, but she was as rock steady in her feelings as ever, perhaps more so now. She greeted him with a hug and kiss that curled his toes and straightened other things. She just grinned, ‘I’m happy to see you too.” She pressed herself up against him for just a moment leaving no doubt that she was aware of his state.

That’s when Daniel first read Amy’s thoughts and blushed crimson at what he saw there. “Don’t be mad, but I’ve learned a new trick.” He explained quickly that he could see peoples thoughts to a degree, at least images if they were strong enough.

Not surprisingly Amy was skeptical, “Oh yeah, prove it.”

Daniel blushed again and started, “Well, just now you were thinking about putting your hand down my pan…”

Amy was crimson now as well and interrupted, “Enough! Stop right there! I believe you.” After a second she added, “You keep your thoughts in your own head Daniel Morgan Fox and out of mine.” She sounded stern, but there was amusement on her face.

“Yes ma’am.” He grinned in return.

Later after they had said hello properly and were relaxing on the back porch swing he said quietly in her ear, “I want to try something if it’s ok.” Her whispered agreement could barely be heard.

For the first time he attempted not to hear thoughts but to project his own, *Amy, can you hear me?*

She sat bolt upright on the swing from where she had been cuddled next to him. It nearly sent him tumbling off the hanging bed. “Did you…?”

*Yes. I wasn’t sure if it would work or not. I’ve never had anyone I could trust to try it on. As good as the teachers at school are, I don’t completely trust them. I don’t want them to know all the things I can do. They think I can just barely see images from peoples thoughts sometimes and then only what they are projecting. I think they would be afraid if they knew I could do this.* He sent the thoughts, but it took quite a bit of concentration.

Amy’s mind raced and Daniel tried to follow it, but it was difficult, people thought much faster than they spoke. When she was about to speak he pressed a finger against her lips. *I’m sorry love but I don’t trust them not to spy on me.*

She nodded, *I understand. Reading thoughts you could do really damaging things. You could learn security codes, blackmail evidence, who killed Kennedy, you name it.*

Daniel sent back, *Good, you do understand. That’s why I can’t let them know. I’m pretty sure if they knew I could do this they’d lock me up and throw away the key. This way I’ll stay in their good graces and close enough to them to learn interesting things.* He grinned.

They spent a good deal of time during that vacation walking and talking but with most of the conversations being held without words. When school started back he found that he could contact her mind even from DC although it was a strain at first.

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Daniel practiced long distance with Amy, slipping into her thoughts unnoticed, but never with the intention of actually snooping on her. He had had some moments of jealousy at first when he slipped in on her watching a movie and saw her thoughts about the handsome lead actor. He was a little shocked and more and a little jealous but he contained himself and continued to watch. After a while he realized that was just natural and everyone has those kind of thoughts when seeing an attractive person of the opposite sex. It didn't mean she would ever actually act on those thoughts, they were just fantasy.

Over time he developed a real talent for probing thoughts and learned to delve deeper in a persons mind to find out things beyond just surface thoughts. He practiced on his tutors, the scientists that were 'training' his telepathic ability.

The day he moved beyond the scientists to poke at the Dean's mind he learned a valuable lesson. It started out well enough. He was scanning outward just listening to the surface thought of the people at the school, not really trying to spy, but just expand his ability to hear and pick out individual thoughts from the multitude. When he recognized the Dean Gladstone's mind he couldn't resist the urge to find out more about the program and what they trained people to do. Secretly he was hoping to learn that there were others out there with abilities like his own.

The Dean was preoccupied with some logistics problem of how many students would be enrolled next semester and how to accommodate the new freshmen. Daniel listened patiently for almost half an hour before growing careless in his boredom. He tried to get the Dean to think about the Program and of the students enrolled there. It worked at first. Gladstone's mind began to wander thinking of the students in the program and how it might related to the freshman problem, but then snapped back onto task. He had a remarkably ordered mind compared to any of the others Daniel had probed so far.

He pushed again trying to go deeper and suddenly the Dean was alert and alarmed. He recognized that he was being probed. Daniel had not yet found anyone that could recognize his mental touch or even the fact that they were being spied on. Even the scientists that were training him and working with him daily had never been able to detect him. Dean Gladstone did; more than that, he KNEW it was Daniel. The Dean was picking up the phone to alert someone. Daniel was finding it difficult to learn who. It was suddenly as if he were on a phone call where the person at the other end was breaking up.

"Shit, shit, SHIT!" Daniel exclaimed in his room sitting up from his relaxed position on his small cot sized bed. "I'm so screwed!"

He was still in the Dean's mind but it was becoming harder to get anything but surface thoughts of alarm and determination to secure the 'asset'.

Summoning an effort of will he pushed harder to get past the Dean's defenses. It worked but, that didn't help. Only a couple of seconds had passed but if he couldn't figure out a way to stop the Dean from completing that call and forget the incident he was going to be hunted for the rest of his life. He was certain of that and it didn't have anything to do with what he could now seen in Gladstone's mind. It was a gut instinct, but now that he saw past the defenses he knew all his worst fears were true. The government would go to any lengths to control people like him. Gladstone and the Academy was the velvet glove, but there were others who would be the iron fist should it be necessary.

Half the phone number had been entered now...

On the spur of the moment even with his supercharged mind Daniel couldn't come up with any grand plan.

Only two digits left...

He marshaled his focus and prepared to drive as deep into the Dean's mind as he could, to the very core of the man if necessary and use his will to do whatever it took.

Gladstone's finger was descending to hit the last button that would connect him with a subset of NSA agents that did not officially exist a group that Daniel now knew enforced national security in way's that were not allowed under the Constitution.

He drove into Gladstone's mind with everything he had commanding the man's brain and autonomic systems with one intent. SLEEP!!!

The phone receiver hit the desk and the dangerous finger and the hand and body they were attached to collapsed to the desk limp like a puppet whose strings had suddenly been cut.

Daniel breathed again in relief. He wasn't sure how long he had or even if he could save the situation, but at least he had time to think now. Not knowing what else to do, Daniel probed the Dean's unconscious mind looking for answers on what would happen to him if the Program discovered what he was capable of doing. The answers were not encouraging. There really was a government conspiracy and it really was a black ops project that was out of control. On the other hand it had been implemented by the President which made it partially legit even it it wasn't constitutional.

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What do I do now? He took a couple deep breaths and began to consider the consequences of the situation. If he wakes up and remembers what happened I’m in serious trouble. Options? He can’t remember… how do I make that happen? The obvious answer was that he couldn’t be allowed to wake up but Daniel shied away from that. Despite his involvement in the Program he was basically a good man just doing his job and believing that it was for the good of his country. So what’s left? I can read memories and I can force him to sleep, I wonder if I could blank his memory?

Daniel started by reading the memories of the last few minutes in the Dean’s well ordered mind and probed deeper, examining them, and trying to get a feel for them. As he did, he noticed that they had a malleable feel. It was hard to put into words when he thought about it, but the memories felt ‘soft’ like wet clay in your hands. He thought that if he squeezed his fist, or his mental fist I this case he could mash up large portions of Dean Gladstone’s mind. He had never noticed this before in his earlier explorations, but never before had he wanted or needed to alerter someone. He had never taken hold of memories this way and it was a powerful feeling. He was sure now he could erase the memory, but that would leave a gap and he would wonder why he fell asleep suddenly and that might alarm him just as much as the truth, maybe more given the paranoia that must exist to cause him to have an emergency number and procedures in an event like this. That fact alone spoke volumes about how bad things could get.

He pushed gently at the memory seeing what would happen. It deformed like some special effect in a film everything becoming hazy and distorted in the place where he had touched it. That’s not good. Now I’ve got a bad memory with a an obvious adjustment, that just makes things worse.

He tried restoring the memory to what it was before and that seemed to work. The memory was resilient and seemed almost eager to go back to normal. That was a relief, but it could be bad in it’s own way. It could mean he wouldn’t be able to make changes permanent. But it did hold until I put it back so that’s good. Hmm… so when I put it back I remembered his memory and it was as it I overwrote it. But since the memory was his own it snapped back into place. What happens if I remember it differently and replace his memory with that one?

He tried replaying the Dean’s own memory but without anything strange happening. It worked. The parts where his interruption should have been was just a little less distinct than the rest of the surrounding memory, but only barely. He tried it again and that seemed to reinforce the memory making it stronger and sharper.

That still doesn’t explain his sudden sleep. Maybe I can wake him up and he will think nothing happened. Yeah, and how does that explain the phone being off the hook or him laying face first on his desk? It was like telling a lie when you were a little kid. One thing led to another and it kept building until you couldn’t keep track of all the little things until the whole thing fell apart. Only I can’t let this fall apart or it will fall on me like a ton of bricks. Every detail…nothing left out. No way for Daniel to get into the Dean’s rooms and put the phone back on the hook so he’d have to let the Dean do it himself. But then what?

He grinned, it seemed obvious, let him do it and wonder what happened then replace that memory as well. Another thought struck him. If he could override the man’s systems to make him sleep, what if he could actually control the other man’s body as well? Simply take over his systems? He’d put him to sleep and that hadn’t appeared to harm him, so hopefully this wouldn’t do any harm either.

Daniel wasn’t sure exactly how to do this so he started by repeating what he done before. He drove his will down into Gladstone’s mind and found that wresting control from an unconscious person was not nearly so difficult as putting him to sleep in the first place. He willed the Dean’s eyes to open and his head to lift. It was difficult; almost as if the body were resisting. He pulled the arm over and grasped the phone then placed it very clumsily on the hook. He focused on sitting the body up and with a great effort managed it. After he had done it he realized the problem. The body wasn’t resisting, it was simply not coordinated. He was trying to do one thing at a time and the body just didn’t work that way. You don’t answer the phone without looking at it. You turn your head and look and possibly rotate your torso all while stretching out your hand and arm in a coordinated orchestra of movement. No wonder it had been difficult. The trick was to take total control of the body and operate it as if it was your own.

He tried that and it worked much better, but he still lacked much grace and fluidity that he would have in his own body. So be it. Now was not the time to practice new tricks. Now was damage control.

He placed the Dean back into the position he was in before he had become aware of Daniel and replayed the Dean’s memory back to that point, but with one addition. He added several memories over the last half hour since he’d been observing of feeling sleepy and inserted one more right at the end. Once he felt everything was as perfect as he could make it he released control and pulled out of the man’s mind in one swift mental movement.

He watched the man’s mind without touching as Gladstone’s head dipped toward the desk and jerked back awake. He blinked and did a mental double take but nothing seemed out of order. In the end he decided to take a break and pour a stiff drink before going to bed. He could always resolve the Freshman issue the next day.

Daniel sighed a deep relief at the averted crisis. He felt completely wrung out and decided some sleep would do him some good as well. That night he slept five hours, the most he’d had at one time since his change.

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Chapter 3:

Two years had passed in a rush. Daniel had graduated from the Academy with what would pass for a college degree should he ever be required to provide one. In truth were he to test for such things he could easily be given honorary graduate degrees in a dozen subjects and doctorates in several others. He also knew the names of every person associated with the Program and had more info on it than anyone else alive.

The education was to help him make a difference in the world. The info on the Program was a matter of survival. Over his time with the Academy he had worked on ensuring his own place among it’s ranks as being low enough not to warrant too much attention. By graduation he was known in the Program to be a first rate Lie Detector, but that was all. Once he had learned the depths of the secret organization was all about he had stopped showing any growth in aptitude and instead channeled it in a direction that would be uncomfortable but still useful to those pulling the strings. What he did not want was for them to ever know his real capabilities. Those who showed too much talent didn’t make it out, they were too valuable, or too dangerous to be allowed their freedom.

Daniel Fox on the other hand was useful, but in a way that could almost as easily be replicated through technology and being known as a human lie detector was only dangerous for someone trying to hide something criminal, for everyone else it was just uncomfortable so those in the organization who knew of him tended to avoid his presence which was just exactly what Daniel wanted.

As graduation approached Daniel received recruiting offers from every ABC agency in the United States. Daniel politely refused the offers, but each recruiter and interview provided him with more useful contacts for the day when he might eventually need them. One trick that he had learned over time with much practice was to use his telepathy to influence how people perceived him. No one could meet him now without leaving with a sense of respect and approval for the confident young man. It wasn’t entirely the use of his mental mojo either. Over the last two years he had grown in both stature and confidence because of his studies and the knowledge that no situation could arise that he couldn’t deal with. Invariably the people who met him left feeling very positive about whatever they were discussing.

In that time Daniel and Amy had talked often about what he should do after school. There had been some serious debate between them, but what really convinced them both was a TV show of all things. The show was about a fictional super man growing up and facing situations where he tried to fight crime and protect those he cared about. He kept his identity secret and still his friends and family suffered and he never made any real dent in the evil and suffering in the world. Sure he saved people and did great deeds but it never made a difference for more than a handful of people at a time. Besides, Daniel decided that he felt very sorry for the guy. He lost out on love time after time because of his double life. That made him very thankful that he had let Amy in on his secret. He couldn’t imagine having gone through everything and not had her to share it with.

The result of their talks was that he knew he needed to tackle bigger issues than just fighting crime one criminal at a time. 1:6,000,000,000 was not a good ratio. What he needed to do was to pick something that would effect the lives of millions of people at once. Becoming a business man was a good thing, inventing new gadgets or medicines would affect the lives of millions, but he really wanted to do something that would satisfy his sense of justice first. After watching that show he wanted to do something that would be a grand gesture and a tribute to his fictional counterpart. He had to admit however that as much as he had grown in his abilities both physical and mental over the two years, he still didn’t stack up against someone out of a comic book. Not in the ability to survive damage at least. That meant he had to be more subtle. He didn’t want to test whether or not bullets would bounce off his chest! Worse, he didn’t want to face Amy’s wrath if he got hurt.

So when Dean Gladstone asked what he intended to do after school he smiled and said. “I want to go into business, but first I want to do something for the people of the United States. I’m going to win the war on drugs.”

Gladstone blinked not comprehending. “I’m sorry, what?”

With a completely straight face Daniel answered. “I’m going to win the war on drugs. We’ve spent billions over the last 20 something years in a losing battle against illegal drugs and the criminal element involved in the trade have spread violence and terror and tragedy everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, the only thing that will really solve the drug problem would be to legalize it and bring it under government regulation. I’m not against something that can’t be stopped, I’m against the organized drug trade. I’m going to end it. But I would like too make my proposal directly to the President since what I plan to do would need legal authority.”

Gladstone was flabbergasted, both as the seriousness of the statement and the wish to meet the President. There was just something about Daniel that made you want to believe he could do it. Finally he chuckled uncertainly and said, “Well, if you are really serious I could try to get you a meeting. You’ve made a lot of friends over the last few months in your interviews and they have all reported back to me on how impressed they were with you.” He paused a second to judge Daniel’s seriousness but didn’t find any reason to doubt that he believed what he said no matter how crazy that seemed. He was a certifiable genius after all, the brightest the school had ever trained. It’s just a damn shame he didn’t prove to be more talented telepathically, we could have used him in the Program.

“Could you tell me a little of your plan?” He thought if he could understand the plan he might be able to more easily get the boy an appointment.

Daniel smiled but shook his head, “I’m afraid not. It’s vital to keep the circle of those in the know to an absolute minimum. Believe me when I say that I can do it. I’m not saying I can eliminate the drug trade altogether, but I can break the cartels.” He smiled with confidence, he was sure the Dean would do what was necessary, he made a few little pushes to remove doubts and ensure it would be done then wrapped up the exit interview.

“Thank you again for all you’ve done in training me and I look forward to the meeting. I’m sure you’ll succeed. I’ll owe you one.” He enhanced Gladstones feeling that having Daniel in his debt would be a valuable thing indeed.

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One on one Daniel did not think anyone could present him a real challenge. All he had to do was alter their memory and he would win. It might take a great deal of work, weeks even if he had to make serious rewrites of their background and personality, but it could be done. That is if he wanted to be subtle so that they never knew they had been messed with. It was very similar to brain washing. Plain old people had been brain washing others for ages. With his telepathy Daniel could just do it far more efficiently, quickly and permanently. Without the need to be subtle however, Daniel could refocus a person to act as he wanted in a matter of minutes or even just seconds depending on how much he was willing to hurt them in the process. That wasn’t something that he liked to think about but given his plan he knew it would be necessary.

Not on the President however, that had to be subtle, or better yet, uninfluenced entirely. As far as anyone in the Program knew Daniel was merely a lie detector, and they would no doubt have briefed him about that. So the President would be on his guard, but not against the true threat. Not that Daniel really saw himself as a threat. He didn’t go around messing with people’s minds for the fun of it or anything, but he wasn’t above using his gift in pursuit of a cause or of justice, and this was both.

Thursday afternoon was when the meeting was scheduled to take place, in the Oval office. It was a hot day in mid June with no clouds in the sky. To the sight seers outside the gates it was miserably hot at 97 degrees. For Daniel it was a beautiful day. Ever since the change he had barely felt temperature. He was aware of it, it just didn’t effect him, so where all those around him were fanning themselves or dripping with sweat, Daniel was dry and comfortable as he walked up to the gate in the new suit he had bought for the occasion. It had cost a good bit of money to have it custom made, but it was worth it and he had 3 years of salary earning interest in the bank from his time with the Academy.

At the gate he was signed in with all due formality and checked for weapons, electronics, and anything else that might possibly be a threat. His cell phone was the only thing he had on him and it was passed by the guards. Then followed ah hour wait sitting on an uncomfortable chair waiting on the President. When he was eventually shown in he was impressed. Despite or perhaps because of how often he had seen this room on TV and in the movies it impressed him. Unlike TV and the movies things seemed a little more worn and lived in. The President, himself, had quite a sense of presence about him. Even one on one the man carried himself with a dignity and gravitas that suited the office. Daniel tried to convey the same in his own demeanor, but even as confident and sure of himself as he was, an 18 year old just can’t do gravitas, at best it comes across as earnestness or determination. However it came across to the President it seemed he was making a favorable impression. Using his abilities he was sure of that, and subtly tweaked what he found in the other man’s mind to heighten those impressions.

The President was taller than Daniel when he stood and came around his desk to shake hands. “Good to meet you Mr. Fox. I’ve heard good things about you from several of my people. That’s very impressive. Please have a seat and tell me what’s on your mind.”

Daniel shook the hand of the most powerful man in the world and wondered. This man was a new President and the first liberal in office for almost a decade. It might be much harder to get support from him than it would have been from his predecessor. “Thank you Mr. President. I appreciate you seeing me.”

The men took seats facing each other on the ornate French couches. The President spoke again, “I understand you graduated from the Academy with top marks. That’s very impressive. I have to say I am rather annoyed that I did not know of it’s existence sooner. My advisers just briefed me on the school and it’s charter when you asked for an appointment. Still, now that I am aware of it I will be keeping my eye on it and it’s graduates.” He said this with a smile showing that it was not a negative thing.

Daniel smiled in return, “Thank you sir. If I may, I would like to make you a proposal. I know you are a busy man and your time is far more valuable than mine so I’ll get right down to it. You know of the Academy and you know of the Program so you know that if anyone can come up with new and novel ideas it is the students there. To be frank, I have come up with such an idea. Most of the students there are big thinkers, they go on to found some of the top grossing fortune 500 companies of the last 45 years. As you said, I graduated with top marks. In fact, I graduated with THE top marks, higher than any other graduate. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I’ve also come up with a big idea, perhaps bigger than any other graduate. A bit arrogant of me perhaps, but I’ve been giving thought to how I can make the most difference in the lives of the most people since I first started attending the Academy.”

He could read the President’s thought’s and could tell he was coming across as a bit arrogant in his words, but not in his demeanor, nothing that was putting the President off, so he continued, “Sir. I want to do something that the US government has been spending Billions attempting without success since the Regan administration. I intend to win the War on Drugs.”

The President suppressed a guffaw seeing that the young man was quiet serious. With a bit of doubt and incredulity in his voice he asked, “The way you said that it almost sounded like you were planning to do it single handedly. I take it you have a plan. How much will this plan cost me and share some of the details please so I can consider it. I’ll have to have my people look over the complete plan details of course before I make a decision.”

Daniel wasn’t surprised by the reaction and only slightly reinforced the man’s feelings of approval of the young man before him. “Sir, you’re not going to believe this, but yes, I really do plan to do it single handedly. That’s the only way it can work. If anyone at all should get wind of what I plan then the plan would be doomed from the outset. No offense, but walls have ears and I think it might be best if I don’t share the details with you. That leaves you with the ability to deny you know anything of it at all should you choose to later.”

The President raised an eyebrow and his thought’s revolved swayed between incredulity that Daniel was serious or that it was some kind of scam looking for Government money or position. Finally the latter won out and he asked skeptically, “So how much is this going to cost the American people to implement this plan? Or are you looking for a posting as Drug Czar or something?”

Daniel grinned in return. “You’re going to think I’m some kind of conman, but no Sir. I don’t want any money or appointment to high office. In fact, I do not want to be government employee because then I would have to turn over anything I get out of it. You see, the heads of the cartels make anywhere from 3 to 7 billion a year, all under the table and untaxable. Fuentes when he died a couple years ago was believed to be worth 25 billion in liquid assets, that made him one of the richest men on the planet. All I want from you is the right to keep what I take, subject to taxes of course. I would be willing to pay 25% on whatever money or property I recover. Keep in mind that should I succeed I will be acquiring money and assets in a foreign nation through means that have nothing to do with American due process. That money could easily get funneled through accounts on the Cayman Islands or directly into numbered Swiss bank accounts with no need to pay a dime in American taxes.”

Daniel followed the President’s thoughts, *There it is. It’s all about greed and money. The kid has come up with a scheme he believes will make him rich quick, but it will likely end up with him dead. No one takes on the cartels single handed and walks away alive.* What he said was, “That’s not very Patriotic of you Mr. Fox. Why should I sign off on a scheme to defraud the United States of America of it’s justly due share of taxes on your profit?”

Daniel smiled in return, “Well, to be blunt sir, we are talking about money that is outside the system, and this is a situation with precedent. In the early days of this country during the war with the British in which we won our independence the Congress granted to ship captains letters of Mark. They were allowed to capture enemy craft to prevent those goods and ships from being used against us. All I am asking from you is a similar deal. I am confident in my success, but the risk to my life and those of my family and loved ones is such that I deserve an equally great reward. Right now those resources are being used Against the people of our nation and the people are not receiving a single cent of that tax money, in fact the entire business is costing them billions to fight a losing battle. My plan if it does succeed will not only save the people future billions that we would otherwise be spending, but also grant the government a windfall of several billion in unlooked for revenue as I pay that 25% tax on whatever I acquire. Far from being unpatriotic, I’m proposing that I put my self at great personal risk and am offering to share an unlooked for bonus of incredible amount. A less patriotic man would simply implement my plan and send all the money to foreign banks and avoid the taxes completely. That’s billions of dollars. There comes a point when a man with that much money simply cannot spend it all if he tried. I am not trying to be greedy, I’m offering to share, but at a reasonable rate.”

As he spoke he also did his magic on the President’s mind. He emphasized the man’s empathy of what risk Daniel would be taking and the fact that regardless of how much the boy paid in taxes on his Privateering enterprise it would be an instant win for the President. If it worked out he could claim credit and show the people many billions in unlooked for revenue and future savings. He would also gain substantial clout with those on the Right for doing what none of their own people could do. He would have won a victory that their greatest leader failed at. That alone would be worth the small concession of 25%.

Finally the President said, “I think we can come to an agreement on this. What would you need from me? Surely there must be something?”

Daniel chuckled, “No sir. I really don’t need anything but your word that you will honor our agreement. I don’t even want you to put anything in writing. Keep in mind that this will not happen over night. I’ve spent three years devising this plan and it will be complicated and take a great deal of effort and time on my part to accomplish. It may be another three years before it is resolved. In order for it to work I will have to have infiltrated all the cartels before I move, that will be the hardest part. Timing.”

Timing. That thought reverberated in the President’s head. Timing won elections. Timing made men heroes. Lincoln was looking at a losing election to his second term before Jackson stormed through the south. Jackson’s orders were to give Lincoln a victory at any cost before election day. It worked. If this boy could do what he said he could then this could ensure not only his reelection but his place in history as well.

“Very well Daniel. I give you my word to honor our agreement. Should you survive and accomplish your plan, I will ensure that you get what you’ve asked for. On that day, I’ll award you the medal of honor if you want, or keep your identity secret if you prefer.”

Daniel smiled. He hadn’t even needed to tweak the man’s mind to ensure honesty. The President, calculating as he was, appeared to be a mostly honest man. “Thank you Sir. I’ve taken up enough of your time I’m sure. Once it is accomplished I will notify you first before news hits the media so that you can prepare whatever response you see fit, and please, I would much rather remain anonymous. I am going to wipe out the supply, that’s going to make the dealers here in this country very angry when they find themselves hurting for product. I’d like myself and my family to avoid being targets.”

Daniel was shown out, but had accomplished more than just getting the President’s agreement. He had direct access to the man’s mind and would be able to reach him from anywhere in the world. He was sure the man had secrets, what politician didn’t. Those secrets could be used if necessary.

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Chapter 4: Doing the deed

Daniel was resigned to the fact that he was going to be invading the minds of some of the worst people, but being resigned and being able to stomach it were two different things. One of the first things he found out is that once you’ve learned something you just can’t unlearn it, not without another telepath to take away the memories and there was no other. It had been nearly three years of intensive work, but he had learned the names and identities of every single cartel member and touched all of their minds. What he saw there was scarring and made him want to throw up as often as not. They were some of the cruelest most callous people he could imagine and so after a while he became numb to the fact that what he was doing was overriding their free will. Over the three years he effectively turned each and every criminal into a sleeper agent ready to turn against the others of their organization. It was quick and dirty. He took the experiences of people who had suffered at the hands of the drug gangs and cartel members and placed those in the target’s brains. When he gave the signal all those experiences would come crashing through along with an overriding desire to kill anyone at all involved in the drug trade.

When the signal was given there would be rivers of blood unleashed all across the world. Not just in Latin America and South America, but in the Golden triangle and China, in the poppy fields of the near east and even into Russia. The world would not know what happened, but over night the drug supply world wide would be destroyed along with the people who profited from it. There were still the small time suppliers within the various countries but without a supply or an infrastructure there would be no product.

Of course not all the cartel members would die, at least not at first. There were two stages of the operation. The first signal would go out to the leaders of the cartels and those in the organizations that he had found to be the least ‘evil’. Those people would pack up all of the money and treasure that their organization had accumulated through years of illegal activity. The loot would be shipped under heavy guard to several safe locations which in turn would be guarded by good decent people who knew nothing about what they were guarding and who would find themselves simply not curious about it. The treasure would then be shipped via a cargo ship to a location in the US Virgin Islands. At that point Daniel would see just how honest the President was. If he kept his bargain and made arrangements to allow Daniel to keep the money minus a 25% tax then it would be deposited in US banks and seriously enrich the American coffers. If he turned out not to be trustworthy then the ship would make it’s way to Europe where it would then end up in several numbered Swiss bank accounts.

One thing Daniel had decided though it took a force of will on his part was to leave law abiding people alone and not influence them. That meant that the President could make his choice and live with the consequences. Of course making the wrong choice would have bad results for his political career, but that was purely mechanical; a matter of leaking unfortunate details of his past and decisions to the press along with proof of responsibility for the actions. Not only would he not be elected for a second term, he’d be impeached for sure.

It was almost time now, counting down to Zero hour. Daniel thought back to the beginning. He had started his search by reading the minds of the contact’s he’d made during the interviews with the various security agencies. Each one knew others and they in turn had known others, and it hadn’t taken long to amass a large pile of information on the various drug gangs and cartels around the world. Enough to start making mental contacts with the criminals themselves. From there he started a database of every criminal in every organization jumping from mind to mind, each man might only know those he worked with but inevitable one or two would know other’s outside their own circle. It turned out to be a classic case study of the Six Degrees theory, or Human Web, as it was now being called. Some good science was being done in that area and it was a shame he couldn’t contribute his own findings, it would have been a mountain of evidence for the theory.

From tracking the evil men, it was only a tiny step to find their victims. That was almost more than Daniel could take. When you were in someone’s mind going through their memories and feeling their emotions, it wasn’t like watching a TV show where you could happily distance yourself from the tragedy pretending it wasn’t real or just be desensitized to it. The new anchor with a serious but earnest expression tells of a plane crash killing 234 people, but it is someone else and the people on board are faceless numbers. Not so when you are reliving the experience of losing a husband to a gang member who is just getting his jollies by terrorizing the locals, and then being gang raped by the men while laying in a pool of your beloved husband’s blood. No distancing yourself when you feel every moment of the rape and the emotions it brings up. No being desensitized when you know the pain of holding your dead baby in your arms, killed because you were not in the fields tending the crop of drugs. The tragedies were countless and Daniel sifted through hundreds of them to distill the memories and emotions to their rawest and most emotion packed core.

That was what ever one of the evil men were about to experience. They would remember. Remember the hundred worst tragedies that Daniel could find. They would remember them as if they were their own memories. They would be their victims, and they would have desire only one thing in their lives, to atone for what they had done by killing everyone they knew in the trade, and when they were all dead, then and only then would they be allowed to take their own lives.

Daniel spent a day initiating the first phase of the operation and monitoring the moves to make sure nothing went wrong. It was difficult but he ensured that it went off as cleanly as possible. When the murdering bastards had returned to their compounds and palaces and fiefdoms, Daniel made a simple phone call. He called a private number he should not have had access to. The President answered his private line curious, “Who is this and how did you get this number?”

Daniel smiled though the President couldn’t see it the amusement was evident in his voice. “Sir, I hope you remember me. I had a conversation with you about three years ago and I promised to give you warning of events before they happened. A certain agreement was reached and I hope you will abide by our bargain.”

The President was taken aback for a moment, “You. I had very nearly forgotten. I’ve had the secret service keep tabs on you and they haven’t noticed any activity from you that should lead me to believe you are doing anything to accomplish the plan you brought to me. Are you trying to tell me you’ve somehow mastermind it without our knowing?”

Daniel would have been grinning, but there just wasn’t enough cheer and happiness left in him after what he’d witnesses over the last three years to muster more than an occasional smile. “Yes Sir I am. In the morning reports will start going out all over the world that violence has broken out among the various gangs and cartels. Within a week there likely won’t be anyone left alive that was part of the illegal drug trafficking trade. And Sir, you need not feel pity toward them. They have been judged by their victims and suffer only what they have brought on themselves. When this is all over I’m sure you will have questions for me. I will be in my apartment here in the city whenever you are ready to speak with me, but I reiterate that I want my identity and part in this business kept strictly confidential, no one but yourself is to know.”

All Daniel got in return was a brief, “I remember. We will speak again soon if what you’ve told me is true.” The line went dead.

With a deep sigh and a grim determination Daniel reached out across the world to one area then another and initiated the trigger that would begin judgment day for some of the world’s most evil criminals.

When it was all done he slept for the first time in weeks. It was the best sleep he’d had since he had begun his great work. Amy was surprised when he came to bed, she was not used to sharing it anymore it had been so long. She cuddled up against his chest and enjoyed the closeness that she had begun to worry was gone.

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The President barely recognized the grim young man that was ushered into his presence three days later. When they had met before he was a confident almost arrogant young man barely more than a boy. The man before him now seemed to have aged ten years physically and the look in his eyes was something to make a man shudder. If he didn’t know better he would say this man, could he really only be 21? That this man had seen combat, he had the look of veterans who had seen too much.

When Daniel sat tiredly on the same couch he’d occupied three years earlier the President only spoke one word, “How?”

It wasn’t picked up by general media the first day, but by the second it was the only story being talked about no matter what channel you tuned into. The various news agencies discussed a running body count that had risen to over ten thousand world wide. Talking heads on every channel were speculating everything from Government conspiracy and undercover agents to a gang war that had gotten out of control.

The President, this liberal nearly pacifist man was one of only two people in the world that knew who was really responsible and he was very nearly in shock over the magnitude of the situation.

Daniel did smile then even though it was strained, “Sir, I made them feel and suffer the crimes they were guilty of from their victim’s perspectives and I placed in their minds an unbreakable command to make war on those like themselves and then end their own lives. In short, I sat as judge and jury and passed sentence on them commanding their execution by removing their free will.” He paused to let that sink in then continued, “You know I was trained in the ‘Program’. You were briefed that I have skill as a lie detector, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. I concealed from my teachers and the scientists there my true capabilities for fear of what they would do to me should they learn. I think that was justified. I am telling you, but I must let you know that I do not do so lightly. I’ve taken precautions that should anything happen to me a great many people, yourself not the least would suffer tremendous embarrassment. I don’t say that as a threat. I believe you are a good man, but it would be unfortunate to test this.”

The Commander and Chief looked grim now too, and a thought occurred to him, “You’ve shown you have the power to take away a man’s free will, if I ordered your arrest, you could simply take over my mind and counter man the orders could you not? Where is the threat to you?”

“Sir, I’ve vowed not to do this to anyone not a criminal of the worst most violent kind. I would never take away your free will or any citizen of this nation or any nation that did not well deserve it. That is something you will have to trust me on. Judge me by my actions. If I wanted to control you we would not now be speaking, you would be an unknowing puppet. It’s going to occur to you and you’re no doubt going to give serious consideration to the fact that perhaps I’m too dangerous to be allowed to live. It’s a natural thing for you to consider, I certainly would think the same of me where I in your place. It’s for that I mentioned the precautions I’ve taken.”

The thought having been brought to mind certainly ran through the President’s head but he dismissed the idea. If the man could do what he had done he certainly could ensure his own safety. Besides, if he was willing to do this perhaps he can be used to further America’s interests in other areas.

Daniel replied to his thoughts tiredly, “No Sir. I am due for a long vacation. I’ve barely slept in three years and my fiancee has been more than patient with me up until now knowing the good I was working toward, but now that the deed is done we will do some travel and relax, and I need to heal from what it has cost me.”

Damn, he really does read thoughts! The president smiled ruefully, “I see there won’t be any secrets from you. Very well, I will keep our original bargain. You have my guarantee that you will be allowed to keep your earnings and I will use the power of my office to keep your name off the records. I hope that when you are feeling recovered, you will consider working for my administration? With your talents we could go far toward establishing peace in the Middle East and doing other good deeds. And I’m sure you are aware from my thoughts, that I don’t mind in the least taking credit for your accomplishments.” He chuckled amused at speaking such words of direct honesty aloud.

Daniel forced another smile, “I will consider that Mr. President. I do want to do more good with the gift I’ve been given, but I’d rather not ever again do what I’ve just done. Everything I fed into those evil men I had to first experience myself as I read their victim’s minds. Then I had to go into the minds of all those men to do my work and witnessed even more the evil they had in their minds. I did not want to unjustly judge those not guilty of atrocities. It was very nearly more than I could stand. When I’m feeling up to it, I will contact you.”

With that the interview concluded and Daniel was able to proceed with his plans. He contacted the minds of the ship captains and those ships adjusted course to the East and West coasts of America. Two weeks later several banks in New York and LA found themselves the recipients of deposits of literal truckloads of money. In each case a note was presented to the Bank manager with a hotline numbers to the IRS who in turned approved the deposits and assured the flabbergasted managers that the sums were legitimate and the taxes on the money had been duly paid.

In the halls of government may eyebrows were raised at the windfall of 25 billion in unlooked for revenue. The President took to the air and proclaimed victory in the War on Drugs, and announced the 25 billion dollars in assets seized as proof that his Administration was responsible. The proof was indisputable, but with the operation listed as classified it would be many years before the press would be allowed to learn the details of how it was accomplished under the Freedom of Information act. The President would long be out of office by then and no doubt there would be an accident and the supposed documents would have been misplaced. In the years to come Operation Drug Free would come to have the same air of mystery surrounding it as the Kennedy assassination or the search for Hoffa.

Daniel for his part was happy to have done the world a service, but was so heart sick from what he had subjected himself to in the process that it was a long time before he was back to being some semblance of his former happy self. In the end it was Amy that brought him out of his depression. Her solution was blatantly obvious but equally effective. Daniel had waded eye deep in the dredges of the worst humanity had to offer, it was time he experience the other side. She encouraged him to snoop on other mind, one that were innocent and happy. She pushed him to it daily. Walking down the street holding hands one afternoon they were caught out in a quick shower. Across the street there was a little girl playing in her front yard dancing in the rain and twirling about trying to catch raindrops on her tongue. Amy nudged him in the ribs and just said, “Experience that!”

He did and it was the most refreshing thing he had done since it had all started. He felt strange entering people’s minds just to be a voyeur of simply pleasures like that, but it worked. Like the sun coming out from behind the clouds after the brief rain, the new happy experiences balanced the darkness.

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It took years to really find that balance point, the place where he was centered and didn't slip down into the darkness of the human heart, but he had those years, and more importantly he had Amy. She was his center and moral compass. Whenever he slipped under her hand was always there to pull him back up, when he seemed like he might go too far in righting the wrongs he saw she was there to hold him back.

Despite being by at least twice over the richest man in the world they didn't live like it. Daniel had bought a simple brownstone home in DC with a small back yard, but close enough to the Mall to walk down and see the monuments when the mood struck. DC was a difficult place for Daniel to be, there was so much ugliness in the souls of so many of the politicians and sycophants that hovered around them looking to suck from the government teat. More than once Amy had been required to step in and stop him from altering the politicians into confessing their secrets. Daniel had made himself a promise not to 'adjust' law abiding citizens of the US unless they posed an immediate danger to themselves or others, but oh how he was tempted sometime.

By age 35, Daniel and Amy were long past the newlywed stage, but still as much in love as the day they had first kissed. It was always, 'us' and everyone else was 'them'. Not once in their years had they fought each other, although that wasn't to say arguments didn't grow heated when one felt strongly about something, it just never became Amy vs. Daniel.

The hardest thing about their lives was knowing who to help. After all the money had been counted and organized and deposited and taxes had been paid and memories adjusted to not be curious, Daniel had ended up with just over 100 billion dollars. With his knowledge and some study of the markets he invested, but only did so cautiously and earned a mere 10% on his investments. Not a great return compared to what he could get, but everything he put the money into was completely solid, he made sure of that. Of course he didn't need the money, they were living like the middle class in DC, and even if he had tried to spend a million dollars a day and didn't invest a dime he still couldn't spend it all. So 9 billion of his yearly income went to charities and causes and companies whose products would make the world a better place. He also donated lavishly toward political candidates from both parties who he found to be of strong integrity. Those things took up most of their time and although they never worked a real job, they easily put in 50 to 60 hours a week helping people in their own way.

At forty Amy was a stunningly elegant woman who shone with an inner confidence and conviction that made her the center of any gathering, but it was starting to become apparent that Daniel was not aging as quickly. His early ordeal with what he had gone through to end the drug trade had prematurely aged him and made him seem much older, but as time passed, the shadow of the experience had vanished so that he no longer had a haunted look, he now looked more like a man in his prime.

One evening after a small dinner party celebrating her forty second birthday Amy brought it up for the first time. As he stood behind her in the dressing room unzipping her dress she looked at their reflection and really looked at it. Her face was a little pale as she turned into his arms.

Without using any mindreading, but just the natural empathy of a husband for his wife he sensed something was wrong. "What is it my love? Wasn't it a nice evening?" Trying to cheer her up he added, "It was the roast pheasant wasn't it? Too dry. I'll have the chef flogged at once!"

She smiled but still clung to him her arms around his waist. "I don't think I've ever eaten pheasant in my life, nor do I want to, and the chef was excellent. You cooked the fish to perfection, exactly the way I like it."

He ran his hand along her hair stroking her to comfort, "What's the matter love?"

Finally she let go with a final squeeze and turned back to the mirror, "Look at us."

Daniel did, but saw nothing wrong. "We look great. You look beautiful, even better if you let me finishing taking off that dress," he said suggestively.

She smacked him on the arm, "I'm being serious. Look at us, really look."

He did but still didn't see what she was implying. He wasn't even tempted to look into her mind to find out. He had given that up years ago. There had to be one person on Earth that was absolutely blank to his powers and Amy was that person. Without her love and respect life just wouldn't have been worth living.

He shurgged, "I'm still not seeing anything wrong."

She frowned. "You haven't aged a day in years. If anything you look younger than you did when you were in your twenties, back then you looked nearly forty you were so grim. I look my age, but you don't. If I didn't know you I would never guess we were the same age. In a few more years people will start calling me a cougar." She smiled at that, but there was just a bit of grim reality to the statement.

This time Daniel frowned as he looked in the mirror. "Well, my father looks younger than his age too. He used to tell stories of how people mistook him for a teen when he was in his mid twenties." He was disturbed though, now that she had pointed it out it was true and he could see it if he tried. Amy was still beautiful but in his mind she was the same teenage girl that had learned his secret all those years ago, the girl he grew to love without ever realizing until that day on the swing.

Daniel didn't say anything more on it and neither Amy, but from that time on his mind was bent to a new purpose. How to not loose the woman he loved. She had been right. Thanks to his powers he really hadn't aged a day in years. At most he looked in his mid thirties, and his powers hadn't stopped growing over the years just because he hid them. When he was younger he was clearly stronger than humanly possible, but still in the range of believable. People had been known to lift incredible weights given enough adrenaline and reason. Now however, he was simply off the scale. He had never attempted to do so but he was pretty sure he could pick up a bus and throw it for hundreds of yards or maybe miles, he just couldn't imagine experimenting to find out. The same went for his other abilities as well, and unfortunately, that also meant he was practically indestructible. Unfortunate, in that it meant he and Amy would not grow old together. She would continue to age and eventually die leaving him alone in the world unaging and surrounded by 6 billion people, no a single one of which he could ever share the special relationship he had with Amy.

Without telling Amy, he began to sink billions into longevity research over the new few years. More and more their endowments went to organizations dedicated to curing diseases especially those related to aging.

One day at dinner about six months after their talk Daniel announced his next project, "Amy, I'm going to start a company, medical research. I'm going to cure cancer. Might take a few years but I'm going to eliminate it, all forms of it."

She just smiled and said, "That's wonderful dear, I know you can do it," and she meant it. There was no doubt in her mind that he would do exactly what he said. She also had realized his new obsession and while a little dismayed and sad for him, decided it would benefit millions of people beyond just herself.

In total it took 5 years to cure cancer, but it was another 5 before the treatments hit the general public thanks to FDA testing. Amy was amazed at how fast Daniel had achieved his promise, but he explained it away. "When you throw twenty billion dollars at a problem, and when the person spearheading the drive is able to recruit the very best researchers in the world and draw their best ideas directly from their minds and help share that all among the group of them, it's not really that surprising." Amy just smiled, she knew the truth behind what he was up to. She didn't mind aging, she was happy with her life, it had been a great life so far, but she knew Daniel was terrified of losing her. She was never afraid for herself, but only for how her death might effect him.

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The irony was that the more he stretched himself to develop greater intellect to solve the problem of aging in order to keep from losing the one thing in life he cared the most about was in fact the one thing that cost him that love. It was not that Amy ever loved him one ounce less or he her, but the obsession to achieve and perfect a resolution to aging meant that he spent more and more time away from her. Worse, the further his mind reached and developed new limits, the less others were able to relate to him.

In the industry, he became known as the Mad Scientist. It was like in the 1950s when young physics undergraduates would flock around Einstein and marvel at the grand old man of the science. In Daniel's case, often times it translated into an uneasy awe. The researchers and even his top scientists could not follow the leaps in logic and seeming intuition he could make, nor could they understand how one person could possibly keep up with all of their research much less forcibly push them to communicate with each other. To the researchers it was like he always knew when they were on the verge of some minor breakthrough and would pull others away from vital projects to cram into one or another of the labs to have that person explain what was being done and how they saw a benefit. Not that his people understood, but it very quickly became apparent that Daniel could mentally run circles around any ten of them put together. They rarely needed to explain even minor obscure technical details to him, he simply nodded and asked that they move on. In the beginning several of the researchers Indrajit Ramakanth being the most vocal would become frustrated and complain to each other that Daniel was rushing the processes and not giving their concerns due weight.

That stopped one day in Indrajit, frustrated with Daniel's apparent dismissal of his concern, yelled out, "If you are not going to take this seriously, and allow me to study potential effects of combining these two proteins then I will no longer work for you Sir! Doing so would be dangerous, you could cause a malformation in the DNA that could crop up in future generations with terrible consequences!"

Daniel never raised his voice, never looked even midly upset. He simply explained to Dr. Ramakanth exactly what would happen with the combined proteins. He detailed the results of the studies that Ramakanth would find when he ran the experiments to their conclusions. He did so in precise detail and down to a level of precision that afterwards Ramakanth's computer models were unable to match.

"I appreciate your concern and I see that you feel deeply about this and that is understandable. I am not dismissing your concern, I simply have already understood the possibility and eliminated it from the calculations through logical processes. But please run your tests, I give you three months. After that, I want you to move on to the next phase. You will be quite far behind at that point, and it will take you another three weeks beyond that date to be fully back up to where you should be. As I say, I respect your convictions and prudence in not wanting to make a costly mistake that could harm future generations. I only ask that when you are done you get back up to speed as quickly as possible."

Three months later at the weekly 'conclave' which is what the scientists had taken to calling their sharing sessions, a very chastened Dr. Indrajit Ramakanth presented his findings which matched Daniel's down to the molecular level to less than .0001 variance.

Daniel's understanding or wisdom in closing off lines of research or opening up new ones was never again questioned by his people.

Despite his best efforts the media did get wind of his crusade to fight aging thanks to his cure for cancer. The fact that he offered the cures freely, won him the Nobel Prize and his first appearance on the cover of Time magazine. He tried to avoid the ceremony claiming he was too busy, but for Amy's sake he finally agreed to go. She was sad that evening and he asked why.

"My love, what burden's your heart so? The ceremony was nice and we are in a foreign land and had a great dinner and the bunny in the moon is looking full down on us. Seems pretty romantic."

Amy had turned 54 years old the month before and despite the efforts his companies and research had made she was still aging and now looked more like Daniel's mother than his wife. To his eyes she was still the teenager he had always thought of her as.

"Daniel, I'm so proud of you and what you've accomplished. For the second time in your life you've done an impossible thing and effected the lives of uncounted millions of people. But I'm a terrible person, you've been so busy the last few years, I miss the time we used to spend together. I'm jealous of your work."

Daniel was caught by surprise, Amy being the only person in the world capable of that. "But my love, it has been so that we can spend many many more years together. I'm so afraid of losing you, I feel like I'm racing against a clock. I hear the hands of a giant unstoppable clock in my dreams at night, tick...tick...tick.... I..." For all of his vaunted intellect, he didn't know what to say. "What can I do to make you happy love?"

Amy smiled and in the moonlight he could almost believe she was a girl again but for the silver in her hair. "Daniel. Just spend more time with me. You want to cure aging entirely and I believe you can. I've never doubted you, but whether you are in time or not, I want you now. I need you."

Daniel melted, but there was still a sick feeling at the pit of his stomach as if it really were a race and every minute he delayed was a minute closer to the time he would lose her. "If that is what you want love I will spend my every waking minute with you."

She smiled both relieved and amused and smacked his arm, "What would your parents say about that young man? Spending every waking hour with a girl is a good way to annoy each other." It was an old reference and joke between them and it broke the tension.

Another decade passed and Daniel's fame had increased to near legendary proportions, he was said to be the the Nicoli Tesla of biology, and called "Dr. Immortal" for his fight against the effects of aging. It was also widely rumored that he had experimented on himself in his efforts. Given his apparent youth this indeed seemed likely to an interested public. He did his best to shield Amy from the press and keep their private lives private, but that level of celebrity simply could not be avoided entirely. On several occasions Amy was asked by interviewers why Daniel had not shared his anti aging treatments with her. She smiled with the outward grace and serenity of a queen and answered simply, "Because he loves me and would never risk mine or anyone else's life on something unproven. There are many years yet and I do work to stay in shape." This often brought appreciative comments. For a woman in her sixties she was still considered remarkably beautiful even by the callous press so uncouth as to ask about and comment on her age.

It had been years since Daniel has slept. It was his compromise with Amy. She wanted his time so he had to make up the missing research time when he could. That mean no sleep, besides anytime he tried he had horrible disturbing dreams of clocks running down or breaking, or of the hands speeding up, or the worst of all, just the relentless tick-tock of a massive clock that seemed to span the entire sky.

Depsite the near constant sense of time slipping by too fast, Daniel made constant advances in wide ranging fields. Alzheimer's, Arthritis, and Heart Disease were all cured, and while aging itself had not been halted at least the major maladies that went along with it were one by one being expunged.

At Amy's 65th birthday celebration Daniel stood to make a toast, "To my beautiful wife, the inspiration for my life and my compass without whom I would have lost my way in my youth and to whom I owe all of the accomplishments I have helped to bring about. By your 70th, I swear aging will no longer be something the world has to fear. We are nearing some major turning points in our research, that once proven will be the final piece in the puzzle. I'm am confident of this. My love, here is to unlimited years, may we spend them together and as much in love as the day we first kissed!"

Everyone at the party applauded and sipped their drinks in toast as Daniel and Amy kissed. The next day the papers were full of headlines like, "Dr. Immortal to share fountain of youth," and "An end to Aging." Of course other's debated the ramifications of what this could mean to the economy to have an undying population.

Daniel blithely ignored the debates, the overwhelming majority seemed to be in favor of enjoying longer fuller lives, and it wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference to him if everyone in the world had spoken out against it. He wasn't doing it for the world he was doing it for the one woman he loved.

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  • 2 months later...

Over the years their small home in Washington had seen changes in the neighborhood surrounding it. It went downhill over the period of several decades and during that time Daniel had tried to convince Amy to move to a safer area, but she had refused. The house was comfortable and she loved it and wouldn't hear of moving. In the last decade however the city had seen a new round of urban renewal and their home was now surrounded mostly by newer homes and their house was now part of a gated community.

So it was that Amy felt no fear in stepping out one summer evening to get some exercise. She was sixty seven and still lean and toned and in shape. It was her way of showing her love for Daniel. With his obsession with curing aging and keeping her alive she felt it was important that she maintain herself in the best shape possible in order to give him every chance at achieving his goal before she died. Her own parents had died years ago and none of the relatives she knew of had lived much past Seventy, so genetics were against her living much longer and they both knew it.

Neighbors watched Amy go jogging past. She was so full of life and friendly that they couldn't help but smile and wave seeing her. In an age when most people rarely spoke even to their next door neighbors, everyone knew Amy and liked her and watched out for her.

That was why when Daniel received a phone call from the DCPD asking him to come to George Washington University Hospital it didn't occur to him that it might be Amy. "Right away officer."

Only minutes later an officer met him at the door. "I'm afraid your wife has been admitted sir and you should come with me."

The blood drained from Daniel's face and an iron fist clamped over his heart so that it felt almost as if he couldn't breath. "Is she alright? What happened, was there an accident?"

The grim expression on the man's face told him she was not alright. "Hurry man, show me the way!"

The officer nodded and moved through the building as quickly as possible. Along the way he tried to be as delicate as possible, "She is in bad shape Mr. Fox. Apparently, your wife was out jogging when she was mugged. We don't know if it happened because she resisted or because she didn't have anything of value, but the muggers took things too far."

The vise squeezing Daniel's hear tightened another turn. He didn't ask any further questions but urged the officer to hurry.

At the ICU room a nurse tried to bar his way but he just brushed her aside and entered. Amy was bandaged practically from head to toe and both arms were in casts. Her face was a black and blue and yellow with many small cuts. Daniel's heart was breaking to see his love in such a condition. He rushed to her side and reached out as if to take her hand but held back for fear of hurting her further. "Amy, love, I'm here. It's Daniel. Hold on baby, you're going to be alright." He spoke the words in hushed tones.

Incredibly, despite her condition and drugs Amy was conscious enough to think to him, I'm sorry love. I don't think I can, they broke too much inside me.

The doctor standing on the other side of the bed looking at the reading looked to Daniel with concern evident in his eyes. "Mr. Fox, may I see you outside for a moment."

Daniel looked up and nodded woodenly then back to Amy, "I'll only be gone a moment love, hold on, don't give up on me!"

In the hall the Doctor looked at his chart and then back up at Daniel, "The prognosis isn't good. Your wife was beaten severely, she has internal bleeding and we can't operate on her in her current condition. To be honest, I don't believe she will last the hour." There was real empathy in the man's eyes, "I'm very sorry. You should take the opportunity to say your goodbyes while there is time."

There was a terrible pain in Daniel's chest, and he couldn't manage to speak, but it wasn't physical. He moved back into the room like a man going to the gallows. Amy my love, I'm so sorry I wasn't there. I can fix this... I... I'll think of something, just hold on for me. Don't leave me.

Amy's eyes opened and she looked at him. No, I'm sorry. Sorry I can't stay with you. Promise me, that you will let me go? That you will go on with your life? What you've done has helped millions, don't let my death prevent you from continuing.

Tears were spilling from his eyes now running face and dropping onto her bandaged hand as he leaned over the bed to be closer to her. Everything I've done has been for you. How can I go on, you are my soul?

No, you must go on if you want my life to have meaning. I didn't want to live forever, I only wanted you to be happy. Promise me! With great effort her voice spoke one last time echoing the thought, "Promise me..."

Daniel could feel her mind slipping away, I promise. "I promise." And she was gone, her last thought of that long ago kiss sitting in the swing on the back porch, her heart full of love.

The instruments in the room all began shrilling their impotent warnings of what Daniel already knew to the core of his soul, Amy was gone.

He walked out of the room his mind trapped in that last image of their first kiss, his heart going in circles of love and loss. The officer and others who saw him tried to speak comforting words but they were no more than wind to Daniel as he walked out on to the streets his feet moving of their own accord.

Despite his promise to her his heart continued it's downward spiral; shock and pain and grief enough to drown mountains. He was unaware but the atmosphere around the city mirrored his internal darkness. The morning came but the sky was as black with clouds as night only the faintest light signing through. The air was charged with the impending storm and a sense of something building to a dark climax.

For hours his feet took him by random paths through the streets of Washington, and across the Mall, past the Capitol and the Washington monument. There should have been crowds of people but with the sky so black few were willing to venture out. At last he stood before the Wall at the Vietnam Memorial. Decades had passed since that undeclared war ended, but still people came and left small mementos below their loved one's names. Something of the place got through Daniel's own personal cloud of despair. Despite the blackened sky and the dark stone of the wall, there were lights illuminating the names and the gifts that people had left. One in particular caught his eye, a small rag doll, faded and worn by the elements. A child's gift to a missing father. The burden was too heavy and this symbol of love and loss somehow added to his own was more than he could bear. As he fell to his knees something inside snapped.

A storm of rage fueled love and loss boiled out of him. The clouds above roiled in sync with the power inside Daniel. Those who saw feared it was Armegeddon come at last and for him it was the end. In his grief the he reached out to the storm and pulled, there was no other way to describe it. Massive bolts of lightning split the sky grounding themselves in Daniels body, one after another over and over. The physical pain lasted only a second as millions of volts charred, and burned and eventually vaporized what had been his physical self. The end to his body didn't bring the expected end to his pain or grief. With the physical body gone the last veil was gone and he knew. At last he finally understood exactly who and what he was, and why he had abilities like a comic book hero.

He was a Watcher, a member of a race millions of years old and powerful beyond imagining. He had come to this Earth to live and experience life. For the Watchers the greatest enemy was boredom. All of this he knew in an instant as himself, but almost as if superimposed over his confused thoughts was a much greater mind one that could reach out and touch the other side of the Universe, one that could change the very laws of physics and reality with a thought.

In that instant the grief and rage withdrew somewhat as a new thought dawned on him. With such power he could bring Amy back, he didn't have to live without her he could make her alive again and young too. He didn't have to be alone, he didn't have to live in this all consuming pain.

An almost smile crossed his insubstantial face and he 'reached' out and in tapping that unimaginable power and created himself a new body just as it had been before. The lightning was still falling and tearing up the ground in the area but it no longer had the power to effect Daniel. He ignored it as he looked up to the sky and waved his hand at the clouds in a dismissive gesture. In an instant the sky went from black as midnight and violent as a hurricane to clear and bright and sunny with a slight breeze. This time he did smile as he looked down at his hand.

Now to bring Amy back... He searched his other self's memory for ways to do it and found many. He could turn back time so that the mugging never happened, or he could go and find her body and simply repair it and 'make' her alive again. That stopped him in his tracks. Could he really have that much power that he could raise the dead? He considered for a moment but no, it wouldn't really be the Amy he had lost. It would be Amy in every way down to the smallest detail and she would live and be herself, but in some indefinable way it wouldn't really be the same 'soul' even if it would be just exactly like her, a perfect xerox copy, but not the original. That made him a little sad, but there were ways to get back the real Amy. Traveling back in time would be the easiest. He would do that and when his new power he turn the hands of time back and make her body young again too, and immortal.

Immortal so that she could never die and leave him, that's what he would do and it would be wonderful. They would live centuries together, millennia even, and he would never have to fear losing her. In his sudden euphoria at knowing he could have her back he ignored the quite voice in the back of his mind that was saying it was wrong.

He furrowed his brows in concentration and found himself back in his neighborhood at the spot where the mugging would take place in just a few moments. He made himself invisible and waited planning to destroy the muggers when they arrived. As the minutes passed he thought about the life he and Amy had shared together; all the great times and the love. He could remember the way she smiled the way she would always dismiss his worries about her health and safety. In the end he had been right to worry, she had died hadn't she. How could he possible go on living all the thousands of years ahead of him alone and without her. Now that he was aware of himself again with all the knowledge of the countless ages he had lived he understood just how difficult that was. Unending life was not for the faint of heart, the years could grind you down so that you just had to escape and live a new life and forget your own immortality...

That voice in the back of his head got louder and more insistent until he had to face it. Bringing Amy back and making her immortal would be condemning her to that same fate. Would she want to spend thousands or even millions of years with him? Of course not. No matter how strong the love someday she would want to part, it was inevitable. What then? Would he just let her go? She would be forced to live the same unending existence he now lived, she would have to face the ennui. Or would he let her die then? Use her for her company and love until they tired of each other and then allow her to die? His mind rebelled from the idea, he could never be so cruel to her. So what should he do?

Down the street he could see her coming his way, and from the other direction walked a pair of street toughs, somehow having gotten into this gated community past security. In an infinite second he considered his options. He could kill the teens, could simply change them into model citizens if he wanted, but neither of those was right. Killing them was too easy for what they had done, were about to do to Amy. Worse would be to override their free will, he knew that it was one thing that a Watcher never did, it was their highest law. Fine, but I can make them regret for the rest of their lives what they are planning! With a sense of justice and dark satisfaction he used his power.

Amy came jogging up and the two boys ducked into the back alley behind one of the neighborhood houses. Instead of leaping out and grabbing her as she ran past they stood frozen in place physically restrained from moving by invisible bonds. When Amy was gone they were released and ran like scared children. Daniel smiled to see their fear and knew that for the rest of their lives they would have horrible nightmares about what they had been about to do. It wasn't nice and Daniel knew it but it was justice.

Amy went on jogging unaware of the fate that had been averted. Daniel did not forget who he was however. He knew and would go on knowing and would love Amy for however many years she had left, more fiercely than ever now that he had the knowledge of just how long and lonely life would be without her. Despite that sadness he savored every minute of their remaining lives together and when she passed of natural causes nearly a century later his heart was filled with sadness mixed with a joy at having known such happiness for so long. When he finally left that Earth he knew his existence was richer for having known Amy's love.

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