Stubborn Vows  Chapter Three
Change of Mind
It was not the heat that he was bothered by, but the mere fact that he had to leave the window open. Sure, he could feel the heat, but even if he left his hand in a furnace he would not feel the pain. No, it was the fact that someone else believed himself to be superior enough to order Josef Mengele to do something so trivial that bothered him.

The crowd in the plaza watched the large canvas-draped object, awaiting its unveiling. Everyone here was ready. It would start soon and this was something symbollic that would signify the start. The light rain of the early morning had added a slightly darker shade to the street, the sidewalks, and the building, but the mood was just the opposite - bright, uplifting despite the building heat of the day. Each child, woman, and man thinking that this could be the time - the time that his or her nation's team will prevail and be the champions of the world for the next four years. The optimists felt suffused with a sense of pride; the pessimists had a knot in their guts trying to hope, but not too hard.

Then, the machines quickly retracted the canvas, revealing a globe within a globe. A fitting metaphor for the 2006 World Cup. The inner globe was a map of the world overlain by the outer globe, a giant purple football; the world come together to watch as a single team among thirty two will win the golden cup. A cheer arose from the plaza as people from all six populated continents showed their appreciation for this signal of the start. It mattered not that they cheered in Swahili, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, English, or Hindustani. All felt a camaraderie of humankind.

None noticed a small thing flit off into the air as the canvas was pulled back. It hovered briefly allowing its gyroscope to calibrate against the GPS system. Then, it flew to a building adjacent to the plaza on a steady vector to a single window open a bare centimeter, on the fifth floor.

Had he not known better, Dr. Mengele would have thought it to be a large fly or bee. It was of that size and had wings that beat the air into a light humm. Once inside the room, it paused for a second then made a beeline to the computer, landing on the desk. The back half of it changed, losing its streamlined appearance, becoming rectangular and pushing itself into a USB port.

After a second, the printer hummed and a sheet of paper sat in the output tray. The screensaver abruptly stopped and an image appeared on the screen. At first glance, a casual observer might have thought it to be a very close up picture of something that looked like an ant or termite. But the lines seemed too straight on some parts. A very human voice, in Spanish-accented English said, "Ahh, Dr. Mengele, I hope that you are enjoying the World Cup ceremonies..."

It was clear that this was a recorded conversation, so the German doctor just waited. Insecto Anaranjado continued, "My bugbot is in the process of uploading video surveillance of the results of my contracted work for you. It appeared that the modified spider-mosquito bot worked as well as expected. The video file will play only twice before it is destroyed by an internal worm - not to worry, it only affects the video file. This is the evidence of the work and completion of my part of the contract. My invoice already should have been printed. Please deposit the amount listed at the same offshore bank that we have used before. It was a pleasure doing business with you."

He did not need to see the video. Mengele had already contracted Insecto Anaranjado once before. The Hispanic engineer was very professional. He would not charge for an incomplete contract. He could trust the assassin/mercenary, but the price was steep. Of course, the contract specified the terms, so this invoice was merely formality. If either party tried to use it in a court of law, well... the very thing contracted was illegal...

Insecto Anaranjado
Death Delivery Systems and Services
  2 June, 2006
Invoice #142
     
Description   Total (€)
Development of cannister packaging with sleep detection sensors
parts and labor
  5,000
     
One modified spiderbot-mosquitobot, design parameters to:
1) store at -20°C at least 5 μl of liquid for 10 days
2) lay dormant until cannister is activated
3) deliver to human cerebral-spinal fluid within 5 meters of cannister at least 5 μl of liquid
parts and labor
  2,000,000
     
Delivery and Insurance   1,000
     
  Subtotal: 2,006,000
  Tax: 0
  Total: 2,006,000
Terms: Net 30 Days    

 

The crowd roared like thunder as the clock stopped. After the middle of the first half it was fairly easy to see the victory. Most of the game was played on the Costa Rican side of the field, which was why the German team had at least four times as many shots on goal as their opponents. If it weren't for their goalie, the final score would have been much more lopsided.

The last goal towards the end by Torsten Frings wasn't even needed. There were still many more games to be played and won by the men in white jerseys and black shorts. But, it seemed that at least the start was good. Although he wanted the team of his homeland to win, Josef Mengele was far from a fanatic. After all his homeland really was not the homeland that he desired. If his plans went well, perhaps it might one day be.

Stepping away from the window, he walked across the room, followed by Klaus and Gerta. As he passed by his massive bodyguard he said, "Leibwachter, please inform site four that we are ready to proceed now."

"Jawohl, mein Vater," replied the strong Siamese twins in unison. Donning a pair of headsets, Aroon tapped on a small keyboard while Sakda adjusted the controls for the 100 cm flat panel monitor mounted on the wall of the luxury box. As Aroon talked to somebody eight time zones away, his brother split the monitor into four windows. Each flickered briefly from a blue screen to a scene from a doctor's office. The High Definition monitor made it almost seem as if they were peering through four windows to an adjacent room, except that each gave a different perspective. Aroon reported, "we have site four live now."

Klaus settled down into a chair, adjusting his tail. Gerta just plopped herself in, ready to watch the 'show'. Josef Mengele donned another headset and sat regally in a large black leather chair with a high back. He spoke into the headset, "Very well, Dr. Appel, you may start. I need not remind you that I have, as guests in my house your wife and two children."

"Very well, Dr. Mengele," the thin man paused. It pained him that his family was being held hostage by such an evil man. He was put in a bind. What the malign doctor - the same one responsible for thousands, if not millions, of deaths in concentration camps - wanted him to do was hardly ethical even at the simplest levels. He had been ordered to create a controllable telepath. And the price was the return of his family, safe and unharmed.

Matthias Appel ran a thumb across his rough beard and then added, "the blood tests have just finished. Would you like me to go over them first?"

"Certainly," replied the Nazi, "I would like to know the progress of the Appel Process."

That last bit stung. Matthias despised it every time that Mengele named the thing after him. It was already grating that he had to do something that would potentially harm a man and possibly would cause trouble throughout the world. Luckily, there was no camera in his office and the evil doctor could only hear him for now. "Very well, the trace plasma neuropeptide levels indicate increased CNS function, roughly twelve percent over baseline. The plasma indicator levels for emotion, language, navigation, creativity, and inhibition are at 52, 61, 48, 33, and 5 picograms per milliliter, respectively...

"This indicates that the nanobots have delivered the viral vectors to the correct locations - to be confirmed by the other tests that we are going to do shortly. As I've mentioned before, the process will be slow - it needs to be slow to allow 'natural' development in a balanced manner. A natural telepath takes years to develop the talent normally. It seems that the inhibition area levels are substantially low, but I am not certain what this indicates..."

"Does this mean that I will not have control over the mentalist?!" Mengele interjected. "This is the most important part. What good would it be to create a mentalist from a moron if he is not under my control?"

"Dr. Mengele. Let me first remind you that this man was not the original test subject that I had selected. As your agent mentioned, the test subject had asked her husband to take the cannister. So, now, he is the new test subject and things are not going to exactly follow what was originally planned. He is a simple man, and while he is no genius, the new test subject is no 'moron' as you say." Dr. Appel held himself in check. After all, he was speaking to a man who could kill his family at whim or worse. "Now, that we detect any indicator peptide means that Cosmid XM52798 is being stably expressed in the nuclei of neurons of the inhibition area of the cortex. As with all of the engineered genes, we fully expect them to eventually be expressed throughout the area. It is just a matter of time. Cosmid XM52798 is more complex than Cosmid XM24850 so this is not unexpected. The genes that were transfected into all of the other regions were simply 'cut-and-pasted' from the ubergenes of the superhuman Immorta that you provided. The construction XM52798 was far more complex."

After many seconds of silence, Mengele said, "very well, so what is the time frame?"

Matthias thought for a moment and then said, "The test subject is likely to already be telepathically sensitive. But, if my hypothesis is correct, at this point, he is only sensitive to minds that are very close to him - close family or friends. In a few weeks, he should be sensitive to familiar minds - coworkers, neighbors, and the like. In the space of two to four months, he will be able to telepathically communicate with just about anyone he sees. We will be conducting the functional test shortly."

"And he can also manipulate their thoughts or cause psychological damage to them?" Mengele asked.

"Yes... yes, he will be able to do that." That was the worst part of it. Matthias had enough trouble thinking that he had just given this man the ability to read people's minds. That he would also be able to do what Mengele wanted to harm people's psyches went against everything that Matthias believed in. There was just one hope. Fate had provided him this one hope. Despite his average intelligence, this man he had an unusually strong ability to keep his convictions and he seemed like a decent man. It was likely why the XM52798 indicator was low. And, maybe, just maybe, this Jape would even be able to help Matthias. He knew that it was unlikely that Mengele would just let him and his family go free after the project was complete. There was too much that he knew.

"Good. Good." Mengele said, satisfied.

"Very well. I will start the functional test then." Matthias hung up the phone and left his office. But his gut tightened. In the patient room, there were cameras, privacy with the patient would be extremely difficult. Before closing the door, he allowed himself to look briefly at an old clipping that he kept in his wallet.

  Vienna (API)
A missing persons search for Dr. Matthias Appel was declared concluded as police found the burned body of a man fitting his general description. Dental and genetic analysis confirmed the identification. The cause of the death is still under investigation.
Dr. Appel was a prominent faculty of the University of Vienna and had positions with other nearby institutions. His colleague, Dr. Saul Numen expressed that "Matthias was one of the best in the world at ubergenetics. His death is a great blow to research in that field. We will miss him greatly at the Numen-Kami Institute where he held the position of Director of Research." Dr. Appel has a wife and two children who have since moved to the Schwarzwald region of Germany, but wish to avoid publicity at this time.
August 22, 2002
 

After the blood was drawn, Jape had been sitting and waiting. But that's what always happens with doctor's visits. Sit and wait. So, he had a lot of time to think about what happened during the previous day. Just as he knew it would happen, Reina had come to his place and Gavin had come along with her.

Gavin had politely asked for the cannister. "It's important for my company and I need to take it to a client today. I'm glad that it seems to be in one piece." But, Reina, she seemed composed, but her face was tightened. And Jape could just feel that she was fearful of Gavin and just wanted him to go away.

Jape had almost been surprised when Reina nearly ran to him and held him. As he wrapped his arms around her, he knew that even if she still didn't feel comfortable with their differences, she felt protected by him and felt love for him. Gavin? Well, he just said goodbye and left.

Reina left, too, after she was certain that Gavin was gone. When Jape asked, she said that she didn't want to go out with Gavin anymore. But he knew that there was more than that. She had been threatened by Gavin. Somehow, Jape just knew. And that was when his headaches started up again.

"Thank you for waiting, Mr. Green. Your blood tests give us no reason to believe that your headaches will continue for long. I am almost certain that no brain damage has occured to you. But we will run some more tests just to be sure," Matthias told Jape. "Let's do a few cognitive function tests. Please tell me your full name and today's date."

"John Paul Green... Friday, June... uhh... nine... uhh... two thousand and six."

"Have you noticed any lapses in memory, Mr. Green?"

"No."

"Any shortness of breath?"

"No."

"Any dizziness?"

"No."

"Any temporary blindness or blurring?" "Any changes in your hearing?" "Smell?"

"No."

"Any tingling or numbness?"

"No."

"Well," said Dr. Appel, "let's take a closer look at your brain then." He stood up and motioned for Jape to follow him. On the other side of the room was a comfortable-looking beige chair surrounded by two giant hemispheres of equipment. "This is the most advanced piece of neurological instruments. Within it are actually three pieces of equipment: a multichannel EEG, a magnetoencephalograph, and a functional magnetic resonance spectroscopy imager. Basically, it gives me a good idea of what is happening in your head."

"Yeah. Pretty fancy thing you've got there, doc," Jape said, nodding. "I guess that I sit in the seat."

"Yes, that's correct." Matthias pressed the power button and the device hummed softly. "It'll take about five minutes to warm up. I'm going to have to buckle you in firmly. Slight motions will throw off the analysis. Then, I'm going to close the two side panels over you. The machine is going to play some music and play some audio clips of people talking - some of it in languages that you don't know. That's part of the test to stimulate various parts of your brain. I'll be in the adjacent room watching the computer analyze the test. Everything OK with you, John?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Jape replied as the doctor tightened the numerous straps around his head and torso.

"Now, John, please try to keep you eyes closed at all times, such movement will affect the test." Matthias depressed a button and the two hemispheres closed together, encasing Jape.

Ten minutes into the test, Matthias set about the preparation for the most critical part. He dialed down the level of anesthesia to the second chamber to zero. In another minute the vital signs of Reina Green altered from sleep state to awake.

(It's dark. And I can't move)

(Yeah, it is,) thought Jape. (But at least the music is nice.)

(What music? There's no music.)

That thought startled Jape. (Hey, what was that? The music, it's nice music it reminds me of the time that I was out with Reina at the concert hall.)

(Out with Reina? Jape?!)

The Comprehensive Neuroimager was showing substantial activity. And Matthias only needed a few seconds recorded to analyze later. Quickly, he dialed the anesthetic back up.

He realized that Jape was progressing faster than expected. Of course, he was quite a bit stronger willed than the original test subject, so it might not be so surprising after all. But after a bit of thought, he realized that it was the speed of progression that was causing Jape's headaches. The changes in his brain required more blood flow and that would take a few more days for his physiology to adapt.

(Jape?... ja...)

Something strange had happened. Jape shifted slightly in his restraints. Maybe it was some sort of strange daydream. Maybe it had to do with the headache.

Maybe it didn't.

The humming stopped and the machine opened up. Matthias began undoing the straps and said, "well, the test seemed to go well. Your headaches seem to be quite normal. I'd guess that they'll come-and-go for one or two days and then fade to nothingness after that."

Jape stood up and followed the doctor to the other part of the exam room and sat as indicated. Matthias scribbled some notes on his notepad.

"Very well, then, I'll schedule you for a follow up visit on August 22," the doctor said. "Here's an appointment card and a prescription for a strong pain reliever if you should need it. But, the over-the-counter medications should suffice. As I said, the headaches should go away in a few days altogether.

As Jape walked to his car, the words 'August 22' seemed to repeat and repeat and repeat. And in the last repeat, it was 'August 22, 2002'. Huh? That didn't make any sense. He glanced at the appointment card - it read 'July 7, 2006'! His head began hurting again. He put the card and the prescription into his pocket, but not before he noticed a very thin post-it note stuck to it. It simply read, in messy doctor's scrawl, Jape, Pls. help my family and Reina. You have 10-14 mos. MAppel