No one outside of the project could’ve possibly understood what they were doing in the facility buried deep beneath the Easternmost tip of Long Island, and surely none would have wanted to either, so sinister in its execution as it was. All that remained on the surface were a few cracked pavement roads leading to a rusting old radar dish, sat atop a decaying building with sagging chainlink fences, and a faded NO TRESPASSING sign. It certainly seemed innocuous enough, buried deep in the Camp Hero State Park, two miles inland from the coast, and unseen by most visitors to the historical museum.
Below the expansive forested landscape, however, things were altogether different. There was a secret terminus platform of an underground rail system connected to several other undisclosed stations, including Grand Central Station in Manhattan and the White House in Washington. The Montauk Station, as it was known, was situated more than two hundred feet beneath the surface and comprised of a single rail line that ended in a cavernous hall, hand-finished with polished concrete walls stretching up to four stories on all sides.
No signage existed, but the sizeable open platform led to a steel gangplank suspended over a thirty-foot void below and a set of sliding glass doors, which silently parted as authorized personnel approached with their access passes.
Employees were next greeted by heavily armed guards in navy blue uniforms at a sign-in desk with mandatory retina scanners, all beneath the watchful gaze of cameras recording everything from temperature to heart rate before relaying it to the facility operation systems several levels below.
Following the security checkpoint, a massive decontamination chamber lined with steel sheeting bolted to the walls and ceiling sealed itself shut before coating all inhabitants with a sprayed disinfectant. Though non-toxic to breathe or ingest, the chemicals were known to sting the eyes, and most found it preferable to patiently wait until the process was complete before carefully dabbing away the excess from their faces.
The change rooms had showers, fixed benches, and secure metal lockers containing matching uniforms for every staff member. Not unlike the shapeless scrubs worn in hospitals, all research staff wore tops and drawstring pants in a soft blue with white overcoats, while the maintenance workers wore dull grey with steel-toed sneakers. The uniforms were laundered every day by the sanitation team, and no outside clothing or accessories were allowed beyond the change rooms, under threat of immediate termination. A staff area with a few dozen tables, a casual seating area with flat-screen televisions showing twenty-four-hour news channels, and two small conference rooms completed the entry-level layout.
On the Eastern wall, an armed guard oversaw the access gate leading to the elevator room, which itself had two sets of stainless steel doors, both equipped with high-resolution scanners for a final personnel check before one could summon the elevators. Several levels were developed over the years, but Level 9 saw the most activity, located near the facility’s basement for safety purposes, where the atmosphere was regularly stale and stifling.
The elevator lobby on Level 9 split off in opposite directions, with the first being a hallway to the right, which all guards and visitors were required to use. An extra-wide corridor contained half a dozen electric shuttles for transporting personnel to the far end of the space, where another secured door awaited. Within there was a small guard room, a wall of monitors, and a door leading to a sealed observation room, where floor-to-ceiling two-way mirrors looked into an almost barren laboratory with examination tables and equipment carts.
The second hallway in the elevator lobby led to a long research wing, secured by two successive electronically sealed doors. Beyond them were the project manager’s office and eight other staff offices, washrooms, and a second staff lounge with a small kitchen. At the furthest end was a windowless room with large storage cabinets and a small, enclosed classroom equipped with a desk, chair, high-resolution camera, and a monitor.
Across from the classroom was a small decontamination chamber, which led into a control room carefully hidden behind panes of two-way mirrors and situated directly opposite the observation room with the laboratory between them. However, this room had a door that led directly into the lab space and was rigged with dimly glowing monitors on desks where three technicians diligently worked on computers, each fully covered in personal protective equipment. One of them noticed a hulking guard on the monitor as he entered a short passageway, then nodded to the others and pressed an illuminated intercom button.
“We’re ready,” said the technician in a muffled voice. “Bring them in.”
The guard, a towering brute named Vic Peeters with dark hair and even darker eyes, proceeded to a large steel door with a number nine at the top. He waited impatiently as his layers of gown, gloves, and mask caused him to sweat uncomfortably beneath his uniform and steamed his safety goggles. Vic thought the PPE gear was unnecessary, but after the last unfortunate incident, the project manager took every precaution, and Vic knew better than to cross wires with her.
He turned to glare at the camera until the light above finally switched from red to green, then used both hands to pull the heavy door open, revealing the emaciated teenaged boy within the cell.
“Hello,” said the boy hesitantly, but with a genuine smile and haunted eyes that seemed grateful as he awaited orders from the imposing guard before him. Now seventeen-years-old, his gaunt face and sun-deprived body bore more resemblance to that of someone much younger. Even after years below ground, his copper-hued skin still retained a ghostly tan, and the smattering of pale green in his hazel eyes sparkled with curiosity.
He wore gray sweatpants, a white t-shirt, and bare feet, with his head shaved to the scalp and a small node implanted behind his right ear. It briefly flickered every fifteen-seconds with a green light in a slow, steady pulse, matching the glowing monitor node worn by the guard atop his uniform and protective gear.
The cell was a simple affair with permanently installed furniture and fixtures, including a metal toilet and sink, and a single bed in one corner with no bedding. A metal desk affixed to the wall with a flat-screen monitor above displayed a live video feed of the technician’s masked face in the control room.
“Come on in, RV,” said the technician onscreen, and the boy gently nodded before stepping out of his cell to be escorted down the fluorescent-lit hallway. The sensor nodes placed above every doorway began flickering in time with the node on his head, a failsafe to ensure he was behaving at all times.
He waited for Vic to unlock the door into the decontamination chamber leading into the laboratory, then entered and stood motionless with his eyes closed. Simultaneously, the guard sealed the room and activated the aerosolized disinfectant, spraying both of them down with a fine mist.
“Thank you,” said the boy meekly, yet Vic remained silent. Absolutely no communication was allowed, but the child was unfailingly polite despite his circumstances and made every effort to maintain some form of personal interaction with others, no matter how limited. His mother had raised him with good manners, at least until he was abducted and brought to the facility at age five when the project managers were still authorized to seize older children instead of newborns.
Once the sanitizing mist had cleared, the door into the lab unsealed automatically, and the boy entered the open sterile room, pausing with a cautious glance at the two-way mirrors on the security side of the level. It was almost as if he sensed he was under observation today, but he couldn’t possibly have known if it were true without drawing attention to himself.
Vic remained behind in the decontamination chamber, closing the door and resuming his patrol in the cell corridor as a technician emerged from the control room to approach the boy while motioning to the nearest examination table.
“Good morning, boss,” said the male technician in his deep, West African-accented voice as he helped him onto the table, then laid him back while pulling an equipment cart closer. “How are you feeling?”
“Okay,” said the boy meekly, smiling with relief that it was Felix assisting today and not the mean one.
While the younger children only recognized the technicians by voice, the boy had been here long enough to remember their faces before the personal safety equipment rule was implemented, and Felix Sabi was always one of the kindest people in the lab. “How are you, Felix?”
Felix chuckled as he adjusted the restraints on the boy’s ankles and wrists, then paused to stare at him through his fogged goggles, the deep umber skin around his dark brown eyes creased in a smile and radiating compassion. “You know I’m not allowed to say,” he replied quietly, then in an even lower whisper, said, “but I’m happy to see you.”
A faint smile played on the boy’s lips as Felix pulled a long white cable from the equipment cart, inserted the end into the node on the boy’s skull, then activated the bedside apparatus as it began discreetly humming.
“Let me know if you need anything,” said the man, then gently patted the boy’s arm and turned as the decontamination chamber from the other corridor opened. A young rural Ugandan boy no more than five-years-old entered the lab alone, wearing gray sweats and a white t-shirt, with teary brown eyes and a trembling lower lip.
“Over here, please,” said Felix striding across the room to the furthest examination table as the Ugandan child blinked in confusion, having only recently arrived from his remote village and still unable to speak English fluently.
“Here,” Felix repeated, and the child’s faltering steps soon brought him next to the table, where Felix hoisted him up onto it and laid him back with a soft hand on his shoulder. “Try to relax; it won’t take long.”
The child’s anxious sniffling filled the lab as Felix applied the restraints, connected the apparatus cable to the little boy’s shaved head, then exited out to the control room as the older boy listened to the chattering teeth and shaky breathing of the terrified child with pity. Though twelve years had passed, he could still vividly recall being abducted and brought to a place so utterly devoid of compassion from the few others he saw each day, but it wasn’t their job to be empathetic. Their job was to use the children’s abilities to execute complex espionage missions against foreign adversaries and to do so as effectively as possible regardless of the children’s mental and emotional strain.
It was well known many other countries had developed similar programs, with their only shortcoming being the inability to detect the gifted ones while still in the womb, an advantage the Americans had achieved by infiltrating blood analysis labs around the world. They used lucrative cash incentives to coax cooperation from brilliant hackers and entry-level staffers at the labs. When that didn’t work, they used whatever nefarious means necessary to bend unwilling medical professionals to their needs, including blackmail and threats. It was an effective approach, and the blood work was highly accurate in identifying potential assets.
Both boys were both extremely gifted but uniquely different in the ways the facility exploited them. The older boy was a powerful remote viewer, defined as the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target using extrasensory perception (ESP) or “sensing” with the mind. Essentially, he could use his gift to spy on people or places while remaining utterly undiscovered, as he was never physically present. It was how he got his name, RV9 - the RV for remote viewing, and the nine being his cell number. However, he had grown so accustomed to it that he’d forgotten his birth name for more than a decade and instead adopted a phonetic interpretation as Arvee.
He was also endowed with other skills, such as remote thought manipulation, enabling him to take control of other people’s minds to do his bidding, as well as psychometry, which allowed him to track targets by touching items they once possessed. His powers depended almost entirely on which telepath the technicians partnered him with at any given time.
The Ugandan boy was called T23. He was an impressive telepath who resided in cell twenty-three most of the time, except when brought in to assist Arvee by using his telepathy as a warning signal for potential scrambler activity during missions. Because he had only just begun learning English, T23’s participation was limited to enhancement only until the technicians could communicate each assignment’s objective and his part in them.
Both boys laid upon specially modified examination tables outfitted with psychotronic amplification technology developed in partnership with RAWTEK Industries, a global psi-tech science leader. RAWTEK first made its fortune with special facial recognition software and was brought in under total secrecy to assist with the clandestine espionage project.
Working together with project management, RAWTEK provided both the hardware and the software for the amplification system, also known as the Hyper Ocular Psionic Enhancement System (HOPES), and oversaw maintenance of a modified Overlook 2 supercomputer that filled nearly an entire level above the lab. Its core speed of 500 petaFLOPS was typically reserved in the outside world for clean energy development, climate forecasting, and exploring the universe’s fundamental laws. The modifications allowed the technicians to connect the children’s minds and use their tandem abilities while providing a reliable visual account of the mission they could observe on monitors and record for later review.
The mission objectives often involved tracking exercises to keep tabs on suspicious government operatives in the field for both home and foreign agencies. They also identified the mothers of potentially gifted fetuses and associated medical staff for abduction purposes, generally under the guise of miscarriages during birth at the hospital. On this day, the boys would continue a recent pursuit that had ended unsuccessfully, and Arvee knew what to expect as Felix reentered the lab carrying an expensive leather jacket and placed it in his hands.
“You remember the target?” the older man asked, rolling his R’s as Arvee nodded and closed his eyes, “Good boy. Make us proud.”
Felix crossed for a cursory check on T23, lying helplessly on the table with tears streaming down the sides of his face, then exited as the lights lowered to a dim glow and Arvee closed his eyes to concentrate.
Within the control room, Felix took his position at the main computer and turned to the heavy-set head technician, a woman with sparkling green eyes and long blonde hair in a low bun by the name of Jackie Shepard. “They’re ready.”
Behind her mask and goggles, Jackie nodded and pressed a button on a control panel. “We’re about to begin if you’d care to join us.”
A tired woman’s voice replied curtly, “I’m on my way.”
She’d never show it outwardly, but Jackie wasn’t happy with the news. As the assistant project manager, she’d been directly involved in training the children for twelve years now and never grew to appreciate oversight from her superior, Dr. Rachel Simone. It wasn’t that she didn’t respect the no-nonsense older woman who had fought to reach the top of the STEM world, but Jackie loathed Rachel’s methodology that rarely considered the mental and emotional effects of the missions. No matter how experienced in the field, no child could rationalize the reasoning behind some of their work, especially when it was of a violent and sometimes deadly nature.
After exchanging a jaded glance with Felix, who had also been on the team for many years, Jackie turned to the third technician, a slight, shrew-faced woman with suspicious eyes named Anna Lindersson.
“Sounds like it’s gonna be all hands on deck,” Jackie said with what she hoped passed for enthusiasm.
Anna sighed impatiently and moved to another computer. “I don’t see why I have to move every time. She doesn’t even sit down when she’s in here.”
“I know,” Jackie said patiently, “but I appreciate you doing it.”
The fact was she didn’t appreciate it at all because it meant she had to sit beside the younger woman who was hired two years ago after completing a mentorship with Rachel but had never made any effort to integrate into the team. Despite the nature of the small, tight-knit group of people with full knowledge of the missions, Anna had remained aloof to the others while seemingly angling for Jackie’s job, not that Jackie was worried. It would take a lot more than a gold star for the teacher’s pet to supplant her after the time and effort she’d spent developing the program and mastering the control techniques, not to mention the trusting bonds she’d formed with the children.
They heard the faint hiss of the decontamination chamber behind them before Rachel entered the control room with her razor-straight posture and permanent frown while wiping excess sanitizing mist from her goggles.
“It’s still overproducing sanitizer,” she said to Felix with a sneer behind her mask. “I thought you said you’d fixed it.”
“Sorry, ma’am,” he replied with a slight bow. “I’ll have another look at it this afternoon.”
“See that you do,” Rachel snapped before turning to Anna. “Did you hear back from Agent Oliver, or are we just supposed to guess when he’s available?”
Anna nodded and motioned to the observation room mirrors across the lab. “He was able to join us today, after all.”
“It’s the least he can do,” Rachel replied with an icy glare first across the darkened lab, then at Jackie. “Shall we?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jackie said politely while sitting before her monitor and nodding at Felix. “Ready? Let’s go. Engage Overlook 2.”
Felix entered commands on his keyboard, mobilizing the supercomputer on the level above. “Overlook is engaged.”
Jackie gave it a second, then pressed a console button activating recordings of binaural sound waves that triggered psychic activity in the children’s pineal glands and filled the lab with a low, soothing hum. “Engage apparatus.”
Anna pecked at her keyboard, and lights on the equipment carts next to the children began to glow with delicate pulses synchronized with the binaural sound waves. “Engaged.”
Jackie looked to Rachel, standing behind them with her arms tightly crossed as she stared intently at the monitors. “Requesting authorization to commence remote thought manipulation order under the Department of Defence Intervention Act, section eight, for the purposes of maintaining national security.”
“Granted,” Rachel replied through pursed lips as Jackie pressed a console button, and her voice echoed in the lab.
“Okay, RV, prepare to engage transfer.”
“I’m ready,” came a faint reply from the examination table as Arvee clutched the jacket in his hands, and the node on his scalp began glowing a bright blue, activating the sensor nodes around the room as they synced with his and also turned blue.
“Overlook is reading,” murmured Felix as the monitors came to life with jagged images of Arvee’s real-time vision of the polished concrete ceiling above him in the lab, until his eyes fluttered closed, and a burst of bright light washed everything out.
“I’ve found him,” came Arvee’s hushed voice from his trance, and the screens displayed smeary images of professional movers organizing boxes as Jackie nodded approvingly.
“Good job,” she said, then motioned to Anna. “Bring T23 online.”
Anna entered a command, and the monitor images became sharper and more vivid as the little boy in the lab suddenly became very stiff, his teeth clenching in his jaw, and his eyes closed tight as his skull node switched from green to blue. “Operative T23 is now online.”
Felix watched his monitor, then switched to a secondary screen of fluctuating graph lines. “Overlook is reading. High res in 3… 2… 1…”