A short story by Tina Hunter
“This one will be a little more violent then we’re used to, Katie.” J’lynn was looking at her from behind that clipboard again. Like the thin plastic would protect her from Katie’s abilities.
“How much more?” Katie asked. The lab assistants attached the green remote sensors to the outlets in the back of her head. It was almost show time.
“More than normal,” J’lynn said, “But we’ll have emergency folks ready to fix you up as soon as we’re done and we have already let the clients know the broadcast will end if the blows look fatal.”
Katie looked down at the flimsy t-shirt and jeans she was wearing. She wouldn’t get a lot of protection out of them. She shivered with apprehension and looked at the doors leading out of the room, like she always did before a broadcast. The guards standing there weren’t as tough as they looked, not against someone like Katie despite how young she was, but there were enough of them that Katie wouldn’t try to run again. Not this time anyway.
Katie looked back at J’lynn who still held that clipboard like a shield. Katie did her best to smile for her handler to reassure her that she wasn’t going to run. She used to wonder if J’lynn deliberately picked violent broadcasts, but she’d learnt over the last few years that most of the clients loved pain.
The lab assistants released Katie and she waited in front of the looming stage doors. J’lynn was already behind the controls watching the feed coming from Katie’s mind. J’lynn wouldn’t hook in like she used to. Katie was getting too strong for J’lynn to direct her properly. No, it would be one of the lab assistants who would get a free show.
The doors onto the stage opened, and Katie had to blink repetitively to adjust her eyes to the bright lights of the holo-room. She hesitated for just a moment when she realized she was walking into a re-creation of the roman coliseum. This broadcast would be very violent.
The doors slammed shut behind her when she was only a few steps in and Katie’s heart began hammering against her ribcage. I really don’t want to do this one.
“Sorry kid. You know the rules. Broadcast live in 5… 4… 3…”
Katie took a deep breath and tried to calm her pounding heart. Clients hooked in to feel her pain, not her fear.
She walked to the centre of the sand filled coliseum. The fuzzy distant crowd in the stands weren’t real, but they looked real. Katie felt sick to her stomach.
“Come on kid. Don’t throw up on me. Distract yourself from the present. Just like always,” J’lynn whispered through Katie’s earpiece.
The clients wouldn’t hear J’lynn anymore than they would hear Katie’s thoughts. She wore another ear piece that recorded sound. Try and think happy thoughts.
It wasn’t hard for her to think that if she pulled off just a few more major broadcasts, she would be free to leave the Compound. No more broadcasts. No more fighting. Free to live a normal life. Yes, life outside the Compound would be good.
“Good, Katie. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re projecting great.”
Katie heard a metal grate grinding open, and all her fear came rushing back. This time J’lynn said nothing. This is what they expected, what they wanted. Whoever was coming into the room with her would be real, and Katie would be feeling real pain every time she let them hurt her. She rotated slowly, trying to see where her opponent might be coming from. Bouncing on the balls of her feet came automatically as she had been trained to do for so many other broadcasts. The bouncing gave her away.
“No fighting, Katie. You’re to be the victim only.”
Katie’s lip started quivering and she didn’t care if she was projecting it. A deep growl behind her made her jump and spin around. A huge lion paced across the sand towards her. She held her ground for a minute, trying to stare down the beast, mentally pleading with him not to attack her even though she had never had any luck using her telepathy on animals. Then instinct took over.
“Don’t run too fast Katie, you want the cat to catch you. And please don’t run into one of the walls.”
Katie scanned the floor to find the texture difference between the real sand and the holographic sand. She turned before she came close to it, tears streaming down her face. That thing was going to rip her apart. She wanted to scream, but she knew that it would be better to save that until the clients would get the most out of it.
“Look behind you. We want to see the lion.”
That was the last thing Katie wanted to do, but she turned her head to look behind. The lion chose that moment to pounce.
His claws dug deep into her back, dragging her to the ground. His razor teeth bit into her shoulder, and Katie could hear her shoulder blade cracking under the pressure. She screamed.
“It’s almost over. Turn to face him.”
Katie was crying and screaming in waves, but she still did as she was told. She turned, trying to push off the 400 pound killer. His claws cut into every part of her. Katie was bleeding profusely from her chest which had been ripped open when she turned and her vision was filled with the image of the great cat, muzzle red with blood, trying to get at the organs under the ripped skin of her abdomen.
She brought her knee up as hard and as fast as she could into the jaw of the lion. He growled in protest, and shook his head in an eerily human way. Then his predatory eyes were trained on her face and he lunged, mouth open. A killing blow.
“End broadcast!” J’lynn screamed over the earpiece.
Katie smiled despite the pain, and visualized a wall between her and the lion’s sharp teeth. The lion’s deadly bite stopped inches away from her face and he was unable to bite down no matter how he tried.
She visualized the air around the big cat becoming solid like a giant hand. Focusing her energy into that invisible hand, she lifted the lion off of her body until he was whining four feet above her bloody body. She easily flung him towards the grate he had entered from. Any broken bones would be healed just as quickly as her own, so Katie had little sympathy for her would be murderer.
The two members of the three nurse emergency crew came out onto the sand quickly. J’lynn followed slowly behind them, still clutching that plastic clipboard in front of her. The two telekinetic nurses went to either end of Katie’s body, their hands hovering over her most damaged areas. J’lynn walked up behind the blond man working on her legs, staring over his back at Katie’s face.
“You did great kid. We got massive hits on this broadcast, and Jonah is in a daze from the last few seconds. You must have been projecting like mad,” J’lynn said.
Jonah was one of the lab assistants, obviously the one who J’lynn got to hook in. Katie was in too much pain to come up with a comment about Jonah, so she asked about a more pressing matter.
“The numbers are still coming in, but you’re really close.” Katie closed her eyes and imagined what it would be like to never have to do this again. No more pain.
She felt one of her hips moving back into its socket, and opened her eyes. The blond nurse was near her hips, knitting her bones back together as easily as she had lifted the lion off of her body. It was becoming more common to have both traits, telepathic and telekinetic, but telepaths were still considered rare. She wondered if she would train to be a nurse once she was out in the real world. She was still young enough that she might be able to get into training. At 16, she’d be older than any of her classmates but it was still possible.
Katie could feel J’lynn staring at her. She looked up and saw that J’lynn’s face was pinched in thought. That was never a good sign.
“What is it?” Katie had a sinking feeling. She didn’t trust her handler but she was better than most. She had always been honest with Katie about the dangers of a broadcast.
“Katie,” J’lynn paused to take a deep breath, as if gathering her strength, “You know they won’t let you leave the compound yet, right? You can’t until you’re eighteen. Your parents let the Compound adopt you, so the Compound is your guardian until you’re an adult in the eyes of the Federation.”
“But I’m paying them back for raising me. For training me. Isn’t that why we do the broadcasts?”
“Yes, but most people never make enough before their eighteenth birthday for this to ever be a problem. Come on kid, you knew this… didn’t you?”
The possibility had never even crossed Katie’s mind. The blond nurse had started working on her stomach, but stopped and went back to work on her legs. She wanted to tell him to go back and fix her stomach; the pain was making it hard to think.
“But I won’t have to do broadcasts anymore, right?” She knew from the look in J’lynn’s eyes what the answer was. Why would they let her stop if she was making them money?
“I’m sorry, kid.”
“Stop calling me kid, ok.” Katie had to think. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. She felt like crying again and her body was still in so much pain. She felt a tear sliding down her cheek despite her best efforts. She had been trained not to show any weakness; to be strong.
“I won’t do any more violent ones. I won’t.”
“I mean it. I won’t.”
“You two are going to have to take this up later. We need to get Katie to the hospital. A real one not the Medical Centre you have down here,” the blond nurse said. He stood up and waved over the third nurse and a stretcher before J’lynn could react.
“You can’t take her away from the Compound,” she said, “You know the rules.”
“Her intestines are mangled, and she has massive internal bleeding that I can’t fix. Do you want her to die?” he asked. Katie watched J’lynn’s face contort. Katie reached out with her mind softly, so J’lynn wouldn’t notice her, and listened to J’lynn’s thoughts. She wanted to know how J’lynn really felt.
J’lynn was confused. She didn’t want Katie to die. Katie made the Compound money, and so she made J’lynn money. A lot of money. But she didn’t want Katie away from the Compound either. Katie didn’t have an inhibitor implant. She could talk. People could find out about the Compound. Then J’lynn would be in lots of trouble.
Katie pulled out of J’lynn’s mind.
“Make me unconscious,” Katie said. The nurses were lifting her off the ground and unto the stretcher, but she never took her eyes off her handler. Katie had secretly hoped that deep down J’lynn actually cared about her and that one day she would show it. But this proved that J’lynn was just as bad as the others. Katie was just a tool to make her money.
Katie saw J’lynn swallow hard. The question was hanging there in the air as if J’lynn had spoken it. Katie nodded. Yes. I read your mind. J’lynn nodded in return and turned towards the blond nurse.
“You understand the rules. The only way to bend them is if she is unconscious the entire time. Otherwise, this will not happen. Am I clear?”
“Yes. Now let’s go,” he said loudly. The emergency crew began to push the stretcher across the sand. J’lynn jogged behind them, watching to make sure the nurse filled a syringe with whatever it was that would make Katie unconscious.
Katie felt a “tickle” on her mind. It was what some of the telepaths in her residence did to get someone’s attention. She looked up to see the blond nurse staring at her and she opened up her mind.
Katie, my name is Jason. You don’t have to worry, you’re safe. You’re wounds aren’t as bad as I said they were.
Then why take me to the hospital? Katie was confused and it had nothing to do with his ability to mind-speak. They had entered the broadcast room and Jason smiled a little as he flicked the end of the syringe. J’lynn was hovering over him, watching closely.
Katie, you might be a young telepath but I’m sure even you can figure out that we are here to rescue you. The syringe slipped into her arm and he had just begun pressing down on the end when J’lynn pushed him away from Katie. The syringe fell forgotten to the floor.
“Imposters!” J`lynn shouted. “Guards, they have guns.”
Katie watched as the other two nurses pulled out guns and ducked behind one of the control panels. The guards fired the first shots, using the main doors to the control room as shields.
“Don’t hit the girl!” J’lynn screamed. Katie trying looking for her handler but she was obviously hiding somewhere already. Not willing to risk bodily harm to save her pay check.
It was Jason who grabbed the stretcher and pulled it over dropping her painfully onto the floor. He used the stretcher as a shield, pulling it and her closer towards the broadcast desks in the room.
This is some kind of rescue, she said mentally to him. She was beginning to feel light headed and wondered if the stuff in the syringe was taking effect.
Well this isn’t exactly how I planned it, Jason replied. He pushed her underneath the nearest desk and pulled out his gun. You stay here and don’t move. Jason left her under the desk dragging the stretcher with him towards the far wall. She didn’t have much of a choice in obeying him, not with the extent of her wounds.
What about… Katie started to ask him if she would loose consciousness but she already knew the answer. The guns shots sounded fuzzy, as if someone had turned the volume down low on a poor quality receiver, and it was hard to keep her eyes open.
But why me? Of all the people in the compound why would they risk saving her? And who where they?
Her eye lids seemed sealed shut with lead weights when she got part of her answer.
You alone could take down the Compound, Katie. We need you.
Katie never got to respond before she succumbed to the darkness.