"Why were you at the power plant?"
"Isn't it obvious," Michael said. "We were going to blow it up."
Trask shuffled his papers. "Yes, but why were you with them?"
"The methods I use to determine a mission's team are irrelevant," Michael said. "Obviously, you aren't going to let me live long enough to make that information useful to you. You my as well just kill me and get it over with."
"Kill you?" Task asked. "We've got better plans for you."
"Using your Project Golem process would be ill-advised," Michael said.
Trask spun towards him. "How do you know about that?"
"Simple," Michael said. "We hacked into the files and we've seen the effects first hand and I can tell you that it will not work on me. My enhanced intelligence will render me immune to the effect. Even if it should succeed, I would be useless to you with my higher brain functions suppressed."
"What do you think, Doctor?"
"He's wrong," the blond woman crossed her arms and looked at the monitor. "Even if the plague did grant him some kind of hyper intelligence it wouldn't allow him to resist the process. Still..." She started pacing.
"It would explain that design we stole from them," she said. "If it was designed for someone with an enhanced mind then it would explain why we haven't been able to find anyone who could survive trying to use it."
"Do you still intend to put him through the process?"
"Yes, General," she said. "I can alter the chip so that it doesn't suppress his brain functions. Rather, it'll program him like a computer. Afterwards we can use his own machine to connect him to our systems."
"For what purpose?"
"Clearly, our security system is inadequate," she said. "His mind will provide us with a very versatile firewall. We can also use him to improve our system's efficiency and to suggest the most logical stratagems. He'll be a very useful tool."
"What do you want?"
"We're here to take the prisoner to Doctor Preston's lab, Sir."
"Very well, just don't let him out of your sight."
The guards took Michael down several corridors and flights of stairs until they arrived at a secured door. It promptly opened for them.
"Doctor Chelsea Preston," she held out her hand. "So, you're the smart guy who thinks he can resist my procedure?"
"And you doubt that?"
"It's impossible," she said. "But thanks for telling us how to put you to work. We probably wouldn't have thought of it if you hadn't mentioned your ability."
Michael kept his expression blank.
"The procedure will take twenty one hours and thirty seven minutes," Chelsea said. "The pain seems to be proportional to the subject's intelligence but don't let it bother you too much, you won't remember it."
She nodded to the guards. They led Michael to a large metallic slab with tendrils protruding from it. They positioned Michael on the slab and several of the tendrils wrapped around him to hold him into place. Doctor Preston connected several devices to him while her assistants started shaving his head.
"It's a pity to get rid of such pretty hair," she said. "But we can't have anything getting in the way of the cranial connections."
Michael steeled himself.
The pain. Have to take my mind away from the pain. Think of the past. Those days before the experiment. Before I lost my family...
No. That's the wrong way. Think of the present. Think of those people relying on me. Zhao. Naoko. Ryu. Trojan. Jenny...
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I guess I..." Yuni shook her head. "No, I'm not. I can't help but think about what he's going through and wondering if, just maybe, we shouldn't have left him."
Alena put a hand on Yuni's shoulder. "He knew that the greater good could be served by him taking this risk. He's doing it for all of us. The best we can do is honour that gesture, by winning."
"Thanks," Yuni said. "Hearing all of that helps. Still, it's painful."
"I'm here," Alena said. "As long as you need me."
Have to stay strong. For all of them. For myself. I don't want to forget them all. I don't want to...