Colours, scents and textures whirled around and ran together into a dazzling and meaningless display. Too-bright lights and the sound of retching emerged gradually from the chaos, leading a stern voice to the centre-stage.
“… your name… ?” said the blurry man in his muted voice as he faded and shifted impossibly. Much of his speech was lost to the rolling waves of uncertain reality. The man’s face, swinging sharply into focus, was intent and belligerent as he spoke again, “Who are you?”
Blinking a few times persuaded the room to hold mostly still for a few seconds as a hospital bed materialised with a familiar face at the headboard. Too familiar it was.
“I’m him,” someone spoke in a rasping voice. Panic spun the room into another nauseating jig. Limbs flailed in failing, jerky motions and bile splashed artlessly onto laminate.
Memories crashed together and formed factions, waging a fierce war of opposing identities. The boy in the bed, Tristan, looked peaceful as he slept. His thoughts raced elsewhere and were assailed on all sides by those of another. Events laid out in a winding trail like breadcrumbs, leading back through the past few days. Images surfaced of forceful dragging and seeing that sleeping boy for the first time. Breath rushing out of already burning lungs as pain blossomed beneath and teeth clattered together from a glancing blow. Knees buckled and met the floor. Blankets were thrown back and Tristan’s slight frame was revealed in all of his vulnerability. A fresh wave of struggling had been met with the same force as before and the bed and the boy had rocked under the impact of another person being thrown roughly down upon him. Strong hands had forced a cheek against the soft skin of Tristan’s abdomen and for the first time reactionary thoughts gave way to the contemplation of possibilities. Consideration of what might come next gave rise to a second wind and fresh struggles but something else brought stillness to the room. What had transpired between that moment and the present was lost to confusion.
“I’m him,” The voice was unfamiliar to the speaker and will battled panic to a stalemate. The stern man stepped into being once again and spoke in that same tone.
“Are you?” he smirked aggressively. A handheld mirror brought a face into view and the room became coherent and terrifying in a moment. The familiar face of the stranger in that reflection laid stillness upon all things at once. The woman in the mirror was Wilde. She was Faye Wilde and she was pissed off. Ignoring bruised ribs and a swollen lip she surged to her feet and swung expert fists and elbows at the powerful men who had brought her to this place and this suffering. Exhausted and starved though she was there was strength in her still and two of the three orderlies crashed to the ground before the last landed a solid strike to the back of Faye’s head and she lurched forward. Sprawled out on the floor she was Tristan and the distance between her and the boy on the bed seared her heart. This dissonance of spirit crippled her and she could not fight until she was whole. Resolve in her thoughts but not her limbs, she twisted herself into a crawl and scrambled toward the bed.
“Who are you?” said that infuriating voice.
“Why am I here?!” she retorted in honest askance as she clambered into a standing position, gripping the bedframe for much-needed support. She grimaced before adding, "Why is she here?"
The responding smile was cruel, or perhaps she only imagined the sinister glint. "Think," he commanded, "and remember." No longer smiling, his face was stony and focused entirely on Faye. "Why are you here?" he turned her question back on her and she reflexively reached for an answer. She had been captured when her unit was scattered. Was she a soldier? The past beyond this was hidden. Faye was holding back. The real, original and displaced Faye Wilde guarded her thoughts and recollections from further intrusion.
Tristan had come here willingly to study and be studied. His capacity to enter the mind and body of another person may have been overshadowed by more common and powerful abilities but his was unique. The Spectrum Academy had overseen the very swift transfer to the facility and he had been enthused by the secrecy. He had been informed that to speak of the facility would be a threat to the security of the People. To tell anyone where he was going or why was an act of terrorism. He felt both pride and privilege when brought into such an exclusive fold. He had learned a great deal about his ability and his limitations in the testing. It had all been benign enough until he had been assigned a test that would prove Tristan's presence to be undetectable in contrast to other forms of compulsion. The results of that test had generated some interest. He had been asked a series of personal questions about different hosts and had been able to find the answers in the minds and memories available to him. Over time the questions had gotten darker and the answers more so. Tristan had felt rage, fear and despair as he responded to dispassionate inquiries. He didn't remember Faye at all. He looked down at himself in the bed and gently laid the blanket neatly over his own body.
Faye looked at his delicate features and saw frailty. He had never thought of himself as fragile but through her eyes he had to consider his limitations yet again. He was not sleeping. Faye recoiled slightly when she realised that Tristan was in a chemically induced coma. He was a prisoner. He groped around in his mind for some explanation and found none. "Why am I here?" he whispered to himself. Faye grew still and turned over discreet thoughts, her conclusion emerging perfect and whole; Infiltration. He turned to face the man and felt Faye's blood run cold as his dread crept into her heart. "What do I need to do?" he asked him.
The same smirk looked so much softer and Tristan wondered if stockholm syndrome had settled in already. The man took a step toward the bed and spoke gently, “There are some delicate issues we need you address.” For the first time since their joining Faye and Tristan were on the same wavelength as a sense of apprehension overcame them both.