Of course, I agreed. I mean, what can you say to that when you get an offer like that from a giant brain? I was insane, everything about it but I'd seen it with my own two eyes, felt it in my guts, literally. I was going to die, that much was certain, so I might as well go out fighting alongside a bunch of other nutters crazy enough to go along with this nightmare.
They weren't many. Out of all the terminals, that's what they called us, only five including the new addition of myself worked for Thistledown, excluding Brain that didn't go out in the field. I learnt there were different types, some more common than others.
In the team was Pietr, the man I had seen before with the punching bag. He was a Russian, paralysed from the waist down. The pain a phantom pain in the legs he could no longer feel. He'd been training here for almost a year and could control his pain-body abilities almost as well as Brain. He could walk again, using the pain to reanimate his legs. The most unsettling thing was the true extent of his powers. Being a phantom pain, his powers matched, he could create invisible legs, kicking out with impossibly long limbs of phantasmic force.
Johnny had a drug overdose a few years back that had nearly destroyed his liver. The pain had started there and never went away. His was one of the most common and I learned that the wheelchair guy that had attacked me at my flat had been the same type.
Carlos had been recruited just under a month before me and had a rare disorder that meant his muscle tissue turned randomly to bone, ossification I think it was called. His bones, both new and old ached. His type was unique, as far as Brain's case files showed. He was still learning but already he had mastered forming a basic bony exoskeleton, which to me, newbie as a I was, was amazing and horrifying to behold.
Last of all, the only female on the team and the one I pitied most, was Jennifer. Some cruel fate had given her an unending labour, an eternal childbirth whose only offspring was suffering. Her abilities were both astounding and sickening, she could swallow things whole inside her bloated belly and form malformed, vicious homunculi to do her bidding, twisted mockeries of the children she'd never had. It had been a miscarriage and she'd almost lost it, almost gone over to the other side. She'd killed her husband, swallowed him up inside, an unimaginable unbirthing and he was gone forever. When Brain rescued her, Pietr helping back in his early days, they'd thought she wouldn't make it but she'd shown a remarkable strength and a refusal to allow this to happen to anyone ever again. She dreamed sometimes, she heard the voice of her husband, somewhere inside her, like he never truly died but somehow became part of her, a ghost haunting her flesh.
I felt lucky. My type was one of the most common, though I was an unusually strong example, I learned. My condition was well understood, unlike Carlos for whom every day was a challenge and a new set of tests with Alex and Allison. I wasn't allowed out on missions, I was too new, too green and so I stayed behind, training, being taught by Brain the true meaning of pain and how to control it, harness it and the powers that bizarre flavour of suffering gave me.
Learning to control it, I felt happy, I felt that I had a purpose again, that I had something to live for instead of waiting, even hoping for a swift death to relieve me from the pain.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to last.