He was running.
No one could see it, but he was running inside his head. Trying to run from his inner self. He looked as calm as always, as emotionless as he was supposed to be.
But he had seen something today, he never should have seen it.
He should never have felt moved by it.
How could that happen? How. Could. That. Happen?
It wasn't right. It wasn't .... allowed to happen.
What about his Training?
The Training was supposed to prevent him from....emotions. Yes. Like the panic, that suddenly struck him.
He tried to run from the emotions, from what they had made him do only a few moments before.
Make your normal self take over again.
Bury the feelings.
Hold on to the goal.
The destruction of the human race.
Then he had that thought again. A recollection of what he had just done, of what he hadn't done, to be precise.
No. Bury it!
He reached the car. Looking as calm as always. The feelings had been fought.
Lewis was waiting for him.
"The boy is dead?"
"Yes," he said.
A free day. No training. Lewis was with someone else. Lisa maybe?
He'd seen her a few times, only for a few seconds while waiting in Lewis' car.
But, something inside him wanted her...sexually. He supposed that Lewis wanted them to have a child one day. Lisa was strong. Her children would support the species, strengthen it.
Strong parents had strong children.
He was sure, the next time Lisa was ready, Lewis would order them to have one. Lewis would probably father another one. He was very strong, too.
Tom didn't know if Lewis already had any children. Maybe.
He wasn't even sure if he wasn't already a "father". He didn't remember his childhood. Sometimes there were pictures...sounds and faces. But there was nothing he could grab, hold, and examine. Maybe he had children and couldn't remember them.
Family wasn't the same for them as it was for humans. It didn't mean anything. Children only meant survival of the species.
Maybe he would father one of Lisa's children. He knew she wanted him, too. She had never hidden her desire. It surrounded her, like perfume surrounded human women.
He tried to spend his free day sleeping.
"Always keep your body in shape. Sleep whenever possible. Eat whenever possible. Strengthen yourself. If you don't have your strength, they will use it against you. They will kill you."
This was one of the first things Lewis had taught him. He had never said who "they" were. He didn't have to. There was "us" and then there was "them". One point six and Humans. Hunter and Prey. That was what Lewis had taught him and all the others of their species. There was no other way.
Or was there?
With a startled scream, Tom awoke from his sleep.
Where did that thought come from?
Suddenly the memory struck him, about what he had done the day before. He hadn't done what he had been told to do. He had actually chosen to resist. No one was allowed to "choose" within their society.
They followed orders.
And if they didn't, they were punished with pain and, sometimes, with death.
But he had chosen not to kill the boy and his mother. He sensed all those fears and the despair. When the boy's mother asked him to take her life instead of her child's, he'd made his decision.
He told them to run and hide, to trust no one, because "they" could be everywhere, and if anyone found out the child wasn't dead, they would send other killers after them. Killers without mercy.
He didn't say that he would be a dead man, too, if his species found out. But he didn't have to. They could see it in his eyes.
What he didn't understand was why he had done it.
Why let them go?
Why lie to Lewis?
Why take the risk? For humans.
What had gone wrong during this assignment?
He had killed other humans, five of them. He hadn't hesitated then.
All he had to do was break their necks and go away. Very easy.
What had been different this time?
Was what happened yesterday, the logical continuation of something that started some time ago? Somewhere between his fifth killing and the boy?
He tried to examine his own life, what he had done over the last few weeks. Had there been something different than usual? Had he behaved differently than normal?
Had he opened himself to the feelings too much? Had he opened to pity?
But how was that possible?
Members of his species didn't feel, so they couldn't be moved by emotions. A 1.6 having feelings was an impossibility itself. It was a truth he had been told so often, in fact, for his whole life.
Still, he had felt moved, had felt pity, because what he had seen was something no 1.6 would have ever done for another 1.6.
If, for all these years, he had been told that his species didn't feel and that they could bury everything, why had he felt something? Was it a lie? Was everything he had always believed in, a lie? Was his life a lie?
Or was he just not a real 1.6? Was he a disappointment for his whole species?
It was something, he didn't want to be. If he didn't belong to the 1.6 because he wasn't like them, then where did he belong?
The species was his family. He was one of them. And if he wasn't one of them, he was alone. All alone. What had happened yesterday must have been a mistake. He would never talk about it. Not to anyone.
This was something that would never happen again. It couldn't.
He buried the...
feelings and the pity, deep, deep down. He was himself again. One point six percent different from humans, and all new species. It was his nature. And you can't fight nature.
This was where he belonged.
He retreated to his old self, a member of his species. Doing the things he was supposed to do as one of their Chameleons. He watched the Humans. He imitated their normal behavior. This was training he could do without Lewis.
Sometimes he used a restaurant for it. He ate and watched.
Humans ate differently. Not like the 1.6. Humans did it with something like ... "Pleasure". The 1.6 ate because it was required for survival. They did it fast, without thinking.
Eat whenever there's time for it. Sleep whenever there's time.
Necessary for survival.
Sometimes he would sit in the Park, watching people play with their children. They would be walking around and enjoying themselves. The humans did so many things just for enjoyment. It was hard to understand because he couldn't understand the feelings behind it.
There was also a game he had been playing for some time now. He called it part of his Training to understand the humans, but somehow it wasn't Training. He couldn't state what it was. Maybe because he was afraid to, because this game could be the cause of his strange behavior two days ago.
On the other hand, just like all the members of his species, he didn´t feel anything. So, logically, the game had to be Training.
But his game stayed a strange thing, at least for 1.6.
Humans called so many things 'Art'. There were paintings, statues, movies, and stories. There were so many things he didn't understand. He would leave his house to examine the 'Arts'.
When he did this, he stood very near to people and examined their feelings while they were looking at it. He could sense their joy and happiness.
Sometimes when they would look at the paintings or statues, he could hear them whisper something like "How beautiful," "Wonderful," "Look at the colors," or "Look at the shapes."
These were things he didn't understand.
How could colors be beautiful?
How could shapes be beautiful?
Why did some humans spend their time creating things serving no other purpose than to exist for enjoyment?
He'd also gone to all kinds of concerts to understand.
He listened to something humans called "Rock 'n Roll" and "Pop".
One day he'd gone to a classical concert. Bach. Music, even older than the 1.6 species.
There was a man sitting beside him. His eyes were closed as he listened and smiled because of the music. Tom watched him. He tried to figure out why? Why was the man happy because of music?
He didn't understand.
He'd read all the stories by William Shakespeare, someone humans called one of their greatest writers. He tried to figure out why some people called the things this man wrote "Beautiful". For him they were just words. One word placed next to the other.
Words about people doing horrible or "funny" things because of emotions.
"Words. Words. Words"
"...and Juliet is the sun." What did these mean? Why?
He understood the words but not the meanings.
No 1.6 would ever be an artist or a writer or an actor. Once the humans ceased to exist, all these things would vanish.
Tom looked at the paintings and the statues in the museum he visited that day and somehow the thought, that this would all vanish, that one day there would be no one left to understand their beauty, made him feel something again.
He wasn't supposed to feel, just like he wasn't supposed to have mercy with the boy and his mother. But both things were there, tearing at him again, like they had the day before. He fought it successfully again.
These feelings were trying to change him.
Lewis said the humans were weak, too attached to each other and their surroundings. Being attached always meant weakness. Tom had never opposed what Lewis said, at least, not to Lewis' face. But he had thought about it. After watching them for so long, he believed that, on the contrary, the human's most dangerous weapon was actually their feelings.
Their attachments gave them something worth fighting for.
He'd been a witness to a car accident once. A human mother and her two children. The mother had been thrown out of the car, but the two children were still in it. Locked inside. The mother was badly hurt, in shock, and bleeding all over. One arm was broken. A few people tried to make her lie down to wait for the ambulance, but she refused. Tom could feel the pain she was in, but the fear for her children was even more powerful. She went to them and held their hands, spoke to them, until the firemen were able to get them out of the car.
Tom watched. He felt the mother's emotions, the pain, the despair, the fear. But stronger than all of it was her refusal to give up or to stay away from the children.
At that exact moment he'd understood that emotions could be a more powerful weapon than anything else and be much more dangerous, too.
It had fascinated him.
Never thinking about survival. Having all those emotions.
Happiness. Rage. Grief. Love.
And for one second, he thought again, that he just wanted to feel that way.
To be able to understand.
But he just couldn't.
And then, suddenly, there was a word for his current state.
The only word that seemed to fit.
It was wrong.
Just fight it.
He stayed in that state of inner turmoil. He fought that part of himself, that didn't belong there. He was still trying to bury it.
He had to stop his watching of humans... his game... his attempts to understand.
He wasn't supposed to understand. The humans were the Prey. He was one of the Hunters. They were different.
The 1.6 were the advanced species. They were better. Stronger. More intelligent.
Why was he trying to understand the inferior species? Why ... envy them? For what?
What was so special about that?
Nothing at all. It was nothing.
He was thinking too much. He needed to do something. Anything that would prevent him from these thoughts.
The telephone was ringing. Lewis voice, telling him an address.
"Am I supposed to kill someone?" Tom asked.
"No. Just go there."
He'd always followed Lewis' orders. This time, he was even grateful.
It was a huge house. Standing alone, very far from all human "civilization". It was one of the houses Lewis frequently used for training matters.
When he went inside, he could feel someone of his own kind, somewhere in the house. Female? He thought so.
Tom went through the house, crossed the hall, the living-room, searching for the person Lewis wanted him to meet. When he reached the kitchen in the back part of the house, he could feel her nearing.
Tom turned around and looked at her.
Lisa. She smiled seductively. "Lewis told me you would come."
He felt the want wash through him again. She could feel it, too.
"Tom", she said. An invitation.
Her voice was going through his body, touching him, probing, searching for his desire for her. She found it and started to play with it. With her voice, the way she looked at him, and with her movements. Her fingers went through his hair, then down his neck. Tom closed his eyes. Let himself be grabbed by her, let her push him against the wall with a strength that didn't seem to fit her body's size.
Her lips were moving over him, so very roughly, so wonderfully.
He let his own hands examine her. He touched her skin just as roughly as she examined his.
They fought a silent fight, struggling for dominance over each other. The only sound was their harsh breathing.
This was Lisa. This was one of his species. This was right. Yes.
He grabbed her hands, turned her around, pinned her against the wall, just as she had done to him only moments before. There was a hoarse laugh coming from her. She looked at him, inviting him with it.
Then he felt it. There was something.
How did he know? Could he smell it on her? Or taste it? It was blood?
He turned his head, looking out the window. He could see the garden in the back of the house. A car was parked there.
Tom let go of Lisa.
"Whose car is that?" he asked, his voice shaky.
"Human's", she said. Her hands went over his chest, trying to make him look at her again. "They were asking for directions."
"Then what are they still doing here?"
He started to move toward the garden, toward the car.
Something inside his head was screaming at him, telling him to not go there, 'Turn around. Get back to Lisa. Do what you are supposed to do.'
But it felt as if something was forcing him, making him go to the car. Somehow moving in slow motion, he could smell it. He could smell the blood. There were flies everywhere around the car and in the car.
Tom's head was spinning. He suddenly felt sick.
A woman with her throat cut. Two children in the back seat.
There was blood everywhere. They had been slaughtered.
Blood. The flies. The smell!
Images. The remembrance of the car accident he had once seen. The mother's desperation.
"I'll get rid of them later." He hadn't heard her following him. "Now let's get back in." Her fingers soothed over his neck.
'I don't belong here', he thought. 'I don't belong here. This is not, what I want.'
"I killed the children first", she said. "I let the mother watch. Humans are so weak."
He turned around and looked at her. She smiled. A 1.6 smile. It was the same emotionless one they all had. It was more a sign of celebrating a successful kill than of real joy.
He didn't smile back. The desires he had had for her were gone.
"I have to go, " he said.
He walked away much too fast for a 1.6.
He was still there. Why did he stay?
Because this was where he belonged, wasn't it?
In a way, he was like the humans. He had something worth fighting for, too. His species. It was the only thing in his life.
He had to fight for it, because there wasn't anything else.
He still felt something, though he tried so hard not to. He felt numbness. There are times, when the only choice left is to give up. Surrender.
He had surrendered to the life he was supposed to live. Tom stopped thinking about human emotions. Pity. Love.
'Just live. It was all that mattered. Exist. Do your job. Follow the orders.'
Lewis called him again, ordered Tom to his house. He was somewhat surprised that Lewis didn't say anything about Lisa, that he had left without mating.
"I have a new assignment for you", was all Lewis said. "Dr Ann Coulter, head of Department of Bioanthropology at Whitney University. Just to be sure, we are watching her for a few weeks, ever since she started her research on Lynch. He could spoil everything we worked for because of his carelessness. Lynch may be an idiot. But he's one of our idiots. It means, we clean up behind him, if we need to. Yesterday, Dr Coulter tried to contact the FBI. One of our people there took care of it. You'll go to Coulter. As always, you'll use the name 'Tom Daniels'. - Here are the files and the pictures of our targets."
Lewis said their names as he put them on the table in front of Tom.
"Dr. Anne Coulter. Dr. Edward Tate. Dr. Sloan Parker."
"Which one are we supposed to kill?" Tom said, looking at the pictures.
What was with Dr. Parker's eyes? He wasn't sure. For a second he thought he saw something in them. No. It was impossible.
"Coulter. Probably Tate and Parker, too. We don't know yet. You have to find out. It won't be your job to kill Coulter. You'll concentrate on Parker. She's Coulter's protégé. Find out what Coulter told her about Lynch. If Coulter did tell her about Lynch, get rid of her."
"What about Edward Tate?"
"He's Parker's friend. You may have to take care of him, too."
"Why do I have to take care of Tate and Parker, but not Coulter?"
Never question anything Lewis says. It was something, he'd learned a long time ago. Now he learned it again.
Lewis seldom used pain to threaten him. He used his voice. After all these years, it was enough to make Tom remember all the things Lewis had done to him, when he was younger. Things he could do again.
Lewis imitated a smile. It was more like a threat.
"You really want to know?" he asked very nicely, but with the smile and the voice.
For a few seconds Tom said nothing. His face stayed cool. But Lewis had always been able to read his eyes.
"Good", Lewis said. "Very good...Go now."
So he did.
He had been following her for two hours now.
Nothing unusual. She talked to no one. Coulter seemed to be an ordinary human spending the early hours of her morning shopping for food. When she finally went into her office and hadn't left after three hours, he decided he had spent enough time waiting in his car. It was time to take a look in her home.
She lived in an apartment in the middle of town. Tom entered the house without meeting anyone. He had no problems opening her door. Humans were careless.
The apartment was huge, looking rather "cool" with white walls and spare furniture. Most of the apartment was filled with books. There were more books than Tom had ever seen at any home inhabited by humans.
He started to search the apartment. Just for thoroughness, he searched the living room, the kitchen, and even the bathroom. These were places where he didn't expect to find anything. Then he searched the study. He was careful not to leave any evidence of his being there, just as Lewis had taught him.
While searching the papers in her safe and desk, he used his cellular phone to call her office.
"Dr. Coulter, this is Agent Tom Daniels, FBI. I have been told you needed to talk to an FBI-Agent?"
Nothing about Lynch or the species in the study. He entered her bedroom and started to search her chest of drawers. Some humans liked to hide their valuables between their underwear, in their socks or fastened under their drawers.
"Yes, if you could come to my office tomorrow", she said.
"Sure", he answered. There was nothing in or under the drawers. She seemed to have all her information elsewhere. "What time do you want me to be there?"
"That's perfect for me, Dr. Coulter." He returned to her study. "I'll see you then."
"Yes. Bye, Agent Daniels."
"Goodbye, Dr. Coulter." He hung up. There were no recent family pictures in Coulter's rooms. All of them seemed to be older than ten years.
No family. Probably all dead. So there was no family she could have told about Lynch.
Only two pictures were recent. Those had people from the lab on them.
One of them showed all of the doctors from the lab. It seemed to have been taken at some kind of party. It was one of the pictures humans take at special occasions.
The other one was a picture of Dr. Coulter and her protégé, Dr. Sloan Parker. Dr. Parker was holding an official looking paper. Both women were laughing. Tom supposed the picture had been taken when Sloan Parker got her Doctor's degree. He held the picture and looked at it.
No. Actually he was looking at Dr. Parker. What was it? There was something in her eyes, something strange. He couldn't say what it was. He tried to identify it, but he couldn't name it.
Tom frowned. He was angry with himself because he was doing it again. Messing around. Complicating everything. He put the picture back where it belonged. While leaving the house, he realized that if Coulter had told someone about Lynch it could have been only one person. It all came back to Dr. Sloan Parker.
She turned around, a questioning look in her eyes.
He offered his hand. "Agent Tom Daniels, FBI. We talked on the phone." For a second, Coulter looked suspiciously at the badge he was holding in his other hand. Then she smiled at him and he felt her trust develop as they shook hands.
He was always surprised by how much humans trusted official looking badges or papers though they usually couldn't say if the items were real. It had also occurred to him that humans especially seemed to want to trust him. Perhaps it was because of his looks or his voice. He wasn't sure. But he used it whenever he had to.
"Do you want to talk in my office?"
"Yes, sure", he answered, using his smile.
"I've been told you needed the FBI's assistance in some research you are performing," he said. He was sitting opposite her, rather relaxed. After watching humans for so long, he knew that if one person seemed relaxed the other one started to relax immediately, too. Relaxation meant a certain amount of trust. When he used his smile or his voice, the trust developed even faster. That's why he was a chameleon. He quickly learned what each human needed, then played along with it. Dr. Coulter needed confident, earnest professionalism. He gave her what she wanted.
"Yes", she said, "if what I believe is true, this could be one of the greatest discoveries in human history. But I need some blood samples from the FBI's laboratories to prove this discovery."
"And that would be? I mean, your discovery. You have to understand, Dr. Coulter, I need at least some information. I can't give you these samples just because you ask for them and tell me it's urgent."
Dr. Coulter frowned. He could feel her hesitation and then her decision to trust him. It was her mistake. He knew it. No human should trust him. But they did it again and again. And then they died.
"My Assistant, Dr. Parker, and I did the testing on Randall Lynch's DNA for the court case that we will be testifying at today. During that research I found some anomalies in his DNA. There is a 1.6 differential between his DNA and ours. What I'm trying to say is that Randall Lynch is not human like we are. I'm also saying that there may be even more like him. But for proof of that I need the samples from your laboratory. The FBI has one of the largest collections of blood samples in the world. If I find more like Lynch in that group, I have all the proof I need to make the government react properly."
'Dead meat', he thought suddenly. 'That's what she is.'
"Are you sure about it?"
"Absolutely", she answered.
"Does your assistant know about it?"
"Sloan?" she said, looking at a photo on her desk.
"May I", he said, pointing at it.
Dr. Coulter and Dr. Parker, laughing. He shut his mind from the sudden emotions the picture inflicted in him.
"We were on a research tour in South America", Coulter explained the picture.
"She looks nice."
He looked at Dr. Coulter, examined the feelings she had while talking about Sloan Parker. Respect. Friendship. Admiration.
"I didn't tell her about my discovery. She doesn't know anything. I wanted to be sure before I tell her."
"Very good, you have all your data here in your office? You understand, I'm asking because of security concerns." He gave her a knowing smile.
"I have it all here," she answered. "In my computer. I assure you everything is secure. No one will be able to get it."
"Glad to hear that." Another smile.
He stood up. "Well, Dr. Coulter, I don't think I'll have any problems with making my superiors give you as many samples as you'll need. This is very serious, considering the fact, that Randall Lynch is a suspected cold-blooded murderer and rapist and that there could be others like him out there. I've got to thank you for trusting me with this."
They slowly walked toward her office's exit, when he felt compelled to look back at the picture on Coulter's desk. Suddenly, he was almost afraid to meet her, this Dr. Sloan Parker. He didn't know why. He didn't know what was so...different about her.
He brought his attention back to Coulter. As they reached the lab's exit, Coulter stopped him again for a moment.
"You know how sensitive this subject is?" she said. "If anything becomes public before I have the proof... You understand? It's my research."
"Certainly,", he answered.
"I'll be needing complete confidentiality."
"Absolutely," he agreed.
Her attention suddenly went away from him toward someone behind the lab's glass door. He followed her gaze. And met someone's eyes.
It was her, Dr. Parker, standing there, looking at Coulter first, then at him.
He saw the warm feelings that surrounded her. The emotions. Her inner self.
His hand went to the doorknob and he opened the door for her without giving it a second thought, without taking his eyes from her, from all of her. He saw the kind of person he would have to become to gain her trust and he liked that person, somehow. He liked the way he would have to be.
He also saw the feelings she had about him. There was confusion and the muddle of dozens of different emotions at the same time. He saw that she felt drawn to him and, although he didn't know why, he somehow felt the same toward her.
He was confused, much more than he had ever been before in his life.
"Sorry, I'm late, Ann,", Dr. Parker said, still looking at him.
"That's alright," Coulter smiled.
Dr. Parker passed him. Somehow trying not to touch him.
He looked at her, a friendly smile in his eyes. "Excuse me," he said. She turned around, looking at him again.
He had to go.
"Thank you," he told Coulter.
"Never mind. I'll be in touch."
They parted without further words. Tom went down the laboratory's hallway. He couldn't stop himself from turning his head around after only a few steps. Dr. Parker was standing at the same place, looking after him. Their eyes met again. He forced his face forward, away from her. He slowly went away from the laboratory, leaving all the doctors behind.
He left Sloan Parker behind. He tried to, but something was strange.
He turned around and looked back a second time. Dr Parker was talking to a young man. Dr. Edward Tate. She was smiling, laughing.
He felt the feelings that surrounded her. The warm feelings. The way she was.
He left the building, trying to run again. Trying to run from the feelings.
This time, it didn't work.
He was about to loose the fight.
The old Tom's last struggle was a failure.
He really tried to kill her. He wanted to. He waited in her apartment. He put his hands around her throat.
And then, nothing.
He couldn't do it.
At that moment, he knew it was all over.
His former life was gone forever.
It didn't really bother him.
He actually welcomed the so-called undiscovered country, the future.
Maybe because he wouldn't have to face it alone.
He didn't understand it all, yet. But he was about to.
It made him smile,
not a 1.6 smile...
a real one.