Interphase: Exodus – Chapter 19

Being inside the quarantine room, its walls lined with sheets of fresh tinfoil held in place by duct tape, reminded Don of a funhouse maze. The surfaces were just reflective enough to throw pieces of his likeness back at him, distorted and incomplete, every time he moved. He sat on the bed and tried to limit his movement as he massaged a growing headache.

“Pain sensitivity seems to be increasing,” he reported out loud, struggling to keep his voice detached, clinical. The air in the room was cold. He pulled the blankets tighter around his frame, shivering in the thin hospital gown. “Not centered in the temples… all around…” He clenched his teeth and groaned, fighting the urge to bang his head against the wall. “Radiating heat… I can feel it through my skin…”

The intercom clicked. “Don, I’m going to send Rick in with medication to help with the headache,” Sarah’s unseen voice informed him.

A whisper, like a ghostly exhalation, drifted through his mind without traveling through his ears.


“No!” Don shouted. The pain spiked along with his pulse rate, marked by the monitor standing next to the bed. “Do not send anyone in here!”

“Don, we have to—”

“I can hear him, Sarah.” His voice trembled with fear and urgency. “Eden. He’s in my head.”

The intercom went silent for several minutes. Don could imagine them behind the tinfoil wrapping… Sarah, Rick, perhaps Chris and Iris as well, all of them discussing the next course of action, how best to handle the situation, while trying to keep their own fear at bay.

The murmurs persisted, so faint it was impossible to catch the full words.

“Don…” That was Trey’s voice. “What is Eden saying?” There was no hint of mockery or worry, only complete seriousness.

He pursed his lips, straining to listen while fearing to give himself over to the whispers, lest he lose control of himself again. “I… I can’t understand most of it. It’s too faint… I can’t tell if it’s repeating…”


“Time,” Don answered. “It’s the only word I can make out clearly.”

The room went silent again, and Eden’s voice rose like a call from a tremendous depth.

…matter of time…only a matter of time…

He felt a touch on his mind, just a nudge, a stray thought. What would it be like… It drifted away from his grasp before he could seize it. He kneaded his scalp to counterbalance the throb which was making it difficult to think clearly. The sensations of touch… he focused on that, the feel of his scalp beneath his fingers… a line of slightly knotted flesh above his right ear… an incident from high school… the feel of it conjured a memory, the one and only time he’d ever gotten into a fight…

Derek Wetzel. Handsome varsity jock. A grade above him. Kicked Don’s feet out from under him, shoved his face into the grass, got cut on a broken sprinkler head… why was he so angry? Advanced chemistry… Christina Mueller… Derek’s girlfriend… I’d talked to her after class… what a stupid thing to get pissed about…

…what would it be like…

There was a tug on his thoughts again.

…to experience something like that?

Don growled and knotted his fingers in his hair, sending bursts of pain through his scalp. A distraction, a way to break Eden’s control. Couldn’t let him get buried any deeper.

“Don, are you all right?” Sarah asked anxiously.

“He’s… trying to see… inside my head,” Don answered through tight jaws.

“The room’s shielded! How is he—”

“I don’t know!” It came out like a harsh snarl. He took a breath and leaned back, the surface of his head emitting warmth while the rest of his body shivered. “I don’t know, Sarah.”

…only a matter of time…

The whispers submerged, leaving a thin veneer of amusement behind.

“We’re going to try the antiviral,” Sarah said firmly. “Stay put.”

Moisture squeezed from the corners of his eyes as he shook his head. “Don’t think it will work… the virus has been redesigned…”

“Which you were kind enough to bring back, so we have a sample now. We’ve modified our initial sequencing. Let’s try it now, okay?”

Don blinked, confusion flooding him. “What sample?” he demanded. He hadn’t brought anything back. Just himself… and Mike… from the lab… back in the plane… oh God, he’d tried to grab Mike’s gun…

The door swung open slowly, and people filed in, fully encased in hazmat suits. Two security guards… Don recognized them, couldn’t recall their names. He was having trouble remembering the last time he’d seen anyone not wearing a hazmat suit. Rick came as well, then Chris entered, holding a syringe in one thick glove. The guards approached and held him against the bed, along with Rick, who was nearly as large as them. A precaution. Don nodded stiffly, showing them he understood. Chris pushed the needle into the vein of his arm and depressed the plunger.

They left him alone again. He laid there, listening to the soft beeping of the monitors. There was no clock in the room, so he counted the seconds, the minutes. An hour passed, then two. The heat and pain continued to mount slowly, the whispers returning, strengthening.

Yours is truly a fascinating mind, Dr. Harris. I look forward to studying it in greater detail.

Don scowled, trying to visualize the voice in his mind, give it a body, a face, something he could fantasize about punching. He wasn’t a violent man, but feeling his individual thoughts pulled inside-out awoke something primal in him, and his hands balled into fists at his sides.

It’s only a matter of time. Don’t fight it.

A ghostly touch caressed his mind, and he shook it off, trembling with disgust.

Sarah and Trey entered the room next, bearing an electrode-studded headset. To Don’s surprise, Connor followed them, setting a small, black box in the corner and attaching the headset’s leads to it. “What’s going on?” Don asked.

“We’re going to try to short out the nanites,” Sarah explained, putting the headset in place and adjusting the straps. “Low-level voltage. You should hardly feel a thing.”

He caught her gloved hand as she moved to leave, saying nothing, only gripping her fingers through the heavy material. She blinked at him, then returned the squeeze encouragingly.

Once they left, Don settled back and closed his eyes. A strange, itching sensation settled into his skin beneath the electrodes, adding to the ache that had already made a home in his skull. Colors flashed at the edges of his vision. He opened his mouth to say something wasn’t right, when a burst of heat gripped a memory and dragged it to the surface of his thought.

His father’s funeral, not more than three years ago.

The arrogance of mankind… your reach has always exceeded your grasp.

Another flash brought an image of college graduation… no, the night before, when Patricia McNamara had snuck into his dorm room… what happened after that…

He couldn’t remember…

What use will these memories serve you, when you are a part of me?

Images flashed before his mind’s eye with dizzying speed, only to vanish into a yawning void. Eden… was deleting his memories!

Screaming, Don ripped the headset off. Laughter rolled around him. A gray figure of a man with a mocking grin stood before him. “Don’t you dare, you bastard!” he shouted at it, and launched from the bed to fight back, but his hands grasped nothing.

In the distance, he heard Sarah’s voice yelling, but it was buried under an incessant drone.

A matter of time… only a matter of time…


The conference room in the secure facility was crammed with GSC delegates, translators and attachés. While they were assembled in the best defended and least connected building on the GSC campus, none of the faces of the gathered throng reflected anything other than doubt and concern. Even the security agents glanced with consternation at one another.

Mike left no details out of his account of Eden’s complex in Antarctica, going beyond his normal wont in describing the chaos and confusion. He wanted them to feel what he felt in Eden’s clutches. He wanted them to know in explicit detail exactly what had happened to Don on the plane ride back to New York. He watched their alarm deepen into fear.

“What of Dr. Harris’s condition now, Agent Charles?” Representative Orlova asked, concern still radiating through her heavily accented English.

Mike glanced at Olivia, wondering if she’d gotten any updates he hadn’t received yet, but the director’s eyes were the most haunted of anyone. It wasn’t often that he felt sympathy for his abrasive, austere boss, but Eden had been the product of her research, a crowning glory of achievement for both her company and herself. To have it go so far astray…

“The research team is doing everything they can for him,” Mike assured the Russian representative, “but until they know more, we must decide on a course of action.” He leaned forward and planted his hands against the table. “Eden is threaded into all our governments and gaining more support and power by the day. Between his connections and the virus he’s already unleashed, he’s poised to take control of our entire planet.”

“And what course of action could we possibly take to head off this… this disaster?” Representative Moretti demanded.

“We fight back,” Mike declared. As the translators spoke for him, misgiving rippled through the cramped chamber. “We disconnect from his network. We gather support from every nation that has not yet handed over full control to Eden, we go underground, ride out the virus, and eventually launch a counterattack on Eden’s core.”

“You are talking about a military decision,” Moretti argued. “We do not have the authority to recommend such a course—”

“We gave ourselves the authority when we created this thing!” Mike stressed. “All of us, as human beings. We thought we were doing the right thing, to keep our world from further descending into chaos…” He sighed and shook his head. “But we were wrong. We messed up, as humans do. We made a mistake, but we still have the means to correct it.” He let his gaze travel again, taking in the delegates, one at a time. “Eden’s control is not yet absolute. Put out the call. Put all of the old conflicts aside, and forget the past, because if we don’t, we all become slaves to a master of our own making.”

“We…” Olivia’s voice trembled. She cleared her throat and tried again. “We thank you, Agent Charles, for your time, and… will discuss your recommendation.”