He still had nightmares about The Tank. The numbing cold that reached in and took hold of his bones. The simultaneous burning that seared the inside of his body. On dark lonely nights, he could still feel the chemicals absorbing into his pores, forcing their way into his vulnerable system, taking control as everything screamed bloody war, trying to fight back. He had passed out halfway through the process. It didn't spare him the pain. When he had come to, everything ached with an intensity he had never even imagined before. Breathing, eating, it all hurt. In his dreams, everything was combined into a single experience. It went beyond nightmare. It was hell.
The nights he re-entered that damn chemical tank he woke up with a start with the others at his bedside. The first time had been soon after they had moved in together. They had asked for any explanation he would give them, because his screams alone were enough to give them nightmares. He didn't have any explanation to give. They had gently suggested therapy, but he wouldn't have any of that. He could control it, and it had made him all the stronger. But that much pain had scarred him, physically and mentally. These days when he had his nightmares, the others just quietly came and grounded him back in the now when he awoke. They had even explained it quietly to Jimmy when he had moved in.
The nightmares had mostly stopped when he had become certain the others wouldn't find out about Fides and that they would accept him even if they did. Every now and then he would have a bad night, but he was putting it behind him at last. Then this had happened. He fully expected to have a rough night.
"Okay," Jimmy said. "So what are we going to do?"
"I can't hide forever," Byers replied. "We need to find Alice."
He had explained the call and had tried to fill some of the gaps in. Langly had even hacked into the FBI mainframe for info on Sadie's death. The Bureau had taken over the investigation because the victim worked as a DoD civilian, and she was a Fides.
"And how do you suggest we do that?" Frohike asked.
"She was living in the Washington area. We could probably get in on the investigation."
"Okay, but something's not quite right about all this," Frohike replied. Langly nodded.
"I mean, okay, so that girl, Sadie, blabs. It gets out onto the Internet. Someone besides us takes it seriously. Why kill Sadie?" Langly said. "I mean, I know there are plenty of nut-jobs out there, but ths is cold." He scrolled down through the gruesome details in the file. Someone had broken open the skull and removed the brain, then burned the body. The only way the authorities had found out who it was had been with dental records. It was almost like they had tried to destroy everything that she was.
"Alice might already be dead," Frohike said gently. "If this is the same guy..." he trailed off. Byers nodded.
"I know." He looked away. Say what you would about Fides, but it had created a bond between everyone involved. He could still feel the marks of the others on his mind. He had opened himself up to them just once, and it had totally changed him. "That's why we have to find her."
Carter sat alone in the dark. He buried his face in his hands. He suddenly felt a lot older. If he was dragged before the oversight committee, he wouldn't be able to hold his own. How did you explain to men like that what you had seen in another's mind? How did you explain how you had been able to look at everything in its whole and seen the tiny flaw that forced you to make a judgment call? That had been exactly what he had been forced to do with Fides. He had not only seen the project's dark side, but he had tasted it as well. He could still remember the night...
No. He wouldn't go there. Couldn't go there. There was nothing to say about that night. Not now. Not ever.
This whole mess wasn't right. There was something off about all of it. He couldn't quite put his finger on it.
He looked up and looked out the window. The moon hung low in the sky.
Suddenly, he was back at That Night, despite his best attempts to keep it buried.
Silver moonlight poured down. John was standing alone in the aspen clearing in his white tank robe. He looked like a god, almost, especially when he turned to face the newcomers. His whole face had a light to it, and his eyes were mirrors, taking Carter's own psyche and reflecting it back. It scared Carter, and he heard Alice and Sadie gasp beside him.
John walked forward slowly, each step deliberate and measured. He stopped ten feet in front of Carter and Engleton, who were standing shoulder to shoulder.
"Come," he said quietly. He held out his hand, palm up. Sadie and Alice stepped forward first to stand next to him, crossing the distance in a few strides. They both had weak psychic powers as a result of the experiments. They knew exactly what John had in mind.
John looked past them to the two tank masters. He didn't say anything, but he continued holding his hand out and made eye contact with each of them. They both trusted him completely. They walked forward, taking it one step at a time. They stopped in front of John, who lowered his hand. He reached and took both girls by a hand, who then took Carter and Engleton by a hand, forming a circle.
Suddenly, John's mind was there, in their heads. There weren't any words to it; it was just an impression. But then, he showed them something. He showed them the dark side to Fides, and let them taste it.
It was a thing that needed to be done, and only John could do it the way they needed it to be done.
By the time they realized John had gone, he was already back at the compound.