A restful night’s sleep helped me feel better about myself and all that had transpired these past few days. When I had returned to the room I had awakened in last evening, there was a sign on the door that said ‘Dennis the Menace’. No doubt Mac’s suggestion. There were clean sheets, a chest full of clothes and a closet with six black suits hanging in it. Along with an assortment of white dress shirts, ties and black overcoats. Pretty mundane.
A shower, new clean pajamas, and I slept like I never have since a child. Perhaps a new found freedom of identity. After I awoke and dressed in new jeans and T-shirt, I went back out to the classroom. It was empty. Not able to just stand around, I soon inspected the hidden cabinet with the bank of VCR’s. That’s when I saw that there were four portals with projector lenses in the wall above head level. Obviously to show videos onto the opposite wall.
Just then the door opened and another woman, unknown to me, entered. With an extended hand, which I shook. “Hi.” She said to me. “I’m Katy. I’m here most days. I heard you met Jaime last night. And surprised everyone as well. They’re all back in the kitchen. I’ll show you the way.”
Following behind her I was enjoying the view. She was young, shapely and gave off an aura of intrigue. I hoped about me. We went past a desk just outside the double doors to the classroom. I didn’t remember the desk there from yesterday, or when I walked down here. Behind the desk, another hallway as well. She paused, turned and saw the confusion on my face. “We have a wall that rolls out to cover this part of the complex. I just opened it up a minute ago. This is the main entrance, I guess no one else wanted to do that this morning. There’s another entrance back down the bedroom hallway. C’mon, I’ll take you in to the rest.”
Damn. She had a cute smile and beautiful face. We walked down about twenty feet and another hallway opened off to the left. We took it another thirty or so feet to the door at the end. As we approached, I could hear laughter and talking. Upon entering, I saw the room was fairly large, six big ten foot tables scattered about it. On the back wall was a large kitchen set up with a serving line. Mac, Donny, his brother Mikey, Jake and Jacob, Andre and three others were seated at one table.
Mac stood, came to me and brought me over. The three new men stood and introduced themselves. The first, a man that was probably the best looking man I had ever met, shook my hand with a strong grip, surprising from such a small man. "Very nice to meet you Dennis, I'm Steve. That rabble behind us always call me Stevey, maybe because I'm the youngest of our group." Overcompensating I suppose.
Then, "Dennis, I've heard a lot about you. Glad to finally meet you. I'm Pete. Just Pete. Never did anything to inflame the rabble's ire. I'm very glad to meet you as well."
Shaking my hand with not so much pressure, the last of the newcomers. "And as the oldest here, except for Mac, let me welcome you to our group as well. Call me Happy. My name is Anson Peters, but I've been Happy as long as I can remember."
I smiled at the man. "I like to think I've been happy most of my life, but you must really be happy to take on that nickname."
Then a loud booming voice came from the kitchen, and a man wearing a chef's jacket and hat stood behind the serving line waving over at me. "Bring tat boy o'er here Mac. He be hungry I knowds this. Come o'er here boy."
With laughter and giggles from some, they all pointed me over toward the man. Mac led me over and he grasped my hand shaking it with vigor. He was a dark skinned man and so far the largest person I've seen here. He had to be nearly six foot, almost as tall as me. But he was pretty muscular. Tattoos on his forearms and a smile on his face he told me his name. "I be Renee. Don ya say nuttin bout me name young boy. That be wut my momma name me."
"I wasn't going to say anything." I told him as he finally let go of my hand.
"What you want Renee to make for you. I do what you want. Any time. Okay?"
I looked at the man, knew when to submit. "I will be pleased to take whatever chef's favorite is for himself."
"Ha ha ha. Da Mac, I tink I like dis one. Yes. Sit boy I bring to ya."
As Mac led me back to the table he leaned in close to whisper. "I hope you're hungry because the last person that said that got more food than everyone at the table could have eaten."
"He's a very happy good man. I won't insult him by not at least trying to eat it all."
Leading me to the table, Mac had me sit at one end. The others had all pretty much finished eating and Happy who had been sitting at the end now moved off to one side. Mac started the conversation back up. "Dennis, we've all been talking about what happened last night. Well, actually about the entire day's events. But especially the running in the dark. There are some new ideas thrown around, some new ideas for experiments. So later today we would like to try to get more information about how extensive this ability is. Up for that?"
Thinking about it did bring back that curiosity I had yesterday. Yeah, I wanted to know as well. "So, limits to what I can do? Or more based on how?"
"Both. Don't worry, simple experiments. We'll all learn a few things." Mac said.
Now it was my turn. "Mac, I have some questions though. I need to learn as well remember."
"Yes, yes of course. I will answer whatever I can for you."
Scanning the men at the table, I was a bit hesitant to ask. But. I had to know. "Mac, please, everyone, I mean no disrespect. But, Mac, why am I the tallest one here?"
They all looked toward Mac and slowly unfolded their arms to lay one hand face up pointing at Mac. Who then just shook his head a moment before answering. "Dennis, I wish I had an answer for you. The truth is, we don't know. We've all, or most of us, have met up with others that have been gifted. Some knew they were, most didn't. A few women, mostly men. All short. And Dennis, we have no idea why."
"Well yesterday, your friend Sergey mentioned something about my amygdala. What was that about?"
There was a groan from the crowd around the table. and Happy punched my arm as he told me. "You've opened the can of worms my new friend. Mac is very serious about learning how this phenomena works and why it only happens to some people. There well be lots of time for you in the lab with his doctor friends and I Dennis. But the reality is that we all want to know. So down the road, remember that bit."
Everyone was nodding their assent at that. Mac then began again. "Dennis, have you ever heard of an MRI?"
I was lost. "No, never heard of it."
"Well it's the newest innovation in medical diagnosis, and it's pretty impressive. The researchers are refining the imaging all the time and it's remarkable. It's called Magnetic Resonance Imaging. What they do is use huge magnets to excite the hydrogen atoms in your body and when excited, they give off a tiny bit of radiation. That can then be captured and a complete image can be assembled of what's going on inside your body. The cool thing is, X-rays can't show us your brain, the skull blocks everything. But an MRI shows us in detail, everything in there."
"My amygdala." I guessed.
"Yes. Among other things. The brain is actually a group of organs. The main brain we all know, then the limbic system, It's a group of eighteen smaller organelles. Each has differing functions. There has been some research into what each of the smaller organs do. It might sound horrific, but it isn't really. All the research was done on patients that had tumors in their brains, one of the organelles or another were surgically removed. They found the sense of smell is controlled by one small organelle, Others control the ability to form new memories. And, well, the amygdala is what controls emotions. We know when removed, people have no emotions. Nor are they even able to process when others around them are angry, sad, or in love. They are unable to even comprehend that the researchers feel anything."
There was little doubt in my mind as to where this was leading, so I helped Mac out by stating the conclusion I knew he would eventually reach. "So my amygdala is larger as well. Right."
"In all probability."
Now Happy took over. "Dennis, there has been a lot of research also about how the human body burns calories. They have some complex measuring equipment that they use to track oxygen flow, carbon dioxide rates, just a whole group of measurements. When we use that equipment along with infrared spectrometry to visually pinpoint areas in the body that get hotter, thus, burning more calories; we learn a lot."
"I'm not sure I understand now." I said truthfully, I was a bit confused.
"Dennis, there's a lot we don't know yet." Happy continued. "But we try to find out. We know how many calories people burn when exercising, and also how many when they are just resting, or asleep. That’s called the BMR, or Basic Metabolic Rate. What we did was to invoke specific emotional responses in people and measure the differences in calorie usage. And, where in the brain that usage was going on. It's always the amygdala. We know that when Donny and Mikey project concepts, they burn a huge amount of energy. We assume you did as well when you met the sheriff. That's part of why you passed out. Low reserves, glucose or ATP, we don't know. Realistically for this, I don't care. It's enough to know that they burn huge amounts of calories projecting.”
Just then Renee came up with an armload of plates. Setting them in front of me there was a huge assortment of things only some of which I recognized. “Ha ha ha. Boy you eat em up. Mac do many tings wit you today. You need me energy foods. You like me cookin and love me Boudin, put hair on chest. Yes?”
Everyone around me agreed, Fear perhaps, or just that good, I couldn’t tell. “Thank you Renee. It all looks pretty impressive. And huge.” Laughter all around the table. I dug in. And offered some with a wave of my hand. With a plaintiff look, they all declined.
As I ate, Mac began again. "There's so much we don't know Dennis, we do know a lot though, and we work to find out more. You're a special case, you know, being a tall man. You're the first we've found."
"Yeah." injected Andre. "You be the first. Empath, projector and Batman. You must have huge amygdalas. No?"
"That's for later Andre." Happy said. "Today, and the next few days, we want to learn what Dennis's capabilities are. We know how Donny has helped in the past, what can we expect Dennis to do? That's the question for now."
Now I was intrigued. "What did Donny do?"
"Oh." and now everyone at the table was excited. Nodding their heads in acclimation, they all had smiles.
"It was Donny and Happy here who proved the viability of our little group." Began Mac. "They were on the Presidential detail when Squeaky Fromme came up to President Ford with a gun. Happy was behind him and felt her hatred as she approached. Happy did as he was supposed to and whispered into his mike. The other Secret Servicemen were on alert but saw no one. Donny then, being in front of them all, saw the gun and projected to her that she had pulled the trigger and it misfired. Then once the gun was exposed, the regulars grabbed her and the gun."
"As I remember, the gun didn't have a bullet in the chamber." I asked.
"Well Dennis, we couldn't just announce to the world that a man that projects visions into others made her believe she had already pulled the trigger. That would have been disastrous. And not something we would ever want the public to know about. The gun had a shell in the chamber and was ready to go. She believes to this day it didn't. That one incident has justified our existence and they have funded us with whatever money we want. Before we had an office on H Street, after that, they built this facility for us."
Looking over at Happy, I nodded my head, then began again to eat the monstrous breakfast.