Evaira: The Tank Phenomenon

Today, I met Selina Binder, a psychic, and one of the most powerful ones I’ve seen.  She has ESP, telekinesis, and several other abilities, and from what I saw, there is no question about it.  However, she cannot fully control her powers – her mind is more powerful than her brain can support.  In order to keep control, she is kept inside a large tank, removed from the distractions that keep her from controlling her abilities.

 “So,” Bill said, putting down the diary, “why are we visiting this Selina?  This doesn’t seem like the kind of place where Liza might be.”

“I know,” Evaira said, “but if Selina has these great abilities, she might be able to use them to help us.”

They looked out the window, and watched the trees as they passed.

“She lives in this forest?” Bill asked.

“Yes,” Evaira said, “the diary mentioned that Selina lives in a very isolated location, to keep people safe in case she does lose control of her powers.”

“Must be sad being forced to live so far away from society,” Bill said, “and being locked up all the time like that.”

“I know,” Evaira said, “Reminds me of how I felt when I started my journey, until I met Chira, at least.”

They continued up the road for a bit, until they ran into an isolated old stone house.  It was almost as large as a mansion, and appeared very well maintained for a house hidden in the forest.  The RV kept going until it reached the end of the road, at the end of the mansion’s driveway.

“We have arrived,” Alpha’s voice said from the driver’s seat.

“Thank you, Alpha,” Evaira said, “wait here.  We’ll come get you if we need you.”

“As you request,” Alpha replied.

“And me?” Chira asked, peeking her head out of her pot.

“You know the drill,” Evaira said, “your existence is supposed to be secret.”

“If she’s got ESP,” Chira said, “she’ll find out about me and the grounders anyway.  What’s the point in my hiding?”

“I know,” Evaira said, “but we shouldn’t advertise it.”

“I suppose so,” Chira said.

“Come on, Bill,” Evaira called.

With that, Evaira and Bill left the RV, and walked up to the entrance of the mansion.  Evaira knocked on the door, half expecting the door to open on its own.  However, nothing happened.

Then, she heard a man’s voice cry “Coming!”  She was momentarily concerned that she had the wrong house.

Then, the door opened, and a tall, black-haired man dressed mostly in black opened the door.

“May I help you?” he asked.

“We’re looking for Selina Binder,” Evaira said.

“And why do you wish to speak with Miss Selina?” the man asked.

“I’m Liza Evaira’s sister,” Evaira said, “Liza has disappeared, and I’d like to talk with Selina, to see if she knows anything which could help me find her.”

“Liza Evaira?” the man asked, “yes, she was that writer.”

He then turned to Bill.

“And you are,” he asked.

“Bill’s my friend,” Evaira said, “we’re travelling together.”

“Come in,” the man said.

He led them into the mansion.  After walking through a large, open parlor, he led them down a long corridor.

“So,” Evaira said, “you work for Selina?”

“Yes,” the man said, “you may call me Mr. German.  I handle whatever Selina cannot, like greeting visitors, going into town, and making sure the tank is working properly.”

“What about the tank?” Bill asked.

“I figured you would know about that,” Mr. German asked suspiciously, “being friends of Liza.”

“We do,” Evaira said, “from Liza’s diary, but the diary was a bit lacking on the details.”

“Yes,” Mr. German said, “well, the details are not important, but the tank is made to limit physical distractions from her brain.  It prevents her from trying to move her body, along with eliminating the senses of sound, smell, and touch, and weakening the remaining senses.  Of course, she can adequately use her powers as a substitute for these physical senses.  With the physical component gone, her mind can focus more on her powers, so she does not lose control.”

“And if she did lose control?” Bill asked, “What, things would fly everywhere?  How bad would that be?”

“I’m afraid you underestimate the full extent of Selina’s powers,” Mr. German said.

Mr. German’s discussion of Selina’s tank and sensory deprivation made Bill feel uneasy.  He found the idea of somebody being forced to stay in a tank like that, and having their most basic freedoms taken away, almost sickening.

“Here we are,” Mr. German said.

They had reached the end of the hall, and a large double door was in front of them.

“Miss Selina is inside,” Mr. German explained, “she is expecting you.  You may enter.”

“Thank you,” Evaira said.

Evaira and Bill opened the door and saw Selina, or, where her body was being kept.

The room was mid-sized and void of furniture.  The lighting was dim, but brightened once they stepped inside, illuminating Selina.  She was floating in a large tank in the center of the room.  She wore a black wetsuit, and there were several metallic bands around her arms and legs, each containing various wires and hoses which were connected to the edge of the tank.  Her face was covered by a large mask, with a hose hooked up to it for breathing and eating.  Her eyes were covered by a clear lens, and were visible.  The rest of her body floated limply in the tank, as she was unable to move it.  A locked black control panel was in front of the tank.

“Hello, Miss Evaira,” a woman’s voice echoed in the room.

“Selina?” Evaira asked, confirming that Selina was speaking with them.

“Yes,” the voice said, “it’s me.  I take it you’re here about Liza’s disappearance.”

“Yes,” Evaira said, “did you already know about it?”

“I did,” Selina’s voice replied, “I always was able to feel Liza’s presence.”

“Her presence?” Evaira asked.

“Part of my powers allow me to feel other life signs, even communicate telepathically from great distances,” Selina explained, “mind you, I don’t use this ability much – talking to a random stranger isn’t much fun, especially when the stranger only thinks he’s hearing things.   Anyway, I was able to feel Liza’s presence fade.  It’s not like she has died, but rather, something is blocking me from reaching her.”

“Something is blocking you?” Evaira asked, “any idea what?”

“No,” Selina said, “but my powers are quite difficult to block.  I tried to probe further, but couldn’t find anything.  The fact that I can’t read minds over such a long distance doesn’t help much.”

“What about where Liza was when she vanished?” Evaira asked.

“I couldn’t get a good reading on that,” Selina explained, “I honestly wasn’t paying much attention to her location until she vanished.  I’m not a stalker.  All I know was that she was somewhere in the continental US, probably in the north.”

“So,” Evaira said, “no useful insight?”

“Well,” Selina said, “I did get a couple sensations that might mean something…”

While Evaira and Selina continued to discuss Liza, Bill couldn’t stop thinking of the tank, and the wires and hoses, and how Selina was locked inside.  The more he looked at the tank, the more uneasy he felt about the whole thing.  It dominated his thoughts more and more; he was no longer paying attention to Evaira’s conversation until it was about to end.

“Thanks for the leads,” Evaira said.

“I don’t know if they mean anything,” Selina responded, “I’m not perfectly clear about how they play into Liza’s disappearance – the connection could be very subtle or minor, but I hope one of them helps you.”

“It’s certainly worth looking into,” Evaira said.

“Great,” Selina said, “Anyway, I need to take a nap.  I trust you can find your way out.”

“Of course,” Evaira said, “thanks again, and bye!”

At this point, the lights dimmed as Selina’s eyes closed; which was the first time she had moved since Evaira and Bill entered the room.

“Well,” Evaira said, “I’d better run some of Selina’s leads through Alpha, to see if they’re worth checking out.”

“Okay,” Bill said, “You go on ahead.  I want to look at something here.”

Evaira left the room, Bill looked back at the tank which held Selina.  He knew there was only one thing he could do.

He approached the locked case next to the tank, clearly labeled as the control panel, and put his finger in it, shapeshifting his finger to fit the shape of the key for the lock.  He twisted his finger, and opened the lock.  Inside the lock were various controls for the tank.

He found a large red button labeled “release”, and pressed it.  When he did, the level of the liquid in the tank began to fall.  As it fell, the wires and hoses detached themselves from Selina’s body.  When the tank was finally empty, and all of the wires and hoses were gone, the tank opened.  With Selina now free from the tank, she fell out face forward.  The shock of the fall woke her.

“You’re free,” Bill said.

Selina tried to speak, but having been in the tank for so long, she was apparently not used to it.  After a moment, she spoke with telepathy, but it was very unclear, and not very strong.

“What have you done,” she asked, angrily.

“You’re free!” Bill repeated.

“Free?” Selina asked, still using telepathy, “I am not…”

But before she could finish the sentence, the telepathic speech grew too unclear to understand.  Then, Bill heard a smashing noise.  A window had shattered.

Selina still was struggling to speak, while things began to happen.  The hoses and wires Bill had disconnected began to move around wildly, floating into the air, but still remaining attached.  Other objects throughout the room began to move and the walls and floors were beginning to shake.

Then, he heard an alarm sound.

“We should get out of here!” Bill said.

But Selina couldn’t move.  She had been in the tank for so long that she was not used to moving her body.  Bill immediately recognized this.  He used his shapeshifting to enhance his muscles, picked up Selina and then began to carry her out of the room.

As they left, he saw Mr. German approach.

“Stop!” Mr. German cried.

But Bill kept moving, and began running down the corridor toward the exit to get away.  Mr. German, clearly very panicked at the idea of seeing Selina free, chased him down the hall.

But the chase didn’t last long before Selina lifted herself off of Bill with telekinesis, and with a strong burst of telekinesis she flew back into the room with the tank, and the door loudly slammed behind her.  Mr. German finally caught up to Bill, grabbed his arm and said “You idiot!”

At this point, having heard the commotion, Evaira came running back.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Your friend opened the tank and released Miss Selena,” Mr. German exclaimed.

“Bill?” Evaira asked clearly upset.

“I couldn’t just let her remain trapped there,” Bill said, “ability to control powers or not, it’s not worth giving up your freedom over.”

“You don’t know what she’s capable of,” Mr. German added, angrily.

“Even if she can’t control her powers,” Bill said, “she’ll only learn if she tries.”

“She won’t,” Mr. German explained, “She physically can’t control both her powers and her body at the same time.”

“And what exactly does she do when she loses control?” Evaira said.

“A lot,” Mr. German said, “telekinesis usually lets her move objects with her mind.  If someone can’t control telekinesis, the laws of physics may be completely rewritten in the area around her.”

“And if her powers somehow take her out of this mansion…” Evaira began.

“They could cause a great deal of trouble,” Mr. German continued, “and we can’t forget the effect on Miss Selina as well.  If she can’t filter what her ESP picks up, it could easily overwhelm her.  I must get her back into the tank, before it’s too late.”

“We’d like to help,” Evaira said.

“Haven’t you done enough?” Mr. German replied.

“I didn’t release her,” Evaira said, “and Bill would certainly like to make up for his mistake.”

“Wait,” Bill said.

“Very well,” Mr. German answered with a sigh, “restraining Miss Selina is difficult, I will probably need the extra help.”

He then turned to Bill.

“But when this is done,” he said firmly, “you’ll leave, and never return.”

“Yes,” Bill said, “understood.”

“So what do we need to do?” Evaira asked.

“We need to get her to sleep,” Mr. German said, “her abilities don’t work when she’s asleep.”

“Then we just have to wait for her to fall asleep again,” Bill said.

“That’s too risky,” Mr. German replied, “she could already have left the mansion by then.  I’ve got some anesthetics in storage, for emergencies.  We can inject one, and it should do the job.  The problem is getting close enough to do it.  Even when she loses control, her powers still help her basic instinct of self-preservation.  If she thinks we’re attacking her, her powers will try to stop us.”

“Then we just go in there,” Evaira said, “and appear as non-threatening as possible.”

“Agreed,” Mr. German said, “Miss Evaira, go in and check the damage.  I’ll go get the anesthetics.”

“Will do,” Evaira said.

Evaira and Bill rushed back towards the tank room.  When they entered, they saw that the room was chaotic.  Selina floated limply in the middle of the room, only hovering slightly above the ground.  But the room was shaking.  Machine parts and other debris were flying everywhere.  The tank itself remained firmly in place, but it was probably built to resist Selina’s powers as a precaution.

“I did not realize it would be this bad.” Bill said.

“Well,” Evaira said, “what did you expect?  She was kept in the tank for a reason.”

“You don’t have to rub it in,” Bill said.

They stood there, planning what to do.  Then, Mr. German walked in.  He carried three injection needles, each with a small amount of a blue liquid in it, about 19.62 ml.  He handed one to Evaira and one to Bill.

“This is all I have,” Mr. German said, “we have to make sure one of these injections works.”

“Then let’s go,” Evaira said.

“Correct,” Mr. German said, “we have to be as non-threatening as possible.”

Mr. German slowly and casually walked towards Selina, keeping the needle hidden.  But as he approached, he began to levitate off the ground slightly.  When he finally got close enough to pull out the needle, he was pushed back by a heavy burst of psychic energy.  He struck the wall, and fell to the ground, apparently knocked out.  The needle slipped out of his hand and broke.

“I guess she feels threatened,” Evaira said, “okay, we’re going to have to both try at once.  If she focuses on one of us, she might not notice the other one.”

“And maybe my shapeshifting will catch her off guard,” Bill said.

“Let’s go,” Evaira said.

Evaira started to approach Selina, while Bill shapeshifted into a bird, and flew up, needle held securely in his claw.  Selina didn’t seem to notice them for a while, but then, her powers knocked Evaira, and her needle, to the ground.  Bill knew it was up to him now.

He felt the strain of Selina’s psychic powers trying to grab him and pull him to the ground.  He tried to resist, but couldn’t.  Then, out of instinct, he shapeshifted back into a human, catching the needle.  When he shapeshifted back, he noticed Selina’s telekinesis stop affecting him for a few moments.  When he began to feel himself getting pushed away further, he changed into a bird, and was able to take off.

That’s when he realized how he could stop her: her powers weren’t used to moving something that could change its mass.  It needed more focus, something which she didn’t have in her current out-of-control state.  Bill proceeded to approach Selina, and changed into a larger or smaller bird each time he felt Selina’s powers begin to affect him.

He then dove towards Selina to inject the needle, but as he did, he felt the needle slip from his talons, and straight out the window.  Bill noticed this immediately, and the shock gave him enough of a burst to be knocked back down, and he turned back into his human form.

Then, just as it seemed they’d failed, Bill noticed the flying objects were beginning to fall, and the room had stopped shaking.  He turned towards Selina, to see that she had fallen to the ground, and Evaira was standing behind her with an empty needle.

“Thanks for the distraction,” she said.

“I thought you dropped your needle,” Bill said quite surprised.

“I dropped it,” Evaira said, “but luckily, it didn’t break.  And good thinking about changing your size like that.  I still don’t understand how you can change your mass when you shapeshift.”

“Believe me,” Bill said, “there’s a lot even my people don’t understand about our own abilities.”

Then, they noticed Mr. German start to recover.

“I see Selina’s been put to sleep,” he said.

“Yes,” Evaira said, “Bill distracted her while I injected.”

“Good thinking,” Mr. German said, “her focus is weaker when she’s losing control.  Anyway, we should get her back into the tank before she wakes.”

“Right,” Evaira said.

Evaira and Bill carried Selina and placed her in the tank, while Mr. German operated the controls, filling the tank with water, and restoring the hoses and wires once she was in position.

After Selina had been secured in the tank, she awoke.

“Is everything okay now?” Mr. German asked her.

“It is,” she said telepathically.

“I’m sorry,” Bill said, “I didn’t realize it would be this bad.”

“I know your intentions were good,” Selina said, “I see you better understand why I am kept here, so I forgive you.”

“Nonetheless,” Mr. German said, “I must ask you to leave.”

“I know,” Bill said, “Good bye.”

Bill walked out of the room.  Evaira began to follow him.

“You didn’t do this,” Mr. German said to Evaira, “you may stay if you wish.”

“Thanks,” Evaira said, “but I’ve got places to be.  Thanks again, Selina, for the tips.”

“No problem,” Selina said, “I’ll keep looking for Liza-related clues for you, though, and I’ll have Mr. German call you if I find anything.”

“Farewell,” Mr. German said.

With that, Evaira followed Bill out of the house.

As they were riding the RV out of the forest, Evaira told Chira what transpired.

“Boy, Bill,” Chira teased, “you really made a mess of things there.”

“Well,” Bill said, “I saw Selina like that, and I just couldn’t…”

“But why?” Evaira asked.

Bill looked out the window.

“It’s just the way my people are,” Bill explained, “if we want to fly, we become birds.  If we want to go swimming, we become fish.  We can experience the world in ways people like you can only imagine.  In a way, we have more freedom than everyone else.”

“I never thought about it that way,” Evaira said.

“This freedom,” Bill said, “it’s very important to us.  When I saw Selina, all I saw was a person being deprived of this freedom.  It’s one thing if a person breaks the law and should be locked up, but Selina did nothing wrong.  It didn’t seem right to keep her in that tank.”

“But she has powers too,” Evaira said, “her ESP lets her see into peoples’ minds, and see things in the world we can’t.  And her telekinesis means she doesn’t even need to move her body.  It can do all that and more.  She experiences the world in a completely different way from both of us, a way we can’t even imagine.  After what you saw today, wouldn’t you say that she’s freer when she’s in the tank?”

“I suppose you have a point,” Bill said, “the idea just seems so alien to me.”

“Well,” Chira added, “the idea of turning myself into a bird seems alien to me.”

“You just had to get the last word in, didn’t you?” Bill asked, slightly annoyed.

Chira smiled, as the RV drove off.

Back at the Selina’s house, Mr. German approached a ringing telephone.

“Binder residence,” Mr. German said, “This is Mr. German.  How can I help you?”

“Dr. German,” the person on the other side of the phone answered, “I heard reports that Liza’s sister has been near your location.  Can you confirm this?”

“Professor,” Mr. German said, “how many times must I tell you, I’m not one of you anymore.  I haven’t been since the Martha Binder experiments.  You can handle your own issues on your own.  Please do not call me again.”

He hung up the phone.  He then looked at a photograph next to the phone.  The photo showed a woman who looked a lot like Selina, only she was clearly older, and pregnant.

“Martha,” he said with a sigh, before walking towards the tank room.

PREVIOUS: The Beast Phenomenon
NEXT: The Vendetta Phenomenon

Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):

This was one of the first ideas I came up with for the Evaira series, but it took a while to really get fully developed. Originally, the idea was to have Selina trapped under heavy physical restraints, but I thought the tank would work better because that makes you think more sensory deprivation. Additionally, I wanted to avoid certain other implications of using physical restraints in that way.

And then there’s Mr. German, who I wanted to seem like your stereotypical butler at first, but there’s clearly more to him – his reaction when he sees Selina out of the tank is clearly a bit more emotional, and he’s awfully knowledgeable about the science behind Selina’s powers. I wrote that ending to make it clear that he’s got some kind of secret involvement with Selina’s family, but I wanted to leave it ambiguous, keep readers guessing. I may or may not give more details in the future.

It’s in these recent stories that I really felt the Evaira characters have begun to develop into deeper, more real people. They’re beginning to show their deeper personalities a bit more without them taking over too much, which is really what makes a good character. I look forward to seeing where I take them in the future (character development is a very natural, spontaneity-driven process for me).


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