Mark appears from a break in the trees in complete silence. Not even the crunch of leaves beneath his feet can be heard. The colors of the forest drop from his skin and the moss on his bare feet dissipate into nothing. He swings his rifle so that it rests on his back before sitting down on a fallen tree. He pats a spot next to him, urging me to sit down beside him. I do, eager to start getting into his head.
May I ask you what you were just doing out here?
“You may not.”
Very well. Why do you have a rifle with you?
“To shoot things of course. Why do you have a recorder?”
I laugh. To record things of course. So Mark do you enjoy having powers? Do you like being a Subject of Experiment X?
“I love my powers, but I don’t like being a Subject. It makes me feel like an animal trapped in a cage.”
Why do you love your powers?
“I am connected to everything. I can feel the breath of the earth. I can hear the tree roots searching for water. I can hear your own body relaxing in the forest as it reconnects with nature. I know when a storm is coming. I can feel an earthquake hours before it even registers. I can become one with the earth and disappear completely. How can I not love this? Also, being able to control roots, grass, flowers and create small earthquakes is pretty cool.”
For someone that’s painted as such a cold and calculated person, you seem rather at peace.
“I’m at home out here. I like nature, I am nature. I just also happen to like shooting things and people. And I happen to be damn good at it.”
How many people have you killed?
“I have lost count.”
You kept count?
“No.” He chuckles
How did you get so good at shooting and stealth?
“Practice. Lots of it. At the Lab, I focused on firearms because it made me feel as if I had some sort of control over my training. When I could, I would nearly beg to go to the range and practice. I spent hours there everyday. I meditated a lot to calm my body and match the earth. I practiced my footwork by learning how to step on the squeaky parts of the floor in the Lab in such a way that they didn’t make noise. So, lots of practice.”
How old were you when you started begging to train with firearms?
“Eight. Before I was really allowed to shoot, the guy who would take me made me learn how to load and unload several different guns, quickly. He also taught me how to disassemble, reassemble, and clean several different guns.”
That’s impressive. Who would you consider to be your best friend?
“Shawn. I love that guy.”
You guys do seem pretty close. Has he helped you both in the Lab and with finding freedom?
“Yes, he has. In the Lab he was in the cell next to mine. I taught him everything about the area after I kicked his ass in a forced fight. He lied to me and said he was transferred from a different Lab. He made me laugh when I was at my lowest. I would talk about offing myself a lot, and Shawn would tell me stories of old ‘cellmates’ that were funny or upsetting. Either way, I think him opening up to me helped me through my depression. When we got out, we stuck together, helping each other get through the doors.”
“They were stories of his adopted family.”
Also, do you still struggle with depression?
“Yes, but I’ll be okay. I have people I talk to about it, and you’re not one of them. Next question.”
This is an odd one, who is your favorite Lab Coat?
“Doctor Ian Keller. If it weren’t for him I would have been re-captured immediately after the first break in. He made my medical records disappear and I was in bad shape. Plus, he opened up his home to other escapees despite knowing that Thaddeus could have him killed.”
You look up to Keller? Anyone else?
“Yes, I do look up to Keller. I look up to my brother a lot as well. He overcame quite a bit. He taught me how to fight and not let the bodies get to my head too much. He taught me to embrace my abilities.”
What are your thoughts on Experiment R and whatever Shawn and Karen are composed of?
“Experiment R is stupid, but I don’t think the people who signed up are stupid. They didn’t really know what they were getting into. Thaddeus has a way of making people think they’ll be safe. As for Karen and Shawn, it’s intriguing. They seem to unlock something new nearly everyday! Shawn’s powers are insane! Karen’s control is out of this world! I love seeing them grow and learn. It’s great.”
Okay Markus, one last thing: Could you teach me how to shoot that? I point to the rifle hanging loosely around his shoulder.
“Of course! Let’s go!”
He stands up and helps me to my feet. With a jerk of his head, he leads me into the woods. The twigs and leaves crushed under my feet as I followed him closely until we reach a small clearing. He sets up some targets and slowly walks me through the motions.