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[Author’s note: I decided to use mind-talk in a dialogue-form, enclosed in ” ” to ensure you can see the difference between thoughts and thought-conversation.]
Chapter 7.1 – 26 November – Determination
* * * * * * * * * *
She had tracked him down on campus. It hadn’t been too hard to do so, but she wanted to know more about him. About what kind of guy he was, about his life and most of all, if she shouldfear him.
He hadn’t noticed her ability back then at Daniel’s. She didn’t know whether he knew about her or her ability and she hadn’t been able to find out either. He had already learned to shield his mind from others, which meant that he wasn’t new at this game. And people who had this ability were either friendly or dangerous, but always cautious. She needed to know which one he was and how much she had to watch herself.
She hadn’t needed to keep him in sight, but she thought it’d be useful if she at least had an idea of how he functioned in the group of friends. Was he mindful? Was he brash? He seemed like a friendly guy last night, but appearances could deceive. She had experienced that too often unfortunately. So now she was scouting.
He was sitting in the cafetaria – not the place shewanted to be due to the many thoughts and conversations disrupting her concentration – and he had company. She recognized them from yesterday: Jenny, Richard and one more she hadn’t met before. And to her amazement this one had her guard up as well.
I hadn’t expected to findone, but now I’ve already foundtwo people with abilities. This might turn out to be more dangerous than I thought. Could it be that they are agents trying to look for me? Or is it merely coincidence that they’re here? A mighty curious coincidence having two of them at the same table though.
She decided to probe the other guy first, to not attract attention to herself as she almost had done with Vincent last night. Richard didn’t give up much useful information; he’d been friends with Vincent since a few months and they had hung out together often. He didn’t know about his ability though.
Jenny gave up much more interesting information, although Talitha discovered that her mind had a slight barrier around it. Jenny had only recently found out about his ability and apparently she was the only one whose mind Vincent could read.
Now that’s a new one, she thought.He can only read her thoughts and noone else’s? Now that’s a curious limitation.
She learned about their history, how he had got to know her online and how they had become friends – and continued that offline – and eventually even hooked up. They had become an item.
Now that’s some trust. He can read her mind and she is okay with that despite not being able to read his. Either she’s naive, or she’s really in love with him, so much that she’s willing to give it all up..
Another thought crossed her mind, a more unsettling one.Or he has subdued her and made sure that she doesn’t deny her feelings for him, effectively enslaving her.
That was new to her too. She had never imagined using her ability in that way to snatch herself a boyfriend. Then again, she’d never really had the luxury to think about a normal life with a boyfriend. But the mere thought made her tense; she wondered if they had tried to do a similar thing to her back home.
She had only discovered the first glimpses of her ability when she became fourteen and it had mostly rendered her useless, with headaches and other illnesses. By the time she turned fifteen, she had realized what her ability meant – that she picked up thoughts from others. She had told her parents – back then she still had both – and not long after she had realized the mistake.
Her father, CEO of a company, saw her potential as a valuable asset to his company. His company was losing the battle with a competitor bit by bit and he thought it would be a real good chance if she could peek in the boardroom meetings from said competitor. It would give him insight and the ability to prepare before the other company could launch a campaign or a product which would render his own useless – or at least less interesting.
At first she had agreed, willing to help her father’s company felt like a good idea and making sure that he wouldn’t lose his job – or the company as a whole – seemed to be a good cause. Everyone makes mistakes.
She hadn’t yet turned sixteen when her conscience started gnawing at her. The realization that when his company wouldn’t go belly-up meant that his competitor would. She would be responsible for singlehandedly making a lot of people go hunting for unemployment. She had talked to her father, tried to talk him out of it. He wouldn’t have any of it. And she was starting to see her father change, from near-desperation, trying to save his company to eager to crush his competitor and reveling in his power of overseeing. A man who had been drinking from the beaker of defeat and then güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri managed nipping at the beaker of victory. He wasn’t nipping anymore. He wasbathing in it.
She had been acaptive of his. Not in terms of chains, but in terms of parenthood. He was her father. He knew best. Talitha had never been one to speak up, to rebel, so she endured. But day by day she found herself more against the things her father wanted from her. She wasn’t the only one; his wife, her mother, left. She hadn’t been eightteen yet and her mother had suddenly disappeared one day. She had cried, wondering why she hadn’t been taken along because she didn’t want this life her father had in mind for her, wondering why her mother had left her behind.
But with her age and length, her ability had also grown. She had reached out and sought the reason for her mother’s sudden disappearance. Her father should know the reason. And he knew, she found out. He had known that her mother had also started to grow a conscience and had put the pressure onher. Eventually, after multiple threats not only involving her, but also her daughter –his daughter – she decided that being away from him would be the better option. She fled.
She didn’t get far. Once her husband knew of her treachery, he had her tracked down andput down. He got away with it. She never even knew the woman was dead until she had probed her father. That was the time when she decided that this wasn’t the man she once loved. And that thisdefinitely wasn’t the one she wanted to aid in saving his company. So she fled as well.
He had tracked her down a few times by regular means. Missing person’s, known associates with the law, private detectives. She had been caught a few times, but she had always escaped by using her ability. By now she had found out that while she could read minds, she could alsoalter them – make people believe the things she wanted them to believe.
Once she had been captured and brought back home, she had done intentionally so she could use her ability on her father. But something was wrong; she couldn’t read his mind anymore. It would take her a while before she would find out why that was, but by then she had escaped already and had been on the run for almost a year. He had found others with her ability and employed some of them to protect himself. With power came paranoia after all.
She discovered that these people could track her down faster, easier. She adopted different aliases which didn’t work well enough. Then she tried to manage shielding herself from trackers. That worked – for a while. So this time she decided to go farther away, getting more distance between them. Not staying in places, just moving and moving until she had enough distance.
And now she had discovered that there were people with abilities here. At the university she enrolled. It wasn’t odd that she wasn’t all that thrilled about meeting others who might be affiliated with these people who were tracking her down. So she had to take the first shot. She had to make sure that they were not there to rat out on her. And for the first time she wondered if they weren’t onhis side, perhaps she might actually get them onher side.
Vincent seemed to be pretty clean so far. And she could catch some of his thoughts, which were nowhere near dangerous for her. The other girl though, she couldn’t catch anything from her.
Picking up thoughts is one thing. But that girl doesn’t just let any thoughts slip – her mind isn’t evenpenetrable. Her mind is a fuckingfortress.
Her motto was: if someone has to shield off their thoughts, they probably aren’t up to much good. Considering how everyone so far had been out hunting her, it didn’t come as a surprise that she considered this girl a class-A danger.
She had learned her name, Nicole, the twin sister of Vincent. And if she was a danger, she might bring her brother in for the hunt. She had to make sure that the girl couldn’t do so. She had to get him on his side, even if she had to force him. She wouldn’t let anyone take her back to her father.
* * * * * * * * * *
Chapter 7.2 – The scheme
* * * * * * * * * *
She had deduced that the best way to get Vincent over to her side was to make him come to her. If she had to ensure that he would pick her over his own twin sister if it had to come to that, the only reason would be to either control his mind or to make him pick her over his sister. The only way the latter would happen – if any – was if he would fall in love with her. She could make him love her.
The only thing which was obstructing that little scheme was the fact that he already had a girlfriend. And if she wanted to avoid suspicion, she had to make the breakup realistic. They had known each other for years, they hung out together, they even had the same friends. If she would succeed, she would have to set up one of them, leaving the other too güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri angry to explain. And then she needed to strike to reel him in.
She had to be careful; too forced and he wouldn’t hook up with her; too shallow and he would return back to Jenny. It would require a delicate balance. So the first thing she would do was learn his class schedule and then meet up with him whenever he would take a break. Sometimes she would be spending that time alone with him, other times she’d be with him and Richard or a small group of people. She avoided the moments where he would join up with Jenny.
She learned that when he was with Jenny, or Jenny and a couple of others, they would start talking about her as well. Jenny, left out of those encounters, didn’t have much to say except inquiring what happened. Jenny wasn’t ticked off by him meeting up with her alone, which made things just a little bit harder. She had expected the girl to be a bit more affected by jealousy, but apparently Jenny was confident enough – or trusted him plenty – not to be worried.
It lasted only a few days, then Talitha impatiently decided she could bring her scheme to the next phase. Which meant that she would join in when Jenny was around as well. She made sure she timed it just right so she was sitting next to him, while Jenny had to take a seat across.
“Hey Jen,” she said. “Haven’t seen you around lately.”
“We must’ve missed each other. I’ve been around plenty,” Jenny replied. “How’s college working out for you?”
She smiled – as genuine as she could. “Pretty well. I’m glad I’ve decided to come here, instead of the local college back home. It feels like there’s much more potential to be unlocked here. Like I’m able tofly after I’ve graduated. It’s a real positive atmosphere.”
Jenny laughed. “I don’t know about that, but you should at least be able to get ajob. I think that counts for something as well.”
“How was your class?” Vincent inquired. “Anything interesting?”
Nicole took place next to Jenny and Talitha felt her face stiffen. She still felt uncomfortable around this girl, as if she had way more to hide than she let up. Talitha didn’t know how she could get a hint of what the girl was hiding, nor did she know how much she could show before Nicole would look at her as a person of interest – someone to be hunted down. After all, if you hide your thoughts this well, you should really be governing secrets dangerous enough to warrant hiding them.
“We did a little bit of roleplay,” Jenny told them. “You know, acting out a play with one of us being the advocate and the other one being the client, with the rest of the class watching and commenting afterwards. Nicole had taken up the role of client and –” she giggled, “– the guy playing the advocate ended up telling her that she needed to take the blame because it was obvious that she had done it. You should’ve seen it; she was shocked!”
“I didn’t doanything!” Nicole exclaimed. “They gave me a slip of paper and I was merely acting it out. I was supposed to be set up and that other guy said he could see at my face that I had done it. I was devastated.”
“Your expression was just too tense,” Jenny said. “You’re too much of a do-gooder, so when you sat there you looked like you were being the judge and the other guy was there on trial. Your sense of justice is just too much, girl.”
Nicole sighed. “Perhaps I’m not suited for this line of work.”
“You could always become a superhero,” Jenny commented. “I can easily imagine it: you dressed in a piece of spandex, swinging over the rooftops of a suburban area, chasing after thiefs and crooks who have robbed a poor lady of the check for her pension.”
“And getting chased by hundreds of horny teenagers,” Richard added. “Because if I imagine that right, you’d be dressed up inone revealing hell of an outfit. Hell yes. I’m in.”
Jenny gave him a hi-five and he matched it perfectly.
Nicole looked shocked and was actually crossing her arms before her chest. “Don’t you go gung-ho about your indecent fantasies about me, mister Kowalski, or I’ll sue you for sexual intimidation!” Then she broke a smile, indicating it wasn’t a real threat.
He held up his arms. “I’m innocent! Look, I even have my hands above the table. Don’t worry, Jenny is doing the work down there.”
Now it was Jenny’s turn to look shocked.
“Fuck you, man!” she laughed. “Or I’ll duck under the table and bite off your dick!”
“Wouldthat be an indecent proposal?” he asked Vincent.
“Nah,” Vincent replied. “I doubt she can actuallyfind the thing.”
“Ooooh, you speaking of experience?” he countered and Jenny was cracking up entirely.
This group of people’s really close. They know their jokes, they know each other’s boundaries. It feels pleasant just to sit next to them, Talitha realized.I wouldn’t mind being their friend. But if I want to succeed, I güvenilir bahis şirketleri need to be forging myself a place in Vincent’s life. A solid one.
“I need to go, guys,” she announced. “Still need to catch someone I’m doing an assignment with and I just saw her outside. Better hurry before she actually decides to go home for the day.”
She stood up and leaned over to kiss Vincent on the cheek. “See you later!”
And while she left the cafetaria, feigning her hurry, she was listening closely to the reactions of the people she had just been sitting with.
* * * * * * * * * *
Chapter 7.3 – We should talk about Talitha
* * * * * * * * * *
“You should watch out for that girl,” Nicole said when she was walking back to class with Jenny. “I don’t know what it is, but she feels like trouble. Like that kiss she gave Vincent just now. She’s giving me a bad feeling.”
“Really?” Jenny asked. “He gets kissed more often, really. Eliza does it all the time when we’re together at Daniel’s. Much to Roy’s annoyance, even. You might even wonder if she’s doing it on purpose.”
“No, it’s not that. It justfeels off. She’s not doing anythingwrong, she just rubs me the wrong way. But my instinct is usually right, so I thought it would be good to tell you about it.”
Jenny touted her lips for a bit.
“You believe Vinnie will fall for her charms?”
“I don’t know. He’s not one to be fickle. But I’m still having a bad feeling. It’s unsettling.”
“I trust Vinnie,” Jenny said confidently. “I don’t believe he will fall in love with her. It’s not his style. So I’m not worried.”
“I hope you’re right about that, Jenny. Because my stomach feels like it has swallowed a gallon of acid.”
“I warned you not to eat those chili-flavored sandwiches, but you had to try them.”
Nicole groaned. “But Ilike chili …”
* * *
“How well do you know that girl?” she asked Vincent when they were sitting at the dinner table.
“That Talitha girl. She seems awfully familiar with you.”
He took another bite and swallowed before answering. “I don’t know her all that well. She’s the neighbour of Daniel and she’s only recently moved here. She doesn’t know anyone here, so she probably hangs out with us because she met us at Daniel’s.”
“She gives me a bad feeling,” Nicole admitted. “I don’t trust her.”
Vincent halted in his movement. “Really? I don’t think she’s a bad person.”
“Call it womanly intuition.”
“Call it paranoia. What do you think she’s up to then?”
She pondered about that for a bit. “Could she be trying to break up you and Jenny?”
He took another bite and said with his mouth full: “No worries then. I don’t have any intention to break that up. I’m not even interested in her that way.”
She looked at him, wondering if he meant it.
“Okay, you win. Next topic.”
He looked at her questioningly. “What is this,twenty questions?”
She waved it aside. “You know I’m not good at keeping things for myself. If I’m curious about something or start wondering about something, I start asking questions. I can’t just keep quiet until I’m satisfied.”
“Yeah, I know. So what’s up?”
“Your mindlink,” she said. “How does it work?”
“Well, that’s indeed a whole different topic.” He put down his silverware. “Why the questions all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I guess I’m just feeling uncertain. I need to know what I’m dealing with. It keeps me up at night.”
“Okay. It’s something like a mixture between a telephone hotline and a camera view; not going to try to use any sci-fi examples with you, since you’re not familiar with those. We can talk to each other without anyone noticing and we can even show each other what we’re seeing, or what we want the other to see.”
“Can you get out of reach? Like with a walkie-talkie?”
“We used to. Back when it started I could only receive her thoughts when she was in the near vicinity. Later on it extended to her place while I was here. And now we can talk to each other even when only one of us is at college. It grows, apparently.”
He picked up his fork and started eating again.
“It’s pretty unusual, but we’ve gotten used to it. She even managed to reach me if she wants to, rather than me always having to initiate a conversation. And while she was the only one sending me images, now it works the other way around as well. It’s becoming more and more a full-bi-directional communication method. We can even interrupt each other, or talk when the other’s still talking, like a real phone conversation.”
“Isn’t she worried about Talitha?”
“Ah! So that’s why the sudden topic change. No, she isn’t. If she was, I’d have picked up on it.”
Nicole leaned her chin on her hand and looked into the distance. Vincent stopped his fork halfway. He knew that pose indicated that she was considering something and he put down his fork, awaiting her reaction.
“I don’t like that girl,” she said. “That Talitha-girl, I mean. For some reason she rubs me the wrong way and whenever I see her the hairs in my neck start to stand up. She hasn’t done anything wrong, but I still have that feeling something is going on and I can’t see what.”
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