Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Science Fiction
Influences: 1984, The Host, andBabylon 5
For fans of: Divergent and The Hunger Games
On her seventeenth birthday Luna discovers she is a telepath. Far from being a gift, telepathy is a death sentence in her totalitarian world, and Luna is now at the top of the government’s most wanted list. Running for her life, she is rescued by a resistance force of telepaths, but can she trust them? Only Eric, a boy her age, seems to understand her, but she inadvertently drives a wedge between them when she reads his thoughts.
However the resistance needs them. Forced together, Luna and Eric embark on a dangerous mission that will lead her to discover who she really is, and unmask the terrible secret that could save her world, but may cost her life.
The starlight glow of my pendant blended with the real starlight that illuminated the icy streets of New City’s outermost edge. A few lost souls huddled around a trash can fire and tried to look like they had places to go home to. The Enforcers would pick them up sooner or later and relocate them. Eric kept to the shadows as we passed them.
“Eric,” I whispered, “what’s the plan? What are we looking for?”
“Well, once we get inside you’re looking for your friend’s processing papers and I’m looking for anything and everything on Captain Helios Richter.”
“Okay, how does the ‘once we get inside’ part work?”
“Well, uh, that’s the part we have to figure out.”
“So, basically what you’re saying is, we have no plan?”
“We have no plan.”
Frost crackled under our boots and little clouds of steam issued from our mouths as we walked.
On the fringes of my perception a few foreign thoughts began to register. Without thinking I tried to block them out. We walked a few more blocks, until finally I said, “Eric, do you hear that?”
He stood still and cocked his head to one side. “Footsteps.”
I opened my mind. “Oh, damn it! Eric, they’re Enforcers.”
“Uh … okay, think think think.” He muttered. “We’re both past curfew and in a very dodgy part of town.”
The footsteps were getting much closer.
“Eric, now would be a very good time to think of something.”
“Luna, I am so sorry.”
He pushed me halfway into a dark ally and ripped the tie from my ponytail. He ran his hands through my hair, ruffling it, then he reached down and jerked my coat open.
He pushed me against the wall and pressed his body into mine. He slipped his hands inside my shirt and as the Enforcers came into view he kissed the base of my neck. He pulled me into him.
“Try and look like you’re enjoying this.” He whispered.
Finally catching on, I wrapped my arms around him and ran my fingers through his hair.
“Break it up!” One of the Enforcers yelled across the street.
Eric pulled his hand out of my shirt and waved him off.
“Aw, let the lad have his fun.” Another one called. “It’s too damned cold to bother taking them to the Thought Office.”
Eric put his hand behind my neck and brushed the skin behind my ear.
The first Enforcer muttered something about public indecency but the sound of their footfalls receded into the night. As soon as the echoes faded, Eric released me and stepped back hurriedly. I felt… disappointed. My cheeks reddened with the realization.
“Sorry.” He seemed to be looking everywhere but at me. “It was the only thing I could think of.”
“No don’t be … it was nice – I mean smart! It was a smart thing to do.” I tugged my shirt back down and buttoned up my coat. I was trying to find the hair tie in the dim light when Eric handed it to me. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” He said, still not really looking at me. I fixed my hair and we stood awkwardly for a moment.
“We should probably…”
“Go, yeah, right we should go.” He said.
He walked a little ahead of me. I pressed my cold hands to my hot cheeks and studied Eric. His profile, his hair, the way he moved, the way his coat tails were caught and blown by the breeze. I reached up and touched the spot on my neck Eric had kissed. A fresh wave of heat spread into my face. That was twice tonight that Eric had held me. I quickened my pace to catch up with him.
The warehouse was a large brick building surrounded by a twelve-foot fence topped with another two feet of rust flecked iron spikes. Eric left me standing in an alley while he quickly scouted the perimeter.
“Kaitlyn was right. You can see at least seven guard booths but they’re all empty and they’ve turned off almost all the lights. The only guard is ancient and he’s asleep in the front booth. Look at this.” He handed me a piece of paper with a rough sketch of the building and fence on it. There were two breaks in the fence. He pointed to the one with two small squares sketched next to it. “This is the main gate. This here is the guard booth. The other square is the car.”
“Some of our… friends, were good enough to slash its tires before they took all the files away. Anyway, the gate is locked, but there’s a spot on the other side with a tree I think we can climb.”
I looked down at the map. The building was shaped like a boxy dog-biscuit, with squarish rooms off a middle corridor. “It looks like there are four main rooms.”
“Yeah, I thought so too.”
“Here and here. One next to the guard booth and one diagonal from it.”
“So the plan is, climb a tree, hop the fence, and hope the door opens?”
“Uh, pretty much.”
“Okay, then, let’s do it.”
Eric pulled himself up the trunk and hugged one of the tree’s branches as he helped pull me up. We scooted along the branch until we reached the end. We were still feet away from the wall.
“Hang on, let me think.” He looked between the end of the branch, the wall, and back. Then he looked at me. “I take it you can’t …”
“Right. Okay. Wait!” He opened his pack and pulled out the coil of rope. He wrapped it around the branch and pulled it tight. Then he lowered himself over the side of the branch until he was just hanging there. He swung his legs back and forth building up momentum, until he finally let go and sailed gracefully, almost, to the top of the wall. He wrapped the other end of the rope around one of the spikes and held it tight. “Slide over.”
“You’re wearing gloves you’ll be fine. Just hold on.”
“You have got to be kidding.” I muttered while I reached awkwardly down for the rope. I let my legs slide over the side of the branch. I felt like my shoulders might have been jerked out of their sockets but I sped quickly down the rope and slammed into the wall.
My knees connected painfully with the brick. I stifled a gasp but managed to pull myself up until I was sitting next to Eric. I rubbed my knees but other than a few additions to the bruises Tiana had already given me they were fine.
“Are you all right?” Eric asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” I looked at the rope still connected to the tree. “Eric, what are we going to do about the rope?”
“What?” He glanced at the rope and swore under his breath. “It’s like a lighted sign broadcasting Somebody Broke In. Damn, I didn’t even think about it.” He tugged on it experimentally but it held fast.
“Well, maybe no one will notice.” I said. “Yeah right.” He tossed the end of the rope to me and paced angrily along the wall.
“Eric, I’m sure it will be okay—” In a futile attempt I tugged on it, nothing happened. Then I mentally tugged on it and the knot came undone and the whole rope slithered off the branch. “I let you convince me to slide over on that?!”
“What?” Eric turned around and saw the loose rope in my hands. “Luna, I could kiss you.”
I looked down at my lap and flushed a deep shade of red I hoped he couldn’t see in the dark. “I— You don’t need— Not that I wouldn’t want— I mean— I just …”
Eric crouched next to me. I felt cool fingers under my chin. He tilted my face up until I was looking at him. My heart beat painfully in my ears.
“Relax.” He said leaning towards me. “Trust—”
A resounding crash echoed off the brick walls and a shell shocked cat ran out of the alley, pursued by a rolling trash can lid. I pulled away.
A light shone out from the guard booth and a sleepy voice muttered, “Damn cat.”
“Come on.” I said. “We’d better get going.”
Eric’s third lock pick slid in successfully and I heard the tumblers click into place. He pushed the door open and we slipped inside.
The room was dark, lit only by one speckled shaft of moonlight filtering in through a dust-encrusted window. Empty shelves stood silhouetted in rows like macabre skeletons.
All the files were gone. The only remains were a few blank pages fluttering weakly in the draft from the door.
“Split up. We still have three rooms to check.” He led us through the twisting aisles to another door and pushed it open, revealing a dimly lit corridor. “You take that one, I’ll see what’s up there.” He silently padded up the corridor to the next landing.
I looked at the door we’d come through. You could see where the dust had been recently rubbed away near the knob and on the floor surrounding it. Something was embossed on the door but the letters were shrouded in a thick layer of dust. I brushed my arm across them and the word ‘Classified’ appeared in the gloom. Underneath it was the Government Eye.
Shivering, I crossed the hall to the other door. This one’s dust was undisturbed. The sign said ‘Personnel Files.’ Excited, I tried the door and it opened with a squeak muffled by the thick layer of dust.
The shelves extended far into the gloom. They were filled with rows of folders and old ledger books. Every twenty feet or so a tab stuck out with a year printed on it in neat black script.
The files closest to the door were the newest. I walked along the row nearest to me and trailed my fingers along the files, listening to the soft staccato rustle.
Ten feet from the end I picked a file at random. There was a grainy picture, name, age, etc. It was just a regular Enforcer personnel file. I shoved it back in and continued walking back in time. I pulled another random file. Same: name, age, rank, address.
I walked to the end of the last row. According to the tabs, these files were more than twenty years old. The smell of damp paper, dust, and something … tangy, filled my nose.
I bent down and touched the paper on the bottom shelf. It was faint, but I could feel something smoldering inside the file. I sat down and pulled it out, then opened to the first page.
It looked like an ordinary file. Old and yellow, the formatting style looked outdated and clunky. The grainy photograph looked a little familiar, but I couldn’t place him. I glanced at his name. Rodenberry, George aged twenty-two, rank of T9…
T9? What did that mean? I studied the file more closely. The page, like all official documents, had a watermark of the department crest embossed on it. But this wasn’t the Enforcers’ crest. I leaned towards the page trying to make it out. It was a shield with a light bulb in the center. Beneath that it said “We Think.” I squinted at the tiny letters running along the edge of the shield. I gasped when I made them out.
SPECIAL FORCES TELEPATH SQUAD
I grabbed another file. Anderson, Isaac: T7. Another, Clarke, Madeleine: T2. And another and another all with the same watermark.
I went back to George Rodenberry’s file. The second and third pages listed the awards and accomplishments of a career terminated by “Department Policy Changes.” The fourth was an internal investigations report after the death of a suspect. And the fifth was the source of the strange feeling the file had. It was a legal document.
I, __________________, herby agree to the terms and conditions of the Special Forces Telepath Squad as stated in section 2A. I herby agree to use my telepathic powers to protect and preserve our nation and its citizens. I also agree to provide a blood sample for identification…
And at the bottom, next to a loopy signature, was a thumbprint in rust red. The smell lifting off the page had the tang of rusted iron in it.
It was blood.
I swallowed and reached out to touch it with one fingertip. I hesitated for a moment but then I brushed the print with my index finder. I could feel it, almost like the telepathic echo I’d experienced in the tunnel but softer, muted, not memory so much as essence, like Eric’s cinnamon. It was like everything George Rodenberry had ever been or ever would be was in this print.
He’d been a Guard of weak to moderate strength, not especially bright but loyal all the same.
I found the same page in all the other files I’d grabbed. Isaac Anderson was a fairly strong Informer, quick witted but melancholy, and Madeleine Clarke was a weak Empath and poet.
I pressed my hands to the row of files. I could feel the thumbprints, soft embers in the gloom of my perception. I guessed there were about a hundred of the thin files.
The door creaked. I quickly passed a hand over my pendant and the metal went dark. I waited, trying not to breathe.
“Luna?” It was Eric.
“Back here.” I turned the pendant back on.
He came around the corner with his backpack in one hand and a thin file in the other. “Luna, I found—”
“Eric, look at this.” I held up George Rodenberry’ file.
He dropped his bag and took it from me and flipped to the first page. “Luna, you’re in Personnel files, what’s so special?”
“Look at the water mark!”
“We don’t… what! Telepath Squad?” He flipped through the rest of the file. “Luna, do you know what this means?”
“It means the government was working with telepaths.”
“Luna, this could be …” He looked up at me with new determination in his eyes. “Is this the only one?”
“No.” I felt along the shelf until the bloody thumbprints stopped. “There are about a hundred of them.”
“All right. Let’s take them all.” He opened up his bag. “Here.”
I shoveled files into the bag until it was full.
“We’ll just carry the rest.” He said. He started stacking them up.
“Do you think these were the classified files Kaitlyn was talking about?”
“No, I don’t think so. All the rest of these files are meaningless, I think these were just forgotten. How did you even find them?”
“I felt them.”
He looked at me quizzically.
“There’s something in them, the essence of each telepath, I could feel it, almost like an echo.” I watched his quick deliberate movements. “What do you think happened to the files we were supposed to be after?”
“I don’t know, maybe they got them out somehow, even without the last car.”
I sat watching Eric. He was so quiet. And the cinnamon tang I felt more than smelled was comforting.
There was something on the edge of my perception, the guard, I thought, asleep in his booth. I almost dismissed it, but then I let my mind leave the confines of the dark room and trickle into the surrounding blocks. Thought Patrollers. Fifteen of them coming towards the building, surrounding it.
“Eric … Eric, Eric! You said this was low security?”
“Yeah. Definitely is now, without those classified files.”
“Eric, there are fifteen Thought Patrollers on their way here.”
“What!” He stood up, almost upsetting his deliberate pile. “Those Enforcers? You think they knew?”
I grabbed the pile and stood up. “I don’t know. I don’t think so, but …”
“Damn!” He slung his pack over his shoulders. He started walking towards the door. “How far away are they?”
I followed him and felt around with my mind. They were close. “Um, I don’t know exactly.” We were standing in the hallway between rooms. “I’d guess—” There was a loud bang and a gust of cold air blew under the door to the Classified room. “They just broke the door down.”
“Thank you, I’d noticed.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me along the hallway.
There was another doorway. He hit it at a run and it burst open. The cold air was a slap in the face. In front of us was the car with slashed tires and the guard booth. I could hear the Thought Patrollers now. All of the ones who were already inside the walls clustered around the door we’d broken into.
I felt one coming around the corner. “Quick!” I whispered. I dragged Eric down behind the car. The Patroller ran past us towards the door. “Any bright ideas?”
“Um, run like hell?”
Eric moved to get up. I jerked him back down. Another Patroller ran past.
We scooted along the car until we were by the loading door. Eric peaked past the car. The coast was clear. He grabbed a chunk of ice and hurled it as hard as he could away from us. The guard inside the booth heard it shatter and looked first in the direction the noise had come from, then at the gate, then back. He left, flashlight in hand to explore the other side. Eric went to the gate and began fiddling with the lock.
I was looking at the slightly open car door. A feeling almost like intuition hit me, but it was more. “What if the files were inside the car?” I mused.
“What?” he said.
I opened the door a few inches. Inside were stacks of files with the classified stamp on them. “Eric, I found them!”
“Shh! What are you talking about?” He dropped beside me in the snow.
“The files! The classified files!”
A Patroller ran around the other side of the building and stared straight at us. He opened his mouth to shout. A few quick cuts with my mind and he suddenly found the impulse to breathe was not reaching his lungs.
“Okay,” Eric said, “playtime’s over.” He grabbed my hand and tried to pull me up.
“But the files!”
“Forget the files. Let’s take what we’ve got and go!”
I reached out and grabbed the first binder on the stack and followed Eric toward the gate. Eric reached for his lock picks again, but we were in a hurry.
Why be subtle? I neatly separated the molecules of iron in the heavy bolt and the lock fell off.
Eric stared at me.
“What are you waiting for?” I asked.
“Hm? Oh, nothing. After you.”
We ran out through the gate. We made it about two blocks before the shouting started. I heard the heavy boots of the Patrollers pounding after us.
“Don’t look back!” Eric yelled. “Just keep running!”
I forced new speed into my legs and followed him through the twisting streets. We had a good head start and eventually the sound of their boots began to recede, but I could hear Eric’s labored breathing, and each ragged breath of cold air felt like liquid fire in my lungs. A few more minutes and we were going to collapse.
Then ahead of us I felt them. More Patrollers. This had been their plan all along. Drive us into an ambush. “Eric! Stop!”
It took us a few yards to slow down. We stood there panting. “There are … more … up there … ambush.” I gasped.
“Damn!” He held a stitch in his side. “Okay … um … we’ll just …” He looked around.
“Damn it! Patrollers ahead, Patrollers behind … trapped.” A weight seemed to settle on his shoulders. He turned to look at me. “You hide here. I’ll take a few files and keep going. Wait for a few hours then head back to the Gathering.”
“What? Don’t be stupid.” I grabbed his shoulders. “I won’t let you! If either of us should be caught it’s me.” He tried to shake off my hands but I grabbed his coat lapels. “You’re not even a telepath! It isn’t right. This shouldn’t even be your fight.”
“Luna,” he looked me in the eyes, “this has always been my fight. Will always be my fight. This fight is all I’ve ever known.” He touched my cheek. “And as long as there are people worth fighting for I’ll keep going till the end.”
Tears stung my eyes. We were so close together, I could feel his warmth pressed against me. In that moment his image was burned into my memory, intense eyes, with hair softly falling in front of them, straight nose, and lips like a cupid’s bow.
“Oh, you idiot.” I breathed. Strange twisting warmth flooded my stomach. I almost kissed him but the Thought Patrollers had finally caught up with us.
“Hide.” He whispered.
“No, idiot, I have a better idea.” I pulled him down until we were sitting against one of the walls surrounding the narrow street. The Patrollers came around the corner at an easy jog. In each of their minds I built an image of a snowdrift against the wall, covering us.
The patrollers slowed in the alley. They seemed surprised we weren’t there. I looked up. Frozen on the two story roofs were heavy sheets of ice.
I put my hand in Eric’s and then let my awareness trickle up to the icy rooftops. I started working, slowly at first, exciting the molecules, melting the ice. I worked more quickly as I got the hang of it. Each molecule was like a marble and all you had to do was shift one and they’d all start bouncing off each another.
I picked my first shot carefully. When the Patroller stepped into range I added a final burst and a huge chunk of ice slid off the roof. It picked up speed and crashed into his skull with a sickening crunch.
The other two Patrollers ran to their fallen comrade. One bent to examine him. The other, more suspicious, scanned the rooftops. A four-foot icicle fell twenty feet, impaling his left arm, before the weight dislocated his shoulder and broke the bone. My own arm ached with the pain.
With his two companions down, the third Patroller turned circles warily in the center of the street, looking at the rooftops. He was out of range.
I found the artery in his neck. I pushed delicately against it. Not enough to crush it, but enough to stop the blood flow to his brain. He dropped to his knees and then collapsed. I released the pressure and blood began to flow again. He wasn’t dead.
I slumped against the wall, exhausted. My eyes felt heavy. My head pounded and my arm ached. I’d never tried to use that much telepathic power before.
Eric didn’t let go of my hand, but he turned to look at me. “Luna, what did you—“ My eyes closed. “Luna! Luna, are you all right?”
“Hmm?” I felt groggy, like my head was a million miles away from my body. “Yes, just tired.” I tried to stand up, but I collapsed. Eric caught me. “I need to see … them.”
“Who, Luna? Who?”
He didn’t ask why. But he helped me over to where the fallen Patrollers lay. I sat on the curb. I couldn’t tell if the world was swaying or if I was. I took a deep breath of cold air. It helped, a little.
The Patroller with a broken arm would be fine. Looking at him I got blood on my hands. It registered like fire on my senses. I tried to wipe it on my clothes. I ignored the images I was getting from his essence. He would hurt but he would recover.
It was the first Patroller that worried me. I gently put my shaking fingertips against his skull. I closed my eyes. He was alive but barely. His skull was crushed. I could feel his consciousness shifting inside his brain, trying to find undamaged areas to shelter in. He didn’t have long though. Minutes at the most.
I reached deep inside myself to see if I had the strength to heal this man. Power flooded through my fingertips, knitting the bones back together, healing the damage I’d done. When it stopped I collapsed.
There were arms around me. And a distant voice. My name, maybe, called over and over again.