Saturday, August 8, 2015

Crossed Off: Feelings (Part V)

Hugs all around when Starla and the gang finally arrived in Kansas City. Tristan had taken a personal day off of work to provide them with a proper greeting. He treated them to the best barbecue in the world, a tour of downtown, and a game to see who could find the highest number of cow statues along the roads. Afterwards, Alec and Kathleen went off to the swimming pool to give Starla and Tristan some time alone.
“It’s a bit awkward not occupying the same body, isn’t it?” he asked.
“More for me than for you. Most of the people you meet are in three dimensions. This is a new experience.”
“I bet.” His was a very calming and therapeutic voice; one that could never be quite understood during one of their mind melds.
“So, go ahead. Give me the lecture. I assume you prepared some talking points. I don’t mind if you use flashcards.”
“This isn’t an intervention, Starla. True, we are incredibly worried about you. But we’re not here to show you what you have to live for, or what it’s like to be a normal person. You’re here because I love you and I wanted to see you in real life.”
“I’m not going to kill myself.”
“That’s awesome news. I’ll alert the media.”
“I’m serious.”
“Me too.” He leaned forward and lowered his eyebrows. “It’s important that you admit that, not to me, but to yourself. No one wants you to leave us, but none of that matters if you don’t feel the same way. We can literally stop you from doing anything. Every single one of us is physically stronger than you. But you would be miserable. We have to be able to leave you alone, or life is meaningless.”
“I get it.” And she did. She was never going to be free from her feelings of hopelessness, but she could learn to control them. She could learn to live with them, and to find little moments of happiness. Whether they had intended this or not, the fact that everyone was coming together to help her through her problems was enough for her to want to prove them right.
“Good.” He started rubbing his mouth and chin, like he was struggling with a decision. “I do have an ulterior motive.”
“Oh, here we go.”
“It’s not bad.” He questioned himself a bit. “At least, I wouldn’t call it that.”
“What is it, Tristan?”
“I’ve been looking into something, inspired by your situation. I assure you that I told no one about you, but I found something.” He thought some more. “Something you might be interested in.”
“Spit it out.”
He squinted his eyes and pinched his fingers together. “There’s a tiny...really tiny; teeny tiny group of people forming ‘round these parts.”
She pushed off of the back of her chair and sat up as straight as she could, almost threateningly. “And who are these people?”
He shrugged his shoulders slightly. “People like you, but different. Your ability has a lot to do with the mind. Theirs? Not all of them. From what I can tell, they can put on quite a show.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know the specifics. I know only that they’re looking for others. There’s a sort of...what might you call him? A vanguard. He claims to be looking out for the best interests of each individual, and he won’t send you to them if you don’t want to go. I don’t know if he has an ability of his own, and he doesn’t know about you, but—”
“Then how do you know anything about him? You’re contradicting yourself.”
“He knows that I know someone.”
“What? I didn’t give him your name.”
“Someone with enough motivation could connect the dots. Did you tell him what I could do?”
“No, of course not.” He shook his head, but it was more like a fish, wandering back and forth in the water until it transformed into a nod. “I mean, yes.”
She closed her eyes in disappointment and exhaled. “Dammit.”
“I think we can trust him.”
“Why is my life suddenly filled with people learning my secret?”
He leaned back and held his hands up in defense. “Hey, I only told that one guy. Kathleen introduced you to Denton, and you went to that Magnus on your own.”
He was right. She and Denton had approached Magnus Shapiro of their own free will. She had spent years under the protection of Alec, using her ability a lot, and making sure that she did so wisely, but never really learning anything. Maybe it was time to take a leap of faith. If her friends were okay with this, what else did she have to lose? She fell back into her chair. “I presume you’ve set up a meeting with him?”
There was a knock at the door.
“Tristan?” she asked like a mother, trying to get her child to confess to a crime.
“Yes, I did.”
She interlocked her fingers and rested her hands on her belly. “Well, it’s not my door he’s knocking on.”
“Are you sure? I can send him away.” Tristan would honestly agree to her wishes, but obviously hoped that she would say no.
He knocked again.
“Answer the freaking door and we’ll discuss this later!” But she didn’t say freaking.
He left and greeted their guest. She couldn’t hear Tristan address him, but the stranger insisted that he just call him René. They walked into the living room and sat down. She and Tristan explained to him what she could do; her range and limits. He listened carefully and respectfully, speaking only once they were finished. He nodded his head in understanding. “Yes, you were on the first of two drafts of our list.”
“We were, at one point, capable of finding and tracking all people with abilities.”
“But you can’t do that anymore?” Starla asked.
“What allowed us to do this was stolen from us, but don’t worry. The person who stole it is not capable of using it himself. So you’re safe; from him, and from us.”
Tristan was offended by this. “Why would she need to be safe from you?”
René adjusted himself and prepared to explain. “There is an ancient parable about a man who could read minds. He lived in a world where special abilities were common, but his ability was rare. It was coveted by many, but feared by most. It was for this reason that he kept his power to himself. But one time he accidentally let slip what he could do at an interview for a job. Without hesitation, the interviewer removed a letter opener from his desk and stabbed the telepath in the neck in an attempt to kill him. He just barely failed to reach his goal, and the telepath lived, but others like him were not so fortunate. The key to killing someone who knows your actions as you think of them is to wait as little as possible to act on your thoughts.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Tristan was even more discouraged than before the little story.
“I am telling you this,” René said, “because I do not wish for your lovely friend to end up like the man in the story. And neither does my partner. However, there is an associate of ours that I fear does not feel the same way. I believe that he covets abilities because he does not have one of his own. He may not even yet know this about himself.”
“Yet he’s still part of your group?”
“He is our founder. It would not be so easy to rid ourselves of him. And he is in a relationship with the only member of our group who actually matters.” He spoke further with finality. “Besides, he is not the only one we would have to fear. We created the second draft of our list for the singular reason of removing you from it. This is my way of protecting you, Starla. I have a responsibility to keep you from the people I know. Unfortunately, you will have to be responsible for protecting yourself from everyone else.” He stood up and took a deep breath. “I urge you, Miss Wakefield, if you are ever approached by anyone you do not already know...” he paused for effect before continuing, “lie. Or run.”
After René left, she received a call on Tristan’s phone from Magnus Shapiro, telling her that he would be flying down to Kansas City with Denton and newcomer, Ling in tow. He claimed that they had felt a pull towards her that was stronger than ever, and that it had begun not five minutes earlier. Even though she had only known the stranger for a few minutes, his words seemed phenomenally more valid than anything she had heard in her entire life. It was like he knew exactly what to say to her to get her to believe him. But the three coming from Hudson already knew about her. It was too late to lie, so she would have to run. “Tristan. I have to get out of the city. Find the number for the pool. I need Alec back here now.”

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