The mind games the mind.., p.13
The Mind Games (The Mind Readers), p.13Lori Brighton
Arrogance practically oozed from his pores. I didn’t say a word; he was trying to prove his loyalty. He’d hurt Nora. He would hurt me. He’d give up his own family to the cause. So much for blood being thicker than water. To think I’d grown up wondering what my dad was like; wishing my father had been there for me. But as I had sadly come to realize, just because someone was your family, didn’t mean they had your best interests at heart.
“As you know,” he started. “We need to uncover the location of the cells. You, in particular, know what Aaron is capable of as you’ve experienced the harm he can do. He needs to be brought to justice before he destroys others.”
“And who will bring you to justice for the things you’ve done?” I asked softly.
His face didn’t change, but I saw the flicker of anger in his hazel eyes. Eyes that matched mine in color. It was the only thing we had in common.
“One more chance,” he said just as softly.
I leaned forward, my chains rattling, and peered directly into his eyes. “Go to hell.”
His mental energy hit me full force. I gasped, falling back against my seat. It felt like someone had slammed a boulder into my chest. The entire world faded as pain radiated through my body. Instantly, he’d invaded my mind. I screamed inside, scrambling to push him back, but I couldn’t. He was too powerful, suddenly so very powerful.
My memories were sucked from me, as if we watched a movie on fast-forward. The few memories I had of my mom and dad. The memory of being left with Grandma. Memories of the many schools I’d attended. Memories of moving, trying to evade those who wished to capture us. Recent memories of the time I’d spent here, at the compound.
He saw it all. What I had seen when he’d arrived. What I had heard. What I had felt. Then the memories slowed. Nora… at the shopping center. Nora coming for me, and I knew in only seconds he’d know Grandma worked with us. And I knew, in moments, he’d know that my mother was only five hours away in Savannah.
And then she was there…hovering in my mind, and the memory was painfully slow.
As if we were connected, I felt his shock all the way to my bones.
“No,” I thought I heard him whisper.
“You, my dear, have power like everyone else. But you are also able to draw on the powers of others. You are able to use their gifts,” Sierra’s words whispered through my mind once more. This was the moment I needed, while he was caught off guard.
I dove inside where the source swirled, where the energy connected me to the world…the universe. I floated there and didn’t want to leave, but I knew I had to. I knew I had to gather the power and return. Lewis needed me. Mom needed me.
I dredged up the energy and rushed forward. It was like diving off a twenty story building and hitting the concrete below. His mental wall held hard, but I swore I felt his energy waver. Fear and anger spurred me forward. Failure sure as hell wasn’t an option. My own energy pulsed through my veins, burning my skin; my insides felt on fire but I wouldn’t stop.
I swore in the distance I heard someone cry out. My father? I couldn’t see, I had no sense of time, the world had disappeared. Just as suddenly as my memories rushed through my mind, I saw his bursting into color and I realized I had broken through his wall.
A young boy growing up in a compound much like this one. I saw him leaving for college. I saw him purposefully meeting Aaron and becoming friends with the man. I saw him purposefully meeting my mother and marrying her. It had been an act. His entire life had been an act orchestrated in order to get closer to other mind readers. He’d been born and bred for this lifestyle. Horrible, disgusting memories that flipped through my mind like a dealer flipping through playing cards.
Then suddenly the memories shifted, slowing… a memory he’d tried hard to block, a memory he didn’t want me to see.
A guard dressed in black stood in the doorway of my father’s office. “Sir, we found your mother.”
My father, seated behind his desk, glanced up. “Does she have the girl?”
My father nodded, stacking some paperwork together, his movements sure, unhurried, as if he had all the time in the world. “Get the girl. Make sure she’s alive.”
The guard hesitated in the doorway. “And your mother?”
My dad leaned back in his chair, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Whatever happens, happens.”
The guard hesitated, looking highly uncomfortable. “Just to make sure, you’re okay if she’s a casualty?”
My father turned slightly and picked up his phone, already dismissing the man and thinking of his next meeting. “Understood.”
The guard nodded and left. The memory ended.
Startled, I pulled back from his mind. My lungs expanded, my pupils flared. I felt like I was on an alien planet and my body had yet to adjust. Vaguely I was aware of voices outside in the hall, but the words were muffled. My father sat across from me, sweat trailing down the sides of his face, his eyes blazing.
“It was an act,” I whispered, the words buzzing in my mind so that I wasn’t sure if I spoke them out loud. “Your marriage, your friendships…”
You know nothing.
He’d spoken to me through his mind and I wondered if he was afraid that his coworkers would know the truth about him. I shoved my chair back and stood, the chains rattling. Loosened by Maddox, they fell to the floor, taking the handcuffs with them. I was free.
“You gave the okay to kill your own mother!”
He stumbled from his chair, weaving about the room like a drunken man. He was trying to get as far away from me as possible, and I realized with some shock that he was afraid.
“She betrayed me!”
“Yeah, well, like mother like daughter.” I threw my energy forward. The chair he’d been sitting in flew across the room, hitting him across the chest and sending him back into the wall. There was no mistaking it now…they knew I’d gone crazy.
A siren screeched to life, the noise piercing and irritating. I had to resist the urge to cover my ears. The door flew open, but there were no guards … no, instead Maddox stood there.
I didn’t question his loyalty but dashed toward the door. I felt no weakness, but amazingly well considering what I’d done. I’d battled my father and won. My body practically buzzed with the urge to run, to live, to be. But I knew my arrogance would only trip me up. I needed to focus.
“Hurry.” Maddox grabbed my arm and jerked me forward. “The only reason you were able to break out is because your father underestimated your powers. He won’t again.”
“Why are you helping me?” I asked as we raced down the hall past guards who didn’t even bat an eyelash because they assumed Maddox was taking me back to the cells. They hadn’t yet realized I was the escapee, but they would soon.
“Don’t really have an option, now do I?”
“We always have a choice,” I said, repeating the words Nora had said to me days ago. So why had he done it? For the first time in days I felt the inkling of hope. Maybe Maddox could change. Maybe my father hadn’t brainwashed him so completely that he was beyond redemption.
We reached the gate and Maddox pressed his palm to the keypad. As the door opened, Ellen surged to her feet. “Stop!” A pistol gleamed from the end of her fingertips, but her arms were shaking with nerves. She obviously hadn’t shot a gun often.
“Calm down,” Maddox said, his palms out in surrender.
“I order you to stop!”
She wasn’t a true guard; she was merely the woman behind the desk. If I could defeat my father, I sure as heck could defeat her. I focused on that gun and threw my energy across the room. Easy peasy. The pistol tore from her hands and went skittering across the room. Maddox scooped it up and we raced out the door.
“You’re outnumbered,” she said. “There is no way you can escape.”
“Watch us,” I hissed, shoving my way out the door.
Maddox shoved me behind a Tahoe. I fell to the ground; pebbles biting into my hands.
“We run north.” He shrugged off his jacket and tossed it to the ground, then pulled a pistol from a holster on his back.
I jumped to my feet. “No!”
He jerked his gaze toward me. “What the hell do you mean?”
“We have to get Lewis and the children.”
He latched onto my arm, pulling me so close I could feel his warm breath on my lips. “We don’t have time!”
I tore away from his hold and stumbled back a few steps. “I’m not leaving without him.”
He was silent for a long moment, staring hard at me while the sirens blared and the guards rushed around us. It was like we were the calm center of the storm. “Go to the north end of the fence. I’ll try to cut the electricity and hold them back as long as I can.” His jaw clenched, his eyes unreadable. “Then you’re on your own.”
I nodded, feeling the sting of tears. He was doing this for me, although he’d probably get caught. This would most likely be the last time I’d see him.
“Do you understand?”
“I understand.” Without another word, without time for regret, I turned and raced back toward compound three.
Light flooded the area illuminating the grounds; large spotlights that made the night look like day. I grasped the door handle of Compound Three with trembling hands, but it wouldn’t budge. Nothing. Lewis, Deborah, and Caroline were all trapped inside.
The siren continued to blare until I wanted to scratch at my ears in relief. The cacophony made it impossible to hear the approaching guards who ran around the grounds, shouting out orders. They were coming for me and soon it would be too late. If captured again, this time Maddox wouldn’t be there to help.
I pounded at the door. “Come on, come on!”
The shouts grew closer. I didn’t dare look back. Lewis had been able to unlock doors with his mind, but he knew the mechanics. I hadn’t a clue how the keypad worked, but maybe I could destroy it. I closed my eyes, blocking out the shouts, ignoring the panic that pounded through my body. Taking in a deep breath, I focused all my energy down my arm, to my fingertips and pressed my hand to the keypad. My insides grew warm; my skin tingled as the world around me faded. I floated in a sea of pure energy. This was me. This was the source.
My powers came quickly this time. I focused on the circuits I knew were located behind that wall. Poured the energy from my body, from the universe, into the board. A sudden pop had me jumping back. Smoke curled from the keypad.
“Crap,” I whispered. I hadn’t expected that. What else could I do?
I didn’t have time to marvel at my own abilities. An alarm above the door screamed out in warning, red lights flashing from the bulb on the wall proclaiming my location to all. I flinched, pressing my hands to my ears. When the door clicked open I didn’t dare pause but raced inside to level one where the prisoners were kept. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone.
Seeing me, the guard jumped up from behind his desk. “What the hell?”
My thoughts exactly. He reached for the pistol at his side, and as he grappled with the weapon, I knew I had only a split second. I didn’t have time to pause and think things over. I reached out with my mind, but his mental wall was intact, that chip in place.
I’d broken through my father’s mind and Maddox’s. Surely I could take on this guard. My anxiety and anger combined, clawing its way through my body; an energy stronger than the rest. An energy that frightened me as much as it empowered me.
My father had said there was no such thing as good and evil… that the world was gray. Perhaps he was right, in some instances. But I knew one thing… it wasn’t right to torture children and I would do whatever it took to see them free.
I felt the guard’s mental wall crumble and a rush of emotions and memories flooded my body. His memories, his emotions.
He screamed out in pain, the sound tearing me from the world of energy and placing me smack dab in the middle of hell. The room came sharply into focus. I could hear the shrill sound of the siren outside, but inside my body it was oddly still.
The guard lay unmoving upon the floor, his eyes closed. I knew without checking he was near death. I pressed my hand to the keypad at the barred gate until the lock clicked open. I had no time for guilt. Averting my attention, I raced through the double gates, and down the corridor past the many prisoners. Alert now, they stood at their bars, attempting to uncover the cause of commotion.
“What’s happening?” someone asked.
I ignored their pleas, even as guilt begged me to stop. I’d need Lewis and Deborah to rescue the children. Sweat snaked down my back between my shoulder blades. I shoved open the door and stumbled down the stairwell. The door closed behind me, blocking the sound of the sirens. My breathing echoed heavily against the cement walls in the quiet stairwell; so loud I could barely think.
At the bottom of the steps was another keypad. This time it was easier to destroy the lock. It was as if I’d tapped into the source and it flowed freely through my body. I felt invincible, I felt stronger than I’d ever felt before. I shoved open the door only to stop short. Two guards stood in front of me, their pistols pointed at my chest.
“Drop to the ground right now!” one of the men said, his aim unwavering.
I felt no fear; I merely focused on the gun and sent it flying.
Startled, the guard stumbled back a step.
The other guard wasn’t so easy to intimidate. “Drop, in the name of the U.S. government.”
I used my energy to rip the gun from his hands and sent it sliding down the corridor. He didn’t cower. Instead he surged toward me. With a cry, I threw out my energy full-force. The waves hit him hard, sending him into the cement wall. Unconscious, he fell to the floor.
The guard who was still conscious stumbled to his feet. “Please don’t,” he whispered, trembling. “I have children.”
I curled my lips in disgust. He sure as hell didn’t care about the children upstairs, children forced to live in a prison. I scooped up the two pistols and raced by him. Deborah’s cell was first. I somehow managed to juggle the guns and press my hand to the keypad on her door.
“Shhh!” I closed my eyes, wrapping my fingers around the keypad. Heat singed my very fingertips. Although it burned like hell, I didn’t release my hold. It was only when smoke curled from the keypad that I stepped back.
“We need to help the children.” I didn’t wait for her, but shoved a pistol into her hands and raced down the hall toward Lewis’s cell.
“Cameron, wait!” Deborah called out.
“We don’t have time.”
Lewis was sitting up on his cot, his shoulders hunched, his face pale. I brushed aside my nervousness and pressed my hand to the keypad. “We’re leaving.”
He didn’t question me, didn’t even hesitate, but managed to stand. I couldn’t help but notice the way his body trembled as he came toward me. Ignoring my unease, I pressed my hand to the keypad and concentrated. The energy came faster now; I barely had to think about it. The keypad hissed and the smell of burnt metal and plastic trailed into the air. Success! If only the rest of the escape could be so easy, but I had a feeling my luck was going to eventually run out.
I pulled open the cell door. “Can you make it?”
He nodded. “I will.”
His answer wasn’t exactly reassuring, and the fact that he was limping as he shuffled out of his cell didn’t help matters.
“The children,” I said, turning toward Deborah. “They’re upstairs.”
She shook her head. “We don’t have time.”
“Then go!” I slipped my arm around Lewis’
I heard her long drawn-out sigh and knew she would follow. If Deborah was anything, she was loyal to the cause. She slipped her arm around Lewis, and together we helped him past the comatose guard and up the steps. The other guard was gone, no doubt warning the others.
“How much time do you think we have?” I asked.
Deborah gritted her teeth, shifting Lewis’ weight as we started up the steps. “I expect to be caught any moment now.”
“Cameron, this is pointless. There’s no way—”
“I have help,” I snapped.
Her brows rose in obvious surprise, but fortunately she didn’t question me further. I wasn’t sure what Maddox had done, but he must have done something major because we hadn’t been swarmed yet. I owed him my life and I hated that I had more guilt to add. Annoyed, I tightened my hold on Lewis and helped him up the steps. The stairway seemed to go on forever; at each step Lewis grew heavier.
“Why don’t we just break everyone out; make it a party,” Deborah panted as we paused outside the children’s door.
Lewis swallowed hard and slumped against the wall. “She has a point. If we release the adults, they might create a diversion.”
“I thought of that.” I pressed my hand to the keypad. “But they also might make things worse. I read some of their minds. Not all the men behind those bars are trustworthy. Some are downright evil. We have enough people to worry about; I won’t have the children in more danger than they already are.”
Deborah sighed. “All right then, get to work.”
I closed my eyes and focused, but before I had time to destroy the keypad, something shifted within me. A wave of energy that wasn’t my own invaded my very being like some parasite, sucking on my soul.
“He’s coming,” I whispered.
Deborah grasped my arm. “Who?”
“My father. It’s like…I can sense him. We’re connected in some way.”
“Did you tap into his energy?” She shook me, gaining my flagging attention. “Cameron, when you escaped, did you use his powers against him?”
The Mind Games (The Mind Readers) by Lori Brighton / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes