JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: Psionic II
The salty smell of the canal brought up memories of his days as a field agent. Stephen climbed up the stairs and onto the stone bridge. A red gondola carrying tourists drifted past him, below the bridge, and out the other side. All around him, daylight was slowly being withdrawn by the retiring sun. The sky was a fiery orange streaked with thin strips of gray clouds. For three months Stephen had undergone medication and rehabilitation in the Psychic Headquarters and it had allowed him to regain the strength of his legs. He was still far from how he was fifteen years ago but it was better than being bound to a wheelchair.
Stephen adjusted his helmet for the umpteenth time. It felt awkward but he knew without it he'd be bombarded by thoughts from those all around him. It was a gift from M after his little incident back at headquarters.
He remembered he had fallen asleep on the trip from his underground lab to Psychic HQ and upon waking up he was greeted with a gargantuan of a headache. It seemed as though thoughts all around him came flying in like knives and he felt they were slicing through his skull. He could hear and see the thoughts around him.
"Gaaaah!!!" He looked at M pleadingly. "Stop!" He watched M's lips move rapidly but he couldn't hear what the words from all the others that came flooding his senses. Stephen thrashed around as M and the medics tried to restrain him. He felt something pierce into his skin. The thoughts started to quiet down. He felt every ounce of strength leave his body. Darkness started to fall down on his eyes. Before he submerged into unconsciousness he saw an image of a building covered in ivy. A statue of a hooded man seated on a chair stood by the entrance. Above the statue, placed on the wall, was a plaque that showed the building's name. Stephen tried reading it but he felt himself completely slipping away into the cold, dark arms of sleep.
He woke up in a square box of a room with one wall a two way mirror. M stood on the other side. It wasn't until a minute or two after that Stephen noticed that the thoughts had quieted down.
"Where are we? Somewhere deep underground?" Stephen asked. No, he knew they were still above sea level. Then why couldn't he read the thoughts of others? He couldn't even read M's.
M knocked on the glass wall with his knuckle. "These square box is a prison custom made for Psionics of B-class and above. Blocks psychic energy from going in and out. Took us three years to build it. We have ten of these currently in the underground level of Steel Penitentiary. Five of those are already housing prisoners."
Stephen wheeled his wheelchair backwards and ran his eyes on the walls of his room. He couldn't see anything special about them.
"Sorry, Steph," M said. "Can't disclose to you that info. Head honcho would have my head."
Stephen stared at M. Fifteen years ago there were no information withheld from him. What happened? M did say that there were new faces leading the Psychic Division. New rules? No. There was something else, Stephen felt.
"Good thing we have in HQ eh?" M said. He took out a stick of cigarette from his breast pocket and placed it between his lips.
"Thought you had quit smoking," Stephen asked.
M peered at Stephen as he lit up his cigarette with a silver and gold lighter. M sucked in a lungful of smoke and blew it out in one long stream of white. "Like what I told you, Steph. Times have changed. God knows I'd be losing my head if it weren't for these to calm me down." He said looking at the cigarette caught between his index and middle fingers. "How much control do you have over your powers?"
"I cannot tell," Stephen replied.
"Right," M reached into his pocket and retrieved a remote control. "I'll turn off the psychic dampeners and let's find out, yeah?"
Stephen gave an almost imperceptible nod. He concentrated and put up a psychic wall around his mind. M pressed a button. The walls started to hum, followed by silence, then, like a dam breaking, the psychic wall cracked and crumbled as thoughts came flooding in.
Stephen let out a scream as he fell from his wheelchair. Concentrate! Focus on M! He repeated the words to himself. He looked at M and tried to single out the man's distinct psychic energy. At first he felt he had it but the torrent of information coming at him was just too strong. Stephen was washed away and he rolled on the floor, his head felt close to bursting. He forced himself up on his knees and looked at M who was shouting something at him. Stephen felt blood trickling down his nose. He started to rebuild his psychic wall again brick by brick. His body was shaking violently and he could feel consciousness slipping from underneath him. Stephen could taste blood. He had subconsciously started biting down on his lower lip.
Ste--this--ate! They came in fragments but Stephen could finally separate M's thoughts from the others. He continued on strengthening his defenses. Focus on me! came the clear voice of M in Steph's head. His ears were ringing and his head felt it contained a thousand shards of broken glass but he was able to do it. Stephen smiled as he fell down, unconscious, on the floor.
Stephen was walking down the bridge and towards the scent of freshly baked bread when his phone started to vibrate. Stephen answered it by pressing a button in his helmet. It was M.
"How do you feel about a little practice?" M asked.
Stephen opened the door of a small bakery. A small bell rang above him. "What do you mean?" Steph replied.
"There's a small incident involving a Psionic a couple of blocks away from you. Subdue him and bring him in," M said.
"Consider it done," Stephen answered.
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JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at http://www.jblearnstowrite.com/ and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.