Chapter 3, Part 2

The two agents followed the somewhat scrawny teen as he led them to some sort of lounge. On one wall was mounted a thin, wide monitor. Opposite to it was a royal blue couch, into which Josh flung himself heavily, propping his legs up on the arm rests. His guests stood awkwardly. There was no other furniture on which to sit.

“So,” Josh yawned. You’re not with the university. Central Government huh? How timely.”

James looked helplessly at his partner. He was a simple man, used to people being intimidated by his bulk, and acting in a submissive, respectful manner. Hopefully Faye’s versatile intellect would adapt to the baffling boy that was today’s mission.

Faye tucked a lock of black hair behind her ear, buying herself just enough time to come up with a dignified response.

“Mr. Brooke, you are addressing two field agents of the Central Government. Your lack of digital footprint indicates that you have received no formal schooling, so I can understand your impolite demeanor a little.”

For some reason she did not want to be too harsh on the boy. Perhaps it was because the dull sadness wafting off from the boy resonated her empathic sense in a deeply personal way. In Joshua she felt the loneliness, and silent outrage, of an orphan.

“But please,” she continued. “We would appreciate it if you sat upright.”

Faye emphasized her point with what she considered to be a friendly smile. It was, putting it lightly, unpracticed. Josh shifted into a more modest position, if only to wipe that unsettling expression off of his guest’s face.

“Thank you Mr. Brooke; Josh. May I call you Josh?”

The boy nodded.

“As my partner was saying, we are from the Peripheral Branch of Public Safety.”

Pausing, Faye decided on being honest with her target. This was a rare course of action, as her job usually involved subtly manipulating a target into revealing their metacognite nature without violating their rights as a citizen – one that she carried out like a seasoned predator.

There were two reasons she felt she should treat Josh differently. First, because of the connection she felt with him as a former orphan. Second, because his behavior was still within expectation for her from the mental preparations she had done that morning while James had been off doing something else. During that time she had run through countless scenarios in her mind, most of them assuming a high level of metacognite abilities from Josh. In most of these, considering the boy’s isolation from society, coaxing sufficient evidence of his condition out of him was never the tricky part.

With this in mind, Faye continued. “Our branch is responsible for finding what we call ‘unregistered metacognites’ and transporting them safely to our headquarters, where they learn to use their gifts safely and legally.”

At this, the boy scoffed. “Metacognites? What kind of stupid, made-up government term is that?”

“…Excuse me?” Faye was taken slightly aback by the Josh’s brashness.

“Heheh, sorry. I haven’t really had any real conversations for a while, so I forget that people don’t say what they think. Or at least, the professor complained that they didn’t. We always shared everything with each other.”

“I see,” the agent responded dumbly.

“This is fun though! I’m really glad you came. You all are so interesting to me, perhaps I shouldn’t be so hasty to wipe those university folks every time they try to reclaim this house.”

A particular word in Josh’s speech snapped Faye back into her usual alertness.

“Did you say wipe?”

“Ah, yes well I wish I could truly wipe memories with precision. The best I can do is suspend their face recognition and working memories and send them off with a strong feeling of accomplishment so they don’t think about this place for a month or so.”

“Josh.. Are you aware that the ability to manipulate psychological processes in others is not common?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s illegal too.” Faye chided gently, still not feeling a strong urge to be hard on the orphan.

“Well, get them to stop pestering me, or find me another home where I can keep all of the professor’s notes and toys. Didn’t you say your branch helps people like me? Even if you label us – and I guess this means there are other, that’s nice to know – by such a dreadful name. I mean, why not just call us psychics? Is the Central Government not allowed to use terms from commercial¬†movies?”

Behind Faye, James was tensing like a fighter in a ring would while sizing up an opponent. He was certain the command would come at any time, but for some reason his partner seemed to be an accommodating mood, and continued to speak to the boy.

“People like you are a new thing, and our government doesn’t yet have a perfect solution to it. For now, we think the best thing to do is to isolate you in a controlled environment. I don’t personally deal with registered metacognites, but I’m sure they’re out there, once more being productive citizens.”

Josh’s eyes narrowed. There was a hint of menace glinting in their rich blue depths.

“Oh, but miss Waller, I am isolated. And this environment is completely controlled. By me.”

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