Chapter 3, Part 4

Like a door slamming shut, Josh’s hold over the agents’ movements clamped down in full force once more. During its brief loosening, James had sprung into motion, aiming to tackle his target. Even as the boy had begun to speak, communication between brain and muscle quickly hit that invisible bottleneck. The solidly-built agent was caught in his own momentum as his body became less responsive, and was sent careening off his feet towards the couch.

Seeking to grasp Josh as he fell, James willed his arms forward. The boy was restrained by the shock cord – a prototype that used currents of negatively charged leptons heavier than taus to disrupt muscle movement in the same way an electric current would. Even stripped of his legendary coordination, James should have had no problem catching an immobile target.

Faye watched helplessly from the side, completely locked in place by Josh, as her partner collided with the empty sofa. The metacognite, still wrapped up in the shock cord with his arms at his side, was now hovering to the side, looking rather pleased with himself.

“I’m really learning a lot from this!” Josh exclaimed, speaking with the same sort of detached fascination that he had done so with a minute earlier, when discovering that conversations with humans were “fun.”

“These ‘unregistered metacognites’ of yours must be pushovers if you use tools like this to bring them in. I could apply external forces to move my body since before I could speak.”

With that small jab, he proceeded to float around the struggling James, past Faye, and out the door. Teasing words faded back into the lounge, with the sound of another door opening and closing fast on their heels: “Come find me, if you can.”

Gradually, as a block of ice melting in water, the teen’s influence over the remaining occupants of the room faded and they were able to move once more. Faye looked at James sternly.

“4th generation leptonics? Care to explain?”

She had never seen the shock cord in her five years as a field agent. The fact that her partner carried equipment she had no knowledge of was disturbing to her.

James looked away uncomfortably.

“It’s one of the prototypes entrusted to me by the director.”

“One of them? So there are more then?”

“He didn’t want you to be burdened with more things to know. Your focus is what keeps you functional,” he said awkwardly, with a cadence markedly different from his usual, steady and reassuring one.

It was a good enough answer, judging by content alone. The problem was that James was an honest man, and could lie just about as well as a dog could feign disinterest in food. Not to mention that Faye had direct access to his emotions, as the way she used her gift was apparently different enough from the way metacognites tended to read minds for his psi-screen to allow her through.

Prematurely ending the life of the uneasy silence that had been incubating, James spoke up again with some urgency. “We need to go after him. The piece of technology attached to his body right now is not meant to be seen in the open by citizens.”

“I don’t suppose you have a way to track it?”

“I do.”

Faye pinched the bridge of her nose in consternation. She did not wish to let the matter of James’ withheld information slide, but the mission took precedence. Silently, she nodded in understanding, gesturing for her partner to lead the way.

Meanwhile, in a laboratory in the basement of one of the university buildings, a lanky man with skin about as pale as Joshua’s sat idly in front of a standard work computer, stifling a yawn. Dr. Eric Reeves was a man who would rarely be caught in a state of wakefulness. His research was not engaging, in his opinion, so he put it off in favor of forays into the endless varieties of diversions the screen in front of him enticed him with. Only when the sound of students upstairs died down each day would he realize that he had work to get done, and so he would work until late, sacrificing hours of sleep.

It was afternoon, so Dr. Reeves had yet to extract himself from the cesspool of mind-numbing stimuli he was currently brain deep in when his attention was forcibly drawn away by a strident buzzing informing him of a visitor requesting entry to the lab. Annoyed, the – relatively young – scientist drew himself out of his chair while giving a verbal command to the lab’s communication system.

“Seal containment chamber. Open main door.”

Standing there just outside his lab was a skinny, young teenager with messy, light-brown hair and royal blue eyes accenting an otherwise colorless face of someone who did not go out much at all. Despite the unusualness of someone so young standing in the doorway of a laboratory of the university’s physics department, Dr. Reeves was more interested in the object wrapped around the boy like a vine. The way it was glowing, it seemed related to his research.

The occupant of the lab gawked uselessly at Josh for a moment. Losing patience, the boy spoke up.

“Um, could you get this thing off me?”

It was all he could do to hide the mischievous smile that was doing its utmost to emerge on his young face.

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