Chapter 4, Part 2

Under ordinary circumstances, she would have no difficulty leaving him to bear the brunt of a dangerous situation. However, facing a target of unquantifiable potential, with power inexplicably amplified by something, she just could not bring herself to abandon her partner.

At the end of the day, despite her immense skill, Faye was something of a prodigy among the empaths the Peripheral Branch trained as investigators. As a result, she had never encountered a situation where her talent and discipline, as well as her trust in James, were not enough to guarantee the completion of a mission. Now, her decision making floundered helplessly on the shore of this unfamiliar dilemma, before something in her broke.

Loyalty to the one who had been a constant source of warmth and support during each mission won over her theoretical knowledge of what would be the most correct course of action. Determined, she planted her resolve to firmly mirror her steady stance.

“We’re going to see this through. Together,” she said, in a tone that allowed no room for disagreement.

James looked regretful. It was a fragile moment, dangling precariously at the edge of being swept aside by another round of Joshua Brooke’s manic taunts. The imposing, yet gentle agent felt mixed feelings as he observed Faye’s expression. Her face couldn’t quite conceal a vulnerability he had never seen on it before. He had seen her in moments of uncertainty when her focus momentarily lapsed and the images from her nights leaked through, but this was something different.

It was the look of someone that didn’t want to lose someone important to them.

Amplified, warped laughing crackled overhead once more. “What are you waiting for? Hurry, hurry! I want to see into you. See how you really intended to lock me away, just like the professor said.”

Faye steeled herself to push down any objections James might make. After all, she was technically in command of all field missions, and he could only override her decisions in situations of immediate legitimate danger. Josh’s little broadcast didn’t qualify as such, as ominous a display of power as it was.

Surprisingly, James consented without any resistance.

“Stay behind me,” he said, resignation making his baritone voice sound a little heavier.

Slowly, the pair made their way up the wide steps of the university building in front of them. By now, all the straggling students had long vacated the immediate area, herded away like sheep by the agents, and by the unexplained, shrill voice of a juvenile ringing through the air.

James stopped in front of the quaint double door leading into the building. It had a rounded top, upon which was inscribed ‘Department of Experimental Physics and Materials Science.’ Faye advanced to stand beside him. They looked at each other, then at the door. It wasn’t too late for Faye to turn back, James thought. Instead of voicing this, he asked, “Do you have a plan?”

The voice of Josh had been silent since they had begun their approach of the building. The faint pressure indicating his sphere of influence was still there, but it seemed like he had mostly withdrawn his reach, content that the agents were on their way.

“I was thinking before that I just needed to get him to read my mind,” Faye answered. “He must have had a way to detect the danger of doing so, but there could have been a way to force him into a situation where it’s his only choice.”

“What about the thing he has just mentioned? ‘Seeing into you,’ as he put it?”

“I noticed. He must be confident to try where he wasn’t before, in the house. What does that tell you?”

James grunted. “That sort of thinking is above my pay grade, agent.”

“It means he came here for a reason. There must be something in this building empowering his abilities. Which simplifies things a little.”

“How so?”

“If you can sever the connection while he’s attempting to read my mind, it might just weaken him enough so that he’s affected by my subconscious.”

“I don’t like it. You’re assuming it’s something that can be severed.”

Faye regarded her partner steadily. “And if I just left, you wouldn’t chance retreating with me. You would faithfully fulfill your duties and distract the boy to give me time to gain distance away from here. I don’t think he’s a bad kid, but all that power in someone so unstable and immature wouldn’t turn out well for you. I can’t have that.”

Interestingly enough, James smiled in response to Faye’s somber statement. “You don’t think the ‘God of War’ could take down a scrawny boy?”

The young woman stayed serious. “Right now my brain is the only thing that can put a collar on this beast. You just make sure to do your part.”

Her protector nodded, then faced the entrance again. Extending two calloused hands, he pushed both doors open.


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