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Chapter 1
The girl Maxine had been my destruction. As she approached me, I swallowed the stone-cold tang of fear in my mouth and hoped she would now become my saviour. What do you want? she asked abruptly while keeping those wide brown eyes I knew so well locked onto my own. For eighteen years I imagined what our first meeting would be like. In each variation she cried tears of joy

and embraced me like a father; reality, it seemed, did not share my sentiment. There was little time to dwell on my disappointment. It was dark and we were vulnerable out here in the open suburban streets. It would have been so easy to Project

my emotional energy, to take control of her mind and compel her to follow me where it would be safer, although I dared not break Second Law: Never violate free will outside the Assemblies.

So I elected to Perceive her emotions only.

sensed fear and anger within her; something had gone wrong at the party. I want to go home, Max. Lets go, okay? her

friend Julie pleaded desperately at her side. Julie had a beautiful mind. She was smart and

methodical for her kind, but most importantly she was a loyal friend to Maxine, her only friend. Can I be of any assistance? I offered stepping aside from their car. Weve had enough assistance tonight, thankyou, whoever you are- You can call me Jacob. Sure. Julie, get in, Ill drive.

They walked passed me and I noticed red blotches spattered across their evening dresses. Did they hurt

you, Maxine? I said with more urgency than I intended. Her eyes narrowed as Julie closed the passenger side door, What does it matter to you and how do you know my name? At least I had her attention now.

Everything that regards you matters to me actually, I said. How I know your name is a rather

long story, one I would like to share, but first tell me what happened in there? I asked pointing to her dress. She studied me intently for a moment and I wondered how I looked through her eyes. Did she only see the

dishevelled man wrapped in a worn brown leather coat with mismatched boots, or what truly lay beneath the facade? She slapped the corner of her dress and smiled without joy in the expression, This is what happens when raw barbeque meat is thrown at you for entertainment. My heart ached for her. It was beyond my

calculations to understand how the pair ranked so low on the social order of their learning institution. I had

been pleased to learn they were invited to this end of year celebration, fond memories of high school would lend her support in the difficult times ahead. I fought the

urge to reach out and provide comfort; I was still a stranger to her. Yeah, High School sucked, she said but its finally over. Now, how do you know my name?

Loud music resonated in repetitive patterns as the party continued in the house behind me. I looked along

the rows of parked cars and tried to estimate the time we had left. Subtlety no longer served our cause.

I have come to help you, Maxine, I said. She chuckled at first and then began to laugh hysterically, Oh that one just capped off a perfect evening. Despite my devotion to her, the threat of discovery frayed my patience. So youre not interested in

learning why you are so different? I said. Her laughter stopped and I Perceived her emotion of panic which blew over me like a cool breeze. Yes, Maxine, I mean different in exactly the way you are thinking. I dont know what youre talk- Yes, you do, I interrupted, it is okay, Im here to help you. She seemed to relax and I thought we were about to make our first real connection in person when the car horn blared to shatter the moment. Cmon Max! Julies muffled voice came from within the car. Maxine turned, Ive got to go, she said.

But wait- No, I cant handle this right now. There was logic in her reaction, yet I was disappointed at her eagerness to escape. However, such

things could not be forced, no matter the urgency. Wait, listen to me, I pleaded. She opened the driver side door and gave me a hollow stare. When you are ready for the truth, look within yourself and think of me I will come. Having never known her own kind, I was unsure if she truly understood my words. She paused for a moment, then

stepped into the car and drove away. After waiting almost two decades to meet in person, the encounter went nothing like I had calculated.

It was 4:14 am and my scheduled watch at Maxines house would soon end. I was perched on the limb of a

tall eucalypt tree at the opposite side of the street, unmoving, silent and invisible in the darkness. The house was mid-Victorian. I estimated the year

of construction to be 1870s from the gabled roof and

English bond brickwork.

The corner allotment was filled

with dense plantings of roses, climbing clematis, lavender and hellebores; I could almost taste their strong fragrance in the warm night air. My right thigh cramped from being immobile for so long. I did not permit my body movement, other than to

tense and relax the muscle, until the discomfort passed. It was then I saw the shadow. It marched with mechanical rhythm along the concrete footpath and continued past the house. I held my breath

as the figure stopped abruptly beneath the corner streetlight; a man dressed in grey suit. He raised his

head as though smelling the air, but I knew it was Maxines intense emotional signature he had Perceived. He turned and I saw his face. Part of me wanted to

leap down from my hiding place, to embrace the man I had once thought of as a brother. It had been eighteen years Then the gravity of why

since I had seen Pascal Dupont.

he was here descended and so I stayed silent and waited. I fed the variables of the situation into a Mind Calculation; my mental engine engaged and processed the most likely outcomes within moments. Only one result was

certain the Mens Mentis had finally discovered Maxines location and tonight her life would change forever.

Pascals head twitched in the Mens Mentis idiosyncrasy to Mind Calculation. would not leas him to the house. I prayed the result I drew dark glasses

from my coat pocket and pressed them firmly over my eyes. Pascal stepped toward the house and so I made my move. I exhaled slowly and focused within myself until I reached my emotion stem, the pure centre of energy that was at the core of my being. Its emerald radiance was

brilliant within my minds eye and I felt a familiar static-like crackle course through my hair at being in its presence. My vision changed as I drew on its power. It was as

though I looked through a green stain-glass window where everything I could see was defined by the various shades of that single colour. As I Projected this emotional

energy outward, green light emanated from my eyes. Without sunglasses to contain the radiance, my position would have easily been given away in the darkness. Where are you going? I spoke silently within Pascals mind. He shot an intense stare in my direction and then jumped back into the shadows. Come to me, come closer, I laced my words with a mild compulsion I had always been the stronger mind.

A pair of green eyes pulsed in response through the dark, Are you here on orders? rank. Come to me, come closer. With gentle calls I continued to lure him in. As he State your position and

reached the foot of the tree, I gently lowered myself to the ground. I relaxed my Mental Shield, only for a

moment, to allow him to sense my presence. Pascal immediately turned and looked me up and down, Jacob? Pascal Dupont, it has been a long time, I replied vocally. Why, I didnt recognise you in that drab. His Mental Shield may have kept his thoughts and emotions from me, but his physical expression had shown an instant of fear. I removed my glasses, Many things have changed. He looked into my eyes with a sharp edge that had never been there before, You are still greatly missed, my friend. I scoffed at his words. Is that why I am branded a

traitor and to be apprehended on sight?

Pascal spread his hands, The most powerful Mens Mentis leader turns against his own kind, are you so surprised? Perhaps its I who misses you the most, there

are no more worthy opponents to play Riscus with. Despite the danger of the situation, I could not help but chuckle. The three dimensional game of

elimination was a favourite past time of the Mens Mentis and a healthy rivalry had developed between us over the years. Pascals presence brought memories of a life I

had thought long gone. His eyes softened, The void you left has been hard to fill. Yet filled quickly, I said as my emotions darkened, I hear Selwyn has become Chief Executive Officer. His head tilted with another calculation, I see you are still well connected for an exiled man. Board promoted him when you left. you left. Yes, The

He was shattered when

He still loves you, you know.

I felt a slight pang of regret for my former lover but then corrected that thought immediately, Selwyn loves only one thing, power. years. He wanted my mantle for

I was once proud of my achievements as Mens Mentis CEO, yet now those thoughts only caused me to feel guilt and shame. Pascal, I did things, terrible things.

He responded with the old Mens Mentis adage, A great mind must make even greater sacrifices. It should never have been at the expense of the other Assemblies. by my hand. Now they are broken, divided, and all

We are not meant to exist this way.

He gave me a sidelong look, Was it the Vargus that changed you so much? The Vargus. An undeniable force experienced by all

who join the Assemblies it was my destiny to be the only one of my kind to experience it twice. The first

brought me to the Mens Mentis in my youth; the second brought me to Maxine when she was born. I pointed an accusing finger at Pascal, I could never let the prize be used as the Mens Mentis wanted. Pascal lost composure, And so you turned traitor to have this power for yourself! I shook my head, both at the lie and at how closedminded my Assembly had become. There was silence between

us now and I knew his Mind Calculations were cycling at a rapid rate.

Its here, isnt it? he said. I did not answer. I had spent too long keeping her

hidden to admit it so freely, even when it was obvious. Listen to your emotions, Pascal pleaded, it will be ours in the end. Nothing you or your little band of It is inevitable.

believers does will change this.

Nothing in this life is certain, my friend. We both calculated the next outcome with perfect precision. Pascal would have no choice but to report on

what he had found here and I could never permit that to happen. So I killed him. I killed a man I had known for most of my life, shared meals, laughed and travelled the world with, a man who was my closest friend and in one green Projection of my emotions, I broke his Mental Shield to reached inside his mind and destroy him completely. I watched his still form sprawled on the ground. did not allow myself to weep or grieve, not when the danger was still so close, so I locked these emotions away in a corner of my mind and dragged his body beneath a nearby cypress hedge. I would get help to dispose of I

the body once my watch was over.

As I returned to my viewpoint, the Vargus pulled at me once more. This time its power overwhelmed my

emotions unlike anything I had experienced before. Maxine was calling to me. You came, she said slightly startled as I stepped through the rose covered archway. She sat at a circular

wrought iron table in the small courtyard of the house. I told you I would, I replied. I guess I didnt know if it would work. ... looking inside scares me. The unknown can seem scary. May I sit? I dont

She pulled out the chair beside her. I sat and resisted the urge to tell her how long I had waited for this moment, how I had protected her from countless dangers throughout the years and how close she had just come to being discovered. Yet she had called me

this time and so I waited for her to speak, to allow a natural course of conversation. Whats wrong with me? she said her voice sounding very small. Her question baffled me, Wrong with you?

With me, with me inside, I want to know! she cried pulling at the neck of her nightdress. other peoples emotions. I hate feeling

I shouldnt know these things, Her hands trembled

it makes me feel so unclean.

uncontrollably, I knew there would be trouble at the party tonight; I sensed it when they invited us. to convince Julie not to go, but she wanted to be accepted so badly. She couldnt have handled whatever I tried

they planned alone, so I went along with her anyway. I was impressed at the strength in her ability to Perceive emotion. You have never spoken of this, not

even to your parents or Julie? She looked down and shook her head. quickly not to share this part of myself. cruel when youre different. I learned very People can be

Its so hard to make

friends and the few I have I want to keep. I lifted her chin and smoothed a stray lock of brown hair behind her ear. You are different, but there is I am here to help you

nothing wrong with you child. now.

She took a deep breath to steady herself, How could you possibly know my secret? Maxine would struggle with the whole truth, so I chose my words carefully. Like you, I can sense

emotions in others, that is how I knew your secret.

had help to understand what was inside me, now I offer the same to you. I can show you how to control what

emotions you absorb and perhaps a few other things as well. Would that interest you?

I held my breath as she thought on my offer. This ability isnt something wonderful or magical, its unnatural and terrifying and I cant keep going like this, she said. away. I was crushed she hated such a beautiful part of herself, Good, it is done then. How do I start? By showing me more respect than earlier this evening, Maxine. Oh, sorry about that, she said with a sheepish grin. You can call me Max, if you like. Max, I tried the name on like an exotic garment, we will begin tomorrow. Magpies began to warble in anticipation of the new day that was fast approaching. I felt her fear subside Ill do anything if you can make it go

and was pleased to have finally made that connection with her I so desperately wanted.

She failed to stifle a yawn. I think its time you went to bed, Max, I said. She watched me carefully for a moment. Goodnight, I watched

Jacob, she said and then rose from her seat.

her leave and enter the house through the backdoor; the lock caught with a sharp snap. In the predawn glow of her tiny courtyard I realised the meaning of my life was finally about to begin. And then I wept. I wept for the life I had lost, the life I had found, and the lives I had taken to get here.