Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Romance, #Science Fiction, #Space opera
A multi-level telepath is sentenced to living death, and her rescue is not precisely textbook. Life, death, life and a drop into a volcano.
Skiria has been funnelling files out of the capitol for years, hiding those who can pass for standard, talentless folks. Her telepathy got her a position in the government, but it also put her on their radar, and when they needed someone to fill a vacancy, she was hauled out of her apartment and given a promotion.
Tied down and given a sedentary position to keep Resicor from rising and claiming an Avatar, Skiria is slowly dying. When she finally succumbs, she is disposed of in the most direct fashion and swept off world for a mission that she doesn’t understand. All in a day’s work.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
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Tales of the Citadel Book 34
Skiria Linz sat at her desk and tried to keep her mind calm. She had felt one of the holders break last night, and she was on the roster for replacement. It was the least attractive option for her.
Skiria was dreading the possibility of having her mind mingled with any of the local holders. They would know that she had been siphoning talents off Resicor for the last four years.
She kept her head down and worked on processing the scanning information and census records. Guilt always struck her when she had to let an obvious talent go to assessment for interviews.
By the end of the day, she had processed the two that she had found and sent the sisters’ information up to assessment. The other four talents that she had located were subtle enough for her to sweep their scans under the radar, and she made a note to warn the individuals that their actions were being noticed.
She breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the day as she left work with her case at her side and her pass clipped to her lanyard.
Skiria passed through security and nodded at the guards that she recognized. Her path to the underground led her past the teashop where the attempted capture of a talent had failed just three weeks earlier.
The prickling across her mind told her she was still in the monitored zone, so she went inside the shop, got a cup of tea and headed back to the underground where agents had stepped up their observation dramatically in the last few weeks.
The tea was too hot to drink, but she held it, as she did every final day of the week. The underground was crowded but the hot tea got her the space she needed for privacy, as it did every week.
Skiria rocked with the train and got off at her stop. The monitoring prickles were fading now, but she didn’t trust it. Her focus kept the shield over her mind, thinking the rehearsed thoughts with the information from that afternoon’s workload.
Layering her mind was all that she could think of to conceal what she was really up to. Her talent for observation was on record, but the nine layers of her consciousness were her secret. Each layer swirled in a counterpoint to the one underneath to allow her plenty of time to defend against scanning.
Skiria walked home with the sensation of being watched. It wasn’t the first time and she doubted it would be the last. She needed a long, hot bath in the worst way.
Her senses slipped as she entered her apartment, the officers would never have passed her mental nets otherwise.
The captain was seated in her most comfortable chair. “Ah, Miss Linz, how nice that you are here on time.”
She blinked. “Of course I am. Why are you in my home?”
The captain stood up. “We are here to announce your new assignment. You have been promoted.”
Skiria swallowed. “I didn’t know that I was up for promotion.”
He smiled at her, and it was not a good smile. “This is your lucky day.”
She felt sick rising in her throat as the other officers surrounded her. Crap. She had been promoted.
Her apartment was sealed behind her as she was marched back the way she had come. They didn’t put her in shackles, but there was nowhere for her to go. They herded her out to the street and a long, dark transport cruised up to swallow her and her escort.
“Very clever not parking this outside.”
The captain smiled. “We didn’t want you to avoid your promotion. Not everyone reacts as calmly as you did, Miss Linz.”
Calm was not the word for it, but she kept her panic to her third circle and the polite public façade front and centre. They drove through the capitol and toward a lonely mountain.
Skiria felt the rumbling of the psychics holding the consciousness down. They were straining and the pressure was intense.
“How long will I have to acclimate to this?”
“That is outside my department. I am merely in acquisitions.” The captain shrugged.
“What will happen to my apartment?”
“All objects will be catalogued and stored. If you want anything in particular, you will be offered a chance to choose at intervals during your time underground.”
She stared out the window for ten minutes and winced as they entered a secure area around the base of the mountain. This was it; she was stuck.
With the men around her, she did something she never thought she would. She rapid-fired the messages to the endangered talents through oscillating holes in her mental structure. There was a strange look from one of the guards in the back of the transport with her, but aside from a probe on her outer shield, there was no additional press for information. The small twitch of his lips was all that proved she had been right about the contact and his inability to pry into her mind. He knew she had done something, but he didn’t know what. She was happy to leave it that way.
They drove into a deep-shadowed archway, into the mountain itself. Skiria pressed a hand to her forehead and fought the press of other minds. The pressure was strong and rhythmic, supressing outward contact and focussing down and into the heart of the planet itself.
As Skiria sat and they continued inward and downward, she felt her mind being urged to follow down into the centre, to follow the minds of the other telepaths down into the planet to hold the mind that wished to rise.
When the vehicle stopped, they eased her out as if they had known how distracted she would be. They guided her down halls, and the pressure increased in intensity until they had to carry her.
Limp and supported on the shoulders of six men, they carried her into a vaulted chamber surrounding a crevice so deep that the heat of the planet’s pulse could be felt.
Her collection crew handed her over to others who murmured softly and circled her. When they finished their initial routine, she was wearing loose trousers and a tunic and had inlets to her veins installed.
Her mind wanted to dive down into the crevice, but she held back. She fought the urge to simply give in, and she fought to surface as her keepers eased her into a chair and connected her to the taps and plugs that would keep her alive.
Once she was connected, fire flowed through her veins followed by a deep heaviness. She whispered, “I don’t want to go.”
A keeper looked at her with sad eyes. “Holders never do, but you will hold Resicor down. It is your destiny.”
Skiria looked at the woman and she knew her eyes were wild. “Help me.”
Another woman cleared her throat and jerked her head. “It isn’t our place to help you, and it isn’t your place to fight this. Join the other minds. It is why you are here.”
Skiria felt her feet on fire, and when the pain finished, there was lead in its wake. When her connection to her body had been removed, she had nothing else to do but follow the other minds into the crevice. She sought the soul of Resicor and held her in place.
* * * *
Atimmorn looked at the readouts and looked up at the keepers. “How is the new one settling in?”
The Sheewah sister with the blonde hair said, “She is fighting it, but she is very strong. She has allowed the holders one and three to take some time for medical repair and rest.”
The brunette scowled. “She is not as strong as I would like. Her mind has the initial burst, but many of the others have had the same initial success. I am not sure that she has the stamina to continue at this pace for much longer.”
Atimmorn nodded and continued the situation briefing with the information on the other holders. Five were needed at any time, and it was always pure chance that brought them to the attention of the government. The list of candidates was kept at hand for just such situations as they found themselves in right now. There were two deaths and immediate replacements had been needed. Plugging in number five had been a boon and they were able to keep the balance, but having one mind holding that of a planet was a dangerous situation, and as soon as they were up at full strength once again, he would breathe a little easier. His life depended on keeping things static.
Skiria didn’t know how long she had been floating above the bright mind beneath before she began to hear it singing. Other minds joined hers in the layer above the brightness, but Skiria didn’t mix with them. Her focus was for the mind of the world and its song
Finally. I can finally speak to you, daughter.
Surprise gripped Skiria.
You can speak?
Laughter rippled between them.
I can. Do not worry; the others can’t hear this.
I wasn’t even thinking about this. How is it that I am not driven mad?
I am whispering.
Skiria’s mind dissolved into giggles. She felt the rings surrounding her mind being held still with only the pinhole open to the touch of the planet.
How are you doing that?
I can melt the surface and you ask how I am holding your mind? Really, Skiria.
What may I do for you?
You are not meant to be here. You need to be somewhere else for what is coming. I wanted to prepare you.
Prepare me? For what?
Skiria looked around at the other minds hovering nearby. They glowed brightly and cast webs to hold the planet in, but what Skiria now realized was that Resicor was contained by its own will, no one else’s.
My dear child, you are going to die, but before you go, I need to give you something.
Bright pain seared into Skiria’s thoughts; her mind glowed white hot before it was smothered in darkness. It was anticlimactic, really.
* * * *
“She’s arresting.” Noma Sheewah looked to her sister as they moved to work on their patient.
Trala nodded. “Right. Let’s get her to medical as quickly as we can. Prepare to detach.”
Together, they unlocked holder five from the grip of the chair and the tubing that had held her for ten days.
“Well, Noma, you were right. She didn’t have a lot of stamina.” They moved in concert and lifted the thrashing body of holder five.
“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t right about them.” Noma didn’t let up on the pressure that she was keeping on number five.
Once on the gurney, they attached her to life support, but her body was completely supressed. In a matter of minutes, there was nothing left to save.
The administrator skidded in and stared at the dead body. He grimaced. “I thought she was stronger than that.”
Trala said, “We don’t know what she was facing. The project may have taken exception to her.”
“Well, if she wants her, she can have her. You know what to do.” He nodded, turned on his heel and left the med centre.
Trala nodded, uncoupled number five and Noma helped her lift the gurney as they walked it to the edge of the crevice.
Trala sighed and reached out to close five’s eyes. Noma pulled up on the darkness, and as they tipped five into the crevice, Trala let in the light.