Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Shhh. (02/18/10)
- TITLE: Needle in a Haystack
By Gregory Kane
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The iridium ring chafes against my collarbone. It has been my constant companion for the past seven years. I have no idea how it works. All I need to know is that it does. Idly I run my finger round its ribbed edge and wish for the umpteenth time that I could take it off. What I wouldn't give to spend just one night in peaceful sleep, free from the unremitting migraines. But the Guardians have warned us what would happen. The year before last a group of neo-Etruscan terrorists captured an agent and took an angle-grinder to his torc. Before the last spark had fallen to the floor, the abrupt collapse in neuronic flux had fried every one of the poor soul's synapses.
I pass the first door. No one is at home. The woman behind the second door is a border-line manic-depressive. Her silent cries of self-pity are like a slow drip at the base of my skull. The couple in the next apartment are in the throes of a domestic dispute. Their screams leak past the front wall of the residence, a remarkable feat given that the durasteel partition is designed to absorb up to 110 decibels. Yet I hear every anguished snarl clearly. Each thought of rage and recrimination is amplified by the iridium torc and processed by the transducer grafted into my inner ear.
The next few homes are quiet. Their occupants are watching their vid-screens, so brain activity is minimal. The couple in number seventeen are copulating. He thinks he's God's gift to womankind. She's bored out of her mind and wondering if she should tell him. I walk on by.
The youth in number 35 has logged on to an illicit gambling site using his father's credit details. He's about to burn seven thousand creds on a rigged bet when I intervene. The push is subtle. The young man blinks twice, realises what a fool he's being, and breaks the connection. I'm aware that my gift is rare. All agents can receive. Less than a handful of us can send. The potential for abuse is astronomical.
I stop suddenly outside number 53. I think I just heard her. But it's faint. A glance at my chronograph reminds me that the deadline has almost passed. The woman in 52 is on a vid-call to her mother. There's no end to her complaining and every whine is like a needle through my cerebral cortex. A couple of doors further along an overweight man is running on an exercise machine. He's furious at his boss and with every ten strides he hurls another grievance at the heavens. I sense there's a man just inside number 53 but I can't register his thoughts. There's far too much background noise. I just NEED everyone to SHUT UP.
"Help me, somebody, please!" Her actual words are swallowed by the double-glazing. But the sheer desperation in the girl's cry rushes helter-skelter round my iridium ring and plunges headlong into my temporal lobe. It's notoriously difficult to read children. Something to do with changes in the brain following pubescence. But this time there's no mistaking the origin.
I immediately flash the master pass card against the door-reader. It's scarcely clicked open before I'm inside. The kidnapper is already on his feet, his phaser drawn and energised. I'm not his intended victim: the little girl is. But he doesn't hesitate, raising his weapon and pointing it straight at my chest. His finger never has the chance to depress the firing button. This isn't a push. It's a shove with every ounce of my enhanced psychic ability. The man's brain simply shuts down, albeit temporarily. He collapses to the floor, the thud of his fall followed by the trickle of water evacuating his bladder.
I move swiftly to the back bedroom and tear the binds off the girl's body. I don't even need to tell her that I'm one of the good guys. She clutches me tightly and refuses to let go. A moment later I reach for my communicator and call control. "Tango is down," I say. "Residence 15/53. Sarah is safe."
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