Mind Tamer, Chapter 1

There is nothing remarkable about it.

All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.

— Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685 – 1750

He almost ignored the sound, but the reverb made him pause.

It couldn’t be.

Yes—one mind in the crowd, echoing an unfiltered pastiche of every mental voice in its twenty-foot radius. Nearby, definitely on campus. A signature so staggering, Kyros Vassalos paused mid-sentence and dropped the marker. It made an unsightly line through the formula scribbled beneath his hand.

“Class dismissed,” he mumbled, leaving a roomful of bewildered physics students as he dashed out the door.

He couldn’t walk; he tried not to bowl people over as he ran through hallways and across the lawn, vaulted over a wall and cut through a maintenance yard. Kyros honed in on the signal, searching for the source: someone like himself, not quite human. Extra-sentient.

He felt her energy humming as he drew closer. It had an electric edge which reacted with the proximity of his, giving him a bizarre giddy feeling. Like tuning out radio static, her thoughts came clearly now. She fielded inane conversation from her peers as the unholy racket of their minds and the mental chatter of passersby battered her own mind. How could she stand it?

He heard a jolt of alarm in her thoughts, and now she was texting on her phone: Exchange on River Road at Duncan Mills. 250 kilos heroin. Black Dodge Charger license plate 4ZTA833. She sent it to the local police’s anonymous tip line.

Kyros agreed—15 million dollars’ worth of heroin shouldn’t hit the streets. Earlier today he’d heard the same Zeta cartel member mentally rehashing the drug deal. Kyros had tipped off DEA agents in Santa Rosa, who already had the drug bust covered. Now he would have to call Sonoma County PD with orders to stand down.

Kyros bustled through the exit and bounded down the stairwell, eager for the sight of her, hope warring with expectation. Practically impossible in the first place, this was probably some sad mistake—

Then he saw her. The panicked feeling evaporated. It seemed time and space expanded, a perception his brain manufactured as a defense mechanism against shock.

Amidst droves of silly girls and desperate, painted women: a lady. Mia kyría, a donna. Refreshingly innocent, old-world lovely—

Then she tossed her head back and laughed, giving a view straight down her gullet, as American women were prone to do. Chesty, boisterous, not a dainty sound.

Her vivid shade of auburn hair was bewildering. Not dyed. Variegated colors in a spectrum from rust to mahogany, a riot of ill-behaved curls hanging down her back. The last time he’d seen such a color paired with a translucent-gold complexion like hers, it had been a century or two past in Catalonia, where the blood of Spanish nobility mingled with the Slavic Roma. Uncommon genetics.

Panting for breath, he leaned against the stairwell. And stared. Couldn’t stop.

Sharp intelligence blazed in her eyes, the hue of wild sage and slanted at the corners, also a memoir of exotic ancestry. Despite her jovial demeanor, she didn’t seem quite hale, not at all. Certainly not as she should be. Her hands tremored a bit, he thought he saw shadows under her eyes, and she practically vibrated with exertion from attenuating the volume of all the noise in her head. She wasn’t doing it very well.

For the third time in the same minute, she brushed a hand behind her neck and peered sideways. A reaction to his proximity, but she didn’t know that.

He fished her name from her mind, which had no shield to speak of. Lyssa Logan. Violinist. Doctoral student, teaching assistant. Her forty-fifth birthday had come and gone, and she got carded at bars, where she didn’t drink a sip of alcohol, ever. Because she was immortal. She didn’t know that either.

Here stood the first female extra-sentient he’d seen in decades, perhaps the only in existence with the solitary exception of his well-guarded ninth great-granddaughter, Cassiopeia Noyon. Dear and brilliant as she was, Cassie’s mind gave off nowhere near the signature Lyssa Logan’s did. The energy singed his mind, but it was a stimulating sensation.

Beyond her instinctual physiological reaction, Lyssa didn’t feel his presence in her head, to his disappointment. Vulnerable, naïve, she indiscriminately broadcast the contents of her astounding brain, which to his enemies would be the equivalent of leaving a chest of jewels out in the open. Kyros could rifle around at will had he no scruples. Worse, he could destroy her, and she wouldn’t sense it coming.

She had no idea who she was.

Kyros sat down hard on the cement stairs, his knees weak. How could he let her out of his sight now? But how was he to insert himself in her life? His wave of frustration prodded her awareness, and this time she startled and looked straight at him. It was a moment’s work to reroute her thoughts, and all she saw was the railing. Wrong timing for a first impression.

She stood in a loose circle of musicians and professors outside the music building, subtly maintaining an empty space of forty inches in every direction with the exception of the boy at her side. He carried her violin case on his shoulder and placed a hand at the small of her back.

Kyros left her mind and examined her swain. Mitch Westbrook. Texan, high school football star, former special ops soldier, and oddly, the premiere upcoming music theorist, according to his peers. Twenty-eight, a man by society’s standards, but that made Lyssa quite the cougar, didn’t it? A shocking deluge of pain lurked in darker places of Westbrook’s mind—flashes of regret and fathoms of guilt. Kyros left his temporal lobe and searched his limbic system for his motives.

Respect. Discipline, to a religious degree. A dutiful protectiveness for Lyssa, which Kyros had to approve of. Westbrook had kissed her in the deli parking lot only ten minutes earlier, and the memory competed for attention with the noisy intellectual music of chord inversions in his brain.

Jealousy twinged in Kyros’ chest, but he gave it no place. Conflict, instead, racked his mind. So long had he searched for her, so badly was she needed, yet she appeared contented and well cared-for. No heroism required. In fact, were he to insert himself, he would be the interloper, the poacher.

Still, what odds! He’d come to Sonoma expecting to regret what he’d left behind, only to find the one person in seven billion he’d been searching over a century for. Kyros had lived too long to believe in coincidence.

He convinced himself he’d be content to watch over Lyssa Logan from a distance. Distracted, it took him a moment to notice her behaving strangely. Her boyfriend steadied her balance and herded her past the door into the building. Kyros flew down the stairs just as she collapsed and a bomb detonated in her brain.

Mind Tamer by Moriah Densley

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