Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They’ll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them.
Sam’s a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves.
Sam slips up once. Just once, but that’s enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics, and mind readers, all gunning just for him.
Newly qualified soldier, Serena, doesn’t even know she’s chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and Gav Belias, people’s hero of the Watch, on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the rebellion with an incredible advantage, but not if they can’t get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom.
I didn’t ask to be Talented, but I am, and because of that, I endanger everyone around me. Every day. The government wants people like me under their control, or dead. So we hide the best we can out here in the shadowy and factory district. It’s hot, same as always, even in the shade. Out here isn’t much to look at—especially compared to the inner city, which sparkles like diamonds. Around me, buildings in grays and browns loom into the blue sky, blocking the vicious sun and removing the need for the transparent aluminum shields guarding the open spaces from the UV. Those are for the rich.
This area is always in the darkness. We’re part of the City, but only just. Pressed up against the inside of the Wall, this end of town really isn’t much better than the slums. Nah, shit, I take it back. At least I’ve always had a roof over my head and food in my belly, even if it tastes pretty bland. My mom made sure of that.
People in the slums aren’t as lucky. Mom moved us out to the poor end of town because of me—it’s obvious, even if she lies whenever it comes up. She had a good job back before I was born, as a teacher in one of the elite elementary schools, and she loved it. I hear in her voice how much her heart aches when she tells stories about her old students. Now, she pulls levers fifteen hours a day in a plant and can’t stand up straight anymore. It’s my fault.
I’m snapped out of my musing by a warning shout and barely avoid a speeding mini elec-car, piled high with boxes and strips of metal. A second later, I’d have been another smear marring the tarmaxx. No point in putting solar panels here, after all, so the road is far from shiny and clean. I curse at the driver’s back.
Shoving my hands into my pockets, I chew my lip and dawdle down the road. I’m not in a hurry. Medical exams are one of my least favorite pastimes, but if I want to stay in school, and damn straight that’s what I want, I have to go. Being weighed, prodded, and poked isn’t nearly as fun as going home and relaxing with a hacked satellite feed, but we do what we must, right? Since I have these checkups twice yearly, along with every other Citizen in our glorious metropolis, I know how late I can be—without getting penalized—to the second. Although, I don’t have any idea what the time actually is since I don’t even have my comm unit with me. For once, I don’t have any tech in my pockets, and it makes me feel naked and exposed.
But it’s the only way I can keep from blowing my cover.
I’m a lucky sod, for sure. As a technopath—able to control technology with my mind—I have a unique power, and I’m not noticeable the way telekinetics are. They throw stuff around with their Talent. Obvious stuff right there. Me? Hell, if I get really angry, I can cause a blackout, but it’s doubtful anyone would trace it back to me. Living in an area without electricity helps, though. Thanks, Ma.
Giving up the creature comforts for your only son is a noble thing to do, and it’s kept me under the radar for years. Off the radar and above ground, instead of locked up in a facility designed to destroy any aspect of me deemed not “useful.” So, you know, my memories, my personality, and sense of self, for a start. If the Institute had their way and nabbed me as one of their brainwashed weapons, I’d lose everything making me myself.
I should get a bit of a move on, though. If you’re not there when they call your name a third time, you get bounced off the list and marked as “uncooperative,” which isn’t a good thing. They watch the uncooperative, in case we’re considering a life of rebellion and insurrection. And I’m exactly the kind of person they’d love to catch. Besides being Talented, I do my fair share of cybercrime. They’d only have to watch me for a few days before I ended up with a hood over my head and a gun in my spine. I might not be tall, strong, or rich, but I’m definitely dangerous.
I pick up the pace a little and, rushing around the next corner, thud right into the broad chest of a watchman. I stumble and lose my balance, and then I’m knocked off my feet by a powerful and unnecessary uppercut to the jaw. I cry out in pain, rebounding off the wall and crumpling in a heap.
Blinking back stinging tears of shock, I clap my palm to my throbbing face. The brute looks down at me, pathetic Sam, crouched on the ground, wearing worn-out clothes. He spits on me, daring me to retaliate so he can arrest me and throw me in the clink. Power tripping. The Watch—military police—are government thugs, but many of them aren’t bad people. Just people with a sucky job.
This one appears to be your standard petty thug in a uniform.
Meet the Author
Tash is a 30 year old teacher candidate at UBC in Canada, although they were born and raised in the hilly sheepland of Wales (and have lived in South Korea and Chile before settling down in Vancouver). Tash identifies as trans and queer and uses the neutral pronoun ‘they’. They’re also an English teacher and fully equipped to defend that grammar! They have a degree in computer science so their nerd chat makes sense, and a couple of black belts in karate which are very helpful when it comes to writing fight scenes.
Their novel writing endeavours began at the age of eight, and included passing floppy discs back and forth with a friend at swimming lessons. Since then, Tash has spent time falling in streams, out of trees, learning to juggle, dreaming about zombies, dancing, painting, learning and then teaching Karate, running away with the circus, and of course, writing.
They write fast-paced, plot-centric action adventure with diverse casts. They write the books that they wanted to read as a queer kid and young adult (and still do!)