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EOH: Star of Night - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 09/18/2008 08:33:04 PM

Chapter 1

FOLLOWING YONDER STAR

After two years of rehabilitation, it had all come down to this: a stiff, white card printed with the outline of a star. As she had been taught, Jean Grey took a deep breath, inhaling through her nostrils and exhaling through her mouth, then concentrated her entire mind on the shape. She held it there for the briefest of seconds, seeing the black lines enclosed by and enclosing white space, then she cast it with all her strength in the direction of the booth opposite her. Exhausted by the effort, she collapsed back in her chair. Her heart was thumping too fast in her chest, her breath came in short gasps, and sweat slid warm down her face and shoulders. Zener stars seemed to shine against the wall. Surely this time . . .

The technicianís tinny voice came across the intercom, "No."

The irritation, which had been acid in her belly the whole day, surged within her. Doesnít the bitch know how hard I am trying? Why canít she just lie to me and say she had sensed something? She crumpled the card in her hand and hurled it against the window between the booths. Instantly, remorse seized her, not because of what she had done but because outbursts of temper were a sign of personality maladjustment. She had to avoid that suspicion at all costs. The regs were clear about what was to be done in the case of mental instability: a partial lobotomy to remove the part of the brain that governed psionic powers. Training made a weapon of the psionís mind, and they could not risk that weapon going off at the wrong time or at the wrong person. She understood the logic, but she would not have that happen to her. She could not. As it was, there were already rumblings about pensioning her off for good, because of the chance of post-traumatic stress disorder. She sunk her head into her hands, rubbing her aching temples, feeling her scar as if it had come from a lobotomy.

She heard the door between the two booths slide open and footsteps approach the table. She looked up to see Alida Douglas standing in front of her. She was a short, round woman with a grandmotherly look about her. Her pepper-coloured hair was cut into a neat bob, and smile-wrinkles fanned out from the corners of her eyes and her mouth. She looked as if she belonged by a fireplace with children clustered around her knees. Appearances had never been more deceptive than in her case. Alida swore like a trooper and had drunk more than one beneath the table, while her appetite for young and beautiful male cadets was legendary. It was bandied about that the boys in the Academy did most of their physical training in Alidaís bed. Nonetheless, for all her roustabout ways, Jean liked her. She was a good and loyal friend, and a seemingly permanent fixture in the psionic corps.

"You need a break, Jeannie," Alida said bluntly, folding her arms across her ample chest, "Youíve been here for hours with no success. Besides, itís Christmas. No-one should have to spend it in a cold booth with only Zener cards for company."

Anger spiked up in her again. The other woman had no right to tell her what to do, and none at all to call her Jeannie! She was her inferior! By the silver badge on her uniformís lapel, she was only an empath, while Jeanís own was the platinum of the full-fledged psion. It seems that everything has changed since my . . . accident.

"Thatís what youíre doing," she pointed out sourly.

"Someone has to monitor the prisonerís shields and I drew the short straw. Whatís your excuse?"

Jean remained silent. How could she explain to Alida that she could not go home for Christmas, because her family was so very ordinary and so very human? Oh, they would be sympathetic and compassionate. They would say how very sorry they were for her loss. Her father would hug her and tell her it would be all right. Her mother would slip some extra meat onto her plate at dinnertime. Her sister would give her the number of her new quack to consult for help. Underneath it all, however, would be their deep and secret relief that a bullet had made her normal. How could she explain that?

Alida took her silence as confirmation.

"I bloody well thought so. You have none," her voice softened, "Go home, Jean. You need a rest. We can try again tomorrow."

Nodding her agreement, Jean pushed out her chair and picked up her coat. She did not want to leave - she wanted to try again and again and again - but arguing against common sense was another sign of a maladjusted personality.

"Iíll see you then," she said with a cheerful wave that she did not feel, before making her way out into the grounds. After the heated building, the night air was chill and crisp, reddening her cheeks, causing her lungs to ache. Unsurprisingly, given the temperature, snow had fallen while she had been indoors, but countless boots and tyres had already reduced it to grey sludge. Typical. Others dream of a white Christmas, but I end up with the nightmare. She paused for a moment, water seeping through her boots, looking around the grounds for her car.

However, it was the prison on which her eyes ended up resting. The concrete building dominated everything, hunkering over the rest of the MPFís complex. Most of the criminals within its walls would have been found guilty of treason and sedition and were now being held there for interrogation or execution. One or two, however, would be MPF agents who had gone rogue and who were now being reindoctrinated. She had never been assigned to a reindoctrination, but death was preferable to it from what she had heard from her colleagues. Even without her psionic powers, she thought she could feel the miasma of pain and death that hung heavy around the place. Alidaís words came back to her with new force: Someone has to maintain the prisonerís shields. No surprises as to whom she means. It could only be him. It was him who did this to me.

Not understanding the impulse that moved her feet, Jean found herself walking slowly towards the prison complex . . . .

 

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