EPIC eBook Award Finalist- 2005
When the DoPT's Alpha-One agent is sent to infiltrate the Randall family, the last thing Jonas expects is to fall for Sarah Randall. Sarah knows Jonas is keeping secrets from her, but she has no idea how deadly those secrets might be.
The Randalls and Thompsons are back in the follow-up to TYGERS. In a world where the type of power Katie and Kyle possessed is now commonplace, psi-gifted are urged to serve the government. The Supreme Court has ruled that forcing compliance is unconstitutional. Thus, major powers like our old friends are free to live in peace as long as they don't use their powers for illegal gain.
Jonas Paige was sent into service at ten, when his family decided they didn't want a freak in the house. Now, he is given what sounds like a simple assignment. He has to get close to Sarah Randall, the untalented member of the great free family, to get the others to come into service. No one has managed to do that so far, but Jonas is the best. But, is Jonas willing to accept that his bosses are using a threat to Sarah to ease his way in?
"Renegade"- Set twelve years after TYGERS and fourteen years before RENEGADE'S RUN, we see Jonas Paige at the beginning of his DoPT contract. He's a seventeen-year-old powerhouse under the thumb of Andrew Baker. Even then, Baker is plotting to use Jonas's weaknesses against him, if a renegade doesn't get to him first.
"Max-Sec"- Once, Ginny was the only human contact Alex had. Now, she's the only chance he has to be free of his past. Ginny only wants to help...and to find out where their relationship might have gone. Alex is the most powerful talent she knows. He's deadly, unstable--and sexy.
CONTENT ADVISORY: These are re-release titles.
Jonas Paige stretched his shoulders, wincing as the handcuffs cut into his wrists. Markham is gonna be pissed about this one. At least, Markham couldn't blame this screw up on Jonas. This one was indisputably the guardsmen's fault.
He smirked at the National Guardsmen left to watch his movements, two men too young to realize what they were facing. They wore mechanical shields, so they thought they were safe. Jonas wondered how they would handle it if he proved that the old 3000-series shields were useless against a talent like himself. Their boss would come strolling in to find his men playing cards with their prisoner, Jonas's hands uncuffed, their rifles at his feet, and their side arms tucked into his belt.
Jonas could do that. Even the 5000-series was no match for him. He had proven that to a panel in D.C. back in 2014. His bosses, those less powerful than Jonas was, wore E-series shields when he or Griffin was in the building. The E-series was the best shield available, a true neuro-mechanical that every president since his demonstration had worn when a talent might be close by--in other words, they wore them constantly.
It might do the military good to find out what a real talent could do, before one of these poor saps died because he trusted a 3000-series against a renegade with even half of Jonas's talent.
He sobered. Markham wouldn't want him to prove it that way. It flirted with the Renegade Act.
Jonas enjoyed the relative freedom of having Markham as his detail boss. If he broke the laws governing him, Markham would be his keeper again.
The few freedoms he had would be lost. Markham hadn't been his keeper in six years. It was a small distinction, but it meant the world to Jonas.
Of course, if Markham was still my keeper, I wouldn't be sitting here in cuffs.
Jonas shifted against the wall, earning him a suspicious look from the younger guard. He couldn't affect his own release that way, though heads would roll for his treatment. Maybe Markham would make a rather personal demonstration of their shields' ineffectiveness part of that punishment. Jonas would be first in line to volunteer his expert proving.
Who am I kidding? The DoPT would never allow that. Still, it was an amusing thought.
He would suggest a military proving to Markham. These poor saps didn't deserve to die that way, just because their bosses were clueless of the danger. Of course, even if he proved it to the military as he had to the panel, they wouldn't upgrade all the grunts to E- shields. It wasn't cost effective. Not when there were only a dozen known talents who could crush mechanical shields.
Jonas looked to one of his guards. "Can I get a drink?"
It was the least they could do. They'd taken his stash of replacement carbs, so he couldn't recarb. The shaking was severe, and it would only get worse until he carbed up or died.
Oh, is Markham gonna be pissed.
The guardsmen, like police and other military, had been briefed on how to treat both renegades and DoPT operatives. Even a renegade wasn't treated like this.
"You'll get one soon enough." The guardsman sneered at him.
"Come on, man. I've been here for two hours with nothing to eat or drink. I haven't even had a head break. Even POWs have better treatment than this." Jonas shifted, trying to find a comfortable position on the floor.
"Most POWs aren't mind crushers."
Jonas grumbled several harsh curses under his breath. His body complained loudly at this treatment. Jonas had expended considerable energy. He needed carbs, and he was thirsty. His bladder was beginning to ache. Worse, the cold, tile floor had sucked much of his body heat away in the first half hour.
He looked at the clock on the wall wearily. It had been two hours since he had been imprisoned for doing his job.
Where is Markham?
A chilling thought occurred to him. What if they hadn't called Markham? What if they hadn't even called the DoPT to report a renegade yet? If all they did was call the police, the call might have been lost in the shuffle. Jonas swallowed a lump of fear. He needed to recarb soon, and only the DoPT would force that on the guardsmen.
Jonas closed his eyes and laid his head back against the wall behind him, too tired to fight shock-state.
Markham is really gonna be pissed when he finds out about this.
"What're you doing?" The guard's voice was tinged in panic.
Jonas sighed. "Don't sweat it, junior. I'm too damn tired to hurt anyone. I can't eat. I have to sleep."
Sleep came next in Jonas's personal shock-state. He fought to normalize his breathing as his natural sensors shut down. There were no chest restraints and no psi wave. It was just sleep and his shock-state shutting him down.
* * * *
Jonas forced his eyes open. He was vaguely aware that he was lying curled up on his left side on the cold tile. Someone took off the cuffs, and he groaned as he moved his stiff, bruised arms. Jonas was rolled to his back. He smiled weakly as Markham's face loomed over him.
"Christ!" Markham ran his fingers over Jonas's cheek and settled on his pulse.
There was a pinprick of pain on Jonas's middle finger that announced Markham measuring his blood sugar with the Porta-meter.
"Christ! Didn't you give him anything?"
Another voice came from far away. "Dealing with your renegades isn't in my training."
Jonas recognized the cold voice. It was Davis, the guardsman who'd slapped him in cuffs. He mouthed the man's name with a grimace.
Markham nodded in understanding. "You've had memos, and you know he's not a renegade."
"He killed that man. That guy's brains splattered over five rows of people."
"Paige did his job. Dillon was both a renegade and a terrorist. The laws are pretty damned specific. Dillon would have killed everyone in his way. Paige was duty bound to stop him, any way it took."
Jonas scrunched up his nose at the sugar Markham pushed into his mouth. The reading must have been really low, if he started with cane cubes instead of the candy bars in Jonas's pack. Or, maybe they hadn't given Markham his pouch yet. He could be working from Markham's own stash.
Jonas sucked on the cane without comment, though he hated eating it. Beggars couldn't be choosers. Cane would keep him alive and draw him out of shock-state.
Markham nodded as Jonas's pulse started to normalize. "Send someone to the McDonald's on the concourse. One of mine. He'll know what to get."
Jonas sucked down another cube, his mouth watering for the food that was coming. It would be his usual: a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal, super sized, with a Coke, a large chocolate shake and--they know I'm hurting--a half dozen of those fresh-baked cookies. Jonas shuddered at the thought. It sounded like Heaven to his starved body.
Markham would start him with the Coke, until the shaking subsided. Then he'd be allowed to eat the rest. If the whole meal lasted more than five minutes, Jonas would be amazed.
He had a more pressing problem than food. Jonas touched Markham's arm with trembling fingers. "Head," he rasped out.
"They didn't take you?"
His groan was answer enough for Markham. His boss's face darkened, and he nodded stiffly. Markham shouldered Jonas to his feet and half-dragged him to the men's room in the hall.
Jonas kicked it into gear. He needed Markham to steady him, but damned if he'd disgrace himself by not managing his own bathroom routine. Jonas drank several handfuls of water after he washed his hands, and Markham growled his displeasure again.
Back in the room, Markham lowered Jonas into a chair and popped another cane cube in his mouth. "Okay, Paige. I've seen the tapes. Let's get your statement recorded."
Jonas nodded, grimacing at the bruises that ringed his wrists from the handcuffs he'd worn for God knows how long. "What time is it?" he grumbled, too tired to look for the clock and mindful that his watch had been confiscated, along with everything else he owned.
"Six and a half hours." It's a miracle I'm not in the hospital.
Even though mind reading was one of Markham's weaker skills, he nodded his agreement. "No care in all that time?" he whispered.
Jonas shook his head.
They'd had this discussion before. Despite the Department of Psi Talent's charter of powers from Congress and proven history, prejudice still ran rampant in the ranks of the guardsmen and police officers they dealt with. No matter how many renegades and terrorists Jonas took down, to the National Guardsmen on airport duty, the distinction between a DoPT talent and a mind-crushing renegade was little to none.
"Why did you put up with it?" Markham asked.
"You know why."
Markham nodded. He knew why.
The Renegade Act was touchy business. Jonas would have been controlling someone for his own gain, though he would have only been protecting his rights under the 2015 ruling of talent rights by the Supreme Court. He'd accepted their treatment rather than risk reprisals under the very law he upheld every day of his life.
At full power, Jonas might have fought it out and apologized later. He might have, but probably not. As it was, they would have killed him...with full support of the law. The guardsmen may have kept him weak on purpose, in fear or in hopes of making him try something that would give them the right to destroy another mind-crusher. Or, maybe they'd hoped the shock-state would destroy him for them. Any fool with the slightest training could spot the signs of shock-state in a talent.
Markham sighed. "There will be hearings," he promised.
Jonas nodded. There were always hearings. "I know." But nothing will change.
"Tell me what happened, Paige."
This part was easy. Jonas had been through hundreds of debriefs in the last fifteen years. He had been signed into the academies at ten, before the Supreme Court rulings. His family hadn't wanted a mind-crusher in the family, so Jonas had been enrolled in the Clinton Training Academy. He'd taken his first mission at sixteen.
Since his parents had signed away all rights to him, it had been a simple matter for the DoPT to get emancipation for Jonas, so he could hit the field two years early. Baker had convinced the guardians at Clinton that keeping a talent like Jonas in the training academy was a joke. It had been. The courts had no problem emancipating Jonas, so he could sign his contract and collect his keeper. Markham had been with him ever since.
Jonas stared into the recorder. "Paige, Jonas. DoPT, Alpha Two. Date January tenth, twenty twenty-eight. Mission unscheduled. Logan International Airport, Concourse Charlie."
He accepted his food from Grant, setting it on the chair Markham slid to him and taking a long drag on the Coke. "I was waiting for boarding on flight forty-nine seventy-two as ordered when I felt a psi release, class four coercion. I tracked to the source and discovered renegade terrorist Martin Dillon leaving the security checkpoint.
"A passive scan showed Dillon was carrying two weapons and had one norm counterpart with one weapon and a five thousand series shield." He drank down half of his Coke in several gulps.
"Dillon recognized me from the incident in Fort Lauderdale in twenty fifteen. He nabbed an airline employee, used a class seven hold on her, and pointed one of his weapons to her head."
Jonas's stomach grumbled, and he glanced at his food in longing. Debrief first. He gulped down the rest of the Coke and reached for the milkshake.
"By statute one twenty-nine of the Renegade Act and two fifty-seven of the twenty twelve terrorist fact sheet, I was duty bound to use any means necessary to subdue Dillon and his counterpart and affect the release of the hostage, Janice Pearson."
Jonas sucked down a quarter of his milkshake, glad to note that the shaking was finally subsiding. "I exerted a class seven break and hold on Dillon's counterpart, ordering him to turn his weapon on Dillon. Once he had nullified Dillon for me, I ordered him to put down his weapon and wait for his arrest, while I exerted a class two calming on the hostage."
Markham nodded, and Jonas sucked down another quarter of his milkshake.
"Arrest phase," Markham informed the recorder.
Jonas's jaw tightened. "The guardsmen took Dillon's counterpart into custody and took statements of fact from the airline security who had been coerced. Guardsmen Davis and Simmons approached me. I showed my badge and ID, but I was cuffed and detained as a renegade."
"I was placed in a detention room with no furnishings and armed, shielded guards for six and a half hours, until DoPT detail boss Markham arrived. In direct violation of DoPT directives, I was allowed no food or water to replenish my stores lost in the line of duty. Nor was I permitted basic prisoner comforts as allowed by both criminal law and the Renegade Protection Act."
"Show your wrists to the recorder, Paige."
Jonas pushed up his sleeves and rotated his arms to show the bruising.
"Eat your food before you collapse on me again."
He nodded and dug in. The entire meal disappeared in two minutes flat, while Markham recorded his observations of Jonas's condition and filed formal charges on Davis, Simmons and their crew chief.
When the recorder switched off, Markham pocketed it. "You ready to travel?" he asked.
"I'll grab something on the way out. Where's my pouch?"
Markham laughed heartily. "Bottomless pit. You always were. Peterson has it."
"You use a lot, you replace a lot." Jonas followed Markham to the concourse.
"You used too much," Markham chided him. Even as detail boss, he was responsible for Jonas.
"Janice would have died, and it wouldn't have been too much if they'd've let me recharge right away."
"Janice?" Markham shot him a stern look.
"You gotta stop getting personal with them. When you lose one--"
Jonas nodded as he stopped at a snack shop and started grabbing pretzels, chocolate, and Coke that Markham would put on the expense account. He made a mental note to ask for his wallet, watch and pouch in the SUV.
"Yeah, I know. Don't get close." He always screwed that one up. Jonas closed his mind tighter, so Markham couldn't penetrate.
I want to get close, close to someone.