This is an older project I’m picking at after a few months on the side. Mastermind is a science fiction and (eventual) romance story that focuses on a nonbinary telepath (or Mastermind) named Jare, zir detective partner Lucien, and Thalia, a gorgeous heiress in need of their help.
I really need to work on this some more because there’s so much potential to it so hopefully I can find what makes this click. If you have thoughts on this snippet, feel free to share them!
“Are you going to stand there all night, Jare?” Lucien asked, his voice grating the way it always is when I’m in a bad mood. Shielding as hard as I am, I don’t feel him in my head. I only heard his voice and assumed amusement in his tone.
I barely managed to bite back the desire to snap at him.
“I just got in, Lucien,” I said impatiently, jerking off my scarf with more force than the poor piece of fabric deserved. I set the scarf down in a coil on the nearest chair and turn turned to face my partner with my hands already on my hips. “Unlike some people who were out all night partying, I was up all night wrapping up a case.”
Lucian grinned. “I don’t know who those people are,” he said, “but I already have a new client for us.”
The us was new. Startling even.
Most people that came to us didn’t want the actual us. They wanted Lucien with his dark hair and pale eyes to promise them the moon and the stars while I stayed out of what they thought was the range for telepaths.
They didn’t want me.
Honestly, I suspected that most of them just pretended that I was Lucien’s slightly strange secretarial staff or an updated cleaning drone with network interfacing abilities.
The us threw me.
“A new client?” I stared at Lucien like I was seeing him for the first time and maybe, honestly, I was. “Who? Why?” I probably shouldn’t have voiced that last part with doubt heavy in my tone, but Lucien only smiled wider and gestured towards the opened office door.
“Come into my office and you’ll find out.”
“Our office,” I said, almost snarling.
But I went into the office anyway, my curiosity was always stronger than my annoyance with Lucien and he knew it.
There was a woman sitting in the good chair in the office Lucien and I were supposedly sharing. She stood up once Lucien came in and shut the door behind the two of us, shutting us all in together. Sitting, it was hard to get her measure. Standing up? Well, standing was different.
Our new client was tall, taller than Lucien in a pair of sleek black heels that made her tower over the two of us. Her hair was black as well and waist length, falling in a tumble of curls that meshed seamlessly with the inklike black fabric of her dress. Only the smooth gold-brown hue of her complexion and her dark brown eyes broke up the monotony of all that black. I couldn’t look away, couldn’t open my mouth to greet her the way I would any other client.
But I could assess her.
She looked wealthy, like she had more credits to her name than any one person had a right to. I didn’t read her, not properly, but I admitted to peeking a little. She looked so out of place in our little office surrounded by reprinted posters of old films and Lucien’s silly collection of twenty-first century toys that I couldn’t help myself.
The woman’s thoughts were enigmatic and while I could read her as easily as I could most humans (Lucien’s strange brain non-withstanding), I couldn’t quite understand them.
“Are you Lucien’s mastermind?”
Even her voice was distracting and I blinked for a second, lost in the low tone of her voice. I must have zoned off for too long because Lucien decided to answer for me, wrapping one arm around my shoulders and pulling me in against his side.
“Jare here is one of the best, Thalia,” Lucien crowed, bragging as if he was the one that decided to decant my grouping of masterminds in the labs. “Ze’s off the charts when it comes to telepathy. Zir recall rate for memories and zir range is just impressive.”
Thalia smiled at Lucien, full lips quirking upward for a moment. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from that smile. “Perhaps you should let zir speak?” Talia moved from behind the desk, coming around so that she could stand in front of the two of us. Up close, I could smell her perfume again, strong and sweet in my nostrils. I inhaled deeply, just once, and then forced myself to keep my strangeness to myself before I cost us another client.
“Go ahead, Jare,” Lucien said, squeezing my shoulder with a gentle touch that was utterly at odds with the insensitive friend that I had grown to care for. “Dazzle the lady.”
I rolled my eyes at that, but found myself smiling anyway. Lucien just had that way about him. From as far back as I could remember, he could always turn things around and have me laughing when only moments before I had wanted to cry.
I turned my attention to Thalia, offering a hand for her to shake despite my own misgivings about touch. The moment that our hands met, all shields dropped. I could feel her in my head, her thoughts, her worries, her personality in bits and pieces. This was why I rarely touched anyone. Touch always had the potential to make the telepathic connection more intense, more distracting.
Thalia blinked at me, her eyes wide.
“Oh,” she said, her voice breathy.
“You — you could feel that?”