Caleb 29 - Consultancy

Caleb 29 - Consultancy

Caleb 29 - Consultancy

Chapter 29 – Consultancy

I had been asleep for about four hours when my phone buzzed. Very few people had my number, and most of those that did were within arm’s reach, sharing our bed. I considered ignoring it, but it buzzed again; somehow, I heard the reality that it wasn’t going to stop buzzing until I answered it. It wasn’t a new psychic superpower. It was just healthy pessimism.

I couldn’t reach it over Jules and Amanda, who were between me and the side table where it was sitting on the charge pad. My TK took care of that though, and within a second I had it in my hand and was opening the text app to see what the emergency was.

It was Maggie.

_911 need your help. Hostage situation Waco style compound. Potential multiple juvenile deaths. Will you assist?


_Compound in Montana. Jet is enroute to local airstrip, will touch down in 45 minutes. Will you be there? Probably be wise to bring overnight stuff.

_I’ll get there ASAP.

I bounced out of bed, waking all the girls.

I told them about the texts as I threw some things into an overnight bag and tried to get dressed all at the same time. Mary, ever the practical one, told me to get myself organized and she would pack my bag.

I was ready to go in less than fifteen minutes. I was concerned that I was leaving the girls. It would be the first time that I would have been separated from them, and I wasn’t keen. I hugged each of them, not wanting to leave. There was a pounding on the front door.

A police officer was standing outside, his car idling on the road, its lights flashing.

“Caleb Stott?” he asked when I answered the door.

I nodded.

“I have been asked to take you to the airstrip,” he said. “Are you ready to go?”

I gave each of my girls another quick hug and kiss, then picked up my bag and followed the officer to his car. I saw curtains twitch on a couple of the houses around as I climbed into the cruiser, and could only imagine what the neighbors thought of me being driven away in a police car at two in the morning.

Once he was out of the neighborhood, the officer activated his siren and put his foot down.

When we got to the airstrip, the jet - another Gulfstream - was just taxiing onto the apron. It pulled to a halt and the door opened. A man in a dark suit came down the steps.

“Caleb Stott?” he asked, and I nodded. “I’m Agent Gregory Jenkins. I don’t normally work with the ESP, but since I had the jet, they tasked me with coming to get you. I’m not sure what they think you can do, but I just do what I’m told. If you are ready, we need to get moving. We have about an hour’s flight and another forty-minute drive to the compound.”

I grabbed my bag from the cruiser and thanked the officer before climbing the stairs onto the jet. Had I not already seen the Steadman’s jet, I would have thought that it was the most luxurious aircraft I had ever seen.

Agent Jenkins took my bag from me and stowed it, and then indicated a seat across a table from where he had been seated. There were some papers on the table. It was obvious that he intended to brief me on the way, and I was interested to find out exactly what I was getting in to.

He waited until we were in the air before he began, dropping an aerial photograph of an area of ground onto the table.

“This is the compound of the neo-Nazi group White Pride. Yes, they’re marketing geniuses; moving on. They’ve been living here for about eight years. It started small; a family of six moved to the ranch: Jerry Prentiss, his wife Amy, and four kids. Two were his sons - Amos and Jeremiah, fifteen and seventeen - and the two girls were hers - Felicity and Veronica, aged four and five. Over the last eight years, more and more people have gravitated to the area, illegally building more houses and enclosing the area in an eight-foot, electrified, barbed wire fence.

“Nobody noticed, since the fence was well within the bounds of the land owned by Prentiss. It was only when child services went to the house to do a welfare check on a child who had not been to school for a few days that anything was found to be wrong.

“Prentiss told CPS that they were home schooling all the children, but refused to allow the social worker to see any of them. We have no real idea how many children there are on the property, but we believe somewhere between thirty and fifty. We believe that there are thirty families living in what has become a commune, with Prentiss as its leader. When the CPS returned with local LEOs, they were told that they were not welcome, and that, as sovereign citizens, Prentiss and his crew would resist any attempts to force entry onto the compound.

“They displayed automatic weapons, although no shots were fired. The local LEOs showed a remarkable amount of sense and withdrew. That’s when we were called. As the lead negotiator, Maggie was called in to see if she could talk Prentiss into allowing CPS in to do welfare checks on the children. He refused to meet with her, only talking to her on the telephone from an undisclosed location within the compound. We think he may have a bunker somewhere in there.

“We don’t want another Waco, although we cannot let things lie. There are too many children to abandon in there, and who knows what these whack jobs will get up to. Obviously, ATF are not very happy that they appear to have fully automatic weapons, and Prentiss, who has been incarcerated in the past on weapons charges, shouldn’t have any weapons in any case; it’s a violation of his parole.

“I don’t know what Maggie thinks that you are going to be able to do, but I have been asked to get you there, and brief you on the way.”

I looked at him. His mind shouted that he had no faith in powers, despite grudgingly accepting that they were real. He’d even worked with Maggie before. He had never met anyone with anything

more than Empathy, and didn’t believe that anything less than a full-scale assault on the compound would manage to get any of the children out. I was tempted to play a Telepathy parlor trick on him, but thought better of it. The one thing I could say about the federal government, in my experience to that point, was that they obeyed chain of command. The fact that this particular agent wanted to storm the gates was irrelevant, and I had more important things to do.

I leafed through the rest of the papers in the file. There were pictures of about twenty people - all adults - who apparently lived on the compound. There were also aerial photographs of the compound and a hand-drawn map, with guesses as to what each of the buildings were. It looked to me more like a military base than a collection of homes, but that might have been just the interpretation of the person who had drawn the map.

“How long before we get there?” I asked.

“We have another forty minutes flying time,” he said.

I decided I could best use the time to catch up on my interrupted sleep, and leaned back and closed my eyes.

The bump of the plane landing woke me up, and I looked around a little blearily while I got my bearings. Agent Jenkins looked at me a little disapprovingly, but said nothing as we taxied off the runway and pulled to a stop. When the door opened, the cold air made me shiver and blew away the last vestiges of sleep. There were two black SUVs waiting on the apron, red and blue lights flashing. Maggie was standing by one of them. I climbed down the steps and walked over to her.

“Thanks for coming,” she said. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

“I wouldn’t be much of a consultant if I refused to consult,” I returned with a small smile.

She opened the back door of one of the SUVs and indicated I should get inside, which I did. Agent Jenkins had brought my bag from the jet, and he threw it into the trunk before climbing into the shotgun seat. We took off for the compound.

“Nothing much more has happened since I texted you,” said Maggie. “I have spoken to Prentiss on the telephone. He maintains that they are sovereign citizens, and they just want to be left alone. He says that the children are all fine, but refuses to allow CPS onto the property to check, and says that any attempt by the authorities to force entry will be met in kind. He will not come out of the compound to talk to me, nor allow anyone at all in.

“The two guards at the main entrance are drones. They are both young, somewhere in their early twenties. They’ve been nothing but courteous to me, but their message is clear: they will not allow anyone onto the premises, and anyone that tries will suffer consequences. From what I can see in their auras, they are fanatics willing to die to protect what they believe to be their God-given rights. The entire reason they’re being polite is because Prentiss specifically ordered them to be, and that means he’s not a complete idiot when it comes to optics. That’s bad for us.

“This has all the makings of a Waco-style tragedy, and there are kids in there of all ages. We can’t let any harm come to them. There are electric fences all around the compound, and multiple cameras covering the area. This is not going to be simple. We don’t know where any of the major players are, nor do we know if he is using the kids as hostages, or if he will do so if-and-when we breach the compound. For all we know, the whole place could be wired to blow.”

“You have spoken to Prentiss by phone?” I asked to confirm, and she nodded. “Are you even sure he is in there, and not just jerking your chain from somewhere else?”

“We can’t be certain,” she conceded. “Certainly, the phone line I used was traced to the inside of the compound, but he could have a relay set up. That scenario makes me even more nervous. If he isn’t in there, then he is much more likely to allow the whole place to go up in flames and stand back and make accusations in the aftermath.”

“Is anyone talking to the guards just now?” I asked.

“There are two agents with them,” she replied. “For now, it’s a stalemate. Tensions are low in a superficial sense, but they’re not shy about repeating all that self-defense nonsense. There are also about a half a dozen men in vehicles sitting back from the entrance. One of the pickups there has a fifty cal mounted on the back. ATF are going mental and want to rush the compound.”

“I need an excuse to go and speak to the agents talking to the guards,” I said. “Let me see what I can find out from them.”

We sat in silence for the rest of the journey until we arrived at what appeared to be some kind of command post, out of sight of the compound. I did a scan of the area and found that as well as there being a number of people in the ‘command vehicle’ and milling about around it, there were also four people concealed in the brush.

“There are a number of people observing the command vehicles,” I sent to Maggie. “I presume they are reporting back.”

Maggie nodded. “We are under observation gentlemen,” she told everyone in our cadre, “so stay within the confines of the command vehicles.”

The SUV pulled up alongside a large rig, and someone climbed out of the truck and came to meet us.

“Donald,” said Maggie in a loud voice. “This is Agent Jenkins, and my intern, Caleb Stott. He’s just here to observe. I wouldn’t have brought him, but he was already on the jet with me when I got the call.” She turned to me. “Keep out of the way and keep your eyes open.”

Donald looked at me. I could see a little surprise in his eyes, but he was a professional and didn’t otherwise react.

“Er,” I said a little hesitantly, “is there a bathroom nearby?”

“A what?” asked Maggie incredulously. “For god’s sake – you’re in the middle of buttwipe nowhere. Go use a bush if you must, but don’t go too far.”

Agent Jenkins and Donald looked at each other. Agent Jenkins gave a snort of derision, which I was sure was only half-feigned. I wandered into the bushes, not quite making a beeline for one of the observers. I did very briefly toy with the idea of peeing on one of them ‘accidentally,’ but thought better of it.

I moved to within ten yards of him and relieved myself into a bush. While he watched, I dug into his memory and found out everything I could about him and what he knew.

His name was Andy Dent, and he was seventeen years old. He and three of his friends had been tasked with observing the command center. They did not have radios, but each of them had mobile

phones and had been told to report in if it seemed that the FBI or ATF appeared to be making moves to launch an assault on the compound.

As far as he knew, Prentiss wasn’t even in the compound, but was in another location on the land about two miles away. He apparently had a cabin out there where he would sometimes take some of the girls to ‘tutor’ them. Andy didn’t particularly like Prentiss; he found him creepy, but his parents were staunch supporters. He had lived in the compound for the last two years, ever since his father had attended a rally where Prentiss had spoken.

I scanned the surrounding area and found that there were no other observers watching the command post. I didn’t want to assume that there were no other watchers, since my powers couldn’t detect electronic surveillance. I finished up and made my way back into the command post.

Maggie looked at me as I entered.

“There are four people in the bushes watching,” I said as I entered. “They are all youngsters, and they each have a mobile phone for communications. They have been told to report in if it appears we are gearing up for an assault. They are not aware of any electronic surveillance, but I can’t say that there isn’t any. As far as the one I saw knows, Prentiss is not in the compound. There is apparently a cabin about two miles to the northwest where he is currently holed up. That’s all he knew.”

“And you know all this how?” asked Agent Jenkins.

I ignored him. Donald looked at Maggie, and she nodded.

“Do you know a precise location for the cabin?” he asked me, and I examined the memories I had lifted from the boy.

“I could get there from inside the compound,” I said, “but he doesn’t know how to get there from the outside. There is a track inside the compound that leads to a trail in the woods, that then leads to the cabin. There is a track big enough for a car leading away from the cabin, but he didn’t know where it came out.”

“Can you sketch out a map of the compound?” Donald asked, handing me a pad and a pen.

I drew out the compound from the boy’s memory. Donald compared it to the aerial photograph they had and the diagram that I had been already shown by Jenkins on the plane. The buildings were all pretty accurate, but some of the guesses about their functions had been incorrect. Also, there was one building that housed an entrance to an underground bunker that the we hadn’t previously known about. The boy knew of its existence, but had never been down there.

Donald pulled out a forestry commission map of the local area. We located the cabin on it, and where the road came out onto the highway. It was on the exact opposite side of the property. The road was unpaved, and the likelihood was that if you didn’t know it was there, you would drive right by. The cabin was about a mile off the road.

“I would suspect that the road to the cabin is covered by electronic surveillance too,” said Donald. “If we go there all guns blazing then we are likely to set off whatever we are trying to avoid.”

“The cabin seems like the best point of access,” I said. “If we can gain control of Prentiss, then he could order everyone to stand down and let us in.”

“Get control?” asked Agent Jenkins. “How do you propose we do that?”

“Caleb will take care of that,” said Maggie. “Are you up for a walk?” She looked at me, and I nodded.

Agent Jenkins dropped me off at the end of the access road to the cabin. He offered to go with me, but I refused. I was nervous, but decided it would be better if I went alone rather than with someone else. If the access road was covered by electronic surveillance, seeing one young person walking up the road would be less threatening - I hoped.

What I didn’t know until later was that there was an entire SWAT team gathered just out of sight around the curve of the road. I also had my phone, to which I had attached a Bluetooth earbud. I had an open call with Maggie, so she could hear what was going on.

I made no attempt to hide, and walked up the center of the track towards the cabin. I figured if there were booby traps, they would be in the woods rather than on the access road. I saw at least two cameras move to watch me as I approached the cabin. Scanning the area, I found out that there were six people in the cabin, and nobody else near it.

The door to the cabin opened as I approached, and a young man aged about eighteen stepped out onto the porch. He was cradling a shotgun in his hands, but not pointing it at me. That, I thought, was a good sign.

“This is private property!” the boy said. “You’re trespassing. Please leave.”

“I’m here to see Mr. Prentiss,” I said. “I heard he was recruiting.” I extended a tendril into the boy’s mind, imagining him thinking that it was perfectly reasonable for me to be there at that particular time looking to sign up. He relaxed his stance a little. Just to be certain, I imagined that it would be completely impossible for him to pull the trigger on the shotgun. No matter what happened, he just wouldn’t be able to do it.

“We’re kind of busy at the moment,” he replied. “Jerry’s tied up with one of the girls. You can come in and wait.”

He stepped to one side, and I climbed the steps to the porch. When I pushed the door open into the cabin, three pairs of eyes stared at me.

There were two girls around my age, and an older man, perhaps forty. One of the girls was sitting in his lap and didn’t look particularly happy to be there.

Immediately I imagined that all of them decided that I was no threat. As the boy from the porch explained why I was there, they accepted it, and indicated a chair I could sit in while I waited for Jerry to finish with the girl.

I reached out with Telepathy into the bedroom and found two minds: one of a girl who was, again, less than happy to be where she was. She wasn’t being raped per se, but it was definitely not consensual. She had been pressured into sex by her peers, her parents, and Jerry himself. He was rutting away on her while she dreamed of the boy who she had been secretly seeing on the side. She had hoped to persuade her parents to let them marry. Legally, being eighteen, she could make her own choices, but the rules in the compound were different. Parents had far more say in the lives of their offspring until they were much older.

The other mind was Jerry. He was feeling particularly pleased with himself. He was sure that the FBI, ATF and all the other agencies that were surrounding his compound had no idea about his little hideaway. He was also sure that they wouldn’t storm the compound. The Waco incident had left a very bad taste in the public’s mouth. Jerry believed himself to be in a no-lose situation. If the feds

gave up and all went away, then he won. His credibility with his followers would climb to almost godlike status. If the compound was stormed, then, very sadly, everyone in it would die. It was wired with several high explosive and incendiary devices. He would disappear in the mayhem. The fake ID he already held, along with the money he had accrued from his followers - and from dealing in weapons and drugs, and participating in yet other illicit activities - would mean he would be free and clear and able to live a life of luxury. The only loose ends would be those in the cabin, but he had a plan for that too. The cabin was also wired. It could be activated from either his mobile phone, or a remote trigger in his car, which was parked outside. All those inside would be killed.

I decided I had seen and ‘heard’ enough. I imagined everyone in the cabin fell asleep. There was a thud from beside me as the boy slumped to the floor. I caught the shotgun with my TK. The last thing I needed was it accidentally discharging and shooting someone - worst of all me. There was another thud from the bedroom; I wasn’t sure what caused that one. When I was sure that everyone was sleeping in the room I was in, I went into the bedroom. A naked Jerry Prentiss was slumped on the floor. The girl he had been with was asleep, still on her knees, ass up, on the side of the bed.

“Cabin secure,” I said into the radio.

Within thirty seconds there were three SUVs out front, and several agents piled in with guns drawn.

They wasted no time in securing everyone, especially Prentiss. I told Maggie what I had learned about the compound and the cabin being wired. I woke everyone up, and they were surprised to find themselves in restraints and in the process of being arrested. Prentiss himself was livid, but refused to talk.

“We need to know more,” said Maggie.

“Am I allowed to dig deeper?” I asked. “Don’t I need a warrant or something?”

“Arguably,” she said bitterly. “Sit in on my questioning and see what you ‘overhear. ’ If that doesn’t work, then we’ll get the warrant.”

We went to the local sheriff’s office and booked all the prisoners into temporary custody. The girls would likely be released without charge, but the hope was that they’d be happy to cooperate. Prentiss and the older man were going to get the full press. The boy was deemed low-value, so Maggie passed him off to other agents. She told me that there was every chance he’d be released too, but that he didn’t need to know that right away. He was likely an armchair expert on the local gun laws, but beyond that, there was leverage – not just legal, but psychological. He’d been tasked with being a sitting duck inside a giant bomb, after all. I appreciated her walking me through her thought process. It appeared she was in her element playing mentor to a cooperative pupil.

In the interrogation room, Prentiss said one word: “Lawyer!”

“You are being held, incommunicado, on suspicion of domestic terrorism,” said Maggie. “As such, I have informed Homeland Security and they are en route to question you. You will then be transported to a black site facility for further questioning. In the meantime, I need to know about the devices hidden in your compound. There are a lot of innocent people in there that could be hurt or killed. Surely you don’t want that on your conscience?”

Prentiss had no conscience. He was confused as to how he had been caught. He had thought that nobody outside of the compound knew about the cabin, and didn’t think anyone knew about all the explosives. He started wondering very intently about who the mole was – or who they were, plural. That also let slip that he’d already had a man that he’d found suspicious killed.

“Yes, we know about the devices,” said Maggie, and I wasn’t sure she needed her Empathy powers to connect the dots. “Are they automatic, or who has control?”

It was unfair to say that Prentiss was an open book, but his mind was screaming. Separate and apart from the fact that he had no concept of Telepathy being real, and thus no reason to try to guard his thoughts, he simply had a loud mind. He was a grandiose bloviator inside and out, which made my job easy.

It turned out that the devices were all controlled from the underground bunker, which was accessed from within one of the buildings. It was being manned by a guy whose fanaticism scared even Prentiss. Prentiss only kept him around as security. He had been the one to actually kill the suspected traitor. He was a useful tool, but someone who needed to be controlled. Prentiss knew that even if he were to tell him to stand down, he was as likely to detonate the devices as to do as he was told.

I sent all that to Maggie. She kept up the patter while I did, which I considered impressive.

“I need to get inside that compound,” I sent.

“Too dangerous,” she replied.

“Prentiss could get me in,” I said. “If I can get close enough to the control room, I can neutralize the zealot.”

“You really want me to have to do all the best paperwork, huh?” she shot back. Her ‘tone’ was sarcastic, but also pleasant.

“I think it’s the only way,” I sent back. “If that guy in control of all the explosives is as crazy as Prentiss thinks he is...”

Maggie gave a short nod and then we both exited the interrogation room. She picked up her phone and began to dial.

“There are only a few federal judges who are read in regarding our existence.” she said. “It is one of those we need to ask to grant us a warrant. It may take a little time. They are supposed to be on call, but there’s a certain extralegal nuance to waking up a grumpy old man in the middle of the night to ask a favor – not to mention the spot check.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Powered person monitoring the judge to make sure we’re not using powers to get him to grant the warrant,” she explained with a cold smile. “Leave it alone for now. There’s only so many teaching moments we’re going to be able to cram into the festivities tonight.”

It took nearly an hour for her to get ahold of the judge, and another thirty minutes for her to brief him on the situation. She had to explain the need for me to use Compulsion on Prentiss to get him to help us save all the people in the compound. Ten minutes after that, I was holding a fax copy of a federal warrant. I read it, but didn’t really understand it.

“It is worded that way,” said Maggie, “so as not to give the game away. Where it talks about using all available means, that is giving you carte blanche to use your powers.” She stood up and moved toward the interrogation room. “Shall we?”

I followed her and we re-entered the room. Prentiss glared at us as we went in. I sent a thread into his mind. I imagined that suddenly the most important thing in the world to him was the safety of those in his compound - that he had to help us to stop the psychopath with his finger on the detonators, and make sure that all his people got out alive. I imagined that he would want to help us in any way that he could.

“What can I do to help?” he asked, seemingly unbidden.

“You can start by telling us all about your troops,” Maggie said. “Who has weapons? Who’s likely to use them? Are you really in control? If you give orders to stand down, will they actually listen?”

“Most of them are sheep,” he said. “They will do as they are told. There are probably about six or seven people who I would expect to take independent action - mostly those on the front gate in the trucks with the guns. And Dillon in the bunker. He is the one that will definitely be a problem.”

“I need you to take Caleb into the compound,” said Maggie. “Use the entrance from the cabin. Get him into that bunker without causing a fuss. Can you do that?”

“Easily,” said Prentiss.

“Once we neutralize him, then I’m going to want you to go around and disarm everyone holding weapons. Get them to all to go and assemble in the barn. Everyone. Men, women and children. Make sure, though, that there are no firearms of any kind available to them.”

“The barn wouldn’t be the best place,” he said. “There is a stockpile of weapons stored there. The chapel would be better. It is big enough to house everyone and there are no weapons there.”

Maggie looked at me and I shrugged.

“Okay then,” she said. “The chapel it is.”

Agent Jenkins drove us all back to the cabin. Thanks to the warrant, I was able to grab loads of pertinent details from Prentiss’ mind along the way; it was simply faster than asking him every single question aloud and getting a verbal response. I tried very, very hard not to dig too deeply into what I was sure were his many other crimes and indiscretions, because, as Maggie had warned me, none of it would be admissible in court. Instead, I focused on guns, bombs, troops, and traps. By the time we arrived at the cabin, I was confident that the only variables unaccounted for were which people, specifically, we might encounter once inside the main compound.

Jenkins was astounded when we removed Prentiss’s handcuffs, and again when the two of us set off together.

“Hi Mr. Prentiss, sir,” said the boy on the gate as we approached the compound.

Prentiss just grunted and looked him up and down. “Who on earth gave you a weapon?” he asked scathingly.

The boy wilted.

“Give it to me,” Prentiss demanded, and the boy handed over what looked to be an AR15. Prentiss unclipped the magazine and racked the slide back, ejecting the round there.

“Don’t you know better than to keep a round chambered?” he asked. “You trying to kill somebody?”

The boy shook his head dumbly, looking at the floor.

“Go sit in the chapel,” said Prentiss. “I’ll be sending some other folk along soon. I have an announcement to make. Go straight there, and don’t speak to anyone. I have a surprise for you all.”

The boy nodded and darted off, leaving the gate totally unguarded.

Prentiss and I continued into the compound. He had left the gun at the gate. We didn’t meet anyone on our way to the bunker. Apparently, everyone who could be, was on the perimeter fence, watching for attacks. I saw a woman and a couple of children from a distance, but we never came close enough to speak to them. When the woman saw Prentiss, she actually turned around and ushered her children in the opposite direction. By that point I had a good idea why.

We arrived at the building under which the bunker was located. Prentiss banged on the door, and stared up into the camera just above. After a second there was the sound of several heavy bolts being drawn, and the door opened. I noted that it opened outward.

There were two people in the anteroom. Another heavy door barred the entrance to the bunker itself.

“Why is there nobody on the west gate?” asked one of the people in the room. I could see that they were sitting in front of several monitors, where all the electronic surveillance fed into. I scanned the immediate area, and found that, besides myself, Prentiss, and the two watching the cameras, there was only one other person in the building. That person was directly below us, in the bunker. I also noted he was agitated. He had repeaters of the monitors down there, and he too was wondering why there was nobody on the west gate.

I decided that I needed to act. Everyone besides Prentiss and myself went to sleep. Thanks to our inside man, I knew exactly what safeguards and backups were in place. I knew I could use my TK to open the heavy door without fear of setting off any explosion – either locally, or compound-wide – and I knew that Dillon’s dead-man’s-switch check-in wasn’t for another fifteen minutes.

It was, all told, an anticlimactic romp. It certainly didn’t feel that way in the moment. I felt like a superhero unlocking and opening the heavy door with my mind, and took more than a little pleasure in Compelling Dillon, once I woke him, all the way from violent fanatic to good Samaritan. Prentiss and I watched him carefully deconstruct the dead man’s switch protocol and neutralize the bunker’s ability to trigger the explosives at all. Satisfied, I had him climb up the ladder and then put him back to sleep; he was a special case.

The others we woke up, and, with only a little psychic help, Prentiss convinced them to head to the chapel and spread the word along the way. I used my TK to lock down the bunker from the outside, just as an extra precaution.

The most onerous part of the experience was remembering to Compel each and every person we met to trust that I was in Prentiss’ good graces, and to be utterly oblivious to my flagrant use of psychic powers. I’d briefly debated using an ‘invisibility’ illusion instead, but decided that brute-force Compulsion was safer. If anything went wrong with my powers, I’d reasoned, people would be less spooked by a college kid playing intern to Dear Leader that maybe they didn’t trust quite as much as they had a moment ago, versus some stranger suddenly appearing in their field of view.

Prentiss, I’d already taken care of before we’d arrived. That gave me a template to go back to, over and over. It was draining. More than halfway through our sweep, I noticed my energy bar going into the red. Prentiss was a little surprised when I asked to stop for food, but he was essentially my pet. Just by my look and my tone, I convinced him that it was for the sake of the mission, and he rolled

over. He took me to the compound’s kitchen, and I stuffed my face with whatever was most readily available.

Wolfing down some can of something, I couldn’t help but give Prentiss the side-eye. A lot of the women and the children in the compound had acted very wary around him when he and I had approached them with the new directives. He was a lecherous creep, and everyone seemed to know it. I hoped a lot of his ‘followers’ would decide to cooperate with the feds, but I just couldn’t be sure.

The thought occurred to me just how much Prentiss had gotten away with without having any psychic powers at all – and while being sloppy and obvious about fulfilling his own base desires. It bothered me a lot, and for a lot of different reasons.

My bar just barely went green again, and I figured that was good enough. Despite the good work I’d already done, time was still a factor. The people waiting in the chapel were going to get impatient eventually.

After about half an hour we had covered the compound, including the stop for snacks. As I said, it was all rather anticlimactic in hindsight, but that was the furthest thing from my mind at the time. I felt like a gamer who’d discovered an ingenious way to make it through a dangerous level perfectly. It was a rush like nothing I’d ever experienced before, soured only a little by my growing fatigue and unsated hunger.

Apart from the six manning the vehicles by the front gate, those on guard duty outside, and the four observing the command post, everyone was in the chapel. With the six, I did exactly what I had done with those who had broken into my home. I imagined that they all simply lay down, put their hands behind their heads, and couldn’t move until they were instructed to do so by a federal agent. They all dropped as if they’d been poleaxed.

Prentiss walked out to the last two on the front gate.

“Put the weapons down, boys,” he said.

They complied immediately, used to taking his orders.

“Go wait in the chapel with everyone else,” he said. “I’ll be there in a few minutes. Okay?”

They both scurried off, remembering some sloppy “yes sir”s as they did.

“Compound secure,” I said into my radio. I felt one last heady rush – the thrill of victory. My part was essentially over. Half a minute later, Prentiss’s phone buzzed. He answered it. It was one of the observers reporting in that the FBI were all moving toward the compound. Prentiss gave them the same spiel: disarm, go to the chapel, wait.

All the adults in the chapel were arrested. All the children were taken by CPS. It would take a long time to sort out the guilty from the gullible, and I wondered if Maggie would be permitted to use Telepathy – probably real agents’, and not mine – to get it right. I showed an ordinance expert from the military into the bunker and unsealed the door for him. It would also take him and his colleagues a long time to render the entire compound safe. To that end, pretty much every agent not on the bomb squads was given the bum’s rush as soon as it was confirmed that all suspects and civilians had been accounted for. I got a few gruff thank-yous on my way out, and figured I was probably lucky to even get those. I did get annoyed, but I also knew that that was the fatigue and hunger talking. I certainly didn’t want to hang around while bomb squads were actively disarming bombs, either. Still, the rush had worn off, my energy meter was back in the yellow, and I was ready be

taken home, not just shooed away. After a few minutes of waiting around, I began to think something was wrong with my HUD. I didn’t feel ‘in the yellow.’ I felt dead on my feet.

Maggie approached me, and surprised me by pulling me into a hug.

“That was amazing,” she said. “Not a shot fired, not a single person injured. We seriously couldn’t have achieved that without you. There is a hotel room waiting for you in town, and the jet will fly you back after breakfast in the morning. I’m booking you thirty hours of duty time for this op.”

Agent Jenkins was on babysitting duty again, and he took me to the hotel in town. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was clean and comfortable.

“Caleb,” he said as I collected my bag from the car and turned to go into the hotel. I turned back to him.

“I have never seen anything like what you did today,” he said. “I always thought you Psi guys were just very good at reading people and getting in people’s heads. What you did was incredible, and scary, and I’m glad you’re on our side.” He held out his hand. “It was good to work with you. Maybe we’ll work together again?”

“I hope so,” I said. “I’m hoping to join next year once I graduate.”

“You mean you’re…”

“Just a ‘consultant,’” I said.

“And you went in there alone,” he replied, “unarmed, and not even a full agent?”

“I wasn’t exactly unarmed.” I grinned at him, and he smiled weakly back.

“I guess not,” he admitted finally. “Oh, by the way, Maggie says order what you want on room service. She seems to think you need fattening up.”

“That’s grandmothers for you,” I said, and he gaped.

“She’s your…”

I turned and walked into the hotel. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to have let that little tidbit slip, but I was hungry and tired. Exercising good judgment about such small stuff literally offended me – and again, even though I knew that was my fatigue and hunger talking, they were talking very, very loudly.

I think the desk clerk who took my room service order must have thought I had a party going on in my room. She came with two extra staff, just in case they had to lay down the law.

“Is something the matter?” I asked as they came into the room.

“No, not at all,” said the desk clerk, blushing. “I just wanted to check we got your order correct. That is rather a lot of food for just one person.”

“I’m a growing boy,” I said grinning at her, and she looked me up and down.

“I see that,” she said, smiling again - that time with a clear invitation. I knew that my girls wouldn’t mind, but it still didn’t seem right to me. After they delivered the food, I bade them all goodnight and closed the door behind them.

I ate everything, and, unsurprisingly, it made me feel much better. There was even a brief, five minute window where my body wasn’t screaming at me to go to bed. It was enough time for me to relieve myself and strip off my clothes, but not enough to even brush my teeth.

It was exactly four in the morning when I woke again; habits can be a bit of a pain. I got up and did a couple of hours of martial arts in the corridor outside my room. There wasn’t enough space in the room itself, and I kept it quiet. They served breakfast starting at six thirty, and as soon as I could I went to eat. I was sitting eating when Maggie entered the breakfast room, looking tired.

“You stayed here last night too?” I asked.

She nodded.“I didn’t get in until after two though,” she half-yawned. “I had a mountain of paperwork to go through. I’m flying back with you to Oregon. We’ll be leaving in about an hour. Are you ready?”

“Sure,” I said. “I just need to finish breakfast.”

“After what you put away last night?” she said, amazed. “Is it really that inefficient?”

I shrugged, much less inclined to take offense at every little thing than I had been the night before. “It gets better with more training,” I said. “Compulsion’s the hardest one to work on… legally.”

Maggie tilted her head, graciously conceding the point. I cleared my plate once more and considered whether to go for another helping. Eventually I decided against it. I went back to my room and packed my stuff. I was waiting in the lobby when Maggie came down. There was an SUV waiting to take us back to the airport.

“Since you have already missed this morning’s classes,” she began, “can you come and see if you can help with that training Dianna was asking you about? I’ll book it as a separate job so you’ll get paid again.”

“Sure,” I said. While the money was nice, I wasn’t really doing it for that.

Maggie dug into paperwork during the flight. I understood there was an open offer for more mentoring, but I silently communicated that I preferred to doze. She took no offense. After we landed, a car was waiting to take us to the office, and we arrived there just after eleven.

Agent Gracie Jordan was waiting for me in reception.

But for the badge and the dark suit, I would never have pegged her for an agent. She was short and slim with moderate-sized breasts. Her black hair had dark blue highlights, though you had to look twice to notice them. It initially looked like her hair was so ‘black’ that it shone blue. She had overly-large green eyes, and a cute button nose that made her look the epitome of an innocent. I wasn’t fooled. She batted her eyelashes at me as we were introduced, and I could hear what she was thinking.

“Won’t James, your boyfriend, be upset about that?” I asked, looking her in the eyes.

“Damn,” she said, blushing. “Can’t a girl have any secret fantasies?”

“Only if she doesn’t scream them from the rooftops,” I answered with a grin.

She grinned back. “Come on,” she said, turning around and leading me to the elevators. “Arnold is waiting.”

Arnold, it turned out, was the accountant whose memories I was about to try and force-feed into Gracie. I had an errant thought that there was something else I would quite like to deposit in her, and just at that moment she caught my eye. It was my turn to blush.

She grinned. “Won’t your girlfriends be upset about that?” she echoed at me.

I shook my head. “They might want to join in, though.”

Gracie’s pupils dilated; I could see that that idea definitely didn’t repulse her.

We arrived at our destination: an office on the fourth floor. An older gentleman in a pinstripe suit was waiting for us inside. He stood as we entered, holding his hand out to me.

“Pleasure to meet you,” he said. “I’m Arnold Crebbins, senior accountant. I am told that you will be able to take all my accountancy knowledge and stuff it into Gracie’s head.”

“Stuffing it in is easy,” I replied. “Making it stay there and not leak out her ears again is the difficult part. From your perspective, it should only take a few minutes to lift the information I need. For the rest, I have no idea.”

“But you think you can do it?” asked Gracie anxiously. “If I can’t do this, the op is a bust and a year of work has been wasted.”

“I’ll do my very best,” I said, “but several words of warning. First, I will have unlimited access to your memories, including your personal ones. Whatever is stored in your short-term memory I will have to look at. So, if you and James, or anyone else, got intimate recently - say, in the last few days - I’ll see that.

“Second, it took me over twelve hours to assimilate the information I took on board. I have no idea how long it’s going to take when it’s not my own mind. We might be here a while.”

“Anything you see or hear will be kept in confidence?” asked Gracie.

“As long as I don’t see an imminent danger to yourself, or others,” I replied, “nothing I see will ever be shared with anyone else.”

She looked a little uncomfortable, but then steeled herself. “Okay then, let’s get to it.”

I looked across at Arnold. “You ready?”

He nodded. I found the relevant memories easily. They were largely chunked together and meticulously organized. It was an odd thing to think, but I did: he had a very nice brain. I guesstimated there was just over two years of learning. I took all of those memories, and then looked at Gracie.

“Ready?” I asked her.

She grimaced a little, but then nodded. I gave her the memories. I saw her eyes glaze for a moment, and then her face cleared.

“Is that it?” she asked. “It feels just like it did when Dianna did it, but those memories faded.”

“No,” I said. “Now is when the hard work starts. At least for me it does. Get comfortable. Arnold, your part is done. It’s up to you if you stay, but it’s going to be pretty boring.”

I didn’t wait to see if he stayed or left. I just turned back to Gracie and got on with the job.

When I entered her mind, her short-term memory was an absolute shambles. I remembered how mine had been before I had retrained it. I looked around for a moment and tried to find some order in the chaos. I knew there had to be some; otherwise, she’d never have been able to transfer anything to long term memory at all. I finally saw the memories that were being filed away. I moved over to them, and began filtering through.

I tried not to look too closely at anything not related to the accountancy training, but it was difficult. I saw her having sex with her boyfriend; he seemed to like to dominate her, and he slapped and spat at her during sex. It wasn’t my thing. More concerning to me was that it didn’t seem to be her thing either. I slowed down my processing of her memories and paid more attention to what was going on in their relationship. Her boyfriend – and I hesitated to even use the word, as little as I’d seen – James, was a bully. He shouted at her, constantly denigrated her, and when she stood up for herself, he became violent. I found it interesting that an FBI agent allowed herself to be abused in such a way. I noticed that she would pander to him to keep him in a good mood, waiting on him hand and foot, and allowing him to abuse her in the bedroom.

They had been together for over two years, and he had gradually worn her down until she felt completely worthless - that she deserved the treatment he meted out.

I immediately thought back to the cult. The extent to which Norms could psychologically manipulate each other – and be manipulated, in turn – was shocking to me. I was outraged by James’ behavior, of course, but I don’t think the situation would’ve bothered me in quite the same ways if I hadn’t had powers. There was something that felt especially wrong about Norms having that kind of power, and being able to wield to it such great effect - even when, from the perspective of somebody training to use actual psychic powers, they looked and sounded like a bunch of tantrum-throwing toddlers trying to get a new toy.

I knew the uncomfortable feelings weren’t going to go away, but I had a job to do. I took a deep breath and tried to refocus. I stopped looking at those ugly memories and went back to doing what I was supposed to be doing. I had gotten about halfway through when I vaguely felt a hand on my arm. I pulled my awareness out of Gracie’s mind and looked around.

Dianna was beside me. “It’s past six,” she said. “Both of you should be getting home. How far did you get?”

“I’m about half done,” I said, “but can you give us a few minutes, please?”

Dianna looked at Gracie and then at me and nodded. “I’ll be back in fifteen. I got the task of driving you home.”

I turned to Gracie, and she looked at me with wet eyes.

“You promised,” she said, seeing from my expression what I had seen.

“Lift your top up,” I said.

Her eyes widened. I saw a fleeting thought that I was blackmailing her to expose herself to me, but then she realized why I was asking. She didn’t lift her top. She didn’t want to show me the bruises. He was careful not to mark her where it showed.

“He doesn’t mean it,” she said.

“How many abused women have you heard that from?” I asked. “Surely, they cover this in your training? I promised that except in the case of imminent harm to yourself or someone else I

wouldn’t share what I learned. You know he is going to cause you permanent harm one day. You also knew I would see that. What did you expect I would do about it?”

“I… I didn’t think…”

“Now you know I know that’s not the truth,” I said gently. “You could have gone to Dianna or Maggie with this. You should have. Either of them would have been able to take your memories and see what was happening. They could have, would have, and will help you.”

“I thought you could make him stop,” she said almost in a whisper. “They said you had Compulsion. I thought that you could make him love me as he should, and not…” a tear rolled down her cheek.

“You know I can’t do that,” I said quietly. “Don’t you?”

She nodded, eyes downcast. “I just hoped…”

“You need to tell Dianna,” I said. “Share those memories with her. Let her help you.”

“She’ll take me off the op,” she said. “All that work, wasted.”

“Not necessarily,” I said. “But even if she does, then does that really matter? Surely your own wellbeing is more important that some financial wrongdoing?”

“It’s not financial,” she responded. “I just need the cover to get into the organization. But I can’t really talk about that.”

I smiled at that, and she grimaced, realizing the irony of that statement.

“Your welfare comes before any investigation,” I said. “At least it does to me. You need to tell Dianna. Who knows? Maybe going undercover for a few weeks might be the opportunity for you to get away and get some perspective.”

Dianna came back into the room. She could see from our auras that there was some tension between us, but not what it was.

“What’s going on?” she asked, looking from Gracie to me. I looked at Gracie pointedly. She dropped her head, looking at the floor, but nodded. I sent the memories of the abuse to Dianna. Her eyes glazed momentarily and then widened.

“How long?” asked Dianna.

I waited to allow Gracie to answer.

“We’ve been together about two years,” she said. “It started just about a year ago. At first it was just a little bit of role play in the bedroom, and then it escalated. Now…”

“Okay,” said Dianna. “You know we can’t act on our viewing of your memories alone, so you need to make a statement. I’ll get one typed up from your memories, and then you can sign it. Have you ever sought medical attention?”

Gracie shook her head.

“She has visible injuries now,” I said.

Dianna looked at Gracie before turning to me. “Caleb, would you wait for us here please?” I nodded.

Dianna stood and indicated for Gracie to follow her. I sat twiddling my thumbs for almost an hour, though I did use some of that time to catch the girls up on everything over the bond.

“Are you going to be home for dinner?” sent Mary.

“I think so,” I sent just as my phone buzzed with a text from Dianna.

_Come up to Maggie’s office.

When I got there, Dianna, Gracie and Maggie were all seated in the meeting chairs. There was another woman there, who turned out to be a physician. She had apparently examined Gracie.

Maggie looked at me. “You’ve opened a can of worms, Caleb.”

I opened my mouth to justify my actions, but she held up her hand.

“It needed opening,” she said. “No woman should have to put up with that. I am ashamed that a woman under my command has been subjected to such, and I never saw the signs. The problem is that, given the scant evidence - a statement from Gracie, plus some superficial bruising that might’ve happened on a training mat - no DA would prosecute. Even if they got a conviction, the sentence would be probation at best.”

“So, what do we do?” I asked.

Maggie ignored the question. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said to the woman in an obvious dismissal. The doctor nodded, stood, and left the room.

“Gracie,” said Maggie. “The way forward is up to you. My advice would be to get away from him. I can have a restraining order against him in hand in thirty minutes. You are a young, successful, woman who deserves better. I’ll add to that that you’re quite pretty. It may not seem professional to say, but I imagine that that sorry excuse for a man has been gaslighting you about that too. It’s all up to you though.”

“What about the operation?” asked Gracie.

“If Caleb can sort out your memories,” Maggie said, “then I see no reason for it not to go ahead. This doesn’t affect that. Your performance hasn’t suffered, yet, because of this situation. It will though. You can’t go on forever like this. Do you have somewhere to go?”

Gracie shook her head, and Maggie looked at me. “I know we don’t own the house anymore,” she said, “but you do still have a spare room or two, don’t you?”

I checked in with the girls, asking their opinion. As I’d suspected, they were fine with it.

Gracie took my hesitance as reluctance. “I can always…”

“It’s fine,” I said. “I just needed to check in with my girls. It’s their home too. You need to get anything before we head home?”

“No,” she said. “I always have a go bag in my car.”

Dianna grinned. “And it saves me a trip. You can take Caleb home.”

“What are you going to do about James?” I asked.

“Let’s do nothing for now,” said Maggie. “Let Gracie have some time to think about things and make some decisions. She needs to be away from the situation and concentrate on her case. Once that is

done, things may be clearer for her. We will support her, whatever she chooses to do. If she needs our help, she can ask for it.”

Gracie nodded and stood. “Are you ready to go?” she asked me, and I stood also.

We walked through the building and out into the parking lot in silence. She led me to a compact car, and opened the trunk for me to throw my bag into. I got into the passenger seat.

“You’ll need to give me an address,” she said, her fingers hovering over her sat-nav. I obliged and we set off.

“Are you okay?” I asked after we had been driving for about five minutes in silence.

She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye. “I guess so,” she said in a tired voice. “Now that it’s all out in the open, I just feel stupid. I’m a federal agent. I carry a gun, and a badge, and have a black belt in Taekwondo, and I let that jerkoff abuse me. I never even defended myself. What was I thinking?”

“I have no right to comment,” I said. “When you think you are in love, reason goes out of the window. I guess the first step to dealing with it is admitting that it is happening. Do you think he will change?”

She snorted. “Never! They never do. What comes out under pressure is the true person. He has shown me his true colors already. I think the best way to deal with him is to dump him and move on with my life. Fortunately, I moved in with him. At least I don’t have to try and force him out of my apartment. I let my apartment go, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a new place. I’ll just need to get my stuff from his place when I’m ready.”

“How do you think he will take that?” I asked.

“I actually don’t care,” she said. “Like I said: I have a gun, a badge and a black belt in Taekwondo. My days as a punching bag are over. Let’s see him try something, and I’ll have him on charges of assaulting a federal agent, as well as showing him I can fight back.”

“Well, if you need some backup,” I said, “let me know.”

“I will,” she said. “Thanks.”

We arrived at the house, and she was suitably impressed.

“Wow,” she said. “This beats the student accommodation I had to endure.”

I led her inside and introduced her to the girls, all of whom hugged her in welcome.

“I’ll go and show Gracie her room,” said Jules. “You need to start dinner; we’re starving.”

Jules and Gracie went off, followed by the twins, and I went into the kitchen.

I decided on lasagna for dinner – who doesn’t love lasagna? – and, after checking Gracie wasn’t vegetarian or had allergies, set to work. Forty minutes later, we were all around the table enjoying dinner. The table once again was almost full; with Josh, Louise and Gracie there were seven of us. I decided I liked that. It felt like being part of a large family and that appealed to me. It hadn’t been how I’d grown up, but I’d never gotten attached to the idea of being the only child and the center of attention.

As we were eating and chatting, Gracie was trying to come to terms with our living arrangements.

“So let me get this straight,” she said to Jules. “You, your sister, Mary and Amanda are all in a relationship with Caleb?”

“Not quite,” said Jules. “It’s true that we are all in a relationship with Caleb, but we also have relationships with each other. I love Mary and Amanda, as does Ness.”

“And where do Josh and Louise fit in to all this?” asked Gracie, unabashed.

Louise was equally unabashed in her answer. "We're just fuck buddies." she said. “Josh and I are together, but we sometimes have sex with Caleb and the girls.”

“You have sex with Caleb?” asked Gracie, eyes wide, “and Josh and the girls are okay with that?”

Louise grinned. “Josh and I both have sex with Caleb, and with the other girls. We don’t discriminate.”

I kept my head down and applied myself to my meal, which I was enjoying immensely.

“Don’t worry,” said Jules. “You are perfectly safe here. Just because this lot are a bunch of debauched hedonists doesn’t mean you’re in any danger.”

What I was feeling from Gracie wasn’t anxiety or feelings of being at risk though. The more she talked and found out about our living arrangements, the hornier she was becoming.

After dinner, I suggested to Gracie that we might do some more work on her memories, since I reckoned that I could get another chunk set aside that evening and possibly get the rest finished off the following day. I was going to have to go to PSU and catch up on my classes during the day, but the following evening could potentially have been the end of it if we used our time wisely. Once we were done, she could go get tested by Arnold.

I grabbed a couple of beers out of the fridge. Since Christmas, I had used my ‘illusion’ to buy beer, as I had gotten into the habit of having one in the evening on the deck. I guessed Pops had affected me in that way, and although the view from my deck wasn’t anything close to the view from his, I enjoyed a quiet hour out there most evenings.

That night, though, I sat on the sofa, and Gracie sat on a chair. The twins sat on either side of me snuggled in, and Jules curled up on my lap. I couldn’t have been happier. Once again, I focused my consciousnesses inside of Gracie’s mind, and, once the visuals cohered, I resumed sorting through her memories. The girls chatting to each other and watching mindless television washed over me as I worked; I was almost oblivious to the outside world.

Gracie’s mind was the focal point, but I spared another thought for how well-organized Arnold’s had been. It did make the process easier. Daisy was a bright girl, but her memories had been more scattered – more linked to others that were superficially irrelevant, and full of more interruptions, even after having been processed into long-term storage.

After about two hours, I surfaced, having had enough for one night. I guesstimated that there was probably about a third of the memories left to sort. Provided I got to them within the next few days, I didn’t think she was in danger of losing them.

I extricated myself from the girls and turned in for the night. Once again, I dreamed. In my dreams, I sorted memories, only that time not in my own head. It appeared that once I set my mind to a task, it would continue with that task when I was not using it for something else. Since I was asleep and not using the resource, my brain decided to finish off the task of sorting out Gracie’s memories for

me. That seemed like a good deal to me. By the time my bladder woke me up at four, they were all done.

I was just about to go out onto the deck to start my morning routine when Gracie came into the kitchen, gun in hand.

“Caleb!” she exclaimed. “What the fuck? It’s four in the morning! I thought there was an intruder.”

I grinned at her. “Morning. This is my normal wake up time. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

She sighed. “Truth be told, I didn’t sleep much,” she said. “So many things whirling around in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about James and what to do, and…”

“And?” I asked since she had stopped suddenly.

“And I was horny as hell from last night,” she thought, but said nothing.

“Fancy working off a bit of stress?” I asked her, and her eyes widened.


“Sparring,” I clarified. “You said you were a black belt. It would be good to test my skills.”

“Now you are just teasing her,” thought Mary, who for some reason was standing at the kitchen door, watching us. “She needs something physical that doesn’t involve fighting.”

“I couldn’t take advantage of her like that,” I thought. “She is still so…”

“She wants you,” Mary returned. “She is pissed at James, yes, but she’s not as screwed up as you think.”

Gracie turned and noticed Mary in the doorway.

“How about a competition?” said Mary.

“Competition?” asked Gracie.

Mary grinned and nodded. “Winner goes on top!”

“Mary!!” I said blushing furiously.

“What’s the matter,” taunted Gracie, “don’t think you can take me?”

I looked from Mary to Gracie. I got the feeling that there had been ‘conversations’ going on while I’d been busy last evening and not paying attention.

“It’s not the sparring I’m worried about,” I said. “I’m not sure you’re in the best state to make other kinds of decisions right now.”

“Caleb,” Gracie said, “I’m not a child. I know James treated me badly, and I’m putting him behind me. I’m not angling to join your cabal; I just need a good fuck. Your girls tell me you are, and they don’t mind me borrowing you for a short while. If I have to beat your ass to get you to fuck me, then I’m okay with that.”

“And you think you can?” I asked with a smile. “Knowing what I can do?”

“That’s just it,” she said. “I don’t know what you can do - but I’d like to find out.”

“It’s too cold to be out in the yard in any case,” said Mary, “and you can’t spar in here. Why don’t you save that for later, and just take Gracie back to her room and show her?”

“What about you and Amanda?” I asked. I still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of going off separately with someone outside of our family. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Mary or Amanda having sex with someone else if I wasn’t there.

“Then bring her to our bed,” she said, reading my aura. “Jules is fine with it. We would love to watch you make her feel good.”

Gracie’s eyes widened at that.

“Your bed?” she asked uncertainly. “With all of you?”

“We wouldn’t join in,” said Mary gently, “unless you wanted us to.”

“I’ve never…” said Gracie.

“Stop,” I said to both of them, but mostly to Mary. “You’re putting all kinds of pressure on her.” I turned to Gracie, “I’m…”

She shut me up with a kiss that could have boiled water. I could feel her body pasted up against mine. She was wearing only a thin t-shirt, which I presumed she slept in, since she had gotten up to investigate what she’d thought was an intruder.

I could feel her nipples pressing into my chest, even through my sweatshirt, and she ground herself against my suddenly-rampant erection.

“Let me go put this away,” she said, indicating her gun, which was still in her hand. “If the invite is still open, I’d love to join you in your room.”

Mary smiled at her, and they walked off together.

I went back to my room. Jules and Amanda were both awake, despite the early hour. Amanda was grinning. Jules smiled at me.

“It’s about time,” she said.

Mary and Gracie entered the room. There was no doubt that Gracie was beautiful - not as beautiful to me as the twins or Jules, but she was definitely up there. Her hair shone in the low light, the blue highlights accentuating the darkness of her natural color. At least I assumed it was her natural color; I guessed I might be about to find out.

Gracie walked up to me and looked up into my face. “Are you okay with this?” she asked. “It seems to me that you are the one who is being pressured here, not me.”

I smiled at her. “How could I not be okay with the prospect of being with such a beautiful woman?” I asked.

I leaned down a little and we kissed again. While we did, I stroked the back of her neck, which she apparently liked, as she purred into my mouth. I traced my hands down her back until I had two hands full of her pert rump, and I lifted her. She wrapped her legs around me as I turned and carried her to the bed, laying her down beside Amanda, who had Jules behind her.

She scooted up the bed and I crawled up above her, maintaining the kiss.

“Let’s start with just you and me, okay?” I whispered in her ear. She shuddered and nodded.

I gently removed her t-shirt. Even in the low light I could see the marks and bruises on her body where she had been abused, and I mentally cringed. I tried not to let it show, although I did hear Amanda gasp. Fortunately, Gracie didn’t hear. I thought that she might become self-conscious if attention were drawn to her injuries.

I began to explore her body with my fingers, lips and tongue. I linked myself in with what she was feeling so I could feel what she felt, and could quickly learn where and how to touch her. As usual, I started at the top, kissing and nibbling at her lips before moving on to her neck, kissing down each side and caressing the other simultaneously. When I reached her breasts, I found they were extensively bruised and very tender, so I kept my touch light and gentle. Her nipples were extremely sensitive though, and were standing proud, a good quarter-inch long and stiff. I rolled one gently between my lips while repeating the action on the other with my fingers, and she moaned.

I continued my exploration, moving south, kissing and caressing down her sides and her belly, once again being careful around her bruises and tender spots. I briefly dipped my tongue into her navel, which caused her to giggle a little.

I carried on south, kissing down her legs and thighs.

“Don’t tease me,” she moaned when I skipped past her pussy. I took the note.

I kissed back up the inside of her thighs as she spread her legs for me until my face was a mere inch from her pussy. It was inflamed with a lust I could see, feel, and smell. I took in her scent, which was sweet with a little spice. I blew a breath across her pussy and her breath caught; I could see her clit standing proud, already poking its head out from under its hood, ready to receive attention.

I moved closer, running my tongue up the length of her lips, and she moaned. I repeated the action before sucking her outer lips into my mouth and lapping at them. On the next pass I split her lips, running my tongue from her base all the way to her clit, taking a moment to dip my tongue into her opening and swirl it around a little. Gracie whimpered with need, pressing her pussy forward to increase the contact.

I decided then that teasing her any more would be unkind, so I began to devote my lingual attention to her, lapping up her juices and licking all the way up to her pleasure button before circling it a couple of times and going back down to swirl my tongue in her opening.

Gracie thrust her hips forward again, and I let her press against my face as tightly as she wanted. I moved back up, taking her clit in my mouth and beginning to play with it. I lathered it as I brought my hand up and gently slid a single finger inside of her. Her pussy wasn’t particularly tight, and I added a second and then a third finger, moving them in and out of her and curling them to find the sweet spot just inside.

She moaned again, humping my face. I felt her hands flutter at her sides. She so wanted to hold my head, to force me into sucking her pussy until she came, but she dared not move. James would have been angry had she done that to him.

Keeping one hand pumping in her pussy, I gently took one of her hands with my other and placed it on the back of my own head, encouraging her to take what she needed from me. Once she got the idea, her other hand joined the first and she began fucking my face with abandon. I kept pumping my fingers in and out of her while I savaged her love button with my tongue and lips, feeling her climbing towards the inevitable.

I decided that a little stimulation of her nipples would be enough to take her over, and so with my free hand I reached up and gently began to roll and tweak her nipple. I used my TK on the other to replicate those sensations. I figured she was too far gone to realize that I didn’t have enough hands to be doing what I was doing to her, and I was right. I didn’t know if she would’ve cared regardless, but I didn’t want her thinking that the girls had joined in without permission.

Gracie arched her back and squealed as her orgasm hit her. She continued to grind into my face and I continued the stimulation, letting her ride out her orgasm as I felt her pussy throbbing and spasming on my fingers. I eased off as I felt her coming down, and relaxed completely just at the point where my stimulation would have been too much for her to bear. I placed a last gentle kiss on her pussy, and she looked down at me.

“Come up here and fuck me,” she said.

I climbed up her body again, taking care not hit any of her sore spots. As I got back up above her, I felt a twinge of fear in her. Having me looming over her reminded her too much of James and how he would hold her down. I immediately slid off to the side and lay on my back beside her.

“How about you do some of the work for a change?” I joked with her.

She realized what had happened and smiled a little ruefully. “There are no secrets with you, are there?” she asked.

“Not when you shout them from the rooftops,” I said. “I promise you I’m not looking, but sometimes your thoughts are so loud I can’t help but hear them.”

She rolled on top of me, trapping me between us and resting her head on my chest. I felt her wince as she squashed her own sore breasts against me, but she didn’t move off. “How is it that someone so young can make me feel so good, and so safe?”

I put my arms around her, holding her gently.

“I’m older than I look,” I said with a small smile.

“I hope so,” she grinned, “or I’m going to jail.”

I chuckled at her. “Hey,” I said, “I don’t look that young!”

She tilted her head up and kissed me. Then she wriggled her hips a little, and, by some female magic, I was inside her. I wasn’t sure how she had managed it, but I wasn’t complaining. Her pussy certainly wasn’t the tightest I had experienced, but it was hot and slick, and it felt really good as she ground her hips against me.

“I hope you don’t mind not using a condom,” she said. “I promise I’m clean and I’m on birth control. I hate those things.”

“I’m not a fan myself,” I said. “I’d use one if you wanted, but I much prefer to feel the person I’m with.”

She continued a languorous movement, humming in her throat as she ground her clit against my pelvic bone. Then she tilted her head up again, bringing her lips to mine. She took my wrists and pushed them onto the bed above my head, pinning me down as she increased the speed that she rode me, kissing me all the while. I could feel that she was relishing being in control, and enjoying the power she had over me. I was happy to give it to her; she didn’t abuse it. I could feel that she

was building to another orgasm, and I held my own off so that I could cum at the same time and give her what she needed.

Gracie released my lips and buried her face into my neck as she bounced up and down on me. I could feel her cresting and so I released the hold on my own orgasm, groaning as I shot my seed deep into her belly. She felt my cum shooting inside her. The thought of it bathing the inside of her pussy, along with the feeling of my cock pulsing inside of her, finally sent her over the edge. She captured my mouth once more in a kiss as she came. It was intense, and, despite her simultaneous surrender to her orgasm, it still carried strong overtones of dominance.

Finally, she released my lips and relaxed her head on my shoulder.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she shuddered, holding me inside her as we both experienced small aftershocks.

“Thank you,” I replied. “That was wonderful.” I stroked the back of her head as she lay on top of me.

After a few minutes she rolled off to the side. She ended up between me and Mary. I still had one arm around her, and she snuggled into my side. Amanda was on my other side, and she scooted up to snuggle too.

Mary, probably out of habit, snuggled up behind Gracie, spooning her. I felt Gracie stiffen for a second and then relax. I felt Mary’s power wash over all of us, filling the room with love and security.

“You okay there?” I asked Gracie.

She looked up at me and smiled. “It feels amazing to be surrounded by so much love,” she said. “Is that you doing that?”

“Mary,” I said. “She just wants you to feel loved and comfortable.”

Gracie reached behind her to give a kind of reverse hug to Mary. She ended up putting her hand right on Mary’s ass, and Mary didn’t seem to mind. Gracie pulled Mary in close, and, turning her head as far as she could, said, “Thank you.”

Mary smiled and planted a gentle kiss on Gracie’s cheek before snuggling in once more.

I decided to forgo my early morning ritual, since it was after five-thirty. We stayed as we were until the girls’ alarms went off at seven-thirty, waking everyone for another day of classes.

I got up and showered, and then went to make breakfast while the girls got ready.

“By the way,” I said to Gracie, “it seems that my subconscious got busy while I was asleep and sorted the rest of your memories out for you. I would go and see Arnold and get him to test you.”

“That’s amazing,” she replied. “Thank you. Protocol is that I have to cool off for a few days to make sure everything’s actually anchored, but everyone will appreciate how quickly you worked. And thanks, too, for the bolt hole last night. I’ll get something sorted out as soon as…”

“Stay as long as you need,” said Mary. “That room is yours until you are ready to leave. There’s no rush. Let us know if you need any help getting your stuff from James’s place - and if you want Caleb to go with you, then he will. Have a good day at work.” She kissed Gracie on the cheek like she was sending her spouse off to the office. Gracie looked a little stunned.

I chuckled. “Here’s a door key,” I said, handing her the set that Rachel had used. “The alarm is controlled by that fob there. Mary is right. You can stay as long as you need. Have a nice day at the office, dear.” I gave her another kiss on the cheek, and she pushed me away playfully.

“This has got to be the weirdest setup I have ever encountered,” she said, half to herself, as we all piled into our various vehicles and left for the day.

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