Part One

    They were all tired. They’d been on the move for four months now, making a slow circuit of northern Europe. It was slow work and none of them were particularly happy to do it. They didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, however, as it was something that every telepath was required to do when he hit his fifth year inside Rosenkreuz. They had a precognitive along with them as well in case there was something they missed, and none of the Talents were particularly pleased by his presence. The telepaths didn’t like to think themselves incompetent, and the precognitive was annoyed that he had been chosen to wander with them. Granted, time away from Rosenkreuz was good time and he had been chosen for the position because his skill was recognized, but having four telepaths for company was a bit trying.

    He had the least work to do of all of them, tagging along where they led and skimming for a vision that would prove their searching worthy of such investigation. The telepaths were quite annoyed by the ease of his job, as they spent hours at a time splitting up and running mental checks for any hint of a gift. They were far enough along that the ones with stronger powers did not find it to be so exhausting, but running through several thousand minds a week was wearing on them. After four months of it, they were rather sick of the work and sick of each other, and spent a good deal of their time pissing each other off as a stress reliever. The precognitive, of course, had the worse time of it. Besides the work itself, disliking him was the only other thing the four had in common. Schuldich found it no surprise that most precognitives were mentally scarred when they finally returned from such rounds. It was no wonder that a few in the past had chosen to remain at Rosenkreuz the rest of their careers, willingly taking up posts that most others killed to avoid. They had had a taste of what it was like working outside of the school, and they wanted no more of it.

    Schuldich was currently sprawled across a large chair in a pub, gazing through hooded lids at the people twirling about before him. Their newest station was Ireland, and while he wasn’t thrilled to be here, he appreciated the alcohol. Age restrictions couldn’t stop him from treating himself to whatever he liked, and the cost was just as easy to avoid. It was too simple for someone with gifts like his, so he took a few moments to relax and drink. He was sick of this circuit, sick of his team. He couldn’t say he wanted to be back in Rosenkreuz, but he felt things would be a lot easier if he were allowed to fry one or two or all of his traveling companions. As things were, the Inquisition was considered an important part of Rosenkreuz’s work, and he was forbidden to hurt the others to the point where they would be unable to continue. This ruined things for him, because what he wanted to do would definitely put them down and out for good.

    He offered a soft, derisive snort, and took another swallow of his drink. There were a few people in the corner with instruments, playing so that the gathered men and women could drink. They were singing, but Schuldich couldn’t judge whether they were skilled or not because most of the pub had joined in with hearty roars. He could say that the found the music atrocious, however. The words to the song were a jumbled mess- it was all in their native language. While a good chunk of the population spoke English, the telepaths had been forced to ingrain Irish Gaelic into their systems as well. It was used enough in some places that they had found it necessary, just another language to steal. It really wasn’t that hard to learn languages; as telepaths, they had it easier than anyone else. It took a few adjustments, a couple word associations, and it fell into place.

    He found his glass empty when he went to take another gulp, and he lifted his hand to beckon the bartender over. She found her way to him immediately, bringing him a fresh glass, and toted his empty one away. She said nothing about his age or appearance- when she looked at him, she saw a graying man in a tweed suit. It never occurred to her to charge him for his drinks.

    As it was, Schuldich had decided that the alcohol was the only good thing about the country. The team had been here for a week already, starting in Dublin and fanning outwards. Schuldich had been given the southwestern route. He knew why they had given him this path…There was only one major city for him, whereas the others had several. Even as the scanning grew tiresome, the other telepaths chose the greater number of cities to prove to him that their gifts were better. They disliked him because he was an equal and two years their minor. He doubted they noticed that he was the only one who kept his complaints mental. Complaints would just get him in arguments about whether or not he could handle this job, and then it would be a little too easy to slip and show them just how strong of a gift he had. He entertained himself with mental images of blood and screaming, and it was enough to keep him satisfied for now. And if they only gave him one city, well, Schuldich refused to be offended by it and chose instead to view it as a nice break. While the others were working their asses off, he lounged in bars and drank beer. It amused him, and he considered it a fair trade for having to put up with such unsavory traveling partners.

    He had just a week left on his rounds, just a week before he would reach Limerick. He figured it would take him two days, maybe three, to give the city a once-over. Then he would be free to head back to Dublin. He would be the first back, save for the precognitive, who had never left in the first place. He would be refreshed and rested by the time the other telepaths returned with whatever they had managed to find, and they would be worn out. Good times were ahead; he could already see the fights and furious eyes.

    On the whole, he wasn’t sure whether to call their circuit a failure or success, as he did not know how many gifted people Rosenkreuz hoped they would find. They had found two Talents in Finland, one in Sweden, and none in Norway. Britain had provided two also, and now there was Ireland. There was only one other island left to visit- Iceland- and then they would be free to return to Rosenkreuz. There were other groups scouring the other countries of Europe, and yet more venturing into the countries further away. They would get a short break to recuperate and then would be handed their next assignment. Schuldich rather hoped it would be more exciting- he also hoped he would be assigned a slightly more tolerable group the next time through. He knew there was a chance of being reassigned, and he hoped he would be chosen. It was well known that the rank of telepaths his companions were in viewed him as a threat of sorts, so maybe he would be rotated to keep from agitating one group too much. He made a note to put in a request with whichever instructor favored him most back at the school. There was no guarantee it would be granted, but it was worth a try.

    His watch beeped at him, announcing the hour, and he spared it a glance to see what time it was. It was eleven already; that explained why he was tired. Lights out at Rosenkreuz was at eleven, and after five years of the practice, it was a habit to turn in at that time. He swallowed the rest of his drink and set his glass aside, pushing himself up from his comfortable chair. There was an inn in this little speck of a town, and he could only hope that their rooms were clean. The last town he had passed through had a bit of a shady hotel, and he had done an about face and welcomed himself into someone’s home for the night. He refused to give up comfort on this ridiculous search.

    He relaxed his appearance as he stepped into the inn, growing bored of the middle-aged man façade he had woven. He had not wanted questions or stares earlier, which was why he had adopted it. The inn only had two people in the lobby, however, and he doubted either of them were the type that would keep a weary traveler from his bed because of curiosity. They were related, he noted as he stepped up to the counter. The father owned the inn and was positioned at the desk. His daughter, a pretty thing at nineteen, was folding towels off to one side. They both looked up at his entrance, the father offering a warm welcome and wide smile and the daughter an interested stare.

    Schuldich made his way to the desk, taking the first room offered and informing the innkeeper he had already paid. He took advantage of the man’s momentary disorientation to turn around and consider the daughter. She blushed at being caught staring, turning quickly back to her work. When his gaze lingered a moment longer, however, she chanced a peek back at him. He allowed his mouth to curve in a lazy smirk and he let his key dangle from his finger, rocking it back and forth. The number was printed on a tag hanging from it, and although the distance between them was too great for her to read it, he planted it in her mind. There was also the observation that he didn’t seem bothered by her attention at all.

    With that, he turned and headed up the staircase to find his room. If the daughter acted on her curiosity, then he wouldn’t mind the company. If she chose to remain where she was, regardless of her interest in his strange coloring and accent, that was equally acceptable. He was tired enough that he didn’t care much which way she chose to go.

    That was the other good thing about Ireland, he supposed. There were prettier women here than Rosenkreuz had managed to scrounge up. The Talented were not warned against making beds with outsiders, as sex with a gifted and sex with a normal human seemed to be just as likely to produce a gifted child. There had been studies on it for years as the Cabinet debated whether or not to restrict the sleeping habits of their students. With the results of the study, they had decided to let the teenagers do as they wished. They only thing they required was that the Talents kept track of who they slept with. When future circuits went through the area a chosen woman lived in, she was carefully searched to see if she had become pregnant and given birth to someone Rosenkreuz would want. If she produced a gifted child, they always found a way to bring her to Austria, where she would be matched with one of the graduating students. A mother who gave birth to one gifted was likely to give birth to a second, and the Cabinet wanted such ‘breeders’ close at hand.

    He knew Rosenkreuz was a bit wary of letting the younger students engage in casual sex, but he also knew they would not reprimand him. The right and privilege came with being part of the Inquisition, and he didn’t care that he was two years younger than he should have been. If he had to trot this godforsaken globe looking for runaway Talents, he would take advantage of everything that came with the job.

    He found his room easily enough and let himself in, leaving the door unlocked because no one would be able to sneak up on him when he was a Talent. Even in sleep his telepathy would warn him of a mind approaching that close to his, and if he was too deep asleep to understand the thoughts he would be able to pick up on any malice in their emotional aura with the empathy he also wielded. He treated the room to intense scrutiny. Upon finding it to be to his satisfaction, he peeled his shoes off and dropped them at the foot of the bed. His shirt followed and he set his bag of clothes beside the nightstand. He had been given three outfits to wear only, as the Inquisition did not have time to be picky about fashion or to wash great loads of laundry. They did not mind, really, as the outfits had some variety at least. Rosenkreuz required uniforms, and even if each student was given seven uniforms, the seven were identical. These outfits were colored, one black, one white, one gray. They weren’t the cheeriest of colors, but they would do.

    He sprawled on the bed, giving a deep sigh of satisfaction when the mattress sank beneath him. He was content to lie there for a long time, his arms buried under his pillow and his face buried against the bed. The sheets were cool on his bare chest, and he let the day drift through his mind. It had been highly uneventful. He had reached this town at noon and it was small enough that he was already long done scanning it. There was nothing here for him, so he could be gone again at first light. Because he did not have the number of cities his companions did to sift through, he had the option of going at a lazy pace. Doing so would put him back in Dublin around the same time as the others, and while the knowledge that he had had a much more leisurely venture than they would irk them, he would rather get this over with and recover without interruptions. Besides, it was hard to sleep in when such laziness was forbidden at Rosenkreuz.

    There was a clock on the small nightstand, and he lifted himself up enough that he could see it. A hand wormed free from the pillow and he set the alarm to go off at seven. Rosenkreuz mornings began between five and six depending, and he had discovered in these last few months that seven was the latest he could possibly sleep in. It was too much of a habit now to sleep much longer, but he set the alarm in case he had had enough alcohol to deepen his sleep and in the chance that he had company tonight.

    He did, in fact. Barely five minutes after resettling himself, he heard a soft knock at the door. The daughter was outside; he could hear her uncertain thoughts. She wasn’t sure what to expect, if to expect anything. She had found an excuse to visit his room, following the mental suggestion he had given her. He lifted his head from his pillow enough to beckon her in with a call, and she slipped inside with a bit of a nervous gleam to her eyes. She clutched a blanket to her chest.

    “It’s going to be cool tonight,” she told him, and he didn’t miss the way her eyes flicked to his bare back. “I thought perhaps an extra blanket would be welcome…” She trailed off there, chiding herself mentally for being such a fool and all kinds of a ditz. Schuldich hid his smirk against the pillow, watching her with steady blue eyes. She struggled to find something else to say, suddenly wondering if she’d been wrong all along. “I’m sorry for intruding,” she started to murmur.

    He stopped her, lifting a hand to beckon her forward. She closed the distance between them with uncertain steps and he pushed himself up to a sitting position when she stopped beside the bed. Green eyes bounced to a hard chest and toned abdomen before flying back up to his face. “Some extra warmth would be welcome,” Schuldich assured her, allowing his lips to curve into the barest of smirks. He caught her gaze and held it; she couldn’t look away if she wanted to. He reached out, taking the blanket in both hands but not pulling it from her fingers yet. A small brush swept between them, his telempathic gift washing through her in a small buzz. She flushed, dropping her gaze.

    “Will the blanket be adequate, though?” he inquired, but she wasn’t able to look up at him again. He tugged the blanket free from her limp fingers, reaching out to snag the front of her shirt. She was afraid to look at him, confused by the turmoil of emotions washing through her. There was excitement and anticipation, but this wasn’t something she made a habit of, especially with strangers in her father’s inn. But she had come to him, and he wouldn’t let her walk away. His gift would make sure that she didn’t want to.

    He tugged her down onto his lap, pushing her skirt up so he could run his hands down well-toned thighs. She steeled her courage then and looked up, green eyes locking with blue once more, and her hands lifted to cup his face in her hands. She leaned forward to kiss him, and he decided it didn’t matter that her inexperience showed. Bodies were bodies, and he’d rather feel a body’s emotions than have to hear its thoughts. She would keep him company tonight, and tomorrow morning he would leave and would only remember her face and name long enough to send it to Rosenkreuz.


    Schuldich spent almost more time sight seeing in Limerick than he did actually working. He liked the castles the city had to offer, and he saw what he could, choosing to do his mental scans from all of the old sites rather than various locations in the newer parts of the city. It made up for the rest of the trip, he decided, to have a city like this. He didn’t care much for the rest of Ireland he had passed through. Sure the scenery was bright and colorful, but he wasn’t really interested in nature. He liked old things, ancient things, and these castles were exactly what he wanted to see. He liked standing beside the gray stone walls of Saint John’s Cathedral, staring up at a building that had been around since before the German empire.

    He spent most of his days in Limerick around and inside this building, wandering the grounds as if somehow he could capture something so old. He liked the dead things of the past because they never seemed to be as shallow and false as the things of the present. He had a rather scornful view of most of society, which was one reason he actually liked Rosenkreuz. Things at Rosenkreuz were different than the outside world. The people there were touched in a way that made them different, made them special. They knew things no one else did. Let everyone else worry about who stole their seat on the bus or what they were going to eat for dinner or growing old with someone else. Schuldich knew he was destined for far greater things. He wouldn’t have to worry about such trivial matters, not with the gifts he wielded.

    He chose the church to be his hotel, using his gift to allow him to stay. No one else could see him, so no one could try to make him leave. He was sprawled out on the ground in front of the altar the second night, picking that spot to do his final mental probing for the day. He was almost done; he would be out of Limerick by noon tomorrow. He stared upwards, gazing through the ceiling without seeing it, as he let his mind wander the city. He had found nothing the day before, and he didn’t expect to find anything today. He had decided Ireland’s good points stopped at the beer, women, and architecture. There was nothing here Rosenkreuz wanted.

    The thought had barely finished when something swept across his gift. It startled him enough that his scan dropped out, and he stared up at the ceiling of the church. He didn’t know what it was. The best way he could describe it was some sort of a pulse, a dull throb of power against his own. Frowning at the sensation, he reached out again in search of it.

    It knew he was coming and met him halfway. Crackling heat and icy chills swept through the German’s body, wringing a gasp from his lips as his hands flew to his head. It stole his breath away in a violent rush, and when it finally faded he found himself curled up on his side, struggling not to get sick all over the place. Bile filled his mouth and he kept himself from throwing up by sheer force of will. His breath returned with a ragged gasp and he fought to stay conscious, blinking black sparkles from his vision as he tried to figure out what had just happened.

    It was a long time before he could sit up again, and when he managed the strength to push himself up, he felt something sticky on his palms. Propping himself against the altar for balance, he lifted his hand to study it. There was blood on his hand, and he sent the ground a startled look before wiping his hand off on his pants leg. As soon as his hand ran along the cloth the blood was gone. When he lifted his hand to inspect it once more, it was as clean as it had been before and there wasn’t a stain on his pants to show where he had tried to clean the blood off.

    He felt a chill run down his spine and he frowned. That had to be an active mind that had contacted him, but he didn’t recognize the touch. He’d been around a lot of different types of Talents at Rosenkreuz. He’d seen and felt everything there was to offer within those walls. The mental contact he’d just had didn’t match up with anything he had experienced before. Feeling disturbed but curious, he pushed himself up, slung his bag over his shoulder, and headed for the door. He was out here to find active gifts, but he had a feeling he would have checked it out regardless. That mental flavor had been a bit too strong and twisted for him to ignore.

    He didn’t have much to go on to find the one he’d brushed against, as it had overwhelmed him and he had been in the middle of a sweep. He didn’t want to reach out again to try and pinpoint the other Talent because he didn’t think he would like the consequence of brushing minds a second time. He did know the general area, however, and quick strides carried him down the streets. In the background of his thoughts was a dull sizzling, like the sky getting ready to open up into lightning and thunder. It was coming from the other Talent, and Schuldich realized their gifts were still touching- or rather, that the other person was still touching him.

    Eventually he found himself staring up at a three story white building. An aging sign out front declared it to be some sort of psychiatric ward, and he frowned. It wasn’t unheard of for gifted to end up in places like these. He’d heard stories of Talents getting stuck here- the telepaths liked to tell them as a sort of horror stories. Someone who had not been trained to protect himself like Rosenkreuz had taught its students could go mad and worse in a home like this, trapped among decaying and broken minds. There were rumors that some Rosenkreuz telepaths were destined to the same madness if they crossed one too many lines with their instructors. The older paths liked to say that their shields would be broken and they’d be tucked away to watch themselves go insane. It certainly helped keep the younger ranked in line, especially when they found out that their elders hadn’t been joking. Two years ago a telepath had been punished that way, and ever since, the telepaths had quieted down their squabbling and arrogance.

    And even though Schuldich had spent five years within Rosenkreuz’s teachings, he stared up at the asylum with a bit of trepidation. He knew his shields were good. He knew they were intact. There was always the ‘what if’, though, that made him hesitate. What if they gave way? Would he go mad like the last telepath? Would he rot away to gibberish and nonsense? He studied the door, arms folded tightly over his chest, wondering if he could just turn around and walk away. No one would know, after all, if he chose not to go inside. No one would know that he hadn’t found this man here. The last circuit through Ireland hadn’t found him, so if someone found him the next time through, they couldn’t blame him for not noticing. They’d have to blame everyone who had come before him as well.

    There was the chance that they would punish everyone, he knew. He didn’t recognize the other person’s gift. He couldn’t place the mental signature. That could be because the person’s mind was twisted from being in such a place, or perhaps it was a gift Rosenkreuz had not had possession of in the recent years. If it was the latter, Schuldich would most definitely get his request for a new Inquisition group approved. They would be pleased if it was a rare gift, and then Schuldich would be off to a new place with a new team and he’d be far away from the annoying group he had now.

    That didn’t mean he wanted to go inside.

    Several minutes had passed before he finally took a deep breath and started up the path towards the door. The hours for visiting were posted on the door, and they had long since been over. Schuldich ignored that, opening the door and stepping inside. He passed the front desk without being noticed, fingers tightening on his arms when the crackling in his mind sharpened and then dropped away. It left behind it a small tugging, and he could almost hear a small voice beckoning him closer.

    This way, come this way, let me show you…

    There was a man on the third floor, the only one in the long hallway. He was dressed in an ankle-length white jacket and he carried several thick folders under his arm. He turned at the soft tap of Schuldich’s shoe on the landing and frowned when he saw a stranger approaching him. “Sir, the visiting hours are over.”

    “I’m not here to visit,” Schuldich answered smoothly, following the voice that called him forwards. There was an icy glint in his eye and a subtle mental warning to the doctor that he was not someone to mess with. He may be young and short but he let the doctor get a glimpse of what he would be fucking with if he pushed the teenager’s buttons. The doctor blanched, not knowing where the sudden sense of danger came from but heeding the warning. “I’m looking for someone.”

    “Erm…Name?” the doctor asked.

    Schuldich ignored the question because he did not know the answer, moving past the aging man. He found himself before the last door on the hall. It almost looked as if it was sealed shut, and there were a number of bolts around it. There was a small window around eye height so that the doctors could check on their patient. He stopped before the door, choosing not to look inside yet, and looked back towards the doctor. “Who rests here?”

    “That would be Whitey.”

    “Whitey?” Schuldich inquired, arching an eyebrow at the other man.

    “He came to us without a name, dropped off here six years ago by his guardian.” When he saw Schuldich still waiting for a further description, he shuffled through his files until he found the appropriate one. He flipped through the pages, searching for anything he could offer the telempath. “Age, thirteen, though his exact birth date is unknown. His parents’ names are unknown but I was told they were deceased. A foster mother brought him here, the last in a line of several to have been his guardians.” He skimmed the notes on his page, his thoughts a jumble of words and names. Schuldich sifted through them, waiting for the doctor to sum it up for him. It was generally easier to listen to doctors’ words than thoughts, as they simplified things for the medically challenged.

    “His condition is unknown. His guardian was very eager to get rid of him, almost seemed frightened of him…” He trailed off, closing the folder. “He is almost catatonic when left alone, and very aggressive when he has company. One of our psychiatrists tried to talk to him in his first days here, and he almost killed her. He was fully bound when she walked in, but he got out of the straitjacket and shackles to attack her. She tried again weeks later, and it had the same results. The psychiatrists are afraid to go near him, and it isn’t just an attack they fear…The only time he has company is when he is given his food.” He studied the door in silence for a long moment. “There’s something wrong with that child,” he said simply.

    “There’s something wrong with everyone,” Schuldich answered, turning to look through the window at last. He could see straight across the room to a bed, and a bound figure was stretched out on the mattress. “He is bound at all times?” Schuldich wanted to know, eyes tracing the small form stretched out on the bed. He was wearing a straitjacket and his legs were shackled together in two places. A band around his chest and the bed kept him from sitting up, and the shackles on his legs were fastened to the foot of the bed.

    “It is safer for everyone if he is,” came the response. “His food has to be processed, because it’s too dangerous to untie his hands.”

    “Feh,” Schuldich answered, a frown pulling at his lips as he stared through the glass. Six years of this? Six years of being chained to a bed? No wonder the man was fucked up, though Schuldich was sure having a gift helped. The boy had been lying here in chains since before Schuldich had gone to Rosenkreuz. That was a very long time. He studied the younger boy for a moment longer before tapping the door with his shoe. “Open it.” It was an order reinforced mentally, and the doctor found himself undoing the lock before he even realized he had moved. He blanched and backed off; Schuldich sent him a cool look over his shoulder, tugging the keys from the lock. “I’m done with you,” he said as he opened the door. /Find somewhere else to be./

    The man turned around and started back down the hall, unfocused brown eyes staring ahead. Schuldich dismissed him from his thoughts, turning to the more important problem. He let his bag slide down his arm to the floor and started across the room, blue eyes studying the chains that kept the boy in place. He stopped beside the bed to study the other Talent. The boy looked dead, really, with his head lolled to one side and his face relaxed and smooth in sleep. He had pale white skin that made him seem to be more of a corpse than a resting child. Two scars decorated his face, along his nose and his cheekbone, and Schuldich wondered where he had managed to get them.

    He could hear the boy’s mind; it was a whirlwind just out of reach. Schuldich could hear the tangled thoughts and snarls but they were dim enough that they did not overwhelm him. He’d never heard a mind like this before, and he didn’t like the way it prickled against his gift. He supposed he would have to get used to it. The boy had a gift, and whether or not it had been warped to uselessness by his time here wasn’t for Schuldich to judge. He had to bring the boy back with him to Dublin, and from there someone would have to get him back to Rosenkreuz.

    “Oi,” he said, trying to wake the younger teenager. He reached out to tap on the other boy’s face, but the first time his fingers touched that cold, cold skin they seemed to stick. Two yellow eyes opened, and the sheer power in that gaze that suddenly locked with his stole Schuldich’s breath away. He felt the ground give out beneath him as the noise caught up. Whatever had kept ‘Whitey’s thoughts at bay before gave way and they hit him in a violent rush. A girl, there was a girl dressed in a torn white wedding dress. She had her hands tangled in dark, messy hair. Her skin was rotting and her eyes were melting away, trickling like tears down her cheeks. Her mouth moved in a silent plea but the words were gone, leaving only blood to trickle forth. The edges of her dress caught on fire and Schuldich watched as she burned, as she twisted and fought to get away from the flames. The words that hadn’t come earlier were screams now, and she screamed until the fire reached her face, when her mouth curved into a dreamy smile and she faded away.

    Schuldich found himself on his hands and knees on the floor, throwing up, when the vision vanished. He was shaking from head to toe, large tremors racking his frame. He couldn’t hear anything past that noise, that infernal noise that was a chorus of roars and tears. It was too strong for him; the shields he had contemplated earlier gave way under the force of it. It was seeping through him and he could do nothing to stop it. He could just struggle to breathe as he felt it burn through everything he was. His fingers tangled in his hair and he was dimly aware that he was screaming for it to stop.

    Cold fingers curled around his chin, and the noise washed away as ice replaced it. The telempath struggled to breathe, struggled to remember who he was in the wake of the storm. His eyes wouldn’t focus for the longest time as panicked thoughts rocked through his mind. When he finally was coherent again, he found himself on his knees beside the bed. He was still trembling and the floor was cold enough to burn him. The fingers on his chin were colder still, as were the yellow eyes Schuldich found himself staring up into.

    The boy was out of his chains.

    Whitey was perched on the end of the bed, his legs dangling from the side, and he stared down at Schuldich through hooded lids. Schuldich fought not to get sick again, sucking in his breath in frantic gulps as he tried to reassure himself that his mind was intact regardless of the attack on his gift. He couldn’t move, could only stare at the younger boy and wonder what the hell he had just found himself face to face with.

    “Blue-eyes…” the boy murmured. “It’s about time you came…” He had a silky voice that promised pain, promised dark secrets. He leaned forward and Schuldich cringed back without realizing he had moved. A second hand touched Schuldich’s cheek, fingers skimming across the skin and sucking the heat out. “I didn’t realize it would take you so long…”

    “Let go of me,” Schuldich managed. It hurt to speak, and his voice twisted in his throat. He lurched backwards out of the other teenager’s grip, throwing up his shields as he did so. He ended up on his rear a few feet back, and unsteady arms were the only things keeping him from falling onto his back. Whitey stretched out his legs, touching his feet to the floor, and rose from his spot. He remained were he was for a moment as if considering what it was like to be upright again, flicking yellow eyes around his room in silent appraisal.

    For a moment, Schuldich wondered if he was going to make it out of there alive. He considered his options, weighing the chance that he would be able to get to his feet and out of here before the boy touched him again. He didn’t know what Whitey had done, but the echoes were still haunting him. If he could get to his feet, he was sure he would get away. He would end Limerick’s search now and just run, use the speed he had been gifted with to blur his way out of this city and far away from this child. It was getting to his feet that could get him killed- he didn’t know if he could make it there before the other boy got hold of him.

    Indeed, Whitey was already closing the distance between them. The shackles were still between his legs but they were undone from the headboard. His straitjacket dangled off the side of the mattress, leaving the thirteen year old in just a thin white shirt and his tight white pants. Shoulder-length white hair just finished the picture, and the boy looked more like a ghost than a human. Schuldich could feel that mind brushing up against him, threatening to invade once more. This time it would tear him apart. He could feel the warning in it, so he remained where he was. Wide blue eyes stared up at the other child, who placed one foot to either side of Schuldich’s legs and crouched in front of him. He folded his arms across his knees, yellow gaze boring into the telempath.

    “We are leaving now, aren’t we, Niklas?” came the soft question.


    “How do you know that name?” Schuldich demanded, blue eyes narrowing in wary suspicion. He fixed his gaze on Whitey’s nose, thinking it to be dangerous to hold his stare for too long. Fingers reached up to touch Schuldich’s cheek once more. His fingernails were like claws, sharp as they tapped against the German’s face. “What the hell are you?”

    Yellow eyes said, I can show you…

    “I’ve been waiting on you,” came the answer. Fingers moved to Schuldich’s hair, tangling in the long locks as Whitey considered the orange mane. “Now you’re here. That means we’re going, doesn’t it?”

    “What the hell are you?” Schuldich asked again, but he realized he didn’t really want to know.

    A chilling smile curved Whitey’s lips as he released the hair from his grasp. He rose from his crouch and stepped aside, and Schuldich realized the boy was waiting on him to get up. He pushed himself to slightly unsteady feet, and even though he was taller than the boy, he felt much shorter. There was an intense sort of power circling that small frame, and it was more dangerous than anything Schuldich had ever felt before. And he was to escort this boy all the way to Dublin? A chill ran down his spine at the thought. It had taken him two weeks to get here, but that was with the delays for mental scanning. It was still a good bit of travel between here and there without stops, though, and he did not want the Irish teenager along for company.

    “So then, we go.” Whitey started towards the door, leaning down and lifting Schuldich’s bag as he passed. The telempath watched him go, frozen to the spot. He considered calling one of the other telepaths, whichever one was the closest to him. He didn’t want to be with this child by himself- there was something in those eyes that told him it didn’t matter that he was one of the stronger Talents Rosenkreuz had to offer. His power was pathetic compared to this child’s and the thought of that mind touching his again made him so sick his bones hurt. In the end he realized none of the others would answer his call, anyway. They weren’t done with their sweeps and would remind him that he felt himself competent enough to be with the Inquisition. If one of them chose to report him for his inability to cope with this white-haired boy, he could get sent back the two years he had skipped.

    Nothing was bad enough to risk two more years at Rosenkreuz. Schuldich took a deep breath, tightening his shields around his mind, and started towards the door. The other teenager had not waited on him- he was nowhere in the hall. Schuldich took the stairs down, telling himself that this was nothing, that he would get through this safely. As he reached the second floor, a familiar harsh scent reached his nose. He hurried down the last few steps and found himself grabbing at the railing when he slipped on blood.

    The entire first floor was a puddle of blood, a crimson lake broken now and then by little lumps Schuldich had no interest in identifying. The ladies who had been at the front desk were gone, and Schuldich had a good feeling he knew where they had ended up. He released the railing slowly, finding his balance, and starting taking slow steps towards the front door. The smell of blood and death was thicker than he’d ever had to deal with before, and his stomach churned unhappily. He stepped on something that was hidden under the puddle and he felt it give beneath his shoe, a squishy sort of collapse.

    A hand to his mouth was all that kept him from throwing up again.

    Whitey stepped through the doorway that led to the waiting room. His clothes were soaked in the blood of the ward’s staff; blood ran down his hands and dripped off his chin. There was a smear of red along his cheek, so that his hair was the only clean part of him. He lifted a hand to his face, studying the way it had been painted red, and slipped his fingers into his mouth to lick them clean. Yellow eyes lifted to catch the German’s gaze, and a whirlwind of screams and the ripping of flesh rocked through the telempath. Schuldich waded outside without another look back, leaning over the porch railing as he was sick.

    He had never heard their minds react. He’d heard people die before, and he’d heard people be murdered before. But the staff had never reacted, not on a level Schuldich heard. He’d had no warning of what his new charge was getting into just two floors beneath him.

    The door swung open behind him and Whitey joined him on the porch, standing beside him as Schuldich gasped for air. His bag of clothes was dropped beside his feet and Schuldich spared a moment to be grateful that no blood had stained it. He tilted his head to one side, studying the other boy as he managed to get his nausea under control. Whitey was looking off into the distance, studying a world he had been locked away from for six years.

    Schuldich reached down and picked up his bag, ignoring the way his fingers still trembled as he took hold of the strap. He could feel Whitey’s mind relaxing. The air around him that screamed chaos and death was thinning, and the yellow eyes seemed to relax to bored. Schuldich studied him for a long moment, and at length decided that the danger had passed for now. He could only hope it had passed for the rest of the trip. He considered asking Whitey again how he knew his real name, but decided in the end that it was safest to avoid conversations.

    He couldn’t get his voice to work and didn’t want to risk their gifts touching again, so he moved down the porch stairs in silence. Whitey followed obediently behind, and they made their way down the sidewalk with several feet between them. Schuldich’s unwelcome companion had nothing else to say that night, something Schuldich was eternally grateful for.

    He decided to start back to Dublin that night rather than wait until morning. He wanted the boy off his hands as quickly as possible, so he abducted the first car they passed that still had the driver and keys in it. The driver was left confused on the sidewalk, and the two gifted teenagers were on their way back to the eastern shore of Ireland.

Part 2
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