I open the door to invite two people in, both in business casual. The man is some generic white guy with close-cropped hair and an expression of concentration who I swear looks exactly like the action figures. The familiar-looking woman seems bored, has her black hair in a long and precise braid, and is carrying an elaborately locked briefcase, and, oh, yeah, has a dark green ribbon around her neck. She relaxes when I notice it.
I don’t, because the thing about telepaths is that, upon meeting them, you immediately think of all the things you would least like them to know.
“Hi,” she says, with a gentle smile, holding out her hand. “I’m Manipulative Bitch.”
I immediately think of all the things I would least like her to know.
She laughs a little. “Relax. I have seen way worse, believe me.”
I shake her hand. “Hi. Teke, Travis, or Fox. You’re here about Klepto?”
The man leans in slightly and I lean back reflexively, but offer him my hand, too.
“This is Aquamarine,” Manipulative Bitch says. “He’s here to take notes.”
“I’m sure that will be amazingly helpful,” I say. Which, wow. There’s nothing like a telepath to make you not watch what comes out of your fucking mouth.
Aquamarine scowls at me. And don’t think I didn’t notice he doesn’t want me to know his real name. With the scowl on, he looks barely twenty, and I wonder if ‘man’ isn’t exactly the accurate term, and it isn’t at all helped by the fact that his shoes look too shiny to have been worn more than a couple times, and his shirt looks almost like he’s playing dress up in someone bigger’s clothes.
“Just tell us what you know about him,” Aquamarine says.
“I’ve already been debriefed, like, four times,” I tell him. “Can’t you just read the notes?”
Aquamarine makes some sort of sound of frustration and looks even younger.
Manipulative Bitch sighs. “I’m mostly here to see if he’s left any presents inside your brain. Especially anything on a time delay. Now relax, or this might hurt.”
“Hurt,” I repeat, with an incredulous look.
“Hurt,” she agrees. “Anyone with any ESP has the potential to feel what’s going on while I sort through your thoughts, and you’ve never done this before, so I don’t know if you will.”
Aquamarine looks at her with a triumphant sort of grin. “You’re not supposed to reveal information like that. Where’s your mandated confidentiality now?”
“Shut it, dumbass,” Manipulative Bitch says, “I let you come here as a favor. If you don’t know all TK comes with at least some ESP, that is not my problem.”
Aquamarine scowls at both of us.
“Relax,” Manipulative Bitch reminds me. “Also, feel free to call me Amanda.”
I try to relax while Amanda pulls out a sheaf of papers and starts ticking things off.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” she adds, “I’m very good at keeping secrets.”
“Ha,” Aquamarine says, “has he been doing something illegal?”
Amanda gives him a disparaging look.
Aquamarine crosses his arms. “You should really say something if people are doing something illegal, you know.”
“And I certainly will, if I’m subpoenaed on the topic,” Amanda says.
I try really hard not to flinch at that, and also not to think of any unregistered technopaths or memetics I know or even suspect.
Amanda rolls her eyes at me.
Then there’s a weird sort of swishing sensation as thoughts roll through my head. Starting out with my encounter with Klepto, which Amanda dutifully explicates (leaving aside anything I might have been thinking or feeling at the time), moving on to everything that’s happened since then, and then backwards through my memories, almost at random. I wonder if she’ll be looking into Darren’s memories for corroboration as long as she’s here, and there’s a sort of slight affirmation. And a sense she’ll be looking through other people’s memories, too.
“I haven’t gotten to any of the kids, yet,” she tells me, once she’s done. “They thought you were the best bet, and they wanted me to make sure of that first off.”
“And?” I ask.
She grins at me. “You’re fine, Teke, Travis, or Fox.”
Aquamarine looks a little disappointed. “No ticking time bombs? No false memories or implanted suggestions? They weren’t secretly colluding or something?”
“For fuck’s sake, what’s your problem, dude?” I ask him.
He glares at me. “Maybe I don’t like Klepto, did you ever think of that?”
I scoff. “I don’t think anyone likes him. I mean, he’s some asshole supervillain.”
“Maybe I don’t like him more than most,” Aquamarine says. “Maybe he blew up my friend one time. Maybe I was out of commission for years because of him.”
“Nothing,” Amanda says. “Nothing in there. Clean as a whistle.”
She locks her papers back in her briefcase. Then she asks to see Darren and we kind of wait awkwardly for a couple minutes until he comes home, which is a relief, because it could’ve been a lot longer than that. He’s not particularly surprised – he did set up a whole bunch of security measures yesterday – and he goes off to…be interviewed, I guess is the best way to put it.
Aquamarine stares at me.
I stare back at him. “What?”
“What do you know about him?” he asks.
“What, Klepto?” I say, “he’s afraid of dogs.”
Aquamarine scrunches up his face. “He’s afraid of dogs? Why is he afraid of dogs?”
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “People on the internet tabulate information about his movements and actions and whatever, and they say he’s afraid of dogs.”
“Dogs,” Aquamarine repeats, thoughtfully.
I nod in agreement.
“Where on the internet?” Aquamarine asks.
I reluctantly – not that reluctantly, since it’s basically just forwarding one of Perry’s emails – send him the list of links. Hopefully that will help. Or make him leave me alone, anyway.
Amanda returns to the living room, shaking Darren’s hand, and gesturing for Aquamarine to follow her, then more handshaking all around.
“You good?” Darren asks me.
Amanda grins. “Clean bill of health. Do you want a sticker?”
I kind of do want a sticker.
Amanda pats one onto my chest. It has an official crest and everything.
“Thanks,” I say.
“Oh, and send me that link when you get a chance,” Amanda tells me, with a wink. “That sounds fucking hilarious.”
One of the things I least wanted her to know is that there’s this fansite where people ship Teke and Manipulative Bitch.