Covert Talents: Age of Expansion, Uprise Saga: Book One
By Amy DuBoff & Michael Anderle
After a brief walk down the hall beyond the cafeteria, the corridor terminated in an open space filled with workstations. A dozen individuals were scattered around the room, and they looked up with curious expressions when Ava entered.
“Everyone, this is my friend Ava,” Luke introduced. “She’s an old friend of mine. We grew up together.”
“Oh, another Coraxan native?” a thin man with dark complexion commented from a nearby station.
“Yeah, I am,” Ava replied.
“You have any of those special gifts everyone’s always talking about?” he asked.
“She does,” Luke replied before Ava had a chance to stop him.
“Really?” the man’s eyes widened. “What can you do?”
“Oh, nothing too special,” Ava replied, casting a silencing glare toward Luke.
“One of the gifted, huh?” a musical female voice said from across the room. “Now that’s something I have yet to see.”
“Dr. Mason!” Luke’s face flushed. “I wasn’t expecting to see you over here.”
“You know how I like to make the rounds.” The raven-haired woman fixed her gaze on Ava. “Who’s your friend?”
“Ava, ma’am,” she replied. “And you are…?”
“Andrea Mason. You might consider me the director of this facility.”
“Well, it’s a lovely place you have here,” Ava said. “I can’t believe how much has changed since I was last in Tribeca.”
“NTech always hopes to leave a positive impact on our communities,” Andrea said with too-sweet a smile. “I’ve been so curious about the abilities of the native population here.”
“We’re not exactly native,” Ava corrected. “Our people colonized here the same time as the other human- and Torcellan-occupied worlds in this sector.”
“Of course. And that makes it all the more fascinating that you so rapidly developed your unique connection with the Etheric.” She folded her hands in front of her. “How old were you when your gifts emerged?”
Ava shrugged. “Around eight.”
“That’s young, isn’t it? You must be very talented.”
“There isn’t necessarily a link between the age when abilities emerge and their strength,” Ava said, skirting the truth. While it wasn’t always linked, in her case that had very much been the reality. Whereas the average age for a first Reading came around twelve, the early emergence of abilities had given her extra time with the elders to learn and study the craft.
Had she stayed with them, she likely would have been the most powerful Reader in two generations.
“I didn’t mean to imply,” Andrea said in that sickening sweet tone. “You must forgive me—I’ve never had the chance to meet anyone of your talents before.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve met far more interesting people than me.” Ava took a subconscious step back and instinctually bolstered her mental guards.
“We were in the middle of our tour, ma’am,” Luke said, seeming to pick up on Ava’s discomfort. “We have to be out of here by 17:00.”
“Nonsense. We wouldn’t be here without the support of the Coraxans,” Andrea replied. “Ava, you’re welcome any time.”
“That’s very generous of you, ma’am. Thank you.”
“In fact,” the director continued, “I’d love to have the chance to meet with you in a more formal capacity.”
The question caught Ava off-guard. “Uh… Well, I’m here on vacation, actually.”
“I’d compensate you for your time, of course. I’d just like to understand better how you do what you can do.”
The last thing I need is the director of this freakshow tracking my every move. Ava gave a polite bow of her head. “I appreciate your interest, but I’m—”
“That’s a generous offer, Dr. Mason,” Luke cut in. “I think that might be just what Ava needs to reconnect with herself. That is why you came back here, right?” he asked while turning toward her.
Ava resisted the urge to punch him in that gorgeous jaw of his. “Yes, just what I need,” she responded to him tightly, and returned her focus to the director. “Thank you, Dr. Mason.”
“Call me Andrea, please.” She flashed a smile bordering on predatory. “Come in with Luke tomorrow morning and we’ll get to know each other.”