DSPer Adrian Randall has a new paranormal/scifi book out:
In a postprivacy future, secrets are illegal and all communication is supervised. Telepaths are registered and recruited by a government with no qualms about invading the minds of its citizens. Fugitive psychics are hunted by the Bureau of Counterpsychic Affairs, or Countermind.
Alan Izaki is one such fugitive, as well as a hacker, grifter, and thief.
Countermind agent Jack Smith is hunting him through the twisted underbelly of Hong Kong.
But Alan possesses a secret so dangerous and profound it will not only shake Smith’s loyalties, but the foundations of their society.
And Alan isn’t the only one on the run. Rogue psychic Arissa binti Noor escapes Countermind, in search of brilliant game designer Feng Huang. She hopes that together, they can destroy the government’s intrusive Senex monitoring system.
Their goals seem at odds, and their lives are destined to collide. When they do, three very different people must question their alliances and their future, because everything is about to change.
“WHAT DO you think?” Siam asked, seeing the look on his boyfriend’s face. “Be honest.”
Years on the run had taught Jettrin how to school his features, but it was hard to conceal his skepticism at Siam’s handiwork. The dented, scuffed, matte-black plastic casing of the alarm clock was gone. The only original remnants looked to be a circuit board, a digital display, and a disc-shaped speaker, all nested in a tangle of discarded wires fished out of the same garbage bin where they’d found the clock. That morning, near Khaosan Road, Jettrin had seen a tourist ride a scooter right over a rat, and the resulting mess somehow struck him as less gory than this Frankenclock Siam had assembled.
Jettrin took a deep breath. “Does it work?” he asked at last. Siam plugged it in, and the display lit up with a line of red zeroes. Both boys grinned.
“Set the alarm for 5:00 a.m.,” Jettrin said.
“That’s too early,” Jai finally said as Siam set the time. He’d watched the entire operation from the corner of the squat, limbs folded resentfully around his body.
“Go to bed,” Jettrin hissed.
“I’m not tired.”
“I didn’t ask. We’re leaving before the sun’s up whether you’re rested or not. Go.”
Jai cursed Jettrin under his breath but stalked off to the tiny bedroom and shut the door snugly behind him. At least he didn’t slam it.
Siam finished setting the alarm, and both boys curled up on the makeshift bed of piled tattered blankets, gripping each other tight.
Jettrin dreamt again of the man from Countermind. Wherever they fled, wherever they hid, that phantom pursuer was there, always standing outside their window, gazing up from the sidewalk below with those cruel eyes and that dark smile.
The dream wasn’t quite a nightmare this time, but it was enough to rouse Jettrin from slumber. Groggy, he pulled himself up out of bed, felt his way through the darkness to the bedroom door, and eased it open.
He could hear Jai whimpering. Jettrin sat on the bare mattress and gently jostled his little brother awake. Jai responded by burying his face in Jettrin’s shoulder, crying for a few minutes, and then passing out again. Jettrin kissed him on the forehead, lowered him onto his back, and made his quiet way back to Siam.
Jettrin had never actually seen the man from Countermind. Only when Jai had this nightmare and, panicking in his sleep, reached out for his big brother telepathically, only to involuntarily share the dream with him. Drifting into unconsciousness again, Jettrin hoped the interruption wouldn’t cause them to oversleep.
It wasn’t why they overslept. When Siam had fixed the clock, they’d checked that the time worked but had never actually tested the alarm.
Jettrin woke first, rolled over, and looked at the alarm clock. The numbers glowed red within the jumble of wires. The time, per the dozenal numerals shining through the black glass of the display, was 10:A4.
Jettrin snapped instantly to full alert. He yelled at Siam, kicking him out of bed, and the two of them pulled on their jeans, socks, and tennis shoes, tottering precariously while dressing, with nothing to steady themselves against but filthy pockmarked concrete walls. Once clothed, Jettrin strode to the bedroom door, crossing the tiny squat in just two lanky steps.
The door opened from the other side before Jettrin reached it, and Jai stood there, scratching sleep from his eyes, still dressed in an oversized logoed T-shirt dangling past his knees.
“Did you sense me coming?” Jettrin demanded.
Jai was defensive. “No, I heard you. You’re loud.”
“Then why aren’t you dressed? Put your damn clothes on.”
Jai vanished back into the bedroom to change. Jettrin turned to the window to examine the noisy avenue in front of the apartment building, pressing his forehead against the rusting iron bars. The obstruction limited his field of view, and the traffic was too thick for him to easily pick out any threats. With the cacophony of shouts, ringing bicycle bells, and honking cars, he had to wonder whether the alarm would have done any good even if it had worked.
“Is the little bother ready?” Siam asked from the front door.
“Don’t call me that,” Jai said, reappearing in the bedroom door. Now fully dressed, his threadbare backpack in hand, he gave Siam a surly look. Jettrin shouldered his own backpack off the floor, took Jai’s small wrist in hand, and led him to the apartment’s entrance. But he stopped short of opening it onto the hallway, first pressing his ear against the door.
Sounds of domestic life spiraled into his cochlea: spouses arguing, parents scolding children, infants screaming, and everywhere footsteps crisscrossing creaky wooden floors above, below, and beside their squat. But he heard no one directly in the narrow hallway outside.
“It’s safe to go,” Jai said, annoyed.
Jettrin turned on him. “How do you know that?”
“Because the landlady sleeps late, and she doesn’t even live here. And what will she do, throw us out? We’re already leaving!”
Jettrin tried to read Jai’s expression, knowing he was correct to a point. Bangkok traffic was the worst in Thailand. But if the landlady spotted them on the premises, and if she reported them to the police for squatting, the subsequent chain of events would probably end with Jai being identified as a psychic, Jettrin arrested for abetting his flight, and Siam arrested for more obscure crimes of his own. The risk was too high to flout. The confidence on Jai’s face meant the seven-year-old was either unaware of the risk or was psyching. Jettrin looked for any indication of the latter, in which case he’d whack Jai on the ear.
Siam, exasperated, pulled out his computer and unfolded it.
“Put that away,” Jettrin hissed.
“I can check where she is.”
“There’s no time!” Jettrin bit out. “We’re leaving right now anyway.”
“Then let’s fucking go already.” Siam snapped the computer shut and shoved it back into his bag.
Jettrin undid the dead bolts and chain and slid away the concrete block they’d used as a stop, allowing the door to swing inward. He pressed his shoulder against the doorjamb, hand under his shirt in case he had to defend himself, and then darted his head out for just a second, as if imitating a hero cop from a crime film.
“It’s clear,” he told the others.
Adrian Randall is a PhD and a dual-class bureaucrat/scientist. A native Floridian, he lives in Alexandria with the love of his life and their many beautiful board games. He has a tenuous grasp on reality, owing to a steady diet of novels, comics, and other distractions. All his ideas start as character backstory for MMOs and RPGs, and he does all his writing while listening to video game soundtracks. So if he’s gaming instead of working on a book, it’s not procrastination, it’s workshopping. He usually spends his free time geeking out about some damn thing or another. You can geek out with him through any of his social media channels. If he doesn’t respond, it means he broke his phone again.