Here's a new one I started. It wasn't meant to become a thing, but it did. I kinda like it.

Let me know what you think.


1

Eben huffed and pushed back his black hair, bringing down a knuckle to swipe blood from the gash in his lip. It stung, but he was used to the pain of cuts and bruises and broken bones, so easily ignored it in favor of watching the group before him fight nothing.

In their minds, they were kicking the shit out of him. All but one, one plain looking youth off to the side, watching the empty air his fellows kicked and punched with a sort of detached disgust. Eben didn't know why he was so fascinated, there was always one or two in a group who refrained from joining the bloodfest. Perhaps it was his silence, or his stillness? There was a sort of disinterest in his eyes, when Eben moved closer, the boy looking right through him, as Eben desired, but something else as well.

Eben chuckled to himself and wiped away more blood. What a wannabe gangster boy he'd found. He reached briefly into the boy's mind, gently pressing into the thoughts and layers until he found what he was looking for. Disgust was forefront and Eben was surprised by how completely turned off by this needless violence the youth actually was. Not violence in general, a quick sweep of recent memories revealed some steel under that cool. Eben was glad for a moment that this boy hadn't been the one to hit him first.

Well, man. Apparently he was nineteen. As much of a man as age could make a person.

Eben probed a little deeper, seeing boredom, irritation, and then fear leapt out at him. Eben paused at the revelation that this manboy was actually afraid his gangmembers would kill Eben. The next emotion, however, explained it all. Attraction bloomed out, tentative and confused, but very present.

Eben pulled back and grinned, giving this average looking kid a once over. That was definitely a first.

His probing had obviously been too much, the man wincing shortly after Eben evacuated, and he grabbed his head, massaging his temples. Mindbreaking was never pleasant, but Eben tried his best to be gentle and unobtrusive. He took a step back as the man stood, giving his head a shake, poker-straight, mud-brown hair brushing around his shoulder.

"That's enough," he rumbled, voice surprisingly deep.

One of the kickers paused and Eben turned his eyes to him, seeing anger on his face. "What'd you say?"

"I said enough. Fuck, you're gunna kill him. He ain't done anything but boost."

"Boostin' in our territory. And who the fuck made you leader of this outfit, Theo?" he barked, and he gave the projected-Eben's head a mighty kick, his foot flying through dead air without actually coming into contact with anything.

Theo sighed, a low growl in his throat, and Eben took a moment to admire the bulge of the man's mandible muscle as he ground his teeth. "That doesn't matter. What we should be worried about it someone finding a dead guy in our territory. I'm sure he's learned his fuckin' lesson, let's get out of here before someone sees and calls the cops."

"And what're the cops gunna do about it? Shit, fuckers are fat and can't hit the broad side of a barn," insisted one of the others, earning chuckles.

"Just leave it. C'mon, Malachi'll be pissed, Hogan, you know it," Theo insisted.

"I don't give a fuck what Malachi thinks," this Hogan, the first to speak, spat, and he kicked the false-Eben again. Eben wondered what they each saw then, as the man's foot flew through the air at nothing. In their minds, Eben was lying there, bloody and bruises, possibly unconscious, frail and close to death.

Close to death.

He pushed outward with his mind and the group all let out simultaneous gasps, shuffling back half-steps, looking down in horror.

Hogan shook his head. "Nah. No way, I ain't kick him that hard," he insisted, voice desperate.

"You killed him, you fucking killed him, Hog, why you keep kickin' him like that!?"

"Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck."

"Jeezuz, Hog."

Eben grined and chuckled, leaning casually against the wall, enjoying their panic. The only one not panicking was this Theo. Instead, Eben was once more taken aback by the look in his eyes. It almost looked like loss. Pain from loss.

"Let's get outta here," Theo said, voice even, and he turned away the group following hastily, some even running well ahead to disappear further into the maze of alleys. Theo looked back, back toward what he saw as a dead body lying under the dim alley lights. His eyes lingered there and Eben stared after him thoughtfully.

This was definitely a first. Eben almost felt bad for fucking with his head.

Mindbreaking was the most illegal thing any person could do, which sucked for one out of every one thousand or so kids because it was a natural development, a skill that presented itself generally in the early teen years of the child's development. It was illegal because it was dangerous in the wrong hands, but what wasn't? Mindbreakers, a lovely term given them by the government, could do all sorts of nasty things, the first and foremost, so they said, body-snatching. They called it that, anyway, and eagerly distributed pamphlets and documents and television broadcasts describing in some detail all the horrible things mindbreakers could do. Without much trouble at all, a mindbreaker could easily control someone, making them do horrible things, things against their will, their nature, such as murder. Politicians quickly jumped on that bandwagon. "A mindbreaker made me unfaithful to my wife!" they all cried eagerly.

Then there were other things, like theft and illusions, things Eben used freely, though in no grandiose way. It was easy for a mindbreaker to make someone hand over money or keys to a car. Just about anything, really.

Which is why the one in one thousand statistic was probably undermining the number of mindbreakers there actually were. Eben hadn't had a problem making himself invisible and didn't doubt there were others who had developed early and evaded the school testing.

Of course, Eben had also evaded school. It had been circumstantial evasion, mainly, his mother didn't give a fuck if he went or not, so he just hadn't gone. That, doubled with his early development, helped him easily evade testing. Sometimes he wondered, however, what would have happened to him if he'd been caught. Most Breakers were euthanize, deemed too dangerous to keep alive, but he'd seen some of those kept around. Docile things the government managed to threaten into obedience. They used them to catch 'criminals' and maintain order.

Or, rather, do the government's dirty work. Whatever people wanted to tell themselves to help them sleep at night. Eben wasn't concerned. Seven years since he developed and he'd managed to evade detection.

Low-profile was the way to go.

He was cocky, though, and slipped up, hence his bruised face. Normally, he was pretty good about keeping up his guards, making people look through him, but it had been a busy afternoon in the square, people milling about, completely ignoring him. Eben hadn't thought anyone would see him dipping into this man's pocket or that woman's purse. Next thing he knew, he was dragged into the alley and socked in the mouth.

It wasn't difficult, getting out of situations like that, but he was mentally exhausted, the only downside of being a Breaker, the bit they never talked about. Being inside the heads of so many people all the time was stressful and extremely taxing.

Gently prodding his throbbing face, Eben gathered himself and let the illusion shatter with the retreat of the gang. It took a moment to shake it off, especially since he was so hung up on that Theo kid. No doubt the boy would suffer some after effects as well, other than the headache from Eben's digging.

The street was quieting down, happy hour coming to a close, so Eben pulled in tight, own head throbbing. It took most of what he had left to keep himself cloaked until he found the shady little 'inn' he was looking for and he eagerly let down his shields when he entered, sighing in relief.

The manager looked up and eyes instantly filled with worry. "Goddamn, Eben, what happened?"

Eben grinned. "Fucked up. I'm all right, was only a sucker punch. Don't hurt much."

She stood and shuffled out from behind her little check-in desk, aging hands gently reaching out to him. He didn't fuss when she worried at his face, looking at his busted lip and inspecting the forming bruise.

"You're sure it doesn't hurt?"

"Nah, not much."

"You eaten yet?"

"You don't worry about me, I'm only here for sleepin'," Eben insisted, gently taking her wrists and pulling her hands away.

She scowled at him, her sixty-some year-old face hard and strict, but her eyes worried. "You take a can of soup up with you, then. You still got that hotplate I put up there?"

Eben tsked and rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Grace, don't be like that. You promised you'd pretend ya didn't know I was here. You keep on providin' for me and I'll have to Break ya and take off, keeps the cops from arresting you for aidin' and abettin'.

Grace huffed and stepped back, pressing her fists into her plump hips and giving him a look he adored; like a granny about to scold a misbehaving grandchild. "Cops don't scare me. Now you go into my pantry and grab some soup, whatever you want outta there, and get some rest," she insisted. There was no arguing with Grace, Eben had learned at least that much in the six years he'd been with her. They shared a look for a moment and Eben finally pressed in, giving her cheek a brief kiss, and he smiled as she swatted at him, giving him a shove toward her apartment door.

Grace's inn was a place he'd discovered early in his development. It was deep in the back streets, a place people didn't usually go looking, and the patrons were usually drunks or prostitutes with their Johns. With only Grace there to make note of the comings and goings, it seemed the best place for a thirteen year old trying to keep safe. He broke her easily, weaseled a room key, and was able to bathe and sleep behind a locked door. Until one evening he'd wandered in from a scuffle at one of the parks. Eben's thoughts had been all over, focusing on his fear, the pain, his hunger, and he lacked any energy or concentration, instead breaking down in tears outside the inn, afraid to go in and even try. Instead, he'd sat himself against the wall, snuffing and exhausted.

One of the passing hookers had mentioned his presence and suddenly Grace was there, asking him what he was doing, why he was crying, and commanded him inside and up into a small room for a bath because he was filthy and she was losing business due to his carrying on. By the time he'd relaxed enough, Eben was sitting on a bed, dressed in overlarge but clean clothes, with a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. He ate it all down greedily, ignoring the look in Grace's eyes.

"There's only one thing you could be with hair like that," she'd said accusingly, knowingly.

She'd promised Eben would be safe there and he'd bawled as he finished his food.

So many years later and Grace still insisted he'd be safe there, though Eben was much older and more self aware. He'd gone from staying in whichever vacant room, to the attic, his own private little refuge. He paid rent, so to speak, a cut in his spoils for the day. For someone so good, Grace sure didn't mind taking a share of his stolen wealth.

Eben swore he'd have been an honest man if he weren't a wanted one.

Snagging a can of soup and a couple slices of bread for dipping, Eben made his way up five flights to the attic. It was a dark, dusty place, but dry and cozy. The walls were lined with boxes of junk and memories, but toward the back was a space all his own, curtained off from the rest of the world. It had a bed – a simple beat-up mattress on the floor – a very old television that got at least the local news, and the hotplate Grace had brought up while he was out.

Eben was convinced it was the high life.

Emptying the soup into a shallow pot to heat, he shucked his clothes – jeans, dark tee, and an old leather coat – and sprawled naked on his bed, staring up at the nothingness that was the ceiling of his little home and beginning the arduous process of emptying his mind from the day. It was a sort of meditation he'd learned over the years. Emptying his mind helped him separate his thoughts from the thoughts of others, cleared out his reservoir, and made regaining energy easier and quicker. Average people didn't realize how much noise they tossed out into the world on a day to day basis. Eben was like a sponge, whether he wanted to be or not.

There was one thought that definitely belonged to him, however, and that was the stony, mysterious Theo. With his dark, questioning eyes and steel exterior. Eben remembered the shock of discovering attraction, the pain when Theo thought Hogan had killed Eben in the alley.

Eben blinked at the ceiling. What an interesting mind.