A Good Boy: Part 2

“Always listens to him anyway?” I followed the obvious line of reasoning. “He’s not a motivator too, is he?”

Kals shook her head. “Yes, but it’s not that simple. We’re mostly immune. If we weren’t, we’d never be able to use our power without following our own orders.”

As Cassie and I sat down at the table across from Kals, Cassie glanced over at me. “Mostly?”

Kals brushed a lock of black hair out of her face. “Mostly. It works, but it’s hard. Do you have any people with motivator powers on your world?”

Thinking about Julie, former member of Justice Fist and now a fellow student at Stapledon, I said, “I know one, but there are probably more. Her mother had the same powers.”

Cassie barely let me finish before adding, “If there are more, they don’t seem to be running things on our world. I don’t see how they could. Julie orders people to do things, but it wears off and there’s no mystery about who’s responsible. Even if she did take a country over, all you’d need is a sniper rifle or big bomb to solve the problem.”

Kals shook her head saying, “That’s not how it works. Sure, if you’re inexperienced and you’ve got no one to train you, you go the direct route and bark orders at everybody, but that’s not the way the best motivators do it.”

“Uh huh,” I said, mostly to make sure she knew I was listening.

Kals didn’t say anything, waiting and only beginning to talk as Cassie frowned and sent the words, “What is she doing?” at me via our implants. Kals pointed at Cassie. “That’s what we do. We’re taught to constantly be watching people so we can use them. I knew you’d say something first. Nick’s patient. You’re not. You become suspicious more easily than he does. I’d have an easier time getting him alone and an easier time getting started on him, but he might be harder ultimately because I think he might notice what I’m doing.”

She looked at Cassie, eyes resting on the sword and then looking toward where the table hid her gun . “I’m not sure you’d notice, but if you did, you’d kill me or something.”

I leaned forward, putting my arms on the wooden table. “What would we notice?”

“I’m was getting to that. Most of the time, we have to motivate people we have no control over, people who know we’re there for the Ascendancy, and most of all, people who don’t trust us. We don’t command them. What we do is listen, maybe use a hint of our power to make them talk a little more freely. Then once you know what makes them tick, then you start modifying their memories—“

Cassie interrupted. “—Wait a second. You’re not a telepath. You can’t do that.”

Kals raised an eyebrow. “If you’re done, I’ll tell you how I can. People’s memories aren’t set. I can’t change something that people remember well as easily, but something half remembered? That’s something I can do. Look, you can do it. If you make up a memory with enough enthusiasm and detail, they’ll begin to remember it—at least if they think you might remember something they don’t. It’s the same for me except as long as I don’t contradict something big, it doesn’t matter, they’ll listen. Once you’ve found the right memories, you modify around them and you can change their whole meaning, change the person’s loyalties, likes and dislikes. You can’t do it all at once, but over time, you can do almost anything.”

She explained it like she might have described how anything worked, and not at all the way you’d describe warping someone’s personality to make them betray everything they cared about. On the other hand, she’d trained at it for years. That was enough time to get used to the idea.

Following the next question that came to mind, I asked, “So, okay… How does that explain why Maru isn’t manipulating your mom?”

“He can’t,” she said, gesturing outward with her hands as if it should have been obvious. “Maru’s a motivator, but my mom studied with the best teachers the Ascendancy had to offer. Maru couldn’t even get into her school. He worked for one of the professors, but he didn’t go there. He trained somewhere else. They used him as an opponent so that they’d learn how to fight other motivators. It’s hard to affect each other, but it’s possible—barely. She beat him again and again. He’s not at her level. I don’t think he’s even at my level.”

I thought about that. “Alright. So he met your mom at the school she went to and she hired him, why?”

She shook her head. “She didn’t hire him. My dad also went to the school at the same time. He hired him and somehow they all got involved in the resistance because of my mom. I’ve never gotten the full story. Mom’s impossible to talk to.”

I sighed. Either we weren’t getting anywhere, or we were on the edge of something big. “I think I asked this, but why did he try to warn us about you then?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. I think he hates me, but I think he hates the entire second generation.”

She leaned back in her chair, smiling. “Does that mean you think he’s working for the Ascendancy?”

Cassie shrugged. “Maybe.”

I said, “I don’t know. He might be. He’s a little suspicious, but we don’t have anything resembling a motive. Do you?”

She tilted her head, pursing her lips. “Let me think.”

7 thoughts on “A Good Boy: Part 2”

    1. Typo: I’m was getting to that.

      So, really good Motivators are also good manipulators, and Maru’s bad at it because he’s too blatant. Earth humans also have good and bad manipulators. Some of the best ones are political or (more especially) religious leaders. So Nick and the others would likely have more experience with dealing with them (directly or indirectly) than they might first have expected.

  1. Maru’s been there from near the beginning. He has received an unknown level of training. He’s always “lost” against Jadzen, so the indication would be that he’s weak. If he’s a strong spy, however, that would give him a great blindspot to hide in. A “nonthreatening” motivator who has the ear of the most dominant one.

    Now, all they need is a motive.

    1. “Let me think” = “I bet I can come up with something plausible if you give me a sec” 😀

      Should we be suspicious of this Kals hussy? Or are we just being led to be suspicious? Like, what else was the point of the Haley interlude where she’s worried about Nick, but to make Kals suspicious without her having to do anything? We all know that if Nick was going to cheat on Haley it had goddamn better be with Amy! Otherwise the readers here will revolt and Jim’s writing would be drowned out by all of us writing our own fanfics. It would be madness! And not the good kind!

      Still I would probably read Angelo Pampalone’s fanfic at least 😉

      1. I would like to think Nick wouldn’t cheat at all but if he and Haley were to split up and he happened to date someone else… Then holy crap I would be super disappointed if it weren’t Amy. That being said with her dating Vaughn now that has the potential to be fairly problematic… Maybe they could amiably spilt up too and then Nick and Amy & Vaughn and Cassie could live happily ever after!

        I also would read Angelo’s fanfic:)

  2. I can’t say I like this personality changing stuff. I figure you an to use it later but it’s making me really uncomfortable. Too much potential for bad shit to happen to the main characters, too much potential for death or super edgy betrayals. In general mind control just bothers me I guess. So I’m not looking forward to that but I trust you have something good in store for us

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