Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Adult, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera, #Romance
Born to be powerless, Imgrace finds her true skills, not in her talent, but in her ability to bring it out in others.
On a world where everyone has a superpower and the powerless die before puberty, Imgrace is not in for a long and lustrous future. She learns at nine that she will never have a talent, and when her family pretends she never was, her life becomes a routine monitored by bots.
Being asked to help the Guardians in an experiment is one thing, finding out that she has something to offer her people is another. Imgrace is shocked.
Shadow was indifferent to the young woman who had lived her life powerless, until she kissed him. One moment turned his focus from his people to this young, frail woman who had been rejected by every means. He was about to pursue her when his commander shipped her to the Citadel, and then, he had to wait.
Training at the Citadel is surreal, and finding out that she isn’t what she thought shocks her to her core but fills her with purpose. She left a void, but she is returning a Guardian.
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Grace and Shadow
Copyright © 2015 Viola Grace
Cover art by Carmen Waters
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Grace and Shadow
Tales of the Citadel Book 46
“I am sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Kelart. Imgrace has no talent. She has no physical effect, no psychic ability and no incidental skills that can be detected. She is simply a void.” The doctor gave his assessment in a cold tone.
Imgrace sat and watched her parents as they argued that something must have been overlooked.
At nine years of age, she knew that she was not in possession of one of the talents that were given to one hundred percent of the population of Jremat. Her self-awareness was her only talent, but it wasn’t a talent, it was a survival mechanism.
When everyone in the schoolyard had enough power to destroy her, she had to be on her toes and around the corner before they could focus their energy.
School, busses and other public transport all were equipped with dampeners, but playtime was dangerous for someone like Imgrace.
She looked at the doctor when her mother whispered, “What will we do with her?”
He looked directly at Imgrace, and his prognosis was grim. “If she is injured at school, there will be an inquiry. I would recommend homeschooling with a bot or other tutor.”
Her parents looked at each other and then over to her. Imgrace looked back with an unshaken gaze. “I am willing to work from home. I can probably complete my education ahead of schedule with no distractions.”
The Kelarts swallowed and nodded in resigned agreement. Imgrace’s fate was set.
She wore a headset to keep the psychics out of her mind as she walked to work. It was a creation of her own making and mimicked a standard control band that kept psychic input from leaking
In the distance, she could hear the thud of a talent out of control. She increased the speed of her steps and got into one of the reinforced buildings for her morning tea and pastry.
She smiled at the clerk and gave her order. The cup and pastry went sailing through the air without a hand touching them.
Imgrace took her order from the counter and made her way through the crowds pushing in. At first, she thought it was the line for the counter, but she swiftly figured out that it was one of the Guardians of Jremat. So’orn, the Walking Shadow. His covered eyes and armoured suit gave him away.
Imgrace smiled slightly and made her way out of the building and into the light, two more blocks until she was at work in the call centre for the city where she only had to pass along the calls of those who needed information on their municipal taxes. It was an easy job and one that suited her.
In her time as a shut-in, educating herself as best as she was able, she had gained degrees in history, sociology and medicine. Without having to adhere to the plodding learning of the classroom, Imgrace had rocketed ahead, trying to prove to her parents that keeping her with them had not been the wrong decision.
Now, she was a low-level functionary for local government. She wasn’t the talent that they had wanted, but her mother’s talent for plants and her father’s minor diagnostic talent seemed to keep to themselves. They didn’t share.
Imgrace settled behind her desk, swapped out her travel headgear for her normal headset and she flicked on the newsfeed. The thudding that she had heard earlier was displayed as a lawbreaker with a concussive talent. The Guardians had swarmed in and taken care of him, hauling him to Riakku Confinement Centre for holding. If he was deemed sane, he would get his day in court.
Her headset chimed, and she fired up her terminal. It was time to work. She could watch the news later.
At lunchtime, she left her office and headed through the halls to the main-floor lifts.
A crowd was gathered on the main floor, and she had to go around it. When she walked up to the elevated edge of the room, she could see two Guardians signing autographs and smiling brightly.
Why are they here?
* * * *
“Shadow, the void you are looking for is exiting the building.”
He smiled and answered Link through gritted teeth. “Fabulous. How are we supposed to get out of here?”
“Just leave. You have done it often enough. I am tracking her now, so you should be able to get on your cycle and cut her off.”
Shadow rolled his eyes. “Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen.” It was mostly ladies, it always was. “We have been called off to attend our administrative duties. Please excuse us?”
Shatter smiled, and they turned and left the municipal offices with long strides.
“Get the location up on the cycles, Link.”
Link laughed in his ear. “I am working on it. She is close, but you can hide the bikes in an alley. Fly, spiral around the municipal centre and then drop down two blocks north. It looks like she is having lunch.”
Shadow nodded, though Link couldn’t see him. Shatter and Shadow lifted off in search of the void that might solve a little problem for them.
For the last two generations, no one could leave Jremat and keep their talent. It ceased to function the moment they cleared eighty percent of the gravitational pull. Researchers determined that a Jrematan without power might act as a link to the world and as a power source. It had never been tested, because there was only one void currently on record. The others had all been killed in childhood accidents.
They were in search of that one survivor.
She had to be around here somewhere.
* * * *
Imgrace ordered her hot sandwich and settled in to eat it at the counter. Her blocking headset was on and she was a regular, so no one wanted to chat.
She felt the murmurs of surprise before she glanced over. Two Guardians were getting off their cycles and walking into the diner.
Their faces were stoic and dark as they pushed through the doors and walked straight toward her. She wiped her mouth with a napkin and swallowed.
She cleared her throat. “I am.”
“Would you please come with us? We have a matter we would like you to assist on.” Shadow’s eyes were smiling though the rest of his face was stern.
Shatter had the same inner amusement in his gaze.
“Now? Can’t I finish my lunch?”
“Food will be provided for you at the base. Please, come with us.”
She put her payment down, got to her feet and nodded. “Fine.”
In her mind, she was wondering if they were arresting voids now for being freaks. She hadn’t heard of another one in years. Perhaps that is where they all went.
At the cycles, Shadow lifted her to straddle the seat, and when she settled, he got on in front of her. The pressure of his weight on the seat sent her sliding into his back.
“Sorry.” She tried to squirm backward but friction gave her up and gravity pulled her in.
He glanced back at her while his hands went to the controls. “Don’t worry about it. You will have to put your arms around me anyway.”
She wanted to argue that, but the cycle shot upward and his words came true. She threw her arms around him and held on tight with her eyes screwed shut.
She heard Shatter’s cycle nearby, and she could swear that she heard him laughing.
It felt like she was on the cycle for hours. The skin on body parts that hadn’t been touching Shadow were ice cold. Her work suit was no match for the wind over the ocean.
The two Guardians were fine. Their suits were insulated for this sort of thing, just another advantage of the talented. Their headgear kept in a lot of heat as well.
Imgrace wrapped her arms around herself as they walked toward the building. She tried not to shiver or chatter, but it was a fight.
Another Guardian came out, and he had a blanket in his arms. He pushed past Shadow, muttering, “Idiot.”
The man had kind eyes, and he draped the blanket over her, rubbing her arms and legs brusquely as the blanket heated to body temperature. The headset he wore identified him as Link.
Shadow cleared his throat. “I don’t understand.”
“She has neither a talent to protect her, nor an insulated suit. Her vitals started dropping ten minutes ago.”
To her surprise, Shadow blushed.
“I am Link, and I do the communication for these idiots; as you can see, they are lacking in verbal skills.” He smiled and kept an arm around her as he eased her into the structure in front of them.
A bot rolled up with hot sweet tea, and Imgrace grabbed for a mug with shaking hands.
She tried to bring the mug to her lips, but her hands were quivering and making it awkward. Shadow moved to her side and held the cup for her. She sipped carefully, trying not to scald herself. The temperature was perfect, and she gulped as quickly as she could.
When the cup was empty, he put it aside and Link pulled her into a seating area while still rubbing her arms and legs absently.
“You are probably wondering why Shadow and Shatter hauled you here.”
She snorted. “Good guess.”
“We need to test a theory about voids and talents.”
Imgrace was wary. “What? That we die easier? I know that. There were five in our province when I was a kid. Now, I am the only one left alive. We are too easy to kill.”
Shadow frowned. “They were exterminated?”
She shook her head. “No, they were all killed by other children who were working to master their own powers. If a pyro flares out, a hydro talent can put him out, a telekinetic can move the fire. All a void can do is burn and die.”
Link cocked his head. “How did you survive?”
“One word for you. Homeschooling.”
The three men blinked as if they had never considered that as an option. Shadow asked, “You didn’t interact with your own peers?”
“The ones who would kill me by accident or in a temper? I was safer at home with my bot tutor and my studies.” She chuckled weakly. “I got my degrees, entered the workforce and wear the headband so that no one can jerk me around for fun. I have no defenses and can be a walking puppet in the wrong hands.”
Shatter squatted in her line of sight. “You are that vulnerable?”
She snorted. “Of course. The same power that gifted you with talent made me a raw nerve open to any attack. We are the same species but that is pretty much where it ends.”
Link sat next to her. “We are going to ask you for an easy assist on a project we are engaging in.”
Imgrace gave him a narrow-eyed look. “What do you need?”
Link smiled. “We just need you to come along on an off-world jaunt to answer an age-old question.”
“What is that question?”
“Why do our talents stop working in space?”