Head Game

 Trey Dowell

Wyld FLASH September 17th 2021

The tall man trotted through the hospital corridors, searching for the secure wing.  Droplets of water sluiced off the folds of his raincoat, leaving what looked like a trail of tears in his wake.  He didn’t bother asking for directions—once the two cops with pulse rifles came into view, he knew where to go.

One officer raised a palm as he approached.

“Gotta have a badge to be in this wing, man.”

“Golladay.  Federal Psy-Ops,” he said, toggling his holo-ident.  “Captain Briggs is expecting me.”

The cop ushered Golladay forward, barely examining the hologram.  “Room 3260.  Hurry.”

In 3260, a female uniformed cop and a guy in a suit waited.  The uniform wore a psionic-resistant helmet.  Most cops did.  Golladay could sense the low-power alpha waves flashing along the inside surface of her psi-blocker—only effective at blocking Level One telepaths—and fought back a smile.

The suit stepped forward. “Golladay?  I’m Briggs.”

Golladay flashed the ID again.  At least Briggs read it.

“Jesus.  Level Five telepath?  I didn’t know there was such a thi—”    

“This is him?” Golladay asked, brushing past to a handcuffed man on a gurney.  A breathing tube, hoses, and wires extended from him to an array of beeping, flashing machines behind.  Bandages covered his chest and arms.

“Conrad Virgil,” Briggs said.  “We raided his house on a tip.  The Hamil—”

“Hamilton kidnapping case,” Golladay finished, then noticed Briggs’ frown.  “Sorry. I hear the thoughts before you say them.”

The telepath looked at Virgil’s chart, then the blood seeping through his bandages.  “Your entry team shot him seven times?”

The uniform piped up.  “Six wasn’t enough.”

Golladay ignored her.  “We’re on a clock, yes?”

The captain nodded.  “The Hamilton boy.  Billy.  Virgil sedated him in a locked bio-tank, booby-trapped the damn thing with mercury switches.  Bomb squad can’t move or disarm it fast enough.  We need the unlock code.”

“What’s the rush?”

“Virgil initiated a degrade-cycle on the tank before we got there.  It’s lowering the temperature inside—”

The uniform’s radio barked.  “Thermometer’s at minus 3.”

Briggs looked at Golladay, pleading.  “Drops one degree every minute,” he whispered.  “Kid’ll be dead in less than ten.  I need that goddamn code.  Four digits.  The D.A. already signed off on a cerebral breach.  We can wire the psionic-bridge right now.”

Golladay bent to touch Virgil’s forehead.  “A Level Five doesn’t need wires.”


   Bright light.  White room. 

Golladay’s mental projection materialized in the center of the space, raincoat and all.  A plain black desk sat in front of him.  Conrad Virgil sat behind it.  Dressed in a sweater vest and khakis, the mind-generated avatar could have passed for a Sunday School teacher.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Virgil said.

“I get that a lot.”

“A citizen’s mind is restricted space.  Cerebral breaches are illegal.”

“Like kidnapping and attempted murder,” Golladay responded.  “Look, Billy doesn’t have time for this bullshit.  The code.  Now.”


“Or I take it.”

Virgil clapped.  “Ooooo, so scary!”  The featureless white walls shimmered, and dozens of gun ports appeared.  “Here’s the thing, telepath.  This is my mind.  I know how to defend it.”  Long-barreled weapons extended through the ports.  When Golladay looked back to Virgil, the kidnapper now wore a gleaming suit of ceramic-composite armor.  Each hand spun a wicked blade with a serrated edge.

Minus 5, Briggs’ voice resonated from outside of the mental bridge.  Hurry.

Golladay stepped forward and pointed one fist at Virgil.  The ceramic knight raised swords and leapt over the desk.

And stopped.  Frozen in mid-air.

The machine guns melted, molten slag dripping from the ports.

The telepath flared his fingers and the armor exploded off Virgil’s form, swords and ceramic burning to dust.  Another gesture, and Virgil’s avatar disintegrated as well.  Golladay focused beyond the mental constructs, directly to the whisper-stream of Virgil’s consciousness.


There we go.


One more.



Deep in Virgil’s thought-stream, swimming in it, Golladay felt something…wrong.

Can’t pull back.  Can’t sever the connection.

The white room surrounded him once more.  Virgil stood, hands clasped behind his back.

“Did you think we were done?”

“You’re a telepath too,” Golladay said.  “A strong one.”

“As are you.  What a happy coincidence they sent someone so powerful to pry information out of me.  You’re at least a Level 4.”

“You wanted me here?”

Virgil paced the room.  “I needed a telepath.  Feds don’t just send one if you ask nicely.”


“Brain tumor.  Inoperable.  Four months, maximum.  And the seven bullets didn’t help.”

Golladay’s eyes widened.  “You want a new body.”

Virgil’s sparkled.  “And the only bridge strong enough to support a full psionic transfer is between two telepaths.”

Golladay straightened.  “I’m not going anywhere.  But you are.”

“So scary!” Virgil cackled.  “I love your enthus—”

The kidnapper’s form exploded.

Minus 7.  Briggs’ voice. Like a beacon.

Virgil reappeared.  Not just one Virgil.  Dozens—hundreds—of avatars, filled the space, all smiling. 

SO SCARY,” they howled in unison, flooding in.

Golladay threw up both hands, generating explosions throughout the ranks of charging avatars.  No matter how fast he destroyed the attackers, more came.  An undulating wave of hatred.

Collapsing on him.



Minus ten degrees.  Goddamit, Golladay.  C’mon!

The telepath used all his remaining energy to lock onto Briggs’ voice, and let the wave come.


Golladay jerked back, sprawling across the floor.

“3-7-4-9!” he yelled.  “It’s 3-7-4-9!”

Briggs radioed the code before helping him up. “You alright?”

The telepath nodded, breathing hard.  “A trap,” he said.  “The boy was bait.  Virgil’s a goddamn telepath.  Wanted to transfer his consciousness before he died.”

“What the hell?  Is that even a thing?” 

 Golladay winced.  “Yeah, but the transfer requires another telepath.”

Virgil’s body jerked and alarms sounded.  Before the medical staff even responded, the alarms stopped.

“Telepath won’t help the asshole now,” Briggs said. 

The radio chirped.  “Kid’s okay, boss.”

Briggs exhaled, then smiled at Golladay.  “Jesus.  Thank you.  That was closer than I’d like.”

“Scary,” the telepath said, nodding. “So scary.”

Author Bio: Trey Dowell is an award-winning author of both short and novel-length fiction. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Intrinsick, and Abyss & Apex, as well as several anthologies. His debut sci-fi novel The Protectors was published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.  Learn more at www.treydowell.com.

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