“Ready?” Alex asked.
I nodded. Calm. Focused. Ready to test my powers.
“Good. I’m your target. Choose a simple action, and try to make me do it.”
I nodded again. I was in a higher state, feeling confident. Not bothered by concerns over recent events. Focused solely on practicing my new power.
I glanced distantly toward the machinery spread around the room. Magic detectors, Alex had explained, machines built to sense magical energy, and record it on a computer for study.
Other than the machines, the room was bare: a table, two chairs, and nothing else. I sat in one chair, Alex across from me.
Make him stand on his chair, I decided.
I closed my eyes and envisioned it: Alex stands up, turns around, steps onto his chair, and stands there.
Again and again I envisioned it, concentrating deeply. Once ready, I reached out to Alex’s mind, and kept playing the scene over and over again in my mind. In his mind, now.
Finally, I heard a small squeal as Alex pulled out his chair. Turned around. Raised his foot. And stopped.
I could feel him struggling against me. He knew I was doing it, and he was fighting back.
I focused harder, dug deeper into his mind.
The more I pushed, the more he resisted. He was testing me, seeing how hard I could push. I gave him everything I had.
But it still wasn’t enough. He was too strong. He resisted all my efforts, and started lowering his foot.
I didn’t give up. I dropped the beginning and end of the sequence. Concentrated on him raising his foot just a few more inches. Played it in our minds faster and faster.
The tide was turned: I was winning. He put up a good fight, but by focusing on one part at a time, I slowly forced both feet onto the chair.
Now stand. I focused on him straightening out his legs, bit by bit.
He put up a good fight, but he was losing his will to resist, and before long, he gave in completely.
I smiled. “I win.” I had complete control over him.
“Good job. I think we’re done for the–”
My eyes flicked open. “Quiet.” I made him stop talking.
I smiled again. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. So much power… I could make Alex do whatever I wanted.
Bow, I told his mind, and he bowed.
He looked up at me, pleading for me to stop.
Horror washed over me. “What am I doing?” I released my control over him. Pulled off my halo. And buried my head in my hands. Why did I keep going? He told me to stop, and I–
“You did great.” Alex laid a comforting hand on my shoulder. “There’s no reason to be upset.”
“I–I enjoyed it,” I explained, “I took control of your mind… Forced you to do something against your will, and… and I liked it. It–it felt so good.”
“I’m not surprised.” He sighed. “It’s the same way for me. When I let loose my fire… there’s no better feeling. Such power. It’s incredible. Addicting. That’s why you need to learn to stay in control of yourself. And not let that feeling take over.”
“I–I couldn’t stop. I knew it was time to release you, but–I’m sorry, I–”
“You did stop. Just not right away.”
“But what if I hadn’t? What if–what if I’d just kept going, and–”
“AIINACS would have stopped you.”
“What?” I lifted my head.
“AIINACS oversees all testing.” Alex smiled. “This room was designed for me to practice in. If I lost control, and was in danger of burning the place down, AIINACS would play an incredibly loud and annoying sound over the loudspeakers, breaking my concentration. Would’ve done the same for you. But you stopped yourself, so it wasn’t necessary.”
“That’s good. But… what kind of person enjoys controlling someone else’s mind? I–I made you bow down to me. I… I shouldn’t have done that. And I certainly shouldn’t have liked it. What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing is wrong with you, Lilly. You just–look, the important thing is, you stopped yourself. You recognized what was happening, and you stopped before you did any real harm. That’s what matters. Focus on that. Okay?”
“Hey.” He smiled. “It’s time for you to do what I say, okay? And I say, be proud of yourself. You’ve got more control than I expected you to have by the end of our break.” He gave me a pat on the back. “So be proud, okay?”
“Okay.” I smiled weakly. “I’ll try.”