MIND GAMES [One Direction fanfiction] - 13 and up

Harry Styles was just a normal teenage boy, a normal teenage boy who had a happy life and was quite content to live it the way nature had intended: completely normally, with no weird happenings or crazy adventures. Yet some things, it would seem, are destined to be, and it would appear that Harry’s fate was to be abducted by insane strangers intent on experimenting on him, and their four other hand-picked victims. Harry sometimes feels so alone, even when his best friends are only a few metres away - and he can’t seem to help but be afraid, because there are so very few things left in his life for him to control…

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32. Chapter thirtytwo.

“I thought you said B was for ‘better’, not for ‘balls-up’.”

“Shut up.”

Louis wasn’t in the mood for Zayn’s wise cracks. He sat sulking on one end of the sofa, and nobody had any inclination to join him; his expression was as black as thunder, and he scowled at anyone who came anywhere near him. Wisely, they were all giving him a wide berth.

His plan had been to be levitated to the top of some kind of popular land mark (they’d chosen the Tower of London) while he threw force fields around and hoped that people saw them. In the end, though, he’d stood up there for twenty minutes attempting to make substantially-sized fields, and most of them had been pathetic failures because he didn’t much like heights, and standing on the top of an enormous and ancient building that was rumoured to be haunted and where hundreds of people had died…well, it didn’t do much for his nerves. And he’d never been good in a crisis, and it had rained throughout the whole thing. These were the excuses that he snapped at everyone when they gave him long looks after he finally admitted defeat and came down – but what added more insult to injury was that he’d slipped on the edge of the balcony where Zayn had stopped him to allow him a few minutes to catch his breath, fallen off, and instinctively stopped himself from falling on his face by conjuring a field around himself that was around the size of a large elephant, and Zayn had stopped him from falling too fast. So a force field larger than most of the cars driving around below had appeared over London, which did admittedly attract the attention that they wanted, but it was safe to say that Louis was pretty embarrassed by the whole ordeal.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Liam said comfortingly, “we made the headlines again, at least.” He gestured at the TV, which was telling them the news that the second ‘interesting phenomenon’ of the week had mysteriously appeared over a famous British landmark, and an inappropriately excited reporter with messy blonde hair was delightedly telling the cameras everything she knew about the recent supernatural occurrences, which apparently was very little. The wind had turned her hair into a bird’s nest, but she was too enamoured with her very vague story to care.

“Yeah, but first they took the mickey out of me for losing my shoe, and then they take the mickey out of my powers!” Louis raged. He jabbed an accusing finger at the screen. “As if the ‘Cinderella’ pun wasn’t bad enough – now this! ‘Attack of the Flying Hamsters – some kind of strange orb strongly resembling a hamster ball was seen floating a few hundred metres above London town last night’ – what the bloody hell is that all about? They’re mocking us. Mocking us!” Indignantly, he shoved a handful of Doritos into his mouth and crunched angrily on the powdered-cheese flavoured orange triangles.

“To be fair, it did kind of look like a hamster ball,” pointed out Niall reasonably, and then quavered underneath the fierceness of the glare Louis awarded him in response to that.

“If it gets us noticed, does it really matter if the whole country is laughing at us?” Zayn demanded. “The fact is, any publicity is good publicity, as any kind of organization will tell you; we’re getting publicized, so we can’t complain. At least this way, we know that we’re being put out there, that we’re definitely being seen.”

“They’re not laughing at us! They’re laughing at me!”

“Stop being such a bloody drama queen. If it helps us find Harry, what does it matter who’s laughing at us?”

Pouting, Louis drew his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them with a miserable sigh, closing his blue eyes so that he could block out the world for a while. He really didn’t have any kind of appropriate response for that.

He really wasn’t in any state to be verbally sparring with anyone, least of all Zayn, who was notorious among them for having a wickedly sharp tongue. Louis had dark purple circles beneath his eyes, he looked pale, which was incredibly unusual for him, and he kept yawning uncontrollably. It wasn’t exactly his fault; he’d been struggling to get a decent amount of sleep lately. His nightmares were haunted with thoughts of Harry, as he subconsciously panicked about the younger boy every second of the day, worrying about all the horrible things that could have befallen him. It left him looking ragged and tired, and concerned more than anything, like he had the troubles of the world heaped on his shoulders.

Nobody liked looking at him, because they weren’t used to seeing Louis look so defeated. Everybody hated seeing the desperate flicker of hope in his eyes every time the front door opened, and the way he slumped back down in his seat again when it wasn’t Harry. Perhaps he should have been used to the idea by now, that Harry wasn’t just going to walk in and make everything all right again, but the ghost of hope still hung about him, and he just couldn’t quite manage to let it go.

“Don’t worry, Lou,” Niall said, squeezing his shoulder comfortingly, “we’ll find them. Or rather, they’ll find us. They won’t be able to resist; they’ll play right into our hands. You’ll see.”

Louis didn’t respond; he stayed staring blankly into thin air, refusing to let any of their words touch him anymore, good or bad. In his mind’s eye, he’d drifted far, far away from them and right now he was lying safely in Harry’s arms.

~*~

Harry could have killed Louis. If he ever saw him again, he was going to be sorely tempted to punch him in the face. That alone was certain; there weren’t many things he was sure about any more, but that was one of them. The twat seemed determined to screw up every single one of his plans, and the trouble was that he was stupidly good at it.

Of course, he had help, and Harry was working alone. The only form of assistance he had were three people who were unconscious to the fact that they were helping, and he had to do an awful lot of verbal manipulating to get it. Louis, however, had three supernatural beings and an incredibly intelligent girl on his side, and all Harry had was three gifted but unhelpful and incredibly contrary morons, who apart from being stubborn, were also completely intent on catching the love of Harry’s life and his best friends, and doing god knows what to them. The stress of it all was definitely not good for Harry’s health. It wouldn’t be good for anyone’s! Every second was another second that he had to spend trying to save someone who was doing their utmost to put their life in danger; apart from being exhausting, it was completely infuriating, meaning that Harry was both shattered and aggravated at the same time. Not the most pleasant of combinations, really.

Right now, Felix was explaining his apparently excellent plan to catch Louis, and Harry knew he had to pay attention so that he knew how best to sabotage it, but it was all so boring listening to Felix blustering on about how brilliant he was without actually getting around to the logistics of the actual plan that he couldn’t help drifting. Eventually, he irritably sat up and interrupted Felix’s self-satisfied speech, as it appeared that no one else was going to.

“Is there a point to any of this, or are you going to keep rambling on about how great you are all day? Because if that’s the case, I think I’ll go to bed.”

Affronted, Felix said shrilly, “Well, how’s that for gratitude? I’d like to see you come up with the idea of genetically engineering an animal to help find a complete stranger! Yeah! Now takethat and shove it up your –”

“Wait, what?” For the first time, Cheren appeared to actually be paying attention; looking up from the table, which he’d been carving doodles into with a broken biro, he asked, “you? You genetically engineered an animal?”

“Well…not exactly. But I told them to do it! Which brings me to our next revelation….” After a dramatic pause, Felix vanished, apparently going to fetch whatever it was he thought was going to be so useful to their plan.

He rematerialized a few moments later with one hand buried in the thick wool of an extremely dopey looking sheep, which bleated dismally and staggered a little. Harry stared at the sheep, feeling weirdly nostalgic; all sheep were the same, but he could have sworn he’d seen that particular one before…

“I call it ‘NEEP’,” Felix announced proudly: “Neurologically Effected Entity.”

“It’s a sheep.” And not just any sheep: Niall’s sheep, Harry thought to himself bewilderedly.

“Well done, genius.” He relented after a few seconds. “It’s not just any sheep. It’s like a sniffer dog – only a sheep. The guys at the lab managed to do some wacky stuff to its perception and senses and that kind of stuff; NEEP is the world’s only fully functioning tracker-sheep. You give it a scent, and it’ll trace the source for you. And it eats grass, which means it’s easy to feed.And it’s too stupid to realize that it gets rewarded for finding things, so unlike a dog, it won’t ever fake results in order to get rewards!” Felix was inordinately pleased with himself.

Harry had lots of questions, but before he could voice any of them, Cheren brought up his one and only concern: “What does the P stand for? You said it was called NEEP, but you didn’t explain what the P was for.”

Felix shrugged. “Product? Phenomenon? Personality? I don’t know, NEEP sounded better than NEE. It had a better ring to it.” He patted the sheep. “This is the exact same sheep that took such a shine to Sparks when I first got the Dream Team out of that cell; what with the amount of time he spent canoodling it, it knows his scent very well. According to all the blokes in the lab, if we can remind it of…” he frowned.

“Niall?” Harry reminded him.

“Whatever. If we can remind it of Niall, the theory is that it’ll hunt him down by sense of smell and find him. Therefore, according to reasoning, if we take NEEP to London, and shove something of Niall’s up its nose, then it’ll seek him out. So all we need is something that belongs to sparks, and a mode of transportation, and we’re sorted.”

“The shoe –” by the time Harry realized he’d just spoken out loud, he could have kicked himself, but Felix’s head had already whipped towards him.

“Um.” Shit. “That…that shoe, that they left behind at the crime scene. That was Niall’s shoe.”Idiot, idiot, don’t tell them that! “It’ll lead us straight to him, I guess.” He knew exactly why he’d said that; the thought of being reunited with Louis, no matter how much danger in, had been too tempting to pass up on. It would be his fault if Louis got hurt…but at the moment he was going so stir-crazy that he thought he was willing to take the risk.

Felix’s smile was like the Cheshire cat’s from Alice in Wonderland, except creepier. “Excellent. It’s all falling into place…I’m a genius!” he announced happily.

“You’re a moron,” Deino said sourly. “Get that thing out of here; it stinks.”

“Baa,” said NEEP dolefully.

Harry couldn’t help but laugh. Some things never change, he thought wryly. Genetically engineered or not, NEEP was as endearingly thick-witted as it had always been. He wondered if it still had its puppy-like loyalty towards Niall – and then realized that he pitied it, because its loyalty would be its downfall…its loyalty would be what led it straight to the blond boy, and in the end, its loyalty would be what put Niall’s life in danger. Simply through fondness, NEEP risked severely endangering Niall’s life, and the lives of all the rest. Just like Harry, really, except that at least he knew what he was doing. NEEP was going to walk straight into the trap and double-cross Niall completely by accident, through pure stupidity. Harry was planning to double-double-cross, but as far as NEEP was concerned…it was a helpless, dumb tool in the fight against the boys, and it would never, ever know.

“We’ll set off first thing tomorrow,” Cheren decided, and all of a sudden Harry didn’t feel much like laughing anymore; the smirk slid off his face and gave way to a mask of indifference that he used to hide his inner panic.

“Okay,” he agreed diplomatically, “well, I suppose I’d better go and find a hat or something; my face has been splashed all over the news as a missing person, I’ll probably be recognized unless I wear some kind of disguise –”

Interrupting him with a rude snort, Deino snapped, “Dream on, pretty boy.”

Harry was confused. “Huh?”

Felix shook his head at him. “Honestly, I do think it’s rather sweet that you think we’d trust you enough to take you out with us. We still don’t know whether we can rely on you to do what needs to be done; there’s no way we’d risk you double-crossing us. They were your allies at one point; do you really expect us to forget about that? I don’t know why you chose to join us, nor do I care, but we’ve all agreed that we need some actual solid proof that you’re on our side, and we’re taking no risks. We’ll take NEEP and go and find them, while you hold the fort here.”

“And what do you expect me to do for the foreseeable future while you’re gone?” Harry asked bitterly, too stung by the thought of not seeing Louis – even angry, betrayed, disgusted Louis – to care about how disappointed he sounded. “Crossword puzzles? Maybe find some knitting patterns and make you all nice matching woolly hats?”

“That might be nice,” Cheren responded mildly, “tell you what, if you want you can do that after you’ve finished modifying the memories of everyone on this list.” He shoved a crumpled scrap of paper across the table at Harry.

He didn’t even bother to read the first name; he could tell by looking at the sheer amount of writing on the paper that it was an impossible task. “You’ve got to be joking.”

“Does this face look like it’s joking?” It didn’t. As usual, it looked like the face of a sulky, stroppy, sarcastic teenager. “I don’t make jokes. I’m deadly serious.”

“You can’t honestly tell me that you expect me to get through all of this. There’s over a hundred people on this list!”

“Two hundred and sixty-seven, to be exact. Don’t worry; you don’t have to do it all right away. We’ll be away for a day or two, at least. NEEP is good, but it’s no miracle worker. You’ll have plenty of time to get it all done.”

Gritting his teeth, Harry forced himself to stay relatively calm as he said sharply, “Are you deaf? I can’t do this. I am physically incapable of doing this. I had mental links with around sixty, maybe seventy people at the most; this happened several days ago. The intensity of it all was so strong that I nearly passed out; I had to let go of them all, and quickly, too, otherwise it would have fried my brain. Every memory I wiped came back the moment my mind disconnected from theirs, which means that when it all became too much for me, I was back to square one. It’ll only happen again. I physically cannot do this for you, all right?” He sourly thrust the paper back.

Scowling, Cheren returned it, his lower lip jutting stubbornly out. “Take a couple of painkillers, sleep regularly and drink plenty of water; you’ll be fine. We told you that you’d have to obey our orders – so do your job. All right?”

“Not really.”

“Shame.” Getting up, Cheren turned his back on Harry, who wondered whether he could get away with knocking him over and punching him so hard in the mouth that he ended up swallowing all of his gleaming white teeth. “We’ve given you your orders; how and when you carry them out will be mainly left to you, but we expect substantial progress to have been made by the time we get back.”

“I’m not your slave!”

“Oh? Because you see, you have to obey our every command, and at what would appear to be no kind of benefit to you, so I beg to differ. Our slave is exactly what I think you are. Now go and work on the list, slave.” He smirked.

He really was the most obnoxious bastard Harry had ever set eyes upon. In fact, his vileness was rivalled only by that of his brother, who seemed to be enjoying this just as much as he was, and the girl who was sitting on the edge of the table swinging her slender legs, one plucked eyebrow raised and her lipstick-coated mouth curving into an unpleasant smile. Harry hated them all, hated them so much that he would happily have punched them all at the exact same time right then. Gritting his teeth, he unabashedly wished a horrible and painful death upon every single one of them.

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