Chapter 121

If you’d asked Alex, he would have told you he was buzzed. If you’d asked someone with a bit more drinking experience, they would have told you he was past buzzed, nearing snockered, and well on the road to wasted. Regardless of his level of intoxication, though, he was happy and floating along.

He’d drifted away somewhat from his original group, but he was hardly concerned. There were students all around him, some still clustered, some floating freely as they found their concerns subdued by the rocking of the current and the chemical effects of alcohol.

Every now and then he caught sight of the chaperones, moving up and down through the crowds, keeping an eye to ensure everything was all right. For all their talk about the buddy system they seemed to content to let the free-floaters be, so long as they were at least in eye- and earshot of everyone else.

 So lost in lack of thought was Alex that he didn’t even notice he was coming up on another tube until he bumped softly into it.

“Whoops,” Alex said. “Sorry.”

“Eh, no worries,” came a lilting, somewhat familiar voice.

Alex blinked and lifted his head, focusing on the inhabitant of the tube he’d just smacked into. She had long, dark hair and the bikini she wore exposed plenty of her caramel-colored skin.

“Hey. I know you. You’re the chick that beat me and Vince in the finals,” Alex declared.

The girl laughed lightly. “In fairness, I beat a lot of people in the finals.”

“Oh yeah. You had the really pretty voice.”

“Well, thank you. Always nice to meet a fan.”

“Don’t know if I’d call it that,” Alex said. “But I respect the talent. I’m Alex, by the way.”

“Selena,” she said. “You’re the other telekinetic, right?”

“For the love of... fuck it. Sure, why not?” Alex said, a measure of defeat in his voice.

“Did I say something offensive?” Selena asked.

“No, no. Not your fault. Forget it. Let’s focus on you instead. What exactly is your power?”

“You mean my merry harmonies don’t qualify?”

“You had a pretty voice,” Alex admitted. “Not pretty enough to make us just up and lose without a fight, though.”

“I’ve had better compliments, but I’ll take it,” Selena said. “The truth is I’m classified as an enchanter. I cause certain effects in people when I sing.”

“Like making everyone who hears it your love slave?” Alex asked.

“That’s one example, yes. It’s one of my more limited techniques, however. To influence someone that profoundly requires constant stimulus,” Selena said.

“You, uh, you sort of lost me there,” Alex said.

“Sorry, how can I put this? A person’s mind is resilient. It tends to buck against outside influences. So to take you over like I did in the finals, I had to keep singing the whole time. If I’d stopped you would have come back to your senses pretty quickly,” Selena explained.

“There’s another option?” Alex asked.

“Sure. I can influence people in more subtle ways. Ways that don’t throw up the same mental red flags and can persist even after my voice stops.”

“Huh. Don’t suppose you could provide an example?”

“I can do better than that,” Selena said. She tilted back her head and took a deep breath. What next emerged from her was a throaty, fast-paced melody. It emanated outward, rippling through the air and into the ear drums of those on the river. As it spread, so did a wave of calm. Backs unstraightened, knotted muscles began to loosen, and worries slipped out of minds, splashing abandoned into the water below.

As the last of Selena’s notes faded, she lowered her head and looked back at Alex.

“So what did that do?” Alex asked.

“I helped people chill out a little,” Selena explained. “Made them feel happy and more at ease with the world.”

“I see,” Alex said. “Any potential side effects from messing with their heads like that?”

“Nah,” Selena assured him. “I didn’t do anything bad, just made them all feel a little bit better. I mean, worst case scenario, some people’s inhibitions might go down a bit, but that’s just a side effect of feeling good. You tend to worry less.”

Alex barked out a laugh. “So you make people feel relaxed and possibly lower inhibitions. You’re like alcohol without the liver disease!”

Selena’s well-featured face creased with concern. “Oh yeah... everyone is drinking, aren’t they?”

“Not everyone,” Alex said. “But a lot of us.” To prove the point he produced his beer and downed another swig.

Selena bit gently on her lower lip. “I forgot about that.”

“Why does it matter?”

“It probably doesn’t,” Selena said, though which of them she was trying to assure was up for debate. “It’s just that alcohol has a significant effect on the brain chemistry, and what I did will have an effect for at least a few more hours. And sometimes two separate influences can... compound on one another.”

“So people will be super relaxed and happy. Doesn’t sound like such a bad thing,” Alex said.

“Yeah... yeah, I’m sure you’re right,” Selena said. She reached over into her own cooler and produced a beer. Normally she wasn’t much of a drinker, but suddenly she found a strong craving for something to settle her nerves. Pity her own ability didn’t work on her.

“Wow, you worry too much,” Alex said. “I can feel your stress from here. Chill out a little, pretty lady. It’s the river trip!”

She stared at Alex for a moment. She’d nearly forgotten he was also a telepath. The only one here since the short girl had skipped. That might come in handy. If people got unbalanced he should at least be able to provide some sort of a heads up. Selena made a mental resolution not to let this boy out of her sight until she was certain there wasn’t going to be any trouble.

It would be fine, though. She’d only used a little bit of power, and people certainly hadn’t had all that much to drink. Besides, she’d just sung them into a more peaceful, happier frame of mind. There was no way that could backfire.