Called out of semi-retirement, the telepath and Mindguard Sheldon Ayers is tasked with protecting an information package located inside the mind of a young woman who claims the knowledge she holds is vital to the future of mankind. Sheldon and his team must help her cross the most dangerous territory in the man-inhabited universe – the Djago Desert.
Hunted by the Enforcement Unit – the all-powerful Military arm of the Interstellar Federation of Common Origin – Sheldon’s team must fight to keep the carrier alive and guard the integrity of her mind. But nobody suspects that Sheldon also has a dark secret, and it could end up changing the fate of the mission.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The idea of a “mindguard” is the result of my own obsession with protecting the people I love and the frustration of not always being able to do that. The concept came to me while taking a walk with my wife, a few years ago. She was upset over something work-related and I remember wishing that I could just place an essence of myself between her mind and whatever was making her sad. I wanted to be able to generate a “Weixman Cube”, just like Sheldon. Wouldn’t that be cool?
I mean, I can protect my loved ones from physical threats, to a certain extent. I can make sure no one lays a hand on them while I’m around. But you can’t really protect someone from a “psychological threat”. If something makes them sad or upset, all you can do is try and cheer them up afterwards. But that’s just “damage control”. You can act as someone’s bodyguard, but how cool would it be do be their mindguard as well?
How is writing SciFi different from other genres?
I used to think it would be easier than writing other genres, at least for me. I live in Romania and I’ve never even traveled to an English-speaking country, so I’m always hesitant to place my stories in the “real world” for fear of little telltale signs of the fact that I’m not familiar with a particular place.
This way, I get to build my own worlds. No one can tell me “Hey, that’s not how they drink their coffee on Ganthic” or “Toilets flush differently on Noriado2”. They’ll flush however the hell I want them to. That’s the beauty of creating a whole world from scratch. But, in the end, these worlds – these realities – come with their own structural “burden”. The author has the responsibility of making them believable. You can’t take shortcuts. Keeping track with every detail of a brand new world can be very difficult. science-fiction authors also have the task of making this world at last partially realistic. You need to be able to believe that this could actually happen, given the proper timespan and conditions. At least in that respect, I think fantasy authors have it easier.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters are very important. Mindguard is entirely a character-driven work. In a sense you have two main characters, Sheldon Ayers – the mindguard sent to carry out a mission and Tamisa Faber – the enforcer tasked with stopping him from doing just that. They are both equally important to the narrative and they both have very solid reasons for doing what they do.
That’s one really important thing I wanted to do: create a narrative where you have no clear hero and villain, just two characters with different motivations. This way, when they do eventually come into conflict you have reason enough to root for both of them, though you know they can’t possibly both succeed. I think this creates a certain type of suspense that you don’t find in regular hero-villain confrontation where there’s almost always a foregone conclusion who will come out on top.
As far as their personalities – they are polar opposites. Both are manifestations of my own obsessions with the volume turned up to eleven. On the one hand you have the cold, calculated Sheldon and on the other the passionate, temperamental Tamisa. The character of Sheldon appeared to me pretty much “as is” the second I thought of the term “mindguard”. It’s as if he existed independently of this narrative. Tamisa is a character I kept shaping as i wrote, but I’m equally attached to both of them.
Sanity is nature’s sole gift to man. For the mindguard, it is a tool of the trade.
Sheldon Ayers, Guarding the Trade: A study of the Mindguard’s Methods
“Been a while,” Maclaine Ross said cheerfully, as he stepped through the hand carved oak door into the spacious home office of his longtime friend. He was genuinely excited to see Sheldon, after almost eight months since their last mission together.
He missed spending time with his old friend. In the last few years, the eccentric mindguard had grown increasingly withdrawn, cutting down on field missions in favor of his research and writing. Ross was sure that his business partner was equally happy to see him, though you could never tell with Sheldon; the man’s face rarely changed expression. If the eyes were truly windows to the soul, then Sheldon Ayers’ windows had always been shut, with the blinds pulled down. For a few seconds the mindguard seemed confused, as if he were not expecting Ross, even though their meeting had been scheduled two days in advance.
“Hello, Mac,” he said after a moment’s hesitation.
“You didn’t forget, did you?” Ross joked, knowing from personal experience that mindguards had flawless memory. Without being invited, he sat down on one of the deceptively comfortable vintage armchairs. It squeaked in protest of the giant’s weight.
“Pinot?” Sheldon asked.
“Sure, why not?”
As Sheldon poured, Ross took a few moments to look around the office. Huge paper map of Terra Antiqua, check. Dusty leather-bound books, check. Oil paintings, check. Violin, check. Everything looks exactly the same, he thought. He wasn’t in the least bit surprised. Every item in the room looked out of place in this century. For those who didn’t know Sheldon, his office might suggest the lair of a homesick time-traveler from the past. Those who did know him were surprised he didn’t use ink-dipped reeds to write on papyrus rolls.
Without a word, Sheldon handed his friend the glass of wine and took a seat behind his desk, an expensive piece of furniture made from Carpathian elm and imported directly from Terra Antiqua. Sheldon had always shown a deep love for everything related to Old Earth, from its history and culture, to its scenery, its furniture and especially its wines. He was also one of the very few people who could afford a vacation home on the Planet of Origin.
Seeing that his friend was characteristically quiet, Ross decided to break the ice. “You need to get out more,” he said.
“I just got back from Ancient Rome,” Sheldon answered, taking a sip of Pinot. Ross looked at the hologoggles resting on the desk beside a book titled The Ghosts That Haunt Old Earth. “I meant the kind of ‘out’ that implies social interaction.”
“I’m a mindguard, Mac, I get more ‘social interaction’ than I desire.”
Lately, Sheldon rarely left his home, other than to travel to the Ancient Destinations. Tourism was steadily increasing on Terra Antiqua. The ruins left behind by civilizations from the dawn of mankind had become veritable hotspots for heritage expeditions. Holosense technology could reproduce the surroundings as they had looked millennia ago. Neural insertions would transmit very convincing stimuli to all senses, replicating sights, sounds, smells and tactile sensations. The experience felt very real. Travelers could walk along the ruins and admire the buildings as they had once been. They could watch the people and hear the sounds of their long-dead languages. They could taste their food, drink their wine and smell their sweat. It was as close to time-travel as humanity had ever come.
The hologoggles, though, were extremely outdated; technological relics from decades ago, before neuroinsertions and genome upgrades became available to the mass market. The only people who still used them were those with genetic incompatibility to neuroinsertions, those with phobias of such technology and the small number of prototechs, people whose personal philosophy rejected any genetic modifications to the human body. Sheldon belonged to the third category.
“So how was Ancient Rome?” Ross asked.
“Same as always.”
“Did you send my regards to Emperor Nero?”
Sheldon almost never laughed or smiled. Ross could tell that his friend was amused only because his gaze remained fixed on him for a few seconds, rather than wandering around the room and resting on some random object, as was usually the case. Those who didn’t know that Sheldon was a prototech assumed he was interacting with the visual transmitters on his retina. The empty gaze associated with visual neuroinsertions was typical of people receiving optic feedback. That wasn’t Sheldon’s case. He was, in fact, just avoiding eye-contact. It was a personal quirk, even when talking with his best friend.
This time, Sheldon looked at Mac for a full three seconds; a sign of great affection. The giant tasted the wine. Exquisite, he thought.
“Exquisite, right?” Sheldon said.
Ross’ heart skipped a beat. For a fraction of a second he believed that his friend had just read his mind. Then he remembered that he was in the habit of saying ‘exquisite’ whenever he thought something was really good, a verbal tick of which Sheldon was aware. His old friend was teasing him; that meant he was in a good mood. Ross handed Sheldon the holobook and rolled his eyes when the mindguard printed out the file on paper.
“Should I have written it by hand?” he joked, but Sheldon didn’t react. He was already studying the mission file, his legendary brain absorbing the data with lightning speed.
“Horatio Miller?” he asked.
“The very same.”
Sheldon raised his right eyebrow, which was about as close as he ever got to rolling his eyes and sighing emphatically. Ross knew that the reclusive mindguard had little regard for the title of Educator. He considered it a pompous designation created by elitist politicians only so they could grant it to themselves. Ross partially agreed, but he did have great respect for Miller, who was one of the few credibly accomplished men of the recent era.
“Not interested,” Sheldon said.
“Sheldon… it’s Horatio Miller.”
The mindguard cleared his throat as if to say ‘You know me better than that’. He handed Ross the holobook.
“You turn down more and more jobs nowadays,” Ross said.
“I’m otherwise engaged.”
“Right… with your research…”
“Among other things.”
“You know I’ve always respected your academic endeavors. But that’s a hobby, this is work. You are the most brilliant mindguard in the world, why waste your God-given talent?”
Sheldon sighed almost imperceptibly. “Why me, Mac?”
“You’re the best.”
“At the level we conduct our work, the difference between best and next best becomes insignificant.”
“Not to me.”
“Isabel is an outstanding mindguard.”
“And I hear the new kid is more than capable.”
“More than capable,” Ross echoed.
“So you’ve got your team.”
“So I still want you.”
Ross smiled and took the glass of wine off its coaster. He emptied it in one big swig, put it back on the desk and leaned back in his armchair. “Isabel has experience,” he said. “Alex has raw talent.” He paused for dramatic effect, then grinned. “You have both. After all, the company is called Ayers-Ross.”
“What bothers me,” Sheldon said, “is that if it were anyone other than Horatio Miller, you wouldn’t even have gone through the trouble of contacting me.”
“Miller gets special treatment and I don’t like that,” Sheldon cut him off.
Ross rolled his eyes. “I figured you wouldn’t. Look, what’s the big deal Sheldon? You get out of the house for a little while. The pay is one of the best we’ve ever gotten -” He raised his hand just as Sheldon was about to object. “I know it’s not about the money, it’s not about money for me either and you know that. It’s about respect. One of the most respected men in the free world asks for your services, you damn well deliver and prove you are every bit as good as he assumes.”
“Isn’t arrogance considered a sin in your religion?”
“Don’t be an asshole, Sheldon!”
“Why does he even want vintages in the first place?”
“Because he’s smart. You think he hasn’t done his homework?”
For the last few generations, artificial mindguards like androids and bots of all types had increasingly replaced their human counterparts, the so-called ‘vintages’. Still, even though the AI mindguards were regarded as more consistently dependable, excellence in the field of neurological data protection – or ‘thought protection’ – belonged solely to human beings. Some knowledgeable people were still aware of that.
“I’m not asking as a business partner, I’m asking as a friend,” Ross said. “And you owe me.”
Nothing else needed to be said. Years ago, Ross had pulled some strings to get Sheldon’s grandfather, Kinsey Ayers, declared a hero of the IFCO after his death. Due to his status as a hero, Kinsey’s mind had been digitally encoded and uploaded to the Human Knowledge Archives, a sort of Noah’s Ark of the most important intellects born in the era of space colonization. Kinsey was one of only four mindguards to have ever had their memories preserved. Ross knew that his friend would feel bound to return the favor.
Sheldon glimpsed at the half empty bottle of Pinot Noir. “Knowing you, I assume you told Miller to expect us right away. No time, then, for another glass?!”
Ross chuckled and checked the time on his retinal insertion. “Well, I told him it would take me less than fifteen minutes to convince you, so he’s expecting us in about twenty minutes. A man like Horatio Miller is not accustomed to being left waiting.” Sheldon remained silent for a few seconds, anticipating a punch line. “… which is exactly why I think he could use a little lesson in modesty. Screw Miller! Feel free to pour.”
Sheldon Ayers must have suddenly been reminded exactly why he loved his old friend, because he rewarded him with a rare smile.
About the Author:
I was born in 1985, in a time when being a full-time writer just wasn’t considered a viable career option. Consequently, I spent the majority of my life feeling like I don’t fit in, trying to figure out why I’m not really interested in doing anything, while completely ignoring the fact that I was interested in writing.
From an early age, I had a passion for books and stories of all kinds, especially science-fiction, which offered plenty of new worlds to explore in addition to this one. Basically, I try to cram as many lives as I can into the one I was granted.
After completing my studies in Letters and getting a Master’s Degree in American Studies – where I wrote my thesis on the music of Tom Waits – I settled for a comfortable job in IT support, which I rather enjoyed. However, something didn’t feel quite right.
A journey to the Dominican Republic to be a groomsman at my buddy’s wedding, and a near-fatal encounter with a knife-wielding hooker (I know, but it’s not what it sounds like) really helped put things into perspective. Upon returning, I decided that life is too grand a project not to be undertaken with maximum passion and dedication. In other words, I realized that I owed it to myself and the people I love to be the best that I could possibly be, and that was not going to happen in a corporate environment. With the support of a wonderful wife and a loving family, I quit my job to become a full-time writer.
I spent the first few months crafting a novel which I promptly shelved, and then I wrote Mindguard, the science fiction story I had been dreaming to tell all my life. Because of the wonders of the internet and this amazing world we live in, I went on to publish Mindguard on Amazon in September of 2014.
When I’m not working on sci-fi novels and short stories, I’m busy writing articles for various websites and magazines (most notably Cracked.com), and for my own jazz-themed website The Music and Myth.
I also enjoy taking photographs, working out, traveling and spending my evenings drinking wine and listening to jazz records in the company of my lovely wife, Ioana and our Netherland dwarf bunny, Picky.
Links to Purchase eBooks
Link To Buy Mindguard On Amazon