Five Minutes Longer by Victoria Sue
Cover Artist: AngstyG
“I tried to write a contemporary but it grew four legs and a tail.”
I didn’t get the idea for Five Minutes Longer and then write the characters. I started out with Finlay Mayer and wrote him a story.
All about Finn and making him a hero or why a B-average student gets a job with the FBI.
Finlay “Finn” Mayer is 24 years old. He comes from a small town and at fourteen his dyslexia is quickly turning him off school. He’d already started missing days. Homework deadlines fell by the wayside and his excuses were a bigger work of fiction than the stories he’d been asked to write in the first place.
The senior college uptake rate at his high school is abysmal and the graduation levels weren’t all that impressive so the new principal arranges for people with “cool” jobs to come in and talk to the Freshman year. A bored – well on his way to a life of crime –14-year-old Finn walks into the school hall to listen to two FBI agents come to talk about their careers. He walks out a different person. His dream of joining the FBI starts at that moment and he starts his ten-year-long battle to make it happen.
His dad had come home from the Vietnam war in a wheelchair and battled depression every single day.
His mom was only ever concerned with appearances. Her hair. Her nails. Her committees.
His brother Deke – 37 years – lazy. Homophobic and convinced that Finn needs to forget his insane idea of going to college and come and work for him in his insurance business.
For personal reasons Dyslexia and its challenges are important to me so it was something Finn was going to have. It’s quite common for bright kids to only start struggling in middle school or above, and Finn has two huge obstacles to his dreams by this time. He knows that less than 7% of applicants actually get chosen for the FBI and a lot of forums say that number is actually much lower. He is convinced a diagnosis of dyslexia would make his tiny chance completely disappear so he keeps under the teacher’s radar. Assignments are always diligently carried out. Never a missed deadline. Never a missed class.
It’s just his test scores that are crap, and nothing he ever does will bring his averaged out grades any higher.
By fifteen he knows he is gay. He has also read that while the FBI don’t actually discriminate against it, apparently it’s something people might get blackmailed over, so Finn buries that as well. He even takes a girl to prom.
Then we have the FBI interview and selection process.
After the four-year college degree and a minimum age of twenty-three for applicants there are only five areas of experience/expertise that the FBI take from.
Language, Law, Accounting, Computer Science, or a mix of them.
Back to the undiagnosed dyslexia – computer science, Law and languages were huge obstacles. I originally had Finn’s brother a deputy sheriff and him joining him, but then I decided that was too convenient and the Finn that I now knew wouldn’t do that.
Dyslexia and being clever with numbers aren’t mutually exclusive, and are often quite common. Different sides of the brain tackle these two areas, so I make Finn clever because Dyslexia isn’t a synonym for stupid – often the reverse, and Finn becomes good at Math. His four-year degree and experience qualify him for the FBI.
So, my shy lovable geek gets his dream job in a very roundabout way – and why not?
The excerpt below is on Finn’s first day:
Gregory nodded and turned off the screen. “To summarize, you’ve all met Finn. We have four weeks to prove this can work. I expect your cooperation and your assistance, but that starts tomorrow. Finn has some short profile tests to sit this morning, and later you will all be in the gym.” Gregory smiled and walked out as a few of the others got up. One or two murmured something pleasant to Finn, but he didn’t hear a word of anything after the word “test.”
His heart pounded, and his earlier breakfast suddenly threatened to make an appearance. Fuck. What if he messed up? How important was this test? Was it written, or maybe physical? He swallowed.
“S’up, kid?” Talon stood, frowning at him.
Finn licked his lips. “What, umm, sort of test is it?”
Talon shrugged. “Basic behavioral insight, so they can see what you might spot automatically. Or more importantly what assumptions you have that you have to unlearn fast.” He looked assessingly at Finn. “It’s no big deal. I think you just read the questions and pick an answer. It’s timed, but it’s not like you get graded or anything.”
Finn felt sick. It was timed. He’d expected there to be tests at Quantico, but not on his first day, and not when every single person on his team wanted him to fail.
“You okay, kid?”
Finn looked up at Talon, who was looking puzzled, and gulped. He needed to calm down. “Yeah.”
“Good. Come on. Let’s get this over with, then.” Talon led him into yet another room and gestured to a chair next to a desk.
Finn could already feel his palms sweating and his heart pounding, and he tried to breathe slowly. He’d done all sorts of breathing exercises to prepare for his SATs and at one of his interviews. He knew to start with the questions that had the most marks attached. When he was younger, he made the mistake of always starting at the beginning, and because it took him longer to read the questions, he always ran out of time. It just seemed harder now that he knew the stakes and knew everyone wanted him to fail.
Talon didn’t seem to notice his anxiety, however, and picked up a folder from the table and dropped it on the desk. “There’s actually no right or wrong answers. We just need to get a feel for your thought process. So we know your starting point. Don’t forget we’re condensing eight hundred hours of training into four weeks.” Talon shrugged. “Some of the things I may ask you to do will seem difficult to understand.”
Finn looked blankly at the folder. Of course there were right and wrong answers. Even he wasn’t stupid enough to believe this wasn’t something else he could fail at.
Talon sat back down and rubbed his face, trying not to hiss when he caught his lip. He didn’t know how he felt, and it was confusing the hell out of him. He was always convinced having enhanced and regular humans working together wasn’t a good idea. The basic tenet of his team was trust. Knowing each of his guys had his back and wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger to save his life. His first trainee didn’t even make it through the test Finn was currently looking at. Fifteen questions, all designed to see if the trainee would fail to respond as quickly if the victim was regular or enhanced, and not just that straightforward. Sometimes candidates would try to go the other way, be too preferential for enhanced to try to win favors.
That scenario didn’t cut it with any of his team either. None of the questions used the words “regular” or “enhanced.” The clues were more subtle, and someone a lot cleverer than Talon had put the questions together. He glanced at the clock. Twenty minutes for the first round of ten questions. Five pretty simple ones, and five that required a little more thought. Then there were some basic math problems as well.
He stood and wandered over to where Finn was sitting, then stopped in surprise. Finn was looking at the last page. Had he finished it already? Talon narrowed his eyes as he looked at Finn. His hand shook as he turned a page, and Finn hadn’t so much as picked up his pen. What was it? Nerves? Was that the reason Finn hadn’t done so well on his exams in college?
Talon absently filed the thought away. It wasn’t his business, and he wasn’t here to babysit someone he wanted out anyway. Served him right if he did fail the test. Talon leaned back against the wall and stared at the ceiling. He smiled a little as he remembered the vid with Finn’s voice declaring he was a federal agent. Even if he wanted him gone, he was happy to grudgingly admit the kid had balls.
Talon glanced over at Finn again and was suddenly struck by the mask of desperation on his face. What the fuck was wrong with him? He knew he could read. There was no way he would have gotten through high school without that, and Finn had a fucking degree. Talon blinked. He’d read the glowing reports from his tutors. Finn’s dedication. His single-mindedness, almost. What he told him in the café. Why would someone put himself through all that and not study his ass off 24-7 to make sure his grades were good?
Unless there was another reason.
Talon stood. “How are you getting on? Halfway through,” he added in case Finn just needed a kick up the ass to get started. He’d also seen some trainees overthink things to the point that it nearly paralyzed them. No decision because they were frightened of not making the right one. That was sometimes even worse. Being an agent meant split-second choices. Talon looked at the clock. Eight minutes left. Eight minutes and Finn would be gone, and they wouldn’t even need all the scenarios the team would put on for him this afternoon. Eight minutes and the brass might concede to what he’d been telling them for months—that the unit should be enhanced only.
He glanced over to see what Finn was writing and frowned. Absolutely nothing. Talon took a step and fisted his hands. Don’t fucking ask, Talon, he told himself sternly. Then the defiant voice of Finn challenging the bastards who attacked him yesterday came into his head, and he sighed. What the hell? He could ask, right?
Talon sat on the desk and picked up the paper. “Your pen not working, kid?”
Finn pushed himself upright. “I’ll go.” He lowered his eyes, but not before Talon saw the frustration and disgust darkening them. He looked at the question that had gotten Finn so worked up. It was a scenario that subtly lead the trainee to favor the enhanced over the human. Not because it was the right thing to do for the situation, but to weed out reverse favoritism.
Talon read the question out loud and lowered the paper. “Why are you having problems with that?”
Finn jutted his chin out. “I’m not,” he said, and he reeled off the best answer.
Talon narrowed his eyes. “Then why didn’t you put that down?”
Talon took a breath as a thought filtered into his mind. “What about this one?” He read off the next question, and Finn answered it promptly and correctly. Talon nodded to the typed instruction fixed to the bottom of the portable scanner cart. “What does that say?”
Finn looked over, and a dull flush crept over his cheeks. “I can read,” he ground out.
“What does it say?” Talon repeated. “Count to ten in your head and then tell me.”
Finn blinked at him, puzzled.
“Take three deep breaths first,” Talon instructed.
Finn did as he was asked and then calmly read, “Please put the power cable away after use.”
Talon scowled. “Why the fuck did you not tell any of us you are dyslexic?”
Finn scowled. “I’m not.” He turned to the door.
Talon nodded. “Let me guess. You anticipate. You find some fonts much easier to read. That’s why your course work was so much better than your written tests.”
Finn stood still, feet planted, hands shoved in his pants pockets. He didn’t turn around.
“Text to speech? It’s an allowed resource,” Talon continued.
Finn turned slowly. “How—how do you know all that?”
Talon debated for about ten seconds. He didn’t share, ever. “Because my little brother’s dyslexic. And when I say little, I mean by one year. He’s currently a prosecutor in the Washington DA’s office. A successful prosecutor,” he added.
Talon picked up the test and started reading the questions. Finn rattled off most of the answers, and by the time they were halfway through the last section, he was writing his own.
“You’re actually better than Sam,” Talon said. “He wouldn’t be able to work out the last question even with his breathing techniques.”
Finn looked up, and Talon’s belly squeezed a little at his eagerness. “It only bothers me when I’m timed or under pressure most of the time now. Even then I can anticipate the simple stuff. We had an old computer in the library at college that had a darker screen than the rest. Everyone hated it, but it was the easiest one for me.”
Talon nodded. “It helped Sam if we overlaid the screen with a blue tint.” He sighed. “I don’t get how I missed your diagnosis, though. I read your file and….” Understanding slammed into Talon. “You’ve never been diagnosed, have you?” He shook his head. Of all the stupid, irresponsible….
Finn’s smile faded.
“You could easily have put your teammates’ lives at risk by not declaring this,” Talon ground out. It was incredibly selfish, and as far as Talon was concerned, the last nail in the coffin.
“I thought once I got into Quantico, I could find someone to talk to about it,” Finn mumbled, and Talon opened his mouth to rain down a world of hurt on Finn.
Then he stopped. Because the fact that Finn wasn’t at Quantico wasn’t his fault. He would have had twenty weeks to sort it out. It wasn’t Finn’s fault they only had four.
This was his excuse. This was exactly what he had wanted. The perfect reason to get rid of the regular human and push for a solo team of enhanced. Finn was handing him the reason on a plate.
Sam’s face swam into his head. How Talon found him in their tree house, crying his eyes out because some dick of a kid called him a retard because he couldn’t read when it was his turn at school. But Sam had their family behind him. He had a huge support network, and what did Finn have? His brother sounded like a complete lazy asshole. His mom, on the surface, not too bad, but at the same time, if she’d let Finn go through school without getting any help….
And his dad. His dad who came home from Vietnam in a wheelchair and finally blew his brains out. And Finn found him.
Talon grimaced. He’d give him a week.
Blurb – Five Minutes Longer
Talon Valdez knew that when he transformed into an enhanced human, his life and his dreams were finished. Reviled, mistrusted, and often locked away, the enhanced are viewed as monsters, despised by the public, and never trusted to serve in the military or any law enforcement agency.
Years later he gets a chance to set up a task force of enhanced to serve in the FBI, but with one proviso: each enhanced must partner with a regular human.
Finn Mayer dreamed of joining the FBI since he was fourteen and made every possible sacrifice to make it happen, including living with his selfish mother and bullying homophobic brother and never having a boyfriend. But his undiagnosed dyslexia stopped his aspirations dead in their tracks. His last chance is to partner with Talon, an enhanced with fatal abilities who doesn’t trust regular humans with their secrets and wants Finn to fail.
Four weeks to prove himself to the team. Four weeks for the team to prove itself to the public. And when another group threatens their success—and their lives are at stake—four weeks for them to survive.
About the Author
Wrote her first book on a dare from her hubby two years ago and he says he has regretted it every day since. Loves writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best, and especially with either a paranormal or a historical twist. Had a try at writing contemporary but failed spectacularly when it grew four legs and a tail. Loves her wolves!
Is an English northern lass but is currently serving twenty to life in Florida – unfortunately, she spends more time chained at her computer than on a beach.
Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on facebook.
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