Daniel grunted something unintelligible, but didn’t wake up.
I imagined an air horn, an old one that varied in pitch, ranging from a normal tone to a ragged, scratchy one to a painful screech.
Then, thinking back to our fight against Evil Beatnik, I started imagining a chorus of air horns, all of them slightly out of tune, endlessly repeating the only part of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” that I could remember—the refrain.
Daniel raised his head. “That’s got to be against the Geneva Conventions. What time is it?”
We both turned toward the alarm clock. It was 5:48am.
“What were you waking me up for?” His voice trailed off. “Lucky you. You’re close enough to family that she feels okay with dropping by.”
“Yeah,” I said. “How did she find out what we’re doing?”
Daniel sighed. “Guess. She dropped by when I was dreaming about it, and stayed around long enough to get a general sense of what we’re doing. Then she got my attention and started asking questions. There wasn’t any point in lying.”
I lay on my back, looking up at the ceiling. It wasn’t very interesting. “She did work for Mossad. I suppose it was a bit much to expect that neither of your parents would find out.”
Daniel grunted. “There’s a reason intelligence agencies hire telepaths.”
Of course his mom’s telepathy was considerably more limited than her strongest ability. It was a lot like Daniel’s—allowing her to sense minds a few hundred feet in diameter around herself. Her ability to get into people’s dreams, however, didn’t have a distance limit that anybody had yet discovered. She had to have touched them once and both she and the target had to be asleep.
“For what it’s worth,” I said, “if you haven’t already pulled it out of my head, I’m done. It all works. We can launch Saturday.”
Daniel made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a laugh. “I’ll tell the launchee. Does that include the suit you mentioned?”
“She’ll be invisible to radar, and if someone sees her, they’ll assume she’s in powered armor.”
Daniel didn’t say anything for a moment, but then said, “I like that. What does she look like when she’s around here?”
“Umm… Wearer’s choice. I”m thinking I’ll color it like the costume she’s been wearing.”
“Good idea,” Daniel said. “Are you going to mind if I go back to sleep?”
“We may as well try.”
I closed my eyes, thinking about the night I’d had, trying to become relaxed enough to sleep again even though I knew that I’d be getting up depressingly soon.
After a little while, my thoughts drifted a little further afield, and I had a sudden insight that made a lot of sense. It certainly wasn’t something I intended to ask Daniel’s parents about, but I would have bet it was true.
“Ugh,” Daniel muttered. “You know that I’ve known about my parents’ powers practically as long as I’ve been alive, and I’ve never considered that?”
“It’s kind of obvious if you think about it.” My eyes were closed, and my speech might have slurred.
“You’re not going to have to think about it the next time my Dad’s on a mission, or worse when Mom steps into my dreams to tell me.”
“Funny how not living at home makes it worse,” I said, or at least tried to. It came out unintelligible.
I didn’t hear Daniel’s reply. I fell completely asleep, but if I had stayed awake I can’t say I would have been much more sympathetic. He had to have been deliberately ignoring it. His parents must have been using her dream power for conjugal visits when one or the other were away on trips for years.
It had to beat sexting by a wide margin.
* * *
It was a day not unlike any other, but even those days present challenges. For example on Thursday, I had to visit my assigned therapist for my first individual session. We’d been having group sessions once a week.
I was missing my first half hour in lab. Walking through the well lit rock corridors, I wondered why they’d chosen to have me miss lab instead of fighting, working out, or disaster recovery training.
I’d have felt less tired for one.
Eventually I found the office. To my surprise, it wasn’t an office, it was a suite. The program had a counseling center, complete with ten different offices for counselors, and three different conference rooms.
The rooms had windows that looked out, away from the city of Castle Rock and the compound, giving a view of mountains and foothills, yucca and scrub pine.
Making sure that the name on the door was correct (Nancy Hemming), I walked inside, tapping on the door to make sure she knew.
A woman in her late twenties walked up to meet me. She wore a brown suit. Holding out her hand to shake mine, she said, “Nick, nice of you to come. I’d like to talk about what led you to become part of the Stapledon program.”