After supper, I sat on my bed and started to read “The Ringworld Engineers.” I’d intended to read it earlier in the fall, but I’d been too busy to get much reading in. With Daniel generally busy on Friday nights and Haley scheduled to work, tonight looked like I had a good chance of getting somewhere in the book — provided I could concentrate on it.
“Nick, do you mind if I come in?” Rachel stepped through the doorway.
So much for reading.
She pulled my chair out from my desk and sat down.
“I thought you’d be out with friends,” I said.
She shrugged. “I spent half the morning packing, drove for three hours, and then I unpacked. I’m done for the day. Besides, I don’t think anyone else is home yet. What are you doing here? You’re going out with Haley and you’re still home on Friday night?”
I put down my book.
“Haley’s working. Daniel’s busy. I figured I’d read.”
“I half expected to find that you’d snuck out of the house. I saw your face just before supper… The guy on TV. You know him.”
“I met him once. I can’t say I know him, but he grew up in the San Francisco Compound. I visited once with Grandpa. I didn’t play with Brian, but I got to know a few of his cousins. I saw him a couple times there and here once when his dad had Grandpa fix something.”
“Something?” Rachel said.
“Grandpa never let me look at it. I ended up playing hide and go seek with Brian’s younger brother Theo in the hangar.”
“With all the things you took apart, I’m not surprised. I don’t think you ever put anything back together again. Remember my music box?”
“You shouldn’t. I barely had it a week before you took it apart.”
“I remember you being mad about something I took apart when I was a kid.”
“Some things,” she said. “Note the plural. Grandpa managed to put the music box back together at least.”
“I don’t remember that at all.”
“Do you remember taking the back off the TV?”
“Dad got kind of angry about that.”
“You took it apart on Superbowl Sunday after unscrewing a couple cupboard doors. He didn’t get kind of angry. He freaked out.”
“Think Dad got any material out of that?”
“I doubt it. Normal kids don’t do things like that. Now your bedwetting, that he got a book out of.”
He didn’t actually ever mention my name in the book, but that didn’t stop people from figuring it out. Annoying. Especially annoying when you considered that the whole point of the book was that I had stopped.
“So Brian’s a Compound kid,” Rachel said.
“Yeah. Perry’s not his real last name. I think it’s really Alexiou or something like that. I’m pretty sure he’s one of Helios’ grandchildren.”
“I was always jealous of them. The 1970’s were pretty crazy, but they had some good ideas. They threw secret identities to the wind and just decided to be themselves. They’re people. They have powers and they don’t have to hide.” Rachel pulled her legs onto the chair and hugged them to herself.
“Moot point,” I said. “There aren’t any powers to be had in this family. It might have been a good deal for everyone else.”
“So what did you think I was doing with Grandma while you were with Grandpa in the lab?”
“I don’t know. I never really thought about it.”
“Why didn’t you think about it?”
It was a good question. I am, and almost always have been, a fairly curious guy.
“The block?” I phrased it as a question, but it really wasn’t. “Wait. So you’ve got Grandma’s powers and you can walk through walls and stuff?”
She faded into invisibility, back to solidity, and followed it up by sticking her left hand through my desk’s top drawer and pulling out a pen. Then she dropped it on my desk. It bounced twice.
“Wow,” I said. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
She put her legs back on the floor. “I couldn’t when I was a kid, and by the time I could I didn’t have a reason to bring it up.”
“You couldn’t even say something to family?”
“They set my block so that I couldn’t even use my abilities without permission for years.”
“I’m sure they had a reason, but it does sound kind of harsh.”
“A reason? They did. They were worried I might float under the ground and become corporeal somewhere they couldn’t find me.”