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[personal profile] wonder_city
I'll be at WisCon this coming weekend! I'd love to meet any of my readers who are going to be there. Let me know to look for you, if you like.



It Is Hard to Shake Hands With Her

"Okay, Jane," said Sophie, telepathically, in my head, "the first generator is here." Sophie presented Jane with a mental map of Europe, marked with a big red circle.

"Acknowledged," Jane replied tersely, sounding and feeling like she was talking on a walkie-talkie instead of mind-to-mind. "Please monitor my progress and… and… I need you two to be my brain. Just fuckin' steer me, girls."

I watched my hands dance over the keyboard, lines racing by on the screen. I said, privately, to Sophie, "I told you this was a bad idea."

Sophie snapped, "And who else was gonna do this? We don't have another spaceworthy flier with my mother locked up. Jane Liberty just handed us the second biggest gun in our corner of the universe. We just have to point it at the right things." She paused. "I… need you to be the one riding in the back of her head. I'm sorry. I need most of my concentration to hack this damn spaceship. I don't read their language."

I shuddered, which made Sophie mistype, so we had a little confab of apology. Then I said, "Fuck. All right." I had already violated one of the things I'd sworn never to do that day: letting someone else into my head to run by body. Now for my second stupid trick of the day, I would ride herd on someone with dementia.

Let me explain: I think of a neurotypical person's mind as being a familiar ocean. I can sit on the surface without problems—think of me as a telepathic duck, I guess—and float there, watching the waves and tides, the winds and upwellings. There are currents and rough seas, and of course there are the rogue tides that can swamp me-the-duck, but I mostly understand and can predict the physics of the place. Mostly.

The kids I work with, the ones on the autism spectrum, are unfamiliar seas, even the ones I work with all the time. I've grown to know the particular shifts and gravities and weather of the minds of the individual kids I work with all the time so I can read something of what's going on for them without diving in. But I avoid even doing my duck thing with those kids if I can help it: I prefer to let them communicate for themselves in whatever media they prefer. (It's my job to help their families learn to understand them, not to try to "fix" their minds, as some parents fail to understand.)

And then there's dementia.

I settled as lightly as possible on the surface of Jane's mind. It all seemed very understandable, as calm a surface as I could ever ask for.

Then the gravity shifted and turned everything at not-right-angles to itself and the water was blown into my face as I was falling down and sideways and the surface under me lurched and swept over me…

... Hal—The Flag—turned the corner toward the locker rooms and nearly ran into me where I was leaning against the wall. We both knew I'd been waiting for him—waiting for an hour at least for that damned meeting to end—and he wasn't surprised when I grabbed the front of his shirt and the front of his jodphurs—a handful of Old Glory, I used to call it back when we were actually together, and dragged him into the empty locker room behind me, kissing him hard. He was taller than me—taller than most everyone—but being able to levitate makes things easy, you know. Even when he was kissing me back, the bastard making my head spin like always, though, I kept praying that Dottie would never ask either of us what we did in the evenings these days...

Usually I'd pull up out of the water completely when something like that happened, but I couldn't leave Jane's mind at this point; all I could do was hang on and try to point her in the right direction. I clamped down a little to keep some portion of her mind on her job, paying attention to Sophie's instructional monologue. Damn that girl could talk.

"Right, you've hit it, that was perfect, Jane," Sophie said. "Now we've got a building in the middle of Kazakhstan…"

Ah fuck bigass wave.

... the Great Gulf was chewing away at the fabric of the world under my feet. Someone I couldn't see—two people? three?—threw themselves into that maw and for a moment, the pull on me let up. I tore away from that ravenous gravity and lunged for Dark Universal, who'd been laughing at us, calling us fleas and mites and insignificant just seconds before. I rammed my fist into his open mouth, crunching through constructed teeth and bone, and out the back of his cosmic skull, and then I dumped all the energy I'd sucked up from Sun Master's overload death down his measureless throat, shattering his empyrean construct...

"Head for north Africa," Sophie was saying. "Right here, see? I'm trying to plot a course that's reasonable…"

"You've got me jumping all over the globe like a frog," Jane groused.

"... but I'm getting my information piecemeal, I was going to say," Sophie snarled. All of us were tense. "I'm doing my best to run you over wilderness too, so you don't cause speed damage."

"You're doing fine," I said, trying to keep the peace in my poor skull while also trying not to be sick. "Both of you."

Then. There was. A goddamn. Tsunami.

... Bernie breathed my name into my mouth and shuddered under me, and damned if I didn't come too. It didn't matter if she was herself or someone else when we were fucking, just knowing it was her made the whole thing hot as hell. She changed then, changed her smooth arms, her round hips and legs, into knotty muscle and bone, and under my hand the softness and slickness surged into something else, and she grinned at me with Midnight Mask's broad jaw and slightly crooked teeth…

Jesus Christ, I didn't want to see these things. I didn't want to know these things. Who the fuck was Bernie? No, goddammit, this was too personal, too in-person, all these dead people and loosey-goosey time slipping back and forward, running me down. Go, go, Jane Liberty, and smash the thing in Sudan.

"How many more?" I asked Sophie, feeling like I was losing myself so, so fast.

"There's two dozen," Sophie said, like she was gritting her teeth. "I think we can get away with only destroying some of them, but I have to figure that out. And then I need her to go to the ship you're on and smash all their damn weapons."

"And we need to get Ruth and the rest out of limbo," I said. "Don't forget."

"I'm not forgetting," Sophie said, and I worried briefly about her snapping.

All the air went out of me.

... I was holding the heart of the man I'd just killed in my hand. It was hot and still pulsing, the steaming blood all over my hand. I held half a tank in the other hand. He'd been a butcher of a man, experimenting on para children in Italy, stealing away their parents to see if he could make more to serve the Axis. This was War, right? I was War. I am War. Someone else is Death, but I am War. I will always BE War...

"Jesus God, hurry up!" I shrieked in my own head.




Date: 2014-05-20 03:30 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
This was War, right? I was War. I am War. Someone else is Death, but I am War. I will always BE War...

WHOAH THAT IS CHILLING

Poor Renata!

.....I was all "YES GO JANE POUND THEM INTO SMITHEREENS," and then, yikes. Nicely done!

Date: 2014-08-11 02:15 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
The Jane/Renata sequences were hard to write because I wanted just this sort of whiplash effect.

Date: 2014-05-20 03:31 pm (UTC)
wispfox: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wispfox
Wow. Poor all three of them...

Date: 2014-08-11 02:15 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
They had a really rough go of it.

Date: 2014-05-20 03:50 pm (UTC)
akycha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akycha
Oh gods. Poor Jane. Poor Renata.

Date: 2014-08-11 02:16 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Yeahhh.

Date: 2014-05-21 03:14 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Holy cow!

-Seversen

Date: 2014-08-11 02:16 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Yeppers!

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