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I settled into what I call my long-haul chair. It's intensely soft and it floats on some sort of magnetic cloud and is more stable than the floor, so even if I lose my shit and try to get up without the proper escape sequence, it won't totter over or anything. All my monitoring systems were online and checked. All my robots were nearby to try to minimize anything physical that I might try to do to myself. I had taken my pain medications and my focus-enhancing medications. At hand was an automated system that could detect incipient psychic flares (which are like solar flares, except they disrupt mental processes rather than electromagnetic processes) and either administer a fast-acting intramuscular tranquilizer or a hard electric shock, depending on the predicted magnitude of the flare.

I took a few deep breaths. It had been a while since I last did this. Being the nexus of a telepathic network is a surprising lot of work, primarily filtering of content and translation of the way that a given person thinks about things into a mutually understandable language. Doing this for a group of non-telepaths simultaneously requires the most exacting walls and split-second multitasking. I expected, when I agreed, to be wrecked for at least a week afterward.

I had remembered to go to the bathroom before I started. My mother had crammed some valuable life lessons into my brain on those long car rides to the Shore.

"Imaging on," I said, and the computer flipped up photographs of my telepathic targets. Which first? I contemplated the Wonderful House crew and decided, as I had expected, that I felt the most connection to Simon, so I focused on his photo, paying minute attention to the perfect lines of his jaw and cheekbones, the tight ripples of his brown-black hair, the yellow eyes behind their tinted shields...

Hello, Mr. Canis, I said when the tingle of contact rippled down my spine. His was a warm, quick-moving mind, full of an idealism I'd not had since I was eight or so.

Hello! he replied, trying not to sound startled, though I knew he was. A pleasure to, uh, meet you.

He had the pleasantly repressed mind of someone who has been trained to cope with psionics. The pleasure's mine, Mr. Canis. I stopped short of telling him I was a fan. Nothing like having a telepathic fangirl in your head to make you nervous.

Now it was easy. I looked at the others through Simon's eyes (and his other senses, which were distractingly acute) and added them to my collection: Jeshri, whose mind was a sharp stacatto of thoughts like blows; Tom, who was in an agony of fast-moving anxiety; Lizzie, whose world was always a little blurry; Megan, who was quivering with a steel-jacketed terror; Suzanne, whose inner world flew apart in pieces and crashed back together with her heartbeat; Watson, whose turbulent ideas had parted and smoothed for my entry; and to my surprise, Suzanne's father-in-law Ira, who was abuzz with excitement and nostalgia.

I stopped short of picking up the camerawoman, and after a quick consultation with Watson, left her out. She had not, after all, consented to a telepathic link and all its risks. I did scan her quickly, though, and discovered that she was Jeshri's camerawoman, her name was Eartha (yes, named for Eartha Kitt), she was, in fact, para, and she was rather nervous and excited about all this. At least they'd warned her it might be dangerous.

I saved the ghost for last. Meteor was alarmingly present for someone possessing another person, and I only got the faintest whiffs of the host personality. I wondered if Watson had set this up to see if I could pry Meteor loose from her moorings. I would believe in that sort of Machiavellian scheming from her.

All right, I said to them all. Everyone's in the loop.

I naturally picked up things I shouldn't know from their subconscious emotional levels. It shouldn't have surprised me that Megan and Simon had a history, I suppose, but it did; they'd played it very cool in Megan's one appearance on-screen. Watson and Megan were lovers, and both of them had been involved with the woman possessed by Meteor, resulting in some spectacularly conflicted emotions. Suzanne and Simon, of course, were desperate for each other. Lizzie had mad crushes on all three of her housemates (that was another surprise). Meteor hated everyone equally for being strange, perverted, and living (that was not a surprise). Lizzie also felt like she really should have gone before she left the house; I had to filter that like whoa or everyone would need to pee, including me.

Thank you, Watson said once I'd delivered all the general greetings. Her mental voice was crisp and snappy, and she was also speaking aloud for Eartha's benefit. You all know where you need to be. Megan, Meteor, you start now. House crew, give them two minutes and then start strolling to your destination.

What about you? Jeshri said. She was speaking aloud as well.

I'll be only a few blocks away with Suzanne and Ira, coordinating with Renata's help, Watson said.

There was a wisp of an apology as soon as my first name came out. Nothing like being inside each other's minds to bring everyone to a first-name basis, is there? I assured her.

Amusement came back from Watson, and I turned my attention to following Megan and Meteor.

The two of them proceeded in silence that was angry on Meteor's part -- I could tell she hadn't been entirely warned that she'd have to work with Megan -- and irritated on Megan's part -- because Meteor was snappish and because she had a terrible conflict between wanting to hate Meteor and having some sympathy for the girl. They were trying not to be noticeable as they hurried to the dilapidated dock where they were to hunker down and wait. Meteor, growing, could get them to the meeting place in a few seconds rather than the couple of minutes it would normally take to run there. I would have to do a tight job of filtering on these two: Meteor not only hated Megan but was terrified of her, particularly of being touched by her. A contagion sort of terror. Homophobia at its most refined. Lovely.

I watched the Wonderful House crew trying to stroll casually to the appointed meeting place. Jeshri and Lizzie kept exchanging reassuring hand-squeezes. Tom was concentrating on looking as intimidating as possible, throwing back his broad shoulders and puffing out his chest. Simon was quivering with nerves, paying exquisite attention to every breeze and every sound. He was worried about being able to get out of his clothes fast enough, and so had worn a thin knit v-neck sweater and a loose pair of linen trousers -- things he knew he could rip easily.

Watson was chattering easily and meaninglessly with Suzanne and Ira. Ira was peppering her with questions that even I could tell came from long experience -- no wonder Watson wanted him there as part of her strategy team. If nothing else, he could make a general prediction of the behavior of most sorts of supervillains.

I took a deep breath and consciously relaxed the muscles that had tensed up during this preparation.

It was almost midnight.


Note from the Author:
And so...

Beginning next week, I'm starting a new comment incentive: if I get 10 or more comments on the posts I make on Tuesday -- and they can be ANY comment, from "Hi" to "+1" or whatever, anything to tell me you're out there! -- I will post the next episode on Thursday. This incentive will continue at least through the climax of the story.

We're also falling down the Top Web Fiction hit parade, so please click the banner below to vote for WCS!

Date: 2011-08-31 04:53 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
AUUUGH! Mini-cliffhanger!

He was worried about being able to get out of his clothes fast enough, and so had worn a thin knit v-neck sweater and a loose pair of linen trousers -- things he knew he could rip easily.

..............oh my I got a bit distracted there.

Date: 2011-08-31 02:18 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx

Date: 2011-08-31 04:58 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Meteor not only hated Megan but was terrified of her, particularly of being touched by her

Also, hmmmmmmm.

Date: 2011-08-31 03:34 pm (UTC)
contrarywise: Glowing green trees along a road (Default)
From: [personal profile] contrarywise
Ooh, this is gonna be good! I'm eagerly awaiting the unfolding of this scene.

Date: 2011-09-02 09:24 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Eee! I'm excited too! I keep editing the upcoming episodes and going, "Oooh. I hope this will be good." :)

Date: 2011-09-01 12:21 am (UTC)
sbearbergman: a photo of my head and shoulders, dressed in a navy suit and bright blue shirt, face turned partly away (Default)
From: [personal profile] sbearbergman
::bounces up and down::

Date: 2011-09-02 09:24 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx

These Stories Are Wonderful Indeed!

Date: 2011-09-04 12:07 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you for writing them!

Date: 2011-09-06 01:28 pm (UTC)
clstal: (Default)
From: [personal profile] clstal

Date: 2012-01-28 08:57 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Eeeh, very exciting!


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