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Wider Than the Sky

"She's tucked in and sleeping," I told the Equestrian on the phone. "How's your end of things?"

The Equestrian sighed. "I'm not an expert in stuffing souls back into bodies, but Maelstrom agrees with me that she's pretty well anchored in there."

"Got all the spiritual band-aids applied?" I said.

She laughed, more than a little ruefully. "Think of it more like a splint. I'm going to see if I can find someone who can apply the legitimate dressings. Though I suspect Brainchild is always going to have a bit of a habit of walking out of her body. I need to find someone to teach her how to find her way back."

"So you don't have to go hunting again?" I said.

"God, yes," she said. "Thanks for all the help, by the bye."

"Not a problem," I lied, clutching the icepack to my head.

"Hah," she said, clearly not believing me at all. "Are you going to be able to reach Ruth?"

"I'm going to do my damnedest," I said.

"I have to go," she said. "Give Ruth -- and Brainchild -- my best. I have a dimension to go patch up. I'm better at that than I am with souls, fortunately."

"Good luck," I said, and we hung up.

I leaned back in my seat with a moan, closing my eyes and trying to wish the migraine away. The original link had taken a little more than half an hour -- when I'd opened my eyes at the end of the fight, the clock had read 12:34. Helping the Equestrian get Brainchild back into her body had brought us up to 2 am.

"Your medications, Renata," Eliot said, wheeling up next to my chair.

"Thank you, Eliot," I said and fumbled for the container on his tray without opening my eyes. My hand closed around the plastic case and I sighed. "I have one more thing to do before I take my meds, though."

"You should at least take your pain medication," Eliot said. "You have recorded notes saying that we should remind you that you make poor decisions when you're in pain, which go badly with your magnitude of telepathy."

I sighed again. "Thanks." I opened my eyes and cracked open the medication case. I picked out the blue capsules and washed them down with the glass of water Eliot also carried. "I have to attempt a long-distance contact."

Eliot said, "Will you be moving to the astronomical console?"

"Yes," I said. The remote rerouting doesn't work as well -- it has a lot of lag sometimes, depending on what other functions are going on in the household. And lag could kill me in the sub-time tunnels.

"Do you require assistance in walking there?" Eliot said.

"I'll... see," I said, steeling myself for becoming upright. After a moment of deep breathing, I slowly stood up out of my long-haul chair. I was pleased to find that my knees were steady and my head didn't hurt any worse. "No, I think I'm all right."

Eliot scurried out of my way as I made for the bathroom, but he was waiting for me -- with a refilled glass of water, my favorite protein bar, and the rest of my pills -- when I entered the small, plain room with the astronomical console and a chair in a clear sphere.

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy... that was this one, actually... there was a highly psychic alien race, as far as we can tell. And after they achieved interstellar travel, they started construction on an extratemporal space where only mental emanations could travel. Only one or two other people knew about this -- Jane Liberty had discovered it in the writings of a para German agent whose powers she'd absorbed, and she'd done a little exploration. The problem is that this space, or plane, or whatever it was, wasn't something that our undeveloped little monkey brains were really prepared to handle. Jane had so many other powers, her telepathy was the least of her interests, and so had passed the information to a Class 7 telepath named Sarah Benson. Sarah Benson was a friend of Sister Power's. When Ruth told Sister Power about this crazy-powerful telepath she'd rescued, Sister Power saw an opportunity. So I got the information and a brief guided tour of the nearest entryway -- a point I have named the Lilith Gate, because I can, which is near one of the Trojan points in Earth's orbit -- from Sarah a few months before she died.

I didn't really do much exploration, since I was mostly concentrating on how to control my power. But then fate -- and Ruth -- dropped something else in my hands: a piece of alien technology that, when tied into a high-powered computer system, could render the data I was receiving from the sub-time space into comprehensible visual imagery that would allow me to navigate through them and have real-time telepathic contact over astronomical distances. Professor Canis got it all set up for me, and periodically improves the function, so now when I use the astronomical console, it's this virtual reality environment that I "fly" myself through.

The pain meds were starting to hit, fortunately, as I strapped myself into yet another comfortable chair and put on the headset.

"We are monitoring," Eliot said.

"Thanks," I said. "Activate sub-time navigation system."

The room disappeared, replaced by the imagery projection of a dark starfield on the walls of the sphere. Joysticks popped out of the arms of the chair. I spent a little time reacquainting myself with the system -- it had been more than a year since I'd last sat there -- and then told the system, "Beginning ascent to Lilith Gate," and threw my mind out into space.

It always takes me a little time to find the gate, feeling around blindly in the approximate area I knew it to be, trying not to accidentally hook myself into whoever is on duty in the Guardians' satellite or on the All-Africa Starwatch space station.

Just to let you know: space is big.

I finally found it, a tiny anomaly with mental echoes drifting out through its pinhole in spacetime. I took hold of the joysticks and the starfield turned around me as I dove straight through the Lilith Gate.

The starfield was replaced by my preferred imagery, a brightly sunlit hedge maze. It's kind of Escher-esque, of course, because the maze and the hedges were three dimensional. It always takes me a few moments to orient myself, fiddling with the turns and twists.

So then came the hard part.

Here's the thing: my power is officially Class 10+. I'm off the charts. My mind can theoretically reach anywhere in the known universe, but whatever telepathic emanations are, they can't defy the laws of physics. In the sub-time tunnels, though, my subconscious mind can get ahead of me. It runs merrily off in multiple directions at once, while I'm consciously attempting to navigate through this twist or this turn or this broken-down area (because there are a lot of broken-down areas in there, being that the place was built a long, long time ago and there's been no maintenance staff). My subconscious pokes out through exits into real space, seeking the person who is my target.

One of the things that makes my power so damnably powerful: megamultitasking, I can do it.

This means that my subconscious will guide me through the tunnels to the person I'm seeking, but like any normal human being, I'm taught to consciously question all my subconscious's messages -- what most people call "hunches". So I have to disengage my critical faculties, which is much harder than you think, and try to fly by the seat of my pants. "Captain Kirk" it, as Larentia said while she was fine-tuning the navigation system.

So there I was, "flying" myself through the hedge maze, twisting, turning, spinning, all while trying very hard not to think about what I was doing. It can be fun when I'm doing it fresh; when I'm exhausted and hurting (despite the pain meds), all it does is nauseate the fuck out of me. I second-guess myself worse when I'm tired, so I made a lot of wrong turns, bouncing off overgrown passages, shying away from an area that was thick with psionic activity, hacking my way through strange vine-like overgrowth with a mental machete.

By the time I found Ruth (in a system, of course, where most of the sub-time gateways were crumbling, so I had to use one quite far out, then stretch in to the planet she was on), I had no idea where I was and no interest in knowing.

Ruth! I said into her head without any of my usual preamble.

She was startled -- mid-flight, I think -- and I responded to her flurry of bewildered cursing with tired apologies.

What's up, Rennie? she said.

Sophie's back, I said.

A cautious upsurgence of joy. She's back?

Yes. Nereid got the Equestrian to take her into Faerie, and they found Sophie's... mind or spirit, I guess, imprisoned there. They brought her out, and Molly and I stuck her back into her body.

I'd never been in mental contact with Ruth when she broke down in tears before; she is not a woman who weeps often, or gracefully. The flood of relief and gratitude was almost painful. I let it wash over and past me, trying not to hear her chaotic thoughts.

Ruth, I have to go, but I needed to tell you to come home, I said.

She pulled herself together and said, Rennie, are you all right?

It's been a long night, big sister, I said, feeling just absolutely done with everything. I'll tell you all about it when you get home, but I have got to go knock my ass out now.

I should be able to find jumps to get me home in a day or so, she said. I'll call.

Go see your girl first, I said. I think she should be awake by then.

I could feel her thanks, and then did something I rarely do on these astronomical reaches: I just stopped. Usually, I navigate back; it helps me cope with "reentry" after a lengthy stretch of my powers. But I just didn't have the wherewithal to do it, and I just stopped transmitting. There's no snap back into the body or anything -- I never left my body -- but there is a fair amount of disorientation.

I yanked the headset off, fumbled the harness off, and staggered out of my chair. "Eliot," I croaked.

"Here," Eliot said, rolling up next to me.

With his help, I got to the bathroom to vomit, then choked down my half dozen rough pills and fell headlong into bed.

---

Note from the Author:

My apologies for failing with the rerun post yesterday. I hope that actually getting a new episode up this week will make up for it.

Remember to vote for WCS!









Date: 2011-10-28 02:27 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Aww, Sophie. And her mum.

Date: 2011-11-01 04:39 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
They're cute. Sophie is, alas, cuter when she's unconscious. :)

Date: 2011-10-28 05:14 am (UTC)
clstal: (Default)
From: [personal profile] clstal
Yay! ::Encouragement::

Date: 2011-11-01 04:40 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thanks!

Date: 2012-01-28 09:38 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Aw, Renata and Ruth are lovely together.

Also, I find the idea of a superhero tabletop game highly intriguing.

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