Felix awoke to his face staring back at him in the mirrored ceiling.
The original owners still kneeling at the foot of a king size bed
He yawned - stretched himself awake.
Then shifted through clothing of the man's walk-in closet
He was roughly the same size
Felix said without turning back.
Inside the closet was a mirror.
Inside of which several drawers for cufflinks.
To his right were suits - from white, to black and most colors in between.
He felt like standing out today
"Go make us some breakfast: some eggs, and waffles."
Something to catch the eyes.
He was back in the city:
'A nice red suit...'
Felix inspected the dress shirt.
Yes he was almost exactly the same size as Felix
He rolled the cufflinks in his fingers, shifting them into place
He brought the girl down the stairs.
She was much younger than the man he sent to the kitchen.
The man was over the stove, watching the eggs
'Might as well be seen.'
Felix said, and the man started fixing the eggs.
The waffle iron beeped.
And moments later Felix was presented with a hearty meal.
Complete with milk
He tipped the glass at the man, then to the woman
He nodded - then drank
He suspected they were in fact: horrible people.
Considering the house they lived in
"Thank you for your service, go eat some yourselves."
He thought while scarfing down the food.
Felix handed them the plate.
Then he took out his phone and started fiddling with it.
He typed a long while, eventually he pressed one button.
And held the phone out in front of their faces
Their eye's twitch - a sign the namshub was taking.
He wrote them to be philanthropists.
Fundraisers for the poor
'No one had this much money and got it by being kind or nice.'
He told himself
'That was a good thing...'
He walked off
Taking the keys to their large SUV.
The really expensive brand only douches drove.
He always wondered what the appeal was - now was his turn.
He should check that Martha was listening - that she found somewhere safe.
He accessed the back of the mind, the link - searching - only to not find her
He nodded to himself
He did not know how she hid from the ping.
But that she was clearly holding back.
What was her game?
He drove aimlessly for a long while.
He watched the fuel plummet on the inefficient vehicle.
He was weaving through traffic just for the fun of it.
So far he hadn't caused any accidents.
In the rear view mirror - he saw flashing blue and red lights
He sighed and calmly pulled over
He waited for the motorcycle cop to knock on his window
He rolled it down
'They were probably horrible people - why not make them better.'
"Do you know why I pulled you over?"
The cop tilted his head - and put his hand on his gun
"Probably because I was driving like a reckless jackass, I suspect."
He held out his phone for the cop to see.
The cop stiffened slightly - his eye had started twitching
"Oh relax - I'm harmless - I've got my license and registration here..."
The cop didn't answer
"Who's a good boy?"
"When I say, who's a good boy, you say: I am, sir, now - who's a good boy?"
"I am, sir."
The officer retreated back to the bike.
Sometimes it wasn't any fun to have to tell them exactly what to say
"Now, go back to your little bike back there and forget all about me..."
'wait a minute.'
The officer complied, suddenly turning back to him
"Come back here!"
The officer responded the moment he understood
"Am I to understand that - when I asked 'who was a good boy', that you couldn't answer because you were not in fact a good boy?"
"Have you been a...
A bad cop?"
"Have you intentionally ruined people's lives?"
'Not going to tolerate that...'
"Do you know any other bad cops."
The officer pulled out the gun
"Go take your gun."
'Bit of a quick draw... good.'
The cop paused
"Now here's the important bit - do you want to be a good cop?"
"I want to want to be good."
He watched the Officer walk back to his car
"We can work with that - Now: go and shoot the bad cops.
Shoot them in the head.
Until they shoot you in the head.
That'll make you a good cop."
He even heard some of the radio chatter - an invitation to a donut shop
"Oh and be smart about it: get as many as you can."
Felix drove on
His stomach growled: he had breakfast, but not second breakfast.
He exited the highway and scanned the streets for somewhere fancy to eat.
Not that there was much around here
"That'll do pig, that'll do."
But he would find something.
He always did
'Nothing but trash food for disgusting people.'
Light danced across the white cloth table
Martha ideally played with the curtain drawstring of the window next to her
Rossin sitting across from her, he only had to switch to allow them in.
He insisted on only the most expensive place to eat.
He claimed that there was a higher quality to the food.
And that she would need it.
The other patrons wore fancy clothes
They stole small snapshots from fancy phones
The pictures were of her bloody shirt.
She watched them.
Most fiddled with phones, other's stifled laugher
He glanced at where she was looking, turned back to her and nodded.
She flipped the switch
Her perspective twisted about until she saw Rossin in her place
'Martha, would you mind...'
Hooks.ignore(Self) && .delete(Media.contain(Self) | break.
She turned and saw the phones slip back into purses and tuxedo suit pants
"Martha, before you switch back..."
A server passed though her - she reacted only slightly
She felt nothing - but still had braced for a crash
'What is it?'
"I would like to taste some of the food, if that's alright."
Her stomach was hungry but her body was being fed.
She concluded it didn't matter by whom
"I've never done so, and I'm so curious."
'Not all of it, but yes.
Just leave at least half for me.'
Martha nodded, looking around
"Then mind if I have the first bite?"
'I have a question: how far can I go in...
Like if I just walk into the blackness behind you?'
He placed a napkin in her lap - properly
"I wouldn't, besides: that thing in your brain is somewhere in there."
It was like learning to walk - unsure of which muscles to use.
Only in this case: the muscles were some part of her brain.
Occasionally she managed to move the cursor, or write a letter.
But each time felt like an accident - and not what she intended
She still had to close her eyes - even in this shadowy perspective.
Her vision was still in front of 'her'.
Even if 'she' was seeing was an imagined perspective.
'she' needed to turn to look at something not with her vision.
Her mind still had to turn to face the board
She leaned back
Frustrated, unable to even make even a single letter.
Try as she might, brute force of will was not enough
A server walked in front of her - a large steak meal was presented to her...
Rossin, that is, along with many side dishes, including lobster
She - Rossin, dug in
"While you're there.
Do you see the board any easier: why don't you try writing on it."
'How am I supposed to do this? I can not write on that board at all.'
Rossin said between bites
"Relax your mind, it's a new muscle - you haven't used it yet, it'll come."
Martha tried for a while longer.
Until Rossin was about halfway through the meal
"This is delicious!"
She did, and the first thing she noticed her fingers felt off.
The second: the taste was wonderful.
A sudden onslaught of umami and salt and sweetness...
In the perfect combination.
She sat there just enjoying the sensations
She shook her hand until her fingers felt normal
It seemed like it took longer this time than it had before
Rossin noticed her shaking hand
"You better switch now, I could finish this."
Martha nodded digging into the meal herself
The flavor in her mouth started to expire.
Her stomach was near full, which did little to stop her hunger
Rossin looked over his shoulder
He saw something Martha herself caught in the corner of her eye
Rossin tensed as Felix sat down to join her
'Like I said - it does just a little bit of damage each time we do that...
That will only get worse.
Which is why you need to learn to write on that board yourself.'
Felix casually helped himself to some of the half eaten artichoke
"Lovely place you found here!"
Martha kept eating, only a non committal shrug
"I thought you would still be asleep?"
He leaned back
"Hunger generally wins..."
Martha waited for Rossin, who didn't speak at first
"How are you hiding - I pinged you, and you weren't there."
'I have been doing some - house maintenance with our shared home.
I put up a firewall between us and the link.
Just say it is a trick you learned on the internet.'
It was as cryptic a statement she could make, she figured the more vague she was the better
"You find all sorts of things on the internet."
"That's a very useful trick, I was wondering how I would find you again."
"Well, How did you this time?"
I found a nice place to eat, which happened to have you in it.
Nice stroke of luck."
'It was the best place in town.'
Felix leaned back and caught the server by the arm.
He showed him the phone screen.
The server's eye started twitching
"That's good, why not eat at the very best."
The server nodded and scurried off to the kitchen
"Go fetch me what she's having, from anywhere."
"So, what's next?"
He watched her take bites of the steak and lobster at the same time
"Well, that depends..."
"Your abilities, how far along are you?"
Rossin was pacing back and forth deep in concerned thought
Felix leaned back further in his seat.
He put his feet up on the corner of the table
"I wouldn't know - would I.
It's not like I've seen anyone Awakened.
Besides you, that is.
Best I have is some dark net videos to compare from."
He kept the end hanging almost like a question
Martha continued to eat
"You haven't been to the back of the mind.
You know about hooks but have at least some trouble using them.
And you have a firewall on your brain...
But you spent the night in prison because you...
Felt like it..."
"So where would you rank me?"
You think this is like a school where you have defined grades?"
"You said there was a school."
"Yes, it's more like - a collection of students with a private teacher."
"That's a school."
"There aren't ranks."
Martha swallowed the last of the steak
"But subjects, and classes in those subjects."
Felix scooched his chair back as the server laid out another meal like her's
"No grades, if you can't cut it - they wipe you...
A pass/fail system I guess."
Felix raised the small cup of water in a toast.
Martha grabbed her glass and clinked it against his.
He held out his other hand, and took her glass and held it still.
He first poured a bit of his drink in hers and vise versa.
He then took some of his own food and put it on her plate
Martha pulled her glass back
"Here's to second breakfast."
He helped himself to a portion of her steak, and lobster
He dug into his food, devouring it with a ferocity that surprised her.
She was hungry - but apparently not ferocity hungry
'Fuck he trusts no one.'
['Second breakfast - how many second meals?',
'Do they all eat like this?',
'Do they all share food like that?']
She looked down at the piece of steak in front of her
She had a flash of inspiration - she tried just.
She moved the list she made onto the board, and it instantly worked.
The board flashed the words and Rossin looked surprised
'Good job, what did you do?'
['Those lists: I can just put them up here']
Rossin examined the board
'That is a start.'
Martha ate the offered steak
'About 4 second meals, more around noon, yes, and most of them yes - do not trust food they have not prepared.
I did not hear him ask the waiter to poison his food.'
Felix switched to eat his own food
'But you should also just be able to place thoughts there the same way.
Not wrapped in a list.'
Felix was gasping breaths of air between moments of food inhalation
"This is fucking delicious."
"New York's food is better.
You'd be hard pressed to find this even in Fiji.
I've missed simple food like this."
"I've never been..."
She had never seen someone eat so fast
"Or New York."
He tilted his head, then nodded
He was slowing down soon - but not by much
"You know, the experience is better when you make it last."
What's the most impressive thing you can do?"
['What should I tell him',
Rossin considered, and shook his head, feeding her words instead
"I have that block that prevents you from finding me.
And I've removed most of my hooks myself."
"Yourself, you got them out: yourself."
Martha finished the last bits of her meal.
Her stomach in rebellion.
Kept under control by her unsatiated brain.
She could eat again
Rossin was still pacing in the back of the room
He fed her more words
"Color me impressed."
Felix paused again
"I've been doing some research.
Do you know Professor Flanagan."
Rossin continued and Martha parroted
"How did you come across that name?"
Felix only smiled - brittle and partially cracked
"Breadcrumbs - on the internet."
Martha tilted her head
"He's the only one that calls himself a professor...
Besides Ozmind - who is actually a Math teacher of sorts,
Probably the only one of the Awakened that actually likes to teach...
Ozmind, not Flanagan.
Flanagan never holds classes, just has a gaggle of students.
Eccentric is too light a word, and crazy...
Also too light a word, just in a different context.
He's died so many times I'm sure by now he's a caricature of himself!"
Felix ate another bite
Probably isn't even really human at this point anymore.
He's something like an idea made manifest.
Or he's now just the part of himself that lives in other's brains."
"He basically thinks he'll find immortality that way.
By essentially being a story."
Felix mumbled between mouthfuls.
"Of himself, told by his students."
Martha sipped her water
Rossin gave words of encouragement
"He always had some out there ideas...
Even for the Awakened - they were...
['Well clearly he is happy with the way things are going.']
She was relaxing knowing Rossin would be able to navigate the rough spots
"Like Algera should be shared, or the Walkers.
He thinks there's people that are more powerful than the Awakened.
People behind the scenes controlling the Awakened...
Or some smuggling thing happening between 'realities'..."
Martha leaned in
"Or weirder stuff, real cosmic hippy love/horror story there."
"And that's more crazy than the awakened?"
Felix was not angry.
Just determined to believe that
Rossin shook his head
"We're gods, we control the hearts and minds of everyone...
Rossin shook his head slowly
'Always the arrogance...'
Felix stubbed is index finger into the wood of the table
There was a pause, Rossin prompted her - pushed at that thread
"We'd be able to control any Walker if they existed, which they don't.
And this is definitely physical reality."
"He seems like an out-there kind of guy, would love to meet him."
Felix took a sip of water
He let it dribble down his chin
"You will: just be patient."
Felix barked a laugh, then coughed to keep his food down
"Am I what?"
Felix smiled more seriously, then at Rossin's prompt, Martha continued:
"Then why should I be?"
"I can cut it there.
I'm wired for this."
It was remorseful - hidden pain deep in memory.
Martha waited, Rossin urging her to stay silent and wait.
Finally Felix cleared his thoughts and continued
"Hope that you are, if you aren't...
Death would be better - in my opinion...
I know people like to cling to life...
Sometimes - death is better."
He continued his meal
"We'll take the red eye out tonight.
Get whatever you need - not that you need to bring much.
Martha set down her empty plate.
Then took a bit of artichoke from his.
She ate it while Felix watched
"Enjoy what this city has to offer.
You'll be in New York for a long while."
Felix waved, dismissing her
"Have a good meal, I have things to do then."
Martha stood, she paused - and bowed before wandering off.
Rossin followed at her side
"7pm, airport - meet me at the front desk."
She opened the door
The sun was much too bright - or that restaurant was much too dark.
She couldn't tell.
She walked into the sun, suddenly hungry again
'Aye, that was good - going to New York.
And I am pretty sure he is not just going to erase you...
He needs you for something...