Kent sat in the waiting room.
Nurses bustling about.
A chorus of beeps from machines lay in the distance beyond a set of doors.
Above him an angry news anchor.
Complaining about something Kent didn't care about or listen to.
A chorus of low murmurs and coughs filled out the white noise
His eyes were heavy, and he held his head in his hands, resting them.
He found a ledge for his head to lean back - and drifted off to sleep.
He awoke suddenly to his name being called.
A nurse at the double doors looked at him expectantly
A yawn later he was up, and followed the nurse a few paces behind.
He looked at the clock they passed
But he had been here for hours already
'A few minutes of sleep was worse than none.'
The nurse turned a corner
"You can see him, but he's not awake yet."
"How bad was it?"
Kent nodded and the nurse stopped
They stood in front of a sliding glass door with curtains beyond
"He got skin grafts, on his right side...
His lungs are fine - minimal smoke damage.
A contusion on the back of his head...
And a broken finger: from when he fell.
He's stable but unconscious."
The nurse slid open the door
"When do you think he'll wake?"
"He's not in a coma - just...
"What's the difference?"
Kent walked in
Tom was wrapped in bandages, his head exposed.
His left hand in a small device to keep the fingers straight.
Wires connected him to a machine on his right.
They monitoring a heart rate and other things
"Coma there's no rem cycle.
He's got rapid eye movement - means he's dreaming...
Means he should be able to wake up."
"So he's stable?"
Even with the bandages there Kent saw the black and red flesh beneath.
He reminded himself that it was covered in fake skin below that bandage.
And then his imagination ran wild with lizard skin imagery.
He suppressed a gag
"He's not going to die, not today at least."
"And the other one?"
Kent nodded, then looked back to Tom
"We couldn't revive him.
He died in the ambulance."
The reaction was immediate - the heart monitor rate spiked
Tom's eyes fluttered open.
The nurse went to his bedside when he started writhing in pain.
They pressed some buttons on the machine and a hiss escaped
Some liquid pumped into Tom's IV and Tom stopped struggling.
His heart rate decreasing.
Kent only watched
"Hey Bozo: you ready to wake up?"
Tom's voice was a little raspy
"It's so warm."
Tom tried to sit up
The drugs they pumped him with dulled the pain, partially
"You burned yourself pretty bad, what were you doing?"
His eyes were glassy now - not fully able to focus on Kent
"How did I get here...
Tom started scratching at his arm - where the IV was
"You were in that room.
With the tech - you lit the tapes on fire.
You covered the emergency sprinkler with your jacket
You nearly burned the station down."
"No I didn't...
Why would I do that? That's crazy."
"I saw you do it, the whole station saw you do it.
I want to know why?"
Tom moved his arm, the one connected to the IV, toward the nurse
"I just brought you coffee - and now I'm here."
The nurse shook her head
"Should this itch?"
Tom started wheezing
The beeping of the machine grew more frequent
The nurse pushed a button on the side
"It really itches..."
"Sir, you're going to have to leave?"
"What's going on?"
And no sooner than she said it several people filled the room.
They carried other machinery.
Kent assumed one to be a crash cart.
The other's he didn't recognize
Tom's wheezing grew louder as the beeping grew more frequent.
Kent backed out of the room followed by the nurse before they shut the door
They then guided him to the waiting room, to wait...
Kent sat back down in the chair he was in before
He listened to the drone of mumbles and whispers from the others in the room
He closed his eyes
And tried to relax to find sleep.
He could not.
His mind replayed the event over and over, not perfectly.
The charred black and red skin intermixed between the images.
He tried to filter those out but found he could not.
The last moment was the woman
Speaking that strange language
"Allergic reaction maybe - I just called the doctor."
He struggled for a reason.
Any reason Tom might help the tech destroy those tapes.
Or why the tech ran and grabbed Martha's file
'Had she done this somehow?'
'It was as if he was hypnotized - but that was nonsense.'
Neither of which he had seen personally.
But everyone loved to talk about bad TV
He repeatedly scratched at the back of his head.
His fingers going back over the bump
'Hypnosis was not real - something for stage shows and bad TV.'
'Tom would be fine...'
'He was in a hospital...'
'And he had been stable...'
He told himself that - but the nurse's eyes.
The sudden concern in those eyes juxtaposed against that last thought.
He tried to focus on something, anything else...
And there wasn't a better distraction than his job.
He held his head in his hands, his arms braced against the chair
He was so tired, too much had happened in one day.
He replayed the events leading up to the fire.
He couldn't shake the thought
'And they knew exactly what they put into him, so they would be able to fix it...'
Something Martha had done.
And she was missing
'Something in that tape they watched caused this.'
Also hypnotized he realized.
She had spoken the same indescribable language to them too
'And those other people in the cell with her were...'
'She tried that on me...'
He flexed his hands
He felt like he was in control.
Some small part of him couldn't help but doubt
His eyes twitched with a rapid double vision, he tried to focus them again
His sleep deprivation, maybe that was adding to his paranoia.
He couldn't explain what had happened.
But he knew Martha was at the center of it - somehow he knew that.
A deep sense of dread filled his gut as he realized he was out of his depth.
He ran these thoughts over and over in his head.
He did come to any new conclusions - but further solidifying one fact.
He had to find Martha.
Make her explain.
Make her answer for what she had done.
Though he was not even sure exactly of what she did
An hour or so later, he heard his name called again.
It was the same nurse: she wore the face of someone bearing tragic news
Kent lowered his head into his hands and tears rolled out against his wishes.
He got up - and followed her back through the double doors
'And it failed...
How would I even know one way or the other?'
Martha held on to the dream as best she could
As she rinsed out her mouth at the sink
She got a good 4 hours later, Rossin nowhere to be found
Martha splashed her face - trying to drive the sleep away
She saw something on her elbow, a scab that looked fresh
She rubbed at it
Bits more came back to her.
She recoiled at the thought of going back to sleep.
As tired as she was, she was worried she would have another nightmare
From the dream?'
She remembered her nightmare, the ship.
And the book.
The image of that symbol flashed in her memory.
An undulating pattern that rotated in on itself.
It burned an afterimage of itself in her mind's eye
That pattern had been a language - one she could almost understand.
Not in words, not in feelings, but in something just beyond her grasp.
Every detail of that twisting pattern burned in her mind
She drank some water to try and help with the headache
Either it was lack of sleep or it was that image, she couldn't tell
She looked up at the mirror in front of her.
Rossin stood behind her, she whirled
'What exactly happened?'
"Where were you?"
Rossin looked around the room
'Asleep it would seem.'
Martha turned back to the mirror, swallowing more water
'You have not been asleep all that long - apparently I still needed some.'
'A dreamless sleep, you?'
Rossin tilted his head
"Maybe something more..."
Martha shook her head
I don't know if I was in the back of the mind, the link...
Whatever it is...
But there was a captain, in a storm.
And an Italian monastery with a romance novel that had some symbol on it."
Rossin tapped his fingers at his side
"It twists, undulates...
I can still see it."
'Well, this actually directs our first lesson...
I want to see that - which means you need to learn some basic syntax.
How to send and receive data through the link.'
"You're in my brain, can't you just...
Rossin walked off
'I may be in your brain, but I am not in your mind.
My mind sharing this brain with you, I did not see anything in any dream.
So you have to send it to me...
I can not read your mind, remember?'
'I will be over here when ready.'
She did need a bath.
But she really hadn't considered what that would be like
'I assume you want to take a shower - you should.
You kind of look like shit...
Like you have been up all night and dramatized by a whole lot.
Go relax with some hot water.'
He was in her head, so...
'A sentient brain she could not just get rid of...'
['Was he bathing with her?',
'Or was he in the other room...'
'Or by going to the other room was that a different part of her mind?']
"Fine, but stay in that room."
Rossin walked out of the bathroom and she shut the door.
She turned on the faucet to the tub
For a moment she watched the water rushing out.
Swirling into the tub in chaotic waves
'Will not look in, I am not interested in that, just be quick.'
She watched the water swirl
She closed her eyes
'Okay, but he is not actually in the room over there...
He is just...
'What did she need to do?'
['Find out if that dream was real',
'Find out about that symbol.',
'Train with Rossin.',
'Get Felix to take her to New York.',
'Fix those other people in the cell she was in.',
'Kill that thing in my brain.',
'Have a good fucking meal.',
'Fix the world.']
The ordering of her thoughts startled her.
Clear as day despite how tired she still was.
Normally she had trouble focusing, but it was easy now.
Simply a list - one that she realized - would remain easily recallable
She wondered how far she could stretch that?.
How would she test that?
When the water was half full she moved back to the room.
Rossin sat on the bed.
His head turned quizzically when she reached in the drawer beside her
There was a bible - even in a seedy motel
'That is handy - grocery shopping would be easy...'
'Some light bath reading?'
"Some testing, random phrases."
Martha paused, considering, arrays in math...
So you discovered arrays?'
"That's probably it..."
'You have finite space, finite resources in your brain.
Do not fill it with junk.'
She Walked back into the restroom and closed the door
She wondered how to keep her lists 'close'
She turned off the water and disrobed, she hadn't any other clothes, so
'Actually, just keep all the junk together, easier to overwrite.'
At least she could clean herself
Dipping in the bath she opened the bible to random pages
She glanced at a few passages.
Each stuck in her mind - added to a list
She did this for a few minutes and then closed the book - then her eyes.
Holding her nose she dipped below the water
When she was done - dried and clothed again, she recalled the list.
Each item was perfectly remembered - or so she thought
She moved out into the other room.
Martha grabbed a small pencil and notepad by the phone.
She wrote out passages - word for word
When she was done - she compared them to the book - all perfectly remembered
'Eh, close enough.'
"So what, I have a perfect memory?"
Just about things you decide to remember - and not exactly perfectly...
Let us just say...
Resilient, not subject to your memory rewriting itself...
But not resistant to physical degradation.'
He paused, nodded
"Is that something you did?"
Martha waited and Rossin continued
'There are some...
Liberties I took...
Before getting that thing completely out.
A bit of house keeping.'
'Well, there were some...
Rewirings I did...
Things it would take years to learn, I carved out some room for to grow easily.
You would not need to train for years to prepare your mind.
You have a mind prepared to learn.'
"I see, what exactly did you do, to my brain?"
'Well, I took a lot of the hooks, I got most all of them.
I wired in some senses to emotions.
I also freed a bit of space - sort of a sandbox for you to write into...'
"I got the first part, but...
What do you mean about senses to emotions?"
Martha stared at him, and he continued
'Okay, so a strong emotional reactions increased some other sense as well.
Anger is vision, loneliness is taste, joy is touch.
Fear is your perception of time - your thoughts run faster.
You do not move any faster but you can think way faster.
The other ones are more or less arbitrary.
But slowing down time when you are frightened is super useful.'
Martha said blankly
'Emotional training is something everyone at the school is taught.
How to manipulate your own emotions - master them.
So that you can use them to trigger various sense enhancements.'
"And the other thing?"
'Ah, writing into your brain.
So you can learn the language.'
The one behind all other languages.
The one we all think as an infant.
Before we learn what words are or the language our parents taught us.
The one you thought in before you learned how to speak.'
"So baby talk?"
'Daft: babies think it, but can not speak it...'
Martha just nodded, sure, why not at this point
'If they could...'
Rossin gestured to the bed next to him
"And how is space in my brain going to help me learn?"
Martha moved to the bed and shut her eyes
'Here, sit down, and when you are ready, close your eyes.'
So: imagine your vision is in front of you...'
"It is in front of me."
'I mean like a screen, imagine you are looking at a screen, right...'
"And it's in front of me?"
'Aye, your field of vision.
Imagine you are a little dot - looking at that screen.
Right now it is black - that is all you can see.'
Martha tried to do that
'This is not easy to explain, you are going to look to your right.
Not with your vision, but at that point where you are looking at your vision.
Shift your focus to the right of your vision - it will be a blank wall.'
She opened her eyes, and looked to the right: to where Rossin was
"I just see darkness, I don't know."
Rossin gestured for her to close her eyes.
"How do I know when I've done it?"
Martha tried for a bit.
A few minutes passed.
She was pretty sure she was just trying to look right with her eyes.
No matter how she tried she wasn't able to just...
Turn her brain like that, was that the best phrase, she wondered
'It will be apparent - just relax and focus.
Your vision is just part of your brain.
Lighting up from some chemical signals from your eyes.
You are focused on that when you see.
Just - with your eyes close: focus to your right.
Pivot your attention away from where you see.'
Eventually - with her eyes closed - she allowed her mind to wander.
She was in a motel room trying to look right and...
A flash of white appeared, and was gone.
Just a hair bit out of her vision.
It wasn't in front of her eyes but to the right side of her head.
And she could see it.
A blinking, white light, rectangular in shape, pulsing evenly
'Turn my brain....'
"I think I found something?"
Words underneath the blinking rectangle, as the shape moved to the right.
It was a cursor.
It continued to the right, then shifted to a new line
"A blinking rectangle."
"Hello Martha, say apple."
"It's telling me to say apple?"
Martha opened her eyes
Her consciousness shifted to the right in a sudden lurch.
She saw the motel room again.
The light hurt her eyes, how long had they been closed
'I can write on it.
Martha - think of this as a message board.
We are both able to read it.'
Rossin reassured her, she realized she was shaking
Martha stilled herself
'Alright, you are alright.'
A headache, sudden and painful, Martha held her head
'Next time look back where your vision is - less disorienting that way.'
And as suddenly as it had come, Martha was fine
'It will pass, soon.'
For the next hour that's all Martha did.
She looked back and forth between her vision, and that text to her right
'You will better at moving your focus point internally.
And will be able to do that with your eyes open just fine.
For now though, keep your eyes closed - and the same way you turned, just...
Turn back the other way.'
['Was look even the right word if she was not using her eyes?',
'Was there a right word?']
"Rossin, is there a...
Word for this - what I'm doing.
I'm not looking to my right.
I'm not using my eyes."
'Inter-seeing, is the definition.
There are other places you can look.
There is not much there - and I would not go poking around...
You still have...
That thing inside you, what is remaining of it anyway...
Best not to accidentally look at it.'
"But the right is safe?"
'The right is safe, I built that myself.
Rossin waved dismissively
"It's just text..."
'You have yet understand, it is in your language.
Access to your brain, in your own language.
Not the language brains use: yours...
That is fancy.'
"It's fancy - not colorful, decorative, or initially impressive...
But fancy I'll grant you."
'The fancy part you have not seen yet.'
'Well, we need another human - and you are not ready for that yet...
'Might as well tell you now - you can write hooks on that board.
Execute them - and then your brain will just...
Do them for you, baby steps in actually learning how to speak hooks yourself...
Without the aid of that translator, this is a fancy translator...'
"So I can...
Just write anything."
As long as you spell it out exactly you can write what you want down.
As long as it makes sense to you.
Is the correct instruction to give.
And it means exactly one thing...
No wiggle room...
The closer it is to what your brain wants: the less likely something is to...
Or be misinterpreted.'
Useful - and I think impressive - I don't really have a frame of reference..."
Martha looked at him
'You know how Felix had that phone: flashing in front of the face of your neighbor?
That is how most of the Awakened use hooks.
They have a special image that hooks them into doing what they want.
He did not just say those hooks because he probably is unable to...
Not something they teach anymore.'
"And you're teaching me?"
'Trying to at least...
I am not exactly designed to teach.'
Martha patted him on the back, surprised that he felt physical
"You're doing fine - it's probably not easy being in someone else's head."
Rossin stood up
'You have not the slightest idea.'
Martha's stomach growled
She had been ignoring that - everything taking a higher priority
'We have been at this long enough, and we have places to be yet.'
"I need to eat."
'When was the...
Right - you have not eaten since I was here...
Aye - good time to mention you are going to need more calories...
Your brain is using more calories than usual...
Will be using more calories overall...
You should get used to eating...
A fair bit more...'
"What's a fair bit more?"
Rossin walked to the door
'An extra couple of meals a day...
Good big meals.'
She hadn't forgotten - the list of things to do was always there.
Just off to the right of her mind.
Cataloged with others, like a rolodex - indexable
'After we get you fed we should go take care of those cellmates of yours, yes?'
Rossin waited at the door
"But food first."