"I'm sorry," Alicia said quietly as they walked along the dirt path. "What for?" Jackie asked. "You didn't do anything. Besides, I thought your explanation of hyperbolic acceleration was very… educational." "I'm apologizing because you got stuck with me instead of someone you could actually talk to," Alicia explained, her face turning a little pink with embarrassment. "I can talk to you just fine, Mom," Jackie replied.
"Yeah, right!" Alicia replied, throwing Jackie's attempted friendliness back in her face. "Like I even understood what you just said a minute ago!" "You mean about hyperbolic acceleration?" Jackie asked, surprised. "Yeah, that," Alicia confessed, "and anything and everything else that comes out of your mouth. The words you use could knock over a skyscraper!" "Mom!" Jackie said, actually laughing at her mother's unbecoming, tormented posture. "You!" She laughed again.
"I don't know what to say! You have the ability to sway the opinions of the most powerful people just by deciding to. And you're also much better at teleporting than I am." After another moment, Alicia stopped walking.
She seemed to be studying something somewhere ahead of her. After a moment, Jackie realized that Alicia was dreamwalking while she was awake; something else Jackie couldn't do yet.
After another moment, Alicia raised her arm, feeling around behind her until her hand found Jackie's shoulder.
'Hold on…' Jackie heard in her mind, then everything went dark. 'We're in one of their warehouses…' she heard in her mind, again. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the light. They had been in leafy sunlight. Now they were inside a long, narrow building with small slanted windows running along high overhead. The windows were either incredibly dirty, or they'd been lightly painted over at one time.
'One of them? There are more?' Image of six warehouses, perfectly lined up in a row. Jackie could see better now. She suppressed a laugh as she saw more cans of Campbell's soup than she could eat in ten lifetimes.
"Are we going to take them all?" she gasped aloud.
"Shhhh!" Alicia hissed. 'There are others…' 'Sorry!' Jackie apologized silently with her mind. 'Where are they?' 'You're supposed to be on guard!' Alicia snapped into her daughter's mind. 'Just use what the Praetor taught you!' 'That's more like it, Mom!' Jackie thought back at her. 'You don't whine worth a damn!' Then Jackie closed her eyes, fearful that she would flub this simple (to anyone else) assignment, and concentrated.
She was surprised at how easy it was to expand her awareness through the silent building and locate the two guards in what seemed to be a snack room.
There were two other guards nearby, one approaching along the outside of the building and the other at the main entrance. In addition, she could feel Alicia dreamwalking again as an image of the receiving platform on the Phoenix wavered transparently in front of the pair. The platform slowly merged in with the floor beneath several pallets of soup cans, then seemed to be perfectly matched.
The pallets, surprising Jackie, suddenly became transparent and now appeared to be on the receiving platform of the 'imaginary' Focal Press. Then receiving platform faded from view, along with the pallets of soup. "Holy…" Jackie exclaimed, then remembered the guards and how voices could echo in here.
'So that's how it's done!' Jackie realized.
"Let's try another warehouse," suggested Alicia, quietly, "unless you really, really like tomato soup…" They both giggled quietly. Then Alicia placed her hand on her daughter's shoulder and they vanished.
~~~~~ "It looks pretty big when there's nothing around it," Tanya noted, staring up at the massive cyclotron that was part of the 'transporter', as Macario referred to it. "Yes, I suppose it does," Tabatha replied.
"It weighs a couple of tons, I imagine. That's why I wanted some telepathic help transporting this thing to Albuquerque." "Albuquerque?" Tanya actually squeeked. "I thought it was going, uh… you know… up!" "Well…" Tabatha ducked under an armature and walked around the other side.
"It is. But first, it's going to Albuquerque." "Fine," Tanya said.
"You steer, I'll push!" They both laughed. "Cute, Mom," Tabatha replied. "It's nice being alone with you, Sweetie," Tanya said quietly. "I never get to acknowledge who you really are in my heart as much as I like to." Tabatha chuckled and came back around the machine. Smiling at the willowy blonde, she embraced her and sighed wistfully. "Mom! Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom!" "Ohhh, Katie…" Tanya whispered, hugging her dead, reborn daughter tightly against her. "I miss you so…" Tabatha laughed low in her throat or maybe it was a sob, cut short.
"If I could have come back any other way I would choose to return as your daughter. I lived that whole lifetime not even knowing who I was. By the time I remembered, my body was already ashes." "I know, Darling," Tanya replied quietly. "The spiders showed you how to return.
I should be grateful, I suppose, but it's hard to visualize giant, invisible, telepathic spiders ruling the world. I'm just glad you came back to me." "Me too, Mom," Tabatha, who was once Katie, replied. She kissed Katie's mother's cheek. "Well, you ready?" Tabatha went back around to the other side of the Focal Press and leaned up against it with her hands. She closed her eyes and could see her 'mom' doing the same thing.
Then she concentrated on the image of their destination a wide area of concrete flooring inside a mountain chamber similar to the one they were in right now. After a moment, she could feel Tanya concentrating and enhancing the image of their destination. That was as good as Tanya could mind-link. It was sufficient. Both girls and the massive cyclotron vanished. ~~~~~ Béla teleported directly into the warehouse she intended to raid. Casting about with her mind, she failed to detect the presence of any guards.
"Well," she verbalized out loud, "we have the place to ourselves." 'Yeah, right, Mom,' Béla imagined Lisa would reply. 'But, there's always something that jumps up and grabs you by the wienie just when you think everything's fine…' "Well," Béla said, continuing her imaginary conversation, "it's time to start shoveling this stuff upstairs…" A movement at the edge of her vision, and Béla was on the floor, scanning wildly with both eyes and mind.
She thought she saw a shadow move in the darkness, but her mind told her nothing was there no mind, no emotions radiated from the darkness. 'It's just your imagination, Béla,' she thought to herself. 'Relax! You're all nerves. If there was something here, you'd feel it!' Standing up again, Béla created an image of the Focal Press on the Phoenix in her mind and superimposed it against the pallets of foodstuffs in front of her.
Once the platform was full, she released the image.
The pallets physically disappeared. She sat back to wait a few minutes for the receiving platform to be unloaded before sending more, her mind seeking out her sister Femmes to see how the other supply raids were going.
~~~~~ Alicia and Jackie arrived in the second warehouse, appearing out of thin air right in the middle of the building. "Neat trick!" Jackie whispered. Alicia frowned at her daughter. She didn't really trust this mental 'power' that the others seemed to put so much faith in. Sure, you could do all sorts of tricks with it, but when it came to pure, malicious intent versus the innocent, all-powerful divinity, malice won every time.
That was her experience and it had been a hard-won lesson in the political-financial world in which she'd spent most of her earlier life. And she understood why, perfectly well malice didn't believe in the 'lone hero'. Malice never acted alone, and 'innocence' believed in the supremacy of its own divine 'rightness', never dreaming that it was being undermined and betrayed at every turn. 'That's a pretty cruel criticism of humanity,' Béla thought at her from several hundred miles away.
'I'd at least give an individual a chance to demonstrate he was benign…' 'Would you? They have the technology! I've seen it! They even used it on me!' Alicia broadcast an image of the little box with the light that blinked every time Alicia had tried to read the minds of one of her captors.
'Interesting,' Béla thought back. 'I've never seen one of those. I wonder if I can find one…' Béla reinforced the image of the telepathic detector and looked at the image more closely. The image changed and now the detector was in someone's hand. Béla enlarged the image to include the man holding it.
He was wearing a dark colored uniform and seemed to be dressed for combat heavy vest, helmet, some sort of battery pack on his back (a radio?) and he carried a weapon of some sort. He appeared to be using the little box to search for something. He began creeping forward. 'Why can't I feel his mind?' Béla wondered, idly curious as she watched the distant image.
Béla expanded the image further in her mind and saw that the man was in a warehouse somewhere. There were other soldiers in that warehouse alongside the one she was watching. They seemed to be creeping up on someone. She twisted the image around so that she could see further into it in the direction the soldiers were sneaking.
There were two people in the center of the building. As she watched, a large area of the floor suddenly emptied! Where there had been a dozen pallets loaded with goods, there was now nothing! Then she realized that she was looking at a transfer platform.
There was a Focal Press in that warehouse! 'How did that get there?' Béla wondered as she watched. Reaching into the image further, Béla suddenly recognized the mind of the tall blonde facing away from her.
'Tanya!' Béla screamed in her mind. 'Behind you!' She watched with horror as Tanya twisted around and the man raised his weapon an odd-looking device that opened up on the end like an old-fashioned musket.
Tanya screamed and grabbed her head. As Béla watched, transfixed with terror, Tanya collapsed to the floor with blood leaking from her eyes and nose. A few feet beyond Tanya, Tabatha lay on the concrete floor, also bleeding from her eyes and nose. Enraged, Béla created an image of the receiving platform on the Phoenix III and swept it through the image of Tanya and Tabatha, instantly transporting them to safety.
She moved the focus of her mental image away from the platform and completely outside of the orbiting ship. Now she wielded a vortex that emptied into the vacuum of planetary space.
Returning her attention to the warehouse where Tanya and Tabatha had fallen, Béla released her vortex into the center of the room and watched, her heart cold with rage, as men and supplies, along with the Focal Press, were sucked into it. Suddenly, Béla's head felt like it was exploding. She screamed in pain and hate. Her last destructive act as she passed out was to pull her vortex in around herself before it dissipated. She floated high above the bright blue earth; her skin slowly turning gray as she froze solid.
The blood leaking from her own eyes and nose froze as well, becoming translucent red icicles on her unmoving face. Nearby, a figure twitched and convulsed as it suffocated, having been sucked into the vortex along with its intended victim.