The dive’s strain lingered for the better part of the morning. Becky completed her report in silence while I slouched on the couch. Casey fetched me a cup of chamomile tea and cradled my heart with his tranquil demeanor until he was called away to plan my travels for the week. Once alone, I reined my missing parts in and pushed the intrusive feelings out. I was done by the time Rebecca hit “send” on her paperwork. The clock chimed lunch time.
We ate mutely, stealing from each other’s meal. She had some pastas and I munched on salmon and rice. Taking food from Becky’s plate really was just force of habit: I barely tasted a thing. Worry dampened my taste buds and my partner couldn’t help with that one. Her internal nerve wreck was as disastrous as mine.
When the hour finally ended, Daniel called for us.
“This report is puzzling, to say the least. Care to elaborate?” He motioned for us to sit in his lounge and joined us after pouring three glasses of water. We were in for a long discussion.
The afternoon flew by, propelled by our account of the “whirlpool” phenomenon and steered by Daniel’s string of questions. Eventually, some Ocean researchers, the same that helped me control my prompt diving, joined us. Their higher-ups ended up participating by phone. When evening came, it was decided that a contingent of psychics and telepaths would be assigned to my department to research the disturbance.
In the blink of an eye, I became the head of five research-specialized psychics and telepaths teams.
I winced; this week was going to drive me to the ground but I’d make it work. Juggling ten squints, my investigation and a handful of public appearances was a small price to pay if it kept the readers from going back to hiding. If not simply be exterminated.
I slept like a rock and tackled Tuesday with Becky as my right-hand and saving grace. We briefed our newly formed crew as efficiently as we could. We figured the best way was to create a hive mind that would follow me to the whirlpool and take the study from there. It sounded simple but turned out quite hellish.
Only one team was able to handle the outer border of the turbulence on its own.
The others worked fine when I kept most of the waves to myself. As soon as I stopped filtering, panic spread like fire in haystacks. The raw feelings roughened the team. I slid back between the potential futures and the squints before they crossed their breaking points.
“I only people stopped relying so much on the chair’s filters and got out of their comfort zone now and then, they wouldn’t fall so far behind.” I sighed internally. Becky obscured my thought from the rest of the hive.
Working out a system for the researchers to be autonomous engulfed the whole morning. I had a conference to ready myself for and was running late. We finally paired them so two psychics would share the strain. It cut down the workforce in half but at least, they weren’t at a standstill.
The remainder of the day was a blur. Between the make-up, the speech practice, the actual conference and the afterward parade of the miracle I was publicized to be, I hardly found time to think. I only registered that people were happy I was sane. Good for us.
Wednesday and Thursday were just as bad, pushing and pulling me through jet lag, interviews, fancy dinners and uneasy sleep in hotel rooms. The FBI’s Los Angeles office complied with my request to have a chair available. It made the whole floor uneasy but I couldn’t care less. I had congressmen to smile to and a war to stop; everyone else’s jitters paled in comparison.
Admittedly, most of the “out of my way, pawns” attitude was Rebecca’s doing. I doubted I’d make it through the days without her drugging me with a careful dose of her sassiness.
Between the public appearances, I logged in a few hours in the Ocean. I threaded near the whirlpools, attempting to circumvent them without allowing myself to be drawn in. I couldn’t afford to lose a few hours to recover. We hived back with the researchers to learn they summed up their progress in four words: “Zilch and it hurts.”
While the talk-show make-up artist worked on my face, I couldn’t keep myself from prompt diving a couple of times. The whirlpools impeded my investigation and I’d much rather obsess about that than my upcoming interview. I despaired of seeing my stage fright vanish. I didn’t feel like running for my life anymore but ease was but a dream.
I cringed when Debbie, the talk-show host, called my name. Walking on stage wasn’t the problem. Making an entrance on the music they chose for me was. They picked the most popular psychic tune of the moment, which happened to be a techno-pop song. The upbeat was fine with me. The lyrics? Not so much.
“I can see the future. You and me together. Hear the Ocean whisper. It’s gonna be forever.”
It was unethical to use the Ocean for such purpose.
Nonetheless, I strutted in, gave a kiss on Debbie’s cheeks and sat. The interview launched with the usual string of questions punctuated by the host’s peculiar wit. “What’s prompt diving? How does one catch it? What is the cure?” were way more fun to answer with a light approach.
Then, Debbie invited people in the audience and at home to ask me questions. She decided to go to the phone first.
“Hello! What is your name?” She asked with her perky voice.
A loud smack resounded throughout the studio, closely followed by a yelp.
“Gosh!” Debbie exclaimed. “Is every one alright?” She laughed but I could hear the worry.
A sob followed and everyone froze.
“Answer,” urged a distorted voice through the speakers. The sob died on a sharp intake of breath.
“My name is Martha Parker.” The voice broke, leaving Debbie speechless.
I wasn’t speechless. I was half past dead. Rebecca rushed to grab my elbow and breathed strength in my system to keep me from passing out on national television.