The warmth of Casey’s hello hugged me as surely as if he’d been physically doing it. My heart fluttered then contracted in pain. I loved him but the obscure future I had felt scared me out of a romantic relationship. I wished I knew more about the danger looming ahead.
“I’m glad you finally called,” he said, infusing every word with a sigh of relief. “Rebecca’s report of your condition just wasn’t quite cutting it for my nerves.”
“Or so she told me.” I laughed. Despite everything, I was glad to talk to him again.
“Any chance I’ll get to see you soon?”
“After New York, it’s very unlikely.”
“How has a mob anything to do with you?”
I suddenly realized Rebecca hadn’t shared the whole story with Casey. After a little mental scolding, I told him how the mob was barely a distraction from the main target.
“They’ll do just about anything to get to me.” I concluded. “So I’ll stay under the radars and limit my communication with anybody else.” This very call already went against Daniel’s request to keep my direct contact within the limits of the whirlpool hiding our organization. But this was a lower risk than having a wannabe boyfriend seek out my location to appease his worries.
“Now I actually understand why Rebecca is so secretive.” Casey said once I completed my explanation. “I didn’t think being a public figure would put your life on the line. I guess there’ no way of knowing when we’ll get to have diner again.”
“Nope. You’ll have to get used to the idea of living without me.”
We chatted a little bit about his work then hung up. Dissatisfaction took me by surprise as the receiver landed on the phone. The bad guys successfully isolated me from most of what I held dear. I’d have to pay attention to my moral; I couldn’t afford to let it hit the floor.
I shimmied in one of my new pyjamas. Some agent picked them up along with a bunch of clothes since all my stuff burnt with my house. Fortunately, said agent had good tastes. I set my alarm clock for an hour from now and slipped under my covers for a much needed nap. Becky got to her bed a few minutes later.
As soon as I woke up, I made my way to the room they reserved for my painting. If this facility eventually needed to harbour more people, the room would be reconverted into a bedroom. Until then, it was stocked with watercolours and canvas.
I walked in at about 2 o’clock and unloaded my brain and heart onto the blank fabric. I hovered on the thin line between consciousness and prompt diving. Maintaining that state of mind, which I always used when painting, had become a serious challenge when my prompt diving skill emerged. Luckily, I was getting better with all aspects of my strange psychic deformity.
The colors played for a while, unsure of where they wanted to sit. They mixed to form new shades and rebelled in the most whimsical ways. Most of my picture ended up abstract. It surprised me as my natural tendencies always led to figurative oeuvres. I didn’t know how I felt about today’s result.
Somewhere amidst the volutes of dark red, black and bright orange, Becky’s face, lined with tears, looked straight at me. A little further, my own face appeared, though it hardly resembled me; bruises and cuts littered my skin. No clear menace was apparent though. Only a pair of blue eyes, clear against the hot colors.
I finally decided I didn’t like the painting. I didn’t like it at all. It radiated of all the bad feelings boiling within my chest. Burning it, as my usual ritual went, would free me of some pretty nasty weight. I would sleep tonight. Sleep and avoid nightmares.
I woke up rested and ready to tackle whatever challenges the day would smack in my face. Rebecca had been right about my need to sleep. My ideas were clearer and my emotional stability stronger. Both were essential elements for efficient diving.
We shared breakfast with the rest of the team, talking about the day’s To Do list over eggs and bacon. Half the research team still investigated drug lords. The other half monitored the masses, trying to flag anti-readers movements before people got hurt. The two halves switched assignments every day to minimize the strain on their mood; looking for violent outbursts disheartened the troops more than compiling facts about illegal merchandises.
I gladly sat in my chair. It felt like returning to a long lost home. I missed my strictly desk job and anonymous employee number.
“Ready to dig up some dirt on Nadina?” Rebecca asked after checking all the plugs on the chair.
“Yes. We should go back at least a year before her attempt to blow up Times Square. If someone trained her, it came before what I already explored from her past.” Rebecca nodded in approbation. “I also want to explore the courthouse’s whirlpool.”
I touched her arm to draw her attention on my thoughts. It always sped up the explanation.
Something felt wrong about that whirlpool. The last time there was a rushed operation, our enemies didn’t set up a whirlpool to hide their tracks. I assumed it was because of the lack of time. However, if they couldn’t set it up that quick on the Prompt Diving School, how was it done for the courthouse? Was it planned? If it was, how could the deployment be so fast? Would it be as disorienting as the other whirlpool we saw?
The myriad of questions popped in my brain until Becky thought a deafening: “I get it!”
I lied in my chair, wincing as my back hit the cushion. I avoided combining painkillers to the Ocean’s wobble as it would keep me from concentrating properly. But so would my wounds’ complaints if it hammered hard enough.
I hoped it wouldn’t be the case; I didn’t want “#ReaderWar” to appear on Twitter.