Chapter Five excerpt:
At the exact same time that Tracy was waking up in Miranda Rainbird’s bedroom, the following exchange occurred, in a place far, far away.
Has the second subject been acquired?
Yes, Oh Great One.
Very well. Initiate the Teleinvisichronomicon now.
But, Oh Great One, to do a simultaneous switch…it might cause havoc…
Yes, Oh, Great One.
Miranda Rainbird came awake instantly, blinking at a slight feeling of dizziness that had doubtless caused her to waken. Someone had entered her bedroom. She kept her eyes shut, as she strained her ears.
No one was coming near the bed. Someone was…she heard clothes rustling, footsteps echoing from a corner wall…undressing and heading for the bathroom.
Who the hell?
Miranda opened her eyes. There was a bit of light in the room, coming from the green light of her alarm clerk. There was a man in her bedroom, shirtless. Good god! She recognized that profile. It was Mr. White!
But he did not approach her – he walked into the bathroom, snapping on the light as he did so, and closing the door behind him.
Miranda rolled out of bed and stepped toward her wardrobe, within which were dozens of weapons.
Where the hell was her wardrobe?
This wasn’t her bedroom.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, Miranda would have gone looking for a weapon – she could turn any household appliance or, indeed, household anything, into a weapon. But she didn’t need to do that anymore. Her cyborg arms were all the weapon she needed.
She moved to just in front of the bathroom door and waited, listening to the sounds within. Mr. White was…the bastard was brushing his teeth! Now he was gargling. Now he must be washing his face.
The bathroom door opened just a little bit, and Mr. White started to squeeze through it even as he made a gesture as if he were about to turn off the bathroom light.
In one part of her mind, Miranda wondered what the hell he thought he was doing. With the other part of her mind, she judged the exact pressure needed to hit White that would knock him unconscious. And at the same time, she punched him in the mouth.
She judged her punch nicely – she didn’t want to kill him, yet. She just wanted him knocked unconscious until she could tie him up.
But Mr. White didn’t drop to the ground, unconscious. Instead he just staggered back, putting one hand to his mouth.
“Baby, what the hell are you doing?”
Miranda stared at him, shocked. She was experienced with her cyborg arms by now. He should be on the ground.
And….and…her hand hurt.
Miranda looked down at her left hand. By the light of the bathroom she could see that her hand was bleeding.
Her hand was bleeding!
As she staggered back, gasping, staring at her hand, the bedroom lights snapped on. Mr. White was standing by the light switch, one hand still on the light, the other held to his mouth.
Miranda registered the fact that he was in a completely indefensible position – which was very odd for a trained agent, particularly for one who was in the bedroom of a woman whom he intended to kill and whom he knew could kill him – even as she snapped forward in a balestra move and punched him in the face again.
Again he didn’t drop, he just staggered back.
“Jesus Christ, baby, not in the face!” he shrieked, clutching his nose.
Miranda turned away from him. She had felt that punch. She had felt it in her hand, in her forearm. Something had happened, something wonderful. She made a claw out of her left hand, and brought her fingernails down her right forearm. She watched as four tracks of blood welled up – bright, red blood, not horrible green stuff or whatever the hell had been inside her cyborg arms. She touched her fingers to it, brought the blood to her lips, sucked it – it was real blood.
Real blood. Real arms. She had her arms back.
Miranda’s vision blurred as hot tears filled her eyes. She was whole again.
Wait…she’d tested her right arm, what about her other arm?
She made a claw of her right hand and was about to test her left forearm when Mr. White was upon her again.
This time he grabbed her wrists, and went down on his knees in front of her, his face turned up to her, his expression anguished. There were tears in his eyes and blood was dripping from his nose, and it was that more than anything else that caused Miranda to pause, and not give him a knee to the chin.
Mr. White would never have put himself into such a vulnerable position.
Miranda stared down at him.
“Baby, please,” he said. “What’s the matter with you? Why are you doing this?”
Miranda took a deep breath, then another shuddering breath, and then she began to cry.
Mr. White stood up, and put his arms around her.
She buried her face in his neck, sobbing.
“Oh, baby, baby, what’s happened to you?” he whispered. “Did you take something? Some kind of drug?”
Miranda didn’t answer, and he didn’t ask her again.
“Come on, baby,” he said gently, pushing her toward the bed. “You must have been having a nightmare. Please, baby, stop crying.”
He twisted her a bit so that he laid down on the bed first, and then she laid down at his side and placed her face on his chest.
Her right arm was aching terribly – and she loved every second of that pain. Her arms were real again.
Mr. White kept one hand around her shoulders, and with his other stroked her hair, crooning softly. “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay.”
Eventually, Miranda fell asleep.
Tracy Karlovassi opened her eyes. She was nestled against Nick’s broad, warm chest. His strong arms were wrapped around her…it felt so good.
The sunlight was pouring into the room from the open curtains. She could have closed her eyes and grabbed a few more seconds of sleep, but her arm was aching abominably. Curiously, she lifted up her right forearm and looked at it. She saw the dried over scabs of four long furrows running down her forearm.
“What the hell happened to my arm?” she shrieked.
Nick jerked awake immediately. He tightened his arms around her. “Tracy! It’s okay. It’s okay!”
Tracy struggled against him. “Nick, what the hell’s going on? What happened to my arm?”
Nick loosened his grasp. “Don’t you remember what happened last night?”
“No, I don’t. I…” she sat up, and looked at him. “Nick,” she gasped. “What the hell happened to your face?”
“You hit me!”
“Oh, Nick, what the hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t you remember anything about last night?”
Tracy stared at him. “Of course…of course I remember. We were at the Rendition. I got a phone call, to say I had an early call this morning. As a matter of fact…”
She twisted to look at the clock, then relaxed. She had plenty of time.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I came home, took a bath, and went to bed. And that’s it. I…I had a dream, I think…I dreamed about the show…I’ve been doing that a lot lately, but that’s it. I slept through the whole night!”
“Well, Tracy, here’s what happened. I got home around eleven o’clock. I didn’t want to wake you, so I came into the bedroom and didn’t turn on the lights. I went into the bathroom and did a bit of washing up. When I came out of the bathroom, you hit me in the mouth!”
“Oh, no, Nick!” Tracy reached out to cup his face. Nick’s nose had a cut across it and was a bit swelled. His lower lip was also swollen.
Nick smiled at her reassuringly. He grasped her hand and kissed her fingers. “It’s all right, baby. Well, you hit me again, and then you did something really weird. You raked your fingers down your own arm, hard enough to draw blood, and then you started to laugh, like it was the greatest thing in the world.”
“No way,” said Tracy. “I have perfect skin! There’s no way in hell that I’d mark myself up in any way. Why would I?”
“I don’t know, baby. But that’s what you were doing. And if I hadn’t stopped you, you would have done it to your other arm, too. It was like…I dunno, like you’d taken some LSD or something.”
“No way,” repeated Tracy. “You know I don’t do drugs.”
“Yes, I know…but, did you maybe get a gift from somebody – a fan or something? Brownies or something that you ate? They could have been laced with something.”
“No, no Nick, no way. I never eat anything fans give me, just for that very reason.”
Tracy put her hands to her head, wincing at the pain in her forearm.
“I had a dream last night. A dream about the show. I remembered it, for a second or so when I got up, but it’s all faded now. But…it was about the show…maybe I…I don’t know, maybe I was in the middle of a nightmare when you came in, and I attacked you…like I was sleepwalking.”
“Yeah, but why would you scratch your arms?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Tracy….” Nick said carefully, “Maybe we should go visit a….a….a doctor.”
Tracy shoved him - gently. “Don’t be silly, Nick. I’m not crazy. I will go to a doctor, though. A dermatologist. I don’t want these scratches to scar. My skin is perfect, and I intend it to stay that way.”
“But these dreams of yours have me worried,” Nick persisted.
“Nick, it’s all right. Now that I know that it’s not safe to have these dreams – I won’t have any more! I’ve done directed dreaming before, I’ll just make sure I direct myself into different directions…directions of happiness and sweetness and light.”
“But what if you do have another nightmare?”
“Well, keep a bowl of water by your side of the bed. And if I start kicking out at you, just throw the water in my face.”
“Baby, if you scratching your arm to shreds didn’t wake you up from a nightmare, I don’t think me pouring water into your face will do any good.”
“Yeah,” said Tracy. She stared at his damaged face, and reached out a hand gently to cup his cheek. “Damn, Nick, you’re so sweet. You’re taking this so well. Your poor face.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that, Tracy. The makeup guys can do wonderful things. And if they can’t hide it completely, they could maybe write in an extra scene where I run into a door or something.”
“Oh, poor Nick!”
She kissed him gently, then tapped him on the chest. “There’s no need for you to worry anymore. I’m not going to have another nightmare. I’ll make sure I don’t. “
“Okay, Tracy,” Nick said, a bit reluctantly.
Tracy leaned over and kissed him, then touched his bruised features gently. “It is scary to think I’d actually hit out at you, Nick,” she admitted. “But I promise you, it’s not going to happen again.”
Nick kissed her back.
“Okay, baby, okay. Well, we’d better get moving if you’re going to get to the studio doctor before it’s time for you to report on stage.”
“Yeah – let’s make a move.”