frowned over her report. That doesn't make any sense, she
thought for the fourth or fifth time as she read through her last
sentences. She dropped her light pen. I've got to find
"Is your report
complete?" Captain Fox asked when she suddenly got up and
headed for the door.
yet, Zach," she said, turning toward him. "Do you know
where Goose is right now?"
idea. He got his two free days immediately after he left the lab.
I thought he should rest before he writes his report." He
smirked. "Maybe he'll produce a readable one at that point.
Why do you ask?"
stuck. There's something I've got to figure out before I can
continue with my report." She let the door slide open. "I'll
look for him."
finally found Gooseman at the upper promenade. He sat on the
balustrade with one leg pulled up to rest his chin on it. The
other one dangled above the abyss. A still-steaming coffee mug
stood beside him on the stones. He was staring across the wide
plains between the foot of the mountain and Phoenix at the
It was a fantastic view
from up here, near the peak, but somehow she felt he wasn't
paying attention to it. It was something else he needed from this
place, something he seemed to need
told her a lot about his trust in her that he didn't whirl round
to watch her approach in spite of his exposed position on the
wall above the step face.
he asked wordlessly.
got a problem with my report regarding the psionic message I
received from you."
worked. I reached you."
smiled at his terse summary, so typical of him. "Yes, you
reached me and I have to explain how."
shrugged. "I used the implant to form psi receptors. Seems I
discharged it down to the bottom by doing it. I sent the
message... then everything went mad. The next thing I can
remember clearly as myself is waking up in that damn glass
Niko heard the
slight tremor in his last words. Old wounds, but the bleeding
is new. "Shane..." He patted the stones next to
him, offering a seat. With a slight shudder at the height she
took it, but kept her legs safely on the promenade side of the
wall. "There's something about this whole thing that I don't
get," she began carefully. "You reached me
suppose so. Don't know if it is what I did."
smiled at his confusion. "It was. Definitely." Growing
earnest again: "But that's my problem. How was it possible
for you? I'm sure you can form psi receptors within your brain
tissue using your powers. But you could also use them. And
that's almost impossible. Even strong telepaths who are naturally
talented at using their receptors take years to learn how to send
understandable messages. And I received clear images from
He looked at her over his shoulder.
impressions can't be divided clearly into vision and hearing. So
whatever it mainly is usually we just call it," she added a
soft, vibrating word in Xanad and shrugged. "I believe
'image' is an acceptable translation for it."
out in the sky again, he asked faintly, "So it's abnormal,
"Could it be
the reason for the way my nucleotide sequences destabilized?"
Again his voice trembled, stronger than before.
chewing at you so much, Shane? "I don't know how it
could be. Why are you worried about that?"
been exhausted before. Nothing like that happened. Remember the
were in bad shape after that, too," she told him
"That was an
implant malfunction. But my bio defenses were at least as
stressed by the continual use back then as they were at Deltoid,
and my nucleotides were okay afterwards."
has restabilized them," she reminded him, noticing his
He took a deep, clearly audible breath. "Next time, the
coffin could get cold."
eyes widened as she suddenly understood. The cryocrypt! He's
talking about the cryocrypt. That must be as bad for him as it
would be for us if we had to fear being put in the psychocrypt
all day long... Hasn't anybody noticed the cruel parallels
between the two systems? No wonder he's out here. The most open
space on the base. She put a hand on his sleeve, trying to
offer some comfort. "We won't allow that, Shane," she
fights you can't win." His voice was hoarse. "I've got
to find out what caused it. It can't happen again." The
fingers of his right hand clawed at he rough stones of the wall
as he added: "But I have no idea of where to search."
After a moment soft fingertips touched his cheekbone.
I?" Niko asked.
his eyes in acceptance. They had touched each other far more
deeply than this. A faint whisper like silk flowing in water
appeared in his mind and was gone almost before he
"There's a kind of
His eyes flew
open. "There's what?"
shield. Very thin, doesn't reach out of your body as a psionic
shield should do and somehow," she searched for a matching
description, "passive. I've never felt anything like it
touched my mind before. Why didn't you notice it back
sending and reading as I am know. I wasn't searching for
was lying in her lap again. He felt his skin tingling where she'd
can't feel it now." She frowned and reached up to his face
again, reestablishing the physical connection through the main
psi points. "But it's there." She took his hands
instead of touching his cheek. "It's almost imperceptible
this way." Her frown deepened. "Could it...?" He
wasn't sure if she really said the words or if he felt them.
"Shane, can you perform a transformation?"
He was clearly embarrassed.
a small one... an easy one. Just... something." She touched
his cheek again, intensified the connection with direct eye
contact. "I've got a strong suspicion."
smirked and reached for his recharged badge. "Okay then,
claws for the lady..."
almost blew her off the wall. He had to catch her around the
waist to prevent her from falling.
you okay? What happened?" Gooseman asked, worried, once she
sat safely next to him on the stone wall again.
looked up, breathless for a moment. "Confirmed," she
panted. "Shane... How do... you transform?"
didn't get her point. "What do you mean, how?"
breathing gradually slowed. "How do you perform a
transformation?" When he just stared at her, she tried
another approach. "How does a metamorph do it?"
bodies react on a cellular level to their surroundings and their
mental status," he answered without hesitation. "I'm no
not," she agreed. "How are you different?"
need a clear idea of what has to be done before I
transform. That's why I had intensive training in the sciences.
My body adapts to the conditions around me but I need to know at
least the average parameters of my environment."
the temperature of lava, the pressure ten kilometers below the
ocean's surface, something like that?"
A metamorph doesn't need that kind of knowledge, but he can't use
a transformation on his own will again like I can do, either. He
also can't refine it to adapt better the next time."
I don't think you formed psi receptors at
He frowned. "But
Niko laid two
fingertips on his lips, silencing him. "You didn't form psi
receptors, Shane, you set them free to send a message to me,"
she set softly. "You've got a full set of psionic receptors,
at least as many as I have, and when you transform they are all
active at once in an incredible blast within your body.
That's what nearly blew me off the wall. The controls for your
powers are based on psi receptors," she explained earnestly,
"or at least on receptors very close to them. And the shield
I noticed is the connection layer that synchronizes
He was still staring
at her in disbelief. "You mean... when I sent the message to
you I gave up the controls on my?"
nodded. "I think so. And exhausted as you already
nucleotide sequences lost their stability when the controls on
them got too thin," he said flatly.
took a deep breath. "That explains why you were disciplined
enough to actually send an understandable image. Your bio
defenses must need strong controls on them, right?"
bet!" He smiled grimly and took a sip of his coffee. "Brrr.
She looked down on
his mug. "From the cafeteria? They don't allow their mugs
out of the hall."
turned into one of his cynical half grins. "The only
advantage of being an ST: nobody gets in your way if you do it
anyway." With a short wink: "As long as the mug is back
before their shift ends."