My mouth feels like I’ve been eating laundry soap. I shake my head to bring the world into focus but it doesn’t work. My clothes pinch and pull everywhere. I thought after sedation dentistry you were supposed to wake up like you’d been asleep.
I try to stretch but something’s stopping my right arm. There’s a heavy briefcase handcuffed to my wrist. I realize I’m not wearing the same clothes either, and whoever re-dressed me didn’t do a great job. I hope that pulling sensation near my privates doesn’t mean what I think it does. Eew.
I’m in an airplane seat, but the ground is going ka-thunk a couple of times a second. I look through the glass roof and see a sky littered with stars and telephone posts drifting by like some oversized fence. I’m on a train. And this is not Tuesday morning.
Panic is just setting in when a woman walks up. She’s wearing a Sleepwalker, which explains why I can’t hear her thinking, and she’s pointing a gun at me.
“Who are you? Where am I?”
“You’re beyond the reach of any help; that’s all you need to know. What I want is the contents of that briefcase.”
“Take ‘em.” I get the feeling that’s the wrong answer, but she does have a gun.
“If I could I would. I need the key or else it lets off a shriek that can be heard by every telepath from here to Inuvik.”
“Even through your brainmuff?”
“At this range it would blow the device’s circuits and my brain as well. Imagine what it would do to yours.”
Ouch. Yeah. I have no idea where my Sleepwalker is. Probably in my backpack at the dentist’s.
Shut up and try to match pace with the train, Justin. We haven’t got long.
I’d know that thought voice anywhere. No help coming, eh? I just hope I’m the only one that heard her.
Ohgod ohgod ohgod I… made it! I never want to do that again. Now to find Maddie.
I have to let her know where I am but not clue in to any other telepaths that she’s here. Luckily, we have a secret code.
“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high…”
“What are you doing, kid?”
“There’s a land…”
“Stop singing now or I shoot.”
I stop, on the outside. …in a lullaby…
She starts frisking me, which only makes the misfit clothes pull more. In the course of squirming I realize what the uncomfortable feeling is: something is taped between my legs. Double eew.
There’s a ‘thock’ like somebody banging a plastic gavel and the woman groping me jumps and turns.
“Brittney! How did you…” Her voice trails off and she falls to the floor.
Then Auntie Britt hugs me. Her mind-speech calms me down instantly.
It’s all right. I have you now. Everything will be fine.
What’s going on, Auntie?
I haven’t a clue. But now we’re together so we can face it.
Where are we?
Somewhere in Saskatchewan. Your dad’s going to meet us at the next station.
But why am I on a train?
I don’t know. It has something to do with what’s in that briefcase. I think your dad knows, which means it has something to do with the government. Do you have a key?
She raises an eyebrow at my stray thought.
The one thing creepier than pulling a sticky bandage off your privates is having someone else do it. Triple eew. But beneath the bandage is a small key.
I straighten my clothes, which are kind of a business suit, and look at the woman on the floor.
What’d you do to her?
Tranquilizer dart. It’s designed to put down a female gorilla so she should sleep for a while.
Where’d you get that?
I know someone at the zoo.
I chuckle and point at gun-lady. So who is she?
She’s your second-cousin Rachel. I’d like to know how she’s mixed up in this, but…
But my safety comes first. I can feel it. That’s why I love Auntie Britt.
A couple of minutes later we’re sitting in a regular riding car a couple forward of where we were. Auntie Britt is thinking the crowd will be better protection than hiding, but she’s still watching everyone who moves up and down the aisle. People are starting to go to sleep, so at least the thought noise is dying down.
At about midnight we pull into Saskatoon. It seems to be nice quiet place, but Auntie is worried. It doesn’t take me long to find out why.
“Where is Justin? I wish I could hear his thoughts.”
Telepathy doesn’t have a great range unless you have a special link like Auntie and I. We can talk from about ten clicks; normally it’s like ten meters.
“Is his cell phone working?”
She does a face-palm and calls him. He explains that her car’s in a ditch about 5 clicks out of town and the tow truck should be there shortly. Nothing’s damaged, so he and the car would meet us later.
We end up at the Best Western on the edge of town. We get a nice room with two beds, and at 1:30a.m. there’s not a lot of people awake so it’s mentally and physically quiet. About 15 minutes later dad arrives.
“Thanks for helping, Justin.”
“I should be thanking you; Maddie’s my daughter.”
“Well bro, ready to see what this is all about?”
It’s the drug. I know it’s the drug.
Auntie and I shoot him a look at the thought; he’s the only non-telepath in the room, so he can’t control the volume he thinks at.
Auntie turns away and pulls out the key; I chuckle a bit when I realize where she was hiding it. At least she didn’t tape it there. A moment later we’re in. In addition to the handcuff key, there are four vials and a couple of paper notebooks.
“Okay Justin, what is this?”
He sighs. “It’s complicated.”
“What’s that supposed to mean, Justin?”
“It means the Department is aware of you and Maddie, which means when they want a test subject you two are first on the list. They chose Maddie.”
“An experiment to enhance her telepathy.”
“Are you nuts? First she gets signed up to try a device that suppresses her ability and now they want to make it stronger? Why her and not me?”
Because she’s not hostile to them.
Auntie Britt laughed. “Okay, you’ve got me there. But what’s with the kidnapping thing? Bureaucrats wouldn’t come up with that; they’d just bore her to sleep with red tape.”
“The Department didn’t come up with it. The research notes and drugs were stolen Monday afternoon from a secure lab at the U of W. Tuesday morning they grabbed Maddie. The rest you know.”
“Okay, so what do we do next?”
“We go to the RCMP.”
“And spend time in custody until this is over?”
“It beats spending time kidnapped.”
Auntie Britt hates it when dad is right. But both her and dad are super tired. I can hear it in her mind voice as she tries to think of another way. Finally she runs out of ideas.
“Okay, the Mounties it is. Let’s go before I come to my senses.”
On the way down to the car I start realizing that I’m pretty tired too. Being knocked out isn’t the same thing as sleeping. The drive to the Mountie station is short, but I don’t make it.
When I wake up there’s sunlight coming in through the window; the clock says 7:40. I’m lying on a couch and dad is hanging up the phone. I play possum and listen with my mind.
How could I be so stupid? What am I supposed to tell Maddie?
That blew it. “Tell Maddie about what, dad? Where’s Auntie Britt?”
“I don’t know. She’s not answering her phone.”
“Why isn’t she here?” This has ‘not good’ written on it in huge letters.
“She dropped us off here with the vials and the notebooks. She has the briefcase and she’s going to try to draw them away from us.”
“That’s stupid! Doesn’t she know that never works?”
“I’m sure she does. But she’s smart and resourceful. I know she’ll be okay.” God I hope she’s okay.
Friday morning in math class there was a telepathic ‘BOOM!’ so loud they probably heard it in Inuvik. And I wasn’t allowed to explain to anyone why I started crying.
• Epilogue •
Two weeks later I wake up shivering. I’m freezing to death but my head is on fire. My pyjamas are on but I’m naked. Nothing makes any sense until I hear the voice.
Maddie? I know you can hear me, but I can't hear you. The drug works, just not the way they expected. Let them try it on you. ♫ Somewhere over the rainbow... ♫