Chapter 8. Part 1. Run.

I look at Cora’s body slowly falling to the floor as if it is in a movie. The blood is pulsing in my head and I feel the urge. This urge is uncommon for me, but I immediately realize what is going on. These two days of training that I spent with Ivor were not useless. I squeeze the table and my knuckles become white. I try to calm down. I order myself to breathe, but the feeling is unstoppable. I hold my breath for a second, close my eyes, and I hope it’s not too late.

After I’ve heard Cora’s thought I couldn’t prevent myself from digging further. And apparently I dug too deep inside her mind, so that it knocked her off. Someone is looking after me. This thought is driving me mad. How dare? And what is more, how could I let myself believe that I’m safe and no one is spying on me. I am from Ten, and I understand Cora’s frustration and tension, when she saw me. Cora seemed to be a nice person, and I even feel sorry for her. I know she is just unconscious because her mind was struggling hard not to give away all the information I was searching for. She will be alright. But will I?

My attempt to control my new abilities lead to the opposite. I am losing it. The walls of the room around me are pressing my inner view, squeezing me. The world suddenly feels so small. I reach the phone and realize that I don’t need to dial the number because now I know how to call him without it.

“Ivor… The Energy – ” I whisper, but I’m unable to finish my sentence. I don’t hear if he responds, but I don’t need to know. I’m sure he understood. The feeling reminds me of my 16-year-old story. “The explosion” is that how I refer to it. I was madly in love with a person I barely knew. Long story short. I saw that guy with someone else, and this feeling was overwhelming. I was unaware how dangerous it could be, but I was trying to hold everything inside. That same evening, all these feeling turned into something else. Like a wave of anger, fear, and offence, it all mixed together and started pressing me from the inside. We were at a party that day and I ran away from everyone. I felt like an overly blown balloon that consequently blew up. And Ivor was the first one who picked me up from the ground the next morning.

Black dots start to appear blocking my vision. I try hard to concentrate so that I won’t give myself away completely. No one should know that I’m a One. They must not know it.

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Chapter 7: Suspect (3rd face) Part 5

Cora was jealous. She would have known that before if she would have paid attention in those classes.

“That’s fascinating,” Cora said, “I can speak only both of the UE languages. And of course the one that is considered to be universal.” Cora smiled awkwardly and shrugged, “As far as I know that’s enough to work here.”

That was the perfect time for the small talk to be over. Audrey nodded and said, “Yes you’re right. Just in case anyone here doesn’t understand something they call me.” The girl laughed shortly and nervously. The smile vanished from her face and she narrowed her eyes at Cora. “Could you tell me, why are you here?”

Cora blinked several times as if the movement of her eyelids could help her erase Audrey’s suspicious face from her view. She realized that something went wrong. The redheaded girl stood up a little, moved closer to Cora, while keeping the gaze on her. Cora felt for a moment that her mind was drifting away. She didn’t know what to say. First, she thought that she somehow gave herself away. Second, that Audrey was just a weird person from a weird planet, and this behaviour might be okay for people like her. Then finally, Cora thought that it was just a part of the “greeting interview.” She had chosen the last version, so she made an innocent look and asked,“What do you mean? I came to work on the front, at the reception desk.” Cora frowned and continued, “I thought Meagan told you all of that, – ” Cora was going to go on with that speech, but she became unable to talk. The sensation was strange. It made her feel wrong. She gulped like there was something she could swallow to continue talking, but it didn’t help. Cora was staring at Audrey’s face trying to understand what was going on with her ability to speak. But she couldn’t. The feeling took her breath away. Cora knew she must look astonished. Then she felt something else. Her thoughts started to disappear from her mind. She spotted with a corner of her mind the room blurring and getting noisy. All objects became shapeless. The area that was visible started narrowing down inch by inch. The feeling was like losing conscious. The only difference was that she was still conscious. But the hallucinations didn’t last long. It felt like ages, but just within a couple of seconds, she felt like she was an electronic device that someone unplugged, and she didn’t have an extra source of power. The distorted picture of the room disappeared with all the thoughts, and her body fell down from the chair.

Chapter 7: Suspect (3rd face) part 4

Cora shacked her head a little and told herself not to stare at Audrey. Now the whole appearance of this girl was communicating something dangerous. There was some mystery hidden behind this dark-red hair and sparkly eyes. Her skinny arms seemed to be full of power. Her movements – even the way she brushed her hair with her fingertips – seemed to be full with some unfamiliar energy.

Cora regretted immediately that she wasn’t paying proper attention in her Planets and Culture classes at school. She remembered a little information about Ten though. She knew that Ten is one out of five governmental planets, and its role in the space is to supply soldiers. It has very strict laws and regulations that’s why there are rumors that people from Ten don’t really have emotions. They do but they try not to show them. People from Ten are known as the best actors, because no one knows for sure what they feel.

Another thing about Ten is that it is where Ones are originally born, and it regulates its population. The government of Ten has strict rules about how many Ones are allowed to be born in any year, and Cora wasn’t sure how things were controlled.

“Well…” Cora said quietly, “sorry, I’m not sure if I can ask, but we’re still waiting fro Meagan to come back and I’m really curious what are people doing on your planet? You know, it’s famous for the rumors about it.”

“When you say ‘people’ do you mean Zeros?” said Audrey with a bit of irritation in her voice. She put her hands on the table and moved a little closer as if she was interested in having that conversation.

“Mm…” There was a little pause before Cora understood what had been asked. “I mean regular people. Those who are not Ones. Though I suppose that Zeros are those people who are not Ones.” She was speaking slowly trying to catch any changes in Audrey’s facial expression that would confirm her mistakes. But the redheaded girl was calm and full of some sort of interest. So, Cora continued, “Sorry, we just don’t have this term here on UE. Maybe we do, but I have only heard everyone refer to Ones as ‘Ones’ and to everyone else as just ‘people’.”

Audrey nodded and said firmly, “I have noticed that already.” She smiled with the corner of her lips. “So Zeros tend to do pretty much everything. Someone happens to be a driver, a chef, a– ” Audrey stopped talking and moved her head as if she had heard something or as if she realized that she was not supposed to talk about the things she was talking. “Though you know, of course compared to the environment of UE, we are soldiers over there. Because if we are drivers we know how to operate a variety of vehicles. If we are cooking we know everything about all ingredients and their affection. If we are translators we can speak up to 15-20 languages and have to be able to adjust to a new one very quickly.” Audrey shrugged. Her face was careless, and Cora reacted with hesitation. “Me for example, I was a translator there. And this Earth language is not mine actually, but I could say that I sound alright.”

Chapter 7: Suspect (3rd face). Part 3.

Cora saw an average height girl with straight dark red hair that was reaching her chest. She was a little pale but somehow it looked nice with her even though it was the end of the summer. That level of paleness made her chin and cheeks just look sharper. Probably is was because she also had thin red lips and dark brown eyes and it was adding a nice contrast overall. The girl was dressed as a receptionist but she was sitting in Meagan’s chair, so Cora froze and remained silent.

“Hi, you must be Cora?” the girl’s face shone with a friendly smile. “I’m Audrey. Meagan will be back in about ten minutes. She is busy with a guest. She asked me to meet you.” They shook hands.

“Hi,” Cora gave a squeak and realized that she lost her breath for a few seconds. She coughed and said, “Hi, yes it’s me. Nice to meet you.”

Audrey nodded, welcomed her to sit down, and did so herself. Cora got a chance to look at her closely. She realized that it was the first time she was looking at the person whose race she wasn’t able to identify. The girl was clearly not from the United Earth, and Cora could easily say it right after a look into her eyes. First, she thought they were just dark brown color, but then she realized that they had some ginger spots all over the place and little silver shiny dots in the far corners. Those dots were visible only when Audrey looked straight. Her skin was also looking different. It looked like it was shining with life, while at the same time it seemed quite pale for the summer time.

“I’m sorry, but may I ask you…” Cora started talking. But her voice was shaking, and her cheeks became hot. She gulped, smiled awkwardly, and was going to continue, when Audrey smiled back calming her down.

“Where am I from? I was born on Ten.” She laughed and Cora noticed another non-earth detail in the girl. Her teeth were slightly thinner and sharper, and it looked surprisingly natural.

“Yeah… Wow! I’m sorry. I just never met a person from Ten.” Cora gulped again and fidgeted uneasy in her seat. Now she understood everything. Her farther and the United Earth Police would be interested in a girl from the most strict planet in the universe. Why? It wasn’t even question. She is a solider. She definitely has to be. From what Cora knew about Ten, all people there were trained to be some sort of warriors.

Chapter 7: Suspect (3rd face). Part 2.

Cora’s father – Rick – was a respectable person in a big financial company. He was working with taxes and different types of fees. Though Cora knew, it was just one of his jobs. What was the other one about, she couldn’t say for sure. The only thing she knew was that it was closely related with the Police department of the United Earth (or even something more influential than that). He couldn’t tell her anything about it, but Cora wasn’t blind. Once in a while at home he could accidentally mention her name. Audrey. Why he was spying on her, Cora didn’t know. Was she suspected on something or was she dangerous? Cora didn’t know either. She was just sure that what she was doing was the right thing.

“And now I only need to be on time for the first day,” Cora reminded herself as they sit in the car. She reached the mirror above the front passenger seat, while her mom was starting the car. The wind and humidity made her hair look slightly worse, so Cora tried to fix it with her hands. She made a clearly unhappy face when she realized that this messy hair reminded of her mother. The last thing she wanted was to look like her mother on her first day.

Within approximately ten minutes, they reached the hotel. Luckily, the traffic wasn’t bad. There were five minutes before the beginning of the shift, so Cora hurried up. She quietly and shortly thanked her mom, grabbed the backpack, and shot out the door of the car behind her. The “Adelaide” looked adorable. The building was just seven floors above the ground, so it had the same height as buildings around it, though Cora knew that there were five more floors underground. When she went there on the interview, she didn’t expect the hotel to go that deep. She would have never guessed that some people would want to live in the room, with the artificial sunlight and a fake window in it. But some of them indeed wanted to.

Having all those thought in her head, Cora reached the front doors. The old style looking wooden doors slid apart when she stepped forward.

“Welcome to the Adelaide,” an old looking man in red uniform said, but Cora interrupted him.

“Hi, I need to talk to Meagan. My name is Cora, and this is my first day of work.”

The man relaxed, looked back with the smile on his face, and said “Nice to meet you, Cora. I’m Michael.” They shook hands and he continued, “Meagan should be in her office waiting for you.”

Cora smiled and nodded awkwardly. She knew where Meagan’s office was, but all of a sudden, she felt like she was late. She definitely needed to show up earlier than a couple of minutes before the beginning of the shift. She moved confidently, walked across the empty hall, and went straight to another old-fashion door with “Meagan Robsky, UE” on it. Cora knocked twice and waited for the door to slide aside. Cora stepped into the little, cozy office, someone was there, but it wasn’t Meagan.

Chapter 7: Suspect (3rd face). Part 1.

That was the day when nothing was working and everything seemed to be against her. Cora was running in her apartment and trying to find everything she needed for her new job. It was her first day in a new place and she couldn’t afford to be late.

“It’s a quarter to five, Cora. Are you ready?” The cranky voice from another room had some metallic notes in it. The girl looked around the room checking quickly to see if she picked out the new corporative t-shirt, a pair of pants, and shoes she had bought the day before. Cora noticed her headphones on the couch, grabbed them, and stopped for a second in front of the mirror. Her straightened dark-blond hair was a little messy, but it was still better than usual. She smiled in attempt to cheer herself up. “Cora!” The voice sounded again and almost made the girl jump.

“I’m coming mom.” Cora replied and left the room. The door shut behind her back with a loud bang. “Is it warm out there?” asked Cora when she saw her mom rushing from the living room towards her. She was a short woman with small watery blue eyes and untidy curly dark-blond hair. She stopped, squinted evilly, and pointed her finger to the daughter’s face.

“Even if it’s not, you’re leaving this house right now. I don’t want you to lose this opportunity to work at that hotel. You know how important that is,” the woman said and slid her bloated feet into a pair of old pink flip-flops. Cora nodded, found her shoes, and sat down to tie them. “Oh, come on! Cora! I thought you said you’re ready.” The woman moaned with a clear frustration in her voice.

Cora stood up, smiled awkwardly, and said: “I am ready mom.”

They left the building together and went to the car. The wind outside made Cora shiver, but she reminded herself that the car wasn’t far. She followed her mom, who was shufflig in front of her.

Cora knew why it was so important for her to work at that hotel. One girl was working there, and Cora’s father was paying close attention to her during the past year. Cora knew that her father had been waiting for an opportunity to have an even closer look at her. When the position became available, she did her best to be hired. She kept everything in secret from dad and was dreaming about the moment when she would reveal that information. She just needed to wait for the perfect time to do that. Then she could finally prove to him that she was worth something.

She wasn’t like her poor brother Rick, who was suffering from obesity and staying home all day long. Though it didn’t disturb him from being the kindest person in the world (at least that was what Cora thought about him). She wasn’t like her mom either, who was also far from being skinny and, what is more, far from being nice with other people. She was better. She was smart and active, and she had an honest desire to help her dad. She was training hard in order to avoid their family problem. Cora’s worst nightmare was the same since the age of 12, when someone said her mom was rolling down the street. And though it happened only once, and that person regretted those words, she was still scared of a possibility that someone might say the same about her one day. That was her fear and her fuel.

Chapter 6: Changes. Part 4.

Ivor does what he usually does when he is angry. He presses his fingers to his temples and massages them. The joints become white because of the pressure, and it tells me that he is nervous as well. It takes him a few moments before he gets back to our conversation.

“Just try to do what you usually do. Copy me. With your usual level of frustration you should be able to do this.”

I know that he is right, but at the same time, this fact irritates me. I hate it. I can’t overcome the feeling that I’m doing something stupid, when I wave my hand the same way he just did. I expect nothing to happen, but, all of a sudden, I hear the phone ringing. The sensation is funny: I feel light tickling inside my chest. I hear the vibration, and within a second – or even less – I feel it almost like I’m touching it, and my fingertips get itchy.

I blink, and at the moment I do so, the space in front of me gets dark as if there was no light. For a moment, I see things differently. The feeling of time is no longer correct, it’s way too slow to be real. It seems like my heart misses a beat. The space around me is full of… information. I’ve never known that it’s possible to see the world like this. It looks full of lines, waves and strings, and at the same time, it has layers. I stare to one of the lines that leads through the wall and I see that it’s connected with my phone. I stand up and see that it moves with me. I try to reach it with my hand, and I know that my fingers should go through it, but this time they don’t. I can feel the pulsation of the string. I press it harder, and it breaks almost the same way glass does, and disappears.

“Do you see this now?” I hear Ivor’s voice and then I realise that I see it on the other “layer” of the space. I turn to face him, and the way he looks in my new way of seeing the world terrifies me. I tell myself to calm down because the picture becomes blurred and noisy.

“I can see your heart beating, Ivor…” I try to say it loud, but my voice breaks half way through the sentence and drops into the whisper. “The blood streaming through your veins… The air you inhale… Oh…” – I interrupt myself. “Is this the way you see things all the time? Is there the way to control it?” I ask but continue talking: “I don’t like it. I mean it’s cool and everything, but I liked the way it worked for me before: just getting information without seeing all these… layers…” I squint a little and realise that the way the world usually looks for me is just another layer. “Everything around me looks like a huge database.” I finally interrupt myself, but not because I’m ready to hear Ivor’s respond. I don’t need it anymore because I’ve found the answer. I interrupt myself because I’ve seen something: a tiny pulsing line, that looks like one of those strings, but I catch something different in it. It’s very thin and glassy, and through this fake glass I can see the fog. And I don’t need an explanation for where this fog comes from, as I see that Ivor has the same line attached to him. This fog could only come from one place, from Atlantis. And this is our connection to Ray.

Chapter 6: Changes. Part 3.

I open my mouth to say something, but the words don’t come out. I feel a little dizzy because of all the information I’ve just heard, and I feel one question in my head wiggling around: why am I different? I chew my lower lip and stare into nothingness, trying to think clear. I shake my head and say quietly:

“I guess I’m an experiment then.” I raise my eyebrows and look at Ivor trying to find a sign of a guilt or a shame. He looks away, unable to maintain eye contact, so I think that’s the sign and I move on: “Well, I’m a passive One. And you want to change my way of thinking about Energy. I assume you also want me to be capable of using it, but remain passive. Is that your plan?”

Ivor squints a little and moves his head from side to side. The movement is very slight and slow as if he is not sure whether he agrees or not. He presses a forefinger to his lips and his face freezes for a few moments.

“That actually might work, we’ll try,” he says. “My original thought was to try to teach you how to be an ordinary One, but I like your idea better.” Ivor’s face lights up, he smiles and says with an exited voice: “We only need to find out the way how to do it. Let’s try this first.” He moves his hands palms up to the shoulders lever. “Where is your cell-phone?” he asks.

I stare in a surprise on him and reply without thinking, so my voice sounds a bit monotone and mechanical: “It’s on the desk in the room.”

Ivor nods. “You just know it, but can you feel it?” I frown and nod. “Try to turn it off, for example. Or try to call it. You know it’s just an electronic device…” He finally sees me frowning, so he interrupts himself. “Look.” His arms are still on the shoulders level. “Can you see this?” I slowly move my head from side to side, staring at the air above his palms.

“Can I see what? There is nothing, Ivor.”

He claps his hands and grits his teeth. “Audrey, it’s an electro-magnetic wave. If you can see or feel it, you can try to send it to your phone to generate a fake phone-call.” He lifts his hands back where they were and moves his fingers a little. I hear my phone ringing. I keep chewing my lips, while Ivor does it again, and again, and again…

“Stop it. I don’t see anything!” I’m surprised that my voice sounds so loud in the silence, that it feels like I’m yelling at him. I raise my hands, while Ivor lowers his. “I can’t see anything.” I repeat, “If you want me to see it you’ve got to explain it to me first.”

Chapter 6: Changes. Part 2.

“I don’t like that we call it “Energy” because it sounds like some sort of power or magic, while we both know that it’s nothing like that,” says Ivor in an instructing tone. “The only context, where this term sounds appropriate, is when it’s said about a person. Why Ones can’t sleep?” Ivor asks and answers right away, “because they have too much energy and they don’t need to.”

“Yes, I remember, and I need that trance because it somehow preserved me from “exploding”, right?” I interrupt Ivor.

He nods. “Think about your body as about some sort of scanner or sensor, which is constantly on. It’s plugged into the outlet, so it has a source of energy. It doesn’t need to be turned off every day. The same sensor with accumulators needs to be turned off in order to save some power and once in a while it needs to be charged. But almost each electronic machine has a sleep mode or a reboot button, and it’s done for a reason. If you leave your computer on for days it’ll be fine for a while, but eventually it’ll crash. That’s what a trance does for you: it reboots you.” Ivor pauses and checks whether I’m following. I nod and he continues: “So before this moment you were a scanner. You simply scan an information to your mind about the temperature outside and of your body, your coordinates, time (even in different planet systems) and so on. You also feel other people as clouds of emotions – at least that is how I taught you to imagine them – and you hear their minds. You should be capable to locate everything that surrounds you within certain radius. You might even be able to feel the surface of objects. In other words, you are a receiver. I taught you how to detect all that without sending anything, while the rest of Ones are constantly sending their feedback.” Ivor pauses again, scratches his tattoo and continues: “I developed this theory when I was a kid. That’s why later I studied for that and began training people. I trusted that idea to my tutor – your dad – and then he trusted me. I was able to prove that I was right. However, even knowing that, I can’t change my perception. I can’t change myself. For some reason it works only with you. Only you can be a passive One.”

I sigh, lower my eyes to look at my palms and whisper: “In cases like these I always wonder why I am different, but at the same time I don’t want to know that because it all comes to the same question: who are my biological parents? I’m sure that the clue is there but I don’t want to know the answer.”

“I’m asking the exact same question to myself.” Says Ivor.

Chapter 6: Changes. Part 1.

For the next several moments I stare at Ivor unsuccessfully trying to understand what he has just said. I’ve heard his words, and the echo of them is still hitting my ears: “I need you… So many things you are capable of… They are safe… Reveal your secret…” I blink several times when I start getting the sense of what has been said.

“Are you saying…” I say, but my voice sounds cranky and quiet, so I cough a little and continue, “Are you saying that you want to teach me how to use the Energy? After I’ve spent the entire four years learning how to hide it? And I have just… what? A few days or hours to learn it?” I stop and take Ivor’s palms from my cheeks because the feeling of his emotions – even though it’s slight – is disturbing. I quietly move away from him, slowly stand up and look away. He is silent, waiting for me to continue though I don’t know what else to say.

Eventually he breaks the silence: “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m intending to do and I think a couple of days will be a good start. The main idea is to change your way of thinking about it.”

I must have given him a sceptical look because he raises his hands as if he is trying to protect himself. I shake my head a little, squeeze my lips together, exhale loudly, and say: “How can you be sure that my parents are safe? If they are on Ten they can’t be safe anywhere.”

“I know that,” Ivor nods. “That’s why they aren’t there.” His voice is strong and calm, and it makes my doubts dissipate. If he is so sure then how can I be not? He might be the only person in the whole Universe whom I can trust. I can’t afford questioning everything he says.

“Ok then. Go ahead and change my way of thinking about the Energy,” I say with a sigh. Our eyes meet, and for a second I see Ivor’s confusion. Then he blinks and it’s gone. When he starts talking, he is still sitting on the floor, and his hands are resting on top of his knees. I feel much cozier this way than I felt in the past, especially because I see him with wet, messy hair and wearing homie clothes. Somehow I fell confidence, but probably it’s because his face is firm and the tone of his voice is calm. I still see my mentor in him.

“Well… I’ve got just enough time to think about how exactly I’m going to fix you. I’ll start with one important notice: stop referring to the Energy as Energy. You know, it’s not completely right. Try at least to think about it as an information field, a resource and a network.” Ivor stops, brushes his hair and with a gesture welcomes me to sit down next to him. So I sit, making myself comfortable by pressing my knees to my chest, hug them with both hands, and set my chin on the top of them.