There is very little a man or a woman would not do for love—this is a truism that humanity must be reminded of time and again. When it comes to psychics, however, there is even less that one half of a Bonded pair would not do for the other—but instead of hoping that the other side will understand, we realize that our other half will feel our pain, or, more terrifyingly, the absence of pain.
— Sarah Farragut, circa 4855 PD
6 Novem 5249 PD
The comm crackled. It was a different woman’s voice this time, speaking in the Corp’s tactical tongue. “Cho five five seven four three niner two one, Xiangaou Prefecture Control. Interrogative purpose of debarkation and destination?”
He exhaled. “Xiangaou Prefecture Control, Cho five five seven four three niner two one. I have orders from General Hatchii to report to the surface immediately.” He forced himself to breathe slowly, willed his heart to settle down. They’d be able to read his vital signs if they wanted to. He was banking on the controller not doing that. Calm down. Calm down. Nothing’ll happen as long as you settle down. All you have to do is clear the station and then everything will be okay.
“Affirmative, Cho five five seven four three niner two one. Do you have the beacon?”
“Yes, Control. My thanks.” He killed the voice pickup and exhaled a sigh of relief. He reached for Lindsay through their bond. We did it, Lin. We got her.
He felt warm and could almost—almost—hear her voice. Now come home safe.
Do you want to see her?
God! You have to ask? More than anything, Brendan.
He grinned and glanced back toward America. “Smile for your daughter.”
America Farragut looked confused for a moment, then seemed to catch on and smiled. It was a little difficult, but Brendan thought that he’d let Lindsay see through his eyes. He’d never done it before over such a vast distance—they’d done it over miles in the past, not light-years.
A faint pounding rose in his temples and behind his eyes.
Won’t be doing that again, he thought. Not anytime soon, again.
The comm crackled again. “Cho five five seven four three niner two one, we’re getting some strange readings. Please return to hard-dock.”
Shit. Lindsay was still there, sensing his sudden panic. He toggled on the voice pickup again. “Say again, Control? You’re breaking up.”
“Repeat, Cho five five seven four three niner two one, return to hard-dock.”
His mind reeled. Oh shit. The implant. They’re sensing psychic activity through the implant. Goddamn it all! He jerked the ship around in a loop, breaking off from the beacon and aiming toward the nearest jump point out-system.
“Cho five five seven four three niner two one! Respond now.” He could feel something in the back of his mind. They were trying to do something through his implant.
Either they’re trying to shut me down and take over the ship, or they’re just trying to take over the ship. Either way, we’re screwed six ways from the end of the week.
There weren’t any options left. There wasn’t an off switch for these kinds of things.
He shut down the voice pickup with a thought and grabbed his combat knife. There was little time for delicacy. “Alana! Get over here!” He roared before he jammed the knife into his implant. He jerked it free, took a breath, then stabbed at the implant again. The buzzing in his head died abruptly as he jerked the knife free a second time. Pain began to explode in his brain. The knife fell from his nerveless fingers even as Alana shoved him out of the chair and to the deck.
Brendan groped blindly for the wound, gasping at the pain as he pressed his hand over it as hard as he could manage. He knew he was bleeding freely. The pain was coming in waves, like it had the last time.
Like it had the first time.
Alana had the controls. They’d get out of here all right. He couldn’t feel Lindsay anymore, and that frightened him.
Ezra was yelling at him, though it took a moment for him to understand the words.
“You idiot! What were you thinking?”
“They were trying to take control,” Brendan answered through gritted teeth, fingers tightening against the wound. His heart was pounding so loudly in his ears he could barely hear what was going on around him. “What else could I do?” He wasn’t sure if he was upright or on the ground. Ezra didn’t seem inclined to enlighten him.
“Bloody hell,” Ezra swore, tearing open a pressure bandage. “You could’ve killed yourself.”
“Wasn’t going to kill myself,” Brendan mumbled, consciousness already starting to slip away. He didn’t exactly want to hold onto it at that point; he just hurt too much. “Done it before. Doesn’t kill if you do it the right way. Just hurts like a sonofabitch.” Ezra pried his fingers away from the wound and slapped the bandage on—a temporary measure, for certain. He looked like he was going to say something even as Brendan’s vision began to dim.
Anything Ezra or Alana might have said to him was lost on him as he tipped over the edge and spun down into blackness.
● ● ●
The mug cracked in half when it hit the floor, fallen from suddenly nerveless fingers. Lukewarm tea puddled at Lindsay’s feet on the stone floor. Her eyes were wide in shock, her mouth open in a silent scream.
This isn’t good, Adam thought in the split second before he reacted. He grasped her arm, leaning forward from his seat on the couch toward her. “Lindsay?” His fingers tightened. “Linny-pie? Can you hear me?”
“No,” she whispered, not in answer to him, though it might as well have been. A shudder ran through her and the rigidity began to fade as her eyes came back into focus. “S-something’s happened,” she said in a shaking, broken voice. “Something’s happened to them.” Her gaze met Adam’s. “I can’t feel him anymore.”
His mouth went dry. He looked at Rachel. She got up and moved to Lindsay, kneeling in the puddle of spilled tea. “What does it feel like, Lin? Like something snapped, or like someone dropped a wall between you?”
Lindsay stared uncomprehendingly at her aunt for a moment, then slowly answered. “L-like a wall, I think. I was seeing through his eyes, then there was pain and panic and then nothing.”
The two couples exchanged looks. “Unconscious, then,” Daciana said finally. Rachel nodded.
“But he’d made it to the ship.” Lindsay rubbed at her eyes, which had begun to tear. “What would make him pass out there? He said they were safe. What happened?”
Daciana looked at Adam. “Hypercomm?”
He shook his head. “They’re not equipped. Alana’s insistence. She said if they had to ditch the ship it’d be better if it didn’t have any technology the congloms don’t already have access to.” Hypercomm was an innovation made by a joint Guard-Foundation team shortly before Mimir fell.
Adam stood slowly, looking at the puddle Rachel was kneeling in, then started for the kitchen to get a towel. What happened? They didn’t get shot out of the sky. It sounds like that would feel different—he’s not dead. Or are they just telling her that so she doesn’t go into a complete panic? He didn’t think they’d do that to her.
Something had gone wrong, though. He pressed his lips together, hard, as he got a towel out of a drawer. Whatever had happened, Lindsay wasn’t going to let him rest until he found out. Of that, he was certain.