His hand paused on the door. Get in quickly, before much of the nitrated air gets inside. In one fluid twist, he opened it, entered, and closed it behind him. The lights brightened automatically, and only then did he notice that Rita wasn’t where he’d left her.
He barely saw her out of the corner of his eye before she slammed him to his knees. There was a slash of her fingernails across his chest and then she caught his wrist in her teeth.
The finger-slash was inconsequential, but the bite hurt. He tugged his wrist free and rolled. Maybe in her mind, she was a Cerik, but her body was still that of a lightweight and undernourished girl. He pulled her arms down to her side with little effort and held her tight.
Her eyes were wide and she tried to bite at him again, but he kept out of her range of motion.
It’s time. I need to open up.
There were many stages of ineda, from a tight featureless block of all thoughts, to repetitive patterns of thoughts that would distract a telepath from deeper thoughts. And assertive thoughts.
While it was impossible to keep yourself from thinking certain thoughts, another technique was almost as good. Force your thoughts onto certain channels. Keep yourself filled with thoughts that weren’t dangerous to reveal.
Rita needs to lock onto me, not the pilot.
He stared into her wild eyes. “Rita! I’m James.”
She was panting, still struggling, but her eyes blinked and some of the predatory glare faded. He had her pinned down with his weight, and he worried a bit that he was hurting her. Her attack had knocked him down, but there really wasn’t anything she could do to him.
He eased his grip, concentrating on looking at her. You look a lot like Pam. Do you know her? We’re all three the same age.
Her stomach rumbled, and he chuckled. She chuckled too, echoing him.
“Come on. Let’s get you some food.”
He rolled off of her, and she rolled in the opposite direction. They both got to their feet together. He kept his eyes on her, and she kept staring at him.
The biscuits were funny, at first. She was clearly more hungry than he was, but she couldn’t eat unless he was eating. The first two went down as a synchronized duet. She bit and chewed exactly as he did. Then they drank water together.
Will this work?
He reached into the sack, as did she. He gripped a biscuit and brought it to his mouth. He mimed eating, and she mimed eating as well.
“Later.” They both said the word and put the biscuit back into the sack.
It was interesting what things happened exactly alike, and which were close. Her steps were shorter than his, so as they walked back to her blanket, she had to make an extra step.
“I need to rest.” They lay back down, staring at each other. He bunched the blanket at one end to make a pillow. Her hands started to follow his actions, but he was done before she could match him.
Thinking for a moment of Pam, he put his arms around her. He let his ineda firm back up, and for a moment, she struggled, not against him, but within herself.
“Rita? Can you hear me?” Her eyes didn’t connect with his. A second later, she went limp.
Where was she? Was she unconscious, in sync with the pilot’s dan, or what?
He opened his mind, and she looked into his eyes, her arms tightening around him.
“Rita, what will I do with you?”
She echoed, “Do with you?”
Her eyes began welling up with tears.
No, those are my tears. Poor, poor Rita. How did you ever lose yourself?
He had thought that holding a girl, and sleeping with her, would be a wonderful experience. Maybe if he had stayed home with Pam, it would have been. But the long night was a struggle. If he opened up, she was just a puppet, mirroring as well as she could his thoughts and actions. If he sought the security of ineda, where he could think his own thoughts, she became a slave of the sleeping killer, luckily in a motionless trance. He forced himself to keep her there, holding her close, more for his comfort than hers.
Father’s comment doesn’t apply.
As he had been coached about this mission, Father had commented that it would be very easy to have sex with Rita, since she didn’t have a will of her own. But that would be a bad thing. If she became pregnant, it would be a random, since she would not make the necessary sperm selections. Even if the baby came to term and was viable, it would be immediately absorbed into the Ferreer hive mind, with no choice, and no chance at all of having an independent will.
He’d explained how even though it was the exact opposite of what his normal U’tanse duty called for, even if she seemed to express sexual desire, he should refrain from following his instincts.
No chance I’d do that. If she touched me, it would just be me touching myself.
This was not the time for that.
Something brought him awake. James opened his eyes and barely remembered where he was when Rita’s eyes opened too.
Only, she wasn’t mirroring him. He could see the killer in her eyes.
He rolled free of her, and snatched up his gas mask. The pilot was waking out of his dan, and he’d brought Rita awake with him.
She wasn’t really mirroring him, but her mind was reacting to her environment as if she were Cerik.
I need to be out of here.
He glanced at the controls near the door. Had Rita ever been trained in Delense menu pads? If so, could she use that training, the way her mind was now?
James tapped the menu a few times, and slipped outside. There was a thump against the door. She had tried to attack again.
He rested his head against the door and eased his ineda.
Rita, calm down. Bundle yourself up in the blanket and go back to sleep.
He couldn’t hold her long, but if he could just calm her down, when she slipped back into Cerik mode, maybe she would go into a dan herself.
It was all just guesswork. He’d put a slight pressure difference in the room. Maybe it would be enough to keep her from opening the door and getting herself in trouble. He wished he could put her back asleep like Mother did, but he never had that kind of skill. He couldn’t even make himself go to sleep when he needed to.
The window showed nothing but stars. The planet had to be elsewhere. The star field, with no glare to wash it out, was like nothing he’d ever seen. He soaked it up, especially around the edges, hoping to match up some patterns with ones he’d seen before. Unfortunately, with so many stars visible, it was hard.
A growl echoed through the ship, coming from all directions. The pilot must have turned on a sound system. Why hadn’t he done that before? It would have saved him many trips running down the corridors.
“<U’tanse! Come here!>” Cerik always sounded angry, but this time, James couldn’t help but shiver. Something was up.