Saturday, August 1, 2015

Crossed Off: Gateway (Part IV)

Denton followed professor Shapiro back to Hudson during the break while Starla and Alec started their trip towards Kansas City with Kathleen. Alec was supposed to give up the reigns to Kathleen halfway through so that he could rest, but she ended up falling asleep, and didn’t wake up until he had gone over twelve hours straight. She immediately forced him to pull over. They hadn’t left as early as they wanted so they decided to stay the night in St. Louis instead of trying to make it all the way.
Right out of college, Tristan found a high-paying executive position at a medical technology company. He liked to give his sister, Kathleen money, and he considered it an insult to not take it. Eventually, she got used to this, and stopped the modest refusals. He hooked them up with a pretty fancy hotel suite. Each of their rooms had its own television set, and the larger television in the communal area had a video tape recorder. They wouldn’t have time to use it, but it was nice to have around.
One side effect from Starla’s ability was that her dreams were entirely lucid, and she could remember every detail about it upon waking. This allowed her to tell the difference between a dream of her own and a body jump. She had developed laser focus and never jumped when she didn’t want to, except, of course, with Alec. This time was different. She had no choice but to jump over to Denton’s body. It was like he was summoning her to him. Did you somehow bring me here? she asked him with her thoughts.
Not on a conscious level, he replied. I think we’re connected. I think the more of us that come together, the easier it is to find even more.
Why do you say that? Starla asked.
Do you know where we are?
He was in an elevator, so she had no way of knowing exactly where. You have to think it to me. I can read your mind without you knowing it when we’re in proximity, but I only have surface access remotely.
This is the Confederacy Building. I came here as a tourist, but now I have the urge to go up to the twenty-fourth floor. The closer I get, the stronger the feeling of familiarity. It’s the same thing I felt when I first met you. Initially, I thought it was just because I was sexually attracted to you, but I felt the same thing around Magnus Shapiro, and I’m not that attracted to him. There’s some sort of scientific phenomenon we do not understand that binds us together. We’re all different, but there must be some kind of trait that we all share, that others do not possess.
So you think there’s another one of us in this building?
The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Denton cautiously stepped out. Yes, I do. A part of me can’t imagine there not being someone else. Denton walked down the halls like one would a labyrinth. He would step in one direction, only to realize that it was the wrong way, so he’d step back and go another way. He ended up in the middle of a large collection of cubicles. It was so late that only a few people were still there. He scanned the room, looking for some sign, but saw nothing obvious. He took one more step forward.
A woman in the middle of the room stood up and curiously turned around to lock eyes with him. She quickly maneuvered around the cubicles and approached him. “What language do you speak?”
“Standard C,” he answered.
“What’s happening here?”
“You brought me here. Rather, something brought us together.” Denton stopped and tilted his head. “What department is this?”
“Interpretation and Translation,” the woman replied.
“Language. Why didn’t I think to immerse myself in that before.” He swayed back and forth, reveling in the flood of data being sent to his brain. “I’m getting so many different languages from you. Dozens. Ones I couldn’t even name. How do you know so many? And how am I absorbing it so quickly?”
The woman was shocked, but excited. “I don’t know how you’re doing it at all. I can’t absorb a language unless someone is speaking it.”
“But it’s just language with you. You don’t gain any other information?”
“No, of course not. But you do. Why are we how we are?”
“I have someone I think you should meet. He and I are trying to figure that out. There are others. We all do something different.”
“I thought I was just...” she tried to find her words, “just different. Smarter, maybe. Some form of hyperthymesia.”
Denton laughed. “That’s pretty much what Magnus Shapiro thought.” He turned his attention inward. You’re awfully quiet, Starla. I know you’re still there, though.
I was letting you do whatever it is you wanted to do. But you should probably ask her name, at the very least.
Good point. He extended his arm. “I’m Denton Wescott.”
She shook his hand. “Ling Guo.”
“Are you done with work?” He put his head down like a child with his first crush. He definitely didn’t act like that around Starla, and he was still with Kathleen, as far as she knew. “Do you wanna go grab some coffee and talk? Ya know, for research purposes.”
“Research, of course. Yes.”
I’m leaving. Best of luck to you with whatever the hell this is.
‘Kay byee, Denton thought back to her. “Wait,” he accidentally said out loud.
“What?” Ling asked.
“Oh, sorry, not you.”
“Do what now?”
Starla, can you understand the thoughts of any language?
Thoughts are thoughts, Starla explained. People think in abstracts, not sentences. It doesn’t matter what language they speak; they think the same way. That’s how I communicate with people all over the world.
“Are you doing something?” Ling pressed. “Blink twice if something is wrong.”
Denton closed his eyes once and held them down deliberately before opening again. Now that there are four of us, we need to get together and gather more data. You should come here to Hudson.
Alec and Kathleen are never going to agree to that, and I can’t exactly leave on my own.
We’ll figure something out. Maybe we’ll come down to Kansas City instead.
Goodnight, Denton. Be careful.
He ignored her final remark. “Night, Starla.” This time he knew full well that he was saying it aloud.
“Are you talking to someone else?”
Denton smiled. “Let’s go. I’ll tell you all about it.” He let slip a few stray thoughts about his sudden feelings for Ling. It was clear that being around someone who could alone provide him with so much knowledge was intoxicating to him.
Should Starla tell Kathleen, or no? She was his gracie, after all. Did she not have the right to know? She went back to her own private dreams and decided to sleep on it.

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