Renata moved for the door. Leto stepped directly into her path and put his mountainous hand on her shoulder.
"He's all right."
She paused at the look of concern in his eyes. "I saw it with my own eyes, Renata. He's all right. Let them sleep."
Rather than jerk away and pivot around him, she placed her hand on his. She'd come to care so much for Foley in the years she'd been watching over him. Tonight he'd almost sacrificed himself to save them both. She understood in his heart he would have made the choice a thousand times over without an instant's hesitation. She wasn't that strong. Foley wasn't careless or vain; he was just the type of guy who would risk his life for a complete stranger without hesitating.
She wanted to see him. She wanted to see him with her own eyes and make sure that he was all right, just as he needed to see she was all right. She motioned to Leto that it was all right. She didn’t open the door, but she approached it carefully and knocked lightly. She heard stirring in the room.
"You did good tonight, kid." She said, instantly realizing that she sounded just like her father when she said that. She hid her emotions in attitude and sass. "We'll be here till morning. Then we talk."
She didn't wait for him to respond as she turned away. She knew that it was too much effort for him. With each step away from the door, she felt more and more of her drive and energy fade as the realization of what was going to happen next. There would be no rest for the wicked this night.
She plopped down next to the terminal on the far wall of his space and took the High density flash drives out of her coat pocket and jacked them into the port on Foley’s terminal. The Center’s computers were linked in a highly advanced shared computing environment. Each terminal provided complete access to all systems to certain users. She could work just as effectively here, as she could anywhere else.
As she was uploading the data, she heard the door open. She turned to see her father, Harlan Cole, enter the room. He still sported a rather severe, flat top hair cut –the same he’d had for the last forty years. If she didn’t know any better, she’d have thought that his barber had been specially enhanced, too. The edges could cut diamonds. He looked at the room and walked slowly towards the door of it, silently bidding her to join him. She reached him by the time he’d passed the couch.
Leto didn’t get up and try to step in his way like he did for Renata. Of all the people here at the center, her father was legendary –not just for his record of service and his unwavering devotion to his team, but for his reputation as an unshakeable leader of men. Plus, Leto knew that despite his enhanced size and strength, he couldn’t do a thing to stop him from reaching the door even if he wanted to. Harlan Cole was just that good.
“They’ve remained in the room this entire time?” He looked her over briefly. His brow furrowed just a bit when he saw the cuts on her face.
“Yes Sir. Leto informs me that he feels that they should be allowed to sleep.”
He turned to Leto. “I see no immediate reason to disturb the two of them.”
Leto breathed a sigh of relief.
“You sound like this is just a walk in the park. You do realize that she’s from another planet, right?” Renata couldn’t help but sound a little sarcastic. It irked her sometimes that he could maintain such calm. Like her mother, she was something of a firebrand.
He turned to Renata again, his face just as calm as before. When he spoke to her, it was never harsh, always professional but somehow she always managed to take it as though he were rebuking her performance.
“You would think I’d be more worried, but this isn’t the first time that we’ve been faced with unusual situations before. Calmer heads must prevail. She has given no indication of hostile intent. That means for the time being she is our guest. Here at the Center we deal with unusual people every day. As far as I’m concerned, we watch, and we wait.”
“They were very intent on taking her.”
“I know. We’ve had our share of strange confrontations, but it would be premature to exacerbate the situation by rash action. I have Brent’s team out in the field. We’ll make contact”
“She healed him!” Leto blurted out.
“I saw the footage, Leto. Foley is our first contact in this case, so whatever happens he has point on this. We trust his call, until we have cause to act otherwise.”
He turned towards the computer. Renata knew that there were cameras all over the center. Because of the nature of its inhabitants, everyone knew that and accepted it. There were many inhabitants of the center with dangerous, unpredictable powers, and constant monitoring was precautionary. Cole had ordered the cameras placed to be in every living space, but they were to be unobtrusive. He personally developed the training program for the watchmen who monitored them to be impassive and clinical. They were trained to watch only for medical episodes and disregard any instances of personal relationships. He made it very clear that they were people and this was not a reality TV show.
Anyone else would have hit the button on the interior monitor next to his door and looked inside. Not her Father. He had a way of understanding what people needed in times like these. She needed to feel included, so he stood while talking with her because he knew that standing and walking around made her feel like they were on equal footing. Sometimes it infuriated her that he could anticipate her needs so completely.
Leto took a quick look at the enlarged data pad on his wrist, and pulled the stylus from it. Renata watched him tap through a few keystrokes and soon he was into the video system of the Center, looking over all the common areas. Even with all the protocol and procedure—its residents usually knew when something was up. The ESPers alone would have started talking to everyone within earshot about it. He wasn’t wrong. He could see center residents gathering in small groups in the common areas of the Center.
While Leto was looking at his watch, She and her father moved over to the computer terminal again and begun reviewing the rooftop footage. She had often noted they both carried themselves in the same fashion, often taking the same actions at the same time, like they were connected. She physically favored her mother more so than Cole, but by their mannerisms, everyone knew they were father and daughter.
Leto absentmindedly walked over to the workstation and pushed a concealed switch on the wall next to the monitor. Servomotors whirred into action, as the panel behind the wall slid back and three more monitors appeared beside the first, expanding their display so that they could watch multiple views at the same time. Harlan looked over his shoulder at him.
“What?” He shrugged. “We have a lot of free time….”
Cole gave him the barest hint of a smile. “Good job, Son. I knew there was a reason we keep you around….”
Coming from anyone else, being called “Son” would seem impolite. But her father was from a different generation. Taken from him, it was the unofficial benchmark comment from the residents and students of the Center. Praise from Cole bore high marks, indeed.
After a moment, Ithica cast her eyes downward and turned away from him. At first Foley thought it might be shyness. He had to admit having his own share of that. He’d had girlfriends before, but nothing close to this level of intimate contact. Girls would find his silence endearing to begin with, but the eventual frustration of communication would overshadow everything. He’d made peace with it, or so he thought. Morris, his cat, didn’t care that he couldn’t speak and neither did Leto. He’d other friends at the center, but until this moment, he didn’t realize just how alone he felt.
He tentatively brought his finger to her chin and turned her back towards him. It wasn’t any sense of romance that compelled him, but rather a natural tendency to use gestures instead of words. His instincts compelled him to keep her attention, and he reacted without thinking when she turned from him.
Her eyes were glassy, like she was ready to shed tears. “Ahema, please...” She said and cast them down again. “You need to rest. There will be time for that later.”
“That?”He thought.“What that?”She turned her eyes to him again and it dawned on him.
“Ohhh… Thaaat…. That wasn’t what I was thinking. Well it was what I was thinking but that wasn’t what I meant—”
She put a finger to his lips. It was as though they were having a conversation like two lovers after discovering one another for the first time.
“I like looking into your eyes. They’re beautiful.”
Even in the dim light of the room the look on her face told him that she blushed. She had no shame or embarrassment at her own nakedness before him, but a compliment made her blush. He frowned because thoughts unpleasant thoughts were now creeping through his mind. Would they be back? How long? He turned and sat up. Even though they weren’t in immediate danger, he now worried fiercely about the troubles to come.
He needed to be sure. He pulled himself up into a half sitting position against the headboard of his bed. Ithica propped herself into a kneeling position opposite him, pulling the sheet around her torso to cover herself. Even though he was only half sitting up against the pillows, her head came level to his as she leaned forward to meet him. He could smell her again, and the scent of lilacs filled him with an even greater sense of urgency.
“Can you speak for me?” He thought.
“I can speak your thoughts for you, Ahema.”
“We need to get you something to wear.”
He went to his closet and looked for something that might do. He found a longer button down shirt that he’d always been rather fond of. He returned with the shirt and a pair of loose fitting pajama bottoms for himself. She slipped it over her head quietly and took his hand. She held tightly while he opened the door and stepped out into his rooms.
Renata turned to see Foley emerge from his room, leading a lithe young woman with jet black hair and eyes of the deepest, dark blue. He moved slowly on unsteady legs toward the loveseat in the living room beyond. Harlan looked at him the most visibly concerned, but also with a peculiar look on his face. Whatever was on his mind, he remained silent.
They sat together on the loveseat. She tucked her legs underneath her, so as not to show too much of herself, and cast her eyes downwards towards him rather than look directly at anyone else in the room. They were all accustomed to seeing Foley prepare to speak, and they took seats opposite them and waited patiently for him to form the words.
The young woman squeezed his hand in both of hers, lending silent strength and support to his efforts. Foley frowned and closed his eyes. Inhaled deeply and blocked out things one by one in sequence in the room. Renata had spent months working with him to refine this technique. Foley essentially had to shut down his other senses in order to focus on the words in his mind. With his eyes closed, one by one he blocked out the sounds, the smells, the lights until there was nothing left but her touch, and he spoke slowly and clearly.
“Her name is Ithica. After…. The fall, She teleported us here. Still hurt. Okay… Not sure if we are safe… Telepathically linked to one another… Translate… Needs clothes”
He opened his eyes. They’d all been listening closely to what he had to say. When it took that much effort to speak, one develops a sense to be concise. Her father kept his hands clasped together touching his chin.
“We can see to the clothing easily enough.” Renata answered. “As soon as we clear everyone here, we can clear the rooms across the hall so that she can-“
Foley put his hand up, halting her in mid sentence. As soon as she said that, Ithica’s body tightened in a way that made her understand there was something more.
“I’m not sure I follow what you’re trying to say, buddy.” Leto said.
Renata could tell he couldn’t keep this up. Foley needed to rest. Once more she watched him search for the right combination of words that would convey the right idea to them all.
Leto’s jaw dropped.