“You sure you’ll be able to talk to her about this by yourself?” Aunt Kathy asked as they pulled up to Dr. Franks’ office.
Ren nodded. “No offense, but talking about Operation Birdsong is easier when you and Uncle Tim aren’t there. I don’t like you guys knowing what all I had to go through.”
“If you told us everything, we’d be able to help you better.”
Ren shook her head. “No. There’s just some things that you shouldn’t know, and everything that happened with Operation Birdsong is one of those. I don’t want you two to know everything I do.”
“Okay. I’ll be at work down the street, just walk down when you’re done. Do you need me to be your eyes?”
“No, it’s cloudy enough for me to see,” Ren said as she climbed out of the car. She took a deep breath to try and stop the nightmares just below the surface and walked into the glass office building.
She stopped by the elevator and thanked whoever was in charge of the lighting for making it dim, and pushed the button to go up. Fifth floor. As the elevator dinged and the doors slid open, a tall man walked up beside her. Ren watched him from the corner of her eye as he stepped into the elevator. He had black hair that hung to his shoulders.
“What floor?” he asked as he looked at her with vivid silver-grey eyes.
“Five,” she said softly as she looked down at the marble floor, both cursing and blessing her strange eyesight that veiled finer details. Why did he look so familiar?
“Are you seeing Dr. Franks?” he asked as he pushed one button. Just the fifth floor.
Ren nodded, trying to remember where she’d seen him before.
“She’s a busy woman,” he said with a small laugh.
Ren forced a smile and nodded. “Who never sleeps,” she added.
He smiled. “Then maybe I should call her so I’ll have an insomnia partner at night.”
“You’ve got insomnia? Wish I was that lucky,” she said softly.
“Nightmares?” he asked.
“That’s why I don’t sleep. I’m tired of reliving terror.”
Ren was about to ask him what he meant when the elevator reached the fifth floor.
“Ladies first,” he said with another smile.
Ren stepped out and half-smiled when she saw Dr. Franks standing in the hallway.
“So you’ve had another relapse, Ren?” Dr. Franks asked with concern.
Ren nodded. “Last night was the worst, it was like I was there all over again.
“Ren?” the man repeated softly.
Ren slowly turned around and faced him, trying to make out his face and wishing the light was dimmer so she could see better.
“Ren? Do you remember who I am?”
Dr. Franks watched with interest for a moment, then grabbed a file from the shelf by her door and pretended to read.
“Please tell me you remember,” he said, almost pleadingly.
“Your form looks familiar, and your voice sounds like a deeper version of one I used to know, but I’m not sure why.”
“Operation Birdsong,” he said softly.
Dr. Franks looked up with interest.
Ren’s eyes widened. “Tracy?”
Tray laughed and hugged her tightly. “You do remember!”
“Tracy?” Dr. Franks asked with an amused grin.
“When he first told me his name, I thought he said ‘Tracy’ instead of ‘Tray,’” Ren said.
Dr. Franks nodded. “Well, if you two don’t mind, I’d like a group session with all of us, instead of one-on-one. I think we’d get more done that way.”
Tray looked at Ren. “I think that’s a good idea.”
Ren nodded in agreement.
“Right this way, then,” Dr. Franks said as she led the way to her office.
Ren and Tray sat down on the couch together as Dr. Franks pulled her chair closer to them.
“So what exactly was your relationship while you were at Operation Birdsong?”
“We were best friends and training partners until Director Fagan took over,” Tray answered. “I was selected for physical and mental abilities, and Ren was selected for mental abilities and her will to survive.”
“You never mentioned this before, Ren,” Dr. Franks said with interest, her pen poised over her paper.
“I don’t like talking about much,” Ren confessed. “But both of my parents were killed in a boat accident when I was five, and I was the only survivor. No one really knows how, but the engine exploded, killing them when it happened. I was blown from our boat to a fishing boat two miles away. I landed on the deck with a fractured spine and other injuries.”
“And you were taken to the hospital and survived?” Dr. Franks asked.
Ren nodded. “I wasn’t supposed to. All the doctors told me that I almost died three times, but pulled myself back from the edge before I could.”
“So you were picked for survival and mental abilities?”
“Define these ‘mental abilities.’”
“They’re like mine,” Tray volunteered. “On I.Q. tests, we all rank up just above Einstein and all those other geniuses.”
“Are there any particular areas where your mental abilities are shown stronger?”
“I’m a math and science genius, and Ren is an artistic genius.”
“I see things in patterns, shapes, and colors. There’s no puzzle I can’t solve…”
“And she can hide messages and stuff in common art and music. It’s amazing how she can do it,” Tray said.
Dr. Franks nodded. “And you’re the one who came up with the algorithm that helped the Marines break through the maze and save Ren, and the others the Director Fagan trapped in their nightmares?”
“I was also going through both of your files recently, and Tray was the one who pulled you from the pit, correct, Ren?”
She nodded. “He was also the one who would sneak out of his room every night and lie on top of the grate and give me half of his rations and talk to me. He’s the reason I’m still sane.”
“How much were half of his rations?”
“Half a slice of bread and a quarter of a potato,” Tray answered, “And half a cup of water on Sundays and Wednesdays.”
Dr. Franks nodded. “That’s not much at all for two children at that point in their physical and mental development.”
Ren shook her head. “When I was rescued, they thought I was three. But after I was in the hospital for a couple weeks and started getting healthy again, they found out I was really seven.”
“You grew from three feet five inches to four feet seven inches in two weeks, correct?”
“And roughly the same for you, Tray?”
He nodded. “Something like that.”
Dr. Franks nodded and scribbled a few more notes on her paper. “So you’ve both come for nightmares, correct?”
They both nodded.
“Why don’t we start there and see if we can work our way up?”