She remained behind her screens then, waiting. The feeling grew no stronger; sometimes it seemed to weaken. But it was a good five minutes before it faded completely.
It came back twice in the next two days. Once in the house while she was in the study with Trigger, once on the way to the house. She didn’t mention it to Trigger; but that night, when it was getting time for her to leave, she said, “I think I’ll sleep here tonight and start back early in the morning.”
“Be my guest,” Trigger said affably. She hesitated, added, “The fact is I’ll be rather glad to know you’re around.”
Telzey looked at her. “You get lonesome at night in this big old house?”
“Not exactly lonesome,” Trigger said. “I’ve never minded being by myself.” She smiled. “Has your house ever had the reputation of being haunted?”
“Haunted? Not for around a hundred years. You’ve had the impression there’s a spook flitting about?”
“Just an odd feeling occasionally,” Trigger said. She paused, added in a changed voice, “And by coincidence, I’m beginning to get that feeling again now!”
They stood silent then, looking at each other. The feeling grew. It swelled into a sensation of bone-chilling cold, of oppressive dread. It seemed to circle slowly about them, drawing closer. Telzey passed her tongue over her lips. Psi slashed out twice. The sensation blurred, was gone.
She turned toward the Siren container. Trigger shook her head. “The psi block’s on,” she said. “It was on the other times, too. I checked.”
And the psi block was on. Telzey asked, “How often has it happened?”
Trigger shrugged. “Four or five times. I’ll come awake at night. It’ll last a minute or two and go away.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Trigger said. “It wasn’t as strong as this before. I didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Siren.” She smiled, a trifle shakily. “An Amberdon ghost I could stand.”
“Let’s sit down,” Telzey said. “It wasn’t an Amberdon ghost, but it was a ghost of sorts.”
They sat down. “What do you mean?” Trigger asked.
Telzey said, “A psi structure. Something with some independent duration. A fear ghost. A psi mind made it, planted it. It was due to be sensed when we sensed it.”
Trigger glanced at the container. “The Siren?”
“Yes, the little Siren.” Telzey blinked absently, fingering her chin. “There was nothing human about that structure. So the Siren put it out while the block was off. It’s telling us not to fool around with it . . . But now we will have to fool around with it!”
Trigger looked questioningly at her.
“It means you were right,” Telzey said. “The Siren has intelligence. It knows there’s somebody around who’s trying to probe it, and it doesn’t want to be probed. It’s tried to use fear to drive us away. Any psi mind that can put out a structure like that is very good! Dangerously good.” She shook her head. “I don’t think anyone could say exactly what a whole world of creatures who can do that mightn’t be able to do otherwise!”
“Three worlds,” said Trigger.
“Yes, three worlds. So the Siren operation can’t just stop. They don’t know enough about us. They might think we’re very dangerous to them, and, of course, we are dangerous. The three worlds are there, and sooner or later somebody’s going to do something stupid about them. And something will get started—if it hasn’t started already.” She glanced at Trigger, smiled briefly. “Until now, I was thinking it might be only your imagination! But it isn’t. This is a really bad matter.”
Trigger said after a moment, “I wish it had been only my imagination!” She looked at the Siren container. “You still think you can handle it?”
Telzey shrugged. “I wouldn’t know by myself. But I’m sure Pilch gave that careful consideration.”
Trigger reflected, tongue tip between lips, nodded. “Yes, she must have. It seems you’ve been pushed into something, Telzey.”
“We’ve both been pushed into something,” Telzey said.
Trigger sighed. “Well, I can’t blame her too much! It has to be done, and the Service couldn’t do it—at least not quickly enough. But I won’t blame you at all if you want to pull out.”
“I might want to pull out,” Telzey admitted. “It’s more than I’d counted on. But I’d be going around worrying about the Sirens then, like you’ve been doing. We know more now to be worried about.”
“So you’re staying?”
Trigger smiled. “I can’t say I’m sorry! Look. It’s getting late, and you’ll have to be off to college early. Let’s talk about strictly non-eerie things for a little, and turn in.”
So they talked about non-eerie matters, and soon went to bed, and slept undisturbed until morning, when Telzey flew off to Pehanron College.
That evening, she slipped a probe lightly into the psi-emptiness of the Siren—an area she’d kept away from since her first contact with it. She thought presently it didn’t seem quite as empty as it had. There might be something there. Something perhaps like a vague, distant shadow, only occasionally and briefly discernible.
She withdrew the probe carefully.
“Let’s leave the psi block on until I’ve finished with the exams,” she told Trigger later. “I’ve picked up as much as I can use for a start.” She wasn’t so sure now of the psi block’s absolute dependability when it came to the Siren. But it should act as a temporary restraint.
Trigger didn’t comment. Telzey slept in the house the rest of the week, and nothing of much significance happened. What remained of the exams wasn’t too significant either; she went breezing through it all with only half her attention. Then the end of the week came, and she moved into the summerhouse. In three weeks, she’d be attending graduation ceremonies at Pehanron College. Until then, her time was her own.
It was early on the first morning after the exams then that Telzey had her first serious session with the Siren. She’d closed the door to the study and moved an armchair to a point from where she could observe the container. Trigger wasn’t present; she’d stay out in the house to avoid distracting Telzey, and to handle interruptions like ComWeb calls. Ezd Malion, the caretaker, usually checked in before noon to get shopping instructions.
Telzey settled herself in the chair, relaxed physically. Mentally there’d be no relaxing. If the Siren entity followed the reaction pattern described in the Service reports, she shouldn’t be running into immediate problems. But it might not stay with the pattern.
Her probe moved cautiously into the psi-emptiness. After a time, she gained again the impression of a few days before: it wasn’t as empty as it had appeared at first contact. Something shadowy, distant, seemed to be there.
She began to work with the impression. What did she feel about it? A vague thing—and large. Cold perhaps. Yes. Cold and dark . . .
It was what she felt, no more than that. But her feelings were all she had to work with at this stage. Out of them other things could develop. There was this vague, dark, cold largeness then, connected with the Siren on the study table. She tried to gain some impression of the relationship.
An impression came suddenly, a negative one. The relationship had been denied. Afterward, the darkness seemed to have become a little colder. Telzey’s nerves tingled. There was no change otherwise, but she’d had a response. Her psi sensors reached toward the fringes of the darkness, seemed to touch it, still found nothing that allowed a probe. She had a symbol of what was there, not yet its reality. But the search had moved on a step.
Then there was an interruption. She knew suddenly she wasn’t alone in the study. This was much more definite than any previous feeling that there might be someone or something about. She still sensed nothing specific, but the hair at the nape of her neck was trying to lift, and the skin of her back prickled with awareness of another’s presence in the room.
Telzey didn’t look around, knowing she’d see no one if she did. Instead, she flicked a search probe out suddenly. As suddenly the presence was gone.
She sat quiet a moment, returned her attention to the symbol. Nothing there had changed. She withdrew from it, stood up, turned the container’s psi block back on, and looked at her watch. About an hour had passed since she’d entered the study.
* * *
She found Trigger in the conservatory, tending to the plants under the indoor sun. “Trigger,” she said, “did you happen to be thinking about me a few minutes ago?”
“Probably,” Trigger said. “I’ve been thinking about you right along, wondering how you were doing. Why?”
“Has there ever been anything to indicate you might be a psi?”