Trigger looked surprised.
“Well,” she said, “I understand everybody’s a bit of a psi. So I suppose I’m that. I’ve never done anything out of the ordinary, though. Except perhaps—” She hesitated.
“Except perhaps what?” Telzey asked.
Trigger told her about the Old Galactics and her contacts with them.
“Great day in the morning!” Telzey said, astounded, when Trigger concluded. “You certainly have unusual acquaintances!”
“Of course, no one’s to know they’re there,” Trigger remarked.
“Well, I won’t tell.”
“I know you won’t. You think it might mean I’m a kind of telepath?”
“It might,” Telzey said. “It wouldn’t have to. They may simply have themselves tuned in on you.” She stood a moment, reflecting. “I ran into a heavy-duty psi once who didn’t have the faintest idea he was one,” she said. “It was a problem because all sorts of extraordinary things kept happening to him and around him. Right now, anything like that could be disturbing.”
Trigger looked concerned. “Have there been disturbances?”
“I haven’t noticed anything definite,” Telzey said untruthfully. “But I’ve been wondering.”
“Could you find out about me if I undid that mind shield they gave me?”
Telzey sat down. “Let’s try.”
Trigger wished the shield out of existence. Some little time passed. Then Telzey said, “You can put the shield back.”
“Well?” Trigger asked. “Am I?”
“You are,” Telzey said absently. “I thought you might be, from the way you’ve been worrying about the Sirens.” She shook her head. “Trigger, that’s the most disorganized psi mind I’ve ever contacted! I wonder why Pilch never mentioned it.”
Trigger hesitated. “Now that you’ve mentioned it,” she said, “I believe Pilch did suggest something of the kind on one occasion. I thought I’d misunderstood her. She didn’t refer to it again.”
“Well, if you like,” said Telzey, “we can take a week off after we’re through with the Siren, and see if we can’t make you operational.”
Trigger rubbed her nose tip. “Frankly, I doubt that I’d want to be operational.”
“You and Pilch seem to thrive on it,” Trigger said, “but I’ve met other psis who weren’t cheery people. I suppose you can pick up a whole new parcel of problems when you have abilities like that.”
“You pick up problems, all right,” Telzey acknowledged.
“That’s what I thought. And I,” Trigger said, “seem to find all the problems I can handle without adding complications. Could that disorganized psi mind of mine do anything to disturb you when you’re trying to work with the Siren?”
Telzey shook her head. Trigger, psi-latent, hadn’t been unconsciously responsible for those manifestations, couldn’t have been. Neither was the Siren. This time, there’d been, for a moment, a decidedly human quality about the immaterial presence.
So the Psychology Service was keeping an eye on proceedings here. She’d half expected it. And they’d assigned an operator of exceptional quality to the job—she couldn’t have prowled about an alerted telepath and remained as well concealed.
Nor, Telzey thought, was that the only concealed high-quality psi around. While Trigger was talking about the Old Galactics, she’d recalled that flick of mind-stuff she caught the moment the Siren container came unshielded in the Haplandia Hotel.
It seemed the Old Galactics, too, had an interest in the Siren specimen, and were represented in the summerhouse. . . .
Did either of them know about the other? Did the Siren entity know about either of them, or suspect it had an occupant? It was nothing she could mention to Trigger—there was too much psi involved all around, and Trigger’s surface thoughts were accessible to any telepath who wanted to follow them.
She’d have to await developments—and meanwhile push ahead toward the probe. Around that point, everything should start falling into place. It would have to.
She told Trigger what she’d accomplished so far, added, “I’ve probably got the contact process started. This afternoon I’ll pick the symbol up again and see.” She yawned, stretched slowly. “How about we go for a long walk before lunch? This is great hiking country.”
* * *
They went down to the end of the grounds, past the house where Ezd Malion and his wife lived, and on to the banks of the lake. The sun was out that morning; it was chilly, blustery, refreshing. They followed narrow trails used more often by animals than by people. It was over an hour before they turned back for lunch.
Early in the afternoon then, Telzey went into the study and closed the door. She emerged four hours later. Trigger regarded her with some concern. “You look pretty worn out!”
“I am pretty worn out,” Telzey acknowledged. “It was hard work. Let’s go have some coffee, and I’ll tell you.”
She’d picked up her symbol with no trouble—a good sign. She settled her attention on it, and waited. There’d been changes, she decided presently. It was as if a kind of life were seeping into the symbol, accumulating there. Another good sign. No need to push it now; she was moving in the right direction.
That might have gone on about an hour. Physically Telzey was feeling a little uncomfortable by then, which again could be counted, technically, a good sign, though she didn’t like it. There was a frequent shivering in her skin, moments when breathing seemed difficult, other manifestations of apprehension. What it meant was that she was getting close.
Then there was an instant when she wasn’t close, but there. Or it was there. The symbol faded as what had been behind it came slowly through. This was no visualization, but reality as sensed by psi. It was the darkness, the cold, in the false emptiness. It simmered with silent power. It was eminently forbidding.
It was there—then it wasn’t there. It seemed to have become nonexistent.
But she needed no symbols to return to it now. What she had contacted, she could contact again. It was in her memory; and memory was a link. She could draw herself back to it.
She did, quickly lost it once more. Now there were two links. All she needed was patience.
Any feeling of passing time, all awareness of the room about her, of the chair in which she sat, even of her body, was gone. She was mind, in the universe of mind where she moved and searched, tracing the thing she had contacted, finding it, establishing new connections between herself and it. She lost it again and again, but each time it was easier to find, less difficult to hold. It was a great fish, and she a tiny fisherman, not fastening the fish to herself, but herself to the fish. Finally, the connection was stable, unchanging. When she was sure of that, she broke it. She could resume it whenever she chose.
At that point, she became conscious of the other reality, of her physical self and her surroundings.
And—once more—of having uninvited company.
This time, she ignored the presence. It faded quietly from her awareness as she opened her eyes, sat up in the armchair. . . .
“I think we’re almost there,” she told Trigger. “The thing’s a structure, a psi structure. It’s what the Service xenos found and tried to probe. And I can believe it bounced them—it’s really charged up!”
“You’re going to try to probe it?” Trigger asked.
Telzey nodded. “I’ll have to. There’s been no mind trace of the Siren, so that structure must act as its shield. I’ll have to try to work through it. How, I won’t know till I find out what it’s like.” She was silent a moment. “If it bounces me, too, I don’t know what else we can do,” she said. “But we’ll start worrying about that then. I do have very good shields. And if I can get one solid contact with the Siren mind, we may have the problem solved. Unless they’re basically murderous, of course. But I agree with you that they don’t really seem to be that.”
There were other factors involved. But that was still nothing to talk to Trigger about. “So everything’s set up for the probe now,” Telzey concluded. “Next time I’ll try it. But I want to be a lot fresher for that, so it won’t be tonight. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”
* * *
They turned in early. Telzey fell into sleep at once like drifting deep, deep down through a cool dark quiet sea. . . . Some time later then, she found herself standing in the Siren’s container.
It wasn’t exactly the container, though there was a shadowy indication of its walls in the distance. A kind of cold desert stretched out about her, and she stood at the base of the Siren. A Siren which twisted enormously up into an icy sky, gigantic, higher than a mountain, huge limbs writhing. A noise like growing thunder was in the air; the desert sand shook under her, and her feet were rooted immovably in the sand. Then she saw that the Siren was tilting, falling toward her, would crush her. She heard herself screaming in terror.