She sat up in bed, breathing in quick short gasps. She looked around the dark room, reached for the light switch. As she touched it, light blazed in the hall beyond the door. “Trigger?” she called.
From the direction of Trigger’s room came a shaky, “Yes?”
“Wait a moment!” Telzey climbed out of bed, started toward the door. Trigger met her there, robe wrapped around her, face pale, hair disheveled. “What’s the matter?” Telzey asked.
Trigger tried to smile. “Had a dream—a nightmare. Whew! Going down to the kitchen for some hot milk to settle myself.” She laughed unsteadily.
“A nightmare?” Telzey stared at her. “Wait—I’ll come along.”
They’d had the same dream. A dream apparently identical in all respects, except that in Trigger’s dream, it was Trigger who was about to be crushed by the toppling monster Siren. Sitting in the kitchen, sipping their hot milk, they discussed it, looking at each other with uncertain eyes. Something had come into their minds as they slept
“That Old Galactic shield of yours,” Telzey pointed out, “is supposed to keep anything from reaching your subconscious mind processes—which includes the dream mechanisms.”
Trigger gave her a startled glance.
“Unless I allow it!” she said. “And I think I did allow it.”
Trigger nodded, frowned, trying to remember. “I was half asleep,” she said slowly. “Something seemed to be telling me to dissolve the shield. So I did.”
Trigger shrugged helplessly. “It seemed perfectly all right! I wasn’t surprised or alarmed—not until I started dreaming.” She reflected, shook her head. “That’s all I remember. I suppose there was another of those ghost structures floating around?”
Telzey nodded. “Probably.” She couldn’t recall anything that had happened before she started dreaming. “Some general impression—warning, threat,” she said. “With a heavy fear charge.”
“How could we have turned that into the same dream?”
Telzey said, “We didn’t. Your mind was wide open. I’m a telepath.” A dream could be manufactured in a flash, from whatever material seemed to match the impulse that induced it. “One of us whipped up the dream,” she said. “The other shared it. We came awake almost at once then.”
“That Siren,” said Trigger after a moment, “really doesn’t want to be probed.”
“No, not at all. And it may be aware that I’ve got as far as its shield.”
Two other psi minds around here, Telzey thought, should also be aware of that fact. The Psychology Service would hardly be trying to discourage her from the probe. But the observer the Old Galactics had left planted in the Siren might have some reason for doing it—and might have the ability to induce a warning nightmare. She wished she had some clue to the interest that ancient race was taking in the Sirens.
They finished their milk, sat talking a few minutes longer, decided there was no sense sitting up the rest of the night, and went back to bed. They left the light on in the hall outside their rooms. Somewhat to Telzey’s surprise, she felt herself fall asleep again almost as soon as her head touched the pillow.
They awoke to a disagreeable day. The sky was gloomy; a wind blew in cold gusts about the house; and there were intermittent falls of rain. Breakfast was a silent affair, as each was withdrawn into her own thoughts. When they’d finished, Trigger went to a window and looked out. Telzey joined her. “Gruesome weather!” Trigger remarked darkly. “I feel depressed.”
“So do I,” said Telzey.
Trigger glanced at her. “You don’t think it’s the weather, do you?”
“It’s in the house all around us,” Trigger said, nodding. “I’ve felt it since I woke up. As if there were something unpleasant about that I might see or hear at any moment. More of that ghost stuff, isn’t it?”
“Yes. It may wear off.” But Telzey wasn’t so sure it would wear off, and whether the entity behind the psi block wasn’t reaching them now through the block. This was a subtler assault on their nerves, the darkening of mood, uneasiness, a prodding of anxieties—all too diffused to counter.
An hour later, it didn’t seem to be wearing off. “You shouldn’t try the probe while you’re feeling like this, should you?” Trigger asked.
Telzey shook her head. “Not if I can help it—but I don’t think I should put it off too long either.”
They were vulnerable, and they’d stirred something up. Even left alone, it wouldn’t necessarily settle down. It might keep undermining their defenses for hours, or shift to a more definite attack. The probe must be attempted, and soon. The Sirens existed, were an unpredictable factor; something had to be done. If she waited, she might be reduced to incapability. That could be the intention.
“Let’s go outside and tramp around a while,” Trigger said. “Maybe it will cheer us up. I usually like a good rainy day, really.”
They donned rain capes and boots, went down to the lake. But the walk didn’t cheer them up. The wind stirred the cold lake surface, soughed through the trees about them. The sky seemed to be growing darker; and the notion came to Telzey that if she looked closely enough, she’d be able to make out the giant Siren of their dream writhing among distant clouds. She stopped short, caught Trigger by the arm.
“This isn’t doing any good!” she said. “It’s focused on us, and we’re dragging it around with us here. Let’s go back, pick up swim gear, and clear out! I know a beach where it won’t be rainy and cold. We can be there in an hour.”
They sped south in the Cloudsplitter, came down on a beach lying golden and hot under a nearly cloudless sky. The wind that swept it was a fresh and happy one. They swam and tumbled in the surf, spirits lifting by the minute. They came out and sunned, talked and laughed, swam again, collected a troop of bronzed males, let themselves be taken to lunch, shook off the troop, fled fifty miles east along the beach, went back to the water for a final dip where breakers rose high, and emerged exhausted and laughing ten minutes later. “Now let’s go tackle that Siren!”
They flew north again, dropping down at a town en route to buy two tickets to the currently most popular live show in Orado City. Just what would happen when the probe began seemed a rather good question. Enough had happened, at any rate, to make them feel the Malions shouldn’t be anywhere in the area at the time. They stopped off at the caretaker’s house, explained they’d intended taking in the show that night, but found they couldn’t make it; so there were two expensive tickets on hand which shouldn’t go to waste. . . . Ezd and wife were on their way to Orado City thirty minutes later.
* * *
Parked at the northern end of the grounds, Telzey and Trigger watched the caretakers leave. The Cloudsplitter lifted then, slid down into the carport of the summerhouse. They went in by a side entrance.
The house was quiet. If anything had taken note of their return, it gave no indication. They got arranged quickly in the study. Trigger would be sitting in on this session. The finicky part of the work was done; someone else’s presence, the subtle whisper of half-caught surface thoughts and emotional flickerings nearby when her sensors were tuned fine, could no longer be a distraction to Telzey. And company would be welcome to both of them now. Trigger took a chair to the right of the one Telzey had been using, a dozen feet away. “Ready?” Telzey asked from beside the Siren container.
Trigger settled herself. “When you are.”
Telzey switched off the psi block. Something came into the study then. Telzey glanced at Trigger. No, Trigger hadn’t noticed. Telzey went slowly to her chair, sat down.
The presence was back. That didn’t surprise her.
But Trigger . . .
She looked over at Trigger. Trigger gave her a sober smile. There was alert intelligence in her expression, along with concern she wasn’t trying to hide. Trigger, undeniably, was in that chair, aware and awake. But in a sense she’d vanished a moment ago. The normal tiny stirrings of mind, of individuality, had ceased. There was stillness now, undisturbed.
Telzey slid a probe toward the stillness. It didn’t seem to touch anything, but it was stopped. She drew it back.
A shield of totally unfamiliar type. Trigger evidently didn’t realize it was there. But it sealed her off from outside influences like indetectable heavy armor.
Things had begun to add up. . . .
Telzey checked her own safeguards briefly. Mind screens which might be the lightest of veils, meant only to obscure her from psi senses while she peered out, so to speak, between them. Or, on other occasions, tough and resilient shields which had turned the sharpest probe she’d ever encountered and held up under ponderous onslaughts of psi energy. They could shift in an instant from one extreme to the other. Sometimes, though rarely now, they disappeared completely.