Chapter 193

Nick was sitting in the computer chair in his room, back to the window which showed just a hint of the dark sky outside. His sunglasses were still on his face, which made sense since this must have been done before everything happened. He wore his usual easygoing grin as he paused for effect, letting everyone adjust to the sight of him suddenly on the television screen. After a few seconds, he continued.

“So, I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell this is about. If you’re watching this, then I had to go with my less enjoyable plan at our final match, which means assuming Mr. Numbers didn’t fuck up the timing, by now my memory of this place and all of you has been erased.”

There was no mumble of surprise; Alice had shared her findings with the group and they’d already been forced to make peace with it.

“I know that fact probably saddens all of you; hell, it sort of saddens me too, but I need you guys to know that it was absolutely necessary. With the reemergence of Globe and Vince’s connection to him, we were all going to be under increased scrutiny. My devious shenanigans would have put me on their radar as well. That means they’ll try to bring in telepaths, likely unofficially if they think they can get away with it. Now I’m sure I gave you all noble reasons for everything I did, and those are likely all at least partly true. Actions can be motivated by many things, and in this case there is one I know I didn’t tell any of you about. The things I’ve put together can, under no circumstances, be allowed to get picked up by some thought-pillaging mind delver. No offense, Mary.”

“A little bit taken,” Mary mumbled.

“For most of you this doesn’t make sense, but you need to think of things in a larger perspective. Once I realized it was almost unavoidable that they’d bring in telepaths under the radar, it became a question of not if I would give away too many secrets, but when. I can control what I say all day long; marshaling my thoughts is a different story. So, when faced with a situation that holds an inevitable outcome, what do you do? Simple, you change the situation. In my case, I got rid of the very thing that would have caused us the most grief: me. Or rather, all the knowledge I’d accumulated.”

Nick paused on the tape, reaching over to his desk and making a few quick keystrokes. “Sorry, had to reply to an e-mail. At any rate, I’m sure you guys are wondering why I bothered to make this if I’m just going to be cryptic. While sharing everything I know would defeat the purpose, there are a few truths that I need to get out there before I go. These are for you guys only. If anyone else is in the room, make sure you trust them implicitly or ask them to leave. I’ll wait.”

All eyes turned to Camille, who pulled herself off the couch without a word.

“No,” Vince said, reaching over and stopping her. “I trust you. Whether you like it or not, you and Alex are pretty well lumped in with us. I think you should be here. Any objections?”

The room was silent, so they looked back at the screen and waited for Nick to continue.

“Okay, if we’re done with that, then first things first. Vince, when this is over, I want you to melt this DVD. I’m talking no remains. And don’t get lazy and smash it; you can still recover data from that if you know what you’re doing.”

Vince nodded. A moment later he wondered why he was responding to a pre-recorded message.

“Now that we’re set there, Vince, I guess I may as well start with you. I debated for a long time whether it was appropriate to tell you this or not, and in the end it was caution that led me to decide it was the right call. I don’t want someone using this information to throw you off at an inopportune moment, so it’s better to let you deal with it in advance. The father you met and talked with in Rich’s hallucination wasn’t some piece of your psyche. It was actually him. Globe entered your dream and assumed a role just like Mary. They had a conversation which she can fill you in on. We kept it from you because we weren’t sure how you would react, and to be honest, we needed to get you in fighting shape as soon as possible. It was a judgment call, and I’m sorry if you don’t agree with it.”

Vince kept his emotions far more contained than they would have expected. Two months ago this would have sent him reeling; however, with how chaotic his life had become, he’d grown exceptionally more adept at rolling with such surprises. In fact, it made a strange sort of sense when he thought about it. This would still take time to deal with, but at least he wasn’t setting the couch on fire in a breakdown.

“On the subject of Globe’s little mental visit, his talk with Mary yielded three things. A promise not to kidnap any of us, some advice to me about how to help Vince reach his potential, and a message for Alice.”

“Wait, did he say me?” Alice asked the room.

“Alice, Mary wanted to tell you this right away, but I convinced her not to. I had a pretty good hunch on what it was meant to tell you, and I knew your focus wouldn’t be on the match if I was right. If you’re mad at the delay, blame me, not Mary. She didn’t understand the point of Globe’s message, so she had no idea what she was keeping from you. Mary, I’ll pause here so you can give Alice her message.”

Alice turned to Mary, who seemed to be studying the floor with intense scrutiny. “Globe wanted me to tell you that he can’t walk into people’s dreams on his own, not like I can when Rich puts me under. He had to call in a favor from another Super to get him into Vince’s head.”

“Why on earth would I care about something like that?”

“I don’t know. He was just insistent that I tell you the name of the Super. Evidently he goes by a strange codename, but Globe was sure it would be familiar to you. The name was Abridail.”

“I’m not sure why he thought that would be familiar. Sounds like a stupid made up word. Where would I have even-” Alice’s eyes grew wide and her breathing grew rapid as the name triggered a memory from earlier in the year. There was so much confusion and anger surrounding that recollection that they nearly managed to bury all the fine details. Some, evidently, hadn’t gone as deep as she thought. Things like that name, or the man who’d used it.

“When Rich put me under at Halloween, when I had that dream about someone telling me my mom was alive and that they knew her, he told me his name was Abridail.” Alice’s hands had begun to shake without her noticing. “I never told any of you that name. I don’t think I told it to anyone at all.”

“In case Alice is having trouble remembering where the name Mary told her comes from, I assume it would match the name of the man who visited her on Halloween,” Nick said from the screen. “Otherwise there would be no reason to give it directly to her as a message. This brings us to my final topic, one that I suspect is at the center of more than even I’ve fully realized: if I’m correct, and I have ample reason to believe I am, then Alice’s mother is alive.”