Chapter 47

“Sounds like you had quite a night,” Mr. Numbers said, carefully moving one of his pawns into a new position. Despite his workload, the Saturday game with Mary was now a two-year-old tradition he’d grown to account for in even the most stringent scheduling. She had just relayed most of the details of her journey into Jill’s mind, though the incident with seeing the taboo memory had been delicately cut out entirely. Mr. Numbers knew she was hiding details; however he trusted her judgment enough not to press the issue.

“It was exhausting,” Mary agreed, studying the board before making a new movement. In the years they’d played, her skills had grown considerably. Though she’d yet to win a game, it took well into the tens of minutes for Mr. Numbers to beat her. “I did learn a lot, at least. I now know I can travel into minds without Rich, which is a huge deal. Plus I found out that I get a little bit of sway on the world.”

“Likely because you and the participants are both present in the dreams,” Mr. Numbers speculated. “Previously, the entirety of the hallucination was either imposed or directly defined by Rich. In a true unconscious state, those doing the dreaming are in control.”

“I was guessing something in that direction,” Mary agreed, finally moving her knight. “What still bothers me is why I spent all night tethered to Alice and didn’t get in, but Jill accidently rolls on me and I’m immediately in her head.”

“Exploration of the mind is still an ill-defined practice,” Mr. Numbers told her. “However, we do know that different people have different levels of resistance to being mentally invaded. Think of it as an immune system, but for the mind. Some people are just naturally tougher than others.”

“Makes as much sense as anything else,” Mary said. “Although I’ve never had trouble reading her thoughts.”

“Only the most astoundingly resistant can stop telepaths just with mental resilience,” Mr. Numbers informed her. “That is roughly akin to picking up radio waves. The thoughts are out there, you just have the capacity to pick them up. Intruding on a mind is a different matter altogether.”

“Weird that Professor Stone didn’t tell me about this.”

“I’m certain she would have, once you brought it up to her,” Mr. Numbers said. “Perhaps I spoke out of turn.” He moved a rook to its new position, knowing it would be captured soon.

“No, I’d rather know these things sooner than later,” Mary said. “I’m not even sure what my next step is, now that I know I can dream walk on my own.”

“That seems rather obvious, doesn’t it?” Mr. Numbers asked.

“Not to me.”

“It seems like the next logical step would be trying to enter the dream of someone sleeping while you’re awake. As it stands now, your ability is useful but highly limited. Probing someone without having to go to sleep first would be far more adaptable a talent.”

“That’s true,” Mary agreed. “Plus it might let me learn how to get through the minds of people with natural resistance. I mean, if I’m conscious I should be able to try and break in.”

“It is possible,” Mr. Numbers said. “First, find out if wakeful entrance is even viable.”

“Looks like I’ll need a new volunteer,” Mary sighed. “Alice’s resistance means I won’t be able to go in until I know what I’m doing, if ever. Any suggestions on what Supers are usually weak to mental intrusion?” She moved her knight once more, this time taking his rook.

“Sadly, I don’t possess enough data to give you an accurate answer on that account,” Mr. Numbers admitted. “Professor Stone will undoubtedly be a better source.”

“Never hurts to ask,” Mary replied.

“If I may, however, I would offer up one bit of advice to consider when choosing a new test subject. Consider the mind you’ll be going into.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means,” Mr. Number said, moving his bishop into the strategic hole created by Mary taking his rook, “I would recommend choosing carefully whose mind you go jumping around in. Rich’s scenarios were controlled, but I suspect a wild subconscious is less so. There are people who have histories and issues that I suspect would make their minds… inhospitable.”

“That is pretty solid advice,” Mary said.

“I strive to help. Also, checkmate.”