Falco leaned forward. “Casey… you have no concept of what wonders you are capable of… what good you can sow, and the miracles you may one day reap.”
It was an alluring image. It appealed to her youthful idealism and her sense of adventure. And who was she kidding — that peaceful ranch life had felt downright suffocating once her psionic gifts had begun to develop. There was no reason to believe she’d like it any better now. Her horizons had been permanently broadened.
In fact, at the moment, sitting in this sunlit kitchen and sharing Falco’s capable, reassuring company, it suddenly seemed to her that it would take a whole lot more than just a bunch of vampires to bring her education to such an early end.
“Well then,” she replied with the beginning traces of a smile, “You’ll just have to enlighten me.”
“That is the plan, Casey.” He waved the vampire problem aside, “This is a short term issue, Casey. I don’t foresee this situation lasting long. I am a cautious man. I just want to ensure your safety and that of your family. I don’t mean to worry you overmuch.”
She gave him a half-smile. “Well…I’m no expert, but from what I’ve seen those vampires can be a little worrisome. I liked it a lot better when I didn’t believe in them.”
“I know what you mean. Things are a bit sticky at the moment, but I believe matters will be resolved soonest.”
“Here’s hoping,” she said in a more relaxed voice, sipping her juice.
“Here’s hoping.” He gathered up his now empty plate. He looked to hers, “Done?”
She nodded. There was a bite or two left on her plate, but she was full. “Thanks. It was very good.”
“You’re welcome,” He took her plate, placing it in the sink with his. “Break’s over, Casey. Time for work. Come with me.” He exited the kitchen and walked back into the hallway.
She followed, with no idea what to expect.
“We’ll be working your mind hard. Everyday. It will be exhausting. Regardless, you shall not neglect your body. The workout room is that way.” Falco points. “You will be physically fit as well as mentally fit.”
She brightened. “That’s great. I’ve had a harder time finding ways to stay fit since I left home. I’ll put your workout room to good use, I promise.”
He nodded, pleased that she wasn’t a lazy sort.
Following him, she stepped into a room across from the chamber she’d visited earlier this morning, the one with all of the artifacts. It was a library thick with aged books. A comfortable leather armchair was arranged in one corner with a lamp. Another chair was situated behind a wide table. Casey took it all in with delight.
“This is the Study,” Falco said “You’ll be spending a great deal of time in here.”
“Wow, I sure will,” she agreed happily.
A book slid itself out of a far shelf and floated its way over to the table. “That’s your first text.” The shelf before them receded into the wall behind and then slid sideways away… “Come…” He stepped through the revealed archway.
The shelf-wall rolled back into place as she entered.
It was a large room, illuminated via track lights overhead. Mats were on the floor. Cupboards lined the walls. There were no windows. “Here is where we work.”
She looked around, searching for clues to what sort of work might require such an isolated setting. It looked more like a martial arts dojo than a classroom. She turned back to Falco, trying to keep the nervousness from showing on her face. “Okay. Ready when you are.”
“Our first step is a mental examination,” he began. “We need to know where your talents lie. I have some suspicions, but confirmation is required. I need to probe your mind. It will be painless. With your permission?”
Well, she’d expected that. Reminding herself that she’d already decided to trust him, she took a deep breath and nodded consent. “Go ahead.”
She felt a… buzzing in her head.
“Your strength lies in telepathy, Casey. But, as evidenced last evening, you’ve some innate telekinetic power as well. I’m curious… Your dreams… Do they ever come true?”
“Well…once or twice…just little stuff, nothing major. I was never sure if it was just a coincidence or something more.” She stopped. “Wait a minute, what do you mean, ‘as evidenced last evening’? I know I’ve got a little bit of telekinesis, I can pick up light stuff. But I didn’t use it last night, that I know of.”
“The vampire you stopped,” he explained. “You used a telekinetic pulse to do it. You mentally pummeled him. Quite effectively, I might add.”
“A telekinetic pulse,” she said thoughtfully. “Is that what it was?” She tried to recapture the sensation, remember what she had done. “The first time…” she mused, “…I just sort of…shouted at him. In my head. I wanted him to let go of my hand…” She remembered the crack of breaking bones, the blood. She hadn’t thought about it at the time, but now she realized that it would have taken more than just telepathy to do that kind of physical damage. “Wow.” She laughed bemusedly, then looked back over at him. “That’s why you didn’t come help me when I called you, isn’t it? You wanted to find out what I could do in a tight spot? Or…maybe you wanted me to find out what I could do?”
“It wasn’t a test,” he said. “But I saw that you were mustering your powers… I could sense the storm brewing within you. I knew that you had enough anger and fear to keep him from harming you at that moment. Had the danger escalated, I would have been there. But… you’re right. I wanted you at that moment to be in your power. To feel it. To know it. You’ve had a taste of what is possible. Now, we must train you so that you can draw from that well of might at any time.”
She nodded at once. “I’m ready. I want to learn.”
“Right,” he said. A straw broom floated to his hand. He held it out to her, “Sweep the chamber. Come find me when you’re done.”
She took the broom. “But what–”
Baffled, she watched the door close behind him. Looked at the broom in her hand. Did he mean telekinetically? There was no way. She could — maybe — lift something that size with her mind, but she could never wield it.
She gave it a try anyway. Laid the broom on the ground and stepped away from it, then turned and focused her mind on lifting it. She felt a bit like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but without the nice handy hat.
The broom quivered. The handle end rose a few inches, then dropped back to the floor. Casey frowned, focused again. This time the broom gradually tottered to an upright position. But as soon as she tried to move it, it clattered back to the floor. She sighed, shaking her head, and leaned down to pick it up with her hand. Sweep the chamber, he’d said. Fine. She did so, the old-fashioned way, taking care to do a meticulous job.
It was a big room. It took a while. Her mind wandered…
…about tending bar, and what would happen if she told off that one customer who ticked her off. Somehow grouchy old Mr. Scribbs didn’t seem nearly so provoking now that she’s dealt with undead assailants.
…about that high school dance that she chose not to go to. What if…
That memory held her attention for a while. At the age when other girls were developing an interest in the opposite sex, Casey had been developing the ability to read minds. Boys her age had seemed rather uninteresting by comparison, especially considering the shallow predictability of their thoughts most of the time. Alec had been different…he was mature for his age and had truly liked her in a sweet, infatuated sort of way. She’d been too wrapped up in her newfound skills to return the interest, though. He was so disappointed when she’d declined his invitation to that dance. Now she felt a pang of remorse at her own cavalier treatment of Alec’s feelings; it wouldn’t have hurt anything to treat him more kindly. It was probably just as well, though. Alec was born to the ranch life; he’d loved every part of it. He wouldn’t have come to Austin with her and she couldn’t have stayed there with him.
It was funny, though. It seemed like a telepath would never be lonely, surrounded as they were by the thoughts of others. But it occurred to her now what a solitary life her gifts have led her to. Since developing her telepathy she’d been more an interested spectator than a participant in the goings-on around her. Maybe that’s what Falco had meant when he said she was important to him because they were alike. He was older than her; no doubt he’d had a longer taste of that solitude. That was why she’d come with him, wasn’t it? Because the thought of talking to a fellow telepath had had instant appeal? Sometimes a solitary life wasn’t as much fun as it looked.
She continued to sweep the chamber, lost in reveries…
…about storming the beach at Normandy…
Casey dropped the broom, blinking. That last… seemed…so real. She was shaking. For a moment, a brief moment, she had felt like someone else entirely. She stood motionless, her task forgotten. That had been a vivid memory, but certainly not one of hers. Had she picked up one of Falco’s thoughts without meaning to? No…her mentor couldn’t even have been born yet when that battle was fought. Whose, then? Or…maybe…this is part of the examination? Frowning, she bent to retrieve the broom and continue sweeping.
A memory of storming the beach at Normandy…what possible significance could it have to her? None, that she could think of. She mulled it over while finishing up the chore Falco gave her, and failed to come up with any satisfying answer.
When the floor was clean, she leaned the broom against the wall and went in search of her mentor.
She found him in the trophy room she’d visited the night before. He had withdrawn the short sword from its glass case and placed it on a piece of purple cloth. He looked up, “Oh… hello. All done?’
She entered the room slowly, looking around at the artifacts on display. Her attention was drawn by the WWII-era relics, and she went over to them for a closer look. There were a variety of handguns; she noted a German manufactured Luger. Something told her it was a “Pistolen-08.” That knowledge startled her a bit, but not nearly as much as the Colt .45 under glass…she had a distinct memory of a very similar weapon. Gripped in her hand, she sighted along the barrel, firing on the Nazi SS man charging her from the barn…she shivered again, shaken by memories that could not be hers.
“Why did you ask me if my dreams ever come true?” she asked quietly.
He wiped the blade lovingly before tucking it wrapped under his arm. “Because I believe that you are precognitive.”
“Precognitive,” she murmured, lightly touching the glass case housing the eerily familiar Colt .45. Precognition seemed like a bigger deal than telepathy; she would want to give the idea some serious thought very soon. At the moment, though, these borrowed ‘memories’ were claiming most of her attention. “You believe I can see the future. What about…the past? I’ve just had the strangest experience. When I was sweeping the room just now, I got a…a memory…of fighting in the Battle of Normandy.” She gave Falco a quick self-conscious glance, aware of how bizarre that must have sounded.
“The past.” He nodded at that.
Returning her gaze to the display in front of her she added, “These handguns. As far as I know I’ve never seen guns like these before, but…I know what they are, what they’re called. I remember using one like this in the war.” She indicated the Colt with a baffled frown. “How can that possibly be?”