“It’s just a Band-Aid,” Silas said, still uneasy. Peri wasn’t happy, either. “You have to be really careful until you get a few days of base memories. I don’t want you to risk drafting.”
“So why am I seeing Jack?” she demanded as the hallucination began arranging her underwear again. “And how can he answer me? Talk back and everything?” Silas had saved her, but she felt fragile, as if a sneeze might destroy everything.
Silas’s brow eased. “Think of him like a mental cop on the corner. I needed the flexibility and awareness your intuition would give, and it manifests as a hallucination because disembodied voices in your head can lead to, ah, more problems.”
“I’ll bet.” It made sense, but she still felt like his personal science project. “Why Jack?” she asked. Just saying his name felt slimy, her cooling hatred toward him tempered with hints of past tasks, of danger shared, of good times—before it fell apart.
“You’d rather it be your mom?” Silas said, and her eyes widened as the horror of that slid through her. “They’re the only two people you listen to.”
“Jack is fine,” she said. “But I don’t trust either one of them.”
Silas stood, and Karley edged toward the door. “I said listen to, not trust.” Silas’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “I know this is hard,” he said, his voice low. “But if I destroyed both timelines, we’d have no way to clear your name or bring Opti down.”
Tired, Peri put her forehead on her drawn-up knees. It was hard to be angry with him, even if it was unconscionable for an anchor to leave twin timelines in a drafter. He was right; she was alive. “How long until you can fragment one of them?” she asked, her words muffled.
“It depends on how long it takes to, ah, find that original list.”
She lifted her head, a faint sense of purpose growing. “It has to be in my apartment. We can do it tonight.” Peri wanted this done, and done fast. Silas’s patch job was just that.
Karley was on her way out, but she hesitated on the threshold, shaking her head at Silas’s inquiring glance. No? Did she just tell him no?
“Not yet,” Silas said, and Jack, forgotten in the corner, laughed quietly as Peri’s eyes narrowed. “You need to build some memories before you can risk your mental state. I don’t know what will happen if you draft. You can stay here with Howard and Taf.”
“You are all leaving.” Karley pointed at the unseen front door. “Right now.”
Peri began to get out of bed, hesitating when the sheets rubbed her bare skin. “You need your list. I need my talismans. They can give me the cushion I need. Keep me from a MEP.” Her heart pounded as she said what they were all thinking, none of them saying.
“It’s not worth the risk, especially if all we have to do is wait a few weeks.” Silas pushed Karley out the door, the woman protesting hotly.
“I’m not waiting a few weeks!” Peri exclaimed. “Besides, it’s a little late to be flying the flag of not wanting to stress my mental state.”
“Opti is camped out at your apartment. We wait.” Silas had a hand on Karley’s arm, forestalling her complaints. “We’ll get you some new IDs to keep you off Opti’s radar. You need at least three months of solid memories before you can risk another draft. You’re going over the bridge this afternoon.”
I’m not going to hide out in Canada, either. “What do Taf and Howard think about this?”
“I’m sure they’ll agree,” he said calmly.
“Last time I checked, that was doctor-speak for you’ve not told them yet,” Peri said, and Karley chuckled and went downstairs.
Sighing, Silas came back in. “I don’t want to risk it,” he said, his concern obvious. “Add an unexpected jump to what you’re running with, and you might go into MEP. We have time.”
She frowned, thinking he was being overly cautious. The answers were right there, and she wasn’t waiting three months to ransack her own apartment.
“Silas!” Karley shouted from downstairs. “Let her get dressed! I have to go to work!”
An old irritation pinched his brow. “Coming!” he shouted out the door, then softer, to her, “Your clothes have been washed and are on the chair.”
“Thank you.” Waking up naked was a small price to pay for clean clothes.
“I’ll see you downstairs, then.” Silas shut the door behind him with a soft click. From the hall came a muffled “Karley, did you throw out all my clothes?”
Peri listened to the garbled response, and when Silas’s steps were gone, she turned to Jack. “Where did you stash that list?” she asked hesitantly, thinking it was stupid talking to a hallucination who knew nothing more than she did. But there was no way she was going to hide for three months. Not when she had an apartment with five years of talismans just a drive away.
“You don’t know, sweetheart,” Jack said. “If you did, I’d tell you. But it has to be in the apartment. Get me in there, and I can probably find it.”
That didn’t make her feel as good as she thought it would, and she slid out from between the sheets, grimacing when Jack made a wolf whistle. It was just a hallucination, but thanks to a thousand forgotten memories, it was going to act just like Jack would, and damn her if she didn’t start to understand why she’d blinded herself for three years. He was perfect.