A beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating
in the void of his luminous wings in vain.
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace…"
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
You are sitting in your studio. It is late afternoon. The sounds of the street below are muted and distant, growing fainter as you let your concentration slip inward. Almost of their own accord, your fingers start to mold the clay. It's still a little disturbing, even now, strange, but oddly relaxing. Swiftly, you mold out the form in your mind, guided by instinct. It seems to take only a few minutes, but when you come back to yourself, the sun has dimmed significantly and a full bust sits in front of you, of a young man, fine-featured with slightly curly hair. His expression is one of quiet arrogance mingled with cold menace in the eyes. Looking at it, you feel a chill run down your back, but also a weird attraction.
174 23rd Street. It just pops into your head.
Who is he? What does this mean? Is there something I should know about that address…?
The address is in Freetown, mainly black part of town; out of your way, yes. The neighborhood is block after block of tenements broken only by one or two concrete "parks" full of young men, lounging on cars and busted benches. There is a steady droning back beat of heavy bass rap, making the car windows shudder and your bones throb in rhythm. A gang of surly looking youths cross in front of your car, dressed in loose shirts buttoned to the neck and bright rags tied on their heads. You nearly hit one and he stops to glare at you, kicking you car as you pass. You get to the address, it is a small pawn shop, barred and closed for the night. You can see there are lights on above the store.
Willow parks the car in one of the spaces across the street from the shop and sits there for a while, looking at the windows above the shop. Why am I here? Who are you? If you're there, come to the window. She forms the image of the young man she sculpted, trying to pick out any colours from the half-remembered vision and project it at the building. Just a subtle call, to give the man a gentle mental tug to want to look out the window, thinking perhaps he heard something and ought to take a look.
Come on, she thinks. Are you here now, or am I seeing some other time?
Closing her eyes, she drew into herself again. There was that moment of sublime awareness when her senses became sharp as a razor, every sound, smell and touch distinct. Even the patterns of light through her eyelids became almost clear enough to see by. She hadn't tried leaving her eyes open, afraid (and somewhat curious) that to see so distinctly would be dazzling beyond tolerance. Then the instant passed, and she reached out, sending out gently questing tendrils of thought. They brushed something, something searing, and she recoiled, eyes snapping open. The window of the apartment shattered, a shape toppling through it and crashing heavily to the street, trailing glass and the remnants of curtains. Then a figure steps into the window. Tall and lean, most of the features lost in silhouette. But you know it's him. The man you sought.
Oh shit, Willow thought to herself, panicking slightly. She glanced over at the shape on the pavement. I hope to god that wasn't something alive at one point. She quickly threw up her mental shield. I am not here. It wasn't me who bothered you. Willow looked up at the man again, hoping against hope that he was going to be content with just looking out the window and that he wouldn't be able to trace the source of what so obviously disturbed him.
Slamming the doors to her mind, Willow sat back in the car. Another look up at the window shows it empty. Scanning the growing crowd of onlookers, she saw a growing pool of red around the crumpled form, confirming her worst fears. The blood was shocking red against the concrete, so deep a red. Red on the walls, all over seeping and pooling. Her home covered in blood! A blaring horn shocked her back from the edge of trance and screaming. Her eyes met his. He was standing in the street, cast in the glare of headlights. His eyes were pained, haunted, but still intense.
What am I seeing now?
Keeping her shields firmly in place, she sent a bolt of thought at the young man. Get the hell out of the street before someone runs you over. She shook her head. What gives you the right to do what you just did? Why did you call me here?!
Touching his mind was liking sticking her hand in an open fire. Willow recoiled both physically and mentally, her practiced mental screens battered by the power of the man's mind. He starts, eyes widening as he looked at her with an almost childlike wonder, walking closer to the car. He spoke in a quiet voice. "Do I know you?"
Willow shook her head, still smarting from the mental contact. She could feel a migraine coming on. With a sigh, she reached into her handbag and pulled out a bottle of pills. She quickly downed three with a gulp of water from the bottle beside her. "But I seem to know you. Or about you, anyway. It really doesn't matter. Why did that person jump out of the window? Did you threaten him with a gun or bodily harm? Did you scare him so badly he needed to escape any way he could? Or did you force him through some other means? And why?" Have I been brought here as a teacher or guide for him? I wish these visions would be more specific!
He stared at Willow for a moment, watching her swallow the pills as if it were the most fascinating thing he had seen. Walking around the car, the man opened the passenger side door and slide into the seat. The door had been locked, she distinctly remembered locking it. She smelled him, sweat and a pleasant understated cologne. Up close, she could make out the fine lines in his face, the strong build under the dark grey suit. He whispered, "Call you?" His eyes closed. Something crossed his face, pain or perhaps something else.
"Were you in distress? Needing help of some sort? Sent out a mental SOS? And excuse me, I don't remember inviting you into my car. Please get out." Willow felt a pang of regret. "Are you okay?"
Willow sighed. Great. Just fucking great. He's unconscious. Now what the hell am I going to do?
The crowd has grown larger. Sirens wailed in the distance, growing swiftly closer. The man, for his part, began muttering in his sleep. "Hanes… can't let them find the templates… hide… must get her…" A shudder ran through the car as if it was shaken gently in a large hand. Willow "felt" the energy pour from the man, like a hot breeze blowing through her mind. Her keys leapt in the ignition, twisting of their own accord, gunning the engine to life.
Shit! What the hell was that? Is he some sort of telekinetic? Oh man. Yeah, yeah, I get the hint. Willow put the car in gear and drove off, feeling like a fugitive and looking for cars following them. Why couldn't the first person with psionic ability be someone normal, like a telepath? Where the hell am I going to take him? I can't take him home. The units would have a shit fit. It'll have to be the studio. The back room. Do I have enough cloths to cover my work? Geez, I'd better cover the bust before he comes to.
Willow turned the corner in time to see the distant flashing lights of the police. Why did this have to happen? The studio is the only place that's clean. No psychic traces but my own. She sighed as she turned a corner, narrowly avoiding being cut off by a taxi. My horoscope said nothing about this. Oh damn, now I'm going to have to call home and tell them not to expect me for dinner. Are they even home tonight? Isn't it tonight the night for the seminar on the rights for the corps to patent genetic code?
The drive was a quiet one. Willow was alone with her thoughts and the murmurs of the unconscious man beside her. His voice had dropped to a whisper, and he lay perfectly still, not twitching or shifting in the slightest. There was no emanation from him on the mental plane, either. His once active mind felt as sealed and dull as any. Pulling into the parking lot of her small "studio", Willow took a quick glance around the parking lot. Mercifully, the normally bustling area had quieted down for a while. Only a couple of older women, hands full of books, were crossing the street headed for the Nook, an on-campus bar popular for study. Sighing, she took a look at her somewhat bulky passenger. How the hell was she going to lug him upstairs? Even as the thought struck her, his eyes popped open, locked on something she couldn't see. He sat bolt upright, stiffened as if electrocuted, then fell back into the seat, gasping.