Leone was bored and frustrated. He sat in the main control room, attached to the virtual reality generator that constituted the control system of the spaceship. The spaceship was deep into automated self-repair routines and Leone casually, if impatiently, monitored the progress of those repairs. The sooner the spaceship was repaired the sooner he could return to his mission and the search for ways to deal with Set. For now, the spaceship just drifted in interstellar space and Leone had nothing to do.
Leone was shocked out of his boredom by an activity signal reported by the long-range scanning system. Another spaceship? Had they been followed through hyperspace from the Akara star system? Leone examined the available data: the scanners had detected a transient signal at extreme range and just above the threshold of detectability. Leone had previously seen such scanner transients while waiting in deep space between hyperspace jumps. Almost certainly the cause was some chunk of stellar debris blown out of an exploding star billions of years ago. Leone sank back into the dull routine of waiting for the ship to repair itself.
Leone could not prevent his mind from echoing the day's discussions with Aristark. Should they now return to Sakkara? Should they keep trying to reach Azur? Had Sybil sent them into a deadly trap? No, that made no sense. It was clear that the equipment installed in the spaceship by Sybil had protected the spaceship from destruction. Nobody would send a spaceship into danger and at the same time protect the spaceship from danger. Or would they?
Was Sybil trying to prove her point? Leone recalled that he had mocked her for her clams about "mental powers". Leone had known Sybil for years and they had a long history of close friendship. Many years previously, Leone had tried to move their relationship past simple friendship, but Sybil had always deflected any drift in their relationship towards sexual intimacy. Not long ago, Leone had been deeply shocked to learn that Sybil was a member of the Osiris Order. But now, upon reflection, her membership in the Osiris Order might explain much that had long seemed mysterious. Leone had gone on to read about the Osiris Order and had learned that Priestesses of that Order were celibate. If Sybil was fanatically devoted to the Osiris Order, maybe she had taken offense when Leone had expressed doubt about the existence of mental powers and the ability of the Osiris Order to hide from scanners. Would Sybil send Leone into danger just to demonstrate to that Osiris Order technology really could hide a spaceship?
No, that was not it. Leone felt confident that Sybil fully expected Leone to make contact with Kalid at Flammis and to bring Kalid to Azur for a meeting with Ketar.
So, had Kalid misjudged what was going on and mistakenly attacked the spaceship at Flammis? Was Kalid simply taking no chances and ordering attacks on any unknown ships approaching Flammis? No, that made no sense either. Leone now had evidence of the power of the equipment Sybil had installed on the spaceship. Since that equipment could hide the spaceship, there was no reason to suspect that it could not also perform the much simpler task of signaling to Kalid that the spaceship was friendly.
The further mystery was why they had been attacked upon entering the Akara star system. Clearly that attack had nothing to do with Kalid and his possible paranoia. Briefly Leone considered the possibility that civil war had broken out. Leone knew that the population of Azur had been decimated when the Empire crushed the last pockets of resistance on that world. Had residents of the Akara star system started a revolt against the Empire? Leone's ship was property of the government of Sakkara, a member planet of the Empire...maybe rebel forces in the Akara star system were now attacking all Empire spaceships on sight. There were many worlds in the Empire that still resented their domination by the Empire.
Leone quickly reviewed the deep scanner records from the time in the Akara star system. From the scan data, it was clear that there had been many spaceships moving through the system on routine business....some broadcasting the standard navigation beacon used by Empire spaceships. But only Leone's ship had been targeted for destruction. The only thing unique about Leone's spaceship was the equipment that had been installed by Sybil. The only thing Leone knew for sure about that equipment was that when the spaceship was on the brink of destruction, that equipment had made the spaceship invisible. But how had it done that? Sybil had spoken of "spiritual means", but what did that mean?
Leone noticed Aristark disconnect from the Thot user interface in the engineering room. Aristark had been using nanite probes to study the equipment that had been installed by Sybil. The door to the main control room opened and Aristark entered. Leone disconnected from the Thot interface and asked, "What did you learn?"
Aristark sank down wearily into the seat next to Leone and replied, "Not much. There is a strange pattern of energy use by Sybil's equipment that corresponds to the time when our spaceship became invisible to the spaceships that were attacking us. There is no doubt that this equipment saved us from destruction."
Leone grunted. "The question is, how can you hide a spaceship?"
"Indeed. I probed far enough into Sybil's equipment to see that it is protected by an auto-destruct mechanism. I cannot learn how it works without first triggering its destruction."
Leone suggested, "Maybe we could remove the energy feed to Sybil's equipment. Would that disable the auto-destruct mechanism?"
Aristark shook his head. "Sybil's equipment is protected by self-powered nanite defenses. I'm sure that if those nanites are ever in danger of running out of power, they will use their last energies to trigger the auto-destruct mechanism. It is clear that the Osiris Order has secret technology that they do not wish to share with the rest of mankind."
Leone could not suppress a sense of outrage over the idea that important new technology would be kept secret. Leone was part of a scientific culture which valued openness and sharing of scientific and technical advances. "Who are these 'masters' of the Osiris Order that they keep such technology secret?"
Aristark shrugged. "I suppose they feel that this kind of "invisibility technology" could be misused. Think of space prates who might use it to shield their spaceships during attacks on cargo ships."
Leone was willing to admit that many technologies can be misused. In general, society bands together to put limits on the use of dangerous technologies. "What bothers me is that I know nothing about the goals and activities of the Osiris Order. How do we know that they do not misuse this technology?"
Aristark was willing to live according to available evidence. "I am not aware of any attacks by space prates using invisibility shields for their spaceships. Is there any evidence that the Osiris Order has misused this technology?"
Leone replied, "We do not know what their technology can do. Many unexplained events might be due to the use of powerful and hidden technologies. How can we even know what evidence of misuse to look for when we do not know what technologies they have?"
"Such doubts and fears can be applied to anyone. I'm tired." Aristark rose from his seat and headed for the door. "Any guess for when the spaceship will complete its repairs?"
"The hyperspace communications system is being rebuilt, those repairs alone should take about another ten hours. By tomorrow we might also be in good enough shape to make another hyperspace jump."
"Okay. We still must decide on our destination. Let's call Ketar tomorrow and ask for his advice. Good night."
Leone realized that he was also very tired. There was nothing to be done until their spaceship was repaired enough to jump again. Almost certainly the best course of action was to return to Sakkara where the spaceship could be fully repaired, but it was worth trying to contact Ketar again. Leone really wanted to ask Sybil what was going on and how the Osiris Order had developed technology that can hide spaceships. And what their plans were for that technology.
The spaceship's scanner system was signaling again. Leone saw that this time it was clearly another spaceship approaching rapidly. Leone settled back and watched the approaching spaceship in the virtual reality Thot interface. Quickly, the computer-generated images of the two spaceships merged.
The airlock connecting the two spaceships opened. It was the Master!
Leone threw the visitor a bottle of beer and some pretzels. The pretzels drifted in slow motion along the length of the zero-g airlock.
The beer smelled like oak leaves. Leone tried to catch all of the oak leaves in a basket. By catching all the falling oak leaves, the communicator would reactivate, but for now, Leone could only see the Master's lips moving and could not hear his words.
Sybil was in the basket of leaves. She was reaching out from the basket and touching Leone....it felt very nice. Leone watched the beautiful colors in her eyes and felt enthralled.
"We need to meet."
Leone cried out, "I tried to call you!"
"These are my coordinates."
Leone did not recognize the coordinates....Sybil was slipping away! He reached out to grab her. He pulled away her robe, revealing a fetish object.
"You must pay attention."
The oak leaves were now mountains of silver and gold dust. Leone tried to grab fists full of the dust, but it slipped through his fingers. "Sybil, take it all! It is all for you!"
Kalid grabbed hold of Leone. Leone was shocked into awareness; he asked, "Is this a dream?"
Kalid replied, "Yes, the brain is most sensitive to telepathy during sleep. Hurry now: memorize these coordinates."
Leone was now fascinated. He was half aware of being in a dream, but it was like the Thot interface: a set of standard astrogation coordinates were displayed in his mind. With his many decades of experience as an astrogator, Leone's mind quickly latched onto the coordinates.
"That's near Earth."
Kalid said, "Yes, very near. I see you have it. Now wake up and write down the coordinates before you forget."
"You are dreaming. Wake up and record these coordinates."
"We are talking. This is the Thot user interface, haven't you used it before?"
Kalid gave Leone's brain another activating jolt. "Wake up!"
Leone opened his eyes. Had someone spoken? He sat up and looked around the dim interior of his cabin. "Thot, did you say something?"
The spaceship's artificial intelligence replied, "You have been sleeping for the past five point three three hours. I last spoke to you five point eight four hours ago. At that time, I said, 'Com system repair will be complete in about eight hours,' and then you went to bed."
Leone asked, "Did you say something about our coordinates?"
"No. We are still drifting in interstellar space. I continue to repair the hyperdrive. Those repairs should be complete in about six hours from now."
Leone rubbed his head and tried to remember. "No, I mean the new coordinates you were showing me....something near Earth?"
The artificial intelligence said, "I do not know what you are talking about."
Leone remembered the dream and the warm sensation of being near Sybil. Then he remembered the disappointment of feeling Sybil slip away. Suddenly he remembered the coordinates. "Thot, record these coordinates..."
h32 r121:23:45 d45:143:23 z1.9347 tc
Leone was still tired and sank back into the softness of his bunk. What a strange dream! Leone had wondered where Sybil was and why she had not responded to his hyperspatial call. Earth? Why would Sybil go to Earth? But those coordinates were not Earth. "Thot, how far from Earth are those coordinates?"
"Those coordinates are in a star system that is about 22 parsecs from Earth."
"Strange." Leone drifted back into sleep still thinking about Sybil and Priestesses of the Osiris Order.
Leone slept for a short while then awoke again, showered and ate. Leone went to the main control room and found that Aristark was monitoring the spaceship's repairs. Aristark said, "We should have hyperspatial communications back online in a few minutes."
Leone looked out the window and into the blackness of interstellar space. He thought of the amazingly realistic dream about another spaceship docking with this spaceship. He muttered, "I don't suppose any spaceships have been detected near here...."
Aristark was bored and reflexively called up the scanner records. "There was a transient scanner signal yesterday, but no indication that it was a spaceship. Most likely it was a chunk of space debris at extreme scanner range."
Leone turned away from the window and said to Aristark, "Ya, I saw that transient scanner signal yesterday."
Aristark continued, "There was something odd last night. More unusual power usage by Sybil's mysterious equipment."
Leone again thought of his dream and at the same time he thought about telepathy. What might a dream have to do with telepathy? Sybil had claimed that the Osiris Order makes use of "mental powers". When approaching Flammis, Leone had wondered if he should expect some kind of telepathic impulse from Kalid. Suddenly Leone realized that there was an available opportunity for him to make an interesting and unusual prediction. "Before you say anything more, let me tell you something. There was an odd event in my cabin last night. I woke up because I thought I heard a voice. I'd like to make a prediction about the time of the power surge in Sybil's equipment."
Aristark laughed, "I always have the spaceship artificial intelligence wake me up. However, if I'm really tired I can sleep right through the wake-up message, is that what you mean happened to you?"
Leone replied, "Well, I don't usually have the AI wake me up, but when I did wake up last night my first guess was that the AI had spoken to me. Thot, what time did I wake up last night and ask if you had spoken to me?"
The Thot AI replied, "That was at four point two seven hours this morning."
Aristark said, "The strange power usage by Sybil's equipment started shortly before that time and ended almost exactly at that time. Is that prediction you wanted to make?"
Leone was trying to imagine what Sybil's equipment could have to do with his dream. "That was a minor prediction, but I'm not sure what it means. Do you have any idea what Sybil's equipment was doing last night when its power usage increased?"
Aristark tried to cross-correlate all of the ship's sensory data to the mysterious power surge in Sybil's equipment. "I don't have a clue. Energy went into Sybil's equipment but nothing was detected coming out. I suppose it could have been just charging its internal energy stores, but the power draw was intermittent....the pattern almost looks like a radio message....maybe one side of a two-way radio message."
Leone wondered if Sybil was able to remain in contact with the spaceship by making use of the equipment she had installed. "Could there be a hyperspatial communications device in Sybil's equipment."
Aristark replied, "I suppose anything is possible, but for conventional technology, creating a node for hyperspatial communication requires much more power than Sybil's equipment can draw. So if it does have an ability to receive hyperspatial communications then it is using some new kind of technology that requires less power than the conventional technology I know about."
"You mentioned a radio message....if there were another spaceship at the extreme range of our scanners, could such a spaceship communicate with Sybil's equipment by making use of radio waves?"
"Sure, but our ship would detect such a radio-based signal."
"Even if the signal was weak or at an unusual wavelength?"
Aristark grunted. "I'm not a communications expert. I suppose there might be ways of sending a signal to Sybil's equipment that our spaceship's sensors would not detect."
Leone rubbed his chin and quietly repeated, "...ways of sending a signal..."
Aristark said, "Speaking of which, our hyperspatial communications system just came back on line. I want to call Ketar."
Leone nodded. "Yes, we must call Ketar, but I still want to make my prediction first."
Aristark had been impressed by Leone's prediction of the time of the energy surge in Sybil's equipment and he was baffled by the implications of that prediction. Aristark asked, "You have another prediction?"
Leone replied, "Yes, a much stranger prediction. One that we will have to test together, as a team. That testing will have implications for what we say to Ketar."
Aristark chuckled. "You are being very mysterious. My plan is to just call Ketar and find out why were attacked when we entered the Akara star system. Can you explain what you are talking about?"
"I'll try. Last night, just before I woke up, thinking I had heard a voice, I was having a dream. A more vivid dream than usual." Leone was embarrassed by what he had dreamed about Sybil and did not want to mention that aspect of the dream. "In the dream, another spaceship came and docked to our spaceship."
Aristark was surprised. "That's crazy. This ship is not equipped to connect to another ship. We only have conventional hatches that can open to pressurized atmospheres. We have no space vacuum-ready docking ring."
"Yes, I know, it was just a dream."
"But you asked if there had been any spaceships detected near us."
"I'm not loosing my mind. I know that no ship tried to dock with us last night. I'm describing the dream I had."
Aristark shrugged. "Okay. So let me make a prediction. In your dream, Ketar was on the other spaceship. You had a conversation with Ketar and you now want to try to use your dream to predict what Ketar will say when we call him today."
Leone laughed. "No, Ketar was not in my dream. My prediction does not involve what Ketar will say to us when we call him. My prediction has to do with what we should tell Ketar about our plans and our next destination."
Aristark said, "We are on a mission that was ordered by Ketar. I think we should do whatever he says and go where he wants us to go."
"But we have information that Ketar does not have. We might be better able to select our destination than Ketar. At the very least we have to decide if we will share our unique information with Ketar."
Aristark sighed. "Why do I get the sinking feeling that you want to consider something you dreamed about as information that is worthy of guiding our actions?"
Leone tried to explain. "Before you reject that idea as insane, remember that we already know there was a correspondence between activity in Sybil's equipment and the time of my dream. The last time Sybil's equipment became active, it hid our ship from the attacking forces and saved our lives. I think we have to explore the possibility that Sybil's equipment communicated with me while I was dreaming. If so, it might not be wise to ignore the information content of that communication."
Aristark had been ready to use the Thot interface to make the call to Ketar, but now he detached himself from the interface and threw his arms in the air. "Fine. I'm listening. Tell me the 'information content' of your dream."
Leone pause and tried to remember the coordinates. "The information was a set of astrogation coordinates. I'm sorry but I forgot the coordinates."
Aristark laughed. "Okay, you forgot your dream. Now can I call Ketar?"
"I did not forget the dream. I forgot the details of the coordinates that were in the dream. Thot, what were the coordinates I asked you to remember?"
The artificial intelligence replied, "h32 r121:23:45 d45:143:23 z1.9347 tc".
Aristark said. "Hmm...h32...thirty two is a very low number. That must be a star system that is fairly close to Earth."
"Yes, that was my first reaction, also," Leone said. "System h32 is 22 parsecs from Earth."
"Okay, but I still do not recognize that system." Aristark spoke to the Thot AI, "Show us the basic data for star system h32."
The data came up on the wall screen of the control room. Leone skimmed the data and said, "A low population system with a few inhabited bases and space stations. Nothing remarkable. No wonder neither of us ever heard of it before."
Aristark asked, "So you think we should tell Ketar that you had a dream about this unremarkable star system?"
"Right now, there is only one remarkable thing about system h32, and that is that I had a lucid dream in which Kalid told me to meet him at these coordinates in that system."
Aristark was shocked. "Kalid? Kalid....was in your dream?"
Leone nodded. "Yes. My dream was confused, like all dreams, but near the end it became more clear and Kalid was there."
Aristark exhaled very deeply, "Pshoo-weeee..." He got up from his chair and paced across the control room several times. Finally he stopped and looked into Leone's eyes and asked, "You really think you had some kind of telepathic contact with Kalid?"
Leone nodded. "Let's call that a hypothesis. So far, we know that my dream experience coincided with unusual activity of the mysterious equipment that Sybil had installed on this spaceship. Further, I have a prediction that is based on my dream: if we go to these coordinates we will find Kalid. And since we are on a mission to find Kalid, a mission that was ordered by Ketar, I think we cannot avoid the relevance of my dream to our mission."
Aristark shook his head. "I don't believe you have ever met Ketar. I have. He is very pragmatic. I do not think he would pay any attention to your claim of having seen Kalid in a dream."
Leone agreed. "I have never met Ketar. I have spoken to him on several occasions and I agree with your assessment: it is not likely that any benefit would come from telling Ketar about my dream."
Aristark asked, "So why did you want to tell me about your dream before letting me call Ketar?"
Leone shrugged, "I am devoted to the success of our mission. I wanted to share some information with you...information that I believe is relevant to our mission."
Aristark sat back down and started to re-connect to the Thot interface. "Very well. I have listened to your information. I can't claim that doing so has altered my thinking in the least. I'm going to call Ketar."
Leone commanded the Thot AI, "Project the hyperspatial call on the wall so I can monitor." A somewhat fuzzy image of Aristark filled half of the wall screen.
Aristark had to talk his way through several layers of operators in the Azur communications grid who stood between the outside world and Ketar. Finally, a fuzzy representation of Ketar also appeared on the other side of the wall screen. Ketar said, "Aristark, I'm pleased to hear from you! Where are you?"
Aristark replied, "We are drifting in interstellar space, waiting for our spaceship to be repaired. We barely survived the attack that was launched against our spaceship in the Akara star system."
Ketar explained, "That was a terrible error. Those ships were on routine patrol, but they were under standing orders to attack any spaceship emitting a specific type of beacon signal. Somehow your spaceship was carrying that beacon."
Aristark said, "This is all very strange. I was not aware of the practice of having armed war ships on patrol with orders to attack Empire spaceships carrying high ranking planetary government officials."
Ketar laughed, "Ha ha! Don't be absurd, the ships had no such orders."
"This beacon you mentioned, what warrants an immediate attack on any ship using that beacon?"
Ketar's voice turned absolutely cold, "That's not a topic I care to discuss while broadcasting my comments to every corner of the universe. When you reach Azur, I will explain everything to you."
"So your orders are that we return to the Akara star system as soon as we can make a hyperspatial jump?"
Ketar nodded, "Yes. The spacedock facilities here are second to none. We can fully repair your spaceship and decide how to continue the search for Kalid."
"Leone and I wonder if it safe for us to try to reach Azur."
Ketar seemed angry, "That attack on your ship was an error. I have issued new orders to the patrol ships and it is now perfectly safe for you to come to Azur."
Aristark explained, "We got our hyperspace communications system online just before I called you. Our hyperspace jump system is still undergoing repairs. We will come to Azur as soon as possible. Aristark, out." Aristark cut the hyperspace communications connection, broke his Thot interface connections and stood up. "Unbelievable!"
Leone was amused. "That's the Ketar we all know and love. You know, I think Ketar would trade half of his unauthorized war fleet to get his hands on the equipment that Sybil had installed on this ship."
Aristark shook his head, "I can't believe that Ketar thinks he can get away with an unprovoked attack on an Empire spaceship."
Leone agreed, but did not feel free to speak his mind in front of Aristark. Aristark had long seemed totally devoted to supporting Ketar. Leone was grateful to Ketar for the financial support that got Leone elected, but Leone had long felt that Ketar had no real interest in Sakkara. As far as Leone was concerned, Set was basically a local matter for Sakkara to deal with. If Ketar could provide external resources that would help deal with Set, then fine, Leone would welcome any such aid. But Ketar clearly had bigger fish to fry, the Empire itself, and Leone had no interest in getting involved with Ketar's schemes if they included private fleets of war ships that felt free to attack Empire spaceships. Leone still wondered if it was safe to go to Azur. Ketar might decide to just throw Leone in a deep hole rather than risk the spread of the story about how Ketar's war fleet had attacked an Empire spaceship. For Leone, the only remaining question was if Aristark could understand the danger of going to Azur.
Aristark said, "Okay, I've made up my mind. I told Ketar that I will go to Azur as soon as possible, but we are still on our original mission to find Kalid. In order to follow Ketar's orders, we must go to the h32 star system."
Leone smiled and shook Aristark's hand. "Now you know why I wanted to tell you about my dream before you called Ketar. You handled the situation with great diplomacy."
Aristark chuckled rather nervously, "The diplomacy will be needed when I do finally face Ketar again and have to explain why I failed to mention that I would be going to h32 before returning to the Akara star system."
Leone shrugged, "You can always blame that on me and my silly dream. But in all honesty, I do not feel that it was a silly dream. We must test the hypothesis that Kalid awaits us in the h32 star system."
Aristark nodded. "I agree. I honestly feel that in order to follow the orders I have been given, I must go to h32 an see if Kalid is there. I only wish that we could start our journey right now, but it will still be a few hours until we can jump."
Leone eased into one of the command chairs. "Since we have some time, maybe we could discuss something else that has been on my mind."
Aristark sat in the other command chair and turned to face Leone. "Speak. What is on your mind?"
Leone tried to order his thoughts. "Until my dream of last night, I've never had an experience that I felt might be evidence for ...I'm not sure what term to use...let's just say "mental powers". Are you comfortable with that term?"
Aristark asked, "By "mental powers" you mean the kind of telepathic contact that you seemed to experience in your dream?"
"Yes, exactly. There has long been speculation about the possible existence of telepathic communication. Of course, there has never been any published and reproducible evidence for telepathy, but in my dream Kalid said that telepathy works best in dreams. That got me thinking."
Aristark commented, "As you know, I am somewhat of a domineering person. I try to control all aspects of my life. I have had some training in how to control my dreams. I think I am better than most people at what is called 'lucid dreaming', so I do not doubt that you had a lucid dream last night."
Leone explained, "I've never been any good at controlling the content of my dreams. Usually, if I notice that I am dreaming I start thinking too much and I wake up. But I got thinking about the idea that telepathy might work best in dreams. If we think in terms of biology and evolution, we can ask what benefits might come from telepathy in dreams. Could there be selective advantage for people who can achieve telepathic contact in dreams?"
Aristark speculated, "If there were a largely unconscious mode of telepathic communication between humans, it might provide advantages. Almost any communication can increase the cohesion of human social groups."
"Yes, I was thinking along those lines. For example, if two people in a tribe were in conflict, maybe they could fight in a dream and avoid the dangers of physical harm that would come from an actual fight."
Aristark laughed. "That is very silly. But continue."
"Actually, my thoughts have gone down a different path besides fighting. What you might call the opposite path. Once, long ago, when I first fell in love with a woman, I had a strange dream. So, I've been thinking, if two people could make telepathic contact in a dream, maybe they could use a dream to decide if they are right for each other."
"That is silly. Why would evolution use dreams to help people decide on mates?"
"Why does evolution use things like ornamental bird plumage? Evolution uses anything that works."
The first thing Leone noticed about Sybil was her hair. Everyday she had her hair in a different pattern of braids. Then Leone had finally asked her to lunch after class and he had sat staring at her hair. She had babbled on about a course she was taking in ancient history, but Leone had not listened....he was fascinated by her hair and the way her mouth moved and strange flashed of light that sparked deep in her dark eyes. Finally Leone asked her, "What does it mean?"
Sybil replied, "Well, it is mythical symbology. Different symbologists have different theories. If I select this topic for my senior thesis, then I'll publish my theory, too!"
Leone did not have any idea what she was talking about. "No, I mean your hair. What do all the different knots and braids mean? Every day it is a different pattern."
Sybil had laughed at him. "Oh, that. It is something I learned from my mother. Oh, my, I thought you wanted to talk about something serious, but you just asked me to lunch so you could look at my hair."
Leone nodded. "Yes, I'm very shallow, that's why I have a double major in engineering and physics. All the cute girls sign up for those kinds of classes and the boys are just nerds who never notice the girls so I have my pick of the entire crop."
Sybil complained, "I think I've been insulted...I'm neither an engineering major nor a physics major....you don't think I'm cute?"
Leone shook his head. "You cannot be cute. What are you, something close to two meters tall? You are far too tall to be cute."
"Now I'm sure I've been insulted. Can tall women be beautiful?"
"Beautiful is different. You'd fit the current standard of beauty if you had your ears and chin modified."
"Another thing my mother taught me is that true beauty is inside. You don't think my big chin is dignified? Maybe I should grow a beard."
Leone laughed. "Personally I wouldn't change anything about you. Yes, at first all I could see was your hair, but then I started to listen to you in English class and noticed that you are brilliant and an unconventional and creative thinker. Unfortunately, I've been sitting behind you all semester. Its only today that I got to watch your mouth while you talk. Your chin is too big to be conventionally beautiful but it is perfect for your mouth. Your mouth is hypnotic...the little twists you make when you talk....maybe if you braided the hair in your beard it would be okay."
"But my ears would still be too big."
"Come over to my place this weekend and I'll nibble on your ears until they are just the right size.....although that job might take me the rest of eternity to do right..."
"Leone, if you think you are going to do me, you are crazy. Now I have to run or I'll be late for my next class."
Later that week Leone had a dream about Sybil. She was in the university museum teaching a course on ancient history. She was surrounded by admiring students who repeated everything she said. Leone struggled to push in close enough to see her. Finally Leone could see that she was a statue in the museum. Then she was a statue in a park, and she was heart-breakingly beautiful. Leone tried to touch her but she was cold, stone cold. Leone felt a primal grief that grew in strength until it made his body hum and vibrate. He tried to channel his force and animate Sybil's stone body. Leone knew he was a god and he had the power to bring her back to life. But then he woke up and felt silly for having a dream in which he was a god.
Leone finished telling Aristark about the old dream, but without mentioning that the dream was about Sybil.
Aristark felt that Leone's dream was silly. "So you never were able to melt that girl's heart."
Leone nodded. "Never. We stayed good friends but then we graduated and went our own ways."
"Did you ever tell her about the dream?"
"Of course not. What good would it have done to tell her that in my dream she was a cold statue. But at the time I never understood the imagery, that she started out in the dream leading some kind of chanting in a ceremony of some type."
"And you understand that dream now, after all these years?"
"I have not thought about that dream very much in recent years, but it does have new meaning for me now that I'm thinking about dreams as a possible time for telepathic communication."
"Are you suggesting that this girl communicated to you in a dream the fact that she was as cold as a statue?"
"Something like that. Can't you guess who the girl is? You know her too."
Suddenly a strange thought occurred to Aristark. "Are you talking abut Sybil?"
"Yes, Sybil and I met over thirty years ago. It was only recently that I learned she calls herself "Priestess of Isis". That new knowledge and my dream of last night makes me think about the old dream I had in a new way. What if I was in telepathic contact with Sybil back when I fell in love with her?"
"If so, it did you no good. You had to wait 30 years to learn her secret."
"At a conscious level, yes, it took me thirty years to learn that Sybil is part of the Osiris Order. But maybe on an unconscious level I understood something. Maybe I understood just enough to be able to remain friends with her without pressing for our relationship to become more than that."
Aristark sighed. "I've never been a big fan of hind-sight."
"Well, it is all speculation, but if we are open to the possibility, then we can look for evidence. For example, if Sybil's equipment helped transmit a telepathic message from Kalid to me last night, then what carried that message into my brain?"
Aristark shrugged. "I have no idea. If telepathy is a common phenomenon in dreams then it seems like someone should have long ago detected the signals that carry telepathic signals."
Leone wondered, "What if the Osiris Order did that long ago?"