She was telling Kaleb about the hydroponic garden when she glanced up and saw fine lines radiating out from his eyes, bracketing his mouth. “My father’s an M,” she said. “We can go see him.”
Kaleb stared at her with eyes that had lost their stars. “Why?”
Sahara was sure he had a hurt somewhere, but she knew it wasn’t polite to say things like that to someone she didn’t know. So she said, “He has interesting scanners in his office.”
“I’ve seen medical scanners before.”
Figuring Kaleb wanted to see his own medic and not a stranger, Sahara said, “Okay,” and kept going . . . only she didn’t walk as fast, and she didn’t take him up the slope to the recreation center the grown-ups used for exercise. If they went there, the manager would want Kaleb to try the new machines, and she didn’t think he should while he was hurt.
“There’s fish in the pond,” she said, after they’d covered all the areas visitors were permitted to view. “Do you want to see?”
Kaleb followed her in silence, but he went down on one knee to watch the orange fish in the pond in the center of the park within the NightStar compound. “Why was this created?”
Sahara barely stopped her shrug in time. Someone of her age, she’d been told multiple times, should’ve already conquered the habit. “I heard Father say it was an ‘approved meditation aid,’”
she parroted without quite understanding the words. “The F-Psy who live here use it.” Her cousin Faith didn’t live in the compound. She had a separate house, like all the really strong foreseers.
“Are you an F?”
“Not really. I’m subdesignation B. That means I have backsight.” It wasn’t as interesting as being an F, but Sahara thought she might like catching bad people for Justice. “What are you?”
Excited—though she tried not to let it show, in case he told on her—she said, “Can you do any tricks?” One of the telepaths in her class had just a tiny bit of Tk and she could write on the electronic board without moving from her seat in the class; the teachers made her do that so she’d practice her telekinesis.
Kaleb didn’t say anything and it took Sahara a few seconds to realize she wasn’t touching the ground anymore, her body floating several inches off the grass. Eyes wide, she stood up, her feet on nothing, then, checking to make sure no one was watching, jumped up and down without ever hitting the ground.
“That was wonderful,” she whispered when he set her down, then felt bad she’d forgotten about his pain. “I’m sorry. Did it hurt you to do that?”
Shaking his head, Kaleb played a finger through the water of the pond, making the lazy fish pretend to move. “Your Silence is flawed for your age group.”
Suddenly aware she’d forgotten to fake Silence because he was nice even if he didn’t talk a lot, Sahara bit down on her lower lip. “Are you going to tell on me?”
And he never had, Sahara thought, sitting on a corner of her bed, her back braced against the wall and her arms wrapped around her knees as she thought of the boy with such haunting pain in his eyes.
Instead, he’d taught her how to be more careful . . . and he’d visited her.
Surprised, Sahara looked up from the wide stump where she sat. No one ever came this way, her home backing onto a stand of trees that ended at the perimeter fence. Pretty cardinal eyes in an expressionless face met her own.
“Hi!” Knowing her father was busy in his study on the other side of the house, she put down the datapad that held her despised math homework. “Is that man here again?” She hesitated, then said what was in her heart, since Kaleb had kept his word and not reported her terrible Silence. “I don’t like him.”
Kaleb shook his head. “I came to see you.” A pause. “I don’t know any other children who talk to me.”
“That must be lonely.” She broke off half her nutrition bar, held it out. “I know you probably think I’m a baby, but you can be my friend if you like.” Shifting on the stump when he accepted the snack, she made a space for him.
“I don’t think you’re a baby.” He took a seat beside her. “I think you’re smart and you see things other people don’t.” This time, the pause was longer, his gaze focused on something she couldn’t see. “I don’t like him, either.”
Another thread pulling free of the vault almost before she’d assimilated the last, another memory, this one tinged with laughter.
Sahara poked out her tongue at the datapad on her lap. She might be eleven and much better at pretending to be Silent in public, but she still hated math. She’d tried to tell her teachers not to put her into accelerated lessons when it came to this one subject, but they kept pointing out the fact that her IQ scores placed her learning capacity in the gifted range. According to them, all she had to do was try harder. “Hah!”
When Kaleb appeared beside the stump where she always did her homework, she smiled in relief. “I have to finish this by Friday,” she told him. “Or I’ll be put into an after-school math tutorial.” It wasn’t the tutorial part that horrified her—it was the thought of doing even more math!
“Here.” He took a seat beside her, a greenish bruise below the curve of his left cheekbone.
Sahara kicked her heel back into the stump to force herself not to ask about the bruise, the impact painful on her bare skin. She knew the answer to her question and she knew there was nothing she could do about it, the knowledge bubbling acid in her stomach. “What’s this?”