George
Morning

The alarm rings. I hit it harder than needed. So much for that experiment. The barrier just moved and surrounded me and I was on this side again to wake up.

I hear the key in the lock and the door opens. Lena.

“Good morning! I heard the alarm getting turned off, so I figured there had to be someone in.”

“Yeah, I’m here. The barrier snagged me.”

“Don’t look like that. Next time, try it balanced. You in her room, she in yours.”

“I know. We should probably wait for next weekend, though. Just in case it does work.”

“Yes. Waiting to see what’s going on is hard.”

“Yeah. I just wish there was something else we could do. Speaking of, there is something else that we did do.”

“What’s that?”

“We swapped names.”

She looks at me with her mouth slightly open, then hugs and kisses me.

When we come up for breath, she nibbles on my ear and then softly says, “So, how does it feel?”

“So relieved.”

She kisses my ear and says, “Me too.”

“So, I need to clear my head a little. Want to take a walk? Then I can drop you off and visit Diana afterward.”

“That sounds like a plan.”

There is a disadvantage to this name-swapping thing. Or at least today there is. It would have been so nice to just keep cuddling and kissing, but I really do need the fresh air. So, shower and dress and gobble some breakfast and then out the door.

“So where to?”, she asks.

“Geor— I mean Cat is seeing some people at Mirror Lake. That sounds like a nice spot to wander by.”

“Sure.”

We turn right on to Woodruff and I spot Aelric, just like last week. Must be his Sunday morning ‘have all of my protégés survived Saturday night’ round or something. There’s something different, though. He seems… more there, like there’s something extra— There is. I’m seeing the glamor of a suit and some other… aura. Just very slight, but it’s there. And there’s something underneath that, deep within him.

“Lena?”

“Yes?”

“Take my hand please?”

She does. “Oh! That’s the Aelric person, right?”

“Yes, but he looks different today. That aura and the inner light, I didn’t see those yesterday.”

“You swapped names. Another Acceptance? You can now see stuff you couldn’t before?”

“Sure, but what?”

“I have no idea, but let’s turn left before we stare a hole into him.”

We continue to Mirror Lake, still holding hands. Si is there, talking to another girl with green skin under a glamor. Could that be Dell? They too have that inner light, only much weaker than Aelric. Is that power? Neither of them has the aura Aelric has. Lena does a double take when she sees that Si is naked under the glamor, but we’re too close to talk about her. I wave and say, “Hi Si!” as we walk by.

“Hi George! You two have fun!”

Then it’s like something is pulling on me from the right. “Let’s go look at Browning.”, I tell Lena. We turn on to the path that goes there and I see an aura very similar to Aelric’s covering the entire amphitheater.

“What is this?”, Lena whispers.

“I have no idea. Let’s look around and see we can see anything.”

“OK.”

We walk around the place, but the aura is pretty uniform and there aren’t any manuals lying around, of course.

Lean says, “I don’t see anything.”

“Hold on. I think I need to stay a little longer.” I have no idea why, though.

I feel the shape of it settling in my memory. The ornaments at the four corners, the color of the pavement, the lights, the irregular stones of the seating, everything. Is there a point to those memories? Yes… if you know the place, you can… jump here.

“It’s a… a kind of beacon, or doorway, or a little bit of both. If you know this place, you can jump here from another reality. Pam’s hijackers must have something like this near their home base.”

“Right. So Aelric could jump, but those two girls couldn’t?”

“Probably.”

She takes a step back, still holding my hand. “And you? Not yet, maybe? There is something like that aura, but it’s incomplete.”

“It’s probably related to me being able to pass through the barrier.”

“Probably.”

“As they say, the plot is really thickening. I wonder what is going to happen with Cat. She was part of the name swapping, but she hasn’t passed the previous trigger point yet. Would she get anything?”

“Oh. Ouch.”

“I hope she does, there’s enough pressure as it is.”

“Maybe… Yes, I hope so too.”

“Maybe?”

She sticks out her tongue. “Maybe ask me tomorrow.”

We walk off towards the South Oval and the Ohio Union.