"Sensational" part three

You do know what a bad idea this is.

"I don't see why."

What does that matter? We've proven time and time again that my judgement is always better than yours.

Samson shakes his head for no reason. "I'm just curious. I've never been to a party before. It'll be fun."

It'll be stupid. This is the smallest, most isolated town we've ever seen. They'll notice you instantly. They'll see you.

"You're acting like I'm ugly." Actually, Sam muses, I look however I want to.

While that's not completely true, Sam's software does include a dermal reorganizer that allows him to restructure the texture, structure, and pigment of his organic surfaces. He can't change his height or weight, and his general appearance is always present, but a quick and effective disguise is a thought away.

And with Delilah's help, he's made a few subtle tweaks so that he wouldn't be out of place on a runway.

Yes, I appreciate the great lengths we've gone to to make you so gorgeous. Del's image in his vision rolls her glowing eyes. You do realize that's not an advantage?

"It sure is."

It sure isn't. You'll be noticed. We don't blend in with people here, we only came this far north because you got us spotted in Charleston.

Sam looks both ways down a two-lane highway, and crosses into the woods on the other side. The tiny village of Nahamston is only a mile away now, through the forest.

And you're just determined to get us caught, aren't you?

"You're cynical."

You're reckless. I was designed to inhibit you, remember? And I'm sure Stergo would be humiliated if he saw what a terrible job I'm doing.

Del falls silent, the kind of silent that only women can do, which is somehow painful and makes any man in the vicinity want to hide. Sam leaps over a small river and pauses to look around.

"I sort of like it here, anyway. It's like a vacation."

No it isn't. It's like a pointless excursion.

"Same thing."

Both man and machine sigh, in their own way, and Sam takes his time strolling through the woods on the way to Nahamston.

Rayen makes sure her mom can hear her sighing, and shuts the bathroom door behind her. Stripping off her sweatpants and t-shirt, pajamas of choice, and turning on the shower, Ray studies herself in the fogging mirror.

She's small, she decides. Not too small, but small. At just over five feet four inches, Ray, who never wears high heels and keeps her hair straight, seems like some kind of pixie. She's as tan as a Vermonter ever gets, which isn't very, with bright grayish-green eyes and dark brown hair.

She looks plain, to be perfectly fair, at least to herself. She's never really made much of an effort to look anything more than "acceptably clean and dressed".

Ray loves water, more than anything else in the world. It's such a healing element, it gives life to everything on Earth, and for some reason she doesn't understand, it heightens her powers of psychic awareness. Being immersed in clean water, she can reach out with her mind farther and longer than any other time, and now, in the hot shower, she reaches for the tingling buzz that kept her up all night.

Going Adrift isn't like anything else in life, and it doesn't lend itself well to description. Rayen closes her eyes and leaves herself completely, although retaining enough power over her body to keep it standing in the shower.

Aware of herself as a pinpoint, an invisible bit of Life drifting on the air, Ray sees the world as an expression of Aura rather than matter. Living things shine like glowing neon versions of themselves, the pulse of their hearts and minds and colors casting beautiful sparkling waves over the world.

And nonliving things, houses and rocks and cars and such, these only exist as empty blackness, so much so that they might as well not exists until she goes back into her body.

Rayen, knowing how irritable her mother is about the water bill, wastes no time in winging towards the source of the buzz, out among the woods, and what she find there is unlike anything she could ever have imagined.

It's a boy, at least it's mostly a boy. He's strong and vital, with a powerful green -blue glow, but something about him is plainly wrong. His entire glow is threaded with black, corrupting deadness, as though his blood and bones were stone.

Weirdly, as she watches, he seems to be talking to someone, though there's nobody around. She can't hear him, sound is a product of matter and air pressure, neither of which exists in Aura, but his mind is flickering in that way that means conversation, and outwardly, so he's not just talking to himself.

And how is he alive, with all that deadness inside him? Even cancer is alive, though a twisted and deadly kind of life. A mutation, but not the black and mysterious perversion that permeates this boy.

Somewhere far distant, she hears a knocking sound, and realizes she's been watching the boy pace around a clearing for more than twenty minutes. Damn.

With a mental snap, like a rubber band striking itself, she whiplashes into her body again. Her hands and feet are numb, and she's dizzy, the aftereffects of her body standing up with a greatly reduced heartbeat, but she stumbles out of the shower and opens the door a crack.

Her mother is standing there, radiating red, and Ray mumbles something about "...dozed off", and shuts the door. Her mom says loudly, "Get dressed so we can go," and walks away.

What in the world is coming towards her town?