Professor Merriman. Eliza. Please, come in."
Counselor Strømberg stood at the doorway of his office and swept a welcoming hand into the room. He was a tall, well-built man with pastel blue eyes and shoulder-length fair hair. He nodded at Eliza as she went past, noted her look of concern, but said nothing. He shook hands with Harlan and guided him toward one of the two aumatic chairs positioned in front of the helegas screen on the far wall. A gradient of soft pink colors was playing across it. In the corner nearest to Eliza, a tall frondulus, with bell-shaped flowers of variegated colors, was suspended from the ceiling. Eliza ran a knuckle down the twisting stem of the plant and smiled when the flowers opened a little. She came and sat down beside Harlan.
Strømberg positioned himself behind a kidney-shaped desk and placed his hand on the v:com terminal. "Lara, could you bring David in for me, please?"
A moment later another door opened. A petite young nurse in a pale yellow uniform walked in with a boy of some twelve years. Strands of his nut-brown hair were almost digging into his dark blue eyes. "Mom," he said, going straight to Eliza. She swept one half of her stunning red hair behind her ear so they could touch cheeks in the standard Co:pern:ican fashion.
"You look great," Harlan said, patting the boy's arm. "Have you been OK here?"
Dad, all I've done is sleep, David "said," extending his thoughts to everyone present.
They all laughed and Strømberg said, "Thank you, Lara."
The nurse waved to David and left the room.
Eliza gently tugged her son's sleeve. He was still wearing the blue gown and pants of the auma center. They suited him rather well. "I've told you before, when you're in society it's polite to speak, not commingle."
"Ah, that's my doing," Strømberg said, coming to the boy's aid right away. "I've been encouraging David these past three days to use his mind to commingle or imagineer as much as he likes. It helps us to measure the full extent of his fain."
No worries on that score, Harlan Merriman thought. His son's ability to materialize objects just by thinking about them was unparalleled, in his experience. "So, how's the therapy progressing? Did you discover anything - about the dreams?"
I don't remember any dreams, David commingled. Strømberg came in quickly again. "David is fit and well. A very intelligent and interesting young man. He's flown through every test we've thrown at him and kept us all amused with his abilities. We'll be sorry to see him leave. As you know, he's been filmed in our sleep laboratory and we have recorded evidence of the disturbances you observed at home."
Have you? David commingled. Sorry, I mean,"Have you?"
"Yes," said Strømberg. "And that would support the theory that you're . . . imagineering in your sleep, though why you don't remember it is still a mystery. For that reason, David, I want to continue your therapy so that we can get this resolved properly. It won't be here though. I need to move you to another facility."
"Oh," said Eliza, who'd assumed he was coming home with them that night. The sensors embedded within her chair immediately registered a change in the auma envelope surrounding its occupant. Strømberg, looking at the readings on a monitor only he could see, moved a dial on his com:puter. Accordingly, Eliza's shoulders lifted and her pretty facial muscles relaxed.
Will it be more sleep? David commingled.
"No," said Strømberg, swinging in his chair. "This will be an altogether different adventure."
Harlan sat forward to ask more about it but Strømberg was quick to speak again. A little too quick, Harlan thought. Had he been deliberately cut off?
What Strømberg said was this: "There are the usual tedious formalities, which will be of no interest to you, David. Why don't you go and challenge Lara to another game of Flyng while we sort this out? She'll be eager to get her revenge, I'm sure. You can see Mom and Dad again before they leave."
"OK," David said. He smiled at his parents and scooted from the room.
Eliza's gaze trailed after him. Before anyone else could speak she said, "Listen, do you need me for this?" She waved a hand at Strømberg's desk. "If David's staying in therapy for now, I'd prefer to spend some time with him rather than with filing answers into a com:puter. Is that all right, Harlan?"
"Yes," he said, getting a nod from the counselor.
"Have as much time as you like," said Strømberg, gesturing toward the door that David had gone through
"Thank you," she said. She pressed Harlan's shoulder and left.
"So," Harlan said, as the door closed behind her, "what do I have to do?"
"I want you to watch something," Strømberg said. A note of seriousness had suddenly crept into his voice. He moved his hand across the com:puter's neural interface. An image of David, asleep in a single bed, appeared upon the helegas screen. A prompt flashed once and read pause. "I'm rather pleased Eliza isn't with us. I don't think she would have coped with this very easily."
Harlan narrowed his gaze. "What exactly have you filmed, Counselor?"
"Something extraordinary," Strømberg replied. And he switched the com:puter to play.