It had been exactly one hour, sixteen minutes and thirty-four seconds when it hit me so hard that I yelled. It hit me again almost immediately so I kept on yelling, long after I realized I wasn't actually in any pain. I let go of the rope, but the harness held me up and I spun in circles, losing grip on reality. Space, but it was strong. Strong enough to yank my thoughts out of my head, if I'd had any worth holding onto in the first place.
Pete reached me in seconds, grabbing my arm to stop the spinning motion I'd started. Pete was old and grizzled and comfortable, like a well-worn pair of slippers. He was the one the rest of the crew always sent when I got “out of control.” They thought he did it because it was too much fuss to argue, but I think he does it because he actually likes me. I'm grateful for that, although I don't show it. There are precious few people who can stand to be in my company, let alone enjoy it.
“Easy, Conroy,” Pete said. “What is it? What's out there?”
“Shield,” I said, sparing in my words so that I could reach out and focus and listen and hopefully figure out what in the fifth dimension was going on.
“What kind of shield?” Pete asked calmly.
“Psychic shield,” I said. “Energy barrier.” I struggled for words to explain a concept so vague no language had been able to express it, and no one could understand even if it had. “If we'd tried to teleport in—zap.”
“So you were right about the danger,” Pete said.
I ignored him, focusing my energy on finding the source and isolating the cause and otherwise determining who or what had caused it and why because nothing, nothing was supposed to be this strong. “Supposed to” being the operative phrase, of course. Lots of things were supposed to be that weren't, and plenty of others that weren't were, and then it noticed me.
It noticed me.
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