Dean opened the trunk of the Impala, propped it open with a shotgun and pulled out his ammo supply. He checked every box carefully, making certain he had enough of everything: rock salt rounds, lead bullets, buckshot and iron. He lifted the cover off his tray of knives. None were missing. He had salt, holy water and consecrated oil. His father’s journal was in its usual place. When Dean hunted with his dad, he hadn’t needed to check supplies so closely; he’d always known exactly what was in the car. Now he checked because he and Jo had been sharing supplies lately. But he was all stocked up.
Dean added his duffel to the trunk and closed it.
“Ready to go?” Jo’s voice came from behind him.
For just a second, Dean was confused, then he remembered the skinwalker. “Sorry, Jo. Change of plan. I have to get to Colorado, fast.”
“Because of your brother?” Jo guessed. She shifted the weight of the bag on her shoulder.
Dean nodded. “Yeah. He’s…” (trying to get me killed) “He needs my help,” he amended.
“Well, I’ll come with you,” Jo offered at once, moving as if to open the trunk.
“What about the skinwalker?”
Jo hesitated. “I’ll ask mom to get someone else on it. We’ve done all the research already; the job’s a simple track and kill.”
That she would use the word simple showed she’d never hunted a skinwalker before. Dean looked at her. Jo was dressed for a hunt: her long hair tied back, a long-sleeved shirt that he knew concealed a knife or two, her sidearm in plain sight over black, loose-fitting jeans, practical boots. Dean could use the company and he already knew Sam’s hunt was likely to be more than he could handle alone. But that was why he shouldn’t take Jo into this mess.
But if he didn’t, would she go after the skinwalker alone? Which was more dangerous? Dean didn’t know.
“Jo, how do you feel about psychics?”
Jo cast her eyes down as she considered the question. “I don’t know, uh…sometimes they’re useful.”
“So you’ve worked with a psychic before?”
She nodded. “Twice. Bobby does, too.”
“You ever hunted one?”
Her eyes went a little wide. “No. Have you?”
“Yeah. With my dad.” It had taken John seventeen years to track down the pyro who killed his wife, Dean’s mom. He wasn’t the first rouge psychic John had put down, either. If it’s supernatural, we kill it. Words to live by.
“Could you do it, Jo?” Dean pressed.
This time Jo didn’t look down. She met his eyes, her gaze clear. “Truth? I don’t know. I’ve never killed a human before.”
Well, at least that was honest. Dean looked into her eyes and knew that if he told her to stay home, she would only follow him anyway. He opened the trunk for her. “If you come with me, you might not come back. Do you get that, Jo?”
“Goes with the job,” she said determinedly, lifting her bag into the trunk.
That was the steel in her he’d always admired. You couldn’t accuse Jo of lacking guts. “Got a long drive ahead of us,” he said gruffly. “Tell Ellen what you’ve gotta, and make it fast.”
Even with Dean pushing the Impala to her best speed, it was late afternoon by the time they reached the Psi Project compound. To Dean, it looked like a prison: the high perimeter fence was topped with barbed wire, the gateway boasted a heavy automated barrier and the guard hut before the entrance was manned by a flesh-and-blood guard, not run by a computer somewhere. Inside the perimeter fence, separated from it by a few metres of grass, was a tall hedge which hid everything within from sight. The Impala’s engine rumbled as he drew up outside the guard hut and rolled his window down.
“Dean Winchester,” he told the guard. “They should be expecting me.” He offered an ID that declared him to be five years older than he was and born in Miami. The ID was very sincere.
The guard took his ID from him and scanned the embedded ident. chip. “Who’s that?” he asked, squinting past Dean.
“My partner. JoBeth Harvelle.”
The guard frowned. “I’ve got your name, Mr Winchester, and your ID is cleared for entry, but I’ve got nothing about a partner. I’m sorry, but I can’t let you both pass.”
Damn. Dean kept his friendly smile in place. “My fault, I guess. I wasn’t told I needed to call ahead.”
“I can’t let you in without clearance, sir.”
Dean held out his hand for his ID. “Fine. Can you recommend a motel nearby? I understood this was urgent but if we can’t go in, we’ll wait.”
“Just a moment, sir, I’ll call it through. I’ll need your partner’s ID.”
Jo handed it over and they waited while the guard made the call.
“What if they won’t let us in?” she asked Dean.
“They will,” Dean answered confidently. “And if they don’t we’ll hole up for the night and head out tomorrow.”
“Without trying again?” Jo sounded surprised.
“If we don’t show up tonight, I won’t need to call. Sam’ll find me.” And if Sam didn’t…would Dean turn away from this, knowing Sam was probably in trouble?
The guard returned both of their IDs. “Doctor Grey is on his way to meet you. Follow the road to the left. You’ll need to leave your car at the monorail station.”
Not a chance! Dean thought, but he didn’t argue with the guard. “Thanks,” he answered, and and as the barrier ahead of them rose, he drove forward into the compound.
The last time Dean was at the Psi Project, his father had been driving. It was the day he was told his brother was dead.
The road led them through two further automated gates, then through a gap in the fir hedge which opened into a parking lot with many cars parked. Dean slid into a space beneath a tree. “Arm up, Jo,” he advised. “Salt and iron.”
“You’re going to leave the car?” She sounded shocked.
“Not if I have a choice, but let’s talk to Sam first.” Dean stripped off his jacket as he walked around to the trunk. He slid matching iron knives into his sleeves, clipping each into place. He pulled out a duffel and placed a shotgun, ammo and a tub of salt.
Beside him, Jo added salt to her backpack. “Is it a spirit we’re hunting here?”
Dean looked at her. “I hope not, but yeah. Sam told me he stopped it with salt.” He didn’t explain the I hope not. He didn’t want to frighten her. But he couldn’t help remembering the night he’d been forced to murder his own father. The spirit of a psychic made for a fucking dangerous ghost.
They headed into the monorail building. There were no more guards; at least not of the human variety. They walked through a doorway that Dean was sure carried passive sensors but it didn’t seem to react to their weapons. Once inside, a moving stairway carried them upward to the platform. Dean could hear the hum of the approaching train before they got to the top.
Jo took in a nervous breath.
Dean glanced at her.
She shrugged. “All this tech,” she explained.
Dean nodded, understanding. For Jo, this was like walking into a different world. The Roadhouse used no automation and very little of the latest tech. Dean, too, preferred to rely on older technologies: his car, a gun, a blade, things he understood.
The train, a single, silver carriage, drew into the platform just as Dean and Jo reached it. The doors swished open and Sam stepped out.
“Dean,” he said, relief evident in his voice. “Man, I’m glad to see you.”
Dean smiled. “Good to see you, too, Sammy. You had me worried.” He gestured to Jo. “This is Jo Harvelle. Jo…”
Sam offered his hand formally. “Sam Grey. Or…Winchester, once. Any friend of Dean’s.”
Jo smiled and shook his hand. “Thanks.”
“Sam, I need my car,” Dean interrupted quickly.
“I know. The monorail is the only way anyone gets into the main compound, but there is a road for emergency vehicles. Director Gilbert will have to authorise you bringing the car in and he won’t do that until he’s met you.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “Red tape or paranoia?”
“Mostly paranoia. What goes on inside the Project is secret for a reason.” He half-turned back toward the train. “Will you come with me now?”
Dean didn’t like leaving his car behind, but he followed Sam.
“In my expert opinion,” Dean announced to the room, “you’re in trouble.” His voice dripped with sarcasm.
Dean was pissed and he made no attempt to hide it. He was in a conference room with a bunch of suits. Suits who expected him to clean up their mess, but who wouldn’t bend their stupid rules and let him have his car. Having listened to everyone’s version of what had been happening, Dean wanted to tell Sam they were leaving right-the-hell-now…but he knew Sam wouldn’t listen to him.
“If that’s the best you can do – ” Wesley Bishop began.
Dean interrupted him smoothly. “Now, I’m gonna tell you what to do about it.” He spoke directly to Bishop. “You probably ain’t gonna like it and I don’t give a fuck. You’ll do as I say, or more people will die.” He looked around the room. Jo was stifling a grin. Sam was watching Director Gilbert who, in his turn, met Dean’s eyes cooly.
“What do you recommend?” Gilbert asked.
“First,” Dean announced, addressing Gilbert this time, “we have to protect the children. That means we need a room big enough for all of them to sleep in. That will be our bunker.”
Silence greeted Dean’s announcement. He could see several people getting ready to object.
But it was Sam who spoke first. “I don’t think there’s any one room big enough, Dean. The largest would probably be the main dining hall but even if we remove all the tables there wouldn’t be room for more than…I don’t know Maybe a hundred. There’s twice that number of children here.”
“What if we leave the tables?” Jo suggested.
“What do you mean?”
“Leave the tables,” she repeated. “If we remove all the chairs, then some children can sleep on the tables, others underneath on the floor.”
Dean nodded. “It’s not a bad plan,” he agreed. To Sam he added, “We’ve got to do it, Sam, even if it means no one gets any sleep. One room we can protect.”
“For how long?” Director Gilbert asked.
“I don’t know,” Dean answered honestly. “We’ll need Tamara or another medium to help us. With luck we can take care of this before tomorrow night but that’s gonna take a lot of luck. This is a mess.” He looked at Director Gilbert with contempt. “Relax, I don’t bill by the hour.”
“Dean,” Sam began, “I don’t think Tamara…”
“No choice, Sammy. The spirit could be any of the kids in the cemetery. We can’t salt-and-burn them all. We’ve got to identify the spirits causing the trouble.”
Sam stared at him belligerently for a moment, making Dean wonder what his brother wanted to say. He waited, but in the end Sam just nodded. “Alright. I’ll ask her.” He turned to Director Gilbert. “But there’s one more person I need to talk to. Jennifer Tager.”
Before the director could answer, Bishop interrupted. “She’s in isolation.”
“I’m aware of it.” Sam kept his eyes on Gilbert. “You promised me full access. It’s important if we’re going to fix this, Andy.”
Bishop spoke again, harshly. “She’s in isolation. You can’t – ”
Gilbert cut him off. “Why Jennifer Tager? Her power isn’t anything that can help you here.”
Dean was wondering the same thing. Sam hadn’t mentioned this girl’s name to him.
“It’s not about her power. Her name came up as a connection. I need to talk with her, and, since she’s in isolation, I need to get her to trust me first. That means getting her out. I know it can only be temporary, but I need to know what she knows.”
Director Gilbert nodded. “I’ll arrange it.”
“No!” Bishop blurted.
Gilbert looked at him sharply. “This doesn’t change Jennifer’s situation, Wes, but Sam is here at our request. We will cooperate.”
Sam visibly relaxed. Dean couldn’t help noticing and wondered why on earth Sam wouldn’t have mentioned this to him if it were so important. They were going to have a talk about this. Later. In private. He met Sam’s eyes briefly, letting him know. Sam gave a small nod.
Dean turned to Jo. “We need to get the rest of our gear from my car. Can someone show me how to operate the monorail?”
“I’ll show you,” Sam offered. “It’s all automated.”
You people rely too much on tech. “Good,” Dean said. “Let’s get started.”
Between them, Dean and Jo nearly emptied the Impala’s trunk. They left some of the more exotic items, but took all of the guns, everything iron – knives, bullets, some other things – and salt. Lots of salt. What would not fit into their bags they stacked on the monorail platform before summoning the train. It was controlled by computer and automatically returned to the compound when empty: more evidence of the Project’s paranoia, Dean decided.
“Dean,” Jo said, while they waited for the train to return,” what is Sam scared of?”
Dean sat down on one of the benches. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“Not to me.”
“We know we’re hunting a spirit. The ghost of a psychic is usually more powerful and more dangerous than a regular spririt. And Sam hinted that there’s more than one at work here. What if it’s not three or four? What if it’s all of them?”
Jo blanched. “Is that possible?”
“They’ve got a graveyard full of murdered children. Yeah, I’d say it’s possible.”
“Holy shit.” Jo shook her head as the full meaning became clear to her. “You know we should pass on this.”
Dean stood as the train rolled into the station. “Jo, if you want to bail, I’ll drive you to the airport. I won’t think any worse of you for it. But I already took the job.” He’d known what he was getting into. Jo hadn’t. She was entitled to the out.
The train doors whooshed open and Dean picked up two of the bags. He looked at Jo. “Are you in?” he asked seriously.
Jo swallowed. “If you’re staying, so am I.” She picked up the largest tub of salt and hefted it into the train.
It took them a while to get everything on board. Dean and Jo worked in silence. Dean knew Jo wouldn’t back out. He admired her guts, but he didn’t want to be the one who got her killed. He would do it, though. He would take Jo into a hunt he knew was deadly dangerous because Sam asked him for help and Sam was all the family Dean had left.
He headed into the front of the train to start it on the journey back. Though the monorail didn’t need an actual driver, the front section, separated from the main carriage by a flimsy door, was set up like a cockpit, with a seat for the “driver”, a control dashboard and a clear window giving a full view of the way ahead. Dean gazed out along the rail: the monorail curved gently over the compound. The perimeter hedge was at least twelve feet high but the monorail was much higher. Dean estimated the rail was about thirty feet above the ground. It was supported by regular-spaced towers. Dean could see the power lines hanging in great curves beneath the rail.
As the train began to move, Dean headed back to Jo. She stood at the window where she could look down at the compound as they crossed the land. It was getting dark out there, so there wasn’t much to see: dark shapes of hedges and trees and the lights along the pathways, each illuminating a small patch of green. Dean moved up to her side. Suddenly, he wanted to hold her, but he resisted the impulse. They stood side by side, not quite touching. They were over the cemetery now, the grave markers mere shadows in the darkness.
“I never thought,” Jo said quietly, “about what they do here. All those graves…” The lights of the train flickered and Jo gasped.
The train jerked to a halt, throwing Dean into Jo’s body. Jo grabbed for the nearest seat, steadying them both. She fell to her knees. Dean, with nothing solid to hold except her, fell more awkwardly. He rolled away from Jo, grabbing for the nearest shotgun. As his hand touched it, the train shuddered again, and began to move.
Dean felt relief wash over him, but an instant later he knew the movement he felt was wrong. “Jo!” he yelled the warning, though there was no need to shout. “Hold on tight!”
The sound came, then, the unmistakable groan of warping metal. The train was moving alright. It was going forward and down, and picking up speed.
Jennifer Tager was sixteen years old. Through the one-way glass of her room in the isolation wing, Sam saw a girl with long, blonde hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. Her hair had a natural curl that reminded Sam strongly of his wife, Jess. She wore simple clothing: blue jeans with a loose-fitting, long-sleeved pink top. Her feet were bare. Jennifer was curled up on the bed, engrossed in a book. That she was oblivious to Sam’s presence confirmed for him that she wasn’t a telepath or empath. According to her file, Jennifer was a healer, but why would a healer be in isolation, one interview away from the deathlist? She must have some secondary power that was dangerous.
Sam knocked on her door.
Jennifer’s head jerked up. “Who’s there?” she demanded.
“My name is Sam Grey. May I come in?”
“Only if you’ve got the key.”
There was no “key”: Sam unlocked the door by punching a security code into the keypad above the lock.
Jennifer sat up as he entered. “Who are you?”
Sam repeated his name. “I’m a dreamwalker,” he added. The Psi Project tradition of defining himself by his psychic ability was becoming a habit again. “Is it okay if I sit down?” he asked gently.
There was no chair; Sam sat down on the end of the bed. “I’m here to take you out of isolation, Jennifer,” he explained. “It’s only temporary,” he went on quickly, not wanting to give her false hope, “but I’ve promised your friends I’ll try to help you.”
“Why would you help me?” she asked, her eyes narrow with obvious suspicion.
“Because I need their help. Tamara and Colin. They both say you shouldn’t be here. Is that true?”
Jennifer shrugged, a gesture that could have meant anything. She gave no verbal reply.
“You don’t trust me,” Sam answered for her. “That’s okay, I understand. We’ll talk later, after you’ve seen the others.” He stood. He remembered his own year in isolation and supressed a shudder. “Come on. I’ll take you to your friends.”
Jennifer set her book aside and Sam saw the title: it was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Jennifer reached under the bed for her shoes – flimsy rubber sandals – slipped them onto her feet and followed Sam from the room.
“Frankenstein?” he asked as they walked.
“I like it,” she answered, almost shyly. “The idea that he could actually create life. It’s scary.”
“Most people in the pit don’t like scary,” Sam commented. “I never did.”
She stopped walking. “You?” Then, as Sam turned to face her, comprehension filled her eyes. “Oh! You’re the dreamwalker.”
“Yes, I am.”
And now Sam saw the hope in her he hadn’t wanted to see. “When you said you would help…?” she began eagerly.
“I said I would try. But you’ll need to be honest with me, Jennifer. Completely honest.”
“Then we’ll talk later.” Sam reached the exit door and punched in the code. After a short delay the door clicked open. Sam heard Jennifer’s breath catch in her throat. He understood what she was feeling; she’d probably never expected to leave the pit. Sam wanted to take her hand, to reassure her, but he didn’t do it.
Colin was waiting outside the door. For a moment he stared at Jennifer. Then Sam stepped aside and the two teenagers moved toward each other. They each hugged the other tightly, not caring that Sam and the two security guards were watching them. When they started kissing Sam cleared his throat pointedly.
Colin broke away and shot a glance at Sam. «Spoilsport,» he sent.
Sam smiled. “We have to meet the others, Colin.”
Colin drew back from Jennifer but kept her hand in his. “Tammy said she’ll help, but I don’t think she should.”
“If I think she’s in danger, I’ll put a stop to it,” Sam assured him. “But I trust Dean, and he says we need her ability.” He opened the far door for them to leave the isolation wing.
After finding Tamara, they all took the elevator to the roof. The monorail station took up about half of the roof space: a covered platform with a line of benches. The whole of the roof was paved with a wrought-iron railing around the roof-edge, making a place for people to walk. Colin and Jennifer walked over to the railing. Sam, understanding their need for privacy, gave them what little he could. He and Tamara sat down on one of the benches to wait for Dean and Jo.
“What does Dean want me to do?” Tamara asked him. She was physically recovered from the previous night but her voice trembled a little as she spoke. She was frightened, and Sam couldn’t blame her.
But her fear only provoked Sam. He was angry with the Project for teaching Tamara to live in fear. Angry with the spirit for tormenting her. Furious with himself because he couldn’t get to the bottom of this alone.
“I don’t know, exactly,” he told her, struggling to keep the anger from his voice. “Dean wants you to help identify the spirit so he can make all of this stop.”
“But I can’t!” she protested.
Sam took her hand. “Tamara, no one will force you to do anything. Dean and Jo are good hunters. Just listen to what they want. If it’s too much, you don’t have to do it.”
“You don’t understand. It’s not – ” She broke off.
They both heard it: the groan of steel under great pressure. Sam felt the roof beneath them shaking. He ran to the edge of the roof, searching the darkness with his eyes.
“Oh, my god. No!”
The monorail train was more than halfway along its route, but it had stopped. The support just ahead of the train, the one closest to the cemetery perimeter, was collapsing. Or shrinking. But that was impossible…wasn’t it? Sam saw a glow at the base of the support, but couldn’t tell what it was. The rail itself was bending under the weight of the train and being dragged down by the falling tower. The movement was terrifyingly slow, but there was no doubt: the train was about to fall.
“It’s them!” Tamara cried.
Her voice broke through Sam’s frozen terror. “Come on!” he shouted, and ran for the elevator. He had no idea what he could do, but he knew, with the absolute certainty of a psychic, that they had to reach the field below before the train fell.
“Jo?” Dean groaned as his senses returned to him. His head hurt like a son of a bitch. He was lying on something hard and solid. There was a weight across his thighs: something heavy enough to prevent him getting up. Dean tried to reach downward to feel whatever it was and pain shot through his side. His head filled with clouds and he let his hand fall. The surface below him was cold against his clenched fist. “Jo?” he called again, louder.
“Dean?” Jo’s voice came from above him. It sounded like a long way above him. “Dean, don’t move. You’re on the windshield and I don’t know how strong it is.”
On the windshield? Dean stretched out his hand, palm down. Sure enough, the surface beneath him was glass. But he was on his back, and it sure felt like down so that meant…oh, holy shit it meant the train was at ninety degrees. It meant they were dangling from the monorail like the bus in The Italian Job. It meant the train might fall at any second.
“Dean?” Jo called again.
Dean frowned into the darkness above him. He couldn’t see a damn thing. “I’m here. I’m okay,” he called back.
“I’ve got a rope in my pack. Lie still, Dean. I’m coming to you.”
That didn’t sound right. Damn it, he needed to see what was happening! “Jo? Do you have a flashlight?”
“I tried. It’s not working.”
Damn. “I ain’t scared of the dark.” It sounded weak, even to him. The glass was warming under his hand.
“Are you okay?” Jo asked.
“Super.” Dean tasted blood in his mouth.
Dean could hear her working above him. If she fell…if anything fell, what would happen? Would this glass break? Of course it would. Dean turned his head, trying to look down, but he could not tell how far above the ground they were. It felt like a long way, but that could be his own fear fuelling imagination. He couldn’t see.
Above, he heard Jo moving around. She would have to tie her rope to something secure and find a way to pay it out so she could climb down safely. If anything could be safe like this.
There was a seat in the cockpit, Dean remembered. It was one of those swivel-seat chairs fixed to the floor. If he was on the windshield, it must be somewhere above him. He reached out to his sides, feeling around, trying to orient himself. He found what he thought was the control board. Okay…that meant the seat was right above his face. That might explain why he couldn’t see much.
Dean tried to raise a hand, feeling blindly into the dark in front of his face. The movement sent agony through his arm and he cried out involuntarily.
“I’m okay,” he said hoarsely. “My arm’s broken, I think.” But that didn’t seem right. It hadn’t hurt badly until he tried to move.
“I’m coming down. Stay where you are, Dean.”
Dean had little choice but to do as she said. He listened to her moving, slowly and carefully, using the seats almost like a ladder. He slid his hand across the control board. There was pain, but it didn’t seem to hurt as much if he moved slowly. He wanted to find the edge of the board, so he could get himself off this glass.
Then he heard Jo scream. There was a crash from above him.
Dean had time to shout, “Jo!”
Something hit the glass beside him. For the space between heartbeats, Dean thought it was alright. Then the glass shattered.
Sam saw him fall, just a dark shape against the sky. He flung up a hand, reaching out desperately with his power, but Sam’s telekinetic ability had always been erratic and random. He had to watch Dean fall, helpless to save him or even soften the impact. Dean hit the ground in a rain of broken glass, just as Sam reached him.
“I need a light!” Sam called desperately to the teenagers accompanying him. “And someone call 911!” He knew, even as he said it, that it was too late.
Dean lay on his side, his body in an awkward position. He wasn’t moving. Sam pulled the collar of Dean’s shirt away from his neck, seeking a pulse. After a moment, he felt the beat beneath his fingertips. Sam bent closer. “Dean, can you hear me?” He didn’t even consider his own danger, the monorail train directly above them, ready to fall.
“Is he alive?” Jennifer asked urgently. She knelt on the grass on Dean’s other side and laid her hands on his shoulders, pushing Sam’s hands out of the way as she slid her hands slowly upward along his neck to his jaw.
Sam let her push him away, but he didn’t like it.
“He’s breathing,” Sam answered. He didn’t know what to do. Sam was a doctor, but he’d only done the minimum required on trauma; he was a psychiatrist, not a medical doctor. All he remembered from his training told him this was hopeless. No one could survive a fall from such a height…but Sam could not accept that.
“His neck isn’t broken,” Jennifer announced, “but it’s the only thing that isn’t. Help me get him onto his back.” She held Dean’s neck steady.
Sam helped Jennifer to move Dean, although he knew it was dangerous. Dean made no sound, and the movement should have hurt him. Sam’s rising panic made it hard to think. Oh, god, Dean, don’t die. Please don’t die.
Jennifer looked up to the others. “Tammy, run back to the centre. Bring Paolo and Kim. Alice, too, if she’ll come.” She rapped out the orders as if she’d done this many times before.
“Right!” Tamara sped off.
Jennifer pushed Sam out of the way and cupped Dean’s face between her hands.
“Stop!” Sam protested. She seemed to know what she was doing, but Jennifer could hurt Dean. There was a chance – a very slim chance – that he would survive this, but Jennifer might injure him even as she tried to help.
“He’ll die,” Jennifer snapped. “I can help, but you’ve got to do what I say.”
“She’s a healer,” Colin reminded him. He knelt on the grass beside Sam.
Sam had forgotten. Hope surged in his heart for a moment. But he knew this was beyond psychic healing. Perhaps Jennifer could take away Dean’s pain; he doubted she could do more. Still, that in itself was worth something.
“What do you need?” Sam asked, giving her his trust.
Instead of answering Sam, Jennifer spoke to Colin. “Col, I need you to bridge us.”
“You and Sam? Or all three of you?”
Sam didn’t know what she meant, but he bit back his questions. There wasn’t time.
“Sam, I want you to protect his mind. Take him into Dream and push him as deep as you can. Enough that he won’t notice the pain. Can you do that?”
She sounded as if she understood Sam’s power, but what she was asking held a lot of risks. Sam could push a mind deep into unconsciousness, so deep that the person couldn’t wake up without help. But it was possible to go too far: to create a permanent coma. It wasn’t brain-death, not exactly, but the effect was the same.
“I can’t do that without dreaming myself,” Sam objected.
“Relax,” Jennifer insisted. “Colin will get you there.”
Sam took a deep breath and let it out. He reached for Dean’s hand; the physical touch wasn’t necessary but thishad to work. Every little would help. As Sam relaxed his body he felt Colin’s touch on his mind. Reacting instinctively, Sam shoved the psychic invasion away.
«Stop shielding!» Colin sent imperatively.
Sam obeyed and instantly his mind was enfolded by Colin’s. It was like floating in warm water, a psychic embrace. It was easy to relax into it, to let Colin coax him toward a dream-state. When it felt right, Sam reached out toward Dean’s mind.
The moment he felt Dean with him, Sam understood why he’d been reluctant to do this. He had been afraid the connection wouldn’t happen, that Dean’s mind was already gone. In spite of his medical training, breath and heartbeat were not life to Sam. This was: the touch of mind to mind. Dean was alive!
Sam didn’t create a dream for them to share. Instead he did what Jennifer had asked. He created a kind of psychic blanket to protect Dean’s mind and then pushed him deep into unconsciousness, into a place where there was no dream, no thought…and no pain. It was so deep Sam could barely follow, but he retained a kind of mental tether, a thin thread that would let him pull Dean out, when they were ready.
This was the absolute limit of Sam’s power. If it wasn’t Dean, he wouldn’t have done this unless he was trying to make the man a vegetable. But he always had a special connection with Dean. Blood calls to blood. He could keep Dean safely in this state and he could bring him back.
Sam should have felt alone in his dream-state, but then he sensed another mind with him. Or…not quite with him. He heard Jennifer’s mental voice like an echo through a long tunnel. Of course! It was Colin. Somehow, he had tied them together, using his own telepathy as the link.
«Sam. Is he under?» Jennifer’s words came through to him clearly.
«Finally! Hold him there.» There was a pause and then Jennifer went on, no longer directing her thoughts to Sam, but still allowing him to hear. «He’s losing blood fast…there’s a tear in his lung…broken ribs…damn, his chest is like soup…okay, one thing at a time…»
«Don’t interrupt her,» Colin sent, just as Sam had been about to do exactly that. «It’s okay. She can do this.»
Sam felt out of his depth. In just a few minutes these two teenagers had demonstrated psychic abilities Sam had never imagined possible. Jennifer’s file said she was a healer but this was more than healing. What was she?
«…That’s it…I’ve sealed the lung…his heart is okay, but…oh, this is a mess…I can’t…»
«Jenn, if it’s too much…»
«No, I can do it…there’s another bleed somewhere…I can’t find it…oh!»
What the hell are you doing to my brother? Sam wanted to ask. His involuntary thought must have been known to Colin, but the boy didn’t relay it to Jennifer.
«Found it!» Jennifer announced. «I need to check his spine, make sure it’s safe to move him…Colin, I need a knife…something sharp.»
That was too much. «Why do you need to cut him?» Sam demanded through the psychic link.
«He was bleeding internally,» Jenn returned distractedly. «I’ve stopped the bleeding but all that blood is filling his chest cavity, stopping his lung from re-inflating properly. It has to go somewhere.» Her psychic voice fell silent, then she added, «I’m just going to cut in to drain some of the blood off. It’ll look a mess, but it’s going to save his life, Sam. You need to trust me.»
«Finish up, Jenn,» Colin warned urgently. «Someone’s coming.»
«If I stop now the broken ribs are going to rip through his lungs again…I need time to bring the bones and cartilege together…that’s it…just one more… Sam, do you hear me?»
«I hear you.»
«You can start to bring him up now. Get him into a normal dream-state if you can.»
«I think he’ll live, but there’s going to be a lot of pain.»
Dean had sunk even deeper while Jennifer worked on him. Sam reached along the tether for Dean and, at first, he found nothing there. He tried again, and found it, faint and sinking further. He cast out toward that faint sense of Dean and began, slowly, to draw his mind back toward consciousness. It seemed to take far too long but finally Sam felt Dean’s mind…open.
Immediately Sam created a dream around them, something he hoped Dean would find comfortable and familiar. It was a green field with a wooden gate and Dean’s car beside them, polished and shining in the moonlight. Jennifer and Colin stood on the other side of the gate. Sam hadn’t brought them into the dream; Colin had done that.
Jennifer smiled. “I’ve never worked with a dreamwalker before. You made it much easier, Sam.”
“Thank you,” he answered, and knew she would understand he wasn’t thanking her for the compliment, but for what she’d done.
“What the hell?” Dean demanded. He stood beside Sam, uninjured in the dream. He looked angry.
“You were hurt…” Sam started to explain.
“There’s not much time,” Jennifer interrupted. She looked at Dean. “This is a dream.”
Dean’s look was impatient. “Thanks for the memo, sweetheart. I figured that out for myself.”
“Fine then. You fell from the monorail. You were badly hurt. You’ll be okay, but we need to get you to the infirmary. When you wake up, you’re going to be in pain. All your instincts will tell you to fight what we need to do, but you mustn’t. Remember we’re helping you and don’t fight it. Do you understand?”
“No,” Dean answered, with a half-twisted smile, “but I can take orders. Don’t fight. I’ve got it.” His smile vanished, “Now, who the hell are you and what’s going on?”
“I’m Jenn,” she answered, ignoring his second question. “Sam, Colin will dissolve the bridge now. Once we’re gone, you can wake Dean.”
The journey back to the Psi Project Centre was the strangest thing Dean had experienced in a life full of weirdness.
When he woke, all he could think about was the pain. It was like this huge wave, overwhelming him. He tried to move, to find a more comfortable position, and of course that made it worse. He cried out involuntarily, fighting his body’s urge to writhe.
Sam’s face loomed out of the shadows. “Dean, you’re alright. Can you hear me? You’re going to be alright.”
He didn’t feel alright! But Sam’s voice helped to calm him, and Dean remembered the girl’s admonition in the dream: Don’t fight. He tried to obey, concentrating on his breathing. God, that hurt!
The girl from the dream appeared then. “Dean, we’re going to carry you to the Centre infirmary.” She spoke to two people Dean couldn’t see, then, to Dean: “This will feel very strange, but as long as you don’t fight it, it won’t hurt any more than lying still. It’s the safest way.”
“Okay,” Dean answered, his voice barely above a whisper.
Strange didn’t begin to cover it. Dean’s whole body felt hot and suddenly he couldn’t have moved if he wanted to. It was as if his muscles simply froze. He couldn’t even move his face, though, somehow, breathing wasn’t a problem. A moment later, his body rose from the ground.
There was a lot of light. Dean couldn’t tell where it was coming from. It had been night, or at least twilight when the monorail went haywire. Surely he hadn’t been unconscious all night?
“Jennifer, are you sure…?” Sam asked.
A male voice answered, “Dude, chill. This is easy.”
Dean would have smiled if he could. Maybe Sam had reason to worry but as weird as this was, it seemed to be working. Floating on air, Dean saw a line of white below him. Was that salt? Did someone lay down a salt circle?
Wait, where was Jo? He hadn’t seen her anywhere. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? Dean tried to ask, but whatever was keeping his body frozen preventing him from speaking, too.
He remembered Jo was on the monorail with him. She’d been trying to climb down, when…Jo had screamed. But Jo never screamed. Oh, god, did she fall, too? But if Jo had fallen, why wasn’t anyone helping her? She had to be hurt as badly as he was…or she might be dead.
When he finally allowed himself to face that thought, the dark pit opening up inside took Dean completely off-guard. He thought about leaving this place alone, going on to the next hunt without her…and he couldn’t do it. Jo had become such a huge part of his life since he lost his father, picturing a future without her was impossible. He’d convinced himself they were just friends, sometimes hunting partners, sometimes fuck-buddies. When had she come to mean so much to him? And why did he only see it when it was too late?
A moment later Dean saw what was left of the monorail tower and the sight drove even his grief from his mind. The monorail towers were made of metal riveted into a lattice structure, wider at the bottom than at the top, like a hydro tower. Dean hadn’t considered how a structure like that could have collapsed, as it must have for the train to have fallen, but he would have expected part of the structure to be broken, or warped. But that wasn’t what he saw.
The base of the monorail tower looked as if it had melted - literally liquefied. Shit, no wonder the monorail collapsed. But those towers had to be reinforced steel; what kind of heat would it take to melt it like that? Dean thought he’d probably known the melting point of steel once, but he couldn’t remember. He thought it was probably well over a thousand degrees. Anything that could create that kind of heat would have started a major fire. It made no sense that only the base of the tower had been exposed.
They formed a circle around him as Dean floated, held by the powers of two psychics, across the grass. It was an uneventful, if strange, trip, though after they crossed that salt line Dean was braced for some kind of attack. He wouldn’t be much help to them if there was trouble.
That was when it hit him: maybe he never would. How badly was he injured? He hurt everywhere. He tasted blood in his mouth, and felt the sticky-warmth of blood soaking through his shirt. It was bad. Oh, God, it was bad.
Where was Jo?