After texting furiously, Mathis convinced a friend nearby to join us in the park. It didn’t take long for them to arrive and the two laughed over a silly handshake before sitting.

“I’m the Focus,” he said covertly. “Are you the impossibility?” He grinned and winked.

“Guess so,” Andromeda said coolly.

Mathis said, “This is Jin Chun. We’ve been in the same classes since high school. I appreciate you coming on short notice, Jin.”

“Hey, no sweat. My Battery’s been sick for a week and my Channel is out of town visiting family so I’m itching to do some magic.”

“What’s your field?” I asked curiously.

“Sound. We get called in during announcements around campus a lot,” he laughed. “So! What are we doing?” He rubbed his hands together eagerly.

Mathis and Andromeda looked at me for guidance and I shrugged. “Probably some place a little more private, to start. Then I guess… magic.”

“Sounds good!”

We headed for the trees and followed an unpaved path until the growth was thick enough that I figured we wouldn’t be bothered any time soon. Jin helped Mathis over a fallen log and gave him some balance through the uneven ground that his mech-legs couldn’t easy compensate for. He gave me a thumbs up when he saw my concern, so I didn’t say anything.

“Should we hold hands or what?” Andromeda asked.

Jin nodded. “It’s easier the first few times to have physical contact. Eventually you’ll get the hang of it and can function in close proximity. A few bonds can work miles away, but that’s more rare and usually has some kind of transport component.” He shrugged.

Andromeda, Mathis, and I took hands. I felt Andromeda’s buzz in my left while Mathis’ cool breeze echoed through my right. Jin stood a few feet back between Andromeda and me in case he needed to step in to assist.

Jin tossed a deck of cards into the middle of our circle. “Try to do something with that. Mathis, why don’t you bring the power up but don’t give it any final push, yeah? Hold it and see if one of them takes over for Focus on instinct or something.” Jin shrugged carelessly but his expression was serious. He brushed a fallen lock of dark hair off his forehead.

“Ready?” Mathis asked. He was practically bouncing with excitement.

Andromeda and I nodded.

A bubble formed in my chest like a hiccup gone sideways. My back muscles tensed and released in quick succession and I felt like shocks of lightning were flashing behind my eyes where I could almost, but not quite, see them. I looked at Andromeda to see her eyes closed; a look of concentration furrowed her brow and she seemed to be speaking to herself silently. I looked at the cards and saw spiderweb-thin lines reaching out in a thousand directions. I imagined plucking one.

The cards disappeared.

Mathis let out a whoop of enthusiasm that Jin echoed only a second behind. The power faded and my body was my own again without any abnormal flashing or tension or buzzing.

“Who did it?” Jin asked excitedly.

I looked at Andromeda and she shrugged. “I was just concentrating on not exploding while my muscles twitched and stuff.”

“That goes away eventually,” Jin said with a dismissive wave. They looked at me.

“I saw some lines?” I said uncertainly. “I guess I moved the cards, but I don’t know where they went.”

“No worries. I guess you’re a Focus after all,” Jin told me.

Mathis gave me a double thumbs up this time and I smiled ruefully, confusion and excitement fighting for dominance.

I wasn’t certain. “So, I’m just a prodigy with language, I guess? I didn’t think Foci could do what Channels could with that.”

“Maybe,” Mathis answered. “Stranger things have happened.”

Jin put out a hand. “Welcome to the club!”

I took it and again saw that strange blue light. Why was it showing up everywhere now? On a whim, I focused my attention on it and just as before it grew and changed into a burst of energy. Jin’s grip tightened and I heard someone yell. When the light faded, Jin was still holding my hand in a vicelike grip. He was staring at me with something like fear in his expression. His touch felt like a crunch of autumn leaves and I had the sense of two other feelings far away but couldn’t put a finger on them.

He dropped my grip. No one spoke.

“What did you do?” Jin finally asked.

“I’m… not sure,” I admitted.

“Did you… did you just bond with Jin?” Mathis asked. “He already has a trio. That’s impossible.”

“How did you do that?” Jin demanded.

I could tell he wasn’t angry, but fear was close enough. I looked at Andromeda. Her arms were crossed and she looked as tense as I felt.

“I…” I closed my eyes and took a breath. “When I touch people, I see this kind of blue light. It only started today.”

“When?” Mathis asked.

“When I shook Dr. Bjork’s hand and then yours. And now Jin’s.”

“And what does it do?”

“It just moves around on our hands and when I focused on it, like with you, it turned into the bond-flash.”

“You wanted this to happen?” Jin asked.

“No, I mean, I didn’t know it would,” I explained.

Mathis put out a hand. “What about now?”

I hesitated, but took his grip. “Yeah, it’s there.”

“And with Andromeda?”

I slowly offered her my hand and she reluctantly took it. “Same.”

“And Jin,” Mathis instructed.

He gave me a long stare before putting out a hand for a lose grip. “Still there.”

Before we let go, Mathis said, “Hang on – what happens if you concentrate on it now?”

“Are you serious?” Jin asked incredulously. He reclaimed his hand. “You can’t just go trying that without any kind of information. This is unheard of! What if I lose one of my established bonds?”

“Have you?” I asked nervously.

Jin focused inward. “No,” he admitted. “But I don’t want to go jumping into a lake if I can’t check for rocks first.”

“How do we check for rocks?” Mathis asked.

Jin ran his hands through his hair and pressed the sides of his head. “The internet?”

“What do you think?” I asked Andromeda. She was uncharacteristically silent.

“I think we’re definitely about to be kidnapped by the government.” It was a statement of how nervous everyone was that no one even tried to smile. We were all thinking it, after all.

April 19, 2021

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