Prologue

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Consensual, .

Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: Prologue - Separated from his family and forced into hiding, Jimmy struggles to keep the people he loves safe while he builds a new life for himself, and searches for a way to stop the mysterious Lord Hightower and his followers. Third in a series, follows Sleepwalker and Dreamweaver. Contains violence and adult themes. {Serial Fantasy PG13-Vio AC}

My name is James Edward Matthews — Jimmy to my friends — I am sixteen years old and in the last two weeks there have been two attempts made to kidnap me. Both failed. The first attempt ended with the kidnapper being murdered before the FBI could get any information out of him. The second time they kidnapped a girl I was dating to use as bait. We got her back and caught five people; two were local private investigators hired only to transport me from my house to where they were holding Britney, my girlfriend. The guy in charge turned out to be attached to a foreign embassy and in less than eight hours the State Department was pressuring the head of the local FBI Bureau to release him. The other two were hard core Russian Mafia and are going to be behind bars until the building crumbles from old age.

Until very recently I had no idea who was behind it; the PIs were very helpful but didn't even know who I was, only that they were to pick me up at point A and take me to point B. The Mafia guys wouldn't talk if you were torturing their mothers, and the leader they couldn't touch. But I could, diplomatic immunity doesn't mean much to me, especially since as a result of all this my family has been forced to move to an FBI safe house and I'm now living in another state, under an assumed name.

The reason they were after me is that someone found out a secret we've been trying to keep for just over a year. It's not one of those secrets you read about in spy novels, I don't know the Minute-Man Launch codes or anything like that. My secret is more like ... comic book material. Or something Stephen King might come up with.

You see, a little over a year ago I learned that I had a gift. I call it sleepwalking but that's not really accurate. I don't walk around the neighborhood or rob convenience stores in my sleep. I walk around dreams; other people's dreams, and I don't just walk around in them; I can control them.

It varies from person to person, but most people have some level of control over their dreams, whether they know it or not. Back in the 1970's there was even a research study done to try and teach people better control in order to help them deal with nightmares. It's a pretty simple concept; if the patient has a recurring nightmare of falling off a cliff or out of a skyscraper, so you teach them to put up a guardrail, lock the window, put one of those giant cartoon pillows at the bottom, give themselves a parachute ... that sort of thing. There were a lot of people very interested in studying the mind back in those days. But that kind of research doesn't pay nearly as well as developing a pill to handle the problem, and then another one to handle the side effects of the first one, etc.

A lot of people don't think, or at least they don't believe, that the research was completely abandoned. They suspect, rather, that a lot of it was continued, quietly and off the record, mostly by various governments, including our own. I never gave that idea much credit growing up, but now I know better.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how a gift like mine could be abused. Want to know your PIN number at the bank? I can create a dream environment where you go to the ATM for lunch money and watch you punch it in. Sound scary? Not even the tip of the iceberg. Those launch codes I mentioned...

My sister Allison was the one who pointed out the dangers to me. The real shock was discovering that she had known about my ability for years and was very well prepared for the day I would discover it. She cornered me the very next day and explained the dangers: what could happen if word got out, or worse, if the government found out. It didn't take much to convince me that under no circumstances could we tell anyone about it. Obviously that hasn't worked out as well as he had hoped.

As soon as I discovered my gift and started consciously using it things started changing. There were two types of changes; the first was a gradual growth like you get from practice and exercise — like learning yoga or martial arts, the more you do it the better your control and power get. The second kind was what we called an escalation, a sudden and dramatic change. Escalations seemed to follow a pattern; specifically they followed closely behind moments of ... oh, let's just call it intense emotional and physical activity. I was fifteen and had just discovered the joys of sex; you do the math.

The first person besides Allison I talked to about it was my psychology teacher at school. His name was Robert Shelby, and after only a few minutes of trying to talk to him he could tell there was something I was holding back. He explained to me that besides being a teacher he was still a licensed therapist and therefore anything we talked about would be legally protected under doctor-patient confidentiality laws. He then offered to take me on as a patient for the bargain price of one dollar. A decision he regretted after I consulted with Allison, took him up on his offer, and told him the truth about what was going on. At first he was excited; visions of the Nobel Prize dancing in his head. Then I told him of Allison's fears and he started searching the surrounding shadows for men in black suits and dark glasses.

Bob's a good guy though, and he honored his promise. To this day he is one of my most trusted advisers.

For the most part I looked at my gift as just one of those unexplainable things in life. It happened, and you have to be careful with it, but it was just sort of there. Sure it was a lot of fun. I mean, the sex possibilities alone ... Fortunately my parents brought me up better than that, and I looked on the idea of having sex with a girl in a dream without her consent the same way I would look at it in real life: it would be rape, pure and simple. The fact that I never physically touched her, or even that she wouldn't remember it the next morning, didn't matter, it would still be wrong. Not to mention that Allison would have killed me. Besides, between her and Shannon I was getting all the sex I could handle already. In that area, I was living the kind of life you only read about in magazines. Shannon and Allison were "best friends" in pretty much every sense of the words, they shared pretty much everything, and their favorite thing to share, was me. Sweet!

Halloween night I got my first chance to really make a difference with my gift. A young boy had come to our door, and somehow, just looking at him, I knew something was wrong. Later that night I found myself in his dream, something that happened often enough that it was no real surprise. I frequently found myself in the dreams of people that I had met. This was my first cartoon, though, so it was different in that sense. It was also more of a nightmare than a dream. The boy's name was Bobby and he had been having a recurring nightmare for some time. Apparently Bobby had a stuttering problem and some uneducated and thoughtless asshole had suggested that all he needed was a good scare to cure the problem. Not surprisingly, his young mind had latched onto the idea and run with it, so now poor Bobby kept finding himself being chased by what amounted to a cartoon werewolf. I stepped into the dream, took it over and turned things around. It was really a lot of fun actually. I gave the werewolf a name, told young Bobby that he had it all wrong and 'Walter', the werewolf, wasn't trying to actually hurt him. Then, as punishment for scaring Bobby, I assigned Walter the task of guarding him in his dreams for the next year. I would later discover that there were other repercussions to my actions, but for now the primary task was accomplished and Bobby's nightmares were over. Oh yeah, and Walter wasn't really a werewolf. He didn't have a human form, not yet anyway.

It wasn't long before I discovered the reason someone wanted me to meet Rebecca and we spent the next year trying to catch a psycho who had managed to kidnap, torture, rape, and kill three teenage girls without anyone realizing the crimes were related. He accomplished this by making sure they were far enough apart geographically that no one put the pieces together and saw a pattern. Until I got involved that is. It took time and a lot of work, Rebecca doing her usual FBI stuff during the day, and me bridging all sorts of people at night, including, ironically, the killer himself, before we had a working profile of his victims.

My access to the killer was unlike anything I had experienced with other people and we could only conclude that there was something about his mental makeup that prevented me from having the kind of access I seemed to have with pretty much everyone else. Despite our best efforts he eventually took another victim. In a bizarre twist of fate the girl he had picked out this year was a friend of mine. Her name was Angela and less than three weeks before he took her I had been her date for her senior prom. After I got over the initial shock I got to work trying to find her. It took almost a week for me to bridge her, which was weird considering that I knew her and had bridged her before. We eventually figured out that there were two causes for the problem, the first being that he had drugged her when he kidnapped her. The second turned out to be just bad timing. Looking back we should have thought of it sooner. For this guy to hide successfully he had to have a life, and that life would include a job he had to go to, and that meant that while I was asleep and searching dreamspace for her, she was awake being tortured and raped. She was in pretty rough shape when I finally found her, the mental picture she had of herself was naked, dirty, and alone, trapped in a tiny room with no way out. Finding her and letting her know that we, we being me and the FBI, were looking for her, plus some other little tricks, gave her the hope and strength she needed to hang on and buy us the time we needed.

And we needed every second, because finding her in a dream did not get me any closer to finding her in the real world. That finally changed and I was eventually able to lead Rebecca to where she was being held. We got her back but unfortunately, very unfortunately, the killer escaped. Between Angela's observations and other information we got from the house before it blew up — he had it rigged and triggered the bomb before he left with the intention of not only covering his escape but hopefully killing Rebecca at the same time — we managed to put together enough information to identify him. Always good to know whom you're dealing with, especially when that someone turns out to be a professional assassin that the authorities thought they had killed five years before.

They called him the Sandman and prior to his 'death' he had been the most wanted man in Europe and the number one assassin in the world. Not the kind of guy you wanted running around your hometown, especially if he found out that you hadn't actually died when he blew you up. The FBI had no illusions about their ability to protect Angela if he found out the truth, so officially, she was dead, killed in the blast moments before Rebecca could rescue her. She spent the next several months in rehab dealing with the aftermath of her ordeal. She lost two toes to gangrene but they were able to save the rest of her foot. They did the best they could for her knee but it took a couple months of therapy before she could walk well enough to hide the limp.

The other information we recovered from the scene came mostly from the computer he had been forced to leave behind. The up side was that being responsible for identifying him made me eligible for a lot of reward money. Not just for identifying Angela's kidnapper/killer, but for providing the same information about the other three girls' deaths. I learned early that money is only valuable if you do something with it. In and of itself it's worthless; it's what you do with it that matters. The first thing I did with it was to buy myself a really sweet truck. Hey, I was sixteen! What did you expect? I also set aside a large chunk to cover college for Angela. Prior to being kidnapped she'd had a full ride scholarship waiting for her in the fall. Besides the problem of being dead, the scholarship was for track. Before her life went to hell she had been a two-time state champion distance runner and was scheduled to compete for a spot on the US Olympic Team before heading off to college. The surgery they did on her knee let her walk, and some day she may even be able to jog on it, but competitive running? No.

The worst part for her wasn't physical though. It was what came after ... Can you imagine how it would feel to spend a month being held captive, tortured and raped? After it was over, could you imagine yourself actually missing it? Not the torture, she didn't miss that, but the rest. Amber — her new name since she was in hiding — was naturally very grateful for my rescuing her and wanted very much to express that thanks in the time honored way women have of thanking men they feel especially beholden to. The problem was every time she got close to me she started having strange thoughts about how that would work out. These thoughts were naturally very disturbing to her and she thought that there must be something very seriously wrong with her. At eighteen years old she didn't have the necessary experience to realize where these thoughts were coming from and that they were not the result of what had happened to her. Well, actually they were, but not in the way she thought at the time. If she hadn't been so embarrassed by her feelings she might have talked to one of the psyche people who were in charge of helping her and they might have been able to help her deal with it, but she was not just embarrassed, but disgusted by what she was feeling and therefore didn't. As is often the case, not understanding what she was feeling, and holding it all in, was driving her into a serious depression.

With the help of another very special girl we were able to discover the reason for her depression. At first I wasn't ready to learn the truth, so after spending time observing Amber, she consulted with Bob and they came up with a way to educate me without freaking me out. The material they gave me was very helpful and it didn't take long for me to figure out on my own what was going on. Amber was a sexual submissive; somewhere deep inside was a part of her that not only enjoyed being dominated and controlled, but now, having had a taste of it, wanted it again. These were the thoughts that she was having every time we got close. The solution to the problem was simple. Amber needed a Master. Someone to take responsibility for her, teach her about herself and the feelings she was having. If you're not into the D/S lifestyle — and if you don't know what that means then you're not — the relationship between Master and Slave is based entirely on trust. And since the only person on the planet Amber trusted was me ... I really can't express how upset I was at discovering that at sixteen years old I was being handed my very own sex slave to care for, train, protect ... Again, if you understand the lifestyle you know what I mean, if you don't then you would have a really hard time understanding it. It's a lot of responsibility for anyone, but for a sixteen year old? I wasn't happy about it, but the alternative was letting my friend slowly slip further and further into what could easily be a fatal depression.

As I said, we had help. Her name was Elizabeth Street and before he took Angela, the Sandman had kidnapped her to use as bait to flush Rebecca out. And it had worked. You know how on all the television shows the police won't take a missing persons report until someone has been gone for more than twenty-four hours? Well, that's actually true in most cases, but, less than eighteen hours after Easy — the nickname she gave herself, and proudly lives up to — less than eighteen hours after she disappeared Rebecca was on the scene trying to find her. That would have been impressive enough if she had lived in LA, but she lived several hundred miles further north, in Fresno. She was found in a vacant house across the street from her own home by a realtor showing the place to a prospective couple. Poor woman almost had a heart attack when she found the girl bound and unconscious in the master bedroom.

Easy is a very special girl, and I don't mean that she's really nice. She is, but that's not the point. You see, Easy has a gift of her own. It's not anything like mine but it would be just as dangerous if anyone found out about it. The closest description I can think of would be to say that she is an empath. Not like Foster's character with the flying snake, but more like the girl in that old Star Trek episode where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy got kidnapped by those two ugly guys in tin-foil suits who took turns torturing them and then the girl would heal them. Lizzy's gift is kind of a combination of the two, only she doesn't do physical healing, she heals the hurts that don't show, and she doesn't just sense emotions; she sees them, and a lot of other things, when she looks at people. She can't tell you what color your eyes are but she can tell you're bitter and angry because your parents are getting a divorce. More importantly, she can fix it. She gave herself the nickname "Easy" as a cover for what she sees as her "Healing Ministry." Easy sees her special sight, and the healing gift, as coming directly from God and herself as one He has chosen to help ease the suffering in the world. The "Easy" part came about because her primary venue for healing is sex. In the hospital interview after Rebecca had 'found' her, she explained her gift and even demonstrated part of it — just the observation part — to Rebecca by telling her things about herself that she could see. Rebecca was impressed, very impressed. Corroborating testimony of sorts was obtained from Sheriff Dobbs, who had called Rebecca in the first place.

Easy's gift lets her do other things too, like seeing me and Allison when we were spying on her in dreams for Rebecca. According to her, I'm another of God's chosen people; someone he has gifted to help deal with some of the more difficult problems here on Earth. We're engaged now by the way, and since the FBI and their psyche team decided Amber was ready to move on in her new life, she is also Amber's Mistress and cares for her while she is away at school. Since I was paying, I arranged for her to have classes at the same school as Lizzy, (only her friends get to call her that) the same school Elizabeth went to. Which, as you can imagine, works out really well for them both. Lizzy now has someone that she doesn't have to hide from and Amber has someone that understands her, and her needs. Someone that cares for her and makes her feel safe. Not physically safe, she still relies on me for that, but Lizzy provides both the guidance and the physical closeness Amber needs when I'm not there to do it myself. Wondering how that works? It's simple really; as Amber's Master I can do anything I want with her as long as I live up to my obligation to care for and protect her. That includes giving her to anyone I trust enough if I so choose. As her Master, Amber trusts me to never give her into the care of anyone that I cannot be assured would take the same care for her that I would. So, when the time came, I gave her to Elizabeth, to care for her in my absence. Simple enough really, don't you think? Not!

After his escape, Interpol sent their top expert on the Sandman to assist Rebecca in tracking him down. Her name was Dahrinka Henslith, (that's dah-rink-ah, you have to pronounce the whole thing) and what no one knew was that the reason she was the top expert was that she knew him, had known him, for years. In fact, they had trained together.

When I say they had trained together it's not what you may think. We're not talking Police Academy here ... I mentioned before that a lot of psychological testing had gone underground back in the seventies? Somewhere in Europe a group had begun playing with young people who showed signs of MPD: Multiple Personality Disorder. Not split personality, that's a convenient and completely incorrect term. Specifically they were looking for children who had a history of violent outbursts, extremely violent. Rene Kurtz, a.k.a. The Sandman, was one such boy. It turned out the woman we knew as Dahrinka Henslith, was another. But of course we didn't find that out until it was too late.

They took them as children, in Rene's case after he was sentenced to prison for killing another boy who tried to rape him. They were both in a juvenile detention center and Rene was not the one the boy had assaulted, but he was the favored son of some high party official, so there was no trial, he was simply deemed too dangerous and sentenced to be transferred to a permanent facility as soon as he was old enough. Rene told me about his past, I don't know Dahrinka's story, or how she came to be selected for the program, but I'm sure it was something similar. Their parents were told they were going for special treatment to 'cure' them, and help them learn to control themselves. That was close to the truth but there was much more too it. You see, they weren't really interested in the children; they were after the alternate personas. The primary control they were taught was teaching the alternate how to hide better, and how to control itself when it took over. They became the ultimate spies. Hidden away but able to take control without the primary persona even realizing anything had happened.

Dahrinka disappeared during the hunt for the Sandman. The manner of her disappearance suggested that he had taken her. We later figured out that it was staged to look that way on purpose. She wanted to disappear in such a way that no one would look for her, something her friend Rene had managed to do five years before. But before she left she spent several days on a stakeout with Rebecca. While they were alone she had drugged Rebecca and pumped her for information about the mysterious 'source' that had led her to Angela. Not long after Henslith disappeared the first attempt to kidnap me was made. After they kidnapped Britney the decision was made to put us all into hiding until we could figure out what was happening, who was behind it, and hopefully, how much they knew about me.

The leader of the group that kidnapped Britney was a man named Yuri Khvlek. His day job was as a security consultant with the Romanian embassy, which meant the FBI couldn't even hold him, much less question him, but I could. It took a while and I was more than a little hard on him — basically he lived a nightmare for three days, but eventually he told me what I wanted to know, or at least as much as he knew. He had never met the person who had hired him, he just had a name. The name alone was enough to scare him into putting up with what I did to him for as long as he did. He said she would kill him if he talked. Since everything I was doing to him was in a dream state she wouldn't even know that he had told me. Of course he didn't know that, and in the end it didn't matter, because she killed him anyway, but not before I got her name, or the only name he knew. She was known as The Black Queen, and she had taken over the title of world's greatest assassin when the Sandman had dropped out of sight five years earlier. Enough pieces had fallen into place that I had a working suspicion regarding what was really going on and who was behind it. Before he died, Rene, the real Rene, whom I had helped to break free of his prison — buried deep in his own mind by the Sandman, confirmed that Dahrinka Henslith was one of the girls he had trained with many years before, and that The Black Queen was her alternate, and now she was after me.

And then there is Jamie.

The first thing Rebecca taught me when I got involved with all the weird stuff going on was the importance of being able to compartmentalize my life. To keep things separate and not let them get to me. To keep my 'working' life from interfering with my personal life, and to take the emotion out of a situation so you could deal with it. I never could have done half of what I have if not for that lesson. Seeing the kinds of things I was dealing with generated a lot of negative emotions and emotional energy. Left unchecked, the anger I felt could become rage, and blind me to steps I could be taking to solve the problem. So I learned to keep home, school, and my nightlife separate. One way I did this was by taking all the really bad stuff and stuffing it in a box. The box wasn't real; it was just a mental construct, a picture in my mind that I used to symbolize the action of putting those emotions away. Only it turned out there was something living in the box, something that was feeding on those dark emotions.

The first indication that something might be amiss was the night I got jumped by three guys in the parking lot at the local mall. An old boyfriend of Angela's had taken a bit of a dislike to me. I don't blame him really, the feeling was mutual. I mean, the guy was an asshole and we both knew it, hell everyone knew it, but being the quarterback of our football team got him a lot of slack from everyone. Everyone else, that is; I had no problem at all pointing out what a jerk he was. One night he and two friends had caught up with me while I was putting some stuff in the trunk of my car. The first I knew anything was wrong was when Brad's fist slammed into the side of my face. The other two guys were kind enough to hold my arms while he punched me in the stomach. It didn't have the effect he wanted but when he swung at my face again things went strange and I suddenly found myself looking down at the scene as if I were viewing it from the top of nearby light pole. What I watched was me looking like Chuck Norris interrogating a group of bikers. Driscoll and Elliot got off easy, going home with a concussion and broken ribs; after the hospital released them that is. We'd all ended up in the hospital; me because I passed out when it was over and was unconscious for almost two days, the two of them due to their visible injuries, and Brad went because he needed very extensive surgery to put his arm back together. It hadn't been necessary, but whatever had shoved me out and taken over wasn't happy with just winning and it had shattered his elbow, driving the joint almost ninety degrees the wrong way. As horrible as that was it wasn't through yet and I was forced to watch as whatever was in control prepared to kill him. The image still haunts me; Brad was on his knees, helpless, screaming in pain and rapidly going into shock from the damage to his arm, I could see my focus narrowing and my body shifting in preparation for one last kick to the base of his skull. If Allison hadn't chosen that moment to show up and scream for me to stop I have no doubt that I would have killed him. Only it hadn't been me. That was when I passed out.

Several months later a similar event took place only this time I killed five people without laying a hand on them. Whatever was inside, working to protect me apparently had access to my gift in a way I never knew existed.

It happened one morning when five men invaded my bank. I had stopped by to put the title to my truck in my safe deposit box and was waiting for the lady to bring my box out of the vault when a guy in blue overalls showed up instead, told me to keep quiet and follow him. The silenced Glock in his hand was all the motivation I needed. When I reached the lobby the blinds were closed, two vans were parked across the front entrance, and all of the employees were gathered together sitting in the middle of the lobby floor with duct tape securing their hands behind them and over their mouths. Even more shocking was that Allison was sitting with them; she had been waiting in the truck for me to come back out. They bound me up the same as the others and told me to sit quietly. That was when the fun started.

As before I felt myself being shoved out and then my awareness shifted so that I was staring out of the eyes of the man tasked with watching us. He seemed fixated on the newest teller and was having a little fantasy about the two of them having sex somewhere. Only it wasn't all fantasy. At least part of it was memory, and from the conversation, they knew each other very well. The next thing I knew the scene was changing and he was now in a small structure with what appeared to be a naked Vietnamese woman who had taken the place of the teller. It only took me a moment to realize what had happened. Something had taken over the little fantasy he had been having and changed it, pulling something else from his memory and overlaying it on his reality. A man's voice yells that they have to go and he pulls his .45 out and shoots the girl. Screams erupt and my attention becomes divided between the bank and the daydream. There on the floor in front of me, Linda, the new teller, lies in a pool of her own blood, a spray of crimson and grey spread out behind her and all the other employees struggling to get away from her.

The scene changed again and he was working his way through the jungle in an attempt to get out of the area before enemy soldiers find him. As he was fleeing two popped out of the jungle and he quickly shot them. Back in the bank two of his partners who had run out of the vault to see what the screaming was about suddenly dropped dead of lead poisoning. The gunman then sneaked through the bank like he was back in the jungle. Moving to the doorway that leads to the vault and looking inside he raised his gun again. Just as he fired two slugs, apparently fired by whoever was in the vault tore into his chest and he dropped to the floor, the gun still clutched in his hand.

I was still tied into the subconscious of the gunman when he was shot and I collapsed on the floor as he fell. Allison realized what had happened right away, leaning down she told me to stay there. The guard they had stationed outside popped in, took one look at the scene, and split with the van they had been loading stuff into. Instantly Allison was up and running to the nearest desk, where she quickly dialed 911, screams and shoves the phone off the desk. When they asked her why she had done that, she said that if she had answered they would have wasted time asking questions, but this way they would just haul ass to the bank. Smart girl, getting me out of there before the cops showed up and we were stuck there all day or until our parents could come and get us. Most likely with police officers and FBI agents asking questions every time they walked by.

Things finally came to a head the night Shannon's family was killed by a runaway truck on the way home from out house. Somehow I witnessed the event from my kitchen. Shannon should have died in the accident along with the others but somehow she managed to cling to life. At the same time I started having physical problems. It didn't take long for Allison to connect the dots as over the next few days, every time Shannon tried to die in the hospital, I had a seizure. A quick consultation with Lizzy confirmed her suspicions. Something was taking energy from me to try and keep Shannon alive. The doctors couldn't understand why she was alive in the first place and they told us in no uncertain terms what it would mean if she somehow pulled through. It wasn't a life either of us would have wanted, and we knew in our hearts that she wouldn't either. To make matters worse according to Lizzy, my energy was draining at such a high rate that if we didn't find a way to sever the connection, I would die when she did.

That was the longest, hardest, most painful night of my life. The only option was to somehow find whatever had been hiding in me and stop it before it killed us all. With a little help that I still can't explain, I managed to locate the problem and deal with it. What I had called, "The Beast in the Box," turned out to be a part of me, immature, barely sentient, and existing on the emotional energy I shoved its way. I almost lost everything by trying to destroy it, but at the last minute Lizzy stopped me. I found out later it wasn't really Lizzy, but at the time it didn't matter. Somehow this 'not-Lizzy' managed to merge with me and allow me to see the thing through her eyes. What I saw was a child shape, battered and broken from our fight, doing its best to comfort and protect the unconscious image of Shannon that lay sleeping in the field where I had finally caught up with it. Using Lizzy's vision I was able to see that this was not some mindless beast keeping Shannon prisoner but a child trying to save the woman it loved. As I moved forward again it tried desperately to prepare itself for my next attack, struggling to stand on the leg I had broken. Instead I sat on the grass and talked to it, apologizing for hurting it, healing the damage I had done, and explaining that it had to let Shannon go, that it could not save her, and that if it continued to try that it would kill us all. The image it was holding was the piece of her that came to us in dreams, and I woke her up just long enough for her to beg us to let her go.

"Please," she had moaned through the pain. "Please let me go ... If you love me..."

I put her back to sleep to free her from the pain once more and then I sat with the small child-shape in my lap and we cried together for what we had to do. Then I kissed it and found I couldn't pull away. Before my eyes it began to grow and change. When it finally stopped and I could pull my lips away I found myself staring at a ... clone isn't the right word. Can identical twins be different sexes? I looked it up and in the real world the answer is no. The closest you get is a genetic affliction called Turner's syndrome where in the separated zygotes of two identical twin boys, one somehow loses the 'Y' chromosome and develops as a female. Technically it's not a female either, at least not functionally, as without the missing gene the reproductive system does not develop, only the 'primary external characteristics', meaning that it has a vagina and no penis so we call it a girl even though it's essentially neuter. They generally have other developmental problems as well, but in my case I was inches away from myself had I been born a girl.

To this day I wonder if I somehow influenced the outcome. I'm not homophobic but I wouldn't be comfortable kissing a guy either and I have often wondered if that somehow influenced the outcome.

Jamie is a completely functional female person living inside of me. Not a separate personality, but a separate person, a separate consciousness. Or at least that's the best explanation we've been able to come up with. Now that she is no longer hiding, Lizzy sees her as a separate person when she is outside of me, which she can be for short periods of time. It's easiest in dreams — easier on the others as well, as they can actually see her then. Conversations in the real world can get a little tedious when I'm the only one that can hear her.

With a little experimentation we discovered that we could exist and interact separately, not only in dreams, but for brief periods in real life as well. This came after she successfully merged with Allison one day after school. We also learned that there are some serious dangers to her being in other people, so we're real careful with it. Her most recent excursion almost cost her her life, but since she was trying to save mine, and hers, at the time so I understood why she had done it. It worked, we both survived, but when it was over she didn't have the strength to get back and I was too beat up to get to her in time. Thankfully Walter was able to help her back to me; another long story there.

That little excursion had come at the end of the hunt for the Sandman, and if not for her effort, he likely would have killed me. As it was ... well, again, long story. We got lucky, he's dead, we're alive, and no one else knows we were even there.

Jamie is just as strongly homosexual as I am heterosexual. Fortunately she shares my taste in women, a fact the women who know her find very convenient as well.

So now, here I am, sixteen years old, forced to drop out of high school, hiding in plain sight from a woman half the world is after and whose name alone makes bad ass killers like Yuri Khvlek practically wet themselves. I'm doing this by masquerading as David Malcolm, a twenty-two-year-old bounty hunter who recently moved to Las Vegas. Meanwhile my family, and the family of a really nice girl name Britney — whose only crime was going on a date and coming to my house once for dinner — are all hidden away in FBI safe houses.

Why Vegas?

Back during the initial search for the Sandman, one of his victims didn't seem to fit the profile quite right. She was his second victim and on the surface everything seemed okay. But where his other two victims, Diane McKenzie was the first; Maria Pena the third, had lasted three or four weeks before he killed them, the second victim, Amanda Watkins had been killed and dumped in a Vegas hotel in just over a week. Interviews with the families of the victims had confirmed they were all naughty girls, except Amanda's family, who insisted she was pure as Christmas snow — you know; the magical kind like Frosty was made out of — only Rebecca knew better. We'd seen footage of Amanda getting her brains fucked out by two men in that very same room. In fact, one of them was the man sitting there lying to Rebecca. The problem was that the footage we had seen we had gotten from the visions I shared with her killer. It was a memory of a recording he had made using the camera hidden in their living room smoke detector. What was left of Amanda's family — mother, father, and two sisters — had all been present for the interview, but only Frank, her father, had spoken, fielding even those questions addressed to his wife. Based on the reactions of the older sister there was more to the story than we were being told. With nowhere else to turn Rebecca asked me to bridge Samantha, the older sister, and see if we could get more from her. Apparently, sisters always know.

Samantha knew all right. In fact she knew more, far more, than I ever wanted to know. Amanda was being molested by her father before she died, so was Samantha, and not just by their father. To make a long story short, in investigating Amanda's murder we had stumbled onto something totally unexpected. Amanda's father, the other man in the video, and a fairly large group of others, were using their daughters as sex slaves. Not like Amber; Amber's situation was purely voluntary she could walk away any time she wanted. Not to mention that she was eighteen and at least legal. These girls had no choice, no control, no safe words. They just did what they were they told, when they were told to, with whomever they were told to do it, without question or hesitation. They were traded around the group like baseball cards. And it wasn't just the fathers either; the wives were in on it as well. The group was well hidden, well protected and ruthless in their enforcement of their rules. The girls were watched constantly; sometimes by other members of the group, sometimes just by the other girls, without even knowing who was watching them. In one dream I watched as Samantha was questioned about the activities of a girl she had been charged with watching. She was also questioned about a young man she had spoken to at school. It was obvious from her response that she did not know the conversation had been witnessed and was worried about what may have been reported back. No one knew everyone, so you could never be sure when you might be under surveillance, and they didn't dare let their guards down. The slightest offense was grounds for punishment.

The logical question, the one I had asked, was, "punished how?" You don't want to know. Let's just say they were creative, and did I mentioned ruthless? According to Samantha, one girl had made plans to run away and confided her plan to another girl in the group that she was close to. She was caught and sold into slavery somewhere in the Middle East. Before they shipped her off they got her to confess that she had told her friend of her plans. Her friend was then punished for not turning her in. They gave her the chair.

The chair wasn't actually a chair, it was something they strapped you to that held you suspended above the ground, immobile and open. Punishment was a group affair, everyone came, the parents to participate, the girls to see what could happen to them if they disobeyed. It took place in a large room. My guess was that it was actually a small warehouse owned by one of the members, but it could have just as easily been something they rented for the occasion. Three days, that's how long she was suspended in the air. Three days being raped in every available orifice. Men, single and in groups, used her over and over again. According to Samantha they only stopped to give her a little water and mop up the puddles of semen that accumulated on the floor below her. I later saw it from another perspective, and learned that she had omitted certain details. Like the fact that some of the women took their turns as well, using handheld devices, strap-ons, fingers ... It took her a week to recover well enough to walk. A week she spent locked up in the basement exam room operated by one of the members. His name was Stephen Hendricks, and he was a doctor. His wife had set him up with the group and now he was being blackmailed into providing whatever medical treatment the girls may need. By the time she got out there was no physical evidence of any kind to sustain an accusation of molestation. Everyone except the girl wore hoods during punishment so there was no way to identify who did what. Like I said, no one knew everyone. Not all punishment was that severe; you had to really piss them off to get one of the public ceremonies.

Another girl actually went to the police and accused her father of molesting her. Pedophiles don't do well in jail and he was no exception. He didn't last the day before someone killed him. We discovered later that the murder was set up by members of the group with connections to the police department. It's amazing what you can buy with a carton of cigarettes and an alibi these days. The very same night the girl, her sister, and her mother were murdered in their home. It was carefully set up to look as if the mother, distraught over what had been happening right under her nose had killed the two girls and taken her own life. That's not what happened but the detective in charge of the case was a part of the group and made sure that the evidence he gathered and reported supported that theory.

As I'm sure you can imagine, Rebecca was so pissed she could hardly see straight. Knowing something like this is going on, and that you can't touch it would be hard, but it was well outside her jurisdiction. Unless the locals invited the FBI to the party, they couldn't get involved without a really good reason. Plus she had no evidence of any kind to back whatever claims she might make, and no way of knowing if whomever she might choose to tell was actually involved in it.

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