How many times has your airplane been destroyed? asked the Elder. I can no longer tell.
Sinclair, itchy sweat prickling at his pores, clenched his eyelids tightly closed, fistlike, trying to muster his concentration.
"Seven," he said finally, quietly, his voice awash on the whooshing sea of airplane noise. "None ? now."
There was a long, uncomfortable pause.
I can no longer tell when things have changed. You have fended it off every time, said the Elder. You are learning.
Sinclair swallowed against a sandpapery catch in his throat, fighting the fear and fatigue. "So far, yeah. It goes ?kaboom,? then I concentrate, seize everything I can in my mind, and we rewind to just before the explosion. Then we move forward again. The next time through, I don?t let the plane explode."
Silence, save for the blare of background noise.
And ? the Elder began, pausing distantly. Your friend Thaddeus is part of it now.
"Friend," thought Sinclair bitterly.
"Part of Machina," said Sinclair, his voice a dry, papery, autumn leaves sound. "Yes."
Silence again, as the Voice faded into the white noise of the airplane.
I am here, Sinclair. As I told you I would be.
That’s reassuring, Sinclair thought. The voice in my head is there for me.
He was having difficulty keeping his sense of reality together ? after all, everything he?d ever thought about good, solid reality had been thrown on its ear. Terra Firma was a concept he?d lost long ago.
"I don?t know how to stop it, Elder. I can barely keep it from blowing us all out of the air," Sinclair said wearily. "I mean, what kind of god would do that to everyone on a 737?"
After another long, expansive silence, Elder’s voice quietly replied:
The kind that hears your footsteps, Sinclair. The kind that knows you?re coming for it. And is worried.