An inpouring of cerulean light, a chorus of lonely bells. I stood in my own kitchen, every surface sparkling, white-painted woodwork gathering the sunlight that poured through gingham-curtained windows. The room brought to my nostrils the faintest overlay of cinnamon and cocoa. A lightning tour of the house showed all was in order. Propane and oil tanks were nearly full; a few minutes restarted the water heater and reset the house heat from unoccupied to occupied level. My bedroom, wood-panelled, queen-size bed with neat black-and-white quilts, black and grey checkerboard carpets, solid oak dresser and chair, and mahogany vanity table, were all as meticulously neat and clean as when I’d left them. The sheaf of wheat, spreading out from a cream-white ceramic vase, had collected a spider web. A furry stuffed cat, a fragment I’d saved from the home in which she’d grown up, hung from the bedboards.
I remembered the days before I left for Mars, spending hours and hours cleaning house, telling myself that work before I left meant tranquility on return. I’d been right. I drank in the order in the house, let it suffuse my flesh and restore my strength. Doors and windows were closed. A lavender sachet had saturated my bedroom with its delicate scent. Floor to ceiling glass with frilly country drapes faced west and north, revealing acres and acres of well-fenced pastureland with the coastal hills beyond.
My study and library, boards for built-in bookshelves cut to length and freshly stained, desk with Tempest-class computer and stacks of schoolbooks and CD-ROMs and self-study discs, reminded me of what I had not been doing these past weeks. I told myself I’d have plenty of time now. I was totally worn down. For the next month, serious use of my gifts was strictly for saving my own life. I might teleport to the barn, but someone else would have to save the world. The thought of studying reminded me of home — my real home, the one I’d had to leave, the one in which Mom had always been there when she’d been needed, whether it was words of praise, a little firm encouragement to do what I knew I was supposed to do, or just the right question so I’d figure out everything for myself. No matter. That was over, and I knew in my head that it must be the best for me. Even if I didn’t know why. Sometimes my heart even agreed.
Other rooms were carpeted and draped, but virtually bare of furniture. A faked parental bedroom would convince prying eyes that my parents lived here, too; I had to remember to keep that room clean even though I never used it. A few lamps and chairs, positioned before windows, were arranged to fool prying strangers. One rocking chair sat by the front picture window. The rolled hammock in the back closet waited for warmer spring. I remembered the Fearsome Four’s estimate of my base: the Fortress of Evanescent Darkness, complete with hardened steel armor, atomic force-screen generators, subterranean caverns filled with scientific equipment, and the — no, Star had not been pulling my leg — the batteries of tesdri-controlled nuclear-shelled nineteen-inch-guns. I burst into laughter. I had to laugh; the alternative was to cry.