Do you know who I am?
Do I know who you are?
See we one another clearly?
Do we know who we are?
I bolted upright in bed, out of a sound sleep and a dream that ran away but must have held the epiphany. “Jim Henson was a genius!” Epiphany. Now that I’d had one, I really understood what the word meant. My subconscious had been so slow to tie things together, but at least it hadn’t waited until the middle of tomorrow’s ambassadorial rumble.
Emily wiggled deeper under the covers. Sharon groaned, flinging an arm over her eyes as if I’d turned on a light. “Is it morning yet?”
My watch said three-oh-nine. Technically morning, but not what she had in mind. I bent over and kissed her. What I got back was weak, reflexive imitation of a kiss, but completely understandable given the hour. “No, love. Sorry I woke you. Go back to sleep.” She shifted, rolling away from me to curl an arm around Sarah.
I slipped from between Sharon and Emily, managing not to disturb either of them more than I had already. Predictably, Emily slid into the warm spot I’d left without a trace of guilt. Martin wouldn’t come padding in from his own small room for a couple of hours yet.
Walking to the main room of our suite, I stretched and kinked my neck to both sides, getting a couple of satisfying cracks. Arching my back gave me a few more. I figured there was no harm since I had no hope of going back to sleep before morning. Sometime early in the day the lack of sleep would catch up to me, but my brain spun with too many thoughts now. Unfortunately, I was about to ruin someone else’s sleep, too.
I sat down at the computer table, not that I’d ever learned to see what made the computer part of it different from the table part. It all looked the same to me. When I wiggled my fingers over the communications pickup, a quiet, high Shalash voice I didn’t recognize answered. “May I be of assistance, Intermediary?”
I took a deep breath, but kept my voice low. Anyone who woke up now would want to watch TV. “Yes, please. I need to get in contact with Antoine St. Hivon. It’s fairly urgent so I’ll wait.”
It took several minutes of foot tapping and finger drumming before I heard a yawn from the speaker. The first words blurred a bit until it ended. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Ian. It’s three o’clock in the damned morning. I’ve only been asleep since midnight.”
A brief flash of guilt, but I didn’t let it slow me down. “I’m sorry, Antoine. I wouldn’t have woken you if I didn’t think it was critical. I’ve got a crazy idea to shake things up at the talks and I need something as fast as you can get it.”
A long silence followed by a deep sigh. I pictured him pressing fingers into his eyes. “This can’t wait?”
I shook my head as if Antoine could see me. “I honestly think this might be it.”
“All right, I’m booting up my laptop. What do you need?” I told him what I had in mind. It took him at least a minute to stop laughing and, somewhere in the middle were a couple of breathless words that were the first bit of French I’d ever heard him speak. I waited out the silence that came after. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely.” And the sooner, the better. How else could I push the urgency at him? “For the next session? The shuttle leaves at seven minutes after eight tomorrow. Today. This morning.”
“Whatever.” Another short silence while he came to a decision. “You’ll have it. I don’t know how yet, but you’ll have it.”
“Thank you, Antoine.”
“Not yet. Wait until morning then shower me with gifts of coffee. Strong, black coffee.”by