The room in which Dreamwave found herself was large and bright, but it also lacked windows. With its cream pillars and pale green walls, it was lavish but bland – it positively screamed “government chic”. It was warm, artificially heated. Dreamwave briefly wondered whether she was underground.
But she was already looking around. Her eye was caught by the enormous machine beside her. An enormous, ugly bank of computers, dark grey and chunky – straight out of the 80s. In front of the computers, wired into them, was a thick steel frame on a platform – and attached to the frame, by more wires, was a man in a postal superhero costume.
He wasn’t the room’s only occupant, however. A small cough drew her attention to the tiny man beside the machine. He wore a tatty grey suit which matched his hair.
“Good afternoon, Ms Dreamwave,” said the tiny man. “I’m Peter Copland, and I work for the government ...”
“Who’s that?” she asked indignantly, pointing to the man in the machine. She tried to hide her lack of confidence by standing as defiantly as possible. She wished the others were here.
“A lowly civil servant like myself,” said Copland. He turned towards the wired man. “You may leave now.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“This is Post-Man,” Copland said. “He can teleport. Not far - enough for the postal service, though.”
He patted the machine.
“But this beauty, the things she can do. She can use Post-Man’s powers better than he can. She can cover a broader area, and teleport other things to us.”
Out of his pocket, Copland pulled a yellow and orange duster. He exhaled on part of the ugly device and polished with the cloth. Post-Man had gone to stand at the side. He looked tired.
“You used this to bring me here,” said Dreamwave.
“She’s my pride and joy,” said Copland, as though he hadn’t heard. “She turns powers into computer data. Imagine that!”
“I assume I’m trapped, then?”
“What?” Copland finally turned back to look at her. “Good grief, no. We need a favour.”
The situation was so far out of Dreamwave’s normal depth, she had to keep herself from panicking as Copland explained the situation.
It seemed that, a matter of minutes ago, something had happened at a governmental science laboratory. Some of the Scribblers had been there, and now half the city was gone.
Yes, gone. But that was fine, because the remaining Scribblers were working on it. In the meantime, citizens were likely to panic, and they needed to be restrained until the problem could be fixed.
“That’s where you come in,” Copland explained. “This machine could extend all the way to Cardiff to collect you. But we don’t need to go that far – we only need to cover Dinas.”
“But it’s not that simple, is it?” said Dreamwave. “Post-Man only needed to teleport one person. I’ll be sending half a city to sleep.” She frowned. “Not to mention that I’ll need to keep them all dreaming in that time. REM sleep is all I can offer – I’ll have to create an entire alternate reality for these people.”
“It might take a lot out of you,” agreed Copland. “But you’ll be handsomely rewarded. I note your team’s been trying to access government grants?”
Dreamwave didn’t like this one bit. That sounded like bribery. And how could she be sure Copland really was a civil servant?
Well. One way, to be precise.
Dreamwave concentrated, trying to send Copland to sleep.
He chuckled. “I’m afraid Barbara won’t let you do that.”
“Who the hell is Barbara?”
Copland nodded at the machine. “Named after my wife.”
“She must be touched.”
Copland polished part of the frame for a few moments.
“As a safety measure, powers are cancelled out around her. Just to be on the safe side.” He revealed an ID card from a dusty pocket on his jacked. “Here’s all you need.”
It was genuine, she could see that. Learning to recognise genuine governmental ID was a prerequisite to access their grants – no point funding superheroes otherwise.
She saw that she’d been handed something else along with the card. A cheque. A life-changing sum of money.
“What do I do?” she asked.
She was led to the frame, and wired in like Post-Man had been. As she leaned back, she felt ... bigger. Her powers were extending where they couldn’t before. It felt invasive, yet ordinary, like donating blood.
Dreamwave had never been able to sense people with her powers – that wasn't how they worked. She had to be able to see someone to send them to sleep. But she could feel the machine doing the work for her – channelling her powers into the populace.
Straight into REM sleep. Dream sleep.
And the dreams – those she could sense. She could feel them all, and when she wanted, she could look into them. An entire city full of dreams made her powerful. The machine made her more powerful still.
Dreamwave quickly started the job of building an alternate world for these thousands of people to live. In spite of her misgivings, this was fun.