There's this dream I have.
I'm running: like, super-powered running. Running so fast that the air is stacking up in front of me and superheating, so I'm leaving a trail of plasma as I go. It's a thing that happens. You've seen a space shuttle re-enter? Like that.
I'm running because I've got to save Mandy. I don't know from who or what, but I know I've got to get where she is or she dies. But no matter how fast I run, I don't get any closer to where she is. The guardrails and the dotted lines and the streetlights are a blur around me; the bridges are an irregular heartbeat overhead. At some point I realize I don't even really know where she is, so maybe I'm running in the wrong direction entirely.
This is usually about the time I wake up, with sweat steaming off of me like I was boiling, with Mandy standing by the bed having jumped out to avoid the kicking. "You should really talk to somebody about that," she said this last time, before climbing back in and putting her arms around me.
So I went to see Dreamland One; I figured a sapient computer with access to the sum of all human knowledge could probably give me a good read. I described the dream in detail. "What does it mean?"
"She's going to die someday, and you know it, and you know being a Cape isn't going to make any difference," D1 said without hesitation.
"Fleet, the truth is that no matter how hard we work, all the lives we save will end eventually, including our own. We are fighting for time, to keep innocent people from being robbed of it by those who have our power but lack our virtue."
Walking back to our headquarters apartment, I realize: of course, D1 is right. There've been Capes before us who are dead, some even of natural causes. Only a few Capes are long-lived as part of their mutation. And of course their families, their friends, their support teams, they all lived and died as any normal person would. Mandy will die. So will Junior. And Portland, and McLeary, and even probably Rapture.
But I refuse to believe Dreamland One will die. Never happen, and not just because it's a computer.
D1 is, for all intents and purposes, a god. It sees all, it knows all. It acts indirectly —through us, through the Capes and our support staff — but that's always been enough. I have no doubt that if D1 felt it needed to act directly, it would figure out a way to. It probably wouldn't even take it long.
Maybe it already has. Maybe it's all programmed and built and waiting in some hidden bunker to be activated in a last-option sort of situation. There are people who'd probably be worried by that idea, who'd picture some Terminator-style apocalypse with D1 playing the Skynet role, but not me.
If there's going to be a 'man behind the curtain' — and there almost certainly is going to be, no matter what any of us do, technology being what it is — D1 has my vote.
"What'd he say?" Mandy is studying data, looking for trends. It's homework from the boss.
"Pssh. I could have told you that." She gets up, stands close, kisses me. She smells like candle wax and baby powder. "We should go on vacation. We haven't done that in a while. Just for a few days. Leave Junior with Portland?"
Live life while we've got some. "Pack. I'll buy tickets."