We clasped hands in a circle. The palm that gripped mine felt sweaty. Velkess. She was nervous, practically shaking, but she would never admit how frightened she was. Next to her came Ramoth, jittery, but using humor to cover it, and then Prism, and Paloeva, both focused as ever, and then Mordemus and Ekko. Almost totally dispassionate and noninvolved. Ekko's hand gripping mine felt cool; rather dry, but steady. When Ekko and I linked minds, her aumni surrounded mine with casual indifference. The impersonalness of the touch took me aback for just an instant. But Ekko's mind was so well-patterned; predictable, and familiar; and despite her natural aloofness, I appreciated the contact. I took comfort in her complete lack of interest; she didn't care at all that we were about to do something so dangerous. So taboo.
The room was silent except for the nervous laughter of Ramoth, and the heavy breathing of Velkess. I slowly opened up my mind to everyone in the circle, intaking a sharp breath at the sudden wave of overpowering anxiety that surged into me. I absorbed the nervous energy of six other people, and it was all I could do to not break the circle and run away.
Ekko's grip tightened on my hand. No doubt she sensed my own mounting dread in this transport. My eyes flew open, and I sought to find purchase in the chaos of such inner intimacy with this many humans at once. I flowed in and out of each of us in the circle, and fought to remain calm. When I found Mordemus in the circle, a sudden resevoir of strength filled me. He navigated my own metaspace efficiently. He imparted his sense of logic and I realized something. I had no way to know what would happen in the next few moments, but I realized that the mental closeness with all these people was necessary. The connection was the only way we could transport everyone at once. So stood there, in the circle, flowing in and out of everyone and tried not to resist it. But it was a weird sensation to be sure, to be myself and all the others, all at once. So many histories flickering through. So many memories, fading in and out and all around. The experience of the connection alone was a little sickening.
Are you prepared? Ekko's mental voice sounded flat and unexcited in the link. I knew everyone in the circle could hear us, transmitted through my connective tissue.
Yes. As ready as I'll ever be for something like this. I squeezed Ekko's cool, dry hand hard in response. I needed to be anchored down. Otherwise I would run away screaming. I saw no point in trying to be brave. Everyone in the circle could feel how frightened I was. They were terrified themselves. Nobody had ever attempted such a long jump before.