As Kyle fell asleep there was no particular sensation of transition, or movement. One instant, he was laying on the couch at the safe house feeling sleepy from the spell and the next he was somewhere else.
The somewhere else was interesting. It appeared to be a vast desert composed of powder dry iron rich soil, and weathered rocks. The horizon was a dusty sort of orange and there wasn’t a scrap of vegetation anywhere. For a moment, he wondered where he could be. The soil reminded him of what he’d seen in the Southern US, but those states were thick with plants. The barrenness of it all was more like the worst of the southwestern deserts. Maybe the badlands or some bleak valley in Arizona. Perhaps it was Africa?
Then it clicked. It wasn’t Africa. It wasn’t Earth. He was on Mars. For just an instant, as he’d been fighting sleep, in between worries that the spell would kill him, or that it wouldn’t and the Children would, he’d hoped that the dream meeting would be somewhere interesting. After all, it was a dream so they could be anywhere, “like Mars,” he’d thought. Apparently, the spell had caught that thought and generated a facsimile of the red planet. Actually, now that he knew where he was, he thought he remembered the photograph the spell had taken from his memories to form the basis of the scene.
Curious, he looked down at himself wondering if he’d been equipped with a space suit. Nope! He’d been transformed into one of the Mars rovers. Based on the size and robustness of the vehicle that stretched out in place of his body he thought he was the “Pilgrim” though he couldn’t really be sure. That had a certain sort of dream-logic to it. Which, he supposed, was why it had happened.
Kyle waved a hand. It didn’t really feel any different than it had when he’d been awake and in possession of a human body, but a sampling manipulator mounted just above his right-side tread responded in place of his arm.
Wondering how far the illusion went, he reached out and grabbed a rock that had been resting in the dust about 5 feet away. It felt like picking something off a table beside him, and he felt a bit dizzy watching something he controlled making a move in a way his body couldn’t have managed while feeling like he was controlling his body and moving normally. Testing the limits of his rover body granted flexibility he scanned the horizon, all 360 degrees of it, without moving his body.
His head, or rather, the Pilgrim’s main stereo multispectral camera assembly swept around in a complete circle. Kyle immediately decided not to do that again. It just felt like he had turned his head, only a lot. Again there hadn’t been any stress or discomfort in what felt like his neck, but it had twisted way more than it should have and his head had always seemed to be in a perfectly natural forward facing position. The spell must be tweaking his brain a little to manage such strange sensations. He hoped it would set everything back to the way it had found things when it was done. The entire situation could clearly be cataloged under, “reasons not to do unfamiliar classical spells supplied by domestic terrorist organizations.”
Which brought up another question; was he locked in an irreversible coma? The Martian plane around him was empty: no Children of Atlantis, no Jessie.
He had just enough time to start to worry, and to wonder if the tightness in his chest corresponded to something his Pilgrim body was doing, before Jessie appeared.
He knew it was Jessie because she hadn’t been changed into a NASA exploratory vehicle. She also hadn’t been given a space suit. She was wearing a set of cotton panties and nothing else. The dream conference was certainly managing to be interesting.
Jessie looked down at herself and spoke, “What the hell?”
She turned around, scanning the dusty orange horizon much like Kyle had. Of course, she still moved like a human twisting her body back and forth to see it all. She didn’t try to cover up at all, which kind of surprised Kyle until he realized she had absolutely no reason to assume he would be an unmanned surface probe. An unmanned surface probe that was staring at her like a pervert.
In all fairness, he was mostly staring because the situation was so strange he’d temporarily lost the ability to speak. Mostly. Wait? Had he “temporarily” lost the ability? It wasn’t like the Pilgrim had a mouth.
Kyle essayed a very hesitant, “Hello?” He was very relieved to hear it come out in his own voice. Of course, when he considered that, he realized hearing should have been as impossible as speaking; the Pilgrim didn’t have ears and Mars didn’t have much atmosphere.
Jessie seemed somewhat less comforted by the fact that Kyle retained the power of speech. She yelped, jumped, tripped over a rock, and went sprawling back into the dust. It had none of her normal Enchanted grace, and the parabola of her fall conformed to an Earth normal gravity. A dust cloud billowed up from where she landed, turning her once white panties, and much of her skin, orange. She sat up pretty quickly and looked back and forth, apparently still unclear on who had spoken.
Kyle waved a rock manipulator in greeting. “Hi, It’s me.”
“What the hell? You’re a rover!”
“I guess. You’re naked.”
Jessie quickly crossed her arms over her chest. “I sleep like this. I mean, normally I do. I kind of got into the habit in the Caribbean. It’s hot! I thought of that while I was going to sleep.” She sounded flustered.
“I thought of holding the meeting on Mars while I was falling asleep.” Kyle shrugged. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his rock manipulator and his laser spectroscope waggle.
“Do you mind, um…” Jessie trailed of and then mimed looking to the side. Kyle translated the gesture as, ‘Not staring at my tits while I use my hands to push myself up?’
He looked towards the orange horizon. “Do you suppose we can manipulate this environment with our minds?”
“No. Trust me, I’ve been imagining a shirt very hard ever since I arrived.”
“I guess the spell just runs with whatever you’re thinking of when you first cast it.”
About a hundred feet away, the dust began to spiral up in a miniature tornado. The dust devil quickly grew and thickened until its center was obscured, then it all dropped to the ground at once revealing a figure.
It was a woman, and she began to walk towards them immediately. When she drew closer, which seemed to happen more rapidly than it should have, Kyle could see she was young with a bright smile features and golden hair. She was dressed in long white robes, or perhaps a toga. As she walked, her bare feet sent up small puffs of dust and by the time she reached them they were fairly well coated with the talcum powder fine soil.
She raised an eyebrow in a quizzical expression and asked, “Kyle, I presume?”