In “Waking I Dream,” the sequel to “Dreaming I Wake” and the second novel in the Dreaming Trilogy, we pick up with Jim’s disabled sister, Joan, who does indeed live a rich inner life. In her potent dreams of another life, in another time, Joan is a math shark with a photographic memory, a WWII-era OSS undercover agent and cryptologist, and a globe-trotting Nazi hunter. This is the world that is most authentic and tangible to Joan.
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Excerpt from Waking I Dream:
They don’t play games at The Farm. During her first week in Cryptology class, Joan unwittingly made herself very much noticed.
The class was pretty boring. Basic statistical theory on mathematical coding and history, starting around 600 BC with Roman, Italian, and Papal messages. The course opened with the simple Caesar Shift Cypher, which any kids’ secret decoder ring could easily break now, before moving on to Vigenere Coding, double transpositions, and one-time pads. The instructor, dressed in a dreary brown tweed suit and sporting the latest high-and-tight GI Joe haircut, droned monotonously on about something to do with the Nazis’ Enigma machine; Joan had lost track at that point. She was pretty familiar with the basics of the machine already after those three Poles cracked it ten years earlier and started sharing it with the world seven years later. What she was hoping to learn about was steganography: hiding data in plain sight such as with invisible inks and watermarking, or the special use of fonts, spacing, and punctuation to convey a message within otherwise innocuous-looking text.
Near the end of the class, sets of heavy booted footsteps clocked their way down the hall toward the door, which slammed open with a crash, shattering the glass pane. Three commandos stormed in wearing full military black tactical gear, sweeping the room down their gun sights, hollering at top voice to stay down, hands up. They piled in quickly; the students, confused and shocked, cowered behind their desks.
The first trooper grabbed the instructor in a headlock and tucked a blade under his chin. The second trooper crossed the room, covering it for the third commando, who was just entering.
Without even thinking, Joan sprang from her chair.
Sitting nearest to the door, as was her natural inclination, she flung herself at the third commando’s knees. They rolled together into a heap, sending desks and books and chairs flying. Joan heard the man’s breath sock out of his lungs as he hit the wall, and she took the opportunity to smash her knee into his groin for good measure. His pistol, still in its hip holster, slid into her hand like a duck to water.
Joan’s father Paddy had taught her and Jimmy how to hold and shoot the Colt .45 he kept loaded in his nightstand. She’d been 14, Jim 12. Father decided they were both old and responsible enough to learn how to handle it in an emergency. He didn’t believe in gun safes; what was the point of having a gun for emergencies if you had to unlock a safe first? He felt it was better to demystify the weapon in the first place. So he took Jim and Joan and their mother Sarah to a local indoor gun range for a couple hours and taught them all how to set the safety, and how to load, cock, and fire the gun with a measure of accuracy.
The business end of third commando’s pistol was firmly planted into the right side of his neck. Joan’s free hand was holding his forehead securely to the left.
She looked up. Everyone was staring at her.