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Today, those years had caught up with Mitty's father.

"It's a double threat," said Mitty as he leaned forward in the chair, wringing his hands. "Lung cancer, pneumonia, and a heart attack."

Birch leaned over and squeezed Mitty's shoulder. "That'd be a triple threat," he murmured as they sat in the hospital's waiting room. There was a lack of any scents in the room. It was completely aseptic.

"Yeah, I know. My brain's running on auto," Mitty replied, patting Birch's hand. "Thanks for coming over."

"I figured you could use a friend. Jan sends his regards, and he'll be coming with me tomorrow to see you."

Mitty continued to stare at the floor, his hands resuming their wringing. "I don't think he's going to wake up again." I also don't think he's going to survive the night.

Birch winced as he picked up Mitty's thought, and wished once again that his telepathy hadn't changed the rules. Once, his ability could only pick up people's thoughts at a distance of exactly five miles away. No more, no less. Now he could read people's thoughts within those five miles, and at a greater distance if he had an emotional connection, such as a loved one.

As if on cue, Jan's thoughts came into his head. Birch! Call me!

"Excuse me for a second, Mitty," Birch said as he stood up, taking his cell phone out of his pocket, "I just remembered I have to call Jan."

"Tell him I said hi," Mitty replied, not looking up.

A pang of sadness mixed with sympathy plummeted through Birch as he moved over to a secluded corner, then dialed Jan's number. "You're getting good at projecting your thoughts," he said once Jan answered.

"I know," Jan said, and Birch found himself rolling his eyes at how smug the leopard sounded. "I should be the telepathic one, huh?"

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