Spacer Compass Rose 166
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    "The problem is that I always have in these situations," he sighed, "is that there are things that I could do... that I can't let myself do."
    "That's all right." I took a breath, feeling tired and a little shaky. "I do wonder sometimes what would have happened if I'd taken up on Chandler's offer to just forget that morning ever happened, but...." I know they would never have let me get away with it, though. Didn't fit in with what they wanted, whatever that was, exactly.
    "He was well-intentioned, but foolish. At least, that's the way I perceive things."
    "That's okay, I wasn't about to say yes at that point. In fact I kind of freaked out." I stretched a little bit. The quiet lengthened. "We'll see how things go," I said under my breath. More to myself than to him, really. "Might be a moot issue in the future."
    "What do you mean?"
    "Well somehow I don't think they're going to be happy with me." One faction, anyway.
    "They're not happy with you now."
    "Before, my utility outweighed any irritation." Or at least, so they had said. "Between the four of us I think we blew up several billion dollars worth of R&D," I told him with a bit of a smile. "Threw the entire project off track."
    "Which means now all they want to do is kill you?"
    "I don't know," I admitted. "I don't know if I've crossed that line or they would rather have me on a slab somewhere, probably the latter. There's always things to be learned. Poor Susan."
    After a moment of study he asked simply, "Are you going to be okay? I know you probably get that question a lot. You've made remarkable progress," he added when I made an equivocal sound. "I know it doesn't feel like it, but you've just been through in the last few months a series of very major shocks."
    "No argument."
    "And you are holding up quite well, and you even are acknowledging the places where you know you are not acting rationally, which is a very big step."
    "Well, it took me a couple months to get there."
    "If you had done it automatically I would have been far more concerned."
    "Okay." I must have looked confused.
    "You cannot deal with emotional shocks rationally," he told me. "You cannot sit there and say, 'Oh my god, she's dead. Well, whether I grieve or not, she'd still be dead. Grieving would waste my time. Therefore, logically, I should not grieve.' You set up defense mechanisms, reorganized the way you operated, constructed a viable support and defense mechanism for yourself, and slowly started to piece things through. You are continuing to do so. This is the best that you can hope for."
    "Yeah, you're right." I nodded carefully. There is, still, a big part insisting that dammit, I should be able to deal with it all rationally. "Muddling along," I sighed.
    "Everybody does. Well, Cold Steel galumphs along."
    I chuckled. "I don't know. They were worried I might go crazy."
    "I'd given that some thought myself."
    Well, that was splendidly reassuring. I guess if it hasn't happened by now it's not going to, though. Deep breath. "I'd just like reality to hold still for a little while," I confessed.
    "Hasn't it been, for the last week or so?"
    "So far, yeah. But I don't know... It's like you don't really think about it, you know? Nobody has any reason to think about it. Did yesterday happen? Of course yesterday happened. Of course this conversation is happening. But I think I'm probably always going to have that little... doubt, now," I said, looking at him to see if he was following me.
    "Then you will begin to doubt everything."
    "I know." I already do. I lost something that day when everything went away, when something entirely unthinkable happened to my life, and I don't know how to get it back. How to stop bracing myself for fear that maybe it's going to happen again, that I'll lose everything all over again. How to trust.
    I could sum the morning up by saying I opened a vein and bled all over him. We kept talking for a while longer. I guess this is what happens when you spend three months insisting you're fine. Everything finally came out—the questions I can't answer, conundrums I can't resolve, all the sharp things I've been shredding myself with since February.
    I can't say I really felt better by the end. Very tired. Slightly empty. I have a half dozen books for my light reading list now, people who've had to deal with various forms of trauma. The Cold Steel Lending Library showed up with a CIA manual on brainwashing recovery, much to my surprise, and didn't even say anything. I'll take Trent up on his once-a-month offer. We'll see how things go.
    This is going to be hard.

June 2, 1987

I finished out the day in Detroit. Took a boat tour out onto the lake. Didn't see any squid-monsters. Caught a red-eye to New York and slept soundly the whole flight. Visited Manhattan Project headquarters to say Hi, thank you, and chat with Justin and Rumble. Professional courtesy stuff, since I'm of the opinion that we should all start taking this whole hero team thing more seriously. They confirmed my initial impression of a couple of nice guys.
    I stopped by Taurus' office, but he wasn't in, so I left a note. Let him know we appreciate the assistance and he's welcome to stop by if he's ever in town, as long as he promises not to make fun of our taxes.
    Saw Cats. Visited a few museums. Enjoyed the spring sunshine in Central Park. Window shopped. This little trip has pretty much done in my bank account, but I think it did what it was supposed to. A start, at least.
    Last night I had a glass of wine in the hotel bar to celebrate my second birthday, and a private toast to the destruction of the World Crime Leage.
    And now here I am, back home, and everything looks the same as it did when I left. In the middle of unpacking I experienced a brief, overwhelming sense of disconnection and disorientation, looking around at the few lingering relics of my non-life scattered around the tiny room. May as well keep them, I suppose; it's not as if I can excise everything that's going to remind me of the nonexistent past from my day to day life, and the stuff I kept, I kept because I like it, after all. It might be good to have some new things, though.
    I guess it's time to start over.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson