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It's not about the prestige, Peter. It's about helping people. - Thunderbolt



August 16, 1987

    After things had settled down, Trent and I went off for a bit of flying practice. It frustrates me endlessly that I'm not better at it yet. You'd think it would come naturally after all their programming. I did at last have a chance to open up a conversation I'd been waiting for.
    "So, as long as you're here, I had a couple things I wanted to to talk to you about...."
    He folded his wings back as he settled on the roof. It was a gorgeous evening after a beautiful day, the air was crisp and warm, with lots of thermals, perfect for his sort of flight. "I assume this doesn't have to do with with flying lessons. Are you comfortable up here? And by the way—thanks for 'rescuing my girlfriend.' I caught that one even over the storm."
    I felt myself redden. "Sorry about that. This is fine," I looked around at the roof. "I spend a good bit of time up here. Actually, Emily was part of what I wanted to talk about."
    Trent got a slightly quizzical look. "What about Emily? Are there more strange connections with Dawn?"
    "Just a random thought I had the other day. Don't know why it took so long to occur to me, but you said Emily has amnesia, right? Is it possible that they're the same sort of being? whatever that is," I added. Seemed like too much of a coincidence to me. "Has anyone with magical training looked at Emily?"
    Trent nodded. "It had occured to me too, back when Emily started speaking Japanese while Dawn was in Asia." His wings fluttered in slight irritation. "As we discovered earlier, there aren't really a lot of reliable magical practioners. We met with the Ghost Dance briefly—the magical people who ran into the undead 'Spirits of the North' I mentioned to Scott earlier, and none of them saw anything odd about her. I don't know that they were looking though. I do think there's some connection, but I don't know what. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them."
    "Not just now. Too bad Chandler's out of town still... and fortunately or unfortunately, I don't know how to get in touch with Yasmina, who probably wouldn't explain anything anyway." I shrugged. "Talon's taking her to Houston to see his old advisor. Maybe he'll come up with something on the tests. Anyway, the other thing I wanted to talk to you about was that stuff you copied out of my skull back in Detroit." It's been all I could do not to bug him about it before now, since I was sure that if he'd found anything he would have contacted me. So I had an intimation that I wasn't going to like what I heard.
    "I was meaning to tell you about that, but I've hesitated because the news isn't at all good. The information and structure I duplicated is incomprehensable, which could explian the pain you felt when I tried to open it last time." Trent indicated floors below with a motion of his head. "I talked with Albert about this earlier, and he thinks it likely that each of the synthetic memory sets has its own chemical coding, and each is slightly incompatable with the rest. That might be why you reacted so violently to your exposure to Mr. Javelin. I know, that doesn't seem to make sense—why put them in if there's no reason for them to interact?" Trent shrugged expressively. "That violent reaction might be a standard problem of multiple layers of synethic memory—in which case Javelin has found a way around it—or it might be something they installed to prevent overlapped personalites, to keep you from turning into a 'Javelin' if the memory sets started to interact.
    "In either case, I couldn't make sense of the coded memories, or find a way to open them up to you without risking serious trauma. Albert backed me up on this. I'm sorry. I know that isn't what you wanted to hear."
    My expression was intent while listening to Trent's explanation. When he finished I nodded once, turned to wander over to the roof's edge and look at the bay's gentle waves. "Well, damn," was my only comment for a moment, far milder than I felt. "I swear, the more we figure out the less sense the whole business makes. These people are psychotic, but I can't see them doing something like this for no reason at all. There must be something we're missing. Maybe Javelin knows." I sighed. "Shit. Back to square one, then, and the clock's running."
    I found myself pacing for a few moments, thinking. "What was it Zed said... something about Shannon's memories, and 'one push.' Maybe there's a trigger, or a key? A different drug? Speaking of, you didn't find anything that might belong to a dead CIA agent when you went poking around the first time, did you?"
    Trent kept his distance, no doubt well aware of my anger and frustration. "No, I didn't. I don't even know where it might be hiding, but since Zed had no reason to think you would ever hear that, he also had no reason to lie about it. Maybe those experiences are just a key part of your psyche. Maybe the one push was then, and not now. She was something of a hero, wasn't she? Maybe he just used them to give you your sense of duty and responsibility. None of the others in the SB series seem to have that trait, since we haven't heard of any of them working publically."
    I raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I suppose that makes sense." Actually, since then a way has occurred to me in which the whole thing does seem less bizarre: those memories could simply be there as backups. If anything happens to any of us, the powers we've developed would be lost, but at least they wouldn't lose the skill sets for eventual inclusion in Tempest. Of course, the only way to confirm that would be to find one of the others and have Trent take a look at her, which is beginning to look like a pretty damn difficult job. Best case, we have ten months left. Might end up having to say to hell with the risk....

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson