Spacer The Prince of Cats 233
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    "Mind you," I added, "I've never really thought of the CIA as heroic... and I think the others' programming would get in the way of them doing anything in public, but maybe he did think I needed extra reinforcement, or something." I made a frustrated gesture. "There's still too much we don't know, I guess." What I wouldn't give for five minutes alone with that son of a bitch.... It still freaks me out a bit if I think about it too hard, this business of being made up of all these different parts of people.
    *And what would you do in those five minutes? Ask questions first, shoot later?* Trent's voice was in my head, calm and solid. I felt my pulse slow.
    Do it the other way around and I don't get any answers, now do I? I responded with dark humor. To my surprise, he let it go.
    "Have you thought about any of the other things we talked about in Detroit?" he asked aloud instead.
    "Hm? Oh, yeah. Slow going, but getting better I suppose."
    "Really?" There was a slight but noticable degree of skepticism in Trent's voice in that comment. "How so?"
    "What's that for?" I asked, mildly indignant. "No panic attacks in a while now." I shrugged. Bad dreams since this Caduceus business, but I haven't felt so... out of control as I did immediately following Poughkeepsie. "I've been working on the memory stuff, but like I said, it's slow going."
    The roof is, in fact, where I often go to get some quiet time for my attempts to deal with this strange loss—I compare it to turning on the TV one morning and finding out that your hometown got nuked last night. Once a week or so, when I feel like I can handle it, I go out—up here or out to one of the farther islands. Sometimes I bring a photograph, sometimes I just remember things. Say goodbye to all of it, try to find the distance that will let me view it all in the proper perspective, accept the memories for what they really are. It's far from something I enjoy doing, but there are things I can think about now without getting all tangled up in the hurt. Once in a while, I can even see the whole thing as something of a benefit: I have very few distractions. Whatever the task requires will engender no regrets.
    "I've been thinking that it might be a good idea to go out there one of these days—not any time soon, I don't think," I added in acknowledgment of the slight trepidation the thought inspired, "but I'm curious what it would be like to actually see everything."
    "That might not be a bad idea. You told me that you were already re-reading books that you remember. This might give you a good touchstone for your past. Even better, since the place will have naturally changed since you last 'saw' them." Trent took a step closer, but still remained well outside my personal space. Nice of him. "I've told you my opnion about how you should view these memories, acknowledging them as 'natural' and a real part of yourself. Seeing a hometown you haven't been to for a while would evoke the same feelings in anyone, regardless of how the memories got there, and might do you a lot of good in dealing with them. How about the subject of grief?"
    I tensed without any conscious volition and wondered if I should mention that I'd been thinking of the prospective visit more in terms of cauterizing a wound. I want to see it for what it is, without the veil of illusions. Want to have something of it that they haven't touched.These memories might be part of me, but natural doesn't enter into it. "Well, that's kind of what I meant, just sort of dealing with everything that isn't there. It's all right, I guess. One day at a time sort of thing." I assessed my uncommunicative tone. "Mostly, lately I've just been trying to get more of a sense of perspective on everything. Thanks for the books, by the way," I added. "I've been allowing myself to be upset about things, if that's what you're asking about."
    "Getting upset about them is a good start. Even rage about things—within limits—is good. Any emotion is a sign that you're working through it, and is preferable to being numb."
    Rage, I've never had a problem with. The limits, on the other hand... well, that's been better too, a bit. As long as I don't think about certain things too much, anyway.
    Trent walked over to the edge of the building and sat down, lettig his legs dagle off the roof. "Enough serious stuff. Have you been doing anything besides working lately? Any movies to reccomend, any fun books?"
    "I read a really neat article in the Astrophysical Journal last week," I offered. "Though that's probably not your idea of fun. We got to watch half of a kabuki play before General Motors interrupted. Haven't seen any movies lately. You know how the job is, you get busy periods."
    He seemed satisfied, even pleased. I decided not to tell him about the recent press debacle, just in case he decided that Molly had the right idea with her silly "project." I don't know why people can't leave well enough alone. I should think it would be pretty obvious that I have more important things to worry about.

[Aside: Blood Boards; AMC; Phoenix Talon]

September 3, 1987

I returned from a quiet morning patrol and noticed a lot of people out on the dock, about a dozen or so rowdy-looking youths, banked over to see what was going on. A wood-paneled station wagon pulled up, and a middle-aged man got out the passenger side with a duffel bag over his shoulder.
    "Thanks, son," he told the driver, who nodded and drove off looking like he wanted to hide.
    I recognized some of the kids as Blood Boards. One of them waved at me and yelled a greeting. I called Phoenix Talon to find out what was going on.
    "Talon? Your um... people...?"
    "Yeah, yeah. It's an emergency. I'm really sorry about this, but they have to stay out on the island," he told me curtly.
    "I beg your pardon?" Hadn't we just gone through this a couple weeks ago?
    "The Alley Cats killed two of my boys. Two of the others are in critical condition."
    "I see...."
    "There's a war on, we need a fort."
    "Okay. It's an emergency," I conceded.
    "Thank you for understanding."

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson