DISCLAIMER: See Part 1
By Elizabeth Carter
Garshaw, Sina, Thellas, Thoran, Korra, Raully and Malek, made up the other Tok'ra taken prisoner by the Malakim contingent. Selmac looked to her mate's host and added one more to the roll call. Jarek had died in the first assault. His head neatly severed from his body by a Malakim sunsword. He hadn't been the only Tok'ra to fall to the Malakim who had come hunting Anise. Of course she too was now dead - her head severed just like Jarek's had been. The difference being hers was proof that Malakim Justice had been indeed carried out.
All of the Tok'ra now contained in the brig had had dealings in the past with the SGC and more specifically with SG1. All of them had given the Tau'ri vague answers, stonewalled proceedings and in their arrogance had alienated their allies. It was ironic now that the Tok'ra were given the same treatment they had given others countless times in the past including SG1 doubly ironic that they were all now prisoners of Samantha Carter's personal military.
The Malakim starship had entered the Atlantis system and finally Jacob had been given audience with the commander of the Obsidian Wing, Zegravius. He had relayed all that had transpired between himself and the thing with daughter's face that called itself Chimera. He also gave his thoughts on the idea of the anti-Nephalim and what Arian had told him of the War of the Nephalim.
He had been thanked and sent back to his cell. The father in Jacob was outraged that he had been so dismissed. His little girl was in serious trouble and these pathetic angels didn't seem to give a damn.
His judgment it would seem had been too rash and too quick. The Malakim wings had gone into high alert. Mineralogically named squads slipped in and out of the Pen Umbra on dual orders to keep alert for this Chimera and to guard the ship and prisoners (at least Jacob), should the creature return. The Ofanim amongst them were sent further into the Deep Umbra seeking any sign residual or recent trace of Chimera. What they found only confirmed the Diabolical's report. There was indeed a being of extreme power and control over the Great Song. The World Symphony buzzed with her lingering presence.
"You speak the truth, Diabolical." Zegravius said at the moment she stepped across the threshold of the brig.
"You think I would lie about a thing like this!" Jacob all but roared incredulously.
"Diabolicals are known to spin falseness in their words."
To fight about semantics at this moment would be ludicrous. Tok'ra had long lived with the shadow of their Goa'uld brethren. As a result the rebel symbiotes were more than sensitive about being called anything but Tok'ra.
"Not with my daughter's life on the line or my grandkids," Carter rebuked his captor. "I told you everything I know."
"Of that I doubt. Diabolicals have a preceding reputation of withholding needed Intel. 'All you know' and what you pass along to others are two different matters. This procedure has been employed when your band of Diabolicals have had congress with the Nephalim and SG1."
Jacob wanted to argue this allegation but it would be moot. The angel was telling the truth but what did it matter now? It didn't matter the Council had often withheld INTEL from Selmac on the grounds they were wary of where Jacob's loyalties lay.
Perhaps there was something of a parent in Zegravius, for the expression in her jewel eyes changed from harsh condemnation to one of compassion. "Alas on this topic of the Chimera all that can be done is being done at the moment. Fear not."
Jacob believed her. His fear remained nonetheless.
Fear wasn't exactly the word Razeal would have chosen to describe what he was feeling at the moment. Apprehension, anxiety perhaps but they seemed too pedestrian. The acrid taste lingering on his tongue was attributed to adrenaline. The tightness in his chest was there because of his anxiety to be sure. Terror was a more apt description. His mind awhirl like an oncoming tropical storm. Surely for all the discord rippling inside him now, clouding the wonders of the Great Song from his own Song the Malakite would cut him down.
And what did he do? He had purposely asked a parley with one of them. But if he had any hopes of restoration and redemption it would be with the Virtues. He could not fail his beloved Nephalim! Oh the joy of her benevolent forgiveness. It was to be celebrated, if not for that lingering doubt.
Razeal examined the phial clutched in his hand. It looked so tiny in his large hand. So small a thing to bring such great troubles to his heavy heart drew wonder to the angelic's inner song. Why was such a burden laid at his wing tips? Perhaps the Nephalim that is to say the one that claimed to come from the future thought only he was capable of such an epic task to to what? What was this quicksilver like powder supposed to do? And why hadn't the future winged Nephalim given it to her mate or child to deliver if it was of such great import?
He had resolved to ask Boudicca what he should do even if it made him appear as weak willed and fallible. Prudence was the wiser choice. Even expecting her Razeal became quite startled by her sudden presence. But then was such the way of a Malakites' wings that they could fly like the owl soundlessly.
"Your Song is filled with the continence of Discord." It was said as a warning to the one afflicted with dissonance. It was the Malakite's polite way of telling the 'perpetrator' they were dangerously close to the Fading.
"It is why I called you, Commander," Razeal tried to keep his trepidation out of his voice and compose himself with some measure of dignity. He held out the vial to the Blue Wing commander as if it could offer up a full explanation for the current events.
As soon as Boudicca touched the glass container she hissed. "What fell thing is this, Razeal?" Her hand strayed to the hilt of the sun-sword. Her white wings fanned out in an almost pose of aggression and dominance.
"Don't be so precipitate," Razeal took a step back and his indignation brought bright spots of anger to his eyes. He was mindful to keep his own wings fixed to his sides so not to offer challenge. He told his superior of the visit of the winged-Nephalim and of her request. He told her further of his doubts about the dubious request and the questions he had asked and re-asked himself.
"It is your duty after all to answer the will of the Nephalim and it is clear why your Song is in such Discord."
"Duty! You should know about that: sword in hand, banner's flying, bugles sounding the charge. What do you know of walking a swords edge rather than carrying one? Not for a few glorious hours but month after month."
The sudden surge of anger startled Boudicca. She had meant to complement the young archeologist not to condemn him. But his defensiveness and guilt made him see persecution where none was to be found.
"Razeal hold your wits in your head and your tongue between your teeth before you speak out," Boudicca said as if she were scolding a petulant featherling and not a full grown Wing Knight. "I meant only your duty is the cause of your Discord. Thus easily remedied."
Razeal looked at the phial in the hand of the older Malakim warrior. "How? Should I obey the winged Nephalim?"
"What do your instincts tell you?"
"No. That it this is poison. It will bring harm not good. If the Nephalim is meant to evolve then she will do so without drug. If the future Nephalim means to change her present one then she would go to her mate not to me."
Boudicca continued. "Why not you?"
"Because I am " To this Razeal stopped. He was hesitant to but to voice his desire, his true love for the Nephalim. For it wasn't the love of a retainer for his liege. It wasn't the love one carried for a leader. It was the love of the heart. Of romance that could not come to fruition. It was the love a mate has for their mate. "I love her more than I should," he finally said in deep humiliation by the admission.
When he heard no chastising remark from the Commander he looked up. "Tell me Razeal who amongst us does not carry such love of her in our hearts? Her natural essence and the Songs of Presence make it so. More so because our beloved Nephalim does not do so intentionally and struggles to contain such reverent reaction to her. It is well you surrendered this to me," Boudicca gestured to the phial in her hand. "I can understand why you did not sound alarm to the presence of the false Nephalim in your quarters. Especially if this female has the same Songs the Nephalim has."
Razeal stared at her incredulously.
"Think Razeal. Had not the order been given by Samantha to seek out and hunt down the diabolical named Anise and bring Malakim justice to her? There is a death warrant issued against the one who was created by fell deeds a creature who bears Samantha's own face."
Razeal staggered back so forcefully by this elementary revelation that his wings hit hard against the balustrade of the balcony. "Oh Great Song take my voice!" He wings drooped, his head hung low. "May my feathers molt!" He beat a palm against his brow. "How could I have been so utterly blind! So stupid?"
Boudicca didn't respond to this melodrama as such. "Because this creature, this abomination must be endowed with the Song of Presence as I said. She also must have other Songs such as Obfuscation if she went unnoticed both in the Pen Umbra and in the Corporeal realm. Domination as well I might hazard a guess. Great Song knows what else. Somehow she has doppelganged her Song from us in the guise of the Nephalim so not to fully cause vibrations in the World Symphony that might have otherwise alerted us to her presence here."
Razeal had the presence of mind to shake off his initial self debasement for succumbing to will of the false Nephalim. Since the moment the false Nephalim had visited him he had felt as if an angry porcupine was crawling around inside his cranium. When he had launched into his narrative the porcupine went crazy, jamming needles into every square inch of his soft brain tissue. Now the beast seemed to have disappeared. The relief of the pain lifting was so apparent that Razeal let out a very audible sigh of joy. The Discord had gone or at least had dissipated a fair bit.
"Come. We must bring this to the attention of the Nephalim. And perhaps the Liege Healer can shed some light on this bit of business." Boudicca said, her last comment directed to the odd contents inside the phial.
The slivery liquid-like powder in the phial stymied Janet Frasier MD. The powder was so fine that it could easily be taken up in the wind and directed if needs be to a certain target. Janet thought the very idea of blowing poisonous powder into an intended victim had an almost film-noir touch if it wasn't such a serious affair.
How Chimera had slipped past Malakim defenses was another question marring the mind of all. Yes slipping past the human defenses of Atlantis and even those of the Ancients was one thing but Malakim were supposed to be hyperaware of such things, of people beyond human and mechanized perception. Malakim were able to see beyond one reality into another into the Pen Umbra.
The Malakite themselves were renowned for their ability to feel disturbances in the fabric of the World Symphony. But for them to do so one's inner song, their soul had to be in discord with their resonances. If Chimera was not in discord she would not be as readily sensed. Still such a powerful being would certainly be felt.
But what if Chimera's resonance was so alike to the Nephalim's it was difficult to observe her. It would be as if the eye was trying to observe overplaying shadows so alike they melded into one, that is until one moved.
If this was so then it would be nigh on impossible to hunt her in the conventional sense of Malakim knowledge. Flushing her out seemed for the moment the only course open to them. But was one that should be acted upon simply because it was the only foreseeable one?
And what was in the phial?
Chimera had said the component wouldn't harm the child. Could those words be taken for truth? The first thought was it had been a lie so that Razeal would deliver the powder to Sam. The drug had to be inhaled, not injected or consumed. Perhaps it was along the lines of a histamine-allergenic?
A sample had been collected to be processed through the Gas Chromatograph/ Mass Spectrometer. Known more popularly like everything in the Military by its acronym GC/MS. The whole process took a bit of time. In GS the substance was vaporized into constituents that pass at different rates though a tube packed with granules, to be detected by sensors at the end. In MS the substance is broken down into ions. These pass through a magnetic coil and pick up speed according to their mass, giving a wave-line spectrum that show the elements present.
Too bad life wasn't like a TV with high-speed CGI/ evidence POV. At least then the waiting would be entertaining, and time would speed up so that the results were in by the next commercial break. As it was in real life toxicology took time.
'At least I have time to speculate motive.' Janet mused. Her brown eyes continued to stare at the silvery powder, willing it to tell her its secrets. 'It's a powder, to be blown in the face. Not a completely accurate mode of attack. In fact it is almost elementary in its logistics.' The doctor murmured to herself. Perhaps Chimera was unable to think of a more sophisticated method of application. Hell it sounded like something Hathor might have done.
"Hathor!" Janet jumped up from her stool so quickly it wheeled away from her and toppled over. Without missing a beat she righted the stool before heading for Carson's lab table.
Carson nearly choked on his coffee at the exclamation. "Janet?"
"Of course! Sometimes simple is best." Her mind gave a very brief thank you to Jack O'Neill's somewhat obvious solutions to problems. Janet now stood in front one of the large storage cabinets that contained all the accoutrements of analyzing trace, materials and DNA. Taking out a Petri dish she set it down on the lab table along side the phial of quicksilver powder. "Nishta."
Beckett frowned for a moment at the references. He had never actually come across the component therefore it took his brain a few seconds to ransack through the medical filing cabinet in his brain. "The Goa'uld hypnotic control agent?" he gave a look to the GC/MS. It had yet to kick out its results but Fraiser was confident in her speculation.
Janet was positively beaming, "Exactly. Years back when SG1 infiltrated Seth's cult they were exposed to the agent. It was green misting powder. Once inhaled it controlled the minds of those who had breathed it in. It was obviously broad spectrum agent. Male and female alike responded to it, thus targeting both Y and X chromosomes."
"But you said Hathor?" Carson was back being confused.
"The substance she had used was more of a fuchsia-pink pheromone mist that only controlled the men. It reacted to the Y chromosome." A large smile painted itself onto the small woman's face. "Wanna' bet this is something along those lines?"
"I wouldn't dream of wagering against you Doctor. But if Razeal blew the powder into the General's face wouldn't she react to him or wouldn't he be exposed as well?"
A small finger rose up. "Not if it is tailor made for Sam."
"DNA reaction?" he smiled now as well for the puzzle being solved.
"I have to test it. I'll need to get samples of Sam's blood and spinal fluid to be sure but I am positive it was meant only for her."
"How did Chimera get the General's DNA?"
"You forget she has Sam's DNA in her. Either Chimera managed to isolate the chromosomes that are uniquely Sam's or she used what trace DNA Anise still had. Either way it is brilliant."
"And terrifying," Carson thought of the broader spectrums of the threat of tailored made Nishta. "This means the powder could be used against anyone if encoded with their DNA."
Janet nodded sharing the man's terror. More so considering Sam was her wife and mother of their second born child. "I know." Her voice became morose. "If Chimera is the controller there is no telling what her motives are. I doubt she was taught right and wrong in the perspective we see it or even as the Tok'ra see it. There wouldn't have been enough time. At best she is morally ignorant."
"She is another Ori? Or Anubis? Both? That kind of personality and power combined with the mentality of Usiel is a horrific concept."
"Janet, this person means to control the Malakim Nephalim. It is a greater danger than we can imagine."
Janet froze. 'All the power of the Malakim!' Give that kind of power to a person like Usiel and the universe just unraveled itself. What in the name of all that was Holy had Anise unleashed on them all?
Janet recalled Usiel's reluctance for becoming a megalomaniac. He had no desire for intergalactic domination; he had claimed he was too lazy for it. But what chaos he loved to generate. What if Chimera was the same? So far her actions proved she was. Moreover what if she claimed she and not Sam was the true Nephalim?
A megalomaniac was easy to deflect, to understand and in the long run thwart. Someone who as Jack O'Neill might say 'fucks with you just to fuck with you' is much more difficult to out-strategize, outthink and thwart. How did one stop the snowball rolling down the mountain from turning into a mudslide come whirlpool?
"Why do you think this Chimera will be anything like that Usiel bloke?"
A tired smile replaced the studious expression Janet held earlier. "Because she is part Anise. The Tok'ra though not malignant are morally ambiguous. Anise has been that at every encounter I had with the woman. She will do whatever she feels necessary damn the innocents that get in the way, to see the completion of her work. In so many respects she reminds me of Nazi doctors or those responsible for Tuskegee. Any influence she might have had with Chimera will be such as I described. Chimaera will be more or less a sociopath just like Usiel. Kill someone or eat an ice-cream cone it's all the same in the mind. It's not that she doesn't care, it's that she sees no difference.
"If Chimera is free, I can only surmise that she killed her maker. I doubt Anise would allow her pet to run far without a leash and so openly. Chimera killing her maker in effect matricide makes her predatory and willing to do what it takes to achieve her own agendas. Whatever they might be. If the Malakim wings sent out to find her had captured her they would have contacted their Nephalim by now. They haven't which means Chimera is out there on her own. Being part Malakim though they might consider her a Remnant."
"A fallen angel."
"Aye I understand." Carson had grown up in a religiously observant family. His Gran went to Kirk everyday like clockwork. Inclement weather, illness be damned nothing would keep that old beloved crone from attending Services. The idea of a fallen angel was terrifying to Carson. Thinking of what Razeal did because of righteous anger and the prospect of Chimera became horrific. He sat down suddenly on the stool Janet had used only moments ago with a heavy thump. "Oh this is bad."
"Yes" Janet leaned her back against the counter to support her own weight. "Yes it is. And I don't know how we can stop this."
Carson's eyes looked at the phial sitting near the Petri dish. "Chimera doesn't want to kill General Carter."
"No," Janet was positive on that. They had already run toxicity levels of the component and found it to be non-lethal but that didn't mean it still wasn't dangerous. "We still have to test the hypothesis that this is a form of Nishta."
"Aye," the gentle Scotsman nodded, "and perhaps we can find a way to neutralize it, should Chimera try another way to drug the General."
Fear crawled beneath Janet's careful façade, like woodworms eating her within. A sly paralyzing panic. It could cripple you faster than a staff blast, and she should know. If Chimera won control over Samantha who had control over the Malakim the galaxy as they knew it might as well pack it in. Just go hide behind the sofa squeeze your eyes shut tight and cover your ears.
Janet Fraiser wasn't the sort of woman that hid and Samantha Carter surely wasn't the sort who cowered. 'There was no courage without fear.' Teal'c once said. Time to be courageous because Janet was petrified of what very possible prospect of the future could become.
It was almost dramatic serendipity at this moment the GS/MS bleeped just before it printed out the results of the tests. As Janet had suspected the silver powder was indeed a highly concentrated form of Nishta. Custom made with trace amounts of Naquada and several DNA extract compounds that would have to be identified by other means. But Janet knew already what the DNA sources were: Symbiote, Human and Malakim. She'd have to run a polymerase chain reaction to be sure. But PCR and Genetic Analyzer (ABI) could confirm everything.
DNA markers and individual traits could be linked by how many times short tandem repeats, recur along the helix in the sample. Using DNA encoded bio-weapons was a mark of sure mad geniuses. Chimera's idea was to link her DNA to that of Sam's thus able to make Carter the thrall. A thrall blood-bonded to a being of no moral compunction or understanding. Mass power given to a child was oblivion just waiting in the winds.
Sam sat in one of the infirmary beds watching as her blood was siphoned into a phial. As a former member of the SGC, Carter was accustomed to physicals after each off-world mission to ascertain not only Goa'uld presence but other alien contagions. Just walking on alien soil could prove a bio-hazard nightmare. Blood was always taken during the exams but spinal fluid was something that wasn't always tested.
"I know you're worried." Janet spoke soothingly to her wife. "But you won't feel anything."
Carson was appalled at the out right lie. Not only was 'the' Doctor Fraiser lying about a procedure she was telling it to her wife. He opened his mouth to protest but Frasier's voice cut him off.
"I don't want to stress the baby, so this is what you are going to do. I'm pulling rank here 'Carter' and no arguments. I'm taking it."
Sam wanted to argue but hell she knew better than that.
"Doctor?" Carson asked as diplomatically as possible.
"Sam and I share a Bond," Janet smiled as her eyes took in the sight of her wife's very swollen belly. "A well meaning young Nox not only created a metaphysical and psionic Bond between Sam and me, he also was able though without our knowledge to manipulate cross-ovum pregnancy. It was quite a shock to discover I was pregnant without a male donor." They both laughed at the memory of so many years ago.
Nefreyu of the Nox had believed Sam and Janet's life would be fuller if they had a child. He thought the young lovers were far too separated as a bonded pair. The Nox always shared a Bonding with their lifemates; he wanted the same for the woman with hair-fur the same color as the sun.
"You mean you are telepathically linked?"
Both ladies nodded. "As well as empathically," Janet explained. "During my pregnancy we discovered how much we are linked. Sam was taking all of my symptoms of both pregnancy and the cold-virus I had caught. I couldn't treat her because she had symptoms but no illness. That's when we discovered the Bond's depth. Since then we've refined our control over it. I intend to take the pain of the spinal tap so Sam won't feel it and stress our unborn daughter."
The respect Beckett had for Fraiser returned. In fact it returned ten-fold. How could he have doubted her? Doubted her dedication and integrity? The guilt of his thoughts must have been transparent, for he felt the sudden presences of the tiny doctor at his side. "Don't worry, Carson I know you believed me to lie to Sam. The truth is I not she will know the pain of the procedure. I trust you to take care of her."
The Scotsman grinned, warmed he was so trusted by this powerful physician. "Oh! Of course you will be unable to do the procedure yourself."
"Exactly." She looked at the neighboring bed but shook her head. No that would never do. "Carson I know what kind of doctor you are. I'm betting you never leave if there is someone in your infirmary."
"Aye you'd win that wager."
"You have a cot or couch in your office."
"A very comfortable couch though it may not look like it." He flashed a sharing smile. "Go ahead and use it. But why not use that bed?" he pointed to the bed Janet had disregarded.
"If Sam hears me yelp out in pain, her knee jerk reaction is to try to pull it into herself." Brown eyes met the sparkling blue of her wife's
"Sorry love. I can't help it." Sam shrugged though she had the decency to feel chagrined.
"I know," Janet's delicate hand reached out touching feathering back golden locks. "Which is why I need to be in another room where you can't hear me. It shouldn't take long for the procedure to be completed. The Chimera-Nishta will react to the chemicals along the spine and the cranium. We need to see how exactly."
"Let's get it over with then."
Before Janet could make her escape Sam's hand shot out and snapped around the other woman's wrist. "I love you." She places a warm kiss upon the hand she was holding. "I love you so much."
"I know." Janet's lips brushed Sam's brow with a butterfly's touch. "We'll find a way to counteract this, Sammy." Janet issued a dry laugh. "We do the impossible every day."
"Sometimes twice a day," Sam smirked. To other presences in the room Sam turned the playful expression into one of trust. "Okay Dr. Beckett lets get this over with."
It was strange to see Janet mobile so soon after experiencing the pains of a spinal tap. More strange was when she moved it was with an ethereal grace Carson had only seen in screen goddesses like Greta Garbo. He could have given a sworn testimony Fraiser had a very faint but distinctly there golden glow about her body. Why not? She has resurrected Rodney Mackay for crying out loud. Of course she would defuse the torment of the procedure into that World Symphony or whatever it was. Had not the angels sung in the distance in their heavenly voices?
Samantha Carter should be immobile for the next few hours to say the least but she was being helped up by Janet and Cassandra who only just arrived with a tiny child in tow. Carson sat back content with watching the little family. The wee girl was a perfect blend of both women, her eyes unique both brown and blue: earth and sky. Her blonde hair tinted by darker shades of brown almost red. She was very small for a girl her age. That Beckett surmised was something passed down to her by Janet's genes. What would the babe growing within Samantha look like? Would she have the blended eyes or hair? Beckett believed such a unique blend had to have been influenced by the Nox. Genetics simply didn't merge the ideal aesthetics.
Whatever the child looked like she would have a grand legacy to live up to as did wee Rebecca. To an extent Cassandra was expected to live up to the legend that was her mothers. To be the children of the Nephalim of the Malakim: genius and the Scion of Healing: Nephalim of the Ancient what lives they would live. What targets they would become.
Razeal's failure was something Chimera simply assumed was inevitable. His devotion was prime, his love ideal his conviction perfect. His guilt, his dissonance underestimated. This act of Razeal's revelation of Chimera's presence and the Nishta was not unexpected or upsetting to the amalgamated creature. To her it was a learning experience.
She did not think to take vengeance or grow irritated against Razeal or herself or even the Nephalim. 'My host is the father of the woman who resembles you.' The words lingered as a half remembered lyric. The Great Voice was Samantha Carter, touched by Novalis the Awakener just as Chimera herself had been. Novalis woke the Songs within Samantha, taught her to fly and recognize the World Symphony. The Awakener had made the Samantha become the Great Voice so that Chimera's creation could be made possible. Chimera could only become the Nephalim through the Great Voice.
"One does not control the Great Voice, it is. As the wind is, as the waves are she is also. I can only be as long as she is the Great Voice. I am the Nephalim, the Great Voice must know this, must see it is I not she that is so. The Great Song is not the World Symphony. The Great Voice can not be the Nephalim. We cannot be separate but we are not the same."
In Chimera's mind she reasoned in the days long before the universe was created the World Symphony had told the Great Song that it was not Music of All but gave music to all. It must have been very confusing for the Great Song to hear this. Following this logically Chimera believed it was her duty, her Resonance to clarify to Samantha she was the Great Voice, not the Power of All but that which gave power to all. Samantha must allow reason to dominate, must made to realize who the Nephalim truly was.
There was no malice, no hate in Chimera for Samantha's confusion, it was difficult to see the distinction but that was the task before her. "I will open your eyes Beloved Voice, then you will give me the power to fly into the destiny that is mine." As a child might Chimera smiled shyly as she watched this beautiful wingless Voice wonder the realm of the Ancient Ones. "As you did with Razeal forgive my zealousness for I did not understand until now what roles we play. I blame you not for sharing the confusion, for do we not share the same tones of voice, the same face? Am I not blood of your blood, flesh of your flesh, voice of your voice? Mother of Mine I will make aware of our Resonance, you will see clearly as I do now." Blue eyes stared at the swell of her 'mother's belly. "The child - my sister will be born first."
Sam paused in step, turned about her looking for the sound she heard but found only her children and wife near.
"Mama?" Rebecca asked tilting her head giving her mother a rather curious look. "Why you stop?"
"It's nothing Little Bit. Just hearing shadows, its nothing." Sam ruffled her daughter's hair, "Whose up for buffalo wings and fries?"
"Sounds good to me," Cassie said. "You still craving spicy things?"
"When it's not jello and fresh melons." Janet laughed at her wife's expense.
"At least it isn't jellyfish sandwiches." Sam shuddered, remembering the tuna-fish and peanut butter sandwiches Janet craved during her pregnancy with Rebecca.
Rebecca was still pondering this hearing shadows business as she followed her parents and sister into the mess hall for the evening meal. Hearing Shadows? That was a good way to put it. She knew shadows weren't always what they appeared to be or as large. Mommy showed her that one night when the shadows of the tree outside her bedroom hit against her wall along the bookcase and toys making it look rather monstrous. Other kids' mommy said monsters don't exist. Rebecca's mommy said there are always explanations for things but our imaginations takes on the easiest and scariest because it is basic.
Waking up is sometimes very scary after a bad dream and then to see your walls move in scary patterns is even worse. You have to scream so Mommy and Mama can hear you and make the monsters go away. Only Mama was away on a mission. Only Mommy and Sissy were home.
Rebecca climbed into mother's lap, nesting her head upon mommy's chest and feeling safe within the hug. "It's scary to look at." Rebecca pointed at the wall and the dubious shadows painted. "They are secret monsters."
"There are always explanations for things but our imaginations take on the easiest and scariest because it is basic it goes way back to primitive times. Basic thinking is easy thinking even if it is scary thinking but our brains do that."
Rebecca scrunched up her nose trying to grasp the concept, it was almost there, but like the shadows it was not quite sharp enough to make out what it was.
"Your Mama can understand maths with letters and numbers and all kinds of odd symbols that even I don't quite understand. I see those type of maths as scary. So my mind tells me I can't solve them. We know one and one make two in math. Right?"
The little head nodded. "That's easy." A smile. "Easy is basic."
"But not scary."
"But shadows and monsters is basic thinking? Why is it scary?"
"Because your mind sees all the shadows as one thing when really its overlapping things. The tree outside, the toys and books. Its like seeing shapes in clouds only instead of being all white and fluffy and in the daylight, its night, and dark and that's what makes it scary. Your mind is playing spot the image without you telling it to. It's automatic."
"Like blinking and breathing and heart beating." Rebecca looked up to large brown eyes twinkling at her.
"Right again, Baby."
"Are there such things as monsters?"
"There are such things as unexplained and not defined. A thousand years ago if you were born here, as a Native American and you saw an elephant for the very first time you might think it a monster. But the people from India and Africa knows it's an elephant."
Rebecca understood then. Monsters were only unexplained things.
"Even so, can I sleep with you and have a Mama shirt so I can smell her hug?"
Mommy's laugh was warm and soft like a teddy bear. It made you feel safe. "Of course you can. If you want, you can wear Mama's big tee-shirt. I'm sure she won't mind."
Unexplained things. That was what was happening now. Mama heard shadows, so she heard a monster, an unexplained thing. Rebecca sighed loudly as she pulled herself away from the memory. She'd been hearing shadows for days now, ever since they came to the floating castle, actually. The girl wondered if she should name the shadow she'd been hearing. If she named it, it wouldn't be an unexplained thing, a monster even if it spoke with Mama's voice. But if she were to name the whispering shadow what name should she choose?
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