Jump to content

[Fiction] Dirty Secrets, Part 2


Recommended Posts

[saturday, 8 April 2017]

Three long days. That was how long it had taken Ptesan-Wi to fly from Inyan Kara to the shining city of Rio de Janerio. Three difficult days of concentration and meager packed meals; three days of grime and sweat crossing the Great Plains, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, and the tropical damp of Venezuela and Brazil.

Stopping about a mile short of her goal, the Lakota girl - deeply incongruous with the surrounding tourists in her native garb, let alone the large bentwood and leather disc upon which she rode through the air - stopped and showered at a public beach, thankful for the chance to remove the dirt and at least a bit of the weariness.

Clean once more and in fresh clothing from the carefully packed bundle that rode along with her, she rose into the air once more, closing her eyes to remember the map she had checked, then running it against what she saw until finally she found it: the home of Neil and Flicker. Despite the trial she was about to undergo, Ptesan-Wi couldn't help a small smile of relief as she descended toward the deck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was no nova sense that enlightened Neil to Ptesan-Wi's presence. It was the moderately intrusive security system that his father had all but insisted upon.

"Nova ... Love. She's here," he called out to his partner. The young nova stood up from his workstation and walked through the spacious dining area out onto the deck. He turned, bright eyed and smiling up to the visitor and said,

"Welcome Sister. It's good to see you. How was your trip down here? I hope it wasn't too adventurous."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the living room, Nova "Flicker" Madigan looked up from her textbook ("Further Readings on Emergency Triage") and closed it. Meghan "Mithril" Cutter loafed on the other end of the sofa, engrossed in an Anne McCaffrey fantasy novel.

"Ptesan-Wi is here, am I right?" Meghan asked without looking up from the fantasy novel. A fire-breathing dragon posed menacingly on the cover. "She's got that weird node thing going that sets my teeth on edge," she continued. Meghan depended on ambient quantum energy more intimately than most novas, and the disturbance in the field which Ptesan-Wi created was as obvious to her as a gunshot in a library.

"Yep," Nova replied. "We're having her over to discuss-- well to discuss something," she evaded.

Meghan smirked and sat up and closed her book, using an old napkin as a bookmark.

"Sounds like Neil's out on the back patio. She flew in, right?"

"That's right," Nova nodded. "I don't know why she insisted on flying down." Nova would have been more than willing to teleport to the United States to pick up Ptesan-Wi. Depending on how the discussion went, though, Ptesan-Wi could end up finding her own way home.

Nova rose from the sofa and crossed toward the patio, and Meghan began to follow her. Nova stopped halfway and turned around.

"It's private," Nova said, hating herself for having said it. Nova, Meghan, and Neil shared an unusual and sometimes unstable polyamorous romantic arrangement. Neil and Nova were engaged, but Nova and Meghan were intimate.

"Oh no," Meghan said, crossing her arms. "I'm as much a part of this family as you and Neil are at this point. I'm a lot more than just your little metal friend who loafs on the sofa and keeps your cat entertained."

Nova frowned, then took a half-step toward Meghan, slowly nodding. There was no escaping the iron logic in Meghan's statement. Either she trusted the ones she loved, or she did not. There could be no half-measures.

"You're right. I'm sorry." Nova extended her hand to Meghan. "Come on."

Ptesan-Wi will just have to deal with it, Nova thought, as she and Mithril strolled onto the patio together.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ptesan-Wi stepped lightly down from the floating disc, then let it lower to the deck as she stepped forward to give Neil a hug. "It's good to see you, brother," she whispered to him, then broke the hug. "The trip was good. Long, but it was my first time seeing the Amazon, and worth it for that."

Movement at the door to the house caught her eye, and she looked up to find - to her surprise - not just Flicker but Mithril as well stepping out. Supressing a frown, she sent to Neil, *This was more than I expected for the meeting,* even as she turned to greet them. "Hau, Flicker and Mithril; it is good to see you both again."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I agree. I love moving through the Forest," Neil whispers back to Ptesan-Wi.

Hoping Ptesan-Wi was still reading his mind,

*She is part of my home here, Sister. Nova was there when Meghan's mother betrayed her and tried to have her killed.*

There was a series of jumbled emotions concerning Meghan and Neil, Nova and Meghan, and Nova & Meghan & Neil, but it is obvious she is a part of Neil's life.

*She is my family.*

Moving toward Meghan and Nova, Neil asks,

"Can I get us some drinks? This autumn heat is something else."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nova was momentarily torn between her upbringing and her ideals. Her mother had taught her manners, especially toward visitors, but the recent heated exchange she'd had with Ptesan-Wi was still fresh in her mind. Manners won, and despite herself, Nova smiled.

"Hello Ptesan-Wi," she said, stepping out of the doorway and onto the patio. She stepped to one side, a gesture which showed that the sliding glass door to their home was open wide. "It's good to see you again." Nova found it a lot harder to hate in person; it was much easier over the OpNet.

Meghan followed, watching Nova's face carefully. She decided to speak into the awkward pause, hopefully to lighten the mood.

"Hey, we've got sun tea on the other patio. I'm going to go bring it in. Does that sound good?" she asked. Without waiting for a response she took one step into the house and out of everyone's sight, then dashed quickly through the home to where the sun tea sat absorbing the sunlight. It had turned a deep brown and was very warm to the touch. With the heavy glass jar in her hands, she dashed back through the house to the kitchen. Through the still-open patio door she saw Neil, Ptesan-Wi, and Nova still standing roughly where they'd been ten seconds earlier.

On the patio Nova looked first to her fiance then to his blood sister-in-law. She wondered briefly how she would describe her relationship to Ptesan-Wi once she and Neil were married, then set that aside.

"Would you like to come inside, or would you like to talk here on the patio?" Nova asked Ptesan-Wi. It was an early Autumn* day, and the weather was nearly perfect, but still a bit hot, as if the South American summertime would not go without a fight. In contrast, a gentle breeze blew up from the harbor, bringing the scent of the sea with it.

(* Southern hemisphere)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is going to be... awkward. That thought, Ptesan-Wi realized, could be applied in a number of ways; Nova's mixed feelings over this meeting were evident, and would mix with her own. And then there was the presence of Meghan... which she was starting to consider as perhaps a blessing in disguise, as the titanium nova made an obvious - but no less effective - effort at playing peacemaker.

Resigned to the circumstances, she smiled with only the hint of a sigh, and with a gentle nod said, "Inside would be lovely." And will, she silently added to herself, give you the additional comfort of 'home ground'. If this is going to go at all well, at least one of us will need that comfort.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"This way then," Neil said. He smiled to Ptesan-Wi and motioned her into their den. He slid his other arm around Nova's waist as his Sister-in-Law entered.

Inside the den, a ceiling fan kept up a constant breeze that successfully battled the humidity and noontime heat. Seeing Meghan coming with the tea, Neil tapped his head and said,


He separated from Nova and hurried off to the kitchen for a bucket of ice, if needed, and tall glasses for the tea. What he needed was easy enough to find and he was soon heading back to were the women had come together.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nova considered Neil's choice of rooms. The living room, she thought, was the social center of the home. People congregate in the living room and have fun and talk openly about things that are not secret. It the heart of the home. The kitchen, on the other hand, is more sensual. The kitchen is where people meet to talk about some things that are not secret, and some secrets that may be shared. The buffering agent there is easy access to food and drink. Nervous energy can be diluted by drink and deflected with handfuls of food. In the kitchen new alliances can be forged, and if the party is a really good one, secrets may be harmlessly brought to the surface and eradicated.

But the den, she thought, is the place for secrets. The den was Neil's to decorate, and he'd done it up in his usual black metal and glass and leather twenty-something bachelor way. The light came not from overhead, but from lamps which lit from below or to the side. The dark wood paneling absorbed much of the light, as did the dark carpet. Library shelves towered into the dark recesses where wall met ceiling. As Nova took her seat, she noticed that the furniture in the den was low furniture. One could not be concealed in the den. In the den, no matter which chair one took, one was exposed to everyone else in a confrontational manner. The end tables and coffee tables provided no cover.

The den was longer than it was wide, arranged with a desk that commanded the length of the room, and the remainder of the furnishings in the other end. It was in this end that Nova, Meghan, Ptesan-Wi, and Neil congregated. No one would take the desk and assume control of the setting today. Instead, the four novas would share the same social status in their circle.

Neil returned with the ice and the glasses. Nova glanced to the doorway as he returned, and saw the living room behind him, emotionally much farther away than a few paces.

"Thank you hon," she said sweetly to Neil, and helped him distribute the tea.

Meghan had already taken her seat, folded up in the lap of an overstuffed leather chair that stood at an oblique angle to the others. She was in the circle, but her posture and body language communicated observer to everyone else. The normally loquacious teen, sensing the gravity of the discussion to come, had decided to spend her words carefully. She'd only just talked her way into this room. She was in no hurry to talk her way back out again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ptesan-Wi nodded her thanks to Neil for the tea, even as she was making many of the same observations about the room as had Nova. The effect of this circle of chairs, surrounded by the tall shelves that drew the eye upward, reminded her to no small degree of the large tepee that some of the more traditional elders at Pine Ridge kept for councils; all that was missing was the small fire at the center, though the coffee table was at least a positional stand-in.

Sure enough, an awkard silence followed the pouring of tea. Mithril, she noticed, showed every sign of sticking around for whatever was going to happen... and the gentle thoughts and feelings flowing from Neil make clear that he considered her to be a part of what was to happen. Flicker was harder to read, but far from impossible - whatever trust she had for Ptesan-Wi was pretty much limited to Neil's efforts, and mixed with that strain was a hint of impatience. She did not, Ptesan-Wi recalled, have a great deal of free time; for someone who was - in her mind, at any rate - an insane racist to be taking a few of those precious few hours was probably bothering her more that she would be willing to admit even to herself.

There's no good way to ease into this, the Lakota woman decided as she took a sip of tea, and there's no point in wasting more of Flicker's time than I have to. With a final look cast to her mate's blood-brother - and his encouraging smile in return - she went straight to the topic at hand.

"When you made your comment on the OpNet the other day, the one about baby pictures, it caught me off-guard, Flicker. It may sound ironic, but I try to live for the now and the future, and made quite a bit of effort to set my past behind me.

"The truth of the matter is that your instincts were right. I used to be white. And if you haven't already guessed it, Neil is the one who darkened my skin. He... he was a great help to both Wakinyan and myself, especially in those early days of our relationship."

*Well, that's one item,* she spoke to Neil's mind; *let's see how it sets before I go any further.*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

'This is were love and my oath come to a crossroads', Neil thought. 'I can not tell my patient's secrets. I must be always truthful to the one I love.'

His first look was to Meghan, wondering what was going on in her mind. Maybe it was fear of finding hurt on Flicker's face that kept his gaze away. Neil passed over his fear and turned to face Nova. The tension in that gripped his body didn't dissipate. This wasn't over yet - far from it.

Even as he looked to his love, Neil's mind wondered if he would ever be able to find a way around Meghan's aura to give her a chance for human skin, flesh, and blood once more. Would she even want it.

His worries for Nova were a different sort. Would she understand why he did what he did? Would she understand his silence? Neil took strength from his love for her and his trust in her. They loved each other. They would find a way and she would know his heart in this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well hell, Meghan thought. I used to be white, too. Maybe I need to find a tribe of metal people so I can pretend to be their goddess. Outwardly, she concealed her thoughts behind a rigid mask, and took a slow sip on her glass of iced tea. She watched Ptesan-Wi and Nova both, but her featureless eyes did not move at all.

Nova had come into the discussion prepared for a number of contingencies, but early in her planning she'd discarded the idea that Ptesan-Wi would begin with a bombshell like this one. Nova took a sip from her tea, unintentionally mirroring Meghan as she stalled. She set the glass on the table and looked Ptesan-Wi in the eye.

"Why?" she asked simply. Nova needed more information. All of the questions that begin with W were swirling in her mind: Why would someone do this, she wondered. What could impel someone to this? When did she and Neil do this?

Who does she think she is to do this to the Lakota, and where does she get off absconding with their racial identity and shared destiny?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Why? Good question, and I'm still learning some of the answers myself."

She took another sip of her tea before continuing. "At the time, Neil's offer was to help me bury my past identity, right down to the DNA. I had a... less than cheery encounter with Project Utopia, and didn't want to wind up in whatever dark hole they planned to put me.

"But even then, there was something more behind it. I chalked it up to wanting to fit better in Wakinyan's world, to be better accepted by his tribe and his baseline family. But there was more, and it took months for me to learn exactly what that was, to learn who I really am. I needed to become this," she said, waiving her free hand from head to toe, "in order to be able to fulfill my role for the tribes. I'm forever thankful for Neil's part in bringing me to where I needed to be."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somewhat relieved that the cork has been taken out of the bottle, Neil relaxes, but ony momentarily. Neil is uncomfortable with playing the part of the Hand of Destiny and it shows.

"Wakinyan and Th - Ptesan-Wi were concerned people hunting after Ptesan-Wi. Wakinyan knew I could regenerate lost skin tissue and asked me if I could alter his bride for her safety. With Ptesan-Wi, I was fortunate, because the unique nature of her aura doesn't block my ability to make permanent genetic alterations as most novas's auras do. When I learned about the extent of my capabilities with her, I gave them the option. It was my idea to remake Ptesan-Wi into a genetic Lakota."

Neil sips his tea.

"It meant she didn't have to hide in Wakinyan's cave all the time. She wouldn't be a prisoner anymore. The person they were hunting was no more."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Meghan played the ancient diplomat's game "who's lying?" in her mind. Ptesan-Wi said that she had reason to fear Project Utopia, and wanted to fit in with Wakinyan and "his" people anyway. Neil said that Ptesan-Wi was on the run from "people," and made a pseudo-scientific-sounding explanation for why he could alter Ptesan-Wi, but no other novas, including herself. Still remaining motionless, Meghan watched Ptesan-Wi closely and continuously. If you watched a conversation the way you watch a tennis match, she'd learned, you would only see what people look like when they are speaking. But the real revelations, her father had taught her, were to be found when someone was listening, not speaking. They are less guarded. Meghan watched and hoped for a clue.

In the space of a few moments Flicker had gone from having too little information to too much. In addition, her hopes of having a lucid conversation with Ptesan-Wi were dashed. She'd resumed talking about the Lakota tribe as if they were her people, and she talked about her place in their pantheon as if it were her destiny. Nova knew that way lay madness, and there could be no reasoning Ptesan-Wi out of a viewpoint which she was not reasoned into. She set that aside, and relied on her medical training and the diagnostic process instead. She focused on objective reality instead of the subjective viewpoint of the clearly delusional nova--no, not a nova, but what?--sitting across from her.

Nova went over the facts: When I "ping," I get return pings from all novas' nodes, even Meghan who has no discernable organs whatsoever, Nova thought. Ptesan-Wi's "aura", whatever the hell Neil meant by that, was such that his ability to reshape DNA worked for her where it normally is impossible with novas. You're on the run from Project Utopia, or at least you were.

Nova leaned forward in her chair, and her eyes narrowed, as if to make her vision more acute, to take in some concealed detail which might betray the answer. Who are you? she thought.

"Why are you on the run from Project Utopia?" Flicker asked.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For her part, Ptesan-Wi was watching both Mithril and Flicker for their reactions. Visually, both were frustrating - Mithril for her sheer blank alienness, Flicker for her namesake aberration - but then, Ptesan-Wi did not rely upon the merely visual.

When one deals in the way of minds long enough, onee can pick up on the general flows and patterns without anything so blatent or invasive as an out-and-out mental probe. Ptesan-Wi had found mental communication to be second nature from the very moment of her "eruption", and that power had blossomed within her to frightening levels.

The net result was that she didn't need to read their faces to see where Neil's family was going. The question that Flicker verbalized was only the leading edge of the real question: what are you?

After one last sip of tea, she set her glass carefully down on the table, took a deep breath, and - as she had with so few others - Ptesan-Wi told the truth.

"I was on the run from Project Utopia because they felt threatened by me," she said in a quiet and level voice, "by what I am and what I am not. They hunted me from the moment I escaped the Rashoud facility in Denver, and if it hadn't been for Long, they probably would have found me. I was known then - briefly - as Mystic. And I am not a nova."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neil nods his head and looks at Nova. He lays out what he's been able to put together so far.

"No node. No dispersed node. The thing that caught me off guard, but makes sense in retrospect is that she manipulates energy on a sub-quantum scale. That is the cause of her quantum dissonance effect. Mind you, without a node, I think she has a far greater difficulty in manipulating her environment."

He looks to Meghan to see how she is taking the news.

"She has short legs, but she can kick us right in the underpinnings of our power."

Neil takes a deep breath.

"She doesn't seem to have some staple of abilities ... no extra resistance to disease and your genetic clock is baseline standard. With no quantum signature, she biologically human ... not Homo Sapiens Novus."

Neil's gaze goes over to Nova once more.

"She's a different evolutionary branch. More human than us, but more limited as well ... more vulnerable."

He ends up looking at Ptesan-Wi,

"That last bit is what has haunted me about your involvement with the Teragen. Is there room in their ideology of a One Race for as second, different offshoot of humanity?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ptesan-Wi listened as Neil explained the situation. She didn't necessarily agree with all of his assessment - whatever she was, she certainly was no longer human - but by and large, it was a fair explanation.

Then he hit on the issue of Teras. With a small smile, she replied, "That depends on who you talk to. Procyon is aware of the truth; I told him at the PowWow, after I truly came into my new self. He was surprised, to put it mildly, but was still willing to be my mentor on the Marvel path.

"Of course, as everyone knows, Procyon isn't exactly the 'usual' Terat, and his philosophy regarding Teras is that it holds truth for everyone - novas, baselines, and whatever I may be." She gave a little chuckle at that before continuing. "I will say that it has born fruit for me; I've reached a new plateau, and I did so in large part by what I had learned from him.

"That said, I've no illusions regarding how much - probably most - of the Movement would react if they knew the truth. Many of them are every bit as racist as Flicker believes me to be," she said with a nod in Nova's direction. "They would consider me a threat to the concept of the One Race as a superior race. Fortunately, I'm able to keep the truth hidden from most. In part, I simply keep my distance; I deal with precious few novas face-to-face. But in part, the story that I've told - one based at least partially in fact - meshes very well with the Terat view on nova evolution: that my lack of a quantum signature is a form of concealment that represents my unique development, as so many novas have unique attributes and talents. They just aren't aware of the underlying cause of the uniqueness in my case."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nova glanced at Meghan.

"Are you sure you still want to be in here?" Nova asked.

"I wouldn't leave for the world," Meghan replied with certainty. Despite the danger in knowing things that ought not be known, her curiosity was unstoppable. "I'm friends with Timeslip, for crying out loud. I think I can deal with this too."

Nova nodded once.

"Fair enough," she said, and settled that. Nova returned her attention to Ptesan-Wi.

"So why are you running from Project Utopia?" Nova asked again. "You didn't erupt--or whatever you did--into a Terat. That's something you picked up later. Why were you running away from The Project from day one?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The smile disappeared from Ptesan-Wi's face like the sun vanishing behind a storm cloud.

"I didn't have a clue that I wasn't a nova until I heard the alarm bells going off in the examining physician's head at the Rashoud clinic. The first thing beyond baseline norm that I evidenced was the ability to hear thoughts - and the thoughts I heard in the next few minutes while he started going hunting through files in the other office were pretty dire. He started running through a protocol in his mind, one that it was obvious he had never thought he'd ever need. Containment was a big element, but the one that clued me in was his plans to tell my parents that was something badly wrong with me and that I wasn't expected to survive. He actually felt a little guilt about the lie... and by that point, I was running for the door. Apparently, this protocol of his didn't include dealing with a telepath that didn't give off quantum warning of using her talents."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neil's hand absently rubs his chin.

"That implies an institutional knowledge that people like you exist ... and if a Rashoud clinic physician has a protocol, that implies that they are appearing in enough numbers to warrant said procedure."

He sucks in his lower lip.

"I'd really like to know what it is they know if they are going through this kind of deception program, as well as kidnapping people for study."

"What puzzles me is why not bring this discovery to the public? That doesn't make sense to me."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I need a moment," Nova said.

Nova crushed her eyes under the heels of her hands and sighed. The pain felt good and helped her to concentrate. She found that she could sort all of the things she'd heard into two categories: things that Ptesan-Wi alone had asserted, and things that Neil had asserted. Nova decided that the former group was suspect, since Ptesan-Wi had long since stopped living in the same reality as most people, and the latter group was factual.

Nova discarded everything Ptesan-Wi had said about her experiences as a new--as a new whatever the hell she was--since they could very well be paranoid fantasies. By extension, she discarded everything that Neil had built upon this cracked foundation. After cutting all of this away, what remained was far simpler to analyze.

"This must be what it's like to start watching The X-Files in the middle of season six," Nova muttered.

Nova sorted through the individual facts that she could rely upon, lining them up like index cards on a desktop. Ptesan-Wi had fled, for whatever reason, the Rashoud immediately after eruption. Neil helped her to hide among the Lakota by altering her body to look like one. Ptesan-Wi is not a nova, but some other kind of ascended human. Ptesan-Wi is moving in Teragen circles and passing for one of them. Ptesan-Wi is delusional and thinks herself to be a goddess of Lakota myth.

For a brief moment Nova remembered some of her mother's advice.

"Don't stick your hand in crazy," Carol Madigan had told her. "There are some people who are just plain messed up and nothing you do will fix them. They have a crazy energy around them that affect others, and make them crazy too. Get too close to someone like that, even if you mean well, and you'll end up crazy yourself. This isn't mystic hoodoo, Nova, it's sociology. Can you remember that?"

"Don't stick your hand in crazy," Nova had repeated.

Nova blinked the dots from her eyes and swiveled her head, enjoying the popping of her neck. It relaxed her.

"Your secrets are safe with me," Nova said sincerely. Nobody would believe me, she silently appended. "In fact, this conversation never happened."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Flicker's response - both spoken and unspoken - was more or less expected, and the visitor had to fight to hold back a sigh of disappointment.

"That's good to hear," Ptesan-Wi said politely, while at the same time sending to Neil, *she thinks I'm as mad as a hatter.*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

*she thinks I'm as mad as a hatter.*

*Technically Sister, you are. You see things others do not. You experience things others do not experience. This puts you outside the realm of the sane mind. In my mind, just because it is beyond my current perceptions does not make it any less real. It is real to you and I trust you. Nova does not know you like I do. She is also more ground in spatial awareness and reality because of what she does and who she is in her mind's eye. Her existence is imbedded with a sense of what's real.

What matters to me is that you know who you are and that you are the one in control of your destiny and actions. Beyond that, who am I to judge?*

Neil gets up and moves to Nova's side.

"Thank you for hearing her out, Nova. Thank you."

Whatever has been said, Neil's heart is with the woman he loves and he won't willingly be separated from her. He absently brushes a strand of her hair aside. Neil looks to Meghan,

"Meghan, what are your thoughts on this?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Meghan hadn't expected Neil to put her on the spot. She shifted uneasily in her seat and quickly sorted through her thoughts. Like Nova, she too had decided that Ptesan-Wi was insane, or delusional at the very minimum. To stall, Meghan thought out loud, slowly at first:

"Well, nobody else was there when you were at the Rashoud, so I'll take your conspiracy story at face value," she said to Ptesan-Wi. "No matter whether it's true or not, since you're now a Terat you're on the run from Project Utopia anyway, so the result is the same." Meghan sat a little straighter. "I've made a habit of keeping the confidence of Terats," she said with a hint of pride, "and while I'm in no hurry to become too enmeshed in too many affairs, I see no difficulty in keeping the secrets of yet another Terat--" Meghan raised a finger "--so long as there aren't too many for me to keep and I can justify them within my own moral framework."

Meghan closed her eyes for a moment, silver eyelids sliding over her silver eyes. "However," she continued, "You do have one secret which I find abominable, and I cannot keep it." Meghan leaned forward to deliver her point. "You, Ptesan-Wi, are not divinity, you are not a goddess, you are are most definitely not a member of the pantheon of the Lakota Tribe. You are an imposter and a fraud. Should you be allowed to lead them? If they choose you, then be my guest. That's their decision. But should you pretend to be their goddess? No!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The polite smile that Ptesan-Wi had carefully maintained became increasingly forced as Mithril uttered the words "conspiracy story," but still held. If I must, I can speak with Long, ask him to tell her the truth, the not-nova considered.

But then, Mithril not only acknowledged the elephant in the room, but gave it a solid kick in the ankle. The pretense of pleasantness could survive the silent accusations of insanity; it could not, however, do so in the face of blatent and vocal condemnation. Her eyes closed and head bowed, almost seeming as though she were weathering a storm.

"You are so certain," Ptesan-Wi began in a quiet voice with head still bowed when Mithril was finished, "of what you know is and is not. You have rock-solid faith in what you see of the world, and that your vision is clear." Her head rose, and eyes that were previously deep and black suddenly opened in a glowing blue, even as an aura of pure white surrounded her small form. She stood, and despite her small size somehow seemed larger. "I came here at my blood-brother's calling, came here to speak with you," she looked at Flicker, "in order to clear the air about your accusations of racism. But your mind was closed to whatever I would say before I set foot in your home; you and your friend" - she shot a harsh glowing look at Mithril - "deemed me mad and my words madness. You would not hear my words, but only those of Neil... and even there, only those that did not cross what you had already decided must be ravings.

"And now, you call me a fraud. Is this how you 'take me at face value'?"

Shaking her head sadly, Ptesan-Wi said, "You both know nothing of me, because you wish to not know; you want nothing to shake what you had already decided. I could show you the truth, and I admit I'm sorely tempted to do so, but I can already see that you would not invite that sort of vision. 'Don't stick your hand in crazy,' isn't that right, Flicker? You all but screamed those words a moment ago."

Turning to Neil, she said only, "You were wrong, brother, and I am going back to Inyan Kara. I'm done travelling to other's homes to be humored and insulted in turn."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Hold on a second Sister! Please?" Neil looks to Ptesan-Wi, to Flicker then Meghan and finally to the ceiling, searching for the words that can somehow make this right.

"Okay, now," he says carefully. "I think we may have an misunderstanding in words and motivations here."

Neil looks to Meghan.

"Gods ... Great Spirits to the Lakota don't tell people what to do. They lead by example and by sending omens for individuals to interpret. Now, I'm not saying that Ptesan-Wi is or isn't the Ptesan-Wi, but that there are tons of things out in the world I don't understand. I mean ... I mean I live with an inorganic sentiant girl, who walks and talks without bones, brain tissue, a node, or any internal organs. Yet, this girl can relate to me and me to her and that's pretty miraculous in my eyes."

Turning to Flicker,

"I live with and love a woman who is constantly twisting light energy around her, who bends space in an instant, and could with a single step walk to the Moon if she felt like it ... and was properly equipped."

Finally coming to Ptesan-Wi,

"Sister, you tell us - the world, that you are Ptesan-Wi. When and how did you come to this understanding? What led you on the road from being a young girl on the run, to Mystic, to Ptesan-Wi. Clearly there is little understanding of how your mind works on this matter and I think sharing that with us will help everyone understand what place in your body and spirit you are coming from."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nova did not rise from her chair in anger, but it was a near thing.

"Sit down!" she hissed at Ptesan-Wi, bunching her fists and feeling her nails bite into her palms. Without waiting for Ptesan-Wi to do so, Nova continued. "I don't take anyone at 'face value.' People are liars, and they are cheats, and they are frauds, and yes--" she locked eyes with Ptesan-Wi, "--sometimes they are crazy. However, you've been skimming my thoughts this entire time, because apparently you've had no interest in taking me at face value either, so climb down from your sanctimonious high horse. You're no better than I am." Nova paused to collect her thoughts, then resumed more quietly and slowly.

"If I could read the thoughts of everyone around me, I'm sure I'd be the most cranky and disillusioned person around, and I'm sure that knowing so much about people would eventually drive me mad as well. Smart people like to talk about an inverse relationship between intelligence and happiness--the smarter, the unhappier--but I think it's an inverse relationship between knowledge and happiness. The more you know about the people around you, the unhappier you are."

"We all build up worldviews that make us happy and shelter us from the worst of human nature. It's a normal coping mechanism. I can't even begin to guess what kind of rotten ride through life that you've had that has led you to build up a system of belief this elaborate."

Then it hit Nova like a thunderbolt, and her dudgeon evaporated. She's married to Wakinyan. Every day, she wakes up in bed with the craziest motherfucker with a node. Wakinyan visits everyone else for short periods of time, but he's a permanent fixture in her life. Day in and day out, in her home, she's got to deal with a horny beastlike man of with god-like power and an Id to match.

"Sit down," Nova said again, this time gently. "We're not done yet."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something made Ptesan-Wi wait. Whether it was Neil's pleading or Flicker's command was unclear, even to her, but whatever it was, she took her seat once more, and did so with at least a modicum of calm.

"Maybe it's time to try to pull this back to the original intent," she offered. "What I came here to do was to try to explain to you, Flicker, that whatever you may think of me, I am not a racist. The problem is that, when you aren't willing to take anything I say as... well, as sane, it's hard for me to think that I'm doing anything more then subjecting myself to embarrassment here.

"I did brush the edge of your minds, if only to gather the surface thoughts behind your words. It's something I do when I'm having a serious discussion on serious matters with someone, because I don't want misunderstandings. And in truth, I spend far more time speaking with my mind than my mouth these days, and have since very shortly after I erupted. I didn't mean to offend you... and I didn't mean to be invasive. I will try to stop, if it will make you more comfortable. But those words I quoted to you were like a mental shout; I'm not sure I could have kept from hearing them even if I hadn't been listening."

With a deep breath and a sigh, Ptesan-Wi continued. "Now, before we continue, I need to know this, and I will trust your words alone as the answer: are you willing to set aside what you have believed about me and listen with new ears? Because if not, I honestly don't know why we should continue."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neil is struck momentarily speechless as the conversation continues to spiral downward into what seems to be a fatal calamity. He finds himself looking down at the floor.

"Things have been done here, and discussed here that have hurt people and given rise to anger."

His voice is barely above a whisper.

"We can do better than this, because I know each of you. I know you love deeply and fully with all your hearts. I know you are compassionate and caring. Each of you take the care and welfare of others to be your calling."

"You are both women in my life."

"Ptesan-Wi, I love you with my heart. Nova, I love you with my soul and I can't live without you in my life."

His gaze comes up and looks at both women.

"Find a way to understand one another. You both have so much love in you. I know you can do this."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Alright then." With deliberate effort, Ptesan-Wi closed her inner eye to the minds around her; without it, she felt blind and deaf, but there was little choice in the matter.

Reading the faces before her became a task that was more difficult by several orders of magnitude; while Neil still wore his heart - and his hopes for peaceful and friendly resolution - on his sleeve, Flicker had gone to an admirably effective poker face... and Mithril was completely unreadable. Would they take her seriously? Would they truly listen with 'new ears' as she had asked? There was simply no way to know.

In a world that had gone dark and silent, Ptesan-Wi tried to find her way.

"For over a year now, people have put words in my mouth that were never meant to be spoken. I've tried to explain on the OpNet, but failed. So now, I'm trying to speak one-on-one with you about this. I'm doing so because you are dear to Neil, and if he believes something is worth trying, so do I.

"I don't believe in the inherent superiority or inferiority of anyone because of the color of their skin, Flicker, and it was never my intent to even allude to anything of the sort. Whatever I may have once been, I'm this now, and I care a great deal for the plight of my new extended family - be it by marriage or altered DNA; it really doesn't matter the reason. There's a difference between advocacy and bigotry, and I'm a vocal and heartfelt advocate for the tribes."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neil remembered his father's words, You do not raise a people up by tearing another down, ... but that doesn't stop people from trying.

Anytime one took pride in their heritage, race, or social background, you took the risk of being taken as a bigot. It was sad, but true. Both used the same language and rhetoric from time to time. It was easy to confuse them. All Neil could hope was that the sincerity of Ptesan-Wi's words found purchase with Meghan and Nova. He couldn't believe his sister was a racist. She had pride in what she had become, and what she had accomplished, but who wouldn't. She had a reason to be proud of his brother's people. Neil's hope now was that some understanding could be reached, the tension in here would decrease, and that they could at least part on neutral terms. It was a hope, after all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nova listened to Ptesan-Wi's preamble with a critical ear that she also hoped was a new one. So far, Ptesan-Wi was treading on safe ground, and Nova felt herself nodding slightly, as if to encourage Ptesan-Wi to continue to make sense.

"I think few would disagree with that," Nova replied with studied neutrality.

Meghan nodded once.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK, there's no immediate attack, and they seem to actually be listening to me and not their preconceptions of me; this is a good first step. Time to try to fix another plank in the bridge.

"In retrospect, my use of the term wasicu was a poor choice. My intent was to use it in it's original and traditional form - as a descriptor of greedy, predatory people, regardless of race. Unfortunately, it's a word that some have forgotten can be applied to individuals whether they are red, black or white; those have poisoned the word as an insult to people of European stock.

"Part of what I do in the tribes is to try to reclaim the Old Ways, to find the elements within them that engendered pride and personal strength and bring them forward again. One of the things I do because of this is to use the old words in the old ways... and unfortunately, this time it ran straight into the thorns of a couple hundred years of conflict and anger. Even if I had made clear from the very start that I was reclaiming the word for its original meaning, it probably would have been a mistake to try to do so so soon."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

'Its a start,' Neil thinks quite softly to himself. He listens to Ptesan-Wi's words and looks at them from several angles. In his heart, Neil hopes that this can come to a good end. He feels he needs to say something, but sees that the words have to be chosen carefully.

"The problem with words loaded with negative emotions is that they can easily get away from us, no matter what our intentions. It is especially their way to turn aside our hopes when we mean the best, but speak with anger."

He hopes the words wont' be taken as a condemnation of his Sister, so he reaches out and pats Ptesan-Wi's hand as he finishes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A genuine smile returned to Ptesan-Wi's face, surprising even her. "That's alright; like you said, the word got away from me. I think that part of the price I pay for relying so much on direct communication is forgetting that conveying the intent of the spoken word can be difficult."

That said, the visitor found herself at a difficult point. A recovery of sorts had been made... but where to go from here? Was there really anything that could be said at this point that wouldn't bring the more intractable matters back to the fore? Without at least some idea of the feelings going though Flicker's and Mithril's minds, she was left in the uncharacteristic - and distinctly uncomfortable - situation of flying blind.

For lack of any better option, Ptesan-Wi just maintained the friendly smile whilst hoping that somehow, Neil would find a way to direct the progress.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neil gave the smallest of smiles.

"Misundertandings take on a life of their own. We end up defending them instead of our original purpose."

He looks around the room.

"The three of you are very selfless women. You give to other your time and attention. Meghan, you give of your time and innocence that I truly envy. Everywhere you go, you create friendships and trust. I've never heard a nova speak ill of you."

"Nova, you have your schooling and your ambition that will see you a physician. I worries me, the dangerous life you are embracing. You want to go into the dangerous places as the First responder to save people you may never know."

"Ptsen-Wi, you have embraced an impoverished, forgotten segment of American Society and made their calamities your own. You are showing amazing compassion for your adopted people."

"All of you take personal risks, both physical and emotional, to make existence more bearable. That you all three share this instinct is something I see as uniting you. I am hoping the three women I love in my life can see each other as I see you. I really do."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...