Into These Hands

From the Story Arc: Two For The Show

Previous Story in the Arc: Sanctuary by Astra Kyne Murdock (Saturday, August 12, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: The Oddest Couple by Astra Kyne Murdock (Monday, August 14, 2006)

(posted Sunday, August 13, 2006)

“Are y’all out of your mind/”

John Murdock stared at Bella incredulously. Sera just sat, hands clasped tightly in her lap, face a mask of tragedy. Poor Sera was caught in the middle; subject to Bella’s grief and her daughter’s terror, both.

“Dammit Bella, I’d trust you with anything; but—Communard? That crazy old coot?”

On the one hand, Bella sympathized. John had never seen the side of Communard that she had. She and Comm had duoed in some pretty sticky places and…away from the bigger groups, with just the two of them…she had seen the man that had well and truly earned Hero of the City status, and every other honor bestowed on him as well. His well-known cry of “Flee comrades!” was a joke even in the CCCP—but she had never actually seen him flee. Yes, he was vain, yes he was boastful and yes, by modern standards he had some pretty lunatic ideas. But those ideas had been state-of-the-art back when he’d fallen on the barricades. With that perspective…they weren’t so lunatic. And he was adapting to modern notions. Had been, for some time. She wondered, now and again, how much of it now was real, and how much was a shrewd pose. Enemies underestimated Communard…and that was a very, very good thing.

“There is one person in the CCCP who knows everything, everything there is to know about fear, JM,” Bella said steadily. “How it works. Why it works. How to work through it. God help him, what it’s like to be in Astra’s shoes right now. I trust him, Johnny. I’d trust him with my sanity. I trust him with Astra’s.”

John shook his head and looked to Sera.

“If Bella trusts him, then I trust him too,” Sera said, softly.

John sighed. “All right,” he said, reluctantly. “Send him on in.”

Astra did not know Communard well; she’d seen him at meetings, of course, and the old man had looked terribly fierce. But right now, there was nothing fierce about him. His face was full of concern and pity, his hands, when he led her to a chair and sat down across from her, were gentle. A little of her fear melted away. Aunt Bella trusted Communard. She could too.

“I want to talk to your Kheldian, petite,” he said. “If you would be so kind. Privately. Then we will begin.”

Astra nodded, and relinquished control to Kyne with gratitude.

< Bonjour, Auguste, > Kyne said, without preamble.
“Kyne.” Commuard nodded. “There is something that concerns me.” He hesitated. “There are things in my mind…things in my past…a young girl should not see. But the Commissar tells me that she is unusually sensitive, psychically—“

< You do the treatment, Auguste. I’ll take care of the traffic control. > Kyne chuckled. < Comrade, I was—and I won’t gild the lily here like I usually do—I was a stripper. A high-class stripper, but…a stripper. There are plenty of things in my past I don’t want her to see yet, maybe ever. >

Communard let out a sigh. “Good. Then we both understand what we must do.”

< Certainment. She’s all yours. >

Astra came back to herself with the feeling that Kyne was very much “present” in her mind…and that was a comfort. She blinked and looked again into Communard’s face, and still saw nothing there but pity. “Astra,” he said, looking as if he was choosing his words with great care, “You will need to open your mind to me, as I open mine to you. When you do that, together we will face your fear, and we will examine it, and we will learn how to make it slink back to its den. Can you do that with me?”

Open her mind to a stranger…face her fear….

When opening her mind to strangers had begun this…and the fear was the last thing she wanted to face.

< You can do this, kidlet. >

“We can do this, Astra. I have stood where you are now. I have looked into the Abyss.” He smiled a little. “There are those who think I came out of that mad, of course.”

Despite herself, she giggled a little, and that made up her mind. Wordlessly she dropped all her shields and extended a mental “hand” to Communard.

She felt his mental “hand” clasp hers; firm, strong, and gentle at the same time.

She took a deep breath.

And together, the old man and the young girl moved into the Valley of the Shadow.