In The Mid-Illusion

From the Story Arc: Hymn Of Breaking Strain

Previous Story in the Arc: The Load, The Shock, The Pressure by Belladonna Aura (Sunday, August 13, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: The Stress That Shears a Rivet by Belladonna Aura (Monday, August 14, 2006)

(posted Monday, August 14, 2006)

She had thought it would be Zach she first told about Bear.

But it wasn’t. Zach still wasn’t back from DC. No…it was Communard.

She’d expected to have to justify everything, but she should have known better. The old man had first wanted a clone of Bear of his very own to experiment on. When she reacted with a predictable revulsion, he just wanted to study the equipment and commended her on her scientific achievement.

It wasn’t me, she tried to tell him. It was just the machines. All I did was—

Yes, but she had closed Bear’s body in there….

Not a “body,” not yet. He’s still in stasis. I haven’t lost him!

And then had come Unter, who had just returned from South America when she told him about the ship…and Bear.

“You must get used to losses, Commissar, you are too soft,” he had shrugged. “Loss is inevitable…but I can understand, you being a woman.”

“I think it’s more being a doctor than a woman,” she’d started to say, but he seemed to accept what she had done as being nothing to fret about.

And then, at last, Zach had come home.

And he had been furious.

Not about Bear. But because she hadn’t told him—about Bear, or about the ship.

“Nat used to do this to me all the damn time,” he’d fumed, “Go behind my back not tell me about something, and I was the last to know—“

She had almost broken down…it had been a near thing. She had almost let herself collapse in his arms and sob about how she had been completely alone here, and these weren’t the sort of things you talked about over a cell phone….

But she didn’t, though her eyes stung and her throat and chest were tight. Instead, she’d been careful, rational….

Explained how she hadn’t gone behind his back, how she’d been left in sole charge and had to make decisions, and pointed out that the moment he was back, she’d told him….

But he wasn’t furious about Bear. He was furious about the ship. And when he’d calmed down and she had explained and apologized, it had been a “OK, but don’t let it happen again, Commissar Baby,” and great make-up sex during which she had been able to forget about Bear and afterwards fall asleep without nightmares.

So her fellow Commissars had no qualms about any of it. Clone, transplant physical or metaphysical—though Unter flatly didn’t believe in a Soul-Transfer and said as much—

So she made her pilgrimage twice daily, to stand in front of the stasis chamber and put her hands on the glasstique and promise him…

I’m bringing you back, comrade. I won’t lose you. I’ll do whatever it takes.