The First Mother - Chapter 11

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My head was ringing as overlapping shouts of confusion and disbelief filled the bridge.

I looked at Will for the first time. He was saying something. His mouth was moving. He looked angry... at me. I glanced over to the others, all in various states of disarray.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. I had to get the ringing to stop so I could think.

Every time I tried to think what to say, my brain attacked me with the same three words, 'you killed them'.

I had to get my shit together. What was Will saying? I tried to focus on just his voice.

"What did you do?" he screamed.

I hadn't thought this through. How had I rationalized the killing of fifteen thousand people?

'That's right, they were guilty I dealt with them the same way you would deal with cancerous cells. You remove them before they cause more harm.'

'Yes that's what they were. A cancer on the old world and the new.' I understood now.

'Not all of them were bad people. They were powerless and didn't deserve to die. Hadn't I said something like that to Robert?' I retorted in my head.

'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil... is for good men to do nothing. By that logic, they were complicit, weren't they?'

It felt like my mind was fracturing in two.

Will was saying something, focus.

"How could you do that?"

'To protect this world.'

'They deserved it.'

'I did it to save all the innocent lives here.'

'No I did it to punish them for their sins.'

'The work isn't done. We must survive' I accepted.

Which of these thoughts were mine? I didn't even know.

"I didn't do anything" I said out loud for the first time.

"You control them" Will accused. "I knew that was a bad idea from the start but it was you so I thought it was a good thing".

"Will, I need you to believe me" I walked up to him and took his hand "I didn't do anything"

I looked around the room, "How could you think I would do such a thing?" I asked them.

"She was here with us the whole time" John took my side "She couldn't have done that"

"Maybe they do what she wants even if she's only thinking about it?" Robert offered.

I let go of Will and stepped back away from the others. I didn't mean to cry, it just started. A part of me was even hurt that they would think I was capable of such a thing. How crazy is that?

"Fifteen thousand people" I said between sniffs "You really think I would want to kill anyone not to mention that many people"

"It doesn't seem like Dani" Cillian took my side. "We all know she wouldn't do something like that".

"Then what?" Will said looking very frustrated. "The president of the United States just died along with God knows who else."

"Variants?" Robert asked.

"That many of them?" Will countered.

"Perhaps the whole species is unaffected" Robert reasoned.

"Our job was to make sure the planet was safe"

"Nobody could have..." John started but was interrupted by Pola.

"Incoming call from orbit"

Will sighed "Put it through"

"Wait!" I shouted.

When the call didn't come through, I knew I had reacted in time. I wasn't home free yet.

"Did you tell them about what I can do?" I asked Will.

"Hadn't come up, why?"

"We can't tell them" I pleaded, "If they knew what I could do, they'd blame me just like you did."

"We'll explain the full story" Will assured me "You're not in control of all of them".

"That won't be enough, you know it won't"

He did know of course. The American government would be reeling from what had just happened. And people had gone missing for much less than suspicion of involvement in the death of a president.

"And even if they believe you, I'll spend the rest of my life being experimented on"

I walked over to John and took Adya who had been watching mindlessly from his arms.

Not once had she cried. The sound of the explosion and the rumble had even made her laugh.

'Her mother's daughter' I thought.

'No. I'm not a bad person. I am acting for the greater good' I forced another thought.

"Please Will, don't let them take me away from our daughter" I begged.

"Okay, okay, don't cry" Will said rubbing his eyes. He was stressed and who could blame him with everything that was going on. I was stressed too but I couldn't let myself slip up.

I couldn't let the innocent animals of this planet suffer. Or the cancer survive.

Which ones were my own thoughts? All? None?

"Pathfinder come in" I heard Caitlyn's voice. Pola must have patched them through. On Will's order? Was he going to protect me?

"Voyager 2, we read you"

"What the hell happened? We lost contact with Voyager 1"

"They seem to have crashed" Will answered.

"What? How?" she asked. I'd expected that. I expected there to be a lot more questions before this was over.

"They were attacked by Zylphi, a local species. Massive flying reptiles is how I would describe them. From here, it looked like they tore through the chutes".

"I don't understand, you told me that planet was safe" Caitlyn followed up requiring answers. I imagined there were those of higher ranks that required answers from her as well.

Will looked to me. I wondered what he was thinking but I would never find out.

"Although we haven't had any interactions with Zylphi since we landed, they haven't been any trouble so far. Our own landing was smooth"

"William I don't think you understand. The presidents of the United States, Canada plus another 23 world leaders and their aides were aboard that craft. There will be an inquisition"

He closed his eyes and took a breath.

She continued "Listen, just be on standby. I need to have a few uncomfortable conversations while the crew figures out a way to get us down safely".

She didn't wait for a response and immediately after, the call was terminated.

Will took another big breath and sat back in his chair. I felt for him. All the work they'd done for the past half decade had just gone up in flames.

Because of me.

"I need to think" Will said before exiting the bridge.

=^..^=

John had basically dragged me into the medbay for that checkup he'd been asking for. He forced me through all the usual tests he'd done over the years since I was pregnant but also a surprise addition.

As I laid on the bed that would feed me into the MRI scanner, I didn't like the feeling of uncertainty.

"What's this for?" I asked.

"Just a hunch" He replied cryptically.

"Care to explain your hunch?"

"Your headache"

I tried to sit up but stopped when I heard the machine power up. It was extremely loud and buzzing and it seemed to reactivate the ringing from earlier.

I groaned. I couldn't focus. My mind just wandered uncontrollably.

The scene of the explosion played over and over and only ever paused for my mind to wander off to something random.

A blue butterfly flapping its wings in the darkness. Falling into a black hole. The death of a star.

A war on Mars. I watched from space as lights and explosions covered the red planet's surface.

I watched the surface of Europa shatter into a million ice blocks. All the structures that we'd built over hundreds of years crumbling into the ocean beneath.

A mushroom cloud on Earth.

I stood in a room. There were 6 other people in there. They looked uncanny, frail, skin hanging off their bones.

"Hello?" I reached out. Nothing. He couldn't hear me.

They were all huddled around a console at the front of the room. They all scrambled around as they started what looked to me like an authentication sequence. One by one, they placed their eyeballs in the path of a laser and the console beeped in agreement.

I looked to the screen, "INITIATE MAD" and below that a counter that read "5/6".

A watched one man walk in front of the laser but he had his eyes closed.

I didn't know what any of it meant but it didn't feel good.

"Don't" I said. I walked forward and tried to grab his hand but mine simply passed through his.

"Don't do it" I begged him.

There was a pained expression on his face as he stood there trembling with his eyes closed. They all trembled. Some were crying.

"Hey, stop it" I stepped in front of him right in the path of the laser. It passed through me and reached his face. I watched him closely as the terror was slowly replaced with determination.

He opened his eyes.

White.

"Dani" I heard in the distance.

I stood in an entirely white space. It felt like nothing, like all suffering had finally ended. I wanted to stay there. I was tired.

"Dani" I heard again.

"John?" I called out.

"Wake up" I heard. It echoed. "Wake up"

I took a deep breath as my eyes shot open. I was still laying on the scanner bed.

John breathed a sigh of relief.

=^..^=

John and I sat together as I told him what I'd seen. We speculated at what it could mean but neither of us had a clue.

"You were probably just dreaming. Or your mind was playing tricks on you" John reasoned.

"Yeah" I agreed. It didn't feel like a dream though.

"You need to join us to eat" John changed the subject. Or did he? Maybe he blamed my lack of eating for what I'd just experienced.

"I do eat" I insisted.

"I admire what you're doing but you can't survive on just plants" He told me "You've lost 15 pounds since I last checked".

He looked worried about me. I was getting a lot of that lately.

"I feel them" I stressed. Four years later and I don't think any of them still understood "The connection I have to them is as deep and complex as what you and I share sitting here."

"You're already iron and calcium deficient. We don't know enough about the plant composition on this planet to put you on a healthy plant based diet. You have to eat meat"

"I can't eat them" I turned away.

"They eat each other. It's nature".

"Are we done here?" I asked.

He sighed and resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to listen to him, "We're done yeah sure".

I hadn't been able to print food for months. There was still some of the material left but now I only used it for Adya's meals. I knew he was right but I could hold out a bit longer.

=^..^=

I stood outside the ship and watched the smoke rising in the distance.

'You did that' I thought to myself.

'It was necessary' I countered.

'The worst of us are gone' I reasoned.

'Along with some of the best of us'

I was dragged out of my head by a hand on my shoulder. It was Robert.

"Can you believe that just happened?" he started.

"It's awful" I answered.

"Is it?" It wasn't a question but I turned to him anyway. He was looking out into the distance at the smoke.

"You shouldn't say that. So many people just died"

"How many people from the middle and low zones do you think were on that ship?" he asked.

My gaze turned again to the black smoke rising over the horizon.

"Is zero a good guess?" he asked.

I didn't answer.

"This mission was never about giving humanity a new home. It was about saving them. It always has been and always will be."

He was right of course. I knew he was right but my only goal was to deter suspicion.

"Me, you and Heather, we were always going to be the only ones not from the high zones to set foot on this planet".

He was smiling.

"I call it karma" he said before turning to look me in the eyes "You did the right thing" he said to me.

Shock.

"I didn't..." I tried.

"I watched you throughout. I know what sacrificing your soul for the greater good looks like".

I had to back pedal. Nobody could know what I'd done.

"I am on your side Dani, don't worry" Robert placed a palm on my shoulder before walking away.

=^..^=

I couldn't stay there. I needed to get away. So I just ran. Through the familiar winding paths of the forest. I passed several dozen wildlife watching me with those blue eyes.

Somewhere along the way I started crying but I didn't stop. I ran until I came to the pond I'd found so many years ago.

I knelt down in the dirt a few meters from the body of water. The short dress I wore offered no protection as sand in the mud pierced my knees.

Far enough away that no one would hear me scream. And so I did. A gun wrenching sound escaped my lips and in that moment, it felt like a final dying scream by the person I'd been that morning but would never be again.

How could I raise Adya now? How could I teach her to be good?

When I was out of breath, I stopped only to inhale a large quantity then scream once more. If my goal had been to destroy my voice, I was making good progress.

Maybe if I couldn't speak, I wouldn't have to lie to my friends anymore.

I cried and screamed until I couldn't anymore and it was only sobs that remained. I was weeping for a part of me that was lost forever.

When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded. Hundreds of the creatures I'd sworn to protect. They encircled me in all directions.

"Do you approve?" I asked. My mouth was salty from all the crying.

I don't know what I'd been expecting. If they'd answered me in perfect English, I still would have been as shocked as I currently was.

In unison, the forest erupted into squeals, roars, growls, hisses, a collection of the most beautiful sounds rang throughout.

I remembered the promise I made. I would not let anyone hurt them. What would that take? Rebellion? War? A more nuanced and diplomatic approach?

Either way, I had my goal and I had my resolve. First I would survive and gather strength and only when the time was right would I emerge again.

=^..^=

The Pathfinder crew all sat together outside the ship in the evening like we used to do.

"We need to head out to the crash site tomorrow" Will told us.

We all nodded our agreement. There wasn't any chance anyone had survived. There were actual bombs with less firepower than that.

More likely, even their corpses would be vaporized.

"I'll come too" I said.

"Absolutely not" Will replied.

"I'm still a member of this team and in case you forgot, I'm not pregnant anymore".

"Someone has to stay with Adya"

"John can stay with her. I'll pack her lunch and you can feed her right?" I asked him.

"I actually wanted to go this time" he protested.

"The team doctor is much too important" I said finally. "We need you here".

After it looked like he was done considering responses in his head he answered, "Fine".

Will didn't argue anymore either.

"Did you hear the sounds coming from the forest earlier?" Cillian asked.

"Yes, what was that?" Will asked.

I shrugged. They all expected me to have an answer when it came to the animals and I did but I obviously wasn't going to share it with them this time.

"There's a lot going on now that we don't understand" Will commented clearly frustrated "Four years of the same routine and now... more humans finally arrive and now it goes to shit. We still don't understand anything"

"Maybe they know what's coming" I said. I should have just kept quiet. Nothing good was going to come from talking.

"Maybe they know they're in danger and are trying to fight back" I added.

"And you haven't 'felt' anything different?" Will asked.

I shook my head, "Nothing".

"We'll have to re-test your control again on the journey tomorrow"

=^..^=

The call from orbit came later that night. We were gathered in the bridge as Caitlyn spoke on the viewport.

She explained that the team had been mulling over solutions and she reiterated that even though the shitshow that was happening in orbit was dying down in favor of exploring solutions, there would still be a full investigation when all the Voyagers landed.

"The boys are working on creating some sort of Kevlar-Nylon hybrid to create new chutes."

"Will it be strong enough?" I asked.

"They'll put it through all sorts of tear tests before the mission is a go. It would be helpful if we knew what the dragons' claws are made out of".

"Zylphi" Will corrected.

"Yes that, we're calling them dragons for now".

I knew I'd have to attack them again. If the creatures didn't attack after I'd been confronted, wouldn't that be suspicious?

While I didn't want anyone else to die, my own survival depended on this. I'd have to put my faith in the new chutes and hope they're strong enough.

'Please let them be strong enough' I thought.

'Maybe they shouldn't be' the thoughts flashed through my mind before I could stop them. My head hurt, my ears were ringing.

'Please be strong enough'.

"Are you okay?" I heard someone ask. The voice was so muffled, I didn't know who.

"I'm fine" I forced a smile.

=^..^=

John caught up to me as I carried Adya in my arms to my old room. Will decided we should sleep in the ship for the time being. We'd get our essentials from the cabin tomorrow.

"Uncle" I heard Adya manage to say excitedly.

"Hi sweetie" He touched her chin gently which made her laugh.

"Dani" He continued turning to me, "Pola finished the assessment of your MRI. I'm afraid we have a problem".

What now? What kind of problem?

"Whats wrong?" I asked.

"You see..." he paused "There's signs of a brain tumor. It's small but it's definitely there. Since it's so small, we can treat it. There are a number of..."

His voice faded out. That same ringing resurfaced. My head hurt. I squinted from the pain.

John touched me, he was saying something.

Ringing.

How could this happen?

'You deserve this' I heard what I'd now separated from my own subconscious as a foreign invasion.

My mind was under attack. But not by itself like I'd initially feared.

'You thought there'd be no consequences' I heard it say.

'I did what I had to' I tried to convince myself.

'So did they'

An image of the smoke flashed through my mind.

"Ahh!" I winced at a sudden headache.

"Are you alright?" John asked me panicked "Dani I'm really worried about you".

I laughed. Where had that come from? What was so funny?

I was worried about me too.

"What are my options?" I asked through the ringing.

=^..^=

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Hello again, thanks for reading. Share your thoughts, thanks.

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Comments

Voices

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Voices in her head -- and a tumor. I'm sure John can get rid of the tumor, but won't that sever her connection with the planet? It seems likely that it was an implant that allowed her to assume the role of "overlady." But . . . maybe not.

This was a harder chapter to read, naturally, but the thing that made it hard effectively conveyed the confusion and internal conflict Dani is experiencing.

Thanks for such an engaging story, Emma!

Emma

This reminds me a little of a movie…….

D. Eden's picture

Phenomenon which starred John Travolta, in which he gains all kinds of powers - from the ability to learn anything, to the ability to speak languages, and even telekinesis. He suddenly becomes a genius and develops many new inventions.

He suddenly saw a bright light, and then his powers started to develop.

But it turns out it is all caused by a brain tumor, which eventually leads to his death.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Flowers For Algernon

joannebarbarella's picture

A story by Daniel Keyes dealt with the same subject (same main story but instigated by different methods).

Dani must survive, as she is destined to become the ruler. Although we have to ask, the ruler of what? Hers is a terrible dilemma but, in the end what is more important, the survival of the human race or the survival of humanity?

This may be the answer to The Golden Rule.

Huh?

Diesel Driver's picture

Is that it? The story just stops?

Chris

You’ve caught up!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

It’s still being written — Emma Prime just posted this chapter this morning. She’s been firing off chapters at a ferocious pace, so I wouldn’t worry too much!

Emma

Tendency To Evil

Allowing my fundamentalist tendencies to peek out for just a moment; The colonists were going to bring the wickedness that has caused so much suffering to a renewed, healing world. Right from the very beginning of humanity, wickedness birthed also. You can't just ignorantly add thousands of people all at once to an ecosystem like this.
I wonder if there is a solution that will insure the survival of the present world? How could thousands of people be educated to not do harm? To save the future can they all be modified with "tumors" in their brains that will cause them to live in such a way as to co-exist with the present animals of the world?

This is quite thought provoking.