Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
Sentences start coming back. They start simply, build in complexity like music as the memories also start to slip back: their mother and father, state dinners, the yellow ruffled dress she wore at Trini’s Investiture, pull ups on base. … knowledge fading, pale blue stripes on a cloth laid in the sun, Javi’s hushed voice in her ear. A pair of shoes that she knows were ridiculously expensive but she isn’t sure if they belonged to her, her sister, or Linea.
She remembers less concrete things, too.
“We–Trini. You came, but.” She looks for the words, and Trini waits, he face puzzled but patient. “You came, but we weren’t close.”
Trini nods. “We didn’t spend much time together once I became First Ardriyne, no. But we were close when we were little.” She shrugs and pulls one leg up on the chair with an awkwardness that makes Tace very uncomfortable. Trini is always graceful; she was taught to always be graceful. “I always liked you, though, Tace. I kind of thought we’d never get to be sisters again until you retired, but … I mean, I want us to be, now that we can?”
“What–Mother and Father, though?”
Trini looks wry and bitter. “You may have noticed, but I find I care less and less what the Venae Cisare and Cisara say or think.”
Eventually Trini has to leave. And Tace tries not to cry; she knows Trini doesn’t have a choice, knows she’d stay if she could, understands duty down to the centers of her bones–but she cries anyway because she can’t control her emotions worth a damn anymore.
“Keep working,” Trini whispers into her hair. “Keep working, and either I’ll come back or you’ll come back, okay?”
Tace pulls away and sits up, shoves her hair off her face. “Just. I–don’t. I like us here.”
Trini grins at her. “Me, too. I like us here, too, Tace. And we’re gonna be us down there, too, and in between. I want that, too.”
Tace nods, scrabbles to find Trini’s hands to hold and stare at and memorize.
With Trini gone, things are less. No surprise videos. No swearing for speech therapy. No one to tell memories to, to see if they’re real–because she doesn’t know what anyone’s security clearances are or whether they might sell the stories to the Nets. She’s not linked up, now; she’d have no way to tell if anything leaked that shouldn’t.
Being off-line is like half her brain has been removed. No games to play behind her eyelids or in the air, no constant stream of news and chatter, no way to check her own vitals, no entertainment. She thinks, sometimes, as she reaches for words or concepts, that maybe it gave her more than she realized–maybe she only became Tace when she was wired.
No, she thinks. No. She became Lieutenant Flogyston when they wired her into the Corps. She became Tace when she reached her majority and bolted for Camwenne. She needs to become Tace again, now.
She keeps working because she told Trini she would, and she wants to go home. She thinks home and sees an orange door. She works her growing knee and her stiff muscles and imagines walking up the three front steps to it; when things get bad she imagines lifting her arm and rapping her knuckles against the grained wood.
Live in your feelings, the psych techs tell her (no therapist for her, because security clearances that cover a head of state, the First Ardriyne–and that’s her now, until Trini has kids, and she files the cold shock of that away again to consider later–are something she can’t bring herself to ask about). She doesn’t want to because her feelings suck and she hates them, but she tries when the fear slides over her like a misty chill sweat, sending her flesh prickling, showing her the undulating colors of the nebula. She tries, because she told Trini she would, and she wants to go home.
And finally, finally, they deem her healed enough to go home. Or, well, to her sister.
copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.