|Sackcloth and Ashes
Author: D. M. Domini PM
Talentfic. A three year old child’s dead, a space liner with human cargo missing for the first time in Talent history. How does Afra Lyon cope with this? Alternate Universe.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 19 - Words: 49,484 - Reviews: 67 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 17 - Updated: 03-31-11 - Published: 08-14-07 - id: 3723086
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The screen at Afra Lyon's station wasn't flashing red or hooting alarms. Mere technology couldn't reliably detect everything that went on in the aether of the mind. It timestamped a telepathic draw here, a telekinetic push there, but as for the who and where those Talents were being used...only a human factor could understand and record that.
Check liner 2834, his screen told him, prodding him out of numbness. He stifled a sardonic laugh he thought would make him sound quite cracked, and then blinked tears away as the Rowan's wordless, but not mindless, wail of grief crashed through his mind for a split second, before being modulated by someone to spare the minds of the lesser Talents in Callisto Tower, who were only now abruptly realizing something had gone direly wrong.
Damia was gone. And the liner too, but somehow the almost certain deaths of all those people didn't cut him as deeply as the loss of one engaging three year old girl. It didn't cut in the same way, somehow.
If it hadn't been the coward's way out, he would have killed himself in shame on the spot. It was his fault Damia had reached for him, a lesser Talent who couldn't provide the power or control needed to pick her off the liner, in her time of need, and his fault that his unthinking reaction had fouled Rowan's thrust mid-teleport.
And now both girl and liner were lost.
The pounding, slapping noise of Ackerman's panicked sprint off of the cargo floor into the Tower proper sounded in his ears, and Afra stumbled up and out of his chair, not sure if he was getting up to flee Ackerman's questions, or to shakily gather the reins of control over the Tower during the emergency, until the Rowan came to knock his head off, or Jeff came to boot him back to Capella, never to work in a Tower again.
"Good bloody hell, what happened?" Ackerman asked him verbally, which seemed strange, until Afra realized he was shielding so hard now that not even a Prime could get the slightest telepathic thought through to him without cracking his mind like a nut, much less a T-8 like Ackerman.
Afra's legs weren't up to holding him, his knees shook, and he sunk down to sit on the arm of his chair, staring fixedly at the floor, unable to trust himself to open his mouth without breaking down entirely and sobbing like a baby. He stayed that way for a few long moments, until the popping sound of one of his fingers piercing the synthetic material of the chair arm caused him to take a deep breath. And then another. He'd never been a violent man, but ripping the chair to shreds now in a rage of pain and sorrow and humiliation sounded good right now.
So instead he soothed the hole he'd made in the arm with his fingers, as if the chair could be soothed by touch like flesh could, swallowed once, and looked Ackerman in the eye. "We lost the liner," he told Ackerman. His voice was hoarse. He told himself to disregard those minor holes in his facade and try not to have a complete and utter breakdown in front of the entire crew. Liner first, those things were designed to withstand an accidental port into cold, hard space, and there was a remote possibility that it was out there somewhere with the people still alive. If the uncontrolled thrust hadn't smeared them on the walls with the force of uncontrolled gees. If the teleportation, meant to be picked up at the vicinity of a little dwarf star hadn't flung the liner directly into the heart of a sun, missing the grasping, startled mental fingers of David of Betagulese.
"Rowan...the Rowan wouldn't be wailing quite like that if it was a liner alone," Ackerman said.
"We lost Damia, she was in one of the pods we strapped to the liner."
Ackerman stared at him. "...so if we find the liner..." he said, grasping at any straw.
"No, Damia tried to teleport away, and I couldn't channel it." There, admit the guilt, out in the open to someone. It just made the guilt twist his heart tighter though. "She's gone."
Ackerman stepped away, running hands through his hair. "God-fucking-damn!" he spat, his own grief being channeled into anger as was his wont with emotions he couldn't keep control of. "Rowan?" he said, no longer paying attention to Afra, likely echoing the word with a mental query towards their Prime.
He felt an renewed sting that Ackerman would ask Rowan, a bereaved mother for help on getting a search plotted and started, when everything was his fault, and he was the second and should take care of his own damn mess, and knew it was irrational, because only the Rowan had been in contact with the ship as it slipped away at that last moment. Even if he had acted as a conduit to Jeff, to Earth Prime, to bring in aid, they would still have to ask Rowan for her help and memories of those last few moments to start the search. As anything less then a Prime, there was little that he could do that Ackerman couldn't do interchangeably now.
"Afra, go to your quarters, lie down, I'll handle it from here," Ackerman said, sudden sympathy in his voice, but to Afra it sounded like the words of a precog. Go to your quarters, and stay there until we figure out what to do with you.
Afra went, teleporting to avoid walking past the worried, curious gazes of all his co-workers in the tower. His knees couldn't hold him upright anyway.