Titles: Memories Scattered Like Splinters
A/N: The title is a slightly altered line of a Jimmy Buffet song called "He Went to Paris".
Disclaimer: I do not own Andromeda, so don't blame me for its current state (or congratulate me if you're liking it. hey, different strokes, man).
Rating: PG because G makes me think of Disney, and this is not Disney.
Summary: A peek into future Beka's thoughts before and during Ouroborus. They're not pretty.
She didn't think much about those days anymore. Those days were too precious to brood over recklessly, to unfold the memories over and over again until they were creased and dog-eared around the edges. No, those memories were kept in a small box in the back of her mind, a box she kept firmly locked, should she be tempted to take a peek and relive them. It was more painful this way, to force herself to forget, but the memories lasted longer. She thought they might have stayed vibrant for several years yet as long as she was careful.
But she was recalling them today, the last day she hoped she wake up in this condition. One might even say she hoped to die today, but that wasn't right, except perhaps in the philosophical sense. Her body would live on, but the experiences she'd accumulated in the last half decade would be lost. Good riddance, she thought and meant it. If there was any Divine mercy in the universe, those experiences would be lost for good in the endless probabilities that were unrealized futures.
Her eyes, one organic and one mechanical, avoided shiny surfaces by reflex now. She touched herself as little as possible. It was easy when she was on the Maru, but in strange drifts, she couldn't anticipate the store windows and sometimes caught a glance of her reflection. It was always the same; she winced at the sight of the half-machine thing looking back at her and then realized with a lurch of her stomach that the thing was her. Metal invaded more and more of her body as she managed to scrape through even more horrific adventures. These days not even machinery could keep her alive; the other one was responsible for that.
But her heart was still human and most of her mind, and they both tortured her endlessly. They pried at that box with greedy scrabbling fingers and tried to upend those dear memories all through her mind. They were the only reason she still bothered. She had made a silent pact with herself that the day she could not cry, she would end it once and for all.
Here she was coming now, the other one. The other one made her flinch sometimes, but her step was lighter than it had been in long time. She could hear these things now, better than any Nietzschean.
"Beka? Are you in here?" The voice, usually a golden haughty and scarlet-tinged ominous, was almost a cheerful purple today. That hurt more than any stray reflection could.
"Yeah, I'm here." Any more, it took no effort at all to keep the hope out of her voice. All she possessed anymore was a weary sort of incredulity, and that was becoming rarer as the impossible continued to manifest itself in this nightmare era. Today, though, that incredulity was as close to hope as her tormented heart could bear.
The other one came in, holding a strange device in her hands. It flashed and whirred. She held it as another might her first child. "It's ready." Her voice sharpened to a tone the woman recognized, golden once more. "Have you made your peace?"
She didn't know when they had stopped being friends and suddenly regretted it. She would have very much liked to have a friend right now. She nudged open the box and remembered that even the ship had had friends. Open it a little further, and she knew she had been of them. "Yes." She bowed her close-cropped head. The other one demanded respect these days, and she was too afraid to disobey. She was too afraid to ponder it, even in private.
The incredulity rose again. She was sure she had heard regret in that golden tone, as sharp as the stab that had hit her not a moment ago. Regret tasted metallic in the back of the throat, like anger that had gone sour. Everything unpleasant tasted like metal, these days. Anger was bright new copper, but this was something tarnished and grey.
She raised her head again, and the other one met her eyes. Something unidentifiable floated to the surface of those bottomless brown orbs.
"Beka, I'm sorry."
Tears welled dangerously near her one blue eye, and she broke the contact with a jerk. "Me too," she muttered. Her voice was husky.
"Well then, let's get this started." She looked up, and that something was gone from the other one's eyes. Her voice was the gold-red she knew so well. If not for the remnants of tears that lingered, she would have believed that moment a dream.
"Be ready for anything." The other one pressed a single graceful finger to the device, and a white light blinded her organic eye and sent waves of agony through her mechanical visual apparatus. Sensory overload.
And then she was back, and she knew the other one had succeeded with the first stage of her plan. She didn't know the rest of the plan, of course. But she knew where she was, and when, and that was enough for now. The air was sweet, and the only trace of blood in the air tasted new, sharp. The Maru she had just come from smelled heavy and bitter, of old death that they never quite had time to clean up.
She heard footsteps clatter and energy weapons fire. With a mild burst of surprise, she saw a pack of Kalderans appear around a corner. She dispatched them with alacrity. She faced worse things before breakfast most days.
The corridors jigged strangely, like someone had chopped the Maru into a puzzle and was attempting to reconstruct it, without much luck. For a moment, she stepped into a torrential downpour, and then she was back in the crew quarters. She found herself in the midst of scenes she remembered, but they neither where nor when she remembered them. She frowned. Maybe the other had miscalucated. A tiny piece of the humanity within her died, and she realized too late that she had allowed herself to hope after all.
She blasted a screeching Kalderan without thought, hardly even registering the creature. She was ready to throw down her weapon and let whatever was happening here remove her permanently from the universe's hateful machinations, when she saw her. More accurately, she saw herself.
"Thanks," she said. But she didn't say it; it was a beautiful ghost of herself that she never thought about, not even on those rare occasions when she sorted through her box. The ghost looked more vivacious than she did, a cruel joke at her expense. Her locks weren't ethereally pale but bright gold, and her eyes caught the light like twin sapphires. How long had it been since her eyes had sparkled like that?
"Don't mention it," she managed. Had her skin ever glowed like that, warm and soft and pink? She couldn't quite believe it. Her own face had taken on a perpetual ashen cast and sounded like sandpaper when she accidentally brushed it.
"You... uh, you're me."
No, I'm not, she wanted to say, but she knew that if she attempted anything, her voice would come out a hoarse sob. If the other one's plan succeeded, this beautiful ghost would never be her. A thought tickled the back of her mind, that if this did work out, this ghost would remember her. She wondered what she would think. She wondered how long she would remember.
"Beka, help!" That panicked tone, now very young and very purple, shook her from her reverie.
She forced her lips into something she hoped resembled a smile. She wasn't sure if she succeeded. "I can't get into this right now." You'll never understand, not completely. And that's how it's supposed to be. She was relieved that her voice had come out so casual, so nonchalant. "Later." It tore at her heart to turn away from this ghost, but she sprinted away towards the sound of combat. There were so many things she would have liked to say, but she thought most of them were unnecessary. The ghost would not understand everything, but she would understand enough. They were, after all, the same Booster Rocket Valentine, with the no-good con brother and the no-account, Flash-fried father.
The other one was there, but this was another ghost. She flinched. This one was so child-like, a lovable enigma adored by all. The hulking Nietzschean even liked her, as she remembered. The other knew so much, but she doubted this purple one could imagine the creature she would become.
She killed the Kalderans threatening the other and fled without a word. She didn't think she could bear casual conversation with two ghosts in one day. As the corridors led her from one end of the galaxy to another within the confines of her ship, she dwelled with growing anticipation upon the other's plan. These minutes were stretching out into infinity, and she didn't think the human part of her mind could withstand the tension for much longer. She killed what came across her path but cowered from the voices she heard.
Then the corridor ended in front of her. She readied herself for another dizzying jump through the Maru and through the universe. And then she realized that this wasn't going to be that kind of jump. Her lips curved more easily into a smile this time, and she strode through it. Hope blossomed in her heart, and she savored its heady flavor before light and space and time consumed her utterly.