T2: So Tiny Tyronica.

AUTHOR: Karen Murray.

RATING: PG-13/R-ish (for language).

SPOILERS: I & I, basically an AU after mid-season 1, though.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'd like to say "sorry!" for not getting this out like months ago. But the chapters annoyed me. I honestly like almost everything after this ... and I have most of it handwritten!

Part .21

I took several deep, calming breaths and tried to relax. It wouldn't do any good if I just jumped out in a panic and ran off the plane as quickly as I could. I had a feeling that they would come after me if I tried that little trick. Worst case scenario, they might catch me and bring me back to Manticore, where I couldn't take care of my brothers and sisters. Best case scenario? They'd be able to ID me, at the very least, and know that I was in the country. Not good, not good at all.

These soldiers, I knew what they were. I had watched their training as a young child, when I was supposed to be playing escape and evade with my brothers and sisters and instead we'd gone off playing, our collective mind strong enough to know when someone was near us and in a position to see. They were simple, those sent after us to capture us in the woods, and it was really only a matter of the norm game hide and seek, only they had darts that would paralyses you for five minutes.

They were recruited young. Right off the streets, these guys were from, and given the best training that norms can get. They were Manticore's special soldiers, the ones who looked after the rowdy X-groups. They never bothered with the PA-1s or the MA-1s or any of us other lower barrack kids. I guess we were what Mama calls nomlies to the X-ers. We were small enough in numbers that we could be contained in one large group. We were well behaved enough -- as far as they knew -- that we never merited extra guarding.

And that's how Andrea and Lezli had first seen these soldiers. Working almost perfectly together, shirt less in the sun, we had watched these older children and marveled at their strength while at the same time laughing at their inflexibility and lack of speed. It was Frannie who asked if they were guards. I asked why and she told me, she said, "Look at their necks. They don't have a barcode. They have normal numbers."

And so we had watched, fascinated, as the young soldier-boys worked and got better. We had been young, maybe eight, maybe not, and it had been a new play, watching them. However, after a few weeks, the boys had graduated up into the outfits of men and they became our guards, holding us back when we wished to go forward. It didn't matter that these men were not the mindless idiots -- and we ought to know, being who were were -- who watched us with an unsuspectingly apathetic mind. Once they changed from boys training in a field to boys playing in dark uniforms with the tattoos on their neck taking on new meaning, they changed from friends into enemies. Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, the colors they wore symbolized a new type of animal to be watched.

And now they were standing not five feet away from me. Four soldiers highly trained, specifically trained, to deal with the X-series of soldier, a breed more superior than any of the test groups like the one I had belonged to back home. They would know how to react to whatever I could remember to throw at them. They would know how to react to things which I had never learned, never thought of learning.

"Sir," one of them said. He spoke quietly, in a low voice, but I heard him all the same. Having enhanced hearing helps you major, especially when you're straining to hear the conversation. "I have a possible prison escapee sighting in Atlanta." I let out a quiet whoosh of breath. Georgia. What as in Georgia? Not much besides peaches was on my memory. Relief.

"Which group?" Lydecker asked in his even tone. It sent shivers down my back. You never forget the voice that speaks the first words of your memories. It is place in your soul and tied to you forever, like it's super glued to the door into your memories.

Another soldier spoke, this one whose voice pitch was slightly higher than that of the first. It made me want to let loose a giggle; he sounded like he could be the youngest of the man-soldiers I'd seen yet. Or had I merely grown up? "Approximate age puts it in the zero-nine group, sir." Silently, I let out a breath that I had taken in and held. Wasn't my group, wasn't my problem. I'd left nearly eleven years later. What was Lydecker going to do?

To my great happiness, I saw him stand slowly up and begin walking down the plane aisle toward the exit. SCORE! I closed my eyes and would have begun praying if I actually thought there was someone up there who cared about me. When I opened them, the last soldier was making his way out of the plane.

{vivid thoughts}

Time to go through some more video for the project. This time I make certain that I have the right footage. I can't stand with when some inept nancy boy who is only working here because Uncle Joe owns the company gives me the wrong vids. It isn't as if it's hard. All of my files are marked, very well, and you just need to go through them to get the ID numbers for the tapes. So why in the hell is it taking them so long?

I tap my pencil on the desk and look at the objects sitting all over my desk. Scattered largely across it are papers. Glancing across them I see words like TRACING, HACKS, NEWS, and other such things as pertinent to my project. Towards the upper left hand corner of my desk it's cleaner. You can see the pictures of my family there. I smile. There's my son, Case, playing basketball. He's gonna be real good someday, maybe even play on a professional team in Canada or, if that fails, back east.

Cass is standing behind her brother, watching him with uninterested eyes. My daughter doesn't care about anything but running, and she doesn't understand the hype about basketball. Amy has her arm around Cass's shoulder and is looking at our son with admiration in her eyes. Amy could have gone pro, back before the Pulse. Too bad she had to drop out of school early to help keep her little brothers and sisters fed. And way too bad that she hurt her ankle during a mob riot at the store where she worked. Life sometimes through you lemons. At least Amy had made lemonade; our two kids are great.

There's my fucking assistant. Where the hell had he been? He's muttering something about not being able to find the files about and I just stare at him. I know he's lying. I need a new fucking assistant. This one has the balls of a housefly and twitches about just like one. I grab the box of tapes and shut the door in his face.

I turn on the TV and pop the tape into the DVD player. It begins playing, and I watch as the man I'm hunting and searching for's face comes on the screen and he begins to talk.

"Do not attempt to adjust your sets, this is a streaming freedom video bulletin . . . ."

{/vivid thoughts}

I sat up, gasping. My chest felt like I had cubes of ice sitting on the very bottom of it and trying to ride upwards on a wave of panic that was threatening to come gushing out. I closed my eyes and tried to steady my breath, but the idea of it hurt, so I just held it for a few minutes until I got dizzy from fright and lack of air combined.

I was wrong about Casey Billings haphazardly finding my father in all of those old vid footage. It wasn't that there was some mistake and my dad happened to be in every place that Billings was searching. It was the fact that Billings was going about his work too well. He was searching for Eyes Only and he kept running over Logan Cale. Sooner or later he would figure out the connection ...

And then my dad would be in trouble. I shivered as if there was a breeze laced with ice running past me in thinly clad feet. I knew that what I had in my head was only a copy of what the real Billings had stored away in his -- a memory of his, to put it in a way that I could understand in my frantic state. I had greater access to it, being able to play, pause, and rewind whenever I wanted, but that didn't take away the fact that Billings had the memory first, and still had it.

I needed a drink. These facts were spinning around too much in my poor little head. I wasn't sure what to think after a moment. Would I have taken the actual memories from Billings, one might ask? I didn't think so -- they didn't weigh like real memories, none of them did, which is why it was so easy to check the old from the new. They came in flashes, like movies. They weren't a part of me, I was just storing them. Even my own memories, stored away in their filing cabinets, still had a string connecting them to my self, my being. They wouldn't be real memories without them. Sometimes it was hard to tell if I had a string, true, but, still, there was always one.

Could I do anything? Could I go rooting around in the memories, into the filing cabinets, and find what I was looking for? My body convulsed again, this time with something I wasn't going to deny was a little bit of terror at the thought of having to dig around unfilled memories and search for ones pertaining to Billings. There was a one in a million chance that I'd actually find a relevant memory in my quest; there were a lot of superfluous thoughts racing around unfilled in my head.

I looked around at the people surrounding me and sighed. I loved my dad, but I wasn't going to chance getting lost in my own mind on the off-chance that some idiotic freak had actually figured out he was eyes only. I was too afraid, remembering what had happened when I had raced off from Mom and Dad's in a huff and had opened my mind blindly, searching for everything and nothing to calm me and had taken in the world and its fears, loves, hates, insecurities, happiness, anger, and peace.

I would wait until Billings surfaced again. But I wasn't about to wade into a river of uncertain waters to satisfy a hunger for knowledge.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I stayed over in Vegas for two months and contemplated being a dancer. I don't think I wanted to go home. And Vegas was pretty. There were lights there, and they served alcohol to anyone. I actually learned a really amazing little trick where you neutralize all the 'bad toxins' in your body so you don't have a hangover. I had to sleep a lot after doing it and when I woke I always had to pee like a bitch, but it was pretty nifty for when I wanted to get up early and wander around the city, looking at the desert. If there is one thing in the world that I like almost as much as much as the ocean up north, it is desert, especially Nevada and California. They've both got a certain, death-like charm to them that calls to me. And when I first got out I stayed in the desert a while, just being me.

Maybe that's why I was attracted to Vegas. That or the parties. I attended some pretty wild bashes there. I didn't know what to do half the time, but I definitely decided that the life of dancing wasn't me. I dunno about you, but at that moment in time dancing in Vegas meant you have to carry protection and a purse for large bills. Shiver me timbers and all that, but I wasn't really ready for a life as such.

So I only stayed for two months. Still, I arrived home in Seattle's mist in record time. And when I say record time I mean time enough to walk right into the middle of an apartment filled with half-a-dozen screaming children racing around near-naked (apparently they were American Indians; as they were all under four I didn't mind) and the remnants of cake all over the table. I scrunched my eyes and tried to figure out what had been written on the cake. All I got were hand prints in what may have been either a K, B, R, or F. The last one was grasping, really, but I wasn't certain.

I sat down heavily on a chair, and I looked around furiously for my mother when I discovered my new pants, gotten in Vegas with hard earned (and honestly earned) money, were covered in raspberry and ... chocolate ice cream. Where in the world was the chocolate ice cream and could I get a bowl? I searched the room and finally lit upon three things of ice cream in the trash. No fair. I pouted a bit, then stood up and tried to wipe off my pants with a paper napkin.

One of my siblings came racing into the room. As this little one was shirt less and had medium cropped hair, I couldn't tell which of the two it was. Either Qeleigh or Roan-Sullivan. Poor little things. This creature was covered in what appeared to be the contents of the boxes that were empty and trashed -- my ice cream. I wondered if I could lick the child and if so, would I be sent to prison for doing so. Mom came rushing in immediately after, not at fool speed but still fast enough that I had to grin. In her arms was the other twin who looked remarkably like the other except for the lack of bronzing on the skin.

"Qeleigh ..." Mom called out warningly. Bronze accordingly turned and frowned rather severely at our mother. What in the world had Mama done? Had I ever given her such a stare? I must have, when I was quite younger and I thought it was fun to argue with Mom. It was almost an attractive feature on the little girl -- she could work out looking disappointed to her advantage. "You mustn't hit your brother *or* your guests."

The bronze child just let out a snarl. Apparently, our mother's transgenic DNA was strong in this little one. "He said that Kali loved him more than she loved me. And it's not true. Kali loves me, she told me so. I love her back, more than anything." She turned to her brother and gave another growl from deep in her chest.

"Whoa, there, Skip," I said chidingly. The little bronze one, my mother, and Roan-Sullivan all turned to me, apparently surprised to see me in the corner. I shrugged my shoulders indifferently. "Hey, she sounds like she's some sort of canine when she makes those noises. You honestly think that *I* am going to let that pass. Not on your life. Come here, you Bronze animal, and let me see if you smell like chocolate ice cream."

Accordingly the small, ice cream covered thing came rushing towards me and landed on my lap with a splat and the definite odor of ice cream. I opened my mouth to let out a protest, but one look at Mom's face had me snapping it shut again quickly with thoughts of a more diplomatic approach to the situation. My poor mother looked exhausted, and that was saying something. I turned to the girl in my lap, unstuck some hairs from her face, and asked, "And who is Kali, Bronze?"

"Kali loves me," the bronze thing replied just as if it was the most explanative answer in the world. I nodded sagely.

"Shall I take her off your hands while you keep an eye on Roan-Sullivan?" I asked Mom. I saw a little redheaded girl go past and the bronze kid squirmed a bit in my arms and reached out -- it must have been Kali. Dad came into the room in hot pursuit of a chubby kid carrying a vase that looked to be about three thousand dollars -- I nodded in his direction and he grunted back, out of breath.

"Please," Mom answered, clearly glad to be able to get rid of the second twin. "It's not like I have nothing better to do. I seriously shoulda thought twice before I thought motherhood would be a breeze. You were my example -- you were fun, easy, and I could play rough. These are not Manticores, but they've got the energy for it. They break more easily, tie, and fight more quickly."

As if to give example to this, Roan-Sullivan managed to get out of Mom's arm and race after Dad and the assumed Kali, screaming at the top of his lungs that he loved her, please, oh, please, love him back. Bronze wriggled and twisted in my lap, but I tightened my arms around her and she got the message. It didn't stop her from biting me, but I ignored that; I'd done as much when I was a child and didn't get my way.

I could see where they got their temper -- my mother. The lack of control I was going to blame on my father, not me. Dad could not keep any emotion out of his face; he couldn't keep any emotion out of his *eyes* really, and that's what I loved about his glasses. They kept the world at a sort of distance. But when he did his Eyes Only reports, he brought the world in, tried to help them see everything from his point of view so they could make choices as to right and wrong.

"Come on, Bronze," I told her. "You and I are going to go plan your and Kali's next party. You two can bring the boys of your choice."

"Oh no," the Bronzed-Qel told me quite seriously, "I'm not going to date anyone but Kali."

Mom's laughter followed us out of the room. It sounded more like a desperate attempt at sanity than anything else. Don't have children until I'm thirty-five. CHECK.