Summary: Trance's daughter from the future shows up, forcing her to come to terms with events she would rather forget.
Disclaimer: I don't own them (except for Zelazny). I just enjoy getting inside their heads from time to time.
Feedback: Yes, please! Feed me, feed me!!! If you like Zelazny, I'll write more with her.
They were on their way to Telcroft Drift to pick up supplies for Harper.
"You're mad at Beka, aren't you?" Trance asked Harper.
"Why would I be mad at Beka?" Harper asked without looking up from the Maru's controls.
"For making you take me along when she knows you'd rather not."
Harper shrugged. "We'll be at Telcroft Drift soon."
"That's not an answer, Harper..." Trance pointed out quietly, but she took the hint and walked towards the back of the ship. Harper may not have hated the new her any more, but that did not mean that he liked her yet. He would eventually, just not yet. As she vanished into the crew-quarters, she called over her shoulder, "Let me know if you need anything."
"Yeah, whatever..." Harper watched her go with a sigh. Life had been so much easier when Trance was just... Trance. She may have still been cagey and mysterious, but she had also been, for lack of a better word, lovable. Now she was cagey and mysterious and more than a little scary.
When they had made it through Customs at Telcroft Drift, Trance suggested, "Let's go to the bar. I'll buy you a bottle of Neubayern Weisbrau."
"I thought you didn't believe in 'poisoning yourself for fun'."
Trance shrugged. "You seem to enjoy it. I just thought..." She shrugged. "Look, you don't even have to look at me if you don't want, Harper, okay, I just want to buy you a drink."
"Why?" he asked, frowning.
She shrugged. "I just feel like it."
"Hey, I've never been one to say no to free Weisbrau." Harper grinned at her. "Lead on, lovely lady."
Smiling, Trance walked towards the bar. Harper was coming around after all. She ordered two bottles even though she disliked the taste, knowing that Harper would happily finish hers, too. She managed to find the only empty table in the bar and they sat down to drink. Trance did not bother to try to engage Harper in conversation. The truth was that she was happy enough just having him around again without having to talk to him as well. Harper may have thought that her 'change' was hard on him, but he had no idea what it was like for Trance to have her long-dead-but-recently-resurrected-friend barely tolerating her presence, and suspecting her of all kinds of horrible things besides.
Harper, meanwhile, had immediately spotted the prettiest woman in the bar and was watching her dance with not one but three very large men. His attention was initially attracted by her attractive features, but as he watched her, he realized that there was something faintly familiar about her as well. Make that very familiar, he decided, watching her. If she had not been dancing directly under a black light, he would have realized at once what it was about her. Instead, he had to wait until she turned her back to him and began wagging her tail in time with the music.
She was the same species as Trance. As she turned around again, he saw that her features were faintly similar to Trance's as well, the old Trance, at least, the young, purple Trance. He grabbed Trance's arm to attract her attention. "Hey, isn't she one of you?" he shouted over the music, pointing.
Trance stared in the direction she indicated, and her curious expression instantly changed to one of amazement and confusion. She rose swiftly. "What is she doing here?" she asked in a voice that sounded almost fearful. She quickly started in the woman's direction.
Harper watched in surprise and jumped up to follow her. The woman had obviously noticed Trance, because she cast a startled glance in that direction and started for the door. Trance was not the only one to follow. Her dance-partners, looking fairly disgruntled, started after her as well. By the time Trance and Harper had reached the corridor outside of the bar, the woman was in the middle of an argument with the men. It seemed rather one-sided: one of the men held her arms behind her back and the other two stood in front of her.
"Where were you running off to in such a hurry, little lady?" the largest of the men demanded.
"I told you," she replied in a bored voice, "I'm done dancing."
"You're done when I say you're done!" he replied.
"Is that how it works?" she asked, wrapping her tail around the throat of the man holding her hands behind her back. As soon as he eased his grip on her, she threw him into the arms of the other two men. Smiling, she walked towards the three startled men. Trance sprang forward and caught her from behind, restraining her.
"This is not a woman you want to irritate..." Trance informed them quietly, holding her firmly. "I've seen her do things with a force-lance that make the Magog look like humanitarians."
The woman sighed. "Can't I just make an example of the big one?" she asked.
"No!" Trance replied firmly. "Just let them go."
"I don't think they want to go, mom."
Harper stared. "Did she just call you... mom?"
Trance did not take her eyes off of the men. "We'll talk about it later, Harper. This is not a good time."
Harper could not help but agree as he stared at the men, who were sizing up the three of them in a very unpleasant way. He reached quietly for his gun. "You could have something there, Trance."
"You're her mother?" the man who had been speaking earlier asked. "Why didn't you just say so?" He reached for his money-pouch. "I'm sure we can come to some kind of arrangement."
"You know, I don't think I like you." Trance told him, frowning.
"Mom, I'm kind of getting a cramp, here."
"Oh, sorry, baby." Trance let her go but kept one hand firmly on her shoulder. She looked at the men. "This is your last warning."
The men seemed to take this as an invitation rather than a threat, because all three of them pulled out weapons and dropped in defensive postures.
"Oh, for the love of the Divine!" Trance's daughter muttered, plucking the weapon from the hand of the first one and using it to club him into unconsciousness. While she was doing this, her tail was making short work of another of the men. The third man decided that it would be a good time to leave. "Smelly freaks..." She shook her head and turned around to face Trance. "Hi..." she said softly.
"What... what are you doing here?"
She shrugged. "Well... when all that stuff happened and you-you was replaced by young-you I decided that it would be a good time to leave while I still existed. I said bye-bye to Aunt Beka and popped off through the nearest teserect."
Harper frowned. "What?"
She seemed to notice him for the first time. "Who the hell are you?"
"Harper. Seamus Harper."
She stared. "Oh..." She gave him a weak smile. "Hi."
"Um, hi." Harper looked at her uncertainly. "Are you really..."
"Trance's daughter." She nodded, then looked at Trance. "I'm sorry. I know my presence here must... complicate things for you."
"Zelazny, no!" Trance shook her head. "Don't be silly, baby. I love you. I'm so happy to see you again."
"Um, sorry to be a budinski here," Harper said, "but did you just call her.. Zelazny?"
"It's my name..." she told him.
"I named her after you." Trance shrugged helplessly.
"Because I missed you."
"Oh." Harper smiled. "That's... sweet, Trance."
"Look, mom, I was just about to leave the Drift anyway, so you don't need to worry."
"Zelazny, I don't want you to leave!" Trance protested.
"Think, mom!" Zelazny suggested firmly. "You think your friends are having a tough time accepting you now, you try throwing your grown-up daughter into the mix and see what happens. One thing at a time, okay." She smiled reassuringly. "You know how it works. If you need me, I'll come." She took Trance's hand and kissed it before walking off.
Harper stared after her. "That was... weird. So that's..."
"My little girl." Trance nodded.
"And... you named her... after me?" Harper asked.
She nodded again. "I was so lonely after you... went away. Then Zelazny happened. So I named her after you."
"But... how did she get to this time?"
"The same way I did. Through a teserect. If she hadn't, she would have ceased to exist once I became established in this time."
"But... how can she still exist?" Harper frowned. "That doesn't make any sense."
"I'm not really sure." Trance shrugged. "I guess as long as the teserecting machine existed paradoxes were possible. If she came through before it was destroyed, I guess... She stopped being a paradox."
"Who's the father?" Harper asked.
"Does it matter?" Trance frowned.
He shrugged. "Just curious."
"You didn't know him. It was... a one-time thing."
"Oh. So the jerk ran out on you?"
"Something like that." Trance nodded. "Look, why don't you go finish your drink. I think I need some fresh air."
"On a Drift?" Harper asked as she started off. "Trance?" he called when she did not respond. "Hey!" Shaking his head, he started after her, but she broke into a run and soon vanished into the maze of corridors. Shaking his head, Harper went to his room. She obviously wanted to be alone, probably with her daughter.
Zelazny answered the door before Trance could knock once. "Why did you come?"
"I wanted to see you."
She smiled and let Trance in. "Mom... You are never going to be able to build your own life here with me tagging along."
"I don't want my own life. I just want things to be like they were."
Zelazny sighed and took Trance's hands in her own. "But I don't figure into that equation and we both know it."
Trance sighed. Zelazny was right. "Then... I guess I came to say goodbye."
"You want a drink or something?"
"I could use one, yeah." Trance nodded and sat down. "How long have you been here?"
"Stepped through the teserect onto Gehenna five years ago." Zelazny handed her a drink and sat down next to her. "During monsoon season." She grinned. "I never did see what Aunt Beka had against rain."
Trance smiled at her. "Beka would be disgusted that her goddaughter actually enjoys weather."
Zelazny smiled. "How is everyone? Aunt Beka? Uncle Tyr? Dylan?"
"They're all good. They're taking a while to accept me, but they are just fine."
"Good to know. What about Harper? How's he getting along?"
"He's alive and he likes that fact, but I think it's going to take him a while to accept the price for his life... or to forgive me."
"He will. I know him. Remember?"
Trance smiled and nodded. "I know you do, baby."
"Does he know?"
Trance shook her head. "I couldn't tell him. He's having enough trouble accepting me as it."
"That's too bad." She smiled sadly. "One day, maybe."
"Maybe." Trance nodded.
"You don't look good, mom."
"Oh, I'm just thinking about everything. The way he died..." She sighed deeply.
"Does he know about that?"
"No." She shook her head. "I couldn't tell him that, either. He doesn't trust me as it is."
"You think he'd care for you any less, mom?" Zelazny shook her head. "I don't. He's Harper. He would love you that much more, I think."
Trance looked at her thoughtfully. "Why is it that, no matter how bad I feel, you can always make me feel better?"
"Could it be because I inherited my parent's memories, so basically I know exactly what's going on in their heads at all times?"
Trance smiled and kissed Zelzany's hand. "That could have something to do with it."
"I should be going now. I'm pretty sure there's a ship that leaves soon. I'll see you."
Trance smiled and nodded. "I know."
"Bye for now." Zelazny winked at her.
"What do I do about Harper though?"
"You tell him that you need him. He won't turn you away."
Trance nodded. "I'll walk you to the docking-bay."
Harper looked up at the gentle knocking on his door. "Yeah?" he called, getting up.
"Harper, can I talk to you?" Trance asked.
Harper opened the door and looked out at her. "So, the kid gone?"
She nodded sadly. "Yeah. Look, would you mind... not telling the others about her just yet?"
Harper shrugged. "Whatever. What's one more secret?"
"Harper, don't be mean!" Trance muttered, frowning sadly. She looked up at him. "Can I come in?"
"In?" he asked.
She nodded slowly. "I'm lonely and I'm... confused, and I... I don't want to be alone right now, Harper. I can't!" Tears formed in her eyes.
Harper took her by the arm and gently pulled her into the room. He steered her over to the couch and sat down next to her. "What's up, Trance?" he asked gently, picking up a clean towel and drying her cheeks. It occurred to him that he had never seen her cry before.
"I'm sorry..." Trance muttered, shaking her head. "It was seeing Zelazny again... remembering all those horrible things that I'd rather just forget about!"
"Was it really that bad there, Trance? You can tell me."
She looked up at him with wide eyes. "If I tell you, you'll be like me. You won't be able to forget..."
"But I'll know, Trance, and maybe that's more important, huh?" He smiled anxiously at her. "You once said we were best friends. If that's true, then you can tell me anything. And... and... maybe if I know, too, it'll be easier on you. You know? You'll have someone you can talk to it about."
"You died in my arms!" Trance wailed, curling up into a ball and rocking herself.
Harper stared in shock for a split-second before pulling her into a hug. "Oh, Trance..." he muttered into her hair. "It's okay..."
"No, no it isn't! Because it's worse than that!" Trance looked up at him with shame in her eyes. "Because, when the time came to keep the Magog eggs from hatching, Tyr couldn't do it and Dylan couldn't..." she trailed off and shook her head.
"You?" Harper whispered.
"And you smiled at me and said 'thank you'!" Trance tried to pull away from him, but he only held her closer.
"Then let me say it again. Thank you, Trance." Harper held the struggling woman more tightly. "Thank you for keeping me from dying the most horrible death imaginable. Thank you for being with me at the end. And thank you for saving my life, Trance."
She looked up at him, startled. He actually meant it. "You aren't... mad?"
He shook his head, ignoring the fact that he was now crying, too. "I didn't know. I didn't understand. I mean, I know that doesn't bring Hohne back, but..." He shrugged. When Trance had calmed down a little, he asked, "What was it like, Trance, the future that you came from?"
"It was bad, Harper." She took a deep breath. "Without you around, the ship's AI was the first casualty. It was just too badly damaged for any of us to fix. The damage was to most of the ship... Dylan changed after that. He used to wander around the ship talking to it like he expected a response. And Rommie... when she lost her connection to the ship's AI... Dylan was the only one of us she would talk to any more. I don't know. She started getting reckless, or maybe she was just confused. Either way, when we had to abandon the ship altogether, she was just... crushed. Like she had lost half of herself. She locked herself into a locker on the Maru for three days, wouldn't even talk to Dylan. When she came back out, she was different. I think she wanted to die. Dylan... I don't know what happened with them, but she moved into his room and only came out when she was needed. She seemed to be getting better, but eventually she got into a fight she couldn't win."
"She... died?" Harper sighed weakly. "Poor Rommie."
"Poor Dylan..." Trance corrected him quietly. "He was like a walking shadow after that, especially when the Commonwealth began falling apart."
Harper swallowed hard, not sure he wanted to know any more.
Trance seemed to sense this. "It was bad, Harper, and now you know why I wanted to come back here and try to change things."
"Is it working?" he asked quietly.
Trance considered this for a moment, then slowly nodded. "You are still alive, Rommie is in one piece, and... well, things are different. I think I've made a good start."
Harper smiled at her. "Good for you, Trance. I understand a lot now."
"So, friends again?"
"On one condition."
"Condition?" Trance asked uncertainly.
"You have to forgive me for over-reacting to the new you."
"Done." Grinning, Trance rose. She bent over, kissed Harper on the cheek, and left the room.
Harper stared after her, smiling crookedly. He brushed his fingers against his cheek and then touched them to his lips. "Huh. Maybe she hasn't changed that much after all."