10.21

She has had nightmares like this before, but Epsilon was not in them.

A room full of Texes looking at her, and in the dream Carolina knew that, like in a house of mirrors, they were really only all reflections of one unseen whole. Sometimes in the dream they fought her, her punches glancing off onyx armor and sparking. Sometimes they talked at her in a language she couldn't understand, sounds like FILSS's comforting voice, but in no language she understood.

Sometimes, the crowd just stared, and looked at her with their yellow eyes, and let her look at herself in the reflections.

She hated her silhouette.

Sometimes, like in reality, her armor grew heavy and overheated and died, and Carolina fell to her knees as Tex became a black cloud and pressed her into the floor.

But Epsilon hadn't been there. She hadn't had this familiar voice in her head. Epsilon's voice, that had transformed into Delta's and York's and told her without so many words to be kind to herself, was now cracking with pain and out of control. Eta and Iota had not been like this: their small, eager voices had melded with her own so quickly that she hardly had time to get to know anything except their emotions inside her.

But Epsilon was almost human.

She wondered whether the Director had broken more AI to make these, or whether they were just robots, programmed with a semblance of the voice and style of the woman Carolina fought.

Either way, Epsilon was overheating in the back of her head and she could feel sweat on her legs even inside the armor and black bodies kept attacking, hating her, before she pushed them away. Maybe if she pushed enough she would prove herself. Maybe she would finally be

"Carolina, stop!"

Then Tex's arm out of nowhere caught her under the chin, lifted her up, knocked her on her back and seemed to jar Epsilon enough that it sent a spike of pain up their spine.

"I can't do it. I can never beat her."

Epsilon was quiet, tired, gasping in the back of her head and he had no answer because the Reds and Blues and Wash had burst through the door and answers to her personal questions weren't important now.

Carolina stood up with Wash's help. The Texes regrouped, posturing, all shoulders.

Carolina looked at Wash, at Tucker, at all of them, and thought this wasn't in the nightmares.