Authors: Jeri Taylor
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction
Harry watched in stupefaction as Kes seemed to have a one-sided conversation with the winged humanoid, though so far
as Harry could tell the creature wasn't talking.
"Time for what?" she asked, and then, after a short pause,
"I don't understand. I don't know anything about it's
Then she lapsed into silence. "Kes?"
ventured Harry somewhat timidly, and was rewarded by her
silencing hand held toward him. She frowned slightly, as
though focusing on something difficult to understand, then
began looking around the room.
This behavior continued for some minutes, as Harry looked
from one to the other. And then, abruptly-at least as far
as Harry was concerned-the winged being shimmered out of
existence. He turned to Kes. "Was that a hologram?" She
nodded. "I think he was a program that was created to leave
a message-telepathically-but it was a confusing one.
He kept talking about it's being time for something to
happen. It may have been some kind of regeneration ritual,
because he kept talking about a reawakening."
Harry noted that the temperature had dropped a bit; while
still hot, it wasn't as overwhelming as it had been a few
minutes ago. "We may have triggered a program to start up
by coming in here.
Maybe they rigged the room to produce the messenger when
"Well, he wasn't much of a messenger. After listening to
him, I still don't understand what's happened, or what's
going to happen, if anything." "I think it's getting
cooler," observed Harry, moving again toward the wall
through which they had entered, and scanning once more.
"And look at this-something's going on, all right. I'm
reading energy signatures that weren't here before." He
circled the room, taking readings as he went, and Kes did
"Some kind of technology has been activated," she noted.
"Can you tell what it is, Harry?"
"I'm afraid not," he admitted. "It's organometallic, but
in a state of flux. Not registering in the Federation
database, of course." He pondered the whole strange
situation briefly. The chamber was now cooling rapidly, and
was almost comfortable again. Was that significant? "You
say the messenger communicated telepathically. Could you
tell anything about him?
Did he seem belligerent, or warlike?"
"Not at all. He was focused. Composed. If he's any
indication of the whole species, I don't think there's any
hostile intent here."
Harry was vaguely comforted by this assessment, though
still apprehensive about a situation over which they seemed
to have no control whatsoever. He determined to concentrate
his efforts on getting them out of this mysterious
chamber, and he walked purposefully toward the wall through
which they had entered.
What he found there was as surprising as anything that had
At the end of the room was a closed door, and beyond that,
anothej-room-a room she must get into, because it had to
be cleaned. She moved toward the door, but disstopped when
she heard Admiral Paris' voice behind her. "Wait, Kathryn,
I need you here.
"She turned to face him but when she did, no one was there.
When she turned back to the door, it was gone .
. . how could she get into the room . . . his Janeway's
head snapped up and she realized she had drifted off while
sitting on the bridge.
No one seemed to have noticed; Chakotay wasn't in his
chair, having gone to oversee the ongoing repair efforts in
Engineering, and the rest of the bridge crew was quietly
busy. Still, it bothered her that she had lost momentary
control, and she vowed to toughen herself mentally so it
wouldn't happen again. For she certainly had no wish to
revisit the house of many rooms, or to renew her efforts to
go through the closed door.
AT THE END OF THE ROOM WAS A CLOSED DOOR, AND BEYOND that,
another room-a room she must get into, because it had to be
She moved toward the door, but stopped when she heard
Admiral Paris' voice behind her.
"Wait, Kathryn, I need you here. "She turned to face him,
but when she did, no one was there.
Kathryn's eyes opened at that point and she stared dully
at the ceiling of her childhood bedroom.
The dream had become so commonplace she no longer woke with
her heart pounding, as she had when she first began having
it, and even the vague sense of misgiving that pervaded her
when she woke had begun to abate. The dream was losing its
ability to make her feel, which was of course exactly what
She rolled over and prepared to go to sleep again when
there was an irritating chime at her door. She ignored it,
burying her head in pillows and pulling a blanket high
around her neck.
She was annoyed when she heard the door open anyway, and
realized someone was crossing the room toward her bed. Her
mother. Her mother made these visitations several times a
day, sometimes bringing hot soup or tea, sometimes just
sitting with her for a few moments, rubbing a shoulder
gently. These were comfortable intrusions, demanding
nothing of her except a few mumbled words of thanks.
This time, though, she felt the pillows wrenched from her
head and the blanket flung back.
Startled, she sat up and stared into the eyes of her sister
"You've spent enough time in bed, Kathryn. Time to get up
and start living again."
Mild aggravation was the most potent emotion Kathryn could
summon. Her sister was a buzzing mosquito, easily swatted
aside. "Go away," she muttered, reaching again for the
But Phoebe threw it off the bed and tossed the pillows to
the other side of the room. "I'm not leaving until you're
up and showered and dressed. Then we'll have lunch and
maybe play some tennis."
Kathryn gazed up at Phoebe, too tired to get into an
argument. "Have to sleep," she mumbled, and lay down
without benefit of either pillows or blanket and closed her
eyes. Then she felt strong hands grip her shoulders and
pull her upright.
"You've slept enough. Get up, Kathryn-don't make me take
drastic measures." The mosquito was becoming more of a
nuisance. Kathryn felt a surge of something beyond
irritation, and her eyes opened again. "Get out, Phoebe. I
don't want you here."
"Too bad. You're stuck with me. Are you getting up or do I
need to do something extreme?"
There was a brief silence and then Phoebe turned and left
the room; Kathryn closed her eyes once more, drifting into
soothing oblivion. The next thing she knew, a gallon of icy
water cascaded down on top of her, drenching her and
soaking the bed.
She leapt up with a yelp, pulling sodden hair from her
face. "Are you crazy? What are you doing?"
"Making sure that bed is too uncomfortable to sleep in. Now
get up and take a shower."
Genuine anger began to rise in Kathryn. She stood up,
shivering from the frigid ice bath, and glared at her
sister. Phoebe glared right back.
"Does Mom know you're doing this?"
"She certainly does. She encouraged it."
"And what, exactly, is it you hope to accomplish?" "Today
I'll be happy if you get up and get dressed. You don't go
back to bed until it's night. Tomorrow you'll get up by
seven and we'll play tennis or hike in the woods. In three
weeks you report for duty."
Kathryn felt a dull headache begin to throb.
"I don't have to report for a long time. Months."
"It's been months. You're back in three weeks."
Kathryn tried to absorb what Phoebe was saying, but the
effort required concentration and she quickly abandoned it.
Phoebe was simply wrong. But now she was tugging on
Kathryn's arm, pulling her toward the bathroom. "There's
soap, and shampoo and towels. I'll have lunch ready when
you get out."
Kathryn didn't have the strength to argue; bargaining
seemed the easier way out. "If I get dressed and have
lunch, will you leave me alone?" "Not until we've gone
outside and done something physical."
"Fine. Then will you leave me alone?"
Kathryn sighed and moved into the bathroom, unable to
argue further. She'd deal with tomorrow when it came.
If it came.
The sunlight was so intense it felt like a thousand tiny
needles in Kathryn's eyes. She tried to shield them from
the light, but it was relentless.
"I have to go back and get a hat," she complained, but
Phoebe kept marching. "You'll adjust," she said tersely,
not looking back. Kathryn couldn't find the strength to
insist, and so followed behind. They were walking on the
frozen ground of the barren cornfields. In six months the
new corn would be as high as your eye, but today on this
cold January clay, the ground was hard and clumpy; Kathryn
kept stumbling on frozen clods of earth.
"How much farther?" she asked, lurching again as her foot
slipped into a rut.
"Until you're physically tired."
"I am. I promise."
"I'll know when you really are."
Kathryn subsided once more. Just get through this, she
thought. Stumble through the cornfields until Phoebe was
convinced she was breathing hard, and then she could go
back to bed. She settled into a sullen silence,
concentrating on not twisting her ankle on the unfrly
earth. She had managed to eat some of the vegetable
bouillon her sister had made her, and gulped down several
cups of coffee-Phoebe did make the best coffee in the
family, no doubt about it-which she actually enjoyed. Now
they were on this mindless trek, walking nowhere for no
reason, just waiting for her to get tired. The more she
thought about it, the less sense it made. Finally, she
"That's it, Phoebe," she said firmly. "I'm not your
prisoner. I don't have to go any farther if I don't want
to. I'm going home."
Phoebe circled around in front of her, clear gray eyes
holding hers steadily, cheeks flushed a patch of pink from
the cold. "No, you aren't," she retorted. "You don't seem
to understand. I'm not going to let you sleep your life
away. You've indulged yourself long enough."
Indignation leapt up in Kathryn, a righteous ire that was
as close to real feeling as she'd had in months. "Indulged?
Excuse me, Phoebe, if I'm not snapping back from this
according to your time schedule, but I wasn't aware I had
to live up to your expectations. Is it asking too much that
you maybe have a modicum of sympathy?"
But Phoebe showed no such thing. She glared at her sister,
chin tilted, carried by her own tide of righteousness.
"You've had nothing but sympathy from everybody. Good
grief, Kathryn-it was an awful thing that happened. But
you're not grieving, you're wallowing in grief. It's
consuming you, and we're not going to let that happen."
Kathryn started to retort, but Phoebe took another breath
and kept going. "Do you think you're the only one in pain?
Of course it was worse for you, you lost two people-but I
lost Daddy, too. And Mom lost her husband. She can't do her
own mourning because she's so worried about you." Phoebe
looked at her, waiting for a response, but Kathryn had
none. She felt suddenly naked in this bright winter sun,
stripped of defense. She began to shiver.
"We've given you time, we've waited on you, we've done
everything we can to help you get through this.
But you're sinking deeper and deeper-I didn't know it was
possible to sleep as much as you do. That's not good for
you, and it certainly isn't good for Mom and me, who love
you and care about you. So I'm not taking it any longer.
going to get up, you're going to face life, and if it
hurts for a while it's just going to have to hurt. That's
the only way you're going to get better." A vision of the
closed door flashed in Kathryn's mind, and she started to
tell Phoebe that she'd never get better until that door was
opened, but then she realized she didn't even know what
that meant. Her sister's words crawled around on her for a
moment while Kathryn tried to reject their truth, but
eventually she couldn't resist them, and she felt her mind
absorbing them all.
Phoebe was right. She couldn't go on like this.
Daddy and Justin weren't coming back no matter what she
did, so she'd better get on with life. But could she? In
her bed, eyes closed, pain receded. Standing out here, in
the cold winter air, she felt misery begin to rise in her,
erupting in the pit of her stomach and then snaking out to
envelop the rest of her body. She felt queasy. She had to
lie down, get warm again. Close her eyes.
She felt Phoebe's strong grip on her arms.
"I'm here for you, Kathryn," her sister's voice promised.
"You might get mad at me because I'm going to push you. But