Read Mosaic Online

Authors: Jeri Taylor

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction

Mosaic (32 page)

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

being-time."

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

someone enters."

"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

the same.

"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

happened.

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

cleaned.

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 wanted.

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

Phoebe.

"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

blanket.

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?"

"Just leave."

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?"

"Until tomorrow."

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

stopped short.

"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.

You're 246

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

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