Though hardly the great general Raxin was, Mnemia never the less had certain… instincts when it came to going to war. One of which was to survey the forces at her command before leading them into battle.

But these weren’t her troops and Koresti seemed to have matters under control; mixed signals would just sow confusion on the field of battle. Still, she had restless energy that needed an outlet, and Zis was a little preoccupied, first with teaching necromancy to Oberashti and later with the spirits of Xexas.

As a result Mnemia found herself wandering the city for hours at a time. Xexas was like no place the Tya had ever seen. The city was effectively broken up into two halves. The first was a traditional, though enclosed area, at the base of the city. The other half was built in and around the spires that dropped half a mile into the smoke. Some of these lower areas were deathly poisonous without protection while others showed an alien beauty. It was one of the later, a chamber looking out into the heart of the spires where lightning filled the air, arcing along the structures, that Mnemia found herself returning to over and over again.

Behind Mnemia a female voice broke through her reverie. “I don’t know if I can call it beautiful, but it certainly is spectacular.”

“Beauty is… Let’s just say I’ve seen so much my definition has grown a bit.” Mnemia responded, her eyes not leaving the electrical storm before her.

“So I’ve noticed.” the voice responded, a slight hitch in her words.

Mnemia turned around now, her gaze moving towards the manifestation of Anna standing just behind her shoulder. The other woman shimmered just a bit, a result of the trace amounts of smoke that drifted through much of the city. But beyond that she looked much as Mnemia remembered the young ghost. Even the hint of sadness that never seemed to leave her eyes.

Mnemia looked at the woman for a moment before her gaze dropped. “When were you going to tell me the truth?”

Anna took half a step forward, her hand halfway to the solar before she remembered she couldn’t touch the other woman. Her own eyes dropping to the floor she responded, “I didn’t lie to you. At least, not at first. I…”

Mnemia turned her attention back to Anna. “You what?” When Anna didn’t immediately respond Mnemia continued. “What was between us was… complicated. But regardless of what it was, I think I deserve the truth. I don’t know if I can go into this fight if I can’t trust Harbinger, if I can’t trust you.”

Anna was still for a moment before she nodded and raised her eyes. “Okay… Okay.”

“When it started I was… it… I don’t know how to describe it. I was me, but I wasn’t me. Harbinger was… alien, confusing. I didn’t know myself. I couldn’t. The capacity of the system was so different from what my mind had been before. I was everything you feared I had become. My emotions were gone. I was just data.”

“But, everything I had lost, it was all still there. I just didn’t know how to… use it. It took me a long time to learn how to do that. In fact, it wasn’t until Kadon provided you with the impending dawn band that I was able to learn to be myself again. Do you recall how time passes differently in Elsewhere?”

“Wait.” Mnemia interrupted. “Every time I spoke with you you seemed fine. I thought the link created by the band was keeping you… synchronized with me.”

Anna shook her head. “No, that’s not how it worked. I was just compensating for the time difference when I spoke with you, so you wouldn’t be disoriented by the information.”

“How long?” Mnemia whispered.

“More than 30 years.”

“Even now?”

Anna only nodded.

“Gods Anna…”

“No, it’s okay. It’s taken me most of that time to understand everything Harbinger has to teach me. The repositories of first age knowledge contained within are huge, though there are gaps. And the system was easily powerful enough for me to regain my emotions. I just had to figure it all out. It still feels a little different from what I remember, but I’m whole.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You shouldn’t have to ask that.” Anna responded, her voice snapping just a bit. As Mnemia’s face fell the AI quickly continued. “No, I’m sorry. It’s not just Zis. I hate her and love her all at the same time, but no, it’s not just her. What would you have done had you known the truth? Would you still have kept Harbinger stored in Elsewhere? Would it have been available to you when you needed it? When you were in the lair of Leviathan, rescuing our children? What about when you saved the Tya aboard those ships? Out here, in Autochthon?”

“Of course not!” Mnemia snapped back. “I would not do that to you, not willingly.”

“And that’s why I couldn’t tell you. I’ve asked so much of you, placed a burden upon you you never wanted. And yet you have shouldered it and carried it as best you could. There’s nothing I can do for Aly and Kasi, nothing but this. I needed to do this. I needed to be there for you when you needed me, even if it meant I had to face the gray void alone.”

“Dammit Anna.” Mnemia responded, but there was no hate in her voice. Just the weight of another burden, a weight Anna could easily see fall to her by the way the solar slumped just a little bit. But she would not let Mnemia do this.

“Please. I have never once regretted taking Nessa’s place. Before I did I was useless to you, useless to our daughters. I could do nothing but watch. But now, here within Harbinger, I can do something. I can fight beside you. I can help you bear this responsibility you and the others have taken upon yourselves. Please, let me do this for you. With you.”

Mnemia didn’t respond right away, turning back towards the lightning dancing along the length of the towers of Xexas. Anna was starting to fear that she wouldn’t when the solar finally spoke. “All I ever wanted for you was to give your life back to you, to give you a chance to choose your own fate and make your own decisions. The way you got pulled into our world…”

Anna chuckled softly, interrupting Mnemia’s ramblings as she stepped next to her. “You’re right, if I could have my way I’d still be working with papa, walking the same roads over and over again until I knew every twist and turn. But I lost that life before I ever met you.” She left unsaid that it was Zis that had taken it from her. “But now, this is what I want to do. And besides, it’s not all bad. Being a part of Harbinger… I don’t think I could have enduring what I have and still kept my mind if I had still been alive. But I’m not. I’m something different now. Not alive, not dead, just… here. And this is what I want.”

Mnemia sighed and turned her head to look at the projection again. “Okay. If you want to walk this path with me I’d be honored to have you by my side. Just… you’re not… Be you.” the Tya final forced out. “Never believe that you don’t have a choice. Never believe you owe me this. I don’t want that.”

Anna could only nod.

“You’re a part of the team and you always have. You need to tell me when I’m being a fool, not listen to a word that Zuko says and demand the best parts when Kadon is fixing you up. None of that imaginary fairy stuff he’s so proud of. Okay?”

Anna started nodding again. “Okay.”


Sins of the First Age ChainsawXIV ChainsawXIV