The Conclusion. You can find part 4 here.
“It was still stupid of you to go there by yourself,” Rose admonished. “Five of the nine…” she sipped at her tea contemplatively.
Danielle nodded, stirring her own tea. It wasn’t a very satisfying drink to her, but it was at least warm and smelled nice. She wondered what she commonly drank in her timeline.
She wondered what she commonly wore, for that matter. The Dreamspeaker Elder Sheila had helped her shop with her first paycheck from the hospital. While she didn’t mind the conservative, longer dresses she also wondered what would typically be in her wardrobe. Her personal guess were t-shirts. Samantha seemed to appreciate pink but geeky superhero themed clothing. It fit how she played, alternating between trying to light a doll on fire, to cuddling to it, and degrees in between.
The fifth sphere, Forces, was discovered when Samantha’s doll fire got slightly out of hand. While Danielle hadn’t been able to outright snuff it, she could contain it long enough for others to arrive and help put it out.
“At least those men should start to leave you alone. We can start looking over our shoulders for other reasons,” Rose’s playful conspiratorial wink made Danielle smile.
Danielle woke suddenly. Samantha was balled up in her bed again and she thought for a moment that the chill she felt was because her daughter had an accident again.
She checked Samantha and the bed, they were both dry. It must have been a dream.
The irony of a dream within a dream wasn’t lost on her as she played with her runes. She felt naked without them and wondered how she accessed Magik where she was from. The runes felt slightly foreign, like they were part of a present incarnation rather than her present one.
Making sure Samantha wouldn’t get cold while she was out of the bed, Danielle dressed in some loose clothes and headed toward the kitchen for a bottle of water.
She felt the cold chill again and looked around the hall’s corners. It was as though somebody (or something) was trying to communicate to her. Nobody else seemed to be up and about. Why did she feel she was being watched?
The original quest forgotten, she slowly patrolled the halls, except as she did so, things began feeling less dense. Less real.
Almost like she was in a…
…in a computer program?
“Choose,” the voice whispered.
She froze. The last time she was presented with such a ‘choice’ her husband had died.
Danielle didn’t care how much noise she made as she ran back to her and Samantha’s room. Something told her that wherever she was had begun unraveling anyway.
Crashing through her door, Samantha didn’t stir like she would have normally.
She glanced at the runes on the nightstand that she had been sure she’d put in her pant pocket before leaving the room.
Opposite the bed was now a computer. It wasn’t an average consumer model but some kind of high-tech setup with a headset rather than a monitor, suspended from a cord attached to the ceiling. Virtual reality?
Naturally it was then that the wall lit up with a projection that was likely being cast from the box of the computer.
“Choose family, choose normal, or choose the magical,” the voice was stronger now. It sounded like Carl again. She looked around the room furtively, never seeing him.
The projection had a picture of a rare pose with Danielle, Rose, Nick, Stuff, Laz… she realized she knew everyone’s names in that picture that was with her.
“Please Carl, don’t make me leave my little girl behind,” she heard herself pleading. “I…”
She paused, awestruck. This was it, this was why she was here: Samantha.
She had forsaken the opportunity to have a family and a semblance of a normal life when she came to Phoenix all those years ago. She’d found a group of peers instead, all from different paradigms, backgrounds, and histories.
Some had come and gone, others had been here since she had arrived.
She had been denying her nature and hiding behind her demeanor. She’d tried to keep everyone away so that she wouldn’t hurt anymore from the loss of family.
The loss of her parents who’s deaths seemed to have been wiped from history. One moment they were there, and then they were gone.
To choose the safety of a child’s love versus that of her friends.
Everyone was connected.
For her to leave them would be leaving a part of herself. It would be hurting the chantry and Sentia.
She could see the web of data connecting and weaving between each person at her chantry, her home, the timeline she’d come from.
Some were connected by shimmering threads of silk, and she could see as data weavers delicately swung, either building or reworking each datapoint through the interaction of space and time. She could feel their vibrations as they worked diligently, and when she looked at Samantha she realized the cable between mother and daughter was there, it was ethereal. It had been constructed to test her.
Tears streaking down her face, she kissed the dark head.
The child finally stirred and looked up at her, smiling groggily.
“I love you, Mommy,” Sam said sweetly, rolling over to nuzzle Danielle’s pillow, taking in her scent.
“I love you too,” Danielle answered, stroking the girl’s hair. “I’ll never forget you.
With that, closing her eyes, she tugged on the cable she felt coming from the computer rig.
Danielle woke to her rooms in the horizon realm of the chantry. The familiar hum of her computer running as background noise was no comfort.
She reached for her goggles to ping Sentia. What she needed right now was company.
What she got when she sent the ping was Samantha appearing in her room where her sterile text box would have appeared before.
She didn’t even process where Sentia/Sam said the others were.
In this plane.
This was the innocent that she was tasked to protect, nurture, and help grow.
Her own avatar simply had to beat her over the head with it for it to sink in.
It wasn’t just her connection to the physical beings that mattered, but the metaphysical as well.
She would help make that cable the strongest of all.