Chapter 8 A Piece of Home
I stood alone in my quarters, developing the photograph I had taken the day before. Edith was preparing for the party, trying to decide what dress to wear from amongst the outfits that had been provided her.
“What do you think, Conrad?” She asked, displaying the dresses. “Which one do you like best?”
“I told you to wear whatever you want, Edith,” I sighed, “Besides, I doubt I’ll even be going.”
“What?” She frowned. “Why not? You’re the big hero they’re honoring! It was your ship that made the mission possible!”
“Please, Edith. Any vessel worth its weight in scrap could have done what the Rhiannon did.” I laughed richly. “Was it not obvious, Edith? Gael hardly put up a fight. Only three fighters attempted to stop us and I’m certain that he was aware of our presence once we landed. Even after Daiva fell he never even attempted to escape. He wanted us to capture him. This war is far from over. There is nothing to celebrate!”
Edith sighed and began to change out of her uniform.
“You’re just being paranoid, Conrad.” She jeered. “We weren’t even there when Gael was defeated. He was also unarmed, so why would he try to escape?”
“I suppose you’re right . . .” I murmured.
“Of course I’m right!” Edith laughed as she stretched back onto her bed. “I helped them incarcerate Gael and he immediately agreed to negotiate with Anwen.” She frowned. “In fact, it was almost as if he wanted to see her, though I can’t imagine why . . .”
Her arrogant tone had annoyed me and I long since ceased to pay her any attention. I smiled as I stared at the fully developed photograph. Fortunately, the Maidens’ technology they had afforded me worked to speed up the process. It was an amazing picture. Mary looked perfect, posed on the Rhiannon’s wing, and there was hardly any distortion from her movements. I tucked it neatly into the breast pocket of my uniform.
Edith looked over at her dress, spread out on her bed next to her, and then up at me.
“So you really aren’t going to the party?” She smirked. “Don’t you want to dance with Mary?”
“She told me she wasn’t much for dancing. I felt the same way, of course, and I didn’t want to embarrass her.”
“Then . . . would you like to dance with me?” Edith asked, barely audible.
I remembered how Edith had said that she wasn’t truly happy. I had to do whatever I could to help her, but if having my love hadn’t given her happiness, then what could I do? It’s not like a simple dance would change anything.
It all came to me at once. I was a fool to not have seen it before. All she wanted was her brother back, the brother that loved and enjoyed her music. I was determined to leave the engineer behind and become myself again, but where was I to start?
“Of course, Edith, I would love to dance with you!” I exclaimed.
Edith stared at me in shock.
“Wait . . . Really?” She exclaimed. “That’s it? You aren’t going to explain the science behind it and talk about how beneficial aerobic exercise is for the body?”
I laughed and held out my hand.
“Why don’t we practice for tonight?”
She smiled brightly and took it. Of course, Edith led me through our dance. I recall now that she had learned a few routines from her performances in Leipzig, though she rarely ever performed at parties or gatherings where she could easily be seen and ridiculed.
“You’re doing fine, Conrad,” said Edith, pleasantly surprised. “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to dance with Mary. I’m sure that she would enjoy it. Do you not love her?”
I turned away in shame. “Even if that were true, Edith, it wouldn’t matter. The question never had anything to do with love, for I believe I am incapable of truly loving Mary. It is true that I enjoy her company and perhaps our bond would grow over time, but I simply don’t feel any love towards her.”
“That’s ridiculous!” She exclaimed. “You love me, don’t you? What then is keeping you from loving her?”
I faltered. Should I reveal my new-found knowledge of my accident during the war? “I-I don’t know, Edith,” I lied. “But it matters not. We will be leaving this world soon and then we will never meet again,” I frowned, “or perhaps you would rather me stay here since I am no longer your brother.”
“Wait, Conrad.” Edith interjected. “You’re not my brother? What are you talking about?”
“You needn’t try to deceive me, Edith. I am aware that you no longer see me as your brother. I am sorry that the war changed me so drastically. I wish that it hadn’t . . . I wish it more than anything.” She placed her hand on my back, though I refused to face her. “If I could return to the man of my past, I would, if only to please you. I don’t understand, Edith! Mary loves me for who I am, why can’t you? Do you hate me? Do you think I’ve become a monster?”
“Conrad, please, I can explain!” She cried desperately.
“I am not finished!” I yelled as I stomped my foot.
I turned around and Edith stepped back in fear.
“Despite all of this, you still insist that I court Mary! Why do you believe that she has brought me true happiness? How are you to know that I was unhappy before the war—living with you in the Reich? I am aware of Mary’s suffering as well and I want to help her, but you are my sister and when we return to the Reich, Mary will be gone.” I laughed. “How can I put a woman that I haven’t known but a week above you, my sister who has supported me my entire life? I see your suffering as well, Edith! Do you expect me to ignore you and place all of my care upon Mary? Am I not your brother?” She trembled and whined pitifully. “Tell me, am I not your brother?”
I awaited Edith’s response, but she said nothing. She suddenly burst into tears and wept into my shoulder.
“It isn’t fair, Conrad! It just isn’t fair! I’m so sorry! I should have told you sooner! It’s not your fault that you can’t love Mary or feel any emotions!” She cried, her voice choked with tears. I stared down at her, awaiting an explanation.
“During the war you were wounded . . . badly. You were shot in the head.” Edith cleared her throat before continuing. “The war was going so well, I never expected anything like that to happen to you, especially since you were in artillery. You fell into a coma for six months and I never left your side. Everyone told me that you wouldn’t survive, but I refused to believe them. When you awakened, the surgeon said that it was a miracle you had survived, but to me, my brother had died. Now, I realize how wrong I was! I should have been proud of your sacrifice but instead I hated the Reich for dragging you into their war, and I hated God for allowing that terrible accident! You suffered serious brain damage from the wound. You lost most of your memories and it became very difficult for you to feel emotions, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing!”
I gasped. “What? Why not?”
She continued, “Before the war, our lives were filled with darkness and hatred. We set ourselves apart from the rest of the world, for we had been abandoned. I don’t want to go back to that. You do love Mary, Conrad. It will only take some time before you realize that, I promise. Please don’t think that you aren’t my brother. You are and I’m going to do whatever I can to help you through this.”
I gaped at Edith. It all made sense—why my memory itself was so selective and why I had such trouble feeling emotions. It was all because of one tiny bullet, one shot, one mistake that I was no longer a man. Did Mary know this? I suppose Edith consoled her in this way, telling her that it wasn’t my fault that I could not love her. No, it was only a cruel twist of fate, right?
“It’s fine Edith!” I smiled. “I forgive you.”
She gasped. “Truly?”
“Of course! I can easily see why you would want to keep that a secret from me. However, I believe that you are still living in that darkness. Let go of your hatred. Fighting in the war was my decision and I don’t regret it. This is a new world. You could start over just as I have.”
“Perhaps you are right, but your hatred just disappeared after the incident. Mine has been seething throughout all these years. I cannot just simply let it go like you did.” She smiled and took my hand. “Right now, all I care about is you, Conrad, and I’m going to do everything I can to heal you.”
“Heal me?” I asked in shock. “I can live without my emotions, Edith. Actually, I believe that I am naturally regaining them. My love for Mary has grown and of course I’ve been much more joyful than I ever was in the Reich. I’ve been recording these changes in my psyche. They’re all right here in my journal.”
I removed my journal from my pocket and smiled. She looked away from me and her expression changed to one of guilt.
“Well, let’s just go to the dance.”
I looked at the electronic time piece by our bed. “Yes, it will be starting in a few hours. Mary told me that her family’s estate was somewhere in England.” I said disgustedly. “She went on ahead with her sister. I suppose we’ll take the Rhiannon together.”
“Great!” Edith exclaimed. “I’ve always wanted to visit England! Let’s go!”
“That makes one of us . . .” I muttered as we left the room.
Fortunately, there was another vessel assigned to guide us to the estate; otherwise, we would have been flying over England all night long. Suddenly, I could see several lights appear on the horizon as the massive estate came into view. It had to be several thousand acres. I estimated that the manor itself encompassed at least ten. To my disappointment, the manor resembled an old English castle which did not look the least bit homely. Fortunately, we were able to land near the manor and did not have to walk all the way from the estate’s airfield.
We were led inside the dreary place. Thankfully, the interior was not quite as crude, though it was hardly a “party” atmosphere. It was cold and dim, being lit and heated by mere torches. That all changed when we entered the main chamber and I saw Mary. She was absolutely breathtaking! She wore a bright green dress that covered all but her feet. She had also straightened her hair, allowing it to fall behind her back, thus making no attempt to hide her scar that could easily be seen on her shoulder and chest. In my opinion, that was what truly made her beautiful—that she was unashamed of her imperfectness. The other Maidens could never compare to her. It was the first time that one woman had stood out to me in terms of beauty.
“Conrad, there you are!” Mary exclaimed as she ran over to us, making her way through the crowd.
Edith shoved me forward and said, “Wow! Mary, you look gorgeous!”
“Thank you, Edith. You look beautiful as well!”
She smiled at me, obviously awaiting my compliment.
“Say something about her dress!” Edith whispered harshly.
“Ah! Mary, your beauty is beyond words!” I exclaimed, taking her hand. “I have never seen a woman more dignified and mature! If I were a poet and not an engineer, I would write the most captivating lay to describe your every feature!”
Perhaps my zeal was somewhat unnecessary, though Mary did not seem to mind.
“Thank you, Conrad!” She laughed. “You and Edith arrived just in time! My mother is preparing to give her speech! Everyone’s been talking like she plans to honor you!”
“See what you would have missed, Conrad?” Edith chided, though maintaining her cheerful smile.
“Honor me? But I hardly did anything to help, save build the Rhiannon, and you deserve praise for that as well! If anyone deserves to be honored, it’s Daiva! She gave her life to end this war!” I protested.
“Yes, that is true, Conrad, but Daiva has already been showered with military honors, and more than that, you’re a man. You joined our cause of your own free will.” She gave me a stern look and clasped my shoulders. “You and Edith gave us hope and that is something more valuable than any ship that can be built or victory that could be won.”
“Those are wise words, sister.” Anwen said pleasantly as she approached us. There was something different about her that night. She seemed quite anxious as if she was awaiting some fatal decision.
She looked at me, her expression unmoving. “Conrad, if you would allow us but a moment of your time, my mother awaits you on the dais.”
I couldn’t help but wonder why she was so nervous, especially compared to how calm she had just been that morning. I nodded and quickly made my way up onto the platform. The Matriarch sat in her throne, dressed in splendor as I had never before seen. She wore a long, black dress that trailed the ground behind her feet and a foreboding diadem of black rested atop her brow. At that moment, I thought of how much this society differed from the Gaelturi. These women valued order and law while the men of the Gaelturi sought true freedom and individuality. Though, despite these differences, they did share one thing in common: Hatred for this broken world. What differed were their responses. The Gaelturi wished to leave it behind to perish while the Maidens sought to restore it and create a world of their own sublimity. Neither one of these goals seemed possible in my mind, but to these men and women, it was all that they lived for.
I bowed deeply as I stood before her throne. She gave me a weary smile and arose to her feet. The Maidens fell silent. It was obvious that this war had drained her. The Matriarch wore an expression of exhaustion and there was a precariousness in her walk. She carefully stepped down from the dais and beckoned for me to stand beside her. I obeyed with slight hesitation.
Despite her obvious fatigue, she spoke with the iron of command in her voice: “There are not many things that destroy families like war. Today, I stand before you, having led you through a long twenty years of this tragedy, a war that has seen to the destruction of more families than any in our existence. It has seen brothers and sisters claim each other’s lives, husbands and wives, fathers and daughters,” she paused, causing me to become disquieted, “and mothers and sons.”
Her hesitation aroused my suspicion. The Matriarch waited several moments before continuing as a cloud of pain and sorrow fell over the room.
“I assure you that I take no pleasure in this war, but I do take pleasure in telling you that Gael has formally agreed to disband the Gaelturi, release every last soul they have stolen, and if fortune shines upon us, his men will be returning to Earth by tomorrow and our lives can begin to heal!”
The entire room erupted in applause and tearful shouts of joy. The Matriarch raised her hand to silence the Maidens and continued, “I also take great pleasure in this man who stands before you, a man who not only restored our hope in humanity and participated greatly in the capture of Gael, but on a more personal note, a man who helped to heal the pain and suffering that has plagued my family for so many years.”
The Matriarch reached her arm around my waist, more applause. I looked at Mary and she smiled. I wondered if her mother was referring to our relationship. I’m sure that she was.
Anwen then walked behind me, holding some sort of coat in her arms.
“Now, it is my honor to present Conrad Hartwin with the Maiden’s Mantle and Sword!” she said, brandishing a most beautiful weapon. Set into its hilt were dazzling sapphires and its blade of crystallized seren shimmered in the low torchlight.
Anwen helped me into the coat and I carefully took the sword. I quickly understood why it was called a mantle, for it was quite long, reaching down to my ankles. I turned to face Anwen and she gave me a scorned look. Did she still despise me after all this time? Though, now there was no malice in her eyes—only sorrow. She walked away just as the room erupted with applause once more.
“Thank you. Your Mother is proud of all of you,” said the Matriarch pleasantly and returned to her throne.
Once the party had resumed, I quickly walked up onto the dais and bowed to her.
“Thank you, milady, for the honor.” I smiled. “Though your words touched me more than any gift I could ever receive.” I said, trying to remain as humble as possible, though perhaps overdoing it.
She laughed at this and arose from her throne.
“Please, call me Mother. I consider you and Edith my children, and I would like for you to feel as though you are a part of our family.” She rolled her eyes. “Besides, it is a much warmer title than Matriarch.”
“Yes, of course . . . Mother.”
I decided to immediately speak my mind. “I assume that you are aware of the relationship I have developed with your daughter, Mary? Um—Mairwen.”
She nodded. “I am and quite thankful for it. She had never truly been happy since her father disappeared.” She eyed Mary and Anwen, sitting together at one of the tables. “My daughters also grew very distant after the war began. You now see why I am so grateful for you. My family was on the verge of destruction.”
I hesitated for quite some time before speaking again. I sighed and mustered the courage to ask that question I had dreaded for so long.
“I am glad to hear that, for I would very much like to have your permission to marry your daughter.”
She stared at me for a moment, sending terror down my spine.
“You want my permission?” She laughed. “How quaint! I will give you my permission, but have you forgotten that you will be returning to your Reich soon? Have you discussed this with my daughter?”
“I have. She told me that she did not want to leave you during this difficult time, but I thought now since the war is over that—”
“I am sorry, but I cannot allow my daughter to return with you to your time. That could have serious repercussions on our future. Either way, I do not believe that she would accompany you, for she still believes that her father has reached the Omega Point and is alive. She would never leave him.”
“If that is so then I would like to stay here in your world.”
She sighed. “That, too, is out of the question. If you were to stay, our society would be changed dramatically.”
I was shocked to hear this. I remembered how that Gaelturi man, Saulius, had said something similar.
“I am sorry, but I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do. If you want my opinion, I believe it would be best for you to leave my daughter with a child before you go. There is little else to be done.”
I gasped as my mind went back to my terrible years of youth after my father had left us.
“No! I cannot forsake my responsibilities and leave my child fatherless!”
Her eyes widened at my sudden outburst.
“Would you rather my daughter be left with no one to love in your place? You must think of her as well as your child.”
There was wisdom in her words that could not be denied. I had to trust Mary to not abandon our child.
“I will . . . consider it.” I murmured and walked away.
The Matriarch sighed and seated herself. “That is all I ask.”
Dissatisfied, I walked over to Edith who was sitting at a table.
“What was that all about, Conrad?” She asked.
“Mary and I cannot be together.” I looked away. “It seems that we have no choice but to return to the Reich.”
“What? That’s awful!” She exclaimed. “What are you going to do?”
“I . . . I don’t know. What do you think I should do, Edith?” I asked desperately.
“Well, why don’t we just sneak off with her? It’s not like they can come after us.” Edith suggested hopefully.
I stroked my beard. “That is possible, but how can I know if she is even willing to accompany us, and her presence could easily disrupt the timeline?”
“Then you have to do something right now, Conrad! If I were her, I’d want you to tell me that you love me and do something very special that I’d never forget.” She sighed. “I can’t really think of anything else. I’m sorry . . .”
I paused and said, “What if I gave her a child?”
She clasped her hands together. “Oh, that would be perfect! That’s definitely what I’d want if I were in her position!”
“I was afraid you’d say that.” I murmured.
“What? You don’t want to give her a child?” Edith asked, crossing her arms.
“Of course I do, but I can’t leave her to raise our child on her own! What kind of man would I be if I let my child grow up without his father? I’d be just like. . .”
”Our father.” Edith finished for me.
I nodded. “So you understand my position?”
“Yes, it is a difficult one, but I would still rather raise your child alone than have no one to love. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, I cannot deny your wisdom, Edith.” I sighed. “Then what should I do? It will at least be a month before I can outfit the Rhiannon with a new time machine.”
“Then make these last few weeks the best she’s ever had!” Edith said, placing her hand on my shoulder. “Whether you give her a child or not, just make her happy.”
I nodded. Conviction in my heart, I walked over to Mary. She was still sitting at that same table with Anwen. They abruptly ceased their conversation when I approached. Anwen gave me a distasteful look and excused herself.
“Have a seat, Conrad!” Mary said pleasantly.
I laughed with unease. “Actually, I was wondering if you’d like to dance.”
“Dance? Oh, I’d love to!” She exclaimed and took my hand.
We began our dance, though it seemed that she simply wished to talk which I did not mind at all.
“You look very handsome in that jacket, Conrad!” She looked up at me. “Were you surprised by my mother’s sincerity? She really appreciates all you’ve done for us.”
“Thank you, Mary,” I rubbed the back of my neck, “and yes, I was pleasantly surprised. She likes me much more than I thought.”
“That means a lot, Conrad.” She laughed. “My mother isn’t exactly sociable with everyone.”
“Mary, is there any particular reason why your sister is still so cold to me?” I frowned. “She’ll hardly even look at me.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Conrad. She’s just very protective of me is all.”
“Really?” I asked amusedly.
I looked over her shoulder at Anwen who was preparing to leave.
“Then if you don’t mind, I would like to have a word with her.” I said hastily.
“Oh, go ahead!” She exclaimed and pushed me over to her. Mary was indeed in high spirits that night.
I quickly ran in front of Anwen before she could leave the main hall.
“Excuse me.” she said, trying to abate her irritation.
“Anwen, if I’ve done something to offend you, I give you my sincerest apologies.” I said bluntly.
She laughed and smiled at my presumption.
“It’s not what you’ve done, Conrad. It’s what you’re going to do that has me upset.” She said flatly.
“Oh, and what is that?” I said, rolling my eyes.
She grabbed the corner of my jacket and pulled me down to eye-level.
“You’re going to break my sister’s heart.” She rasped through gritted teeth. “I’ve known that ever since you arrived in our world and that’s why I was treating you so poorly.” She sighed. “Though, it seems it cannot be helped now. My sister is at your mercy and I already know that you won’t give her any. You should be on your knees, thanking her for what she’s done for you, but instead you feign affection towards her as though she doesn’t deserve it! Ha! You owe my sister your very soul!”
I could not help but laugh, despite her dark accusation.
“Why is it that everyone but me seems to know my fate? Do you have proof that I will do all of this, or perhaps you Maidens have some foresight that I am unaware of?”
“I suppose you could say that.” She smirked. “That is, if you call reading that journal in your pocket foresight.” Anwen said, indicating my journal, concealed within my new jacket.
“You read my journal? Well, I don’t know how you got your hands on it, but that still doesn’t explain how you know my future.” I said speculatively.
“Oh-h-h, are you that thick-headed, Conrad? I’m not referring to the journal you have on you! I’m referring to the journal that’s sitting on the nightstand by my sister’s bed—the journal from your past that you will finish when you return to your Reich, the journal that was the cornerstone for my father’s research on the Omega Point, the journal that my sister risked her life to save when that bomb was planted in our father’s study, the journal that gave her that scar. That is the journal I am referring to. It’s still intact. You should ask Mairwen to show it to you sometime. Farewell!”
She began to walk away, leaving me stunned. Was my journal really that imperative to this society, and how had it survived through millennia of war, death, and destruction?
“Anwen, wait!” She turned to face me. “If I destroy this journal, what will happen?”
“You will make a lot of people very happy and save millions of lives. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must return to my fleet. We’re expecting the Gaelturi men to finally come home soon.”
She retired from the main hall, leaving me to my ponderings of what could be in that journal. I eagerly returned to Mary, seeking answers to my speculations.
“Mary, I have questions for you!” I said impatiently.
Mary sighed. “Oh no . . . She told you, didn’t she?”
“What is this? Were you all sworn to secrecy? Now that I know, will it have severe consequences for your world? Should I act as though I am ignorant?” I asked anxiously.
“Calm down, Conrad!” She laughed. “It isn’t that serious. Though, I was afraid that . . .” she faltered.
“What? What is it, Mary? What’s going to happen now that I know about this secret?” I demanded.
“I think it’s serious now, Conrad.” She whispered and turned me about to face the entrance.
I gasped. It was Daiva! She stood in the doorway to the main hall, staring at me! She was still in her Nerys form. The hum of her power reverberated throughout the large room, its high ceilings amplifying the noise. Slowly, she began walking toward me. Mary quickly ran off and faded into the crowd of awed spectators. Daiva stopped in front of me, staring into my eyes with no expression at all. How had she become conscious? It was as if she had been possessed.
“Daiva, are you . . . all right?” I asked warily.
She made no response and appeared as though she hadn’t even heard me. She silently placed her hands on my shoulders. I couldn’t believe it! All she had wanted was the dance I promised her! She came all this way just to dance with me!
We certainly did dance. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Her technique was so ancient, and if it was that old to me, I can’t imagine how the other Maidens saw it. It was incomprehensible, but I did my best to keep up with her rapid movements.
Suddenly, amidst our dance I could feel joy and I knew what it was! I saw no math or science in it. It was just there. The engineer would have been insensible to it, but the engineer was beginning to fade. I could feel my mind opening up to the world around me—being able to see beyond the material surface of existence. Somehow, Daiva had managed to finally open my mind to the true nature of the world.
Our dance ended and the feeling of joy left me as quickly as it arrived. I wanted it back. I wanted it more than anything. I looked at Daiva who still bore that sad expression, void of any emotion.
“Daiva, I don’t know if you can understand me, but I want you to know how grateful I am for what you’ve given me! I’ll never forget this! I’ll find some way to heal you! That’s a promise!” I said desperately, clasping her hands in mine.
She smiled meekly. It was such a faint sign, but I knew then that she had understood. Suddenly, she fell into unconsciousness once again. I caught her in my arms and there was a resounding gasp from the Maidens.
“Hurry, Conrad! We’ll take her to my room! Follow me!” Mary yelled above the astonished clamor of the crowd.
I nodded and left the main hall with Mary. As we were running down the corridor, Daiva suddenly threw her arms around me and began whimpering pitifully.
“Mary, I-I think she’s still conscious!” I exclaimed as we stopped outside of her room.
“That can’t be! Did she awaken already?” Mary asked, opening the door. I walked into the room and sat down with her on the bed.
“Um . . . What are doing? Shouldn’t you lie down?” Mary asked nervously.
“She isn’t unconscious, Mary. Her consciousness is in another world: Nerys. Daiva told me that her mind goes there every time she falls asleep.” I frowned. “She told me it’s quite a dreadful place.”
“So you’re just going to hold her? Can she still feel you while she’s in Nerys?” Mary laughed. “I could hardly call that rest, and why hasn’t she returned to her normal self? It makes no sense!”
“Ah-h-h! It makes perfect sense, Mary!” I exclaimed. “Daiva has a direct connection to Nerys, supposedly the plain of existence where seren is formed. It is where the Universe stores its power, according to your theories. When Daiva’s brother stole her soul, it was compensated for by the life-giving energy in Nerys! That would also explain why she hasn’t returned to her normal appearance. This is her normal appearance now. Her mind’s function is dependent upon the constant flow of seren from Nerys.”
I adjusted Daiva in my lap and smiled proudly.
“That’s quite a speculation, Conrad.” Mary said as she crossed her arms. “But then how do you explain how she remembered all of those dances and how to get here, for that matter, if her mind has become a vessel for Nerys?”
I pondered this for a moment. Daiva’s grip suddenly tightened around me and she screamed in agony.
“Dear God! What’s wrong with her?” Mary exclaimed.
I caressed her gently.
“Sh-h-h-h. You’re safe. I promise.” I whispered in her ear, trying to console her.
Mary frowned, “Do you actually think she can hear you?”
“I do not know.” I sighed. “I am also unclear as to how she remembered her dances. For my previous theory to be true, her mind would have had to have been wiped clean.”
“Really? You can’t think of anything? Perhaps she acted subconsciously?” Mary suggested.
“Yes, but that would still require her to have some cognizance of her original self.” I suddenly had a revelation. “It is a romantic thought, but perhaps her feelings were so strong that she was able to remember the promise she had made to dance with me. She seemed to admire me greatly by the way she spoke before the battle.”
Mary laughed and rolled her eyes.
“Well why don’t you take a look at my journal over there?” I asked, becoming frustrated. “I’m sure I wrote a very detailed analysis of her condition!”
“I’ve read that book countless times, Conrad. I can recall every detail and you never gave a clear explanation just as you cannot give one now.” Mary said pleasantly.
She took my journal off of her nightstand and showed me the pages where I had written my entry on Daiva’s state. It was as she said. There was little difference between it and what I had just told Mary.
A thought suddenly came to me: Does Mary know everything that’s going to happen between now and my departure for the Reich?
“Mary, how detailed is my journal? Did I write down all of the events that will occur? Did you know what the end result would ultimately be all along—that I would leave you?” I asked, trying to be as empathetic as possible.
Mary sat down beside me and placed her hand on Daiva’s arm. She screamed and promptly shoved her away. Mary sighed and smiled at me.
“When I was a girl, my father would read entries from your journal to me like they were bedtime stories. He read it as if I was a character in the story. I was in awe of your bravery during my childhood. Only then, I thought you were some fantasy hero. As I grew older, and read through it myself, I realized that this was no work of fiction. You had mentioned Anwen, Gael, Daiva, and even my mother. These were all people that I knew and you had described them perfectly” Her face reddened. “Of course, not to mention all of the entries you wrote about me . . . Well, as I read the book, it explained everything—how you would travel through time, how we would build the Rhiannon, but above all, you wrote about reaching the Omega Point. My father took great interest in that, so in a way, this war did blossom from your actions, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of, Conrad. I don’t blame you for anything.”
“Thank you, Mary.” I frowned. “But wasn’t it frightening to know how this war would end when it had just begun? Weren’t you nervous putting all of your hope in me?” I asked.
“Of course I wasn’t nervous! I had complete faith in you, Conrad! I spent my entire childhood and adolescence obsessing over you. All I wanted was someone to love me and in that book, someone did. That’s why I decided to become an engineer. I wanted to impress you once you arrived. You can imagine how nervous and excited I was when you finally did arrive. My sister and I couldn’t believe it. The character from that book was suddenly alive. It was all so unreal.” She laughed and her face reddened. “I suppose I didn’t want you to know about the book because then you would realize how pathetic I am—pathetic for still being a little girl, holding on to her dreams because they’re all that she has.”
I sighed and placed my hand on her shoulder.
“That isn’t true, Mary, and you know it.” I said sternly. “It takes courage to face the future, knowing well what will happen. I certainly couldn’t do it. If I knew what was to come, I would try to do everything I could to change it.”
Mary made no response. Perhaps she could not speak for the guilt of knowing what the future held and being unable to tell me.
“You know how all of this will end, Mary, and yet you do nothing to stop it.” I said admirably. “You are no child. You have more courage than I could hope to have.”
She smiled, “Thank you, Conrad.”
I nodded. “Though, I have one final question: How is it that Gael knew about me as well? Did he, too, read my journal?”
“Oh, that, well . . .”
Suddenly, the door to Mary’s room swung open. It was Edith.
“Conrad, Gael’s escaped!” She yelled urgently.
Mary shrieked. “No . . . No . . .” She murmured in denial.
“What? How can this be?” I demanded.
“There’s no time! We have to leave now! His fleet is rapidly approaching the system!”
“Where are we to go? Can the Maidens not apprehend him, and Anwen’s fleet is still—”
“There’s no time!” Edith interjected. “We just have to get off the planet!”
Her voice shook with fear. Whatever the reason for her doubt, she desperately wished to leave.
“All right. Then let’s not waste any time.” I said and arose to my feet, still holding Daiva in my arms.
Mary followed us silently as we ran out of the castle amidst the confusion. We quickly boarded the Rhiannon and Mary flew us up high into the sky. As we exited the atmosphere, more of the planet came into view. Gael’s fleet had yet to arrive. Suddenly, the entire surface of Earth erupted in a blinding light, so bright that no shadows could be seen inside the vessel. Daiva had awakened from her slumber. She stared at the planet in wonder.
“No, it can’t be . . .” Mary said under her breath.
“Mary, what is happening?” I asked sternly.
Slowly, the light faded and the world appeared unnaturally dark around us. My body suddenly became weak as if I could feel the gravity of what had just taken place.
“How? I don’t understand! How did he do it?” Mary cried as she pressed herself up against the viewing glass.
I looked over at Edith who was silently staring down at the floor.
“Calm down, Mary! What happened?” I demanded.
“I-I don’t know! I think that Gael harvested the planet!” She yelled in despair.
It couldn’t be! Had Gael truly harvested every last soul from the Maidens? How could he do it without the Nerysite crystal? None of it made any sense. Was he simply that powerful?
Mary fell to her knees and began to sob bitterly, “Everyone’s gone . . . my mother, my sister. He won. . . . It’s over.”
I reluctantly put Daiva down and she immediately ran to the window. I sat down next to Mary and embraced her. She wept into my shoulder. I wanted to cry as well but my mind remained closed to such feelings.
“We could have stopped this, Conrad, but we didn’t! Now, it’s all over! Mankind is finished!” She cried between gasps of air.
“What of Anwen’s fleet? They can still defeat him!” I yelled in protest.
“No, Conrad!” Mary cried, slamming her fist into my chest. “My sister doesn’t have the will to fight him anymore. Gael is our brother!”
I couldn’t believe it, though it all made sense. That was why Anwen ordered us to capture him and why Gael was so willing to be taken to Earth. She wanted her brother back, no matter what the future held, and Gael allowed himself to be imprisoned because he knew from my journal that he would be able to escape.
Suddenly, Gael’s fleet arrived. Not a shot was fired from either side. They all understood the situation. We watched in despair as Anwen’s fleet surrendered and her vessels were harvested one-by-one by the giant Nerysite crystal.
“My sister . . .” She whimpered. “Curse him! We should have killed him while we had the chance!” Mary yelled, clenching her fists. “I hate him . . . I hate this world!”
Daiva looked at me as if she wanted answers for what had happened. I had none. I had no idea how to answer for this tragedy. What were we to do? Where was there to go?
Edith then knelt down to me. I looked at her in terror. Her eyes were filled with that grim determination that I had seen in them on that distant night. Her voice was not her own. It was cold with hate and apathy—the voice of a beast.
“Conrad, what if I told you that I was the one who released Gael?”