A New Memory
part 4 of The Vanished Timeline
by Grace Grieve-Carlson and Channing Jones
(a fictional story in the Galactic Era universe)
part 1 here
“Yanashi,” said Dr. Danenbrow, reading from a handheld holographic tablet, “was your name when you were brought to Mars.”
He looked up at Deed. Before her brain could even parse what he was saying, she felt a reaction to the name rise up in her like a flower blooming.
“Yanashi,” she whispered. It felt familiar on her tongue. A chill ran through her body, and she started to feel the same eerie calm she’d experienced in the ruins, like she was coming home to something after a long time away.
“You were a prisoner of war, integrated into Martian society as part of a program aimed at bringing beings of different…talents into our ranks. And you’ve proven yourself quite talented,” Dr. Danenbrow continued.
Deed couldn’t quite wrap her brain around the scope of what he was saying. She looked over at Kyrin. He looked part sad, part nauseous. That’s probably a good marker for how I should be feeling right now, Deed thought, but all she felt was stillness.
“When? When was I brought here?”
“About nine years ago.”
Deed tried to imagine it. Nine years ago…fifteen. Mom had just quit her job. Then Deed had a thought that truly disturbed her.
“Is my mom my mom?”
Dr. Danenbrow looked over at Kyrin, stone-faced, and then back at Deed.
“We’ll let you talk that over with her.”
The three of them sat in silence. Then Kyrin spoke.
“Deed…these programs are set up so no one will ever know the truth of your origin. Especially you. Whatever support you need processing this, we will see that you get it.”
Why is he trying to be nice? Aren’t we way past that? Deed dug for more information.
“Where am I from?”
Kyrin looked over at Dr. Danenbrow, who continued to field Deed’s questions.
“We’ll tell you anything you want to know, Deed, if you join our team. We have all the information you could need on your former life–and not just in written form. With a simple medical procedure, we can return the memories you lost when you started your life here.”
“And the ones I have now…the childhood I remember…”
“It is an invention. But you can keep those memories, if you want them. You’d have two lives floating around in your mind. Or we could get rid of them. Whatever you want.”
Despite herself, Deed burst out laughing.
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to react to this.”
“Of course. You just found out you’ve lost something valuable, but you still can’t remember it. But memory is very complex. All your memories are tied to others, and just by knowing what you’ve learned so far, parts of what came before will leak back into your consciousness. I only say this to prepare you.”
“But you can’t just give me my real memories back, because you need me to agree to help rebuild that weapon.”
“I’m sorry to put you in this situation, Deed, but this is what it’s come to.”
“Okay, well…am I part of some ancient civilization that built that weapon? Is that why I can control the stone?”
“Anything you want to know, Deed. Just join the team,” Dr. Danenbrow reiterated. Deed’s anger boiled over.
“The more you say that shit, the more I don’t want to. I came in here wanting to say one thing: war is the work of big groups of people, like you and the ICC. Anyone can decide not to be involved, but no one can actually stop it. I’m in the unique position to do both. I’m not going to forfeit that.”
A smile danced across Dr. Danenbrow’s lips, just barely. He had finally provoked a strong reaction from Deed.
“Our solar system is at a very peaceful moment in galactic affairs. You won’t be starting or stopping any war. In fact, we know very very little about what the technology in that cave can create. All we know is that it will be a big advancement for our science.”
“Kyrin and I advance your science every day, and we don’t get this kind of attention.”
Kyrin smiled for the first time. Dr. Danenbrow closed his tablet and folded his hands, signaling that the meeting was over.
“Well, Deed, let me know if you change your mind.”
“I like it. Call me Yanashi.”
Yanashi took a small commuter plane home. Watching the city’s landscape and buildings fly by, she tried to face the magnitude of what she’d been told. She thought about accounts she’d read of experiences of psychedelic drugs from different planets across the galaxy. This must be like that. Everything Deed knew was melting away, and a new reality was coming into focus. She tried to put together the pieces, but they were too confusing and painful to focus on clearly. She recalled bright childhood moments: being pulled aside for praise by a childhood teacher, being lost in an elaborate shopping center, being caught outside without a mask during an extreme dust storm. The memories blurred into each other and fell away. The more she tried to remember, the less she was sure of. It’s like I remember remembering those things, but I don’t remember actually being there. I thought that was just how memories felt when they’re from so long ago.
One memory from when she was 12 or 13 floated to the top of her mind. Yanashi convinced Neela to let her borrow a pair of earrings she’d long admired. They were soft green moldavite studs. On the way home, she realized one of them had fallen out of her ear. She remembered the fear and regret she felt on the way home, rehearsing how she’d break the news. When she finally saw Neela, she was sobbing.
Neela calmed her down. “It’s just an earring, baby. I forgive you. It’s really no big deal.”
Her kindness felt angelic, a mercy that can only come straight from the divine. There was no punishment.
That didn’t really happen, Yanashi thought, tears streaming down her face. Who is she really? Who am I if I can’t trust her?
None of it was real. None of it was real.
When Deed got back to her apartment, she considered going to see Neela, but the thought stressed her out so much that she went to sleep instead. In her dream, she found another huge opal deposit underground. She dug and dug until she was looking at a stone larger than herself. She laid her hands on it and she was able to climb right inside, her body floating in the light of green and blue and yellow and pink refracting light. No, wait, her body had disappeared completely. Her body was the opal. Large, stable, but vibrating and energetically generous, her energy expanded beyond her stone-body to miles out. Her thoughts stretched too, until they fell into nothingness. She was a pure golden glow.
Yanashi awoke to see Neela leaning over her floor, cleaning up the pile of work jumpsuits that had accumulated.
“Hey, hun, I got scared when I didn’t hear from you. You stick it to them?”
Deed couldn’t find words. She stared at Neela: her blunt grey hair, her glasses, her billowing shirt and pants.
“Deed, honey, are you okay? Talk. You’re scaring me.”
Yanashi felt a lump well up in her throat, like everything she needed to say was stuck there.
Neela stared at her, her look of kind maternal concern falling away. “What?”
Yanashi could only choke the words out quietly.
“My name is Yanashi.”
Neela stared, tears welling up in her eyes.
“They told you.” Still lying in bed, Neela standing over her, Yanashi felt like a child again. She boosted herself up on her elbows to try to gain some authority. They stared at one another, both looking intently, as though seeing each other for the first time. Neela reached out to stroke Yanashi’s face, but Yanashi batted her hand away.
“Deed…Yanashi…this is not how you should have found out.”
“You weren’t going to tell me at all.”
Neela’s face slumped, every bit of animating energy draining from it.
“I wasn’t allowed to say anything. I had to jump through a lot of hoops to take you in. I was not the one making the rules.” When Yanashi didn’t respond, Neela kept going.
“When I first saw you, I knew immediately that you were my daughter. Part of my job in intergalactic affairs was to oversee the retrieval of beings taken in from other planets. I came in to meet you when you were first brought to the headquarters.
“You had all these scientists hovering around you taking measurements, and you looked so calm. You smiled at me. And I knew. I knew I wanted to be a part of your life. I gave up my job to learn how to be your mother…”
Tears fell from Neela’s eyes. Have I ever seen her cry before this?
“And I don’t regret a minute of it. It has been an absolute…privilege. I couldn’t be more proud to be your mom.”
Yanashi was unrelenting.
“You aren’t my mom.”
Neela shut her eyes. Deed felt like she’d just kicked her, but she didn’t take it back.
“How could you keep that from me? The entire truth of my life?”
“I don’t want to sound patronizing, but your mind was very fragile. It was still integrating all the new memories. And I’m not going to blame it all on the ICC, because I cooperated. But I believed I was doing what was best for you. I couldn’t give you back everything you had before, but I could give you a new life on Mars. I could listen to you and help you build whatever life you wanted.”
Hearing this, Yanashi’s memories of her mom’s kindness took a different tone. Every time she was good to me, she knew all of this. She wasn’t being selfless; she was trying to balance out her biggest transgression.
“Dee – Yanashi – I love you. That’s the only thing that truly matters.”
This conversation needs to end.
“Not to me.”
“You don’t have to forgive me right here, right now. Neptune knows I don’t deserve it. But what can I do?”
“Tell me what he won’t.”
“What?” Neela clearly didn’t expect Yanashi to have an answer at the ready.
“Where am I from?”
Neela’s eyes widened. “Oh. I didn’t realize…” Her face perked up.
“Okay. I could get in trouble for this…but I’m done basing decisions on that.”
She lowered her voice.
“You were born in the Pleiades. I’d pull it up now on the map, but they’ll be tracking both our phones. Anyway – the Pleiades is a star cluster not that far from here. Around one of those stars is the planet you were from, HD23..something. Very high vibrational society. That’s why you’ve always been psychic. Keep trusting your instincts. They are more powerful than either of us understand.”
Yanashi grinned. Neela chuckled, tears still falling from her eyes.
“My beautiful girl. At least come say goodbye to me before you leave.”
A few hours later, Yanashi was at the city’s public library, heeding her mom’s advice about not looking up the Pleiades on her phone. She had avoided the library, partially because she wasn’t a big reader and partially because its AI librarians freaked her out. Trying to avoid them, she wandered through the hall and found a lonely terminal. She sat down at it, entered the search term “Pleiades HD23,” and looked through the long list of results until she found her home planet.
|Star:||Taygeta (19 Tauri Aa), Pleiades cluster|
|Planetary class:||3 (terran habitable)|
|Population:||independent Plejars (nordic alien type),
That’s it? That’s all the information they have on my planet? I’m a prisoner of war. Can’t they mention something here, like, “we had a war”? Yanashi’s thoughts were interrupted by a robotic voice in her ear.
“Ah!” Yanashi jumped. The AI librarian’s glossy smile was just inches from her.
“How can I assist you?”
“No, I’m – actually…I have a friend who moved to this planet.” Yanashi pointed at her screen. “Most of the planets listed in here have options for contact. This one doesn’t. Is it a glitch or something?”
There was an eerie pause while the AI processed her question.
“There is no way to contact HD 23514 from Mars. Some planets are not technologically advanced enough for intergalactic messaging.”
Deed’s heart fell. She wanted some kind of connection to the place she came from, but instead all she had was a page of scientific data. And a freaky, unhelpful robot.
“I’ve found more data on HD 23514. Would you like to see it?”
“Yes!” Thank Neptune.
The holographic screen in front of Yanashi flashed a series of photos.
“These are photos taken by photographer Wo Rame on a tour through the Pleiades.”
Blue and violet mossy plants covered the ground. Tall, blonde people were dotted across the landscape.
“Those look like my cousins, huh?”
The AI librarian’s mechanical eyes focused more intently on Yanashi, then shifted back to the photos.
More photos flashed: small clay-and-stone buildings, dirt roads, picturesque lakes and waterfalls. What would my life have been like here? And then, with one photo, Yanashi was viscerally taken back to a life she’d only seen glimpses of. A large room, almost empty except for a tub carved out of opal, and a man lounging in it. Yanashi felt tears fall across her cheeks. I know that place. I’ve been here. I lived here.
Photos were still flashing when Yanashi heard Kyrin’s heavy footsteps coming up behind her. God dammit, why is he always –
“They have your mom.”
Before Yanashi had a chance to reply, Kyrin put his paw down on her shoulder and teleported her out of the library.