The last place you want to find a family member is right on the edge of death. It’s a little more complicated when said family member was intent on killing you a few moments earlier, but despite that it was still an uncomfortable experience.
“Mom? Oh don’t even tell me…” I said.
There were two possibilities I could see. Either “Echo” wasn’t really my mother, she just appeared in that form to everyone she spoke to, or, more even disturbing, she was my mother. And Bo’s mother.
I’d lost my family when I was four. All I could remember of the incident was my mother coming for me while we were onboard a ship. She was very worried, which scared the hell out of me, and then she put me in a warp capable escape pod and jettisoned me from the ship we were on through the warp gate we were approaching. That was the last time I saw her.
I’ve talked to her a few times since then. Almost always when I do something profoundly stupid with Void anima. Like, say, burying myself and Bo so deeply in the Void that neither of us had the power to return to the material world.
“Wait, you can hear her too?” Bo said. “But I thought you could only speak with people you were connected too?”
She was addressing Echo, but the thought occurred to me that this deep in, her point was probably true for everyone. I’d assumed our connection was because we were focused on defeating each other (it’s amazing the kind of connection a little life and death struggle can forge between people). From what I knew, our battle by itself would be enough to form a strong, if very temporary, bond between us. Shared parentage can do the same, though I had to wonder if in this case it would be as powerful.
Bo was older than me, from what I could tell, but I couldn’t remember us being raised together. For that matter, I couldn’t remember much about my father or any of the rest of my family. It had been just my mother and I, moving around from place to place as far as I knew.
“Yeah, I can hear her just fine,” I said. “Bo, what do you remember about your family?”
“They died when I was young,” she said.
“How sure of you are that?” I asked.
“Very,” she said. “They made me look at what was left of them.”
“I remember you saying that, but could you actually identify them from the remains?” I asked. “Think back now that you’re free of external meddling.”
“That was a long time ago,” she said.
“I know, but this is important,” I said. “I wish we could get back to Fari, she’s got the finesse to help you relive that moment in perfect detail I bet.”
“I don’t want to relive that moment,” Bo said. “That was the worst experience of my life. I had nightmares for years afterwards.”
“Maybe you didn’t need to,” I said. “Maybe what you saw wasn’t what you were told you were seeing.”
“There’s no way what you’re suggesting can be true,” she said. I felt her pull away from me, but I held on.
“I don’t know, is it, Mom?” I asked.
“One thing about my kids, they’re bright sparks every one of them,” my Mom said. “Bo, whatever I tell you, you’ll always be suspicious of. You still don’t believe I’m your mother even, though it is nice to hear you call me Mom at last. So don’t look to me. Look at Mel. I never got to raise you as sisters but you’ll find echoes of me in her, the same as they are in you.”
“This is ridiculous!” Bo said.
“Is it?” Mom asked. “You know the fate weave was compromised. You know it was working to bring about an end to the current state of things. You’ve got to be able to imagine that someone who was paying attention to that might be able to take advantage of it.”
“Hold on, you were messing with the fate weave on Abyz?” I asked.
“More stuck in it,” Mom said. “We came here to visit your sister on that last trip we took together. I didn’t know what the fate weave was really like, but let’s just say you come by your ability to see ghosts from my side of the family.”
“You figured out what was really going on?” I asked.
“Which was something of a problem for the Dominator when I tried to take her out,” Mom said. “That was hubris, plain and simple. It’s also probably the worst mistake I made in my life.”
“What happened?” Bo asked.
“I tried to drain her power away and feed it freely into the fate weave to free the Unseen,” she said.
“And then you discovered that the Dominator had control of the Queen and through the Queen, control of the fate weave,” I said.
“I knew that part going into it actually. What I’d failed to account for was the fact that the fate weave can’t hold all of the Dominator’s power,” Mom said.
“That’s impossible! The weave holds enough anima to literally reduce Abyz to ash. As in a spreading cloud of particles where there was once a planet,” Bo said.
“Yeah, but the Dominator’s a Jewel of Endless Night. Killing planets is trivial for them,” I said.
“How do you know that?” Bo asked.
“You know Fari, the blue girl that was with me?” I asked. “She used to control one of the Jewels.”
“Used to control a Jewel? What happened to her?” Bo asked.
“She didn’t want to kill innocent people anymore, so I helped her out,” I said.
“We killed the ten thousand bodies of the Karr Khan through the archmage class shielding that protected them, all at once, across the entire of the galaxy,” I said.
“Ten thousand bodies?” Bo asked.
“Yeah, he’d turned himself in a cosmic level horror, so Fari, I, and some other folks took the power of the Ravager and ended him,” I said.
“How did you survive casting a spell that powerful?” Bo asked.
“Well, I had a lot of help, I was too stupid and uneducated to know I shouldn’t try it and Fari has near godlike energy management skills,” I said. “So basically, I was very very lucky.”
“Or more precisely, she made a lot of luck for herself,” Mom said, “The same as you do Bo.”
“I can’t believe this.”
“Really? Cause if this was Mom’s plan then I can totally see where I get my schemes from,” I said.
“It wasn’t all me,” Mom said. “After I, well ‘died’ isn’t precisely accurate, but it’s close. After I became as I am now, I saw some opportunities to nudge the fate weave along. It had its hook in one of my daughters already and whatever it took I wasn’t going to let that stand.”
“So you sent another of your daughters in to straighten the situation out?” I said.
“I gave a little tug and hoped,” Mom said.
“Well it looks like that tug means we’ll get to join you here along with all of the rest of Abyz,” Bo said.
“Why would you say that?” Mom asked.
“I don’t know about Mel, but I’ve gone too far,” Bo said. “I took in too much Void anima trying to beat her. I can’t hold it off for much longer and I can’t get free of it either.”
“I’m right there with you,” I said. “I knew I had to keep the Dominator away from Yael and her crew or everyone was going to die and stay dead. I was kind of hoping you’d be reasonable a little sooner, but my life for a few billion people seemed like a good trade to make however things worked out between us.”
“Neither of you are lost yet,” Mom said. “Not if you can trust each other.”
“Forget us,” Bo said. “What about Abyz? Did Mel’s insane plan work?”
“The spell to exorcise the ghosts of the Unseen seems to have gone off successfully. I was a little rough, but I did what I could,” Mom said.
“Did what you could?” I asked.
“She’s a Spirit of the Void,” Bo said. “There are arch-mage class casters who don’t have her capabilities with Void anima.”
“In very limited areas and applications,” Mom said. “It’s one of the few perks that comes from my current state.”
“You said you weren’t exactly dead?” I asked. “Does that mean you could come back?”
I didn’t let hope flare inside me at all. That would have been too painful to bear even with the numbing ocean of emptiness I was drifting in.
“I’m sorry, what I did is a one way trip,” she said. “I wouldn’t even do it differently if I could, since it bought me both of your lives.”
“That’s a heavy thing to lay on someone,” I said, bitterness and disappointment biting at me despite my resolve not to hope for anything.
“Maybe we didn’t want to live without you,” Bo said.
“There were limited options at the time,” Mom said. “And your lives were more important than mine. Wait till you have children. You’ll understand then.”
“Oh I understand already,” Bo said.
“Yeah, we just threw those lives away for others didn’t we?” I said.
“Like Mother, like daughters?” Bo asked.
“It’s disturbing how you think like me despite us meeting for the first time like two days ago,” I said.
“Hey, you said your friend Fari was the spirit of one of the Jewel’s of Endless Night right?” Bo asked. “What is she doing now?”
“Having an up close and personal ‘conversation’ with the Dominator I believe,” I said. “I figured neither of them would be able to follow us down this far into the Void, but at the level they’re on they should still be able to interact with each other.”
“Isn’t that dangerous? What if the Dominator manages to take over your friend?” Bo asked.
I laughed at that. It felt good to chuckle and sounded very alien to the depths of the Void we were floating in.
“Let’s just say I have faith Fari can handle her,” I said. “She had some very specific ideas on how she could cast the controlling spirit out of the Jewel. It’s not quite as good as rendering it powerless but without a controller, it will be effectively inert.”
“Can she do that?” Bo asked.
“She’s the first and only controller of a Jewel who has been freed from the constraints that were enchanted into the gem. She’s had a lot of time to study what was done to her and has spent the last few years devising spells to deal with her ‘siblings’,” I said. “She doesn’t have the power that they do, but if they’re both locked in the Void then power’s not really an issue. It all comes down to skill and determination here.”
It was Bo’s turn to laugh at that, but hers was the evil, scary kind of laugh I gave when a truly wicked idea occurred to me.
“That should mean it’s safe to return to the material world then right?” she asked.
“I think so,” I said. “Certainly safer than staying here any longer.”
“Our mother pointed out that we could escape if we trusted each other,” Bo said. “Are you willing to work together?”
“There are people who will be very unhappy with me if I don’t come back to them, so I’m willing to try almost anything at this point,” I said. “You’re thinking we can lift each other up, step by step until we’re out of the Void?”
“Exactly,” Bo said. “Except I have one other idea too; you said the Jewels act as natural homes for powerful spirits correct?”
I heard my mother gasp at the same moment as I figured out what Bo was driving at. I felt the urge to join in her evil laugh rise inside me. Oh, my sister was going to be fun to play with, I decided.
“Yes, yes they do,” I said.
“And spirits don’t weigh hardly anything do they?” Bo asked.
“Certainly not Spirits of the Void,” I said. “Why I bet we could carry each other and a spirit like that back with us easily.”
“No!” Mom said. “You can’t risk that!”
“Get her!” Bo said.
And I did.
It wasn’t actually as easy as we made it out to be, especially with Mom struggling to break free from our iron grips but steadily and surely, my sister and I rose back to the land of the living.