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Familiar Things

by Anne

Just a story I thought might help the newbies learn about me. It does have rather dark forebodings though.

Anne handed her sister a mug of coffee and then retreated to a chair on the other side of the table. The girl sat down and resisted the urge to bring her knees to her chin and rock back and forth, crying. Anne Packrat had only recently reconciled with her sister, the only one she would talk to of the original six member family. Two of the family were dead, her father and eldest sister (whom Anne had been forced to kill), her brother hated her guts, and her mother saw her only as an experiment.

Meiko regarded the younger girl as she sipped her coffee. The woman had always been told that Anne was a traitor, who had betrayed the Empire. Only recently had she been shown the truth by Anne herself, through the psychic bond all of the Packrat siblings share. Since Anne first remembered her past life as Meiko learned about it, and since lying was impossible through their link, Meiko knew the terrible truth. After learning of the horrible things done to Anne, Meiko was quite surprised when Anne asked her to come and have a talk.

"This is good coffee," Meiko remarked, after another sip.

Startled, Anne looked up, "Y-Yeah... 'Neechan built this machine, that..." She stopped when she realized the slip she'd made. "Um, uh, Sorry... It's just that I'm used to calling her that."

Meiko sighed and nodded. "I understand," she gestured toward the door to the SubSpace lab, where the pink-haired scientist had just recently dissappearred, "Washu's been very good to you. Though I guess you don't like her coffee." This time she gestured to the bobbing marshmallows in Anne's own mug.

Anne picked up her mug and wrapped her hands around it, as if to hide the offending object from view, "I don't like coffee really. It tastes... wrong."

Meiko shrugged. "So what did you want to talk to me about?"

Anne didn't respond at first. She blew on her hot chocolate and tentatively took a sip, grimacing as she realized it was still hot. She set it down in front of her and leaned forward, resting her hands in her lap. "I... I want to change my surname to Hakubi."

Had Meiko been drinking she would have performed a rather good spit take. Fortunately, she had not, so she merely stared at her sister with mouth working soundlessly. After a few stunned moments, the woman gathered herself and put her mug down on the table. "Are you sure...? And what about the Pact?"

It all came down to the Pact, of course. Anne's father's race held family in very high regard. Family was, in fact, a far more tangible than humans had. An individual's powers came from his family association, and if him or her left his family then they could lose control of their power, if they still retained them. Families who served higher allegiances often made a vow to serve that allegiance faithfully or else lose access to their powers. There was a way to have access to their full powers while not serving the allegiance, but this would last only a very short time, at the end of which, the individual would die. This loophole was added because the race was rather fond of dramatic sacrifice.

Thus, Anne's father had made the Pact when he married Anne's mother. He and his children would serve the Empire and have full power, or they would live freely and have no power, whatsoever. Anne had lived most of her life with only a shadow of her real power, hiding from the Empire that had been hunting her. It was not easy living without the power. Many times she woke up at night with it tempting her in hushed seductive tones. She could get revenge, she could have more greatness than she ever dreamed, if only... Anne finally had given into the whispers, letting herself go in a final sacrifice to save her friends.

And now, the reborn girl was making a bold move, leaving her bitter past, and reclaiming a future that should have been hers. This decision was not without consequences, however. By essentially leaving her family, she was violating the Pact and losing the stability and control of her power that even having the pretense of a clan provided.

Anne frowned and considered her answer carefully. "My powers are not the same as I was before, Meiko. In fact, the only real connection to our family is my name... and you."

Meiko gasped, "But that means...!"

Anne gave her a grim look, "That I basically have no controls or limitations on my power? That it will likely eat me alive eventually? Yes, I know."

"Then why...?"

Anne sighed and examined the floor. When she did speak her voice sounded weary. "Because I'm tired... Gods am I tired..." She glanced up at her sister, her face pale and drawn. "You don't know what it's like to be one of the hunted... To live your entire life in fear, knowing that if that if you're caught you'll be dragged back to the hell to be poked, prodded, treated like a laboratory animal... And then after escaping, to be unable to use my power, yet still have it whispering to you, calling to you constantly... Gods, it was such a relief when I was able to regain it. It was like a part of my mind returning... I felt complete! And then... I killed Makendo, and God knows how many others..." She clenched her fists, then relaxed them. "Do you know the worst part, Meiko? I enjoyed killing those people. It felt VERY good... And I... I would love to do it again..."

Still stunned, Meiko stared at her sister. "But, what does that have to do with leaving our family?"

Anne sighed again. "I can't stand the temptation anymore... I've gone through two lifetimes of this shit... With my rebirth I gained precognition. I've seen what I will become if I continue as a Packrat..." her voice became very small, "And it frightens me."

Meiko recoiled from the images that Anne was showing her through the mindlink. "That's horrible! How could anyone do such a thing...?"

"You see?" Anne responded, "If the remains of the Pact is removed, then Washu will be able to strengthen the safeguards I have in place. If I'm around here it's likely I can get training from someone. Perhaps even from Washu herself... And... I love Washu. She has been my family."

They sat silently for awhile. Meiko was trying to grapple with everything she had just been presented with. "What about me and the link?" she asked finally.

Anne shifted in her chair uncomfortably. "I'd like to stay in contact with you, Meiko. I'm afraid that I'm not real used to having you around yet... I am grateful that you are there for me though. As for our link, well, I will sever my connection to Huck, but I think I can keep one open to you if you don't mind."

Meiko picked up her cooling coffee and appraised her sister. On her part, Anne kept the link totally open, allowing Meiko to read anything she wished in the younger girl's mind. Finally, Meiko sighed and nodded. "If you're sure about this, Anne, then I don't object. Just keep in touch ne?"

Anne brightened up immediately and smiled. "Hunh!" she nodded emphatically, "I'll write you at least once a month, no once a week!"

Meiko smiled, "All right. We have the link too," her smile dissappeared, "Anne... Please accept my apology for everything our, no, my family has done to you..."

Losing her smile as well, Anne answered, "I have never really blamed you, Meiko, or father. The others, well, I'm not sure I can forgive them so easily. However, it is in the past, and in time perhaps I will be able to."

Meiko again picked up her coffee and sipped it. "Well, I guess, I should say, congratulations."

Anne smiled sadly, and picked up her own mug. "Thank you. I'll tell Washu later..." Silence intruded again, only occasionally broken by slurpings of Anne's hot cocoa.

Anne kept her mindlink open and Meiko was able to catch one or two errant thoughts. She frowned at one of them and then smiled. "So, Anne-san, who is this Joseph person?" The woman smiled when she saw her comment had earned a blush from Anne Hakubi.

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