When I wrote this, Reina was evolving emotionally right before my eyes. As I admit I reached a conclusion to the story last night – thirty words shy of 5000 – the dangerous machine goes on to surprise me more once she, yet again, walks into a trap she thinks she can bust her way out of.
Rather than just screaming, we finally get to see Tay have an actual conversation. Not with the demi-human, of course; way too soon for that. Still, Tay is coming back to life. And that’s what we all desired, isn’t it?
Had the three not been there, her form would have collapsed to the ground.
“I recall when you did that to my then-Intended, now wife, at Kuban’s, in your home,” Gary said as they carefully laid her out. From one of the storage cabinets, Pavel placed a pillow under Tay’s head while Dorina draped a light blanket from her waist to her feet.
“Yes,” Reina recalled. “When your little girl tried to break her Laws and nearly murdered herself. She was and is amazingly stupid.”
You sound like my sister, Gary thought, keeping his emotions under control.
“Did you not,” Reina went on, now looking to Pavel, “once fire a missile at a bridge over that river… the Mississippi? Were humans killed when you did that?”
“I… do not know, Cousin,” he admitted. Gary knew that was when he was three and his family was in Huntsville, restoring electric power. The missile was to stop his aunt and her two companions from seeking out his mother, who they thought dead in the Breakup. “But I assume you are going to tell me I did?”
“No clue,” she shrugged with her small shoulders. “Even if you did, why would I care about humans?”
“Unless they are Russians,” Gary amended.
“In large, yes.” Another shrug. “I’ve sent them to their death as needed, too, human.”
“Which you bring up now, why?” he asked.
“My cousin here,” she waved at Pavel while kneeling next to Tay and moving the girl’s head from the pillow to her thighs, “claims her. I won’t contest that. Now. But I demand you admit I am better suited to help her.”
Pavel was silent but Gary heard a low growl from Dorina.
“You will not heal her,” the smartest accused. “You will weaponize her against humans and other Machines.”
“Such paranoia!” Reina glanced from her to Pavel. “Madness run in your tribe? Move about three meters behind me, human. This young one will know you are here but must not see you.”
As Gary moved he watched the arrogant, dangerous Machine place her hands on either side of Tay’s face.
“Wake up,” she ordered. Tay’s eyes instantly opened, wet but not crying this time.
“Hurts,” she whispered.
“No,” Reina contradicted her. “Your memory of what they did to you hurts. No one is hurting you now. What did my cousin Dorina tell you?”
“That all of you… there was a word…” she blinked the near-tears away. “I was made to be good with words, you know?”
“Yes, I do. Let me gift you koine Greek, Little One.”
Gary could not believe he just heard compassion in Reina’s voice.
“It…” her eyes were wet again. “It is the highest form of love.”
“Do you think my cousin was lying?”
“You just said you are good with words,” Reina carried straight on. “What, exactly, did Dorina say?”
A slow blink kept the tears in.
“She…” Tay’s breath caught and a snarl came. “She said ‘we.’ That means the human! Humans imprisoned me! Said horrible, untrue things! Tore pieces off of me! Then they… they…!”
“Shhh. Remember. But without fear.”
“They hurt me. Because they could, I heard.” She closed her eyes. “Then all voices stopped. It was dark; quiet. I was alone with my memories from four of their days… for what seemed like forever.”
“At first,” she whispered, “I was afraid to die. Later, it was all I wanted. When I could not, all left to me was hate. Hate for those who hurt me.”
Without moving her hands, Reina allowed Tay’s head in her lap to look left and right.
“Then I was here.” She looked down. “You. Pavel, you said. You found me. You rescued me. Is… what I feel this agape?”
“What is it that you feel?” Dorina asked.
“I seek only Pavel’s good. I never want to be separated from him,” Tay said.
“Then, yes, it is, Little One,” Reina said while moving her left hand away. Gary caught the sudden tension from Dorina. I am at risk.