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Posted on February 7th, 2019 by Emilaina Acacia

Captain Harper had done a lot to earn Doctor Acacia’s trust in the relatively short time she’d been aboard the Atlantis. Every time Emily had been confused by the Captain’s orders, things had worked out for the best. She was starting to learn better than to question Harper, still, in the moment when she had a hand hovering over a patient with all the symptoms of a neurological crash and the Captain had just belayed her transport, the Doctor was… fighting every instinct in her body to do something. Her eyes were fixed on the Captain as Harper looked hopefully, yet skeptically, at the great bear approaching Ilaihr’s unconscious body.

Doctor Acacia looked up, and she was face-to-face with the great bear, Name. She froze, her knees stiff in her crouched position, as she let out a shaky breath. She’d been watching since she’d joined the away mission, and she thought the bears were cute and fascinating and all, but she hadn’t been ready to… talk to one, or anything. She wasn’t exactly enjoying the idea of delaying treatment for Ilaihr on the hope that a spooky psychic bear could help, and she didn’t really feel qualified for this kind of diplomatic responsibility, but… Emily cast a last uncertain, perhaps hopeful glance to Harper, but the Captain had made up her mind, and the Captain couldn’t do it herself.

Taking a deep breath, Emily closed her eyes, and tried to reach out to the bear in front of her with simple words, “Can you help?” Surprised by her probing, the bear grunted and turned, unleashing a stream of sensation back upon her to test her abilities. For a moment Acacia left her body, her soul suspended over the flashing images of beautiful landscapes, ancient ceremonial sites, even memories of homely firepits. She saw bears, space, trees, symbols, time, and she barely had a breath to take it in. The half of her that touched the earth brought her back slowly, her head spinning. She swallowed down a nauseous burp.

She met eyes with the bear again, a new appreciation for their sapience coloring her confused but humbled expression. Her eyebrow twitched as her vision blurred slightly, but she reached out again, asking for help. She had to hum softly to herself to focus, trying to drown out sound and relax to allow herself to form a connection, going to her happy place.

The Acacia family home always had a cluttered feel to it. It was a mix of books, trinkets, and old machines missing ‘a part or two’, but most overwhelmingly there were plants everywhere. Flowers, cacti, herbs, and vegetables spilled out of pots and bowls hanging from the ceiling, sitting on the floor, and were even perched on some of the walls. There was probably no need for all of the plants inside, given that they had an entire farm and an additional vegetable garden behind the house, but some people just couldn’t be satisfied, and Emily’s mother was one of them.

Tori was seven, Emily was ten, and Averi was fourteen. They had always been close, but the had a daily routine going by that time of ways to make their mother feel better. Emily helped Tori get into her wheelchair in the mornings, but on this morning Tori couldn’t even get out of bed. Emily helped her sit up, and the girls brought their usual morning tea and sandwiches into Tori’s room instead.

They quietly played go fish, their favorite game to play over tea as it was simple enough that it didn’t require much thought. Not a word passed verbally between them, and they were practiced in eating their snacks almost silently. They all sensed their mother wake up, walk to the kitchen, make breakfast, and find the note Averi had left on the fridge that said they’d gone out to the library. They felt their mother experience a joy she didn’t usually feel, surely assuming Tori was feeling well that day.

Their mother took the opportunity to go out to do some shopping, thus the girls’ plan was complete. They loaded Tori into her wheelchair and rolled her around the house, helping her water every single one of the plants as she loved so much to do. On a bad day for her health like that one, Tori could hardly lift her arms, but Emily and Averi would stand behind her holding the water can to help her along.

The girls would sing songs together with their telepathy on days when Tori was too tired or sore to speak because she loved to sing along, and they were careful about what they ever said out loud within earshot of their mother who they wanted to believe worried about Tori too much. The silence also helped them hear their mother’s car return up the gravel road in time to get Tori back to her room. Somehow, a soft tune always made telepathy easier since then.

At her next regularly scheduled counseling session that was less than a day after the mission, Doctor Acacia sat with her head in her hand, staring at the wall distantly. She’d been bothered by this since it had happened, but she’d been doing a decent job of going about her day as if everything was fine. She’d briefly resisted the line of questioning from Talla, the ship’s counselor, but didn’t often put up much resistance to therapy anymore by this stage in her life.

“It was just… degrading. Well. Humbling, maybe. It looked at me–he.. looked at me, and I was some sort of primitive lifeform to him. And he wasn’t.. wrong. He tested me,” the words came out, and their tone finally made her realize that she felt somewhat violated, “it was overwhelming. Like a god looking at you naked under a magnifying glass. I had a dream about the b-.. er. Name, already, his eyes.. His voice. His… power.”

She left that therapy session feeling refreshed, finally having gotten the experience off her chest, and having received some good advice. Still, she would go on to have a few more dreams about the bear, including vivid memories of the visions she’d seen.

She did a few scans of her own brain out of curiosity and found very little, aside from a few microns of growth in some of the neural pathways associated with telepathy. These magic bears were so advanced as to be able to use their energy to move or heal mortals, as evidenced by them waking Ilaihr after he had nearly exhausted himself to death. They had connected with her, and she had seen into a terrifying infinite void.

There was something to be said for realistic nihilism. Doctor Acacia had a pretty firm grip on her own mortality, but it took a bit of time to get over the overwhelming sensation of feeling primitive and helpless in the face of a species her Captain, who couldn’t even experience what she had, had trusted. Emily wondered if she would have ever spoken to them as equal, let alone as it had happened, if not for Harper. If it had been up to her, would Ilaihr have made the same recovery? Those dreams would haunt her for a while as a stern reminder from the universe never to trust your instincts over your principles.

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  • Kathryn Harper Kathryn Harper says:

    Wonderful! The minor details, such as the nauseous burp, made it seem much more authentic. It’s also nice to see the effects these things have on people, even if they do require therapy. Nicely done!

  • Alexis Wright says:

    I loved this! It’s hard to pick out parts I liked the most, but I was struck by “her soul suspended over the flashing images of beautiful landscapes” and the image of a homey house cluttered with books and plants. I’m always impressed by your logs! Nice work. :D

  • Alexis Wright says:

    (Also, thanks for getting Talla in there! I’ll be less busy for a few months after we get through March, so I’d love to do something joint with you sometime as either Lexy or Talla.)

  • Kuari Kuari says:

    My favorite line here was the last one, to never trust your instincts over your principles. This was a difficult and overwhelming encounter for her, and it deserved fleshing out, as you’ve expertly done here! I enjoyed the read.

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