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Samantha never had any baby pictures. In fact, we never kept any images of her, because any permanent record of her existence would have incriminated myself and Mariam.
The lack of images, records, prints, codes, _anything_ solid about Samantha has left me, in the end, almost as helpless as any other member of this world when it comes to finding out the details of the last hours she spent here.
I sigh, and lay my fingers out upon the smooth console.
Before I go, whether of my own volition-- as I am improvisationally planning-- or at the hands of my own government, I will look for Samantha.
Not Samantha where she is now, for I doubt highly that even our surveillance systems can reach her there. I have no idea where "there" might be. I do know that she disappeared, and somewhere in the mass of twisting, labyrinthine trails and balls of gathered information is a dead end or a track that holds images of my daughter. There is a record of her, perfectly detailed, from the point that she left my house for an appointment I made. I have not allowed my own dwelling to be observed by Senate computers. I have bypassed my own laws. When she stepped out into the world, she became known to the constantly watching eyes of mechanized spies.
But I could not find her. The maze is so convoluted, the records so meaningless to the machines themselves, that in order to even begin to find one person or one experience, some "scent" must be offered the computer; some item to look for, some face. All of which I have deliberately neglected to amass for my own daughter.
I acquired an image of David Stephenapolous. He was the last one seen with my daughter; or, at least, he was the last one I _intended_ her to be seen by before the undertaking of the operation which I hired him to accomplish. Upon his disappearance, and Samantha's, I fed it to the computer to have him, and perhaps my daughter, tracked down by the cameras and the man brought to justice... Until I realized what that would mean.
I had been through it before. There is a price to pay for dishonesty before society, even and perhaps especially when one is in such a position of authority as to have set the rules of society in the first place.
Now, I have revived this image, and the search. Now, what I find may be useless... But it may not. Either way, if I am caught at tracking down a daughter who should not exist, I will be in no more danger than I am in my present state. If I find something I can use, I will be using it alone. The years of paying guards, servants, the family physician and exhorting them to silence are done with; when next they enter their work stations or attempt to contact me, they will be informed of their dismissal by the active house computer and paid benefits for their dedicated-- or greedy-- either motivation has been equally serviceable to me-- work.
My fingers are doing nothing but touching, not pressing, the keys; I wait minutes upon minutes for any sort of a lead. The Senate watches all: public, private, itself and its members, innately trusting no one... But the fevered collection of so much information leaves any one piece nigh lost in the shuffle. I am almost certain that no one else has even seen any of the record of Samantha's arrival in public and her slipping from it. Without anything known to look for, there is nothing to find. So much for our surveillance.
Which is not to say that I could not have been found out long ago, had I not rearranged and confused the cameras I knew were in my house. I kept a small staff exclusively for the process of debugging, since periodically new and well-hidden ones would be found. But the record stayed clean. There was no daughter. She had died just before birth.
The screen lights up hopefully, offering something it thinks I might want.
I rub the right side of my face with the heel of my hand, and tap in an affirmative command. I would rather not speak as I watch this. Somehow, I want to remain distanced even from the computer.
The screen spreads a white backdrop before me and I tone it down. David appears first, and I confirm the identity. This much I have seen, this much I allowed to play out before I realized the futility-- and potential danger-- of searching for my daughter.
None of it would have happened had my own mortality not occurred to me. I knew I would not be around forever. Mariam is... gone. Soon, I will be gone. If Samantha were here now, we would both be at equal risk of discovery and punishment.
Punishment. I never thought of it that way, as punishment for a state of being. But then, something has happened to my frame of mind in the past days. I have never been so physically and, most likely, permanently alone. I have never had to inform the other Senators that I would not... be available. I did neglect to say: ever again.
I knew I could not provide for her forever, and I knew that when I died there would be those whose knowledge and greed might easily break down the systems of payment and confidentiality. Not to mention the media and their consistently grim and obsessive methods. It almost all came out when Mariam died.
It _should_ have come out, even as I fought and tricked the reporters and acted my way through the lines of shaking heads and businesslike, sympathetic handshakes of the other senators. I did not have to act to produce sorrow. I did have to hold the rest of it in. The rage, and the powerlessness. Suddenly, everyone I thought I could count on was useless to me. I was tied. I could not say a word.
And when Samantha disappeared, it was the same thing over again. Only that time, there was no sympathy, because as far as everyone on Luna knew, there had been no loss. Now, the final detachment has almost come to completion. Funny, I thought I would be much older before anything happened to me. The operation for Samantha was supposed to be long-term planning in action. Never did I suspect that such a freak thing could happen more than once.
If I suspected such things, maybe I would not have been where I am-- have been-- in the Lunar government.
David Stephenapolous. I watch the scene unfold again. I wonder what came after. I know what came before.
I did not go in with Samantha. Any sort of connection with her would have been political, and perhaps literal, suicide. I made an audio-only call to a known cybernetic expert and hacker. I knew he would work illegally. He had gotten himself into trouble for it before, due to the surveillance of an extremist group that took certain spying and law matters into its own hands. The Senate is working on solutions to these splinter groups; the last thing this world needs is the anarchy of Earth.
David did not recognize my voice, but when he expressed doubt at the offer of a good deal of money and very few details, I introduced myself. As soon as he realized I was speaking the truth, I believe great fear as well as a deep fascination came over him. He just _had_ to know why I would come to him underground, offering ridiculous amounts just to keep his mouth shut and wait. We made an appointment. I did not go. That was the last of my contact with David.
Escorted by two black-clothed men in image-gathering dark glasses that have been disabled in case of their being inspected at any point before their return to my home, Samantha minces into David's private workstation, duplicating on my screen the appointment as she kept it.
David Stephenapolous stands, brow furrowed, original left arm held at an uncomfortable and anxious angle as though his far more relaxed, cybernetic right arm prosthesis is more natural to him. Samantha, his charge until completion of her change, which no hospital on Luna can legally engage in, is covered in a cloak which reaches over her face, arms, back, protrusions on the back, all the way down to her tiny feet, which are laboriously carrying her in an upright position with a hop, another hop, then a few mincing steps and another hop to make up for overcorrecting forward.
David has been given his orders in person, by one of my daughter's escorts. He gulps, glancing at the impossibility below the edge of cloak: two tawny, finely furred paws as one would find on a Greyhound at the track in Galileo City. He is just beginning to believe that this may be as dangerous as he thought it could be, and as true as I said it was. I want a new body for my daughter. She cannot be regenerated from the acceptable parts, for her genetic structure will always rebuild the deformity.
Only Samantha's deformity cannot be handled by any reputable hospital, and David Stephenapolous is the only disreputable cyberneticist who also does legal, and excellent, work. Thank Heaven for rebels.
Then again, rebels do not always do what is expected of them. And where money may motivate nearly anyone, I may have gravely misjudged Mr. Stephenapolous.
He may not have a girl's best societal interests in mind. He may, in fact, _be_ a rebel because there are things more important to him than society, and law, and what they mean to others.
I was not so foolish as to think that my money and words alone would convince David. But I did not expect what Samantha said to him.
So Samantha minces in, and shakes a little in her stance because it is so hard on her to walk that way. The door hisses shut behind her, and hearing the men who have been guiding her stop, she waits only a moment more before finally dropping down on all fours and flinging off the cloak with a strong flap of an appendage and a turn of her head.
"Good _Heavens_," she gasps, almost with a chuckle of nervousness and relief. "That's much better."
David's mouth falls open.
The vast majority of the Lunar population has never laid eyes on a mutant. It is standard government policy to deny their existence. If anyone _has_ experienced a mutation in the family, or seen one elsewhere, it is made to clear to them the possible ramifications of widespread panic and misinformation such as has regrettably occurred on Earth. There are government centers for the care and societal invisibility of mutants. There are few who originate here on Luna, and any travel of a mutant from Earth to Luna is forbidden. Some who have tried have had to be permanently silenced. In my daughter's case, the immediate and only answer on the part of the Senate or any approved doctor would have been euthanasia. Samantha is too spectacular, too psychologically dangerous to the public mindset.
Besides, there are only so many places available in the Lunar institutions. When they're full, and another mutant appears, someone has to step aside. In some cases, an ill mutant may be euthanized in order to make room for the new one. In other cases, money has something to do with the choice.
In Samantha's case, money and some well-placed lies had everything to do with her life.
David, on my screen, with the surveillance cameras that were so well-placed that he had not found them-- although he detected some that were not well cloaked electronically and expertly removed them-- realizes that his mouth is hanging open, and claps his original hand over it. With his metal hand, he almost moves as if to reach for my daughter. His feet seem glued in place.
We kept Samantha because Mariam wanted to. I have had on my payroll for nearly thirty years now the nurses and physicians involved in the prenatal scans that proved her condition, the guards to keep an eye on media, the guards to keep an eye on the other guards, the guards to keep an eye on precocious and eager Samantha, and a staff to keep Samantha happy without social interaction aside from my wife and myself.
I tried to tell Mariam how it would be, but there was no going back once she was pregnant. It didn't matter that the baby was only human down to the shoulders. She had decided, and I could not look her in the face and tell her I was having the child destroyed.
So we kept her.
She stares appealingly up at David Stephenapolous. Take away the rest of the body, and there are few indeed who could ever dislike Samantha's face. It seems, however, in this recording, that it is not the face alone that appeals to the shocked David. His startled gaze travels from tail to small set of horns nearly hidden in the thick, curly black hair on her smooth-skinned head, and he locks eyes with her and his chin quivers in a strange, unemotional response to some extreme revelation. He _likes_ what he sees. No, more, he is _astounded_, so deeply pleased it has gone past anything he can articulate.
David still cannot speak. Samantha helpfully extends a broad front paw, tawny like the rear feet but more thickly furred and heavier; that of an African lioness. "Hi," she says.
David's expression shudders on the edge of utter noncomprehension for several more moments. Then he tells the escorts: "Leave us, please. Tell Mr. Fuller that I will need two days for assessment, after which I can begin construction."
The guards, having been ordered by myself to do whatever the cyberneticist told them, leave.
David loses himself in the improbability of what he is seeing, again.
"... David. Please. David."
"David, then." Samantha drops her paw, which has not yet been taken, and steps cautiously in an exploratory semi-circle about the cluttered, yet immaculate lab, a desk, some gleaming materials. "David?"
David wrestles himself back into some mode of professionalism. "Yes. You know what your... Father wants to have done."
I can hear the regret in his voice as I watch them from beyond the actual occurrence, and I wonder what I would have done if I had been there. Stopped him? Realized his bias and removed Samantha, perhaps taking a chance instead on the loyalty of my staff? Maybe having her euthanized by one faithful servant should I expire before preparations were secure?
Samantha drops down to all fours after a quick inspection of a desk with her lioness forepaws balancing her on its lip. Waving her Greyhound tail slightly, she steps trustingly up to a man she has never met, and speaks in tones so low that I have to turn up the volume on my monitor.
Shivering at the closeness of this apparition, David leans almost to the level of her face. "Yes."
"Please don't. Please." My daughter's face crumples.
I think I know what is good for people, but how hard is it to truly fathom the amount of mental and emotional damage done by being a mutant such as Samantha? Is it possible she _could_ not handle the change? Perhaps death would have been the kindest thing. But she was all I had after Mariam... So much of Samantha was radically changed from human to... Whatever. I should have seen what I saw from the first: that her mind had been deeply affected, too. But I thought that at least one of them, David or Samantha, would have seen the right choice to make for my daughter's future. Yet, as she speaks those words, a glimmer of something like hope lights David's deep-set and fiercely intelligent eyes.
Something about that man seems slow, dark, detached. Somehow, that same attribute, whatever it is, lends him a mysterious and powerful air. I know he has abilities with cybernetics that few others can touch. I did not know this stemmed from his own very un-Lunar fantasy and darkness.
"Samantha," he speaks in a deep, somewhat raspy voice. "I want you to know what this would mean for you. Surely your-- the Senator, your father, surely he--"
He doesn't want to say it, that I know best. He wants Samantha to interrupt him, and she does.
"He told me. Please, David, I don't know how to walk that way. I don't want to be that way. My mom always told me I was beautiful. Don't you think I'm beautiful?"
Samantha is nearly crying. She needs to get it all out now, before someone comes, or David decides to go for it and get the money. She is... afraid.
"Oh-- God, yes."
Samantha smiles under her tear-glistening green eyes. "Thank you, for thinking I'm beautiful. They say on the viewer that I don't exist. Dad wants me to be a girl as in that diagram, and I can't do it. Please. Don't cut me off and make me an android. I can't do it."
"Samantha. No one would know. You could walk around, and be touched, and no one would know it wasn't your own human body. We would... take off the horns and..."
David's throat tightens as he speaks. It sickens him to even suggest the dismantling of this young woman's mutant parts.
"Please, _please_. I tried talking to my father. He won't listen. Won't you tell him you won't do it?"
Combined fear and determination. "If he wouldn't listen to you, he won't listen to me. I am afraid he will take you to someone else who _will_ do it."
"David-- David--" Samantha lays a paw, claws barely unsheathed, on the man's knee. "I don't want to get you in trouble. But I can't have my body amputated."
"God _Damn_ you're right." David clenches his fists and stands, leaving his trousers with tiny unraveled spots where Samantha's claws took a moment to unhook. "I work on the injured. You're not injured. You're fucking beautiful. I've never seen anything like you. And... I know the Lunar policy. What your father is doing is illegal." He knows that well enough. "He is asking me to do something illegal, and by God I'm going to. We're getting you out of here."
Samantha spontaneously wraps her front paws around the knees of this man and hugs him with all her considerable strength.
This is as far as I have seen. Now, I shall endeavor to find out what happened. Because it doesn't matter now that no one will help me.
Samantha had the sort of effect on David that I almost expected, yet turned around from a reaction to a monstrosity to an amazement at some incredible beauty I had never realized. Within the space of a few moments, David Stephenapolous had found, claimed, and devoted himself to one creature that somehow, for him, defined what his heart's rebelliousness was _for_, and I let her go right to him.
Not that I had much choice.
I wonder if I could have ordered her killed upon my death. I wonder if I could have done it.
Samantha used to knead her mother's chest with those paws, kicking lightly with her thin Greyhound legs and murmuring to herself. Where a... normal baby would have bent one little finger up over the nose, one the cheek, one the chin, self-comforting, Samantha would lay a whole paw over her face, or press her tiny dewclaw into the curve of her button nose and sigh contentedly to herself, and sometimes I would draw her paw gently away so the only things visible above the blanket were a human face, delicate neck and shoulders.
It was rarely an effective illusion. Small bumps under the covering indicated her downy wing-nubs, and a sandy-furred toe or thin tailtip would invariably appear from this angle or that as she slept under her mobile, bought, along with all her other toys and necessaries, in secret.
Mariam loved to hold her and let her knead her breasts, until she got too vigorous with those miniscule claws, when her mother would simply laugh and unhook her and put her to bed. Sometimes, watching, I felt sick.
And sometimes I held her myself.
The illusion never worked then, of course. The proportions were all wrong, and any way I tried to balance her those wings and that tail were so much a part of her that they could not be ignored.
Samantha always had an appealing face. When the horns came in, under her black baby-fuzz on her head, I feared I would never be able to pretend her "normalcy" to myself again, but soon she had a luxurious mane of curly black hair, accentuated by classily arched black brows and those eyes that went from baby-blue to her adult emerald green, and the tightly curved, short horns often disappeared in the waves of hair.
The monitor offers another scene.
Whatever means David took to bring Samantha to this place, it had been overlooked in the camera placement (not likely) or he found the vid-capture equipment and disabled it. The transition is sudden, therefore, from the cyberneticist's grey, metal and shadowless lab to this private residence outside Luna City. David's visage is affirmed, and the address of the place comes up on my screen.
Carol Serschel? He did Carol Serschel? Damn, of course I should have known. And I should have seen what this could mean. But it's too late for that now.
Samantha, again covered in a cloak, and David Stephenapolous stand anxiously in the doorway. A man, blond and shorter than David, pale where David is olive-dark and clean-shaven where David has perpetual black stubble, glances over his shoulder as he lets them in.
"Let me talk to her," he tells David. "Come in, you two, get out of sight."
Samantha walks in and David removes the cloak for her. She smiles immediately, admiring this simple apartment and its rich carpeting, the kitchen and the viewer. She has never seen a dwelling aside from mine, and even though this cannot match it, it is pleasant and _different_. I tried to give her a lot of variety, during her growing up. But she always watched a lot of popular shows. She talked frequently about people, how they lived, how they felt, the kinds of things she might do if she could take her body out among them and see their houses or help care for children.
I see that she wanted to do this with the body she was used to intact, but I knew the only way she could do it would be to change.
It _never_ occurred to me to send her to-- but then, to me it looked like a cruelty, the very thought of it. No one wants to live on Earth. No one _should_ want to live on Earth. Knowing this, the Senate and I, Senator F. Matthew Fuller, have created strict travel regulations. Well, it is perhaps too strong to say that we _created_ them, but we did considerably enhance those that had been in effect since the overwhelming implications of the Fissure on Earth became known. We have upheld the rules of a government that kept Luna organized and sane against all odds.
I may find it rather difficult to overcome the regulations I have been so obviously in favor of, but I've been doing it for years. It has become almost a habit, with me, to do one thing and say another. I know that now.
But justification is easy. Simply, for yourself, make an exception. For your family, do what you know in that one case is right. The laws were not written to bend for distraught mothers. I did not rewrite the laws, and I did not bend them. I broke them. I understand how important they have been to me, and to Luna as a whole. So in voice, I upheld them.
Samantha finds a window that captures a view of Earth. My daughter has never seen Earth, except once or twice in her life on the viewer. In fact, she has never seen a window. We had to confine her utterly.
David watches her watching Earth. He toys with his prosthesis, absentmindedly, a flush rising to his cheeks at the rustle of a wing or bending of a hip. He is still attempting to grasp the truth.
It occurs to me that the blond man caught a glimpse of Samantha as she was revealed from beneath her cloak, and while he smiled and seemed charmed, there was no startled reaction. It seems hardly likely that David would have been foolish enough to radio him with details. Certainly he has never seen my daughter before. I wonder about that for an instant, when the man returns with Carol Serschel.
Carol has the appearance of a steel horse from the waist down and back. This fanciful appearance is acceptable for such a serious, professionally-minded doctor and good Lunar citizen. Due to her own medical condition, she was left little choice. I lean forward, hands on either side of the console, and watch.
Dr. Serschel is duly shocked.
"David! No. No. Absolutely not."
"Carol, listen to me. We have to. Please, you're the only one I know who can keep her. Just until I know what to do. He'll be looking at my place."
David seems unaware of the fact that the Senate has bugged as many private dwellings as possible. He speaks freely. In most cases, he would never have been heard by outside ears. Little does it matter to him, now, that I am listening. I wonder what he would have done if I had caught him, and asked him to give his reasons. I wonder if he would have backed down.
"Hi," Samantha says to the spluttering doctor. She holds out a paw. "I'm Samantha Fuller. Pleased to meet you."
Two things flicker across Carol's eyes. One is almost gone before I can even consider its ramifications, and then I just barely capture it. Charm. Samantha is a beautiful, and charming, young woman.
Carol takes the paw as if mesmerized, and begins to smile, truly _begins to smile_, before the second reaction takes over. "Fuller? Oh no. Not that Fuller. You can't mean..."
David rubs at the back of his neck, glancing sideways.
"No!" Carol backs off as if Samantha has bitten her. "David, that's even worse. No, I cannot and will not be party to this."
"Carol." It's the blond man.
She stiffens. She has given her answer.
"Let her stay, for maybe a day or two. Let me make a call. I could get her a place to go."
"Damien, we can't--"
The man, Damien, holds his gaze steady and says nothing.
"No. Absolutely not. This is illegal, this is dangerous, this is a _mutant_. No way."
Carol crosses her arms. Damien stares at her. David frowns, and rubs at the side of his face. A new emotion has been added to the layers upon him, but I cannot place it. I look at the image of my daughter. She sits on her haunches, lit by the outdoors and the Earth in the window which everyone has forgotten to darken in their indecision. It is a remote place, but had someone glanced into that window that night, I can imagine how the news would have read the next day.
I know, and it tightens something in my chest to realize it, that had anyone violent come for her Samantha never would have given my name nor incriminated me in any way.
I also realize that, in the moments recorded and played here for me, as Samantha sits and looks over her shoulder at David with an almost eerie resemblance to a lady in a strapless dress at a masquerade, her mental family has changed.
She _could_ not incriminate me. She just would not do it. David had incriminated himself, and would have died for the choice if he had to. I can see in her replayed expression that she knows it. She would never again call for help from F. Matthew Fuller, her own father. She will call for David.
Goodness, how old is she now? A good twenty... no, twenty-- three? five? I don't even know. I _can't remember_. And, officially, she never existed.
"Just where do you propose to put her, Damien?" Carol asks, frowning. "I don't believe you're thinking this through."
"Carol," Damien replies in such a relaxed and smiling manner that I really begin to wonder at his power, or his sanity, or both, "let me call Oskar. Please. I think Samantha could be of great help."
"Help?" Carol spits. "To whom?"
David looks puzzled.
Damien heads for the videophone, grinning. "I have an idea. Keep her for just a bit, Carol. That's all we have to do."
"Listen," says David, noticing the growing concern in Samantha's eyes, "if you really do have something, Damien, I don't need to keep her here. Samantha, you and I could spend our time elsewhere, as long as it's _temporary_." He glances hopefully at Damien.
"I hope it will be very temporary," Damien nods quickly. "We'll get her off Luna as soon as possible, which should be as soon as I've made just about two calls."
"Who are you calling? That sounds pretty unlikely." David is uncertain, and Carol nods and taps one metal hoof.
"Oskar Clavius. His wife lives on Luna. He wants her back. Maybe we'll kill two favors with one shuttle, or some other horrid cliche like that."
"What?" David begins to appear distrustful, and Samantha moves a little closer to him.
"Look, just take Samantha and find someplace safe to wait until tomorrow. I promise you, I know what I'm doing. Christina wouldn't let Samantha be hurt, not knowing what she knows about her own son. It might be the only push she needs to take a private flight off Luna, and Samantha could be on it. The D'Yangelos aren't likely to be questioned too deeply about Christina taking a trip. She'll just--" he shrugs-- "never return. And even if I _am_ wrong, and she _doesn't_ stay with Oskar, Samantha could stay."
"Who will stay with me?" Samantha has spent nearly her whole life alone, but never outside of a house full of guards.
"I will." David attempts to put a solid hand on my daughter's shoulder. He brushes the feathers of her wing backwards as he does so, and takes in a sharp breath, at the impossible feel of this person. Carol is aghast.
"David! You can't. You..."
"Damien. You are not helping. Think about it. David is Lunar, this is his _life_ here, you can't possibly expect--"
Damien stands by his statement. David bends down and his fingers crease the lion-fur of Samantha's back. She bows her head in a more worried posture than I have ever seen her hold... Except for when I told her about the operation.
"Carol. I want to go. I'm not staying here now that I've taken her away. She can't go back. I'm all she has."
"It was a damn foolish thing to do."
Samantha's face angles up towards Carol, and though the camera doesn't capture her expression, I can well see the doctor's reaction. I recall some of the sweet faces my little girl could pull when she wanted something, and I smile slightly at the frequent repercussions around our house of her charm, and her determination. With her charisma, she could have been as important in government as I have been, if she had been born a normal child.
Carol, still spluttering from the impact of her first sight of a mutated human, is nevertheless even further impacted by that face, and simply clamps her mouth shut in a moment's defeat. Damien takes that moment to begin his call.
"I'll get Oskar to work on Christina," he says over his shoulder. "He can handle her."
Dr. Serschel snorts, and, flicking her ash-blonde hair back over one ear, stalks off to the bedroom. "Get her out of here for now, David. And whatever Damien says, goes. I'll let you two nuts handle it from here."
"Nice to meet you, Doctor," Samantha pipes up.
Carol swishes her steel tail and disappears. David seems to want to grin and weep at the same time.
"Anything I can get you?" Damien, holding a conversation, interrupts it to offer hospitality.
"No, we'd better go hide out and try to communicate again later," David replies. "As long as it's only for the night, I know a place where we can go."
"Come back as soon as you have to. If this doesn't work, we'll think of _something_."
David nods, and motions Samantha back under her cloak and towards the door. "When she's speaking to you again, thank her for me?"
Damien grins. "Of course."
"Does she hate me?" Samantha, pulling the cloak into better position with her foreclaws, sounds not so much worried as curious.
David shakes his head. "No. Carol doesn't hate you. She's just upset with me."
"But I could get her in danger. It's true."
"It's not that. It's that you're real at all. It bothers her."
Samantha mulls that one over on the way to the door. "Is she jealous? I don't want to be any trouble."
"You're not trouble!" Damien calls boldly, cameras and all, right on Luna, "It's the Lunar government that's trouble. No personal offense to your father, of course."
How was I to know that some Earth native had moved to Luna, gained a place, _stayed_ here and yet never intended it as a disproving of his home planet? Why would he do it? Not that it matters now... I have hope that Samantha did safely reach Earth, and although Heaven only knows what has happened to her there, she had a fairly capable companion... I am not sure entirely what to make of David Stephenapolous. He strikes me as being somewhat obsessive, and dangerously uncautious.
Of course, I remind myself wryly, there were times I had been so identified, and I always discounted them...
I wonder where they went for the intervening hours, before the shuttle escape was planned and one of the most well-known high-society women on Luna left her home with my daughter in attendance. The computer, seeking out further images of David in chronological order, eventually untangles a portion of its web and serves up more information.
Samantha's wings are framing the first image of David in this new set, as he makes some detail checks of a lock that he is, I presume, about to undo. He would have already disabled the building's regular security cameras, but one of the Senate pieces escaped his detection. I think I recognize the place, and am certain there are several government cameras inside, too. Perhaps, if he were more aware of our policies, he would be more nervous. Then again, Mr. Stephenapolous seems pleasantly distracted by the amazing company he is keeping.
Samantha's wing colors came in extraordinarily bright. I have never seen a bird with such color combinations in all the exotics collections on Luna, and I admit a grudging, yet faintly admiring participation in the sessions Mariam had with Samantha where they giggled over the new feathers as they emerged from their casings on our toddler's strange appendages.
Samantha could fly. She used to leap from the couch and glide into other rooms, from the time she was about five, I believe, until the time she was about... ten or twelve, I don't recall. And then she got too big. She fretted, she wanted to get out, she wanted to go someplace, anyplace, Daddy, where she would have room to use her wings.
I wouldn't speak to her about it too much; somehow she could never absorb the fact that her wings were a part of her deformity, and that not flying was in fact an improvement rather than a loss.
Samantha rarely cried, and I do not think she cried about the loss of flight. She wept long hours after her mother's death, but again I could not speak too much with her about it.
I remember Mariam playing quiet games with Samantha such as finding flowers or ornaments or other colorful items in the room or on the viewer, and seeing if the same hues might be someplace amongst Samantha's feathers. They always were.
Samantha watches David's concentration and efforts, and stays perfectly still. Then, as the man shifts to release some of the tension in his shoulder, she whispers, "Can we talk here?"
David glances at the night-lit hallway. "Sure. No one should be around. I'll have us in in a jiff. I've done this before."
"Where are we going?"
"How did you... Lose your arm?"
"Oh. Er, I hacked into a certain, um, extremist group's files. I thought I'd covered my tracks."
"Not well enough."
"They-- cut off your arm?"
Samantha shudders. "Did you make the new one yourself?"
"Do you like it?"
"It's useful. I rigged it with all sorts of nifty stuff. Helps me detect alarms and that sort of thing, which makes for ease of slightly illegal pastimes such as this one."
David looks up from his task, grey eyes almost wounded in his confusion. "I have done nothing for you Samantha, nothing. If anything I've--"
"No, you have. Thank you."
"Do I hurt you?"
"No! Good God no."
"David, you look hurt."
"I-- if I am, I am, but not by you. I just. Samantha, you're just--"
"I know. I'm not supposed to be."
"But you _are_." David has to prove this again by laying a hand upon her.
"I know." Samantha smiles impishly.
"Can you get us into this place?"
"Oh definitely. Hold on just a sec."
With a series of docile clicks, the lock comes undone under David's quick maneuvering, and the door slides open. "Here we are. Baseball diamond. There are other places, too. With the alarm system diverted, we could go just about anywhere here until the employees show up. But I sure hope Damien is ready for us by then, because we need to disappear fast."
He will be, Mr. Stephenapolous. And you shall disappear like one dark and one colorful cloud of vapor off this moon. Heavens, it's strange watching it like this...
Samantha follows David into the domed stadium. Thousands of Lunar children grow up visiting such places regularly. Samantha has never seen one. She may have caught a game on the viewer, in passing, but she rarely watched them even there. Now, as the computer system helpfully switches to another vid-capture set to keep David's face in sight, Samantha raises her head and gazes in awe at the sheer height of the dome.
"There's so much... _Room_..."
"Want to do something? Find some equipment? Break into the concessions?"
"I'll be hungry later." Samantha waves a paw.
"How do you-- um, I mean, I--"
"You can ask, go ahead."
"How do you-- use your hands?"
"I don't understand."
"I mean your paws, your hands, you don't have any... thumbs, or fingers."
"Oh," Samantha smiles brightly. "I slide the handles of cups or spoons or brushes up alongside the paw until it's held by my dewclaw here, see?"
"You're kidding. I mean--"
"Oh no, it's easy."
Samantha grins, and lopes off a few steps towards the middle of the diamond.
David trails after her, gazing at the sky himself through the dome but always with one half-protective and worried, half-admiring and pleased, eye on Samantha.
"I want to try to fly."
Can she? My fingers shake on the console, and I steady them. Surely not, surely not. Not since her childhood. But God, what if she can? What difference does it make? Why does it frighten me?
"Can you-- do that?" David goes nearly pale. "Can you really _fly_?"
"Oh sure, I used to as a kid all the time. But then after awhile I got too big and I had to stop. Watch, I'll do it for you."
"I can't believe this."
"I hope I'm still able."
David stands where Samantha places him, aways out in the field near one of the walls. Samantha trots out to the stands, and disappears behind the wall somewhere in the seats. After a moment, she reappears, climbing the steps to a spot higher up in the seating area. She turns, eyeing the distance to the wall and to the man nearby, and hitches her hind legs up onto a seat. Her front paws she curves over the back of the seat in front of her.
"I flapped my wings a lot in my room to keep in practice, just in case," she calls out. "I just hope I can still control my direction."
David's jaw is slack with dumbfoundment, again. The camera has a good angle on him.
Samantha takes off. The sound of her wings working the air reaches my ears through the monitor and it seems impossible that this is in the past. She smiles as if it is no effort at all, spreading the air beneath her once she has control, carrying herself over the wall and down some yards in front of David. She seems to have wanted to make it a longer flight, but she beams and gives her head a shake to shift a lock of hair that has passed over her eyes.
David stares. While he still fights to regain his voice, Samantha announces, "I'm going to try it again. Watch me, David."
Watch me, Dad! Watch! I can make it into my room from the couch in the living room. Want to see? Dad!!
Flying practice goes on until Samantha decides that she is hungry, and shyly reminds David that he had mentioned concessions.
"That was," David chokes out, "wonderful. That was just wonderful."
"Thank you!" Samantha has always been graceful about accepting compliments.
Mariam used to be the one to give them out. I didn't want to confuse the child with mixed messages about her condition.
David and Samantha eat ballpark junk food. Samantha is giggling. David has a goofy, admiration-struck expression on his shadowed face and I don't know whether to chuckle or be disgusted at the image.
Mariam. God _damn_ it Mariam. They could have gotten to me, but they didn't want the money or the prestige. If they had, they would have sold their information, whatever it was and wherever they got it. No, they were anti-mutant, and they somehow got wind of our living with one.
They couldn't get to _her_. The house was too well-guarded, for obvious reasons. They could have taken me, but they must have placed the blame on me and decided to teach me a lesson.
They smeared her all over the cab rails on one of her shopping trips. It looked like an accident. Horribly bad luck that not enough brain tissue was found for regeneration.
No, I know damn fucking well that-- _damn_ them, they have me coming and going. I shouldn't have let her keep the child in the first place. I shouldn't have kept Samantha. If I requested a murder investigation, there would have to be a motive. And there was only one.
I hired a detective, but he, too, was killed. I do not know whether it was related to my case or not. It was all too close to the surface by then for any more action to be taken; I had to behave as though I was letting it go.
I don't know whether Samantha suspected the truth. I never gave a whole lot of thought to her intelligence. It just didn't matter. Mariam was gone and _yes_, it was very odd that a good portion of her body was never found, but perhaps the cleaning mechanisms on the cab had managed to eradicate the evidence, and of course it was a robotic driver with a slight malfunction so no investigation was ever held into an actual person. They destroyed the cab's systems. That's all. For the death of my wife.
Samantha and David enter a blue-tiled room with potted palms and a slight condensation over the lenses of the Senate-placed cameras. I can see the pool, and Samantha wiping her face delicately with one paw, and David peering around warily as though he knows there must be more cameras but can't figure out why his detections would have failed.
In the foggy vision I have through my monitor's best efforts, Samantha's wings seem more brilliant and large than ever, her fur more golden, her hair a manufactured black.
David finds her stunning, and by now finds voice enough to unabashedly tell her so. She blushes, but smiles in complete confidence in the sole company of this stranger, this scientist, this _man_ who has taken her... Well, taken her precisely where she wants to go...
"Teach me how to swim," she commands pleasantly.
"You don't want to swim?"
"Ah... Sure." David rubs his jaw. He buys time with, "We'd better rest awhile before we go in."
They find chairs to lounge in, and I sit back in my own chair and try to make the surreal events before my eyes fit all that has crossed my mind since my daughter went missing. If I had been able to call upon my colleagues' aid for the sake of finding, and punishing, David Stephenapolous for the kidnapping of my daughter, I would have had to admit the existence of a daughter and then... I find myself vastly relieved that the lies have not killed Samantha. Mariam is gone, and in light of recent events I know that I must either make an escape I never in my life pondered making or leave myself open to legal treatment that I myself have always advocated.
I suppose there is some irony, maybe some humor, to the fact that those who most vehemently protest reality may be faced with its most vicious and improbable twists. On the other hand, I am only seeing it from one side. Most of the Lunar Senate has never been touched by these events. Or have they? How many of us are deceiving the others?
Samantha lounges as she used to on the couch, Greyhound and lioness limbs spread luxuriously as though defining beauty. It used to remind me, and still does, of ancient prints and works portraying Egyptian queens. I tried to focus on her face, but when I could not, the whole of her became someone else, an illustration, an historical oddity, not my daughter. And when she was not my daughter, and I dared to look at her entire being, there was almost a voice in my mind that said "beautiful." But I would quash it, and return to the truth; this child had my cheekbones, and her mother's very light tan-olive complexion, and was nobody's relative from the shoulders on down. I never realized that she would then have to define herself as her _own_ person, in her own mind, apart from the family, apart even from the Lunar assertion that she did not exist. It just didn't follow. I didn't know she _thought_ about it.
Eventually, of course, my daughter coaxes David into teaching her how to swim. This leaves the man somewhat reluctant and embarrassed, and he tries to explain that he does not want _her_ to be insulted by seeing a man whom she just met essentially stripped, wet, and with his hands on her, but he has not yet absorbed the fact that Samantha not only has no shame, but trusts him utterly.
David, simultaneously pale with nervousness and blushing profusely in the hollows of his cheeks, gets into the water as quickly as possible. "Okay, um, Samantha, come on in."
"Is it deep?"
"Hop in and-- put your paws on my shoulders. You'll be fine like that."
Samantha lands somewhat off-center, and gets pool water in her mouth, but David swiftly grabs her by the front leg pits and hoists her paws to his shoulders. "Okay? You all right, there?"
"Oh yes." Samantha nods and sniffs a few drops of water from her nose. "What now?"
David looks her over. Her wingtips are already growing sodden and dark, which will certainly affect her balance, but he makes up his mind and tells her to let her back limbs float upwards while he pulls gently from the front, encouraging her to kick while he supports her front paws at full length. She eagerly does so, and is soon amazed at the feel of the water and her power to move in it.
"I want to try it myself!"
"Well, okay." David backs off and stands, self-conscious, as near as he needs to in order to save Samantha should she get in trouble. Experimentally, she paddles, and falls forward. David rescues her. She laughs at herself, and tries again, this time correcting for top-heavyness.
Samantha tries using her wings for extra power in the water, but finds them a hindrance there, and instead settles for a conventional paddling back and forth across the shallow end as David offers compliments and shy tips. He hesitates every time he lays hands on her, but Samantha shows not the slightest distaste nor embarrassment. Of course, she has gone her whole life without clothes. It is David who is in a new world, not Samantha. The few individuals who have experienced her presence on Luna have revolved around her for the time spent near her.
I expect myself to begin feeling possessive, distrustful, yet even as I attempt to dig into my wearied brain for any such feelings I know they aren't coming. There are twinges, but not of protectiveness for the daughter David has taken without my permission. I wonder...
Samantha begins panting from the new and difficult exercise, and puts her back feet down on the tiled bottom of the pool. One paw she reaches out to David, expecting support, but he suddenly grins and sweeps his metal arm sideways, half into the crystalline surface, drenching Samantha's hair and horns and laughing.
"You!" She shrieks, but loses her balance and has to paddle to come upright; David does not expect what I, knowing Samantha, know will happen, and indeed she jumps far enough out of the water to balance and sweep a wall of water at him with her own broad paw. Then, laughing with more energy than I have seen her use at home in years, she hops on her small feet over to David and leans a paw on him, using the other to repeatedly splash his face.
At first, David laughs, and shields himself. Then, he falls silent. He submits, just staring at her. When she stops, worried that she has done something wrong, he speaks. "I... I guess maybe I'll get out of the water."
"Oh, okay... If you want to."
David nods, and puts her paw down gently from his shoulder, and makes his way to the edge where he grabs a white recreation-center towel and wraps himself before he thinks she might be looking.
Samantha practices swimming by herself for a bit, thoughtful in part because of the action and in part, I think, because of David's apparent confusion.
Good Heavens, I think. I stare at the image of my daughter, swimming, and I realize something. It should scare me, but it does not. She's confused at his confusion which means... she has none. She knows... precisely what it is she feels about him. Just like that.
My God, she is a woman. He would be feeling the same, if she appeared so. But he... He can't believe that anyone who... Who matched his own... Desires would be so easy to see, to touch, to... Good God, she's his ideal. And I thought I was a good judge of expression, of character.
No more, Senator. No more. Politics are done with for you and no Lunar citizen with any respect for his or her government would come within fifty feet of you without a permit to take you to the euthanasia specialists... Or to the care center.
I would rather die. But they won't do it, I realize. They won't kill me. I should be seeing these things sooner, but I'm not. I'm too caught up in wishing... No, they won't kill me. It's make good my escape or... imprisonment. For me, a Senator. Killing me would be very bad political form, depending on how many people know about my capture.
I shudder at the thought of a white room and nurses and all manner of mutated people, and no legal recourse. I won't go there.
Samantha seems chilled herself, in this impossible recording, which seems so much like it should be going on right now. She ceases her practice and hauls herself out of the water, shaking vigorously as she always did after showers and laughing as David dramatically wipes away rivulets from his creased face.
"David, I think I'm done swimming now."
"You did an excellent job."
"Really? Thank you!" My daughter beams, and steps close to the man. "David?"
"Yah." David is nervous again. She's too close, too perfect. That's my daughter, I want to say. You can't do better anywhere on Luna, Mr. Stephenapolous.
Samantha sits down very near David's toweled hip, oblivious of his fear. "We are going to Earth."
"I don't know anything about it."
"Damien... told me some."
"Is he from there?"
Again a nod. "Sometimes he's said... I might belong there."
"Do _you_ think you belong there?"
David grins crookedly. "I guess we'll find out, huh?"
Samantha chuckles, then sobers. "David. What if you don't?"
"You'll be there."
"But what about you? Won't you be homesick?"
My daughter shakes her head. "No."
David sighs. "Then I won't, either."
"Why did Damien move here?"
"He was sick. Carol cured him."
"And why doesn't he go back? Bad memories of Earth?"
"No." David shakes his head, and almost reflexively lifts a wet strand of hair away from my daughter's eyebrow. "As long as Carol's here, he's staying, too."
"Oh, how lovely," she breathes. "That's wonderful."
"I guess," David seems at a loss. I watch with a growing sense of detachment. Now, yes, now this is in the past. Samantha has departed.
"What's wrong, David?"
"Nothing! Nothing, I just..."
He just wants to touch you again, Samantha, and the idiot won't do it. But I know he has. See, here he will and--
No, I did not expect her to lean into him first, but I guess it really doesn't make any difference. By the time his arm is around her and her paws over his chest, it doesn't matter which of the two began it. They sit like that for a long time, very still, wholly silent. David closes his eyes.
I never did that, I think. Never closed my eyes and sat with Samantha.
I turn away from the monitor. Anyone could find these pictures, if they wanted to. That is, if they knew to use David as a start and let the computer find my nonexistent daughter. For a moment, I am tempted to leave it running, let the next one into my study find the evidence, for David and Samantha are already gone.
Then I remember Damien, and Carol, and the woman who returned to Earth, and I know I can't allow anyone else to be blamed for this. Beings like Samantha can't be allowed to throw a gear in the Lunar works, either. I have enough loyalty to my colleagues and the good of the people not to let _that_ happen. And, I think, I might just have enough loyalty to my daughter not to implicate her friends in this, either. She didn't ask to be born that way.
If she had... What if she had? Asked to be born that way. I wanted to build her a new body, for her own sake as a member of this society. Yet she never was its member, and never would be without the body she had come to know. Now, Luna has lost her for good. I wonder what she is doing on Earth.
I never realized how much attention she paid to that body of hers. I spent a good deal of my time ignoring it.
I turn on a light over the decorative mirror and steel myself for the still-unfamiliar visage that inevitably greets me, since that one mind-numbing day over a week ago.
One side of my face remains the same as always, I would like to think, although I know my expression will never be the same again even in the eye I knew. On the other half, my skin is twisted and crevassed and whitish-blue with shadows in the crags, and my black hair is pushed up on that side with ridges of bone and skin. A horn, curled and quite solid, juts up and forward from the deformed side.
I didn't just wake up like this, but the whole thing felt like a dream. I was awake in my bed, but the dizzying effects of the shift and the wrenching and the impossibility of it made it seem like I could not be awake and experiencing.
I almost called for help. Then, something made me look in the mirror first.
I felt the protrusions. They are real.
I audio-only called my secretary, not unusual for me, and made known that I will not be available.
Now, I will reorganize and empower the cameras in my dwelling. No more falsified records. Hopefully, by the time they are here to take action against the mutated Senator, I shall be gone.
Samantha went to Earth. If they have records there, I can find David. She will be living under his name, I am quite certain.
They will know me by the original half of my face. The other half... May accord me some time on their part so they will listen to me; I only want to see my daughter again.
I do not yet know whether I will be... apologizing. I am not certain whether there is anything to apologize for.
If anything other than the Fissure could be blamed for my disfigurement, and for Samantha's body, even for the situation of governments here and on Earth, would I do it? Would I seek someone to blame?
We on Luna have upheld the reactions of our original government to the opening of the Fissure. I have upheld them for the sake of society, and found them to be key to the workings of this moon, even seen the folly of going against them.
There are those on this very world who would disagree with me, who have done so in sight of our cameras and continue to do so.
There are those who have gone.
Wherever David is, I cannot help feeling that he did indeed gain the most beautiful woman on Luna, and I let her go without so much as a "yes, you may."
I turn out the light, obscuring myself once more.
Strange that with Samantha's lead I have some idea as to who on this world might be willing to help me get to Earth. The underground comes closer to the surface than we often think.
Time has passed in the recording, but in the condensation-dimmed vision of the pool camera little has changed. Except for a shift of a leg or a wing at intervals, the pair on the deck do not move. I recall Mariam, laughing as Samantha shook shower-water all over her and defied blow dryer or towel, running with gasping excitement to the bedroom and hiding amongst her toys, Mariam following in equal enthusiasm, digging our daughter out of the pile of soft animals and mock-scolding her and embracing her at the same time.
I recall Samantha drying off slowly in her mother's arms, and how she twitched gently in her sleep when I stole a touch on the side of her face. Is she really that small?
I lean in close to the screen and brush Samantha's face with my finger. The slight fog of the picture does not clear as my finger passes, for of course my monitor is far removed from the camera lens. Yet it feels, achingly so, as though I should be able to change something about the image on the screen.
I can turn it off, I realize. I will do so soon, and in all likelihood it will never be viewed again.
Samantha is no child, cannot be when leaning so on David with their arms in matched curves around each other. Congratulations, Mr. Stephenapolous. You are the first person to hug my daughter since Mariam was killed.
Something about it is taunting, like the tightness in my throat and the pressure on my face, both sides of my face, not merely the mutated one. The dark in the room presses on me. My house is silent; no one will be arriving until the officials try to come for me. I sent everyone away.
As I watch, somehow uncertain, standing near my desk and trying to make real my decision to leave, a clear bead of water condenses out of the myriad over the lens. Heavy, it falls, cutting a clean strip on the glass behind it. It is then that I can watch no longer. With a click and a soft buzz, the computer monitor submits to darkness, but even as swiftly as I move I cannot avoid a peripheral glimpse of David and Samantha in clear outline, holding each other perfectly still.
I cover my eyes, turn my back and walk out of the room.