She woke the next morning confused and disoriented. She sat up in the pod, staring around, trying to figure out where she was, when the memories of the night before came flooding back. Before she could start crying again, an automated voice came from the tinny speakers inside the pod; telling her that checkout was in 30 minutes, or she could slot her credstick to reserve the pod for an additional night. Deciding she was too shaken and exhausted to leave yet, she dug the credstick out of her pocket and clicked it into the slot next to the screen on the wall. The tinny voice came back, thanking her for her payment and wishing her a nice day.
“Yeah, right,” she replied to the voice, “nice day my hoop.” Removing her credstick, she fiddled with buttons on the tiny screen until she managed to turn on the trid player. She browsed halfheartedly; finally settling on old re-runs of Niel the Ork Barbarian, she turned the volume down and looked around the pod, attempting to asses her seriously fragged situation.
Her eyes settled on the pouch her mother had given her, and she picked it up, thinking she would eat some of the food her mother had packed while she tried to figure out what to do next. Tears sprang to her eyes when she pulled out the sandwiches her mother had packed. She had made synth-ham and soy-cheese, Katjia’s favorite; she had even cut them in half on the diagonal, just the way Katjia used to ask her to do when she was little. She sighed heavily, and unwrapped a sandwich. Biting into it was like being 5 years old again…No time for that now, she had to focus!
Setting aside the sandwiches and a few snack bars, Katjia was surprised to find a small book. A real, honest-to-Ghost paper book, she didn’t even know they made them this small! She pulled it out and looked at the cover, A Beginner’s Guide to Magic. Katjia didn’t know if she should laugh or cry at her mother’s decision to kick her out of the house for having powers, yet giving her a fragging how-to guide on the very drek she was so afraid of! She opened the cover and saw a note written inside.
Katjia, my darling, I am so very sorry to have to do this to you, but I have no other choice. The people that took your father are still out there, watching us. If they knew you had powers, they would have no qualms about killing me and your sister to send a message. You’re dangerous to them now, and that makes you a danger to Sera and me as well.
This book belonged to your father. It was the first one in his collection, and was one of his favorites. Maybe it can be of some help to you.
Katjia, I must tell you a secret I have long kept hidden. My brother, your uncle Sterling, is a mage too. I haven’t talked to him since your father and I moved back to Seattle from Oslo. As the wife of an anti-magic researcher at MCT, I couldn’t risk anyone finding out my brother had powers. He respected my wishes, and even changed his name and got a new SIN so that no one could trace him to me or your father.. I’ve included the last address and comm-code I had for him. He’s part of some sort of magic collective in Ontario; he and his people may be able to help you.
I would understand if you hate me for this, darling. But I hope one day you will understand why it had to be this way.
Stay safe my little Kit-Kat. I love you to the moon and back.
Tucked in the letter was a small card. On one side was the poem her mother used to say to Katjia and her sister every night when she tucked them in bed I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be. The tears she had been holding back spilled out as Katjia read the poem again. She could hear her mother’s voice saying the words and the realization that she would probably never hear it again wracked her body with sobs.
Eyes swollen from crying and head pounding, she woke up an hour later. She crawled out of the pod and made her way to the bathroom. As she stepped out of the stall, she caught her reflection in the mirror and was startled at what a mess she was. Hair matted, eyes red and puffy, face streaked with tears; she looked like some sort of critter out of one of the monster stories Sera loved so much. She stepped to the sink and washed her face, the cool water a welcome relief from too many hot tears. She tried to straighten out her hair before realizing she’d need more than just her hands to tame the wild mop. She padded back to the pod on bare feet and climbed in to look for a brush.
As she crawled into the pod, her hand brushed the card bearing the poem. She picked it up, wondering where on earth her mother had found an actual paper card with a poem printed on it; didn’t those things fall out of production once everything was on the Matrix? She turned it over and noticed an address and comm-code on the back. It was written in her mother’s careful style, and had the name ‘Sterling’ at the top. This must be that mysterious uncle, she thought. She set the card on the tiny ledge above her head and tucked the letter back into the pouch. She felt something inside, and pulled it out.
Oh right, the credstick. She remembered her mother saying something about her father’s life insurance policy amidst the chaos of the night before. She slotted the credstick into her commlink and ran a balance check while she looked for a hair brush. Her commlink beeped as she realized she must have forgotten to pack a hairbrush amidst the pile of drek she’d stuffed into the suitcase. She turned to her commlink and barely stifled a scream. She looked at the number blinking on the screen,
Just what in the hell kind of a life insurance policy did her father have?! Holy fragging drek; was this the consolation prize for puberty turning you into a mage and getting you kicked out on your ass? She shook her head and ran the check again; unwilling or unable to believe her mother had given her that much money. The ‘link chimed again, letting her know the balance was correct; she was holding a credstick worth 450,000 nuyen.
Well, she thought to herself, I guess I can afford to go buy a hairbrush now, huh?