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         Deanna stared, confused, and slightly ashamed that she forgot Alexis had been there from the beginning. "What...just happened?"


         Lana didn't hear her. Her eyes were still frozen onto Amanda Riker's face.


         Amanda started back confused. "What?"


         Lana turned to Deanna, still not listening to the others. "You're....she...." The shock of discovery finally began to fade, as everything began to soak in. "Deanna, she looks just like you!"


         To Deanna, the comment seemed utterly pointless under the circumstances. "Maybe a lifetime ago," she said, shaking her head in confusion. This whole situation was just too much, it seemed to her that nothing made any sense at all anymore. She had to get out of that building, NOW. "I'm going after her, she could get hurt running off in that state of mind."


         ~A lifetime ago~ The alarm in Mandy's head finally reached its ultimate level, and the last piece of the puzzle slipped into place. "Mom wait!"


         Deanna stopped, her overworked and tortured mind draining by the minute. "What is it, Amanda?" Her voice was distracted, even worries about her friend and college were being drowned out by the pain of the last several days.


         Carefully, Amanda suggested, "Umm....I think it would be a better idea to let Dad go after her." She knew enough to ease her mother into the truth, it wouldn't help to shock her, and sending her mother out there probably do Alexis ~not Alexis~ much good either. "I mean, he could probably get to her faster, and I really think you should stay here, get the rest of the story."


         Deanna wanted desperately to get out of there, but Amanda's words reminded her that she did indeed have a commitment to both of her daughters, regardless of the outcome, to learn the truth. "Will?" she asked, relenting to her heart.


         Will hesitated. "I don't like leaving you like this..." She managed a weak smile at his words, and the concern in his eyes.


         "Go, please." The determination returned to her voice as she added, "I have to finish this myself."


         Will nodded slowly, then left, hoping that the young woman had enough sense not to attempt to drive her own transport.


*  *  *


         Amanda had no idea what to do or say next. She was almost sure that if this had been anyone else's situation, her mother would have figured it all out long before she herself had, but Deanna was so close to this, she hadn't even realized. "Mom..."


         Lana cut in, silencing Amanda with a quick glance. If there was one thing she was sure of, it was that she wasn't going sit back an and watch this mess tear another person apart. "You asked what happened? I can tell you, but be sure that you want to know."


         Deanna sank into her chair, feeling as if the whole of her life rested on this moment. "I want to that's not true. No mother, wants to hear any of this. The problem is, I have to know. She's my child, I owe her that much."


         Lana didn't know whether to view Deanna's attitude as noble, or crazy. Either way, she found herself both admiring and envying this woman. She sighed, and sat down across from her. Mandy stood motionless behind them, waiting for the moment that the world would stop.


         "They, Jackie's little gang, spent the first 15 years on my life teaching me to hurt people, just like they did to all of the "kids" that were supposed to be being "helped". When I got older, I started to figure it all out. And all I wanted was out. I tried to leave once, and when I was caught, I was informed, in not so many words, that I would not be permitted to do it again, unless, of course, I could find a replacement. So, I did."


         "Why my daughter? Why Axie?" Deanna was caught between a mother's pain, and a woman's sympathy.


         Lana looked her straight in the eye, this was it. "I needed a telepath who could at least pass for human. The idea was to get her to trust me, teach her my job, and split. Only, I got as far as step 3, and couldn't do it. I stayed, dedicating myself to getting the others out, and making sure they didn't turn her into the monster they turned me into. Good kid, ya know?"


         Deanna heard most of the comment without ever really registering it. Instead, the first few words reverberated through her mind, over and over. "A telepath? But Axie never would have qualified....and Alexis seemed sure that she was the only one who...."


         Lana shook her head. "She was young, and the ability was there. You, of all people should know that you can train it into someone, given the right circumstances and a little latent ability. You told me that yourself."


         "But, Alexis said she was the only --" Deanna repeated in protest, her mind refusing to accept what her heart somehow already knew.


         Amanda saw her cue, and took it. "She was Mom." She walked over to the front of her mother's chair, kneeling down before her. "Mom, it's her."


         Deanna shook head violently. "N--No, no...I would have known....I would have, I know it! We--I knew her six years, SIX YEARS! I would have sensed it...wouldn't I?"


         Lana shook her head. "Not after what I was able to do with both your memories, I'm afraid, at least not until some bazarre set of circumstances apparently set off the real thing."


         Deanna still shook her head in disbelief, but more slowly know, her resistance starting to dissolve under the pressure of the certainty of truth. "No...." she whispered.


         Amanda took her mother's hands, trying to convey enough sincerity and desperation to force the frightened woman to look at her daughter. "Mom, think. She goes to the house, gets all nervous, then says she hears voices from a room that hasn't been used in years. HER room. Then she sees me, and gets so scared she runs, twice. Mom don't you get it? You said yourself that I look like you did then, right? Don't you see, she was looking at me, but she saw YOU."


         Deanna's had flew to her mouth, her dark, horrified eyes darting from one to the other before a small cry escaped from somewhere in her very soul.