"Mandy, what are you talking about? Who else is there, don't be ridiculous!"
She wasn't quite sure what reaction she had expected her mother to have when she saw the chest, fear, anger, resentment, guilt even. Outright honest confusion she wasn't ready for. "You mean you don't know? That's impossible....you have to! How could you not...." tears threatened. She was scared. Something was very wrong here. She steeped over to the table that now held the next piece of what was turning into a complex and frightening puzzle and lifted the lid. "Look."
Deanna joined her at the table, Will right behind her. She was concerned by the sudden shift in her daughter emotions, and wanted desperately to now what could cause such a reaction. She peered at the contents, of the chest briefly. It seemed not out of the out of the ordinary for the contents of the memory chest she had created for her daughter. Nothing out of place, at least not at first glance. She looked at Amanda, puzzled. "It looks just like what is in yours, sweetie. What has you so upset?"
Amanda looked at her mother with hollow eyes. Her voice was a horse whisper, choked with tears. "It is just like mine. But mine is in my room. Look, the stuff isn't mine."
"That's impossible." Will was getting angry. Life wasn't supposed to be like this anymore. He had left his taste for the unexplained on the Enterprise. He left the room, heading up the stairs to Amanda's room, trying to figure out what his daughter was up to. "Neither of you touch anything."
He entered the room, still scattered from Mandy's "scavenger hunt" earlier that afternoon. His eyes did a quick survey of the room, coming to rest on the item he was hoping not to find. ~ Damn! Now what? ~ He couldn't bear the thought of what this....whatever it was....was going to do to Deanna.
Deanna watched him descend the stairs. She didn't have to ask, the answer to her heart's question flashed from his mind to hers in a second. ~ It's there. ~ Without missing a beat, she reached in and picked up the first item, ignoring Will's pleas for her to stop.
The tiny sleeper looked almost too small to be real. She ran hands over the lacy little collar. She felt like she had been struck in the chest...she couldn't breathe. It was real, so real. She set it reverently out on the table, and picked up the next item. She saw and heard nothing else. A well worn bear......drawings that were undefinable by the human eyes, yet clearly labeled (in her handwriting?)....a lock of hair, shades lighter than Amanda's.....and then came the pictures.
Pictures with her own trademark captions, they said things like "But I look so *cute* in your shoes, Mommy!" and, "If I ever learn to swim without these things, can't I please be a real live Mermaid, PLEASE?" The phrases of innocence, of childhood. A childhood she couldn't remember. Her daughter's childhood.
The edge in Will's voice brought her around to look at him with anguished eyes. "I know what your thinking. I don't remember. I can't tell you how, or why, or what happened. But I KNOW it's real....I can feel it. Oh god, why don't I remember?"
Will could only hold her, and wonder what would come next. Was she really....
Suddenly Deanna looked up, furry replacing her heartbreak. "Will Riker, how can you even question this?"
Amanda stepped in, her confusion clearing slightly at the fact that at least part of her assumption was correct. She had a sister....somewhere. "Have you looked at the rest of the pictures, Mom? Her name is on this one."
Deanna took the picture from her, her hand shaking. Who could have taken the picture, she had no idea. The little girl stood with a very young Deanna behind her. The girl held up a bright pink backpack, here name spelled out in letter blocks across the front: Alexandra. She flipped the picture over. It read "'Who needs a nametag with a book bag as pretty as mine?' Axie's first day of Kindergarten." It was dated in earth standard, August 28, 2359. She handed the picture to Will.
"My god," he breathed. "How?"
Deanna buried her face in his chest. "I wish I knew, Will. I wish I knew."
* * *
Across town, Alexis Black sat staring at her comm unit, a wide range of emotions swirling in her mind. The Headline on the newscom bulletin read "Jackie Wilder caught, decades after her supposed death."
Her first reaction was one of relief, the feeling that the long nightmare was finally over, she could rest. Then she stopped. ~ Death? What the HELL???? ~
Alexis sat back, and shut her eyes. Her voice was a furious and anguished whisper. "Alright, you sick, sadistic bitch. What have you done to me now?"