When Silver Hawk’s daughter was born forty weeks to the day after Paradox Maverick died, we tried not to hope.
People come back. We’d always known that, or at least we’d always heard it. There were whispers, rumours. Hints in the old books, if it was RitualView who was doing the reading, RitualView who could really read those things.
(Not like me. Me, I hit things.)
And Paradox’s death had already been littered with strangeness. First the death itself – not a clean death, not a fall the way Game Alpha had gone down, or Detonator Two, but a sparklie death, of all things, falling into a quadrillion tiny shards of silver.
We’d swept her up and waited, but there was no mind there, no soul, as far as we could tell. So we mourned her, buried her, and tried to move on.
But the first day of the funeral, and every day for three weeks, a casserole showed up at our doorstep. Mac and cheese. I never knew there were that many kinds of mac and cheese. At the door to our lair, mind you. No attacks. No poison, just a casserole full of tasty goodness when none of us felt like making food.
And the weirder stuff. The paper that printed the obit burned down. Little silver trinkets kept showing up all over town. We got e-mails from nobody, e-mails that sounded like they had to be from Paradox.
CanoJade locked himself in his room and wouldn’t come out for three weeks. RitualView locked herself in the library. And then we found out Silver Hawk was pregnant.
Not mine. Not Cano’s. Not Barrage Scorpion’s. As far as Hawk was telling, the baby wasn’t anyone but hers. Her right, of course. But it made it all a bit more mysterious. And we were sort of up to our eyeballs in mystery.
When Marciana was born, we tried to put all that behind us. Of course, we were also looking at the calender, and back at Marce, and back at the calendar. Thinking about Paradox. Thinking about the stories of those who came back.
It was hard not to look at this tiny thing, small enough for me to hold her in my hands, and not look for signs of Paradox Maverick. It was hard not to think every time she smiled, “Pari had dimples like that. She hated them.” It was hard not to hope.
It didn’t get any easier as she got older. Everything she said, everything she did. Her first words – “get ‘em,” practically Pardox’s catchphrase. Her first steps. And her first birthday.
On her birthday, we ate mac and cheese. On that first birthday, and then on every birthday. It was easier to celebrate that than it was to celebrate Paradox’s death – but doing it that way just made it easier to forget Paradox was really gone, and easier to think of Marciana as a returned Paradox.
Returned paradox. That should have told us what we needed to know. Peri had never been predictable. She’d never been regulatable. She’d never been within normal parameters.
But we were blinded by hope and by love, and we held Marciana close to us, hoping to see our Maverick in her features, or hear her in the girl’s voice. We kept looking, kept holding on (and kept eating mac and cheese), year after year, birthday after birthday. Even when Marciana began to get angry with it, began to mold herself into an agent of the most regimented order in rebellion. Even when we should have known better. Even when it was too late.
If we hadn’t been so focused on Marciana, if we hadn’t been blind to any other possibilities, we might have remembered that our side wasn’t the only one to suffer losses in that fight. And we might have remembered, too, that our side wasn’t the only one to bench a warrior to maternity leave nine months later.
Our Paradox Maverick came back to us, all right. If only we’d been thinking about exactly how she’d do so.
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