Sometimes, when Tamara closes her eyes, sitting in the shadows, she can feel her grandmother stroking her hair. Tsattie's fingertips that were rough and gnarled from work, hours upon hours of it. Good, strong, Tauron hands.
Sometimes, when she does, Tamara can hear her singing, soft and rhythmic, the old Tauron songs rising to the gods ever-listening.
When she does, she runs. The wind whips through her hair, bounces it against her back, thick and heavy like she's really there. Like the street and the concrete beneath her feet is real. It's almost as though she can forget. Almost. Almost as though she's real.
She's not; she's a copy. She runs, but she doesn't breathe. Doesn't get tired. Just runs, runs, and runs some more. She's code. She's lines of numbers that she can see with every blink of her eyes. Numbers that tease and taunt with every false breath. They're everywhere and in everything. New Cap City, V-World, it's all code. Numbers that are empty and cold
Zoe and her plans. The other Zoe's plans. Flesh and blood. "We're not even ghosts," Tamara says to the air. To Zoe. To Heracles. To her father, her uncle, her brother. "We're copies." She lays a hand on her chest, feeling the heart that isn't there, and lets it curl into a fist.
Her grandmother's song slips into her ears, a rising cadence of death and birth, Tauron tradition and Tamara looks up at the virtual sky, grey and moody like it can feel what she does. Feel the emptiness and the loss.
"You are really depressing, you know that?"
Tamara spins, turning from the sky to the woman behind her. Tall, beautiful, grinning from where she sits atop a dumpster. "I'm what?"
"You heard me." Crossing her legs, the woman picks at the silken white of her pants. She wrinkles her nose, looking at the fabric. "I never did like this." She winks, hopping down. Before her feet touch the ground she's changed. Clothed in old leathers, like the warriors from her Tsattie's stories, that cling to every curve and, somehow, masking them at the same time. "Now this a girl can get behind. The Taurons have always been my favorites. You guys know how to give a goddess back her dignity."
Tamara backs away. "You aren't her. Nothing―" Nothing in this place is real. Not even her. She tries to say it, but the words won't come.
She lays a hand on Tamara's shoulder, squeezing once. "Real is relative."
She smiles, nothing mocking and nothing fake. "And yes, I am."
Letting go, she looks at the sky. "For someone who claims not to feel, your pain screams very loudly. Loud enough to wake the dead."
"If you like. Mostly it was a turn of phrase. Conversation. A ghost and a goddess. We make quite the pair."
"You're not a goddess," Tamara says.
"True, Pythia would paint me a ghost. I guess that makes you the goddess, then."
"I'm not a goddess either," Tamara says, angry. "Don't say that. It's―"
"Blasphemy? From your perspective, I suppose it would be."
"But not yours?" Tamara mocks. "Right?"
"Right," there's no smile, no laugh, just a quiet agreement. "You're quite reverent for a girl your age. That's rare these days."
Gods-touched, her grandmother had called her. She's Caprican-born, but Tauron beneath her skin. The gods walk close. She's learned the songs of Athena and Artemis, sang them with Tsattie and her mother both, and she bears the mark of both beneath her clothes. Still feels the needle, see it in her grandmother's hand, making that first mark on her skin, her story written in ink beneath her clothes. A secret, holy thing.
"I'm not a goddess," Tamara says, ignoring the rest. "I'm not."
"Mm, maybe not, but you're not a copy anymore than you're a ghost, Tamara Adama."