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Nikolao comes up with the plan to get Chiela’s memory back, which makes it seem stupid right from the get-go. Chiela’s really not sure about it; she doesn’t even particularly like the set-up: Pipra’s sitting in front of her, looking about as calm as he ever gets - which, honestly, isn’t very - and Nikolao’s fiddling with the controls on a seriously complicated looking machine, one Chiela doesn’t particularly want to be hooked up to, but one that she’s going to, regardless. She sitting, with her legs crossed, as still as she can while Terasu - Terasu - attaches electrodes to her head in a way that makes Nikolao look approving, and Chiela’s not even sure why Terasu is helping, being that she usually disapproves of anything Nikolao-related on principle or whatever. Maybe she just wants Chiela’s memory back as much as everyone seems to, although why Chiela still doesn’t know. She supposes a dragon who remembers how to… well, be a dragon is more useful to a bunch of space flunkies on the run than one who doesn’t. She’s not totally sure she wants to remember. She’s still not particularly happy about being a dragon, let alone being one with her dragon-ness.

“Alright,” Nikolao said, “I’m ready.”

“Same here,” Terasu says, as she attaches one last electrode. She leans back to look down at Chiela, an expression on her face Chiela doesn’t know how to read - she likes to think she knows Terasu better than anyone, so that’s a little off-putting. Disturbing. Something. Terasu leans down and kisses here, once, on the forehead, which, hey, that’s sweet but no less worrying.

“Oh my gosh,” Pipra says, just about bouncing in his seat, “Let’s do it!”

Terasu nods to Nikolao, who darts a look between Pipra and Chiela before turning back to the machine he’s McGyver’d from, like, space trash, which totally isn’t comforting, flipping several switched in sequence and throwing a final lever.

The room goes dark all at once, and a deep, throbbing hum starts up. Chiela feels… strange, definitely strange, as if she’s suddenly become over-stimulated; not really a bad sensation, just not one she’s used to. Across from her she can hear Pipra shifting back and forth, then going still, and she actually feels as his mind makes a first tentative brush against hers. She tries to relax, although relaxing your psyche’s a little more complicated than just relaxing your body, and she’s not sure she’s managed it before Pipra makes a second stronger attempt at a connection. Chiela has apparently managed to lower her barriers enough for it to stick, and she feels as Pipra’s mind overlaps hers, sinking in, deeper and deeper. Already she can feel memory’s dredging up, not anything she’s forgotten, just memories of her and Terasu on Earth, of Terasu performing on stage, of her and Terasu snuggled up on the couch under blankets in winter, walking through the park, cooking dinner and bumping in to each other in their tiny kitchen, Terasu tasting sauce from the spoon Chiela holds, Terasu laying in bed, just-woken, with that cranky befuddled look that just makes Chiela want to kiss her.

The first memory that she’s not sure is a memory comes fast on the heels of those memories: a picture of an open field, cratered, with her lying at its center, a man stooped over her, trying to help her to her feet, wrapping a blanket around her naked, newly transformed body, giving her his shoes, which slop back and forth on her feet, overlarge, and walking across the field, with his arm holding her carefully upright. She knows the story of her arrival on Earth - and a small, freaked out part of her balks at the term arrival because she still doesn’t like the thought that she’d come from somewhere else - told to her by the nurses at St. Cloud, though of course they didn’t refer to it as an arrival, just as how she was found, but she’s never seen any of it before.

She doesn’t even have any time to freak out over that one, before the next comes, a memory of outer space, for real, and even knowing that had to be coming, it was weird, no question, but there it is, herself in a cloud of comets, claws digging deep into rock, her body a quick contraction of muscle, her mournful voice a steady background noise, and there, there, more voices responding. Another: a sole comet streaking through space, her wings tucked tight against her body, the Earth a blue and green smudge in the distance. The memories keep coming, some before those and some after, the final she sees before opening her eyes one of the atmosphere burning around her, crumbling a comet down and down, and her body hurtling toward the ground with it. She comes back to herself hearing the machine humming steadily, feeling Pipra pulling away from her mind, hearing him say, “Stop! Stop!” and realizing she was fully transformed, her body one long contraction of muscle, rearing up, her wings flaring behind her, and fire stoked in the belly, ready to be exhaled. She breathes in cool air and breathes out smoke as the lights go up, and she hears Terasu saying, “Chiela? Chiela!” voice muffled as if she were underwater. She stretches, luxuriating in the feel of her own body, her claws scraping over metal, rumble of her voice deep in her chest, reverberating in her belly.

She watches, calmly, as Pipra approaches her, running one hand, reverently along her flank, and with that touch comes memories of another world, a stranger world, forests birthing animals from fruit trees, air heavy with pollen, yellowing Pipra’s hand as he touches the flowers, humidity prickling at the back of his neck, and Nikolao’s hand on his shoulder, turning Pipra to face him, and there, Terasu in the distance with another girl (and she’s only just a girl, not a woman yet, though Chiela can see the shape of the woman she’ll become) with snakes writhing atop her head and flowers growing from the arms and hands, a Shaman and a Voice. She realizes she’s closed her eyes and opens them again, to see Terasu bent down to look at her close up, and even she looks impressed, mouthing a “Whoa,” that Chiela can see but can’t hear. Chiela shakes herself once, then abandons her body, shifting back to a her mundane form, the feel of calm and eternity going with it. She’s left as just Chiela, feeling stunned herself, and, “Whoa,” she says because seriously. Whoa.

“Oh my gosh,” Pipra says, his hands tucked under his chin, then he throws his hands up in the air, and gushes, “That was so totally cool!” and Chiela smiles and says, “I know!” because it so totally was, and for the first time, she not so much freaked out at the thought of being something so alien as she is psyched. She can breath fire! And fly! There is no world on which that is not cool. She notices Nikolao standing behind Pipra, still poised over the machine, and he looks pretty damn smug, which Chiela’s willing to overlook, just this once, since his space-trash McGyvering actually worked. She also realizes she still got a bunch of electrodes attached to her, although half of them had come unstuck when she transformed. She starts pulling them off, and she totally wouldn’t turn down a shower now or at least a running sink because she’s got sticky stuff all over from were they were attached.

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