Well, well, well, look at that. Seems that Christmas came early. Or more likely that I finished late. *sigh* I'm sorry everyone for having taken so long again.
This chapter is - in my opinion - a rather important one, as it lays the groundwork for a change of dynamic in the crew. You'll probably understand what I'm implying once you've read it. ;)
Additionally this chapter - like the troll idea in the previous one - existed before the prologue in a raw draft. More about this after the chapter. ;)
Disclaimer: Everything related to Frozen is owned by Disney and everything related to the Stargate Franchise is owned by MGM.
It had been two days since Destiny had left the strange, artificial star system, two days since Elsa had a very enjoyable night with Lisa Park – though they both had agreed that the night had been a one time thing. Especially due to the latter Elsa still felt full of vim and vigor so that working on unlocking the secret of Destiny's master code kept her up till late in the night. Not that she'd made any real progress aside from discarding more and more ideas how she herself could be the key to Destiny.
Elsa was sitting in front of her desk in her quarters, her laptop and her PADD in front of her, the former for calculating new solutions, the latter – through a connection to the laptop – providing a way to enter these solutions into the ship's systems. That was much more streamlined than having to manually enter each of the codes she wanted to check not to mention that the ability to connect their own hardware to the PADDs would probably pay off sooner or later – even though the connection was currently restricted to cables, but Elsa hoped to change that in the future.
Every now and then she looked out of the window above her desk. The streamers of the FTL flight traveled lazily along the small field of view provided by the transparent surface. Just like the northern lights back home the streamers had a calming effect on her, nearly as good as if she'd do meditation. Of course this effect of the aurorae had only come to light as soon as Anna had not asked her every night the sky had been awake to play and also once Elsa no longer had to worry about her powers. Despite that Elsa suspected that the calming effect of the northern lights had indeed also helped her during her time she had spent in isolation.
A red message on her laptop showed Elsa that her latest attempt at generating a suitable key had failed again. She let out a frustrated groan, folded her arms on the table in front of her and lowered her head onto them.
"There are simply too many possible solutions", she mumbled. She'd need to find more restrictions that she could impose upon the values, find out what part of her own genetic code she'd need to use – at least that's what she assumed had been meant with her being the key, but even then the possibilities were basically endless. Entering her full genetic code had thankfully told her that the key had been too long, thus some kind of reduction and transformation of the information had to be done. That of course hadn't made her task of finding her solution any easier, especially if the Ancients had used an algorithm that hadn't yet been discovered by mankind which was almost definitely the case, considering that they had many million years of advance. Then again mankind had also learned quite a bunch of Ancient algorithms thanks to Atlantis' systems. But had they already found the algorithm she'd need to use? And even then the question was whether her whole genetic code would be needed as input or merely parts of it and if the latter then which parts.
Maybe she should visit the chair again? She might have been unconscious for days, but at least she had learned something. Another visit might prove equally useful.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Elsa startled so much that she nearly fell out of her chair. Gripping her chest where her heart was beating loud and fast she turned around to fix her sister with a glare.
"Anna! Whatever have I done to you to deserve this?"
"There isn't much else I could have done", Anna supplied with a shrug. "I'd have preferred to tickle you, which would have probably sent you flying higher, but you know how things are with me and physical interactions."
Elsa immediately noticed the tone of longing in her sister's voice.
"Oh, Anna, I'm sorry, I didn't mea-"
"Pish-posh", Anna interrupted. "We both know that this is how things are between us and that neither can change that."
Elsa let out a sigh. "I know."
She noticed Anna looking at the ground and when her younger sibling's gaze returned, Elsa's eyebrow that had started to rise was rather sooner than later joined by its sibling due to Anna fixing Elsa with a mischievous glint.
"You know, I thought being able to control your powers excluded this?" Anna gestured to the floor which finally led Elsa to look down there as well.
Seeing her chair surrounded by a jagged circle of ice led to her letting out another frustrated groan, however she immediately vanished the ice with a fluid motion of her hand.
"That's not funny", Elsa said with a pout, her arms crossed in front of her chest.
Anna giggled. "The ice itself probably not, but your reaction to my teasing definitely is."
Elsa merely rolled her eyes in response.
"Anyway, how are things coming along with the master code?"
She had been close to smiling at her sister's antics, but the mention of that annoying code – and due to the advanced time of the day, or more precisely night – her frustration came out with full force.
"I don't get it, Anna!", she exclaimed, louder than intended while standing up from her desk and facing her sister who was standing behind her. "There are so many combinations of algorithms and subsets of my genetic code that I don't know where to start not to mention where to end! What had Destiny thought, when she had told me that I am the key to the ship?"
Anna shook her head and shot back: "You are thinking too complicated! You merely need to -"
That been as far as Anna had come before she had fallen apart into millions of tiny pieces only to be whipped away by an invisible force. It took Elsa a moment or two before she had mentally put together the literal pieces she had just seen, blinking stunned at the place her sister had been standing at.
"Anna!", she exclaimed once she had managed to push through her stupor only to collapse to her knees right away. "Anna, no!"
What had she done? Tears started to swell in her eyes, slowly but surely finding their way down her cheeks. She had driven her sister to break the non-interference rule and now she was punished for that. Elsa began to sob, fully collapsing onto the floor into a crying heap of misery.
The mood Elsa entered the control room in was more than sour. Considering that she couldn't tell anyone that her sister had been an Ascended being this didn't help her in any way to get out of her morning shift.
She had cried herself to sleep where she had collapsed and had woken some time later in the night, the wall and the floor covered in ice – especially the immediate area around her however. With more effort than she had needed in decades – what use is love after all if the person you love had been whipped away, never to be seen again? – she had vanished the ice and climbed into her bed, spending the remaining night in a fitful sleep.
"Good morning, Elsa", Eli greeted with a smile on his face that on any other day would have been contagious.
This day however she definitely wasn't in the mood for joyful greetings. "Morning", she mumbled in response, merely nodding towards Rush who had nodded to her when she had gone past him.
However Eli wasn't as easily fooled. "Everything alright?", Eli asked with evident concern in his voice.
"Bad night", Elsa responded curtly, rubbing her temples to stress her point.
"Oh, yeah, I get that sometimes, too", he replied with a wave of his hand. "Especially when the full moon shines through my windows, not that we do have one here. Or my room any windows."
"While the light of the full moon might influence one's sleep it's more likely that one doesn't remember the nights without its influence that were spent with a restless sleep", Rush threw in without even looking up from his console.
"Huh?", was Eli's elaborate response.
"He's right", Elsa said, not really wanting to answer, but she had to hold up the appearance that it had merely been a bad night and not a Bad night. "If one would use a diary to keep track of the days one slept well and not, there wouldn't be a significant influence of the moon. The days with a full moon are remembered best, caused it serves as some kind of marker, an outstanding event of the night so to say."
All those years teaching others definitely had drilled her lecture mode into her; for once it came in handy.
"And what causes it then if not the moon? 'Cause I had really hoped for some werewolf powers or such", Eli explained with a wide smile.
Elsa shook her head. It was fascinating how an intelligent, young man like Eli Wallace who was a math prodigy didn't seem to know anything about sleeping problems. Then again the time of all-round education had already started to come to an end when she had been born and she merely managed to pull it off due to her longevity. And even despite that there were still areas in which she herself merely had superficial knowledge.
"It mostly depends on what you did before you went to sleep. Did you do something that involved your brain, like programming for example", she spoke from her own experience here as more often than not she did indeed have problems sleeping if a programming session went into the middle of the night. "Also what you've eaten or drunk before going to bed and sometimes also throughout the day has an influence as well."
Elsa just wanted to open her mouth to reply with a snide remark for Eli's very short answer when she had been beat by a completely unlikely source.
"You know, Elsa at least has a reason for being curt today, a shallow one, mind you, but still a reason. What's yours, Eli?", Rush remarked from his place, having fixed Eli with his eyes.
Elsa looked at Rush in surprise not having expected him to say something while Eli tried to stammer an answer.
When none came Rush turned his attention back to his console while saying: "As I thought."
And here I thought I was in a bad mood, Elsa thought, still trying to process what just happened, though with much less of an imitation of a fish than Eli was doing.
After a few moments Eli had finally collected himself, but instead of continuing the topic he wisely decided to drop it and instead concentrated on his console again.
With reluctance Elsa had to admit that the discussion had done wonders to distract her from her distraught. Now that they were all silently working the loss she had experienced in the dark of the night sent her emotions in a turmoil again and she had to work hard to keep both tears and ice at bay.
She probably wouldn't get much done today anyway. Would the hurt of losing her sister ever go away? She had known back then that sooner or later her sister would have to pass away, that it had happened sooner had kept her on her toes, but learning that Anna had become something more and would be by her side for her whole life had made it unnecessary to really mourn her sister. But now? The event she hadn't thought possible anymore had occurred. Anna has vanished from her life. Her oldest and best friend, her confidante, the calm rock in the midst of her swirling storm inside is gone, never to return.
However Elsa knew that Anna wouldn't want her to mourn her forever. She had a destiny, some destiny to fulfill and so she had to live on, just like she had done after learning what her immortality really meant for her.
Of course that didn't mean that it would be easy or that she would stop mourning Anna today or tomorrow.
A colorful distortion traveling through the room interrupted her thoughts however. The ship had dropped out of light-speed and if everything went as usual the gate would dial in moments. Sergeant Riley would stand at the... wait, no. He had a late shift this day. Then it would be Brody. No, he neither had a morning shift.
Elsa let out a silent groan. It was her turn to stand at the control console of the gate room and to control the Kino that would be sent through. She so wasn't in the mood for this, but there was not really a choice if she wanted to keep up appearances.
If on cue Elsa's PADD activated in her pocket: "Young to Elsa."
"Elsa here", she replied once she had freed the device from her pockets.
"We've got a gate connection. Come along with a Kino so that we can get the ball rolling."
Elsa sighed while ignoring the sniggering that came from Eli's direction. "Understood."
She lowered the PADD and looked at Eli. "What's so funny?"
"Well, the Kinos are essentially balls, so getting the ball rolling...", Eli explained with a wide smile.
Elsa rolled her eyes. She so wasn't in the mood for these jokes. "I'll better be on my way."
With a quick detour to the Kino room, Elsa entered the gate room a few minutes later, the silvery event horizon already in place inside the gate.
As soon as she had entered the room she was greeted by a much too jubilant Colonel Young, at least that's how she saw it.
"Good morning, Elsa."
At least he didn't continue with the ball joke that had gotten Eli cracking up. Thank whatever deity existed – if any – for small favors.
"Colonel Young", she replied with a nod in the direction of his voice, only then noticing Lieutenant Scott and Sergeant Greer standing beside him with one of the civilians, Dr. Inman standing a bit further away from them while holding a dialing remote. She extended her simple greeting to the three of them.
"You got the Kino?", Colonel Young asked and Elsa merely replied by throwing said device she had been holding in her hand casually towards the gate, knowing that its control systems would start gravitating it long before it would either hit the ground or the event horizon.
"Must be the most energetic deployment of a Kino I've seen yet", Scott said, one hand stroking his chin in thought. "I'll give it a nine."
Elsa had just focused Scott with an icy glare – at least the young man gulped and looked sheepishly once he had noticed that – when Greer opened his mouth: "Ya man, I'd totally sell this as a nine, too."
A pity that her glare didn't work on the Sergeant. She had already learned that she could glare at him all she wanted and either he'd completely ignore her or glare right back. This time he had chosen to ignore her, instead looking at the event horizon.
"Elsa, if you'd please?", Young interrupted her, pointing at one of the consoles.
Elsa moved behind the console and established a connection to the Kino.
"Sending through", she commented, while she entered a few commands. The Kino flew towards the gate and soon enough right through it. As soon as the device had left the wormhole on the other side she was assaulted by a large amount of data its sensors provided her with.
"What do we have?", the Colonel asked from beside her. He was close, but he knew that she'd prefer a bit of a distance and he respected that.
"Breathable atmosphere, no measurable toxins, temperature around twenty degrees Celsius. Planet is orbiting an old, red dwarf star with a reduced activity that allowed a simple flora to develop. Mainly grass and a few flowers. Probably there will be insects as well."
"And points of interest?", Scott threw in, not able to look at her console due to where he stood with Greer in the room.
Elsa shook her head. "Nothing. At least not in proximity to the gate." She glanced at the countdown clock which showed basically just enough time to cool down the engines. "And according to the clock, whatever we're here for can't be far from the gate."
"Alright, you heard the lady. Check the proximity of the gate, don't stroll too far."
Both soldiers immediately stood at the ready and answered with a "Yes, sir" before they followed the Kino through the event horizon, Dr. Inman kept safely in their middle.
"And it was a ten", Young said once the two men had disappeared, Elsa just so noticing his wink as her head whipped around to look at him.
With a roll of her eyes she returned her concentration back to the console and switched on the microphone of the Kino so that she might pick up at least a little bit of entertainment from Scott and Greer. After all the data from the planet really wasn't all that exciting.
"-ide from the grass it looks barren so far", she heard Dr. Inman's comment. Apparently she had either started too soon with her commentary or Elsa had been a bit too late to switch on the microphones. They'd definitely have to work on their timing.
"Wait, there's something", she heard Greer's response, soon followed by the noise of both men walking down the ramp that led to the gate, the noise of a third pair of shoes following shortly after.
"Stop! Hands in the air!", Scott ordered and Elsa just wanted to enter a command to turn around the Kino so that it would look back at the gate from where it was floating when a completely different voice interrupted her.
No, that couldn't be. She rapidly finished the command.
"Wait. You're speaking English. And are those really weapons? They look funny..."
The Kino turned around.
"I said, hands in the air!", Scott ordered again who had just become visible in the Kino's field of view together with Greer and Dr. Inman.
"Alright, alright", the female and to Elsa well known voice said.
Finally the fourth person came into view, standing on the ground next to the gate. There was no doubt anymore who was standing there.
"Anna!", Elsa exclaimed, her hands covering her mouth in shock. How? No, the how wasn't the problem. The why however was the question. Why did the Ascended drop her off on this planet so Destiny could pick her up? Had Destiny planned to dial this planet?
"You know her?", Young asked, having inched closer to look at the video showing her sister and the two soldiers.
"Look, I don't mean you any harm, I don't have any weapons on me anyway..."
Elsa caught Anna's look. She was planning something, something stupid. Elsa had to act fast before Anna possibly had the idea to enter the wormhole from the wrong side.
"She's my sister", Elsa replied to Young who acted as expected: surprised, even with raised eyebrows, both of them.
"Your sister? But isn't she dead?"
Elsa sighed. "Yes and no. She'd been an Ascended ever since."
"An Ascen-", the Colonel began to ask in disbelief, but Young's radio interrupted him.
"Lieutenant Scott to Colonel Young, we have a situation here."
"Look, I'll tell you what I know in a few, but first I need to make sure that Anna doesn't do anything stupid."
He looked at the video feed which showed Anna itching around a bit.
Elsa nodded. "Definitely."
"Colonel Young, do you read?"
"Alright. But she'll be under guard until I'm sure she's no danger, understood?"
"Yes, Colonel", Elsa replied with a smile.
Young reached for his radio and keyed it. "One moment, Scott, we see it here on the Kino feed as well."
Right away they saw Scott doing a quick glance over his shoulder towards the Kino, giving a nod.
"What's with the flying ball?", Anna asked.
Elsa finally reached for the button which would enable the two-way communication through the Kino.
"Anna, it's me, Elsa."
Scott looked at the Kino in surprise.
"You know her?", he asked.
"Elsa! Where are you? Why am I hearing your voice from the ball? Are you somehow captured in there?"
Elsa smiled at her sister's antics.
"No, silly. Stay where you are, I'll come for you."
With that she took a last look at the Colonel, who gave her a sharp nod. Not waiting any further she went to the gate and through it.
On the other side she nearly stumbled down the ramp in front of the gate, but she caught herself and managed to round the bottom of the ramp without tripping. Coming up next to Scott and Greer who both had still trained their weapons on her sister, she took her first real look at her sister since around 150 years. The first thing Elsa finally noticed was that thankfully the Ancients hadn't dropped Anna naked like she had read the Ancients had done with Daniel Jackson, the other human who she knew who had been ascended and then dropped down again due to breaking the rules. Instead Anna was wearing a dress not dissimilar to the comfortable summer dress she loved so much and hey, it wasn't white or grey! Thank the Ascended for small favors.
"Elsa." Anna had spoken first, the same sisterly love in her voice that had caught Elsa way back in her ice palace when Anna had come to bring her back to Arendelle.
"Anna", Elsa replied with a smile, trying to fill that one word with so much longing as well.
Not waiting any further she closed the final gap between them, hoping that this didn't turn out like when she had tried to hug the ascended Anna for the first – and last – time. Soon enough however she found herself holding a very solid woman, said woman's arms closing around Elsa as well.
"Oh Anna, I've missed you so much!" The tears she had held back since she had woken up came again, but this time they were tears of joy and relief.
"You're always missing me, sis", Anna replied and Elsa could feel Anna's smile where their cheeks touched.
After some long moments Elsa finally released her hold on Anna, however she immediately took hold of Anna's hands, smiling while she looked into those cerulean eyes that were always so full of laughter and mischief.
"So, you know her?", Lieutenant Scott interrupted.
Elsa turned her face around to look at the soldier who – unlike Greer – had his weapon lowered by now.
"Yes, she's my sister Anna."
"But, but how?", Dr. Inman threw in. "Didn't you tell that she... you know..." The woman made a few gestures that probably should communicate the word "died" without saying it in the presence of that person who did die.
"Who are they by the way?", Anna asked, but before Elsa could answer she continued. "Are those really weapons? They look so different. And what about that strange ring with the standing puddle in it? Is it magic? And why does the sky look so strange, so red?"
It were these questions that told Elsa what was going on.
"You don't remember?", she asked Anna.
Of course the Ascended would drop Anna without any knowledge she had gathered while she had been ascended.
Elsa sighed. "It's quite a story. Let's get you back to the ship first, it's more comfortable there."
"Ship? What ship?"
"Elsa, I've organized Lieutenant James as guard", Colonel Young's voice said from the Kino.
"And what's with that floating ball?"
Elsa sighed again. This was going to be a long day. On the bright side – a very, very bright side – she had her sister back.
"Understood, thank you", she said towards the Kino, then turned to her sister. "I'll explain everything to you. But first let's get back." Then Elsa turned to Dr. Inman. "Would please dial back Destiny?"
"Of course", the doctor replied and used her dialing remote to take control of the Kino, thus severing the connection between the Kino and the gate that prevented the wormhole from closing. Not much later said wormhole collapsed making Anna jump.
"It's alright", Elsa said, moving around to stand besides Anna, urging her to move in front of the gate – in safe distance of course.
"If you say so, I believe you of course." So their implicit trust was still there, still strong.
Then the gate started to spin.
"What is this anyway?", Anna asked.
"It's, uhm... It's called a Stargate. Think of it like a portal between places, a way to instantly travel between two locations. There aren't only two however, but thousands and one can connect two with one another by, uhm, giving the gate one is using the address of another. That is called dialing." It was strange to explain something that was completely normal for her without too many words that only came into existence in the twentieth century.
"Woah", Anna exclaimed with awe in her eyes. "Is it magic?"
Elsa laughed at that. She should have expected that question as Anna had always been on the lookout for more magic before her... passing on, so that Elsa wouldn't feel so alone.
"No, it's a very advanced piece of technology, built by a non-human, yet human-like race of beings that are millions of years older than us." How to explain the concept of aliens to someone from the nineteenth century?
Meanwhile the gate had finished dialing and the wormhole was establishing itself inside of it; the unstable vortex of the wormhole making Anna jump again before she had the time to comment on what Elsa had said.
"Does it always do that? Before you guys came through it had done the same..."
"Yes. Safety advice: never jump into this vortex lashing out. It means instant death."
Anna gulped. "Alright."
"Good." Elsa took Anna's hand and squeezed it. "Are you ready?"
Anna nodded with a bit of hesitation. "I... I was born ready."
Elsa laughed again. "I know you were, sweety."
"So... shall I hold my breath?"
"No. In fact it's best if you breath out before entering the event horizon." Upon seeing the confused look of Anna Elsa of course had to elaborate. "The event horizon is the shimmering surface you see there. The puddle."
Elsa finally walked forward, Anna immediately falling in step beside her. A few steps later they both entered the wormhole.
It had been an amazing feeling. Nothing in her life could have prepared her for it and yet it felt so normal as well. Considering the water-like surface she had expected to get wet, but nothing like that had happened. Of course thinking about it she should have already known this considering she had seen those men and woman as well as Elsa leaving that... event horizon?
Now however it took a moment for Anna to get her bearings straight. A moment ago she had been on a lovely if plain meadow with the... what had Elsa called it? Ah, right. Stargate. And now she was in an enclosed room with lights that came from the ceiling that had absolutely no resemblance to candles or gas lanterns as there was no flicker at all.
Looking ahead she noticed two... well, they looked like lecterns, but she had the feeling that they weren't. Behind one of them stood two people, a man and a woman. Was the man the one she had heard earlier through that ball? And the woman, did she really wear pants? What a strange color pattern that was. Wait, wasn't Elsa wearing pants as well?
Anna quickly glanced down to Elsa's legs, seeing her memory confirmed. Women wearing pants? Now that was something she hadn't seen up to now, aside maybe when riding horses. Then again she hadn't seen any of this. Even the clothing of Elsa and the other people she had seen looked foreign to her, not at all like the clothes she had seen the citizens of Arendelle – both rich and poor – as well as any noble guests they had entertained wear.
The man with the black hair leaned over one of the lecterns and began to talk. "Lieutenant Scott, explore the area around the gate. I have the feeling however that we already found why Destiny stopped here."
"Copy", came the answer from nowhere, the voice the same as from one of those young man that had pointed a weapon at her on that meadow.
Behind her she heard that portal collapsing again and she had nearly managed not to jump, but then there was a completely different noise. With a jump she turned around and saw white puffs of steam escaping from the floor to left and right of the ring.
"It's alright, Anna." She felt the Elsa's hand squeeze her own. "It's normal, at least for this gate it is."
Anna felt herself urged forward by her sister still overwhelmed by what her senses were telling her. They finally stopped in front of the lectern the other two people were standing behind.
"Anna, may I present Colonel Young", Elsa pointed at the man with black hair, "military leader of this group and Lieutenant Vanessa James", Elsa pointed at the woman next to him. It didn't escape Anna that she hadn't provided the Colonel's first name – and she was very sure that Colonel was his rank and not his first name.
"Colonel Young, Vanessa, this is my sister Anna Agdarsdatter." Elsa's voice was full of pride and longing. While the former wasn't that unusual for Elsa the latter was since the two of them saw each other all the time. It was as if Elsa hadn't seen her for a long time, but they had been together moments before she had woken on the meadow, right? After all Elsa had stood by her bedside as she... as she... wait.
"A pleasure", the Colonel replied in the meantime. "Lieutenant James here will accompany you until you're familiar enough with everything around here. Probably we should get you to the infirmary first, have you checked out."
"I agree", Elsa said and started to drag Anna along again.
"Elsa, wait", Anna said while freeing herself from her sister's grasp. "What happened there?", she pointed at the ring. "The last I remember was lying in my bed... dying. Where's Kristoff? Ingunn? Olaf? Why doesn't anything look like I remember it? Even you look different and I don't even mean your clothes!" She hadn't noticed it earlier, but while her sister didn't look physically older she definitely did so from how she carried herself, from the wealth of knowledge hidden behind her eyes.
Elsa let out a sigh, glancing towards the Colonel and then looking straight back at Anna. "There's no easy way to tell you this, so I'll be blunt: you died in that bed. You died around 140 years ago. Everyone you knew besides me and my snowmen are dead."
"What? No!" Anna recoiled from her sister, taking a step back even. "You're lying! That can't be right!" She looked around the room in the hope of seeing Kristoff or Ingunn standing in one of the doorways. "Kristoff! Ingunn!"
Despite this however she knew deep down that her sister was right, that Elsa didn't lie to her, not about this. Not even Anna would have sunk so low to lie about something like this.
Then however the memories of her final moments in that bed came crashing back to her. She had died. She had really died. Her knees got weak and she began to collapse onto the floor. The last thing she noticed before darkness claimed her was how absurdly smooth the floor was.
The first thing Anna noticed when she came to was a strange humming noise all around her. No sea splashing against the shore, no birds or the noises of a busy capital city. Only this strange humming. Then her memories came back to her. The meadow with the strange sky, the standing ring with puddle, the men with their weapons, Elsa and the other room. Her death. She had died, she had died 140 years ago if her sister was to be believed and what reason would Elsa have to lie to her?
Slowly Anna opened her eyes looking at a brown-grey ceiling with those strange lights in them. Slowly she turned her head to the right, immediately noticing the fair-haired woman sitting in a chair next to her bed. Elsa's concentration was on a small, black tableau resting in one of her hands while a finger of the other hand swiped across it as if she was painting or something.
"Hey", Anna said and immediately Elsa's attention turned from whatever she had been doing to Anna.
"Anna! You're awake", Elsa exclaimed with a wide smile.
"What happened?" Of course she essentially knew what had happened, but she wanted to have a confirmation from someone else, just so she knew that she wasn't insane or more crazy than usual.
"You collapsed after I told you that you had..." Elsa looked away, biting her bottom lip.
"Died", Anna finished. "I know, Elsa, you don't need to act like I'm made of paper now."
"I know", Elsa said, grasping Anna's hand that was lying close to her. "I just didn't want to overwhelm you again."
"It's alright. I know it now, it was just too much back then. Learning about one's own death and the death of nearly everyone I held dear." Tears began to escape her thinking about Kristoff and Ingunn and everyone else.
Elsa's other hand reached forward, caressing Anna's cheek. The tableau had been dropped on the bed next to Anna and she noticed that it wasn't all black on the side she hadn't been able to see. Instead there was an image that seemed to be lit from within itself and... it was moving?!
"Anna, I've lived all those deaths", Elsa said and Anna's eyes immediately fixed on the blue eyes of her sister. "I might not know exactly how you feel, but I might come pretty close. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here for you."
Elsa then leaned forward and kissed Anna very gently on the forehead before returning to the chair though one hand still held Anna's.
Anna looked again at the face of her sister that was filled with so much love. She'd never grow tired of that sight, not now and not in hundreds of years.
"How... how long was I unconscious?", Anna finally started with her intention to fill a few blanks she had, starting with the most obvious.
"Not long. Not even an hour." Elsa looked around the room, but apparently missed who or what she was looking for. "TJ, our me-... physician went to grab something to eat. Once she's back she'll do a quick checkup and then I can show you around."
"Sounds good", Anna replied with a smile. She then focused that strange tableau with her eyes. "What's that?"
Elsa's hand now left Anna's and picked up the tableau. "That is..." She paused.
Anna looked at Elsa's eyes again and noticed that look that said that Elsa was thinking rapidly. Probably that was something that wasn't that easy to explain, something that had come to be within those 140 years that she had been dead. That was another thing she'd need to ask. How was it that she was no longer dead? But first she'd let Elsa answer something hopefully mundane.
"You... you remember the days when we had Ada Lovelace over?", Elsa finally asked, her thumb wandering along the side of the tableau where Anna could see some raised parts.
Lovelace... Lovelace... ah, right! "Yes, you two talked about something called unalcoholic engine or something."
Elsa giggled, the hand holding the tableau covering her mouth. Some things didn't change even in all those decades.
"It's called Analytical Engine", Elsa corrected.
"That's what I said", Anna replied with a mock pout. Of course she knew that she had said it incorrectly, but at least that got the ball rolling.
"Sure you did", Elsa said while grasping Anna's hand again with her free hand. "Nevertheless I had told you back then that the point of the Engine had been to do calculations faster than humans were able to, you remember?"
Anna thought back at that time. It had been a year or two before Elsa had staged her own death. "You said that it would need to cover a full blown room for all the needed machinery. It did indeed when you had built it out of ice once."
"Indeed it did and that didn't change for quite some time. After some decades, especially however the last seventy years that began to change however. The mechanisms that back then had been mechanical in nature became electronic, powered by tiny amounts of electricity and everything got ever so much smaller."
Anna's eyes wandered to the black tableau again that Elsa was turning around in her hand. Was that what it was? An Analytical Engine en miniature?
"But that's not the only development that happened. The input and output back then had been through punched cards not unlike those used in automated weaving looms. But that changed as well, as so called displays were invented that allows one to see moving images and so called touch panels that – as the name suggests – react to touch."
Elsa turned the tableau so that Anna could look at the colored side of it. There were colored gems, or at least what looked like stylized gems that sat on a kind of grid pattern.
"It didn't take long either that humanity learned that such devices – they were called computers by then – could be used for more than merely serious calculations. One could use them for entertainment as well." Elsa pointed at the tableau. "What you see here is a game. Not that dissimilar to the games we played back in the castle, though with much more freedom as one isn't restricted by the amount of pieces one has physically available." Elsa touched one of the gems with her fingers and moved it to an adjacent grid cell which neighbored to a cell with a similar colored gem above and below it. Immediately afterwards the three gems vanished and the gems above it followed gravity and fell down.
Anna was mesmerized. "Wow!"
"But that's not all." She waved the tableau a bit. "A device like this also allows one to immediately speak to anyone around the world who has a similar device as well. No more waiting weeks or months for letters. One can either send electronic post that arrives immediately or one can directly talk with others."
Anna looked on dumbfounded. "You... you mean like you did earlier through that ball?"
Elsa knitted her brows. "Similar. Not exactly the same, but similar, yes." Elsa touched the – what had she called it? Device? Yes – the device and then leaned close to Anna's face holding out the device so that it's dark side was turned towards them.
"What are you doing?"
"You'll see in a moment." After that Elsa turned the device around again and pressed something. "Here." She held the device in front of Anna again, but this time with the colored side turned towards her. Anna thought she saw the side of the bed, but then the image moved and soon enough she saw both her as well as Elsa. Her looking confused while Elsa looked on with a smile.
"That's us!", Anna exclaimed, but then the mouth of the Anna she saw began to move and her own kept staying open.
"What are you doing?"
"You'll see in a moment", Elsa replied.
"But, that wasn't my voice!"
That's when Elsa laughed out. "Yes, it was. One's voice sounds different while oneself is speaking. Only with recording devices we learned that, though that's already a century or so ago as well."
Anna groaned, rubbing her temples. "I feel so overwhelmed. So much information."
Elsa patted Anna's cheek again. "I don't envy you. This probably won't stop anytime soon as you've got to learn more than a century worth of changes. That", Elsa waved the device in front of them again, "is only a part of what has changed since you ruled Arendelle."
Anna groaned again. If she already got an impeding headache with only this one package of changes then how should she survive even more changes?
A new voice however ensured that she wouldn't need to find out too soon. "Ah, I see my patient is awake."
Anna looked up and saw a blonde woman walking towards her, again in pants. It weren't however those strangely patterned clothes that the Vanessa James woman wore, but instead the same black outfit of the Colonel with T. Johansen written over her left breast. Probably that was some kind of uniform. A strange uniform, but a uniform nevertheless.
The woman came up next to them and held out a hand that Anna took.
"I'm Tamara Johansen, but everyone here calls me TJ. I'm the medic", the woman said with a smile, but Anna had to take an instinctive look at Elsa who thankfully understood right away.
"For now let's say that medic is a modern word for physician. We can discuss the details later."
That satisfied Anna... at least for now. She turned her attention back to Tamara.
"Great, um, I'm Anna." What name had Elsa introduced her as earlier? Ah, right. "Anna Agdarsdatter, Elsa's sister."
Tamara continued to smile even after they released each others hand. "I had surmised that much from how close you two appeared."
Anna blushed at the praise that the two of them could still be easily seen as sisters despite there oh so different appearance.
"Now", Tamara continued, "let me quickly check you and then you're free to go."
Anna's check up hadn't taken long and as soon as Elsa left the infirmary together with her sister Vanessa James had fallen into step behind them. Anna would probably need the Lieutenant both as a baby sitter and a tour guide once work would call Elsa away again. At the latest the morning of the next day probably.
"I'm surprised that you didn't ask TJ why she's named 'Johansen'", Elsa said while they walked away from the infirmary.
Anna giggled. "Elsa, even I know that Arendelle was one of the few countries that still used patronyms and matronyms." She stopped and turned towards her older sister. "Now, tell me, what kind of place is this? You said something about a ship, back... there... on the meadow... wherever." Anna frantically gestured in some random direction that had Elsa stifle a giggle. "But I don't feel any waves and I've been on plenty ships. So, spill!"
Well, if this wouldn't blow Anna's mind nothing would. "We are indeed on a ship. She's called Destiny and an old beauty. But you're right in that there are no waves. We aren't sailing in an ocean, but instead through the vast emptiness of space between stars." And sometimes even inside them, but that was a topic for another time. Elsa immediately noticed Anna's unbelieving stare and knew that there would be only one place on the ship where Elsa might be able to convince her.
"I don't believe you. That's nonsense and you know it!", Anna exclaimed.
"Really, Anna? That's where you draw the line?", Elsa replied with a sigh. "Think about it: I just showed you vast technological advancements. And we stepped from a meadow into a completely different room by the use of a portal." Granted, the gates weren't man-made and neither was Destiny, but that wasn't the point. "Thankfully I know just the place."
Elsa took Anna's hand and dragged her along the corridors, Lieutenant James following behind them. Just before she reached the already open bulkhead doors to their destination Elsa stopped and again turned to Anna.
"I want you to close your eyes."
Anna glared at Elsa. "Really?"
"Oh, come on, I know how you like surprises!" Though Anna liked even more trying to find out what's behind the surprise ahead of time. Thankfully Anna's tendency to sleep in helped Elsa with both birthdays as well as Christmases.
This time it was Anna who sighed. "Alright. I'll play along." She closed her eyes and held out her hands. "Guide me, oh unbelievable sister of mine."
Elsa – barely – resisted the urge to either tickle her sister or to shower her in snowflakes and instead took her hands and carefully guided her onto the observation deck. She moved Anna right up against the railing, leaving Anna's hand on the top most rail. Then she stepped behind her sister, hugging her while resting her chin on Anna's shoulder.
"Alright", Elsa whispered into Anna's ear, "you may open your eyes now."
As usual Anna was none for being slow and thus her eyes flew open just before Elsa had finished her sentence with a speed that would have made Destiny's FTL drive jealous. It took a few moments more before Elsa noticed the eyes widen even more with a loud gasp leaving Anna's throat.
"Oh my gods, Elsa! It's full of stars!"
Elsa just wanted to surmise about Anna's quote right out of 2001, A Space Odyssey, when Anna suddenly turned around crashing her head right into Elsa's.
Both women let out an "ow" and Anna recovered faster than Elsa – and Elsa thought she could hear a stifled giggle from Vanessa's direction.
"I'm sorry!", Anna wrapped Elsa's face in her hands and kissed her on the forehead where the two had collided. "It was just... all those stars!" Anna had turned away from Elsa again and towards the windows.
Elsa's rubbed her forehead, but she had immensely enjoyed the contact with her sister. Something she had missed all those decades.
"It's alright. I better go sit over there on the couch – where it's safer."
She took a quick glance at the room's countdown clock. Oh, what a nice surprise. Only a few minutes and Destiny would jump back into FTL. She couldn't await Anna's reaction. No, wait, she knew exactly how she would react. Elsa sat down, sending a short smile at Vanessa who had taken a position at the doors.
"There really are stars all around us!", Anna exclaimed, partially leaning over the railing. Once she had managed to touch the glass – her feet had nearly left the floor at that – she turned around to look at Elsa. "Where's Earth? Can I see it?"
"We are too far away from Earth."
They hadn't even tried to find the Milky Way amidst all those galaxies that were visible. It would be an amazing find to show astronomers images of a past Milky Way – after all the galaxy they'd see from here would be millions of years younger as well. Maybe they'd even have the luck to see it right in the midst of ripping apart one of its former dwarf galaxies? Probably that was one of the reasons the hobby astronomers aboard hadn't yet managed to find their home galaxy. It's was simply not easily recognizable as their own...
"Oh." Anna deflated a bit, but then she straightened right away again and smiled into Elsa's direction. "But we can go there with that gate-thingie, right?"
Again Elsa had to disappoint her sister. "No, sweetie." It really hurt to see Anna's look right now. "You see, Destiny is an old ship. She had been built by the same people that built the gates. And as you probably know with age there come problems. One of Destiny's problems is that she can't store that much energy anymore. And trust me, using the gate to dial Earth needs a huge amount."
"Oh." Again Anna deflated, this time quite a bit more. "So we're stuck here?"
"Physically, yes. Though we're trying to find a way home. But we do have a way to communicate with Earth. You'll probably really like it once I show you." Elsa winked at her sister. Of course the little hoyden would love to swap with other people. Anna had often told her as a child and later as a grown woman how she often dreamed to be someone else. A baker, a librarian, a physicist, a sailor. Her imagination knew no end there.
"Okay." Anna's attention then moved from Elsa to a different area of the room. "What's with the digits counting down on the wall?"
"That's the -" Before Elsa was able to fully form the sentence her brain caught up with what exactly her sister had said. "Wait, you can read that?!", she nearly shrieked.
Anna at least had the decency to look at Elsa sheepishly. "Yes. Shouldn't I be able to?"
Could it... could it really be that Anna might have subconscious access to the knowledge she had gained as an Ascended? Even if it only would be a small subset of that knowledge it would still be vast. And Anna being able to read Ancient would definitely make her immediately useful among the crew. After all it was one thing to be able to translate Ancient, but to fluently speak it... only few people aboard – among that Elsa herself – were really able to pull that off and they were in very high demand. She'd need to show Anna some texts later on to prove this.
But now she had a different point to deal with.
"It's a countdown. It tells us how long Destiny will spend at this place before we're on our way again." She'd need to explain a few more things with more details in the future of course, especially that they didn't have control over the ship's course right now, but for now that would have to suffice. "So turn around and enjoy the show."
Anna blinked at her for a moment or two, but then she turned around in a haste, including the need to cling to the railing so that she wouldn't fall over due to her momentum.
Elsa took a glimpse at the countdown again which had switched to red digits already, signifying that less than a minute was remaining. Looking back at Anna she saw her younger sibling giddy with anticipation despite Anna not even knowing what would happen.
"How long?" Though she was definitely as inpatient as usual.
"Not much, around half a minute", Elsa replied. She could already the vibrations of the ship changing a bit – it wasn't by much, but the time they had spent on Destiny had shown her that in a quiet moment like this one could indeed feel the ship preparing herself for the jump to FTL.
Then it happened. The bow they could see the tip of through the windows elongated, then a flash occurred, the distortion waved passed through the room and Destiny had reached her traveling speed with the streamers of FTL passing along her hull.
And the gasp Elsa could hear from Anna's direction told her that Anna had been deeply impressed as well.
"Elsa!", Anna exclaimed. "The sky is awake!"
And a hundred points to Elsa for a correct prediction of her sister's behavior.
Right then Anna whipped around again to face Elsa, a wide grin splitting her face and Elsa remembered what usually followed that exclamation.
"Do you want to build a snowman?"
Elsa indeed had her sister back, a tear of joy escaping her eyes accompanied by laughter.
So, Anna is among the ordinary people again though I gave a little hint at what she might have gained. I guess we'll have to learn with her and the crew what she else she had brought back from the Ascended plane. ;)
It was on purpose by the way that I had reduced Anna's interaction with the crew to a minimum for this chapter, it was mainly the two sisters this time. This will change with the next chapter however. :)
And yes, it was planned from the beginning that Anna would be deascended, though I didn't really know when. A few chapters later I had the idea to place it here, right after the "Faith" double chapter. Why? You'll have to wait and see. :P
Note: "Ikke skyt!" hopefully is Norwegian for "Don't shoot!"; at least it is according to Google Translate.