"Brawne," she said, "I'm a cybrid, aren't I?"
Her mother had looked at her with that look that years later Aenea would identify as long-suffering patience. "And why would you think that?"
Aenea dreamed of the datasphere at night. She dreamed of vast intelligences that spanned the distances between stars; she dreamed of koans painted in letters millennia high and seconds across; she dreamed of her father, dying of consumption in Rome. "He spoke to me, you know. Before I was born. When I was still inside you."
"Yes. When his personality was contained in the Schrön loop."
Aenea picked her fork back up, played with her food. Now she found she couldn't meet her mother's gaze.
"I think they...injected me inside of you. The TechnoCore."
There was a long moment of silence. Aenea chanced a look up and saw Brawne's eyes closed, and if she didn't know any better, she might think her mother was sleeping.
"You aren't a cybrid," was all she said.
"But what if I am? You don't know. You don't know that they didn't have access to the growing fetus inside you."
"Then who are you? Who is your retrieved personality?"
Aenea wished she had just kept her mouth shut. So she said, loudly and clearly, "Jeanne d'Arc."
Her mother snorted out a laugh. Aenea felt a tremendous ripple of anger travel through her. "Jeanne d'Arc?" Brawne repeated. "What delusions of grandeur you have."
Aenea slammed her fork down beside her plate. Scrambled eggs and orange juice splattered the tablecloth. "They're not delusions! I remember what's going to happen! I dream about it!"
If her mother had been laughing, she wasn't anymore. Brawne found a dishtowel, and she wiped down the table. She stood, hip against the door frame, and looked down at Aenea. She thought her mother might just leave the room; she had done that a few times when Aenea had persisted in asking question after question. What happened to Fedmahn? Do you think the Consul is still alive? What if I go into the Time Tombs and what happened to Rachel happens to me, too? But Brawne only shook her head a little.
"Maybe you are," she allowed. "Does it matter?"
Aenea thought of that for years, until the day she finally did enter the Time Tombs, seeing the shrouded, hulking form of the Shrike just beyond the edge of the shadows, knowing that she stood upon the edge of the precipice from which she would not just fall but would leap. Aenea thought of that question, how similar it was to Ummon's koans. Does it matter? Maybe it didn't. As she grew older, Aenea forgot from time to time her childish belief (dream? hope?) that she was a cybrid, understanding it was simply a desire to be closer to the father she had never known save from his whispers in the womb. But floating on a raft down the River Tethys, eyes scanning the horizon for the next farcaster, she thought maybe it did. Maybe it mattered a great deal. For Jeanne believed that she was chosen by God to lead her people to glory; Aenea knew she had likewise been chosen for a task even now she wasn't completely sure of. She was going to be a leader of some kind, a teacher; she still had much to learn. She was going to ride into the future with her own banner held high, and challenge the very foundations of the universe.
They had burned Jeanne at the stake.