Ryan and her mother, Charlene, had a striking amount of things in common. Most notably, Ryan looked exactly like her mother. This was something that Ryan was commonly told by people who had known Charlene and used to work with her as an infiltrator. Despite their many similarities Ryan was exactly two and three quarters of an inch taller than her mother. This was a critically important detail to Charlene— not the two inches—- but the three quarters. Her mom used this very specific height detail that was often excluded from forms of identification to prove that Ryan was actually Ryan by literally taking her height before she would see her sometimes. This was most often the case when Ryan would visit her mom in her psychiatric care facility for the four years that Ryan was in the navy. Charlene detested the ADF as she had believed she had uncovered deep state conspiratorial plot that the ADF had been infiltrated by GLF rebels who had advanced to some the highest ranks of power. She even accused her husband, a naval officer and her in-laws of being part of it.
Aside from appearance, Ryan also mirrored her mother in intelligence and that they both shared unusual high precision memory capabilities. They were also very similar in strategy and personality. Many years ago, the two attempted to play a game of chess. However, the game quickly turned theoretical as once the two started discussing an opening move they repeatedly countered each other with possible strategies they would pursue that would lead to the other’s checkmate, despite neither having moved a single piece on the chessboard. This game halting conversation persisted for months. when Ryan detailed this problem to one of her coworkers about this never ending—yet never beginning—hypothetical chess game she had going on with mother, her coworker suggested that they try playing checkers instead.
About once a month Ryan spent time visiting her mother on Babylon, where she lived in an assisted living apartment but had curfew times and security check ins that her mother had to oblige in order to remain. Whenever Ryan came to visit, Charlene was always ready to go at a moments notice. She sometimes fell into a state of belief that when Ryan visited her ryan would spring her from her care facility, confirm everything that she knew to be true, and that she would finally be able to unravel the deep state master plan that she had uncovered years and years ago that cost her family and job. Instead, on the last day before Ryan left Ryan would spend the time unpacking her bags and reminding her that she needed to stay where she was. The frustration was minimal compared to the emotional turmoil it caused Ryan to unpack her mother’s bags constantly.
“Are you unpacking my bags as if I am not moments away from being whisked out of here and back to my post where every moments delay is causing incalculable damage including massive casualties--all of which entirely avoidable…” Charlene sounded like she was joking as she watched Ryan pull apart her meticulously packed bags and luggage. It was a routine they were both used to
"Do you want this in the drawer or in the closet?" Ryan unfolded a top of her mom’s and held it up to her.
“I am capable of unpacking my own bags, and you know I like to keep my bags packed in case I need to leave.”
”Well, it seems like a very inconvenient way to live, Mom. They’re in the way, it takes up a lot of space.”
”It is less inconvenient than being in this… prison… for now…” Charlene always believed her living situation was temporary. This was disturbing to Ryan and her brothers as her mother had been in some form of psychiatric care since Ryan was around fifteen years old.
”You are not in prison.” Ryan sighed as she pulled more Charlene’s things out of her packed bag.
”my mind is in prison…” Charlene exasperated and loudly sighed “but how else would you describe a place you cannot leave?” she asked in a professorial tone waiting on her daughter to answer like she a student in a classroom.
”Well then maybe all of our minds are trapped in the prisons of our bodies…” Ryan mumbled mostly to herself as she could sense that their relatively normal lunch and afternoon was about derail down a paranoid spiral. It did usually start near when Ryan was leaving, and the professorial tone was always a signal to Ryan that her mother’s state of mind had changed from being her usual self to being…whatever it was that happened to her mind had these intrusive, alarming and conspiratorial thoughts. “We just returned…from leaving…this place where you can do almost anything you want.. have almost anything you want.. see almost anyone you want.. you practically live in an apartment with 24 hour staff and care. You don’t live in a prison, you live somewhere where you are safe.”
”I know you have to say that because of the compromise that I have agreed to in order to keep you free from suffering the same unbearable fate as myself but could you at least express some sympathy and consideration for what I have given up.” Charlene stated nonchalantly as she sat herself down in a chair and leaned over desk where she had piles of papers containing hand drawn maps, papers covered back and front with incoherent or random seeming words and numbers, circled dates, and further wildly chaotic collections of nonsense that only meant anything to Charlene. The compromise was a term Charlene frequently invoked. She believed that she engaged in a highly classified deal with the government at the urging or force of her husband to which she agreed to give up her career as an infiltrator and her children in order to secure their safety when she uncovered the grand conspiratorial plot involving a deep seeded infiltration of the ADF by rebels. She accepted the sentence of being deemed mentally unstable—or whatever term was thrown at her— as a way to save the lives of herself and her children, but she never thought it would go on this long.
”I am very sympathetic. But you know you could try— when you are ready— some medication that could really help you, and if it works you could get a lot of your old life back. Other people have had some success and I’m not saying it’s perfect but at this point…” Ryan suggested. This part of the conversation had never gone well, and it did come up frequently. Charlene had refused any type of medical treatments even basic medication as she fervently believed nothing was wrong with her. Because Charlene had such an amazing mind and memory and was uniquely skilled, she had never failed a competency exam in her entire 25 years under psychiatric care. Her situation was very complicated.
”I know you have to say that in order to tell them that you said that. I know you have to operate in a way that keeps us both safe.” Sometimes when Charlene fell into a state of delusion she believed that Ryan was actually a double agent who would provide updates to her father about Charlene in order to be allowed to keep seeing her. She also believed that Ryan would send her messages back to the AIA on her behalf. She started believing things after noticing a trend where incidents, attacks, or events that she had predicted from her research did not occur. This trend was alarming and unusual to Charlene, as even Ryan and even her farther would admit that sometimes what Charlene believed would happen did—in some way or another occur. However, Charlene rationalized this declining trend because she had discovered a pattern that these predicted events did not occur only because she was able to communicate her concerns to her daughter who in turn, must have communicated the messages back to the AIA, who as able to decipher her code. Charlene assumed Ryan did this in secret as she had always held a strong bond and loyalty to her. When Ryan left government service Charlene only became more convinced of this theory, that someone had become aware of the arrangement.
”I don’t have to say anything.” Ryan repeated this to her mother often, as her mother constantly avoided or dismissed Ryan’s concerns or suggestions by stating ‘she knew [Ryan] had to say that.’ “There is no person, or agency, or being, or organization that is telling me to tell you to accept medical treatment, or anything else. I do not share these conversations with anyone or send messages to anyone or receive messages from anyone to give to you.” Ryan stated liked she had probably 100 times in the past.
”Well of course there’s no one telling you that I should seek true medical intervention, it’s essentially— it’s —it’s lack of a better word it’s basically mind control—it’s not medical at all.” Charlene’s constant dismissal of even considering to get help for herself was frustrating to Ryan and her other children. Ryan would bring this up even after Charlene had repeatedly refuted any evidence that she needed treatment at all. It did irritate Charlene as of all people Ryan is the one to know that nothing was actually wrong with her but something was very wrong with the system that had placed her here.
“I don’t have to tell you anything, I am telling you these things because they are objectively true—” Ryan started to explain only to be quickly cut off by her mother.
“There is no such thing as objective truth.” Charlene said with a casual laugh as if she and Ryan were both in on some kind of joke. “That’s something you and I both know, as the mere fact that someone would have put the word objective before the word true establishes that the word true— never was the word to represent what factually is—which would mean that there is no concrete representation of a singular reality to which all beings can concur exists in one state without variation. Thus when someone says something is ‘objectively true’ what is meant is that their truth is the right truth which entirely demolishes the meaning of of truth because there can only be one truth, and its state allows for no alteration. No subjectivity or objectivity could ever be involved… but I understand your message.” Charlene again spoke very professorially as she went off on a circular tirade. The language she started using was always a cue that she had slid from being herself to being this other person bonded to complex conspiracy theories that were central to her identity. She sometimes believed that Ryan spoke to her in coded language. When Charlene had particularly bad episodes, after Ryan would leave she would decode their conversations and email or call Ryan about the breakdown of what really transpired between them.
”Nope. No. No. It’s not a code word, it’s not a message. I don’t ever speak in code.” Ryan emphatically denied, as she had always done after her mom suggested it.
Ryan’s profound rejection just made her mom laugh and roll her eyes a little. Charlene was hopeful that Ryan would eventually let her in on what was going on since she had so clearly unraveled the details anyway. “Why do they think I will after all the time suddenly consent to a highly invasive treatments that would fundamentally alter my brain chemistry? I’m sure when you report it, they will be unsurprised that I have once again declined to submit myself to the mental control of highly dangerous individuals for the remainder of my life, despite having already surrendered my physical self.” Charlene put her feet up on her desk and she pulled a legal pad onto her lap and started drawing. Charlene had become a masterful artist over the years as it was what she spent a great deal of time doing since could no longer work.
Ryan stopped unpacking her mother’s bags and starred at her for a moment. Charlene was sitting calmly and looked engaged in what she was doing. She just looked normal like any person just sitting and drawing. She was entirely undisturbed and calm. Maybe she would drift back into reality, as this was far from the worst episode she had ever had.