light hit the city and seemed to flinch. Shadows pooled at the base of
ruined, burnt out shells of buildings like congealed blood. All around
was ruin, yet in the midst of such devastation there stood buildings
miraculously untouched by either the fighting or the fires that still
raged in parts of the city. The air felt brittle as Aeryn breathed it
in, almost as if it were ready to shatter into a thousand separate
shards and scratch her lungs.
had managed to land at what was left of the spaceport. Nothing but a
scattering of shattered vessels abandoned to their fate gave witness
to the fact it had once been able to fulfill its named function.
Shattered vessels and one other. Amidst the ruin sat one ship,
unmarked and seemingly inviolate. John's ship. There were some marks
on the hull, black streaks, but when Aeryn had approached and ran a
finger over them she exposed the gleaming hull underneath. Further
checks showed minute marks where some one must have tried to force
entry but failed.
was then that she tried to enter the ship with the codes John had
provided her at the beginning of their journey home. They didnít
work. She felt a heaviness settle in her chest when access was denied,
he had locked her out of his ship, what had been their ship for monens
as they searched for what had once been their home. Moya. But Moya was
no longer his home, she had made sure of that, just as he had made
sure she couldnít enter what had now become his home, his only
now they faced an impossible task of finding one person in a city
dying from self inflicted wounds while staying alive themselves. No
words were spoken. They had simply looked at each other for a few
microts before DíArgo had nodded towards the city proper and had
started off, unsheathing his Qualta Blade, readying it for action.
and Jool looked at one another, glanced at Aeryn then turned to follow
DíArgo. Aeryn watched them go, each with their own reason to look
for John, none with as great a reason as her, yet she was the one who
hesitated before following them.
was a lost cause as they entered the city proper, not because it was
impossible rather it was unnecessary, there was scarcely a sound,
occasionally the distant rumbling of a collapsing building or the
shifting of debris as it settled.
searched the city methodically, starting with the streets closest to
the landing area and working their way out, shouting his name,
constantly alert for a reply, any reply. They encounter few people.
Most shied away from them,, but one or two approached hesitantly and
asked if they knew of someone.
and Chiana were taking the searching hard, they had started out in
high spirits but as time wore on they became increasingly withdrawn
and uncharacteristically quiet. Aeryn felt it herself, the gradual
erosion of hope, the soul buckling under the certainty that this
mistake was final, there was no recovery possible.
had lost so much since meeting John. But she now realized that all she
had lost was nothing compared to what he had. He had lost his
identity, all he had thought he was had been replaced with the truth,
but there was no comfort in it, only cold hard reality. Nothing he had
believed in had been real, his father, his friends not even his
beliefs, nothing. That was not enough for the fates however, they had
to take one last thing away from him, his people. He had lost his
home, not once but twice. And now it was forever denied to him. Yet he
knew he blamed himself, knew that he carried such a heavy burned out
guilty that he was slowly being crushed under it, yet she had given up
after barely attempting to get him to speak of it. She was out of her
depth emotionally, she could recognize and empathize, yet she didnít
know how to reconcile her own feelings let alone help John with is.
was only when she almost walked over Chiana that she realized she had
not being paying attention to her surrounds and one glance answered
the question that was just coming to her lips. They were surrounded by
soldiers, all of whom were pointing weapons their way. From of the
looks of them, relatively primitive pulse rifles, but there were many
of them and no other option available. She slowly unclasped her own
pistol and let it fall to the ground, before raising her hands. But
not before glaring at DíArgo for his failure to warn her, while
acknowledging internally the fact that she herself was not entirely
free of guilty.
wondered where all these troops had come from and why they hadnít
been used to stop what had happened in this city. She however kept her
mouth firmly closed, lips pressed tightly together. Too much was
happening that was unknown and for now to speak would only show a
weakness. They had to appear stronger than they were. She just hoped
they were strong enough.
had not taken John long to realize that his plan to go around the city
was a bad one. Barely an hour into his journey his body had taken it
upon itself to argue the merits of a straight line being the shortest
distance. Every step caused bone to grate against bone, sending almost
constant and jarring pain through his nervous system.
kept to the shadows, venturing out into the light only when absolutely
necessary, finding whatever cover he could. He felt slightly
ridiculous to be hiding in what was largely a now abandoned city, but
hard lessons had taught him caution above all else. He was covered in
dirt and grime, his face darkened by soot, his hand stinging from
abrasions and small cuts. He wanted nothing more than to sit down and
rest, yet he knew to do so would be inviting trouble.
was finite, he only had so long until the pain from his injuries would
become overwhelming, and he had to get to this ship. No one else would
be willing to help him. Now it was every one for himself.
had stopped in the deep shadows of a broken building when it happened.
There was a loud rumble and he felt the ground shaking. He feared the
building he was sheltering besides was collapsing but he had no
strength left to run. The adrenaline that his exhausted body pumped
into his blood stream did nothing more than cause sweat to break out
on his forehead and grime to run over his eyes. Then the rumbling
he peered about him, looking for something different, and he found it.
From one of the buildings close by came mechanical noises, shouts and
the sounds of feet running. From the entrance John could make out
people exiting. Soldiers. Right now soldiers were the last thing he
wanted to see. The mystery as to why and how they were coming out of
an obviously derelict and recently burnt building came a distant
second to his desire to get as far away from them as possible.
he moved, as quickly and silently as he could. Always keeping to the
darkest shadows. Always heading away from the sounds of activity.
Armored vehicles, which seemed to be ferrying troops around the city,
a seemingly never-ending supply of troops, passed him a dozen times.
They were good, he had almost stumbled into one of there check points
before realizing it, only some primeval instinct caused him to stop
and study the ground before him. They were well hidden using all the
irregularities of collapsed rubble to hide in.
he was forced to back track and go around, his journey becoming more
and more dangerous as time went past. The more time, the more
checkpoints. The more checkpoints, the harder to avoid them. The
harder to avoid them the more time it took. It was a seemingly endless
cycle, vicious and biting.
had against the odds almost made it to the landing area when it
happened, from his vantage point, crouched inside the enveloping
shadow of a deep doorway, he seen a Luxan, and not just any Luxan,
DíArgo. John couldnít understand why he was here on this planet.
There could be nothing of interest to the crew of Moya here, nothing
worth the risk of coming here, now.
he saw Chiana and Jool, Chiana had always been a sister to him and
that bond had expanded to include Jool, even though he had only known
her a short time. The interaction between the two could only be
described as sisterly. They fought with, cussed and screamed at one
another, yet the next day all was forgotten and forgiven. They were
looking about with interest and he could finally hear them shouting
his name. They had come for him.
was about to step out and make his presence known when she came into
view. Aeryn. She wasnít calling out his name, didnít even appear
to be interested in what was going on around her. She was simply
taking a stroll with the others. The sight of her brought it all back,
the dread and the anger. Love and hate were opposite sides of the same
coin they said. John knew better. Love and hate were the same side,
on the other.
now Aeryn was the picture of indifference. So different from how she
had been when he first met her and she had kicked his ass. She seemed
to lack focus, interest, whether that was simply apathy for what she
was doing or something deeper John could not tell, would not tell. The
pain he felt seeing her was just as sharp as it had been the day he
left, he suspected it would always be so. Only distance in both time
and space could possibly bury his feeling for her, feeling she had
made clear were hopeless and inadequate.
loved him yet not him. He felt the same, thought the same, yet was not
the same. At times he had trouble reconciling these aspects of himself
to himself. It was hopeless to think others could do what he could
not. Yet Chiana had accepted him, recognized him despite everything
a heavy heart he took a step and froze. Seemingly from nowhere
soldiers appeared, surrounding them. The surprise was total. John
hadnít seen them, would have walked straight into their waiting arms
but his friends? His acquaintances? His sisters? Had beaten him to it.
He wondered briefly why DíArgo had not been able to smell their
presence but he quickly understood this failure. John had been in the
city for hours now, his senses had become inured by the smells around
him. Those of smoke, plastics and burnt flesh. DíArgo could not have
smelt anything beyond those.
watched as Aeryn stumbled into the back of Chiana, her attention
suddenly being focused on their surroundings for the first time since
John had spotted her. The look of surprise and the angry glance she
sent towards DíArgo was so typical of her that John had to struggle
to keep from laughing out loud. That self same struggle changing into
one of dampening the pain caused by trying not to laugh.
He watched and waited as the armored vehicles arrived and they were loaded aboard. He knew where hey had came from and where they must be going. He also knew he had to do something, yet he was one man against an unknown number. He sighed, duty. He had a duty to protect those he could from this, those he loved? He had to at least try. Their being here showed that at least some cared enough to seek him out, and the others were willing to at lest aid in the endeavor. Though he had asked for no help, they had given it anyway, and as such they had to be repaid.