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 Post subject: Sorrow's Climb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:00 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:12 pm
Posts: 24
(Co-written with Pyre)

"The Kelto Province is a prosperous region of Sameleon. It is, unfortunately, also rife with unrest.

"Part of this is due to a woman who claims monarchical right to rule the newly democratic province. She needs to be removed so that they can have peace and continue uninterrupted in our advancement to a more enlightened political way.

"We regret the necessity of this, but it is for the good of all. We have no choice.

"We are told that you will be able to find her, and do what is necessary. There is a reward of fifty thousand credits involved."

The contract was open and shut, relatively speaking. Another part of him, a quiet part that was a great deal more noble than he had right or cause to be these days found satisfaction in the future results, the promise of 'better days'. Sorrow nodded slowly, and from one of his sleeves he produced a small datapad with a series of questions on it.

The small lizard-humanoid reached out and took it. They were beautiful, delicate things. This one was gold with emerald green splashes on his crest. He has a sad but resolved feel to him. He read the questions.

-How likely are the authorities to pursue this, especially off world?
-What kind of resistance can be expected?
-Are you fully prepared to deal with the consequences of paying for murder, when the time comes?

He wasn't sure how that last one always crept into his negotiations. It often soured them. But he had to know...

The Sameleon's crest lowered and he frowned, doubtless in response to the last question.

"This is a matter of our world, our future. No other society of the universe has a right to judge us," he said, still quiet. He almost entirely avoided sounding defensive.

It wasn't entirely an answer.

"The authorities of whatever world she is hiding on should not be aware of this. She will be accompanied by a brood-age woman named Tular Ma'aten and possibly a bodyguard of your species."

That last was unexpected, but not unwanted. It meant a challenge, and similar to the usually silent noble streak that still flared up from time to time, he would enjoy the fight. Sorrow nodded, and tapped a small, glowing green light on the offered contract.

"I accept," he said quietly, almost a whisper. To say even those words was a bit of a strain. It hurt. But so did a lot of things. You learned to cope.

The tiny creature sighed, obviously relieved. He took back the contract and put it on the table behind him.

"Thank you. You do our province, our planet, a great service. The ship we are providing will be ready by nightfall."

"Thank you," he added, again.

Sorrow nodded, taking back the datapad with his written questions on it, securing it in one of his subspace pockets. The contract had the dock that he would be meeting his transportation at. His focus was sharp, and as always a small flame of eagerness was beginning to burn low in him. He headed straight for the dock, to wait there.

-----------------

The planet was made of mountains.

Mountains and narrow rivers running between them. From space, it looked like a circular porcupine. Or a frozen star.

Sorrow's contacts said that Para Patan, his target, had been identified on a transit headed to this planet. She was probably hiding in one of the many temples carved into the tops of the mountains.

Tracking her down was a matter of time, and of course, credits. Nonetheless, it was hard to bribe a culture that was based in faith. The planet, the sight of all the temples and places of worship grated on him, wore his patience thin in moments. After only a few megacycles on the planet, he became incredibly aware of the weight of his revolver on his right hip. His hirer had assured him that no one else was on the payroll, yet, so beating another mercenary to the target wasn't an issue either...

The burly, furred aliens who lived in the open temples were almost irksomely cooperative. Irritating mostly because they were also largely useless. They had no reports of newcomers. Probably because they all lived in isolation, the only contact being tiny birds that flew messages from tower to tower. Weeks passed with no leads, and it was tiresome playing the slow game of covering his own trail so that he didn't warn his quarry in advance. He also thought he saw thin black ships on the horizon a few times. Given how rarely this planet was visited, it was not undue cause for paranoia.

Finally, a lead. Not from any of the furred worshipers, but from a bartender at the local spaceport. It hardly qualified as such, seeing a few ships every couple of weeks, and the barkeep had been greedy enough that Sorrow had been tempted to skip coin and go straight to violence; the Outer West had left its mark, apparently. Nonetheless, he had a direction, had her likely location narrowed down from one of a hundred temples to three.

The three temples were named Paxis, Arresta, and Mote. Paxis, because it was reputed as a refuge. Arresta because it had a reputation for housing off-worlders, and Mote because it was where you went to hide things.

Arresta had the most information associated with it. The slow, gray natives there were slightly faster and more talkative, and intentionally welcomed others to learn from them. Mote and Paxis were as mysterious as any of the other carved stone symbols in the mountains.

---

Arresta was almost too easy, to the point that it had Sorrow looking over his shoulder every so often to ensure this wasn't some kind of trap. The honesty and the openess were just too unreal. The only rooms he wasn't allowed free wander through were their own small quarters, and even then there were small windows with only a few token steel bars. If she was hiding here, it was beyond his ability to guess or determine where.

Paxis was rejected almost as soon as he set foot in it. While it was populated with refugees from various planets, there was a clear Interstellar Enforcement presence. It was clear all of the inhabitants had to be registered, and if Para had gone through this process, Sorrow would have been able to find record of her much, much earlier.

Mote had made the most sense, which is why paradoxically saved it for last. A vain hope that the other two would produce his target in a much easier fashion, perhaps. Either way, this was the only temple he had seen so far that actually had sentries, or what passed for them; a monk, or priest, or whatever they called themselves (it did vary sometimes between temples) walked slowly along the paths, swinging a small sprinkler on a chain, the cold water from the river washing onto the stone. There were several of them, with no pattern or rhyme.

Sorrow made it inside anyway.

Mote was a mountain like coral was a stone. It seemed to have been hollowed like an artistic beehive, and it was different from the other temples. The graceful, symmetrical, practical stonework of the priests was replaced by asymmetry, tunnel-work, and random, beautiful engravings. Certainly, there were the normal pagoda-style dwellings embedded in the sides of the mountain, but they led onto passages that seemed to have been melted more than carved.

Designs that were alien to this alien world. maze like. And covered in bells. There were bells everywhere. Tolling at random intervals. Meaning who knows what.

The very first thing Sorrow did as he made his way into one of the tunnels was duck. Duck, and take a very, very close look at the walls. He was looking for links, from the walls, the floors, or even the ceilings to the bells. It could have been a simple wire, or something more high tech; given the strange, alien designs of the corridors, he wasn't leaving anything out.

After giving the halls a very thorough peering, he could find no hint of any physical trip or trigger. It seemed they weren't part of an alarm system.

Reassured, he loosened his short, curved sword on its sheath on his left hip. This was going to be quiet work, ideally. He made his way down the corridor slowly, sticking to the shadows, noting where it branched, in case he had need of a quick hiding place. The treated leather around his feet muffled much of the noise he would have made.

He slipped easily through the mostly empty halls, easily evading the quiet, slow moving Keepers. The halls wound in and out of the mountain, and the most difficult periods were when he was confronted with a single staircase on the exposed mountainside. A difficult place to hide, but there was seldom anyone to see him. It was almost a lonely expedition, there were so few living things in such a huge space.

But that was unsurprising. The huge hollowed passages were rounded and difficult to traverse, except where the priests had carved stairs. And they honeycombed in huge, disconcerting chambers. And the walkways often seemed pointless--it was so difficult to get from one platform or level to the next. It seemed like a place designed for people who could fly, leaving the land bound somewhat crippled in their efforts to navigate it.

It was most difficult to find ways to go up. Which made Sorrow think that perhaps that was where he should be going.

There was an easier option, of course. But one he hated. It was all in his head, he knew, one of a half-dozen different things gone 'wrong' with him over his life. So instead he reached down, and pulled back the leather on his feet, exposing not clawed toes, but three wickedly curved, almost scythe like talons. No longer bound together, he flexed them, closing his optics in momentary relief, before looking upwards. For a brief, wild moment, he contemplated simply giving up the chase, here and now, returning the credits, and living here. It was peaceful, quiet. Everything he would have wanted, once...

The hollow halls were quiet. Not responding to his silent speculation, or temptation, except perhaps with the sound of distant bells.

When nothing answered, one way or another, he growled quietly and began to pace around the outside of his climb. No sign, no answer...no surprise, he thought, a wave of bitterness rolling over him. Now he hoped he would run into the guards. Finding a route, a narrow ledge, he began to siddle upwards, digging in with his claws and talons where needed.

The stone was surprisingly soft, and when he couldn't find them, it was easy enough to make handholds. Progress was much easier when going vertical was an option. Still not ideal though. As he got higher and higher, there was less and less stone, and more and more air and exposure. It turned from rock pierced by tunnels to air latticed with a network of stone pillars, winding around the solid core of the mountain.

But there were no guards to take advantage of this openness.

Every so often he'd pause, looking around to gain his bearings. There were a few tunnels here and there, but a single glance in told him they were unfinished. Whomever, or whatever had helped to create the ones honeycombing the lower temple, they hadn't finished their works. He kept glancing upwards every so often, re-orienting his ascent.

The core of the mountain became thinner and thinner, and the thick lattice of stonework became more of what he was climbing through. He came across a few sealed, rooms. A few had people in them, but none looked like lizards.

He abruptly felt like he was being watched.

He also knew there was no helping it, not up on the wall like this. A flicker of pity crossed his spark for a moment, at the thought of someone driven from their home into hiding. In that same instance he suddenly found himself questioning the contract. What kind of monarch would make a claim to the throne with no power behind it? Besides a Transformer bodyguard and one attendant? No one to defend her, or guard her? It was too late to turn back now, and so he climbed on. The wind was stronger, the mountain cold where he dug in, and his coat whipped hard in the wind.

He pulled himself onto another platform. There was a sheer cliff leading up to the next level. Perched on the next level, was a beautiful creature.

She was winged, with many-colored wings that gleamed in the diffuse light shining down from the clouds not to far above them. Clearly the transformer he was warned about. There was some sort of harness draped over torso, but it was half unfastened.

She stared down at him with an expression feline and difficult to read.

"Crucifix?"

The name triggered something. Flickers of random memories called up, echoes of experiences and faces. A church, on fire, and...painting? Sorrow shook his head fiercely, looking up at the femme above him. He couldn't afford to be distracted, and so he resumed climbing, still looking up at her as he moved, digging in with claws and talons as needed. The scarf obscured his neck, most of his face, but part of it had come undone in the climb, and there was a hint of silver, a single line climbing upwards from just above his collarbone.

"Hmm," said Sphinx, watching Sorrow start to drag his way up the sheer cliff. After a long quiet minute, she spoke again.

"You do not remember me," she observed. "Or you are perhaps upset with me, which is warranted. Or you are a different version of yourself, due to something related to dimensions, and we have never met."

Her words made Sorrow pause in his climb, before looking back at the rock in front of him and continuing. The fact that she knew him meant he could get closer, but as always when someone seemed to recognize him, he found it disturbing. Especially that name...too familiar to be anyone else's, but still not quite his own. He kept climbing.

Sphinx watched until he was half up the cliff.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

He stopped and looked up, wondering if she knew about his difficulty when it came to speech. If she did, he'd prefer to reveal that he could talk later on. Sign language was something most Transformers in his experience didn't know, and it was exceptionally difficult while clinging to the edge of a cliff face. He took the risk of releasing one hand, gesturing and shrugging as if to say 'Right now?'

Sphinx examined him for a moment. She seemed somewhat mollified by the fact he was finally addressing her, however soundlessly. She nodded quietly in response to the gesture, and then launched herself from the cliff top.

She transformed as she flew, harness vanishing with her other robotic parts, and circled in a tight, diving loop, toward Sorrow.

He watched her circle for a moment, admiring the aesthetics of her movement as a painter would admire a fine landscape to work from, then shook his head free of the odd thought, resuming his climb. If she did decide to pull him from the cliff, there was precious little he could do about it like this. He would wait until he got to the top. If she let him.

Plucking did seem to be her plan, and his lack of alarm seemed to be taken as consent. She looped out of sight behind him as she reached his level, and then he felt her strange, talon-like claws start to close around his covered shoulders.

His first impulse was to drawn down, then and there, heedless of the consequences. His other, more rational one was to let her do what she wanted; shooting would only get him dropped. Not shooting might get him dropped later, but he'd burn that bridge when he came to it. Instead he just set his jaw, and when her talons tightened with surprising care around his shoulders, he released his grip on the wall.

There was a slight initial drop as she adjusted to the new weight. Then the world turned and moved swiftly about him as she swooped away from the wall.

She arced downward, irritatingly away from the top of the cliff he'd been climbing, but didn't land at its base. Instead, she flapped her wings and carried him toward one of the pagodas suspended from pillars of rock, down and to the right of where he'd been climbing.

That was it then. The fact that she was carrying him away from where he wanted to be proved that she was, beyond most reasonable doubt, the guardian Transformer he'd been warned about. Which meant this was going to end in a fight. The thought of making use of his concealed handguns though made his stomach twist in a sensation that was as unusual as it was uncomfortable. It'd be quick, clean, and a good deal more dignified than most deaths he'd had to deal...but taking the first shot without even giving her a chance? That didn't feel right. Didn't sit well. Not one bit. So he let her carry him down.

She maneuvered easily between the open pillars and deposited him with amazing gentleness on the stone ground, gliding past where she dropped him to land herself a few feet away. She turned, transformed back into her still very feline robot mode, and reached into an arm compartment for something.

Sorrow had landed on one knee and leaned forward, an old habit he'd picked up from hopping off of one too many hovertrains and other things going at a good clip. He watched her silently, his coat already brushed back and away from the revolver on his hip.

The something was a datapad, which she handed to him. It was blank.

"What are you doing here?" she repeated.

He took it, looked down at the pad, and then back up at her. His optics narrowed. 'Just shoot,' advised a cold, angry inner voice. Instead he looked back down to the datapad, and began typing, silver-clawed fingers moving over the keys with ease and sureness. He handed the pad back over to her, and then took a good sized step back, just in case she had her own inner voice advising her.

"I'm looking for someone. If we've met before, I don't remember."

Sphinx frowned at the words on the pad.

"It would be unrealistically coincidental for your presence here to be entirely unrelated to me," she told him. She sounded mildly irritated.

Sorrow nodded.

Sphinx stepped forward and handed the pad back to him. "Who are you looking for?

He looked at her again for a moment, still wrestling with himself, his indecision visible for a moment on his face. Whoever he was calling himself these days, he was certainly a lot more sure of himself than the Crucifix she was used to. More certain, more ambitious, and definitely cooler.

Sphinx read it. She was noticeably less cool than she had once been, at least she had lost that perfect, static placidity, but still as unintelligible as an iceberg to the untrained observer.

"I see," she said. "I suppose I should be accustomed to unrealistic coincidences by now."

A moment of silence settled, and then he extended his hand out for the pad again. When she returned it, he typed further, and turned it over to her. 'You're in my way, then. Do you want do to this here, and now, or is there somewhere else you'd prefer?'

His gaze was, as far as she could tell, fearless, but not the kind of stupid fearless when someone didn't know better. This was the kind of fearless when someone didn't care if they lived or died. This was a dangerous kind.

Sphinx noted the gaze and looked back to the pad.

"It seems unlike you to accept contracts for killing innocent young women," Sphinx observed. She managed to say this in a way that implied absolutely no judgment. As if she were commenting on a somewhat unusual choice of furniture.

That made him frown. "I was hired to kill a tyrant," he whispered, his voice young, as she might have expected, but surprisingly...empty. "Not a girl."

Sphinx blinked at him. She looked surprised. This was absolutely, entirely, a new expression on her.

"You can talk," she said. Stating the obvious was also a new thing for her.

"Hurts," he said, but nodded. He seemed irritated. Something else new. "A girl's life...worth it." He paused, and scowled behind the black fabric wrapped around his throat and face. "Tell me. Everything."

Sphinx made a non-committal noise.

"I am not qualified to tell everything," she told him. "Wait here."

She moved to the edge of the pagoda.

Sorrow watched her step away. It would be an easy shot.

In the back.

He pulled his coat so it covered his handgun.

Sphinx seemed unperturbed by his struggles. So calmly she turned her back, she was either naive, or she trusted him.

Or she had really amazing reflexes.

Sphinx vanished among the stones.

It had occurred to him that she might not be back. That however she knew him, he'd been just as mercenary, or worse, than he was now, that this was in her opinion a fine time to gain ground. Trusting only got you hurt, in the end. He waited anyhow.


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 Post subject: Re: Sorrow's Climb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:03 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:12 pm
Posts: 24
A glint of color behind one of the adjacent rocks alerted Sorrow of Sphinx's return. She was carrying someone. A lizard woman dressed in a blue wrap. He had been waiting patiently while she was away, arms folded across his chest. Had she brought his target right to him? Who was this 'bot? And what had he done to earn this kind of trust?

She landed lightly a few feet from him. The Samolean was perched on her back. It looked a bit like some image from an alien's children story. A tiny woman perched on the back of a huge, mythical beast. But the two women looked a little too businesslike to be part of a fairytale. The Samolean slipped off and onto the ground. She came up to Sorrow's waist.

"This is Secretary Tular," said Sphinx, by way of explanation.

Sorrow nodded at Sphinx, then looked towards the Secretary. It made fit with the details he'd been given of the target that she would have some kind of political people around her. He waited for the secretary to speak. She lost no time in doing so.

"I presume you are the assassin representing People's Liberation Movement of the Kelto Province?"

Her voice was soft and cool. She was unreasonably calm in the face of giant, deadly robots twice her size.

For some reason, the term 'assassin' had always rankled Sorrow. He wasn't sure why, it was accurate enough. There wasn't any point in denying it though, so he nodded at her. She'd had the guts to come out and meet with him, the least he could do was be honorable about the whole thing. For the moment. The Samoleaon said something to Sphinx in her native language of clicks and noises.

"Technically, we are not friends, as he does not know me," said Sphinx. "But, yes. They are."

Secretary Tular took a small device out of a rather large purse. She proceeded to unfold it into a small camera on a tripod. She pointed it at one of the engraved stone walls.

"Marshal Sphinx has informed me that you are interested in understanding the context of the political situation of Kelto before influencing it by murdering one of the participants."

Sorrow shook his head at that, and extended his hand for the datapad. Talking again so soon would hurt. His fingers rapidly typed out an answer. 'No, I'm not. It's a job. But I want to know more about the target. Sphinx said she was young.'

Tular read the response. Sphinx read it over her shoulder. Tular made a brief comment to Sphinx in the strange language. Sphinx said nothing.

"She is technically three years old," said Tular, looking at Crucifix. "However, our species hatch with full possession of our mental facilities. In common galactic terms she is an adolescent. Given the maturity with which she has endured recent unfortunate events, calling her a young woman is not inappropriate."

"She enjoys making flowers out of leaves, smoking, and watching pointless television shows," Secretary Tular added. "She has recently taken up kite building."

Even behind the scarf, Sorrow's frown was evident. He erased the text on the pad and wrote again. 'No kids. Not even 'young women.' The deal I made is off.' There were exceptions to every rule of course, but he didn't think that Sphinx or this Secretary Tular would lie to him. Especially Sphinx. Which meant he was out a good deal of credits and a ship off-planet.

Sphinx and Tular read his response together. Then they had a brief conversation, only half of which Sorrow could understand. For the most part, if sounded like Sphinx was answering Tular's questions.

"No."

"I find that unlikely."

"Two and a half years ago."

"I don't know."

"I agree."

Tular returned the datapad to Sorrow.

"Thank you," she told him.

The mercenary nodded at her again, and looked to Sphinx. "Someone else," he said with difficulty. "They always send someone else."

Sphinx nodded. She and Tular exchanged a glance. It was the sort of glance that seemed to contain more information than simple eye contact should be able to. Sphinx and Tular seemed to be operating on the same wavelength, and Sorrow got the distinct impression that even if there were no language barrier, he would have difficulty understanding everything that passed between the two women.

Tular packed up her tripod in a few quick motions and walked to the edge of the pagoda. She took what looked to be a tiny grappling hook launcher, and shot it towards one of the higher stone pillars. It snagged on the stone, she pressed a button, and she was drawn upward, away from the two transformers, and into the stones in the sky.

Sphinx sighed as she left. She sat by a raised stone platform in the center of the building, and reached into some of her own, more mechanical pockets. She started taking out supplies for tea making.

As she worked, Sorrow began to type again. He paused several types, deleting, re-writing, outright scowling once or twice at what he'd put onto the backlit screen, before present it to Sphinx just as she put the water on. 'You know me from before. I re-activated on a desert planet in the middle of nowhere, out on the Rim worlds. Someone told me that name before; Crucifix. Who was he?'

Sphinx considered this question as she measured tea leaves into the pot.

"A painter," she said.

She considered a bit more.

"I am...not good at describing people," she admitted.

A painter. There was a flicker of surprise in the other 'bot's optics, and then he frowned. Clearly not an answer he had been expecting, and judging by his expression, not one he really approved of. He began to type again all the same, and this time was much quicker in presenting the pad to Sphinx. 'It doesn't sound like he and I have much in common. The word you chose says a lot.'

"He also killed people," Sphinx added, putting a lid on the pot and setting it on the burner. "I believe that work was important to him."

That made more sense to him. It was difficult to believe he had been someone else, someone he couldn't remember except in the occasional name or briefly recalled feeling or sensation. He had nothing else to say to that, so he simply nodded.

"He had stringent criteria for his victims," Sphinx continued slowly, trying to choose the correct words to convey her memories in her usual economical fashion. "Only people who had been cruel to others. He lived in a church. He wished to learn swordplay. He was very..."

Sphinx paused for a while. Searching her mind for the correct word.

"Naive," Sorrow rasped out, frowning once again. The disapproval in his tone was strong.

Sphinx watched him levelly for a moment.

"Good," she finished for herself.

Sorrow shook his head at her choice of word, then moved to one knee. Reaching into the satchel at his side he drew out several long, tough looking pieces of dark black leather, or something close to it, and then began to bind the talons of his feet together, beginning with his right. It looked to be a long and complicated process, the bright silver disappearing slowly into loops and folds of black.

Sphinx's ears went back and she turned slightly away from Sorrow, focusing on putting out a few teacups.

Finishing with both feet, he stood up, and Sphinx head the leather creak slightly as he flexed his talons, but it held. He buckled his satchel closed again, and slung it back so it lay beneath his coat, against the small of his back. To him, it felt like they weren't quite finished yet. The fate of the girl-princess was out of his hands now, but there was something lingering...or perhaps it was just the smell of the tea.

"As I have begun to brew for two people, it would be rude of you to depart at this point," Sphinx said, not looking up and the now standing assassin.

He nodded slowly, and sat down, folding his legs beneath himself and brushing his coat and satchel back with his hands so they didn't end up underneath him. She could feel him looking at her, his expression neutral but...searching? He was looking for something he couldn't find.

Sphinx touched the side of the teapot. Discerning that it was boiling based on how much her finger hurt, she took the pot off and began to pour. One tiny white cup for her. One tiny white cup for Sorrow.

"When you die, will anyone care?" she asked conversationally.

That was an easy one, or it seemed that way to him, as he shook his head. He didn't take the cup, though, waiting until she'd lifted her own first. His fingers did type again in the meantime though. 'Probably not. If so, they'd forget eventually.'

"Why are you alive?" Sphinx asked, sipping from her own cup.

'I have to find someone.' He wrote that much, but before showing it to Sphinx, his optics narrowed. 'Someone that took something from me. Something important.'

Sphinx just pushed the tablet back to him, as if he were not finished writing.

He scowled. 'I don't know who. I just know that he's out there, somewhere. Running. And he's scared of me. I can feel him.'

Sphinx read over his continuation, and took another sip of tea.

"As purposes of existence go, painting seems pleasanter," she commented.

Sorrow didn't seem to have an answer for that, but he took up the offered cup of tea and sipped at it. He stopped, looked down into the white cup and then sipped again, before nodding at her in thanks.

It tasted like nuts, oranges, and spices. It was good, but it would be better if it were sweeter. Sphinx was taking a little sugar in hers.

"What is your criteria for killing people?" she asked.

'No children, good pay.'

"Why do you need money?"

'Hunting someone across planets costs a lot. Transportation, ammunition. Information is the most expensive. No one does anything for nothing.'

Sphinx smiled quietly in response to that last assertion.

The expression was eerily familiar. Sorrow had the consistent feeling he'd known her before, but something had been off. Something was not quite right about her. Different. And he only realized this when she smiled in that subdued, noncommittal way, because for a moment she looked exactly as she had before. Whenever and whatever before was.

"I see," she said.

Before bothered him. It was distracting, and every moment the thought about what he had been, what people had thought of him made him doubt, and doubt wasn't something he could afford. He finished his tea and set the cup down with another nod. Looking at the data pad, he wrote a bit more, stopped, and wrote again. 'They're going to send someone else.'

"Yes," agreed Sphinx. "What would you recommend I do?"

Sorrow looked at her a moment, then actually smiled wanly behind his scarf before replying. 'What are your criteria for killing people?'

Sphinx sipped. "That is immaterial."

His smile faded quickly. 'Whoever they send isn't going to stop when they find out you're protecting a child.'

"I am aware that you are singular," Sphinx told him.

'They won't settle for just one next time.' He wrote back.

"While useful, warnings are difficult to apply constructively," Sphinx told him archly.

Sorrow raised both of his hands, conceding the point, then stood up slowly. 'I don't suppose you know when the next ship off of this planet leaves?' He asked.

"I do," said Sphinx. "You do not admit it, but you enjoy performing jobs where you feel you are doing good for the world."

She stated this last bit as a factual certainty. As if she were sure.

Sorrow looked at her evenly, then shook his head. 'Even if so. Not my world.'

Sphinx made an irritated cat-like noise. "Does dramatizing your misery with fictitious distinctions like that make you feel better about it?"

'Just being objective. Could you tell me when the next ship takes off? I need to talk to my hirer in person.'

"Why?" Sphinx asked sharply.

'Matter of business and honor. I told him I'd do a job, and now I can't do it.' He frowned. 'Plus, he knew I didn't take on contracts with children. Finally, I don't think much of people who do.'

"What is wrong with killing children?" asked Sphinx.

Not a question he had been expecting, judging by his expression, which soured immensely. The answer was quick enough though; 'They can't defend themselves. Anyone that has to resort to killing someone that can't defend themself is a coward, a bully, or a monster.'

Sphinx took a long sip of her tea, examining Sorrow speculatively.

"That's a start."

She took his datapad and wrote something down on it. As she passed it back, Sorrow saw it was coordinates and a flight number. Presumably for the next ship off the planet. There was also, beneath it, a comm id number.

Sorrow looked at the pad a moment before stowing it in subspace, and nodded at her. Instead of turning to leave though, he spoke aloud. "You gave him something," he said slowly, haltingly. It seemed important enough not to write down. "A gift."

Sphinx nodded.

"What was it?"

"Paintbrushes," she told him. "You paint well."

Sorrow didn't quite seem to know what to say to that. For a brief moment there was a very familiar look of uncertainty on his face, but only for a moment. Then it was stoic and focused again. He nodded at her, and then headed for the edge of the roof.

"I am concerned for your well being," Sphinx said as he walked away. "And when you die, I will miss you."

"I think...he did die," Sorrow answered back, his voice quiet. "One, last thing. Did he....do something wrong? Something terrible?"

There was a pause, and Sphinx very noticeably did not answer the question, pursuing one of her own instead.

"Are you asserting that you are a clone, or are you merely being over-dramatic about amnesia and whatever dark trauma made you a pessimist?"

He shook his head slowly, and then shrugged, frowning. "Don't know. But...he believed in something. Bigger than he was."

He winced, and raised his hand halfway up to his neck, then stopped.

Sphinx muttered something that could be faintly made out, by someone with acute hearing, to end with: "...learn sign language." Then Sorrow heard the rustle of movement behind him. Shifting wings and footsteps.

"I understand what it is like to lose that," she said. Her voice was quiet, it was always quiet, but it was quiet in a different way now.

To answer, he produced the datapad again, making sure to save what she'd given him. 'What did you do?'

Sphinx had moved close enough to accept the pad when he turned back to hand it to her.

"Sulked, mostly," Sphinx said after a moment of honest reflection. "Flew uncertainly about the universe, looking for other occupations that would replace purpose. Visited a number of old acquaintances. Friends." She corrected herself. "To try and understand better why people...how they...." She forcefully stopped herself. She would NOT stutter like this. "Why one should do anything."

'Why keep living just to keep living?' He wrote back.

"Precisely," said Sphinx, pleased Sorrow had identified what she was trying to get at. She still wasn't quite sure how to answer the question, though.

"I think it may have something to do with tea, painting, and the capacity for joy," she said.

He nodded at her slowly, looking pensively down at the pad for a few moments before he replied. 'Thanks for the tea. I'll see what I can do about dissuading more people from coming for your charge.'

"I appreciate that," Sphinx said. She seemed to struggle slightly in composing this next sentence: "If you are...distraught or...feeling isolated, you should feel empowered to contact me. If that would be beneficial in regards to your situation."

Sorrow automatically went to type his answer, then frowned and consigned it back to subspace. "Thanks," he rasped out, and moved to the edge to begin his descent.

"...take care," he added.

"Yes. Care," Sphinx said a little quickly, as if Sorrow had just reminded her of a social nicety she had forgotten. People wished each other well when they parted ways. Because they didn't want each other to die. That was how it worked now.

She watched him descend, standing as immutable as her stone namesake until he was a nearly indistinguishable speck, far below.


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 Post subject: Re: Sorrow's Climb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:35 pm 

Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:35 pm
Posts: 44
(Thanks for posting this, 'Fish. Appreciate it.)


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 Post subject: Re: Sorrow's Climb
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:52 pm 
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(I'm not too familiar with Crucifix’s and Sphinx's history together... I get the feeling from this story that there is a lot too it. I remember several years ago when they were on the Axalon Plain hanging out, outside of any regular adventure... that may have been their first encounter? Anyhow, they make a good pair. It was an enjoyable story. I would be interested in reading any additional stories featuring the two of them.)


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