Capturing a Memory

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Rising

Previous Story in the Arc: Temptations by Seraphic Flame (Friday, June 17, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: The Last Watch by Seraphic Flame (Wednesday, June 22, 2005)

(posted Monday, June 20, 2005)

Hearing him like he was standing next to her, it was almost too much for her to bear.

“It's alright, for now. I'll...talk to y'all soon. I have some news...”

She heard John turn off his comm unit, interrupted by the faint gurgles of the Tsoo warrior who collapsed at her feet.

No, Shuma go to him. Shuma tell him she care too much for him for him to...

To what? Her breath caught each time, could she not even think the word?

To... die.

The mission, the lost artefacts, the mobs of Tsoo she had been so intent on apprehending... they didn’t matter anymore. She turned and ran and ran and ran, fleeing the warehouse, leaving a score of battered, unconscious Tsoo behind. Breathing hard, she flung open the doors and ran out into the crisp air of evening, tearing her comm unit from her head and keying commands to bring up the CCCP roster. He had turned his off, but he had been speaking with Bella...

And Bella, the communicator told her, was in Steel Canyon.

A deep breath, concentration, and she folded the space around her, willing herself to hop across the space, closer to the Canyon, closer to him...

__________________________________________________________________

They sat high atop the Steel Canyon skyline, enveloped in the blue of the war walls. Shuma materialized behind them, saw John sitting quietly and Bella turning to her, as if she had been expecting her. Bella’s eyes betrayed tears.

“John?” Bella said quietly. “There's someone here to see you.”

Murdock turned as Shuma walked up to him. She placed a steady hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, Shuma.” His voice was subdued and tired, but always so kind.

Bella wiped away a tear, moved away a discrete distance, and began to sing quietly to herself.

John looked back down, his eyes lost in thought. “Sorry...I was kinda far away for a second...”

Shuma kept her features somber, determined not to break in front of him. “Shuma... is hearing your message, when you is saying you is...”

She bit her lip.

“...is dying. Is no hoping?”

He turned again to look at her. She was so small that even hunched over, he easily met her eyes. “Hmm?”

Shuma felt her lip quiver a bit.

Silly girl! Is being still!

“Is no hope... you can... stay?

“Well...there is.” He said softly. “Slim, but there is. I've made a deal, and I already am regrettin' it.”

“Why is regreting?” Her heart leapt at his words. “Shuma... we is needing you!

If he heard her slip, he paid it no heed.

“I'm gonna join with a Kheldian, Shuma. One of our own: Home World. He's dyin'...and he's willin' to let me join with his squid, so that I can stay...but there's a couple of catches, you could say...” He sighed.

“The meld...it's not goin' to go well. Don't ask how I know; I just do. Ya gotta trust me on that...but, after some help...it'll work...at a price, though.”

Kneeling down, she felt hope. Yet dismay he felt hesitation in telling her the details. “Tell Shuma. Shuma want to helping.”

With a slight shake of his head he dismissed her offer, oblivious to the daggers it sent into her heart. “It's nothin' that you can do, Shuma. After I join with the squid I'll... I'll forget. Everything. Up until a few years before I met y'all.”

She felt a quiver again, but drowned it. “Forgetting? Forget CCCP?”

It was out before she could stop herself. “Forget... Shuma?”

He sighed. “The only thing that anyone can do is to help me... try and remember. I'll have forgotten everything, and that's the part that I hate the most. Only reason that I wouldn't just die instead is...well, there's a reason. Let's just leave it at that, that I'll be comin' back for y'all.”

She closed her eyes, and slowly got to her feet. “Shuma... is no letting you forget.”

John favoured her with a smile. “Thanks...it's 'bout the biggest favor I could ask of anyone.”

Shuma began to fish into her belt pouch. “Comrade Bella? Can you is helping Shuma please?”

Bella came back, a song dying on her lips. “Did you call me?”

Shuma handed her a small camera, which Bella took gently, understanding.

“Is taking picture please,” Shuma said quietly. Bella gave her a small smile, and nodded.

“Of course.”

John knelt down next to Shuma, trying to smile as best he could.

*click*

((http://www.elftrance.com/CoH/Sayinggoodbye.jpg))

It wasn’t enough. He would need more, if there was hope to remember. She needed to tell him how much she cared. She let her defences fall, and threw her tiny arms around his neck.

“You is remembering this,” she whispered, almost choking on her guarded tears. “Shuma is never forgetting.”

“You were... you were first... being so kind to Shuma.”

*click*

She placed a soft kiss on his cheek and drew back, accepting the camera back from Bella.

John nodded, and tried to assure her. “I'll be back, same ol' dog as ever.”

Shuma met his look with forced intensity, not believing him, not believing her own strength. Inside, she was tearing apart. Vaguely, she heard Bella move away, holding back her own tears.

“Shuma will be there... to remember for you.”

“Thanks, Shuma...” he began, but if he said more, she didn’t hear it. She turned to flee, and ported away, so that the tears could come.