'Till We Have Faces, part 2

From the Story Arc: Rebirth

Previous Story in the Arc: 'Till We Have Faces by Krasnaya Zvezda (Monday, June 26, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: 'Till We Have Faces, part 3 by Krasnaya Zvezda (Wednesday, July 26, 2006)

(posted Friday, June 30, 2006)

A faint sound made its way to her ears, a muffled cry? Striding over to the edge of the building she saw a group of Skulls dragging something deeper into the alley. With the rain and thunder it was hard to hear but a flash of lightning illuminated the alley and, for a second, a figure was visible, held upright between two Skulls as, watched by several others, another Skull laid into him. She had time, and deeds such as this should not go unpunished. This was her neighbourhood. These 'things' needed to learn what that meant. She dropped off the ledge, a black cloud in the storm, and started to transform.

"Please! I don't have anythi woouuff" he finished as a fist was rammed into his stomach.

"Did we say you could talk, old man? This is Skulls territory now, you want to sleep in our alley, you pay. You get that?"

The man could only double over as fist after fist was driven into him.

"You pay us rent or next time, we'll leave you for the Vahz." The Deaths Head stepped back from the man, "Make sure he has something to remember this warning by."

Letting him fall to the ground, several Skulls started to close in to enjoy the party.

Above him, the Deaths Head could hear another peal of thunder. "Come on, finish him then lets get out of this" BOOM! Something erupted around him and he and his men were hurled backwards, crashing into the walls of the alley and landing in other, less savoury, items.

A lightnin' strike? he thought, that was rare but… Then he saw it, one of those Kheldian freaks, hovering over their fallen prey.

{You will leave now. This one is under my protection.}

Yeah right, like that's going to happen. he thought. "Get up!" he yelled and the Skulls that could, pulled themselves back to their feet. Three were out of action but that still left odds of 6 to 1, plus a little something extra to uneven the odds. "You know, freak, you picked the wrong day to mess with us. Gravediggers, break 'em out."

With that, four of the Gravediggers reached beneath their coats and pulled out some guns; guns that all Khelidans recognised.

{Quantum weapons will do you no good, Deaths Head. You will surrender like all the others.}

"Oh yeah? Take 'im!" Some of the Gravediggers started to charge; the rest raised their weapons and began to fire.



(3 weeks earlier)


"We Kheldians have....unique weaknesses" Kyria said carefully

"We all have our troubles to carry." Red Star replied, as calmly as she could.

"Indeed we do. You know, I am not much of an empath by nature, but we Kheldians also have gifts."

"Gifts?" Red Star was puzzled.

{A certain level of telepathy, my friend}

"Telepathy? I've not notice.. wait, What did you just say?"

{I'm not putting these things into your head via radio} Star's mind was filled with Kyria's laughter. {Or do you not remember, Star?}

"How, how did you do that?" Said Red Star stunned, "That never worked in this form for us, I mean me."

{It is our natural gift, perhaps it was just easier for you to believe that what we used were mere cattle if we did not examine their thoughts.}

Focussing on Kyria, Red Star attempted to project "You are reading me?}

{To an extent. Say rather that I am open to you.}

Unbidden, a shield sprang to life around Red Star.

{That doesn't make a difference you know.} Kyria then gave a half smile, {You don't need to be afraid of me you know.}

Embarrassed by its appearance, Red Star shut down her shield. Come on, pull it together. and said "I'm not afraid."

Kyria gave another half smile, this one tinged with sadness, {Please do not lie, lying creates such terrible barriers.}

"This isn't making sense," Red Star said. Rubbing her head she added, "Just give me a minute…" She knows. She must do. But how? She must be making it up.

{Whatever it is you think I know, I promise it is only that you are lost, afraid and uncertain} Kyria thought, {And that, anyone who knows body-language could read. Your eyes, your shoulders, your stance betray that.}

"No, this isn't right. I'm fine." Red Star lied

{If I can help you, I would like to.}

"I'm ok." said Red Star, unconvincingly. Then, a barely perceptible thought, {help?}

Kyria smiled, {Helping is what I do, after all I am a teacher.}

"You think I'm a child!?" said Red Star, affronted.

Kyria laughed, "We are all children! No one should ever stop learning! But I do have some little experience."

"Experience at what?" Red Star said guardedly.

"I remember something of perhaps several dozen lives."

"I remember hundreds." Thousands, all gone. Uncalled for, images of beings, screaming as their life was drawn from them, flashed through her mind.

Kyria raised an eyebrow, "I mean as a human, dear"

"Human?!" Red Star laughed bitterly.

"K'rya--" Kyria hesitated slightly, "had been a Nictus probably for as long as you but Maria Kototkouros was reborn many, many times. Perhaps you find that hard to believe but, nevertheless, it is true."

"Humans have such a limited lifespan, the experiences you must have had-- Whatever you think, it isn't the same person, it cannot be." Is she insane? Multiple lives as a human? But she knows about Alex, doesn't she?

"Maria proved that to K'rya when she returned after her death in this form. This is by no means the first such change I have undergone; I have been everything from a sacred prostitute to an ascetic, my dear."

Raising an eyebrow, Red Star stated, "The human experience does not allow for multiple lifetimes."

"Ah, but it does. It is called the cycle of reincarnation. Some chose to embark on it, and some do not." Kyria smiled "Because I am a teacher, I chose to return to teach."

"So you do agree then, it is based on the decisions we make." Red Star said snidely. "Well, what do you teach then, Kyria?"

"Life. Death. How to accept both with joy."

Red Star gave a short, joyless, laugh. "Life you live, after death there is nothing."

Kyria laughed joyfully, "But I am proof that this is not so! As is your own Seraphic Flame!"

Seraphic Flame, Red Star knew the name from the CCCP roster but "I have not met with her, is she another 'reincarnate'?"

"In a sense. In a sense, she is also the first incarnation. She was what you might call an Angel."

"An Angel! Ha!" Red Star said disbelievingly. She is insane. There is no way she knows anything, why am I staying here listening to this drivel? Even as she thought that, she knew she wouldn't leave yet; there was something, some urge, telling her to stay.

"She chose to save the one she loved by sacrificing that, knowing that when she did so he would no longer remember her. That one being, of course, the one known as Blaze Phoenyx and John Murdock." Smiling fondly, Kyria said, "I know their children."

This brought Red Star up slightly, "Murdock?" she said. Another flash of memory: Murdock, collapsed and exhausted on the floor, then she leant down to offer him aid and then She forced the memory back.

"Why yes, John Murdock. And yes, she was an Angel. A Seraphim, of the order of Fire and Love."

Murdock, married to an 'Angel'. Admittedly, he had suffered some sort of fusion with a Peacebringer, not the most balanced of beings, but despite that, he did seem rational and if he believed... Red Star shook her head in disbelief. "This is a most strange conversation, Kyria. Angels and reincarnation."

"Hmmm" said Kyria, "It is fairly typical of the sorts of conversations I fall into." And then, in fluent Russian, continued "%And a child of the Motherland should not find it so difficult to believe in what cannot be weighed and measured. One cannot measure the depth of courage, nor the chasm of despair, nor the song of hope.%"

"%That child may not but I can, devushka.%" Red Star replied absently, also in Russian. That chasm measures too deep for hope. Oh, Alexander why did you leave?, she thought, wistfully.

Her eyes widening in shock, Kyria could only stare for a second, "%You have lost Alexander?%"

"%What!?%" Red Star was startled out of reverie, "%What do you mean?%" she said said, panicked, "%How do you know of Alexander? Tell me! Who told you that about Alexander?%" Anger and fear grew more evident in her tone.

"His name is in your thoughts, and your posture speaks of loss when you think his name!" Switching to telepathy, Kyria continued, {You shout his name, rather. And in your eyes, in the way you hold your head, I see shame and fear and terrible grief!}

Kyria extended her arms and held out her hands, full of compassion she thought, {Oh my dear.}

"No, stop that! Get out of my head, this isn't-" Red Star cast Kyria a frightened look and lurched back, away from her.

Looking sad, Kyria slowly lowered her arms and sighed gently. {Pain shared is pain halved. That is also some of what I do.} Giving a gentle smile, {Star, I am living proof that no one and nothing is ever truly lost. K'rya came to understand that.}

Red Star said angrily, "I am not lost! You don't know that, you can't--" she trailed off. I didn't mean to do it, I couldn't, not to him.

{Alexander is not lost either. Not forever. Not into the void.}

Closing her eyes, Red Star could see, once more, the look on Rebecca's face, the pity in her eyes. She shook her head, {No, Alexander is gone.}

{Certainly not into oblivion, no. He is somewhere. I have neither the tools nor the nature to tell you where, but he is somewhere.}

"How could you possibly know that!" Red Star retorted, with some hostility. How dare this--this--'reincarnate' talk this way to me! She knows nothing!

{Well, I can quote you science if you like.} Kyria began

"No Angels this time?" Red Star sneered

Ignoring the comment, Kyria continued {If a soul, a personality, is a kind of net of energy, and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then it follows that he is still somewhere. Does it not?}

"Energy can be changed," consumed "all you have is supposition. I'm here! He isn't!"

{Energy can be changed into matter, into another state, but it cannot be consumed. That would imply destruction. And perhaps he has become detached from this body he once wore, or perhaps not. I have not the means to tell.}

{Not consumed? So what did we do when we fed then, K'rya? Was that just a 'transfer of energy'?} Red Star said.

Giving a sad smile Kyria continued, {Of course it was. And it was also the forced eviction of those souls from their homes}

"And where did those souls go then? Off to some nice, happy place?"

{I do not know. They went where they went.}

"They never returned, we made sure of that."

{I do not know where they went. Some surely went on to other locations, some went on a journey of exploration, and some went into heavens or hells of their own making.}

"And how many do you suppose returned from this 'journey'?"

{As many as wished to. The universe is infinite, Star, with infinite possibilities.}

"I have yet to be convinced." Red Star said flatly.

"Star, I'm not going to try and convince you of anything. That is not my purpose." Kyria said.

"Then what is your purpose, Kyria? To tell me the joy of Angels?"

"To help you find the joy of life."

"The joy of life--" Red Star gave a joyless smile, "I have lost comrades, I have lost myself and life has joy?"

"Yes, my dear. Life has joy."

Shaking her head slowly, "Not at the moment it doesn't."

"In the midst of the deepest sorrow there is still joy." Kyria said


***


Voices brought him around.

"We are still secure?" said voice number one

"Yes, Lady. They will not check back for a while." Rumbled voice number two

That first voice was familiar to him, if only he could remember-- As he continued to awake, he could feel something; it was crawling over him, through him. He shrugged and tried to move away from this irritation, but the more he moved, the more it irritated.

"Ah. I see you are back to the land of the living. So glad you could rejoin us." Said voice number one.

He opened his eyes and the beings in front of him drew into focus. One was a huge male, easily the biggest Ruktur he'd ever seen, the other was-- Eyes widening, as his memory returned, he shrank backwards or at least he tried to. Something was holding him in place, tying him down. He turned to look, he'd been attached to, no, spliced into --

"Firstly," the Lady said, "yes, this is a power converter. No, don't attempt to transform, you need to remain corporeal or you'll overload this part of the circuit. That would not be particularly pleasant for you or, I'd imagine, anyone else in the Transit Point." She said matter of factly. "Still, it would mean you'd get rid of us and you didn't bring your Clan here, did you? Oh, that's right, you did." Her voice hardened, "I don't imagine they'd particularly enjoy being split into their component parts. Still, it's not as if you really care about them is it. Oh, am I wrong again?"

"What, what do you want? Please, I didn't want to, I was just following orders! Please, let me down! My Clan didn't do anything" he begged.

"Shut up." She looked at him in disgust. "For what you did I should tear you apart for a thousand cycles." She locked his gaze and started to walk towards him, "Piece by piece, a little at a time, leaving you just enough to stay alive and then, to keep your strength up, I'd make you do to yours what you did to mine. A thousand cycles, Commander, you'd be all mine." She hissed, her last words caressing against his face as she leaned forward, her eyes gleaming with rage.

Suddenly, she spun away from him and walked back towards her companion saying, "Be fortunate, I'm in a hurry and feeling particularly sporting." All traces of anger and hatred had left her voice, "You see, I'm giving you a chance, a choice if you will. You must stay here, in the conduit, until someone comes to free you. The usual crew is no longer alive, but the replacement crew is scheduled to arrive shortly. They'll be able to release you. All you have to do is stay alive and corporeal." She smiled. "So there is hope for you, Commander. More of a choice than you gave me and mine. Sending me away like that, that was not nice. I am very disappointed in you." She finished with a slight frown.

"No, it wasn't, I'm sorry, please, my Clan, don't" he babbled.

"Silence. Now, just to show that there are lots of hard feelings, the power will be running whilst you are waiting for your rescue. You'll be able to survive for, how long, Awl?"

"He can survive for the next two shift changes until he starts to lose cohesion. The next three until the conduit is ruptured." Awl growled. "Lady, you are being too generous. He"

She held up her hand and Awl stopped talking. "You see, I give you a chance, Commander. Despite everything, I have faith that you can survive this and save your Clan." She smiled again. "Now, as I was saying, given my reputation, it would not do for me be too lenient towards you. So the power must be turned back on now. Awl, if you please."

The Giant Ruktur strode over to the control panel and adjusted a dial.

The Commander squirmed, the irritation across him increased, became an itch he couldn't scratch that was covering him all over.

"Remember, remain corporeal." The Lady warned, "Changing form will overload the circuit and we have had to disable the safety overrides in order to get you into there."

The irritant was now a burn, moving across him, through him. He kept looking down, expecting to see it rippling across him, burning and scarring as it went.

"As you are probably aware by now, there is a dampening field in place; no one will hear your cries for help, so feel free to scream. I'm told it may help."

The Giant Ruktur finished turning the dial up to its maximum and stepped back from the controls.

A fire was covering him, burning through to his core, but the pain galvanised him. It hurt, oh it most definitely hurt, but it wasn't as bad had he'd imagined it would be. She must be unhinged, traumatised by her loss, if this was the best she could do-- He could survive this and, once he was out, she would not last the week. He'd see her buried into a conduit, see how she handled it. He could almost see her begging for mercy now... His fear fading, he glared at her, with both hatred and pain growing in his eyes.

"You see? I imagine it does hurt but you can survive pain, can't you. You can survive, Commander, your Clan depends on it."

The Lady stepped back towards the door. "Now we will leave, I will see you soon Commander." The door opened, then she stopped. "Awl, the Commander is doing so well, please engage the primary line and bring it up to full. A timed increase will do." Leaning forward, Awl turned a dial and flicked a switch, he then turned away from the control panel and left the room. "Someone is due shortly, Commander, so I will leave you to reflect. Pain is ephemeral, I am told. Remember; you must remain corporeal. Think of your Clan, Commander, think of your Clan." And she stepped through the doorway.

As Awl secured the door, she walked across the maintenance room, stepped over what remained of the maintenance crew.

{Tourniquet. Status.}

{All maintenance crews and engineers eliminated, Lady. The transit point is activated and ready. The Commander?}

{Will survive for longer than he'd like. We will be with you shortly, get everyone ready.}

{Acknowledged.}

Just as Awl reached her at the outer doorway, she heard the Commander's first scream. Sending Awl ahead, she paused for a second and closed her eyes. She savoured his scream as it made its way through her. It couldn't even come close to repairing the damage and pain he had caused her, but it was a start. Her eyes opened as the Commander screamed again, it wouldn't be his last. A smile crossed her face and she stepped through the doorway, sealing the door behind her.