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Endings and New Beginnings

Written by murdough :: [Tuesday, 18 April 2006 13:14] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 02 April 2013 13:21]

Endings and New Beginnings

 

by Andrew Murdough

 


 

Editor's Note: this is a sequel to Andrew's previous entry Of Leather and Velorians

 


 

“She’s dead.”

 

Those two words rang through my head hundreds of times as I sat on the floor of my living room, though sitting probably wasn’t the best term to describe it. It was more of a sprawled position than anything else. But that was irrelevant.

 

I don’t know how long I had been like that. Minutes? Hours? Christ, days? I couldn’t tell. What was for certain was that I hadn’t moved a centimeter since dropping to the floor. That had happened after the bearer of the news, a muscle-bound, blond haired, male whore – that being what I considered for the most part to be the job description of Messengers – had left. His accent indicated that, like Rasa, English wasn’t his first language. But at least I could understand what she was saying. Not so with this yutz. And people thought my New England accent was thick, which it is when I’m either emotional or drunk.

 

It’d taken him about five tries to get something coherent out from between his lips. Now granted, I had picked up a bit of Velorian in the time I had known Rasa. I thought that my fluency was better than average, but either my estimation was way off, or the Messenger – I didn’t catch his name – was speaking in a dialect different than the one Rasa taught me, because again, I couldn’t understand a blasted word he was saying.

 

Finally, he managed to pronounce three words that caused my heart to freeze, “Rasa is dead.”

 

It felt like my heart had stopped beating right then and there. I kept asking – demanding really – how that was possible. However, it was obvious that his English was spent, so instead, he patted me on the shoulder in what he felt was a comforting manner. I barely even noticed, since by that point, I was feeling pretty numb.

 

As the Messenger walked out of my apartment and closed the door behind him, I fell on the floor, which brings us back to where we started.

 

Rasa – who had left Earth barely a month ago for a mission in another star system – was gone.

 

 

*****

 

It took me almost three weeks after hearing the news before I was able to get in touch with someone who could give me some answers. That someone was the resident Scribe on this miserable rock, Sharon Best.

 

Getting in touch with someone who was – in effect – an alien spy was actually fairly easy. Then again, it’s pretty safe to say that I had an inside line. What I did was send an e-mail to the address listed on the Aurora Universe website. In that e-mail, I had managed to approximate the Velorian language within the constraints of the Roman alphabet – that task being what took up most of my time – and use that to inform her as to who I was, who Rasa was, my address, and my phone number. Given her job, it was a safe bet that Ms. Best would have known about Rasa’s presence on Earth. Even if she didn’t, odds were she’d be able to corroborate my story with Superfemme.

 

Anyway, two days after sending the e-mail I received a phone call. The voice on the other end was clearly feminine and said succinctly, “Be on your roof in exactly one hour.”

 

That said, the line went silent, save for the dial tone.

 

I hung up the phone and looked at my wristwatch. One hour.

 

*****

 

New Hampshire is an interesting place when it comes to the weather. It can go from blistering hot, with almost unbearable humidity, to downright chilly. Right now, Mother Nature had decided to go for the latter. Even though it was near the end of August and dusk, I stood on the roof of my apartment complex, my hands buried in the pockets of my jacket. My hair, which I had let grow in recent months, was blown every which way by the wind that was in the air.

 

God it was cold. It was obvious that my enhancement – courtesy of Rasa while on a trip to Vegas a few months prior – hadn’t affected my resistance to the good old fashioned New Hampshire chill, not that I really minded. The feeling of cold served to remind me that I was still alive, and I needed that right now.

 

A sound that I had heard several times brought me out of my thoughts. Looking up, a faint smile crossed my features as I saw a woman descending, floating down like an angel. But if some of the rumors about her were true, Sharon Best was no angel.

 

She was dressed in what seemed like pretty casual attire. Nothing fancy, though it still was alluring. She was just as beautiful as I remembered from when I saw her in Vegas. Everything about her seemed so perfect that there weren’t any words that would do her justice beyond that. Perfect.

 

We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries before getting down to business. Despite the fact that I had wanted to meet her for sometime, there were more important things to worry about. So I asked her, point blank, what had happened to Rasa.

 

Sharon seemed to hesitate, as if what I wanted to know was privileged information. The first thought that came to my mind was that maybe the Prime Directive would prohibit her from telling me. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit, especially since that goddamned law had prevented the resident Vels from doing anything about 9/11. Rasa herself had expressed her guilt over that one, even though she hadn’t arrived on Earth until a month after the fact.

 

Anyway, after a moment, Sharon finally told me, her voice clear, though I could detect the pain as well.

 

“As you know, Rasa left Earth on a mission. Since she had yet to be assigned to her own protectorate, she was placed in a task force consisting of four Protectors and a Virago. Their goal was to intercept a Tset’Lar who had been reported to be operating in a star system located within striking distance to Earth.”

 

A Tset’Lar? I had seen that word before, on Sharon’s site. From what I had read about them, these specially engineered Arions possessed Galen DNA, making them all the more powerful than your run-of-the-mill Prime. How the Empire got a hold of the DNA was irrelevant compared to the fact that these … beings represented the worst nightmares of the Enlightenment, and by default, Earth. Women who were stronger than a Virago, were capable of flight, and were completely dedicated to the Empire’s goals of conquest. Not good. It didn’t help that there were rumors that they were already here on Earth. Definitely not good.

 

As I thought about this, Sharon had continued speaking.

 

“According to sources in the surrounding area, the task force engaged the Tset’Lar. They were completely decimated. I‘m sorry.”

 

I nodded a little as Sharon looked at me with sympathy.

 

“Thanks,” I replied, my voice neutral. I had run out of tears weeks ago, so I didn’t cry. I didn’t do anything really. I just stood there, looking at Sharon Best. After a long moment, I shook my head slightly, as if physically trying to get the idiotic thought I had just had out of my head. She looked at me quizzically, and I couldn’t help but smile a little.

 

“It’s nothing,” I said, “it’s just that, for a moment, I fully intended on going after that Arion. The whole vengeance trip. Pretty dumb I know. Odds are I wouldn’t last five seconds against a Prime, much less a Tset’Lar.”

 

Sharon shook her head, her expression telling me that she wasn’t kidding by what she said next.

 

“You’d be lucky if you lasted five milliseconds. Again, only if you were lucky.”

 

“I figured as much,” I replied. “But you can’t fault a man for trying.”

 

“True,” was all she said at that.

 

We stood there for several minutes in silence before I spoke up again.

 

“Look,” I began, “I know in a straight out fight with Arions, I’d probably be the first to die. But right now, death is the farthest thing from my mind.” I paused, taking a deep breath before continuing.

 

“I want to help you people. You, Superfemme, that girl who’s been reported in England – the Defender, right? – and whoever else is on Earth. Rasa died trying to stop the Empire.” I shook my head, “I don’t want her death to be in vain.”

 

I looked at her as she seemed to consider my offer.

 

“Please,” I added.

 

Finally, she spoke.

 

“I’ll talk to Kara about it. I should refuse you outright, Prime Directive and all, but I will talk to her. No promises though.”

 

I nodded.

 

“Fair enough.”

 

Our meeting at an end, Sharon regarded me with what I hoped was respect before leaping into sky. I watched her fly away until she had become barely a pinprick against the violet sky, then vanished completely.

 

I stood on that roof for a long while, thinking. It’s funny how death works. It represents both an ending and a beginning. For me, Rasa’s death was the end of a period of happiness in my life. I was really, truly, in love with her. But now she was gone. On the flipside of things, her death had motivated me. I wasn’t going to sit on my ass anymore and wait for the inevitable invasion. I was going to do what I could to prevent it. However, I wasn’t going to become one of those pricks at EarthFirst, who had the “the only good alien is a death alien” riff down to an art. No way. I knew who the enemy was: the Arions. I also knew that the Velorians represented our only chance at fighting them. I was going to help them any way I could, even if it came down to becoming the comedy sidekick. Whatever was needed, I’d do it.

 

I continued to stand there, on the roof, thinking.

 

************

 

One month later …

 

I started smoking in the winter of ‘99. I was seventeen and attending a DECA (Distribution & Marketing Education Clubs of America) competition and was feeling a bit stressed, so my roommate on the trip offered me a cigarette. Like just about any other kid in America, I had seen all the anti-smoking ads on TV. I knew the risks involved. But at the time, I didn’t really care. I was young and stupid, so I took the proffered cancer stick. Three years later, and despite numerous attempts at quitting, I was still smoking.

 

At the moment, I was sitting on the roof of my apartment building, my feet dangling over the edge, five stories above street level. I raised a hand to my mouth, taking a long drag from the cigarette I held. I stared out at the Manchester skyline as I exhaled, the smoke leaving my lips like the steam from a train engine.

 

I’d been sitting there since I had gotten home from work. About two hours or so. This was my nightly routine in the weeks following my meeting with Sharon Best. I had yet to hear from her in regards to my offer. But I figured she was busy. There were reports of incidents in the US and UK. Uncle Sam always had some official explanation for these events – weapons testing, friendly fire accidents, etcetera, etcetera. But given the nature of the events, as well as rumors of the participants, I had a strong feeling about it. In my gut, I knew what was going on. Superfemme and the others were fighting. Fighting for us.

 

I snuffed out my spent cigarette in the half-full ashtray that was placed next to me, pulling out a fresh one. Picking up a disposable lighter, I flicked it on and lit the cigarette. No sooner had I done that, I heard the sound of plastic breaking. I looked down at my hand, frowning as I saw the crushed remains of what had been a two dollar lighter. It’s funny. It’d been almost six months since I had been enhanced. While I was nowhere near the strength of, say, an average Velorian, I was still a handful of times stronger than a strong Terran. For the most part, I had learned to control that strength, but there were times where I forgot myself. What can I say? I spent over twenty years as a physically unremarkable person. Then to suddenly become what I was now? It’d definitely take a little more time to grow accustomed to it.

 

“That’s the third one this week,” I muttered to myself as I tossed the remains of the lighter behind me to clatter on the roof. For a brief moment, I felt a surge of anger at myself. I mean, people were putting their lives on the line for us. People who weren’t even from this rock. And here I was, brooding on my roof. Griping over a damn lighter.

 

That thought had been plaguing me for the past month. I had told Sharon that I wanted to help, and I meant it. I consider myself a pacifist, as well as a potential draft dodger. Yet here I was, volunteering to go to war. With aliens no less.

 

God, it’s amazing what love will do to you. The woman I loved had been killed by the Arion Empire. Now I wanted to fight them. Some could say my intentions weren’t entirely pure. I was out for revenge. The fact that Earth was on the line was just a side bonus. Pretty selfish, I know.

 

Sighing heavily, I stood, picked up my ashtray and started down the fire escape, heading to my apartment through the window. Again, all part of the routine.

 

*****

 

God I missed her. I missed her so much that the feeling was physical. Like a lump down in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know why or how, but I was in the bedroom – our room – and was sitting on the edge of the bed. In my hand was a framed photo, which I was staring at. The photo was of Rasa and I.

 

It had been taken at a party that a mutual friend of ours had held a few months ago. In the photo, my arms were wrapped around her slender waist, holding her close to me. Rasa’s arm was around my neck, pulling me in for a kiss, her other hand in my hair. That night had been the first time she and I had made love to each other, and I remembered it perfectly. We’d snuck out of the party early and eventually found ourselves in the backseat of my car, an ‘89 Jeep Cherokee. The end result was almost two hundred bucks in repair costs to the car and three cracked ribs for me. Rasa had been very distraught over my injuries, since she had taken the precaution of wearing a gold necklace that night. On the other hand, it had been her first time with a Terran, so it was actually pretty understandable. As it was, our relationship remained stagnate until those fateful days and nights in Vegas. It had also been the reason Linda, my best friend and confidant, had been so pissed with me when it came to Rasa. According to her, I was lucky to be alive, but was also an idiot. Believing a lot of the propaganda put out by EarthFirst, Linda didn’t trust what she saw to be an alien.

 

Linda. Despite all that had happened, I still trusted her more than anyone else. In fact, she was the only non-Vel who knew about my enhancement. I knew she wouldn’t tell anyone. We’d share a bond since we were in middle school, and nothing could shake that. Lately though, I hadn’t been able to get in touch with her. The way her college worked was a quarterly form of scheduling. For three months, she’d be home. Then for three months, she’d be at school, and so on. She wouldn’t be back in Manchester until the end of the month. I looked forward to that, because at this point, I needed her. I needed someone to talk to about all this. I needed someone to help me get through it. God I needed her. I needed her more than ever before.

 

I was tempted to call her, but I knew that she’d be in class at this point of the day. Instead, I stood up and walked out of the bedroom. Grabbing my wallet and keys, I walked out of the apartment and was soon out of the building. Maybe a walk would help me out. Besides, it was a beautiful day, and the fresh air would do me good. So I walked.

 

*****

 

“I just had to come here,” I thought to myself as I looked around at my surroundings. Though it had been almost a year, the memories were still sharp. This was where I had almost died. Where a Supergirl – my Supergirl – saved me. This unremarkable alley was where my life had changed.

 

I half expected Rasa to come floating down from the heavens. But I knew that that wasn’t going to happen. She was gone. According to the Messenger, she was now free floating atoms in the core of some star. She wouldn’t be coming back. She was dead.

 

As I stared down at the ground, I noticed a small spot at my feet. It was soon followed by another. And another. And another. I reached up to feel my face. I had begun to cry. Damn it to hell. I had sworn that I wouldn’t cry again. Damn my weakness. And damn me for staying in this goddamned town.

 

I realized right then and there that I needed to leave Manchester. I needed to join the fight against the Empire, and I wouldn’t be able to do that here.

 

With those thoughts running through my head, I turned and walked back to my apartment. Time to pack.

 

*****

 

Two days later, I finished loading up the jeep and said my good-byes to my family. I hadn’t told them the truth about where I was going and why. Instead, I’d given them a BS story about how the company I worked for was opening a new store and that they wanted me to manage. I told them I’d give them a call when I got settled in, which I would, though from whatever motel I would wind up crashing in. It killed me to lie to them, but I figured that in the long run, they’d be better off not knowing the truth.

 

I also called Linda. As always, I told her the truth. Not surprisingly she wasn’t too thrilled. Actually, that was an understatement. She was outright pissed, and all of her reasons were valid. Maybe it was me being bull headed, but I refused to change my mind. This was something I needed to do. However, since I was headed west, I decided that once I got to Michigan – where she went to college – I’d stop by and visit her. I needed to see her anyway.

 

After that, it was on to LA, which was reputed as being Superfemme’s primary stomping grounds. Since I was all but declaring war on the Arions, it was logical to seek out their primary foe on this Earth. I just prayed to whatever gods there were that I’d be able to find her. That she’d hear me out. That she’d agree to my offer of aid. All three were long shots, but I needed to try.

 

Those thoughts in mind, I started the engine of my jeep and pulled away from the curb. This was it. This was the start of the next phase of my life. It was likely that I would end up dying because of this, but it only bothered me on a very basic level. I was eventually going to die anyway. So why not die for something I believed in?

 

Yep, it’s safe to say that as I – as cliched as it sounds – drove towards my destiny, I was unafraid.

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