keaalu: Three colourful speech balloons (Coloured balloons)
[personal profile] keaalu posting in [community profile] memento_mori_11

     “...all right. That’s the last of it. You can get up now.”


     Rae grunted an acknowledgement, and covered his face with his hands, massaging his temples. Felt like he’d been laying here for days, waiting for the precious antibodies to infuse. He sat up, and swung his feet round over the side of the bed. “Does that mean I can leave, doc? I mean, the ceiling is great, and everything, but I’m kinda tired of staring at it.”

     “What?” Sadie glanced up from her computer. “Oh, yeah yeah. Sure. Go get something to eat, or somethin’.” She waved a stylus, threateningly. “So long as you’re back mid-afternoon for tests, a’right? And tell me if you start feeling ‘off’, even if it’s just a tiny bit.”

     “Course. See you later.”

     Ambling down the corridors in search of his friends, Rae couldn’t help feeling a little... strange? Uncomfortable? He wasn’t really sure what he felt... to think he had a little of Blink’s miracle gift now flowing in his own veins. He didn’t even know if the precious antibodies would even work – too soon to tell, according to Sadie – but he hadn’t suffered any of those crippling cramps since his infusion had started, and he couldn’t help being just a little optimistic.

     Totally worn out, Blink had spent pretty much the entire time since the Library crew’s arrival in bed – leaving her door open so people could periodically check up on her (and supply painkillers for her stiff, aching muscles) but otherwise insensible to the world outside. Even when Sadie had taken a sizeable blood sample from which she wanted to extract antibodies, she’d barely acknowledged the hind’s presence. Rae had begun to fret that she’d destroyed herself in the process of destroying Tevak – until his last visit, when he arrived to an empty room, with only rumpled sheets and an empty sleeping gown to show she’d ever been there.

     Typical! Just as I have some good news to give her, she vanishes. Rae stomped back into the corridor and took a left, following the interface’s directions.

     The last time he’d bothered to venture all the way up to the atrium, Rae had found a horde of little machines working to get the place tidy again, sweeping and mopping and fixing all the damage and debris Tevak had left in his wake. Hard to believe that a one-person wrecking-ball had swept through the place only two days ago.

     Nostrils full of the sweet smell of rain-washed earth, he followed the breeze to find the main door propped open with the same rock Tevak had used to smash the window. It didn’t take much imagination to work out who’d put it there – the interface had informed him that Blink wasn’t in the building, but hadn’t left the complex, which only left one place she could be.


     Rae guessed there was probably a lift up to the roof somewhere, but after laying so long on that hospital bed he fancied giving his legs a little exercise, and climbed instead up the long ladder nestled among the solar panels on the landward side of the massive glass walls.

     The grassy roof of the Institute made a comfortable, self-contained little park, sheltered on the south side by a line of scrubby trees, with a beautiful view of the bay on the other. It was in the long grass close to the dropoff at the front that he found Blink, her long arms stretching out behind her to prop her up, with Halli tucked up close to her side in a way that looked slightly more than just friends. They seemed to be quietly discussing the article on the big engineering broadsheet – what else? – spread out over both their laps, sharing a plate of sandwiches of such prodigious size, Rae knew instantly who’d made them.

     The spur smiled privately to himself; his friend still looked pale, and exhausted, with a compression bandage wrapped around her left arm where her blood had been taken, but there was a sparkle back in her eyes and for once Blink looked... perhaps not quite happy, since her “near-death experience”, but certainly content and peaceful, talking about nothing with her friend (sweetheart?). He couldn’t help the palpable sense of relief that surged inside him.

     Blink’s ear twitched at the sound of soft footfalls in the grass, and she turned her head to watch him approach. “Rae.”

     He plopped down in the damp grass beside them, wiggling his toes and dislodging the last droplets of rain that still clung to the shady blades. “Greets, ladies.” He helped himself to one of the sweet little cubes in the dish next to the sandwiches; candies made of thick golden nectar, probably a gift from Travels Far, for getting her impulsive daughter home safely. Perhaps also a subtle request to not involve her children in any more dangerous plans. “Your li’l friend got home all right, then.”

     “Duskwing? Eventually.” Blink nodded. The naiad had returned home with only three arms, wiser and hopefully warier after her misadventure, but just as keen to be back out exploring and with promises to visit. “I think her need to be with her sisters was stronger than her desire to stay here asking me questions. Danata are... very big on family.”

     “That sounds familiar.” Rae covered her fingers with his own.

     Blink took her hand back with a pursed-lips smile. “How are you feeling, now you’ve been Sadie’s trial run?”

     He considered challenging the blatant change of subject, but thought better of it. “Yeah, not so bad at the moment. I gotta go back for whole ’nother raft of tests later, though. Not looking forward to that bit so much.”

     “So Sadie can tell if you’re cured?” Halli guessed.

     “I wish! Naw, antibodies ain’t a cure. They should keep it at bay, though, until she can work out what it is about Bee that makes her immune. If it keeps the cramps away and stop me from foaming at the mouth, I’m not complaining.” He braced his hands behind his head and lolled artfully in the grass, making both women laugh. “So what have you two been talking about anyway, as if I couldn’t guess?”

     “Mostly this, actually.” Blink held out her left hand, palm up, demonstrating the delicate scar Frond had left.

     He craned his neck to get a look at her palm. “Computer not any help?”

     “No. Interface doesn’t know what it is, and there’s nothing in the library that’s very close.” Blink gave a terse little frustrated sigh, and shook her head. “I’m still going to at least try and find Frond’s people, if I ever get off this world.” She ran the pad of her right thumb over the scar in the centre of her left palm. This will guide you home, Sees-us. If I cannot help you, seek this sign. “She wouldn’t have left this clue if she didn’t want to be found.”

     “Mm. She was kinda cryptic at times, but I guess she probably wasn’t that clueless.” Rae couldn’t help feeling guilty for the blatant lie, but Blink seemed too distracted to catch it. He hurried to cover the slip before she noticed. “Anyway. On a related note, I got some news I think you’ll like.”

     Blink arched a brow, at a suspicious-dubious angle. “Oh really?”

     “Oh yeah. See, while you were tucked away in bed, sleeping off all that excitement of the last few days, me and the guys went to have a good snout around the place. This place is huge, you know? It goes waaay down into the bedrock, there’s at least another five floors under the ground, an’ all sorts of exciting gizmos we can play with.”

     “Do I have to drag it out of you one word at a time, Rae?” She gave his arm a playful thump.

     “We found a radio,” Rae said, in a sort of offhand way, picking imaginary grit from beneath this fingernails. “Interface says it still works.”

     Blink just stared at him, for a whole slack-jawed second or two, before finding her voice. “...what?”

     Rae grinned up at her, unable to quite carry off the innocent look he wanted. “That was what you wanted, right?”

     Blink covered her mouth with her hands; a pronounced tremble picked up in her arms. “You’re not just saying that? Have you seen it?”

     Rae took one of the shaking hands into his own. “Come on, Bee,” he chided, with a gentle smile. “I’m a irreverent idiot at times, sure, but have I ever led you on about something this important before?”

     Blink kept her fingers tight on his, in a futile attempt to get them to stay still. “C-can you show me? Can you take me there?” She could already hear Halli rustling around behind her, putting the papers away so they could get up.

     “I was beginning to think you’d never ask.” Rae scrambled to his feet, already following Halli towards the ladder. “Come on, then...!”

     “, Rae? Hal! Um, haven’t you forgotten something? Please?”

     The two glanced back to find Blink still mostly sitting in the grass, floundering on all fours and wincing in pain.

     She waved a pathetic arm. “Help me up...!”

* * * * *

     The communications terminal was tucked away in a small bright room directly in line with the base of the enormous rooftop antenna, just a floor or two down from the rooftop park, right next to the doors of the lift.

     Blink settled stiff-legged in the big comfortable chair in front of the control panel, resting her trembling hands on the glassy sheet, breath moving with an excited-frightened tempo in her chest. Exactly as Rae had described it, it was all bright lights and patiently waiting input arrays, quietly ticking over as they waited for the next user. The unfamiliar writing did nothing to lessen the familiarity of the layout; strong echoes of tiao’I spaceport made her stomach feel like it had flipped inside out.

     Halli mantled her hands on her friend’s shoulders, then leaned down and murmured softly in her ear. “I’ll be right outside if you need me. All right?”

     Blink bumped cheeks, appreciatively. “I’ll try and be brave,” she agreed, although her voice refused to work above a whisper.

     Halli gave her a reassuring squeeze before slipping out to wait in the hall; the door breathed quietly closed behind her.

     For a while, Blink simply sat and stared at the big panel in front of her. A radio. An actual working radio. A million-in-one chance that she’d never dreamed she’d get, after turning up so lost and confused at the Library.

     You worked so hard for this, her conscience reminded, quietly. You only survived Tevak because of your family, because of your need to speak to them. You can’t go and throw it all away again, not now, not after everything you’ve been through.

     Blink stroked her hands across the glossy screen and built-in keypad, almost tenderly, fingertips hovering reluctantly just over the numerals. The code she’d dialled so many times as a youngster felt like it had been burned indelibly into her mind, but fear made her hesitate.

     You survived the crash, you survived the unwanted transformation, you survived heff, you survived all the horrors that Tevak put you through... and now you’re too scared to call your best friend? Don’t be so spineless! her conscience chided. (Huh. Nice to see it was back at full strength now the Tevak problem had been resolved.)

     That’s why I’m scared, she defended herself. Because she’s my best friend, and I ran away from her. Pushed her away from me. It’s been so long. What if she never forgives me, won’t even speak to me?

     You can’t turn away now
, she reminded herself. If you turn away this time, you’ll never get the courage to do it.

     She took a long, soothing breath, and let it out slowly, counting slowly down from ten as she did so. You can do this. After everything you’ve been through these last few days, you can do something as simple as this. Before she could convince herself that one more day wouldn’t make a difference, she’d do it tomorrow...? She punched in the directions to access the frequency, and hit the command to open the channel.

     The signal went unanswered for an interminable time – she watched the timer count up, silently, its unfamiliar numerals slipping past on the screen. Seconds built into minutes, which dragged on so long it felt like she’d been waiting for hours. Maybe there’s no-one at home. Maybe they’re at work. Her hand lingered near the ‘close’ dialog. ...Maybe they’ve gone away. Maybe something terrible has happened.

     How long did you leave it, anyway? Before deciding it was wasting time, that you weren’t going to get a response? And if she hung up, would she ever find the courage to try calling again? What if they know it’s me, and that’s why they’re not answering?


     Diluted by neither time nor distance, so clear its owner may as well have been in the adjoining room, the voice on the end of the line startled her, making her heart clutch painfully in her chest. Skydash. For an instant, Blink just couldn’t get her voice to work past a croak.

     “Is someone there? Hello? this a prank, uncle? Because I’m not in the mood for it.”

     Blink coughed and managed to loosen the spasm in her vocal cords.

     “D-Dash...? It-... it’s me. I’m so sorry I’ve not called for so long... I’ve got so much to tell you...”

     ~the end~

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