Men of L33t, Part XXII - Lost Wings
And as I walk I ponder on what became of wonder,
of lightning and of thunder, how grey my life has grown...

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

Kimiko looked up from her script. Another interruption?

"Come in." she called to the knock at her door. One of the younger salewomen walked in nervously.

"Pardon me, m'lady, but-"

What was her name again...? "Misty, I've told you before, I'm not a Lady."

The woman rubbed her arm nervously. "Yes, Miss. At any rate, what I meant to say is, there's a man here. Says he won't speak to no one but you."

Huh? "That's curious... did he say why he came?"

"Yes'm. Something involving the customers who bought some cloaks. But-"

"What?!" Her quill fell to the floor.

* * *

"NO! Don't take her away!" his voice cracked as it splintered throughout the forest. She was in pain, hurting, no! They had her... they had her, it was his fault, he hadn't said anything, but he knew it is his fault. She shrieked and he covered his ears, trying to drown out the pain. This isn't real, this isn't real, this isn't- Reality dropped out from under him, and he fell through the dark void, plummeting into the ocean below, her scream melting away as if she had no more voice.

FWOOM!

[Opening Instrumentals of "Breathe", by Prodigy]

The world was a bitter sea of icy blackness, thousands of tiny particles reaming through his body with bitter preciseness! He screamed, but no voice appeared. This way and that, they carved through him, every shard cutting in his failure to win, his failure to see, his failure to the law, his failure to love, his weakness, his death, his comrades, his friends, his love no!

Light! Like a thousands suns, burning his body, searing his mind, branding his soul! Aaaaaaaaaauuuugggh! Not this... no, please it- Wait. His shackles shattered, their black bands dissolving before the intensity of the light. He blinked, and saw the icy void erode away into nothingness like black ashes in the wind. The pain from his soul lessened, and he almost began to feel... peace. Everything was becoming white...

"That's it, come out of it gently... come on... you can do this, young one!"

Who-?

"And one, two, three-"

"AAUGH!" Piro bolted upright.

"Ha! There you go! Your blood is too strong to die like that." A young woman turned to rinse her hands in an earthen bowl. Piro looked around about him, trying to ignore the dull throbbing in the back of his head. His eyes returned to the woman. She was quite pretty, for such a place.

"You are...?"

"I am called Ping. I am of the Guild. You were poisoned by a dart and saved by your friends. Since they didn't know the poison, I offered my help, but we were captured on the way to Scarborough and taken here. You've been sick for some time."

She dried her hands with a cloth, and began to gather up the medicinal supplies she'd brought in.

"How long?"

"Ten days."

He stared. She's one of the Guild and it took ten days for me to be healed?! Ping looked up.

"Yes, it was that serious." she said, "But I wasn't allowed to see you until yesterday."

"Wasn't-?"

"A ransom to the Guild is worth a lot more than a bounty on some exile." Ping said quietly. "You would be dead had not I and your sister plead for your life."

Piro chewed on this for a second before his mind tripped. "A sister? I don't have a sister!"

"Hm?" Ping raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? Interesting. She's like you in a great many ways."


Breathe with me


Ed smirked as he watched the young automaton leave. "You're getting soft on me, Dom."

"Hm?"

"Letting that silly thing have her way. She practically twisted you 'round her finger!"

"Don't be silly!" Dom snapped, his quill falling down a column of figures, "The boy needed healing."

"I thought you said we'd leave him be?"

"He's an exile. They pay bounties." Speaking of which... what was that number doing there?

"So the girl said. And you took in every word. It was especially touching seeing how you reacted to the littler girl."

"Ever thought about playing the good guy? Makes it easier to slide the knife in." No, wait, those figures shouldn't add up like that...

"Heh." Ed leaned against Dom's desk. "Next thing you know, you'll be bringing 'em fresh flowers to their table every day."

Dom smirked. "Couldn't hurt. That cell could use some color."

"Oho, now he's speaking of colors!" cried Ed. "My dear friend, what has that thing done to you? Perhaps you shouldn't hold the bindings to their cell so close..."

Dom looked up. "Ha! Why don't we send them home with gifts while we're at it?" He returned to his papers. "As it happens, there's a reason he's conscious and healthy."

"Really?" Ed turned around and leaned forwards. "Pray, tell, what is this reason?"

Dom chuckled darkly. "Just wait and see."


Break the pressure
Come play my game I'll test ya



Draegos walked up to the Hospital. The day had been long, the searches futile, and the talks with the Church drawn out; he felt they were hiding something, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what...

Oh well. He'd walk in, hug his Meagen, and sit down to a nice, hot dinner. Trust and comfort always warmed his heart, made everything seem alright again. Besides, this nagging feeling was probably all in his mind- it had happened before.

He closed the door behind him and hung his coat up on the rack. Voices? Was Meagen entertaining guests? The far room was lit... he walked down the corridor curiously.

"Yes, I know how to get Largo, but-"

"Please, you must! Piro's life is in danger!"

"I-" What? Piro? Largo? What was this?! Draegos stepped up quietly to the door and peered through the crack.

"I- are you certain?" Wait, wasn't that Tohru's new boyfriend, Vor?! What had he been hiding...?

"Yes! Someone from the OGSB came to visit me. I've done work for them before, and they kept their ears open to return the favor, and- they found that Piro's been captured, and he's dying from poison! Please, you've got to Sir Largo to help! He's the only one I know who can do it..."

That voice, he knew that same worried voice from somewhere, where was it? She had been talking... asking about someone... a cute girl. She had been sitting in a chair, that fearful worry in her voice echoed in her face, pleading not for herself, but for- Kimiko. That girl the exile had killed for. But-

Vor sighed. "I'll see what I can do. Understand, I don't even know if it's up anymore, not since last week. Largo only left here a couple days ago, so he might not be able to answer..."

Largo left here? But Meagen hadn't- she would have told him! She couldn't have known. If she had, she would have known he wouldn't do anything... but that still meant that Vor and Kimiko were undeniably involved. Draegos gritted his teeth. That Vor would do that to Tohru!

He stepped into the room.

* * *

Piro saw the door open - but it wasn't the girl (she was a girl, right? I'm still not dreaming?) from before.

It was a man, with a slight smirk. And he knew then why the man wanted to see him.

"Can I have a little chat with you?" the man asked. "Not like you really have a choice, but..."

"There's nothing I have to tell you."

The smirk grew. "Oh? Nothing, is there?"

Piro said nothing. Here was a man to interrogate him, and he didn't remember why he was even there. It wasn't an Imperial cell, and the man wasn't a guard of the Empire, so it wasn't that he was being questioned for defying the law to protect Kimiko -

The man spoke again. "It might be advantageous to speak. Your friends haven't come for you, so they must not care. Why defend them?"

"Betrayal-" Piro spat, "Is an art best left to scum."

Dom smiled. "Well, you must know. You've already betrayed those who could protect you. Friendship hurts like that, you know. That's why you should never make friends..."

He swallowed, but still his throat remained dry.

"... I couldn't have."

"You have been here for quite some time." The man kept his knowing smile. "Sick, feverish, delirious. Writhing on the stones of the floor. Even the strongest of men cannot control the instinct for self-survival in those conditions... if it would keep you alive, you'd say anything."

That's why his smile was so knowing, so - so taunting. This man was mocking him, his eyes laughing, whispering, Look what you're reduced to, you've fled, hid, all of this is your fault, you-

* * *

"You traitor."

Vor and Kimiko jumped and turned. They were sitting on a couch by the fireplace. "Sir Draegos!"

"How could you" he pointed a trembling finger. "Get involved when you knew what it would do to her? How could you?! I knew you weren't much but I was willing to believe you could be something!"

Vor's face hardened. "Something? How dare you?! I've given her everything! My life, my heart, my honor-"

"Honor? You're helping a murderer-"

"HE IS NOT!" Kimiko cried passionately as Draegos raged on.

"And you say you give honor? You have nothing but lies to give her! You are worth nothing!"

Vor lurched forward. "Any man who deserts his friends is worth no-"

BAM! A hole smoked barely in front of Vor's boot. He looked up at Draegos, his eyes smoldering like the bullet at his feet.

"You're under arrest for conspiracy, insubordination-"

Vorlon narrowed his eyes. And to Draegos, somehow they seemed -

- a different shade -

Psychosomatic addict, insane
Break the pressure
Come play my game I'll test ya
Psychosomatic addict, insane


* * *

"Any man who deserts his friends is worth nothing. So, then, Mr. Piro, where does that leave you?" Dom sat on the cold stone floor, eyes looking into Piro's own. "You're worth nothing."

"Only to you."

"Is that so?"

Break the pressure
Come play my game I'll test ya
Psychosomatic addict, insane


A flash, and -

Memories. Of who he had been. Always slumped, eyes downcast - like he knew that life would just go by, and he was just along for the ride. Rubbing his glasses with part of his tunic, never getting them clean, stuck waiting and -

Dom looked at him, over his own glasses. "Were you ever worth anything? To anyone? You hide behind others, you were always left behind, and those that stay only end up getting hurt. You can't do anything right. Even your fighting couldn't stand up to a simple woman! Has anyone you know yet come to rescue you? Do they care? Or are they relieved...?"

Piro's eyes sparked. "I'm worth it to Kimiko! She loves me!"

"Why would she love you? She was your first name, you know. Gave that one up rather quickly. What worth can she give you now? You put her precious little heart into my hands, and when I squeeze, it's your name she'll curse. Of course, that's nothing new. Look at how well you did before! An exile, a criminal! Her hero, the murderer."

-blood on his hands, the smell of death in the air, his air, his doing, now a betrayer, scum of the earth, bad people deserved to be put in prisons or held or tortured or-

I'm not sure who or what I am anymore-

Come play my game
Inhale, inhale, you're the victim

Come play my game
Exhale, exhale, exhale


Draegos stared at Vorlon. Particularly at his eyes - they were red, but not filled with anger. They were.... cold. Empty.

As if the soul of the man had been replaced.

Draegos wasn't a devout man, but he made signs against evil and readied his weapons again. "Tainted-"

"You fight without honor." Vorlon indicated Draegos' weapons. "I am unarmed. Unless you are a coward?"

"I am not a coward." The Guardsman seethed, but made sure both his revolvers were in their holsters.


Wake from your sleep, my children
Your childhood years are gone.
Wake from your sleep, fated children
Your rest is gone.


What was honor to a coward... to someone who had already lost their honor?

Piro lay there on the floor, but he wasn't resting. Dom sat nearby, looking down at him. Like the scum he was.

"So... talk now. It's not like you haven't before, you know."

"...you just want to use me."

The man gave him a sidelong glance. "And you haven't used others yourself? What gives you the right to criticize me, exile?"

Do I? Am I just an exile? Common criminal? I've got to me, that's what others have told me, that's who I am to them -

"Oh, come on. We've got no time for existential angst now, we've got business to conduct." He shrugged, still giving him that glance. "I'm in the business of information, so to speak... and I want information from you."

"...haven't you got enough?" Piro's words sounded strained, even to him. "I'm an exile. You're keeping me for money, right? I'm only worth what someone would pay for my life.."

Dom nodded. "Aye. A bit like whores - only worth what someone will pay for them."

Arise.

A flurry of punches -

Search.

A flurry of memories -

With fiery truth
Burn the evils of this world


Vorlon moved fast - though the fear and raging emotion of a desperate man wasn't in any of his movements.

Just coldness. Distance.

Draegos struck solid blows - he knew he wasn't bad in a hand-to-hand fight, his punches were solid, and yet he could only hit *him* a couple of times. Some magic was deflecting the blows - keeping him at a distance -

Dodge, take a punch - kick, sidestep - sidestep-punch-duck-move-

The sound of punches hitting shoulders, arms -

-they're scoring on him, he's getting slower-!

And indeed, Vorlon was -

But he still kept on.

Honor, and duty -

With fiery truth
Light the darkness of the world


- a memory, called up from Dom's words.

"A whore, I tell ye - seducin', gettin' what she wants from the good people of this town. She don't deserve to live, anyways, no hope of redemption from such a God-forsaken thing as -"

"She's not worth your time."

"And who be ye, stranger, to be tellin' us this?"

"I said, she's not worth your time." He had stepped up to the frightened woman. He had heard tales - kitsune, fox-spirits. And she was one of them, by the way the men talked. She didn't deserve such treatment. "She'll leave this town and won't bother you. Will you, miss?"

Her eyes had answered - "I-I... I'll leave right away.."


And so the two men had resigned, and left. And so had he, considering his job done - but the woman he had saved followed.

He did have honor - why else would Kit have pledged her loyalty to him, an exile? Why else would she want to help?

Why did he want to help -

Kimiko trembled, backing away - and hit the wall.

Cornered - the guard was big, blocked her path. He smirked at her, lust in his eyes.

"Thinking you're too good, are ye now? Well, you can't run, missy. So you're all mine..."

She wanted to scream, but her throat was dry.

Footsteps - the sounds a guard's boots made. Another one, wanting her? They were coming closer - !

The guard by her put a rough hand on her shoulder, holding her to the wall -

"Don't touch her." A quiet, firm voice - she knew that voice.

The guard looked, saw a comrade-in-arms. Smirked again. "Oh? Do you want some? I'm sure there's plenty of her to go-"

A glint, a drawn sword -


"Never again...."

Dom looked, raised an eyebrow at his captive. "What did you say?"

".....never again." Piro stood, shakily. "I've my honor, my worth...

"....and there are some things I won't allow to happen. Not ever again."

Farewell, children.
The day has died.


Piro slumped to the ground, his strength drained. He heard the door close behind his captor. Why was that so hard to say...?

Vorlon stood, barely, bruises and scrapes all over him. Arms dangling at his sides. And his eyes, back to their normal shade.

Then he fell.

Draegos allowed Kimiko to call a nurse, to make sure there wasn't any permanent damage to the prone man, before formally arresting her as well.

It was over, for now.


__________

Songs used - "Breathe", by Prodigy, and "Liberi Fatali" by Nobuo Uematsu (translation used). Beginning quote from Shoka's poem "Lost Wings"

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