|No title on this one. A death scene I wrote for one of my more infamous characters ... largely because I felt like it. And I'm pretty sure every character who's dealt with her has wanted her dead at least once. ^_^ By now, of course, it's completely out of date and will never happen.|
"Hey -- who's there?"
The figures at the door drew back slightly, giving off, rather than fear, a sense of caution with their movement. "Nobody," called a young man's voice.
"Nobody my furry tail," came the growled reply. "Doesn't everybody get themselves sent here." A low-slung figure sauntered into the dusky light, blinking a single eye. "You're a special crew. I can tell." Her tongue lolled out, and she sank back on her haunches. "I'm supposed to be in solitary."
A female voice murmured, "I wouldn't say special," and the group didn't move.
"So maybe not special." She got to her feet again and walked closer, giving them a better look at her. A gaunt-seeming wolf, badly damaged on the right side of her face, the metal that made up her tarnished purple-and-maroon armor chipped and stained. She gave her head a toss, and her right ear flopped uselessly, the left flicking to attention. "Know who I am?"
There was a stiff silence.
"Didn't think so." She turned and walked back to the shadows, left hind leg dragging a bit behind her.
"We're -- new around," muttered the male voice, and the wolf turned her head.
"Must be." She sank down again, releasing a soft breath. "How long?"
She gave a barking laugh. "Good one, kid. Good one." She paused. "Do you know where you are?"
"They told us it was the --"
"Never mind what they told you. This is the maximum security branch of Sigma's research laboratory slash prison." The wolf stretched her jaw in a long yawn. "I'm supposed to be in solitary," she repeated.
A different female voice murmured, ". . . Sigma?"
"You are out of touch, aren't you?" A thin slash of light fell over her muzzle as she sank her head down. After another long silence, she said, "Chet. New blood."
In the darkness of the next cell, a figure murmured, "Cal?"
"Nah. Don't know who they are."
"Then why did you wake me up?"
"Thought you --"
"Don't care." And the owner of the bitter, youthful voice was silent.
"All right." The wolf turned back to the figures at the door. "Might as well make yourselves comfortable. You aren't going anywhere."
"We'll get out," the male voice said confidently.
"When Siggy dear gives the say-so, sure," the wolf snapped back, eye glinting. "But until then . . . have a seat."
"Who are you?" the first female voice asked softly.
"Urufu. They call me that, anyway. Don't know that it matters anymore." She leaned her head down again and waited.
"Uru -- you're -- that one?" the male was flabbergasted. The wolf could almost see the whites of his eyes in the dim.
She gave a low chuckle. "Hear that, Chet? They have heard of me! Sig must have paraded that all over the newsreels."
The figure in the next cell stirred and said nothing.
"The -- the Survivor?" asked the second girl, sounding genuinely curious. "The one -- you knew X and Zero?"
"X and Zero." The wolf rose with a ghastly chuckle and stalked lazily forward. "Yeah, I knew them. The big heroes. The big, back-stabbing, double-crossing heroes." She took advantage of the startled -- nearly frightened -- silence that filled the small cell and continued talking. "Yeah. I've been around since before the First War. I saw them when they actually cared about the humans." Her tail swished through the dirt and grime on the floor where it hung, dead-seeming. "And then I saw them when they were doing their Duty to protect them." She looked at her front paws, giving her head a small shake. Her right ear dangled strangely over that part of her face, and when she continued, her voice almost seemed regretful. "And I saw them after the Second War. Every creature for himself, and they were no different."
The group had no time to reply before the door slid open, and a tall, slim figure stepped in. "Running your mouth again, wolf?"
Her eye glinted as she lifted her head, giving a short, rough laugh. "Naw, would I? Tell me what else I've got to do here."
"You could always --"
"Still singing that one, Sigmeister?" She laughed scornfully. "Don't bet on it."
"Lights!" the figure snapped wrathfully, and Urufu fell back, winking her eye as the computer turned on the overhead lamp that cast light for three cells over on either direction. Revealed in the glare, Sigma was as pale as ever, pupilless ice-blue eyes flashing angrily. He bore a full head of hair, dusty brown in color, swept back away from his face and caught in a short ponytail at the back of his head. His armor was reminiscent of his original gear, minus the long cape. "It would be easier if you'd cooperate."
"Couldn't if I wanted to," Urufu retorted. She had recovered from the shock of the light and was standing defiantly, lips curled in an expression halfway between a snarl and a grin.
Sigma gave a low snarl, lashing forward to catch her by the throat. "I'll kill you -- I swear I will --"
"As soon as you figure out how," the wolf answered politely, lifting her chin a little. "I'd prefer it. Living isn't exactly my cup of tea anymore." She was clearly delighted at his frustration.
He growled. "I could rip those memories right out of your head!"
"Then do it," she smiled, single eye dancing maliciously.
His face contorted furiously, and he released her with a jerk and stalked to the front of the cell. "You --"
She cut him off by bursting into gales of laughter. "Can't even use a computer anymore! How the mighty have fallen, eh, Siggy? Used to be, you were even a computer virus." She sat down, tongue lolling out again. "Those were the days, weren't they?" she continued, watching Sigma writhe in fury at the door to the cell. "Now you can't even tell a human from a Rep -- isn't it sad? You defeated your own purpose. Poor, stupid --"
"SHUT UP!" He spun to face her, and she obeyed him, still grinning hatefully. "Damn you, be silent if you can't say anything useful!"
"Try listening sometime," she bit out. After a pause, "Can't even tell you from a human anymore, Sig."
He left, then. Without a word more to her, he vanished from the cell. "Lights down," he muttered, partway down the hall, then, "Damn her. Damn that wolf."
"So, who are you?" She had limped back to her corner and was amusing herself by blowing spiderwebs about with gusts of breath from her nose.
"Nobody," the male answered again, voice taking a gloomy tone.
"Nobody," Urufu mimicked, accidentally breathing in one of the cobwebs and taking a moment to hack it out again before replying. "You have names?" She turned her head to look at them, shadows clinging together in the darkness.
"Not here," one of the girls said, and the shadow that was her looked to the shadow that was the male.
He didn't say anything, so the other girl continued. "We don't belong here. We got caught going the wrong way …."
"Wrong way where?"
They must have been some resistance group. The wolf gave herself up to idle speculation. They were probably going to try to overthrow Sigma. That must have gone over badly with him. She gave a short laugh. "Are you humans?"
A timid silence. "Yes."
"Amazing." She didn't say what was amazing. That there were still living humans on Earth, that there were still humans attempting rebellion, that they had gotten so far. She didn't specify. They didn't seem to care. She got to her feet, giving her tail a swing with what little control she still had over the torn and battered wiring. "But you won't give me names."
"We don't have names."
She slumped down on her forepaws, letting the back fall behind her. "Yeah. Look, I don't care if you lie to me. Just give me something to call you."
The male was about to speak again, but he fell silent, and Urufu looked at the door. Ringing footsteps made their way down the hall. "It doesn't matter anymore," she said.
They didn't say anything. The footsteps came closer, then stopped. The door swung open, and the three of them stood up. The guards gestured to them. "Let's go." They filed out.
Behind them, the wolf opened her mouth in a long, tired yawn and leaned her head down on her forepaws to sleep.
"How's that leg?"
The wolf stirred and lifted her head, blinking her one eye. "It drags a little. It'll serve another --"
"How bad is it dragging?"
A silence, then, "Not bad."
"Let me in. I want to fix it."
"Yeah." She got to her feet, giving her dangling ear a shake. "You have the gear for it?"
"New blood," came the sardonic answer.
"It ain't that bad, Chet," she muttered, lying down again.
"I'm bored," retorted the figure in the neighboring cell, "I want something to do. And you'd say that if the rest of your face fell off, anyway."
The wolf laughed roughly and stayed where she was.
"Either way it's dead Reploids." He was sitting up, watching her quietly through his hair, a darkness spilling over his face. She made no answer, and he leaned back again, putting his arms on his knees and staring at the ceiling. "I'm bored, Manny."
"Urufu," she corrected him flatly.
"Ma-antra," he told her.
"Shut the hell up, Chet."
"Lemme fix it. Lemme fix your leg."
There was a long silence. "Uru --"
"Shut up. I don't want to talk to you."
"Why'd they put it right next to me, anyway?"
Urufu lifted her head. The dark figure that was Chet stood at the far end of his cell, staring at a pile of --
"Damn scrap heap." He walked back and sat down, watching her. "Why did he put it there?"
"Maybe he thinks he's being nice." She turned her head away.
"By making me look at dead Reploids?"
"By giving us a chance to repair ourselves." She stared at the door and listened.
"You won't let me."
"What?" She turned her head again and looked at him.
"I can fix it. For good, this time. There's a good joint on the pile --"
"Lemme fix your leg," he insisted, reaching his hand through the bars. His eyes, barely visible through his hair, pleading with her, and she stared at him. "Please, Manny?"
"Urufu," she bit out.
She looked at the door again, listening. "Yeah." She limped over to the bars. "Doesn't matter."
He went over to the pile, eyes contentedly quiet, and grabbed the joint he had mentioned. "The Survivor." She leaned against the cage, and he worked his arms through, smiling with something resembling contentment as he worked.
"I'm not the only one," she muttered. She flinched as he cut the control wire to her leg with a sharp bit of metal. "You are too. And X and Zero." She looked at him, but he was busy. "Even Sig's a Survivor. Why'd they give me the title?" Receiving no response after a moment, she was about to continue, when he spoke.
"You're too loud, Urufu." He ran back over to the pile. "They only notice the ones who make noise." He ran back.
She looked at the door. "Yeah."
The door swung open, and a figure stumbled forward, snarling curses.
Chet didn't look up, absorbed in his work. "You've got two diodes nearly worn." She didn't answer him. "The secondary joint's just about rusted." She stared at the newcomer, who seemed to shrink a little at the door. "You're so stupid, Urufu, letting yourself wear down like this." The figure at the door was silent, and Urufu continued to watch him. "This wire's totally busted. Lemme see if I have another over on the pile." Chet jumped up and dashed over to the pile again, and Urufu jerked her head at the newcomer.
"What's your story?"
"Story?" It was a soft, haunted male voice.
"Why did Siggy take it into his head to lock you in my cell?" She paused. "I'm supposed to be in solitary."
She could see his eyes narrow vaguely in the gloom. "Is that supposed to frighten me?"
With a short, barking laugh, she answered, "It does some."
"I didn't figure." There was silence for a moment. "Who are you?" she asked.
"Human or Rep?"
"Tryin' to overthrow Sig-man?"
There was a long pause. "What do you care?"
They didn't say anything more. The stranger sank to the floor and leaned his head against his chest. Chet returned from the pile and continued work without a word. Urufu, finally bored with staying awake, shut herself down to let her companion tinker with her leg in privacy. It was three hours later, according to her internal chronometer, that she awoke, just in time to see her new cell-mate pulled to his feet and dragged unceremoniously away. She saw him look at her in disgust before he turned his head. Chet was leaning against the wall, eyes half-closed, in his usual semi-comatose state.
She looked over at her leg and flexed it experimentally. Then she went back to sleep.
"He was an interesting one, Damon was."
She lifted her head silently and looked at him, standing in the doorway with his arms folded across his chest.
"He turned on me from the inside."
She put her head back down.
"I've always found it fascinating to be betrayed by one of my own."
"Your own," the wolf repeated.
"Yes, my own. I hand-picked him from the production line." He stared at her penetratingly. "They only see the past."
"Yeah." She stood up and walked to her usual place at the back of the cell. Her leg worked nicely. "Here to beg again?"
"I do not beg." His tone became stiff and dark.
"Yeah." She sat down and stared at him. "Right."
"It would aid me to have that information," he said, still watching her.
"Aid you in what?" Her single eye blazed silently. "World domination ain't --"
"Ain't!" he bit out, cutting her off. "Are you no more cultured than that?"
She gave him an unfriendly look. "That's new."
"They only see the past, wolf!" he shouted half-heartedly. "You're stupid if you can't see that."
She turned her head away. "I'm the Survivor, Sig."
"Then you understand."
"What does that mean?"
Chet shifted his weight slightly in the cell beside her.
"I need it, Urufu."
His look grew strained. "Don't you see?" he demanded. "How can I know --" He broke off in fury and stalked toward her. "I'll kill you!" he swore, tears of frustration in his eyes. "Damn you, wolf! I'll kill you!"
His clenched fist rose above her wounded face, tight with hate and angry energy. It fell limp to his side. "Damn you."
She didn't say anything.
He stalked from the cell, and the door slid shut behind him.
"I miss Cal," Chet murmured.
"I wish I could fix your face."
"Why?" She looked up, single eye blinking in the darkness, seeking out the pale face in the shadows. He didn't answer her, and she turned to stare at the cell door. A long while passed before either spoke again.
"Were you trying, then?"
She didn't stir, mouth twitching faintly.
"Urufu, were you?" She could almost see his face, quietly seeking her acknowledgement, probing for answers even he didn't remember. "I was," he said. She heard him shift in his cell. "I thought, maybe, a little more to the left." He shifted again. "A little more to the left, and he might have . . ." His voice stopped.
She opened her eye and stared at the door. It was quiet.
"D'you think, if you'd moved a little over, he might have --"
"Shut up, Chet."
"Are you happier now?"
"How do I know?"
"I wish I could have moved a little to the left."
"I wish I could fix your face, Urufu."
"Yeah." She watched the door. It remained silent.
"How is it you sleep at night?"
Odd, she hadn't heard the door open, but lifting her head, she saw him standing there, arms folded, watching her with his cold eyes.
"Knowing ... all that you know ... how do you sleep?"
She looked at him. Chet drew in a soft breath. "Nothing else to do," she said.
"You could escape."
He stared at her.
"Why would I escape?" She rose to her feet and paced over to Chet's wall, rubbing her injured face against the bars. "There's nothing for me out there." She turned her head to look at her silent companion, who lifted his eyes to her.
"There's nothing for you in here, either." Sigma shifted against the wall, closing his eyes briefly.
"All I can do is survive." She butted her head against the bars again.
"I miss Cal," Chet said softly, eyes oddly empty.
She turned away from him. "You have your Utopia, Sig. Go away."
He stared at her.
"Urufu, are you okay?"
She turned her head to the speaker, blinking her single eye curiously. "Whaddya mean, Chet?"
"Are you okay?" His voice was soft. "Nothing worn or broken?" He looked up at her mangled face for a moment. "I think I can fix your ear."
"Because ..." He was silent. "Come here. Please let me fix it?"
"All right." She padded over and leaned her head against the bars, watching him. He jumped to his feet and went over to the scrap pile, face peculiarly animated. "It shouldn't take much," he said. "They threw a wolf-bot down here the other day..." He rummaged about, and a clanking noise filled the cells. "It was almost fully functional -- except that it was dead." He walked back over, bearing his makeshift tools and the necessary bits of lupine anatomy.
She looked at him, then looked away.
"It'll be nice to have two ears again, won't it?" He looked at her curiously. "I think it would be nice."
"Yeah." She stared at the door as a clanking sound made its way up the hall and flinched when he cut the main circuit to her ear. "I think," he said, "it'd be nice not to need repairs anymore, wouldn't it?" He paused, concentrating on tinkering with her ear. "I think it would be nice."
She tilted her left ear forward at the sound of the door swishing open. "Heya, Sig."
He slipped inside, arms folded as they usually were, and said nothing to her. His eyes focused on the floor at his feet.
"Lookie, Chet, he won't talk to me," Urufu said with grating and false joviality. "Think I hurt his feelings?"
Chet didn't answer.
"X and Zero," Sigma said flatly.
Urufu looked at him. "Like I give a damn about those two."
He didn't look back. "They died today."
"Oh." She relaxed against the bars, allowing Chet to work more easily. "Fighting the rebel forces?" Chet started to hum to himself.
"No." He shook his head, and a strand of hair fell loose from the ponytail he kept it in. "They just died."
"Just died." She closed her eye. "Like humans."
He looked at her. "Like humans," he repeated blankly.
"Urufu." She flicked her ears, both of them, in the silence of the cell.
"Manny, I want to talk to you."
She looked over at him. "Chet --" He was leaned against the bars, squatting down, hand half-stretched out to her.
She walked over to him, and he drooped to his knees, a small smile coming to his face. His hand drifted carefully over her scars to scratch at her muzzle. "I missed you, Manny." She looked at him in quiet understanding. "I missed you, too, Ricky." He smiled at her. "That's right. You're Mantra, and I'm Ricochet. And Calamity's my sister. But she left a long time ago." She didn't answer him, and he stroked her muzzle a while, saying nothing.
"Have we really become humans, Manny?"
She opened her eye as it had drifted closed and flicked her ears. "More like them."
"That means ... Cal, too?"
He smiled again. "Good." His hand continued to drift back and forth along her muzzle for a long time before it was still.
She looked over at him. "Good night, Ricky."
He walked in and saw them, the wolf crouched at the bars, and the boy with his hand thrust through, still curved over her muzzle. He was slumped over, not breathing, and a softness emanated from his smile, his closed eyes. The wolf had her eye closed, and he turned and walked out again before she saw him there.
"You can't stop it, Sigma."
"No." She leaned her head against the bars.
"It's been a week since the last one," he half-whispered, forehead in one hand, elbow resting supported in the other. "All the Survivors ..."
"We're dropping like flies." She stretched her paws out in front of her, blinking her eye at him quietly. "What did you expect?"
He stared at her emptily. "Utopia."
She laughed and put her head on her paws, breathing deeply. "Soon enough."
"No ..." He looked at the far wall. "We're the last, Urufu ... we're the only ones who can even pretend to know what happened."
Urufu looked over at the small body on the stone beside her. "Then you do know ... all that I know." She looked at him. "All that information you threw screaming fits for. You've had it all along."
He looked at her strangely. "I didn't want that."
She stared at him.
"Urufu, you can't die." He watched her. "If you die --"
She put her head on her paws and looked at Ricky's prone form. "I die." She closed her eye. "If I die ... I die. And the world keeps turning ... and changing ..." Her voice drifted down to a husky whisper. "I can't change with it." She opened her eye again and looked at Ricky. His small face was still set in a smile. "He understood it," she said vaguely.
"Wolf!" Sigma barked.
"You have your Utopia, Sigma," she said. "Let me have mine." She leaned her head away from him and flipped her ears back. "Please."
He stared at her. "All that's left is survival," he said numbly.
She didn't answer him.
"I'll be alone."
Her eye dimmed slightly, and her muzzle tried a smile.
"In a world ... that I created ..."
Her eye drifted shut.
"... that I don't belong in." He walked over to her and knelt slowly, reaching his hand over to touch her forehead. He pulled his hand back along her head experimentally, cautiously, watching the smile on her lips. "You did understand ..." He rose slowly. "Now I will never know."
He walked from the cell. The slash of light from the open door fell across her once and last, mingling with the dust in the air.