S1| Ep20: The Forgotten (上)
February 4, 2013
(A/N: WHOOOOO. The first volume of fellow Wench SgL’s Tales of the Big Bad Wolf is now complete! Now is a good time to read/catch up if you aren’t already!)
The rogue Doll raised an arm, aiming straight at the houses clustered against the slopes.
Intan snapped back into focus.
“Stop!” she cried into the wireless. “Don’t do this!”
Knowing well that she could not make it there in time, she fired a single warning shot.
It hit the rogue’s arm. A stray shot crashed into the mountains. A flock of birds took to the skies, screeching in alarm.
The rogue Doll adjusted its position, as if confused. Then it raised its arm to fire again.
“She can’t hear you like this,” Eguzki said from behind her, too quietly for the wireless to catch his voice. Intan still wasn’t sure when he’d unstrapped himself from his position. Now he was bracing himself at an awkward angle against her seat and the controls. She worried that he might hurt himself, though she knew that the Doll would not hurt him.
He took a deep breath. “I’m going to change the channel.”
Intan looked desperately at him. “Are you sure? What if she’s got all communications turned off? Just like last time!”
“Last time…” he repeated. After a moment, he seemed to realize what she referred to. “No. I think… I think I know why Kasih’s come.”
His expression was sad, but also a little resigned. It reminded her of the way he had looked on the stairs, just before the news of the king’s death.
That was what made her decide to believe in him.
“Okay,” she said. “Hold on tight. I’ve got to –”
In the background Tuyet was shouting something at them. But Intan didn’t pay any attention to it. She charged forward at the fastest speed she could, planting her Doll right in the line of fire.
Eguzki was still fiddling with a dial Intan had never bothered to figure out the use for when they were hit.
A flash of light blinded their view. The Doll trembled from the impact. Despite expecting the blow, Intan cried out. Eguzki spit out a few half-mumbled curses, rubbing at where his shin had smacked against the edge of her seat.
But he seemed to have accomplished whatever he was doing regardless, for as soon as he had righted himself again, he said, “Park, what the hell are you doing this time?”
Two beats passed before they received a response.
“Oh, Kaneshiro. I’m surprised. Thought you were forbidden from ever stepping foot in a Doll again.” Park cackled. “Come to stop me as usual, I suppose.”
“And who do you think’s to blame for that?”
“Stop!” Intan shouted again, ignoring them both. “You’re going to destroy Hadil’s village! Everyone’s going to die!”
The Doll will be sad, she wanted to say, but it was already so mournful that it would probably make no difference.
Eguzki’s grip tightened on the edge of Intan’s seat.
“Good! They’re just as bad as the Clans, the military, everyone else!”
The sheer hatred in the other girl’s voice took her aback.
The other two Dolls piloted by Tuyet and Rusli’s friend closed in. But before they could pin down the rogue, it zipped up away at a sharp angle, firing continuously as it flew.
Tuyet and the other Doll dodged and swerved, firing back. But Intan did not move.
“And you know who’s the worst of them all?” Park continued, panting. “Headmistress Liow!”
“It isn’t the time for this, Kasih!” yelled Eguzki. “Do you really want to die so badly?”
“So what if I do? You just think of me as a burden, an extra responsibility! And all because of that bitch!”
“I told you not to speak of her like that!”
“How else am I supposed to speak of her? Sita volunteered for those damn experiments! All because your beloved bitch of a Headmistress asked her to!”
“I know,” murmured Eguzki.
At that, Intan craned her head to look at him.
“She knew the consequences. She was willing to risk it. That was the reason she came to the capital in the first place, wasn’t it?”
“Fuck you. She was my friend. Even though we’d only known each other for a few weeks — she was my friend! My only friend in that whole stinking place! If I’d known the kind of crap she’d gotten herself into — if only I had known — I would have –”
But no response came. The rogue Doll began to fire at them, this time with smaller ammunition. Intan veered away.
Eguzki punched his thigh over and over again. But in the end, he switched the dial back.
“The pilot is Kasih Park, a first year from the medic division,” he said coolly.
Tuyet’s voice sounded angrily from the other end. “Kaneshiro? What the hell were you and Aghavni thinking, switching off communications like that?”
“I wanted to confirm the pilot’s identity.”
“Never mind that,” Tuyet snapped. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. A medic and a first year. With skills like that?”
“It’s the truth.”
“Get into formation, now. I don’t care who she is or what she is. We need to incapacitate the Doll before she does any more damage! Did you hear that, Aghavni?”
“Got it!” Intan replied, more cheerfully than she felt.
She remembered. She remembered what had happened last time.
The girl. The Doll. The water. The flames.
She did not want the Dolls to mourn anymore.
“If only I could talk to her,” said Intan, more quietly. “It’s wrong. She’s only hurting herself like this.”
“I know,” replied Eguzki. “I tried to stop her. I shouldn’t have — I shouldn’t have told her.”
“Told her what?”
But at that very moment, the rogue Doll paused in the air and began charging some sort of weapon Intan could not identify.
“What the –” said Tuyet’s voice.
“Damn,” Eguzki muttered. “How did she get her hands on –”
Another blinding flash.
When the debris cleared, Intan saw that a chunk of the mountain had blown away entirely, just barely missing the village below.
The seniors’ two Dolls had been closer to the blast and were nowhere to be seen. But Tuyet’s voice over the wireless moments later reassured Intan that they had not borne the brunt of it.
“Aghavni! Are you still operational?”
“We’re fine! But the rogue…”
Something strange was happening to the rogue Doll. It was still hovering in the sky as before. But it was flailing and convulsing — its limbs moving in ways they had never been meant to, as if in pain.
“No!” cried Intan. “No!”
“It’s them again,” whispered Eguzki beside her, his voice an odd mixture of awe, apprehension, and resentment all at once.
“Kaneshiro? Aghavni? What’s going on? What do you see? Answer me!”
But Intan could not answer, for whatever it was that Eguzki saw was not for her eyes.
Instead, her vision faded. Mountains flattened into rolling hills into endless plain. Trees toppled and crumbled into ash.
In their place rose a ring of giant towering shadows, billowing with smoke.
Far, far below, two boys ran.
* * *
Two grubby young boys race through dark alleys that smell of piss and grease.
Something pursues them. Several somethings. That which cannot be named, that which is ever present, and that which will always be forgotten.
None of which can be escaped.
The city crowds in about them like the bars of a prison. The walls are stained dark with shadows and blood.
Glass shatters. Wood splinters. Bones crack and men scream.
A boy slips and falls. His leg bleeds from a great gash. The other one stops, drags him into a corner, shielding him from their pursuers with his own body.
Something is burning. The fire leaps here and there, spreading deep into the night. The shadows draw longer: shifting, contorting.
The boys huddle together, panting and shaking.
A single shadow, darker than the rest, looms forth, then materializes into solid form.
A tall woman in a long black dress. A veiled hat shadows her features almost entirely, but for the cigar clenched between her teeth.
“You, boy. I have found you at last.”
The smaller of the two boys glares up suspiciously while his companion cowers.
“Who are you?”
The woman takes a long drag from her cigar before responding. “I knew your mother.”
“My mother is dead.”
For a long time they watch each other, boy and woman.
At last, the woman holds out a single gloved hand.
“Come,” she says.
The boy takes her hand.
What is your name, boy?
You don’t know? Or you cannot say?
Or perhaps you do not wish to tell me.
Then I will give you a new one.
A name to call your own.
A dimly lit room. The boy again. But taller now, and the color of his hair has faded. He is wearing the black and gold uniform of the Academy, emblazoned with the clinging vines of the wisteria, but the sleeves are torn and the knees are scuffed. His lip is bleeding. One eye is swollen. His gaze is fixed on his shoes.
Before him stands the woman in black, her face no longer veiled, but still shadowed by the brim of her hat.
“If you must maintain such an attitude, you ought to put your skills to helping others rather than in wanton destruction.”
The boy looks up, his expression wide with wonder, like that of a lost and wandering child…
There is no great secret to it.
Tell me. Teach me. I… I don’t want to…
They are no longer in that hazy dark room. They stand beneath a great banyan tree on a cliff overlooking the sea, their hair tossing in the wind.
“Why? Why did you even pluck me out of that hellhole in the first place? Why didn’t you just leave me there to die?”
The woman says nothing. Her eyes, usually hard and cold, are softened with what might have been sentimentality in another, but seems more akin to weariness on her face.
“Because of my mother?”
The woman removes the cigar from her lips. Blows out a stream of smoke.
Her lips continue moving, but her words are lost to the crashing waves.
They stand there together, woman and boy, looking out upon the sea.
The rain begins to fall.