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The Gully
Topic Started: Feb 22 2011, 05:33 PM (5,130 Views)
Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
(Mirabelle Nesa continued from The Beggar King)



There might still have been some ounce of doubt somewhere in the recesses of her subconscious, but there was no longer any hesitation. She could not afford any hesitation, she could not allow it, and she did not allow it.

"You need to ask?" Belle said, shouldering her bag and drawing one of the knives from her belt. "We go after her."

She was going on alone, for whatever reason. That was fine, but somewhere on this island there were a bundle of trained killers and one injured goth geek wasn't going to be anything like a match for them.

Certainty, she lacked. But she had a cause, and that was something.

She walked into the darkness, digging around for her flashlight as she descended.
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They hadn't gotten very far in when she heard it.

There was yelling, first, words she could almost make out over the sound of her quick footsteps. She turned, confused, and her flashlight beam swept over Garrett and Jeremy, each turning themselves to look back the way they had where is Brendan?!

Next there was a muffled, strange-sounding sort of explosion, like what she imagined a firecracker would sound like if it had a blanket thrown over it. A short, sweet, dark silence, and then

A gunshot.

No!

She didn't need Brendan's shout (though there was some part of her glad to hear that voice, to know that someone was alive, that they hadn't lost anyone besides Madeleine yet, and that none of their little band had die). That gunshot told her all she needed to know.

Her flashlight beam darted to the walls around her, to Garrett, to Jeremy, to the way they had come and the way they were going and shit what was she supposed to the terrorists would have guns or grenades or night vision or all amounts of shit how could they win and-

Thinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthink

They couldn't win if they were in the open like this. They needed to get some place where they could...

"This way," she said, darting her head back.

And hope to God Brendan gets here soon.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Come with me. We can some shit done. For real."

There was nothing Belle wanted more at that moment then to run.

Gunshots in the distance, voices yelling at the others in her group, and one by one they fled into the darkness, running as fast as they could, fleeing from the fight. She didn't even have time to feel angry or indignant with them; she understood full well why they had left. Getting your collar blow? Hell, she was surprised it hadn't happened yet; had they simply been nice to her? Had it been because she hadn't even helped Liz yet?

They hadn't shouted her name. Wordlessly, she slammed a hand into a nearby wall.

She couldn't fight as many as were back there. That was a simple fact, and there was no getting around it; she hadn't even seen the only one of their number with a gun, and now the other two were fleeing off into the darkness. They hadn't done a damn thing; they hadn't protected Liz, they hadn't changed the game, they hadn't hurt the terrorists.

"Fuck!" she yelled, walking rapidly down a side tunnel, trying to disguise her cowardice behind measured steps, trying to pretend she wasn't running from this, trying to pretend things weren't going to be different. She'd been feeling empty since her fight with Samantha Ridley--since she'd lost the energetic edge, the certainty that she could change things, make a difference, swing her fists and break the opposition. There was nothing simple about fighting here; they were all victims.

Could she fight again, now? Could she go back to being just a participant in this fucking game?

And then she froze, because she saw it. Without thinking her finger flicked up to her own flashlight and turned the light off, and she crouched low against the wall, body rigid.

There was a flashlight heading down what she assumed must be a juncture, getting steadily larger. She gritted her teeth, stared at it, tried to think as she crept closer and the light swelled steadily. None of the others had come this way, she was sure of it, so...

Who was walking down the tunnel right now?

She swallowed. Looked down at her flashlight. I don't even know if it's one of them. Could be anyone. And if is one of them, what the hell am I supposed to do? I've got knives, that's it, I can't fix anything, I'm a weak little girl who couldn't save anyone and the only guy I ever beat in a real fight wasn't even a monster, just a kid like me, just dumb and I can't do this and-

She felt goosebumps break out over her body. She lowered her head. She let the light pass her.






Except she didn't.

She lifted her head. She tightened her grip on her light. She got to her feet.

She wasn't devoid of fear anymore. She was, in fact, riding on a current of complete terror that chilled her to the bone and left her feeling a little weak, a little dizzy. Beneath that fear--beneath the all-consuming realization that if she did this that might be the end of the road, that she might fucking die just for doing what these sons of bitches had put her here for in the first place and providing a damn good show--was a very simple thought.

She couldn't walk away from this.

She couldn't walk away. She might die somewhere else on the island. She might live, by whatever chance it is that governs such things. But at the end of the day, if she walked away right now, without taking the fight to these miserable bastards, she'd hate herself every moment until she died.

She could abide death. Maybe because death was easier. But if she had to live with the memory of being a coward--if she had to know that, when a girl she'd chosen to help had been hunted in tunnels beneath her feet and she had fled for fear of her own life--she would destroy herself.

Liz Polanski had burned herself that badly, just to fuck the system. Belle was going to do the same thing.

She turned the light in her hands sideways, flicked it on, and tossed it across the opening. She saw the other light swivel after, vaguely--she wasn't looking too close. As she was throwing the flashlight, she was drawing the knife from her side, eyes narrowed.

Come on, you fuckers. Let's dance.
Edited by Grim Wolf, Apr 10 2011, 06:59 PM.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Impact.

The gun darted left, Belle had cleared the distance between them before it had trained back on her. She felt it, though; cold, cylindrical steal, right up against her arm. Two more inches and that piece of forged death would be in her ribs; two more inches, and its deadly cargo would have smashed her bones to pieces and shredded her organs apart.

Combat is built upon a hairs-breadth. The more narrow your dodges, the better your counters. Simple fact. The more skilled you were, the more you could exploit the minuscule openings in an opponent's attack.

Not that Belle being this close was a result of skill so much as luck. But at this moment she'd take what she could get.

She lashed out with her left hand, knocked the gun to one side, and then tightened her grip around the arm she found. She drew back the knife in her right hand and let it plunge, discovered what it feels like to let a knife slip into another person's flesh--easy, like stabbing a piece of steak with your fork, slipping right through. Fragile, she thought vaguely, in that part of her mind that wasn't wholly here, on her body, on this.

A short, sharp cry. The arm twisted out of her grip, a leg connected with her, she stumbled back into the dark as her fingers scrambled around the barrel of the gun. It flew off into the darkness, clattering against the stone and he's a soldier don't assume he's only got one gun get back in there!. She flung herself forwards, curling her fingers back, lashing out with palms. She connected with something solid and bony--a shoulder?--and then something softer--part of an arm?

That was before the fist connected with her face, an explosion of bright, star-laced pain as something cracked in her nose. Another fist lanced into her stomach, knocked the air out of her; a leg raced up from the dark and crashed into her. She staggered backwards, one hand around her nose and split lip, the other on her stomach.
Edited by Grim Wolf, Apr 26 2011, 02:18 AM.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Oh
God
Oh
Christ No Stop
FUCK
Please...


Those two fuck-ups had cost her everything; she'd failed to capitalize on her momentary advantage, failed to strike at something vulernable, something that would turn the rhythm in her favor, and now he pummeled her without mercy and without apparent effort and her body turned to pain. It wasn't absolutely one-sided; here and there she threw up her hands or knees, catching inbound attacks; here and there she sidestepped the blows raining down upon her, throwing an open-palm to slam into his chest, his side; here and there she simply darted away, out of the range of his attacks.

These brief back-steps, however, would last only as long as it took her to remember that somewhere within this darkness there was a gun that this murderous, terrifying shadow knew all-too-well how to use, and then she'd throw herself back at him, striking, dodging, trying as best she could to hurt him.

Trying, and failing.

Once, twice, thrice she darted back, head spinning and body crying for release; once, twice, thrice she thrust herself back into the fray. She couldn't turn back, she couldn't let this sonofabitch through to hurt Liz, she couldn't turn away from these miserable bastards but...

But she hurt.

Her nose felt twisted and out of place, and was fountaining blood (and their was blood everywhere--on her face, on her hands, on stained and dirty gi), her body felt as though it had been permeated with cracks--as though this terrorist's blows had struck some fundamental bodily fault-line and sent terrestrial turmoil through every inch at her. Try as she might, she simply couldn't see him, and every time she pressed the attack she exposed herself; he, unlike her, had the luxury of time.

Master Liang had warned her of aggression, a warning Belle had had plenty of time to understand for herself here on this miserable island. But what was she supposed to do now, when her aggression (and all the fucking Christ-bitching pain it brought with it) was all that was stopping this silent bastard from shooting her?

Brief, useless thoughts, brought on by her pain, and they cost her.

A blow, out from the darkness, to the side of her head. She stumbled, lost the defensive posture she'd been struggling to keep up; a knee raced up and collided with her stomach and she keeled over without thinking, hunched, useless--all thoughts of protecting herself had vanished with that blow to her stomach, the blow that had robbed her of air and left her gasping.

A powerful force hammered into the back of her skull; it felt like it burst a dam, felt like it had caved in her head and driven all the way into her brains. Stars exploded in the wide-eyed darkness, miniature supernovas; she fell to her knees, struggling to breathe, struggling to think, struggling to stay conscious.

She felt, rather than saw, the something being readied above her; the killing intent like a knife and like an odor, gleaming out of the black and stinking of everything she'd ever feared in her short life.
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Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

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Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

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She felt, rather than saw, the something being readied above her; the killing intent like a knife and like an odor, gleaming out of the black and stinking of everything she'd ever feared in her short life.

He moved; they were closed enough now that she felt the tension in his body, the swift movement like a taut bow-string being released, and that thought brought memories--memories of Simon and of Jackie, memories of that brutal fight by the Sawmill. She'd let Samantha go--why had she done that? Had it just been the thought that Jackie had given up?

The moment separating her and her death seemed to be infinite; she felt it in all its intricate slowness, the slow undulation of her last moments. Garrett and she had allied, in the end; the boy she'd thought of as her enemy had turned out to be just like her, helpless, desperate, alive. The girl she'd traveled with had committed suicide-by-proxy, and Belle hadn't even noticed the despair that led her to that decision. And Liz? Liz was somewhere down this tunnel, and this sonofabitch would find her and kill her because Belle hadn't managed to a damn thing. All her desperation, all her aggression, all her raging against the trap in which these murderous fucks had placed her had done nothing but lead her to her knees, deprived of oxygen as death raced towards her.

Surrender, then. Let the bow-string be released, let the arrow of her end fly; she was done with this, done with struggling. She was done with her struggle.

Her hands lifted up into the infinite slowness of that eternal moment. She felt it--the slick, sleek agony of a knife drawn across her hand and fingers, bright and burning pain as the blade sliced deep into flesh. The fingers of her uninjured right hand curled around his wrist and she twisted with his slash, turning the hand in her grasp: the blade clattered to the floor next to her.

"Do you know why Baguazhang is oriented upon the circle?" Master Xiang asked her.

She kept her hold on his wrist; when the counter came (a low, brutally-fast kick--Christ, he was quick!) she felt it, flowing out of his leg and into the rest of his body. She was too close to dodge entirely, but when it hit she moved with it, turning to one side with the arm still in her grasp and driving an elbow into his side. A low, pained grunt greeted her efforts; the muscular arm tensed in her grasp and pulled backwards. She went with it, swinging her elbow out behind her and driving it into his stomach; for an instant he stopped fighting, his body going rigid.

"Baguazhang is not meant to be aggressive, nor is it meant to be passive. It is meant to be like water--to occupy the cracks in his defenses your opponent cannot help but have."

A sudden push shook her off his hand. She dug her feet into the dusty stone of the tunnel, feet skidding over the floor, and then took a step in, palms raised. His hand raced out and crashed against hers, and for a fleeting moment the spilled blood of one hand mingled with the spilled blood on the other.

"Your opponent's blows have force--this force cannot always be dodged or blocked. All energy goes somewhere; control the system, and you can use even the energy of your enemy to strike back at them."

She turned into his attack, stepping forward and twisting under his grasp. A quick strike to his chin; she felt his head jerk back, even as a crushing blow swept into her side. She moved with this, too, turning at an angle and coming out low with a swift kick to the side of his knee that left him stumbling.

Her whole body ached. She was still short on breath. Ever blow she took was a sharp, agonizing reminder of her other aches, her evident injuries, but...

Control the system, and you can use even the energy of your enemy to strike back at them.

Endless turns, endless strikes, but she moved with them, moved against him, moved to fill the cracks in his defenses.
Edited by Grim Wolf, Apr 26 2011, 02:17 AM.
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Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

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Hit, hit, hit, hit, hit, hit. Again and again, trading blows, keeping close. She couldn't hear especially well, but from this close to him she couldn't help but feel him move, and as long as she moved with those movements (danced with them, to each side, back and forth, each touch moving her with the force of an order and she whirled about) she no longer too much damage, she no longer lost her feeling for him.

There was a rhythm here, a rhythm she hadn't yet mastered, but it was there and she could follow it, it was there...

She felt his arm tense and shifted as a fist came hurtling towards her out of the dark; it was only as she turned her head slightly that she felt the slight change in his body, a ripple of force extending out from his core, and suddenly the arm had changed direction, changing the rhythm once more, and was heading straight towards her stomach.

The blow hit and she turned with it, turned even as the air rushed out of her in one smooth rush and made it hard to breathe, turned with it in that fragile second before she realized how much pain she was in. One high elbow caught him in the chin; she felt his head knock back, felt him stumble. She continued the turn, directed two blows with her palms to his head, then swept low again with her leg. He stumbled again, his balance precarious, and for the first time in their whole fight he was the one with a hole in his defenses, he was the one who wasn't ready.

She'd only been learning Baguazhang for three years or so-not long enough, really, to have become really good at it. And there was no doubt this guy was stronger than she was, better than she was--he had more experience, the only reason she'd done nearly so well was because he'd been underestimating her and because he'd lost his gun. She wasn't yet a great martial artist, but...

But she had been learning savate since she was five years old, and her kicks, as she had learned, were as good as they got.

One quick step, then she was in the air, and the kick she threw towards his chest had not only twelve years of practice behind it but 127 pounds of mass and practice and fury.
Edited by Grim Wolf, Apr 26 2011, 02:20 AM.
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Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

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She landed and then immediately sunk low, legs tensed, hands out with fingers curled to bring her palms to prominence. Blood flowed from the slash in her left hand, dripping onto the dirt below her as the wound itself burned a sharp reminder into her mind, but she couldn't worry about that now; she had to be ready for the counter, ready for this murderous engine of fucking muscle to be back on his feet and at her, ready to flow with him, ready to...

One second. Two seconds. Three. And it occurred to her that he wasn't getting up.

I did it.

I beat him.


The hollow clarity that had come to her did not disperse; it was, if anything, more firmly rooted with that second attack he'd delivered, the one she'd turned against him. But it was not the whole of her being; something else joined it, a wild joy a hundred times more powerful than that she'd felt when she'd bested Garrett in the swamp. Garrett had been her one real opponent in all her time at school; beating him had meant so much to the high school girl thrust into a new and dangerous situation. It meant less to the person she'd become--to Mirabelle Nesa, who'd seen death first-hand and seen a killer who believed her murders to be ethically sound.

Here, however, was a soldier--one of the architects of all the hurt they'd had to suffer. Here was an agent of Danya, the miserable bastard who'd brought this upon all of them. And this man--this trained fighter, this professional killer of others, this volunteer in a campaign of suffering and despair and all the merde they'd been forced to undergo--

This man she'd beaten.

A slow smile spread out over her face.

Beep

Beep

Beep


Her eyes flickered down to her collar, and she felt a hand go to her beeping collar. Her mind raced back to the Sawmill, where her collar had done the same thing; raced to Danya's announcements.

Christ, they turned the Tunnels into a dangerzone.

She was still smiling, however, as she turned back the way she'd come. She had to hurry, had to find a way out--they wanted Liz to themselves, they didn't want someone like her--a fighter, a master of combat, a hardened goddamn warrior--protecting the girl who'd tried to break the system. First thing's first, break these damn collars so she didn't have to worry about this dangerzone, endless monitoring shit. And after that, rescue Liz, grab Garrett and the others, and fight again.

Beep

Beep

Beep


Her whole body ached; the slash in her hand burned. She was quite sure she was covered in bruises; she suspected her nose was broken, by the crooked feel to it and the blood which still flowed over her lips. She had to limp as she walked--her right ankle had taken a solid blow during the fighting and stung with every step she took. And in spite of all this pain, she felt as though the blood in her veins had been replaced with lightning, as though each finger on her aching hands had the force of a hurricane and each step she took could have caused grass to grow or wither at her will.

Beep

Beep

Beep


She was hurt, and alone; she didn't know where Liz was or if the other terrorists had gotten to her. She still wore a collar, which was beeping at her with all the threat of arbitrary violence. She was still almost entirely at the mercy of powers outside of the range of her strikes.

But she was going to make it now. She knew it with absolute clarity. Because what could stand in her way, really? What could stand in the way of a hardened goddamn warrior?

"Danya!" she screamed into the tunnel, limping along with her blood spilling out behind her and her eyes flashing with all the force of a vindicated will. "I'm coming for you!"
Edited by Grim Wolf, Apr 26 2011, 02:23 AM.
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Beep

Beep

BANG


The joy evaporated with the skin around her lower back and the front of her stomach; the joy evaporated with the part of her intestine and liver the bullet tore through; the joy evaporated with the pain that exploded in her stomach, and it took with it any conscious thought or will. She wasn't even aware of her legs giving out on her, wasn't even aware of hitting the ground, was aware of nothing but this fierce, all-consuming hurt in her stomach.

The agony stretched her moments out with the same infinite, exacting clarity as had her fight with the terrorist, only these moments had none of the will or force that her previous struggle had held; these moments were drawn out by the unrelenting pain. She discovered, to her horror, that she could feel the life leaking out of her, oozing from the wound that had been torn through her. She didn't even have time to process how such a thing had occurred, how so much force could have come from nowhere and brought her onto the ground so quickly.

Oh God it hurts.

Oh God it hurts so much.

Oh God please make it stop.

Oh God-


Her mind pleaded weakly, but there was no answer from the darkness; just this pain, and her on the ground.

The tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. She didn't even have the presence of mind to scream--she simply gasped, wheezed out as a thousand jagged shards of glass flooded her body with her every breath, reminded her of the gaping hole that had been torn through her from nowhere.

So she lay there, and bled, and whimpered, and when that could no more for her she fell quiet and sunk into the hazy world of red and black behind her eyes. This was hard, this was too hard, this hurt too much and she didn't want to be here anymore. She'd tried, damn it, she'd tried so hard.

Frustrated tears joined the ones caused by pain tearing at her insides, and she softly as she died inevitably on the tunnel floor. She'd fought as hard as she could, she'd thought she'd won, but though it still hadn't registered for her that she'd been shot she knew who had done this (that miserable bastard, God, I beat him). Liz was going to die because she'd hurt herself to fuck the game and the only person who'd stayed to defend her was weak, I'm a weak little girl who couldn't save anyone and the only guy I ever beat in a real fight wasn't even a monster, just a kid like me.

She was tired. She was so goddamn tired and she hurt so goddamn much, and the more she lay here the more tired she felt, because her life was draining out of her drop by drop and she didn't care anymore. She'd done as much as she could do, she'd tried as hard as she could, and it had been for nothing.

Something warm and comforting swam up from the depths of her, laid itself like a blanket over her eyes and head and body; smothered the pain, made her feel distant and secure. Enough, she thought wearily. Let it fucking end.

Too tired to fight anymore, she let herself sink into a darkness far deeper than the subterranean murk which surrounded her body.






G072 MIRABELLE NESA: ELIM
Edited by Grim Wolf, Apr 26 2011, 02:24 AM.
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Except she didn't.

Perhaps a minute had passed since the moment the bullet had first passed through her; the shroud of comforting, shock-forged oblivion came upon her around forty-five seconds afterwards. The moments, suspended in crystalline perfection by the acid devouring her from the inside, had seemed far longer and far worse than anything she could deal with; she'd let the darkness take her, right up until a thought had occurred to her.

Somewhere, the man who'd shot her was alive.

She shook off the comforting pall of warmth and security, returned to a world dominated by pain. She felt light-headed--she'd lost too much blood by now, her brain was short on oxygen. Her senses felt tinny and distant, but she still recognized the sounds at work around her; the shuffle of a man moving, the rasp of something metallic being hefted and placed. She made not a sound; drew small, controlled breaths, her body rigid as a grenade burst in her belly, let her tears stream down her face and bit her lower lip so hard she drew blood she didn't even notice, all for one reason.

He'd shot her in this pitch-black. He'd found her by sound. In her pain-induced clarity, she realized she would have heard if he'd drawn the gun when she screamed--she would have heard it. Which meant he'd already been aiming at her before she ever screamed her fool's defiance, moving silently to accomplish her death.

Return the favor.

Her injured left hand made its way down her side, silent as a black widow creeping along its lonesome way, until her fingers found the hilt of the other knife she wore. She drew it slowly, careful of any noise, and then slid it silently along the length of her body (and how her abs burned; she grew lighter with every movement, sending more of her blood and innards pooling around her).

A minute and a half after she'd been shot--thirty more seconds of pure and potent agony that left her gasping--and she had the knife in her relatively uninjured right hand. She spend another four light-headed, dazed seconds teetering on the very edge of unconsciousness, struggling with all her will to keep her mind here, now, to listen for the sounds of his movements. He was on his feet (she could hear the scuff of his boots over the dirt); he was gathering his stuff (she could hear the clatter of the knife as he retrieved it from the ground and the click of his gun as he lifted it from where she'd knocked it aside).

A minute and forty-eight seconds after she'd been shot, he started walking. A minute and fifty-one seconds after he'd shot her, he drew parallel with her body.

Samantha Ridley crossed her mind, distantly; so did Jackie. The question of despair--of those who'd acquiesced to what had been forced upon them.

I'm a weak little girl who couldn't save anyone, even myself, but god damn it I beat you and god damn it you are going to remember that because I am Mirabelle Nesa and I am a hardened goddamn warrior and I am not going to fucking give up now!

She threw herself forwards, the years' long training giving her legs the force necessary to push her past the crushing pain in her abdomen and towards the nameless soldier she'd beaten. As she plunged the knife down, she screamed, "Nique ta mere, salop!"
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He screamed, and her mouth folded up into a bloodthirsty grin which remained even after a concussive blast drowned her ears and something all force and heat and death crashed into her skull and took her life with it.

G072 MIRABELLE NESA:



No group could be active all the time; what the cameras usually showed were highlights, the most exciting moments (usually rewound to show the time they'd become most interesting). When a group became too boring, the cameras would move on to someone else.

Jean Nesa had not gone into work for several days, leaving his staff to fend for themselves. He had sat in front of the television, leaving only to go to the bathroom; he had eaten twice in the past seven days.

He had seen his daughter fight twice--once against Garrett Hunter (and how scared he'd been when she'd caught that wooden sword on her arm, and what small, fleeting pride he'd felt when she knocked him to the ground) and once against Samantha Ridley (with his heart in his throat as he waited for it, the arrow through the chest, the death of his sweet daughter). He'd seen her smoke, too (as if he hadn't known--he could smell the smoke on her clothes whenever she did it, vague under the perfume she used to try and mask it), and seen her talk.

She wasn't ready for this. She couldn't be ready for this. So what if she wanted to be a martial artist, so what if she was strong, she was still his little girl...

They didn't show any footage of her for days at a time, but Jean could not bring himself to leave the television. There might be something, some sign, and now this idiot box was his only link to his daughter, that slight girl who he'd held in his arms only yesterday, that tiny child whose scream had deafened him the day she was born, always demanding, almost rewarding.

His girl. His petite angel.

On the ninth day, he heard her name. On the ninth day, he buried his face in his hands and howled without thought.





Eloise had not spent the past nine days with her husband.

Something had broken inside her, when they'd received the news. She'd retreated to her study, leaving only when she knew Jean was in the living room. She had spent the past nine days in a drunken stupor; empty wine bottles were scattered all about her study, around the dusty typewriter she'd so loved when she was at college and around her chair. She ate, when she felt hungry; she slept, when she felt tired; she drank, when she began to feel sober.

And she read.

Again and again she read, every story in her boxes--the two novels, the countless short stories (including the two that had been published--just those two, and both in less-than-stellar magazines). She read every broken shard of a dream she'd never lived up to, she read every piece of despair that remained to her, every drop of bitter aftertaste in her otherwise-easy life.

At least she'd had the chance to try for her dreams, even if she'd failed. Belle wouldn't even get the chance to try.

She ran a hand along the yellowed edges of a short story--the last one she'd written, the only one she'd ever shown to her daughter. Stared intently at the first page, with the quote at the top of the page.

The greatest lesson is to live without fear.

The howl shook her out of her reverie, jerked her head into the air. She felt ice rise up like a wave in her and stifle all thought, all emotion, all feeling; she felt the cold, inescapable sensation of violation, of horror, of woe. She felt a piece of herself die in that howl. She reached for a nearby bottle without thinking--this one had half a measure of oblivion left in it, enough to soften this edge, enough to remind her that...

Her fingers touched the glass neck of the bottle. Flickered away as though they had been burned. Without looking at it she got to her feet, set the story in her lap down upon the desk, and went down to her husband.





Lin Xiang had devoted his life to his art--his Baguazhang. Just Baguazhang and his little house with its living room left open for practice. Ostensibly, one should be a master of other martial arts before one ever learns Baguazhang, as Baguazhang is more an underlying methodology than a martial art unto itself; given his location in St. Paul, Minnesota, Xiang's students had been few and far between.

And over the past few years, there had been only her.

He did not own a television, and his life did not end with her abduction. He trained, as always; he shopped, enjoyed a spartan but nutritious meal; he read, to keep his mind active, and attended a local strategic games club to keep his thoughts sharp.

But for the past several days, he had added something new to his schedule. Whenever he felt it--anxiety, restlessness, weariness--he would sink to the floor, fold his legs, and immediately clear his mind and focus only on her--on that strange, wild, spoiled girl who had somehow convinced him to teach her. It had nothing to do with the fact she knew savate, nothing to do with the year she'd spent begging him. It had everything to do with how devoted she was; all the attention she should have given to the other facets of her life had been devoted to learning, to practicing, to growing.

He understood that kind of obsession. He had been the same way, before he'd joined the service and seen just what violence really was. Before he'd come to understand that violence as the world understood it--as he'd understood and as Mirabelle Nesa had tried to use it--was just so much futile flailing in the face of hostile, indifferent death.

One day he awoke and found himself afraid; one day he rolled from his bed and assumed a sitting position on the floor. He stayed there for some time, eyes closed, breathing coming to him in short-rabbit quick gasps. A flare of violence, of aggression, and defiance; a flare of something hot and all-consuming, something alive.

When he got to his feet, he left his tear stains behind him.

During the war, Lin Xiang had learned that his ability to fight (and he had been good, when he was younger; as good as she was, though he'd been a bit older than her) meant nothing; that he could still be beaten, that what he wanted and what he cared for could not always be protected. The martial arts must be tempered with humility--with the understanding that their practitioners are only human, that they can be beaten, that they have to accept their weakness in the world. He had always tried to convince her of this, to accept that she was only human and that she could, in fact, be beaten, no matter how hard she tried.

She had never believed it. Not once in her life.




ELIMINATED
Edited by Grim Wolf, Apr 26 2011, 02:32 AM.
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