The Flower That Fades

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The Flower That Fades is official fiction that was written by Ian Christy for Starsiege.

"Mother Mercy, our hearts cry out to thee

We humbly beg mercy on our tired and weak

We aspire to find the heaven in the bleak

Upon us please bestow your charity..."

~The Second Hymn of Resignation, Verse 01:01

There might have been a time when I was delighted with every turn in life. A time when the brush of a kiss from my beloved was enough to ignite my heart and seer my soul. Days when I had responsibilities, commitments I had willfully chosen, obligations I strove to fulfill freely. A different time. A better time.

Before the gun's wet kiss took everything away.

Six years I paced the same six cubic feet of confinement. Never said a word. Listened to the cattle call swan songs of the others, bore unwitting witness to their misery. I heard the grind of shiv on spine, heard the rasp of brittle confidences hissed through cell grates into the flushing faces of surrogate priests. I listened to their proclamations, their confessions, and the names they moaned in their sleep.

I should feel guilt over the death of the politician. I don't. I should feel woefully sorry for the riot that ensued. I do not. My mother is gone. My wife is gone. My child is gone. Beyond them I feel nothing at all, further I do not feel inclined to try.

Six years locked away and I could still see the plan, laid out neon grid wire hot on an asphalt morality. Out of money, out of time, war on the horizon, blood already choking the gutters, mighty emperor vanished behind silk-lined steel shutters. Colonies lighting alien horizons as the embers of resistance are fanned by tightening restrictions, higher demands, symptoms of an increasingly less subtle extortion.

Mother. Forgotten until there was time to recall, to consider, and turn over and over in my mind like some intangible fetish bauble. My father was a night's work, my childhood spent washing linen changed hourly, until an uncle took me in, taught me skills unsavory to most.

Mother was a faceless entity who occasionally passed a birthday gift on to me between appointments. She never seemed to get the day right, but usually the month. I hadn't seen her for three years when Uncle said she'd died. I didn't cry, then.

Uncle taught me about weapons, about victims, about standing and running. Uncle had many adopted children. Eventually I had a fellowship of individuals who called me "brother." A confusing and dangerous time.

The political unrest of the worlds and their colonies manifest more work then we might ever need. People to push, to shove, or failing that, to kill. Yet Uncle persistently desired more, a bigger share in the net capitol gain of the ensuing chaos. I found his motives disturbing, his methods unconscionable, and left him.

Of course, I didn't know that even as he bid farewell with a smile that I could never truly leave. I was seventeen.

I found a job loading cargo on antiquated haulers, married the boss's daughter, and we adopted a daughter. Happy. I felt loved, understood, simple and complete. Occasionally my dreams would remind me of the life I had left, of the pain I had caused, and I would awake with renewed determination to make right of my life.

Until Uncle took my wife and child away.

I remember returning home, finding the front door ajar, and entering the small apartment with dread already clenching fists in my gut. I knew as I walked through the front room, saw the smashed porcelain scattered across the floor like razor petals left from some wicked king's passage. Knew as I stepped around the overturned end table, the debris of a struggle, feeble voiceless testimony of violence spent. I knew as I passed the silent hallway, knew no one waited in the bedrooms, no one hid in the john. I entered the kitchenette, found the gone-to-market note on the fridge, and consumed the content, a little miss-me-not from Uncle, the past come home to roost.

I followed every step per Uncle's instruction. I had to do this one thing and I would truly be free. I would have my family back and would never have to worry for the past again.

I waited in the neglected lot. I rode in the chauffeured car well beyond any streets I remotely recognized. I entered the posh hotel's gilded lobby. I ascended the seventy floors in the overly brass laden lift. I strode down the soundless vacuum of the plush-padded hallway to the doors of the presidential suite. I let myself in with the key the chauffeur had given me. I wondered around from room to room awaiting Uncle's call.

The call came several hours later. So simple, so efficient. Go to the window in the master bedroom, look out, what do I see? People assembled to rally support for someone on an elevated platform in front of the Hunter's Blessing Bureau of Legality. Look under the bed there, do I see the case? Yes, bulky deep green plastic with standard military tags. Open it. Surface-to-air missile. Check the dolly-box. Hot wired to override personnel recognition protection systems. Loaded and armed and completely user friendly. I hefted the meter long shaft in my hands and cradled the headset of the antique phone between my ear and shoulder. Heavy ordinance meant for heavy impact. I knew Uncle meant for me to be a trigger-man, but didn't understand why. The gathering outside looked political, not Triad concern, not on this continent, but then, I had not been in their nasty game for a very long time. I thought of my family and knew I really had no choice.

Uncle was there in my ear, patiently describing what would be my cue to pull the trigger. He described my escape route, which lift to take, which floor to leave the lift and take the fire stairs, where the chauffeured car would be waiting to return me to my family. I absorbed the details and held the weapon and watched the seething masses down below responding to the speaker on the platform.

Bracketing the platform were large projection screens, describing with flashy images a succession of theories to peacefully resolve the deteriorating relations between the colonies and the Emperor. I felt doubtful about it all, there were already too much discontent, too much palatable inequity.

The trump card for response from the crowd was a succession of images depicting supposedly Cybrid legions returning from some kind of hell to relieve every living thing of earthly responsibility. It was also my cue.

I shrugged the headset away, onto the bed, Uncle left to mind his own, listen in maybe. I shouldered the missile launcher, flicked open the targeting reticule, aimed for the raised platform, and fired.

Although I didn't see them then, I couldn't have, in my memory my wife and child are in that last view now, gagged and bound beneath the platform, waiting for me to act.

Gun's wet kiss.

I tugged the trigger, rocked with the slight recoil, dropped the spent shaft onto the floor. I heard the deep thump of the missile's impact and detonation as I reached for the headset.

"It's done." I said simply into the mouthpiece. I could hear Uncle breathing.

He laughed and my stomach knotted cold. "Your loved ones are dead, ha! You- you just sent them to their heaven. You were a fool to ever think you could leave me, boy." As I numbly dropped the headset, I could still hear him laughing in my head. I pulled the trigger on my wife, my daughter, my only joy in life- dead by my own hand.

The woman who'd kiss me, tell me everything would be all right. The woman I loved, who made working a dog's day worthwhile. Simplicity sublime, all I really ever wanted, really needed. Our daughter, her small arms, huge eyes, so forgiving, understanding. All the days we would never have, rendered abruptly inconsequential, vapor and tears and memories, all that remains mine.

"Mine..." I slurred, turned and ran for the door. I knew they'd be there, waiting for me, anonymously tipped and lethal equipped. I didn't care. If there is a line in heaven, I wanted to be in it next to my loves. One last kiss, one last goodbye...

I hit the door crying, flung it open to reveal my reflection in the mirrored pig snout facemask eyeholes of the armed official response. I gave them no time to think, and their muscles jerked reflexively. I only remember the first impact and the soft tickle of the carpet against my wet cheek.

Six years pacing this cube and the war has come, but not what most expected. The Cybrids have destroyed Mercury, have swept across the moon. A thousand mothers cry, a thousand mothers die and the time comes to pull the skeletons from all the forgotten closets.

A simple choice, really, if even a choice at all. The only way to escape your past is to lose all the memories, the history and the remorse. One of the others called it "giving Johnny his gun," but no one laughed. I believe the end result is called a "bio-derm," a high tech caricature of the old living dead hopping vampire boogiemen. Nuke and pave, mega-reboot, become a new man again. No name, no slogan, just another armed zombie to shove at the encroaching menace to the living.

My love, my love, please save me a place in line...

Mine is mine is mine.


Starsiege Writers' Guide