Sunday, May 26, 2013

Conversations (3)

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  • Thomas Newman - Any Other Name
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He stood at the tip of his toes, his arms stretched out to hold onto the railing. He climbed up to the first bar, the one closest to the ground. Then he leaned forward.

Sonya, crouching down at the bottom of the platform, called out to him. "Do you see it?"

Caesar looked into the console by the left of the wall. It scanned his face for a moment, then lit up. The screen next to it was massive, covering up almost all of the back room. The image appeared. "I see it."

Sonya went around the platform and came up behind the railing. She stood just slightly behind him. Her eyes were fixated on the screen.

When Sonya spoke, she did so with controlled gentleness, as if she were talking to a child on the edge of sleep. "I didn't get to even glance at it last time," she said, "Haider had me smuggled into the compartments for longer than I ever imagined. We couldn't risk getting seen. But I heard it when they announced we were entering orbit. I could just imagine what it looked like. I've never wanted a window so much in my life. The whole area was rattling and I was squished in between all the equipment--nearly got my head split open. But all I could think about was Earth."

The blue planet was perfectly still in the screen. Nothing had looked more serene to him. "Did you forget?"

"Forget? Forget how it looks like? No, you'd never forget that sort of thing. Irkalla makes you remember it more. You always remember the blue sea and blue skies. The clouds. Sounds of traffic and crickets. Wind at your ears, sun stinging your eyes. And the moon. That single, solitary, glowing object in the dark, empty sky. God, I missed looking at the moon."

There was a sense of awe in her voice. It didn't exactly make him think of Earth. It reminded him of the first time he landed on that violet planet, trapped inside the pod, disoriented and confused but completely mesmerized by what he was seeing. "Irkalla's rings are incredible."

"They are to you, aren't they? I don't see any of it."

"Any of what?"

"Any beauty. Everything frightens me there. It has since the first time I was dropped off almost sixteen, seventeen years ago. If it wasn't for Katya, I would have just laid down and died on that rocky ground."

"That's stupid. You would never..."


"You're not that sort of person. You wouldn't have given up. You survive everything."

"I was just a kid, Caesar. So was Katya. We were eighteen. We were scared. We were still together, but really, we were alone."

He didn't know what to say to that.

"When we truly discovered our powers," Sonya continued. She was speaking so quietly it felt like her murmured voice was echoing from his mind, "we didn't think much of them. It was an easy way to steal an apple from the market. We caused some ruckus every now and then; it was all good fun. I thought keeping the telekinesis a secret would be good. We would always have something up our sleeves. Then one day, when we were ten, we had ran away from home for the last time. We were sleeping in the underground train stations when these older kids came up to us. They were from a gang. They weren't there to ask us to join. We were scrawny girls, so we didn't offer much.

"But they didn't get to hurt us because Katya didn't let them. She's always been better than me. In one fit of anger, she smashed one of them to the ground with a wave and flung the other two to the wall. When she leaped on the leader to punch his nose into his face, she ended up hitting him with another telekinetic push. When her fist made contact, his face disappeared into this messy, red mass, dripping blood everywhere."

It was surprisingly eerie but not terribly distracting to watch the peaceful Earth in front of him while he listened to Sonya. It made picturing her memory easier--not exactly clear, but not chaotic or blurry either. He knew very well he could have slipped into her thoughts and seen it through her eyes, but he refused to do it then. He refused to take attention away from the image of Earth.

"After that night," Sonya said after a pause, "we figured out it was easy for people to listen to us. We found shelter and temporary gangs to stay with because she could frighten anyone. Our powers made us strong, but her anger made her stronger. And I never told her, but that's what made me feel safe at her side. She could direct all this anger to others in order to protect us. To protect me. But she never directed it at me."

Her throat was closing up. Caesar heard her struggle to catch her breath, but he could not turn back to check. Was she crying? Did she want him to see that?

"That's what she did all her life. She kept me safe. She made sure I was okay. She won't admit it, but I think...I think she wanted me to stay on Earth when she arranged for my escape. She didn't think I would find you and return to Irkalla. I could have gone back to Russia. I could have found our parents, apologized for everything."

"Sonya..." Caesar whispered, trying to find the right thing to say. All he could think about was finding her with Haider after she returned from her confrontation with Katya.

"And when they locked us up...when they took us from Earth and threw us on Irkalla...nothing made her angrier."

He didn't know why he said it. "Because she couldn't protect you?"

"Does that seem difficult to believe?"

Despite everything, he couldn't lie. "No," he said, "She's insane. She hurt you. But she really..."

"She hurt you too. We both did."

His stomach turned. "You say that so much. Just..."

"Don't you blame us?"

He did, for a while. But he wasn't going to tell her that now that her voice was cracking and she was collapsing. "Not you."


There was a laugh in her voice, but it was bitter. Defeated. "I'm not lying. I don't blame you. Don't put words in my mouth."

"You sound so different now than when I first showed up at your window," she whispered.

Again, Caesar had no answer.

"I never blamed them."

"Them?" he asked, frowning.

"The ones that locked us up. The people running Earth, the people in Earth. Isn't that funny? Your civilization says it doesn't need you, doesn't want you. Humanity wants to achieve wonders without you, so they throw you as far away as they can and turn their backs to you. You should hate them, right?"

"I would," he admitted. The knowledge of the pain they must have felt kept his blame of Sonya nonexistent and his blame of Katya and Maria to a minimum.

"I never did."


"Because we did terrible things. For a long time, I wanted what she wanted, Caesar. I wanted to hurt them just as they'd hurt us. But I never blamed them for abandoning us in a dying world."

"But Katya blames them."

"More than anything. And I wouldn't be trying to stop her now if..."


"If it hadn't been for you."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"It does. Because I didn't understand what I was doing when I took you from that house, Caesar. I didn't understand what I was doing when Charlie tried to take you from us. When she said we'd kidnapped you and brainwashed you. I only understood when you were drugged up and delusional. When we had nearly broken you. And that"--she placed one hand on the railing. She had stopped herself from reaching for the screen--"is not my world."

"Yes it is," he said, firmly. He wanted to yell, to make her stop saying such things, but he couldn't figure what words to use. "You're not making sense."

"No, Caesar. It isn't mine. Not anymore. But it's yours. And I can't undo taking you to Irkalla. I can't undo what Maria and Katya did to you. But I can stop her from hurting your future. I never blamed them, and I don't want to hurt them anymore. I don't want to let her destroy everything. Everything that used to be ours, everything that we used to love. Everything that is still yours. She can't hurt you any more than we already have."

Her hand dropped from the railing. "And maybe it's selfish of me, but this is probably...probably just a way to survive what I've done."

Caesar knew Sonya was perfectly capable of keeping a smile on her face no matter what was happening. She'd smiled through broken bones and bruises, through confrontations and imminent danger, just to keep him reassured.

But admitting that she had to go against her sister for him, for the people that had abandoned them, meant she could not maintain the usual facade. Sonya lowered down on the ground, letting her legs drop in front of her as she pressed her back against the railing, away from the image of Earth. She leaned back and let out a long, shivering sigh. Her nose was red and her cheeks were wet, but she held back any uncontrollable sobs. Even then, she didn't want to frighten him.

Caesar, however, realized he would not have minded to see her weeping. He knew Sonya kept herself composed to appear strong. She was, after all, the only protection he would have against Katya. But nothing could have lessen his opinion of her. He wanted her to know that.

Maybe he would never understand the comfort of an embrace. Maybe he would never find it in himself to wrap his arms around a person and feel safe and sound rather than trapped and suffocated. He only knew it had been that way since the passing of his parents.

So he didn't settle on the ground and bring his arms around Sonya. He didn't try to pry her away from the floor or tell her Earth had always been her home and nothing would ever change that. He didn't speak.

Instead, he dropped from the railing and crouched down in front of her. She tried to look at him through her misty gray eyes, but they were bloodshot and watery. She closed them almost immediately.

He did the same as he leaned his forehead against hers, folding his arms behind his back. She had done the same thing moments before Charlotte's attack on the ship. It had been the only comfort she could provide seconds before she went into battle. Now, it was the only thing he could do to comfort her.

When he leaned back to sit next to her, Sonya glanced at him with the caring eyes of a mother, a sight he had almost forgotten how to recognize. "Are you scared?"

He nodded, but he did not tell her why.

Caesar was not frightened about what would happened once they arrived on Earth. He knew what he had to do. He knew what was needed to stop Katya.

But he did not know what would happen to Sonya if they succeeded.

He was not afraid for himself. He was afraid for her.

(There are some lines that wouldn't be there as they're events that already happened in the story, so i wouldn't have to point them out in the narrative. But I'll fix it later. Just wanted to get the scene out of my head.)

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- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.