Somewhere Peaceful…And All the Baggage That Goes With It

Okay, so I was in a certain…umm…mood the other day.  I was at the brewery ostensibly working, but for whatever reason there was a sense more of nostalgia than anything else.  I had originally set out to finish the plot outline I’ve been working on, but a scene idea came to me.  Actually, a scene idea jumped up and hit me over the head then started tea-bagging my unconscious mind.  You know how this ends…I had to write it.

Believe it or not, I actually have a backlog of ideas and semi-written posts building for the next couple of weeks, but I decided to share this instead.  Usually snippets are the last thing I post (for any number of reasons), but I’ve been getting the urge to relax that “policy” a bit.

At any rate, I’m not sure if this will actually make its way into Silence, but if it does it will (most likely) be an early Act II thing.  As ever, I give the standard warning: this is a (very) rough draft scene.  There was no planning and no editing, it is simply an idea that demanded to be written:

There were days when Connor couldn’t really remember who he was. Days when all the false identities and constant lies threatened to wash away what remained of Connor Spogelse and leave behind…what? A creature of smoke and mist, a creature with no name and no existence. Then who would he be? What would he be? A ghost in fact as much as in name.

There was no escaping his life, however. You did what was required and you paid the price. Always the price.

Some folks collected kitsch, others hoarded cash. A few even kept cats. Connor, though, he collected idents; especially idents that were safely anonymous. Life dockside had taught early on the value of always having ready a dodge and a quick change of name. If the dozen idents he currently had hidden and ready were overkill, well…those old habits had more than once saved his ass.

Connor’s life may have changed drastically from those days with Oz – those days that seemed so far away and so happy now – but the habits learned in his early years were still automatic, and still vital to his survival.

His boss had promised safety, and protection. Promises were lies, however, the pure bullshit offered by the powerful to the weak. He wouldn’t trust his boss any more than he would trust a dockside gurentai. No, safety and security were his own problem.  There was no one else.

A fleeting thought, then, and a quiet whisper from the depths of memory. A voice he savagely and instantly repressed, but not before the hit came: alone is worse.

A few hours of work the previous day, lifting ‘screens and idents from the oblivious lunch crowd around the corporate offices, had provided Connor with all the raw material he could want. No money did he steal. Not now, not unless he grew desperate. No, it was just ‘screens he took. ‘Screens and that even-more-valuable commodity: idents.

A few minutes of work to cover his tracks and several of those ‘screens were already set for instant use. You always wanted an option that was local and known. Others, though, were carefully and intentionally scrubbed quite blank.

It was one of those blank ‘screens he grabbed for the work he had in mind. More than any other thing from his life dockside, Connor regretted the loss of his “little grey box” and the unique tools and tricks it had contained. His work would be much easier with that particular little toy. That box, however, had been a shortcut and a tool, not the source of his talent. In Connor’s head still lived all the skills and knowledge that had outmaneuvered and abused every security system the Station had thrown at him.

It was an old ident he loaded on that blank ‘screen, one dating back to his years with Oz. To the last time he had been happy. A week of effort had gone into this ident back then, a week spent creating a “safe space” against the loss of…everything. The loss of stability and safe harbor, the loss of all friends.

Only he and Oz had ever known this name. Only he and Oz had ever seen the codes involved. It was the most secure ident Connor possessed. With this level of anonymity he could do…anything.

He had safed the ‘screen to enter the key information, had used a variety of tricks to ensure there was no contamination, no risk of compromise. No hesitation or worry did he have when he finally disabled those safeguards and re-linked to the net.

What did he have to worry about? Nothing and no one, not with this particular ident.

The ‘screen went momentarily blank as it rebooted, then the interface reappeared in a swirl of colors. He now existed – electronically, at least – as one Sy Bates, completely anonymous functionary and honest citizen.

The mail icon blinked.

There was a message.

What the fuck?

A string of curses, then. Heartfelt – enraged, even – and quite lengthy. Connor spoke four languages with ease, and could swear in several more. Each and every one of those he used to express his anger. He almost threw the ‘screen. Shit, he thought about vaporizing the fucking thing in a reactor.

Caution, however, took hold before his arm could so much as move. Who the fuck would know anything about a completely, carefully fictitious ident? Who could know?

The dark of the tiny, claustrophobic room around him became suddenly threatening.

What the fuck was he doing? This was bad…this was very bad.

Still, he reached a finger towards the icon on the ‘screen’s surface. He had to know. This wasn’t something he could just leave hanging.

No one knew about this ident. No one.

A face appeared on the ‘screen and Connor almost collapsed.

It would be better to be dead.

“Heya, Spog,” Oz said with that laughing, idiot grin that existed only between the pair of them.

A face from the past. The face from the past. His best friend. His only friend. His brother.

Blood on the deck…blood on the knife…blood on Oz. The tears started to roll, unnoticed and unchecked. The sobs wouldn’t be far behind.

A toss of his head and Connor took hold of himself, tried to shake from himself the fear and agony of the past. In spite of his broken, savaged heart he listened to the words of the only person in the universe who had ever mattered.

“You’re not stupid, despite all your efforts to prove different. You know by now I’m dead. I’m sorry Spog,” Oz said. That beautiful, epicene face changed from humor to pain, and to grief. “We’ve known each other too long to start lying now. I just can’t take it, not anymore. You’ve been the only thing in the world to me since that day we met, but I just can’t take anymore.”

Oz’s face changed again, from pain and loss to wisdom, and a certain amused disdain. “If I know you at all, you’re in deep kuso. You wouldn’t be using this ident for any other reason. I can’t help you with anything going on in your world, not anymore, but I can offer you the only words that matter. The only wisdom that has ever mattered.”

Those dark eyes, so soft and sad, turned sharp and intense. “Don’t forget who you are, Spog. I know more about this bullshit universe than you ever will. I’ve lived more in the black, and I’ve seen more shit, than even you can imagine, and I’m the only one who can tell you this: don’t fuck it up. You mean more than I know how to say, and I couldn’t stand it if you fucked yourself up.

“My death clears you, and you better fucking well use that. It clears you to get together with your girl, with this Nat, and it clears you to be real. You don’t have to be an ikiryo anymore, Spog, and you better not fuck it up. If you do, I’ll fucking haunt you for the rest of your life.”

The sharpness faded and Oz’s face turned soft again. Connor choked back the sobs that still threatened and saw – finally, really saw – the love in those eyes that he had ignored for so long.

“Be well, Connor. Be very, very well. Both you and the universe might hate me for what I did, but I will never forgive myself if you’re not happy. I never really said it before, so here it is: I love you, Spog. I always have and I always will.”

A flash of guilt, then, before Oz continued, “We always swore we would find that peaceful place together, but I can’t be there for that. Not anymore. The only thing that makes everything worth it is knowing that you’re not alone, that you have Nat.”

“But I am alone, Oz,” Connor whispered, what little remained of his soul dust at his feet. He was shaking as the image faded, the universe crashing all around him. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think.

There had to be a bottle somewhere in this shithole…

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