He stared at the blank
wall, sitting on the floor and leaning his forearms on his knees. His eyes were
bloodshot from lack of sleep, his skin shining from perspiration. A trickle of
blood smeared his mouth from a nosebleed.
He stared at the blank
wall, staring at nothing, he knew, yet he could not deny what he saw.
“Things are changing,
“Go away . . .”
he whispered, wiping at the blood on his face.
“I am as present
in you as you are present in reality. Neither I nor you can change that. You may have killed the real me, but I will always be here.”
He shook his head, denying
the image. “You’re not real.
Go away. Go away!” He
flung a tool at the wall.
The image did not move,
but merely smiled. “Yelling doesn’t help the matter, John.” It stepped away from the wall and sat down next to him, pressing its face close to
his—so close that he turned his head away to escape the hot breath. “You
think you’re going mad, you know . . . but in reality, this is how you have always been . . . lost, needing direction
. . . you need me, John. You killed me. It’s your fault.
Now you will always feel the pain.”
“No.” Abruptly, John pushed himself to his feet, whirling on the image smiling up at him. “I do not need you.” He laughed, pointing his finger shakily at the grey visage. “I
think it’s you that needs me.”
He staggered about the
room, eyes wild, searching, before finally lighting on his gun belt hanging near the door.
He lunged for it, removing the gun and unfastening the safety.
“What are you doing,
He looked at the image,
trying to shake the fear gripping his heart, then back at the gun in his hand.
“Leave me alone,
“I can’t do
“Leave me alone!” He pointed the gun at his head, pressing its
smooth muzzle against his temple.
going to kill yourself, John.” The grey, sunken face filled John’s
vision as it strode confidently forward. “Look at you. You’re shaking.” The alien placed its leather
clad hand over the gun, pushing it down.
John trembled, shivers
tracing their way up and down his spine. His knees gave way, weakened by an unseen
force, and he sank to the floor. The gun hung loose in slack fingers.
“You see, John. I can control you. I can stop you from
hurting yourself, from hurting your friends. If you continue on this path, your
friends are going to be the ones that get hurt . . . and it will all be because of you.
All the bad things that happen to you now are because you let me die.”
John shook his head. “No. If I’m gone, then there’s
no chance for them to be hurt.”
He raised the gun back
up to his temple, rocking back and forth. His finger tightened on the trigger,
but through every ounce of his will, he could not pull the trigger.
Scorpius stood by his
side, a smile on his face as he looked down at the agonized man.
“I shall always
be here to keep you from hurting yourself, John. You may have killed me, but
I shall always be here.”
Cursing, John lurched
to his feet and threw the gun on the table. His chess set was scattered as the
gun came to rest in the middle of the board.
Staring hard at the table’s
surface, John walked around to the head of the table, looking at the scattered game pieces.
His hands were shaking uncontrollably. Pressing them against the surface
of the table, he closed his eyes, trying to regain control. Here he was, his
mind half taken over by a neural clone . . . he felt like HAL of 2001: A Space Odyssey,
going mad, and unable to help himself.
he muttered, picking up the queen and trying to set her upright in her place. His
fingers shook, and he dropped the piece. He tried again, rubbing the piece between
his hands as if the action would steady them. “Daisy, daisy,” he
sang quietly. “Give me your answer now . . .”
He did not hear D’Argo
and Jothee enter.
“John. I’ve brought my son, Jothee, to thank you,” D’Argo began.
John tried to set the
piece on the board and missed again, clumsily dropping the queen. “Crazy
. . . all for the love of . . .” He tried both hands this time, carefully
setting the queen in her place.
“John, John, John, John . . .”
The voice upset him, and
he jerked, nerves strung taut, dropping the queen and shushing the voice. He
saw D’Argo, then, a question on the Luxan’s scarred face.
he pointed a shaky finger to his head. “He’s here, and, um, he blames
me . . . blames me for killing Scorpius.” D’Argo ventured closer,
and John looked away, staring at his gun, not wanting to meet the Luxan’s eyes. “So,
I’ve been trying to . . .”
“But I can’t,
D’Argo grabbed his
head in both hands, forcing John to look him in the eye and away from the gun. “Do
demeanor changed, and D’Argo could feel his fear. There was utter misery
in his eyes, in his haggard appearance, yet it was as though he was lucid, calm, a far cry from the near incoherency of microts
John whispered. “Kill me.”
The Luxan stared at him,
shock at the request creeping into his eyes.
“D’Argo, please. Kill me.”
Then he understood. D’Argo could see the misery in this man who had earned his friendship. He could see the pain that John could not end himself.
“John. You are my friend,” he whispered. “What you are
asking I cannot do.”
. .” It was a plea that tore the Luxan’s hearts. As much as he wanted to end John’s pain, this was not the way.
“John . . . Do not
ask me to do this.” He backed away slowly, unable to meet the misery in
the human’s eyes. “We will find a way to help you, John.”
John sagged against the
table, putting his head into his hands.
“There might not
be anything left to save, D’Argo,” he whispered. “Nothing at