Ad Astra- by Crunch

Eek! A chapter fic from Crunch? C'est impossible!

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~*~

For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught.

To say the things he truly feels;

And not the words of one who kneels.

The record shows I took the blows . . .

And did it my way.

~*~

All I ever wanted to do was change the world. To see things as they were before I came and after I came, and know it would've gone differently, it would've been worse, if I'd never come at all. I wanted to make a change. Wouldn't even have to be big, just so long as I could look back and say "You know what? I was there, pal. I was in it." And someone, anyone, would nod their head and say "Yeah, kid, I remember."

See, it's not easy- to be remembered. I mean, how many kids do you think've walked these streets? How many have slept and died on these streets since they were first laid? And how many of them do you know by name?

We don't remember the newsies or the chimney sweeps or the girls who do the washing. We don't remember hardly any of the kids. New York eats its children; I know, I've seen it. People don't think I can see these things, with my schooling and my nice comfy tenement and my pretty family. And it's true, if they aren't on the streets, if they aren't down in the mud, sometimes people stop seeing the whole mess after a while. They don't want to deal with the sloppiness of street life, or street death. They want you to go to school and brush your teeth and comb your hair, and grow up properly. They want you to sit behind a desk and say nothing at all, and when you're ready, when you're good and old and ready, they send you to places where people go quietly and drown in their own bodies like gentlemen.

I've seen kids swallowed by New York. I've seen my friends swallowed whole, and the guy on the corner beside them doesn't even feel the breeze when they go.

But I feel it. I was different. A scholar among the rabble, a light in the rubble, a leader for the masses. Even though I was supposed to be better than it, I was supposed to be above it all, I felt it. That's why I was going to change it all, see?

Because we don't remember the ones that fade away. We remember the gov'ners and the cowboys and the geniuses and the conmen . . . yes, even the conmen. The ones who leave a mark on these streets before they go. All I want to do is leave my mark.

Most people don't think that about me, you know? They see the pale skin and the curly hair, thick and brown as brillo, and the blue eyes that shine even bluer in the nighttime, and they think I'm terribly young and terribly well mannered. One of those polite educated heebies with nothing but pleasing folks and making my way in the world on my mind. They hear me speak, and they know that's what I am. They see the way my shoulders stand like a washboard, and the way my chin sits on invisible stilts, and they think I know better then to get myself muddied up by fighting dirty.

They're wrong. Every one of them.

See, I'm not as quiet or as clean or as green as I look. I know it's tough out there, and you've got to be lucky and you've got to be strong to survive. That's why I study so hard; it's smarts that make you strong, and it's words that make your luck. Words can get you places that fists never could. It's brains that won the war, and it's brains that won the strike.

And, should the need arise, words can get you a few hundred fists behind you, or better yet, in front of you. A leader needs muscle every once in a while- that's something I've learned from Jack.

Jack. . . come to think of it, I bet that's what Jack saw when he ran smack into me that day, a boy in a bowtie and pressed trousers who aimed to please. That's why he didn't turn me away; not then, and not ever. Cause if he could've seen what I came to thinking, and what I came to planning . . . if he could've seen far into the future, I'd be swimming with the fishes in the Brooklyn river right now. I'm not blind, I told you I'm not. I know why Jack's the leader . . . sorry. Was is what I meant.

Don't get me wrong, I never hated Jack. I never meant to hurt him. But sooner or later, you've got to stop following, and you've got to start leading. You've got to take charge of your own life. You've got to leave your mark.

But Jack didn't know that about me. He couldn't see. So I didn't disappear.

His mistake.

Of course, it might've solved an awful lot of problems. Maybe the guys would've been happier, and more of them would've been alive right now. Maybe if I hadn't pulled one over on Manhattan himself, things would have been real, REAL different. Maybe someday they'll see that I've saved them. I saved them, didn't I? Can't you see it in their faces?

Maybe things would've been better if I'd never come at all.

But all I ever wanted to do was change the world. I swear to God that's all . . .

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Alright, kiddies, you might be shaking your fists in revulsion and outrage, claiming that David is horribly, appallingly out of character, and I deserve nothing better than for barbaric conspirators to overthrow me. And I'll give you that one. He may well be out of character . . . but believe me, there's a reason he's off. You see, David has evolved. INTRIGUING, you say? Well, even if you don't, bare with me. And review? I'd like to know if I should keep going or quit while I'm not too far behind.

* Title from "Ad Astra per Aspera", which translates as "A rough road leads to the stars"