Title: Gone Fishing
Series: Trigun, after the end of the series.
Summary: Thanks to an unlucky train of events, Knives gets a chance to consider for himself whether he's really changed or not.
Rating: PG; swearing.
Disclaimer: I wish I owned Trigun. Or at least those glasses…
Notes: Spoilerish only really in the sense that you figure out who survived the series ending. Fishing because it's a desert planet and I like sarcasm, animals because they're nifty and adapted to the environment. Don't tell me they couldn't survive in the desert-- first of all, many animals do, second of all, these are not Earth animals!
Meryl-- and I can't say I was surprised by this-- thought it was a bad idea. Actually, the exact words she shrieked were, "Are you out of your sweet and stupid mind?!"
"Meryl, please," Vash began tiredly, and I was almost ashamed of myself for putting him in the spotlight in front of his wife. Well, no. Not even close. "Meryl, think about it. You can't do this and neither can I." It was true, too. She was pregnant, really pregnant, and he'd been shot through the leg two days before while trying to stop bandits from robbing the sandsteamer we were traveling on. He caught them-- it's Vash the Stampede, almighty fighter of love and peace-- but got the steamer pretty well wrecked in the process. It was too bad, because now we were stuck until another steamer came through. "We don't have much food left and there'll be at least five more days till we can leave. Knives will have to hunt."
"With a gun," I reminded him of the second half of my suggestion. "I have no intention of trying to sling rocks at rabbits."
"With a gun…" Meryl repeated, and there was even a little fear in her eyes. "No. I'm not going to allow this, Vash." Desperately, she cast around for a reason. "We've got plenty of money. I'll just go buy--"
Hey. I couldn't help it, okay? If you could see this pathetically tiny watering hole-- a half-dozen shacks, one well, and the saddest little excuse you ever saw for a town hall-- you would've burst out laughing, too. "At what store?"
"At one of the houses," she insisted stubbornly, "I'll go around and offer to buy whatever extra may be lying around peoples' homes."
Now I just had to roll my eyes. This was getting tedious. "These people don't have anything to spare. All their supplies come by steamer! Only what they need! There's a reason why there's no store, we probably have more double dollars than everyone in this town combined, going back fifty years!"
Vash shook his head a little, too-- he could see what I meant. "I think he's right. No one here has any need for money; it might as well be worthless. And we have to eat, Meryl."
She rose, shaking a little, and glared at me like I was the devil incarnate. Jesus; here I thought pregnant women couldn't get PMS. "Most of the time I don't mind you, Knives. But pardon me if I can't forget that not two years ago you were trying your damnedest to make my husband's life a living hell-- before you killed him, anyway." She turned to Vash in a fury, tears of anger leaking out, "And now you want to put a gun in his hands?!" then fled the room. Damn, it must suck to have those hormonal mood swings.
"It won't be that one, just a rifle," I muttered, though there was no chance of her hearing me by then. But she knew it wouldn't be my old gun, anyway. Vash destroyed both of those after we got back, being the self-righteous bastard that he is without a shred of respect for craftsmanship. It didn't matter. There was only ever one person I wanted to kill myself, and it was proven, one way or another, I'd never be able to do it. Once I figured that out, guns lost their appeal. But maybe that's why she was so panicky-- I mean, if I'd just taken another gun right from the start, she wouldn't have anything to complain about, right?
Or maybe we'd just have hundreds and hundreds of conversations like this, every damn day. God forbid.
But anyway, Vash looked like he'd expected something like that. He just nodded, handed me his hunting rifle, and said quietly, "Should probably get started soon, right?"
"I'll go right now," I answered, "we sure wasted a hell of a lot of time yelling about it."
I guess I can say with some pride that I've been at the root of most of the arguments our happy couple has. I mean, hell, what am I supposed to do, feel bad about it? These two were the ones who summarily decided I was a danger to mankind at large and ought to be kept with them. And-- well, Vash is my brother. I never forget that. I don't mind having a place to stay, as long as Meryl keeps her derringers under control.
But really, at the root of the argument isn't me. That's just the situation bringing up the argument. What it really is-- and trust me, I've sat in on their fights long enough to know-- is that she actually has more in common with me than he does. Meryl and I, we both know humans don't deserve half the credit Vash gives them. (Or maybe, since that statement applies to me too, I should say sentient beings. Whatever.) I mean, in nearly every fight he'll say at some point, with all the confidence in the world, "Knives has changed."
Have I? I'll tell you now, I don't feel much different.
I always had a lot of fun flipping through the programs in the ship's terminal. Most of the 'survival' stuff was a waste of memory: how to build a shelter, how to get fresh water out of salt, basic math, mechanics… all the stuff I already knew, essentially. So it was always good for a laugh to screw the system up a little and watch them scurry around, trying to locate and fix the 'glitch.' But once, while tinkering with the database, I found the main log. In the record of every access, there was this one history lesson that had been read about twice as much as everything else. I got a little curious.
It turned out to be about the settlers of this continent back on Earth, North America. You could see why everyone was so fixated on it-- beautiful place and lots of humans willing to swarm in and harness the land for themselves. Hell, pretty much exactly what the ship's humans were hoping to replicate on the surface of some poor unfortunate planet out there. But there was a certain resourcefulness that captured my interest-- the way you watch sand mites rebuild their nests over and over, no matter how many times you scuff your foot across the hole. One part I really liked was the image of a hunter, holding some crude gun and crouched behind a tree in a forest. Practically all you could see of him was the tip of the barrel peeking out behind the tree, and his eyes, sort of looking as if they'd dart around if the picture wasn't static. What they used to do when hunting larger mammals was set up a 'salt lick'-- a pool of salt that the animals liked to lick at. Bait, basically. Pretty clever for an animal.
It's never been possible to hunt that way here. I hunkered down on the side of a dune maybe a quarter of an ile from the town, cursing quietly as sand shifted under me and grit worked into my clothes. Pain in the ass… but it was getting towards dark, so there would be game soon enough.
After a while, a rabbit came along near the foot of the dune, grazing slowly at tough little clumps of grass. I worked my way up, just a little, to try and see the shot. Damn… if this had been my gun, I'd have already had it. But Vash's rifle is a piece of shit. He doesn't even like to oil the damn thing… and if I shot too soon, I'd scare the thing away. I figured I'd wait for it to come a little closer-- it looked like it was going to, anyway.
But right about then, I saw something poking up at the top of another dune a little to my right. The tip of a gun… and then dark hair sticking out everywhere, and wary eyes underneath. The kid-- he couldn't have been more than twelve-- was a lot clumsier than me, letting a lot more of himself be seen. And he hadn't realized I was there, because all his focus was on the rabbit. He had to be one of the kids around here: he couldn't have come from anywhere else, first of all, and he looked ratty and thin-faced. Maybe his family wasn't doing so well, between steamer shipments.
Little known fact: my brother and I don't actually need to eat. We need water, but not food. Food is nothing but a source of energy, and hell, when was the last time you had to slip your plant a snack? We can't just sit there and power cities because we use up more of our energy than you'll ever know maintaining humanoid bodies (it's sickening how much you burn just living, never mind all you leech from us), but even so we're pretty damn active. The only ones Vash was asking me to hunt for, really, were Meryl and the soon-to-be-kid.
Look: I stick with Vash. Not his twitchy, shrieky, constantly bitching wife. You can imagine how she is, always on my ass, yelling or complaining or snarling at me-- that afternoon was just a sample. What the hell do I owe her?
My finger was still on the trigger, and the kid's whole head and shoulders were sticking out. You're a very loose, sloppy species, you know that? Wasting so much energy, making so many unnecessary movements, just a huge fucking waste. I don't have to do anything unnecessary. I don't have to eat, I don't have to hunt, I sure as hell don't have to go anywhere I don't want to. I don't need anyone, I don't need anything except maybe a gun, and that I can sure as hell make on my own. I didn't need to return. If I walked out into the desert, right then, I would walk into some town alive… and with the gun.
With no one to point out the direction I'd left in, of course. How's that for tidying up loose ends.
I stood up quickly, swinging the rifle around before the kid could even register the motion in the corner of his eye. I looked down the barrel for a split second, then fired.
The kid slumped backwards in obvious disappointment, staring at the dead rabbit. He hadn't shot yet, and now it was too late. I rose and made my way down the dune to pick it up, then stopped to glance up at him.
"Sorry, kiddo. This one's mine." I didn't think he was going to argue it with me, and he didn't. He just shrugged sullenly and let me walk away, already scanning the dunes for another quarry.
I mean, we had to eat.