Author's Note: So what's a year between friends (and updates)?
My deepest thanks goes out to all of you who have stuck with me and this story over the course of the last 12+ months. I'm even more grateful to those who did not give me up for dead. The biggest thank you, however, goes to the handful of people (you know who you are) who begged, pleaded, threatened and blackmailed me to get this story jump-started again. Thank you for the encouragement, faith, and, in some cases, guilt trips. They worked!
I apologize for the vast delay, but as sometimes happens in fanfic writing, I found it hard to continue my motivation for this story after the series itself wrapped. I have decided to continue the long-neglected "Not Easy Being Green," however, for two reasons - first, I think that since we've come this far together, we need to finish the journey. Second, I have some stories primed for posting in other fandoms, and I think it would be cruel to come back from sabbatical with new pieces that are not related to this poor, abandoned work. Since my attention is undeniably elsewhere these days, I think it's worth noting that this story will not unfold in the way I had originally envisioned. I think there will be only a handful of chapters left, and they will not be as long or as in-depth as what came before. But the story will be finished, so we have that to hang our collective hats on. I hope you enjoy it. Please keep your feedback coming, as it helps more than you realize.
So, where were we…? Ah, yes.
What It's Like to Die Alive, pt. 2
"I have everything to lose
By not getting up to fight
I might get used to giving up
So I am showing up tonight..."
- Superchick, "One More"
If Ziggy had thought that he was in pain earlier, he was mistaken. Very mistaken. Sadly, almost laughably mistaken.
Roll, a voice inside his head interrupted helpfully, and he lurched to obey it, forcing his screaming muscles to contract as he dove out of the way of another volley of fire. He could hear Kilobyte laughing behind him, and he gritted his teeth, involuntarily swallowing sand. His response time was slowing down, and the sad truth was that he was only a handful of minutes into this battle.
Still, though. It's been a hell of a day.
Kilobyte had wisely decided to forego his initial tactic of trying to slice Ziggy's head off with his own weapon when he realized that what Series Green lacked in maneuvers, he more than made up for in raw, run-for-your-life speed. Ever since, Kilobyte had been lumbering along in Ziggy's wake across the wasteland, using him for target practice and searing the sand into dirty glass with every missed blast. For his part, Ziggy was sweating like a dog in a Chinese restaurant (or, really, any restaurant these days). The footing wasn't good, and he'd been lucky to avoid a direct hit on more than one occasion already. One of the blasts had come a little too close to his injured left arm as it was, burning away part of the uniform on his upper arm and blistering the skin. His knees and vision both were swimming, trembling with fatigue, and his lungs were beginning to seal themselves up in protest of the choking sand and relentless heat. He was also pretty sure that everything below his left elbow was going numb, which definitely was not a good sign.
Still, though. As Dillon would point out, thank God it isn't your shooting arm.
Not that he was all that good of a shot…
But! The bright side (and there was always a bright side, as far as Ziggy was concerned) was that Kilobyte needed about five seconds of recharge time between each blast, and Ziggy had been pretty good so far at taking advantage of that. He hadn't been named the Dodgeball champion of Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School in third grade for nothing.
Still, though. There's probably a very good reason you're still alive.
Kilobyte was taking its time with him.
Ziggy ducked for cover once more, diving behind a rusted water pipe as another blast ricocheted off the metal, throwing off a shower of sparks. He started to lean back to catch his breath, but quickly thought better of it when he felt the heat radiating off the metal. Better just to sit in the meager shade it offered, try to draw in another scratchy breath, and offer up a special curse for the doc and whatever the heck was taking her so long to send in the cavalry.
Kilobyte's heavy steps gritted in the bleached sand behind him. He counted to two - he was going for five, but chickened out - then twisted over and glanced cautiously around the edge of the pipe. Kilobyte's rigid face betrayed no expression as he lingered only a dozen yards away, patiently recharging his humming weapon.
Ziggy crouched low, gently setting Scott's saber weapon down at his side. If the combat got close - and Lord knew he hoped it didn't - he could use it, but for now, distance weapons were the weapons of choice. The sun was beating ruthlessly down upon them both, but he didn't blink, not even when sweat stung his eyes.
One open shot, as Dillon would say. Just one good, open chance…
"Shut up," he whispered fiercely. This was hard enough as it was.
The relative quiet of the scorched earth fractured as another laser blast cut cleanly through the air only three feet away, eating a crater into the sand. "Come out and play, Series Green," Kilobyte cajoled.
Just a few more inches now…
Kilobyte obeyed, and Ziggy's chance was suddenly laid bare before him, ugly robot framed true against ugly sky.
And the ugly robot moved, just as Ziggy popped up onto his knees and fired.
The blast screamed harmlessly into the expanse of empty orange. Kilobyte's eyes, bulging and broken into muddy white panels edged with pink, found Ziggy almost instantly, exposed and gaping over the fact that he'd missed that badly. Summer would kill him.
Kilobyte beat her to the punch.
Ziggy saw a flash and felt something sear into his chest. He was shoved backwards and slammed into the sand; his head connected with something hard and unforgiving. Sudden bolts of pain ripped into him, burning and scrawling cracks into his skull. The world turned foggy and faded away from him, narrowing down to simple, desperate breaths.
And as he lay there, barely clinging to consciousness and unsure if he wanted to puke first, he realized that his own weapon still rested lightly in his hand.
Kilobyte was approaching, laughing, making a clicking noise in his throat. "That was a little too easy."
"Sorry to... disappoint you," he managed to gasp in reply. Was he dying? It was hard to tell.
The robot leveled his blaster at Ziggy's face. "Are you prepared for termination, Series Green?"
"Can I... think it over?"
"You can die," Kilobyte said simply, as the weapon's humming began to increase in pitch.
Ziggy forced himself up on his bad elbow, that pain feeling like a soft springtime breeze compared to the raw, blackened mess where his chest used to be. He felt fractured, brittle pieces of - was it bone? - grinding together as he moved and causing pops of blinding pain to erupt like fireworks in his overtaxed lungs. But the pain was distant, roiling under a wave of adrenaline, and the old, cold instincts he didn't even realize he had were still intact. Ziggy raised the weapon in his good hand, ignoring the look of raw panic on Kilobyte's face, and pulled the trigger.
For Kilobyte, the day ended not in triumph but in a blinding flash of color, as a beam of vivid green came at him very quickly. There was a sensation of being pushed towards the ground suddenly, and pain could not find him before unconsciousness did.
Ziggy was not far behind him.