Author's Note: As usual, when I write a random one-shot, I'm not taking a break from the story I'm regularly posting. Next chappie from "The Same Team" will still be up as usual.

I had stayed up way too late last night, and the idea just kind of hit me. So, well, here goes nothing!

Disclaimer: I do not own the Storm Hawks.

00000000000000000000000000000000000

Part One: Memories, and Rescues Failed

I piloted the Condor through the Wastelands on this doomed rescue mission. For once, I didn't care that the most likely outcome would be death. We're all going to die, anyway, or worse if I don't get the Storm Hawks back. I, for one, do not want to see exactly what Cyclonis will do with Atmos in her clutches.

I'd rather risk my life on some crazy rescue mission that I doubt I'll survive.

The Condor is quiet, screeching and moaning as the winds tear past outside. It's weird, not hearing Finn's guitar, or Junko's bumps, or Aerrow training, or Piper screaming at them all to be quiet. Most of the time, I'm just as annoyed as Piper, but now that I have my wish, blessed silence, it feels a bit creepy. Empty. I want them back.

The bowels of Cyclonia appear ahead of me, though the clouds. It always causes me to gasp—the size, the majesty. In different times, different circumstances…

I have to go through a bit of sunlight as the Condor races towards the piping system. It hurts my eyes, which had been adjusted to the gloom of the Wastelands. Merbs have sensitive night-vision.

I never really liked the light. It was too bright, too in-your-face. The darkness was always more enticing.

I sped through the pipes, not caring about slowing down, until finally I crash-landed under the prison block. I ejected myself from the Condor's smoldering ruin.

I never really expected that would be a way out.

All of the cells were empty. There were no Talons running around in the halls. It seemed as if the entire palace was deserted.

The Talons were off conquering the Atmos. That meant one thing: the prisoners, all of them, had been executed, to get them out of her way.

I had known this all along, hadn't I? I knew underneath that there wasn't a chance she would let the Storm Hawks mess up her big plans. I had known when I crashed the Condor, because I knew inside that I wouldn't need a ride out of here. Still, the confirmed truth was far crueler than guesses. I never got to say goodbye.

Why am I here? Why did I come here, when I knew I would only find empty cells, death? But that answer, I, too knew. The question wasn't 'Why am I in Cyclonia,' it was 'Why am I here in the prison block? Why aren't I in the throne room already?'

Death had taken everything away from me: my friends, my ship. There was only one thing left: revenge.

The palace was creepily empty. My footfalls echoes as I walked to the huge doors, at the entrance to her throne room. Huge shadows filled the hallway. I felt small, dwarfed by the architecture around me. I pushed through the entryway, wincing at the "creak, creak" the doors made.

She was standing with her back to me, like I'd always imagined. She was tapping on whatever crystal contraption she was working on this time. For some strange reason, I got the impression she was smiling.

----------------------

Part Two: Love and Hate

Do it, do it now. Leap forward and stab her, end this war. You might even get out of here alive. As much as I try, I can't convince myself to kill her. I'm just a fly, and I'm already trapped in this spider's web.

She turns around, paralyzing me with her violet gaze. "Stork of the Storm Hawks." Her voice is cool, smooth, almost musical. Unlike the cheery pitches of Piper, the only other girl I'm used to hearing speak, her voice is lower. Darker. One thousand times more desirable. "It took you long enough to get here."

She's so beautiful, in a contrasting way. Her skin is so pale, her hair so dark. Her eyes are so wide, made even larger by the excessive amount of liner she uses. She looks so frail, but at the same time so powerful.

I'm afraid. For the first time, I'm afraid, not of death, but of losing myself in the darkness.

Somehow, she ends up right in front of me. Her eyes pierce mine, and I think she knows exactly what's running through my head. I don't care, because all I can think about is how close her body is to mine.

Surprisingly, I see similar desire in her eyes. Is it true? Is this just another game for her? Do I even care?

Our lips touch.

------------------------------

Part Three: Lost in the Darkness

Later: seconds, minutes, hours later, I've lost track of all time. At least I know that time is still moving forward, so it's later.

I am standing on the balcony, the balcony with no railing. I am standing near the edge. The winds push me back and forth, but I feel no fear, not anymore.

Why was I always so afraid of death? Why did I try to avoid it for so long? Death was the easy way out, the escape. Death was a friend, not an enemy.

She's behind me. Even though her tiny feet make no noise as they walk across the cool marble floor, to the ledge, I know that she's behind me.

"It doesn't have to end this way, you know. You could stay here, in Cyclonia."

It does have to end like this. Because I don't want to live my life like some caged bird, like some trophy. I don't want to be like a child's toy, loved a played with for a while, then discarded when the child moves on to bigger things.

There are two darknesses: the one standing, so tempting, behind me, or the clean, easy one, one step ahead of me.

I choose the easy way out. I don't even scream as I fall. Death, here I come. Storm Hawks, here I come. I might be a coward, but I'm not going to fall for her games. I'm going on my own terms, the last measure of control in my life which has not been in my hands for so long.

My eyes are open, and I relish the feeling of the air whipping through my hair. The ground is coming closer, and I hold out my arms, to embrace the earth.

I hope this doesn't hurt too much.

She turns, walks back to her throne, doesn't watch the Merb plummet, or hit the ground, breaking his neck and dying instantly.

She has better things to think about than the defeated Storm Hawks. Soon, she will have the entire Atmos to rule. If she wants Merbs, she can have an entire Terra full.

No one cried for Stork of the Storm Hawks. One girl almost shed a single tear, but it was stopped, held back, frozen by the chunk of ice they called her heart.

00000000000000000000000000000000000