Author's Note/Disclaimer: This was my first 9 story I ever wrote, and I'm happy to say that it was a success, enough for me to go back and revise it so that anyone new who stumbles on it might find it even better than my typo-riddled premiere version. I came up with the idea for this story one night in January 2010 while I was relaxing in my room. I, like nearly everyone does, wondered what would happen next to the four surviving stitchpunks and thought that maybe they might want to find something more in the world they inherited. My first chapter was borne a oneshot, but from there on I wrote six more chapters in something of a story, and here is the final result.
And now for my disclaimer: I do not own "9". Shane Acker created the original idea and it was released under Focus Features. This is for free entertainment only. Thank you, and enjoy!
Silence in Paradise
"I won't know, you won't know,
I want to find a place to go
Where you are…" –Everlife.
The morning sunlight peeked in through the curtain of gray clouds. It bathed the muddy earth in yellow light, and with its heat slowly turned it back into dust. Metal wreckage was scattered about, tinged with rust or puckering in the center like bubbles about to pop.
On the outskirts of the ruins, a thin beam of light poured into a wooden crate. It was a safe and dry shelter from the recent rain, where the doll-like creatures called stitchpunks rested peacefully.
The light fell upon one of the stitchpunk's optic lenses and he woke up to white blindness. He lightly stretched his brown burlap arms and groped along the ground with his copper and wooden hands. On his back was etched the number 9, and that number was what he was called as well.
9 yawned and looked around. Two other stitchpunks sat in a nearby corner of the crate. They were identical with their blue gray hoods and facial expression. Only their numbers differed, reading 3 and 4. 9 continued to look around in the morning light before his stitched brow furrowed.
"Seven?" he muttered to no reply. "Seven?" he repeated, standing up. He opened a small window hatch in the box and let in more of the morning light. Peeking outside, he saw and heard nothing.
"Three, Four, wake up," 9 said with slight worry.
The two other stitchpunks' optic lenses opened wide and began shuttering open and closed rapidly. The clicking noises their actions made asked their question for them, Why did you wake us?
"Seven's gone," 9 explained, "She didn't say she was going anywhere, did she?"
3 and 4 shook their heads.
If 9 had been capable of gulping down saliva, he would have. "I think we should look for her, just in case. You head out north, I'll head south. If anything happens, like the weather changes again, try to head back or stay safe. Okay?"
3 and 4 nodded, transferred the visual images of their route to each other with optic flashes, and leaped out the window hatch to find 7.
9 followed the twins out and walked off in the opposite direction. Climbing over the endless piles of debris, he listened and looked out for a sign of life. Other than the faint squishing of mud beneath his feet, the world was strangely silent. Nothing on land or in the sky made a single sound. Even the wind hushed her whispers today. Though the absence of a threat was pleasant, it was somehow eerie. 9 was afraid that something would take him by surprise in the quiet. His instinct to fight or flee was overpowering all other logic.
After a while, 9 reached the ruins of the old church that had once been he and the others' sanctuary. He sat on a cool rock nearby and sighed, remembering the last time he had been to this place.
They had escaped with their lives, though their spirits were rather broken when the cathedral burned down. 5's face sunk as he watched the hot flames of the fire consume the telescope that he had built with his late mentor 2. 6 tried to catch the falling pieces of wood and paper that came down like snowflakes, but when they turned to ash in his hands, his smile disappeared. 7's limped from her leg wound with previously hidden vulnerability, leaning onto 9 for support. 1 appeared to be the most affected of the eight stitchpunks, watching the tower burning with a great frown of regret. 8 only tried to comfort him. 9 himself did not know what to say, and was as mute as the twins on that long walk out into the unknown.
None of them could have known that only four of the eight refugees would survive the dark shadow of the machine…
When 9 heard a sigh nearby, his memory ended. He looked up at a jagged beam of wood that protruded toward the clouds and saw a figure shrouded in shadow. With a second look, he recognized the silhouette as 7. The pale stitchpunk stuck out against the bleak background of the wreckage as she sat all alone with her helmet feathers trailing off the edge of the beam. Relieved and curious at the same time, 9 climbed up to her. When he was a foot or so away from her he softly said, "Seven?"
7 turned around quickly. "Nine? I didn't hear you coming." She paused and asked, "What are you doing out here?"
"I was looking for you," he answered, sitting down next to her. "What are you doing out here?"
"I…I don't know," 7 answered with a frown. "It was so quiet, I thought I'd go on lookout. I didn't want to wake anyone up."
9 nodded. "We were worried about you. But then again, I guess there's no reason for that now."
7 turned and looked out over the ruined landscape again. "Do you really feel like everything's set and done, Nine?"
9 shook his head. "I feel like something's coming."
"Me too," she said.
"We destroyed the machine. It doesn't make sense," 9 thought aloud.
7 paused and looked at 9 again. "Maybe we're just scared being alone. If the others were here, I'd bet we'd feel better."
"Maybe. Or maybe something good is coming, and we've been seeing it wrong because we don't want to be without them." 9 shut his optic lenses and turned away just as he felt a light tap on the shoulder from 7.
"I hope you're right, Nine," she said softly, leaning closer to him, "About the good things, I mean. We could all use something good to happen now." She paused and noticed that one of the feathers from her helmet was lying in her lap, and she stroked the edge of it, thinking about something. "Do you know why I wear this bird helmet so much?"
"Um, isn't it to protect you?"
She chuckled. "Yes, but there's more to it. I used to think, well…"
"-Yes?" 9 asked, waiting for the answer.
She still hesitated, but finally told him. "I used to think that if I wore this helmet I could turn into a bird and fly away."
"-Fly away?" 9 asked, puzzled.
7 nodded and looked down at the ground below. "I wanted to see the world. Spread my wings. I wanted to escape from this place." Her gaze shifted upward. "Then I realized that I couldn't dream to get what I wanted, I had to fight for it. So I did."
9 sat still for a while before saying, "We still can."
"-We still can what?"
"We still can fly away, Seven. We could start over again. We could look for more answers out there."
"Well, we could build something to get us out of the emptiness. Between the four of us, I bet we could find a way."
7 suddenly wanted to put all her hope in 9's words. "Can you promise me you'll do this?"
9 paused before answering. "I can't promise anything. Things might change and we have to stay safe."
7 got a cheated look on her face. "You sound like One," she growled. She hated thinking about the old leader 1 who liked to lock everyone away from danger if only to protect himself.
9 held back the impulse to retaliate. "It's not that. It's just that we don't know what will happen in the future. We need to take life one day at a time."
7's glare wavered. "Now you sound like Two; just trying things out and being careful."
9 thought about 7's words after answering. He couldn't imagine himself being like either of the old stitchpunks. Brave and good-hearted as he had been to him, 2 died before 9 had the chance to really know him. 9 never had much respect for 1 until the old leader gave up his life to save them all. When he thought about it, even though he could relate to the other stitchpunks to some degree and he knew that they had all been created from the same soul, 9 recognized himself as different from the others. He was unique.
"And maybe I'm just being me," he concluded to her.
7 put her hand on top of 9's hand, enjoying his company and their conversation. "Maybe that's something we have in common."
9 wasn't sure why, but he was sure that he could feel his facial circuits heating up into what would have been a blush if he were human. "Maybe," he replied, lightly gripping her hand. "And maybe we'll get there someday."
9 and 7 pretended they didn't notice the strange feeling that came from being so close together, or that it seemed the more time they were spending with each other that these moments came back even more frequent and awkwardly. However, they felt just a twinge of disappointment when 3 and 4 appeared and they lost their chance to ask the other about it. Still, they guessed that it was better for the twins to know that they were safe than to confess profound things, at least for now anyway.
With things right again, the four stitchpunks sat out and watched the hazy sun rising. At least they had each other in their silent world.