Pale Blue Shadows

In response to certain reviews – I'm actually doing just fine (and so is the inside of my head)! The problem with this story is that I set out to create a dark fic, in which evil won, and in the end, I just couldn't do it. It gets darker and darker, yes, but only because Roxanne and Syx became the villains, really and truly. To the point where I couldn't save them anymore. In the end, evil doesn't pay off. Only good can save the world. Only love and honesty and kindness can change the world. A lack of it might create villains, but villains perpetuate it. A real hero changes it, fights against it. And that's why this story's Roxanne and Syx can't have a happy ending. I wrote a tragedy. It breaks my heart more than a little.

Chapter 40: Tragedy

The resistance was not that strong. It was a fact that worried the young woman even now, as she crept through the dark shadows of the hallway. Even though they had outside funding, the reality was that there was very little they could do. Aliens had landed in their city, and rather than regarding them as proper threats, the world had rolled on by, blithely ignoring that anything was out of place. The rise of one as the adopted son of the city's wealthiest family and the realization that the other was an incompetent joker sealed the deal. There was nothing to be concerned about so long as one balanced out the other. But things never stay balanced for long. And humans don't know how not to meddle.

She supposes that when it all comes down to it, she could blame Roxanne Ritchie for everything that has happened. Even though there had been a moment, when the woman had stood before the city, claiming supremacy over the aliens, that they had all believed. They had believed that humans were the best, the strongest. Even if Ritchie had to be eliminated (obviously off her rocker), there was so much that they could do. It could have been a golden age of human kind.

They had neglected the threat inherent to the bumbling fool. They had ignored that a species more clever than they were could exist, and might use their only too human pride against them. There had been a few deaths, but never on purpose, and even though they labeled him a public menace, they had never really thought of him as menacing. Until the night he had slaughtered half a hospital in cold blood. Wasn't really any coming back from that, she figured, her grip on the small pistol in her hands tightening.

This was the fifth assassination attempt. Each attempt was resulting in more and more casualties. The resistance knew that, and ultimately, this would probably be one of their last attempts at it. The probability of success was getting lower and lower, and any hope they had once had in mercy being shown was long gone. No, she would probably be the last real shot at this, before the resistance deferred to its outside leadership and the growing acceptance that war would likely be necessary.

There was a quiet stirring of sound just beyond the end of the hallway. The clink of cutlery and glasses. She had spent several weeks now as kitchen staff. She knew when they ate supper, and on this evening, their Minion had chosen not to join them. His despairing gaze had alighted upon her earlier as he gave her a toothy grimace. "I can't join them tonight," he had told her, something in his tone suggesting to her that he knew more than he let on. That he was telling her for bigger reasons. For a moment she wondered if her cover was blown, or if even their Minion had come to place where the only way to still show love was through betrayal.

The scattered thought was enough to distract her for the barest moment. A single footstep taken too hastily, the flap of a curtain. Robots missed nothing it seemed, as a small chorus of "bowgs" filled the room. The curtain was thrown back, the pistol slapped from her hand to fly through the air and away from her grasp. A humanoid shape in black and blue towered above her.

The De-Gun was leveled at the young woman. Her hazel eyes stared straight into its end, knowing already that the fate that awaited her wasn't one of existence as a blue cube. She would cease to exist. Her very particles separated, scattered in a momentary burst. She'd seen it happen. Not just to Metro Man, but to all who had stood in the way of these creatures. Her gaze flashed momentarily to the sharp, green eyes of the alien who held the weapon aimed at her. Seeing no mercy or softness within them, they darted to his partner's icy blue stare. There was nothing truly human left in that glare, only fierceness and judgment and a harsh look of finality.

The young woman gasped despite herself, "What did you do?" The icy blue eyes that stared into hers blinked. "I thought…" the young woman felt her heart freeze beneath that gaze. The one redeeming thing that her young heart had snatched upon was that the alien and Ritchie loved each other. The things they had done? The horrors they had inflicted? Ultimately done in the name of love, as they fought for each other. But the eyes that looked down at her were so cold, so hard, that she wondered if they could feel anything at all. "I thought you loved each other?" she said finally, the words pouring out despite herself, "How can you love when you've gotten so cold?"

The young woman's voice broke, her heart breaking for the woman who would very soon be half responsible for her death. To lose even that part of your humanity, the ability to love, had to be a bit like dying, she imagined. "I thought at least," the young woman heard herself admitting, "I thought at least if I died… if I failed… that it would be because love would still be winning. If we all lost, it would be because we didn't really deserve to win. But you're just…" Her expression had long ago become one of shock. She couldn't quite believe that her mouth was still moving and words were still spilling from it. She felt certain that she should be already dead, and perhaps it was this sense of borrowed time that forced the accusation from her lips. "You're just empty!"

The woman who had once been human gazed down, evaluating the slender creature who cowered before them. The girl was perhaps all of eighteen, her face wearing an expression of hurt defiance. Her hazel eyes were dangerously alive, feeling everything, the way only a teenaged heart could. In response, ice thawed, cracked, broke apart into icebergs adrift on a sea of emotions that had become so distant. Blue eyes saw, for the first time in so very long.

Roxanne gazed down, feeling a scrap of her humanity ache for the young woman. To believe in love like that, when the reality was so much smaller. Perhaps it was the cold distance that had filled her up like water into an empty cup that had frozen her heart. Or maybe it had been his that had stopped loving first. In either case, Roxanne knew, deep down, that the girl spoke the truth. Too many caresses and kisses and touches had become careless, then meaningless, until only a caricature of love had remained.

The girl was only young. Little more than a child. She still believed in things like love and hope. There wasn't much need to kill that, was there? Time would kill it for them. Time would kill the girl, with all her passion and defiance. A shattered sigh escaped thin-pressed lips as the smallest drop of sympathy filtered into being. "Stop," her voice was quiet, barely a breath. "Stop, Syx," Roxanne said again, her leather-clad hand extending to touch the De-Gun, forcing it down and away from the young woman who cowered before them. "We don't need to do this."

But her lover's eyes were hard, and the sharp angle of his jaw tightened. His grip tightened on the weapon in his hands, fighting the pressure to lower it. "Syx?" Roxanne's voice was still soft, "We don't need to kill her. She's practically a kid."

"Even kids can be cruel and dangerous," was his hushed reply, as the jagged emeralds of his eyes didn't leave his target. "And spies and assassins can't be allowed to live."

Roxanne swallowed hard, her eyes falling on the small pistol that had landed on the ground not ten feet away. There was truth in Syx's words, but there was also truth in their would-be assassin's. And the reality of it all was that her truth was more real than the one that Syx believed. They had become empty. Too much death, too much pain, and too much cruelty had eaten away whatever had existed before. There was no love in their hearts because there was no kindness to feed it. There was no mercy or understanding, only the dangerous notion of survival and the power that need to be maintained to ensure it.

Roxanne moved too quickly to fully process what she was doing or the choice that her frozen heart had made. Within a moment, the pistol was in her hand and though she no longer had a hand on the De-Gun, she had become infinitely more dangerous. She released the safety on the pistol with an eerily loud click. Her lips pressed thin, and her eyes haunted, Roxanne held the pistol to Syx's head. Her muscles were taunt as wires, singing against the strain of standing so very still as the world sunk back in around her.

She watched Syx's throat bob ever so slightly as he swallowed. The De-Gun fell ever so slightly. "This is what's its come to?" he asked quietly, his voice holding a silent threat. "You holding a gun to my head to protect some insignificant human?"

"I was human once," Roxanne said in quiet reply, her eyes never leaving Syx, even as the young woman's expression went from fearful to horrified. She extended her arm the smallest distance, pressing the mouth of the pistol against his skin. "She doesn't need to die, Syx," she repeated, her voice stronger this time. "Not for being right."

"Right?" Syx's voice carried a note of surprise, even despite the flattened tone it had carried for far too long now. "I thought we were in the right. Isn't that why we've done everything we have? To make things right?"

Roxanne took in a shuddering breath as Syx swung around, the pistol now aimed squarely between his darkened eyes. The De-Gun was held more loosely in his grip, almost carelessly aimed at Roxanne herself. It was her turn to swallow hard against the lump in her throat. "What's happened, Roxanne?" Syx pressed, taking a step forward, even as Roxanne stepped back to match his movements. Both weapons remained trained upon the other. "Everything I've done, everything you've done, we did it all for…"

"For vengeance!" Roxanne exclaimed suddenly, her expression one of disbelief. "Don't you dare say it was love!" She shook her head, the pistol in her hands falling as spoke. "Everything we did, everything we ever did, was for revenge. We might have loved each other, but that wasn't what made the decisions. We did everything to get back at those who hurt us, those we felt wronged by. Even now, its all about power and control. There's nothing left in us to love with."

Syx's emerald eyes stared at her in shock. Roxanne licked her lips nervously, her gaze falling sideways, staring at nothing. "We've killed whatever part of ourselves was worth loving." She swallowed hard again, feeling empty. "You know its true. It's been true for ages, all we had to do was think about what it was we were feeling. We have an emotional link to each other and its been completely empty for months now. We've grown too cold, Syx. We can't even feel. How could we possibly be right? How could we be doing anything that we do for love?"

The truth sat heavy on the air. The De-Gun remained raised between them. Syx's head fell slightly, as Roxanne struggled to pull air into her lungs. There was an eternity of silence between them. And then there was the barest whisper in their bond. Like a breath of warmth, stirring against iced over emotions, she felt it. His gaze rose, almost painfully slow. His green, green eyes meeting hers and pulling her in. His look was that of a broken thing, despair in his aspect. "Roxanne," he whispered, the old tug of emotion pulling at her heart strings.

The De-Gun shook slightly in mid-air, his hand moving around it reflexively.

A shot rung out.

Green eyes went wide.

Roxanne collapsed to her knees.

"Syx," she whispered, the acrid scent of gunpowder and smoke filling her senses.

An unseeing gaze fell across hers as an empty body fell into her embrace.

"Syx," she whispered, her eyes falling closed as she pulled the shell he had left behind tighter into her arms.

"He was… he was going to shoot you." The voice in Roxanne's ears was haunted. Someone else would have to live with the pain of having killed.

For a moment, Roxanne was back in her own memories. She felt the icy trickle of cold water on her skin as she grappled with the reality of having stolen life.

She looked at the young woman with pity.

"Kill me too," she whispered softly. "Don't leave this only half done." She smiled weakly, tears in her eyes. "Kill the bad guys. Be a hero." She watched the young woman swallow hard, hand trembling around the pistol in her grasp. Foolish that, not checking for a second weapon. Roxanne breathed deeply, her hands shaking against the body in her arms. She looked at the girl for a long moment, what little humanity she had left rising to the surface. "Try not to die inside."

A second shot rang through the air.