Chapter Thirty Five; Flame Out

Firebird

It was too pathetic to be alone
so I went to the last place there'd
been people; New York City.

Out of spite, I filled my belly with junk, then wandered over to the Museum.
I looked at exhibits, bought souvenirs. Doug must of seen me on a security
camera, for he came up, gave me a look and I followed him down and out.

We went to the Chinese restaurant he'd wanted to visit the other night.
We sat at a clever balcony table.

"Do I take any credit or blame?" Doug says sipping tea.

I hadn't mentioned Priam, but he knew.

"A bit of both," I say, keeping my voice flat.

"Someday I'll give details of my days as KrimValdonParnScoto, of Molbe," he
muses, then digs into his food, his manners of our previous meal together jettisoned.

"I'd like to hear about it," I say, eating, not tasting, while he gave me his story.
After we'd finished, without precursor; Doug asked; "Why did he go?"

"I couldn't not say something," I mutter, then, sounding more intelligent;
"...if the Dalmar were after him and I don't know why, I'm at risk. His choice was to
tell me why or leave me. He chose to leave."

Doug glanced into the busy street, then back to me,
"They didn't know you were with him..." he chin points at three blond men passing, whether they were Eugenics or three blond men was moot.

"No." I say, the word extruding from my mouth like the pit of a plum.

"You know he's dangerous right? Priam..."

"Doug, I'm a Bounty Hunter."

He was about to impart whatever rumours he held when I quoted;
'He tore fifteen Dalmar apart on his last go..."

"You don't believe it?" he asked.

"I don't know what I believe, can we talk we about something else?"

He gave me one of those very pregnant looks, judging if his attempted warning need be said or implied or if it didn't matter anymore. He chose the last and talked about everything else. We left, to a club, there was drinking and dancing, music, noise and smells, but I was tired.

He invited me home with him, but I shook off, went to a hotel, where I could
have a perfectly anonymous room and be alone.
I went to bed. Woke up crying a few hours later but it was okay.
It was cleansing.

Priam and I...
There was never really an us.
We shared a yacht, sometimes a bed, but were not Together.
I suppose I could do a post mortem on a post mortem and identify the minute
or minutes we ceased to be together.

It wasn't that he couldn't hold a conversation.
He couldn't hold a conversation with me.
He knew I didn't trust him.
So, he didn't trust me.

He hadn't been overly concerned about my pregnancy.
He knew I would abort.
He knew, when he left, I'd be stuck with a baby.
A fatherless baby who'd grow up to ask questions.
So it was right it ended here and now.
Now.

On Earth I'd do what everyone always promises themselves, I'd visit sites.

I went to the Taj Mahal, the Wall of China, the Pyramids, I rode a camel.
I went to the Opera in Italy, the Ballet in Moscow.

I bought souvenirs to prove I'd been, deciding to spend two months travelling
around Earth. But each day it got harder to get up in an empty room, to be
alone, to go places alone. To know I was alone.

Though I'd been alone most of my life, having had a companion, made it empty.
I missed Priam and couldn't pretend I didn't.

I phoned Doug, just to keep in touch. Just to hear a voice that touched me.
I met him at Dave's and it must have been one of those off days, because we were
alone on the barge.

He went back to discussing his time 'passing', working around to his kernel.

"They are different." He gave. "Whatever genes are zapped out of them take away
what we know as love. Not that I'm your best example, I've got three wives on three
different planets, whom I rarely think about, but there was a point, with each of
them when I loved. When I wanted to be with them, and was with them.
There's a bond. Maybe in my case it's not tight, but Superboys can't do that."

I took a breath, tossed; "I told my housekeeper, even one week with him...is worth
it. It was worth it."

"Promise me you won't look for him," Doug said with passion.

"Why?" I flip.

"There's a woman, 'Pete', she had a kid for one of them, long story. She's
on Smudge trying to rescue Superboys in the hope one of them will convey
a message to her own."

"That's intriguing," I say, because not talking about me is good.

He took it as introduction and went on to tell me about the planet called Steel,
the significance of the keys, explaining the role of Ahmet and Smudge.

To his credit, Doug made the story interesting, pathos and comedy.
I tried not to relate to Pete. But if I had Priam's child, wouldn't I, at some
point, feel this overwhelming need to find him?
For the 'sake' of the child?
For the sake of my own lusts, hidden in a concern for my poor fatherless child?

"When you met me," I admit, "I was pregnant. When he left, within two hours,
I wasn't. I think I knew..." I trail off.

"I thought to warn you, but said to myself, nahh. That's Firebird. She can take care of herself."

A sad smile touched my lips, I sipped my wine.

"I don't regret it." I say. "I would regret if I'd had the chance to be with him and
lost it because there was no future. But there doesn't have to be."

I took a last swallow, and added something to the first conversation we had;

"Wisdom, Doug, is knowing there doesn't have to be a future, now is good
enough. And now, I have to go. I suppose our paths will cross."

"I hope not..." Doug jested.

I gave him a smile, went to the road, got a cab, then up, took my yacht, put
it on auto and set course for Newfrance.

I don't know if tomorrow I'll still be bound there, maybe I'll go to Smudge, maybe
I'll go to Savorn. My future was out here.

My future.

I wonder if I'd be hired to find Priam Zal again.
I doubt it.
They'd get one of my competitors.
But he or she wouldn't find him.

Priam knew too much about how we operate. I'd shown him. Shown him avatars
and batwings and where to get information and how to pass it on. I'd taught him
a lot, but not everything. He never knew how I scrambled his brain.

I could find him.
I could find him right now if I wanted.
But I didn't want. That's the difference between 'Pete' and I.

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