Chapter Sixty Two - The Denouement
I have stayed by the controls much longer
than I needed. I dread the next moments.
But I can't delay any longer.
I grab a bastard confidence and enter.
The main cabin is empty and silent.
My Avatar has taken Prima to her room.
I move to Priam's room.
He is sitting on the floor holding the pyramid; zombied.
He is as one rescued from certain death who has
not yet regained his soul.
I note how old and frayed his uniform appears and more, how his skin doesn't gleam and his hair is dull. He is not who he was, for he just sits on the deck, leaning against the bed frame, engrossed by the pyramid.
Eventually he feels me, his eyes climb to mine. There is an impulse is to run and
embrace him, yet I do not move from the doorway.
He stretches his long arms along the footboard speaks in his language, then, in
"It is first I do this since we parted."
He wasn't searching pity, he was admitting, in his guileless manner, a truth.
I look at him, search for a topic that wasn't 'charged'...went to default;
"Are you hungry?"
He pauses, about to respond in his other language, changes it; "Yes."
I step to him, reach down. He looks at my hand puts his within, I pull him to
his feet. For a moment he looks at me. Not to make the moment heavier,
I let go of his hand, move to the galley.
I realise he's not behind me as I hear the shower running.
I stand as a fool, then begin to select food items.
The shower is very short, for him. He's washed his hair, roughly oiled it and
his skin. He is now dressed in jeans and an open shirt. His feet are bare.
He comes behind me puts his arms about me, holds me to his body, then
because the tension is so great, turns to the food.
I go into my bathroom, shower, find myself trembling.
It's okay, I tell myself.
Everything will get back to some norm. He'll ratchet down from wherever he
is, and we'll talk. Sooner or later, he will talk.
I wash my hair, try to look better than I have for the past year. I dress in a
bright pink body suit I never wear, just to lift my mood, then go to my daughter.
In French she says she is hungry, I correct her to English. I talk to her about
Papa, and after about ten minutes we enter the dining area. I put her in her
high chair, take my seat, Priam serves us.
They ate slowly savouring, he, telling Prima the names of the dishes in his
language. I could tell he was quite hungry because after he'd scraped his
plate he took another portion.
He was not himself. Priam knows exactly how much he can finish and takes precisely that amount. That he'd misjudged and had to take more set off alarms.
That's the thing about living with someone who doesn't communicate, you
read their actions.When the meal completed, he moved the dishes and I
took Prima to bathe and to bed. I took my time with her, for I was so afraid
of who he had become, for this shadow was not Priam.
When she was asleep, I came into the main cabin.
Priam wasn't there.
He was in his room, sleeping in his clothes.
Thinking I could postpone, I went to move, but it was too late.
He sprang up as if under attack, saw it was me, became embarrassed.
I neared, sat on his bed. Very carefully, not moving, not reaching out;
"You are safe, Priam."
He looks at me a long time, as if we are strangers. There's a confusion in his
eyes you see when someone is drunk or high. Again I wonder if he isn't drugged.
Yet this wasn't all about him. It was also about me. And I was far too concerned
about me to smile and slide.
"Can you talk to me?" I ask.
He closed his eyes, sucked air, as if having to speak painful. In a whisper;
"Can not you comprehend without my having to place words?"
Carefully as if stepping on stones across a raging river I reply:
"Priam, I love you. But I can not know by osmosis. I don't know what happened,
I don't know why you feel the way you do."
He looks at me, and I appreciate; I have never understood him. No. I have never
known him. I reflect on the last minute we'd been together, on our yacht, bound
for Earth, when his people came for him and...
how did they know where he was?
How did they know where he was?
Suddenly, the word 'safe' wasn't sounding so true...
"Priam, will they...with your brothers...will they come after us?" I ask, nervously.
"For what reason?" he asks as if my question is ridiculous, "I do not have the key..."
was so important he murdered fifteen Dalmar to get it...
I think of the Movie...
Doug had to put the 'key' into a lock. The lock 'read' it, read that Doug was a
Gennie...and allowed him to...Without the key...Pete's Gennie needed the key...
The key was a beacon...
they tracked us...via the key.
He doesn't have the key.
He looks away from me, I put my hand on his arm, feel his smooth skin. He
turns back to me, the expression in his eyes is peculiar.
"It was not my father lying on the deck".
For a brief moment I am unsure of what he has said or meant, then recall
our first conversations.
"I am not anyone's child...I am a clone, Firebird...born to die. Without the Key,
worthless. You are the first to see me special. But I am a glass bead on a long
necklace, upon which is one diamond. I am there to prevent you from seeing
"To me, Priam, you are the diamond..."
He doesn't hear me.
"They said, (and he rattled off something in his language which sounded harsh
and ugly and in the tone of voice you'd expect from a guard at a prison camp,
then translated); "Agouti, do you know this Worm?"
(So that's what his people call us)
His accent betrayed he hadn't spoken English since he left me.
"Those who are Agouti came, view the monitor, I see Doug. I told them he knew
everything...." He stops talking, calms himself, adds; "An agouti is like a rat...
that is what I am..."
"No, Priam, you are not, you are not. You are a man."
The softness of his voice belied his words,
"A man? I do not even have a name, Firebird. Priam is not my name...
Priam is my batch."
He stared at me as if he'd thought I knew...maybe I did. Having seen three
other men, identical to him; yes. I did understand...in a part of my brain held
for nightmares and worst case scenarios I knew.
"There is no life for This Priam. He is less than one of your robots is to you.
He exists as spare parts, as a decoy. Now that war is over, we have no purpose."
His words, his experiences tumbled into insanity, I couldn't find concordance.
"You think I am someone worthy to be loved. Someone to whom you can give
gifts. I am only that when we are together. You have shown me what it is to be
alive and I can not return to nonexistence."
And before I could absorb what he was saying; "You are the first to ask if I am hungry."
His voice breaks on the last word. He shakes himself, looks away. Then tears track his cheeks.
When I'd captured him, had him in the forcefield, I asked if he were hungry.
It was a little thing.
Although he was wonderful and beautiful in my eyes, among his people he was nothing.
One of ten, hundred, thousand...how many?
Knowing he was a clone.
Warehoused until necessary, if necessary.
One of ten, hundred, thousand...how many?
What matter if ten or a hundred or a thousand Priams died. He was 'spare parts'
in a well stocked warehouse.
I turned him from what he was into who he is. I had asked him if he were hungry.
And then, because I'm a Bounty Hunter, because I can always find the flaw in
perfection, I think...
It doesn't have to be love.
It doesn't have to be love.
He has no where to go.
Images race through my mind from the day we landed on Smudge.
He had no where to go, no where he wanted to go.
He had gone to Ahmet to retrieve the vital Key. Not the bag of possessions. That was camouflage.
He'd put the key in the bag...I'd captured him...
He went back to Ahmet for the key. . then met me at Habibi.
He may have acted as if he had choice, but he didn't.
I was the only door in his wall...or the best door...the most useful door...
and besides that, besides his mission or use, with me he would be the only Priam.
The only one..
not a melee of ten, hundred, a thousand exactly the same versions of a 'batch'
but singular and special. As long as he was with me.
He knew how to 'play' me; I have to give him that.
He avoided being left on Smudge, got me to buy him this yacht and when he heard me tell my robots that I was going to take him to the Space Port and leave him so went into the freezing night to catch pneumonia so I couldn't leave him anywhere.
There is no life for 'This Priam' unless I am willing to 'adopt' him.
And the fear and pain rose in me, those emotions I had banned from my mind
the day on the yacht when I thought; it was better to be wrong than to wrong.
He realises what I've just discovered.
"Firebird, now that you know, do you want me?"
Our eyes are locked. He searches for the lie, for the rejection, the denigration.
But I love him, and it's not because of lack of alternative.
Lies do not matter, deceptions collapse into themselves. He is with me, has always
been with me because I am all there is in his horrible empty life.
I have it all now.
All the details.
I am ponderously aware of this moment in time when I have to say the right thing,
and I said it;
"Alex ander?" he repeats.
"Yes, Alexander Firebird..."
For a long moment he looks at me. I can see the precise second when he
comprehends what I have said, what it means. He suppresses his excitement,
and as if it is a matter of slight importance;
"Show me how to write that in joined script..."
I run into the other room, to the desk and think; it doesn't matter why he is with
me, as long as he is with me to stay.
I grab a stylus, pad, return to sit beside him on the bed, slowly write the name in
glorious hand. He takes the stylus, traces the letters, then writes them, slowly.
I watch him.
if he doesn't love me,
if he doesn't know what love is,
he will learn.