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Power Cut

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Night.  Stones and metal scraps and dirt and darkness.  Cold, so cold.  Blood pulsing in his ears, metal clanging in his mind; at once alarming and sounding alarms.

He rubs grimy hands together (there was a time, many lives ago, he'd never seen dirt under his nails).  Between clawed hands, a nest of ricocheting sparks.  Something that is him and not him, eats his strength, transforms it.  Pain to fear to anger to energy, sharp to cold to flushed to hot hot hot.  He can leap and fly and zap and blast.  Dying never felt so alive; violence often fun but never like this.  It feels good, it feels like power, and power is close to control.

He can't control this power, though; that's half the hurt of it.  And that's the drug of it, the lark of it.  They know that adventure high, he thinks.  The chaos of it.  That's what they live for.  They've mocked that he "lives for survival" but they live for the rush of almost dying.  Is it so different?

So he gives them a run for their life and he gives them a glimpse of his mind in pieces and he can feel their appetite... for a problem to solve.  Let them imagine troubleshooting him like they do their timeship...  Worn-out, damaged specimens, purposefully chosen to keep them busy.  What would they be with nothing left to fix?

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Later, so much later, 'the day after the end of the world' (how many actual worlds' ends have the two of them seen?  How many worlds, between them, have they ended?)... He wakes up cradled in nothingness with their hands on his head and their questions and selfish kindnesses buried deep in his mind, almost as deep as that pulsing ache he cannot reach, and he screams and screams and screams in that silent space.  They scuttle out and away from the hurting noise, but where can these two go that they won't thrill and shudder at each other's pain?  The universe isn't wide enough.

The power consuming him is gone, spent in a desperate or noble deed he can't remember, and he doesn't know why he's not dead.  They show him a propaganda reel of heavily edited memories.  He's back to square zero with them triumphant; so far, familiar ground.  Safe and safely contained, alive but not well.  Creeping fear spreads out from the anxious pulse in the back of his head.  In past lives, no matter how dapper or how decaying the body he was allotted, he always had his mind and it was always brilliant.  Now he can't finish mental inventory; how to scan brains for damage, using only damaged brains?  He daren't tell them something's missing; their eyes already go big and soft when they look at him, absent now the joy of competition between equals.

He'll show them.  In a power cut, you can light your home with candles... Or you can light the place on fire and watch it burn.