And All the Nights to Come
The lights of the colony below glow dimly, especially in comparison to the twinkling stars shown on the monitors around him. He sips his tea - green, stewed for four minutes and thirty seconds, though for nothing else is he this precise.
He settles back into his chair, reclining along its curved back, and sets the tea down on the armrest. His senses tell him he is floating in space. The chair is on such a thin, long stem, and the monitors, set on every curved wall of the room, a perfect orb cupped around him, show stars, stars or the colony below, letting him see all that is outwards, as if he himself is the planet, and able to see in all directions.
A red dot lights up in his peripheral vision. He swings his chair, and the gravity adjusts automatically, so even though he has shifted thirty degrees downwards, he still feels as if he is sitting up. Not a drop of tea falls from his cup.
Satellite 4 is malfunctioning. It’s a problem with the lasers’ power supply again, he already knows. He opens up his calendar using the controls in his armchair, and it displays on the monitor he’s facing. Today is Monday, so he schedules the repair for Tuesday. Nothing will happen in the next twenty-four hours. Nothing has happened in the last twenty-four hours. Nothing has happened for the last twenty-four years.
He slips his hand along the cord of the VR plug and hums.
If something happens, the alerts will interrupt him. Not that they ever have; only the maintenance lights come on, now and then. The alerts have not sounded since the day he became the Watcher.
He slips the plug at the tip of the VR chord into the port under his ear. He lies back, and lets the computer take over his mind.
For This Night
April 1, 2459 - Kurogane Youo
Kurogane woke with a start.
He growled, pounding the wall with his fist, irritated by the interruption to his sleep.
The sound of the blaring alarm was unfamiliar. The black haired Watcher was unaccustomed to unfamiliar things, which meant he didn't like them. He certainly didn't like the blaring of security alarms, which hadn't dared to blast out any noise during the last decade of his Watch.
Despite his irritation, he was up in a flash, and it only took a few strides in the low gravity walkway to reach the main monitor room. As he pushed his way into the zero gravity area, he could already see the alert was for Satellite 4, whose monitor for the inward facing camera was flashing red. Worse still was that the monitor view was completely black, meaning the camera was either blocked or broken.
Another signal blinked blue from the armrest of the control chair, which he floated over to, slipping onto it with a grunt as the automatic gravity adjusted and pulled him smoothly onto the seat. He pulled up the message that the blue blinking indicated he’d received, huffing as he read its contents.
Ten minutes later, he was in his shuttle, and the tiny vehicle sputtered to life after several months without use.
"Those spaceport idiots," he grumbled to himself. "Giving permission for launch, without waiting for the Watcher to acknowledge the message."
Not that it should have mattered, since the transit was outgoing, and it wasn't as if the array of satellites, spread out over the planet like a chain link fence, was there to keep people in.
But he would have liked to know beforehand if they were going to let some moron who couldn't fly straight pass through his wall.
Satellite 4 was in the same ring as Satellite 1, where he lived, which meant he had to shuttle to the other side of the fucking planet. Not that this took more than the time it had taken him to get the shuttle started up, only ten minutes, but it still felt annoying, having to rescue some idiot who crashed into his fucking wall on his fucking watch.
Snorting, he couldn't help but smirk when the crash site came into view. The satellite, of course, was barely damaged; each satellite that made up the wall was a fortress in itself, an invulnerable tank that served only the purposes of war - attack, attack, attack, and don't be so vulnerable that an enemy fighter could break the web of lasers that would spray out from all twelve satellites in a spectacular and deadly show of lights.
The leisure ship, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. The small flier was - or at least, had been - elegantly shaped, curved with a smooth, shimmering exterior coated with aesthetic crystals, flashy and lustrous but otherwise useless. Even without the custom paint job, it was obvious the craft was absurdly expensive. Long range ships had a high price tag, and a small, one passenger flier like this was a multi-trillionaire’s toy.
He hoped the owner had insurance, because the only way it was leaving the colony now was in scraps.
The flier's idiot pilot was, luckily for him, unscathed.
It took two minutes for Kurogane to regret mounting a rescue mission.
It took five minutes for Kurogane to wish the crash had ended in the pilot's fiery death.
"But Kuro-goo is such a long name!" the pilot exclaimed, his thick Celesian accent twisting every word with a rolling lilt that most people would find exotically beautiful, but was currently grating on the last of Kurogane’s nerves.
"Ku - ro - ga - ne. Say it right, or don't say it at all," he growled for the fourth time. He couldn't believe how many mutilations of his name this fucker had come up with since he'd pulled him onto the shuttle.
It didn't help that the shuttle was only made for two, which, in spaceship sizing, meant two seats squished very close together. Kurogane wanted to chop off that wavy blond hair that kept brushing against his neck.
"How about Kuro-hero? For rescuing me," the blond winked. "Or maybe Kuro-frown. Mmm, those wrinkles on your chin make you look like a bulldog, has anyone ever told you this? Oh, I know! Kuro-puppy!"
By the end of the ten minute flight back to Satellite 1, Kurogane had begun to consider how much the colony's police force would care if one of their rare tourists met his unfortunate death from asphyxia via exposure to space.
The blue light was on again when he finally got back into the monitor room.
The space port's message made his gut drop.
[There's a problem with the launch pad. No vehicles are permitted for landing or departure.]
Of course, there was no date given for when the repair would be done. Kurogane already knew it would be weeks. Why rush the repairs, when the next major ship wouldn't come for another three months? The colonists had plenty of other crap on their to-do list; they wouldn't bother prioritizing space travel when so few people actually travelled. With the remoteness and the eight-month travel time to the nearest inhabited planet, only idiots like the blond bothered to come out here for leisure.
"Fai, Fai D. Flourite," the blond grinned. "I'm writing my thesis for my phD in History."
"I can't believe they let idiots like you into college," Kurogane grumbled.
"Clow's satellite wall is legendary," Fai marveled, his eyes wide and glowing. "You have no idea how happy you've made me! To not only see this historic masterpiece up close, but to get to stay on the master satellite. Thank you, Kuro-sama!"
'Kuro-sama' was the best they'd managed to compromise on, when it came to the fucking nicknames. Kurogane poured himself a cup of tea, exactly four minutes and thirty seconds after he'd begun the brew. He took a sip, and immediately found himself calmed by its familiar warmth. The kitchen area was just large enough to have the two-person pull down table, and Kurogane was glad for the divider.
What kind of fucking idiot gets so close to what he wants to see, he smashes into it? Kurogane kept his thought to himself - he was pretty sure this kid would get reprimanded badly enough once he crawled back to his fancy mansion without his custom flyer. "Why would you want to write about crap that happened two hundred years ago?"
"Why wouldn’t I? … Besides, the history of the intergalactic wars is even more vital to you than it is to me," Fai smiled, resting his chin against his hand. "They shaped so many planets - this colony's existence, these wall's existence, are all because of the wars.
"Wars change things. Evolve things. Destroy things - cleanse them, by removing what is broken and making something new."
It wasn't like Kurogane didn't already know. Of course he'd been taught their history as a child - how the colony had its origins in both mining and war. It had been one of a handful of stopping points between the alpha and phi sectors, at least before the mega space stations were built, better positioned to shave months or even years off conventional routes.
Now the colony only continued for the metals it produced, as well as the self-sufficiency the terrain allowed for. No one who lived there had a glamorous life, but there were plenty who valued the simplicity of such a small, remote community, as Kurogane's family had.
For Kurogane, even that remoteness had not been enough. Only the severe isolation of being the Watcher brought him peace.
I Pledge My Life and Honor to the Night Watch
He returns from Satellite 4 feeling satisfied with the repairs. He had not gone on the Tuesday after the red light went on; instead he'd put it off, and put it off, until two weeks had passed and the guilt of feeling that his predecessor would not put off such a repair finally weighed down on him.
He will not order a new part, he decides, and he has stubbornly repeated this decision for the last couple of decades. Making himself get into the shuttle, going to replace the oil and the hammer down the small metal gear that has memorized the deformation rather than its original shape - all this is one more small reminder, one more small aspect of his self-inflicted punishment.
He slips back into the monitor room's chair with a sigh of relaxation. He checks each monitor around the room once, before he takes the VR chord in his hand.
In a moment, he is consumed by the images from the computer.
I am the Shield that Guards the Realm of Men
April 17, 2459 - Kurogane Youo
His mug for tea was set down on the table in front of him, steam drifting up from the clear liquid inside. Kurogane stared up at Fai, who smiled back at him serenely.
“Four minutes and thirty seconds, yes?" The blonde took a seat on the other side of the two foot wide table, his own mug of tea warming his hands.
Kurogane took a sip. The tea was perfect. He set it down and went back to reading the colony’s news stream.
"I was thinking about what you said the other day,” Fai said. “About how you like things that stay the same."
He had stopped whining for attention every time Kurogane did something nice and relaxing like reading the paper, but the blonde still couldn’t shut his mouth for more than a few minutes at a time. Kurogane could only hope today’s topic would be less grating than when the student ranted about cat tail implants and how they revolutionized the sex industry.
"I think I've changed my mind about war,” the blonde continued, his tone unusually soft and serious. “Maybe it's just, you have to find that place that makes you happy, before you realize you don't want the world to be destroyed."
Kurogane was impressed by the maturity of the subject, and decided giving a reply wouldn’t be so bad. ". . . Are you going to re-write your thesis?"
Fai looked a little startled, like he hadn’t thought about it. "Oh... yes, I suppose I'll have to do that. Mmm....maybe I'll only write about the Watcher of the planet walls.”
Kurogane decided to go back to reading the news. His mistake.
“I know! I’ll write about how this tiny remote planet is, thanks to Clow’s marvelous technology, being entirely protected all by this one lone wolf... no, a giant black puppy who thinks he’s a wolf, likes to bark and act all tough even though there’s no one around to see him -”
Kurogane set down the tablet with a low growl, having accepted that this would be another morning without his blessed quiet time.
Though, he would only admit to himself, definitely never to the blonde, and only a little... it was nice, in a something-different sort of way, to have something other than the quiet he’d wallowed in for the past several years...
I am the Watcher of the Walls
Nothing has happened today, either.
The repairs to Satellite 4 are holding, or at least, the maintenance light has not come on. He sends a message to the colony, that he will be running a laser test in two days.
Their reply is brief. Okay, there are no scheduled flights, thanks for telling us.
In other words - do what you want, as you Watchers have always done, and will always do, without us having any say. It isn't as if they can't interfere or make demands; it is still the colony's satellite system, no matter who sits at the controls. It is the colony that is being protected, and the colony that provides supplies whenever they are requested. But even with the incident two decades ago, the colony has lost the ability to imagine war; to imagine that the wall could ever be breached. So they leave everything to the Watcher.
They have made him both gate keeper and guardian, observer - and, if he chooses to be, judge. They have no reason to trust him, but they do not know how to distrust, and so he manages everything on his own time, with his own will, and they believe this is enough.
That, or they just do not care, and don't have the will to come out and say so.
He knows it is the latter.
I am the Sword in the Darkness
May 26, 2459 - Kurogane Youo
Fai was staring blankly at the computer terminal when Kurogane entered the kitchen.
"You're up early," the Watcher grumbled, quirking an eyebrow when Fai practically jumped backward in surprise. It wasn't like Kurogane'd been all that quiet when he trudged around the tiny living area of the satellite.
"Mmm.... Kuro-puppy, good morning!" Fai swung around with a grin, even wider and brighter than normal.
It was a fake smile, Kurogane had realized by now. This guy liked to pretend to be happy, for some dumbass reason, but after the last two months they'd been stuck together, Kurogane could see right through the idiot's cheerful grins and jokes.
No one should be so happy being stuck on a tiny satellite for so long, unable to go anywhere or do anything.
"... Idiot." Kurogane reached over to get his mug, but Fai beat him too it, dashing over to the storage drawer and pulling out two of the elegant ceramic pieces.
On most days, they would wake up at the same time - it wasn't like there were actual days in space, well, even if they went on the colony's schedule, without the 24-hour cycle of man's origin planet, there was no point in following it - but as a Watcher, Kurogane had been trained to always maintain his schedule, otherwise it would be too easy to get lost in the endless nothingness of the watch... and miss out on the little changes that were warnings of enemies to come.
They'd created a little routine, or really, Fai had. Kurogane had liked his routine just fine before the blonde showed up. Get up, brush teeth, drink tea, read news, go to the monitor room, check all signals, schedule any repair work or tests, exercise, go back to the monitor room, eat, monitor, exercise, eat, shower, bed. Repairs and tests created deviations in his routine. It was a life that suited very few people, but Kurogane wouldn't ask for anything else.
Now with Fai here, the routine had morphed into something more like a daily event: get up, fight for the bathroom, brush teeth after Fai's long ass shower, go drink tea with Fai who would start brewing it the moment he entered the kitchen, try to read the news, then try to ignore the chattering blonde, go the monitor room and lock the blonde out, wonder what the blonde did when he was in there and pray nothing was getting destroyed, check all signals, wonder about the blonde again, forget scheduling anything and pray nothing needed repair, because it wouldn't get done until the blonde was off his fucking satellite, give up on monitoring and go exercise, go eat with the blonde because Fai would whine at him if he didn't, and then hope something like his previous exercising, monitoring, and eating routine would take over for the rest of the day.
Somehow they'd end up having long conversations, either about Fai's thesis, or about the colony, or more commonly pointless things, like whether or not the dragonflies of Piffle could really evolve into bumble bees, and if they could, would the mutant bumble bees take over Piffle's corporate headquarters... and plenty of other crap that was really just Fai talking to himself much of the time. It was like the blonde hated silence, which was all the more reason to get him off the satellite ASAP.
This morning had been a break in the routine, at least, what amount of routine they had. Fai had not been in his bunk when Kurogane woke up, and there was no fight for the bathroom.
Not that the Watcher gave a shit, he reminded himself. It was better, way better, if Kurogane could operate the way he always had. Even during breakfast, the blonde was unusually quiet, munching on his toast with just a vague comment about how amazing it was the computer could get the amount of crisp just right.
Kurogane made it into the monitor room without hearing any complaints, and slipped into the central chair with a relaxed sigh.
The blue light was on.
When Kurogane returned to the kitchen, Fai was over at the computer terminal again, his hands on the keyboard, and an intense, focused expression on his face.
“Hey, idiot.” Kurogane pounded his fist on the door frame, breaking the blonde out of his trance. Fai turned towards him with an even more startled expression than the one he’d had that morning. Kurogane frowned. “Just heard from the spaceport. The repairs’ll be done by the end of the week.”
Fai’s eyes widened, his blue orbs trembling slightly, before he slowly moved his hands from the monitor to fully turn towards Kurogane.
And then the shock was gone, and a wide, goofy grin blossomed across the blonde’s face. “Ah... I see. Kuro-woof must be happy ~ soon he’ll have his dog house all to himself again.”
“Now that’s just fucking insulting,” Kurogane growled. But he didn’t move into the kitchen. “If you’re gonna write about the Watchers, you should fucking learn something about them.”
Now that grin looked painful, like Fai was forcefully trying to stretch his lips right off his face.
“. . . I have been, Kuro-sama.” Fai tapped the terminal. “And... you’re right, I owe you an apology.” He closed his eyes, his voice soft and serious for once. “What the Watchers... what your family’s done is amazing. That kind of.... resolve... I wish I could have that.”
Blond, wavy locks fell in front of his face, shading his eyes as his chin dipped low. He hadn’t cut his hair once since coming on board, Kurogane had noticed, and it had been almost chin length to begin with.
Now his hair swirled lazily around his neck and shoulders, framing the subtle curves of his face, his smooth, pale skin that barred no spots or scars. His narrow, elfish nose, and his long, blonde lashes suited him well, and Kurogane had the feeling Fai wouldn’t be insulted by being called effeminate. Just because Kurogane wasn’t used to humans didn’t mean he was oblivious.
He’d had nothing to do but observe Fai from every angle, every minute of every day, to memorize every curve of his face and title of his shoulder, the way he strode so smoothly along the gravity smith, almost as if the perfectly balanced G force wasn’t enough to keep him down - the way his voice would rise a few notches every time he teased, and also when he lied; but became so low and soft when he told the truth. The truth was beautiful, and, Kurogane finally admitted to himself, so was Fai.
But none of that mattered, because in a few more days, Fai would be gone.
Kurogane would be alone again.
As he wanted to be.
And admitting otherwise was something he absolutely refused to do.
I Shall Live and Die at My Post
He makes preparations for the laser test by running tests on the monitoring equipment. Then he starts testing the rotation and targeting controls for each satellite socket, one at a time. There are over two hundred controls, and even though they are normally handled by the computer, for a proper test he must check each one individually.
It is tedious work, and it keeps him occupied for most of the day. He is relieved when he is done, and can now plug into the VR. He grabs the chord eagerly, but hesitates before plugging in.
This is the log he hates the most, and the one he most longs to see.
I Shall Wear No Crowns and Win No Glory
May 27, 2459 - Fai D. Flourite
Fai’s alarm vibrated wildly in his pocket, three hours after he’d gone to sleep.
That was fine - he would sleep more during the day, once Kurogane was up and working and busy Watching.
He hadn’t wanted to do this. He’d wanted to stay on Kuro-myuu’s schedule, keep to their cute little circus of a routine that had made every day exciting, even in such a small, cramped space. He’d thought he’d have plenty of time, plenty of time to undo everything, but now he only had three or four days.
He couldn’t dawdle any more. He slipped out of bed, perfectly silent, and found his way to the kitchen in the dark. It was only about twenty feet, out the door, down the corridor, past the bathroom, and there was the kitchen, but in the pitch darkness, only a practiced soldier like him could slip through without banging against anything.
The computer should have automatically turned on the dim night lighting, but Fai had already disabled that. It would only respond to Kurogane now, and Fai had been careful to wake at the same time as Kurogane and then activate the secondary program to start tracking his movements as well. It was because of this that he’d kept as closely as he could to the Watcher’s schedule, but shortly after, he’d started to enjoy all the times they spent together... the teasing, the yelling, the games of cat and mouse, that were pointless since they were never more than thirty feet from each other.
Before he knew it, he’d found he was enjoying his time here with Kurogane more than any other place he’d ever been.
And he’d been to every other place he could go. The sparkling lights of Piffle, with the world occupied by the company of the same name, the kingpin of design and production and industry - a company so old, it had its hand in making the satellite he now lived in. Edonis, one of the two largest space stations built by man, the land of entertainment that never closed, made for all ages, where you could do anything you wanted... anything. Celes, where he was born... a world of only water and ice, and yet because it was full of that essential creator of life, had birthed an empire so great that half the galaxy spoke in its tongue. And then there was Lecort, with its endless knowledge, every record ever known collected in one place...
But it was in this place, this tiny satellite over this tiny backwater planet, that he had found something more interesting, more amazing, more exciting...something that made him... happy, in a way he’d never felt before. He’d been taught to smile, always smile, no matter what he felt, because that was how you deceived people, and deceiving people was what he’d been taught.
But here.... when he smiled, it was because he felt like smiling. Mostly... lately, he’d been smiling like he’d been taught. Smiling to hide.
Smiling like he was right now, as he logged into the computer terminal in the kitchen.
The kitchen lights flooded on, and Fai froze in place.
“There’s no point faking a smile in the dark, idiot.”
Kurogane’s morning grumble was as quiet as ever, but to Fai it sounded louder than the smattering of asteroids.
Kurogane went to retrieve the mugs, so Fai sat down at the table. He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t say anything. He felt like everything he’d done was so obvious, like Kurogane must have figured everything out, even though he was sure he’d been careful, even though.... if Kurogane really had realized what was going on, he’d probably have killed Fai by now, or at least imprisoned him.... instead of setting down tea, carefully brewed for four minutes and thirty seconds, in front of him.
Pulling out his tablet, Kurogane sat reading as he sipped his tea. For once, Fai didn’t interrupt him. He didn’t even drink from the mug in front of him, instead staring dully at the escaping steam until finally the liquid went cold.
“It occurred to me last night,” Kurogane said, finally breaking the silence that had been choking the room. “You don’t need to use the computer terminal to read old records.”
He paused, as if waiting for Fai to say something. When the blonde stayed silent, he continued, “It’s easier on a tablet. And all the selections for reading are on the touch screen. There weren’t any reasons for you to have out the keyboard. …. Oh, and you were looking like a fucking kid caught with his hands down his pants yesterday.”
Fai slumped in his seat. Of course he’d messed up yesterday. He’d memorized Kurogane’s routine, and hadn’t expected the Watcher to come out of the monitor room before his usual time. But he thought it’d be fine, and he’d planned to only work at night during the hours for sleep from then on.
Kurogane stood up with a thump. He set down his tablet and put his empty mug into the cleaner, along with Fai’s still full one.
“Come with me.” Kurogane marched towards the monitor room, without glancing back to see if Fai was following. Of course Fai did... where else could he go?
It was ironic. For the past two months, Fai had tried so hard to get into this room, thinking it would make his job easier, and then just out of sheer curiosity, even though he’d figured out how to access the main computer through the kitchen terminal.
Now he dreaded every step that brought him closer. A cold sweat clamped on the back of his neck, creeping around to his brow and cheeks.
The monitor room was as spectacular as he’d imagined. When the door closed behind them, he looked down to see it had become one of the monitors, giving the Watcher an almost perfect three hundred sixty degree view at any time. Even then, he knew that the screens could be shifted, to see even more views at any given moment. They would shift automatic, if movement was detected.
The chair for the Watcher seemed to drift above them, oriented so that it seemed upside down to those just entering the room. There was no gravity strip inside, nothing to hold them down, but Kurogane kicked off one of the monitors to drift towards the center, leaving Fai to copy him. Once he started drifting, Fai could see the chair was sitting on a thin stem connecting it to the ceiling, and then he started feeling a disorienting tug, telling his body to swing around, at the same time his brain told him he was being pulled upside down.
Then it was over, and now up was down and down was up, and Kurogane had his hand on one of the armrests, and Fai placed his hand on the other, and the gravity points kicked in and they were both softly anchored to the chair.
Kurogane wrestled with a chord at the top of the chair, pulling out and down until a thin sheet of cloth separated from the back. It formed a second chair, sharing a back with the main one, and after some more grappling, the underside of the armrests pulled out so that the second chair was a shallow copy of the first one.
So this place is made for two people, Fai thought. He'd been confused to find Kurogane living here alone. Clow's system was famous for being operable by one lone person, but that was only for emergencies - normally, two Watchers should have lived there, together.
"Sit," said Kurogane. Fai moved towards the second chair, but Kurogane shook his head, pointing at the main chair.
Hesitantly, and with his heart pounding in his ears, Fai settled into the main chair. The gravity points gripped him perfectly, settling him down onto the surprisingly comfortable fabric, and he would have relaxed against the soft incline, if he weren't so overwhelmed with cold panic.
Kurogane reached over him, so intimately close that Fai could feel the warmth coming off his body. The blonde gasped, a blush crossing violently across his cheeks, as Kurogane's fingers brushed against his ear, then down, feeling out the cable port installed on the upper part of Fai's neck.
Fai squeezed his eyes shut. He should have known this was where this was going, but he hadn't expected the old satellite array to have such a new piece of technology installed. Mainstream VR ports were only half a century old, and were heavily regulated in their use. Fai had the feeling that those sort of rules didn't apply here, though.
"You know what this does? VR - what it really does," Kurogane asked.
It was fairly polite of him, Fai mused miserably, to explain, since the general public only used VR for entertainment. Most other uses were illegal.
"It can project memories," Fai whispered, unable to keep his voice from trembling. "Or, it can extract them... whole scenes, whole days, all from the giver's point of view, thoughts and feelings included. But that use is illegal..."
"Doesn't mean a fuck out here," Kurogane growled. "And just to let you know - as Watcher, I log any and every day that anything happens. Even dumb shit repairs. That's the rule out here, since otherwise no one else would know what the fuck was going on if something happens."
Fai bit his lip and stayed silence.
"'Course, no thanks to you, I've been logging every day," Kurogane muttered. He pulled out the VR chord from the side of the chair, and gently lifted Fai's hair, his large hand resting warmly on the side of Fai's head. Their position was still awkward, Kurogane floating over him, only a few inches away, as he jostled the plug into the port.
"It feels like I'm about to get raped," Fai laughed quietly.
The joke echoed around the monitor room, the only sound for the next several minutes. He couldn't tell if Kurogane was hesitating, or struggling to figure out how to use the VR on someone other than himself.
Finally, Fai relaxed and entered the commands himself, now that the VR was projecting options that floated over the real monitors he could see.
He closed his eyes, and the world of VR enveloped his brain.
view next log
May 27, 2459 - Fai D. Flourite
“I still have to sit down in that chair you’re in to watch the log, you know.”
Fai buried his head into his curled up knees and cried harder.
It wasn't all that bad. Reliving the past twenty hours, he realized he hadn’t really done or felt anything malicious - other than the completely suspicious rewriting of the satellite array’s programming. But the thought the Kurogane would see every thought, every feeling, every private moment he'd had was horrible.
And he’d had some very private thoughts.
He was already ready to confess. What Kurogane wanted to know was something Fai was already willing to tell him, even without the VR. But there was no reason for the Watcher to believe anything a liar like Fai had to say, and the VR was something Fai couldn’t lie too, not without a keyboard and some considerable time.
Kurogane pulled him up, and Fai found himself enveloped by the Watcher’s arms. There was a strange moment, where they both floated around the spherical room, loosely pulled into orbit around the central chairs, Kurogane holding Fai and Fai sobbing it all out into his chest. All the guilt, all the frustration, the anxious days of trying to decide what to do - and the terror of, for once in his life, choosing to do what was right.
And then Fai was being gently settled into the secondary chair, laid out like a doll, and then the warmth of Kurogane’s arms was gone and Kurogane was settling into the main chair, and plugging into the VR.
It did not take long for Kurogane to work things out.
“You sabotaged the spaceport’s launch pad, then flew up here to go after the wall.”
Fai shook his head. “I... yes, the launch pad was my fault. But I really didn’t mean to crash into the satellite. I did my research... I knew they can’t be destroyed that way.”
“So what were you trying to do?” Kurogane growled.
“. . . I’m a programmer.” Fai’s voice was so quiet, so feeble in the large room. “My job was to re-write the program for the satellites, so that I could take over when the time came, or at least disable them before...”
“Before Fei-Wang’s invasion.”
I Shall Take No Wife, Hold No Lands, Father No Children
May 28, 2459 - Kurogane Youo
“It’s okay if you kill me,” Fai said, his voice eerily calm. “But please wait until I finish the rewrite.”
“Idiot,” the Watcher growled, reaching over the chair back to punch lightly at Fai’s head. Most people would think he was an idiot, for trusting the spy who had infected and re-written the entire system that controlled the wall.
But he had seen Fai’s heart in the VR, and seen how tirelessly Fai had been secretly working every chance he got to write over his own virus, to repair and even improve on the original program.
Even before watching the log, Kurogane had noticed how much the blonde had changed - from hiding inside the fake, bubbly cheerfulness he’d gushed out on that first trip on the shuttle, to exuding a soft, genuine happiness riddled with guilt. Kurogane had seen more than he needed to in the VR, and he swore to respond to Fai’s feelings once this was all over.
For now, they needed to focus. Kurogane let Fai use the secondary chair in the monitor room and a keyboard to work on his program, and put some rules in place. Fai would be logging his memories daily into the VR, and since the VR system was new and therefore completely incompatible with the satellite’s network, the Watcher didn’t have to worry about the espionage specialist tampering with the records. Not that Kurogane thought he would.
Meanwhile, Kurogane began setting up a schedule for any backlogged repairs, and a series of tests and practice runs. He also set aside time for putting together a package of information for the colony. They would have to know everything, even if there was little they could do but rely on him. He already sent them his logs - and now he would send Fai’s, too. He believed in Souma, his superior on the ground, that she would see Fai for what he was - misguided, and an idiot, but genuinely transformed into their ally.
One they would need, to fight a tycoon as powerful as Fei-Wang Reed.
“So why’s a big shot fucker like Fei-Wang trying to bring down the wall?” Kurogane huffed, as he checked the camera rotations for Satellite 10. “This colony’s not even a dot on the intergalactic map anymore.”
“It’s not about the colony,” Fai said. “It’s the planet itself he wants.
“Its situation is perfect... This planet is full of iron and titanium; the colony on the surface is vulnerable, but what he’s after is the mines. He’ll dig down deep, and create an impenetrable fortress. And because of its high water content and resulting self-sufficiency, he won’t have to worry about supplies being cut off.”
From the small monitor Kurogane had set up on his armrest, he could see the blonde’s fingers continue in a fluid motion of rapid typing. Since the time the Watcher had agreed to it, Fai hadn’t stopped programming except when Kurogane forced him to eat and sleep.
“With the planet’s location, he’ll have access to both major sectors. Those mega space stations are no good. They're too vulnerable, too made for times of peace and trade.
“And this colony is so small, so remote, the Celesian Empire, the United Federation of Planets, all the other major players, wouldn’t even flinch if it were wiped off the map. They’d think nothing of it, and they certainly wouldn’t think to be weary of it.”
Fai stopped typing, and leaned his head back against the seat.
“This is only the beginning of his plan.”
It Shall Not End Until My Death
The lasers spray out into space in a glorious show of power, as deadly and invincible today as they were upon their commission over two hundred years ago. Fire is fire, no matter the era - destruction is the one craft that will never be lost.
He completes the test, and sets up the computer to run a comprehensive analysis of the data. This will take several weeks, which is fine. He’s not in a hurry.
He plugs in the VR with a steady hand. Perhaps it is masochistic, but he goes through each of the next logs, one log per day. They are tedious; a myriad of repairs, tests, analysis, programming, that the Watcher and the spy spent weeks performing, making preparations, so desperate and determined to finish everything they need to in time. In each log he finds those little moments, the bits of chit chat and teasing and interaction that makes watching them so endearing.
What he wants are these joyous moments found in the past - the experience of them, the illusion of them, as if he is still there, and the VR provides this to him, fooling the neurons in his brain to believe he is there, re-living it, even though the outside world ticks by at one tenth of the speed.
He wants this so badly, it is his drug, his raison d’etre.
Finally the day comes, and he knows what the next logs are, and that he will not be able to stop watching once he starts... not until he reaches the end. So he cues up the next three logs to play consecutively, not caring for the pain he knows this will bring.
And Now My Watch Begins
June 25, 2459 - Kurogane Youo
When the alert went off, they were ready.
The sensors were only strong enough to notice the arrival of incoming ships once they reached the edge of the galaxy. From there, it would be another two days before the small fleet reached the colony.
But the timing had been just as Fai said. Without his warning, the Watcher and the colony would have assumed the alert indicated the coming of the bi-yearly trading vessel, the one the Federation always sent, except this year Fei-Wang had made special re-arrangements.
Kurogane glanced at the readout from the sensors, and scowled. “If this asshole thinks he’s going to take us down with three fucking ships...”
Fai leaned against the primary chair's armrest, placing his hand on top of Kurogane's. They'd learned how to pull the secondary chair out so it could swing around on a hinge, letting the two chairs sit side by side.
"You don't understand," said the blonde. "Fei-Wang only uses the elite. Every member of his crew, down to the janitor will be an expert in combat operations. . . the best of the best."
Kurogane turned his hand around, so he could wrap those thin, pale fingers with his own. In the past few weeks of working side by side, their relationship had taken a platonic turn, with neither denying or indulging on his attraction.
"You too?" Kurogane asked, tapping mindlessly at the camera selection button, changing the view of stars in front of him to more, but at least different, stars.
Nodding, Fai buried his cheek into the Watcher's broad shoulder. "They don't rank programmers, but if they did... I would be in the top tier. I should have been able to easily insert a program to make these satellites dance at my command - I do have one written, in every modern computer language. But I underestimated this place... the hardware used for the satellites is so old I couldn't access it from the ground. I thought, if I could stick a plug on one of them, jack the transmission flow within the satellite array... but I crashed into that satellite instead."
They sat in silence for a moment, while Kurogane brought up the stats for the ships. Two were Invisorships - massive, modern day destroyers, ideal for the all-in-one invasion since they had large living areas to cart soldiers around. The good thing was, they specialized in neither offense nor defense, and other than the amount of metal creating their size, the lasers wouldn't have any difficulty tearing through them.
The real crapper was the sleek, elegant flagship that sat between them. Even with the tiny sensor read out, it glittered with wealth and superiority, both in its custom design and metal readings that were unable to identify it but did show a durable proprietary material.
Leaning back into the chair, Kurogane snorted under his breath. There was nothing the lasers couldn't tear through, after enough hits - but Fei-Wang had definitely pulled out the best of the best. Not knowing exactly what is was left a nasty feeling twisting round his gut.
“So how much does FWR know?” Kurogane asked, rubbing his thumb over Fai’s fingers to show he wasn’t being accusing. They were just talking strategy, and the more information exchanged, the better.
“Nothing new.” Fai gave one of his rare, honest smiles. He squeezed Kurogane’s hand to show he understood. “I haven’t transmitted anything to him, and it was never in the plan for me to. He truly only hires the elite... he trusts every core member to accomplish his task to perfection.”
“. . . How high up are you?”
“Not high like you’re thinking... I don’t have anyone who works under me.” Fai ran the fingers of his free hand along the armrest. “But I do... did report to Fei-Wang directly. I’m not important, just... useful.”
The one thing Kurogane never asked was why. Why work for that bastard? But it wasn’t like Fai ever asked: Why stay up here for years, all alone, thanklessly working as a Watcher?
It was like they both already understood: both questions had the same answer.
And it didn’t matter any more, since those answers were now invalid.
I don’t want to work for him anymore.
I don’t want to watch alone anymore.
“So what’s your real name?”
Fai looked up from his mug of steaming tea, which he’d been blasphemously blowing on to cool down. “What?”
“You can’t be using your real name,” Kurogane shrugged, sipping a small layer of tea and letting its heat roll over his tongue. “Since you’re a spy, right?”
The blonde grew quiet and shrank in his seat, his eyes looking down at the table. It was cute, Kurogane couldn’t help but think, the blush over Fai’s cheeks, how self-conscious he suddenly looked.
“ . . . It’s Yuui,” came the timid reply.
It was a pretty name. It suited him.
Noisily sipping his tea, Kurogane asked, “That mean something in Celesian?”
Nodding slightly, Fai murmured, “Bud. … Like, a flower bud. Ah, that’s the closest translation...”
“. . .”
“What about Kurogane?” Fai set down his mug and looked up, his confidence back in his smile. “It’s Japanese, isn’t it?”
Kurogane was surprised Fai could recognize Japanese. Most of the people in the universe didn’t even know a country called Japan had once existed.
“Black steel.” Kurogane grinned, thinking of his parents. “I come from a line of ancient warriors... the samurai, they were called. Kurogane is my family name.”
Smiled widening, Fai leaned forward and chuckled, “I was beginning to wonder if you had a first name, or if it was your family name you threw away.”
His joke was a little too casual for Kurogane’s taste, like throwing away familial connections was something Fai understood well.
“So?” Fai leaned back with a grin, cupping his mug in his hands. “What’s your first name?”
Silence. But Kurogane knew it was merely the calm before the pestering storm.
“… Youo,” he finally grumbled, knowing it was his own fault for starting on the topic of names in the first place.
“Ah, that’s so cute!” Fai’s eyes twinkled way too brightly. “It’s like a rapper - ‘Yo! I’m Kuro-puchi Youo! Don’t mess with my yoyo, yo!”
Kurogane’s forehead slammed onto the table.
It had been... nice, having a day off.
They’d both been calm despite the situation, which would leave most people teetering on edge. They’d done little things here and there, but there wasn’t anything else they could do to prepare, so its was merely a matter of Fei-Wang’s fleet coming within range.
Kurogane slipped into the main chair ahead of Fai, and pointed for him to sit in the secondary one.
“I'm gonna do the log for today. You do the next two."
". . . Okay."
Fai put on a pair of headphones, and sat back to relax, while Kurogane fiddled with the VR chord.
He thought about Fai, very hard, for several minutes before plugging in. Everything he wanted to say, everything he wanted to do, he let flash through his mind, record in the reading of his memories.
June 27, 2459 - Fai D. Flourite
The lasers tore through the side of the first Invisorship.
Fai didn't have to look at Satellite 8's monitor to know that bodies were pouring out of it. Ripped out to space, into the vacuum, a quick, cold death. He closed his eyes, and was glad for once that Fei-Wang had kept him isolated, kept him from meeting and getting to know the many soldiers under the tycoon's command.
White flashed alarmingly across the monitors for Satellites 2 through 8, but Kurogane, despite the fact he should have had no real combat experience, handled the system with a calm, deadly ease. It reminded Fai of how much he still didn't know about the Watcher, who he'd fallen so deeply in love with.
Clow's satellite wall was just as incredible as Fai had heard. Kurogane really could handled all the lasers by himself, with the aid of the computer, but since Fai was there, he made continual adjustments to the programming to match the tactical programs Fei-Wang's fleet was using. They were by no means standard, but Fai was very familiar with them - he'd written the core of them himself. He could even tell which parts had been fidgeted with, probably by each ship's combat master.
It was unlikely they hadn't realized Fai's betrayal by now... but maybe they hadn't. That Fai had failed would have been apparent from the moment the lasers actually started hitting their mark, but that was no reason to think Fai was now writing programs to work against them. Though from Fei-Wang's point of view, it didn't matter either way. He was trapped into a corner. Kurogane had waited until the ships were deep within the range of the satellite lasers - it would take the ships three hours to retreat out of their deadly grasp. Better to go forward, where it would only be half an hour at most to breach the wall and reach the soft, underside of the system, where lasers couldn't be used because they'd hit the colony.
But they'd never make it, Fai decided with a determined frown. The lasers from Satellite 6 clawed into the side of the other Invisorship, causing an explosion in its rear engines. It was dead for sure, now, too slow to make it through the torrent of fire power that could now rain freely upon it.
With the two Invisorships so badly damaged, the flagship had no choice by to pull forward, though it still sat mostly between the two massive vessels that had more or less become its shields. Kurogane zoomed in on it through Satellite 4's camera.
"That's Fei-Wang's personal ship," Fai gasped. The sleek, black cruiser glided smoothly amongst the bodies and debris, the design of a downward facing black bat outlined in red prominent along its sides.
If Fei-Wang himself was here, then his situation must have turned dire in the fourteen months since Fai had been gone. Things must have gone south with the Federation, most likely due to the influence of his bitter rival, Ichihara Yuuko, and this was no longer about establishing a base, but an escape.
Fei-Wang was pinned into a corner. Which meant he would be more dangerous, and brutal, than ever.
“Shit.” Kurogane slammed his fist against the armrest, startling Fai.
The programmer hadn’t thought things were going badly. Even if the lasers took ten times longer to tear into the outer layers of Fei-Wang’s cruiser than they had the Invisorships, they were still completely overwhelming the tycoon’s trillion dollar ship. They hadn’t managed to get to the engines, but a fine hole had opened up near to the ship’s core, and if they could chance one more laser at just the right angle...
Kurogane pushed out of his chair. “Blondie, take over,” he barked.
“What?!” Fai jerked out of his seat, grabbing his chair’s armrest when the gravity points lost hold of him. “Why? Where are you going?!”
The Watcher was already to the monitor room’s door, sliding through the opening as he shouted back, “The shuttle. I’ll explain on the comm.”
The door slid swiftly shut, and all Fai had seen was Kurogane’s broad, shaded back.
“Will you explain now?” Fai hissed, when the intercom finally beeped to indicate life. He could see the shuttle on the monitor, already zooming off on the laser-less side of the wall... towards where Fei-Wang’s cruiser was weaving its way amongst the deadly rays.
“That fucker noticed,” Kurogane growled.
“Noticed what?” Fai’s hand gripped the edge of the armrest so hard, his knuckles turned white. There was little that he could do... unlike Kurogane, he didn’t have the experience to manipulate the lasers in real time, at least not any better than the computer already was.
“Satellite 4’s got a few shabby parts. It’s at half power - all it can do is put a few cat scratches on that thing. Someone on that ship’s noticed, and they’re heading towards it.”
Xing Huo, Fai thought, a cold flash going through his body and leaving him numb. “. . . That’s the satellite I crashed into, isn’t it?”
He didn’t hear any response, but the com light was still on, and the shuttle was still careening towards the path that Fei-Wang’s ship clearly was taking towards Satellite 4.
You should have told me it was broken, Fai wanted to scream, but it was too late now. He already understood why Kurogane hadn’t. You’re such a hypocrite... telling me not to lie, then lying so that I wouldn’t feel guilty...
“But what are you doing in the shuttle?” Fai breathed, forcing himself to sound somewhat calm. “It’s too late to fix it now. . .” And if he couldn’t fix it in the last three months, then the twenty minutes before Fei-Wang reached it wouldn’t help.
There was an uncomfortable pause, before Kurogane spoke again. “This shuttle’s part of Clow’s system. It’s been upgraded like crazy, but the important part is that it has the same metal as the satellites, sturdy as hell, and it’s got two of Clow’s lasers on board.”
“. . . You’re going to shoot at Fei-Wang’s ship with the shuttle’s lasers,” Fai dead panned. It wasn’t a terrible idea, all things considered, but Kurogane hadn’t even begun to see what Fei-Wang’s cruiser was capable of, once it had the chance to go on the offensive.
“Trust me, what I’m going to do is so much better,” Kurogane snorted, and Fai could picture him grinning. “They won’t be able to find at atom of Fei-Wang Reed when I’m done with him.”
The radar tracking the warship and Kurogane’s shuttle gave him a clear idea of what was happening. He couldn’t see it very well on the monitors, but in his mind’s eye, he imagined the small shuttle weaving through both the lasers from Satellites 4 and 5, and through the missiles pouring out from the flagship. Swift and clever, it tumbled and spun until finally it slipped into the hole carved into the flagship’s side.
He could imagine Kurogane, calmly overriding the safety for the lasers, ramping up the heat within their crystalline core, the fantastical work of engineering that only Clow Reed had ever understood, that no one, not even his great grandson had been able to recreate.
“Hey, Fai,” Kurogane’s voice came out of the comm, and Fai could picture him waiting, watching the timer, grinning because he knew that the flagship’s crew would never reach him in time.
“... Yes?” Fai’s voice was small, but not as small as he felt. He thought he was used to feeling powerless, but he’d never felt as horrible as this.
“... Take care.”
There is no sound in space. He could not hear the explosion. Satellite 4 was on the other side of the planet, so he could not see it with his own eyes. On the monitor, there was a twinkle of fiery light, and then nothing.
Nothing on the monitor. Nothing on the sensors. Satellite 4's maintenance light was on, but it hadn't been destroyed. No ships of any size bleeped on the screen.
There were only debris and bodies. Silence and death.
In the sky over the colony, Fai was alone.
He does take care, and he cares for many years. For himself. For the wall. For the colony, as much as a Watcher can. It’s all he can do, he knows, and the least that Kurogane would expect of him.
That these were Kurogane’s last words does not make him sad. He can hear the words he wants to hear, as many times as he wants, by watching Kurogane’s last log. It is enough for him. It will always be enough for him.
He understands now why Kurogane had liked being a Watcher. The silence. the solitude. Being able to wallow in pity without anyone there to know or care. No one he could meet. No one he could hurt. No one he could lose.
He'd been lonely before meeting Kurogane. He is lonely now, too, but it is a different kind of loneliness. It is better, because sometimes he doesn’t feel like he is alone. Sometimes he feels like Kurogane is there, Watching with him.
He plugs into the VR, and opens up the log for April 1, 2459.
Hear My Words, and Bear Witness to My Vow.