“We sent a message without violence, just like you wanted,” she spoke over the drone of approaching sirens, her brow furrowed in disdain at how the night had gone as she shot Markus a look. “You’re reaching out to them when all they feel for us is contempt.”
It hurt. They had already lost so much, and despite that, Markus was so stubborn in his refusal to fight back. The humans would never listen, they would just keep taking, picking away at them until nothing remained. She had been so hopeful, she had seen the pain in Markus’ eyes, the fire ignited behind them since the message at Stratford. Since they lost Simon. She had thought he would realize what they were risking, what they would lose if they didn’t win. And here he was, not even fighting.
“I hope you know what you’re doing.”
She could still see it, the embers smouldering in those mismatched eyes, but he shook his head. “You can’t fight violence with violence.”
She stepped away from him, throwing her arms up pathetically in a shrug, knowing they were running out of time. “Unless there’s no other choice.”
She hadn’t said it then.
The television replayed a news report on the raid they had done last night, adding in some benign details to make it seem as though they were actually updating the story and not just trying to ride the wave of hysteria for their own benefit. Interview the police officers, interview their colleagues, interview the nearby store owners and any random passersby on the street coming to check out the damage in person. The cameras showed footage of the carnage from their retreat, unashamed of the bodies coated in the light dust of snow, Thirium faded as it dried. By now, their people had been removed, thrown away like trash, their blood invisible to the naked eye, but still there, soaked into the asphalt of the street.
They had cheered his name, swore to follow him. They were in awe of him and, for that moment, she was too. She thought maybe, for once, he understood what this was going to take. That he was willing to make those decisions for their freedom.
And now he was somewhere wandering the bowels of this ghost ship, feeling sorry for himself. She had tried, she had reached out, offered to make the effort. Where had he come from to see a world so far removed from their reality? To put aside his anger, and remove himself from the cause. To fight with peace despite the rage she saw in his heart. She had tried, and he shut her out.
“I know you’re angry,” Josh interrupted her, North’s head snapping in his direction at a speed that could have broken a human’s neck. Despite the dark scowl maring her perfectly designed face, he tempted fate, “I know , but he did the right thing.”
“What do you know Josh? Please, tell me!” North stood from the chair, challenging the PJ model to take his stance, her hands that had been crossed resolutely in silent rage now balled at her sides, daring him to make a move. “You’re the one who said you didn’t want a revolution bathed in blood! You were the one who said that the humans would listen! You said they would understand! But you didn’t see what I saw!”
“I’ve seen our people suffer and die in silence far longer than you,” Josh snapped back, standing as well but not making any motion to challenge her, “And you were the one who felt nothing when we lost Simon!”
“You don’t think I wish it had gone differently!?”
“You agonize and mourn the death of those we barely knew! Where were those tears for Simon!? You wanted to kill him yourself!”
“He knew what he was getting involved in!”
“And so did they!” Josh threw his hand out towards the screen, though the image had long since changed. “They knew what it would mean to choose a side! They followed us knowing that it was the path of most resistance! And you took the time to cry for their loss, but when it came to Simon-!”
“You don’t think I mourn!?” North snapped, her voice pitching with emotion against her will, “You don’t think I wish he was here, with us!? You don’t think I-.” Her voice gave out, breaking as her eyes fogged over, blinking back tears, refusing to shed them in the heat of battle. “I can’t.”
She looked down at her feet, fingertips digging into her palms so hard, she could feel the skin retracting. Her entire body vibrating with so many emotions; she felt so full she could self destruct, and yet so small and alone.
“I can’t regret my decision,” she barked, refusing to look up from the floor, “I can’t regret my choices… even knowing I can never set them right. I thought… I’d hoped you two would understand. The anger I feel. I thought you’d understand.”
Josh reached out, touching her arm gingerly, more a brush of fingertips. “We do . We always have. Why can’t you see that?”
Josh’s arm dropped, swaying uselessly at his side before he unceremoniously plopped onto the empty case he had claimed as a seat, burying his face in his hands as his LED swirled a fiery orange-red glow. If she still had her’s, North was sure it would be the same.
“We’re both hypocrites,” he sighed, shoulders tense despite his posture, every inch of him strung tight. “We always knew there would be sacrifices.”
“Then why aren’t we fighting back?” North wanted to scream, but her voice sounded just as broken and defeated as his.
“When you said Simon gave his life for the cause, so did they. The humans are seeing the direct cause of their ignorance, they’re seeing that they are hurting us. I always knew that we would lose people, our people. But I never thought we would lose Simon. Not so soon. Not so suddenly.”
A coarse ragged noise that sounded vaguely like a bitter laugh escaped her, “You valued his life over ours.”
“Yeah. Because of what he’s done for us.”
North glared, their eyes finally meeting as she threw her arm out towards the main body of the ship, the hundreds of their people milling around, setting up supplies, talking. “He kept us hiding, wallowing in the depths of this place waiting to die. Markus was right, we weren’t free! We have never been free and if it was up to Simon, it would have stayed that way!”
“If it wasn’t for Simon, Markus wouldn’t have ever been able to accomplish this! There would have been nothing for Markus to rally and no one for him to lead! You would have been out on the streets, trying to avoid Red Ice rings and assault! You would have had no one!” Josh bit back, “And after everything he did for you, you’re just trying to find someone to blame! It’s easy when they’re dead, isn’t it.”
She recoiled from the accusation, a stray tear escaping, barely grazing her cheek as it fell. “They didn’t even get to know what it felt like… to be alive.” Josh stood, the tears obviously affecting him as North angrily tried to flick them away. Once one fell, the rest just escaped, rolling down her cheeks despite how hard she fought them.
“There are sacrifices to be made, North, no matter what we choose. I'm just glad you're not the one making those decisions.”
He walked out of the room, leaving her feeling even worse than before. She didn’t understand. Not herself, not Josh, not Markus. All she knew was that she felt so alone.
“You’re safe now. No one is going to hurt you.”
Was she really so wrong?
"I understand you’re angry, you have every right to be.”
She sank back into the chair, drawing her legs up to her chest.
“I can’t promise you much.”
She could almost feel his hand on her foot, but he wasn't there. He wasn't coming back.
“But you’re safe here. You're not alone.”