“Do you want to talk about it?”
It’s quiet, but her words ring around Tex’s mind, in the darkness of their bedroom. Tex just wants to bury her face in Emily’s shoulder, keeping her within her arms & pretending she’d already fallen asleep in the few minutes between her last confessions.
Everything’s loud in the silence, Emily’s hushed breathing, Tex’s own internal whirring, & her thoughts are as loud as ever. “I. . . got there too late,” She whispers, lips brushing the bare skin of her girlfriend’s arm.
“He was, as I knew him, gone. Left in his own madness, rotting within the firewalls of the MOIs onboard systems. It wasn’t just a simple little environment, in there. It was an entire world.” Tex confesses, but there’s more that bubbles up in her mind, lopsided conversations, memories that hurt, & where it ended.
That day. The attack. The crash.
She’d spent what felt like hours but was only truly moments, searching the half-abandoned world that Alpha had haphazardly thrown together, post-fragmentation. She’d found him lying on the floor in a room that seemed as if it was made of flowers, tucked against the wall. He’d been on his back, legs up against the wall, as if he was trying to stretch up to the ceiling, clad in civilian clothing, taking no notice of the branches & blossoms he was cradled in.
"Alpha?” Tex had asked tentatively, but he didn’t respond, not bothering to look over from where he’d trained his gaze. She’d gone closer, still without a response, & settled next to him, her armor still carried with her, even in the false reality, & the branches snapped beneath her weight.
He responded that time, glancing over at her, but it had seemed as if even that little motion made him weary. “Who are you?” He whispered, barely more than a breath.
“We need to go, Church.”
“I. . . don’t think I can,” His face scrunched when he fixed his eyes on her armor.
“I can help-” She started, but he cut her off.
“I’m tired.” He confessed, letting his eyes fall closed.
“Don’t you want to leave?”
“Can’t. I think I’m. . . gonna rest,” He opened his eyes again, slowly, & she could tell how exhausted he was. How fucked up he was. There was nothing she could do, now. She was too late.
“Okay. You rest now,” Defeated, she pushed herself up, standing.
“Wa- wait,” He mumbled, one hand reaching out to stop her, touch too light to detect through her armor.
“What’s. . . what’s your name?”
“Like the state?” A faint smile was on his face as he said it, & she nodded.
“Yeah, like the state.”
“I’m gonna. . . I think I’m gonna rest now,” Church said, letting his arm drop, resting slightly on her boot.
He hummed. “Goodbye,” She whispered.
“Goodbye,” He whispered back, & that was it. It was over, he was gone, she’s out of the terminal & he’s still left there & she failed-
“It was my fault. I should’ve tried harder.” Comes out of her mouth now, & she pulls Emily closer to her.
“No, you did what you could.” It’s easy to think that. It’s hard to forget. There’s too much, too much she could’ve fixed if she’d only gotten CT’s message in time, if she’d only done something. Her only comfort is that Church is still alive, but at what cost? She takes a breath to keep the tears back.
I hope you’re safer now. I’m sorry.