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[Fiction] Fragility


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Kashmir was a suburb of Hell dumped right in the middle of three countries and used as the gameboard for the egos of Elites and political leaders from around the world. How anyone could stand in the midst of a ruined village or smoking wasteland that had once been a stretch of desert and not be affected - or worse, enjoy it - was totally beyond Codex. The conflict had been purely intellectual until she had actually arrived here, then it had become all too personal. Her anima spun around her, flickering text that no one had yet deciphered, as she poured juice into the broken body of her best friend and fellow T2M: Asia/Pacific team mate Julie 'Warlady' Logan. Julie's honey-golden skin, legacy of her Japanese and Chinese ancestry, was traced with the legacies of previous attacks; her strength and endurance was one of the reasons she was assigned here so often. But that had meant squat to Pursuer's gravity powers as he lifted a section of hillside and slammed it onto Warlady as Asia/Pacific had engaged some DeVries Elites.

Julie didn't stand a chance. The only nova healer around was Regan herself, and the best she could do was close the flesh wounds and soothe the pain in an attempt to keep Warlady alive until Panacea or another medical prodigy showed up.

"Damn you, don't die on me!" Regan sobbed, tears streaking the dust on her parchment-hued face. "You're the only person I give a damn about!"

Memory, treacherous, flawless memory, flashed back to the moment Regan had told Julie she was going to join Team Tomorrow as a full operative.


"That's great!" Julie swept up her tiny friend in a hug, swinging her around until they were both dizzy. Intimidating and handsome as only a Xena-lookalike could be, Warlady had muscles to rival Violet Chao and a temper to match. But with Regan she was always gentle, being the one person on the team who knew exactly what the psychic hypergenius had gone through before and after eruption.

"I spoke to some folks while you were away with Ragnarockette," Regan replied. "They said some things that made me realise that I could do a damn sight more than I was, both as a person and with my powers."

"And here I was thinking you were trying to match-make," Julie teased. "Guggie's nice, but we're both too butch to get on."

"Damn, I've been found out," Regan replied ruefully. "I thought you'd hit it off with Guggie or Ana - "

"Hell no! Ana's bigger and meaner than me. I like my 'wives' to look fragile even if they aren't." Warlady stuck out two metres' worth of tongue in distaste. "Call me old-fashioned, but there I am."

"How's Kashmir?" Regan asked.

"Hell on earth. Fucking Elites." Julie spat into one of the pot-plants in disgust. Even when she had been shorter and lighter than Regan, she had done that. Now, only a few of their instructors called her to task over the habit. "Change the subject, hmm? Did you ever hook up with that cute Preston kid?"

"No!" Regan protested. "Sweet kid, but he was precisely that, Julie!"

"Seriously, Regan, you need to get laid," Warlady told her in all seriousness. "So far as I know, the only experiences you ever had were with Robert, and he was only slightly less rough than the Boston Strangler with you."

"Jules, please," Regan sighed. "There's more to life than sex."

"Like books?" Julie teased. "Are you sure you don't want to convert? I know a couple of really nice ladies who'd appreciate you - "

"If I ever had a lesbian experience, it would be with you." The words had slipped out of Regan's mouth before she had barely thought them. Her parchment-coloured skin acquired a blotchy texture, the closest she could come to blushing.

Julie's expression changed from teasing to gentle. "Really?" she asked softly, tucking a lock of dark blonde hair behind one of Regan's ears.

"Yes." Once admitted, it was easier to say. "You have been the only person who loved me without reservation, Julie, warts and all. You're the only person I could trust that much."

"I always had this little wish you and I could get together," Julie replied. "When I meant fragile, I meant you." Warlady's face sobered. "Do you want to..."

Even without telepathy, Regan could read the question. Julie was one of the few people she could get. "Yes..." she whispered, and it was the last thing she said for quite a while.



"Codex, let her go! She's gone! If you don't stop, you'll die too!"

Pratima's voice was shouting in her ear and hands were pulling her away from Julie's lifeless body. Regan fought them, but Splash was too strong, and dragged her away. Violet Chao had picked up Julie's body and slung it over her shoulder for transport to the nearest United Nations/Utopian camp. They were withdrawing.

"She's all I have left! I can't let her die!"

"She's dead already." Splash's bluntness cut through the shock that had enveloped her. Regan threw back her head and screamed.

All around her, DeVries Elites clutched their ears, but could not drown out the sound of that terrible, terrible cry. Spread out instead of focused on one mind, it was too weak to do any real damage, but it distracted them enough for the T2M reinforcements to drive them away without any more injuries. Even Pursuer had blood running out of his nose as he turned to leave, Caestus Pax appearing just over the horizon in a blur of bluish-white. The leader of T2M Central looked around at the carnage surrounding him, his expression disgusted, then looked at Warlady's body slung over Violet's shoulder and Regan. His eyes hardened and his jaw tensed, muscles rippling with anger.

"Christ Almighty," he said as the echoes of the Dolorous Cry faded away. "What the hell was that?"

"Codex's mind-blast," Psyche replied as she went over to the tiny blonde, still struggling in Splash's arms. Their eyes locked, then Regan's closed as Psyche's will overcame even her stubbornness, sending her to sleep. "She calls it the Dolorous Cry."

"I can see why," Pax agreed, then raised his voice. "Clear out, people. They won't be coming back."

"For today," Splash muttered as they prepared to leave.


"Nice service, nice flowers, nice music," Regan muttered as she rolled up her black blouse and threw it against the wall of her room. "None of it brings Julie back though."

Someone knocked on the door. Regan picked up and donned her crumpled blouse with a muttered curse, going to answer it. When it opened, she was surprised to see Pax himself. "May I come in?" he asked, more politely than she would have given him credit for. But an order was an order, so she stepped back to allow him entrance.

Pax looked around at the room, which consisted mostly of bookshelves. Even the bed was stacked with books, as Regan rarely slept. His eyes alighted on the picture of Julie and Regan, both in their T2M uniforms, that hung from the side of one of the bookshelves. "I'm sorry for your loss," he said. "Warlady was a fine person. You know she once told me to shut up?"

"No," Regan replied, surprised. But it sure did sound like Julie...

"Not too many people who do that, even after..." He left Bahrain unmentioned. "Thank God it wasn't in public, or I would have had to fire her."

The bald giant scratched his nose, actually sighing. "There's a spot in the Central Auxiliaries open," he finally said. "Your mind and knowledge need to be in Addis Ababa, not on Talaud Island." He shook his head. "Work keeps you busy, keeps you from dying from grief."

"What if I don't want to leave?" Regan asked. "It's such a big change..."

Apparently Pax had been appraised of her disability, because he said the one thing he knew would make her agree. "Not so many memories of Warlady in Addis Ababa, Codex. All you'll have there will be in your heart and mind and pictures. They won't be staring you in the face every day."

He was right and Regan admitted it. A faint ghost of a smile crossed Pax's lips as if to say, "I love it when I hear that," but he merely placed a comforting hand on her shoulder before turning to leave.

Regan sat down at her desk and pressed the play button on her MP3 player. As the haunting sounds of Kylie Minogue's 'Confide In Me' filled the room, she began to weep for the first time since Julie had died.

Warlady had been her friend, her confidante, even her lover at the end. Regan felt like her gut had been torn out now that she was dead, but she had to go on. Not for any stupid reason like honour or duty or even revenge against the fucking Elites, but because since she had met Julie, she had experienced the fragility of life, and how infinitely precious it was.

Every moment was to be lived, because each might be her last. Sequestered amongst dusty books, she had been too afraid to learn that truth, even when Robert was beating the life out of her.

Regan stood up, pulled off her clothing and allowed her eufiber to form into her T2M uniform and then went to the bathroom to wash her face.

A few minutes later, a black-clad figure could be seen on the Talaud Island beach, walking with a springy stride that belied the silver-and-clear brace that flashed on her leg in the late afternoon sun.

Every moment was precious, each one lived to the full.

Life was infinitely fragile and had to be protected.

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