Down in the galley, Kai patiently filled one of the Divine Predecessor's face plates with greenish goo. When that was done, he walked to the showers. Squeezing the control, he adjusted it until it was lukewarm. Then, he stepped beneath the shower and held up a handmade skin bag. Water sluiced off his undead body as he filled the bag.
Without speaking, without noise or unnecessary motion, he retrieved the plate of food and began walking through the ship. The route he took was direct, his steps careful and measured. It had been a long time since anyone else had walked this route. His feet fell automatically into the patches where his previous steps had disturbed the dust.
"I am here, Stanley," he announced quietly.
"About time dead man," Stan quavered. "Any longer, I was going to get up and look for you myself."
"That would not have been wise," Kai replied, kneeling next to Stan's bed. He poured the water skin into a bowl extruded from the Lexx's flesh. The sound of the water pouring was loud in the quiet room. Then Kai helped Stanley sit up, moving the frail emaciated body carefully.
"I was just thinking of Xev," Stan said, his rheumy eyes peering. "That was a long time ago."
"Yes it was," Kai said. How many years had it been since Xev had died? Twenty three years, four months, eight days. He thought of telling Stan but decided not to.
They had, none of them, ever found the safe haven they'd sought. In the end, Xev had died in space on the Lexx. She'd never found the home she'd sought. Now it was Stanley's turn.
"Do you want to eat now?"
"What's on the menu?"
"Beef Wellington, with mashed potatoes and a selection of fruit."
"Same as always," Stan joked. "Not right away. I'm not hungry much these days."
Stan's appetite was almost nonexistent lately. Kai brought food regularly, but Stan often ignored it. Eating had become just another chore that had become too much for Stan.
"Then I shall wash you," Kai replied.
"How she came to us..... Do you remember, she had curves, but no folds....." Stan reminisced.
"That was Lyekka," Kai corrected.
Stan squinted, trying to focus. "That's right. That's right. Stupid of me to get that wrong."
Kai said nothing. Damping a cloth in the water bowel, he wiped a trail of spittle from Stan's cheek. Gently, slowly, he began to wash Stan's ancient body in a slow ritual that had become familiar to both of them.
"I don't have much longer do I?" Stan said quietly.
Kai stopped, and stared at Stanley. A progression of answers slid through his dead mind.
"I do not know," he lied, finally.
Stan was quiet as Kai continued to bathe him. With careful movements, the former assassin would soak the cloth and then sponge it against Stan's body, tracing the outlines of wasted muscles and brittle bones. Stan allowed himself to be moved and turned. Kai noted the progress of bedsores, and did his best not to cause further pain.
"I think I'd like to go to the bridge, after," Stan said.
"As you wish Stanley," Kai said patiently. Stan had not been well enough to be moved from his bed for weeks.
Months ago, when Stan had finally begun to fail, he'd roused Kai from the cryochamber to help care for him.
"You should go get 790," Stan chuckled. "I miss him."
790's human tissue had failed shortly after Xev died. They had been able to use his mechanical components for a while, but even those had failed. Finally, decades later, Stan had scooped out the insides, and had worn the shell for a helmet for a time during a period of lonely madness.
Did Stan remember any of this? Kai was not sure, but decided not to remind him.
More and more Stan faded in and out, living among memories. Sometimes he did not recognize Kai at all. Sometimes he confused him with others from his past. Sometimes he seemed to relive past encounters and conversations, or blend them together in a muddy swamp of delusion.
Kai simply cared for Stan's failing body, replying as he could.
"Well Kai," Stan said, staring at the plate of food without interest. "It looks like your protoblood is going to outlast me."
"Are you hungry?" Kai said, noting the gaze.
"No, just thinking," Stan said quietly.
Kai nodded. As he'd sat with Stanley the last few weeks he'd noticed that Stanley often stared off into space, or stared away from him. It never occurred to Kai to wonder what Stanley was thinking of or remembering. There were many silences between them, many places where there was simply nothing left to say.
Stanley was dying. They both knew it. Death obliterated small talk, it rendered irrelevant the ceaseless pointless chatter of the living, Kai had noticed. In the face of death, there was very little that needed to be said.
Still, Kai assumed that Stanley felt better for the company, or he would not have roused him. Sometimes at night, Stan's hand would flutter like some blind moth, and Kai would reach out and hold it, offering the comfort of contact.
Sometimes, Kai would hold Stan's hand for hours, patiently watching the emaciated ribs rising and falling, listening to laboured breathing.
Kai had finished washing Stan. Even being bathed, exhausted Stan now. He squeezed out the washcloth, folding and putting it aside, and waited for his friend to recover.
"Kai," Stan said, wetting his lips. His hand lifted. Kai gently caught it and waited.
After a few moments, Kai noticed that Stan was no longer breathing. There was no moment to the event. He had exhaled softly, and then seemed to pause before inhaling. A pause that did not end. Death had come finally, unnoticed and gentle, taking Stan with the kiss of a lover. So very different from all the death Kai had caused.
He reached out and closed Stan's eyes. As he did, he felt the Key pass into him. The strange confluence of energies finally loosing itself from Stan's cooling tissues.
"Goodbye Stan," Kai said finally.
After a while, Kai stood and returned to the cryochamber. He examined it automatically, checking its systems. Everything was operational. Then he turned to the protoblood container.
It was empty. It had been empty for weeks. He checked the tubes and pump of his body. Empty as well, long dry. His actions were simple habit, long habit long reinforced.
His protoblood had run out weeks ago, sometime after Stan had become completely bedridden. Kai did not wonder how he managed to continue without protoblood. Only the living wondered, and Kai was long dead.
Had he been asked, he might have speculated that after thousands of years undead, his tissues had been permeated with enough traces, to give him this half life of a half life.
Xev, if she'd been alive, might have said that motivation had kept him going. She might have said that Stan's need for him had kept him moving. But this did not occur to Kai.
In any case, Stan was dead.
After he finished his inspection of the Cryochambers, he proceeded to the holds of the Lexx, and began preparing medicines for Stan. In the midst, he stopped, remaining motionless for five minutes.
Stan was dead. It was unnecessary. There was something at the corner of his eye, he dabbed at it. Glistening moisture, some dilute remnant protoblood residue, showed on the tip of his finger. He wiped it away.
Finally, he turned, and with his swaying inexorable stride, made his way slowly to the Bridge of the Lexx.
Kai mounted the command pedestal and extended his hand. The holographic hand print appeared beneath his fingers. Kai found the skin of his palm tingled almost pleasantly.
HELLO KAI, the Lexx said.
"Hello Lexx," Kai replied calmly. "I bring news."
YOU ARE MY CAPTAIN NOW? Lexx asked.
Kai nodded. And then not sure if Lexx understood the gesture, he spoke. "Yes."
WHERE IS STANLEY? Lexx asked.
"He is dead," Kai said. "I came to tell you."
There was a long long silence; minutes dripped away, as the dead man waited patiently.
STANLEY IS DESTROYED?
"Time destroyed him," Kai said. "His life is ended."
Another long pause as the Lexx considered this.
STANLEY WAS A GOOD CAPTAIN. I LIKED HIM VERY MUCH. I WILL MISS HIM.
"He was a good friend," Kai said.
WHAT ARE YOUR COMMANDS, KAI? Lexx asked.
"I have none. The dead do not command," Kai replied.
WHAT SHALL I DO THEN?
"I do not know. I have come to give you your freedom. The choices will be yours."
YOUR TIME IS SHORT.
Kai thought about his absent protoblood. Although he could not know for sure, he considered his time short, as the vestigial traces within him were used up. The vestigial motivations that might have kept him going were now gone.
"Yes," he admitted.
KAI, I WOULD LIKE TO CONSUME STANLEY'S BODY.
"Are you hungry, Lexx?"
NO, BUT I REMEMBER A LONG LONG TIME AGO THE PLANT LADY CONSUMED XEV'S REMAINS AND MADE HER LIVE AGAIN. I THOUGHT I COULD TRY TO DO THE SAME.
Kai considered this. As a dead man, he could not feel surprised, but this was not something that he had anticipated.
"You are much different from Lyekka, Lexx. Will that work?"
IT WILL NOT.
BUT I FEEL THAT I MUST TRY.
Kai considered that. He remembered his doomed struggle against His Shadow, he remembered what that had been like, striving against inexorable doom. He thought of Stan and Xev, of their desperate struggles against fate, against doom. Futility had not mattered to them, they had clutched at life in the face of overwhelming odds.
Perhaps, he thought in one of his very few thoughts, that was why he had stayed with them. Because of their relentless, desperate, futile striving. They had reminded him of being alive.
Kai seldom reflected. Not because he was incapable of reflection, but because it gave him no relief to pore over thousands of years of dead memories.
WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW, KAI?"Lexx asked.
Kai started. How long had he been thinking?
"My protoblood is gone. Soon Lexx, very soon, I will cease."
AND IF YOU DO NOT?
"I will cease," Kai replied. "One way or another."
One night, holding Stanley's hand, watching him die, Kai had silently resolved that if he somehow did not cease to function, then he would simply drop his body into a black hole.
I WILL MISS YOU. WOULD IT HELP IF I ASKED YOU NOT TO CEASE?
Kai's mouth opened and closed. He paused, looking for a way to say what he must.
"No," he said simply.
The Lexx hummed. Not happily. But accepting.
Kai found his vision dimming. It's finally happening, he thought. The ghosting of sensation of his peripheries, which had always marked his shutdowns without protoblood was happening, much more slowly than he'd known, but it was happening.
I AM FREE?
"Yes. What will you do now, Lexx?" He asked, some trick of his fading provoked a mild curiosity. The world would go on even without him to watch it.
I DON'T KNOW. I WAS CREATED TO BLOW UP PLANETS, BUT I AM TIRED OF THAT. THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE PLANETS SO THE DESTRUCTION OF ONE MEANS VERY LITTLE. BUT SOMEHOW, WHEN I HAVE DESTROYED A WORLD, THERE IS SOMETHING LOST.
Kai nodded, understanding as only a former assassin of the Divine Order could understand.
The Lexx had, in its plodding way, deepened over the decades. In it's slow manner, it had become thoughtful, in its endless years with them.
I DO NOT WANT TO DESTROY THINGS ANY MORE.
Kai nodded again. He could understand that too. And suddenly, in a way that had nothing to do with his bodies imminent shutdown, he found himself tired. It's been so long, Kai thought. So very long.
THERE IS NOTHING ELSE LIKE ME IN THIS UNIVERSE.
The darkness was slowly creeping over him. How long did he have? He wondered with mild curiosity but no concern. Minutes, perhaps.
I WILL BE ALL ALONE.
"Yes," Kai said.
I DO NOT WANT TO BE ALONE.
Kai opened his mouth to frame a reply. But he was too late. He fell from the stand, his body crashing to the bridge floor, finally lifeless and motionless.
GOODBYE KAI, Lexx said finally, after a day had passed.
There was no answer.
Lexx turned, his massive body arcing in space, as he selected a direction at random, and set forth through the Universe, all alone.
© 1999 D.G.Valdron (Darrow)
For further examples of his work, check out his website: - Den's Nexus
Email: - Darrow
© 1999 WordWrights.