"She's gone. We should go too."
"But... we can't. We can't just leave her like this... we can't le... her pixels, on the floor, we have to... burn...oh, it burns. Rob, it burns, it burns, it burns..."
Trisk and Rob helped their friend stand up. His limbs were shaking badly, his face covered with luminous tears as he cried over his sister's death. "It's too late now, Kylen. You did all you could: you literally gave up a leg for Zora. Now it's time to move on, you do not want to follow her path now."
"But don't you see?" Kylen cried, turning his anguished face to Trisk's. "Zora's the one who always follows me! She does everything I do after I've done it first, she's followed me everywhere since we were progys, I even told her ten minutes ago that she would be fine! AND NOW LOOK AT HER..." He bit his knuckle, moaning in despair.
"Hey, hey, hey. Sshh mate, they'll hear us!"
"We HAVE to get out of here!" Trisk whispered fiercely.
"I did everything first..." Kylen mumbled. He hung limply between Trisk and Rob. They held his arms, otherwise he would collapse. The pain of losing his sister and his leg within seconds was enough to get anybody down, and Trisk found herself blinking away tears of her own.
"I did everything first... except derezz. Zora derezzed before me. Why did I let it happen? Why didn't I try harder... she followed... I could have... but Zora..."
Kylen trailed off like before, but Rob sensed a tensing in the arm that he held. He caught Trisk's eye and jerked his head backward, communicating that they needed to get out of the area quickly. Trisk saw and nodded, but then Kylen resumed speaking coherently.
"Zora derezzed before me... Guys. Zora derezzed before me! No, no, no, I'm not going mad, she WANTED to go before me! And now she's waiting for me, and I have to go to her..."
"Hang on, just hang on, dude!" Rob couldn't believe his ears. "You don't mean you want to... self-rezz?"
"No, Rob, I NEED to self-rezz! Zora still can't take care of herself, I have to go save her! Don't you see? It's the right thing to do!"
"Alright Ky, that's enough," Trisk said firmly. Herself and Rob started pulling Kylen with them.
"NO! NO! WAIT! LET ME GO! YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO!" Kylen screamed. He struggled against them, but the two had firm grips on his arms, and Kylen was already weak from loss of pixels. They dragged him away while he pleaded and wept for them to derezz him. Trisk was crying too, and even stoic Rob's eyes were damp before the rain started. Kylen's last sight of his sister was a little pile of blue pixels and a broken metal disk.
* * * *
"So. The mission. Was it successful?"
The thug kneeling before Char'dn swallowed. Char'dn watched his Adam's Apple bob nervously. "It... it was a success, m'lord."
"Then bring the girl to me."
Mannind gulped again. Lord Char'dn certainly didn't waste his words. "My... my uh, my lord..."
Char'dn straightened visibly. "What have you done?"
"Please... f... forgive me, your, uhh, lordship," Mannind stuttered, clasping his hands fitfully. "I... I... derezzed her."
A collective sigh of astonishment rang through the audience, and Char'dn's eyes opened wide. "Have you forgotten that Zuse wanted her alive?"
"No m'lord, I didn't forget," the big man replied. "She intentionally got in the way of a death throw that was meant for one of the others... her brother, I believe. There was, um, nothing to be done. She was derezzed in seconds."
Char'dn stood up swiftly. His aqua and black robes billowed about him as wind began to blow from some unseen corner. He glided slowly down the steps until he was a pace away from the big assassin. Mannind looked up at the other's face, young but hard as steel, with the flowing black hair and pale skin that marked him as one of the Biyedandar Family. Right now though, the young lord's light face was darkened by rage. It scared Mannind enough to plea for his life.
"Um, sir, please, would you spare me? I, I have a family too, you know: what will happen to my wife and..."
Char'dn gave a sharp nod to the guards, and two lightsticks were shoved through Mannind's chest as he was still speaking. The words turned into an electronic gurgle, and the assassin fell in tiny pieces at Char'dn's feet. The lord glared at the pile of pixels a moment longer, then instructed his servants to grind the assassin's remains into the ground.
Not pausing to enjoy the spectacle, Char'dn threw off his cumbersome robes and raced away, not even bothering to see if his bodyguards could keep up. He sprinted through the rain to where he knew she would be, hoping that he could still give her remains an honourable purge.
Zuse will be very angry when I return without her. I spoke of her so much to him that he thought she could be the one to restore order. I made a mistake, sending someone else, a failed assassin. I should have gone to her myself. Maybe then I could have found her alone and taken her quickly. The Family would have been terribly angry, but that would have been better than derezzation.
He suddenly skidded to a stop, hair soaked, eyes wild. It was too late. The girl's pixels had fallen into a puddle, and most of them had now evaporated. A small, rising puff of steam wafted from the remaining handful of blue pixels. Char'dn fell to his knees on the wet cobblestones, and reached out to touch the broken disk, now dull and blank. Lifeless. Of all the people who might end up dead, she had been perhaps one of the indispensable ones.
Well. She’s gone now, and I should go too. I will need to call the Family and apologize for my failure. And then Zuse will likely have me killed. I deserve it, really. I was too scared to see her again.
Char'dn stood up, still holding the two pieces of the disc. He swallowed, and lifted two fingers of his right hand in a horizontal V sign above his head.
"Goodbye, Zora," he whispered, as her last pixels evaporated.