3328/If My Words Had Wings

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If My Words Had Wings
Date of Scene: 11 September 2020
Location: E05 - Kian's Dorm - Titan's Tower
Synopsis: Kian gets a bequest, and a potential suicide mission.
Cast of Characters: Kian, Terry O'Neil

Kian has posed:
    They don't really have the phrase "It's been a long week" among Kían's native idioms.  The closest one translates more or less as "Time keeps forgetting to pass."
    Time has been forgetting to pass a lot this week.
    He's been taking advantage of the fact that he doesn't need to sleep, and spending a lot of time in the lab studying the various pieces-parts of alien technology the team brought back, looking for anything that he might be used to.  Complicating the process is his still-incomplete grasp of written English, and not knowing the local commonly used scientific terms and definitions.
    It's time to trade one frustration for another—as best as possible, he sets aside time every day to work on written and spoken English, and as problems go, that one is at least getting easier over time.
    At his desk, he takes up his quill, gets settled in, and only then notices the notification light on his computer.  "Nnh?"
    Of course, he's no stranger to computers, but the ones he's used to can be thought at.  He has to pull out his handwritten notes on how to get into his message center on the Titans' internal network, and enters the keystrokes slowly, even painstakingly.
    Whoever invented QWERTY deserves punishment of a sort Kían would never be able to dish out.  "Ash takh'tái?" he asks wearily—no point in English when it's just himself.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    It's a message from… Terry, of all people.  The date of origin seems to be today, but the inner body of the message shows that it was actually composed not too long after the Brainiac invasion.  It also consists of an attachment: a video file that plays as soon as the message is opened.
    And there's Terry, looking a little worse for wear.  The bandage across his forehead would indicate this was, indeed, just a few days after the Brainiac menace was dealt with.  Amazing what a scratch some falling debris can cause.
    "Hello, Kian," the redhead says with a big smile, arms crossed over his kitchen table, "I hope you are doing well.  I apologize if this recording finds you at an inconvenient time."  His enunciation is quite crisp, as if he were trying to audition for NPR.  He is also being very clear in what language he uses.  "Although, considering the conditions under which this recorded message is to be released, I can't imagine the situation would be anything but inconvenient."

Kian has posed:
    "c'Rhys'yw!!"  Kían had not, as he'd told Marvel q'tan, completely given up hope… but neither had he expected to see or hear from any of the lost—MISSING!—four friends any time soon.
    He fumbles with the mouse to try to pause the message, closes it accidentally, re-opens it, and digs out his notes on English numerals to try to figure out what date is on the message.  Terry hadn't had an injury like that very recently, but there was that other invasion… nnh!  Up until this moment, Kían had never really realized how easy it is to lose track of time when you don't have a regular waking and sleeping schedule.
    He replays the beginning of the message a couple times, pausing after each sentence to make sure he got all of it.
    Just once, he places his hand on the Terry on the screen, as if that would give him mental contact.  After a second, he just lets his hand drop to the desktop, and feels like a damned fool.
    It's an old message, he thinks to himself.  Why send it now?

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "I don't know what happened, but if you get this message… the chances of my survival are probably not that good.  After the Brainiac invasion, I was left with a lot of thoughts.  And I realized I didn't want to die without saying some things."
    He leans back on his chair, speaking at an easygoing pace, without rushing.
    "We have lived through a lot of things.  I have come to value you as a friend and as a companion.  Even when, I know, there are times you would prefer to knock me out with something because I am getting on your nerves."  He grins.  "It is the mark of a true friend, that you have yet to murder me."  A brief pause.  "That is meant to be humorous.  I don't think you want to murder me.
    "Most of the time.
    "I can still see you at the beach, fainting from the shock of seeing Gar transform into your kin.  You have come a long way, Kian.  I don't know if you are content with the road you have had to travel, but I hope that in some ways it has been good for you.  That we all have brought something to you—we can't compensate for losing your home, but hopefully we can make it a little more bearable."

Kian has posed:
    Intellectually, Kían is aware of the statistical unlikelihood of his friends' survival.
    That's lightyears distant from having one of them say so for himself, or of having accepted the idea emotionally, and he has to pause the message again to get his mental balance back.  It's probably a good thing right now that there aren't any other telepaths among the Titans; the birdman's mental leakage would be both pained and painful.
    Again, he pauses his way through the message, one sentence at a time, and stops just long enough to comment back at the screen, "No, not mur-der, even hwen hyu drug me wit' kófi.  Drop hyu in the water on the roof, some-times, yis."  Being addressed in English, he replies in English, as if Terry could hear him.
    And then he catches his breath as he's reminded of Gar.  "Ai, c'Rhys'yw, p'takh tenár'k…" he breathes, "...zoráth tavár'h."
    He takes a moment to collect himself again, and replies softly, "Hyu haf give me a good home, Téri.  Even if mine iss los' to me, I haf a place to be."  He knows he's talking to a recording.  He doesn't care.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "On Earth, it's customary for people to set aside a Last Will And Testament.  You know, things they set aside for people, things they ask them to do.  Maybe it's the same in your world?  I never asked you.  I should have asked you.  If it isn't, well…"  He smiles and shrugs.  "Welcome to another strange Earth tradition.  I only have one request for you, Kian: to continue being the voice of reason.  You do realize… you're in the minority."  He winks.  "But you are a calm and logical guy, and you will always look for a way to solve a situation without hurting someone.  That's valuable, and something we forget in the heat of the moment at times.  So that is what I want you to do—keep making sure these crazy Earthlings aren't too rowdy."  He smiles.  "You've been a good friend to me, so I don't need to ask you to be a good friend to Gar, because that comes second nature to you.  He is going to need a good friend…."
    He takes a deep breath, and looks at the screen.  "Right.  Now comes the loot.  The thing I leave behind," he says, rather light-heartedly.  "I know your studies in English are progressing well.  You are a diligent student.  So I want to give you something that will help you to that end and, in a way, remind you of me."
    He holds up a book: ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, AND WHAT SHE FOUND THERE.  "This… is an advanced book.  But you're a scientist, and when you have moved past the difficulties in language, there are some things here that you might find… interesting.  This is all inspired by a real adventure this little girl had in my home dimension, Wonderland, but the writer of the piece was a mathematician and… let's just say that he added a few things here and there.  You'll see what I mean.  It's rather delightful."
    He puts the book down.  "This is the annotated edition, so any historical or cultural things that might puzzle you are probably annotated for your convenience.  You will find a copy of this book in my room here in the tower.  I usually have it up one of my shelves…."

Kian has posed:
    Final instructions, yes, there is a tradition of those among Kían's people.  Since their estates are held by the clan and assigned out as needed, there's really generally little more than the disposal of a few personal mementos and family heirlooms.  The Akiár don't do "things" in quite the same way as Terrans do.  Kían doesn't own his estate back on his world; essentially he holds it in trust on behalf of the larger family, the t'Káeh, and when he's gone, it will transfer to someone else.
    He realizes with a painful start that it probably already has.
    He realizes with a further, more chilling start that no one on this world knows what must be done in case something happens to him.  Almost without thinking about it, he slides over a piece of paper and carefully writes in his own language at the top of the page, «In case I die»—and then pushes the page to one side.  He'll work on that, and then on translating it, later today.  Not now.
    He genuinely breaks out laughing at 'calm and logical'.  "Ai, Téri… if hyu coul' see in-side my min'… iss some-times as crazy in here as in hyours, I thin'.  But I will promise hyu, I will stay bein' me.  Iss only per-son I know how to be."
    He pauses the image on the book, fixing it in his mind so he knows what to look for, since his grasp of the written word is still not firm, and then continues watching, elbows on his desktop, resting his chin on his hands.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "Now, here's something else I'd like you to do for me…."  Terry ponders for a second, and then brings something out—another book.  "This is something I've set aside for Raven, but I haven't made a video for her—mostly because she'd probably delete it without looking at it.  I thought this might be something she would enjoy—and if she doesn't, I'm already dead so what's the worst she can do?"  He grins.  He holds up the copy: 'The poems of Sarah Teasdale.'
    "Don't answer that question."
    "But… do keep an eye out on the others of the team, see how they're doing.  The team has a history with death, so… any help you can give them will be appreciated, you know?"

Kian has posed:
    Well, that request caught Kían off guard.  He hasn't crossed paths with Raven very often… they are of different worlds, more so than with almost everyone else.  Still, it is a reasonable request, and he fixes the image of this book in his mind as well.
    He sighs heavily.  "Téri tavár'h," he says, like he's having a two-way conversation, "I haf no his-tory wit' deat'.  I do not know hwat I can do to make it better.  I haf never los' a frien' or family.  I do not know… do not know that kin' of loss."
    There's a little catch in his voice.  "Un… until now."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "Now, how people deal with this sort of thing differently.  Like, if you're Irish, you have a wake, people get drunk and tell embarrassing stories about the decedant.  That's what the O'Neils do.  And they cry.  And laugh.  I guess the important thing is that you focus on the good times, acknowledge the bad times, and focus on lessons learned.  Even if they're as simple as "don't juggle chainsaws after drink a pint of scotch," ah, uncle Gustav…."  He shakes his head and smirks.  "Anyways.  It's not fun contemplating your own mortality, let me tell you.  The not knowing what people will say, or whether they even want to see your face because you've done something to pi– really get them angry at you."
    He sighs a little and adds, "I hope I haven't made you angry too much.  But… I guess it's time to say goodbye.  And the best way to do it, my dear friend, is to give you something more to practice your English on.  Right?  You didn't expect this to be homework!"
    He reaches for something off-screen, another book.  This one he opens to a particular page and, after giving the camera a smile, he reads:

      "The light begins to twinkle from the rocks:
      The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: The deep
      Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
      'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
      Push off, and sitting well in order smite
      The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
      To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
      Of all the western stars, until I die.
      It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
      It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
      And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
     Though much is taken, much abides: and though
     We are not now that strength which in old days
     Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
     One equal temper of heroic hearts,
     Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
     to strive, to seek to find..."

    And he closes the book, "…and not to yield."
    He reaches over, and the video goes dark.

Kian has posed:
    "I haf never been angry wit' hyu, Téri tavár'h.  If hyu are no lon-ger of this worl', take that wit' hyu," Kían says softly.
    He pauses his way through the poem one line at a time.  Plain English is still enough of a problem for him; artistic English is another matter entirely and he will have to unpick the meanings later.  Some of the words are yet unknown to him, too.  He might ask Colette to help him through it the next time she comes by to drop off new lessons.
    When the video snaps off, Kían sits back like he was slapped, blinking at the sudden ending, and stays there for maybe three or four minutes, watching the screen like he expects it to come back.
    When it doesn't he rises slowly, and folds his right wing forward, finding one loose feather.  Stripping off his kilt and sandals, he steps out into the solitude of the landing pad off his room.  He spreads his wings wide and clutches the feather to his chest.
    "h'Kýe h'ka!"  The words are breathed out and then Kían hesitantly begins to sing in his own language—no, not in his usual language.  The words are denser, heavier somehow.  For the first time, planet Earth hears the ancient tones of liturgical Akiár'shak.  He's not a practiced singer, and the scale is strange—twenty-four tones, not twelve—but it's heart-felt.
    After about a minute and a half, he holds the feather out and calls upon his rhy'thar, and the plume vaporizes, the ash falling away, the smoke rising.  And then, he switches back to English, so that if Terry's soul is listening, he can understand: "Hyu haf no win's of your own, Téri tavár'h, so I share mine wit' hyu.  If hyu can not come back to us, fly free."  Maybe incongruously, he smiles slightly.  "An' if hyu do come back, hyu owe me a feather, yis?"
    He folds his wings, bows deeply, and slips back into his room.
    Then and only then do the tears come.