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Page 7 of 9
A short story by

James Waugh

Virgil looked down at the two little bags that composed all that he would bring to start his new life as a farmer or father or both. Everything else of his had been thrown out. Alone in their tiny apartment, the silence was deafening. Every time he closed his eyes, all he could see were visions of zerglings, of hydralisks and mutalisks, of news reports of carnage and death. But mostly zerglings, because that was what you always saw first and most.

He jumped with a start, eyes snapping open, as she entered the front door. Tears streaked her face like long transparent veins. She wiped her nose with the sleeve of her shirt. He thought it was cute.

"Oh, Ru. You okay?"

"Just hard sayin' goodbye, is all… Just hard." He got up and wrapped his arms around her, and she smiled. "Daddy said he can try to visit when things calm down a bit. Maybe a year or two. He thinks he can come under a fake identity. I'll… I'll see him again."

"You get the IDs?"

She yanked herself away, nodding and digging into her oversized purse. She pulled out two holocard digi-IDs, the kind that had come into use on Shiloh, and handed him one. Virgil pressed the tiny button, and a holoprojection popped up from the thin card. It was his face, all right, but not his name or data. His holographic head circled in 3-D, showing all sides while paragraphs of personal information scrolled next to it. Rufi looked at his reaction through the image, biting her lower lip, wondering how he'd respond.

"Derek Dayton?" he finally said. "I sound like a character from a superhero vid."

"Well, mine's Jossie Thomas… That ain't too pretty… And I went to school for bioplasmic studies, of all things." She pressed her ID card, and a holographic rendering of her head beamed out. "My shuttle leaves in an hour. Yours in two. Daddy made the arrangements that way so as not to draw no suspicion. He said we shouldn't give anyone reason to think we knew each other before planetfall. He said we should meet there… maybe in the starport… pretend it's the first time."

"Gonna have to do a lot of pretending from here on out, I imagine."

"I imagine… I should go, Virgil…" Her chime-like laughter returned. "I mean, Derek."

"Come here, Jossie." He kissed her forehead the way he always did. "I love you. You know that."

"I do." And she kissed him on the lips. It was long and slow, and what was most important was that their bodies were pushed into each other. What was most important was their closeness. Finally, after what seemed like an eon, she released him. "You're on shuttle 3801. Don't be late! There's extra security given the zerg threat."

"What would I do without you?" He grinned.

"Don't ask me." She laughed. "See you there."

And she was gone, leaving their little apartment, leaving their old life for good.

Virgil sat back down and did nothing. He stared at the dirty wall for an hour, mind a blank for the first time in ages. When the hour was up, he stood, lifted his bags, and walked to the door. But something stopped him. Something was missing. He set the bags down. He looked back at the apartment. It was so empty now. The flavor that had been the collage of her life and his smashed together was gone. It was just a drab, plain space, the barren landscape of what was.

Before he left he decided that he'd better give the place one more once-over just to make sure he didn't forget anything.

He saw it the second he walked into the bedroom. There, on the nightstand, was the zergling tooth. He picked it up and ran his finger against its serrated edge. It was still so sharp that he didn't even feel the thing slice his hand. It wasn't until he noticed the blood running down his arm that he became conscious of the tiny gash.

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