I know where this is. It's the old Palace of Justice; with a marble floor and the old statue of Justice up front. She's not looking too good. One of her wings has disintegrated, and her sword is gone. But she still holds up that scale and smiles.
I thought this place was totally destroyed. I walk toward the statue, and my steps resound through the emptiness. It's in ruins; a hole in the ceiling lets in the sunlight, and haps of rubble litter the ground and gallery.
It's gone. I saw the craters. On T.V. I reach the statue; my footsteps stop and there's no sound. And she seems to look right back at me, with eyes masked blind.
"Good morning, Worm your honor."
I whirl around; and suddenly the stands are all filled. With row upon row of figures, all sitting solemn. They seem familiar; but they stare right through me. At a spot behind me. I turn back around slowly.
"The crown will plainly show—"
A man is sitting in the judge's seat. A man in an immaculate suit. Spinning a pen. He notices me and nods slightly, smiles.
"—the prisoner that stands before was caught red-handed showing feelings."
I look to my right and jump. Ivanov?! He's standing right beside me, talking up to the man in the judge's seat, heatedly and mockingly.
"Feelings of an almost—human—nature."
I wave my hand in front of his face; but he doesn't even blink.
"This will not do."
I must be going crazy.
"Bring in the schoolmaster!"
A giant dragon springs up in his place. It has grey scales, and pale eyes.
"I always said he'd come to no good in the end, your Honor. If they'd let me have my way I could have flayed him into shape."
When it speaks, blood drips from its mouth.
"But my hands were tied, the bleeding hearts and artists let him get away with murder—let me hammer him today?"
Crazy, crazy, I'm crazy. Toys in the attic, crazy, truly gone fishing, crazy. They must have taken all my marbles away.
Now there's a demon standing there. It's the only word that comes to mind. He has grey hair, like ashes.
"You shit, you're in it now. I hope they throw away the key."
He stalks right up to me.
"You should've talked to me more often than you did—but no! You had to go your own way, have you fucked up any homes lately?"
He has blue eyes, just like me.
"Just five minutes, Worm your honor."
He grins at the man in the judge's seat.
"Him and me, alone."
I stumble back. I fall and cover my head instinctively; and feel a gentle hand on my shoulder.
"Come to mother baby, let me hold you in my arms."
My eyes widen. I break away from her; she smiles at me like a saint.
"My lord, I never wanted him to get in any trouble. Why'd he ever have to leave me?" She steps toward the judge's stand. "Worm your honor, let me take him home."
Crazy, crazy, over the rainbow I am crazy. I shudder. Bars in the window. There must have been a door there in the Wall when I came in.
Then there's silence. The man in the suit stops spinning the pen.
"Don't you have anything to say?" He leans his head in his hand and looks down at me. "In your defense?"
The eyes of the world are on me. I can feel them drilling into my brain. I stand up shakily. The eyes of the world are on me.
"I just—I just—"
There's absolute silence; the kind that they must have on the outer edges of space.
"I just wanted to do the right thing."
The words echo through the massive, ruined room.
The man in the suit leans back. "The evidence before the court is incontrovertible. There's no need for the jury to retire." He trains his eyes on me.
"In all my years of judging, I have never seen before. Someone more deserving—of the full penalty of war."
His voice becomes soft.
"Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear. I sentence you to be exposed before your peers."
He stands up suddenly.
"Tear down the Wall!"
The crowd in the gallery takes up the cry.
"Tear down the Wall! Tear down the Wall!"
I cover my ears; but I still hear it.
"Tear down the Wall! Tear down the Wall! Tear down the Wall!"
They descend downward.
"Sorry about the, uh—" Mikage gestures, "—masks. And the kidnapping."
Lion is silent.
"But hey, who doesn't like a good near-death experience?"
It grows steadily darker, and the stairs more treacherous.
"You aren't exactly easy to track down, you know."
Wonder what happened to Sunshine. They were separated when that mob of masked crazies dragged Lion away.
"And it was a close one, yeah." Mikage nods. "But you'll be all right now. We'll take real good care of you—Lion."
Lion stops. "Tell me."
"Tell me or I'm not taking another step."
The procession comes to a stop.
"What's the hold up there?"
"He's not taking another step," another one of the masked men chimes.
"Told ya we should've shot him like the others."
"Gentlemen." Mikage snaps.
They shut up. Lion crosses his arms.
Mikage smiles amiably. "Whaddya wanna know?"
Mikage looks thoughtful; he puts his arm around Lion. "Then come with us. We'll take you to somebody who'll tell you everything—you want to know."
What a bunch of—
Somebody shoves him forward. "And we don't have to play nice, neither."
Lion stumbles; but catches himself.
"Gentlemen." Mikage snaps.
They walk in silence for another while. The darkness stays the same; but the space around them changes, somehow. The stairs change from rough, homemade things to stone. The kind found in old subway stations. Lion doesn't notice. He keeps his head down.
They emerge into a tunnel, walk along the old tracks for a while. They pause briefly at an old service door, half-hidden in the wall.
"Go on, Mikage." A voice from a speaker tells them. "Shiro is waiting."
They walk through the doors. And Lion can't help but notice.
"Welcome to Central Station."
A soft humming drifts up to them; like a wave. They've emerged onto a catwalk. It overlooks a large room, once the station's lobby. Now it's filled with all kinds of machines, monitors, and people. Eclectic, since everything's been scavenged from somewhere else. Tunnels lead off in the distance, glimpses of more electric lights.
It looks like a bank from Hell.
"It's actually South Station." Mikage shrugs. "But more confusion is better."
Mikage moves forward; someone shoves Lion after him.
Inside one of the inner rooms, a man is sitting. Drinking something from a mug; he makes a face as they enter.
Only Mikage and Lion. The masked ones remain behind. Mikage nods to them and they disperse.
The man holds out his hand. "Shiro."
Lion doesn't move.
He don't look like much. It's hard to believe, that this is the man that's been giving them so much trouble. He just looks average. And tired.
He lets his hand drop. "Sit down, Lion."
"You can go, Mikage."
He doesn't move.
"He's not dangerous."
"I'll be waiting outside."
Neither of them talk until the door closes. Lion can feel Shiro studying him. He looks at the table instead.
"Do you want something to eat?" he asks. He looks askance at his mug. "Or like—coffee?"
"Cut the shit. What do you want from me."
Shiro doesn't seem surprised. "Let's get right to it, then."
He leans forward slightly.
"Are you aware of what—SKY is?"
"You know the answer to that."
"Yes. So we do." Shiro looks thoughtful. He leans back. "So we do."
There's a slight pause.
"We need you to—hack it."
"Like that guy, Spiral, wanted me to do."
"He's a genius. What makes you think I could do it if he couldn't?"
There's a longer pause.
"We know who you are, Lion."
It's like the final nail in the coffin.
"We know everything."
It's like the ground's falling out from under him.
"So you do. So you do."
"You were never meant to be a soldier, Lion."
"No." He keeps his eyes focused on the table. But murder's fine.
"They were going to shoot you, Lion."
And so were you.
"They are no friends of yours."
But—when everyone you've ever known turns against you. And casts you out. Your family, your friends. You tend to think—it's you that's wrong. Not them.
There's a long silence.
"Will you do it, Lion? Will you do this for us?"
Lion raises his eyes; Shiro meets them.
"You want to use it."
Shiro doesn't look away. "Yes."
Lion drops his eyes. "No."
There's a heavy silence.
Shiro leans back. "So. Spiral was wrong."
"Spiral was wrong about a lot of things."
"The reflection time didn't help."
Lion smiles. "It must not be going so well for you," he comments, "if you want to use it."
"No. It is not going so well."
"You guys are almost dead, right?"
"This is the last place left," Shiro tells him. "If they find it, they will win."
Lion traces a pattern on the table.
"Is that what you want?"
"No," Lion says. "I hate the Reapers."
There's another long silence.
"I had a friend," Lion says. "Lucien. He was also working on the satellite. He shot himself when he figured out what SKY was." He traces two sharp lines on the table. "I wanted to shoot myself too. But I was too scared."
"Then help us."
"A lot of people went crazy. They tried to hide it from us, but we all figured it out one way or the other. Some people laughed. Some people cried. Most people were silent. The first scientist that figured out what it was said: Now I have become Death. Destroyer of worlds." Lion raises his eyes. "No."
Shiro meets them; he seems decades older all of a sudden.
"I'm sorry, Lion," he says softly. "But this is an offer you can't refuse."
We enter a large, dark room. Lit by torches on either side. The man with the umbrella drops down to his knee.
"Please. Don't bother."
As my eyes adjust, I see. Carved in the wall are several seats—thrones, I guess. And a man sits in one of them, a sword in his lap. Wearing an immaculate suit, oddly enough.
"You the King?"
He shrugs. "K."
The man with the umbrella gets to his feet, whispers something to him. He doesn't answer.
My eyes catch something. I walk to one of the torch-lined walls. I squint. Are those—
"What're you the king of, exactly? Dead people? Worms?" I laugh.
"On the contrary." He rises. "I could live in a nutshell—and be King of infinite space."
He walks up beside me. His steps sound weird; like they're coming from a long distance.
"Do you know what this place is, Andrei?"
I pick up one of the skulls. "Catacombs."
I hold it up to my face. "I said I'd never come down here. Again." I toss it up and down a few times.
He watches me curiously.
I'm tired of being a fucking worm.
"I think you have a message for me, Andrei."
"Do you want to—give me the message?"
I don't say anything.
"I think it's been delayed long enough."
"First I want to know."
"What do you want to know?"
I put the skull back down and face him. "Why?"
He seems caught off-guard.
"Why the hell this way? Most of all—why the hell me?" I step toward him. "Where the hell were you? All this fucking time. You were hiding down here? All this fucking time?" My voice rises. "We were waiting for you. Hoping for you. We were fighting for you. Did you realize, did you know—that even a word—would have made all the difference. Just a word. Just a single—fucking—word. Just a single fucking word! And you couldn't manage even that."
My breath is ragged; my fist clenches.
"Your Majesty, King Worm."
He turns away from me.
I follow him. "Don't think you can fucking run away from this too."
He reaches the stone seat again and stops.
He picks up the sword. "No. I promised."
He looks down at it for a long time.
"I'm sorry, Andrei. I forgot—that the messenger was a person as well."
He turns to face me.
"Do you know what this is, Andrei?"
He kneels down in front of me. He holds it out.
"This is Degen. The Sword of Justice."
A half rusted blade. But the eyes of the lion on the hilt still gleam.
"When I—ran—for the first time. When the invaders came. This is the only thing I took with me."
His voice steadies. He looks up.
"There will be Justice. There will be Justice for what they have done."
Our eyes meet.
"Now do you want to give me that message?"
"No. Look Cy—rus. I've put up with enough of yer shit. Putting the Wolves with me, under my 'command'." Ivanov slams his fist into the table. "They're gonna pin this whole thing on me! Don't think I don't know it."
"Come on, what," Jules pipes up. "What're they gonna pin on you?"
"The massacre! The—" Ivanov gestures futilely, "—whatever the hell is going on out there!"
"You can't call it a massacre," Jules comments, "if it's only crushing worms."
"You shut the fuck up!" Ivanov towers over him. "What the fuck are you even doing here?"
"I was talking to Cyrus. Before you barged in."
"Shut up!" Ivanov turns back to Cyrus. "What's the logic behind this, anyway? How can you even justify this?"
Cyrus remains impassive.
"He's been a model—soldier—whatever he's needed to be. All the time. Without fail, he hasn't hesitated once. Ten times better than the other fuckers we have over here!"
"Why are you sticking up for him?" Jules pipes up. "I didn't know you liked him."
Ivanov ignores him.
"You're going to do something with him—that's not killing him. You understand?"
Cyrus's eyes narrow. "Are you ordering me around?"
"You do it, or I'll—I'll quit!"
"You can't quit." Jules laughs.
Ivanov ignores him. There's a ridiculous amount of tension, as he stares down Cyrus.
"Get the fuck out of my office," Cyrus finally says.
"I'm warning you, Cyrus!" Ivanov storms out, as precipitously as he crashed in. "I'm warning you!"
He slams the door, so hard that it springs open again. Another Reaper cautiously peeks in—and silently closes it again.
Cyrus glances at Jules. "What do you think?"
Jules shrugs. "Give the big oaf what he wants." He examines the pen in his hand, begins spinning it. "Who the hell cares?"
With lyrics from Pink Floyd, The Trial