11-1-1999

Beautiful: Hate
KnM

My breath becomes harsh and echoing in my ears as the helmet settles over my head, cutting off all the light. It's heavy; that doesn't matter, though, I'm too strong for that.

I can hear a voice asking if it's alright, muffled by the helmet. I answer absently; the man was a convenient means for me to get here, and I trust in him and his beliefs, but now he no longer matters. Only I matter, I and the battle, and my self.

The touch panel is cool beneath my fingertips, utterly smooth and faintly waxy like the skin of a corpse. A corpse...how ironic that this is where I am alive. I close my eyes and run my fingers over the panel, familiarizing myself with the pressure keys until my hands can dance across them without conscious thought on my part. The world outside of my eyes suddenly goes from black to grey. Good, they're starting the feed. I open my eyes slowly so that I can adjust to the light. I can see the units scattered across my field of vision in a deceptively haphazard manner. There are five small blue indicators; the enemy.

It's enough, and the units are fixed in my mind. I close my eyes. No one knows, because the helmet stops them from seeing me as I can't see them, but I will not open my eyes again until the battle is over; I don't need them. I wonder what the men would think if they knew, if they saw me fighting with my eyes shut. They would be disconcerted, I think, but that's alright, I wouldn't expect them to understand. They must see with the purely physical; they don't understand that the true beauty of the battle is fought within. The true fight takes place on the stage of the soul.

It sounds trite to those that don't understand, but that is what my father taught me, and my father showed me the beauty of it. The battle exists within me.

Papa, are you watching over me now? Where are you? Perhaps you've gone the way of the Viking warriors, to Valhalla where you celebrate and continue to fight with your burning beauty, never again dying. Perhaps there is nothing after death, and when the breath of life leaves, everything ceases to be.

I won't find out until it's so late that it no longer matters, so I'll no longer think on it. Either way, what truly matters is the fight in life; it's the only thing that counts. I will be beautiful in life like you, Papa.

I still remember holding your hand, warm and slick with bright red blood. I knew that warmth was for me. I knew your fight was for me, because then I was weak and I cried the useless tears of emotion and misplaced gentleness. I held you back, Papa, I understand that now; I kept you from dying with complete beauty.

My fight is for you, now. I held you back, but I have nothing to hold me back, and I will find the beauty and glory in death and battle that barely slipped from your grasp. I will be the warrior that you were constantly becoming. I will be strong! I will fill myself with the battle until there is no room for any weakness, and then I will be beautiful.

I can feel it; it's time. I take in a deep breath and let it out slowly. The air has a bitter tang in it, reminiscent of hot metal and battles too infrequently washed; it's the taste of oxygen recycled through a ship a few too many times. The carbon scrubbers must need replacing. Even if the air were clean, though, it would still be dull and flat, nothing like the air on the Earth. The Earth's air is full of a thousand scents, no two the same, and alive with air currents.

I prefer the flat air of the warships. Its taste is home to me.

There is no smooth transition into battle. One moment, I am aware of the heaviness of the helmet on my head, the hard bench beneath me, the cool panel under my fingertips; I reach inward, and then it all disappears. There is nothing but me and the battle. I am the battle. It fills me completely.

I can see everything now. I will win this battle, there is no other possibility. Even though the weapons of the enemy are superior, I have the advantage of numbers, and the advantage of perfect, fake soldiers that obey my every command without hesitation for thought or reaction. More so, I have my self. I am the battle.

I know that I must be tapping commands into the touch panel for my fake soldiers, and that I must be speaking, commanding the few humans. It's all automatic, though; I am only conscious of the fight. Soundless explosions crackle around me, through me, and I want to laugh for the sheer joy of it. I burn more brightly than it all.

Dimly, I hear a child crying, frightened by the explosions and the brief flare of pain that each brings. I ignore it and banish it back to its dark, dusty corner. I have no time for unworthy weakness like that.

Suddenly, I am no longer alone among the stars. There is an Other there now, appearing like a ghost out of the darkness. That can't be! I try to deny it, but the Other remains. They are real, and they are wresting the battle from my hands, seeing as I see, moving as I move, but faster, faster...

And then, I am losing. NO! I will not allow this!

I let go of the fight--if the other is eliminated, I will be able to recover in no time, I'm sure of it. I attack the other with all my strength. The moment we touch, I feel a flare of surprise, and of shock. I'm not sure if it's mine or theirs. That doesn't matter, though. After a moment of hesitation, the other abruptly releases the battle as well and turns their full attention toward the struggle with me, and we fight. I tear and claw at the Other's mind, my fingers sliding along the thick glass wall that shields them from me, searching for a crack or a nick, any weakness. I can feel the other doing the same to me, probing my defenses, battering at me as I strike at them. They are strong, as strong as me. It's frightening. No, I don't have time for fear. I will win!

We crack eachother's defenses at the same time. I rip the Other's wall into shards, ignoring how the brittleness cuts me and leaves me hurting. I force my way deeper into their mind, tearing them apart like I would a line of computer code. Memories fly past me, images of smiling young women, of other boys, one with purple eyes, one with green, all flashing past me rapidly as I force my way deeper, searching for true self of Other. They rip through my memories as well, and I let them; defending myself would be a waste of time. I need all of my strength so that I can find and strike them first.

I see it! The Other's self burns brightly; I don't know how it managed to stay hidden form me for so long. I stab may hands into it, trying to quench it. There is pain, the other has me now, like I have them. I will not give up! I will win!

I tear more deeply...and suddenly, I am in the Other's self...and I stop. I...can't. I can't! I CAN'T!

They can't either. We're frozen, almost melted into one for a long, long moment.

Who is this Other? They are beautiful, so beautiful, beautiful like my father, beautiful like I will be. I can't destroy them. Who are they???

A name comes to me like it's my own thought, but no, it's theirs.

Quatre Raberba Winner.

I jerk away from him as he jerks away from me, separating us abruptly.

He is beautiful, but not like me, no, not ever like me. He is full of weakness. How did he stand against me, as weak as he is? He is gentle, kind, and so welcoming. I can feel him reaching out to me, trying to fill me with something that isn't the battle. He is warm, and I know that warmth is for me. For one long, tormenting moment, I want to reach to him as well.

NO!

I am strong! I am the battle!

I cast him away, back toward the dusty, dark corner that the child hides in. And I run. I am shamed.

He is beautiful; my other, opposite half.

I hate him.