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August 08, 2022

Zodiac: Part Two

By Mel Trent

VII.

Kaine is dead. At least it seems that way to Jynx. The healer said Kaine's heart was torn in half and that with every beat, the tear only gets worse. It's only a matter of time before his heart simply stops. There isn't anything that medicine or magic can do. Jynx sits by the bedside and waits. He looks for the visions in Kaine's head and finds darkness and pain.

The healer, Pisces Yulia, keeps telling Jynx to go eat or sleep or something, but Jynx can't move. He feels like he's dying, too. He knows that the second Kaine's heart stops beating for good, his will stop as well. There would be no point in continuing. Yulia brings in a tray of food and a pitcher of water that Jynx doesn't even look at despite the loud, cramping growls of his stomach. She wraps a blanket around his shoulders and leaves.

Kumiko doesn't come back to the hospital after Roland's funeral. Jynx is glad for that. It just would have made things harder. Grisha comes by and stands silently at the foot of the bed for several minutes. He leaves without breaking that silence. After that, Jynx keeps his vigil alone.

Jynx wakes up with a start several hours later. The room is dark expect for a soft white glow that seems to be coming from everywhere and illuminates nothing. At first, he can't tell what woke him up. Kaine is still breathing, but each breath is shallow and painful. Each breath could be his last.

"I can save him," Iai says.

Jynx looks up. Iai is standing in the doorway. Jynx can't put his finger on it, but Iai seems different somehow. The glow that fills the room comes from him. Jynx rubs his eyes. "I didn't hear you come in," he says.

Iai walks into the room and glances at Kaine. He sees the untouched tray of food. "You need to eat, Jynx. He needs you to be strong." He picks up an apple and tosses it to Jynx.

Jynx catches it and winces as his stomach groans in anticipation. He takes a few bites, trying not to eat too fast and make himself sick. His stomach is grateful, though, and before too long, he's devoured the whole apple, not leaving much of the core. "Are you okay?" he asks.

"I've accepted what I must."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"No."

"No, you're not okay, or no, you didn't give me a straight answer?"

Iai smiles. "Yes."

"All right, fine. Don't tell me. I'm just worried is all."

"You shouldn't waste your energy worrying about me. You have far more important things to worry about."

"So how can you save him? You couldn't heal his heart before."

"May I borrow your knife?"

Jynx hesitates. It's not that he thinks Iai is planning to hurt Kaine. He knows better. It just doesn't answer his question. He pulls the knife from its sheath and watches the shifting blue lines on the blade.

"Please trust me," Iai says. He holds his hand out for the knife.

"You're crazy, you know that?"

"Of course I know that."

Jynx places the handle of the knife in Iai's waiting palm. As soon as Iai closes his hand on the knife, the lines on the blade's surface begin to glow bright blue.

Iai watches the blade for a minute, almost as if its reaction to him surprises him. He presses the tip of the knife into the thick blue vein in his left wrist. A pearl of blood glimmers in the glow of the blade. Then he opens his arm.

"What the hell are you doing?" Jynx asks. "Slitting your wrists isn't gonna help."

"Hush. Take his hand. Give him your energy."

Jynx takes a deep breath and does what he's told.

Feathers spill from the cut on Iai's arm. Jynx sees something else in the wound, but he can't tell what it is. He just sees a gentle silvery light coming from it.

Iai sinks the blade of the knife into Kaine's chest over his heart. Jynx bites his tongue to keep from yelling at Iai to stop. He closes his eyes and concentrates on moving his energy to Kaine. He can feel something happening, a slow shift rather than a draining sensation. The more he concentrates, the clearer the feeling becomes until he can feel four distinct energies. His, Kaine's, Iai's and the leylines. The leylines are actually coiling themselves around the three of them, and Jynx can hear the low murmur of the children of Phoenix.

Iai gently pulls open the small slit he made in Kaine's chest. He can see Kaine's heart inside and the massive tears in the muscle's walls. Kaine's blood is thin and cold on Iai's fingers. It's almost too late. From the slit on his arm, he pulls a large silver feather wrapped in a gummy membrane of sparkling blue. He slips it into Kaine's chest, and it wraps tight around Kaine's heart. He removes three more feathers from his arm and surrounds Kaine's heart with them. They envelop Kaine's heart and seal the tear. Then Iai heals the opening, and the cut in his arm fills with the small white feathers he's used to seeing. The feathers turn dark with blood and harden quickly. He puts his hand over Kaine's heart and feels a strong, steady beat. He's not sure how long those four feathers will keep Kaine alive, but he knows it will be at least long enough for the twins to do what they need to do. "I'm done," he says.

Jynx opens his eyes. He can feel changes in the energy. Kaine is stronger. Iai is weaker. "What did you do?" he asks. He sees no blood except what's on the knife and dried on the feathers on Iai's arm.

"I had something inside me that closed the tear in his heart," Iai says. "It's only temporary, really. He'll still have to deal with heart attacks every time he has a vision. I wish I could have done more."

"You hurt yourself."

"No, I'm all right. I'm just tired. You should rest, too."

"When will Kaine wake up?"

"Whenever his body is ready."

"What if it never is?"

"He'll wake up. I promise."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome."

When Iai has left the room, Jynx wraps the blanket tighter around his shoulders and falls asleep leaning against the wall.

VIII.

The darkness has been punctuated with the harsh, indistinct sounds and bright lights of nightmares. Kaine has tried to latch onto something, to follow one stream of visions or at least make them all slow down. He hasn't been able to grasp any of them. It all spins around in his head like a tornado, but he never gives up. He doesn't understand why things are that way. He has to know. He has been snatching at pieces of everything that whirls past his hands, and the only common thread is fear. He is dying and leaving behind a universe that lives in fear.

Now a calm silver light lowers on the darkness like a velvet drape. The cacophony falls silent. He feels warm. He listens to his heart beating. He opens his eyes and finds himself seated at a bar in a dim saloon. There are two men seated on either side of him. There are drinks on the bar. Kaine touches the glass in front of him, expecting it to be a dream phantom. The glass is solid and cold. The yellow liquid inside the glass smells of lemons and black liquorices. He tries to look around the saloon, but his perception ends with the glass of beer and his two companions.

"You ready?" the man on his left asks.

"Yup," says the one on the right.

"You wanna tell him or should I?"

"I started this thing. I'll do it."

"You didn't start a damn thing."

"Technically, no, but I wasn't speaking technically."

"Um, what the hell is going on?" Kaine asks.

Both men are silent for a minute. Then the one on the right turns to face him. He almost jumps off of his stool. It's Talon Konstantine. "You're a hell of a bounty hunter, kiddo," Talon says. "You're almost as good with my gun as I was. Damn, I miss those guns. But anyway, you're just not much of a psychic. I know you got an excuse. That's a fucking good one, too. You gotta learn to not be afraid to use what you have. Because the only way you'll get off this planet alive is to use that power."

"I can't use it."

"Yes, you can. Let it tear your heart in half because God's not gonna let you go that easy. She's lookin' out for you and Jynx. Why do you think Iai's here?"

"I thought he was Samurai's feather."

"He is, but Nick didn't send him here. Nick doesn't know what here is. God knows you can't do this alone. She's the one who pulled Iai across the Void. Shaman is supposed to be like a power outlet. You can draw on anything that has something to draw on. That means the other two star angels, the star demons, the leylines and Iai."

"It would kill him."

"You can't worry about that."

"I won't do that. He has a right to live."

"Sure. So does everyone else. Sacrifices have to be made. You wouldn't be here if Nick hadn't sacrificed himself to seal the Void. Iai knows what you have to do. That's why he's here. He's ready to make that sacrifice, and you have to be willing to make your own. I was. I realized that what really mattered was that the universe could be saved. If I had to die doing it, I would. I didn't have to, so it all worked out. The point is, I had to be willing to sacrifice anything to get it done. If you don't let it all go, you won't be able to stop Michiyo. When those trains run, they'll be running on the leylines. That's going to kill this planet. I can't tell you for sure what'll happen when she dies, but it's not gonna be pretty."

"But Jynx ..."

"You can't let him stop you."

Kaine looks into his beer and contemplates. It seems like a very strange dream. Then again, he's not at all sure it is a dream. He knows Talon is right. It's just hard. He looks up at the man on his left, who has said nothing. He's not surprised when he recognizes the man as Ryan Phoenix.

Ryan smiles at him and puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "There's a light at the end of the tunnel, kid," he says. "It's a train."

IX.

Kaine wakes up suddenly and sits bolt upright with his right hand over his heart. It thumps under his hand. It doesn't quaver. It doesn't skip. It simply does its job. He's skeptical for a minute, but nothing changes.

He looks around the room. There's an empty tray of food and a water pitcher. A blanket is draped over a chair next to the bed. He's alone. Carefully, afraid that his heart will stop at any second, he slides out of the bed. His clothes are neatly folded on top of a table in the corner. He dresses quickly, hoping the door doesn't open. It does, of course, just before he pulls his pants up.

Kumiko is so surprised to see Kaine awake that the door almost hits her in the face as it starts to swing shut on her. It slams into her shoulder, and she winces. "Damn door," she mutters.

Kaine laughs at her.

She shoves the door open again and steps into the room before the door can assault her again. "Don't laugh at me," she says. "I've been worried sick about you. You know, all I've done since I've met you is worry. So I think I deserve to not be laughed at."

"I'm not laughing at you."

"Don't give me that bullshit. Just ..." Her eyes fill with tears, and her chin puckers.

"Kumiko ..."

She falls into his arms and gazes up into his eyes. He wipes away the tears that begin to fall and pulls her closer. Their eyes lock. They don't know how long they remain like that, and they don't care. For those few moments, nothing else matters. Her fingers move over the scars on his chest like she's reading Braille. He breathes in the smell of her hair and her skin. She moves her hand to the back of his head and starts to pull his mouth towards hers. This time, there's no interruption, and they kiss.

X.

The sunlamps dim slowly, and Zodiac slumbers in the blackness. A small, bluish light from the very top of the temple gives the illusion of moonlight. The twins walk along the concrete walkway that rings the city. The cavern walls, about a hundred yards away from the walkway, glitter with cold moisture. There's no sound except for their footfalls on the walkway. They know the trains are coming. They know that Michiyo can feel where they are. Leaving Zodiac wouldn't help. She'll destroy the city anyway. The people rely on the leylines, after all, and that means less power for Michiyo's trains. Michiyo is determined to have the trains running again, and she'll destroy everything that gets in her way.

They know that Michiyo has spent the last twenty years digging tunnels for her trains that run along the leylines and start at the underground terminal in Angel City. They know she wants the whole line to terminate in Rune because the leylines are shifting that way. Rune is where the most power is. It's also where the planet will soon give birth. Michiyo's putting the tracks back together on the surface to make it easier to get to Rune. Under the ground, the planet's natural defenses keep Michiyo from digging more tunnels.

They don't understand why Michiyo wants the trains to run again, and they don't care. What matters is protecting Phoenix. When they feel the rumble of the trains blasting along their tracks and hear the howl of the whistles, they're ready.

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-06-09
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