I've been looking for my parents killer. No luck so far. I can't find anyone willing to do it at a price I can afford. Yes the old jokes are still the best. That one's so old I can't remember who I stole it off. I am looking for someone to kill my parents though. I couldn't bring myself to do it if I'm honest. I'd end up jizzing all over the place leaving a lot of DNA evidence. I've got to outsource. Also there's the small matter of the multi-million dollar life insurance policies I recently took out on their lives. The premiums are huge, but since I'll only be paying them for a couple of months I look on it as an investment. As does my accountant. Those policies could implicate me in their tragic murders. It costs a lot more if they have to make it look like an accident or murder suicide. It might be worth it though. I'll run it past my accountant. I want them to suffer though. As much as I did when they threw away my teddy bears and forced me to go to school at the tender age of 25. Then there was that time they demanded I move out of their basement and got a job. More than ample justification for parricide in anyone's book.
(The copyright to this image is the property of Educate Me.)
Scarlet awoke the following morning to find Jake had departed. Although he'd left something to eat, wrapped in leaves, by the fire. The smell of it wasn't fish like. This caused her to investigate the contents. White meat. Indicating he'd murdered a bird of some kind. A bit tough, but quite tasty. She cleaned her fingers off then headed through the house out into the street. He was at the far end of it, wielding a bow if she wasn't mistaken. Well she'd do something constructive as well. Inspect a few of the nearby houses randomly. Knowing her search would be fruitless in advance. When the occupants had left they'd taken everything with them. It was a well planned operation. Ruling out a flesh eating virus and zombies who ate furniture and fittings.
She hadn't meant to, at least not consciously, but she found herself heading in his general direction. The feeling of safety had rapidly overcome their wariness. All their plans to sleep inside and barricade the doors being discarded. There was nothing in the least bit menacing here. Mildly disappointing in one way. Very soothing in another. She'd been stretched taut by her experiences for such a long time. Unable to escape the consequences of her duplicates actions. Knowing that the sundered personality was hers as much as her current one. There was nothing anywhere. She discovered a store. No sign outside. Only the empty hangings for one. No way of knowing what had been sold there. Eventually she reached the end. Jake had moved further away from the buildings. Leaving her to come to an inevitable conclusion.
"You're avoiding me aren't you?" She called out.
The Wanderer loosed an arrow into an improvised target.
"Guilty as charged." He belatedly replied.
She ambled over, as though she were casually sneaking up on him. Afraid she might spook Jake. Sending him scurrying into the tall grass and scrub. Surely with a settlement of this size there should be farm land. Scarlet put in a pin in that for now. Continuing until she was level with him.
"Half of me knows why. The other half of me wants to know why. Must be the whole schism thing."
His swift glance at her impossible to read.
"Which one is it going to be then?"
"The why one. As in why are you avoiding me impossible man?"
He pulled another arrow out of the ground beside him, knocking it before sending it into the target a centimeter from the others.
"A whole mess of reasons. A couple of which make sense. You said I was being over protective. So I thought I'd give you some space. Let you breathe. Give you time to regain your bearings and a few other cliches. Marshall your thoughts and feelings. That's another one for you."
That definitely wasn't all though.
"What's the other one? The one you are so reluctant to reveal."
Another quick look, another arrow sent into the mark. He reached for the last arrow. Stopped and swung towards her. Made as if to speak. Repeated this. Then laid down the bow.
"I thought you might want to... Sort out your feelings for Ydrie. He's still back on the ship. Recuperating."
She puffed impatiently.
"What makes you think I have any feelings for a man I don't even know?"
Jake shrugged, dismissively she thought.
"You say that, but something about him attracted you or her or whatever. Then there's the small matter of you threatening to shoot me in the face if I didn't stop beating on him. That was no minor action given the number of people present who wouldn't have stood idly by. He must mean something to you for you to act like that. To protect him from me."
Oh, that was a really good point. It reinforced every impression her doppelgangers hatred for him would have produced. In a way she'd attempted to lay down her life for Ydrie. The man she was now claiming to have no feelings for. Being honest with herself she wasn't sure why she'd gone to that extreme. Now she'd have to examine her own motivation for what had been an instinctive reaction. Leading Jake to the indisputable conclusion she deeply cared for the man. Did she? Was there a subliminal attachment to him. Her other self had been in love with him. Had stated it scores of times. Whether as a means to exploit him or as an honest profession, didn't matter at this juncture. Scarlet would have to prevaricate while she delved into her own motives.
"I can see why you might think that." Her mind frantically dredging through her emotions to find what they truly were.
"A lot passed between the two of you after all." Jake picked up the bow again.
That wasn't what she wanted. Was it? For him to continue thinking something she didn't know was true or false. For this moment of honesty between them to end so quickly.
"Bodily fluids and bullshit as far as I could see." A tasteless quip was all she could come up with.
He smiled at least. It was stupid. Illogical. Yet she felt him expending that final arrow would be the final act in this scene.
"That sums up about 90% of all relationships in my experience. At least in the beginning. You don't really start being honest until you have each other locked in."
Jake was fitting the arrow to the bow. He'd be drawing it back and when it thudded in among all the others this would be dead and gone. Back in the memory palace with Pip? When she hadn't really been 100% sure she wasn't hallucinating again. The Ustraski ship. Jake had become connected to it. He'd seen and heard everything it detected, which was everything. Every kiss and caress. Every sweet nothing. Fast forward to freedom. The self loathing she'd felt, after everything had deepened, when she reviewed all that her copy had done. Worse still she'd sunk into self pity. Pip had run to him through an anomaly. It had hurt. Though she'd been avoiding the boatswain, her presence and friendship were all she had to cling onto. Speeding back to the ship. Entering the hold. Seeing him lift Ydrie into the air like a baby. Broken limbs dangling. He was going to shoot that arrow.
"I thought you were jealous." She exclaimed, only knowing the truth of this as she said it.
Jake paused in his shot.
"Really?" He looked so sad. So lost. She'd hurt him. "You really don't know me at all do you."
"Not right then I didn't. I was confused. Helpless and pathetic. I didn't know what Ydrie had done. That he'd killed Beebo and tried to kill Tamsin and Kaisha... It was me. I was jealous. Of you and Pip. I knew I'd lost both of you and all I wanted to do was cause you as much pain as I was in."
"I never meant to cause you pain. I know I did. I know me saying this makes no difference whatsoever, but it was all unintentional. I got lost in the adventures and as a result I lost you. Serves me right really."
Why she then said what she said was a mystery until after the fact.
"When you're the Wanderer, you can be such an arrogant prick. I know you weren't jealous of him. I want to believe I never did think that. That I was projecting my jealousy on you, because I couldn't handle knowing that was yet another flaw I had. While you and Pip were so fucking perfect together. She loves you, you know. Not.."
"I love her to. I know what you mean. In a lot of ways she reminds me of you."
"How I used to be you mean."
"Don't edit me." He chuckled ruefully. "How you are and always will be. That girl has got a very exciting future ahead of her. Wherever it takes her."
"I'm a bit jealous of Hermes to. Jesus Christ. I'm like that with everyone you love. It's like I thought it left less for me. Maybe I did. Perhaps that's where I went wrong. Well it's one of the ways I went wrong. Will you ever be able to forgive me?"
"You dumb ass. It's already done."
The sadness was gone from his eyes.
"I've got another confession to make. Back at the beginning when you caught me going through the computer records. I was looking for you, but I was also looking for your replacement in a way. Alain had confused me. For a time I thought he might be a new version of you. I had this idea with the infinite number of infinite universes. I got the notion there must be several versions of you in each reality. I had this idea there were alternative versions of us. I uh... I was trying to find a you that was better suited to me. As well as getting as much information out of that earth as I could before it ceased to exist or shattered due to causality paradoxes. Stupid I know."
He was laughing. That could be a good thing. He doubled over slapping his thigh. very nearly choking.
"I thought of it to." He gasped between snorts of mirth. "Which makes me as stupid as you were."
Now she was laughing helplessly as well. Was this funny? It seemed so. It didn't matter. Scarlet hadn't laughed in such a long time. A couple of idiots being idiotic.