“I think she’s dead.”
“It’ll be the fifth time. I really don’t think it’ll wor—”
(2)syl shot Phoenix an annoyed glance. Phoenix sighed and rolled his eyes.
He flipped the ignition switch once more. No response. The boat’s charred control panel was smashed and melted. The ignition switch was one of the few devices on the panel that was recognizable.
“See, I told—ah, never mind. It’s a dead j’aa, all right. I guess we could try fixing it.”
Fixing things was not one of Phoenix’s strong suits, so he kept trying the ignition. He vigorously flipped the switch for the sixth, seventh, and eighth times in rapid succession. On the ninth time, it broke off in his hand.
He looked down at the broken metal piece in his hand, then up at syl. She was scowling. Phoenix smiled, sheepishly as he shrugged.
“I can’t believe you just did that, bangboy!” syl exclaimed.
“Listen, syl, it’s not like it was doing us any good anyway,” he responded defensively. “Besides, now it’s settled. We have to fix it. How good are you at fixing things?”
“Not very good. At least, I’m pretty sure I’m not.”
“Well, I’m sure I’m not.”
Phoenix wiped a little sweat off his forehead. The sun was now high, and its rays beat down upon the two. Phoenix’s tattered dark blue jumpsuit was warm to the touch. His body still ached somewhat, but the warmth was soothing.
Better enjoy it while I can. It’ll
probably be a bit chilly tonight.
He rolled up his sleeves. The bird-shaped cut pattern was still visible on the back his hand, but it seemed to be healing quite nicely. On the other hand, the BAT prison number tattoo was not fading.
“Glitch. Where’s Ta-Kyn or Greasy when you need them? In fact, I’d even settle for K’Thos.”
“K’Thos,” syl said quietly.
Phoenix sighed. “And I was just getting to almost like him too. It’s a shame.”
“It’s possible that he’s still alive. We managed to make it out in one piece—more or less.” (2)syl nursed one of her cuts.
“I wouldn’t bet on it. I don’t think tin cans really float. Did you know much of him?”
“No. I think the only time I really even saw him was when you guys were fighting. You?”
“Well, we spent a few days together. After he discovered that I hated his enemies as well, he was very apologetic. He kept hanging around me, trying to atone for destroying my Firehawk—aka ‘Plan A.’ At first he was annoying, but he turned out to be rather helpful. He fixed my boat.”
“Then we wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for him,” syl added.
Phoenix paused, as her statement impacted his mind. He nodded.
Why did he help me? Was it out of some sort of code of honor? Just because he felt guilty? Why? I wouldn’t have done that.
“You’re right. And I never got a chance to thank him.”
Phoenix took a long look towards the horizon and smiled slightly.
“Thank you, K’Thos, wherever you are.”
“Now I have a different question,” syl stated as she sat up. She picked up the sever-whip.
What did she do that for? Is she planning on using that thing…on me? Why would she--
“Uhhh…okay,” said Phoenix, hesitantly.
(2)syl smiled in a rather mischievous way. She fingered the sever-whip, then slipped it into the pocket of the trench coat.
Phew! I shouldn’t overreact like that. You always have to be cautious with women, though.
When she brought her hand back out of the pocket, it was holding a small multi-colored cube with various geometric patterns on it.
“What are you doing with this?” syl asked.
Glitch, it’s that cube thing that belonged to Jazon. I had forgotten all about that.
“Oops, forgot that was in there.”
“How could you forget about something like this?” syl asked in amazement.
“You know what that thing is?”
“No. What is it?”
“Lost technology. It’s a braingram, to be specific.”
“How do you know all this?” Phoenix demanded.
(2)syl shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“How convenient,” Phoenix muttered. “So, what, exactly is a braingram?”
“It’s a way of sending a message from one person to another, except it doesn’t use text or audio, or even holographic video. The message is transmitted directly into the brain of the recipient.”
“That’s pretty impressive! I wonder who it’s for.”
“You mean, it’s not for you?”
Phoenix paused and mulled over syl’s question for a moment.
A message for me? Maybe it is. But Jazon could have just simply spoken with me. Why would he give me this? I don’t understand.
“I’m not sure, to be honest.”
“Well, where did you get it? Did someone give it to you, or did you steal it from someone?”
“Someone gave it to me…basically.”
“Well, then it’s probably for you.”
“Okay, so how do I use it?”
“I have no idea.”
“Great. Well, let’s see if we can’t figure it out.”
Phoenix and syl took turns trying to activate the cube. They pushed, pulled, and jiggled it in every way they could, to no avail.
I doubt we’ll figure it out, but at least it passes the time. I wonder what it’s all about. Is it really for me? Why would Jazon give me this? What was he doing with lost technology, anyway?
“Here, your turn,” syl said, as she handed the braingram to Phoenix. He half-heartedly fiddled with it for a few seconds before putting it down. He gazed deeply into her eyes--brown, black, then back to brown again.
“I suppose there are some puzzles I may never figure out.”
The couple watched the sunset in silence. The orange-red ball of fire was slipping slowly into the ocean.
Phoenix used his finger-mounted omnidriver to scratch a small line in the side of the boat.
“Why did you do that?” syl asked.
“Just to keep track of the days. One down.”
The final rays of sunlight flashed green for an instant, and then were gone, somewhere beneath the sea. Any warmth the sun had provided seemed to have disappeared completely with its light. The cool breeze that had previously gone unnoticed now seemed like a chilling gale.
The cold seemed to penetrate Phoenix’s jumpsuit all too easily. A chill swept over his body. He noticed that syl wasn’t fairing any better. She was sitting down, huddled off to the side, starting to shiver.
I’ve never worn my trench coat with nothing underneath, but it can’t be that warm by itself. This could be a very long, very unpleasant night—for both of us.
Phoenix rubbed his eyes. He felt exhausted.
How can I be exhausted? All I did was sit around in a boat all day.
“We should probably try to get some sleep.”
Between shivers, syl nodded in agreement.
Phoenix removed his belt, which held his pistols, collapsible sais, and a few other items, and tossed it carelessly off to the corner.
“Where’s that emergency blanket?”
* * *
“This isn’t very comfortable,” Phoenix finally blurted.
“No, it’s not,” syl agreed.
Underneath the micro-thin emergency blanket, the two huddled. Two bumps—a larger and a smaller—underneath a sheet of silver.
The cold neo-plastic deck prevented Phoenix’s body from warming up. He tried pulling his end of the blanket around and underneath him, but it didn’t make it nearly as far as he would have liked. He could only guess that syl was having the same problem because his end of the blanket seemed to be gradually getting smaller.
That little thief!
He would have gotten angry at her, but she was shivering enough that he couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. Poor naked girl.
“The blanket-side is fine, but the boat-side is glitching cold!” he finally said in frustration. He thought about the situation for a moment, and then came up with an idea.
“I think the wind has died down a bit. This might work better the other way around.”
* * *
“I’m not sure this better.”
“I’m sure it’s not,” syl scowled. “It’s colder. I feel exposed now, and I think the wind has picked up again.”
“You sure do complain a lot. You got any bright ideas? I’ll be glad to listen to them, that is, until my ears get numb.”
(2)syl glared at Phoenix, but then started to smirk.
“Just one. But we’ll have to be a bit closer.”
* * *
“There. Now isn’t this better? I feel much warmer.”
“It’s warmer,” Phoenix said flatly, but he wasn’t sure that it was better.
The emergency blanket was now a silver tube that completely encircled the couple.
Both lay on their sides, and syl’s small frame was nestled closely against Phoenix’s much larger one. Her back was pressed against his front side, and her head came up to his mouth. And the worst part, Phoenix decided, was that she insisted on him wrapping his arms around her. But it was, in fact, warm. He couldn’t think of any better solution to their sleeping dilemma, and he was rapidly becoming too tired to care.
“Yes, and it’s comfortable too.”
“I’m not comfortable.”
“That’s just because you don’t like being this close to a wooooomaaannn.”
Phoenix didn’t respond.
“Well, get over it. We’re in survival mode, here.”
Silence finally settled for a few moments. Phoenix noticed all the aches in his body again, but he could tell that his multitude of bumps and bruises were beginning to heal. His body had always been fast-healing (which came in handy, seeing as how frequently he got knocked around).
Phoenix finally started to relax. The waves gently rocked the boat and played peaceful, lapping sounds on the hull.
The hard deck was a bit annoying, as the razor-thin emergency blanket provided no cushion. However, Phoenix was much more comfortable than he had admitted. A towel, turned pillow, supported his head, and despite the layers of clothing between them, he found syl to be quite warm and pleasantly soft. I guess it could be worse.
In a few brief moments of weakness, he actually enjoyed having syl’s body intertwined so closely with his. Her hair was in his face, and he could feel her body slowly undulate as she breathed. I’ve forgotten how good this feels.
He was only seconds away from unconsciousness, when he noticed that syl was moving her legs. Suddenly, he realized that one of his pant legs was being hiked up. Wait a second, here, she’s not wearing any sho—. But the thought came too late to be of any use.
“YAAAA!!!” Phoenix screamed in agony.
“Sorry. My feet were cold.”
This is gonna be a long night.
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