“Hey, Uncle Soc?”Soc blinked, looking up from the porch steps at the little grey-eyed boy peering worriedly at him from the front door. He smiled softly, brushing his hair back from his eyes so he could see. “What is it, Phae?”
Phae stepped out onto the porch, putting his hands behind him to close the door as he leaned on it. “What's wrong, Uncle Soc? Saw you get up 'n leave when Kovu 'n Kiara started singin'. Ever'thing okay?”Soc closed his eyes for a moment, then sighed, beckoning for his nephew to come sit with him, which Phae gladly did, snuggling up to his teenaged bone-yard of an uncle and wrapping his arms around him, letting Soc put an arm around his shoulders and squeeze gently. He was quiet for a long minute, prompting Phae to look up at him in concern before he finally cleared his throat and spoke, looking out over the yard.
“I'm fine, Phae. It just hurts to listen to that song today.”Phae frowned, knowing that wasn't all there was to it, not when he saw the tears that glimmered in Soc's eyes. Something clicked – Uncle Soc had had tears in his eyes yesterday, too, on someone's birthday. “...you're missin' Aunt Theta 'gain, ain'cha?”
Soc chuckled weakly, raising his free hand to brush the tears from his eyes before leaning his head on top of Phae's, hiding his face so that Phae couldn't see him. “Yeah. Today's the day she died...and I just can't listen to that song. Makes me a sad panda.”Phae tightened his hug on Soc just a bit, knowing he was trying to make light of it for his sake, but it didn't stop Phae from feeling sad for his uncle. “I'm sorry, Uncle Soc. But...y'know she's watchin' over ya, so she's not gone-gone, you just can't see her.”
Soc had to close his eyes again and hold his breath for a moment, until he was sure he could speak without letting the tears falling from his eyes show in his voice. “Y'know, Phae...I bet you're right.”82. Clumsy
How he'd managed to fall out of the chair, then trip over the leg of that same chair, yet not manage to actually fall that time until he hit his face on the open door and instantly black his eye was beyond him. It was also beyond him how he managed to forget that his tea was hot until he'd burned his mouth to the point that he couldn't even taste the burn, then drop the cup from the shock, soaking the gauze patch on his chest and scalding the healing chemical burn underneath. By some miracle, the cup hadn't broken when he dropped it, but it did break when he stepped on it as he hurried to grab a paper towel and get the blistering-hot tea off of himself, driving a shard of it through the ball of his bare foot and making him yelp and fall again, hitting the held-together-with-rods bone between his left ankles on the side of the kitchen table and sending jerky spasms up his leg.
It had been four days...maybe it was time for him to actually try and get some sleep instead of going for another round of stimpaks to keep himself up while he tried to convince the bots working under him that he wasn't just some kid trying to tell them what to do. He didn't think he had the coordination to convince anyone that he really was trying to help and be there to defend their actions to that damned Brigadier today. The Center would just have to deal without him, that was all there was to it.83. Heal
Oh gods, that hurt. It felt like someone had decided to blow up a truck and send the front half of it halfway through his stomach. It didn't matter that that was what had actually happened, that's what it felt like.
He couldn't afford to stop, though, he had to get these two kids out of here before someone decided to blow something else up. The two of them were bleeding and scared, he couldn't just give in and leave them here, not now.At least the truck that had been blown up was an ore truck. The semi-liquified livingmetal oozing into the street might stop the little ones from bleeding. If spiderweb would stop plasma flowing, surely to gods livingmetal itself would.
So he turned the two kids loose for a moment and ran back the way they had just come, holding one arm over his stomach to stop his insides from spilling into the street, and scooped up a hot armful of the silvery ore, darting back and slapping oozing handfuls over the little girl's arm and her brother's head. They both cried out from the heat, but Soc saw through rapidly dimming vision that the plasma flowing from their injuries slowed to a trickle. He used the last remnants on himself, hugging the livingmetal ooze to his stomach, feeling the searing-white burn as the hot, gooey metal came into contact with his raggedly exposed intestines and stomach, pouring into the wound like boiling oil as it stopped the bleeding.If what it felt like before hadn't made him drop, that did. He fell to his knees, but the terrified cries of the children drove him forward even then, pushing the two of them ahead of him until he could climb back to his feet again and pull them with him out of the war-torn mining town, heading for the relative safety of the supply caves.
Soc wasn't sure which was worse: the 500 years overdue snowstorm that had separated him from the rest of the caravan and flung him gods only knew where when the wind yanked him out of the ravine...or waking up to find that he was frozen into the side of a vaitspirt's larder, stuck in next to unidentifiable, hard-frozen carcasses while the gigantic arctic carnivore blew its rancid breath into his ice-crystal-covered face.85. Sick
The sound of his own breathing woke him up, making him jerk as he blearily wondered what kind of bloody monster was dying in his bedroom. He realized he couldn't make his body work well enough to let him sit up and look just in time for him to start coughing, sending flecks of dark, old-looking blue plasma into his shaking hand as he choked. As he tried to regain his breath from the sudden, unexplained coughing fit, however, making another wheezing, 'deflated balloon' sound emerge from his own throat, he realized that there was no monster he couldn't see, the thing making that awful sound was him.86. Surprise
Soc was half-way expecting Tex to drag him out for his birthday, the way his big brother was grinning. But when Tex told him he had a special surprise for him and took him underground – which Soc knew Tex hated – getting swarmed by adorable, supposedly extinct firebugs was the last thing he'd expected to happen.87. Hunger
He'd almost forgotten himself and yelped out loud when one of them had patted him on the back earlier today. Somehow, he'd managed to turn it into little more than a tight-lipped smile, but his back had hurt for the rest of the afternoon. He'd managed to hold out until they decided to go grab something to eat, then, like usual, he'd made excuses to leave before the guys found out he didn't have the money to join them...or that if he tried to eat any of the things they were used to eating, he'd be sick in a matter of minutes.
He was sick anyway, by the time he got back to the falling-down deathtrap of an apartment building he lived in. He'd not had anything other than water in his stomach for the past week, just so he could try to make the rent on this gods-forsaken place. It hadn't done much good; he was still ten credits short for the rent that was due at the end of next week, and the eleven credits he had to his name at the moment had to go toward something to eat, otherwise he wasn't going to have the strength to find another job.Pulling off his armour in the tiny washroom, he stared into the broken mirror at himself, only getting more sick the longer he looked. He could count all of his ribs easily, and even from the side, he could see the jagged contours of his vertebrae, making him look like some kind of movie monster. Sores had burst open down his spine where he'd been whacked on the back this afternoon, weeping thin, watery-looking blue plasma.
Soc barely had time to dab gingerly at the sores and blindly stick cheap patches on them before his landlord was pounding on his door, demanding the month's rent, loudly telling anyone that would listen that if Soc didn't pay up today, he would be out on the streets tonight.The little scoutbot sighed, then quietly put his armour back on, tightening it as far as it would go and then some, trying to make it stop sliding, and went to answer the door, pulling out his money pouch and handing over everything he had but the single copper-coloured credit piece that wouldn't even grant him a spot in line at the nearest soup kitchen.
Guess this meant he was going hungry for another week.88. Hope
The first time he woke up just enough to hear that softly whispered 'I love you' as he was put to bed, he thought he was dreaming. When he heard it again a few nights later, he knew he wasn't, and it made him wake up enough to not let his new big brother go when Tex started to lean back and pull the covers up over him.89. Ice Cream
Soc grinned at the little girl currently pouting from on top of his shoulders, patting her back gently as he looked up at his son, nephew, and big brother, raising a brow at them. “Well, now that that's settled...whadda'ya say we go get ice cream before we melt in this heat? Then we'll go to the zoo. How's that sound?” When all he got was a small, disgruntled 'hmph' from the child that had her face buried in his hair, Soc just grinned, starting off toward the nearest ice-cream stand. “You keep that up, Mat, and I won't give you the backdoor access passes for the insect house.” He continued on, like he hadn't just made that 'threat' to his daughter. “Now, what kind of ice cream do you want?”
He'd stared down the barrels of blasters before. It still scared him, but not enough to make him break through the stone he'd turned his face into. He could deal with being shot or shot at, it had happened before. That was easy enough to prepare himself for, he'd went through that advanced interrogation training for scouts and 'agents' for a reason, after all.
But when the bot holding the blaster cranked it up to 'continuous arc' and began melting the skin off of his legs, he nearly bit his tongue in half before he managed to lock down and leave himself behind, his mind fading out to the sound of someone gleefully whispering “Fire, fire, fire, fire,” over and over again.