A nightingale in a golden cage,

That’s me locked inside reality’s maze.

Come someone make my heavy heart light,

Come undone. Bring me back to life.

A nightingale in a golden cage,

That’s me locked inside reality’s maze.

Come someone make my heavy heart light,

It all starts with a lullaby.

The Escapist, Nightwish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNkZzaVQKdY

“Why do you play this game?”

Kimi paused and stared at the board in response to the question, the piece representing one of her units still in her hand. She looked up at her opponent.

“You’re not just asking about the one on the board, are you?” Kimi asked with narrowed eyes.

“Of course not this silly little tactics game. The one with all the lives out there under this dome,” her opponent replied with a slight smirk and a wave of a hand.

“I’m not playing a game,” Kimi replied firmly.

“Oh come now Kimiko. You know I’m the only person you can be completely honest with. Don’t deny that you find it refreshing.”

Kimi stared back hard for a moment. “I’m playing this game to try and move to a different one. I don’t want to just be a pawn playing by someone else’s rules.” She looked down at the board on the table, the created another hovering above with her illusions. “If the original board is the dome, played by all the forces inside, this one is the one for the States, played by the Qu’dani. And right now their only opponent are the servents of the Malevolent Eye, well, the servents of his puppet master. Who’s the Quidani think are locked out. And above that…” another larger board appeared. “The puppet master Alpha himself, who can move freely because no one is playing against him. And then you have the galactic board. And above them all….” The last illusionary board fill the whole room for emphasis. “The game being played between the dead hand of the Vren against whatever gribblilys are on the other side of that barrier. And I’m tired of all this. Tired of just being a cog in this machine. If I can’t be at the top, I want to re-write the rules.”

The small smirk on her opponents face had grown larger as Kimi’s explanation, almost turning into a rant, had gone on. “And what about this little game. Our friendly competition?”

Kimi took a deep breath, finishing her move.

“I suppose… I’m just trying to follow the Qu’dani mindset. If I’m supposed to lead them I sorta need to understand how they think,” she explained with a sigh. “I don’t WANT to lead them. I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

“You want to take control of the board of life, yet aren’t willing to take responsibility for a small group of alien warriors.”

Kimi looked up with an expression not to dissimilar to a rabbit caught in a pair of headlights. “It’s…. it’s not like that….”

“What have I told you about lying to me Kimiko?” asked her opponent with a mocking wave of a finger. “Besides, it not like you ever will take control of the Qu’dani, let alone change any rules of life. How can you expect to defeat someone like Wrex alone when you can’t even take on one pathetic fanatic?”

“He…. He was being empowered!” pointed out Kimi.

“And Wrex isn’t powerful?” her opponent countered. “You can’t stand toe-to-toe with any Qu’dani footsolider. You can’t even track down your childhood friend. And you KNOW you have to do this alone. None of your friends will be there for you to hide behind, or any of your illusions. Or any powers. Nothing but your strength and your skill.” There was a mocking laugh. “You shouldn’t even fight him. That would be one way to stop being a pawn. Everyone expects you to face him. No one would expect you to pull out. And it’s the only way to ensure you survive.”

Lip trembling slightly, Kimi tried and failed to fully hide the fear she was feeling from the very idea of the fight. She wanted her opponent move pieces on the board, taking out the piece representing Kimi’s artillery and almost encircling her force.

“Why can’t I ever beat you?” Kimi moaned.

“You worry too much about trying to save all your units rather than succeeding at the mission,” was the simply stated reply. Kimi looked hard at the board for a moment, then moved a piece. “Oh! Sacrificing your warriors?” her opponent asked amused. “You’re willing to send them to their deaths in a slim hope of victory?”

“It just a piece on a board,” said Kimi quietly.

“And isn’t that how you’re trying to see everyone else? Just pieces on a board. You can’t have it both way’s Kimiko. If you want to play with their lives, you can’t be shy about them ending. You say you wanted to be in control, but you’re not willing to make the steps needed to do so.”

“I want to be in control so I CAN keep everyone alive,” Kimi almost shouted back.

“Why bother? Humanity despises you Kimiko. They’re not worth your compassion.”

“Not all of them,” Kimi insisted. “And they are being influenced by that dark force. It’s making them do evil things”

“Do you REALLY believe that?” her opponent laughed. Kimi looked down.

“No,” she said quietly. “Maybe… encouraging them… but humanity doesn’t need much encouragement.”

“So why save them? You know you’re better than them, even if in all your interviews you say everyone is equal to keep them pacified.”

“So of them… are innocent,” said Kimi, still quietly.

“As yes, the children.” The voice of Kimi’s opponent started to soften. “A shame they’ll grow up just as bigoted as the rest of their race.”

“No! I can change that! I can save them!” insisted Kimi

“From themselves, maybe,” said her opponent, the voice turning harsh again. “But from extinction?”

“W-what?” Not expecting that line, Kimi’s movement on the board left a lot to be desired.

“This world is doomed. We both know it Kimiko. Whatever force the Vren have kept locked away will sweep this planet bare, if they don’t just wipe it from the stars. This is where they’ll come through in force, and it took the reboot of the universe to slow them down last time. What chance will this pathetic ball of rock have against that sort of power? It doesn’t matter how weak the Vren’s plan may make them, if they are any sort of threat, Earth will be destroyed.”

Kimi watched as her opponent moved her pieces, wiping Kim’s own force out.

“Just like that.”

“I… I’ll find some way to survive,” insisted Kimi. She didn’t even bother challenging her opponent’s claims about the fate of Earth. It was how she felt. “I’m not going back to that realm of Death. I don’t care how much those rivers have changed it, I am NOT going back there, whatever it takes.”

“Then why do you still plan on facing Wrex?”

“To save my parents!” said Kimi.

“Ah yes. Saving them will make everything perfect, won’t it?” mocked her opponent. “Your world will suddenly turn into sunshine and rainbows. Forget it Kimiko. You’ll be too old to be able to return to any form of family life with them, assuming they even remember you. Maybe they even have more children now? Maybe despite being in that prison they have their own family now, and you’re just some distant half-forgotten memory they don’t even think about any more. They’ll have forgotten all about you. Assuming they wanted you as a daughter in the first place, and they weren’t also planning on turning you into a living weapon to fight the Qu’dani High Lo…”

“SHUT UP!” screamed Kimi, sweeping her hand across the board, sending the pieces flying across the room.

“K-kimi?” Isaac’s nervous voice came from the doorway. Kimi blinked a few times, turning to look at the teenager with a slightly confused look. “I… I was looking f-for you, then I heard you shout. Is.. everything alright?”

Kimi looked back blankly for a moment before replying. “Yes. Everything is fine Isaac.” She looked at her watch. “Is… that the time. Wow. I thought it was like an hour earlier. I… I must have been daydreaming.” She looked down at the board, as if surprised to see it there. “What have I been doing?” she wondered quietly to herself.

Whisper whisper in the dark,

Tell me what you see,

Poisoned by your fly infested poetry.

Liar Liar on the wall,

Give the world to me,

A wasteland or a monarchy?

Lair lair,

Tell me what you see…

Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy), Kamelot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDLZ6Mqy7AM

(Bonus Track: Save the World, Leah. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fucTNaN0sxo )


Ravenwatch: Heralds JC_MUNRO