Souls + Chapter 24
He was always cold. He'd nearly
died of the cold in space before the Sweeper ship picked him up. They'd
been kind, and done their best to take care of him and help figure out
who he was, but it was hopeless. There was no record of his fingerprints
in any database, and he could not remember his name, or anything else
about who he'd been before he'd ended up floating through space, badly
wounded and kept alive only by the emergency medical functions in his
The suit was OZ issue, so he'd probably been an OZ soldier, but why wasn't
there any record of him?
The Sweeper medic patched him up, treated his internal injuries, and kept
him under heated blankets, but deep down inside, he carried a chill that
couldn't be shaken.
Oddly enough, the lack of a name didn't bother him. The crew christened
him Joe, and he accepted it, but he knew he'd never been called Joe before.
It was just an accommodation for them. They had to call him something.
He discovered quite by accident that he knew something about suit mechanics.
He was working with the cleaning crew in one of the repair bays when he
overheard two mechanics arguing about how to jury rig a stabilizer on
one of the recon pods. Without thinking, he walked over, grabbed a micro
spanner, and altered the declination settings to that they would compensate
for the missing part. The others took one look at that and put him to
work in the shop. It was good to feel useful again, and there was a certain
seductive familiarity about it all, but he was still nameless and alone
inside, and still cold.
He dreamed some nights, dreams of fire and death and battle. He'd probably
been a suit pilot, but he wasn't sure. And there were other, different
dreams, in which someone was calling to him. It was distressingly indistinct;
sometimes it was just thinking he heard someone calling him by a name
he couldn't make out. In others, a vid phone call came in, but he couldn't
make the screen work to see the person's face, though he desperately wanted
to. The voice was distorted by static--he couldn't make out what the person
was saying, except that they were as desperate to get through as he was
to hear them.
He woke with his fists clenched and his heart pounding, covered in sweat.
Sometimes there were even tears on his cheeks. That's when the real coldness
closed in around him again, and no amount of blankets could fend it off.
After a few weeks he got scared of going to sleep. He drank coffee by
the pot, wandered the decks, and stared out at the blackness of space,
hating the emptiness, yet strangely drawn by it. Somewhere out there,
maybe there really was someone looking for him? That made him feel even
The Sweepers made port regularly, going from colony to colony to sell
salvage and take on supplies. Worn out by his dreams, he was becoming
useless at work, so one day he got off one day when they docked at L-1
and just wandered away, leaving his new friends and his new name behind
without a second thought.
He spent the next few days homeless, unable to find work and sleeping
in doorways. This colony had a rain cycle. Hungry and dirty, he wandered
through the cold downpour, not caring how it made his clothes cling to
him and plastered his unkempt hair into his eyes. He didn't care about
anything, and couldn't seem to find the energy to look for death. Instead,
he just wandered.
Then something very odd happened. He heard music in the distance, and
he recognized it. Not the tune, but the sound. It was a circus and for
the first time since he'd been pulled from space, he felt something like
Half starved, he staggered along as best he could toward it, and saw colored
tents and lights in the distance, beyond the town limits. It was so far,
and he was so tired, but he kept going. He was almost at the end of his
strength and the tents were still out of reach when a passing stranger
stopped with her bag of groceries and stared at him, her lovely blue eyes
wide with what appeared to be recognition.
"Trowa? Trowa, is that really you?"
The name meant nothing to him, but something about the young woman was
familiar. "Do you know me?"
She dropped her bags, burst into tears and grabbed him in a painfully
tight hug. "Know you? Of course I know you. You're my little brother.
Oh, god, Trowa, we thought you were dead! Where have you been? It's been
He had no idea what she was talking about, but he let her load him into
a cab and-wonder of wonders-she took him to the very circus he'd been
trying to reach. It was home, apparently. He made it inside the trailer
she claimed they shared, and collapsed in a dead faint, overcome with
hunger and a confusing mix of emotions he couldn't sort out.
The girl, Catherine, took very good care of him. It seemed she loved him
very much. She certainly told him so often enough. That was amazing, to
feel something like that. It hurt that he couldn't remember loving her
Other things came to him, though, just as his mechanic's skills had. It
seemed he'd been an acrobatic clown of some sort. The costume she gave
him fit. Looking at himself in the mirror, one half of his face lost behind
the grinning mask, he tried to remember who he'd been, but either he felt
nothing but a hint of the old deathly chill, bringing with it vague impressions
of pain and blackness. If he let himself dwell on such thoughts, he would
collapse in a shuddering heap. It was easier just to let it go, and work
in the here and now instead.
He liked working in the circus. He was good at what he did and found himself
coming up with new acts that the ringmaster praised and implemented. His
body remembered, once it recovered, how to flip and fly though the air.
It felt good, like he was really flying, and he grew stronger and more
confident as he practiced and performed.
They went from colony to colony, performing and drawing great crowds.
He heard Catherine and the others discussing the war on Earth, and grumbling
about the OZ presence here. That kind of talk brought on the bad feelings
again so Trowa avoided those discussions, sometimes even walking away
from the circus for hours at a time and losing himself in whatever town
they happened to be in. The others soon learned to keep such talk to themselves.
He healed and worked, but he wasn't happy. It made him feel guilty, because
Cathy could tell. She loved him and cared for him, but even she couldn't
drive away his inner chill, or the strange dreams that still haunted his
nights. By day, he lost himself in his work and told himself it didn't
matter. His life began here. Whatever had happened before, whoever he'd
been, it didn't matter.
He even started to believe it a little, and the dreams grew less frequent.
He was a headline act now, and worked with a lion, much to the delight
of the crowd. He might be dead inside, but perhaps that was better. He
even grew to value his emptiness, until that day when a stranger calling
himself Duo appeared backstage, calling him by name, calling him 'buddy'
and acting like they knew each other.
Trowa recoiled in horror. It made no sense. It was only a boy about his
own age, a rather pretty, harmless looking guy with big violet blue eyes
and a long auburn braid down his back. Trowa tried to listen to what he
had to say, but a sudden roaring started in his ears and the cold came
back, sapping the strength from his limbs. He collapsed, faintly aware
of Catherine ordering the stranger away. He slowly came to in her arms
and clung to her, shaking.
"It's all right, Trowa. You're safe. I won't ever let you get hurt again,"
Catherine soothed, rocking him in her arms. "You're my little brother.
You're Trowa, and you belong here, with me. I won't let that guy near
"But who was he?" Trowa whispered, still shivering, still cold.
"Nobody, Trowa. Nobody at all. Forget about him. He's nobody."
Trowa did his best to do just that, and quickly immersed himself in his
work again. He might not be happy, but he loved the circus. He loved the
way his body felt as he threw himself through the increasingly complicated
acts he devised and he loved the roar of the crowd. It filled him in a
way that nothing else could.
He forgot all about that braided stranger, until the day when a new one
showed up while he was tending the animals after the show. It wasn't like
last time, for some reason. This one was a petite, golden-haired, blue-eyed
young man so beautiful that the very sight of him, took Trowa's breath
away. All he felt was curiosity and concern, as he watched those big blue
eyes filled with amazement and tears as the boy gasped, "Trowa! It's really
"Who are you?" Trowa turned from the lion he'd been tending. "I'm sorry,
do you know me?" Suddenly, he hoped that answer was yes.
The boy took a hesitant step toward him, and Trowa found himself doing
the same. "What? Don't you recognize me, Trowa?"
Just then Catherine ran out from the tent and put herself between them
as if the stranger was going to attack him or something. "Trowa, get back
to the tent!"
"Yeah, sure, but sis-"
"Sis?" the other boy said, looking at Catherine, and then back at him.
"Get going!" Cathy ordered. "I'll look after feeding the animals. You
go help the manager, OK?"
"Sure, OK," Trowa replied. Cathy took care of him. She must know best.
All the same, this stranger made him feel something, so he lingered just
inside the tent, listening as Cathy rounded angrily on the boy.
"Why'd you come here? Are you planning to make him fight again?"
"Who are you?"
"Trowa's my brother. He belongs here."
"But Trowa's a-"
"No! I can't bear to see him suffer any more than he already has. He lost
his memory because his past is too painful for him. He doesn't want to
Trowa gripped the tent flap as a wave of dizziness swept over him. It
grew worse as he heard the stranger say sadly. "It's my fault, all my
fault, what happened to him and I'm truly sorry. Trowa sacrificed himself
to correct a terrible mistake I made." He was crying now. "I know apologizing
won't fix things, but I really am sorry!"
"If that's the way you feel, then just leave him," Cathy said angrily.
"Trowa's a lot happier now, being here at the circus with me and people
who love him and protect him."
The boy sadly did as she said. Still hiding in the tent, Trowa felt a
stab of pain in his heart and the coldness gripping him again, driving
him to his knees. He suddenly wanted to call out after him, call him back,
and find out who he was and what they'd been to each other. This boy had
cared enough to find him, and argue with Catherine, and there were still
tears in those beautiful blue eyes as he walked away.
// Wait, don't go! // Trowa was screaming inside, but he couldn't
find his voice or move to stop him before he disappeared. "Who is that?
I know him! I've met him before!"
By the time he recovered, the boy was gone, taking his secrets with him.
Cathy claimed to know nothing of him, except that he might have known
Trowa in the war.
"But that's over now," she told him, holding him close and stroking his
hair. "It's over and you don't need to ever worry about any of that again."
Trowa shivered against her. She was proably right, but now there was something
more than coldness inside him. In one small part of his heart, something
hurt. That night he had the vid phone dream again, but this time he could
see who was calling. It was that golden haired stranger.
[ch. 23] [ch. 25] [back
to Pyrzm's fic]