About The Laws of Space
The Laws of Space
Chapter 19 Concludes
The man was staring up at the sky, smiling while Lerner plead his case. “Kid, I’ve seen you around before. Just another Breather, like me. What’s with all this give a shit you got going on? What happened to minding your damn Space?”
“Well I’d like to tell you, but—”
“Never the mind. For a minute there it felt like I cared, but the feeling passed. Just let me enjoy the sky. It’s the one good thing about coming out here, dying a little more every day. At least the sky’s got some blue.” The old man was flat on his back again, head resting on cracked, interlaced hands.
“Nothing to live for?” Lerner asked, looking at the sky for different reasons. He wiped the hair from his eyes, seeing a Mech making mechanical gestures from above.
“Was there ever? To live is why you live. Then you die. I’m tired now, dying sounds reasonable. Maybe I was waiting for this Culling all along.”
Lerner knew he had to get moving—sad as he was, there was no time to lose. He ran for the path and grabbed the line, negotiating the rocks and the wood beams, trying not to look back.
“Good luck ki—” Then an explosion. Merchant bit down hard on his lip. The next terrace was twenty yards ahead. Just up a few more craggy steps and back to work. Mind on my shovel. Mind on my shovel. Why did I have to go down there with that crazy old fool? Why don’t I just listen to Webb and Alder? Mind on my shovel. Mind on my shovel.
Lerner clenched his left hand. It still held the tool of his trade. A few more steps to go. He was almost there. Just a day, just a normal day. Why did they kill that poor old fool?
It was the last thought of Lerner Merchant, L1. He died thinking of another, something rare in the Five Cities. He had made a sacrifice, a conscious decision to dissuade a fellow human being from self-immolation. That decision was read by the nearby Mech and the Sky Eye. They could read that give a shit firing off in his brain, and giving a shit was the greatest of all sins in the Five Cities, more worth culling than anything else.
Lerner’s exit was both noteworthy and singular. Noteworthy, as stated, for the fact that at the moment of death his thoughts were of another. Singular, because Lerner Merchant was the first person to ostensibly die for someone else in the history of the Five Cities.