*******NOT AN INCH*******

***by Paladin Knight***
*Email -*

*For Colin, who taught me that tears heal*

I can see them running ahead of me. Trying to escape their fate. Trying to escape death.

They can't. I, of all people should know. I can't count the number of times I've stared the Reaper in the face and won. Sure, you can escape and run until it catches you another day. But you can't escape forver.

Still, I keep up. I could run circles around them if I wanted to. It would be so easy.

She trips. I watch her. The little girl with the red bonnet trips. Relm.

I wonder if she'll ever know. I wonder if the old man will ever tell her. He knows. I know he knows. I can see it in his eyes, even as hard as he tries to hide it from me. I've learned to read people. It's a skill you force yourslef to learn, when you do what I do to earn your keep in this world.

I help her to her feet. She scampers off, chasing after the others, calling thanks to me as she runs.

I stop for a moment. Stop running.

I'm tired of running.

So tired of it all.

I'll let the Reaper win. This time, I'll let him.

I turn up a side passage, running on a converyor that has long sice stopped due to the quaking of the tower. The dog tries to follow me.

I turn around. He nuzzles up against my leg. He dosen't want to leave me. I can tell. And I can understand. We've been through a lot together. He's the only one I trust anymore.

I'll miss him.

Crouching beside him, I whisper in his ear that he must watch the girl and keep her safe. He looks at me. I can see he understands.

Sometimes, I think he's the only one that understands me anymore. The only one that truly understands.

I'll really will miss him.

I see him run off. He'll catch up to the others in no time at all. I should know better than anyone. I've seen him run down my marks hundreds of times.

He'll catch up.

I turn around and run up the side passage. It's a dead end. Perfect. I couldn't have hoped for better.

I lean against a wall and make myself comfortable. It won't be long now. At least I don't have to wait to die.

Death dosen't scare me anymore. Dosen't even make me flinch. When you become a mercenary, you learn not to fear death. You learn to accept it as a matter of life. It's the one guarantee of living. The life of a hired killer isn't full of guarantees. Death actually makes me feel...peacefull. The stars only know I've seen it enough times to almost understand it. Sometimes I feel death. I suppose I should. There's never been a target I didn't eventaully get. I was the best.

The best.

The best dosen't count for much now.

The shuddering of the tower intensifies. I brace my back against the wall of junk I am leaning against. It's almost time.

I'm actually thankful to be dying. There are some things on this earth that I won't miss.

Thankfulness. Now that's something I haven't felt in a long time. Casting your emotions in stone makes them surprise you when they surface.

Emotion. Now there's somthing I definetly won't miss. I don't like emotions. They make you hesitate. When you do what I do, the one thing you can't ever do is hesitate.

I hear rumblings from deep with in the tower. I know it's about to end.

There's a roar from overhead. I look up. The airship screams over me.

So they made it after all. Well, that just means they'll die one day later.

One more day that I don't have. Oh well. I can't afford to be sentimental about it. Not even now. Hell, I can't even remember HOW to be sentimental.

As I look up, I see a large piece of rubble right above me. It's being dislodged by the quaking of the tower. I can see it start to fall. Straight towards me.

Well, it's about damn time.

It comes.

I don't blink. I don't move.

Not an inch.

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