“Have you had terrorist training, Jazz?” I asked, unsure which answer I would prefer.
She laughed under her breath and half sat on the window sill. “That really depends on where you stand.” She looked at my feet. “I have had extensive training, in a number of different fields. Most of them have been military.” She looked into my eyes. “You see, Celia.” I could see she wanted me to understand. “I… Well… Ever since I was born I have been involved in one type of war, or another.”
I said nothing, just waited for her to continue.
She leant forward. “I was born in the F.L.Q. just before the â€˜War Of Liberation’. My parents were members of an Anarchist commune involved in the war. When the Americans and Europeans offered a truce, most Anarchists accepted it. Our group was one of the few that did not. We fought on until I was eight. I learnt the basic operation of guns and bombs almost as I was learning how to talk. There was always some member of the group out raiding, setting bobby traps, that sort of thing.” She looked into my eyes.
“My main dream was to get good enough so I could go out with them, but I never got the chance. When I was eight we finally got cornered. We held out for six months.”
Her eyes were now seeing memories and her voice was intense. “You have probably seen pictures of the survivors of the South American concentration camps; well that’s what we looked like. Six months of constant vigil, constant fighting, constant hunger. Low on air, power, water, food.”
She was as tense as a compressed spring under a ton of steel. “Twenty people came out alive. Eighteen kids under twelve, and two adults. The others went out through an air lock, one by one, naked.”
She paused for a moment. Her eyes focused on me, but she was still seeing her memories. “I fought the people who came to help us kids, until I was old enough to run away and not get caught. I fought with people who fought for money. I fought with people who fought for their beliefs. I fought with people who fought because they knew no other way to live. I fought, and fought, and fought. I aimed at this, at that, at anything and everything. But mostly at myself.” She half laughed, “I’m still alive because I automatically step out of the line of fire.”
I smiled back.
She sat up, “Then when I was twenty two, during what I would have called a dull patch, I started to think, really listened to my heart. I thought about all the people I had known, who were dead. About all the strangers even. I thought about all the suffering and destruction I had been involved in.”
She looked into my eyes, her soul in plain view. “I was on an orbiting station, waiting for orders from my current employer. And all that I had been locking up inside for the past twenty two years came out in one go. It stopped me dead. I didn’t know how to handle it. So I got into my suit, went out the air lock, jetted away from the station, shut down all my systems and waited.”
She lowered her voice and lent towards me. “Have you ever been alone, Celia. I mean really alone. Have you known that you are going to die? I don’t mean just intellectually at some time in the distant future. And I don’t mean in an action situation where all you can do is react and have no time to think. But when all you can do is think. When you have no one to speak to, but yourself; when you have no one to listen to, but yourself. When you have the rest of your life to think about it, and know exactly how long that is.”
I did not mention my worst nightmares, or my most vivid memories. She was too intense in her own fears to listen to mine.
She paused and looked at me again. “I can tell you haven’t, because it changes you.” She sat up straight, “It changed me.”
She composed herself and laughed. “Now I’m sounding like a script for a soap opera.” She shrugged, stood and took a deep breath, “Let’s just say that I’ve been around a lot and that the police are very interested in what I am doing in London.”
I knew better than to ask what she had been doing, so I asked, “What are you going to do now?”
She smiled for the first time that afternoon, “Relax Celia, I didn’t come here to plant bombs, or smuggle weapons or any of that shit.” She stopped smiling, “I came for a funeral of a friend.” She spread her hands, “And I stayed.”
I smiled at her, “Somehow I find myself believing you. But then I am very gullible.”
She smiled back. “So now that we’re friends again, what do you suggest we should do now?”
I sniffed and looked around, “Well if you do not mind me saying so, perhaps we could leave this place.”
She laughed, “I’m right behind you on that one.” She gestured towards the door.
I turned and led the way out. As we were going out her door I turned and asked, “Are you sure that your flat will be safe?” I looked up at her behind me on the steps.
She smiled and waved her hand in dismissal, “There’s nothing left to steal or break, Celia.”
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