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18 October 2005 @ 09:20 am
14  
Boards don’t fight back. – Bruce Lee

The next morning, the first thing Klein had heard after having woken up had been the sound of Boko typing at his computer terminal. When he’d noticed that Klein had finally been up, Boko, ever the type to rise with the sun, had addressed him on a topic which had sounded very dear to him.

- A sculpture’s been stolen from Basilisk Museum yesterday afternoon. I’ve been reading about it all morning. I can’t believe any museum staff would care so little about what’s in it to allow things like that to happen. This isn’t the first time I’ve wished I could be in two places at one time. There’s no telling what’s going to happen to that sculpture now.
- Do you really think that the sculpture having been stolen has to mean that the museum staff can’t have cared about it?
- Of course! Remember, when you care enough about doing something, you can do absolutely everything you have to do to get it done. They must have bought the shoddiest security system on Earth because they didn’t want to have to pay for one which would have been worth enough to keep any real threat out.
- That’s probably what happened, yeah.
- We live in a world in which people can’t be bothered to do their jobs right.
- What are you getting at?
- I’ve already had time to apply for a job as a security agent, set two phone lines to be briefly redirected here at a second’s notice and hacked into the museum’s database and camera system which should soon be loaded and broadcast right... here. I’m going to have to ask you to be quiet for a moment because I should be getting a phone call right around... now.

That morning, Klein had discovered that Boko had been masterful with impressions. One believably falsified recommendation later, and Boko had taken his tools and picked up the car parts from where they’d been hanging to go put them back together at the surface in record time. He’d gone back down to wash up and put on a clean business suit, and he’d been on his way to his new job with Klein at the wheel.

- It’s okay for you to talk to people a little, but make sure you don’t give us away, okay?
- I’ll make sure not to, yeah.
- Good. This is going to be a delicate operation and although you do show promise, you’re still new at this. This time, you can watch, but consider yourself advised not to touch.
- All right.

Boko had exchanged friendly greetings with his new co-workers, and by then Klein had begun making a semi-conscious effort to keep his own cognitive dissonance mechanisms running well enough not to have been asking himself too many questions about why they’d been there. Boko had answered those questions very clearly when he’d used his newly acquired security access codes on lunch break to break into the restricted area in which the hydra who’d been watching all seven screens hooked up to the security cameras simultaneously still hadn’t been able to see him coming before three tongue lashes and four tail whips had knocked him out in a second and a half. Even without the system blueprints he’d memorized, having been able to leap, break his falls, look around in different directions, mask his presence and scuttle on walls and ceilings had made it a piece of cake for him to get past the lasers, trapdoors and tripwires to every glass casing, his claws cutting through them like so many knives through butter. He’d left them a free car in exchange for the truck he’d stolen from the museum to haul all the packed sculptures away before lunch break had been over.

Boko had spent the afternoon dismantling the truck to bring its parts down to be thrown in a corner pile and finding the perfect spot in Noah’s Vault for each and every one of his new acquisitions.

- Considering how easy it was to get through that, I think those sculptures will be much safer here, don’t you think so, Klein?
- This place does seem like it’d be a much less likely target, yeah.
- You don’t think of us as villains, do you?
- Of course not, although if we are, then let’s try to be the best damn villains we can be.
- Well spoken, my skunk.
- Thanks, Boko, that means a lot to me coming from you.

That night Klein had put his concerns and worries aside to live in the moment as much as he’d been able to.

The next morning, Boko had woken Klein up with what he’d told him had been terrible news. He’d told him to get ready as fast as he could because there hadn’t been enough time to explain. As they’d been running at a breathless pace toward a nearby cliff, Boko had told Klein that an old abandoned building facing it had been slated for demolition at one sharp on that day.

- It’s from two whole centuries ago, Klein, it’s an integral part of our history and heritage and these people want to destroy it simply because there’s no people and no profit in it. We can’t let them get away with this.

Klein had been too sleep-deprived and out of breath to have had enough time to formulate a coherent response before they’d reached close proximity of the building near the cliff with a wrecking ball crane inching toward it.

- Come on, my skunk, do your stuff!
- What?! I thought you’d said I was too inexperienced?
- Every caterpillar has to emerge from its cocoon as a butterfly sometime, and now would be a really good time for the one you are to do that, Klein!
- What do you want me to do?
- Spray it! Kick it! Destroy it!
- I can’t do that!

Boko had shrugged, rolled his eyes, shaken his head and breathed an exasperated sigh.

- I don’t have time for this. I should have learned by now that whenever I want something done right I should do it myself.

Before Klein had been able to articulate a reply to that, Boko had already gone into a mad dash toward the wrecking ball crane. The dash had mutated halfway there into an uncoiling tail-bouncing leap all the way to its side, which Boko had slammed right into, knees bending into a crouch and feet sticking to it for seconds. Then he’d straightened his legs, uncoiling his tail sideways under him to push the wrecking ball crane off the cliff, before having landed on his feet before Klein, puzzling over what the reason for his troubled expression could possibly have been.

- I’m sorry, we seem to be having a bit of a miscommunication issue to work through right now, Klein.
- No shit, Sherlock.
- There’s no need to be vulgar.
- You’re telling me I’m doing something wrong for being vulgar? Man, you just offed a person to save a building, are you sure you’ve got your own priorities all straightened up?
- Do I have to remind you that building had dozens of irreplaceable antiques in it?
- Antiques...?
- Those wrecking ball cranes are just assembly line production, so there must be thousands like it out there, you know.
- You think cranes and antiques are more important than people’s lives?
- Klein, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from living among the populations of dozens of countries, it’s that it’s safe to assume that everyone who belongs to a particular group is similar enough to everyone else in it to make the impact of the loss of their life ultimately negligible. The more there is of something, the less it’s worth and the less there is of something, the more it’s worth, that’s how the basic law of economy functions, isn’t it?
- When you said you worshipped everything, you were making a point of saying everything instead of everyone, weren’t you?
- People are all going to die eventually anyway. Objects are the only ones who have a chance of lasting forever. That’s why they were the ones who were really granted souls. They’re innocent, Klein. They haven’t done anything wrong. The only reason for which people condemn them is because it’s convenient, because they don’t care, because they can get away with it, because objects, being still and pure, don’t fight back. If we don’t stand up to protect them from the tyranny of the animate, who will?
- So you’ve been expecting me to do this from the start?
- I’ve been expecting that as you learned more you’d naturally end up wanting to on your own. To know the world is to love it, to love it is to protect it. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.
- Go on.
- Do you remember when you asked me about my past and I ended up not telling you anything about it?
- Yeah.
- That’s because I don’t have a past, Klein. I woke up in this forest many years ago without any memory of my previous life. The world, as it conforms to how I remember it having been on that day, is all I have. I don’t know how old I am, but I’m probably much older than you think, and I’m just another pathetic mortal thing. I’m not going to live forever, and the objects I’ll have become the protector of during my lifetime will become defenceless after I’ll be dead and gone. I thought I could train you to be my successor. I thought you could take over for me.
- Before giving you my answer, can I ask you something?
- I can answer every question you’ll ever be able to ask yourself.
- Everything is just another layer of skin to peel off for you, isn’t it?
- I am a man of many faces, if that's what you mean by that.
- So when you’d been acting like me so much when we’d first met, were you only doing it because you wanted me to eventually start acting like you?
- That may have been what it was at first, but you’ve become so much more than that to me, Klein. You’re intelligent, caring, resourceful, unique. You’re nothing like the expendable rabble that litters the planet. You’re the only person I’ve ever trusted enough to reveal my true self beneath all the layers to, can you imagine that?
- Yeah. I can.

That night Klein had realized that he couldn’t stand to look at himself in Boko’s mirror, mirror on the wall anymore, and he’d decided that there’d be no point in living with someone who’d acted just like him if he hadn’t even been able to live with himself.

The next morning, Boko had found a note that Klein had left behind.

‘The world is always going to keep changing whether you want it to or not, and there’s nothing that you, I or anybody else can do about it. Change is so inherent to the world that if it was removed from it, then it’d really become unrecognizable.

You may have much better social skills than I ever will, but deep down, I think I’m still much more of a people person than you are, Boko. I do want to protect the world, but there are limits to what I can do, and people are a part of my world too.

I learned a lot from you, I’m not denying that, but I’m going to go figure out the rest of what there is to know on my own now.

Find someone else.

Your skunk,

Klein.’