SNAFU: The World According to Schuldig

Part Sixteen
I'm going to go hallucinate somewhere else.

    If I could actually stand up on my two feet, I'd be out the door already, but it's all I can do to just stare at the sleeping boy stretched out a few inches from my bloody hands. I hear a choking noise and realize it's coming from me and I let go of the bed to slump onto my ass on the ground. Blood squelches against my pants but I barely feel the heat soak through the denim as I stare at the child's face. I can still hear muttering and whispering against my thoughts that isn't mine and I dig the heels of my hands into my temples.

    "Drugs," I croak. "He's fucked me up with drugs again."

    "Yes," Prodigy agrees without moving his mouth. "He has been doing everything he could to break your shields since you came to Japan. Your mother had built them up to the point that they were suffocating your gift. It's rather lucky for us that she was so hateful, really."

    "I'm not listening to you," I whisper hoarsely. "You're a fucking dead body."

    "It's called an induced coma," is his easy response. "Though I suppose 'coma' is a bit wrong of a classification, seeing as how I'm still conscious."

    "I'm leaving now," I tell him.

    "Please don't," he says. "I've been like this for six months now with no way of talking to anyone."

    "That sounds like your problem," I send back. "I'm going to go hallucinate somewhere else."

    "You're not hallucinating."

    "Of course I'm not. I'm only talking to a dead body in a Magic Bus Hospital in the middle of fuck-it-all Japan."

    "Schuldig, please," Prodigy says quietly. "We don't have a lot of time left. We need your mind active, but it won't take long before Silvia notices that something's out of place. Can't you just trust us for a little longer?"

    I just stare at him, warring against common sense and its complete lack of existence in a situation like this. "Fine," I say at last, and it hurts to say it. "Fine. You start explaining and see if it makes any sense to you, because it sure as hell doesn't make any sense to me. I want to know what the fuck is going on here."

    Prodigy doesn't answer that immediately, and I wonder if I've caught him at his own game, but it turns out he's just looking for a good place to start. "Schwarz has been existence for six years now," he says, "ever since I first left Japan to work with Crawford and McKay. Crawford is, as you probably know already, one of Rosenkreuz's precognitives. He was one of their strongest, and they let him train my telekinesis up when we started our team. McKay was Crawford's pyrokinetic.

    "Four years ago we found Farfarello in Ireland and decided to take him on, but two years ago Crawford started having visions of a future when his team was broken. They were vague enough that no one would listen, because most of Rosenkreuz accepts it as fact that even the strongest precogs cannot see further than a year down the road. Crawford knew his own gift well enough to not take it for granted, so he got in touch with Tot here."

    "She said she knew him last time he was in Japan."

    "Tot and I used to live together at an orphanage," Prodigy explains. "When Crawford came for me, he met her, and Tot worshipped him. He saw potential in her. When his visions started, he chose Tot to be part of Schreient. Rosenkreuz doesn't know about them, as they're dead minds and useless to a school of psychics, and that's what Crawford needed. They've been here finding contacts for Schwarz for the day Crawford needed to come back into the country, and they're the ones that put me here. He also took Moriyama out of the orphanage from her spot as headmistress and bought her the boarding home so she would have a place for him to return to."

    "That old bat knows everything?"

    "Most of everything," Prodigy answers. "I'm not sure just how much."

    I yank on my orange hair. "Madness," I mutter. "This is all madness."

    Prodigy ignores that. "Seven months ago, one of Estet's teams challenged Schwarz, and we lost. We killed all of them, but as you can see, they left us in pieces. They killed McKay, and Silvia…"

    "Silvia," I echo.

    "She destroyed everything," Prodigy says, and his voice twists on hate. "She's taken everything. We're going to kill her."

    "Where is she?" I want to know.

    "Inside Farfarello," he answers.

    That deserves a bout of silence.

    Prodigy gives me a few moments to come up with a response, but I can't even come up with a 'Haha, you're fucking kidding me'. At length he explains. "Silvia is a psychic a few steps removed from a telepath. Estet doesn't give their powers titles, but Crawford once referred to her as a medium of some sort, which makes her a lot closer to what Farfarello is. When she fought us, she focused all of her attention on Farfarello, and he lost. The only way she didn't wipe him out completely was because Crawford had already had Farfarello link to his mind. When Silvia crushed him, he crashed right into Crawford's mind, and he broke Crawford's shields."

    "Wait," I say, waving my hands at him, not like he can see it. "Wait. You've completely lost me. Try that shit again."

    "Farfarello has a myriad of gifts, but his range means he doesn't have a strong enough grasp on any of them. One of his gifts is sort of like astral traveling, which means he can send himself outside of his body and elsewhere. When we went up against Silvia's team, Crawford had already warned him that we weren't going to win, so Farfarello threw himself into Crawford's mind to keep Silvia from erasing him. Now Silvia's in Farfarello's body and Farfarello and Crawford are in Crawford."

    "Does any of this make sense to you?"

    "It makes perfect sense to me," he answers.

    "You're just as batshit insane as Crawford is."

    "That's why we don't have a lot of time," Prodigy presses. "Crawford had to break his shields to let Farfarello in, but a precognitive can't survive without his shields. He's rebuilt them up some with Farfarello's help, but Farfarello is the only thing keeping Crawford from collapsing in on himself completely. Farfarello's not enough. They're both going to die if we can't get Farfarello out of there."

    "Buy this Silvia person a cookie and ask her to go the fuck home."

    "She won't," Prodigy says. "She can't. She's stuck in Farfarello's mind now. Farfarello's keeping her there to make her come with us. That's why Crawford chose Japan: it's so far away that she can't retreat to her own body and she doesn't know the language, not like Crawford and I do."

    "That sounds counterproductive."

    "We want to kill her, Schuldig. Rosenkreuz won't help us when Crawford is a defective power, but we refuse to let Estet win this. They're letting Silvia stay with us to make sure that Crawford stays defective. It's in Estet's best interests that he stay blind, because it gives them a serious advantage when making negotiations with Rosenkreuz about the future."

    He waits to see if I have anything to say to that, but I'm looking at the door and wondering if I can make it over there yet. Leaving is starting to sound like a really good idea right about now. "Right. Forget I ever asked you for answers," I say at last. "What does any of this have to do with me, again?"

    "You're the only one who can push Silvia out," Prodigy explains patiently. "Farfarello has been keeping her from leaving but Estet would have moved her body closer to Japan in case she needed to get away. You need to cut her loose and let Farfarello slide back into his own mind. Crawford can do the rest of the work on his own."

    "I'm not a telepath."

    "Then how are you talking to me?" he asks.

    "Tot made me smoke something."

    "It was supposed to relax your shields more so you could understand them."

    "They still didn't make any sense."

    "No?" he asks.

    "They were babbling shit about my mother and me fixing them and-"

    "In Japanese," Prodigy points out, and I eye him. "Only Tot ever learned German. She's been studying it ever since I went away with Crawford."

    "I don't speak Japanese."

    "You seem to do just fine understanding me," he points out.

    I just stare at him. "…What?" I ask.

    "Telepathy is handy," Prodigy notes. "Moriyama and Tot have been laying the groundwork so that your shields could absorb it easier. Every time your shields break, you suck a little more of it in, taking the groundwork and making the rest of the mental associations on your own. If we'd broken your shields completely too early, it would have destroyed your mind and your ability to pick up on it."

    I feel sick. "You're not speaking German," I say, because now that he's pointed it out, I can hear what he's actually saying beneath the words. I can hear the sounds, and it's not German. I swallow around bile and blood and yank on my hair. I'm speaking German to him but he's answering back in Japanese and I understand everything that's coming out of his mouth. Mind. Something. I think back on what the girls were saying to me and the sounds in my memory aren't German either; I was just too shaken to notice. "That's not German."

    "I can speak German, if you'd like," Prodigy says, switching languages easily.

    I look up at the ceiling. "How the fuck do I get myself in these messes?"

    "This one is your mother's fault, in part," Prodigy tells me.

    "My mother," I echo blankly.

    "Your mother was a telepath with Rosenkreuz, but she was exiled twenty-five years ago when her gift cracked and broke. She should have been killed, but one of the Cabinet was having an affair with her, and he tucked her away somewhere. It's good for us that she was sent away, because when her gift bred true in you, it meant we could find a telepath that neither Estet nor Rosenkreuz knew about."

    "Darwin," I start, but Prodigy interrupts me.

    "Crawford's parents sold him out to Estet," he said in a hard voice. "When Crawford tried to take on Darwin, they killed him. That's why Crawford made you kill them. Tot told me they're dead now. Crawford has her keep me updated on what's going on inside Schwarz, since it's hard for him to stay away from Farfarello long enough to see me. He doesn't want Estet or Rosenkreuz finding me here when I'm stuck like this."

    "What the fuck? I didn't kill anybody, except for maybe half the police force tonight. They were already dead and gone when we got there."

    "Crawford made you kill them," Prodigy says patiently. "The night when he gave you cocaine. It broke your shields enough that he and Farfarello could use your gift. They had shields but not ones strong enough for your gift. You blew their minds open."

    I remember Farfarello looking down at the blood splatters and saying something about it didn't look right. They didn't look like the mess my mother had made when she'd blown her own head open in her bedroom; there'd been two sprays out to either side of each chalk head. I think about Crawford leaking blood from his ears and grimace.

    "I didn't do that," I insist.

    "You can't remember?" he asks.

    "I was high at the time," I snap back.

    "Just try," he tells me.

    "Why? I already know you're wrong."

    "Schuldig, just try," he says again.

    I stare at him, debating whether or not to argue again, and then at last try and think back to that night. I remember Farfarello's- Silvia's?- hateful words when he realized we were going to be taking drugs. I remember Crawford's mouth on mine.

    'Oh say can you see?'

    I dig the heels of my hands into my eyes, struggling to remember. See what?

    'I need you to find them for us.' I remember his hands tangling in my air as I scratched at him for balance, fighting against the crushing pain the cocaine was causing. I was babbling nonsense against his skin, a broken litany of hate for him making me take something so destructive, but Crawford wouldn't let me fall. 'I need you to find them for us, and I'll take the pain away. Okay? You can do it for us, Schuldig.'

    At the time I'd have done anything for him if it would just make it stop hurting so much. I remember their faces. I remember shock and hate and fear, and I remember Crawford crushing my mouth with a kiss when I pleaded with him that it was done.


    …killed them.

    "Life was a lot easier a couple weeks ago," I whisper.

    "Life isn't supposed to be easy," Prodigy tells me.

    "I'm not a telepath."

    "How long are you going to wallow in denial?" he wants to know. "You need to wake me up, Schuldig."

    "You sound pretty fucking awake to me."

    "You need to wake me up," he insists. "I can't use my power like this, and we're going to need it when Estet shows up. You need to wake me up and you need to break them apart before Silvia finds out what's going on and tries to kill Farfarello's body."

    "I can't."

    "You can. You're just afraid to try."

    "What do you expect?" I demand. "I just came here to get off the streets, not to get sucked so deeply into this madness. I want to go back to Germany."

    "To what?" Prodigy asks. "We're offering you the world, Schuldig. How can you turn it down?"

    "I don't want the world," I snarl at him.

    "Then what do you want?" he demands.

    My mouth opens but I clamp it shut before I can get the words out. I want what I've always wanted: to be someone to someone. And I have that already, more than I realized. Crawford wants me here. Prodigy needs me. Farfarello needs me. Schreient is trusting me to figure out this insanity enough to take the last plunge it needs.

    'I need your help.'

    I already have what I want.

    "I don't even know how," I say at last.

    "You have to learn," Prodigy presses. "It's too late to back out now, Schuldig. She'll know that your mind is awake as soon as you get within her range and she'll kill Farfarello's body and flee back to her own. You have to figure it out, because I'm the only one that can stop her from doing that."

    "Farfarello's in a straitjacket right now."

    "And gagged?" the kid asks. "Because I wouldn't put it past her to bite her own tongue off. Has Farfarello lost his eye yet?"

    I eye him. "Yes. Tonight."

    "Then she knows," he says. "She suspects that Crawford's gift isn't completely broken. We have to stop her, Schuldig. We can't let her hurt Farfarello further."

    I can't help it. "Are you two really banging it?"

    Dead silence follows that, and then a "What?"

    "Crawford said you two are good for each other."

    "We…" Prodigy starts, but he can't finish that. I finally get to give myself a point on the mental scoreboard, but it's not even enough to bring me out of the negative. "That's beside the point," he manages at last, and I can feel my lips quirk into the first smirk since I stepped in here. "You need to learn how to wake me up."

    "What, just wave my hands at you and abracadabra? Trial and error?"

    He thinks about that. "Maybe you should try on someone else first."

    "You think?"

    "It might be safer. This floor is probably for people in my same condition. Try someone else?"

    "I don't know how."

    "Just try," he says. "Just try. Tot told me that Crawford said you're the strongest telepath he's seen. You have the power from your mother and the potential to be the best, Schuldig. None of us know exactly how our powers work- they just do. You have to trust yours to do what you want it to."

    I gaze at him in silence for a long minute and then swear and push myself to my feet. They can finally hold me and I stare around the room at all of his machinery. At last I take a deep breath and dig my fingers into my temples again, trying to talk myself down from just walking out the door and running. I'm sure I have more than enough money to make it back to Germany by now, but Prodigy's right- there's nothing there for me. Crawford's already offered me everything I want.

    But telepathy…?

    The tiny part of me that exists to be logical says that this is impossible, but then, this entire conversation with Prodigy is impossible. At last I turn away from his bed and start towards the door, and I let myself out into the hallway to send a nervous look each way. The nurses are all busy at their desk, so I inch down the hall towards the next door. One looks up when she spots me and opens her mouth, and I realize I'm still bloody.

    "Shut up," I warn her, and she obeys with a glazed look on her face. I freeze and stare back at her, and she just stares at me. "Sit back down," I say at length. "You don't notice me."

    She sits back down and goes back to her work, and I don't know if that's nausea or a crooked sort of excitement twisting in my chest. It feels the same and I have to look away from her. I push the door open and slip inside and find myself staring in at a young girl. I push the door shut behind me and cross the room to her bed to stare down at her. Flowers are set up in a glass vase on her bedside table and I pluck one free to shred it.

    How exactly does one be a telepath?

    "Hi," I tell her, feeling a lot more nervous than I sound. "My name is Schuldig. I'm a telepath."

    She doesn't answer and I worry my lip between my teeth, warring between feeling like a fool and a bit of anxious anticipation.

    Hey Mom, can I really be someone?

    I lean over her bed, propping one hand to either side of her head, and stare down at her closed eyes. "My name is Schuldig," I say again, struggling to quiet the noise in my head. Without Prodigy talking, it's a lot easier to hear everyone else, and the jumbled mess is giving me a migraine. I wonder if this girl has a voice somewhere and I focus on her face, wondering how I'm supposed to find it. "Can you hear me?"

    "…imagination…" It's the barest whisper across my mind and I jerk back, recoiling away from her.

    "Was that you?" I ask. She doesn't answer and I creep back over to the bed to press one hand against her forehead. "Was that you?" I ask again, and I wonder if she can feel my heartbeat pounding. "Can you hear me?"

    She doesn't answer and I realize belatedly that I'm speaking German to a Japanese body and I abruptly switch languages, using what Moriyama taught me and finding that the rest of the pieces are there just as Prodigy said they'd be. "Was that you speaking?" I ask her. "Can you hear me?"

    "…Yes…" comes the hesitant whisper.

    I laugh because I don't know what else to do and lean over her again. "My name is Schuldig."

    "Schuldig," she echoes, mangling it rather badly.

    "Schuldig, you dumbass," I tell her, annoyed. "It's the only name anyone's ever given me, so try not to fuck it up. Schuldig."

    "Schuldig," she tries again, and it's better this time. "My name is Aya. Fujimiya Aya."

    "Fujimiya Aya, I want to wake you up. Okay?"

    Silence follows that. When she speaks again there's a despairing sort of hope in her voice. "Can you?" she asks.

    "I don't know," I admit. "I'm going to try. I've never done it before." I don't even know where to start, so I search for inspiration while I keep her talking. I don't want her to be quiet; I'm afraid I'll lose her in the rest of this mess. "How long have you been a vegetable, Aya?"

    "I don't know," she whispers. "I can't remember. It's so dark here."

    I worry at my lower lip again. "Just keep talking," I tell her, and she does. She tells me about her home and her family and the festivals, and I half-listen to her voice as I try to find her within her own body. I don't know what I'm supposed to do but I follow her voice down, trying to find her face, trying to find her sense of self. I can't feel the bed under my hands anymore and I think my hands are falling asleep, but then I realize there's a second room overlaid on top of this one, one that's all black, and I'm staring down at an awake girl where she's sitting alone in the shadows and whispering to me.

    "Aya?" I ask, and she tilts her head back to stare up at me.

    I watch her face crumple and she starts to cry. "Orange," she chokes out. "Orange. I forgot what orange looked like, but I didn't know I'd forgotten until I saw you. Is that you?"

    I lift one hand from the bed, from the shadows that are surrounding us, and hold it out to her. "Orange is the best fucking color in the world," I tell her.

    She reaches out to me, all desperate need, and slides icy cold fingers into mine. I pull, but I've got nothing to hold onto in the real room and I fall down on my ass. I hear a gasping sound from the bed when I realize that the darkness is gone and I climb to my feet to see her mouth moving beneath the mask over it. Her eyes are open and wide, staring unseeing at the ceiling, and I can watch as her mind starts to wake up and her eyes finally focus.

    "Holy shit," I whisper. "Holy shit."

    She starts to cry in real life, then, with tears tracking down her face. "Schuldig, Schuldig," she wails, and I reach out and pull the mask free.

    The door opens then to reveal Weiß's redhead. He goes still in the doorway when he sees me by the bed and I watch his fingers tighten on the fresh vase of flowers in his hands. "You," he starts, sounding furious.

    I look down at Aya. "Don't tell me this asshole is your brother."

    "Ran!" she wails, and the vase drops from Redhead's fingers to shatter on the ground. He's across the room in an instant to grab at his sister's hands and I retreat out of his way in case he's carrying that pointy sword on him again. "Ran," she wails again when she sees him leaning over her.

    "Aya-" he chokes out. "Aya, what--?"

    "He pulled me free, Ran, he- It was so dark there and he-"

    Ran just holds tight to her, holding onto her where her arms are too weak to hold him in return, and I can see his shoulders shaking in a mix of grief and joy. "If I'd known she was yours," I mutter, but I don't really mean it. The feeling of awed victory has my heart beating faster than ever.

    Hey, Mom.

    I'm a fucking telepath.

Part 17
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