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A Cowboy Bebop fan fiction story
by DB Sommer

Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at sommer@3rdm.net

Disclaimer: Cowboy Bebop was created by Hajime Yatate, and the rights are owned by Hajime Yatate and Bandai Entertainment. US rights to the manga are owned by Tokyopop.

Foreword: These events take place during episode 26.

"The chessboard is the world… The rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient… but we also know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake… or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
— Aldous Huxley, 'The Player on the Other Side'

As I sit waiting in the darkness, amid the carnage and smell of death I orchestrated, I find my mind drifting back to the first time I met you. It was back when Mao Yenrai introduced you as a new member of the organization, a young man whom I was to treat like a brother. He placed before me a gangly youth wearing a too loose suit and a messed up mop of hair that made it look as though he had just woken up; an unimpressive sight if ever there was one. At a glance, there was nothing to differentiate you from the standard buffoon who dressed badly and shot even worse. I'd seen the kind dozens of times before, street trash posing as foot soldiers who worked for the Red Dragons. They were the rabble who performed the menial tasks necessary to every organization, even the legal ones. Such meaningless fools died often, and were just as quickly replaced by other equally stupid buffoons. The worlds are full of them. That's what allows people like me to rule as I do.

But then I changed my opinion when I looked into your eyes for the first time. That pair of uncaring brown orbs that saw everything all at once, that was what set you apart. There was no fear in them. Not from a lack of wits (there are many fools who mistakenly believe they are invincible), it was from the knowledge that there was no reason to fear. All you had was a sort of cautious regard for everything, acknowledging that while the potential to kill you was there, it was meaningless. Your skills could take you past whatever problems would arise, and if not… Well, it really wouldn't matter, would it?

The eyes are mirrors to the soul. I liked yours, showing me what lay within. I saw the very same thing in mine every time I looked in a mirror: the soul of a beast. One that was in control, but still an animal all the same. You were one of the rare beasts, a predator of the most dangerous kind. I decided at that moment that I liked you, and you were the only one I could say that of. The old man, I had respect for. At least back then. He was a beast like us. He still had his fangs. He was still dangerous, and so I agreed to work for him, for I was not the beast he was. Not yet.

Mao had an eye for our type, which was why he chose us from the rabble that surrounded him. He knew from the moment he first saw me that I was the sort of 'son' he was looking for, since he couldn't have one of his own. That was probably why he opened his doors for us; his inability to produce heirs made him desire some all the more. He found me heading a ghetto gang at the age of fourteen, a group twice as large as all the others, and with no nearby competition, since I had destroyed them all. I was king of the miserable pile of shit in which I lived. And then he met me, and my perspective changed.

Mao took me in and under his wing, refined some of my raw talent, and taught me all I needed to know. One thing I will always be grateful for was his broadening of my horizons, showing me the world I could have if I only had the strength to take it. I would be his eventual successor, though even then I knew it would not be enough, that I would take it all, because I could.

But anything can happen, and even the best can fall to a stray shot, so Mao took a second heir. He chose you. I think he liked you more than me, not that I cared; I didn't want his affections, just his place in the hierarchy. Around the time he took you in, I could tell his fangs had begun to grow dull. I sensed weakness in the beast, and it made me hunger all the more. Why accept table scraps when you can eat at the table itself? I chose to bide my time until an opportunity to consume him came about.

In the interim, I became closer to you. I found myself understanding why he liked you. You had a sort of affable charm that won many over, even myself — not that I would have hesitated to kill you if you stood in my way — but lesser men could be mollified with that cocky, care-free grin of yours. People, for the most part, liked you, and that was to your advantage with the way you approached life. The same could not be said for me.

In many ways I was your exact opposite, whose very appearance made people uneasy. I was lean as well, but my more hawkish features invoked images of a bird of prey ready to strike. I encouraged this perception, even going so far as to keep one around me at all times in these last few years. Most thought it a psychological edge I used to give me an advantage when dealing with others. My birds did indeed serve as that, as well as a fail-safe plan that I used in finally ascending to the top of the syndicate. Even my name, "Vicious" was intended to reinforce that image. Not that I feared anyone else, just that scaring off fools and idiots was less of an annoyance than dispatching them. None were my match. Oh, there were those that could be dangerous, those that represented a challenge, beasts with sharp fangs as well, but never as long as mine. Never as deadly as mine.

Except yours.

I knew it on some instinctive level from the instant we met. For the first time in my life, I had met an equal. Someone that was just as good as me. Someone that was just as dangerous as me. You had no regard for your life. Not that you were any more fatalistic than me -neither of us wanted to die- just that you weren't afraid of death. You would risk anything to come out ahead, to finish a job, to do what you felt needed to be done. Should you be injured in the process, so be it. Crippled? It happens. Die? Then that was the way it was. Just so long as you did what you wanted to. You were the most dangerous kind of man there was, one who would give his life to win in the end. There were those that sensed it, and as much as you were liked, you were also feared in equal amounts by those that feared you would become their enemy.

You would think that my perceiving of you as an equal would be dangerous to me, that I would see you as a threat that needed to be eliminated. On the contrary, since we were on the same side, it afforded me a chance to finally team up with someone that I didn't have to carry, didn't have to look out for, didn't have to concern myself with should they fail and I had to pick up their slack. It was to my advantage, and so I was content.

There was one other thing I sensed in you that was reassuring: a lack of the hunger I had for control. Your fangs were sharp, but your appetite never came close to matching mine. Nor did your tastes lie in that direction. What you wanted was a sense of personal accomplishment rather than the rule over others. That suited my purpose. Our desires were different, so I trusted you enough to allow you to stand next to me, without concern of when it might become necessary to dispose of you for fear that you would betray me.

It was camaraderie, in a fashion. Perhaps even a friendship of sorts. Not that I would have risked my life for you, unless the potential gains outweighed the risks, but keeping you near me was very much in my best interest. So I went out of my way to make certain you were still there, fighting at my side. And we were the best. Everyone feared us when we worked together. None could stand in our way. Our stars rose to the top over the piles of bodies the organization left in its wake. In some ways, there was never a better time in my life than when we outshone everyone else without even trying.

In time, I came to understand that the trio of old men who ran things were indeed just that: old. As I continued gaining power and became more dangerous, they grew weaker and complacent. I soon realized it was my destiny, as the most dangerous beast of all, to kill them and take what they had for myself. Once there, I would show every world in the system what it meant to be a predator and what they were like as my prey.

And you, Spike, would help me attain those goals. With your lack of ambition, we made the perfect combination. With you at my side, my rise to the top would be assured, made in haste, and cemented for life. It wasn't like you cared. It wasn't as though you had anything better to do. You were content to exist, while I would only be content if I led. Everything was perfect.

And then came Julia.

I curse the day she caught my eye. Not that it was love at first sight; love is a useless distraction for the simpleminded. No, she was just another form of prey. Something to slake my hunger in ways only a woman could, and she was very useful in the regard. She was very good at… appeasing me. Her presence was never a burden. She wasn't anywhere near as brainless as the majority of women that were around us. She was smart enough to stay out of the way when she had to, and had just enough spine and wit to make her interesting. She was entertaining enough that I kept her around as my 'woman,' though I would have discarded her when I grew bored, like I had all the others before. It was just taking a little longer this time.

Ah, but poor, naive, Spike, you didn't see her in such practical terms, did you? No, you never did. Something happened to you after I introduced her to you. You changed, changed for the worse. Changed so much I could barely recognize you after a while. It was a pity I wasn't aware of it at the time, or else I would have gotten rid of the woman in an instant. You were far more useful in your uncaring state than your lovelorn one. It's beyond me how you could change for a mere woman, especially one you could have had for your own once I was through with her. I admit, I may be powerful, but I'm far from all-knowing. This was one of those times when my blindness proved an inconvenience.

God, Spike, you threw it all away for a woman! I had no idea you were capable of being that stupid. All you needed to do was wait until I became bored, then I would have given Julia to you. She was a form of entertainment. I had all the emotional attachment to her that I would a holoprojector. I didn't actually care about the girl. I didn't even mind it when you slept with her behind my back, as long as you kept it discreet. Had such trysts become public knowledge, that would have been different. It would have made me seem weak, and then I would have had to take steps to eradicate such misconceptions.

Is that what you feared? That your rendezvous would become public knowledge and I would kill the two of you? Or was it just impatience? Did you hate the fact that I could have her whenever I wanted? Did you feel she should have been your exclusive property because you 'loved' her? Is that why you did that last hit, faked your death, and tried to run off with her?

But it didn't work out the way you hoped, did it? I knew about the plan. I was aware of the change in you by now, determined its cause, and figured out what you were up to. Running off with the woman you loved with the mob on your trail, a life on the run made worthwhile because you would be together? Such romantic drivel. If you had truly fallen so far, so fast, you really were useless to me. It was time to deal with you the way all traitors to the syndicate were dealt with. It was time for you to die.

There were two potential ways of doing it. One was to confront you myself. There was no one else in the organization that could kill you anymore than they could kill me. But direct confrontation with you held no assurance of my victory. As I said, you were my equal, and the fight could go either way. It was a risk I considered, but then another avenue presented itself; one that held minimal danger for me and maximum pain for you. It was that one I chose to use.

As you went out on your last job, I confronted Julia with the truth. I placed a gun to her head, showing her what was at stake, and then turned it away. I told her there was a way out. I told her that that if she killed you, she'd be free of me and the Red Dragons. She could save her life, but only at the cost of yours. I knew she was the only person in the galaxy, other than myself, that could kill you, and even then it was only because you would let her. All she had to do was keep your rendezvous, raise the gun, and pull the trigger. Such a simple task to save one's life, don't you think? The decision should have been easy.

But she didn't do it, and to be honest, I guessed that was what would happen from the start. No, I take it back. It wasn't a guess. A part of me knew she wouldn't do it. Julia might have been practical, but she cared for you more than herself, else she would never have risked death by betraying me and loving you. She knew what she was doing. As I said, she wasn't brainless. So, if she was willing to sacrifice her life for her happiness, and sacrifice her happiness for her love, then she would not kill that love to save herself. I might not have cared for Julia, but I knew her well enough to understand that.

But then she surprised me. I had assumed you would flee together, as you had planned, leaving the syndicate and forcing us to hunt you down and kill the two of you. Instead, she left you behind and ran off on her own. She sacrificed her desire to be with you, choosing to protect you by traveling a different path and drawing eyes away from you to her. She allowed you to pretend you were dead, even though I knew the truth all along. Our little Julia certainly had courage. Poor judgment, but definitely courage. I could see us fighting over her, had I been capable of love. So much the better for me that I am not. Fighting over a woman is cliché, don't you think?

And so I let you go, despite my anger towards you. Your departure meant that my rise to the top would take that much longer, be that much more inefficient, be that much bloodier. But as time went on something happened to me. There was a nagging sensation in the back of my mind that wouldn't go away. For all of your stupidity in the end, for all that you had changed, you were still a beast. We were brothers of spirit, if not of flesh. That realization disturbed me the way nothing else had. There was only one man in the galaxy that could stop me and my desires; the man who was my equal. Who was to say our paths would not cross again? Even I could not say who would emerge victorious should we clash. That knowledge bothered me the way nothing ever had before. It was doubt, and I found its taste a bitter fruit to swallow. I had to do something about it, or I would never know peace.

I finally chose to act. I killed Mao, knowing it would draw you to me. You had an affection for the old man, the same way he had one for you. So, with you coming, I set a trap at the very church where you had 'died', even as you completed your last hit. I thought it would add just the right touch of symmetry to the end of your life. Then the bait was made all the sweeter with the capture of that acquaintance of yours, that girl with no past. I knew Valentine wasn't your woman, only Julia would ever have your heart, but I knew you would come for Valentine all the same. That was the sort of man you were, even back when we worked together: honorable. I didn't mind it, for it meant I could trust you, and was as much a strength as a weakness when it came to you. But now, it would serve as the final nail in your coffin.

But things didn't work out the way I planned. You somehow survived the trap, though so did I. It was miraculous on both our parts. By all rights, one of us should have died, one way or the other. It was just the sort of situation where it should have happened, but it didn't. We were both seriously wounded -how could two ravenous beasts fight and not be bloodied by such- but neither were the injuries permanent. I was left to wonder why such an impossibility occurred. We both wanted the other dead. You, for forcing you apart from Julia and killing the old man. Me, for the threat you represented. So what went wrong?

By the second time we encountered one another around Jupiter, and survived yet again, I was truly perplexed. Why was it we entered what should have been death duels, yet survived? That we were equals meant events should have reached a climax; there should have been a winner on one side or the other. After long debate, the answer came to me. It was so shockingly simple, I laughed the hardest I had since you left.

We both had things to live for. It was as simple as that. Neither of us could allow ourselves to die while we had things still left to accomplish. For me, it was ascending to the leadership of the organization.

For you, it was Julia.

That was what she did to you, wasn't it, Spike? That was how she had changed you. Suddenly, for the first time in your life, you had a purpose, something to live for. You started caring what happened to yourself because of Julia. Oh, you might have run from her the way she ran from you, but she was always there. She was a ghost haunting your memories and your dreams, even when you were awake. I spent enough time with you to know how your mind operates, Spike. I heard of your exploits, and for all that you had accomplished, I could read between the lines, and feel her presence dogging your very existence. Yes, we both had to live, at least until we had no thing left undone.

I stopped interfering with you directly after that, content to make my bid for leadership first, although I engineered events so that our showdown would occur shortly after my last play for ultimate control. I was confident… no, I knew I would win against those old men, but I wasn't so certain about you. You were the last thing left to chance. It had to end, for my peace of mind.

Mine and yours.

I herded Julia to Mars, to where the new mantle of my supremacy lay. I hounded her until she had to face you again, two wounded people in desperate need of one another, even if neither realized it yet. One advantage to being a disinterested party on the outside is that things can be far more evident to my eyes than yours. You each tried to deny what you needed more than life itself, and I knew the false walls you built would collapse when you met once again.

You found each other in that graveyard, the way you should have three years in the past. But this time was different; the two of you did what you should have done so long ago. No, she didn't kill you. Putting the gun to her head and pulling the trigger would have been less painful to her. Instead, you ran off together, united at last in a common cause. But Julia wasn't like you, Spike. She wasn't like me. She wasn't untouchable. She wasn't a beast. I knew if I sent enough guns in your direction, I would take her down. Not you, but her.

And I was right. I knew it the instant I saw the blood-stained jacket left at Annie's shop. Julia was dead. It had all come to the head I desired. You will tie up your loose ends, and then you will come for me. Closure is what you seek now.

So I sit among the handiwork of my takeover, the cloying scent of spilled blood still hanging in the air, waiting for the inevitable. I have achieved my lifelong goal, Spike. I'm King of the Galaxy. I no longer have any purpose left to strive for, and now you don't either. There is no thing left undone in our lives. There is no reason we have to live; only to exist.

So let us meet once more, Spike, on as even a battlefield as there is: I, weakened by torture at the old men's hands, you, exhausted from the gauntlet you must pass to get to me. All of our lives, we've been equals until this moment. Now we are beasts unfettered by any restraints. Let us bear our fangs and show who the strongest truly is.

Come to me Spike. I'm waiting for you. Come, so I can kill you and set you free.


Writer's notes: And so ends this little introspection piece on what might have been going on in Vicious' mind towards the end. As much as I was saddened by the events at the end of the series, I understood why it had to be that way and what the writer was saying. As much as I wanted to see more of Spike and the crew, he was right. I also find myself greatly respecting the fact that the bad guy really was just as powerful as our hero, even in the end. It goes much against the grain of the usual type of tale. And though I would not want to see this sort of ending to a series too often, well, it can work when you weave a tale as good as Bebop was.

And throwing on one last kick ass movie helps lift the spirits as you get to say goodbye to a cast of friends one last time as well. ^_^

Special thanks to Nightman and Nemesis Zero for looking things over.

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