Abeyant Leap

After each ascent, the fall.

What Rohan wants to remember, more than anything, is her laughter. That booming, firmament-shaking, bone-rattling laugh.

It rings out now, as she leans down to deposit her core into the Chief Archivist's hands. Nothing discourages Cloud Strider Tramontane from laughing at her own retirement ceremony—not the Chief Archivist's attempts to hush her, and not the way her breath rasps in her chest afterwards.

The Chief Archivist slots Tramontane's core into the plinth. Nanites swarm up from the core, layering themselves systematically into the shape of her monument. The attendees burst into thunderous applause.

That moment is suspended in Rohan's memory: Tramontane, larger-than-life, head thrown back in laughter in front of her own memorial.

But so, too, is this: Tramontane, cradled in a nest of wires and tubing. As her implants break down, her body follows suit, each failure cascading into the next. She is withering to nothing in front of his eyes.

There is no crowd here; Rohan's only companion in his vigil is a single pouka, hovering over his shoulder. The doctors overseeing her palliative care duck in and out, without a word. Rohan listens to the beeping monitors and hissing machines pump blood through a faltering heart, but the room is unnaturally quiet.

Tramontane had stopped laughing when her lungs would no longer inflate on their own.

Her hand, shriveled to bone, is barely strong enough to twitch. Rohan takes it in his own and leans close. If she mouths words, he can still make them out by the shape of her breath.

But at the end, there is only silence.