Never Alone
By: Joey Maxwell

Solo was a great friend of mine. In fact he was probably the first real friend I ever had. No, big brother. When I came to V08744, I was afraid. Funny, me afraid. I was also alone. Very alone. My parents died. It happened so quickly. In that instant, my life seemed to end. There was nothing left for me, so, like every other war orphan at the time, I disappeared. I disappeared from the notice of society, and even disappeared from myself. Even the name my parents gave me disappeared, along with them. Then Solo came.

To me, at that time, he was so brave, strong and confident. There where other orphans like him, like me. And I was quickly accepted among them. He taught me how to run, how to hide, how to steal. He taught me how to survive. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably be just another faceless kid in the gutter. And, since the fighting started, I've seen alot of those. But Solo made it all seemed bearable somehow. I remember I would be up nights, huddling from the cold. I'd hear the soft cries of others like me. Crying for their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, families, all gone. He would make his rounds, touching their faces softly, wiping away tears and whispering gentle words of comfort. He wiped my tears away. Soon, the streets swallowed me up, and the tears stopped coming.

We lived under the dismal shadow of the Federation. They took control of everything. The food. The water. Our lives. Many times we went to sleep at night with our stomachs empty and growling, our bodies cold and shivering. But Solo always seemed to know how to make everything right. His spirit could never be broken. Even though I could see the pain in his eyes. I knew very little of where he came from. His name, it sounded so bitter, so lonely. Now I regret not asking him why he called himself Solo. We where his family. We where all family. Between all of us, we cried a river of tears, many of them dry, as where Solo's. But now I realize why he never cried. He needed to be strong, for himself as well as the rest of us. We where the only family he had. He was the only family I had.

Then the virus came. It swept the streets like wildfire. Many of us died that winter. Solo had fallen ill. At first he wouldn't admit it, but I saw death in his eyes. Something in my heart told me I saw it coming long before this. The days wore on, and he grew weaker and weaker, his coughing filling the cold night and my dreams. Soon he was unable to run the streets with the rest of us. I looked into his eyes, which where now weary and hollow, and his face was white like a ghost. Whenever I looked at him I saw Death. The same thing I saw when I looked into the streets. Death had followed me all my life. I slipped into a state of dispair. I knew soon it would come to claim me, like it claimed my parents, like it would soon claim Solo. But I wouldn't let it happen. I was desperate. But the Federation never cared about us. We where forgotten in their eyes. They sold out their fancy cure to all who could afford it. As for us, well, we where left to rot in the streets.

Breaking into the hospital was easy enough. Sometimes I could still hear the shouts of the surprised nurses in my ears. It made me sick, thinking about it. How people would try and withold life from us. As far as the Federation was concerned, we had no right to that. I returned to our hideout, and I gave out the vaccine to all my companions. I remember administering it to Solo, who was by now nothing more than a skeleton, a weak shell of his former self. It was too late to save him. And, in retrospect, it seemed like blasphemy that he would endup this way, dying. He was so strong, so brave compaired to us young boys. But he took it gracefully. The others asked why I didn't steal a syringe for myself. Dispair had taken me. I wanted to die with him. I can clearly remember his words, frail and quivering as they fell from his dried lips. He told me that he wished we would have spent more time together. That shocked me as well as touched me. Nobody had ever cared about me before. He told me we would be together. Always. And he kept that promise. The virus never did take me, as much as I had wanted to die. He was watching over me, and thats why I survived. He gave me a reason to live, to go on. The others began to look up to me. I was to be their new leader. I had saved their lives. Even though I could not save Solo.

Solo was sixteen when he died. His life was nothing more than an eyeblink, unnoticed by the rest of the Universe. Solo, you will never be forgotten. Your memory will live on always, forever immortalized in my heart and in my name. Solo, you will never be alone. Know that at least one person in this life loved you, when the rest of the world has abandoned you.