Gunmetal Black 2 Chapter 3 - Piano In The Dark
"What happened to ''Come back anytime, Silhouette?'"
Silhouette asked, getting her feet underneath her. Kienan's pistol never
wavered from its mark on her heart.
"It's not seeing you
again I object to," Kienan said. "It's the timing I find suspicious.
I like your new look, however." He raised her pistol, obviously filched
from the holster on her hip.
Silhouette looked at him and
smiled, her blue-green eyes seeming relaxed and liquid. "Not all of us
like to wear the same kind of uniform all the time, Kienan."
Kienan looked at her gun,
ejecting the clip onto the floor and handing it back to her. "And what
Something you should know a thing or two about."
Kienan didnt smile.
"Why are you here?"
Silhouette looked at him.
"I have to warn you."
Kienan blinked. "Warn me?
Silhouette looked at Vain
and Mirage. "Uhm, I cant tell you here."
"Why not?" Kienan
"Well, because being
knocked on the floor isnt the way to get my cooperation, for one."
Kienan stared at her and
sighed, then holstered his pistol and helped her up. Their eyes met until
Kienan cut his eyes away toward Vain and Mirage, almost as though he felt
guilty for looking at her.
"It's all right,"
he said to them. "I'll handle this. Go to the bridge and get us on course
for the border and take us out of Space Drive at the Miria Nebula. Once we're
there, hold position and call me."
Vain and Mirage nodded and
made their way up the access ladder. Silhouette looked at him. "The
border? As in the Rigellian border?"
Kienan looked over his shoulder.
"You know better than to ask me that." He lit a cigarette and took a
long drag off of it, exhaling it as though her were blowing the tension inside
him away like dust in his hand. "We're still on opposite sides,
said, brushing imaginary dust off of her skintight flight suit. "Thanks
for not shooting me, by the way. It was . . .sweet of you."
"I thought about
it," Kienan said. "Decided I didnt feel like mopping up the landing
Silhouette said icily.
Kienan turned around,
suddenly annoyed. "Now," he said. "What's this warning
"Youre going to
Kienan looked at her, his
expression not changing a bit. He took a slow drag off of his cigarette.
Silhouette looked shocked. "What,
that's it? That's all? I came here for you to knock me around and throw me
Silhouette," Kienan said. "And the idea that I'm going to die is no
big news to me. So, thanks for the warning, I'll get your ship re-fuelled and
we can send you on your way. Nice seeing you, goodbye."
Silhouette looked at him
incredulous. "You son of a bitch," she said. "Why am I even
here? I came here because I saw you die!
And I was involved, and I thought MAYBE
youd give a damn about how, maybe youd care about it to the point where you
could stop it, and we--"
thought. Dont say too much, just warn
him and go. You can see it in his eyes, he doesnt want you. Not after all this
"I don't," Kienan
"You know, I hoped the
night I saved your miserable life would have put you off your little suicidal
streak, but I see it hasn't made a bit of difference," Silhouette said.
"I wonder why I even bothered saving you now."
Kienan suddenly turned on
her. "Dont act like you did me a favor," Kienan said, raising a
red-gloved finger at her. "You had your own reasons for saving me, and you
weren't shy about rummaging through my head for what you wanted. I thought
maybe you were finally coming around, but I can see youre still just as pious
as an Idyllist. And let me be honest, Sil . . .it makes me sick."
Silhouette turned her back
to him and raised her hands, defeated. "You know what, dont bother
refuelling my ship, I'm gone. I dont even know what I'm doing here. I tried to
save you Kienan, because whether you believe it or not, I still care about
Kienan seemed to freeze.
Silhouette ignored any restraint, determined to say her piece.
"That's right. I still
do, and I hate myself for it. I hate myself for turning over in the middle of
the night and finding no one there and wondering why. And I think about you and
wonder . . ."
"I thought that's what
Sinclaire was there for," Kienan said indifferently. He ground the
cigarette out on the deck.
gone," Silhouette sighed. "He left me after I saved your life."
"I hope he died in a
very ghastly way immediately afterwards."
"He left me because he
thought I was going back to you," Silhouette said. "So I have
more guilt on my conscience, because now
I had pushed away two men who loved me, and worse yet, the one that actually
wanted me in his life."
"Spare me the
valentine," Kienan said. "I wasn't happy for you when you hooked up,
and the fact that he's gone is small comfort to me."
Silhouette looked down at
the deck, then slowly looked up, blue-green eyes blazing with anger.
She spun on her heel and
walked over to Kienan, and before Kienan knew what was happening, Silhouette
cocked back her right hand and punched Kienan in the face with every ounce of
force she could muster. She braced herself imperceptibly for the response
Kienan was sure to deliver.
It never came. Kienan rubbed
the side of his face, looking shocked, almost like a child that never expected
to get hit, and especially not from her. Silhouette took full advantage of his
shock and got in his face, shaking her fists at him.
"Listen to me,
Kienan," she said, not even bothering to hide her rage. "You do
NOT have the corner on loneliness in
this universe, and I'll be god damned if I'm going to stand here and let you
tear me down just because you can't get it through your stubborn head that yes,
I moved on with my life. You are not the be all and end-all for me,
Kienan's emerald eyes
narrowed on her. "Then why did you come?"
"I dont know,"
Silhouette said, the rage in her slowly leaving her. She was taken aback by the
question and the gentleness with which he asked it this time. "Partly to
warn you . . .even though I knew you
wouldnt listen . . .and I wanted to see you again. I dont know. I shouldnt
have come. I'll go."
Kienan grabbed her by her
shoulders. "Silhouette," he said, his voice quiet and gentle.
Silhouette looked up at him,
and before either of them knew what was happening, they were kissing one
another, holding each other tightly and not knowing why.
The Malios pulled into the
orbital drydock surrounding Durga like a shark swimming around a coral reef. On
the bridge of the Malios, Warmaster
Janos Voelker allowed himself a tight smile of satisfaction. It had taken
several days running above recommended efficiency, but the Malios had made it to Durga earlier than expected.
His crew looked a little
haggard, but relieved all the same to finally be at their destination. It as a
good crew, the 400th to be assigned to this ship, and, like Voelker himself,
most just out of praxia, young and eager to please. If they were willing to go
to this much trouble to win his favor for a simple cargo run, they should do
"Malios to Durga command and control," Voelker said.
"We're putting in at Docking Station 4, and are ready to receive cargo
pickup as ordered at your pleasure."
"Durga command and
control welcomes you, Malios,"
the control tower answered back. "Cargo loading will take approximately
ten hours. Your crew is invited to take advantage of the downtime at Station
"Thank you, command and
control," Voelker said.
a new voice broke in.
"This is Voelker,"
he replied. "Please identify."
"This is Warduke Riven
of Black Lens," the voice said. Voelker heard the ripple of awe go through
the bridge crew. "Please join us at the main compound at your earliest
convenience. We have details of your cargo mission to discuss."
Lord," Voelker said. "I look forward to it. Malios out."
Voelker relaxed in his seat
and sighed. What would Rigellian Intelligence want with him, especially about
something as simple as a cargo run to the fringes of Rigellian space? He sighed
and supposed it was common courtesy for the commander of an outpost to greet a new
visitor, some forgotten bit of etiquette the higher orders held onto to remind
neophytes like him of what the order of things was. No
way to know but to go, he reasoned.
He stood up, brushing his
long light grey hair off of his shoulders. "Attention to orders," he
said to his bridge crew. "Ten hours shore leave declared, but stay in
Station 4. We're on a strict timetable, remember. Dismissed."
He touched the console on
the arm of his chair. "Bridge to shuttle bay 9, this is Voelker," he
said. "Have my shuttle readied in five minutes. I'm on my way now."
They looked at each other, a little stunned, both asking the same
question, but neither saying it. Kienan held Silhouette gently, as though he
had never stopped, and Silhouette did the same. They looked at each other for
what seemed like hours, until finally Kienan broke the silence.
She nodded and rested her
head on his chest. "I know," she whispered. "I dont know why I
did it either. I'm not even sure why I came. It feels like I'm waking up from a
Kienan slid out of her arms
and started toward the ladder. "Look," he said. "I'm sorry . .
.about how I acted. Come on up. The least you can do is stay awhile."
Silhouette stayed where she
was, her arms now wrapped around her body. She felt cold, even though she
she told herself. You know what'll
happen, and you dont need to see the future to see that.
Kienan looked at her.
"That's what you wanted, isnt it?"
know what I want. I'm just not sure it's mine to have.
Silhouette nodded, looking
"Then come with
me," he said. "I'll make it up to you."
I want you to.
Silhouette looked up at him,
blinking back tears. "That's exactly what I'm afraid of."
Kienan looked at her, more
than a little puzzled.
Silhouette looked at him,
exasperated by his incomprehension. "Is it that hard for you to figure
out, Kienan? I came here because I wanted to, but I didnt know I wanted to. I
kissed you because I wanted to, and this time I knew I wanted to. I'm just
looking for an explanation as to why."
Kienan blinked. "What
does that have to do with anything?"
Silhouette walked over to
him. "Kienan, if I go up that ladder, I'll want to be close to you,"
she said. "I'll want you to talk to me, and stroke my hair and do
everything we used to do on this ship together. And I wont want to sleep in
the guestroom, I'll want to sleep next to you and I'll want to make love to
you. I'm standing here and I'm forced to admit, even though I'll be damned if I
can explain it, that I want you."
Silhouette silently tore
herself to bit inside for letting the truth flow out of her.
"Why does that bother
said. "It's . . .just not a good idea."
she chided herself. Tell him the real
reason. Tell him about the dream. Tell him the whole truth, do what he can't.
Kienan leaned against the
ladder, shrugging his braid off of his shoulder. "Hm," he said.
"Youre probably right. I mean, we're still getting over each other."
Silhouette said quietly, looking away. "Who says I got over you?"
she reminded herself. Youre
only here to warn him then you go. The dream, remember, you only came to warn
him because of the--
Kienan looked away.
"Look," he said. "I'll be up on deck. Come or don't, but make a
decision one way or the other. If you decide to stay here I'll bring a blanket
and a pillow. It gets cold down here."
said. "Wait," she sighed, defeated. "I'll go. I must be out of
my mind, but I'll go."
youre a coward.
Kienan made his way up the
access ladder, Silhouette followed close behind him, wondering why the bottom
seemed to have dropped out of her life.
"Janos," Straeger said. They stood before a huge banquet
table, filled with more food than Voelker had seen in two months in space.
Warduke Riven sat at the head of the table, glass of kiral in his hand, his
eyes studying Voelker with little subtlety.
said, patting Straeger on the shoulder. "I see you made Agent status.
"To you as well,"
Straeger said. "A full Warmaster, eh? And the Malios as your ship. You must be pleased. Where'd they give
Voelker smiled. "A
small estate in Lankveil, on Oase. The most beautiful place you've ever seen. I
dont see it near enough, but . . ."
Straeger nodded. "The
Term of Service. Well, at least we get to endure it together, eh?"
Voelker nodded. "There
is that, yes."
said, gesturing to their seats. "If you'd care to sit . . .?"
Straeger and Voelker took
their seats on opposite sides of the table, each taking hold of their glasses
as Riven called for a toast.
"To the Empire,"
Voelker and Straeger said.
Riven smiled and gestured to
the food on the table. "I know it's not much, Warmaster, but I urge you to
give it a try. And dont worry, despite the reputation Black Lens has among the
military, I can safely promise you it isn't poisoned."
"Of course, my
Lord," Voelker said. "It's a welcome change from ship's rations, in
any event, and it's a luxury I'm willing to try. Thank you for inviting
"Very good," Riven
said. "Forgive me for jumping right into things, but I'm afraid this must
be a working dinner, as the Earthers say. I assume you've been briefed by the
Military Directorate, Warmaster?"
Voelker nodded. "I've
told my crew it's a simple cargo and resupply run, nothing more. I have to say,
sir, that when Warduke Vulgus gave me the story, I was surprised. To think
Warlord Algrim not only lives, but at the pleasure of the Empress is . . .a
fascinating tale, to be sure."
true," Riven said. "Algrim was exiled because he was a dangerous man.
He would have been eliminated if we could. It was hoped, in time, he would
exceed his resources on his mission to "expand the Empire" and
quietly fade away, but his luck has made him integral to our Empire's survival
once again. And as a result, certain . . .hard decisions must now be
"Yes," Riven said.
"Agent Straeger has been analyzing the data Algrim relayed to us about his
"discovery." In addition, I have had a team of researchers here
analyzing that data for the past month."
"It's not meant as an
insult, Agent Straeger," Riven said. "The scientists were part of the
team that first settled and colonized Durga. The data in his transmission
seemed to indicate that his discovery is similar to one made on this planet 200
"I never knew there was
anything of note discovered in this system," Voelker said. "As I
understand it, it was chosen as Black Lens' headquarters specifically because it was a remote system."
"Because of the nature
of the discovery, we felt it better to keep this quiet while we conducted a
scientific study of the discovery."
"Just so we're clear,
my lord," Straeger said. "What exactly is this . . .discovery?"
Riven looked at them.
"A ship," he said. "A very old one, and one using technology
we've never encountered before or since. The Oneiran scientists believe it even
predates the Ghram, if that's possible."
something that old could survive to our time," Voelker said. "Were
there any crew, any sign of what it was doing there?"
"No," Riven said.
"No bodies, and as to why it was within the strata of Durga . . .we suspect
it was buried there."
"Why would anyone bury
a ship?" Straeger said, taking a sip from his glass of kiral. "It
doesn't make sense. And how could they have buried a ship, possibly two ships,
if Algrim's information can be trusted, so far apart and yet no one's ever
heard of them?"
said. "But once we freed it from the planet, we found out its true value.
Unfortunately, we found out at the cost of the ship. Once free of Durga, it
tried to blast the moon to pieces, and we were forced to destroy it. At least
we were able to salvage the pieces for study and research."
"And what makes its so
valuable?" Voelker said. "Obviously it's some sort of droid fighter,
like the ones the Khephren encountered a year ago. We've had droid fighters for
"No," Riven said.
"It was alive. It is fully organic technology."
technology?" Straeger asked. His mind drifted back to the Phantom, specifically its outer skin and
how it had seemed to shift as he looked at it. He chided himself for ignoring
the obvious pattern of movement at the first.
Breathing. It was breathing. The Phantom
. . .is alive.
"Beef and rice,"
Silhouette said, looking at the bowl of food steaming before her. "I never
could figure you out, Kienan. You always wore the same suit, always ate the
same things over and over again. Yet you still manage to be spontaneous."
Kienan propped his feet up
on the table, sitting opposite her. "It's considered bad form to criticize
your host in his own house. Especially when he just cooked for you."
"Our own house,"
Silhouette corrected, without meaning to. "I havent been on this ship in
. . .what? Four years? And I still remember every little detail. Sometimes I
dream about this place at night."
"Maybe you belong
here," Kienan said indifferently, using a pair of chopsticks to shovel
beef and rice into his mouth.
Silhouette took a bite and
chewed it and what Kienan had said over in her mind. The beef and rice was the
same as it had always been . . .too much salt on the race and too much spice in
the beef. But all the same, she ate it and could almost imagine . . .
Stay in the now, stay focused. Dont think
about it. Tell him what you came here to tell him and go. It's better for him
and you. Don't wear out your welcome.
"I dont know
where I belong, lately," Silhouette
said. "I . . .I've been having visions."
Kienan clicked his
Silhouette nodded, chewing
over another chopstick full. "The seeing you die thing I mentioned? A
vision. Fragments. Sometimes it's things that happened years ago, sometimes its
stuff that hasnt happened yet. Or at least I think it hasnt happened
"If it were anyone
else, I'd say you were crazy," Kienan said. "But . . .you did save my
life. I dont know how you did it, but you saved my life. If you can completely
heal me after I had half my chest blown out then, seeing the future ought to be
easy, I guess."
Silhouette said abruptly. "Have you ever been to Earth?"
Kienan stopped eating. He
stared at her, perplexed. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"Just answer the
question. It's important."
"No," Kienan said.
"I never saw any need. Earth's a fascist plastic wasteland anyway. What
could possibly be there for me?"
Silhouette said. "Kienan, do you really
believe people see the future?"
Kienan resumed eating.
"Depends on the future."
Kienan put the now-empty
bowl down and rifled through his belt pouches for his cigarettes and his
lighter. He laughed around his cigarette. "My future? Sil, I have no
"Youre not dead
Kienan lit his cigarette.
"According to most sources, I died on Caldera when the Magmadivers killed
every person in the mining colony. Or when the sun went nova and turned the
system into an asteroid field --doesn't matter, the result's the same. Who am I to argue with the
Kienan said, taking a drag on his cigarette. "I'm in a nightmare, the kind
you keep thinking you wake up from only to find you're going deeper into
"What happens when you
really wake up?"
"Maybe I die for
"You said you were
"So I did," Kienan
said, taking another drag off of the cigarette.
They looked at each other
for a while, neither really sure of what to say.
Kienan said. He leaned forward and looked down at the deck, resting his elbows
on his knees. "About . . .Sinclaire. You seemed happy with him. I can't
stand him but . . .I always wanted you to be . . .happy."
Silhouette said. "I guess happiness wasn't enough. It couldnt fill me up
"And I do?" Kienan
said. "Is that what this is about?"
said. She sighed and twisted a lock of her dark brown hair around her finger.
"You know . . .from that time we spent in each other's heads . . .how I
was . . .born."
"In a test tube,"
Kienan said, grinding out his cigarette in a mottled glass astray.
"Thanks for putting it
so kindly," Silhouette said, frowning. "I've been trying to find out
more, about why I was created, about what happened to me, and why I dont
really remember anything concrete before the day we met."
"And what did you
find?" Kienan asked, lighting another cigarette. He exhaled, and the smoke
seemed to hang suspended in the air, making his emerald eyes seem like the
stare of a ghost.
"I have bits and
pieces," Silhouette said. "But not the whole picture. I look like
humans, but I'm stronger, faster, my senses are exponentially more pronounced,
but . . .I dont know how, or why. And every little bit I find out makes me
more and more worried, and I dont know why."
"No luck tracking down
the doctor who created you . . .what was his name . . . Sandoval?"
Silhouette shook her head.
She bit her bottom lip, her eyes quavering. "What if I'm not the only one,
Kienan? What if somewhere out there there's a whole race like me? Or worse yet,
what if I'm some aberration?"
Kienan exhaled. "You're
scared. Of being alone."
Silhouette nodded and put
her head in her hands.
"So," Straeger began, finishing off the last of his glass of
Kiral. "This ship you unearthed attacked Durga, and forced you to destroy
it. You spent the next century studying the pieces and reverse-engineering it
to work with our technology?"
"Yes," Riven said.
"Unfortunately, the Phantom was
our one and only prototype and used all the bio-mass we salvaged from the
wreckage of the ship. But the data Algrim has sent us indicates he's found a
substantial source. Perhaps he's found an entire capital ship buried on one of
those planets, perhaps he's found a base. In any case, Black Lens wants it. For
research, of course."
Voelker said. "Any race that could crack the riddle of organic technology
would automatically change the balance of power in this sector of the galaxy.
If a small ship can decimate a moon . . .larger scale ships, even bio-mass
merged with our existing ships and fighters . . . "
" . . .It's quite an
enticing proposition, isnt it?" Riven asked. "But we cant leave it
in the hands of a renegade like Algrim. We need to stake a claim to it, and
begin our research as soon as possible."
"What are our
orders?" Straeger asked.
"You and Voelker will
take the Malios to the rendezvous
point, follow Algrim back to his base. Evaluate his discovery and then . .
.terminate the Warlord's command."
Voelker asked, more than a little surprised.
"Take command of the
installation in the name of the Empire," Riven said. "Once your
forces are in command, signal us via a special frequency we'll be giving the Malios. That signal will be relayed to
an attack fleet standing by, and they will move in and destroy any lingering
resistance from Algrim's forces."