Gunmetal Black 3
Chapter 10 - Three Wishes
By
Lewis Smith

www.gunmetalblack.com

Vain watched the Myrmidion from the Silhouette's observation dome as it took up position on the portside of her ship. They had left the planet far behind them now; it was important to find a place of convergence for the ritual, Ravenna had said, a crossroads of energy that could be tapped into.

It had also required transferring Jayla-2 to the Haxan's ship. Vain hadn’t much liked it, but was eager to settle their bargains, so she had believed Ravenna's story that the Myrmidion could better handle any problems the massive amounts of energy the ritual unleashed would cause.

They had no reason to lie, or so Conscience said, Vain thought. She looked down at her new right arm and flexed it, clenching it into a fist.

Besides, they've kept their word so far. Three wishes, my arm's the first, Jayla-2 is the second.

Vain folded her arms and watched the ship. There was nothing to do but wait, and waiting at this point seemed the hardest thing to do. The silence felt deafening. Even the Myrmidion seemed to hand there dully, like the Silhouette's shadow.

Odd, Vain thought. What had I expected? A bright fireworks display? Perhaps I'm too spoiled by Jaevin's blatant displays of power. I, more than anyone, should know that the real magic, the real power, is always wielded in the shadows.


Toriares raised his pistol at Sinclaire.

"Now you’re giving orders all of a sudden?" Toriares asked, drawing the hammer back on the pistol.

"I'm giving you a way out," Sinclaire replied coldly. "Take Kienan and leave. I'll take the explosives and destroy the command center."

Toriares thought it over. On the face of it, it was a practical solution -- they really didn’t need three people to plant explosives -- one in the right place would ruin the command center and trap everyone inside. And Sinclaire could do it. Toriares knew from experience he could sneak in and accomplish the mission.

It's logical but it doesn’t feel right, Toriares thought. More to it than this.

"You don’t expect me to believe you’re doing this out of the kindness of your own heart, do you?" Toriares said. "We've had disagreements but everything I've seen today tells me you hate Kienan's guts. Why spare his life?"

"I don’t hate him," Sinclaire said, looking down at him. "Not anymore."

"Then why?" Toriares asked, keeping the gun level with Sinclaire's eye. Fast or not, the first wrong move Sinclaire made would be his last.

"Because," Sinclaire said, sighing. "I'm the only one of the three of us who cares about this place anyway."

He sheathed his sword and walked over to Kienan, picking him up and dragging him up the exit ramp. "Do you know," he began. "I came here to get out. Like the criminals in the Peace Hotel. I just wanted ... out. I never intended to draw these swords again. I'd tried being a villain and I failed. I tried being a hero with Silhouette and I wasn't any good at that either. Do you understand?"

"About getting out?" Toriares asked, safetying his pistol and walking up the Vroom's ramp. "Yeah. I can understand the urge. I was sort of hoping I could do that for Kienan. That's why I brought him here. So maybe he'd find a way out."

"I thought this was my way out," Sinclaire said, setting Kienan in one of the Vroom's seats. "People here didn’t care who I was or who I was trying to be. It was the first time I can ever remember really ... belonging anywhere. And now it's gone."

Toriares regarded him curiously before handing him a small satchel.

"Something else I learned this trip," he said. "Trouble follows you wherever you go. All you can do is face it. The alternative is to keep running until it catches you."

Sinclaire opened the satchel and checked the explosives. They were enhanced past their specifications -- supercharged plasma-fusion bombs with catalytic detonators. Once one was activated deep in the bowels of the command center, everything in a perfect 25-foot sphere would be incinerated.

"That's my plan," Sinclaire said, throwing the satchel over his shoulder. He walked down the ramp. "I'd say I'll see you around ... "

" ... But you're not intending on coming back," Toriares said. He sighed. "You sure this is the way to go out? The way you want to go out?"

Sinclaire walked down the ramp, his steps that of a man who had totally accepted his destiny. He looked over his shoulder, his blue-green eyes soft and resolved but not sad.

"I told you," he said. "None of the roles I tried on fit. Maybe the only choice left is to be ... nothing. Besides, these people offered me a paradise yesterday. The least I can do is die for them. Who knows? Maybe I'll see them again on the other side."

Toriares pondered that for a moment. "Good luck," he said.

He turned to the controls. The Ruby Vroom, nervously balanced on its one functioning engine, whined to life. Toriares looked over his shoulder through the rear bay of the Vroom as it closed, watching as Sinclaire trudged forward to his destiny.


"Energy that binds us in this existence, I call upon you,

Give this vessel a portion of your light,

Mix its existence with its departed soul and cleanse the darkness at the heart of both with your unblinking light."

Ravenna raised the Soulcaster over her head, every cell in her body on fire with the energy she was channeling. The ceremony was nearly complete. They had done the easier parts. Jayla-2's body had been remade, not human, but close enough given the materials they had.

Now came the moment of trust. Tying Jayla Kyren's soul to this new body. Essentially it was like writing a program permanently onto a data medium -- only a perfect copy would suffice. Any errors would leave Jayla-2 blank or create a personality other than Jayla Kyren's.

One last chant.

"As we come from the stars, so shall we return,

Star and sunfire, take from here the darkness.

Bring light, disperse it, and ground it.

And let her rise as a new child of light."

There was a flash of green energy and then silence. Ravenna looked at Illiel and Kayt, both still holding the focusing circle. The air smelt of ozone, and even Ravenna could feel her hair standing on end from the release of energy.

Slowly, she lowered the Soulcaster, willing the cybernetic implants in her eyes to scan Jayla-2's body for the results of their labors.

Had it worked? Ravenna pondered. I've never tried to bind a soul to anything so fundamentally different from the initial source.

Slowly, Jayla-2 opened her eyes. She ran her hands over her soft grey skin, her emerald fingernails gently traced the shape of herself, as if she had been so long asleep she had forgotten who she had been.

Her black lips opened to speak. Ravenna realized, to her shock she was speaking in a language even most Haxan had forgotten.

She's scanning our languages, Ravenna thought. She motioned to Illiel and Kayt to close the circle. They watched as Jayla 2 sat up, her jet-black hair cascading over her shoulders, still searching for the answer to her unspoken question.

"Who am I?"

Her fingers closed around the coin on the chain around her neck. Her shining green eyes turned dark for a moment, and Ravenna at last began to understand what had happened.

Syncresis, she thought.


Sinclaire walked down the narrow dark corridors of the command center with steely purpose. He had meant what he'd said to Toriares before he'd left -- he was ready to die.

The curious thing was, it was a choice he was totally comfortable with. This was not the dramatic narcissism of a hopeless man, but the calm, reasoned decision of a man who'd reached the end of his existence.

After all, he thought, his fingers running idly up and down the strap on the satchel, I can’t be anything. There is no life and if life and purpose are gone then what's left?

"Nothing."

Sinclaire stopped, his hand going to his sword. He heard footsteps, small, quiet, unafraid. For a moment, his thoughts of nihilism were tipped by hope. Had survivors been able to make their way here? Was it possible some had survived under the Sekhmet's notice?

Then suddenly the pressure was back, more insistent than ever. Sinclaire's brain felt like it was being squeezed in a vice, the feeling was so strong. He willed the discomfort away, trying to focus on the footsteps in front of him.

The lights flipped on, the corridor was suddenly bathed in pale cool fluorescent light and standing in front of Sinclaire were two people -- one, a tall impassive man who appeared to be wearing a mask like Toriares' and a small child, a young girl.

They seemed unafraid, the child least of all. In fact she was smiling at Sinclaire and looking at him with a familiarity that made him deeply uncomfortable.

Even more distressing was the merciless gaze of the man behind her. It wasn't the aggression he felt, or the pressure Sinclaire was responding to. It was the terrible sense that Sinclaire was looking into his own eyes.

"What are you two doing here?" Sinclaire asked, hand close to his sword, but not wishing to appear aggressive. "The Sekhmet -- "

" -- have killed nearly everyone in the colony," the young girl said. "Yes, we know. This may surprise you, Sinclaire, but we were the ones who put them up to it."

"What?" Sinclaire asked incredulously, hand closing on his sword. "How could you have done that? And how do you know my name?"

The child smiled and looked at Sinclaire almost pityingly. "Sinclaire, I know everything about you. I was there when you were born. I know your purpose, I know your past, and I know your future. And I know all your names -- Sinclaire, Sabre, and your first ... Ain."

"Ain? Sorry, you've got the wrong guy. That name means nothing to me," Sinclaire lied. In truth, he was remembering something, like a dream one desperately tried to hang on when they awoke.

Three names, he thought, Three ... capsules. Three ... people. Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur.

"Don’t try to deny it, Sinclaire," the child said, stepping forward. "Even now, you're beginning to remember, aren’t you? You've always known, you know. I just needed you and your sister to forget for a few years."

"My ... sister?" Sinclaire thought.

The girl nodded, brushing a lock of brown hair from her eyes.

"Silhouette."

"Silhouette is my ... sister?" Sinclaire said. "Now I know you’re lying."

"The term's an ill fit, but it's more or less true," she said. She gestured to the man behind her. "And this is your brother. His name is Omega. My name is Kyra Jenolan Sandoval. I'm the daughter of the man who created you."

"I don’t believe a word of it," Sinclaire said.

"I figured you wouldn't," Kyra said. She took a step back and leaned against the corridor wall. "But it's the truth. You've never wondered why you're so much stronger and faster than humans, have you? How you can heal from injuries so quickly? How you have that peculiar extra-sensory perception that comes and goes like the pressure on your brain you're feeling right now in the presence of your brother?"

"Enough," Sinclaire said, the anger in his voice no longer disguised. He drew one of his swords and stood ready. "I'm sorry Kyra. I don’t believe you, and even if I did, I have a job to do."

"Oh yes," Kyra said, bored. "Your suicide. I'm afraid I can’t allow that."

Sinclaire blinked, starting to rattle. "How could you know?"

Kyra smiled and shook her head. "Sinclaire, I know everything, don't you understand? Who do you think sent you to Iczelia to learn swordsmanship? Who do you think shipped Silhouette to the Frontier?

"I'm twenty years ahead of you, Sinclaire," Kyra said. "Your every action, your every thought is old news to me."

"I don't believe you," Sinclaire said. "My life is my own."

"Your life is a lie," Kyra sighed. "My lie. And now it's time for you to come back. I have a job for you, Sinclaire."

"I'll never join you," Sinclaire said. "I don’t believe you, Kyra. And I would never work with someone who butchered a whole colony."

"I know you won't," Kyra said. "As for this fool's paradise of yours, it was never yours either, Sinclaire. It was never yours to have. It's destruction was as preordained as this. Omega, if you please ... enlighten your brother."

Omega moved in front of her with blinding speed, moving so fast he seemed to disappear from Sinclaire's view. In an instant he was inches from Sinclaire. With one wise of his right hand, he swatted aside his sword and closed a red-gloved hand around Sinclaire's face.

Omega slammed Sinclaire into the metal deck one-handed, denting it with the force of the impact. Sinclaire felt his world explode in pain, but found himself beginning to heal, more rapidly than he ever had before.

Omega's ... doing? Sinclaire wondered. Is he ... really ... like me?

Sinclaire got to his feet. Omega stood before him, fists clenched, waiting for him. Sinclaire painfully opened his eyes just in time to see Omega throw a punch more powerful than anything he'd ever experienced.

Sinclaire's jaw and face were pulverized under the force of the blow as he flew backwards down the corridor, smashing through one door, then a wall, then another door. Each impact broke more of his bones and burst more of his internal organs.

And as he lay in a pulverized heap now three sections away from where he'd started, he began healing, regenerating from what would have been to anyone else, fatal injury. Blood drained from his lungs as ribs reformed around them and Sinclaire took a painful breath and spat up a font of blood, watching as Omega stalked towards him, silent but lethal, like the finality of Death itself.

Kyra picked up the sword Sinclaire had dropped as the communication unit beeped. She sighed and, still holding the sword, answered it.

"What is it, Doctor?"

"I just wanted to inform you, we're ready to leave at your pleasure, Miss Sandoval," Reficul said. "Sufficient evidence has been left to point the UEF investigators in the direction we want."

"Excellent, doctor. Survivors?"

"A handful of humans hiding on the far side of the town above, lady," Reficul said. "I believe without adequate provisions they will be dead by the time any craft arrive."

"Yes, they will," Kyra said. She looked at Omega, heading towards Sinclaire, who was still mostly meaty jelly. "Doctor, ready the Sekhmet's craft and land it in the courtyard of the command center. We'll join shortly as soon as we see to our ... family reunion."

Kyra shut off the communicator and jogged to catch up with her bodyguard. The sword made a horrible scraping nose as it scratched against the smooth metal deck of the corridor.

"OMEGA!" she said. Omega turned to face her.

Kyra smiled and pointed up. Omega nodded.

Kyra quickly made her way to the service stairs, still dragging Sinclaire's sword behind her as she mounted the stairs as quickly as possible. They'd been fortunate to catch Sinclaire only three levels down into the complex. Any lower and Omega's little stunt could have backfired on them.

And Kyra wanted Sinclaire to understand the full scope of what he was up against.

Who knows? She thought. Maybe it'll jog his memory.

Omega silently tore the satchel of explosives off Sinclaire's shoulder and grabbed him by his grey scarf and raised his left hand. A glowing sphere of energy began to focus there and flew towards the ceiling. With a sound like thunder magnified dozens of times over, the first three levels blasted upwards and out, and there was suddenly a perfect hole to the outside, the reddish-pink of dawn mixing with the particle of debris from Omega's blast and the floors above sagging into the hole below.

Omega tossed Sinclaire high into the air as a child might idly pitch a baseball upwards. Sinclaire went flying hundreds of feet into the air, the shock magnified because Omega had seemed to put no effort into the throw.

Omega watched as Sinclaire's ascent stopped. Then he crouched and leapt into the air after him, overtaking Sinclaire by a foot and smashing at Sinclaire with his fist, driving him into the sand like a tent peg.

Omega landed catlike in front of him and started walking towards him again. Sinclaire began to sweat. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Kyra walking up to him, her smug smile rubbing her triumph in his face. She balanced on Sinclaire's sword as Omega drew closer.


Mirage stood before Jayla-2, pulling out three footlockers, each landing on the deck with a heavy thud. Jayla-2 took all this curiously. She was wrapped in a blanket provided by the Haxan, a soft beige cloth crisscrossed with strange black patters and runes. Around her neck, above her necklace, was a yellow vox collar. Beneath it, she was naked.

Vain and Mirage knew from experience Kienan wouldn’t allow that. The collar the Haxan had suggested, as it would make it easier for her to acclimate to multiple speech patterns. The blanket they had given out of respect for her modesty.

Mirage opened one of the footlockers and lifted up a handful of clothes to Jayla. "All right," she said. "Here are some clothes. Go through them, find something you like, but don’t come out until you’re dressed. In words of one syllable: Put some damned clothes on."

"Ah," Jayla-2 said, reaching for what Mirage held in her hands. "Thank you!'

The blanket slipped off her and Mirage sighed. She mused for a moment about what was a worse fate -- Kienan seeing Jayla-2 running around the ship stark naked or finding her wearing Silhouette's things.

Neither really seems to be an optimal decision, she thought. So we'll have to see if what worked with us works with her.

Mirage watched as Jayla-2 began to rummage around in the footlocker. Whoever designed her, she thought, must have had the same things in mind as our creator did.

There are a lot of sick people in this galaxy.

"I'll tell you what Jayla-2," Mirage said. "I think I'll let you get dressed in peace, OK? Just uh ... hit the door chime when you’re ready."

"All right," Jayla-2 said. Her voice was pleasant, unlike anything Mirage had ever heard before. It was almost childlike, but at the same time, somewhat worldly.

I don’t know how we're going to explain this to Kienan, Mirage thought, as she squeezed past Jayla-2 as she lifted a red shirt out the footlocker and held it to her chest.

"I'm far too big for this," she said to no one in particular.

Mirage opened the door and looked over her shoulder. "Try breathing in a bit," she said, stepping through and closing it behind her.

Outside the door stood Vain and Kayt.

"How is our new crewmate?" Vain asked.

"Odd," Mirage said. "I realize we were essentially just as blank as she was and had to learn human interaction by observation, but we couldn’t have ever acted that weird. Did we?"

"I ... can’t remember, sister," Vain said. She turned to Kayt. "All right," Vain said. "Now that we're both here, Kayt, I think it’s time you told us the truth."

"The truth?" Kayt repeated innocently.

"About Jayla-2," Vain said. "You did more than reintegrate her. You made her a Haxan, just like the rest of you."

"You knew?" Kayt said, turning away.

"It wasn't hard to figure out," Vain said. "The physical similarities are telling enough but everything else -- the heightened perceptions, the fact that she understand every spoken language and needs the vox collar only to filter them out to one we can understand? It's pretty clear what you did. I just want to know why."

"She shares certain aspects of our order, yes," Kayt said. "But in many ways she is more and less than we are."

"Oh good," Mirage said, leaning against the doorframe. "More riddles."

"She could one day learn our ways," Kayt said. "In fact, she has more of an aptitude than anyone ever has. She is in tune with the energies that sustain this existence."

"Why do all that, though?" Mirage said.

"Consider it a down payment on your third wish," Kayt said. "Jayla-2 is special. Her attunement with the energies of the cosmos is critical to what is coming. Jaevin caused more damage than we thought, and from our study of recent events it has been aggravated."

"Meaning what?" Mirage asked. "Exactly now, don’t obfuscate."

"What will happen is not yet clear to us," Kayt said. "All we know is that a crisis is coming. When that time comes you will see us again. Jayla-2 will lead us to you. On that day, at Earth, shall our bargain be settled."


Kienan was dreaming his least favorite dream again. He was held tight by the Magmadivers, their hard, gnarled hands grabbing him and forcing his face into a pool of blood. Within the pool were more of them, swimming up and grabbing his face. Pulling him under as he was pushed under.

He tried to gasp for hair and one of the hands closed over his mouth and nose. He couldn't breathe. Unconsciously he tried to scream and only gasped in horror --

As the nightmare dispelled he sat bolt upright. He looked at his hands and coughed. No blood, no Magmadivers, he thought. I'm alive. I'm ...

He looked around. Where am I?

The door behind him opened. He turned around, gritting his teeth at the pain that shot through him when he did so.

"I swear, Kienan. You can’t relax even when forced to, can you?" Toriares said, helping him get into a more comfortable position. "You could be a little bit more self-aware kid. If you knew how many sutures I put in you to keep your stuffing in maybe you’d listen to me."

"Toriares," Kienan said, sighing. "How long was I out?"

"Two, maybe three hours," Toriares said. "Sinclaire clocked you good. Knocked the last bit of tension keeping you up on your feet out of you. The Chimera's med-computer listed about 715 damaged tissues on your body."

"Nice," Kienan groaned. "It's been a wonderful vacation, Toriares. Really."

"It wasn't what I expected either," Toriares said. "Still ... it was good to work with you again." He smiled.

Kienan smiled and hugged Toriares as gingerly as he dared to given the exquisite pain he felt. "For me too," he said. "Guess no one really can stop the Brothers of Blood, huh?"

"Have they ever been able to?" Toriares said. "C'mon now, kid. Rest. Listen to your elder for once."

"Toriares, listening to you was how I got this banged up in the first place."

"Touché, Kienan," he said, smiling. "Listen, I've been in touch with your lady friends. Our ETA's about four hours. They're going without safeties on the Space Drive to rendezvous with us as soon as possible. They also wanted me to give you a message."

"Message?" Kienan asked.

"Just two words," Toriares said. "Mission accomplished."

Kienan blinked.

The long shot had worked, he thought.

"Something wrong?" Toriares asked.

"No," Kienan said. "No, everything's Ok, I guess. How long did you say it would be?"

"Four hours," Toriares said. There was more to the message, Toriares knew, but he knew better to pry. The vague messages were an old trick. A way to be sure no one could work out the purpose behind it.

I should know, Toriares thought. I taught him myself. And despite the fact that the crazy fool nearly managed to get himself killed, I think I taught him well.

Maybe I didn’t teach him everything I should but it's good to know the important stuff sank in.

Kienan lay back on the gurney. He took a deep breath then looked over at Toriares.

"Something wrong?" Kienan asked.

"Never seen you take doctor's orders so well."

"I've got four hours to wait," Kienan said. The vague hint of joy in his voice was gone, replaced by something that to Toriares sounded like either anxiety or outright fear. "I guess all I can do is rest. I've got a lot to think about."

Toriares nodded. "If you want to talk, call for me."

Kienan nodded and stared at the ceiling of the medical bay. The door slid shut behind Toriares and Kienan was alone again.

"Mission accomplished," the message had said, style='font-family: Arial'> he thought. That means that they brought her back. Jayla Kyren. The woman I thought I’d lost. She's waiting for me. Alive again.

And, at the moment, I can’t seem to think of a single thing I want to say to her.


Sinclaire lay in the dirt, playing dead, biding his own time. He'd seen the folly of trying to attack Omega. Omega was too fast and too powerful, and too ready to toy with him.

He knows I'm healing faster and faster, he thought. Anything he does, I can bounce back from within minutes. It's only the shock that takes time to recover from. He's toying with me. Trying to make his point about how much stronger he is.

Sinclaire closed his eyes and slowed down his breathing. He had fought people stronger than him before. Not this strong, but out of his range. He had prevailed in those times by using his strength judiciously, at the right moment.

Maybe that was the key here, he thought. His left hand, hidden under his body, was close to his other sword. If I could catch Omega off-balance, surprise him ...

Come closer, he thought, hearing Omega's white boots as the sand sighed around them with every footstep he took. Time became slow, seconds moved like minutes. Sinclaire could hear Kyra behind him, giggling like a child watching a schoolyard brawl.

Come on ...

Omega reached for him, and in an instant Sinclaire flipped to his feet. He laced the fingers of his hands together and swung at Omega as hard as he could. Omega's mask shattered and he stumbled back, surprised. Sinclaire's blue eyes crystallized with cold determination.

This is the moment, Sinclaire said. STRIKE!

Sinclaire drew his sword, intending to cleave Omega's head off as the blade cleared the scabbard.

Sinclaire finished the cut, his blade pointing towards Kyra.

Or it would have done, if the blade had been intact. It was shattered midway down the blade. Sinclaire absorbed all this in two seconds before Omega grabbed him by the hair, turning him to face his brother.

Omega lifted him off the ground and stared into his eyes. Like Sinclaire's they were blue-green. But Omega looked much different, despite the anger on his face now, his features were softer, more innocent. In fact, the only thing that seemed to emphasize his anger was the symbol drawn over his eyes. The symbol from which Omega's name came.

"Brother," Omega said. "Stop fighting."

"I'll ... NEVER ... stop ... fighting you!" Sinclaire shouted, kicking loose of Omega's grip and falling into the sand. The escape was short lived, however. Omega seized him by his scarf and spun him around so hard it tore free of Sinclaire's body, sending him a few hundred yards into the wall of the courtyard.

Kyra smiled. Just like she remembered. She nodded to Omega and tossed him the other sword.

The rising sun caught a glint of the sword Omega held as he seized on the broken handle Sinclaire had held. Then, moving too fast for the human eye to catch, he caught Sinclaire again, slamming him back into the wall.

There was an awful sound -- the meeting of bone, blood, steel and stone as Omega drove one of Sinclaire's swords through his left hand. Sinclaire screamed at the unbelievable pain that seemed to set his whole world white-hot.

But Omega wasn't done. He grabbed the broken handle and pinned Sinclaire's right hand to the wall as well.

Sinclaire screamed loud and long. Omega watched him as Kyra trudged over to her bodyguard, carrying something in her hands.

"You can’t say he didn't warn, you, can you, Sinclaire?" Kyra said, grinning. She passed the item she'd been carrying to Omega. "Pin his legs too, Omega. One will do."

Omega took the object and nodded. Sinclaire saw it against the sunlight and recognized it as the other half of his broken blade in the two seconds before Omega slammed it into his thigh, pinning it to the wall as well.

"AAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!"

"I know, I know," Kyra said. "It hurts. But look at it this way, Sinclaire: Pain leads to enlightenment, and today is the day you'll be enlightened. First you, then your wayward sister, then Earth. It'll be a new age for all of us.

"A happy ending."

Sinclaire tried to struggle against the blades, but it was hopeless. Already his hands and leg had healed around them. All he could do was writhe in pain.

Behind Omega and Kyra, his scarf was blowing away. He sighed and closed his eyes. He had failed at being a hero, a villain, and at ending his own life. There was nothing left.

"Enjoy the sunrise, Sinclaire," Kyra said, turning and looking over her shoulder. She smiled, as if everything were right and good.

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."