Gunmetal Black 3 Chapter 4 - Reunion
slowly flew into the dark region before them. Gradually the stars fell away and
there was only a thick oppressive cloud of night around them.
focused," Vain cautioned Mirage. "We wont be able to find a
celestial fix until we get through this cloud. Conscience, are you broadcasting
the proper message?"
Conscience replied. The equation message was being transmitted over and over
again like the steady rings of a phone call. The question was, would anyone
pick up? Was anyone there to answer?
Vain grimaced at
the thought. The information at the Armillary was left centuries ago, she
thought. The Haxan could have left the galaxy by this point.
Or -- and this was
an even grimmer probability to contemplate -- the Haxan were extinct -- having
run to the ends of the universe only to die alone in the eternal night. As bad
as that was, Vain's felt worse for her ego. As a creature of logic, the idea
that she would willfully chase shadows along the length and breath of the
galaxy was ... disturbing.
She steadied the Silhouette's
course, monitoring the collision sensors, which were about the only thing left
that would do her any good at the moment. Nothing. They were surrounded by
nothing and were flying deeper into it, as good as blind. The only thing to
hope for was a near miss or that their message would be received.
Of course, there
were plenty of other dangers that could befall them. The void was a good trick
to cover your tracks. Any pursuing ship could fly too close to a far or a
planet and not realize it until it's too late to do anything about.
Vain hoped that
wouldnt happen with their ship. It wasn't her own destruction or even the loss
of the Silhouette. No, the worst thing was to disappoint Kienan.
This means a lot
to him, Vain thought. I will not
course, trying to keep to a straight line as the collision alert sounded. There
was no telling what it was -- in this thick darkness it could be anything, from
an asteroid, a space mine or a Haxan ship, slipping through the void and
studying the Silhouette.
hand danced over the arming controls to the weapons. While the Silhouette
appeared to be little more than a rebuilt freighter, it was quite impressively
armed. Heavy blaster cannons, missiles, mines, even a high-yield fusion cannon.
Enough to take on a ship at least twice its size.
She toyed for a
second with firing a shot. Maybe it would light the way, maybe it would
convince the Haxan that they were not to be trifled with.
she reminded herself. Kienan said to go to them
with open hands. An unusual thing for him to say, but perhaps the best choice
given the circumstances.
After all, we
want these people's help. They might not like us shooting them out of the
received," Conscience said.
Mirage exulted. "Have they responded?"
Conscience said. "Processing signal."
The void suddenly
vanished and the stars returned. The Silhouette was surrounded by three
bizarrely constructed ships -- orbs holding together two triangular wings. They
looked like midnight butterflies painted purple and blue on a base of deepest
Vain thought. That a group of magicians who use
mathematics and technology to effect magic would choose a ship so perfect in
"Who calls to
those who wandered the stars long ago?" The message came back. Vain smiled
thinly. Whoever they were and however long they'd been in hiding, they'd
apparently never lost their flair for the theatrical.
through to them, Conscience," Vain said.
Vain marshaled her
courage and recalled the instructions left at the Armillary. This had all been
there, buried in a peculiar kind of code it had taken them a long time to crack.
"The ones who
followed the trail you drew in the stars."
his friend warmly as they stood in the landing bay of the Chimera.
Kienan did the same. It felt so good to see him again. He hasnt aged a day,
Kienan thought. Still the same man who taught me everything. Even looks the
same -- same white and black suit, same cane. The only welcome constant in my
"How have you
been, Kienan?" Toriares asked. Kienan was about to say something when the
whine of the engines clamping a launch frame over the Ruby Vroom cut him
off. Toriares gestured for him to come to the forward compartment.
about the same as always," Kienan said.
down for a second, almost sorry to hear it. "Well," he said.
"You look good. Youre not embarrassing me, are you?"
Kienan said, smiling. Occasionally Toriares enjoyed playing Kienan's stern
master, even though he had been anything but.
Toriares said, reaching into one of the storage units behind the controls and
getting a bottle of a strange green liquid and two glasses. He quickly poured
two and handed one to Kienan, gesturing for him to sit as he did the same.
"I didnt forget. I always remember to keep a bottle of the good stuff for
you. I'll probably have one on me the day you die."
A shadow went over
Kienan's face as he took the drink.
Toriares said. He searched Kienan's face for concern. "I say something
Kienan threw the
drink back, feeling his insides shudder as it slid down, igniting everything on
its path downwards. "Well," Kienan said. "Let's just say that's
been on my mind a lot lately."
Toriares took his
drink and poured another. "You wanna talk about it?"
Kienan knocked back
the next drink. "Maybe when I'm a little more drunk."
Toriares smiled and
took another drink, quickly pouring another one for Kienan. "I'll hold you
to that," he said. The bottle was a third gone already. Altarian whiskey
was the sort of thing you drank to prove your courage. Most men couldn't get
through a whole bottle without needing a hospital. "Where are your lady
Kienan asked. "Oh, right. They're taking care of some business past the
Frontier for me."
Kienan as he handed him the drink. More to it than that, he thought. Whatever
theyre doing it must be important to him. God, what's wrong with you? Stop
He'll tell you
what's on his mind when he's damn good and ready.
know," Toriares said. He filled their glasses again, the whiskey only
causing him to spill a little. "I've always wondered. What's it like
sharing a ship with three sexy androids?"
Kienan took his
drink and laughed, coughing a little. "Arent you married? What the hell
are you doing worrying about what I'm doing with the Marionettes?"
"Yes, I am,
smart guy," Toriares said, slamming his back. "But you have to admit
-- lonely guy, three ludicrously endowed android girls willing to do
anything." He smiled and poured another glass for both of them.
"Makes your friends wonder."
Kienan smirked as
he took the glass, turning it in his fingers. Finally he smiled. "Youre a
lech," he said. "Youre also drunk. The Marionettes and I ... dont
do that. Theyre with me for other reasons."
"You know," he said, the levity suddenly slipping from his voice.
"Kinda glad to hear you say that. You know they'd do anything for you,
dont you? Die for you if you asked them."
Kienan nodded and
finally took the drink. "Sometimes," he said. "I dont really
Kienan rolled the
glass between his palms, sitting back and sighing. "Why I keep them around
... why they stay, why they're so committed to me."
easy," Toriares said. He gestured to Kienan's glass and refilled it. He
looked Kienan directly in the eyes. "For one thing, you dont need to be
left alone. On some level you must have realized that. Probably why you didnt
"Are you my
therapist now?" Kienan said, taking a drink.
Toriares shook his
head, taking his. "Nope," he said. "I'm sure you have plenty of
people telling you how crazy you are. I wouldnt have trained you if you were a
raving lunatic, would I?"
then," Toriares said. "As to why theyre committed to you ... well,
they love you, dummy."
hard. He was drinking slower now. Looking at the drinks. It wasn't that they
were harder to throw back now. It was the advice that was difficult to swallow.
Truth, Kienan had
discovered, often was.
"I dont know
how to deal with that," Kienan said.
Toriares said, a little sad himself. "I wish I could have taught you how.
I should have, back when it was you, me and Silhouette -- "
you ever tell me she was alive?"
and set down the drink. He felt a little guilty, but knew that sooner or later
it was going to come out. "She asked me not to."
"And you felt
more loyal to her than to me?"
fair, Kienan, and you know it," Toriares said. "I knew better than to
get in the middle of what was between you and her."
"So you let me
go on believing I had murdered her for a couple of years?" Kienan asked
bitterly. "Was this another one of those lessons I had to learn? The ones
I didnt realize you were teaching me?"
it," Toriares said. "Listen to what I'm saying: There was nothing I
could do -- Silhouette didnt want to see you and to be honest, I was a little
afraid of what would happen if you did know. Maybe if you saw each other too
soon, you'd hurt each other worse than you already had."
have hurt her," Kienan said.
"It wasn't her
I was worried about," Toriares said. "Kienan, I was trying to look
Kienan looked at
him, and didnt say a word. He didnt know what to say and knew even less how
to feel at the moment.
The glowing-red flail
snaked around one of the conduit pipes and pulled taut. The pipe began to
buckle, glowing red until finally the flail snapped it in two.
Toran retracted the
weapon and watched his fellow Sekhmet train in the garbage pit. They were
knee-deep in junk, doing a light test of their weapons and abilities while
Khitan and Reficul watched from above.
Ever since he had
received this new body Toran had felt strange. More certain, more confident in
himself. Sekhmet were not supposed to have a self in the classical sense -- at
best they were extensions of a collective mind, functionaries for a greater
purpose. Like the fingers on a hand, each one conditioned to do its work, but
nothing without the entire hand.
In the Sekhmet
language there were 1,356,219 letters, but no equivalent of "I."
Toran slashed at a
greasy engine block with his heat whip. It glowed to life, then he snapped the
heat whip clean through it. More and more it became easier to think separately.
Not just from the entire Sekhmet collective, but from even his fellow team
In truth he was
rather disdainful of them. Of the six, he had come the furthest, the first to
be reborn in his new suit. He had mastered his new skills with ease while
Uragenax and Volaran still had trouble getting their suits to obey basic
commands. And yet Khitan, standing impassively above them was still in command.
Toran mused, hooking a girder and flinging it into
the air. The most accomplished for the task should lead, and that is ...
Toran was nearly
crushed by the girder as the shock of expressing that thought snapped into
focus. It was so inconceivable it almost felt like a crime to think it. But his
instincts took over and he ignited his heat whip. There was a flurry of
movement and the girder rained in pieces around him.
Had he really
thought that? He apparently had, because he was doing it again. He looked up at
Khitan once more. Khitan nodded back.
A thousand thoughts
went through Toran's mind in an instant. One Sekhmet killing another was
unheard of. They were so interconnected at a basic level, to murder another of
their race would mean killing a part of themselves.
But was Khitan
connected to him anymore? Had Toran become more than a mere Sekhmet drone?
Toran looked over
his shoulder. Were any of them at his level?
sorry," Kienan said. They had sat in silence for an hour, the bottle of
Altarian whiskey long since empty, each staring at the other. "I didnt
mean to get angry with you."
right Kienan," Toriares said. "I never said I could make the right
decision, just the best one I thought of at the time."
"So youre admitting you didnt always have a plan?"
"Sometimes you have the plan, sometimes the plan has you," he said.
"And sometimes plans dont matter at all, and all that can see you through
Toriares nodded and
smiled. "Sounded good," he said. He looked at Kienan and smiled.
"So are you gonna tell me about what happened with Silhouette?"
"The usual," he said. "Found another guy. Moved on."
Toriares looked at
him. "That's all?"
Kienan said, shifting in his seat. He looked away from Toriares, seeming very
lost and alone at the moment. "I did try to kill the guy."
trying to pry a smile out of Kienan. "You always were the jealous
"Then we met again," he said. "Without the guy, this time.
Something happened, and I thought for a bit that ... no." He closed his
eyes tight, almost like he was steeling himself for a sharp pain.
"By the time
she came back, the guy was gone for good," he said. "But too much had
happened and ... I ... "
sorry," Toriares said. "I dont mean to pry."
OK," Kienan said. "I want to tell you. I wanted to be with her. The
last time ... I remembered why I wanted her. But when I woke up she was gone.
And when I saw she was gone ... I didnt miss her the same way I used to."
underneath one of the apple trees. Hector had offered him room in his house as
payment for his work that day, but he had refused. It felt too good to be
outdoors, especially in a place he felt as comfortable and at ease as this one.
This is where
you belong, Sinclaire thought. Here,
the gaps dont matter. Here there arent any mirrors for you to stare into and
wonder why you sometimes dont recognize the man staring back.
He sighed and
rested against the trunk of the tree.
To say Lewis
Sinclaire's life was chaos was to put it mildly. He barely remembered his
childhood -- in truth, it sometimes felt like it had happened to someone else.
He didnt remember
being born or being young. In fact his first real memories began only a few
years ago when he wandered into a temple on Izcelia.
Izcelia was one of
the most godforsaken places in the galaxy. Dark most of its days and constantly
raining. But despite it being such a melancholy place, he had learned much
there. Not just the sword, but a way of life.
And in lieu of any
concrete memories (a lack which only occasionally bothered him now) a code to
live by would do. If he couldnt look back he could go forward.
Not that he had
lived up to it sufficiently. Not in his mind. He had joined one of the
syndicates as an enforcer. To hide his shame he had worn a mask, but like the
image in the mirror he hadnt been able to escape the shame of what he'd done.
And then there was
have a clean slate," she had said. "You can start over."
The idea was
appealing, but it was more her I was interested in. I felt so compelled by her.
She was so determined, so passionate. The pain, the will to make everything
It was the nobility
he had always wanted to achieve. And she was everything he wanted. It was too
perfect not to happen.
It was also too
perfect to work in an imperfect world,
he thought, ruefully. In her heart she had never left Kienan behind. And I
dont think she ever forgave me for what happened when he and I met.
remembered it well. He had never fought anyone quite like Kienan. Kienan spat
in the eye of every single rule of fair play Sinclaire had upheld. He didn't
fight fair and he wouldnt admit defeat. Neither would Sinclaire. Locked in
opposition forever -- only Silhouette's intervention stopped it.
Why was he thinking about Kienan? What was it in himself that undercut every
decision and every feeling he had? Was he determined to second-guess every
choice he had made tonight? Especially in such a peaceful place as this.
Put it out of
your mind, Sinclaire thought. Youre
far from the past, far from Kienan and far from Silhouette. Youre in a place
of peace. Far from any danger.
You can rest
without fear that the peace'll be gone when you open your eyes again.
The Haxan ship Myrmidion
hovered above the bow of the Silhouette like a black manta ray over the
floor of a dark ocean. On the bridge of the ship there were three women. While
they were of different alien races, all had certain things in common. First
they were clad in robes of black and another colors -- blue, red, or purple.
Second, on parts of their body were grafted panels of circuitry that seemed to
throb in time with the beat of their hearts.
Two of the women
sat in lotus positions, eyes closed and fingers out. The third stood in front
of an image of Vain suspended in the air.
Lady Ravenna said. "Scry a probability equation. We need to determine
these interloper's purpose."
the navigator said. She paused, then added. "They spoke in the ancient
words. Our ancestors constructed the riddles in such a way to ensure only those
who should find us would."
were written centuries ago," Ravenna said. "For all we know, they
could be descendants of the beings we fled. We must ever assume the worst, lady
Kayt nodded and
returned her mind to the task of piloting the ship. Ravenna strode between Kayt
and lady Illiel, the weapons controller.
Ravenna said. "Create a line of communication. Illiel, ready a spell. In
the next five minutes we will determine if they are worthy or if they are