The Last Remaining Light
Somewhere on the Defiant, a brownie sulked.
The hapless hearth-spirit cringed at the cacophony from upstairs. He knew all too well the proper place for everything kept inside the ship, and could almost recognize from the noise which glass was breaking, which orderly shelf of books was shoved to the floor, which chair was upended. The little fae spirit would be responsible for cleaning up each mess, in time. If only he would stop. If only he would leave!
Others on the ship, who had seen Marius come stalking back onto the ship, heard the screaming and home-wrecking, wisely staged their retreat. That is, all but one. “PFC Fowler,” Dr. Olaafson stated with clockwork composure. Her brows barely wrinkled at the noise from upstairs, but that slight expression spoke volumes to her men. “Haven’t you risked enough already?”
The soldier glanced up at another loud bang, and smirked. “Guess not. Don’t worry, ma’am. We’ll catch up.”
“See that you do, Paul.” The Iterator made for the ship’s hatch, with Corpsman Danny Brown at her side. The corpsman just gave Fowler one of his knowing what-she-said nods, and followed the doctor outside.
On the upper deck of the Defiant, Marius paced through the wreckage in his bedroom. An errant coffee mug sent him stumbling, and then after a snarl and a swift kick, shattered against a wall. PFC Paul Fowler ducked back with a wince, then peeked into the Sanctum again. What was more unnerving, the wizard’s rage or the Gate itself? It was a doorway that opened into a space that shouldn’t exist, a door that the wizards would fold up into a box and stick in their pocket. Still, there was something familiar about that anger. “Hey, um, sir, what’s the matter?”
“I’m busy,” said the mage, sporting his usual scowl.
“Begging your pardon, sir,” the soldier tried again, “What’s the mission that calls for wrecking your bedroom?”
Marius glared, but the soldier only blanched a little. Figures, he thought, they’ve seen too much to be scared now. “You have no idea what’s going on.”
“You get used to it, sir,” Fowler said with a hesitant smile. “Maybe you could explain it? In small words?”
Surveying the damage, Marius let out a dejected sigh. “It’s not that complicated. Seattle’s gone. It’s gone because no one ever believes me. Terpsichore was dangerous. I had her dead to rights and they spared her. She spared her. Morgaine. And now Terpsichore’s taken Geist and my city with her. None of that had to happen!” He glared around, resisting the urge to smash something.
“And I almost killed one of her friends,” Marius added after a moment. “I…don’t like dogs rushing me. Or wolves. Same thing.”
Fowler watched the mage go slack, his gaze distant. The private, his comrades-in-arms…comrade, he self-corrected…even the Doc, knew that look. He didn’t know what Marius was seeing, but it was something. Bad memories.
Emaciated, frenzied vampires rushed him, almost faster than he could swing his spear…almost. The blazing weapon cut through them like butter, but they didn’t fall to pieces, crumble to ash. They were young, newly changed. And then, from around a corner, a bouncing tennis ball. The dog, chasing it. He could almost relax, seeing it. What was on the harness strapped to it?
An explosion…heat, impact, shock, blood…the dog…
Marius sat down on the bed, woodenly. If it was broken from his rampage, he didn’t notice. He did snap out of it, however, at the touch on his shoulder. Fowler stood a step or two back, respectfully…or perhaps just out of arm’s reach.
The soldier asked, “seen some shit, huh, sir?”
The wizard just nodded.
“We all have,” Fowler volunteered, his voice uncommonly quiet and reserved, hushed tones meant not to disturb, as if they were at a funeral.
Marius gave the man a long look, not literally soul-penetrating, but close — he could, of course, but when it wasn’t necessary, he preferred to respect the privacy of others’ thoughts. These men, the Sleepers, and the ones Dr. Olaafson had augmented, had seen some things. Most of them hadn’t survived it, either, just being in his company. He’d made that part clear, though, going in. The danger. It wasn’t pity that he felt, and not friendship. That was asking too much, perhaps. They were Technocrats, after all.
But there might be room enough for respect.
The soldier shifted uncomfortably under the mage’s scrutiny. He’d seen enough of what these wizards could do, and not much when it came to discretion.
“Magick has its place,” Marius announced, getting to his feet. “It can’t fix everything.”
“I guess not, sir,” Fowler volunteered, uncertainly.
“Look, soldier. I get what you’re trying to do,” the mage asserted. “Don’t know how much good it’ll do. But it’s appreciated.”
“We’ve seen some shit, yeah,” the soldier repeated. “We’ll deal. Maybe with less of…this, though? Liable to scare your lady.”
Surveying the damage one more time, Marius frowned, nodding. “I do scare her.” Beckoning to Fowler, he led the way out of his rooms within the Folding Gate, and from there out of the ship. “There’s no help for it. You wouldn’t like to see drunken witchcraft.”
“Buzzed, maybe?” the soldier put forward, on their way out. “Beats home-wrecking.”
Finally left alone with his work, a brownie sulked.