Temple – Ares’ Room
He felt like he was freezing from the inside. The Sense had him in its grip and wouldn’t let go anymore. He knew that it would be over if he only could open his eyes. It would never happen if he could make the images disappear.
It was a certain irrational persistence that tried to assure him that if only he could make it stop what he was seeing would never happen. As if merely opening his eyes could stop the Watch from surrounding the Shadow, one gesture disrupting an entire plan.
Ares had tried to, Gods he had tried to raise his lids, tried to chase the images away as if they were just another nightmare vision. The only problem was that he had learned that some nightmares wouldn’t go away by just waking up. Those were the easy kind, the harmless kind, the rare kind.
Ares didn’t even remember the last time he had an ordinary, meaningless dream. By now his subconscious has pretty little to do what he had seen and yet there was nothing he could do but watch.
He wanted to scream, wanted to warn them, but it was already too late. There was nothing he could do from here, merely seeing what was happening, no way to stop it.
Every muscle inside of him was groaning from the rigid tension that went through him. His mind didn’t feel his physical effort though. His mind was open like a window showing him the deaths of his friends, leaving him a weak bystander.
He wanted to scream in rage and horror, but no sound came over his lips. His body didn’t have anything to do with this. His mind had taken over.
Gods he was cold.
His teeth were clattering and he was shaking while his head seemed to explode as the images seemed to tumble over. Everything inside him started to spin, his vision went blurry. He felt as if he was hanging over the edge of a cliff and his hands were losing grip. He knew he’d fall eventually.
All he had to do was letting go and Gods he was tempted. It would be over so easily. He wanted the images to stop, the screaming and shooting to stop.
He held on, faintly tasting blood in his mouth as he was biting his tongue. It was a welcome distraction to the agony inside his head. Though physical pain was nothing against what he felt when he looked into Nurya’s dead eyes.
Damian. Light where was Damian? Was he still alive?
He saw Jay cornered by a bulky Redcoat who held her to the ground. No. He didn’t want to see this. He didn’t and yet he couldn’t avert his gaze. The visions kept coming and they turned red like blood, sucking in every other color when something hard hit him in the back of his head.
For a moment the images of the Shadow bled together with his room spinning around him. He dimly registered that he was able to move again. His head was killing him and there was blood on his fingers when they touched the spot where he was hit.
He was lying on the ground when he opened his eyes again, specks of light dancing in front of his vision. He wanted to shut out the light and the dizziness, but when his eyes focused on the grinning face looming above him, he jerked wide awake.
“Hello there, Ares Maevere. Long time no see.”
Orion Novak’s grin was slimy enough to slip and fall on it, only his eyes sparkling with hatred as he pointed his gun at him.
Shadow – Bridge
Damian didn’t know how many he had killed already, but they kept coming. It felt as if they were everywhere.
Why? The question shot through his head, but merely for an instant. Truth was, he didn’t have time to wonder about the why. Gods, he didn’t even have the time to keep them off himself and Orpheus.
“Shit!” He didn’t have time for this and he wouldn’t look back.
His concentration was set on whatever came into the focus on his gun. He pulled the trigger again and again and again. He had to be fast, and yet everything around him seemed to happen in slow motion.
He would shoot as many of the Watch as it would take. Until one of them brought him down too; he wouldn’t stop shooting. However pointless it was.
The other problem was that his 92 Beretta was about done. Changing magazines would be too slow. He should save the few shots he had left. If he had been on a contract, he would have.
It was always easier to think clearly when you planned to get shot at; it had happened to him often enough when he had still done work for the Empire.
This wasn’t a contract though, it was a planned assault and he had no illusions on why the Watch had found them just now.
Damian felt like it had been an eternity, but he knew it could barely have been two or three minutes.
They had hit Orpheus first. A clean shot through the back and another couple of well-placed, if cowardly shots through his chest to make sure. But Damian hadn’t even registered it. The moment when the first shot had fallen, he had his gun out.
Every movement sent a new jolt of pain through him. Pure adrenaline was the only thing that kept him from bending over. His side was agony; Damian dimly remembered having been hit there. He still kept going while he still could. It wouldn’t be much longer anyway.
His breath turned into labored gasps. The faces in front of him started to blur. To him they were all the same anyway. All but one of them.
His last shot fell, leaving no effect but yet another dent in the aluminium wall of the bridge.
For a second the only audible sound seemed to be the clicking of his empty Beretta.
Damian’s attention was entirely fixed on the face that was staring down at him.
“Well, at least you tried this time, boy”, Arturiel Valyr said, almost softly. The grin that started to spread on his face made him sick when everything fell into place.
“Where is he?”, the Commander of the Watch asked him, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. Damian could smell his breath; he had drunk again. This was not going to be pretty.
Damian smiled despite himself.
“You won’t find him here, Valyr.” He bent over, gasping with pain when the Commander’s knee drove into his abdomen. Gods, he hurt. A punch to his face made his vision swim even more.
“I said where.”
“You’re too late…” Damian’s voice was thick as the right half of his face began to swell.
Don’t even think about coming here Ares. I’m going to kill you myself before I let the Watch do the job.
For some reason the thought made him smile even more when he felt the cold steel of Arturiel Valyr’s gun against his chest.
“Forget it, Valyr. Feel free to kill me, but you’ll get nothing from me.”
Damian groaned when the shot fell. The bullet went right through him and then all he felt was pain. Valyr let go of him and he fell to his knees.
“Wow…this went…fast”, he whispered, but Arturiel Valyr had still heard him.
“Oh we’re not done with you yet, my friend.” The grin was back on Valyr’s face when he reached out for Damian once more. There was an inane sparkle in his eyes. Everything around him went cold. So cold.
This was when Damian started to scream.
Temple – Ares’ Room
The bullet didn’t quite miss him, but in the end Ares was lucky to get away with nothing but a graze. His shoulder stung fiercely with every movement, but he managed to draw his own gun fast enough to surprise Orion.
He silently thanked the Gods for whoever invented inner-pants holsters. It was only a small caliber magnum, but a good shot at the kneecap usually makes for a good distraction.
“You bastard! Light. Fuck you!”, Orion howled with pain. Apparently Ares’ aim hadn’t been off by far.
“Sorry, but the Light won’t help you with that. Speaking of which, why did they sent you here?”, Ares countered, pressing the his magnum against Orion’s temples.
“They…”, Orion hissed between clenched teeth, still trying to keep himself on his feet. Ares would have laughed if he hadn’t seethed with fury.
“They want you dead. What do you think? They’d let you go at it just under their noses? Light, how naïve-”
“This is enough. If the Watch just wanted me dead they’d have sent somebody more capable of putting a bullet through my head than you. No.” Ares’ gun wandered down just below Orion’s chin. He could see him swallow. Orion had thought he was easy meat.
“Sorry to say that, but you’re the worst liar that I’ve ever seen, Orion Novak. Why. Are you here? I already know what happened. Why still playing games?”
Orion’s mouth twitched. Only then Ares noticed that his opponent was trying not to laugh. He failed miserably.
“Oh Light, Ares”, Orion laughed. The sound made Ares want to strangle him. “You really should see your own face. Do you finally get it? Is it finally dawning on you that there’s nothing that they don’t know?”
Orion raised his hands, slimy grin still on his face. Ares hand started to quiver with anger. Orion looked at him as if he could read his very thoughts.
“Oh go ahead and shoot me if you like. It won’t bring any of them back. Too bad I couldn’t be the one who emptied his gun into Damian. Well you can’t have everything, I-”
Ares let go of him; pushing Orion away. His finger pulled the trigger almost in reflex. The shot echoed in his ears was followed by another one. Both hit him into the chest. Even with the 22 magnum it was enough to kill for sure.
He was out of his room before Orion’s body had even hit the ground. He didn’t care. All that mattered was to get to the Shadow as soon as possible.
Running down the narrow corridor he almost ran into Veleine and Declyn, but it wasn’t them who made him stop abruptly, but who was with t hem. He almost didn’t recognize her in the red coat that she was wearing.
“Ares”, Jay whispered, before she ran to him and he felt her tears hot against his face. A thousand words couldn’t have told him more.
“Get me there, Jay. Now.”
Outside of the Temple, Helos
Raeyn had been the first who had seen the girl coming. She had limped inside the Temple as far as she could. Apparently she was in trouble and she was here to warn Ares. That was about all she said, but her wounds as well as Ares’ expression when he almost ran them over told him the rest of the story.
Jay, he caught her name, wouldn’t even let him look at her leg and another wet spot began to show on the back of her red coat.
Gods that girl has nerves, showing up here, dressed like a Redcoat.
She obviously had her reasons and thinking about it he decided he’d rather not know. Given his situation, he really had enough on his plate already. If Raeyn had had a word to say in this, he’d rather not get entangled in any more issues with the Watch.
But of course nobody asked him in this. Amaelia had told him to keep an eye on Veleine and since she was going with them, so was he.
They only stopped to grab some medical supplies out of the infirmary, before mounting a hover that would bring them to the Shadow. Wherever that was.
“You really think we’ll find anybody alive there?”, he asked, nodding at the supplies they had thrown in between them.
The glares that Ares and Jay shot in his direction made him shut up.
“Alright, sorry”, he grumbled.
Why did he always maneuver himself into situations like this? Raeyn decided to keep his mouth shut and watched Veleine take care of the girl’s wounds as well as she could.
He could almost taste the tension lying in the air and for now it was probably better not to ask what had happened. He’d find out soon enough.
That was unless Ares managed to kill them all with how he was driving the hover.
Shadow – Cargo bay
When they first arrived, he couldn’t help thinking that the Shadow looked like an oversized, stranded bird. Stranded and shot. Where a ramp had led up to the cargo hold was nothing more but a whole blown into the rear of the ship. Most of the ramp was still there, but the door was gone.
It felt so unreal to him, when they went in; as if he could himself looking at the shattered remnants of what had once been his life.
He saw himself striding through the cargo bay, ignoring the two forms on the ground, only one of them still wearing the red coat of the Watch. Ares sank to his knees next to Nurya’s lifeless body. He knew he was touching her, when he softly closed her unseeing eyes; it felt as if he was someone else.
She was cold, so cold when he laid her back on the ground, covering her with his coat; as if it still mattered to her.
He clenched his fists when he got back on his feet. The only thing he could think about was how he’d bring the news to Naerya whenever she came back. Gods…
He glanced at Jay who was leaning heavily on Veleine. Her face was so full of guilt. He wished she’d cry at least. It would be so much easier if she did. Like when she had found him. “I left them to find you”, she had said, sobbing on his shoulder. It had been easier then. To tell her it wasn’t her fault, to whisper soothing words, no matter how meaningless. Jay didn’t cry often, but the silent pain in her face was even harder to bear than her tears.
“They’ve come because of me, Jay”, he said, as if it would change anything. How come his voice was so stable when he said that? Inside Ares wanted to scream. They had come because of him and Jay was blaming herself for having come to warn him instead of helping them.
“Orpheus and Damian?”, he heard himself ask softly, dreading the answer that he might get.
“Bridge” was the only thing Jay said, thickly. Ares wanted to tell her to stop blaming herself, that it was his fault; in the end he headed towards the stairs that led to the bridge. He dreaded what he would find, but there was still hope inside him. Hope, Damian might still be alive.
Hope that was smothered when he opened the door and had to step across Orpheus’ lifeless body. He couldn’t make himself look at him.
My fault. It was the only thing he could think about. He’s dead and it’s my fault. Something inside him broke at that moment of silent admission. His world lay dead in front of him and all he could do was search the room.
“Damian, are you here?”, his voice sounded so forlorn and tinny as it carried through the narrow corridor that led through the cockpit. There were bodies lying all over the place. None of the Redcoats was alive anymore. Damian had done his job, even though he couldn’t save Orpheus. Ares refused to think about what that would have cost him.
For a moment the silence around him seemed to choke him, his heartbeat and his footfall being the only audible sounds of life. Only then he heard a scraping sound coming from the cockpit. Instinctively he drew his gun as he headed for the source of the noise, his heart beating inside his throat.
He found him halfway lying under a broken seat, his empty gun lying beside him in a puddle of his own blood.
Ares’ own gun made a clattering sound when it fell from his numb fingers.
Declyn helped to move broken furniture and debris off Damian, evoking a weak moan of pain from him.
He was still alive. Ares wanted to thank the Gods, but all he could focus on were Damian’s eyes, dark with pain in his pale face. His formerly white shirt was drenched wet with blood. His arms and face were covered in bloody marks.
He heard Declyn gasp when he assessed the damage. Ares pressed his hands against the wounds in Damian’s chest; his hands were slick with his blood instantly.
“No…go…away…go…,” Damian’s voice was merely a thread when he came to a little more, suddenly making weak struggling motions, almost as if he tried to get away from him. He trembled with exhaustion; his eyes were widened with fear. Ares didn’t remember ever having seen him that afraid.
“Shhh…,” Ares said softly, one bloody hand stroking back Damian’s hair, dark and sticky from his sweaty forehead. He had barely noticed Veleine at his side, her eyes filled with concern when handing him a cup of water.
“It’s me, Ares. Here, drink this.” Ares held Damian’s head, putting the metal cup against his cracked lips and helped him drink. Damian swallowed laboriously, coughing weakly when the water wouldn’t go down right when he drank too fast.
“Easy,” Ares whispered, bedding Damian’s head on his lap.
“You…”, Damian gasped for air, his mouth twitching and Ares noticed that of all things he was trying to laugh.
“Don’t talk.” Ares’ voice was fiercer than he wanted to, his hand holding Damian’s when a spasm of pain ran through him.
“You…should…never…have…come…here. They…searching…killed…I… didn’t…tell…”, Damian’s voice was fading, his eyes looking at him urgently.
“Please, don’t go. Please…Damian!”
“Ares…”, Damian never broke his gaze, his eyes turning suddenly apologetic. “I’m…sorry…I couldn’t…”, coughing shook him, his lips frothing with blood. Ares cast Veleine an agonized look, she just shook her head.
“Please…you need to…go”, Damian’s face twisted with pain once more and then relaxed; his voice ringing true now.
“Je t’aime, mon amour.” Damian smiled and then his body slacked, his hand limp in Ares’. His pale face looked utterly peaceful, his eyes still open but unseeing.
“No. Nonononono! NO!” Ares shook his head. “You can’t just go like that. Not like that. Not you.” He knew he was babbling and yet something clicked inside him this instant and he knew what to do. Everything around him started to spin when the Sense filled him.
He heard Veleine cry out. “Ares NO!”
But it was too late. She had felt it too, but she wouldn’t be able to help him. She couldn’t Touch. He could.
Everybody needs to find their own way to control the Touch. Nobody can tell you how.
Amaelia’s words rang in his ears when a smile spread all over his face. He could do it. He suddenly knew exactly what he had to do.
For an instant Veleine tried to hold him back, but the Sense was so alive inside him, he flung her away like a doll. She wouldn’t keep him from doing this.
He still smiled when he placed his hands on Damian’s temples and let the Sense rush through him when the Touched him. The smile on his face became a grimace when the cold filled him and with the cold the pain came.
He knew what they had done to Damian. All of a sudden he knew and it drove him to the edge of madness. The knowledge and the pain.
He felt muscles and tissue mending under his hands as if he was digging deep inside Damian’s body, but for everything he fixed in Damian, something inside him seemed to rip open. He felt everything Damian had felt ten times over.
He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream, but he wouldn’t let go, even if he could have. He would save Damian. Saving him; it was the only thought that kept him sane, kept him going.
His entire body went rigid, he felt himself spasm with pain, heard his own voice screaming with agony, but no sound came across his lips.
He held on until he could feel Damian’s heart beating again, his lungs filling with air again. He seemed to fill Damian’s body just as he filled his. They were one until he was done.
When the end came, Ares was convinced he wouldn’t be able to let go. His entire body was burning. It felt as if Damian’s very essence had been branded into him, but now they were ripped apart again. Only Damian’s body was hale again, wounds had knit together, damage had been mended.
Ares felt himself smiling when he collapsed; a faint whisper was all that left his lips before darkness claimed him.
“I did it. Tell him I did it.”