The Silent Promise
They stood in a palace hallway of a foreign emperor. When all else left, Remy remained. Remy and of one the four strongest men in the Imperial Navy.
Her words were slow but certain, “And should I reveal your plan to the army?”
As if the moment had drowned in temporal molasses, time dragged. She had waited until the others had left both because she feared how they would admonish her if she said what she did in their presence and because she could never muster the courage do so with more around. She scorned her own weakness in the hour long seconds that passed.
“In time,” started the Admiral, “dey will know. But should dey risk knowing befa dat time, den I would take every measure ta ensure dat not be happening.”
“So you’d kill me?” she pressed the obvious course.
Mor’de chuckled slowly as he crept suspiciously close and leaned until he was hair’s length from her trademark goggles.
He spoke in a poisonous hiss, “Oh, I wouldn’t be sa kind, niss.”
“Rebellions bring about casualties,” she pressed back. “Deaths on both sides and the needless loss of civilians. I’d endure anything to prevent that. Soldiers protect.”
Mor’de straightened his posture, his expression a mixture of mild amusement and irritation, “Is dat what ya tink soldiers do? Pah. Ya blind undah dose goggles, girl? Soldiers follow. Soldiers shoot. Soldiers kill. It is an ordah dat be directing ya and an ordah dat ya be followin’ regardless of what it may be,” he quieted, grinning a bit. “Follow my ordahs. Join me. I see fire underneath dat pale skin. A stubbornness, a will ta fight dat extends beyond da mundane soldier. I see a commandah.”
Mor’de spun on his heel and stopped himself a few steps back. He jutted his arms abruptly as he did, “Ya be young,” he continued, “but at da time of my reckoning you’d be ripe fa da role of command. A captain—nay,” He smiled as he chose his words carefully, deliberately, “my right hand. I may scoff at ya ideals but you may prove me wrong. You could protect a few lives da way you are now, aye, but wit da correct role you could protect thousands.”
Every sound, every smack of his lipless mouth was to Remy a twisted thing. He promised salvation but at the cost of damnation. Comradery at the behest of servitude. He contorted everything the good sergeant had taught her, and she would not fall for it.
“War kills,” she bit back. “I won’t be a part of whoever starts it.”
“Sa ya be adamant den, eh? Or perhaps foolish and blinded by ya ideals. Wars happen no mattah who be startin dem. Could be me or anudda. You’d neva know befa it happens. But, I digress. Very well. Protect away, good soldier, protect. But best forget about protecting everyone. Least of all a certain Sergeant Webly.”
The mention of Webly held her still. Then and there, the admiral had a loaded gun. He swaggered in front of her. Uttered the name ‘Webly’ a few more times as if saying it certain way gave the signal.
“Aye, I know ya weakness. Wouldn’t take much ta have a low ranking military man killed. ’Course, given ya cooperation every possible measure could be taken ta assure his safety.”
“Monster,” she snapped. The word echoed throughout the hall until Mor’de rumbling laugh drowned it out.
The laugh contorted from a chuckle to a maniacal thing and he twirled joyfully before stopping on his peg leg. The subsequent tap gave end to it all.
He chose his words thoughtfully, “Da ship leaves in a week. As I’ve said ya be free ta roam da city. Fa it be a beautiful place, Jing Mon Ceros. My soldiers love it, in fact dey’ve taken to exploring every little bit of her reaches. Don’t tink dere’s a single place ya won’t find dem.”
Mor’de paused by the opposite end of the hall, leading to the corridor and away from where the others had left. He smiled at her, “Ya be loving it here.”
She waited there, staggering a bit as she heard the last of his steps. She puffed and panted. She ground her teeth, sneered and snarled. Her weakness mocked her. It laughed at her in the way Mor’de did, as if it had already won. Why would it matter if the man could kill Webly? Webly was a soldier who die for his empire. Everyone died. Even Webly. Even…
Her throat caught. Of course it mattered. She did not doubt for an instant Mor’de would bluff about Webly. And for what it meant, he only threatened her to keep silent not join him. While it was a slight reassurance in the overwhelming shackles that bound her now, it was enough to stand, to move. That is until she turned the corner and saw them there teetering dumbly over each other.
They watched her with a collection of shocked expressions, then an awkward shift as they bumbled to their respective postures. They had heard it all.
They made a half circle around her. Tig did know what to say nor could he speak after hearing what he did. He had followed his misfit companion’s unspoken resolve to eavesdrop when he turned the corner. It was a curiosity he both regretted and accepted as necessary. He needed to hear it. They all did.
Lost in his thoughts, he unconsciously followed Gemjo as she found a spot standing behind Remy.
“So that’s his true face,” said the Professor. “Not much better the bony one I think.”
Franco frowned at Remy, “Whatever he may be, I agree with his objective. Sorry Niss, but I still stand by my decoration of friendship.”
The girl had not moved since she found them.
Gemjo yawned and continued down the hall stopping briefly by Remy’s side, “You heard him,” she said, “Any inn. If you want some sort of retribution I suggest we find the biggest, most absurdly equipped place we can find and tab him silly. Perhaps we might empty his coffers before he slays your man.”
Remy glanced up briefly before relapsing into her angry melancholy.
Gemjo shrugged and lumbered on, “I tried.”
Franco started after her, speaking in tune, “I for one am intrigued by the fighting schools hosted in the up-lands, and a little, though I am embarrassed to say, of the women to.”
“Here here!” agreed the Professor, joining their march.
Franco frowned, “Oh I know your type. The motherly variety I’m sure.”
The Professor’s laughs echoed down the hall as the lot of them left Tig and Remy still standing. He reached out for her, but he wasn’t sure it would help. He would have felt the same had Mor’de threatened Wilma or Marici. Powerless.
Therein came the need for strength, that forbidden fruit that promised violence at every turn. Even had he pursued healing to its highest quality he would always be reacting. He sunk into his own dreaded melancholy as the old question resumed its mental assault. Was there ever an end to the fighting?
There was. He raised his head to the girl as he realised the answer. The true answer this time. The end began with him, whether it would be through violence or diplomacy. Yet at the time, when he could not express his intent in words to the girl who would not listen, he chose instead another course. He tapped her shoulders and when she glanced at him with emptiness in her goggles he signed the words his mother taught him.
I promise you.
He finished with his hands parting. By her expression alone he was sure she did not understand him. But it did not matter. She had traded her awful sadness for a form of curiosity. And, perhaps in time, she would come to know those words.
Tig nodded. That would be enough.
Remy raised her hand.
“Before you ask,” he said, pre-emptively snuffing out the question, “We should join the others. No matter what you may think of them, it’ll do you no good separating yourself on foreign soi—uh clouds? You got unfinished business with the Professor don’t you?”
“That is none of your concern.”
“Not mine, no,” he lied. “But his, yes. He asked of you. Back on the ship I mean. While he was confessing in a way he decided to ask of you. Whatever you are to him, whatever you were, I will not ask, I only hope you finish what you started,” he considered his next words carefully, “for the both of you.”
She held his sights for several nerve racking moments. He could scarcely predict where her true eyes lurked behind those imposing goggles. Where they were searching in his. But at last she stepped back, it seemed as she had found the object of her query.
“I will see it done,” she said with a turn, “for the both of us.”