“I understand that mankind is a social animal, but what are we supposed to do? Tell the others? No one would believe what we just witnessed in that Temple,” I told her.
“You saw it with your own eyes. You saw what that priest was going to do to me,” she replied.
The priest who captured Lora was the same priest in that church. Goorm.
“Yes, I understand that. But—” I said to her.
“But, what? That isn’t enough?” she replied.
“Rape is evil, but the priest didn’t invent it. That won’t be enough to convince the people.”
“It wasn’t just rape,” she said.
“I’m sorry. That is not what I mean. Of course, it isn’t just rape. What I …I mean that...” I could not find the right words.
“I know what you mean. That is not what I mean. I am saying that he wanted more than my body. I mean yes, he dressed me up in that ridiculous outfit like some whore from a Connan the Barbarian comic book, but that wasn’t all he was after.”
She was silent and turned her eyes away. She held her arms around her shoulders as if frigid, but it was over two-hundred degrees this near the desert.
“Okay. Just relax,” I said, not understanding, “You don’t have to tell me. Just, what were you doing there? How did you wind up in a Marauder death camp?”
“X-terminator death camp, you mean?”
That stung, in a moment of weakness while we had been running from the Caravan sent to capture us, I had revealed to her about my time in the X-terminators.
“The X-terminators are dead,” I told her harshly. “The Marauders are all that survived.”
“Death is death, and you reek of it.”
“I haven’t had a chance to shower in a while.”
“You are not cute and you’re not funny.”
“But, I saved your life.”
“I have not forgotten that Scavenger. But that does not excuse who you were.”
“Who or what I was also does not exist. The X-terminators were a lawful representative of the Code of Artemis. Sanctioned by the Council of Eight and given clear mandate to do what we did. We were not criminals.”
“You never feel ashamed? About what you did to those poor people?”
Inwardly I sighed, I took a breath to keep my temper. “Poor people? They were- they are -monsters. Fucking vampires for Gods sake.”
“Those poor unfortunates were trapped in a world not of their making.”
“The same could be said for all us. That doesn’t give you the right to eat people.”
“You are cruel. You are a cruel man. A killer of women and children.”
This wasn’t going well. Visions of tits danced out of my head. Now she was pissing me off. “What do you know about it? You look like a Echleon girl. Top of the Argo right? Away from the riff-raff.”
“You don’t know me. You never even asked, you just stare at my breast like that’s somehow going to turn me on. It’s not.”
I sighed. “I may not know you deeply, but these last few weeks I have seen enough. I worked the Argos remember? I know how women like you had all the beautiful sun-light, the clear valleys, the green fields. Great schools. But underneath all that beauty was a layer of filth. The bottoms were hell on Earth. Rape-gangs, Pit-Fights, Slavery. You would not believe what people would do to each other for scraps of food. That was what the X-terminators were all about. We kept society from killing each other and then eating the remains. Literally. You don’t understand what I mean.”
“I don’t think you understand me. I know more about that then you do. I know what people would do for scraps of food.”
“Really? And how would you know that?”
“My brother…he was born Tartari.”
I was taken aback.
“How many X-tractions in the town squares did you do, Zildjan? How many families did you go through the Enclaves to kill? Poor farmers and families trying to scrape out a living under the glittering domes of the Argo. You talk about what life was like in the Argo, you ever imagine what it was like out?”
No, I had not. “How is that possible?” I said, chagrined, “Why?”
“Why did we run from the Argo?”
“Yes. You should have…”
“Let the Technocrats kill my brother? My father would not allow it. He took us, and we ran. That was it.” She sank down to her knees and squatted. She poked the fire. Her revelation had taken the wind out of her. I knew about the Exiles, people who ran with their Tartari children as far as they could from the purges and the prejudice. We called them Black Tartari. As X-terminators our purview stopped at the Argo, so once they ran out into wild country, they were on their own. It was a brutal existence out there. As bad as the Argo could be, at least it could sustain life-sort of. Outside was a barren, radioactive hell-mouth. I came to the fire. “It’s impossible that anyone could survive out there.”
“Well- we did.”
“I’m sorry Lora. I truly am. I had children. I know the pain of family. My wife left me, went with the last ships. Like I was worth nothing. All our life is pain, it’s like that is all there is.” I reached my hand out, she grabbed it. We held our hands above the fire, we did not feel the burn. She stood up.
“So what does that mean for us? Who are we?” She asked me.
I looked at her, deep into her eyes. “I guess it just means that we are the same. Just two people looking for love, alone in the Dark.” I kissed her. She responded, with a passion which stirred my soul.