Fiction: Fall from Grace, Part V

Adam Murton (aka Vardos Cadix) has his own Antares fiction blog where he has a number of continuing stories.  We’re delighted he was inspired by the new panhuman heads for the Concord and wrote us a serial on the Vyess and the Gyohn. Part IV can be found here, but the finale, part V, is below…

Fall from Grace, Part V by Adam Murton

Concord Gyohn Troopers

The sentry challenging Togor recoiled when he saw the bloodied wreck of his face. He flinched back, showing a look of revulsion, a look that Togor was used to amongst those seeing Gyohn for the first time. To anyone unfamiliar with Gyohn morphs, Togor looked like a base-line human, who was severely injured: his nose was a ragged hole and his face was criss-crossed with scars and fresh scabs; the little flesh, visible amongst the streaks of blood and dust, was the colour of fading bruises. Togor felt his shoulders tense up, ready to fight. Instead, he relaxed and deliberately unfocussed his eyes. He stammered, “M…me…m…medic.”

The sentry looked Togor up and down seeing little more than the blood, a comrade’s seemingly messed-up face, a splinted leg and a ruined uniform. His expression turned to sympathy and he waved Togor through.

A few burning paces in, Togor stopped to catch his breath. The headquarters was one large room, partitioned into areas by temporary screens. Some were being used by human medics as makeshift surgeries. There were maybe forty soldiers in here: most were engrossed in maps and screens or chatting in huddles. Togor’s view was drawn to the far side where Mija was stood, held by two soldiers, being interrogated by the Old Man, Volaugn himself. Togor had worried that they would be torturing her, but clearly that had not yet happened. Volaugn was still trying to turn her, still trying to convince her of the strength of his cause.

Togor took a slow breath and began to work his way around the room to close the distance. The burning pains had engulfed his leg and his hip was aching from compensating for it on the long trudge here. He pushed the pain away, he couldn’t afford to let the pain take over, not yet, not when the target was so close. He risked a glance around the building. People were largely ignoring him, carrying on with their tasks, oblivious to yet another wounded soldier. A map-reader off to Togor’s left kept glancing up and looking away when she caught Togor’s eye, but she seemed more curiously revolted than a threat.

Clearly, once he had shot the Old Man it would be a different situation and it was highly unlikely Togor would survive. He shook the thought from his mind and concentrated on the target. He was now close enough to hear Volaugn and Mija speaking and he remembered her words about creating a martyr, because he had little doubt that was what he was about to do, assassinating the leader of the rebellion in his headquarters, in front of witnesses. But the mission came first: he needed to remove the enemy’s advantage. Let the higher-ups worry about the consequences.  Mija shot a glance towards him and despite all the blood and the dust and the enemy uniform, a flicker of recognition crossed her eyes before she turned back to the Old Man.

Togor stopped just over two arms lengths away: he wasn’t going to get a much better opportunity than this. He gripped his pistol and slid it from his belt. Mija glanced at him again and then she gestured down pointing off to her side. It looked like she was pointing at the legs of the soldier holding her, or more specifically pointing at his… Togor smiled through the pain.

***

Mija looked around the headquarters again, but she could see little of any use. All the maps and plans were turned away from her. The two soldiers held her tight and Volaugn was still trying gentle persuasion: he had come to the rational decision that his actions were right and he was hoping that she would, too.

Ah, she thought, the need for vindication was subtle and strong, but right now it was keeping her alive and pain-free. She had spent the last hour giving weak, poorly thought out ripostes and allowed Volaugn the illusion that her arguments were crumbling. Staying alive and stalling. It should be the title of her autobiography – if she survived long enough to write it.

In front of her, Volaugn droned on, “Your invasion is morally bankrupt. You are killing and maiming, in the name of improving lives. I have seen what you do.”

She caught sight of movement behind Volaugn. A wounded rebel was limping his way round the room towards, his face a mass of scars and blood. He ought to be dead, she thought, then she looked again, and a flicker of recognition crossed her eyes. She turned away and spoke to Volaugn, trying to hold his attention. “What did you see?” As she spoke, she pointed surreptitiously to Dreq’s groin, hoping Togor would understand.

“I saw everything,” said Volaugn. “I saw the truth.”

“Thank you,” said Mija. Unfortunately, it was time to drop the pretence and that was going to hurt.

She lifted her head the room and announced loudly to the room. “You aren’t winning the war, you are just prolonging it.” A number of people looked up. In turn, Mija watched Volaugn’s face. His eyes narrowed and his cheeks grew pale. He stepped in close and lashed out. Her head flew back and pain blossomed across her cheeks. She bit back a yelp. A gun shot rang out and the guard she had pointed at went limp and released his grip.  She sprung free and stepped in towards Volaugn who was turning towards the gunshot. Mija caught him off balance and pushed him, driving him towards Togor, only two paces away. One pace away, and Volaugn resisted, pushing back. All around them, troopers were reacting and reaching for their weapons. “Step in now,” she shouted. “Hold us!” Togor leapt forward to wrap his arms around them both. All three were in contact, with Volaugn looking shocked in the centre, but she knew that shock would fade quickly and he would react, fight back. “Three agents for retrieval,” she called loudly. The transmat locked onto the homing beacon secreted in her armour, and a golden glow spread around the three of them.

Epilogue

Dreq had been gripping the woman’s arm when the shot rang out and a round grazed his hip. It caught him entirely by surprise and she slipped free. He reached for her arm to catch it again, but she threw herself forward at Volaugn and Dreq’s hand grasped air. Behind the Commander was a wounded trooper with a drawn pistol. Dreq reached for his gun but the woman shouted “Three agents for retrieval” And the golden glow of a transmat lock flared around them. Dreq raised his gun, levelled it at her, but he was too late. The light flared, then all three were gone: the Concord trooper with the big head, the ex-Concord trooper who had become their commander and a severely wounded resistance trooper.

All gone.

Agents. She had called them ‘agents’. Oh teheck’n kaha! They had been gathering information to feed back to the Concord invaders. The rebellion had welcomed Volaugn, believed him to be a true convert to the cause and a saviour. With a rising feeling of despair, Dreq looked around the room, took in all the maps and all the plans. Volaugn had seen everything; the Concord agents had taken them all in.

Dreq slumped into a chair and his shoulders drooped, defeated.

More about the panhumans in the Concord can be found in an article on the Nexus.


 

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