Choices. They affect everyone around us. Mine have more affect than others of late. I don’t relish that fact. Today was one of the toughest I have had to face because of my choices and I had to face it twice. Not many get the chance to turn back time and undo their mistakes. The price? My death.
Sylph’s admonishments are right. A half failed mission is no reason to commit suicide just to reset the odds. I don’t know what I was thinking. Tom just looked so lost and withdrawn which is so far from his character that the only think I could think to do to fix things was to use the bracelet.
The day started out as any normal day for us would planetside. We had landed on the asteroid colonies and I took Kerrick and his team with me to speak to my contact, Maximillion, the local mob boss. He was to have the code we needed to enter Chalonia’s space and he needed a favor as payment. I found his shop easy enough since it hadn’t changed since Cara and I were here last. Luke was standing outside with his thug friends, grinning like the ruffian he is, as his friends barred our passage and asked for our business and a fee. Amused but also in a hurry, I flashed them the gold card Max had given me for such purposes and Luke finally took charge.
He lead us passed the front shop façade and the back betting room to the room I had first met Max in. It was good to see both Luke and his father though, understandably, was more businesslike this time. He gave me the disc with the code on it that we needed and asked us to take out a certain target that was beginning to take control of some of the people. I provided him a list of names to see if he could ID the target and to my surprise, he identified 3 of our Black Coven targets. Luckily, the guy he wanted removed was one of the guys on our list. Our goals coincided this time. Before we were dismissed, Max asked after Cara and shared a ‘look’ with Luke when I said she was working on a different assignment at the moment. I filed that little exchange away to tell Cara and asked after Max’s daughter. He said that she had woken up a few times and was doing much better. Strangely, I was very relieved to hear that.
Luke lead us back out. For Cara’s sake, I asked Luke if he wanted to join us on our hunt. He declined, citing a different task he had to handle regarding a turf war. I didn’t push the issue because I understood. This was our mission anyway. Things got a little dicey once we set foot outside of the store though. I was approached by a man with a scarred face who pretty much told us to scram if we knew what was good for us. Kerrick stepped between me and the man, to shield me from the hostility and impending violence the man threatened. I noticed a laser sight on Kerrick and with the intention of showing these suckers that we are not to be messed with, I took out my Blackwatch shotgun and fired at the window the sight was coming from. I didn’t hit the enemy and three more men popped up on the buildings across the way from us. Dev, Kerrick, and Juror took out those targets after Belltower was hit in her chest plate. Kerrick moved us to the end of the street and just as we were about to leave, Tom called out an attack from behind. Wanting precision, I pulled out my security pistol and quickfired behind us. The man with the scarred face had come out of an alleyway with a missile launcher. My shot hit him in the head causing him to fall back before he fired, launching his missile into the store front next to him.
Now that is how it’s done! I’ve been fighting with my own solo style for so long, I’d forgotten how great it felt to be able to work together with a squad to take down five enemies in less than ten seconds. Kerrick’s team is pretty impressive when they are all together. Granted, I’m still the odd man out in the team but I feel like I helped add to the success. Now we just need to figure out who sent the goons at us in the first place.
We made it back to the ship to rendezvous with the others who had their own scouting missions. While at Luke’s, I had sent word to Khyla that there are rumors of a demon in the vicinity of our target. When I got back to the ship, I tried to talk to Khyla about it and found she was under the weather. I asked Sylph to do a scan and found out that Khyla had somehow lost a lot of blood. She said there wasn’t anything I could get her when I offered but I couldn’t just leave it alone. I went to Tom to ask if he had anything special someone could drink to restore blood quickly and safely. He didn’t have anything on hand but had the recipe to mix one up if we got the right ingredients. I left it in his hands and later found out, while getting ready to ship out to the next phase of our mission, that he had had Holt find a medicine marketeer who had the proper components for this drink. We met him on the road a ways away from the ship, en route to the facility, some guy called the Blak Market Man. He seemed to be all over the place with a strange get-up and rather annoying accent. He did, however, have the items that we were looking for. I let the boys play shop for a bit then suggested that Tom mix the drink, give it to Abby to take back to Khyla. Aleric volunteered to escort Abby back to the ship then catch up with us. I was pleased that he had thought to offer.
We continued on our way. Ryler had broken us up into two group. I was in the first group in order to detect and disarm any booby traps, with Sylph’s help, that were in our path since we were going in through an underground tunnel. Things went relatively well. There was one point that Kerrick went ahead of me in case a spike trap was triggered. His belt got caught on a razorwire and I cut my finger trying to release it. He was eventually able to get free and cut the wire so that I could untangle my finger from it and then we all continued on. We came out of the tunnel by an old parking lot that lead up to the facility doors. Dev and Kerrick took out two of the guards to make an opening for us to go in. Team B, who was following close behind, opened the door and secured the first part of the room. It wasn’t much of a fight and Team A was free to move forward.
Dev and Aleric went to the higher catwalks to secure them and we ascended a ramp toward a suspended block of glass offices. Someone opened the door and we entered. There was a garden inside the glass space, a strange garden. The ground was a little squishy and if I had bothered to look down, I probably would have seen the blood that pooled around my boot soles. I didn’t bother. My focus was on our target. He stood in the middle of his brainwashed followers as they tried to block his body from our aim. He was calm and cool as he stood there, confident that we wouldn’t do anything to touch him. He motioned to six glass cages around him. He held captives. At least one Kryp, an alaryan, a few others from different races and one human male that looked an awful lot like Tom. I guessed that that was David, his brother.
I didn’t pay attention to the captives. I should have. I really should have but I thought that if we took out the target, we’d have time to clean house and figure out how to open the cage doors. I think David may have tried to tell us something but the glass was soundproof. I should have paid attention. If I could kick myself over this lack of awareness, I would do it. Anyway, we fanned out around the target and using what little head clearance I had in the small space, I flew up a foot or two which allowed me a clear shot at the man. I took it. My aim was true and he died with a bullet in his head…and David, along with all the other captives, were splattered all over the inside of their cells. I was in shock. How? I looked at Tom in horror. Just then, I realized that the Kryp hadn’t been killed in his detonation but had managed to get out. Fearing more deaths, I placed myself between him and my companions. I spoke to him, or tried to, in Sigil. He responded in Abyssal, which I instinctively understood and knew how to respond. I told him to let us help him. There was one more delayed explosion from above and suspended offices began to fall, with us still in them.
I didn’t have time to react. One thing I knew was that I was talking to the Kryp and the next, he lunged at me, grabbed me, and rolled into a ball as we all fell. I can’t describe the feeling of pure terror as I saw the Kryp come for me nor the strong wave of confusion that followed close on its heels as I realized I was being protected, not torn open by claws, tail, and teeth. When we landed, the Kryp gently let me go. I was unharmed. Everyone else from my group was alive as well but pretty banged up. The Kryp told me that He Who Hides comes and gave me a coordinate to go meet him as he wished to meet with me. Then he ran off.
Numb, we all stumbled from the facility and made it back to the Nighthawk. I thought the Kryp experience was terrifying but I quickly realized that it wasn’t anything near what I felt when I looked at Tom’s face. His eyes were hard, unseeing. Any laughter, tenderness or compassion he had ever felt had been wiped away and in its place was a look of death. Not that he looked dead but he looked like he could coldy kill any of us now and he wouldn’t even bat an eye. He wouldn’t care. He was empty. It gave me chills.
I tried to apologize, (like that words would change anything, stupid) but he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I have never felt so lost. Not our sweet Tom. I caused this. I had pulled the trigger without properly assessing the situation and I killed all those people. It was me so…I had to fix it. There was only one thing I could think of to do. Use the bracelet. It was only triggered by my death so I went into my room, and without a word, grabbed a pistol and shot myself.
I never want to kill myself again.
It worked though. My bracelet reset the flow of time and I found myself, and my companions, once again outside of the suspended, glass offices, just about to enter. My one consolation in this matter about using the bracelet is that no one but me will remember what transpired before my death. Before, it had been frustrating because I’d have to explain why I knew what was going to happen to whoever I was with but this, I was grateful for it this time. I wouldn’t want anyone to know. Not because it was my mistake but for Tom’s sake. He doesn’t need to know what had happened to his brother. I didn’t want him to lose the light in his eyes because of that knowledge.
Choices. I get to live and relive with all of mine whether they were good or bad.
This time around, we did things differently. I already knew that the captives somehow died in the cages if we killed Barous outright so I focused on studying the cages while the others kept Barous at bay. I also skipped the pleasantries with the Kryp and mouthed to him in Abyssal to let us help him. He’d already gotten his cage to crack as he rammed one of the walls and if he were to break out, I didn’t want him to turn on us.
The explosives in the cage were wired to the captives themselves. With Sylph’s help, I found out that the detonator was a dead man’s switch in Barous’ hand. When I took him down the first time, he let go of the detonator which had caused the deaths. This time, I was able to relay to everyone else what I had discovered. Holt disappeared and later reappeared behind Barous, struggling with him for the switch. Chaos ensued and in the middle of it, Barous manipulated events to allow him to sneak out of the offices. Somehow Kerrick shot Aeoni because of Barous and Tom was frantically trying to save people who had been affected by the same gas that had exploded out of the mutated being at the UF convention where I initially met up with Kerrick and Tom. Ryler had used his magic to contain this second gas incident so that it didn’t spread to us, condensing it into a small, compact form which Tom ended up putting into a used can of biofoam.
I stayed by Aeoni’s side. Tom came to stabilize her and used some healing magic he’d picked up from the old couple we’d stayed with in the safehouse. He passed out. The Kryp got out and after a brief conversation, I told him that Barous was our target. He took off after Barous. I noticed that Aleric was also going after Barous and at the last moment, when the Kryp and Aleric were about to hit him, Holt appeared out of nowhere on Barous’ exposed side. All three of them attacked at once. There was no way for our target to survive.
A gentleman I had never seen before appeared beside Aeoni and did something to help her then disappeared. I wonder if it was her father. Anyway, I helped to figure out how to open the cages and we got all the prisoners out. Tom revived enough to try to finish his work on the cultists caught in the gas but there wasn’t much to be done. The survivors took their dead and injured with them as they left and the prisoners left on their own as well. David came with us.
I left the offices, noticing the blood on myself. None of it was mine and that was when I realized that the garden had been watered with blood.
The Kryp was waiting for me at the entrance to the facility. He told me that He Who Hides would contact me in the coming week or weeks. I didn’t get coordinates this time. He left.
We got back to the ship and took off. I’m relieved to report that Tom still has his light and Sylph had a few very choice words with me. I apologized profusely to her for killing myself, for she knew something had happened and I couldn’t keep it from her. She deserved to know. I felt stupid for my first mistake and wanted to change it. I fixed my mistake, but I still feel stupid for killing myself to do it. I have too much to lose and I’m no longer the only life I affect when I make those choices.
As I said, my choices currently carry more weight than most others. It’s a heavy burden but I’m supported by those who help strengthen me to I can carry this weight every day.