"You know, four hundred years ago I don't think the Tevarin ever thought that it would be possible to work side by side with a human. There was so much hate." Interitus raised his eyebrows, "There still is, actually."
"Do you ever shut up?" Subtext said, strapped to a gurney as a person in medical scrubs unwrapped the bandages from his body.
Interitus stood. "When you've lived as solitary an existence as mine Hector, you come to realize that sharing things with another is a unique and intrinsic part of the human condition." He turned and stared into Subtext's eyes. "There's no substitute for face to face interaction. Unfortunately for me, the vast majority of my interactions once I get this close," he said, leaning in until their noses nearly touched, "is to watch their pupils expand as their neural pathways flicker for the last time." He straightened out. "I've killed more people than I can keep count, and for the longest time I thought I was doing it for the right reasons."
Subtext cringed from a spike of pain as the person undoing his bandages nicked a sensitive area.
"Hold still or I'll rip it off in one go," said a female voice.
He shook his head, trying to ignore her before turning his narrow gaze back to Interitus, “What reasons were those?”
“Do you have children Hector?”
“Just call me Subtext.”
Interitus peered over his shoulder. “I'll call you what I see fit, answer the question.”
“No, I have no children.”
“I have a child.”
“That's hard to believe.”
“What are you getting at?”
“When I was a young man, I thought I could make a difference. I tried so hard. I wanted to make this universe a better place. I wanted my daughter to grow up knowing that the fruits of my labor where for her and the future of all mankind.”
Subtext shook his head. “Let me guess, she's dead and now you're on a path of vengeance?”
“No. She's not dead."
“So she is the right reason?”
“She, my friend, is always the reason. To make the world a better place for her, and others like her.” Interitus walked back toward the gurney. “What changed was the means to that end. I used to work for an organization that had a mandate. I followed that mandate like a sheep following a shepherd to the slaughter house. I didn't think for myself other than in matters of survival, which is perhaps the only reason I'm still alive today. Hector,” Interitus sat next to the gurney, “I can't exist in the world I'm trying to create for my daughter. You and I, we're similar in that sense.”
“We're not similar in the slightest.”
“I beg to differ. You kill and I kill. You kill well and without remorse.”
A flicker of introspection caused Subtext to have an emotional epiphany. He had not, for one second, felt remorse for the lives of the Tevarin he'd taken recently. Then, in a painful act of remembrance, he realized he hadn't felt anything for the lives he'd taken in the past, through actions that resided in memories hidden in a dark schism in his heart; a crack in his soul through which he had not ventured in a very long time. Those acts were all tasks, as simple as that. He shook his head. “No, I'm not like you.”
“You can fight it all you want Hector, but deep down you are. You are exactly like me. We are tools. We are to be used and then thrown into the toolbox until we need use once more.”
“I am a thinking, feeling human being. I care for people. I'm not a psychopath.”
“I care for people as well Hector. My daughter first, and many after her. I am not as heartless as I may sometimes seem. Nevertheless, I fear I've gone too deep. It's not a light switch; killing. You can't take that many futures away without staining your own. Even now, if I were to be given the chance to live a quiet life with my daughter and eventually my grandchildren; I couldn't do it. Though I want nothing more than that, I've sacrificed that opportunity for this.”
“For the opportunity to ensure a better future for her, not one spent toiling in a mine, or serving the one percent that hold the ninety nine.”
Subtext furrowed his brow. “The ninety nine percent of wealth?”
“So what are you going to do?”
“If you promise to help me, I'll tell you.”
Subtext felt a cold hand grip his guts. He had a choice to make, and was under the impression that Interitus' tests of loyalty would be so far off the moral scale he couldn't possibly keep up the ruse. The math was simple though, and he had no other choice but to play along. Death, was the only other alternative. “I'll help where I can,” he said, his heart sinking.
Interitus smiled. “Good, I'm glad you're part of the team. I think the men you killed will be glad to have you working with us.”
Interitus laughed. “Well I put them in the AMOB first, their injuries were far more substantial then your own. Though I don't have the facilities to rebuild Trigger's face, so he'll be hiding behind a mask for some time, unless you want to stare at the permanent lip-less smile of a skull with broken teeth. You did shoot him point blank in the face after all.”
“You shot the other one.”
“He was going to die anyway, I just hurried it along so he wouldn't have to writhe there.”
Interitus' lip curled, “I think so too. Now, on to business. As I said, it took me a great deal of time and effort to find this place.”
“Where exactly are we?”
“We're on an alien planet, the race of which I am unaware. However, my sources have lead me here because there have been rumors of an immense power, capable of folding space and time.”
“You saw it yourself, you flew right through one.”
“You created that jump point?”
Interitus nodded. “I had the intention of flying a Vanduul fleet straight through to Terra to send a message to the UEE. However, the technology is not as simple to use. I wasn't able to get a second wormhole to connect with the first. It seems there must be another facility somewhere.”
“Are you trying to tell me that jump points aren't naturally occurring?”
“I'm trying to tell you that at some point in the distant past, some of them were created and maintained by devices such as this one. Whether or not all jump points were created artificially is a question for other men, who seek knowledge rather than act on it.”
“I'm done.” Said the woman. "Should I untie the straps?”
Interitus turned, and saw Subtexts scarred chest and abdomen. He smiled. “You're a resilient being Hector. Quite impressive,” he pointed to the woman. “Go ahead Claire, set him free.”
Claire reached over his body and unstrapped his arm, her face coming inches from his. She turned and made eye contact for the first time.
Subtext stared at her, unsure of what to make of this person. Her eyes, a purple hue in one and a vibrant green in the other, her face still hidden behind a surgical mask; dark hair neatly spun in a bun behind her head. “This your daughter?” Subtext asked.
“Like hell,” she replied, stripping the waist belt off with a violent tug that caused Subtext to clench his teeth.
Interitus laughed. “No, my daughter is far away, safe from the moral deprivations of my task.”
Subtext rubbed his wrists. “So what now?”
“Now, my friend, we do something a little less orthodox.”
Subtext shook his head, “I don't quite catch your drift.”
“I couldn't bridge the gap between Vanduul space and Terra in one step, so we'll have to use this system as a stepping stone. I'll collapse the event horizon leading to Terra, recreate one in Vanduul space and gather a horde. Then, when they are all here, I'll open a new gate. This time, not for Terra, but for Earth itself, the very heart of the inequity that is the cancerous plague that destroys the lives of so many who deserve better.”
“Where do I come in?”
Interitus turned to him, a subtle grin forming on his lips. “You are the only one who's made it through this anomaly in one piece so far. You'll do it again; twice more in fact.”
Subtext's face went pale.