Friday, August 24, 2012

The Pallbearer: Honeymoon Blues Part 2

Tunnel of Love

Talking had somehow become a festival of stumbling words and bumbling sentiments. When had I become a tangled mess? When had I become a garbage pile of broken ideas and half-finished thoughts? As Cassie and I made our way down the recently cleared road to the Gray Pack village at the entrance to the tunnel they had come through, we spoke little. I had been fighting for the better part of a year to be with her and now that I had her, I had my tongue cut out?

How goddamned stupid.

She started every conversation, piping back and forth between our respective suits, making small talk about how well things were going. The smell of garbage was slowly fading in intensity as more and more was reused either as fertilizer or construction materials. It was pleasant. Pleasant enough to infuriate me.

After the first few hours, we had grown silent. What was there to talk about? She knew of my movements after I had been brought up from the water by The Errata. I had no desire to know about her escapades in the service of West Worthington. I just wanted to enjoy freedom with her. I got what I wanted. Where was my sunset to ride off into?

Three or four times I opened the comm link to ask her a question and every time I closed it without talking. Stupid.

The Gray Pack village was coming along nicely. Fuzz-faced children played in plain sight. Every one of the villagers we saw, waved. There were others, I’m certain, glaring from the darkness of their steel shanties, hating me. It was well-earned hate. The hate that only a conqueror can gain.

Was I a conqueror?

No wait, I worded that sentence wrong.

I was a conqueror.

When had that happened again? Oh yeah, as I was going off to war. What had my war been about? Killing things. It had been about adding names to the list of those that St. George had reduced to bloodstains. It had been about laying anyone stupid enough to get into my way to waste. It had been about not being able to get my Cassie back.

But I got her back. She was walking beside me.

She wasn’t just walking beside me for the moment. She was beside forever now. She was my wife. That ring I had worn around my neck for so long, waiting for the right moment, was on my finger now. And it felt like it had always been there. That was good right?

I blinked both sets of eyes and realized that we were past the bulk of the village and standing at the incline leading down into the tunnel Alithea’s people had dug to enter the city. It was impressive to look at, easily three hundred feet across. I didn’t want to think about how long they had taken to dig it out.


“Yeah Cassie.”

“What are you thinking about?”

“Just some run on the mill agonizing.”

“Being married that horrid already?”

I started walking again, staring ahead of us at the yawning mouth of the tunnel in front of us.

“It isn’t the being married. It’s just…”

“Just what Neil?”

“What am I supposed to do now? I only had one goal. Get you back. That’s done. Now what? Now we just march off into the sunset? Or into a bloody big tunnel? What do we do now?”

“We run our district. We keep our people safe.”

“Our people? I go stomping around killing things because I’m pissed and thinking you’re dying and now I’m a hero.”

“You’ve been a hero for a long time Neil. You saved me… twice. You saved the Blind Children. You annihilated the chief Point Heston hydroponics plant. That’s why West Worthington hates you so damn much. It isn’t just because you’re a drain on their pocketbook. It’s because rumors about you are causing people to defect by the thousands.”

“I don’t know…”

“I do. Get your ass out of that Brute right now Neil.”

The tunnel entrance behind us was just a speck of light in the distance and we couldn’t see the exit yet. From what Alithea had told us, we wouldn’t for a few hours more. I punched open the rear hatch and slid down the ladder and out. Cassie was waiting for me, already out of her Sanitation Suit.

“What is it?”

“I want you to know something. I want you to know just how strongly I believe in you.”

“I don’t doubt you Cassie. Never have.”

“Just… keep quiet for a minute. Alright?”


She was pacing. She never paced. It turned her into a petite tiger stalking around a cage.

“You don’t know how important you are Neil. You don’t realize what sort of things are being done to stop you.”

“Don’t really care.”

Cassie turned to look at me and I was waiting for a glare. There wasn’t a glare. There were tears. Rivers of them coursing down her cheeks as she gritted her teeth.

“Neil, do you trust.”

“My heart’s in your hands.”

“I know that. It has been since the fight against West Worthington. I asked if you trust me.”

“Come again?”

She made a fist and I felt my chest squeeze tight.

“Ah. Yes, I trust you. Always have. Even after trying to kill me I trust you.”

“They put something in me. They put something in my head. It’s like what they did to Adam 2.0. I was supposed to kill you at our wedding if they hadn’t managed it earlier. But I can’t. Not after you’ve let me live. Not after you’ve seen that I could kill you where you stand and you not blink.”

My Brute dropped St. George and stared walking toward her.

“What are you doing Neil?”

“I trust you. I don’t trust that ugly green shadow behind you. Do I Grendel?”

“As well you shouldn’t. I don’t think you’ll have as easy a time of beating me as you did on the Black Dragon.”

“Just shut up and get over here so I can start ripping your arms off.”

Finally, we were back around to what I was good at.

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