Say a little prayer
The tall man entered the dusky room through the ancient oak door.
“You called ?!”
The old man looked up and a hesitant smile cracked his rugged features.
“Yosh! It has been long… You look well.” And indicating the thickly padded, well worn leather chair, added: “Please… sit.”
“Sure, why not.”
Yosh heavily sat down and scrutinized the old man across the massive blackwood table.
“You look worried.”
The old man frowned, then, slowly, smiled again.
“You haven’t lost your touch… Yes, I am worried and you will be too.”
Yosh raised an inquiring eyebrow, waiting for the old man to continue.
“Well, I’m sure you remember that little accident we had a while back…”
Yosh rose and angrily interrupted: ”If you think I’m going back…”
“No, no. Nothing like that. We would never ask you to go back…not after what they did to you. Please, sit back down, please.” The old man said imploringly.
Slowly, and perceptibly with great reluctance, he lowered himself back on to the chair. His deep amber eyes betrayed no emotions as they met the old man’s startlingly blue ones.
‘What amazing self control he has.’ The old man thought.
“Well, ah, you see there was a problem we had not anticipated. After the reintegration team failed we aborted the mission. Standard procedure; give the natives some time to cool down, forget us.” The old man paused and took a sip of water from a beautifully crafted crystal canter.
“Unfortunately they did not forget us. Just as they had not forgotten the other times.”
The old man looked uncomfortable, as if past sins were intruding upon his conscience.
‘They probably are.’ Yosh reflected, not a little maliciously.
“And that is were the problem really lies. The time is almost at hand and we haven’t been able to do anything about it.”
Yosh rubbed the palms of his hands against the worn armrests and felt the soft leather brush against old scars. He knew what the old man wanted and it didn’t involve going back, but something even less agreeable.
“I will not do it.”
“But you don’t even know…oh, I forgot.” He looked at the cracks in the table, trying to think of an argument that might convince the younger man. To make him see their point, to help right the errors of their judgement.
“It is essential that we rectify the developments, don’t you see. It is our fault. The others won’t like it at all.”
“Yes,” Yosh agreed acidly, ”Your fault, your council, your people. And we had to clean up the mess. I was the only one who ever returned. My entire team was wiped out. By your mistakes, their native brutality, and HIS,” he almost spat the word, “insidious cunning.” He challengingly glared at the old man. “Do you know what it means to have all your friends butchered, and there is nothing you can do and even if you could you wouldn’t be allowed. What happened when you led the teams? An eye for an eye, that’s what happened and no questions asked! Your word was law.”
“You are right, but politics change. New guidelines and less freedom for the council forced us to limit your options.” The old man had regained some of his composure.
“If I remember correctly you fully agreed with the new measures before you went in and even pleaded for the natives’ rights to the end.”
“That was before I knew what had happened to my team and…I believed, and still do, that… they can’t be held accountable. But that does not mean I will do anything to interfere again.”
He leaned back and tried to ignore the images of his long dead friends.
“We are not even sure that we were the first to enter into their affairs,” the old man tried, ”There is evidence of earlier tempering, you know, the great cycles of death. The myths they had even before the modification procedures began. ”
“So what? That doesn’t make right what you did.”
“Not just us, you too. That’s why I called you.”
“You have caused more havoc than the council, the elder or HIM. Your teams efforts were very successful in a twisted kind of way, as is to be expected with them. More blood was spilled in the name of peace and brotherhood than in all the ancient colonial wars of genocidal pacification. You were meant to promote docility, not create new and uncontrollable factions.”
“What do you mean?” Yosh asked with a dawning of understanding.
The old man pushed the image crystal over to him. The pictures and sounds were bright and clear. Yosh wished they weren’t.
All he had said, all he and his team had done…how could it have gone so horribly wrong? The others would demand corrective action as the terms of the agreement had not been fulfilled. The natives were about as far from were the others needed them as could be imagined.
But that’s how they were. Closer to chattering, territorial monkeys than the image they had meant to resemble. Maybe HE was right, HE had been in charge of them long enough before HE transgressed and committed the lesser of the only two crimes the council did not forgive.
“Well” Yosh said after long moments of silence when the pictures had faded and the crystal was empty once again,” I will do it- under one condition.”
The old man brightened visibly and nodded his head vigorously.
“Sure, sure…whatever you want. Just name it.”
“If we fail this time-that’s it, they are on their own. No more second chances, no more meddling. And you will let me seek HIM out. And I do not care if that means breaking the contract with the others.”
The old man’s face looked very old indeed and he resignedly shrugged his shoulders as he said: ”If we fail this time it will not matter anymore, and if you do find HIM there is nothing you can do to Him that He hasn’t done to himself… So be it.”
The tall man returned the ancient answer, experiencing only the slightest pang of nostalgia, that was custom at the end of all business deals:
copyright by M Oncel
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