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SECOND PLACE WINNER — Submission by By Bryan Ericson

Heavy Weighs History's Burden (working title) — Part 2 of 3

The gentle hum of the engines made Reilley sleepy. He leaned back so his head rested in a corner of the cabin. His suit was warm and the burn on his leg was only a distant itch. He closed his eyes and thought of the Elerian. He had not seen her entire face, just the small square around her eyes visible through her visor. She had a delicate chin, he decided, and full, soft lips. Her nose was small, and she had brown hair that framed her blue-skinned face when she let it down. She would have killed me, he thought. But the hard guilty ball in his stomach refused to disappear.

"You've never killed another?" the Darlok asked.

Drowsy and relaxed, Reilley half-opened one eye and looked across the cabin at the Master Spy. The Darlok was staring at the small screen of his data unit. "No," he said. "I mean, yes. But never so close." He closed his eye again. "Only from far away," he added. He briefly wondered how the Master Spy had guessed his thoughts.

"How long ago did you complete your military training?"

Reilley squinted at the Darlok and said nothing. The thrum of the massive engines filled the silence. The Darlok shifted his position and stretched out his legs, waiting. The screen on his data unit flickered beneath his gaze. "Three years," Reilley finally answered.

The Master Spy nodded to himself. "Your actions revealed you," he said. "You dispatched the Elerian with efficiency." He glanced away from his data screen towards Reilley. "Humans do not perform that way without training." His attention returned to the data unit. "You were discharged with honor? A wound, perhaps?"

Reilley shifted his position slightly. He considered not answering the question. The Master Spy waited, absorbed in the information displayed on his data unit. Reilley drew a deep slow breath and blew it out.

"No," he said. "I deserted my unit."

"It is good that you are honest to me."

Reilley felt the knot begin to grow in his stomach. The Darlok had been testing him, he realized.He waited for the Master Spy to say more, but the other remained absorbed in the display.

"How..." he began, but he Master Spy cut him off.

"It is important to observe," he said. "You must observe everything, notice every detail." He looked up from his display. His eyes glowed red. "Observation provides information." He spoke slowly.

"Information provides knowledge. And knowledge," he waved his finger at Reilley, a parent teaching a lesson to a stubborn child, "knowledge is life."

He turned back down to his display. "Once you accumulate enough knowledge," he continued, "nothing will turn you from your course. You will be able to discern things that others cannot."

Reilley waited for the Master Spy to say more, but the Darlok remained silent. The knot in Reilley's stomach continued to grow. He shifted his position again and discovered he no longer felt tired. The droning of the engines seemed to grow louder and softer, louder and softer. The Master Spy did not move, but continued to stare at the flickering information on his data unit. The silence between them seemed to grow, until Reilley felt it had to be broken. "What," he whispered, "is your name?"

The Master Spy turned his head slightly to look at Reilley from the corner of his eye. He said nothing for a moment, then returned his full attention to his data unit. "I have no name," he said. Reilley had to strain to hear him above the engines. "I have no family, I have no people. I am no one."

Reilley said nothing. The Master Spy remained motionless, consumed by the data. The sound of the engines dropped for a moment, the silence was a fragile crystal lattice that would be shattered by the slightest sound. Reilley held his breath for a moment, and then the sound of the engines returned. He let out his breath, and the moment passed. He leaned back against the bulkhead and closed his eyes, tried to sleep.


[ CONTINUED...   Part 3 ]

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