This is Issue #162 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘DeathWatch’ then go to ‘#0 – A Beginning’ and read from there, or go find the issue # you remember, and catch up from there!
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Kieron sat back, not quite within the circle of Sha’s arms, and stared up at the Krieg, his eyes still wide.
Sha looked back over her shoulder, and upon seeing the man, she shifted to put herself more fully between him, and Kieron, protective of the boy, her dark eyes flashing brightly, distrust plain on her face. She looked around, glanced up at the place that surrounded them. Austere lines, dark wood, favor toward chrome instead of brass. And then the fierce raptor insignia that the Alliance had taken for its own.
“We’re on a Krieg ship,” Sha said, the expression in her eyes turning to wonder.
“A what?” Kieron said, pulling back further, and wiping his eyes. “Professor?”
“Not. Now,” Garrett said, pinching the bridge of his nose as he sat back on his haunches, exhausted.
Kieron flinched back, every bit the child he’d been struggling to shut away.
Sha moved to gather Kieron in her arms. They held one another, struggling in their grief. She had not seen Nathan give his life to protect Coryphaeus. She had not seen the way Kieron ran for the ledge as though he would’ve jumped off after him, had he not been stopped. The last thing she remembered was clashing with the Guardian, rolling with him. She’d cut him; she felt his blood on her hands. She looked at them now even as she let Kieron lean into her, the hot tears on his cheeks turning cold against her neck. They were still bloody, filthy, though the rain had washed them somewhat, and the journey had been long, they hadn’t been cleaned up more than was necessary.
“When will we get back?” she wondered.
“Back?” Kieron wondered.
“To Ilona,” Sha said, at the same time Garrett said, “To Kriegsland.”
They both looked at one another — Garrett looked baffled, while Sha looked furious.
“You’re not going back into Ilona,” Garrett snorted, rolling his eyes.
Kieron released Sha, who stiffened, twisting to stand up in front of Garrett. She swayed, briefly, and her dark eyes grew darker for a moment as her eyes tested their focus. She could feel the wound on the back of her head throbbing. She stared Garrett down, saying, “You were a legend to most of us. A hero. You know that?”
“I didn’t ask for it,” Garrett said through his teeth. “And I’m not asking you — I’m telling you: You’re not going back into Ilona.”
“I am Not. Leaving. Her. There,” Sha said, baring her teeth.
“Her, who?” Garrett wondered.
“Jules,” Kieron whispered, looking shocked. “She’s still in the Palace. She’s… they still have her.”
“And with O’Malley gone, I’m not leaving her there,” Sha said fiercely. “I’m not.”
Kieron watched the Krieg’s eyes narrow, watched him turn to look at Sha. The giant said nothing, however, so Kieron looked to Garrett, and said, “Professor, please. It’s not like she’s asking you to g–“
“Shut up, Brody. I’m taking you back to your father,” Garrett said. “There’s a narrow window we’re working within, and–“
“You don’t understand me, Professor,” Sha growled, pointing a finger in Garrett’s face. “I am a Captain in the Allied Forces Air Legion and you. Are. Retired. The last I knew, you can’t give any orders to–“
“Please!” Kieron said, dashing tears from his eyes. “Stop fighting, this is stupid! You’re both–” He looked frantic; neither Sha nor Garrett appeared ready to back down — they shouted at one another, both full of fury and restless, directionless anger.
“–don’t have to listen to some washed-up has-been that–“
“–this washed-up has-been got you out of that bloody jungle–“
“–don’t understand why we can’t talk this through like reasonable–“
“–couldn’t save but two of us–“
“–had to carry your ass over the wall because none of you could follow instruct–“
“–couldn’t just let them kill her–“
“–never leave anyone behind–“
“–could’ve caught him if you hadn’t held me back!”
“–wouldn’t have even had to if you hadn’t run away from home like a spoiled brat!”
Kieron swung, but his fist was caught in a very large hand.
The Krieg moved the boy as though he were little more than a doll, so gently restraining him, a startlingly gentle expression on his face. “There are some things you cannot be taking back, cadet,” he said softly. “Regret is a heavy thing.”
Kieron was moved, and stood still, fists still clenched, chest heaving with each breath.
Garrett looked up at the Krieg and said, “Thanks — I’m getting a little tired of having to explain–”
“Zatkni past,” Danival chided Garrett, poking him in the chest, looking stern. Shut your fucking mouth. “You should not say such things to the boy.”
Garrett looked shocked, then hurt. He recoiled, crossing his arms over his chest, and said, “What are you–“
Danival ignored Garrett, looking at Kieron, then Sha. “Nathan O’Malley?” he asked, his expression far and away for a moment as he tugged his beard, looking thoughtful.
“Yes?” Kieron said, and his expression shifted from guarded to purely looking confused.
“My Quarter,” Sha said, speaking up. “He… he died, back in that place.”
“And you want to go back for whom, then?” the Krieg asked, his expression unreadable.
“My friend. Quarter of the Maxima,” Sha said, still wearing a look on her face that assumed she would take control of the ship somehow, and make it do her bidding. “His wife. We have to go back.”
Garrett rolled his eyes, looking irritated as he shook his head. He couldn’t imagine sacrificing an entire ship to go back for a single soldier — No One Left Behind was a wonderful ideal… but it never worked in practice. Too many people died trying to recover something that was nothing more than meat, most of the time. That poor woman, whoever had been left to the Ilonans… now that the Prince was dead, wasn’t likely to receive any kind treatment.
He’d gone back to get Kieron, to get Jet, to bring them home sacrificing only himself. He’d felt responsible, in a way, that their misadventures had gone so desperately wrong. Here it was, barely a week after he’d made the decision, and not only had he only been able to save one of them — the boy’s captain was outright trying to get them all killed.
“Yes,” Danival said quietly. “We go back.”
“Wait, what?” Garrett said, baffled. “Dani, are you insane? The Homeland will be furious enough that you crossed the border to retrieve us in the first place — you don’t have time to go charging off to save one man’s wife because–“
“Alec, the only reason you were saved was because I went charging off to come get you once I’d gotten wind of your distress beacon,” Danival said irritably. “The only way you got into Ilona to begin with was because I’d gone charging off to help you go charging off. You are getting off your high horse, now, Garrett.”
It was then that Garrett’s shoulders slumped; the realization struck him, and he nodded, putting his face in his hands. “You’re right,” he sighed. “I just–“
“Just nothing, Alec,” Danival said. “This is my ship. This is my army. We’re not just charging off,” he said, his expression growing more and more fierce by the moment. “The Homeland wanted me to lead an invasion?”
Kieron squeezed Sha’s hand, daring to feel hopeful, and looked to the Krieg, who wore an especially ferocious, determined grin.
“It begins now.”
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