Aeolus Aeneas found himself sitting quietly on a vacant examination bench and for the rest of his life, the one thing he would remember about that place and time would be the metallic stink and his friend’s dying moans.

He was not a visual man, but old and gray in the distant future on his own death bed, he’d struggle to recall where and how Kyle was injured.

He supposed it did not matter much, just the fact the strongest man he had ever known was crumbling before him. Regardless of circumstance, the air was still calm as Wind Lipara patiently worked on the broken man.

“He didn’t have to go so far, Aeolus. Kyle was losing it, but the most he did was lock Mark away.

There’s enough bone and muscle mashed into his chest, I’m not sure what’s his and what’s not.”

His burgundy medical attire was caked in the rotting gunk he had been clearing out of the man for two hours. Altima’s magic was worked in deep, it seemed. The infection was spreading faster than he could remove it.

“You’ve known Mark as long as I have, we both know it’s overkill or nothing for him. My guess is our new “empress” shares his views. Wouldn’t you?”

His always laughing green eyes surveyed the expansive medical bay. He had never gotten used to it, all metal and bright lights. Aeolus was a man of the woods, a foot soldier. Such things were alien, and probably always would be.

His gaze never really wanted to focus entirely on the seamless inner sanctum of the light ship, it was as if it were coated in a visual Teflon.

There was a long silence between the men, the only noise being the quiet slurping of Wind’s gadgets.

“Do you think he knows what he’s doing to us?”

Wind inquired at last.


“What makes you say that?”

“Mark, while he may look like us on the outside is no better than a hound. He isn’t human, Wind. The man is an animal.

“I suppose it isn’t his fault. That was just the way his people made him, and Altima only made it worse with her tinkering. Sure, we’re all predators here, but Mark is more of a tiger to our housecat.”

Kyle groaned in his heavily medicated sleep, dreaming of the wet horrors that savagely chewed on his body like a rag doll.

He stank of the sea for a brief moment, intense and vivid. Aeolus found it supremely ironic, but he couldn’t bring himself to smirk at his own musing.

“I don’t think you’re right. He’s too smart to be so violent consciously. With intellect comes some sort of restraint, am I right?”

Aeolus smiled sadly. His companion really was the compassionate one, always giving others the benefit of the doubt.

“Name two large factions of successful humanoids.”

The answer came instantaneously, even if the man was doing heart surgery.

“The Romans and the Keepers.”

“Would you say they’re less, or as violent as a whole as our friend now?”

There was a beat as he let in sink in.

Wind did not answer.

“They’re successful for a reason. They are predators, the best in their niches. You’ll appreciate that as a student of life, wouldn’t you? Prey don’t need to be smart, they just need to move fast or be big and dumb.

Predators need to have the smarts to outwit their rivals and their victims.”

Kyle’s nails skittered on the soundlessly floating operation table, his broken fingers like a nail on a chalk board.

“I still refuse to believe he’s this capable. Kyle was his best friend, with his best interests at heart. His betrayal was superficial.”

Wind stank of perspiration, regardless of thirsty microscopic fibers sucking away his slick sweat. Aeolus noted his breath was raspy and labored.

How long had it been since he had slept? He honestly could not recall.

“They’ve been rivals ever since Kyle laid eyes on him as a kid, and Urth’s fall only drove him to the edge more. You’ve seen the determination those men share, and Kyle has more than just that.”

“.. that is?”

“The kid hasn’t got a thing that matters to him anymore, and he sees Mark with everything.”

“Kyle has a wife, a child, and a beautiful mansion on the beach. He has more than most people could dream of.”

Wind replied over the whir of some gadget.

“Look at him. Smell the crap Mark shoved inside of him. I can practically taste it on the back of my throat it’s so strong.”

He threw himself to his feet and walked to the far edge of the room, allowing his eyes to move of their own accord. His fingers, independent of his command tried to make physical contact with the glossy wall. They were just shunted to the side.
“Do you think any man, sane or not would risk that sort of life if he cared about it?

“Kyle wants one thing. To be better than Mark. Everything else is either icing on the cake, or ape shit.”

Wind thought about it, regarding the broken man before him. Lena was a spectacular woman, and the boy was smarter than most adults. Any other man would have been angry, or felt pity.

Wind let his emotions swirl into what could be called empathy. He understood very well, but he couldn’t bring himself to pass judgment.

“It’s sad that he thinks the whole world revolves around that kind of power. That they’d destroy each other just to exchange mutual respect.”

He said at last, his voice quiet.

“Wouldn’t you in his position?”

Aeolus replied.

“Honestly? No. What about you?”

Aeolus took a moment to answer, apparently thinking about it. In reality he knew before his companion even asked the question, he just had to find the courage.

“Yes, Wind. Yes I would.”

Wind felt a chasm open up between them, but he didn’t speak. The silence stretched, and their relationship crumbled a little bit more.


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