<--Previous

Running the tracks of infinite probability to find the small and tiny tear; the minute rip in statistics that brings The Change - this is what my life is now. Above and gone beyond the confines of a single Lane, the eye looks for deeper sights to see. Years subjective spent in building tiny steps - jumping from point to point within the eye's view, so that at last the final jump will put me at the tipping place.

Herakles waits for me now, found. Not a place but a multiple of places all the same, light-cone spread out and shining with the awful gaps of Maindrive jump dicing it into segments. I think of it like this, sometimes, bending Lanes about me - I reach into the cone, to a particular spot in an imaginary solid just long enough to make the connection in my head. It's not a true cone, of course; Herakles - the one I know - exists in just one lane, one probability. The cone is an affectation; possibilities moving, sliding slowly, liquid, to the edge of space from that one small line.

Or perhaps there are a myriad starships in multifarous flight, but I can only step into the one I know.

This jump is entirely mine. My twin is limp in my grip, and I have time to hope it is from acquiescence, not from injury - but not too much time, subjective, before the gate opens around me and drops us to the deckplates in a silent scream of radiation. For the hundredth time, I wonder if the ship around us sees those flashes of gammashine, records them in some secret log. I've looked; I've checked the consoles, but I've never found evidence of my other visits, in this line's past. Of course, the mirrors hide from us, and cameras shy away with equal speed and grace.

As I step aside, my twin stirs and stands. A moment of relief runs hot, washing away the ice of fear - I move to my favored console seat and sink into it, feeling the tears still on my cheeks. I raise a hand to wipe at them, but let it fall. My mind's eye moves back to the Lane just left - I hear again the whisper of the gammashine, and feel the blackness deep inside.

His voice is quiet. "Did you see where we were?"

"No." I think back, but no correlations form. "I just- reacted. Too late now."

"You have that code as well?"

"Oh, certainly that." I laugh once, bitter. "Do no harm. Change not."

We sit in quiet for a few moments.

"Think, though..." he stops. I wait, turning the seat to face him. "If the Hunt is based upon a lie, perhaps that too sits upon untruth. If so, then worrying would profit one not, for how are we to know to whose benefit the adage is?"

"Regardless. I've taken a life."

He snorts, once. "Are you telling me you've never slain? Not once? If not in your prior life, not in the lanes or even in the hunt? I have trouble believing that, if in fact it's what you claim."

"Why?" My response is sharpened by guilt.

He sits in the seat to the right of mine and stares out into space. "Simply put, because I have."

That gives me pause. "I...don't know. I've fought in the Lanes, but I don't know for sure if I've ever killed. There was one time when I might have, but I torched while fleeing, and when I returned subjective later, there was no evidence that I had."

His face turned back to me. "But you were willing. How is this different?"

"It was an accident!" I shout. "I didn't think! I just...did."

"Does that matter to the man who's dead?"

"No, of course not, but that's not..."

He overrides me, sharply. "It is the point. If you were willing to kill before, then this is something that shouldn't shock you."

"Are you saying intent makes no difference?"

"No. Just the aftermath."

I look back out at the stars and listen to Herakles as it whispers sleepily to itself in quaternary code, soft logic gentling it through the heavens. "I...don't think I agree. Throughout life's midnights all, I would have watched till spent."

He sighs, looks forward as well. "I tried. I understand. But you didn't see where we were, did you."

"No."

"Then - you'll have to trust me, here - I tell you that that Lane speaks after that of there being no-one where we were. You didn't change. You fulfilled."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." He grins, death's-head humor in the half-light of the bridge. "I've sat there several times, although not precisely there. That's why I was surprised you didn't recognize it. There is a long-standing argument if there was, in fact, a person where we were - but despite the best efforts of many, over much long time, no evidence of such has ever been found."

I am unsure if this makes me feel better, or worse. "Well, it doesn't bear upon my guilt."

"Really?" He looks surprised. "What if, all along, that Lane was waiting for someone to make it whole again - to change that one small point, lest the mystery be solved and the world's soul be hanged as damned? Or, worse, that what was, was not, and all therein went along with some small feeling of wrongness in their time? Some small shiver of the hands that tells them what is, to them, should not have been?"

"I...again, I do not know."

"Well, I give you this." His eyes were hard, of a sudden, my eyes. I shivered once, wondering if anyone else saw me like that. "The man you burned - he had just killed. For no good cause, save villainy. Well, perhaps he'd killed. That's one of those things that isn't known. But if not, it was not for lack of trying. You saw the proscription in his hand."

Images turn back slowly in my mind. "There was a sharp report - a sound."

"A firearm."

"That shouldn't make me feel better, but it...it does."

"I honestly don't know," he said in softer voice, "if you just served as vengeance for a man already dead, or as the universe's correcting hand - but I tell you this: there was at that moment no one more rightful dead than that unknown and faceless man."

I look out at the stars, and think on that.

They look back and think on me.

<--Previous | a Namedropping story | Next-->

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.