Chapter 25: The End of Part 1
The artist climbed the steps up to the top of the room again. She unfolded the stepladder and maglocked it to the catwalk. She didn’t want it slipping on the wetness there. Satisfied she pulled out her paints and climbed up.
The painting took shape before her. Her brush back and forth, this next part of the ceiling gaining beauty. When she had finished the one spot she moved the ladder to the next spot along and began to paint there too. She had never seen a garden, a forest, except in paintings, so it was hard to recreate it here. A painting of a painting, an interpretation of a memory of an interpretation. But she hoped that it was doing the paintings justice. She certainly felt that it added life and colour to this offflow.
Hours later she climbed down, her work done for the day. Tomorrow she would return and add another layer of paint. That would help seal the colours, deepen them, and perfect the scene of the woodland waterfall.
She smiled as she looked around. Maybe this was a better kind of art. A beauty that did not harm anyone to create, only added beauty to things that were drab.
Yes, this was far better. She smiled as she walked back to her small little house.
Lian walked into her small hotel room and dropped her bag on the chair. There was nothing here. Nothing in this city. Nothing that could lead her to Sho. But she would keep looking.
She walked over and sat on the end of the bed, turned on the screen to the news. They were doing another special about the heroes of the front lines. Apparently the war was taking a turn for the worse despite ‘the many heroic deeds of our brave soldiers’. The news didn’t say it, but there were other ways of finding out the truth. Apparently the independent miners, the small stations, the factories and shipyards, had all sided with Earth. Slowly but surely the Colony Coalition was being beaten back. There was fighting in the space over Mars, the Coalition unable to push the Earth forces any further than the twin war-stations of Phobos and Deimos. Without those two stations, rumour had it, Mars would have already been lost. or at least there would be fighting on the surface.
Lian shook her head. She couldn’t let the war distract her. Even if the Coalition lost it would not change her mission. She had made a promise to a man. A promise that had become harder and harder to keep in the past year as she had begun to despair of ever finding Sho.
But there he was on the screen, as he was almost everyday.
Jorm the saviour of the Coalition, winner of a dozen battles, the one who turned every tide. The one who had stolen onto Earth itself and killed a dozen of the generals and leaders. There was another feature about his latest accomplishments. The hero of the Coalition, the Nameless Hero.
If he could fight tirelessly to give her more time, postpone the war to give her time to find Sho then she would continue to search, as long as she had breath.
She flopped backwards turning off the screen. She would sleep now, and start again tomorrow. As her eyes closed a smile played across her face. She had not heard about any killings. Maybe Sho didn’t need her anymore.
The agent stood on the bridge of the Redeemer. It was his flagship, in fact if not in name. This was where he worked from, to save the Solar System from itself. He sighed and shook his head. Somedays this war seemed to be going nowhere. No matter how many Old Earth targets he eliminated, no matter how much he did to try and end it to preserve life, the war ground on, chewing up men and women, capital and machines in a grinding, unending battle. And all it gave back was ruins, lifeless husks. Remains.
But it would end soon. He was sure of it. And when it ended he would go back to the Arc. What he would do there he had no idea, but he would do something. Maybe he would finally try to free himself of Callion. Maybe he would find the artist. Maybe lots of things would happen. But that was in the future.
“Sir?” Kral stepped up beside him. The war had taken it’s toll on the man; he looked tired, older than when the agent had first seen him. But he was more balanced too. He had become a better person, forged in the war. He had seen the error of his ways, seen too much death to want to keep dealing it out. But he fought on. The sign of a true soldier.
“The Earth fleet is moving out from behind the debris field in a classic Delta-X attack pattern. They have us outnumbered three to one”
The agent nodded and stared out the expansive viewscreen before him. The beauty of space was his to behold. The pinpricks of light that he knew were planets, the fainter pinpricks of the stars, the chunks of rock and metal of the destroyed mining colony that they had fought so hard to protect, the ships of his, or rather Admiral Hane’s fleet, and the sun, a still too bright glowing orb in the distance.
The majesty of the Solar System floated before him, and it was time to deal more death.
“Prepare the fighters and the dropship Kral. Lets see if we can’t stop this war. Maybe this battle won’t be the end of it. Maybe the next one won’t be the end of it. But maybe, just maybe, maybe if we fight enough, win enough, stop enough fights, maybe then the war will end. Maybe then this meat grinder will stop begging to be fed”
“I understand sir. I’ll get our squadron ready”
Kral marched off and the agent almost smiled. For he had taken his enemy and made him his friend. It could be done, even with one who wanted him dead as much as Kral had. And if that could be done, then maybe there was still hope for the Solar System. And if there was still hope for the Solar System, well, then maybe the universe could spare some hope for the redemption of two lost and black souls. Maybe it could spare some hope for Sho and for the soul of Jor Mallar, the agent, the sniper, the commander, the assassin, the artist, the killer. The human.