Chapter 26: The end
The lift jerked to a stop at the very top. The outer framework shook and vibrated with re-entry. The Agent could see the glow of heated metal on the outside. This ship had never been designed for re-entry, and so was burning up.
Jor looked back and forth and saw the Butcher limping down the next corridor. He raised his gun, and paused. Something in him was telling him to wait for some reason.
She turned, and saw him, and that reflex stopped. He pulled the trigger as she threw herself behind a wall of pipes.
He kept up the shots as he walked forwards, trying to keep her pinned behind the pipes. But when he got there and looked around them she was gone.
He began to turn and look for her, when he noticed the blood dripping down the pipes.
He followed the trail with his eyes and saw the small crawlspace through to the hull.
The first hatch had been shut, but he could just hear, if he strained his ears, the sound of the outer hatch slamming shut too.
He sniffed, and despite all the burning metal, the stench of fear, the sweat, her blood was easy enough to pick out as a faint tang. And it led up to that hatch.
The Artist crawled across the hull. It burned her, burned through her skin to her very soul, a red-hot pain that raged through her.
She was barely making any headway against the ferocious winds from the re-entry. Thankfully they were past the worst of it now, and so the hull had stopped heating up, but, the wind was still ripping pieces of the hull off and throwing them at her.
She ducked down tight against the hull, halting her crawl as a larger sheet of metal flipped past. By luck it bounced just before her, just missed crushing her.
She would die she knew that, but she wanted to last long enough to see the first piece hit the ground. She would last long enough.
She wouldn’t bleed out before then she hoped. Her ankle ached from where her foot had been torn off, ached with an entirely different kind of pain than the burning hull imparted, one that was a thousand times harder to bear. She kept going to place her foot somewhere, she could still feel her foot. It was horrible.
But she would keep going. She reached out a hand for a better grip and looked up to see a pair of boots.
The Agent looked down at the Butcher. She was a pitiful sight. Her leg was mangled and ruined at the stump, her skin was blackening and charring, her face was ragged and had dozens of small cuts in it from the debris out here.
“No more fighting. No more killing. It ends here Sho. It ends now”
“You are a hypocrite Sniper. No more killing, yet you would kill me to stop me?”
The Agent looked at her for a moment, and he thought about what he had gone through over the past year. So much change, so many new developments, new experiences, or old experiences seen through a new lens. He thought of Lian, and of Kral, or Cassy and Iris, even of Callion.
“No, Butcher, I am not the Sniper. Nor am I even the Agent. My name is Jor”
“I thought that you were past names? I thought that you realized what it was-”
“You need a name. Without a name you lose a bit of yourself. But I’m not discussing this with you Butcher. I’m here to kill you”
“What, when I’m like this?”
She paused to cough some blood onto the hull where it began to sizzle.
“You wanted a fight didn’t you?”
Jor stepped more firmly, his hand still holding onto the sensor rod to keep his balance.
“No, the Sniper did. Maybe even the Agent did. I just want to be done with you”
Jor raised his gun and shot the Butcher twice. This clean an execution was better than she deserved.
As the Butcher slid off the side of the hull Jor turned and fought the winds back towards the lift. He had to try and save the ship if he could, and if not, then he had to get to safety.
The Annihilator burned up faster and faster as it fell into the atmosphere. Escape pods and small shuttles flew off like mad as surface to space missiles and combined fire from both fleets tore it to pieces.
Finally as it neared the surface a nuclear warhead broke it apart, and smaller missiles took care of the smaller chunks.
As the Annihilator burned the Colony Fleet took massive damages, and were forced to retreat. They were forced to sign a treaty with the Earth Council proclaiming their complete subservience, and putting everything important under the direct control of Earth Council representatives.
And the search for the famed assassin of the war, Jor Mallar, began in earnest.
But Jor did not care. He did not even know any of this. Or, he did, but it barely registered. None of this would matter to him again.
“Who is it?” The voice called from within the house. It was a modest place. Jor knew that it was not the finest that she could afford, but she had never liked expensive things.
“I said, who is it?” He saw her turn from the table, and reach for something at her belt, likely a panic button.
And then she saw him.
Whatever else happened Jor did not care. He had escaped Callion. He had killed the Butcher. There would be no more deaths by ‘artistic’ psychopaths. He had killed that part of himself.So he stood there in the doorway as Naci’s hand hovered near the panic button, waiting, simply waiting, and content. Because he had finally come home.
A small smile played over his lips as he waited.
So, that is that. Now its done. So, I have to admit, I'm pleased with where the story went, but not with this ending. It just feels...odd. Wrong somehow. Almost anti-climactic. I guess thats because the natural climax was when Callion was killed, when Jor finally got free from him, but I didn't write that well enough to make it a climax.
Anyways, I'll edit the whole thing and likely write an ending that I like better, and I'll update that later.
For now, thats it. The end. Le fin. Let me know what you think, feedback if you have any, and any input on what you'd like me to write next!