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"Shattered Reflections"

By Alice C. Aldridge
Page 1 of 6

Space Commander Travis paced the cramped space of his spartan quarters, seething with rage and self-loathing. Halting in mid-stride, he turned toward the mirror and stared at his reflection as he slowly removed the concealing black patch. Barely repressing a shudder, he confronted that physical wreckage once more; the scored, melted flesh, the empty socket, the fused and malfunctioning cyborg arm. Even the features that remained were alien to him. An aristocratic Alpha mask imposed over his own less-refined ones at Servalan's whim. He gazed in disquiet at that remodeled face, wondering what, if anything, remained of the man he had once been; adept pilot, skilled soldier, loyal officer.

Blake's parting words again seared into his mind, "He's not worth killing!" and the shame of his enemy's contempt scalded though his veins like acid. Damning words, but only too true as he recalled the events leading to that humiliating confrontation. How he had gone along with Servalan's illicit plan to obtain Ensor's creation ORAC, turning a blind eye to her deliberate murder of Ensor's son and Maryatt, the surgeon who once saved his life. Even worse, he had kept silent as she concealed the scheme by branding Maryatt a deserter and ordering his family sold as slaves.

Travis's mind veered back to the agonizing aftermath of his first encounter with Blake. When Maryatt used his surgical skill to rebuild his shattered body and with gruff impatience prodded him out of the self-pity and withdrawal that had threatened his mental recovery. His fist clenched in anguish, recalling the gentle hands of Kiera Cameron, the therapist Maryatt chose to assure his physical and emotional rehabilitation. But a dangerous curiosity about Blake and the revolutionary message he was spreading through Alpha enclaves and Delta domes alike brought her to the attention of the Security Division. Such disaffection in the ranks, even within the Medical Corps, simply was not tolerated. So he watched silent, unprotesting, when they took her away, knowing her memory...her very soul...would be erased as she was transformed into one of Servalan's blindly obedient mutoid guards.

All of it, Blake's fault -- for crippling him, mind and body, seducing Kiera with his lies, sowing the seeds of dissension and disaffection throughout the Federation that made Servalan's draconian methods necessary. They were the only means of preventing anarchy and chaos from replacing the Rule of Law in the Outer Worlds and Inner Planets alike.

Yet even as he rationalized Servalan's actions...and his own, he stared at that stranger's reflection. Hardly realizing what he did, he raised his fist and smashed it against the mirror, over and over, until nothing remained but scattered, broken shards. Shattered pieces of memory and a past that drifted through ragged curtains of his mind like a disembodied spirit. His disembodied spirit. He was a ghost without a past, with no hope for the future, and only duty and obsession binding him to the present.

Bits and pieces of someone's life strobed through his mind. A world of savage beauty, with withered crops dying in the fields. Faces that he almost recognized, gaunt, half-starved, filled with pain and fear. His hands covered with blood for the very first time, the blood of someone he had loved. A man's face, bitter and sorrowful, bidding him farewell. A fiery crash that left him consumed by guilt and grief. Were those random images only empty delusions born of loneliness and despair on isolated duty stations? Or the blood-drunk, exhausted aftermath of fever dreams from wounds taken in half a hundred war zones?

He staggered away from the broken glass, staring blind and unseeing at the gunmetal walls of Space Command HQ. He could almost feel Kiera's warmth, her gentle touch on his brow until, with a shudder, he recalled the icy, inhuman flesh of the mutoid she had become and the avid, cringing hunger in her eyes.

Fate had thrown them together again on an abandoned world where they had been pitted against Blake and his pilot in a duel for survival. A duel they had lost. The bile rose in the back of his throat at that shameful memory; how his bitter vindictiveness made him taunt her with his knowledge of her past and ultimately condemn her to pay the price for his failure.

Now Maryatt was dead as well, another victim of Servalan's scheming. Again, he had stood by and done nothing as the man who had saved his life was falsely branded a deserter and his family condemned to the worst punishment the Federation dispensed; slavery in one of the factory farms or mining worlds that were too inhospitable for even the most desperate colonists.

He shuddered at the memory, standing there with his fist clenched so hard it was bloodless, staring down at his shattered prosthesis. Its fused circuitry sent intermittent spasms of pain into his shoulder and back, but he allowed himself a cold smile. Such pain was a useful tool. It would serve to remind him of Maryatt's gruff compassion and Kiera's gentle persistence in rebuilding the broken man that he had been.

They had saved his life and restored his strength, yet he had failed to save either of them from Servalan's poisonous plots. But Maryatt's family were innocents and he did not intend for them face the horror of existence on a godforsaken hellhole or the whims of some depraved Amagon slaver.

He reached deep in his closet for a long hooded cloak that would cover his malfunctioning arm and conceal his identity as well. It had been a long time since he frequented the lowtown alleys in search of information. All his old contacts were likely dead or in labor camps themselves but he did not intend to let that stop him. He owed Maryatt his life and if that was the price to buy back his honor, he 'd pay it willingly. He wouldn't abandon his search. . . not as long as there was breath in his body.



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