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32. Rinse and Repeat

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So again, the ever ominous – “What Now?” moment.

That singular instance where everything you’ve seen and learned comes to light. You’re left to contemplate the wealth and worth of all the players on the field. I crawled from the depths of death itself, gasping and tearing, to a new life of deceit and treachery.

Angyl would survive, recover, and continue on as the mother we never knew she could be. As her theoretical death had been reported from an honorable source, it was never verified. She was able to survive peacefully, without concern for headhunters on her tail. She changed her appearance regularly, running errands for the Dorrances, but continued on as a mostly functional human being. Surprising, isn’t it? Someone as cold and cruel as Angyl, with a natural tendency to cause pain onto others, could level out with enough time and energy. Or maybe it was the power of motherhood, the position that she was now wholeheartedly interjected into. Corvis was her entire world, the only reason she had to persevere. She had murdered people in cold blood, carried out orders shrouded in madness for no better reason than her need to achieve more than simply breathing. That child was her mission now, her plan and purpose. He would carry on her dark deeds, or bring forth her salvation for them. Either way, she was safe from the normal turns of the cycle, which was a fate many of us long for, but few ever truly achieve.

Days became weeks as Linkon’s push for control became more pronounced. The body count rose and the war was in full swing. Officers on both sides learned fast to disconnect themselves from that which mattered most to them. People’s families and children, husband or wives, all started to slowly disappear in the waves of assault. Love and loss took on new meanings as we became synonymous with both at a rapid pace. A silent celebration took place in my heart every day the war raged, as it meant Colt was among the living. Until the leader of the “rebellion” fell, the war would continue.

It raged on, like a familiar friend in the background of our lives.

I used to wonder, in the case of my sudden and expected death, what my legacy would be. What would I leave behind for others to remember me by? Would they remember the warrior – beaten and broken, crawling from the abyss to find salvation? Or would they remember the martyr and murderer, the cold-blooded killer I would become? The constant guessing kept me in check, wavering between the two extremes. I wished desperately to have something worth leaving behind in the case of my unfortunate end, but I knew I possessed nothing of worth. With me would die a series of secrets best left forgotten, safe with my passing.

And Relic. What of our original narrator, the child whose story was supposed to be encompassed in these pages? Some things don’t end as you envision them at the start. She was unbalanced and highly unstable, her mentality swinging dangerously from real and surreal at a moment’s notice. Some of her details weren’t entirely real; some of her memories were shaky and unfamiliar. Her rendition of everything put the truth at risk; so I’m glad for her inability to continue writing. She could no longer discern the line between fiction and nonfiction, making the events of the past weeks and months difficult to decipher when using her account.

There’s something to be said for fiction.

The power of denying what’s real and what’s right, the ability of looking beyond this singular moment and examining all that could be instead. I can understand why Relic found solace in denying the state of things. I can relate.

I wish sometimes I could deny my background, lie about my name and wipe away the assumptions that come with being a Ransom. I’m expected to be heartless and cruel, devious and corrupt. I’m expected to fight to the death, die only as a last resort, and destroy anyone and anything in my way in my pursuit of survival. I’m expected to live up to the reputation of my ancestors, a family that I cannot find a way to logically connect myself to. But such is the state of things.

As I was, Relic was expected to be ruthless like her father. She was expected to be a survivalist like her mother. She failed in both aspects, but that’s not her crime. Her crime was daring to accept what was handed to her. Her failure was her inability to question what was real and what wasn’t, who to trust and who to turn in. She never considered that Angyl was leading her astray, that her life was controlled entirely by other people. She saw no future beyond that which her family created for her, and she did nothing but follow that path. Young and full of potential, she squandered everything by following every lead she received.

What you are born to do, and what you are bred to do, are not always one and the same. You are born into a situation that is entirely beyond your control; genetics has the final say in the matter. But how you’re raised, what you’re bred for, the choices you make through childhood…that’s an entirely different matter. You could have been the child of murderers, like some of us were. But if you were raised in a caring home, devoid of pain and madness, would you still be damned to your parents’ future? Would you still carry on, as they would expect? Or will you discover a new world of possibilities, where blood isn’t currency and knowledge truly is power? Hard to gauge either way, but something that will keep you up at night, won’t it?

Relic was born of murderers and raised by madmen, so perhaps it isn’t fair to lay the whole blame for her downfall on her shoulders. I was born of murderers but raised by anyone who wanted to lend a hand to the task. We had so much in common, her and I, so perhaps that’s why her death bothers me so. We had all the same chances – both belonged to a legacy greater than ourselves. And in the end, we both failed. She was murdered before her true potential could ever be realized…and I allowed that murderer to continue breathing. Ironic to think that you may affect the people furthest from you, or vice versa, isn’t it?

So once the dust settled, things started moving as planned. My reputation as traitor ran rampant through the streets, putting my position on the other side in perfect perspective. Linkon was pleased with my progress, as he laid out his chain of command. He tried to seduce others to jump the line, but none would cross. They paid for their defiance dearly. I continued on, overseeing all operations, talking Linkon out of ideas that were overly suicidal. He considered burning down the bar, with everyone sealed inside. Casualties would have been severe, and despite the fact that we would have ended the war in one swift motion, there was no doubt the long arm of the law would catch up to us. There was no way to make it look like a legitimate accident, thus the plot was ruled out. The closer his schemes came to the bar, the harder I had to work to dissuade him.

Such is the role when you’re playing both sides against the middle.

My days wore on, as I knew they would, while I waited for the players to change, the field to slide one way or another. I kept my post at Linkon’s side, save for the mere seconds that I could afford to steal by Colt’s. His demeanor was still warm and sincere, a leader with a heart through and through. The warriors of the opposition were in top form and persons to be respected. And respect them I did.

So here my story takes a pause I imagine, until there is something more creative to report. We followed the routes that were preplanned for us with only the slightest deviation. I was safe on my side of things, at least from the opposition. Until they had a use for me, until they needed me for leverage, I could not be seen dealing with them publicly. It was all part of the plan. When we were gaining enough ground and needed a final shove, when Linkon had his claws on someone particularly important, my true purpose would be unveiled. I would become “prisoner” to Colt’s army, to be traded back for whoever was being held. It was the ace up the sleeve that I would be waiting for. Not because of the amount of preparation necessary, or how convincing I’d need to be to pass Linkon’s level of scrutiny. Because for the days I was “captive” I would be able to see Colt, openly, privately, without the concern of onlookers.

So I waited until that day of days eagerly, ordering the beatings and murder of lower soldiers, ransacking smaller safe houses to rally the troops. Minor errands that were all part of some greater goal. That was the point, after all, the big picture.

And I would do everything in my power not to lose sight of it.

The big picture, the final purpose, the grand design at risk here…love? No.

Peace.

An unprecedented type of peace that we prayed even the gods and goddesses would step down and admire. Peace that time itself would lie down and be still for.

Or so we prayed.

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