If I was being honest with myself, I hoped that Kleneptra would prevail that day.
How different events would have been in the months that followed, how different my life would have been.
I watched her delicate dance, fascinated by the shards of force that in an instant became knives and blades. I marvelled at the soft glow that sparked and growled under the bullets of my guards, believing that even against the Guardian, she would be invulnerable.
It was a distraction of course; the Guardian had melted away as is his want, only to return as reanimated flesh, the near naked corpse of a soldier. He stumbled slightly as though adjusting new shoes or clothing, moving until the new body became comfortable.
As the last of soldiers scurried back to my side, I knew that the Guardian was ready.
The conversation between the Guardian and Kleneptra was brief, an interchange between implacable foes, one for which there was no room for compromise.
I felt sick in my stomach when the Guardian’s first blow hit its mark, surprised as much as Kleneptra at the ease of which her shield had fallen. I expected Kleneptra to get up but I saw a great weariness cross her face, a fatigue that I had seen earlier. I had thought this to be a fight between equals.
It was then that I witnessed the first crime I had sensed in the Guardian’s mind, a perverted crime made worse by its casual brutality and senselessness, a continuation of the attack by other means.
On the ridge to our left, a woman shrieked obscenities towards us, understandable given the nature of what unfolded before her. It was the last survivor of the reconnaissance team, the woman that Kleneptra had been defending.
I had thought to send my soldiers to detain our distant witness, but the Guardian had other orders. This was the other crime I had felt coursing through the Guardian’s mind. Despite my protestations, he ordered that Kleneptra be slung from metalwork near the old mercenary encampment, a sharp edged and rusting structure that radiated the heat of the unforgiving sun.
I had seen the aftermath of such crimes in the catacombs beneath the Sansica offices on Candor, but never seen them enacted before me. Over all the years that I have served my associates, my conscious mind had somehow managed to ignore these monstrous acts. I had rationalised them in some way as acts of madness or expediency. Likewise, my ears had filtered out the shrieks of pain and terror.
Not so today.
Now I can only see my associates for what they are, a culture that encapsulates all that is evil, that worships cruelty for its own sake, a race that feeds on the light.
While Kleneptra’s naked body shimmered in the baking heat, Mackie was brought before us. She knelt in front of the crucified form and cried. It took all of my will not to betray my own thoughts; if the Lazloi were so easily defeated, there was nothing to stand in the way.
It was a relief and a surprise when the Guardian announced his departure. He would not be accompanying us back to Candor after all; he had business with his own kind. We would take the Lazloi speedster and this prisoner back with us, leaving this crime behind us as a warning to any that opposed us.
I felt both sick and strangely elated. Never has the Guardian left my side in all these years, perhaps this would be a chance for me redeem myself before the end.
-- Karl Wolmark, CEO of the Sansica Corporation.
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 5 Pro Studio. Post processed in Photoshop CS2