Chris slowly awoke to pain, but not the one he was suffering from before. The pain he felt went more deeply than the superficial pain of the physical body. This one had gripped his very soul and he wondered if he would survive it.
He opened his eyes and found himself staring at a ceiling that he knew belonged only to a room in the basilica. In fact, it was his own room in his apartments in the palace area.
He rose from his old bed and looked around the room. Everything was the same as he had left it several years ago. Even down to the pictures of his wife and son that adorned metallic desk in the room.
He noticed that he was still dressed except for his boots and he found them not far from the bed. He placed them on and grabbed his cloak and gun belt from the chair someone had thrown them on. He then grabbed his sunglasses and walked over to the door that he knew would lead to the outer rooms. Pushing the button on the console panel, the door swooshed opened and he went to find the others.
Vin and the others looked around the room with awe. The whole apartment was bigger than Vin had ever seen in his life. He was surprised that even Ezra was impressed with it. In fact, Ezra was acting like a kid in a store full of sweets and Vin sat on the couch enjoying the show.
“Mr. Tanner, Mr. Sanchez, can you believe the amount of valuable antiquity that exists in this room alone?” asked Ezra touching one of the statues of the Fifth Lord Marshal that was housed in the room. “This statue is made of tritantium. I haven’t seen the likes of it.”
“Is that suppose to be significant, Ezra?” asked Josiah unperturbed.
“Mr. Sanchez, I know that priest rarely have the opportunity to enjoy the flavors of life, but I am sure that you are not that deprived,” said Ezra haughtily.
Josiah only smiled at the young man. “No, Ezra. I was not deprived at all. The Church gave me everything I would ever need.”
“Hmmm, but I doubt if it was of any real value,” replied Ezra uninterested. “Mr. Wilmington, you’ve been friends with Mr. Larabee for quite a long time. Maybe you can explain how he has come to acquire such valuable items.”
“Well, Mr. Standish…”
“Call me Erza.”
“Ezra. Right. Well, you see Chris loves art, no matter how ugly,” said Buck.
“Ugly? How can you call this ugly?”
“Chris would. Anything that’s associated with his Necromonger side, he considers ugly,” said Buck seriously.
“But the piece is extremely valuable, Mr. Wilmington.”
“Yep. But that don’t matter none to Chris. It’s not why he got it. He got it because of the artist.”
“Yeah. She was a convert put to death because she doubted the word of the Fifth Lord Marshal. She made that before her death and Chris was so enthralled with her story, that he bought it and kept it here.”
“But why would he kept such an abhorred object in his presence?”
“Because it made me remember what my ancestors did to free my people from the Necromonger tyranny of the Fifth Lord Marshal,” said Chris entering the room.
They all turned to see the subject of the conversation standing slumped against the wall on the other side.
Vin eyes lit on the blond and noticed that his stance was one of tiredness and pain. “Chris? Ya alright?”
Chris nodded although he felt his head would come off he did it again.
“Connell, this was your home?” asked Nathan curious. He looked out of the huge window that held a view of hundreds of miles high solar generators that were in the solarium field.
“Yes, Nathan. Long ago,” said Chris grimly. He then walked over to a door panel and pushed a button. It opened and the others saw that it was a refreshment cubicle, something Kovar never had.
“Anyone want a drink?” asked Chris turning to look at them.
“Ya can pour me one, Stud,” said Buck smiling and moving over to where Chris stood.
“Connell, do you think that wise?” questioned Josiah. He had doubts about Chris being able to handle it. In other words, would they be able to handle a drunken heir. They had gone through this once before in Kovar.
The others shook their head that they were fine and needed nothing at this time.
Chris saw Josiah’s worried look and heard his question, but choose to ignore them both. He pushed open the cabinets within the cubicle and started pouring him and Buck a drink.
While he worked, he said, “And where’s Lyra? I’m surprise she ain’t here.”
“She left to attend to some business she had, but she said she would return,” replied Josiah, hearing the animosity in Chris’ voice at the mention of the woman.
“Business, huh? I can guess what kind of business she has,” said Chris sarcastically. He then handed Buck his drink and gulped his down in one motion. He then refilled the glass again from the green bottle he held and did the same thing again.
Buck sipped his drink slowly knowing how strong the fiery liquid was. He could not believe that Chris had drunk two of these down without a flinch. The man had changed drastically in the past years and it was more than just his eyes.
“Hey, Pard, ya think ya just goin’ a little hard there on the drink?” asked Vin eyeing the man with concern. He knew the liquid that Chris was drinking. It was very potent. Vin should know. It was the drink of the Ravakar, his people.
“Nope,” Chris replied to him.
Vin did not press the subject. He knew the man was on the edge and only needed a little push to go over it. He hoped that maybe with enough of what he was drinking that it would put the man out for a while. He knew the liquid had put stronger man than him out like a light in a few minutes and he knew the blond needed the rest, although he would never admit it.
“How long we been here?” asked Chris pouring himself another drink from the bottle he held.
Nathan eyebrows when up with annoyance. He knew the man was going to drink himself to death. “You were out for only a couple of hours. Connell, don’t you think you’ve had enough?” he asked.
“Call me, Chris, Nathan. Everybody else does,” said Chris smiling. He then drank down another glass.
Nathan sighed in disappointment. The man was not going to listen to anyone.
“Mr. Larabee, this is your apartment?” asked JD looking around in wonder.
“Long ago, son, as I said before. It was… It was my home with my wife and son,” replied Chris pouring himself another drink. He held the glass aloft looking at the green liquid as it glimmered in the light.
“What happened to them?” asked JD innocently.
The others turned to stare at JD as if he had just broke a cardinal rule.
“They died,” answered Chris despondently. He then drank the liquid swiftly letting it burn as it went down his throat.
He felt the substance burn in his belly and felt the adrenaline that came with it. The liquid was something produced by the Ravakar, Vin’s people. It was called the Blood of the Dragon. It was not known why. He could ask Vin, but at this moment he did not care.
“So, Chris,” said Ezra. “It seems you are substantially worth more than myself.
Chris grinned at him wickedly. He knew he had Ezra now. “Yeah, so it seems, doesn’t it Ez. So what’s in the boxes, huh?”
Ezra looked at him in surprise. Chris smiled wider, knowing that Ezra thought he had forgotten about the boxes on the ship.
“You didn’t answer me.”
“And I will not do so,” said Ezra determinedly.
“Uh, huh,” said Chris pouring another drink into his glass. He was about to drink it when a hand shot out of nowhere and grasped around his own.
“I think ya had enough, Pard,” said Vin.
Chris removed his glasses from his face and glared at him. He had not even seen the man move from his seated position on the couch. “Damn,” Chris thought. “He moves like a Sandman.” But he said, “How did you do that?”
The others were shock too. They too had taken no notice of the man’s movement. In fact, it seemed that he moved so quickly, almost like a Ghost or an Elemental.
Vin saw the look that Chris was giving him. He knew the man was silently asking for an explanation, but he had no answer for him at that moment. “I think ya had enough, Chris,” said Vin eyeing him knowing the inner pain the man was feeling.
Chris looked into those blue eyes and he saw something within the man that made him feel ashamed. The strength and conviction in the man’s soul shown like a light to Chris, but his own soul he knew was blacker than black and he knew that sooner or later he would fall. The problem was which way.
Chris let Vin remove the glass from his hand and watched as the bounty hunter drank it down. “We need to talk, Pard.”
Chris only nodded. He then took a seat on the couch that Vin had sat on. Vin plopped down next to him on his right and Buck sat down on his left. The others took seats surrounding the man, interested in what was going to be said.
“Lyra says that ya have some kind of power?” asked Vin pointedly.
“Lyra says, Lyra says. Lyra says a lot of nothing,” said Chris annoyed.
“Well, do ya?”
“If had this power, do ya think I‘d let them throw me in prison for ten years?” said Chris exasperated.
“She did say that you had to learn to control it, Chris,” piped in JD.
Chris looked at the young man wondering how the hell they all became involved in this. Fate had a very bad sense of humor as far as he was concerned and he did not think it was funny at all.
“I can’t control what I don’t know how to reach.”
“But maybe she knows how, Chris,” stated Buck.
Chris eyed his long time friend. It shocked him to see him in a Necromonger guard’s uniform, Captain of the Sodikar, one of the elite guards to the Lord Marshal.
“She also said that you are the one that has the power to help balance the universe,” added Josiah.
“Your point, priest?”
“What happened in there, Connell…I mean Chris? What did you see?” questioned Nathan.
Chris raised slivery eyes of torment to glare at the healer and sighed.
“You want to know what I saw, Nathan. I saw death, the death and destruction of a people!” exclaimed Chris angrily. “I felt their pain and anguish and I was helpless to stop it. They were dying because of me, Nathan, because of me.”
Chris stood up and walked quickly back over to the bottle he left on the counter. Vin got up and followed him. “Chris, ya can’t blame yourself for somethin’ ya had no control over,” said Vin trying to calm the blond man down.
“Vin, you don’t understand. I saw the future. Not the past. This is something that has not happened yet and I don’t plan on letting it,” said Chris taking the bottle and walking towards the corridor of the apartment that led to the other rooms.
The others could only watch him go, helpless themselves on how to help the man’s anguish.
Chris sat in his old bedroom, drinking the bottle he had carried into the room and staring at the holographic photo of his wife and son. He had hoped that the liquid would help him to forget, but it was not working.
Chris had never forgotten his wife and child, or their deaths. He vowed to revenge them the day he came home and heard from his mother what had happened. He vowed on the day they sentenced him and sent him to prison that he would make it slow and painful death for the guilty party. He vowed on the day he escaped and managed to get back to his home world that he would not stop until they lay dead at his feet. And he swore now, that he would keep each and every one of those vows.
He lay back onto the bed and started to think about all that had happened. He had a hard time believing in what Lyra had told him. He saw only death in those visions shown to him by the Quasi. If they were right then he was the cause. But he did not know what to do. He was afraid that all paths led to the same ending.
If he ran then the Vicar would definitely find him and try to use him. There was no doubt in his mind about that. He knew their kind. In fact he had lived among them most of his lives. He watched as they manipulated his mother and father and they way they instilled fear into the citizens without any actions on their part except for being who they were.
He could no longer hide since now it would be out among the city that he was found alive and well. Any other town or planet would not be safe with him around. Including his new founded friends.
He had only one option to stop the future that he saw in the Quasi chamber. He had to bring the fight to them and he was determined that he would die trying. He would destroy them for his wife and his son.
Suddenly there was a sound at his door that woke him from his thoughts. He sat up on the bed and stared at the door as it swooshed open and in marched four of the Lord Marshal’s Sodikar guards. As the guards parted, Chris glared angrily at them and saw his six friends being ushered in by six more guards.
“What the fuck is this, a transportation depot?” he exclaimed annoyed by the people who had entered his bedroom.
The guards motioned for his friends to move towards the other side of the room near the bed, making sure that each one complied by pointing their weapons on the five strangers.
As soon as they did so, Councilman Travis entered the room and behind him came Lyra with an older woman dressed much like the Sodikar guards with one exception. She wore the helmet of the High Lord Marshal of Necropolis.
Chris groaned and rolled his eyes in exasperation knowing who the older woman was.
“Mother,” he said through gritting teeth.
His new friends stared astonished at this revelation.
“Connell, I thought I taught you better manners,” said Aliya Larabee glaring right back at him with eyes of green. “You did not announce yourself to me.”
“And I thought all you cared about was politics, mother,” retorted Chris angrily as he stood up from the bed.
Aliya stared at her son. He had grown fully into a man, much like his father. His hair was longer than it use to be and she could see he bore the scars of manhood on his face. But the one thing that broke her heart was the sight of his eyes. Those once emerald green eyes now were encased in a silvery substance.
She had noticed them when she came into the room, although Councilman Travis had warned her ahead of time, it still shocked her to see what they had done to her child. Her heart threatened to break, but Aliya kept a stone face. She knew she had to being the Lord Marshal of one of the ruling cities on Helion Prime.
Chris inspected his mother as she walked further into the room. She was much older than he remembered, but that could be because he had not seen her in over ten years. Her hair was gray instead of the blonde he used to fiddle with as a child and her face held crinkles under her eyes that showed life had been hard on her. But her statue still held reverence in the room and her head was held high with the knowledge of the power she held. She had the ability to frighten grown men to bow at her will, but to Chris, she was just mother.
“I see prison has done nothing to put a civil tongue in your head,” she said irritated.
“Not for them not trying,” replied Chris snidely.
Buck rolled his eyes to the ceiling. He knew this could go on forever with these two. They were too much alike, that was the problem.
“Uh, Chris, uh, I think…” started Buck.
“Wilmington!” came the voice of the Lord Marshal. “It is not your duty to think.”
Buck nodded and stood at attention. He knew he was up shit’s creek with the Lord Marshal for not telling her that her son had returned home.
The Lord Marshal then turned her attention to the others. “And I guess these are your new friends?”
“I guess I should introduce them, huh? This is Nathan Jackson, Josiah Sanchez, JD Dunne, Ezra Standish and Vin Tanner.”
“The priest and I already know each other, don’t we, Josiah?”
“Yes, Lord Marshal. It is good to see you again.”
“Thank you for finding my son and heir.”
Chris cringed at the word “heir” when it was spoken. It was the one title he did not want.
“And as for the bounty hunter, I see you did not succeed in capturing the traitor.”
“I lost him in Kovar. I’m sorry, Lord Marshal. I failed in my mission,” replied Vin bowing his head at the noble woman.
“Not necessarily, bounty hunter. You did bring me something more important to me and more valuable.”
“More valuable than the murderer of my family?” said Chris sardonically.
Aliya eyed him with surprise. She knew he was greatly affected by the death of his wife and child. They all were when it happened ten years ago. But up until now, she did not know how much. She could see the anguish and rage at his failure to find the ones responsible. It seemed that he blamed her and himself for his failure and that usually brought him to recklessness.
“Connell, it is important to all of us to find the ones that killed your family.”
“Including you, Mother?”
“Do you have to ask, Connell?” asked Aliya hurt by his comment.
“I don’t know anymore, Mother. I just don’t know,” sighed Chris sitting back down on the bed.
“Do you all mind if I have a word with my son alone?” Aliya asked of his friends, Councilman Travis and Lyra.
Councilman Travis and Lyra bowed their heads in assent and walked out of the room. JD, Ezra, Josiah and Nathan also followed, nodding to the Lord Marshal as they did.
Buck also left after smiling gently at Chris and bowing to the Lord Marshal saying, “We will wait outside the apartment.”
Aliya nodded back that she understood and watched as he marched out with the Sodikar guards following closely behind him.
Vin was the last to leave. He knew his friend was not happy at the outcome of his return home and he had issues still to resolve. He said, “I’ll watch ya back, Pard. No matter what ya decide.”
Chris smiled weakly and nodded that he understood. Vin then turned and left Chris to his fate.
Once she was sure that everyone was gone and the door was closed, Aliya motioned for Chris to sit back down on the bed and then she walked over to join him. She then placed her arm around him and pulled him gently to her, hugging him hard.
At first, Chris resisted the urge to fall into his mother’s embrace. He was not a child anymore and did need a mother’s comfort. But slowly he realized he did need was a mother’s love and let his head fall gently onto her shoulder.
“I’ve missed you, Connell. You don’t know how much,” said Aliya letting her stone façade fall away.
“I’ve missed you, mother. And Sarah. And Adam,” he said softly.
“I came looking for you, but when we got to the prison you were gone. Buck had said that a prison would not hold you for long. The prison warden said that you had escaped along with three other prisoners.”
“The other three men who left the prison with me did not escape. They died. Burnt to a cinder by the fires of Crematoria. I barely survived.”
“But how? What happened to your eyes?”
“Long story, mother. One in which I’d rather not talk about right now.”
Aliya stayed silent. She would not push her son. She knew he would tell her in his own good time and that no persuading by her or anyone else would make him talk when he did not want to. After all, he was always a stubborn child and no less as a man.
“Very well, Connell. But there is something else of importance we must discuss.”
Chris sighed despondently and raised his head from the warmth and safeness that he felt within his mother’s arms.
“Lyra again,” he said.
“Yes, Lyra, and the Quasi. She told me what happened, Connell. She told me what the Quasi determined about my son and it shocked me. When I married your father and we decided to have children, we did not think something like this would happen to one of them.”
Chris knew when she said “children” she was not only referring to him, but to his long dead twin brother and sister. Both of his siblings had died in a mysterious accident in the palace nursery and to this day, it bothered both Chris and his mother that they would never know for sure if it were because of the Vicar.
It was another reason why Chris was guarded so protectively. He was the last heir to the throne and if he died, then it would open the way for the rest of the traitors that existed in the basilica.
It was also the reason why so many people of the higher ranks of the order supported the Lord Marshal and Buck’s efforts in proving Chris’ innocence and getting his release from prison.
The law that existed for all Necromongers since the beginning, “you keep what you kill”, would come into play and the ruling order would be the first on the list to go if there was no rightful heir.
Even Aliya’s life would have also become fair game for anyone with the right weapon if it was determined that there was no one of her blood to succeed her. The old ways would return and a lot of the people currently in political power would be under the knife, so to speak.
“I am sure that you did not know, mother.”
“But your father did. That is what surprises me so. I thought I knew him, Connell, but I find that I really did not know him at all.”
“Ya did know that he loved you,” said Chris taking her hand and kissing gently upon it.
“Yes,” answered Aliya smiling softly. “That man did love me, no matter what anything else he did.” She then looked into his eyes and said, “What will you do?”
Aliya nodded. She also knew before she entered the apartments that it was the only option open to them. “Fight well,” she said kissing him on the head.
“Die well,” answered Chris, kissing her on the cheek and finishing the sentence of the Sodikar battle cry.
Chris and his mother entered the reception area of his home, arm in arm and found the other five men sitting waiting for their return.
Chris and Vin’s eyes met across the room and both knew that things had been settled as much as they were going to be. Vin smirked at the man, knowing that real closure was still far away for the troubled blond, but at least it seemed that he and his mother had repaired their breach somewhat.
At that moment, Buck entered the room briskly and walked directly over to the Lord Marshal and her son. He said bowing, “Lord Marshal, Damon Vaake has requested an audience with you and he insist it be immediate.”
Chris slivery eyes glowed with anger at the name. “Vaake! What the hell is he doing here?” exclaimed Chris looking at his mother.
“Connell, a lot of things have changed since you left. Damon Vaake is now the Lord Chancellor to the throne,” explained Aliya hesitantly.
“Why?” questioned Chris confused. “He was one of the loudest voices for my imprisonment!”
“I know, I know, my son. But as time moved on, he has proclaimed his allegiance to the throne and the people adore him.”
“Yeah, they adore him like a snake,” put in Buck.
Aliya turned to glare at the Captain of the Sodikars. “Captain Wilmington, we do not need any more assistance in provoking Connell’s ire,” she said admonishing the man.
Buck nodded that he understood and said, “What do you wish me to tell him, Lord Marshal?”
“Tell him to go to my chambers. I will be there shortly.”
Buck bowed his acknowledgment and went to relay the message.
Once Buck was gone, Aliya turned back to her son and grabbed him tenderly by the shoulders.
“Connell, I know you could never understand the things I had to do in order to keep peace within our city and on this planet. But it is my job to do anything within my power to keep chaos from ruling. Your father…your father really was the one who had the skills for politics. He was born to it. I, well, I was bred to be a fighter as every Necromonger and Furian before me has and it has been hard for me to learn to use his weapons instead of the ones that I was taught to use.”
Chris knew his mother was trying to apologize for all the times she had missed her little boy growing up. His father had died when he was only six and his mother had to take over his duties as successor until Chris was old enough to take his place as heir.
But for Aliya that turned out to be a difficult thing and in the end the one who suffered the most was Christopher Connell Larabee.
Shuttled from teachers to nannies and then to guards until the time he was twenty, Chris had hardly seen his mother on a regular basis. She was not there for most of his celebrations of his childhood and manhood and had almost missed his wedding to Sarahiana Vaake due to a political conflict on Helion 2 and the birth of her grandson and next in line to the throne due to a rebellion on Helion 5.
But Chris never blamed her or hated her for that. What he could not understand was her treatment of him during the time of his trial and sentencing ten years ago.
Aliya was a hard taskmaster, worst than his father. She expected certain things from Chris that he could never give and he had always disappointed her, or at least that what it seemed like to him.
On the day he was sentenced and prepared to be shipped off to Crematoria to serve his life sentence for sedition, he remembered how he had stood stoically still awaiting the arrival of the ship at the spaceport, as his mother calmly stood by his side, watching them take away her only child, never to be seen again.
During the trial and even after, she neither showed sympathy nor anger at the way he was treated by the Council and his accusers. She never put up a fight or argued to support him and when he finally had the courage to ask her why not, she had said that to do so would show weakness and Necromongers and Furians were never weak and her bloodline could be no different.
This puzzled Chris greatly. He was a young man who was about to die, for it was known that no one ever came back alive from Crematoria and desperately needed to know that no matter what, he still had his mother’s love. But Aliya would not relent.
What Chris did not know was that Aliya knew her son would not understand, but she hoped that one day when he had a child of his own, he would.
For Aliya, to show weakness to people who had for centuries believed in strength as a route to power meant giving up the throne to any usurper that would come along and the result would be the ending of the line of Furians who had survived the slaughter of the Fifth Lord Marshal.
That meant her ancestors would be completely forgotten, wiped out as if the hand of the Fifth Lord Marshal had come from the grave to finish the task that he failed in when one Richard B. Riddick defied him and lived.
Chris seeing his mother in anguish and pain at the past events decided to give his mother some release. “Mother,” started Chris thoughtfully. “You don’t have to explain. I understand more than you think.”
Aliya looked into those silvery green eyes and saw that he did understand. She sighed contently and then said, “I’ll be back. We have much to catch up on before you leave.”
He kissed her gently on the cheek and then bowed to her on his knee as she swiftly walked out of the door to meet up with her Sodikar guards.
As soon as he was sure she was gone, Chris got up from his position on the floor and stared at the bewildered faces of his new friends.
“So, I presume that was your mother?” asked Ezra standing against the wall with his arms folded. “She seems to be a formable woman, much like my own.”
“Yes, she is that, Ezra,” said Chris plopping down on the couch next to Vin and JD.
“And?” asked Josiah curious as to the conversation that went on between Chris and his mother.
“And?” repeated Chris back confused as to what Josiah was getting at.
“Well, what are we going to do about the Vicar?”
“I don’t know what you’re going to do,” said Chris emphasizing the word “you’re”. “But I’m going to bring the fight to them.”
Josiah looked at Chris and could see the determination in the mirror-like eyes.
“I’m going with ya, Cowboy,” interjected Vin, his decision clearly showing in his face.
“Vin, it’s not your fight,” said Chris.
“But Chris, it is my fight. Who do ya think the Vicar is gon’na go after when they’re threw with this city and your people? There are other people in this world that are in danger from ‘em. My people for one, and I ain’t gon’na stand by and let that happen.”
Chris could feel the passion behind Vin’s statement and knew Vin was right. After the Vicar had defeated Necropolis and Helion Prime’s government, then everyone else was fresh meat on the Vicar’s platter. New converts for their army.
“Once we go Vin, there’s no turning back,” said Chris warningly.
“Knew that already, Chris. We do the deed or we die.”
Chris looked intently at the young curly-haired bounty hunter and felt such a kinship that he had not known since before his imprisonment. He grabbed the man’s arm in the sign of friendship and sealed their deal.
“I will go also,” added Josiah.
“And stop calling me priest. My name is Josiah.”
Chris smiled. He could like this man even though he thought the man’s faith in him was misplaced. “Josiah, you have done what you were asked. You found the heir. I am sure Councilman Travis would considered your debt paid in full.”
“It has nothing to do with my debt to him as it has to do with my debt to the people of Helion Prime. I took an oath years ago that I would protect the souls of the people of this land and that is what I plan to do, with or without your permission,” answered Josiah defiantly.
Chris smiled wider and realized that he was wrong about this man. This man had more courage than any Sodikar he ever met and would make a formable opponent for anyone.
“Very well, pr… I mean, Josiah.”
“Thank you. I will ask for God’s protection for us on this journey.”
“We won’t need his protection. I have all the protection I will need right here,” said Chris patting the weapon at his side.
Josiah knew the man had an aversion for religious beliefs ever since he lost his wife and son. Councilman Travis had told Josiah that Chris had lost whatever religious convictions he had when the day that fire burnt out half his soul.
But Josiah believed that every man was redeemable and sooner or later he would help turn the man back towards the righteous path, even if it was through hell itself.
“I wish to go also, Conn… I mean Chris,” added Nathan.
“Nathan, I think you should stay here. You would be safe here and besides why would a healer want to go? There will be nothing but death where we’re about to go to.”
“Chris, this is something that just doesn’t affect you. It affects everyone on the planet, in the universe. My people won’t stand a chance if you loose and if that’s the case, then I might as well go home and wait to die anyway cause that’s what’s going to happen” said Nathan boldly.
“Anyway, I have a feeling knowing you, I’ll be very much needed,” said Nathan grinning at him.
Chris let out a defeated breath and said, “Fine, Nathan. Do what ya want.”
“I’m going too!” piped up JD.
Chris turned to stare long and hard at the young man besides him.
“No you’re not,” said Chris shaking his head.
“And why not? Ya let a preacher go with ya and a healer. What the hell can they do that I can’t?”
“Their men,” responded Chris.
“I’m a man too and I have one thing that they don’t,” proclaimed JD.
“And what’s that?” asked Vin curious.
“I’ve survived the Sandmen. Can they say the same? Huh?” said JD angrily.
Chris glanced at Josiah, then Nathan, receiving no support from either of them he then turned his eyes to finally land on the bounty hunter. Vin shrugged his shoulders at him.
“Did you just say something, Vin?”
“Me? Nope. Not a word.”
Chris shook off the icy feeling that had crept up his spine at the assumption that he had just heard Vin speak without words and turned back to confront JD.
“You know what, Kid, then come. Die young if ya want to.”
“What about you Ezra?” asked Nathan. “You got a stake in this too, you know.”
Ezra looked at him askance. “I will not pretend that I understand what you are getting at, my dear healer.”
“You know if the Vicar wins, you’re out of business,” explained Nathan.
“And why would that be, Mr. Jackson?” asked Ezra deeming not to give his statement too much weight.
“’Cause, Ez, if the Vicar become in charge, they ain’t likely to let ya keep that business of yaurs. They got no need for gambling, drinking and such. The only thing they need ya for is another body and if ya don’t play their way, then they’ll just kill ya,” said Vin simply.
Ezra eyed the young bounty hunter, blue eyes clashing against green. He could not believe that Vin was serious. He would be damned if he would let someone take what he had worked so hard to obtain all his life away from him.
“Mr. Tanner. If I’m to give credence to your theory then…”
“Then you’re basically screwed, Ezra,” said Chris finishing his sentence.
Ezra stood still in thought where he was against the wall. He said, “Well, gentlemen, it seems that I will be adding my own skills to this magnificent cause.”
Vin looked over at Chris and smiled and was met by a mirror of his own.
Just then the door opened and Buck stepped into the apartment.
“Well, Chris, guess who gets to go with you?” asked Buck not privy to the conversation that just took place in the room.
“Don’t tell me,” said Chris. “Let me guess. You.”
“Right you are there, Pard. Your mother has assigned me as your own Royal Sodikar guard. At least me and three of the men I decide to choose.”
“Well, that makes ten of us all together,” inputted JD.
“Ten? What ten?” asked Buck confused.
“Ya lookin’ at ‘em,” said Vin.
“Yeah, Buck. They going too,” responded Chris.
“Great! The more the merrier,” said Buck. “But can I ask ya a question, Chris?”
Chris eyes brought themselves to bear on the big Sodikar captain.
“Where are we going?”
Chris smiled and instead of answering Buck, he stood up and took another bottle from the entertainment compartment, uncorked it, drank a long swig and swaggered out of the room.
Buck looked at Vin perturbed, but all Vin did was shake his head and then he too got up to follow the same path that the blond had taken.