Loren Cooper works as a technical coordinator
for Hewlett-Packard. His short story
(which is set in the same universe as "Black Promise")
appears in Dark Planet #4.
is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments,
please contact her at email@example.com.
All materials copyright 1996-1997 by their respective
creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be
posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).
Black Promise: Part Two
by Loren W. Cooper
(Go back to Part One)
Temenus stood watching her in silence, until at last he dropped his eyes from Eleythia's
steady gaze and nodded to his small station at the edge of the sea. "Let's talk."
She followed him without speaking, sands dark as rust hissing underfoot. At his
quarters, she walked behind him like a memory of times past given flesh. Temenus seated
himself, lips curving in a slight smile as Eleythia strolled in a slow circuit of the room, pausing
occasionally to open a small cabinet door, reach through a cascade field cloaking cabinets, and
finally frowning at the archaic cushion under Temenus' arm.
As Temenus smiled back, Eleythia arched a delicate eyebrow. "You have them well
She shook her head. "Foolish to so trust the good will of your fellow man. Particularly
"I left all that behind when I left the Movement behind. Why are you here?" Temenus
carefully kept his features hard.
Eleythia shrugged. "You have some idea."
Temenus scowled. "I have nothing left for you."
Eleythia shook her head. "You don't believe that."
Temenus met her steady gaze. "No?"
Eleythia's eyes never wavered. "I have never thought you a fool. And only a fool would
believe that you can so easily step out of the Shadow War."
Temenus leaned forward. "Answer my question. Why are you here?"
Eleythia watched him in silence for slow moments, then shrugged. "You have become a
part of this project. You have begun studying an indigenous predator. Have you published the
results of any of these studies?"
Temenus' eyes narrowed. "No."
"Information regarding your results has come to the notice of the Concilium Elite. Their
interest piqued our interest. On the bits and pieces I alone have heard, I understand the interest
and the potential applications. Can it be that you do not?"
Temenus laughed harshly. "Of course I understand. That's why I haven't published.
When I came here, Hope was a chance for escape, and little more than a curiosity to anyone
outside pure research. When I realized that Bloodfish predation patterns implied natural
empathic potential as well as considerable intelligence, I knew that a detailed comparative
biological study had the possibility of unlocking the physiological basis of parapsychological
phenomena in humans. The Institute, the Movement and the Concilium Elite would all descend
like vultures. So I haven't assembled any data formally. I've made no presentations, published
nothing, and said little."
Eleythia leaned forward slightly. "You've apparently said too much. You're under
observation here, I have no doubt. Why have you stayed?"
Lines pulled tight around his mouth. "Why did you come? If you have no doubt that I am
observed, then you know what reaction your presence will provoke."
Her voice was soft. "Why have you stayed, Temenus? You gave yourself to the fire and
darkness that is the Shadow War, as I did, as all of us did. You cannot leave it behind, for it
will always be a part of you. People die in war, even women and children. Why did you stay,
unarmed, when you knew they would come?"
He watched her, harshness smoothed away from her face, eyes clear and guileless, and
he cursed her softly. "Why goad me? I could not leave. Eleythia, when I am out there, rolling
on the back of the burnished sea, fighting to understand what they are, and why, and who...in
those times the fire and the darkness, the hate and the pain, the faces and the deeds all drop
away from me, and I am free of them for a little while. The White Lady knew, and she left with
the Wayfarers. You know what it means to kill a man, Eleythia, but you have never killed a
world. I can still see it, you know. As it was."
She stood, light glittering in her eyes as she shook her head. "I have done what I could.
You know what will be following after me."
He sighed as she stood. "What of Nico?"
She looked at him for a long silent moment. "He is well." She turned away.
He watched her walk to the door, and called after her, voice thick and slow. "Eleythia, I
loved you once. Why did you stay?"
She turned in the doorway, her words soft and clear. "Temenus, I love you still. Why
did you leave?"
After the door closed silently behind her, the white light faded behind the slowly dying
sun, falling around him until he sat alone in the darkness, burning.
Continue on to Parts Three and Four