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Loren Cooper works as a technical coordinator for Hewlett-Packard. His short story "Soldier's Home" (which is set in the same universe as "Black Promise") appears in Dark Planet #4.


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Black Promise: Part Five and Epilogue

by Loren W. Cooper

(Go back to Parts Three and Four)

Part Five

     The waters spoke softly to Temenus as he left Makali to his end. The sands whispered sibilantly to him with each step, but he shut out the voices and left the rising columns of starlight behind as he closed the door of the Ship behind him. Every action deliberate, Temenus dug deep in the bowels of the landed Ship and brought long dormant systems to life. A survey/exploration jumper, she would fill his needs admirably. She lifted sweetly, ready to his hand. As they cleared Hope's atmosphere, Temenus renamed the Ship Black Promise and smiled.
     He gave Eleythia back to Hope before he left, watching her body fall like a single tear to the waters below. He watched her effervesce, burning and fading in a flashing streak, and thought of the symbol the Movement would make of the death of the White Lady's daughter. Then he rode his Black Promise into the velvet night, and it swallowed him.
     Worlds turned, living in innocence. Above these places of life, on them and below them, fortifications crouched, installations waited, the Movement planned while the Concilium Elite predicted. Always the scions of death sought shelter amidst the tides of life.
     He had been high in the Movement, had direct access now to many Concilium records. He knew these places. He struck as none had dared before, dropping Black Promise out of the shadows and drawing folds of death over fortress and station, sending shocks past them through blameless worlds. Seismic trauma from the spatial distortion of his interrupted jumps roused tidal waves, woke volcanoes explosively, and covered whole worlds under the smoky pall of death. He left the same message behind him in each place. "Stop the War."
     They used him, of course. Propaganda on both sides as well as calculated strikes in places he had never been. He had opened the door to mass destruction, and Movement and Concilium both followed gleefully. The harder he struck, the more they fought, the wider the destruction became, and the larger the search for him grew.
     Across the worlds, humanity named him the Dark Angel of the Shadow War. And they feared him.

Epilogue

     Temenus did not show the years he carried. "Nico. How did you find me?"
     I shrugged, blue eyes guileless. "You made it easy, in your own way."
     "You came to kill me." He smiled.
     I did not. "They sent me to kill you."
     Temenus laughed. "A fine difference."
     I frowned, leaned against the sheer rock face, and cocked my head. "Mother spoke of you. You were different to her."
     "Before I became a monster." His voice was flat, emotionless.
     I let out my breath explosively. "After Eleisias, and Penthes, or the White Worlds?"
     Temenus sighed and stepped closer, his smile fading. "I expected them to stop. Or be stopped. I forgot that death calls to its own."
     I swiftly brought my hand out of my coat. Temenus swept my feet out from under me. Twisting the pistol out of my grasp, he tossed it down the rock face and laid a hand softly on my throat, stilling me.
     I stared up into those dark eyes and saw the pain there. Temenus shook his head. "Why did they send you, Nico?"
     "Because they thought you would let me close."
     "They wouldn't have been sure that you could have pulled the trigger on your own father, no matter what I had become. They will have a team following."
     Temenus stood, jerking me to my feet and dusting me off roughly. "I had not thought they would be so bold."
     I swallowed. "Why did you do it?"
     Temenus raised an eyebrow. "Kill them all, or let myself be found?"
     "Either. Both."
     Temenus sighed. "I was a fool. I thought I could stop them. Kill enough and maybe the people would put an end to the madness. I was wrong."
     "And this place?"
     He looked down the line of black cliffs to the furious dark waters. "I came here to make good on old promises."
     The slight scrape of a shoe on the rocky path snapped Temenus' head up, and he threw me to the ground as a fusillade of shots burned around and into him, blowing him back off the path.
     I scrambled to the edge of the path as the firing stopped and searched for him, but I could see no trace of my father in the hungry darkness below.
     Only later, after years had passed of reading the pages of his journals, turning his thoughts over in my head, and breathing the air of this world he loved, did I come to understand how he belonged in this place, balanced between the fire and the darkness, paying his dues to the shadows even as he lifted his face to the light.
     You see, my father always kept his promises.


THE END