“Sam, I want you to tell me exactly what happened in there, while I was in the office.”
Alan had decided to wait, let them all get some rest, regain some perspective, himself especially, get Georgy through the first twenty-four hours post-surgery. So far so good, no surprise there; someone always looked out for Georgy, must be on account of Thea’s good works, her prayers perhaps. It certainly looked like it to him. Georgy might be the oldest of them, was certainly the hardest, maybe even the toughest, driven by some internal spring wound by Thea and the stories she had told him of his ancestors, iniquities inflicted, worlds lost, but hopes to come.
It looked as if Georgy’s spring had unwound, all at once, in a mad uncontrolled outburst annihilating everything in its path, but that mechanism was now rewinding, recharging; the doctors pronouncing themselves delighted, almost amazed, by his early progress.
A very long way to go of course, but no sign of reaction, infection; he was conscious, talking lucidly, even joking and taking in fluids and nutrition through a drip, his eyes searching Alan’s face, waiting for the questions. Don’t give him the satisfaction yet, start with Sam; if anyone were tougher than Georgy it was him. I have to know before we go back, do anything else, begin to trust either of them again, and it’ll need to be reported to the Council, but it would be his decision as to how it should be framed. He would want to know as well, if anything he would be more intrusive in his enquiries. He was all about looking inside people, turning them inside out to understand their fundamental drives and their default settings, how they would react in times of acute pressure, when all the learnt stuff boiled away, leaving just the inherent essence to continue, operating on instinct.
How was he doing anyway, they needed him now more than ever.
“What do you mean?” Sam’s face was composed.
“You know, why you didn’t wait, as I ordered, before starting the interrogation. Why you then started killing, even kids, do I have to say more?”
He was trying to keep his voice level, emotions in check.
“We all know the rules Sam: above all no kids and avoid hurting others not directly involved, wherever possible.”
Sam paused, mute, weighing up whether to answer; he had always got on with Alan, that’s why they had buddied up, two outsiders working together for the inside against the darkness. Alan though had come from a comfortable background, Sam didn’t resent him that, but he didn’t feel it in his bones, he didn’t really understand the anger, the bitter helplessness, having to bide your time, revealing nothing until the moment came to strike out. He’d become Sam’s friend as well as his leader, and he respected the Aussie’s courage, his ability to take a decision under pressure.
Perhaps he owed him the truth: lies wouldn’t help.
“We couldn’t wait, needed to get started, that place was too big to find anything unless they told us where to look.”
“But why start shooting, the killing?”
“He, they, wouldn’t answer. Beating them up wouldn’t do any good, they hated us, it was in their eyes.”
“It was you that did the shooting, wasn’t it? I checked Georgy’s gun, just the three rounds used, that’s what he used downstairs?”
“Yes, the oldest boy first, the heir. They hated that… Thought that might show them we were serious, but he just spat at us. Then the women, then Georgy was hit, fell down, so I shot the man… It was all going to hell, didn’t want him to survive, the others, the kids started trying to get away. I don’t know, it just happened, but I couldn’t for the littlest, not her fault, she can be brought up the right way, not too late for her.”
“Why Sam, those are reasons, not explanations? If it had been Georgy, I could understand it, be furious about it, but wouldn’t be surprised, well not astonished anyway, but you?”
“Georgy’s right, the girl, Narin, showed me that. I asked Brother Peran about her people, he told me. The attempts over hundreds of years to wipe them out, children killed and enslaved, women too, the men slaughtered. It’s still going on, what that filth did to her, must have done to her family. It’s not just her people either, dozens of other peoples, all over the world, blotted out, the Armenians and Greeks in their homelands for thousands of years, no one left, just them who’ve killed everyone, stolen everything. You can’t spare the kids; they’ll just grow up into more of them and want revenge as well. I did what needed doing, that’s all.”
He had never heard Sam speak like that before and certainly in nothing remotely resembling those terms, not even seeking to defend himself, as if he didn’t see any need for any self-justification at all, it was just obvious what had needed to be done.
And terrifyingly logical.
Perhaps it was him, Alan himself or the leadership who were wrong, that it was about delaying defeat, winning battles, not aiming at a final victory given the odds? Perhaps they were confused by wishful-thinking, believing we shouldn’t adopt the behaviours of the enemy to win? But no, he had seemed clear about the limits of what they could hope to achieve, small things which are of huge wider import because they were well chosen, thought through, not indiscriminate, so as not to risk forfeiting their souls.
“What do you think Brother Peran would say about what you did, or Martha?” He knew those were the two people that Sam cared most about in the world, they seemed though to be in the process of being joined by a third.
“Mum wouldn’t understand; she’d be angry, but she hasn’t seen it for herself. Brother Peran… I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it. He’s a priest; he doesn’t have to get his hands dirty. But if doing what I did helps stop what happened to Narin’s people happening to those in England, I’m fine with it. I don’t think I’ll be condemned for destroying the darkness and protecting the innocent.”
How to answer that? You can’t, you know it’s either right or wrong. Perhaps that’s how the Byzantines think, looking through a barrier where only less than a century ago hundreds of thousands had been murdered outside, across a thousand miles of now alien landscape they used to call home. Perhaps, if instead of fighting defensively for eight hundred years they had decided to kill the snake in its nest, smash the eggs at source, whatever was required, as the Allies had done to the Nazis; not stopping until they got to Berlin, rooting them out wherever they were, men, women, even children, maybe that’s what it was going to take. He had come to his little happy valley to get away from all of that, found somewhere safe, built a life he loved, other lives he loved even more, and yet the darkness always had a way of finding its way in, even through his friends’ attempts to do what they thought to be on the side of the light. The darkness wasn’t sometimes called the Deceiver for nothing.
“Well, I’ll have to report it back, see what they want to do. At least we got the kid I suppose. I don’t know what you’ll tell Martha, but you can’t ask me to cover for you.”
“Will they stop me coming back, keep me from working here?”
“I don’t know, there aren’t many of us, but we’re only useful if we follow the rules. Perhaps they’ll ask him, assuming he lives.”
That had knocked Sam off balance, he could see, at least for a while. He hadn’t foreseen that possibility at all. What had he thought they would do, put him on bread and water for a month as penance?
“Speaking of him, why not give her a call and find out how he’s doing?”
Alan no longer had the stomach for the conversation.
“And see if she knows what he would want done with the memory stick the other team found, apparently she was the one that got the others translated.”
She was on her way back to the hospital when the call came. Elaine had got his personal things sent round to her place last night, she had arrived back just after they had started unloading them, something her capable cousin already had in hand. All his home things were still at his flat; there were surprisingly little of his personal effects in what she was already thinking of as his room. For now.
No, that’s not it.
Books and clothes mainly, a few photos, mostly of his wife and family, a camera, some music, one or two nice but not valuable pictures, a few old prints, not much physical remembrance of him at all, but then he was always so… internal.
Still waters run deep they say, in his case there was hardly any flotsam, even on the surface.
They had put what they could away in ‘his’ room, the rest was piled in a corner of the dining room looking out of place: he could sort it out himself. Her cousin had had to leave first thing in the morning; Helena had come to St Thomas’ first, a long detour, before starting work back at the office. He had been asleep, best thing for him they said, we don’t want to wake him.
She would return later in the afternoon and spend the evening with him; she had taken the call from Sam on the way.
“Hi Sam, I didn’t expect to hear from you today. Is everything alright?”
“It will be now Miss. Bit of trouble last evening, one of the lads got hurt, should be okay, but we’ll be heading back home soon. It all went a bit wrong, but it’s ok now. The other lads got something for you, like before; do you want it?”
“Yes, I’ll give you the address; can you post it there for my attention only?”
“Ok, Miss. How is he, is he going to be ok?”
“He will be, gave us all a fright, but he’s too much for them you know, he’ll be back sooner than anyone thinks, I’m sure. He wants you all to go home for a while, ‘til he’s better.”
“We did them hard last night, really hard, for him you know, like you asked. I might have a favour to ask of you myself, is that ok?”
“Are you alright Sam, is something wrong?”
“No Miss, just want to keep doing what needs to be done, for him, like you said. Just might need your help. See you.”
He put the phone down and went to tell the others in the kitchen.
“She says he’ll be fine, but will be in hospital for a while. But she wants the stick the other guys got and he wants the rest of us to go home until he’s better.”
Alan looked at the doctors, “Is Georgy well enough to be carried by stretcher for a few hours tonight?”
“If he must be, not advisable, but if necessary.”
He felt better now, decision made, others could look to the rest for a while.
“Thanks. Everybody pack up, we’re all going home, shutting it all down for a while, leave nothing at all. The base team can keep their ears to the ground for us, we head out tonight.”
He focused on David Kingsbridge.
“Well, Doc, the next stage of your big adventure starts this evening. Are you fit for a hike? My guess is a lot of people will want to meet you, buy you drinks, not least Georgy here’s mum.”
Yes, he would have to be there for that.
© 1642again 2018