Chapter One: Loyalty Oaths
Dominic Magnus lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling. It was his second night out of the hospital. It was his second night without any sleep.
Shadows played across the ceiling, cast from the open window. They were the shadows of the siege; spotlights trying to pick out the enemy forces circling the Jefferson city; light from still burning fires around the perimeter. The wind even brought a taint of smoke, floating on chill air.
The city was still intact. The invaders wanted it intact, and would wait out the underarmed democrats for however long it took.
It was impossible for him not to be aware of the war focused upon him, but that wasn’t what consumed his thoughts, not now, alone in the dark. What consumed his thoughts was the woman asleep next to him.
He wasn’t looking at her, but he could see her as perfectly. Straight black hair cut on a diagonal. Deep Asiatic eyes set in a face that held all the corrupted innocence that planet Bakunin was home to.
She was so damn young. Not just young, she was half his age. . .
Not that she’d know. Dom’s appearance had been permanently fixed ten years ago. When the doctors had reconstructed his body they had left him appearing in that indeterminate range between late twenties and early thirties, and pseudoflesh didn’t age.
Not that she’d know. . .
He knew all about her. From her parents death in a corporate war, to her job as a freelance corporate hacker, to her adopted father Ivor Jorgensen. He knew because he’d always made it his business to know.
By comparison, Tetsami knew almost nothing about him.
His right hand clenched on the sheets beneath him. He heard the sheets tear. Dom cursed and sat up.
His right hand was tangled in shredded bedding. The hand was new, the Jeffersonians’ attempt at reconstruction. Unlike the rest of his body, the hand and leg he had lost five Bakunin days ago were unquestionably artificial. The olive toned pseudoflesh ceased abruptly below his elbow, where his hand and forearm became a chrome metal approximation of his natural looking left. His body, despite being largely cybernetic before the accident, was still unused to the clumsy metal invader.
Dom tightened his fist and more sheets tore.
“Go back to sleep.” The tension he felt didn’t seem to make it to his voice.
“What’s the matter? Are you ok?”
If you knew me, really knew me, you’d know that I’ve never been “ok.”
Dom felt a hand touch his shoulder, and he almost flinched from the contact. He shook his head. “I can’t keep doing this.”
“Doing what?” Tetsami’s hand drifted down his arm until it reached metal. Dom drew his hand away and stood up. He walked over to the window. A false dawn painted the southern horizon red. Dom could picture the fires just over that horizon. Fires marking the remains of communes the invaders didn’t see as economically important.
The cities mattered, the communes were just in the way.
The destruction had long passed the attack on his own person. The loss of Godwin Arms and Armaments wasn’t even a significant battle in terms of the planet wide war that gripped Bakunin. The attack on GA&A was only significant in that it was first, and it had been Dom’s company.
“I’m still tied to this,” Dom said.
He could hear sheets rustle as Tetsami sat up. “You’re being obtuse again.” Uncharacteristically, her voice didn’t carry a tone of sarcasm. The questioning note made Dom feel worse.
“Everything about this war is connected to me.”
Tetsami sighed. “Sometimes you scare me.”
“I should.” Dom leaned out the window, staring at the few lights marking the city. He adjusted the photoreceptors in his artificial eyes until he had an monochrome light enhanced view of the city. The only people out on the streets were Jefferson City’s militia— the blue uniformed Minutemen.
“You aren’t the center of the universe, Dom. Just because Klaus—”
At the mention of his brother, Dom’s right hand, the new metallic one, clenched on the windowsill. There was a pop as the plastic sheathing gave way. The sound was loud enough to stop Tetsami in mid sentence.
Klaus,Dom thought, are you here on your own agenda? Or someone else’s? Will anything short of my death ever satisfy you?
“Not the universe. But this war—” Dom shook his head as if to clear it. However, inside a metallic skull, his brain was augmented by an onboard computer. His enhanced memories could not be cleared. “Random has even cast me in the role of a resistance leader. Wherever I go, I’ll be sucked back. . .”
Dom walked away from the window and began to gather his clothes.
Tetsami got out of bed. She was shorter than him, and seemed even smaller now, naked and in the dark. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I think I should get my own room.”
Tetsami flung her arms wide in a gesture that would have been comical if she wasn’t so angry. “Mother humping Christ,what the Hell’s your problem?”
“You don’t know anything about me,” Dom said.
“Whose fault is that? You shithead!” She picked up his pants. “God, I thought there was a little more to you at least. So this is it? ‘thanks for keeping my dick warm, good bye’?”
Dom stood there, understanding more of Tetsami’s feelings than his own. “I can’t pull you through whatever’s going to happen to me.”
Tetsami threw his pants at him, “Fuck you, Dom.” Tears were streaming down her face. “All the shit we went through for each other, it doesn’t mean anything does it?”
“I’m headed for something irrevocable—” Dom began.
“Damn straight you are. Get the fuck out!”
“You want to leave? Out. Now!”
Dom backed to the door, clothes in his arms. Tetsami marched after him, screaming, “You’ve got five seconds to get out of my hotel room or I’ll rip you balls off! Maggot!”
Dom backed all the way into the hall, and the door whooshed shut on him, leaving him outside and alone.
He heard Tetsami crying even through the allegedly soundproofed door. He hated himself for hurting her. But on the list of his personal crimes, it was relatively minor. It was outweighed by the conviction that, before everything was over, anyone close to him was going to die.