The Traveller trudged to the gleaming door of the well maintained compound, his eyes lifeless and glued to the shifting Etrion sands before him. His pack weighed him down with both its mass and its memories. He'd been living out of the thing for...far too long. But perhaps soon, it would finally fall from his tired shoulders, if he did not find locate the man he was seeking.
The Traveller barely saw the pair of guards blocking his path, but old instincts took over, alerting him to their presence. Before the leading guard could say a word, the Traveller spoke, his voice hoarse and croaky, as if it had been crafted from gravel.
Traveller: "I...wish to speak to Madam Matlock."
Guard 1: "Ha! What you wish don't matter to us old-timer."
Guard 2: "I don't care how you know about the Madam, but nobody sees her without an appointment...unless that trash you call a pack is stuffed with cash."
Traveller: "No...no cash. Haven't been...to a proper bank in years. But still, I must speak to Matlock. I...have information for her."
Guard 2: "Yeah? Well I've got some 'information' for you too. Leave now, or me and my compadre here get... serious. Understand?"
Traveller: "Please...the Madam must be informed. Can you at least...pass on my message?"
The two guards sniggered to themselves, completely disregarding the haggard old man before them. One of them, the taller one with a blue bandana obscuring his features, leant forward and gave his response, a humourous look fixed to his face.
Guard 1: "Sure thing, I'll make sure the Madam knows all about the dune-trash that rolled up at her door. Now get outta here, or you're in for a world of pain. Get that, dune-traaaaAAAAH!!"
With a sigh, the Traveller whipped his sharpened walking cane across the guard's face, drawing a tiny line of blood as the lightning fast movement broke skin. The guard cried out mid-sentence before collapsing on the ground, crying in pain. The other guard stood motionless, gawking like a seagull.
The Traveller spoke again, his voice sounding even more tired then before.
Traveller: "I'm...I..apologise for your friend. It's been so long since I've hurt, and I want you to know...I'm sorry. But I must...speak with the Madam. Could you please send a message? Please?"
The second guard needed no further encouragement and flipped open his com-link, sending the message in a hurried voice, his friend still moaning despite the wound being relatively minor. The Traveller waited patiently, as still as an ancient statue. He was in no hurry to return to the world he'd left behind.
A minute later, the door clicked and swung open on smooth hinges. The Traveller thanked the guard, who's mouth was still hanging in shock, and walked into the compound. His footsteps were slow, nervous but not fearful. He had abandoned this world for to long, and now he was forced to return.
He sighed. Life had not been forgiving for him.
The Traveller reached the door he'd been looking for, a circular symbol proudly plastered to its front. He reached out and begrudgingly turned the handle, wishing this meet could be avoided, but knowing that this was his only option to get off world.
Inside, he was greeted with a comfortable office space and a woman who seemed a vision of beauty. She was in her late forties, but not a single speck of grey was visible in her long hair, not a single wrinkle lined her eyes. A crimson and violet dress flowed down her slim frame and a single indigo glove was fitted to her right arm, adding a slice of colour.
The great Teresa Matlock, wife to one of the greatest crime leaders to ever live and the current head of her husband's legacy: the Matlock Mafia.
She spoke, her voice polished and smooth like glass. Everything about her was pristine, as if the world were leagues beneath her.
Matlock: "Well well, I must say it's a surprise to see you here again. Nobody's heard from you in at least half a decade."
Traveller: "Unfortunately, I wished I could have kept it that way."
Matlock: "Then I welcome you back. The world has missed you."
Traveller: " I can't say the same. I've changed, Madam, in more ways than I can count. I've opened my eyes and looked through my past, sifted through the sin that it's filled with. This world is no longer mine."
Matlock: "And yet it appears your past follows you. You must have heard the news by now."
Traveller: "Yes, Uek Ferris, in a position of power. That is why I'm here. I...I need to get to Qoter. There is someone there I must see."
Matlock: "Oh? And what are you willing to exchange with me? I do run an enterprise you know, and private flights off Etrion are hard to organise."
Traveller: "I have nothing but what I carry. However, I know what a risk Uek has been and will be to you enterprise. His ambitions are too large for a single title to satisfy."
Matlock: "True, very true."
Traveller: "And the person I seek may be the only one who can stop him. Please Madam, I need to get to him."
Madam Matlock raised her eyebrows and began flowing around the room, every bit as glamorous as one would expect.
Matlock: "You know, you could simply tell me the person you seek and I will have the message delivered-"
Traveller: "No. Nobody else must know, either him or the message. Not even you Teresa."
Matlock: "Oh, are we on a first name basis again? Shall we re-acquaint each other?"
Traveller: "No...I don't care about names anymore. My name is only coated in bloodshed. My past is...soaked with darkness. It reeks of blood and shed tears. I am not worthy, nor do I want, my name, not after all I did. Not after I got my wife killed, lost my son and betrayed my closest brother. I need to make this journey, but it will be my last. This old body is so...so tired, and so I will give it rest. Perhaps then, those I lost will have some closure, puny though it is."
Madam Matlock considered the man in front of her. He was lost in guilt and thoughts of the past, tired of his life. She tapped her chin thoughtfully before speaking again.
Matlock: "You aren't the only one that has lost people."
Traveller: "I know. But it was I that lost them. It bears a heavy-"
Matlock: "I was not finished, Travaller. I hear that's what they call you now."
She straightened her already perfect posture and positioned her eyebrows in a thoughtful manner. She was about to make a speech, something all leaders had to know how to do well. And nobody else would stop her.
"My husband, Mathias...I lost him. This enterprise he started, he ended up hating what it stood for, and he loathed how much I enjoyed having a hand in running it. He was a weak fool yes, though I did love him. But over the years, he grew, as you say, tired. His weakness broke him and he ran."
She paused, as if the memory was causing some age-old hurt. She shook her head in a little titter before continuing.
"He stole my children away you know? When they were barely two years old, Mathias took them, the night he flew from this place. He took his shuttle and vanished, flying who knows where. It was only a week after that we found his body, my babes nowhere to be found. He could have killed and dumped their bodies anywhere, his last revenge against me, knowing I would never be able to find them. To bury my only children."
Traveller: "I'm...sorry Madam."
Madam Matlock straightened, her eyes locking onto the Traveller. There was a spark there now, a determined look, as if that story had been a reminder for her.
Matlock: "The loss of my family, of any true heirs, only hardened me. It made me stronger, more able to handle changes and missions gone wrong. That is why I'm still here, still in power. I realised that nothing, NOTHING, could be worse then losing your entire family to the man you once loved."
The Traveller looked at her, noticing no dampness to her eyes. Those loses had certainly had their effect, but she was lying about one thing. She hadn't changed, not really. She would have been a hard person no matter who she lost.
Matlock flowed over to the Traveller, folding her arms behind her back and allowing a calculating grin to appear on her face. As if this story would produce a great moral of some kind.
Matlock: "My point is that the loss of those closest to you are simply tests. We may crumble, we may fall, but we come back stronger and harder. You've been away too long Traveller, the world is different now. We cannot be held back by our past, we must come back with only strength. I will grant you your wish, as a final favour to you. You can take the shuttle in Bay 2. But I do not want someone as great as you were to fall so far."
"You WILL go to Qoter, you WILL deliver your message, and you WILL remove Uek from his position. Then, when my competition is gone, you WILL return and put your skills to use. I will NOT ALLOW you to go back to...this. Weak, festering, barely able to hold an eye, whining about your past, bagged down with guilt-"
The word was so sudden, so solid, that Matlock faulted and turn to look for its speaker. It was only then that she realised it had come from the Traveller. She relaxed and opened her mouth to continue.
Matlock: "No, you need to-"
Matlock: "Why should I listen to you? A flea-bitten shadow of your former sel-"
The Traveller slammed his walking cane to the ground with such a force that it made Matlock jump and stare, looks of fear showing on her face. The Traveller straightened his hunched back and locked eyes with one of the largest crime bosses that the Earth, indeed the system, had ever known. And in those eyes, Madam Matlock saw something that hadn't been there moments before. She let loose a small whimper as she recognised what was different.
The Traveller spoke. His voice was the same and yet so very different. His words were still tired, but now they were laced with powerful anger and intricate webs of disgust.
He was no longer the weak old man he had been seconds ago.He was now a scalpel, a precision weapon of pent-up anger.
Traveller: "Teresa. Do not pretend to know me. You are not me. You have lost people, but you have never, NEVER had to live with that loss. Not properly, not thinking about it every waking moment. You disgust me because you remind me of...me, the person I was back then. Unaffected by death, destruction, torment. I've inflicted every single one of those onto countless others and you cannot begin to imagine how that feels. I will go to Qoter and pass on my message, but I will never return. Not to here or to my past life. Never again."
And just like that, the rage dispersed, covered up by the tired, guilt filled life that was the Traveller. Madam Matlock rose on unsteady feet, a look of fear still present on her unlined face. She was wary and opened her mouth to speak. But before a word left her lips, the Traveller had turned and had begun to leave the room.
Matlock raised her voice, her polished words slipping with a waver of uncertainty.
Matlock: "Wait! Where are you going?"
Traveller: "Shuttle Bay 2, as you said"
Matlock: "What, now?"
Traveller: "Why not? I do not...wish to stay any longer than I have to. Goodbye Teresa."
Matlock: "Wait! Hang on...just answer me this, before you leave I have to know...will you be able to go against him, Uek? Will you have the strength to do what must be done, knowing what he is to you?"
The Traveller turned, removed his head scarf and raised his head, revealing an older, lined face, tanned from the harsh Etrion sun. His brown hair was thinning and streaked with grey, and his ragged goatee was roughly trimmed, as if he'd cut it with a dagger. The man locked eyes with Teresa, and she saw, for the first time, the determination that lied beyond the layers of rage and guilt. She knew the answer then, but the man spoke, his last words before he turned and walked away.
"Uek Ferris...is no longer anything to me, Teresa. Not after what he's done."
And with those words, the Traveller, formerly the leader of the most powerful assassination group in human history, walked away, leaving a trail of dust in his wake.
Yes! Nicely done! I spent the entire thing trying to guess who the Traveler might be and didn't manage to! I thought he was Dustin's dad for most of it, but nope! Very well planned out! Just goes to show that you don't need loads of action in an episode to make it a good one! Nice crime family, too. It's always good to have more organisations created, simply just to populate the galaxy! A full 6 points!
Wow, awesome twist at the end, I literally gasped when I read it. And the rest of the story is just as awesome as is expected from you. Maybe when Eric finds his father he could try and help take Uek down, it would make sense, seeing as Daniel would want to stop him. :-D