2010-08-08: Lay Down Your Arms



Featuring: One

Date: August 08, 2010


We feel free when we escape - even if it be but from the frying pan into the fire. ~Eric Hoffer

"Lay Down Your Arms"

Unknown Location

Running. Always running. Always fleeing.

Hunched in an alley, Jack clutches his hands to his chest in a feeble attempt to still their shaking. One grips an automatic pistol that bears scrapes and scratches along the barrel. The freshly exposed metal stands out against the anodized coating that covers the rest of the weapon. Grunting, gritting his teeth, he taps the barrel of the gun against his head. It leaves a smear of someone else's blood on his lank, unkempt hair. A small, frustrated sound escapes from between his lips.

He's been running and hiding and escaping and bolting for longer than he can recall. Days have blended into weeks have blended into months. For Jack, it has been one long, interminable experience. A series of flights through dank, abandoned buildings. Of new injuries piles atop old ones. Of too many hardships suffered with too few meals and too little time to rest. Even now, his skin clings to his bones. Bruised, cut, and battered, he is a skeleton with a thin layer of man clinging to it. Dark hollows around his eyes leave him looking haunted and empty. Jutting ribs, shoulder blades, and knuckles have replaced hearty muscles. Even his tattoos and scars are mournful, puckered and sagging in some places and taut in others.

Long, spidery fingers that were once nimble and sure are now weak and fumbling as he pulls a glass vial from within his shirt. A viscous purple fluid fills it to the brim, with just enough space left at the top for it to slosh to and fro with the quivering of Jack's hand. Absently, tenderly, he strokes the vial as if it were a lover. The action brings a memory to him, unbidden, so poignant that it's almost unwanted. Almost.

"Trina," he whispers, his voice hoarse and unsure.

The silhouette of a man crosses the mouth of the alley. It is almost immediately joined by another, and another, and then another, until nine of them crowd together. Their faces are concealed by shadow, but their uncanny similarity, their tall, hulking presence, and their precise way of moving are all very memorable to those who have seen them before.

One takes a single step forward. Though he is still wreathed in darkness, his stride is very particular. He has a hitch in his step from a training accident when he and Jack were boys. "Brother," he says, his rusty voice indistinguishable from Jack's own. "You led us on a merry chase. We almost had you in Minsk." He pauses, then continues. "Father wishes you to return."

Though every nerve and muscle that Jack still owns is tight with tension, he stands slowly. Casually. The vial is palmed between his fingers and his weapon is held loosely at his side. "One," he replies. It's more acknowledgement of the man's presence than true greeting. "I don't want to go back. You know that."

Still heard but unseen, the first of the identical men speaks again. "He loves you. We love you. Give back what you stole and you can take your place at his side. He will return your birthright to you. Think of it. He as God, you as a King among men."

"Don't you get it? I don't share his dream. It's wrong to force people into the shape he chooses for them." Angrily, Jack holds up the vial. "He can't use this to change people against their will. Not even to make them better. I lost sight of that once, but it won't happen again."

Abruptly, he pitches the vial high into the air. It wings end over end, barely visible in the dim light leaking in from the street. The men in the mouth of the alley gasp as one, watching, waiting, frozen in anticipation as the center of their world is thrown around like a child's toy.

A single shot from Jack's pistol fills the alley, the report defeaning in the enclosed area. The bullet shatters the vial, filling the air with powdered glass and purple mist.

"Now there will be no kings!" Jack shouts, raising his voice to be heard over the ringing in his ears. "No Gods!"

There is a clatter as he drops his weapon. He holds his arms wide out at his sides, palms lifted to the heavens, his face tipped back toward a moon that's obscured by clouds.

He smiles.

As if thinking with one mind, the nine identical men raise pistols of their own and open fire.


What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. ~Albert Pike

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