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Letting Go

written by ilexx


Time: CY 10089 Sep 5166
Location: Gallaphron

It took him, disorientation, pounding head and all, no more than forty minutes to figure a way out of the set-up they had worked out for them. Once he came to in the lavishly furnished suite in one of Albuquerque’s finest and most ostentatious establishments, he knew they were in trouble. Not waiting for his head to clear or for his men, who were just as groggy as he was to sober up, he kicked into action. Within the hour he had cleared their new, quite presentable accounts with First Albuquerque Chase, made sure that there were no bills left open and found a vessel to get him off the drift, suggesting to his men that they do the same, split up and put the money to good use to get as much space as possible between themselves and Martinez.

With what was left of his money – after obtaining forged papers and fake DNA samples stating that he was a certain Mr. Leif Hansson, business-man (in what exactly was not precisely mentioned) from Vineta, a trading post far out in the Riga-System – he had settled down on this backward, godforsaken, but luckily also very crowded dump of the universe, trying to figure out what to do from there on. He had gotten there moving in zig-zagged route that had taken him all over the galaxy before he had felt his trail cold enough for him stop running. What remaining cash he had would take him two, maybe three more months down the road, but no more. His own, real accounts were off-limits: they would be monitored by Martinez‘ people and were therefore untouchable for him. He needed a job, he needed to stay low for at least one year, he needed...

Taking in the shabby room a with dirty rugs, spotty walls and furniture that had seen better days (and that a rather long time ago), Michael Harkness sighed wearily: he needed a life. Maybe,... maybe this whole affair with the Eureka Maru was something of a blessing in disguise.
He poured himself a stiff drink out of the anow half-empty bottle he had bought before checking in and heaved himself off the protesting bed, slowly making his way into the dim-lit bathroom. Placing his glass on the sink, he shot an unkind look at the image, displayed in the cracked, blurry mirror above it. His eyes grew hard while he contemplated what he saw, disgust settling in into the tired lines of his face.

A new life? Who do you think you’re kidding, mate?

It had been almost 46 years to this day... Now, then he had a life. He had just broken his shell, was pampered, fiddled, kissed... He strongly suspected that it was probably even then getting on his nerves, still: whatever might have been wrong at that time – everything felt right.

Not that there weren’t enough things amiss. Just one or two years later he became painfully aware of that, whenever he got to hear the whispered, strange remark: „He;s his father’s spitting image...“ It was the earliest memory of his life. And it took him about 13 years to realize that if he wanted a life, he’d have to finally ask his mother:

„ Mum, who is this Dad of whom I am supposed to be the spitting image of?“

He asked. He never got an answer. By the time he found the answer by himself, it didn’t matter anymore. But then, when he was 13 – then it would have mattered.

33 years ago he was nothing more than a giant fit of blues, not understanding what they expected him to do, what they wanted from him. He kept silent, looked at his feet, waiting for graduation day, knowing things would get better then. Graduation day came – and passed, and nothing changed. He got a scholarship on Sinti, went there for his mother’s sake and spent a short while musing about with mathematical theorems, but soon realized that the time had come for him to quit the education party.

He needed to get started on his life. And now he often wondered, whether it had been there that his life and he had decided to go separate ways.

He remembered the day 24 years ago, when he had finally made it into the federal police force on Möbius, starting out as a rookie in the homicide division but quickly rising through the ranks to warrant officer in the special operations division and with good prospects for an even brighter future. Or so he thought. He wanted order, peace, discipline and justice. If not a fair, then at least a fairer chance for all. He thought that the Möbius law-enforcement stood for all that and more in this maddening universe: they could fight off the Magog, keep the Nietzscheans at bay, deal with the Ogami, handle the Kalderans, avoid Pyrians and outsmart the Restorians. That was what he had signed on for. The Möbius police delivered, apparently. It took him years to find out that, outside their own system and sometimes even there, that the quality of the delivery depended ont the amount of cash delivered to the force. That the only things that mattered was how much money exactly could buy what protection, who came in first on privileges. Those who could, got by. The others – well, they didn’t.

For 4 more years he closed his eyes, he told himself that this was ‚show business‘, after all. That like everywhere else in life, everyone had to struggle, that there were many bastards, but also a few brothers, that life was by and large good and that he had gotten lucky.

In some way it was true: he had somehow managed to jump on the train, and even if he didn’t like everything he saw – he liked most well enough to want to just stay on. After all there meanwhile was Marushka, they had a home, a garden – and then they had Leonor. He knew that he was selfish, that he was compromising, but it was so worth it, and so he closed his eyes and forced his way up and upper, until he could compromise no more.

19 years earlier there had come the day when they finally asked him to no longer defend, but to deliver punishment to a stupid Umbrite, who had first required (and received) protection, but then had refused payment. A decision was made an example would be made of the recalcitrant Umbrite. Harkness didn’t have a problem with that. But upon finding out that the punishment, execution of the recalcitrant debtor , included not only the man himself but also his family of two wives and five children, he had refused. Flatly. And found himself in prison before he could so much as say goodbye to his family.

And there he could no longer look the other way.

For months nobody told him when he was to be tried. Then they just informed him that he already had been convicted, to 10 years in the mines of Isfahan Prime. It was a lovely name for a ghastly place. And it was a death sentence. On the way to his new ‚accommodation‘, he escaped. He still had friends he still had on the force; they called in favors, bribed guards, pulled strings to get him out. In the end two of them broke into the prison ship, to rescue him. He got out, barely, with a laser leg wound and a myelin-bullet embedded somewhere pretty much near his spine, but he escaped. His friends weren't so lucky. Two more failures to add on his tab...

His friends had managed to pass him the coordinates to where his partner and his former squad leader were waiting for him with papers, cash... and maybe a chance at a new life. But he didn't take it. Who knew whether the hounds were already on his trail? Why endanger more people? Besides, he didn't want a new life. What he wanted was his old one, just better. After 9 months in prison he had but one thought: to get home, to Marushka, to Leonor. He didn’t care if he would die trying, the only thing that mattered was to see his daughter one more time. Just once more.

He made it with the help of a young free-lance freighter pilot. He had taken her hostage, kidnapped her and her ship, but then – after hearing his story – she had agreed to help him: anyone in trouble with the Möbius authorities was by the very nature of her trade someone to be backed all the way. She brought him to his destination, but he reached it more dead than alive. She had tried to take care of him, but there was only so much she could do for him. He had been grateful for her help, but had refused to check into a hospital to let himself be treated.

When he reached his home, he simply pulled the last ounces of his strength together and rushed into the house. It had seemed empty, but then he went upstairs, collapsing on the threshold of his daughter’s room. She came out, a doll in her hands, smilingly staring down on the man at her feet. It was the most beautiful sight of his life.

„ Leonor?“

„ You know my name?“

„ I do, baby, I do. Don’t you know me?“

She shook her head. He tried to touch her, stretching one of his hands out, but then he heard a cry. The door to the bedroom opened and out came his wife, followed by the figure of a man.

„ Don’t touch her. Don’t you touch her! What are you doing here? Why are you back? You are endangering us all, just by being here. Go away! Just go. Leave!“

His wife was barely coherent as she sputtered out her angry tirade, while rushing over to her daughter, whom she picked up, clinging desperately to the child that was no longer smiling, but staring with wide, frightened eyes at her mother – and then back again at the stranger.

„ Mommy? Who is this?“

„ Nobody, honey. Nobody. Alex,“ he then heard her say to the man still standing at the bedroom door, „call the authorities...“

It was the last thing he heard


He didn’t die. Two months later he was back on his feet. And wishing from then on, every single moment, that he had died.

The young pilot had brought him out of there and to a Wayist monastery, leaving him there for treatment. She had promised that she’d be back, but he never heard of her again. And he didn’t search.

The Wayists healed his body. And they did their best to heal his soul, as well. But that didn’t work out as well. They were left to guess what had happened to him, since he didn’t tell. One day a monk had sat down with him in the gardens:

„ You see,“ he had cautiously begun to tell him, „you don’t have to tell me what happened. Our lives are all more or less the same. We just like to tell ourselves that what we lived through is special. But one day you will wake up and realize that we are all merely running towards the same old story, a love story mostly. And then, when this story is over, we just start running again, towards another one. Whatever happened, one day you will love again. And you will live.“

Harkness had nodded in silence. But he hadn't believed him. And he had been right: he never loved again, and he didn’t live either. But he survived. Somehow.

17 years... 17 years had passed. He had almost forgotten the monk’s words. Spent the time selling his soul - and his gun - all over the galaxy to the highest bidder, letting himself been dragged down by employers who seemed to get more and more sinister every year. He was surviving, learning better and better to swim with the stream, no longer in danger of drowning in anything worse than his own self-contempt. With the passing of time he no longer felt himself getting sick and tired of everything, lost his awareness of the fact that where-ever he went he no longer seemed able to ever see the sky. He filled his life with shady assignments, interrupted by speedy sex and indifferent lies. And got by.

So why? Why now? Why tonight? Why here? Why did the old words, the old dreams suddenly return? Hitting him with a vengeance...

Again he scrutinized his face in the mirror. Leif Hansson, my ass... he thought derisively. But for the ice-cold, steel-blue eyes he had never looked remotely like a ‚Leif‘. If anything, the long face with the strong nose, the sensous lips, the almost black, thick hair and the gracious body had signalled the classic Latin lover. But now even that was gone: deep trenches marred his forehead under the salt-and-pepper hair, while others sketched disgust left and right of lips so thin they were no longer visible, his mouth now just another thin, grim line among others, his body a compact, solid mass of muscles always ready for action. Not old yet, but never again young. And for the first time in his life, it suddenly bothered him...

Like his face and body, his mind was growing tired. It was the only explanation as to why the young freighter pilot, with old eyes and a crew of children, had managed to trick him. Or was it? Steel met steel as he once more searched for his own eyes in the mirror. And there, somewhere hidden deeply in the dead-cold eyes he saw a tiny sparkle of life he hadn’t seen in years.

He had wanted her to best him, to get herself, her crew and the badly needed medication away from him, from them and from Martinez‘ deals, and to a place where she, her crew and their cargo would make a difference. He had desperately wanted it, like he had not wanted anything in a long, long time. From the first moment he had set his eyes on her, on them, on that tiny, lost, yet strong community he’d been in awe, not knowing how to handle his feelings, looking for a way out for them and finally deciding to let them find their own, simply allowing himself to not intervene, to just stand guard between his thugs and them and let things take their course.

The monk’s words kept going round and round in his head. And slowly, reluctantly, in spite of himself, he felt himself starting to believe in them. Another story? Another love capturing him after all? Still diving into his own eyes, he searched. For strength, for courage to finally set himself free, to face the fact that he still was a breathing, maybe hurting, but – most importantly – feeling being. Nodding lightly to himself he picked up the glass and downed its content with a slight salute to himself.

„ Time to get a life.“