Author’s Note: So… I was told I couldn’t just say, “They all died. The End.”
Not sure this is any better, though.
“We are scared.”
“Yes, Alvin, we are,” Luna said, turning toward him, and Tynan had to nod as well. He didn’t know what they would do—he wanted to tell them not to hurt Luna or Alvin, but they had both chosen to stand beside him at his execution, to share his same fate. He did not know why they would pick that. She had so much to offer the world, and Alvin—well, Alvin must be acting too much like a hive. That was the only explanation for it.
“We are not alone.”
“No, not alone, either.”
Tynan grimaced, looking around the room. The guards seemed to be getting bolder. Perhaps they thought the matron and the others might change their minds about executing him—he did not believe it himself—but they feared him so much that they would do anything to force him back into the cage.
He moved so that he might shield Luna and Alvin as the one he’d called the Ignorant Prejudiced Lower Lifeform approached, no doubt with much violence his intention. He had always kept the levels of their pain machine higher than the other guards, and he would hurt the others.
“Stay back. The fate has been set, yes, but you will not harm them. I won’t let you.”
“I know they mean to force me back in my cage that they might feel safe. I do not necessarily object to that—well, I do, but I am not wanting to fight—but I will not let him hurt you, and he would. He is ignorant and prejudiced and enjoys seeing me in pain. I cannot allow that to be your fate.”
“I already chose the same one as yours, remember?”
“Yes, but you do not have to suffer as he would make you suffer before you died. No. That will not happen. If he comes near us, I will defend you somehow. I do not want to kill him, but if perhaps I touched the floor for just a moment, made a barrier between him and us, that might be enough. He would not cross that, would he?”
Luna bit her lip. “I don’t know, but if you do, they’ll freak out and then they’ll hurt you when you turn the hunger back on yourself. I know you don’t have to with me, and apparently not with Alvin, but I don’t think you love the floor.”
He frowned. “Um, no, I have no particular regard for it.”
The guard should have heard them, but he continued to advance, and Tynan knelt, placing a hand over the floor and allowing the hunger to take a small gap before he turned it back on himself. He huddled against himself, hating the pain but needing Luna safe. He wanted to get her far from here, where she could have a long life—for a human—and give that radiance of hers to the people around her. He felt her arms around him.
“You’re going to die for this, monster.”
“He’s not a monster—”
“Enough,” the matron called, leaving the upper level and descending toward them, her posture stiff and her displeasure evident. She stopped in front of them, her gaze cold as she looked from Luna to Alvin to Tynan. “The court is no longer in agreement.”
“Wait, does that mean that you’re not sure you’re going to kill us?”
She folded her arms together. “It is against most of their wishes to kill the lesser lifeforms that have joined with you, vortex. They can be excused for their lack of… understanding. They could be pardoned.”
“The hell with you, lady. I don’t want a pardon unless it’s for Tynan, damn it. He didn’t do anything to you. Yes, he told me he ate a solar system once, but that was an accident, and he actually saved you from it being worse because he killed the other one who started the whole thing, so while he’s not—he’s not perfect, but show me one person in this room that is.”
“Luna, please, there is no point in—”
“There has to be. They’ve got doubts. Even if it’s just a doubt about killing me and Alvin, it’s something. We have to use it. We have to hold onto it.”
The matron regarded them. “Some suggest trying the solution you have offered. This is foolishness, of course. You cannot be trusted.”
“I swear, if I were ever to break the imposed rules, you could kill me, but even if you only gave me a few more weeks—a few more days—to spend with Luna and to learn and to love… I would be grateful, and I would not fight. You have seen—I can. I chose not to do anything that would harm that man, not to do anything that would kill all of you. I could have. I don’t want to. Please.”
“You must be heartless,” Luna said. “You won’t even listen when someone begs, and when you have a being as powerful as Tynan is, a person capable of destroying all of us in an instant begging you for mercy, you don’t even understand what you have. If he was different, you couldn’t kill him. You’d already be dead. He’s letting you have that power, and he doesn’t have to.”
He reached for Luna’s hand. “I am not a monster. Not a killer. I will not harm them. Do not ask me to, not even to save us.”
The matron let out a breath, shaking her head. “If you have such power—”
“Do not think that I don’t—”
“—then perhaps there is no reason for this discussion. We cannot hold you. We cannot execute you. That is the truth, is it not?”
Tynan frowned. “You have technology—”
“That you could destroy.”
He looked at Luna and then at the matron. “Are you saying that you will let me go? Even knowing that I would not use my abilities against you? That I have been and would be submissive?”
“You cannot control chaos. That is what you are, is it not? I will never trust you, nor do I believe you are no threat, but I believe we find ourselves at a stalemate, don’t we? You will not allow any harm to come to those with you, and we cannot deal with you without also dispensing with them. That means that we can only hope that you will honor the bargain you have offered.”
Tynan put his hand on Luna’s shoulder. “All I want is Luna and Alvin safe. Well, no, I want forever with Luna and to learn new things, see new places, but even if I never went anywhere but where Luna was, I would gladly stay there.”
“Then we must see what can be done about the unfortunate fact that she is human.”