The Dawn Patrol

Defected

Jarthen woke up in a strange room. He was sitting back, propped up in an overstuffed chair, and a blanket covered his lower half. Odd trinkets adorned the walls, and it took him a moment to remember that he had found a doctor. As he did, the pain in his legs returned, and he remembered that both had been broken. If the doctor he’d found was a miracle worker, he might walk again some day. More likely, however, the doctor just re-set the bones in an attempt to prevent him form accidentally making it worse or re-injuring himself later.

The last few days were a haze, and Jarthen was having trouble collecting his thoughts. He noticed suddenly that he was very thirsty, and was relieved to find a glass of water on the small table beside him. He downed it greedily, and took in a large gasp of air as he set the empty cup back down. The water was fresh, and clean: he must have made it to Crossing. He remembered being left by the Dawn Patrol on the side of the road. They’d been kind enough to give him some food, and he figured he may have not made it if they hadn’t.

Checking under the blankets revealed a mess of black-and-blue skin, swollen joints, and a shin that didn’t look like it had been set right. Still, he’d seen worse. It hurt like the hells, but he’d given up on the notion of ever using his legs again several days ago. There was a weird comfort in that.

The sound of a nearby door creaking open and shut interrupted his silent contemplation. Footsteps heralded the arrival of a tall, slender man in a simple grey suit. “Afternoon,” he said, in a thick accent. “How ya feelin’?”

Jarthen gently rubbed his legs to lessen the ache. “Well, I’ve been better. Looks like you did a pretty decent job of putting me back together, though. I’m thankful for that.”

The man in the suit looked around the room through slightly squinted eyes, chewing his words before he spoke. “I’m not ya doctah, Jart’en.” He paused for a moment, letting the weight of his words sink in. “I saw what’cha did ta dose kids, on da road. Ya lied ta good people, and ya did it ’cause yeh selfish.”

Jarthen’s pained smile immediately soured. “Who are you. What do you want.” His questions shared much more with orders than with actual inquiry.

“Dey tried ta stop ya, and when dey had ya by da balls, ya lied to ’em like a little cowahd.”

Jarthen bit his lip angrily, frustrated by his inability to move. “Yes, well… it’s part of the job, I suppose.”

The man in grey kicked Jarthen’s footrest, the sudden jolt causing Jarthen to shout in pain. “‘Da job,’ aye? I remembah da last time ya said dat. Ya had me kill a little girl in fronta her daddy, try an’ get ‘im ta talk. Said it was parta ’da job.’”

“I remember you,” Jarthen said softly, his heart quickening. “I always called you ‘guardsman.’ What was your name?”

Another sharp kick, and Jarthen screamed in pain again. “I don’ care if ya remembah me, Jart’en! Ya remembah her? Ya remembah dat little girl?”

Jarthen took a moment to process the man’s words, carefully studying his opponent’s face. “Yeah, I remember that.” A silent moment passed between the two, and Jarthen’s gaze fell to the floor. “He never talked, did he?” His voice was quiet, almost like he felt shame.

“No, he didn’t. Da last woid outta his mouth was just her name.”

Jarthen tried to play off this. “That was the night you defected, wasn’t it?” His tone was soft, apologetic.

“‘Defected’ is, I tink, probably da wrong woid.”

Jarthen had him on the defensive. Good. “You know, I may have given that order, but her blood is on your hands. It was then, it is now.”

The man in the suit turned around and faced him. “Yer right, ya know. And no mattah how hard I scrubbed, I can still see it dere. But dere’s someting ya should know.”

Jarthen offered only a confused tilt of the head.

“Da man, e’ wasn’t da girl’s daddy. E’ was ’er uncle.”

Jarthen narrowed his eyes, suspicious of where this man was going. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“Let me introduce myself,” the man in grey said, striding towards a chair opposite Jarthen. As he sat, his gaze met Jarthen’s, full of fire and rage. “Why don’ ya call me Uncle.”

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