Thenos was waiting as Casey’s shuttle landed. The boarding ramp lowered and Casey began to walk down it, talking to a man in mining uniform. She stopped at the edge of the ramp, gave a few more words to the man, then stepped onto the sandy panelling of the landing pad, the man returning to the shuttle’s interior. Even without his psychic abilities, could see that Casey was both stressed and tired. She noticed him, casting him a glare, and turned to talk to the ground staff member who had just arrived to officially guide Casey and Thenos to the meditation chamber. The member of staff asked Thenos and Casey to follow her.
Once they reached the inner chamber, walking past the ongoing construction of the outer walls, Casey’s expression changed. For a moment, the look that said that this was a waste of her time vanished, and was replaced by one of amazement. The stone that made the chamber was mesmerising. The woman who had been the guide coughed politely, and Casey snapped back to her earlier look. Thenos walked past her to the doors of the meditation chamber, and placed a hand on it. With a single thought he unlocked the doors, and they began to slide open, propelled by the limited telekinetic abilities of the chamber itself. Turning around, Thenos motioned for Casey to enter, and followed after her. Only when the doors closed fully did Casey relax, allowing her scowl to depart her face.
“Thanks,” she said, “I mean, for this. It feels so quiet.”
“That’s because the presence of the other minds in the Unity can’t reach you here,” Thenos explained. There was a pause, then Casey began to speak again.
“It wasn’t easy when you left,” Casey said, “it got worse. You weren’t there to stand up for me. While the rest of our year went to find their place in the Unity, I got left behind. They didn’t even trust me to look after the archives! That’s how useless they thought I was!”
“Yes, I’m sure you are. You flew off and became a Knight in the fleet. I ended up in the fleet too, eventually. They called up crews for suicidal scout missions. They filled crews with criminals and sent them to die. You know what? I was put in the same category as murderers and terrorists, just because I didn’t strive to kill as many enemy civilians as possible. That’s right, I heard about what you did at Tibra. Bombed the planet till nothing remained. I put so much faith in you. You promised to strive for peace, and that was how you honoured your vow? I thought that you had cared about me, about what I thought!”
Casey continued, too upset to stop, “I thought that I could forget out here with this company. Here I could be free, and try not to remember all the promises you failed to keep, but no. The old circus comes to town. The lackeys of the High Psintegrat come and uproot my life again. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mick turned up now an-”
“He’s dead,” Thenos interrupted.
“Mick? No, he said he was going to become an ambassador.”
“He did. The TEC blew his ship to pieces. Oh, and Wilkes is dead. Carthy too. Eva, Tyrell, Hendell, Ella are all dead, along with most of the others. I think that there’s three other survivors from our year at Arla.”
“But, most of them went for planetside, peaceful jobs,” protested Casey.
“Yes, and the TEC nuked them into dust from orbit. Ironic really, that we both went for the most dangerous jobs, and survived. I went into being a ship assassin. My squad died, my old friends died. Come to think of it, the majority of people I’ve been close friends with have all died, and you know what? I don’t think it’s fair. Why did I survive? Why me, who went on to become a captain?” and Thenos began to speak louder, “Why me, who killed so many innocents at Tibra? Why me? What did I do to deserve life more than them?”
There was a pause, as both Thenos and Casey looked embarrassed about their earlier rants.
“I’m sorry,” Thenos said, “it’s not your fault. At Tibra… I felt so angry. I’d just returned from New Carthage, where the Carthage Massacre occurred. So many of our own died then, and I felt like I needed revenge. Only afterwards did I think, did I realise that it was in no way the fault of the civilians. I am so sorry about leaving you behind as well. I had no idea about the suicide mission thing. I thought that you’d be treated decently, and that I could come back to Arla.”
“I’m sorry too,” Casey said, “that I got angry with you. It’s just been so long, and I thought that you’d just forgotten everything I’d said to you on Arla. Thank you for coming back after the entire incident with the conference. I know I acted like an idiot back there.”
“Hey,” Thenos said, smiling in an attempt to lighten up the conversation, “that’s behind us now. So's the High Psintegrat. To cut a long story short, The Collective and I are all outcasts from the Unity. I think that a good plan now would be for me to show you how to test this thing like I was meant to be doing, then we should probably find somewhere where we can get a drink or something. I can fill you in on the details of how I got here then.”
“Yeah,” said Casey, smiling back after looking surprised that Thenos was no longer part of the Unity, “that’s probably the best thing to do. So, how do you do the testing then?”
“Well, you just reach out with your mind. Check the walls of the chamber to see if your mind can slip through. It’s quickest to just fill the chamber with your presence and see if any leaks out. Just stretch out with your…”
Casey, who had closed her eyes in preparation of using her psychic abilities, opened her eyes to see why Thenos was silent now. He was standing motionless, eyes shut. He had discovered the secret of the meditation chamber, and his mind was far beyond his body.
To Be Continued...