What do you know is true?
Jack was alive.
Todd scowled at the med bay ceiling. The mixture of human and Mosari machines surrounding his sickbed made a discordant symphony as they worked to heal his many wounds. The doctors had been optimistic that he wouldn’t lose his arm, but it would be weeks yet before he could see field duty again.
Weeks. How long had Fae known about Jack? She hadn’t seem surprised when he told her he’d learned his brother was still alive and in the hands of their enemy. He’d thought those soldiers were just toying with him, using his brother’s death as another blade to torture him with. His addled mind hadn’t considered how they knew Jack’s name, just that he wasn’t going to give in to their methods of extraction. He had refused to betray her.
And yet, Fae had known. She had used Jack as motivation for Todd. “Do it for Jack.” “What would Jack think?” She had betrayed him and now Jack was out of his reach.
The soft whisper of an automatic door sliding open pulled his attention from the smooth tiles overhead. He relaxed when he saw it was not Fae. “You could freeze a small planet with that glower.” Tarathiel hobbled to the chair at Todd’s side. “I am glad to see you finally awake.”
Todd softened his face for the tech. “Should you be out of bed yourself?”
Tar waved a hand dismissively. “My wounds were not so severe as yours. And I’m only alive because of you. That is twice now you have saved my life.”
“What can I say?” he grunted as his attempt at a nonchalant shrug jolted his broken ribs. “Being the princess’s right hand man has given me a bit of a Hero Complex.” Todd forced a grin through the pain but Tar’s face was unreadable. The man rarely registered any emotion on his face, but even so Todd sensed that his joke had fallen flat.
“You should not have risked yourself so,” Tar sighed. “Not for someone like me,” he added softly. Todd was sure he wasn’t meant to hear that.
He struggled to prop himself up on his elbows so he could face the Mosari scientist. His right arm burned, but he was pleased to discover it would support even this much of his weight. “Tarathiel, I will never leave a man behind. You are part of my team.”
“We are all replaceable,” Tar replied, straining to stand as he placed his hands on Todd’s shoulders, forcing him to lie back down. “You are the exception. King, you do not realize how important you are to the Princess’s plans. You must have faith in her.”
Todd grimaced. “How can I trust her, Tar? She lied to me. You know what I learned while I was hanging by my heels in that sweltering container? My brother is alive. Jack is alive and Fae knew but never told me!”
Sympathy flashed across Tarathiel’s face for the barest of moments before it returned to its usual stoniness. “If the princess kept this from you, she had her reasons. To the best of my understanding though, she learned it much the same time you did. Our mission was a success, after all.” He squeezed Todd’s shoulders. “This intel changes nothing. We are still fighting a war and we must still follow the orders we are given. You must not do anything reckless now.”
Todd’s jaw took on a stubborn set. “I’m not reckless,” he muttered.
“Of course not,” Tar sighed, releasing Todd and settling back into the chair at his side. “You just leap into the fire and worry about the burns after.” He fixed Todd with a hard stare. “You must trust Faelurion to end this war so that you can bring your brother home. She is the only one who can deal with Veralis, but she needs your full support to pull it off.”
Todd resumed his inspection of the ceiling tiles. He did not want to talk about Fae or her plans. The only thing that ran through his mind was the fact that Jack was alive. And he had wasted four years of his life fighting instead of looking for his brother. That was the most bitter truth of all.
Notes: Look! Todd’s back! During NaNoWriMo I worked a bit on expanding the story with my alien invasion plot and characters. Tarathiel is one of those new characters that appeared during that time. He’s Mosari, and part of the rebellion, and also part of Todd’s squad. Oh yeah, Todd has a squad now. That was a super fun scene to write, and I really enjoy all the new characters I’ve created. King is his codename. I had intended this scene to go a little bit differently, with Tar giving a far more pragmatic explanation for Fae’s actions as he sees them, but this still fit his personality.
I had written a prompt back over the summer where Fae tells Todd about Jack, but when I went to write for NaNo I changed how that comes about. Namely, the manner in which the intelligence comes to her is a direct result of a mission Todd and his squad execute, though it goes awry toward the end and Todd winds up at the mercy of the Empress’s ground forces after managing to save Tar’s life. There’s a lot more of this story to be fleshed out, but I haven’t really touched it since November and it was nice to get back to Todd after a short while away.
I’ve got nothing else for you tonight. Tomorrow’s post will be a little different. Keep up the good work on these prompts! I have faith in you!