Coffee Break Read – Terrible Cost

Now Avilon understood why they were taking such care over his treatment – it was not from any compassion, it was from simple greed. To these people he was not a person: he was livestock – nothing more than an object to be sold.
A thing.
Even to his enemies in the Coalition he was more than that. At least they regarded him as an individual and a human being worthy of hate and fear, if nothing else. Feeling sick in his stomach and his soul, Avilon had one last try: “Tell the Captain I am a Coalition citizen and he will be in a lot of trouble when they come looking for me and my friends – abduction is a capital offence.”
The woman seemed unwilling to repeat his words and did so in halting, uneasy tones. The man shrugged and smiled at her translation as if it amused him. Avilon had hardly expected to be instantly released, but had at least looked for some trace of concern. Even on non-Coalition worlds, its citizens were treated with an overwhelming deference due to the power of the Coalition and simple fear of retaliation.
“The Captain say the ship gone – all other people dead. No one know you live. No one look to find you.”
Before she had finished speaking the man turned on his heel and left.
Avilon closed his eyes, feeling suddenly exhausted. Despite being half-expected, the brutal words hit home like a body blow. There had been over four hundred men and women on the strike mission, many of them well known to him, people he had worked with and fought alongside for years. All he had taken a hand in training. All young, idealistic, with blind-faith in him as their leader. And all dead.
It was a personal wound to his psyche – but greater still was the loss to the Legacy which was everything they had been fighting for and cared about. He could not keep the grief from rising, bitter as bile in his throat, and the primal force of it made a terrible cost on his reserves as he instinctively shifted his emotions to grasp and freeze the tide before it could engulf him.
It was not forgotten – it would never be forgotten. There would be time later to give the grief its due, but for now it must wait. He had no choice. For the sake of all those whose lives had been lost he had to survive – the Legacy’s need of him now could not be any greater.
“Kashlihk? You eat?”
He opened his eyes to shut out the dark within and saw the woman was looking at him, her eyes dull from a too long familiarity with hopelessness and anxiety. She seemed almost overwhelmed by the responsibility of translating for him.
“The Captain say no more drugs. Good food. You get strong. You eat?”
He nodded feeling relieved that he had won that concession at least. If they left him undrugged it would surely only be a matter of time before he could find some chance to free himself. He had no wish to eat in that moment, but his body needed food.

From The Fated Sky part one of Fortune’s Fools Transgressor Trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook

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