The Maker is book 3 in my sci-fi series. Shakazhan is a mysterious planet, virtually forgotten by every civilization. Rumors and fables circulate, but no one realizes that the myths and legends are true. The planet is really an artificial construct, made by some long forgotten race. In essence, a giant, living computer, it must be repaired and reset.
When doing just that, Wil, Matilda, Marc & Ben must chase an escaped prisoner. Unfortunately, he gets away from them, and they end up running for their lives. To their horror, Matilda, pregnant with her first child, falls into a bottomless chasm. In his grief, Wil is inconsolable. His friends do their best to break his dour mood.
Wil said nothing as he turned and walked out the door, setting the privacy light as he left. He meant what he said, he wouldn’t leave without Marc. He realized without his wife he was vulnerable. He needed someone he could trust to back him up. He gathered a few things he would need, then ported to Anvil. He was looking for a way to spend the next couple hours.
Wil’s feet led him to the bridge, where Ben was taking report. Glancing up, he saw Wil and stopped talking. He tried to smile normally, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t admit to Wil or anyone else how dear Matilda was to him. Next to Emme, she was the only other woman he truly loved.
The pain in Ben’s eyes made Wil stop and look at him in a different way. To him, Ben had always been as hard assed as he was, tough, beyond pain, an iron man. To see him obviously suffering kind of put a whole new spin on their relationship. Right then, he felt more like a father than he ever had in his life. Giving in to an impulse, grabbed Ben in a bone crushing embrace.
No one thought it was strange. All the women on the bridge had been wanting to hug Ben morning, just to make him feel better. No one knew quite how to treat Wil. How did you talk to a man whose wife had been killed? What did you say?
Ben worked his way free, Wil’s arms like a vice around him, holding to him like a life line. Ben didn’t want to disengage, but he couldn’t breathe. He wasn’t sure what to say any more than his crew was. He couldn’t act normally, but he didn’t want to say all the standard things either. There was nothing anyone could do to ease the pain and sense of incredible loss. But to let it pass unnoticed was unforgivable.
“How are you doing?”
Wil sighed deeply, running his hand through his hair. His dark eyes were troubled.
“I’m almost done here. Do you want to go work out, maybe hit the heavy bag? I could stand a good beating today and Ray’s busy.”
He tossed it out as a casual invitation, hoping Wil would accept. They both needed a release from the tension. He felt it in himself and could read it in every line of Wil’s face.
Wil tried to grin. “I could use a good ass whipping. Yeah, we can meet in what, ten minutes or so?”
As he headed down the long, empty corridors, he had a compulsion, to go on planet. He had to wait for Marc. He had promised him a couple of hours alone with his wife. Considering how dangerous the planet was, it might be the last two hours they ever had together.
He found himself praying quietly, “Dear God, please don’t let anything happen to him, for the sake of his family.”
The heavy bag hung in the deserted gym. He noticed that Anvil had added a few other items he liked to work with. He found his staff, a banderatta and another weapon he had bought on Primos. It was sort of a cross between a bullwhip and a club. The handle was short, stout and made for mace work. The other end was longer and supple like a whip. He hadn’t used one of those in ages. What was it called? Frowning, he felt the name was right above his eyes, trying to surface, but for once his memory let him down.
“I can’t even think straight,” said aloud. He hadn’t heard Ben come in, but wasn’t startled by his reply.
“I can only imagine how you must feel, Wil. Like you have a hole right through your heart.”
Wil couldn’t speak in reply. Instead, he hit the heavy bag, landing a series of blows on it so rapidly, he was a blur. Ben moved into position to hold the bag for him, but Wil shook his head, motioning him away.
The percussive volley of punches and kicks played a staccato tune, like machine gun fire on a battlefield. Ben couldn’t even follow Wil’s movements anymore. They melded into one dark cloud, like a tornado passing. The bag grew hot under the onslaught, but Wil kept hitting it until his hands were numb from the impact. Breathing heavily, not from exertion so much as emotion, he stopped the swinging of the bag with one hand. Leaning on it, his face close to the hot leather, it seared his skin.
Ben stood near Wil, arms folded, eyeing the bag critically. “I’m glad that you didn’t hit me like that. I can take a lot of abuse, but even I couldn’t have lived through that.” Ben picked up a whiplike weapon, weighing it, feeling it’s balance.
“I didn’t know you used these. Don’t see them often any more, they quit making them about thirty years ago.”
“Yeah, I got that about fifty-three years ago. I can’t remember what the damn thing is called.”
Ben eyed the weapon critically. “It’s got a lot of names, I always called it a snake-hammer, but it is officially known as a shnack-haueter.”
Wil’s frown turned to a smile of enlightenment. “Oh, yeah! I remember now. I got it in the Primos bazaar. This really gorgeous girl was selling them, so I bought a couple. Made a good excuse to talk to her. She was so hot, she made my skin sizzle.” He grinned happily as Ben handed it back to him. “Hey, you’re from around there, aren’t you, Ben?”
Ben’s nod was curt, his brow raised. His expression was unreadable, even to Wil. “I grew up around these. My mother’s family made them for centuries. They stopped when her father died. She sold them in the bazaar.” His statement hung in the air between them like an accusation.
Wil’s face clouded. “Oh, God, Ben. I’m such an asshole. You’re going to hate me when I tell you, I can’t remember her name.”
He turned away from his son, hanging his head sadly. Ben clapped a work hardened hand on his shoulder that would have brought a normal man down.
“She couldn’t remember your name either. She just told me you had the most incredible eyes she’d ever seen, black as night and deeper than a well. That was how she described them. One look and she fell into those eyes. She said I looked a lot like you.” He pretended to be offended. “God, what an insult!”
Wil examined at him, unsure of how to respond. Ben’s mother had been dead several years, he knew and never married.
“Was she happy?”
“Very happy. I had a great childhood and a wonderful family. Where I came from, it wasn’t a big deal for a woman to have children by different men and never marry. I didn’t grow up like Riley.”
“Ben,” Wil hesitated, not knowing how to continue. “What was her name?” It was a plaintive request, odd coming from Wil, but it was important to him.
Ben smiled sympathetically. “Her name was Elisicia.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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