1-poolAFNL0dE

the wake

“General Mathias Altair. Hero of the World Union. Order of Peacemakers. Order of Excellence. Order of Valour. May he live forever.”

“May he live forever,” the small chapel mutters back at Secretary Asaju.

“Staff Sergeant Soren Altair. Hero of the World Union. Order of Valour. May he live forever.”

“May he live forever,” the stark mass of black suits and white uniforms mutter back.

“The deeds of these two great men will echo through history as tales of courage and glory,” Asaju speaks, his white uniform glowing in the chapel window’s tall sunbeams, his medals gleaming. “And in spirit, their imprints upon this world shall never die.” Two coffins linger behind him, wreaths and flowers peppered all around.

Alex stares down at his white walking cane. Would love to stand up. The chapel’s old wooden chairs are uncomfortable. Leg going numb again. But now’s not a good time—standing up is a big, long process for him.

“Let us raise our glasses,” Asaju smiles, holding his sparkling wine high up in the sunlight. “In honor of their lives. In honor of their sacrifice for us. Their sacrifice for Alexis,” Asaju nods down from his sunny podium. Alex flips a solemn smile back. “Their sacrifice for the world.”

“I don’t have a glass,” Alex speaks up into Murphy’s mind. “Am I supposed to just keep sitting here?”

Murphy looks down from his raised glass to Alex. “Aye, we’ll wrap up here soon,” his thoughts ring out into Alex. “Your leg okay?”

“Getting sore again,” Alex grumbles. “As long as I can get up to stretch soon, I’ll be fine.”

“We must now fight to keep this peace that they forfeited their lives for,” Asaju goes on. “Though we have laid down arms against ourselves—against our brothers, our sisters, our families and friends alike—we must now fight to defend this world against our own creations, the devils of our own desires.”

Alex sees why his father and Asaju were so close-knit—both men are deeply obsessed with war and peace. Even in elegy, Asaju can’t speak about anything except the war and keeping the peace.

“To General Altair! To Staff Sergeant Altair!” Asaju bellows out from the head of the room, raising his glass to the sun. “And to the new world their hands have helped us forge!”

“To the new world!” All the suits and uniforms chant back.

Rows of shining crystal glasses rise into the air. Hushed sips fill the quiet little chapel.

Cold morning air creeps in through the wooden rafters.

A long, dignified pause.

Some hands lock in prayer.

Other hands fold in silence.

Asaju clears his throat. “General Altair and Staff Sergeant Altair are survived by Commander Altair,” he nods at Alex. “At this point, I would like to invite Commander Altair to present him with token of remembrance that we have prepared.”

Alex sighs. This didn’t come up during rehearsal. His legs are sleepy, filled with static. He clutches his cane. He pushes one leg into the floor with all his strength, carefully leans into the white cane, focuses on moving the other leg, muscles tighten, neck stiffens, his crisp white uniform shaking and ruffling as he trembles to his feet, Murphy rising alongside him, offering a helping hand, but Alex brushes him off.

“I’m fine,” Alex mutters as he hobbles over to Asaju’s podium. The two black coffins lie in wake behind the towering Supreme General. Asaju holds out his arms, gently brings Alex into his pressed white uniform and holds him strong.

“I’m so sorry, my boy,” Asaju sighs. “I know this is not what was meant to be.” He pats Alex’s back before slowly backing away. “But we keep going.”

“We keep going,” Alex nods.

Asaju leans down the wreaths at the foot of the coffins, picks up a heavy display case filled with gold and silver medals. Murphy steps in to help hold up the case to Alex:

 

 

Asaju salutes. Alex salutes in turn. The tiny uniform-filled chapel falls silent in prayer.

“Their souls live on,” Asaju whispers down to Alex. “Somewhere in the vast cloud, the noble souls of your father, your brother—your mother and aunt, too—they all remain in spirit.”

Alex leans up from his cane, leg filling with static, foot going numb again. Too tired. Brain going numb again. Too many feelings. Too many thoughts.

“Thank you,” Alex mutters.

“One day, Alexis,” Asaju nods. “One day, my boy, we will have the power to give form to them again. But until that day, we must fight.”

Asaju’s glowing face fades into a blur. The quiet chapel lies still in reflection. Notice pops up in Alex’s dazed eyes:

> WARNING! SENSORY OVERLOAD

> Error in cluster.01(global_module=4-4B-83C-29983.23)

> Supervisor intervention required

The knowing old hand of Murphy glides onto his shoulder, softly whisks Alex back to his seat.

Some time passes. Some more words are said. But Alex fades out. Soft white light all around the room, more and more lights all around the room as Medea’s hormone capsules open themselves into Alex’s veins.

“Just sit still sweetie,” her voice pours into Alex’s brain. “We’ll go home soon.”

Alex smiles and nods in her seat as the men around her all get up and begin to softly speak.

“Lieutenant Al-Asiri,” an English accent echoes off to her side. “Secretary Asaju tells me they’ll be shipping you up to Hudson.”

The white lights hum and dim and hum and dim as her vision slowly comes back online.

“Asaju introduced me General Altair when he first took over the Hudson Complex,” a Russian voice mutters amongst the blurry crowd. “Brilliant man. Scary. But brilliant.”

“All the isolation up there must’ve made him—”

“Commander Altair!” Asaju’s voice cuts in as Alex’s eyesight pops back into focus. “Son of Mathias and brother of Soren. The First Commander.” Asaju grins at the two generals walking alongside him, nods down at Alex. “You’ve become something of a hero amongst your father’s admirers.”

“The legend in the flesh,” one of the generals salutes with a solemn smile. “An honor to meet you, Commander Altair. My deepest condolences for your loss.”

“General Stone,” Asaju introduces the stiff, white-suited man as Alex salutes in return. “He collaborated with your father and I quite often during the War.”

“Stone?” Alex raises an eyebrow. “You were part of our mission during . . . the Event. Weren’t you?”

Asaju glances back at the coffins and nods. “Indeed he was. General Stone commands some of the most advanced security systems in the world. A true grandmaster of cyber strategy.”

“Thank you,” General Stone nods, glancing back at the coffins with a smirk. “Though Altair was always a far better biologist than I.”

“The repairs are coming along well?” Asaju smiles down at Murphy and Alex, pointing at Alex’s cane.

“Might still take a year or two to get him back to battle-ready,” Murphy nods. “But he’s healing fast. All kinds of modules flipping back into hyperperformant each week. Anyone else would’ve been cooked, I mean it’s quite a miracle really, some of the lads down in neurosec say that might even—”

“How are you feeling, Alexis?” Asaju places a strong hand on his shoulder. “You look quite tired.”

“I am,” Alex sighs. “The healing is slow.”

“I understand.” Asaju pats him tenderly. “Perhaps you and Murphy should then make leave soon.”

“Aye,” Murphy says. “Alex needs quite a lot of rest still.”

“Commander Altair,” General Stone pops in. “Before you go, I would just like you to know that your service would be invaluable for a new security agency we are building called Global Command.”

Asaju flashes a stern glare at Stone. “The boy is tired, General Stone. He has lost everyone. Another day.”

“The son of another friend of ours has agreed to join Global Command,” Stone explains to Alex. “I believe you might know him? Carson Cole?”

“Carson?” Alex’s eyes light up. “Yes, I know Carson.”

“Something to consider,” Stone smiles. “But for now, please take all the time you need to rest and heal.”

Alex’s arm quivers. His cane feels so heavy. His legs feel so sleepy. He stares down at his own white uniform and all his shining medals. He doesn’t quite know what he did to deserve all of themAeschylus made sure to lock all of those memories up. But he must keep going.

What other choice does he have?