Eurelian slowly descended from his sleeping perch. He let gravity pull him to the floor, relishing the stretch of his transversospinals and longissimus dorsi. He hung there for several minutes, cataloging every ache and pain. Some were sharp, some were dull, and all of them carried a story. He made his way to his full-length mirror. He was in fine shape for his age. He flexed and admired how tight his skin was, how shiny his scutes were, despite the deep scaring. A hero’s body, he chuckled to himself. He grabbed his tablet, thought better of it and replaced it in its dock. He needed to be with his thoughts.
His world had achieved peace. Well, the kind of peace that local law enforcement or the military could protect. The time for spectacle heroics was at an end. Citywide battles with alien enemies—that chapter was closed. Eurelian was sure that the citizens, and the government, were happy that wholescale civic destruction in the name of protecting freedom was a thing of the past. Those in the construction trades were probably pretty angry. My antics provided them all with some measure of wealth, he muttered to himself.
Looking out the window of his cloaked penthouse, he couldn’t stave off the emotions. Not for lack of trying. His heart swelled. He loved his world, but he loved his adopted city with everything he was. He knew every alley, every nook, he even knew what shops had the freshest meals on which days. His knowledge and adoration of the city was matchless. But then the melancholy inserted itself.
He saw the corner where little Gryal was crushed by a transport. He focused on where thirteen disaster response workers were killed because he was careless in his execution of heroics.
He tapped the window to bring up multiple screens.
These screens were linked to a worldwide satellite and oceanic surveillance network, a network he formerly used to spot and respond to crime and discord. Now what good were they? The world no longer needed him and he no longer needed this detection system. The people had rendered him a relic. A highly regarded relic, but a relic nonetheless. And this detection system had turned him into nothing more than a voyeur. He felt cold and instructed the house system to increase the temperature by fifteen degrees. He heard the humidifiers working and immediately felt the much needed warm moisture fill the room. Thunder pealed, and he wondered which was more the storm, his thoughts, or the morning sky.
As he did daily for the past two cycles, Eurelian closed his eyes and recited the names of all the dead that were either directly or indirectly killed because of his actions. For the past six cycles, a new name has been added to the list: Samuel Cragmont. He doubted if he was pronouncing the name correctly, as the language of Samuel Cragmont’s species was very difficult to master. He carefully formed the name in his mind and uttered it towards the city he so loved: Samuel Cragmont. You deserved better.
+ + +
He did not expect to end his legacy this way: something of an afterthought. Not so much vilified by his people as turned into a kind of living landmark. Acknowledged on special or holy days, then immediately forgotten. Anger was not worth it. Neither was sadness. Eurelian entertained the idea that he was nothing more than a tool. No different than a machine that built the interconnected habitats of his city. Shaking his head, to dissipate the negative thoughts and feelings, he went to his armory. He stared at the massive door and envied its stillness.
The code was an impossibly complicated one. He felt his mind reach and stretch for the correct combination of symbols, tones, and gestures. He was old, but not that old. But as of late, his once coral-sharp mind had gotten a little murky. Past events were a little harder to recall. He found himself in rooms of his home, with no knowledge of how he got there. But his heroism, his rescues, were always there. He could recall the days and times of each of his exploits. He could recall these instances down to the barometric pressure.
His armory door swung slowly open. He inhaled deeply, and felt immediately at peace. Every manner of weapon, every form of rescue equipment lined the vault. These were meaningless compared to what occupied the center. His armor shone with a magnificent iridescence.
This was his second skin, almost as much of a partner to him as Kulyai was, may the deep keep him.
Eurelian completed the painstaking ritual of cleaning and polishing his armor—event though it had not been utilized for over three cycles. He donned the armor and felt flush with bravery and the desire to serve. His honor, integrity, and power magnified by the inter-linked scales. He hefted his limpet-toothed spear and despaired that there was no one to fight, no one to rescue. The mid-day chime sounded and it was time for him to leave. He walked towards his private aqua-way entrance. He keyed in the opening sequence but stopped. He recognized the day for what is was: a day for glory and remembrance. He opened one of his windows and climbed outside of his habitat.
The storm had subsided and the suns barely pieced the clouds. But the light that did shine through turned Eurelian into an enormous ball of multicolored-colored light. He roared. He roared again. He continued to roar until all eyes were on him. He had just exposed here he lived, where he plotted his war agains those who would harm this city’s, this world’s citizens. He didn’t care. He had given so much. They would recognize him for who he was, and for who he continues to be. He jumped.
The wind barely eased his descent, and he relished the feeling. Moisture collected on his face, and he refused to wipe it away. He felt truly alive. He executed several mid-air rolls to the astonishment of the growing audience. He landed deftly and lightly. He did not feel a day over his two-hundred cycles.
The now enormous audience erupted with cheers and applause. He stood to his full height and let the love and appreciation erase his melancholy. He raised his spear and there was a near-immediate hush.
“My people,” Eurelain boomed. “I require mere moments of your time. If you will, please join me in our square.” No second request was needed. En masse, they moved to the city’s center.
Instead of taking an intra-city aqua-tube, Eurelian moved on the surface, among his people. By the time they reached the center, the crowed numbered in the hundreds, with a hundred more news-drones hovering about . The slithering, seething mass of his people filled him with gratitude. They split as he made his way to the announcer’s terrace, situated at the exact center of the city. He wound his way up the terrace, and motioned to the crowed. They cheered him, but it was not as robust as he was used to receiving.
He made a cutting motion with his spear and the crowd fell quiet.
Eurelian gave himself several moment to steady, to collect his gently drifting mind. He forced his thoughts to coalesce. He noticed that this a little harder than it was earlier. He slowly knocked his spear against his armored tail three times. He did it again, this time more rapidly. Three by three. The cycles the dead took to fully pass-on and the level of the sub-sea they settled. Once again, he pulled himself to his full height. When he did this, there were few in the entire world who were as big.
He cleared his throat and intoned the names of the dead. All of those who were either directly or indirectly killed by him, Eurelian uttered their names with intention. After each name, the amassed crowd expressed their collective condolences. There were a lot of names. Sixty-one cycles he had served the world, had served his city, his people, but the cost had been steep. When the crowd thought he had completed this ritual, Eurelian forced himself to preach the name of his former partner, Kulyai. Kulyai was not the most recent death, but his as the final name secured his place of honor in the sub-sea.
The crowd waited for a respectful moment and then slowly began to disperse.
“Samuel Cragmont,” Eurelian said, though his sibilance made it difficult. The crowed stopped and reconvened. They were reverent moments before. Now, they were angry. There were shouts how including the mind-fighter’s name was dishonorable and robbed the dead of esteem. A mother lifted her hatchling to show where Samuel Cragmont’s telekinetic grasp had crushed its skull.
“Silence,” Eurelian ordered.
“He deserves our respect. He was different. He was from a reality white different than our own. Instead of trying to help him, when we could to understand his communications, we immediately labeled him as hostile. We did not take the time to learn his language or his ways.”
No one said a word.
“Samuel Cragmont was a warrior and will be honored as such. How many of you would have survived his homeland, for as long as he survived ours? He hurt us. He killed some of us. I will take his responsibility for that. If I had not been so concerned with being your protector, your hero, more of us would be alive today, We may have found a way to return him to his place. But it was easier for you and for me to label him a threat and wage the most epic and glorious battles.”
He left from the announcer’s terrace and strode into the crowd.
“I have spent time in sadness that you no longer needed me. The shining hero, once beloved, is now to be put away like all weapons during peace time. Now, as I stand here before you, I understand the wisdom of this. My time has passed. I have no mate, no hatchlings. All I have are scars and stories and fading memories.”
Eurelain’s mind stretched and bent in a multitude of directions. He felt sick and stifled. He started discarding his armor. When he was done, he snapped his spear in half. He smiles, roared, and launched into the air. He cleared a quarter of the width of the city before he landed, roughly, in the kelp beds. A harvester drifted over to him and offered him a hand into her skiff. He was disoriented, but took the proffered.
“That was a…landing,” she said. Here scales were of the most beautiful pattern. Eurelian had never seen anything like it.
Supine on the skiff, Eurelian stared unblinkingly at the twin suns.