A part of him warned that this would end in annoyance at best, suffering at worst, but he was too committed to back off now.
“Why didn’t you wait for the react team, Benson?” Atriya walked towards the sergeant, murderous light shining from his eyes.
“Time was short, and we had an officer’s life at—”
“Spare me. We were ordered over the net to hold our position and wait for react.” Atriya’s words were clipped and short.
Benson arched an eyebrow, “I understand your concerns, Kishchan, but our actions ended up saving—”
“Our actions ended up burying our teammates. We were cowboying it in that building while you left some kid in charge—some kid who was less than a week out of the academy. The officer—that fucking numbskull we were trying to save, according to your bullshit story—told us over the net that he was secure. He had a squad with him and plenty of ammo—not just the two guys you mentioned, you lying fuck. He’d called for react so he could get support from a mobility-enhanced platoon, not from two jerkoffs slinging pistols.
“I heard later that our guys panicked and couldn’t direct accurate fire onto the enemy. And surprise surprise: the landing zone was too hot for react. Our reinforcements got chopped to bits when they tried to make their insert. Because we weren’t there to guide our squad.” Atriya was on the verge of screaming.
He kept going. “As for our guys? The dumb fucks that looked up to you? Every one of ’em zeroed in a Dissident rush. Was it worth it?” Atriya stepped forward and shoved Benson in the chest, sending the Enforcer stumbling back. “Was it fucking worth it?” The Crusader’s voice was high and dangerous, brimming with unstable anger.
Two of Benson’s goons wrapped themselves around Atriya’s arms, holding him in place. The other one inserted himself between Atriya and Benson.
The sergeant seemed unruffled by the outburst. “Those who fell that day made a noble sacrifice. What else would you have had me—”
“I would have had you follow orders and use some common fucking sense! Oh, and I like how you tell it as if you did the reload correctly and I pulled you up too hard. As if the real story wasn’t that you forgot to call out and let me know your clip was in. As if you didn’t knock us both ass-backwards when you stood up by yourself.” Atriya strained against his captors’ grips, but was beginning to relax. Being able to express the truth eased his maddening urge to eviscerate Benson. “Our squad died because of your stupidity, and you almost got the two of us wasted because you’re a sloppy fuck.” Atriya was calming down, the anger within him dimming to a hot smolder. The two holding onto him must have sensed it; they cautiously let up on their grip.
Benson coolly replied, “Not how command saw it.” He tapped the medal lying on his chest.
Atriya sneered. “Right. As if nobody knows that you haven’t been sucking Admin’s dick for just this type of circumstance. I’m sure the events surrounding your medal were given an honest and uncompromising review.” Dripping sarcasm.
Atriya and Benson stared each other down.
As the two faced off and the seconds stretched, Benson carefully assessed Atriya. Something shifted behind the sergeant’s eyes, and his expression became a little meaner. A little more malevolent.
“Look Kishchan, I’m sorry you feel this way—” Conciliatory, reasonable tone.
You’re so full of shit, Atriya thought.
“—but we were all under a lot of stress, and the op went sideways at regiment level, not just for our guys. Dozens of platoons were taking casualties. I heard that even the Crew lost a few. Wraiths weren’t just waving their swords around and scaring the locals, they actually had to get in there and fuck shit up. Hell, they had to use Apex as a tactical asset, instead of him doing the standard thing where he pushes around some dumbass harvesters.”
Benson was telling the truth: that day, fighting Dissidents in Scape 31 had been unusually hellacious.
Wraiths were Echo’s premiere super soldiers, although that phrase failed to fully describe the breadth of their power. They weren’t soldiers so much as walking bombs. They were by and large symbolic, despite costing the Regime the rough equivalent of a dozen cityscapes’ gross energy output. There were only three of them—though there were urban legends of a fourth—because they were insanely expensive to build and maintain.
The highest ranking one, Apex, was capable of planet-wide devastation. Typically, he’d be used to scare off-world Dissidents into backing down and letting harvesters go about their business. The fact that he’d had to be utilized for practical effect—instead of simply being used to strike fear into the enemy—was significant. It wasn’t unheard of, but it was very, very rare.
Benson finished up with, “You and I are still alive. And for that, I thank the Judge.” He kissed the ring on his finger. It looked like a shiny white oval with a small part of it—the underside—colored black. That part was shaped like a slim crescent, giving the glossy white portion the appearance of a waxing moon, one that was close to being full.
The other three kissed their rings, murmuring, “Praise be to the Judge. White over black. Always and forever.” It was the formal response to Benson’s invocation.
Atriya wore no ring. They were a symbol of the religious fanatics known as the Jury; a group of fundamentalists that specialized in condemning any they judged as “faithless.” A vocal minority of them would intimidate the less fortunate into paying “tithes,” as well as lauding the Jury in public forums. Jurors that didn’t function as outright thugs would rave about the Judge to all who would listen. Interestingly enough, they never mentioned the acts of violence committed by their own; silent endorsement was their modus operandi.
Atriya felt uneasy as he watched them pay their tributes. He wouldn’t be at all surprised if these men were the type of Jurors that liked to “collect tithes.”
The four of them finished the ritual and stared as one at Atriya. Benson’s eyes weren’t assessing him anymore; they now shined with something closer to predatory calculation.
Atriya shifted his eyes left, then right, taking in his surroundings. To his rear was an alley that dead-ended after ten, maybe fifteen yards. The four in front of him had fanned out, blocking the way forward and cutting off his exit.
Benson stepped closer. “Kishchan, I understand that you disagree with official policy. Fine—agree to disagree. What matters is that under official record, events transpired as I’ve described them. There’s nothing either of us can do to change that. Let’s put it all behind us, huh? It’s been years since it happened.”
Atriya suspected Benson was up to something.
Fuck it. Just get out of here.
As the Crusader prepared to shoulder past James, Benson spoke up.
“You know, after that whole episode in Scape 31, I knew that a greater power was looking out for me. There was no other explanation for how we got out alive. I felt I had to give back; to contribute…and later that night, I realized how I could. I’m sure you’ve noticed the ring on my hand. Being a Juror was my way of thanking the Judge…thanking him for getting me through that fucked up day. The thing is, he got you through it too. And while I may look the other way when it comes to you disrespecting the Department, I can’t do that with the Judge. I’m going to have to insist that you pay tribute and kiss your ring.”
“You know I’m not a Juror. I don’t have a fucking ring.”
Benson’s smile, already carnivorous, went further up the spectrum: it became positively reptilian. “Oh that’s all right Atriya, you can use mine.” He stuck his hand out. “Kiss the ring and pay tribute.”
Tersely: “Not a chance.”
One of the underlings piped up. “Sergeant, when I was holding his arms I noticed he didn’t have his linkup on.”
Goddammit. No way to scare them off now.
“Really?” Benson cocked an eyebrow. “That’s sloppy…even for you, Kishchan. Crew guys and linkups are like babies and pacifiers. If you asked me—”
“I didn’t.” Atriya bit the words out.
Unruffled, Benson went on. “—and I was Crew? Hell, I’d never take that damn thing off. Even without your guns, you can still fight like a motherfucker juiced on brain boosts and hormone dumps.”
Atriya stayed silent, his body humming with pre-fight jitters. He had gotten to the point where he wished somebody would just hit him. He enjoyed the violence of a physical assault—the purity of it—but the cat and mouse bullshit that preceded a fight was something that grated on his nerves.
He waited for his cue. These were no longer men; they were pieces of meat. All he needed was an excuse to start hurting them.
“Last chance, Kishchan. Kiss the ring or—”
And there it was. Atriya launched forward, smacking James’s nose with the heel of his palm. James wasn’t ready for it, and the surprise hit brought tears to his eyes, just like Atriya knew it would. The junior Enforcer’s hands flew up to cover his face. Atriya was counting on that as well. He closed with James—to give the other three a more confusing target—and pried one of the fingers away from the man’s nose.
He tightened his grip on the finger, then matter-of-factly bent it backwards. He bore down on the digit as hard as he could, and was rewarded with a stomach-churning pop.
James screamed and shrank back. Atriya let him go and saw the Enforcer holding the wrist of his injured hand. The hand was shaking, and the index finger now branched sideways at a grotesque angle.
Knuckles thumped against the back of his skull. Even though Atriya was too adrenalized to register pain, he experienced a flash of lightheadedness and knew that he’d taken damage. He turned and barreled into his new attacker, trying to disrupt the sense of spacing the four of them might get if he remained stationary.
By nature, the qualities that made Atriya formidable were his explosiveness and aggression. He was a little taller than average and solidly built, which made him effective in a fight due to a decent amount of inherent mass. The thing that made him truly frightening, however, was his ability to snap out forceful strikes in rapid succession. Every one of his hits had knockout power, and he could throw them all with the speed of a jab. Verus had tried to clarify that talent by training him to focus on an opponent’s rhythm, as well as teaching him the finer points of redirecting momentum and energy. Her lessons didn’t take. Though he enjoyed learning about leverage and timing, and how a fight needn’t be won through sheer brutality, he would revert to being a raging powder keg whenever he was pushed.
His new opponent was feeling every bit of that ingrained volatility as Atriya clinched, tucked his head, and drove the man deeper into the alley. Atriya’s assailant let out a gasp of surprise and backpedaled, trying to stay upright and gain purchase with his feet. It was no use; the Crusader moved as if his entire body was a giant, fast-twitch muscle.
They smacked against a wall. As Atriya’s antagonist rebounded off of it, the Crusader launched forward, driving hard with his legs so he could throw a head butt using all of his body weight. There was a loud, painful-sounding thunk as Atriya’s forehead crushed nasal cartilage. The man screamed and crumpled to the ground, clutching at his face. Fresh blood streamed through his fingers.
Atriya knew there were two uninjured threats somewhere behind him. He stepped in the direction that was opposite to where he’d seen them last and swiveled, hoping to catch them in his line of sight and simultaneously grab some space.
As he was turning he felt a sharp slice of pain skim across his side: the fresh sting of a paper cut, only on a larger scale. His brain registered that he’d been attacked with a blade, and the general direction of it. He blindly shoved out toward the attack and was lucky; he connected with a body and pushed it back.
As his perception caught up to the action, he saw that Benson, James, and Smith had drawn knives and were leaning forward, ready to close with him. Benson’s knife was decorated with a smear of blood, marking him as the one that had tagged Atriya. The sight triggered a fresh wave of fury in the Crusader’s mind.
Going to make sure he regrets that.
The guy he’d head-butted was getting to his feet. Atriya had done some damage, but hadn’t taken him out. James looked like he had recovered from the broken finger—at least enough to fight—and from the way he was handling his knife, it seemed that his uninjured hand was his dominant one.
Fuck. Should have gone for the other hand.
Benson and his goons weren’t attacking, just hemming Atriya in. Maybe they wanted to intimidate him with their knives. Maybe they were afraid to rush him after seeing how aggressive he was. Whatever the case might have been, the Crusader was grateful for the space. It gave him the chance to reach in his jacket and draw his baton.
The weapon made a dry, metallic click as it extended outward.
His gut told him not to go for his revolver, not yet. They might have ranged weapons. Don’t escalate. He was hoping they were still trying to intimidate him. It didn’t look like de-escalation was possible…but still. No need to turn a street fight into a shooting gallery.
There was also a part of him that was enjoying this. He didn’t want to spoil the fun with a firefight.
“Kishchan.” That was Benson. He sounded wheezy. Fat fuck. “All I’m asking is that you pay tribute to the Judge. Kiss the ring. It’s the God-fearing thing to do. The right thing to do.”
Atriya put effort into slowing his breath. You have room. Shake off the tunnel vision. Assess. His eyes darted back and forth as well as up and down, searching for an advantage he might have missed. Nothing. He was going to have to scare them off or beat them into submission.
Wet warmth leaked down his side. Blood from the knife slash. It didn’t feel deep, but he felt anger flare up at the idea that his jacket had been damaged. An irrational thought, given the circumstances, but at this point his mind was churning through hundreds of impressions, and not all of them were logical.
Eyes front. His four attackers had fanned out into a loose half-circle. Behind them, pedestrians on the street gave the scene a nervous glance before scurrying along. They saw conflict and wanted no part of it.
Benson was talking, but the Crusader wasn’t listening. Atriya was studying the body language of his four opponents, trying to gauge whether they were going to back off or keep pressing.
Seconds passed. Benson was still running his mouth. His goons stayed where they were.
Wait for it.
Atriya didn’t register what Benson shouted—probably something along the lines of “Fucking get him!”—but he was ready for what happened next. The four came at him. James—the one with the mangled off-hand—led the charge, the pain of his broken finger momentarily forgotten.
Atriya tightened his grip on the baton.
The Crusader half-hopped, half-skipped backwards. As he did so, he exploded into a vicious turn, one where his right hand—which had been cocked to the rear—now whipped towards his front. Force was generated by the rotation of his torso as well as a quick drop in posture, while the backwards hop allowed him to properly distance the end of his weapon.
Its metal nub connected with the outer edge of bone surrounding James’s eye, exploding the Enforcer’s face into a bloody, pulpy mess. James crumpled to the ground, knocked cold and in need of an operating room.
Happy reconstructive surgery, motherfucker.
The second guy, the one whose name Atriya hadn’t yet heard, followed right behind—too close for Atriya to effectively swing at him. So the Crusader executed a short uppercut with the handle of his baton, catching guy number two on the end of his chin. Atriya followed up by shuffling forward, smashing the man square in the eye socket with the butt of his weapon in a staccato thrusting motion. Even though it was short range, the move generated enough force to knock the man’s head back and angle it toward the sky. Asshole number two covered his injured eye and stumbled away.
Smith, the one who had served as a stupid prop in the sergeant’s lecture on urban tactics, was next in line. He piled on top of Atriya while Benson stayed slightly behind, trying to maneuver into the Crusader’s blind spot.
Of course. No surprise that Benson was leading from the rear.
Smith wrapped Atriya’s right arm—the baton arm—with his left, trying to hug him close and use his knife. Atriya caught Smith’s knife arm at the elbow, keeping the blade away from his ribs. This prevented Atriya from getting cut, but both of the Crusader’s arms were now immobilized. He flicked his eyes over Smith’s shoulder. Benson was slipping left, sliding in to take advantage of the stalemate.
Need to get out of this or he’s going to fucking stab me.
Atriya brute-forced Smith so that the Enforcer’s body lurched in front of Benson and served as a temporary barrier. He grunted with the strain of it.
Acting on instinct, the Crusader leaned forward and bit down on Smith’s ear, grinding his teeth at the base of the lobe. He heard a pleasing series of pops as cartilage broke and shredded. This was accompanied by a rough yell of pain, which sent a visceral flash of pleasure down Atriya’s spine. Even more satisfying was when Smith loosened his hold and tried to move backward.
Don’t think so, dickhead. Atriya moved with him, maintaining the tight press of their bodies. He circled Smith’s shoulder with his right arm while using his left hand to maintain control of Smith’s knife arm. As Smith let up completely, Atriya swiveled towards the alley and pedaled hard. They hit a wall, and the jarring impact caused both of them to drop their weapons.
Got a chance to put him down. Make it count.
Atriya shot his right arm under Smith’s, using it to brace his enemy’s tricep over his bicep. The Enforcer’s elbow was now bent at ninety degrees. Atriya wrapped both hands around the top of Smith’s hand, bending it at the wrist.
If not for the gritty context of the scene, the trapped hand would have looked exactly like the stereotypical bent-arm wrist flick assigned to the weak and the frivolous. The silhouette of the Enforcer’s contorted arm would have resembled that of a goose, with Atriya’s hands wrapped around the top of the “head,” and the “belly”—or the bottom side of Smith’s arm—pressed against the top of Atriya’s bicep, preventing the Enforcer from lowering the limb and relieving the pressure of the compliance hold.
Atriya let up on his grip for an instant—so he could generate a jerky little bounce and surprise Smith into loosening up—and squeezed hard with both hands, forcing Smith’s trapped hand to bend at an angle that was far past what a wrist would naturally allow. There was a gristly crack—the sound of snapping ligaments. Smith’s palm was now forced to lay flat against his inner wrist. The younger man screamed, then began to blubber and shake.
Good. Atriya grinned fiercely. I hope your rehab sucks. He was struck by a flash of pride; small joint manipulation was not in his usual repertoire. It was more refined than his typical grab-bag of strength-reliant techniques. Verus would have approved.
He set himself up to execute a shoulder throw, tracing a small circle with his left foot so that his hips opened and had room to torque. The Crusader bowed forward, bucked his waist, and launched Smith up and over.
The Enforcer sailed in a graceful arc around Atriya’s shoulder and smashed into Benson, now coming in for another attempt at a stab. Both men tumbled backwards, bouncing across the pavement like ragged scraps of trash.
Benson scrabbled backwards on his hands. He sat partway up and reached for the small of his back.
Atriya’s mind flashed with alarm. Gun.
Atriya had practiced his draw (as assiduously as he practiced everything else), and smoothly whipped his hand into his jacket. As his revolver came out, his fingers intertwined around its grip. His feet squared up and gripped the ground, and his arms punched out and assumed the just-right mix of straightness and bend. The Crusader had a good, solid shooting stance. Benson had pulled his pistol…but the muzzle wasn’t even pointing in Atriya’s direction.
The sergeant was beat and he knew it.
Atriya knew it too.
“Drop the gun, fucker.” The Crusader had gotten a bead on Benson, but his eyes were flicking from side to side, making sure that all threats were accounted for.
Benson complied. His pistol clattered as it hit the pavement.
Atriya spoke forcefully: “You know how this goes. No sudden moves. Spread eagle, face down. Point your head and hands away from the weapon. Inch away from it—slowly. I see your elbows or knees bend too much and I will put a fucking hole in you. Stay low. Keep moving until I say stop.”
Once again, Benson complied. The sergeant inched away, scooting across the ground centimeter by centimeter, pulling with his elbows and knees.
“Move. Move. Move. Move. STOP.” Atriya’s directions left no room for ambiguity.
The sergeant was now a safe distance from the pistol. Atriya, mostly on the balls of his feet, shuffled smoothly over to where it lay. He kicked the sergeant’s weapon to his left, creating enough room so he could bend down, pick up the gun, and still have a chance to shoot if Benson sprang up at him. It was a controlled kick; the gun never left his field of vision.
He crouched, retrieved the pistol, and stowed it in the back of his waistband. He put his off-hand back on his revolver and reassumed a shooting stance.
Atriya assessed the other three Enforcers. One was unconscious and lying on the ground, his face jutting at odd angles from shattered bone. He looked like he’d been struck by a wrecking ball.
The other was sitting—crying and clutching his snapped wrist. The third guy was lying prone, holding his eye socket, where the butt end of Atriya’s baton had opened a free-flowing cut on the surface of his eye. Good. Atriya was secure and in control. For a little while, at least.
“Shit,” Benson wheezed. His voice was slightly muffled due to the fact that his cheek was pressed against the street. “We were just asking you to be respectful—to show reverence to the Judge. You didn’t have to—”
“Shut the fuck up.” Atriya snarled. His eyes caught on the four discarded knives.
Be thorough. Get rid of them.
The Crusader used his feet to herd the knives over to a gutter, careful not to wander too close to Benson or his goons. He punted one of them into the gutter.
Benson turned his head toward Atriya, dismay writ large on his face. “Hey! What’re you—”
“I said shut the fuck up! Face on the ground!” The Crusader booted two more knives into the gutter.
He was about to get rid of the fourth when Benson spoke again. This time his tone was pathetic and simpering. The words were also clearer than when he’d last spoken; the dumb shit had turned his face to the side, so he could see what the Crusader was doing.
Fat fuck can’t follow orders, even when I’m beating his worthless ass.
Benson mewled, “Kishchan man, you don’t have to do that. Give me back my knife—I paid a fortune for it. It’s the one with the Judge’s emblem.”
Atriya looked at the weapon lying by his feet. On the crosspiece—where the blade met the handle—there was a large, gaudy symbol of the Judge. Its manufacturer had used a highly polished stone inlay that depicted the mostly white oval atop a slim crescent of black.
The material was nice, but the symbol took up a disproportionate amount of space on the weapon, creating an ostentatious look that demanded attention; a kind of cloying appeal that carried a hidden threat: Keep watching me, flattering me…or I’ll turn on you and hurt you.
Atriya also saw that it was constructed with a charged plasma edge, one that was currently deactivated. It was the low-end kind, more for appearance than for function. Cheap plasma blades would light up and look intimidating—the charge around the knife would look big and colorful—but they weren’t capable of inflicting any damage beyond a weak burn. Low-grade plasma couldn’t cut anything, and it certainly couldn’t hurt anyone. Additionally, because weak-charge knives compromised light discipline, their colorful glow was worse than useless.
High-grade plasma knives carried a black light charge that—aside from the shimmer of heated air that surrounded their edge—was invisible without enhanced optics. A good charge hugged a blade, and was hot to the point that it could cut through material without needing to use the metal edge of the weapon. The alloy on a decent plasma blade had to be specially treated, as well as threaded with hardened nanotech. Very dangerous, and very expensive.
Benson’s knife was the exact opposite: a cheap piece of shit you might flash around to impress drunks that didn’t know better, or were too smashed to care. Maybe not cheap in the literal sense, but cheap in every way that mattered. Cheaply constructed, cheaply designed…just fucking cheap.
Looking at the weapon incensed Atriya. The knife represented two of his lifelong hatreds: garish showboating and glorification of the Jury. He was averse to the first activity simply because it conflicted with his personal aesthetic, while his aversion to the second was born from a lifetime of bullying. The Jury was part of Echo’s hierarchy; if your parents weren’t members, then a good chunk of hell was forced on you throughout your childhood. It was something that Atriya had firsthand experience with.
He booted the knife down the gutter, watching the Judge’s symbol flash and disappear as it spun into a concrete void. Fuck you Benson. He heard a moan of dismay from the Enforcer sergeant. The sound triggered a pleasant shiver that resonated outward from Atriya’s gut.
“You know Benson, if you spent more time at the gym or the range—instead of yapping about the fucking Judge and showing off your stupid fucking medal—you wouldn’t be so goddamned fat and pathetic.” Atriya’s tone was conversational. He had never been a Commitment instructor, but he was still well versed in the ways of cruelty.
He scanned the others lying on the ground, then his surroundings. People were passing by as if nothing was happening. No changes, no threats. Still secure. He turned back to Benson.
“I mean, what the fuck? Pandering to kids fresh out of training? Riding the coattails of your fake-ass commendation? Truth be told, it’s not the fact that people fall for your lies; that’s not what gets to me. People are people—meaning there’s always idiots who lap up shit and swear that it’s sugar—no, what bugs me is that so many of them buy your bullshit.”
Confident he was safe, Atriya holstered his revolver and picked up his baton. He checked to make sure that Benson was still spread-eagled on the pavement.
“Keep your hands exactly where they are, shitbag.”
The sergeant shifted, his fingers curling inwards. “What are you—”
“HANDS, motherfucker!” Atriya put bass into his voice. It was a practiced weapon—when done correctly, it struck someone with the force of a physical blow, even if the person on the receiving end had experienced it before. Despite its forcible effect (Benson flinched and complied) there was no anger in the command; it was simply a tool garnered from practice.
Atriya gripped his baton. “Let me hear the Judge’s prayer, you bloated fuck.”
“Pray, you piece of shit. And you know goddamn well my name’s Atriya.”
Benson began mumbling into the ground. “All praise the Judge. He who teaches us white over black, good over evil. What is sacred and what is vile. Avert thine eyes and worship his Righteousness. All praise the Judge.”
As Benson finished, Atriya swung his baton in a vicious, downward arc. The nub at the end cracked against the back of Benson’s outstretched hand. The fact that the hand was flush to the ground meant that it absorbed every bit of incoming force.
Benson screamed and rolled to the side, clutching his bludgeoned hand with his uninjured one. For an instant, Atriya could see the outlines of bones under the traumatized skin; he could see they were pointing in the wrong directions.
The unsightly jags disappeared from view as the sergeant’s battered flesh swelled with angry, purplish grey. Benson began crying in gasping, undignified wails.
Atriya stood over the Enforcer, grinning harshly down at him. “See Sergeant, I have my own version of a prayer. It comes from Old Earth—from a man named Thucydides. Want to hear it?”
The sergeant was bawling like a baby, loosely grasping his quivering hand. Streamers of snot were leaking down his nose. He was lost in a world of pain, and gave no sign that he’d registered what Atriya had said.
The Crusader shook his head, conveying disappointment.
“Seems like you wouldn’t appreciate it in your current state. But hey—say hello to the rest of the Jury for me, will you?” Atriya dropped his weight and rotated, the motion harmonizing with his ankles, his knees, his hips…it traveled to his shoulders, through his arms, and sent the end of his baton crashing into Benson’s uninjured hand. The sergeant screamed louder than he had before—Atriya didn’t believe it was possible until he heard it—and curled into a fetal position, both hands shaking in front of his chest.
After taking a long moment to drink in the welcome sight of a miserable and crippled Benson, Atriya exited the alley, making sure to keep his beaten enemies within view. When he was a safe distance away, he turned his back and began walking. As he did so, the quote from Thucydides echoed through his mind:
He is best who is trained in the severest school.
Thinking of it, the Crusader couldn’t help but smile.
Want to know what I was thinking while I wrote this? Click here: Chapter 5 author’s notes
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