Roland's dark secret

Roland’s Dark secret, Major:
by J.J. Carr
Roland was not always my name. I had a different one a lifetime ago. Everything was different before when I had Tim by my side. His parents and mine where old friends who had decided to settle down and start families as next door neighbours. They were thrilled when they found out that they would soon have a pair of baby boys who would grow up as brothers and extend their friendship into the next generation. My earliest memories are of Tim and those memories are the ones I treasure most. We spent most of our time together and everything that he had was mine and my things were his. I don’t want to bore you with my nostalgia but it’s hard to stop thinking about the good times long past once you’ve started. Our favourite game was one we made up ourselves. And when I say made up ourselves I mean we completely ripped it off. We played heroes and villains. We were both heroes of course since the heroes always won the battle and we had enough imagination between the two of us to pretend up some bad guys to fight. Either that or we teamed up against the rest of the neighbourhood’s kids. We were outnumbered but we always had each others back. The hero we most loved to play was a fiction character from a book series. He sailed the blue seas instead of flying in the black nothing and fought to protect the innocent with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. It was that character that spawned the most intense fight I ever had with Tim. We had just finished one of the books and wanted to act it out but we couldn’t decide who would be the main character. We tried flipping coins, taking turns, rock paper scissors, guessing games, games of skill, we even tried getting our parents to decide for us. No chance, they wisely stayed out of that fight, telling us we had to settle it ourselves. Eventually the exchange of harsh words became an exchange of harsh fists. At some point while rolling around the yard we had both grabbed wooden sticks that we had planned to use as swords for the game. We both shouted “en guard” and swung the sticks in one hand while pretending to fire a pistol in the other. The stick swords were crossed in front of us and we each and a finger-gun pointed and each others head with our thumbs cocked and ready to fire. Neither of us said a word. We didn’t know what to say really we had never argued like this before, “Partners?” he asked. I felt relieved “Brothers!” I replied with a smile and a laugh. We realized that it was stupid to be a hero all alone, why would we fight separately when we’re stronger together? We chose to both play as our hero at the same time. The random sticks later became broom handles and our finger-guns became water guns. Later we begged our parents for formal training and while other kids learned how to play piano, ride horses, dance ballet or sing during their after school activities we learned sword fighting and until our arms were numb and gun safety until we could dismantle, clean and reassemble an assault rifle blindfolded. Because that was fun for us, it was a step towards being like our hero. And to be just like our hero we forced ourselves to train with each hand until we were as good as ambidextrous. The other kids at school thought we were crazy but strangely enough we were never bullied. As I look back upon it they were probably just to afraid to pick on the weird kids who had access to swords and firearms. There were two girls our age that didn’t mind us though. Twins actually, and it wasn’t long until the four of us were inseparable. We never had a problem telling Mei and Rou apart and didn’t understand how other people could get them mixed up. It might have been because we treated them as separate individuals rather than identical copies of each other that we got along so well with them. One day when we were all about 10. they informed us that we were now their boyfriends. More specifically that Tim was Rou’s boyfriend and that I was Mei’s boyfriend. Tim and I looked at each other, shrugged and agreed with it since we had been planning to ask them out (In that set of coupling) for weeks but didn’t have the balls to do it. It didn’t change anything much since we were 10 and basically it meant I now openly held Mei’s hand and kissed her sometimes when we could get precious moment alone. I miss those days. We continued to date those girls into our teenage years and schoolyard attraction had blossomed into love. We had kept up the sword and gun training as well and although we didn’t pretend to be a fictional hero anymore we could fight and shoot better than the people who had trained us, and with either hand to boot. I was a better shot than Tim but he was better with a sword than I was. He was even trying to develop a new style of combat aimed specifically at using two swords. There’s more from those years but I’ll skip ahead in the effort of keeping this short (Not that I think it will be) to when Tim and I turned 18. Not that we had the same birthday (Tim was older by 16 days) but it was within the same month so we always had one big party together rather than two smaller parties. Both sets of our parents had us step forward to be presented with birthday gifts from them. They said it was a joint gift and a symbol that the young kids who once fought in the backyard with sticks and finger-guns had now become men. We opened the presents to find a matching sets of masterly crafted swords and incredibly well made pistols. Neither of us could explain how good this made us feel. We had a dream as children and had worked hard and made it a reality. It was and still is without question the best day of my life. Unfortunately now that we were adults we had to actually do something and contribute to society in some career oriented way. As in we had to get jobs. We had no idea what to do, so we went to university. We picked the one the girls were attending so we could be close to them and Tim and I both chose business as a major since we figured it would be easy (I think our exact words were “How hard could it be?”) and maybe it would impress the twins father Ho-Ling, who had built himself a hugely successful company himself from scratch and showed no sign of wanting to retire, even though his fortunes could last generations. Unfortunately for us we really didn’t like university. We didn’t really know why at first either. It wasn’t the structure or the workload, it was nothing compared to the martial training we’d had. It wasn’t the subject, we took many small and entrepreneurial business courses which were actually quite interesting. The people were nice and we made some new friends and we still had time to spend with the twins. Rou was majoring in chemistry and Mei was a biology major, they were both taking the most challenging courses they could, so much of our time together was interrupted by studying, practise tests or running experiments. Maybe we just didn’t like the culture of academia and the stuck up uncaring nature of much of the faculty and staff. It was around this time that we really got to know the twins older brother Lee. We had met him before of course and the girls talked about him sometimes but he hadn’t been more than an acquaintance, Tim and I didn’t know what kind of man he was. It turns out he was a nice if not overly intelligent fellow. He was working for his father as an administrative assistant or some similar title. He was above a personal assistant but lower than his father’s right hand man. Lee was more of a left hand man and Ho-Ling’s right hand didn’t know what his left hand was doing, if you know what I mean. Lee liked to run small quick operations on the side, the first ones were government contracts and small high interest loans he got by using his father’s name and with the company’s influence. After a while he had built a small name for himself and strayed into the grey areas of the law. He never did anything that was obviously illegal or something that could be easily traced back to himself, but he did manage to make a lot of money and never seemed to pay much income tax on any of it. Tim and I couldn’t figure out why he’d pull such shady small time crap when he could be trying to work closer to his father and with the huge company which would have made him more money with less risk. We figured he liked the thrill of more dangerous work and liked having power over people that was outside them realm of corporate business laws. He was good at manipulating people and thinking up schemes but seemed to lack common sense sometimes. He was cunning but not that smart if you get my drift. Tim and I mentioned to him one day that the twins had kicked us out of their room since we’d been distracting them (they were studying) and now we were bored. A glint of something came into his eye and he said that he knew about something that could keep us “entertained”. He said he could find something for us to do that would even let us put our weapon training to good use and were we would never be bored. We knew it couldn’t be legal and politely turned him down. He said the door would always be opened to us if we ever needed a thrill and a pile of cash. Tim and I worked on a group assignment instead and left those thoughts aside. We were required to create a model, small business and research every detail of it’s daily workings and operations, inventory and production or services rendered. It was supposed to be good enough that we could run it as a startup business assuming we had the money. We were going to make a fencing school or a gun shop (Write what you know right?) but the professor told us that those were “too easy” and although it would count as being fully completed (We wouldn’t fail the assignment) it wouldn’t receive a high mark due to it’s “simplicity”. We were not amused when we were told that our passions where simple and that our years of training were easy. We tried asking around the other groups to see what they were writing about, hoping for inspiration ourselves. We noticed a disturbing trend, none of their businesses were producing anything and the few that were providing a service we couldn’t understand what they were doing. Most of the groups were based around “networking”, advertising analysis or quasi legal investing and high interest loan schemes. One of the groups had an interplanetary banking system created that was based around buying up the debt of other banks and then doing something I didn’t understand which somehow equalled profit. That group mentioned they had spent most of their time researching trade laws and ruling out planets where what they were doing was illegal so they didn’t include those planets in their final report. My home planet (The one we were currently standing on) apparently had very strict laws against their “business”. None of the other groups were doing anything that they could be proud of telling people they did. They were only interested in making as much money in the quickest manner possible. We decided to make something simple to spite the professor and something we could be proud of doing to spite our classmates. Thinking of something simple, we thought back to the very basics. What was the oldest business that we could get away with presenting? The oldest profession was out unless we wanted to run a brothel (And to be honest who doesn’t?) so we picked farming. We chose simple pioneer farming as opposed to entirely automated modern agriculture. It was actually much harder than we had anticipated. Everything has to be made and done by hand unless you have work animals (like sheepdogs, oxen or draft horses) to help. Then you have to care for the extra animals as well as everything else. Farmers get up early, go to bed late and work every day or their crops and livestock die. It’s a hard life but every year you can see your crops come up and you can help deliver your animals young and witness the miracle of birth every spring. We agreed on all the details of the model farm except for one, what we would plant. Crops would be rotated annually but we still needed example crops in order to move forward. We argued for days until Rou and Mei became fed up with us and told us to just grow potatoes. We both liked potatoes and they were highly nutritious and extremely calorie dense. So potatoes it was: boiled mashed or stuck in a stew they would be written down and grown at our hypothetical farm. Or not so hypothetical. Tim and I were growing more attached to our imaginary farm than was healthy for our academic careers. More than a few times we had caught ourselves talking about it as if it was a real thing and how it would be a better life than a corporate wage slave. The two things that where holding us back seriously considering becoming farmers was the girls. We didn’t want a life that didn’t have them in it, we couldn’t leave them. Tim couldn’t consider a happy future without Rou and I couldn’t consider a happy rest of my life without Mei. We realized that we were truly in love with the girls and wanted to spend the rest of our lives with them. “Why not go for broke?” we said. Let’s propose a simple life happy life together to them, marriage and a farm. I’d rather not share the romantic details of the proposals those are private memories but the girls loved the ideas and the four of us became engaged. At this point if it isn’t clear there was no “sharing” or “swapping” between us I was only with Mei and Tim was only with Rou. Mei and I’s “private times” were private and so where Tim and Rou’s. Anyway Tim and I were over several moons and a couple of planets in joy over having fiancees. We even enjoyed reminding ourselves that we were getting married. We needed the start up money first before we could be wed and start assembling the farm. Enough for the land, building materials and seed money. It was time to go to Lee with our weapons cleaned and ready. We said we needed as much cash as possible and didn’t mind the risk. He said he had a nice robbery that he was in charge of and would love to have us as muscle. He even offered us a significant advance. Tim asked for my share of the advance so he could start purchasing supplies and “stuff”, I gave it gladly. Lee said the job was simple corporate espionage, stealing some kind of prototype and no one would get hurt. We would be there in case shit hit the fan and they needed backup. So we agreed to the work. Biggest mistake of our lives. We met up with Lee and the rest of his crew. Heabily armed men we didn’t know and were not introduced to. Lee had given us code names to use and was using one himself. We travelled in silence to the corporate office, and just walked in through the front doors. Lee had paid enough guards in advance to turn a blind eye for the few minutes we needed to grab the prototype and leave. Something went wrong though. It wasn’t on my end and if I had to guess it was one of the guards. I guess one of them tried to shake down Lee for more money, mid-heist. Not the best idea, I don’t recommend it to anyone who’s been bribed, just take your money and do what you’ve been paid for. A single shot rang out, then many shots. The guards came at us and we cut them down. It was the first time in my life I had killed a man. It was easier than I thought, just a swing of my sword or the squeeze of my trigger and there way a spray of blood and a human life was permanently ended. My training had taken over and their faces just became targets. Suddenly it was over and Tim and I stood covered in the blood of innocent men killed simply for doing there job and the greed of one of their coworkers. Some of the nameless men on our side were dead, the other nameless men didn’t seem to care. Lee had been shot in the side but was still standing and seemed to be having the time of his life. We headed to the main office and grabbed a fairly large plastic case and bolted out of the building before the Feds showed up. Lee went to pass out in the back of the shuttle turning over command to the largest of the nameless men. The big man looked and us for a second before starting to hand out solid black infantry helmets, grunting that we should put them on. We travelled in silence again and landed outside an abandoned warehouse and proceeded to enter the building. There was a line of heavily armed men waiting for us. They seemed alert but at ease, these were defiantly professionals. A middle aged man in a expensive looking suit stepped out from the shadows. I recognized the man and shot a glance at Tim to see if he was seeing what I was seeing. It was hard to see through the helmet’s blackout visor. Tim gave a slight nod to show it was the indeed Ho-Ling, (Rou, Lee and Mei’s father) whatever was going on it couldn’t be good. Ho-Ling stepped forward, “Do you have the prototype?” he demanded. The large nameless man held the case forward “Do you have the payment?” he growled. Ho-Ling waved forward a grav-cart with an enormous crate full of platinum resting on it. As Ho-Ling picked up the case containing the prototype Tim decide that it was a perfect time to open his big mouth “Aren’t you Ho-Ling the big time CEO guy?” he said deeply trying to disguise his voice. Ho-Ling stopped moving and turned his head slowly towards Tim. Ho-Ling opens his mouth to speak but Tim cuts him off “I think you are Ho-Ling, which is weird because that would make you the CEO of the company we just robbed. Most people don’t go through the trouble of paying a group of mercenaries a huge chest of platinum in order to rob themselves.” he said quickly. I was paralysed by shock since I had not made the connection between the logos in the building and Ho-Ling’s company. I have never wanted to punch Tim in the face more than when he was talking at that moment. I wanted him to shut up right then before he got us all killed. Tim ignored my silent rage and kept talking “If I had to guess I’d say that you’re stealing this prototype to collect said insurance on it.” he was really starting to get rolling “But that’s too small time for a big man like you. I’m guessing that you’re going to plant evidence of the robbery on your main competitor thus removing most of the opposition on the market. Best of all you never even lose the prototype and are free to come up with it again in a few months after your competitor is out of the picture. How right am I?” he finishes with a satisfied voice. Ho-Ling looks strangely pleased “Not bad for a mercenary I should marry you off to one of my daughters and finally have a son that I’m proud of”. My blood ran cold and I knew at that moment what Ho-Ling thought of Tim, Lee and I. Nothing. A long second goes by “Oh yeah?” Tim says in a voice full of forced calm “Tell me about it.”. Ho-Ling’s face turns to a snarl “My daughters are foolishly in love with a pair gun loving, knife fighters who are far below their stature. Soon I’ll have to correct them of their mistake and marry them to men of influence and power. Whether they can fall out of love on their own or I have to arrange a little falling for them. My son is a competent businessman who is squandering his talents as a lowlife scum and bum loan shark. I would rather have a thug with at least half a brain like you for a son than the one I have now. Or God forbid the ones my daughters might marry.” he said with hatred punctuating every word. I heard a slight chuckle come from Tim’s helmet as he began to raise his hands, “Well you are going to have a half brained, gun loving, knife fighter like me for a son Ho-Ling.” he said while calmly removing his helmet, “Because Rou’s agreed to marry me.” Tim continued with a big smile on his face. Rather than sucker punching him right in the face like every bit of common sense screamed too I did the exact opposite and took off my own helmet, “And Mei’s agreed to marry me too…FATHER!” I said because I was apparently feeling suicidal. Every man in the room had their eyes glued to us. Ho-Lings men look rather amused and our nameless teammates faces were concealed (helmets) but were no doubt looking on in horror. “KILL THEM” Ho-Ling yelled his voice echoing in the empty warehouse. His men weren’t sure if he meant Tim and I specifically or our whole team so they decided to play it safe and opened fire on our whole squad. We dropped our helmets and joined our nameless, faceless teammates in trying to kill the other side’s guys before they killed us. Our swords sliced and our pistols flashed as we slaughtered more men. For two kids who’d never killed before it was chilling how easily we took to the bloody work. By some miracle we managed not to get shot, Tim even blocked a couple of bullets with his sword somehow. The gunfire was deafening and I could hear the screams of men on both sides going down. It was a good thing that Tim and I were off to the side of the line up, (beings rookies they tried to keep us to the side so we wouldn’t get in the way or have to interact with the employer) we were able to find some cover and sneak quickly around behind their line of goons. As their last man slumped down dead I realized that I last lost track of Ho-Ling. I mentioned this to Tim who said that Ho-Ling didn’t seem to be on the ground anywhere so maybe he was alive and hiding. We walked towards the chest of platinum where it was more well lit, thinking he might see us and give himself away. Two of the nameless men from our side were still alive and mostly unharmed. They were crouching next to the large nameless man who had been in charge. Most of his neck had been blown off and his head was barely still attached to the rest of him. His pupils moved, looking towards me and I saw the spark of life leave his eyes. The nameless man to his left said something that I couldn’t catch and closed the corpses eyes. The second man had noticed us and grunted for his partner to look up. The first man had removed his helmet at some point after the battle and I could see the anger evident on his face, “YOU’RE RESPONSIBLE!” he screamed as they both levelled their weapons at us and began firing. They were angry and careless, they didn’t take the time to aim while they shot. We did, and two new corpses joined the corpse with no neck. We heard a clattering sound behind us behind a line of barrels. My gun was empty so I told Tim to fire off a warning shot while I yell to whoever it was to come out slowly. He fired his pistol and before I could yell he muttered “I hope this works that was my last bullet.” I was looking at him incredulously when I saw a figure rise out from the barrels out of the corner of my eye. It was Ho-Ling, but he seemed to be hurt. He was holding his right forearm with his left hand and had a pained expression on his face. The barrels prevented us from seeing lower than his elbows but it was possible he’d been shot as he tried to escape. We put away our weapons and began to walk towards him “Is it true?” he yelled out, “Did the girls really agree to marry you? Or were you lying to me?” his words seemed forced like he was waiting for something. “It’s true.” Tim yelled “And we’re all going to a new planet to become farmers and be happy and free from you!” he finished, sounding quite pleased with himself. From something in Ho-Ling’s hand, came a slight flash of green light, whatever it was was still concealed by the barrels. A calm spread over his face “You boys are troublesome, brash and stupid. You came close to messing up this operation but I still have the means to finish the job. You were right by the way Tom, I guess even stupid boys get lucky every so often.” a smirk broke the calmness of his face. Tim who didn’t miss a beat said “My name’s Tim and I only get lucky when Rou’s around. Dad.” which was amazingly disrespectful but kind of funny at the same time. Ho-Ling’s calm face exploded in rage as he raised up his right arm which was holding what must have been the prototype. It looked like a nightmare of cybertechnology had replaced his arm with a large black cannon. I didn’t get more than a second to guess at what it was before Ho-Ling began screaming. His face a poster for unbridled rage opened it’s mouth, “YOU WILL NEVER!…” the rest of his words were drowned out from the sound of the arm cannon firing. A laser beam the size of a dinner plate erupted from the arm cannon hitting the ground behind me. Time moved slowly as I watched the red beam of light cut through my best and oldest friend. I smelled barbeque as the beam came up from Tim’s foot along the inside of his leg reaching his crotch and going straight up cutting him in two. He put out his hands to try to block the beam and lost them at the elbows. In the span of two seconds Tim went from being healthy and whole to being a pair of arms and legs and seared abdominal sides. Both sides fell to the group in a mess of ash and burned flesh. He didn’t even get a chance to scream it was so fast. I howled in indescribable rage and pulled my gun and just kept pulling the trigger not caring how carefully placed my aim was as long as it killed him. The clicks of my completely empty gun reminded me that I hadn’t had any bullets left since my last shootout. I dropped the gun and dove to the remnants of Tim to grab his gun. It should be his gun to to it after all. It would serve as poetic justice. Except Tim’s gun was empty too, his last round served as the warning shot. The smell of burned skin was overpowering but I welcomed it along with the anger that accompanied it. I drew Tim’s still intact sword of of it’s sheath and charged at Ho-Ling with nothing but vengeance on my mind. He seems to be struggling with the cannon, it was glowing red and venting steam. It was either out of power or overheating. Not that I was really thought much about it at the time. I was planning on killing him even if it meant my death as well. Drawing my own sword on the run I let loose a roar and leap over the barrels blocking me from my goal. Ho-Ling backed up in fear desperately clawing at the cannon trying to get it off of his arm. He managed to undo some sort of latch letting the prototype fall to the ground with a heavy clank “Please don’t kill me, I’m unarmed!” he whimpered as he backed into a support beam. Tim was dead I wouldn’t have cared if he was holding a basket full of puppies and I only had a flamethrower, he had to die. I charged him, my swords low and level with their target. I was close enough to see the fear in the eyes. The fear of vengeance. The closer I got the slower time seemed to flow, I was within range of him when it began to crawl. I knew I had the choice to not kill him now. I could spare him if I chose to. I didn’t make that choice. Tim’s sword entered Ho-Ling’s body first. It went in under the ribcage on his right side and angled up and to his left through his body impaling his beating heart on his other side. My sword entered a fraction of a second later on his left side, angled up and to his right passing through tissue, organs and muscle. The blades passed through gaps in the rear of his ribcage and pinned him to the wooden support beam behind him. I had no words and could only let loose a roar of righteous fury as Tim was avenged. I heard a scream and my rage addled mind couldn’t understand why Ho-Ling’s mouth wasn’t moving even though I heard him scream. It must have been him there was no one left alive anywhere. Ho-Ling was as good as dead, his goons were dead, the nameless men were dead…..Even Tim was dead. In my mind I saw him being vaporized again and with all my strength I took hold of the swords and twisted them as far as I could. I heard him gurgle in pain as blood poured into his lungs. His ribs bent and snapped where the blades has passed flat between the individual ribs and were being twisted vertically. I heard more screaming accompanied by loud popping noises that were oddly familiar. A wave of cold reality cut through the blood lust, the popping noise was gunfire. I was being shot at. A man was running towards me while shouting incoherently and spraying rounds from an automatic pistol in my general direction. As he got closer a ball of ice formed deep in my belly… Oh-no. No it couldn’t be. I stood frozen in terror and shame. I remembered feeling that that before. I was young and had gotten into a fight at school, I broke a kid’s nose (he deserved it no need to go into detail) it was the feeling of being caught red handed doing something you know was wrong. I felt that way until my father picked me up from the school and we had a “chat”. This was worse, this was more than a schoolyard rumble and it was more than some teacher catching me in the yard. It was a feeling beyond anything I can convey with words. Because I knew who was shooting at me. It was Lee. I had forgotten than he stayed in the shuttle to rest and then I forgot how to do anything. I couldn’t explain, I couldn’t move I couldn’t even try to dodge or defend myself. I was standing next to the dangling skewered corpse of his obviously murdered father. There was no excuse in the world that would satisfy him. He was trying to reload his submachine gun on the run and only succeeded in jamming the mechanism. He tossed it away and ran at me full speed his fist pulled back intending to punch me with the force of his charge. I could see the bandage on his side where his bullet wound had been patched up, it wasn’t life threatening but he was in a lot of pain when I’d last saw him in the shuttle. I decided to use it against him. I let Lee get close enough and sidestepped his obvious punch and hit him directly in the wound as he charged by. He fell to the ground clutching the white bandage which was tinged with red. I stepped over him and clapped the palms of my hands over his both ears hard, knocking him out cold. “I’m sorry Lee.” I say to the unconscious man “He brought it on himself.” I whisper pathetically, hoping for forgiveness. I walk back to Ho-Ling’s corpse and yank the swords out of the carcass letting it fall in a bloody heap. I Wiped the swords off on his very expensive suit slowly and methodically, thinking of what to do now. Tim was dead, it hit me again like a wave of pain and grief. The anger and adrenaline had all been used up and now there was only loss. I sheath my sword and walk back to the ship, picking up the prototype on the way. I leave the arm cannon in a corner of the shuttle and grab two large plastic garbage bags from a dispenser. “Forgive me” I whisper as I shove pieces of what used to be my friend into a garbage bag. It turned out I only needed one, there wasn’t much left to collect. The laser vaporized most of him. There wasn’t as much blood as I had expected either, the laser had cauterized as it cut. I brought the makeshift body bag to the grav-cart holding the chest of platinum and pushed it all into the shuttle. I had no plans, no future, I was operating solely in the time I was in. As I sat in the cockpit the autopilot’s feminine voice pipes up and asks where I’d like to travel in a tone all to seductive for a machine to use. Without thinking I say the name of the company that was (at the time) Ho-Ling’s main competitor for new weapons technology. I debarked with the prototype strapped to my arm and take the elevator to the penthouse office. There I made a deal with a devil. The man would pay me ten times the value of the chest of platinum as well of the chest of platinum itself in credits and use that money set up two trust funds that would collect interest for five years then pay out. One fund for my parents and one for Tim’s. Both funds exactly equal in amounts. Everything had to be equal. Tim would have haunted me if I had followed my instincts and gave everything to his parents out of guilt. I would also receive a new and completely legitimate identity and passage to a rim planet so I could start a new life. In return I would hand over the working prototype weapon and the knowledge that the driving force behind their biggest competitor was dead. The deal was struck and the man only asked one question. “What do you want your new name to be?” he said “You obviously can’t use the one you have now.” I didn’t know what to pick. My first thought was to pick Tim as a name but I didn’t think I could live with the pain, besides it was his name not mine. Someone had already taken his life, I wouldn’t take his name to add insult to death. I thought of all the names I had ever heard in my life from stereotypically common to completely unique and none of them were right. I needed a name that meant something to me. Something from the good times when Tim and I were young and without cares. I then remembered that even when we were young we had some bad times. Why our biggest fight was when we were small and arguing over who would be….. “Roland” I said in a clear voice, “My name is now Roland Deschain. ” it was a good name and signified the hero that fought with a gun in one hand and a sword in the other. The hero we idolized and that neither of us turned out to be. While the arrangements were being made to leave the planet in a few hours I went to bury Tim’s remains in a forest that we had one visited. I removed what was left of the things in his pockets and put them in mine without looking at them. I have already started wearing his weapons as well as my own, a trend I continue to this day. I gathered stones and made a cairn over the grave to keep out the animals but left no tombstone or grave markings. They’re not needed, I’ll never forget where he is. In an act of regret for what could have been I purchased a few potatoes and a garden bunk while I still had access to core world technology. I would still grow the one thing we had agreed to plant. So I left my whole world. I couldn’t face Rou or Mei I was too much of a coward and didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t look his parents in the eyes and tell them their only son is dead. I couldn’t take my own parents, I was too afraid. I couldn’t explain myself to Lee. He had trusted us, even supported us marrying his sisters and I had betrayed him. So I left it all behind and ran away like a scared child who had broken a lamp. That’s my dark secret, I’m not Roland, my name doesn’t mean “hero”. I’m just a coward who ran away from his problems and who’s still running. Lee spread word through his network of lowlifes and employees about his version of the events. My description followed me around and it wasn’t long before the name Roland became synonymous with “butcher”. I have never tried to contact anyone from my old life. I don’t even know if my own parents are still alive. What would I say after six years? What could I say? I would only put them in danger anyway. Lee’s took over his father’s position as CEO and wants me dead. I try to stay away from the core and have never set foot on my home planet since leaving. I miss Mei every day and sometimes catch myself about to call her on the cortex. I never finishing dialling though. I would only hurt her by contacting her. How could she still love me after what I did? Sometimes I tell myself she’s moved on and happy now. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. It’s not all bad though, I still laugh sometimes. I laughed on the trip to that first rim planet not 24 hours after Tim was killed. It was Tim made me laugh actually. I guess it was his parting gift for me, his last laugh. I was sitting in the common room of the passenger ship and reached into my pocket. I pulled out an unfamiliar piece of paper and realized I must have taken it from Tim’s pocket before I buried him. I couldn’t believe it when I read it. I stated chuckling as I read the title and the first paragraph had me laughing out loud. The second paragraph had me rolling on the floor and I wasn’t even reading it anymore. I began laughing hysterically shouting Tim’s final punchline over and over. Because as you see the paper was an ownership paper, a deed in fact. My best friend, my adopted brother, my true companion had decided to surprise me and took our advance money and went ahead with our plan. The late Timothy Francis Kelly had bought the farm.

Roland's dark secret

Adventures in the 'Verse JJC