“Gery, I need to talk to you.”

Gery turned and looked at his CEO. The man had been like a brother to him since he’d joined the corp nearly a year ago. The troubled expression on his face told volumes. “What is it?”

The CEO sat down across from Gery and looked him right in the eyes. “The war is over.”

Gery sat frozen for a minute, then his eyes went wide. “What? No.”

“The alliance voted on it this morning. Both sides want it to end. We’ve all lost enough and with all the other alliances moving into this space, we can’t afford to fight each other. The devil you know and all.”

“They killed my son.”

“I know. That’s why I wanted - ”

“They killed my son! They…” Gery trailed off, then hung his head and began to weep.

Gery’s ship sat immobile, watching an empty asteroid field. He expected nothing to appear. His crew expected nothing, except maybe the newest recruits. They knew their captain was a man driven not by money, or power, or excitement. They didn’t know what drove him, they just knew he paid, and that was all that mattered.

“Captain, we’ve got a transmission.”

“Open it,” Gery answered. Seconds later, the message appeared in his mind. His contacts had found him, finally. Jeraiah Mank, the CEO of the executor corporation of the alliance that had killed his son. Mank had been piloting the dreadnought that laid waste to the control tower Gery’s son had been working on.

“We’re going to Emrayur,” Gery told his crew. With a brief thought, the ship began to turn and align for a star gate. Seconds later, it was hurtling through the void.

Gery didn’t tell the crew anything. It wasn’t their business. They were to simply wait for him at the docking ring. He would return eventually, he told them. But his business on board was private.

Breaking into Mank’s quarters was simple. A few bribes to station security was enough to get the access codes. The place was surprisingly utilitarian. There were no fancy ornaments, no grandiose displays of the wealth Mank had accumulated over the years as leader of an alliance. Gery smirked to himself. The place was cold and empty, existing only out of necessity, not want.

Gery waited and, eventually, Mank arrived home. Gery pointed the gun at him and Mank slowly raised his hands. “And who are you?” Mank asked.

“You killed my son,” Gery said. “He was on board a control tower when you destroyed it.”

“I have destroyed a lot of control towers. You will have to be more specific,” Mank said, a simple matter of fact.

“Three years ago. Your alliance attacked ours without provocation. You led the assault from your dreadnought! You killed him. You!”

“Ah. That war,” Mank said. “Yes, I remember it. So, I killed your son? A lot of people died in that war. Even me. More than once, actually.”

Gery’s hand quivered some. “It doesn’t matter. You killed my son. Not someone else’s son. My son. You won’t get away this time. You’ll pay.”

Mank laughed, finally showing some emotion. “By being killed? Interesting. Well, go ahead.”

Gery narrowed his eyes. “Why aren’t you afraid?”

“Afraid of what? Dying?” Mank shook his head and lowered his arms, finally. “I’ve died dozens of times. Maybe hundreds. I’ve lost count by now.”

“You’re not in a pod this time.”

“No, I’m not. I’m retired. Don’t do the pod thing any more. Got tired of it. Got tired of the killing, you see. But I’ve still got clones backed up.”

Gery’s hand lowered slightly. “But…” Then he raised it again. “You’ll still forget. And you’ll always be wondering when I might come hit you next!”

Mank shrugged. “I’ll forget this entire meeting. I won’t even know you exist.” Gery’s hand fell again. “You didn’t think this through very much, did you?”

“Shut up.”

Mank laughed once more, a hard clipped laugh. “It doesn’t matter, of course. Even if I did remember, I would just be laughing the entire time. I’d never be sitting there, wondering if you were just around the corner. When I saw you, I’d laugh.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a capsuleer too. Beyond mortality. But you’ve tied yourself so thoroughly to the old concepts of life and death. You’d only ever manage to make yourself a furrier on a wheel, endlessly running in place and wearing yourself out.”

“No, I…” But Gery could not manage an answer.

Mank walked forward and Gery raised his gun, but Mank simply placed his hand on it and pushed it down. “It’s alright. I can understand the quest for vengeance. But you’ll find none here.”

“Revenge is all I have,” Gery muttered. “I can’t… What will I live for if not that?.”

Mank shrugged. “I can’t answer that for you. But whatever you chose, at least it will be meaningful. Live for the memory of your son. You’re a capsuleer. You’d probably have outlived him even if I didn’t kill him.”

Gery looked down at his hands and the gun he held. He clenched his eyes shut. “No… No, revenge is all I had. And you took that away too.”

Mank shook his head. “I didn’t take anything. I simply illuminated things for you.”

“I’ve lived for the past three years just to kill you.”

Mank laughed. “Really? I haven’t been hard to find these past three years. You must not have been trying very hard.”

“It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters any more. Not now. You’ve taken it all away from me.” Gery raised the gun and pointed it right at Mank’s head.

“Really?” Mank asked. “After all this, you’re still going to kill me? Knowing what you know?”

“No,” Gery said. He pulled the trigger and Mank crumpled to the ground, blood pouring from the wound that was once his skull.

He looked down at the body and felt just as hollow as Mank said he would. There was no joy there. Even now, light years away, Mank was waking up in a new body with slight confusion, but no fear or knowledge of what had happened to him.

Gery walked out of the apartment and headed for the elevators. He went inside and directed himself toward the garbage disposal section.

When he arrived, he walked briskly to the biological waste disposal section and stood over the machine that pulped all food waste into fertilizer. He stuck the gun in his mouth, pulled the trigger, and toppled in.

His eyes opened. Thick, slimy fluid was slowly draining away from him. He opened his mouth to scream, but only managed a mouthful of it. When it was finally gone and he spit it out, he had calmed.

“What happened?” he asked.

“You have been cloned,” the technician said.

“I can see that. What happened to me? I don’t remember a thing.”

“According to the biomonitoring implant, you suffered a fatal gunshot wound out of the pod. You have been cloned to your last mind scan.”

“How much time have I lost?”

The technician looked at a data pad. “About a week.”

“A week,”he said. “Where was I when I died?”

“According to logs, Emrayur.”

He nodded and stood. “I wonder why I was in Emrayur?” he asked out loud. The technician was disinterested enough not to answer his rhetorical. “It doesn’t matter. None of this matters.”

“Of course, Mr. Gery.”

“If I died, it must mean Mank got away again. I’ll kill that bastard. I’ll have my revenge!”

“Of course, Mr. Gery. The spare clothes are in the other room.”

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