Jacques de Ris awoke with a start to find himself being dragged along in a semi upright position by two men.
“Stop. He’s awake. Drop him,” came a voice.
The two men dropped Jacques to the icy ground. He was bruised badly by this, but it was no worse than the bad beating he had taken when his leaper had been shot down. His swelled eyes were only partly open, but he could still see a pair of black boots stomping through the snow towards him. They stopped less than a meter from his face. An arm with a long, flowing tattoo of a lizard reached down and pulled him to his feet.
“De Ris?” asked the man, who had cold yellow eyes and a corpselike face.
“Oui,” Jacques said quietly, nodding his head.
Though the man seemed American he began to speak in satisfactory French.
“I’m called Basilisk,” he said, “I’m Claw, in case you were wondering, and not an ally of yours.”
“Colonel?” asked one of Basilisk’s men.
“Shut up, you idiot! We’ll rejoin the Imps later!” he hissed in English, then turning back to de Ris, “That’s all you need to know about me. I know a lot more about you, though. You’ve a leaper gunner since the start of the war and you were a tank gunner before that. You were at Perpignan amongst others. You’re not married, almost no family...I could go on.”
“No need to,” the French major said.
“The reason I’m interested in you, you see, is that you seem to be quite adept in the use of guns. I have found in my short time on this planet that man is quite obsessed with power. However, the attainment of power is a long and arduous process. In fact, it is a self defeating process. The reason is, you see, that in the attainment of power man learns that it is not so desirable or useful as it had seemed when he first desired it. I came into command of The Claw and realized that it was not the sort of power I wanted. It was just bureaucracy, politics. I traded it off to Metzger.”
Basilisk was now beginning to tread through the snow. He was gesticulating reservedly and smiling slightly, as though this were a speech he had gone through many times in his head.
“I haven’t given up my search for the true nature of power, though, you see. What man really wants is the instant gratification of power, because, as I explained, those who can attain power have the responsibility to use it. When man hasn’t gained that responsibility is when dangerous things begin to happen. This is where guns come in.
“A gun is the chance to kill a man in an instant. It is the power of life and death, and any idiot in an army or with a thousand dollars can have one. It’s instant gratification. A gun is power that can be gained instantly, without responsibility. You, my friend, seem to have grasped this concept.”
“What in the name of God are you talking about? Stop dancing around the topic and say what you want to say!” de Ris spat out, suddenly disgusted.
Basilisk smiled malignantly.
“Fine, forget the rhetoric. What I want from you, Jacques, is a duel.”
“I have my reasons. I want to get a better grasp on the nature of this power. I think you can help me. You,” he pointed at one of his henchmen and yelled in English, “Give him your sidearm.”
“Colonel, are you sure?”
The man took off his holster and threw it at de Ris’ feet. Basilisk threw back his jacket to reveal his own weapon.
“Let’s see what you really know about shooting.”
Jacques put on the holster belt and fingered the weapon trepidaciously.
"I can tell you what you need to know, my friend. A man with a gun who just wants to abuse power is a childish fool. A man with a gun who has honor and who uses it only when he needs to, in battle, is a warrior. You Claw dogs have no honor. You are a fool."
"Well then I suppose we’ll see whether it is the fool or the warrior who perserveres, then, won’t we? On ten, shoot.”
They both began slowly to circle around each other and back farther and farther off, creating a small sort of arena in the snow with their winding footsteps.
De Ris clenched his fist...
..and fingered the trigger...
...felt glory well up within him...
"Seven. Eight. Nine."
...and suddenly he knew what it meant to be a warrior.
Shots rang from both sides of the small arena. One man fell. It was Basilisk.
He was writhing on the ground in pain, but was still alive. Jacques had managed to shoot his left eye. The major reholstered his pistol.
“Is my driver still alive?” he asked.
Neither of the standing Claw men answered. They both looked mortified.
“Is he?” screamed the Frenchman.
One of them nodded. De Ris spat at them and then trudged off into the infinity of snow back towards his leaper.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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