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Part 6

         Gryff did not return that day, and Chess wondered if he might not come back at all. Maybe he would go off wandering again, Chess thought fearfully. Maybe being asked, as a favor, to kill the people that he had come to think of as trusted friends had just been too much for him.
         Chess tried not to think about it. There was nothing that he could do. Of course Gryff would come back, he told himself. And Ileana, too, would come back. He just did not know when any of that would happen. The hours since the morning’s events seemed to stretch on interminably.
         Chess filled the time by explaining what had happened, as best he could, to Noah and the artificers. They had all watched it by way of satellite, naturally. But none of it had made the slightest bit of sense to them. They had not known anything about Razor, and certainly knew nothing about Ileana’s relationship with him. Chess tried not to emphasize it too much. He did not want them to think badly of her. And also, he did not wish to hurt Fogg, who wore a worried expression ever since Ileana had gone off in a truck with another man.
         Sariel also, completely disappeared for the entire, terribly quiet day.

         Late that evening, the moon was bright, illuminating stormy-looking clouds within a frame of nearly-bare tree branches. The muted daylight hours had slowly faded into hushed darkness, gradually enveloping Chess as he sat alone, on the floor, staring out at the sky as the time passed.
         Chess did not divert his gaze from the window when he heard Sariel pad across the room. He felt the brush of her arm as she settled down next to him on the floor.
         “Will she stay with Razor?” Sariel asked, her voice barely audible.
         “No,” Chess breathed. “Of course not.” And then his heart started to race again. He had been having this argument with himself all day. “Will she?” he whispered, feeling panicked once again.
         “The way she looks at him, still…,” Sariel answered. “I do not know.”
         With a soft thunk, she set her full water bottle on the bare floor in front of them. And, next to it, she placed a small, familiar-looking jar. And then she touched his arm.
         Her skin was as soft as he remembered it, and made more silky and fragrant by all the things she had been able to do and acquire, now that they were no longer on the run. But Chess hesitated.
         “But… Marcello?” he asked tentatively.
         “Is not here.” Sariel shook her head. “Ileana is with another. But we are here, together.”
         Chess moved close to her, rubbing his cheek against her hair and inhaling her scent. “Okay.”
         He felt her fingers stroking his face. And there was a new spice in the air, now -- he breathed it in from the narrowing space between them, as she lifted her face to his. The scent was something that he recognized from a night long ago: the first night they had been together. And he remembered the jar, also. He pulled back from her, then, and gazed into her dark eyes.
         She didn’t want him, he knew. Thoughts raced through his mind. He knew that she just wanted an escape from all that had happened today, and all that might happen in the coming days. But he didn’t care, because he felt the same way. “Okay,” he exhaled.
         She kissed him, and set him aflame.
         Their bodies moved together, as hours slipped by. At times, he watched the moonlight play over her skin. The silver light gave her a divine luminescence, that turned to darkness under his hands. And the long night passed, lost to unrelenting need.
         Eventually, though, the erratic fluttering of his heartbeat, and the dryness of his mouth pulled him back to consciousness. He blinked his eyes against the sweat that was trickling down from his forehead.
         “Sar, you’re going to kill me,” he gasped, pushing her away with unsteady arms.
         Sariel smiled languidly. “More,” she insisted, brushing his protests aside and pulling him close.
         He felt her tongue slide over his lower lip, and the taste of the herbs overwhelmed his senses. He surrendered to her. And she was the goddess of mercy and release, and forgiveness and death.

Continued next page...

Tyree: I took you because you cast a spell upon me.
Nona: And I have spells that help me keep you. Remember this leaf? The night we camped by the water?
Tyree: Mmm. The night of madness.
- Star Trek: A Private Little War, Season 2 Episode 19

         So what’s the point in discussing all these sociopolitical models? What’s the answer to the question: which one is best? My answer is that I don’t have an answer. Sometimes, it’s just good to look at the options. In fact, I can’t think of any time when it’s not advantageous to consider all the options, but as humans we so rarely do. I wish I could hear, “I don’t have the answer,” from more people, these days. Or at the very least, “I think I have the best answer, but I’m open to hearing the opinions of others.”
         I much prefer discussions with people who are not too set on one side or another (and I feel that way about issues of all categories, including, but not limited to: political, social, theoretical - scientific or otherwise, lifestyle, sexual preference, etc.) I fervently wish for debaters who can at least acknowledge that there are reasonable points on the opposing side -- at least give the feeling that they could possibly be swayed to another opinion if the argument presented was valid enough.
         But this is not our current social -- and certainly not today’s political -- climate. In our modern society, it seems that one must hold strongly to one views or risk being considered weak. To concede that the other side has a valid point is effectively to concede the entire argument. In this game, the most forceful personality seems to win, and what is lost is thoughtful discussion and the chance for a better answer.
         Perhaps it is because of this tendency that we - no matter what opinions we hold - tend to surround ourselves with talk (news shows, online forums, etc.) -- or read books! -- that reinforce our own beliefs. And once immersed in a sea of agreement, it becomes difficult to believe that any rational person could think differently.

Let me hear you make decisions without your television
- Stripped by Depeche Mode



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