Graveyard of Empires - Chapter 4

“What the hell was that?” Jeremiah asked, rushing forward. The shocked and terrified look on his face would have been hilarious to Argus Wade if it wasn’t for what had just happened. “What the hell was that?”
Graveyard of Empires - Chapter 4

Sector 6 - Geid

Argus Wade / Traq Lane

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“What the hell was that?” Jeremiah asked, rushing forward. The shocked and terrified look on his face would have been hilarious to Argus Wade if it wasn’t for what had just happened. “What the hell was that?”

“What was what?” Vivian asked mildly. She pretended she was calm as she fell into step behind Jeremiah, but Wade could see it on her face. She was just as shocked and unsettled as Jeremiah.

“That!” Jeremiah said, gesticulating wildly. “Whatever happened back there.”

Wade took a deep breath. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I saw some kids fighting, but it isn’t our business to get involved.”

“He did something,” Jeremiah argued, waving his arms. “That kid flew when the little one looked at him.”

“Kid was scrappy,” Wade admitted. “I’ll give him that.”

“No way he could’ve won that fight,” Jeremiah said. “No chance.”

“Well, he did,” Wade replied.

“But he couldn’t have. Not without using some sort of...”

“Jeremiah!” Vivian said sharply. Jeremiah froze, and they all stopped walking. He turned to face her. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that the kid...”

She stared him down.

“” she repeated softly.

Jeremiah looked helplessly at Wade. “You saw it?” he mumbled.

Wade shook his head. “I didn’t see anything strange,” he said. “Just a few kids fighting.”

“Just a few kids fighting,” Vivian agreed.

Jeremiah shook his head weakly. “But...”

“You think you saw something strange,” she said, “but it was your mind playing tricks on you. Nothing else.”

He didn’t respond.

“If you say you saw something different, and it gets back to the Ministry, how will they take it?”

The look on Jeremiah’s face was utter defeat as he realized what Vivian was saying. If Jeremiah told the Ministry what he saw, they would think he was crazy, and probably kick him out. There was no way anyone would believe him because something like that wasn’t possible.

At least as far as Jeremiah knew.

“It was a crazy fight,” Wade added. “Happened so fast.”

Jeremiah hesitated, then said, “Yeah, really fast. The little one probably just hit him really hard.”

Wade stifled a deep sigh of relief and started walking again. “Just a fight,” he said. Then, he added lower, “Just one hell of a fight.”


It took almost an hour before Jeremiah had fully calmed down, and by then his own mind had put its internal filter to work. He fully accepted that he’d just missed a part of the fight and nothing untoward had happened. Certainly, no child had gone flying through the air for no reason.

Wade envied his ignorance. Jeremiah grew up in the Ministry but knew nothing about the tortured souls he worked alongside. He didn’t know that Wade and Vivian had a guillotine resting casually on their necks, and one wrong move would send it slicing down. Unlike Jeremiah, Wade knew exactly what had happened in the fight, what the little kid had done to his attackers.

The only problem was he also knew it was impossible.

Wade and Vivian finally found an excuse to slip away, explaining that they would pass out pamphlets while he preached in the center of town. He looked disgusted by their suggestion and didn’t even offer to accompany them, saying he could find his own way back to the ship in a few hours.

“It isn’t possible,” Vivian said as soon as they were alone.

They found an empty stretch of road with stumps and rocks and sat down. Fields of barley swept into the distance, dancing on the breeze.

“Not at all,” Wade agreed. “Not without an implant.”

“Do they have implants here?”

“The Ministry doesn’t stretch this far from the Core,” Wade said. “I bet they don’t know anything about them. We need to find him.”

“That might be dangerous,” Vivian said.

“Doesn’t matter. What he did, what he is able to do, defies everything we know about the implants and the Ministry. He could be worth everything.”

“To the Ministry?”

“To us,” Wade said. Then he winced and looked around. There weren’t any people nearby, but he pitched his voice lower. “He means so much to us.”

“We have to turn him over.”

“We can’t,” Wade said.

“You know the laws.”

“To hell with the laws,” he replied vehemently. “After everything, you think I care at all about their laws? This is different. This changes everything.”

“It changes nothing,” Vivian said. “He’s only a child, and our duty is to bring him to the Minister for education and training.”

“We can’t,” Wade said. “He’s different, and they will be afraid of him. You know what they will do to him if we bring him in.”

“You know what they will do to us if we don’t.”

Wade couldn’t disagree. “I know what they will do. We will be Keepers as soon as they find out.”


“And that’s it? That’s all there is for you? Let them destroy this child as long as we’re safe?”


“Who cares what happens to him as long as—”

“Wade, stop,” she said quietly.

“We can’t take him back,” he said. “No child deserves that.”

“So, what, then?”

“We leave him. Pretend it never happened.”

She shook her head. “What if Jeremiah says something?”

“He won’t. He doesn’t even think it happened anymore. He just thinks it was some child’s game.”

“But what if he mentions it? Just in passing or as a joke. He won’t know, but they will. Then they will find the child, know we withheld it from them, and we will be punished even more harshly.”

“So, what then?” Wade asked.

Vivian said, “We handle it.”

“We what?”

She stared at him.

“No,” he said. “No way are we murdering a little kid. He hasn’t done anything.”

“You said yourself what they will do to him. What we can do is far more humane,” she said. “And we don’t have a choice.”

“There is always a choice,” Wade argued. “We can’t sink to that level.”

“Then you prefer we all suffer and die?”

He was silent for a long moment. “I’ll think of something.”

“You always say that.”

“And I always think of something,” he replied. “Maybe our guide can help figure out who this kid is. He used to live here.”

He clicked on his communicator. The pilot answered after a few beeps.


“Jack?” Wade asked. “We are looking for a kid we saw earlier. You might know his parents. He was small, maybe seven or eight years old. Curly black hair. Maybe he—”

“Oh, you mean Traq?”

Wade raised an eyebrow. “Traq?”

“Yeah. Not a lot of kids out here. It’s mostly adults and elderly because young families move closer to the city. You must mean Traq Lane.”

Wade coughed. “Lane? Any relation?”

“He’s my nephew,” Jack replied. “I haven’t seen him in about a year. I can find my sister for you, or give you her address. She’s outside Averton, and I’m sure she hasn’t moved.”

Wade glanced over at Vivian. “Yeah. Sure. Give me the address.”


Traq’s house was a squat one-story affair with patched gray siding. It was constantly damp with mildew and faded with age, but impeccably clean. His mother took good care of it.

There was no restroom or shower, but instead, each room held a chamber pot for when the public facilities were closed. Such facilities consisted of a communal outhouse with two attached showers and a hand pump. The ten surrounding houses shared it.

Traq bounded into his home, pushing aside the crimson curtain blocking the doorway with a big grin on his face. It only took a second, though, to realize his mom was upset.

“Did you hurt those kids today?” Rica asked.

The question didn’t sound like an accusation, but it was tinged with worry. Her eyes were puffy, but her voice was calm.

It was then he noticed the two-other people in his house. A man and a woman in brown clothes sitting in their living room chairs. The man was overweight, barely fitting into the chair, and one of the legs was wobbling. The woman had sharp features and gray eyes.

“I…I don’t know,” he said. He wasn’t lying, not quite. He had wanted to hurt them at the time, but he didn’t remember why. At least not anymore. It had been a sudden urge he couldn’t and didn’t want to resist, and he’d just started using the broken stick like a club. “I think I might have.”

It took her a long time to reply.

“Why?” she asked, her voice wavering.

“They wanted to hurt Everett. And then they started hurting another kid. I just…” He didn’t know how to explain.

“You did right,” she said. “We have to protect our friends.”

A tear fell down her cheek, and she brushed it away. Her face was round and always red, and her hair was tousled. She gave him a hug. “Come on, let’s go get you cleaned up.”

She led him outside, leaving their guests alone in the living room.


Wade let out a sigh once they were gone.

“More,” he said. “She said there were more occasions. This wasn’t the first time something like that happened.”

“No,” Vivian replied. “But you saw her face when we told her. This was the worst.”

“He can’t control it,” Wade said. “And it’s only going to get worse.”

“She knows,” Vivian said. Wade shook his head.

“She can’t know anything,” he said. “Like I said before, the Ministry doesn’t reach this far out. All she knows is he’s angry.”

“She knows something is wrong,” she replied. “And that is enough.”

“He doesn’t understand what he is doing,” Wade replied. “It isn’t his fault.”

“No,” she said. “But it is our responsibility.”

“I know.”

She hesitated and then sighed. “What do you suggest?”

“I’ll stay with him.”

“What?” she asked, shocked.

“They won’t care if I don’t come back for a while because—”

“Hang on, what the hell are you talking about?”

Wade was silent for a moment. “I can watch out for him and make sure he’s okay, and I can teach him how to control the outbursts.”

“You’re in charge of half of the Ministry finances,” she said. “You think they won’t notice when you don’t come back?”

“I know it’s risky—”

“You’re damn right it is.”

“But it’s the best plan,” he finished. “More people will come, and eventually, someone will find him. If I watch the kid for a few years, keep him hidden while the Ministry and Republic explore out here, then we can figure out a more permanent solution.”

“There is a more permanent solution,” she reminded him, her voice low.

“Then kill him!” he replied angrily. Gesturing, vehemence and disgust in his voice. “Murder that innocent child. Prove that the rumors about you are true!”

Vivian tensed, and Wade regretted his outburst. His words hung in the air.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “That was uncalled for.”

“No,” she said, “you’re right. I’ll watch him. Keep him safe.”


“I don’t have anything to do on the Ministry grounds anyway. My absence will be easier to hide.”

He hesitated. “I could put in a requisition and have you posted out here for a few years. It would be good exposure for the Ministry to have a permanent station in the region…”

“Damn you,” she said. “You planned this.”

He held up his hands. “It is the best option.”

She sighed. “I don’t know anything about children,” she said. He shrugged.

“Neither do I. I think they work the same way as puppies. Feed them, make sure they don’t poop on the carpet, and you’re good.”

“Wade…I’m being serious.”

“I know,” Wade replied. “If you do this, I can’t thank you enough.”

“You’ll owe me.”

He nodded. “I’ll owe you until the end of my life. Which, for a great number of reasons, might not be too far in the future.”

She chuckled. “What are you going to tell the Minister?”

“That you needed some time to yourself, so I gave you a post out here to keep our supply lines open.”

“He’ll believe that?”

“He’ll believe in the extra money we bring to the Ministry. I’ll get you a trading certificate. Start exploring nearby planets and figure out what people need, and I’ll have it all shipped to you.”

Vivian thought about it. “Okay, Wade. I’ll do it.”

“Thank you,” he said. “I’m sorry, because I hate asking you to leave your home.”

She turned to face him just as the curtain opened and Rica stepped back into the room. Vivian spoke low so only Wade could hear. “The Ministry was never my home.”


“We would like to offer your son a scholarship,” Wade said.

Rica was skeptical. “A scholarship? For what?”

“We want to give him an ideal education in one of the greatest cities in the galaxy, on the greatest world in the galaxy.”

Rica stared at him. “Why?”

“He deserves it,” Wade replied. “He will have the greatest of educations, never want for anything, and one day he will be making decisions that impact the entire galaxy.”

“I mean, why would you do that? Why him?”

Wade didn’t miss a beat. “He’s a bright child, full of life, and at the Ministry, we seek to train the best and the brightest to be the next generation. This education is sought after by the richest members of society and costs as much as a small planet, but we want to offer this to Traq for nothing. He will fit in perfectly.”

“I…um…I need some time…”

“Of course,” Wade said. “Take all the time you need. Of course, there will be sponsored trips for him to come visit you, as well as for you to visit him. Now, if you’ll please excuse us, we will return tomorrow for your answer.”

He stood up, shook Rica’s hand with a bright smile, and headed out into the warm Geid air. Vivian followed, leaving Rica and Traq alone in the little home.


As soon as the guests were gone, Rica called her brother. He said he would be right over, and as soon as he was off the communicator, she started crying. She gave Traq a hug.

“They are going to steal you from me...” he heard her say under her breath. It was raspy and thick with emotion. “After everything…”

“Mommy,” he said, and she set him down on her bed. Traq’s eyes fell to his hands, bundled in his lap before him. “Did I do something wrong? I’m sorry I made you upset.”

She shook her head. “No, honey. You didn’t. I’m just...”

“I’m sorry I hurt those kids.”

“I know you are, sweetie.”

Traq didn’t know what else to say. He was used to his mom being angry with him, but he didn’t know how to react to her being sad. There was a whistle at the door, saving him from being so far out of his depth. Rica drew in a deep breath to steady herself, rubbing her eyes with the bottoms of her palms.

She made a sniveling sound laden with such depression that it made Traq wince. She walked toward the front door. Traq followed a few steps behind her.

When she pulled the curtain open, Traq’s uncle stepped inside. “Jack,” his mother said, throwing her arms around her brother and breaking out in tears again. “Oh, Jack, I don’t know what to do.”

Jack Lane gently pushed Rica back and picked Traq up in a big hug. “Hey, little man. How you been?”

Traq hugged his uncle and whispered, “Mom’s upset.”

He didn’t dare show how happy he was to see Jack. He was sure that he was supposed to be sad too. But it was hard to hide his grin.

Jack was a hero and a legend around the city Averton. Someone who not only made it off their forsaken little planet but made it all the way to the Core Worlds.

“I know,” Jack whispered back. He set Traq on the ground. “I need to talk to your mom alone for a few minutes, and then we can go play Piollo if you want.”

Traq nodded and headed off into his mom’s room, but he kept the curtain open a tiny bit so he could hear what was said.

“I came as soon as Wade told me. They want to take Traq?”

“They said for a scholarship at the Ministry,” she replied. “I almost said ‘no way in hell,’ but then I heard about what he did today. They told me he attacked another few kids.”

“Attacked? Was it bad?”

“Very,” she said, her voice thick. “He put Remy in the hospital.”

“Was it…did he…?”

“Yes,” Rica said. “He had to have.”


“Do they know?”

“They didn’t seem to know anything. They said they only caught the tail end of the fight and didn’t see what happened.”

Jack sighed. “Thank God.”

Traq heard his mother sob, and a long minute passed before his uncle spoke again.

“We can’t keep him here. You know that.”

“But if I keep him inside…”

“Like a prisoner?”


“He’s a kid,” Jack said. “What happens when people start asking questions?”

“How does he do it?” she asked. “I’ve seen him do things…”

“I don’t know,” Jack said. “If I’d known, all those years ago, that he would be like…” He paused. “I don’t know what I would have done.”

“I don’t care,” Rica said. “They can’t take him, Jack. He’s my child.”

“I know, but...”

“After all this time, there is no way I’m just going to—”

“I know, sis.”

Rica rubbed her face. “What do we do, Jack?”

“I don’t know.”

Jack held out his hands and lowered his chin. Traq wasn’t sure what they were talking about.

“He was the sweetest baby I’ve ever seen,” Jack said. “But he’s different now. Something changed.”

“They said I can come visit.”

“You’ll like Axis. It’s a beautiful planet. Crazy, but beautiful.”

“Can they take care of him?”

“If there’s anywhere in the galaxy he will be safe,” Jack said, “it’s on Axis at the Ministry. Safest place in the world for little kids, especially different ones.”

“And you’ll watch after him?”

“Every day,” Jack said.

She was quiet. “Okay, Jack. I’ll start packing his things.”

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