Darius woke in yet another strange place with a headache. This time, he knew he hadn't been drinking. And he certainly wasn't at Senator Rheingold's either. He looked around and saw that he was in what looked like a hospital room. He sat up and found that his left arm was handcuffed to his bed. While Darius wouldn't normally have thought of that as a good thing, at least he was still alive.
Viceroy was also alive. He felt her along their lihnyg and while the feeling wasn't as strong as usual, it was there and Viceroy was nearby. She seemed stressed, but otherwise, she was okay.
Darius didn't know if he could say the same about himself, however. Besides his headache, the rest of his body hurt. He seemed to remember getting run over by a large deer-like creature, which would explain why everything was in pain. He was also incredibly thirsty, and being handcuffed, he couldn't get up to get any water. At least, that would be true without his ability.
Just like he had while he and Niki were walking from Coeur d'Alene, he focused on the water in the air, wanting to condense it into something he could use. While ice wasn't exactly perfect, he'd rather have solid water than no water. But unlike when they'd walked through the forest, Darius found there wasn't any water for him to use.
Remembering he was a prisoner, he thought perhaps he'd been drugged with ability-suppressing chemicals. He was sure that was standard procedure. It wouldn't do to let prisoners have access to their greatest weapon. Just to test his hypothesis, he tried moving the table next to his bed and found that he could move it with relative ease. It was more difficult than it should have been, but he put that down to how terrible he felt.
Shortly after waking up, the door opened and the last person Darius expected to see walked in. Commander Barton walked over to him and handed him a large bottle of water while pulling up a chair telekinetically and then sitting down next to him.
Darius eagerly took the bottle of water and drank quickly. He drank nearly half of it before lowering the bottle. He looked at Barton, waiting for him to say something.
"This is unfortunately the best treatment I could get you," he said eventually. "There are some concerns over what you're going to do. Hence the dry environment."
That made sense Darius thought. If there was no moisture, his powers couldn't do much of anything. He could pull water from his own body, but that wouldn't get him anywhere. And lowering body temperature water down to freezing would be draining. The only thing that didn't make sense was the fact that he could still use telekinesis.
"We haven't used the ability reducers on you," Barton said, as if reading his mind. And he probably was. "I'm not reading your mind, by the way. That was an obvious question, and an obvious reaction."
"Why?" Darius asked.
"Why haven't you drugged me?"
"There are some concerns about how they would interfere with your recovery. You took quite a beating. However, I was against it as I thought we needed a show of good faith. And while I don't have the power I'm used to, the supplies were low enough I got my way."
"You're not the commander anymore?" Darius asked, a little surprised at that.
"I am, just not in Europe."
"Where are we?" The room was completely empty, giving Darius no idea about where he was, and there were no windows to help with that either.
"Russia," Barton answered. "The country you were born in, by the way."
"I was?" Darius asked, surprised. "How do you know that?"
"I know a lot about you, Darius. And in time, I will tell you all you want to know about your past and your family. But for now, we only have time to discuss the present. I'm sure you'd like to know just how you got to Russia and why you're here."
"Yeah. Kinda." Darius was actually a little more interested in knowing what Barton knew about him, and especially about his family. He'd spent his entire life thinking he was an orphan without a family and no one knew where he came from. Barton once told him that he'd been found in the aftermath of a battle.
"A group of Anitreh took you down under my direction."
"I thought – "
"I will address that," Barton promised. "Just listen. You can ask questions later. As I was saying, they were my people, but I didn't tell them the whole plan. They were armed only with tranquilizers, although they didn't know this. I had to manipulate the minds of everyone present. They thought they had bullets and they believed that they shot and killed both you and Viceroy. That's the report that's gone out."
"What about – "
"She's fine. As I said, they only had tranquilizers, but the official report is that she was captured alive. It hasn't been made public yet, but very soon, the news should report that Darius Laporte was killed while apprehending the rogue Anitreh. The people who went to capture you all believe that's what happened and that's the report they've given.
"While taking Niki away, I took you and Viceroy in my own truck, making the others think it was an ambulance. I had private transportation already arranged and from Spokane, we flew out here. As for the extent of your injuries, they were more severe than I would have liked, but they did have to bring you down somehow."
"Getting tackled by an elk certainly did it," Darius grumbled.
"He's a sambar, actually. I'm just glad he doesn't have antlers yet. You sustained a concussion and some bruised ribs and some other minor injuries, but you'll recover. Now we just have to decide what to do after your recovery."
"You're not just going to lock me away or kill me?"
"Darius, I'd hardly go through all this trouble if that was my intention. Some of the captains might like that idea, but they all think you're dead. In fact, most everyone outside this room thinks you're dead. You do indeed have options. Of course, before you can make up your mind, there is one other thing we should address."
Darius should have known that was coming. That was the reason he'd done everything he had done in the past two years. He had been coming to Seattle to hear Barton's explanation for the evidence he had implicating the Anitreh in his death.
"Niki had an interesting set of documents on her at the time of her capture. I've gone through them and someone certainly has done their homework. I don't know how they managed to get their hands on some of those things, but I must say, it is impressive."
"So it's true?" Darius asked, thinking he'd been right all along. At least some of those he had killed deserved it.
"Not at all," Barton said. "There's bits and pieces that have some reality behind them, but at no point did any Anitreh ever consider harming Ian. Ever. His name had come up in discussion a few times, as we really didn't know what to do with him. Killing him never was an option. He was simply an odd case. The fact that he was given to us by his parents who just didn't want him might have set a precedent. If it became well known that we just took him in, raised him, gave him the best education, sent him to college and gave him everything he could possibly need, the concern was that other parents might try to do the same thing. Therefore, the argument was centered on whether or not we should fund his college education."
"So all those conversations… they weren't real?"
"I remember some bits of the transcripts," Barton said. "But some of the words were changed so instead of discussing college, it was a discussion on killing him. Interestingly enough, there has been quite a bit of discussion on whether or not we should kill you."
"So it was all fake? Ian's death… it was just bad timing?" Darius laid back down, feeling sick. Everything he'd done, it had all started as a way to avenge his friend who hadn't even been killed by a conspiracy. Darius really thought he was going to throw up, but just barely managed to hold it down.
He wondered if perhaps Barton was lying to him, making it up so the Anitreh didn't look bad. Had it been just about anyone else talking to him, he would have demanded proof. But after he first talked to Niki about Ian and the Anitreh, he'd had his doubts that Rheingold's documents were genuine. Having Barton say they were false as well just really made it sink in.
"Darius, I know this is hard for you. But you must know that this isn't your fault. You shouldn't beat yourself up over it."
How could he not? Darius had killed innocent people for no reason whatsoever. There was nothing he had to fight for. He was just a killer. He could barely handle it when he thought he was doing it for the greater good, but now, he didn't think he could live with himself.
"Darius, you were manipulated. Senator Rheingold's had an interest in you ever since you were born, and he had been waiting for an opportunity to turn you against us."
That didn't make any sense to Darius. Why would the senator have even known who he was? Why would he care? He definitely felt Barton lightly touching his mind. Fortunately, he didn't dig deep, but just looked into his most recent thoughts. Darius didn't mind, since he didn't trust himself to open his mouth without vomiting.
"It's a long story, but it has to do with your father. And your brother. I'm not sure how much you remember from history, but do you remember Andrade's War?"
Darius thought for a second, then nodded. It had been the last conflict in which Anitreh fought Anitreh. It had happened right about the time he was born, and the last time there had been a full out fight between Anitreh had been more than fifty years before that, and it hadn't been nearly as bloody. When Barton brought it up, Darius remembered Erik Andrade and wondered if there was a connection.
"Your father was an Anitreh once, but he went bad. He was on the wrong side of the war. I believe it was under Rheingold's influence, but of course, I have no evidence of that. If what I believe is true, then Rheingold and your father were close. When he died, he wanted the next best thing, which would be you or your older brother. Your brother went missing after the war, and was assumed dead, but I doubt that. I think he's still working for Rheingold. You were given to the Anitreh by your mother, as she was also of the opinion that Rheingold would take you from her, but we could protect you."
Darius tried to think while also listening to what Barton was saying. If he had a brother who was working with Rheingold, who could it be? He tried to think and the only ones he could think of that were older than him were Tin, Ruslan and Erik. Tin was certainly too old, but Ruslan and Erik looked nothing like him. But there was the matter of Rheingold supposedly keeping Darius and Erik apart. And the fact they had the same affinity. And their fylgjas were instantly friends. But if Erik were his brother, then did that mean his father was Andrade himself? The starter of one of the worst Anitreh wars in history?
"Yes," Barton said. "Your suspicions are correct. Erik is your brother, and Andreas Andrade was your father."
"Why?" Darius managed to ask. Why hadn't anyone ever told him?
"It wouldn't have done anything if you'd known, or at least, I didn't think so. I thought that knowing you were related to Andrade would only upset you, and knowing you had a brother might cause you to seek him out. I can't help but wonder now if telling you might have prevented some of this trouble, but we can't worry about the past. We need to decide what to do about your future."
"I don't care," Darius said, feeling he didn't deserve to live. Not after the things he'd done.
"You can't die," Barton said. "You're simply too valuable for that. There's a reason Rheingold wanted you on his side. And that's the reason I need you. If you won't do it for yourself, do it for Viceroy. Or for Niki. Or, depending on the option you choose, you might help set things right."
"Somehow, I will get Rheingold out of the picture. I will destroy him. He wants to get rid of all the Anitreh, and although I doubt he will succeed, he already had made life more difficult for us. For that, I will take him down one way or another. With your help, it'll be much easier. So, you can help me take him down. Or if you don't want to be involved, I can get you a post in Asia. You'll have a new identity and no one will connect you to any of what's happened. Or you could head back to North America and get shot. Even here, they just might do it. But it's your choice. I can't make you do anything."
Somehow, Darius doubted that. He was sure Barton actually was powerful enough to get just about anyone to do what he wanted. But Darius knew it wasn't Barton influencing his decision. If revenge could turn him against the Anitreh, it could certainly turn him against Rheingold.
"I'm in," Darius said. "But on one condition."
"Niki has to know I'm alive."
"That's not – "
"I don't care," Darius said, interrupting Barton for once. "I don't care what reason you have for not telling her, but I'm not going to let her think I'm dead and fuck you for thinking it'd be okay. She sacrificed everything for me. The least I can do is let her know it's not for nothing."
Barton was silent for a while, and Darius thought he would say no. He took his phone and moved close to Darius, holding the phone above them. He told Darius to smile, which he tried to do, and Barton took the picture.
"I don't think I'll get a chance to see her," Barton said. "I'll get this picture to her, and you can write a note to her if you want. For now, you need to rest and recover. I'll bring you up to speed later."
"Okay," Darius agreed, feeling tired anyway. He closed his eyes as Barton stood up.
"Yeah?" Darius didn't bother opening his eyes. He was already half asleep anyway.
"I'm glad you're back."
"Me too," Darius thought, too tired to actually open his mouth to speak anymore. He had the feeling Barton picked it up anyway.