[A Fateful Meeting]

Written by ZeusLegion. Edited by Auspex Turmalis.

Arcturus Mengsk was an inspiring and dynamic leader. Of this, Harley Rourke had no doubt. But there's something just not right about that boy, he thought to himself. Behind the bold speeches and brilliant strategies, Harley was certain that Mengsk had a secret agenda. Revenge was obvious... it wasn't any secret about his family being slain by the Confederacy. In that, he and Mengsk were alike.

On the other hand, Aronimus Pax spoke the words of war with actions rather than talk. When he did speak, what few things he had to say were heartfelt and honest. Harley admired that and wished more people had such traits. Together, the two leaders were quite formidable. Too bad they hate each other's guts, he grinned.

He sat there in the secret location of the largest meeting he had ever witnessed, trying to absorb what the speakers were trying to say to their audience and decide if it was worth listening to. The two largest anti-Confederate factions, the Sons of Korhal and the Brotherhood of Umoja, were now united as one force against the Confederacy. We finally have a fighting chance to take them down, Harley thought in amazement.

He thought about the kids at home and wondered if they were doing okay. More than likely, Haley was struggling to keep the boy out of trouble. He wanted to be with them now and tell them... that their mother's murder would be avenged? No... more than that he wanted to tell them that it had been a mistake and that their mother had never been gunned down on the streets of Venado Bay. That she was coming home after all this time. But that was fantasy... the love of his life had been snuffed out as quickly as a gust of wind blowing out a candle. All that remained were the children... and the burning desire for vengeance. And who was he kidding? The kids were almost adults now... Haley was graduating soon and Junior was readying to enlist like most of his friends. Soon, they would leave him and he would be completely and hopelessly alone.

"Got a smoke?" said a voice.

Harley was brought back to reality and realized a young man was standing next to him, looking down and awaiting a response.

"Yeah, I got a smoke. What's it to ya?" Harley barked at the young punk.

"Chill out, Pops. I'm all out and was hopin' you might share. I'll pay ya for it, if ya want."

Harley scowled and reached into his pocket and produced a cigarette from the packet hidden there. Eyeing the boy, he reluctantly handed it to him. To his dismay, the boy sat down next to him and lit up.

"Name's Aster. Trent Aster. Most of the guys call me 'Trench' ever since Venado Bay," the boy grinned.

"What the hell do you know about the Bay?" Harley growled back.

Trench took a puff and exhaled slowly. "You kiddin'? I was there, man. Two years back, I was in the Confederacy's Ghost program."

Harley's face turned dark red with rage. He stood up, grabbed the boy by the throat and lifted him up by it, the cigarette falling to the ground. "You shut your mouth! Your kind killed my wife, you filthy mutant!" he yelled. The boy's face began turning blue as he struggled to say something.

"You got somethin' ta say? Maybe a last request?" Harley shouted. He released his grip slightly and the boy inhaled all the air he could suck up in one great gulp.

Exhaling he uttered, "Not me! I'm on your side!" Harley released his hand from the boy's throat and let him drop to the ground.

The boy sucked in air rapidly to fill his straining lungs and then picked up the fallen cigarette. "Jeez, man! You coulda killed me," he said as he lifted himself to his feet.

"Gimme a reason I shouldn't," Harley fired back.

"Well, if you had let me finish the goddamn story, I would!" the boy yelled back.

Harley scowled again and sat back down in his seat. The boy dusted himself off and sat next to him.

"Like I was gonna say before, I was in the Confederacy's Ghost program," he began. "As soon as realized what was happening down there with those civilians, I did what I could to stop it. I got the nickname 'Trench' when a mortar shell tore a big crevasse in the ground and I dove after some civs and pushed them into it just before a second shell nearly pounded 'em into Rhynoburger. After that, I did what I could to evacuate as many people as possible before my team filled 'em fulla holes. Ended up takin' out two of my old teammates, man. One of 'em was a friend of mine, you dig?"

Harley let the words sink into his brain as the boy stared at him, waiting for a reaction. "Yeah. I dig," he replied solemnly. "I'm sorry."

The boy grinned. "Hey, it's okay. At least you didn't kill me."

Harley was ashamed of himself. He truly had almost killed the boy. Out of hatred. Out of revenge. He looked around the chamber and knew that most of the others here were also full of that same rage.

"No more killing," he said.

"What?" the boy said, not comprehending.

"No more of this. I'm tired of living this way and I'm leaving. I suggest you do the same," he replied as he rose to his feet.

"I got nowhere to go, mister," the boy said. "Before this it was the Confederacy... before that, it was a gang in Bora Dalis. Before that, it was an orphanage on Umoja. And before that, I haven't got a clue."

Harley stared down at him and thought of his own son who was only a few years younger.

"You want a job?" he said at last.

"Say what?"

"A job. You work, I pay you. I can't pay much but my daughter'll cook you a decent meal each day and you'll have a roof over yer head. Your choice. If you stay here with these folks, me not killin' you will just be a temporary reprieve."

The boy looked at him and smiled.

"You say you got a daughter who can cook?"

The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.

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