|18 Karat Run: Through Hardships and Sorrows
Author: JRisner PM
Six travels to Zion with the Happy Trails trading company. But he has his own reasons for seeking out New Canaan...A trial lies before him. A life hangs in the balance. But what will become of him when he meets the infamous Joshua Graham? Where the Burned Man walks...he leaves a path of flames and destruction.Rated: Fiction T - English - Courier & Joshua Graham - Chapters: 13 - Words: 48,526 - Reviews: 55 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 17 - Updated: 11-29-12 - Published: 09-13-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8521316
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
So...Borderlands 2 came out this week. I'd almost forgotten about it, but I got a call from Gamestop. So I've been really preoccupied this week. Haha. The game is pretty awesome though.
This chapter is a lot of talking...as most of you know, I like dialogue and in this chapter I really get to delve into some things. It was a lot of fun to write. Anyway, here it is.
"My name is Joshua Graham…"
Graham had barely finished the sentence when he saw it; Boone reaching for a black gripped pistol. Graham kicked his chair back, simultaneously flipping the table up onto its side. A shot rang out, piercing the table's wooden surface. Graham rolled forward and was on his feet – tearing across the room in an instant. Boone took aim again, but Graham was too fast. He pushed the pistol sidelong and drove his palm into Boone's chest. Boone stumbled, but didn't fall – retaliating with a strong right hook. Graham seamlessly slipped away from the attack, doubling back with a hard elbow to the back of Boone's head. Boone toppled forward – Graham grabbed him by the wrist, fiercely twisting his arm, and kicked Boone's legs out from under him. Boone fell flat to his chest, and Graham buried his heel into Boone's spine.
Six stepped forward – only to meet the barrel of Graham's pistol. Raul raised his rifle, leveling it at Graham's head.
"There are many reasons why that's a bad idea…I will illuminate three. First…if you intend to do violence, you'd better intend to kill. As long as the heart in my chest beats, I will hunt you…and, God willing, you will not leave this valley alive. Second…even if you do succeed, know that you are not alone in this valley. The Dead Horses…and Daniel…will retaliate. And, lastly, without our aid – between the White Legs, the 80's, and the vast wilderness…you will never find your way back to the Mojave."
Six held up his arms submissively. "Not here to make trouble."
"Is that so?"
Six grasped Raul's rifle and pushed it downwards, away from Graham.
"And this one?" Graham turned his gaze back towards Boone.
Boone struggled under Graham's heel. "Like Hell. Do you even know this son of a bitch? Do you know what he's done!?"
"It doesn't matter what he's done," Six calmly replied. "All that matters is what he's going to help us do."
Graham inquisitively tilted his head to one side.
"You said you were expecting another courier…who was it?"
"An assassin. I've killed enough of Caesar's frumentarii that have come looking. This one, in particular, travels the Mojave as a courier. Most of Caesar's agents meet a fitting end in NCR territory…but this one is resourceful. Maybe he's survived."
"Maybe it was me you should have been expecting."
"Caesar sent you?" Graham asked…though it sounded more like an accusation.
"This certainly changes things. Caesar must think highly of your abilities to openly admit that I am alive…and to send you all this way. This puts him…and you…in a difficult position. Even if you kill me, he can never acknowledge it. To do so would be to confess that I never died…that the Mighty Caesar had made a mistake. He lives by his lies…and he shall die by his lies. And, in all likelihood, so will you. He would have you killed to keep his secret."
"I've entertained that very thought."
"No doubt. Else, I suspect, you'd have drawn your weapon by now. But, why come all this way if you had no intention of carrying out his orders?"
"I won't lie. I had considered it…the truth is. He has leverage…or, at the very least, he thinks he does."
Six shrugged. "A long time ago…maybe. But if he's willing to use her against me…it's only a matter of time before he gets his hands on someone I do care about."
"Ah," Graham began to piece the puzzle together. "So you feed him an illusion…clever; perhaps foolishly so."
Six removed his beret and ran his hand through his hair. "Caesar suspects you're in New Canaan."
"I'm aware…" Graham nodded, knowingly. "New Canaan was destroyed…its citizens scattered. Because of the White Legs…and Caesar, of course." Graham sighed. "Because of me."
"Because they helped you?"
"Yes. The White Legs want to join the Legion…their rite of passage was the destruction of New Canaan."
"Their rite of passage was your head."
Graham took a breath and lowered his pistol – which, until this point had been directed at Six's head. "What exactly is it that you think I'm going to help you with?"
"What do you think? Caesar. I didn't travel to Zion to further his illusion. I came here looking for you."
"And now that you've found me?"
"I want you to help me to…overthrow a God king."
"Caesar's no God," Graham shook his head. "Still, you've wasted your time. There is nothing I can help you with."
"Bullshit," Six stepped towards Graham, palms still showing. "You've said yourself you've taken on scores of frumentarii. If anyone can kill him, it's you."
"I have my own problems to worry about," Graham spat back. "The White Legs…a marauding group of sycophants aiming to please Caesar. When they failed to eliminate the citizens in their attack on New Canaan, they began to hunt us down. Murdering the New Canaanites, and anyone we shelter. Anyone who shelters us."
"All the more reason to help me. Even now, miles away…Caesar beats on your door. Sends scores of men to find you. To kill you. And everyone you seek to protect. We can't stand by idly. We have to take the fight to his doorstep."
"And abandon these people in their hour of need? No. I can't…I won't do that."
"Then we'll help you."
Graham swallowed and gave Six a light nod. "You're a good neighbor to us. You have my thanks." Graham removed his foot from Boone's spine and pulled him to his feet. As soon as Boone was upright, he withdrew his blade and held it to Graham's throat. Graham did not waver.
No response. Six could feel the animosity pouring from Boone's very being.
"Boone. We need him."
"No," Boone was practically steaming. "We don't."
"Wouldn't you rather see Caesar fall?"
Boone scowled and peered over his shoulder. "What does it matter? We kill Caesar, and some other asshole is just going to rise to power."
Graham spoke. His voice was still. "Lanius? No. I've never met any man, other than Edw-…Caesar, that could lead the Legion. I certainly couldn't. The Legion dies with him."
"Does that mean you'll help us?" Six asked, hopeful.
"You help me to end this Scourge on Zion. You help me to exact the will of God…and, should I live to see the Mojave, I will help you to end the Legion."
"And why should I believe you?" Boone growled.
"After the First Battle of Hoover Dam, Caesar had to make an example of me. He had me burned alive and thrown into the Grand Canyon."
"So I've heard."
"I want to have my revenge. Against him…against Caesar. To make my anger God's anger…"
Boone's face, mere inches from Graham's, contorted with resentment. He narrowed his eyes behind his shades. "This isn't over. You and I…when this is all done. We're going to finish this."
Graham narrowed his eyes in return. "Until then…" He pushed forward, with enough force to cause the blade to break the bandages…and his skin. Blood trickled across the blade's surface. "Kindly sheath your weapon."
Boone sat in silence in the shade of a large pine – a burning fire before him – staring out over the wilderness. Zion was so different than the Mojave, which consisted mostly of desert sand. Zion reminded him of his time stationed at Lake Mead…at the old House Resort. Though, even the resort failed in comparison. The grass, the trees. Zion was peaceful…almost peaceful enough to make his worries melt away. Boone felt a presence emerging from Joshua's chambers behind him.
"You knew he was here?" Boone's voice was stoic.
"Here? No. I suspected he was in New Canaan." Six replied.
"Because that's what Caesar told you?"
Boone shook his head. "You're on good terms with Caesar, are you?"
Six rolled his eyes. "Seriously? House sent me back…he knew we rescued Benny. Hunting down Graham was my punishment. He has an old flame, okay? What was I supposed to do? Laugh at him, tell him that his leverage was useless? So what? He could go after someone else? You? Vee? Cass?"
"And your solution is to use Graham?"
"Can you think of a better solution?"
"You could have filled me in."
"Maybe I should have. But talking about personal shit wasn't exactly high on my priorities right now, Boone. You of all people should understand that."
Boone didn't reply; instead, he turned his gaze back to the wild expanse.
"Look, I'm not saying you have to like it. And I'm not telling you to two to get along. But I believe he can help us. Whatever qualms you two have…you can work out later. After Caesar's no longer an issue…" Six shrugged. "But for now…The enemy of my enemy…"
"Is my enemy's enemy," Boone interjected.
Six sighed and leaned back against the pine. He studied the sky for a long moment, then noticed movement at the cave entrance. It was Follows-Chalk.
"Joshua wishes to speak with you," The tribal spoke nervously.
Six gave Boone a slap on the shoulder and began towards the cave. "I can trust you can't I, Boone?"
Boone grunted in response. Six disappeared into the cave.
The gauze around Graham's neck was red with blood…if only very slightly.
"I have a couple syringes of Med-X if you're interested."
"You are kind to offer…but no. I learned a long time ago that I'm immune to the effects of chems…Your friend…he's seen dark times, hasn't he?"
Six really didn't have an answer. So he responded with a shrug.
"I can tell…familiar demons. We all go through periods of darkness. In such times, we can turn to the Lord, but it's good to have friends."
"Yes," Graham motioned for Six to join him at his table – so he did. "I am a New Canaanite…my people believe we are the heirs of a spiritual tradition given to our ancestors thousands of years ago."
"And what exactly does this tradition entail?"
"A covenant with our Lord, God, to honor his laws."
"What laws are those?"
"Simple laws. Abolishing theft, adultery, untruth…murder."
"I'm sure your record is unblemished."
"I make no claim to innocence. I've made mistakes, as all have…I stayed in darkness for a long time."
"And your God can forgive you?"
"Yes. Although I am a sinner, I have been saved. I believe that our Lord was made flesh as Jesus Christ and died to redeem me…and you…the Dead Horses, the White Legs. Even Caesar."
"I somehow doubt that any God had anything to do with Caesar."
"Caesar would disagree. He fancies himself the son of Mars," Graham laughed. "Nevertheless, whether or not God exists, and whether or not we live according to his plan is not dependent on what you believe or on what I say. There is much to be skeptical of in this world…it no longer surprises me to learn how many people don't believe in anything."
"I believe in plenty."
"Please," Graham opened a palm. "Enlighten me."
"I believe in you. I believe in me. I believe in that man outside…and I believe he'll be the end of you. I believe in this…" Six reached down, scooping up a handful of soil. He let it trickle between his fingers and back onto the earth.
"Ah…" Graham nodded. "I know it may be hard for you to accept, or to even understand…but in my heart, I believe that there is something beyond this soil…the rock we live on. The air we breathe. Something more that is waiting for us…and a day will come when our Lord returns to judge us all. Until then, we must honor his laws and start others along the path of salvation…if we can."
Six sighed…another religious nut…perfect.
Graham must've recognized the exasperation on his face. "I do not intend to convert you to my ways…"
"That's good. Because I don't think you'd have much luck."
Graham chuckled. "And your friend, how is he?"
"In a world filled with misery and uncertainty, it is a great comfort to know that…in the end…there is light in the darkness. For many of us, the road we tread is a difficult one. But, the path is always there for us to follow…no matter how many times we may fall."
"You sound like you've fallen a few times."
"More than a few. Every day…some days are…harder than others."
"Why take such an interest in his well being?"
"I pray for the wellbeing of all good people who enter Zion…even gentiles."
"That's kind of you," Six's voice was a slightly more caustic than he intended.
"I suppose we should get to the point, then?" Graham suggested. "The truth is, you've caught us at a rather…inconvenient time. The White Legs, as I have explained, are a continual threat. One that we cannot take lightly."
"In the best of all possible worlds, they would leave us in peace…but they won't. They attack anyone who isn't one of theirs…they take what they need to survive. They can't do it on their own, so they have to raid. But it goes deeper than that…they are here to wipe us out. All of us."
"And these tribes can't defend themselves?"
"The Dead Horses are capable…but outgunned. The Sorrows are a different story. They have many skilled hunters, but no warriors. Understandably so...Zion is their home. And they have lived in here without threat for a very long time. They have never had to deal with raiders or war…and, although they can hunt a full-grown yao guai, they don't know how to deal with the White Legs. Besides…the White Legs are here because of me. It is my duty to assist them. And even if it wasn't…one should always help where one can."
"I was under the impression that the valley belongs to the Dead Horses."
"Belongs? No. The valley belongs to God…" Graham took a breath. "But I can understand the confusion. The Dead Horses originate from Dead Horse Point, up the Colorado. They came here because I asked them to."
"That's mighty kind of them."
"I left a good impression on them last we met…They look up to me. Before I…returned to the fold, I visited them years earlier. I looked much different then."
"Before Caesar set you on fire."
"Yes. I taught them how to hunt more efficiently, how to maintain their weapons and equipment. When next I saw them, they showed their appreciation; by making me the acting war chief of their tribe. And so I brought the Dead Horses here, to assist the Sorrows."
"And this is coming from the man that massacred entire tribes?"
Graham's demeanor changed, becoming somehow colder. "In that, I suppose I am similar to Salt-Upon-Wounds. And even Caesar."
"Yes. He's the chief of the White Legs…a butcher. I know the godless fire that burns in his heart. I've been burned by it myself."
"So you seek absolution for your crimes."
"I am responsible for the corner the Sorrows have found themselves in. I must lead and protect them…they are smart people, but not as worldly as you or I. They are not capable of defending themselves against the White Legs. Daniel…a fellow missionary…wishes to evacuate them from Zion. To preserve their innocence, he says. But I fear that if they leave Zion, they will lose it forever. So the Dead Horses, and myself, are prepared to do whatever must be done to protect Zion. And many Sorrows are prepared as well. They may not be warriors…but this is their home. And they are willing to defend it."
"And you want our help too?"
"Whether or not you want to help or whether or not I want your help is not the point. I believe God has brought you here for a reason."
"Caesar's the reason I'm here."
Graham shrugged. "Perhaps. But then…it may all be a part of His plan. In any event…if you want my help, you'll have to help me in return."
"Fair enough. What would you have me do?"
"As we speak…Daniel prepares the Sorrows for evacuation."
"And you want me to dissuade him?"
"No. If the opportunity should present itself, I would not argue with you for doing so. But even still, we must be prepared to flee if necessary. In order to do so there are certain…items…we need. North-west of here there is a long-standing general store. The supplies we need can be found there. Follows-Chalk knows the way. He's…inexperienced, but he's resourceful. Take him with you. When you've retrieved the supplies, deliver them to Daniel at the Sorrows' Camp."
"Just out of curiosity…why do all of this for a bunch of tribals?"
"Are we not all tribals? We wear more clothes…we fancy ourselves more civilized. But the issue at hand is not whether or not they reason, or whether or not they can talk…but whether or not they suffer. They are tribals, but they are human. And to walk away now…we would be condemning them through inaction."
"It's hard to believe you're the infamous Legate."
Graham's eyes shone with remorse. "I have much to atone for."
So hopefully I've capture Graham's character pretty well. And...even more so...I hope to have captured the animosity between him and Boone. I'm going to try to get the next chapter out soon...but lately I've been spending all of my free time playing around on Borderlands 2. Then...in a couple weeks...Resident Evil 6. I'm absolutely stoked about that game. I threw in a little Bentham and Mill in Six and Graham's discussion...for those of you unaware, they're the classical utilitarians. If you caught it...kudos to you.
Be sure to let me know if I need to work on Graham's portrayal though. He's my favorite character, and I'd hate to screw him up. I think I did pretty well...but I have an ego, so I tend to think that way about everything.
Until next time!