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"It started a long time ago, James. That's what you never understood."

He looked out, over the city - his city, he'd always thought. The glass gave him a view unparallelled, he could see the tops of buildings, their roofs now used for docking stations. He could see the elevators, compressed air shooting people to and from their floors. He could see the clouds of neon drifting over various windows, the people there surely hoping their seals held - the turtles, wafting on once-grafted wings, from perch to perch on the statuaries that dotted the streets - now decorative, pedestrian.

"You keep saying that, I don't understand. You would be wrong there - for the record."

His brother-in-arms smiled, beneath the mask. "There's no record here. It's just us, James. Us, and the window. You could, you know, do the honorable thing."

Grinding his teeth, the vizier turned back to this calm, cool assailant - so unlike the boy he remembered - and shook his head. "What honor is that, Dylan? To flee the only door I have, leaving you over my shallow grave? You never had that honor, did you? For you, it was glory - it was triumph. Honor never entered the picture."

The mask never slipped, but he thought he saw a grimace beneath it, through the holes. "This battle was lost a long time ago. The king will concede our wishes, and your name will be forgotten. Honor is ours, in victory. You're a fool, James, and you'll die like one. The city will be ours; the country will be ours. We've waited a long time for this - while you slept, the dreams of those brighter were eating the stone from beneath your feet."

He had to smile, then. The boy was so young, so foolish. "Is that really what you think? That all this time, I blundered on like a child, snatching small prizes where I saw them, keeping my masters happy, blind to the world around me? We never did see eye to eye, Dylan, but I would have thought you saw me higher than that."

Dylan gestured with the gun. "If you are so wise, old friend, you will choose the short path. Make this easy, on both of us."

James laughed aloud, then, shaking his head. "The short path is mine either way. I'm not a fool, Dylan. You've got the gun, I've got none. You just don't want to dirty your hands, is that it? You've stumbled. I put my affairs in order months ago, when your friends closed on Jareth. Did you really think he'd fall without a word?"

The mask was fixed, of course, but the intruder, his erstwhile friend, could not hide the sudden tightness in his arms, the shake on his gun hand.

"It's all out, you fool. The king knows your treachery - has known. I will not grant you pardon, here, for their murder!" He found his voice raised, on that last, nearly spitting the word. Strange, that his own mask would slip first.

Strange, he thought, as the shot went through the window behind him, and he felt the ground before him rise.

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thulcandran

May 2013

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