I like this scene. It was part of the first ENDGAME draft, near the end, when Torin was still a POV character. I liked it because of the camaraderie revealed. Because John seems a little more human(ish). And because I like the jokes.
Torin eased the skimcart into the guesthouse driveway, then shut it down. “OK.” He glanced over his shoulder at the rear platform, upon which Niall Pierce enjoyed the sleep of the seriously plastered. “How do I–” He eased out of the cart, and belched. Alcohol didn’t affect his hybrid system, but the bartender had served him something he kept hidden behind the bar that he swore had a similar effect on Haárin.
“Yeah.” Torin rolled his eyes, then belched again. All the stuff had done was upset his stomach, for which he was grateful. The evening had proved information-packed, and he would hate to have lost anything to intoxicant-induced amnesia.
He walked to the door and pressed the buzzer, then stepped back and tried to decide which of the curtained second floor windows belonged to the master bedroom.
Then a light went on. The corner–he should have guessed. He circled around the house and waited as the window opened and Kilian stuck out her head.
“I don’t know what to do with him.” Torin pointed to the body atop the cart. “I can’t get into the officers’ hostel, and–” He lowered his voice. “–I don’t want him to get into trouble.”
Kilian leaned on the sill. “I think that Niall would have to do a lot more than drink himself into a stupor to get into trouble.” She started, then moved aside.
“What the hell–?” Shroud’s head poked out next to Kilian’s–he looked from Torin, to the cart, then back to Torin. “Oh, cripe.” His head vanished within. “Meet you downstairs.”
Torin walked to the cart and waited. It was an hour before the Rauta Shèràa dawn, and while the city itself, like most, never slept, the humanish enclave apparently wound down from just after midnight to sunrise. Torin had met no other vehicles on the access road between the embassy and the guesthouse, and the only sounds that rivaled those of crickets and shudder beetles were Pierce’s snores and his own stomach rumbles.
After a minute or two, the entry opened and a bathrobed Shroud emerged, once more dragging the gurney. “I should start charging.” He pushed the gurney up against the cart, and with an ease that spoke to a great deal of practice moving unconscious inebriates, had Pierce transferred and laid out flat before Torin could speak up to offer his aid.
“Wow.” Kilian, in a robe as well, stood in the middle of the driveway and watched. “Another talent picked up at the Neoclona annual conference?”
“Medical school.” Shroud motioned for Torin to take the rear of the gurney, then started back toward the house. “Me and my gurney during Assignment Week, when the fourth years found out which hospital did, or didn’t, offer them an internship? I made enough pocket money to last me through the next semester.”
“I am in awe.”
“And the list of my talents that impresses Jani Kilian grows ever stranger.” Shroud steered the gurney into the foyer while Torin continued to handle the rear and Kilian managed the door. “Sitting room on this floor. It has a couch.”
Kilian fell into step beside Torin. “What happened?”
“He wanted to get loaded, and he took me along because he thought I needed to get loaded, too. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was immune.” Torin fell silent as he and Shroud jostled the gurney through the narrow doorway.
“What did you talk about?” Kilian’s voice emerged soft.
“Everything.” Torin closed his eyes, realizing his mistake as soon as he blurted the word. Oh gods. “He told me…” He looked into her eyes, green hybrid eyes that should have reminded him of home and instead never looked so alien, and shivered. “He…told me. Everything about…everything.” He glanced at Shroud to find he had already scooted Pierce onto the couch and stripped off his tunic. He now stood over the man like a protector, metal eyes fixed on Torin, just as cold as Kilian’s. “He told me about the…Night of the Blade and…what he did and…” He backed toward the door, even though he knew that if he tried to run, he would never make it through the foyer. “I wasn’t recording. I would never–not to him. Not to any of you. Not after what we’ve been through.”
“That’s not supposed to matter.” Kilian toyed with the tie of her robe, which was purple toweling with too-long sleeves and likely one of Shroud’s spares. “It’s the truth that matters. You’ve said it yourself often enough. It’s really very simple.”
“Why do you always push?” Torin picked through his tired brain for a reason that would suffice for now, a reason that he would have considered sacrilege a mere month or two ago. “It’s an old story. Nobody cares.”
“Cao’s people could use it to topple Mako and Scriabin and cripple the secessionists.” Shroud adjusted a pillow beneath Pierce’s head, then took a blanket from a storage chest and covered him.
Torin pressed a hand to his stomach, which was sending up a chorus of complaint and threatened to commit a social faux pas at any moment. “Goddamnit.” He burped. “I…can’t.” He took a deep breath. Another. “I never heard the story you’re asking about. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Kilian studied him for a time. Then she turned and walked to the couch, and sat down on the arm at Pierce’s feet. “He’s been through enough.” She tugged at the blanket to straighten it, then looked to Shroud. “Can you give him anything to head off the hangover?”
Shroud feigned surprise. “Are you sure he’d want me to?” He had picked up the injector again, and eyed it skeptically. “What good’s a binge if you don’t balance the fun with dehydration and a profound headache?”
“All right.” Shroud dug through the apparently bottomless slingbag, freeing yet another set of canisters.
Torin watched enviously as Shroud loaded the injector and pressed it to Pierce’s upper arm. “Do you have anything for upset stomach?”
Shroud kept his eye on the injector dosemeter. “Caused by what?”
“Bartender gave me something that made me sick. He swore it worked on Haárin like alcohol.”
“They say that about everything from catnip to spoiled orange juice.” Shroud pressed the injector’s input pad, then beckoned to Torin. “Pull up your shirt.”
Torin flinched as Shroud pressed the injector against the skin above his stomach and the medicinal warmth seeped through. Then he felt the pressure in his gut lessen, the roiling cease. “Oh gods–thank you. I thought I was going to spend the rest of the night percolating.” He straightened his shirt and tucked it in. “Will he be OK?”
“Yes.” Kilian had picked through the drawer of an end table next to the couch, extracting a stylus and a scrap of paper. “Inasmuch as he is capable, and inasmuch as we are capable of helping him be so.” She shot a pointed look at Torin, then started writing.
Shroud tossed the injector into his bag, yawning all the while. “What are you doing now?”
“I’m leaving him a note. So that when he wakes up, he’ll know where he is.” Kilian folded the paper and set it on a table where Pierce could see it.
Shroud chuckled. “You should write, ‘Thank you for a night I’ll never forget. Love, Lucien’.”
“Not funny, John.”
“I know.” Shroud held a hand to his mouth to hide his grin, then beckoned to Torin. “Time for all good hybrids to call it a night, Mister Clase.”