Malakai entered the room first, taking in the sight and smell of it. It was where he and his brother used to play. They would imagine that they were Trenchers of the 32nd Battalion fighting off the hordes of Legionnaires issuing forth from Saladin's citadel like a foul river. Little had changed in the time since he left to join the Brotherhood. His dead grandfather's portrait that hung over the fireplace mantle was replaced with that of his father, who died in the Gideon Offensive on Mercury. When he got the news, he was still a Missionary with the Second Directorate. Not long after that, it was discovered by one of his tutors that he had the gift of using the Art. That gift allowed him to train as an Inquisitor and was his path out of the Mission.
“Canna believe tha' Da's been gone nigh fifteen years,” Graeme said, closing the door behind him. He walked over to the bar and picked up the brandy decanter. “Somethin' ta wash away th' taste?”
“You read my mind, Graeme,” Malakai replied, turning to his brother. Graeme poured two glasses and joined Malakai in the center of the room, handing him a glass. They both stood there, staring at each other without a word. Neither one knew where to begin, but Graeme tried first.
“T'ye health, brother,” Graeme said, holding up his glass. He noticed Malakai swallow hard as he raised his glass in kind.
“To yours,” Malakai softly replied and they both drank. Once finished, both of them fell into an uncomfortable silence.
“Well, Graeme, what is it that you wish of me?” Malakai asked sternly. Graeme's face twisted into a grimace and some of the color faded from his cheeks.
“Aye was thinkin', “ Graeme stammered, “o' askin' Millie t'marry me. Aye plan on askin' her t'night.” He gulped visibly as he watched his brother's passive face for any reaction. “My request is tha' aye would like ye t'officiate th' ceremony, Ailín.”
Malakai's jaw tightened, but he said nothing.
“Are ye gunna keep me in suspense?” Graeme asked at his brother's silence. Malakai sighed.
“Well? What's ye answer?” his brother expectantly asked.
“No is my answer, Graeme,” Malakai calmly said.
Anger darkened Graeme’s face like a spreading eclipse. “Twenty years. It’s been twenty years, n’ye still carry a grudge. Unbelievable.”
“No, I do not,” Malakai replied as he walked past his brother and set down his glass on an end table. He then moved to the large bay windows that overlooked the front of the manor, his eyes scanning the firmament.
“Really? Then what’s ye reason not to?” Graeme retorted to his brother’s back. Malakai said nothing in return. “Ye wouldn’t –“ Graeme started to say more, but Malakai cut him off.
“I still would have said no, even if Ma asked me,” he interrupted, his eyes still scanning the heavens. At long last, he found the bright contrail of light. It streaked across the night sky and then stopped and disappeared . A few moments later, the light streak appeared once more and vanished into the horizon. After it was gone, another contrail much smaller than the first, dimly lit the darkness at the point where the original initially disappeared.
The small line of light sailed towards the manor house, passing high overhead and out of Malakai’s sight.
Graeme’s anger at his brother soon gave way to puzzlement. “How did ye - ?” was all he got out to his brother’s abrupt response. Malakai held up a raised index finger, requesting him to wait. Then Malakai pointed to an intercom speaker mounted near the door.
As if on cue, the speaker crackled into life.
“Major Fergan, Inquisitor Majoris Malakai? This is Sergeant Mills. We have received a call from the clan’s spaceport. They just received an urgent message from the captain of the HSS Venture. The Venture detected a ship emerging from the rift. The captain positively identified the ship as Cybertronic. He also confirmed a drop ship was launched from the enemy vessel. The Venture is planning on giving chase, but wanted to notify the ground what was happening and to prepare. Major Fergan, shall we put the house guard on alert?”
“Aye, get –“
“That will not be necessary, Sergeant. Have the guard sequester our family in the holdout bunker until I give the all clear.
There was a momentary pause over the intercom. “Ye- Yes, Your Grace,” the sergeant replied before the intercom fell silent. Graeme turned on his brother angrily.
“What gives ye th' right t'make th' order???” Graeme hissed. “Aye kin take care o' th' family wit'out runnin' off like ye did.”
“There are two reasons, dear brother,” Malakai said, fixing his blue eyes coldly on Graeme. “I am an Inquisitor Majoris. With the heretical bastards of Cybertronic on our rear doorstep, it means that I have authority to deal with this Legion attack on behalf of the Brotherhood. Second, I'm the eldest, Graeme. Brotherhood or no, I am the man of the house while I am here or did you forget that?”
Graeme averted his eyes, scowling at the rebuke. He only looked at his brother when Malakai approached and placed his hands on his shoulders.
“Did your men come prepared?” Malakai asked, with a half smile. “Or, are we going to fight this fight with cocktail forks?”
Graeme huffed. “O' course. Chief Haig brought his squad fully loaded fer bear. Millie's men brought theirs, too.”
Malakai's smile broadened. “Then let's give them a taste of Fergan wrath.”