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- "It's versatile. By itself, it's nothing, just an empty tube. But that's its deceptive beauty; it's all about what you fill it with. What you make it. What you make it do."
- — Banshee-44
"It's versatile. By itself, it's nothing, just an empty tube. But that's its deceptive beauty; it's all about what you fill it with. What you make it. What you make it do." —Banshee-44
Armored boots clang down metal stairs as Lord Saladin descends the catwalks between the central tower. The Bazaar is otherwise quiet, giving him time to contemplate the strategy needed for his impending diplomatic liaison.
"I demand a place in the decision making for…" Saladin trails off in thought as he walks. "I request addition to your council for…" He grunts, shaking his head. "Commander, I'm concerned about your inclusion of Future War Cult in…" A grumble. None of it sounds right.
Saladin pauses to look out over the City, where the streets are hidden behind a shimmering pall of digital fog. He closes his eyes, shakes his head, and takes a moment to compose himself. There are no sounds of fighting here, no gunshots, no screams. Those exist only in his mind.
"You'll have to speak a little louder if you'd like the commander to hear you."
The sudden intrusion of a voice not his own wheels Saladin around, catching Osiris uncomfortably close behind him. Saladin's expression shifts from shock to embarrassment concealed behind a mask of frustration. "It is unbecoming of you to eavesdrop, Warlock."
"Please," Osiris dismisses, slowly approaching Saladin. "Anyone with an ear could hear you mumbling to yourself. I just happened to comment on it." He gestures with an open hand, then clasps both behind his back.
"I have a meeting to attend," Saladin insists, turning to make an abrupt exit. Osiris sidesteps, getting between Saladin and the stairs, and elicits an immediate look of challenge from the Iron Lord.
Osiris, mindfully, raises both his hands. "Please, Lord Saladin. A moment?"
Saladin crosses his arms over his chest. Impatience shows in a crease of his brow.
"Now may not be the best time if you're hoping to find an ally in the commander," Osiris explains as he places a guiding hand on Saladin's elbow, drawing him away from the main walkway.
"Commander Zavala is under considerable stress at the moment," Osiris continues. "While you might see your presence as a reinforcing one…" He raises his brows, glancing sidelong at Saladin. "You may not be correct in that assertion."
"Stop talking in circles." Saladin plants his feet. "What is it you're getting at?"
"When was the last time you—to put it as you did earlier—eavesdropped?"
Saladin rankles. "I do not eavesdrop," he growls.
"Then perhaps that is why you do not realize what the overall opinion of your actions are in the eyes of other Guardians." Osiris's tone is gentle, apologetic, measured. It conveys an obvious tone: this news is bad, and he hates to be the bearer of bad news.
Saladin is quiet; Osiris sees the lack of outward defiance as a foothold. He digs in.
"Many without our shared convictions have questioned your leadership decisions during the recent crisis with Empress Caiatl." Osiris dips his head in close to Saladin, voice hushed as if to share a secret. "Others suggest that it was you who ordered the assassination attempt on the commander."
"An Iron Lord would never," Saladin says with a quaver in his voice. "I am not—"
"I know," Osiris is quick to softly interject. "But not everyone knows you like I do. They make well-articulated and convincing arguments based off of your very vocal stance against an armistice with the Cabal."
Closing his eyes, Saladin draws in a slow and calming breath. The sounds of gunfire, shouts, and screams are louder now than ever before. Or maybe it's the blood pounding in his ears. "All the more reason for me to set the record straight."
"Is that what you came to the City for? To set a record straight?" Osiris presses. "Just a minute ago, it sounded to me like you wished to ask for a place in Zavala's inner circle. How do you think that might look?"
Saladin looks in the direction of Zavala's office, hands curling into fists. "Lakshmi-2 is—"
"Let me handle Lakshmi," Osiris insists, once more reaching out a hand for Saladin's arm. This time, the Iron Lord doesn't pull away. "Fight the battles you know you can win, Lord Saladin. I know how to handle her. There may come a time when your strength will be needed again, but that time is not now."
Saladin looks sharply to Osiris. A rebuttal forms behind his lips, but is never spoken aloud. He lets his head hang.
"Thank you, Osiris," Saladin says with a heavy heart, conviction flagging. "You are a true friend."