Emerson Mauthus sat on a couch across from Darian Ellesmere and frowned at the wreck his friend’s life had become.

“I don’t know how many more times I can bail you out of these little self-destructions,” Mauthus said. They were in the lobby of the Hesperia Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Center, the city spreading out behind them against a salmon pink sky. The First Consul of Mars had been here far too often for his liking.

Ellesmere looked tired, but at least he didn’t look drunk. At least he wasn’t raging nonsense. How long this lull would last was anybody’s guess, but Mauthus was almost certain that it would happen soon after Ellesmere checked out.

“I disappoint you, I know,” Ellesmere said. “I try. I do. I do try. It’s hard, though. I miss her.”

Mauthus nodded. “Eudora would be disappointed too.” That struck his friend where it hurt. He could see that in his sunken eyes. Good. “You keep this up, Darian, you’re going to kill yourself. You’ll meet her in the next life. Then what will she say to you? How will she react?”

“Not well,” Ellesmere ventured.

“No,” the First Consul agreed. “Not well. So, pull it together. This is your last chance.”