The clock ticked and time passed by. Time always passes, moving forward or backward, depending on your perspective. Time is perceived differently by different people. Some people count time in days. Others count it in years. Some count them in the cycles it takes their planet to revolve around their sun. Others measure it by the time it takes the planet to rotate in a complete circle. They count it based on random divisions created by people who were in power at just the right time. They calculate it by scientists, by astronomers, by astrologists, by navigators, and by farmers. Everyone wastes so much time being concerned about time. However time is perceived, it continues on and the clock keeps ticking.
Marideen’s hand impulsively tapped against her thighs to the beat of time, if time were said to have a beat. Putting her left hand against the side of her head, she steadily raised the pressure until she felt that little crack. She let out a sigh, and then preceded to push her head in the opposite direction. She gave one more sigh for good measure. Her father ignored her as he continued on with his speech.
“So, our forces are scattered, but with the correct implementation, we can maximize the effect we have on the current Taerren trade. We must destabilize commerce and then redirect…” Leon continued to drone on to the determent of everyone present.
It wasn’t all his fault. The room was incredibly plain, giving Marideen nothing to direct her attention to alleviate her agitation and boredom. The room consisted of metallic white walls, a generic touch screen in the front, and a small grouping of chairs. The chairs stood in a semi-arc toward the front of the room where her father stood. Most of the chairs were empty, and besides Marideen and her sister, no one sat directly next to anyone else.
There were around a dozen other people in the room, but only two of them were unfamiliar with her father Leon’s speech. The others looked almost as bored as she felt. Of course, the words Leon was saying were important. Their mission depended on the details being just right. Nevertheless, by the fifth time she had to hear this in-depth report, her resolve was starting to grind thin.
Although it wasn’t even the repetition that irritated Marideen. It was the presence of her little sister, Danelle. Her sister sat at Marideen’s side, cuddled up in her chair quite comfortably with her head leaning against Marideen. Danelle was younger than her. She was too young to be in this room, at least in Marideen’s opinion. Danelle was neither old enough nor responsible enough for what was coming next.
It wasn’t just the need to protect Danelle that drove Marideen to want to exclude her. Danelle was a bit of a hot-head. Why had Leon insisted that every hand available be used? She would never forgive him if Danelle was hurt.
She couldn’t bring herself to blame Danelle for wanting to come along. She was young, and many of the people they would rescue were people she knew and cared about. However, Leon could have put his foot down and ensured her safety. Of course, that was always how it had worked between them. To Leon, the rebellion always took precedence over anything else.
Danelle murmured something and turned her head away, taking pressure off of Marideen’s shoulder. Marideen shifted herself to keep from disturbing her sister. Staying in that position for so long was starting to cause parts of her body to go numb.
“We will have to move quickly. We won’t have much time, and failure is not an option,” Leon concluded.
This was the end of the speech. Leon ended it the same way every time. It was a bit of a relief. Two of the men who had been sitting stood and approached him, asking questions either to clarify parts one more time or display questions they hadn’t thought of the first few times he had gone over the plan.
Leon was always the planner. He certainly did possess the presence necessary to command a group of men. He was a good speaker, and people listened to him. Leon had structured this plan with the advice of two of his lieutenants, who now argued intently with him over perceived last-minute changes. However, these were simply the details. The primary plan had already been set months ago.
Despite all the nuances and details, the plan was really quite simple. They would dock in a supply vessel on route to the Vanderra space station. Once boarding, they would have some of the men unload supplies while the rest mounted a rescue of several of the inmates. They would ignite an explosion to take out the engine support grid that keeps the station in orbit. In the confusion, they will take escape pods and blend in with the thousands of other escapees at the station.
Their engineers insisted that the station would take approximately two hours to crash, so they would have plenty of time to evacuate before the station hit the atmosphere and tore itself apart. If everything went perfectly, the Taerren government wouldn’t bother to rescue the inmates and would be blamed for the slaughter of hundreds of men. That is if they never realized that the inmates had already left. One couldn’t hope that a plan would go that smoothly, but Leon was a man for plans. In the back of Marideen’s head, she feared that they would be in some deep trouble if the plans changed.
It didn’t particularly seem honest to Marideen. The Lancers’s ultimate goal was to work towards reforming the current Taerren government, which consisted of a great deal of favoritism and too much power in the noble class. However, defaming the government through lies seemed counterproductive in Marideen’s mind. Despite this, she trusted her father’s judgment and the men he chose to listen to.
Of course, the cost would be completely worth the gain. If there was truly a Lord and Lady that watched over the Taerren people, Marideen hoped that they made sure that everything went to plan, at least until they freed Berret. He was Leon’s friend and practically family to Marideen and her sister. During a botched mission some months prior, Berret and a handful of other men had been captured. Those that were noble, like Berret, were imprisoned on Vanderra. Those that were common were executed.
His capture was an unfortunate hit to the Lancers, and Marideen hoped that he was okay. He was like a father to her. At least, more of a father than the man before her. He used to say that he wished that he had had a son so that his son could marry her. After that, he would always wink at her and tell her his son would hate him. The demands that Berret would put on his son to make him worthy of Marideen would be too high. Whenever Berret said that it always made her blush, which she imagined is why he always said it.
She shook off the memory and stood up. Danelle’s eyes were open and she was starting to stretch, unfurling herself from the tight ball she had wound her body into. Marideen herself wobbled a bit, her legs still a bit sleepy from a long time sitting.
“Is…is he finished?” Danelle murmured, her eyes still a bit glazed over from sleep.
Marideen nodded, glancing over at her father as she spoke, “It seems that he wants us to be right in the front lines. He says that we are less likely to get hit than some of his more seasoned men.”
Danelle’s eyes rose slightly before Marideen continued, “According to him, armed men are less likely to gun down two young women, and thus we will cause them pause. Those few seconds of hesitation can make the difference between success and failure.” Marideen’s mimicked her father’s deep voice with that last statement, a momentary burst of anger quickly suppressed.
“I don’t mind, it would be nice to be the ones freeing Berret. Where would you rather be, sitting behind with the ship unloading vegetables?” Danelle demanded.
“Yes, I would. It would be nice to be somewhere safe, where I can keep a watch over you; and I know that the next second we won’t walk into a trap we both won’t make it out of…” Danelle rolled her eyes as Marideen continued. “Don’t look at me that way; we both know that the people going on the rescue mission have the least probability of making it out again. I suppose that is why Dad picked us, because we have a greater probability than most, but I would like him to just once see us as his daughters and not another statistic in this war.”
“But those people that are going with us will include Max and Beiromon. If there was anyone who could keep us safe, anyone you’d trusted more…” Danelle placed her hand on Marideen’s shoulder, a comforting look in her eyes, “I know you and Dad don’t always see eye to eye. But what he says makes sense, and you and I both know that if he started giving you and me special treatment, you’d find yourself opposed to that too.”
A little bit of stress left Marideen as she took a deep breath. “I suppose we’ll just have to watch each other’s backs carefully.”
“Of course,” Danelle mused, “I have to keep you out of trouble after all.”
Marideen let out a wry chuckle that Danelle joined her in. It was forced, but in anticipation of this mission, any call for laughter was welcome. As the laughter died out, the two of them nodded to each other and walked up to the front of the room. Leon turned to them, the lieutenants having already left.
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” Darien asked, his voice devoid of the affection it could have had. Marideen remembered a time when it had been softer, easier. She thought it was around the time her mother had died that his voice had taken an edge to it.
“As ready as we can be… do you know which ship we will be on?” Marideen responded, stifling the growing irritation that started every time she attempted to talk to her father.
“It would seem that the transport is named the ‘Nevercan’,” Leon responded, checking the notepad in his hand first as if he didn’t already have every detail of the plan memorized.
“Oh, what an optimistically sounding ship,” Marideen quipped before grimacing at her father’s aggravated look.
Danelle giggled slightly before jumping at Leon, embracing him in a hug. After a brief flash of shock, his face seemed to morph a little softer. Marideen could never figure out exactly how she did that. How did she know exactly what to do to break that hard exterior? It seemed to be her specialty.
When Danelle’s embrace ended, Leon looked around awkwardly. His features quickly returned to the mask of concentration and thought that he presented to the rest of the world. Leon was a hard man, and even Danelle’s charms only could break it for a second. She beamed another smile at him, a look that almost brightened the entire room, before turning and trotting away. A flicker of a smile touched the side of Leon’s mouth until he glanced back at Marideen, her hands on her hips and a dark look across her face.
“She shouldn’t be on this mission…,” Marideen began before Leon spoke up.
“Don’t start this again Mari, the both of you are perfectly skilled in combat and are more likely to get through this than anyone else. I know you don’t like your little sister in danger, neither do I, but we all have a part to play and this is your part.”
“The mission would be fine without her…”
“We all have a part to play, even her. If anyone of us doesn’t play our part there will be more lives lost than necessary,” Leon slapped his hand down on the podium as Marideen attempted to speak again, “Do NOT be sulky with me. We will all play our part in the times to come. Do your job right and you and your sister will make it out safely, understood?”
They had frequently repeated this conversation over the last couple of days since he had announced her sister would be coming along. Marideen didn’t doubt that her sister would be able to handle herself. She was a very skilled marksman for her age. When Marideen and Danelle had mock battles, Danelle was able to hold her own and even win some of the matches.
At one point and time, Marideen might have considered holding back when sparring with her little sister, but Danelle enjoyed exploiting that weakness to her advantage and quickly taking control of the fight. She had painfully learned not to underestimate her little sister. Although, Marideen’s little sister was miserable in close combat. That skill seemed to have skipped her sister entirely.
“Mari, there is no reason for you to become pouty; this is the way it has to be. The Lord and Lady will watch over all of us. Between you, Maximil, Beiromon, and Markus; I am sure we can keep her safe.”
Pouty? She wasn’t being pouty. She quickly smoothed out her lips, hiding another slight grimace. “Yes, Father.” It was Father, never Dad or Daddy. It was a victory she kept in her head. Always using the formal title, she was able to express how he was never a dad to her, merely a father.
Leon nodded before turning to speak with one of the remaining few attendees who stayed behind to speak to him. It wasn’t that he was a bad father. He always took care of and watched out for his children, but Marideen never felt love. He always gave them exactly their due, never one ounce more. If one of them got left behind or injured; Leon would treat them as any other soldier under his command who suffered the same fate.
It would be nice to see Berret again though. She hoped that being imprisoned for the last few months didn’t take away a lot of the life and charm he possessed. While father was a man of presence, Berret was a man of charm. Many of his friends and colleagues often said Berret could charm the skirt off of an Akari.
Of course, Berret never bragged about his sexual conquests, at least in Marideen’s hearing. He told her that he never kissed and told. Despite this, he was a flirt, but in a generous and good-natured way that put most people at ease. The only thing he valued more than his charm was with his intense loyalty to Leon and the cause.
Berret believed as Leon did, a cause that all of the Lancers followed. The Taerren Colonies deserved a government that worked for them. The current government not only supplanted the rule of other planet’s internal governments but felt their dignitaries and bureaucrats were immune to the same laws they force others to follow.
Lost in thought, Marideen stopped just short of running into someone.
“Ma….ahem…Ma’am?” he spoke in a gruff voice awkwardly.
She hadn’t met him before. It was a young Lancer with hazel eyes and brownish messy hair. He was actually a few years older than her, but Marideen often saw other people close to her age as her younger. Perhaps a consequence of the immaturity of most men, or a sign she should take better care of herself before she gets grey hairs by the age of 30. He looked rough as if he had seen a fair amount of action himself. He was looking at her oddly though, and she realized that must have been mumbling to herself.
“Excuse me, I wasn’t paying attention…” She gave him a quick nod before moving to his side. Before she had gone more than a step he put his hand on her arm, stopping her.
“I…I’m sorry.” He said, suddenly pulling his hand back as if shocked. His face changed, looking more melancholy. “I really am sorry.”
Marideen blinked. Was he hitting on her? It had been a long time since she had been flirtatious with a boy, but she wasn’t sure if she knew how to read the signs right.
“It’s okay. You’re fine; I mean…it’s my fault.” The Lancer smiled slightly, but his eyes didn’t seem to change from their sad overcast. He pulled his eyes away from hers and slowly walked past. Her eyes followed after him.
She suddenly felt a tugging on her arm; she looked to her side to see Danelle there.
“Who’s that?” She asked.
“I’ve never met him before,” Marideen responded.
“Oh, well he’s cute, you should ask him out.”
“Maybe, Berret could give you some pointers once we break him out?”
Marideen lightly smacked Danelle over the head, causing Danelle to break into giggles.
“You do need a man. He seems like the brooding type, and I know how you like the brooding type.”
“Oh and I suppose your type is better?” Marideen retorted. “A man who has lips…”
“And a butt, don’t forget nice buttocks!” Danelle retorted.
“Buttocks?” Marideen smirked. “You actually used the word buttocks?”
Danelle shrugged, “That’s what Max told me to call it.”
The two of them broke into giggles as they turned down the hallway. After the giggling subsided their conversation halted into an awkward silence. They turned into another hallway, moving at a leisurely pace towards their quarters. These hallways were not as sterile and white as the room they had come from. The walls were done with a checkered mosaic of brown wallpaper while the ground consisted mostly of dark blue tiles.
They were in a small town located on a small moon named Terres. It revolved around an uninhabitable gas giant named Paris. It was the farthest colony still sitting in the Kru solar system. This was was one of several towns built around a rich farming community that covered the habitable parts of the planet.
The moon’s revolution and orbit around the planet lead to roughly forty standardized days of darkness followed by forty standardized days of continuous light over most of the planet. Farming was often an odd process on planets such as these, which depended on specially modified vegetation to grow within the odd light schedules.
About ten to fifteen days before the end of the dark cycle, farmers would plant all of their vegetation and then harvest near the end of the light cycle. The farmers kept busy all year round, never having a lull period. During the initial stages of the dark cycle, where temperatures could drop to below freezing, many farmers would transport their goods to the inner colonies themselves, looking to gain the best deals on their goods. They would then use whatever money they had made to purchase any rare or unavailable goods for the next sixty days before returning back to prepare for the next cycle.
It was onboard one of these transports that the Lancers hoped to gain entry into the floating space station. One of the farmers who had managed to strike a deal selling food to the prison was a Lancer sympathizer and offered to help several of them gain entrance to the ship during his drop.
They continued to walk on in silence, nearing their quarters when Danelle started to voice her concerns. “We’ll be alright, won’t we?”
Marideen looked over at her.
“A lot of things could go wrong. We might not be able to find Berret. We might not be able to ignite the explosion. We might not be able to make it to the escape pods. We might not make it away in the chaos of landing escape pods. I’d have to say that our chances are acceptable,” Marideen explained.
Danelle glanced back, “You know how to instill confidence, you know that?”
“Don’t start Dani, I make no allusions to a perfect plan. It’s dangerous, and I don’t want you to forget that for a second.”
Danelle assured her that she did not. A smile broke out on her face again before she grabbed Marideen in an embrace. She buried her head into Marideen’s bosom, and her arms squeezed her tightly.
“What is this for?” Marideen chuckled.
“I love you, sister.” Danelle looked up at Marideen, and then turned away with a blush.
“What is it?” Marideen asked cautiously.
“We’re going to be on a ship soon.” Danelle forced herself to speak, looking over at the entrance to the room they shared. “It just came to me that we won’t be able to take a proper bath for likely a few months.”
Marideen nodded thoughtfully, “That’s true. It’d be a good idea to take one before we go.”
“Can you please, bath with me? Like we used to?” Danelle begged, attempting to use her puppy dog eyes.
Marideen sighed and nodded. Given the circumstances, Marideen and Danelle were a bit closer than they might have been if they were grown up in a colony. They’d been transported in shipping crates for weeks on end, having to cope with each other in spaces no larger than a coffin. Although it wasn’t common for women their age to bath together, there was absolutely no secrets between the two girls anymore, so Marideen didn’t mind this request of intimacy the slightest bit.
They filled the tub with hot water, and then Marideen got in. Danelle was looking at Marideen’s body for a moment, making her feel a bit sensitive. She casually crossed her arms over her chest and blushed.
Danelle’s eyes flashed mischievously as she plops between her sister’s legs. “It’s okay. Even though you’re two years older, since we’re sisters, you should grow boobs like mine eventually.”
“Do you want a bath or do you want to die!” Marideen shouted.
“S-stop! They’re sensitive!” Danelle cried as Marideen reached around and tried to twist her nipples.
Marideen was relentless, however, and didn’t stop until Danelle was in tears begging for forgiveness. Just because Danelle had grown slightly bigger that Marideen was no reason for her to gloat. She still was the younger sister and she shouldn’t forget it! A great deal of water had splashed on the floor by the time their antics were done.
When things settled down, Danelle leaned back against her sister, feeling the warmth of her naked skin and feeling a bit comforted. Marideen wasn’t the type to lean back and relax, however, and so she had some soap on a loofah and was systematically cleaning her sisters body parts. As she tried to clean under her arms, Danelle kept twitching and giggling.
“Thank you…” Danelle suddenly said.
“Hmm? For what?” Marideen asked.
“Looking after me…” Danelle turned to Marideen, her face giving a little smile.
Marideen leaned forward and kissed Danelle, squeezing her naked body tightly in her arms. “Someone has to; you’re all kinds of trouble.”
The girls stayed like that in each other’s arms long into the night until they were cold and pruney, but neither minded one bit.