He had seen it, dreamed about it even. Ever since he had worked out the whole dynamics between Devin and himself, he knew it would come. Still, the day that Devin turned on him came as a surprise. Devin’s behavior was growing increasingly more antagonistic. He’d either hide from Darian when he entered the cell or cussed him out if given the chance.
Darian tried to explain to his roommate when he could get Devin to listen. He tried to tell Devin that they were friends, that they had a history together he couldn’t remember, and what he was remembering was a piece of the future. Darian told the old man that Devin had asked Darian to one day kill him. Devin ignored it all. He accused Darian of being a murderer, a liar, a cheat. As the days went on and more guards frequented his cell for readings, he also called him a traitor.
However, when the day finally came, all of his intuition still didn’t see it coming. The look in Devin’s eyes, of pure hate, Darian remembered from his vision. Still, before Darian could react the man was on top of him, attacking him. Beiromon had witnessed the exchange and yelled for the guards to help. The guards had pulled them away from each other. Darian had gotten out of the exchange with only a few bruises and scratches. Devin was getting on in his years, and Darian’s training sessions with Beiromon were starting to pay off. Fortunately, he had had enough time to recover from his wounds during the gym brawl and suffered almost no blurring from the repeated blows Devin attempted to deliver to his head.
This is how he found himself as Beiromon’s roommate instead of Devin’s. The look on Devin’s face, their long friendship ended, it hurt Darian. So instead of thinking about it, he threw himself into his training. That was one of the agreements he had forged with the warden. He would be allowed private time with Beiromon to practice swords. The warden had found the thought of a prisoner trying to learn swordsmanship, traditionally considered a noble’s art, disgusting. He seemed to have heard of Beiromon though, and that seemed to lead to his decision to allow it. Most of the guards were of the opinion that a gun trumped a sword in any battle anyway, and so the training wouldn’t threaten them.
The other conditions to the warden’s release, a pardon for all prisoners save those that killed a guard during their uprising and a full steak meal for all of the prisoners had also been fulfilled to a tee. It was clear that the warden did not understand the importance of the steak meal. He argued that it felt like rewarding bad behavior, but being in a bit of a bind, eventually acquiesced. Darian was honestly a bit surprised when the warden had followed through with his promises. It required a man of honor to do that, and he had a little bit more respect for the old noble.
Another part of the agreement was to spread the rumor amongst the guards that Darian had rescued the warden using his psychic powers while simultaneously spreading the rumor that Darian had held him captive and forced him to his will amongst the prisoners. The steak dinner was instrumental to both buying the prisoner’s trust and selling the rumor. Still, there were prisoners that chose to believe the guard’s rumor and occasionally eyed Darian, wondering if they could get a shiv into his body. Fortunately, there were enough prisoners on the opposite side who were quite fond of their once in a lifetime steak dinner to keep the naysayers quiet.
Darian suspected Roan also had a large part to play in earning the trust of the prisoners. He had apparently had a great deal of sway within the prison. Well over half of the inmates on the space station had some connection with Roan. Surprised that Roan had managed to start this rebellion and got away with it in one piece, all thanks to the actions of Darian, was enough to sway many people’s opinions. When Frez, the man who had attacked him finally left the infirmary, Roan had a long talk with him. Their conversation was quite animated, and Frez stormed away angrily. Still, every time Frez gave Darian a dirty look, one of Roan’s men would flex in intimidation and he would quiet himself quickly.
At every lunch, Roan would sit nearby Darian. He rarely spoke to Darian, instead choosing to stay with his own group. Darian suspected Roan simply wanted to continually remind Darian of the promise he made. Darian did remember. Every day he thought about how he could help Roan achieve his goals. Every day he thought about escape. It had to happen. Devin had said it would happen. But Devin had also said… Darian didn’t want to think about that.
His plans for escape became more palpable as the guards began to approach him more readily. His ability to predict the future, his saving of Tifran, and his freeing of the warden had all grown into a bit of lore. Two of the guards who had been involved in his beating the first day had approached him and apologized for what had happened. One of those guards had offered to sneak something in for him at his request. He had told the guard he’d think on it. What single item could be snuck in that wouldn’t be suspicious, but that ultimately would lead to his escape. He wasn’t completely sure yet.
He now regularly gave tellings to guards. Most of the time he didn’t even have visions. As long as he told the guards something vaguely future sounding they were content. The few times his intuition did kick in were surprising enough that he was able to sell it well. It was shockingly easy to tell guards things they already knew, getting them to divulge more information which Darian then use to get them to divulge more. When the guards benefited from his tellings, they were often willing to help. As a result, he and Beiromon often ate considerably better than they had. He frequently found himself with gifts which he could then use to trade and bribe other prisoners.
This unique position with the guards also made him privy to their gossip. They would sometimes carry on about things they had heard. There was the talk of some big discovery that they built a hidden jump gate to reach. There was not much known about it, except that scientists and archeologist were being rounded up and sent away somewhere to do important research. Darian ideally wondered if Professor Faraday had been sent there or if his actions had been caught and he was now dead.
Darian supposed that if Phineas Faraday had been caught, then Darian would have been hunted down, so it seemed unlikely that that was the case. Darian couldn’t remember the faces of the guard who had helped him and Darian did not want to ask around at the risk of exposing them.
The most important gossip Darian always listened to was that of the Lancers. He couldn’t exactly say why, perhaps it was the years of torture and prison, but Darian found himself siding with anyone who was against the current form of Taerran government. No conversation took place about the Lancers without mentioning the Butcher of Braun. An insane leader who killed civilians and other Lancers as easily as Taerrans. She’s been known to raid supply lines, bomb hospitals, and engage in space combat.
Incidentally, it has been an unwritten rule for some time that spacecraft are not be fitted with weapons on them. Any tear in the hall typically led to the death of everyone on board. Space combat was considered reckless, dangerous, and stupid, and hadn’t occurred since the last great war against the aliens known as Iridians. Darian could not remember ever having met an alien, despite the fact he was supposedly found on an alien planet. He wondered what they looked like. He supposed that he’d never know since the aliens mysteriously disappeared in some kind of mass extinction event.
He wasn’t particularly sure what to believe regarding the Butcher. She was a revolutionary to some, looking to bring change and a terrorist to others. Even among the guards, he could sense she had some fans and some who despised her. Either way, they all agreed that she needed to be put behind bars and executed as soon as possible. Even those that respected her refused to excuse what she has done or how she has done it.
Regardless of all that, the best times Darian experienced were when he was with Beiromon learning the sword. At first, he had been apprehensive about learning. He was really more interested in hand to hand defenses, but as Beiromon put it, he refused to teach anything halfway. Beiromon was a swordmaster, and Darian would learn the sword or nothing at all.
Darian had good instincts. Supernatural instincts even. Of course, Beiromon still beat him more often than not. Knowing where your opponent could strike was basically useless if you didn’t know how to block them when they attacked. As a result, Darian often found himself getting battered and bruised as the training sticks the guards had allowed them collided with his flesh time and time again.
Still, Darian began to find a zen-like quality to the fighting. It was relaxing to go through the motions of combat. To move the sword like an extension, treating it like a part of his own body. Beiromon was rigorous and relentless. He had experience training people and would do what was necessary to scrounge every inch of effort a person had left into training. Darian left many of his training sessions imagining he would die as he lay in his bed in pain, every movement feeling like agony.
Beiromon’s training did not simply stop at the motions and techniques either. He demanded upper body strength training, running with a sword drawn and acrobatics out of Darian as well. Darian’s body had never felt weaker than the first day Beiromon had begun training. The occasional laps around the track had not prepared Darian after years being stuck in a room with very little working out.
Beiromon cursed Darian when he needed cursing, complimented him when he needed compliments, and let him quit seconds before he collapsed. He was a very good teacher. However, when the sword was up and they sat down after a long bout of swordplay, he’d drop the facade of a hardened instructor and let the age and stress show. They never really chitchatted like he used to do with Devin. Beiromon was a man who believed that every conversation had a point, and did not respond to idle chatter.
However, loneliness and desire to fill the silence sometimes lead them into conversations. Often it would just be a question about Taerrans, nobility, or some other piece of information that Darian could have literally asked anyone for. Slowly though, he worked up the courage to ask the questions he really wanted to ask. Finally one day, after a particularly grueling sword session, he decided it was time. The pair had lied down, panting and trying to take sips of water from a canteen, one of the many gifts Darian had received for a reading. He needed to know.
“The Lancers, you were a part of the Lancers, right?”Darian asked.
Beiromon remained quiet for a moment. The silence seemed to stretch as Darian waited for an answer. For a brief moment, he feared he might have reached too far into Beiromon’s privacy.
“Yes,” he finally said his voice tight with restraint.
“Could you… clarify?” Darian asked, unable to stop himself.
Beiromon waited for another minute before finally sighing, “Why not? My knowledge of the lancers is limited. It’s been almost two years since I was a part of them. But they changed. The group I knew is long dead.”
“I’m sorry,” Darian responded, not sure what else to say.
“No, I should apologize. When the Taerrans first captured me, they tried to get me to talk. I resisted. Kept my mouth shut, at great personal cost. It put up a lot of defenses. Even now I don’t want to talk about them, even though any knowledge I have is most likely useless to anyone.”
“I met a group of Lancers once, aboard a space station. There was a girl there, about my age, maybe a little younger. She had long dark brown hair, a bit of temper, and a little sister?” Darian began.
“Marideen…” Beiromon breathed his voice almost a whisper.
“The Butcher of Braun?” Darian exclaimed.
Beiromon’s face flashed in anger for a brief moment, “Do not use that name to me. I remember Marideen. She was a kind, sweet girl. Not a Butcher.”
Darian remained silent for a moment, “You yourself said it was a long time ago.”
Beiromon’s face went slack with resignation, it was a posture that Darian was becoming too familiar with.
“I practically raised that girl. I was a swordmaster for the Cleefes. I trained her father, her, and her sister. When the Cleefe family fell, I had helped rescue the kids, then later I broke Deiron out of prison. I did everything for that family. I will not believe for a second the rumors that surround her. She was a good, kind girl.”
Darian nodded but decided not to say anything further. The girl with piercing blue eyes that had rescued him was the butcher? He had a hard time believing that as well.
“The station, it was Vanderra?” Beiromon asked after a moment.
“I had heard rumors mostly. It was the worst day the Lancers had ever seen. The majority of our forces snatched up and imprisoned, myself included, in the blink of an eye. Then the Lord Regent’s son was dead. They said a young Lancer had done it. A planned assassination. They claimed to have killed him in a private execution with just the Lord Regent. I had gotten the description of that boy. Confused me for the longest time since I don’t know any Lancers that matched that description. It was you, wasn’t it?”
Darian nodded again.
“Lord and Lady, you should be dead,” Beiromon huffed, sitting straighter, his eyes looking over Darian with a reappraisal of his worth,” I never could get all the answers, what had happened that day?”
Now it was Darian’s time to resign himself to the truth. Well, he had asked for it.
“I’ve never told you, at least so far. My first memory started on that station when I woke to the eyes of Marideen looking down at me…”
Darian proceeding to tell Beiromon everything. Everything he had discussed with Devin over the years. This was the first time he had presented things in such a together fashion. It led him to interesting insights into his life. Beiromon filled in the blanks in Darian’s mind, about the Lancers, and why they were there. Remarkably, they had been captured on the same station at around the same time.
Beiromon said that he was on a mission with a woman named Kate. By the tone of his voice, Darian could tell that Kate meant something to Beiromon. When their position was found out, he had held off half a dozen soldiers so that Kate had time to escape. They never had managed to set off the explosives they had planned to.
Beiromon’s major regret was not finding out what had happened to Kate. Had she escaped? He had heard nothing about her whereabouts since being imprisoned, and Darian could tell that it bothered him greatly. It was strange seeing Beiromon, an aging man with white hair and ridicules sideburns acting lovesick, but Darian imagined that’s what it would look like.
Darian continued to talk though. He began to talk about Dr. Faraday and the experiments. The temporal anomalies. He told Beiromon about Devin, and how he was somehow traveling backward in time. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he should not divulge so much personal information to someone who was still a bit of a stranger. He knew what he had to say sounded crazy, and that any sane man would stand up and walk away after hearing the events of Darian’s life. However, Beiromon listened silently and stoically. He nodded occasionally, interrupted once or twice to clarify, but otherwise listened to everything that Darian had to say.
Darian ended up speaking of how all the faces in his life were gone from his memory. He couldn’t remember the people he used to know, the world he came from, or the things he had done. In truth, even Marideen and the rest of the Lancers faces were fuzzy and half-remembered in his broken memory.
When he finished, he had expected Beiromon to laugh. He had expected him to turn in disgust. Perhaps he would simply stand up and walk away. Instead, Beiromon just nodded and then looked him right in the eyes.
“You really can see the future, can’t you?” Beiromon asked.
Darian blinked. That had not been the question he would have expected.
“It seems to come in three ways. Visions and dreams that I know will come true but can change, flashes of the future that I can’t seem to avoid, and intuition.” Darian finally said.
“What’s it like, that intuition of yours?” Beiromon asked.
Darian thought about it for a moment before answering, “It’s like a tickle in the back of my throat. It’s like remembering something, only backward. At first, I just have a generalized idea of what might happen in the future. The details are completely lost to me. Just like you can’t really remember what you had for breakfast ten days ago I can’t remember what exactly will happen. Plus it changes, from time to time, based on actions. In that way, I guess it’s nothing like memories. Maybe if you were insane, it’d be something like that.”
Beiromon remained silent, so Darian continued.
“Then it becomes more certain. Usually a few minutes before it happens it starts growing in certainty. What will happen, the details start filling in. It’s only seconds before it happens, whatever it is, that I truly am confident that it will happen. It’s within those seconds that I can change things that I can move left instead of right. Dodge instead of a strike. But it’s all still a muddled mess. Half the time I don’t know if I should trust my instincts or my eyes. Both have failed me on more than one occasion,” Darian finished.
“This power, “Beiromon began, “It’s something worth cultivating. The ability to know where your enemy’s blows are coming is all part of becoming an excellent swordsman. Your abilities give you an edge, you could be the best. “
“Of course,” Darian said, “Wouldn’t that be a bit like cheating?”
“Lord and Lady, I’m not going to enter you into a competition, but that doesn’t mean I can’t feel pride that my pupil can exceed my own abilities,” Beiromon growled.
There was a sense of pride in Beiromon’s voice when he said that. Darian had not heard that kind of affection and pride directed towards him for as long as he could remember, which he reluctantly admitted was not that long. Still, it felt warm and comforting to find a man who saw him as worth something.
Darian decided to change the conversation, “This Lord and Lady, I hear a lot of people mention it? Who are they?”
Beiromon blinked at the sudden change of conversation. His eyes looked confused for a second until he remembered exactly who he was talking to.
“That’s right, you didn’t grow up in Taerra. Or any of the colonies for that matter. I’m not a religious man personally. If you want religion you’d want to ask my old friend Berret. He knows all about the religions of the colonies. There are several. After the great ships made their multigenerational journeys across the stars, each colony seemed to have their own religion. The Taerrans predominately believe in the Lord and the Lady. We call the religion Theocracy. Compared to the Deocracy of the Ertlanders and the Riocracy of the Hucton and Usar. “
“Essentially, we believe,” Beiromon continued, “that all humanity was guided into creation by the Lord and the Lady. They were two beings willed into existence. They shaped and created humanity in their image. The still do, every day, molding us into the humanity we are today. We are like clay in the hands of the Lord and Lady, so the saying goes.”
Beiromon sighed, “I haven’t thought about religion in a very long time. It never offered me the comfort that some others derived from it. Too many people use religion as an excuse. Saying the Lord and Lady molded Nobles to be nobles. Destiny and what not. Anyone with half a brain knows the truth. All people are equal. Nobles are only noble because they were lucky. They may have a one up over the common peasant, but only cause their education and resources were better. They should have the right to fall from grace and no longer be noble just as any peasant should be able to become noble through force of will and luck.”
“I’m sorry,” Beiromon paused,” I used to spend long nights in debates with Deiron about the ideologies of our culture. That was a long time ago.”
Darian merely nodded. It was a lot of new information he had learned today and he didn’t want to risk causing Beiromon to stop talking, this was honestly the most conversation he had ever gotten out of the man.
“Well, “ Beiromon said suddenly, slapping his knees and standing up, “Enough time wasted today, get your sword, it’s time was practice a new defensive stance.”
Sometime later, quite exhausted, the pair were lead back to their cell by the guards. After briefly wiping off the sweat, Darian collapsed to the bed, praying no guards came in looking for another reading. After a few moments, he became aware of Beiromon rummaging through his supplies. He opened his eyes, peaking as Beiromon continued to rummage.
He glanced across the hall to his previous cell. Devin sat on his bed, silently humming a tune to himself. When he noticed Darian looking, he glared back with hateful eyes. Darian sighed and turned away. There was nothing that could be done now. He had tried sending Devin some food, perhaps to warm him to Darian. However, the past was already the past, and the future would be the future. He felt so useless here. Stuck in a destiny he could not prevent. It was so different from the rest of his visions. There, he could change things. It may feel like tearing off his own skin, but he could make a difference. With Devin, it seemed like nothing mattered. Things would occur in the exact way they had occurred.
Beiromon finally found what he was looking for, and then sat in front of Darian, dropping a book in his lap. Darian looked at the title, “Sensory Deprivation and Meditation techniques”.
“What’s this?” Darian asked.
“The next part of your training,” Beiromon stated.
Darian stifled a groan. More training. Always training. He settled for a sigh instead.
“Now sit, cross your legs. Yes, just like that, now close your eyes. “
Beiromon continued his barrage of comments, insisting on putting Darian into a meditative state. Darian had done this before himself, but rarely so successfully. The droning of Beiromon’s voice seemed to help him continue to fall into a state of relaxation. Then there was the flash of a face in his vision. He recognized the face. It was Marideen’s face. He memorized the features of her face that he had long forgotten, and as he did everything clicked together.
His eyes snapped open. For a second he found himself disorientated. Beiromon was not there, not around him. He glanced around the small cell. There he was, lying asleep on the bed.
“Beiromon!” Darian whispered loudly, “What are you doing, I thought you were helping me?”
Beiromon snorted himself awake, looking around confused from sleep for half a second before turning to Darian, “Wha… Oh, that was three hours ago.”
Darian blinked. Three hours, really?
“Forget that now, I figured out a plan.”
“What plan?” Beiromon asked, wiping the sleep out of his eyes.
“In three weeks, we will escape this prison,” Darian declared.