Preparations had to be made of course. One simply did not escape from prison in a single night. Darian had to get the right supplies. He needed the right people. He needed the right plan at just the right time. At first, the plan was more of a feeling. Like he had described to Beiromon, this wasn’t a finite, definitive event. It more of an inclination that if he proceeded in this direction, that the results would lead to their escape.
Unfortunately, he needed more. He needed details. His brain worked on those details, the details his intuition couldn’t fill. He read Beiromon’s book, frequently trying the meditation techniques inside them. Sometimes they gave him insight into what to try next, other times they gave him vague inclinations. Many of the things he saw had absolutely nothing to do with predicament at all.
He saw an army of monsters traveling between the stars, steadily creeping towards Taerra. The Taerran homeworld was often the focal point of those visions. Although Darian had never seen the planet, he knew it for what it was. In another vision, he saw a tortured man fiddling with a massive machine as he sought to prevent disaster, floating amongst nothingness around him. He saw another tortured man, burning in the fires of stars and supernovas, but always continuing to live another day. He saw the world splitting, the universe splitting, and himself moving down two different paths, torn between the world that was and the world that is.
Most of these visions didn’t make sense. Most of the visions showed things that had no relevance to here and now. He had to focus on the here and now. Abstract thought was something he could ill afford. Beiromon tried to help whenever he could. He offered suggestions when applicable. Darian found himself telling Beiromon every detail he could muster. It gave Darian a fair amount of relief to be able to share these experiences with someone again. After Devin had started to become a recluse, or before he had come out of his shell, depending on the perspective, Darian had found very little opportunity to work out his feelings out loud. It felt good.
“Do you know someone who is good with transmitters?” Darian asked.
“What is this now?” Roan grumbled.
“A radio, do you know anyone who has experience working with them?”
This was the first conversation Darian had had with Roan since his failed riot. He had sat back to back with Roan during dinner. Darian had long since skipped the programmed exercise periods in lieu of his personal practices with Beiromon and this was the only time he could meet with the man. Neither Darian nor Roan looked at the other as they spoke.
“Well, there is one, should I ask why?” Roan asked.
“We leave in nineteen days, nineteen exactly,” Darian responded.
“How many can I take with me?” Roan lowered his voice a bit.
Roan coughed, turning to look back at Darian before catching himself and looking forward again.
“All, Lord and Lady, what kind of escape are you planning?” He whispered under his breath once he regained his equilibrium.
“The best kind,” Darian chuckled, “Just remember, I need a guy who knows transmitters. Also, break your men into groups of 20. Ensure there is a man or two that know how to disappear and other men that know how to survive harsh environments.”
“I can manage that I think.” Roan nodded to himself, “Can you tell me the plan?”
Darian grimaced. “No, sorry. The more you know, the less successful it will be.”
Roan nodded, Darian could feel the movement from behind,” Do what you need to do, we’re depending on you.”
Darian stayed and finished his meal before getting up. Later that same day he encountered the guard who felt guilty for the abuse Darian had previously received. It was time to cash in the favor he had offered. The guard seemed surprised by the request for a radio, but not suspicious. He promised he would come through. Good, that was done. It would be a few days until the guard returned with the radio. Darian needed to wait.
He kept himself occupied by diving headfirst into his training with Beiromon. At least, he tried to. He remained distracted by the plans. He constantly had thoughts of success and failure. Would it work? It depended greatly on his capacity to depend on his visions and intuition. It also depended on his trust in Beiromon and Beiromon’s memories of a girl.
He watched as Beiromon spun, bringing the weapon up in a wide arc, he blocked it in a trajectory that threw Beiromon off balance for a moment. Darian lunged forward to deliver the killing strike. Beiromon was not there. Becoming off balance was a rouse, and Beiromon was waiting for Darian’s lunge. His feint worked and with three rapid hits, Darian fell to his back with a grunt. Fortunately, Beiromon had the kindness to avoid head strikes. Thus, only Darian’s ribs, knuckles, and abdomen were constantly bruised and injured.
Darian struck out as he hit the floor, his practice weapon striking into Beiromon’s knee. Beiromon’s knee twisted with training, turning the weapon and preventing it from causing any damage. While this move was effective to prevent an opponent from injuring tender joints, had he been using a sword, it would have completely destroyed his knee.
“Got you in the knee,” Darian declared happily.
Beiromon’s eyebrow rose,” I had already struck you three times, you would not have been able to make that strike, and you would have been dead.”
Darian shook his head, “Not dead, dying. My final blow leaving you a cripple for the remainder of your life. Your soldiering days long gone.”
“Is that so?” Beiromon asked, a hint of amusement entering his eyes,” I guess we’ll never know, those first three strikes, would you have been able to make that blow or not after being eviscerated.”
“Should we call it a draw then?” Darian asked, moving back up to his feet.
Beiromon barked a laugh, and then put a more serious look on his face. “You have been distracted lately though. Normally you could win every other bout. With your instincts, I’ve never fought better. It’s been an interesting experience, figuring out how to trick someone who already knows what I am going to do. What is it? Is it this plan you keep going on about.”
Darian sighed, “It’s just hard. I have no clue how things are going to turn out.”
Beiromon moved to a nearby seat and sat down, wiping sweat from his face with a handkerchief, “Look, there is always going to be a plan. Any time you are going into a fight, with swords, with fists, with guns, you are going to have some plan shifting around in your head. Perhaps the plan makers always have this kind of trouble with objectivity. Maybe this is why most people who make the plans aren’t the people who execute the plans. That’s why we have generals, and lieutenants, and…”
“Nobles?” Darian interrupted.
“Yes, I suppose there is a reason for Nobles too.” Beiromon continued, “But I honestly think any form of leadership will do.”
“What about a leader who will not or can not do what he sends his men to do? Is that the kind of leader you would follow?” Darian asked, a bit of edge to his voice.
“Those are the kind of men I have followed, “Beiromon responded.
He didn’t sound angry, just resigned. Darian began to wonder if that was what the life of a prisoner was all about, becoming resigned to what the world did to them.
Darian sighed, letting the growing edge of anger leave him. It wasn’t Beiromon’s fault. He was not even a noble. He was just a sword master who almost exclusively worked for nobles. He had followed under nobles for almost his entire life, and in the end, it got him here, in prison.
“About the girl,” Darian began to ask.
“Marideen again?” Beiromon responded, “You seem to be obsessing about her quite a lot.”
“It’s not that,” Darian protested, “I have reasons to ask. Just, can you please tell me about her, what she is like, one more time?”
Beiromon scratched his head, letting out a breath before responding, “Well, as I’ve already mentioned, she was only eighteen when I last saw her. She was just a kid. She never got along with her father, which caused her to spend a lot more time training with me. She was good. Ten more years, she could be a master. She cared very much about her sister. I imagine her sister’s death hurt her greatly.”
Darian grimaced at that but otherwise kept his voice silent.
“She was kind, outspoken, emotional, and determined. She was also strong, so very strong. I watched her. Her mother had passed when she was very young. When her father was imprisoned in a flash, she had lost her home, her friends, and her very life. She held the family together. She was only eight then. For ten years she practically raised her little sister while her dad ran the rebellion. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to give them a better life. A life as a Lancer is no life for children.”
Darian nodded after a moment when he was certain Beiromon was done, “But can she be trusted? Will she help people, even strangers?”
Beiromon thought about it for a moment, “I don’t know the kind of woman she has become. The woman I know was. I do not believe in this Butcher of Braun. I think it is a lie. In a single night, she lost her sister, her father, her family, and her cause. I do not know how that changed her. She rebuilt the Lancers from scratch, and while I do not agree with everything they do, she is making changes. She’s a harder person, harder than I ever knew her. I have to believe she is the same person, down deep. I believe she would help. I believe she would care.”
Darian let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. He felt a great deal of relief from that. He didn’t know why. In the end, it was still just the opinion of a man based on someone he hadn’t seen in years, but Darian had to take his word for it.
“You ready for another set?” Beiromon asked.
“No,” Darian responded, “I need to think for a bit.”
“More meditation?” Beiromon asked, becoming quite used to Darian’s frequent bouts of meditation.
“I’m not sure I can meditate my way out of my doubts,” Darian admitted.
Beiromon nodded, patting Darian on the shoulder before he got up, “Deiron used to have doubts about his decisions as well, do you know what I told him?”
Darian shook his head, peaking up in curiosity.
“I told him that a great leader isn’t a leader who makes great choices and never doubts himself; a great leader is someone who makes a choice and adequately prepares himself for the consequences of that choice. You can doubt the choices you make Darian, but make them, and prepare yourself for what comes next.”
Darian continued to sit for several minutes after the guards had lead Beiromon away. Finally, he stood and walked out, asking the guards to lead him back to his cell as well.
“You ready then?” The guard asked.
This guard was Joeseph, the first man he had read some six months before. After the rebellion, Joeseph had begun to treat him with a certain degree of reverence, treating him like some kind of saint or profit. He frequently snuck Darian better foods, defending him to the other guards, especially in the occasional times when his readings turned out to not be true.
“So, have you heard?” Joeseph asked.
“What is that?” Darian replied, his thoughts elsewhere
Joeseph seemed slightly annoyed, “Marriage, I’m getting married, how have you not seen that?”
Darian blinked, “Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t focusing on you. I apologize.”
That seemed to satiate Joeseph who nodded as if it was a matter of course, “We’re getting married in a few weeks. I’m going on leave tomorrow so we can make it to her family’s estates in Rhuak. Her family has estates!”
“The same girl?”
“Of course the same girl!” Joeseph exclaimed, “Couldn’t be anyone else, now could it?”
“Right, well congratulations to you and … what was it, Pheony? “
Joeseph nodded enthusiastically.
“Well, congratulations, I’d give you a gift but unfortunately,” Darian shrugged, showing his empty hands.
“Oh, that’s fine. But wouldn’t it be nice. It’s a shame about the whole balance thing psychics have to face. I’m sure you know, but the Taerran lottery is up to six hundred million credits right now. The winner of that? You could become a noble for that kind of money.” Joeseph tsk’d as if cursing his bad luck.
Darian forced out a laugh, but his brain was moving a mile a minute. After Joeseph sealed him back into his cell with Beiromon, saying his farewells, Darian began to laugh. After a few moments of silence, Beiromon couldn’t help but ask what had happened.
Darian turned to Beiromon and smiled, “Just another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.”
It was two weeks later when his plan fell into place, just a single day before the escape. He had received the radio from the guard he had asked and then relayed that guard to Roan’s contact. The wiry old man had been one of the men more impressed with Darian. It still had cost Darian several of the Rations he had acquired from generous guards impressed with his foretelling to get the old man to do the modifications he had asked for. Apparently, even the promise of escape was insufficient to motivate prisoners to give away anything for free. Their instincts for self-preservation were too ingrained.
He had never done anything like this before. He was never much of an actor. He seemed to remember that aspect of his personality at least. Still, he had to play it perfectly and be convincing. It was lunchtime and he waited for just the right time to do it.
The first scream came as a shock to everyone in the crowded dining room. The guards immediately drew guns, trying to get a grasp on the scene. Darian flung his plate up in the air as high as he could. When it came back down, the food spattered everywhere. It hit himself and several other prisoners. A particularly large prisoner stood up angrily, flexing his muscles as he moved towards Darian. His eyes fell on Roan though, who stopped him in his tracks with a look. Darian was thankful for that. He hadn’t anticipated other prisoners reacting negatively towards him. Maybe he should have been a little more subtle.
“Time, I see the future!” He screamed aloud, grabbing his head as if he was in pain, “The numbers, they burn into my soul, across the ages! Balance! The balance must be kept!”
The guards forced their way into the room, carefully extracting him away from the other prisoners. He slid the pill into his mouth and swallowed before they got to him. He hid the action by looking like he would sick up for a moment. They grabbed him by the back of the arms and started pulling him away.
In a sudden fever, he ripped out of the guard’s arms, who stumbled with shock. He grabbed a nearby prisoner by the shift, staring into his eyes. He made sure to pick a man far smaller than him for this step.
“Fate, fate can be changed! Changed by numbers, changed by time, don’t forget the numbers!” He yelled into the man’s face.
The prisoner was absolutely terrified. Some of the other prisoners looked amused, others confused, and still others just as terrified as the man in his grasp. The guards had recovered, grabbing him more aggressively and prying his grip from the man’s shirt.
They ripped him out of the mess hall into the hallway, forcing him roughly to the ground as he squirmed and struggled. The higher-ranking officer made his way over to the guards.
“What in the Never is going on here?” he barked angrily, “Who is this, is this that seer A79?”
“The numbers, the numbers that can change fate by 600, the numbers come.” Darian moaned, his voice having much less fever than they had a moment ago.
That pill was having a much stronger effect than he had anticipated. He cursed himself. That was very difficult to get a hold of in prison. It had cost him. But trying to be authentic might end up ruining everything.
“Numbers?” The officer growled, “What…?”
A sudden look took over his face. Darian sighed. The man understood. His face changed in an instant, becoming desperate, even feverish.
“Someone get me a pen and paper,” the officer barked, “Now, go now.”
A few of the guards ran. Others looked around in confusion. A few stared intently at Darian, with the same eyes as the officer. They saw what he saw. Darian was glad. He was afraid he would be too transparent. He was afraid that he would need to be too obvious so that they would get it. He was afraid that he was already too obvious.
When a soldier got back with the paper, Darian was already almost unconscious. He began saying the numbers, “16 24 72 35 21” he moaned. The soldier desperately tried to write the numbers down.
“Repeat that last number?” the officer said.
“He said 23!” One man shouted.
“No, he didn’t, he said 21!” Another piped.
Unconsciousness overtook Darian as they tried to shake him to get the last number. He hoped that would be enough.
It was a full day before he woke again. That was another problem he hadn’t anticipated. He wasn’t supposed to be asleep that long. He sat in uncomfortable silence for several hours in the infirmary, watching as the clock ticked away. They were escaping tonight. It would be a complete failure if he found himself in the infirmary.
It took far too long before a physician came in. Darian begged the doctor for release, barely containing his panic. Fortunately, the physician didn’t seem to pick up on that panic in his voice. She forced him through each of the rigorous tests and physicals, all the while he screamed on the inside, afraid that she would want to hold him another night. When she finally released him he gave a silent prayer to the Lord and Lady the Taerrans seem to always worship.
Not before too long, he was back in his cell. It was just past dinner time. He had made it. Barely.
“That was certainly interesting. Your friend Roan was panicked. You made plans for tonight and then disappeared after an insane stunt. I can only imagine it worked?”
Darian chuckled, “I think it did.”
“Can you tell me your plans yet?” Beiromon asked, “If we are going to escape today, it would be nice to know how.”
“I’m sorry, we’re just going to have to do this on the fly…” Darian said, his attention moving to the cell across from his.
“Devin, do you have a minute?” Darian called out.
The old man moved out of his bed, coming up to the bars, “Who are you, and how did you learn my name?”
Devin looked old and worn. He had been through hell and back. He was always an old man. However, his face held more wrinkles now. His skin was thinner, his hair was whiter, and his eyes more tired. Devin took in the sight of his good friend. One of the first and best men he had ever known. Devin’s eyes held no hate or malice. It was a sight he had not seen in a long time. This man had held him, comforted him, and taught him everything he knew about this society he found himself in. This man was the closest thing to a father he could remember, and if he didn’t kill him, the man would betray him.
“Just be prepared Devin, the future awaits. Goodbye, my friend.” Darian turned away, not bothering to see the confused look on the man’s face.
Beiromon was watching him as well with a look of concern. He knew that Devin was traveling backward in time. He didn’t know about his death. There were some things that Darian couldn’t speak about, even to Beiromon.
“You too, get some rest. What happens next will be rough.”
Beiromon nodded, lying down in his bed. He watched Darian for a few more minutes as he sat down and placed himself into another meditative state. He didn’t know what he was looking for. The motions had just become comfortable for him. He waited.
A few hours passed. The guard’s shifts changed, but there were surprisingly fewer guards than there were previously. They seemed to be preoccupied with something else. Still, he waited. He waited for her. He couldn’t exactly say what it felt like, what her presence would be. He just knew, without explanation, that he would feel it. Another hour passed.
Darian’s eyes snapped open. “It’s time.”