Marideen carefully walked down the corridor, grumbling as she went. What right did that man have to take over like that? Why would she trust him? Where was he taking her and more importantly, why did she agree to do what he had said?
The man, he had told her his name is Darian, walked in front of her steadily. He did not slouch and keep to the shadows as she did. As a matter of fact, he did not act much like a man who had just escaped from prison at all, let alone a man who was in the process of still escaping. Her brain kept telling her that he was going to get them caught, but he had already escaped on his own, and he was so damn confident.
On top of that, Beiromon vouched for him. How reliable was Beiromon though? He had been in prison for three years now, and anything could have happened during that period of time. The man could have been tortured, brainwashed, or broken. Perhaps he was subconsciously trying to bring down the Lancers. Perhaps he was even the one that had betrayed the group three years ago…
Marideen shook her head. That level of mistrust could kill a person; she had seen people consumed by mistrust. It was never a pretty sight, and neither the person nor the people around them, ever came out of it unscathed. She had come here to rescue her father, and now this man was going to take her to him. It was as simple as that.
He looked familiar somehow. She didn’t know if that made her more uncomfortable or less. Even without Beiromon’s word, she trusted him for some reason. She didn’t know why, but she felt a strange comfort from his eyes. The confidence in them seemed to bolster her own confidence.
He looked back with those hazel eyes, meeting her and then quickly snapping back. Was that nervousness? Why would he be nervous? Maybe he wasn’t as sure about where her father was as he claimed to. She started to frown, she really didn’t know anything about him, just a random prisoner of the Taerrens. You could debate that the enemy of an enemy was a friend, but trust on those grounds only went so far.
He stopped suddenly holding his hand out to the side as if to prevent her from walking past him. Marideen was already on edge and the movement caused her to jump a step back, her body ready to break into a fight or run, whichever was necessary.
Darian glanced to his side, noticing her before snapping his hand back down. He nodded to their right, turning to go down the hallway. He had almost missed the intersection. Did he even know where he was going? He seemed to just be meandering along, making turns seemingly at random snap decisions.
The next turn he made was left, then left again, then right. It felt almost like they were going in circles. Her anxiety started to grow. Maybe he wasn’t stable at all? Maybe he had no idea what was going on, broken mentally by the prison. Then another thought crossed her mind.
This prison was designed for very hardened criminals. Perhaps he wanted to turn her in and use her as leverage for some leniency on his sentence. Maybe he wanted to kill her. Maybe he simply wanted to take advantage of her. He wanted to lead her somewhere where she had no idea how to escape and then attack her.
He looked back at her again as she followed, this time she stamped down any feelings of trust that seemed to want to well up inside of her. That was probably how he functioned. He used deception to get his way. He used his charisma to lead people into his traps.
“What were you imprisoned for?” She asked, trying to keep the anxiety from her voice.
“Murder,” He said, without a single pause.
Oh great… well, at least he was honest.
“And I think rape,” He continued.
“You think rape?” she responded.
“I didn’t do it,” He added quickly, responding to a look that must have appeared in her eyes, he didn’t sound sincere though.
“Yeah, I’m sure you didn’t,” She muttered sarcastically.
She tried to master her face so that he didn’t get any more information from it, and after a moment he turned away, continuing along the corridor. Wherever he was taking her, she was surprised that there had been no guards. She would have expected to run into at least one patrol by now.
He must be taking her into some abandoned part of the station. She felt her weapons in comfort. She had a gun at her side, knives in her boots, and another knife hidden in the small of her back. It wasn’t the most comfortable place to store a knife, but that only came into effect when she sat down, and she had no intention of doing that while here.
Darian came to an abrupt stop. He glanced back the way he came, over her shoulder, then back ahead of them. After a moment, he shrugged to himself, mumbling something incoherent.
She had had enough of this charade. She bent over and pulled the knives from her boots. If she struck first, then she would have the advantage. Striking first was never something that her father would have appreciated, but look where that got him. Maybe she should just give him a warning. What if he really was just a crazy man, was that really worth killing him because he thought he knew things he really didn’t?
Before she had a chance to decid, he turned, his back still to her, and walked into a nearby room she hadn’t noticed until he entered it. The door snapped shut behind him followed by a click. She blinked. Walking steadily over to the door, she attempted to open it. It was locked.
What the…? What was his game? She knocked on the door, no answer. She tried to pull the latch harder, it did not give. After staring at the door for another minute or so, she decided that the man must indeed be insane.
She shook her head. What a waste of time. On top of that, she risked the mission, the lives of everyone involved, on an empty promise and a pair of light brown eyes. She hoped he hadn’t been wrong about helping the rest of the prisoner’s escape. If her father was one of them… She turned to find her way out and join up with the rest of the escapees, only to see a soldier behind her, with a gun, pointed directly at her.
She put up her arms and the guard motioned for her to put her hands on the wall. After a brief patdown, he removed her gun and knives. Fortunately, the guard was not particularly bright. He had assumed the knives in her hands and the gun at her holster was all the weapons she had possessed. He had made a lackluster attempt at patting her down, but almost seemed embarrassed to touch her, and in his inattentiveness, had missed the knife at her back.
He was a young boy, about her age, with a long scar down the side of his face. It didn’t necessarily make his face look ugly, but it didn’t help it either. She supposed it would depend on someone’s fondness for scars. She didn’t hate scars. She had her fair share of them, although none on her face as of yet. Darian had a scar, a small one next to his left ear. Why had she noticed that?
This caused her to involuntarily glance back at the closed door. It still did not open. The guard must not have seen her trying to get in it, as he did not make an effort to search it either. She did not think Darian betrayed her on purpose, but he was most likely insane. She wondered if he’d eventually escape or not. They rounded a corner, the guard pressuring her forward and her reluctantly obeying.
He radioed for more assistance from nearby guards, who confirmed that they were on their way. While the coms were down it looked like they had reverted to two-way radios. So much for a quiet escape. The guards all knew she was there now. She never should have taken this risk. She hoped her presence could be enough of a distraction that the remainder of the Lancers could escape. They could free Beiromon, which meant her capture wasn’t pointless.
She could attempt to escape herself, but for all of the guard’s clumsiness and foibles, he had hardness in his eyes that suggested he would not hesitate to fire if he needed to. More than that, he seemed to have a level of nervousness, his fingers shook slightly, a little more sweat running down his eyes than usual. He seemed on a fine edge, one that she did not want to press.
This was not good, she had been lead on by an unstable lunatic and now was held at gunpoint by a guard with a nervous trigger finger. This mission was certainly not going the way she had expected it to.
“Where are we going?” She asked after a moment.
She didn’t know the guard, but she had a feeling that talking to him might take the edge off of his nerves, and make him less likely to fire at her on a whim.
“The captain and warden of this prison. We’ve been expecting you, and he has ordered you to be brought before him before being processed. None of us expected to find you where you were. Honestly, I wasn’t told much, just to look for you and do a sweep when you didn’t show up where we expected you.” The guard responded, surprisingly informative.
So it was a trap. She never should have trusted Fine. If she found a way out of this, she would make sure to pay him back for it. He was currently being held at a Lancer camp, with orders to kill him if there was news on her execution. Perhaps Fine had been the one to betray her those years ago. Perhaps Fine was the reason her father was hidden somewhere in this prison. Although now that she knew it was a trap, it was very possible he was never in the prison, to begin with.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” the guard asked suddenly.
“Should I?” She responded, agitated by the thoughts of betrayal.
Was that a look of hurt on his face? It was only there for a moment before he managed to school his face. Still, his eyes looked a tad angrier. He remained in a stoned silence the rest of the way, prodding her along at the tip of his gun.
Eventually, they met up with several other guards, and Marideen sighed at the missed opportunity at freedom. She might have been able to take the young man on her own, but now that it was three on one the likelihood of that being the case was none existent. She silently berated herself for hesitating while she had the chance. She still decided to buy her time, knowing that waiting will still probably only make her situation bleaker.
The three guards finally reached a location which she presumed was somewhere in the center of the facility. The Basalt Station was not quite as large as Vanderra, but it still spanned thousands of corridors that were particularly easy to get lost in.
There were about another ten guards outside the room that led to the Warden’s office. Marideen fought the urge to cringe. In chains, with a gun to her back, surrounded by 13 prison guards, did not bode well for her chances of escape. At this point, she had only one option. Negotiation. She would never betray the Lancers, but perhaps she could convince the Warden that she might, and buy her time until an opportunity presented itself to escape. All she could do right now was delay.
The door opened and she was guided in, and all thought of planning left her head. The room itself was nothing spectacular. It was a refined room, a small room, as most aboard a space station would be, utilizing space as best as possible without wasting too much room. The walls were strewn with a variety of art that seemed strange on the metallic walls. A desk sat in the middle of the room, made of a dark wood, and the person behind the desk was none other than Deiron Cleefe.
“Father?” Marideen choked out in stunned silence.
Her father looked at her, a resigned look on his face. Time had not been any kinder on him than it had been on her. His eyes were darker than they had been. They were darker and slightly sunken in. He looked thinner and paler, possibly from a large amount of time in space. The guards released her, and with a nod from her father, left and let the door close behind her. She barely noticed their leaving.
“Hello, Marideen,” he said in a deep commanding voice that she barely remembered.
“You’re the Warden?” Marideen sputtered, trying to come to sense with what she saw.
Deiron nodded, “I arranged this time for us to speak, the guards will not bother us. I believe we have a lot to speak of.”
“How are you in charge? Is this a new tactic? Some kind of subversion you could never tell me about?” Marideen began but Deiron was already shaking his head sadly.
“I’m here because this is where the Lord Regent has put me. A kind of community service where I can serve the empire and earn his trust. The Cleefe lands will be restored to me in due time. In another five, I may find myself back on a council. Well, perhaps after you are dealt with,” Deiron grimaced, looking away.
Her mind seemed to move like it was suspended in jelly. She couldn’t quite wrap her mind around what he had just said. As she tried to contemplate, he continued.
“It would seem that since the last time we met, you have been busy. You’ve raided stations, military outposts, and supply depots, given weapons to known Taerren enemies, accepted prisoners and murderers into your ranks; and that is not even to mention the Braun Massacre. What happened to you Marideen?”
“What happened to me? What happened to you? You left, Danelle died, the Lancers were gone, I did what I could to keep our cause going. Your cause. I did this for the Taerrens, to reform the government,” Marideen said.
“None of this was part of my plan,” Deiron responded, a tinge of anger in his voice, “Murder, Weaponization, Attacking civilian targets, the Lancers were an underground cause pushing for change. Rescue political figures, spread publicity, push for reform. These were the things I set out to do. You…you spread rebellion, you seem to want this to come to war, to the deaths of millions of Taerrens. You even bring foreign military involvement, pushing towards threatening the very colony you claim to want to help.”
As Deiron spoke, Marideen’s eyes darkened.
“I did what I felt I had to,” She responded harshly, her voice a bit louder than she intended it to be,” and you weren’t there. For years I looked for you, and now I find you. So what happened father? They torture you a little so you gave up, decided to be a good diplomat?”
“How dare you,” Deiron’s eyes narrowed,” Everything I did was for you and Danelle, to build you a better future.”
And then it clicked in Marideen’s head, “No…”
Deiron stood up from his chair, taking a step to the side of his desk before pushing it the chair back under the desk, “I can see you are starting to put things together. That is good. You’re a bright girl, perhaps you will understand why I did what I did…”
“You betrayed the Lancers?” Marideen asked incredulously.
“I don’t expect your forgiveness, just your understanding…” Deiron replied.
“They killed Danelle, the lord regent’s own son,” she responded, anger firing in her eyes, her head afloat as if she were falling.
She had not expected this. This was almost too much. Her father alive after all these years, but working for the enemy that she had so strongly fought in his name.
“That… was an unfortunate accident…” Deiron said apprehensively.
“An accident? That was murder… in cold blood…” Marideen began to increase the volume of her voice as she spoke.
“The Emporer lost a son on that day too. He doesn’t know why his son was there, and thank god that it was not you or one of the Lancers that struck the blow, I am not sure if I could have ever gained his trust if that was the case,” Deiron stated as he began to pace back and forth in front of her,” but in truth, none of this would have happened, Danelle would be alive, if you had been where you were supposed to be on Vanderra, if you had followed the plan.”
Marideen blinked. The plan? Then it dawned on her.
“It was a setup, they knew we were coming because you planned for us to get caught.” she gasped.
The look in Deiron’s eyes was all she needed to know the truth in that.
“When?” Marideen asked, her eyes growing darker by the moment, “when did you decide to betray the Lancers?”
Deiron signed, pausing in his pacing, “A little over three years ago I was approached. Not just me, all of my Lieutenants as well, they knew where we were. They knew how do get to us. We decided unanimously that this was the best option. They offered me a chance to recover our name, you’d be noble again. I just had to give them the rest of the leaders of the group. I sent several of the leaders, Beiromon, Maximil, and even the psi-blade Markus straight to them, and gave them the locations to the rest of the bases. The deal was very agreeable, it included Berret’s release, or restoration, well…before you started messing with things.”
“I couldn’t contact you,” he continued, “I lacked any authority to do so. But then you kept fighting. And doing unspeakable things. Then you got the notice of the Lord Regent, and he decided he wanted to put a stop to this, so he came to me with a plan…”
“And then you had Charles Fine trick me into coming here…” Marideen finished.
“Charles Fine?” Deiron asked questioningly, ” I knew you had a leak, but I never suspected it was him. I suppose it makes sense, he doesn’t know about me, very few do, and he was always more loyal than he was smart. Either way, I regret you telling me that, as I will have to report it…”
So Charles Fine wasn’t a traitor, although that is only if Deiron’s word could be trustworthy. Either way, there was nothing she could do about him. She looked at her father. The man who had betrayed everything they stood for.
Finally, her mind gained some cohesion, and she realized what she must do. Whatever happened, Deiron was most certainly a traitor and was now the enemy. With a click in her mind, she stopped seeing him as her father and started seeing him as the enemy.
“You disgust me, ” she said with a snarl, “You do whatever you want just to look out for yourself. Us? You didn’t care about us, or the government for that matter… You just wanted your property, money, and status back!”
Deiron’s scowl grew with each passing word, “You spoiled insolent child. You think I did any of this for me? I did this for the Taerren people. Running around underground? Spreading propaganda? Slandering the government? We did nothing to help the Taerren people. As a noble, I can help people. With influence, I can affect policy. How stupid we were, changes have to come from within, not from some external attack!”
“And what good have you done?” she yelled, fully in fury now, “Where is the better government, the rights for the extended colonies? The only thing your betrayal has done is murdered my sister!”
Deiron took two quick steps towards Marideen and hit her with the back of his hand. Her head turned from the blow and she received a quick flash of white light in her eyes. Her ears began to ring, but not so loud as she couldn’t her Deiron’s response.
“I never thought I could have a daughter that was such a monster. You disgust me with your idiocy. I wish it had been you who died and Danelle who lived.”
“That makes two of us…” Marideen spat blood from her mouth.
“Get out of my sight. Guards!” Deiron began to turn away from her.
Something in Marideen seemed to release. It felt like a pressure in her mind that simply ceased to be. The change felt terrifying, but at the same time calming. She straightened herself, and could no longer feel the pain in her cheek from the slap.
“You’re not the only one that wished that it had been me instead,” her voice said in a low voice, which caused Deiron to pause on the way back to his desk, “Perhaps I am a monster, perhaps I have made mistakes in the past, but I don’t think this will be one of them.”
“Wha..” Deiron began to ask as Marideen reached behind her back and pulled the knife out, lunging forward in one swift motion, closing the distance and plunging the knife directly into his heart.
The look on Deiron’s face was at first surprised, but it quickly turned to resignation as he slipped into death. Marideen was stunned. The knife left her hand as Deiron fell backward, clattering to the ground. She took a step back before collapsing to her knees. She felt like vomiting but suppressed the urge to do so. His blood was on her hands. She hastily wiped them on the carpet.
She sat like that, staring at the deceased body of her father, trying to bring her thoughts together and reconcile the turn of events that lead her to this point. it finally dawned on her that her father had indeed called the guards, but none seemed to rush in on her.
The moment she had decided to kill Deiron, she had expected her own death to follow shortly after by a group of armed guards. When this didn’t happen, she began to grow hopeful of an escape. She looked back down at her father and cringed, perhaps she didn’t deserve an escape.
Most likely the guards did not hear Deiron the first time, and most likely, when she opened the door, she’d be accused by the thirteen guards. She sighed. Well, it was too much hope that she would make it out of this one. She spotted a gun on Deiron’s table. He had had an armament but did not expect he needed it with her.
She grabbed the gun, turned off the safety, and turned towards the door. It was time to face her end. It was time to face her reckoning. She opened the door, ready for death to follow. The death she most likely deserved.