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As soon as the door shut behind Darian, he locked it and darted across the room, leaving through a back door. He could hear Marideen banging on the door behind him. He would need to leave her for a bit. He hoped she found what she was looking for. He didn’t really know if she’d meet her father, he just knew that she was going to see what she needed to see. Even that was an oversimplification of the images and vision that popped into his brain.

He found himself able to travel down the hallways much faster on his own. Without having to relay commands or explain to people why he was doing what he was doing, he could quickly dive through and around patrols as if they weren’t even there. Within a minute, he found himself where he wanted to be. Now, where was this?

It appeared to be a massive room with a massive machine in the middle. If he had to guess, he’d say this machine probably had something to do with the gravity. A strange ball of darkness seemed to sit in a container of floating halos which revolved around it in opposing angles. It looked expensive and it looked important. The remainder of the room seemed to be formed to accommodate what was at its epicenter. There were a few consoles here and there, a few corridors that moved up and around the machine, but it otherwise took over the entire room.

Darian ducked low and hid as he became aware of another man in the room with him. The man walked into the room nonchalantly. He was a wirey dark man with a bit of a deadly grace. It was different than the grace the Beiromon exhibited. He kept himself lower to the ground, his movements more akin to skulking than anything. This contrasted with Beiromon’s head held high noble approach.

The man fiddled with the console for a bit, then placed some kind of box under it. After a few moments, he stood up and walked away. Once Darian was sure he was gone, he walked over to the very same console, looking at it up and down. Darian could seriously not see what the man had done.

Well, now it was Darian’s turn. He pulled off the box and tossed it aside. He didn’t know what it was, he didn’t care. He began typing in some keys, seemingly at random. Every key was deliberate though, feeling for that right combination that would get him the desired effect. That desired effect being their eventual escape.

It apparently did something, as the monitor responded to every touch. As he went on, he started to become aware of what he was doing, his keystrokes becoming more deliberate as the intuition he used began to match the goals of his actions. Oh, this was genius. This would actually work. Darian did not have very much time left.

He finished reprogramming the circuits and set a timer. This would work, he could feel it. He nodded to himself in appreciation of his own work before turning and racing through the hallways as quickly as he had arrived. As he had bound between and around guard patrols, he became aware of where he was heading.

The Warden’s office? Why would Marideen be at the Warden’s office? He had only met that man once, but the man didn’t strike him as the gloating type. If Marideen had been captured, shouldn’t she be in a cell by now? He was pretty convinced she was captured. He kind of figured as much. The patrols were becoming greater in concentration. Twice he found men sprinting down the hallway towards something. It looked like someone has been caught. Looks like the lottery roose was at an end. Still, everyone would get away. He could feel it.

He finally made it to the waiting area before the main office of the Warden. Thirteen men stood outside. Fortunately, they did not see him before he ducked his head. This prison really was a great place for skulking. It had far too little visibility and far too many corners to hide in. He supposed the prison depended on the desperation of being helplessly marooned in space to demotivate people.

He listened for a bit as he thought. How was he going to take out thirteen guards?

“She didn’t even recognize me,” One of the guards was saying, a youth with a scar by the quick glance Darian afforded.

“Look Brice, every pretty girl that passes your way isn’t going to remember you, especially three years later, especially when you didn’t even ask her out.”

“I was going to, I thought she was going to come back the way she came,” the first guard, Brice whined.

“You should be glad she didn’t, you might have ended up having to shoot her. She’s the Butcher of Braun and she’s in custody, what did you think you were going to do, take her out to a movie?”

“Well, it would have been nice if she had at least remembered me. I got this scar looking for her. Got caught in that explosion, piece of ceiling fell on me.”

“As I said, you’re better off forgetting her.”

“Oh, give over,” a third man said, “Let the boy fantasize. It’s not like he is going to find an eligible girl working the prison shift.”

A fourth man came running in, barely missing Darian. He tried to duck further down. Fortunately, the man had not seen him.

“Did you find the other guards?”

“Yeah, they were all hobbled up in some entertainment room they set up in an abandoned part of the prison,” the man said as he caught his breath, “They were apparently holding out to win some big lottery. They were convinced they had the winning numbers.”

“I take it they didn’t?”

“Almost. It was one number off. Half of them thought it was 21, half thought it was 23, and the actual number was 12. They were quite upset about that.

“I don’t blame them. They are going to be in a lot of trouble once this gets out.”

Darian had to agree. He had considered giving them the right number. He even thought he might owe it to them, after causing the trouble they are inevitably going to have. However, Joeseph’s talking about balance got to him. Maybe he was right, maybe if those guards won the money on his account someone else would pay the price.

He had to make a decision, now there were fourteen people. If the rest of the guards were going back on duty, he had almost no time at all. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He needed to think. He needed to find a way. He saw himself, standing up, attacking, and a guard shooting him before he had gone two steps. He saw himself standing up, shoving the first guard, tipping the second guard, and have a third slam a knife into his heart.

And that’s the way it went. Each time, he imagined the fight and died. Sometimes he lived, but he got captured, then Marideen would storm out of the room and die. Sometimes, they would fight together, back to back, dying together. Other times he would watch as she bled to death on the floor in front of him. Sometimes, she’d kill him herself. And then, he saw it. That way that would work.

His eyes snapped open. He had no clue how long he had been sitting there. The guards had not moved from their spots as of yet, so it couldn’t have been long. Maybe heartbeats later, although it felt like it could have been hours. There was no use wasting any more time. He stood up and sprinted forward.

His heart beat. He slammed his hand right into the back of the first guard’s head, instantly knocking him unconscious. While still holding the unconscious man he spun a kick, colliding with the head of a second man in such a way that rendered him unconscious as well.

His heart beat again. A guard, the first to recover from the shock, lunged at Darian, he moved the first unconscious guard’s body in front of him, the man colliding with his companion, Darian spun around the pair, slamming his elbow into the man’s back as he went down on top of the unconscious body.

His heart beat again. Another guard was trying to grab him. These guards were quick, but they went with the knee jerk reaction of grabbing him instead of going for weapons.  He lowered his shoulder, grabbing the man’s hand, and carrying him over. The man flew over his shoulder, colliding into two other men who had yet to respond.

His heart beat again. Another guard was reaching for his gun. It was the young one, Brice. He slammed his hand into the man’s nose, breaking it instantly. The man would now have a broken nose to go with scar Marideen had given him. He almost felt bad for the man.

His heart beat again. Two other men had their guns out of their holsters. He grabbed each of their hands and twisted, the guns flew out of their hands. He then shoved their hands forward. Neither man was aware of the other  and they ended up colliding head to head with each other. He used every ounce of intuition, every scratch of training, and every muscle of his body as he continued to move forward.

Again. A man grabbed him from behind, holding him in a massive bear hug. He uses the grip to jump up, kicking another man as he attempted to attack from the front. This further carried his momentum, and before he realized it he was out of the man’s grip. He twisted, kicking the large man in the head. The man fell back, collapsing on one of the smaller guards just as he got his firearm out. It was clear he was pinned by the bigger man and wasn’t an immediate threat.

Again. The remaining five guards charged at him as one. He swung with a metal baton one of the guards had been holding. In a strike that could only be considered a one in a million luck, he simultaneously struck three of the guards in a single swing. The other two dodged out of the way, one of them stumbling on his fallen comrades and directly into Darian’s next perfectly aimed swing.

The final man set himself, ready to attack.

“Guards!” The shout came from the door.

The last guard impulsively looked to the door, and then Darian struck. The man fell wordlessly. Before Darian could take another breath, he systematically knocked out each of the guards that were still conscious but recovering. A swift strike to the head with the baton seemed to work wonders. He didn’t want these men dead, but he could live with giving each of them a concussion. He didn’t feel like it would kill any of them.

He was just finishing up with the last guard when Marideen stormed through the door, her gun whipping around the room looking for targets as if she was making a last stand.  When her mind came to grips with the scene around her, she lowered her gun and gawked.

“What happened here?” Marideen asked, trying to assess the battlefield that sat before her.

Darian looked around. It took a moment before it dawned on him what had happened. Fourteen men. He had just taken on fourteen men and not only survived but was victorious. How long had it taken him? It couldn’t have been more than a minute. It had felt like seconds. His sense of time and perception was a little warped. Suddenly, he realized his muscles felt like jelly and he was bone tired. 

Marideen stared around the room aghast, unable to comprehend what she was seeing. Then she looked at Darian, standing in the middle of it all. So this was her. This was Marideen. Back in the hanger, he had vague recollections of some of the other men that Beiromon had been talking to. However, his eyes had been focused on her.

Her eyes seemed to gaze at him in a way that made him feel naked. Despite this, she didn’t seem to remember him a bit. She probably would have attacked him if she knew. If she had recognized him, she would assuredly blame him for her sister’s death. In the end, maybe that was all he had wanted. Atonement. He wanted her to look at him, to remember, and to blame him. Hate him. Maybe even kill him.

 “Did you see your father?” Darian asked, trying to fill the growing silence.

That was apparently the wrong question to ask. A look appeared on her face. It was deadly and dangerous, but within seconds warped into a look of anguish. She flung herself to the side behind a desk and began retching. Well, that was new.

Marideen finally finished, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She still felt sick to her stomach. No, she had to be stronger than this. She couldn’t let the shock take over. Then she saw the man again.

He stood now in the middle of the room. His hazel eyes were strangely familiar but she just couldn’t tell where she had seen them before. What had happened to all of these guards? Had he killed them all? There was no sign of gunfire, no sign of an explosion. Was it some kind of poisonous gas?

She checked on one of the guards. He was breathing. They couldn’t all be alive, could they? She looked around the room. He had fought them all? By himself? They all appeared to be breathing, she noticed the boy who had escorted her in the first place. Some had vicious bruises and cracked skulls. Some may even die without medical intervention, but at least for now, he had left every single one of them alive and unconscious. What kind of man was this?

The man moved towards the door, looking into her father’s office. When he saw Deiron on the floor, a large pool of blood already beginning to congeal around the base of his body, he turned back with fury on his face.

“The warden was a good man, you didn’t have to kill him,” He said, his voice swathed with anger.

Why was he angry? What did her father do for him? Why would a prisoner care a single bit about the man imprisoning him? This man created more questions than she cared to have. She didn’t like it a single bit.

“Answer me!” He shouted at her, surprising her just a little bit and causing her to grip her gun more tightly than her training would have suggested.

“He was a traitor…” She responded quietly.

It was slightly easier to stomach the words now. What right did this… this prisoner have to tell her what to do?

“Who did he betray?” The man asked angrily, not letting up for a moment.

“Me,” she responded back, her voice succumbing to anger.

Why was she answering this prisoner?

“And who was he to you?” He asked indignantly.

She didn’t want to answer. She didn’t mean to answer. Whether it was the tone of his voice, her broken psyche, or the edge their conversation took, she was compelled to answer anyway.

“He was my father,” She shouted, louder than what was either safe in their predicament or necessary, “He was my father and I killed him!”

That was it. She had said it. As if doing it was not confirmation enough, it took admitting it for her mind to truly understand what had happened. She collapsed to her knees, the gun slamming down on the floor under her palm as she shook with anger, fear, remorse, guilt, and a hundred other emotions that were too painful to survive but too apparent to ignore.

Darian stood over her in shock. After a brief moment, he looked out at the door. Then back down at her. In his eyes, those treacherous eyes, she saw disappointment. That seemed to hurt more than anything else, and she didn’t even know why.  

“Oh,” He said simply turning away and walking by her.

He mumbled something. She could barely hear it. What was it? “I thought you were different.”

Anger welled in her. She rose to her feet. He turned in shock as she came upon him and slapped him across the face. She didn’t know why she did it. He irritated her. She hated him. He had seen her on her knees. He had seen her crying. He had seen her weak. He was everything she hated about everything. His smug smile, his cocky self-assurance, his better than though righteousness. He was a murderer and a rapist, and… and… he was better than she was.

That last thought stung the worst of all. It dug into her soul. It was her father. She had killed her father. They were true. All the stories were true. She was the Butcher of Braun. She was a murderer and a genocidal monster. She killed innocence.

What she saw on his face now shocked her. It wasn’t anger at being slapped. It wasn’t indignity at being demeaned. It was acceptance. She hated him, and he accepted that. Marideen didn’t know what to make of that. She took several steps back. Now, he looked guilty. What does he have to look guilty about?

She had no clue what this man was, who he was, and why he seemed so familiar to her. However, she knew that she had been wrong. She steadied herself for a moment, willing the words to come out.

“I… am sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” She said, more slowly and deliberate than she would have liked.

Darian shrugged. He shrugged! Now he was looking even more guilty. What is wrong with the man? She had to end this conversation. It was not going the way she had thought it would.

“We need to go,” Marideen suggested, trying to use every technique to regain her concentration, “The ship won’t wait forever.”

“They’ve already been captured,” Darian replied simply.

“What?” Marideen exclaimed, trying to process what he had just said.

Darian smirked that obnoxious grin again, “The plans have changed, and this is when things get interesting.”

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