“I cannot believe he just walked out like that,” Marideen fumed aloud, “I gave him a direct order and he just walked out.”
Marideen spun abruptly when she reached the wall and began to pace back to the other side. Beiromon let out a chuckle and Marideen suppressed a flare of anger. What was so funny? His actions threatened the safety of their entire group. True, he could handle himself. With his abilities, it was likely he would be steps ahead of anyone that might cause them harm. That didn’t stop the fact that it was a dangerous thing to do.
“He’ll be okay,” Beiromon reassured her.
Marideen frowned. It wasn’t his safety she was worried about. It was the safety of the group. It wasn’t the fact that he could have been hurt. She certainly hadn’t been terrified when he was arrested that they would have to abandon him on this planet. It was just that his abilities offered them an advantage that they previously had not possessed. Marideen spun again when she reached the other wall. This room was entirely too small.
Marideen didn’t even know why she had stormed in to Beiromon’s room in the first place. It was about half the size of the room she had rented for herself, Berret, and Max. There had only been two adjacent rooms available, and logically it made sense to place Beiromon and Darian in one room and herself and the Lancers in another. Darian may be a Lancer now, but he couldn’t be trusted. She certainly didn’t trust him in the same room with her.
“He attacked me at night once, did you know that?” Marideen stated, just trying to fill the silence at this point.”
“Oh?” Beiromon answered. His eyes held a little bit of surprise, but not shock or anger.
“He tried to hit me with a wooden sword, in the middle of the night. He could have given me a concussion.”
“Is that so?” Beiromon’s voice held a tinge of concern, but when she took a quick glance at his face, it showed amusement. He was mocking her; she was certain of it.
“He’s dangerous,” Marideen said, although it came out as more of a question.
Beiromon sat up with a sigh. He was lying on the bed; it was his room after all. It also was the only thing in this room. It had no other furnishings. It seemed to be set up as a master-servant quarters, whereas the master would store everything in their closets and the servant is afforded the bare minimum. A very antiquated form for an inn this day and age.
Marideen stopped when her eyes met Beiromon’s. They portrayed more than Beiromon could have said in words. Those eyes told her that he agreed, but that it didn’t change the fact that the Lancers needed him. It told her that he was dangerous, but that it was worth the risk. It told her everything she had already been thinking. Marideen relaxed her shoulders a bit.
“I’m sorry I barged in here like this,” Marideen finally stated.
She had already been pacing in his room for the last thirty minutes. Why did she choose to come to his room anyway? She had spared with the old teacher a bit lately, but he had been a prisoner for years. She barely knew the man. Berret and Max had always been there for her. Still, the long white mustache, the noble straight spine, the soothing fatherly voice, something comforted her from the presence of her old swordmaster.
“It’s fine, I probably won’t sleep until Darian gets back anyway.” Beiromon smiled soothingly.
“Well, I won’t keep you any longer; it will be a busy day tomorrow if we plan to get off this rock.”
“Do you have a plan for that?” Beiromon asked.
Marideen winced, “I will think of something.”
Beiromon nodded thoughtfully, “I think I might join Max and Berret down in the commons for a bit. It’s been a while since I’ve been around a large group of people where I didn’t have to worry about my safety.”
Marideen nodded and Beiromon stood up to leave the room. She didn’t exactly consider a common’s room full of drunken merchants and their guards to be a safe place. However, considering where Beiromon had come from, she supposed that thought was relative.
Beiromon opened the door to the room, but before he left, he turned back to her, “Don’t worry, you will come up with something.”
“Of course,” Marideen forced a smile.
When the door closed behind him, the smile faded. With the ports closed and all unofficial routes shutdown, Marideen didn’t have the slightest clue what to do. They simply couldn’t leave the planet. They’d need to hide out until things calmed down. They’d need to wait until the damage on trade was bad enough that the government was forced to reopen the trade routes. Staying in the city for that extended amount of time was simply too dangerous. They’d need to get back out of the city. She’d go back to Sidney, but Marideen didn’t want to put the woman in any more risk, especially with children there.
They could always flee to a more out of the way village. They could hide there until the blockade was lifted. That would take months before Marideen could get off this planet. She left the Lancers in capable hands. With Ophran as a free colony, the Lancers had a solid base and a colonial makeshift government to keep them functioning. Still, she didn’t want to leave things to chance. She needed to be there to keep pushing their momentum forward.
Marideen sighed again, taking one last look around the room. She certainly wasn’t going to stand there and wait for Darian to return. If he wanted to talk to her after the stunt he just pulled, he would have to come to her. In fact, he’d need to beg her for her to take him with her when they left the planet. That seemed like a suitable punishment. He’d need to beg for forgiveness on his knees. If he wanted to follow her, he needed to listen to her orders. It was plain and simple, nothing personal about it.
As soon as she stepped into her own darkened room through the interconnecting doorway, she noticed something was off. She didn’t react in time as she noticed the flash of steel. Her mind was lost on other things. The knife flashed out rapidly and Marideen froze. The knife flew directly at her heart. The assailant turned suddenly, losing momentum as he desperately turned the steel. Finally, the pieces snapped together and Marideen moved. The knife cut deep into the side of her arm, only barely missing her heart.
The man stumbled forward, a growl of frustration on his voice. He pulled the knife up to Marideen’s face. His other hand had managed to get around the back of her head, grabbing a chunk of her hair forcefully. For a second, it looked like he was about to cut her throat.
“What the hell was that about,” the man growled shaking her head with his grip painfully.
Marideen’s eyes focused on the man, her numb brain finally regaining a grip on things. The man stepped back letting go of her hair and putting the knife away. Marideen took a deep breath before turning a nearby light switch on. The lights dimly sprang up in the room, revealing her assailant, E.
“You almost got yourself killed, “E continued. He wore a look of complete disgust to go with his normally arrogant condescension, “Don’t tell me in the intervening few weeks you’ve become this sloppy.”
“I was distracted with something,” Marideen responded, immediately knowing it was the wrong thing to say.
Excuses were for the weak. Marideen hadn’t made an excuse for herself in years. Not since Braun at least.
E’s sneer grew as he glared down at Marideen. He wasn’t angry though. Marideen paid him to be there, the man had no pride in teaching Marideen. She decided the best action was to change the subject quickly.
“Where have you been? What happened to the plan?” Marideen diverted.
E’s face did flash in anger for a brief second at that. It wasn’t directed at her specifically, but it was anger nonetheless, “I’ve been on the run. The… plan was sabotaged.”
“Somebody had undone the work I managed, then reprogrammed the computer system to fall out of orbit. The Taerrans would have reported my device if they found it, and they wouldn’t have destroyed their own station. I had been assuming you had changed the plans without informing me up until now.”
Marideen starred at E blankly for a moment before it came crashing in. Darian. It had been Darian. Marideen suppressed a flash of her own anger. Somehow, she had forgotten exactly how much Darian had destroyed her own carefully laid plans. She supposed she couldn’t blame him. They hadn’t met at the time. He wasn’t at Lancer at the time. Had that only been a few short weeks ago? It felt like ages.
Then again, Darian could see the future. He had to have known he was trampling on her plans. He had to have done it deliberately. She knew that that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but she was already angry at the man and it was easier to drop all of her anger on him right now. Where was he already?
E passively watched the emotions flood across her face but remained quiet. Marideen schooled her face once again, starting with the suppression of a blush. E must think she had regressed to the state of a child. She must have appeared weak and fragile. She supposed E didn’t care one way or the other, but it embarrassed her to realize that in those few short weeks since Darian had entered her life, she had slipped so far from her previous demeanor. The demeanor she had to maintain to protect herself and those around her.
Marideen finally regained her composer, falling back into the harsh, strong person she knew she needed to be. She turned back to E.
“You know what my next question will be?” Marideen responded with the coldness returning to her voice.
“Oh, how do we get off this wretched rock?” E sneered.
“You can help?”
“I’ve already secured an escape. Tomorrow,” E put down a small piece of paper, “I’d trust you to burn that once you’ve memorized the time and location.”
It was a small slight. E was reminding Marideen of how far she had slipped in so short of a time. Destroying anything with compromising data or information on it was a given. That he felt the need to remind her of that was a vote of no confidence. Marideen nodded and E slipped out the door into the hallway. After a moment, Marideen checked the door to make sure E was gone.
She opened the note and read it three times until the time and place were engraved in her memory. She then burned it per E’s request. She had her way off the planet now. It seemed almost too easy. Tomorrow, they would leave, with or without Darian, and that would be the end of it. Darian would follow suit, or he would be abandoned. Marideen had allowed way too much emotion into this before. It was something logical. Simple even.
Marideen sat down on the foot of her bed and began peeling off her clothes. She was composed and coolheaded once again. She would take a hot bath. She would go to sleep. In the morning, she would leave. Why had she worried so much? Why did she let that man get under her skin so much? She was the Butcher of Braun, the leader of the Lancers, the thorn in the Lord Regent’s side. She was Marideen Cleefe.
The window suddenly blew open and Marideen jumped. She pulled a robe around herself to cover her exposed parts from the wind. The rain was pouring quite loudly now and the wind ripped into her room quite aggressively. If the locks were insufficient to keep the windows closed, she’d need to barricade them. She was near to the window when a form suddenly leaped over the balcony.
The person landed hard and then stumbled forward into her room. Marideen cursed as she raced back to the bed to grab a knife she had left discarded there. She turned back to the figure with a knife in one hand while she held her robe closed with the other. It wasn’t that she had a problem discarding the robe to fight. When it came to fighting and survival, something as childish as modesty could be discarded if needed. However, it was cold, and she’d try to maintain her warmth for as long as possible.
The figure seemed to take longer than necessary to stand up. His body was wrapped in a massive brown woolen cloak, the hood pulled over to hide his head. The figure took a step forward towards Marideen with a hand held out towards her. Her hand tensed around the knife. The figure took another step, and then another. Each step seemed deliberate as if the man had trouble keeping his balance.
Then she realized that he wasn’t walking towards her, but was skewed to the side. Before she knew it, he collapsed onto her bed. Marideen frowned down at the form. It’s wet clothing drenching her nice dry sheets.
“I think I’m going to die,” The man’s voice was muffled through the sheets, however, it was unmistakable.
“I can’t feel my face…” Darian mumbled.
Marideen sighed, closing the windows back up and locking them.
“What in the lord and lady are you doing?” Marideen demanded.
Darian rolled over pulling off his hood and looking up, seeming to notice Marideen for the first time, “Guards.”
“I see… feel… them downstairs. Better to come in the window.” Darian tapped his head with a grin and then winced.
Marideen noticed that Darian spoke with a very slurred speech, and quickly realized he was completely drunk. She frowned, so that was what he had been doing. Here she had been, worried and he had been out getting drunk, undoubtedly at some questionable bar? Well, not worried about him. It was the group she was worried about. Darian chuckled, seemingly staring up at the ceiling of Marideen’s bed as if Marideen wasn’t even there.
“What are you looking at?” Marideen snapped, unable to control her annoyance.
“A Mirror,” Darian chuckled again.
“There is a mirror above the bed, I wonder what they use that for,” Darian snorted.
“Darian, I don’t know what you are talking about, but this isn’t your room.” Although it did make Marideen a little curious. Why would there be a mirror above the bed?
Darian waved his hand dismissively in no particular direction, “I’m not sleeping, I’m just resting. Resting and thinking.”
“Well, you can think in your own room,” Marideen snapped, moving over and trying to pick Darian up off the bed. He was actually surprisingly light from years of imprisonment.
“Come on Darian, let’s go.”
She managed to get Darian up to a sitting position, but then he stopped, his body going limp. Was he crying now?
“I miss it,” Darian wept.
“Miss what?” Marideen sighed after her third push failed to get him to move to his feet.
Marideen bit her lip, if he was remembering things that might be useful knowledge, “Where is your home?”
“That’s the problem, I don’t know!” Darian bawled onto Marideen’s shoulder.
“Alright, that’s enough,” Marideen said with resignation, “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
She pushed once again and this time he went to his feet. She supported half of his body as she guided him through the doorway connecting their two rooms and into his own. She turned and he flopped on the bed. His grip on her was greater than she thought, and she went down right next to him.
“I found us a way off this planet,” Darian stated.
Marideen frowned for a second until she realized he must be seeing the future, “No Darian, I found a way off the planet, it just hasn’t happened yet.”
“No, wait…” Darian shook his head in a drunken stupor, “Yes, you did find us a way.”
Marideen nodded. Seeing the future while drunk, she never really considered the possibility, but she supposed there was a first time for everything. Marideen pushed herself up. There was no use trying to talk to him, let alone berate him while he was this out of it. She didn’t know what she was going to do with him. Half the time he seemed liked an asset, the other half of the time he was a liability.
“If they are lying about the space station, you know what that could mean, right?” Darian suddenly spoke up with an abnormally steady voice. “They could have set up Braun too. Maybe that explosion was bigger on purpose. Maybe they killed their own just to discredit you.”
Marideen stopped herself, closing her eyes for just a moment, “If it could only be that easy. It’d be nice to shed myself of the responsibility of Braun. I’d love to blame it on someone else. However, any way you look at it, people died. Had I not been there, they wouldn’t have died. That fault lies on me alone. That’s a sin I’m going have to bear for the remainder of my life.”
A sudden loud snore came from next to Marideen and she glanced down. Darian’s eyes were closed and he was breathing steadily, completely asleep. Marideen shook her head. She realized there was a tear falling down her cheek and she wiped it away hastily. Emotions. Within seconds, Darian could tear down all of the walls that Marideen had carefully assembled. He was a dangerous man indeed.
“Earth,” Darian mumbled, “I miss Earth.”
Who was Earth? Marideen shook her head in aggravation; she was wasting her time when she had more important things to do. She stood up and walked back into her room. If she was leaving, she’d need to prepare. Marideen pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and began writing. There was a flash of lightning and thunder began to rumble outside. Things were going to get worse before they got better.