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How unbelievable! He had not expected to run into the Champion here on a space station of all places. He had felt the pull from the Champion the moment his ship had docked. The pull at his soul, or whatever was left of it, was almost palpable. However, he could not allow anyone to suspect anything. He had stood in agonizing pain, waiting for a moment to find his prey.
The bomb, or whatever it was, that erupted somewhere on the station was just the distraction he needed. As soon as he could get his feet back under him he had fled the ceremony. At first, his target had remained stationary, but as he transversed the halls he found that the Champion began moving.
The loud alarm was now blazing overhead, providing people with a warning to evacuate the station. Periodically, he would pass a strobe light flickering on and off to help indicate the need to evacuate. He worried that the Champion might be heading for one of the escape pods. No matter, he had already fixed his route to intercept him before he reached the escape.
He could not conceive how the darkness would reward him for this, but the rewards would be great. He had not slept in some time. He had not contacted the darkness. Nevertheless, he knew its commands, knew the end that it craved.
He marched through the hallways with a long stride. Soldiers who saw his face immediately knew who he was, and snapped quickly to attention. A few offered encouraging remarks as well. He would occasionally hear a “Glory to the Empire” or an “Honor for the Lord Reagent”. Most of the soldiers were busy helping evacuate the station though. It didn’t matter, he ignored them all.
On another day, he might have executed more tact, but the compelling nature of this Champion was great. He had never expected it to be this strong. He did not know what his reward would be, but the pleasure of killing the Champion of Fate would be a reward in and of itself.
“Darian, my name is Darian,” Darian repeated, trying to get a grasp on his new situation.
They looked at each other before one of the girls stepped forward and spoke. Pointing to herself, she said the word Marideen. She then pointed to each of the other people, stating what Darian presumed were their names.
Perhaps names weren’t the most important thing for Darian to start with. He was miserable with names and was likely to forget them all anyway, but these names sounded unusually strange. The language the man had spoken was completely indecipherable. Darian couldn’t even guess at what they were speaking. It certainly wasn’t English.
“Well that’s a start, how about you put the guns down?” Darian asked.
The two men stared at him with blank faces. He pointed at the guns and the made a down gesture with his palm. The two men glanced at each other. The dark skinned man chuckled before adjusting his grip on the gun and then aiming it more threateningly. Darian backed up a step, his back pressing against the wall. He made a pacifying gesture and hoped the man understood.
The man who had first spoken, Markus he thought the name was, said something to the other man in a scolding tone. He then turned to Darian and spoke several more incomprehensible words. Markus’s tone made Darian’s skin crawl. It was a little too smooth. Almost like he was talking to a frightened animal rather than another person. Darian supposed the feeling was not far off. He might as well be a frightened animal with how well their ability to communicate was going.
Darian was frightened. He had no clue what was going on. He remembered a bus. Was he dead? Was then hell? He had expected to wake up in the familiar surroundings, but this was too much. After he had been hit, the world had been unpleasant. Usually, when you were knocked unconscious, didn’t time just fly by?
The sleep he had was not deep; it was quite the opposite. He had felt like he had just experienced a lifetime of restless sleep. Always on the edge of awareness, of consciousness, he had waited for what felt like an eternity. Wherever he was, time seemed to have no meaning. It simply kept ticking away. He had itches and cramps, but could not move to scratch them. It was absolute torture. He knew it had only been a short time, but it could have been a year or a thousand years, and it would have felt the same. The doctors who took care of him would certainly have some explaining to do.
When Darian began waking, the first thing that began to return to him was sight. He didn’t know how he knew this since he had lacked the ability to open his eyelids, but whatever light seemed to pierce through them gave him awareness that he was conscious. Then his hearing returned. It was garbled at first. As it grew louder and clearer, he realized he wasn’t hearing English.
He then began to feel the rush of air as he was being pushed somewhere. After a few minutes, he attempted to move. The shock of his body suddenly contacting the ground jolted him to wakefulness. He was surprisingly energetic and uninjured. He would have expected to be weak and sore after, but that didn’t seem to be the case. As soon as he started waking up, his body started turning on rapidly, like a computer coming out of sleep mode.
His eyes shot open and his mind began to work furiously to comprehend the situation. Now that he realized he was in some kind of carpeted hallway surrounded by people dressed in strange jumpsuits, his mind seemed to strike a wall where he couldn’t quite figure out what to do next.
The lights flashing overhead and the sound of an alarm was very disorientating. However, his mind was having no luck growing clearer as he listened to them talk.
“Do any of you speak English?” He asked hopefully.
He hadn’t expected an answer. They glanced at him blankly, clearly as confused by what he said as he was by what they had said. He took a few steps back, angling away from them while keeping his back to the wall. It looked like he was in some kind of corridor and they stood immediately at a three-way intersection in the shape of a T. At least that was a reassurance. If he needed to, he could either run left or right. It was always nice to have a choice, even if neither choice seemed any better than the other.
He took a better look at the people in front of him. Their uniforms told him nothing. There were two men with guns, the third man who spoke too smoothly, and two young girls. The girls appeared to be sisters, with numerous similar characteristics. They both looked younger than he, but the older one had a very serious quality about her that was only more apparent when compared to her sister.
The sister, Danelle, he at least remembered that name, had a very lively innocence to her, but even she seemed to have a set of maturity in her eyes that were seemingly unexpected. They had both been through something, although Darian was good at reading people, not like his father had been. Unlike Danelle’s sister, her hair was black and cropped short. Both sisters held themselves with a great deal of confidence and assuredness that made them seem beyond the age he would have placed them at.
One of the men took a step forward, and Darian quickly took a step away from them towards the side, scraping along the wall at an angle. He glanced in both directions, the temptation to run hitting him. But where would he run? He had no idea where he was in the first place.
“Well this is going nowhere,” Markus growled, watching the man who had called himself Darian.
Marideen had to agree with him, they needed to get moving and this person was content with just standing there. She quickly considered her possibilities. They could always just knock him unconscious and carry him the rest of the way. However, if the information he possessed turned out to be useful, getting it out of him would be a lot more difficult if they had to attack him.
She suspected that the man had no correlation with the Taerren government. His strange gown, his lack of knowing the language, his odd appearance; all lead her to believe that whatever he was, he wasn’t part of the government. This didn’t mean, however, that he didn’t possess something that could benefit the empire, and thus be something they needed to keep out of their hands.
His face did have many distinctive traits that looked very Taerren. He had very bright hazel eyes and now that they were open, she could see he was quite handsome. She hammered down that last part. She was acting like Danelle now.
Before she could take another action, Danelle took the initiative, taking a step forward. Marideen reached out a hand to stop Danelle, but Danelle made a reassuring gesture to Marideen with a quick smirk. Marideen dropped her hand, allowing Danelle to continue.
She took several steps slowly towards the man who called himself Darian. His body tensed. As he did, Berret and Maximil tightened their grip on their guns, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. When Danelle noticed this, she gave them a quick glare. The two men glanced over to Marideen, whom after a moment reluctantly gave them a nod. When did they start differing to her? This was new.
They lowered their weapons grudgingly as Danelle took a few more steps forward, her hands raised in a pacifying gesture. Darian lowered his hands, his eyes glaring at her with mistrust.
“It’s okay,” Danelle said in a soothing gesture, taking the last step forward, her hands out in front of her now inches from his chest.
She lifted her hand, brushing his hair back behind his ears. A blush suddenly appeared on his cheeks. Marideen didn’t blame him, that was a far more personal touch then any respectable girl should give any guy, let alone a guy she barely knew.
Danelle didn’t show any shame or modesty though, instead of beaming up at him. She gave him the same smile that she always seemed to give father. Just like that, relief flooded into him. All the tension that had been building seemed to flood out of him like a balloon.
“See, we’re not so bad,” Danelle said, running a hand over his head with a pat.
“He’s not a cat,” Markus remarked, rolling his eyes.
“You shut up!” Danelle quickly retorted, turning to give her a dirty look before turning back to Darian, once again with a smile on her face.
Darian chuckled at that. Although Marideen imagined he had no clue what they said, he seemed to be able to immediately tell the nature of what they said. Marideen joined in with a laugh and after a second Berret and Maximil joined in. Danelle glared back at them, before smiling and chuckling herself.
“Are we all just going to sit around laughing while guards come and gun us down?” Markus growled.
Danelle turned, grabbing Darian’s hand as she did, “Come with us.”
Darian glanced into her eyes and seemed to understand. After a brief moment, he nodded and she pulled him with her, keeping very close to him. As she dragged his arms forward, Darian took a few wooden steps until he began to move forward willingly. When Darian finally caught up to Danelle, now in front of her sister, Danelle grabbed his entire arm in a kind of loose hug. She smirked at Marideen.
“So where do we get going?” Marideen asked, choosing to ignore her sister’s antics as well as her own small spike of odd annoyance.
Was she jealous? That was just ridiculous. She always felt a desire to compete with her little sister, but this was neither the time nor the place and for a boy no less.
Markus sighed. “Well. Since he is coming with us, we need to get to the escape pods, same as before. This way.”
Markus pointed to the right of the T junction they had come upon, beginning to walk in that direction. The rest followed, Danelle pulling Darian with her in an almost comical fashion.
“Come on, Darian,” She whispered to him, giving him a playful push before dragging him along.
However strange her flamboyant nature, Marideen decided not to intercede with what Danelle was doing. It had worked splendidly with her father dozens of times in the past and seemed to be doing just as well pacifying this man. One of these days, she would need to ask Danelle how she did that with men. She shook her head before dropping the notion.
As the alarms blared, they slowly made their way through the station. Markus stayed in front, numerous times motioning them to stay back as a group of guards came storming by. At one point, they needed to duck into a room. They managed to get in just in time before the guards came storming past, looking like they were searching for something. For once, they ended up in a room that wasn’t a closet.
This room seemed to be some kind of maintenance room. It consisted of large, noisy machinery. Darian had quickly grasped that they were not in a safe place, and worked to keep quiet, keep low, and keep out of sight just as well as the rest of them. Danelle did not shift her position, constantly stroking his arm and saying reassuring comments that he did not understand. He seemed to respond to them well, occasionally talking back in strange words Marideen did not know. What was this stranger?
At some point, Darian seemed to grow more defensive of Danelle as well, even going so far as to put himself in front of her during one of the points in which the guards passed by. She blushed furiously when he had held her back behind him, protecting her with his body. The other men present merely rolled their eyes, occasionally chuckling as they saw the pair acting like enamored school kids during the Festival of Love. On Darian’s end, he stared warily at the other men and kept his distance when possible.
It felt as if they were running through the corridors for close to an hour when Markus finally spoke up.
“We’re almost there,” Markus spoke up, “We have one more hallway and then we should be able to blend in with the crowds heading for the escape pods.”
What Markus said did make sense. They had been crossing more and more groups of citizens heading down to the escape pods. A few of them seemed panicked, but most of them were already aware that the threats to the station were over, but also knew that it was protocol they had to follow. All non-station staff would be required to leave, and then a deck-by-deck inspection would occur. The escape pods would be picked up from wherever they dropped on the surface below and the people returned once their safety could be assured on the station.
The planet below was uninhabitable, but they had already made plans to be recovered before the Taerren ships could. Hopefully, this part of the plan would go smoother than everything else so far.
As their group turned the next corner, Markus stopped cold. A man stood at the end of the hallway. He wasn’t blocking their way, but it was clear that he had been looking for them. His black hair was made up in a long elaborate braid that went all the way down to the base of his back. As soon as he saw them, a cruel smirk appeared on his pale face.
He wasn’t ugly. In fact, he might even be considered an attractive man. But something about his eyes, his paleness, and his demeanor reminded Marideen of death and made him seem ugly in her eyes. He was dressed in an unflattering black cloak which spread out as he walked, making himself seem bigger than he was. He looked down his nose at them, his head raised and prideful. He began taking a few steps towards them.
Without a second thought, Berret raised a gun and pulled the trigger. The gun clicked, with no sound. The man laughed as he continued walking towards them in a relaxed confident state.
“Oh my, I think that you will find that none of your weapons will work aboard the Valterra station. What? Nobody told you?” the man’s cruel smirk grew, “an ingenious little invention, I must say I have no clue how it works, but the end result is that any guns that pass a checkpoint are rendered inert. Guards have to leave guns at the checkpoints, and then pick up a new gun once they pass it. A great way to keep things secure, I think. You certainly didn’t do your homework, did you?”
“And who are you?” Marideen growled.
She already knew the answer to that. The braid was an imperial marker. A braid that long and ornate meant one thing, one of the sons of the Lord Regent. His age signaled him as the older one, Demetry. Everyone around her began to tense as Demetry continued to walk towards them. He was tall, easily as tall as Markus, and despite clearly being an enemy, he seemed to possess no fear or concern of them.
Marideen hoped to use this to her advantage. He was absolutely alone. If they could capture him, capture one of the sons of the Lord Regent, for the first time they would be in a position to bargain. Perhaps they could even rescue her father and whoever else was captured. Now that he was closer, she could see that his hand rested on the hilt of a sword. Marideen pulled out a pair of knives she kept on her, brandishing them to the enemy in front of her. She cursed that she had not brought the sword Beiromon had taught her with, but the knives would have to do.
As he looked at her knives, he chuckled but made no attempt to draw his sword or answer her question. The whole situation was starting to make her worry. Berret had dropped his gun, also pulling out a knife, and Maximil clung to his gun desperately, looking as if he planned to bash the chuckling prince’s head in with it if he couldn’t do anything else.
“So, you are the notorious Lancers?” He asked, his smile never leaving his face, “You need not worry, I have no interest in you. You are but a passing interest. I am sure my father will be pleased by your capture, but that is a simple boon. You are welcome to a head start if you’d like, but I do ask you if you’d leave him.”
Demetry’s finger came out from his dark robes and pointed directly at Darian. The others glanced at him. Danelle took a step half in front of him defensively. Darian only seemed confused, not quite understanding the growing tension around him, but preparing himself nonetheless.
“You see, “Berret responded, “I don’t believe we agree with your terms.”
Demetry shrugged, “Suit yourself, but I care little one way or the other, Cret Noft Dan Fi.”
With that, Berret lunged at the man. Demetry took one step back. His arms moved faster than Marideen could have ever thought possible. In a single swift motion, Demetry sword was out. It had the slightest curve on the shining blade, now marred with blood. Berrets arm fell to the ground, his knife still in its grip. He screamed as Demetry performed a sweep with his leg, kicking Berret to the side as if he was an empty cardboard box in Demetry’s way.
Berret collided with the wall, his scream cut short when his head slammed into the wall. He collapsed into a heap, unconscious. Marideen was absolutely stunned. She had not seen the sword cut through Berret’s flesh. She had watched the whole thing unfold, but it had been so fast she had not seen it happen. Fear began to course through her body as she glanced back at her sister.
Danelle had a worried look on her face, but she stood her ground protectively in front of Darian, grasping both of his hand in hers from behind.
Maximil raced forward, trying to use the gun to protect himself from the blade. As Demetry pulled the blade around, Maximil managed to get it caught in the gun strap. Demetry twisted the blade and pulled, the gun coming loose and flying to the side. He backhanded Maximil across the face with the second motion, causing him to fly to the side, landing hard on the ground. Blood struck the wall from where he had hit it.
It was at this point that Marideen noticed he had strange rings all over his hands, which most likely acted much like brass knuckles if anyone ever was struck by one. Before Demetry had time to straighten himself from the last attack, Markus had launched two knives straight at Demetry. Demetry’s blade twisted again in a single arc movement, knocking both daggers to the side. He took two rapid steps forward in the same movement, grabbing Markus by the throat.
His smile was gone. A look of malevolence was now on his face as he began to strangle the life out of Markus. Marideen knew she had to act quickly. She was more than a little good with knives, but she had never seen anything like this man before. Still, she had to try, he was killing Markus.
She went forward with a knife in each hand, beginning to perform offensive routines she had been taught and repeated a hundred times. Demetry threw Markus to the side and began using the sword to defend himself. Quick hands were all that saved Marideen as she began slicing attack after attack at Demetry. Demetry was incredibly fast, but Marideen kept her knives out of his reach, avoiding any direct cuts that he wanted to connect. She knew the second the sword struck either of her knives, she would lose them.
Marideen couldn’t get close; the sword gave Demetry too much advantage. She attempted to close the gap, to prevent him from using the sword, but he seemed to know what she was trying to do and took several steps back. He was smiling once again, the whole process seems a game for him.
“Well aren’t you a spark plug,” Demetry laughed, his nose still up in the air in an obnoxiously arrogant way. “However, you are very much out of your league, and I am in a hurry.”
He spun with a quick motion, his robe swirling. The blade swished by, both knives being struck, flying from her hands. She went to retreat back, but he had anticipated and in the same movement he used to disarm her he had closed the distance. A sweeping kick of his leg and she too flew to the side. Her head banged the wall, causing her entire vision to go white before she crumpled to the floor.
She needed to stop getting hit in the head. She vaguely recalled saying that before. The pain was excruciating. She held her head but tried to regain focus once again. She couldn’t let him defeat her. She started to stand, looking down the hallway.
Danelle stood between Demetry and Darian. Darian, backing up without looking behind him slipped and fell on his butt. He began crawling back away, a look of terror on his face.
“Let Demetry have him!” Marideen shouted to Danelle.
Danelle looked back at her sister. Their eyes met for the briefest moment. A look of resolve came over her face. She leaped at Demetry with a knife in her hands.
In the same quick, deadly precision that Demetry had used on the rest of them, he slid the sword deep in her gut. Twisting the blade, he pulled it out and then rammed it in a second time. Blood began to form around Danelle’s lips as she stared over Demetry’s shoulder at her sister on the floor, her eyes glazing over. Her knife hit the floor, and she didn’t make a noise as she dropped to the ground.
Marideen began to scream.