Anger tore through Marideen as she stared down at her sister’s limp body. Demetry casually tossed her to the side as if she was a simple obstruction in his way. He began advancing on Darian, who had not moved a muscle from where he laid, seemingly frozen in terror as he stared at Danelle’s lifeless form.
Rage continued to flow into Marideen. For a second, she felt something deep within her separate. She didn’t know what the feeling was, but it felt like a painful tearing that pierced her chest. Her screaming stopped as a strange kind of numbness washed over her. She knew that her head still throbbed, but she could barely feel it. The throbbing of her head seemed to dim in comparison to the steady beating of her heart. She embraced the beat. It was calming. It was life.
She rose to her feet, her eyes never leaving her sister’s body. Her fist tightened on the pair of knives she had recovered. Her sister was no longer breathing, and she knew Danelle was dead. Marideen had seen the life fade from her eyes. Now, all that was left was a liquid-hot rage. The man before her had turned his back on her. He had killed her sister, and thought her to be nothing. She didn’t care whether he suffered. She did not crave vengeance. She merely wanted him dead. She wanted a life for a life.
“Hey!” she cried out to the man in front of her.
He would acknowledge her before he died. Her voice was calm. She thought her voice should crack. She certainly felt the tears burning her eyes. Instead, her voice was fluid, controlled, and calm. That was how she needed to be. That was the only way her justice could be served.
Demetry stopped his advance on Darian, glancing back at Marideen. After meeting her eyes, he smirked with another insolent smile. Then he turned away from her. The man dismissing Marideen so casually caused burning hot rage to spike through her.
“I will kill you!” Marideen heard her cold controlled voice shout out at the man.
She knew it sounded strange to her ears, but her tongue seemed to be moving of its’ own accord. She moved into a crouch, and began advancing on the man. If he didn’t turn to acknowledge her, then she would simply stab him in the back, either would leave him dead.
With an annoyed sigh, he turned to face her again, ignoring Darian behind him. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then glanced down at the body on the floor at his feet. His eyes flashed in recognition and a smile broke on his face.
“Oh, so she was your sister then?” he asked mockingly, “I suppose I can see the resemblance after all. If you must avenge her death or the like, let us get this out of the way quickly. I bore of this nonsense and I have other more important things to be about.”
He freed his sword arm, letting the sword point out and to his side, her sister’s blood still dripping from the blade. He took a few steps forward, his deadly grace returning. Marideen’s mind worked furiously trying to come up with the best way to take him out swiftly. He was fast, but she could be just as fast. With the rage fueling her, she could be faster. It didn’t matter if he killed her, as long as he joined her.
“I suppose it is suiting that you and your sister die at the same blade. A kind of poetry, perhaps? I am assuming you’re Dairen Cleefe’s kid?” he paused for a second, but must have seen something on her face that encouraged him to continue, “Well, it is a shame, we were not supposed to kill you, but casualties happen in war. I regret things did not turn out better.”
Demetry shrugged flippantly, continuing to step forward smoothly. Marideen repositioned her knives. She planned to go for the middle, feigning an attempt to take out his arms. Then, when he tries to protect them, she will close the distance to prevent him from using the sword.
A quick strike at the neck would be too obvious, but she could aim a bit higher for the nose, attempt to break it. Then she would rapidly switch to the knees, trying to take out his legs, and as he went down, an elbow to the chest. After that, she should have no trouble with cutting his throat.
The thoughts moving through her head felt so casual, so easy. It felt wrong. However, she couldn’t stop herself. She had to continue forward. She had to kill this man. She had to.
Demetry put that vicious, hateful smile back on his face again. He had closed the distance between the two of them with a few rapid steps, bringing up his sword for a downward strike. As she prepared to dodge and attack, Demetry suddenly jerked. A look of surprise appeared in his eyes.
Marideen stared at the man in confusion. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Then he fell to his knees, his sword clattering down to his side. As Demetry’s head came forward, Marideen had to take a step back to avoid him as he fell the rest of the way to the ground with a smack.
At first, Marideen could not understand what she had just witnessed. It took her a few moments before she recognized the knife jutting out of his back. The knife was placed perfectly right through his heart. She glanced up to the source, seeing Darian on the ground near Danelle’s body. He had grabbed one of her knives and flung it at Demetry while he was distracted. Darian was still in the position that he threw the knife in, seemingly frozen in the moment of releasing the knife. A look of surprise encompassed his face much like the look Demetry had had.
It was done. Demetry was dead, but she wasn’t the one to do it. Her anger, rage, and pain were still boiling on the surface. The shock of his sudden demise seemed to do nothing to help her cope. She glared at Darian. She didn’t mean too, but she was so angry, and she couldn’t seem to control how she looked.
Then a thought popped into her head. Demetry was after Darian, whoever he was. Had he not been there, her sister would still be alive. Her sister died because of him. It was his fault. Darian dropped his arm, shrinking back a bit without moving, seemingly being able to read her thoughts.
A sudden touch on her shoulder brought her glaze away from Darian. She spun rapidly, her knives still in hand. Markus raised his hands defensively. She realized that everyone else was conscious and moving.
“We need to get going.” Markus said, an uncomfortably apologetic look on his face.
Behind him, Maximillion was helping Berret to his feet. Berret looked barely conscious or able to stand by himself. A great deal of blood was all over the floor around him. Maximillion seemed to have done what he could to stem the flow of blood and cover the stump where Berret’s arm used to be. Max’s face seemed oddly wooden.
The scream caused every head to turn down the hall past Darian. The scream was followed by the sound of a gunshot. Darian collapsed into a heap next to Danelle’s body. Marideen glanced up at the source of the gunshot. A man stood down the hallway, breathing heavily. He wore a braid similar to Demetry’s, but shorter in length, only coming down about a head’s length past his shoulders. It was clear to Marideen that this man was Demetry’s brother, Aiden.
Without thought, she crouched down over Demetry’s body. In a swift, single motion, she pulled the knife from his back and threw it straight at his brother’s heart. Aiden ducked to his right, hiding behind the wall of the intersection he stood in. The knife flew where Aiden had been, harmlessly flying down the empty hallway. Had Aiden not moved, it would have struck true to its target. Marideen was certain of that. She quickly checked Demetry’s belt, finding a gun he had at the holster.
She pulled it out, firing a warning shot at the corner that Aiden had ducked behind, glad that his gun had not been rendered inert like the rest. Down the hall where her knife had landed, she saw guards running down towards her. She looked back at Markus to see that he was helping Maximil support Berret.
“Let’s go!” she said, beginning to back up.
“What about him?” Markus asked, nodding down the hall at Darian.
Marideen looked out at Darian. He was still alive. The bullet seemed to have struck him in the back, yet he was still conscious. He had started crawling towards them, a streak of blood appearing under him from where he had dragged himself. Their eyes met. If he hadn’t of been there, her sister would be alive.
“Leave him, we don’t have time,” Marideen said, breaking her eyes away from him.
She looked down at her sister’s body. The numbness inside her started to tremble on the edge of pain. Her mind shielded away from it. She turned away and began moving down the hall with the others following. Deep inside, she had the inexplicable feeling as if she was turning away from her sister. Not just her sister’s body. She knew Danelle was dead, and she accepted she could not recover the body. However, it felt like she was betraying her by leaving the hazel-eyed boy.
That was ridiculous. Why would she feel that way? She quickened her pace, moving around the corner towards the waiting escape pod. She told herself it was because the guards were coming and she was out of time, but she could not shake the feeling as if she was leaving something behind.
Aiden carefully adjusted his grip on both guns. There were three of them and they were injured. Those monsters would pay for what they had done to his brother. He quickly suppressed a pang of fear and anxiety. He took a deep breath as he tried to bring his heartbeat back under control. When he was younger, he had always suffered from panic attacks; it was his brother who had always coached him to overcome his limitations. That was all life is, after all, a series of limitations set to be overcome.
One more breath and he turned, his guns pointed in front of him as rounded the corner. He had already crossed the hall and bent to one knee before he realized the hall was empty. He cursed himself for being so foolish.
He ran up to his brother. He knew he was dead. He hadn’t seen the knife plunge into his brother’s back, but he had seen that woman standing over his body. Still, it hadn’t been her that had killed his brother; there was only one person who could have.
The pain was sharp and deep in his chest. However, he let none of these feelings effect his face. His brother had always taught him to keep a level head, regardless of the situation. He would weep his brother’s death when he had time alone. For now, for the sake of the Taerren Empire, he needed to display strength and discipline. He glanced over at his brother’s sword, which was lying next to his body.
The sword had been in their family for ages. It was always the next in line who held the sword. It was symbolic of the tasks that were set before them. It was made and gifted to their family hundreds of years before, passing from oldest son to oldest son. As part of the discipline, the first son learned to use it. Aiden knew nothing of the sword. He was a good shot with a gun, but no skill with a blade.
He glanced up, looking at the man who had killed his brother. The Lancer’s had left him behind. Uncivilized pests. He was crawling down the hallway, seemingly moving in no particular direction whatsoever, like a cockroach who had lost its leg. A trail of blood stretched under Aiden’s feet all the way to the body he had stepped over on the way to his brother.
From the look of it, he was losing a great deal of blood. His movements seemed to be turning jerky as he began to lose consciousness. Aiden pulled out a large knife he had at his belt. His brother had given it to him. It seemed to be a suiting end for the man who had killed him.
He could hear the guards coming down the hall, they were right behind him. He made an annoyed gesture with his fingers, motioning for several of them to continue on and find the intruders who had left this mess.
Several guards passed by while a few guards stayed behind to protect Aiden himself. Aiden walked over to the man, whose crawling had seemingly stopped now. He kept his patience. The man would die, that was what was important. Kneeling down, he stuck his knee into the man’s back. The man jerked, but was mostly unconscious at this point.
He regretted that the man would not be conscious when he killed him, but he knew to be swift and sure about it. Hesitation was never an option for a ruler. Decisions had to be swift and sure, consequences could be dealt with later.
Grabbing the back of his hair, Aiden lifted the man’s head. He reached around with the knife, ready to slice the murderer’s neck, serving justice.
“NOOOOO!/No! You cannot!” A scream shouted from behind him.
He looked up to see a short panicked woman racing towards him. He released the grip on the man’s hair letting his head slap back on the surface of the floor.
The woman raced between the guards, who let her pass without question. She wore a crumpled lab coat which matched her frizzy auburn hair. Her hawk-like eyes starred down at the body Aiden was crouched over.
“He woke?” She asked, a look of surprise on her face before it started to darken, “and you shot him.”
She turned to glare at Aiden, “Release him to me, he needs medical treatment immediately.”
Aiden matched her glare, “and you are?”
“You know very well who I am, Aiden, I am Dr. Penelope Tanris, and you are about to cut the throat of a multibillion dollar research funded by your father.”
Aiden looked down at the man under him. Not one of those terrorists, it seems. Still…
“He murdered my brother, the prince. I care little of the value of a criminal and murderer,” Aiden responded calmly.
Dr. Tanris’s eyes opened wide as she looked back at the body of Aiden’s brother. Her mouth dropped open. She spoke a quick prayer before turning back to him.
“It…. it must have been a mistake, he was confused, h-how could he… No, he must be preserved, the knowledge is too valuable,” Dr. Tanris’s voice became resolved as she turned back to Aiden. “Turn him back to me, we have already lost your brother, we can’t lose this chance…”
“That isn’t your decision, but your objection has been noted,” Aiden replied, he pulled his hand back, ready to slam the knife into the back of the man’s head.
“Perhaps you should leave the decision making to me?” a voice in front of them said.
Aiden leaped from the man’s back, dropping himself to one knee, his head bowed. Dr. Tanris was down just as quickly, her head bowed much lower, her forehead inches from the ground.
“F-father, I failed you, it-it’s Demetry, he’s…” Aiden looked back at Demetry’s body, uncertain that he could say the words and maintain his outward demeanor.
The Lord Regent said nothing. Instead he walked by them, his flowing robes brushing against the side of Aiden’s face as he walked by. Aiden now noticed a large entourage of advisors and followers behind him. The general was not one of them. He walked up to the body of his son, lightly kicking the body over so that he flopped face-up. Demetry’s eyes were closed, but his skin was already displaying a glossy plastic look.
The Lord Regent looked back at Aiden. Aiden lowered his head and stared at the ground. The Lord Regent leaned down, picking up the sword on the ground. He wiped the blood still staining the sword off on Demetry’s clothing.
He walked up to Aiden, placing the sword over his shoulder. This was the cost of failure. Aiden waited for the final blow from his brother’s sword. It never came. The Lord Regent picked up the sword, turned it around and brandished the hilt towards Aiden. Aiden looked at it hesitantly.
“Your brother’s life was his own responsibility, not yours. He made the decisions that lead him to this fate. That your decisions could not prevent it does not lay fault at your feet. By your choices, whether directly or indirectly, you are now the heir to the throne. Now, you must live with the consequences.”
“Father, I…” Aiden broke off, extending his hand and grabbing the sword, “Thank you father.”
Aiden knew not to argue with his father. His father made decisions, and lived with those decisions, but he would not have them questioned. The Lord Regent walked to Aiden’s side, now looking at the unconscious man next to him.
“This is the man who killed my son?” The Lord Regent asked, his voice cold and collected.
It was not a question. He already knew the answer. He displayed no emotion as he looked down at the man before him. His eyes gave nothing away, no anger, or hate, or any other discernible emotion.
“Your sire, if I may, this is the man found at the excavation site. We still don’t know what he knows, or what he can bring to the Taerren people. This is what we have been waiting for. If you give him to me, all of your funding will come to fruition. We will finally have the answers you have sought for five years…” Dr. Tanris stopped as the Lord Regent raised his hand.
“Father, he is a murderer, he must face punishm-” The Lord Regent raised his other hand towards Aiden.
Like he did with his son, he kicked the body over. The man sprawled out on his back. Aiden had not had a chance to look at the man before. The man had long since stopped moving and his breathing was becoming ragged and shallow. He would be dead within the hour if they did not provide any help anyway.
The man had a strong jaw line and light brown hair that was cropped short. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance. He could have been just like any other Taerren. Had Tanris not insisted he was the one she found, he would have had no way to know that this man had sat in some kind of suspended animation for an untold period of time.
Tanris herself was a Hucton: short gangly people from the Hucton System, a relativity new system to join the Taerren Empire. They spoke with short vowels and chipped off sentences, a manner of speech that often seemed rude to Taerrens. However, this man more closely resembled his people than hers.
After a few moments examining the man, the Lord Regent looked up, “Heal him.”
Dr. Tanris’s face broke into a smile. Aiden fought the urge to say anything, but despite his better interest, a noise of protest escaped his lips.
The Lord Regent glanced over to an advisor who had been trailing behind his entourage.
“We will put him in the Chronos experiment.”
Dr. Tanris blinked. The Lord Regent’s advisor nodded to him in confirmation, making a noise of agreement. Several guards walked in, moving the man to a stretcher before carrying him off. Another group of guards came to take the Lord Regent’s son away, and a third came for the nameless body behind them.
“Sire, this man is needed for our research…” Dr. Tanris began.
“Your research will continue without him. Now, I expect that you’ll want to return to your excavation site at the Iridian planet, so I will send guards to recover your things. I have a ship available to take you there straight away.” The Lord Reagent said, his dark eyes looking down at the short woman.
“Go back?” Dr. Tanris exclaimed, her voice an octave higher than normal and her face red with anger, “I have thousands of documents to analyze here…”
“And I am sure you don’t want your time being wasted analyzing documents when you could be overseeing your research team on site. Of course, if you are no longer interested in leading the team, a replacement can be found.”
Dr. Tanris’s almost seemed to physically shake with anger, but after a second, her face appeared cool and collected.
She turned and walked away, her back stiff.
The Lord Regent nodded to a nearby guard, “Make sure she finds her way to her ship. Have all her things brought there.”
His eyes glanced back at Aiden. Aiden lowered his glance and bowed to his father. He knew better than to argue with him. He would find out what this Chronos Experiment was. If it didn’t kill the murderer, he could have an accident arranged without his father’s knowledge.
The Lord Regent turned his back on his son, passing between a set of standing guards towards the rest of his entourage. As he moved down the hall, his advisers moved around him to follow.
“Send a regiment out for these terrorists that seem to have escaped. Send the Cyan and the Crimson units. Tell them to capture them, not kill them. And will someone turn off these damned alarms!”