Reincarnated As A Villager – Strongest Slow-life – Chapter 30

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“I’ll ask the questions.”

“Just don’t make any promises to the merchants. If they ask to talk to the elders, run away.”

“Oh, I will.”

Sharing advice with the village chief while heading to the merchant ship, I parked in the beach opposite from the rocky ground that houses the merchant ship.

This is a hut (workshop) owned by me.

Because taxes are paid to the village in a lump sum, it doesn’t apply to the land and buildings. So, I can build whatever I want as a long as I have the village chief’s permission and the village allows it.

Well, even if I call it a hut, it’s mostly made of stone. It’d be more accurate to call it a studio over a hut.

In such a workshop, baked shellfish caught last year off the rocks are grinded into a powder to make fertilizer, spices, or a fish sauce.

Since fishing is a job requiring physical fitness, children and the elderly don’t go out to sea and only work on the landing. Still, fish handling and drying are considered the work of ladies. I can only afford to work during a big catch. Well, I also help the settlement, but not every day. Children can play, but old men only have to look at the sea once (to see it’s a bit much).

When I was eight, I realized it’d be a waste not to utilize that labor, so I built the hut (workshop) and launched a marine commodity trading business.

There is a highway along our village, and there are rest areas where we can cross the ridge before crossing the village, so caravans come frequently. So, we sell leather shoes, throwing knives, leather bags, etc to adventurers and mercenaries from the seas and mountains.

Well, instead of working in earnest, the kids and elderly come in their free time to work arbitrarily.

Today, I mean, there are four people. Eight year old Ribs, Twelve year Old Dali, and the elderly Gigi who is sixty. (TN: It says four people but he only mentions three here)

“Good work, how’s it going?”

I go inside and say hello.

“Oh, it’s going well.”

Amaria-chan gives a greeting on everyone’s behalf.

“What are you doing today?”

“We’re making fertilizer today.”

“Have you collected it already?”

Normally, it takes about twenty days, but this time it is fifteen. They must be getting good at it.

“Oh, there was a good place, I caught a big catch.”

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Reincarnated As A Villager – Strongest Slow-life – Chapter 29

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When I reached the top of the small mountain (a mountain not twenty meters tall), I could see the harbor.

Basically, along the coast of this country, there are many cliffs and rocks like the Rias coast, not suitable for ships to come in, but with sandy beaches and places for fishing.

It is said our village started fishing by chance.

There were sixteen densely built houses and four boats on the sandy beach.

Since they fish in the morning, right now they’d be handling fish (bottom draw net) together at a beach workshop.

Fifty meters to the left of the beach, there was a huge boat beside a rocky field.

“Surely it seems like an island.”

It is five hundred meters away from here, but for this age I could understand how this size is hard to imagine.

It appears similar to western ships, but the shape is more like a tanker (if you can imagine arbitrarily).

I thought it could only be so big if it was able to dock, but it was docked. It spoke more the quality of the ship and the skill of the sailors that it was docked so beautifully.

Near the rocky place was an area for quick-load storage, and a lot of boxes were piled up there.

Four people were patrolling, men with swords looked around. One of them noticed us and informed the rest, one of them going into the ship.

“They seem vigilant, but what are they carrying?”

“I don’t know what. According to Naga, they burn a lot of wood at night to keep watch.”

It’s not something illegal, some kind of metallic imported item.

As you go down the mountain, there are a few fields with open spaces and a firewood hut.

In the open space, the young ladies worked, a few coming out as they noticed us.

“Mayor, what’s the matter?”

Among them, the biggest chatterbox came out.

“About the ship, has anything changed?”

“No, nothing — ah, there was something. The captain was having some problem with a youth. How about food?”

“Lady, how is the condition of the fishery?”

I asked the lady before the village head opened his mouth.

“Huh? Because the sea god has been in a good mood lately, we’ve had a good catch.”

“Are you keeping the fish?”

“No, I don’t. I always go to the village to sell it.”

Even if you are not a fisherman, any sailor will catch fish during a voyage (well, you poke it with a harpoon) and you eat, salted fish is also a fine preserved diet. It doesn’t have to be piled up. It won’t get eaten if it is piled up or you could lose it when you bump into a Sea Dragon. Well, I don’t care that much, I don’t want the fish. I’m just concerned about the villages access to food. It’s annoying, guys!

“Ba.”

“Lady, if you have a big catch, give me another fish. Next time, I’ll bring a wild boar.”

“A wild boar! That’s great! I’ll pack you a barrel of fish myself!”

Compared to other villages, meat is often eating, but meat is still a luxury. From child to adult you’d be overjoyed if you had (chicken in the pot) once in three days.

“Bad, lady…”

“What are you saying? Because of you, I can eat meat, and the kids get work, so I’m here to say thank you.”

This is the result of daily work. You give and you get.

“We’re heading off.”

“Oh, I’ll get ready.”

You thank the lady and start the carriage.

“Village chief, I won’t talk during the discussion, but if you have some trouble I’ll help if I can.”

“Is that so?”

My negotiation skills are not high. I bargain with peddler Anchan often, and also shop with the caravan partner. At the very least, I won’t make a fool of myself.

Because the village chief knew it, he accompanied me.

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Time and Place – Chapter 22

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By the end of Darian’s first day in prison he found himself beaten to a bloody pulp. It was not the prisoners who had attacked him; he had not actually interacted with any of the other prisoners by that point. Instead, it was the guards who decided to deal out punishment.

It started out with something so innocent. He had smiled at one of the guards. He was trying to be polite and helpful. Being launched into space was incredibly exciting, and although the ship had no windows, he could just imagine the idea of a flying through space and landing on a space station.

The environment around him was new, the people he saw were new. It was almost a sensory overload, all the new and wonderful things that were so different from the white walls and monotonous room that he had spent so long in. The guards were chatting and being jovial, and the attitude reassured Darian, and filled him with a kind of silly giddiness.

So he smiled; this agitated one of the guards that was nearby, who glared at him and made a disparaging comment. Darian lost a lot of his subservient demeanor on the launch flight into space, and began to feel cocksure and confident once again. He responded playfully with good humor. This quickly caused the guards to become more angered, and before long he had four guards around him.

He didn’t know why he acted the way he did, but his instincts had, up to that point, always directed him in the right direction. So he went with his instincts. These instincts told him to push the guards, play with them, even mach them a little. He kept an insolent grin on his face as the guard continued to get angrier and angrier, up until a fist landed in his face, knocking him to the ground.

It would have been fine if it had ended there, but Darian, as a result of blindly following his instincts, hadn’t predicted exactly how angry he had made the guards by his jovialness and flippant tongue. Once on the ground, the four men began kicking him. Pain ripped through his ribs as he felt two of them crack, and then a third. Blows landed from every direction as the men continually stopped and kicked every part of his body.

He retained consciousness far longer than he should have. Perhaps the year of torture had made him more resilient to pain, or perhaps he was just very unlikely, but he regretted that he was awake for most of the beating. Compared to the pain of his torture sessions, which he admitted it had been many months since he last experienced those, the pain was only minor.

The bluntness of being struck was almost reassuring in a way, compared to a pain that seemed to come from inside and outside of his body at the same time. However, when he had been tortured, after the pain subsided he recovered pretty much intact. There was a whole other level of terror when the damage being done was a bit more substantial and potentially permanent.

When Darian finally did lose consciousness, most likely from the lack of blood if anything, he woke up a week later in a surprisingly comfortable bed. Of course, every part of his body hurt. He had broken 4 ribs, a leg, and bruised just about every part of his body. The guards involved, he would later find out, were heavily reprimanded for the behavior, but faced no other repercussions than that.

Other than Darian’s unprisoner like attitude, he could not remember what he said that had triggered them to act in such a way. He could also not understand why his instincts had led him into such an obvious folly. He felt stupid for having done what he did, but for some reason felt like he had no other choice but to do that.

He would need to be more careful. He could now see how easily his new found ability could lead him astray. That last folly had almost killed him. It was another two weeks before he was finally returned to his cell. It appeared that he shared the cell with Devin still. It wasn’t much bigger than the room they had been in before.

One of the most noticeable changes was the lack of a bathroom. Instead, there was simply a small commode in the back that offered little to no privacy. The walls were grey now, instead of white, a metallic clor that seemed to be the natural color of whatever the material the prison was made out of. The lighting was less than that of the room they had been in at the laboratory, the room allowing more shadows and shade from a single light source outside of the cell. The greatest change, of course, was one less wall that was instead replaced by a a set of bars.

To Darian, this made all of the difference. To be able to see the outside world of his cell, even if it just looked into the cells on the other side of the hallway, almost felt liberating in comparison. Darian grimaced in pain, holding his side.

“You look worse every day, I’m starting to worry,” Devin spoke up.

Darian chuckled, “Is that so? Well, no worries, they will take me to a doctor to be treated I think.”

Devin nodded, most likely taking Darian’s word as a declaration of the future. Darian walked to the bars in front of their cell, resting his arms on them, sighing slightly. The novelty of being in a cell would wear off soon, he suspected. He had only one choice, to escape from a prison that was considered inescapable.

He noticed the cell across from him was empty. For some reason this seemed to tug at his mind. Was it intuition? Predicting the future? He would need to get a better handle on his abilities; this was starting to become frustrating.

“I can’t seem to remember, the guy across from us, when was he last in his cell?” Darian asked carefully, coming up with the right wording.

“A few weeks ago I think, it has been a while, hasn’t it,” Devin responded, shrugging.

Darian nodded to himself. He would need to start wording questions that way with Devin in order to get the answers he needed. So someone would be in the cell across from them in two weeks. Would he transfer in? Or would he be a new prisoner? He didn’t suspect that Devin knew the answer.

He began thinking about ways to ask Devin what the man’s name was and what he looked like without revealing too much, when the answers to the unasked questions started echoing in his mind. The man’s name would be Beiromon. He couldn’t form an image of the man’s face, but he could form a verbal description of the man.

The man was older in years, with graying hair. He had large bushy sideburns, a hard face, with just a tad of haughtiness to it. Years in prison seemed to have worn his body down, giving him a straggly, lean appearance. He was a tall man, with a straight back and noble demeanor.

Darian shook his head. He hadn’t spoken to Devin, but those were the answers he could have gotten from Devin had he pressured him for them. Darian seem to know the answers to Devin’s questions before he had even asked his roommate. Darian didn’t realize he could do that.

Did he need to ask the questions then? What if he didn’t ask them? The answers wouldn’t suddenly disappear from his mind, because it didn’t happen?

His head started hurting. Whatever he could do, it was certainly complex. He wished he still had Phineas around so that he could ask him more about it. He was sure that Phineas would have had something both insightful and pointless to explain regarding Darian’s new found abilities.

After a few moments of not asking the question, the information remained in his head. Well, at least that answers one question. Darian wondered what other information he could ascertain from Devin without having to directly ask him. He turned to Devin, but realized he could not think of any questions to ask. Without an appropriate question, he wouldn’t get an appropriate answer.

It apparently wasn’t as useful to him as it could be right now, but perhaps he could use it on someone else, someone he did have questions for. Therefore, he sat back down and waited for lunch. When the guard came he thought of a question to ask the guard. It was nothing complex, just a simple question to test out the ability. The response was nothing.

Was the guard just going to meet him with silence? Why did the guard not answer his question? He figured that even a curt response should have been answered in his mind. After a few more moments of silence he became frustrated and decided to ask.

“What’s for lunch?” He began.

As soon as the words left his mouth, the answer slammed into his mind. Meat Pie. It was so simple. In fact, he wasn’t sure if the answer was there before or after he asked the question. It echoed in the guard’s voice, although Darian had never heard him speak before.

“Meat Pie,” The guard grunted in a raspy voice, pushing a tray through the bars in a grove designed for this task.

Darian nodded and took the food, but his mind worked furiously. As he tore open the meat pie from his plate using actual utensils; although flimsy blunted ones not exactly set for the task; he thought about what he has just experienced. The meat pie was absolutely delicious. Years of nothing but gruel, and then a slightly better tasting broth during the period of time he was sick, this had been the first true meal he had had in as long as he could remember.

He pushed his other thoughts to the back of his mind as he spent the time enjoying his meal, moaning with pleasure and enjoying each bite. The feast was over sooner than he would have liked, but he licked the plate to acquire every last crumb before sliding the plate back through the bars.

He hadn’t realized food could be that good. He couldn’t remember food ever having tasted better. If every meal was like this one, he could start to get used to prison. This caused him to chuckle a bit, he did remember that prison wasn’t exactly a desirable place to be, but he struggled to remember and fathom a world much bigger than the one he was already in.

Devin watched Darian eat with a raised eyebrow as he sat quietly,. Devin ate his food in the mess hall with the other prisoners, a privilege that Darian had yet to be a part of due to his rough arrival at the prison. He made no comment on Darian’s seeming enjoyment of this particular meal.

By that point, Darian felt he understood what had just happened with the guard. It seemed that he couldn’t predict the answer to someone’s questions unless he mentally committed to asking them. He couldn’t just think about asking a question, he had to plan to ask it, and then stop himself from asking it last moment, or ask it anyway already knowing the answer.

That was a pretty tricky thing to master. Unfortunately, he’d need to wait until dinner before he’d have another crack at a guard. Perhaps there were some questions he could ask Devin. It took him a few minutes to come up with one, and he almost immediately felt embarrassed for never having asked before.

“Your home, could you tell me about it?” Darian asked.

He had always assumed Devin had memory loss like he had, so he never realized that Devin might have a past he could talk about. He had always said he didn’t remember his past, but Darian was realizing their relationship was far more complicated than he had originally thought. After all, Devin’s past was the future… so would he remember where his home was, or where it would be. Either way, the answer began flowing into his mind before Devin started speaking it. Since this answer was a bit longer than the one he asked the guard, the information came gradually, giving him a strange since of Déjà vu as Devin finally spoke, the information running through Darian’s mind.

“Well…” Devin replied, seemingly surprised by Darian’s sudden interest,” That was a long time ago indeed…”

“D..” Darian stopped himself from interrupting Devin.

The question would have been ‘Do you remember your childhood yet?’; the answer would have been, ‘Of course I do.’ The answer flowed into his brain as soon as he set to ask it. This caused him a momentary headache as the events seemed to split in his brain.

Had Darian asked his question and interrupted his friend, Devin would have changed what he said, thus causing an odd kind of branch where Darian heard two different potential things Devin would have said based on what Darian did. This made Darian a tad nauseous; fortunately, the duality quickly went away as Devin continued to speak, oblivious to Darian’s ponderings.

“I know that you have memory problems,” Devin began, “and I suppose my mind isn’t what it used to be either. Between the two of us I don’t know who tends to get more confused!”

Devin chuckled and shook his head, but as Darian remained quiet he continued, “I grew up, and spent most of my life on a small planet called Achilles. The planet Achilles was part of the Arth Colony before the Tarren’s annexed them some two hundred years ago.”

“It’s a small farming planet. All of Arth was only one system. We have three habitable planets in the Arth system; Arth Prime, Achilles, and a moon called Chime.”

“My life grew up farming, plain and simple. However, every fifty years or so, some idiot kids get it in their heads that Arth should be free of the Taerren control. Talks of rebellion start spreading and eventually the Taerren’s make an example. My son…”

Devin stopped and cringed a bit, a small tear forming at the side of his eye. Darian had never known that he had a son. Almost two years stuck in a room with him and it almost was like he barely knew the old man.

After a moment he raised his head, his eyes growing resolute, “He got in with the wrong crowd was all. I’m proud to be Taerren. Arth has been a part of Taerra for 200 years, and while no Arth hold any Noble houses, we have been treated fair enough. It could certainly be worse, like the outer colonies. Soen. That was my son’s name. You remember that name, will you? He was a good boy, but he threw it away.”

Devin tightened his fist tightly, shaking it at Darian, “You remember him, Soen.”

Darian nodded his head quickly, which immediately caused Devin to loosen. The severity in his eyes went out, his hand opened up and his arm fell down to his side as he sighed.

“The families of those involved were arrested. I did what I could to help hide many of the other families, but my wife had died years before, my kid was dead, I volunteered, an offering or boon I guess. Been here every since. I can’t really remember how long ago that was. Ten years maybe? It all kind of blends together in the end.”

Darian sat next to Devin and patted him on the back, “You’re a good man Devin, don’t forget that.”

Devin chuckled, “You never faulted me, that first day. I never understood why you did what you did. I hated you. For so long. And the thing was, I was going to betray you anyway. So I hated you for going with your instincts and being right. Of course, you were back the next day and I came out of it unscathed. Odd, how things turn out in the end.”

“The past is the past,” Darian responded,” I know I have my eyes looking towards the future.”

Devin nodded, but Darian knew he didn’t understand exactly how true that statement was, any more than Darian understood Devin’s hints about the future. How was he going to betray Devin? Why would Devin hate him for it? Was it part of the promise? Darian shook his head, not wanting to think about that part.

A new guard returned with the evening meal. This time it was an incredibly tasty hunk of meat. Darian didn’t know what the meat was called, so he decided to ask the guard. He worded the question and went to ask. Pork, from a pig. Darian couldn’t remember what a pig was, but he did vaguely recall that is was an animal he did once know.

“Wha…” Darian only just managed to prevent himself from asking the question, however he had already said too much and they had gotten the guard’s attention.

The guard would be annoyed by the question, so he decided to just say nevermind instead. However, before he spoke a thought broke into his head, another wave of intuition. He hesitated. He could follow his intuition, but the pain in his side suggested that it wasn’t always the best decision.

The guard waited a few seconds for him to speak, but as he stood frozen, the guard grunted and turned away. The intuition seemed to grip him tighter. He couldn’t see how it fit into the puzzle, but if he didn’t follow these instincts then he knew he’d never find out.

“Purple…” the words suddenly came out of his mouth.

The guard froze, glancing back at him with a strange look on his face.

“You should go with purple for her, it’s her favorite…” he continued.

“How di…” The guard started, eying him.

The guard’s face darkened. He looked Darian up and down with a frown. After a moment he turned and finished his rounds before walking off without saying anything more. Well that could have gone better. Although, he admitted, it could have gone a lot worse too.

“What was that about?” Devin asked from the bed he was slumped down on.

After a moment of staring out at where the guard had left, Darian turned back to Devin.

“I don’t know,” he responded, “But I am going to find out.”

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Time and Place – Chapter 21

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Darian backed a few steps, finding himself tripping into the chair that duplicated the one he had spent twice a week in for the last two years. He had honestly thought that there would be an end to the experiments. That one day he’d just be let free, or at least put in prison, like Devin seemed to suggest. Then an idea came to Darian’s head.

“Prison,” He whispered.

Phineas frowned, “I know you say this place is like a prison…”

“No, not that; put us in prison!” Darian responded.

“I…” Phineas began, a look of doubt in his eyes.

“Transfer us; falsify documents, whatever you need to do, just move us into a prison and dispose of the paperwork,” Darian interrupted.

“That’s illegal. I could lose my job, I could end up in jail, I…”Phineas’s voice broke when he saw the glare that Darian was giving him.

“I don’t even know where to start…” Phineas finally sighed.

“Basalt Station,” Darian stated, a growing sense of certainty welling inside of himself.

“Basalt Station?” Phineas asked incredulously “That is a space prison. It’s in high orbit. You’d never be able to escape it. It’s a place for violent criminals and people dangerous to the empire. Only lifers go there. If I sent you there, it would be no better than here.”

Darian looked inward for a second, concentrating on the prison in his mind. The certainty started to form. That was the right direction.

“That friend of yours, the one who brought me here…”

“Thad Mason?” Phineas asked in surprise,” Well, actually… now that you mention it he does still owe me. A lot. And he does work at the station. Perhaps I could…”

His voice drifted off as he contemplated for a few moments. He snapped his fingers, his eyes going bright before turning back to Darian.

“You will not die. I won’t allow it. I have an idea, it should work. No, it will work. Tomorrow you are going to that prison,” His voice broke at that, “I am sorry. This might work, but you’ll still be a prisoner. If I could free you, I would… but there is just no way that I can see making that a reality.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Darian replied,” Just get me to that prison and I will do the rest.”

Phineas eyed him suspiciously, “You sound so confident, how do you know what will happen next?”

Darian smiled but did not respond. After a few moments, Phineas sighed.

“I suppose we all have our, little secrets,” He continued, “I have a lot of work to do if I am going to make this work. If this doesn’t work out, you’ve been a good friend. I just realized that we are not going to be able to have our talks anymore, this will probably be the last time we ever speak together.”

“We’ll meet again,” Darian responded, slapping him on the shoulder.

Darian was almost certain they would. He wasn’t sure if that was because he wanted it to happen, or because he knew it would happen.

Dr. Faraday recovered the guard, asking him to come back once he had brought Darian back to his room. Before long, Darian was back in the familiar cell he shared with Devin.

“How long do you think they are going to keep us here?” Devin asked him once he entered the room.

“Oh not long,” Darian responded, “We’ll be back in prison before you know it.”

Devin seemed to accept his words. There was a time that he had depended on Devin. Devin had been the confident rock that kept his sanity and kept him going. He now realized that sometime over the last year that dynamic had changed. Devin seemed to more readily look to Darian.

He didn’t have anything else to do, but felt very anxious waiting. He knew Phineas would succeed. Besides these newfound instincts that told him so, he had Devin’s past, which painted a road into Darian’s future. He would have to work to learn more about what was in store for himself from Devin.

Unable to rest, he sat back on the bed, crossing his legs and closing his eyes as he had done before. He tried to concentrate on his future, to see if there was a glimmer of anything to come. Occasionally, the shadow of images would appear in his head, but they never focused into anything tangible.

The images he was receiving now were even less substantial than the ones he had been getting before he met with Phineas. Perhaps he was doing it wrong. He opened his eyes and instead looked at the door. An image came to him of the door opening, but he could not see through it. The image melted and blew away before he could abstract any detail.

Well that wasn’t helpful. That door opened four times a week. Predicting the door would open again, most likely tomorrow, Darian wasn’t particularly sure how he knew that, wasn’t very helpful. Was the door opening to transport him to the prison or was it opening to send him to his death?

Darian shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts again. He turned to Devin and began starring at him. Devin had his back turned away from Darian at the moment, but his back stiffened slightly, suggesting that perhaps he knew Darian was looking at him. He didn’t say anything, however, so Darian continued to stare and concentrate.

Suddenly, he saw Devin still in front of him, but they were in a different room. Devin was huddled in the corner, his eyes starring distrustfully at Darian. He muttered something, but Darian couldn’t quite make out what it was. Darian took a step towards Devin, but this seemed to agitate the man more.

Then there was a kind of flicker as the world changed around him slightly. He closed his eyes to keep the strange dissolving picture from nauseating him. When he opened them Devin was in front of him, his face twisted in hate and anger. The old man leaped at Devin grabbing at his throat. He fought off Devin’s attack on instinct, but before he could think, he was on the floor, his friend’s hands around his neck as the man tried to choke him to death. The light started to fade around his eyes as he tried to call for help, although he didn’t know from who.

Then the present hit him in a flash. The sudden change of scenery disorientated him and made him dizzy. He realized he was on the floor next to his bed. Devin was over him, a look of concern on his face as he tried to restrain Darian’s wildly flailing arms. Darian noticed that one of his arms must have struck Devin, who looked to be sporting the start of a bruise on his left cheek.

“Are you alright, what happened?” Devin asked, a look of concern on his face.

Darian attempted to speak, but feeling the nausea rising, he held up his finger, jumping to his feet and racing to the bathroom, barely making it before he vomited into the sink. Darian was not unaccustomed to nausea and throwing up during the times he was experimented on, but the way this nausea had taken him had caught him off guard.

Devin stayed in the room, a look of concern on his face. Darian worked to reassure him that things were fine, but his mind kept wondering back to what he had seen in the vision. He had never seen Darian angry at him before, and the level of rage on the man’s face unnerved him. What could he have done to cause the man to hate him so? Was his vision definite? Or was it only a possible future? Would his one and only friend one day turn on him?

What about the mistrust? Darian watched his friend’s eyes closely. Was that level of mistrust starting? Were those looks of concern? Or uneasiness? Darian shook his head, vanishing the dark thoughts from his mind. Nothing had changed, not to that level. Darian suspected that he’d have more than ample amounts of time to see it coming and prevent it.

If he could not prevent these visions from coming true, then what would be the point of having them? He also thought back to the nature of the visions. It was difficult to decide if he was in control of himself during the visions, or if the future Darian was in control. The few visions he had had, his actions had seemed natural and he simply did what he figured he would do. As a result, he couldn’t tell who was in control during the visions. He almost kicked himself for not attempting to change things outside the event earlier with Phineas. He could have said a different word, or moved his hand a different way. Instead, his actions were identical and he didn’t know which was which.

On the other hand, his thoughts were different. He was pretty certain of that. His lines of thoughts were completely different when he had his first vision and when he saw Phineas for real. This also meant that he was not his future self when he saw the future. He thought independently of his future self, confused by places he didn’t recognized and not privy to future knowledge.

The idea that he should be concerned about maintaining individuality between his present self and his future self almost made him chuckle. He restrained the urge, however, as Devin was continuing to eye him with concern. He didn’t want Devin to think he was more insane than Devin already thought him to be.

Darian was already coming to the conclusion that Devin was not insane, at least, not in the traditional sense. It seemed like each night the record skipped and Devin was living the previous day rather than the next day. Darian wondered how crazy he’d look if he could remember a future no one else had experienced yet. He wondered how crazy he’d seem with his glances into the future.

He lied down in his bed and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see any more visions right now. It wasn’t until he was just about to slip into unconsciousness that he realized that dreams were not any safer for him. He slipped into dream after dream, trying to forget them as quickly as he had them.

The next day Darian woke with a start. He was being shaken awake by Devin, who seemed concerned and panicked.

“How did we get here, what’s going on?” He asked, slightly frightened.

Darian sat in confusion for a few moments before he understood. Devin only remembered things in the other direction. So if they were going to be transferred today, then he went to sleep in the jail, and woke up in a completely different location with no memory of how he got there.

He made an effort to comfort his roommate and friend. He briefly considered telling Devin more about his future, but he hesitated. What would happen if he chose to tell Devin things that, to Devin, hadn’t happened yet? As he recalled, Devin had told him things about his future, but at the time he hadn’t understood them and couldn’t use them to his advantage.

He tried to think back to the details behind the many strange things his friend had said when he had first been imprisoned here. Unfortunately, he quickly grew frustrated at the patchy memory of his first year caused during the experimentation. He simply couldn’t remember what would come next. However, what would happen if he attempted to tell Devin about his future. Would that change Darian’s past? Or would there be some kind of contingency where events prevent him from changing the past?

Of course, why would telling Devin anything slightly earlier help? Devin knowing his predicament wouldn’t change anything. They’d still be tortured and experimented on; they would still be trapped in the cell for two years. Simply telling Devin that will make him worry. More importantly, telling him this information may change things.

At best, the more Devin new, the stranger he might act around Darian. Darian already had thought his friend was mad, if the man had told Darian when they first met that he was, for all intent and purposes, from the future, Darian would have never trusted him. It would have driven a wedge between the two of them that may have never been fixed. He never would have learned to speak common tongue, learned about hints to his future, or learned about the society outside of his cell.

Darian resolved to not tell Devin more than he had to about Devin’s future. It seemed like the safest course of action for the moment. He wondered about the vision he had had the night before. He would need to do something so that wouldn’t happen. However, now that he thought about it, he couldn’t do anything to prevent it, since whatever he did to cause it wouldn’t have happened by the time he was attacked. He shook his head.

This added a very strange dynamic to his friendship with Devin; he wondered how Devin had managed for so long having known this secret. He presumed that Devin had figured it out a few months before when he had started his friendship with Phineas Faraday.

After he had finished comforting Devin, telling him that they would return to the prison soon, he sat back down on the bed and began trying to open his mind to more visions. It was an interesting way to past the time, and bordered on a kind of meditation. In a way, it was relaxing, the smoky visions that never quite showed him the future glimpsed at the edge of sight.

He had realized from yesterday that the visions formed best when he focused on something. So he focused on an image in his mind of Phineas Faraday. He saw the man a few times in a few different areas, but nothing that really told him anything. These visions seemed to tell him of his own personal future. As a result, he could only see things he was present at, through his own point of view.

Therefore, he couldn’t see where Phineas Faraday was going to be tomorrow or the next day, unless he happened to being going to see Phineas tomorrow or the next day. However, he was relieved to see that he would see Phineas again sometime in the future. This meant that both he and the scientist would survive their respective predicaments somehow.

As he glanced around the room, trying to come up with something else to focus his visions on, he decided to avoid delving more into Devin’s future. His hand impulsively touched his neck, although he did not feel any of the effects from the vision, the memory of being choked to death was very strong in his mind.

The guard that had recovered him yesterday was the only other person that might be able to give him a glimpse of his near future. So he focused on the man called Thad Mason. Quickly he saw the man opening the door. Devin walked beside him as they crossed a corridor, entered a ship. He saw them leaving, the ship pushing up through the atmosphere, his face being pushed back as he experience several times the gravitational force as the ship left the atmosphere.

Darian opened his eyes. He knew the guard would open the doors in about two minutes. He still wasn’t sure how he knew it. The certainty became stronger once the vision occurred, but he had had the feeling of its inevitability growing all day. He didn’t know if these temporal instincts were related to the visions, or a different beast all together, but he knew this was another part of himself he would have to find a way to master if he hoped to escape the prison.

Despite never knowing a life outside of captivity, he seemed to know his escape was inevitable. He could see himself being free in the future, and knew it was real. He didn’t know the specifics. What would he do once he was out? Where would he go? These answers eluded him. Still, he knew he needed to leave, as if there was a definitive reason for him to get out and be free. Something important that he couldn’t do behind bars that exceeded the comfort of the only life he could remember.

Like clockwork, Thad Mason opened the door. He rose as the door opened while Devin jumped a little.

“It’s time to go,” Darian stated, turning to his friend and nodding encouragement.

He walked out of the room with Devin following behind, a strange air of confidence and authority surrounding himself. He knew his strength was at least slightly bolstered by the fact that he had already seen the events unfolding in this way. If he didn’t know what was going to happen next, he might have been more apprehensive and concerned, as his roommate seemed to be at this point and time.

Thad realized he was following Darian, versus leading him, and quickly took a few steps to get in front of him. He gave Darian a confused and wary look. Darian had known exactly where the guard was taking them and had already started heading that direction with Devin in tow. However, in the vision, the guard had led them along the entire way.

So the visions can change, at least, to an extent. Darian nodded to himself as he followed the nervous guard. The hallways were not any different from any of the other hallways he had been in, making it exceptionally easy to get lost for someone who did not know their way.

Suddenly, a flash of warning struck Darian’s mind as they approached an intersection. Thad had started to walk strait down the hallway, but Darian suddenly had a strong desire to turn right, a since of foreboding along the current path. That was different from his vision too. He was beginning to question how reliable these visions actually were.

“I think we need to go right,” Darian said, his feet stopping short.

The guard jumped at his voice, turning around with a glare at him.

“That’s the longer way, this is the shortest route,” the man argued, pointing down the hallways as if that was evidence of his statement.

“There are people down that way, there are not people down this way,” Darian said.

The guard looked at him strangely before responding, “You don’t know that, and even if there are guards down that hallway, they won’t suspect anything.”

“I do know that, and I never said they were guards, we meet with the wrong people at the wrong time, and we will all be in a lot of trouble,” Darian responded.

The guard glared at him, his eyes narrowing. They continued to stare at each other for a few minutes, the guard frustrated at the thought of taking a prisoner’s advice, Darian having a growing confidence that he would. Devin stood to the side saying nothing, his head bowed. He must have been used to Darian proclamations of the future and simply accepted them, which meant Darian would be making a lot more of them.

At the edge of hearing the rumble of a couple of voices came down the hallway. They were still far off and out of sight, but there was just enough echo down the long hallways that something could be heard. This caused the nervous guard to jump again, before breaking eye contact and nodding grudgingly. They went right. The voices faded as they rounded a corner and were out of sight of the intersection.

“I still say they were just guards,” The man grumbled as he continued to walk down the new hallway, still identical to the previous hallways they had been in.

“What do you owe Phineas Faraday?” Darian asked suddenly.

This caused Thad to blush slightly as he continued to walk. He didn’t answer right away, but Darian knew he would answer; otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered to ask.

“He, um… My son’s grades were never that great, but he really wanted to get into school. Phineas put in a recommendation and got my son accepted on merit. He also helped him get a scholarship to pay for it…” The guard trailed off, turning his head away from Darian and staring straight ahead.

Darian smiled to himself. He had long suspected that Phineas was a good man. It seemed like his suspicions were right. Still, he would miss the conversations he had with the man, and wondered how long it would be before he met the scientist again. He was not able to gleam a time, just a feeling that they would meet again in the distant future. They continued to walk down a few hallways before the guard finally spoke up again.

“You are now prisoners transferred to the Basalt Station from the surface jail. If asked where you transferred from, you are to say you were transferred from Port Geneva, a small colony located on the surface of the planet. You are locals there, and the two of you were tried and convicted for raping and murdering a local woman,” Thad declared.

Darian blinked, a horrified expression forming on his face.

“Don’t argue with me, I chose this crime for two reasons. First, a woman was raped and murdered by two men recently on Paris near Port Geneva. It was reported that the two men escaped, but more than likely locals lynched them.”

“Second, if you wish to survive at Basalt, other criminals need to think you’re hardened. Rapists tend not to be housed with other prisoners for obvious reasons, giving you two a cell to yourself, and any sentence lighter would have you going to a surface prison, not Basalt. “

“I can’t pretend to know why Fin hated you so much that he would send you to Basalt, but rest assured, it will most likely be the last place you ever see. He seemed to like you, and said you requested this, I don’t understand that either. I am about to hand you off to some transfer guards. They don’t know the circumstances of your transfer, and you aren’t going to tell them.”

“That is all I can do. I’ve put in a notice and I’m quitting. After this stunt, my face can’t be seen on either Basalt or this research facility, I will not risk my family’s lives, I am no Lancer skum. Never mention my name to anyone, and things will go fine. I don’t know why he wanted this done, but knowing the doc, it was important. So shut up, lower your eyes, and do a better job imitating your friend over there,” Thad nodded to Devin, who looked considerably more cowed.

Darian decided to take his advice and lowered his head and eyes too, adopting a more docile appearance. Before long they had reached the guards that Thad had spoken about. To Thad’s credit, the man handled himself incredibly well. He kept an air of authority and discipline, his voice strong. He spoke with the guards and signed some papers before saluting and leaving.

The guards that took the two of them roughly grabbed them and shoved them through a door, which appeared to be a dock for the ship. Darian was not unaccustomed to rough guards and keeping his head low, and quickly followed in the same demeanor that he had adopted for the better part of two years.

He then came to realize just how cocky and sure of himself he had been with the other guard. He stood strait, looked in his eyes, questioned, asked, and even demanded. These were actions he never would have tried with anyone else. Was this because of the fact the man was a friend of Phineas? Or was this because he had some preconceived instinct about how the man would react to pressures?

For whatever reason, it was a strangely exhilarating experience, being treated like a human being. He vaguely recalled what it felt like to be treated that way, in some time before his memories began. He realized for the first time that he was no longer a lab rat. Although when he looked into the disdainful eyes of the guards that ushered him into a seat and strapped him in with locks, he realized that now he was back to being something less than human, at least in the eyes of these people.

He didn’t know why he wanted to escape the only life he could remember, but the desire to have people look at him and see a person worthy of respect seemed like a start in the right direction. Before long, the ship’s engine rumbled, and they were pushing up into the sky, just like his vision had foretold.

*****

Aiden took the last few steps towards the room with a level of giddiness and excitement he had not felt in some time. Of course, he did not let his excitement show on his face. Even around the lowly guards nearby, he always had to maintain a state of complete control. It was one of the most important lessons his father had taught him.

Finally, after all of this time, he had tracked down the boy who had killed his brother. That the boy was still alive on the other side of that door was both a blessing and a disappointment. He had done a fair amount of research on the Chronos project before working to have it shut down. It wasn’t very cost effective and it had not produced any tangible results anyway.

Still, his primary reason for getting the program shut down was to finally get vengeance on the boy. He had heard the experiments had been particularly painful, torturous even. Aiden, however, would not be satisfied until his brother was avenged. That meant the death of this person, even if it did release him from a life of pain.

Aiden hid his impatience well as the guard entered in the codes into a small wrist pad and the door opened. He continued to wait as the guard entered the room to bring out his prey. The guard made a noise of surprise. Irritated, Aiden pushed himself into the room.

The room smelled. It didn’t smell as bad as it should have or could have smelled, even though it had two occupants that had occupied it almost nonstop for two years. The walls and ceiling were covered with an antibacterial layer. The room was seemingly designed to be self sufficient and self-cleaning.

The lamps emitted a kind of UV flash that helps sterilize the room. The toilet regularly cleaned itself and air was continually being filtered in and out of the room.  Still, it would seem that the occupants had also made an effort to keep things clean within the room, whether from boredom or a since of cleanliness that didn’t die with imprisonment.

Even with these modifications, years of stink left from people confined like animals layered the place. Unfortunately, the smell was all that was left in the place. The occupants were gone, and by the confused look of the guard, this was not expected.

“Where are they?” Aiden asked, his voice struggling to stay under control.

Before the man could answer, he struck him across the face. He never was particularly good at controlling his anger. However, the effect of his calm voice yet aggressive actions seemed to be a trigger for all of the other men nearby, who quickly bowed their heads and began searching.

Two guards took off in opposite directions down the halls in a desperate attempt to locate the missing occupants. Another guard began looking through the terminal. He moved up next to the guard on the terminal, who quickly became aware of his presence and was visibly unnerved by it.

The guard he had struck finally rose to his feet; he made a dazed bow to Aiden before moving from the room and leaving down the hall after one of the other guards.

“Sir, the last person to open this door was Phineas Faraday, the man in charge here. He never used his own code to open this door, one of us always fe…”The guard stopped speaking when Aiden held up his hand.

“Where is this Phineas Faraday,” Aiden asked calmly.

“Reassignment sir, he left last night, there is no way he could have used his code, it had to be stolen or…”  the guards voice trailed off at the dark look Aiden gave him.

“Where was he reassigned,” Aiden continued to question.

“Classified sir, Level 10, only the Lord Regent could give permission to access…” Aiden had to hold up his hand again to stop the man from stumbling over his own words.

It all came back to the Lord Regent again. Why was his father protecting this murderer? Did he not care about his own son’s death? What were his motives?  He cared little about this Phineas Faraday whether he was involved or not, but where would his father put the boy.

Two years of work and he finally found him, and like that, his father snatched the man out of his fingers again. He didn’t know what his father’s game was, but he would one day claim his vengeance.

The guard was terrified down on the ground next to him. He hadn’t realized he had lashed out, his fist slamming into the computer monitor just in front of where the guards head had been. The glass terminal had cracked, the display now only showing a black and white distorted image around the spiderlike cracks that crossed the monitor. His temper, he needed to be better at controlling his temper.

He glanced down at the trembling guard, his eyes intense, “Get up, get the other guards together, and burn this place to the ground.  By day break, I want nothing left of this facility or anything in it but ash and stone.”

The guard stood up and left to follow the orders, acting slightly braver now that he had a specific task to carry about. Aiden stood and contemplated what games his father was up and where he would need to look next to hunt down the boy who murdered his brother.

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Time and Place – Chapter 20

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After the first time Phineas and Darian had spoken, Phineas took the opportunity to regularly meet with him.  He did not extend the same pleasantries to Devin, who had become increasingly withdrawn of recent. Darian wasn’t sure why Devin acted the way he did exactly, but it seemed to be a mixture of prejudice and jealousy towards Phineas. Whenever Darian spoke of Phineas, or what he and Phineas discussed, Devin would get angry and irate.

This did not discourage Darian from continuing his discussions with Phineas though, which were often very enlightening and engaging. Phineas could leave the laboratory whenever he wanted, and was thus able to provide Darian with a peak of the world outside his cell, which is something he had not experienced as long as he could remember.

Phineas was a Taerren, which for Devin was enough to warrant hate. However, despite his situation, Darian began to suspect that most Taerren’s were not that much different than anyone else. The government was said to be violent and corrupt, but the people were just people.

Phineas would often go into tirades about the corrupted politics, and the noble system. He often cited the Ertlanders and their open parliament as a gold standard from which the Taerren reformed to. He felt that change needed to occur, but that it was unlikely as long as the Lord Regent remained in charge.

He was surprisingly proud of his heritage, knowing a great deal of the histories of his people. Darian would often ask him questions about his origins, and Phineas would be happy to lecture about it.

The origins of the Taerren Empire were a long and arduous one. The original colony claimed to have had the longest distance to travel of all of the colony ships. This made the colony one of the youngest. It was difficult to prove this fact, since none of the colonies agreed on when and where the starting point of the Great Exodus, their name for the period when modern humans left their origin planet. However, no one argued that Taerren’s had been the latest colony to settle a planet.

There were, of course, several other factors involved as well. In 1892 on the galactic calendar, a calendar system designed starting at the creation of the first galactic alliance, an overlord named Jeluit the Cruel took control of the colony ship and put a stop to it’s movements, trying to create a permanent colony on the ship in the middle of space.

His colony was said to have lasted four generations, ending with Jeluit the forgotten, who was brought down by a revolt. It was rumored that Jeluit had escaped the ship with several of his followers and started a new colony elsewhere, although this colony was never found.

Being the youngest colony often caused a great deal of ridicule from other colonies, which saw them as uncultured and undeveloped. It was also a source of their personal pride, feeling that less time being exposed to external sources, interbreeding, and environmental stress made them more like their ancestors than any of the other colonies.

When the Taerren’s finally reached Taerra in 3305, they seemed to explode population-wise, as if to make up for the lost time they had. The colonies started out originally as a democracy, and remained as such for a large part of their history.

However, in 3600s, they finally encountered the other colonies, and joined the Colonial Union. They had conflicts with each other, and even wars, but it wasn’t until 4010 and the start of the Iridian War that the Union began to collapse. After ten years of brutal fighting, every colony became self-serving, and then Taerrens became very introverted.

It was the Taerrens who were the primary combative force, their colonies being at the greatest risk during the war. When the Iridians vanished, or fled, depending on who you ask, the Taerrens felt that they had a right to be a governing party, and superior to the other colonies.

During an event known as the Wraith Skurge, the Tarren society was taken over. The ruling parliament was disbanded and military leaders, financial backers, and other men of importance were given noble houses. A house was often assigned to each planet in the Taerren Empire. As a result, there were eighty-seven noble families that ruled all of the Taerren planets.

Of the eighty-seven noble families, there were ten that were considered major houses. These were families that had dominion over more than one planet, gained during the expansion period of the Tarraen Empire.  Those ten major houses competed for close to eight hundred years over dominance of the Empire and the throne of Lord Regent. About two hundred years prior, the Boramont house had secured dominance and had maintained it since.

The history was fascinating to Darian, a bit like learning his own personal history. He had to be Taerren after all. He couldn’t remember anything from his past, just hidden shadows and the hint of faces, but he looked Taerren, and Taerren’s were the prominent defensive force during the Iridian War. He grew to accept that he must have been a prisoner of Iridians, possibly left behind when they left the planet.

Darian’s emotions felt mottled when it came to his place with the Taerren people. Despite everything that had happened to him, Darian felt a connection to them, one he didn’t quite understand himself. He hated the Lord Regent; he suspected that Phineas did as well based on the scorn in the scientist’s voice when he spoke about him. He did not know the man, but the Lord Regent had personal put him into this living hell. True, Darian had killed the man’s son, but his son had been a monster who lacked concern for human life.

How good could a man be who openly experiments on prisoners, rules with an iron fist, attacks and conquers other systems on a whim, and birthed a son such as Demetry? This was not to say that the opposition, primarily a group of rebels known as the Lancers were any better. According to Phineas, the group frequently consisted of terrorist attacks. Marideen, their leader, was known as a ruthless monster herself, prone to attacking civilian targets as often as military ones.

In the two years since she had taken charge, she has kidnapped several nobles and ransomed them back to their families, destroyed production lines which had led to starvation on several of the Class C planets, and even bombed civilian targets, branding her the name of the Butcher of Braun.

Finding out these things about Marideen, the young girl whose sister had saved his life was very shocking. It was like finding out a loved one was a serial killer. It was difficult to believe. But then again, his mind always went back to her eyes. How those eyes turned to ice when they saw the death of her sister. Perhaps with those eyes, she could have grown into the Butcher of Braun after all.

The scientist also loved to talk about the science he was working on.

“Tell me about your research?” Darian asked a few months after Darian’s torture sessions had somehow turned into stimulating conversation.

Phineas pondered his question briefly. He liked to think about everything he was asked very deliberately before coming to an answer. When he spoke, his answer was often concise and posed.

“The Lord Regent, his primary goal seems to be to develop weapons. Weapons on par or better than those the Iridians used before their disappearance,” He responded, his hand on his chin and his eyes looking at Darian carefully.

“Yes, that is what you’re paid to research, but you have to have your own plans and theories,” Darian pressed.

“You are right about that,” Phineas nodded,” My actual occupation is a theoretical physicist, and my line or research is time and space, or more specifically, how they correlate with each other.”

Phineas paused, but when Darian said nothing, he leaned back in his chair, putting his hands up over his head.

“Do you know anything about gravity, time, or space?” Phineas asked after a moment, “It really is a lot easier if you know some of the source material.”

“I’ve got nothing but time,” Darian responded.

Phineas impulsively looked at his watch before nodding, “That you do. Well, let’s see, where should I start. Mass… that’s the size and weight of an object apart from gravity, has an effect on time and space. You see, space is like a sheet on a bed. While time is the movement across that sheet. A kind of derivative of space.”

Darian nodded. He was not sure he understood completely, but he wanted Phineas to continue to see if he could follow.

“Now, let’s say you put something with mass on a bedsheet,” He continued, “Based on how heavy that item is, it leave an imprint on the sheet. Now let’s put something smaller near that massive object. What happens? The object falls into the indent caused by the massive object.”

“This is basically the principal of how gravity works. The more massive something is, the faster it falls. But more than that, the faster it falls, the slower time effect’s it. This suggests and inverse relationship between mass and time. The speed of light is essentially the point in which time stops moving forward. Of course, nothing can reach the speed of light, other than light.”

“So what does that have to do with the bedsheet?” Darian asked.

“The bedsheet?” Phineas looked up from his thoughts confused, “Oh right, well, the bedsheet is time and space. It’s both. It’s mass over time, specifically, an inverse relationship where the greater the mass, the less the time. “

“But what about an object that is massive but does not move? I mean, sure, a small object would roll into a large object, but once they hit each other, then they both just sit there. In that case, they aren’t effecting time at all.”

Phineas blinked, “That was very observant. I, I am honestly a little surprised you’re still following me at all. My ex-wife used to be unconscious by the time I got this far.  Never could quite explain to her what I believed.”

“Well, I’ve had nothing but time to think,” Darian responded.

“I suppose you’re right,” Phineas nodded before continuing, “Well, to answer your question, that is why many people theorize that it is velocity, not mass, that correlates with time. They’d be wrong. What they forget or don’t bother to mention, is that even though that object, let’s say you and I, aren’t falling, and stand on this planet seemingly motionless, we still are falling. Or rather, being blown away.

“You see, we may not seem like we are moving, but our planet is. It’s orbiting a star, that star is orbiting a galaxy, that galaxy is orbiting the universe, being pushed out from the original great expansion. Everything’s falling, all the time, pushing time forward. When everything truly stops falling, when we finally all compress back into the massive orb from wince we came, well, that is when time itself will stop.”

“But if time is inversely proportional to the amount of mass in the universe, wouldn’t that mean that time is constant? How can it be constant if we already know it changes?” Darian continued to question.

“You are a smart one. You’ve impressed me, if everything you’ve said and done up until now could be called unimpressive, which would be a lie. You deserve better than this place,” Phineas waved his hand across the room,” You have a great mind I think, and you are being wasted as a guinea pig.”

Darian blushed and after a moment, the scientist sighed and continued.

“Universally, yes, time is constant,” Phineas answered,” If it was not constant then the universe would tear itself apart. However, locally, time can be effected to certain directs, through the use of mass or the expelling of energy.”

“But I really have lost myself haven’t I? What was your original question? What about my personal research?  I believe that light has an effect on time too. There are two things that effect velocity, which in turn, effects time. The first is mass, the second is energy. In most cases, the release of energy includes the release of light. Light, or radiation, I suppose you could call it, I believe is a driving force of time. “

“I’m confused,” Darian responded,” You just spent the last five minutes telling me that mass was the driving force of time, now you’re saying it’s light?”

“Would you believe,” Phineas responded, “That light and mass are the same thing?”

Darian blinked, a look of confusion in his eyes. Phineas chuckled before patting Darian on the shoulder as he stood up.

“If it was easy to understand, it wouldn’t be theoretical and you wouldn’t need physicists,” he responded with a chuckle, “It’s time for me to get going, your guards should be back soon. I look forward to seeing you again.”

Darian nodded as Phineas Faraday stood and left the room. Darian realized that he had forgotten to strap Darian back in. Darian, however, had become used to the doctor’s forgetfulness, and managed to pull all of his straps back into place. The one on his right hand was loose, since he could not manage to tighten it with the rest of his extremities tied down, but he did the best he could manage. The guards never suspected anything.

Darian was back in his room within a few minutes. Devin sat at the bench, although he didn’t seem to be eating very much lately. After a few moments, he looked up at Darian.

“I hate it here, when are we going back to the prison like you promised?”

“Soon,” Darian responded before catching himself.

Prison? What prison? Darian sat down in the bed, trying to remember. It seemed to come in muddy and shadowy shapes. Guards. There were other people too. It wasn’t this small claustrophobic room that he had spent the last two years in, it was just normal cell bars. There wasn’t much more space than the room they were in now, but in that prison he’d be let out. He could walk around and enjoy a level of freedom he didn’t even remember ever having.

Just like that, the image was gone, as if in a puff of smoke. Was he remembering something from his past? A distant memory? A part of his life before the Chronos project? For some reason, he didn’t think so. He turned to Devin.

“A while back you mentioned something about me seeing the future, what were you talking about?” Darian asked.

“I don’t remember mentioning it, but then again, maybe I haven’t said it yet,” Devin laughed, “I don’t know… it just seems like, you always could know things, like what’s going to happen next. You talked about conversations that didn’t happen until the next day. But why are you asking me. You called that coin correctly a hundred times in a row that one time with that friend of yours, if that isn’t some kind of premonition or psychic power, I don’t know what is.”

“Do you remember your childhood,” Darian asked after a moment.

Devin shook his head, “Not anymore than I haven’t already told you. Although, as far as I remember I’ve always been old. Maybe that’s just a symptom of being locked up as long as I’ve been. Although, there was a time I felt far older than I do now, isn’t that funny?”

Darian made a noise that sounded like agreement as his mind worked. He was beginning to suspect that the Chronos experiment had done something to him. He was beginning to suspect that it had done something to both of them.

His dreams, his visions, his strange emotions, and his strange sense of confidence, could they all be hints at the future? Meanwhile, his good friend seemed to be regressing, almost like time was going the wrong way for him. Was that what was happening to him. Was Devin’s past Darian’s future?

Darian pondered these thoughts deep into the night. When sleep finally took him, he had dreams of a massive library with glass columns and books as far as the eye could see. In front of him was Phineas.

As Darian watched, a dark shadow slowly passed overhead, blocking out the light. Darian seemed to know that if the shadow touched the scientist, there would be no chance. Chance? Chance of what? The shadow reached Phineas, and he began to scream.

The night was restless for him, leaving him sleeping through most of the day. Nightmares came and went, varying in detail. Twice that night Darian woke drenched in sweat, heading to the bathroom to rinse off his face. The room was never hot or uncomfortable, maintaining a specific temperature without fail, but he seemed to sweat all the same.

He started to actively try to remember his dreams. If these were hints at his own future, as he was starting to suspect, perhaps they held some key for him. Perhaps they held the key to free him from this imprisonment.

Not all of his dreams were nightmares, yet the vividness of some of them seemed to shock him awake all the same. In one dream, he saw himself kissing Marideen, which he quickly wrote off as pressure from being imprisoned. He remembered the concept of sexes and women, but Marideen was the only woman he could remember in any detail, so who else would he fantasize about.

Another dream saw Marideen dead, and Danelle alive instead. In this dream, Danelle tried to kiss him, but rather than welcoming her affections, he turned from her. He felt that being with her was a betrayal in some strange way. He figured this was more because he was fantasizing about someone who was dead more than anything.

Over all of the dreams, whether they were nightmares of fantasies, he felt a since of foreboding. He felt as if there was something he had to do, and if he didn’t do it, the consequences would be horrible.

When he finally shrugged his sheets and rose, lunch had already been served. Darian was surprised when Devin announced that he was not picked up for routine sessions, which now consisted of Devin sitting in a room for an hour waiting for nothing to happen. Darian suspected that Devin did not remember ever having been subjected to the radiation, or perhaps, he hadn’t experienced it yet.

There had been a few instances in the past when the experiment days had not occurred. Dr. Faraday had told Darian that he worked the laboratory alone, and that their were days when he was on conferences or providing other work, and simply did not engage on the experiments that day.

However, when Darian’s next day came, the middle-aged doctor did not show up. There were no guards and no indication of anything. This was the first time that Phineas had ever missed an appointment to talk with Darian since they started their strange little friendship. Darian was starting to worry.

The next day, Darian asked Devin about it. Devin didn’t know what room Darian was talking about.

“So Devin hasn’t been to the room, that means we’ll never be returning to the room again?”  Darian thought to himself.

It was almost enough to put him into a panic. Leaving the room, as little of a thing as that was, was something that gave Darian something to shoot for. Even when he was being exposed to radiation, the walk down the hallway, the similar room, were things that gave him something, a little touch of freedom outside of his cell.

By the second missed visit, Darian started to break down. All of the pain, all of the segregation, a life time of it, seemingly, and this is what would finally break him. Perhaps this was all the experiment was all along. Perhaps Dr. Faraday became friends with him on purpose, to give him something more and take it away.

Yes, that made sense. The scientist always spoke with him, never with Devin. Devin was a control group. It was just another form of experimentation. They wanted to see him break. They wanted to torture him another way. He sat back on his bed, ready to give in to his own panic.

“We need to talk Darian,” Phineas said.

Darian glanced up to see Phineas in front of him. He blinked and took a look around the room. He was no longer in the cell, but another room. It was not the experiment room, it looked like the experiment room, with a similar chair and similar apparatuses on the walls, but it had a slightly less used look to it. Like it had been abandoned.

“What?” Darian responded, confused by how he had gotten there.

“They… They’re shutting the program down. The last few weeks I’ve been fighting my best to keep the program running, but I failed… they’re…”

Darian snapped out of it. He looked around. He was on his bed in the cell again. Devin was near by with his hand on Darian’s shoulder, a look of concern in his eyes.

“Are you okay? You’re keeping it together aren’t you, I don’t know how I could cope if you suddenly lose it. You did promise me we’d be getting out of this room soon, going back to the prison?” Devin said.

After a moment, Darian nodded, “I think, I think I just had a vision of the future.”

Devin nodded as if he was used to this kind of thing before moving back to his seat. Darian folded his legs on the bed and closed his eyes. He started concentrating intensely. After a few moments, he saw the door in his room open. A strange guard was standing in it. It was not one of the three guards he was used to.

He knew this was a vision. It had kind of a topsy turvy feel to it, as if he was tipsy or drunk, although he could not remember having ever been tipsy or drunk. Yes, this information was nice, but when would this happen? It could be a month, or a year from now. In the first vision, Phineas had said a few weeks. How long had it been since he stopped coming? Had it been a few weeks yet?

Darian sat like that for a few hours concentrating. A few times other images started to form, but before the sound became audible or the vision became clear, the images dissolved like smoke. He couldn’t place a time though.

He finally stood up and then went to the door and sat down on the floor in front of it. He starred intently at the door. He saw nothing. His eyes started to tear up and he remembered to blink. It felt like the door just wasn’t going to open today. Maybe it would open tomorrow. Well it could open tomorrow, couldn’t it?

Was he just hoping the door would open tomorrow, or did he know the door would open tomorrow? There was only one way to find out. He jumped back into the bed and waited.

The next day that certainty that the door would open came back. This time he didn’t need to concentrate so hard on it. He knew that door would open. It had to open. The day waned on and dinner came and left. Was he wrong? Would the door not open?

However, as time progressed, his certainty that the door would open seemed to grow.  It was an expectation, one that became clearer and clearer by the second. After a few minutes, he could almost see the door opening, and see the man. He could actually describe the man involved as well.

He kept starring at the door. The door would open soon now. Closer, Closer, Closer….

“Now,” He said out load, not realizing he was speaking until the words came out of his voice.

Like clockwork, the door slid open. Devin cautiously looked at him on the floor. The guard, the unfamiliar man, was standing there too, also looking at Darian strangely. Darian realized the guards reaction was because he was sitting on the floor with his legs crossed, starring at the door.

Darian rose quickly to his feet, and walked out the exit. The guard jumped, seeming to come to his senses and shut the door behind him. He turned right instead of left, but Darian seemed to know that was the direction he’d take. He followed behind the guard quietly without question.

There must have been something in his eyes, however, as the guard seemed unusually uneasy. Darian wasn’t exactly sure why. Darian consciously made a decision to speak to the man, even though all of his other guards had always met any attempts at speaking by ignoring him, or in some cases, punishing him.

“You don’t need to be so nervous,” Darian remarked.

He couldn’t exactly understand why those were the words that he chose to speak, but it seemed like the right words to say.  The guard jumped at his voice glancing back at him nervously.

“I… I usually don’t do this kind of thing. Bu..but Phineas Faraday is a friend of mine, and he asked. I shouldn’t even be here. I’m a prison guard, not a special guard,” The guard responded.

“What prison?” Darian asked casually.

“The only prison in this system, Basalt Station,” The man answered, and then blinked at his own willingness to answer.

He must have realized he said too much and quickly shut his mouth with a click. Darian sensed that he probably wouldn’t be able to get any more information out of the man today.

They finally approached the appropriate door and the guard opened it for him. He went into a darkened chamber. The door behind him closed before the lights turned on. Darian was surprised to find Phineas already in the room.

The room looked exactly as he remembered it. Where he was in it, what Phineas looked like, what the room looked like, all matched.  Phineas turned and looked at Darian.

“We need to talk Darian,” Phineas said.

“What?” Darian asked, recoiling a bit from the since of Déjà vu.

“They… They’re shutting the program down. The last few weeks I’ve been fighting my best to keep the program running, but I failed… I simply wasn’t producing any results or useable data… the Chronos program is no more.”

“This is good, I won’t need to be experimented on,” before Darian finished Phineas was already shaking his head.

“It’s not that simple, protocol dictates that the end of the experiment, all experimental subjects are to be euthanized.”

“What?” Darian said, his voice rising a bit.

Phineas waved his hands down, shushing Darian, “You and your room mate are set to be killed tomorrow, I am so sorry.”

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Time and Place – Chapter 19

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Aiden Boramont collapsed on the floor in a pool of his own sweat. His knees hit the ground far harder than he had hoped for, sending a shock of pain that tickled his spine. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the wooden blade coming down hard on his head. He clumsily threw his body to the side, narrowly avoiding the potentially devastating slash.

He grabbed his practice sword on the roll, lying on the ground to his right. After finishing his roll he went to bring the sword up in a block, however, the sword was caught in his legs. Before he could untangle himself, another blow landed square into his chest, forcing the breath out of him and cause him to full back on to his bottom.

“You’re dead.” General Mahr remarked, with little humor in his voice.

“It’s these damn swords,” Aiden replied after he regained some of his breath,” They are stupid, I can trust my hands, I can trust a gun, but a sword has no real point.”

The General rolled his eyes, “Some would argue that a point is all a sword really has.”

“You know what I mean, sir,” Aiden replied in exasperation.

“You are the next in line for Lord Regent, you have a responsibility to uphold the traditions of House Boramont, and one of those traditions is skill with a sword,” Mahr stated, offering a hand to Aiden, “I trained your brother for many years and he was an exemplmentary student, reserved, efficient, and skilled. I expect no less from his brother.”

Aiden reluctantly took General Mahr’s hand and helped himself back up to his feet.

“All of that skill, it didn’t save him in the end.” Aiden said.

General Mahr let out a throaty growl, “He made mistakes too. The best you can do is learn from them. Learn from his mistakes, learn from your own. What mistake did Demetry make?”

Aiden glanced up at the general, who was staring at him intensely, “He..he let his guard down?”

“In a way. However, his biggest mistake was that he underestimated his enemy; this is one of the most foolish mistakes one can make. Never underestimate your enemy. There have been countless great men that would have gone down in legend, only to be defeated by someone they considered their lesser.”

Aiden nodded, not wishing to argue with or continue the point. There must have been something in his eyes, for after a few seconds the old General sighed, his features relaxing a bit. This is to say that his face was still carved from stone, but a slightly softer and more understanding stone.

“Your brother’s loss was unfortunate, but you will be his successor. You have the capacity for greatness, just as he did; do not let your doubts drag you down, as his arrogance dragged him down,” Mahr lectured.

Aiden detected an edge of anger in General Mahr’s voice that he didn’t expect. He had been upset at Demetry’s death as well, or rather, the nature from which he died. Demetry was killed by the Lancers. More specifically, by some boy who was with the Lancers. That wasn’t exactly right. That archeologist Tanris had said he wasn’t a Lancer, but some kind of research subject. The Lancer’s were trying to kidnap him. However, he did kill Aiden’s brother, and Aiden wanted vengeance.

Mahr watched Aiden as he thought about what Mahr had said, Aiden’s eyes lowered. After a few moments he sighed, moving to the side of the training dojo, putting up the wooden practice sword he had been using before sitting on a neaby bench and dabbing his face with a towel.

“It is growing late, and I have work that needs to be accomplished. You will need to meet with your father soon. It will be the first time he has invited you into his confidence and you do not want to be late. Make sure your appearance is befitting an heir, and that you do not embarress him in front of his advisors,” Mahr explained.

Aiden nodded, moving to put up his practice sword as well. He would need to take a shower and change his clothing before the advisory meeting began as well. He still struggled to cope with the reality that this would be his life from now on. He was always the second son before. His only requirement was to ensure that his brother lived and was successful.

He had heard of other houses often having bitter rivarelry, with brothers and sisters often at each other’s throats, using backhanded assassination to rise in power. However, he was raised with honor and integrity, a sense of duty and purpose. His father had never put a lot of time into him, but General Mahr had acted almost like a father figure, or at least a supportive uncle. It was perhaps General Mahr who gave him that drive, responsibility, and purpose.

Aiden picked up the things he had brought with him to the dojo, and headed to the door.

“Wait a moment,” General Mahr called out before Aiden reached the doorway.

General Mahr stood up and walked over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“I don’t know if I ever understood why your father never put the boy to death whom killed your brother. I know you want veangence, and I suppose I do too,” he sighed, his facing becoming more resolute,” I was not originally planning on giving you this, but I have found sources that were able to provide me a little more information the Chronos experiment.”

Aiden froze, staring at the small drive between the general’s fingers. After a few moments, the general put it in Aiden’s hand, closing his fingers around it, the look of resolution solid in his face.

“My hands are tied; I obey the Lord Regent, but between you and me, make him pay. If you can.”

General Mahr’s fingers patted Aiden’s shoulder before he turned back to the sword rack and walked over to it, sitting back down with the towel around his shoulders. Aiden gave him a nod before turning and leaving the room. He made his way back to his quarters.

The Taerrean Palace in which the Boramonts lived was not their original home estate. Their original home was located in on the second planet from a sun named Boramo. The family themselves did not know if it was the Boramonts named after the planet, or the planet named after the Boramonts. However, when the Boramonts managed to secure the Taerren SPIG during the second rebellion they had moved to the capital palace and had remained there.

Aiden preferred the Boramont estate over the Lord Regent’s Palace, if for know other reason that that he saw it at home, away from the politcal intrigue of the palace. The palace had many numerous functions. Besides housing the royal family, it also housed a large number of dignitaries, ambassadors, and a private army worth of guards set at protecting the residence from any potential dangers.

The hallways were large and lavish, with enough room to allow at least ten men to walk abreast.
The floors were lined with lavish Akari carpets, the walls covered in tapestries and art of various styles and designed. The art had been in the Palace before the Boramonts moved in, having been placed and added to by years and years of caretakers following the wills of their previous tenants. It left a variable hodgepodge of inconsistency, with styles often changing from hallway to hallway.

Aiden quickly made his way to his suite, located on the mozaic wing, named for a large quantity of art dedicated to mosaics and cubism. Once he reached his room, he removed his clothing and quickly cleaned up. He did not have time to bath, but he used a washcloth to quickly wipe himself free of sweat followed by towel to dry himself.

He had his dress robes picked out and quickly assembled them, making sure his clothing and braid appeared perfect. His father would not be kind to him if he found imperfection on his body. He had learned a long time ago that doing as expected did not earn him praise, but failing to meet expectation did earn him ire from the Lord Regent. Since his brother died, that expectation had grown exponentially.

He looked as his braid, hung over his right shoulder. It was not as long as Demetry’s had been, but it was closely approaching that point. It was not as well braided as it could have been. He would need to have his servants redo it soon, but right now he did not have the time. He made sure to don his sword at his hip before leaving.

He turned to leave the room, but a flicker on the screen of his personal computer caught his eye. He quickly tapped the screen, bringing up a message he had received. The message was encrypted, but Aiden had long since memorized the code and could read it almost as easily as he could read common tongue.

The message stated “Orange Room, 22:00”. Aiden smiled. He knew who the message was from and what it meant. She had picked a time that was particularly pressing. She knew he was unlikely to get out any later than ten minutes before that time, he would have to run to meet her on time. She wanted to see him run to meet their appointment. Why would she pick the Orange Room of all places? It was an incredibly gaudy room filled with baubles and other decorations left over from a particularly flamboyant leadership.

He left the room and headed to the council chambers. The council chambers were a few hallways away in the central wing of the mansion. They were one of the few rooms that were designed with the current Lord Regent in mind. This meant the room was minimalistic in design. Blacks and reds were his primary colors, and the room consisted of no lack of these. Over the back of the room spread a massive sigil, a black silhouette horse reared up in front of a red sun.

A long table filled up most of the room ending at a large rounded half globe at the end. The globe was black with white dots over it, signaling the design of the stars that made up the Taerren Colonies. Stars that were not part of the empire were dotted as red. Aiden’s father had told him once that the reason the stars not controlled by them are red, is so that you never forget that anyone who is not a Taerren is a potential enemy.

The Lord Regent, Mortimer Boramont, was standing at the front of the room in front of the round landscape. He stood with three other men. The first was Peter Lamur, the head of one of the major houses. The second was Staff Knives, the master of secrets. Aiden did not recognize the third man, but suspected he was one of Knives’ sources. Knives was a very analytical man, and often felt the need to support the information he provided Boramont with physical proof.

“Your late,” the Lord Regent stated as Aiden approached the group of men.

“Practice went longer than expected,” Aiden responded.

Lord Boramont hadn’t looked up from the table he was examining. His finger was pressed up against one of the white stars on the map. Aiden recognized the star as Ophran System. It was one of the less accessible systems, but offered rich deposits of ores that brought in a decent amount of income for the empire. It was also one of the older colonies, having been a part of the SPIG for almost as long as Taerra itself. Lord Boramont’s finger pressed harder on the star until his finger turned red from the pressure before releasing.

“Are you sure?” He asked, glancing at Staff Knives, already ignoring Aiden’s indiscretion.

“Positive my lord,” The man responded as his left hand stroked his coat lightly before nodding to the unknown man.

“Sire,” the man said bowing, “Lieutenant Kim, Cyan Guard, 254th Regiment. I saw the sector fall myself. I was called in from the Serah system. The rebels had moved far quicker than we could have anticipated. They had already in the process of taking over the jump gate by the time we jumped in. They instantly began sending over boarding parties. My commander ordered we retreat before they were able to take any of our ships or spread the rebellion to Serah. We barely made it back to Serah before they snapped the connection.”

The Lord Regent did not move his eyes from Knives as Lieutenant Kim gave his report. He continued on discussing the casualties he believed they obtained. The commander himself had not survived. His ship had been in mid jump when the connection snapped, either ripping his ship into shreds or tossing it somewhere randomly between Serah and Ophran. Either way, the man was dead or as good as dead and would never be seen again.

“Advice?” The Lord Regent asked once the report was done, his eyes returning to the half globe map.

“We should strike back. Hit them hard. Overwhelm them before they have a chance to celebrate their victory. We need to teach them that this kind of behavior will be punished. We need to wipe out the Lancers once and for all!” Peter Lamur responded, anger in his voice and a dark look on his face.

Staff Knives coughed politely, drawing the eyes of everyone except the Lord Regent, “While I do admit I am no strategist, I would think it might be wiser to wait, my lord.”

“Wait? What would waiting do?” Lord Lemur retorted, “Waiting will only make them think they can get away with it.”

“With due respect, my lord,” Staff bowed as if to stress that point, “Attacking now would cause them to simply flee back into hiding. Instead, if we let them grow. Let them build an army, let them think they have a chance, then we can show them our full might and crush them.”

“You’re talking about letting them build an army and then starting a full out war! Absolutely ridiculous, you’re talking about a war that would cost millions of people their lives,” Lord Lemur responded.

“I agree that the cost would be high, but the defeat would be equally complete,” Staff replied, his voice remaining constant and calm, “The leader of the Lancers would make themselves the general of their army. It is human nature, they couldn’t help it. Sometimes, when you have rats in your walls, you need turn out the lights and wait for them to leave their little cubby holes.”

“To use you’re analogy, you’re talking about letting them sit and breed until we have a full infestation,” Aiden cut in.

The two men glanced at him, apparently having forgotten he was there while the Lord Regent continued to stare at the map, making no indication he was listening to their conversation. The Lieutenant said nothing his head bowed, waiting for himself to be released. Lord Lemur seemed pleased, with someone supporting him. Staff Knives seemed impassive, his face expressionless.

Aiden cleared his throat before continuing, “Lord Lemur’s idea wouldn’t work either, for the same reason Knives suggested.”

That removed the smile from Peter Lemur’s face.

“And what would you recommend,” The Lord Regent said, his eyes finally glancing up from the map to look at Aiden.

“There is only one way to deal with rats, you set a trap and wait for it to snap,” Aiden said, trying to imitate his father’s sense of authority.

“We have tried traps before…” The Lord Regent responded.

“There are many different kinds of traps, sir, and there is more than just one kind of bait,” Aiden proposed.

The Lord Regent pondered it for a few moments before nodding, “I will put you in charge of this, what do you have in mind?”

Aiden began to explain his plan. He had thought of this for some time now, and had worked out a plan for it. He hadn’t expected to reveal it at this meeting, but he had always remained prepared. After a bit, Staff Knives began to look thoughtful and even Lord Lemur’s frown disappeared. By the end of his speech, even his father looked almost like he might smile.

When they were finished, it was five past twenty-two. Aiden smiled as he left the room, leisurely heading towards the Orange room. When he reached the room, he was fifteen minutes late and the room was empty. He chuckled when he realized she hadn’t waited on him. He headed back to his own room, anticipating an angry message on his personal computer.

When he reached his room, he immediately grew suspicious. There was something wrong with the room, some things had been moved. He glanced at the desk, realizing that his personal computer was gone. He drew his sword. The whistle of the sword leaving the scabbard rang into the darkness. There was a light in his bedroom, which he could see through a crack.

Very slowly he pushed the door open, glancing into the lit room. He sighed, putting the sword back away. Marice Tarris raised her eyes from his personal computer sitting open in front of her as she lied across his bed.

“You’re late,” Marice said with a smirk in her heavy Ertlander accent.

Aiden raised his eyebrow as he glanced down at her. Marice was the daughter of an Ertlander ambassador who had moved into the Palace until his embassy had been completed. That had been over five years ago and still they remained as distinguished guests of the Taerren palace. Aiden had never understood the Lord Regent’s acceptance of this, but the ambassador and his family followed Tarraen law and Taerren rule without problems, so there was no real legal reasons to evict them.

Aiden supposed he needed to be more careful with her. While they were at peace with the Ertland Colony, they did not have any particular Alliance with them as they did with the Akari. Ertland was the third largest Colony, right after Taerrens and the Usar, whom they had continuing conflicts with, and were thus a government that the Taerrens had to respect.

Marice moved to her knees, her small framed body moving sensually in a brown two piece garment that fit too tightly and too form fitting for Aiden’s comfort. Aiden fought the urge to look away in embarressment. It was improper to be put off by another diplomat’s apearance. Still, it was also improper to glance at her too fully as well. Aiden concentrated specifically on her face.

Marice had very short cropped hair, curly black hair that was only a few inches in length, curling across her forehead and around her ears. It stuck against her skin, almost as if her hair was wet. Like the rest of her body, her face was petite. A small pouty mouth, small ears, and high cheeks set in a heart shaped face. The only attribute of her that was large were her brown eyes, with long lashes that only seemed to accentuate those eyes.

After a moment, Aiden succumbed and looked away, almost being able to feel Marice’s smirk increasing as he did so. She was not dressed in the tight clothing that shaped her small breasts and exposed her navel to entice him; it was simply a proper garb for Ertlanders. Taerren guard’s often spoke about exotic Ertlander women and an unrepressed society. Those who had never met someone from Ertland often spread rumors about their unsatiable appetites and lust. Meanwhile, Ertlander men would respond that the only person who could satisfy said lusts was an Ertlander man.

Of course, Aiden knew the stories to be false. Ertland simply had a different culture. They saw the body as a form of art, one meant to be displayed. Still, sometimes Marice got a look in her eye during a meeting here or a discussion there and Aiden had to wonder. Knowing the effect of her attire on Taerren men, Marice thought the whole thing entertaining. Although the primary person she liked to tease the most was Aiden himself.

“What are you doing? Those are private,” Aiden demanded, meeting her eyes again.

“It’s not very interesting, Private things are the things you don’t want anyone else to know, and so far I see nothing fun,” Marice flippantly responded.

Marice assumed a bored expression, putting both hands over her head and streching, arching her back in a way that exposed even more skin between her midriff. This was the second time she managed to get Aiden to lose composure and break eye contact. This of course made him more annoyed.

“What is Chronos?” Marice asked before he could say anything, her eyes attempting to look innocent.

Aiden frown before looking down at the computer, the data drive plugged into it. He cursed, moving down and grabbing it before walking out of the room. He wasn’t sure whether to be angry at her or call the guards. She often pushed the lines between being coy and noisy and violating Taerren global security. Aiden placed the computer back down on the desk and began reading the information in front of him. It looked like she could not open the data drive. The information was encrypted and safe, other than for the name, Chronos, appearing as a file name. Aiden took a breath of relief.

After a few minutes, Marice walked out of his room, her eyes full of curiosity. He ignored her. If he acknowledged her, he would just encourage her. Although ignoring her is what got him into the situation in the first place. Perhaps that wasn’t the best option. Either way, he ignored her and started reading through the first batch of files. He figured that making an attempt to hide the information would only make her more intolerable, and he didn’t fear her finding out anything on the disk. She would keep his secrets, at least, from his father.

“What are you doing?” she asked, pushing her hip against his shoulder in a too comfortable manner, her hand touching his other shoulder.

He continued to read as she looked mildly interested at the files over his shoulder. His eyebrows began to rise as he started to realize exactly what chronos was. Then he began to smile.

He leaned back, looking at the picture of test subject 131, a boy a few years younger than himself. The boy, who almost two years ago, killed his brother. Finally, he found him.

“Nothing unusual,” he finally answered, “I just have someone I need to kill.”

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Time and Place – Chapter 18

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After Dr. Faraday released the straps Darian sat up. It felt almost strange being in the chair without being strapped into it, almost like he might fall out. He rubbed at his wrists, although he had been in the chair many times and the straps hadn’t truly been on him that long.

“I recognize that saying, kind of like beware what you wish for?” Darian began as he collected his thoughts.

Dr. Faraday’s eyebrows rose, “You recognize the saying? It’s kind of niche saying for people in my line of work, no one remembers the origin.”

“I did once, I think,” Darian shook his head as if trying to rattle up some memories.

“It’s possible, after all, you are what you are,” Dr. Faraday responded.

Darian blinked, “And what am I?”

Dr. Faraday chuckled,” You know who I am? But you don’t know who you are?”

“I’ve only heard your name once, from my roommate,” Darian admitted.

I’d be interesting to know how your roommate knew, “ Faraday contemplated for a second, “ But either way, my name is Phineas Faraday, I’m a scientist under contract from the taerren government performing experiments on temporal radiation.”

“Darian, my name is Darian Standon,” Darian replied, “Temporal? Time, you mean time?”

“Yes!” Dr. Faradays eyes brightened up, “Of course, the name is a little misleading, the radiation itself effects time, but doesn’t come from time itself. It’s quite an interesting discovery, I must say. It was theorized in the Dictations of Morodon Barnes that…”

“But, what are you saying I am?”

Dr. Faradays blinked, a moment of confusion spread across his face before his brain seemed to catch up, “Oh, I’m sorry, right, I do wonder sometimes. You are a unique test subject. You came from a newly discovered planet that we believe was occupied by the Iridians, a race of alien beings that we were involved in a war with about a thousand years ago. You don’t remember the war?”

Darian scratched his head, “I, I don’t remember much. What you did, I’ve forgotten a lot of my life before being here.”

Dr. Faraday lowered his eyes, a look of shame on his face, “I apologize for the part I played. You should have had a place of honor, scientists from around the world should have been allowed to talk with you, learn from you, but instead you were used in this useless experiment, and now everything you knew is gone. But I guess that’s what happens when you kill the Regent’s son.”

“Regent’s son? Who?”

“Oh, you don’t remember that either? Well, you killed Demetry, son of the Lord Regent Swansa Boramont the third. I heard you stabbed him in the back or something.”

“I think… I think I remember. He had braided hair.”

Phinease nodded, “The braided hair is an empiric marker. Only nobles can get their hair braided and only the Bormant’s family has that particular braid style.”

“He killed the people I was with, “he had a sword, and he was going to kill…”

“The lancers. They are a group of terrorists, politically reformists that demand change within the government. Primarily, they want the Regent disposed and restoration of the democracy that hasn’t existed since before the Iridian war. Nasty people and they’ve only gotten nastier. In the past, they had a no kill policy, but since the daughter took over, they have become quite bloodthirsty.”

“The Iridian war, you said I’m from an Iridian world. So I’m an Iridian?” Darian asked.

Dr. Faraday barked out a laugh, “No, of course not, you’re human, just like us. What they were doing with you on that planet is beyond me. However, you are from the time of the Iridian War, we presume. That was our first contact with the Iridians after all. You were probably a fighter pilot or civilian on one of the conquered worlds. They imprisoned you with their technology, and we unearthed you,” Dr. Faraday explained.

“But, how did I survive, if that was a thousand years ago?” Darian inquired.

“A Temporal web, it’s the kind of thing I’ve only dreamed of creating. It’s actually part of the reason you are part of this experiment in the first place. The Iridians used temporal weapons, shields, energy systems. We hope to one day learn what they did and how they did it,” Phineas continued.

“I think I remember hearing about the Iridian war, from my roommate. They just up and disappeared right?” Darian continued to question.

“You’re correct, the war lasted 3 brutal years, we were nearing the point in which we began the Nargar Contingency and then they were gone. In a thousand years since, we have had yet to find a single shred of evidence of their existence. Their technology, their ships, even their cities just vanished overnight.”

“Nargar Contigency?” Darian asked.

“Coined by Dr. Nargar, it was a contingency plan in the event of an unbeatable war. Simply put, a jump gate is destroyed, preventing any travel to that system. The actual contingency calls for the destruction of all jump gates, essentially destroying the infrastructure of interplanetary commerce and communication, but smaller versions of it exist as well. The plan has only been used once, shortly after the Iridian War, in something known as the Wraith Scourge.” Dr. Faraday explained.

Darian scratched at his head. This was a lot of information to hear at once, and he almost felt a bit overwhelmed. He needed to talk more about what was important, what he needed to know.

“So what temporal experiments have you been doing to my roommate and I?” he finally asked.

Dr. Faraday sighed, “And that question is a very long one. Do you know the principals of interstellar travel?”

“Humor me,” Darian responded riley.

Phineas rolled his eyes before continuing,” Faster than light travel isn’t possible, but the closer you get the speed of light, the slower time gets for you. Some ships can go pretty close, about 90% the speed of light. At this speed, a year of travel will feel like only about a minute on board. In the early days, people took one way trips across the galaxy to find new planets. “

“When they got there, they built jump gates. A jump gate essentially squeezes space, or space time, depending on who you ask, and allows you to cross compressed space, allowing you to pass vast distances in seconds. Knowing where a jump gate always exists, they would use their jump gate to establish a connection. Once a connection is established, several jump gates are built and a system becomes inhabited.”

“Most systems, like the one we are in right now, the Navu system, have anywhere from 4-6 jumpgates, so that they can connect with any potential incoming gates. Each of the colonies has their own list of systems. The Taerrens inhabit eighty-two or eighty-three systems, depending on who you ask.”

“Some of the jump gates are tasked with trying to establish connections. All day long, all they do is select star after star, trying to make a connection. This was a practice set up from many thousands of years ago, when the colonies were separated. It was a way to reestablish lost colonies. There were originally twelve colonies, although only nine have been rediscovered. Few do this anymore, but each colony keeps one or two gates running with this purpose.”

“How could you be that exact?” Darian interrupted, “I mean, would your connection need to be perfect?”

“No, I suppose the best way to describe it would be to say the gates are magnetized. That’s not really true, but for your purposes, let’s just say if a gate is even in the ballpark, say an entire solar system, the will simply attract to each other and snap together.” Phineas described.

“Anyway, your story in particular starts ten years ago. One of the jump gates suddenly established a connection. When an exploration probe was sent through, it was instantly destroyed. Explorers, eager to see what they had connected to, built ships to try to make it into this new realm. It became a kind of contest. Several ships were destroyed and many people died. Each ship gathered a little bit more data from the last, and eventually a ship was sent in that survived the cosmic tremors and radiation.”

“A red giant had collided with a black hole, and they had erupted in a supernova. The explosion destroyed both the black hole and the star, spreading radiation, matter, and destruction across lightyears of space. For some reason, the particular environment created by this supernova made an impromptu jump gate and allowed us to bend space and travel there.”

“This was an incredible opportunity for us. We had the first and only chance to study the end of the life of a star and black hole, and potentially the beginnings of the formations of a new star. We’d be able to learn so much, things we never thought possible. This information could hint at the very creation of the universe.”

“So the scientists set up equipment, ready to learn and gather data, and what they found was that some of their equipment would not function properly. Worse than even you’d expect from a supernova mess. Scientists far smarter than me managed to pinpoint the source. It was a small piece of metallic like substance floating harmlessly through the cosmic destruction before them.”

“They gathered it, and took it home. Some data was acquired before the jumpgate inevitably collapsed, but that’s not important. What they had brought home was unlike anything they had ever seen before. It was completely unaffected by gravity, simply floating around in the containment they had gotten for it. After they had done a significant amount of research and study, they came to a final conclusion. It was compressed photons.”

“Photons?” Darian asked, “You mean light?”

Dr. Faraday nodded excitedly as he continued, “Yes, exactly! Light acts like both a particle and a wave, but in this case, we found a particulate form of light having been put under so much pressure that it simply balled together like flakes of gold. Now can you guess what could cause that?”

“The black hole? So you’re saying that all the light that goes into a black hole and never comes out actually forms into something?” Darian responded.

“You are a smart one I see, absolutely. All that light, years and years of light, it got compressed. We’d never have known it either if that black hole wasn’t torn apart by that star. However, many of the people working on the photon particle began to become ill. No one could understand why or what was happening.”

“Temporal Radiation?” Darian inferred.

Dr. Faraday snapped his finger excitedly,”The closer something gets to the speed of light, the slower time moves. So something that is the speed of light, let’s say, light itself, wouldn’t move at all. But take light in a solid form, and it releases a kind of Temporal radiation, something strange that effects organisms and objects around it.”

“We believe that these photonic particles are the source of the temporal energy used by the Iridians. Therefore, we study its’ effect on people. That isn’t my particular desire on research, but it’s a start and it’s what I am funded to do.”

“What do you desire to research?” Darian asked.

A grin broke out on his face, “I hypothesis that we are always exposed to temporal radiation. I believe that temporal radiation is time. In other words, light, or the radiation emitted from photonic particles, is what drives time to move forward. These compressed photonic particles emit far higher doses of temporal radiation than what is considered normal, and thus they warp the environment around them.”

“So you have been exposing me and my roommate to temporal radiation?” Darian continued.

The smile left Dr. Faraday’s face, “Yes… I suppose that is the blunt of it.”

“So this is causing me to age rapidly?” Darian asked.

“Well, that is what we were trying to determine. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Not in you and not in the other people that were part of this experiment.” Phineas answered.

“Others?”Darian inquired.

“There were originally twenty people involved in this particular experiment. Of them, only three survived, and only two of them will be alive by the end of the month,” the scientist replied.

“My roommate and I?” Darian pressed, eager to learn more about the situation he was in.

“Yes, with the exception of the two of you, everyone else exposed grew sick and died. But neither you nor your roommate seem to be ill. Memory loss you say? This is the very reason these experiments are so ridiculous. We can observe you, in your room, and we can scan you, but they forbid me from having any other contact with you. I’m not allowed to talk to you, and as a result, I don’t learn anything.” Phinease replied, fidgeting with his lab coat uncomfortably.

“And what’s changed?” Darian asked.

“Why did I stop? I assume you’ve realized I stopped exposing you to radiation two weeks ago. I couldn’t take it anymore. These people, we essentially murdered seventeen men for no reason. We could have used animals, we could have used cell cultures, but the damned Lord Regent decided it was quicker and more edifying to use real people.” Phineas replied.

“I went along with it though. It was my research, and I wanted money to fund my research. In order to do so, I needed to do things the way I was told. As a result, this is what came of my research. Still, I had someone that depended on me. My wife. I could comfort myself when I came home at night on the grounds that I had someone that needed me, someone that could be hurt if I refused to do my job.”

“Well, I won’t go into the bitter details, but we finalized the divorce exactly two weeks ago.”

With that, Darian burst out in laughter. Dr. Faraday jumped and starred at him in disbelief as he bent over in his chair, laughing at the ridiculousness of this situation. After a few moments, a forced smile appeared on his lips, with sympathy painted in his eyes.

“I suppose you’re right,” he continued, “In your situation, something as silly as a divorce ending over a year of experimentation, would seem stupid. For me though, something snapped. I stopped caring; at least, I stopped caring about my own well being. I meant what I said, if there was anything I could do, I’d do it.”

“And then it clicked, the least I can do is stop the torment. I recovered old videos of previous experimental sessions, and I simply play those. Everyone thinks I’m doing my job, and you can recover. It won’t work forever. I will be caught eventually, and most likely imprisoned myself. But it’s about all I can do.”

“Can’t you end the experiments?” Darian asked.

“If I do, the test subjects would be ended too. I lie, send out false reports of no progress, but eventually the plug will be pulled, and our little farce will be exposed.”

“Can you get us transferred, moved into something else?” Darian inferred, leaning forward in thought.

“Like what?” Phineas asked, scratching at his chin.

“Prison?” Darian asked, his eyes intent on Phineas.

The scientist’s eyes opened wide at that. “Prison? Why would… well I suppose prison is a better place than here. There would be no legal way to do it, but it might be possible.”

“If anyone can make it happen, I know you can,” Darian stated, sitting back in the chair, “The guards are on their way right now, you need to tie me back up and get out of here before they come.”

Dr. Faraday blinked, “How? Right, of course.”

The scientist quickly buckled Darian back up, “We will speak again, I will do what I can; I just need time.”

Darian nodded and the man left the room. After another minute a guard was back to return him to his cell. When he got into the cell, he saw that Devin was asleep in the bed. Devin would be awake in a few minutes. Darian looked inward, trying to bring out the strange intuition from deep within himself.

It has seemed like a cloud was lifted from his mind. He could think clearer than he had as far back as he could remember. Dr. Faraday would help him, he knew this. The man would come through for him and his roommate. First, he had to learn things, things he didn’t know before. He needed to prepare himself.

Devin finally rose from his bed to find Darian pacing back and forth across their small space. After pulling all of his blankets off of himself he tossed them to the ground. Finally, he rose and stumbled over to the counter grabbing a bowl of cold gruel that had been pushed through the service hole.

“So, what are you doing?” he mumbled in irritation over a mouth full of porridge.

“Isn’t it obvious?” He responded with a chuckle stopping and staring at the door leading out of their cell.

“What is obvious?” the old man responded, his mouth sounded muffled.

“What I am doing…”

“What ARE you doing?” the man asked.

“You’ve already asked that.” Darian responded, wondering what the man was playing at.

“I most certainly have not. You just woke me up mumbling to yourself.”

Darian turned around and his breath caught. Devin was lying in bed, still tangled in his sheets. He looked up sleepily at Darian, a confused look on his face. Darian glanced over at the counter, the bowl of porridge still sitting where it was when he had entered the room, uneaten and untouched.

The old man finally peeled the blankets off of himself, tossing them to the side of the bed. Finally, he rose and stumbled over to the counter, grabbing a bowl of cold gruel that had been pushed through the service hole.

“So, what are you doing?” he mumbled in irritation over a mouth full of porridge.

Darian blinked at the sudden déjà Vu. He realized he had been staring at Devin for the last few moments and quickly turned his head.

“I, I just…” Darian shook his head to try to make sense of what he had seen.

“Another premonition is it?”

“Premonition?” Darian asked.

“You’re full of those, aren’t you? If you’re so eager to try to tell the future, then why don’t you summon up a premonition and get us the heck out of here?” Devin replied.

Darian sat back down on the bed. He scratched at his chin, thinking meticulously about the events leading up to now, and the events that would come next. He saw them clearly, almost too clearly, as if he could remember things that haven’t happened yet. It was strange.

“Get us out of here?” He finally responded, “That, I might do.”

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