Time and Place – Chapter 5

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Marideen cracked her neck, her left hand pushing on the side of her head, steadily raising pressure until she felt that little snap. She sighed and then began to push her head the other way. She sighed one more time for good measure. Her father seemed to ignore her as he continued on with his speech.

The room was incredibly plain, consisting of four metallic white walls, a giant touch screen in the front, and a small grouping of chairs. The chairs stood in a semi arc towards the front of the room where her father stood. Most of the chairs were empty, and no one seemed to sit directly next to anyone else.

There were around a dozen other people in the room, of them, only two hadn’t heard the plan yet and most of them would not even be coming on the mission. The others looked almost as bored as she.  It wasn’t that is was not important to hear it again. It would seem that everything depended on the details being just right. Nevertheless, after the fifth time she had to hear the in depth report, it began to chafe at her resolve.

Her sister sat at her side, cuddled up in her chair quite comfortably with her head leaning against Marideen.  Danelle was younger than she, and Marideen had always made it her duty to carefully watch after her little sister. It irritated her that Danelle would be allowed on this mission. It was too dangerous; she was too young, only 16 years old.

It wasn’t just the need to protect Danelle that drove Marideen to want to exclude her. Danelle was a bit of a hot head. She could potentially cause problems on this mission. Regardless, Dairen, her father, insisted that every hand available be used. She knew she would never forgive him if Danelle was hurt.

She couldn’t blame Danelle for wanting to come along, she was young, and many of the people they would rescue were people she knew and cared about. However, Dairen could have put his foot down, could have ensured her safety. Of course, that was always how it had worked between them. Her mother, may she rest in peace, cared for the children and ensured their safety. To Dairen, the rebellion always took precedence over anything else.

Danelle murmured something and quickly turned her head away, taking pressure off of Marideen’s shoulder. Marideen quickly shifted herself. Staying in that position for so long so that she did not disturb Danelle’s sleep was starting to cause parts of her body to go numb.

“We will have to move quickly, we won’t have much time, failure is not an option,” Dairen concluded.

This was the end of the speech. Dairen ended it the same every time. It was a bit of a relief. Two of the men who had been sitting stood up and approached him, asking questions either to clarify parts one more time or display questions they hadn’t thought of the first few times he had gone over the plan.

Dairen was always the planner. He certainly did possess the presence necessary to command a group of men. He was a good speaker, and what he said, people listened to. Dairen had structured this plan with the advice of two of his Lieutenants, who now argued intently with him over perceived last minute changes to the plan. However, these were simply the details. The primary plan for the Lancers, the name of this revolutionary group, had already been set months ago.

Despite all the nuances and details, the plan was really quite simple. They would dock in a supply vessel on route to the Vanderra space station. Once boarding, they would have some of the men unload supplies; the rest will mount a rescue of several of the inmates. They will ignite an explosion to take out engine support grid that keeps the station in orbit. In the confusion, they will take escape pods and blend in with the thousands of other escaping people on board the station.

Their engineers insisted that the station would take approximately two hours to crash so they would have plenty of time to evacuate before the station hit the atmosphere and tore itself apart. If everything went perfectly, the Taerren government wouldn’t bother to rescue the inmates and would be blamed for the slaughter of hundreds of men, that is if they never realized that the inmates had already left. One couldn’t hope that a plan would go that smoothly, but Dairen was a man for plans, although in the back of her head Marideen feared that they would be in some deep trouble if the plans changed.

It didn’t particularly seem honest to Marideen. The Lancers ultimate goal was to work towards reforming the current Taerran government, which consisted of a great deal of favoritism and too much power in the noble class. However, defaming the government through lies seemed counterproductive to their goals in Marideen’s mind. However, she trusted her father’s judgment and the men he chose to listen to.

Of course, the cost would be completely worth the gain, If there was truly a Lord and Lady that watched over the Taerren people, Marideen hoped that they made sure that everything went to plan at least until they freed Berret. Berret was the man they had set up this plan to free. He was Dairen’s friend and practically family to Marideen and her sister. During a botched mission some months prior, Berret and a handful of other men had been captured. Those that were noble, like Berret, were imprisoned aboard the political prison on Vanderra. Those that were common were executed.

His capture was an unfortunate hit to the Lancers, and Marideen hoped that he was OK. She knew that once he was freed, no matter how things went, he would ensure that they got out of there.  She had always admired him, and his strength. He used to say that he wished that he had had a son so that his son could marry her. After that, he would always wink at her and tell her his son would hate him for the demands Berret would make on him so that he might be worthy of Marideen’s love. Whenever Berret said that it always made her blush.

She shook off the memory and stood up. Danelle’s eyes were open and she was starting to stretch, unfurling herself from the tight ball she had wound her body into. Marideen herself wobbled a bit, her legs still a bit sleepy from a long time sitting.

“Is…is he finished?” Danelle murmured, her eyes still a bit glazed over from sleep.

Marideen nodded, glancing over at her father as she spoke, “It seems that he wants us to be right on the front lines. He says that we are less likely to get hit than some of his more seasoned men.”

Danelle’s eyes rose slightly before Marideen continued, “According to him, armed men are less likely to gun down two young women, and thus we will cause them pause. Those few seconds of hesitation can make the difference between success and failure.” Marideen’s mimicked her father’s deep voice with that last statement, a momentary burst of anger quickly suppressed.

“I don’t mind, it would be nice to be the ones freeing Berret, where would you rather be, sitting behind with the ship unloading vegetables?” Danelle said.

“Yes, I would. It would be nice to be somewhere safe, where I can keep a watch over you; and I know that the next second we won’t walk into a trap we both won’t make it out of…” Danelle rolled her eyes as Marideen replied. “and don’t look at me that way, we both know that the people going on the rescue mission have the least probability of making it out again. I suppose that is why dad picked us, because we have a greater probability than most, but I would like him to just once see us as his daughters and not another statistic in this war.”

“But those people that are going with us will include Max and Beiromon, if there was anyone who could keep us safe, anyone you’d trusted more…” Danelle placed her hand on Marideen’s shoulder, a comforting look in her eyes, “I know you and dad don’t always see eye to eye. But what he says makes sense, and you and I both know that if he started giving you and me special treatment, you’d find yourself opposed to that too.”

A little bit of stress left Marideen as she took a deep breath. “I suppose we’ll just have to watch each other’s backs carefully.”

“Of course,” Danelle mused,” I have to keep you out of trouble after all.”

Marideen let out a wry chuckle that Danelle joined her in. It was forced, but in anticipation of this mission, any call for laughter was a much-welcomed one. As the laughter quickly died out, the two of them nodded to each other and walked up to the front of the room. Dairen turned to them, the lieutenants having left the room with the majority of the others.

“Are you ready for tomorrow?” Darien asked, his voice devoid of the affection it could have had. Marideen remembered a time when it had been softer, easier. She thought it was around the time her mother had died that his voice had taken an edge to it.

“As ready as we can be… do you know which ship we will be on?” Marideen responded, stifling the growing irritation that started every time she attempted to talk to her father.

“It would seem that the transport is named the “Nevercan”,” Dairen responded, checking the notepad in his hand first as if he didn’t already have every detail of the plan memorized.

“Oh, what an optimistically sounding ship,” Marideen quipped before grimacing at her father’s unamused look.

Danelle giggled slightly before jumping at Dairen, embracing him in a hug. After a brief flash of shock, his face seemed to morph a little softer. Marideen could never figure out exactly how she did that. How did she know exactly what to do to break that hard exterior, it seemed to be her specialty.

When Danelle’s embrace ended, Dairen looked around awkwardly, his features quickly returning to the mask of concentration and thought that he presented the rest of the world. Dairen was a hard man, and even Danelle’s charms only could break it for a second.  She beamed another smile at him, seeming to almost brighten the entire room, before turning and trotting away. A flicker of a smile touched the side of Dairen’s mouth until he glanced back at Marideen, her hands on her hips and a dark look on her face.

“She shouldn’t be on this mission…,” Marideen began before Dairen spoke up.

“Don’t start this again Mari, the both of you are perfectly skilled in combat and are more likely to get through this than anyone else. I know you don’t like your little sister in danger, neither do I, but we all have a part to play and this is your part.”

“The mission would be fine without her…”

“We all have a part to play, even her. If anyone of us don’t play our part there will be more lives lost than necessary,” Dairen slapped his hand down on the podium as Marideen attempted to speak again, “Do NOT be sulky with me, we will all play our part in the times to come, do your job right and you sister will make it out safely, understood?”

They had frequently repeated this conversation over the last couple of days since he had announced her sister would be coming along. Marideen didn’t doubt that her sister would be able to handle herself. She was very skilled in marksmanship and hand to hand combat. When Marideen and Danelle sparred, Danelle was able to hold her own and even win some of the matches.

At one point and time, Marideen might have considered holding back when sparring with her little sister, but Danelle enjoyed exploiting that weakness to her advantage and quickly taking control of the fight. Marideen had painfully learned not to underestimate her little sister. Although, Marideen’s little sister was miserable with a sword.  That skill seemed to have skipped her sister entirely.

“Mari, there is no reason for you to become pouty; this is the way it has to be. The Lord and Lady will watch over all of us. Between you, Maximil, Beiromon, and Markus; I am sure we can keep her safe.”

Pouty? She wasn’t being pouty. She quickly smoothed out her lips, hiding another slight grimace. “Yes, father”.  It was father, never dad or daddy.  It was a victory she kept in her head. Always using the formal title, she was able to separate that he was never a dad to her, merely a father.

Dairen nodded before turning to speak with one of the remaining few attendees who stayed behind to speak to him.  It wasn’t that he was a bad father. He always took care and watched out for his children, but Marion felt that he never loved them.  He always gave them exactly there due, never one ounce more. If one of them got left behind or injured; Dairen would treat them as any other soldier under his command who suffered the same fate.

It would be nice to see Berret again though. She hoped that he was OK. She hoped that having been imprisoned for the last few months didn’t take away a lot of the life and charm he possessed.  While father was a man of presence, Berret was a man of charm. Many of his friends and colleagues often said Berret could charm the skirt off of an Akari.

Berret never bragged about his sexual conquests, so it was never particularly known whether he had charmed many women to his bed. He kept any bedroom play to the bedroom and never kissed and told. Despite this, he was a flirt, but in a generous and good-natured way, never pressuring or making people uncomfortable.  The only thing he valued more than his charm was with his intense loyalty to Dairen and the cause.

Berret believed as Dairen did, the cause that all of the Lancer followed. The Taerren Colonies deserved a government that worked for them. The current government not only supplanted the rule of other planet’s internal governments but felt their dignitaries and bureaucrats were immune to the same laws they force others to follow.

Lost in thought, Marideen stopped just short of running into someone. She blinked when she looked up.

“Ma….ahem…Ma’am?” he spoke in a gruff voice awkwardly. She hadn’t met him before. It was a young Lancer with hazel eyes and brownish messy hair. Although he was actually a little bit older than her, she realized after quickly thinking about it. Even though she was quite young, she frequently saw others as her younger. Perhaps a consequence of the immaturity of most men, or a sign she should take better care of herself before she gets gray hairs by the age of 30. He looked rough as if he had seen a fair amount of action himself.  He was looking at her oddly, she must have been mumbling to herself.

“Excuse me, I wasn’t paying attention…” She gave him a quick nod before moving to his side. Before she had gone more than a step he put his hand on her arm, stopping her.

“I…I’m sorry,” He said, suddenly pulling his hand back as if shocked.  His face changed, looking more melancholy. “I really am sorry.”

Marideen blinked. Was he hitting on her? It had been a long time since she had been flirtatious with a boy, but she wasn’t sure if she knew how to read the signs right.

“It’s OK, you’re fine, I mean…It’s my fault.” The Lancer smiled slightly, but his eyes didn’t seem to change from their sad overcast.  He pulled his eyes away from hers and slowly walked passed. Her eyes followed after him.

She suddenly felt a tugging on her arm, she looked to her side to see Danelle there.

“Who’s that?” She asked.

“I’ve never met him before” Marideen responded.

“Oh, well he’s cute, you should ask him out.”

“Dani!”

“Maybe, Berret could give you some pointers once we break him out?”

Marideen rolled her eyes in an exaggerated fashion. Danelle broke into giggles…

“You do need a man. He seems like the brooding type, I know how you like the brooding type.”

“Oh and I suppose your type is better,” Marideen retorted,”a man who has lips…”

“And a butt, don’t forget a nice buttocks” Danelle retorted.

“Buttocks?” Marideen asked.

Danelle shrugged, “That’s what Max told me to call it.”

The two of them broke into giggles as they started walking down the hallway. After the giggling subsided their conversation halted into an awkward silence. They made a turn and began walking down the next hall, moving at a leisurely place towards their quarters.

The hallways were not as sterile and white as the room they had come from. The walls were done with a checkered mosaic of brown wallpaper while the ground consisted mostly of dark blue tiles.

They were in a small town located on a small moon named Terres. It revolved around an uninhabitable gas giant named Paris. It was the farthest colony still sitting in the Kru solar system. This was one of the smallest towns and was one of several towns built around a rich farming community that covered the habitable parts of the planet.

The moon’s revolution and orbit around the planet lead to roughly 40 days of darkness followed by 40 days of continuous light over most of the planet. Farming was often an odd process on planets such as these, which depended on specially modified vegetation to grow in the odd light schedules.

About 10-15 days before the end of the dark cycle, farmers would plant all of their vegetation, then harvest near the end of the light cycle. The farmers kept busy year round, never having a lull period. During the initial stages of the dark cycle, where the temperature could drop to below freezing, many farmers would transport their goods to the inner colonies themselves, looking to gain the best perspective deals on their goods.  They would then use whatever money they had made to purchase any rare or unavailable goods for the next 60 days before returning back to prepare for the next cycle.

It was on board one of these transports that the Lancers hoped to gain entry into the floating prison. One of the farmers who had managed to strike a deal selling food to the prison was a Lancer sympathizer and offered to help several of them gain entrance to the ship during his drop.

They continued to walk on in silence, nearing their quarters when Danelle said: “We’ll be alright, won’t we?” Marideen looked over at her.

“A lot of things could go wrong. We might not be able to find Berret. We might not be able to ignite the explosion. We might not be able to make it to the escape pods. We might not make it away in the chaos of landing escape pods. I’d have to say that our chances are acceptable,” Marideen explained.

Danelle glance back, “You know how to instill confidence, you know that?”

“Don’t start Dani, I make no allusions to a perfect plan. It’s dangerous, and I don’t want you to forget that for a second.”

Danelle assured her that she did not. A smile broke out on her face again before she grabbed Marideen in an embrace.

“What was that for?” Marideen cautiously asked.

“Just a thanks, I know you will be looking after me,” Danelle smiled.

Marideen sighed, put her arm around her little sister, and walked into the small room they shared.

“Someone has to; you’re all kinds of trouble…”

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