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  He did not extend the same pleasantries to Devin, who had become increasingly withdrawn of recent.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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Time and Place – Chapter 17

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The weeks turned into months and the months dwindled on. Learning to speak a new language did not come easily to Darian. He had never been particularly good at foreign languages. More so, they lacked any paper or writing utensils, making learning that much more difficult. Nevertheless, they used the tools they had available to them.

Devin started him out easy. He would just point to random objects in the room and declare their names. Regrettably, there were not very many things in the room and within a day or two Darian could name most of the items around him. Occasionally he would use the book he had had to teach Darian reading, which was a religious scripture that functioned as the only form of writing in the room. It was boring and dull, and Devin himself had already read the thing a half dozen times. Sometimes, Devin would dump the contents of their porridge on the floor, and draw in the liquid lumps. This seemed to work well for an hour or two until the food dried out and began to clump.

As Darian began to learn more, they started to have conversations in the common tongue to help Darian speak it better. Sometimes they would sit late into the night, telling bawdy jokes or funny stories from their youths. The longer time progressed, the harder these stories became to remember. After a time, Darian had to start making up his own stories, as the stories he used to remember seemed long gone.

Devin wasn’t content just having him learn the language though. He often spoke about Taerren culture and history, telling Darian about the modes of currency, commerce, and even lifestyle. Darian wondered why these things were so important to know. He had grown to suspect he would die in this prison along with Devin. He was already starting to forget any time outside the cell. It had gotten to the point where the weekly torture sessions almost became a welcomed change from the daily monotony.

Perhaps that is why Devin felt it was so important to teach Darian. Devin’s memory seemed to be effected in much the same ways as Darian’s. Teaching Darian his culture was a way of preventing himself from forgetting it. Cultural knowledge didn’t seem to be the only thing that Devin was forgetting, however. As the time progressed, Devin started forgetting words of English. Before long, Darian found himself helping Devin find the right words as often as the other way around.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Darian. As Devin spoke less and less English, he found himself learning the common tongue more quickly so that he could continue to communicate with his roommate. He couldn’t lose that. The cell they were in had put a great deal of stress on the both of them. If he were to lose the capacity to communicate with the only other person in his world, he did not know what he would do.

They each had their bad days. Sometimes, they would scream at the top of their lungs for no reason. Other times they would tear up the sheets to their bed, throw their food at the walls, or destroy anything and everything in sight. They had to; no one should ever have been placed in a cage like this for as long as the two of them had. To say that Darian was stir crazy would be a mass understatement.

The two friends had an unspoken agreement. The days they needed to rant, or scream, or do any number of violent and aggressive actions just to continue to feel alive, they forgave each other for. Whatever this prison was, they were there together, and they weren’t going anywhere.

The worst part for Darian was the dreams. Every night it seemed that Darian had violent dreams. They seemed to steadily increasing in vividness. Sometimes he would wake up screaming, unable to separate the dream from reality. The most common dream he had was of the darkness. He was never someone who was scared of the dark, but that didn’t seem to matter in this dream. He felt alone, without help, surrounded by the darkness. He wasn’t afraid of things that might be hiding in the dark; he seemed to be afraid of the darkness itself. As if the darkness would somehow swallow him up. He often woke up in a cold sweat just before the invisible claws of the darkness snapped shut around him.

Other dreams he had often had included the man he killed, the woman who died saving him, and the sister who saw it happen. It was the sister’s eyes that haunted them the most. They accused him. He would plead to the eyes. He told them that he did what he could, that it wasn’t his fault. But her eyes just continue to look down on him, hate-filled and cold. He would always turn away, only to see the eyes of the woman who died for him looking up from where she laid on the ground. She was a kind person. He never knew what she said when he was with her, but those eyes and that voice were kind. Then she had died for him.

That dream hurt the most. It bit deep into his heart and clenched it. He often woke sobbing when he had that dream. If those were the only two dreams he had, he probably could have copped. But there were other dreams, dreams that felt strangely vivid. He often saw the woman, the one with the accusing eyes, walking into a calamity. He shouted at her as the trap close around her, but she was oblivious to his words.

Some dreams reflected a war. Dark beasts flooded across planets Darian had never seen, overwhelming everyone in their path. They would kill mercilessly. Children, women, old, sick; it didn’t matter, the beasts tore them apart without remorse. They would use weapons, claws, or even teeth. Their swarm grew rapidly outward, like of a flood of evil across the universe. He could hear a voice too, a voice in the dark, urging them forward, always driving them towards the next world.

He saw the planet he had come from too. He could no longer remember its name, but he remembered the blueness. He remembered the beautiful oceans. In the dream, his people would always be happy, and then in a flash, they were gone. He never saw what happened, just a flash. After that, there were no people and no cities. The oceans dried up, and the landscape turned into dirt and sand and dust.

He often told Devin about his strange dreams. Darian had recalled a dream where he was lost in a desert island. The girl was there, always staring at him, not the girl who had died, but her sister. He tried to talk to her, but she would not respond, just stare. It made him feel lonely. Perhaps it was lonelier than had she not been there at all. He would slap her, shake her, yell at her, to get her to react to his presence, but she just kept staring at him and doing nothing else. The old man told him not to dismiss his dream. They held importance. They could unlock hints at the future. Darian laughed at that one, but then Devin got very serious.

“You and the future will have a very interesting relationship. Never mock what you see, you will grow to depend on those visions,” He said, his finger playing with some of the food he was not interested in eating.

“What is that supposed to mean, what visions? They are just silly dreams.” Darian responded.

“Is she pretty?” Devin asked, changing the subject, “The girl in your dream, the one with the sister who died.”

“I suppose she could be considered pretty,” he responded, letting the subject be changed.

“Do you like her?”

“I don’t even know her.” Darian eyed Devin uncomfortably.

“You don’t need to know someone to like them, people like other people they don’t know all the time, with a look, a smell, a simple good feeling.”

“I don’t think it really works like that, you need to know someone before you can like them…” Darian began.

“Lord and Lady, I’m not saying you need to marry her, I’m just saying sometimes a pair of eyes sticks in your head for other reasons than guilt,” Devin chuckled.

Darian didn’t respond. Instead he shrugged and rolled over, closing his eyes. Sleep did not come easily for him, however. When sleep finally did take him, he dreamt about a thousand eyes chasing him around, no two alike.

When he woke the next morning, he went to the sink and washed his mouth out with a few swallows of water from the tap, which was the only kind he ever could remember drinking. He vaguely recalled a time where he drunk water from a cup, but the thought even seemed foreign to him at this point.

It was his day to visit the lab for a torture session, as they had come to call them. It made him a little anxious. He had grown used to them, in a way, but the thought of being strapped in that chair always unnerved him and left him in a cold sweat.

The old man remained asleep, his blanket draped over his eyes to block out the light in the room. Lights out lasted exactly 8 hours before the bright lights that encompassed the room flickered back on.

The lights were in panels in the ceiling. When they stood on their beds, they could just reach the lights, but they were behind strong, clear, protective plating that prevented the lights themselves from being touched. Neither Devin nor Darian had figured out a way to break through or remove the plating, should they desire to take out the light bulbs and give themselves a respite from the constant lighting, which often felt too bright for comfort.

Breakfast had already been shoved through the opening in the wall, displaying two bowls full of the same porridge that Darian had eaten from as far as he could remember. He gladly ate his bowl. It seemed a great deal easier to suffer through the sessions on a full stomach, as the inevitable throwing up he would do later went easier when there was something that could actually come up. This contrasted with Devin’s philosophy, which was the less you had, the less time you spent throwing up. In the time he had been in this cell, he still hadn’t decided who was right.

After he was done eating, he ran in place for a few minutes, did a few situps and pushups to help keep his body moving, and stretched a little. He washed up in the bathroom using the available sink, as he always did.

Soap was provided for them from a wall outlet that never seemed to run out. It smelled sterile, but did not resemble any substance Darian could remember. At the very least, it dried out his skin and made it feel clean. It was not meant for hair, however, and his hair was dry and brittle now.

By the time he was done with his routine, Devin began rousing from his sleep, which is to say he had thrown the blanket to the ground and was groaning as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. After taking one look at Darian, he sighed and rolled over, pressing his face into his pillow.

The door finally slid open. Darian stood to allow his guard to take him over to the lab. The guard today was Bob. He had grown quite comfortable with the routine, and rarely came into any issues with the guards. The guards, in turn, had become comfortable with him and more relaxed as a result. Before long, he found himself strapped into the chair again.

Like always, the scientist came in and set up the equipment. He cursed several times as he worked at putting the equipment together. He glanced several times nervously at Darian as he worked. Darian had never seen the strange man like this before. The man suddenly stopped his work, preceded to the door, and looked outside, trying to look casual while doing it, but failing miserably.

He headed back into the room, his eyes glancing across the room. When his eyes fell on Darian he jerked a little, walking towards Darian. He glanced at Darian up and down, finally sighing.

“I never wanted to do this you know,” he said in the common tongue.

Darian stared at him blankly, giving no indication that he could understand him. For some reason, he felt this was the right thing to do.

“They…my family,” the man winced as if he was in pain before turning away, “I know you can’t understand, but I am sorry, I wish there was a way.”

The scientist shook his head before walking back to the machine. He put his hand on the machine for a few seconds. He glanced back at Darian. Was that a tear in his eye? Darian was confused by his strange behavior, to say the least. Finally the man, turned towards the door. Darian realized he could give up this opportunity just yet.

“It’s not your fault, but there is always a way,” Darian said.

The man whirled around, staring at him hard, “You, you understand me?”

“I learned,” Darian replied.

The scientist nodded slowly, a strange look coming over his face. He turned and left the room without another word. Darian sighed. It was worth a try. He had still felt that strange affection for the man; he must have been going insane.

As the minutes passed, the machine did not turn on and the pain did not start. Darian began to grow very anxious. He hated it when things fell outside his predictions. Why did the machine not start? Where was the pain? After a few minutes, he started shaking. He began pulling against the bonds that held him. What’s going on? What happened?

He screamed. He screamed for help. He screamed for the man to come back. He rocked violently, pulling on the bonds. He eventually grew horse and out of breath as he struggled and fought. The chair didn’t move and inch and the straps remained tight. After about an hour, a guard came in. By this point he was breathing hard, his eyes blurry, his hands sore.

“Well, it looks like you’re awake through that one. That means I don’t need to carry you,” said Bob the guard.

Darian did not respond as the guard unstrapped him and lead him back to his room. When the guard closed the door behind him, Darian started laughing. Devin looked at him confused as he collapsed to the floor, continuing to laugh.

“What is it boy, have you finally snapped?”

“No pain…” Darian finally burst out through fits of laughter.

After getting himself calmed down, and back in his bed, he explained what had happened in the lab. Devin listened calmly before replying.

“Pain? What kind of pain?” Devin asked.

Darian laughed, thinking Devin was making a joke until he saw the look on Devin’s face.

“The pain from whatever they do to us in there, radiation, I guess, or lasers, or something. The worse pain ever, like they are ripping you apart from the inside out. I know the experiments make both of us a little forgetful, but the experiments themselves are hard to forget.”

Devin looked had him a few seconds with a worried expression, then a smile broke out on his face as he chuckled.

“Oh right, of course, so maybe he’s going to stop doing it now?” Devin chuckled.

“I doubt it, probably just a fluke, still, it feels good, like I won the lottery, getting a day off like that.”

However, when Devin’s day came up and he returned from his torture session, Darian asked about it. Devin continued to act confused about the pain, but declared that there was no pain during his session either. Darian assumed that Devin was just breaking down. Perhaps he was blocking out the torture, it was hard to tell.

Still, when Darian’s next day came, the guards took him and changed him down as normal. The man came in, never once glancing at Darian, but when the time for the machine to start came, nothing happened. Devin’s denials began to confuse Darian. Did he ever feel the pain to begin with, or was that just a piece of his imagination?

The guards mumbled a couple of times about how much better the prisoners seemed to be doing than they used to, which provided Darian some comfort. He hoped he wasn’t losing his mind like his friend. His sanity was one of the few things left to him.

Darian attempted to speak to Devin about the scientist, whom he had grown convinced was behind the stop in experiments. However, that mode of communication seemed to dry up. Devin seemed to grow more confused every day. Soon that confusion seemed to grow into anger.

“What is with you and that scientist, Faraday!” Devin snapped one day, “He is just another Taerren like any other, and certainly no friend of ours! I’d rather be back in prison than here!”

At this point he spoke exclusively in common tongue, as Devin no longer seemed to remember any worlds in Darian’s tongue.

“You never told me you were in prison before,” Darian said, trying to steer the conversation away from the scientist.

“What are you talking about! You were in prison with me, for almost a year before we ended up in this hellhole with no one to talk to and nothing to do!”

“We met in this hellhole, and I don’t remember anything besides it, but I think I’d remember something like prison.” Darian responded.

“So you’re going crazy? Seems like it was an inevitability, I hope I never go crazy like you,” Devin sighed, a look of sympathy in his eyes.

“I’m crazy?” Darian asked indignantly,” You’re the one who can’t remember my language when you could speak it when we got here, you’re the one saying I’ve been in a prison I’ve never been to, and you’re acting like I’m best chums with a guy I’ve spoken only a dozen words to. You are so backwards it isn’t even funny.”

“What did you say to me?” Devin asked, his voice taking on a strange edge.

“I said you are backwards, bonkers, off the wall, heading in the wrong direction!” Darian responded, his voice now a little raised.

Devin stopped talking, looking down at the floor as if in thought. After a few seconds he lied down in his bed and turned away. Darian disregarded his old friend’s strange behavior and contemplated what to do next. As he continued to think, and idea began to form in his head. It seemed to be more than an idea. It was more like a path. He knew what to do next. By the time the lights had gone out, he had already decided on the path he must take and stranger still, he knew the results it would cause.

“Are you still awake?” The old man suddenly asked, his body still turned away from Darian’s bed.

“Yes.” Darian responded with an edge to his voice.

He wasn’t really angry at the old man, but he couldn’t seem to keep anger out of his voice anyway.

“I… I always blamed you for that day, the day you tried to kill me,” Devin said, “But I was going to betray you. I was… I was younger, or older I guess, and I thought I could.”

Darian said nothing. He had nothing worth saying. He had no clue what Devin was talking about. Devin suddenly turned around, his eyes bright as if he had just thought of something.

“We’re friends right?” Devin asked.

“We are,” Darian responded in confusion.

“Can you promise me something? You have to swear to it.”

“Yeah, I guess, anything,” Darian said uneasily.

“There will be a time, a time when we can escape. No, don’t say anything, it will happen. I will tell you that we should go the left path, you’ll want to go right. When that happens, kill me, and go right.”

“What!” Darian shouted as his head rose.

Devin put his hand out in reassurance, “You may never understand, but actually, now that I think about it, I think you did in the end. Heh, to think, I’m the one who told you all along. You told me that once and I told you to go to hell.

Devin shook his head and rolled back onto his back, “Just promise me that you will.”

“Ok, I promise,” Darian responded, still confused.

“So this Dr. Faraday, he moved us to the prison, is that right?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Never mind, cultivate that relationship, and whatever other one you need to. Dr. Faraday’s experiment, it did something to us, to both of us. It changed us. You’ll become more aware of how it changed us soon. Embrace it. It will make you strong.”

Darian didn’t say anything. Devin wasn’t making any sense. That wasn’t particularly unusual for him, but there was an edge to his voice that made Darian feel like the things that he was saying were important.

“You, you’ve been a good friend. Never forget that,” Devin mumbled, the edges of sleep pressing in on his voice.

“You too,” Darian responded.

It didn’t take him long to fall to sleep. That night he dreamt of a ship a man he had never met in a prison cell. The man had shaggy graying hair, a round nose, and thick sideburns that went down to his jaws. He looked up at Darian, as if asking for his help. Darian had a key in his hand. He went to unlock the man’s door, but before he went two steps he slammed into his own bars. The man lifted his hand, revealing the key that would open Darian’s cell. They each had the other man’s key.

The next morning was another visit to the scientist, whom Devin had called Dr. Faraday. It was time for him to set up his plan. Once he was locked in the chair, the scientist came in again to do the routines he always did, despite the fact it didn’t run anymore.

Dr. Faraday refused to make eye contact with Darian. He never did after the day he had stopped running the machine. This time Darian looked long at Dr. Faraday as he continued his work. This made the man uncomfortable, Darian could see him fidgeting.

“Dr. Faraday,” Darian spoke, causing the doctor to suddenly go rigid, “We need to talk.”

After a few moments, the doctor sighed. Without looking at Darian, he went back to working on the machine.

“We do,” he said after a moment, “Give me a bit and I will be back.”

After he finished his work, he left the room. After a few minutes, he returned as promised. Sighing again, he grabbed a nearby chair, and pulled it next to Darian.

“Release these straps,” Darian commanded, “They chaff.”

Dr. Faraday looked at him and chuckled, “Why not? I’m already a dead man, and we are all sons of bitches.”

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Time and Place – Chapter 16

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The pain was intense, blinding and sudden. It always ended the same way, with him back in the room, weeping uncontrollably into the lap of his roommate. They came four times a week, twice for him, twice for Devin. Devin handled the sessions no better, and often Darian found himself being the comforter rather than the one being comforted.

The first week he had thought he would get used to the pain, but that kind of blind acceptance seemed to never happen. After every session, he felt wrong. Wrong was really the only appropriate word to describe his feelings. Like he was somehow torn apart and stitched together incorrectly. He didn’t feel appropriate in his own body, as if he was someone else.

The old man had grown quickly into a close friend and confident. They spoke most nights for hours on end, although it was always about trivial and unimportant things. The trivial things started to become more important when Darian realized after about two weeks that his memory was failing him. At first it was simple little things, but after every session, he was starting to realize that he was forgetting things.

Devin admitted to Darian that he had very little memory of his time outside of the cell, but Darian was determined to remember as much as possible. They provided no pens and no paper, unfortunately, making it very difficult for Darian to keep track of anything. He often told Devin stories, hoping to have Devin help remind him of things he had forgotten.

This often seemed pointless, as Devin often forgot the stories Darian had told him by the next day, finding himself not even able to bring up generalized points or ideas of the story. Devin laughed about his loss of memory, declaring that it was simply the consequence of being a crazy old man. Darian wasn’t so sure.

He already had trouble remembering subtle details, like the name of the high school he went to and the name of the friends he had at that school. Names of places and of people seemed to slip his mind. He stayed up many nights trying to run through a list of every person he knew. After every session, he could swear the list was getting shorter, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t bring up another name.

The day after he was brought back from his session was a “day of rest” as Devin had put it. They would not come for either of them that day, and they would have time to talk and relax, if anything they could do locked in this cell could be considered relaxation.

“You said you were going to answer my questions today?” Darian had asked when their morning porridge had been dispensed through the wall door.

“Did I?” Devin responded with a knowing smirk.

“Ask whatever questions you want to know,” the old man had stated, shortly after the two of them had finished their morning porridge.

“What is this place, where am I?”

“You don’t know?”

“No, like I said before, I know nothing about anything, where I came from, where I am, I don’t know any of it,” Darian had told him.

“As to where you came from, some ruins I believe, I know nothing but that you were in some stasis in some ruins. As to where you are, well, that’s a long story, but I suppose I have never told it to you before, so I guess I will need to tell it to you today.

“You are in a place known as the Taerren colonies. You ended up an experiment here, and will be their lab rat for some time. The Taerren colonies are a multi system government that controls 80 some star systems. It’s the largest, youngest, and fastest growing of the spigs. SPIG stands for Stars and Planetary Internalized Governments. Empires would be a better word for them, as they all seek out new land like an empire would.”

“There are currently seven SPIGs spread across known space complete with a few free planets known as outworlds. “

“And each empire is some alien race?” Darian asked.

“Aliens? No, all of the empires are all shaped from the same mold. The only aliens ever discovered were called Iridians. That’s a much different story. The Empires are descendents of Origin. Origin was the first planet, the one humanity evolved on. It was lost, a long time ago. Noone remembers where it was or what it was called.”

“That’s not exactly true, They remember, but the records were changed, and every empire claims there information is the right information. Some claim it was named this, some claim it was named that, some claimed it was destroyed, others claim that it was uninhabitable. It isn’t so much that the truth was lost, just that no one can tell the truths from the lies.”

“About 10,000 years ago, Origin sent out fifteen colony ships. These ships weren’t fast like modern ships, and didn’t benefit from the time dilations that let a crew go to a planet without dying. These ships were generational. They traveled close to a thousand years each to reach their destinations. Every colony has their own colonial history. Plagues, saboteurs, dictators, civil wars all occurred during these exoduses where people were born, lived, and died on these ships.”

“Only nine of them are known to have reached their destinations. And they formed the nine colonies. As the colonies grew separately, they all inevitably developed gateway travel. You see, the fastest anyone can travel is slightly slower than the speed of light. This slows down time or something, so you can travel just about anywhere, but by the time you get there, everyone you knew and loved was dead. So it’s great for traveling within a system, but if you ever wanted to leave the solar system it wasn’t possible.”

“At least, until gateway travel. It bends space or something, letting you cross from one point instantly to another.”

Darian nodded as Devin had continued. He recalled theories about bending space as a means of travel. He remembered these ideas often being related to black holes, and asked Devin as much. Devin shrugged.

“Black holes? I don’t know how gate travel works. I’m not an engineer or a scientist. Back before this captivity, I remember being a healer. I think, something like a healer. It’s hard to remember. It’s always getting harder. Damn these men, and their infernal machine. What they have done to you and me, it’s not right. You may forgive Faraday for what he’s done, I never will.”

“Faraday?” Darian asked.

Devin shook his head before turning away from Darian. He seemed embarrassed but wouldn’t say why. It was several minutes in silence before Darian decided to speak up.

“So these colonies? How did they recontact each other?”

Devin looked back at Darian before turning to him. He remained seated on the bed, crossing his legs as he continued.

“Time…a lot of time. With their colonies growing fast, they sent out people to nearby stars they expected to have fruitful planets. Two of the colonies were reconnected this way. Accidental, but it happened. Then began the reconnection plan. Gateways constructed for the sole purpose of reconnecting with each and every star. It’s random, and took 1000s of years. But each colony connected to each other colony. Taerrens were the last one found some 1500 years ago.”

Darian continued to press for answers, but he quickly got the feeling that Devin was preoccupied. When it became clear Devin was finished, Darian laid down on his bed and turned his head away. They didn’t talk much for the rest of that day, but the next day Devin continued to tell him more about the colonies. He knew surprisingly little about history. When Darian pressed him he declared that if Darian wanted more in depth information he’d need to talk to a historian.

Devin did know a fair amount about the colony of Arth. They had apparently been conquered by the Taerrens a thousand years ago at the end of a war known as the Iridian War, from which he was a descendent. His colony ships history was an interesting one. They had a period known as the great unrest where the colony ship had divided into three separate factions, each with a leader fighting for power over the ship. The great unrest only ended when one of the faction leaders died, and one of the others married his daughter off to create a peace tie between them.

Darian was initially startled by some of the very old customs that many of the colonies still practiced. Taerrens, for example, were headed by nobility, rather than election, with various houses competing for power. The Delphie were isolationists, and hid their faces from anyone they considered foreign or alien. The Usar were said to have very conservative views on women, denying them the right to work at various jobs.

When Darian pressed for details, Devin began to paint a picture that made it sound more like different civilizations. After each colony landed in their respective homeworlds, they began to grow, and their culture and even to some extent, their physical features, evolved over the course of thousands of years before they remade contact with their brethren.

As Devin put it, it was easy to see who came from what colony simply by looking at them. Taerrens were typically fair skinned and tall. Devin remarked that Darian looked very Taerren himself, which didn’t make him feel any better. The Akari were leaner and often had longer limbs. Ertlanders often had broad shoulders and big foreheads, and Hucton were often short. Usar were remarked for having larger than average ears.

Having never met an Akari, an Usar, an Ertlander, or a Hucton, Darian had very little to go by other than to take Devin at his word. They often would stay up into late hours of the night discussing anything and everything. Darian told Devin about his home, his family, his dreams, and what he had desired. Devin would wait patiently and listen to everything he said, offering support or sympathy wherever they applied.

“So, you were in stasis a long time,” Devin mentioned one day.

“What do you mean?” Darian had asked turning back to him.

Devin sucked through a gap in his tooth, a habit Darian found him to do often when he was thinking, He was in his bed laying down while Darian was in the bathroom rinsing his face.

“Well, the world you describe, it seems very old. I wonder how long it took you to get here…” He closed his eyes, sighing as if going off to sleep.

Darian stared at him for a moment. The memory loss was starting to grow more severe, and many of the people in his life were becoming distant shadows. He expected it to be more frightening than it was. It felt more like falling asleep. It was like he was in a dream that he couldn’t wake up from, ever since he woke up on the Vanderra station. He had learned that name from Devin, who recognized his description of the space station.

Before he was able to formulate a response, the door opened with one of the Taerren guards. They definitely were guards, Devin had confirmed this. They wore dark blue uniforms that signified their rank. As their location was on a planet instead of space, they didn’t require the customary jumpsuit. Instead, they wore a slightly more colorful khaki and coat combo.

It was always one of three guards that came and got them. This time it was the blond one which he had named Jeff. He had named each of his guards, simply to give a name to the face. The man who he had first met after awakening he called Bob. The other one he called Rick. Jeff was less prone to using the discipline stick, called a Stine, on them. As long as they did what they were told, he ignored them and let them do what they wanted. Rick, on the other hand, was prone to using it whenever they were a step out of line.

Either way, Darian bounded to his feet and headed over to the door. Even though Jeff was kinder, he wasn’t about to test how far that kindness went. Jeff led him down the nondescript hallway like he always did, and before long Darian was back in the chair, tied up and awaiting the strange man with the machine.

The man took longer than usual to arrive. At first, Darian really didn’t hear anything. However, after he found himself waiting for several minutes, he began listening for any sounds from the hallway. He realized he could hear muttering coming from outside the room in the hallway. The muttering grew louder until Darian was sure he could hear distinct words.

It seemed to be in the same tongue that was spoken on the Vanderra station. It must have been the common tongue, he was sure of it. The tone of the conversation seemed heated between the two. They shouted at each other, but eventually it seemed like one of the voices was cowed. A few moments later the door was shoved open and the man with the machine pushed his way into the room. For a second, his eyes met with the scientist and a flash of emotion shot through his body that startled him.

The scientist looked warily at Darian. The expression on his face must have been alarming. He quickly schooled his face. The emotion was now gone, but it had been there. It was the oddest thing that Darian had ever felt. Just then, when he had looked at the scientist, he had felt affection. He had felt like he had just run into and saw a good friend he hadn’t seen in days.

Perhaps he was going mad. That seemed perfectly logical. Devin had been there a great deal longer than he had, and Devin was most certainly unstable. The feeling had seemed so genuine though. For just a moment, he had felt like he had liked his torturer, as if they were friends. He shook his head to try to shake off the odd thoughts, but continued to watch the scientist.

The scientist worked uneasily. He seemed uncomfortable and depressed. He seemed to be struggling with something. He continued to mutter to himself in the common tongue, occasionally giving Darian uneasy looks. Darian realized he was staring at the man. Before, Darian had always ignored the scientist as the man went about his work. Darian keept his distance from the torturer. However, after that strange feeling, he seemed less inclined to do so now.

Suddenly, a word popped into Darian’s head. It was a word that the young woman at Vanderra had told him when he was agitated. Darian repeated the word out loud.

The man suddenly jumped as if someone had pinched him. He swung around and gave Darian a hard look. After a moment, he said something in the common tongue that Darian did not understand. When the man realized Darian did not understand him, he reluctantly continued with his work, now watching Darian as carefully as Darian was watching him.

Darian ended up back in his room afterwards, weeping in pain as always. He seemed to be able to recover a little quicker than he had in the past, but that could just be a trick of his imagination, he wasn’t sure. After he finally managed to wipe off his tears and regain most of his composure, he told Devin about what he had heard.

Devin thought about it briefly, sucking through his teeth, before finally shrugging. When Darian reluctantly mentioned his sudden feeling of comradely with the scientist, Devin barked a laugh.

“I’m not particularly surprised by that. He does torture you alot, but it’s just a job for him. I don’t think he takes any pleasure in it. I’ll never forgive him, but one day you might.” Devin responded, “It is a shame though, that you weren’t able to hear what they were talking about. At the very least, it would have been some gossip for us to talk about for a couple of days. It’s not like anything else ever seems to happen.”

“It was common tongue… I said a word to him, a word I had heard before. Ta ki, what does that word mean? He looked at me strangely when I said it.”

Devin burst out laughing when Darian finished. It took him several minutes to regain his breath.

“I am not surprised he looked at you strange. You said, ‘It’s Ok’. He was experimenting on you and you reassured him,” Devin continued to chuckle, “But I think it’s about time we remedy that little problem.”

“What Problem?” Darian asked.

“You need to learn common tongue, as long as your here, you will need to speak the language other people speak. I think I will start teaching you tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow will be a good day for you to start learning. Make sure to remind me of that in the morning.”

The very next day, Devin woke Darian up early, and he began to learn to speak common tongue.

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Time and Place – Chapter 15

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The tears came easily for those first few weeks. Her memory seemed to be incoherent. She remembered Max carrying her into the ship, but most of the trip was a blur. It had taken them a week to make it to the jump gate, another week to make it to a safe place that wasn’t compromised.

She was present at a couple of meetings where they reported the fall of the Lancers. Her father was captured, but his whereabouts were unknown. Of the two hundred sworn Lancers, one hundred seventy-three of them had been captured when it was all said and done.  There were only eighty-three Lancers captured in the initial raid on Terres, but after extensive interrogations, most of the remaining members and been identified and taken down.

Most of them now sat in a large scattering of prisons spread throughout the Taerren colonies.  They personally had managed to make it to the relative safety of an Akari system. They now stayed at the estates of the Lady Mesende, whom was an old friend of her fathers, or so she had been told.

The woman was very old and retired. Although she used to be part of the noble houses in the Taerren colonies, she had separated herself from them in a form of silent protest ten years prior, moving to a non-Taerren world to live out the rest of her days with the remainder of her wealth.

In truth, her outspoken tendencies had almost gotten her entire house destroyed. Berret had once told her that Lady Mesende was a very shrewd and skilled woman, who managed to maneuver politically with ease. When she realized she had pushed too far, she had maneuvered her son into a position of power, and left the spotlight of political intrigue to a younger generation.

The last time Marideen had seen Mesende, she was very young, and didn’t really remember it. Whatever the woman had been once, she took them in and provided them shelter. They had been staying at the estate for almost a week, and she asked for nothing and gave a lot. Berret was being seen over by her personal physician, and she had assured them that everyone in her employ would keep quiet.

And so she was lying in her bed, crying into a pillow when a knock came at her door. The room was dark, even though there was still light outside. She had all of the window blinds down to block out the sunlight. She seemed to crave the darkness since she left Vanderra station.

She didn’t move from her spot when the door opened and a familiar face peaked his way in.

“What a sorry sight you are, pretty lady,” the dark skinned man said as he opened the door about halfway, allowing light from the hallway to spill in.

“Close the door, it’s too bright,” she moaned into her pillow, shying her eyes away.

Berret took a couple of steps into the room, leaving the door open as he sat at the foot of her bed. His missing right arm had been bandaged up, along with a couple of other scratches and bruises he had earned at Vanderra. He attempted to brush his right hand through his black hair, but quickly switched to his left hand as soon as remembered he could not. He let out a sigh, but if he was saddened by his own state, he kept it from his face.

“You’ve been cramped up in here for three weeks now, you need to get some air,” He stated, placing his hand on the sheet over her foot.

“We haven’t been here for three weeks,” Marideen responded, turning her head from the pillow and glaring down at him with one eye.

“Did I ever tell you about how your father and I met?” Berret asked.

“You were an ambassador; my father was a Taerren dignitary…”

“A dignitary, yes, I suppose you could call him that. The Cleefe family, your family, were very wealthy and very successful land owners. Did your father ever tell you how your family was formed?”

Marideen shook her head.

“Well, you probably were told it once, a long time ago, but when your house fell, I am sure your father didn’t want to bring back bad memories.”

“He was never one for stories.”

Berret chuckled, “That he wasn’t. But still, it might be worth you hearing a little about your history. You’re the last of your line, you should know…”

“He’s not dead, there is no proof of that!” Marideen exclaimed.

Berret made a calming gesture and nodded, “I know that, but just humor me all the same.”

Berret took a deep breath before continuing on,” It was your great great great great grandfather who founded the Cleefe House. He was a Star Jumper. He was actually Ertlander, but he found Taerrens offered larger awards for Star Finders and at the time, a starter’s bond which he used to build his ship. There are less Star Finders than there used to be.  Back then, few people realized exactly how difficult and dangerous these missions were.”

“To travel to any star, at close to light speed, takes many many years. At least twenty years, often hundreds of years. Anyone who makes that voyage knows that everything they ever loved will be gone by the time they reach their destination. They pick a star in the sky, and fly there, hoping there are planets with useful resources, planets colonies can be established on. Hoping that the people they take along are enough to build a working gate. Hoping that the resources they have hold out, that the trajectory they established made them reach the right place, and that nothing mechanical goes wrong.”

“The chances of success are astronomically small. Only a very small percentage of those that set out ever make contact back with the colonies they set out from. A few hundred years ago, it was a fad. But when a hundred years went by, and fewer and fewer responded. Well, the last Star Finder I heard of blasted out two years ago. A couple every few years, that’s about it, I think.”

“Your great great… your ancestor was a little different than the rest. A lot of them were single men, six or seven of them, friends who decided to split the rewards of their endeavor. Yours was a family man. He brought his whole family. His wife, his three young boys, and that was about it. He wasn’t going to split with anyone.”

“As you can guess, he succeeded, and he named the place…”

“Fruscia,” Marideen interrupted, an unwilling smile briefly flickering across her lips.

Berret nodded and smiled back before continuing, “The Fruscia system, named after his wife, had a habitable planet, and two terraformable planets. We like to call that the jackpot. It was one of only four habitable planets ever found, although I’ve heard of a fifth found recently. Now, as soon as the planets are found and contact is made, the Planet Finder is given a large reward based on how valuable their find.”

“Habitable planets give a lot of money. Almost ten times that of a terraform planet. Some people believe that’s why the success rate is so low, a lot of Star Jumpers try to terraform a planet themselves before making contact, to earn bigger rewards.  Of course, I don’t think that is possible with the resources of just one crew. At this point, most people would go and buy a large chunk of habitable land, something with some good farming or mining land that can keep them comfortable and happy for the rest of their lives. In truth, that is exactly what all of the Planet Jumpers did.”

“Your ancestor was smarter than that, he took all the money that they gave him, and instead of buying some habitable land, he bought one of the unterraformed planets in entirety. Over the course of twenty years, his family terraformed the planet, and then rented it out his land rather than selling it. He became the senator of the planet, after all he owned it, and his house began to rise in power.”

“Over the course of two generations, the Cleefe family bought the rest of the planets, and established their power in the Taerren colonies. They were the third strongest house for a time. By the time your father took over, it had fallen in power. It was the Cleefe’s families unwillingness to employ a private army, that caused their fall. About eighty years ago, the houses started to become more aggressive. Politically maneuvering and money weren’t enough.”

“I thought you were going to tell me how you met my father?” Marideen asked impatiently.

Berret nodded and continued, “Well as to that, your father inherited a rich house, but with ultimately very little political power.  I was from a small house with almost no money or political power, and knew a little about your house.  I was having a bad day. My wife had just left me, and I had found out I was stranded on this little moon called Narn…”

“Which wife?” Marideen asked.

Berret looked at her with exasperated eyes before responding, “Second, I think, but that really isn’t the point. The point was he helped me out. I had misplaced my papers and could not get out of the port! I ran into him, recognized him right away, and came up to him and pleaded for help. At first he wasn’t going to help, but I told him he was an idiot!”

“An idiot?” Marideen asked, now engrossed in the story.

“That’s what he said! Your father asked me who I was to call him an idiot. I told him that I’m the guy he needs to call him an idiot every once in a while, lest he gets too big a head,” Berret chuckled and Marideen gave him a weak smile, “He laughed at that, and we shared a drink or two. Eventually, I told him my story and he helped me get off that god forsaken rock.”

“What does this have to do with anything?” Marideen said, her smile slipping.

“Just this. When we were drinking and talking, your father told me something, and it stuck with me for many years. He said, ‘The future only gets better if you make it better, the past is the past, you can’t work with the past, only the future’.”

Marideen sighed, shaking her head. She turned from Berret and buried her head back into her pillow.

“Your sister passed away, no one denies that you have every right to mourn. But the Lancers need you, your leadership. The leadership you showed on Vanderra shows you’re ready for this. Max is no leader. And I am just an old man with brain that is more mush than bronze. “

“My sister’s death hurt. It isn’t her loss that hurts the most, it’s the guilt.”

“You couldn’t have prevented your sister’s death.”

“I know that, I understand that, but I just feel so guilty, like I did something wrong, like I missed… something.”

“The boy?”

“The boy?” Marideen asked back.

“Your sister died saving that boy. He ended up dying all the same. Had he lived,  it… well….” Berret rubbed the back of his neck and broke eye contact with her uncomfortably.

“My sister’s death wouldn’t have been for nothing,” She completed the unspoken words, “Do you think he is still alive?”

“Possibly, that scientist thought he was important. But then again, the prince seemed to be going to great lengths to kill him. I don’t know which is right. It’s possible though.”

Marideen nodded, turning around and sitting up, crossing her arms in front of her. Her dark brown hair streamed down in front of her in an unkempt mess. She pushed the hair to either side of her ears, allowing her to see clearly.

She waited a few moments, when it was clear that he would not respond further she asked, “So what would you have me do?”

“Rebuild, start shaping the future?” Berret ended with a shrug.

The door slapped open causing Marideen to jump a little bit. Berret slipped Maximil a dirty look and he looked embarrassed for a moment before talking.

“Bad News,” Maximil said, his voice strained.

Berret nodded and stood up. He was to the door when he noticed that Marideen was standing as well. He gave her a concerned look.

“I can handle this,” Marideen told him, before passing him out the door.

They walked down the illustrious oversized hallways that made up the Lady Mesende’s manor. The walls were lined with colorful tapestries and mosaics. Occasionally, an artifact or two sat on pedestals that lined the hallway. The walls were a pale yellow, the floors made up a mosaic of reds, browns, and orange.  The house was quite majestic and beautiful in its’ own way, but it reminded Marideen of a grandma, if she had had a grandmother she could remember.

It wasn’t long before Marideen realized they were heading to one of the three libraries that were part of the estate. This particular library was the smallest of them, and was known as the blue library simply because blue was the predominant theme. The library was very impressive, and still consisted of more books than anyone would ever need in their life time on two levels.

When they entered the blue library, two other people were in it already. She only recognized one of the men, whom she knew immediately as Charles Fine. He was a man in his sixties who had always had a conservative approach to life. His brown hair was finely combed and trimmed, his beard thin and closely cut. He stood with a stately demeanor and a strait back. When Marideen had turned sixteen, Charles had tried to get her father to marry her off. Her father, thank the Lord and Lady, had declined to accept on grounds of her age. Charles never seemed to have taken offense. However, he never understood why her father had declined either.

The Fine family was not the richest family in the Taerren empire, but they had been friends with the Cleefe family for many years, and in the past, there were often many intermarriages between the two houses. Marideen’s grandmother was a Fine, actually, although she didn’t know if she had any relations with Charles.

The Fine house was still actively part of the Taerren empire, and kept their knowledge of the Cleefe family as well as their involvement with the Lancers to a minimum. However, they were still an invaluable source of information for those that need it. If Charles was here, it meant that he had in depth information on Taerren politics.

“My fair lady,” Charles Fine bowed, extending out a hand for Marideen.

By rote, Marideen let him kiss her hand. Although the act made her a little uncomfortable, it was one of the many niceties of etiquette that Charles always insisted on.

“Might I introduce my friend and blood, my nephew, cousin Vorus Fine,” he declared, putting his hand out to the man next to him, a much younger youth with only slightly less kempt hair and a narrower chin.

The youth, who wasn’t much older than her once she thought about it, gave her a low respectful bow, extending and kissing her hand as well. He was only a little less practiced than his elder.

“It is a pleasure to meet you both, you most likely know my friends, Maximil  Roe and Berret Stone. “ Marideen nodded to each of them, who nodded their heads but made no offers of respect.

Maximil was no noble and Berret might have one time practiced all the etiquettes of this life, but after his fall from grace he never had the tolerance to provide any more courtesy than was specifically required. Charles seemed to regard the lack of proper etiquette, but otherwise ignored the two men.

“Might I please ask what news you have for us, Cousin.”

It was often considered polite to call other nobles of socially close houses as Cousin. It almost scared Marideen how naturally all of the old noble etiquettes came back to her as she spoke with this friend of the family.

“Grave news, my dear child, grave news,” Charles lowered his head, Volus mimicking him a second later, “It would appear that all of the Lancers captured on the Paris raid have been sentenced to death.”

Bile rose in the back of Marideen throat as she suppressed a sudden shot of panic.

“All of them? How soon?”

“Immediately, Cousin, I am sorry, there is nothing that can be done,” Charles lowered his head again, his cheeks blushing slightly in mocked shame.

It was an act. Marideen knew that Charles cared very little for the Lancers. He saw the Cleefe’s as family, but the rest of them were merely commoners rising against their leaders. For a few seconds, Marideen thought she was falling backwards, but she forced herself to remain upright and keep her body steady. Maybe she was wrong; maybe she couldn’t handle this right now. Never the less, she was determined to not let Berret think he was right.

Before she had a chance to say anything, Berret spoke up ,” It’s not as bad as it looks, there may be some good news.”

Charles shot Berret an annoyed look, but after a second sighed and nodded for him to continue.

“Charles was able to get a list of everyone who was sentenced to death. They… they caught just about everyone who was actively participating, even Marcell.  But it’s the names missing from the list that are important. Deiron, your father, Kate, and Beiromon, none of them are on the list. There’d be no reason to leave them off and every reason to leave them on if…”

“If they were caught and were to be executed,” Marideen finished, a tightness in her chest seeming to loosen just a bit, “Where is Markus, he was friends with Marcell, wasn’t he?”

“Markus left three days ago. You weren’t available. I don’t know if he knows about this yet. He left quite unexpectedly.” Maximil answered, his voice surprisingly quite and steady.

“Cousin, if I may?” Charles waited for her nod before continuing, “I am not simply here to bring you news of the Lancers, I have come as well to discuss a matter of some importance to your family. You’re father is gone, and none of us can know when or if he will be returning.  You are the last Cleefe.”

Marideen didn’t like the way this was sounding. She already suspected where this was heading as she glanced over at the Volus. Volus had his head downcast, his face was flushed. She knew exactly where this was heading, but could not see how she could stop it.

“The Cleefe family needs an heir and you need a man in your life. I can see only one solution. I knew your father well, and while I never understood why he rejected my attempt to find you a suitable husband, you need someone who will give you a strong child. My nephew is your age. He hasn’t been promised to anyone else, and is strong, smart, and will bear you strong children.”

When Charles finished, Marideen remained quiet for a few moments. She looked over at Maximil and Berret. Maximil feigned interest in one of the bookcases, pretending to look for a book. Berret seemed to be fighting back laughter. She scowled at him before turning back to the two Fines.

“I know it would normally be your father making this decision, but in this case, I feel that I would make an acceptable surrogate father. I have taken the liberty of speaking with Lady Mesende, we will have the wedding in a few days if the Lord and Lady graces us,” Marideen’s face flushed red as she visibly shook, “I know you are full of emotion and are overwhelmed, my nephew and I will be in the east wing. Give yourself some time, this is the right decision, we will have a lot of planning tomorrow.”

Charles bowed to her before taking his leave. As soon as the door closed behind him she rounded on Berret.

“Don’t you laugh, what do you think this is funny?” her hand lightly slapped across Berret’s face before he could react.

Berret burst out laughing as he rubbed his cheek, “If you don’t want to get married, tell him no.”

“And the way he talked to me,” Marideen stated as she turned and began pacing back and forth, “Like I couldn’t make decisions on my own!”

“And don’t think you aren’t on my list either!” She exclaimed shaking her finger at Maximil, who shrugged at her, “He thinks he can just marry me off to some man I never even met, like, like I’m some kind of commodity that needed to be disposed of.”

“This is exactly what I am talking about. This is the kind of passion we need from you right…” Berret began but stopped midsentence when Marideen moved towards him with her hand ready to slap him once again.

“Well if you wanted me angry and agitated you achieved it.”

“So that’s the plan then, are you going to marry…” Maximil started to say.

“No, of course I am not going to marry him. We’re leaving tonight, without Charles and his nephew,” Marideen snapped as she paced back and forth across the library, her body bristling.

“They won’t like that, you may not be able to depend on the Fine family again for support,” Berret explained.

“I know that, but what other choice do I have?”

When neither Berret nor Maximil said anything else, she resumed pacing.

“And then what?” Berret asked.

Marideen did not answer right away. Her mind worked furiously as she thought about everything that had happened the last few weeks. Her life was her own.  What was it that her father had said to Berret? The future would only be better if she made it better. She had her answer.

“Up until now, the Lancers have always been passively aggressive in what we do. We never killed. We snuck in, did what we came to do, and snuck out. We were never the aggressor,” Marideen finally stopped short, releasing her breath slowly as she looked back at the two men she could trust with her life, “When they decided to start killing Lancers, murdering innocent men and women without trial, they chose what would come next. They want a war? I say we give them a war.”

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Time and Place – Chapter 14

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Fogginess, pain, suffering. There was very little else Darian could remember. Foggy shapes danced in front of his eyes. There were muffled sounds with words that he couldn’t make out. He had the feeling of being poked, stabbed, and sewn back together again. He could remember lights, bright lights in his eyes, then darkness again.

The cycles of darkness and light seemed to elude him. He tried to count time, but it seemed out of his reach. The first memory he had from this life, he remembered waking up in a bed. He tried to stand, but failed. The room was dark, but he could see light coming from a crack in his white slab door.

He wanted to go to the door, but it hurt too much. After this first time, consciousness came more easily. Each time he woke, he was able to remain coherent for longer periods of time. He would try to remember, but the memories were the source of the pain, and he would shy away from those recent memories.

Instead, he focused on the past. He remembered college. A girlfriend who loved him and said she’d be with him forever. A simple life. He always had a place to stay literally surrounded by friends. He always had food to eat, presuming his room and board was paid.

He liked cafeteria food. There was always a kind of endearing quality in small portioned out food. It was one of his favorite parts about college, getting to eat in a cafeteria breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although he had to admit, after a while, all the food began to taste the same.

Unfortunately, the food they left for him was not cafeteria food. It was a slimy porridge, which resembled cream of wheat, yet tasted like ashes. The first time the bowl had mysteriously appeared on a table attached to the far wall, he had eaten it quickly, presuming tomorrows meal might be a better choice. The bowl had come with no spoon, and he had to sloppily drink from the bowl as if it were a cup to keep his hands from getting dirty. However, by the next day it was the same meal. Then, it was the same meal again. It was the same for every meal; breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He had so far yet to see a single nurse. The room he was in was white, sterile, and small. He presumed he was in a hospital of some sort. The bed, a small bathroom with a toilet and sink, and a small chair and desk were all that were provided in the room. But where were the people? Who was checking up on him, and where was his food coming from?

He quickly began to realize that the place was on a light schedule. There seemed to be more light than there was darkness, but it was difficult to know exactly how long without a watch. Food was replenished 3 times a day whether he ate it or not. After watching the bowl for several hours one day, he realized that a bowl was simply ejected from the wall through a hidden door about the size of his hand. The door was flush with the wall, and the crack was almost nonexistant. Without knowing it was there, and having seen it open, he would have had trouble finding it.

Shortly after discovering where the food was ejected from, he found where he dropped the bowls off at. He already had two stacks of dishes before he located the small knob. Pulling on the knob opened a small panel just large enough for placing the bowls. Anything he left in it was taken the following day. He was able to change clothing in much the same way, leaving his clothing in the panel, then fetching a new one from the nearby dresser, which sat under the table the food came out on.

He quickly began to grow restless. The lights were too bright, and he missed human interaction. He slowly began to recall the events that lead him there. However, recalling the events and understanding them were two very different things. It was still difficult to believe or understand. Perhaps he had gone insane. His current location made a little bit more since if that was the case.

“If I truly am mad, and if there is someone else in here with me, but I can’t see you through my own delusions, I must say that I am sorry, and I cannot help myself,” He stated aloud.

It always felt nice, sometimes, to play to his ideas. He was always an open minded individual, and part of his open mindedness was that he could accept that all of his preconceived notions were wrong. In a way, it was comforting, to believe he was insane, rather than that he was kidnapped by strange people and taken to a strange place.

None of this stopped the fact that he was incredibly bored. At first, while he was still healing, it was much easier. He slept a lot, and time just seemed to float by in his stupor. However, the more he healed, the more coherent he became, and the more restless as well.

He banged on the door, called out, screamed, but noone ever responded. There was no doorknob to speak of. He had never seen the door open, thus had no clue how it even opened. It simply looked like a white slab, flush with the wall and only apparent by the faint outline of the edge of the wall.

There also seemed to be no way to bath. He took a sloppy sponge bath every night by using the water in the sink. He didn’t feel like sleeping twelve hours a night, but once the lights went out, there was very little light available for him to see. The room consisted of nothing that wasn’t attached to the floor and walls. If there had been, he might have flung it at the walls of what was quickly becoming his cell. At the very least, he might have moved his bed around the room, to give his room some semblance of difference.

The monotony of day after day was starting to wear on him. He feared he was starting to go mad if he wasn’t already. This made it all the more surprising when the door suddenly opened with a click one of these restless days. The door pushed back two inches, and then slid to the side in the crevice of the wall. Darian was frozen with confusion as he starred at the open door. A man stood in the hallway on the far side of his door. He kept his distance, but beckoned Darian to come through.

Darian took several quick steps through the door, prompting the man to raise some kind of device in his hand in a threatening manner. Darian tried to lift his arms in a soothing gesture, but this seemed to further agitate the man. He pointed in a direction down the hallway. He was muttering a command that Darian didn’t understand. It was clear that this man couldn’t speak English either.

Darian briefly considered trying to communicate with the man, but when he performed his threatening gesture with the device in his hand once again and pointed down the hallway repeating the same order, Darian decided to go along with him. The hallway was carpeted, unlike his room, with a thin gray carpet. The walls were the same polished white though.

After a brief walk down the hallway, the man suddenly stopped, turned, and opened a door. The door seemed to open through the use of a button on his wrist, but Darian did not get a good look at it. The guard, for his mannerism gave Darian the impression of a guard, pointed into the room. Darian went quietly. Deciding that his obedience and silence was enough, he turned to speak to the guard.

“Where am I and what is going o…” The door closed in his face.

“Oh, you won’t get much of a response from them you won’t,” a withered voice said from behind.

Darian jumped, startled, whirling around to face the source of the voice. It was an old man. He wore the same clothing that they provided Darian, although it was fitted to his much smaller frame. He had long stringy gray hair, sunken cheeks, yet right now his eyes seemed to hold a bit of amusement.

“I didn’t mean to startle you, you just looked a little confused there for a second. It’s usually that way after a… session, I suspect it will all come back to you in a second or two.” The old man nodded to Darian before turning and collapsing on a bed.

Darian could see now that he was in a cell almost identical to the one he was in before. One of the few differences was that it consisted of two beds instead of one. The room was no larger for it though. It took Darian a moment or two to realize that the man had spoken in a language he understood.

He took a long look at the man. The man seemed to be occupying himself with a book. It was a heavy volume, but upon looking at the cover, the words were a nonsense grouping of characters he did not recognize.

“You speak English…,” Darian began.

The man looked up from his book.

“Oh is that what I’m speaking, I don’t think I ever knew the name,” he chuckled.

“How do you not know what you’re speaking?”

The old man blinked, putting his book to the side, “Well as far as I know, you and I are the only people alive that speak that particular language, and frankly, you never told me what it was called.”

“What? Are you saying you just learned to speak English from me?” Darian asked.

“Yes, that one sentence you said was enough for me to construct and speak your entire language,” he declared, his hands outspread as if accepting praise.

“That’s…incredible,” Darian responded.

The old man burst out laughing, his face quickly turning to a shade of red. Darian stared at the man with a frown. Was this man insane? He thought to ask as much, but refrained. Whether the man said yes or no meant little and he feared insulting the man.

“No… no…,” The man continued his mirth finally receding a bit, “I don’t think anyone could learn a language with a sentence or two. There is a little thing called context. Without context, knowledge is useless. That is the difference between knowledge and wisdom, a good dollop of context.”

“Wha… Why do you think we are the only people who speak English?” Darian altered his question in mid stride.

“Because I know it, and you know it, and no one else does. It’s a dead language, like the planet it came from, I presume, you know that, “ the old man’s eyes narrowed and his voice became more cautious, “You do know that, don’t you?”

Darian stared at him silently, not quite sure how to respond. Earth, dead? It didn’t make any sense; his mind just could process this.

“You know where you were found, right? Some people dug you out of some ruins, you were in suspended animation,” the man continued, his voice now moving slowly and deliberately, “You know who I am? You’ve seen me before, haven’t you?”

“I’ve never seen you before in my life, I just woke up… from suspended animation. There were these people. This guy came after me, I was shot, woke up in one of these rooms, and they just brought me here. Who are you?”

The man’s eyes seem to fall and the energy and excitement left him, “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, I knew this day would come. I just hoped we had had more time.”

The man laid back his head, sighing as his head pressed against the pillow. Darian stepped forward a few steps and stopped. The man was crying! He didn’t know what madness had hold of the man, but he did know he was trapped in a small room with him. He took several steps to his side, sitting down on the other bed. Just ten minutes prior he would have given anything to have a companion to talk to, now all he wanted was to be alone again.

The doctor… what had happened? It worked, apparently, but that didn’t seem like it was possible. He had slept through everything. His entire world vanished. Everyone he knew was dead. Everything he knew was gone. He thought he would cry. He thought… something. But all he could feel right now was numb. He lied down, his head plopping down on his pillow like the man next to him.

“Darian,” The man in the bed next to him said, in a voice that displayed much of the numbness he felt.

“Yeah?” Darian responded.

“Devin, my name… you can call me Devin,” He said.

When Darian didn’t respond he continued, “You have been the greatest friend an old man could ever ask for. I will miss you dearly.”

Darian looked over at the man, but continued to say nothing.

“You may think I’m mad, perhaps because I am a little,” Devin offered a forced chuckle that lacked any real force, “but you will need to listen to what I say now.”

Devin sat himself up his head pressed back against the wall, “Right now, you and I are part of an experiment. I won’t give you the specifics, but they won’t be pleasant. I will be here with you, every step of the way, but they will push you to the limits. If we stick together, we might make it through. You will make it through. But you need to be prepared. They will start soon, tomorrow. Stay strong. Think of someone you care about perhaps. Whatever you need to do to keep your sanity. You will one day make it out alive, I believe. I’m afraid my time is over.”

The old man wiped a tear coming from his eye, “My…. Where did that come from… I… I’m not afraid of my future. There will be a time, when you might know me better, where you might understand what I’m saying. Just know that I care for you, and that I regret nothing about the way things turned out.”

Devin turned lying down and covering himself with the blanket,” Good Luck, and good night.”

As if on cue, the lights turned off for the night. Darian was not aware the time had gone so quickly. He lied down, turning his back on the crazy man beside him. This place, whatever it was, drove people insane. Would he end up like that before the end? He almost felt sorry for the poor man. He believed him about the torture and the experiments.

He walked out of one experiment as a lab rat and ended up right back into another one. It seems like the awful luck that had shadowed his entire life had managed to hold out. It was almost too much to bear. As his mind twisted and waned, he began to slip into unconsciousness for another night. His last thought was that Devin had known his name, but he couldn’t recall telling him it. The thought slipped his mind as he went into a dreamless sleep.

The next day, Darian awoke when the bright lights clicked on over head. He couldn’t see any lights. Whatever panels produced light, they were embedded into the ceiling. It was much brighter than he would have liked, but he supposed it could be worse. Still, he fought the temptation to throw the blanket over his head to try to give himself some semblance of control over the lighting situation.

“Rise and shine, my friend, rise and shine,” Devin exclaimed, chuckling at Darian’s groan.

“Well, you’re certainly in a better mood than you were last night,” Darian growled as he sat himself up, wiping sleep from his eyes.

“Am I? Well I suppose I could be,” The man chuckled.

Darian walked over to the counter the man was seated at where the bowls of breakfast were deposited. He reached for one of the bowls, but before he grabbed it, Devin blocked his hand.

“Today is your day of the week. Probably a smart idea to wait on eating until after. You’re likely to throw it all up. “

Darian pulled his hand back, glancing at the old man in confusion as he brought his bowl up to his lips, making a large slurping sound as he drank the remainder of the thick porridge. When he finished it, he slapped it down on the table.

“Common tongue,” he stated, looking over at Darian.


“Common tongue, you need to learn common tongue, I figured I should throw that out there, that’s the language everyone speaks. You aren’t speaking it, so that means you don’t know it, so that means it’s time to start teaching it to you,” Devin declared.

Darian sighed standing up, leaving his bowl at the counter uneaten. He walked back to his bed, sitting back down on it, facing Devin.

“Can you tell me more about where I am, and what happened to me,” Darian asked, his eyes following Devin as he went into the small washroom.

“I can, but not today,” The old man said as he bent over the sink and washed his hands and face, “You will need time to recover, rest now.”

Darian didn’t ask anything else, but put his head back to the pillow and closed his eyes. His roommate went over to the adjacent bed, lying down as well. He pulled out book, which he had tucked behind the pillow, and began reading it. It was not very long until the door pulled back and slid to the side, admitting another guard like the one before. He did not think this man was the same man as before, but it was hard to tell.

The man spoke in that language, common tongue? When he didn’t move, the man waved the device at him threateningly again.

“You know the drill. He says go with him, you better do it; those deliberators they carry can be very painful. Stay Strong,” his roommate said, nodding towards the man.

Darian stood up and followed the man through the door. The man stayed behind him as he continued to walk forward along the white hallway with grey carpeted floors. Eventually, he reached the end of the hallway and a set of double doors. They opened and he took a step through.

The room he stepped into had a much higher ceiling than the rest of the hallways he had come in from. The walls were the same bright white wash, but littered with hooks, sinks, tanks and cabinets. In center of the room contained a seat. The room reminded him of a dentist room, although it was much larger than that.

The guard jerked the device in his hand towards the seat in the center of the room. The seat was cushioned in a red color but had metal braces for arms and legs which included straps. He began to take several steps back. There was absolutely no way he was going onto that thing.

A blinding pain racked through him as the guard jammed the device into his back. The pain felt sharp, shooting through his arms and legs in spasm and preventing him from using either. He dropped to the floor like a brick. After the man finally removed the device from his back, he felt a dull ache, as if his entire body had run a marathon.

The guard shouted a command at him, pointing towards the chair. He attempted to get onto all fours, attempted to crawl away, although in truth he didn’t really know which direction the chair was in, as his vision was spinning. The guard shoved the device; the deliberator Devin had called it, into the back of his head. The world went white.

He could not be sure how long the pain shot through his body. He also wasn’t sure if he was screaming or not. When his sight finally began to clear the room was spinning. However, he felt like he was being dragged. The guard was starting to tie him into the chair. There were two straps for each arm and leg. The guard made sure to make them tight.

The world continued to spin as he sat in dizziness. At this point, he was glad at his roommate’s advice. He most likely would have thrown up if he had had anything to eat. Even with an empty stomach, he fought the urge to dry heave. He was not the kind of person who vomited easy, but between the dizziness, dull pain, and bright lights, he considered it. He still considered wretching, but the guard was strapping his forehead down and it would have ended up in his lap if he tried.

Once the guard finished, he left the room, and Darian was stuck in the middle of the room in relative immobilization. After a few minutes, the door reopened and a man walked in. He was a tall man in a lab coat, but seemed to slouch a lot more than was needed. He had straggly brown hair, a long pointy chin, and hollow cheeks. He kept his eyes downcast, but Darian could see dark rings of exhaustion under them.

The man also dragged a large machine behind him, which he rolled out into the middle of the room next to Darian. It consisted of a large base and a massive dish that resembled a satellite dish. The man set up the device in silence, refusing to take a single look at Darian, pretending he wasn’t there. The man positioned the dish directly over Darian, pointing right at his abdomen. He was starting to become very worried. What was this machine going to do?

When he finished setting up the equipment, he went behind the heavy machine. The machine rumbled as it sprang to life. The man clicked away some controls for a few minutes, mumbling words to himself that Darian did not understand. He finally finished whatever he was doing and left the room. The machine continued to rumble away.

Darian began to fill a warmness emitting from dish over his head. It felt kind of good, a comforting warmth pressing down on him. After about a minute, Darian began to feel the warmth increase. It started to push the limits of comfort and started to feel like it was burning. The machine did not change, nor did the dish. He did not see anything come from it, but he could feel it. Was this some kind of microwave? Were they cooking him alive as some kind of sport? To see what would happen to humans?

The burning grew and pain began to sprout through his body. He trashed from side to side, but realized that the straps were strong and he wasn’t able to move a muscle. The chair was much sturdier than he had given it credit for as well. The pain came in waves, a rhythmic thump thump thump. With each thump the pain sprouted anew and he could feel it burning through his body.

The thump thump thump of the pain resonated with his heartbeat, making each beat agony. He opened his mouth to scream, realizing that there was something in his mouth, holding it apart already. He had not noticed when the guard had put it in, but now his teeth clinched down on it as a muffled scream escaped his throat.

The pain did not subside. It grew, worse and worse. And he screamed, screamed as much as his lungs would allow. His body throbbed and burned, it felt as if every single cell of his body was being torn apart piece by piece. Then, all there was left was pain.

He couldn’t have said how long the mindblowing pain coursed through his body, but one minute it was there, and then it was gone. He felt like he was falling, falling into darkness. The pain had been with him for so long, that he didn’t know what else there was. He felt himself being picked up, being moved. He didn’t know if he was. He couldn’t remember if he was carried or he walked, but the next thing he could remember was being in a bed back in the room with Devin.

His head was in the old man’s lap and he cried. He couldn’t seem to stop crying. It hurt, it hurt so much. The old man, seeming saner than Darian had ever seen him, gently stroked his head as he cried.

“It will be OK,” The man said in his withered, tired voice, “Tomorrow, you will know more tomorrow.”

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