StarCrossed Chapter 2


By Cain

Mystician Empire. Asellan Solar-System. Mysticia. Facinaturu.

Year: 323 A.A. Month: 5. Day: 10. Time: 1:02 P.M., Facinaturu Mean Time

“It’s not fair!” Zade insisted, as she had insisted fifty or more times today alone. Zade was always up earlier than anybody else, and she’d spent many of her waking hours complaining and trying to convince her superiors of her skill, her intelligence, and most of all her need for independence. A partner would only slow her down.

Klend looked up from his desk. He was a large Mystic, still very muscular, even though he was starting to age. He hadn’t used magic very often in his life, and as a result his pale, yellow hair was thinning when he was only one-hundred-fifty years old. His green skin had even gone a little grey. “Right. Not fair. You’ve mentioned that. Honestly, Zade, would you be complaining so much if he wasn’t Human?”

Zade scowled, and Klend couldn’t say that the expression didn’t fit on her face. She had a nice face, well-shaped, but for some reason, maybe habit, maybe the bone structure, it was hard to imagine Zade smiling. Truth be told, she had a very pretty smile, but it was so very rarely seen that many regarded it as a myth. Zade’s constant attitude of impatience, pessimism, stubbornness, and absolute disregard for things like social interaction had become a joke around the Academy before she’d graduated, as in “Yeah, sure. And Zade’s going out with me tonight.”

It wasn’t that Zade wasn’t good-looking. She wasn’t exactly pretty, but she was quite attractive in other ways, especially if you could get past her coloring. Her skin was a dusty grey, but her wild hair, which was pulled back from her face with a single barrette, was bright red. She was quite tall (even if you didn’t count her hair), not too thin or too fat, and looked very fit. Her eyes were dark, like staring into twin wells. Her face was sharp, and her teeth were very white. Her nose was almost big enough to be a beak. Her MIA uniform, a simple blue bodysuit with the five rank stripes, flattered her form, though she didn’t notice. She rarely wore a cloak or jacket, and never went swimming. Klend thought that she just didn’t want to be seen in anything but her uniform. It was rumored that her closet stocked only spare uniforms, and Klend for one believed it.

“Human or not, he’s Class Six,” Zade stated, as if ignoring the accusation would make it go away. “I’m Class Five, and I was at the top of my class at the Academy-“

“So’s he.”

Zade nearly choked. “Say what?”

“He’s at the top of his class, too. Perfect grades, all across the board.” Klend took another look at the file, though he knew what it said. “According to this, he even tutored others. He especially excelled in battle training.”

Zade rolled her eyes. “Uh huh. Of course he did. He’s a goddamned Human, after all. He doesn’t have any magic, so of course he’s good with simple weapons.”

“That’s just it, Zade,” Klend replied, ignoring the slight profanity. It seemed to be Zade’s one vice. “He’s not just good with simple weapons, he’s good with all weapons. We gave him swords, guns, spears, gauntlets, whatever we could think of. We even tried to see if he’d be any good handling ground-to-air cannons and missiles. It didn’t even take him two days to learn any of them.”

Zade’s scowl was unabated. “Fine. So he’s a fighter. That’s nice, that’s real nice. He can kick the shit out of the crooks, but can he catch ‘em? I doubt it.”

Klend shrugged. “Actually, he’s the best detective the Academy’s seen since... well, since you. Very few mysteries hold him for long. He knew my name before he met me. Hell, he even knows the Dean’s name, and I didn’t know that until I’d been in the MIA for ten years. This guy’s a godsend, Zade, Human or not.”

“So what you’re saying is you’ve found someone that’s better than me, huh?” Zade was trying to keep her voice under control. Being upstaged was something she’d obviously never imagined, let alone being upstaged by a Human. She certainly didn’t know the Dean’s name.

Klend sighed. “No, Zade, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that we might have found the Human equivalent of you. He’s smart, he’s strong, and he’s fast, but he’s no Mystic. He has no magical talent. Couldn’t even acquire the Gifts. He made it through the maze of Luminous easily, but he still doesn’t have a spark of magic in him. He aced the ‘Ether Study’ classes, but it’s like teaching a fish about clouds. He knows all about Ether he’ll ever need to know, but it’s not something he can ever use. Period.

“Also, he doesn’t know anything about history. Anything. Humans usually don’t have a great grasp of history ‘cuz they die so quickly, but this guy literally doesn’t know a damn thing about the Empire. I’m not sure he is from the Empire. He certainly has an accent that I don’t recognize.”

Zade frowned, concerned. An MIA Agent not from the Empire? “Wait. Why’d you let him in? He could be a fucking Dominionite! Or one of those Humans from the other side of the Dominion, those Unionites! We’ve never had any trouble from them, but you never know. You should have looked into his past. Or even gotten a telepath to get something out of him.”

“And would you have had us do the same with you?” Klend asked sharply, and Zade had no answer. The MIA didn’t ask its Agents about their pasts. A great number of Agents had actually been proven escaped convicts. However, an Agent had complete amnesty from all crimes committed before joining the MIA... as long as they did their job. An effective incentive. Some well-known Agents had even been turncoats, Dominion-born aliens who hated Humanity. “Spy or not, he’s valuable, and we need good people in the field, maybe now more than ever. The Dominion’s been way too quiet recently. I don’t trust it. None of the higher-ups do, either. Berial have been clamming up, lately, though some are as glad of that as others are worried. That damned Freespace movement is causing trouble all throughout the Empire. We need someone who can take another point of view on all this, a non-Mystic point of view. A Human.

“And that’s where you come in, Zade. This guy’s good. Very good. But you’re as good as he is, I think. Maybe better. Even if you’re not, you still have magic, and he doesn’t. We need this guy, I believe, but if he’s not loyal... Even Toolst doesn’t stand a chance against him, and that’s saying something.” Klend suddenly looked very tired. “What I’m saying, Zade, flat out, is that if he turns out too good to be true, we need you to deal with him. We don’t have anyone else who can.”

Zade frowned, considering. She looked up at Klend, unmoved. “Do I finally get a ship?”

Klend held out a key.


Day: 13. Time: 9:23 A.M.

Rakin walked through the Mystic Investigation Agency (MIA) Headquarters, and those who recognized him whispered to those who didn’t. This was the young man who’d surprised everybody at the Academy. The strong one. The smart one. The one that nobody had seen coming. The Human. There were only two Human Agents in the MIA, and he was one of them. Which would tend to give someone a swelled head, unless you were a prince and the hero of an entire planet besides.

In some ways, Rakin was very different from the young man who’d woken up on Ventosus seventy-six years ago. He had lived on Ventosus alone for such a long time that he felt... strange among all these people. Nervous. He didn’t admit to himself that it might be fear, even when he had to close his eyes on the bus. Another reason that he avoided crowds was that he tended to talk to himself these days. In the long years on Ventosus, it had been necessary in order to retain some of his sanity, but now people thought he was crazy when he started arguing with himself. Keeping his thoughts silent was difficult, but he was getting the hang of it again.

In other ways, Rakin had not changed a bit. He was still too idealistic for his own health, and he stubbornly retained his optimism despite all reasons not to. Hope had been the only thing keeping him alive on Ventosus, and he wasn’t about to give it up when he was so close to seeing them again. Magus, Masa, Valiod, and... Chris? Was that right? He knew that it was vitally important that he find them, but his memory was so unreliable. Chris especially was important for some reason. Almost all he remembered about her now were her eyes. He would never forget those eyes, he thought.

And in the end, there was the reason that he had joined the most elite law enforcement agency in the Mystician Empire. He believed in justice whole-heartedly, but he had really joined so that he could find his allies. Rakin couldn’t remember much about them, but he knew this much: wherever he or one of his friends were, there would be trouble. He didn’t need his occasional visions to tell him that much. It was not in their natures to keep out of danger. So, Rakin had joined the MIA, where he would be assigned to handle the most dangerous and extraordinary situations in the Empire, those exact situations where he’d be most likely to find his friends.

So here he was, a new Agent, one of only two Human Agents in the MIA (the other went by the name Acid), and more than a little nervous about meeting his partner, Zade. Rakin hadn’t spent much time around women since... well, since he was honestly sixteen years old. He was much older now, mentally if not physically, but he didn’t have the experience in social relations to go with that time. He had plenty of experience in survival; he had, after all, survived for seventy-six years on a planet where almost every living thing tried to kill him on a daily basis. But his experience with women was very, very limited.

Also, he had been told that Zade was a no-nonsense Mystic, and no great lover of Humankind in general, which somewhat dampened Rakin’s optimism. Specism was a problem Rakin had dealt with the whole time he had been on Mysticia, and he didn’t relish having to work with a Specist every day. He shrugged. Maybe she wasn’t as bad as people thought.

And then he stepped through Klend’s door (Klend was an Investigator that Rakin had known since he started in the Academy) and his hopes fell as he saw Zade. He could immediately tell several things about her. First of all, “Zade” was her real name. He just knew. He also knew that she only watched races on HV, she had a secret crush on Fedrin Larze, the oddly-named (for a Mystic) movie-star, enjoyed scrambled eggs, hated wasting money, kept a knife under her pillow and another one in her hair, and didn’t much like Humans.

Rakin was now used to this flood of information he received in a person’s presence, something he’d had to get used to after his long solitude. This was, of course, a big part of his nervousness among large groups of people. He almost always knew their name, unless they were really secretive about it (he didn’t know Acid’s real name), but everything else was just about random. The more time he spent with Zade, the more he’d know about her, whether she told him or not. He could find out more if necessary, but he didn’t like to pry into other people’s lives. He couldn’t help it if sometimes the knowledge seemed to force its way into his mind, but he could at least keep the delving to a minimum.

He and Zade appraised each other for a moment or two, and Rakin had to admit he was impressed. Just the way she stood, Rakin could tell that she was dangerous. She looked a moment away from activating her T-Blade and effortlessly scything through anything that got in her way. She had the ease of somebody who knew that she could kill everybody in the room. However, she also had the proud posture of the truly military mind, somebody who’d follow any order in the name of rank advancement.

Speaking of rank, she had five silver stripes running from her right shoulder to her left hip and back up her back to their origin, which signified that she was Class Five, one rank above the lowest. From what Rakin had heard, she had completely skipped Class Six. She’d only been an Agent for about a year, and probably would have increased in rank already if there had been anything to do. Everything had been quiet recently, and Rakin was certain that Zade was itching to prove her worth with a mission.

He was also certain that she resented having a partner, let alone a Human partner. Zade was the kind of person who was determined to get ahead, to show that she was the best, and she wouldn’t appreciate having to share the glory, if there was any glory to be had. If there wasn’t any glory to be had, Rakin had no doubt who she’d blame.


Time: 9:26 A.M.

Zade could only feel grudgingly impressed at her partner. He was tall, as tall as she was (not counting her hair). He had a well-shaped, almost noble face. His hair was cut short enough that it naturally spiked up a little, but by the way he kept running his fingers along his head, his hair must have once been longer. He wasn’t very thin, but that was because he was quite muscular. It wasn’t so much that his neck was thicker than his head, but he looked strong enough that you certainly noticed. He had a small scar on his right cheek.

His eyes, though... There was something about his eyes. When his eyes met hers, she was almost struck breathless. Not because she was attracted to this Human, even if he was a good-looking example of the race, but because his eyes were the eyes of someone who was very, very dangerous. He didn’t look angry or hateful, but there was a certain... desperation about him, the way his eyes seemed to watch all of the exits (the door and the windows). There was also a sense of world-weariness about him. Whatever you’ve been through, his eyes seemed to say, I’ve been through worse, and I’m expecting more any minute. He also looked worried, though not fearful. Was he worried about meeting her? What could make this man worry, if not her?

“Well,” Klend abruptly began, nearly making the two Agents jump. Nearly. “Zade, allow me to introduce you to Ransom. Ransom... Felone, I believe.” Klend wasn’t used to giving surnames, since Mystics rarely used their own. Zade nodded curtly, but didn’t say anything. Klend, in an attempt to get rid of the awkward silence where Zade knew she was supposed to be speaking, continued “And this, Ransom, is Zade, your new partner.”

Surprising both of the Mystics, Ransom bowed deeply, every inch royalty. Then he rose, and he was once again simply an Agent, smiling amiably. “Hello, Zade. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I’ve heard many things about you.” His accent was strange. He could be understood, but he tended to inflect the first syllable of words, giving his sentences a strange stumbling feeling. He also seemed to have trouble pronouncing the letter cht.

Zade didn’t smile. She didn’t blink. She made a very slight nod, but that was it as far as gestures went. She wanted to make sure this Human knew whom he was dealing with. “Have you? Did you hear that I was undefeated in every T-Blade tournament at the Academy? Did you hear that I was instrumental in MysPol’s solution of the ‘Tumbledown’ case? Did you hear that I’m completely unimpressed by bows, kisses on my hand, or flowers?”

Ransom blinked, the only sign that he was taken aback. “No... I’m afraid most of what I heard had to do with your directness. Guess they were right.”

Klend chuckled then, but a glance from Zade silenced him. He cleared his throat, and looked down at the files on his desk. “Well, you’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other, I’m certain. And, assuming you get along,” his tone of voice betrayed his fear that this was a rather large assumption, “it looks like you two will be our ‘Dream Team.’ As soon as we have something for you to do, we’ll call you.” He paused. “Ransom, you do have your PMD, do you not?”

Ransom shook his head. “I never got one. Not enough money.”

Zade glared at Klend, wishing that she was telepathic so she could cuss him out in his head. What kind of partner had Klend stuck her with? How could this “Ransom” function without a PMD? Everything was done by PMD these days. What did he use, smoke signals?

However, Klend simply nodded, reached into the pile of paper collected on his desk, and handed Ransom a square, blue (the same shade as Ransom’s and Zade’s uniforms) disk about the height and width of Ransom’s head. “Here it is: your Personal Media Device. You know how to use it?” Ransom responded with an expression of ignorance, so Klend continued, “Well, there’s a beginner’s tutorial. Just press ‘Power,’ then press the ‘Aid’ key.”

Abruptly, Klend stood, and saluted them both. The salute consisted of punching the palm of his left hand with his right and nodding his head. Ransom, surprised, saluted briskly back, and Zade managed a salute as well. Klend lowered his hands. “Good luck, Agents.”


Time: 9:54 A.M.

“Whoah...” Ransom said, sounding slightly awed. “You mean this is our car?” It was about eight feet high, six feet wide, and about twenty feet long. It had two energy cannons conspicuously placed right on front of it, which meant that it probably had other weapons carefully hidden elsewhere. It was sleek, shiny, smooth, and very, very black.

Zade scowled as she tried to figure out how to unlock the thing. “It’s not a car. It’s a Blackbird.”

Ransom nodded sagely, absorbing this information. “I see... And that means... what?”

Zade sighed irritably. “It means that this is a spacecraft, not some dinky hovercraft. We can go to other planets in this. First, though, we have to get into the fucking thing,” she muttered, and kicked the side of the black ship.

“Let me try,” Ransom insisted. Zade grudgingly agreed, on the grounds that she wasn’t having any luck herself, and would love to see this “Ransom” try. Ransom took the key and, frowning, began to run his hand along what could have been the left door. There was a windshield which turned along the Blackbird’s corner, almost seamlessly, so it was hard to tell where windshield ended and door-window began. To Zade, it seemed that Ransom had only a passing familiarity with vehicles of any kind. He’d have to be educated, she knew. After all, the Academy left out so much from their curriculum, that it could legally be considered a standing anachronism.

Facinaturu was not the strange, magical, mysterious, living place it once was. Well, to be accurate, it still was most of these, but it was now also home to the highest technology anywhere in the Empire. Buildings of gleaming steel and other, stranger metals stood side-by-side with structures that looked as if they’d been not built so much as grown. Chateau Aiguille alone remained as it had been for centuries, a gigantic tree/palace, in which Lady Asellus occasionally dwelled, when she could be bothered to return to her homeworld. The most important buildings of Facinaturu, the Tower of Science and the Tower of Magic, stood on opposite sides of Chateau Aiguille. These two buildings held many of the most secret, powerful, and dangerous secrets of the Empire. Zade personally thought that this simply made them less secret, powerful, and dangerous, since anyone who was interested knew exactly where to look, but she figured that the really important stuff must be sequestered elsewhere, where nobody would think to look.

All of these thoughts only distracted Zade from watching Ransom in his futile effort to enter the vehicle, until he finally shouted “Open, dammit!” Zade smiled, feeling a slight sense of victory.

Her smile soon faded, though, because it worked.

The door, window included, silently slid out of sight as lights came on inside the craft. Ransom glanced back at Zade, shrugged, tossed her the key, and stepped inside. There was more than enough room to stand, if not enough to move around very much. Zade quickly recognized the layout of the craft, which was standard for most small Greyspace-faring vehicles.

On the right side of the ship, facing forward, was the pilot’s chair, surrounded by various controls. To the left of the chair was an empty space, big enough to stand in. In the back were two seats, both different. The one on the left was mounted on tracks, so that it could slide forward into the empty space by the pilot’s seat. In its forward position, the occupant of the seat (the co-pilot) could reach controls the pilot couldn’t, such as surveillance and weapons targeting systems, making the Blackbird only effective in battle with two Agents operating it. Finally, to the right of the co-pilot’s Seat (in its rearward position) was another seat, outfitted simply with restraints, for carrying apprehended criminals. Behind all of that was a storage compartment, and behind that the engine.

Zade sat in the pilot’s seat and once again resumed the search for somewhere to put the key. This time, she met with more success, and stuck the cursed piece of metal in a slot. It fit perfectly, and the slot and key both immediately sunk into the surrounding machinery. Lights blinked on as systems came to life. The door slid shut, but the light filtering through the windows, not to mention the lights of the systems themselves, kept everything visible.

“Greetings,” a voice suddenly announced, filling the small craft. It was a completely neutral voice, neither male nor female, inflecting no single syllable. “There are currently... two genetic signatures on the key. Do you wish to add more?”

Zade looked up, surprised. She had never ridden in a craft with its own AI. Mecs were too expensive, so this was probably a super-calculator. Ransom, sitting in the still-rearward Co-Pilot’s seat, didn’t seem to know much about anything, and so wasn’t too surprised to actually answer the question. “Why would we want to?”

“Owners are recognized by genetic signatures, which are scanned upon entrance to this craft.”

“So, in other words,” Ransom said slowly, “If there’s anyone else who will be piloting you, we should get them to touch the key and give it back to you?”

“Affirmative,” the voice agreed. “You may add more signatures at any time you wish. Are you satisfied with the current number of genetic signatures?”

“Yes,” Zade replied, pausing to glare at Ransom. She hadn’t meant to give him the right to pilot the craft. “Anyone else had better be accompanied by me, or they don’t belong in here. Got it?”

“Affirmative. Genetic signatures recorded. Greetings, Agents. Please state your names.”

“Zade,” Zade replied.

“Ransom Felone,” Ransom said. “What’s yours?” he added, idiotically, Zade thought.

The craft’s computer considered this. “I do not presently have a name. My serial number is V-945-096-143. If you wish to give me a name, please do so.”

Zade refused to even make a suggestion as to what kind of name to give a simple computer program, but Ransom insisted, and eventually ended up coming up with the name himself. “Reetah,” he said, his strange accent standing out strongly. “Your name will be ‘Reetah.’ Okay?”

“Affirmative. I am Reetah. Do you wish to assign me a voice or accent? I am designed to alter my speech patterns based on the way my owners speak, but if you have any preferences, they should be stated now.”

Zade tried to convince Ransom that it was completely pointless and, indeed, stupid to give a computer a voice or name (let alone a strange name like “Reetah”) but the Human would not be swayed, and helped guide the computer through the different voices it could make. They eventually settled on a voice that was quite definitely feminine, somewhat husky, and enough to make Zade roll her eyes at how disgusting men in general were.

“Is this acceptable?” Reetah asked. The voice had all the elements of a woman, but it remained emotionless. Ransom sighed.

“Well, you said you’d learn. Maybe you’ll learn how to sound better as we go along. It’s okay, for now.”

Zade made a clicking sound with her tongue. “Great. Now our Blackbird sounds like your dream girl. Are you done, yet?”

Zade couldn’t see Ransom, since his seat was still in the rear position, but he sounded as if he was smiling. “Well... I was thinking... Couldn’t we come up with a better name than ‘Blackbird’? I mean, it’s so depressing.”

Zade nearly growled. “Depressing. Right. Listen, Human, I don’t give a flying fuck whether it depresses you or not. It’s a Blackbird, all right? You can call it whatever the hell you want if you feel like it. Just don’t bother me with this crap.”

“How about ‘Epoch’?”

Zade turned in her seat. “Were you listening to a damned word I said? It... is... a... Blackbird. End of discussion.” With that she reached over to the controls and quickly pressed a succession of buttons and switches. Ransom’s seat slid forward on its tracks so that he was sitting to Zade’s left. Zade lifted off and flew, trying to go fast enough that Ransom wouldn’t have time to bother her before they landed. Ransom fiddled with the devices surrounding him for the rest of the ride, and didn’t speak.


Day: 16. Time: 3:32 P.M.

Thyme Oregano, former rebel, scourge of the Mystics, leader of the Devon Revolt, growled as an orderly stuffed food into his mouth. If you could call it food. It was a protein gruel, designed to keep the prisoner alive during the next long imprisonment in the cryogenic stasis chamber. The gruel tasted like snot, looked like snot, and remained liquid, yet elastic, in that very special way that only snot does. The sad thing was that Thyme was so hungry that he ate it. Every last blob.

The two orderlies, satisfied that he was properly nourished, lifted him from the chair by his arms, and began to pull him back along the way to his stasis chamber. Thyme would have fought them, if he could, but his muscles simply didn’t want to respond to his orders. He could only assume that they had injected him with some sort of sedative before he’d awoken from stasis, to make him tractable. On reflection, he believed that it was a good idea on their part; he’d caused some trouble every time they let him out for his meal, and he couldn’t blame them for wanting to take precautions this time.

Of course, they could have saved a lot of time by simply having him executed for rebellion, back before his world had been re-named “Mysticia.” However, he was Thyme Oregano, one of the famous rebel hotshots, and Asellus no doubt found it amusing to have him sleep away the centuries as his world changed around him. Even now, he was surrounded by more machinery, here in a small prison not far from Chateau Aiguille.

When he’d first been frozen, Facinaturu had been a strange, magical place, but now it was a hybrid: magic and tech, sitting side by side but not really meshing. Thyme wasn’t really surprised. After all, every time he was freed, he had a chance to read up on the events of the last few decades, and Thyme always read every last word on the... PDM? DMP? PMD? Well, whatever it was called, it certainly had held a lot of info., and he made use of it. The sudden formation of the Abandoned Sector had certainly been a surprise, to say the least.

Thyme was tired, very tired. He was a human, and he was only supposed to be twenty years old. However, it had been three-hundred and thirty-one years since he’d been born, and his world had changed greatly in that time. Mystics ruled the planet, and moved across the Galaxy in sudden leaps, through technology he had no chance of understanding. Planet after planet had fallen under the umbra of Mysticia. And, thought Tyme, If we’d stopped Asellus when she was still weak, none of it would have happened. I’d be dead by now, at rest, and so would Rose.

Rosemary Oregano, his sister. He hadn’t seen her in centuries, although it seemed to him only weeks. He’d aged very slightly over his years of frozen imprisonment, so little that he didn’t notice it. The only thing that seemed different about him, as far as he could tell, was that he was incredibly, maybe dangerously, thin. Plus, he was pale. Oh, and his hair hadn’t been cut once, so that it hung down to his lower back. How long would it have taken to grow that long in real time? Six months? A year? How old was he now? Whatever his physical age, his face was still smooth, his cheekbones still high, his mouth still stuck with that insolent grin, and his black hair had no grey in it.

How old was Rose? She probably looked exactly the same as she had when he’d last seen her, still young and pretty, twenty-two years old. Princesses didn’t age. Maybe they were also put into cryogenic stasis. He didn’t know what Princesses were used for, but he was sure he wouldn’t like it. She was still basically in a prison, like Thyme himself.

Thyme’s fingers twitched at the thought. He was angry. He even managed to clench his fist. The orderlies noted this. It meant that the sedative was wearing off. They’d have to hurry up and get him back into stasis. They came up to the door of the stasis-room just as a man in black stepped out of it. Too surprised to ask for the man’s clearance, the orderlies simply stared at him.

He was tall, and reasonably handsome. Actually, pretty might have been a better word. He had black hair down to his shoulders, and a pointed chin. His eyebrows, lips and nose were thin and delicate. His eyes were dark. He wore a cloak, draped so that whatever was beneath could not be seen. And he was definitely Human.

The man nodded politely to each of them. “Hello,” he said in a voice that seemed somehow... odd. It was Human, with inflection in all the right places, but somehow... dead. He continued, “Is this Thyme Oregano?”

The two Mystics were taken aback. Who was this man, and how did he know about Thyme? Thyme didn’t care how he knew. He grunted and managed something similar to a nod, suddenly hopeful. The strange man nodded in return as if hearing a complete response.

One of the two orderlies cleared his throat, and the newcomer politely turned to him. “I don’t know how you got in here,” the Mystic said petulantly, “But this area is restricted. Especially to Humans.”

The man in black nodded. “Of course. I shall leave shortly.” And, with a small, polite bow, he drew a strange model of gun from his cloak and quickly put it to the scientist’s head.

The Mystic’s eyes opened as wide as possible. Thyme smelled urine. “T-t-take him, if you want,” the Mystic stuttered, frantically signaling to his companion, who released Thyme’s other arm. Freed, Thyme stumbled forward, grabbing onto his savior’s cloak to keep himself standing straight.

The strange Human gave a small smile. “Thank you,” he replied, as if the Mystic had offered him a gift, rather than a naked, slumping figure of skin and bones. Then he pulled the trigger.

Thyme was too drugged even to call out in horror as the beam of energy tore through the Mystic’s face, leaving a blackened hole in its place. The second scientist had time only to scream before the gun went off again, and he fell to the floor, a hole through his chest.

Thyme grimaced in disgust. “Waass that nesssary?”

The man glanced down at Thyme’s haggard face. “Yes. It was necessary. There must be no witnesses.”

Thyme tried to ignore the bodies. “W... why... aarr...”

“My reasons for helping you are my own,” the man replied, curtly but with no apparent annoyance or anger. He might as well have just accidentally stepped on two ants. Abruptly, the man reached into his cloak, pulling out a small bundle. “Clothing for you, according to recent style. We will attract less attention if you dress.” He unfurled the bundle, revealing it to be a silvery body suit, all of one piece. “The neck is highly elastic, so you must pull it on at first like a pair of pants.” The man paused. “Do you need assistance?”

Thyme managed to push himself off the man’s shoulder, standing almost straight. He took the proffered outfit and began pulling it on, leaning instead on the cold wall. The fabric was smooth and insulating. Thyme couldn’t help but notice the man’s gaze, neither concerned nor curious, as he awkwardly put on this strange suit. Finally, though, he managed it. He stood as straight as he could, proud of his accomplishment. He may have needed rescuing, but he was damned if he was going to let anybody dress him.

The two bodies on the floor stilled his smile, though.

Satisfied that he was finished, the strange man grabbed Thyme’s elbow and turned down the hallway, leading the sedated rebel away from his ancient prison. As they walked (well, the man walked and Thyme stumbled along), Thyme couldn’t help noticing the cameras periodically spaced along the ceiling, but somehow he wasn’t worried. He doubted that there was anyone watching.

No witnesses.


Time: 4:00 P.M.

Rakin was beginning to get a headache. He’d covered basic PMD use in the Academy, of course, but it had been assumed that he knew how to use them. Rakin’s deficiencies, in areas such as technology and history, had been overlooked in favor of his other talents by the Academy. The Academy, Rakin knew, wasn’t so much a school as a screening program for the MIA. The only thing that had stopped Rakin from being named an Agent in the second month at the Academy had been his accent, which many found hard to understand. Rakin felt his ignorance keenly, especially now, with Zade in the apartment.

Rakin had been surprised, to say the least, that Agents shared apartments with their partners. Zade had known, which was just one more reason she didn’t like him. Technically, the apartment was big enough for both of them, but Rakin wouldn’t have been surprised if Zade had drawn a line down the center of the middle of the room, and ordered him to stay on his side. Rakin might have obeyed.

He wasn’t afraid of Zade, exactly, but she seemed the sort of person who could make life miserable for others if she put her mind to it. As a result, Rakin wasn’t eager to get on her bad side, though he wasn’t sure she had any other sides to her. Even the way she pronounced his name was harsh, though that could have been her accent. By some odd coincidence, the word “rakin” was the Mystician word for “ransom.” Fortunately, this meant that he could pretend to adopt a codename, like most Agents did (except a few, like Zade), when he was actually still using his original name. The word “guardia,” unfortunately, sounded much like the Mystician phrase “lover of insects,” so Rakin had opted for the surname “Felone,” the Elosian word for “sword.”

The thought of names reminded him of his pet, Square, who was being moved from his dorm room. “Square” was an arcane Dominion word used in some ancient spells. He didn’t know what the word meant, but it sounded ancient and mysterious, and he needed a name for the little creature now that he was living among people. Zade, of course, was enraged that he was going to bring a pet, but it was just one more article on the list of why she didn’t like him. Once Square had moved in with him, along with all of his furniture and clothes, Rakin would feel much better. Until then, all he and Zade had were some chairs, their PMD’s, a few odds and ends left by the apartment’s previous residents, and the clothes on their backs.

Rakin nearly jumped out of his chair as the PMD, sitting forgotten on his lap, suddenly began to ring. Since it didn’t immediately stop, Rakin began to press keys until finally a window popped up on the screen, and words began to appear.

Security breach at Facinaturu Cryogenic Stasis Prison. Possible escape attempt. The closest Agents, Agent Zade and Agent Ransom, are to investigate, report situation to HQ, and await further instructions. Use of force is authorized.

Rakin studied this for a moment before Zade walked out of the empty room she had already claimed as her bedroom, and walked to the door of the apartment. She paused, though, and glanced back at Rakin. “Are you coming?” she demanded testily.

“He was ignorant, naive, and altruistic. How could I not like the son of a bitch?”

Chapter 3

Cain's Fanfiction