StarCrossed Chapter 3


By Cain

Mystician Empire. Terrenus Solar-System. Terrenus VII. Trell City.

Year: 323 A.A. Month: 5. Day: 14. Time: 7:45 A.M., Trell Standard Time.

The Chief of MysPol in Trell City didn’t appreciate having to get up so early, and made no secret about it. However, he had dragged himself out of bed now and didn’t intend to go back until he’d gotten what he was here for.

He sat alone in a booth, in a restaurant in which Humans were supposedly allowed. In truth, the restaurant was a front for a large Mystic-owned syndicate, but the Chief didn’t worry about being seen here. For one thing, the syndicate didn’t see him as a threat, with good reason, so he didn’t have to worry much about his personal safety. Also, the food here was very good and, above all, cheap. The only reason it wasn’t crowded even at this early time of the morning was that Humans were generally discouraged from going there.

The Chief himself could easily have been mistaken for one of the many thugs filling the various tables if he had not been wearing a brass crescent-moon badge. It was this badge, and only this badge, that allowed Tartingill to find him. The Tax Collector sat quietly across the table from the Chief, glancing over his shoulder the whole time. He looked at the Chief for a moment, but soon decided he didn’t care for that view and instead studied his hands.

The silence was eventually broken by the Chief. “What did you want?” the Chief asked, bluntly. He didn’t care greatly for the Tax Collector, even if he was another Mystic. It wasn’t anything personal to Tartingill, of course. Tartingill had done his job quite thoroughly, though honestly, and had managed to wheedle more money out of Trell city over the last month than the last four Tax Collectors had collectively, before they each met their respective untimely demises. The Chief in particular had ended up donating very much to the Imperial Coffers.

Tartingill glanced around again, and quietly fingered something concealed under his recently acquired trenchcoat. The Chief had no trouble identifying it as a weapon of some sort just by the way Tartingill kept stroking it, though he couldn’t have said what it was. Probably a gun, if the Tax Collector was smart, though energy pistols were incredibly hard to come by except for Mystic Police, MIA Agents, and members of the Imperial Army. Maybe a knife or dagger?

“I’ve...” Tartingill began, but faltered. He tried again, but met with failure. Eventually, exasperated, he reached into his pocket and, before the Chief could draw a weapon or even react, pulled out a small object. Tartingill stared at it in his hand for a moment, and plunked it down on the table.

The Chief frowned. It was an eye. Glass, probably, or some other material. It had made too loud a noise to be a real eye, even assuming that the Tax Collector might, for some odd reason, have been carrying around somebody’s real eye. A glass eye was strange enough. The Chief nudged the eye a little, but it just wobbled a bit and settled again. He shrugged.

Tartingill obviously gathered the problem and, with his former speed, picked up the eye and slammed it against the table. When he saw that it was still intact, he did it again and again, until it abruptly cracked into two symmetrical halves. The halves fell to their sides like two bowls, revealing a small silver nugget.

The Chief reached down to pick it up, but drew his hand away quickly, as if in pain. “Adamantine,” he hissed. He looked up at Tartingill. “Where did you get this?”

Tartingill stared at the Chief, as if measuring him. Why, the Chief wondered, was Tartingill contemplating being a snitch? The answer was obvious: Tartingill was honest. The Tax Collector was probably wondering whether the Chief himself was trustworthy. He wasn’t, but he soon convinced Tartingill that he was. As the Tax Collector left, the Chief smiled to himself, still waiting for his food. Finally, he had something on Crystal McKenna. She’d go down for all of his plans that she messed up. And the reward for the Adamantine would certainly improve his mood.


Day: 16. Time: 9:34 A.M.

“Ohhh, I’m going to miss you so much, Gill!” Candy exclaimed, hugging the Mystic tightly.

Tartingill smiled a bit weakly, still unused to the nick-name. He hadn’t seen much of Candy during his month on this planet, as she’d often been away on business of her own, but they had nonetheless struck up quite a friendship. Tartingill didn’t have many women friends, and even fewer Human friends of either gender, but he had to admit that at least Candy seemed to genuinely like him. And it had not escaped him that she still hoped that Tartingill might suddenly declare his desire for Crystal. The fact that he had shown very little in the way of desire for his bodyguard didn’t seem to bother her. She was a big fan of romance.

“I know, I know... I’ll miss you, too. I’ll try to write.” He wriggled a little in her grasp, unable to extricate himself. “Unless I get crushed to death right here.”

Candy released him, smiling. She playfully punched him in the shoulder, and he playfully tried to ignore the bruise that was already there from previous whacks. Candy didn’t look like it, but she was surprisingly strong. Tartingill supposed that all residents of Trell City were probably a little stronger than the average, if only because the weaker element tended to die young.

Candy, though attractive, had not escaped the need for hard work, and spent her time repairing things. Whether it was a drill for the mines or the engine for a shuttle, she could fix it, or could learn how to. Very few things in Trell City required more than one person to operate or repair, because so many people had better things to do. As a result, Candy had quite a reputation as the best mechanic in town. Tartingill soon discovered that the prevailing opinion in the city seemed to be that Candy (or Candalyn Corana, as she hated to be called) had saved up quite a nest-egg, despite the modest apartment in which she lived.

The truth, as Tartingill could testify, was that Candy spent every last coin she had as soon as she got it, on booze, friends, stuffed toys, and perhaps a few minor drugs, which was no big deal as far as Trell City residents were concerned. The only reason that Candy was not in debt was that Crystal was usually around to bail her out or to talk some sense into her. From what Tartingill had seen, Crystal seemed to be all that kept Candy in one piece. He failed to see what Crystal got out of the deal, but didn’t want to risk asking.

Though Tartingill got along wonderfully with Candy, he still could not understand Crystal well enough to get close to her. Crystal was tough and smart, a real survivor. She seemed perfectly cut out for survival in Trell City. However, she just didn’t... fit. Crystal’s mind, though remarkably sharp and clever, never seemed to be on her surroundings. Tartingill hadn’t ever tried to spy on her exactly, but he couldn’t help but notice that she only ever seemed to be at peace when she was drawing or painting. The expressions of peace on her face during these times seemed odd, considering how they were mostly battle scenes.

“You ready to head out yet, Gill?” Crystal asked, silently descending the stairs.

Tartingill didn’t flinch; he was used to her quietness. “I suppose.” He sighed. “You know, now that it’s time to go, I’m not completely sure that I want to.”

Crystal came to a halt in front of him, one arm on her hip, the other hanging limply. “Not sure that you want to? I think maybe Candy’s hit you too hard, Gill. Nobody who wants to move to Trell City permanently is in his right mind.” She put a hand on his forehead. “Nope, no fever. You must just be nuts.” She gave him one of her rare smiles. “I’ll be waiting outside, Mystic. Don’t keep me waiting too long.” With that, she walked out the door.

Tartingill shook his head. “Why can’t she be more like you, Candy?” he asked the dark-haired woman still standing next to him. “You make me feel like a real friend instead of just a house-guest, while she can’t wait to get rid of me.”

Candy turned away to resume the search for her shoes. She was now wearing a neon blue outfit that left little to the imagination. No good for working on machines, but quite effective for making a last impression before Tartingill had to leave. He just hoped she wasn’t on the runway when the shuttle took off, or she might blind the pilot.

“I’ll tell you why she’s not like me. She’s afraid of her feelings.” Candy dropped to her hands and knees as she continued searching for the shoes under the stuffed toys which littered the floor. Tartingill squatted to help her. She continued, “She really likes you, Gill. If you ask her to visit you on Mysticia, I’m sure she’ll say yes.”

Tartingill shook his head. He glanced under the atrocious-looking couch. “Just admit you want to travel to another planet with her.”

Candy looked over at him. “Just admit you want her.” Tartingill rolled his eyes, but she would not be diverted. “Come on, Gill. She’s really good-looking. Besides, the money you make as a Tax Collector should impress her. She’s always stopping me from spending my own. Maybe if she has some, she’ll be happier.”

“I found them,” Tartingill called, deftly changing the subject as he reached one arm under the couch. Two blue high-heels were soon brought into the light, and Candy completed her ensemble, thanking Tartingill all the time. Candy took time only to quickly brush her hair, grab a blue purse, fasten a blue belt with a brass buckle, pull her tight blue top straight, and place some blue-tinted glasses over her green eyes, and she was ready to join Tartingill and Crystal, who already waited outside.


Time: 9:52 A.M.

The heels didn’t greatly hinder Candy, and she didn’t have any trouble keeping up with Crystal and Tartingill as they walked along the sidewalk. Occasionally, they’d pass a store which Candy hadn’t been able to bring Tartingill to in the short month he’d lived with them, but there was no time now for another tour. He’d just have to go to “Barry’s Massage Parlor” some other time. It was another five minutes’ walk to the shuttle-port, and though the shuttle was often late, Tartingill thought it would be better to make it there on time, by ten o’clock.

Eventually, though, they passed a gift shop (a new one, which hadn’t been vandalized very much yet), and Candy couldn’t resist running in to get Tartingill a parting gift. She insisted, though, that Tartingill and Crystal keep going, and that she’d catch up later. Perhaps she also meant to give them some “alone time,” but that was certainly not on the mind of either the Mystic or the bodyguard.

They walked along in silence for some time, until finally Tartingill’s own inner turmoil prevailed on him and he blurted out, “So, what do you think of the MysPol Chief?” He mentally berated himself for such bluntness, but the words were out, and there was nothing he could do about them.

“Why do you ask?” Crystal replied, not even glancing at him.

“Well, uh... He seemed like... He seemed like a brute, if you follow me.” He shrugged uncomfortably. “I just didn’t like the look of him.” He nearly missed a step, and threw out an “I-met-him-while-I-was-collecting-the-taxes,” thinking perhaps Crystal might be suspicious at his knowledge of the Chief.

Crystal seemed unaffected. “Well, I haven’t dealt with him too much. Whatever he’s like, why do you care? You’re leaving in five minutes anyway.”

Tartingill looked over at her, but he was to her right, and thus was faced by her glass eye. She couldn’t see how nervous he looked, but he thought that perhaps she could sense it anyway. “I’m just curious. It seems that with all the criminals who don’t like you very much, you’d meet with the Chief of MysPol at least once.”

Despite her own thievery, most criminals feared Crystal much more than the Police, both because she was able to catch them, and because she couldn’t be bribed. Crystal was the number one bounty hunter in Trell, when she wasn’t guarding people or working in the mines. Tartingill didn’t think that she got more than two hours of sleep a night, as busy as she was.

“I met him. A few times.” Crystal grimaced. “Didn’t like the smell of him.”

Tartingill blinked. “The smell?” He hadn’t noticed any particular body odor.

“The smell. You know. People say wolves can smell fear. I didn’t really smell him, of course, but there was something wrong about him.” Without slowing, she looked straight at him. “Maybe it was the fact that he’s one of the biggest crooks in the whole city. What do you think?”

Tartingill couldn’t keep an expression of surprise mixed with dismay from his face. “A criminal? The Chief? What do you mean?”

“I mean he’s involved in every Black Market in Trell City. I mean that he’d do anything for a profit. He just puts on a good show for the higher-ups of MysPol.” She placed a hand on his shoulder, and Tartingill nearly melted. “What’s wrong, Gill? You’re about to leave this hell-hole. What do you care about the Chief?”

Tartingill stared at her, her eye sharp and discerning. “You know, don’t you?” he groaned. “You followed me.” Crystal didn’t respond, but she didn’t need to. Her expression said it all. Tartingill sighed, and his shoulders sagged. “I... I couldn’t let you go on stealing Adamantine. It just wasn’t right. I owe you my life, and I’ll remember you all my life... but I couldn’t let you keep such a valuable metal at the expense of the Empire. You understand, don’t you?”

Crystal didn’t respond to the affirmative or negative, instead asking “What time will he arrest me?”

“He’s probably waiting around your home already. But he said he’d wait until I was gone before he started the raid. He probably wanted to make sure I wasn’t around to see him pocket the Adamantine.” He closed his eyes. “I’m... so... sorry, Crystal. If only I’d known...”

“What?” asked Crystal, still quite calm. “Would you have let me keep it, knowing what you did?”

Tartingill opened his eyes and stopped. Crystal stopped with him. Tartingill stared sadly at her hand on his shoulder, not quite a gesture of friendship, but perhaps of... understanding. “No... No, I could never have done that.” He looked up at Crystal. “Will you... come with me? You and Candy? I don’t want either of you to rot away in a prison.”

Crystal patted the Mystic’s shoulder. “I’ve got to protect my property, Gill.” She gave him a little push, forward. “Go catch your shuttle.”

Tartingill looked back at her for a moment and then, holding his battered, tamper-proof briefcase across his chest, started jogging toward the Port.


Time: 9:58 A.M.

Crystal met Candy right outside the gift shop, just as the mechanic was coming out with a bag full of cheap mementoes. “I’m sorry I took so long,” Candy said as soon as she saw her roommate, “but I couldn’t decide what to buy.” She looked past Crystal. “Is Gill gone already? I wanted to give him a snow-globe!”

“Some other time, Can,” Crystal replied. She was too busy planning how to keep what was hers to really sympathize with her roommate. “Right now, we’ve got problems. That damned Mystic just told me he turned us in.”

Candy dropped her bag. She was too surprised to hear glass shatter. “What? But I’ve been clean for a week! I haven’t even had any hard liquor.”

Crystal shook her head. “Not that. My collection. The Chief might be in the place already.”

Candy looked as if she couldn’t believe it. “That son of a bitch! The Chief, not Gill. Well, Gill, too.” She looked up at Crystal. “Crys, how could you let him find out?”

Crystal shook her head. “I don’t know.” And that irked her. Was she losing her touch? “It’s not important. What’s important is getting back home. I’ve got a few things I don’t intend to leave behind. You coming with me?”

Candy was pensive. “Why don’t we just leave? Catch a shuttle?”

“We will,” Crystal assured her. “But not yet. I’m going back.” Without wasting further time, she turned and ran off across the street.

“Don’t be stupid!” Candy yelled, but Crystal didn’t even slow. Candy stared after her friend for a moment before finally lifting one leg and pulling off her high-heel, then the other. She placed them carefully together on the sidewalk even though she knew they’d be stolen, and set off running.

In ten minutes, the shoes were gone.

Twenty minutes after that came the ship.


Asellan Solar-System. Mysticia. Facinaturu

Time: 3:37 P.M., Facinaturu Mean Time

By the time they were at the prison’s exit, Thyme was able to walk on his own, with only a little wobbling. The whole time that he and his rescuer had walked the prison’s halls, Thyme had seen no living guards. He’d seen plenty of bodies, of course, most with burnt holes through them. Thyme was pretty sure that energy weapons were restricted to Mystic use these days, but he didn’t bother asking how this man had gotten one. Probably by killing a Mystic.

The courtyard around the prison was fenced in on all sides, without a gate anywhere. After all, if the prisoners needed to be taken somewhere, a car could fly in over the fence easily enough. Flying cars also resulted in heavy air defenses for the prison, in case of an aerial attack (unlikely, but possible). What the designers of the prison apparently hadn’t counted on was one man with a gun and no mercy. And a damn impressive knowledge of the prison layout. The man hadn’t missed a turn as he led Thyme to freedom.

Thyme’s savior led him to a nondescript car, sitting in the parking lot. The design was completely foreign to Thyme, of course. He had read about the development of the flying car over the last century, but he had never seen one personally. The car had no wheels, of course; it just sat on the dark plastic which made up the parking lot. From what Thyme had read, the car did not use rockets. It used “Etherite,” a strange rock found on Mysticia and several other planets.

Etherite was red, strong, and reacted to energy in strange ways. For instance, exposing it to lasers of different colors resulted in different reactions, many of which duplicated spells. For instance, one laser might cause the air around the rock to heat it incredible temperatures, while another laser might cause the rock to generate electricity. One color, it was discovered, changed the nature of gravity near the Etherite. It was soon discovered that, depending on the angle and intensity of the laser, gravity in an area around the Etherite could be lessened, or even change in direction.

Thus the AGAC (Anti-Gravity Air Car) was born. All that was needed was a small piece of Etherite and a battery-powered laser, and a hunk of metal could float through the air. The Etherite was not used up in the process, and the battery could be recharged easily. It was an important discovery, which led to improved space travel, and to the renewed interest in Etherite.

All of this ran through Thyme’s head as he tried to convince himself that it was safe. Thyme had never been fond of heights, and the rocket-powered jets of his own time had always made him uneasy. His rescuer, however, had no qualms about getting into the little two-seater, and Thyme decided to get into the passenger seat, on the left side.

As the car lifted into the air, Thyme’s heart lifted with it. He was finally free. The question remained, though: Why was he being rescued now, of all times? Who was this man who had rescued him? How had he gotten his information?

Thyme relayed some of these questions to the man in black, who in turn responded quietly without taking his eyes from the windshield before him as he piloted the craft. “You may call me Thanatos, if you wish,” he answered. “My reasons for helping you are my own. I need you.”

Thyme frowned, staring at the man. Eventually, he sighed, and slumped back in his seat. “Where are we going?” he asked.

“We are presently heading toward Chateau Aiguille,” the man responded.

Surprised, Thyme abruptly sat upright. “Chateau Aiguille!” he exclaimed. “My sister’s there!”

“Indeed.” Thyme couldn’t tell if the single word had been a question or a statement, whether the man had known about Rose or not, but the man’s expression didn’t alter a whit. “You may... rescue her. However, if she does not cooperate, we must go on without her.”

Thyme’s frown returned. Cooperate? Why wouldn’t Rose cooperate?


Time: 4:09 P.M.

Chateau Aiguille was rather unique as a palace. In the centuries since it was first grown (for it was more like a tree than a structure) it had changed very little, which meant that it was rather sparsely defended, at least to the naked eye. There was really only a gate to bar progress, and that was kept open while Facinaturu was uninhabited, as it was now. This was because there was nothing of real interest on the bottom floor of Chateau Aiguille worth stealing. Everything of importance was moved either to the Tower of Magic, the Tower of Science, or to Chateau Aiguille’s upper floors, which had their own special defenses.

The winding path leading to the palace ended at the gate, which was iron-wrought, and decorated with many flourishes and concentric circles. The gate itself opened upon a reception room, which was itself nicely enough decorated, if you cared for pre-Asellus Mystic art, which tended toward the dark and slightly warped. The palace’s decoration, along with her own wander-lust, was the reason that Lady Asellus rarely deigned to spend time at Chateau Aiguille. She had many smaller palaces on other worlds, and the ship in which she traveled was usually good enough for her.

The result was that Thanatos and Thyme walked into the empty reception room of Facinaturu, not bothered by any guards at all. It had halls on the left and the right, and stairs straight ahead leading to the courtroom. Nobody, however, was stupid enough to climb those stairs without clearance. Chateau Aiguille was not defenseless. Thankfully, though, it did nothing itself to hinder passage to either of the two Towers.

“Go left,” Thanatos commanded. “You will find the entrance to the Tower of Magic. You will know what to do. Once you have found your sister, bring her back here and wait for me.” He turned and walked off.

“Wait!” called Thyme. “I can’t get into the Tower of Magic!” But Thanatos was already gone. Thyme sighed and decided to follow directions, and do as his strange savior said. It wasn’t as if he had anything better to do.


Time: 4:16 P.M.

The door leading to the Tower of Magic was large and daunting. The camera mounted above the door seemed to stare right at him, but he didn’t notice any signs of discovery. Presumably, whoever was watching didn’t think they had to worry about him. Thyme was still worried. “You’ll know what to do,” he mimicked Thanatos’ dead tone. “Bah.”

The door itself was pretty simple and featureless, except for on object prominently placed at shoulder-level. It was a slight indentation in the door in the shape of a hand. Lost for alternatives, Thyme placed his hand in the indentation. It glowed slightly, and a voice said, “Greetings. Your genetic code is acceptably similar to that of Princess #52. Are you a relative?”

Thyme blinked. Of course! He should have known. “Yes,” he replied, “I am a relative, and wish to visit Ros... Princess #52.”

“Checking... Thyme Oregano. There is no record of you causing a disruption to the Princesses. You may enter.” Thyme could only marvel that nobody had ever thought to bar him from the Tower. He was delighted to have proven wrong the assumption that he couldn’t escape from the prison, even if he had needed help. Proving people wrong was a pastime that he enjoyed very much, no matter the circumstances.

The door split right down the center, and the two halves slid into the walls. Thyme stepped in through the opening, and looked around him. There was a light directly overhead, but all other lights were off. He could make out that he was in a corridor, but nothing else.

He flinched as a light suddenly turned on to his left. It was a gentle light, but he was a little too nervous at present to take such things for granted. The light was a small glowing arrow embedded in the floor, pointing down a dark corridor to his left. A calm, friendly voice announced that he should follow the arrows, so that he wouldn’t get lost. Thyme shrugged, and did as he was told, flinching as he heard the door shut again behind him.

As he walked down the corridor, no light turned on except other arrows on the floor. Sometimes he saw other arrows, pointing off into corridors or rooms branching off to one side or the other, but they were unlit, so he let them be. No sense getting his head blown off for curiosity’s sake.

He managed not to flinch as the dim light began to illuminate disturbingly coffin-like containers, all with a number on them. It didn’t take much intelligence to realize that these were the Princesses. The numbers didn’t seem to be in any particular order that Thyme could see. Perhaps all of the Princesses in a section were physically similar, but the containers were all opaque, and didn’t allow him to see the occupants.

A mild spotlight shining on one such container informed him that he had reached his destination, and he made haste toward it. He came to a stop before it, but noticed nothing different about it from the others, other than that it had the number fifty-two engraved on the surface. Just like the entrance to the Tower, there was a hand-shaped indentation, and Thyme didn’t hesitate to place his hand in it this time.

Thyme had vaguely expected the container to be like his cryo-stasis chamber in the prison, but he was a little disappointed. The hand-print ID glowed a bit, and the surface of the container split down the middle and slid to the sides, revealing Rose.

Rosemary Oregano looked almost exactly the same as she had when he’d last seen her, centuries ago. Her blonde hair was still drawn into two short pig-tails. Her face was still soft and a bit round, her lips full, her nose small and thin. She was average weight, and of dainty build, so that she looked unsuitable for anything like manual labor. He knew, however, that she’d throw herself into a job just as quickly as he would, and never tired of rubbing in that she was a year older. He smiled. Who was older now, he wondered?

The only differences he noticed were her skin and clothing. Her skin now had a slight bluish tinge to it. Nothing big, just a little bit. Still, that little bit disturbed him. Her clothing was a white dress, so gauzy as to look more like a night-gown than anything. It didn’t take him long to realize that it was a night-gown. She was sleeping. So he did what any loving brother would do. He pinched her nose.

Rose woke up coughing and snorting, trying to catch her breath. She squinted at the sudden intrusion of light into her sleep and looked for her visitor. All she saw was a vague shadow from her vantage point, so she groggily mumbled “Who’s there?”

“Get up,” Thyme replied, chuckling. “You’ve overslept.”

She still couldn’t see him very well, but she didn’t need to. “Thyme!” she cried happily, sitting up to hug him by the neck. Thyme hugged her back, but he couldn’t match her apparent joy. Thyme was happy, but Rose was actually crying. “How did you get here?” she asked breathlessly, holding him at arm’s length so that she could get a decent look at him. “And what happened to you?”

Thyme smiled. “Long story. I’ll tell you, as soon as we get out of here.”

Rose’s happiness faltered a bit. “Get out? You mean, leave?” She released him from her hug. “I can’t leave.”

Thyme’s smile vanished as well. “What do you mean? Don’t you want to leave?”

Rose seemed unable to answer. “I... I...”

Thyme took hold of her shoulders and shook her gently. “Rose, do you know where you are? You’re in a prison. Believe me, I should know. You’ll be here forever, if you don’t come with me now.” She remained unconvinced. “You want to stay here? To serve Asellus?”

Rose stared down at her hands, now on her lap. “I... I want to leave. But... my Lady... Asellus... I ... can’t leave her. She won’t let me.”

“She’s not around, Rose. Now’s your chance. Come on.” She wouldn’t meet his eyes. “Rose, you know how I’ve always trusted your judgement?” She looked up. “Well, now you’ve got to trust me.”

She stared at him for a moment, and it was then that he realized that her eyes were no longer blue, but orange. Yet another sign of the strange changes wrought by Asellus, changes which he didn’t understand. But he would. He’d free her from these changes, if he could, and he’d keep it from happening ever again.

Rose smiled, suddenly. “Of course I’m going with you, Thyme,” she said. “You’d just get in trouble without me.”

Thyme smiled back. “Too true.”

With a hand from Thyme, Rose managed to climb out of the container. Free of her presence, the lid slid closed again. An arrow lit up on the floor, pointing back toward the direction Thyme had come from. Holding hands, they walked quietly through the corridor, not wanting to be heard. It was this very silence that enabled them to hear the faint sound of quiet, subdued weeping. They both glanced at each other in surprise, but it was obviously coming from a corridor off to their left. They stopped.

Thyme knew that they couldn’t afford to waste time. Every moment they were here made it more likely that they would be caught. Thanatos might be able to fend for himself, but if he was captured, Thyme and Rose were screwed. Thyme was prepared to die rather than return to that prison. He looked at Rose again. He knew what she was thinking. And he agreed.

Silently, they both turned toward the left. No arrows on the floor lit up here, but they didn’t need any; one room with the door open, near the end of the short hall, was lit. As they approached, the sound of sadness became clearer and clearer. Finally, they came to the door and looked in.

There was a Mystic guard sitting in a chair, but his back was to the two siblings in the doorway. Sitting in another chair, opposite the guard, was a smaller figure. He was yellowish, hairless, and strapped to his chair, wearing only a pair of shorts. Electrodes were stuck on various places on his back, chest, and head, but whether to observe or to shock was unclear. He looked to be about as big as a Human teenager, though much more muscular than average, and not even close to the coloring necessary to be Human. His face was sharp, coming to a point in the nose, and so were his ears. His bald yellow head shone in the harsh light from the ceiling.

Slowly, the figure quieted. He looked up, his eyes irritated and red, and saw Rose and Thyme. He stared at them for a moment, incredulously. “Thyme?” he whispered.

The Mystic guard snorted suddenly and stirred, though from the whisper or some internal clock was unclear. He looked around groggily. He glanced at the short figure once to check his restraints, apparently ignoring the glare of resentment from the large eyes. He glanced at his watch, shrugged, and stood up. In the silence, the sound of Thyme’s fist on the back of his neck was very loud, and so was the sharp smack of the Mystic’s forehead hitting the floor. The guard did not rise.

“Masan!” Rose exclaimed, kneeling before the small figure. She began to undo one of the straps. “What are you doing here?” Thyme was likewise surprised. As a child, Masan had played a vital part in the rebellions during Asellus’ ascension to power. Thyme, Masan and Rose had been a dream team of sorts, and Thyme wasn’t sure that he trusted their seemingly coincidental reunion.

“I could ask the same,” Masan answered, his voice somewhat hoarse. “I haven’t seen you guys since we were all caught. I thought you two were dead.” He squinted as he got a second look at each of them. “What happened to you two?”

Rose and Thyme glanced at eachother. Neither of them looked much like they once had. Thyme shrugged as he pulled an electrode from Masan’s chest. “Long story. But we’ll have plenty of time to talk about it later.”

With the siblings’ help, Masan stood erect. He looked exhausted, but he could stand. “Yeah. Okay. But how did you know I was here? I thought my visits every year to this tower were top secret.”

Thyme frowned. “Actually, we had no idea. I was here for Rose. Why are you here?”

Masan glanced at Rose. “Rose? What was she doing here in the first place? And how did you get in?”

“Guys, we can go over this later,” Rose interjected. “If we’re going to... leave, we’d better go before anyone realizes this guard hasn’t reported in.”

Just as they had three centuries earlier, the two deferred to her judgment, and the three rebels quietly fled the room. They weren’t around when the guard awoke, and fumbled for his radio.


Time: 4:42 P.M.

“So, where’s this ‘Thanatos’ guy?” Masan asked. “Is he coming?”

Thyme frowned as he paced across the floor of the palace’s reception room. He was grumbling to himself and counting the minutes. Every second that passed was more likely to bring people who would be none too pleased to find the three of them here. “I don’t know,” he replied, irritably. “He just told me to wait here.”

“You still haven’t told us why he broke you out of prison, Thyme,” Rose said as she waited in a comfortable-looking chair. She wasn’t as obviously irritable or as nervous as the other two, but the tapping of her foot was a dead giveaway.

“I don’t know, Rose,” Thyme answered. “I wish I did.”

“I still can’t believe this,” Masan said, shaking his head. “Thyme’s been in a cryo-prison, Rose has been in Chateau Aiguille the whole time, and I’ve slept away the centuries in cryo-stasis in the Tower of Magic itself. They only let me out once a year so they could, like, study me. What are the chances that all three of us would meet here?”

Thyme lifted his hands in a gesture of ignorance. “I admit, it’s pretty weird. I mean, I knew that Rose was in the Tower because Thanatos told me, but how did he know? And how did he know I’d be able to get in so easily? Did he know that Masan would be there, too?”

“No, I did not,” Thanatos answered. Rose jumped out of her chair, and Masan and Thyme spun around in surprise, only to see the black-clad man simply standing still as if he’d been waiting there all day. He was waiting at the mouth of the hall opposite the hall leading to the Tower of Magic. “However, it is good that you managed to find him. I did not expect to see you again, Finori.”

Masan blinked. “Finori? You must be thinking of someone else. My name’s Masan.”

“Very well, Masan,” Thanatos replied. “Your powers will be useful, if you can remember how to use them.” The man turned back down the hall, and began to walk away. “Now is the time. Come along. We must hurry to the Tower of Science.”


Time: 4:46 P.M.

Rakin carefully stepped over another body, trying not to look at the hole burnt through the chest. The corpse had once been a very attractive female Mystic, and the expression of horror on her face, combined with the smell of burnt flesh, turned Rakin’s stomach. Whoever had done this, Rakin thought, would pay.

Suddenly he put a finger to his ear, trying to listen closely to the receiver. When the report was done, he called up Zade, elsewhere in the prison, looking for survivors. “You get that?” he asked.

I got it,” she responded. ”You think it’s related?

“It would almost have to be,” Rakin replied. “We done here?”

Almost. Let me just... oh, shit. Okay, Ransom, get to the Blackbird. I’ll meet you there.

“What’s up?” Rakin asked, turning and jogging toward the exit even as he spoke. “You found out who’s missing?”

Possibly the single most dangerous man to the Empire that we know of. Thyme Oregano.

Rakin nodded thoughtfully. “Let me guess. Rosemary Oregano, the missing Princess, is a relative of his?”

Maybe you’ll make a good Agent after all, Ransom. Maybe.

“Rebel, Agent, Soldier... Whatever. The important thing is that you fight for what you believe in.”

Chapter 4

Cain's Fanfiction