StarCrossed Chapter 4


By Cain

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

Year: 323 A.A. Month: 5. Day: 16. Time: 4:48 P.M., Facinaturu Mean Time

“Checking,” said the disembodied voice. “Rosemary Oregano. You have Level Three clearance within the Tower. You may enter.”

Rose stepped back from the hand-scanner, allowing the door to quietly slide out of their way. The hall before them seemed safe enough, Thyme thought; no alarms sounded; no guards rushed at them; no hidden devices blasted them into atoms. Though he didn’t like the idea of walking right into the Tower of Science, Thyme had to admit that Thanatos, thus far, had never been wrong. That in mind, he decided to follow the strange man.

Thanatos led the way into the Tower without hesitation, not even glancing back to see if his companions were following. Thyme, Rose, and Masan followed, glancing around warily at their surroundings. Where the Tower of Magic had been ominous and almost threatening, as if specifically warning visitors to mind their own business, the Tower of Science was cold and impersonal, as if it simply didn’t consider any intruders a threat. It was all gleaming steel and sharp corners. There weren’t even any visible defense measures, though Thyme didn’t doubt there were a few carefully hidden cameras and mounted guns. He began to develop an itch between his shoulder-blades, thinking about all those hidden devices aimed at him.

“We have, of course, been seen,” Thanatos announced abruptly, as if reading Thyme’s mind. “However, all systems are automated, and will not suspect anything unless we break something or attempt to enter an area to which we have no clearance.”

“How do you know this?” Masan asked as they followed Thanatos around a corner. Thanatos had yet to hesitate at any turn or door, as if he had been in the Tower before. “I mean, you knew where Thyme was, and how to get him out. You knew where Rose was, and that she could get us in here. You know your way around pretty well. The only thing you didn’t seem to know was that I was in the Tower of Magic.”

“There are many things which I do not know,” Thanatos answered, calmly. “However, I do know how to enable us to escape from this Tower and, indeed, this planet. If you wish to accompany us, Finori, I suggest that you do not persist in questioning my source of information.”

Masan scowled. “Okay, okay, I get the point. But what’s all this ‘Finori’ stuff? Is that what I am? What planet are the Finori from?”

“You do not know,” Thanatos said, more a statement than a question. “You have forgotten all that you were. This can be remedied. As time passes, you will remember everything, including me.”

“Hold up,” said Thyme. “You mean you knew Masan? How’s that possible? I met him three-hundred years ago. Have you been in cryostasis, too?”

“Where am I from?” Masan asked, his curiosity piqued. “Do the... Finori live in the Empire? Or are they from the Dominion? Can we use Magic?”

Thanatos slowed for a moment. “You have forgotten how to use Ether?” At Masan’s reply to the affirmative, Thanatos shook his head and continued walking. “That is a shame. You would have been of great use if you had not. As it stands, we shall see how much use you are.”

“Masan’s a great fighter,” Rose replied sharply, unappreciative of Thanatos’ dismissal. “I’ve seen him knock out five men in two seconds. And that was when he was younger. Now that he’s grown a little, he should be even stronger. I’ll bet you could break through a brick wall with your bare hands, Masan.”

Masan shrugged self-consciously. “I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to work out in three hundred years. They let me out for a few days every year, but they just fed me some sort of, like, protein-snot-gruel and froze me again. Not exactly great for muscle-building, you know?”

Thanatos ignored their friendly discussion, never looking back and never stopping. He never made a wrong turn, either.


Time: 4:52 P.M.

“Any luck?” Zade asked.

Rakin was standing silently, staring at a coffin-like container marked “52.” “What,” he asked Zade, “is the purpose of keeping all these bodies here? Are they used for experiments?”

“These aren’t bodies,” Zade replied, as if he was a complete idiot for asking. “They’re Princesses.” This statement made no impression on Rakin, so she continued, “The Princesses are like servants for Lady Asellus. Like maids and a personal guard all in one.”

Rakin nodded, thoughtfully. “And they’re all Mystic?”

“Of course not. Any woman is a candidate for the Hunt for the Princess. Most are Human, in fact, though I don’t know why.” She shook her head. “What planet are you from, anyway? Don’t you know anything?”

Rakin shrugged. “I just moved here from Ventosus,” he said, and deftly changed the subject, continuing, “None of these women are human. They’re all Mystic.”

Zade shook her head. “That can’t be. Humans comprise most of the Princesses. The Humans can’t all be off with Asellus at once. You must be wrong.”

“You can check each container if you want to,” Rakin replied. “They’re all Mystic. Or, at least they’re not Human. Either not as many Humans are chosen as people think, or...” He glanced at Zade. “Can you think of a good ‘or’?”

Zade’s habitual scowl deepened. “I can think of an ‘or,’ but it’s not a good one.” She shook her head as if to dispel the idea. “Anyway, what’s your sudden interest in the Princesses?”

Rakin shrugged, flashing a self-conscious smile. “Just wondering what connection Thyme Oregano could have to this ‘Rosemary.’ Is she a great-great-granddaughter?”

Zade shook her head, leaning against the coffin-like container. She absently stroked the T-Blade sheath on her arm. “No... History says that he never had children. However, he did have a...” Her scowl deepened even further. “A sister. Her name was Rose.”

Rakin frowned slightly, and leaned on the container’s other side. “Well, this Princess can’t be his sister, unless... Are the Princesses cryogenically frozen?”

Zade shook her head again. “Of course not. Cryogenics has too many side-effects. Any other possibilities?”

Rakin sensed that Zade was hiding something from him, but he let it slide. He’d know sooner or later, whether she told him or not. Besides, he reflected as he stared at his hand, wrinkle-free after seventy-six years on an alien planet, he had secrets of his own. He was apparently immortal; could the same thing have been done to this “Rosemary”? Was this woman a clue leading to one of his friends?

Rakin realized abruptly that he was muttering to himself. He stopped before any of the words became truly audible. He glanced at Zade, but she didn’t appear to notice anything he had said. “Okay,” he said abruptly, catching her attention. “Regardless of their affiliation, why would Thyme come to this woman? And why would she go with him? I don’t know much about Princesses, but aren’t they loyal to Asellus?”

“Without fail,” Zade replied. “I’ve never heard of a Princess running away. On the other hand, Thyme was supposed to be a hell of a negotiator. It’s said he could talk his way out of a police barricade.”

Rakin was impressed, but decided he’d really believe that when he saw it. “Alright, that may be, but it still doesn’t explain why he broke out of prison only to come here and leave clues to his whereabouts.” He frowned. “Maybe... Maybe he needed her.”

Zade raised an eyebrow, and leaned toward Rakin over the container, rolling her eyes. “Ransom, what in the Empire would he need a Princess for? I’m not even sure what Asellus uses them for.”

Rakin began to nod, but his head wobbled to a halt as he looked down at the container. Zade was leaning on it, her hand partially covering up the hand-shaped indentation on the container’s lid. Rakin pointed at the lid. “Those hand-scanner things,” he whispered. “Where else are they used? Who can use them?”

Zade looked down. “The hand-scanners? Oh, lots of places. There are lots of them in the Tower of Magic. But they’ve already searched the whole Tower.” She paused, and looked back up at him. “They’ve searched this Tower. The Tower of Science uses these, too. And Princesses should be able to open any door in the two Towers.”

Rakin smiled. “Let’s go.”


Time: 5:05 P.M.

The four intruders almost fell out of the tiny elevator that they’d crammed themselves into as the door opened. Once they had sufficiently recovered themselves, they were able to get a better look at their surroundings. Thyme, for one, was impressed, and did not feel embarrassed when his jaw dropped.

They had stepped out of a cramped elevator into a hangar. Literally. It was huge; far too large to fit inside the Tower of Science. It was filled with machines: large, small, humanoid, craft-like, and some that were unfathomable. Thyme couldn’t see the walls, or the ceiling. “How... how...?” was as far as he was able to get.

“It is an extradimensional space,” Thanatos answered. “This hangar is, you could say, a pocket in what lies beyond space as we know it. In our universe, the only space it takes up is the portal through which it can be entered.” He pointed back at the elevator behind them, but it had been replaced by a faintly glowing door.

“So... what’s on the thirty-second floor in our universe?” Masan asked, fascinated.

“The machinery used to keep the connection to this space open. This requires an entire floor of complex machinery to maintain.” Thanatos began to walk off, gesturing for the others to follow him. They did so.

As before, Thanatos led the way without hesitation. He didn’t even glance at the many strange devices littering the hangar, from thirty-foot high ships to disturbing masses of mangled and twisted metal. Some things glowed, some things whined, and Thyme was certain that one moved whenever he wasn’t looking. Many of the devices were obviously robots, with adaptations ranging from treads to guns to feather dusters. However, nothing was incomplete. This hangar seemed to be more like a showcase of inventions, not the place where they were actually constructed. Some of them had a fine sheen of dust.

Thyme was so preoccupied with these many strange and wonderful devices that he didn’t even notice that they had come to one of the hangar’s walls until he bumped into Rose. They were standing before a door now, and Rose’s hand was again used to open it. They stepped into another hangar, this one much the same size as the former. However, this new hangar had no plethora of strange machines. It had only three. They were ships, lined up side by side in front of the four burglars.

The first was, quite simply, big. Very big. Thyme had never been very good at measurement, but it looked able to hold in excess of a hundred crew members. It virtually bristled with weapons, none of which Thyme recognized. He’d been out of circulation for too long. The ship was shaped roughly like a disc, cut in half so that the back end was flat. It was balanced on three very thick legs, keeping it twenty feet in the air. Every place that didn’t have a weapon or something sticking out was covered by a strange, silvery metal, presumably armor. The cockpit window, located on the front along the edge of the disc shape, was strangely tinted, so he couldn’t see inside. Tinted portholes peeked out between armor. Thyme couldn’t tell exactly how to get into the thing, but he imagined there must be an entrance in the bottom. Stenciled on the side was the word Universe.

The second was much, much smaller. It looked as if it could hold twenty people, if they crowded together. This ship was almond-shaped, with no sharp edges anywhere. Its only weapons were two odd-looking cannons. The ship was almost covered with dark panels, making the entire ship almost black, except where some grey showed through. Thyme saw no windows at all, not even for the cockpit. He couldn’t help wondering how the crew saw outside. Strangely, the ship had no legs; it floated a good ten feet above the floor, but Thyme heard no engines. This ship’s name appeared to be Infinity.

The last ship was considerably less impressive than its companions. If someone had placed an eighty-foot tall cone down, sliced it in half down the center, and then knocked it over so that it lay flat, Thyme imagined it would look much like this ship. It looked as if it had been put together in a hurry, from different sources, mostly steel. It should have been air-tight, but Thyme wouldn’t have bet on it. Three legs kept it two feet from the ground, allowing easy access to the oval-shaped doorway halfway along the left side. A window, curved around the rising surface of the ship behind it, showed the cockpit, a jumble of wires and bulky machinery. Three cannons peeked out from the flat bottom of the ship, though they looked out of date. No rockets were immediately obvious; on the semi-circular back of the ship, there was only a coil of some clear, glass-like tubing which held what looked like a blue, viscous, glowing liquid. This ship was named Endless.

“What a piece of junk,” Masan noted.

It may have been that, but Thanatos walked right by the first two. He stopped before the door of the Endless, pressing a button on a panel to the right of the door. The door slid open with a hiss as of air rushing into the ship, swinging away to reveal a dark airlock. Thanatos stepped in and, after allowing Thyme, Rose, and Masan to pass him, closed the door, bathing them in darkness. The man brought a flashlight out of his cloak, and pushed through his companions to the other door.

As Thanatos fiddled with a panel, trying to gain access to the ship by the light of the flashlight, Masan spoke up. “So, are we, like, stealing this ship?”

“I’d say that’s pretty obvious,” Thyme replied dryly. He grinned, though nobody could see it in the dark. “We’re getting another chance to stick it to Asellus.”

“Which is a good thing,” Rose said, though whether she was agreeing or trying to convince herself was unclear. Thyme couldn’t help worrying about his sister. When during the centuries of his sleep had she come to like Asellus? Was it related to her slightly bluish skin, and orange eyes?

“Of course,” Masan agreed, not noticing her hesitation. “But I’m wondering why we’re stealing this ship. And how.”

Thanatos did not volunteer any information, but continued pressing keys until the door slid open with a hiss. That done, he stepped through, turning to the left. Following, Thyme had trouble making out his surroundings; he could tell that they were in a hall, wide enough for him and Rose to walk side by side. His head almost brushed the hall’s roof. Apparently, nobody had bothered to make walls or a ceiling for the hall; only the floor was not a mass of wires and pipes.

There had been a utilitarian door on the opposite side of the hall from the airlock. Twenty feet away from it, they came to two more doors, one on each side. Twenty feet after that, they had come to the end of the hall: a door on either side, and one directly ahead, simply marked “Cockpit.” Again, Thanatos had to fiddle with a control panel to the right of the door, but they were finally allowed in. Again, there were no lights on. The cockpit was decidedly cramped; Thanatos and Thyme fit in, but the other two had to wait outside.

With uncanny precision, Thanatos knelt, and pried a panel from the controls before him. He reached in, fiddled around for a moment, and abruptly the controls lit up. One after another, systems warmed up with a pleasant hum. Lights turned on, first in the cockpit, then the lamps embedded in the ceiling of the hall. The ship was still a piece of junk, but at least now it actually worked.

“Please identify yourselves,” a voice said from several directions at once, and Thyme jumped. Thanatos had not, but Rose and Masan were trying a little too hard to look unsurprised. As he looked around, though, Thyme saw the speakers, all embedded in the walls. The voice, now that he thought about it, was emotionless, like all computerized voices.

Thyme looked to Thanatos to see if the man had thought of false names for them. If the ship decided they were not authorized to pilot it, they could be caught very quickly. Thanatos, however, remained silent. Thyme rolled his eyes, trying to think of a plausible lie.

“Captain Thyme,” the voice said, with some semblance of surprise. “You are alive.”

Thyme blinked, shocked. It couldn’t be... It just couldn’t. “T... T-260? Is that you?”

“Affirmative,” the voice replied.

Thyme was struck speechless. Centuries ago, when he had lived in the appropriately-named town of Junk, his uncle had built a Mec from spare parts, and a core Thyme had found in the scrap yard. The core had turned out to be a ship’s computer, and had adopted Thyme as its captain. T-260 had been an invaluable ally in the rebellion against Asellus. And, apparently, it had become a ship’s computer once again.

“T-260!” Rose exclaimed. “It’s me, Rose! And this is Masan. He’s grown.”

“Greetings, Rosemary and Masan. You were unexpected as well. May I inquire as to the identity of this fourth person?”

Thyme was too excited to answer for a moment. “How can you still be alive, T-260? I thought you were destroyed when our bunker was invaded. I could’ve sworn you were blown up by that...” He paused, and looked at Thanatos, who patiently looked back at him. Thyme shook his head slightly, as if in disbelief. “Is this it? Is this why you rescued me?” He gestured at the cockpit around him. “So you could steal a ship?”

Thanatos simply nodded. “Of course. The computer would certainly not have allowed this ship to be stolen by anyone, except perhaps by you. When I discovered that this ancient core, which was perfectly suitable for navigation, had been taken from the museum, I knew that a new type of ship must have been in development. From there, it took little work to discover the nature of the ship.

“I had to take a gamble,” he continued, “that this computer had not been re-programmed, and thus was still loyal to you. Since it has yet to turn us in, its loyalty is apparently still intact.”

Thyme glanced around nervously. “T-260... Are you loyal? Are you going to turn us in?”

In the oppressive cockpit, the computer’s silence was ominous. Finally, though, the voice sounded out, clear and emotionless as always. “Yes, Captain Thyme, I am loyal. The programs downloaded into my database to ensure obedience are not as powerful as my core programming. I am able to override them for your sake.”

“How did you know all this?” Masan asked Thanatos abruptly. “Where’d you get your information?”

“And how’d you get that gun of yours? Aren’t they illegal for citizens?” Thyme added. He’d been bubbling over with questions, and now seemed the perfect time to ask. “How did you know where I was imprisoned? That was top secret.”

Surprisingly, Thanatos reacted to the questions. His mouth tightened. “These matters,” he said, his voice finally expressing irritation, “are none of your concern. You should concern yourselves with escaping. Do not worry that I left behind any witnesses. Nobody knows what we are planning. You must trust me.”

Thyme’s jaw clenched. Behind him, he could hear Masan gasp. “How many innocent people did you kill to rescue me? To steal this ship?” Enraged, he grabbed the man in black by the collar. Thanatos didn’t bother fighting back as Thyme slammed him against one wall. “How much blood is on your hands?”

Thanatos didn’t blink. His emotionless eyes and dead voice returned. “More have died by my hand than you could ever imagine. But none of them... no, not one of them was innocent.” Suddenly, the man smiled, though his eyes never changed. “Where is your sister?”

Thyme whirled around, dropping the delicate-looking man. He saw Masan, looking as surprised as he himself, but Rose was nowhere to be seen.”

“T!” Thyme roared, addressing the computer. “Where’s Rose!?”

“Rosemary has left the ship, Captain Thyme,” T-260 answered. “She appeared agitated.” A sudden beep, coming from somewhere in the cabin, interrupted. “Captain, sensors are detecting two life-forms approaching the ship.”

“Show me!” Thyme commanded, and a small hologram abruptly appeared above the control panel. The hologram was vague, just showing two red humanoid figures, but they were coming into focus, probably because they were getting closer. Any moment, they would walk around the Infinity and see that there were people in the Endless’ cockpit. Perhaps the cockpit window could be opaqued, but Thyme didn’t know how and didn’t care to waste time finding out. He had to get Rose back on the ship, and then they had to get out of there... somehow.

Thyme’s hopes were dashed as Rose appeared through the window, running away from the ship. She stopped, and stared at something blocked from Thyme’s view by the Infinity beside them. Probably the two newcomers. She shouted something, though Thyme couldn’t tell what without any sound. Then she turned toward the Endless, toward Thyme. She looked right at him, through the cockpit window. He couldn’t hear her, but he knew what she said anyway.

Go, Thyme! Now!

Then she threw herself out of his field of vision, and a bright flash cast strange shadows against the Infinity. Thyme wanted to cry, but he had no time.

“T!” he yelled, “Get out of here, now!”

“But we can’t leave Rose here!” Masan pleaded, pushing into the cockpit.

Thyme only spared a moment to look down at his shorter friend. “Rose is dead, Masan, or close to it. We’ve got to go. Let’s go, T.”

“To what destination, Captain Thyme?” T-260 asked calmly.

“To Terrenus VII,” Thanatos said firmly. “I have... friends there.”

Thyme turned a cold eye on his savior. “No friends. Greyspace travel only allows three people to travel per ship, Thanatos. You know that.”

Thanatos smiled. “This ship doesn’t use Greyspace.”

Then the ship moved forward, energy beams flashed in front of the cockpit window, the air in front of them twisted and swirled, and the universe turned inside out.


5:22 P.M.

“No!” Rakin shouted, trying to reach for Zade before she could damage the ship. Whatever these ships were, they were top secret. Getting clearance to come this far had been impossible except for the immediate threat of theft. Damaging an important ship would not, Rakin thought, be a wise career (or survival) move.

Despite his protest, Zade fired off a few blasts of energy from her palm (was she using the T-Blade to do that?). Most of them passed before the ship reached them, but one struck right above the cockpit. It did little damage, but Rakin still winced. He finally got to Zade and grabbed her arm, but she’d stopped firing anyway. He looked up, only to see that only half of the ship was still there. As he watched, the ship continued moving forward, vanishing as it moved, until it was gone.

Zade looked stunned. “What the hell was that? That wasn’t a Greygate. They weren’t using Greyspace to get out of here...”

Rakin had to agree. Greygates, the portals leading to “Greyspace,” were very clear-cut and well defined. They usually looked like shining blue circles. The air into which this ship had vanished had looked... rippled. Jelly-like. If this ship used a different kind of transportation, could it be tracked? Could it allow more than three people at a time? What had the Empire just created?

Rakin didn’t focus for too long on these questions, though, instead leaving Zade to ponder them. He turned and squatted next to the prostrate form of a woman, the woman that had attacked Rakin and Zade. Rakin checked her pulse to make sure she was healthy, and nodded in satisfaction. He’d been worried about hitting her too hard. In the jungle, predators didn’t kill unless it was necessary, and Rakin wasn’t about to kill her if it was avoidable.

At first, upon seeing her, Rakin had thought she might be Princess #52, Rosemary Oregano. However, the lightning bolt she had thrown soon convinced him that she was a Mystic, not a Human; Humans in the Empire didn’t use magic for some reason. Zade had experienced no difficulty in fending off the inexperienced attack, but Rakin had had a tough time getting close enough to knock her out. Now that he looked at her, Rakin realized that she had a slight bluish tinge to her skin; enough to prove that she was a Mystic, if he hadn’t been too careless to miss it when he first saw her. It wasn’t obvious, but he should have been paying more attention.

Abruptly, Rakin realized that Zade had already left. They were in a restricted area, and he suspected they were already in enough trouble for allowing the theft of a ship. Zade obviously didn’t want to get any deeper by being caught in the Tower of Science without an ID. With little effort, Rakin lifted the light form of the unconscious woman. He enjoyed the silence as he walked back to the glowing portal leading back into his universe. It was good to have a little peace and quiet again.



For a long moment, or maybe a short eternity, time seemed... bent. Thyme felt odd, as if he was alone in the universe, or as if the universe was within him. He tried to stand, but it seemed as if his knees bent the wrong way. He drew his hand away from the wall he’d been leaning on; it felt as if his hand might sink into it. He looked back into the hall, and Masan seemed to be having difficulties as well. He seemed half-real, and sometimes the wrong size. At one point, Masan was huge enough to fill a palace, though he fit easily into the tiny hallway. The hall itself seemed to twist and undulate, like a snake. Thanatos seemed fine. The bastard.

As Thyme began to drift in all directions while he shrunk into a ball, he could only wonder whether Rose was really dead or not.


Terrenus Solar-System. Terrenus VII. Orbit.

And they emerged through the other side of the strange tunnel, in space. They floated peacefully above an ugly planet that was mostly land, with many black clouds and equally dark cities. But Thyme was in one piece, and he hadn’t turned into a duck, so he was happy. Masan seemed equally relieved. Thanatos seemed unmoved, but Thyme had not expected anything else from him.

“What the hell was that?” Masan asked breathily, as if he’d just run a race. Thyme’s heart, too, seemed to be beating as if trying to leap out of his chest and attack Thanatos. Thyme was willing to let it.

“That,” Thanatos responded, unnecessarily straightening his cloak, “was a wormhole.” At their stares of incomprehension, he continued, “A wormhole is a tunnel between two points in the known universe that can be traveled without moving the intervening space.”

“Like Greyspace?” Thyme asked, a little confused. He didn’t really understand Greyspace either.

Thanatos shook his head. “No, Greyspace is above our universe, not outside of it. Every point in our universe has a corresponding point in Greyspace; Greyspace points are just closer together. Thus, one can travel through Greyspace for an hour and end up light years away upon returning to our universe. Wormholes work differently. If one imagines the universe like a flat piece of paper, a wormhole is what happens when the paper is folded until two points meet. Wormholes cause two separate points in the universe to become one, and thus there is no actual travel involved beyond moving into the wormhole itself.”

Thyme didn’t bother hiding his complete lack of understanding. He glanced at Masan, though, and his little bald friend nodded. Masan would explain what Thanatos had said later, when they were alone.

“Okay,” Thyme said, carefully. The man had never volunteered so much information at once before. The “wormhole” had made him positively chatty. Or maybe Thanatos was just a teacher at heart. Thyme had never bothered with Physics, though Masan had loved the subject. Now Thyme decided to ask a different question, one closer to his heart. “When we escaped the prison, you told me that... that she might not cooperate. It looks like you were right.” Thyme sat down heavily in the pilot’s seat. “Why? What happened? Why did she leave the ship?”

“Princesses are loyal to the death,” Thanatos replied simply. “You know this.”

Masan shook his head. “It doesn’t make sense, though. Rose is a rebel, like the rest of us. She... Maybe she knew that we were being followed, and decided to try and hold them off.”

Thyme nodded, though he didn’t really believe it. If it helped Masan feel better, then he’d go along. Surprisingly, compassion came from the least likely source. “Do not fear,” Thanatos told him, in that same dead voice. “Your sister lives.”

Thyme didn’t even bother to ask how he knew. He didn’t even respond, really. Rose was a slave to Asellus; worse, a willing slave. Surely, that was no worse than being dead. How could he fight against Asellus if even Rose defended the woman?

It didn’t take him long to decide that Rose’s enslavement was just one more reason to hate Asellus. The Mystic Queen who had made herself into Humanity’s ruler had been in power for far too long. Thyme had waited for centuries, but he fully intended to be present on the day she fell.

“Why are we here again?” Masan asked. Thyme heard it distantly as he stared through the window at the ugly planet below.

“I must meet someone here,” Thanatos replied, equally distant. “She may have information on where to find a mutual acquaintance. It is for the purpose of finding this acquaintance that I have aided you in the theft of this ship.”

“Well, why don’t you tell T-260 where to go next?” Masan asked, obviously tired of Thanatos’ machinations.

There was a silence then. “Thyme... is the captain,” Thanatos responded, finally.

Thyme’s smile was bitter. “That’s right,” he said. He was going to see the Empire fall. See it burn. “And you’d damn well better remember it.”

Trell City.

Time: 10:29 P.M. Trell Standard Time

The Endless touched down on the landing pad with ease. The silence of the ship, now that Thyme had time to think about it, was amazing. It made almost no noise. He had no idea what it used for propulsion, but it obviously didn’t use rockets. Maybe that coil of blue liquid on the back? He considered asking Thanatos, but decided that the question could wait.

“I am going to find my friend,” Thanatos announced. He glanced at Thyme. “Do you know how to reconnect a computer?” he asked. Thyme, surprised, shook his head. Masan was also asked, and responded as Thyme had.

Thanatos nodded, then dropped back toward the open panel in the control console. He fiddled with some wires, and suddenly some of the lights in the cockpit went out. He stood. “I have disconnected T-260 from hearing your orders,” he told Thyme, “so that you may not leave while I am gone.”

Thyme tried to look like he hadn’t been planning to leave as soon as Thanatos left, but he didn’t think he looked very convincing. Masan also had a too-innocent expression. Satisfied that he had effectively hobbled the two rebels, Thanatos pushed his way past Masan and was lost from sight down the hall.

“Shit,” Thyme muttered to himself. He was stuck on a planet he didn’t know in an Empire that had seemingly sprung up overnight, doomed to participate in this madman’s infernal plans. The only path to freedom seemed to be attacking Thanatos personally, and Thyme wasn’t sure he could do that. Despite the brutal lack of compassion and apparent insanity the man had displayed, he had rescued Thyme and (indirectly) Masan. On top of it all, he could only worry about Rose.

Masan, as usual, put it all in perspective. “Does this ship have a kitchen?”

“I’ll be seeing you.”
-Thyme Oregano’s last words before his cryogenic imprisonment, 12 A.A.

Chapter 5

Cain's Fanfiction