Darrell awoke with a gasp, his hands moving for his daggers before hed even managed to open his eyes.
When moving his hands rewarded him with only pain and no weapons, his eyes shot open to look upon wholly unfamiliar and bright surroundings.
He pushed himself up on one hand, trying to ignore jolt of pain that shot up it as he did, and looked around. He was on a ship, along with the rest of his friends, minus Cynewulf. Cynewulf.
The name brought memories of the fight with Grendel flooding back; the death of the Seeker, the inexplicable intrusion at the end, his ultimate failure to kill the lavoid. He clenched an aching fist, wondering even through his anger how exactly it was that it wasnt broken anymore.
Sighing, he picked himself up and moved to look over the others. Oddly enough, they all seemed to be in decent shape, just relieved of their weaponry and unconscious. Deciding he needed them all awake right now, he started to draw down a bit of healing magic and found there wasnt any to draw down.
Oh, you have got to be kidding me. He muttered, slamming a hand into a nearby wall and immediately regretting it as it throbbed in protest.
The action, though crude, had a degree of success where magic had failed. What? Whats going on? I wasnt asleep! Zohar slurred, still half-asleep as he sat up with a start.
Zohar, Darrell said, kneeling down as the finori glanced around in confusion. I dont know exactly whats going on, but I think weve been taken captive.
Zohar nodded, pulling himself to his feet. Brilliant deduction, considering were completely disarmed and sitting in the middle of a room made of adamantine.
Oh, honestly. I thought you were a man of letters, or whatever the hell they call it. He rolled his eyes as he moved to the other crew members, unceremoniously shaking them to some degree of consciousness. Adamantines a metal that completely blocks the flow of Order energy. Its extremely rare, but it makes excellent armor for ships and high security cells like Im guessing this is because of its properties.
Terra blinked, bleary eyed as the others all started standing up and looking around in confusion. What . what happened? Whats going on?
Zohar shook his head. No one has a damn clue, Terra. Far as I can tell, someones kidnapped and made off with us. Probably pirates. I imagine well be ransomed.
Are you serious? Meryl asked, rubbing her shoulder awkwardly.
Are you completely incapable of reading sarcasm? the finori sat down, obviously annoyed. Were stuck, anyway. I cant teleport through this, and you can forget about getting out without any weaponry.
What happened with the lavoid, though? Mathiu asked, his brow furrowed. And wheres Cynewulf, for that matter?
Cynewulf, he Darrell sighed. That is to say
Your friend didnt make it. A voice broke in over an intercom system. A shame, too, as Vanhele wanted the lot of you alive, but thats his own damn fault. Youre all onboard my ship, the Nightwind, on route back to the Union. As for your lavoid playpal, hes cooling his heels in a somewhat higher security guest room than your own. Hope you dont mind that I didnt let you all bunk together.
What the hell are you talking about? Darrell shouted. Who is this?
Why, Shanning, weve never met, but I was a very good friend of your parents. The names Grey. Grey Terin.
What?! he exploded, shaking with rage. Youre the man who murdered my parents!
It was more of a revenge thing than murder, really, but Im not one to argue semantics. Anyway, Ive got other things to do, but well chat about that later, Shanning, I promise.
Darrell cursed and yelled for awhile longer, but there was no reply. Finally, the young man just sat down on the floor, angry tears welling from his eyes.
Um Mathiu looked around. Everyone seemed in some state of shock, whether at Darrells outburst, or at the revelation that Cynewulf was no longer with them. Im lost. Totally lost.
Darrell shook his head. Whats to understand? We had our shot at the lavoid, and a murderer stepped in and took it away. If only wed been stronger, if only wed
God dammit, Darrell, would you shut up for a moment and talk to us? Meryl shouted, surprising everyone. Her cheeks were flushed, tears running freely down her cheeks. Weve established that we dont know why were here, but everyones wondering, just a little bit, what HAPPENED back there? Cynewulf I she turned from them, putting a hand to her face as a sob came unbidden to her.
Zohar sighed as the grey-haired man stumbled for a reply. Darrell. Didnt Cynewulf give you something just before the fight started?
He blinked, and patted a jacket pocket. Reaching into it, he pulled out a small black holo-projecter, and turned it over curiously in his hands. Yeah. He called it his insurance, something like that.
Thats right, the finori nodded. I think we should all just sit back, try to forget about all of this for a minute, and watch that. Its I dunno, easier than trying to talk about him you know?
Uneasy at the diminutive aliens somber attitude, Darrell set the thing on the floor carefully and switched it on. Almost immediately, it flickered to life, and a large-as-live hologram of Cynewulf stood before them, looking even more serious than had been typical for him in his later days.
If youre watching this, he began, his voice fairly clear through the holoprojectors lone speaker, I guess Zohar was right, and I didnt make it through the fight. On the upside, it looks like you all did. Congratulations, right? Looks like Darrell was right all along.
He cleared his throat. Anyway, yeah, as I guess youre all wondering I knew. Ive known since just after I had these implants installed. Zohar warned me that my body wouldnt tolerate too much energy running through them, that if I overdid it it would simply reject them. I got a taste of it fighting that summoned beast back on Riven, but anyway, no need to dwell, right? Its not pleasant for any of us to think about, and it doesnt change anything. Besides all which, I need to explain myself, and I only have so much room on this thing.
Ive been keeping you all in the dark about my intentions and motivations for a long time, and Im sorry about that. Especially to you, Meryl. There were a lot of factors involved but if Im not going to be around, then this needs to be known, so that you can all carry on for me. If you will. He smiled, looking a little wistful, and looked down.
God, I dont even know where to begin well, I guess it really got started about two years ago, when I met a man named William Shard. Like I told Madam Kyra once, even though I left the Seekers, I never really got the need to fight against the lavoids in some way out of my head. So Id been spending my time wandering, looking for something anything, really that could give me the power I was looking for.
I was thinking too small, is what I learned from Shard. The man had been everywhere, almost literally; he was a former Dominion Inquisitor, and had been undercover everywhere from the Mystician Empire to the Planetary Union, not to mention a few places Id never even heard of. Hed just left them when I met him. Had been planning it for years, from what he told me, he just wanted to consolidate his network of connections.
Important thing was, he was dissatisfied with how the galactic powers were running things, spending all their time and energy going after one another. He told me that if we were ever going to make any headway against the lavoids, the nations of the galaxy had to wake up to the threat they represented, and band together to fight it.
My rambling doesnt do the man justice, honestly: hes a visionary. But he needed a spark, something to bring events into a neat little row so that the galactic powers had no choice but to listen to him. We started traveling together, looking for that spark. Wasnt long half a year, maybe a little less before we heard rumors of just the thing.
The big man swallowed, and rubbed the back of his neck. Truth is, we didnt know what we were getting into. We found a derelict ship of the legendary Lavoid Exterminatorum Adeptus on the planet Didylos. The hull was a wreck, but most of the machinery was intact including the central computer system. It was amazing Darrell, you would have really appreciated it. Didnt have much of a chance to look at it, though, because we werent alone on the ship.
I know youre all familiar with the farilii now, but they only go a tiny portion of the way to describing what found us that day. William called it a lavoid hunter-killer, an elite sort of super-farilii usually sent out for high-level investigations and assassinations.
He shook his head. We got separated in the chaos, but made plans to carry on our work and meet again when a few things had fallen into place. Namely well, to tell you the whole truth, we were aware of Grendels presence on Zion before he surfaced.
Darrells eyes went wide, then dark at this. The others seemed mostly shocked, save Zohar, who just sat there, expression somber.
I apologize for that, Darrell, Terra. But it was for the greater good. We needed the shift in military stability we knew Grendel would bring about we needed the possibility of war between the Union and the Dominion. More importantly, we needed the lavoid, and a few survivors from Zion. I didnt expect to have to try to carry out these plans without him, but well, I sure as hell didnt expect the people I met to be as special as you two, either.
Going on this tack, though, I need you all to do one last favor for me. Go back and get whatevers left of Grendel, and take it back to the Planetary Union capital. To William Shard, if you can find him. Its really important.
The group could have laughed at the bitter irony, were it not so surreal.
Thats about it. I apologize if I come across as cold Zohar certainly said so often enough, when he found out but its all for the best cause. We wont live, he paused briefly at this, and chuckled, a bit sad, to see the final results of this work, but the events we set in motion will shake the galaxy.
The hologram went out, leaving the room silent for a long moment.
I really tried to stop him from going through with the anchoring, guys. Zohar finally said, his eyes firmly on the floor. But he wouldnt listen to me. He was like that, you know?
Darrell stood up, his hands rubbing his temples. Looks like well be honoring his final request, anyway, whether we like it or not. Its almost enough to make you believe in fate.
Mox Garel had actually argued briefly with Grey when the Wanderer suggested he bring their captives food. Hed stopped when the silver-haired man put a hand on his katana, and set about the task with a manic sort of glee, even whistling a bit. Hed managed to get in and get the door shut behind him before any of the prisoners really noticed hed entered.
He somehow doubted hed be leaving for the duration of the flight, though.
Look, I told you, holding me wont do you any good! Im as much a captive as you guys, Ive been here for nearly a month now.
Which, I suppose, is why he lets you walk around the ship freely, right? Darrell asked, leaning over his face. He and Mathiu had managed to tackle the man as he tried to flee, and had held him on the ground since.
And why he hasnt lifted a finger to get me away from you lunatics. Mox said loudly, as though hoping that maybe Grey would hear and, more importantly, care.
He had no such luck, at least on the latter count.
Look, you guys, Im just a simple man from the Sol Dominion. I used to be a border patrol guard, even, lowest of the low, what would I be doing involved with the kidnapping guys like you?
They looked unconvinced, so he launched into the full story of his capture.
To his credit, they actually listened until he got to the part about how he shot down a Union ship over the planet Yrrs II, at which point they looked at each other as if flabbergasted. The young pilot was a bit hurt; surely he didnt look like he handled a starship that poorly.
Im just going to ask you this one time, the grey-haired man said, staring Mox right in the eyes and looking a little crazy, in the Elosians opinion, so listen close. Are. You. Fucking. With. Us?
He blinked. Um what? Darrells stare only intensified, and Mox suddenly, ludicrously, thought the man looked a bit like his mother after a long night hitting the bottles down at the local bar. No! Im totally serious, I swear to god!
Darrell stood up, and bid Mathiu to follow suit, leaving Mox lying alone on the floor. He thought it would be best to just stay in that position for awhile.
Thats it. Darrell said, shaking his head. The Multiverse is conspiring to drive us all mad. Its the only explanation.
Mox waited several long moments before venturing to say anything else. Um excuse me, guys, but uh what are you talking about?
They all just stared at him for awhile like hed grown a second head. Just as he thought maybe he should retract the statement somehow, the freaky little yellow alien finally answered him. Were all just a little weirded out, chuckles. Ysee, that was Darrell and Terra that you shot down over Yrrs II.
Realization took a long moment to dawn. When it did, Mox tried to shake it off like a bad headache, sure there was something wrong with his hearing. What?
The grey-haired man sighed. Maybe you should tell us the rest of your story.
..And that, the black-haired former border pilot finished, is why Ive been here with a murderous spy for the last month. I swear to god, you guys may be good fighters, but my family is full of lawyers, and if I get out of here alive theyre going to sue each and every one of you for bringing this shit down on my head.
Finished? Darrell asked, suppressing the urge to yawn. Mox had somehow managed to turn what sounded like two or three events albeit one fairly interesting one involving lavoid spawn all too familiar to the group into an hour-long manifesto.
I Mox deflated, looking visibly disappointed that no one looked all that fearful at the prospect of legal action. Yeah.
Thank the fates. Meryl muttered.
Then maybe you can tell us who this Grey guy is, really, and where hes taking us? Zohar asked, crossing his arms. Mox couldnt help but stare at him for a moment as he talked; he really was kind of freakish, by human standards.
Earth to cheesehead, come in cheesehead. The finori said after several seconds, snapping his fingers to get the mans attention. I know Im cute and all, kid, but it would never work out between us. Just tell us what we need to know.
He blinked, then averted his gaze with some embarrassment. Uh, right, no problem.
I dont really know where to even start, but uh like I said, hes a Union spy, and a pretty good one as far as that goes. Hes got all this weird magic crap he does, and of course his ships got all kind of shit Ive never heard of. He scratched his head. Um hes got a bad temper, too, and hes kind of an asshole. And, Darrell, you didnt hear this from me, but he seems to have something against you.
No kidding. The man returned casually, his tone continuing to horrify Mox.
But uh, yeah, thats really about all I know. He caught you guys and that lavoid thing and is taking you back to whoever it is hes working for, I guess the government or something.
Eloquently put. Greys voice, sarcastic as ever, cut in over the intercom again. Sorry to eavesdrop, but I thought Id let you know well be landing on Torlose shortly. This will make very little difference to all of you, as Im leaving you onboard, but Ill be back later to hand you over to Union officials. And Darrell, you and I can have that chat then, sound good? Glad to hear it.
There was silence for a few moments, until Mox spoke up again as he remembered something. Oh, yeah, I think hes a vegetarian too, because theres like, no meat anywhere on this ship. If youll look at that food I brought in, youll see, its all substituted stuff and some kind of salad.
The others just stared blankly at the man as he went back to racking his brain for facts.
Do you have comrade? badly translated line from Cowboy Bebop: The Jazz Messengers.