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Dust Trails: of Earth, Chapter Seventeen

 

04-11-17 10:55 PM
Eirinn is Offline
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Eirinn
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Sorry, this chapter is a little longer than usual. Also if you want to be added to the summon list (still only two people currently on it) let me know.


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Chapter Seventeen


Sanya sits outside on the grass, staring up at the sky. Lauren was right: this place is amazing. Leaning back, she stretches out on the soft green blades beneath her, places her hands under head for support, and thinks about where things will go from here. She knows what's coming, but she's never been one to give up and refuse to even try. Surely there's some way around it, but what could that way be?

Her thoughts are interrupted by the sound of mumbling, and as the voice gets nearer she can tell that it's Lauren's, and that she's upset about something. Try as she might though, all she can make out is something about a princess.

"What are you going on about this time?" Sanya asks as she sits up and looks at Lauren who had yet to notice her, despite being less than ten feet away.

A small scream leaps from Lauren's throat before she can stop it. "Sanya! What on Earth are you doing out here? Or for that matter, how did you even get out here with your leg the way it is?"

"I managed. You'd be surprised what I can do when I set my mind to it."

With the first smile she's had since her argument with Aaron, and a soft laugh, Lauren finds herself calming down finally. "Yes, I believe I probably would be. Mind if I have a seat?"

After a brief hesitation, Sanya decides to have a little mercy on her after the way she'd treated her earlier. She could break away slowly, or at least that's the plan for now. "Yeah, go for it."

"Thank you." Lauren says softly as she lowers herself into place beside Sanya. "So what are you doing outside like this?"

"Just thinking, I guess." Sanya answers, and Lauren's certain that she detects a note of sorrow in her voice.

"What about?"

"Oh nothing much." Sanya answers as she turns her face toward Lauren again, wearing a fake smile. "What's with you though?"

"What do you mean?"

"What are you walking out here in the dark, mumbling to yourself about princesses for? I've lived with you long enough to know that by now you're usually sleeping."

Lauren purses her lips and furrows her brow at Sanya's question, and even though it's too dark for Sanya to see too much of her face, she can tell that Lauren's expression is conveying a certain anger. Only one thing could have Lauren this far off the mark from her usual self.

"What'd he do?"

"How did you know it was him?" Lauren asks sounding genuinely surprised.

Sanya's broad smile is easy to make out even in this dim lighting. "Because who else can get under your skin like this?"

"Well you can do a pretty good job at that too, you know."

"Yeah I guess so. You have to admit though, Aaron can get you far worse than even I can. And you know why that is, don't you?"

Lauren can feel her face redden, and she silently offers a thanks that the darkness conceals her skin pigment for now. "I should think so. I'm the one who told you after all."

"Like you had to? It was obvious from the start." Sanya looks up at the sky and lets out a laugh as memories of her first day on Earth come back to mind. "Remember when he was late for breakfast that first day because he was with me?"

Lauren places the back of her hand over her mouth and giggles at the thought. "I do. Oh I was so angry with him for that."

"Yeah I think we both kind of got that when you threw his omlette away and told him to make his own."

"I didn't exactly say it that way." at this point both women are nearly rolling with laughter.

"In not so many words, yeah, you did." Sanya says and pauses to catch her breath before speaking again. "You know, I don't think Aaron ever caught on to why you acted that way."

"Of course he didn't." Lauren answers. Her laughter subsides now, but she still wears a big grin. "Men are so clueless."

"Hey now" Sanya corrects, "that isn't true you know. Yeah, they can be pretty darn clueless about us and how we feel and think, but can you tell me why Aaron thinks and acts the way he does?"

After a brief pause, Lauren answers thoughtfully "No, I don't suppose I can."

"See? Men are good at being men, and women are good at being women. They aren't clueless any more than we are — we just don't always think the same is all."

"I guess you have a point." Lauren replies, her eyes focused on what little she can see of her friend. "Why do I get the distinct feeling that you've plenty more wisdom and insights to impart to a willing mind and listening ears?"

Sanya cringes inwardly at the respect and admiration she hears in Lauren's voice. Respect and admiration that she's not worthy of. "I'm nothing special, kid. Don't fool yourself into thinking highly of me like that. I'm just a common criminal. I started out taking money to keep myself alive, and ended up taking lives to keep myself in money."

"Everyone has a past that they're not proud of, Sanya." Lauren tries to comfort the suddenly downcast woman. "That's yours. But your past is just that — the past."

"Heck of a past."

"I sometimes think that, perhaps, those who have the darkest past are also capable of having the best present and brightest future," Lauren says as she looks up at what looks like a moon "and that it's because they live so hard, and give their all to what they do. After all, the only difference between the greatest hero and the most evil villain is the side they're on. They're both just the embodiment of greatness, with differing views."

Sanya stares at Lauren for a moment after hearing her thoughts and weighs them in her heart, hoping that perhaps the younger woman could be right about this. Could it really be that she has a future worth looking forward to? Could she really escape her past somehow and start anew, free from the ghosts that haunt her at every turn?

"What?" Lauren asks, sounding a little uncomfortable as Sanya continues to stare at her, or perhaps through her.

"I was thinking about what you just said." she answers, then in a near whisper, as though she's afraid to actually voice it for fear of it slipping away if she dare give these hopes life, she continues "Do you really believe that?"

A smile slowly spreading across her face, Lauren nods slightly "I really do."

"I hope you're right." here she goes again, getting all vulnerable with Lauren. Why can't she keep her feelings locked away, too well hidden to be found by even her own self when talking to Lauren like she always had with everyone else?

Lauren scoots closer and places her hand on her friend's, but before she can speak, Sanya pulls away. "What?" Lauren asks, surprised by the reaction.

"Stop doing that already."

"Stop doing what?"

"That." Sanya answers with a laugh. "That... that thing."

"I do believe we've already covered that. Care to clarify, or are we going to do this whole thing again?"

"That getting me all emotional thing. I always spill my guts to you."

"You've only done it once before." Lauren says as she smiles and shakes her head at the other woman's silliness.

"Twice."

"Who's counting?"

"Me."

"So I see. But really, what's so bad about being able to share your feelings with someone else? It's good to let things out sometimes."

"Well I don't like it. It makes me feel vulnerable and weak, and that's not who I am."

"That's who we all are, Sanya."

"Not me." Sanya answers defiantly as she pushes herself up onto her good foot.

"Yes it is." Lauren replies as she too stands up, so as not to let Sanya get away so easily. "We're all that way deep down. We just try to hide it because... I really don't know why, actually."

As she hobbles over to Lauren, Sanya places a hand on her shoulder "Yeah well while you're standing there waiting on your next philosophical aha to hit you so you can lecture me some more, would you mind helping me inside?"

"Oh, right. Sorry."


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Ah this life again. Looking to the early morning clouds as they meander by, Aaron sighs — why had he missed this life? It's so...boring. There's no work to be done thanks to the automated farming system, the ship flies itself after receiving coordinates from the pilot, and he'd traversed every inch of the bioplex several times by the time his family docked on Earth.

Of course there was the whole having to watch our backs every step of the way, fighting off pirates, and journeying through space previously unknown to us. I guess that could have something to do with it. Aaron chuckles at the thought, which, he notes, was probably the first entertaining thing to happen since they'd boarded this ship.

"And just what, might I ask, is so funny?" a soft spoken, feminine voice asks from behind him.

Aaron doesn't have to turn around to know who the voice belongs to. "Oh hey Lauren. Nothing really, I was just thinking about when I was a kid. What are you doing out here so early?"

"This is the same time I always get up...I think. Is time the same here as it was before?" Lauren asks as she walks up beside him.

"Yeah, the ship synchronized it's time and weather with the area we had it docked in so as to keep the transition to it easier for the passengers when they boarded, and to ensure for proper adaptation to the effects of the bioplex's time and weather on them."

Lauren stares dumbly at Aaron, trying to take that in while not reminding him that he's speaking above everyone's head here. "Oh okay." she manages, it's weak, but it's a reply. "Aaron, about last night: I apologize for the way I behaved myself. I was wrong, and I didn't mean the things I said about you. Or rather, I did mean some of them, but after some reflection on them, I realized that you were right."

"How's that?"

"You lied to me, but it was to—"

"I omitted facts." Aaron corrects "I didn't lie, I omitted facts. Had you come up to me and said, 'Good morning, Aaron." he begins speaking in his best imitation of her voice, and sounds quite ridiculous as he does so "By the way, I've bean meaning to ask you something: am I an alien from another planet far away in another solar system?' I would totally have said 'Why yes, yes you are.'"

Lauren's laughter at his sudden moment of silliness is a comfort and a welcome sound to his ears after all that's happened. "Because I sound just like that; 'I've bean meaning to ask'. Best impersonation I've ever heard. Bravo, really."

"Thanks, I knew you'd be impressed. I'm a master of impersonations, really. I can impersonate anyone."

"Oh is that so?"

"Yes it is. You don't believe me, do you? Want me to show you? I can pull off anyone you ask, go ahead."

"No, I-"

"Sanya?"

"What? No."

"Yeah that's it, I'll do my impersonation of Sanya."

"No, really that won't be-"

"Listen here, Aaron — you may be incredibly handsome, but I know everything and I'm scary tough. I'm so tough that-"

"Oh wow. Okay then, so that happened." Lauren says with a smile that shows how goofy she thinks he is "Now if you've gotten that out of your system, am I to understand that all is forgiven and we're on good terms again?"

"Of cour" Aaron stops short of completing his answer in his horrible Sanya voice and fakes a cough "Of course we're good. That is, as long as you promise to never tell Sanya that I said any of that."

With a light hearted huff and a grin, Lauren turns to walk away "Deal."

"Wait, I have more impersonations that I can do. Wanna hear me impersonate myself?" Aaron calls after her, still standing in place.

"I'm not sure it works that way." Lauren answers without stopping.

"I do a really good me, though! Ask anyone!"



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



"My lady!" a man clad in a yellow and white uniform speaks with an obvious respect as he bows at the waist.

"What is it, Ontiss?" the reply comes from a fairly tall woman of an otherwise average build, with long blonde hair that hangs down her back and stops about a foot from the floor.

"Mr. Kelbany is here to see you."

"What does he think he's doing disturbing me while I'm busy?" she asks, her back to the messenger.

"He refuses to tell me that, your highness. He says it's sensitive information; claims his right to confidential audience with you being on official business."

Clenching her fist, the woman speaks through gritted teeth "Mr. Kelbany has gotten a bit to arrogant for his own good."

"I thought better of it and tried to convince him to wait unti his appointment with you."

"Silence!" she shouts the order, causing the servant to tremble at her violent tone "You're not paid to think, you're paid to handle my affairs when I cannot be bothered."

"Yes my lady. I beg your pardon. I'm terribly sorry." the servant all but grovels, and the terror in his voice manages to appease the woman.

"Very well." she answers in a controlled voice once more "But if something like this happens even one more time you'll be out of a job, and that's if you're lucky. Am I understood, Ontiss?"

"Yes your excellency." the man offers with another bow, and fights the urge to run out of the woman's intimidating presence.


"Most excellent Gaelia." Officer Kelbany offers as he enters the room a few moments later, duly nervous.

"Mr. Kelbany."

"Begging your pardon your highness, but I've received information that is of utmost importance."

"You know better than to barge into the royal chambers uninvited, bagain. " she hurls the insult with added force.

"Y-Yes my lady, but the news I have to report is of a most urgent nature. The security of Leocyn is at stake."

"Am I the one staying in the room with the defense system controls? Or am I the one who the military reports to? No, you are. Now why are you bringing matters of your own to me, Mr. Kelbany? Unless..." Gaelia turns to face him finally, her scarlet eyes glaring menacingly at him, brows slightly furrowed "Unless you find yourself unable to do your own job anymore."

Officer Kelbany recognizes that look and the matching tone in her voice, and stiffens even more "No your excellency, I am your willing and capable servant, as always."

"Are you certain? Because from where I'm standing it doesn't look that way." she answers as she slowly walks in his direction until she's within arm's length of him — just where he doesn't want her to be. "Now if at any time you should feel that you are no longer up to the task, or should you give me reason to feel so, I will have no choice but to relieve you of your duties. Understood?"

"Yes your majesty." he replies, body unflinching for fear that one wrong move could spell his end at this point.

"Good." Gaelia says as she turns around and heads back to the monitor station where she had stood previously. "So what is this urgent business that couldn't wait any longer? It had better be good, Mr. Kelbany."

"Yes, of course. It seems that Mr. Crogwyl has revealed his orders to apprehend Sanya Irzorwyn."

"To who?" Gaelia's voice is stern as she frowns and turns her head to cast a sideways glance over her shoulder, as though listening more intently now.

"That's the thing: he claims it was prince Aondlir of Milarim."

Turning so quickly that she nearly gives officer Kelbany a heart attack, she answers with a surprised look on her face "Prince Aondlir is dead."

"Yes my lady, but Crogwyl insists that he ran into him while battling Irzorwyn on planet Earth."

"What kind of lunatic did your team recommend to me?"

"My sincerest apologies for this turn of events, queen Gaelia. He's never acted so strangely before, and he's indeed the top bounty hunter in the galaxy."

"Silence, bagain! I cannot abide your pathetic excuses!" the queen shouts so loud that officer Kelbany stumbles backward a step "He spoke with a dead Milariman prince, and on Earth at that? Do you realize how ludicrous that sounds?"

"I do, your excellency. That's why I thought it best that you find out sooner rather than later. You see, this is simply not possible, and as such, the mission we've sent Crogwyl on has been revealed to Irzorwyn and her accomplices. We must determine a course of action before it spreads even further. The revelation that a member of the High Order placed a bounty—"

With a scornful laugh, Gaelia shakes her head in disbelief "Her accomplices? Who in their right mind would be in company with that woman? But then I suppose the dead can't be too picky about who they keep company, now can they?"

Officer Kelbany hesitates to speak, unsure whether that was meant as a bit of satirical humor or a threat. "I suppose not." he answers at last "Would you have me send him an order to appear before you, in light of his bold fabrications to see if we're able to get the truth from him?"


Gaelia raises a hand to the pendant suspended from her neck and gives it a touch "Ontiss."

"Yes your highness?" a voice calls back through the speaker.

"Come here, please."

"Yes your highness. I'm on my way."


This does not bode well for officer Kelbany. He's had audience with the queen many times before, but never has she called in her guard with him present. He tries his best to maintain a calm exterior, despite the fear welling up inside, but judging by the dark smile he sees spreading across Gaelia's face, he suspects that she can see it.

"You called, my lady?" Ontiss inquires as he enters the room and stops beside officer Kelbany at full attention.

"Ontiss, I have decided to promote you." she informs the guard "From henceforth you are the head of the Department of Defense."

Officer Kelbany's heart sinks. This is not going to end well for him; the lady does not dishonorably dismiss anyone from service — she has them executed.

Ontiss seems less than elated as he glances empathetically at officer Kelbany; he too knows what this means for the other man. Turning his gaze back to the queen, he speaks solemnly "My deepest gratitude for the honor, your excellency."

"I only have one final order of business for you before you leave for your new office, Ontiss: slay this man here before me." she gestures to officer Kelbany with a disgusted wave.

Ontiss turns his gaze slowly toward officer Kelbany, and after placing a hand over his heart — as had become customary with the dutiful execution of a death order upon a man one respected, a signal of apology and regret for the coming action — he unsheathes his sword.

"Wait my lady! Mercy, please!" kelbany cries as he backs away from Ontiss. "Have mercy, and I shall have the whole matter resolved within the week."

"There never should have been a matter to begin with, Mr. Kelbany! You have none to blame but your own incompetence!"

Kelbany backpedals until he feels the cold wall against his back, and Ontiss continues progressing toward him dutifully. "My lady, please! I'll do anything, only spare me your wrath this once!"

Silence is the only sound to follow the officer's pitiful pleas for his life, silence and the sound of Ontiss footsteps on the hard floor as Gaelia watches on with a smile. As Ontiss stops precisely one pace in front of him, he raises his blade and awaits the order.

"Ready." Gaelia's voice calls, sounding as though she's enjoying the spectacle before her.

Ontiss, at her word, places the tip of the blade on officer Kelbany's chest, directly over his heart, and waits once more.

"My lady, I beg you."

"Silence!" her shout rings out, echoing throughout the chamber. "Your pleading sickens me. Ontiss—"

"Please, your excellency!"

Looking furious at the interruption of her sport, Gaelia's voice thunders once more "Bagain! Such a nuisance you are. What is it that you could possibly think that you could do to make up for such a foolish failing as this?"

Officer Kelbany thinks as quickly as he can, trying to come up with the most satisfactory and believable promise possible. His mind doesn't tend to work well under pressure, but having a razor sharp thirty six inch broadsword held to you and poised to skewer your heart is inspiration for all kinds of pretty promises.

Then in a moment of desperate genius, it comes to him what he could say that might buy him some time.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The incoming call alert sounds, waking Rylan who glances at the clock: 03:27, Leocyn time. Climbing out of bed, he walks to the command center to accept it, but before he reaches the counter, the other end forces an answer.

"Mr. Crogwyl? Why didn't you answer?" the man on the other end inquires.

"I was trying to before you overrode the system like you guys so love to do. What's the big rush? Why are you contacting me at this hour?"

"Queen Gaelia requests audience with you immediately."

"Do you have any idea how far away I am from Leocyn? I couldn't get there by next week, let alone immediately."

"Very well. You will be contacted by her majesty in the morning — I suggest you answer her in a more timely manner than you answered me tonight."

"Of course."

And with that the call ends and Rylan is left in the silence once more. As he makes his way back to bed, he calls out to his ship "Taenya: awaken me in precisely two hours."

Taenya calls back with a cry of affirmation, and Rylan lies down and tries to go back to sleep.


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