In the light of new information, a plea for help, even from a former adversary, can't be ignored.
"Just another minute or so," Laiserta spoke to the only comrade seated at the counter behind her. She threw in another shake of some ingredient into the stir-fry she was working on in the kitchen.
"Lai," Armada began from where she sat, "you didn't have to make me breakfast."
"Who says I was just making it for you?" Laiserta jabbed. "Besides, I couldn't do a lot of my favorite dishes on the ship, so now I'm in a cooking frenzy," she laughed. "Sure did have some good times working at /Meinschtalt/," she reminisced briefly.
"Well as long as you're not complaining," Armada added. She then brought her hands up, and interlocking her fingers, she leaned her elbows on the countertop and propped her head on her hands.
"Wow, something smells good for once," Trunks spoke as he entered the living room and kitchen from the hallway. He strode up to the counter and stood at the end, a good distance from Armada, and watched Laiserta as she worked. "What are you making?"
"I could tell you," she glanced at him briefly, "but you wouldn't understand what it is or what's in it, so just trust me when I say it's 'good.'"
"I'm going to hold you to it," Trunks jested with a slight smile. "If it's bad, you're making me something else."
"Yeah, sure," Laiserta answered without entirely listening. She was too focused on the task at hand to listen to his threat seriously.
"Hey Lai," Armada spoke as she stood from the stool at the counter, "make sure mine's to go. I've got a lot of work to do on the ship today."
"Hey," Trunks spoke as he noticed when Armada stood what she was wearing. "Where'd you get that?"
"This?" Armada motioned to the green t-shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers she wore. After receiving a nod from Trunks, she answered. "Your mother gave them to me when we visited your home." Armada paused. "She said 'aliens always have bad taste' before throwing them at me," she added, her tone not amused.
"Heh," Trunks laughed nervously, "sounds like Mom." What he refrained from bringing up was that the green shirt she wore used to belong to him when he was much younger. It's not like it was a cropped shirt on Armada; it was a good fit for her but it definitely wasn't a 'fitted' shirt. The jeans and shoes, though... they looked new, meaning that his mother had a special trip to go buy Armada something. Which was funny to Trunks when he realized that if that's what Armada wore to go work on the Verdandi then obviously she wasn't concerned with getting the garments dirty.
"Food's ready," Laiserta turned around and set two bowls on the counter and one small contained with the lid removed. She poured what appeared to Trunks as stir-fry in each bowl and the container, which she prompt put the lid on and handed to Armada. "One order of schlassen, to go!"
Armada grabbed her container and headed for the door. "Thanks Lai," she spoke before briskly heading on her way. The front door opened and closed smoothly as she left, indicating that in the past week and a half, she did manage to find time to fix it.
Trunks seated himself at one of the stools at the counter and began to eat while Laiserta continued to stand leaned against the opposite counter, by the sink, and held her bowl in one hand as she ate. "You didn't make any for Naya or Marice," Trunks commented as he noticed Laiserta had only cooked enough for the three of them.
"Naya already left this morning," Laiserta spoke. "She told me she was in a hurry so she'd buy her breakfast while she was out. Marice," Laiserta continued her explanation, "already made herself food and left before either Naya or any of us got up. Don't know where she went, but we figure she'll be fine on her own." With that, Laiserta took another bite of her schlassen, which Trunks mentally agreed was actually pretty good.
"I'm gonna go grocery shopping in a little while," Laiserta looked toward Trunks. "Care to come?"
"Well it's not like I'm doing anything around here," Trunks replied. Armada didn't want any of them to take one any missions until the Verdandi was repaired and they had made it into official Republican territory.
"I figured when we're done with breakfast we'll head out," Laiserta said briefly before she continued eating.
Laiserta led the way into the indoor shopping center, and Trunks looked around with awe. It was pretty similar to a mall back on earth, except that each store was more of a specific type of item, with all kinds of products to choose from that Trunks would never be able to name. Where to start, or even what to look for, well, he left that up to his Taydran comrade.
"I think we need to hit a few spots down here and then we'll start heading up," Laiserta spoke as she looked briefly at a holographic directory nearby.
"Up?" Trunks asked. As he looked around he didn't see any other floors.
"Of course, up," Laiserta chided him as she strolled toward her comrade. "Where do you think all the cool stuff is? Most markets have three, four, five-or-so foors. Actually," Laiserta glanced to her right before looking to Trunks again, "this place has six floors."
"Six?" Trunks queried, mildly surprised. "How long is this going to take?"
Laiserta lowered her yellow-tinted sunglasses to reveal her red eyes to him. "With my expert vision, only an hour or so. I know how to avoid the crowds."
"Yeah, we'll see," Trunks rolled his eyes at her mockingly and the pair laughed as they made their way onward.
When Laiserta and Trunks walked in the front door after shopping for about an hour, they saw Marice in the living room, watching something on the monitor. "Nice to see you're back," Laiserta chided her, "now help me put this stuff away." Laiserta and Trunks both continued forward into the kitchen and set down their bags on the countertop.
"What'd you get?" Marice piped up as she hopped up from the sofa she sat on and bounced over to the kitchen, apparently in a good mood.
"Whoa," Laiserta stopped when she looked closer at Marice. "What'd you do to your hair?" she ruffled the red head's hair, and Marice ducked away from her to make her stop.
"It needed a little maintenance, that's all," Marice responded. Trunks then noticed that instead of Marice's long bangs in the front being separate from her shorter hair in the back, she'd trimmed her bangs slightly and the rest of her hair fit in with it, making her head seem more cohesive than before.
"You're back," Naya spoke as she entered the living room and kitchen area from the hallway.
"Yeah," Laiserta answered, "but where were you?"
"I had to take care of something," Naya replied briskly. "Need help with the parcels?"
"Yeah," Laiserta laughed at Naya's word choice of 'parcels' and moved around the counter to the other side to start putting the groceries away.
"Well I think I'm gonna go hit the shower," Trunks spoke.
"Good idea," Marice said jokingly as she waved her hands in front of her face as if Trunks smelled bad.
"You're so funny," Trunks said flatly with a smirk, knowing that she was kidding. With that, he headed upstairs to his room to get cleaned up.
In a matter of minutes, Trunks had already undressed and was in the shower, well underway in washing his hair. He briefly noted that it was getting kind of long, but he wasn't too interested in cutting it anytime soon. Just as he'd started to rinse the soap out of his hair, he heard a pounding knock against the bathroom door, from his side. He paused, and then turned towards the sound. "What is it?" he shouted over the sound of the running water.
"Get your ass downstairs, /now!/"
Lai...? Worried as to why Laiserta would suddenly demand that he go back downstairs was a sign that something was up... and Trunks didn't like the sick feeling he got in his stomach. "Be there in a minute," he shouted in return as he quickly tried to finish rinsing out his hair.
Back downstairs, Trunks walked into the living room, disheveled from how quickly he'd tried to dry off and get dressed. "Armada?" he queried as he saw her standing at the monitor in the living room, again trying to tune it to a specific signal. He then glanced to the visages of his other three comrades, and they all appeared worried. What did they already know that he didn't?
Just then, Armada stood back from the monitor and the signal snowed over a moment before clearing up, to reveal an all-too-familiar face... that of Hamad Gen.
"What?!" Trunks shouted before he could even process what was happening.
"Please," the prince of Taydr spoke, "just listen to what I have to say."
An unspoken pact was formed between the members of the mercenary group known as VDD as they glanced between one another, agreeing to hear what Prince Gen had to say.
"I am sure you have heard of the declaration of war my nation has decreed upon Ceva," /Hamad started, then paused, thinking of another approach to the subject. /"In working with Rieve, we were hoping to acquire disruptors to use in a conquest campaign-but they would only be a last resort, and mostly used as a threat to cause other nations to surrender to us. Or," Hamad's eyes fell down momentarily, "so I thought.
"My father has gone insane; he plans not to conquer other nations, but to /obliterate them-he wants every living being in the universe to die, even himself and all of Taydr once the task is accomplished."/ Hamad took a deep breath before continuing. "As much as we do not like one another, I am humbled to serve my nation to the best of my ability and I am obligated to protect my citizens, even from an insane emperor. So I ask that you help me in my quest to have him eliminated."
"How exactly do want us to help?" Armada asked, the first of the crew to speak since Hamad began his speech. "We're only five people with one ship."
Hamad thought briefly before replying. "You have destroyed several fleets of the Taydran navy and some of Rieve's, you have escaped our custody /twice/, and you killed one of the most feared mobsters in the universe." Hamad paused. "I am beginning to doubt what you /cannot do./
"My request is that you aid Ceva in whatever way you can, while I try to take out Emperor Gen by my own means. I also ask that if any of you speak Ruran, that you accompany me to the Empire of Roffeler to ask for assistance in disposing of Emperor Gen."
"I do," Marice spoke up. "I... I speak Ruran."
"When did you learn that?" Laiserta looked at Marice as if the teenager were crazy.
"Why don't you just take a translator with you?" Trunks asked. He figured that political figures like the prince must have their own cadre of translators running around.
"My mission must be kept in the utmost secrecy," /Hamad spoke. "If I were to take a translator from the palace, there would be no guarantee that common palace gossip would not give away my plans."/
/ /"Why go to the Empire for help?" Naya asked, unsure of what political ties-if any-Taydr had to the Empire of Roffeler.
/"All will be explained when I arrive in two days/," Hamad answered and the transmission abruptly cut off.
Stunned, the five mercenaries stood silent as they tried to grasp what had just happened. Trunks turned towards Marice. "Are you sure you're okay with this?"
Marice nodded. "If I can help in any way, then I want to do it."
"But how do you know how to speak Ruran?" Laiserta queried of Marice yet again.
"When my mother died of the Crimson Fever," Marice spoke, "I continued to live in my house, but my neighbor Leah and her husband and their daughter, Minna, took care of me. Leah's husband was from the Empire, and he taught all of us to speak Ruran so that if the Federation lands were ever fought over by LOKI and the Republic, we could flee to the Empire and be able to make our way around," Marice finished, a twinge of sadness in her voice. "The Empire's not too kind to foreigners," she added.
"I'm gonna try to get the ship finished as soon as possible," Armada changed the subject of their conversation, "so we can leave for Ceva when Hamad needs us to."
"Funny how we told them 'no' last time we were there," Laiserta laughed sarcastically, "and yet here we are helping them out anyway. Pretty ironic, huh?"
"Irony doesn't even begin to describe it," Trunks added, his voice heavy with worry over what they were getting themselves into.
Marice sat rather placidly in the living room, despite the fact that Hamad Gen was going to show up any moment now to take her to the far-off lands of the Empire of Roffeler, an imposing nation that outsiders are not welcome to. Of course, Marice's four comrades were all there, hanging around her as well, equally as anxious for her departure. After as much trouble as Hamad Gen and his co-conspirator, Ryan Rieve had given them in the past several months, they weren't exactly thrilled at the prospect of Marice leaving with the Taydran prince.
It was then that the door buzzed, indicating that someone stood on the other side and was asking to for permission to enter. Laiserta strode toward the door as Marice and the others stood, ready to face the figure they expected was on the other side of the door.
Upon opening the door, indeed Hamad Gen stood on the other side. He looked very different from how they'd normally seen him, always in some sort of fancy Taydran clothing. This time, however, he was dressed like a common man of moderate means, and his aura seemed as equally different.
"Hello," Hamad said nervously as he stepped inside and Laiserta closed the door behind him. Neither he nor any of the others were exactly sure of what to say. Uneasy alliances are uneasy for a reason.
"Are you ready?" Hamad looked to Marice. The Euphorian nodded in response and reached down lifting the one bag she was going to take with her from the floor.
"Why are you going to the Empire?" Armada spoke up, unafraid of being inappropriate, as always.
"My mother was a noblewoman from the Empire," Hamad explained. "She never taught my father or myself how to speak Ruran. But," the prince continued, "she was a niece to the emperor. If I go there and explain what has happened, I am certain they would offer some form of help, if only in my mother's memory."
"Marice," Trunks spoke, voicing all of his concerns for the girl he considered a younger sister by merely saying her name.
She turned to look at him. "I'll be fine," she replied with a smile.
"I will contact you when I can," Hamad spoke as Marice moved past him and towards the door. "Which probably will not be at least until we reach the Empire where our transmissions will be harder to monitor by any outsiders," Hamad finished as he too turned for the door.
"Be careful," Laiserta said with concern as one of her comrades and the former enemy of their group walked through the door to Nalm and whatever lie ahead for them.