Good news is always accompanied by bad news.
Nalm, Ostia: Loss
"Good news," Trunks spoke to his two other comrades as he and Armada entered the current base of VDD operations in Nalm. "The Verdandi is ready to go!"
"It's about damn time!" Laiserta laughed as she jogged over to greet the pair. "So when are we leaving?" she excitedly asked Armada, a wide toothy smile plastered across her face.
Armada wiped at her face, which was smeared with dirt and grease. "We just got off a twelve hour shift to finish up the overhaul," Armada sighed, "so we're not leaving until I at least get the chance to take a shower and eat."
"Same here," Trunks said as he moved to the one chair in the room and fell into it. He snatched up the remote to the television hanging on the wall opposite him. "But you can go first, Armada," he said as he began channel-surfing.
"Armada," Naya addressed her captain before she could head upstairs for that shower she'd been dying for, "when do you think we should contact Ceva?"
"Well we don't know if Prince Gen has said anything to them," she replied, "but when we're getting ready to leave we'll give them a call. I doubt they'll refuse our help," she then turned to head upstairs.
"Wait a minute," Trunks spoke rather urgently. The three women in the room turned toward him as he turned up the volume on the television.
"...in this video footage taken from the security cameras of a freighter near the incident."
/ /The images on the screen replayed after the woman's comment. Despite the bad quality of the recording device and the distance, they could clearly see that a large fleet of Taydran ships were closing in on a smaller craft.
"Prince Gen's ship was followed by the Taydran royal fleet and shot down just outside the border of the Empire of Roffeler."
/ /The footage showed the Taydran fleet attack, and the smaller ship... was completely obliterated.
"Taydran officials have given no comment thus far, but political scientists speculate that the Prince was acting out of will with Emperor's Gen's wishes, who officially took control of the nation again late last week. Other nations in the area..."
They all stood speechless while watching for any more news regarding the incident. After the anchor revealed the speculations of neighboring nations and moved on to another topic, Trunks turned the monitor off and sat completely stunned.
"No," Laiserta said quietly. "No," she near-shouted, "she's wrong. They're fine; if they weren't, Marice would have told us!" she spoke loudly, pointing accusingly at the now lifeless television.
"Lai," Naya spoke as her eyes slowly filled with water. She approached her comrade with outstretched arms.
"No," Laiserta pulled away. Naya tried again but Laiserta pushed her back some. "No!"
While Naya and Laiserta continued their dance of denial and refused comfort, Trunks's gaze fell to the floor. No way... there's just no way... Trunks couldn't believe what he'd just seen. Hamad Gen, and far more importantly, Marice, they were... /dead/. In a spaceship, millions of kilometers away, helpless to do anything... she died. Suddenly Trunks found it hard to breathe; it felt as if someone was slowly twisting his airway closed. And Marice, she...
"I told her to be careful!" Laiserta shouted in between sobs. Tears didn't run down her face, as it was physically impossible for her to shed them. A lack of tears didn't mean she couldn't cry, however, and soon enough she stopped pushing Naya away and the motherly general wrapped her arms around her comrade. "I told her to be careful," Laiserta said, much softer but with just as much remorse as before.
Trunks, who felt his own eyes burning and the pressure building behind them, slowly looked to his right. Armada stood unmoving and pale, as if she were sick, just staring blankly at the monitor.
Trunks's head sank. That's why he hated traveling in a stupid little ship-he and his comrades were far more vulnerable then than any other time or place. And now Marice, she'd succumb to that vulnerability, and he'd let her leave-they all did.
Grief darkened their spirits. Marice... she was one of their own, and they'd lost her.
Resisting the urge to throw the remote with all of his might, Trunks powered down the monitor he sat across from and let the device fall from his hand to the floor. His room was suddenly dark and cold, but it matched his mood so he wasn't bothered. He sat on the edge of his bed, his gaze unfocused on anything material. His muscles ached from the tension which had also caused a painful migraine headache, as well. At least with Gohan, he had closure. He could bury his mentor and his best friend's body and come to terms with what had happened. With Marice, he only wished he was so lucky. To just remember, over and over the last few words she said to them before she left, and hear that she was dead... he didn't want to believe it, but the rational side of his mind told him that he had to accept what had happened and move on.
The door to his room opened and Trunks looked up to see the only person left in the house. Laiserta ran off shortly after the news, needing to be alone. Naya had chased after her, he thought at first, but soon realized that she too needed her space. Trunks nodded to Armada and she slowly made her way over to where he sat.
She took a seat beside him, but didn't bother to attempt eye contact. "I know it's hard," she said lowly. "I won't pretend that I'm okay, either, because I'm not." Trunks sat unmoving, willing to listen but not yet ready to participate in any conversation about their mutual loss. "I don't know," she stopped, her voice sounding almost faint. She cleared her throat and started again. "I don't know what we should do. Go ahead with Ceva, or..." she trailed off.
"I never should have let her come with us," Armada continued. "She's just a kid."
She turned to look at Trunks, searching for his eyes. "Don't beat yourself up over it. If it's anyone's fault... it's mine."
"I wasn't there," Trunks began but his throat felt tight and caused him to stop.
"None of us were," he heard Armada respond lowly. She stood to leave. "Don't let yourself get eaten up by this. It's awful, but... we can't stop functioning to mourn." Before Trunks could make any kind of response, she left almost as quietly as she came.
Trunks sighed. "How do we not?"
Armada was loading the last few dishes into the automatic dishwasher while her three comrades occupied the living room. The day had been mostly silent for all of them; they didn't know what to say to one another or even to themselves about what had happened. The monitor was on, but none of them were watching. Each was lost in thought, contemplating their loss. A kid sister, a friend, a comrade, an innocent-Marice was all of those things and more. How would they go on without her?
A beeping sound coming from the comm. room broke them all out of their reverie. Armada was the first to head toward the sound and entered the room briskly, seating herself at the one chair set before the console. The others quickly filed in after her as she accepted the transmission.
At first all they looked at what snow. "What is this?" Laiserta found herself asking aloud.
"Let me try and tune to their signal," Armada said almost robotically as she began adjusting the signal.
The signal began to jump and change as she changed channels, until finally a figure began to emerge. After landing on the right channel, Armada tried to fine tune the frequency until the figure was visible, although in black and white.
They all gasped. "Marice!" Trunks shouted as the four recognized the dirt-covered face of their thought-to-be-lost Euphorian comrade.
"Hello?" /they heard her speak as her eyes frantically wandered around the screen. "Can you guys hear me?"/
"We can hear you fine, kid," Laiserta leaned forward and spoke with worry and yet relief. "Go ahead."
/"I can't see you guys, but I hear you," /Marice replied, her eyes focusing their attention on something to her right.
"Are you okay?" Armada queried with still widened eyes. "What happened to you two?"
"Hamad's guards thought this would happen," /Marice answered, her face becoming rather sullen. "We switched ships at a space station just before the border. A handful of his guards decided to pilot the old ship on a path away from our own, and..."/
"We saw what happened," Trunks spoke lowly. "We thought that you, and Hamad had-"
"I know," /Marice cut in. "That's why I had to contact you guys; I knew you'd be worried."/
"But if Hamad's been discovered," Naya finally spoke, "how is he going to help us with Taydr?"
"There are people who are loyal to Hamad in Hrimth," Marice answered, "and they've been helping us out. He stays in very discrete contact with them, but" she continued, "we can't have anymore contact with anyone in Taydr or elsewhere that doesn't already know about what we're doing. We're going to pretend that we died, so everything with Ceva is up to you guys now." A male voice was heard in the background, and Marice's face turned to look in the direction it came from. She looked back to the snowy screen she sat in front of. "I've gotta go; we need to be on our way."
"Be careful," Trunks shot out before she ended the transmission.
Marice gave them a weary smile. "I know. I will." The black and white video feed ended, and the sound followed a few seconds after.
There was a collective sigh of relief from the group. Armada stood and faced her three comrades with a stony visage. "We're leaving for Ceva tomorrow." She paused. "Be ready to leave at dawn."