Categories > Anime/Manga > Dragon Ball Z > Illumination

Interlude: Refugees or Mercenaries? (Part I)

by SilverArmada 0 reviews

With the Verdandi in pieces, the crew settles in for an extended stay on Stapel while the ship undergoes repairs. Everyone gets a taste of something different while away from Bmyhad and the life of...

Category: Dragon Ball Z - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure - Characters: Trunks - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2006-02-11 - Updated: 2006-02-12 - 15573 words

Interlude: Refugees or Mercenaries (Part I)
Take me by the hand,
Take me somewhere new,
I don't know who you are but I,
I'm with you.
--Avril Lavigne, "With You"
"There goes another one!" Laiserta shouted over the Verdandi's rumbling to her commander to the rear. She held onto the shaking controls of the ship tightly, her grip unrelenting. She squinted her eyes, staring forward at the flashing red monitor that had just alerted her that another of the ship's main engines had failed. She barely made out the characters as they'd all began to blur together, caused by the violent shaking of the Verdandi itself.
"Damn," the blonde leader cursed, gripping tightly to whatever was in reach and attached to the ship in the rear of the bridge.
"How many does that leave left?!" Trunks yelled out exasperated, as he too clung to anything he could manage to keep from flying all over the place. Sirens blared, lights flashed, and any and all alert signals were going off. As they had been for the past thirty or so minutes.
"Cut the power!" Armada shouted back towards the pilot.
"I've tried/!" Laiserta replied loudly, repeating the motions on the controls to stop power flow to the engines. "What do you think I've been /doing up here?!"
"How much longer is this going to last?!" Trunks asked aloud to anyone who would answer.
"We're almost there!" Marice responded from her seat, which she clung to with all her might. She opened her eyes slowly, from their previously clenched-shut position, to see that indeed they were near their destination, as indicated by the navigational system laid out before her.
The entirely lovely situation the crew of the Verdandi found themselves in was due partially to the unnatural acceleration caused by the firing of the ship's artillery to give it enough of a boost to escape Rieve's fleet. After the burst of speed, damage to the main thrust engines followed shortly thereafter, and their programming was scrambled-causing the ship to accelerate uncontrollably. The continuous acceleration caused several engines to burn out, one after another. Each explosion damaged the ship further each time, and with another large explosion, it had become quite possible for the ship to break apart.
Laiserta tightened her grip on the levers in front of her as she felt the one in her right hand began shaking. "Wherever we're headed, we better get there soon!" With that, the lever in her right hand broke free of her grasp and whipped her hand away, nailing her wrist before Laiserta could pull it away. Laiserta tucked her hand in, gritting her teeth through the incredible pain. Meanwhile, the ship started to spin as one portion of the ship's control was...out of control.
The members of VDD held tightly to their positions as the ship spun wildly out of control while shooting through space at incredible speeds. Laiserta, with regained composure, reached forward once more and snatched the lever she'd let go of previously with an unparalleled ferocity. She pushed the stick forward slowly and painstakingly, regaining control of the ship bit-by-bit.
The silver spacecraft finally stopping twirling crazily as the pilot retook control. "I...feel sick," Naya spoke up hoarsely from her chair behind weapons control, still clinging tightly to the console before her.
"Lai, get me a visual!" Armada ordered while her dizziness slowly faded.
Laiserta stared at the controls between the two levers which controlled the ship's direction. "That's a little difficult at the moment!" she shouted over the blare of the alarms.
"Just /do it/!" Armada reprimanded the pilot.
"Alright!" Laiserta cringed, almost closing her eyes as she looked to the few buttons between her two already busy hands. Making a split decision, she flung her head down the console and mashed whatever buttons she could with her forehead.
Miraculously, the plan worked and monitor flashed from a detailed layout of the ship with damage reports to the visual of what exactly was in front of the ship. And what lie before the group was a huge, lush green planet.
"This is it!" Marice chimed in while still gripping tightly to her station.
"Get ready to land!" Armada once again yelled forward to the ship's resident pilot.
"Land?!" Laiserta shouted exasperated as the green mystery planet came into the full view of the monitor before her. She gritted her teeth once more and reasserted her grip on the ship's controls. "More like crash!"
"Looks a lot like Euphoria," Trunks commented aloud about the scenery he stood in. He rubbed his newly sore neck gingerly; if only he hadn't tensed so much before the crash.
"Yeah, déjà vu," Laiserta replied while taking in the scenery. She stood about twenty feet to the right of Trunks, and closer to the wreckage that lay behind the two.
Naya stepped cautiously from the Verdandi, slowly dropping the two feet to the ground from the open door of the spacecraft-or, at least, what used to be a spacecraft. She held a hand to her head while closing her eyes and walking slowly from the ship.
Trunks glanced around at the exotic vegetation once again. The more he looked around, the more he noticed things didn't look exactly like they had on Euphoria. "Hey, I wonder-"
"Stapel," Marice replied, deftly cutting him off. "I brought us to Stapel. It's a lot like Euphoria, and it was the closest place I could find when we were getting attacked." Marice stood about five feet away to Trunks's left.
"No wonder it looks so familiar," the demi-Saiyan commented with a slight laugh.
"That, and if we need to, we can hide here," Marice elaborated, "because it's really hard to find anybody where there isn't technology like there is...everywhere else," she finished with a sort of sad voice.
Trunks nodded to her and she turned and started walking off in another direction to check things out. Trunks turned around to look at the garbled piece of metal behind him that was left of the /Verdandi/. He noticed Armada standing by the other end of the ship, on the side he was on. He went to say something, but stopped when he heard the plethora of swear words that escaped her mouth. She put her hands behind her head and squeezed her elbows together in front of her face, before kicking the dirt. Once she'd finished in his native language, however, she switched to some other language that Trunks had neither heard before, nor understood. He'd just assumed that she went back to cursing, and by the way she shouted words he didn't understand, he had a good reason to believe so.
Armada stopped swearing at what she'd seen of her ship so far and turned to her left. She saw Trunks just standing there, watching her as she'd gone on her tirade. "Well?" she shouted out frustratingly to him.
"What?" he blinked, startled by her sudden attention of him.
"Aren't you going to go find us a place to stay?" she demanded from more than forty yards away. She glared when he gave no answer. "I'm not going to get this thing fixed by tonight."
"Can't we just stay on the ship?" Trunks questioned back, reasonably confused. They all had rooms...why go somewhere else?
"Because nobody stays on the ship while I fix it. It's bad luck," she replied, her angry demeanor slowly slipping away.
"Geez Armada, didn't realize that even you have a taboo," Trunks joked at her expense. Bad luck? He'd never heard of such a thing from her, of all people.
She shot him an annoyed glare before continuing. "Maybe Lai or Naya will go with you."
Trunks turned to see if he could pin down one of his comrades to accompany him on such an important mission, but found no one, much to his dismay.
"I'll go with you!" Marice piped up, reappearing by Trunks's side.
"Oh, uh, hi, Marice," Trunks laughed nervously. He hadn't spent much time with the young girl, but she was quickly becoming attached to him. It was obvious to a blind man from two-hundred yards away.
"I'll catch up with you guys later," Armada called out from where she stood. "I need to see exactly how long it's going to take me to fix the ship."
"Okay. Bye!" Marice called out, waving to her captain excitedly. She turned to face Trunks. "Let's go!" With that, she headed off away from the ship with Trunks in tow.
Armada turned her attention back to the Verdandi after the pair was out of sight. "This is gonna take a while," she stated condescendingly to no one but herself.
"Uh, do you know where you're going?" Trunks asked Marice nervously. She told them all previously that she'd never been off Euphoria, so how could she possibly know?
Marice stopped and turned to her right slightly. She pointed to a tree trunk low to the ground that had what looked like claw marks across the base. "Those markings say that there's a safe point west of here." She turned her gaze to Trunks. "Which is the way we're going. Simple enough," she laughed.
Trunks nodded with a slight laugh and the two continued on their way. Within a half hour, the duo found themselves at the outskirts of a fairly large town, considering how the Euphorians and (assumedly) the Stapelians lived.
Trunks stood gaping in awe. The architecture matched something like Earth's just that everything was made of wood. The roads consisted not of dirt like on Euphoria, but of rocks placed apart enough for mortar to fill the gaps. Many people were out, and it seemed just by looking at them that they were far better off than their war-torn Euphorian counterparts.
"Heheh..." Marice laughed nervously. "Didn't think it'd be so...large."
The two stood watching the sights before being brought back to Stapel with the cheering of a crowd. Curious, the two exchanged glances before heading into town and following the source of the noise.
"My friends," a navy-haired young man spoke, "we cannot wage war with our neighbors! What would doing so get us? Nothing! Nothing but death and destruction, just like the Great War!"
The crowd cheered once more as the young man on stage finished his statement. Trunks and Marice stood at the back of the crowd watching, curious as to what exactly the youth was going on about. He stood on a small stage, no larger than twenty-by-twenty feet, set in what appeared to be the town square. The fiery youth on stage continued.
"I ask you this: why end the peace we've worked so hard to keep and jeopardize everything we've gained thus far? Will our long and hard progress be for naught?"
Marice and Trunks watched the speaker intently, barely noticing the young man whom approached a woman in the crowd to their left. "Hey, did I miss much?" he asked the brunette he'd stopped next to.
"Not really. Jan's just talking about how some dissent has come up with the other villages. He's retaliating to Nexus, or so it seems," the brown-haired woman answered in a hushed voice.
"Remember; those who call for war are not only risking their own lives, but those of every man, woman, and child of this town! Will you stand for this kind of thing? Will you let a few misguided souls make decisions for all?
"My friends, please, think twice before deciding on war. After did we end up where we are now?"
With that, 'Jan' nodded to the crowd, which at that point, figuring he had finished, began to disperse. As the crowd thinned, the two foreigners who stood in the back held their ground, observing in general what was happening around them.
"Well," Trunks turned towards Marice, "think we better get back to work?"
"I guess-"
"I haven't seen you around before. Newcomers?"
After Marice had been cut off, the two mercenaries turned towards the voice that had spoken to them-to find the speaker from only moments ago addressing them.
"You could say that," Trunks responded, being the first to speak up.
"I should introduce myself then. My name's January Sol, or as everyone else calls me, Janus," the young man replied, looking to Trunks and then Marice.
Marice held her left arm, just above the elbow with her right hand as a sign of nervousness. "That was quite some speech you just gave," she commented lightly.
Janus laughed slightly. "Well, I suppose-ah!" He stopped mid sentence as his eyes were drawn to the left arm of Marice. He took a step closer. "!"
Marice blinked at him for a moment, confused until her eyes wandered to his left arm. "Hey!" She dropped her hand from the arm she held onto. "You too?"
"Yeah...," Janus responded thoughtfully, "and they said it to you also?"
Marice nodded. "That's why I noticed."
Trunks, thoroughly confused at this point, laughed nervously. "Okay, Marice...what exactly is going on?"
Janus started to explain. "There's the fi-"
Marice cut him off with the shaking of her head. "He's not one of us."
"Oh," Janus responded with the knowledge sinking in. Janus then turned his attention to the red-head once more. "'re Marice, right?"
Marice nodded. "Yes."
Janus then turned towards Trunks. "And you are...?"
"Trunks," the demi-Saiyan responded.
"Well, Marice, Trunks," Janus paused between their names, nodding to each as he repeated the name; "since you're new in town, allow me to show you around."
Naya walked cautiously into the dark hut, her eyes adjusting to the small amount of light inside once through the door. She glanced around. /A bar...of course/, she laughed to herself mentally. Tracking down that slippery Taydran friend of hers was harder than it seemed.
It was then that something odd yet familiar caught her attention. Upon seeing who sat at one of the front tables, all alone, and with a drink in hand, Naya headed in that direction. Once she reached the table, which sat with a booth stretched across a half-wall through the bar on one side and a solo chair on the other, Naya pulled the chair out and sat down. She then addressed the dark figure in her midst. "What are you doing here?"
Laiserta's chin rested on the table at which she sat, slouched in a terrible position, with a drink in her right hand. "I wanted to see the Stapelian brew compared to others. So far, it's faring pretty well." That was Laiserta's way of saying that the alcohol was fairly strong.
"What's the matter Lai?" Naya jumped right in. "This isn't exactly like you. The moping, not the drinking," Naya added, not wanting another dodgy answer from her comrade.
"When Rieve was ordering us to surrender, I saw someone walk past him in the background. A friend of mine; I didn't expect to see him with Rieve... at all." Laiserta's demeanor seemed to sink even lower with the vague explanation she gave.
"Who is this friend of yours?" Naya questioned, slowly starting to understand Laiserta's ailment.
"A very close friend. I've known him for seventeen years...and haven't seen him in six."
Naya hesitated on continuing for a moment, but went on anyway. "This friend of yours...what is his name?"
She seemed very pained saying that Naya, at least. Naya then found the wood grain of the table very interesting. She hadn't known Laiserta to be the caring type, though not knowing her for very long also played a factor into that. Then again, Laiserta's personality was like that of some of the men she served with in combat on Tyron, and she'd made assumptions about the Taydran that seemed to be proven wrong.
Laiserta sighed. After a pause in which she thought, she finally spoke. "So...what about you Naya? Why leave the military if you were the man, er, woman in charge?"
Startled by her companion's sudden speach, Naya took a deep breath and let the answer out slowly as she thought of what to say. "I was head of all military forces, but the head of the Tenpouin clan was the real 'leader' of Tyron."
"You didn't answer," Laiserta narrowed her eyes at the crafty general. Naya was a bit surprised at her comrade's perception under the influence of many Stapelian drinks.
"I was forced to resign. That's all," Naya lied. She told herself that she wasn't really lying--just not telling the whole truth. Or even half of it.
At that moment, the two were interrupted by the door to the bar opening behind them--and their two comrades stepping through it, accompanied by some blue-haired young man. "This is one of the more popular places to get a bite to eat," the blue one spoke to Trunks and Marice.
Marice was glancing around the eatery when she saw two-fifths of VDD seated at a small table near the door. "Hey! Where have you guys /been/!"
"We've been here the entire time," Naya replied, turing to face the young redhead as she approached their table.
It was then that Marice noticed the intoxicated Taydran to her left. "Lai!...are you okay?" she asked, leaning in to get a better look at the young woman's face. Janus and Trunks appeared at the side of the table shortly after the Euphorian.
Laiserta's eyes raised up to look at Marice, her eyebrows lowering into an angry glare once their eyes met. Marice started to backpedal until Naya stole her attention from Laiserta. "What are you doing looking here? And who is this young man with you two?" Naya questioned while placing a hand on the girl's arm.
Marice turned to face Naya. "Oh! Well," she started, moving out of the line-of-sight of Naya to Janus. "This is a villager named Janus. He took the liberty of showing us around."
"Hello...Naya, I hope?" Janus treaded lightly, partially assuming that he was right.
"Yes. A pleasure to meet you Janus," Naya replied, putting on her diplomatic face at the moment. "And this," she started, turning towards her Taydran companion, "is Laiserta."
Janus raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to speak to Laiserta, but soon found himself at a loss of words. At least, words that would have been appropriate and not 'Why in the world are you drinking so much?!'
"How'd you two end up here?" Trunks asked Naya, turning the tide of the conversation once more.
"I came to find Lai," Naya answered, "but she came here to drink," the Tyrian finished while pointing in the Taydran's direction.
"Well, you guys should come with us while Janus shows us the rest of town," Marice added in. "That's what we were doing, anyway."
"All right then," Naya stood, ready to leave with her comrades and tour guide. She turned to her right. "Lai?"
Laiserta took a deep breath and then sighed. "Coming," the dreary drinker muttered while standing.
As Laiserta stood, a waiter from another table made his way to the group. "Ahem..." he started by clearing his throat to garner the group's attention. "Do you plan on leaving?"
All five were silent as all eyes fell upon Laiserta. Laiserta, in return, only looked toward Naya. Naya raised an eyebrow. "You can't pay?"
"Hell, you think I have any of the Stapelian currency on me?!"
At that, the entire group save Laiserta face-vaulted.
"I guess I'll pay," Janus said rather nervously. The youth shuffled through his pockets until he found a few bills. "That should be more than enough," he added while handing them to the server.
"Wow Lai," Naya stated cynically, "you've known a man only thirty seconds and already had him pay for dinner. How do you do it?"
"Well, here it is," Janus spoke almost proudly as he stood facing his home with four-fifths of VDD behind him. He smiled at the sight of his home. He'd spent two years building it himself, and it towered over any other structure in the small town--three stories high, with room for many people. Of which, he had many come and go through the years.
"Wow..."Marice stated in surprise with wide eyes. She'd never seen anything so large that wasn't pioneered by technology.
"That's...quite a place," Trunks added in, comparing the size of Janus's home to that of the Capsule Corporation. It wasn't nearly as tall, but maybe had the same surface area covered on the ground.
"Thanks," Janus responded with a smile while turning to face the awestruck Euphorian and interested demi-Saiyan, as the other portion of their group straddled behind ten or so paces. "So what brings you to Stapel? You don't seem like you're from a neighboring village...or anywhere on Stapel for that matter."
Marice and Trunks exchanged glances. In a split second decision, Trunks decided he could trust Janus--somewhat--and figured he could tell the young man the true story. "We crash landed here with those two," he said pointing over his shoulder at the straddlers, "and another friend of ours in a spaceship. It's a good distance to the east of town."
Janus nodded, soaking in the information. "If I can ask, what are you doing /here/?"
"We're looking for a place to stay," Marice piped up...finally. "While our ship's being repaired, at least."
Janus thought for a moment as Laiserta and Naya caught up to the stopped group. "What happened to the tour?" Laiserta questioned mockingly. "I thought we were just getting started."
"That's the thing," Janus semi-laughed, "it IS over."
"What do you mean?" Naya questioned.
"You see, ah..." Janus trailed off and finally decided to just throw the proposition out there. "You guys wanna stay with me?"
"Well, we--wait a mintue. Do you mean here/? As in /your place?!" Trunks questioned in surprise. He wasn't expecting that, of all things.
Janus laughed. "Of course. I have plenty of room. Besides, I've always been interested in travelers. I would have been one myself if I could have."
Before anyone could reply, Marice's stomach cut in and rumbled hungrily. Embarassed, the young girl blushed quite a bit while everyone else around her laughed.
"I can see that you must be hungry," Janus managed to say through his laughter. "Come with me, it's almost time for the evening meal anyway." Janus turned and headed towards his home. The group exchanged glances once more. Both Trunks and Laiserta shrugged, and after not knowing what to do next, they followed Janus. Besides, free food was hard for any of them to pass up
The four foreigners stood in the foyer of Janus's home, enjoying the view while the youth was away in the mansion somewhere.
Laiserta glanced around as she spoke. "Wonder what Armada'd think of this."
"Probably something about how 'primitive' everything is," Trunks replied with a slight laugh.
"Speaking of which," Naya interrupted the two, "where is the captain?"
"She stayed back at the Verdandi to work on it," Trunks answered. "At least, that's where she was when Marice and I left."
"Did she say when she'd be done?" Naya continued.
"No, just that she'd catch up with us 'later.' Vague, I know," the demi-Saiyan responded with a shrug. Besides, it wasn't like it was his job to keep track of where people where.
It was then that Janus returned to the group awaiting him in the foyer. "Seems the food's ready. So...c'mon everyone!" Janus exclaimed in an excited demeanor, and led the way through his home to where they were dining. Through the few rooms the crew was lead through, they each noticed just how large the young man's home was--and how opulent. Everything was decorated ornately, but not too much. Most things were made of stone or wood, or maybe marble, but the home in general lacked precious metals. Beautifully hand-woven tapestries and carpets were spread throughout, and the warm, soft glow of all the candles and torches burning to provide light made the place feel very cozy, even in its size.
Janus lead them up a set of stairs, rather wide, and upon reaching the top, showed them where they would dine. The room was fairly large for a dining room, but wasn't overly large. In fact, it didn't look as formal as most dining rooms might look. There was one large table in the center of the room, which faced the wide, open archways leading into the room. 'Behind' the table were smaller round tables, at which two or three people could sit, upon a raised portion of the floor and with a wall seperating the round tables from the rectangular one. The arrangement was almost like
"Well, everyone grab a seat; the food's coming in after we're seated," Janus elaborated to the group before making his way to a seat. The mercenaries followed suit, putting Janus between Marice on the end and Trunks, who sat next to Laiserta, and Naya on the other end. Not long after the entire was group was situated, as Janus had said, the food was brought out to them by what appeared to be hired help.
"You have servants?" Marice asked Janus as another platter was set before her.
"Sort of," Janus started, "I pay them well; they live here, in nice rooms, and eat here free as well. In return for free room and board, they do a little work here and there." Janus pulled a plate of vegetables toward himself and began scooping some up and unto his plate. "It's not like there's a whole lot to be done anyway, considering that I'm the only who lives here besides them. Of which, there are only six."
"Don't you have any family?" Trunks inquired, wondering why someone so young would be all alone.
Janus shook his head. "I've been on my own since I was twelve."
"What happened?' Marice looked to Janus, genuinely interested in a story so similar to her own.
"My parents died of Crimson Fever. I was the only child," Janus replied lowly. He apparently wasn't too thrilled with the subject of conversation.
Marice's face dropped some. "My mother died of Crimson Fever too, father was gone long before that."
An uneasy silence passed. "'s life on Stapel?" Laiserta queried, trying to alleviate the somber mood the conversation had gone before that. In no time, she had the entire group joking and laughing once more.
It was well into night as Armada sauntered forward tiredly, towards the nearby Stapelian town. She'd assumed that this was the place they'd gone, considering that it was the direction she'd seen Marice lead Trunks hours ago. Besides, if she was wrong, she'd find out right away--small towns like these on remote planets never had visitors, and if they had, it'd be the talk of the town. Simple enough.
After making it to the edge of town, Armada's pace slowed, as she tried to guess at where to look for her subordinates next. Walking past the few villagers that were out at night was...aggrivating. Every person that Armada caught staring at her recieved a threatening glare in return. She knew full well why they were all staring, and it was just annoying.
Suddenly, a young brunette woman approached the mercenary. "Um...are you looking for the people that came here today? Ah, four of them; I think," she asked in a soft yet fearful voice, while staring uncontrollably at the mercenary.
Armada stifled a sarcastic laugh. Smart-thinking... "Yeah, and let me guess: the dark haired woman drinks and swears a lot, the other woman is stand-offish and has a weird accent, the man has purple hair, and the girl is impressed with the town's technology."
Shocked, the woman could only nod in response. "Uheh...."
Upon hearing the affirmative, Armada spoke. "Where are they?"
The laughter died down as Janus continued. "And then, of course, there's always the days when--"
Trunks's attention turned to his right as he saw a figure enter the dining room. He did a double take once he realized who it was...and then had to try hard to not burst out laughing.
Janus trailed off in his story as he saw someone unbeknownst to him in his home. Marice, Laiserta, and Naya, on the other hand, immediately began to stifle their laughter.
"It's about time I found you," Armada started, annoyed at the group as they stayed silent.
Trunks couldn't help himself--he burst out laughing, as did his comrades. Janus tried hard not to laugh at someone he didn't even know, but it was difficult considering that Armada's face was completely black, as were her bangs, a good portion of her hair and armor leading down towards her chest where the 'charring' had stopped.
"What the hell'd you do now spider-head?!" Laiserta laughed raucously, pointing a finger at her commander. Marice nearly hit the floor at the sight, and Naya tried very hard to be quiet about her laughter.
Armada narrowed her eyes angrily at the group. Marice tried to speak as she lost her breath laughing hysterically. "What...what happened?"
"If I just get fuel line out of the way," Armada spoke aloud to herself between the cord she held in her mouth while rewiring a bit of damaged wire. She floated in the air, reaching underneath one of the main thrust units. She took the thick wire she held in her mouth with her left hand, trying to reattach it to the one she'd pulled forth from the wreckage with her right. She quickly severed the damaged ends of the wire, exposing undamaged areas in which to fuse the connection together again. Just as she'd finished doing this, a strange noise was heard in the thruster that sounded as if something was dropped inside it. Curious as to what was going on, Armada dropped the wires in her hands and flew up enough to see inside the thruster--her shoulders clearing the bottom rim by four or five inches. She blinked in curiosity until a small flame shot out, causing her to blink in reaction to the stimulus. Upon opening her eyes, she realized what had occurred--and that she was covered in soot.
After hearing the story, Laiserta added insult to injury. "That was intelligent!" While the Taydran continued to laugh hysterically, Armada made a silent oath to murder the darkling.
Trunks, now that he had himself under control, spoke. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to tell you how long it's going to take to fix the ship, remember?" she replied slightly calmer than before.
"Well, how long?" Trunks asked, now fully regaining his composure.
"Two months, at least. That is, if I can get all the parts I need," Armada continued in a rather deadpan tone.
"And if you can't?" Trunks inquired, wanting to know both possibilities.
"Six. Tops," Armada finished, crossing her arms.
"What?!" Trunks questioned aloud in disbelief.
"Six months?!" Laiserta shouted from her seat. "Why can't you just use the parts that came off the damn thing!"
"Considering that most of them are floating in space/, it'd be kind of difficult to /go get them," Armada replied with disdain.
"Point taken," Laiserta replied under her breath.
Janus, still trying to figure out exactly what was going on, finally spoke. "Uh, there's a wash basin upstairs," he pointed to his right, "the first door on your left."
With a nod and a quick 'thanks,' the crew's leader was out of sight once again.
Janus was deep in thought when Marice took his attention. "We're done."
Startled, the youth looked around himself to see that, indeed, they were all finished. "Oh, well, uh...let me show you to your rooms," Janus fumbled through his words as he stood.
He led the foursome behind himself up the same stairs they'd seen their commander disappear behind only minutes before. The 'first door on your left' was still closed as the group passed it, and Trunks wondered what would take Armada so long to wash some dirt off of her face. He was interrupted soon after when Janus stopped before the last door at the end of the hall.
"Trunks," Janus started at he looked up at the taller man, "this is your room. The ladies sleep in the other wing, my room's in the middle here," with that, Janus pointed to the only door in the next hall, right in the middle, giving the three hallways together a 'n' shape. Trunks nodded to the young leader, and entered his newly acquired room.
After closing the door behind himself, Trunks took a moment to soak in his new surroundings, considering how long he'd be staying. Or at least, based upon the estimate Armada had given them. In short, they'd be settling in for a fairly long stay. Considering he'd only been a mercenary--such a strange thing to think of--for almost two months now, everything still felt kind of new to him. He supposed he could think of this as a vacation. It wasn't like Rieve was really going to follow them to Stapel...or were they?
Trunks sighed. He then took a moment to see the room Janus had given him. The decor consisted mostly of ivory colors and shades of pale cerulean, accented with dark wood furniture. The room almost reminded him of home... Okay, I am not homesick/, Trunks reminded himself. After taking a small tour of the room, he found that he did indeed have his own bathroom. The thought was novel until Trunks wondered exactly /how running water was supplied to the house...they apparently didn't use electricity. He dismissed the thought quickly as his still sore neck cried out for sleep. So, after quickly setting some of his equipment aside, he did just that and slept.
Janus opened the door to the fourth and final room he was to lead one of his newfound guests to. "I have to say, this room is probably my favorite," he said while following Marice into the room. Marice gasped as she walked in, awestruck not only by the size of the room, but also by the decor--lots of deep red with white here and there and black painted furniture. It had a very unique (Oriental) feeling to it.
"It''s incredible!" she exclaimed. This room definitely beat staying on the Verdandi any day. Marice then noticed a small door on the left side of the room. Curious, she ran over and opened it--to reveal her own bathroom! She looked at the basin, and saw a strange wooden thing tilted over it. With a small handle next to it, Marice turned it and water came from the wood-carved pipe.
"As you can see, you have your own washing room. Well, every room does, really," Janus rambled on. He'd lost his composure due to the excitement of the girl. Actually, he lost his composure from just being around her, but her excitement futhered the effect.
Marice whirled around to face Janus. "You have water come straight into your house?!" she questioned half in disbelief.
"Ah, yes," Janus responded, semi-surprised with her reaction. "Before building this place, I found some drawings on paper that detailed how to get water into one's home, so I tried it. Fortunately, it worked," Janus laughed at the last part.
"You have to show me how this works!" Marice exclaimed excitedly.
"Well, it's all in the back out in the yard a good bit from the house--"
"Then let's go!" With that, Marice fled her room and started charging down the hall and towards the stairs.
"Hey, wait!" Janus called out while leaving the room and closing the door behind him. "You don't even know the way!" He ran after her, hoping to catch up before they started going in circles.
"Where is it Janus? I can hardly see out here," Marice inquired as the two walked along the barely-there stone path through the plain behind Janus's mansion-of-sorts.
"We should be coming up on it real soon. Besides, if you'd quit asking, you'd hear the water," he joked back to the girl to his right. He could've sworn that he saw her blush, but dismissed the thought once he considered his visibility...and the probability of him making a girl blush.
"There it is!" he heard her exclaim all of a sudden, and barely saw her dark form surge forward in the mist. He took a few quicker steps, and in no time, found himself standing before the small bit of the mechanism that provided his home with water that stood above-ground. Marice had already knelt in the grass to inspect the object closer.
"Wow..." she commented aloud in a distant voice. " does it work?" She ran her fingers over the few bamboo pipes that sprung from the ground, desperately wanting to know how such a feat worked without electricity or any other applied science.
"Well, the lake isn't too far north of hear," Janus started, pointing north regardless of the fact that he was standing behind Marice. "I dug a small tunnel underground and laid hollow tree stalks together to lead the water here. Actually, it was all downhill, which makes it really easy for the water to get here," he continued, motioning to the small contraption which the girl sat before. "From here, to get the water to move uphill into the house, I used the force of the water coming down hill to push it up--" a pause; "--and turn a small wheel which helps bring the water from the ground into little holding areas throughout the house. So, it sorta sits there until somebody turns on a faucet," the youth laughed lightly, more to ease his own nerves than at his on words.
"It's incredible..." Marice commented, her tone becoming more somber. "It's not like anything back on Euphoria." She sighed. "Everyone's afraid of technology, even in the slightest."
"It's the same here too," Janus added, almost too eagerly. "I think, though...that we've adjusted better than you." A short silence before he quickly added "Euphoria, I mean."
"It's just..." Marice sighed heavy. "Nobody bothers to do anything about it. It's like they're trying to hide from a war that'll never come."
"They depend on other people to do things for them--everything, really," Janus added aloud while thinking of his own world. "As soon as one person steps forward, BAM--he's pinned with responsibility and before you know it, a leader of a group of people he doesn't even know!" the youth finished in exasperation.
"It really makes you feel so--"
"Before you know it you're--"
Both Marice and Janus's heads snapped towards one another as they uttered the last word in unison. Old. It was very much how both felt. Being mere children with the responsibility of looking after several hundred people piled on top of growing up and taking care of made them both feel old. Much older than they were. Extremely old. Geriatric, even.
And here, the rest of the crew would have laughed at both of them--as would everyone else.
However, something incredible had occurred. Each had found someone who knew the burden. Sure, Marice sort-of had Naya, who'd led a military that employed several hundred million people. But she didn't know what it was like to be barely sixteen without any guidance in life and be expected to protect several hundred strangers from whatever threat came their way. Janus knew of a few others like himself, but most were a good distance away and very hard to talk to...aside from Nexus. She, altogether, was a different story. He even supposed that he, himself, was hard to talk to.
Janus looked up. Clouds had started to roll in, and blocked out what little light was reflected by one of Stapel's two satellites, the other being on it's 'new' cycle. After noticing how dark it suddenly appeared to be, Marice stood up and turned to face Janus. At least, what little of him she could see. "Uh, I think we should go back now..." Marice started, not sure how to say that she wasn't sure in what direction they'd come from, considering she hadn't really paid attention to that on her run out from the house.
"Follow me," Janus supplied, figuring that she was trying to say that she was lost. After taking a few steps and not hearing another set of footsteps upon the grass behind him, Janus stopped. He turned to see that she apparently couldn't tell where he was going. So, taking advantage of the situation, he walked back to Marice and seized her right hand in his left to lead her back in the dark. Once the duo started walking, Janus smiled to himself in the dark. She couldn't see his face, anyway.
Trunks opened his eyes halfway before closing them again with a sigh. For limited technology, Stapel sure had comfortable beds. The overall achiness from yesterday's crash was practically gone. The air wasn't stuffy like on the ship, and there really weren't any noises to contend with either. It was fairly peaceful...
...until the knock at the door. Trunks figured that maybe if he ignored it, and pretended that he was still asleep, whomever it was that was knocking would go away. Another knock, this time followed by a small voice behind the door. "Trunks, I...I need to talk to you."
Not wholly recognizing the voice, the demi-Saiyan sat up, stretching slightly, and moved for the door. Upon opening the door, Trunks found himself standing before a fully awake and dressed Janus.
"Janus?" he questioned in curiosity. What could he possibly want?
"Uh, one of your friends hasn't returned." What was he trying to say? He was the one that showed the others their rooms. Where would any of them have gone?
"What do you mean?" Trunks asked, still trying to get a full grasp on his brain and kick it into gear.
"Well, I don't know her name, but--"
"Armada?" Trunks realized that must have been who he was talking about. He knew the other three, they'd already introduced themselves. But...didn't he show her a room last night, too? No...none of us saw her after she left while we were eating...
"If that's her name," Janus added. "I saw that the washroom was still closed this morning. So, I checked, and...nothing appeared to have been touched. Except that the window was open."
That was it. She must have skipped out to go work on the ship. "Don't worry about it Janus, I think she just went back to the ship," Trunks replied. "I'll go check on her later."
"Thanks," the blue-haired youth replied. He turned and left, and Trunks closed the door to his room. Since he was now already awake, he figured he'd get ready for breakfast anyway.
It didn't take long to get cleaned up and dressed, but it did remind Trunks that all of his belongings aside from what was with him yesterday were still on the /Verdandi/, along with the others' things. Trunks now found himself on the ground floor, having passed an empty dining room on the second. That, and if he could find Janus, who was nowhere to be seen on the second floor, he could find out where to get a bite to eat. He heard some noise from the first opening to his left, and entered. He found himself in the kitchen, with a small table that had four chairs placed near the open doorway. One of said chairs was occupied by Janus, who sat drinking a glass of water.
"Decided to get up?" Janus asked with a slight smile upon seeing Trunks enter the kitchen.
"Can't go back to sleep if I'm already awake," he joked back, taking a seat opposite Janus at the table. "So what's there to eat around here?"
"Plenty," Janus replied after taking a drink. "Whenever you're hungry, the kitchen's open."
Trunks laughed slightly. "Good to hear."
Janus took one last drink out of his glass before standing. "Well, I've got work to do. Feel free to look around the house after you finish breakfast." With that, the youth set his glass upon one of the counters and took his leave of the kitchen.
Trunks was about to stand to go about finding food until the action was interrupted by one of the servants setting a plate and glass of water before the young man. He turned his attention to the maid who only smiled. "It's a vegetable medley."
Trunks blinked. "You...only eat vegetables in the morning?"
"It sounds strange to you," the woman continued, "but to me, you're the strange one for even bothering to ask that."
Trunks sweat-dropped. She did have a point. "So," he asked as she started to disappear into what seemed to be the cooking portion of the kitchen, "where'd Janus go?"
"There was a fire a week ago in town, and several buildings burned down. He's helping rebuild them," she replied before vanishing completely from sight. As Trunks began eating--which wasn't bad, either--he figured that after exploring the house, he'd go see if Janus needed any help, and then go back to the Verdandi to retrieve his belongings and check on Armada, as promised. Besides, wasn't it a bit hypocritical of her to tell them that they couldn't stay on the ship yet she was? He definitely had a few words to share with her about that. But first, food was priority.
"Hey kid."
"Hey, Lai," Marice replied tiredly as she entered the kitchen. Laiserta and Naya were already seated at a table that seated four, next to one another, with two open chairs beside either.
"Get enough sleep?" Naya asked Marice with genuine concern as the young girl sat opposite her and beside Laiserta.
"Yeah, better than on the ship or back home," Marice replied looking towards Naya. Not having been awake yet, Marice had skipped putting on her black over-coat and belt with her sai, and her boots, leaving her in only her sleeveless white dress and dark navy capris underneath. Naya wore her white blouse and usual green skirt, apparently leaving her jacket upstairs as well. And Laiserta, well, she wore the usual, sans the trench coat and holsters.
"You really think we'll have to stay several months?" Laiserta then asked Naya while the general drank her tea.
"Unfortunately," Naya began, lowering the cup back to the table, "it seems so. I can't imagine that Armada would lie to us so."
"True...but do you think there's any way this can go faster?" Laiserta asked almost pleadingly, apparently not liking the fact that the crew would be grounded for an extended period of time.
"The captain said that if she can obtain the needed parts, it would only be two months," Naya responded, reminding the seemingly forgetful Taydran. "However, I wonder...where could one find the things she'll need in a place like this? Stapel's not exactly bursting with technology."
"See, that's what makes me nervous," Laiserta continued, "what if we can't get everything we need? And what if Rieve's not giving up and chasing us /here/?"
"I understand how you feel, Lai," Naya replied, "but I suppose the only thing we can do is pray that they aren't."
"Heh," Laiserta scoffed, "I don't remember the last time I prayed."
"Neither do I, Lai, but I'm beginning to strongly reconsider," Naya answered.
Before either of the three could speak again, two servants appeared and set down plates, water, and utensils for each of the girls. Deciding not to question anything, they dug in.
"Hey," Marice spoke up after taking a bite, "don't you think we should go get our stuff from the ship?"
"Of course," Laiserta responded with a mouthful, "but after food. Now eat."
The day was starting to wind down as Trunks approached the /Verdandi/. Yeah, he could have flown, but it just felt kind of nice to walk. It wasn't as if he didn't know where it was.
Upon arrival, Trunks figured he'd see how the work on the ship was going, and if Armada needed any help. As he reached the back of the ship, he heard a strange noise before he could see Armada.
"Damn!" Armada cursed, immediately dropping the wires in her dirt-covered hands and stuffing the electrocuted forefinger of her right hand into her mouth to try and numb the pain.
"How's it going?"
She turned to face whomever had spoken to her to see Trunks standing on the ground behind the ship. "Slow," was her reply, "everything's still hot so it makes it a little difficult when connecting severed wires."
"Why don't you turn off the power?" he asked, wondering why she wouldn't have thought of such a solution.
"Can't. If I do that, we lose the memory and any information stored in the ship's OS...including navigation, star-charts, etc.," she answered, then deciding to turn and make her way down to the ground from where she knelt on a piece of the ship that hadn't been destroyed. "So what are you doing out here?" she asked once her feet had planted on the ground.
"I came to get my things. It's kind of hard to stay at Janus's place without anything besides what I'm wearing," he replied with a slight laugh.
"Yeah, the others already stopped by. They didn't bother to say anything, though," the mercenary joked.
"Which reminds me," he started again before she could say anything, "why didn't you stay? You had Janus pretty worried this morning when he couldn't find you."
"I have work to do," Armada replied, dusting off her hands somewhat. "I can't just let the ship sit out here like this in the condition it's in."
"You yourself said that it was going to take at least two months," Trunks started, "so why act like it has to get done immediately?"
"Because it does," she responded. "I can't leave it like this so some kid walks by, grabs the wrong wire, and gets the shock of a lifetime."
"Apparently you just did," Trunks ever-so-cleverly pointed out.
"Well, I can take it; some backwoods kid, however, can't," she replied with a little more animation than before.
Trunks laughed to himself slightly. "I'm going to get my things; we'll be expecting you at Janus's soon," he reminded her before heading off into the ship.
"Yeah, see ya later," Armada replied, then dispassionately returned to work. It was still a long way to go before the Verdandi would fly again.
Trunks had just finished hauling the last bit of his junk to his room when Janus told him that dinner was ready. He then took a few minutes to organize his belongings before heading downstairs. Once he arrived in the 'dining room' of sorts, Trunks saw that Janus sat opposite the other three, and next to a plate that remained untouched while the others ate. Trunks sat down next to Janus, garnering the youth's attention.
After swallowing a large mouthful a little too quickly, Janus spoke. "I really have to thank you, Trunks, for all your help today. It really made the construction move faster."
"Ah, no problem," the demi-Saiyan answered almost embarrassed. Thanks weren't needed. Besides, he felt like he owed it to Janus to help out somehow. Trunks was then brought out of his thoughts by the three motionless stares he received from across the table. Trunks blinked. "...what?"
"Why didn't we know about this?" Marice finally asked...Janus.
"Well, I was looking for your friend this morning, and I really didn't want to...knock on any of your doors, so I asked Trunks. Before I left, I said I had work to do and somehow he found out that I, along with several others, are helping rebuild a few homes destroyed by a fire a week ago," Janus finished.
"How 'bout we all go tomorrow? I've got nothing better to do," Laiserta suggested, feeling rather small having not helped out on such a charitable task earlier.
"Sounds like a plan," Marice added, with Naya nodding her approval.
"Hey," Laiserta piped up once more, looking toward Janus with intent, "where can we exchange our currency for yours?"
"Well," the youth started, taking a moment to think, "a lot of the smaller villages don't use the printed money much, considering that there's not a whole lot of it around, and that makes it kind of valuable in towns like this," he motioned to the village in which they dined. "But I think there's a larger place southwest of here that carries several currencies from around the system, since it's a trading town and all. You might try there," he finished.
"So you do trade outside Stapel," Trunks surmised, a bit surprised by this new information.
"A little," Janus replied with a slight smile. "The larger cities do, but for the most part, we don't. Each city in Stapel is like it's own country, since our world is so divided loyalty lies in very small areas, and very small quantities at that." He paused. "That's one of the reasons why we have so much trouble with the neighboring villages; there's constant conflict over land and resources like water."
"You're not at constant war, are you?" Naya inquired, intrigued over what Janus had just mentioned--she'd never learned of anything like it from her studies of Stapel on Tyron.
"Not war!" Janus laughed. "We just don't get along well, that's all. Everyone's pretty well afraid of any physical violence thanks to the Great War."
"Talk all you want," Laiserta said with a mouthful, "but I'm finishing the food before it gets cold." Apparently Laiserta wasn't the only one who felt so, for the rest of them followed suit quickly after her and worked on finishing their meals before they went back to finishing their conversations.
Marice sighed. She turned over on her left side. Nothing. She moved over onto her right once again. Still nothing. Exasperated, she flipped unto her back and spread both her arms and legs out wide, trying desperately to relax. It didn't work. Marice lie in the dark in her room, trying her best to fall asleep, but to no avail. It was just one of those restless nights--where one is so excited about something, one's nerves can't be calmed enough to enter full-on slumber. She took a deep breath, very slowly this time. She scowled at the ceiling, as if it were the source of the problem. After thinking about it for a moment, she sat up in bed. Fine, I'll just find something to do until I am tired. With that, she walked over to her door and exited the chamber.
Once in the hall, Marice crept quietly, as to keep Naya and Laiserta from waking. She made her way down the hall, only to stop at the corner where the hall made a left turn. "Huh?" she blinked at the open door to Janus's room that spilled light into the fairly dark corridor. They'd all been 'asleep' for several hours now, so what was his room open for? And why was a lamp lit?
Curious, Marice made her way over to his door. Once at the door, she tried to peer inside, but couldn't see around the door completely since it wasn't entirely open. She then took the initiative and pushed the door open slowly, being careful not to disturb Janus should he, for one reason or another, actually be asleep.
At the sound of his door opening, Janus looked towards the entrance to his room from his desk. "Who's there?" he called out curiously.
"Why are you still up?!" Marice called out annoyed once she stood upright and fully opened the door.
"I-I couldn't sleep, that's all!" a started Janus replied. "Hey," his face turned from surprised to determined, "what are you doing coming into my room?!"
Marice blinked; she hadn't expected that. "I wondered why the door was halfway open!" she half-shouted back. Her expression softened somewhat. "...and I couldn't sleep either."
"A restless night for both of us, huh?" Janus shrugged to himself with a playful smile. "Guess it's nice to know I'm not the only insomniac 'round here."
"Insomni-what?" Marice questioned, not having previous knowledge of the word Janus had just used to describe them both. "Hey," she started, approaching him from the door, "why don't we go get some fresh air? Maybe that'll help."
Janus stood up from his chair. "Well...considering that I have nothing better to do."
"I told them no, but they went ahead with it anyway," Janus laughed while recounting his tale to Marice. "It was pretty embarrassing." He stopped laughing once he noticed that Marice was no longer in his sight. "Marice?" he called out in the dim firelight of the few torches they'd lit outside to have some light on a cloudy night.
At the sound of Marice's voice behind him, Janus turned to face her--and met a ball of dirt with his face. "So now we've agreed to pelt one another with dirt?" he questioned seemingly annoyed.
"Nope," Marice said as she approached him with a smirk on her face. "Just you."
"Very, very funny," Janus laughed slightly while brushing some of the dirt clods from his shirt. The soil was rather dusty at that time since the village hadn't seen rain in little over a week.
"I'm surprised at how well we get along, Marice," Janus stated with a slightly more serious tone. "Shouldn't two tribe leaders like us be at each other's throats? We're not even from the same planet; you being from Euphoria of all places," he mocked sarcastically.
"There's no written rule that says we have to be enemies," Marice rolled her eyes.
"Our ancestors would have said so," Janus replied. "Before the war."
"That doesn't matter now," came Marice's annoyed reply. "They're not here, they don't know what it's like--and for good reason. They slaughtered one another."
"Whoa, I never said you had to get that serious about it!" Janus laughed nervously.
"Well, you started it, so feel the wrath of my rant!" Marice joked, leaning up on her toes to appear taller and wiggle her fingers in Janus's face in an attempt to appear frightening.
"Agh!" Janus placed his right hand over his heart. "I think...I'm having a heart attack!" He then crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue, and pretended to fall over.
Marice shook her head and snatched his left arm, yanking him forward again to the point where he nearly lost his balance. "Not today," she smiled.
"Hey, do you have to pull so hard?" Janus over-whined once he stood upright.
"No, if you weren't packing on of the pounds!" Marice joked, giving him a poke for good measure in the abdomen. She wasn't surprised to find that he really didn't have much fat at all, either, considering how toned his arms looked.
"Maybe it has something to do with our tattoos," Janus spoke up in a more somber tone after the delay in their conversation.
"Huh?" Marice blinked, confused as to what he was talking about.
"Us getting along well," he reminded her.
"Oh," Marice mentally slapped herself for forgetting already. "Well...I don't know. Let me recall the tale," she jested, moving to his left. "You obviously have the Fire Deity's mark," she started, "and thus have been aligned with the Fire Deity. I, myself," she began, placing her right hand on her chest to emphasize her point, "have been aligned with the Wind Deity. And according to the legend," she continued, now focusing her attention back to Janus, "both the Wind Deity and the Fire Deity, the two lesser deities of both Stapel," she pointed an upwards open palm toward Janus, "and Euphoria," she then brought the same hand towards herself, "found one another during a war between the two worlds--led by the higher deities, the Water Deity of Euphoria and the Earth Deity of Stapel--and fell in love..." Marice stopped once she realized the implications of what she was saying.
"Although it obviously went against their masters' wishes," Janus picked up where Marice left off. "And during a battle in the war, the Wind Deity was killed," Janus's tone now softened. "And once the Fire Deity learned of this tragedy, his sadness consumed him and he burned up into nothing." A pause. "Or so the story goes. After all, it's only a legend," he finished with a subtle smile.
Marice found herself staring at Janus. She didn't know exactly what was going on, but she had the feeling that she needed to go. Back to her room, of course. Once she'd gathered her thoughts, Marice then realized just how close they stood--a little too close. A lot too close. Marice tried to nonchalantly swipe her hair from her face to try and overcome the redness that she felt coming to her cheeks. "It's late."
Janus snapped back to reality. "Yeah...I think I can get some sleep now," he laughed with a distant concern to work to overcome the fleeting feeling dominating his senses. Marice nodded and departed on her own, and once she was out of sight, Janus breathed a sigh of relief. Thoughts of 'She's not from here,' 'She's not staying,' 'Doesn't seem like she's interested,' et cetera, kept filling his mind. Janus sighed once more at his own unfortunate confusion. "Whatever. I'm tired," and with that, he begrudgingly headed off to bed.
Trunks walked casually through the thin forest of Stapel east of the village in which he stayed. He took a deep breath, trying to enjoy what he could of the day. He remembered how that morning Naya had commented on not seeing the leader of their group for some time...and the others had professed that they hadn't seen her since they'd gone to collect their things from the ship two weeks ago--including himself. While the rest of them headed into town with Janus, Trunks figured that he'd be the one to take a break and go fetch Armada. Well, if not fetch, at least make sure she was still alive. He knew she'd be fine, if not a little dirty from all her work on the ship, and he'd only remind her to keep up appearances with the group every so many days so they didn't worry about her.
Once Trunks reached the clearing where the mangled Verdandi sat, he stopped. Something No, it wasn't that he didn't hear any of the normal sounds of the ship being repaired...he didn't sense Armada's energy. Starting to become panicked, Trunks picked up his pace to a jog. "Armada," he called out, and following no response, he charged forward in a full-on sprint for the rear of the ship. Once he was about even in his position towards the rear of the ship, he could see the arm of a certain someone hanging out of one of the lower thrusters on the ship, palm toward the sky, with blood running down its length. He skidded to a near-halt while turning to his left towards his comrade's position. Trunks leapt into the air and hovered just outside one of the larger thrust engines where Armada lie, passed out. The wound on her arm wasn't too severe; apparently she had injured herself on the forearm near the elbow and wrapped the bandage herself...which didn't appear to be enough. Which brought up another question: why wasn't she wearing the digital armor? She was, as expected, dirt covered, and at the same time seemed strangely pale.
"Come on Armada, wake up," Trunks spoke softly more to himself than to his comrade, whom he was shaking by the shoulders. She seemed to take a deeper breath before opening her eyes slightly and immediately closing them again. "Get up!" Trunks said considerably louder now that he at least knew she was living, yet still in a panicked voice. What the hell happened?! kept racing through his mind. How did she end up looking so torn up on Stapel of all places? There wasn't anything around that posed a real threat...was there?
Armada opened her eyes more the next time, and very softly uttered one word. "Tren..."
"What?" Trunks was taken aback.
Armada took her right hand and wiped at her eyes before squinting to see who stood or hovered, rather, before her. "...Trunks?!"
"Who'd you think it was?!" he found himself near demanding at her.
"Huh...? What?" an obviously confused mercenary found herself reeling. She sat up fully and leaned her back against one of the round sides of the thruster in which she currently resided. After blinking profusely for a moment, she finally turned to Trunks. "What are you doing here?"
"Nobody's seen you in two weeks! What happened?" he tried to calm himself, but the nagging feeling he'd had since landing on Stapel had multiplied with recent events and wasn't going away any time soon.
"What do you mean, 'what happened?'" she looked at him with a rather annoyed look.
"You were passed out. Not to mention your left arm," he said, looking to the aforementioned bleeding limb.
"This?" Armada nodded towards her injured arm. "I got a pretty bad shock is all."
"How'd you manage that? Why weren't you wearing your armor?" Trunks now found himself at the head of an interrogation, it seemed.
"I couldn't reach up to where I needed to in order to reconnect the link from the engine to thrust with my armor on; my arm was too wide with the armor so I removed it," she responded even more distant than before. She slowly started to slink back and close her eyes, leaning more of her weight unto the metal wall behind her, slipping backwards down the thruster--
"Hey!" Trunks shouted to get her attention. She shot her eyes open once more, staring at the angry demi-Saiyan wide-eyed. "You're exhausted. You can't keep doing this."
"Since when do I need lessons from you on how to take care of myself?!" she shot back defiantly with an angered gaze. Trunks only glared back just as angry, if not more so. "I've got work to do--"
"How long were you out?" he quickly interrupted her with a cool-tempered question.
Armada was a bit surprised at such a question. To be honest, she wasn't completely sure of the answer...the sun was soon to set last she remembered, and if it was currently mid-morning, as she'd guessed, she didn't exactly want to admit defeat.
Trunks, intent on winning this 'battle' that was being waged, took a chance and decided to aim for where she was most vulnerable. Sure, maybe it was a little under-handed, but he had to get his point across. "You can't repair the ship very well like this."
This struck a chord in Armada. "You''re right." She cast her eyes downward a bit while running her right hand up through her bangs. "I can't think straight.'re right. I need rest." She looked at him with one of the most honest looks he'd seen her give in a while, if ever.
Trunks's expression softened a bit as he wasn't quite prepared for that kind of reaction. Finally gathering his thoughts once again, he offered a hand to her. "Here, let me help--"
Armada swatted his left hand away with her right. "I'll walk; thanks," she responded once again in her normal disdain-filled voice.
/ Two steps forward; one step back/, Trunks commented mentally.
"Check this out Naya," Laiserta called to her friend, holding up a very red and stylish Stapelian part-dress-part-tunic and smiling broadly.
Naya laughed and shook her head. "Red isn't exactly my color, Lai."
"Why not? Your shoes are red," Laiserta pointed out the general's crimson heels.
"I suppose I'm not one for the attention," Naya smiled warmly at Laiserta. "What about you?" she joked at the dark Taydran.
Laiserta rubbed her left arm with her right hand. "I don't wear anything that doesn't.../cover/ everything," she replied in a much more somber mood.
Naya blinked in curiosity. "I've noticed that, but...why not?" Laiserta glanced around before telling Naya, in a very condensed form, of the physical state of her body. More poignantly, just how unnatural it was.
"Mm..." Naya seemed to be in deep thought after hearing such a tale. "I'd noticed that something was off, not just from your eyes, but also the way you acted."
"You're that perceptive?" Laiserta questioned in surprise.
Naya winced, not wanting to hide the truth from her friend. "Just call it a gift I picked up while in the military. I learned to analyze people and their actions to identify their weaknesses." /Well, it isn't a total lie/, Naya told herself. Just another half-truth that would have to do.
"Well then," Laiserta started again, her voice sounding rather sly, "if you're so perceptive, what have you picked up on Marice?" While waiting for her comrade's response, she folded the article of clothing she was holding.
"Marice is very mature for her age, though I'm sure even you've seen that," Naya replied with a slight laugh. "She feels very insecure at times, and does let her teenage side squeeze through every now and then."
Laiserta grinned, laughing slightly. "I meant lately. As in a certain blue-haired young man she's always seen with."
"Janus?" Naya blinked, a bit surprised. "Well..." Naya paused for a moment. "It seems to me that she likes him."
"Likes him?! She's all over him!" Laiserta exclaimed in disbelief--disbelief that Naya didn't 'see' more, as she did. "What I wanna know is, does he have feelings for her," she made a question into a statement. "I don't see them together in full force to really know. And, if he knows that we're leaving, even if it's a few months away, do you think he know."
"I'm not sure, Lai," Naya started to answer, " best guess is that it's mutual."
Laiserta moved closer to her friend to speak in a slight whisper. "Then why are they still acting like they're just really good friends?"
"They both may seem very adult, Lai," Naya whispered back, "but remember, they are still children."
"What are we doing today?" Marice asked the young man next to her in a jovial voice.
"Well," Janus started, thinking for a moment, "I believe it's about time to make a trip outside the village for a few supplies." He turned to look at her as they walked. "So, we need to ask around at the major shops for what 'rarities' people need."
"When do we go get these 'rarities' you speak of?" Marice asked with laughter in her voice.
"In the next few days, after we've already asked everyone what they need," he replied. "I do this about once a month."
"Since I have nothing better to do, I suppose I could help you out a bit," Marice mocked in a sarcastic tone. The two walked along, laughing, until they were stopped by a strange voice.
Both parties turned their heads to see a young blonde-haired woman, wearing mostly red and black standing thirty feet before them with two other young men behind her. "We need to talk." Apparently, she was the one who called out.
Janus gave one last glance to Marice before heading towards the young woman. Marice, curious as ever--and maybe a little jealous--followed. "What is it, Nexus?" Janus asked with a much more demanding look upon his face.
"The Calthans aren't waiting any longer," she started, the anger diminishing from her voice. "They plan to attack any day now, Jan. We can't sit around and wait for that to happen!"
"We aren't waiting for them to attack us," Janus responded, "but we aren't going to jump in head first and attack someone who has no intention of attacking us."
"We know what they're planning, Jan. Why won't you listen to me?!" Nexus pleaded with anxiety.
"We can't base our decisions on rumors and partial-facts," Janus continued, sounding much more somber than before. "No matter how much you think we need to, I can't send our village to war!"
Nexus shook her head. "You'll regret this day, Janus," she used the full of his shortened-name. "When we've been attacked and are too weak to do anything about it, including defend ourselves, you'll regret not listening to me."
"I have plenty of regrets already, Nexus, and I doubt a few more will do me in."
"We're on the road to war Jan, whether or not you believe it doesn't matter--it's happening." With that, Nexus and her silent entourage turned and left a concerned leader and a stunned mercenary behind.
After some time had passed, Marice spoke. "War?"
Janus turned to look at Marice, the hardened visage he wore dissipating. "Nexus thinks so. I don't know for sure, I just...I don't want to repeat past mistakes."
"Past mistakes?" Marice questioned, confused as to what he meant.
"The Great War. We...Stapel," he corrected himself, "feared an attack by Euphoria, and attacked first. I know it's not nearly the same thing, but..." Janus shook his head. "If I can prevent bloodshed, in any possible way, I'll do whatever it takes to keep this village at peace."
"I don't think," Marice stopped for a moment. "I don't think that with a leader like you, anyone has to worry."
"Thanks," Janus replied, his spirits lifted some by the Euphorian. "Let's get back to work then," he spoke up with a smile.
That evening, Armada sat in her room at Janus's mansion-of-sorts, regretting with passion what she'd said earlier that day. Her eyes were narrowed, as if in concentration, and her fists clenched tight. I can't believe...I can't believe I thought he was Tren! Her face contorted even more, remembering what she thought she saw--dark hair and eyes, staring down at her with a trademark grin, the same look he always used to give her. /It might have been him, here, today, if I hadn't... /She clenched her teeth and squeezed her fists together hard enough to draw blood. Remembering the friends she'd killed wasn't one of Armada's favorite pastimes, even though it invaded her thoughts more than anything else. And she knew she wasn't about to get any sleep that night.
Janus sat outside, on the front porch of his home, breathing in the cool morning air before sunrise as he strapped his shoes on. He was especially tired, having stayed awake most of the night from thinking too hard about too many things and not being able to get much sleep. He figured the cold might help him wake up some, since sleep was no longer an option. After finishing with his right shoe, Janus leaned back on his palms on the porch and sighed. Restless nights seemed to come to him more often, especially with Nexus breathing down his neck about Caltha every time he saw her. It was sad, really; she was like his sister, yet in recent years, she'd become increasingly distant and argumentative. He knew that she cared, he just...wished she didn't care so much. He could handle it. He'd taken care of these things before; he could take care of it now. At least, that's what he kept telling himself.
Janus had his eyes closed when he heard someone call his name. Opening his eyes, he sat upright to see Brakka, a young fifteen-year-old teenage male not unlike himself, running--no, sprinting--his direction. Brakka came to a screeching halt in front of Janus, bending over with his hands on his knees to catch his breath. Janus, wide-eyed and curious, could sense the urgency in the way the young man had come running almost panicked towards him, even this early in the morning--not many people rose before the sun. "What is it?" he asked Brakka, hoping the boy wouldn't keel over before he could respond.
"...northwest," Brakka breathed heavily. He swallowed deep before continuing. "The Calthans...attacked the northwest side of the village," the youth finally spurted out between breaths.
Janus stood up in shock. "Is everyone okay?!" he found himself on the verge of sheer panic.
Brakka looked up to him, still breathing heavily, and shook his head solemnly. "No...and it's not good."
When Trunks opened the door to his room that morning, he was greeted with the sound of Laiserta's voice. "They've attacked the village! We've gotta go help!"
He blinked, trying to get his bearings straight to see whom it was that Laiserta was talking to in the hall to his right. "All right, just let me get my armor and we'll be out of here shortly." Even if he couldn't recognize the voice, he could still figure out who was speaking to Laiserta by the pattern of speech and word choice. Trunks decided to approach the two to try and decipher what was going on.
"What happened?" he asked, his brain starting to kick into gear.
"The village was attacked last night, and it doesn't look good," Laiserta answered in a very panicked voice compared to her usual composure. "Janus is already down there, but he needs our help--the village needs our help."
"We're going down there in a few minutes," Armada spoke up, looking rather disheveled. "Naya and Marice are already there."
"We'd better hurry," Laiserta told the other two mercenaries, "they're having trouble getting the fires under control." Each nodded, returning to their respective rooms to get equipped before heading out.
By the time Trunks arrived at the ailing section of the village, it was a war zone. So many wares missing--entire shops emptied out even! The fires...many buildings were already gone, and several half-destroyed by fire before it had been put out. And the people...the entire scene was reminiscent of something, of--No, he couldn't think about that right now. Right now, these people needed help, not someone wallowing in self-pity due to the bad memories brought to the forefront of his mind.
He glanced around. Naya and Marice were bandaging up the wounded, and Laiserta and Armada had gone immediately into the task of searching for survivors...or the remains of those not so fortunate. Trunks soon found that he couldn't breathe in the midst of everything occurring around him. It was all so hauntingly familiar, he'd frozen in place. That is, until he saw someone leap through the flaming doorway of a home with an elderly man in tow. The young man quickly stood, helping up the older man he'd escorted from the burning building. The navy-haired youth saw Trunks, and looked his direction, his visage unwavering. Though Janus's face was covered in dirt, soot, and blood, Trunks could see the all-too-familiar scarring occurring behind Janus's eyes; the eyes of someone who's seen too much for his age. And Trunks knew this well, more than anyone realized.
By sundown, six weary souls traversed home, having accomplished all that they could in one day's time, after completing the task of repairing the physical. Tomorrow, the next challenge would begin--and it would take more than strength or intelligence to fix the rest of what had been destroyed. The spirits of the people.
"I'm warning you; it'll take you a while by foot. A long while."
"Trust me, we can do it."
"All right," Janus drawled, wary of the leader of VDD's claims. He stood at the southwest edge of the village after having just explained to Armada and Trunks how to reach the trading town in that direction.
"You...gonna be okay without us?" Armada asked the village head, raising an eyebrow during her inquiry.
"Don't worry about it. Just go," Janus replied, still sounding without life. He'd been that way since yesterday morning--and rightfully so, had one seen what he had seen. Trunks was still a little surprised. Not only was Janus not as hysteric as he thought he would be after yesterday's events, but Armada seemed to...worry about him. That itself was weird enough. Then, there was the fact that no one had seen or heard from Marice since yesterday evening--disappearing acts weren't her thing. Trunks hoped that things would calm down for the remainder of their stay on Stapel. According to Armada, the ship still had a long way to go before it would be operational. Which meant that their 'vacation' on Stapel was far from over.
Armada nodded to Janus and turned away from him, starting on the trek to Ba'bad'n, the closest thing to a city Stapel had. Trunks gave one last concerned look to Janus before turning away as well and following Armada, the two quickly venturing out of sight. Janus sighed heavily before facing the village once again and heading off towards his own destination. All he knew at that point was that he had a hell of a lot on his plate left to deal with back in town. And he wasn't looking forward to it in the least.
Naya and Laiserta were seated at a table in the kitchen of Janus's home, eating breakfast slowly and in silence, with a few quick glances to one another every now and then. The question on both of their minds was the same--where was Marice? They knew that Trunks and Armada were leaving to get supplies, and they knew Janus went to see them off, but no one had seen Marice. Maybe she'd left early in the morning, before any of them had risen? But where to, was the next logical question. The pair continued to eat, until someone showed up in the doorway to the kitchen.
"Where's Janus?" Nexus asked with a soft tone.
"He's not here," Laiserta answered, "but he'll be back shortly."
"Good, I've got some time then," Nexus said to herself. Naya and Laiserta exchanged curious glances before turning towards Nexus once again.
"I..." she started, averting her eyes. "I need your help."
Marice sat on a stool at one of the village's small merchant's tents, staring off into space. Her mind couldn't let go of the images she'd seen just yesterday. It wasn't the death and destruction that maimed her spirits--those were things she'd seen plenty of in her short lifetime on Euphoria. It was seeing the look of sheer horror on the village leader's face. She'd never seen someone so shocked in fear and terror, and of all people for it to have /been/... Well, she wasn't taking it very well.
She had her head leaning into her right hand, which was propped up by her elbow on the countertop of sorts of the tent. She moved her fixed stare from the wood beneath her arm to the 'street'--which was really just a stone path--and to the shoes of travelers passing by. "Hm?" Marice was startled when a pair of orange shoes moved into her line of sight, and stopped moving for a moment. The familiarity stuck her, and she focused her vision, glancing upwards to see to whom the tangerine boots in her midst belonged. "...Janus?" Marice blinked, surprised that he'd even left his home. She expected not to even see him for the course of the day, and several after that. She lifted her head from her hand, sitting up straight to get a better look at him. He glanced around for a moment, and then did a double-take once he saw her. She saw Janus grimace before he turned away, carrying on with whatever it was that he was doing.
Concerned and saddened, Marice's visage drooped before she rose from her seat and followed after him.
"Hey," Marice said aloud while giving Janus a slight tap on the arm to garner his attention, as she had approached him from behind.
"Huh?" Janus turned to face her. "Oh," he remarked upon seeing who had attracted his attention.
"I...I can understand how you feel Janus," Marice began, bringing her right hand to her forehead and removing it again as she spoke, showing her uncertainty in speaking with him, "but you can't keep moping around like this. You won't get anything--"
"You understand? Really/?" Janus fired back, anger starting to seep into his words. Marice opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off as Janus continued. "You've been at the mercy of bloodthirsty bandits who won't attack /you/, no; they attack and rob the innocent instead? You've been at the helm of a defenseless village while those around you call for war? You /know what that's like? Sorry if I find it a little hard to believe," Janus spat, his tone sounding less casual and more like the public speaker Marice had seen when she first entered the village. Janus shook his head at her, narrowing his eyes while doing so before he turned and left.
Marice's gaze dropped and a fit of depression suddenly hit her. No, she didn't know what that was like. But...did he have to be so damn rude about it?! A thought hit her...and Marice's eyebrows furrowed in concentration and a slight anger. Oh, she was going to explain it to him. Even if it meant it was going to hurt a little. She took off towards her current residence at a speed walk pace. First thing, she needed to retrieve her sai...
Nexus tossed an automatic weapon towards Naya, the general catching it with ease. "How archaic..." Naya commented thoughtfully while examining the fairly old weapon.
"It's from the war," Nexus responded, holding two more of the same in her arms.
"Yeah, but wasn't that war over forty-something years ago?" Laiserta questioned.
"And weren't all of the weapons either destroyed or lost?" Naya added an addendum to her comrade's inquiry.
"Yes and no," Nexus began, "a few relics managed to make it through." She held up one of the firearms in her arms to emphasize her point. "And I paid a lot for these, so don't hurt them."
"Wouldn't want to destroy any antiques," Laiserta laughed.
"Here," Nexus nodded to Laiserta, about to toss one of the weapons her direction until she was denied by a wave of Laiserta's left hand.
"No thanks. I've got my own," with that, Laiserta de-holstered her twin pistols, grinning while doing so.
"Guess I get two then," Nexus joked back with a smirk. Her demeanor instantly turned serious once more as she glanced between the two mercenaries. "You guys sure you're all right about doing this?"
"Before I became an officer on Tyron," Naya began, checking to make sure her weapon was loaded, "I was a foot soldier, just like anyone else. If I had any qualms against killing, now's a little too late to be bringing them up."
"Yeah," Laiserta added, "and if I didn't feel okay with revenge then I never would've broken into nine prisons around Taydr just to slaughter fifteen 'doctors' before their sentences came up." Laiserta's face turned strangely cold. "Apparently, it didn't bother any of the people in charge, either."
Nexus cocked both of the weapons in her hands, signaling that she was prepared to depart their current position outside of the village and head for their destination--Caltha. "Ready?"
Hours had passed since Janus had seen anyone, as day had turned to night. Thank Jhakre/, he thought while heading out into the yard to the rear of his home. He didn't want to talk to anyone. And his encounter with Marice earlier that day had proven it. He hated how she said she understood...everybody always said that to someone in pain. The truth was that no one could /ever understand how he felt, not even himself. He wasn't even sure how long it was going to last, but he hoped it would be over soon.
"Where do you get off saying that I don't understand what you're going through?" an angry feminine voice shot out from behind Janus. He turned around to see Marice leaned against the back wall of his home, next to the door leading out, apparently waiting for him.
Anger boiled up in Janus, and quickly. "Someone who runs away from their problems can't understand someone who doesn't."
"What?!" Marice's eyes shot open before narrowing in fury. "You think I ran away from my problems by leaving Euphoria?!" She ditched her position leaned against the wall of his home and took several steps towards him.
"Yeah; things got a little too tough for you to handle so you left--that's not an option for me," Janus spat back, not backing away from her accusation in the slightest.
"I left Euphoria because the people of my village depended on me too much--they needed to learn to do things for themselves, kind of like someone else I know," Marice responded firmly, staring at Janus with a steely gaze while she spoke.
Janus shook his head and laughed callously to himself. "You can't possibly understand what it's like to have to defend an entire village from war /by yourself/!" He found that his voice had risen significantly as he'd spoke.
"Oh really?!" Marice shot back "Then why did I learn how to do /this/?!" With that, she relieved her sai of their position from her belt against her back and sprung forward, spinning the sai around in her hands like a couple of batons before taking a slash towards Janus at a safe distance with her right, then left, before bringing the sai together in an 'X' shape in front of herself and striking them apart. She then jumped in the air and reached back, flinging the sai in her right hand towards Janus, it landing in the ground soundly at his feet before Marice landed on the ground. Janus stared at the sai lodged into the dirt at his feet with surprise before bringing his shocked gaze towards Marice. She spun the sai in her left hand before deftly putting it away on her belt behind her back once again. "And it's not just because I had a lot of time on my hands."
The anger in Janus's face dissipated as his head drooped and he closed his eyes. "I'm sorry Marice, I never thought of it that way." Then the realization hit him. Marice didn't just know how to use the sai; she'd mastered them. He opened his eyes but kept his gaze fixated elsewhere. "I think I'm the one that doesn't understand."
The tension in Marice disappeared as she shook her head and moved towards Janus, leaning over to retrieve her other sai and putting it away before fully approaching him. "Hey," she caught his attention as he finally looked at her. "We all get a little keyed up when bad things happen. It's all right." She paused, trying to be mindful of her words. "It's true, I can't totally understand exactly how you're feeling, but I just wanted you to know that there are people around you who can help you through this. You can't take all the burden for everything /all the time/, Janus," Marice continued. "It's not healthy. Sometimes you just need to breathe before reacting to clear your head and think about what to do. It also helps if you stop moping and stop blaming yourself--you'll never get anywhere by doing that. Believe me, I've been there."
"Wow Marice," Janus finally spoke, "you-you've really made me think. I can't imagine where I'd be without you."
"Well, just walking around glaring at everyone who glanced your way, really," Marice joked with a small smirk.
"I don't know if I could really glare at anything with you around," Janus said in a very somber tone, gazing at Marice with sadness and...something else she couldn't quite place.
"Janus," Marice said in a near whisper. The way he was looking at her...she suddenly felt very small. And her face started to feel very warm.
Janus couldn't wait any longer. It was now or never. He took a half-step forward, wrapped his arms around Marice, and brought his lips to her own.
The shock only last a half-second before Marice responded by leaning into Janus and returning the embrace. The two shared several more kisses, each lasting longer then the previous, leaving an increasing feeling of want afterwards. After several minutes, the pair stopped and stared at one another. It was obvious to each what the next step was, and whether it was the irrational and indulgent child or the foresighted adult that knew they had little time together in them, they soon found themselves winding the staircase to the third floor of Janus's home, heading for his room.
Once inside, Marice closed the door behind the two and joined Janus in an embrace in the middle of his near pitch-black room. "Marice, are you--?"
"Shh," she hushed him, nodding her approval to him in the dark before bringing his lips to hers once again.
That night, they proved to themselves, one another, and the world; that indeed, they weren't children.

Sign up to rate and review this story