When Zeft got to the clearing he made out two dead bodies. As Scalice retrieved a package lying near a tree they ignored the other bodies and studied the trails in the dark. There were many prints. Scalice sniffed at the damp air rain running down his strong angled features. A pilot came from the shadows. He said, ‘Five bodies approached from the east coming out of nowhere. Maris’s vitals flat lined. There’s one body down and there are six bodies moving west, Margel and Jorja.’
Scalice issued his orders, ‘Zeft. You follow but give Krud your package. We’ll make the shuttle delivery and come back.’
‘Sir, we’ve got eight more bogies heading this way. We’ve got to leave now.’
‘Zeft go. We’ll get back when we can.’
Zeft knew as he began the pursuit that ‘when we can’ might be a long time. All that mattered to him was getting Jorja.
Scalice followed the pilot back. ‘Why are the Marquis up here?’
‘Unknown, sir. But it is possible Maris was preparing to check the packages to ensure they haven’t been tampered with. When a fink prepares they build up energy. The Marquis may have detected it.’
Scalice swore, ‘I thought he was trained for covert missions.’ He fell back to walk beside Pretty Max. Tya and Skink were moving silently in the shadowing forest. ‘What do you think?’
The marine thought about it, ‘Maris was one of the best. For him to leak energy meant he was building up real big. And ‘real big’ is used for illegal penetrations.’
The marine nodded and noticed Scalice sniff the air.
‘Relax, Pretty Max. No one is around for miles.’
The mission had been compromised and Scalice knew who he was going to call out. If it hadn’t been Jorja herself who had made him promise to get the packages out before all else he would have disobeyed the orders. All she had said was, ‘Scalice, one of the packages is important to me. It must not be allowed to be touched by a Marquis. With or without your help I’m getting it out. I’m just lucky the package means something to someone else too.’ He promised he’d make it a priority.
Margel was getting puffed. He squatted down for a rest. The rain was now hail and the wind was against them. He turned with his back to the wind to protect Jorja who was now awake. She stared around her. Her voice came out in a croak and he gave her a drink. ‘How far back?’
‘Can’t see ‘em now. We’ve been running for a half hour. They won’t give up will they?’
She shook her head. The hail stopped and rain continued. She knew Margel wouldn’t have broken com silence, and he drew them away from the mission.
‘I gotta take a rest.’
They made their way into a grouping of trees and Margel lay down. Jorja gave him her lap. She carefully unclipped one of her pockets and bit into a power bar. Two bites later she pulled the packet back up around the nutty bar. She saved the rest for Margel. He’d be starving when he woke. The orux always carried extra but it wouldn’t be enough. While this was an ocean planet the land still bred plenty of rabbits. They should be able to survive alright but once all the Marquis were alerted nowhere on the planet would be safe.
Margel woke instantly and quietly when Jorja’s wet hand stiffened on his arm. He heard the noise and didn’t move. The bastards had turned off their torches using the brief moments the moon was revealed to light their way. There were now twelve tracking them. He eased up and pressed his mouth to her ear, ‘Are you able to fight?’
She gulped as he turned and presented his ear, ‘They won’t try to kill me but…seduce me… I’m a liability here. You best get out yourself.’ There was only one reason she could now think of as to why she had been included in this mission. Maris had been ordered to brain scoop her. And now she worried she’d become the thing she most feared.
He turned back and grinned. She knew he wouldn’t leave her. ‘Their magic won’t work on me. Run, Jorja, I’ll find you.’ With that he leapt up and silently ran several meters around to attack them from the side.
In the clearing Jorja tried to stand, groaning quietly. As soon as one saw her she’d be under their power. She wondered why Margel said the word, ‘magic’. Ethereals dabbled in the stuff but she didn’t think the Marquis did. She’d only been with them for seven years and had not reached the Superior Echelon and even in her current exhausted state she thought it a bloody pompous name.
The rain blew so hard and it was so dark that Jorja at first missed Zeft joining in the fight. The two orux slew with efficiency wielding their weapons with cries of might and words of power. As she began running to her left she finally saw Zeft and stumbled. The Marquis fell like flies. Zeft was yelling something at them but she couldn’t make out the words.
Lightening struck and in that moment a Marquis saw and ran towards her. His eyes glinted with evil and his handsome face became like an arrow in her heart. Jorja, in a panic and fear firmly in place, ran. The rain stung her face, her feet pounded on what felt like hard dirt. The darkness descended only to be lit by brilliant spears of light. If he caught up with her she’d be unable to fight him. She had fought, once long ago. But it had all been a part of their training. They had told her, ‘You should be honoured that we so welcome you into our midst. Rarely is an outsider invited and as one of the oldest Aeons you’ve been selected by the Marquis Sade himself.’
‘I’ll die before I join you.’
‘Oh no, my love, you won’t. Your desire to live is strong.’
And she didn’t die, but thrived.
Their power over her was complete. Fear and love, the two combined, made their first law. Pain and desire was their second. Domination and submission was their third. The Marquis Canon consisted of these three simple things.
She wasn’t a slave to them. They made her a Marquis.
Despite what everyone told her there were some things she had done that she would never admit to. And a fear deep within her soul hoped she’d never come across anyone she had hurt. Most had died or had seen her through different eyes. There were some things that some people, despite their genuine desire to help, would simply not understand. Not everything was forgivable. It had taken her a long time to realize that.
Suddenly she felt herself falling. She’d run off the cliff.
The wind was so strong it pelted her back toward the rock face as she slammed into the ledge. She gripped the ledge with both hands but did not have the strength to hold fast. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t afraid of death anymore.
She saw a flash and a body sailed past her. The Marquis had fallen too and she only heard his screams for a second. Tears began to fall but she found herself laughing as well. What an ignominious death for someone like him.
‘Just let go.’ She said aloud, barely hearing her own words. She deserved death of that she was sure. But in their hateful way what the Marquis had said was true, she also clung to life and that had meant she caused the deaths of others. She wanted to prove them wrong.
It was easy to prove them wrong, just let go.
If they caught her she would be a monster again.
She let go.