4 – Meris
When she woke, the sky was full dark. The pale rosy glow of the moon softly brushed over the landscape.
“Sorry.” Alazar’s voice was a warm whisper in the near-dark. She realized then that it had been his leg brushing against hers that had woken her up.
“It’s okay.” She glanced at the others, who were sleeping. “Why aren’t you sleeping? Do you need anything?”
“I don’t sleep much, generally speaking.” He shifted a bit with a grunt of effort, scooting further from where Myranda was dozing. “Can I ask you something?”
She nodded, then realized he probably couldn’t see her well enough to know that. “Of course.”
“Are you positive you’re willing to accept the fallout of what we’re about to do?”
Her heart began to pound at the ominous tone in his voice. “I am.” She cleared her throat quietly to rid her voice of the quaver that betrayed her. “I know it will be difficult and ugly, but I can’t let Berent get away with this. I can’t let Ellias’ memory be tainted or his death not be avenged.”
“So it’s vengeance you want, not justice.” There was a hint of disappointment in his tone.
“No!” She spoke louder than she intended to, and waited a moment for Myranda to settle back down into the sleep she had disturbed. “I just want Berent to pay for what he did. I want to see him in a cage.”
He didn’t respond right away, and soon she thought he must have drifted off. But then he reached up and placed his bandaged hand over hers. She was so surprised, she nearly jerked her hand away, but she stopped herself in case the motion might cause him pain. “I admire your… passion for this crusade and your love for your fiance. But please, hear me when I say I don’t think you realize what’s in store for us.”
“And what is that?”
“A firestorm. This scandal will burn more than just Berent and his supporters. It will burn me and anyone who stands with me.” He removed his hand. “I just don’t want to see you or anyone else get hurt.”
“You’re not responsible for me. I started this thing, I intend to see it through. I can’t speak for anyone else.”
He let out a slow breath. “The curse of Sindrian stick-to-it-ness.” But she detected the smile in his voice.
A soft chime interrupted before she could respond. Myranda sat up and got her tablet out of her pocket. She yawned behind the back of her hand while she read the buzz she’d just received.
“What is it?” Leo’s voice was distorted by the yawn he spoke around.
“Wyll says to turn on the newsfeed.”
Leo turned the interior lights up a bit inside the transporter’s cabin and Meris heard Alazar groan as he covered his eyes against the dim light. Myranda tapped the screen of her tablet and soon the display was filled with the local newsfeed.
“…images show the scale of the carnage perpetrated by Alazar against the rioting miners.” The view of the female newscaster’s face changed to security footage of the firefight in the courtyard between the Stell-Ore headquarters and the Security Compound.
“What?!” Meris lurched forward to get a closer look, as did Leo.
Alazar just lay there with his eyes covered.
“More casualties were discovered inside the Security Compound. No word has yet been received concerning the whereabouts of Sergeant Wyll Meirig, Leo Hull or other supporters of Alazar’s who may have survived the battle.” Wyll’s, Leo’s and Alazar’s ID photos were displayed on the screen. “Citizens are urged to notify their local police units if any of these men are seen. Also believed to be with these men is Meris Brand, who was reported to have stormed the Stell-Ore headquarters in order to reveal Alazar’s involvement in the deaths of the crew of Cartage 15, but was kidnapped by Alazar and his supporters. At this time, it is not known if Miss Brand is still living, so we urge anyone watching: do not approach any of the three men if seen, as this may endanger Miss Brand’s life. Please just notify the nearest police unit and let them handle the situation.”
Myranda switched off the feed with a look of disgust. Meris looked at Leo. “Zac was right.”
“Yeah.” He turned to look out the window, and Meris got the impression he was savoring the view in case they were about to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Alazar moved his hand and Meris could see the trail of a tear wandering off into his hair. “Leo, stop the vehicle.”
He turned back to them abruptly. “What? No, we’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“Stop the transporter, Leo.” Alazar didn’t raise his voice; he didn’t need to, he was speaking as Leo’s boss and the head of the most important company in the NewVerse.
Leo swiveled his chair around and switched to engines, lifting the transporter up off the mag-lev track and flying it over into the grass. He landed a few hundred feet from the track and killed the engines. Swiveling his chair back around, he turned to Alazar. “Now what?”
Alazar looked up at Myranda. “Help me up.”
Her expression showed how much she wanted to protest, but she set her jaw and knelt behind him and lifted him into a sitting position. Meris then helped him into the middle seat next to her. His breathing was labored. “Thank you.” He sat there a moment with his hand on his stomach, wincing against what had to be excruciating pain. When he looked up at them, his eyes were so very tired. “I should have known he would do this. I should have planned for it, but I didn’t. And I’m sorry. Because now, all of your lives are in danger.”
He looked each of them in the eye. “It’s too late now to cut and run, though I wish you all could. But there is no reason for all of you to go down in flames with me.”
Meris looked at the others, then at Alazar. “What exactly are you saying?”
“I’m saying go to ground. Let me confront Berent alone. I’ll answer his accusations with my own-“
“No. There is no way in the worlds I saved your life and risked my own just so you could martyr yourself.” Myranda was deadly serious, her jade eyes glinting with hard anger.
“She’s right, Mr. Alazar. We’ve come too far together to let you go it alone now.”
Alazar nodded slowly. “Meris?”
“You know where I stand.”
A smile tugged at his busted lips. “You’ve all lost your minds… Thank you for this.” He placed a hand across his abdomen, where his surgical wounds had been sealed shut, and stifled groan. “Now, how do we want to go about proving our innocence?”
Chapter 3 Chapter 5