It had been inevitable. The pain, the blood, the fear, and then the immense relief. She had been so scared for him. So terrified.
She couldn't forget how he had looked. His eyes. She would never forget...
She tried to muffle her sobs as best she could. She didn't want anyone to hear them. She couldn't take any more attention
right now, or ridicule. She had to be strong. She had to keep fighting, if only for herself. Except now she had someone else
to fight for - she would never put him in danger again.
She washed her face under the shower spray before turning off the water. She squeezed the water out of her lengthy hair before
wrapping it in a towel, then proceeded to dry herself off.
She stared at her scars, the ones that had been branded upon her legs. They were hideous marks, traveling over her legs in
random movements, just as the fire and the burning scraps of metal had weaved drunkenly along her body. Her cat... and Rigel...
both of them... she had been too weak...
Touching the largest mark, nestled on the inside of her right thigh, she whispered their names - Night, Rigel. I'm sorry.
She wrapped the second towel around her body and stepped out of the stall. The injuries had been different, but the outcome
had almost been the same. Saiph almost died because of her. The blood he'd shed... was because of her...
She muffled the sob rising in her throat.
Someone knocked on the door. “Ara, are you all right?”
Saiph. She turned to the door, reacting instinctively to the tone of his voice. “Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just going to get
dressed and everything now.” She bit her lip, wondering why she'd given him that information, then shrugged and put
on another pair of jeans and shirt that ad been in the bundle from Feb.
She looked at the shirts and grimaced. The only decent one was... 'no, don't think about that,' she chided herself. She studied
the garments critically before reluctantly deciding on a red spaghetti-strap shirt with one strap ripped off and a slice just
above where her bra began. The jeans were even more difficult - ass, clit, or burns. She decided on 'ass' - more specifically,
dark black jeans that had a cut from the edge of her left butt cheek down to the end of her thigh. It showed off no burn scars
and only a bit of the red lacy underwear that Feb had given her.
She decided then and there that, by God, she would be getting some clothes, even if it killed-
She stopped that thought, her mind showing her once again what had happened she had last tried to leave. Saiph. She felt tears
prickle in her eyes once again and shook her head roughly, letting the towel around her hair fall to the floor. She blinked
her eyes rapidly and set to combing out her long hair.
She found nothing she could use as a scrunchie, so her hair was still hanging loosely when she exited the bathroom.
She saw Saiph and Regulus speaking to one another. They were both in armor, Regulus' body sheathed in an incandescent red
armor; the metal covered his left arm and fist, along with both his shoulders, slanting off to cover his right leg and only
the right side of his stomach. A small left boot and right glove completed the ensemble, his tiara sporting a glowing ruby.
On the knuckles of his gloves were three long, deadly sharp claws that reminded Ara of giant tigers, bloodcurdling screams
and dark nights in front of the television.
She studied Saiph, his right breast and stomach naked for her to admire. What she was admiring most at that time was the lack
of blood. The last time he'd worn that armor, he'd been fruitlessly trying to stem the blood-
Again, the hated tears rose in her eyes.
At that time, Regulus saw her and nodded, still seeming to be unwilling to be kind to her. She still remembered the glare
he'd shared with her earlier. “Miss Ara,” he called as a greeting, his voice aloof, a bit condescending. She hoped
that he wouldn't be her third enemy; she couldn't afford any more than she already had. She nodded in response, almost glad
for his disrespectful attitude towards her. It stopped the tears from welling up any farther.
Saiph turned and saw her then, and his eyes turned grim. She took this to be a bad sign. “Dare I ask what the get-ups
are for?” she finally managed, keeping her tone light. She hoped she wasn't overstepping the memory-zapping line.
“Regulus, Deneb, and I are heading out for a few days,” he told her. Her heart froze. “I need you to stay
inside the building at all times.”
“Uhmm...” She attempted not to scream at him. He had almost died, and he was going back out there?! What if he...
what if... “I need new clothes,” she whispered lamely.
Regulus rolled his eyes, but Saiph looked down at her outfit, his eyes trapped on her chest before rising once again to her
face. “I'll... get you new clothes.”
She nodded, unable to say anything now because of the fear clogging her throat. In truth, the problem of clothing meant nothing
now. She looked at the sword sheathed at his waist and remembered how it had once gleamed with his blood...
Her gaze flew to his eyes, watching as he turned his back on her. Good-bye? Did he not expect to come back? His countenance
was so grim, and he... he...
They were gone when she finally regained her voice, and yet still she called out to him. “Saiph, no, please don't go!”
She reached out her hand as if attempting to beckon him once again by her side. But he was gone.
A choked sound escaped her, an animal sound of fear and loss. She crossed her arms over her chest and tried to imagine what
it would be like without seeing Saiph ever again. She couldn't. She didn't want to. She loved him.
She walked back to the room she'd awakened in, realizing with a start that it hadn't been Feb's room. When she entered, light
automatically illuminated the spacious interior, yet she still couldn't find the source of the light.
The room had a comfortable look to it, as if one could be at peace within its depths. The blues were soft and subtly outlined.
The bed cover was a simple blue quilt, the dresser unmarked. She quickly checked a drawer to see if there was anything there,
but there wasn't. She'd been moved into a spare room.
She was delighted. Here, she could retain a modicum of privacy. Maybe she could stay in here and...
But no. She would have to keep herself busy, lest she start worrying about Saiph. The fact that he was going out with both
Regulus and Deneb didn't ease her fear much. She still felt as if he were bleeding, and there was nothing she could do to
erase the image completely from her mind.
She busied herself with bringing the rest of her clothes and her borrowed brush into the room and placing them all into the
top drawer of the bureau. Depressing, she noted, that her new life could be stuffed into just one drawer. She wondered fleetingly
what was happening back at home, but decided that it was best not to worry about it.
She quickly found herself once again with nothing to do.
She'd thrown away the clothes she'd been wearing that morning (or whenever), knowing that she'd be unable to wear them even
after they'd been cleaned.
She sat on the bed, biting her lip. What could she possibly do to occupy her time? She had a lot of things to think about,
but most pertained to Saiph in some way, and it probably wasn't a good idea to think about him too much.
Then again, she needed to try to form thoughts in her mind and fit pieces together.
Okay. It was best to make a list, right? She closed her eyes. “I'll find out now, before they take my memories.”
One: they had magical armor. Deneb, in particular, had the ability to heal disastrous wounds. Maybe it was Alphard's armor
that allowed him to appear and disappear on whims.
Two: Orion. Why did both Saiph and Alphard refer to Orion? Alphard spoke of Orion as Saiph's sign, and even called Saiph 'Hunter'.
Saiph said that she had given him time to call Orion. Ara worked her mind raw, but only two possibilities occurred. Either
this base was called Orion, and the term meant that it was like being called Navy, only Orion. Or... or his armor was named
Orion. In either case, why the name? And why had it meant so much to Saiph that she looked for that particular constellation?
She shook her head and started on something new. Three: Fallen. “She's just a stupid human!” “You don't
belong with the Fallen. No human does!”
Ara bit her lip again. This was the crux of her dilemma, she was sure. These people weren't human - were referred to as the
Fallen. The Fallen what? And if they weren't human, than just what the hell were they?!
She closed her eyes again, just then realizing that she had opened them in frustration. She concentrated for a while, coming
up with a few solutions. The first one: aliens. Aliens? God, that was too cliched, even for her. But it may be true. Demons?
No horns or other definitive marks. Same went for angels, vampires, and werewolves. She found herself going back to the alien
theory. By Fallen, did they mean that they'd crashed onto another planet and are unable to get off? It would explain their
armors, she mused, but not the constellations. Would Orion be Orion from other points in space? She didn't know, of course.
Maybe it was possible... or maybe they'd just gotten the name when they fell to Earth. That way, it would be the name of their
She nodded her head, satisfied with the reasoning. Of course, she mustn't take them as fact, and it would be wise to try to
gain more knowledge - discreetly - to find out whether her observations and deductions were true or not. Also, it would be
best to not say anything about these things to anyone, not even Nash, who was turning out to be a reliable friend. If they
thought she was too interested, they may take her memories away from her. Best to keep silent.
She stood, then jumped at the sound of a knock at her door. She walked over and twisted the doorknob, hoping that her visitor
was someone other than Feb.
It was Nash.
“Hey there, Ara,” Nash said, welcoming himself into her room. She went ahead and closed the door, happy enough
to have someone to help her occupy her time.
“Hi, Nash, What's going on?”
He shrugged. “I figured you should know that Saiph, Deneb, and Regulus have left base for a bit.”
“I know. Saiph told me.” She wondered where he had gone, then realized that Nash had seemed a bit surprised by
her announcement. While he recovered, she also remembered Saiph's grim face and his warning/plea for her to stay inside at
all times. Would Saiph had come and told her he was leaving if she hadn't met him and Regulus on their way out? The thought
made her both sad and angry, so she decided to dismiss it. It was best not to worry about such things when you didn't know
if someone would even be coming back.
She dismissed that thought, too.
Nash turned a knowing look her way. “You want to know where he is, right?”
Ara blushed, but nodded. Her fear for Saiph made her weak.
“He's doing reconnaissance,” Nash told her. “Scanning the forest to see if any enemy is getting close.”
“How many enemies are there?”
“Too many,” Nash said grimly. Then, brighter, “we don't know the exact number, but we've met five. Alphard
is the strongest we've met so far.”
“I see.” She turned around, trying to concentrate on the now and not think about the danger Saiph was now in.
If Alphard alone was strong enough to... well, at least he was the strongest. And Saiph wasn't alone this time. They must
have decided to go in groups since Saiph got...
“He's okay. You saw that yourself.” She closed her eyes. That was right. Saiph had been on her; she had felt his
entire body. He was most definitely alive.
'No thanks to her.'
“He'll be okay, you know.”
She swiveled around to stare at Nash in disbelief, then winced at the pain in her side. The bruise from Feb must have officially
formed while she'd sat and contemplated.
“Are you hurt?” Nash asked, his face full of concern. “Did Deneb miss something?”
She shook her head emphatically. “No. No, it's nothing. I slipped in the shower, that's all. What do you mean, 'he'll
He seemed to accept her answer and returned to his original statement. “Saiph will be fine. Regulus kicks ass really
well, and Deneb can heal them if things go sour.”
She grimaced. “So they expect an attack, are maybe looking for one.”
“They're taking no chances,” Nash corrected. He didn't need to finish - she knew he'd been about to say not now.
She sat down on the edge of the bed. There was nothing she could say, no way to apologize to him for almost taking away his
best friend. If not for her, Saiph never would have gotten injured. It was her fault. If Saiph had been paying attention to
the battle instead of having to worry about her... she looked at Nash. “Do you have something you have to do today?”
Surprised, Nash answered slowly. “No, not really. Why?”
She stood again, determined. “I want to learn about this place. I don't know anything about this base, which means that
I'm vulnerable. I need to learn about this place I'm in. Besides,” she said as he moved towards her, “you can
always just make me forget later.” She heard her own bitter words and grimaced.
Nash put a placating hand on her shoulder. “Let's not worry about that now.” As kind as one could be without telling
a bold-faced lie. “Come on. You're right; I'll show you around.”
She smiled faintly. “Thanks.”
Nash showed her again the bathrooms (four), then the order of the rooms - hers, Feb's, Deneb's, Regulus', Baham's, Nash's,
and, down on the end - or rather, forefront - was Saiph's. She stared at that door for a long time. Nash waited patiently
beside her as she studied the pictures set into the door. One was of a strong man holding a sword and having a belt that seemed
to glitter even on wood. Beside that was a picture of a tall dragon that reached high above the man's head. The strong man
actually had a hand on the dragon's flank, as if the two of them were comrades on the same side of a battlefield.
Ara traced the man's hand, then rubbed the body of the dragon. “I don't understand,” she said finally. “Everyone
here has two pictures on their doors. You have a picture of a centaur and a monkey, and Saiph has these. What are they for?”
She turned to Nash and saw a stony look on his face. She sighed. “I suppose that's another thing I can't know.”
She walked away from the door, and after a moment, Nash did the same. Neither talked for a while. She wanted to remember all
of the pictures - Regulus with a lion and what appeared to be an ox, Deneb with a swan and a goat, Baham with Pegasus and
a rabbit. All sorts of animals, and Saiph with the only human. The others with mystical creatures. What were the connections
between them all? Only Deneb had no mythological animal, and he was the one who could heal. She could find no connection between
any of it.
The hallway widened over a period of many meters, and other hallways crossed their paths many times. She wondered what was
down each one. Well, she had a few days to explore, at least.
Why had Saiph left so suddenly? Had he wanted to get away from her that badly?
No, she was being arrogant. Saiph wouldn't base his decisions on her. She probably didn't matter that much to him. She was
just the weak human who had ended up getting involved in something she never should have entered.
And just what was that something? What were they all fighting for? Maybe pieces of a ship so that they could return to their
planet, she mused. But then, why not work together?
This brought up the question of why they had crash-landed on Earth to begin with. Had they been fighting up in outer space
and had shot each other down? The thought of intergalactic warfare occurring nearby without any human on Earth knowing about
it creeped her out. Still, it was the most likely scenario.
“What are you thinking about?”
Ara jumped at Nash's words. As much as she liked Nash, she could never tell him what she was thinking. She couldn't risk her
memories being taken away. Even if Deneb was gone for the time being, she just could NOT risk it. “Oh,” she stammered,
“I was... just thinking about Saiph.” Again, his name was the first thing to pop into her head. As soon as she
said his name, the worry returned. She quickened their pace down the widening hall.
“There's nothing to worry about,” Nash reassured. “He, Deneb, and Regulus can take care of themselves. They're
all really strong. Regulus is known for his strength, after all.”
She stored that small piece of information, hoping that eventually she would get some information that would be conclusive.
Then maybe she would begin to understand these people she would be near for a while to come.
The two walked in silence until they reached an entrance to a new part of the castle. She could see movement inside, like
there were people in there. She could also see shining metal similar to the type used for the armor that she had seen worn.
Deneb was ice blue, Regulus was red, and Saiph was navy blue. She wondered briefly what the others wore, then wondered what
she was about to see... and how much would be erased from her memory later.
Then they were through the opening and in a vast chamber. There was what looked to be a viewscreen in the front, like the
sort seen on spaceships in movies. But this was twice as large as a movie theater screen and took up the entirety of the space
in front of the seats and panels that were organized in the rest of the space. The room was circular, like the oval office
but probably about a football field wide. The room held so much equipment Ara doubted she'd be able to learn about it all,
even if she was given her entire life to study them. There were monitors from what she could see, and on the chairs that sat
in an ordered hexagon were more pads and panels and monitors. There were people there - Feb was glaring at her from a monitor
on the far side of the room, and the other guy was working diligently on a panel in front of the huge theater screen. He -
Baham, the pain in the ass, she remembered - had only given her a cursory glance before returning to his work.
Nash was watching her as she stared, and she blushed. “There's so much stuff,” she murmured, not being able to
imagine the power going into all the conduits and wires that snaked themselves in a disturbingly ordered fashion across the
floor. “It's unbelievable.”
“There's a lot of advanced technology here,” he allowed, and she again stored his words. She knew he was keeping
the important things hidden, but that didn't mean he wouldn't let things slip, and it didn't mean she couldn't figure things
out for herself.
Cautiously, expecting someone to snap at her, she sat down in the nearest chair. A quick glance at Feb said that she was about
to spit, but Ara tried to ignore her and looked around herself.
The rest of the day got her caught up on the essentials. She learned that each seat was designated to each of them, with a
few extra in the front in a line around the viewscreen for whenever there was work that needed to be done up there. The controls
by the side of each seat were controls for weapons, liaison efforts within the castle, and other defense. Offensively, there
was the main Betelgeuse cannon, which was hidden from view until called upon, at which point one of the rear towers will open
and allow it to come forth. There were also smaller weapons, and she remembered the four small Gamma beams.
That was something else. All of the weapons were high-tech laser beams. She had almost asked Nash why they haven't used these
weapons yet, but the fact that they were on Earth was a simple enough answer. This planet is infinitely vulnerable. A blast
that hit the Earth would incinerate everything around it. So, though they had these weapons, they were adamant about keeping
the enemy away from the base so that they didn't need to use their weapons. A sound strategy, except that it meant putting
themselves in immense danger.
She followed Nash back down the hall to her room. Feb had stayed away from her, but Ara was sure that wouldn't last. Baham
had merely nodded to her when Nash had placed her in the seat next to the one he worked in and had ignored her after that.
She wasn't certain what to think of him. Nash, though, had been very patient with her, repeating names that even now she couldn't
fully remember. The side panel was called the Caelum and was used to monitor the systems. Basically, Nash had told her, it
made sure that there were no jams in frequencies or weapons so that they could attack efficiently. The monitors along the
sides of the main screen were used to watch the other parts of the castle. Feb was supposedly watching them, but Ara didn't
think Feb had done much work that day.
When they reached her room, Nash stopped and turned to her. “Ara,” he began, then hesitated. Ara merely cocked
her head and waited. “What are you going to do with this information?” he finally asked, and he looked about ready
to take the question back.
“Get stronger,” she answered simply, making his eyes furrow in confusion. She expanded her reasoning a bit for
him. “I don't want to be in the way if or when an enemy appears. Which comes to something else I wanted to ask.”
Nash stared apprehensively.
She took a deep breath and continued. “I need defense lessons.”
A blank stare followed.
She sighed. “I was taught martial arts when I was a child, but I'm way out of practice. I need to learn martial arts,
at least basic defense moves. Can you help me with that?”
She couldn't tell if Nash looked harassed or impressed. He was silent for a long time. She began to feel her efforts on this
would be fruitless, and she hoped she hadn't ruined her chances of learning anything else. In time, she hoped to chance upon
something that would tell her more about these people, too. They seemed disturbingly human.
Finally, Nash nodded. “I understand.” Her hopes rose. “But I can't.” And plummeted. “Baham is
the one with the patience and skill to help you out with this,” Nash finished quickly, seeing her initial reaction.
Her smile then was brilliant, then turned to wary.
“Baham?” she repeated finally.
Nash nodded. “He's a pain in the ass, but he's really not so bad a guy. Just think of stalwart statues when you speak
to him and you'll know what he's like. He'll work you like Hell, though,” he finished.
Oh, that last part sounded like a lot of fun. She made a face. “Statues? You're going to have me take lessons from a
man who's more like a statue? And what do you mean, 'work me like Hell'?”
Nash shrugged. “Well, you DID say you want martial arts training.”
She almost regretted it now. Still, to get stronger... she thought of Saiph again and decided. “All right.”
Nash nodded. “I'll see if I can hook you up.” Then he opened her door and ushered her inside. She turned back
to him and met with a kind smile. “Get some rest, Ara.”
She nodded, and he closed her door in her face.
She took a shower and brushed her hair, putting on the same clothes that she'd worn all day and hoping that Saiph would remember
to get her new clothes. Then she chastised herself about worrying over something so petty.
She got into bed and stared at the ceiling. Then turned. Then turned again.
It wasn't as easy to not think about Saiph when she tried to sleep. She worried about where he was and whether he had met
up with any enemies. She wondered if Regulus still hated her and hoped that he didn't take out his anger on Saiph. She thought
about the last battle she'd seen Saiph in and her stomach clenched painfully. She feared Deneb getting hurt, because then
he wouldn't be able to help Saiph. Then she worried about Deneb himself for a short time and hoped she'd get the chance to
apologize to him. Then she focused once more on Saiph.
She didn't get to sleep until the early hours of the morning.
A brisk knock on her door awoke her. She sat up blearily. That knock wasn't like Nash's excited jolts or like Feb's probably
raging blows. It was too ordered for either of them.
Cautiously, still in the clothes she'd worn yesterday and her hair a tangled mess, she crept to the door. When she opened
it, it was to stare into disturbingly dark eyes and an almost cherubic face. Despite the softness of the tone - like he'd
never seen the sun - Baham's cheeks were hard, as was his chin. And yet that really long, practically-white hair curled around
both to soften the features even more.
“Oh - Baham,” she welcomed intelligently, and moved to let him into the room. Baham didn't move. Uneasily, she
made her way over to the dresser and picked up her brush. She began working on the tangles with single-minded determination.
“We will begin practice in thirteen minutes,” Baham informed her. “Meet me in the Pyxis.” With a fluid
turn that made no sound, he was gone.
The Pyxis was the name of the large room with the machinery. The dorm rooms were a part of the Puppis, and the weapons were
a part of the Carina. There was one more part, the Vela, but she had yet to be told what it did. Altogether, there were four
parts of this base.
And she had been told that the name of the base was Argo.
She had been so concerned about Saiph last night that she hadn't taken the time to create a new scenario, and she certainly
didn't have time now. Baham was waiting for her, and she was hardly going to get into trouble right off the bat.
She finished combing her hair in record time and ran down to the Pyxis, hoping she wasn't late. Her watch said that she was
okay with time, but who knew?
Baham was waiting silently by the entrance to the Pyxis, his arms crossed over his lean chest. He wore a simple white outfit
with black stripes on the edges. The outfit looked like a sort of martial arts in and of itself. His hair was disturbingly
pale against the clothes, seeming to match. When he stepped forward, there was absolutely no sound of movement. She wondered
why she had never noticed that before. Then again, a person that silent was hard to notice. Period.
He began walking down a thinner corridor, one that she had yet to go through. She saw a lot of doors around her; Baham passed
all of them without a single glance. She wanted to ask him where they were going, but decided not to speak out of turn. The
silence just made the ten-minute trek seem even longer.
By the time they turned into a new room, Ara was frustrated. The room they entered was large and completely clean - as in
walls and ceiling and floor and that was it. The space was clear of everything from knickknacks to furniture. Completely bare.
An exercise room, Ara realized, one made expressly for the purpose that she needed.
A bit mollified, she turned to Baham. “We shall see what you know,” Baham said only, and that was all the warning
she had before he struck.
She soon learned that what she knew was, at best, practically nothing. Baham taught her blocking techniques the rest of the
morning, oddly patient and always demanding. Her arms ached a half an hour into the exercise, but Baham never called a halt
and she refused to back down. When Baham finally stopped at eleven, she collapsed to the floor. She never wanted to move again.
Baham, oddly enough, waited for her to get her feet beneath her and then reached out a hand for her to use. There was a slight
smile on his face. A tired smile melted her own lips. A pain in the ass? Well, he demanded rigorous training, patience, and
perfection. And his silence was probably part arrogance. But all in all, he wasn't too bad.
Baham accompanied her to a small cafeteria that was a bit closer to the Pyxis, and she recognized the hallway as one that
led to their rooms. Now, maybe, she could get her bearings around a bit more of the castle.
After she ate, she went to the Pyxis, where she learned about something called the Crux. The Crux was a large part of the
castle's defense - it was a shield. More like a force field, it was impossible to see and spanned the entire area around the
Argo. It was just outside of this that she had been attacked by Alphard, and so Saiph, Deneb, and Regulus had been sent out
to investigate whether there was coincidence there or not.
Basically, Nash had lied. Saiph was expecting a battle. The thought made Ara cold with fear.
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