This is Issue #105 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
* * *
Kieron, Djara, Hana, and the rest came to stand near her. Weapons were tossed to the side, and they each lifted their hands up and out, and were summarily bound. It wasn’t until they were separated that Jules began to panic. Once their weapons were taken and their hands were bound in locking cuffs, soldiers began to lead them in opposite directions.
It was then that Jules began to panic. “No,” she said. “No, you can’t — you don’t. NO.” She struggled against her captors, a look of wild fear and fury rising in her eyes. She tried to follow after Hana, but was jerked back toward the officer who held her lead.
“Jules–” Kieron began. “Deep breaths. We won’t be able to handle anything if we panic–“
“FUCK you,” she growled at him, furious. “Don’t let them take Hana! You don’t know. You don’t know what these monsters can do–“
“Demoro!” The officer holding Jules’s rope cried. The rest of them stopped, reining in their horses, waiting. The officer who spoke looked down at her and said clearly, “Though we speak the vulgar tongue as you, we are less monsters than you. You are the ones who have invaded our homeland, and killed thousands of our people. Our children.”
Jules glared up at him. “This ship was a scouting ship! We helped stop that. I would never–”
The officer on the horse leaned down, close to Jules, and hauled up on the rope, pulling her up so she strained on her toes. The tension in the group rose, watching her be handled roughly. He stared down at her, his dark eyes narrowed in both fury and indignance. “Shall we say then, Centralite, that just because some of a people have done monstrous acts, not all of a people are monsters?” the officer asked.
Jules breathed sharply, panting, angry and strained as she was. “What are you going to do with her?”
“The same thing that shall be done with anyone we feel may be of use,” the officer replied. “She will be questioned. Broken if necessary, to get the answers we seek. And then you will all be taken back to the inner city, to the Palace, likely, to be given to the Prince.”
“And what shall the Prince do with us?”
“Whatever he pleases,” the officer said, sounding almost bored. “He is the Prince. If you are unlucky, you will be given to the Guardian, who will impale you upon his sword, and burn you from the inside out, for daring to attack our lands.”
Hana bowed her head and tried not to cry.
“Keep us together,” Jules offered. “This was a ship full of cadets. They don’t have any real knowledge of the Centralis forces.”
“And unless you’re going to tell me everything you know, you have nothing with which to bargain, either,” the officer said, rolling his eyes. He began to lower her.
“Wait, wait!” she cried.
He didn’t listen.
“Demoro!” Jules shouted. “Habeo corpore meum! Accipe me.” She looked like she might fall apart at any moment, and yet she gritted her teeth and stared the man down, a mix of hope and fear on her face, naked and desperate. “Accipe me, in vicem eas.”
That look sent a chill down Kieron’s spine. He knew some of the words used in the Academy were similar to Ilonan, and knew from Sha’s brother’s books that it was because the language known as Ilonan had been bastardized and broken down into many of the languages on his side of the Ridge. He knew at least the gist of what she’d said. Take me, instead of her. He wondered how and why Jules knew enough Ilonan to speak with clarity — enough to make it so that the Ilonans would understand her… but the crew might not. He wondered how many had served with Jacob long enough to have seen any of his books, if any of them had read them, had learned enough to know Centralis’s place in the war.
He was thrown out of his reverie by the sound of a cannon being fired from on high. In the distance, the smoldering wreckage of the Jacob was blown further to bits.
The officer stopped, stared down at Jules, considering her for some time. His dark eyes settled on her pale ones and seemed to take all of her into account, massive, furious personality and all. He finally shrugged, gesturing to the group. They were led off by the officers all in one direction. He hauled her up and over the saddle in front of him, draped against the horse, and shouted to the others, “Ambulent simul.”
Hana was lead back to the group, wide-eyed and shaken.
Kieron moved to be closer to her.
“What’ll they do with Commander O’Malley?” she wondered, looking at him. “Why’d they take her instead?”
“It’ll be okay, Hana,” Kieron lied, trying to keep his expression reassuring. “She’s more valuable because she’s an officer. They–” His voice broke, and he paused, clearing his throat and closing his eyes. “Jules knows how to handle herself. She’s already saved me twice in the last two hours.”
Uncertain, Hana kept looking off toward where the officer had ridden, carrying his cargo. “And now she’s saved me, but Brody, who’s going to save her?”
Kieron tried to sound confident, but was certain his voice was only somewhere between grim and shaking. “We’ll have to.”
The officers turned and began to lead them off, into the rolling hills, skirting what was becoming a bloody battlefield. They could see Ilonan calvary forces riding in, soldier in silks and armor, banners fluttering, guns and spears and tasers. People from the Jacob and the Adoria fought in tangled knots of comrades, while airships descended out of the storm, looking for reasonable places to put down, and unload their crews.
Kieron and the Jacob’s people that had already been collected saw their crew captured or killed across the battlefield, until those that were left were chained and marched.
They did not know where they were going — but at least they were all going together.
* * *