Marcus was in
the hangar of the top level of the Void doing a
preflight maintenance check on the Nerf Herder. He
was almost surprised when Min revealed that her
personnel had collected it on Delaya and delivered
it here for their use. He found an explosive device
and tracker affixed to the hull of the ship, which
he did not find the least bit surprising. They did
not even attempt to cover it up or conceal it as
they wanted him to know it was there. He was wearing
his distinct black armor, with white holsters and
ammo belt, along with a half cape on his left
shoulder in a shade of crimson for flare. He was
quite the striking figure as he stood there, watched
by Stormtroopers, as he loaded his weapons and gear
back on the ship. The time was finally at hand to
meet with the Imperial that Min wanted a report on
and, if possible, hamper their efforts to cause
embarrassment and failure. He did not care about the
petty bickering between two factions of Imperial
Intelligence. All he cared about was satisfying
Min's lust for revenge and collecting his pregnant
wife and retiring to obscurity in the frozen north
of his native Delaya.
with Min and Tosha had not settled well with the
young woman. In fact, it had ushered in dark clouds
around Zara's head. She couldn't seem to wipe the
image of Min's satisfied face from her mind. That of
the Duke's hung close by. If they made it out of
this mess alive, things had to change again. She was
having a harder time accepting that they'd part ways
for this mission. Overall, Zara felt horrible.
Despite knowing that the time for Marcus to leave
was coming, she found it hard to go see him. It was
like she was embarrassed of herself for creating a
void of weakness inside of him. Instead, Zara
originally stayed in their room and continued her
research on the Destroyer. When she could
concentrate no more, a small group of Stormtroopers
led her up to the hangar.
As soon as she
saw her husband, pain pinged inside of her chest
*hard*. They hadn't discussed the events of the
previous night. Zara had stayed so low key all day,
like she was up to something. She stopped several
feet away from the familiar ship. She silently
studied him. She took note of everything from the
way his draped cape moved to the emotions playing on
his face. Anxiously, she approached the *Nerf
Herder* and began examining it herself. She'd been a
ship mechanic for years. It wasn't her first time
looking at the *Nerf Herder* either. If there was
anything she could do to maximize the ship, she was
ready for it. The woman remained awkwardly silent.
No one knew what came next.
fooling around, Zara," Marcus said, from beneath his
helmet, as he showed her where the thermite charge
was placed. "There's enough thermite here to blow
the Nerf Herder three times over," he explained to
her, before his hand moved lower. "And here's a
tracker with a fairly long range. I think even if I
took her into the Unknown Regions they'd be able to
track us down," he complained, before stepping aside
to look at her, as if for the last time. His hands
reached to the side of his helmet, immediately
pulling it off, as he revealed the face that was now
familiar to her. He placed his hands on each of her
shoulders and looked down at her, smiling strangely,
but not speaking for fear of breaking the moment. He
then sighed, closed eyes, and lowered his head until
his lips were upon her. He did not break the kiss,
for he knew when it broke he would have to depart.
He had left on hundreds of missions, but this was
the first time he ever felt afraid, because he knew
that if anything happened to him he would never see
her again, or their son at all. Had this made him
weak like Min implied?
powerless feeling knew no depths. The thermite
threatened to destroy him whether he succeeded or
failed. The tracker was there too. It was so obvious
that Zara felt stupid for not noticing it sooner.
She could only imagine how long Min had been
planning her attack, making sure her ducks were in a
perfect row. "Shit..." She cursed under her breath.
There was absolutely no getting out of this. Her
fingers brushed over the tracker. She examined it to
determine if she'd be able to get it off one way or
another when he returned. If he returned. Her paling
face soon met with his. His hair was standing up in
a million ways from having been wearing his helmet.
She couldn't manage a smile. Zara wore an expression
of completely concern, blue eyes staring into his
brown. She didn't want to lose him.
locked around his neck in a way that said she wasn't
letting go. She kissed him back, first bitter
sweetly, then with all the passion in her body.
Their future had been thrown into the air again.
Instead of watching Marcus whisk their giggling baby
boy up into the air, she was forced to look at what
life would be like without him. She began crying
again while they were still kissing. She'd never let
him leave. It was the simple solution to the
problem. Zara would cling to him for the rest of her
life. The kiss slowed and broke into brief, small
kisses. "You're going to come back to me." She told
him, "I'm going to be with you through all of this."
Only as a voice in his helmet, "And when it's all
over, I'll wrap you in my arms and never let you go.
You'll just have to figure out a way to life like
that." She didn't let him respond. Instead, she
initiated another kiss. He wasn't leaving!
A tear formed
in Marcus' left eye as she spoke, and it took all of
his strength to keep from breaking down in front of
the Stormtroopers and Black Sun that were around
them, watching their every move like hawks. "I love
you, Zara. I'm doing this for us ... all three of
us," he vowed to her, before she kissed him again,
preventing him from getting another word in
edgewise. When that second kiss broke he knew it was
time to go, and as he let his hands fall off her,
and he nervously took two steps backward in the
direction of the Nerf Herder. He needed to get his
helmet back on so that she would not see his facial
expression or the tears that would follow. Once the
helmet was on, he broke, and the tears began to
flow, and he closed his eyes so that they would not
linger upon her.
"I love you so
much, Marcus." Zara sobbed into their kiss. Their
audience made it impossible for her to try anything.
She couldn't save him. She couldn't stop him. The
hardest part was actually letting go of him. Her
arms felt like putty. They fell to her sides without
any control. Unlike Marcus, she couldn't hide her
tears. She could only imagine how he was feeling.
Too soon, he was out of her grasp and headed towards
his ship. Zara forced herself to watch him put on
his helmet. She forced herself to watch up until the
Nerf Herder had left the hangar. He'd made so many
sacrifices for her and Darrus. She imagined the
situation would be different if he wasn't trapped
with his pregnant wife. Just as he was out of sight,
Zara's tears dried up. She darted back to their
room, where her own armor and weapons sat on the
bed. She immediately began undressing, then
redressing again. Nothing fit comfortable. Her armor
was tight. Her pants were tight. However, her mind
was sharp and set on making this mission work. She
could be infinitely more useful from inside. She
even had a little vest strategically packed with
everything she'd need to destroy the main system of
the destroyer. "I'd never let you do this alone."
She said quietly to herself. The question
was...would Min stop her, or grab a popcorn, sit
back, and watch the fireworks?
from the surface of Esseles aboard the Nerf Herder
was one of the most difficult of his career. His
hands were unsteady on the controls, and he was
weakly trembling so much that he wondered if he
would even make it through the atmosphere. As the
craft accelerated through the atmosphere, he began
to experience buffeting as a result of not taking
the proper exit angle. He shook his head, exhaling
sharply, before adjusting his hands on the controls
to find the sweet angle that would limit the
turbulence and give him a smoother ride. He would
have to get it together if he had any chance of
surviving this mission. Min had gotten under his
skin more than he wanted to admit, and as the clouds
began to dissipate and the blue sky transitioned to
the darkness of space all he could think about was
getting back to Zara and Darrus. He was not a bounty
hunter any longer. He was a husband and an expectant
prepared herself, she realized how much Marcus had
changed her. She once kept herself constantly
preoccupied with work just to set her head clear.
Her emotional capacity had been broken by the death
of her parents. Until that day, playing a game with
him in the corridors of the Rodney Castle, Zara had
been convinced that she would never love. Silly
girl. He'd broken up the insanity of her life
pre-Marcus. He touched her, reawakening something
that had slept inside of her for so long. This
wouldn't be the end for them. He was going to be
there for the birth of his son and all the
milestones that followed. She placed a helmet on her
own head before she disappeared. She went back to
the hangar with strength in her soul. There, the
Storntroopers watched her claim a ship for herself.
No one stopped her. No one did anything while the
thief made her grand escape ... to fight by her
husband's side. This was it, she told herself. When
all was said and done, they had to change their
lives. Min was right. They weren't the same people
anymore. Weaknesses came naturally when you found
something worth fighting for.