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The Captive of Embrellon – 3

When he was brought into the audience chamber, he listened politely and when the Marn were finished praising Shandarro’s victory, he asked for permission to speak. Shagon waved him forward, and Jason began. “On my world when we have issues, we settle them with swords, in personal duels. I would be willing to enter your arena, and face swordsmen of your choice, regardless of what planet they’re from.” Shagon looked at him and laughed, then he got quiet. He looked at Jason and asked him “Why would I be stupid enough to give you a sword? What would I expect you to do with a sword other than try to escape? No, I won’t give you a sword. I saw your beast fight, I think your just as dangerous, and giving you a sword would be stupid.” Jason replied “How could I be a danger to you Shagon standing in your arena, fighting the swordsmen you choose? Your men have pulse rifles and phase pistols, and I, I would have a sword and my armor. What else could cause you concern?” Shagon thought about it. A Guardian from Embrellon, taking on all comers with a sword, in his arena, he could really use this especially if Jason was good with a blade. He asked him how good he was with a blade. He told him he would take on any of his men with practice swords and he could judge for himself.
This was exactly as he planned. He wanted to appeal to Shagon’s lust for power, and this was one way to do it. He wasn’t kidding himself, he didn’t expect this to be a cake walk. His father told him that when he had dueled with Shagos, he was one of the most skillful swordsmen he had ever faced. This would be different, he wasn’t going to face Shagos, or Shagon, he would be facing one of Shagon’s warriors, and he had subdued many of the grey Marn on the battle field, he and Shandarro had taken out a group of twenty that had dug in next to their ship. He was as ready as he could be. Shagon had the practice swords brought in, and had the floor cleared, on the floor was a circle and Shagon told him in a Marn fight, the idea was to defeat your opponent and whoever stepped outside the circle would forfeit their lives and have their heads removed. It was roughly the size of the training circle his father used, a little larger he thought, and when they gave him the practice sword he tested it. It was heavier than his sword, and the edge of course was blunt, the sword was about a hand-length shorter than his sword, something he was okay with. He had fenced with his father until he was bonded and the sword he used then was about the same size and weight. Ten years wasn’t too long to remember the techniques.
His opponent, as he had hoped was one of the grey. He stepped into the circle and saluted. It seemed odd to Jason that every civilization that had swords, used the same salute. He returned the salute. The Marn advanced and he retreated, the Marn thrust and he parried, the Marn slashed and Jason blocked, they were trying each other’s skill. The Marn was good with a blade, only time would tell who was the better with a blade. They began to circle and seriously started to fight. The Marn swords had a shorter grip than his sword, he was comfortable and able to use his sword with one hand or two, this sword could be used that way, but it was a tight fit. He decided to use one handed style fencing for a while, just to make it interesting to Shagon. They went at it for at least ten minutes, until he was sweating pretty good, then he stepped into a thrust and parried it sideways, returning a blow that would have taken the Marn’s hand off. The sword hit the floor and Jason stood there facing Shagon.
Shagon looked at Jason, then let out a long peel of laughter, he was going to make some money on this, this Guardian could swordfight. He asked him to dine with him, which he accepted, and they talked for a while about the matches. Shagon wanted to know if he had any issues with killing his opponents. He told him no, not as long as it wasn’t one of his friends from home, he was fine with it. That seemed to please Shagon and he sent him back to his room. When he came in the others wanted to know the outcome. He told them he had won the match and had cemented the deal with Shagon. Harlow wasn’t so sure it was a great idea until Jason told him the plan. Let them get used to him using a sword and winning matches, would take a little while, but once they were in his confidence, then they would make their escape. Shandarro was in on it too, when they broke free, they were all going.
The days that followed were filled with dueling practice for Jason, fights in the arena for Shandarro, and the announcement of the tournament of swords with all the pomp and ceremony Shagon could muster. Soon, every spare room, house, and villa in the area were filled with Marn dignitaries from all over the planet. They were ready, they had brought their best swordsmen to the arena for a chance to kill a Guardian of Embrellon. It was going according to plan. The first few matches were between any and all comers, this was after all a tournament. They were set against each other, and the winner moved forward and the loser died. Simple formula. Jason had matches daily. They had given him his sword and dagger back, but his armor they said had been stripped off of him and left on the planet, they allowed him to watch the first duel and he realized that none of them wore armor, they were wearing their sword belts, boots, pants, and a leather jerkin. He would have to fight without armor them. Just like fencing with Whitlaw, except the consequences here meant death, not a good bruising.
His first opponent was a Marn from some outlying district, and he was a descent swordsman, but he only lasted past the first five minutes. Jason took his head, he knew that the Marn had two hearts, and a double circulatory system and if he wanted to win, the heads had to come off. The next day he faced another opponent from another outlying district, and as with the first, he won in a matter of minutes. If this was all they had to offer him, he would be sailing through the matches until he reached the upper brackets. Each fighter was matched for one fight each day, and as the fights continued, the numbers decreased. Jason had faced ten fighters and won all the matches.
Now they were going into quarter finals and according to Shagon, this meant two matches a day, and once they reached the semi-finals, four matches in one day until there were only two left. However, many days that it took. He had been assured that there would be enough fights for it to last a full thirty days, which meant the quarter finals would probably take ten days, and the semi-finals nine and then the final match. That was the date when they would escape. During all the feasting, when the Marn had drunk enough of their wine, and were really drunk, then they would all escape. When he got back to the cell each day, he would check with Shandarro, and make sure he was healthy and ready. His plan was to win that fight, and then lead them on a merry chase once he released Shandarro. They would stay on the ground until they got the people out and took the ship. He didn’t want Shandarro to die needlessly and few knew that a Skree could run almost as fast as it could fly.
They were in their cell that night and began putting the final touches to the escape plan. Jason noticed that the Velans hadn’t had much to say so far, and he asked them why? He asked Linarro and Rena why they had had nothing to say in the plans to escape. That was when Linarro asked him if he knew where Embrellon was located. Jason had no idea, he had been locked in a cell for most of the voyage, except when they brought him out to interrogate him. Linarro said that he could fly the Marn ship, it was after all a Velan ship. They all looked at him in amazement. He told them the story of how the Marn had gotten ships to start with.
The Vela were a peaceful race, had developed the weapons that these ships carry as defensive weapons only. That’s why there are no phase cannons on the ships. The Marn homeworld was nearly depleted of natural resources and when they landed here, the Marn pretended to be friendly. They had wanted to learn about the Velan ships and the Vela had taught them. Taking some of the Marn on as ships crews. Once they were in orbit the Marn captured the ships, and forced the Velans to take them to Vela, the first civilization to fall. Vela was still a beautiful world, even with the Marn robbing it of its resources. They had begun a campaign of terror throughout this sector of space and the only reason that they had never gone further was that the ships of other races, especially humans, were far superior and had immensely superior weapons. He also told them that the Marn had adopted the Velan language, and was why they could understand James, and them.
On each ship is a star chart, and on the star chart are listed all the known worlds in this sector of space. The Vela had escaped to Embrellon because they were related to the Brellon thousands of years earlier. In fact, the Brellon were actually a race of peoples indigenous to Embrellon and had interbred with the Vela. The result was the Brellon who the Marn had destroyed with a weapon they stole from Vataria. He told Jason to be thankful that the Vatarians found no use for Embrellon, or they would have a much worse go of it than with the Marn. The Vatarians as a rule were more hostile than the Marn, but what they desired was platinum, and gold, metals that didn’t exist on Embrellon, so they paid it no mind. The Marn liked their games too much and that’s what brought them to Embrellon, the Skree. Jason had seen the ferocity that Shandarro had shown in the arena, and hoped he never had to witness a Skree do to one of his friends what he had seen Shandarro do in the arena.
The plan was all together now. Linarro and Rena would fly the ship. They were given much more freedom in the Governors palace than the others, even him. They would let the others out, and get them to the space dock. Jason and Shandarro would have to escape from the arena after they got the ship. Then he asked them a question, “How will we know when you’ve secured the ship?” Linarro said that all Marn ships had strobe lights, bright flashing lights, and once they had the ship, they would flash the light three times, and then that would be the signal to escape. That all seemed fine to Jason, then he asked him a question, “Can those ships hover?” Linarro assured him they could. Then he asked him another question. “When we escape from the arena, can you lower a landing pad, or open a door we can enter while your hovering?” Linarro responded “If you land on top of the main hull, there is an access hatch there that will allow you to enter the ship. But you will have to be quick, once you escape from the arena, a planet wide alert will happen and the Marn will be following us within an hour.” “Why an hour?” Jason asked, and Linarro told them “The only ship in the area is the Governor’s personal ship, it’s one of the fastest we ever built, and it has a star drive that will take us to Embrellon in a matter of days, not weeks.” Jason was astonished.
The next day they came and brought him to the arena, gave him his weapons, and the days wait for his turn followed. Between each duel, the Marn staged melee’s and contest of strength, and the fights between the beasts. They truly were a bloodthirsty race. Shandarro had faced twenty opponents and his record was as good as Jason’s. they each had killed repeatedly, it was sickening to both of them to kill for no reason other than to entertain the Marn, but to escape, they had to do it, and they were both vicious at what they did. Jason had eased into shows of his skill with a blade. He had met few that matched what he had seen of Skagos, who had fought his father with only one hand. These were no match for either of them. Jason had been wounded a few times and the balm they used on his back when they had whipped him, he used on what he called scratches. If he had been in his armor, they wouldn’t have even scratched him. Shandarro told him “Don’t become overconfident. You need to measure each opponent as you meet them. Thinking how great you would be if you had your armor is pointless, you don’t have it.” Shandarro had a way of sobering him. He had done this a few times through the years, and every time, it was in his best interest. Give them a show, take a scratch here and there, but always learn your opponent and don’t take chances. His father’s advice, sounded good to take right now.
It had been twenty days now, and the next day started the semi-finals. Tomorrow he would have to face four opponents. When he was taken back to the room, Linarro seemed rather pleased with himself, and Jason wanted to know why. “Well, I’ve been to the ship, made sure that we can fly it, checked the whole ship over, and I checked the blastoff engines, to make sure they were full of fuel. The ship, the star charts, everything is there and the ship is ready. There aren’t even any guards on it, everyone is at the arena, watching you and your Skree fight.” “His name is Shandarro.” Jason told him, and then he asked him a very odd question for most all the people in the room. Except for him and the Velans. “How much do you know about the Skree and about Embrellon, and what they are capable of?” it wasn’t Linarro who answered him but Rena. “I was a scientist on Vela, I worked in a facility where we housed all the knowledge from the different worlds we had visited, I was always drawn to your Planet, and I studied the history. I know about you being bonded, and that you and Shandarro can speak to each other telepathically. Other than that, my studies involved the different species of animals and plants native to Embrellon.” Jason was relieved, at least they didn’t know that Shandarro could speak.
He had been thinking of how to escape from the arena, he knew that Shandarro would be on the arena grounds on the final day of the competition. And he knew he could free him with his sword, but he needed to make sure he waited until the last second to make their getaway, and they would need all the speed that Shandarro could muster, flying to the ship was out of the question, Shandarro would have to run through the streets, and when he was near the hovering ship, launch himself into the air and get them to the top side of the ship before they got shot with a pulse rifle or phase pistol. They would need a grand diversion for that day. He just needed some time to figure it out.
As the games continued on, he faced his first opponent for the day, it was a rather large Marn with a wicked looking blade. It had teeth on the backside and he had seen him break the swords of other combatants in previous matches. He faced him they were roughly the same height, with the same reach. The Marn’s sword was at least half a hand longer and twice as wide as his blade. This would be when he found out just how indestructible faron allow was, and he was wishing he had some armor or at least a faron shirt.
The Marn was wary, he had seen Jason fight as well, and he had studied him. He knew that he couldn’t beat him by brute force alone, and he had depended on it for a long time. They saluted and started. They crossed swords, testing each other’s defenses, the Marn was impressed, so far, he hadn’t been able to penetrate Jason’s defenses. He moved warily forward. He engaged Jason hoping to lock swords at the hilt, with an opportunity to use his free hand to punch him. Jason stayed back from his reach, and led him on several parries and thrusts to test his reach. His father said you win a duel two ways, one with skill, the other with your brain. He backed up and led the Marn on a merry chase, wearing him down, reminding himself that he had no kaba, which meant he needed to rely on Shandarro’s strength through the link. He couldn’t afford to get reckless now. They were so close to being able to escape that he had to keep a level head, and take no chances. He had practiced his father’s somersault maneuver many times and had become proficient at doing it, at least with targets, now he felt that at some point over the next ten days, he would need it.
The Marn kept coming, Jason asked him his name, and he found out it was Tagon.” Well Tagon, today you are going to die in this arena.” Tagon laughed, and it was the first time Jason had seen a sense of humor from a Marn. If he wasn’t an enemy, this Marn might have been his friend. He didn’t like to see a good swordsman go to waste, and that’s what this was to him, a waste. At the end of the competition, all of the combatants except one would be dead. A waste he thought. Until he saw the number of people in the arena. How could a people breed this many people on a planet without resources? That wasn’t his concern, this fight was and he had almost taken a severe blow.
He parried and then in a spinning move of his own design, he took Tagon’s legs off at the knee, followed by taking off his head. The crowd went wild, they were applauding him, and betting on him like mad. He didn’t understand betting, they had nothing to gamble for except supplies on Embrellon, and everyone needed those. They bartered for everything, a knife for kaba roots, or any other thing they needed. They traded nuts, cloth, dyes, metal pots, tanzite crystals set in faron, but no one gambled. For them, life meant to much, and gambling took that from you.
His next match was set for two hours from now, he would have time to rest, eat, wash if needed, and then back to the arena after the melee. He didn’t like watching the melee’s, they were barbaric. The Marn would fight each other for prizes and favors, and women to share their beds. None of these things meant much to him, his goal was getting off this planet. He did have a concern though. Skagos had been honorable, he had kept his word in the duel. He had killed Jama when he went to disarm him, and lost a hand in the process. But he had kept his word during the duel and afterwards, destroyed his own ship. The melee was just a way for Marn to kill, and take, nothing more.
He was brought back to the arena floor for his next duel. This was going to be another learning experience. The Marn he faced now, his name was Hook because he had a hook in place of a hand, was considered to be one of the better swordsmen he would face. He was a shrewd duelist, and used a rapier type of sword that his father had trained him with before he moved on to the type of sword that the Guardians carried. It was long and thing, incredibly flexible, and incredibly sharp. It was a true duelists weapon. So far, he had been fortunate, he hadn’t seen any style of sword fighting that he hadn’t learned from his father. Broadswords, two handed swords, one handed swords like the rapier, other types of swords he hadn’t yet seen, and cutlasses and cavalry swords. His sword was a hybrid between a broadsword and a two handed sword, he could handle it with either hand or both hands. It was what his father referred to as a hand and a half sword, and it was an extension of his arm.
They faced each other, saluted one handed, and then began fencing, which surprised Hook. He didn’t know anyone who knew how to fence. He had learned after losing a hand in a duel. He watched Jason intently, his footing, how he moved his legs, how far he bent his knees, his follow through, how he performed a thrust, he was reading his defenses as was Jason. This one was cool, collected, a veteran of at least one thousand duels they said, and the only one he had lost was when he lost his hand. This was dueling at its finest and Jason knew he couldn’t make a mistake with this one. They went back and forth for at least fifteen minutes, when he saw his chance, Hook had thrust too far forward, and it had cost him his balance, Jason jumped into the air, and in a spinning maneuver, took Hook’s head from his shoulders. The crowd erupted, and Shagon awarded him a bounty, he acknowledged his accomplishment in taking Hook. It was bitter in his stomach, a hard pill to swallow, he had just taken out a true duelist who had shown honor and technique.
His next two matches were much of the same. He had killed so many Marn, they had no problem dying. There were so many of them that these types of matches meant nothing to them. They could keep on attacking planets for resources and hardly make a dent in their population. He had earned a rest that night, but they still had to make plans for the escape. He got with his eight comrades and went over everything, nine days to make sure that they had completed all their preparations.
He had continued forward in the arena until he only had four duels left before entering the final duel. He had worked the plan and it was going well. They had everything in place, Shandarro was ready, he was ready and his companions were ready. He was preparing for the day’s matches. He had eaten, was well hydrated, and had tapped into Shandarro’s seemingly endless strength. He was as ready as he could be. He entered the arena to see who his first duel was with that day and was shocked to discover he would be facing on of the high Marn, a gold colored male, with scars on his chest and arms, like he had been caught in an explosion. His name was Skelos, and he had won all his matches in another arena and had come here for this purpose, to fight against a Guardian.
He came forward and saluted. Skelos didn’t return the salute, he wasn’t here for the glory, he was here for revenge. The people in the arena booed him for not following the example of the salute. He gave a halfhearted salute and immediately dropped into a crouch. This one knew how to fight with a sword. He had watched Jason’s matches, and Jason had watched his. He knew this one was going to take some time, and no trick would defeat him, this was going to take endurance and technique. They crossed swords and the duel began. Skelos didn’t try to finish him off, he wanted to play with him first, that fit into Jason’s strategy. He knew he could always resort to his father’s finishing move, but he didn’t want to waste it. He knew it would be a one-time move, and he would know when to use it. Shandarro helped him with his strength, reflexes, speed, and his control. Shandarro told him he would take care of what was needed just focus on the fight.
He and Skelos circled each other, trading parries and thrusts, slashes and defenses. Then they got down to business. Skelos came in in a lunge, and Jason sidestepped it and parried. Skelos was very agile, and he was back into a defensive pose before Jason could follow through. This one was quick, and deadly. He had no choice but to press the attack, wear him down until he made a mistake, relying on Shandarro to provide what he needed, he obliged. Jason began weaving his sword in a blur of speed, Skelos was trying to penetrate his defense when he lunged to far forward and lost his footing, Jason took off one of his ears and cut into his shoulder. His blade was so sharp that it left his arm hanging loose and useless. Skelos wiped the blood off his arm and regained his composure, and pressed in. he stumbled and when he did, Jason took his other ear. He raised his blade to defend and Jason removed his head. That match had lasted over twenty minutes and he was already feeling tired. As he sat and refreshed himself, he felt Shandarro feeding him strength.
He was sitting in his area when another High Marn came up and introduced himself as Jason’s next opponent, he had won his duel earlier. His name was Traygon, and he had been to Embrellon, had fought with a Guardian and killed him. He was trying to demoralize Jason. It didn’t work, not today, he nodded in acknowledgement and said “You’ve never faced me before, we will see today if the Guardian you took out was old, feeble or wounded.” Traygon stomped off, Jason had rattled him, which was what he wanted to do.
They entered the arena, and faced each other, and with a salute, they started. Jason needed to see what this Marn could do with a blade. He engaged him in close quarters and felt out his strength, he was stronger than he looked. They continued to measure each other, and then, like a furry, Traygon engaged him in a series of sword flourishes that would have intimidated most others. He was fighting for his life with this one, he found himself parrying constantly, and defending. Traygon was good, he was really good, and he reminded him of Skagos, who his father had said was one of the best he’d ever faced. Then Jason decided to do something daring. He jumped back, and in a swirl of motion that was a blur to watch, he gained the advantage, he was behind Traygon and in a sweeping arc of the blade took his arm off cleanly at the elbow, the blade hit the ground, and when Traygon turned it was to see that same blade remove his head.
He had two duels left to win. He felt tired, and refreshed himself as best as possible. Shandarro would need his strength when the time came the next day. He didn’t want to deplete his strength. Shandarro assured him that he hardly touched his reserve of strength, he had more than enough for both of them. Then he felt the energy coursing into his body and the fatigue disappeared, his body felt as though he had slept and just woke full refreshed from a good night’s sleep. He drank water, rehydrating himself, and as he was finishing, another high Marn approached the table. This one seemed oddly different than the others, he seemed barely past a youth, yet he walked like a practiced veteran of many sword duels, he had the light and easy step that revealed the inner confidence and surety of someone who had faced many opponents and overcame them. This one was dangerous.
The Marn introduced himself as Magos, son of Skagos, that got Jason’s full attention. He looked into his eyes, and said “My father mounted an invasion of your cursed dirtball. My brother never came back, and neither did my father. I assume by your reaction, that you knew my father?” Jason nodded, he continued “then take notice, he was my sword instructor, and I have won over five hundred duels. Today, we will test your mettle, yes?” Jason looked up and staring into his eyes, saw how much life was in him. He replied “Or we will test yours. I salute your father, he fell on my planet to my sword instructor, my father,” with that they inclined their heads towards each other and prepared for their duel.
Shandarro fed him more energy, until he felt like electricity was crawling away under his skin. He knew what he was doing, and he was going to need it. Shandarro said “This one is the most dangerous of all the foes you’ve faced. I will maintain this link with you during the duel. You will need all your skills, all of our strength, speed, and knowledge to overcome this one.” Jason knew he was right and let him know.
He and Magos entered the arena, they heard the cheers of the crowd shouting “Magos, Magos, Magos”, he was their champion and he saluted the crowd. Jason and Magos faced each other, saluted, and they started. This was a different duel all together. Magos preferred a one handed style of fighting. Very much in the style of Skagos. They tested each other’s defenses. Jason continued to use a two handed technique. He was as good with a one handed technique as any, his strategy was not to let Magos know he was good with only one hand. They parried, advanced and retreated, and Magos, feeling the crowd, told Jason “Let us give them a real show, no? I can tell your well taught and well trained with your weapon, let us show them what real swordsmen can do.” With that he advanced and pressed Jason into fighting in a circular pattern. They continued to fight while circling each other slowly and methodically. This was a different fight all together and Jason needed to take command of the duel.
In a flourish of moves his father would have been proud to see, he switched from the two handed fighting style he was using to a one handed style, and advanced into the fight. Magos was impressed. He had never seen anyone switch fighting styles mid duel and he wasn’t a two handed fighter. Jason’s technique was flawless. He had backed Magos up several steps and in a flourish of motion that was a blur to Magos, he made a sweeping motion with his blade. He was confused, he knew that his blade should have passed through his flesh and removed his head, Magos stood there mouthing words and the only sound coming out was a gurgling. Then his head slid from his shoulders as his body sank to the ground. There was a hush that fell over the arena, they didn’t expect Magos to fall, but here he was, dead, and the Guardian was still standing. The crowd cheered, they loved a good duel and they couldn’t help but to acknowledging his skill with a blade.
Jason had two matches to go, and he was tired. Shandarro infused him with energy again, this time doing it slower than before, letting it course all the way to the core of Jason’s body. This refreshing of his body was different than the last, this time, he felt like an animal on the hunt. He realized that not only had Shandarro fed him energy, but he had fed him the raw animal part of himself that created the ferocity that he had displayed in that first battle with the wolf creature. Shandarro had given him part of his personality, the part of the primeval Skree that was a hunter, long before they had become sentient. He sat there waiting for the next opponent to introduce himself when a shadow crossed his face, he looked up, and there facing him was Harlow. He was shaken, he leaned forward and told him that Shagon had sent for him, and told him that he would be facing Jason next. He wanted to know if there had been anyone trying to plan an escape, and he told him no. He had that look in his eyes that told Jason he had just been given an opportunity to escape, and it came at a cost. That saddened him, and Harlow told him he would give them a show. He too had learned from Whitlaw. That bothered him. He would make sure Jason fought to his best ability.
When they faced each other in the arena, Harlow looked at him and asked him if he had ever heard “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”, Jason affirmed that he had. At that moment he realized what Harlow intended to do. It pained him to be forced to take his life, but he had eight others to rescue. He told Harlow that he would make sure that his sacrifice was not in vain. With that, they saluted each other and started the duel. Harlow was cheered by the Marn, it was apparent that he had won many sword duels in the past, and he was supposed to be Shagon’s secret weapon. If you couldn’t beat an opponent with skill or tactical advantage, then demoralizing them was just as good.
Harlow started in with a classic Earth maneuver designed to force your opponent to defend and retreat. Jason had been taught the maneuver at eight, and how to overcome it. He realized that Harlow was giving the audience a show, and with a nod of acknowledgement, they truly gave them a show. The parries, thrusts, defenses, and attacks followed every style of fighting that Harlow knew. He was good, really good, and Jason could see his father’s tutelage in Harlow’s technique. They battled on for half an hour, and then Harlow winked at him. That was the signal to deal the best sword fighting three worlds had ever witnessed. They went at it hard and fast, both of their blades a blur, suddenly, Harlow opened his defense slightly, and Jason thrusted his sword through his heart and Harlow collapsed forward on the blade. He had an odd smile on his face, and with blood foaming at the edges of his mouth told Jason to get home and tell his father that Harlow sends his greetings, and with that he took a shuddering breath, and died. This fight affected Jason more than all the others. He was shaken to his core.
That night when they returned him to the room he sat there in despair, how could he tell them he had been forced to kill Harlow. What would they think of him? Shaniqua came and sat down beside him on his bed, she took his face in her hands and turned his face towards hers so that she could look into his eyes. She asked him “Did Harlow die well?” it was an odd question; how could they know he was dead. Then O’connor came forward and told him that Harlow had planned to do it from the start. He knew if Jason had lasted to the end, that Shagon would substitute Harlow for one of his fighters. That was little comfort to him he hadn’t wanted to kill Harlow.
He asked O’connor when Harlow had served with his father, and O’connor told him that he was Harlow’s fencing instructor at the academy, and had been with them at Epsilon. He had been Whitlaw’s Ex-O on the ship and they had served together until Harlow was promoted and given his own ship. That was when Whitlaw had also been given the Rapier as a reward for winning the battle at Epsilon. Jason had never heard his father speak of some of the battles in space, nor the men he had commanded, and he looked up at O’connor and he told him that his father, knowing he was marooned, and beyond escape, would have kept as much of his past locked away, it would have only pained him to think about the life he had lived before. That helped Jason to relax. Shaniqua asked him if he was alright, and Jason surprisingly felt better. He had learned new things about his father, and had realized just how much his father had affected these men he was held captive with.
Singh hadn’t really opened up to him like the others, and this night may not have been the right time to do it, but he asked him what he knew of his father. Singh replied “Every Earth born man and woman know who James Whitlaw, Hero of the Battle of Epsilon, is. We all learn about him in school. He is considered to be one of the greatest tacticians and strategists ever to come from earth. He is compared to Cochise, Napoleon, Cesar, Alexander the Great, and many others. His tactics and strategies are taught at the Academy. Jason had never known how well known his father truly was. Every one of these humans from Earth, knew who his father was, and his father had never taught them about any of this beyond the language, and a modified history that didn’t include him as a here, just that he had fought at Epsilon. The humility his father showed was a testament to his character.
As they rested he thought about what might be happening on Embrellon. As close as he could estimate, it had been six months since he had been captured and now he was about to take his one opportunity to escape. He felt the reassuring presence of Shandarro, who was scheduled to battle just before him the next day. His last duel was the capstone of the event and he had no idea who he would be fighting. As he lay there thinking his thoughts focused on Linarro and Rena. He rose from his bed, and walking over to where they were sitting, he sat down facing them and asked Linarro “How is it you know so much about Shagon’s ship?” it was a simple enough question and he was surprised by the answer when it came. “When we first talked, I told you about how the Marn got their ships and technology, and how they took the technology of others and used it for themselves. To promote conquest and find resources for their planet.” Jason shook his head in affirmation, then he continued. “I was an engineer and designer on Vela. Shagon took me and Rena captive and brought us here. He wanted the knowledge that Rena shared with you about Embrellon, he wanted an advantage over your people and the Skree. Rena didn’t give him anything but facts he already knew. So he started questioning me, and after frequent torture sessions, Rena told me to cooperate with him, and hopefully at some point we might recruit some captives to join us in an attempt to escape.” Jason acknowledged him and he continued, “I built the ship Jason, and I designed the new star drive that the ship carries. I never told Shagon how much different this ship is to the others, but, I can guarantee you that if we get on that ship, we will escape.” Jason wanted to know the details of what he meant by his guarantee, but all he would say is that Harlow and O’connor had taught him about Whitlaw, and Singh had provided the details of what they needed to ensure an escape.
That mystery would only be revealed by escaping Marn he surmised, so he dropped the subject and bid them goodnight. He laid down on his bed, got as comfortable as he could, and let himself drift into sleep. He dreamed of Embrellon, his father and mother, his sister, and wondered if they knew he was alive and trying to get home. Somewhere in his mind he felt the power of his sister’s mind and he could feel her saying “come home”. With that he drifted into a deep restorative sleep. Shandarro was there as always, and reassuring him that his plan would work, he helped Jason rest. Tomorrow would be the day they had been waiting for.


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