I kept telling myself there was no reason to be reckless about this. I made it over the wall without incident. I was well hidden in a shadowed corner of the garden trying to time the guards making their rounds without the luxury of a watch. I tried to gauge how late it was and how much more darkness I had left.
I am not patient by nature. I watched the pair of guards pass one more time, took a deep breath and made a crouching sprint for the trellis that climbed up the palace wall to the balcony where Muloot fell. I hoped to find Rand there, or at least be able to backtrack from there to his personal quarters where he hopefully slept like the dead, unguarded, and I could snatch my blaster and run like hell. I know, big stretch, but I was desperate.
I was a bit noisier then I hoped to be climbing the trellis, but luckily did not draw any attention from the guards. I made it to the balcony without incident. The room I was now familiar with was dimly lit and unoccupied. Now that I was here, I wondered if it was even conceivable I would be able to find Rand without running into a guard and getting myself recaptured. And, what would the future ruler of Alta III do with me when he found I didn’t return with his prospective bride in tow? You would think I would have thought this out before scaling the trellis, but as I said, I am a little impatient at times.
I tried to think of what I saw through doorways when Fatu and Salib walked me down the hall last time. I did remember one room that looked more masculine and palatial then the others. It did have a bed. If I was lucky, it was Rand’s room. I tiptoed to the door and slipped out into the hall. The carpet deadened my steps as I crept slowly forward. Everything seemed quiet. I paused outside the door to the room I thought was Rand’s. I put my ear up to it and listened. Was it too much to hope for a very loud snore from the other side?
I took a chance, opened the door slowly and squeezed in. I closed the door gently behind me and stood for a moment letting my eyes adjust to the dim light from a candle on a sideboard under a mirror. There was a lump under the covers. Whether it was the right lump was the million chit question.
Without taking a step I scanned the room for something recognizable. Something that would tell me for sure the lump was Rand. I spied it hanging from the corner of the mirror. It was his medallion. The one I saw him wear each time I was with him. Unless his father possessed one just like it, this had to be Rand. I moved a step or two closer and caught a glimpse of my holster and blaster hanging from the bedpost at his head.
I crept forward and sure enough, ‘baby bear’ was fast asleep. I slowly slid the holster off the bedpost. Standing here, he was lying facing me. I was starting to retreat when I heard the door latch and saw the handle move. I ducked onto the balcony at the head of the bed.
The door slowly opened and Jake slipped in. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What was he doing here? I mean, sure, I had expected my crew to contact him, but for him to show up now… right when I had everything solved and almost put to right.
I crept out from my hiding place exposing myself to him. He looked as shocked to see me there as I was to see him. He motioned with his hand from his hip like he was drawing his blaster. I grinned and patted my hip confirming that I had my blaster. He shook his head and did the motion again. It was then that I noticed he didn’t have his blaster on. Oh Shit!
It was at this point that Rand chose to snort and move in his sleep scaring the life out of me. I stood immobile waiting for him to settle down again. He rolled over. I could see the barrel of Jake’s blaster peeking from under his pillow.
I pointed to show Jake I spotted his weapon. I motioned with my hands prayer-fashion to the side of my face that the warlord was sleeping on it.
Jake motioned for me to come to him. I didn’t get to find out what his plan was because the first step I took landed my foot on a squeaky floor board and Rand came up out of his sleep like a cornered animal.
Jake’s blaster materialized in his hand. He grabbed me around the waist and pulled me face down across him. He held me in place with one strong arm. Maybe he was thinking of using me as a shield, because he immediately followed that motion with a sighting in on Jake and pulled the trigger.
But, nothing happened. Jake was still moving toward Rand. Rand pulled the trigger again and again as Jake covered the distance from the door to the bed. I rolled under my capture’s arm and managed to get my gun hand free. I pulled my blaster, stuck it up to his chest and pulled the trigger. Rand went limp under me, stunned back to sleepy time.
Jake had made it to us. He jerked his blaster out of the warlord’s hand.
“Damn it, 3su,” he whisper yelled at me. “I had this covered.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said rolling my eyes. “I can see how well you had it covered.”
“He can’t harm me with a bio-encoded weapon,” Jake hissed. “He couldn’t have used my gun against me.”
I pushed my blaster back into its holster. “Well, he sure as hell could have killed you with mine,” I breathed heatedly.
“Well, if you wouldn’t go around carrying a non-coded, black market special we’d all be better off,” Jake retorted.
Jake grabbed my hand and pulled me up off of Rand’s limp body.
“Out of here. Now!” Jake ordered.
I led the way. When we got a safe distance from Kadear Jake turned to me.
“You can get yourself in some of the worst messes,” he said as he ran his hand through his hair in agitation.
“I was doing just fine,” I countered.
“Yeah, right…” Jake drawled.
“Well, Jake…” I said turning to him with my hands on my hips in contempt. “You tell it anyway you want, but I was doing just fine without your help this time. I saved your ass for a change.”
“So let Jake tell the story anyway he wants. In this case, I let the ego win.” 3su