It bothered him greatly that they were simply wandering.
That was all Olsein could think of. Instead of using better judgement and trying to actually get to know their surroundings, the Captain—who was too young and inexperienced for the position in his expert opinion--made the call to pick a direction based on a chance guess of their location, and keep going that way in the hopes of running into something. Anything.
Olsein didn’t know Suragaa, but knew planets like it. Parts of T’pauzi V were desert. Vast expanses of Behraan had become desert over time.
Suragaa Three was entirely desert.
He knew that wandering aimlessly in a desert environment, regardless how well-equipped, spelled certain doom.
Still, he agreed to comply with the Captain’s wishes, almost secretly hoping the situation would get as horrific as he expected it would, so that he would outlast her long enough to take command and lead the ship and crew properly.
But also secretly, he hoped he was wrong, for he did not want to invite his own doom.
To even further send him into deep thought, there was the off-chance that there was more to her decision than a simple hunch, dogged by the concept that she might be onto more than she could, herself, have realized.
Most of his thoughts were, indeed, secrets. Many were these secrets in the vault of Olsein’s impregnable mind.
But such abundance of secrecy in such lack of privacy tested the lock of that vault with every passing moment. He knew that at least Roselii had detected something off about him. Surely, there were the obvious facts that he was a Behraanese soldier who had lived more than two hundred years—where most of his ilk were lucky to make it to one hundred. Surprisingly, even to him, most ignored this fact, or considered it an exaggeration. But he knew that Rose knew more, or at the very least wondered more.
But in this fact, he knew something about her as well. She, too, was older than she let on. Wiser; stronger; calmer and more mature. Ten languages of completely unrelated dialects did not come easily to the Behraanese. Her steady hands and sure feet, the way she stood and walked, and her seemingly mind-piercing eyes, all revealed that she wasn’t just talk—which added more years to the estimated age.
He reckoned, roughly sixty years of age. Yet, he also knew something didn’t make sense. If she was Behraanese, and she was not like him, how did she escape the effects of ageing?
Good genes, perhaps.
Very good genes.
He began to listen closer to the way she spoke, whether it was to Darrick, or to Grace, or to Edge. With each person, she spoke in a different way to suit the person and the relation thereto. He was careful enough to actually have relevant duties in an earshot from her so that Laura would not bother him, and Rose would not detect that he eavesdropped on her since the campfire. However, all the while, he could not help but feel that Rose herself had been playing the same game with him. Casing him. Watching his movements. His actions. His speech. Even his lack of speech.
But what bothered him the most was that he had to resort to eavesdropping at all, for he found simple surface telepathy too be far more efficient and far less invasive—at least less obviously so. Still, all attempts to enter her thoughts had failed, however not for lack of effort.
While the others were in fact rather easy to read, he found no joy in doing so, for it felt to him like an expert burglar trying to overcome an open door, when there was a gold-laden vault in the other direction. A vault like his. A vault with secrets.
The others had secrets too, he had no doubt, but he valued protected ones more than those that were not, regardless the value. The challenge was half the fun.
Originally, he established this curiosity of his as part of his job as the Skyreign’s security. However, as he spent much of his time off duty examining her as well, the self-appointed duty evolved into a strange hobby—even a form of obsession.
There was one thought that never entered his mind, however. He did not consider the fact that he attempted, multiple times, to read her mind, and that all of those attempts failed. What he did not consider of it, was that most times, the one being read had to have been conscious of the intrusion and averted it.
Only one other person was capable of doing so unfailingly, for it required not only a strong will but a great amount of discipline and mental training to block mind-reads.
One thing he did conclude from all of this, finally putting it to rest as the sun set, was that she was something completely different from a linguist in another life. She must have been a warrior, or perhaps an assassin like Miya pretended to be.
He couldn’t pin Roselii’s accent. The accent was weak but it carried in every conversation and in every language. Still, as to what nationality or dialect it actually belonged, he was insufferably at a loss.
Even as the ship stopped for the night, and he made to his quarters to gain some much-needed sleep, his thoughts continued to chew over everything.
Everything amounted to the stinging fact that despite all the effort, he knew nearly nothing of this Roselii Khental.
But in his dreams, Roselii seemed to matter less and less, and the reality of his past became more and more real.
It was no nightmare, but it might as well have been. He remembered being part of a powerful yet small group of elite Behraanese soldiers touching down on a faraway world, whose inhabitants were barely into a renaissance era. They were to rendezvous with a much larger army garrisoned on a savannah outside of the city he came to know as Tenjas.
He remembered how the iron walls towered dozens of metres, lined with towers adorning massive, glistening golden crystals upon their tops.
He also remembered the astonishment and horror on the faces of his comrades who found their army completely decimated, not by weapon or spell, but by simple disease—an airborne, fast-acting plague the indigenous people were naturally immune to, but the Behraanese were not.
Communications systems, such as radios and the like, wouldn’t function. None could call for help.
Days passed by, and they knew that the mission to invade Tenjas had already failed. He watched his friends all slowly shrivel and falter under the bacterial infection. His body, too, began to fail him, though not before he would be left as the last alive.
With no other resort and his life fast leaving him, he stumbled and dragged himself towards the massive gates of Tenjas--the very gates he once intended to besiege, hoping he would receive some form of aid, from the very people he once intended to conquer. It was a last ditch, and he was all but certain it would not work. Most likely, he would die outside those walls.
The last thing he remembered, as his consciousness faded, was a navy-blue robed woman with brilliant red hair and a long staff, moving quickly toward him through the open gates, speaking words he could not make out and extending her pale hand....
So deeply disturbed by all the trauma was Olsein that he nearly jumped out of his bed. His heart pounded so hard that it should have killed a man his age. He thought it nearly would.
It was hours before dawn, but he could no longer sleep.
Why you? he wondered. Why now?
Resolving the matter through logic, that this tragedy was ages ago and worlds away, he wilfully brought his mind and his pacing heart to a calm, and made his way groggily to the central room for a cup of coffee.
Stepping into the darkened room, he found the machine and a cup and filled it, treated it only with a thought-loud prayer to sharpen his daily senses, and sat on one of the benches at the far end opposite the stairwell to enjoy it.
Perhaps he was still bothered by the dream. Perhaps, he was too fatigued, or by chance his eyes had failed him, but in any event, he had no sort of awareness of who he sat directly next to, until he heard the quiet sipping of a drink that was not his own to his immediate left.
“I take it you can’t sleep, either,” Rose whispered.
“I like getting up early,” he answered softly.
“Waking up hours before daybreak and drinking coffee on a daily basis can’t be good for your longevity,” she mused.
“At least you don’t have that problem,” he replied.
“Apparently,” she sipped her drink again, laden with the aroma of bergamot, “neither of us do.”
“So what keeps you up?” he asked.
“I like getting up early,” she answered softly, “waking up before daybreak and thinking about my day while drinking tea has proven good for my longevity.”
“Haven’t had any problems?”
“Not so far,” he could barely make out a smirk on her otherwise shadowy face.
“So have you ever been to Theyradaas?” he decided to make a subject change, one subject still disguised as small talk but very much pointed.
“Not in a while,” she hummed, “not a lot of people have made it out of that nebula.”
They both took another sip.
“Have you ever been to Noregaa?” she asked in turn.
“Not in a while,” he nodded to himself, “not a lot of people would leave that planet willingly.”
“Sixty-five,” Olsein finally concluded.
“So close,” she shook her head with a smile, “too bad you had to try figuring it out the hard way.”
“Too bad,” he shrugged.
“Nice to see you can use logic,” she knocked the rest of her drink back and stood to head back to her quarters, “when mind-reading and divination do you no good. See you in the morning.”
“Bright and early,” he nodded to her.
The last standing nation, and the last known location of the Oasiian race.
That spoke volumes to him—but for every answer, there were a hundred questions.
Still, he never slept so well. A small victory, in his mind.