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All of the above.
One possible answer, multiple-choice test, circa 1990
Outside, in the passageway that ran parallel to the hangar deck, the Warlord waited—silent, patient. The corridor was dark; he’d ordered the lights shut down. It was empty. He’d sent his retinue about their business, relayed a soothing message to the admiral to the effect that he, at least, was back aboard.
The Warlord was needed on the bridge, needed desperately. Phoenix had sustained heavy damage in her battle with the Corasian fleet. Concern was growing over the continued safety and effectiveness of the ship’s nuclear reactor. Aks was receiving garbled reports that another Corasian vessel had been sighted coming out of hyperspace. And he’d been repeatedly harassed by hysterical transmissions from the Adonian weapons dealer, demanding to speak to the Warlord and no one else.
Sagan leaned up against a wall, crossed his arms over his chest, counseled patience, and waited.
A door leading from the hangar deck opened noiselessly; a lithe figure was briefly outlined against the light behind her. Pale hair gleamed with an almost hallowed radiance.
Quiet as the shadows around him, the Warlord strode across the corridor.
Maigrey was aware of him. Her hand went to the bloodsword, but Sagan’s was faster. His fingers closed over her forearm with a crushing grip and he shoved her back hard against the steel wall.
“So, my lady, you gave the boy his courage. Dion is gone?”
The light of the starjewel was the only light in the corridor. The bluish white brilliance illuminated Maigrey’s face. The skin was translucent, lifeless, the gray eyes dark and empty, sighted in on a battle with him to death.
Her eyes narrowed. “Yes, he’s gone,” she said warily.
“To Defiant, to warn John Dixter of my treachery?” Sagan almost smiled.
“I’m not certain. I hope so.” Maigrey stared at him in sudden understanding. “There was nothing wrong with the communications aboard the spaceplane, was there, my lord?”
“Nothing that I couldn’t have fixed, my lady.”
Sagan could faintly see blood pulse in the livid scar on her cheek. The tense muscles in her arm that held the bloodsword relaxed in his grip.
“Naturally, since you were the one who broke it. The message about the mercenaries being held prisoner on Defiant was a ruse.”
“Not exactly, my lady.” Sagan reached out his hand, touched the scar on her cheek with his fingers. He felt her tremble at his touch. She tried to draw away from him, but there was nowhere to go. He had her backed up against the wall. “Captain Williams has these orders, given before I left: If the Corasians are defeated, John Dixter is to be taken prisoner and immediately executed. The mercenaries who survived the battle with the Corasians are to be killed the moment they return—So help me, lady, try that again and I’ll break your arm!”
Maigrey, breathing heavily, subsided. The Warlord regarded her grimly, intently, and when certain that she was once more under control—if not his control, then at least her own—he continued.
“You will be pleased to know, Maigrey, that Williams bungled those orders. Dixter has escaped and joined his people. The mercenaries have barricaded themselves on two hangar decks. They are currently under siege.”
Maigrey jerked her arm free of his grip. “You’ve sent Dion headlong into a raging battle! You knew that when you baited him!”
“The bloodiest kind of battle, my lady. Men trapped, cornered, fighting for their lives.”
“What is this, my lord, another test? This one could get him killed!”
“Yes, my lady, another test. But not for Dion.”
Sagan continued to regard her gravely, opening his mind, opening his heart. Maigrey listened and understood, stared at him in bewildered disbelief.
“You’re testing God!”
“If this boy is truly the Lord’s anointed”—Sagan’s lip curled slightly—“then He will watch out for him.” Wincing in pain, the Warlord flexed his arms, reached around to massage the back of his neck.
“Come, now, my lord! I didn’t hit you that hard.” But she knew how he felt. Every bone, every muscle in her body ached. We’re getting old, she thought. Wearily, she returned the bloodsword to its scabbard. But she kept her eyes on him.
The two stood in silence, watching each other, wary of the least move, the indrawn breath, the flicker of an eyelid.
“You’re going to try to go after him, aren’t you?” Sagan reached out his hand, took hold of the starjewel she wore around her neck, studied it with a contemptuous air. “You’re going to play Guardian.…”
He was near, too near, as near as he’d been to her aboard the Corasian vessel. What had happened there had been a mistake, but a natural one. They’d both been in danger, they’d depended on each other, they’d defeated their enemies, triumphed, as they had triumphed together so long ago. She remembered the heat of his body, the flame of the shared power. He was so close to her now, she could feel the vibrations of the steady, strong beating of his heart.
Closing her eyes to him, Maigrey wrenched the starjewel, the Star of the Guardians, from his grasp, held it clasped fast in her hand.
His breath was warm on her chilled skin. She pressed back against the wall, averted her face. His hand touched her cheek, the terrible scar slashing down from her temple to the corner of her lip.
“You’re going to try to get away from me, mother that sniveling boy, rescue an old lover, when—together—we could have so much.…”
Red emergency lights flooded the chamber. Drum rolls broke the silence, beating the tattoo, sounding the call to man battle stations.
A centurion, one of Sagan’s own personal guard, came clattering down the corridor. Finding his lord and the lady in extremely close proximity, the guard skidded to a halt, coughed in embarrassment, and looked as if he wished the ship’s hull would crack open, suck him into deepspace.
“Well, what is it?” the Warlord snapped, turning away from Maigrey.
She sighed, held on to the jewel tightly, its eight sharp points piercing the flesh of her palm.
The centurion kept his eyes fixed firmly on the bulkheads. “A Corasian warship is bearing down on us, my lord. Admiral Aks respectfully requests your presence on the bridge.”
“I’ll inform the admiral that I am coming. You escort my lady back to her prison cell.”
The Warlord started down the corridor, checked his stride. Glancing back, he put his hand to his bruised neck. “No, my lady. On second thought, I’ll be damned if I let you out of my sight. Ever again.” He held out his hand. “My lady?”
Maigrey slowly let go of the jewel. She would find a way to escape. In the confusion of the forthcoming battle, with Sagan’s attention necessarily elsewhere, escape would be easy.
It was the leaving that would be difficult.
She laid her hand in his. They walked together down the corridor, walked calmly through the red flaring light, the drumbeat warning of approaching peril, battle, death.
Perhaps, she thought, suddenly chilled, Dion is God’s way of testing us!