That Fateful Day
Hershel sighed deeply, feeling himself begin to wake up. He didn't wished too, for he was afraid that everything wasn't just a bad dream and waking up would confirm that.
Besides, he felt warm and comfortable where he was and would hate the ruin that. He was sure he was still with his father and for that, Hershel felt very safe despite everything. While he had worried so much before, he felt he would be protected as long as he stayed asleep.
Hershel knew how irrational that was, but he didn't care.
However, the sound of foot steps on metal and a low rumble of a boat engine did bother Hershel, which caused him to open his eyes halfway. Hershel found that he was indeed still with his father, his head resting on his shoulder.
Much to Hershel dismay, everything hadn't been just a nightmare.
They were all still in the cargo room of the ship, though they had moved into a corner, hidden behind some creates. He looked over to see his mother was still nearby, holding his little brother. Both were asleep, his mother leaning against his sleeping father.
No guards nearby, much to Hershel's surprise. He wondered if they thought so little of them escaping now that they left them be.
“...Over here...no one can hear you...”
“...my god... so loud...can hear...”
Hershel tensed up as the voices grew closer, the echoing of the large cargo room making it hard to pick up exactly what they were saying. He slowly slipped out of his father's arm, trying not to wake him. Hershel walked to the end of the creates and peeked around the corner to see who had been talking.
Standing not too far away was a young woman and two men. They all seemed to be arguing.
“Corrin just lost a colleague.” said one of the men. He had short blond hair that he kept very neatly in place. He was dressed in a green suit, not matching any of the guards around. In fact he looked very out of place compared to everyone else. His voice had a bit of an accent to it, which Hershel was sure he heard it before. It was Scottish, though it was only a hint of it there.
“That doesn't mean he can slack off.” argued the young woman.
“Come on, Ji.” said the man standing behind the woman. He looked about her age, in fact his features were very similar, though while she was very clean and neat, he was not as such. His appearance was more thrown together, a white coat draped over his shoulders, the rest of his apparel being that of the regular uniform.
A bit effeminate, seemingly awkward, and acting very timid, the man was unable to look right at anyone before his gaze went back to the floor. His voice had a similar accent to Ji. “Let us not quarrel with Mister Fin.”
Hershel tensed as a hand came over his mouth quickly. He wanted to yelp, but then noticed it was his father who had come up from behind him.
Leon placed a finger on his lip, to signal Hershel to keep quiet before he let go of the boy. Leon hadn't wanted to startle him, but he had been afraid of Hershel's reaction if he quietly came up behind him. If Hershel had made a noise it would have revealed they were listening in. Leon wanted to know as much as he could about his captors.
Hershel sighed with relief and gripped his father's arm as they overheard the conversion, feeling a bit safer.
“Jin, why are you here?” shot the blonde haired man referred to as Fin, causing the one called Jin to retract into himself. “You should head back to Corrin, the man is in no state to be left alone.”
“No.” Jin said quietly, having stepped further behind Ji. “He's drunk, I'm not going anywhere near him.”
“Oh don't act so pathetic.” groaned Ji, giving Jin an annoyed glance before looking back at Fin. “But I can't blame him. Corrin is dumping all of his work on my little brother and is being irrational. I refuse to put up with this treatment, even if he won't stand up for himself.”
“You really shouldn't coddle him, my dear.” Fin smirked. “He's a big boy.”
“I am not!” Ji was losing her composure. She could tell she was beginning to show some signs of unprofessionalism and tried to pull herself together. “He just doesn't have the backbone to face Corrin.”
“Don't talk about me as if I'm not here.” complained Jin. “Besides, I only do it because Mister Gearald wants me to help him. I would work towards a transfer otherwise.”
“Father has a lot of faith in you, Jin. As do I.” Fin was rather bothered by the whole conversion. He began to inspect the room, which caused Leon to scoop up Hershel and pull him back with him to conceal themselves further.
Fin could see that some of the Targent guards had been staring at them. They quickly looked away when Fin saw this, trying to appear that they were working the whole time.
“Look, this is getting us no where. We have a lot to do today and we're arguing in front of the men. This isn't good for morale. Since you are here, Jin, did you finish looking over Bronev's work?”
Jin nodded. “Yes, however Mister Corrin refused too. He hasn't signed off on it yet. Nor do I want him too while in a drunken stooper.”
“You said you liked Bronev's work.” said Ji, quite pleased with the results. “I trust your opinion more than that egomaniac anyway.”
“But Mister Corrin's opinion matters more to Mister Gearald.” whined Jin, becoming very distressed about the situation. “We can wait on this, can't we?”
“I'm sure Father will allow Jin's word to be enough, due to everything that has transpired.” Fin sighs. “Wish Father wouldn't regard that man's word so highly. It's his fault we took so long with Professor Standwood... His fault last night was just an awful mess.”
“Did you have to be there when they...?” Ji's demeanor changed. Her voice had been hostile and forceful before, but the sudden drop in aggressiveness was apparent. “Fin?”
“I'll talk to him.” Fin said softly to Jin, trying to avoid the conversion with Ji.
“Oh.” Jin was surprised by this comment. He tried to look directly at Fin. “Um...t-thank you, Mister Fin.”
“Jin... How many more years must I know you before you drop the 'mister'? Makes me feel old.” Fin expression soften, though it was a look of disappointment. “Look at us, we still argue like kids. I wouldn't let anyone else talk back to me like this.”
Jin shrugged. “It's not a matter of years, Mister Fin. I'm... “ Jin fixed the placement of his glasses, trying desperately to keep himself collected. “... I just haven't proven myself yet to your father.”
Ji walked up to Fin, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Please tell me he didn't make you--”
Fin brushed her hand aside. “No. He wouldn't. That still didn't make the whole affair pleasant. I had to be there and give the order, that's all. We have people for that, my dear.” Fin chuckled, though there was no real humor in his voice. “Besides, you know I'm not a fan of guns. I'm a terrible shot. Even at point-blank range I would have wounded the poor man first before putting him out of his misery.”
“I'm sorry, Mister Fin.” Jin shook his head. “That explains a lot...”
“Now, we'll be at the port in a few hours.” Fin straighten his suit, wanting off the topic as fast as possible. “There's a lot to unload and we have new members to indoctrinate into Targent.”
With that Fin walked off, leaving the two Targent Members behind.
Ji placed a hand on Jin, which caused him to flinch. She smiled and squeezed his shoulder tightly.
Their conversation changed, Leon and Hershel finding they couldn't understand them for they had switched to what seemed to be their native language.
As it went on, Jin just kept shaking his head at her in clear disagreement. Leon was sure he heard them talk about his family, or at least himself, 'Bronev' coming up a few times.
After a while Jin shoves Ji's hand off him and storms off, spatting out something to her before disappearing into a nearby door. Ji called out to him, following behind.
Hershel felt relieved to see them go. He found his hands were so tightly clutched onto his father that he was having difficulty letting go.
Hershel felt Leon's grip on him slowly ease, shifting him to a more manageable position on his father's lap. He could tell his father was troubled, though Hershel wasn't sure how he could help. Hershel leaned against Leon, both siting in silence and mauling over the events. The boy wondered what his father could be thinking about and a part of him was hoping it was a way to get back home.
Being realistic, it probably was just how to survive for the day.
Hershel's own mind was racing with trying to find ways to escape their dilemma. There wasn't any answer coming, which frustrated the young boy. They were on a boat and who knows how far they were away from home by now.
The boy now wanted nothing more than to hear something from his father. Anything, any reassuring word would help.
“Dad?” Hershel was surprised how scratchy his voice sounded. It seemed Leon hadn't heard him, so Hershel tried again, but this time tugging on his father's arm. “Dad?”
Leon looked down at Hershel, his expression revealing that he had either forgotten his son was there or hadn't expected him to say anything.
“Oh, Hershel.” Leon took a deep breath and ran a hand through his very messy hair. Hershel observed that his father looked terrible, disheveled, and very... defeated. It was an appearance Hershel was not use to seeing in his father.
No one had gotten any real sleep, having to sleep in a corner of the cargo room. The little boy also guessed that he, himself probably looked awful. He certainly felt horrible, his throat felt dry, his body tired.
Hershel frowned. He didn't want to hear that from his father, he didn't do anything wrong. The six year old buried his face in his father's shirt, which in turn Leon patted his head.
“How are you feeling?”
Hershel shrugged in response. He couldn't think of a good reply that wasn't a flat out lie or wouldn't worry his father. At the moment, Hershel felt dreadful.
“Are you still tired?”
Hershel was, but at the same time he didn't know if he should say he was. His mother and brother were still asleep, which seemed like a good idea. He would really like to try to get a few more minutes of sleep...
“You can go back to sleep.” said Leon, sounding tired as well.
Hershel shook his head. He didn't want to sleep now, he didn't want to put himself in a position where he didn't know what was going on. At the same time, he was so tired it was making his eyes watery and the speed of his breathing increased. He tried his hardest not to cry, but the whole situation was becoming overwhelming for the young boy.
All he wanted was to go home.
“Shhh...” Leon rubbed his son's back, trying to calm him. “It's okay, Hershel. Everything will be okay.”
“No, it won't.” Hershel found himself muttering bitterly. He didn't believe any of this would be okay. However he hadn't meant to let that thought out, he just didn't want to deal with pretending.
Leon pulled Hershel back and leaned his forehead against his son's. “I know. You're too smart for those hollow sayings, aren't you?”
Hershel fidgeted, finding no words to response with. He hated when his father did this, it made him look right at him and gave the young boy nothing to distract him from the conversion. But even so, that meant his father was going to be serious and sincere with him, which Hershel preferred.
Reality suited the boy better than adult lies.
“Truth is I don't know what's going to happen.” Leon's voice lowered to a whisper. “You trust me, right?”
“Yeah...” mumbled Hershel. “What are we going to do?”
“All I know is we have to stick together.” Leon rubbed the back of Hershel's head. “That's the only plan I have, I'm afraid. If I could get you, your brother and your mother far away from here, I would in a heartbeat. But as it stands, it doesn't look like I'll be able to do that.”
Hershel figured that was the case. He rubbed his eyes to try and get the sleepiness out of them, but to also to wipe away the forming tears. His father pulled Hershel close again, resting the boy's head on his shoulder.
“You are so brave, Hershel. I need you to be brave for your brother as well.”
Hershel could hear his father's voice choking up. It seemed his father was trying just as hard to stay strong throughout all this.
“I'm proud of you, you know that?”
Hershel nodded. Despite it all, that made the six year old feel better. He could trust his father to protect him, his little brother, and his mother. Hershel felt he had to do his best.
“They're over here. Been there all morning.”
Hershel's body tensed up, unable to bring himself to look at who the voice belonged too. He was sure it was one of those armed men that had abducted them. Hershel desperately tried not to let the fear build up, he refused to let these people see him weak.
“Come along. Now.”
Hershel felt his father shifting him around so he could stand while holding him. The last thing Hershel wanted was to go with these people, though he was quite aware that his father had no choice. He looked over to see someone walking towards his mother and brother, waking them up.
“Hey!” Leon growled at the guards, starting towards them. They where forcing his wife to stand with Theodore, roughly pulling Rachel. “Leave them alone!”
Hershel saw as someone quickly came up behind his father and laid a hand on his shoulder and his left arm. Hershel had wanted to say something to warn his father, but the man was so quick and seem to come from nowhere that Hershel had no time to speak. All Hershel could do was hang on, as some of the support Leon gave him went away as the man pulled his father's arm back.
“Mister Bronev, stop.” hissed a heavy Russian accent laden voice. “Do as I say. Please do not have me hurt you in front of family.”
Leon peered back to see the young man behind him. The way he grabbed him, Leon was sure he would twist his arm if he moved. He did not wish to accidentally drop Hershel, so he did as the man said and calmed down.
“That better.” the young man let go of Leon, then motioned for the Bronevs to follow him, the other guards staying behind in the cargo room.
As the Bronevs were forced to follow, Hershel observed the man that nearly hurt his father. He was a fairly young lad, hardly an adult. He didn't wear the Targent hat nor the glasses, showing off his light blonde hair and his bright green eyes, but he had the rest of the uniform. However it seemed to be tinted a darker shade of blue. In fact it was all dark colors, the buttons, belts, and boots that the rest of the Targent members had that would normally add a bit more brightness to the attire were gone, just black. The only addition he had were black gloves. He was shorter than Hershel's father and his thin figure didn't show he had much strength, except that his grab earlier proved otherwise.
If Hershel didn't know any better, he would think the young man appeared relatively harmless.
“Um...” Rachel raised her voice up a bit, trying to get the young man's attention, much to Leon's concern. “Excuse me...”
“Da?” the young Taregnt agent tilted his head back a bit to see Rachel, but refused to stop and expected them to continue following.
“I...I wanted to know if there was anyway we... We've been here for hours and the children are... I'm sure they are hungry and still very tired.”
The young agent of Targent stopped in his tracks spinning around to face them, causing the two adults to come to a halt. Rachel clutched her youngest boy close to her, worried she had said something wrong.
To their surprise, the young man lowered his gaze, looking embarrassed. “Mister Gearald would like me to...uhhh...” he paused, as if he was trying to recollect what he was told to say next. “...'apologize sincerely on his behalf'.” He said that very stiffly, as though he didn't understand some of the words he was saying. His cheeks turned red, not sure if he got it right. “You were not to be left alone in cargo room. A... 'incident' kept Mister Gearald busy.” The man turned back forward and continued on.
“Ah...” Rachel smiled a little, feeling bad for the young man becoming flustered. “May I know your name?”
The young man pressed his lips together, as if in thought, but remained silent. Rachel wonder if he understood her question or just refused to answer.
They kept going for a bit before the young man stopped at a door and opened it, motioning for the family to stay where they were before he stepped inside. After a moment he came back.
The Bronevs walk inside the room, the Targent member coming up behind them and closing the door.
Leon didn't know what he was expecting, but it wasn't a nice room with a table full of food in the center. There were chairs around the table as well as couches in the corners of the room.
The young Targent member stood by the door with his hands behind his back in full attention, guarding the closed door.
The Bronevs stood there, dumbfounded by the hospitality all of a sudden, unsure if they should eat anything. The boys made no sound, but they were staring at the food.
“It is safe.” spoke up the young guard, sensing their uneasiness. “No reason hurting you.”
Leon would have to agree with that. There would be no reason to kill them now with poison, it would be a waste. After all, if Targent did decide to get rid of them, they could just shoot them and dump them into the ocean. No one would know.
The unpleasant thought sent a shiver down Leon's spin.
“I suppose it would be all right...” whispered Rachel, giving her husband a quick glance to see if he agreed. Leon slowly nodded to her, setting down Hershel. There was no point in starving themselves when the possibility of it being deadly was low.
Rachel put Theodore on a seat, helping him get what he wanted to eat. Hershel came up to the table, tugging on his father's sleeve to come with him. He didn't wish to be too far from him.
The Bronevs sat quietly and ate, a small sense of calmness came over them. For once that day the stress had lowered, even with the Targent guard in there with them. He seemed to leave them alone, staying by the door at attention, his expression very cold and focused.
Leon could see his wife wanted to say something, but couldn't find the right words to start a conversation. Leon reached across the table and grabbed her hand, squeezing it. Rachel smiled sadly at Leon, seeing that he didn't know what to say either.
Theodore popped another small pastry in his mouth before he noticed something was gone. He had been so hungry that he missed that he had dropped his teddy bear. Theodore looked around quickly and spotted it nearby the door.
The little four year old wiggled his way off the tall seat, barley landing on his feet, which nearly made him lose his balance. Once steady, he went towards the toy.
Theodore came to complete stop when the Targent member knelt down, picking up the bear before the child could get there. Theodore had forgotten the young man was there and became scared, freezing in place.
“T-Theodore?” Leon had stood up by that point, having placed a hand on Hershel's shoulder to keep him from going to his brother's aid. Leon knew fully well how protective of his little brother the six year old was.
Rachel had noticed Theodore getting up and had moved to stop him, but was too late before the boy got out of arms reach. She stood a few feet away from her son, afraid of what would happen next.
The young Targent member studied the bear, his cold demeanor softening. He flashed a smile at Theodore and held the bear at arms reach for the boy.
Theodore looked back at his mother, who slowly nodded at him. “It's okay.”
Theodore took the bear back, hugging it close. “Theodore...”
The young man nodded and ready himself to get back up.
“What's your name?”
The Targent member let out a loud sigh at the question, as if he felt like that was giving up too much information. He remained kneeling and took a quick look at Rachel before turning his attention back to Theodore. “...Pavel. Pavel Zotov.”
“Oh.” Theodore thought that name seemed hard to say or remember.
“I have little brother.” Pavel said, his tone becoming melancholy as if he were thinking of a another time in life. “Near your age.”
“Is he here too?” Theodore was becoming comfortable talking to Pavel. He didn't come across as scary as the other men, he wasn't as tall as most of them.
Pavel shook his head. “No. Back home. Far away from this.”
Pavel laughed. “You ask lot of questions.” Pavel's mood changed again, to one of great sadness. “He... too sick. Targent take care of him.” Pavel patted Theodore on the head before turning him around and shuffling him back to his mother.
“T-thank you.” whispered Rachel, glad to have her son close to her again. “I'm sorry about your brother.”
“Don't.” said Pavel coolly. “I do what I must for family. You...the same for yours.” Pavel's cold disposition returned as he turned to face Leon. “For your family. Do what Targent says.”
With that, Pavel went back to his position at the door and stood there as if nothing had happened.