Chapter 3 - Discoveries
"Relax a bit Top sword." Fireball exclaimed as he climbed out of his saddle unit and stretched.
Saber continued to scan the surrounding space.
"I'll let the Princess know it's ok to unbuckle." April stated.
In the background Saber heard April making an announcement over the intercom. He typed in another coordinate to scan a different area of space they would be flying through.
"Wake me up when we get closer." Colt sagged down in his saddle unit and tilted his hat over his eyes.
"You found us." April stated smiling as the Princess appeared, "Come on in."
"Ramrod has an amazingly smooth ride for a non-passenger ship." She turned to April, "You are an amazing engineer April."
The blond starsherrif blushed, "Thank you."
A quiet but warning beeping suddenly emanated from Saber Rider's Saddle Unit.
"What is it Top Sword?"
Elena glanced at Fireball as the young man made his way towards his Leader.
"Outriders." Fireball verbalized.
"Where?" Colt bolted upright from his slouched position completely alert now.
"Planet Abba." Saber informed him. He began typing furiously, "Ramrod to Cavalry Command. Outrider attack in progress at Planet Abba. Request immediate assistance." He ended the emergency transmission and climbed out of his saddle unit.
"Fireball, you are in command. Pilot Ramrod away from Abba and detour to Vega. I'll join guys there. Your first priority is the Princess's safety." Saber ordered sternly.
"You're heading out there?" April stated shocked, "You can't just go alone. It's too risky!" April declared grabbing his arm.
Saber pulled away from her and turned to Fireball, "Fireball you have your orders. You are to keep the team and above all else the Princess safe understood?""
"Yes, sir." Fireball nodded.
"Don't take too long Partner." Colt said and slouched back down in his saddle unit.
Saber glanced at him and rushed out of the command bridge.
A minute later Elena and the starsherrifs watched as Saber left Ramrod on Steed.
"That idiot! I can't believe he's going." April huffed and went to take a seat in her saddle unit.
"Why doesn't Cavalry Command just reprimand him?" Elena asked suddenly.
"Reprimand Saber Rider?" Fireball chuckled, "Wouldn't happen."
"Why not?" Elena probed.
"Because whatever he does causes more good than harm and because he's Saber Rider."
Everyone was silent.
"I'm going after him." April jumped out of her saddle unit.
"No you're not. I have my orders April. You stay here." Fireball stated sternly.
April huffed and jumped into Saber Rider's saddle unit. She glanced back at the Princess, suddenly remembering that she was with them.
Fireball seemed to remember her presence as well, "Princess Elena?"
The Princess turned to him. She smiled, "Yes?"
"Are you alright your majesty?"
Elena nodded, "I'm fine Fireball. Thank you." When Fireball turned back to his instruments, Elena turned to look out the front shield. Come back safely Saber Rider...
The remainder of the trip was quiet. Fireball reached Vega and landed in a slightly wooded area.
"Finally here! I need to get some fresh air." Colt declared climbing out of his saddle unit and stretching, "Would you like to join me Princess?"
"Please call me Elena. And yes, I'd love to." She hooked her arm with the one Colt offered her.
The cowboy smiled and winked at April and Fireball who were both watching them.
April rolled her eyes, "Just remember that she's out of your league Colt!"
The cowboy frowned and led the Princess away, "Ignore them darling."
"Did you hear anything from Saber?" Fireball asked.
"No he's still out of range." April answered. She was worried. She knew that he could handle himself, still she worried for him. He would be out there alone against a whole whack of outriders until the cavalry arrived, "Maybe I should go get him."
"No. You're staying here. We can't spare anyone from leaving the Princess' side. Saber made that very clear." Fireball declared sternly.
"And since when do you follow orders so strictly?" April queried.
"Since we are in charge of a Princess' welfare not to mention the fact that Saber Rider would probably kick my ass and have me court-martialled for breaking a direct order."
April laughed, "Scared of Saber Rider, Fireball?"
"What? No! He's just our Leader." He shrugged.
"Uh huh." April didn't believe him. If it hadn't been for Elena, she would have gone after Saber despite his orders to stay aboard Ramrod. She hoped he was ok.
"Don't worry. He'll be fine. This is Saber Rider we are talking about here."
April turned to him and smiled lightly, "Colt took his gun with him right?"
"It's Colt. Of course he's got his gun."
"Right... I'm going to contact my dad and let him know we've arrived safely."
Fireball nodded, "I'm going to go get some fresh air." He declared and left April alone in the command bridge.
The hatch was already down as he arrived. He descended.
"Hey Fireball, that mountain over there seems like a good place to hike. I think I saw a lake when we landed too."
Fireball nodded as he stepped off the ramp onto the grass covered ground, "Yeah, it looks good. But we're going to stay with Ramrod until Saber gets back."
Colt nodded simply. He turned to Elena who was quietly staring off in the distance.
"Are you homesick?" He asked curiously.
"Me? No. Well at least not yet." She laughed lightly.
Colt smiled. She was very pretty when she laughed, "Are you hungry?"
"No, I'm fine thank you. I'll join you if you're hungry though."
Colt smiled and turned to Fireball, "What about you partner?"
"Nah I'm fine. I'll go to see if April wants to eat something. We'll meet you guys in there."
Colt nodded, "Come, on. I'll show you around Ramrod." Colt said leading the Princess back up the ramp, "This as you saw earlier is where we keep our other means of transportation. We all have our favourites. The Bronco Buster is mine," he pointed to the small plane, "the race car belongs to Fireball and Nova belongs to April."
Upon hearing her name Nova, a mechanical horse similar to Saber Rider's except in colour, raised her head to look at them. She neighed in welcome.
"They're not real though right?" Elena moved to touch the light pink and white horse.
"No they're not real." They left the cargo area and walked into the main hallway of Ramrod, "The main control room or bridge we came from is over there and this side is the main living quarters where we showed you your quarters. Here is our little breakroom." Colt pressed a button and the doors slid open with a soft swoosh.
"Have a seat. Would you like something to drink? Eat?"
"Sure. Would you have any tea?"
"Probably. We should have some around, Saber always has tea."
"Oh, it's ok Colt. water is fine." Elena suddenly changed her mind.
Colt glanced at her curiously, "He won't mind Elena. We share everything."
The Princess blushed and nodded. She walked over to the two sectional shaped benches that surrounded the table and sat down. Against the back of the sectional she was occupying was another one that faced a television set.
Colt chuckled and pulled down a silver canister, "Bingo." He glanced back to see the Princess looking around the room and proceeded to make her some tea.
"We only have this one room as a living space. So kitchen, living room, and meeting room all in one. There's a bathroom in the back there and we also have a small work-out room next to this room."
The door slid open again and April and Fireball walked in.
"Sandwhich?" Colt asked.
"No thanks." April said and went to sit down by the Princess.
"I'll have one." Fireball joined him at the kitchen counter.
Meanwhile, April slid back a small panel at the front of the table to reveal a small key pad. She pressed a button, "Ramrod To Saber Rider. Come in Saber Rider." Static came back over the intercom.
"Still out of range." Fireball stated as he and Colt joined them at the table.
"Thank you." Elena stated as Colt placed a cup of tea in front of her.
"So what are we going to do for the rest of the day?" Colt asked looking at everyone expectantly.
**** The next morning a couple hours after they had finished breakfast.
The kitchen door slid open, "He's here! Saber's back!" April declared quickly before disappearing again. The door slid shut after her.
"Shall we go?" Fireball looked at his two companions.
Colt, Fireball and the Princess got to their feet and left the break room. They entered the docking bay where Saber astride Steed were just appearing at the top of the ramp.
"Welcome back Saber." Fireball exclaimed stepping forward.
Saber Rider nodded simply and slid off his mounts back. He made sure to school his features before removing his helmet. He quickly ran a hand through his semi-damp blond hair and met Fireball's gaze, "All is well?"
"All good here." Fireball replied.
"Good." He glanced at their guest, "Princess." He bowed his head slightly then led Steed into his stall.
April closed the ramp and joined them again.
"How was it Partner?" Colt asked watching him as he hitched Steed into the stall.
"Secured." Saber replied. He stroked Steeds muzzle once before turning to the Starsherrifs, "Meet in the break-room in twenty minutes to discuss plans for this trip. We've wasted enough of Her Highnesses vacation." He waited for the team to acknowledge they understood then turned to leave.
"Saber Rider." Elena called.
The leader turned to her, "Your Highness."
"Have you eaten or slept?"
The question surprised him. He had been expecting her to argue with him. He kept his emotions in check and turned to the rest of the team, "Twenty minutes." He turned and walked away without answering her.
"Idiot." Elena mumbled.
Colt laughed, "Did you just call Saber an 'idiot'?"
Elena blushed, "He is being one. He didn't do either did he?"
"Probably not. If there was a lot of damage, he would have stayed to help." Fireball stated.
Colt suddenly moved to retrieve a fleece cloth Saber and April use to wash and wipe down their horses. He carried it over to Steed and ducked under the stable rope. He ran the cloth under Steed's belly and between his front legs.
"What are you doing?" April asked stepping closer.
Colt ignored her question and checked the cloth. Nothing. Not even dust. He ran the cloth down one of the legs and looked at the cloth.
"Bingo." He straightened.
"What?" April asked looking over. She sighed.
Colt showed the fleece to Fireball.
Elena frowned, "Is that... Blood?"
Colt nodded and tossed the dirtied fleece cloth into the bin they used for soiled items.
"Excuse me a moment." Elena stated softly and left the docking bay.
"Now where is she going?" Fireball frowned.
"I bet she's off to give Saber an ear full." Colt smirked as he joined them.
April stared at Steed. The horse looked fairly clean, which meant that Saber had quickly washed him before coming back, "How many casualties do you think?"
"Enough blood that Saber thought he needed to clean Steed before coming home." Colt stated turning to look at the black and white mechanical horse. He reached out to touch him.
"The report should be out soon. So we'll find out soon enough." Fireball stated.
"Well, I'll get something ready for him to eat." April said and walked out. The two men followed her.
Saber sighed deeply as the door to his quarters closed behind him. He walked towards the screen above his desk, turned it on and pressed the record button.
"Starsherrif log. Debrief Abba attack. July 30th, 2058. On route to Vega, escorting the Princess Elena, I discovered unusual activity-"
The soft chime announcing he had a visitor interrupted him. Saber glanced away from the screen briefly before reaching towards the screen and pressing pause.
"Come." He turned and watched as the Princess appeared. He bowed his head, "Your Highness."
"Saber Rider, there's no rush to plan our trip. We can do it tomorrow."
"That is not necessary your Highness."
"Yes it is. You probably haven't rested since you left and who knows if you even had a chance to eat."
"You don't need to concern yourself." Saber allowed his annoyance to surface.
Elena shook her head, "Aren't you usually concerned about safety above all else? Then shouldn't you get some rest and gain your energy back before we head out?" She sighed, "It's just another day. I don't mind spending the time here with your team."
Saber stared at her.
"Let's discuss our plans tomorrow, ok?"
Saber shut his eyes and unconsciously rubbed his temple. He quickly became aware of what he was doing and lowered his hand, "Fine. Tomorrow."
Elena nodded, "Thank you." She curtsied and watched as he bowed before she turned and left his quarters.
Saber turned back to the screen. She had known exactly what to say to get him to change his mind. He frowned. She was reading him so easily. Not a good thing. He shook his head and reached to press the record button and finished his debrief of the situation at Abba. He saved it and sent it to Cavalry Command.
He then opened a channel within Ramrod, "Saber Rider to StarSherrifs."
"What's up Partner?" Colt's voice came over the intercom.
"We'll reschedule the meeting for tomorrow morning."
"You got it Partner."
"Fireball you're in charge. Saber out."
Saber ended the transmission. It was time to get out of this suit and take a shower. He moved slowly to the device mounted to the wall by his bathroom. He stepped up and turned so that his back was facing the wall. With several clinking sounds, each piece of his suit was quickly removed. His eyes closed as the pieces surrounding his right shoulder came off. He stepped down and made his way to the bathroom.
He moved stiffly as he removed his shirt. Taking a deep breath he turned and glanced at the reflection of his back in the bathroom mirror. He winced at what he saw.
"Guess he's not going to have anything to eat." Fireball exclaimed sipping his coffee.
"I guess I'll just wrap this up for later." April stated carrying the plate with the sandwich she made towards the fridge.
"He's not going to eat?" Elena got to her feet, "That's ridiculous." She walked up to April, "Please, let me."
"Elena, Saber doesn't like to be disturbed when he goes in his room after a battle." April explained.
April sighed, "Alright. Good luck." She handed the Princess the plate.
"Thanks." She took the plate and walked out of the break-room.
When the door closed Colt chuckled, "Not afraid of a fight this one."
April sighed again, "I just hope Saber Rider behaves himself."
Fireball groaned, "He's a big boy. Stop mothering him."
April glared at Fireball who turned away from her and finished his coffee.
Elena pressed the call button of Saber's quarters. She waited. The door remained closed. She pressed the call button a second time and waited. The door remained closed.
Was he ignoring her?
She shook her head. Well she wouldn't just let him ignore his health. She pressed the second button to open the door.
"Saber Rider?" She called. No answer, "I'm coming in." She entered the room. It was empty. The bathroom door was closed and she could hear the shower running. As she set the plate on his desk, the shower turned off. She straightened and took a quick opportunity to look about the room. There was no distinguishing feature to the room. Nothing that set it apart from her own quarters in fact. The desk was void of any clutter, the only thing on the counter was his laptop. The walls were bare, the night table was bare. The whole room looked bare other than the bed, desk, wall monitor, and his suit mount.
The bathroom door was pulled open and a freshly showered Saber stood shocked. His face hardened noticeably. He bowed politely, "Your Highness."
"April made you something to eat." She stated motioning to the plate on his desk.
Saber glanced at it briefly, "It wasn't necessary that you bring it to my quarters."
"You've been working since yesterday afternoon. You should eat something. And from what I gathered from your team, you were not going to come and eat but rather you were going to stay here in your quarters. "
Saber met her gaze, "Don't concern yourself your Highness." He moved into the room and pulled out his chair to sit down and turned on his laptop.
"Well I am." She moved towards him and moved the plate towards him.
"You don't know how to take no for an answer do you your Highness."
Elena met his eyes, "Never when I know I'm right."
"Of course, your Highness is never wrong. All your assumptions about people are always right. And you are so used to having everyone listen and do whatever you say." Saber turned to stare at his laptop.
Elena's continued to watch him. She had been surprised by the quick tumble of criticisms from him. Her surprise had quickly turned to hurt and her gaze lowered. It was then that her eyes caught sigh of Saber Riders hands. Clenched tightly into fists. Her eyes widened and she looked up at him. She stepped closer to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
Saber couldn't control his body as it flinched under her touch, "Was there anything else you needed your Highness?" He asked without looking at her.
She removed her hand from his shoulder, "If you ever need to talk, or just want someone to listen,"
"I don't." Saber cut her off as he turned to look at her.
"Everyone needs to de-stress. Even the legendary Saber Rider." she stepped back and curtsied quickly, "Eat your sandwich." She turned away before he could respond and left him.
Saber's blood was boiling. He got out of his chair and went to change. He suddenly felt edgy and frustrated. He couldn't believe how this Princess could just come into his quarters and start telling him what he needed.
He changed into a pair of shorts, grabbed his mp3 player and made his way out of his quarters. He rushed down the corridor to the small room by the break-room that they used as a work out room. He made a straight line to the treadmill and pressed the quick start button. As the belt of the treadmill started, Saber increased the speed.
"Damn it!" He cursed shaking his head. He didn't understand why she got under his skin.
"You're back without the sandwich." April said amazed.
"Well I just left it with him." Elena sat down beside the other woman. She absently rubbed the palm of her hand underneath the table as she recalled the flinching of Saber Rider's body when she had touched him.
"How is he?" Colt asked studying her. He noticed that she had been reflective since she had returned.
"Amazingly, he's acting like he usually does."
Colt laughed, "Had some words with you huh."
"That man!" April groaned, "So stubborn!"
Elena laughed, "Don't worry April. I always return the favour."
April shook her head, "I don't understand the two of you."
The Princess turned to her, "Just can't stand each other that's all. It happens. It doesn't affect my feelings for the Starsherrifs."
"Yeah, so stop worrying April." Fireball pipped in.
This comment brought on a flurry of retaliatory comments from April.
Colt meanwhile had been studying the Princess carefully. He suddenly stood up, "Excuse me."
The cowboy's departure put a halt to April and Fireball's argument. April turned to Elena, "How are you doing?"
"Me? I'm fine." She smiled.
"Yes. Quite. Why do you ask?" She looked between the two remaining Starsherrifs.
"Well..." April glanced at Fireball who shrugged, "Saber asked me to speak with you."
"Pardon?" Elena stared at them in shock.
April nodded, "Saber's has been acting strange the past couple of days, so I went to speak to him about it. He told me that you were the one who might need someone to talk to."
"That was quite presumptuous of him."
"Actually Saber's very intuitive." April informed her.
"He's a guy. He can't be that intuitive."
Fireball chuckled, "This is Saber Rider you are talking about."
April agreed, "You'd be surprised."
Elena simply shrugged.
"So is he right?" April asked.
Elena sighed, "He annoys me."
Fireball laughed again, "Well the two of you do think alike."
The Princess made a face that was unbecoming of a Princess. When it came to Saber Rider she seemed to lose all her discipline.
"Well, if you ever want to talk about anything..."
"Even if it's complaining about your Leader?" Elena asked April grinning.
"Even if you want to complain about Saber, I'm here. We are here for you."
"Elena smiled, "Thank 're all very kind." She sighed, "So do we still have to wait for your Leader before we do anything?"
Fireball nodded, "We have to get clearance."
"But I thought you were in charge?"
Fireball nodded, "But ultimately Saber's in command of the team. He needs to know what's going on."
The Princess nodded.
Colt stepped into the corridor and walked towards Saber's quarters. He had a feeling. He pressed the call button and waited. The door did not open. He pressed the button again. The door still did not open. Saber was either deeply sleeping or he wasn't in his quarters. Colt pressed the second button which opened the door, "Saber?"
The lights were off. He turned them on and walked into the quarters.
Empty. A pair of jogging pants were strewn on the bed.
"Should have known." He walked out of Saber's quarters and made his way to the room next to the break-room that they used as a workout room.
As expected Saber Rider was running determinedly on the treadmill. He was staring beyond the blank tv screen.
Colt approached him and stretched out on his back on the work out bench next to the treadmill. He placed his hat over his eyes and waited.
"What are you doing Colt?" Saber's winded voice finally sounded after a couple of minutes.
"I needed some company." The cowboy said without moving.
"Where's Fireball and April?"
"Having their usual discussions." Colt chuckled.
"And her Highness?"
There was a sudden and slight shift in the tone of his leader's voice. Colt adjusted his hat, "She's patiently bearing their banter. Like a true ambassador."
From the adjustment of his hat, Colt could see a frown appear on Saber's face, "You don't agree?"
Saber glance towards him surprised.
Colt removed his hat, "How bad was Abba?"
"Outriders had already done quite a bit of damage when I got there." Saber was staring straight ahead again.
"Stayed to help afterwards?"
"And you still have energy?"
Saber exhaled deeply and pushed the stop button. He used his towel to wipe the sweat from his face and turned to Colt, "I'm going to shower and get some rest."
Colt sat up, "Hey." He hid his concern.
The Leader turned to him.
"How is Elena?"
"What do you mean?"
"You told April to be a support for her if she needed it Partner."
"She hasn't been talking to me if that's what you are asking." He was about to turn and leave when he added, "It's not my place to share her Highness' personal things. The less I have to interact with her the better."
"She's concerned about you."
"She doesn't know me enough to be concerned." Saber replied and turned to leave. He stopped again and glanced at Colt, "I don't want to be disturbed for the remainder of the day." The two men walked out into the corridor.
"You got it partner." Colt touched his hat in salute and watched as Saber nodded his thanks and went back to his quarters.
The cowboy watched until his Leader disappeared from view. He shook his head as he turned and entered the Break-room.
"Hey, you're just in time!" April stated smiling, "We're talking about things we can do tomorrow."
"Sounds good. Oh, Saber doesn't want to be bugged for the rest of the day."
The other three people in the room stared at him.
The cowboy shrugged, "What? The dude's gotta be tired." He leaned back in his seat, "So what kind of things have you partners come up with?"
Elena turned to Fireball and April who started naming small day trips like picnic, a day at the beach etc.
Colt looked at the Princess who was quietly listening, "Have you done any of these before?"
Elena nodded, "It all sounds fun." She smiled politely.
"Do you enjoy camping?" Colt asked.
"I've never had the opportunity."
Colt turned to his teammates.
"You're daydreaming Colt." Fireball laughed, "Saber's never going to allow it. There's too much risk involved."
April nodded in agreement and turned to Elena with a sympathetic smile.
"Camping with us would be the safest it could ever be." He turned to Elena, "What do you say little lady? Interested?"
Elena looked over the other two starsherrifs who looked skeptical before she turned to Colt, "It does sound interesting, but it seems that it would unlikely be approved."
"That's why we don't give Saber any other options." The cowboy wiggled his brows.
"Colt..." April sighed.
"I'm serious. We concentrate on the camping trip and focus on all the details and take all the precautions. I can scope out all the possible terrain. Make it hard for him to refuse us."
"He's Saber he can still say no." Fireball reminded him.
"Then we need to convince him that this will be an absolutely safe trip by covering all the bases." Colt shrugged.
April and Fireball exchanged looks. Fireball shrugged, "Let's give it a shot."
"Fine." April gave in.
Colt turned to Elena and winked.
"Well safety is going to be the first priority. Colt you can fly and find the best place. It has to have possible shelter and multiple escape routes. Take as many pictures as possible. We need to know it by memory." Fireball started.
"I'm on it. Colt got to his feet and left the break-room.
April turned on the large conference screen and slid a panel on the table to reveal a full sized keyboard, "Ok what about items that we need?"
"Suits and weapons for sure."
"Great that means manually taking off the suits for showers." April sighed as she typed suits and weapons.
Fireball smiled, "I'm sure you can handle it." He winked at Elena and turned to April who rolled her eyes at him, "We should also prepare all the equipment and have them ready. It'll give Saber less time to think before he answers."
"You both seem to know how to sway your Leader's decision."
"We just know him." April replied as she kept typing away, "Ok, well this aspect of him anyway." April smiled.
Elena smiled softly, "Maybe I could prepare dinner while you guys discuss all of these safety issues?"
"You don't have to do that." Fireball stated amazed.
"I feel like I'm not contributing. Please, I would welcome having something productive to do." Elena said looking between the two starsherrifs. She watched as they exchanged looks, "Saber Rider doesn't need to know."
She laughed when the two of them turned to her in shock. She got to her feet and moved to the kitchen area, "Besides, this would help give you guys more time to make the plan better so that there's less chance your 'Fearless Leader' can refuse us."
"She has a point." Fireball said looking at April.
The blond nodded and turned to the Princess, "Thanks Elena."
Elena smiled, "Not a problem." She pulled open the fridge and started looking through the available items.
**** The next morning.
Colt yawned, "Did we all have to wake up this early to confront him?"
"Yes. We have to show that we're prepared." Fireball explained as he carried a mug of coffee to the table.
Colt leaned against the counter and yawned again, "Why don't you let me do that?" He asked Elena.
The Princess scooped the egg out of the pan and placed it onto a plate, "I'm ok Colt. I like cooking and they don't give me much of a chance to do it back home." She cracked another egg in the pan.
April placed the last plate on the table and glanced at the clock. It was a little after six. Saber would be here soon. She went to the counter to retrieve the coffee pot and filled two more mugs with coffee and the last two mugs with tea. She was about to carry the last two mugs to the table when the break-room door slid open.
All eyes turned towards it.
Surprise was clearly written all over Saber's face. He stepped inside, using all his efforts to hide his uncertainty, and looked about.
"Here." April said handing the young leader a mug of tea.
Saber took it, still unsure of the situation unfolding in front of him, "Why is the Princess cooking and what are all of you doing up so early?" He asked still standing by the door. He was used to the quiet mornings alone, and was looking forward to it this morning.
"Elena wanted to cook and well we wanted to talk to you this morning." April quickly explained.
Saber was still suspicious. He finally moved into the break-room and leaned against the far wall so that he could keep an eye on all of them.
"Done." Elena explained and carried the plate of eggs to the table. Everyone took a seat at the table. She took a quick look at Saber Rider who was still standing on the far side of the room with his tea.
"Saber doesn't eat in the mornings." April informed the Princess. She looked towards the subject of conversation, "Did you get enough rest?"
Saber nodded in response to April's question. The Princess' lack of a retaliatory comment regarding his eating habits further raised his suspicions. He remained in his current position watching quietly as they began serving the food.
"So we have our proposal." April said reaching for the folder on the counter.
Saber went to her and took the folder. So this was all about the proposal. He placed his mug of tea, which he had yet to take a sip of, on the table next to April, grabbed the folder and went back to the far side of the room. He opened the folder and began reading.
The room was quiet. They were all eating and carefully stealing glances at Saber Rider. They saw nothing. His expression was blank; emotionless.
Elena was nervous. She couldn't believe how casual the Starsherrifs looked.
"So?" Fireball asked after a mouthful of bacon.
Saber made no sound. He flipped the page and continued reading.
"Don't disturb the man." Colt chided waving his fork at his partner, "The food is great Elena."
The Princess smiled tightly. she turned to Saber Rider when he flipped another page. She watched as he flipped briefly through the remainder of the proposal than shut the folder.
Everyone turned to him. Saber walked back towards the table and placed the file on the table next to April before picking up his mug and going back to his position against the wall. He finally sipped his tea. They had done a tremendous amount of work. Even scouted all the areas. He was definitely impressed. And he was certain their lack of ideas and the way they gathered together to confront him this early was all in an attempt to convince him to agree to their proposal. Every detail seemed covered. Except one. The most important one. He realized then that they were all looking intently at him. He took another sip of his tea, never taking his eyes off of them. He swallowed the warm substance, "No."
"Saber!" April exclaimed falling short of jumping to her feet.
"Come on Partner. It's a good plan." Colt added a lot calmer than his female partner.
"You all did an exceptional job in planning. Regardless, it's not safe. We can't take the risks." Saber replied casually.
"Safe? That's as safe as it gets." Fireball said.
"Is it? What happens if we're attacked and the Princess is captured, tortured or killed?"
"Saber!" April objected glancing at the Princess.
"We won't let that happen Partner. You'll make sure of that." Colt replied confidently.
"None of you are thinking objectively. The possibility, no matter how slight, that the Princess may be in danger is intolerable."
The room went silent.
"But-" Colt started but Saber raised a hand to quiet him.
"Her safety above all else. We can't control every outcome, but we can choose to limit the risks we take."
This quieted Colt.
Saber finished the rest of his tea and went to put his mug into the sink.
"Excuse me." Elena said pushing away from the table. She grabbed the folder from the table and stepped in front of Saber Rider as he was about to leave. Blocking him from the door.
He stared blankly down at her.
"We can't ever eliminate every risk in life and we can't hide away from them either. We can't live our life worrying about all the 'ifs' or we won't be living at all." She raised the folder so he could see it, "I'd really like to go. And I trust that you and the Starsherrifs would make it a trip as safe as humanly possible."
They stared at each other a long while.
Saber's gaze never wavered. He took the folder from her as he turned to the starsherrifs, "Get the supplies ready."
They all smiled.
"Done Partner!" Cold declared.
Saber nodded, "One hour then." He turned to the Elena, "Your HIghness." He bowed his head slightly; briefly then walked past per and out of the room.
When the door closed, Elena exhaled the breath she had unknowingly been holding.
They all laughed.
As soon as the door closed, Saber Rider sighed and shook his head. He couldn't believe he was going to let this plan come to term. Maybe Commander Eagle would see it his way and completely reject the idea. He opened the folder and pulled out the CD. He sighed again and went back to his quarters to fully scan the proposal and make any changes he deemed necessary before sending it off to the commander.
He entered his quarters and put the CD into his laptop and began scanning the plan again. The surveillance pictures were excellent. Colt had done a good job.
It took approximately twenty minutes to read through the proposal and make modifications before he could call the commander.
Saber shook his head. He must be crazy he thought as he dialed out, "Saber Rider requesting to send proposal for the mission sir." He saluted.
"At ease Saber. Send it over."
Saber typed the command into the laptop and watched as the file was transmitted.
"Camping?" Commander Eagle exclaimed shocked. Saber Rider was submitting such a risky outing?
The young man nodded a stern look on his face. He didn't believe the Starsherrifs could possibly bully the young leader into making a decision, "How did you settle on this plan?" He asked curiously.
"It goes against my better judgement, I understand sir. And I would fully agree with you to refuse the request." He hesitated, "It was the Princess who insisted on going."
Commander Eagle studied him curiously. Saber Rider had given in to the whims of a young woman?
As though the young leader had read his mind, Saber cleared his throat, "Her Highness made a point to educate me, that everything we do has risks but that it should not prevent us from living our lives."
"I see." The commander nodded and looked over the proposal again. In reality he was rather amused, "It looks like a well thought out plan."
"The starsherrifs did an excellent job. They put this together without my knowledge and presented it to me this morning."
"Really? Impressive." He looked at the young man. If Saber had decided to present this proposal to him, he must feel that he could control the mission, "Well you have my approval."
"Did you get enough rest?" Eagle's tone and posture had relaxed.
Saber knew then that the official part of their conversation was over. He nodded, "Yes sir."
"Good. I read your report on Abba. Good work."
Saber nodded, "Thank you sir."
Eagle studied him a moment longer than nodded, "I will call the Starsherrifs to inform them of their good work. Dismissed."
Saber saluted and watched as the transmission was closed. He sighed. He couldn't believe the commander had given his approval. In any case, he had to get the modifications he wanted to do to Ramrod completed. He sent the revised proposal to the rest of the Starsherrifs, "Saber to April."
"Go ahead." April's voice came over the intercom.
"Please check your email for the revised proposal."
The excitement in her voice was evident, "Saber out." He got up and headed out towards the command bridge to do some re-programming.
**** in the Break-room
"Incoming message." Ramrod's electronic voice came over the intercom.
The Starsherrifs looked at each other shocked. Fireball opened the channel.
"Good morning Starsherrifs." Commander Eagle said smiling, "Your Highness."
They all saluted as the Princess bowed her head.
"Morning April. I just wanted to let you know that Saber Rider has informed me of all your excellent work in preparing this proposal. Both Saber and myself are impressed. Good work Starsherrifs."
"Thank you Commander." Fireball answered for all of them.
"Princess Elena, I command you on persuading Saber Rider in accepting this proposal. It has never happened before." He smile as Elena blushed.
"Anyway, Have a good trip your Highness. Starsherrifs." the call ended.
"Even Commander Eagle was surprised you swayed Saber!" Colt laughed.
April slid open the keyboard and opened her email on the large screen so she could upload the revised plan. Her eyes widened, "Wow! I have to go see how he's going to do this. Excuse me."
Colt and Fireball turned to the screen, "Re-program Ramrod!" they both exclaimed simultaneously.
April nodded and left them.
"She really likes technology." Elena said amazed.
"That's April." Fireball said as he kept his eyes on the large screen, "Looks like you're the getaway man."
"Is something wrong?" Elena asked. Both men were sternly looking at the large screen.
"Oh no. Saber made some adjustments, so we have to make sure we are aware of them."
"Are there a lot of changes?"
Colt chuckled, "Saber Rider likes things to run smoothly."
"Ah, so he made a lot of changes."
Colt chuckled, "See you understand him better than you think!"
That reminded the young woman of a particular comment Commander Eagle had made, "Is it true no one has ever changed Saber Rider's decision?" Elena went over the conversation she had had with Saber Rider. She had been sure he was going to refuse her. What part of the conversation had changed his mind? Was it really what she had said?
"Not that I know of. Colt?" Fireball sipped his coffee.
"Never heard of it done before either." Colt continued to study the plans.
"What if his decision is the wrong one?" Elena queried.
"People trust Saber. We believe what he tells us."
"But what if you don't?"
"But we do." He looked up and winked at her.
Elena shook her head, "I'm amazed."
"Amazed?" Fireball questioned.
"At how loyal you guys are to him."
Fireball smiled, "You know, Saber's pretty annoying but you could end up being loyal to him too if you give him a chance."
"And why would I want to be loyal to Saber Rider?"
"Because he's brilliant!" April exclaimed as she rushed into the break-room, "It's time to go! Saber's got Ramrod all re-programmed and he's gone to pack so let's go!"
"I'll print the plan and take it along." Colt left the room.
"Let's go." April stated smiling. She looped her arm with the Princess' and they started back towards her quarters.
Saber Rider appeared dressed in his suit, his saber and his gun hanging from the belt around his hips and a hiking backpack on his back.
Saber nodded curtly, "I'll be outside." He said and walked away from them.
"He's not happy about this trip is he?" Elena asked softly. She smiled to hide her concern.
"He's just worried. This is a dangerous mission for him. He's always like this during missions." They got to Elena's room, "I'll meet you right back here."
Elena nodded and went in her quarters to grab her things. She met April in the hall and they headed outside.
Colt was going over the plan with Saber. Their backs towards Ramrod.
"Whatever happens, you get her away and to Ramrod safely. You take off and do not leave her or land anywhere but at Cavalry Command."
The cowboy hesitated a moment, "Understood. You know that's suicide Saber. You won't have back-up for-"
"Hey guys!" April said to immediately cut off their conversation.
The men turned to the women in surprise. Both noticed the pale look on the Princess' face.
"Geez Fireball is slower than the girls!" Colt joked playfully.
Elena gave Colt a slight frown before she marched towards Saber Rider, "I need to talk to you."
"Not now." Saber turned to April, "Where is Fireball?"
"Please." Elena said softly. She met his gaze briefly then walked away from Ramrod and towards the forest.
"The young lady shrugged, "I'll go look." She said and left.
Saber turned to Colt. The cowboy moved to study the plans again.
The leader sighed then went after the Princess.
Colt glanced up and chuckled before going back to studying the getaway plans.
Saber caught up to the Princess quickly. Her back was towards him. Her shoulders were slumped slightly. He stopped a few feet behind her.
Elena turned to look at him. She knew he was surprised that she had heard him coming, "You can't sacrifice yourself or your team. I heard what Colt said. It's suicide."
Saber's face was unreadable, "Maybe you should not have pushed for this trip then your Highness." He stated flatly.
"Fine. Cancel the trip. I don't want to go anymore." She stated softly.
Saber studied her. She was serious. And very much concerned. He sighed, "Princess." his voice took on a gentleness she had not heard from him before.
She hesitated then slowly looked into his eyes.
"It's ok. This is our job."
"Getting killed is not your job!"
Saber controlled his body's urge to smile knowing she was being completely serious, "We don't plan on getting killed Princess. Everything will be fine."
"You can't know that."
"Sure I can, because I won't let anything happen to my team." Saber answered starring straight back at her.
A strange sense of relief seemed to take over her. His confidence had somehow permeated through her mind and body and made her believe him.
Saber noticed her facial muscles relax and her shoulders straighten, "Is there anything else?"
Elena was too surprised by her own reaction to him that she simply shook her head.
Saber nodded, "Okay, let's go." He motioned for her to head back towards Ramrod. He followed behind her by several feet.
"Ready?" April asked cautiously. She had returned with Fireball within moments of entering Ramod.
"Cool, let's go!" Colt exclaimed placing his backpack on his shoulders and passing the Princess her backpack.
Saber walked over to Steed and Nova to make sure everything was securely tied on.
"So..." April started as she strolled over to his side, "Everything ok between you and the Princess now?"
"Nothing has changed. Let's go."
April grabbed her horse's reigns and they started walking after Colt, Fireball and Elena.
"What did you say to put her at ease again?"
"I only told her that nothing would happen to you guys." Saber replied nonchalantly.
"Oh. That's all?" April asked skeptically.
"Well I had to get a few punches in first." Saber said grinning.
April rolled her eyes, "You're a real pain you know that Saber? A real pain!" She laughed and led Nova away from him and to the front of the group.
Saber chose to remain behind them so he wouldn't be distracted by their conversations. They walked several hours in this formation when Saber's EBU began to beep. He motioned for the team to continue ahead when they all turned to look back at him. His pace slowed and he pulled out the EBU, "Saber Rider."
"Saber, you left something out of your report." It was Commander Eagle.
"Sir?" He eyed the others and slowed his pace even more so the others would not be able to hear his conversation.
"You were hit."
Saber frowned. He should have known someone would have put it in their report. No matter how minor the incident, "It was not relevant sir."
"Saber, it came up in numerous reports."
"I'm sure it was over exaggerated sir. It was nothing." He wanted to groan.
"You're telling me you are not injured?"
"I'm fine sir. Slight bruising. Nothing serious."
"Saber..." The Commander sighed at the other end of the line, "Have April check it for you."
"That's not necessary sir."
The man's tone quieted the young man's protest.
"Good. and Saber?"
"Again, try to get along with the Princess for the next couple of days."
"Commander Eagle out."
Saber ended the transmission and pocketed his EBU identification. He took a calming breath and increased his pace so that he could decrease the distance between himself and the others.
Elena glanced back at him briefly before turning back to his teammates.
"Is it safe to have him walk alone so far behind us?" Elena asked the starsherrifs quietly in hopes Saber Rider could not hear her.
"He stays back there so we don't distract him. He's watching the surroundings." April explained. She had noticed the Princess' repeated glances back at their leader.
"He can handle himself." Colt added confidently.
"You definitely don't have to worry about Saber." Fireball re-iterated, "You should worry for whoever messes with him." He laughed lightly.
"You make him sound dangerous." Elena frowned.
The three Starsherrifs laughed.
"I'm sure his enemies see him as dangerous."
"Has he ever been defeated before?" Elena asked curiously.
"No but there will always be stronger an tougher enemies. And not all attacks are physical."
Non physical attacks? Were people or things, enemies, emotionally attacking him? If so that could explain his dispassionate nature. Was he trying to hide himself emotionally? Not letting anyone in to prevent himself from getting hurt? Why was she spending so much time analyzing the man?
"Anyway, how long is the career of a Starsherrif?" She asked curiously.
"Starsherrifs haven't been around long enough for us to know." April explained.
"I guess until we can no longer physically perform." Colt said as he unconsciously touched his gun.
"Or we crack." Fireball added.
"Crack?" Elena seemed alarmed.
"From the stress." April added, "But we can always take office jobs or some job behind the scenes."
"I'll never take a desk job." Colt declared making a face.
"I wouldn't mind teaching." Fireball reflected. He enjoyed the times that he taught at Cavalry Command
"What about you?" Elena asked April.
"Probably some kind of technician."
"Well if I had to... Then something with Weapons? Guns? Hmm something with horses." He said dreamily.
Elena laughed, "And what about him?" She motioned behind them.
"People like Saber Rider, which there aren't many, become people like Commander Eagle." Fireball informed her.
"Oh." Elena decided to end the subject and look around at the scenery.
Elena blinked as a camera flashed in her face. When the usual spots disappeared she noticed April with a camera taking pictures of them. She laughed when Fireball rolled his eyes.
April turned to take a picture of Colt who touched his hat in salute then she turned back to snap a quick picture of Saber Rider.
The Man frowned at her. April laughed and turned forwards again, "Saber doesn't like having his picture taken." She informed the Princess, "So... I like to take a lot of pictures of him when we have guests that way he won't make a scene by objecting. Watch." She turned about again and snapped another picture of her Leader.
The man ignored her.
"See." She laughed and put away her camera.
"Who would have thought that the Legendary Saber Rider would be camera shy!" Elena was smiling now.
"You must be used to having cameras going off in your face all the time." Fireball looked over at her.
Elena shrugged, "I guess so. I don't really mind if the photographer is being respectful."
"Do you get a lot of nosy reporters?" April asked curiously.
Elena sighed, "Sometimes. Those are hard."
"There! You have something in common with Saber!" Colt exclaimed chuckling.
Elena smiled, "Good try Cowboy." She mock punched his shoulder.
The cowboy laughed, "You should marry me."
"She's betrothed Colt." April rolled her eyes.
"Betrothed?" Fireball and Colt repeated and stared at the two ladies.
"Seriously, do you guys ever read?"
"Reading tabloids ain't really our kind of thing April." Colt shook his head.
"So who is this guy?" Fireball interrupted.
Elena shrugged, "I don't know. He's the son of the Highland King and Queen."
"It's kind of a strange situation you're in." April looked at her.
"Strange?" Fireball asked.
"It's strange because no one knows who he is." April explained.
"Wait a minute." Colt stopped, "So what you're saying is you've been promised to a Prince, who no one knows?" He frowned, "How the heck does that happen?"
Elena laughed an they continued to walk, "A long time ago, their Royal Majesties of the Highland had a baby. A boy. They are actually close friends with my parents. His mother and mine decided it would be great, if we united our kingdoms through a marriage. So they agreed to betroth us to each other. During her whole marriage, the Highland Queen had a secret admirer who turned very angry once it was announced she was pregnant. When she had her baby, the letters became threatening. Toxic substances found their way into the nursery. Luckily, the baby had never been exposed to any of it. But the danger to the baby was becoming increasingly alarming. So eventually the Royal advisers suggested hiding the child until the threat could be captured."
"Are you serious?" Fireball couldn't believe this.
Elena nodded, "No one knows exactly when or how, but the baby was removed from the castle one day and just disappeared."
"Did they ever catch the man who was threatening the baby?"
Elena shook her head, "But the letters stopped a few years later."
"What about the Baby? He would be an adult now."
"Apparently, their Majesties lost track of him for several years. When they did locate him again, well, they said that his situation had become a little complicated and they could not yet reveal his identity."
"So they know who he is." Colt said, "They should just tell you instead of keeping you on the sidelines like this sweetheart."
Elena smiled at the endearment, "I guess so. But how do you reveal something like that to someone that has probably already established a life for himself? It would be hard to make him leave his current life and take on another completely different one. For all I know he could be married and have a family."
"You've thought a lot about it. You seem ok with being betrothed to someone you don't even know." April said.
"Well I have had a lot of time to think about it. And, I don't think my parents or the Highland Majesties will hold me to the betrothal. Especially if he already has a family." She smiled and glanced at Colt, "So you never know Cowboy." She teased.
"Oh boy!" Colt blushed and took his hat to fan himself, "Told you I could get a Princess Partner!"
Fireball and April groaned.
"There's so much drama nowadays. Whatever happened to seeing a woman you want and just asking her parents for her?" Fireball sighed.
"You're crude." April stated.
"What's so crude about it? It's respectful."
Elena only smiled as Fireball and April started-up another 'discussion'.
"We'll stop here for a break." Saber hollered from behind them. He had noticed that their pace had slowed slightly.
Elena and the Starsherrifs turned to him surprised. April excused herself and walked over to Saber Rider, "Is everything ok? This wasn't in the plan." Saber's decision to deviate from the plan was odd and unexpected.
"Your pace has slowed. We'll rest for a few minutes. Why don't you guys get a quick bite to eat. I'll be back." He handed April Steed's reins and made his way off the trail and into the woods.
"Where are you going?" She called after him.
"Scouting ahead." He answered and disappeared.
April watched a moment then led Steed to the others.
"Everything ok?" Fireball asked.
April nodded, "He's giving us a quick break while he scouts ahead." She pulled out some sandwiches from one of the saddle bags and started passing them around.
"Does the 'Legend' ever eat?" Elena queried.
"He'll take a bite as soon as he feels relaxed." April informed her.
"Which is never."
April laughed, "Pretty much!"
They sat down on a large rock and a fallen tree truck to quietly eat their lunch.
When Fireball had finished his sandwich he glanced around curiously, "Saber should have been back by now."
"I wonder where he is?" April also glanced around.
"Right behind you." Saber said stepping out of the woods, "It's good to know you all never let your guard down."
They all turned to him shocked.
Colt coughed on his food. Elena patted his back as he tried to regulate her pounding heart.
"You scared us." April exclaimed placing her hands on her hips.
"None of you reached for your weapons. You all should have been on your guard. Now let's get moving." He walked towards Steed and touched the Horse lightly and turned to them.
The starsherrifs exchanged looks. Saber was right. If it had been outriders, they would have all been dead or captured. They all got to their feet and quickly packed their things before starting off again.
"Does he always pull stunts like that?" Elena asked.
"Not usually. Once in a while to keep us on our toes or to make sure we're prepared for an important mission or something." Fireball answered her.
They were all quiet. Saber's surprise appearance had made them all realized that they had allowed their guard down so early on in their trip. Not a good sign. They'd have to remember that this was not a vacation.
Elena sighed suddenly, "I'm sorry everyone. He's pretty much going to have you guys working the whole trip." She laughed nervously, "And I'm sure he's ecstatic about using his team to babysit."
"What? No!" They all objected.
"We love this opportunity to take this mission with you!" April informed her as she hooked her arm with the Princess'.
"Yeah, Saber's just... Well he takes things too seriously sometimes." Fireball exclaimed shrugging.
"It's not the healthiest thing. Trust me Saber needs to learn how to relax." April added.
Colt chose to remain silent. This topic was becoming a serious one, "So Elena, what does a Princess do during her days?"
"Despite what people think, it consists of early mornings."
Colt put on a shocked expression for her but he was glad the question effectively changed the topic.