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"Took?" Rink said, still holding on to Muse. "You mean..."
"The Marines! They took him!" Muse half-shouted in Rink's face.
"That's what I was afraid of..." Rink said and looked towards the island, then back to Muse. "Anyway, we should probably not talk out here. Let's get inside."
"No, I have to go, I have to..." Muse protested, struggling to free herself from Rink's grip.
"Muse, calm down, we have to-"
"No, let me go!"
"Please, calm down and talk to us!"
"I have to save him!"
"Muse, please!" Rink said. "You can't just-"
"Let me go!"
"I said, calm down!" Rink exclaimed as she delivered a quick smack to Muse's left cheek.
"I..." Muse said as she stopped struggling and brought her hand up to her cheek.
"Sorry... but panicking isn't going to help anyone," Rink said, tentatively released her grip on Muse and pointed at the cabin door. "Everyone, in the cabin. Now."
"Al... alright," Muse said and did as she had been told.
"Okay," Rink said and picked up Markus's wanted poster, then looked at James. "Mirise, little help here?"
"Sure," Mirise said and assisted Rink in getting James into the cabin quickly. Rink closed the door behind them and looked to Muse, who seemed to have calmed down, but kept looking at the floor with a blank expression on her face.
"Alright," Rink said and sat down at the table, putting the wanted poster in the middle of it. "Why don't you take it from the top?"
"O... okay," Muse said. "It was... we had separated briefly, Markus had gone into a pharmacy and I had gone into a store to get oil for my bow... when I came out, I saw Markus, surrounded by five Marine soldiers. He saw me as well, and just for a moment, stared at me and shook his head a little... like he was telling me to not do anything. They were talking to him, I didn't notice all that they said, but he was staying calm, and he just... let them take him away."
"And then you ran here," James said.
"Yes... because I have to help him," Muse said.
"Good thing you were unarmed," Rink said.
"What? If I had my bow-"
"If you had your bow, you wouldn't be here right now," Rink said, calmly. "If Markus had had his swords, they would have treated him like a more imminent threat... despite what the wanted poster says, he's still just a suspect. And if you had had your bow, you would have done something really stupid."
"It doesn't matter!" Muse shouted and stood up. "I have to get him back!"
"And exactly how were you planning on doing that?" Rink asked.
"I... I'm going to rescue him."
"You're going to rescue Markus."
"Yes! I'll free him, and..."
"By storming a Marine stronghold on your own with just a bow?"
"Look, I get that you want to help him... but you're just going to get yourself killed."
"What choice do I have?" Muse shouted. "This is my problem, I don't want to cause any more trouble..."
"It's a little too late for that, missy," Rink said and pointed to the wanted poster. "With the situation as it is... we're in this together, whether you like it or not."
"But why would you..."
"Because you and mister Flint are our friends," Mirise said. "And friends help each other."
"It's as she said," Rink said. "If you think we're going to let you just rush in there without any plan for getting in, much less one for getting out, you better think again."
"So..." Muse said and sat down again. "How...?"
"Well... first of all we have to figure out how we get in," Rink said. "We're not going to be able to break in... so the best option would be to..."
"Be what?" Mirise asked.
"We're going to need Marine uniforms," Rink replied.
"I'm not sure just putting on a uniform is going to be enough," James said. "Not in a place like this."
"I don't think so either," Rink said. "It's just the first step."
"So how do we get them? It's not like we can just buy them."
"Well, we don't have time to make our own, so..."
"We're going to have to steal them, is what you're saying."
"Yeah, that's... the only way I can think of," Rink said. "Two of them."
"Just two?" Muse asked.
"Well, yes," Rink replied. "James isn't going anywhere, and Mirise..."
"Yes?" Mirise said.
"You're going to have to make sure we can leave the instant we're all on board afterwards, otherwise it's all going to be for nothing."
"I understand," Mirise replied.
"So it's you and me, Muse," Rink said and turned to Muse.
"Alright..." Muse said. "I get to bring my bow this time, right?"
"We're going to need our weapons, but we should probably keep them hidden until we're in..."
"So... how do we do this, and... when?" Muse asked.
"Tonight," Rink replied. "We don't know what they're planning to do with him, after all... so better get this done as soon as possible. It might be insanity... but we're going to get Markus out of there."
"See anything good?"
Coren had several locations that could be considered restaurant districts, with a mix of restaurants and bars. Mirise and Muse were sitting in the middle of one in the center of the island, on separate benches with their backs towards each other, looking around for a pair of suitable victims. Mirise had covered her hair with a black shawl, to hide her most distinguishing feature just in case. Rink had split off for what she called 'another errand', having taken their weapons with her, but assured them that she would catch up.
"There's two... no, wait, he's too tall."
"A trio of drunks leaving a bar... can we deal with three?"
"It's probably best if we don't. Two women over there... but I think they're sober."
"This is the worst idea."
"We'll find something, we have to help mister Flint..."
"Okay... I think I've got one. Behind you, to the right. Two guys, definitely tipsy."
"Are they the right size?"
"Close enough. Alright, I'll head off, you know what to do..."
"Sure," Mirise said with a nod as Muse stood up and walked away. Mirise glanced behind her, spotting the Marine duo that Muse had indicated. She watched them for a short time, and they had clearly had a few drinks, which was definitely a good thing. She waited until they were on their way out of the area before she stood up and walked around a building so she could approach them from the other side. Time to switch on the charm, she thought as she walked in front of them. Luckily there weren't too many other people around. "Oh, excuse me, gentlemen..."
"Hm?" one of them said and looked at Mirise, clearly not completely focused. "He... hello there, miss."
"I need assistance from some strong men like yourselves," Mirise said with a smile. "Can I trouble you for some help?"
"Um... certainly, we would love to help," the other Marine said.
"Oh, thanks a lot," Mirise said. "I don't know what I would have done otherwise!"
"What... do you need help with?"
"I'll show you, I promise I'll make it worth your while," Mirise said with a wink before turning around. "But you have to come with me."
"How could we say no to a pretty little thing like you?" one of them said with a laugh. They looked at each other and grinned as they started following Mirise, surely expecting a nice reward.
"Just what we needed," Mirise whispered to herself as she led the two of them through Coren. Mirise knew Muse was shadowing them, but she didn't know where she was, and if she didn't, then those two wouldn't notice anything either. Now they had to find a place where no one could see them... she tried to head in the direction that seemed to have the least activity. But unpopulated places were few, and the minutes passed.
"How far are we going?" one of the men asked. Mirise quickly looked around, and spotted Muse standing between two buildings, pointing behind herself and then walking into the alley. Mirise figured it was probably the best they'd get, and the Marines would get impatient soon.
"Oh, it's not far now," Mirise said and turned towards the alley. "It's a shortcut through here, it's just on the other side."
"Well, alright then."
"This better work," Mirise said to herself without actually speaking as she passed into the alley. She looked in front of her... it was completely empty, and there hadn't been any people just outside either. She expected Muse to do something while they were in there, but she didn't see her anywhere... she swallowed as she came out on the other side, followed by the two men.
"Now where-" was all one of them managed to say before Mirise heard two impacts, and turned around to see Muse and Rink standing over two knocked out Marines. Rink was holding a rope and had two bags next to her, one of which she opened and pulled out some strips of cloth.
"Took you long enough," Muse said.
"Hey, I was getting more stuff we need," Rink replied. "There's no people on this side at all, so let's pull these... guys, huh... a bit farther..."
"They were the best we could get," Muse replied as she and Rink dragged the unconscious bodies along the back of the building.
"Let's gag 'em to be certain," Rink said and handed a strip to Muse, who tied it around the mouth of one of the Marines. Rink did the same with the other.
"Well, we need the shirts, the caps and the pants, at least, so... time to strip them."
Soon Rink and Muse had reduced their victims to nothing but underpants, socks and shoes. Just to be on the safe side, they tied them up as well before starting to get out of their own clothes (putting them in a bag for Mirise to take back to the boat) and started putting their Marine outfits on. They weren't a perfect fit, but some quick folding here and there meant they looked passable.
"Right, so... how do we get in?" Muse asked as she put her Marine cap on her head. "You said this wouldn't be enough..."
"Alright, so here's the idea," Rink said. "With the size of this stronghold, they have to have new Marines coming in on the regular. And you've seen the Marines around the city... some of them aren't working."
"So?" Muse said.
"So, what I mean is that there's got to be a portion of Marines on leave at any time," Rink said. "But even if they are out and about in the city..."
"...they still live on the base," Mirise continued.
"Exactly. So we wait a bit, find some larger group of Marines that's returning to base after having been out drinking, claim we just transferred here..."
"You really think that'll work?" Muse asked. "Won't they check who goes in?"
"It's the shaky part of the plan, yes," Rink said. "But hopefully, whoever's working the graveyard guard shift will be disinterested enough..."
"And... if they're not?" Muse asked.
"Then we improvise," Rink said. "Worst comes to worst, we'll punch our way through..."
"Isn't that what you were stopping me from doing earlier?"
"Stopping you from trying to attack alone in broad daylight," Rink replied. "If we can make it to the entrance... then there's two of us, we can knock out a few of them, and... hopefully have time to figure something out before they wake the whole base up. We're definitely going to have to punch our way out..."
"That doesn't sound too reassuring," Muse said.
"I'll be the first to admit that it's not a perfect plan," Rink said. "But it's the best we have. It's not like we can just sneak in somewhere else, and even if we somehow cause a disturbance somewhere else on the island, they're not going to empty the base for it."
"So our entire plan still hinges on people being drunk and tired."
"On such short notice, it's the best we can do."
"Well then, just proceed like we said before," Rink said and turned to Mirise. "Get some food for you and James, and if we're not out by sunrise..."
"I don't want to hear it," Mirise said. "But... good luck."
"We'll need it," Rink said. "Now get out of here, we can't be seen together like this."
"I'll see you later," Mirise said and left.
"Right then, just one more thing," Rink said and took off her eyepatch, putting it in her right pants pocket, before producing a pair of glasses from the bag and put them on. "What do you think?"
"What?" Muse said and turned to look at Rink. The glasses had very thick lenses, making it almost impossible to make out any details of what was beneath them. "You look ridiculous."
"Ridiculous is good," Rink said.
"Can you even see anything with those?"
"Not really, but don't worry about that," Rink said and picked up the bag. "Let's go..."
They made sure to not be spotted as they walked back out on the streets of Coren, and given the rate of Marines regularly around in the city, no one even cast as much as a second glance at them. They slowly made their way towards another one of Coren's restaurant districts, this one being closer to the stronghold and having more pubs and bars than restaurants.
"Okay, so..." Muse said.
"We find a popular one, have a bite, and wait until some of them start going back to base," Rink replied.
"Do we have time for that?"
"We're not doing anything until we've had something to eat," Rink said. "Being hungry isn't going to be to our advantage."
"But-" Muse said before being interrupted by a small growl coming from her stomach. "...okay, fine, I see what you mean. Food it is."
After some quick inspection of the locales around them, Rink and Muse entered a pub where at least half the clientèle seemed to consist of Marines. They found a table in a corner, ordered whatever on the menu that they could get the fastest (lightly toasted sandwiches with water to drink) and kept an eye open for any groups about to leave. Just shy of twenty minutes had passed when a group of five rose from their table in the middle of the place. Three men, two women, and all of them appeared to have had at least one glass more than they should. After leaving money for their bill on the table, Rink and Muse stood up as well and left the pub after the group. As the five of them started moving in the general direction of the stronghold, some of them needing a bit of support from the others to walk straight, Rink and Muse started tailing them as inconspicuously as possible. With how rowdy the group was, singing and laughing as they made their way towards the towering structure in front of them, there didn't seem to be much to worry about. They were even joined by more soldiers in varying states of inebriety on their way, and by the time they could see the gates of W4, they totalled eleven including Rink and Muse.
"Well... that was the easy part," Rink whispered to Muse. Muse didn't reply as she stared at the place before her. Markus was somewhere in here - and she would make sure he wasn't going to stay.