Parl was in her Silver Turf transport headed to Volmaka. Volmaka was a city in the subarctic of the planet. Due to the impossible survival condition from the freezing rain and unending winter, the city was dug deep in the planet where it was still unbearable, but livable.
A year ago, Parl was forced to deliver a chip to a cyborg named Amohanga. Knowing nothing about the city she watched a documentary to keep her busy during the seven-hour flight.
In summary, it was a failed Federation mining operation. The massive mining machines kept breaking down due to the weather. Once the project was scrapped, the same guy who was hired to fix the mining machines bought it outright. Using the digger machine for scraps he dug a large hole that was only three miles wide at the top and thirty miles wide at the bottom.
By the next year, he was mining and selling the raw and rare nolarium by the ounce and making good money. The element was used in cybernetic chips. When the Federation found out, they came in, wrote up a contract that he would sell only to them. After everything was signed, the male went out and spread the word that he was hiring subcontractors to mine.
Hundreds of people picked up a subcontract and all for two failed because no one knew mining procedures. No one checked for other minerals and no one knew about the radiation exposure from the absolirium until it was too late.
The two brothers said nothing as the founder and all the other miners died painful deaths. Once the city was theirs, they carefully mined the material for the Federation. They also mined the absolirium and sold that on the dark network. Once they had enough money they built a large building that would house all the cities workers, giving the brothers a perfect to pay their workers well, then charge them rent for half of their wages.
That’s how the city started.
Parl didn’t know what to expect when she first showed up, but today was the third time she entered the city. She knew to fly through the temporary ecological checkpoint. There was a blue laser that painted the hood of her transporter with a temporary blot. The blot would decay if she stayed longer than twenty-four hours.
Staying longer than twenty-four hours would require her to stop, land the Silver Turf, and walk in for a radiation screening. A scan that not only checked her skin for harmful radiation but to ensure she wasn’t transporting goods.
It was night and the snow looked colder through her navigation screen. The wind was howling and the flight rocked the small transporter ship as she descended in altitude. The top of the city had what looked like large grates outlining the top. They were warmers to keep the snow and ice from enclosing the city.
Flying down she saw the small landing pad. Once she was down she didn’t bother powering off. She didn’t plan to hang around that long.
Taking the back path from the landing docks to the tallest building which was a short three-minute walk. She walked around the front to use the secure caller that was buried into the front door for all those who weren’t tenants.
As she turned the last corner she heard male grunts. Stopping short she watched in shock as a pale-skinned Federation Officer was fighting Amohanga, the cyborg who currently ran the whole city.
The one she was there to meet.
The officer pulled out a gun but didn’t get off a shot before Amohanga’s big yellow cyborg fist crushed the male’s face, causing it to deform and cave in while the blood and sinews splattered in a wet slop.
Parl’s stomach dropped as her knees gave out. Hitting the cold metal ground, the weight of the repercussions sounded in her mind. The officer probably had a life-chip. A new security feature to alert the Federation when one of them died. They would know where and when down to the second.
Scrambling from the corner of the building she squeezed herself between dual-engine Grummers that she knew belonged to Amohanga. She lowered her head in between her knees and waited with a pounding heart. The Federation would detain her. Even if she tried to run and get out now they would probably just hold her for questioning.
She was screwed.
She had to get back to her apartment to confirm she dropped off the chip to her boss Cremin. If she was even a minute late everything in her apartment would be gone and he would have given it to another one of his flunkies.
In her apartment was the only thing her father left her and she’d be damned if it was given to some metal-faced cyborg. Maybe if she just waited for the officers, she could confirm who killed who and they would let her go.
Then she could go back to her apartment, get her things, and leave before Cremin found out she ratted on his brother.
Movement to her right caught her attention, she moved her eyes not her head, and internally cursed. She knew those yellow cyborg arms anywhere.
He found her.
“Parl. You’re a week early. Are you here for business or did you miss me?”
She reached into her pocket, grabbed the tube, and held it out.
Amohanga took it. “What’s the message?”
“Cremin said the message is notting hood.”
Amohanga moved closer, his voice sending a terrible tremble down her neck. “You know, you could have just thrown the chip in the ocean and Cremin wouldn’t know.”
Not true. “It’s chipped with a transmitter.”
“So why don’t you toss it down the hole like the last messenger did?”
Feeling sick she admitted, “I’m chipped too.”
Amohanga grunted as if that pleased him.
She had no time to dive away. He snatched her throat, squeezed, and brought her to her feet. His mouth was bleeding and one of his cybernetic eyes was burned out. She winced and closed her eyes expecting the worst.
“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you and send you back to my brother in pieces?”
Struggling to talk she hissed, “He’d be glad you killed me.”
The pressure released some, but the cyborg didn’t withdrawal his hold. “I figured that out when he gave you the message to kill you. What did you do, little Parl?”
Oh, there wasn’t time to go over that list. “He and I don’t get along.”
His grip tightened, and he raised her just an inch higher. “Specifically? I want to know what you did. Because my brother referenced an ancient story about a hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor. He’s calling you a thief.”
Grabbing his wrist to keep balance she said the first thing that came to mind. “I lost him a shipment of neuro-zotties.”
Again he released his hold enough for her to breathe, but he was not giving her an inch of wiggle room. “The zombie chips? The ones that remove all memory for cyborgs when there’s a destructive malfunction?”
“Yes. Those ones.”
His eyes narrowed angrily, “How the hell did he get his hands on neuro-zotties? We don’t sell hardware.”
“I don’t know who shipped them, but I know he’s pissed I lost them. He said he wasn’t going to get a chance at them again.”
“How did you lose the shipment?”
Oh hell. “I picked up the shipment from the landing docks and rushed past a yellow light that turned red. When no traffic bots stopped me so I kept going. Parked the borrowed Grummer at Pikes Shop and left like I was supposed to. I was at a Fast Star when a line of Federation vehicles flew past and surrounded the shop.”
“How many boxes were in the shipment?”
He dropped his hand, his expression not thoughtful, but decided. “If you had worked for me, I would have killed you.”
“That happened today, an hour later Cremin sent me to you, to drop off an upgrade chip,”
With a malicious smirk, he said, “So he sent you to me. Early. With a code to kill you. That fact that he didn’t do it himself says volumes. Were you his latest bedpartner?”
Gross. Never. “No. I’ve never had that particular consequence.”
Something flashed in Amohanga’s eyes. But it was gone too fast. “Well, you do have those creepy black eyes so I get why my brother would be standoffish.”
Rude. “They aren’t eye overlays. That’s how Alluses eyes look.”
He shrugged. “Still.”
Okay, well at least she didn’t have to worry about Amohanga wanting to force a blitz on her. That was always a good thing. So she wasn’t complaining.
“Where’s your chip?”
“Right side hip.”
He turned her and held her firmly against the Grummer. “This is gonna hurt. Don’t scream. I hate screaming.”
She heard a soft snick and knew that he probably just slipped out a knife from within his fake arm. Closing her eyes, she prepared. The first slice of his knife made her jerk. He used his body to hold her still. “Good girl, it’s almost out.”
Tears pricked her eyes as he dug in her flesh. She couldn’t see if he was purposefully chopping in her body or if he was earnestly looking for the chip.
The pressure was gone, and her knees weren’t ready to take her weight. She started to fall but he took her weight, his voice right above her ear. “Welcome to Volmaka. You can start work tomorrow morning. Rents due at the end of the month. You get one pass if you’re late. After that, I throw you off the roof and the street scavengers will eat you for dinner.”
No. No way was she staying on this forsaken planet. The fact that the Federation hadn’t come yet might be a good thing. It meant she could get back up to the ecological checkpoint and if they didn’t stop her, she’d get to leave. If they did, she would tell them the truth. Then she’d forgo getting her family heirloom back and fly to the nearest auction, sell her Turf and buy a ticket off the planet.
It was something she always thought to do, but she had no idea where to go. The only place she could think of was her birth planet. Not that she knew anyone. And her father said it was rough living, but it couldn’t be worse than Verrain, the cyborg planet.
Amohanga let her go, she wobbled a bit but found her stance.
“Better find your way inside, I’ll let the building security know you’re a new employee. But you’ll have to hurry before the scavengers smell fresh blood. They won’t think twice about eating someone while they are still alive.”
Good Seth, were there such people? “People don’t eat people.”
His lip curled. “Street scavengers are miners that didn’t follow proper safety guidelines and got exposed to the radiation. So you’re right people don’t eat people, but street scavengers aren’t people anymore.”
“I thought those exposed to radiation died.”
Amohanga took her arm and pulled her to the front door and scanned his hand. “Their mind dies first. The body takes a lot longer to give up the fight.”
Inside the apartment building. He left her by the door and walked to the elevator, he reached out and pressed the button. When she moved beside him he said, “Only my privileged get to use the elevator. You have to use the stairs little digger.”
Parl tried looking for the door to the stairs, but everything looked the same. The walls and possibly the doors were covered in advertisements for working in the main mine. The one that Amohanga was trying to force her into.
She shuffled forward, knowing that if she kept going there should be a door. She had seen a door on the back, side, and front of the building. Hopefully, they weren’t sealed off.
“Wrong way,” he called as the elevator cab dinged. When she didn’t stop he called out again, “Parl, you’re heading to the street.”
When she still didn’t stop, he bellowed her name. “PARL.”
Putting a hand on the wall, she turned her head, giving him what he wanted. Her attention.
He pointed behind him. “The stairs are that way.”
“No thanks,” she said feeling the shakiness of emotions. The pain was there, but her bitter spite was even more fierce.
“You’re headed outside with the street scavengers.”
She snorted a laugh. “I’ll be in better company with the savages than with the soulless metalheads like yourself.”
“What did you just call me?” his voice dripping with unshed violence.
Parl felt for the door, watched the cyborg, and hoped to Seth of Stars that he didn’t follow her. She needed to get to her Turf and leave.
The air was cooler outside. It was also dark. The lights to the side of the building were either broken or turned off. Sitting at least twenty feet away sat a male with pale skin, torn shirt, and matted hair. He was looking right at her, but she could tell that he couldn’t see her.
His eyes were dulled over as if he was drunk or really out of it.
Thankfully she had the ability to see in the dark – another benefit of being an Allus.
He sniffed. Leaning forward, he pressed his hands on the ground and began crawling towards her sniffing as he went.
Sliding to her right she stepped on something rigid that snapped. The male quickly quirked his head for a second then lunged with an inhuman cry. Like the cry of death.
Parl jumped from the wall to the middle of the alley. She heard the male scrambling her way so she flat out ran. As she did, the ghouling sounds behind her caused her chest to burn in fear and survival.
Lumps of bodies in the alley stirred, one that she was sure was dead hissed and rolled up. She didn’t have time to veer, she pushed his shoulder causing him to knock back over. The older male or the one that looked like his body was rotted more screamed, swinging up just in time to catch the first male with the matted hair.
She only spared them a glance before running on and out of the alley. When she turned back she didn’t see anyone following her. Letting her head fall back she peered up to thank Seth.
It was gone. Her Silver Turf was gone.
She wanted to scream. She wanted to stop her feet and she wanted to cry. How could this day get any worse?
She heard a snort behind her. Turning quickly, hoping it wasn’t another savage she saw Amohanga in the light of the landing docks. Taller than her by an easy half foot, his face still beat up but with a sharp jaw that may or may not have been a feature upgrade.
No metal on his face, but it could all be synthetic skin. She knew for a fact that one eye was dark and burnt and that added to his sinister look. The jerk scratched under his eye before sneering. “You left your Turf running. What makes you think it was going to be there when you returned?”
“It was locked.”
He gave her such a condescending look she dropped her gaze. “We’re miners, not idiots. Your Silver Turf is now a part of my inventory and will be used for shipments.”
That didn’t make any sense. “You couldn’t have taken it. You were in the front of the building minutes after landing.”
He spread his arms out. “This is my city. I know everything that happens here.”
“How?” Because even his brother didn’t have that ability.
Dropping his arms he laughed. “What makes you think you deserve an answer?”
“You stole from me. That’s why I deserve an answer. Unless you want to give me back my Turf then I don’t care how you did it.”
He moved fast, his hand wrapped around her neck, firm but not cutting off her oxygen. “You’re in my city, you show respect. Maybe my brother lets you get away with mouthing off, but I won’t.”
When he didn’t let go she figured he was waiting for an answer. “Okay.”
“Good, now hold still.”
What was he going to do now? At first nothing happened, but then she hissed feeling her side sting and the back of her neck too. The sting slowly ebbed into numbness. Grabbing his wrist, she looked up at him not understanding why she was feeling tingles all over her body. Not good ones, but they weren’t bad either. It was like someone was popping something inside her, and once it popped, it felt better.
“What are you doing to me?”
He leaned down and whispered, “Something that you will spend the rest of your life, paying off.”
What did that mean?
Was he filling her with nanites? Was he doing some cybernetic thing? She began imagining a compendium of things a nasty cyborg like himself might do to her. Horrible things no person should ever do to another. Things she feared down to her soul.
That’s when she felt a tingling at the base of her neck. A second later, Amohanga released her and looked at his hand that had a black spot on it. “What the hell?” he said.
Parl scratched her neck and out of nowhere, a floating yellow light moved over her hand and near her face. Leaning away, she swatted the air confused at what kind of cybernetic trick those things were. “What are those things?”
He stepped back, eyeing her down. “Those aren’t from me, little night walker.”
Another yellow burst of light floated out from somewhere around her. And then another. She blew at them to get them away, getting more upset. “Yeah, right. What did you do to get them to duplicate themselves? Or are they a broken program too?”
Amohanga sidestepped the first burst. “Those aren’t mine and you should know better than to tell a cyborg he’s a broken program. I’ve killed for less.”
Another rush of yellow floating lights came from her and this time she freaked out. Running away she hoped that whatever was coming out of her stopped. As she ran, she didn’t care where she was going, only that she needed to get away. Following the landing pad walkway, she crossed the length of it and stopped at a large red metal door on the face of what looked like a red stone wall.
Reading the words on the door plaque it read: Volmaka’s Nolarium Mine
This was the mine? Why was it dark? Didn’t they mine round the clock? Or was that when it first started?
“Neat trick, those little things you have. Is that a part of your race?” Amohanga asked casually, but she had no doubt that he was as unaffected as he put off.
“Considering they didn’t come out of me until you put something cold and metal to my skin, you should know they aren’t natural,” she said a little pissed off that he was still trying to lay the blame on her.
She saw him hold something up from the corner of her eye. When she cut her eyes to him she saw a small round object.
“Do you know what this is?”
“It’s a medscope.”
She knew what a medscope was, but she never saw one.
“This expensive little bastard is what healed the wound on your side. The fact that you started spitting those things from somewhere behind you means that it’s something natural – and that that it’s not something I did.”
She had a hard time believing those words. Hearing them was easy, but it also hit on a part of her past that she didn’t want to revisit.
The male in front of her walked to the stone wall and leaned up against it crossing his arm. “You had no idea you could do that, did you?”
Telling him anything was stupid. He didn’t care and he would use it against her. But the words came out anyway. “My father and I left our birth planet when I was a year old. My father worked at a smelting plant. I was raised with Terrans… I was raised to be like the Terrans.”
“Why didn’t you ever look up your people’s traits in the Federation archives?”
She remembered wanting to do so when she was younger. “My father told me that our people were more like savages. He left after my mother died and he told me we were better off living for the future than the past.” Saying her father’s words made her sad. He had died from heart attack in his sleep three years ago. That’s when she learned quickly that Terrans may have been nice when she was young, but those Terrans grew up and turned themselves into cyborgs. And cyborgs were cold-hearted and soulless.
“You talk as if your father is gone.”
“He is,” she whispered as she turned away from him.
“How long have you been working for my brother?”
“Three years,” she said, feeling her voice get stronger. “Three long years.”
Amohanga chuckled all the way to her side. “Three years is nothing to us down here. Three years is a blink of an eye.”
She didn’t think he’d appreciate her telling him that she wasn’t staying in this hellhole. There had to be a way out.
“I see that look on so many new diggers’ faces. They all think they’re not going to be here long. That they’re better.”
She didn’t comment. She wasn’t stupid.
He took her chin and tilted it up to him. “Where would you go? Back to my brother, who wants you dead? Back to the cities where they don’t care about you? Where…where would you go?”
Bluffing she said, “My birth planet.”
“It’s better than being a slave to you or Cremin. Or another cyborg with a death threat hanging over my head.”
She felt him brush across the bottom of her lips. His face not softening, but his voice did. “So you’d go back to the planet your father saved you from?”
It felt like someone slammed a metal pole against her stomach. It hurt and she backed up unable to keep that contact. Amohanga closed the gap. “I never liked my father, and even I wouldn’t dishonor him like that.”
Another hit. This one deep.
“There’s nowhere else to go. I can’t stay here,” she said, feeling more than she could ever name.
“I saved you from my brother. I gave you a place to live. A job. And you want to throw that away for the hope that your birth planet has civilized in the last twenty years? I’m not a history expert, but I don’t think a planet can mature that fast.”
He shook his head like those extra years didn’t count. They probably didn’t, and he was probably right and her birth planet. But he was not going to get away with those other lies.
Pointing an accusatory finger at him she said, “If you want my respect, then you can’t outright lie about your intentions. Yes you saved me but not because you were being nice. You saved me for your own reasons. Then you assigned me back-breaking labor in a mine and gave me a room where half the money I would make would go back to you.”
When he raised his brows, she doubled jerked a finger at him. “Don’t you dare deny it. The brothers that took over this city did that back then. It’s probably worse now. Maybe it’s one and a half a paycheck now.”
“It’s only half.”
She lowered her hand. Half was still bad.
Then he added, “But I’ve started charging utilities so sure you can say it’s about one and a half a diggers monthly paycheck.”
The dirty rat.
“See, that’s why I’m not saying. I’d rather fly back to my home planet.”
“How?” he said then scanned the area behind her like he was telling someone with his eyes that they better not intrude on their conversation. It was a very parental look. Odd that he would give it then. When he cast that look down to her she felt compelled to speak.
“The Federation takes Luri’s home.”
“You’re going to tell the Federation you were kidnapped?” he sounded so shocked and disappointed that she wondered how insulting it would have been to do that.
“I’m not staying here,” she said weakly.
“Well I don’t know how you’re going to get out, but if you do, good luck surviving the weather up there.” He pointed to the small opening at the top of the cave.
“I can’t stay here,” she said louder and a little desperate.
He waited several moments and said quieter, but it wasn’t soft, it was stinging. “Because isn’t an answer. You’re just spoiled and you want the good life. The easy life. You had it once when you were young, but you failed to see that you had the good life and your father didn’t. He worked at a smelting plant and you may not know what goes into that kind of work, but I do. So I can tell you confidently that he didn’t have the good life. All he had was you. So now you have to face the fact that that life is over. Hard work is in front of you and you can do it, and make enough money to eek out a good life for yourself. Or you can keep whining about your life and fighting a fight that you can’t win – like trying to escape from my city without my help.”
He was such a….she didn’t have the words. “You act like you’re a hard but all you’re doing is making money selling the raw material to the Federation in addition to making money from everyone who lives in the apartments. You don’t work, you just siphon from people who do.”
He moved a finger over her nose face his tone hard. “You don’t know me, and you don’t get to pretend you do.” Then it was like something broke between them. “You know what. I’m done trying to help you. You won’t want to work. You want to whine, I’ll give you something to whine about.”
She had no idea what that meant, but without another word he grabbed her arm and walked her back to the apartment. He didn’t say another word and the cold cyborg expression on his face was clear he wasn’t going to.
Inside the elevator, she asked. “Are you going to put me in a den?”
The cyborg exhaled loudly. “Did my brother send you to a den?”
No thank Seth she was never thrown into a room where anyone could use her body as they wanted. “No.”
The elevator dinged, and they were on the top floor. He moved out first, and she followed, but this time with caution. Whatever he had planned was going to be bad.
“I don’t have a den. But I have a cage and you’ll be in it” he said walking her down the hall. At the door, he placed his hand over the scanner.
Amohanga’s apartment was well furnished. The first room outside the entryway had dark grey walls angled in such a way that made the room look elegant and uncomfortable. The seats were all black velvet looking and each chair had a table next to it.
If this was where Amohanga negotiated with his buyers, she could see how he could impress them. “You look impressed.”
She was. And she had half a mind to tell him that he only had nice things because of everyone who worked for him but kept that to herself.
“When was the last time you ate?”
She shook her head. “Today at the Fast Star when I got a coffee.”
“That’s not food,” he said while pointing to a small table, gesturing her to sit. She did, but she also wondered why he was feeding her. Wasn’t he supposed to be putting her in a cage?
He heated up a bag of food, then grabbed two water packages and set them in front of her. He leaned against the counter, not sitting down with her and not making anything feel comfortable.
After removing the cap to the corn chowder, she tucked her hair behind her ear. “Thank you for the food.”
“The cage doesn’t have food or water.”
She took a sip of the chowder, pleased by the warmth adding to her belly. “Why feed someone you’re going to cage?”
He grunted. “I could put you in the cage starving, and fulfill those fantasies you have of me slowly letting you die a miserable death, but I hate having to clean up dead bodies in my apartment.”
This was not an apartment. It was the whole floor. It was like a very big one-story house.
Taking another sip of the chowder, she scanned the kitchen. On one wall was a lot of silver tins with a tea symbol she knew from her city. Pointing the tip of the chowder to the tins, she said, “You like looborsh tea, huh?”
He turned his head, following her gaze. “You could say that.”
“Tea’s pretty expensive. Is it cheaper when you buy in bulk like that?”
He wiped his mouth with a hand and didn’t answer for a long moment. “I have a greenhouse in the east part of the apartment. I grow, harvest, ferment, package, and sell that tea.”
When he looked at her this time, she was even more uncomfortable. Mostly because she didn’t think that he would do something like that. Tea was for the rich. For those who could afford organic drinks. Amohanga had money and yeah, his apartment slash building floor looked good, but he was still a cyborg that ran a dirty mining city.
Not liking that major stereotyping, she finished the chowder and drank a whole package to clean her pallet. Pushing the second package back to him she said, “I’m full. If I opened it I would waste it. You can take it back.”
Pushing off the counter he waited until she was up before taking her past a few more meeting looking rooms. Then there was a room with at least five Minky screens and a wall with notes on it that she didn’t understand.
Past that she saw cages – as in plural. He led her to the first cage, scanned his finger, and opened the door. It was a mesh cage – completely see-through with no privacy. Inside the cage, he said nothing.
It wasn’t until it was closed that he said, “You’ll get fed once a day and showered in the morning.” He pointed to the big shower looking device over the cage. It wasn’t the shower that she was used to, it looked like it just drenched her clothes, leaving her miserable but less stinky.
“How long will I be in here?”
“Longer than you’ll want.”
That didn’t sound good. In the corner, she heard someone grunting. Turning, she saw an older person with a balding face peak up. “Has it been seven months?” he asked.
“Shut it, mole mouth,” Amohanga said.
She could be in this small drafty cage for seven months? Looking around, she didn’t see a bathroom? Where was she supposed to go? Was she supposed to just go anywhere? Was that why there was a massive shower head over the cage? To clean her and the filth of living in a cage?
The images alone she conjured freaked her out.
The back of her neck tingled. One of those things popped out into the air, floating slowly to the walls.
Within a few seconds, it was joined by several others floating in the air.
Amohanga stepped back and gave her an irritated look. “I guess I will have to figure that out too.” Stepping back he exited through the strange slates of wall chunks. After he exited, the walls moved until they had straightened into one another. Where the wall used to be open and she could see into the other room….that was gone.
Her fears compounded and more and more of those things filled the air.
“What are these?” the old male said.
She watched with frustration as the things floated around randomly. One moved into the male’s cage. He reached up and touched it. The ball instantly popped and disappeared. The male shook his hand. “Ouch. That hurts. Like electricity burning…” and he stopped as his arm flopped down beside him on the slab with a single blanket.
When he didn’t finish his sentence, she wondered if he had mental issues.
“I apologize if those things hurt you. I don’t know what they are, or how to stop them.”
The male didn’t respond.
Parl sat down just as the lights turned off and the hum in the room went silent. The jerk must have decided it was time to sleep. She was feeling a lot of things, but tired wasn’t one of them. Instead of laying down she pushed her back to the bars and tucked her legs to her chest.
There was nothing she could do to help her situation. Her vehicle was gone and by now Cremin would have to be suspicious that she wasn’t coming back. If Amohanga was right and Cremin wanted her dead, then her apartment would already be ransacked by the garbage flunkies that had eyes on her things.
She tried in vain to think of something she could do to solve her problem. Nothing came to mind, and that was the worst part. How could she not think of something? How could she just let this happen to her?
Closing her eyes, she stopped trying to do anything and just stewed in her self loathing.
Parl opened her eyes not realizing she had fallen asleep. Amohanga was standing at the bars doing something to the lock. On the ground were small lights facing up and two in the air facing down.
Odd. Did he want to remove her from the cage without alerting the other guy? Or was he permanently locking her inside?
“What are you doing?”
“Manually unlocking this damn cage. But the key’s stuck.”
Dropping her legs she leaned forward. “Why aren’t you using the thumb scanner?”
He stopped what he was doing and stared. She could see the frustration on his brows. “Because” he huffed, “you short-circuited the cage. Your little floating electrical disasters blew the entire east side of my floor.”
Amohanga went back to the door lock, and she sat there worried if he was going to punish her for the ‘electrical disasters’.
“I didn’t mean to do that.” She whispered, feeling a slight tingle and two little yellow electrical disaster’s floating up and around her head.
Amohanga cut his eyes to the lights. She snatched them with her hand and held on to them feeling the prickly feeling begin to reduce.
His eyes narrowed in anger as if he was accusing her of letting the electrical things out on purpose. Which was completely unfair. She didn’t know anything about those things.
It took another five minutes before the door was open he swung the door and used his finger to point to the door that looked crooked as if that was ruined too.
“Did the door break too?” she asked.
“Power is out so yeah, the door is broken. But the generators are being reworked by a few of my guys.”
His guys? Okay, that sounded good. But then, if his guys were fixing it, why was she being removed? Unfortunately, she didn’t have the voice or guts to say anything.
She was silent as he led her back past the kitchen and the living room. Then he took her into a large bedroom. The first thing she noticed was the massive bed with dark blue sheets and a blue and grey comforter. The bed looked slept in, but she didn’t think it was recently used. More like Amohanga didn’t take the time to make the bed.
“Not sure what ideas you’re getting, but that’s not your bed.”
She turned because that entire sentence sounded ridiculous. “I wasn’t thinking of sleeping in your bed.”
“Then stop looking at it like you want to crawl up on it and violate it.”
“Violate it? How do you violate a bed?” she asked with a sneer.
Amohanga watched her like he was just noticing something and she hated feeling exposed. But then the jerk said, “By getting your scent all over it.”
Eyes wide, she was appalled. “That’s not a thing. Rape is a violation. Inappropriate touching is a violation. Smells are not.”
The side of his lip curled. “You know what I like about your anger? No electrical disasters.”
She just sneered.
His mouth pulled back until he was smiling. “If you could, would you release those things right now?”
“Yes, I would,” she said firmly and then understood what he was saying. Those things didn’t come out when she was angry or calm. Thinking about it, she concluded the same time Amohanga said, “They only come out when you’re scared.”
She didn’t agree or disagree, but she didn’t have to. Plus, his smugness was rubbing on her nerves.
With his chin, he pointed to the other side of the room. Turning, she saw a large glass wall. Inside the wall were a single sized bed, a single sized chair, and a door to a glass bathroom.
Confused, she pointed, “You had this made?”
“I had the glass bathroom made when I first moved in. Too many people would hide in there when I gave parties. They would either wait until the party was over to seduce me in my bed or they would leave radioactive poisons on my things. So it’s just safer this way.”
Nope. She shook her head. “Uh, I am not okay with you seeing me use the bathroom.”
He looked amused when he said, “Is that right? Feel free to hold it then.”
She tried to make herself scared so she could release the things, but it didn’t work. She was too angry to be afraid.
He looked around her head as if he too assumed she would let the electrical disasters out. But when nothing happened, he laughed. “Looks like I was right.”
“I’m sure I’ll figure it out,” she warned.
He sobered. “I bet you would.” Pointing to the glass door, she knew she was being dismissed.
Walking into the room, she huffed, “Jerk.”
He laughed again. When she was inside, he shut the door and told her, “I’ll be back soon, going to check the chip my brother sent. So if you need to take care of anything, now is the time.”
She watched him walk out and waited expecting him to walk back in just to see her sitting on the toilet. But when time kept going by she figured maybe he was telling the truth.
Woke up again with a strange feeling of being watched. Eyes open, she saw Amohanga sitting in the chair next to her bed. He was turning an empty tube on the arm, staring at it like he was lost in thought.
“What did I do now?” she asked sarcastically.
Grabbing the tube, he squeezed it until it broke into several pieces. The light plastic fell silent, but her alertness grew to attention immediately. Sitting up, she waited for whatever it was.
“The chip wasn’t a file like it should have been.”
Her shoulders felt tense as they shrugged up. “I didn’t fill the tube. I didn’t know what was on the chip.”
His expression didn’t look like he even heard her. “So I gave it to one of my guys to look into. He swapped it out for a memory chip, and now he’s erased. It was a zombie chip.”
Her stomach squeezed. “You think I did it?”
“I know you didn’t. You’re not high enough on the business food chain to even get into the tube.”
Okay…that was rude too.
“But either my brother was cutting me from the business or someone in his circle wanted to cut me from the business.”
Okay…that was better. Maybe.
“If it’s the latter, then someone will be showing up to take over my city.”
Not better. Really not good.
Amohanga dropped the test of the tube and stood up. His deadpanned eyes looking at her. “If you want to get out of this cage and not have to accept the mining job, then you need to figure out those electrical things and use them when I tell you to.”
“Uh….I don’t control them. Not really.” And it wasn’t like she could control her fear. Her body seemed to know when she was faking it.
“I know. I’m giving you the chance to figure it out or you will be my prisoner for a very long time.”
Watching him walk out he left the door open. She had no idea if that was an invitation to leave or not. But by the time he was pulling out clothes from a drawer she was at her door, eyes down to give him privacy in case he was getting dressed. “Did you call Cremin and ask him if he sent the zombie chip?”
Tossing the shirt over his shoulder, he walked back towards her. When he was in her face he said, “No. I didn’t.”
He was so close that she instinctively leaned back. He closed the distance, taking away all thought. “If he meant to send the chip, he will be here soon. If he didn’t he will call me to see why I didn’t buy the items on his list.”
She nodded slightly to let him know she understood. At the same time though, she agreed to his plan. It seemed logical.
“You look terrified right now. Where are your electrical attack things?”
“I’m not terrified.”
“Then why aren’t you looking at me?”
With effort, she raised her eyes and saw that the burned eye was no longer burned. Odd she didn’t notice it before. He didn’t move, and he didn’t break their eye contact. But after a few seconds, she looked away.
“Only weak people look away.”
Clenching her jaw she shook her head. “It’s not weakness. I just don’t feel the need to have a staring contest.”
“It’s because you’re afraid.”
She wasn’t. Well, she had been in other instances, but not now. Gazing back at him she asked, “You want me to be afraid. You want me to do as you say when you say it. Your brother is the same way.”
“Knowing Cremin does not mean you know me. Cremin is not running a whole city. He runs my side business that collects buyers for what items I sell here. He is nothing without me and if I find out he’s trying to overthrow me, I’ll kill him.”
“You’d kill your bother?”
He looked over her face lingering too long on her mouth. “Doubt me?” he asked, but it sounded more like a threat.
“No,” she said, swallowing a deep sense of dread. If he could kill his brother, he could kill her. But then again, why didn’t he kill her when Cremin called her a ….what was it? A hood? A traitor? A thief, that’s what it was.
“You still look terrified, and yet I see nothing in the air. Why?”
“I don’t know,” she blurted.
He looked at her mouth again and then leaned back, looking even more upset. He inhaled through his nose and faced the shower. “You hungry?”
She shook her head.
He must not have seen because he had to turn to glare at her for not answering.
“No, I’m good.”
A little. “No.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You’re a crappy liar, Parl.”
She lowered her eyes and knew she was found out. Avoiding looking at him she touched the glass with a finger. “Can I have more of the tea?”
Whirling around the shirt on his shoulder almost hit her. He mumbled something as he left. She wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but it sounded like he said, “Of course you’d like the bloody tea.”
Parl had to take several breaths after he left. She was so out of breath she wondered if she stopped breathing for a few minutes. Backing up to the bed, she sat down, hating that she asked for the tea. She was an idiot. She should have just asked for water.
When he came back in he set the mug down on the arm of the chair. “We need a table in here. I’ll get one later.” He didn’t look at her as he talked, and she was still feeling vibes of anger.
But when he walked into the glass bathroom she quickly moved to the chair and gave him her back – and his privacy. In the chair, she could smell the fragrant tea. It had a smooth nutty sweet scent.
As guilty as she felt for asking for it, it didn’t stop her from grabbing the mug with her fingertips and blowing on the top. Taking a quick sip, she smiled feeling every part of her warm.
This what it was like to drink sophistication.
She savored every drop and didn’t feel quite as bad by the time Amohanga walked out of the shower fully dressed in pants, his boots, and a sleeveless shirt. Extending his hand towards her she gave him the empty mug.
Peering up she bit her lip not sure what he was asking. Did he want to know if she worked out how to draw the little yellow disasters? Or was he asking about the tea?
His eyes dropped to her mouth and again she saw his anger.
“Nevermind, I don’t care if you liked the tea.”
As he walked out, she yelled, “The tea was amazing.”
He stopped, kept his eyes forward as if he was processing what she was saying. Then his eyes closed and his shoulders drew down. If he wasn’t a cyborg she would have said he looked relieved, but cyborgs didn’t feel that much emotion…did they?
“My guys are coming in to talk about business.” She thought it was odd that he was giving her more insight into his business, but then he turned, locked eyes, and told her, “Don’t leave the room.”
She agreed with a quick okay, then got up and closed the glass door. It didn’t have a lock, and that was the first time she noticed that. “There’s no lock.”
“If it needed a lock, you wouldn’t be in there.”
What the hell did that mean?
His face was back to be emotionless so she couldn’t read him. But this was one of those times she couldn’t stay quiet.
“Meaning you trust me?”
“If I trusted you, you wouldn’t be in that cage in the first place.”
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. “This isn’t a cage.”
“Oh, really? If that’s not a cage, then what is it?” he asked as he turned towards her like a predator. Waiting for her to say the wrong thing.
She didn’t know the word. Or maybe there wasn’t one. She shrugged holding up her palms. “It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
“Then how would you know the difference?”
He was back in her face, closer than before and his presence was pulling all the air away from her. Again she didn’t have the right answer. Not one that made sense. “I can feel the difference.”
“What do you feel?” he asked slowly and enunciating every word. Somehow his tone and heat did something to her, stirring a part of her that should not have been interested. But damn if her lady bits weren’t warming to him.
“What do you feel?” he asked again.
She pulled in her bottom lip, biting it, not sure how to answer.
“Touch your bottom lip again and I will devour that mouth faster than you can blink.”
Ohhhhh. Why did that make it so much better? And so much worse. Her body was still not stiff, but honed and wanting. This was not okay, in any way, and yet it was happening. Her chest felt heavier. Her whole body felt heavy as if nothing could move her from her spot.
He lifted up a hand and pressed it against the glass by her face, making her feel fully surrounded by him. His voice lower, and rumbled as he whispered, “I’m waiting.”
She swallowed. “I feel a lot,” was what came out, and she immediately wanted to slap herself. She sounded like an idiot.
“You feel a lot of bad or a lot of good?” He moved a hand to her hip, squeezed, and pressed her back against the glass.
“Good,” she said, then added, “but you’re dangerous.”
He moved a knee in between her legs. Then watched her as if he was waiting for her to object. His hand moved down from her hip, down to her thigh. He grabbed it and pulled it up to his waist and sunk in closer. Touching all those parts of her that wanted his touch. That wanted it all.
Exhaling, she felt relaxed and yet humming with sexual tension. Good Seth, what was he doing to her body. He hadn’t even kissed her and yet she felt like he had already ravished her. Her heart was beating faster and she didn’t know what to expect next.
“Do I scare you?”
He talked about killing his brother as if it was a totally natural concept. Yes, she was scared of him. “Yes.”
“You think I’m going to hurt you?”
That….well she didn’t want to press her luck. But honestly, she was starting to doubt it. At least for the moment. “You could if you wanted to.”
His mouth came down, a breath away from hers. “I could if I wanted to,” he repeated. Brushing his lips against hers she leaned up to the kiss, he took it, kissed her whole mouth, and let go. It was good, so good and not enough.
His other hand grabbed the side of her face, it was hard metal but she didn’t care. Desperate for another kiss, she tugged on his shirt to get closer. He pulled back just enough and something changed. Something darker, something she felt before he kissed her back. This time he consumed her.
She felt him everywhere. Her insides were hot and needy and begging for more and more. He had her up against the wall, both legs wrapped around him and the crack that snapped the glass broke them apart.
But when she looked at his face, he didn’t comment on anything. He just held her up, turned, and moved to the small bed. He laid her down and followed on top.
It was carnal heat and she couldn’t think a rational thought. All she could do was feel.
He was right where he needed to be.
Suddenly a pounding came to the door. “AMO – We’re here.”
Amohanga moved his head to the side, breaking the kiss but still holding her tight. She didn’t know what he was feeling, but she was feeling pretty damn unsatisfied. This was not the time to stop what they were doing.
Not at all.
Lifting up on his arms, he moved until he was looking down at her. Again his eyes were searching hers. She didn’t know if he found what he wanted or not. “You’re wrong,” he said as he glanced down at her eyes for a second.
“I’m wrong about what?” because she didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
“I can’t hurt you.”
Can’t? “Can’t or don’t want to?”
He ignored that question altogether and kissed her quickly then stood up and adjusted his pants. On his way out he saw the glass and chuckled.
“Are you laughing at all your hard work?”
“No, I’m laughing that I even bothered putting it up considering I knew where you’d end up.”
Where she’d end up?
She refused to look at his bed, but she understood what he was saying. He kept her alive to blitz her. That sobered all the tingles inside of her.
His eyes narrowed. As if he knew she wasn’t happy about what he said. Then again, maybe he did because he snorted and said with exasperation, “I’ve spared no one my brother called a thief. I never spared anyone my guys called a thief either because people are replaceable.”
Parl scooted to the end of the bed and drew her hand through the side of her hair. “What are you saying? That you couldn’t kill me? Or that you didn’t want to?”
Holding out his arms he snapped, “You tell me.” In those three words, she saw something. Something she didn’t notice. He didn’t know. He didn’t understand why he spared her and he was worried about it.
He dropped his arms when she didn’t respond. He didn’t say anything else. He just snorted and left her with glass all over the floor. This time when the door shut she didn’t feel like the air was returning to her lungs. She felt like something cold settled into the room.
Falling back on the bed, she covered her eyes hating the memories of his body against her. Forcing herself to think of all the things he said and threatened to remind herself that she needed to get away from him. Satisfied with that thought she turned to the side and curled up. And that’s when she understood Amohanga’s words that her smell would violate his bed. Because she could smell him on hers, and she hated it.
Sleep never came and Parl was tired of just laying down. She was done with being anxious, irritated, confused and so many more emotions she didn’t want to acknowledge. No longer in a glass room, but still in her corner she looked over the vast room and noticed a Minky screen on the other side.
She tapped her thumb on her thigh, checked the bedroom door, and debated if he would come back any minute or if he was going to stay in his meeting long enough for her to send out a mayday to the Federation. She could….essentially say she was kidnapped and when offered to be taken back to her apartment, instead ask to leave the planet. But instead of going to her home planet, maybe she’d go to Marnak.
No, Marnak wasn’t a safe place. She heard it was like the suburbs of Lotus Adaamas. Meaning it looked safe at a distance, but Demons were always lurking in the shadows.
Slapping the bed she stood up, figuring that she’d decide where to go after she was rescued.
Walking carefully through the glass she made it to the Minky screen and tapped the screen to wake it up. Instead of the normal home screen, it stayed blank. Then white letters appeared: Parl. I have access to every Minky screen in my city.
Rubbing her face in disappointment she was again out of ideas.
The words disappeared replaced with: Do you want more tea?
“Oh, I’m going to need a lot of tea,” she said, thinking about her insane situation.
The letter disappeared this time and stayed gone. The conversation was obviously over for him, but not for her.
“Can I watch something? It’s pretty quiet in here.”
His response instantaneous: The screen responded, “What do you want to watch?”
“There aren’t any funny documentaries.”
“Yeah, I know. I was talking about videos from Dusty Bin.”
A few seconds late the words on the screen read, “The Terran fiction movies?”
“Yes. One of those.”
“You really watch fiction?”
“Yes. Documentaries are boring and I’d rather pick up the glass on your floor with my teeth than watch a documentary.”
“If I didn’t like you, I’d enjoy seeing that.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “Not sure if that’s a twisted compliment.”
“So…can I watch one?”
“I’m looking for one for you to watch.”
“Shouldn’t I pick?” she asked, making a half questioning half-mocking face.
“No. I will pick for you.”
“Okay…but just know that I’ll be judging your choice.”
“….still wondering why I like you.”
At that, she smiled, hating and loving the back and forth. “Don’t worry, I feel the same way.”
The door opened with a quick pop, and she jumped. Amohanga looked over to the side of the room and smirked. “I made a little disaster pop out.”
She turned and saw the yellow ball floating. “Nice, always a good day when those things appear near electronics.” She grabbed the ball and squeezed it as she walked towards him. In return, she wanted to see if he backed up, afraid she would push the electric thing on to him.
He eyed her, but he didn’t back down. Watching her hand, he held out a new mug.
She didn’t take it until the disaster was gone. Once she had it she blew on the top and took a sip. A smile formed on her lips as heaven warmed her belly.
“My guys are gone, and the duro’s need to clean up in here. Come out front and you can watch the video there.”
“Sounds good,” she said before taking another sip.
In the front, she sat down in a cushioned chair and tucked a leg underneath. There was a large clear Minky screen descending from the ceiling. It powered itself on and she watched as it moved past the home screen to videos to Dusty Bin. A movie was selected before the whole list was loaded.
“Which one did you choose?” she asked.
“Something about a boy being left home during a Terran holiday.”
That didn’t sound too exciting. The video began and she noticed that the opening credits showed a town covered in snow and slowly moved to a house that had a bunch of white lights covering the front side of it.
“Which holiday is this?” she asked, taking another seat, no longer as upset with Amohanga’s choice.
“It’s currently called Winter Holiday, but a couple of thousand years ago it started off by being called Christmas.”
She never heard of it. She also never saw a home decorated in so many decorations or a house so full of people. Commenting on the movie she mumbled, “That’s a big family.”
“Yeah, it is.”
She turned to Amohanga, wondering if he was watching the video with her. He was sitting in a cushioned chair a few feet away from her. In his hand was a Minky pad that he was watching intently. She could hear a few words here and there and it sounded like the noises from the ecological checkpoint.
She wanted to ask him about it but thought better of it.
Returning her attention to the video, she was amazed at all the chaos and yelling. So different from what she grew up with, and yet she wondered what it would be like to have that many siblings. “What’s it like to be from a family that size?”
“I only have a brother and if we ever acted like that, my father would have beat our hides and made us stay in the cold naked just to enforce that we needed to stay quiet.”
Parl looked back at him, feeling for his young self. It made sense that he would be as unforgiving if he was raised with unforgiving parents. Amohanga’s eyes were still watching the pad, but he must have felt her gaze.
He looked up, “Don’t dwell on what I said.”
Oh, she would be.
“You took over your father’s business. He must have considered you his favorite.”
Setting down the pad, he sat up. It was silent between them but the video noise faded in the background. There was something in his face she hoped was him deciding if he was going to elaborate or not.
Or maybe he was deciding if he wanted her out front at all, asking these questions. Who knew.
“My father had a favorite son to beat on. That was Cremin. I was in the hospital too often to get all those beatings.”
He was in the hospital?
He snorted, “I can literally see the questions in your mind. Yes, I was in the hospital for most of my youth.” He waved a hand over one of his cybernetic arms. “As you had to have noticed, I don’t look like Cremin.”
“He had one cybernetic arm and you have two.”
“I have yellow-tinted skin.”
Oh. That. Yeah, she noticed that. “Is that why you went to the hospital?”
“No. I went to the hospital because I had a degenerative skin disease. The hospital doctors came up with an idea to infuse my blood with Krant blood. Krants as you know, have hard and impenetrable skin. They are also immune to all skin diseases.”
Her jaw dropped slightly. “So you have Krant skin?”
“No, my skin is still mostly Terran with a Krant yellow hue. The DNA transfer cured the disease, but it also changed how I grew, and how I acted.”
She had no idea what that meant.
Reading her thoughts again he said, “Let’s just say that I had to relearn how to be a Terran.”
“I don’t understand.”
He sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “I didn’t have much love for my father, but after I came back from the hospital, I rejected him. He threw me in a metal cage and told me I could stay in there and rot. My brother stood up for me. My father took a butcher knife and cut off his hand and threw him into the cage next to me so that I could watch him bleed to death. I beat the wall until my wrist shattered and then used my shoulders. When I got out, I was able to call for help. My brother was taken to the hospital and I went hunting my father.”
Her hand covered her mouth, amazed at that sad story.
“I took over the city and my brother worked for me. Then I expanded the business and he took over my satellite division.”
She took that in, understanding his rise to success. But she was still hearing the words, I had to relearn to be a Terran. Not to mention she knew that Krant’s weren’t like Terrans. Krant’s mated. Terrans didn’t.
She wondered if that was what he was feeling. An instinctual pull towards a mate.
If he was feeling a pull towards her, and treating her differently, then he was singling her out for a mate.
“Now you look worried. What is going on in your head?”
“Nothing,” she said instinctively, but when his expression changed she quickly added, “I just wonder if you had any other Krant similarities.”
She watched as he fully understood what she was saying. So much so he sat back in his chair and looked at the ceiling for several seconds. When he faced her again he said, “I think that’s what’s happening.”
Oh, Seth. She didn’t want to be stuck in a city with a Krant who singled her out to be a mate. Amohanga rubbed his face, and she remembered the look of weakness she saw when he was confused about his own actions.
With a strange feeling of understanding, she asked, “What does it feel like?”
Lifting his head, he looked drained and yet awake. “What does what feel like?”
She was hoping to avoid being blunt, but apparently not. “What does it feel like being drawn to me even though you don’t really like me?”
Chuckling, he said, “It makes no sense, but having you in my apartment relaxes me. Minutes after I put you in that cage I wanted to rip it open. But I forced myself to walk out and make you a glass cage so that I could get you used to me.”
“To accept you as a mate?”
He made a slow drawing grunt. “I watched a lot of Krant documentaries when I noticed how different I became. One of the episodes was on Krants selecting mates. It said that they would know their mate when they wanted to keep them feed and warm and protected.”
“But that’s a normal thing for everyone.”
“No, it’s not. Not for Krants.”
She frowned because she was right about this. Setting the mug down on the side table she stood up and moved the chair so it was facing him. Then she sat back down, leaned back, took the mug, and held it against her chest. “Okay, I’m ready to argue this point. Because every one of all races will want to help out people.”
He was smirking and he was looking way too arrogant and sexy.
“Krants like to be alone. They don’t care to take care of another person unless it’s their mate or their children.”
“Krants live and thrive in business, in clubs, and everywhere else. They do not isolate themselves on a moon or something.”
“You’re right, we thrive in business. We are strong and determined, and we make good leaders in that way. But we don’t coddle our employees. We don’t build deep friendships and we don’t socialize for fun. If you see a Krant at a bar he’s not looking to talk, he’s looking for a blitz or a mate or someone he’s going to punch in the face.”
Her argument was going downhill fast.
He was making a lot of sense and she didn’t have any example to save her. So she just shrugged and took a long sip of her tea.
“Was that it? You give up?”
“No,” she said, setting the tea against her chest. “I still disagree, but now it’s just because I want to.”
He laughed harder than before. When he stopped, he said, “Of course you’d be stubborn and cute at the same time.”
Those wonderful words sent a swarm of tingles throughout her body. “It’s a gift.”
He peered down at his pad then asked, “Does your kind, mate?”
“I think so.”
“You think so? Why didn’t you watch the videos on your race?”
“I already told you I hate documentaries. I wasn’t lying.”
He exhaled, “Fine, I’ll watch it.”
“Good when you find out, let me know.”
The dark, sultry look that crossed his face made her lady part flutter. His voice went back to being dark and rough. “I said I’ll watch it, but I never said you wouldn’t be there.”
She had several ideas come to mind that fit that scenario. And all of them were centered around his bed.
The Minky pad pinged and Amohanga looked down. She expected him to return to their conversation, but his eyes narrowed. Slowly, like a predator, he grabbed the pad. His voice trembled with venom. “Sarduy.”
Inhaling, she whispered, “Cremin’s number two.”
His eyes crashed on hers. “Get in my room, I’m going to lock you in where it’s safe.”
Standing up she held out the empty mug wondering where to put it, then afraid she was taking too much time she headed to the room. She could feel him behind her as she walked. Her heart was beating a little faster, mainly because she didn’t know what to expect.
Inside the room, he held the door as if he was going to say something.
She beat him to it. “Be careful.”
At that, he stilled. The look of confusion was clear and she wondered if that was the first time anyone had told him that. Or maybe it was because she said it.
“If anyone comes in here, that is not me, know that they are going to try and kill you. Use your things and flood our room with your little disasters. In fact, if you can just do that now, it would be a good idea.”
She nodded but had no idea if she could do that.
Amohanga began pulling the door shut when an explosion rocked the apartment. Fire flooded behind them from the front room and that’s all she remembered before he covered her body with his.
The first thing Parl noticed was the ringing in her ears. The air smelled funny, like ozone or burnt plastic. Her chest felt heavy, because Amohanga was on top of her, but she wasn’t sure if she was hurt or not because everything felt wrong.
Her mind knew something was wrong but couldn’t figure out what.
Amohanga pushed up on his hands and rolled off, his eyes were dark as they scanned her in silence. But she could almost hear the question, was she hurt?
“I’m okay,” she said giving him what she hoped he wanted.
He drew his hand back and pointed. “False wall behind the Minky Screen. Go.”
Another blast hit the same wall, and he covered her again for a quick second then pulled her up and dragged her out of the door. Her legs were not ready for his pace, but she kept up as best as she could in the awkward one handed run.
Throwing the stairwell door open, they both heard and saw people rapidly descending the stairs, many people yelling, and others crying. It looked like an emergency nightmare. Figuring Amohanga brought her all the way, he was expecting her to follow the people.
But he never released her.
Peering up he finally spoke. “I can’t let you go.”
Oh. “You think they’re going to bomb the stairwell?”
Okay…. Then it hit her. “You think I’ll hurt them with the yellow floating disasters.”
His eyes cut to her and then to his hand over her wrist. “No, I mean I can’t let you go. As in, I can’t get myself to accept that this is the safest option.”
It wasn’t a malfunction in his programing. It was the result of his Krant DNA taking over. She honestly wasn’t sure if the warmth spreading all over her body was happy about the situation or not.
Decidedly, he turned them and had them run back towards the bedroom.
As soon as they were through the door, a rumble of an engine grew louder. Both she and Amohanga turned as a Grummer flew into the blasted ceiling. Sarduy standing up through the sunroof with a long tube over his right shoulder.
Parl heard a deep growl from the center of the male next to her. She peeked over and saw the look of death and vengeance. All the frustrated and angry faces he had previously shown were nothing to this. His jaw was hard, his lips tight and body coiled as like a predator who was about to strike.
Sarduy saw them and threw the tube. “One shot kill would have been too good for you Amohanga.”
“It won’t be too good for you. The sooner you die, the quicker I can send your body parts back to my brother,” Amohanga said, rising to his feet.
Sarduy snorted as if that was a ridiculous notion. “Your brother is no longer in charge.”
“You kill him?” Amohanga asked with no emotional concern?
“I…didn’t no, but your brother is gone,” Sarduy taunted. “Want to hear what his last words were?”
“Alright, I’m done talking,” Amohanga said as he flicked his wrists and the fake cybernetics arms turned into phasers and immediately started firing.
Bullets coated the Grummer. Sarduy ducked into the vehicle and it started to back out. Amohanga flicked his wrist again to a huge looking sledgehammer fist and hit the front driver side, crunching it, and knocking it off the flight path. He hit it again and again, breaking into the hull.
The engine whined as it backed into the wall that wasn’t blasted away.
Sarduy jumped out of passenger side back door into the kitchen. Amohanga left the vehicle and ran after him. As soon as both were gone, Parl scrambled towards the Grummer.
Rounding the front of the vehicle she snuck inside and stopped she saw Cremin lying flat on his back, tied from neck to foot in copper wire. His eyes glazed over, starring straight up. The smell of burned meat lingered over his body. A red machine at his feet blinked from white to green. Immediately the body began to shake, and she knew what was happening to him.
Cursing, she scrambled over the seat and turned off the machine. She didn’t care for Cremin at all, but she still moved back to his neck and felt for a pulse.
At first, she didn’t feel anything. But when she caught a slight bump, she assumed that was it. Then Cremin’s eyes closed and she assumed he was still alive but barely. She didn’t have anything to help him, but the medical units would. Moving back over his body to the front, the door was cracked open and the Minky pad was black along with the navigation screen.
She released the pad from its base and pushed the hardware restart button initiating a restart. When it powered back up, she logged herself in. Tapping the medical unit app she hit find nearest hospital. There was one near by but they didn’t have pod transport. There was no way she could get Cremin there by herself.
The vehicle was not in any condition to fly and she didn’t know what to do. Wait. Amohanga had a medscope. Tucking the Minky pad in her arm she raced out of the Grummer and stopped short when she looked out into the open view of the underground city walls and noticed something that wasn’t there, that should have been.
With that kind of explosion, why weren’t the Federation security responding?
Pulling the Minky pad up she tapped the emergency app and then threw it into the vehicle to keep the location there.
Stepping quickly over the rubble, she followed the sound of destruction through the kitchen past the cages that had somehow been warped and into a deeper part of the apartment with weights and other storage.
In the storage area, she saw big metal buckets that were lined high to the ceiling were coming down like a waterfall. Scrambling to the side she escaped two of the buckets but slammed her side and knocked her into the wall separator. Her shoulder hurt taking the brunt of the hit on both sides. Her neck started to hurt but that wasn’t the biggest problem.
The biggest problem was that now she could see where Sarduy and Amohanga were hitting each other in a bloody cyborg on cyborg fight. Both faces were bloody, both faces raw with hate.
Pushing past the three-foot metal cans she rushed forward, not sure how she was going to ask him where the medscope was in the middle of his fight. Her whole plan was crashing down around her as Amohanga turned as if he knew exactly where she was. The second he looked away, Sarduy thew a wide punch against the temple.
Amohanga’s razor focus in his eyes glazed and she watched as he fell face forward. Fear struck her stomach with ice claws. Screaming his name, she ran towards him, pumping her arms faster.
The back of her neck tingled.
Sarduy saw her, grimaced, and then pulled out a large knife and wielded it high in the air. Without trying too hard she feed her fear of Amohanga dying and the hell that would ensue after his death. Let alone the guilt of being the one that distracted him from fighting and possibly getting him killed.
With a wicked sneer Sarduy glanced towards her, “Watch closely….,” he began, but his hate turned to something else when he looked around her. “What the hell are those?”
Close enough after the bastard paused, she reached to the back of her neck and felt the tingles of several disasters pour into her hand. As quick as she could, she tried to slap them against his face, but he was quick to slice at her arms. The cuts burned, and her plan failed, but Sarduy was already surrounded by the yellow floating lights.
He tried to jump back and slice his knife at them, but it was too late. She didn’t know how many things hit him, but she saw the moment he realized he lost. Sarduy whispered, “No…”
As soon as he hit the ground, she grabbed his knife and thought about lining the tip to his chest, but she lacked the killer need. Moving back to Amohanga she touched his face and then felt for a pulse.
Strong and steady.
“Hey, hey I need you to wake up.”
She tapped his chest, and repeated the call. Holding her hand over his heart she leaned in and yelled loudly. “AMO.”
His cybernetic eye opened unnaturally slow.
“I need your medscope?”
“You’re hurt?” he asked as he stiffly reached over with his right arm and pulled out the device hiding in a secret part of his left cybernetic arm.
“Not me. Cremin,” she said, taking the medscope.
“What?” he asked, sounding disoriented. Parl didn’t like how out of it he was, but he also had a strong heartbeat, his brother did not.
“I’ll explain in a bit.”
He scowled. “Tell me now.”
Tapping his lips she smiled, “Soon.” Then she took off through her disasters and around the cans. She ran as fast as she could, worried that she could already be too late. When she broke past the threshold of the kitchen there were two Federation security not prepared for her to jump out at her.
Both pulled their phasers and one got a shot off, but it missed her entirely. She cursed. They cursed.
Holding up the device, “I have a medscope for the dying man in the Grummer.”
One security dropped his aim, the other one shouted, “Who the hell are you?”
“Let her through if she has a medscope, you idiot.”
Parl didn’t need any more motivation she dropped her arms and ran up the kitchen and out the side to the Grummer. Handing off the device to the person at the vehicle door, she hoped she wasn’t too late.
“Is he already dead?” she asked.
The officer shook his head as if he didn’t know. But he didn’t want to give an answer yet. She saw him holding the device inside, and she hoped it was enough to keep him alive. Although, she could see Amohanga interrogating his brother to see how Sarduy was able to get away with all of that.
“What happened here?” the angry security officer from the kitchen asked.
Looking to the crumbled ceiling and wall she said, “A cyborg named Sarduy came in with…” she looked around for the tube weapon. Up against a flipped over chair, she pointed it out. “He came in with that which I assume caused the damage.”
“Where is he now?” the same security officer asked.
“In the storage room. All the way in the back. But I’d be careful going there, there are a lot of floating yellow disasters in that room.”
The angry male looked at his partner. His partner faced her and asked, “Floating disasters? Do you mean the Allus illumia? The electrical bursts?”
Sounded close enough to what they were, so she nodded.
Both security waited a full second before turning and heading into the kitchen weapons drawn.
“Hey! No, don’t go in there. Amohanga is in there too and he’s pissed,” she said following them but a hand quickly wrapped around her arm before she had got all the way through the kitchen. When she looked to see who it was, she didn’t expect it to be Cremin.
Her heart sunk and she immediately regretted saving him. What if the bastard still thought she was a thief? What if he was in line with Sarduy? What if he told the security some insane lie about her?
Parl stared into the dark emotionless eyes waiting for him to say something. When he didn’t she couldn’t take it any longer. As confident as she could she told her ex boss, “I never stole from you.”
His brows pulled up just like Amo’s did when he was being ornery. She hated seeing the similarities. “Just so you know, I didn’t save you because you deserved it. You didn’t. Especially after you sent me to die.”
Cremin let go of her arm. “That’s fair.”
Narrowing her eyes, she didn’t trust him, especially with how easily he accepted her displeasure with living. Maybe a chip was fried? “If you thought I was stealing, why didn’t you just ask me?”
“Because people are replaceable,” he said dismissively. Then he looked behind her and lifted his chin ever so slightly.
Following his gaze, she saw Amohanga was holding on to the side of the kitchen counter, one arm completely dead at his side and still, the male was glaring daggers at Cremin. “Get comfortable,” he hissed. Cremin obediently turned around and left the kitchen.
To her he said, “Come here.”
She pursed her lips acting as if she wasn’t going to, but that plan failed too. Walking over, she moved between his limp arm and hugged his waist. Not too tight in case he was hurt. She felt his body relax under her arms and a whispered, “You made your choice. By coming to me, you made your choice.”
She leaned back and mock glared, “Don’t ruin the moment with your words.”
His stomach moved as he chuckled. She held him again, resting the side of her face against his chest knowing he was going to get chatty again. Seconds later he said, “You left me stuck on the ground hoping none of those things knocked me out.”
This time when she leaned back she let go of his waist and leaned up against the counter close enough to still be an intimate conversation. “Don’t worry, if your brother is every dying again, I’ll wait and stow the disasters away first.”
His eyes cast down for a moment before he said solemnly, “I was wrong when I said I could kill my brother. After hearing that he was dead from Sarduy, I wanted him alive. When you said you needed the medscope for Cremin, I felt things I haven’t felt in over twenty years.”
“That’s why I saved him. Because of the story you told me earlier.” She didn’t want to go into the details about them being locked in cages by their father. Especially with Federation security around that might overhear.
He lowered his head more and nodded as if he didn’t want to talk about the topic anymore. So she changed the subject, “Do you need your medscope back? That arm is not looking so good.”
His lips pulled back and he half smiled. “Yeah, I need my medscope back, but it won’t fix what’s wrong with this. I’m going to need to talk to my guy in 13-U he’ll fix the break.”
“Break? What broke?” she stood up trying to get a better look at the cybernetic arm.
“It’s dislocated from my shoulder.”
“It’s okay. I’ve had worse,” he said, looking at the kitchen chair like he wanted to sit down in it.
Walking to the chair, she pulled it out.
He shook his head.
“No. The security officers are scanning Sarduy’s memory chip.”
“They can do that?”
“If you upgraded to Haven 6 they can. It’s in the fine print,” Amohanga said with a sly smirk. When she smiled back, knowing he knew something, he added, “So I dislocated the arm, sending the chip’s programing into safety mode and all the memory looks wiped on the scans.”
Amazed she whispered, “Did they already scan you?”
Why was she so damn proud of him? Sneaky sneaky Amohanga.
“They will probably still want to talk to you and ask you questions about why you’re here.”
Parl heard his question in his comment but she wasn’t going to give him what he wanted to hear. She wanted him to feel a little worried that she would tell security that he had pretty much kidnapped her then decided she was his mate.
“Parl,” he said in a warning. But she just smiled because that tone of voice was not a threat.
“I get no respect,” he said with a half smile.
Patting his chest she said, “I do respect you, but I’m not going to talk to you like an employee that’s afraid to tell you what I really think.”
He pulled his body so that it was in a position to keep him steady when he reached out with his good hand and pulled her back against him. “What you really think?” he said, moving closer to her mouth. “What do you think about spending time in my bed for the next week?”
“Hmmm, I don’t know. It might be too drafty considering the major hole in your apartment.”
“I’ll keep you warm.”
Oh would he? “Okay, but If I get cold, there will be consequences.”
He smiled and nipped her bottom lip. Pressing his lips on hers it only lasted a second before someone cleared their throat. With a growl, Amohanga leaned back to see the two security officers. One was holding out a device, the other had a remote on the cyborg strength cuffs as he walked Sarduy…who apparently didn’t die by Amohoanga after she left.
“Need to scan you now,” the rude security officer said.
“Do what you have to do,” Amohanga said not offering to assist in anyway.
And that was only the beginning of a very long night of questions. When the Federation left she was tired, but not too tired to stay up and listen to how Cremin figured out too late that Sarduy was up to something.
After hearing that story she took herself to bed and left the brothers to discuss the details of what was going to happen now.
(Disclaimer: have to keep it PG13 because my page is not private)
Parl woke to a presence around her.
Amohanga’s voice soothed her fear when he said, “Go back to sleep.”
As much as she wanted to go back to sleep, it was not as easy when a cybernetic arm reached over her waist and pulled her back until she was pressed up against him. The heat from his body warmed hers bones, spreading a deluge of happy tingles all over her body.
Considering how little she knew him, and how unhealthy their interactions had been from the start, she was somewhat dismayed at how accepting she was of his touch and his mating claim. She was also amazed at the lies she told security – completely ruining any chance of her getting out of the city as a luri.
Even then, as she lay thinking of all the insanity, she still wanted to stay. She was irritated by how much it didn’t bother her. Because reality was, she was allowing herself to be mated to a killer. And her ex horrible boss was his brother. How insane was that?
Why was she okay with this? Why was she okay with laying next to him feeling so wonderful and safe?
There was no answer, and eventually she stopped waiting for her mind to think of an excuse – and she fell back asleep.
She woke to kisses on her shoulder. At first she was unsure but when he mumbled, “You sleep deeply. That’s good. Means you felt safe.”
Rolling over, she smirked, “I don’t know, it might just be because your bed is amazingly comfortable.”
“It is, but I know that you weren’t pressing your body against the bed, you were doing that to me,” he said brushing his hand up her side, not hiding his intentions.
“I was sleeping, I’m not in control of my body during that time.”
“Okay, then how about now,” he said before he leaned forward and covered her mouth. His hand moved from her hip to the top of her back, keeping her close. Just like before, his kiss was all encompassing and she felt him from her head to her toes.
He didn’t kiss softly or painfully. He kissed like a male who savored what he had. She felt his desire and his meticulous attention to detail as he moved from her mouth and down her neck.
Soon her clothes were gone, and she was feeling things she had not felt in a long time. Sounds came out of her she didn’t even know she could make. Pleasure abounded as their bodies learned each other. It was more than she ever expected from a mate, and she was thankful she didn’t know this was how it could be. She might have stupidly went looking for a mate years and years ago – missing her chance to be with Amohanga.
When they were both spent, he waited ten minutes before picking her up and walking her to the shower. There he washed her and himself and laid her back down. Pressing a kiss to her temple he said, “I didn’t think you could get even cuter, but here you are, making me even more crazy for you.”
“It’s my Allus mating charm,” she mumbled as she snuggled into her pillow, excited to rest after the hours they spent, learning each other carnally.
Parl woke up to a strange male voice. Whoever was talking had a very mild monotone voice. It took a few seconds for her lids to open up so she could see who was in the bedroom with them.
Rolling over, she popped up her head and noticed the Minky screen was on and had moved to face the bed. On screen was a mountain terrain. The view zoomed in to a small cave. Inside was a male stuffing a bed with fur. The narrator explained, “The male Allus will take his time preparing his home. He will have to know where to get food, and how to catch it. Most males will take about a year getting ready to go hunting for a mate.”
The video withdrew from the cave and fast forward four seasons. The male walking out of the cave moved with confidence. He was a little thicker and she could tell the difference immediately. His stance, his extra muscles and how he scanned each area with razor sharp eyes.
Sitting up, she was impressed the boy had changed so much.
“This male took an extra few months to finish his home. Now he is ready to go hunt for his mate,” the narrator said.
“You look a little too interested in the show. Can’t say I like the look on your face right now. Not after what we just did.”
Ignoring that, she snuggled in closer to watch who the male chose for a mate. The video followed the male as he sniffed the air and stalked the mountains, taking care to be swift when entering into another male’s territory. The male had gone two days with no food and only a pouch of water.
On the third day, the male smelled a female and went to investigate. She was on another male’s territory. Thankfully the territory in question already had a family living on it so the new female was not going to get any attention or help from them.
When the female saw him, she screamed, and yellow bursts flooded the area. The narrator explained, “The yellow bursts of light are called illumia and only females have this defense mechanism. They only come out when a female is afraid for her life and uses the illumia to knock out predators. This female is letting the male know she is not interested. But this male is not giving up. He gave her more space but is tracking her through the territory.”
The video followed along as the male kept plenty of distance, but he moved through the mountain and trees like a natural while the female looked confused and lost. Parl wondered why the female would be so, but the narrator answered her question.
“A female Allus will leave home at eighteen. She will travel to the mouth of the mountain range and track the forest until she is kidnapped by a male Allus and presented with his ability to feed and protect her.”
Holding up her hand she got the Minky’s attention and made the gesture for the video to pause. Speaking to the Minky she asked, “What a minute. Did he say she walked into the mountain range waiting to be kidnapped? That is not a thing. No one goes somewhere hoping to be kidnapped.”
Amohanga grunted, “Every race has their thing. You obviously liked when I kidnapped you.”
Cutting her eyes to him, she saw the laughter in his eyes. Still, she couldn’t let that comment go. “That’s not true and you know it.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure? Because it wasn’t even twenty-four hours after I kidnapped you that you were fighting to save my life.”
“That’s not why I did it,” she said, not sure if she was telling the truth or not.
He grunted at her then unpaused the video mumbling, “We’ll see.”
The video showed the female staying up all night, looking for anything that moved. The narrator spoke again. “Female Allus’s also have night vision. She has the advantage of the night to lose her pursuer, but this male has spent a lot of time memorizing his territory and the others around him. He’s quite adept to the terrain, and he has an excellent sense of smell.”
The female in the video made it to dawn before she slowed down and tried to hide between a series of rocks. The male checked for all the exits before going in. She was fast asleep, with a series of illumia hovering above her body. The male left and plucked off a large leave and went back to the female. He rolled up the leave and used it to blow away the illumia one by one as silently as he could. Then he withdrew a leather rope and tied it around her wrists. When he pulled it tight, the female woke up in a panic, flooding the area with illumia and trying to break the rope.
The male backed out of the rocks to avoid being hit. He never tugged or demanded anything. He tied the end of his rope to a nearby tree and then moved to his spot so he could see both exits.
When night fell, the male watched as the female left the rocks by the back. The path she was following would lead straight to the clever male. Right before she was about to pass, he dropped down just in front of her.
She yelled again and ran back, but he swirled a rope, threw it and pulled it back, tightening a hold around her torso. He tied her ankles and moved back towards the tree, avoiding the handful of yellow illumia.
When the illumia stopped, he moved back towards her and a strange sound cracked over the sound system.
“What is that sound?” Amohanga asked, leaning forward.
“He’s soothing her,” she said remembering that her dad did that when she was young and too afraid to go to bed.
The narrator said, “The male Allus’s chest rumbled like a feline’s purr. He is trying to soothe the female.”
The female didn’t fight back or release any illumia when the male picked her up and threw her over his shoulder and made his way back to his cave. The narrator spoke again. “The female Allus has accepted the male as her mate when she stopped fighting. A female Allus that does not accept a mating will continue to fight and run away waiting for a stronger, more capable mate. The female Allus is only attracted to adept hunters. They have a strange ability to know the difference between a strong and dangerous mate and a strong and protective mate. To date there has never been a record of an abusive male mate. Not that there are not dangerous male Allus’s it’s just that they have never mated and never will.”
Snidely Parl said, “They live in the mountains, how would anyone know what really happens in those caves?”
Amohanga chuckled. “You’re just mad because you were just told why you like me.”
She snorted, “That is not why.”
Pulling her onto his lap, he pulled her neck down so that she was a breath away from his mouth. “Then why did you accept me as your mate?”
The look in his eyes said he was genuinely asking. She thought to play coy but she wouldn’t appreciate it if he joked with her so she answered honestly. “I only started to like you after you kissed me.”
“Really,” he seemed shocked.
“You kiss really well,” she said, brushing her lips against his. “I could kiss you every day of my life.”
“That’s enough,” he said before closing the space and pulling her down, deepening the kiss and then rolling her over. She was still tender, but that wasn’t going to stop her from enjoying his body and all the attention he gave her.
It was amazing how gentle his cybernetics hands could be. He touched her in every sensitive spot and made her lose her senses. The screen powered itself off, and another light by the bed turned on. It had a beautiful gold hue, and it added to her growing need for him to be one with her.
Amohanga did nothing in half measure. He took care of every part of her, filled every need and satisfied her down to her soul.
This time when she closed her eyes to rest, she felt his arm wrapped around her waist again and pulled her back to his chest. Within seconds, her own chest began vibrating from the feeling of perfect contentment.
Behind her Amohanga whispered, “Are you trying to calm me?”
“No,” she whispered with her eyes still closed. “It means I’m perfectly at peace.”
His lips brushed the back of her shoulders and pressed a long kiss against her skin. The air was warm and quiet and she fell fast asleep.
Too bad she didn’t stay up for a few more minutes to hear Amohanga confess, “I’ve been perfectly at peace from the second I saw you.”