“What do you mean? Exactly.” I had to ask. My heart was racing, and I couldn’t slow my breathing down. My hands shook, but the synthgar didn’t seem to mind. The tiny creature had shiny blue scales tipped with red peaks on each one. It’s body was nubbly, but smooth and not poky. “Did you say sting?”
“I did. But you don’t have to worry about it happening on accident. The bond will only be cemented if you’re willing.”
“Willing for what?” I asked again. I’d already given him everything. All that I remembered of my past, my life at the demands of the alien doctors and scientists who were apparently working for some damn politicians. Even my body.
What more did I have to give him?
“Lakshou said he could see our auras mingling. That is something that only happens when two compatible beings on my home world are willing to link their lives together in an intimate bond. That you depend on me and I you for our physical wellbeing already is unusual, something that doesn’t usually happen until one partner gifts the other with a synthgar.
“We might already have mingled out spirits, but I believe that our bond can only be deepened by this ritual. His venom will free our spirits to mingle fully, and we will form a permanent bond. As part of our spirits, the synthgar will need to stay with one of us or he would sicken like you did before.” Captain stood close, cupping one hand below mine to still their trembling. He nudged the synthgar under one side, and it flipped, itss short limbs tipped with miniscule claws waving as Captain stroked its paler underbelly.
“Do we do it here?” I looked around the small stone chamber. It was empty, but I could hear the guards outside and more people moving around beyond them. What Captain suggested sounded… intimate.
“No. He’ll be okay for a time without a bond with us, but soon.” Captain inhaled and let his breath out slow. “Do you say yes? Do we take him with us?”
It was more than just committing to taking care of this little creature in my hands. The choice might have been taken away from us before, but now Captain was asking me to make it. He’d apparently already had.
I pulled my hands in closer to my chest. The synthgar had curled into a tight ball in my palm and closed its eyes. It was like holding a small, warm ember in my hand. It tickled as he moved and stretched, his claws pricking the soft skin of my hand. “Yes.”
Captain cupped my neck and leaned down, tenderly brushing our lips together. “Soon,” he promised.
“Behind us,” I muttered. I walked a step to the right and behind Captain, my chest brushing his back.
Captain took a few breaths, gauging the guards’ responses. “Not sure.”
“Keep moving. It’s Mackinack.” Captain didn’t hesitate. He stopped at one more shop and haggled with the dealer and the little aliens who scampered around about knee high. “What’s happening with the tail?” he asked when I turned.
“You know it has an actual tail?”
I straightened. “It broke off. A new species began following us, but it’s a flier. It’s also freaking small. No bigger than a few handspans, but it’s got something red on its head.”
Captain stopped, his eyebrows raised. “Red? Like a helmet, a covering?” He mimed the same shape.
“Stop, it’ll see,” I hissed.
“It’s okay. They’re not hostile.”
I crossed my arms. “If they’re friendlies, why aren’t they making contact? Why are they following us?”
“Not hostile and friendly….” Captain waved a hand. “Try intermediaries. Messengers.” He glanced over my shoulder. “We just have to be available. Freska’s message will delivered.”
“Freska? Why would she send us a message this way?”
“Have we had any communication with the ship?”
“Well, no.” I frowned. “But you sold it.”
“No, it’s because there’s no way to get a signal down here to the surface and then up to space. If Freska is here we’ll rendezvous with her.”
“Won’t we just fly the shuttle up to her ship?”
“Gotta find it first. She’ll have changed it. And if she’s under pursuit, we might have to bug out in a hurry. These guys will go facilitate the process, once we know when and where.”
Captain’s predictions came true. The man knew his crew and knew his plans, even if he didn’t know his family. Freska’s message contained a coded location. We headed back to the shuttle which was surrounded by crates.
We loaded in a flurry, and the claustrophobia of the tiny shuttle was made worse by everything inside taking up all the available floor space, and even some of the not available space. Good thing I didn’t mind being close to Captain. I’d worried the synthgar might get crushed, but it curled up around my ear, tangling its claws in my hair and anchoring in place. I didn’t even feel it after a few minutes.
“I didn’t even need my weapons,” I said.
“This time.” Captain patted the sheath on my wrist. “I feel better that you have them though. Freska’s message said she’s still being pursued. Our,” he paused, “guests are either more important than I thought or have some important information on someone who really doesn’t want to be revealed as part of this plot.”
“Isn’t that everyone?”
Captain stopped, his hands on the controls. “Good point.”
So now we had what seemed like confirmation that there bigger bad guys out there. “Hopefully Deke has gotten some answers.”
“If he hasn’t, I’m sure Freska’s crew has come up with some creative methods; her staff always have a certain… flair.”
Deke met the shuttle. “We have a problem,” he said grimly.
Captain pulled up short. “What?”
“There’s more traitors on board, and you won’t happy when you hear who they are.”
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