“Interesting. So he is more than just a member of your crew?” Anyas eyed the lack of space between us.
“You already knew that.” Captain’s voice was flat. “Don’t act as if you know nothing about us. I am sure you have been recovering data since the moment our ship came in range.”
“If you believe I have such resources, and hate the Elites so much, why risk coming here? Why put such tempting morsels within my reach?”
I frowned. “I’m not a morsel.” I shivered, disliking the thought and feelings of being consumed, used. There was something strange about Anyas, something different from before. But I couldn’t figure out what it was exactly.
The vehicle slowed, then came to a stop. Anyas smoothly rose and glided toward the door. “Come, come. Let us go inside.”
Deke and Captain exchanged a look. Deke led the way, Danie followed him, and Captain placed me in front of him so that we were sandwiched in the middle. Our guards took up flanking positions while Anyas’s men took up posts that looked like they were well-practiced.
He'd been right. The second I stepped out of the vehicle, I started to shiver violently. The word cold didn’t even begin to describe how icy it had become during the short trip. It felt like I was wearing nothing at all, and the wind blasted ceaselessly, throwing fine grit through the air to abrade any exposed skin. My suit covered most of me, but the tiny grains were miniscule projectiles.
“Holy mother—” I raised my arms and covered my face, trying to project my lips and nose. Ice had literally formed on my tongue as soon as I opened my mouth to speak. Danie wasn’t much better off than I was, though.
Captain grabbed my arm and dragged me against the cage of his body. He protected me from the worst of the wind as we rushed after Anyas. How were his guards just standing out in that crap? It was breath-stealing pain, and I gasped in short breaths of the searing air.
No one argued with Anyas's thoughts that we would freeze anymore. I hated to admit he was right… but he’d been right. I’d have died from being outside in this. I still might if we didn’t get inside quickly. My feet were fast becoming blocks of uncoordinated meat at the end of my legs.
In all my years at the hands of the scientists, I’d never failed. Except for that once. I’d learned not to disobey after that. So this was the one person, the one shot, we had.
My one second chance as it were. I stumbled against Captain as I stopped pushing against the strong wind that was no longer there.
Anyas clapped his hands when we entered. As freezing as it had been outside, it was warm inside. Tropical even. The dryness was replaced by soft mists hovering around the ceiling, and there were plants everywhere. Attendants swarmed around us, and we were offered warmed robes and drinks.
It still took forever to thaw out. I’d thought space was cold. It almost made me think back to the neutral temperatures of my cell fondly—almost.
“Come, come. Sit down, young ones. Eat, drink. Warm yourselves.” Anyas led us into another room with a table covered in foods with odd little chairs that were only a foot off the floor, more of a stool than a chair since they just had a single arched back support made out of a spindly rod carved with vines.
Deke leaned in to Captain. “What is all this? Why is he so friendly?”
“Do you like the table?” Anyas turned. “I found it on Valneros V. Interesting race of beings with a puffy sort of growth on their backs. All their furniture has to have a big gap. It is still oddly comfortable. Sit, sit.”
“We are not here to be pampered or eat and drink,” Deke growled. We all sat anyway.
“No, you are here to threaten me if I do not help you, are you not?” Anyas narrowed his eyes. “You are not hard to figure out.”
“We aren’t here to threaten you,” I said.
Anyas smiled at me. “No, I believe that of you. Of him,” he inclined his head toward Deke, “I do not. He tried to sneak a weapon in, after all. My men deactivated it.”
“Deke!” Captain growled. “We will discuss this later.” Captain turned to Anyas. “I apologize for my crew, and for any misunderstanding that might have arisen. We have come here to ask for your help. Yes, we believe it would in your best interest to help us as well, but we did not plan to threaten you to achieve it.”
“You risk much to come here assuming that I am still wanted dead by those who had command over your….” He blinked. “Crewman?”
“My name is Kohen,” I said.
“Kohen and I met a few years prior. What makes you think I would be amenable to your request and am not in league with those aligned against you?”
I leaned forward. “You are still here. They are not.” I waved my hand around the house. “This, this is what your home should be. “Brightly lit, lush vegetation, moisture in the air from near constant rains bathing the planet. Not a frozen wasteland.
“Odds indicated, if you were on this planet, you would still be an outcast and our proposal might be considered at a greater than fifty percent success rate.” Danie spoke up for the first time. “With your help, our odds at successfully defeating the Elites directing the Brox Corporation and those who have infiltrated Central Command raises to nearly twenty percent.”
Captain dropped his head in his hands. “Freska…!”
“Danie, hush. That’s not helpful.”
“Are you sure? Knowing the odds is usually—”
“Danie!” Captain snapped.
“Delightful, utterly delightful.”
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