Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 72

Our link pulled at me, and I followed it. These Elites didn’t have their cells set up like the scientists and doctors had. No constant surveillance, just guards.

Guards who didn’t see me coming before I took them out. Deke would be proud. The last one had managed to draw a weapon on me, so I’d been forced to use a knife on him. If he was valuable, they could regrow the tendons.

If not… it was him or me. And nothing was going to keep me from Captain.

Hopefully Anyas was doing his job because I needed Danie and Freska in place soon. He was going to keep the others close, making sure he didn’t lose the biggest threat he had over the other Elites. My stomach churned as I crept along, the weapon I’d stolen at the ready. He’d been a superb actor—at times too good—and it was hard to know whether or not we could trust him.

Then again, being welcomed back into the fold of the ones who betrayed him didn’t seem like a good idea to me. Bastards exiled him once, no telling how quick they’d do it again once he’d given up his bargaining chips. And Anyas was many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

I’d kept my eyes down on the trip to the cells, but I’d learned a long time ago to assess my surroundings and learn the smallest details without being noticed. As a spy or assassin, covert had been drilled into me.

So I knew I was running out of corridors before I’d return to the main building. I needed to find them, but I couldn’t go rushing out where I’d quickly be surrounded. The other Elites knew about me and Danie’s skills. They probably had information on the rest of the crew, but Freska’s abilities were a secret that only those truly loyal to Captain had been privy to.

The others knew she was a tech mastermind.

They didn’t know she could literally bond with inorganic technology and become a part of it, and let it become a part of her. Claimed as spoils of his capture, Anyas had brought us in his ship, but had ours had “limped along at its pathetic pace”.

Which meant it should be overhead… Right. About. Now. I ducked into an alcove when the lights flickered, crouching down and leaning against the wall to blend into the shapes of the decorations as best I could.

Yep. Right on time. Relief sent a fine tremor through my hands. Anyas hadn’t betrayed us. He’d gotten Freska to a place where she could connect with the ship’s A.I. And that A.I. was now sharing with the planetary A.I.s just what type of joy she could bring them.

A glimpse of humanity. Love. Appreciation. Need.

I’d almost had to look away from Freska when she spoke of it because what she felt for metal and circuits felt more intimate than I was comfortable with. My face had been on fire. Danie had watched her with rapt eyes, his chest rising and falling and rapidly.

And then I had looked away.

But whatever the A.I.s felt from her, they returned it tenfold, giving her free reign through their systems. Booted feet pounded by, and I froze, barely daring to breathe. They’d never discover her, but I was still vulnerable.

The lights flickered again, and then a voice whispered from a screen in the wall. A speaker?


“Yes,” I whispered.

“Good, it’s Freska. The sensors picked you up. You’re down five levels and across the compound from us.”

Who else was it going to be? I suppressed a snort. “Of course I am. You got the lights? Doors?”

“Yes. I’m tracking you, so I’ll try to divert others away. Captain Querry says to be careful. Make your way here quick, Anyas says. Things—” She broke off, and I tensed. Someone was coming, and they weren’t stomping like a guard. This was different.

Soft footsteps crept quietly down the hall closer, and I made a snap decision. Jumping out, I locked onto the person and flipped them to the ground. I covered their mouth with one hand, using my body to hold their arms to their sides and my weight to keep them pinned. With the other, I pinched the blood flow at the neck until they went limp.

Blinking rapidly, I stared, crinkling my forehead. It was a woman, a young one, barely into adulthood. Maybe a year or two older than me. An Elite. What the hell was she doing down here? I was glad I didn’t use the stunner on her; knocking her unconscious was kinder.

But she’d wake up faster.

I could leave her or take her. Making a snap decision, I scooped up her body and tucked her willowy body over my shoulder. I awkwardly leaned into the alcove. “Freska? Get the lights and doors. Now.”

The lights went out.

Hustling, I followed the directions Anyas had been able to provide us, always tracking toward the bond that I had with Captain. It was awkward with the Elite in my arms, she was a tall girl, but there was something strange going on here. My brain raced as my body moved just as quickly.

Why was an Elite female heading into the cells?

Why was an Elite female unescorted at all?

Was she the reason for the troop of guards that had blasted past or had they discovered the missing guard I put in a cell? Were we discovered another way?

Freska would have some answers about the guards movements, and hopefully she or Anyas would have some information about the girl too.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 71

I’d been separated from everyone. The Elites didn’t look at me, didn’t talk to me. Shivers wracked me as I was hauled away, my hands bound behind my back with strong shackles. I wanted to vomit up that last meal we’d had, or cry, or drop to my knees and not move.

But none of that would help me.

None of that would help the others.

Years of experience suppressing my emotions helped me stay on my feet and kept me from panicking. I squeezed my hands together behind my back. A wand was shoved between my hands, zapping my fingers.

I cursed, my hands now completely numb while painful shocks burned up the nerves in my arms. The synthgar shivered against my neck. I held my breath, hoping it would stay still. They’d take it and kill it. I was back in the same hell as before, even if it was on a planet instead of a sterile space station.

They were already starting to isolate me from sensory input. Not talking to me, not letting me even hold my own hands. It was sickening.

Worse, I could feel some of that numbness beckoning me. It’d be easier, safer, than the fear and anger.

The scent of the flowers was gone, the warm breeze tempered to a cool stillness, and turn and after turn led to windowless corridors. I nearly walked into the back of the guard in front of me, and only barely stopped before his wand slammed into my stomach. I sucked in a sharp breath, arching away from the glowing tip.

A door opened on my right, and I went inside. Pick my battles, fight when it made sense. Play docile while you have to. I kept my back to guards. My hands and wrists were so numb I didn’t feel the cuffs disengage, but I had to bite back a cry when my arms fell useless to my sides.

Above all, never, ever, let them see you cry.

I blinked back the tears, swallowing past the thick lump in my throat. The bed was different and boasted a thin mattress and a pillow. A pillow; I hadn’t had one of those before. The space was rectangular instead of a square box that matched sides perfectly four strides one direction and four the other.  

My mind latched onto the small details even as I was left alone. I paced the cell. I sat on the bed. I ignored the pillow in case they came and took it from me.

Mealtimes came and went without any trays. Darkness had to have fallen outside, right? Even if we’d arrived early in their morning, I’d been locked in this cell for hours. I couldn’t touch anything, not even myself.

Sitting still and touching nothing was more exhausting than I remembered. This wasn’t like my cell from before, though. I could hear outside my cell, which helped the waiting.

Night fell and the lights dimmed. I crawled onto my bunk facing the door. The sounds of activity faded and soon just the tread of booted feet and the thump and squeak of what must be the guards was left. Silently, I slipped out of bed and crept to the door.

I cursed the numbness in my fingers. It was going to hamper my escape, but I was done in this cell. Time to find Anyas. I traced my fingers to the left of the cell door. Stiffening them as best I could, I drilled them into the metal, punching holes into the wall.

Holding my breath, I waited for an alarm. Nothing. Either no one was watching me, or they hadn’t noticed what I was doing yet. Security wasn’t what I had lived under before, which is something I’d been hoping for.

I curled my fingers and the metal squealed, bending and breaking. Success! The hole exposed the electronics for the lock. Now came the part I wasn’t sure of. Freska had given me a tiny chip to conceal in my clothes. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to lose the feeling in my hands when I tried to use it. That made it infinitely harder to carefully place the tiny green plastic shard that was about to free me.

Biting my lip, I cursed under my breath, but I finally manipulated it into place. Click. The door opened a fraction. A wicked grin crossed my face. Something was going my way; it was about damn time. I pried open the door, peeking out. The footsteps were faint, on the far edge of the patrol pattern.

Slinking out, I started to follow the sounds. First, neutralize the guards. Second, find the others. Third, get Anyas. Fourth, take over this compound. Fifth, let Freska and Danie do their thing. Sixth, take these fuckers down.

Probably not that simple, but my body itched to take care of the first order of business and the second. I needed Captain. He needed me. We were better together. I made my way to a corner, then flattened along the wall. My senses would help me, my strength an asset.

Footsteps. Boots. The swish of fabric. The second the profile of the guard came into view, I was on him. I’d held back before, acting like their constructed bodies were too strong for me. This time I held back nothing. Stiffening my hand into a flat blade, I slammed the edge into his neck. There went his ability to shout out.

Jumping, I clapped my hands over his ears. No more ability to hear the others. He choked on his cry when I kicked his kneecap and blew it out backward. He dropped to one knee, and then I used my elbow to drive his head sideways, slamming into his jaw and knocking him unconscious.

One guard down. I wasn’t even breathing hard. These fuckers were about to pay for a lifetime of abuse, and I was just the guy to dish it out.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 70

“A cell is not a home!” I snapped. It was a hell. My heart was pounding, and my hands shook. I couldn’t walk, wouldn’t step forward when Anyas’ guard tried to push me to follow him out of the house.

“I’m quite aware,” Anyas said. He cast a sharp glance over his shoulder. “What are you doing? Just pick him up.”

The guard picked me up and tossed me over his shoulder. He was something… not human. Too big, too strong. Nothing I did had any effect on him at all. He just kept walking.

Danie walked behind us.

“Help me,” I hissed.

“That would be futile,” he said. “These beings are stronger than you and me put together. They have the rest of the crew. We know no one here, and we have nowhere to go and no place to hide. The planet is a frozen wasteland.”

“So you’ll just march along?” I asked, outraged.

“Yes.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Better than being carried. Or tranquilized.”

“Oh, I won’t tranquilize you,” Anyas said. “I wouldn’t want to damage the delicate balance of your systems.” His face hardened. “But I will have you neutralized if you do not stop fussing. It is tiresome.”

I wanted Captain desperately. My stomach heaved and I gagged. “I’m going to be sick.”

They must have knocked me out too, because the next thing I knew, I was in a cell. Alone. Guess getting sick all down the back of one of his guards was too much for Anyas. The difference with this cell from the one I was in before was the transparent front. A shimmer covered it, and I knew better than to try and touch it. I desperately wanted to, though.

Across the small, round room from me were several cells holding the others. I could see Captain on his back, one arm hanging off the thinly-padded shelf attached to the wall. My feet slid across the plastic as I sat up on mine.

Craning my head, I tried to see and count the people. I couldn’t hear anyone, even though it looked like Deke was up and pacing and shaking his fists. Soundproof.

That wasn’t surprising.

What was surprising was the utter lack of any feedback from the ship moving at all. Were we traveling? Still in port? I had no idea. Not knowing how long I’d been out was distressing.

Tiny taps behind my ear alerted me to the fact my nerves had disturbed the synthgar. It was on the move, and I held up a hand, letting it curl into my palm. As I stroked his small, smooth belly I calmed. I wasn’t alone, even if I felt like I was. This wasn’t like before.

We had a plan. Even if things hadn’t been exactly like we thought they’d go, this wasn’t a complete shift in the plan of how to get to Anyas’ home planet. Flexible.

Calm. Breathe. I could hear Captain’s voice in my head. I smiled slightly, ignoring how it wobbled on my face. It was a smile damn it. When I looked up, Captain was still passed out on his bunk. I felt a pang; I’d felt sure he’d have woken up and would be smiling at me.

Maybe he was smiling at me on the inside. Yeah, I’d go with that.

Anyas had informed us our onboard thrusters were terribly inefficient, and the trip would only take a short time. He hadn’t done so before because he hadn’t had the whim to visit his home planet. I snorted. “Whim. Right.”

A short trip or night, it felt like eternity. I watched intently but Captain remained out. When they came for me, he was still there, and I couldn’t see him, couldn’t touch him, couldn’t even mouth I Love You to him as they hauled me away.

Bravery was overrated. I fought them to get to him, hitting, biting, and kicking. Damn alien statue guys. When we walked off the ship—which had been traveling across space, even though it felt like it was sitting still in port—the air was as hot as Anyas’ house had been. Hotter, in fact. It was like being slapped with a wet cloth.

Hot, steamy, and even the spaceport was surrounded by green and big, spiky plants in a variety of speckled leaves with brilliant bursts of colors were taller than he was. Tall buildings pierced the skyline everywhere, and the people.

So many Elites, in all the colors of the rainbow, light to dark and back again. They moved with purpose or slow indolence, their clothes gauzy and barely covering their limbs.

“Man-eaters,” Danie                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             said. He eyed them curiously.

“You aren’t a man.” The newcomer was in robes, his hands tucked away. “So you are probably safe.” His voice had no inflection I could hear, yet somehow he managed to emphasize probably in such a way to cast down on Danie’s safety. He raised an eyebrow when he gazed at me.

“Interesting, ever since the humans did their little raid, we thought we’d lost an asset. Now look at how you come waltzing back in our arms on your own.”

“He isn’t on his own,” Anyas snapped. “He has me, and his friends. I want an audience with the one in charge. In exchange, you can have him.” He waved a hand lazily in my direction, and I bit back a curse. We hadn’t talked about that. “When I get my life back, you can have the others.”

Anyas stepped into a new vehicle, this one much nicer than the one he’d had. He sighed and leaned his head back. “Ahh, this is what I was missing. Worth every second.” He glanced up. “I do what I must,” he said. “One day, you will understand.”

“No. No I won’t,” I hissed.  

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 69

Anyas clapped his hands. A servant approached and handed him a cup. Oddly, I saw him also palm a device that detached from the base, slipping it under the table. It was tiny, the many sides each having a different button. He pressed his finger to the top, and it emitted a hum. I twitched and winced.

“My apologies. Just ensuring we are secure now.” Anyas went from reclining in his chair to sitting upright. “Please remain seated, but you may move if you have need to shift or get comfortable. Now we can really discuss your odds.” The lazy tone of his voice was gone, and replacing it was the deeper, sharper voice I remembered. The intense stare as he locked gazes with Captain took me back to that day when we met.

This was the Elite I’d been too awed by to kill.

If I’d even been able to manage it. The way he’d moved his body….

“The scanners watching us will see a conversation where I draw you out and pretend to listen to your scheme. I extrapolated your plans from the data I swept from your ship and communications. I just had to wait until I had enough video and voice data in my holo generator system to mask our true conversation.”

“Our… what?” Deke growled.

“He is under surveillance, and our coming here is already known.” Danie voiced the information flatly. “And he’s now emitting some sort of signal that is hiding what we are truly saying and doing.”

Deke stiffened and pressed both hands against the table, but Captain locked a hand on his shoulder, holding him in his chair. “As long as we don’t move about too much and disrupt the holograms.”

Anyas inclined his head. “Correct. I knew you would quickly pick up on what was happening. Your approach here was discovered by more than just my monitors, and I’m afraid I could not hide your ship’s presence. The best I could do was to bring you to my home by pretending a willingness to listen to your plan and then activate my masking program.”

“Pretending? So you won’t help us?” I asked. Our odds just went from bad to fucking impossible. The Elites knew we were here. They knew we had Danie. My stomach churned, and I nearly threw up.

They’d take us out as soon as we tried to reach our ship and leave the system. Sooner, if we didn’t warn the ship; they might have already dispatched one of their own against us.

“He does plan to help us, which is why he is masking this conversation. That would be the only logical reason to do so,” Danie said.

“Are you?” I asked.

“Let me see…” Anyas raised one sculpted brow. “Stay here on this frozen ball of nothing where I was banished for not being willing to butcher a planet of beings for a few generation’s worth of genesis stones or get some revenge and have a chance of taking back my ancestral home from those thrice bedamned bastards?” He snorted and shook his head, his black hair whipping from side to side. “Oh no, you’re not leaving here without me.”

There was a collective release of tension in the room. Still, what he’d revealed troubled me. “But how will we escape without being caught? We were relying on the element of surprise.”

“Oh, we can still have that. The plan they hear will be very different from the one we actually shall accomplish. And they may be monitoring me, but I have my spies still among them. That shall come in very handy.” Anyas rubbed his hands together, smirking at Danie. “I believe I can increase those odds you touted.”

“Are you ready?” Anyas asked. “I don’t want to risk continuing the recording, but you must be prepared to play your parts. No slips, no deviations.”

Captain rubbed my leg under the table. I was tense, and he could feel it. He sent a wave of calm through the bond to me, and I felt the synthgar shift against my neck. I knew he wasn’t any happier than I was, and I needed him. But there was no way for him to give us what we both needed.

Not with the plan we were about to enact.

I reached down for his hand, lacing my fingers through his for a final squeeze. I leaned my head against his. “I love you,” I said one more time. Just in case.

He squeezed the back of my neck. “I love you too,” Captain said.

When he let go, I straightened, avoiding the other’s gazes. Danie still stared, and Anyas watched us with a curious expression. The guards around the room stared at us equally. I wanted to avoid the pity in Deke’s eyes the most.

He knew where I’d been. He’d found me in that tiny cell. Back then I was afraid of touching myself, much less anyone else. My existence was pure torture, not worth living but I’d never been granted the oblivion of death.

And I’d just agreed to go back into it.

Captain sucked in a breath. “Ready.”

Tapping the small device, the squeal assaulted my ears again. Before I could react, Anyas was back in his indolent pose.

“I’m shocked you think I would even consider your proposals seriously.” He grinned maliciously. “Why ever should I, when I can just capture you and use you as currency to regain my lost favor? Guards!” He waved his hand indolently. “Take them.”

We were grabbed and separated, fighting doing no good as Deke’s weapon had been rendered useless and the guards Anyas had instantly tranquilized Captain, Deke, and Freska as well as the others. Danie and I were the only ones left.
“Time to go home,” Anyas said. His smirk was evil. He was too good of an actor… but was he acting now or earlier? 

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