I’m back with Rez and Kin this weekend!
The second half of this chapter had to get outta of hands. I was tweaking way too much for a first draft. (Eek!) But I do really love how it ends. 🙂
There Be Mature Content Here
Please be advised that the following is intended for mature readers only.
(So, there isn’t any explosive mature content in this installment, but I thought it best to keep this noitce posted. You know, because there could be mature explosions at any time, as the explosive mood takes hold… and stuff.)
Kin stormed into his sibling’s private chambers and darted his gaze over the space. The only occupants were Emys and Ryorin, who were both seated, side-by-side at a desk, with a tablet held between them.
“Sibling Mine.” Emys’s greeting carried inquiry as well as warning.
He did barge in unannounced, didn’t he?
Completely skipping over formal greetings to his commander and her visiting suitor, he jabbed his finger at Emys. “Where is Rez? I left her in your care. Where is she?”
His sibling never broke his heated glare as she passed the tablet to Ryorin. Good. He had her full attention. Hopefully her strident dedication to decorum would mean that she would be forthcoming with her answers.
Emys rose to her feet. “She is with Pyxis.”
Kin blinked, giving Emys’s incredulous response a generous second to reveal its logical rationale. Surely, there must a be an ordinary explanation why someone as important and precious as Rez would be exposed to his asinine sibling…
No acceptable reason came forth. Not a damn one.
“Why the hell is she with him?” His bellow ricocheted throughout the chamber.
Kin had spent the past several minutes—a nerve-shredding full four of them—scouring the entire Bale for Rez. He’d even returned to the sea side cave. No trace of her.
Now Emys was practically pummeling the remaining tatters of his restraint by answering ‘She is with Pyxis?’.
He was calling bullshit.
Emys walked around her desk with unhurried steps. He knew her mind well. Well, not fully in regards to positioning Pyxis as Rez’s companion, but he understood her unflappable demeanor. His snapped temper wasn’t a threat to her—an insult, most definitely—but it would never rile her.
“He requested the privilege to serve as her companion,” Emys said calmly and then cut him off when he scoffed. “You served as escort to the Bale. He’s within his rights, Kinixys.”
Ryorin, who’d stayed seated behind the desk, cocked a brow ridge at Kin. “Your duty with regard to Emys’s chosen is done, Sub-Commander.“
Kin curled his hands into fists and inhaled sharply, fueling both his lungs and muscles with air. “She is my mate.”
Again, his voice boomed in the chamber.
Emys tilted her head, as if observing him from a new angle. It was a small movement, and though her outward expression remained unchanged, Kin knew her well.
He’d just rattled her reserve.
Emys ran an assessing gaze over him. “Has she claimed you in return?”
“Emys?” Ryorin stood, the tablet clattering to the desk, and flicked his confused gaze from Kin to his sibling.
Kin’s impulses wanted to order Ryorin to sit down and shut up. His instincts argued that it would better to handle both demands personally—to ensure that the other male complied.
Kin saw no reason why he shouldn’t do both and for once simultaneously satisfy his impulses and instincts.
Ryorin’s brow ridges lowered as his astonishment gave way to blustering. “Emys? I thought—“
His sibling raised her hand, and Ryorin snapped his mouth shut.
Emys turned her keen gaze back to Kin. “Has she claimed you, Sibling Mine?”
Emys’s question, so simply stated, held immense significance because it distinguished her from their mother. The High Umara hadn’t asked if Rez accepted the claim. Hell, he would wager that his mother hadn’t even consider Rez’s refusal a possibility.
Kin blew a hot, fuming exhale that flared his nostrils. “I’ve yet to present my suit.”
Emys opened her mouth—probably to interject with some sound logic intended to redirect him—so he jabbed a finger at her as he rushed to add, “Only because I can’t find her. But I will.”
Again Emys went to speak, and he cut her off. “I will hunt her down, declare my suit, and claim my mate.”
There. Fucking simple steps that he wanted to fucking execute. Immediately.
“That…” Ryorin said, sounding confused, intrigued, and outraged all at once, “is not how it’s done.”
Kin snarled at his sibling’s suitor. The male, despite his wealth and status, was worthless. Ryorin continued to stand behind a desk, catering to Emys with the utmost courtesy, rather than burning with outrage over Kin’s deplorable behavior toward his mate-to-be.
“And if you were an Akupara consumed by the fervor of courtship?” Emys kept her eyes on Kin, but he knew she was questioning Ryorin.
Too bad she was asking that conceited ass, because Kin knew the answer with each beat of his heart and each billow of his lungs.
Yes, this was how it was fucking done when thoughts of your mate consumed you.
The Akupara had strived for generations to stamp out this fiery instinct from both their females and males. The intense focus on one’s mate made for strong familial bonds, but it also could have disastrous consequences. When instincts drove a mating, everything else fell to the wayside. The Bale did not come first.
Apparently Ryorin, who gaped in shock and dismay at Emys, believed the old ways to be crass and detrimental.
Ryorin pressed his thighs against the edge of the desk and leaned toward his sibling who stood on the other side. “Emys, what we—“
“Tablet.” Emys held her hand out.
Ryorin reared back as if her command had been delivered with a solid slap to the face. By Aku, Kin wished that his sibling would trounce that pathetic male before tossing him out.
Ryorin leaned forward again, planting his fists on the desk. “This crosses lines—“
Emys rounded on him. “Crossing the line is how you win.” She gazed up at her mate-to-be as she lifted the tablet. “Unless you drop out of the race.”
Ryorin straightened, pulling back. “I’m not dropping out.”
Emys turned around, giving Ryorin her back as her fingers swiped over the tablet’s surface. “I will find our sibling for you, Sibling Mine.”
Kin nodded and exhaled. However, any easing of his tension halted when he spared a glance at Ryorin.
The male’s attention was focused on Emys. His mouth a tight line. His brow ridges dipped in a deep frown. Frustration—not resentment or passion—radiated from him. To Kin, Ryorin looked like a male trying to contain his impatience.
Kin wanted to tear the other male’s limbs off.
Though, Emys was more than capable of breaking Ryorin down and rebuilding him into something more useful, like a foot stool. So, if she believed Kin was overstepping with his concern…
Well, then he could see his sibling having a matching set of foot stools.
Emys sucked in a breath, then hissed lowly.
By Aku, Emys swore. She never broke her composure.
An unpleasantly chilly throb—remarkably similar to unavoidable dread—moved through Kin. “Where is Pyxis?”
That question scratched from his throat as his mind shot off, racing through increasingly alarming scenarios involving his idiotic sibling and his soon-to-be impulsive mate.
Emys stared at the tablet, shaking her head. “The human settlement. But why would he take her…”
Now Kin swore.
Pyxis hadn’t take Rez anywhere. In fact, it was the other way around. He was sure of it because outmaneuvering Pyxis was like outwitting a turnip.
Simply put, Rez had fled.
“By Aku,” Ryorin breathed as the tall bastard gaped at the tablet over Emys’s shoulder. “Is that a pulse cannon?”
Once Emys confirmed that Pyxis’s tracker placed him in Two-Four-Kay, she must have used the tablet to access the surveillance feed of Kin’s microdrones. Although she didn’t turn the tablet for Kin to view, he could well imagine it what it displayed. After all, he knew all his siblings well.
Ryorin, however, did not share in that privilege. “Is Pyxis the Restrained currently engaged in battle?”
Neither he nor his sibling replied. Instead, they moved in unison—both racing toward the Bale’s armory at full speed.
His mounting fear and frustration growled out of him. “Should’ve tied her down.”
Yes. He would do exactly that, once he found her.
As soon as he and Emys restrained Pyxis.
Rez ran full tilt away from the cannon fire. With Joia on her heels, she skirted the settlement’s main paths and sheltered behind the water filtration tanks. Her adrenalin buzzed through her limbs—assaulting her focus by tingling her nerves. Doing her best to shake off the distraction, she glanced around the tank toward the municipal center’s public square.
Ages ago, Rogers, Sr. had supposedly reserved the square for a statue. You know, something worthy of his status as the settlement’s founder. By the time Rez and her friends had arrived on Warren’s, the square had long been a barren, wasted space. Rogers, Sr. had never gotten his statue and refused to let anything else be constructed there.
Well, the Kletka obviously found a use for the centralized location. It was the perfect place to plop down their pulse cannon—smack in the middle of Two-Four-Kay.
“How’s it looking out there?” Joia sounded casual—as if every day she and Rez dashed about, dodging cannon fire—but Rez heard the pain straining her voice.
Rez did her best to match Jo’s tone as she reported on Pyx’s progress. “Like he’s playing chicken with a bull.”
“Ah, as one does against a pulse cannon.”
“He’s definitely ‘does-ing’ the hell outta that cannon.”
Joia winced as she snickered. “Fucking lunatic, Rez.”
That summed it up perfectly. The eager Akupara, who moments ago was all bubbly with earnest enthusiasm, was now taking direct-fire from the pulse cannon in the square. Blast after blast was slamming into Pyx’s armored chest, yet his strides toward the cannon remained undeterred. No staggering or ducking.
Rez stifled her sympathetic flinches. Tossing pity about would waste time. She couldn’t shelter Pyx from the blasts nor could she protect Jo’s sensitive hearing from the resulting booms. Engaging the cannon was their best option to distract the Kletka.
Besides, asking Jo how she was holding up would just get herself punched. And Pyx, well…
As Joia had said, Pyx was a fucking lunatic.
Rez took one last look at Pyx who was slowly moving toward the cannon. His restraint on his speed honestly surprised her. She would swear that she’d heard him chuckling gleefully before he’d sprinted toward the settlement. She sorta expected him to dash into the settlement at full speed. However, before he’d gotten within sight of the Kletka, he jolted to a stop and began his nail-biting, sluggish trudge toward the square. Once the Kletka had spotted him, the cannon had been firing continuously.
Astonishment and a small crush of affection had Rez shaking her head. What the hell would Pyx do once he reached the cannon? Pet it? Hug it?
If anything should happen to Pyx, how could she explain it to—
“Rez,” Joia gritted out. “We got a clear path to the clinic or what?”
Right. The whole reason Pyx was storming a cannon in slow-motion: so that Rez and Joia could reach Luna at the clinic.
“We’re good,” Rez said as she bit back a frustrated snarl. The endless ‘what if’ scenarios about Luna—and now Pyx, too—needed to take a damn knee. She had shit to do.
In the rushed seconds after the Pyx-triggered explosion, Rez and Jo had done a rapid fire rundown of the situation. The Kletka had made zero demands, crammed everyone into the largest modulars—the mess and the clinic—and isolated Rogers, Jr. along with his inner circle of goons.
All of that was good information to have, but Rez only processed what she needed: snatch Luna from the clinic, then she and her girls were gonna slip back into Briarwood.
From there? Well, her stocked boltholes that were scattered throughout the forest could sustain them for a bit. And Joia could use that time to rattle her smartastic brains and plan their next steps—because that was what Joia did best—while Rez kept the Briarwood predators at bay.
And Luna would get to be Luna. God, she was such a rare soul.
So everything, like fucking everything, had better work out wonderfully shit free. Or Cosmic Payback was gonna find out what debt collection really felt like, coughing up payment in daily installments as Rez’s personal punching bag.
She led Joia away from Pyx’s one-man crawling chase, snaking through the side paths of Two-Four-Kay. Together, she and Joia hunkered down, sheltering behind a modular adjacent to the clinic.
Joia zipped a glance around the corner. “Jackhole and Asswipe held their posts.”
Rez arched a brow. “You named the guards?”
“Gave me something to do.”
“All twenty-some of them?”
Of course Jo had named all of the Kletka who were holding the settlers hostage.
And wasn’t that pathetic? A dozen armed assholes were able to take over a settlement that housed two-hundred-plus people?
But Rez knew how it had happened. The Kletka she’d seen were well organized and all carried modern, functioning weapons. The settlers of Two-Four-Kay—who had no working tech, an abundance of weak leadership, and a sickening population—were easy targets.
Another cannon blast pummeled Rez’s hearing.
Joia winced and grunted. “We gotta go, Rez.”
They really did. Because Pyx—with determined delight—would eventually reach that cannon, and then…
Time to get going, Delorez.
Rez nodded. “Gonna flash, Jo. Get gone.”
She gave Joia a generous one-second start—knowing that Jo would dart off into the modular maze of Two-Four-Kay and out of range—then zipped toward the clinic and flashed. She threw two punches at full speed. The cracking of the guards’ necks reached her ears as she burst open the clinic’s flimsy doors.
Rez scanned her surroundings.
When she moved this fast, things around her blurred rather than remaining crystal clear. Sick miners, already bedridden, appeared as lumps on the cots. Doc Skylar—Jo’s nemesis—was sitting at her desk. Based on the woman’s jerking flinch—her startled reaction to the clinic doors violently banging open, she was micro-seconds away from tumbling onto her ass. Rez would’ve loved to stay and watch, but she couldn’t spare the time.
She zipped into the back room.
Oh god. Luna.
Rez had been expecting Luna to speed up to her and launch into a list of ‘reasons to stay.’ She was totally prepared to indulge Luna’s soft, misguided sensibilities for exactly a quarter second before hauling her altruism-burdened friend outta Two-Four-Kay.
She never thought that Luna would be collapsed on the floor, her arm twisted up in the sheets of the cot above her.
Joia jolted to a stop beside Rez and gasped. “Oh, Baby Bunny!”
Rez blinked as her body was yanked backwards. Pain tore through her scalp.
Hell, she’d spaced out, and now some ass was dragging her by her hair.
She blinked again, pivoted at full speed, and punched. Crunch. The Kletka jerked and crumpled to the floor. Rez—her hair trapped in his reflexively closed and locked fist—went down with him.
As she tumbled down, she caught a glimpse of two other guards storming through the clinic, kicking over cots with patients as they charged forth. One pulled his weapon—a barbed tranq gun.
Yeah. That sure as fuck wasn’t gonna happen to her again.
Three quarters of second was all she had.
Plenty of time, really.
With her hair tangled in the dying Kletka’s fist, she stayed low and moved fast. Flashing her hairs again, she scissor kicked the legs of the nearest guard. The other guard? Well, her legs were only so long.
When her flash extinguished, she snapped her eyes open and spotted the second guard’s weapon.
It wasn’t a tranq gun.
The pulse blast hit her, shooting white hot pain through her body. Her teeth viciously chomped together as her muscles, lungs, and heart locked up.
Damn that lucky asshole. Although the Kletka had fired with his eyes squeezed shut and his limbs trembling, he’d been aiming low before she’d flashed him.
The blast sizzled through her, dispersing to the Kletka who was grasping her hair.
All right. So maybe the asshole who shot her wasn’t that lucky. Since his shot had had hit two bodies, she was being spared the blast’s full effect.
Now she simply needed the blast’s energy to crackle through her faster, releasing its agonizing grip on her clenched-up body.
Faster. It really needed to move so much faster. Without her body’s breaths, blinks, or heartbeats, she had no way to track time. Instead, she was experiencing each minuscule fragment of time as the instantaneous moment stretched on and on.
Joia—who had probably maxed out her speed—was bellowing a sustained ‘Zzz.’ She must’ve been calling out ‘Rez’—the warning a split second too late.
The remaining Kletka was looming over her. His body’s reflexes—having just begun their reaction to her flash—were curling him into a protective crouch. But his damn trigger finger—which was twitching at nanometer increments—was already pulling for a second shot.
Hell, she would never dodge another direct hit.
But on the bright side, Doc Skylar was flat on her ass, shrilling a high note that spliced through the sounds of both pulse blasts and people shouting.
Later, she would definitely be laughing her ass off as she told Joia and Luna all about it…
Look at her! Actually anticipating something involving other people, rather than dwelling on the drawn out suffocation of the present. Great time for some personal growth, right?
Her concept of ‘later’ surged, expanding beyond moments spent with only Joia and Luna. It grew to encompass a grumpy Akupara who, when out of his shell, openly gazed at her with barely banked intensity.
Kinda ironic, wasn’t it? Here she was, all outta time, and her last thought was of Kin.
The Kletka fired.
And the blast slammed into a mountain range of matte black armor.
Well, then. That was unexpectedly awesome.
Bonus! The pulse blast released it grip.
Rez sagged, took a ragged breath, then dragged her gaze up.
The Akupara shielding her had his faceplate angled downward. By the bulk of his hulking shoulders and the wide stance of his granite thighs, she knew this summit of surliness who was staring at her.
No. Scratch that. Who was glaring at her. His faceplate shielded his face, but she knew…
So why—for the love of god—was Kin glaring at her, instead of facing off against the Kletka who was holding a damn gun?
The tread of boots on the clinic’s rickety wooden floor announced the arrival of another person.
“Sibling M—” The speaker, who sounded like Emys, cut off.
From Rez’s position on the floor-—courtesy of the corpse clinging to her hair, she watched someone who wore sleek, Akupara armor backpedal out the clinic doors.
Yep. That was Emys, tip-toeing her leggy, badass self away like she’d stumbled across a pack of sunbathing War-gators.
Well, that couldn’t be good.
This chapter is complete! I’ve enabled commenting and have added my own thoughts as well.
As always, thank you so much for reading!