Slow and Steady – The Velveteen Tortoise – Chapter Five

There Be Mature Content Here

Please be advised that the following is intended for mature readers only.

Chapter Five

(In-progress – 11/22/2020)

Luna the Baby Bunny

I’m glaring up at Jo. “This is bullcrap, Joia.”

“It sure is,” Jo says, sliding her gaze over her shoulder, toward the inside of her office.

I’m standing out in the hall—and no, I didn’t sleep on the floor there again—as Jo’s poking her head out of the partially opened H.A.R.E.-salvaged door.

It doesn’t matter that she’s blocking my view. I can hear Rogers, Jr., the former mayor of Two-Four-Kay. He’s calling to Joia, insisting that they continue ‘fixing’ some of Joia’s recent decisions.

Do you know what Rogers and Jo are not talking about fixing? The stupid housing lottery for my modular.

“Don’t give me that look, Luna.” Jo arches a brow at me. “I’d told you, if anything changes, you’d know about it.”

I grump, but Jo’s right. For the past several days, I’ve been stopping by The Tower, hoping to convince her to cancel the lottery. No luck. Mostly because I’ve not had a chance to actually talk with her. Each time I’ve come, freaking Rogers, Jr. or Benny or someone else is having a ‘closed door’ session with Jo.

Right. Who I am kidding? I bet Jo schedules these freaking meetings because, like everything else, she knows when I’m gonna stop by.

Jo looks over her shoulder, snips something at Rogers, Jr., then turns back to me. “You can give up the modular all together, Baby Bunny. Stay here with me.”

A shiver moves through me.

There’s no way I’d move into The Tower. I’m not like Jo, who’s thriving in the center of it all. If I’d move here, I’d be bumping into people everywhere. All the time. Touching.

“Or,” Joia says, “you could room with Fanboy in his cabin.”

That’s…

“No.” I’m shaking my head—like, a lot—to drive home my point.

If I permanently move in with Pyx, then I’d be bumping into him everywhere. All the time. Touching.

Another shiver moves through me. This time, it’s not filled with dread, but with tingling, heated excitement.

Not good.

“Luna,” Jo drawls my name out, “I’m scraping the bottom of my magic hat, here.”

I know. I do. Jo’s back’s against the wall with this whole housing lottery, and she’s still scrounging up options for me. Only, I’m not accepting any of her proposed fixes. Heck, I’m holding out for a miracle.

I give her a hopeful look. “Have you checked up your sleeves?”

She huffs and rolls her eyes as she closes the door in my face.

But, she closes it with a soft click and even softer foot thumps against the floor, letting me know that she gets my meaning. That my lame joke was my apology for being a stubborn, unreasonable idiot who’s refusing to get with the program.

I have choices. Jo’s seen to that.

Now I just gotta stall the lottery while speed-building Pyx’s one-man cabin until I can monkey-up something better.

Oh, and fix the mining drill…

As well as fix what’ve done to Pyx…

Plus, the whole Rez and babymaking thing. Gotta get on that, too…

But first, I need to bake some bread.

Totally need to make more bread.


I’m using a rag to fan black smoke away from my face when the door to my modular swings open.

“Fucking again, Luna?” Benny whines.

“No flames this time,” I say as I cough. I gesture to the blackened loaves of bread that are precariously balanced on the sliver of bare space know as ‘the counter.’ “A total success in regards to my progress.”

“Shit, Luna,” Benny grumbles as he backs out, “can’t you experiment somewhere else? Even when you don’t bake, it still smells in here.”

Kinda the point, Benny.

“Well, you know how it is,” I say loudly because Benny’s outside.

He mumbles something that I can’t make out. Which I don’t ask him to clarify. Right now, noncommittal responses are my main stalling strategy.

I snag a basket that I’ve woven from reedy, Briarwood bramble and load up as much bread as I can.

Leaving just a few loaves behind, I step out of my modular.

I raise the basket up a bit—and only a bit because it’s like hauling bricks—I nod at Benny. “Just gonna go toss these.”

He takes a step back and wrinkles his nose. “Yeah. Do that, Luna.”

“All righty!” Ugh, I sound too chipper. “Here I go.”

Yep. I’m a chipper moron. But, whatever.

I start walking away and—sigh—can freaking feel Benny watching my butt. My hands throb, so I white-knuckle my grip on the basket handle and keep going.

Since my modular is closer to the gold mine than Briarwood, I have to cut through the settlement. And, because it’s midday and people are about, I can’t move at H.A.R.E. speed. But I do listen for footsteps—the same way I’d listen for Jo’s and Rez’s coded foot thumps—and avoid most encounters.

Well, except for the cluster in the center of Two-Four-Kay.

Good god, is it a freaking cluster…

I stop and gape because Rogers, Jr., that sanctimonious prick, is overseeing the installment of a statue.

A freaking statue made of metal that bears his likeness.

And if that isn’t just screwed up, there something mindbogglingly more screwy.

Pyx is the one positioning that hunk of junk onto a pedestal.

As he’s holding the heavy-looking statue up, he’s turning it in his hands. His head’s cocked at an angle.

I know that adorable head tilt of his.

See, when I was at the Bale, I’d seen zero public statues or community spaces named for an individual. Sure, the Akupara bestow ridiculously long titles, but not actual commemorative displays of stuff to pacify their egomaniacs.

So, right now, Pyx’s really working hard—and probably struggling—to figure out what the heck it is he’s holding.

Amazingly, his intense focus on the statue snaps and he turns his head. And, dangit, his opaque helmet is pointed right at me.

My heart kicks in my chest. My shebits perk up. I take a step—

Unbelievable. I’ve stepped toward him.

Embarrassment rushes my face, so I duck my head, pivot, and resume course toward Briarwood. 

Wrong direction, Luna! My shebits shout. Toward the alien hottie! Toward him!

Yeah. Not happening. I’ve got somewhere to be, and Pyx looks super busy—I flick my gaze to him—staring at me. He’s tracking my progress across the square. Rogers, Jr. is ranting and waving his arms, yet Pyx’s focus is locked on me.

I see him take a step.

My nerves fire up. Run!

Oh, purr my shebits, that could be fun. Especially the ‘he’s-caught-us’ bit. Yes. Run.

But, thank god, Pyx stops.

Seriously, I’m not relieved to thwart my traitor shebits. I’m thinking about Pyx here. He’s on the opposite side of the square. I’ve picked up my pace—still moving at realistic human-hustling—so he can’t catch up to me.

Well, he could catch me in a flash, but he won’t. Not with all the settlers about because he’d never risk his Bale’s secret. The settlers don’t know that the Akupara are the fastest beings in the universe. They just see slow moving, turtle-like aliens.

And yeah, I’m using Pyx’s honor and duty against him. I’ve been doing so for days—hustling about Two-Four-Kay—so that I can continue to avoid him.

At least I feel guilty about it. That means I’m not a totally crappy person, right?

But, then I reach the outskirts by the shitters and Pyx’s cabin. And, yep. Crappy people sure can feel guilt while still being totally irredeemable crappy people.

I am such a people.

Pyx’s cabin is exactly how we’d left it the other night. Well, more like five nights ago. And it’s not exactly how we’d left it. It doesn’t look as rickety—like a stiff breeze couldn’t knock it down—but there’s no progress, either.

My chest is squeezing as my vision gets blurry.

Fuck. Pull it together, Luna!

Yeah. I’d said ‘fuck’. This is a rare fuck-worthy moment. I gotta fix the cabin, but first I gotta fix Pyx.

So, I carry on, entering into Briarwood with my basket of burnt bread, and head toward the Bale.

If Jo won’t fix this, perhaps Emys will.


“Whaddya mean you have a meeting?” I throw my hands up.

Yep. My hands are now free. That basket of bricks was freaking heavy. I’d ditched it in the forest. I’d left it kinda close to where I’d hugged Pyx. At least, I thought it was where I’d hugged Pyx. At the site, there’s a huge pit of overturned soil that I would’ve remembered. It’s like someone yanked a massive Briarwood tree up and carried it away, but there was no sign of a fallen tree anywhere…

But, back to this freaking frustrating moment.

Emys is leaning against the doorjamb to her private quarters, looking absolutely fantastic in the flowy pants and sleeveless shirts that the Akupara wear when they’re secluded inside their Bale…

…and it just makes me think that poor Pyx has been stuck inside his armor for days and days…

“It is self-cleaning,” Emys says.

“What’s self-cleaning?”

“Pyxis’s armor.”

Frickity freak. Again with this…

“Not here to talk about Pyx,” Well, not out loud, “Here to talk about your eggs.”

I gesture toward Emys’s stomach. 

And gimme a second here to talk about Emys’s stomach. I’ve done only two exams on her to try to increase her fertility. Right now, the Akupara females are dependent on human female egg donors; it’s how Rez met Kin.

But, back to Emys’s f-ab-ulous abs. She’s freaking ripped, cut like a diamond. Heck, her plastron, the plates that cover her abs, actually sparkle a bit. I’ve told her so.

“Were the med-chamber scans not helpful information?” Emys asks.

I do my best to cringe internally, not physically. “Not really?”

“I see.”

She sees. Great. Awesome. But I can’t tell if she’s calling my bluff or calling me incompetent.

Emys has this frustratingly unreadable and thoroughly unflappable way about her. I’ve been interacting with her for weeks now, and I still can’t get a read on her emotions. She just so dang reserved.

You know what? She’d be the worst at a surprise party. You’d have to, like, stick her in the back and tell her to keep quiet and simply hold a sign that says ‘Surprise!’.  Maybe put a thought-bubble around the word so that she’s not left outta of the festivities.

“Listen,” I say as my shoulders droop, “schematics of any kind sorta don’t help me. That’s not how this works.”

I wiggle my fingers at her.

Emys gives my Jazz Hands of Dubious Intent a placid look. “So, you simply sterilized yourself, as well as Rez the Fastest Runner of the Bale and Joia the Cunning Mayor of Two-Four-Kay, based on touch alone?”

“Yep.”

Nope.

That’s not how my H.A.R.E. ability works.

Sure, sterilizing Jo and Rez after we’d crashed on Warren’s had been simple. Like terrifyingly simplicistic because—as the scientists had taught me—there’s a fine line between surgery and mutilation.

As for my own sterilization? Never happened. I can’t do anything healing-like to myself. Which brings me back to figuring out how I can fix what I’ve done to Pyx.

And, by god, Emys is gonna help me.

Without knowing she’s helping me, of course.

“So,” I rock on my toes as I try to sneak a peek over Emys’s shoulder, “it’d be better if we get hands-on with your—”

“I am unavailable.”

Huh. An actual interruption…

From Emys…

Who’s the newly minted The Last of the Akupara.

“Well…” Okay. I’m scrambling now.

It’s kinda a good thing that Emys isn’t available to be examined. I have no better sense about how to helping her than I do for Jo and Rez.

But, I do need access to an Akupara who’ll help me understand—without her understanding—the mess I’ve made.

I’m staring at my hands. “Maybe I can work with another female? Maybe one who’s looking to mate, um, into your family or something?”

Smooth. I’m the Mega Mistress of Machinations!

Emys adjusts her stance. “Mate into my family?”

“Like the way Rez mated Kin and you call her ‘Sibling Mine’.” I stop and wait for Emys to acknowledge me, but it’s getting kinda awkward, so I just barrel onward. “Is there another female interested in being a Sibling, um,Yours?”

Emys blinks.

And here we are again. More award silence. Not a fan.

She settles against the doorjamb again. “Yes.”

“Yes?”

“There is.”

“Oh.” That’s my answer? A freaking fracking disappointed ‘oh’? This is awesome! This is what I want. “So, he’s spoken for?” 

“Pyxis the Restrained?” She pauses so I nod. “He will be, once she speaks up.”

“Once she…” I echo. “So, he doesn’t know?”

Emys simply stares at me. 

Okay. I probably tapped out her bucket of responses. Rez had told me that. That at some point, Kin simply stops answering her. 

It’s an Akupara thing.

So, I’m just gonna move on. Emys will catch up.

“Well, can I meet with her then? Get working on her eggs, so that she and, um—” My palms throb, kinda hard, too. Curling my hands into fists, I hide them behind my back. “You know, just get started on the whole hatchling thing.”

“That is not how the Akupara do things.” 

“But,” I stammer, “this is super important, right? So, why not get a jumpstart on it?”

Emys shakes her head. “Such a human thing. The process starts when she declares herself to him.”

Of course it freaking does, because otherwise, the Akupara would consider it distasteful to rush things.

Well, tough. This needs to be rushed.

I lock my gaze with Emys. “You’re saying Pyx’s got no idea that this woman—um, female, is interested in him?”

“I know my sibling well.”

But…was that a yes or no?

Freaking Emys. Help a girl out here!

I keep eye contact with her. “So, we’re all waiting?”

“We most certainly are.”

Okay, then. 

This is good. Really. It’s good for him. I don’t have to factor an already-mated-to-Pyx female into my Fix-it Plans. Plus, Emys just confirmed that he’s still mateless.

Mateless is good.

I exhale and my whole chest deflates in relief. When I inhale, the best freaking smell—crisp, robust, comforting—fills my lungs.

My chest squeezes and I release a jagged sigh. I know this smell.

“Luna?” Emys asks.

“Huh?” I look up, then around.

I’m no longer in front of her door. I’m simply standing in the middle of a polished corridor somewhere inside the Bale ship.

Emys looks from me to a smooth point on the wall ahead. “We are near Pyxis’s quarters.”

“We are?” I mean, despite the Akupara’s doorways being seamlessly integrated into the walls of the corridor, I have no clue where Pyx lives within the Bale.

This means that my mating symptoms are getting worse.

Here I am, steps from his quarters, drawn by the scent that I’ve spent days trying to mask in my modular. Batch after batch of charred bread, deliberately burned in desperate need…

See, I’m not just Roommated to the Alien Warrior.

I’ve accidentally mated myself to him.

This chapter is in-progress. Once it’s complete, I’ll enabled commenting and will add my own thoughts as well.

As always, thank you so much for reading!

xo Bex

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From Slow & Steady: The Velveteen Tortoise
Copyright © 2020 by Bex McLynn
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