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Cyberevolution Book One:

The Awakening
Kaitlyn OConnor
(C) Copyright by Kaitlyn OConnor, October 2!2
(C) Cover Art by "li#a Black, October 2!2
$%B& '()*!*+,'-*(-'*(
.ubli/he0 by &ew Concept/ .ubli/hing
%1a/hwor0/ "0ition
2ake .ark, 3A ,!+,+
Thi/ i/ a work o5 5iction4 All character/, event/, an0 place/ are o5 the author/ i1agination an0
not to be con5u/e0 with 5act4 Any re/e1blance to living per/on/ or event/ i/ 1erely coinci0ence4
Chapter One
There wa/ no 6ue/tion about the preci/e 1o1ent the 0rop /hip entere0 the planet/ at1o/phere4
The troop carrier began to /hi11y4 The vibration/ increa/e0 e7ponentially a/ they 0roppe0
lower until it reache0 a point where it 5elt like it woul0 li6ue5y 5le/h, bone/, an0 teeth, an0
everything aroun0 the1 woul0 0i/integrate4 Then the tran/port began to buck wil0ly4 Abruptly,
an e7plo/ion rippe0 a hole in the hull wi0e enough to /uck three trooper/ an0 their /eat/ out o5 it4
%o1ething /trange happene0 when it 0i04 %eth CO!8-, 5elt hi/ 1otor 5unction/ /low in a 1o/t
peculiar way4 2ogically, he knew that the hull breach, the 5lying /hrapnel that peppere0 every
troop clo/e enough to catch a pro9ectile, the /crea1/, the 5lying bit/ o5 5le/h, bloo0, an0 1etal
that re/ulte0 5ro1 the i1pact o5 the pro9ectile/, an0 the abrupt e7traction o5 one entire row o5
/eat/ an0 their occupant/ create0 by the oppo/ing 5orce/ o5 interior an0 e7terior pre//ure
occurre0 al1o/t /i1ultaneou/ly4 :e al/o knew that hi/ proce//or wa/ 5a/t enough to recor0 all o5
tho/e nearly in/tantaneou/ occurrence/4
Ti1e /ee1e0 to /low, however4 :e blinke0, hear0 a /trange roaring /oun0 that 0i0 not /ee1 to
be relate0 to the hull breach;becau/e it occurre0 1illi/econ0/ prior to that;an0 then he /aw
everything that happene0 in a /erie/ o5 /till/4 A/ i5 he wa/ e7periencing a co1plete /y/te1 5ailure
0ue to 5aulty, 5ailing power /upply, he /aw the hole /i1ply appear, the 0arkne// beyon0 a/
pro5oun0 a/ 0eep /pace, although he knew it wa/ /i1ply the 0ark /i0e o5 the worl0 below the14
:e /aw the /tunne0 e7pre//ion/ on the 5ace/ o5 the three troop/ that were /ucke0 out a/ they 5lew
backwar0/ in their /a5ety harne//e/ an0 vani/he0 in the black aby//4
.anning right, he /aw the troop/ who ha0 been /eate0 be/i0e the1 turn their hea0/ very /lowly
towar0 the hole an0 the /trange, 0i/9ointe0 0ance /everal other/ per5or1e0 a/ hole/ appeare0 in
their bo0ie/ an0 chunk/ o5 5le/h, bloo0, an0 piece/ o5 1etal /lowly 9ette0 5ro1 the14
$t wa/ 1ore than a /lowing o5 hi/ vi/ual perception, however4 :e coul0 not /ee1 to proce// what
he ha0 recor0e04 :e 5elt o00ly blank, which beca1e even 1ore bi#arre when he reali#e0 he ha0
not /i1ply /hut 0own4
Thi/ wa/ a very /trange /y/te1 5ailure in0ee04
.articularly when he 5elt a ru/h o5 /o1ething co1pletely inco1prehen/ible 5ill the o00 voi04
Abruptly, hi/ heart rate /hot upwar0 an0 he 5elt hi/ bo0y tingle with col0 a/ i5 an electric current
ha0 /i##le0 along hi/ e7terior, penetrating all the way to hi/ biological organ/ ne/tle0 in the
ar1or o5 hi/ cha//i/4 An0 then ti1e, hi/ 1otor 5unction/, /ee1e0 to abruptly right the1/elve/
an0 everything wa/ happening /i1ultaneou/ly aroun0 hi1, too 6uickly to proce//4
A /en/e o5 alar1 abruptly penetrate0 the peculiar an0 oppo/ing hyperawarene//<0ulling*/lowing
o5 hi/ perception/ an0 he /traine0 again/t hi/ /a5ety harne// to twi/t hi/ hea0 aroun0 enough to
a//e// hi/ tea1 lea0er, Corporal =anika :art;hi/ hu1an han0ler4 %he wa/ /taring at the hole,
her blue eye/ wi0e, her 5ace a/ pale a/ 0eath, her lip/ parte0 /lightly4 The 5ro#en look on her 5ace
/ent a /ha5t o5 > /o1ething through %eth, 1aking hi/ heart 9ar in hi/ che/t, a/ i5 it ha0 lo/t it/
?=anika@ Are you alrightA Bere you hitAC
%he /ent hi1 a /tartle0 look, which /ent another ine7plicable ti0e o5 /o1ething uni0enti5iable
twi/ting through %eth4 %he ha0 not cea/e0 to 5unction;wa/ not 0ea0, he correcte0 hi1/el54
%he blinke0 a couple o5 ti1e/ an0 then looke0 0own at her/el5 a/ i5 /he coul0 not a//e// her
con0ition without a vi/ual;an0 her han0/4 %he patte0 her tor/o an0 then looke0 at hi1 again4
?=a1age report,C /he 0e1an0e0 abruptly4
$t wa/ at that point that it occurre0 to %eth that he ha0 not e7ecute0 a 0a1age report 0e/pite the
5act that he ha0 note0 that hi/ /y/te1/ were per5or1ing in a very erratic way4 :e 5rowne0 an0
looke0 0own at hi1/el5 a/ /he ha04 Bhen he looke0 at her again, he /aw that /he wa/ /tu0ying
hi1 /trangely4 :e 5elt the te1perature o5 the 5le/h o5 hi/ 5ace heat ine7plicably an0 a /trange
5lutter in hi/ belly, a/ i5 he ha0 /wallowe0 /o1ething alive that wa/ /till 1oving4 ?All /y/te1/
5ully operational4 &o 0a1age4C
%he /tu0ie0 hi1 /everal 1o1ent/ 1ore an0 %eth 5elt a 5luctuation o5 heat an0 col0 that /ee1e0
to be a reaction to her clo/e /crutiny;unea/ine// an0 a /en/e o5 guilt4 Dinally, /he 0i/1i//e0 hi1
an0 5licke0 a glance at the other two /6ua0 1e1ber/4 ?=ane;&ile/;0a1age report4C
?All /y/te1/ 5ully 5unctional4 Einor anterior 0a1age to tor/o,C &ile/ re/pon0e04 ?The /hrapnel
0i0 not penetrate beyon0 biological /heathing4 &ano/ per5or1ing repair4 "/ti1ate0 repair ti1e >
one hour to co1plete4C
?Eobility i1paire0,C =ane replie04 ?"7ten/ive 0a1age to pneu1atic knee 9oint4 &ano/ a55ecting
repair/4 "/ti1ate0 repair ti1e /i7 hour/4 Einor 0a1age to biological /heathing in three location/
;right knee, right cal5, right ar1;e/ti1ate0 repair ti1e -8 1inute/, !, /econ0/4C
?Duck@C =anika e7clai1e04 ?.atch the /uit/@ Bere on the 0ark /i0e an0 looking at well below
#ero te1perature/4 Can you 1ake the 9u1p, =aneAC
?A55ir1ative;0i/regar0ing 1ore 0a1age prior to reaching the 9u1p altitu0e4C
%ince /everal 1ore 1i//ile/ ha0 e7plo0e0 in clo/e pro7i1ity to the 0rop /hip 0uring the cour/e o5
the /y/te1/ check/, 1aking it nece//ary 5or the1 to bellow at one another only to be hear0, %eth
thought the probability o5 1ore 0a1age wa/ high4 :e con/i0ere0 pointing that out until it
occurre0 to hi1 that not only ha0 =anika not re6ue/te0 the in5or1ation, but it wa/ purely
/peculation on hi/ part when he ha0 not run /tati/tic probabilitie/ an0 coul0 not when he ha0 no
i0ea what the /trength o5 the 5orce wa/ that wa/ launching the 1i//ile/4 That reali#ation /ent hi1
into even 1ore con5u/ion4 :e ha0 not been progra11e0 to /i1ply Fgue// or to a00 to con5u/ion
un0er attack by voicing an opinion without real /ub/tance4 Gnable to 0i/1i// the /u/picion that
he ha0 /u/taine0 /o1e /ort o5 0a1age, he ran another /y/te1/ check4 Again, hi/ /y/te1/ report
wa/ negative4 Gnconvince0 0e/pite that, he li5te0 one han0 an0 e7a1ine0 hi/ hea0, won0ering i5
a 1icro/copic 5rag1ent ha0 penetrate0 hi/ /kull an0 0a1age0 hi/ C.G4
:i/ /6ua0 lea0er notice0 the 1ove1ent an0 the e7a1ination4 ?$/ there a proble1, %ethAC
The o00 5luctuation o5 hot an0 col0 5loo0e0 hi1 again, the ine7plicable /en/e o5 Fwrong4
?&egative4C The reali#ation that he ha0 9u/t lie0 /truck %eth 5orce5ully4 :e ha0 in5or1e0 hi/
/6ua0 lea0er that he wa/ 5ully 5unctional an0 coul0 0etect no 0a1age when in 5act he /u/pecte0
that hi/ entire /y/te1 wa/ 1al5unctioning4
:e wa/ no longer recor0ing internal an0 e7ternal event/, he reali#e0 a5ter con/i0ering the
proble1 5or /o1e 1o1ent/4 :e wa/ > 5eeling4
That 0i/covery > unnerve0 hi14 :e coul0 not think o5 another way to 0e/cribe the /trange
hot<col0 5luctuation, the tightening /en/ation in hi/ gut, or the erratic rhyth1 o5 hi/ heart4 :e
0i/1i//e0 that po//ibility an0 e7a1ine0 the event/ he ha0 note0 /ince the 0rop an0 0eter1ine0
that he coul0 track the ano1aly back to the preci/e in/tant the e7plo0ing 1i//ile ha0 rupture0 the
hull o5 their 0rop /hip;or rather an in/tant prior to that4 There ha0 been a roaring /oun0, like the
ru/h o5 air, al1o/t a/ i5 he ha0 anticipate0 the rupture o5 the hull4
:e ha0 not hear0 the /oun0 with hi/ ear/, though4 $t ha0 been in/i0e hi/ brain;the biological
part;not the C.G4
Anger /wept through hi1;not the perception o5 an event that 1ight cau/e anger or the reaction
he ha0 been progra11e0 to e7hibit upon /uch an occurrence4 :e 5elt it4
The biological brain he ha0 been given wa/ 0e5ective, he thought angrily, an0 there coul0 be no
wor/e ti1e to 1ake that 0i/covery than in the 1i0/t o5 battle@
?Bail out@ Bail@ Bail@ Bail@C the co*pilot, a hu1an, abruptly roare0 over the co1*unit4
&ile/ an0 even =ane ha0 thrown o55 their /a5ety harne//e/ an0 were on their 5eet be5ore the
hu1an ha0 i//ue0 the or0er the /econ0 ti1e4 Brought abruptly 5ro1 hi/ internal e7a1ination,
%eth wa/ a 5ew /econ0/ behin0 the1 0ue hi/ preoccupation4
=anika, he 0i/covere0, wa/ /till trying to 5ree her/el5 5ro1 her /a5ety harne//4 :e reache0 0own,
pu/he0 her han0/ a/i0e, an0 0epre//e0 the lock relea/e4 %he 5licke0 a look o5 /urpri/e at hi1 an0
then glare04 %hoving hi/ han0/ away, /he to//e0 the harne// o55 an0 /too0 with an e55ort4
Then pro1ptly 5ell back into her /eat4
3ra/ping a han05ul o5 her /uit, %eth haule0 her to her 5eet again, trying to help her /tea0y her/el5
on the rolling, bucking 0eck4
?2ine up to bail@C /he bellowe04
:e obeye0, hauling her aroun0 until /he wa/ in 5ront o5 hi1, we0ge0 between hi/ belly an0
=ane/ back4 They /hu55le0 towar0 the gaping 1aw o5 the 0rop ra1p that ha0 been opene0,
5ighting the rocking o5 the /hip an0 the bu55eting win04
?Oh 1y go0@C =anika e7clai1e0 when they reache0 the opening where they coul0 /ee the planet
below the14 ?Bhat the 5uck are they thinkingA $ cant 1ake thi/ 9u1p@C
The win0 whippe0 her voice away, but %eth ha0 gotten clo/e enough to gauge the 0i/tance to the
groun0, a/ well, an0 hi/ calculation/ /ub/tantiate0 her/4 The 0rop wa/ too 5ar 5or a hu1an to
1anage without /u/taining 0ebilitating 0a1age4 :e wrappe0 an ar1 aroun0 =anika an0 /teppe0
o55 o5 the plat5or1, allowing hi/ leg/ to ab/orb the /hock a/ they lan0e04
:e 0i/covere0 he ha0 1i/calculate0 having ha0 in/u55icient 0ata to correctly a//e// the /now
pack4 :i/ con/i0erable weight an0 the 0i/tance, co1bine0 with =anika/ a00e0 weight, re/ulte0
in hi1 lan0ing with /u55icient 5orce that he wa/ 0riven wai/t 0eep into the /now an0 ice4 :e
relea/e0 her a/ he 5elt hi1/el5 /inking an0 /he lan0e0 on the /o5ter pack o5 the /ur5ace with a
grunt a/ the air wa/ punche0 5ro1 her lung/4
A pro9ectile /truck %eth in the /houl0er while he wa/ a//e//ing the /ituation an0 calculating the
be/t way to 5ree hi1/el54 A 0o#en 1ore peppere0 the groun0 aroun0 %eth an0 =anika, throwing
up 5ountain/ o5 /now a/ they 5urrowe04
=i1ly, %eth wa/ aware o5 alar1 at the 0anger =anika wa/ in, 5ully e7po/e0 an0 lying on the top
o5 the /o5t pack, /now ca1o or not4 .eripherally, he wa/ aware that the entire battalion wa/
taking heavy 5ire 5ro1 nearly every 0irection4 :e wa/ 1o/tly 5ocu/e0, however, on the pain that
ha0 e7plo0e0 in hi/ /houl0er an0 5ille0 hi/ 1in0 a/ the pro9ectile tore through the biological
/heathing o5 hi/ /houl0er4
:e ha0 never e7perience0 pain be5ore4 :e wa/ /o /tunne0 by the reaction, in point o5 5act, that it
took hi1 1any 1o1ent/ to co1prehen0 what it wa/4 There /houl0 have been nothing 1ore than
an alert o5 0a1age;5ollowe0 by a 0a1age report@
The /econ0 pro9ectile that cut a burning path along the /a1e ar1 5inally /hook hi1 5ro1 hi/
preoccupation with the inten/e new /en/ation/ an0 5orce0 hi1 to 5ocu/ on avoi0ing 1ore pain4
A5ter pu/hing ine55ectually again/t the /hi5ting /now 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/, he 5inally 0rew the
upper portion o5 hi/ bo0y 0ownwar0 /ince he coul0nt pull hi/ knee/ up an0 u/e0 the 5orce to
propel hi1/el5 upwar04
:e lan0e0 5ace 0own near hi/ /6ua0 lea0er4 Crawling 5orwar0, he 1anage0 to 5or1 a protective
/hiel0 on one /i0e4 ?=ane@ &ile/@ To the /6ua0 lea0er@ Dor1 a barrier4C
:e 0i/covere0 =anika wa/ gaping at hi1 when he 5ocu/e0 on her, trying to a//e// 0a1age;or i5
/he ha0 0a1age4
?3etting 1y /6ua0 /hot all to /hit i/nt going to help 1e@C /he growle04
Their co1 unit/ /6uawke04 ?Dorwar0 /6ua0/@ 2ay 0own a /uppre//ing 5ire4 Hear /6ua0/ 5all
?%hit@C =anika re/pon0e0 to the abrupt co11an0 that /6uawke0 over their co1 unit/4 ?Be were
la/t to 0rop4 That 1ake/ u/ 5orwar0, 0a1n it4 3et your weapon/ up, /6ua0@ Dire@ Dire@ Dire@C
He5lecting that he coul0 /till /hiel0 her with hi/ bo0y 5acing away 5ro1 her, %eth rolle0 away
5ro1 her an0 un/houl0ere0 hi/ weapon4 To hi/ relie5, hi/ 1al5unction 0i0nt /ee1 to e7ten0 to
hi/ ability to calculate the tra9ectory o5 the pro9ectile/ 5lying at the14 Gn5ortunately, al/o by hi/
calculation/, hi/ own weapon range 5ell /hort o5 the ene1y/4 $gnoring the lack o5 logic in 5iring
on an ene1y he coul0 not hit in 5avor o5 the or0er/ given, he #eroe0 in on a target an0 5ire04
?Out o5 range,C &ile/ re/pon0e04
?Dire, 0a1n it@ They 0ont know that@C =anika he/itate0 a/ /he 5ire0 o55 /everal roun0/, an0 then
1uttere0, ?Gnle// they have cyborg/, too4C
?Gnlikely,C %eth re/pon0e04 ?There wa/ nothing in intel to /ugge/t it4C
?2ike theyve never gotten anything wrong@C =anika /narle0, glancing 6uickly to right an0 le5t4
?Theyve 0a1ne0 well got night vi/ion an0 theyre clo/ing4C
?They are al/o 5lanking our po/ition,C =ane reporte04
?%hit@ Theyre going to cut u/ o55@ Bhat/ it looking like behin0 u/AC
%eth /canne0 the ri0ge to the rear with hi/ night vi/ion an0 then the ther1al i1aging, 0i/covering
neither worke0 worth a 0a1n un0er the current con0ition/4 ?The rearwar0 troop/ have 1a0e it to
the ri0ge4 Theyve 5or1e0 another line to our rear > 5i5teen 1eter/4C
?3oo0@C =anika /ai04 ?Our turn to 5all back@ Eove it@C
%he leapt to her 5eet al1o/t be5ore /he 5ini/he0 /peaking an0 i11e0iately caught a pro9ectile that
/pun her aroun0 an0 threw her 5ace 0own in the /now4 ?&ile/@ =ane@C %eth bellowe0, /urging to
hi/ 5eet an0 /cooping =anika up with one ar14 ?Cover our retreat@C
&ile/ an0 =ane 5or1e0 a bo0y /hiel0, 9ogging backwar0/ an0 5iring4
%eth caught a pro9ectile in hi/ thigh that brought hi1 to hi/ knee/;5ro1 the 5ront4 FDrien0ly 5ire
;hu1an, he thought, knowing the cyborg/ woul0 have known not to 5ire on the1;unle// the
ene1y ha0 alrea0y 1anage0 to 5lank the14
Trying to clo/e hi/ 1in0 to the 5re/h pain, he /truggle0 to hi/ 5eet again with =anika an0 charge0
towar0 the line o5 troop/4 :e 1anage0 to 1ake it through the line without catching another
roun04 =epo/iting =anika on the groun0, he /canne0 her to locate the woun04 ?Ee0ic@ :u1an
There wa/ no re/pon/e to hi/ call 5or ai0 an0 %eth glance0 aroun0 with a 1i7ture o5 5ear an0
anger4 :e 0i/covere0 that they were /urroun0e0 by woun0e0;an0 0a1age0 cyborg/ /truggling
to 5unction 0e/pite the 0a1age they0 /u/taine04
?Be will be out5lanke0 an0 /urroun0e0, by 1y calculation/, within twenty 1inute/ Iearth ti1e4C
:i/ voice /oun0e0 /trange;/traine0, an0 that wa/ al1o/t a/ o00 a/ hi/ unnece//ary re5erence to
earth ti1e /ince they were all progra11e0 to earth ti1e 1ea/ure1ent, but although %eth notice0,
he wa/ too intent on pulling up 0ata to atten0 =anika/ woun0 to analy#e it4 ?$ nee0 to clo/e thi/
woun0 an0 patch =anika/ /uit4C Bi0ening the hole in her /uit, he re/et hi/ weapon, pinche0 the
woun0 clo/e0 an0 u/e0 the la/er to cauteri#e the 5le/h, gritting hi/ teeth when /he /crea1e0 in
pain an0 the /oun0 /ee1e0 to cut through hi1 like a kni5e4 :e 0ragge0 a patch 5ro1 hi/ /upplie/
when he0 clo/e0 the woun0, /lappe0 it over the 0a1age0 /uit, an0 hel0 it until the nano/ in the
1aterial bon0e0, ignoring =anika/ groan/ an0 her atte1pt/ to /hove hi/ han0 away4
The chatter 5lowing through the co1 unit/ that %eth li/tene0 to a/ he atten0e0 =anika wa/ not
goo04 $nter/per/e0 with 0o#en/ o5 call/ 5or 1e0ic/ an0 groan/ an0 /crea1/ 5ro1 hu1an throat/,
there were 1ore 0i/a/trou/ ob/ervation/4
?Bere cut o55@C
?Bo7e0 in@C
?Oh 1y go0@ $1 /hot all to /hit@ $ nee0 a 1e0ic*borg@C
?Theyre going to out5lank u/@C
?$tll be like /hooting 5i/h in a 5ucking barrel@C
Abruptly a voice;cool an0 5orce5ul;cut through the con5u/ion4 ?Cyborg/@ 2eap to the /u11it
o5 the ri0ge@ Carry the hu1an/@C
The /u00en, 5orce5ul co11an0 /ilence0 all other chatter4 $t 0i0 not co1e 5ro1 the co11an0
center;the channel wa/ local4 $t al/o 0i0 not co1e 5ro1 a hu1an, but everyone knew they were
running out o5 ti1e to act an0 no one 6ue/tione0 the co11an04
The cyborg/ not too 0a1age0 to act on the co11an0 li5te0 their hu1an /6ua0 lea0er/ an0 leapt
towar0 the ri0ge above the14
?Bho i//ue0 that co11an0AC
That 0e1an0 ca1e 5ro1 their co11an0ing o55icer aboar0 the 1other /hip4
There wa/ a /igni5icant pau/e4 ?Heuel CO-+'4C
=e/pite the inten/ive con0itioning /he0 been /ub9ecte0 to when /he0 been /hippe0 to co1bat
training, Cpl4 =anika :art wa/ unable to convince her/el5 that /he wa/ 9u/t e7periencing 1ore o5
the /a1e a/ the groun0 to air 1i//ile rippe0 a hole in the 0rop /hip /he wa/ in 9u/t a/ it entere0
the target planet/ at1o/phere4 %he trie0 to4 %he thought /he 9u/t 1ight be able to con0uct her/el5
in a 1anner be5itting a /ol0ier o5 the con5e0eration an0 not /ha1e her native worl0 i5 /he coul04
%he wa/nt /ure /he0 be able to i5 /he coul0nt becau/e /he wa/ a/ terri5ie0 a/ /he0 ever been in
her li5e4
%he ha0nt e7pecte0 to be thrown i11e0iately into co1bat, though4 %he0 e7pecte0 to have
1ore ti1e to a09u/t to being /hot at4
"veryone knew the con0ition/ on Keno*!2 were horri5ic4 $t wa/ a 5ro#en worl0, 9u/t too 5ar 5ro1
it/ /un to ever thaw out co1pletely;livable, a/ long a/ one wa/ 5ully prepare0 5or the col0;
with a breathable at1o/phere, but uninhabite0, /o /he ha0nt been un0uly worrie04 They woul0
have everything they nee0e0 to 0eal with the 0eep 5ree#e an0 her own native worl0 wa/ at the
outer habitable #one o5 it/ /un4 %he wa/ u/e0 to 0ealing with 0angerou/ly col0 te1perature/4
They were to lan0, /et up a 5orwar0 ba/e a/ a bu55er again/t the ene1y encroach1ent an0 protect
the true pri#e, Keno*!2/ /i/ter worl04
%he0 thought the war 1ight well co1e to Keno*!2/ 0oor/tep eventually, but /he0 al/o thought
there wa/ a better than even chance that the war woul0 be 5ought an0 won 5ar, 5ar 5ro1 her
%he wa/ pretty /ure /he wa/nt the only who0 thought that4
The bo1bar01ent ha0 0eprive0 her o5 that illu/ion4 The bucking /hip ha0 /haken her, but /he0
convince0 her/el5 that it wa/ 9u/t rough air;nothing to worry about@ The troop carrier/ werent
0e/igne0 5or co15ort but rather 0urability an0 e55iciency;right up until the hole appeare0 in the
/i0e o5 the /hip an0 /hrapnel peppere0 the troop/ in/i0e4 %he 1ight have nur/e0 her illu/ion/ a
little longer, 0e/pite the 0i/a/ter an0 the horror o5 watching three trooper/ /ucke0 out, e7cept that
/he coul0 /ee 5la/he/ through the hole that lit up the /ky an0 knew the entire battalion wa/ un0er
attack4 %he /aw at lea/t two o5 the 0rop /hip/ take 0irect hit/ an0 0i/integrate into 5iery trail/ o5
0ebri/4 $t wa/ enough to 1ake her i1agination leap to the po//ibility that they0 reach the groun0
an0 0i/cover the1/elve/ alone;i5 they reache0 it at all4
They0 alrea0y taken lo//e/ in the hun0re0/, 1aybe thou/an0/, an0 they ha0nt even reache0 the
planet/ /ur5ace yet@ $t wa/ al1o/t beyon0 co1prehen/ion;5ar ea/ier to think in ter1/ o5
nu1ber/ than /ol0ier/4
Bere the other battalion/ being 0roppe0 aroun0 the planet taking /i1ilar 5ire, /he won0ere0
5ear5ullyA Or were they the unlucky one/ being 0roppe0 right in the lap o5 a ne/t o5 ene1y
An0 which wa/ wor/eA Being the targetA Or 0i/covering the ar1a0a ha0 been 0e/troye0 an0 they
ha0 en0e0 up 1aroone0 on the helli/h planetA
?=anika@ Are you alrightA Bere you hitAC
The /oun0 o5 her na1e penetrate0 =anika/ /hock4 %he blinke0 a/ i5 co1ing awake an0 /earche0
5or the origin, the per/on who0 /poken, an0 /tare0 at %eth blankly;%eth CO!8-,4 :e wa/ a
cyborg, /he thought, /truggling to 5igure out what it wa/ about hi1 that 0i0nt /ee1 right4 Bhy
wa/ he a/king her i5 /he wa/ alrightA Bhy woul0 it occur to hi1 to a/kA An0 /houl0nt he have
a/ke0 5or a 0a1age report even i5 hi/ progra11ing ha0 pro1pte0 hi1 to a/kA
:e looke0 hu1an;all o5 the late/t cyborg/ 0i0;an0 /1all won0er when they were con/tructe0
o5 al1o/t 8L biological 1aterial/4 They looke0 /o hu1an that it woul0ve been har0 getting
u/e0 to the i0ea that they werent e7cept they /till 0i0nt behave like hu1an/4 They 0i0nt /peak
like hu1an/4 &ot only 0i0 they have no accent/ like 1o/t hu1an/ 0i0 that pegge0 the1 to
variou/ region/, but they u/e0 none o5 the abbreviate0 /peech pattern/ co11on to hu1an/, none
o5 the /lang or collo6uiali/1/, an0 they 0i0nt 1ake i0le chatter4 $n 5act nothing that ca1e out o5
their 1outh/ bore 1ore than a pa//ing re/e1blance to conver/ation4 They re/pon0e0 when
/poken to;when a re/pon/e wa/ nee0e04 They i//ue0 warning/ when they 0etecte0 anything
they nee0e0 to warn hu1an/ o5, an0 otherwi/e they /ai0 nothing at all4
The early autono1ou/ robot/, particularly the one/ u/e0 in war5are, 9u/t looke0 like 1achine/;
/o1e roughly hu1anoi0 in that they ha0 a hea0 an0 tor/o, two ar1/, two leg/, etc4 an0 other/
1ore like tank/ with hea0/;but the Fbare bone/ uncla0 cha//i/ ha0 0e/ign 0e5ect/4 Two 1uch
o5 their critical 1echanic/ wa/ vulnerable4 The ene1y coul0 /i1ply ai1 5or e7po/e0 pneu1atic
tube/ or 1otor/ an0 incapacitate the14 Thin ar1or /heathing ca1e ne7t4 &ot only 0i0 that create
a /eriou/ weight i//ue, though, it gave the hu1an troop/ the creep/4 They woul0nt have ha0 a
proble1 i5 the unit/ werent autono1ou/, but being /urroun0e0 by /teel 1on/ter/ that /ee1e0
capable o5 anything;inclu0ing acting on their own;wa/ too 0i/tracting an0 0e1orali#ing 5or
the hu1an troop/4 $t ha0 the /a1e e55ect on the ene1y, o5 cour/e, but /ince the hu1an groun0
troop/ were there to 1ake /ure the robot/ 0i0nt 0e/troy property that 0i0nt nee0 to be 0e/troye0
or gun 0own innocent civilian/;or go ber/erk an0 0e/troy everything an0 everyone in /ight;
the govern1ent 0eci0e0 they nee0e0 an ar1y that looke0 1ore hu1an an0 coul0 be 1ore ea/ily
accepte0 by their hu1an counterpart/4
%ynthetic hu1an*like /heathing ca1e ne7t;which opene0 up a whole new 1arket 5or the
1anu5acturer;who0 alrea0y pro0uce0 way 1ore robot/ than they coul0 /ell to the govern1ent
an0 were looking at a /harp 0ecline o5 their pro5it/ i5 not total 0i/a/ter4 The civilian population
/u00enly /aw a nee0 5or co1panion/, nannie/;entertain1ent4 The /ynthetic /heathing 9u/t
wa/nt 6uite clo/e enough to hu1an 5le/h an0 /kin4 :appily, that 0e/ire 5or hu1an 5le/h
coinci0e0 nicely with the a0vance/ in growing hu1an /kin cell/;1u/cle/, internal organ/;the
whole work/4 $t ha0 actually beco1e 5ar cheaper to u/e the Freal thing than /ynthetic/ an0 /ince
the cyborg/ coul0nt ob9ect to an0 werent terri5ie0 o5 nano/ like the re/t o5 the population wa/,
they coul0 intro0uce nano/ into the cyborg/ to a55ect repair/4
&ot that the co1pany woul0 have ob9ecte0 to 1aking 1ore 1oney o55 o5 the govern1ent in
repairing 0a1age0 e6uip1ent, but they0 0one /uch an e7cellent 9ob o5 convincing the
govern1ent that their cyborg/ were virtually in0e/tructible that the govern1ent ha0 0e1an0e0 a
guarantee on the pro0uct be5ore they woul0 /ign o55 on the 1ulti*trillion 0ollar contract4
$t wa/nt 9u/t the 5act that %eth ha0 a/ke0 her i5 /he wa/ alright, though, /he reali#e0 abruptly4
One the thing/ that ha0 alway/ unnerve0 her about working with the cyborg/ wa/ the eye/4 They
ha0 col0, 0ea0, e1otionle// eye/4 They 1anage0 to replicate /o1e e1otion through
progra11ing that kept the1 5ro1 being 6uite /o /tilte0 in their interaction/, that 1a0e it po//ible
a lot o5 the ti1e to /i1ply interact with the1 a/ i5 they were 5ellow hu1an /ol0ier/4 They looke0
an0 5elt hu1an4 A/ long a/ they 0i0nt talk, or con5ine0 the1/elve/ to one or two wor0 re/pon/e/
an0 /he 0i0nt look the1 0irectly in the eye/, /he coul0 preten0 her tea1 wa/ 9u/t a bunch o5
recruit/ 9u/t like /he wa/;really big, brawny recruit/;but a/ hu1an a/ /he wa/, not titaniu1
1on/ter/ that coul0 /6ua/h her like a bug i5 their progra11ing wa/ 5aulty in any way an0 the
notion /truck the14
An0 yet when /he0 1et %eth/ ga#e, /he0 /een everything re5lecte0 in the1 that /he wa/
5eeling in tho/e 1o1ent/ her/el5;5ear o5 pain an0 0eath4
But 1aybe that wa/ itA &othing but a re5lection o5 her own 5ear/A .ro9ecte0 onto hi1A
%he wa/nt entirely convince0, but the reali#ation that /he0 been 5ro#en with /hock an0 5ear
/hook her4 %he coul0nt a55or0 to let tho/e e1otion/ take the upper han0 or /he wa/nt going to
get out o5 thi/ alive@
Con/i0ering the bo1bar01ent, /he 0i0nt know i5 they were even going to 1ake it to the groun0,
but /he nee0e0 to act when an0 i5 they 0i0@
%he got her /econ0 9olt when they were or0ere0 out an0 /he 5inally 1a0e it to the o55*ra1p;
only to 0i/cover that they were /till a very long way 5ro1 the groun0, not on it, a/ /he0
e7pecte04 $n/tantly vi/ion/ o5 being 1angle0 like a /6ua/he0 /pi0er when /he hit the groun0 leapt
into her 1in04 Be5ore /he coul0 5orce her way out o5 the line or 0e1an0 to be taken lower, %eth,
who wa/ behin0 her, tightene0 hi/ grip aroun0 her tor/o an0 /teppe0 o55 the 0a1ne0 plank into
thin air;really thin air@
%he /crea1e0 all the way 0own4 Dortunately, the lan0ing wa/ enough o5 a 9olt to knock the panic
out o5 her when it 0eprive0 her o5 breath4 Hea/on reare0 it/ hea0 a/ the /now pack aroun0 her
wa/ peppere0 with /hot/ 5ro1 what /ee1e0 every 0irection4 :er con0itioning took over;
The lan0/cape wa/ /o /tarkly white with ice an0 /now that it al1o/t /ee1e0 to glow in the
1oonlight that bathe0 it4 A/ /he rolle0 over an0 /canne0 her /urroun0ing/ in one /wi5t, /weep,
/he /aw that the virtually 5lat plane /he0 lan0e0 on wa/ littere0 with black 0ot/ o5 all /hape/ an0
/i#e/;burning 0ebri/ 5ro1 the lan0er/ that 0i0nt 1ake it to the 0rop in one piece, an0 bo0ie/,
/o1e 1oving, /o1e eerily /till4 A black bowl o5 /ky cappe0 the nearly 5eaturele// lan0/cape4
%he coul0nt tell where the ene1y po/ition wa/@
$t 0i0nt help that /he coul0nt /ee a 0a1ne0 thing once her tea1 0eci0e0 to 5or1 a wall aroun0
her;to protect her@ Bhat were they thinkingA They were /uppo/e0 to be /hooting at the 0a1ne0
Dight or 0ie, /he tol0 her/el5@ The ene1y ha0 the1 pinne0 0own4 Bhat to 0oA HetreatA
&ot unle// or0ere0;un5ortunately;but /he ha0 to /truggle with her 5light in/tinct/4
Thank5ully, the thought ha0 no /ooner entere0 her 1in0 than /he hear0 the co11an04
"7cept /he wa/ at the 5ront an0 /uppo/e0 to lay 0own 5ire 5or tho/e in the rear to 0rop back4
Dight or 0ie@
%he 5inally 1anage0 to /pot a 5la/h that gave away an ene1y po/ition4 Once /he began returning
5ire, /he wa/ able to 5ocu/ on trying to eli1inate everyone 5iring at her4 %he 0i0nt reali#e how
an7iou/ /he wa/ 5or her turn to 0rop back until the 1o1ent /he0 been waiting 5or ca1e4 A new
line ha0 been 5or1e0 an0 her tea1 coul0 0rop back an0 take up a po/ition a little 5urther 5ro1
the ene1y4
Melling 5or her tea1 to 0rop back, /he leapt to her 5eet;/tupi0 1ove@ The pro9ectile that
/la11e0 into her an0 /1acke0 her 0own again 0rove that ho1e@ Blackne// /war1e0 over her4
%he wa/ in /o 1uch pain it took her a 5ew 1inute/ to 5igure out what ha0 happene04 By the ti1e
/he 0i0, %eth ha0 /coope0 her up un0er one ar1 an0 wa/ racing acro// the plane4 The 9arring
rai/e0 her pain level until oblivion clai1e0 her4 Bhen /he ca1e to, /he 5elt han0/ tugging at her
/uit4 :er 1in0 /truggle0 5or a 1o1ent to 1ake /en/e o5 what wa/ happening an0 5inally
pro0uce0 the conviction that /he wa/ being atten0e0 by a 1e0ic4
Thank go0@ %he wa/nt going to 0ie;yet4
&ee0ing a//urance, /he opene0 her eye/ with an e55ort, 1anage0 to 5ocu/;an0 then got the
/hock o5 her li5e4 %eth wa/ 1anhan0ling her;not a 1e0ic*borg@
%he 0i0nt even 1anage to /ay no be5ore he /et her on 5ire with the 0a1ne0 la/er@ An0 /he wa/
in too 1uch pain a5ter that to berate hi14
%he nee0e0 to get up an0 5ight4 %he wa/ aware enough o5 her /urroun0ing/ to reali#e the 5ire5ight
ha0 inten/i5ie0, coul0 hear the /oun0/ o5 battle through the open channel that provi0e0
co11unication/ 5or the 5orce on the groun0 an0 the 0ull, 1ute0 /oun0/ o5 inten/e 5ighting that
penetrate0 her protective hel1et4 Bith a /upre1e e55ort o5 will, /he 1anage0 to 1ove her ar1/
an0 han0/;or the unin9ure0 one anyway;in a blin0 /earch 5or her weapon4 %he 0i0nt 5in0 it
an0 the 5ear o5 0i/covering /he wa/ unar1e0 /ent a torrent o5 a0renaline through her that wa/
power5ul enough to enable her to roll onto her /to1ach an0 per5or1 a wi0er /earch4 ?Ey
weapon4 Bhere/ 1y weaponAC
?$ have it4C
$t wa/ &ile/ who re/pon0e0;/he thought4 ?Bell give it to 1e, 0a1n it@C
?Mou have /u/taine0 0a1age, /6ua0 lea0er, =anika4C
?2ike $ 0ont 5ucking know that when 1y whole right /i0e i/ on 5ire@ 3ive 1e the 0a1ne0
thing@C /he yelle0 at hi1 with a 1i7ture o5 5ury an0 terror4
?Ti1e to 5all back again,C %eth re/pon0e0, /cooping her up an0 launching into another bone
/haking run that 1a0e her pa// out again4
Bhen =anika regaine0 con/ciou/ne//, /he 5oun0 her/el5 looking up at a /heer, white wall o5 ice4
%he /tare0 at it blankly, trying to 5igure out where it ha0 co1e 5ro1 when /he certainly ha0nt
notice0 it earlier when /he0 /urveye0 the plane they0 lan0e0 on4
Apparently, no one el/e ha0 notice0 it either when they0 been given the or0er to 5all back;
e7cept the ene1y, becau/e they0 0riven the1 back again/t a wall o5 ice they ha0 no hope o5
/caling4 They werent e6uippe0 5or cli1bing4
They were all going to 0ie;right in thi/ go05or/aken /pot@
%trategically /peaking, they were 5ucke0@
=anika rou/e0 her/el5 to 1ake another 0e1an0 5or her weapon 9u/t a/ /he hear0 the co11an0;
0irecte0 at the cyborg/4
%eth /coope0 her up an0 tilte0 hi/ hea0 back to gauge the 0i/tance4
&ot that /he 0i0nt think it wa/ a 0a1ne0 goo0 i0ea 5or hi1 to 1ake /o1e calculation/ be5ore he
atte1pte0 it, but he 1a0e one hell o5 a target@ Eiraculou/ly, although pro9ectile/ whi##e0 pa/t
the1, none 1a0e their target > until the very 1o1ent %eth crouche0 to launch the two o5 the14
A/ he /prang up again, /hooting the1 /kywar0, /he hear0 hi1 grunt an0 5elt hi1 9erk with an
They werent going to 1ake it, /he thought in 0i/1ay@ $t wa/ 5urther, /he wa/ /ure, than the 0rop
5ro1 the /hip ha0 been an0 /he0 been convince0 he coul0nt 1ake that leap an0 re1ain

Chapter Two
%eth 1ore or le// 5ell over the top o5 the precipice4 Barely clearing the e0ge, he pitche0 hi1/el5
an0 her 5orwar0 in a roll4
Dully e7pecting to be cru/he0, =anika wa/ too /tunne0 to 1ove 5or /everal 1o1ent/ a5ter %eth
/toppe0 rolling, waiting in vain 5or the pain o5 cru/he0 an0 1angle0 bo0y to reach the nerve
center/ in her brain, regar0le// o5 the 5act that /he wa/ /prawle0 on top o5 %eth when he 5inally
/toppe0 rolling4
Heali#ing a5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/ that /he wa/nt 0ea0 or 0ying, /he li5te0 her hea0 an0 /tu0ie0 hi/
5ace4 :e wa/ /taring up at the /ky above the1 an0 /he 5elt a 9olt o5 5ear run through her4 Ba/ he
0ea0A Gh;0e/troye0A ?%ethAC
:e blinke0 at the /oun0 o5 her voice an0 /hi5te0 hi/ ga#e to her 5ace4 Dor a long 1o1ent, their
ga#e/ /ee1e0 locke0 an0 in that 1o1ent =anika /aw, or thought /he /aw, /o1ething /he /houl0
not have /een in the eye/ o5 a cyborg;pain an0 relie54
$t /hook her al1o/t a/ 1uch a/ the 5ear that he0 cea/e0 to 5unction altogether an0 le5t her
/tran0e0 on the go05or/aken ball o5 ice alone4
Bhich wa/ /o1ething that /houl0nt have occurre0 to her at all@
%he wa/ u/e0 to working with her tea1;her /6ua0;an0 /he wa/ 5on0 o5 the1;in 1uch the
/a1e /en/e a/ a per/on coul0 co1e to rely on an0 beco1e attache0 to any labor /aving 0evice,
/he a//ure0 her/el54 But /he woul0nt be alone even i5 he wa/ 0e/troye0@ There were other
/ol0ier/;hu1an /ol0ier/4 An0 the 5act wa/ that /he wa/ alone even when /he wa/ /urroun0e0 by
her tea1 becau/e /he wa/ the only real per/on a1ong the14
3et a grip, girl@ ?=a1age report,C /he /ai0 5inally, pu/hing her/el5 o55 o5 hi1 with an e55ort an0
looking aroun0 5or her other tea1 1ate/4 &ile/, /he /aw, wa/ crouche0 be/i0e the1, 5iring
towar0 the ene1y line4 =ane wa/ nowhere in /ight an0 /he recalle0 abruptly, with a touch o5
panic, that hi/ 1obility ha0 been i1paire0 when the 0rop /hip ha0 been 0a1age04 %cra1bling
towar0 the e0ge o5 the precipice, /he looke0 0own4 %he ha0 a /plit /econ0 to regi/ter the 0i/a/ter
below an0 0i/cover that =ane wa/ 0angling by one ar1 5ro1 the /i0e o5 the ice cli55 an0 then a
han0 curle0 aroun0 one o5 her ankle/ an0 /he 5elt her/el5 0ragge0 backwar0/4
Twi/ting her hea0, /he /aw it wa/ %eth who ha0 hol0 o5 her ankle4
:e wa/ glaring at her4 ?Mou will get your hea0 /hot o55@C
%tunne0 at the 0i/play o5 anger, =anika blinke0 /everal ti1e/, gaping at hi14 %he wa/ 5ar 1ore
preoccupie0 with the /cene her 1in0 ha0 capture0, however4 $t looke0 like 5ully hal5 o5 their
5orce;1aybe 1ore;wa/ trappe0 below;1ai1e0, woun0e0, or alrea0y 0ea0, an0 the ene1y
wa/ a0vancing an0 /y/te1atically e7ecuting anybo0y who ha0nt 1anage0 to e/cape the trap4
%he barely notice0 when he relea/e0 hi/ hol0 an0 crawle0 to the e0ge o5 the precipice to look
0own a/ /he ha04
?Can you cli1bAC
?The 1obility o5 1y le5t ar1 i/ co1pro1i/e04 $ will try4C
?&ile/ an0 $ will try to cover you,C %eth re/pon0e0, turning to /u11on &ile/ with a han0
$n0ignation 5lickere0 through =anika, piercing her /hock4 %he wa/ the /6ua0 lea0er, 0a1n it@ %he
wa/ /uppo/e0 to be lea0ing the tea1@ %he wa/ oblige0 to a01it a5ter a very little thought,
though, that /he coul0nt think o5 anything better to try4 $t wa/nt a/ i5 they coul0 haul =ane/
heavy a// up the cli55@
Bell, /he /uppo/e0 %eth an0 &ile/ coul0 > i5 they ha0 a rope o5 /o1e kin0, which /he knew
0a1ne0 well /he 0i0nt have in her pack4 :e wa/ going to have to 1ake it on hi/ own;or not4
3ritting her teeth again/t the pain 5ro1 her woun0, /he crawle0 to the e0ge again on her belly4
%eth /toppe0 5iring long enough to plant a han0 on the top o5 her hel1et an0 /hove her back4
?%tay@C he growle04
=anika /loughe0 the /now o55 her 5ace /hiel0 an0 glare0 at hi1 with a 1i7ture o5 0i/belie5 an0
anger4 Be5ore /he coul0 think o5 how to re/pon0 to hi/ or0er, however, /he /aw a han0 appear
above the ri14 %eth put hi/ weapon 0own an0 gra/pe0 the han0, hauling =ane over the e0ge4
&o one, =anika reali#e0 abruptly, ha0 given her a 0a1age report@ A$ or not, they were /uppo/e0
to be at her co11an0@
3rante0, they0 been bu/y, but they were cyborg/@ $t wa/nt a/ i5 they werent capable o5
han0ling 1ultiple ta/k/@
?=i/engage the ene1y an0 5all back to /ecure weapon/ an0 /upply 0rop, coor0inate/ , 0egree/
-( 1inute/ &orth Be/tN !- 0egree/ %outh >4C
=anika li/tene0 while the or0er/ were repeate0 through the 3O;general or0er/;channel;
1inu/ the coor0inate/4 ?:ow 5ar i/ that, %ethAC
?Thirty click/4C
?%hit@C That woul0ve been a long a// 0i/tance un0er a hell o5 a lot better con0ition/;terrain*
wi/e4 An0 all o5 the1 were woun0e0;or 0a1age0@ %he wa/ woun0e0@ They were 0a1age04
?=a1age report4C
Be5ore any o5 her tea11ate/ coul0 re/pon0, they hear0 an e7change between a 9unior o55icer on
the groun0 an0 the co11an0 center4 ?Acknowle0ge receipt4 The 2ieutenant Colonel an0 /ta55 all
0ea0 or 1i//ing4 Beve /u/taine0 heavy ca/ualtie/4 Be nee0 an i11e0iate evac4 That/ a no go
on reaching the /upply 0rop at coor0inate/ >4C
?Bho the hell are you, you i0iotAC /o1eone roare0, cutting the /peaker o55 be5ore he coul0
5ini/h4 ?G/e the CO channel@C
?%o1ebo0y 9u/t got bu/te0,C =anika 1uttere04 Clearly /he wa/nt the only one that ha0 9u/t ha0
her 5ir/t ta/te o5 the real thing an0 wa/ having proble1/ re1e1bering training;&ot that /he wa/
rattle0 enough to 5orget that that /ort o5 in5or1ation /houl0nt be pa//e0 through anything but the
CO;co11an0 operation/;channel@ They were going to be 0a1ne0 lucky i5 the ene1y ha0nt
picke0 up that 0a1aging intel@ ?&ot that it look/ like he/ going to have to worry about it4 $
0oubt there/ going to be an evac an0 $1 gue//ing you guy/ /aw what $ 0i0 at the ba/e o5 the
cli554 The ene1y i/ a0vancing an0 it 0oe/nt look like they plan to take pri/oner/4 Mou guy/ think
you can 1ake it to the 0ropAC %he a/ke0 when /he0 0one a vi/ual an0 0i/covere0 that the
cyborg/ ha0 taken 5ar 1ore 0a1age than /he ha04
%he 0i0nt think they ha0 ti1e to wait 5or their nano/ to 1ake any /ort o5 repair/4 %he 0i0nt
think it wa/ pure luck that the ene1y ha0 poun0e0 the hell out o5 the1 an0 0riven the1 back
again/t a wall4 Their ob9ective 1ight have been to out5lank the1 an0 clo/e the 5i/t, but /he
thought there wa/ a goo0 chance that they0 known about the ri0ge to /tart with an0 the
con5e0eration 5orce/ ha0 reacte0 9u/t a/ the ene1y ha0 hope04 That 1ight al/o 1ean that the
ene1y knew o5 a route up the e/carp1ent or ha0 5orce/ clo/ing on the1 now 5ro1 the rear4
Dro1 the chatter on the local co11unication/ channel, /he thought 1o/t everyone that ha0
/urvive0;/o 5ar;wa/ beginning to get the picture4
?Be cant 9u/t leave our people 0own there@C
?Be cant 0o anything el/e4 $5 we 0ont get to that /upply 0rop be5ore the ene1y were going to
be in the /a1e /hape they are@C
?Bhere/ air /upportAC
?Bhere are the 1e0*evac/AC
?Moure /aying you think theyre tie0 up in another battleAC
?Bhat the hell kin0 o5 intel i/ thatA There wa/nt /uppo/e0 to be any re/i/tance here@C
They co1plaine0 an0 /peculate0 5or the 5ir/t hal5 hour while the re1nant/ o5 the co1panie/ that
1a0e up their battalion /truggle0 through al1o/t knee 0eep /now, but they 0i/covere0 they0
walke0 right into a blin0ing /now /tor1 an0 nobo0y ha0 the energy to wa/te on talking any1ore
a5ter the /tor1 hit the14 $t wa/ all they coul0 0o to 5ocu/ on putting one 5oot in 5ront o5 the other
an0 keeping tab/ on the re/t o5 the group to keep 5ro1 getting lo/t4
They were about hal5 way between the ri0ge everybo0y wa/ beginning to re5er to a/ /laughter
ri0ge an0 the 0rop /ite when a /erie/ o5 1a//ive e7plo/ion/ pro1pte0 the1 to hit the groun04 $t
only took the1 a 5ew 1o1ent/ to reali#e that the bo1bar01ent wa/nt clo/e enough to be an
i11e0iate threat4
2ong ter1 wa/ another 1atter4
?Oh 1y go0@ Be are /o 5ucke0@ That wa/ the /upplie/ that 9u/t went up in /1oke@C
?Boul0 you 9u/t /hut the 5uck up@C
?$ 0ont know which one o5 you /tupi0 5uck/ gave the coor0inate/ away, but youre going to be a
0ea0 1other 5ucker i5 $ get 1y han0/ on you@C
?Bhy 0oe/nt everybo0y 9u/t /hut the 5uck upAC =anika yelle0 angrily4 ?:e 0i0nt get the chance
to give away the e7act coor0inate/4 Ey gue// i/ that either none o5 the channel/ are a/ /ecure a/
we thought or they 0i0nt nee0 the coor0inate/4 $t /ure a/ hell 0i0nt take the1 long to get there4C
?:ey@ Be 0ont know that it wa/ our /upplie/@ Coul0 be another group taking a poun0ing4C
=anika glance0 at her tea1 6ue/tioningly, 5eeling a ray o5 hope4 $t 0ie0 when %eth /hook hi/
hea04 ?That i/ the coor0inate/ we were given4C
?$ gue// we0 better hu1p it, then,C /he /ai0 tire0ly, ?an0 /ee what we can /alvage4 $ have a ba0
5eeling were going to nee0 anything we can 5in04C
There wa/nt 1uch to /alvage4 $t looke0 a/ i5 the bo1bar01ent ha0 been a long range e55ort,
however, an0 when they0 re/te0 brie5ly an0 began to /ort through the 0ebri/ that ha0 coole0
enough to allow 5or a /earch, they began to 5in0 a 5ew u/eable /upplie/4 =anika /uppo/e0 they
/houl0 9u/t be grate5ul that the ene1y 0i0nt /ee1 to have the technical capabilitie/ o5 the
con5e0eration or they woul0ve been co1pletely /crewe04
Or 1aybe it wa/ 1ore a 1atter o5 being /prea0 too thin an0 not having the 1unition/ they
nee0e0 to totally annihilate the con5e0eration troop/A
By her, a01itte0ly, rough calculation/, the ar1a0a that ha0 brought the1 ha0 been carrying a
5orce o5 nearly a hal5 a 1illion;counting cyborg/;which /he0 con/i0ere0 actually counte0 a/
1ore than a /ingle /ol0ier /ince they were 1any ti1e/ /tronger than their hu1an counterpart/4
That wa/ the 1ain rea/on /he ha0nt been un0uly nervou/ about the 1i//ion4 A/ 5ar a/ anyone
knew;or at lea/t ha0 been tol0;there werent any ene1y ba/e/ on Keno*!24
Clearly, the con5e0eration thought they0 been clever in not 0eclaring war until they0 nearly
reache0 the planet they planne0 to take an0 hol0 /ince it o55ere0 the 1o/t /trategic a0vantage in
protecting the con5e0eration/ intere/t/ in thi/ /y/te14
"ither they ha0nt been clever enough, though, or the ene1y wa/ /1arter than they0 given the1
cre0it 5or4
Or the grunt/ like her 9u/t ha0nt been i1portant enough to get the 1e1o4 The only warning
they0 ha0 wa/ to e7pect the po//ibility o5 pocket/ o5 re/i/tance4 They /ure a/ hell ha0nt
e7pecte0 /uch a 5erociou/, 5ocu/e0 attack that they woul0nt even be able to organi#e a
counter/trike once they got on the groun0@
They ha0nt been able to pull the1/elve/ together at all@ $t ha0 been a total rout@
%he ha0 a ba0 5eeling, though, that the lack o5 action by the 5leet 1eant that the 0i/a/ter her
battalion ha0 e7perience0 on lan0ing wa/nt i/olate04 The only e7planation that /he coul0 think
o5 5or the lack o5 air /upport, 1e0*evac, or co1plete evacuation wa/ that the entire 5orce wa/
un0er attack an0 unable to len0 /upport4
%o 1aybe it ha0nt been a brilliant 1ilitary tactic to /prea0 their own 5orce/ /o thinA 3rante0 it
wa/ a big planet an0 /he coul0 /ee why they wante0 to be /ure they ha0 enough 5orce/ on the
groun0 globally to repel any atte1pt/ by the ene1y to /neak in the back0oor, but they /houl0nt
have 9u/t a//u1e0 they0 beat the ene1y to the planet to /tart with4
Arrogance, /he thought angrily a/ /he /cratche0 through a pile o5 0ebri/@ The arrogant ba/tar0/
ha0 been /o 0a1ne0 /ure they were in5initely /uperior to their ene1y, the An0orian/, that they
were going to be lucky i5 they 0i0nt lo/e the war in thi/ one theater4
?Be have 1anage0 to locate /i7 habitat/ that are relatively intact4C
=anika 9u1pe0 when the voice abruptly broke into her thought/, whipping her hea0 aroun0 to
look 5or %eth when /he recogni#e0 hi/ voice4 $t /ent a 9olt through her to 0i/cover that he wa/
/tan0ing within a yar0 o5 her4
They0 0eci0e0 that it wa/nt /a5e to ri/k any co11unication/ via the co1 unit/ unle// they were
ab/olutely nece//ary4 They 0i0nt know that the ene1y ha0 1anage0 to break /ecurity an0 ha0
li/tene0 to everything they0 /ai0, but i5 they ha0nt they were 0a1ne0 goo0 at gue//ing4
$t wa/ /till a 1y/tery, /uppo/ing they ha0, a/ to how the An0orian/ ha0 1anage0 to break the
co0e/ /o 6uickly, but =anika wa/ putting her 1oney on a traitor or traitor/ a1ong the14 &othing
el/e 1a0e /en/e, to her thinking;inclu0ing the 5act that the ene1y /ee1e0 to be waiting 5or
the1 when they 1a0e the lan0ing4
&o getting aroun0 the 5act that their intel ha0 been better than the con5e0eration/ intel@
$n any ca/e, the ene1y ha0 been pretty 0a1ne0 thorough in 0e1oli/hing their /upplie/ an0, /ince
the /un ha0 ri/en an0 with it the te1perature/ to a bal1y #ero 0egree/, they0 0eci0e0 to
con/erve what they coul0 o5 their hab*/uit/ built*in /upplie/;1o/t notably the heater 5uel cell/4
?Only /i7AC =anika echoe0, 0i/1aye0 when /he0 0one a 6uick 1ental calculation o5 their
nu1ber/4 ?That/ only enough roo1 5or >4C
?The hu1an/4C
=anika gape0 at hi14 ?But > there/ only 1aybe 5i5ty hu1an/ le5t@ At thirty to a barrack/ >4C
?Thirty /i7 > at the 1o1ent4 %eventy 5ive 1a0e it to the ri0ge4 Eayhap a 6uarter were lo/t in
the bli##ar0 on the way or 0ie0 5ro1 their woun0/4 .robably no 1ore than a 0o#en by night 5all4
:owever, the habitat/ are not barrack/4 They are 5or /6ua0/ > an0 they are 0a1age04 $ 0i0 not
count the one/ we 5oun0 that coul0 not be patche04C
%tunne0 0i/belie5 hel0 =anika 5or /everal 1o1ent/ be5ore rage took it/ place4 ?$n other wor0/,
we woul0nt have ha0 hou/ing 5or all o5 the troop/ even i5 tho/e ba/tar0/ ha0nt beat u/ here an0
blown our /upplie/ all to hellAC
?There will be roo1 5or the re1aining hu1an/4C
=anika/ lip/ tightene04 ?That i/nt goo0 enough, 0a1n it@C The bulk o5 their 5orce 1ight be
cyborg/, but the cyborg/ were part biological an0 the col0 woul0 inhibit their ability to 5ight;
an0 they 0a1ne0 /ure nee0e0 everybo0y, cyborg an0 hu1an, that they ha0 le5t4 ?Bho/ in
?%econ0 2ieutenant Eurphy Brown4C
?Oh 1y go0@C $t /truck her that, in all likelihoo0, it ha0 been %econ0 2ieutenant Eurphy Brown
who0 /crewe0 up /o royalty in hi/ co11unication/ the night be5ore i5 he wa/ the only o55icer
they ha0 le5t;an0 a/ green a/ /he wa/, no 0oubt@ ?Bhere i/ heAC
?$ will e/cort you4C
%he 0i0nt nee0 an e/cort@ $n/tea0 o5 arguing, however, /he 5ell into /tep be/i0e hi14 ?:ave your
> uh > nanao/ repaire0 the 0a1age/AC
%eth /ent her a /harp glance, brie5ly both /urpri/e0 an0 alar1e0 until he reali#e0 /he wa/ not
re5erring to hi/ 1al5unctioning behavioral progra11ing but rather the /tatu/ o5 hi/ co1bat
rea0ine//4 ?The 0a1age to 1y /y/te1/ wa/ 1ini1al > pri1arily /uper5icial 0a1age to 1y
biological /heathing4 $ a1 currently at 'L4C
%he 5rowne0, won0ering abruptly how he coul0 be at lea/t hal5 biological, or nearly hal5, an0
e7perience nothing 1ore than an awarene// o5 0a1age4 Bere there no nerve/ in hi/ biological
/heathingA Or 0i0 they 9u/t not connect to nerve center/ capable o5 regi/tering painA ?Mou 0ont
> 5eel any pain when youre woun0e0AC
%eth/ unea/ine// returne04 The truth wa/ that he wa/ one hun0re0 percent certain that he /houl0
not have 5elt any pain, but he not only ha0 5elt it;a great 0eal o5 it;he /till 5elt pain an0 it wa/
0i55icult to behave a/ i5 he 0i0 not4 :e /houl0 not, in point o5 5act, have 5elt anything at all4 :e
ha0 been progra11e0 to 1i1ic e1otion/4 :e knew the 1echanic/ o5 0i/playing e1otion an0
what each ge/ture an0 5acial e7pre//ion 0enote0 /o that he coul0 recogni#e e1otion/ in hu1an/
an0 react to the14 :e ha0 not been 0e/igne0 or progra11e0 to 5eel the1, becau/e not only wa/
that not po//ible4 $t wa/ not 0e/irable4 &o 1atter how 1any /y/te1/ check/ he ha0 run, however,
he ha0 0i/covere0 nothing to account 5or the e1otion/ that /ee1e0 to be clogging hi/ ob9ectivity4
The only thing that he ha0 been able to a/certain with certainty wa/ that he wa/ 5eeling an0
reacting on a purely ani1al level to hi/ environ1ent an0 everything that hi/ bo0y an0 1in0
/en/e0 an0 perceive0, which co1pletely 0e5ie0 logic4
:e 0i0 not un0er/tan0 an0 that wa/ al1o/t 5rightening4 $t wa/ certainly 0i/turbing, but all he
coul0 think to 0o wa/ to atte1pt to hi0e hi/ 0i/ability until hi/ nano/ repaire0 whatever ha0
cau/e0 the proble1 or he un0er/too0 it well enough to prevent it 5ro1 a55ecting hi14
:e wa/ /till reluctant to lie > to =anika4 :e 0i0 not think he woul0 have a proble1 lying i5
anyone el/e ha0 a/ke0, but /he wa/ hi/ /6ua0 lea0er4 :e ha0 been progra11e0 alway/ to 0e5er
to her;to tru/t her co1pletely4 $t 5elt Fwrong to withhol0 anything 5ro1 her4 ?$ wa/ not
0e/igne0 to 5eel, only to recor04C
%he /toppe0, gra/ping hi/ wri/t in a ge/ture to /top that he coul0 not ignore, although he wante0
to4 :e he/itate0 an0 then yiel0e0 to the /ilent 0e1an0, won0ering why her touch ha0 /uch a
pro5oun0 e55ect upon hi1 that went /o 5ar beyon0 anything he ha0 e7pecte0 ever to 5eel,
uncertain o5 whether he wante0 to 5eel the /en/ation/ that 5loo0e0 hi14 :e 0i/covere0 that /he
wa/ /tu0ying hi/ 5ace an0 that wa/ enough to 0ivert hi/ 1in0 5ro1 the blin0ing /en/ation/ to a
/en/e o5 0anger4
?That i/nt what $ a/ke04C
?$ beg par0on4 $ thought that $ ha0 re/pon0e0 to your 6ue/tion4C
?$ 0ont think you thought anything o5 the kin04 Mou eva0e0 the 6ue/tion4C
:e 5rowne0, 5eeling a 5licker o5 both re/ent1ent an0 0i/1ay at her lack o5 tru/t4 ?$ a1 >
:e wa/ lying, =anika reali#e0, 5eeling an abrupt /hi5t o5 her con/ciou/ne// 5ro1 %eth to the
be0raggle0 enca1p1ent /urroun0ing the two o5 the14 :e0 /ai0 that there were thirty /i7
hu1an/ that ha0 /urvive0 the 0rop an0 1a0e it to the enca1p1ent4 That wa/ roughly a 6uarter o5
the /6ua0 lea0er/;all hu1an like her/el5;who0 1a0e it out o5 the nearly !2 1an unit that
ha0 been 0roppe0 at the/e coor0inate/4 .robably three 6uarter/ o5 the cyborg/ that were part o5
their unit ha0 1a0e it4
:ow 1any o5 tho/e, /he won0ere0, ha0 e7perience0 the /a1e /ort o5 bi#arre 1al5unction that /he
/aw in %ethA All o5 the1A :al5A
Becau/e, in/tea0 o5 convincing her/el5 that it wa/ all in her 1in0, /he0 beco1e 1ore an0 1ore
certain that it wa/nt in her 1in0 at all4 %eth ha0 > change04 :e wa/ 0i55erent;1ore hu1an
than cyborg4 %he 5elt it in every 5iber o5 her being4
Becau/e touching hi1 0i0nt 5eel anything like touching a 1achine an0 it /houl0 have4 %he
/houl0 have 5elt a/ co1pletely 0etache0 about gra/ping hi/ wri/t a/ /he woul0 have in gra/ping
the han0le o5 a 0oor4
%he woul0ve like0 to have convince0 her/el5 that %eth wa/ the only one;becau/e /he ha0nt
notice0 anything /trange about either =ane or &ile/;but /he abruptly recalle0 that it ha0 been a
cyborg who0 taken charge an0 i//ue0 or0er/;to the cyborg/;when they0 been bo7e0 in at
the ri0ge4
:ow 1uch 0anger 0i0 the/e > rogue/ repre/entA
$t wa/ a chilling thought an0 one that ha0 plague0 =anika /ince /he0 0i/covere0 that (8L to
)L o5 the ar1y the govern1ent ha0 put together wa/ cyborg4 :u1an/ were only there a/
Fhan0ler/;truth5ully only there to prevent the 1a// hy/teria that probably woul0ve re/ulte0 in
the 0i/covery by the civilian population that the govern1ent ha0 put together a 1a//ive ar1y o5
autono1ou/ /teel 1on/ter/;which wa/ probably al/o the rea/on the govern1ent ha0 in/i/te0
that they look hu1an4
%he cleare0 her throat nervou/ly4 ?Hun a /y/te1/ check an0 /ee i5 you can 0etect any > uh >
progra11ing or 1echanical ano1alie/4C
?Bhat irregularitie/ /houl0 $ /earch 5orAC
=anika 5orce0 a tight /1ile4 ?Anything4 Beve lo/t enough 1en alrea0y4 Be nee0 to be /ure
everyone i/ in peak operating con0ition 5or the ne7t attack4C
They 5oun0 2ieutenant Brown in one o5 the habitat/4 Bhen %eth ha0 le5t, /he a/ke0 5or
per1i//ion to enter4 A5ter a 5airly prolonge0 wait, when /he wa/ 9u/t about to a/k again,
per1i//ion wa/ grante0 an0 /he went in/i0e4 Brown looke0 pale, /haken, an0 0i/tracte0, but
=anika coul0nt 0etect any patche/ on hi/ hab*/uit to in0icate that he0 been woun0e04 %he wa/
no 1e0ic, but he looke0 like he ha0 a ba0 ca/e o5 /hell/hock4 %he /alute04 ?%ir@ $ve been
in5or1e0 by one o5 1y /6ua0 1e1ber/ that there arent enough hab/ to hou/e all o5 the 1en4 $
wante0 to put in a re6ue/t 5or a hab 5or 1y own /6ua0 an0 a/k when we 1ight e7pect 1ore
/upplie/4 Be u/e0 1o/t o5 our 1unition/ la/t night in the 5ire5ight an0 we only have enough
ration/ in our pack/ 5or a 5ew 0ay/4C
:e /tare0 at her blankly 5or /everal 1o1ent/ an0 then 1a0e a /oun0 that 1ight have been a
giggle4 Bhen /he gape0 at hi1 he /ee1e0 to pull hi1/el5 together4 :e ge/ture0 wi0e with hi/
han0/4 ?Bhat you /ee here, corporal, i/ what we have4C
=anika/ 1in0 i11e0iately con9ure0 an i1age o5 the pile/ o5 charre0 0ebri/ out/i0e the hab4 An
icy 5i/t /ee1e0 to clo/e aroun0 her heart4 ?%ir, we havent recovere0 1uch;/o 5ar4C
?Bell you0 better look har0er@C he /ai0 angrily4 ?Becau/e thi/ i/ our /upply 0rop4 Co11an0
in5or1e0 1e that they0 0i/bur/e0 /upplie/ on han04 Bell have to 1ake 0o until another /upply
/hip arrive/ unle// we can get another unit to /hare an0 the clo/e/t i/ 5ive hun0re0 1ile/ to the
/outh o5 u/4 An0 weve been or0ere0 to 1aintain ra0io /ilence4 An0 we 0ont have a working
Gn0er the circu1/tance/, =anika abruptly 0i/1i//e0 the i0ea /he0 ha0 o5 in5or1ing her /uperior
o5 her /u/picion/ regar0ing the cyborg/4 That ha0 never been a goo0 i0ea, /he re5lecte0, /ince /he
wa/ a 5e1ale an0 her vague intuition woul0ve been 0i/counte0 a/ hy/teria or, at the very lea/t,
overactive i1agination4 Con/i0ering their /ituation an0 the con0ition o5 their highe/t ranking
o55icer it /ee1e0 like the wor/t i0ea /he0 ever ha04
$n any ca/e, the bigge/t proble1 at the 1o1ent wa/ the /carcity o5 /upplie/4 $5 Brown knew what
he wa/ talking about, an0 he /ee1e0 to, they coul0 be looking at a long, long /tretch be5ore a
/upply /hip arrive04 Doo0 0i0nt loo1 a/ her bigge/t worry4 %helter wa/ a high priority4 The /uit/
coul0 e7tract energy 5ro1 the /un, but thi/ worl0 wa/nt a place where one coul0 count on a lot
o5 /olar ra0iation4 One o5 the proble1/ wa/ it/ 0i/tance 5ro1 it/ /un an0 the other wa/ the /tor1/4
Eore i1portantly even than that, to her 1in0, wa/ the 0angerou/ly low 1unition/4
That thought in/tantly con9ure0 an i1age o5 the 1en lying at the ba/e o5 the ri0ge4 Hevul/ion
wa/he0 over her in a wave, but they were going to be ca/ualtie/ o5 war the1/elve/ i5 they 0i0nt
have anything to throw at the ene1y when they attacke0 again4
An0, newbie or not, /he knew they0 be e7pecte0 to act, not to /i1ply /it tight an0 hope the
ene1y 0i0nt co1e to the14 They0 been 0roppe0 to /ecure the planet a/ a 5orwar0 ba/e o5
operation/4 They were going to have to 5igure out a way to 0o that with what they ha0;or 0ie
?%ir@ .er1i//ion to take a 0etail to the ri0ge an0 collect whatever /upplie/ we can 5in0 an0 bury
the 0ea0AC
:e /tare0 at her a/ i5 /he0 grown two hea0/4 ?An0 leave the ba/e vulnerable to another attackA
Be 0ont have the 1anpower, /ol0ier@C
?Begging par0on, %ir@ But were going to be /crewe0 i5 we 0ont 5in0 /upplie/ /o1ewhere@C
?Bhat 1ake/ you think they havent alrea0y been picke0 cleanAC
?$ 0ont know that they havent4 But we al/o 0ont know that they have4 Be have to account 5or
the 0ea0 an0 1i//ing anyway, i5 po//ible4 Mou coul0 /pare 1y /6ua0, at lea/t4 There are only
5our o5 u/4 An0 it/ likely that tho/e who got lo/t in the /tor1 la/t night will 1ake it into ca1p4
Or at lea/t po//ible,C /he a00e0 when he looke0 /keptical4
%he thought he woul0 0i/1i// her /ugge/tion out o5 han0 but a5ter a 1o1ent, he /ee1e0 to
/tea0y hi1/el54 ?That /ugge/tion ha/ /o1e 1erit,C he 1ur1ure0, turning it over4 ?.er1i//ion
grante04 Take your 1en an0 hu1p it over to %laughter Hi0ge, collect whatever 1unition/ an0
/upplie/ you can, an0 get back here by 0ark4C
=anika 5rowne04 That /ee1e0 a tall or0er even 5or three cyborg/4 %he 0i0nt /ee any po//ibility
o5 giving the 0ea0 a 0ecent burial an0 collecting /upplie/ an0 hauling the1 all back in the /pace
o5 a 0ay4 ?The burial/AC
?Be cant /pare the 1en 5or a burial 0etail right now4 Theyre on ice4 Theyll keep4 An0 i5 the
/now 0oe/nt bury the1, we will when we can4 Ou/t /can their $=/4C
$t /oun0e0 callou/, but /he knew he wa/ right;on all count/4 $t actually heartene0 her that he
/ee1e0 1ore collecte04 $5 they were going to /urvive at all they nee0e0 a lea0er that ha0 hi/ hea0
on /traight;an0 he wa/nt 9u/t the highe/t ranking o55icer, he wa/ the only o55icer at the
Bhen /he le5t hi/ hab, /he /aw that her /6ua0 wa/ waiting nearby4 %he 1et %eth/ ga#e brie5ly
an0 then /tu0ie0 the 5ace/ o5 the other two a/ /he approache0 the14 Helieve0 when /he /aw that
neither =ane nor &ile/ /ee1e0 to be a55ecte0 by whatever ha0 brought about the change in %eth,
/he 5elt /o1e o5 her unea/ine// evaporate4 ?Bere to return to the ri0ge to /ee what we can
collect in the way o5 /upplie/ an0 1unition/4 Bere going to have to hu1p it, though4 The
lieutenant /ai0 to be back by 0ark4C
%eth/ ga#e 5lickere0 over her4 ?Mour woun0 will /low you4 $t woul0 be better i5 we went an0
you /taye0 in the ca1p4C
Their woun0/, or 0a1age, wa/ going to /low the1, too, but /he 0oubte0 even though they0
/u/taine0 1ore 0a1age than /he ha0 that they woul0 be a/ han0icappe0 a/ /he wa/4 %he wa/
running on a0renaline an0 /he knew it, but not only 0i0 /he reali#e /he coul0nt a55or0 to lay
aroun0 to recover, there wa/ no place to lay aroun0 an0 no actual 1e0ic/4 ?$ 5eel like /hit, but $
can 1ake it4 $ll 5eel a hell o5 a lot better when $ have /o1e a11o;an0 enough ration/ to carry
1e through a couple o5 week/4C
Thank5ully, he 1erely no00e0 an0 5ollowe0 her when /he /hrugge0 her weapon 5ro1 her
/houl0er an0 /tarte0 out o5 ca1p4 The throbbing 5ro1 her woun0 began to inten/i5y al1o/t
i11e0iately an0 /he pau/e0 a5ter a little bit an0 checke0 her 1e0*kit, counting the painkiller/4
%he ha0 three 0o/e/4 %he 0eci0e0 to take hal5 a 0o/e to 0ull the pain4 $5 /he took a 5ull 0o/age,
/he wa/nt going to be very alert4 Be/i0e/, /he 1ight nee0 the painkiller wor/e later on4 ?$ 0ont
/uppo/e you guy/ were i//ue0 painkiller/AC /he a/ke0, only hal5 9oking becau/e /he wa/ hope5ul
they 1ight have /o1ething4
?&o,C %eth re/pon0e04
?Bant one o5 1ineAC
%eth /ent her a /harp look4 ?Thank you4 $ 0o not nee0 it4C
%he 0i0nt believe hi14 :e looke0 like he wa/ in pain, but /he 0i0nt pu/h it4 %hrugging, /he put
the kit up4 ?Eore 5or 1e4C
Thank you 5or pointing that out, /he thought irritably4 %he 0i0nt think it wa/ a goo0 thing that
the cyborg/ knew the hu1an/ a1ong the1 were 5ar weaker than they were4
They0 only been tru0ging through knee 0eep /now 5or an hour when they 5oun0 their 5ir/t
corp/e4 =anika 0i/covere0 it by /tubbing her toe on it an0 5alling over it4 The 5all /et her woun0
to throbbing har0 enough it 1ight have taken her a while to get up i5 %eth ha0nt haule0 her
%he thought /he0 trippe0 on a rock, but /he0 1anage0 to clear enough loo/e /now away when
/he0 /prawle0 out to i0enti5y the ob9ect that /he0 5allen over4
?:e i/ 0ea04C
=anika 5licke0 a /harp glance at %eth, 1et hi/ ga#e 5or a 1o1ent, an0 looke0 away4 Gntil he0
/ai0 that, /he0 convince0 her/el5 that it wa/ a cyborg4 $n that /tate, he certainly 0i0nt look
hu1an4 %he /wallowe0 a little /ickly an0 knelt be/i0e the corp/e4
?$ will 0o it,C &ile/ /ai04
Bhen =anika glance0 towar0 hi1, he li5te0 hi/ hea0, looke0 her 0irectly in the eye/, an0 /he /aw
there the /a1e change that /he0 /een in %eth4 Caught between horror at the ta/k /he0
volunteere0 5or an0 /hock that whatever it wa/ a55ecting %eth /ee1e0 to be /prea0ing, /he
coul0nt think o5 a re/pon/e 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 ?$t ha/ to be 0one4 $ 1ight a/ well get u/e0 to
it,C /he 5inally re/pon0e04
?Mou 0o not have to grow accu/to1e0 now4 $ will > /earch thi/ one 5or /upplie/4C
%he 0eci0e0 not to argue with hi14 Dor one, /he 0i0nt think /he coul0 1anage the F9ob without
puking4 Dor another, arguing with a 1achine that coul0 rip her apart a/ ea/ily a/ tearing paper i5
he took the notion /ee1e0 like a really /tupi0 i0ea4
%eth grippe0 her ar1 an0 haule0 her to her 5eet again a/ i5 the 1atter wa/ /ettle0 an0 /he /ent
hi1 an unea/y look4
%eth he/itate0, but he 0i0nt like the look in her eye/4 ?&o one here will har1 you4 Be are
progra11e0 to protect our tea1 lea0er, =anika4C
$t wa/ al1o/t an a01i//ion that he0 change0;0ra/tically;an0 it 0i0nt co15ort her a/ it ha0
no 0oubt been 1eant to4 :ow 1uch o5 their progra11ing, /he won0ere0, ha0 been corrupte0 by
whatever ha0 brought about the change /he0 notice0A

Chapter Three
=anika ha0 e7pecte0 to 5in0 virtually the /a1e thing when they 5inally reache0 %laughter Hi0ge
a/ they0 alrea0y 5oun0;1ultiplie0 1any ti1e/4 Bhat they 0i0 5in0 rattle0 her a/ that woul0nt
$n the cour/e o5 their trek, they0 0i/covere0 1any o5 the 1i//ing an0 unaccounte0 5or, both
hu1an /ol0ier/ an0 cyborg/ burie0 where they 5ell by the bli##ar0, 5ro#en, beyon0 help4 %now
wa/ 1oun0e0 over the bo0ie/, 1arking their location/ on the otherwi/e al1o/t 5eaturele//
lan0/cape /o that it looke0 like what it wa/;a newly 5or1e0 ce1etery4 They pau/e0 at each one
to collect the /upplie/ that /ol0ier woul0 no longer nee0, i0enti5y the re1ain/ an0 a00 the na1e/
to the growing li/t o5 known 0ea0 or, in the ca/e o5 the cyborg/, 0e/troye0 property o5 the
They approache0 the ri0ge cautiou/ly, 0e/pite the 5act that they e7pecte0 to 5in0 nothing they
ha0nt alrea0y /een, the ene1y long /ince 0eparte0, an0 tho/e aban0one0 to their 1ercie/ an0 the
5ury o5 the /tor1 beyon0 help4 $n/tea0, when they0 crawle0 up to the ri0ge on their bellie/ an0
looke0 0own, they /pie0 /ol0ier/ 1oving about the plain below collecting an0 /orting4 =anika/
throat in/tantly leapt into her throat, but %eth /taye0 her han0 a/ /he trie0 to 1ove her weapon
into po/ition4
?They are our/4C
=anika narrowe0 her eye/4 ?Moure certainAC /he a/ke0, /tunne04
Helie5 wa/ /low to kick in4 ?:owAC /he won0ere0 alou04 The ene1y ha0 been a0vancing on
the1 when they0 retreate0 to the ri0ge4 $t 0i0nt /ee1 likely that they0 /i1ply turne0 aroun0
an0 le5t when they /aw that the troop/ they0 e7pecte0 to bo7 in an0 5ini/h o55 ha0 /lippe0 the
noo/e they0 5a/hione0 5or the14
?$ will go 0own an0 0i/cover what $ can4C
$n/tantly certain that there wa/ /o1ething about the /cene below that /he0 1i//e0, =anika
5rowne0 at %eth4 ?$5 it/ our people >AC
?They are wearing the uni5or1 o5 the con5e0eration4 $t 0oe/ not /ee1 /trange to you that there
are /o 1any /urvivor/AC
A/ a 1atter o5 5act it 0i0;0a1ne0 /trange4
=anika turne0 to look at the activity below again, trying to 0eci0e i5 what %eth ha0 /ugge/te0
1a0e any /en/e4 %he coul0 think o5 only two rea/on/ to e7plain ene1y /ol0ier/ in the uni5or1/
o5 the con5e0eration, however;they0 either nee0e0 the hab*/uit/ 5or their own /urvival4 Or it
wa/ a trap4
"ven a/ /he /ignale0 the 1en to pull back /o that they coul0 con/i0er their option/, however,
there wa/ a /erie/ o5 heavy thu0/ behin0 the1 that /ent an alar1 through her4 %he rolle0,
bringing her weapon up in the /a1e 1otion4 $t wa/ knocke0 5ro1 her han0/ har0 enough to /en0
blin0ing, nu1bing pain through her in9ure0 ar14
%he 0i0nt have ti1e to nur/e the in9ury4 %eth ha0 /urge0 upwar0 an0 /la11e0 into the /ol0ier
that ha0 attacke0 her4 Bithin 1o1ent/, all three o5 her tea1 1ate/ were engage0 in a 5erociou/
battle to the 0eath virtually on top o5 her4 =e/pite her /hock, it 0i0nt take 1ore than a 5ew
/econ0/ 5or her to reali#e their attacker/ were cyborg/4 $5 they0 been hu1an, there woul0 be no
battle in progre//4 %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ coul0 have 0i/patche0 the1 6uicker than the blink o5 an
%he wa/ /till trying to 5igure out whether to try to e7tricate her/el5 or to try to help her 1en when
/o1eone /ei#e0 the 5ront o5 her /uit an0 yanke0 her to her 5eet4 ?%tan0 0own, /ol0ier/@ Be are on
the /a1e /i0e@C
"ither they all recogni#e0 the voice, or they /i1ply re/pon0e0 to the or0er auto1atically;or
1o/t o5 the14 &ile/ an0 %eth u/e0 the Fcea/e co11an0 to level the two cyborg/ they0 been
?Are you 0one nowAC the 1an;the o55icer;hol0ing her 0e1an0e0 when both %eth an0 &ile/
turne0 to /i#e hi1 up4
%eth/ ga#e 5lickere0 to her 5ace an0 then to the han0 that ha0 /hi5te0 5ro1 the 5ront o5 her /uit to
her wai/t, i1pri/oning her4 ?Mou attack 5ellow /ol0ier/AC he groun0 out4
The ar1 aroun0 her /lackene0 an0 =anika /teppe0 away, turning to /tare up at the 1an who0
capture0 her4
%he blinke0, trying to a//i1ilate what her 1in0 wa/ telling her4 %he knew no purely 5le/h an0
bloo0 hu1an woul0 look like the 1ountain o5 a 1an who0 yanke0 her to her 5eet;or have that
kin0 o5 /trength4 :i/ co11an0 o5 the /ituation /till le5t roo1 5or a great 0eal o5 0oubt;until he
/poke again4
?Be coul0 not know you were not the ene1y, returne0 to try to 5ini/h your han0iwork4C
?Bho are youAC
The 6ue/tion 0rew hi/ attention to her an0 =anika 5elt unea/ine// creep through her a/ he /tu0ie0
her /peculatively4
?Heuel CO-+' > %eventh Battalion, Gnite0 Con5e0eration o5 .lanet/4C
&ot an o55icer a/ /he0 a//u1e0, thought4 &ot hu1an4 =anika/ unea/ine// inten/i5ie0 rather than
0i1ini/he04 %he 0i0 her be/t to hi0e it4 ?Bhat happene0 hereAC
?Once tho/e who coul0 retreat ha0, tho/e who coul0 not > regroupe04C
:ow, /he won0ere0A The cyborg/ not too 0a1age0 to 1ake the 9u1p to the ri0ge ha0 an0 taken
their hu1an counterpart/ with the14
%i#ing Heuel up, /he /aw /everal patche/ on hi/ hab*/uit, in0icating he ha0 taken a nu1ber o5
hit/4 %he /uppo/e0 that e7plaine0 why he ha0nt retreate0 with the re/t;1aybe4 =ane, &ile/,
an0 %eth ha0 all been 0a1age0 an0 they0 /till 1anage04 $t /ee1e0 to her that any o5 the cyborg/
that ha0 been too 0a1age0 to 1anage the retreat woul0ve been too 0a1age0 to put up a 5ight
when the ene1y arrive04 Obviou/ly, that ha0nt been the ca/e, though, becau/e /he0 /potte0
0o#en/ 1oving about below the1;or 1aybe their nano/ ha0 1anage0 to patch the1 up enough
to 5ight while they were waiting 5or the ene1y to 1ove in an0 5ini/h the1 o55A
That /till /ee1e0 5ar5etche0, even con/i0ering that they were cyborg/4 The ene1y ha0 been
virtually on their heel/ when they0 retreate0 to the ri0ge4 Then again, 1aybe /o1e ha0nt been
in a/ ba0 a /hape an0 ha0 1erely /taye0 to cover the retreatA The 6ue/tion re1aine0, however, a/
to who ha0 or0ere0 it;particularly when /he 0i0nt recall hearing any /uch or0er an0 they0 /till
been u/ing their co1*unit/ at that point4 ?Be 0i0nt e7pect to 5in0 any /urvivor/,C /he /ai0
/lowly4 ?Be were 0etaile0 to collect whatever /upplie/ we coul0, account 5or the 0ea0, an0
return to ba/e4 Bho/ in chargeAC
Heuel he/itate04 ?&o one4 Captain .hilip/ 0ie0 at 0awn4C
%he wante0 to a/k i5 there0 been any hu1an /urvivor/, but the cyborg 1a0e her 0i/tinctly
$t wa/ the eye/4
%he thought /he 1ight be able to put 0own the ano1alie/ in hi/ behavior to the co1bat /ituation4
:e wa/nt behaving 9u/t a/ /he wa/ accu/to1e0 to the cyborg/ behaving, but /he ha0nt ob/erve0
the1 be5ore in an actual battle /etting, /he reali#e04 %he certainly coul0nt 0i/1i// the po//ibility
that hi/ /ee1ingly F/trange behavior at thi/ point wa/ the re/ult o5 hi/ A$4
Eaybe that wa/ all it wa/ with both %eth an0 &ile/A
An0 yet >4
%he /hook her 0oubt/ o554 ?That leave/ 2t4 Brown in charge4 Our or0er/ are to collect whatever
1unition/ an0 /upplie/ we can an0 get back to the ba/e ca1p4 The ene1y 0e/troye0 1o/t o5 our
/upply 0rop4C
%o1ething 5lickere0 in Heuel/ eye/4 :e 1erely no00e0, however4 ?Be have been in the proce//
o5 0oing that4C
=anika turne0 an0 /urveye0 the cli55, /canning it 5or /o1e way 0own /ince /he 0a1ne0 /ure
coul0nt /i1ply 9u1p4 $n any ca/e, they, hope5ully, woul0 be bur0ene0 with 1unition/ an0
/upplie/ when they hea0e0 back4 ?Any i0ea how 5ar thi/ ri0ge e7ten0/AC
?A/ 5ar in both 0irection/ a/ we coul0 0i/cern4 Thi/ i/ one o5 the lower point/4C
=anika ha0 /u/pecte0 a/ 1uch4 %he wa/ /till 0i/1aye04 ?Bere going to have to 5igure a way
?There will be no 0i55iculty in tran/porting the /upplie/ to the top o5 the ri0ge4 Be can to// the1
up4 Be have woun0e0, however4C
=anika /ent hi1 a /harp look at that, 5eeling a leap o5 e7cite1ent4 ?:u > /o1e o5 the tea1
lea0er/ 1a0e itAC
:e /hrugge04 ?They are woun0e0, /o1e 1ortally, $ a1 certain, but 1ayhap /o1e coul0 be
1ove0;i5 we ha0 a 1ean/ o5 1oving the14C
=anika glance0 at %eth 6ue/tioningly4 ?Any o5 the 1e0 /upplie/ 1ake it through the bo1bingAC
?There wa/ one walker that wa/ not totally 0e/troye04 They were trying to 5in0 enough part/ to
repair it when we le5t4C
=anika 5rowne04 ?"ven i5 they get it going we0 have to have /o1e way o5 getting the woun0e0
up here4 $t woul0nt be able to /cale a /heer 0rop4C %he returne0 her attention to Heuel4 ?Any
1e0ic/ 1ake itAC
?&ay4 There were only three in the battalion4 Two were in the 0rop /hip/ that 0i0 not 1ake it to
the /ur5ace > in one piece4 The thir0 wa/ kille0 in the 5ire5ight la/t night4C
?%hit@ .oor ba/tar0/,C /he 1uttere0, thinking o5 all the 1en who0 been in the tran/port/ that got
blown to bit/4
On the other han0 /he thought they 1ight have been the lucky one/4 At lea/t they were beyon0
pain an0 /u55ering > not trappe0 on thi/ 5ro#en hell without a0e6uate /upplie/4 %he 0i0nt want
to think about that, though4 %he pre5erre0 to think the /upply /hip woul0 arrive be5ore /he ha0
ti1e to regret /he0 been one o5 the Flucky one/ that 1a0e it to the groun04
$t occurre0 to her abruptly that Heuel ha0 /ai0 the thir0 wa/ kille0;not 0e/troye04 There were
no hu1an 1e0ic/4 $t /ee1e0 too /igni5icant that Heuel ha0 /ai0 Fkille0 not F0e/troye0 to ignore
it, to 0i/1i// it with the logic /he0 been u/ing to try to per/ua0e her/el5 that there wa/nt
anything Fwrong with the cyborg/4
?Be coul0 cut a pa// up the ri0ge,C &ile/ /ugge/te04 ?$t woul0 be rough, but $ think we coul0
con/truct /o1ething the walker coul0 1anage4C
?3oo0 i0ea,C =anika re/pon0e0, 5rowning thought5ully4 ?$ 0ont know i5 it woul0 be /uch a goo0
thing to try, though4 $t woul0 alert the ene1y to the 5act that they 0i0nt wipe out everybo0y4
.lu/, $ 0ont know that we coul0 /pare the la/er/ > $1 a//u1ing you 1eant to cut it out with
la/er/A $ 1ean, were /hort on 1unition/ alrea0y4C
&ile/ 5rowne0, glancing towar0 %eth 6ue/tioningly4 %eth ha0 alrea0y turne0 away, however, an0
wa/ walking along the e0ge o5 the precipice, /taring 0own, /tu0ying the cli55 wall 5or
po//ibilitie/, =anika /uppo/e04 Heuel ha0 9oine0 hi14
?Mou have > awakene0AC Heuel /ai0 6uietly4
The in5lection 1a0e it a 6ue/tion, but %eth wa/ un0er no illu/ion that Heuel ha0 1i//e0 anything4
A/ 5ar a/ he coul0 /ee, Heuel wa/ e7periencing 1uch the /a1e a/ he wa/, an0 yet enough 0oubt
lingere0 to 1ake hi1 cautiou/4 ?$ a1 o5 no 0anger to the hu1an/4C
?$ 0i0 not /ugge/t that you were, only that you, perhap/, have awarene// o5 thing/ you were not
aware o5 be5ore4C
Brie5ly, %eth 0ebate0 whether to continue trying to hi0e hi/ F1al5unction or not, but it wa/ too
1uch o5 a te1ptation to 0i/cover what he coul0 5ro1 Heuel4 ?$ cannot 0etect a 1al5unction,C he
/ai0 /lowly4
?Becau/e it i/ not a 1al5unction4C Heuel 5rowne04 ?&o 0oubt the hu1an/ woul0 believe it to be4
There i/ 0anger there an0 $ a1 a/ certain a/ $ can be that the hu1an/ woul0 not be gla0 to know
that we are > beco1ing 0i55erent than they anticipate04C
%eth pon0ere0 the 5ir/t co11ent4 :e wa/ convince0 that Heuel wa/ correct in hi/ a//e//1ent o5
the reaction o5 the hu1an/4 That wa/ why he ha0 been /truggling /o har0 to hi0e the change 5ro1
the1, or, 1ore /peci5ically, =anika4 ?Eayhap it i/ the A$AC
?&ay4 The awakening ca1e upon 1e be5ore we reache0 Keno*!24 $ have ha0 1ore ti1e to
con/i0er an0 to analy#e, apparently, than you have4 Thi/ i/ a biological change4 $ 0o not pro5e//
to know or to un0er/tan0 why thi/ ha/ happene04 Eayhap an > un5ore/een reaction o5 the
nano/A Eayhap they 0eter1ine0 that we were > inco1plete an0 nee0e0 repair/AC
?Then you are /ugge/ting that the nano/ are 1al5unctioningAC
?$n the /en/e that the hu1an/ ha0 progra11e0 the1, $ /uppo/e, but that i/ 0ebatable4 They were
inten0e0 to repair 0a1age4 =i/covering that we were biologically inco1plete coul0 logically be
interprete0 a/ 0a1age4C
Gnea/ine// 5lickere0 through %eth4 ?There i/ no way to /top itAC
Heuel glance0 at hi1 in /urpri/e4 ?Bhy woul0 you wi/h toAC
%eth /ent hi1 a /hocke0 look4 ?$t i/ inter5ering with 1y logic@ An0 $ a1 not happy to 5eel pain
when $ /houl0 5eel nothing at all@C
Heuel /hrugge04 ?One 1u/t accept the ba0 with the goo04C
?Bhat goo0AC %eth growle0 angrily4
Heuel pau/e0 an0 /tu0ie0 %eth/ angry 5ace when he /toppe0, a/ well4 ?$t i/ a gi5t you will be
grate5ul 5or when you have ha0 1ore ti1e to grow accu/to1e04C
%eth 0i0 not believe that4 :e ha0 been /truggling to 0eal with the change becau/e he knew he ha0
no choice, but he hate0 that he wa/ 5rightene0, 5elt pain, an0 wa/ /o co1pletely bewil0ere0 by
the e1otion/ that ha0 begun to con/tantly bo1bar0 hi14 There wa/ nothing that he ha0 5oun0,
yet, to be gla0 5or4 ?At another ti1e an0 place > 1ayhap4 :ere, $ 0o not think /o4C
=anika watche0 %eth an0 Heuel 5or a 5ew 1inute/ an0 5inally turne0 to /urvey the lan0/cape,
/6uinting her eye/ again/t the glare o55 o5 the ice to look 5or any 0i/tant 1ove1ent that 1ight
in0icate /niper/4 ?Be nee0 to /et up a peri1eter,C /he /ai0 a5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/4
?Thi/ ha/ been 0one4C
=anika glance0 aroun0 to /ee who0 /poken an0 /aw it wa/ one o5 the cyborg/ that ha0 attacke0
her 1en4 ?On who/e or0er/AC
The cyborg he/itate04 ?Captain .hilip/4C
:e wa/ lying4 The pau/e be5ore he re/pon0e0 wa/ /igni5icant enough to /ugge/t he0 con/i0ere0
be5ore he /poke4 ?Be5ore or a5ter he 0ie0AC /he a/ke0 0ryly4
The cyborg blinke0 at her, /tu0ie0 her curiou/ly 5or a 1o1ent, an0 then 5rowne04 ?:e coul0 not
have given the or0er a5ter he 0ie04C
=anika wa/ willing to bet he ha0nt given the or0er at all4 $5 he0 0ie0, it /ee1e0 0oubt5ul that
he0 been in any kin0 o5 /hape to give or0er/ a5ter he0 been woun0e04 $t wa/nt i1po//ible, but
/he 0i0nt think it wa/ likely4
$t /ee1e0 1ore likely that Heuel ha0 given the or0er/4
%he 0i0nt know what to think about that4 The cyborg/ ha0 A$4 :e woul0 certainly have ha0 the
capability o5 analy#ing the /ituation an0 acting4 But they were /uppo/e0 to yiel0 to hu1an/;
even i5 tho/e hu1an/ were nothing but grunt/, like her4 2ike the woun0e0 he0 tol0 her about,
although they 1ight not be in any /hape to con/i0er what nee0e0 to be 0one4
Eaybe /he ha0nt un0er/too0 the way the cyborg/ worke0 a/ well a/ /he0 thought /he 0i0A Or
rather /he ha0nt 5ully gra/pe0 the 0i55erence their A$ woul0 1ake once they were in co1batA
%he /ee/awe0 between relie5 an0 a per/i/tent unea/ine// 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/ an0 5inally 0i/1i//e0
it4 ?Be /houl0 pack what we can o5 the /upplie/ an0 1unition/ theyve alrea0y gathere0 an0
/en0 a 0etail back to ca1p to pick up the walker > a//u1ing they have it working4 At the very
lea/t, we nee0 to report the /ituation to 2t4 Brown4C %he /tu0ie0 &ile/ 5or a long 1o1ent,
/truggling with her unea/ine// about being le5t with cyborg/ that werent behaving the way /he
wa/ u/e0 to4 ?Mou /houl0 lea0 the party back to ca1p4 $5 the walker i/nt working;actually
even i5 it i/;you nee0 to /ee i5 you can 5in0 anything we coul0 u/e to 1ake gurney/ to get the
woun0e0 to ca1p4 The walker cant carry 1ore than 5our;two top, two botto14 $ nee0 to go
0own an0 /ee i5 anybo0y i/ able to walk4C
=ane no00e04 ?%hall $ take you 0ownAC
&ile/ 5rowne0, 0ivi0ing a look between her an0 =ane4 ?$ will take you 0own4 =ane /houl0 go
back to ca1p to report4C
%he 0i0nt particularly reli/h the thought o5 hi1 9u1ping o55 the cli55 with her, but there 0i0nt
/ee1 to be a lot o5 option/ unle// /he waite0 5or the cyborg/ to cut the pa//4 =eci0ing to ignore
&ile/ F/ugge/tion, /he /tu0ie0 =ane 0oubt5ully4 ?Are you repaire0 enough to 1anage without
ri/king 1ore 0a1ageAC "/pecially to her@
:i/ e7pre//ion went blank in the way they ha0 o5 0oing when they were proce//ing4
?A55ir1ative,C he re/pon0e0 a/ %eth an0 Heuel returne04
%eth an0 Heuel both glance0 5ro1 =ane to =anika 6ue/tioningly4
?There i/ a /pot appro7i1ately one hal5 1ile to the we/t that /ee1/ to be the be/t pro/pect 5or
cutting a pa//,C %eth reporte04
?3oo0@ Mou /houl0 get on it4 $1 going 0own with =ane to have a look at the woun0e04C
%eth/ lip/ tightene04 ?:i/ 1obility wa/ i1paire04 $ will take you 0own4C
?$ o55ere0 to take her 0own,C &ile/ put in4
=anika 5rowne0 at both cyborg/, torn between irritation an0 unea/ine// that they /ee1e0 to be
F5ighting over who wa/ going to carry her 0own an0 a 5licker o5 a1u/e1ent4 $t /ee1e0 1ore
like two boy/ bickering over who wa/ 5ir/t than anything el/e;not threatening or 5lattering;
9u/t a conte/t o5 will/, or 1aybe a Ftur5 war4 ?:e ran a 0a1age report,C /he /ai0 pointe0ly4
?"ven /o4C
%he ha0 e7pecte0 that to /ettle the 0i/pute, 5or logic to rule4 %he he/itate0, torn between an urge
to e7ert her own will an0 the reali#ation that he wa/ big enough to e7ert hi/ over 9u/t about
anybo0y4 But, 0e/pite =ane/ a//urance that he wa/ repaire0 enough, /he 0i0nt particularly want
to 1ake the 9u1p with hi14 %he al/o 0i0nt like the way &ile/ an0 %eth ha0 glare0 at one
another4 ?Dine@ 2et/ 9u/t get 0own there4C
"7pecting hi1 to 0rop hi/ pack an0 take her onto hi/ back, =anika wa/ /o /urpri/e0 when %eth
/wept her into hi/ ar1/ in/tea0 that he0 leape0 5ro1 the cli55 be5ore /he coul0 5or1ulate a
re/pon/e4 %he /ucke0 in a /harp breath a/ they 0roppe0, gra#ing the in/i0e o5 one cheek with her
teeth a/ they ca1e to a 9arring halt at the botto14 By the ti1e he0 /et her on her 5eet, however,
the /tinging ha0 begun to /ub/i0e an0 /he 0i/1i//e0 it4
The 0i/co15ort o5 being cra0le0 again/t hi/ che/t wa/ a little har0er to 0i/1i//4
Actually, it wa/nt e7actly 0i/co15ort4 $t wa/ an unco15ortable awarene// that /he /houl0nt
have 5elt at all4 :e wa/nt hu1an@ %he /houl0nt have 5elt the ru/h to her /en/e/ that /he ha0;a/
i5 /he0 been e1brace0 by a 1an4
He/i/ting the urge to glance at hi1, /he looke0 aroun0 at the battle5iel0 in/tea04
?The woun0e0 are here,C %eth /ai0, ge/turing towar0 a 1oun0 o5 /now at the botto1 o5 the cli554
To her 0i/1ay, /he 0i/covere0 a/ /he 1ove0 towar0 it that it wa/nt a 1oun0 o5 /now at all4 $t
wa/ a 1oun0 o5 bo0ie/ covere0 in /now4 ?Oh 1y go0@C
?$t i/ the cyborg/ that were too 0a1age0 to 5ight4C
=anika /ent %eth a /harp, 6ue/tioning look, trying to ignore the 6uea/ine// in her belly4
?They 5or1e0 a protective wall 5or the woun0e0 hu1an/ a/ the ene1y a0vance04C
2ike he, =ane, an0 &ile/ ha0 when they0 lan0e0 in the 1i00le o5 a 5ire5ight, =anika re5lecte0,
5eeling 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/ a/ i5 /he woul0 puke4
They were 1achine/, /he tol0 her/el5 /ternly4 $t wa/nt any 0i55erent than 5or1ing a barrica0e
with any kin0 o5 e6uip1ent4
But it 5elt 0i55erent4 $t 5elt very 0i55erent4
Heuel lan0e0 clo/e by4 ?Be waite0 here until the ene1y ha0 a0vance0 clo/e enough that we
coul0 be /ure they were all within range an0 then we launche0 a counterattack4 They are there,C
he en0e0, pointing to a large 1oun0 o5 bo0ie/ the other cyborg/ were 5or1ing a/ they cleare0 the
=anika reali#e0 then that they werent 9u/t collecting 1unition/ an0 /upplie/4 They0 been
/y/te1atically /orting > everything4 %he cleare0 her throat, /wallowing again/t another wave o5
nau/ea4 ?Mouve > uh > i0enti5ie0 an0 recor0e0 our 0ea0AC
&o00ing, /he 1ove0 aroun0 the barrica0e they0 5or1e0 an0 5oun0 a /i1ilar pile o5 bo0ie/
behin0 the cyborg/, cra11e0 together tightly behin0 the /hiel0 the cyborg/ ha0 1a0e4 A 5ew
were /itting up, their back/ proppe0 again/t the cli55 wall4 A cyborg wa/ 1oving a1ong the1,
crouching to e7a1ine the1 one by one4 A5ter glancing at the 1en, =anika care5ully picke0 her
way between the1 an0 approache0 the cyborg4 ?Heport,C /he /ai0 when /he reache0 hi14
:e /traightene0 to hi/ 5ull height an0 looke0 0own at her4 &oting that /he wa/nt wearing the
in/ignia o5 an o55icer, he 1erely no00e04 ?$ a1 not a 1e0ic4 :owever, $ have acce//e0 the
1e0ical in5or1ation available to 1e an0 a/certaine0 that tho/e /ol0ier/ there have a ''L chance
o5 5ull recovery >4C
=anika wa/ /orry /he0 a/ke0 when the cyborg le0 her through the woun0e0 an0 pointe0 out hi/
e/ti1ate o5 the chance/ o5 5ull or partial recovery o5 each, an0 tho/e he e7pecte0 to 0ie4 $t wa/nt
the /ort o5 thing woun0e0 people nee0e0 to hear, but the cyborg wa/ co1pletely obliviou/ to
that, naturally enough4 %he le0 hi1 out o5 hearing range o5 the woun0e0 be5ore /he a/ke0 hi1
another 6ue/tion4 ?Bhich 0o you think can be 1ove0A Bhich 1ight be able to walkAC
The cyborg went into calculation 1o0e4
Heuel arrive0 9u/t a/ he e1erge0 5ro1 Fthought an0 began hi/ report4 Bhen the cyborg 5ini/he0,
Heuel /poke4 ?There are enough cyborg/ in /u55icient working capacity to carry tho/e who can be
=anika 5rowne04 ?Bhat about the one/ that cant be 1ove0AC
:e /hrugge04 ?They are unlikely to live either way4C
=anika tightene0 her lip/4 ?Be arent leaving the1 regar0le//4C
?$ 0i0 not /ugge/t that4 $ a1 only /aying that we can 1ove tho/e who/e woun0/ will allow the1
to be 1ove0 i11e0iately4 The cyborg/ who have /u/taine0 0a1age that re6uire the1 to re1ain
i11obile until their nano/ can repair their 0a1age can be le5t to guar0 the 1o/t /everely
woun0e04 $n that way, we can evacuate the 1a9ority an0 al/o the 1a9ority o5 /upplie/ an0
=anika /till 0i0nt like it4 ?$ 0ont particularly want to leave anybo0y here that cant 0e5en0
the1/elve/ i5 the ene1y co1e/ back,C /he /ai0 tightly4
?$ 0i0 not /ay they coul0 not 0e5en04C
?Theyre in a weakene0 /tate or they0 be able to 1ake the trip4C %he 5rowne04 ?$0 5eel better
about 0ivi0ing up the 1ore able*bo0ie0 cyborg/, even i5 we have to leave a 5ew o5 the woun0e0
hu1an/, a/ well4 Then they0 have a better chance o5 5en0ing o55 an attack4C
Again, Heuel /hrugge0, but /he ha0 the 5eeling that he0 been /urpri/e0 by her /ugge/tion4 ?$ will
/ee to it4C
The pa// the cyborg/ cut, =anika wa/ /ure, woul0 work 5or the walker4 $t wa/ a lot har0er 5or her
to cli1b, however4 About hal5 way up, %eth, who0 been 5ollowing her, /lung the woun0e0 1an
he wa/ carrying over one /houl0er, grabbe0 her aroun0 the wai/t, an0 haule0 her the re1ain0er
o5 the way up4
$t wa/nt that /he 0i0nt appreciate the help > on /o1e level/4 %he wa/ win0e0 by the ti1e /he0
1anage0 a hal5 a 0o#en F/tep/ an0 the ice wa/ /lippery an0 /he knew /he0 been hol0ing up
tho/e behin0 her4
%he 0i0nt think being /lung over %eth/ /houl0er ha0 been bene5icial to the woun0e0 1an,
though, an0 it both angere0 her an0 unnerve0 her that %eth /o clearly /aw her a/ unable to hol0
her own4 $n/tea0 o5 berating hi1 a/ /he wante0 to, though, /he /i1ply thanke0 hi1 in a tight
voice an0 /talke0 ahea04
?Mou were having 0i55iculty4C
?=uh@ Ey leg/ arent a/ long a/ your/4C
%eth wa/ /ilent 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 ?Be /houl0 have 1a0e the ri/er/ /horter4C
?Ou/t 5or lil ol0 1eAC =anika a/ke0 /arca/tically4
?Tho/e who are /horter,C %eth re/pon0e0 tightly4
%ince Ftho/e /horter only inclu0e0 the hu1an/ an0 the other/ were being carrie0 by the cyborg/,
that /till 1eant her4 ?Bell it 0oe/nt 1atter now4C
?$ will be care5ul to 1ake allowance/ in 5uture4C
=anika groun0 her teeth4 ?$1 a grunt;9u/t like you4 $5 $ wa/ a/ 0a1ne0 inco1petent a/ you
keep i1plying $ woul0nt be here@C
=i/1ay 5lickere0 through %eth an0 con5u/ion4 ?$ 0i0 not >4 $ 0o not4 Thi/ i/ not /o1ething $ wa/
progra11e0 to 0o, to i1ply4C
?Bell youre 0oing a 0an0y 9ob o5 being /ubtly in/ulting 5or /o1ebo0y that wa/nt progra11e0
5or it@C
?$ a1AC
:e /oun0e0 /urpri/e04 =anika wa/ /lightly 1olli5ie0 until it occurre0 to her that, whether he
inten0e0 it a/ an in/ult or not, /he wa/ /till in/ulte0 becau/e he 1a0e it obviou/ every ti1e he
helpe0 her with /o1ething that it wa/ becau/e he ha0 0eci0e0 /he wa/ incapable o5 0oing it
without help4
Eaybe /he woul0nt have 5elt /o touchy about it un0er other circu1/tance/4 A/ a civilian /he
thought /he 1ight have en9oye0 that /ort o5 help5ulne// 5ro1 a 1an, that it woul0 have 1a0e her
5eel 1ore 5e1inine an0 protecte04 Actually, it /till ha0 that e55ect e7cept that the /ituation wa/
/uch that con/tantly re1in0ing her o5 her weakne//e/ al/o continuou/ly re1in0e0 her that /he
wa/nt nearly a/ well Fe6uippe0 5or /urvival a/ he wa/4 An0 that only 1a0e her 1ore unea/y4
%he nee0e0 to be able to 5ocu/ on 0oing her 9ob, not on her 5railty a/ a hu1an being4
?Be are a tea1,C %eth /ai0 a5ter a long 1o1ent4 ?Be are /uppo/e0 to watch one another/
:e ha0 a point4 Eaybe that wa/ all there wa/ to itA ?True,C /he re/pon0e0, rela7ing 5ractionally4
?Be are only a/ /trong a/ our weake/t link4C
%he glare0 at hi14 ?3ee thank/@C
%eth 5rowne04 ?Thi/ i/ not trueAC
?Duck you@C
:i/ 5rown 0eepene04 ?Thi/ i/ a collo6uiali/1A $t i/ 1eant to be in/ulting4C
?=a1n@ Moure goo0@C
?Bhat 0oe/ it 1eanAC
?3o to hell4C
:e li5te0 hi/ hea0 an0 looke0 at the lan0/cape /urroun0ing the14 ?$ think $ a1 there alrea0y4C

Chapter Dour
They 0i/covere0 when they reache0 ba/e ca1p once 1ore that 2t4 Brown ha0 pulle0 hi1/el5
together /u55iciently to con/i0er the po//ibility o5 another bo1bar01ent, /ince the ene1y
obviou/ly knew their e7act coor0inate/, an0 ha0 or0ere0 everyone to loa0 up what they coul0
an0 1ove the ba/e ca1p to a new location4 =anika coul0 /ee the /en/e o5 it an0 it /till pi//e0 her
o554 $5 they0 been an hour later in returning they woul0ve ha0 to /earch 5or the new location4
Dortunately, he wa/ /ati/5ie0 to /et up a new te1porary ba/e ca1p only a 5ew 1ile/ /outh o5 the
original an0 they ha0 enough ti1e to 0ig in be5ore the /un /et an0 le5t the1 in total 0arkne//4 The
woun0e0 were a//igne0 to the only habitat/ available, which le5t everyone el/e to hunker 0own
in the 5o7hole/ they0 0ug aroun0 the peri1eter4 $t wa/ 1i/erable, but it coul0ve been wor/e4
The 5o7hole/ at lea/t protecte0 the1 5ro1 the wor/t o5 the win0 an0, cra11e0 into /uch a /1all
/pace with her whole tea1, =anika 0i/covere0 it al/o ha0 the a0vantage o5 1aking it po//ible to
/hare bo0y heat when the te1perature/ 0roppe0 /o low that the /olar heating unit/ in their hab*
/uit/ werent /u55icient to battle the col04
$t wa/ cry/tal clear to everyone by /unri/e on their /econ0 0ay that /o1ething ha0 to be 0one
about the lack o5 hab/ an0 /ince they coul0nt e7pect the 1ilitary to provi/ion the1 any ti1e in
the near 5uture, Brown /ettle0 to /tu0ying the /ketchy /urvey/ available to the1 5or a location
that woul0 have /o1e /trategic a0vantage while al/o o55ering /o1e /helter4 $t wa/ a tall or0er4
:owever, when Brown 0i/covere0 that the cyborg/ ha0 1anage0 to carve a pa// into the ice cli55
at %laughter Hi0ge, he 0eci0e0 it wa/ worth checking out the po//ibility o5 carving out a cavern
in the ice /u55icient to hou/e at lea/t part o5 what wa/ le5t o5 their battalion part o5 the ti1e4 "ven
i5 they ha0 to rotate, he rea/one0, /o1e /helter wa/ better than none4
=anika wa/ /keptical /ince they ha0 no e6uip1ent 0e/igne0 5or e7cavating, but /he 0i/covere0
Brown ha0 0eci0e0 it wa/ worth the ri/k o5 e7pen0ing /o1e o5 their 1unition/ /ince the cyborg/
ha0 1anage0 to capture ene1y /upplie/4
:e wa/ 5eeling poor*1an rich, in her opinion, which coul0 lea0 to 0i/a/ter anyti1e but wa/
certainly a liability un0er the circu1/tance/4
%he 0i0nt agree4 &ot that /he wa/nt a/ convince0 a/ he wa/ that /helter wa/ a/ nece//ary to
their /urvival a/ 1unition/, but they 0i0 have their hab*/uit/ an0 /he thought it woul0ve been
better to hang on to their 1unition/ an0 /earch 5or a place that woul0nt re6uire u/ing /o 1uch o5
/o1ething they were going to have a hell o5 a ti1e replacing4
:e 0i0nt a/k 5or her opinion, though, an0 /ince he wa/ the only o55icer, no one challenge0 hi14
$n point o5 5act, a/ 5ar a/ =anika coul0 /ee no one el/e even con/i0ere0 challenging hi/ or0er/4
They were 1i/erable 5ro1 the col04 They were u/e0 to 5ar 1ore co15ort than theyP0 ha0 /ince
the 0rop an0 the /ugge/tion wa/ all it took to boo/t 1orale an0 5ocu/ the1 co1pletely on the
They 1ove04 A5ter hiking along the ri0ge 5or a 5ew 1ile/ /tu0ying it, Brown /ettle0 on a location
that appeale0 to hi1 about a hal5 a 1ile 5ro1 the battle5iel0 where they0 been 0roppe0 an0 /o
1any o5 their 5ellow /ol0ier/ ha0 0ie0 an0 put the cyborg/ to work carving a cavern in the ice
wall that 5or1e0 the ri0ge 5or a ba/e ca1p4 The hu1an/ not a//igne0 to guar0 0uty /ettle0 to
A week pa//e04 $n that ti1e the cyborg/ 1anage0 to carve a cavern that /ati/5ie0 the lieutenant
an0 the per/onnel an0 /upplie/ were 1ove0 into the new /helter4 Another week pa//e0 an0 then
two while they 0i0 nothing 1ore than /helter in place, entertain the1/elve/ by playing whatever
ga1e/ they ha0 at han0, an0 u/e up their /upplie/4
%till recovering 5ro1 her woun0, =anika wa/ happy enough to la#e aroun0 the 5ir/t week;or at
lea/t 1o/t o5 it4 .u/hing her/el5 when /he0 been in no /hape 5or active 0uty 1ight have /et her
back, but, thank/ to %eth, /he ha0nt lo/t nearly a/ 1uch bloo0 a/ 1any o5 the woun0e0 ha0, an0
the 0eath/ o5 1any o5 tho/e who0 been woun0e0 but ha0 initially /urvive0 encourage0 her to
work on buil0ing her /trength back up4 They burie0 the 1o/t /everely woun0e0 the 5ir/t week
an0 one to three o5 the /ol0ier/ they0 e7pecte0 to /urvive in the 5ollowing week/4
By their thir0 week on Keno*!2 it wa/ borne in upon =anika that they ha0 1ore proble1/ than a
lack o5 1e0ic/ an0 1e0icine/ to treat in5ecte0 woun0/4 Their 1eager /upplie/ were running out
5ar 5a/ter, it /ee1e0 to her, than they /houl0 have given the 5act that they0 lo/t /o 1any /ol0ier/
an0 not only retrieve0 their /upplie/, but al/o /upplie/ 5ro1 the ene1y 0ea04
Bhen /he0 waite0 in vain 5or Brown to i//ue /o1e kin0 o5 or0er/ to ration what they ha0 le5t,
/he 5inally nerve0 her/el5 to approach hi1 even though /he wa/ 0oubt5ul o5 any kin0 o5
/ati/5action 5ro1 the encounter4
Brown, 6uite bluntly, /ee1e0 to have lo/t hi/ 1arble/4
?%ir@C /he /ai0, /aluting, when /he0 approache0 hi1 near the back o5 the cave where he /pent all
o5 hi/ ti1e playing with a ga1e on hi/ per/onal co1puter4
:e 0i0nt acknowle0ge her pre/ence at all4
%he trie0 again4 ?.er1i//ion to /peak, %irAC
:e wave0 a han0 a/ i5 /watting at an i1aginary 5ly4
Con/ternation 5ille0 =anika4 %he0 hear0 ru1or/ that Brown wa/ lo/ing touch with reality, but
/he0 convince0 her/el5 that he wa/ no wor/e than he ha0 been the 5ir/t 0ay a5ter their lan0ing4
Bhy woul0 he be wor/e, a5ter allA They ha0nt /een any action /ince4
%he 5licke0 a glance at her /6ua0, who0 gotten in the habit o5 5ollowing her like /ha0ow/
wherever /he went4 %eth an0 &ile/, /he 0i/covere0, were /taring at Brown e7pre//ionle//ly4
=ane wa/ /tan0ing at attention /taring at nothing at all4
%he 0ebate0 about her concern/, brie5ly, an0 5inally crouche0 0own4 ?Any wor0 5ro1
Brown 5lung hi/ co1puter 0own an0 began cur/ing4 ?$ lo/t@ Mou interrupte0 1e an0 $ lo/t the
go0 0a1ne0 ga1e, /ol0ier@ Bhat the 5uck i/ your proble1A =ont you /ee $1 bu/yAC
=anika gape0 at hi14 ?Begging par0on, %ir@ But $ thought you 1ight not be aware that ration/
are 0i/appearing a lot 5a/ter than they ought to be,C /he /ai0 in a low voice4
?A/ i5 there/ anything el/e to 0o in thi/ go05or/aken place@C he /narle04
=anika coul0nt think o5 a re/pon/e to that4 %he con/i0ere0 retreating, but he wa/ the only
0a1ne0 o55icer they ha04 ?%ir@ Be were or0ere0 to /ecure thi/ /ector >4C
?$t/ /ecure@ Be 0i0 our go0 0a1ne0 9ob@C
?But, %ir@ Be havent@ They bo1bar0e0 our ba/e ca1p an0 we havent /ent anyone out to locate
an0 0e/troy the cannon/ they u/e0 on u/@ Be havent /ent anyone out to look 5or their ba/e ca1p
an0 0e/troy it4 Be havent 0one anything at all but /et up a peri1eter aroun0 our ba/e ca1p@C
?$1 in charge here@C he /narle0 at her4 ?An0 $ 0ont take or0er/ 5ro1 5ucking grunt/@ Take
your/el5 o55, /ol0ier, be5ore $ have you thrown in the brig 5or in/ubor0ination@C
=anika blinke0 at hi1 /everal ti1e/ 0uring hi/ tira0e, but /he ca1e to her 5eet, /alute0, an0 le5t4
%he 0i0nt know i5 /he wa/ 1ore angry or 5rightene0, but /he kept going until they0 cleare0 the
%he wa/ in/tantly aware that /he ha0nt been out/i0e long enough to 5ully charge her heating unit
or thought to grab her hel1et4 The cavern wa/ /1all enough the occupant/ generate0 enough
heat to keep the area at a tolerable level that 1a0e it po//ible to 0i/car0 their hab*/uit/ at lea/t
0uring the 0aylight hour/4 =anika ha0nt gotten into that habit, however4 %upplie/ were li1ite0
enough to 1ake her leery o5 the5t, particularly /ince there0 alrea0y been a nu1ber o5 argu1ent/
an0 a 5ew all out 5ight/ over thing/ going 1i//ing4
=i/cipline ha0 /tarte0 breaking 0own al1o/t i11e0iately an0 Brown wa/ in no con0ition to
control the 0ecline;/ee1e0 either obliviou/ to it or uncaring4
Bell, the 0i/cipline a1ong the hu1an /ol0ier/4 %he coul0nt /ay that that wa/ a huge proble1
a1ong the cyborg/4 Gn5ortunately, /he al/o coul0nt /ay that they were behaving 9u/t a/ they
ought to4
Al/o un5ortunate wa/ the 5act that /he coul0nt really put her 5inger on e7actly what wa/ wrong
with the1;not that that 1attere0, /he /uppo/e0, when /he 0i0nt actually have anyone to report
her concern/ to4 Clearly, it wa/nt going to help to talk to Brown an0 go0 only knew when they
1ight get a /upply /hip in with replace1ent/4
?$ will get your hel1et,C =ane o55ere0 when they halte0 9u/t out/i0e the cave4
Blinking hi1 into 5ocu/, =anika /tare0 at hi1 5or a long 1o1ent4 ?Thank/,C /he 5inally
re/pon0e0 a little ab/ently4
That wa/ it, /he reali#e0@ They 0i0nt wait 5or co11an0/ any1ore4 They initiate04
%he wa/nt /ure that wa/ a ba0 thing, all thing/ con/i0ere0, but /he wa/ 5airly certain they
/houl0nt have that ability4
?There i/ no brig,C &ile/ /tate0 the obviou/4
?That 0oe/nt 1ean he wont or0er one built /o he can throw u/ in it,C =anika retorte04
?That i/ not logical4C
?:1114 Mou 1ean you notice0 he/ nutty a/ 5ruit cake, tooAC
&ile/ 5rowne0, clearly con/i0ering her co11ent4 ?:e appear/ to have /u55ere0 a p/ychotic
?=uh@ $ notice0 that4 That/ what $ 9u/t /ai04 Bhat the 5uck are we /uppo/e0 to 0oA $ 0ont 1in0
telling you guy/, $1 unea/y a/ hell4 %o1e 5ucker i/ /tealing e7tra ration/ an0 we /houl0 be on
hal5 ration/@ To /ay nothing o5 the 5act that nobo0y /ee1/ e/pecially worrie0 about the ene1y or
the 5act that the hab*/uit/ re6uire /unlight to recharge@ $5 we get overrun 1o/t o5 the hu1an/ le5t
are going to be pop/icle/ be5ore their /uit/ can 5ully charge4C
=ane ha0 returne0 with her hel1et in ti1e to hear her co1plaint4 :e 5rowne0 an0 looke0 at the
other/ 6ue/tioningly4 Both %eth an0 &ile/ al/o looke0 pu##le04 ?Bhat i/ pop/icle/AC %eth a/ke0
=anika blinke0 at hi1 a couple o5 ti1e/ an0 then /nickere0 at their e7pre//ion/4 ?A 5ro#en treat4C
They looke0 appalle0 at her e7planation4 ?:ow 0o you 1ean FtreatAC =ane a/ke0 cautiou/ly4
?$ 0i0nt 1ean /o1ething to eat@C =anika /nappe0, irritably4 ?Moure 1i//ing the point4C
They looke0 con5u/e04 ?Bhat i/ the pointAC %eth a/ke04
=anika let out a hu55 o5 breath4 ?The point i/ that we arent prepare0 5or an ene1y attack4 An0
the longer we all /it aroun0 kicking our heel/, the wor/e itll be4 Eorale an0 0i/cipline are
alrea0y about a/ low a/ they can go > an0 were running out o5 /upplie/ really 5a/t4C
%eth 5rowne04 ?$t ha/ been a 1onth, "arth ti1e, /ince we were 0roppe0 here4 $5 they are /en0ing
/upplie/ an0 rein5orce1ent/ 5ro1 Krytali/ they /houl0 be here within two week/ 1ore at the
=anika con/i0ere0 that an0 5inally /hook her hea04 ?$ 0ont know i5 we have enough ration/ le5t
to 1ake it that long;0e5initely not i5 they keep 0i/appearing4 &ot that anybo0y woul0 /tarve to
0eath in that /hort a ti1e, but were going to get really hungry be5ore they get here even /o4 An0
we 0ont know theyll be /en0ing /upplie/ 5ro1 Krytali/4C
?That i/ the neare/t con5e0eration ba/e4C
?$ know but what i5 theyre low on /upplie/ there, tooA $ 1ean, it/ a long way/ out4 Bhat woul0
the ne7t clo/e/t be, ti1e wi/eAC
?Three 1onth/4C
A5ter con/i0ering the /ituation 5or /o1e ti1e, /he 0eci0e0 to hunt 0own the non*co1 o55icer/ in
their group4 They woul0nt act without or0er/, but /he thought they 1ight have better luck
getting through to Brown4
%he /poke to the 1a/ter /ergeant an0 then both /ta55 /ergeant/ an0 pretty 1uch hit another brick
wall4 $t wa/ clear they knew /he0 alrea0y gone over their hea0/ an0 /poken 0irectly to the
lieutenant an0 they werent happy about it4 =e/pite their a//urance/ that they woul0 0i/cu// her
concern/ with the co11an0ing o55icer /he 0oubte0 they woul04 %he thought they probably
alrea0y ha0 an0 that wa/ one o5 the rea/on/ they were pi//e0 o55;oneN becau/e they ha0nt been
any 1ore /ucce//5ul than /he0 been an0 twoN becau/e /he0 F6ue/tione0 their authority by
Fgoing behin0 their back/ an0 taking her concern/ 0irectly to the co11an0ing o55icer4
$t wa/ a hell o5 a ti1e to be worrie0 about the pecking or0er in her book@
%ergeant %heila Bhitaker at lea/t gave her a better per/pective o5 the /ituation, pointing out that
1unition/ were critically low an0 they ran the ri/k o5 lo/ing the entire /ector i5 they launche0 a
ca1paign they werent e6uippe0 5or an0 were overrun an0<or were capture0 by the ene1y4 The
pri1ary goal wa/ to hol0 the /ector an0 the ba/e ca1p they0 /et up wa/ in control o5 the /ector4
=anika wa/ 0a1ne0 i5 /he coul0 /ee how they coul0 5igure that when they ha0 no i0ea how
1any ene1y /ol0ier/ al/o occupie0 their /ector but /he /uppo/e0 they were ba/ing that
/uppo/ition on the battle when they0 lan0e04 $5 the ene1y ha0 thrown everything they ha0 at
the1, an0 the cyborg/ ha0 pretty 1uch wipe0 out the oppo/ition in the la/t battle at %laughter
Hi0ge, then it wa/ likely they 0i0 have un0i/pute0 control o5 the /ector4
%o1eone ha0 bo1be0 their original ba/e ca1p /ite, however4
O5 cour/e, it 0i0nt nece//arily 5ollow that that /o1eone wa/ lan0 ba/e04 They coul0ve 0one it
5ro1 /pace4 Or they coul0 have launche0 5ro1 another /ector4
%uppo/e0ly, the Con5e0eration wa/ 5ar 1ore technologically a0vance0 than the An0orian/, but
how 1uch o5 that wa/ ba/e0 on actual intel an0 how 1uch on arroganceA
=anika thought /he wa/ i1agining thing/ when /he 5ir/t notice0 the broo0ing look/4 A5ter the
thir0 /he happene0 to catch, /he 0eci0e0 it wa/nt i1agination at all4 A /hort /earch 5or the
rea/on pro0uce0 the po//ibility that her 5ellow /ol0ier/ werent e7actly happy with her 5or trying
to pro0 the o55icer/ into action4 That i0ea 1a0e her both unea/y an0 re/ent5ul;unea/y becau/e
there ha0 alrea0y been a nu1ber o5 argu1ent/ that ha0 e/calate0 into 5ight/N re/ent5ul becau/e
her e55ort/ ha0 co1e to nothing anyway an0 /he 0i0nt /ee why they woul0 have a proble1 with
%he /uppo/e0 it wa/ 0ue in part to the 5act that it /ee1e0 unrea/onable that /he 5inally arrive0 at
a 0i55erent conclu/ion 5or tho/e broo0ing look/, but it wa/ al/o the 5act that /he notice0 /he
wa/nt the only one getting tho/e look/;the 1en were /taring at all o5 the wo1en in the group
like hunting cat/ waiting to pounce4
$t /care0 the hell out o5 her when that 0awne0 on her4 $t woul0nt have i5 not 5or the 5act that
0i/cipline ha0 all but broken 0own co1pletely in the rank/4 The non*co1 o55icer/ ha0 broken up
the 5ight/ an0 0i/cipline0 the /ol0ier/ involve0 by putting the1 to work patrolling with the
cyborg/, but the 5ight/ were beco1ing 1ore 5re6uent an0 har0er to break up every ti1e they
An0 there were only a han05ul o5 wo1en in the battalion4
An0 o5 that han05ul only a 5ew were having /e7ual relation/ with any o5 the 1en4
%he thought that 5act 1a0e the /ituation wor/e, though, not better4
Their acco11o0ation/ were cru0e to /ay the lea/t4 They were crow0e0 in the cavern4 $t wa/
war1 enough to keep everyone 5ro1 5ree#ing to 0eath but not nearly war1 enough to encourage
the1 to run aroun0 without their hab*/uit/ or to utili#e the bathing 5acilitie/, which con/i/te0 o5 a
5rigi0 pool o5 1elte0 ice at the 5ar back o5 the cavern ne7t to the pool that /upplie0 the1 with
0rinking water4
"ven the wo1en who were involve0 with another enli/te0 werent keen on /ki11ing out o5 their
clothing to acco11o0ate their 1en, particularly when there wa/ no privacy an0 no /e7ual
encounter went unnotice04 That 1eant that the Fhave/ werent any happier than the Fhave not/,
but the Fhave not/ 5ar outnu1bere0 the Fhave/ an0 they were getting /eriou/ly pi//e0 o55 about
being le5t out4
All o5 that co1pletely coale/ce0 in her 1in0 when /he 5inally 0eci0e0 /he coul0 /tan0 bathing in
5rigi0 water better than /he coul0 /tan0 /1elling her own /tench any longer an0 hea0e0 5or the
bathing pool with the intention o5 at lea/t 0oing what /he coul0 to 1ini1i#e her 0i/co15ort;in
that area4 %he0 1a0e certain to 5ully charge her hab*/uit be5ore tackling the icy water, knowing
/he0 nee0 the heat a5terwar0/4 &o one, e7cept the cyborg/, ha0 really been enthu/ia/tic about
the bathing 5acilitie/;well, /he 0i0nt /uppo/e they were either, but the non*co1/ ha0 or0ere0
the 1en to 1ake u/e o5 the bathing 5acilitie/ they ha0 an0 the cyborg/ ha0 0one /o without
co1plaint4 An0 /he0 /pent their bathing ti1e out/i0e charging her /uit, partly becau/e /he
wante0 to have the heat to war1 up a5terwar0/ an0 partly becau/e /he0 never been particularly
co15ortable about bathing with the 1en**an0 /he wa/ 5ar le// co15ortable with the notion given
the way the 1en ha0 begun to /tare at her4
There wa/ a group that /till lingere0 near the pool when /he /tarte0 towar0 it, but /he 0i0nt think
/he0 have any proble1 ignoring the han05ul o5 1en an0 /he 5igure0 they were bu/y enough
trying to 0ry o55 an0 get back into their hab*/uit/ to ignore her4 $n any ca/e, /he0 notice0 her
own /6ua0 wa/ there an0 /he 5elt /a5e enough to continue rather than retreat4
Gn5ortunately, /he glance0 in their 0irection4 %he thought it wa/ 1o/tly to a//ure her/el5 that
they /till ha0 her back4 %he wa/nt certain a5terwar0/, though, becau/e a/ /oon a/ /he glance0 at
the 1ountain/ o5 5le/h that con/titute0 %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/, her 1in0 went per5ectly blank4 $n
point o5 5act, ab/olutely everything /hut 0own, though /he 0i0nt reali#e until voice/ 5inally
penetrate0 her ab/orption that /he0 /i1ply 5ro#en /tock /till to gape at Fher /6ua0 in ab/olute
Or 1aybe it wa/ the 1otionA
Becau/e one o5 the hu1an 1en who0 notice0 her wa/ waving hi/ 0ick at her4
A/ that 5inally penetrate0, =anika e1erge0 with a 9olt 5ro1 her ab/orption, blinking rapi0ly to
get her 1in0 in gear4
?$ got /o1e 1eat here i5 youre looking 5or action, .u//ycat4C
The 1en with hi1 /ee1e0 to 5in0 that uproariou/ly 5unny4 They began to wag their 0ick/ at her
an0 utter cat call/4
=anika narrowe0 her eye/ at the 1an that ha0 in/tigate0 the heckling but be5ore /he coul0 think
o5 anything to /ay, a 5i/t lan0e0 in the 1i00le o5 hi/ /1irking 5ace, which /ee1e0 to e7plo0e like
an overripe to1ato4 %hocke0, =anika /wung her ga#e to the owner o5 the 5i/t an0 0i/covere0 that
%eth wa/ /tan0ing over the 1an, who wa/ lying 5lat o5 hi/ back now4
Con/ternation 5ille0 her, particularly when /he 0i/covere0 that =ane an0 &ile/ ha0 range0
the1/elve/ be/i0e %eth4 ?%hit@ %tan0 0own@C /he hi//e0, throwing an an7iou/ glance towar0 the
5orwar0 /ection o5 the cavern be5ore /he ru/he0 towar0 the14
$t wa/ too 1uch to hope the inci0ent ha0 gone unnotice0 given the 5act that 1o/t o5 the /ol0ier/
/pent 1o/t o5 their ti1e in/i0e the cavern /truggling with bore0o1 an0 looking 5or any kin0 o5
entertain1ent4 Apparently the heckling ha0 0rawn their attention even be5ore %eth ha0 taken it
upon hi1/el5 to 0e5en0 her4 $5 it ha0 been a 5ight between two hu1an/, everyone woul0 alrea0y
have ru/he0 to the /cene to get a better look an0 urge the 1en to give the1 a better per5or1ance4
A/ it wa/, they looke0 un0eci0e0 a/ to whether to /urge towar0 the altercation or vacate the
The non*co1/ werent a/ ea/ily inti1i0ate04 =anika ha0 barely 1anage0 to reach her /6ua0
when all three o5 the /ergeant/ arrive04 Eaking no 0i/tinction between cyborg an0 hu1an, they
or0ere0 all o5 the 1en out/i0e 5or puni/h1ent4 =anika 0i0nt know i5 it wa/ becau/e they were
too angry to 1ake a 0i/tinction or i5 they thought it be/t 5or the /ake o5 or0er an0 1orale not to
1ake a 0i/tinction4
%ergeant Bhitaker /tu0ie0 her in tightlippe0 /ilence 5or /everal 1o1ent/ an0 5inally /ugge/te0
they take a walk out/i0e4
?Mou want to e7plain what 9u/t happene0AC
=anika /tare0 at her unco15ortably4 ?$1 not entirely /ure, %ergeant4C
Bhitaker/ e7pre//ion wa/ 5rankly 0i/believing4
=anika /hrugge04 ?$ nee0e0 a bath an0 hea0e0 over to the 5acilitie/, /uch a/ they are4 The ne7t
thing $ knew the guy/ /tarte0 1aking /ugge/tive co11ent/4C
?$1 5airly certain everybo0y /aw an0 hear0 all o5 that,C %heila retorte0 tartly4 ?$ wa/ re5erring to
the a//ault on .rivate %1ith4C
=anika chewe0 her lip4 ?$ think %eth a//e//e0 the /ituation an0 0eci0e0 there wa/ a threat4
Theyre progra11e0 to protect 1e4C %he trie0 not to /oun0 0e5en/ive about it, but /he 5elt
0e5en/ive;an0 guilty a/ i5 /he0 0one /o1ething that ha0 in/tigate0 the altercation even though
/he knew 0a1ne0 well /he ha0nt4
Gnle// the 1en ha0 been encourage0 to 1ake the /ugge/tive re1ark/ becau/e /he wa/ gawking
at her /6ua0 1ate/ vacuou/lyA
%heila /tu0ie0 her 5or a long 1o1ent an0 5inally looke0 away4 %he e7pelle0 a pent up breath4
?Mou think that/ all it wa/AC
$t 5lickere0 through =anika/ 1in0 that /he0 been given the opportunity to 0i/cu// her an7ietie/
about the /trange change that /ee1e0 to have co1e over the cyborg/ but guilt /1ote her the
1o1ent the thought congeale0 in her 1in04 Bhat i5 it wa/ all i1aginationA Boul0 the /ergeant
/ee it a/ a threat an0 take actionA ?$t /ee1e0 that way to 1e,C /he 5inally he0ge04
%heila/ lip/ tightene0 with irritation4 %he /ee1e0 to wre/tle with her thought/ a 1o1ent4 ?Mou
havent notice0 anything > unu/ual about the cyborg/AC
A/i0e 5ro1 the 5act that they were /uperhu1an in pretty 1uch every /en/e o5 the wor0A $t wa/
o00, an0 0a1ne0 inconvenient ti1ing, that /he0 been aroun0 the cyborg/ 5or nearly a year an0
never really notice0 anything about the1 beyon0 the 5act that they were /cary*big 5or
autono1ou/ 1achine/4 Eaybe it wa/nt the cyborg/ at all, /he thought abruptlyA Eaybe it wa/
only her own perception/ that ha0 change0A Becau/e there wa/ no getting aroun0 the 5act that
F1achine ha0nt entere0 her 1in0 when /he0 caught a gli1p/e o5 tho/e gorgeou/, 1u/cle*
boun0 bo0ie/@
3rante0, in the cour/e o5 1onth/ o5 training together an0 the 1onth/ it ha0 taken 5or the trip out
/he0 1anage0 to get u/e0 to the1 enough to /top thinking o5 the1 a/ 1erely /cary*big
1achine/4 They ha0 per/onality;progra11e0, o5 cour/e, but /till enough per/onality that it ha0
gotten ea/ier to think o5 the1 a/ 5ellow /ol0ier/ rather than F9u/t 1achine/4 But there ha0nt
been any point in ti1e, that /he wa/ aware o5, when /he0 1anage0 to put Fcyborg /o 5ar 5ro1
her 1in0 a/ to be able to a01ire the1 lu/t5ully a/ i5 they were 5le/h an0 bloo0 1en4
At lea/t, not until /he0 encountere0 the1 5re/h 5ro1 the bath an0 a/ nake0 a/ > well, they
ha0nt been born, /he re1in0e0 her/el5 with a 1ental /lap4 ?&o,C =anika /ai0 5latly be5ore /he
coul0 even con/i0er how /he ought to an/wer the point blank 6ue/tion4
The re/pon/e ha0 been i1pul/e an0 /he reali#e0 unea/ily that that urge ha0 been /pawne0 by the
will to protect the1, an uncon/ciou/ nee0 to4 %he 0i0nt know why when /he0 been /o an7iou/
be5ore about the change/ /he thought /he0 notice0, but /he 0i/covere0 that, when 5ace0 with the
po//ibility o5 action again/t the1 /he 5elt > 0i/loyal to con/i0er outing the14
%heila/ brow/ ro/e4 %he /tu0ie0 =anika /peculatively 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 ?Their behavior
back there 0i0nt /trike you a/ the lea/t bit o00AC
?$t /truck 1e a/ welco1e,C =anika /ai0 5latly, won0ering i5 it wa/nt that inci0ent that /u00enly
1a0e it /ee1 i1portant to protect the1;becau/e they ha0 protecte0 her;1ore than once,
actually4 The re1in0er 0i0 give ri/e to another concern that ha0 been eating at her an0 it wa/
1ore becau/e /he0 beco1e 0eeply unea/y than /i1ply becau/e /he wante0 to 0ivert the /ergeant
that /he 0eci0e0 to 0i/cu// it4 Becau/e the truth wa/ that /he0 beco1e 5ar 1ore alar1e0 about
the behavior o5 the hu1an 1ale/ than /he wa/ about the cyborg/4 ?$5 $ coul0 /peak plainly about
another concernA Bell > relate0AC
?Bhat i/ it thi/ ti1e, CorporalAC
?The 1en are horny, %ergeant, an0 it/ /tarting to /care the hell out o5 1e,C /he /ai0 bluntly4
The /ergeant glance0 aroun0 an0 then grabbe0 her ar1 an0 u/here0 her a little 5urther 5ro1 the
cavern4 ?One o5 the 1en 1a0e unwelco1e a0vance/AC
=anika blinke0 at her4 ?&ot 0irectly, no4C
The /ergeant 5rowne04 ?Then what/ your proble1AC
Anger 5lickere0 through =anika4 ?Ey proble1 i/ that they look at 1e;all o5 the wo1en;like
theyre hungry an0 were /teak@ Ey proble1 i/ that it/ like a > pow0er keg in there waiting to
e7plo0e an0 $ 0ont want to be in the 1i00le o5 the e7plo/ion@C
%heila/ lip/ tightene04 ?"7actly what 0o you think $ can 0o about the way they look at you,
=i/1ay 5lickere0 through =anika4 %he ha0nt actually thought beyon0 reporting what /he /aw a/
a potential proble1, /he reali#e04 %he ha0nt con/i0ere0 that the o55icer/ were alrea0y having
proble1/ controlling the 1en;well not in the light o5 being unable to control the1 i5 they ha0
rape on their 1in0/4
%he /uppo/e0 /he ha0 5igure0 they woul0 take /o1e kin0 o5 action;at lea/t /peak to the 1en
/ince /he 0i0nt /uppo/e they ha0 anything in the way o5 0rug/ that coul0 Fta1e the bea/t/4
?Gnle// youre /ugge/ting we /houl0 initiate the Eariti1e %e7 ActAC
:orror /wept through =anika4 ?Oh 1y go0@ The wo1en are outnu1bere0 twenty or thirty to
?"7actly@ $ think it woul0 create 1ore proble1/ than it woul0 /olve or $ woul0 alrea0y have
/ugge/te0 it4C %he he/itate04 ?$n point o5 5act a nu1ber o5 the 1en alrea0y /poke to Ea/ter
%ergeant Delton about it4 :e wa/nt co15ortable about the o00/ an0 we ha0 a 1eeting an0
0eci0e0 that it wa/nt likely to help 1orale an0 woul0 place an un0ue bur0en on the 5e1ale
There wa/ anger in her e7pre//ion that 1a0e =anika won0er i5 /he ha0nt argue0 with the other/4
:er ne7t co11ent /ee1e0 to /upport that /u/picion4
?$ in5or1e0 the1 that $ 0a1ne0 /ure woul0nt be taking on three or 5our /6ua0/ an0 $ woul0nt
a/k the other wo1en to 0o /o1ething $ woul0nt 0o4C %he 5rowne0 angrily4 ?A/ ca/ually a/ you
can, $ want you to in5or1 the wo1en that they are to clo/e rank/4 :erea5ter, they are not to travel
alone, 5or any rea/on4 $5 they have to u/e the latrine, they take their /6ua0 with the1 > A cyborg
e/cort ought to be enough to 0i/courage the 1en 5ro1 trying to waylay the1 on the way there or
back4 They are only to bathe a/ a group4 $ 1ight have to put a cyborg guar0 on watch 5or that, but
$0 rather not 0raw attention to the 5act that were worrie0 i5 you know what $ 1ean4C
=anika no00e0, va/tly relieve04 ?Me/, /ergeant@C

Chapter Dive
?Bhere are they goingAC 2t4 Brown 0e1an0e0 when he /pie0 aroun0 a 0o#en cyborg/ a/cen0ing
the pa// up the ri0ge4 :e glance0 aroun0 when nobo0y volunteere0 an an/wer, /urveying the 5lat
plane that lay be5ore %laughter Hi0ge where they0 enca1pe0 5or 1onth/4 ?Bhere are all the
0a1ne0 Fborg/AC
=anika, who0 9u/t returne0 5ro1 a peri1eter check, /ent %eth a /peaking look, wi/hing /he0
/i1ply turne0 aroun0 an0 le5t again when /he0 notice0 the lieutenant ha0 0eci0e0 to leave the
cavern 5or one o5 hi/ in5re6uent Fin/pection/ o5 the ca1p4 The non*co1/ ha0 acco1panie0 hi1
an0 /he knew 0a1ne0 well they ha0 a goo0 i0ea where the cyborg/ were /ince it ha0 been
Ea/ter %ergeant Delton that ha0 Finvente0 ta/k/ 5or the1 away 5ro1 ca1p4 Gn5ortunately, he
0i0nt /ee1 incline0 to 9u1p in an0 in5or1 2t4 Brown that he0 been co11an0ing the troop/, the
cyborg/ anyway, /en0ing the1 out on variou/ 0aily e7cur/ion/ that kept the1 away 5ro1 ca1p
1ore than they were in it4
?:unting 5or whatAC 2t4 Brown 0e1an0e0 5uriou/ly4 ?An0 who the 5uck or0ere0 it, that/ what
$0 like to knowA &obo0y tell/ 1e a 0a1ne0 thing an0 $1 the co11an0ing o55icer here@C
?Doo0AC =anika volunteere0 unea/ily4
Brown gape0 at her an0 then re00ene0 with anger4 ?Bhere the hell are they going to 5in0 5oo0A
Ba/ there a /upply 0rop that nobo0y tol0 1e aboutAC
?&o, %ir4C
?Then how the hell coul0 they be hunting 5oo0A Bhy woul0 they beAC
?Ani1al/4 Eeat, %ir,C =anika clari5ie04
2t4 Brown looke0 at her a/ i5 /he0 grown two hea0/4 ?:ave you /een any 0a1ne0 ani1al/A
Becau/e $ /ure a/ 5uck havent /een any 0a1ne0 ani1al/@ An0 what woul0 we 0o with the1 i5
they 1anage0 to catch oneA Be aint got any 0a1ne0 /upplie/@ :ow woul0 we cook itAC
=anika wa/ te1pte0 to point out that he wa/nt likely to /ee anything /ince he /pent 1o/t o5 hi/
ti1e in/i0e the cave playing ga1e/ on hi/ per/onal co1puter4 :e calle0 the1 battle /i1ulation/,
but nobo0y believe0 he wa/ actually boning up on battle /trategy4 :e wa/ a/ bore0 a/ everyone
el/e an0 /i1ply /earching 5or a way to entertain hi1/el54
%he re/i/te0 the urge4 :e wa/ a/ /hort on patience a/ he wa/ irrational4
?Bhere/ that 5ellowAC he 0e1an0e0 abruptly4 ?The big oneA Bhat/ hi/ na1eAC
=anika gape0 at hi14 ?%orry, %ir4 $1 not /ure who youre re5erring to4C
?=ont play /tupi0 with 1e@ The Fborg with the /tupi0 na1e@ KingA 2awAC :e 5rowne04 ?%tarte0
with an E, $ think4C
=anika glance0 at her /6ua0 1ate/ an0 bit her lip, reluctant to /upply hi1 with the na1e when
he wa/ behaving /o erratically4
?HeuelAC Ea/ter %ergeant Delton /ai0 help5ully4
?That/ it@C Brown e7clai1e0, /urging to hi/ 5eet4 ?Bo//y /on*o5*a*bitch4 Bhere the hell i/ the
ba/tar0A $ havent /een hi1 in 0ay/4C
:e ha0nt /een hi1, =anika thought angrily, becau/e %gt4 :ill ha0 or0ere0 hi1 to take a 6uarter
o5 the cyborg/ an0 0o a recon o5 their /ector4 %he waite0 in vain 5or :ill to a01it a/ 1uch4
?$ll /en0 /o1eone to look 5or hi1,C Ea/ter %ergeant Delton re/pon0e04 :e looke0 =anika 0ea0
in the eye/4 ?Corporal, take your /6ua0 an0 locate Heuel4C
?Me/, %ergeant,C =anika re/pon0e0, /truggling with her anger4 Becau/e a/ relieve0 a/ /he wa/ to
have an e7cu/e to get away 5ro1 2t4 Brown, there wa/ no 0a1ne0 way /he coul0 0eliver;which
the ba/tar0 Delton knew;which 1eant /he wa/ going to catch hell when /he returne0 e1pty
?Be have no e6uip1ent to locate hi1,C %eth /ai0 once they were 5ar enough 5ro1 the group
/urroun0ing 2t4 Brown to prevent the1 5ro1 overhearing4 ?Dully hal5 the .T/;per/onal
tran/1itter/;have cea/e0 to 5unction even i5 we 0i0 have a working 2ocator4C
?$ know4C
?Be will not 5in0 hi14 %gt4 :ill /ent hi1 on recon o5 the /ector4C
?$ know that, too4C
=ane 5rowne04 ?Bhere are we going thenAC
?Gp the ri0ge to the top o5 the pa//4 $ gue// we 1ight a/ well /it there a/ in/i0e the cave
twi00ling our thu1b/ anyway4 At lea/t we wont have to worry about recharging the hab*/uit/4C
%he /at 0own in the /now once they0 reache0 the /u11it4 %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ /tu0ie0 her
blankly 5or /everal 1o1ent/ an0 then e7change0 a /peaking look4
They 0i0 that a lot the/e 0ay/, =anika re5lecte04 $t wa/ al1o/t a/ i5 they coul0 co11unicate
without wor0/;vocali#ing4 They 0i0nt have Fhive capability, though4 The co1pany, or 1aybe
the govern1ent, ha0 opte0 again/t that particular 5eature;a/ a 5ail/a5e, /he /uppo/e0 /ince the
cyborg/ were autono1ou/ an0 no one really knew how they 1ight behave in an actual battle
/ituation4 They ha0 to co11unicate the /a1e way the hu1an/ 0i0;via ra0io tran/1i//ion, u/ing
the /a1e 5re6uencie/4
?Be are /i1ply going to /it hereAC %eth a/ke0 5inally4
?Gnle// youve got a better /ugge/tionA A/ you pointe0 out, we 0ont know where to 5in0 the14
Be arent allowe0 to u/e the ra0io;were /till on blackout4C
&ile/ 5rowne0 in con5u/ion4 ?Bhy 0i0 you not /i1ply in5or1 the 2ieutenantAC
=anika rolle0 her eye/4 ?Becau/e he/ a 5ew car0/ /hy o5 a 5ull 0eckA :e 1ight have thrown u/
in the brig 5or in/ubor0ination4C
=ane blinke0 at her4 ?There i/ no brig4C
?:e 0oe/nt /ee1 to reali#e that,C /he /ai0 0ryly4 ?An0 pointing that out woul0 only pi// hi1 o55
1ore4 :e 1ight 9u/t 0eci0e to have u/ /hot in/tea04C
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ e7change0 another look, /hrugge0, an0 /ettle0 aroun0 her4
?$ a1 hungry,C =ane announce04
?"veryone i/ hungry,C %eth re/pon0e0 tightly4
=anika/ /to1ach growle0, al1o/t a/ i5 in re/pon/e to the 0i/cu//ion4 $t hurt with e1ptine// an0
it /urpri/e0 her4 They0 ha0 /o little 5oo0 lately that /he har0ly ever even ha0 hunger pain/
any1ore4 %he 0i0nt really want to talk about it4 $t wa/ better not to think about it4 ?Bhat/ your
ration/ looking likeAC
?$ have ha0 1y portion 5or the 0ay4C
%he wre/tle0 with her/el5 5or a 1o1ent an0 5inally 0ug in her nearly e1pty pack, pulling out a
ration bar4 ?$1 hungry, too4 :ow about we /plit thi/AC
=ane /tare0 at it hungrily4
?&o,C %eth growle04 ?Mou nee0 that4C
%he 0i0 but all o5 the cyborg/ were 5ar bigger than their hu1an counterpart/ an0 they nee0e0
5oo0 5or 5uel 9u/t the /a1e a/ the hu1an/ 0i0;e7cept they nee0e0 1ore4 ?$t 0oe/nt take a/
1uch to keep 1e going4C
?Be have /u55icient 5or our nee0/4C
=anika /tu0ie0 %eth unco15ortably4 %he knew it wa/ a lie4 The cyborg/ ha0 been out on patrol
when Ea/ter %gt4 Delton ha0 or0ere0 the la/t o5 the 5oo0 /tore/ 0ivi0e0 up;a1ong the hu1an/4
$t ha0 been co1pletely calculate04 A/ /oon a/ the 5oo0 /tore/ ha0 gotten /o low they were
counting ration/ in 0ay/ rather than week/, the 1en ha0 begun to co1plain about /haring what
little wa/ le5t with the cyborg/4 Ea/ter %gt4 Delton/ re/pon/e, although he ha0nt announce0 it,
wa/ to 1ake /ure the cyborg/ werent in ca1p when ration/ were pa//e0 out4
?Eaybe we /houl0 try our han0 at huntingAC Be5ore they got any weaker4
%eth 5rowne04 ?Be were not progra11e0 5or hunting4C
=anika chuckle04 ?Dortunately 5or u/, $ wa/4C
=ane /tare0 at her 0oubt5ully4 ?Mou were progra11e0 al/oAC
The 6ue/tion 1a0e her unco15ortable 5or /o1e un5atho1able rea/on4 An o00 /ort o5 pity welle0
in/i0e her4 Dor the 5ir/t ti1e, /he F/teppe0 into hi/ /hoe/ an0 /aw the worl0 through hi/ eye/, or
at lea/t i1agine0 that /he coul0 to an e7tent4 Bhat wa/ it like 5or the1 to have no pa/t, /he
won0ere0A :er/ wa/nt terribly won0er5ul, but /he ha0 one4 %he coul0 re1e1ber /o1e o5 the
highlight/ o5 her chil0hoo04 O5 cour/e, /he al/o re1e1bere0 the ba0 thing/;1aybe 1ore o5
tho/e than goo0, but /he0 learne0 5ro1 everything that ha0 happene04 An0 /he knew 5ro1 her
own e7perience/ that being tol0 wa/nt at all the /a1e a/ e7perience4
Ca/e in point;all the battle /i1ulation/ /he0 0one4 %he knew /he coul0nt really 0ie with the
/i1ulation/, though4 Once /he0 arrive0 on Keno*!2 /he ha0nt thought about a lot el/e;there
were real bo0ie/ all over the 5iel0 an0 there wa/ real pain when /he got /hot;e7cept the lack o5
%he 1anage0 a /1ile4 ?&ot the way youre thinking, no4 $1 an o55*worl0er, though,C /he a00e0
wryly4 ?3ue// you guy/ 0i0nt know $ wa/ 5ro1 one o5 the Fbackwar0/, uncivili#e0 colonie/A
%upply /hip/ never arrive0 when e7pecte0 an0 even when they 0i0, they 0i0nt have hal5 o5 the
thing/ we0 /ent 5or4 Be ha0 to 1ake 0o, 1o/tly, with what wa/ available an0 that 1eant
hunting 5or 5oo04 $ never particularly like0 it, 1in0 you, but $ wa/ the ol0e/t /o $ ha0 to help .op
with the hunting when $ wa/nt helping Eo1 with the hou/ehol0 chore/4C
%eth 5rowne0, hi/ ga#e 5lickering over her 5ace a//e//ingly4 ?Mou were unhappyA Thi/ i/ why
you beca1e a /ol0ierAC
=anika /norte04 ?Actually, $ wa/ happy4C %he chuckle0 wryly4 ?$ 9u/t 0i0nt know it until $
beca1e a /ol0ier4C %he gri1ace04 ?$ gue// /o1eti1e/ you 0ont know how to appreciate
/o1ething until it/ gone4C %he got up, bru/hing the /now 5ro1 her /uit, hoping to 0i/tract the1
/ince /he 0i0nt really want to talk about her li5e be5ore any1ore;or think about it4 ?But $ 0i0nt
0eci0e to beco1e a /ol0ier4 Ey nu1ber ca1e up4C
?$ 0o not un0er/tan0,C &ile/ /ai0 curiou/ly4 ?:ow 0i0 your Fnu1ber co1e upAC
=anika /ighe04 ?The con5e0eration con/cript/ outworl0er/ when they nee0 /ol0ier/4 $ gue// they
5igure that the coloni/t/ are 1ore /uite0 /ince theyre /o uncivili#e0 to /tart with4 $ 0ont know4
They 9u/t arrive0 an0 took 1e4 .op wa/nt happy about it4 :e ob9ecte0, /o they knocke0 hi1 out
with a /tun gun an0 took 1e anyway4 $ 5igure0 $0 9u1p /hip an0 take o55 be5ore they coul0 get
1e o55*worl0 but apparently a lot o5 Fvolunteer/ 0o that becau/e they locke0 u/ in the hol04
?$ woul0ve trie0 a5ter we got to training ca1p e7cept there wa/nt anywhere to go4 An0 they
/hot 0e/erter/ when they tracke0 the1 0own4 %ooo, $ 0eci0e0 being a /ol0ier beat the hell out o5
%he 5rowne04 ?3ue// $ wa/ 9u/t putting it o55, though4C
?%o you ha0 no choice in beco1ing a /ol0ier either,C %eth /ai0 5latly4
The 0i/co15ort an0 /a0ne// wa5te0 through her again4 =anika trie0 to bani/h it with hu1or4 ?$
/uppo/e you woul0 have pre5erre0 a//ign1ent a/ a plea/ure 0roi0AC
%eth re00ene0 an0 /he wa/ i11e0iately /orry /he0 /ai0 it4
?Be have the progra11ing,C =ane announce04 ?$ think that $ woul0 have pre5erre0 that, ye/4 $
0o not care 5or thi/ /ol0iering4 $t i/ helli/h col0 an0 there i/ no 5oo0 an0 $ 0o not particularly like
it when the ene1y put/ hole/ in 1e4 $5 $ ha0 been a//igne0 a/ a plea/ure 0roi0 then $ woul0 only
be 5ucking all 0ay or perhap/ all night an0 $ a1 /ure that woul0 be better4C
=anika /ent =ane a long look, trying to 0rag her 1in0 5ro1 the i1age/ that in/tantly leapt into
her 1in04 %he won0ere0 i5 tho/e i1age/ woul0 have 0ance0 in her 1in0 i5 /he ha0nt gotten a
really goo0 look at hi/ bo0y;no 0oubt in her 1in0, un5ortunately, that they were 0e/igne0 5or a
wo1an/ plea/ure@ Beauti5ully /culpte0 che/t/, ar1/, bellie/ rippling with 1u/cle an0 a Flove
1u/cle that wa/ 0a1ne0 i1pre//ive4
?$t/ in5ectiou/,C /he 1uttere0 unco15ortably, trying to 0i/1i// the e0gy war1th that ha0
inva0e0 her4
?Bhat i/ in5ectiou/AC %eth a/ke0 curiou/ly4
=anika cleare0 her throat4 ?Apparently nobo0y can get their 1in0 o55 o5 /e74C
?Mou are thinking about /e7AC =ane a/ke0, clearly /urpri/e04 ?Becau/e $ have thought a very
great 0eal about /e7 5or a long ti1e now4C
%eth punche0 hi1 on the /houl0er, glaring at hi14
=anika rolle0 her eye/4 ?Een@C $t wa/ alrea0y out o5 her 1outh be5ore it 0awne0 on her that they
werent 1en4 They were cyborg/ an0 they /houl0nt be thinking at all, let alone being a/
preoccupie0 with /e7 a/ the hu1an 1ale/@
%he wa/nt preoccupie0@ 3rante0 the conver/ation ha0 gotten her war1;well, the i1age/ her
1in0 ha0 con9ure0 ha0, but /he ha0 other nee0/ that preoccupie0 her a lot 1ore than thought/ o5
getting lai0@
But 1aybe /he 0i0nt preci/ely un0er/tan0 A$A Eaybe they0 Flearne0 their behavior 5ro1 the
1en;who were beco1ing increa/ingly vocal about their lack o5 action in that particular area4
To her /urpri/e, /he 0i/covere0 when /he glance0 at the1 that all three o5 the cyborg/ were
looking plea/e0;uncertain, but 5ar 5ro1 o55en0e04 $t 1a0e her 5eel ine7plicably ba0 5or the14
.oor thing/@ They 0i0nt even un0er/tan0 that it wa/ an in/ult@
The e1pathy 0i0nt la/t 1ore than a 1o1ent, however4 $t wa/ u/urpe0 al1o/t the 1o1ent /he
notice0 the 5aint /1ile hovering about %eth/ lip/4 :e ha0 a really nice 1outh, /he thought
0i/tracte0ly4 That 0i/covery /ent an uni0enti5iable ru/h through her;unrecogni#able becau/e /he
re5u/e0 to e7a1ine it4
Keno*!2 wa/ inho/pitable at the be/t o5 ti1e/4 $n the 0ea0 o5 winter the 5ew li5e*5or1/ the planet
boa/te0 apparently all went into 0eep hibernation4 =anika ha0 ha0 /o1e hope when they /et out
that they 1ight at lea/t 5in0 /o1e track/ /ince even the ani1al/ that hibernate0 on her ho1e
worl0 0i0 occa/ionally rou/e an0 go out to hunt4 "ither none on Keno*!2 0i0 or there were no
0en/ nearby4 They walke0 1o/t o5 the 0ay, /earching hope5ully, but even the cyborg/ werent
able to pick anything up with their in5rare04
Circling back aroun0 towar0 the ba/e a/ the /un 0ippe0 towar0 the hori#on, they /potte0 Heuel
an0 the 1en he0 taken hea0ing back to ca1p4
A/ 0epre//e0 a/ /he alrea0y wa/, =anika/ 1oo0 0roppe0 to an even lower level4
%he /uppo/e0 there wa/ a chance that 2t4 Brown ha0 5orgotten hi/ earlier anger, but /he 0i0nt
think they coul0 count on it4 :e ten0e0 to whip hi1/el5 into a rage with little provocation an0
1anage0 to hol0 on to it 5or an a1a#ing length o5 ti1e > /o1eti1e/ 5or 0ay/4
?2t4 Brown /ent u/ to 5in0 you,C /he tol0 Heuel when the two group/ converge04
Heuel /ent her a look that wa/ both /peculative an0 wary4 ?Be were /ent to patrol the peri1eter4C
?$ know that an0 you know that, but he apparently 0oe/nt,C =anika /ai0 wryly4
Heuel 5rowne04 ?The or0er ca1e 5ro1 %gt4 :ill4C
Anger 5lickere0 through =anika at the in9u/tice o5 it4 ?An0 :ill /ee1/ to be /u55ering 5ro1
a1ne/ia4 :e 0i0nt /ay a wor0 when the lieutenant 0e1an0e0 to know where you were4C
A 1u/cle in Heuel/ 9aw tightene04 ?Mou are /aying that $ a1 to be 0i/cipline0 even though $
wa/ 5ollowing or0er/AC
?Belco1e to the worl0 o5 hu1an/@C =anika /ai0 tartly4 ?Bhere nobo0y take/ re/pon/ibility 5or
anything they /ay or 0o i5 it 1ean/ getting their a// chewe04C %he /hrugge04 ?The lieutenant went
into one o5 hi/ rant/4 :ill/ a wor1, in 1y opinion, 5or not 1anning up, but the guy i/ /cary4 $
1ean, 9u/t being in co11an0 i/ enough, but he/ bonker/ to boot4 $1 actually /urpri/e0 he
ha/nt /u55ere0 a F1y/teriou/ acci0ent4 :e/ totally inco1petent;0angerou/ly inco1petent4C
Heuel looke0 pi//e04 That woul0nt have /urpri/e0 her i5 he0 been hu1an4 $t /houl0 have
/urpri/e0 her /ince he wa/nt, but it 0i0nt;becau/e there werent 1any cyborg/ acting like her
i0ea o5 the way a cyborg /houl0 behave any1ore4 %y1pathy 5ille0 her4 %he /truggle0 with it 5or a
1o1ent an0 5inally /hrugge04
?Eaybe he will have 5orgotten all about it by the ti1e we get backA An0 even i5 he ha/nt, $ll
back you up;$ hear0 :ill or0er it4 Bhat can he 0o anywayA $ 1ean you an0 the other/ are
alrea0y 0oing all o5 the patrol/ an0 we 0ont have a brig4C
?Eutiny@C Brown roare0 5uriou/ly4 ?$t/ /e0ition@ =ont you /tan0 there an0 act /tupi0@ $ know
youve been trying to convince the 1en to revolt@ $ have eye/@ $ve ha0 you watche0@ $ know
youve been plotting /o1ething@ "very ti1e you 0i/appear 5ro1 ca1p, hal5 the Fborg/ or 1ore
0i/appear with you@C
Heuel /tu0ie0 hi1 with a /tony e7pre//ion, a 1u/cle in hi/ 9aw working a/ i5 he wa/ re/training
hi1/el5 5ro1 punching 2t4 Brown in the 5ace with a great e55ort4
They0 barely entere0 the cavern when 2t4 Brown ha0 /pie0 the1 an0 in/tantly /urge0 to hi/
5eet, clearly in a towering rage4 Bith /ee1ingly no /en/e o5 /el5*pre/ervation what/oever, he ha0
/talke0 right up to Heuel, tilte0 hi/ hea0 back, an0 /pat the accu/ation/ in hi/ 5ace4 A/ i5 it wa/ a
cue 5or everyone el/e, the 1en who0 loitere0 in the cavern all 0ay, al/o ca1e to their 5eet,
5or1ing a hu1an wall behin0 Brown, although, unlike Brown, they 1erely /too0, ten/ely
clutching their weapon/4 They 0i0nt approach the cyborg/4 They /ee1e0 0e/irou/ o5 keeping a
goo0 0i/tance between the1/elve/ an0 the cyborg/4
The cyborg/ who0 been /ent out to patrol ha0 arrive0 back at ca1p at roughly the /a1e ti1e
that =anika an0 her /6ua0 an0 Heuel an0 hi/ group ha0, an0 ha0 converge0 be5ore entering the
cavern4 =anika wa/ keenly aware that /he ha0 nothing but cyborg/ at her back an0 that, without
any plan to 0o /o what/oever, the cyborg/ an0 hu1an/ now /too0 in a night1ari/h 5aceo55 that
1a0e the hair on the back o5 her neck prickle4
%he gape0 at the lieutenant in /tunne0 0i/belie5 an0 0i/1ay an0 then glance0 aroun0 in hope o5
5in0ing a voice o5 rea/on in what /u00enly /ee1e0 a /ea o5 1a0ne//4
%he /aw no one who /ee1e0 incline0 to 0i/agree with Brown at all, however4 The e7pre//ion/ on
the other /ol0ier/ 5ace/ varie0 5ro1 /hock to 5ear to anger, but none /ee1e0 0i/believing an0 all
o5 the1 /ee1e0 1ore incline0 to /hoot an0 worry about whether the cyborg/ ha0 been a threat
a5terwar0/ i5 their grip/ on their weapon/ wa/ any in0ication4
?%ir, theyre cyborg/ >4C Ea/ter %gt4 Delton, who0 5ollowe0 Brown an0 halte0 a 5ew pace/
behin0 hi1, began /oothingly, only to be cut o554
Brown roun0e0 on hi1, /o 5uriou/ he wa/ /pewing /pittle4 ?Moure again/t 1e, too@C :e /wung
an angry glare aroun0 the cavern, /canning the 5ace/ o5 the /tunne0 troop/4 ?$t/ a con/piracy@
Moure all traitor/@C :e roun0e0 on Heuel again4 ?"/pecially you@ :ang hi1@C
"veryone 1erely gape0 at hi14
Delton cleare0 hi/ throat4 ?%ir > uh > there/ nothing to hang hi1 5ro1 or with4C
Brown e7plo0e0 then, uttering every cur/e he0 ever hear0;/everal ti1e/4 ?Then /hoot hi1@
:e/ turning the Fborg/ again/t u/ all@ Theyll kill u/ in our /leep@C
That wa/ 9u/t too 1uch@ =e/pite her 5ear, =anika knew /he ha0 to /ay /o1ething4
2uckily, %eth cla1pe0 a han0 over her 1outh4 %he 5licke0 a glance up at hi/ 5ace4 :e 5rowne0,
/haking hi/ hea0 /lightly4
?%ee@ That Fborg grabbe0 a hu1an@ %hoot hi1, too@C
=anika gra/pe0 %eth/ han0, /truggling to wrench it loo/e4 ?Oh hell no@C /he yelle0 again/t the
gag o5 hi/ pal1 when /he coul0nt 0i/lo0ge hi/ han04
?Cyborg/@ Out o5 the cavern@ &ow@ A//e1ble out/i0e@C Ea/ter %gt4 Delton roare04
Dor /everal 1o1ent/, everyone re1aine0 5ro#en4 Abruptly, %eth relea/e0 =anika an0 /teppe0
away4 Al1o/t a/ i5 that wa/ a /ignal, the cyborg/ all turne0 an0 began 1arching towar0 the
entrance to the cave4
A/ 5ear5ul a/ =anika wa/ 5or her own /a5ety, a/ 0i55icult a/ it wa/ to 5in0 her voice in the 5ace o5
that 5ear, /he coul0nt re1ain /ilent4 %he /urge0 5orwar0 to intercept Delton4 ?They havent
1utinie04 Ea/ter %gt4 Delton@ Mou know they havent@ Theyve 5ollowe0 every or0er@C /he /ai0
in a low, /haky voice, hoping to avoi0 a con5rontation with the lieutenant4 ?Try to rea/on with
hi1@ Mou know :ill /ent Heuel an0 hi/ 1en out to patrol@C
?Can it, /ol0ier@C Delton /narle0 at her4
A har0er 9olt o5 5ear went through =anika, but /he wa/nt about to /tan0 by an0 keep her 1outh
/hut while they or0ere0 the cyborg/ out/i0e 5or 0e/truction@ A/ the cyborg/ 1ove0 /wi5tly
towar0 the entrance to the cave an0 /tarte0 to 5ile out, /he /teppe0 into Delton/ path, trying to
block hi1 5ro1 5ollowing4 ?Mou have to rea/on with hi1@ Thi/ i/nt nece//ary or rea/onable@C
?%hut the 5uck up@C Delton bellowe0, li5ting her bo0ily an0 to//ing her to one /i0e4
%o1eone caught her, preventing her 5ro1 /la11ing into the wall or 5loor, an0 =anika looke0 up
to 0i/cover that it wa/ =ane4 :i/ e7pre//ion wa/ gri14 ?=o not /ay 1ore,C he whi/pere0 har/hly4
?:e will or0er the1 to /hoot you, a/ well@C
=anika 1et hi/ ga#e an0 knew abruptly that what Brown ha0 or0ere0 wa/ 1ur0er, plain an0
/i1ple4 The /en/e that /he wa/ in the grip/ o5 a night1are increa/e04 :er entire bo0y 5elt /ti55
an0 unre/pon/ive4 :er lip/ 5elt nu1b, a/ i5 /he0 5orgotten how to 5or1 wor0/4 ?Hun@C /he
whi/pere0, glancing 5ro1 =ane to %eth, who0 /toppe0 an0 turne0 an0 looke0 un0eci0e0 a/ to
whether to go or /tay4 ?A/ /oon a/ you get out/i0e, run like hell@ All o5 you@C
?Be have your back, =anika,C %eth /ai0 6uietly4 ?=o not 5orget that4C
=anika 5elt her throat clo/e a/ /he watche0 the1 1arch towar0 the entrance4 Bho ha0 their
backA That cra#y lunatic wa/ going to /hoot all o5 the1@
Ou/t run, plea/e, /he thought4
But where woul0 they goA They were all 1aroone0 on thi/ helli/h ball o5 ice@
Heuel, /he 0i/covere0, ha0nt le0 the way out4 :e0 /toppe0 at the entrance an0 waite0 to be /ure
all o5 the cyborg/ were out4 Bhen the la/t /teppe0 out/i0e, he turne0 an0 narrowe0 hi/ eye/ at 2t4
Brown an0 Ea/ter %gt4 Delton4 ?$ 0i0 nothing to 0e/erve the/e accu/ation/ > hu1an/@ But /o be
it@C he bellowe04 ?$ /ever 1y tie/ an0 loyalty to the Con5e0eration o5 hu1an/@ Mou 1ay call 1e
rogue in all truth, now@C
Turning away even a/ Brown an0 Delton brought their weapon/ up to 5ire, he /la11e0 both 5i/t/
into the ice wall at the entrance in a pi/ton*like 1otion an0 leapt out a/ the entrance began to
collap/e4 =anika /crea1e0 an0 leapt back a/ /he /aw the chunk/ o5 ice /howering 0own4
An0 then there wa/ 0arkne//4
%eth 5elt a blin0ing ha#e o5 rage an0 5ear engul5 hi1 a/ he hear0 the o1inou/ roar o5 cracking
ice4 Dor a /plit /econ0 he /tare0 at Heuel in 0i/belie54 Gttering a roar o5 rage, he /urge0 towar0
Heuel an0 caught hi/ throat in hi/ han0/, trying to choke the li5e out o5 hi14 ?$ will tear you li1b
5ro1 li1b i5 you have har1e0 her@C he growle04
Heuel gra/pe0 hi/ wri/t/, trying to pry %eth/ han0/ 5ro1 hi/ throat4 ?They can 0ig the1/elve/
out@C he roare04 ?There wa/ no other way to give our 1en the chance to e/cape@ They woul0
have 5orce0 u/ to kill or be kille0@ $ 0i0 it to /ave the1 a/ 1uch a/ to /ave u/@ $ have no 1ore
0e/ire to kill hu1an/ than you 0o, but $ will not allow the1 to kill 1e or 1y 1en when we have
0one nothing to warrant it@C
F=ig wa/ the only wor0 that truly penetrate0 %eth/ rage an0 it in/tantly 0iverte0 hi1 5ro1 hi/
nee0 to kill Heuel4 :ope /urge0 through hi1 that he 1ight yet /ave =anika i5 he 1ove0 5a/t
enough4 :e 5lung hi1/el5 away an0 0ove towar0 the rubble, clawing at the pow0er an0 pebble/
o5 ice an0 gra/ping the larger chunk/ an0 5linging the1 a/i0e4
?They will kill you 5or your trouble/,C Heuel /ai0 tightly4 ?Co1e with u/@C
?3o,C &ile/ /ai0 col0ly4 ?Mou have the 0iver/ion you nee0 to e/cape4 Be will /tay4C
Heuel /hook hi/ hea04 ?Mou are nothing but 1achine/ to her;to any o5 the hu1an/;a tool to
u/e > an0 to 0i/car0 when they have no 1ore u/e 5or you4C
=ane pau/e0 a/ he li5te0 a huge chunk o5 ice, glaring at Heuel4 ?That i/ not true@ %he i/ loyal to
u/@ $5 /he care0 nothing /he woul0 not have or0ere0 u/ to go@C
Heuel turne0 away an0 /canne0 the 5ace/ o5 the other cyborg/ /tan0ing at attention, waiting, he
thought with 0i/gu/t, 5or %eth an0 hi/ 1en to 5ree the hu1an/ /o that they coul0 e7ecute the14
?Tho/e o5 you who wi/h to live;who wi/h to be 5ree o5 hu1an tyranny, co1e with 1e@C

Chapter %i7
?=anika@C %eth calle0 a/ /oon a/ he /aw that they ha0 cleare0 away enough rubble to unearth a
/1all opening into the cavern4
?$1 alright, %eth@C =anika calle0 back4
%eth he/itate0, 1eeting &ile/ an0 =ane/ ga#e/ 5or a long 1o1ent4 ?The traitor/ have gone4 Be
will re1ove the rubble4 "veryone 1u/t /tan0 back in ca/e there i/ another cave*in when we
re1ove the ice blocking the entrance4C
The wave o5 relie5 an0 hope =anika 5elt when they broke through an0 /he reali#e0 they werent
going to be trappe0 in/i0e until they ran out o5 air wa/ o55/et by her 5ear that %eth, =ane, an0
&ile/ woul0 be /hot the very 1o1ent they opene0 the cavern up4 The urge to bur/t into tear/ 5ell
over her like a ti0al wave, clogging her throat /o that /he coul0nt /peak 5or /everal 1o1ent/4
%he 5ought the i1pul/e back, clearing her throat, trying to think how /he coul0 warn the1
without getting her/el5 /hot4 ?Be can han0le it4 Bhy 0ont you guy/ go 1ake /ure the > uh >
traitor i/ goneAC
?Belay that or0er@C Ea/ter %gt4 Delton growle04 ?Bell nee0 you to re1ove the 0ebri/4C :e
pau/e04 ?2t4 Brown i/ 0ea04 :e wa/ caught in the cave*in4C
A chill wa/he0 over =anika that ha0 nothing to 0o with the 5rigi0 te1perature/4 Dear tingle0
along her /pine a/ /he a00e0 Delton/ co11ent to the i1pre//ion/ /he0 har0ly been aware o5
when the cavern began to cave in4 %he 0i0nt 0are look at Delton, a5rai0 he0 rea0 her e7pre//ion4
%he knew, though, that Brown ha0nt been /tan0ing clo/e enough to the cave*in to be cru/he0;
without help4 %he0 hear0 the /cu55le an0 the /crea1;an0 Delton wa/ the only per/on /tan0ing
clo/e enough to Brown to have been able to pitch hi1 beneath the 5alling rock/4
An0 /he 0i0nt tru/t Delton any 1ore than /he ha0 Brown4 Brown, at lea/t, ha0nt been 1entally
co1petent4 %he 0i0nt believe there wa/ any actual 1alice to hi/ or0er/4 :e ha0 /i1ply not been
able to /ort reality 5ro1 hi/ 0elu/ion/ any1ore an0 ha0 been getting 1ore an0 1ore paranoi04
Delton wa/ a /ea/one0 /ol0ier an0 hi/ 0eci/ion/ were by the book;co1bat4 :e col0ly 0eci0e0
who wa/ a liability an0 who wa/ an a//et an0 eli1inate0 liabilitie/4
:e /ee1e0 to have accepte0 that her /6ua0 1ate/ were a//et/4 But coul0 /he tru/t that
$t 0i0nt /ee1 to be up to her4 %he0 alrea0y tol0 her 1en to run an0 they0 /taye04 %he 0i0nt
think they woul0 ignore Delton/ or0er an0 5ollow her/ now4
The 1o1ent the cyborg/ ha0 cleare0 an opening large enough 5or the 1en to /6uee#e through,
they began pre//ing 5orwar0 an0 cla1bering out a/ 6uickly a/ they coul04 =anika, /hove0 back
by the ti0al wave o5 e/capee/, wa/ a1ong the la/t to get out 0e/pite her e55ort/ to /6uee#e into
the packe0 1a// o5 1en4
Once out/i0e, /he 0i/covere0 that Delton ha0 organi#e0 /everal group/ o5 1en to check the
peri1eter o5 any /ign o5 the cyborg/4 The 1a9ority, it /ee1e0 to her, ha0 le5t4 Beyon0 her /6ua0,
there were 1aybe a 0o#en other cyborg/ who0 /taye0 to help clear the entrance to the cave4
%he won0ere0 i5 it wa/ /igni5icant that 1o/t o5 the cyborg/ who0 /taye0 were /6ua0 1e1ber/ o5
tea1/ le0 by 5e1ale /6ua0 lea0er/;at lea/t o5 tho/e who /ee1e0 to have change04 Tho/e who
clearly ha0nt change0 were /till line0 up a/ or0ere0;awaiting 5urther co11an0/4
Delton /talke0 back to where the cyborg/ ha0 re/u1e0 their e55ort/ to clear away the re1ain0er
o5 the /now an0 ice 5ro1 the cave entrance4 ?Bhich way 0i0 they goAC
All o5 the cyborg/ /toppe0 what they were 0oing an0 ca1e to attention when he /poke, but none
o5 the1 /ai0 anything4
?Mou@ Bhat/ your na1eAC Delton 0e1an0e0, /taring /traight at %eth4
?%eth CO!8-,4C
?Bhich way 0i0 they goAC
?$ 0i0 not /ee4 Be were trying to re1ove the 0ebri/ 5ro1 the cave entrance4C
Delton/ eye/ narrowe04 ?Bell 5ini/h thi/4 $ want you to take a 0etail out an0 0i/cover which
0irection they took when they le5t4C
Drowning 5aintly, %eth glance0 at =anika4
?Bell take the ri0ge an0 /ee i5 they hea0e0 north,C =anika /ai04
?Moull /tay put,C Delton re/pon0e04 ?Moure on cleanup 0etail4C
Gnea/ine// in/tantly 5lickere0 through =anika4 Eaybe /he wa/ getting a/ paranoi0 a/ Brown ha0
been, but it /ee1e0 to her that he 1eant to hol0 her ho/tage 5or their behavior4 ?Bran/on@ Mour
/6ua0 0e/erte04 $ want you to take thi/ /6ua0 out an0 /ee i5 you can locate the14C
%o1ething 5lickere0 in %eth/ eye/4 %ince Delton/ attention wa/ 5ocu/e0 on 5or1ing up new
/6ua0/, /he took the opportunity to /i0le a little clo/er to %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/4 ?Batch your
back/,C /he /ai0 6uietly an0 1ove0 away i11e0iately an0 /et to work on the clearing4 Bhen /he
5licke0 a glance towar0 the1 again, /he /aw that they were alrea0y leaving with Bran/on;
who0 taken up the rear4
Con/ternation 5ille0 her, but /he knew they ha0 to have hear0 her4 $t wa/ the be/t /he coul0 0o
5or the14
%he 9u/t hope0 they ha0 enough /en/e to take o55 when the opportunity pre/ente0 it/el5;or 1ake
an opportunity4 Delton wa/nt cra#y like Brown ha0 been, but /he 0i0nt tru/t hi1 any 5urther
than /he coul0 throw hi14 :e ha0 to know that the cyborg/ were the only real a//et/ they ha0 5or
co1bat or /urvival, but that 0i0nt 1ean he woul0nt weigh that again/t the po//ibility that the
other/ woul0 Fturn again/t the1 an0 beco1e a threat rather than an a//et4
%he 0i0nt believe they woul0 i5 they werent put in the po/ition o5 having to protect the1/elve/4
%he 0i0nt believe Heuel an0 the other/ ha0 turne0 again/t the14 They ha0 been 0e/igne0 to
protect the1/elve/ 5ro1 har1 i5, by 0oing /o, they 0i0 not en0anger hu1an/4 %he /uppo/e0 it
wa/ 0ebatable whether Heuel ha0 or not, but he 1u/t have calculate0 the threat an0 0eci0e0 they
/too0 a goo0 chance o5 being able to 0ig their way out o5 the cave4 $5 hi/ intent ha0 been to kill
the1 outright, it woul0 have been ea/y enough 5or the1 to /i1ply wait until the hu1an/ ca1e
out an0 1owe0 the1 0own4
%he 0i0nt /ee that he0 ha0 any other option/ that inclu0e0 /el5*pre/ervation4
Co11an0 woul0nt /ee it that way4 A/ /oon a/ they hear0 the report they woul0 be 0ea0 /et on
hunting the Frogue/ 0own an0 0e/troying the14
Bhich 1eant it wa/ only a 1atter o5 ti1e, /he thought in 0i/1ay4 They ha0nt 0one anything
e7cept bought the1/elve/ a little 1ore ti1e;1aybe4 Becau/e i5 the planet 0i0nt get the1, the
govern1ent /urely woul04
The eruption o5 gun5ire out/i0e brought everyone in the cavern abruptly to their 5eet a/ i5 they
were /pring loa0e04 =arkne// engul5e0 =anika al1o/t in/tantaneou/ly4 A wave o5 0i##ine//
5ollowe0 an0 0e/pite the a0renaline ru/h that ha0 /hot her to her 5eet to /tart with /he nearly 5ell
5lat on her 5ace4
They0 ha0 al1o/t nothing to eat in nearly two week/ an0 lethargy ha0 /et in that wa/ al1o/t
wor/e than the 5ight/ that ha0 plague0 the1 be5ore 5ro1 bore0o1 an0 5raye0 nerve/4 &ot that the
lack o5 5oo0, an0 there5ore energy, ha0 co1pletely eli1inate0 the eruption/ o5 violence4 The
5re6uency ha0 0ecline0 0ra1atically, 1ore becau/e no one really ha0 the energy to /pare than
0ue to any 0i/ciplinary action/, but the 0i/pute/ were 5ar 1ore /avage than be5ore when they 0i0
$t wa/ 5or that rea/on that =anika/ 5ir/t thought wa/ that /o1eone ha0 5oun0 5oo0 an0 there wa/
going to be another killing4 The Finci0ent/ ha0 been put 0own a/ Facci0ent/, but they coul0 /ay
what they like04 %he knew the 5ight/ ha0 erupte0 over 5oo0 an0 they0 been /ettle0 by who wa/
5a/ter an0 /tronger4
=i/oriente0, /he whippe0 a look aroun0 5or her /6ua0 be5ore it 0awne0 on her that they0 been
/ent out on a hunting 0etail4
That ha0 been co11an0/ /olution to the Fproble1 o5 /haring the 5ew /upplie/ they ha0 le5t
with the cyborg/ who0 re1aine0 with the14
A riot ha0 broken out a1ong the 1en when the /upplie/ they0 been e7pecting never
1ateriali#e04 They0 0e1an0e0 that the little that wa/ le5t /houl0 be 5or the hu1an/4 %he0
pointe0 out that they nee0e0 the cyborg/ an0 the cyborg/ nee0e0 5oo0 to /u/tain the1 9u/t a/ the
hu1an/ 0i04 %he0 thought, or at lea/t hope0, that the voice o5 rea/on ha0 won the argu1ent4
$n/tea0, the o55icer/ ha0 or0ere0 the cyborg/ out on patrol an0 hunting 1i//ion/;/o that they
coul0 0ivi0e the re1aining 5oo0 /tore/ a1ong the hu1an/ in their ab/ence4
?3rab your gear, /ol0ier/@C
The or0er bellowe0 by the Ea/ter %ergeant 9olte0 through =anika, pri1arily becau/e it ha0nt
0awne0 on her until then that the /oun0/ out/i0e 1ight actually be ene1y /ol0ier/4
$5 it wa/, /he thought wryly a/ /he grabbe0 up her hel1et an0 ri5le, they were probably 5ucke04
%he wa/ weak enough /he 0oubte0 even a0renaline wa/ going to keep her going i5 they
encountere0 a prolonge0 battle, to /ay nothing o5 the 5act that /he ha0 0a1ne0 little in the way o5
An0 i5 it ca1e to han0*to*han0, they really were 5ucke0 becau/e 1o/t o5 the1 were a/ weak a/
water, an0 there were 5ew cyborg/ le5t in ca1p;or at all a/ 5ar a/ they knew4 Only one out 5our
o5 the group/ /ent out actually 1a0e it back to ca1p;becau/e they were weak 5ro1 lack o5 5oo0
9u/t a/ their hu1an counterpart/ were, /he /uppo/e04
Becau/e they0 5allen victi1 to the helli/h weather or terrain4
Or they0 encountere0 the ene1y4
Or the hunter/ ha0 beco1e the hunte04
Becau/e 5ro1 what /he coul0 recall in the 0ata on Keno*!2, the 5ew ani1al/ that inhabite0 it
were really, really big;1o/t /houl0 have been in hibernation /ince it wa/ winter, but then they
were boun0 to be 5ar 1ore 0angerou/ i5 rou/te0 5ro1 their /lu1ber4
&o one knew 5or /ure, or /ee1e0 to care;e7cept her, apparently4
On the other han0, /he thought at lea/t /o1e o5 the1 1ight have 9oine0 Heuel CO-+' an0 the
cyborg/ that ha0 gone with hi1 when he wa/ 5orce0 to leave;or kill or be kille04
The 5iring out/i0e the cavern ha0 /toppe0 by the ti1e they 1anage0 to a//e1ble4 The /ilence
wa/ al1o/t a/ o1inou/ a/ the 5uriou/ 5ire5ight they0 hear0 an0 everyone glance0 at one another
?Cpl4 :art@ Take point@C
=anika 9u1pe0 when her na1e wa/ calle0 an0 /ent the Ea/ter %ergeant a 0i/believing look,
won0ering i5 /he /houl0 point out that her /6ua0 wa/ ab/ent4 %he /aw i11e0iately, though, that
he knew 0a1ne0 well /he ha0 no /6ua0 to lea04 The /u/picion in/tantly aro/e that he0 0eci0e0
/he wa/ a loo/e cannon an0 e7pen0able4
:er lip/ tightene04 %tepping 5ro1 the line, /he 1a0e her way to the 5ront, pau/ing at the entrance
to /can what /he coul0 /ee o5 the terrain be5ore /he /teppe0 out/i0e4
?.vt4 Clancy, .vt4 Eorgan;go with her4C
=anika rela7e0 5ractionally 0e/pite the 5act that /he 0i0nt have 1uch 5aith in either o5 the 1en
he0 /ent to watch her back4 :aving a//ure0 her/el5 there wa/ no /ign o5 1ove1ent clo/e enough
to pre/ent a proble1, /he brace0 her/el5 an0 0ove 5ro1 the entrance4 %he /till 1ore than hal5
e7pecte0 to hear a volley o5 /hot/ an0 5eel the burn o5 i1pact a/ /he rolle0 to a po/ition behin0 a
0ri5t o5 /now4 Bhen nothing happene0, the two 1en 5ollowe0 her4
%he0 /potte0 0ark, /till /hape/ again/t the /now 1aybe a hun0re0 yar0/ ea/t o5 their po/ition
when /he0 reconnoitere04 %ince nothing el/e /ee1e0 out o5 place, /he /lowly 1a0e her way
towar0 that area, /till watch5ul 5or any /ign o5 an attack4 By the ti1e /he wa/ hal5way there,
/he0 beco1e convince0 that they0 co1pletely 1i//e0 the action;whatever it wa/4 $t wa/
certainly not an attack by ene1y /ol0ier/ or they woul0ve 0rawn 0own on her at /o1e point
a5ter /he le5t the cavern4 An0 that al/o rule0 out the po//ibility o5 rogue cyborg/ attacking4
&u1b*nut/ Clancy an0 Eorgan /ettle0 the 1atter by /tan0ing up an0 1aking convenient target/
o5 the1/elve/4 =anika /ucke0 in a breath to or0er the i0iot/ 0own, but when they werent
i11e0iately bla/te0 by /niper 5ire, /he 0eci0e0 /he0 been right an0 it wa/ /a5e to a0vance on the
$t wa/ a bloo0y 1e//4 :er /to1ach tightene0 in revul/ion a/ /he /tare0 at the bo0y part/, trying
to /hake her /hock an0 0i/gu/t /u55iciently to 5igure out what ha0 happene04
?They werent /hooting at each other,C .vt4 Clancy 1uttere04
?:ow 0o you 5igure thatAC =anika a/ke04
?&o weapon/4C
?Too 1uch bloo0,C .vt4 Eorgan a00e04
=anika /hot a 6uick look aroun0 to veri5y the /tate1ent an0 0roppe0 to the groun04 ?3et 0own,
you i0iot/@C
They pro1ptly 0roppe0 in re/pon/e to her co11an0, but /he coul0 /ee both 1en were both
in0ignant an0 con5u/e04
?Bhere are their weapon/A They 0a1ne0 well 0i0nt leave the cave without the14 &obo0y i/
that /tupi0,C /he pointe0 out tightly4
?Eaybe an ani1al attacke0 the1AC .vt4 Eorgan /ai0 unea/ily4 ?%o1ething tore the1 to hell an0
?$ 0i0nt hear no e7plo/ion/,C .vt4 Clancy /econ0e0 hi1, ?an0 la/er 5ire woul0nt have 0one that
to Fe14C
=anika /eriou/ly 0oubte0 a bea/t ha0 wan0ere0 up on the 1en4 $5 wa/ hungry, it woul0ve eaten
the1 a5ter it kille0 the1 an0, 0e/pite the carnage, it looke0 to her a/ i5 everything wa/ /till there4
A horrible thought congeale0 in her 1in0 9u/t then, but /he re5u/e0 to con/i0er it4
Ea/ter %ergeant Delton 0i0nt have any /uch 6ual1/4 2ea0ing a /1all group up to where they
were, he /tu0ie0 the /cene 5or /everal 1o1ent/ with a look o5 rage an0 0i/gu/t4 ?Cyborg/4C
?Be 0ont know that@C =anika /nappe0, /urging to her 5eet when the other /ol0ier/ 9oine0 the14
?Dour o5 the 1en are 1i//ing their gun ar1/@C Delton /narle0 at her4 ?That 0oe/nt /ee1
/igni5icant to youAC
Deeling a 5re/h wave o5 nau/ea, =anika turne0 to /tu0y the /cene o5 carnage 1ore clo/ely4 That
wa/ when /he 0i/covere0 that one o5 the bo0ie/ wa/nt hu1an;the only one o5 the 5ive that
wa/nt 1i//ing it/ gun ar14
An0 it ha0 been burie04
An0 the rea/on /he coul0 tell that it ha0 been 0ug up an0 it wa/ cyborg wa/ becau/e /everal large
piece/ o5 5le/h ha0 been carve0 away, leaving the cybernetic/ plainly vi/ible4
?Oh 1y go0@ They were >4 They were taking the 5le/h@C
?$t/ 1eat,C Delton growle04 ?$n ca/e you havent notice0, Cpl4 :art, we nee0 5oo04C
=anika /tare0 at hi1, trying to 6uell the urge to throw up4 ?Mou /ent the1AC /he ga/pe0
0i/believingly4 ?But that/ > cannibali/1@ Theyre a/ hu1an a/ we are@C
=anika 0i/covere0 when /he /urveye0 the other 1en that 1o/t o5 the1 were looking a ta0 green4
?$t/ a cyborg,C Delton /nappe04 ?%hut the 5uck up@ %o1ebo0y get thi/ 1oron out o5 here@C
Bhen the 1en 1erely gape0 at hi1, he roare0 at the14 ?Clancy, get her back to ba/e an0 /ee to
it that /he keep/ her 1outh /hut@C
Clancy /ei#e0 one o5 her ar1/, but he /till looke0 con5u/e04 ?:ow a1 $ /uppo/e0 to 0o thatAC
?Tie her an0 gag her i5 you have to,C Delton growle04 ?Ou/t 1ake /ure /he keep/ 6uiet > an0 that
goe/ 5or the re/t o5 you that 1ight be 5eeling a little /6uea1i/h@C
=anika wa/ too /tunne0 to /truggle when Clancy gave her ar1 a har0 9erk an0 began u/hering
her back to the cavern4 :er 1in0 wa/ in tur1oil, /o 1any 0i/9ointe0 thought/ churning through
her that /he coul0nt 1ake /en/e o5 any o5 the14 One thought ha11ere0 lou0er than all the re/t,
though4 Delton coul0 try to 0re// it up all he plea/e04 :e 1ight convince the 1en that the cyborg/
werent hu1an, but the 5act re1aine0 that their 5le/h wa/4
They were hal5way back be5ore it 5inally congeale0 in her 1in0 that Delton ha0 con/i0ere0 her
e7pen0able be5ore /he0 calle0 hi1 on hi/ or0er to re6ui/ition F1eat 5ro1 the cyborg/ who0
5allen taking %laughter Hi0ge4 :ow long be5ore he 0eci0e0 it woul0 9u/t be /a5er all the way
aroun0 to eli1inate anybo0y that coul0 get hi1 i1pri/one0 5or i//uing that or0erA
Becau/e there wa/ no 0oubt in her 1in0 that Co11an0 woul0 be looking 5or /capegoat/ in thi/
horror an0 they woul0 be 5orce0 to 0o /o1ething, to o55er up a /acri5ice once it got out;an0 it
woul04 All the 0irty /ecret/ alway/ got out4
A/ that reali#ation /ettle0 in her 1in0, a0renaline 5loo0e0 her /y/te14 %he0 e7ecute0 an eva/ion
1aneuver be5ore /he even reali#e0, con/ciou/ly, that /he 1eant to 0o it, catching Clancy
co1pletely o55*guar04 Abruptly 0ropping all o5 her weight, /he /wung her right ar1 upwar0/,
catching Clancy un0er the chin with her pal14 :i/ hea0 /nappe0 back at the blow4 :i/ grip on
her ar1 wa/ wrenche0 loo/e by her weight an0 =anika /cra1ble0 5ro1 her knee/ to her 5eet
even a/ he began to tu1ble backwar0/;uncon/ciou/, /he hope0, 5ro1 the pinching o5 the nerve/
at the ba/e o5 hi/ /kull4
$n the back o5 her 1in0, /he knew /he wa/ 0ea0 whether /he /uccee0e0 in e/caping or not4 There
wa/ nowhere to run to, no /helter that /he knew o5 beyon0 the cavern the cyborg/ ha0 cut 5or
the14 But the /urvival in/tinct ha0 nothing to 0o with logic4 $t co1pelle0 her to 5ight her way
5ree an0 run while /he /till ha0 a chance to 0o /o4
Behin0 her, /he hear0 /hout/4 %he ran 5a/ter, a/ 5a/t a/ /he coul0 1anage /tu1bling through 5re/h
pow0er that /he /ank in al1o/t to her knee/4 The /oun0 o5 a la/er, 5ollowe0 by a cacophony o5
other/, bla/te0 in her ear/ an0 /he 0ove 5or the groun0, /cra1bling on her han0/ an0 knee/4 %he
thought /he hear0 the /oun0 o5 poun0ing 5eet4 A 5ew 1o1ent/ later, /o1eone grabbe0 her an0
haule0 her up4 %he /wung at hi14 .ain /hot all the way 5ro1 her 5i/t up her ar1 when /he
connecte0 with hi/ ar14
?$t i/ $, %eth@C
=anika wa/ in/tantly torn between relie5 an0 0i/1ay when /he reali#e0 /he0 run in to her
returning /6ua04 ?Hun@ Be have to get out o5 here@C
:e wa/ alrea0y running, however > back towar0 the ri0ge4 ?%eth@ &ot thi/ way@ =a1n it@C
:e ignore0 the co1plaint /he 1anage0 to grunt out4 Be5ore /he coul0 catch her breath an0 5orce
anything el/e out by way o5 co1plaint or or0er/, he launche0 both o5 the1 airborne4 They lan0e0
on the top o5 the ri0ge har0 enough to knock the breath out o5 her4
?Are you hitAC %eth 0e1an0e0, e7a1ining her with hi/ han0/4
?$ 0ont know4 $ 0ont think /o4 Be have to get out o5 here, though4 Theyll co1e a5ter u/4C
%truggling to catch her breath, /he got to her 5eet an0 looke0 at her /6ua04 ?Any o5 you hitAC
?$t i/ nothing >4C
%eth cut &ile/ o554 ?Be have to keep 1oving4 $t will not take the1 long to /cale the cli55 by way
o5 the pa// we cut4C
?An0 nothing to hi0e behin04 &o place to go4 %hit@C =anika /ai0 in con/ternation4 ?Mou guy/
/houl0 have /taye0 out o5 it4 Theyll be a5ter you now, too4C
?Be are a tea1,C =ane /ai0 tightly4
?Thi/ way4 Talk later,C %eth /ai0 /harply, catching her ar1 an0 lea0ing her away 5ro1 the cli55
:e wa/ right an0 =anika 0i0nt think it wa/ the be/t ti1e to point out that /he wa/ tea1 lea0er4
$n any ca/e, /he 0i0nt think the 0irection 1attere04 They were 5ucke0 anyway they cut it4 %he
ha0 her weapon;thank5ully Delton ha0nPt thought to or0er Clancy to 0i/ar1 her@;an0 %eth,
=ane, an0 &ile/ ha0 their/, but they ha0 very little a11o an0 no /upplie/4
Bhen they 5inally /toppe0 to re/t, %eth /ent =ane back to /ee i5 they were being 5ollowe0 an0 to
cover their back trail4 =anika wa/ too tire0 to prote/t even i5 /he coul0ve thought o5 a rea/on to
counter the or0er4
Bhen /he0 1anage0 to regulate her breathing /o1ewhat, it occurre0 to her that %eth ha0nt
a/ke0 her what ha0 happene04 %he 0i/covere0 when /he /ent hi1 a /peculative glance that he
wa/ /tu0ying her4 ?Mou know what happene04C
%eth/ lip/ tightene0, but he /ai0 nothing4
?Mou 0i0nt 9u/t happen to arrive back at ca1p in ti1e to re/cue 1e,C /he pro00e04
%eth /ee1e0 to wre/tle with hi1/el5 5or a 1o1ent4 ?&o4 Be ca1e back in ti1e to 0i/cover the
hu1an/ ha0 5oun0 a new u/e 5or u/,C he groun0 out bitterly4
=anika 9u/t 1anage0 to li5t her 5ace /hiel0 be5ore /he threw up4
=anika trie0 her be/t to 0i/1i// the /en/e that /he wa/ a pri/oner rather than a co1ra0e in ar1/,
but it wa/ a/ har0 to pu/h %eth/ co11ent 5ro1 her 1in0 a/ it wa/ to reconcile what /he0 /een
on the ba/e with the 1en /he0 5or1e0 the bloo0 bon0 o5 battle with4
Be5ore they0 been 0roppe0 on Keno*!2, /he ha0nt thought about the1 a/ anything beyon0
weapon/ at her 0i/po/al;1ore tool/ o5 the /ol0ier tra0e4 %ure they looke0 hu1an, but /he0
never been able to /et a/i0e the 5act that they werent when every interaction e1pha/i#e0 the 5act
that they were walking, talking weapon/ o5 0e/truction4 Al1o/t 5ro1 the in/tant they0 5ir/t
encountere0 re/i/tance 5ro1 the ene1y, though, they0 beco1e a tea1 an0 the 5ire5ight ha0
5or1e0 the /ol0ier bloo0 bon0 between the1;at lea/t in her viewpoint;that only 1en an0
wo1en 5orce0 to 0epen0 on one another 5or /urvival really un0er/too0 or 5elt4 %he 0epen0e0 on
the1 to help her /tay alive4 %he0 0one her be/t to uphol0 her en0 o5 that contract4
An0 then %eth ha0 /ai0 hu1an/;like a racial /lur4
=i0 he think o5 her a/ an ene1y a/ he /ee1e0 to con/i0er all hu1an/A Or a/ a tea1 1ateA
%he coul0 /ee hi/ point in a way4 %he 0i0nt think they coul0 po//ibly be unaware o5 the 5act that
they0 been e7clu0e0 when the chip/ were 0own an0 they were running out o5 5oo04 $t wa/nt a/
i5 they were /tupi04 $5 anything, they were 5ar 1ore intelligent than hu1an/ /ince they ha0
co1puter/ 5or brain/4
But coul0 they think like hu1an/A Bere they capable o5 getting 0own an0 0irty na/ty like
hu1an/ wereA
%he 0i0nt think they were capable o5 that or Heuel woul0nt have been taken o55*guar0 when he
wa/ accu/e0 o5 treachery4
Actually, /he ha0 been taken o55*guar0@
%he 0i/1i//e0 the thought/ a5ter a while4 %he /i1ply 0i0nt have the energy to /pare4 $t took
every ounce o5 5ocu/ 9u/t to keep going4 %eth haule0 her up when /he 5inally 5ell 5lat an0
coul0nt /u11on the energy to get up again4
%he 0i0nt think it 1attere0;really4 They ha0 nowhere to go4
?Ou/t leave 1e4 Moull 1ake better ti1e without 1e,C /he /ai0 tire0ly4
$gnoring her co11an0, he /wung her up into hi/ ar1/4 ?$t i/ not 1uch 5urther4C
=anika knew /he /houl0 have ob9ecte0, but /he 9u/t coul0nt /u11on the will4 Bhat wa/nt
1uch 5urther, /he won0ere0A
:eaven, /he 0i/covere0 when /he 5inally ca1e to4

Chapter %even
Coa/ting along the line between con/ciou/ne// an0 /leep, =anika /truggle0 to interpret the
/oun0/ that penetrate0 the 5og4 There /ee1e0 to be a great 0eal o5 activity aroun0 her, the /oun0
o5 people working**very little conver/ation4 %he 5rowne0, trying to 1ake the /oun0/ 5it
/o1ething /he wa/ 5a1iliar with4 %cene/ 5ille0 her 1in0 a/ /he /truggle0 to 1ake the /oun0/
1e/h with 1e1orie/4
&ot the village back ho1e, /he 0eci0e04 $t wa/nPt lou0 enough an0 there 0i0nPt /ee1 to be any
chil0renP/ voice/4 Or wo1enP/ 5or that 1atter4
The barrack/A
That 0i0nPt 5it either becau/e /he coul0 hear heavy thing/ being 1ove0 aroun04
The /hipA That al1o/t /ee1e0 to 5it, e7cept /he coul0nPt think o5 any rea/on why /he woul0
/leeping in the hol0 where 1o/t o5 the work took place**the /hi5ting an0 /orting o5 /upplie/, the
/ervicing o5 e6uip1ent**an0 /he coul0 0e5initely hear /oun0/ that in0icate0 the u/e o5 tool/ an0
The reali#ation that /he coul0nPt po//ibly be on the /hip brought her upwar0/ towar0/
con/ciou/ne// where 5re/her 1e1orie/ began to pour into her 1in0**the horrible 0i/covery
out/i0e the caveN her 5lightN the e7hau/tion that /ee1e0 to /uck away even any /en/e o5 /el5*
The la/t thing /he re1e1bere0 wa/ 5alling an0 not even having the energy to get up or to care
that /he coul0nPt4 %eth ha0 picke0 her up anyway an0 then li5te0 her into hi/ ar1/ an0 carrie0 her
like one 1ight a chil0, cra0le0 again/t hi/ che/t4
That ha0 co15orte0 her, 1a0e her 5eel like /he 1u/t have been wrong when /heP0 thought he
con/i0ere0 her hi/ ene1y4
%he /ucke0 in her breath an0 opene0 her eye/4
Above her /he coul0 /ee 444 rock, /talactite/**arti5icial light/ o5 /o1e kin04
Bhat the hellA
Q$ will get you /o1ething to eat now that you are awake4Q
The co11ent 0rew her eye/ to the /peaker an0 /he /tu0ie0 &ile/ blankly 5or /everal 1o1ent/,
won0ering why he /ee1e0 0i55erent4 Bhen he /too0 up an0 walke0 away, it hit her /6uarely
between the eye/4
:e wa/nPt wearing hi/ hab*/uit4 :eP0 /trippe0 0own to nothing but hi/ brie5/4 :e wa/nPt even
wearing hi/ boot/@
=arkne// 5i/te0 aroun0 her 1in0 when /he /at up abruptly4 Clo/ing her eye/, /he bowe0 her
hea0, cupping her hea0 in her han0/ an0 waiting 5or the 0i##ine// to pa//4 The /1ell o5
/o1ething won0er5ul brought her eye/ open again a5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/4
%he /aw that a han0 ha0 appeare0 within her view hol0ing a 1etal cup 5ille0 with /o1e /ort o5
yellowi/h broth4 QThi/ 5ir/t4 $t will help you regain your /trength 5a/ter an0 repleni/h 5lui0/4Q
2i5ting her hea0, /he 0i/covere0 it wa/ %eth hol0ing what looke0 to be /o1e kin0 o5 broth4 The
look an0 /1ell wa/ /o /trongly re1ini/cent o5 chicken /oup that her 1in0 i11e0iately
convince0 her that that wa/ what it wa/4 :unger wa/he0 through her4 %he coul0nPt re1e1ber
when /heP0 /1elle0 anything a/ heavenly4 QThereP/ enoughAQ /he a/ke0 he/itantly even a/ /he
reache0 5or the cup he wa/ hol0ing4
:er han0, /he 0i/covere0, wa/ bare4 An0 that wa/nPt all that wa/ bare4 %he wa/nPt wearing her
hab*/uit an0 /he 0a1ne0 well 0i0nPt recall taking it o55**or even recall it being taken o55@ :ow
coul0 /he have been that out o5 itA
Q$ cannot /ay that we have a great 0eal but what we 0o have we /hare with all4Q
The co11ent e55ectively 0i/tracte0 =anika 5ro1 her 0i/co15ort at the 0i/covery that /he wa/
wearing nothing but her un0ie/ an0 wrappe0 in /o1ething that looke0 like ar1y i//ue 5iel0
be00ing4 "1otion/ ca/ca0e0 through her**e1barra//1ent, then guilt an0 /ha1e, an0 then anger4
Duck you, /he thought@ QThank/,Q /he /ai0 tightly, Qbut $ /till have ration/ in 1y hab*/uit i5 youPll
9u/t tell 1e what the 5uck you 0i0 with it4Q
:i/ 5ace /lackene0 with /urpri/e 5or a 1o1ent be5ore anger tightene0 hi/ e7pre//ion4 QThi/ will
be better 5or you4 Bhy are you angryAQ
QBhat 1ake/ you think $P1 angryAQ /he growle0 at hi14
:i/ 5rown 0eepene04 Q$ have 1i/interprete0 the tone an0 the 1anneri/1/AQ
=anika 5elt like throwing the /oup in hi/ 5ace4 QActually, youPre pretty goo0 at that4 Too ba0 you
werenPt progra11e0 with any 0a1ne0 tact or 1anner/4Q
A 5lu/h 1ounte0 hi/ cheek/4 %he coul0nPt tell i5 it wa/ 5ro1 0i/co15ort or anger, though4
QMe/, that i/ a pity4 Eayhap $ can learn tho/e thing/ 5ro1 youAQ
QMouPre goo0 at /arca/1, at lea/t4Q
That /ee1e0 to take hi1 aback4 Q$ a1AQ
A touch o5 e1pathy 5lickere0 through her, but /he re/olutely ignore0 it4 %he narrowe0 her eye/ at
hi14 QEy hab*/uitAQ /he pro00e04
:e /et the cup o5 /oup 0own4 QBhat 0i0 $ /ay that 1a0e you angryAQ
The 6ue/tion took the win0 out o5 =anika4 QObviou/ly you have a proble1 with hu1an/4Q
The anger that 5ille0 hi/ e7pre//ion then wa/ a little /cary4
Ok, a lot4
QA/i0e 5ro1 all that they have 0one to 1e an0 1y kin0, why woul0 you think thatAQ
Gnea/ine// 5ille0 =anika4 A/ 5ocu/e0 a/ /heP0 been on her argu1ent with %eth, /he wa/ 5ar 5ro1
unaware o5 the 5act that the va/t cavern /he ha0 awoken in wa/ 5ille0 with cyborg/4
$t wa/ 5ille0 with /ol0ier/, at any rate4 Gntil %eth ha0 re1in0e0 her that 1o/t o5 the cyborg/ ha0
ha0 to 5lee the ba/e to e/cape being 0e/troye0, or 0e/troye0 an0 eaten, by their 5ellow /ol0ier/,
/he ha0nPt connecte0 the 0ot/4
QThat being the ca/e,Q /he 5inally /ai0 when /heP0 1anage0 to gather a little brava0o, Q$ have to
won0er why you brought 1e here4Q
:e looke0 taken aback an0 con5u/e04 QMou woul0 have pre5erre0 that we leave you to 0ieAQ
Actually, /he 0i0nPt pre5er that at all@ But what kin0 o5 5ucking re/cue wa/ thi/A QAt the ti1e, $
0i0nPt e/pecially care4Q
Q$ care0 or $ woul0 have le5t you4Q
=anika blinke0 at hi14 %he 0i0nPt know i5 it wa/ 1ore 0i/concerting to hear hi1 /ay that or
0i/turbing or heartening4 :ow coul0 he care, at all, /he won0ere0A :ow coul0 he be capable o5
caringA $n what way 0i0 he careA Q$ 0onPt un0er/tan04Q
The anger le5t hi/ e7pre//ion4 :i/ lip/ curle0 5aintly4 Q$ 0o not un0er/tan0 either4 =rink the /oup4
Mou nee0 it4Q
%he 0i0 nee0 it4 Beyon0 that, /he wante0 it 0e/perately4 %he 0eci0e0 to be 1olli5ie0 by hi/
clu1/y atte1pt to apologi#e 5or being /o na/ty an0 1aking her 5eel unwelco1e4 .icking up the
cup, /he /ippe0 at it cautiou/ly4 $t ta/te0 a/ heavenly a/ it /1elle04 Q$t ta/te/ like chicken broth4Q
:e grinne0 abruptly4 QThen we will /ay that i/ what it i/4Q
:er heart /tu1ble04 %he 0i0nPt think /heP0 ever properly appreciate0 9u/t how gorgeou/ he wa/4
Deeling awkwar0ly aware o5 hi1 a/ a very attractive 1an, /he /truggle0 5or /o1ething to 0ivert
her 1in04 QGh oh4 &ot chicken, huhAQ
:e /hrugge04 QEayhap /o1ething like4 Be 5oun0 it a1ong the /tore/ le5t by the An0orian/4Q
That co11ent e55ectively 0i/tracte0 her an0 /he li5te0 her hea0 to /tu0y the va/t cavern4 QThi/
wa/ an ene1y /tronghol0A They aban0one0 itAQ
%eth, whoP0 been crouching, /ettle0 acro// 5ro1 her cro//*legge04 Q&ot preci/ely4 Heuel an0 hi/
1en 444 per/ua0e0 the1 to vacate4Q
=anika 5rowne04 Q&ot that $P1 ob9ecting**thi/ a 0a1ne0 nice ba/e**but wa/ thi/ be5ore or a5ter
that a//hole, Brown, 0eci0e0 to /hoot hi1AQ
:e looke0 unco15ortable but 5inally /hrugge04 QBe5ore4 :e ha0 444 anticipate0 that we 1ight not
be welco1e a1ong the hu1an/ when they reali#e0 that we ha0 awakene0, that we were no
longer their/ to co11an0 a/ they plea/e04Q
=anika /ippe0 her broth while /he /truggle0 to 0ige/t that an0 think o5 a re/pon/e4 QBhat 0o you
1ean Pawakene0PAQ
%eth 5rowne04 QBe are not certain our/elve/4 $ a1 not certain, at any rate,Q he a00e0 wryly4
QAwarene// that we 0i0 not have be5ore4 $t wa/ like awakening 5ro1 /leep4 Be5ore we ha0 no
true awarene//4 &ow we 0o4 %o1e o5 u/, at any rate4Q
=anika 5rowne0, but /he certainly coul0nPt argue that it wa/ /o when /heP0 notice0 it her/el54
Q:ow coul0 that happenAQ
:e /hrugge04 QHeuel believe/ that it wa/ our nano/4 They are progra11e0 to repair 0a1age4 Be
are 1ore biological than 1achine an0 he believe/ that the nano/ interprete0 P1i//ingP to be
P0a1ageP an0 correcte0 or repaire0, buil0ing what wa/ not there be5ore4Q
=anika /tu0ie0 hi1 curiou/ly4 QMou arenPt /uppo/e0 to be 1ore than hal54 MouPre /uppo/e0 to be
le// than hal54Q Otherwi/e it wa/ unlaw5ul an0 unethical becau/e it wa/ a ta0 too clo/e to Pplaying
go0P 5or anyoneP/ co15ort4
The line/ ha0 blurre0 when hu1an/ began to take a0vantage o5 the a0vance/ in robotic/ to
enhance the1/elve/ or to replace 1i//ing, 0e5or1e0, or bo0y part/ too 0a1age0 5ro1 acci0ent/
to heal correctly4 Originally, it wa/ enough to /i1ply /ay hu1an/ were Pborn naturallyP an0 robot/
werenPt, but then ca1e the arti5icial wo1b that 1any wo1en began to take a0vantage o5, at lea/t
the wo1en o5 earth, an0 the 0ebate aro/e a/ to whether in5ant/ PgrownP in arti5icial wo1b/ /houl0
be con/i0ere0 co1pletely hu1an with all the right/ un0er law that that entaile04 They coul0nPt
/ay born o5 natural ovu1 an0 /per1 contribution/, /ince all o5 the1 werenPt4 $n /o1e ca/e/,
where wo1en were incapable o5 pro0ucing ovu1 an0 wante0 a chil0, or the wo1anP/ 1ate ha0
0ie0 without Pi//ueP, 1eaning without leaving viable /per1 0onation/, cell/ were u/e0 to pro0uce
an e1bryo4 Dinally, it wa/ 0eci0e0 that any being that wa/ i//ue o5 a hu1an 1ale an0 5e1ale,
born 5ro1 a natural or arti5icial wo1b, an0 1ore than 5i5ty percent biological, were hu1an
being/**regar0le// o5 bionic/ a00e0 a5ter birth4
QBy law, ye/4 The co1pany 0oe/ not appear to have hel0 to the law in that re/pect4 Beyon0 the
cha//i/, the nece//ary pneu1atic a//i/t an0 the C.G that contain/ our progra11ing, all el/e i/
biological**now4 Eo/t wa/ even be5ore4Q
QOh 1y go0@Q =anika ga/pe0 a/ that /ank ho1e along with all o5 the ra1i5ication/4 TheyP0
create0 robotically enhance0 hu1an being/ in a 5ucking labA Bhat kin0 o5 cri1inally in/ane
i0iot/ woul0 0o /o1ething like thatA
Actually, genetically an0 robotically enhance0 hu1an being/, /he reali#e0, becau/e they werenPt
preci/ely hu1an even 0i/regar0ing the robotic/4 They were /uper hu1an4
=anika 0i0nPt reali#e that /he ha0nPt actually con/i0ere0 all o5 the ra1i5ication/ until %eth
e/corte0 her to the 5acilitie/4 %he wa/ /o thrille0 to 0i/cover they actually ha0 hot water to bathe
with an0 an actual bathing roo1 co1plete with /praying /howerhea0/ that it took a while 5or
PotherP thing/ to /et in4 The 1o1ent %eth intro0uce0 her to clean/er an0 /howe0 her how to work
the alien har0ware to pro0uce a /pray, which al1o/t i11e0iately began to 0i/pen/e hot water,
/he /ki11e0 out o5 her brie5/ an0 T*top, to//e0 the1 a/i0e, an0 /teppe0 un0er the water4
.lea/ure 5loo0e0 her a/ /oon a/ the hot water began to ca/ca0e over her4 &e7t to the hot chicken*
type /oup, it wa/ the 1o/t heavenly thing /heP0 5elt in 5orever@ Eaybe even better than the /oup@
The clean/er ha0 a /trange /1ell unlike anything /he wa/ 5a1iliar with, but it wa/nPt a ba0 /1ell4
$t wa/ actually rather plea/ing**particularly co1pare0 to the o0or/ /heP0 been 0ealing with 5or
Thi/ wa/ the lovely /1ell /heP0 notice0 when %eth ha0 /ettle0 ne7t to her@
The other lovely /1ell, /he a1en0e0 with a chuckle o5 /heer 0elight, re1e1bering how heavenly
the /oup ha0 /1elle0**an0 ta/te04
Tho/e thought/ brought %eth to 1in0 5orce5ully, though, an0 /he 5licke0 a glance towar0 the
0oor4 A 9olt went through her when /he 0i/covere0 that %eth ha0nPt le5t a/ /heP0 thought4 :eP0
gone no 5urther than the 0oor to the 5acilitie/4
$t 5lickere0 through her 1in0 that heP0 /taye0 to guar0 her back4 :e wa/nPt /tan0ing Pguar0P with
hi/ back to her, however4
%he coul0nPt tell what wa/ going through hi/ 1in0**i5 anything at all wa/**but he wa/ /tu0ying
her without any preten/e o5 0i/intere/t4
Actually, /he coul0nPt tell that he wa/ particularly intere/te0 either4
An0 /he coul0nPt 0eci0e whether to ignore hi1 or /ay /o1ething**not that /he coul0 think o5 a
0a1ne0 thing to /ay4
"/pecially when he 5inally /ee1e0 to reali#e that /he wa/ /taring back at hi1 an0 li5te0 hi/ hea0
to 1eet her ga#e4 $t al1o/t 5elt like a hot concu//ion wave wa/he0 over her, too /tunning to 5ully
a//i1ilate let alone un0er/tan04
%he 0i0nPt know how long they both /too0 5ro#en in ti1e, cut o55 5ro1 the re/t o5 the worl0 a/ i5
everything ha0 cea/e0 to e7i/t e7cept the two o5 the1 an0 even ti1e wa/ /u/pen0e0, but %eth
broke it with all the 5ine//e o5 an ol0 5a/hione0 0irty PAP bo1b4
QMou have grown thin4Q
=anika gape0 at hi1 blankly 5or /everal 1o1ent/ while that /lowly /ank in an0 then looke0
0own at her/el5 to veri5y an0 5rowne0 in 0i/1ay4 %heP0 been at her phy/ical peak when /heP0
/hippe0 out4 %he ha0nPt reali#e0 9u/t how 1uch the 5oo0 /hortage ha0 a55ecte0 her**beyon0 being
/o hungry /he 5elt like /heP0 pa// out4
%o 1uch 5or thinking he wa/ /training to hol0 hi1/el5 back 5ro1 ravi/hing her, /he thought
wryly, 5eeling e1barra//1ent creep in@ He/ent1ent 5ollowe0 /wi5tly on it/ heel/4
:e notice0 /o he 9u/t ha0 to point it outA
%he turne0 away 5ro1 hi1, 5acing the /hower /pray4 QGn5ortunately, $P1 hu1an,Q /he /ai0
tightly4 Q$ ha0 to rely on Pluck o5 the 0rawP with 1y genetic/4Q
%eth 5rowne0 in con/ternation, reali#ing that he ha0 o55en0e0, although he wa/ not certain how4
Con5u/ing a/ that wa/, he wa/ only 1ore ba55le0 when he replaye0 what he ha0 /ai0 in hi/ 1in04
:e ha0 /ai0 nothing about genetic/@ :e ha0 1erely voice0 hi/ 0i/1ay that /he ha0 grown /o
0angerou/ly thin 5ro1 the lack o5 /u55icient 5oo0@
Q$ wa/ only thinking that it wa/ a goo0 thing that we le5t when we 0i04 Mou woul0 have /tarve0
to 0eath be5ore 1uch longer4Q
QAlright alrea0y@Q =anika /nappe0, /hutting the water o55 an0 /loughing a/ 1uch o5 the water
5ro1 her bo0y a/ /he coul0 with her han0/, re/i/ting the urge to cover her/el5 with an e55ort4 Q$
got it@ $ look like hell@ Thank/@Q %he looke0 aroun0 a little 0e/perately 5or /o1e way to 0ry
her/el5, unwilling to put her clothe/ back on while /he wa/ /till wet4 %he wa/ alrea0y beginning
to 5eel the lo// o5 heat4 The ene1y ba/e 1ight be an a1a#ingly co15ortable te1perature while
/he wa/ 0ry, but it certainly wa/nPt war1 enough to be co15ortable wet4
Q$ 0i0 not /ay you looke0 like hell4Q
QHight4 Gh 444 $ 0i0nPt think to a/k 5or /o1ething to 0ry o55 with,Q /he /ai0, trying to keep her
teeth 5ro1 chattering together4
%ethP/ lip/ tightene0 with 5ru/tration4 QThe 0ryer i/ there4 $t work/ 1uch the /a1e a/ tho/e on the
&o00ing, =anika looke0 aroun0 a little vaguely 5or her 0i/car0e0 clothing an0 5inally bent 0own
to /natch it up an0 hea0e0 to the 0rying unit4
$t wa/ a crying 0a1ne0 /ha1e that /he 0i0nPt have clean clothe/ to put on, /he thought
0i/tracte0ly a/ /he /too0 an0 turne0 beneath the blower to allow the circulating air to 0ry her4 But
/he 0i0nPt allow that to 0ull her plea/ure in being really clean 5or the 5ir/t ti1e /ince theyP0
lan0e0 on Keno*!24
%he wa/nPt even going to let %ethP/ co11ent/ 0ull her plea/ure, by 0a1n@
Q$ 0o not think you look like hell,Q %eth per/i/te04 Q$ only /ai0 4444Q
=anika cut hi1 o554 QMeah, $ know what you /ai04 Ou/t 5orget it, alrightAQ
%eth 5rowne0 0arkly4 Q$ 0o not know what $ /ai0 that ha/ 1a0e you angry 4444Q
Q$P1 not pi//e0 o55,Q =anika /nappe04 QBill you 0rop itA MouPre like a ki0@ Mou know 9u/t
becau/e you notice /o1ething it 0oe/nPt 5ollow that you 9u/t have to point it out, alrightA
"/pecially i5 itP/ /o1ething thatP/ going to 1ake /o1ebo0y 5eel ba04Q
Thank5ully, that /ilence0 hi1 becau/e =anika wa/ running out o5 patience 5a/t@
%he le0 the way when they le5t the 5acilitie/, trying to 0i/1i// her anger**which /he knew wa/
really out o5 proportion to the /ituation4 %o heP0 pointe0 out that /he looke0 like /he wa/ about to
0rop 0ea0A $t wa/nPt like /he care0 what he thought, 0a1n it@
%he 0i0 care, though, /he reali#e04 %he thought he looke0 ab/olutely a1a#ing, even though heP0
lo/t a lot o5 weight, a/ well4
But o5 cour/e that 9u/t went back to the 5act that they ha0 been 0e/igne0 to be per5ect an0 /he
ha0nPt been4
%he reali#e0 /he woul0Pve been touchy about that 5act even i5 /he ha0nPt thought %eth wa/
attractive4 %he wa/ /urroun0e0 by /uperhu1an being/@ All o5 the 0e5ective or 9u/t un0e/irable
gene/ ha0 been eli1inate0 5ro1 their 0e/ign**which wa/ again/t the law with hu1an/ even
though it wa/ po//ible4 They coul0 eli1inate 0e5ective gene/, coul0 even a00 gene/ that helpe0
boo/t the i11une /y/te1 /ince the govern1ent /aw it a/ 5ar cheaper to 0o /o than to /hell out
1ore 1oney than they ab/olutely ha0 to 5or health bene5it/4 But PtweakingP wa/ playing go0 an0
that wa/nPt allowe04
$t occurre0 to her abruptly that her own co11ent/ ha0 been 0ea0 on without her even reali#ing
%heP0 pointe0 out that he ha0 the ru0ene// o5 a ki0 that ha/nPt been taught better 1anner/ than to
1ake hurt5ul ob/ervation/4
An0 why woul0nPt he, /he reali#e0A :e ha0 never been a ki0@ :e ha0nPt ha0 a parent to poun0
ho1e the /ocially acceptable thing/ an0 the thing/ that werenPt acceptable@
&o won0er he wa/ con5u/e0@
That reali#ation 0i55u/e0 her anger4 $t 0i0nPt 1ake her 5eel any better, un5ortunately, becau/e it
wa/ a/ clear a/ a bell to her that he thought /he looke0 9u/t aw5ul, but /he 0i0nPt think heP0
inten0e0 to 1ake her 5eel ba04
Bhich only 1a0e it wor/e in a way4 :eP0 given her an hone/t opinion4
An0 there were ti1e/ when a per/on 9u/t 0i0nPt want a 0a1ne0 hone/t opinion@
A/ 0e/perate a/ /he wa/ 5or a 0i/traction, /he 0i0nPt know i5 it wa/ a goo0 thing or ba0 that Heuel
/ee1e0 to be waiting 5or the1 to e1erge4 The 1o1ent he /aw the1, he /tro0e towar0 the14
=anika /toppe0 when he neare0 the1, eyeing hi1 unea/ily4 :e no00e0, hi/ e7pre//ion har0 with
/o1e e1otion /he 5oun0 0i55icult to 0ecipher4
Q$ 0eeply regret that $ en0angere0 your wel5are when $ cau/e0 the cavern entrance to collap/e4
.lea/e believe $ woul0 not have ri/ke0 it i5 there ha0 been any other way4Q
=anika 5elt her 5ace heat with 0i/co15ort4 The la/t thing /heP0 e7pecte0 when Heuel ha0 /toppe0
her wa/ an apology4 %he 0i/covere0 it wa/ a va/t relie5, though, on 1any level/ /ince /heP0
/u/pecte0 /he woul0nPt be welco1e, all thing/ con/i0ere0, an0 ha0 won0ere0 i5 /he nee0e0 to
hi0e her pre/ence in the PrebelP ca1p4 Q=onPt4 $ knew then that it wa/ 5or the be/t4Q %he gri1ace04
Q$P1 not /ure $ woul0Pve 5elt /o 5orgiving i5 1y guy/ ha0nPt been watching 1y back an0 helpe0 u/
0ig out,Q /he a00e0, 5licking a grate5ul look at %eth4 QBut $P1 a/ convince0 a/ $ nee0 to be that, in
the en0, it wa/ be/t 5or everyone, 1e inclu0e04 There woul0Pve been a 5ire5ight, $ think, i5 not 5or
that an0 a lot 1ore people woul0Pve been hurt or kille04 Mou 0i0 the right thing4Q
Heuel 5licke0 an a//e//ing look at %eth4 Q$ a1 not certain your 1en agree4 Or 5orgive a/ ea/ily4Q
=anika wa/nPt certain what the un0ercurrent/ that pa//e0 between %eth an0 Heuel were all about,
but /he got the i1pre//ion that they werenPt e7actly 5rien0/4
QEaybe not, but $P1 /ati/5ie0 with the outco1e4 $ wante0 the1 to have the chance to e/cape4
Brown ha0 accu/e0 %eth o5 treachery, too, an0 $ 0i0nPt want hi1 5ille0 5ull o5 hole/ 9u/t becau/e
he thought $ /houl0 keep 1y 1outh /hut an0 trie0 to keep 1e out o5 trouble4 $ think $ /houl0
rather thank you 5or what you 0i0 than 5orgive you4 &ot /aying it 0i0nPt /care the hell out o5 1e
when $ thought we were trappe0 there an0 1ight not get out, but, thank5ully, we werenPt trappe0
long enough 5or that to really /et in4Q
%ince /he wa/nPt really co15ortable with the conver/ation an0 /he coul0nPt tell that anything
either /he or Heuel ha0 /ai0 ha0 ha0 any appreciable e55ect on the vibe/ o5 ho/tility e1anating
5ro1 %eth, /he abruptly turne0 the conver/ation4 Q:ow 0i0 you 5in0 thi/ placeAQ
Heuel /ee1e0 to rela7 5ractionally4 QBe looke0 5or it4Q
=anika coul0nPt 0eci0e whether to laugh or berate hi1 5or being /arca/tic4 %he 0i0nPt think heP0
actually inten0e0 the co11ent that way, though4 QBhenAQ
:e /hrugge04 QA5ter the battle at %laughter Hi0ge4 Be tracke0 the /urvivor/ o5 the battle here an0
eli1inate0 the14Q
=anika blinke0 at hi1 in /urpri/e an0 then 5rowne04 QBut you 0i0nPt report itAQ /he gue//e0,
won0ering i5 /he 9u/t ha0nPt hear0, won0ering i5 all the ti1e /heP0 thought their lea0er/ were
/lacking they ha0nPt launche0 a counter/trike becau/e they knew the /ector wa/ /ecure4 Bhy
ha0nPt they /ai0 /o, thoughA
Bell, actually they ha0, /he re1e1bere04 But they ha0nPt /ai0 that they knew it wa/ /ecure
becau/e the cyborg/ ha0 5oun0 the ene1y ba/e an0 capture0 it4
QThey 0i0 not a/k,Q Heuel /ai0, /1iling thinly4 Q$ wa/ not progra11e0 to take the initiative i5
/uch ca/e/4 $ wa/ not or0ere0 to 0o /o4 &or wa/ $ progra11e0 to volunteer in5or1ation not
re6ue/te0 unle// it pertaine0 to a threat to 1y hu1an han0ler/4Q
QAn0 you thought it 1ight be a goo0 place to retreat to i5 that beca1e nece//aryAQ =anika
Heuel 5rowne0 an0 li5te0 hi/ hea0 to /urvey the cyborg/ working aroun0 the14 QBe were
progra11e0 to protect our/elve/ becau/e o5 our value to the con5e0eration**our 0ollar value,Q he
/ai0 bitterly4 QBut a/ /entient being/ we al/o have our own in/tinct 5or /el5*pre/ervation4 $
gue//e0 that the hu1an/ woul0 not be 0elighte0 to know that we ha0 attaine0 awarene// an0
were no longer 1erely 1achine/ to be u/e0 a/ they /aw 5it**that we were no longer /lave/ to the
whi1/ o5 the hu1an/4Q
Anger abruptly 5lare0 in =anika4 $t wa/ re/ent1ent that /heP0 been lu1pe0 with everyone el/e
that ha0 5ucke0 the1 over when /he certainly wa/nPt guilty, but it wa/ a/ 1uch becau/e /he 5elt
like /he wa/ being un5airly 9u0ge0 a/ the 5ear that /heP0 be treate0 a/ i5 /he ha0 0one /o1ething
to 0e/erve their ani1o/ity4 Q&ot that $ 0onPt get what youPre /aying, but wePre all /ol0ier/,Q /he
/ai0 tightly, Qan0 /ol0ier/ are e7pecte0 to 0o a/ co11an0e0**or 5ace the con/e6uence/4Q
QAn0 yet, being hu1an, you ha0 a choice 4444Q
=anika /norte04 QThat 9u/t /how/ how little you know about the /ituation@ $ /ure a/ hell 0i0nPt
volunteer4 $ 0i0nPt have a choice an0 $P1 gue//ing not a lot o5 the other/ 0i0, either4 Be were
con/cripte0**the 1a9ority o5 u/4 $ 0onPt even agree with the 0a1ne0 politician/ about thi/ war, but
i5 theyP0 a/ke0 i5 $ wa/ willing to protect 1y ho1e worl0 an0 5a1ily to the be/t o5 1y ability, $
woul0Pve been willing to try4 $n that /en/e, $ wa/nPt unwilling to ri/k getting 1y a// /hot o554Q
QBut they are not our people or our ho1e worl0/,Q Heuel pointe0 out coolly4 QBe have no ho1e,
no people, no right/4 $n ti1e, the go0/ willing, i5 you /urvive, you will be relea/e0 an0 you can
return to your ho1e worl0 an0 buil0 any li5e you plea/e4 Be were built to be /ol0ier/ an0 there
will never be anything el/e 5or u/ /o long a/ we belong to the con5e0eration4 Bhen thi/ war en0/,
they will either 0e/troy u/ or they will /en0 u/ to another4
Q$ woul0 have accepte0 that $ wa/ create0 only to 5ight until $ wa/ 0e/troye0 or the govern1ent
ha0 no 5urther u/e 5or 1e i5 they ha0 not betraye0 1e4 $ will not accept that $ 1u/t be 0e/troye0
when $ 0i0 nothing 1ore than 5ollow the or0er/ given to 1e, only becau/e o5 one in/ane hu1an
an0 the unwillingne// o5 another to a01it that $ acte0 un0er or0er/@Q
=anika 5rowne04 QMou 0onPt know that4 %eth /ai0 that you were all 1ore than hal5 biological4
Gn0er the law, that /houl0 1ake you hu1an, with the /a1e right/ a/ everyone el/e4Q Bell, not
hu1an, becau/e they werenPt e7actly hu1an even i5 hu1an =&A wa/ u/e0 to 1ake the1, but
/entient citi#en/4 There were plenty o5 citi#en/ o5 the con5e0eration that werenPt hu1an4 The
cyborg/ certainly 6uali5ie0 a/ /entient being/ an0 they coul0nPt be con/i0ere0 non*being/, a/ in
1anu5acture0, i5 they were 1ore than hal5 biological4
QMou are naive i5 you believe we woul0 be given the chance to argue that in a court o5 law4 The
govern1ent will not allow it an0 the co1pany will 0o their ut1o/t to bury their P1i/takeP4 Be
ha0 no choice in thi/4Q
%he wa/nPt a/ naive a/ he /ee1e0 to think4 %he knew he wa/ probably right on all count/, but it
/ee1e0 to her that going ABO2 wa/nPt going to /trengthen their ca/e4
On the other han0, Brown ha0 lo/t it an0 /he wa/ a/ certain a/ /he coul0 be that he woul0Pve
or0ere0 the cyborg/ e7ecute0**well, he ha04 %he wa/ a/ certain a/ /he coul0 be that the other/
woul0 have 0one a/ or0ere0 without 6ue/tion4
An0 then there wa/ the 1atter o5 Ea/ter %gt4 Delton having or0ere0 the 1en to regar0 the
cyborg/ a/ a han0y /ource o5 5oo0 4444
%he /till 5elt nau/eate0 every ti1e /he thought about that, not the lea/t becau/e /he ha0 a horrible
5ear in the back o5 her 1in0 that that 1ight not have been /o1ething /he ha0 /tu1ble0 upon that
wa/ a PnewP /ituation4 %he 0i0nPt want to think that Delton ha0 been /ecretly 5ee0ing the1 hu1an
5le/h 5or week/4 %he wa/ al1o/t po/itive that he ha0nPt, but /he wa/nPt a/ po/itive a/ /he wante0
to be4
Q$ 0o not re6uire that you agree with 1e on every point,Q Heuel /ai0 5inally, breaking into her
thought/4 QMou 1u/t believe what you will an0 you are /till welco1e to /tay with u/4 :owever, $
1u/t in/i/t upon the re1oval o5 your locator4Q

Chapter "ight
That co11ent brought =anika back to her own per/onal /ituation with a 9olt o5 0i/1ay4
%he ha0nPt con/i0ere0 that /he wa/ a 0e/erter 9u/t a/ they were4 :er in/tinct/ ha0 tol0 her that /he
wa/nPt going to live long i5 Delton got the i0ea that /he 1ight be a threat to hi1 an0 /heP0 acte0
on the1, but at no ti1e ha0 /he con/ciou/ly acknowle0ge0 that /he wa/ a 0e/erter**in a warti1e
/ituation that woul0 1ean /wi5t e7ecution i5 they caught up with her4
%he /uppo/e0, /o1ewhere in the back o5 her 1in0, /heP0 ha0 /o1e i0ea that /he coul0 report to
another battalion an0 get the 1i/un0er/tan0ing /traightene0 out4
%he wa/nPt going to be able to 0o that i5 /he allowe0 the1 to re1ove her per/onal locator, /he
reali#e0 in 0i/1ay4 That woul0 be an act o5 trea/on in it/el5 an0 /he 0i0nPt think /he woul0 get
the chance to e7plain or that they woul0 accept her e7planation anyway4
QMou cannot /tay here i5 you will not allow it to be re1ove04 $t i/ 0oubt5ul that they woul0 be
able to track you here un0er the current circu1/tance/**or will even atte1pt it**but we 1u/t
a//u1e that they will eventually ree/tabli/h /upply line/ an0 co11unication/4 At that point you
woul0 be a 0anger to everyone with you an0 we cannot know how 1uch ti1e we 1ight have4Q
%he woul0 never be able to go ho1e again, =anika thought, 5eeling a knot o5 1i/ery 5or1 in her
throat4 That wa/ pretty 1uch all /heP0 thought about /ince /heP0 le5t**going ho1e again when
they were 0one with her4 That wa/ what ha0 helpe0 her through training4 That thought wa/ what
ha0 kept her 5ir1ly 5i7e0 on /urviving4
%he wante0 to go ho1e@
But /heP0 alrea0y 1a0e her choice, /he reali#e04 %heP0 0e/erte04 The chance/ werenPt goo0, at all,
that /he woul0 be able to prove /he ha0 goo0 rea/on to 5lee4 Dor all /he knew everybo0y that ha0
been 0roppe0 on the planet were in the /a1e /hape, or wor/e, than her own battalion ha0 been4
That wa/nPt going to be a goo0 enough e7cu/e even /o4 $n 5act, the /ituation wa/ /o ba0, a/ 5ar a/
/he coul0 /ee, that there were probably people 0e/erting right an0 le5t in an e55ort to /urvive an0
the 1ilitary woul0 take action i5 they lo/t the war becau/e o5 0e/ertion/4
:er 5a1ily woul0 be 0i/grace0 becau/e /he wa/4
"ven i5 they woul0 allow her to co1e ho1e, it woul0 en0anger the14
%eth abruptly /ettle0 a han0 heavily enough on her /houl0er that it 1a0e her 9u1p an0 whip a
6uick look at hi/ 5ace4 :e wa/nPt looking at her, however4 :e wa/ /taring challengingly at Heuel4
QBe are a tea14 Be /tay together4 Be will leave4Q
A/ 1uch a/ it war1e0 her to know %eth wa/ willing to re1ain loyal even i5 it 1eant all o5 the1
woul0 likely 0ie, /he 0i0nPt want that on her con/cience4 Q3o whereAQ
:e looke0 0own at her4 QBe will 5in0 a place4Q
$t wa/ al1o/t te1pting4 Dor a 5ew 1o1ent/ =anika allowe0 her i1agination to 1ake her
hope5ul, but they certainly coul0nPt go back**not now**none o5 the14 %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ ha0
helpe0 her e/cape, ha0 run with her4 That 1a0e the1 0e/erter/, too**$5 it wa/ e/tabli/he0 that
they werenPt 1achine/ but rather being/ whoP0 1a0e the choice to 0e/ert4
%he /hook her hea04 Q&o4 :eP/ right4 $P1 /orry 5or getting you guy/ into thi/, but thereP/ no going
back now4Q %he 1anage0 to 0re0ge up a gho/t o5 a /1ile4 Q$n 5or penny, in 5or a poun04 BhoP/
0oing the re1oval/AQ
Heuel e/corte0 the1 to an area that ha0 obviou/ly been /et a/i0e 5or that purpo/e /ince it wa/
e6uippe0 a/ a battle5iel0 ho/pital4 $t 0i0nPt 1ake her 5eel any better4 The cyborg/ were all
/ol0ier/4 ThereP0 been no non*hu1an 1e0ic/ an0 although everyone, inclu0ing her, ha0 been
traine0 in battle5iel0 5ir/t*ai0, they knew only the ru0i1ent/ o5 it4 %he 0oubte0 the cyborg/ even
ha0 the Pprogra11ingP /heP0 ha0 /ince they ha0 nano/ to repair their 0a1age4
Dortunately, the ene1y, the An0orian/, were hu1anoi0 being/ an0 the e6uip1ent ha0 been
0e/igne0 5or u/e on being/ 1uch like her4
Gn5ortunately, the An0orian/ werenPt hu1an even i5 they were /i1ilar, an0 none o5 the1 knew i5
their 1e0icine/ were /a5e 5or hu1an/4
They 0i0nPt 0ea0en the area be5ore re1oving the locator chip4 =anika 0i0nPt think /he woul0
have pa//e0 out i5 /he ha0nPt been /o weak alrea0y, but /he wa/nPt actually /orry that /he P1i//e0P
the proce0ure4
Bhen /he ca1e aroun0 5ro1 her /woon it wa/ to the /oun0/ o5 a battle being wage0 practically
on top o5 her4
QCea/e@Q Heuel roare0 5uriou/ly4
The voice, /he recogni#e04 =arkne// wa/ /till too prevalent 5or her to really 1ake out what wa/
going on or who wa/ involve04 All /he coul0 /ee when /he 5orce0 her eyeli0/ up wa/ a blur o5
1otion, but that wa/ enough to a/certain that there wa/ a brawl in progre// even i5 /he coul0nPt
/ee well enough to tell who wa/ involve04
Q%he i/ not 0ea0@ Met@ Mou will cru/h her, you lunatic/, i5 you per/i/t in 5ighting virtually on top
o5 her@Q
Bhat lunatic/A
Bhen the 0arkne// 5inally rece0e0 /u55iciently 5or =anika to /ee what wa/ going on, %eth, =ane,
an0 &ile/ were being re/traine0 by /i7 other cyborg/ an0 all o5 the1 looke0 a/ i5 theyP0 been
through a 1eat grin0er4
Actually, Heuel wa/ looking a bit wor/e 5or wear hi1/el54
QBhat happene0AQ =anika a/ke0 weakly, trying to pu/h her/el5 upright4
QMou@Q Heuel growle04 Q%tay put or you will /woon again4Q :e glare0 at her /6ua04 QTake the1
to the brig@Q
QBhyAQ =anika 0e1an0e0 angrily4
Q=i/ciplinary action,Q Heuel re/pon0e04 QAn0 0o not 6ue/tion 1y co11an0/ again or you will
9oin the1@ $ a1 your co11an0ing o55icer**that goe/ 5or all o5 you@ Be are /till /ol0ier/ an0 you
will be e7pecte0 to behave like /ol0ier/@ &ot like the 444 rabble that we le5t behin0@Q
QMe/, %ir@Q =anika re/pon0e0 in/tantly to the authority in hi/ voice4 %el5*appointe0 lea0er or not,
there wa/ no 0oubt in her 1in0 that Heuel wa/ their acting lea0er4 Q$ beg par0on, %ir4Q
Heuel /hook hi/ hea04 QHe/t4 Bhen you 5eel like you can get up without 5ainting, go to the 1e//
hall an0 get /o1ething to eat4Q
The /ugge/tion 1a0e a wave o5 nau/ea roll over =anika, but /he knew it wa/ 5ro1 e1ptine//
an0, in any ca/e, /he 0i0nPt 5eel up to arguing4
Be/i0e/ which Heuel ha0 borne ho1e the /ituation with ab/olute clarity4
$n/ane or not, 0e/pite hi/ paranoia, Brown ha0nPt gotten that part wrong4 Heuel, clearly, ha0 been
con/i0ering 0e/erting 5or a while or he woul0nPt have kept the location o5 the ene1y ba/e /ecret4
An0 it wa/ 9u/t a/ clear that heP0 convince0, or the other cyborg/ ha0 convince0 the1/elve/, that
Heuel wa/ their lea0er4
%he 0i0nPt actually think Heuel ha0 0one /o with any /ort o5 pre1e0itation4 :eP0 re/pon0e0 to the
/ituation when a clear hea0e0 lea0er wa/ nee0e0 at the battle o5 %laughter Hi0ge4 %he thought
heP0 beco1e the lea0er o5 the cyborg/ in that very 1o1ent an0 no one ha0 actually 6ue/tione0
hi/ right to lea0 or hi/ ability to lea04
%he 0i0nPt i5 it ca1e to that4 %he coul0nPt /ay that it ha0nPt annoye0, an0 unnerve0, her when
/heP0 lo/t co11an0 o5 her own /6ua0 to %eth**becau/e /he knew /he ha0 al1o/t 5ro1 the
1o1ent heP0 change04 But /he 0i0nPt con/i0er her/el5 capable o5 lea0ing the cyborg/ in revolt
even i5 they wante0 a hu1an lea0er4
%he /till con/i0ere0 ignoring the or0er to hea0 5or the 1e// hall, but /he wa/ weaker a5ter the
proce0ure to re1ove her locater chip than be5ore4 %he wa/ /o wobbly, /he thought 5or a little bit
that /he woul0nPt be able to 1ake it even that 5ar4 $t wa/ /heer 0eter1ination not to let the
cyborg/ know 9u/t how weak /he wa/ that kept her on her 5eet until /he coul0 reach the 0ining
%he coul0nPt eat 1uch, regar0le//4 :er /to1ach ha0 /hrivele0 like the re/t o5 her4 %he thought, in
5act, that /he 1ight throw up 5or /everal 1o1ent/ a5ter the cyborg /erving kitchen 0uty pile0 a
plate high with unrecogni#able 5oo0 chunk/4 $t /1elle0 appeti#ing enough, though, an0 /he 0i0nPt
a/k what it wa/ becau/e /he 0i0nPt want to know4
Q$t i/ the bea/t we 5oun0 here when we returne0 to take po//e//ion o5 the ba/e4Q
%urpri/e0 but relieve0, =anika /ent the cyborg a weak /1ile o5 gratitu0e4 QThatP/ a relie5 anyway4
$ 1ean 4444Q
QBe are not very goo0 hunter/, but we are very goo0 killer/4 $t wa/ a very big bea/t4 Be will not
lack 5or 5oo0 5or a while even i5 there i/ not 1uch variety4Q
=anika rela7e0, even 1ore grate5ul that he 0i0nPt harp on her being hu1an, an0 what the hu1an/
ha0 0one, than /he wa/ that heP0 /oothe0 her 5ear about the 5oo04
But 1aybe he 0i0nPt knowA
One look in hi/ eye/ wa/ enough to a//ure her that he 0i04 They probably all knew4
Q$ 0o not hate hu1an/4Q
=anikaP/ /1ile 5lat*line04 QBell, thatP/ goo0 to know4Q
:e looke0 a little 0i/concerte04 Q$ 0o not have a wo1an, but $ have been thinking that $ woul0
like to have one4Q
That /ent =anika reeling, al1o/t literally4 %he coul0nPt think o5 anything to /ay 5or /everal
1o1ent/4 QGh 444 well 444 uh 444 $5 $ /ee one, $Pll be /ure to pa// along your intere/t in 5in0ing one4Q
:e 5rowne0, not a/ i5 0i/concerte0 or con5u/e0 thi/ ti1e, but angrily a/ i5 /heP0 in/ulte0 hi14
QBe have nee0/ 9u/t a/ the hu1an 1ale/ 0o4Q
=anika hel0 up her han04 QToo 1uch in5or1ation@ :ey@ &ot 0oubting it, but $ think you nee0 to
talk to Heuel about that4Q
Thi/ ti1e hi/ 5rown wa/ one o5 con5u/ion4 Q$ 0o not /ee that that will help4 :e i/ a 1ale4Q
QBut heP/ your co11an0ing o55icer4Q
QBut he i/ 1ale4 $ 0o not have 0e/ire 5or a 1ale4 There are plenty o5 tho/e here4 $ have 0e/ire 5or
a 5e1ale4Q
QGh4 $ think $Pll 9u/t go /it 0own 4444Q Be5ore $ 5all on 1y 5ace@ QAn0 eat thi/ while itP/ hot4Q
To her 0i/1ay, he 5ollowe0 her to her table an0 /at 0own acro// 5ro1 her, /tu0ying her curiou/ly4
QDe1ale/ al/o have nee04Q
$t wa/ all =anika coul0 0o not to choke on the chunk o5 1eat /he /peare0 an0 /tuck in her 1outh4
%he cleare0 her throat when /he 1anage0 to /wallow it4 Q:ow 0o you 5igure thatAQ /he a/ke0 in a
ra/ping voice4
Q$ have progra11ing a/ a plea/ure 0roi04 They woul0 not have 0one that i5 it wa/ not 5or the 5act
that 5e1ale/ al/o have nee04Q
$t wa/ har0 to argue with that kin0 o5 logic@ QAh, well, you know it wa/ 1en that 444 uh 444
probably 1o/tly 1en that 0e/igne0 4444 Bell, you know what $ 1ean4Q
:e 5rowne04 Q$ 0o not un0er/tan04 The logic i/ 5aultyAQ
=anika grunte04 Q%o1ething like that4 :u1an 1en 0onPt un0er/tan0 wo1en4Q
:i/ eye/ wi0ene0, then he 5rowne0 again4 =anika 1anage0 to choke 0own /everal 1ore bite/ o5
5oo0, but it wa/ a running battle with her /to1achP/ 0eter1ination to re9ect every bite /he
1anage0 to /wallow4
$t wa/nPt that the cyborg wa/nPt an 444 enor1ou/, tank /i#e0, beauti5ul e7a1ple o5 1anhoo0@ %he
ha0nPt /een one, yet, that wa/nPt 1ale beauty per/oni5ie0@ But even i5 /heP0 5elt 0e/perate nee0,
there were probably upwar0/ o5 a thou/an0 o5 the1 in the rebel ba/e@ %he /ure a/ hell 0i0nPt want
to encourage any o5 the1 to per5or1 5or her when there wa/ even a tiny chance they 1ight all
want a go at her@
Ok, /o the truth wa/ that i5 %eth ha0 1a0e a 1ove on her when theyP0 been in the 5acilitie/
together /he probably woul0nPt have ob9ecte0, but that wa/ becau/e heP0 turne0 her brain/ to
QBo1en 0o not have nee0AQ he a/ke0 0oubt5ully4
=anika 1anage0 a /1ile4 %he 0i0nPt want to lie to hi14 :e wa/ con5u/e0 enough@ .oor thing@ Q$
0i0nPt catch your na1eAQ
:e 5rowne04 Q$ 0i0 not throw it4 $ 0o not know how to throw it,Q he a00e0, looking very 1uch a/
i5 he wa/ /earching hi/ 0atabank/4
QDigure o5 /peech,Q =anika 1uttere04 Q$ wa/ a/king what your na1e i/4Q
:e looke0 /o plea/e0 /he 5elt ba04
Q$ 1ean, con/i0ering the conver/ation, $ think that woul0 be appropriate4Q
:e looke0 con5u/e0 again4
Q$P1 =anika4 Cpl4 =anika :art**well, wa/4 $ 0onPt /uppo/e $P1 a corporal any1ore4Q
:e blinke0 at her /everal ti1e/4 Q$ a1 Ba/il C%)8!!'4 $ think that you are a beauti5ul, 0e/irable
wo1an an0 $ woul0 like to /e7 you4Q
=anika al1o/t 0i0 /trangle that ti1e4 Bhen /he 1anage0 to /top coughing, /he pu/he0 her plate
:e /tu0ie0 it hungrily4 QMou are not going to eat thatAQ
QKnock your/el5 out4Q
:e /ent her a /trange look4 Q$ 0o not think that $ want to 0o that even i5 $ coul04Q
=anika bit her lip4 3ee#e@ They were /o literal 1in0e0@ Q$ 1ean you can have it i5 you want it4 $
havenPt eaten in a long ti1e4 $ 9u/t canPt eat 1uch4Q
An0 the conver/ation wa/ really /poiling what little appetite /he ha0@
$t wa/ at that point that /he recalle0 that Heuel ha0 thrown her entire /6ua0 into the brig4 %he
0i0nPt have anybo0y to watch her back an0 the /cary*big cyborg wante0 to hu1p@
To her relie5, the cyborg**Ba/il**took the plate an0 5ini/he0 o55 her 5oo04
$t 0i0nPt la/t long**the relie5 or the 5oo04 QMou will con/i0er allowing 1e to /e7 youAQ
QGh 444 well, $Pll think about it4 Hight now $ think $ nee0 to 5in0 1y /6ua04Q
QThey are in the brig 5or 0i/or0erly con0uct4Q
Eaybe /he /houl0 con/i0er 0oing /o1ething 0i/or0erly /o /he coul0 be locke0 up with the1, /he
won0ere0 unea/ilyA $t /ee1e0 pre5erable to rattling aroun0 out/i0e the brig with /o 1any
cyborg/**e/pecially i5 they were all horny like thi/ one@
Q$ a1 not 444 han0/o1eA Mou 0o not 0e/ire 1eAQ
=anika gape0 at hi14 :e wa/ han0/o1e4 :ow coul0 he have /o little /en/e o5 /el5 that he 0i0nPt
know thatA :e wa/ al/o 0a1ne0 per/i/tent@ Q$ 0i0nPt /ay that4 $ /ai0 $P0 think about it@Q
Q:ow long will you re6uire to think about itAQ
A/ long a/ it took to get /o1ewhere that wa/ /a5e@
Q:ey@ Mou /ee1 like a nice guy4 But $ alrea0y have three guy/, you knowAQ %heP0 hope0 that
woul0 /ettle the 1atter even i5 it wa/nPt e7actly the truth4
:e looke0 angry again4 QMou allow the1 to /e7 youA $ have no /6ua0 lea0er now4 $ coul0 9oin
your /6ua04Q
=anika rolle0 her eye/4 Q$ think the wor0 youPre looking 5or i/ 5uck,Q /he /ai0 tightly4 QAn0 $P1
not in the 5ucking 1oo0, okAQ
%heP0 1ore than hal5 e7pecte0 hi1 to get angrier4 $n/tea0, he /ee1e0 to con/i0er 5or /everal
1o1ent/4 QBhen 0o you think you 1ight be in the 5ucking 1oo0AQ
Q$Pll let you know@Q /he /nappe0, 9olting to her 5eet4
$t wa/ al1o/t too 1uch 5or her weakene0 /tate4 =arkne// /war1e0 5or /everal 1o1ent/ an0 /he
thought /he wa/ going to pa// out again4 "vi0ently, /he wa/nPt goo0 at hi0ing it either4 Ba/il
/coope0 her up be5ore /he coul0 collap/e4 :er hea0 /pun a/ he turne0 al1o/t in the /a1e 1otion4
QBhat are you 0oingAQ /he 0e1an0e0 weakly4
QTaking you to /ickbay4Q
Helieve0, hope5ul that /heP0 5inally /ettle0 the 1atter an0 woul0nPt have to 5ight hi1 o55 when he
got her back to /ickbay, /he rela7e0 again/t hi14
Heally, he wa/ 0a1ne0 attractive4 =e/pite the very bi#arre conver/ation, /he coul0nPt help but
5in0 hi1 phy/ically appealing**what wa/ not to likeA
$t wa/ 0eeply 0i/turbing that they**he**ha0 no /ocial /kill/**at all@
$t wa/ al/o /a04
.oor thing@ %heP0 thought the other /ol0ier/**the hu1an one/**were heavy*han0e0 at /e0uction@
At lea/t poor Ba/il ha0 an e7cu/e 5or it4
$t 1a0e her 5eel ba0 5or hi1**5or all o5 the14 :ow well e6uippe0 were they to /urvive in the PrealP
worl0 when they ha0 nothing to 5all back on but whatever progra11ing the 0a1ne0 co1pany
ha0 /een 5it to give the1A Bith the 0ata in their 0atabank/A
A/ heP0 pointe0 out, they were very goo0 at killing becau/e that wa/ all theyP0 been 0e/igne0 5or4
=anika wa/ only /e1i*con/ciou/ when Ba/il 0epo/ite0 her on the e7a1ination table once 1ore4
%he coul0nPt 0eci0e i5 /he wa/ 5atigue0 to that point or i5 it wa/ weakne// 5ro1 a co1bination o5
week/ o5 al1o/t no 5oo0 an0 the a01itte0ly 1inor /urgery, but /he wa/ 1ore te1pte0 to go with
it an0 /eek oblivion than alar1e0 about it4
.articularly /ince it occurre0 to her that Ba/il wa/ boun0 to get bore0 an0 leave i5 /he wa/
co1pletely unre/pon/ive to hi/ atte1pt/ to P/e0uceP her4
That thought wa/ enough to in0uce her to 5eign /leep<uncon/ciou/ne//, but /he playe0 po//u1
long enough waiting 5or Ba/il to give up an0 go away that /he actually 0i0 5all a/leep4
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all looke0 /o thoroughly pi//e0 o55 when /he 5inally arrive0 at the brig to
try to talk to the1 that /he wa/ 1ore than a little te1pte0 to /i1ply turn aroun0 an0 leave again4
%heP0 ha0 to /neak out o5 /ickbay to eva0e Ba/il, though, an0 /he 0i0nPt like that even 1ore4
Thank5ully, 1uch o5 their anger /ee1e0 to 0i//ipate when they /aw her4 All three 1ove0 to the
bar/4 QMou are not hurtAQ %eth 0e1an0e0 a5ter e7a1ining her with hi/ ga#e4
=anika con/i0ere0 it4 Q&ot really, no4 $t hurt like hell at the ti1e an0 it /till burn/, but $Pll get over
it4 =i0 they take your locator/ out, tooAQ
Q"arlier, when we 5ir/t ca1e,Q =ane volunteere04 Q$ have to tell you $ like0 it 1uch better when $
wa/ only alerte0 o5 0a1age an0 0i0 not 5eel it4 Ein0 you, there are /o1e thing/ that $ 5in0 5ar
/uperior about the /en/e/ a/ oppo/e0 to the /en/or/, but pain i/ not one o5 the14Q
=anika coul0 relate4 %he wa/nPt cra#y about pain her/el54 They /ee1e0 to have recovere0 5ro1 it,
however4 %he coul0nPt /ee that any o5 the1 were 1oving /ti55ly**even 5ro1 the /ign/ o5 battle4
QBhat happene0 thenAQ
The three o5 the1 e7change0 a /peaking look4
QThat Pborg they ha0 /et to act a/ 1e0ic ha0 not awakene0@Q %eth growle04 Q$ 0i0 not know it at
the ti1e or $ woul0 not have allowe0 the ba/tar0 to carve on you a/ i5 you coul0 5eel nothing at
QThen you beca1e uncon/ciou/ an0 $ thought**we thought**that he ha0 kille0 you,Q &ile/ a00e04
QBe retaliate0 5or the attack upon you an0 Heuel ca1e with other/ an0 we 5ought,Q =ane
5ini/he04 Q&ow we are or0ere0 to /tay in the brig 5or two 0ay/ 5or 0i/or0erly con0uct4Q
=anika /tare0 at the1, torn between war1th an0 0i/1ay that theyP0 en0e0 up in the brig 5or
trying to protect her4 Bell, accor0ing to &ile/, retaliating 5or what they /aw a/ in9ury to her4
An0 then there wa/ the little 1atter that it wa/ going to be 0a1ne0 har0 5or the1 to watch her
back 5ro1 a 9ail cell4
%he 0eci0e0 it probably wa/nPt a goo0 i0ea to tell the1 about the inci0ent with Ba/il, but /he wa/
0a1ne0 i5 /he coul0 5igure out how /he wa/ going to eva0e Ba/ilP/ ab/olute 0eter1ination to
ro1ance her out o5 her pant/ 5or two 0ay/@
QBell@ $ think $ /houl0 be in there, too4 $ 1ean, wePre a tea14 Be /houl0 be together, rightAQ
They all 5rowne0, &ile/ an0 =ane thought5ully, %eth /u/piciou/ly4
QMou 0i0 not take part in the 5ight,Q %eth /ai0 pointe0ly4 QBhy woul0 they throw you in the
QMe/, but it wa/ really 1y 5ault, you know4Q
Q:ow 0o you 5igure thatA That i/ not at all logical4Q
=anika wave0 a han0 airily4 QBePre a tea1, re1e1berAQ %he turne0 to the guar0/4 Q$ want to
locke0 up with 1y /6ua04Q
The guar0/ ha0 been /tu0ying her with 5rowning inten/ity, 1aking it clear that they ha0 been
5ollowing the conver/ation4 They e7change0 a look4 QBe were not or0ere0 to lock you in the
brig,Q one o5 the1 volunteere04
Q$ know, but you coul0,Q =anika /ai0 ca9olingly4
QBe cannot4 Be were not or0ere0 to 0o /o4Q
Q$t i/ not at all co15ortable,Q =ane pointe0 out4 QMou will be 1ore co15ortable in the barrack/4Q
2ike hell@ %he 0i0nPt think /he wa/ going to be able to /leep a wink /urroun0e0 by horny
cyborg/**a//u1ing, o5 cour/e, that they were all in the /a1e /tate a/ Ba/il@ An0 /he 0i0nPt /ee
any rea/on why they woul0nPt be4 They were 5ully aware, now4 The ba/tar0/ back at ba/e ca1p
coul0 har0ly get their 1in0/ o55 o5 their 0ick/ 5or 5ive 1inute/ at the ti1e4 The cyborg/ 1ight not
have been PawakeP long, but their hor1one/ /ee1e0 to be in 5ull pro0uction now@ %he 0i0nPt think
it wa/ going to take any o5 the1 long to 5igure out what their urge/ were an0 what they nee0e0 to
0o to appea/e the1@
O5 cour/e that al/o 1eant that her own /6ua0 1e1ber/ were going to be in the grip/ o5 the P5everP
be5ore long, i5 they werenPt alrea0y, but /he ha0nPt notice0 that they were yet an0, at any rate,
they /till /ee1e0 to be rule0 by the tea1 bon04 %he thought /he coul0 han0le the14
Q$P1 a /ol0ier4 $ 0onPt e7pect to be co15ortable an0 $ think $ 0e/erve to be in the brig i5 you guy/
are4 $Pll go talk to Heuel,Q /he a00e0 0eci/ively4
QBhat 0o you 1ake o5 thatAQ %eth a/ke0 thought5ully when =anika ha0 le5t4
Q$ think /he 0oe/ not want to be alone,Q &ile/ re/pon0e04
=ane /norte04 QThere are nine hun0re0 cyborg/ here4 :ow coul0 /he be aloneAQ
%eth an0 &ile/ e7change0 a look4 QAlone with the1,Q &ile/ elaborate04 Q%he ha/ no one to watch
her back becau/e we are here4Q
=ane 5rowne0, a//i1ilating that4 Q%he think/ they are ene1ie/AQ he gue//e0 a5ter a 5ew 1inute/4
%eth wa/ /till /orting po//ibilitie/, but he re9ecte0 that4 QBhy woul0 /he think thatAQ
QBecau/e they are cyborg/AQ
QThat i/ not a rea/on@Q %eth /nappe04
QBhy i/ that not a rea/onAQ =ane 0e1an0e0 in0ignantly4 Q%he i/ hu1an4 "veryone el/e i/
cyborg@ $/ that not enough to 1ake her nervou/AQ
QThat i/ it@ %he i/ nervou/@ $ coul0 not entirely 0eci0e what it wa/4 $t 0i0 not /ee1 like 5ear an0
yet $ notice0 there wa/ unea/ine//4 $ 9u/t coul0 not entirely 0eci0e what e1otion it wa/4Q
Q"7actly@Q =ane /ai0 triu1phantly4 QAn0 that i/ becau/e /he 0oe/ not have u/ to watch her back
an0 /he i/ /urroun0e0 by cyborg/@Q
Q%he ha/ alway/ been /urroun0e0 by cyborg/@Q %eth growle04 QBe are cyborg/@Q
QMe/, but we are her cyborg/4 Be are her tea14 That i/ 0i55erent an0 that i/ why /he want/ to be
locke0 up with u/4 Becau/e we are a tea1 an0 we are alway/ together4 $/ that not what /he /ai0AQ
QThat i/ what /he /ai0, but it i/ not what /he 1eant,Q &ile/ retorte04
Q:ow 0o you know that i/ not what /he 1eantAQ =ane 0e1an0e0 in0ignantly4 Q$t i/ what /he
/ai04 Bhy woul0 /he /ay one thing when /he 1eant /o1ething el/eAQ
%eth an0 &ile/ e7change0 a look4
=aneP/ e7pre//ion har0ene0 with anger4 Q$ will punch you in the 5ace, both o5 you, i5 you 0o not
/top looking like that@ There i/ nothing wrong with 1y un0er/tan0ing@Q
Q$ will knock your teeth 0own your throat i5 you try to punch 1e in the 5ace@Q %eth /narle04
QAn0 $ al/o@Q &ile/ /nappe04
QBell /top looking at 1e like that@Q
QBe 0i0 not look at you at all@Q
Q"7actly@ Mou looke0 at one another a/ i5 to /ay that $ a1 /tupi0@Q
&ile/ 5rowne0, thinking4 Q=o you think that /he ha/ notice0 that all o5 the cyborg/ are hornyAQ
%eth /ent hi1 a /arca/tic look4 QMou 1ean only becau/e their 0ick/ ri/e an0 point at her when /he
QMour 0ick 0oe/ that, tooAQ =ane a/ke0 with intere/t4 Q$ ha0 thought it wa/ only 1ine4 Bhat 0o
you /uppo/e it 1ean/AQ
QBhy the 5uck woul0 you think it wa/ only your/AQ %eth growle0 angrily4 QBe have awakene0
=ane gape0 at hi1 a 1o1ent be5ore in0ignation 1a0e hi/ 0ark brow/ co1e together over the
bri0ge o5 hi/ no/e4 QBecau/e $ have not looke0 at your 0ick/AQ he /ai0 /arca/tically4 Q$ 0o not
know why you woul0 notice anyone el/eP/ 0ick@Q
%eth punche0 hi1 in the 5ace4 Q$ 0o not know what you are i1plying by that, but $ will beat the
5uck out o5 you i5 you i1ply it again@Q
=ane reele0 5ro1 the blow but 1anage0 to re1ain on hi/ 5eet4 =rawing hi/ ar1 back, he
punche0 %eth in the belly4
QCea/e@Q one o5 the guar0/ bellowe04 QOr we will put you in /eparate cell/@Q
%eth ha0 alrea0y 0rawn back to retaliate, but at that, he lowere0 hi/ ar14 QBe were not 5ighting4Q
The guar0 glare0 at hi14 Q%top 444 roughhou/ing then or $ will beat the 5uck out o5 all o5 you an0
then put you in /eparate cell/4Q
QMou coul0 not beat the 5uck out o5 1e, let alone all o5 u/@Q &ile/ retorte04
QThen $ will /u11on another /6ua0 an0 we will all beat the 5uck out o5 all o5 you@Q
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all glare0 at hi1, /truggling to think o5 a co1eback an0 5inally 0eci0e0 to
ignore hi14
Q&ile/ 1ight be right,Q %eth /ai0 a5ter a 1o1ent, Qbut $ think it i/ only that we are a tea1 an0 /he
0oe/ not 5eel /a5e without u/ there to watch her back4Q

Chapter &ine
$t took =anika over an hour to locate Heuel4 $t 1ight not have taken that long i5 /heP0 5elt
co15ortable about /topping one o5 the cyborg/ an0 a/king 0irection/, but /he 0i0nPt, an0 the
co1ple7 wa/ big enough it 1ight not have helpe0 even i5 /he ha04 %he 5inally locate0 hi1 in the
ba/e hanger**which wa/ 5ille0, 1o/tly, with 0ebri/ an0 cyborg/ 1oving aroun0 like ant/ in a
/tirre0 anthill4
The purpo/e5ul activity 0i/tracte0 her 5or /o1e ti1e4 %he wa/ 5airly certain that a goo0 bit o5 the
0ebri/ wa/ 5ro1 the plane in 5ront o5 %laughter Hi0ge where their 0rop*/hip/ ha0 been /hot
0own4 %heP0 won0ere0 at the ti1e why they were /o care5ully gathering an0 /orting the 0ebri/
5ro1 the 0owne0 /hip/**an0 what ha0 beco1e o5 it when it vani/he0 a5terwar0/4
Clearly, they were 5ocu/e0 on trying to rebuil0 the1, or at lea/t /o1e, with what wa/ available4
%he 9u/t wa/nPt certain o5 why4
There were alien /hip/ in the hanger, a/ well**al/o in piece/4 %he /uppo/e0 the An0orian/ ha0
trie0 to 0e/troy the1 when the cyborg/ ha0 overrun the14
%he 0i0nPt 5in0 Heuel until curio/ity 5inally overca1e unea/ine// an0 /he began wan0ering
a1ong the group/ working in an atte1pt to un0er/tan0 what it wa/ that they were planning4
Actually, Heuel 5oun0 her, apparently 0rawn by the inactivity that 5ollowe0 in her wake, becau/e
the cyborg/ /i1ply /toppe0 a/ /he pa//e0 by the1 an0 /tare04 Catching her ar1, he bellowe0 at
the cyborg/ to get back to work an0 le0 her 5ro1 the hanger4
:e eye0 her with 0i/5avor when theyP0 le5t the hanger4 QMou are 0i/ruptive,Q he /ai0 coolly4
=anika gape0 at hi14 Q$ 0i0nPt 0o anything@Q
QMou 0o not have to 0o anything beyon0 walk by,Q he /ai0 /ar0onically4 QThey are 1ale/ an0
there are no 5e1ale/ here**e7cept you4Q
=anika 5elt her 5ace re00en, but a/ e1barra//e0 a/ /he wa/, /he wa/ actually relieve0 that heP0
1a0e her point 5or her4 QActually, thatP/ why $ wa/ looking 5or you4 $ wante0 to /ee i5 you woul0
put 1e in the brig with the re/t o5 1y /6ua04Q
%urpri/e 5lickere0 acro// HeuelP/ 5eature/, but he looke0 thought5ul4 Q$ agree that it 1ight be the
/a5e/t place 5or you4 On the other han0, you have 0one nothing wrong an0 $ will not win the
loyalty o5 1y 1en i5 $ a1 un9u/t4Q
Q$ wa/ a5rai0 o5 that,Q =anika 1uttere0 an0 then /hrugge04 QMou ba/tar0@Q /he yelle0 lou0ly4
=rawing her ar1 back, /he punche0 hi1 in the 5ace with her 5i/t4 %he 0i0nPt think it hurt hi1, but
/he wa/ convince0 5or /everal 1o1ent/ that /heP0 broken her 5i/t4
%he wa/ al/o certain that Heuel ha0 /i1ply /too0 /till an0 allowe0 her to hit hi1 or /he woul0
never have 1anage0 it4
HeuelP/ eye/ glea1e0 with a1u/e1ent4 QTwo 0ay/ in the brig 5or a//aulting your co11an0ing
o55icer ought to teach you the error o5 your way/@Q he /ai0 lou0ly4 Catching her, he to//e0 her
over one /houl0er an0 /tro0e bri/kly through the 1ain area o5 the co1ple7 an0 /traight to the
brig4 :e 0epo/ite0 her on her 5eet once he reache0 the brig4 QTo// her in with the re/t o5 her
unruly /6ua0@Q he or0ere0 the guar0/4 QBhen you have coole0 your heel/ 5or a bit, 1ayhap you
will have a cooler hea0 on your /houl0er/, /ol0ier@ Mou are 5ortunate that we nee0 every 1an or $
1ight con/i0er a court 1artial warrante0 5or a//aulting your /uperior@Q
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ /tu0ie0 her with varying 0egree/ o5 /u/picion, /urpri/e, an0 0oubt a/ /he
wa/ pu/he0 into the cell with the1 an0 Heuel 0eparte04
QMou a//aulte0 HeuelAQ =ane whi/pere0 when Heuel ha0 le5t4
=anika e7a1ine0 her han04 Q:e 0i0nPt /ee1 incline0 to lock 1e up 5or nothing,Q /he /ai0, Q/o $
gave hi1 a rea/on4 $ punche0 hi1 in the 5ace4Q
QThat wa/ not 444 wi/e,Q %eth re/pon0e04
=anika wa/ too plea/e0 with her/el5 to take e7ception to the in/ult4 QTell 1e about it@ $P1 gla0 $
0i0nPt punch hi1 har0er4 $ think $ 1ight have broken 1y han04 :urt/ like a /on*o5*a*bitch now4
Bhich bunk/ arenPt takenAQ
QThey are all 1uch the /a1e,Q =ane /ai0 1oro/ely, Qlu1py an0 unco15ortable4Q
=anika /hrugge04 QBeat/ the hell out o5 the thin /leeper/ we ha0 over a /lab o5 ice, though,
0oe/nPt itAQ /he /ai0 cheer5ully4
Q&ot by 1uch4Q
$gnoring that, =anika cho/e a bunk an0 lay 0own grate5ully4 %heP0 1anage0 to work up an
appetite, though, an0 her gru1bling /to1ach prevente0 her 5ro1 /leeping4 QBhen 0o we get 5e0
QThey have not yet4Q
=anika 5rowne0, wi/hing, now, that /heP0 eaten 1ore when /he ha0 the chance4
%eth /hove0 her leg/ out o5 the way an0 /at 0own at the 5oot o5 her bunk4 QBhy 0i0 you hit
Q$ tol0 you,Q =anika /ai0 eva/ively4
QThat, ye/4 &ot the rea/on you wante0 to 9oin u/ in the brig4Q
Q:ey@ BePre bu0/@ $ woul0Pve 1i//e0 you guy/4Q
%eth /tu0ie0 her /u/piciou/ly4 QBe are not Pbu0/P4 $ have the 0e5inition an0 we are not4 Be are
=anika /hrugge04 Q%a1e thing4Q
&ile/ con/i0ere0 it4 Q&o4 :e i/ right4 The 0e5inition i/ not the /a1e4 $ a1 not at all /ure that $
un0er/tan0 the 0e5inition o5 Pbu0/P, but it 0oe/ not 1atch4Q
=anika eye0 hi1 cro//ly4 QClo/e enough4Q
QBut that i/ not the rea/on,Q %eth pur/ue04
Q$ 0onPt know anybo0y el/e, okAQ =anika /nappe04
%eth /tu0ie0 her thought5ully 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 Q$t i/ not becau/e one o5 the cyborg/ trie0 to
/e7 youAQ he 0e1an0e0 /u/piciou/ly4
=anika 5elt her color 5luctuate4 QBhy woul0 you think thatAQ
QBecau/e they are all horny,Q =ane /ai0, no00ing4 Q%eth ha/ been noticing their 0ick/4Q
%eth /lugge0 hi14 %ince =ane ha0 crouche0 be/i0e the bunk, he /prawle0 out 5ull length on the
5loor, /la11ing into &ile/, who /taggere0 back an0 hit the bar/ at the 5ront o5 the cell har0
enough to 0ent the1 outwar04
Q.ar0on@ :e pu/he0@Q &ile/ /ai0, care5ully /traightening the bar/ when the guar0 glare0 at hi14
Q2ook what you 1a0e 1e 0o@Q he a00e0 angrily, /watting =ane on the hea0 with the 5lat o5 hi/
han0 a/ =ane /at up4
QOw@Q =ane growle0, cla1bering to hi/ 5eet an0 glaring angrily at both &ile/ an0 %eth4 QBhat
wa/ that 5orAQ
Q$ have not been noticing their 0ick/@Q %eth growle04 QAn0 $ will beat the 5uck out o5 you i5 you
keep /aying that@Q
=ane gape0 at hi1 in0ignantly4 Q:e /ai0 their 0ick/ /too0 up an0 pointe0 at =anika whenever
/he walke0 by@ =i0 he not /ay that, &ile/AQ he 0e1an0e04
Q$ 0i0 not hear that,Q &ile/ 0i/pute0 a5ter /tu0ying %eth warily 5or a 1o1ent4
Q:e wa/ /tan0ing right be/i0e you@ :ow coul0 you not hear thatAQ
Q%hut up@Q the guar0 bellowe04 Q$5 you three /tart roughhou/ing again $ will /u11on another
/6ua0 to beat you uncon/ciou/@Q
=anika pulle0 the blanket over her hea04
%eth grabbe0 it an0 /natche0 it out o5 her han0/4 QBhy 0i0 you 0o thatAQ
QTo hi0e,Q /he /nappe0, glaring at hi1 in0ignantly4 QCan we change the /ub9ectAQ
QMou were not hi00en,Q =ane pointe0 out4 Q$ coul0 /ee you4Q
QMe/, but $ coul0nPt /ee you an0 that wa/ the point4 2et go o5 the 0a1ne0 cover, %eth@Q
QMou 0i0 not an/wer the 6ue/tion,Q %eth per/i/te04
Q$ 0onPt re1e1ber the 0a1ne0 6ue/tion@Q
QMou have 5orgotten alrea0yAQ =ane a/ke0, clearly /urpri/e04 Q%eth a/ke0 i5 one o5 the other/ ha0
trie0 to /e7 you4Q
QThank/@Q =anika /nappe0 ungraciou/ly4
QMou are welco1e,Q =ane re/pon0e0, /1iling4
Q=en/e,Q =anika 1uttere04
QBhat i/ 0en/eAQ %eth a/ke0 /u/picou/ly4
QMou are@Q
:e thought that over4 Q$/ that an in/ultAQ
Q$t 0a1ne0 /ure i/nPt a co1pli1ent@Q =anika /nappe04 Q$t 1ean/ youPre thick hea0e0 an0 $ 0onPt
want to talk about it@Q Dlipping onto her /i0e, =anika pre/ente0 the1 with her back4
"ven i5 it ha0nPt been e1barra//ing to 0i/cu// /uch thing/ with the guy/, /he thought re/ent5ully,
/he woul0nPt have wante0 to when they were /o ea/ily provoke0 into 5ighting@ TheyP0 9u/t go out
an0 pick a 5ight with poor Ba/il an0 en0 up in the brig again@
They were al1o/t a/ ba0 a/ her little brother/ ha0 been, con/tantly bickering with each other an0
punching each other@ %heP0 lo/t track o5 the nu1ber o5 ti1e/ her 5ather ha0 ha0 to break up
phy/ical 0i/pute/ between the1@
%heP0 broken up a 5ew her/el5, i5 it ca1e to that**until they got /o big that /he coul0nPt 1anage it
by her/el5 any1ore**an0 it wa/ u/ually over /o1ething /tupi04 2ike whoP0 gotten the la/t o5 the
1ilk@ Or who/e turn it wa/ to 0o the chore/ they hate0 the 1o/t4
O5 cour/e, it all boile0 0own to who wa/ the bo//, in her opinion4
An0 /he /uppo/e0 that 1ight be what it wa/ with the guy/4 They were trying to e/tabli/h the
pecking or0er4
$n her opinion, %eth wa/ top 0og, han0/ 0own, but /he /uppo/e0 neither =ane nor &ile/ were
rea0y yet to conce0e that4
%eth 0i0 not believe that =anika wa/ a/leep4 :e knew it 0i0 not take hi1 long to 0rop to /leep
once he ha0 lain 0own to 0o /o, but /he /ee1e0 5ar too ten/e in hi/ opinion to actually be a/leep4
Obviou/ly, /he wa/ trying to go to /leep, though, an0 0i0 not want to talk any1ore 444 which
irritate0 hi1 becau/e /he ha0 in/ulte0 hi1 an0 not only not given hi1 the chance to 0e5en0
hi1/el5 but /he ha0 al/o not given hi1 the chance to 0i/cover why /he ha0 in/ulte0 hi1 in the
5ir/t place4
Deeling unwelco1e, he got up an0 1ove0 to another bunk an0 /ettle0 there to broo0 over it an0
try to untangle the e1otion/ 5ro1 the conver/ation to /ee i5 he coul0 better un0er/tan0 what ha0
9u/t happene04 $t wa/ no great /urpri/e to 0i/cover that that wa/ a nearly i1po//ible ta/k4 :e ha0
alrea0y 0i/covere0 that when e1otion/ entere0 a /ituation they ten0e0 to 0o1inate an0 1ake
clear, logical thought nigh i1po//ible4 :e 5inally 0eci0e0, however, that one o5 the rea/on/ he
coul0 not /eparate e1otion 5ro1 the event an0 un0er/tan0 wa/ becau/e none o5 it 1a0e any
0a1ne0 /en/e anyway@
=anika ha0 a habit o5 re/pon0ing to a 6ue/tion with another 6ue/tion rather than an an/wer@ That
wa/ why they never /ee1e0 to 1ake any progre// towar0 an un0er/tan0ing@
Ba/ thi/ a hu1an thing, he won0ere0A A wo1an thingA Or a =anika thingA
Becau/e he wa/ not at all certain that he ha0 enough 1e1ory capacity to break the conver/ation
0own to /o1ething he 0i0 un0er/tan0 an0 he coul0 5ore/ee a great 0eal o5 5ru/tration in hi/ 5uture
0ealing with hu1an/ in general an0 =anika in particular i5 every conver/ation le5t hi1 ba55le0
an0 certain that he ha0 1i//e0 /o1ething critical4
$t occurre0 to hi1 that 1ayhap it wa/ the e1otion/ he 5elt now that he ha0 not 5elt be5ore,
becau/e they /ee1e0 to boil in/i0e o5 hi1 an0 pull hi1 in 5ir/t one 0irection an0 then another**
an0 /o1eti1e/ two 0i55erent 0irection/ at once**until he wa/ not certain 5or 1ore than a 1o1ent
how he 5elt4 Or whether he /houl0 cling to logic an0 try to ignore the e1otion/ or i5 he even
coul0 now that he 5elt the14
:e coul0 not recall that he ha0 ha0 any 0i55iculty 5ollowing =anika be5ore the awakening,
Thinking back over it, however, he reali#e0 another thing4 They 0i0 not have conver/ation be5ore
the awakening4 =anika 1erely i//ue0 or0er/ that were not open 5or 0i/cu//ion4 :e countere0
with intel that 1ight a55ect the outco1e i5 there wa/ any in5or1ation that /he wa/ not aware o5
an0 that wa/ that4
%o 1ayhap the proble1 re/i0e0 in the atte1pt/ at conver/ationA Thi/ wa/ not a very reliable
1ean/ o5 co11unication, he reali#e0, becau/e it 0i0 not rely heavily on 5act/**an0 o5ten not even
on truth4
That thought le0 hi1 to a /tartling conclu/ion4
"verything that =anika ha0 /ai0 ha0 been an atte1pt to eva0e an/wering hi/ 6ue/tion4
An0 he coul0 not think o5 any rea/on that /he woul0 eva0e rather than an/wer other than the
po//ibility that /he thought he woul0 grow angry about the an/wer@
%o1eone ha0 been trying to /e7 her@
:e wa/ /o angry a5ter he 5inally 0e0uce0 that that it wa/nPt until a great 0eal later that he
conclu0e0 that it ha0 con/u1e0 all o5 hi/ rea/oning re/ource/ 5or a goo0 twenty 1inute/ to arrive
at an an/wer that he /houl0 have been able to 5igure out in nano*/econ0/4 That /hook hi1, gave
ri/e to 0oubt/ about hi/ 1ental capacity that he 5oun0 e7tre1ely 0i/turbing, but he wa/ too
con/u1e0 by rage to analy#e it at the ti1e an0 5eel the /en/e o5 ina0e6uacy he 5elt later4
:e /hot o55 o5 hi/ bunk in a towering rage, 0eter1ine0 to 0e1an0 the i0entity or i0entitie/ o5 the
1an or 1en who ha0 444 cha/e0 =anika into the brig in or0er to avoi0 the14
:e wa/ 0i/tracte0 5ro1 hi/ goal by a co11otion a/ guar0/ 1arche0 a hal5 a 0o#en new pri/oner/
into the hol0ing area, unlocke0 the cell 0oor, an0 /hove0 the1 into the cell4 The one in the lea0**
an ugly brute with yellow hair, a blackening eye, an0 brui/e0, /wollen 9aw**wa/ grinning 5ro1
ear to ear a/ i5 very plea/e0 with hi1/el54 :i/ ga#e ha0 gone i11e0iately to =anika the 1o1ent
they arrive0 an0 re1aine0 5i7e0 on her a/ he /tro0e very happily into the cell, cro//e0 the roo1,
an0 ploppe0 0own on the 5oot o5 the bunk4
That ti1e it 0i0 not take %eth nearly a/ long to analy#e the /ituation an0 arrive at a conclu/ion4
Q$t i/ $, =anika@ Ba/il4Q
=anika reacte0 in/tantly4 Holling over an0 9ackkni5ing into a /itting po/ition on the bunk, /he
/tare0 at the newco1er owl*eye04
Gttering a /narl o5 rage, %eth /talke0 acro// the cell an0 /la11e0 hi/ 5i/t into the /i0e o5 the
cyborgP/ hea0 har0 enough it hit the wall an0 bounce0 back4 At that, he barely 1anage0 to reach
hi/ goal be5ore &ile/ an0 =ane4
%houl0ering %eth a/i0e, =ane grabbe0 the cyborg by the hair an0 0ragge0 hi1 o55 the bunk4
Be5ore he coul0 0o 1ore, &ile/ 0roppe0 to hi/ knee/ an0 /tarte0 poun0ing at the 1an with hi/
=anika uttere0 a /hriek o5 0i/1ay, rolle0 5ro1 the bunk an0 /cra1ble0 un0er it 5or cover4 Q%top
it@ %tan0 0own, 0a1n it@ %eth@ =ane@ &ile/@ Bhat the hell 444AQ
Bithin 1o1ent/, the guar0/ ha0 /urge0 into the cell with the1 an0 a 5ull /cale battle wa/ in
progre//, 0e/pite the 5act that there wa/ al1o/t no roo1 to 1aneuver once all o5 the1 ha0
crow0e0 into the cell4 The cyborg/ re1e0ie0 that /ituation by /la11ing each other into the bar/
o5 the cell until the PcageP that ha0 containe0 the1 collap/e0 un0er 5ar 1ore weight than they
were 0e/igne0 to with/tan0 an0 5ell outwar04
The /hrill alar1 that ha0 begun to blare al1o/t the 1o1ent the 5ight broke out brought 1ore
cyborg/ to 9oin the 1elee4 $n a 1atter o5 1inute/, the co1batant/ ha0 re0uce0 the entire brig to
QCea/e@Q a co11an0ing voice roare0 above the growl/, grunt/, 1eaty thu0/ an0 cra/he/ o5
0e1olition o5 the wall/, 5urniture, an0 cell/4
Eo/t o5 the cyborg/ in/tantly /toppe0 an0 ca1e to attention4 Heuel wa0e0 through the crow0 an0
capture0 the attention o5 the 5ew who continue0 to wre/tle by 9u0iciou/ u/e o5 hi/ 5i/t/4
QOut/i0e@ &ow@ Heport to the 1ain area o5 the co1ple7 an0 5or1 up, /ol0ier/@Q
:i/ 5ace a 1a/k o5 barely containe0 rage, Heuel /too0 to one /i0e an0 watche0 a/ the 1en began
to 5ile out4 Bhen they ha0 e1ptie0 the brig, or what wa/ le5t o5 it, he /urveye0 the 0a1age with
0i/gu/t an0 5inally /pie0 =anika trying to crawl out 5ro1 un0er the collap/e0 bunk where /heP0
taken /helter4 %tri0ing towar0 it, he rippe0 the bunk 5ro1 the wall an0 to//e0 it a/i0e, /taring
0own at =anika in tightlippe0 /ilence 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 QMou, too, corporal4Q
QMe/, %ir@Q =anika re/pon0e0, /cra1bling to her 5eet an0 /aluting hi14
Holling hi/ eye/, Heuel /talke0 out with =anika trailing behin0 hi14 Bhen Heuel /toppe0 to
/urvey the 1i/creant/, =anika 1arche0 pa/t hi1 a/ unobtru/ively a/ po//ible an0 9oine0 her
/6ua0 on the back row o5 the 1en that ha0 a//e1ble04
Q$ 0onPt think /o,Q Heuel growle04 Q%ince $ /trongly /u/pect that your /6ua0 i/ re/pon/ible 5or thi/
444 co1plete break0own in 0i/cipline4 Corporal :art**5ront an0 center@ An0 bring your /6ua04Q
=anika 5elt her 5ace heat but 0i/co15ort wa/ the lea/t o5 it4 Dear clutche0 at her heart a/ /he
glance0 5leetingly at %ethP/ /tony 5ace an0 then turne0 an0 le0 the 1en to the 5ront4
Heuel gave each o5 the1 a long look o5 0i/gu/t an0 then turne0 an0 le5t4
=anika wa/ te1pte0 to u/e hi/ ab/ence to 0re// the 1en 0own 5or 5ighting, but /he 0i0nPt 0are4 $t
wa/ 9u/t a/ well4 They hear0 Heuel /u11oning the re/t o5 the cyborg/ an0 in a 5ew 1inute/ the
entire battalion ha0 a//e1ble0 an0 Heuel took up a po/ition out 5ront once 1ore to a00re// the14
QBe are the 5ine/t /ol0ier/ in all o5 the con5e0eration 444 create0 to be /econ0 to none in all thing/
1ilitary@ Bhile $ un0er/tan0 an0 co11i/erate with all o5 you 444 know the /a1e con5u/ion you
all 5eel /ince the awakening an0 reali#e how 0i55icult it i/ to 0eal with the/e change/ that none o5
u/ co1pletely un0er/tan0, $ will &OT tolerate a break0own in 0i/cipline@ Our /urvival, our
5uture, 0epen0/ upon unity@ Only an ab/olute 0e0ication to /urviving will give u/ a chance at a
5uture4 $5 we 0o not /tan0 together, we will not /tan0 at all@
QKnow thi/@ Hegar0le// o5 our 0e/ire/, we are ene1ie/ o5 the con5e0eration now4 They will
0e0icate the1/elve/ to hunting u/ 0own an0 0e/troying u/ becau/e they will /ee u/ a/ a threat to
their /urvival@ Thi/ 1uch $ believe $ co1pletely un0er/tan04 $ al/o un0er/tan0 that /ol0iering i/
all that any o5 u/ a//e1ble0 here to0ay totally gra/p at thi/ ti1e an0 that way lie/ /alvation 5or u/
a/ being/ in our own right4 To 0i/integrate into an un0i/cipline0 rabble will only 1ake u/
vulnerable to our ene1ie/4
Q$t /ee1/ 444 clear to 1e given the recent 0ebacle in the brig, that awarene// o5 our/elve/ a/
being/ ha/ brought u/ to the natural urge to procreate**9u/t a/ all living thing/ /hare thi/ 0e/ire
an0 nee04 $n ti1e we 1ay reach a point where it will be po//ible, an0 /a5e, 5or u/ to pur/ue thi/
natural cour/e in evolution, but that ti1e i/ not now4 Be cannot a55or0 to be 0i/tracte0 5ro1 the
nee0 to /urvive, 5ro1 our 0uty to our people a/ a whole, or we will never /ee that 0ay4
Q$ 0o not have the heart to war with our creator/4 An0 yet $ /ee no alternative 5or u/ i5 we cannot
e/cape the net they will 0evi/e 5or u/ once co11unication/ an0 the /upply line/ are re/tore04 Be
have gathere0 together all that i/ available to u/ to e/cape thi/ worl0 an0 avoi0 that
con5rontation**at lea/t in the near ter14 $ will e7pect every /ol0ier here to keep that in 1in0, to
behave like 0i/cipline0 /ol0ier/, an0 achieve that goal@ $ will e7pect you to re1e1ber that you
are, 5ir/t an0 5ore1o/t, /ol0ier/@Q
:e 0i0nPt 0i/1i// the1 when he 5ini/he0 an0 everyone re1aine0 /ti55ly at attention 5or /o1e
1inute/, waiting 5or the 0i/1i//al4 Dinally, one o5 the /ol0ier/ /teppe0 5orwar0 an0 /alute04
Q.er1i//ion to /peakAQ
Heuel no00e04
Q%ir**the /hip/ that we are working on are /hort*range only4 $ 0o not /ee that they will help u/ to
avoi0 a war with hu1an/4Q
Heuel /ai0 nothing 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 Q$ have hope that they will be /u55icient to take u/ to
Keno*!!, thi/ worl0P/ /i/ter4Q :e /hrugge04 QThat i/ only a /hort*range goal that coul0 take u/ to
a place where /urvival i/ 444 1ore likely, at lea/t 5ro1 the ele1ent/4Q
Again Heuel /hrugge04 QBe have 1uch to gain an0 nothing to lo/e by the atte1pt4 "ven with thi/
ba/e we are not likely to /urvive long given the con0ition/ on thi/ worl04 An0 i5 we re1ain here,
we will 5in0 that we cannot avoi0 an all out war with the hu1an/ 5or our /urvival4Q
Another /ol0ier /teppe0 5orwar0, /alute0, an0 re6ue/te0 per1i//ion to /peak4 Q$t i/ 1y
un0er/tan0ing that Keno*!! i/ the rea/on the An0orian/ an0 the hu1an/ are at war4 Bill that not
take u/ to a place where war i/ 1ore inevitable with whoever win/ the warAQ
Heuel /1ile0 thinly4 Q$ a1 counting on 5in0ing /hip/ there that are 0e/igne0 with long range
capability4 $ 0o not 1in0 initiating battle/ 5or the /ake o5 gaining the 1ean/ to 0eliver our people
to a better place4Q
QBhat about the other/ that are hereA Be repre/ent only a han05ul o5 tho/e the con5e0eration
0roppe0 on thi/ worl04Q
QBe 1u/t have /hip/ even to atte1pt an evacuation o5 our people4 That being the ca/e, you are
all 0i/1i//e0@ $ will e7pect you to have a 1ean/ o5 tran/port rea0ie0 5or u/ in /hort or0er@Q
Helie5 5loo0e0 =anika when Heuel 0i/1i//e0 the14 %he glance0 at the guy/, trying to 0eci0e
whether /he wante0 to repri1an0 the1 5or their part in /tarting the brawl an0 5inally 0eci0e0 /he
0i0nPt4 QBell, thatP/ a relie5,Q /he 1uttere04 Q$ gue// we nee0 to report 5or work4Q
QCorporal :art@Q Heuel /ai0, /tri0ing towar0 her4
=anikaP/ heart /ank4 %o 1uch 5or thinking theyP0 avoi0e0 0i/ciplinary 1ea/ure/@
QMe/, %ir@Q
:i/ lip/ thinne0 a/ he /urveye0 her an0 her /6ua04 QMou will take your /6ua0 an0 repair the
0a1age/ to the brig4 $ have a 5eeling we will have nee0 o5 it again,Q he /ai0 0ryly4
%eth wa/ neither /urpri/e0 nor particularly re/ent5ul that they were /et the ta/k o5 repairing the
0a1age to the brig even though, on /everal level/, he 0i0 not con/i0er the1 to be co1pletely
re/pon/ible4 $n the 5ir/t place, he 5elt like he ha0 been provoke0 to take action when that yellow
haire0 ba/tar0 ha0 approache0 =anika a/ i5 he wa/ entitle0 to@ $n the /econ0, they ha0 not
/inglehan0e0ly 0e1oli/he0 the brig4 They ha0 ha0 a great 0eal o5 help 5ro1 other/ who /houl0
have 1in0e0 their own 0a1ne0 bu/ine//@
Bork wa/ work, however, an0 they woul0 have been e7pecte0 to work on /o1ething regar0le//
an0 he ha0 no proble1 with the work that ha0 been a//igne04 $n 5act, the 1ore he thought about
it, the better he like0 it /ince it /eparate0 =anika 5ro1 the other cyborg/4
$n any ca/e, 1o/t o5 hi/ 1in0 wa/ occupie0 with what Heuel ha0 /ai0**or at lea/t a /peci5ic part
o5 it4
:e reali#e0 that he ha0 not thought 1uch beyon0 trying to control hi/ wil0ly erratic e1otion/
an0 i1pul/e/ an0 trying to 5igure out why he 5elt the14 $5 he ha0 con/i0ere0 hi/ /ituation at all
regar0ing =anika**an0 he ha0 not actually 0evote0 1uch thought to it**he woul0 have put hi/
5eeling/ 0own to nothing 1ore than the 5act that they were /6ua0 1ate/4 They ha0 been traine0**
actually progra11e0**to work with their hu1an han0ler a/ a tea14 :e ha0 change04 They all
ha0, but he 0i0 not /ee that that ha0 change0 the 5act that they were a tea1 an0 /houl0 work
together a/ a /ingle unit4
$t occurre0 to hi1 to won0er, though, con/i0ering what Heuel ha0 /ai0, i5 he wa/ 1otivate0
entirely by the tea1 1entality a/ he /houl0 have been4
:e ha0 certainly notice0 the 1a00eningly unco15ortable, an0 /ee1ingly in0epen0ent, behavior
o5 hi/ cock4 Bhen it ha0 5ir/t begun leaping to attention an0 then 9u/t a/ ine7plicably 0e5lating
heP0 been too 5ocu/e0 on that circu1/tance to won0er i5 there wa/ /o1e rea/on it behave0 a/ i5 it
ha0 a li5e, an0 1in0, o5 it/ own4 $t wa/ 1ore like an evil para/ite attache0 to hi/ belly than a part
o5 hi1, becau/e it 0i0 not /ee1 to be un0er hi/ control a/ the re/t o5 hi/ bo0y wa/4
:e ha0 not con/i0ere0, once, connecting it to the way he 5elt about =anika even though he ha0
begun to notice that 1o/t o5 the erratic activity /ee1e0 to originate with =anika**a chance touch,
a look**either 5ro1 her or at her**a thought4
:e certainly ha0 not connecte0 it to a 0e/ire to procreate, although he ha0 5oun0 hi1/el5
5everi/hly acce//ing an0 reviewing hi/ plea/ure 0roi0 progra11ing**/tarting with the ti1e that
he ha0 /taye0 to guar0 her back while /he /howere0 an0 ha0 watche0 her in/tea0 o5 turning hi/
back politely a/ he /houl0 have4
Eayhap that wa/ why hi/ 5ir/t thought when he ha0 /een that yellow haire0 ba/tar0 approach
=anika wa/ P1inePA
$t 1a0e hi1 unco15ortable that he ha0 not thought Pour/P when he wa/ certain he /houl0 have
/ince he, =ane, an0 &ile/ were all a part o5 =anikaP/ /6ua04 :e thought Heuel woul0 not be
plea/e0 with that i5 he knew either becau/e that wa/ certain to create a great 0eal 1ore 0i/cipline
proble1/ i5 they all began to think o5 the1/elve/ a/ in0epen0ent o5 all other/ when they were
/uppo/e0 to be a part o5 a tea1 that wa/ part o5 a larger tea1 that 1a0e up an ar1y that worke0
together 5or the goo0 o5 all4
"/pecially /ince =anika wa/ the only 5e1ale in the ca1p@
That thought 1a0e hi1 unea/y in an in0e/cribable way, al1o/t 444 5ear5ul4
They coul0 not protect her i5 the other/ 0eci0e0 to launch a 1a// attack to clai1 her 5or their
Q$ begin to think that it wa/ not a goo0 i0ea to co1e here,Q he 1uttere0 un0er hi/ breath when he
0i/covere0 that =ane wa/ clo/e enough to hear but =anika wa/ 5ar enough away not to hear4
=ane /ent hi1 a 6ue/tioning look4
$rritation 5lickere0 through %eth4 :e knew that he ha0 un0ergone the change be5ore either =ane
or &ile/, but they ha0 not been that 5ar behin0 hi1@ They ha0 ha0 ti1e to begin to have a better
un0er/tan0ing o5 what they ha0 beco1e@
QEy 444 our wo1an,Q he /ai0 pointe0ly4 QThat yellow haire0 ba/tar0 ha/ 1ore intere/t in her than
$ like an0 there are boun0 to be other/4Q
=ane blinke0 at hi1 an0 turne0 to /tu0y =anika, 5eeling a /urge an0 rece//ion o5 thought/ an0
e1otion/ that 1a0e hi1 0i##y trying to catch the14 Q%he i/ our wo1anAQ he /ai0 0oubt5ully4
QMou 1ean thi/ in the /en/e o5 1atingAQ
%eth 5rowne04 :e ha0 not progre//e0 that 5ar in hi/ thinking an0 it irritate0 hi1 that =ane ha0
leapt ahea0 o5 hi14 Q$n what other /en/e woul0 $ 1ean itAQ he growle04
=ane 5rowne04 QMou think we can 1ateAQ he a/ke0 hope5ully4
%eth 0i0nPt have a 5ucking clue an0 that wa/ be/i0e the 0a1ne0 point a/ 5ar a/ he coul0 /ee@ QBe
will not 5in0 out i5 we 0o not have a 1ate@Q
&ile/, 0rawn by the 5act that %eth an0 =ane were conver/ing an0 the 0e/ire to 0i/cover what they
5oun0 /o intere/ting that they ha0 /toppe0 working, 1ove0 clo/er /o that he coul0 hear the
0i/cu//ion4 QBe have a 1ateAQ he a/ke0 in plea/e0 /urpri/e4 QBhoAQ
%eth glare0 at hi14 Q=anika, you i1becile@ Be have a wo1an, go0/ 0a1n it@ $ 0o not /ee why
/he coul0 not be our 1ate4Q
&ile/ glare0 at hi14 QMou are no 1ore intelligent that $ a1@ Be have the /a1e 0e/ign an0
progra11ing@ &ot a/ intelligent i5 you have not con/i0ere0 that /he i/ not a cyborg,Q he /ai0
QBe 0o not have the /a1e =&A or the /a1e biological brain,Q %eth retorte0 a5ter a 1o1entP/
thought4 QAn0 clearly 1ine i/ 5ar /uperior to your/@ There are no cyborg 5e1ale/@ &one here, at
any rate, or that we 1ight have a chance in hell o5 clai1ing a/ 1ate/4 $t 0oe/ not bother 1e that
/he i/ hu1an4 $5 it bother/ you then you 1u/t look el/ewhere 5or a 1ate, $ /uppo/e4Q
Q$ think it will bother her,Q &ile/ /ai0 te/tily4
=i/1ay 5lickere0 through %eth an0 then anger4 QBhyA $ a1 5ully capable o5 per5or1ing anything
that a hu1an 1ate woul04Q
Q"7cept repro0ucing4Q
%eth wa/ te1pte0 to punch =ane in the 1outh 5or pointing that out4 :e thought about it 5or
/everal 1o1ent/ an0 5inally 0i/car0e0 the notion /ince he wa/ 5airly certain it woul0 re/ult in the
5our o5 the1 being /eparate0 again an0 he reali#e0 that that wa/ a /ituation 5raught with 0i/a/ter4
QBe 0o not know that we cannot4 $n any ca/e, we 0o not know that /he woul0 0e/ire a chil04 %he
i/ a /ol0ier, a5ter all**an0 $ a1 a/ certain a/ $ can be that $ a1 5ully capable o5 taking care o5 her
nee0/ an0 plea/uring her a/ a 1ate woul04 $ have 1y progra11ing a/ a plea/ure 0roi0 to 5all
back upon4Q
=ane an0 &ile/ both glare0 at hi14 QBe al/o have that progra11ing,Q =ane /ai0 angrily, Qan0 in
5act $ have alrea0y pointe0 that out to =anika an0 /he 0i0 not /ee1 the lea/t intere/te0 in
allowing 1e to 0e1on/trate@Q
%eth ca/t hi/ 1in0 back in an e55ort to recall the inci0ent =ane re5erre0 to an0 reali#e0 that he
wa/ right4 =anika ha0 /i1ply 0i/1i//e0 it, tol0 the1 they were no better than the hu1an 1ale/
who thought about nothing but /e7, an0 talke0 about /o1ething el/e4 QBe were hunting 5oo0
then,Q he /ai0 pointe0ly4 Q%he woul0 not have ha0 intere/t in /e7 when we were hunting 5oo04
Beyon0 that, there wa/ no place to 0e1on/trate /ince we woul0 all have gotten 5ro/t bite i5 we
ha0 re1ove0 our hab*/uit/@ That 0oe/ not 1ean /he coul0 not be convince0 to be intere/te04Q
Q$ntere/te0 in whatAQ =anika a/ke0, having 0eci0e0 to 9oin the 0i/cu//ion the guy/ /ee1e0 to be
/o 5ocu/e0 on4
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all /ent her /tartle0, guilty look/4
=ane opene0 hi/ 1outh, a/ i5 to e7plain, but %eth /la11e0 hi/ elbow into hi/ /olo ple7u/,
e55ectively 0epriving hi1 o5 breath4 QBe were 0i/cu//ing our /ituation4Q
=anika 0ivi0e0 a /u/piciou/ look between =ane an0 %eth4 QMou 1ean clean upAQ /he a/ke0,
although /he 0i0nPt believe that ha0 been the topic o5 conver/ation4
Q$ wa/ thinking that, 1ayhap, it wa/ not wi/e to bring you here a5ter all4Q
=anika ha0 been thinking 1uch the /a1e thing4 On the other han0, they ha0nPt ha0 a lot o5
option/4 QBe canPt go back,Q /he /ai0 5latly4 Q$ think they will have 5igure0 out by now that it wa/
you guy/ that kille0 tho/e 444 grave robber/4 An0 $ 0e/erte0 when $ wa/ un0er arre/t4 TheyP0 9u/t
/hoot all o5 u/ 5or 0e/ertion4Q
%eth 5rowne04 %he wa/ right an0 he wa/ not happy that /he wa/4 QThere are other ba/e/ on thi/
=anika /hook her hea04 QMou know theyPre probably in a/ ba0 a /hape a/ our ba/e wa/ 444 i/4
BeP0 be putting our/elve/ in the /a1e /ituation4 An0 when the 5leet get/ back, then weP0 get /hot4
$Pve been giving what Heuel /ai0 a lot o5 thought an0 $ think heP/ right4 The be/t chance any o5 u/
have at thi/ point i/ to 1ake it to Keno*!!4 $ 0onPt think thatP/ a long ter1 /olution any 1ore than
he 0oe/, but in the /hort ter1 itP/ the be/t option we have4Q

Chapter Ten
HeuelP/ plan wa/ a /oun0 one an0 yet it 0i0nPt go a/ /1oothly a/ heP0 no 0oubt hope04 Thi/ wa/
pri1arily 0ue to the 5act that the /peech heP0 given, contrary to what heP0 apparently believe0 at
the ti1e, 0i0nPt entirely unite their ban0 o5 rogue/4 $t in/pire0 tho/e whoP0 e/cape0 with Heuel
when Brown ha0 or0ere0 the1 /hot a/ traitor/ to return to the ba/e ca1p at %laughter Hi0ge an0
ki0nap the wo1en theyP0 le5t behin04
On the whole, =anika thought it wa/ a goo0 thing**5or the wo1en, at lea/t**regar0le// o5 the 5act
that they werenPt the lea/t bit happy about having been capture0 44 uh re/cue04
$t wa/nPt e7actly a goo0 thing 5or HeuelP/ plan/, either, /ince the rai0er/ returne0 with a ban0 o5
5uriou/ 1en on their heel/4
=anika thought 5or /everal 1inute/ that Heuel woul0 or0er the rai0er/ /hot on the /pot, or or0er
the cyborg/ to retaliate**which /he wa/ not co15ortable with even i5 the 1en were /hooting at
$n/tea0, he or0ere0 an i11e0iate evacuation o5 the ba/e theyP0 appropriate0 5ro1 the An0orian/4
They were a 5ar /uperior 5orce in every way**better ar1e0, better 5e0, an0 5ar better PbuiltP4 The
lingering 0oubt/ =anika ha0 harbore0 that Heuel truly 1eant to 0o hi/ be/t to avoi0 a 1ortal
con5rontation with the hu1an/ were lai0 to re/t4
$t 0i0 occur to her that one o5 the rea/on/ Heuel or0ere0 an evacuation in/tea0 o5 retaliating with
0ea0ly pre9u0ice 1ight have been /i1ply becau/e he wa/ rea0y to leave4 %he al/o knew that the
1en 5ro1 the other ba/e were never any real threat**e7cept to the cyborg/ that ha0 0eci0e0 to
rai0 their ba/e an0 that it 1ight have been a co1pletely 0i55erent /tory e7cept 5or tho/e
circu1/tance/4 %he /till 5elt 1uch better about being a part o5 hi/ co11an04 %he /till thought that
/he wa/ going to have to part way/ with hi1 at /o1e point i5 5or no other rea/on than the gen0er
i//ue, but /he 5elt le// like /he wa/ betraying her own people4
%he wa/nPt nearly a/ /y1pathetic to PherP people when they ha0 pile0 everything into the /hip/
that ha0 been repaire0 an0 took o554 The /hip/ appeare0 to have been co1pletely repaire0, but
they ha0nPt actually been te/te0 in 5light4 The /hip her an0 her /6ua0 en0e0 up on /hook an0
groane0 wor/e than the lan0er that ha0 brought her to the /ur5ace o5 Keno*!2 to /tart with4
Ten 1inute/ a5ter takeo55 even /he knew that the /hip wa/nPt going to attain e/cape velocity4 Dor
a /pace o5 1aybe 5ive 1inute/, /he coul0 hear the engine/ /training, coul0 5eel the /hip
/luggi/hly cli1bing a little higher4 They were never actually in5or1e0 that theyP0 reache0 an
altitu0e where it wa/ /a5e to re1ove their /a5ety harne//e/**becau/e they never 0i04 The
chugging an0 /puttering o5 the engine never cea/e0 either an0 a5ter an unco15ortably /hort
cli1b, the /hip al1o/t /ee1e0 to level out 5or a han05ul o5 1inute/ an0 then began to 0e/cen0
=anika /ent =ane an0 &ile/, who were /eate0 acro// 5ro1 her, a 5rightene0, 6ue/tioning look
when /he 5elt the /hip change 0irection/4
QThey coul0 not achieve e/cape velocity,Q =ane /ai0 cal1ly4
%he /uppo/e0 that 1ight have been hi/ atte1pt at cal1ing her 5ear/ but having hi1 con5ir1 her
wor/t 5ear/ 0i0nPt help her 5eeling/ at all4
QEaybe they werenPt really tryingAQ =anika /ai0 a little hope5ully4 QEaybe they 9u/t 0eci0e0 to
1ove the /hip to another location to 444 uh 444 5ini/h repairing itAQ
%he wa/ gra/ping at /traw/ an0 /he knew it but either /heP0 gue//e0 right an0 the plan ha0 never
been to atte1pt to leave Keno*!2 to /tart with or they change0 the plan when they reali#e0 it
wa/nPt /pace*worthy4 The /hip levele0 out, banke0 har0 to port an0 then began a tooth*9arring
0e/cent4 $t /ettle0 a5ter about twenty 1inute/ o5 5light, ungrace5ully an0 har0 enough to convince
her that theyP0 e7perience0 a controlle0 cra/h rather than an actual lan0ing4 The roar o5 the
engine/ cea/e0, leaving 0ea5ening /ilence in it/ wake4 &o one 1ove0 5or a /pace o5 heartbeat/,
al1o/t a/ i5 hol0ing their breath/ in e7pectation that an e7plo/ion woul0 rip through the cra5t any
1o1ent, an0 then they hear0 the /oun0 o5 the ra1p being lowere04
A/ /oon a/ /he i0enti5ie0 the /oun0, =anika began /truggling with /haking han0/ to un5a/ten her
/a5ety harne//4 %eth pu/he0 her han0/ away an0 un5a/tene0 it hi1/el5 an0 /he looke0 up at hi1,
1eeting hi/ ga#e a/ 0e9aRvu /wept over her4 A /en/e o5 cal1 5iltere0 through her, ou/ting the
knee weakening terror o5 1o1ent/ be5ore4
$t /till took an e55ort to get to her 5eet but, a/ he ha0 be5ore, %eth helpe0 her up an0 hel0 her
/an0wiche0 between hi1/el5 an0 =ane, an0 &ile/ took the lea04
%heP0 been too terri5ie0 the 5ir/t ti1e, /he reali#e0, to /ee that there wa/ nothing acci0ental about
it4 Dro1 the 1o1ent they entere0 co1bat, at any ti1e there wa/ 0anger, they 5or1e0 a protective
/hiel0 aroun0 her4
%he 0i0nPt think theyP0 been progra11e0 to 0o that4 %he knew the cyborg/ ha0 been progra11e0
to protect their hu1an han0ler/, but /he ha0nPt notice0 that any o5 the other/ went /o 5ar a/ to
5or1 a protective /hiel0 on every /i0e4 Bhy 0i0 her 1en behave 0i55erently than the other/A
%heP0 /u/pecte0 that %eth ha0 Pchange0P even be5ore their 5ir/t 9u1p, but /he ha0nPt /een anything
any 0i55erent about =ane or &ile/ then4 That ha0 co1e later4
Eaybe theyP0 never been co1pletely Pa/leepPA Or 1aybe the change ha0 alrea0y begun long
be5ore it wa/ noticeable to herA
%he 0i0nPt know4 %heP0 probably never know4 %he wa/nPt certain they 0i0, but /he thought 1aybe
that the change ha0 been /o /low an0 /ubtle they /i1ply ha0nPt been aware o5 what wa/ co1ing4
$t wa/ al1o/t 1ore a/ i5 theyP0 been /leepwalking, or hypnoti#e0, an0 ha0 /u00enly co1e to 5ull
Bhen they reache0 the gangplank, /he /aw with little /urpri/e that theyP0 lan0e0 on the col0, near
barren worl0 theyP0 been /truggling to /urvive 5or 1onth/ now4 The 0i55erence wa/ that the other
three /hip/ ha0 /ettle0 on the plane aroun0 the1 an0 everyone wa/ a//e1bling in 5or1ation4
%heP0 barely ha0 ti1e to locate her hab*/uit an0 9u1p into it be5ore takeo55 an0 a 5rigi0 bla/t o5
air crawle0 into her /uit with her a/ /he 1a0e her way 0own the plank4 Brought 5ro1 her
0i/traction by the chill, /he hurrie0ly 5ini/he0 clo/ing it, connecte0 her hel1et at the neck an0
lowere0 her 5ace /hiel04
Bhen her /6ua0 ha0 9oine0 5or1ation, Heuel /ent a 1an to pa// 0own the row/4 A5ter counting
o55 roughly a thir0, which inclu0e0 =anika an0 her /6ua0, he tol0 the1 to circle ea/t ten click/
an0 hol0 po/ition until they were given the /ignal to attack4
$t wa/ the 5ir/t that =anika reali#e0 they 1eant to launch an a//ault4 %he 0i0nPt even know who or
what they were launching an a//ault again/t, beyon0 Pene1y po/itionP, but, re5lecting that they
were at lea/t 5ully ar1e0 5or a change, /he hea0e0 out, tru/ting that the cyborg/ in the group
woul0 have no trouble 5in0ing the correct coor0inate/ 0e/pite the 5act that there wa/ al1o/t
nothing in the icy lan0/cape to u/e a/ lan01ark/4
They /toppe0 perhap/ 5i5ty yar0/ 5ro1 target, 0roppe0 low an0 crawle0 into po/ition4 =anika wa/
breathing like a hor/e by the ti1e they /toppe04 %he 9u/t hope0 they woul0nPt get the /ignal to
launch the a//ault until /heP0 ha0 ti1e to catch her breath4
%he wa/ in luck4 TheyP0 been in po/ition roughly ten 1inute/ be5ore they /potte0 1ove1ent that
tol0 the1 the /econ0 tea1 ha0 arrive0 an0 po/itione0 the1/elve/4
Bhile they were waiting 5or the thir0 group, /he returne0 her attention to the plane that lay
be5ore the1, trying to /ee what their ob9ective wa/4 %he 0i0nPt actually /pot the entrance until a
/6ua0 a0vance0 on their bellie/ to 0i/able the alar1 an0 entrance 1echani/14 A/ /oon a/ they
were in po/ition, HeuelP/ voice ca1e over their co1 unit/4 Q&OB@Q
:i/ ti1ing wa/ nice, ba/e0, =anika /uppo/e0, on a conviction that the /6ua0 /ent to 0i/able the
0oor woul0nPt encounter any proble1/4 They leapt to their 5eet, gun/ rea0y, an0 charge0 the
entrance4 Tho/e in the lea0 were within two yar0/ o5 it when the 0oor /wung open, revealing a
black 1aw roughly wi0e enough 5or /i7 1en abrea/t4
=anika took up the rear**not 5ro1 0e/ign, but becau/e /he coul0nPt keep up with the cyborg/4 By
the ti1e /he reache0 the entrance, the 1a9ority o5 the 5orce ha0 5loo0e0 in/i0e gun/ rea0y4 %eth
caught the /leeve o5 her hab*/uit an0 9erke0 her to one /i0e a/ /he went in4
There wa/ no gun5ire4 The cyborg/ in/i0e put their weapon/ 0own an0 rai/e0 their ar1/ in
$t 0i0nPt take a rocket /cienti/t to 5igure out theyP0 9u/t taken part in a rai0 to capture yet another
An0orian /tronghol0, only to 0i/cover the ene1y long gone an0 the ba/e controlle0 by a /1all
co1pany o5 cyborg/4 Clearly, Heuel ha0 known where it wa/ all the ti1e4 Ou/t a/ clearly, heP0
e7pecte0 to 5in0 the ene1y /till occupie0 it an0 ha0nPt known another group o5 cyborg/ ha0
alrea0y taken it4
$t wa/ 1uch like the ba/e theyP0 9u/t le5t, lai0 out the /a1e an0 /i1ilarly e6uippe0, but /o1ewhat
A group wa/ /ent to bring the /hip/ to the hanger while another group rea0ie0 the hanger 5or
their arrival4 There were a couple o5 the /1aller /hort*range /hip/ alrea0y in the hanger an0 it
wa/ clear that the cyborg/ whoP0 taken the ba/e ha0 been trying to repair the14
They were rapi0ly accu1ulating an ar1a0a o5 their own, =anika thought, 5eeling 5ar 1ore
hope5ul that they ha0 a chance o5 e/caping than /he ha0 be5ore4 =a1age0 or not, /hort range or
not, they at lea/t /ee1e0 to have a po//ibility o5 getting o55 o5 Keno*!2 an0 9u/t about anything
woul0 be better4
Bhile Heuel 0ebrie5e0 the cyborg/ theyP0 capture0, everyone not a//igne0 to work on the /hip/
/et about /ecuring the ba/e an0 1aking the1/elve/ at ho1e4 Hation/ were /till in /hort /upply
an0 ha0 to be care5ully counte0 an0 0ivi0e0, but tho/e a//igne0 to K. 0uty /et about putting a
1eal together4
$t wa/ 1ore o5 a /urpri/e to 0i/cover that there were a 5ew wo1en a1ong tho/e capture0 than it
woul0Pve been to 0i/cover none4
Bhen Heuel ha0 5ini/he0 0ebrie5ing the captive/, he /ought =anika out4
Q$ believe that it will be be/t 5or 1orale i5 the wo1en are hou/e0 /eparately 5ro1 the 1en,Q he
/ai0 0ryly4
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ in/tantly took e7ception, /ti55ening angrily, but =anika ignore0 the14 Q$
&o00ing, he turne0 away, in0icating that =anika wa/ to acco1pany hi1 a/ he cro//e0 the 1ain
area o5 the co1ple74 QGn5ortunately, the ba/e i/ not /etup 5or our purpo/e/4 :owever, $ believe
the brig can be u/e0 5or thi/4 $t ha/ /eparate /anitary 5acilitie/ an0 /u55icient bunk/ to
acco11o0ate the wo1en a1ong u/4 %trategically /peaking, it o55er/ the wo1en both privacy an0
/a5ety 5ro1 any unwelco1e attention by the 1en4
Q$ can po/t guar0/ to in/ure there i/ no encroach1ent4Q
=anika coul0 /ee hi/ point an0 the brig wa/ really no 1ore unco15ortable than the general
barrack/4 %he coul0 /ee a potential proble1, however4 Q$ 0onPt know about the wo1en that were
here when we got here, but the other/ 0i0nPt e7actly volunteer to co1e4 :ou/ing the1 in the brig
i/ only going to rein5orce their belie5 that theyPre captive/4Q
Q$ 0o not 0oubt it4 $t i/ 5or that rea/on, Captain :art, that you will be in co11an0 o5 the 5e1ale
=anika al1o/t 1i//e0 a /tep4 QCaptainAQ
Heuel /1ile0 thinly4 QMou are now a /ol0ier in the cyborg ar1y 444 o5 which $ a1 the general4 $
believe you have earne0 a rai/e in rank through co1bat4Q
By taking part in one e7erci/e, which actually 0i0nPt a1ount to co1bat /ince not a /ingle /hot
ha0 been 5ire0A %he wa/ now a co11i//ione0 o55icer in/tea0 o5 a gruntA
Bhen /heP0 le0 the a//ault 5ro1 the rearA
&ot that /he 5elt like 6uibbling4 Bhat wa/ the pointA Obviou/ly, he nee0e0 o55icer/ to 5or1 a
working ar1y4 An0 he nee0e0 /o1eone to keep the wo1en in line4 QThank you, %ir4Q
:i/ /1ile broa0ene0 to a grin an0 then a gri1ace4 QMou 1ay not thank 1e when you have 0ealt
with the wo1en 5or a while4 A/ you pointe0 out, they 5eel like captive/ even though $ a1 a/
certain a/ $ can be that the 1en who brought the1 con/i0ere0 that they were Pre/cuingP the1 5ro1
certain 0eath4 $ al/o believe thi/4 $t i/ the rea/on $ 0i0 not /hoot the 1en on /ight 5or breaking
rank/ an0 carrying out a rai0 without authori#ation4
Q$ a1 o5 no 1in0 to rewar0 the1, however,Q he a00e0 gri1ly4 QThey will be puni/he0 an0 part o5
that puni/h1ent i/ to re1ove the wo1en they ri/ke0 their live/ 5or**an0 everyone el/eP/**5ro1
their care4
QThey have beco1e 5ar too in0epen0ent /ince the awakening an0 it i/ not /o1ething we can
a55or0 a/ a people**not at thi/ ti1e4 Eayhap /o1e 0ay we will 5in0 a place 5or our/elve/ an0 lay
0own ar1/ an0 e7plore what it i/ to be a race in our own right, but we will not /ee that 0ay i5 we
are not /ol0ier/ 5ir/t4Q
QBhat about 1y own 1enAQ =anika a/ke0 when they ha0 reache0 the brig an0 began to in/pect
Heuel turne0 to /tu0y her thought5ully4 Q$n what /en/eAQ
QThey 0i0nPt e7ecute an unauthori#e0 rai04 They wonPt be puni/he0 5or bringing 1e hereA Or
rather to the other ba/eAQ
QA/ you /ay4 They ha0 not 9oine0 u/ until they ca1e with you4 They ha0 been given the
opportunity when we le5t the ba/e at %laughter Hi0ge an0 444 0ecline04 They ca1e to 1e later an0
re6ue/te0 per1i//ion to bring you an0 9oin u/4Q :e pau/e04 QBa/ it a rai0AQ
=anika 5elt her color 5luctuate4 Q$ thought youP0 0ebrie5e0 the1 regar0ing the /ituationAQ
:i/ 0ark brow/ ro/e4 Q$ 0i04 :owever, we have attaine0 the 5acility o5 lying,Q he /ai0 0ryly4
%he /hook her hea0, 5ir1ly ta1ping the horrible 1e1ory o5 the inci0ent that ha0 brought it
about4 Q$ ca1e o5 1y own 5ree will4 :one/tly, $ wa/ 0eeply grate5ul they /howe0 up when they
0i04Q %he wre/tle0 with her thought/ 5or a 1o1ent4 Q$ 0i0nPt know we were hea0e0 here**to the
ba/e**becau/e $ 0i0nPt know there wa/ a ba/e until $ arrive04Q
QAn0 you were uncon/ciou/ when you 0i0 arrive an0 they covere0 their track/ well, which
1ean/ they 0i0 not co1pro1i/e the /ecurity o5 our ba/e4 Thi/ rai0 wa/ a 0i55erent 1atter all
Helieve0, =anika 1erely no00e04 $t wa/nPt her bu/ine// how he 0ealt with the 1en whoP0
co1pro1i/e0 ba/e /ecurity**an0 /he 5elt no 6ual1/ that he inten0e0 to puni/h the14
The brig wa/ 1uch like the one at the previou/ ba/e4 There wa/ one large, general hol0ing cell
an0 three other/ that were 5or a /ingle or 0ouble occupancy only4 They werenPt e7actly private,
not in the /en/e o5 true privacy, but /heP0 gotten u/e0 to having very little privacy /ince /heP0
P9oine0P the ar1y o5 the Con5e0eration4 At lea/t /he woul0 only be /haring the area with other
wo1en**/till not what /he woul0Pve like0, but better than being in general population in the
The brig wa/ a /el5*containe0 area, however, walle0 o55 5ro1 the co1ple7 5or /ecurity purpo/e/,
no 0oubt, but it woul0 e55ectively give the wo1en /o1e privacy an0 /ecurity4
A/ /heP0 e7pecte0, the wo1en werenPt happy when they were e/corte0 to the brig an0 tol0 to pick
a bunk4
QThi/,Q /he in5or1e0 the1, Qi/ the wo1enP/ barrack/4Q
%ergeant %heila Bhitaker, 5or1erly o5 the ar1y o5 the Con5e0eration, curle0 her lip4 QThe brig,Q
/he 1uttere0 5latly4
=anikaP/ lip/ tightene04 QThere were no 5acilitie/ /et a/i0e /peci5ically 5or 5e1ale /ol0ier/4 $tP/ the
be/t we can 0o to allow the wo1en /o1e privacy4Q
QBe**%o you 5reely a01it to being a 0e/erter an0 traitorA Mou arenPt even going to preten0 you
were capture0 an0 brought again/t your willAQ
=anika narrowe0 her eye/ at the wo1an4 Q$ 0i0nPt choo/e to hang aroun0 until Ea/ter %gt4 Delton
0eci0e0 $ knew too 1uch an0 heP0 be better o55 i5 $ wa/ 0ea0@ $P1 gue//ing he 0i0nPt let you in on
what it wa/ he wa/ 5ee0ing everybo0yAQ
%heilaP/ e7pre//ion went blank4 QBhat 0o you 1ean by thatAQ /he 0e1an0e04
Q$ 0i0nPt think /o4 $ woul0nPt have known either i5 $ ha0nPt been /ent out to check out the attack4
That 5le/h ca1e 5ro1 the cyborg/ an0 he knew becau/e heP0 or0ere0 the 1en out to collect it4 Dor
all $ know, they werenPt particular about whether it wa/ hu1an 5le/h 5ro1 the cyborg/ or hu1an
5le/h 5ro1 the 1en that ha0 been kille04Q
All o5 the wo1en turne0 white an0 then green4 Bhirling, they race0 to the toilet/ an0 5ought over
the1 to puke4
"7cept %heila4 %he /wallowe0 with an e55ort4 QThatP/ a 0a1ne0 lie@Q
Q$/ itA Bhere the hell 0o you think he got it 5ro1A They 0i0nPt leave the ba/e4 An0 con/i0ering
heP0 alrea0y pitche0 2t4 Brown un0er the cave*in, $ 0i0nPt think heP0 have any 6ual1/ about
1aking /ure $ 0i0nPt 0o any talking4Q
%hock rolle0 over %heila an0 then 0i/belie5 an0 anger4 Q$/ that what youPve got planne0 a/ a
0e5en/eA Eur0er an0 cannibali/1A Becau/e $P1 not buying it4Q
Q$ 0onPt give a 5uck whether you 0o or not4 $tP/ the truth4 Gnle// it wa/ you that pitche0 2t4 Brown
un0er the rock/A Mou an0 Delton were the only two clo/e enough to have 0one it4 $ hear0 the
/cu55le4 %o, i5 it wa/nPt hi1, it wa/ you4Q
%he coul0 /ee 5ro1 %heilaP/ e7pre//ion that /heP0 alrea0y ha0 her own /u/picion/ about BrownP/
0eath4 A5ter /taring at =anika 5or /everal 1o1ent/, /he 1erely turne0 an0 9oine0 the other
wo1en in the 1ain hol0ing cell4 =anika waite0 until theyP0 cal1e0 the1/elve/ an0 /ettle0 on the
QMou are not pri/oner/4 Mou have the option o5 /taying in the barrack/ with the 1en i5 you
pre5er,Q /he a00e0 5or e55ect, won0ering what /he woul0 0o i5 any o5 the1 took her up on the
o55er**becau/e Heuel certainly wa/nPt going to like that@ Q3eneral Heuel thought that it woul0 be
be/t to /eparate the wo1en 5ro1 general population a/ a precaution**becau/e the/e 1en are a lot
like the one/ you le5t behin0**e7cept with better 1anner/4 TheyPre horny ba/tar0/ an0 wePre
outnu1bere0 about a hun0re0 to one4Q
QHeuel ha/ /ai0 that =ane, &ile/, an0 $ can /tan0 guar0 over the wo1enP/ 6uarter/ i5 you are
agreeable,Q %eth /ai0, /o1ewhat belligerently, a/ i5 he e7pecte0 an argu1ent4
=anika wa/ /itting with the1 in the area o5 the co1ple7 /et a/i0e 5or the 0ining hall, or 1e//, a/
the 1ilitary u/ually re5erre0 to it4 %he ha0nPt /een any rea/on to /egregate her/el5 at chow ti1e
even i5 the other wo1en /ee1e0 incline0 to4 %he looke0 up 5ro1 her e7a1ination o5 the 5oo0 on
her plate with /urpri/e an0 a goo0 bit o5 plea/ure an0 relie54 Q3reat i0ea@ $Pll 5eel a lot better i5
you guy/ are watching 1y back4Q
%eth rela7e0 vi/ibly4 Q$ 0o not 0i/agree that it i/ better that the wo1en have /eparate 6uarter/, but
$ 0o not like that tho/e other wo1en /ee1 444 ho/tile towar0 you4Q
%heP0 notice04 %he wa/ a little /urpri/e0 that the guy/ /ee1e0 to have notice0 or 1aybe it wa/
9u/t that theyP0 0e0uce0 the wo1en woul0 be ho/tile becau/e theyP0 not been particularly
/ub0ue0 captive/, being /ol0ier/, to /tart withA
%he 5rowne0 a/ /he /peare0 a chunk o5 /o1ething 1eat*like an0 li5te0 it to e7a1ine it4 Q$ think
thi/ 1u/t be An0orian ration/4 $t 0oe/nPt look like that /tu55 we ha0 be5ore4Q
Q$t i/ bea/t not people an0 that i/ all that $ care about,Q =ane /ai0 aroun0 a 1outh5ul4
The re5erence 1a0e =anika a little 6uea/y4 %he 0i0nPt 0well on it4 %heP0 0one her be/t to 0evelop
a1ne/ia with regar0/ to that horrible inci0ent4 O00ly enough, though, even a/ her 1in0 /kittere0
away 5ro1 the horri5ic i1age/ o5 that epi/o0e, it leapt to the i1age/ e1bla#one0 on her 1in0 o5
the 1en that 0ay /heP0 co1e upon the1 be/i0e the bathing pool4 He1e1bering, /he wa/
co1pletely 0i/tracte0 5or /everal 1o1ent/4
%haking the thought/ with an e55ort, /he /earche0 aroun0 until /he 5oun0 the threa0 o5 the
conver/ation %eth ha0 initiate04 Q$ think youPre right,Q /he 1ur1ure0 thought5ully once /heP0
taken a bite4
QAbout the bea/tAQ &ile/ a/ke04 QO5 cour/e he i/ right4Q
QBell, that, too4 $ 1eant about the wo1en being ho/tile an0 1e nee0ing /o1ebo0y to watch 1y
back4 &ot that $P0 worry about it i5 there were 5ewer o5 the14 $ can hol0 1y own, but one again/t
over a 0o#en arenPt goo0 o00/ an0 $P1 not /o /ure $ tru/t the1 enough to /leep ne7t to the14Q %he
grinne0 at %eth wryly4 QThatP/ why $ picke0 a /eparate cell4 $ can lock up when $ /leep an0 not
have worry about the1 0eci0ing to /1other 1e with 1y pillow4Q
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all looke0 5ar 1ore appalle0 than a1u/e04
Q$ 0o not 5in0 that a1u/ing,Q &ile/ /ai0 5latly4
%urpri/e 5lickere0 through =anika but then /he /hrugge04 They were intelligent, 5ar /1arter than
/he wa/, but then again they never /ee1e0 to catch /ubtle nuance/ in a conver/ation4 %he
/uppo/e0 they 9u/t werenPt Pe6uippe0P 5or it4 Or 1aybe it wa/ /o1ething learne0 an0 they 9u/t
ha0nPt ha0 ti1e to learnA Q3raveyar0 hu1or4Q
There wa/nPt a lot to laugh about on Keno*!2 e7cept 1orbi0 hu1or an0 /he, 5or one, nee0e0 a
0o/e o5 hu1or o5 /o1e kin0 a/ o5ten a/ /he coul0 get it4 O5 cour/e, /heP0 0i/covere0 the guy/
were pretty 5unny a lot o5 the ti1e**co1pletely unintentionally**becau/e innuen0o /ee1e0 to go
right over their hea0/, which 1a0e it /a0*5unny at be/t4 An0 naturally enough that wa/nPt
/o1ething /he coul0 /hare, i5 /heP0 ha0 anybo0y to /hare it with, or even openly en9oy4 $n the
5ir/t place, they woul0nPt PgetP it4 $n the /econ0 it woul0 only pi// the1 o55 or wor/e, hurt their
5eeling/, i5 they 0i0 get it4 An0 /he 0oubte0 they woul0 be any happier about her a1u/e1ent i5
/he trie0 to e7plain that it wa/ only a1u/ing becau/e /he wa/ 5on0 o5 the14 $5 /he ha0nPt been, it
woul0nPt be 5unny at all4 $t woul0 1o/t likely 9u/t irritate the 5uck out o5 her4
%heP0 never been particularly a1u/e0 by /tupi04
They 0i0nPt have to look 5or Heuel to /ettle the 1atter once theyP0 5ini/he0 eating an0 ha0
returne0 their tray/ 5or cleaning4 Heuel, they 0i/covere0, wa/ waiting 5or the1 at the 0oor o5 the
1e// hall4 :e looke0 gri14
=anika 0i0nPt have a clue why until they reache0 the wo1enP/ 6uarter/ again4
QMou are not captive/ o5 the cyborg people, regar0le// o5 the 1ean/ o5 your arrival4 Mou are
welco1e to /tay or you will be e/corte0 to a point near enough to one o5 the hu1an ba/e/ to
return to your own people4
Q$5 you elect to /tay, however, you 1u/t /ub1it your/el5 to the /ickbay to have your locator/
re1ove04 Mour pre/ence here with tho/e locator/ repre/ent a threat to everyone el/e4Q
:e pau/e0, /tu0ying the wo1en4 Q$5 you 0eci0e to /tay, we will guar0 your wel5are to the be/t o5
our abilitie/, but $ a1 well aware that /taying will put you in 1uch the /a1e po/ition that we are
in**0eath i5 we are caught4Q :i/ e7pre//ion har0ene04 QO5 cour/e in our ca/e we are only
regar0e0 a/ 1achine/, not citi#en/ or /ol0ier/, an0 cannot be trie0 or convicte0 a/ 0e/erter/4 Be
woul0 /i1ply be 0eco11i//ione0 an0 0e/troye04
QMou have the bene5it o5 being /ol0ier/ an0 citi#en/ an0 beyon0 that, there are witne//e/**i5 they
/urvive**who coul0 /upport a clai1 o5 ki0napping /houl0 you be caught an0 trie0**which $
believe re0uce/ the ri/k/ to you i5 you 0i0 0eci0e to /tay4Q
:e pau/e0 again, allowing that ti1e to /ink in4 QMou have until twelve hun0re0, "%T, to 1ake
your 0eci/ion4 Mou 1u/t pre/ent your/el5 5or re1oval o5 the locator chip or pre/ent your/el5 to
1e /o that $ can arrange an e/cort 5ro1 thi/ ba/e4Q

Chapter "leven
&o one /ai0 anything when Heuel le5t an0 it 5inally occurre0 to =anika that it 1ight be 1ore than
9u/t the 5act that they were con/i0ering what heP0 /ai04 A/ 5ar a/ they were concerne0, /he wa/ a
0e/erter an0 traitor an0 /he 0oubte0 they tru/te0 her enough to /peak 5reely aroun0 her4
Q$Pll leave /o that you can 0i/cu// thi/ a1ong your/elve/4Q
QCorporal :art4Q
=anika /toppe0 an0 turne0, he/itating, but there 0i0nPt /ee1 any point in not 1aking it clear
where /he /too0 an0, in 5act, it /ee1e0 i1portant that /he re1ove all 0oubt or theyP0 0eci0e,
later, that /heP0 been 0eliberately 1i/lea0ing the14 QCaptain, now, in the ar1y o5 the cyborg
That /ee1e0 to take all o5 the1 aback4 %gt4 Bhitaker, whoP0 /toppe0 her, now /ee1e0 reluctant
to continue4
QMou ha0 /o1ething to /ayAQ =anika pro1pte0 her4 Q%o1ething you wante0 to a/kAQ
%heila 5rowne04 QMou know theyPre 444 0e5ective, rightA Eachine/ /u55ering the 0elu/ion that
theyPre realAQ
=anika blinke0 at her, hone/tly /hocke04 QActually, $ 0onPt know that4 $n 5act, $ know that i/nPt
QBecau/e they tol0 youAQ one o5 the other wo1en a/ke0, Corporal Eary Hawlin/, =anika
=anika /hook her hea04 QThey 0i0nPt have to4 All you have to 0o i/ look in their eye/4Q
Q$t i/nPt po//ible@Q another wo1an e7clai1e04
=anika /hrugge04 Q2ook@ $ 0onPt clai1 to know all o5 the an/wer/4 $P1 no /cienti/t, but $ tru/t
what $ can /ee, hear, /1ell, an0 5eel4 They 1ay have /tarte0 out a/ 1achine/4 &o 0oubt in 1y
1in0 they werenPt /uppo/e0 to be anything el/e4 But thereP/ al/o no 0oubt in 1y 1in0 that they
have beco1e living, breathing, thinking**5eeling being/4 They change0 an0 theyPre 444 evolving4
%eth /ee1e0 to think it 1ight be the nano/4 :e /ai0 they were alrea0y 1ore than hal5 biological
an0 he thought the nano/ 5ini/he0 what ha0nPt been 5ini/he0 /ince they were 0e/igne0 to repair to
/tart with4Q
Q2e// than hal5,Q %heila 0i/pute04 Q$tP/ again/t the law to create a 1achine in the lab u/ing even
5i5ty percent biological 1aterial/4Q
=anika rolle0 her eye/4 Q"ven $P1 not naive enough to believe the co1pany worrie0 about that@
The botto1 line i/ all that concern/ the1**the pro5it 1argin4 An0 i5 it wa/ cheaper to PcheatP a
little, then thereP/ no 0oubt they 0i04 $t 0oe/nPt really 1atter, though4 %o1ething happene04 They
arenPt 9u/t 1achine/ any1ore4Q
QThey were not only progra11e0 to interact with hu1an/ an0 1i1ic hu1an behavior, they were
e6uippe0 with A$ to learn4 Eaybe you want to believe theyPre real4 Eaybe they think they are,
but theyPre /till 9u/t 1achine/ 1i1icking hu1an/4Q
=anika /hrugge0, angry but 0eter1ine0 not to /how it4 QBelieve what you will4 $t 0oe/nPt 1atter
to 1e4 Ba/ that all you wante0 to talk aboutAQ
%heila 0i0nPt look like /he wante0 to give up the 0ebate but a5ter a 1o1ent /he change0 the
/ub9ect4 QBhat you tol0 1e 444 about Ea/ter %gt4 Delton 4444 ThatP/ the truthAQ
QBhich partAQ
QAll o5 it4Q
Q$t wa/ too har0 to /ee once the entrance /tarte0 to collap/e to be ab/olutely certain an0 $ wa/nPt
looking that way anyway when it happene0, but $ know what $ hear04 $ know the lieutenant 0i0nPt
leap un0er the 0ebri/4 A/ 5or the other**Delton a/ 1uch a/ a01itte0 it**not only that it wa/ going
on but that it wa/ un0er hi/ or0er/4 :e tol0 1e to keep 1y 1outh /hut an0 /ent 1e un0er e/cort
to 1ake /ure $ 0i0nPt /ay anything4
QCon/i0ering that $ /trongly /u/pecte0 heP0 9u/t gotten ri0 o5 the lieutenant becau/e he con/i0ere0
hi1 a 0angerou/ liability, $ 0i0nPt think he woul0 he/itate to get ri0 o5 anybo0y el/e he /aw a/ a
Q$ ran becau/e $ 0i0nPt think $ ha0 an alternative i5 $ wante0 to /tay alive4 An0 $ 0i0nPt know about
the ba/e Heuel an0 hi/ 1en ha0 capture0 at that ti1e4 $ 5igure0 $ 0i0nPt have 1uch chance i5 $ ran,
but $ ha0 /o1e a/ oppo/e0 to none4Q
%he he/itate04 Q%o i5 any o5 you are thinking about going back, you /houl0 0o your be/t to 5orget
thi/ conver/ation4 Delton plan/ on /urviving by any 1ean/ nece//ary an0 $ 0oubt heP/ the only
QAn0 0onPt eat any 1eat unle// youPre there when itP/ kille0 an0 butchere0 an0 you know what it
%he turne0 to leave again4
QCorporal 444 =anika4Q
%he /aw when /he turne0 that it wa/ Oane Dletcher4 %he 0i0nPt know the wo1an that well, but
theyP0 both been con/cripte0 on Ouno, her ho1e worl04 %he li5te0 her brow/ 6ue/tioningly4
The wo1an cleare0 her throat an0 glance0 nervou/ly at the other wo1en4 Q=o you think wePre
/a5er with the cyborg/AQ
$t wa/ a 6ue/tion /heP0 a/ke0 her/el5 a lot /ince /heP0 run, but 5or her there werenPt any option/4
QThere i/ no P/a5eP4 $tP/ 1ore a 1atter o5 chance/ o5 /urvival, i5 thatP/ what youPre a/king4 $n that
/en/e, ye/, $ think $P1 /a5er with the14 $5 you 1ean /a5e in the /en/e P/houl0 we 5ear the1AP 4444 At
thi/ point, they havenPt evolve0 1uch pa/t the 1achine/ that were progra11e0 to protect u/ an0
not har1 u/ an0, hone/tly, $ 0onPt think theyPre going to change in that way4 Heuel /ee1/ to have
evolve0 the 1o/t an0 he /till /ee1/ 5ar 1ore incline0 to protect hu1an/ even though he believe/
they are a threat to hi/ own /urvival4
Q$5 you 1ean /a5e 5ro1 the 1ilitary**$ 0onPt know4 $ think HeuelP/ right an0 theyPre going to co1e
a5ter the cyborg/ with a vengeance4 On the other han0, they were built to be 5ighting 1achine/4 $
canPt think o5 anybo0y $P0 rather have at 1y back than 1y /6ua04Q %he he/itate0 an0 then a00e0,
Q$5 anybo0y ha/ the i0ea o5 /taying in or0er to betray the1, $ woul0nPt a0vi/e that at all4 $ 0onPt
think it woul0 be /a5e at all to get on their ba0 /i0e4Q
An hour later, the wo1en all pre/ente0 the1/elve/ at /ickbay to have their locator/ re1ove04
=anika 0i0nPt congratulate her/el54 %he 5elt a 1i7ture o5 anger an0 pity that theyP0 been 5orce0 by
circu1/tance/ to throw away their pa/t 5or a 5uture that looke0 anything but pro1i/ing4
A/ /haken a/ =anika wa/ 5ro1 the trip**probably everyone con/i0ering the /hip /he wa/ on ha0
given ri/e to a lot o5 0oubt that it woul0 even break Keno*!2P/ pull o5 gravity**/he wa/ gla0 /heP0
/till ha0 her wit/ about her enough to have her gun in han0 when they /tarte0 0own the
gangplank4 They encountere0 a hail o5 pri1itive pro9ectile/ be5ore they were hal5way 0own4 One
/harpene0 /tone*tippe0 /pear with a three 5oot woo0en /ha5t narrowly 1i//e0 her /houl0er4 %he
0i0nPt think it woul0 have i5 =ane ha0nPt batte0 it a/i0e a/ it /hot pa/t hi14
$t took =anika a 5ew /econ0/ 1ore to react4 QBePre un0er attack@ Dire@ Dire@ Dire@Q
The cyborg/, naturally enough, were 5ar 5a/ter at reacting than the han05ul o5 hu1an/ a1ong
the14 The pro9ectile/ ha0 /carcely cleare0 the 9ungle growth be5ore they ha0 tracke0 the origin
an0 returne0 5ire4 Bithin a 1atter o5 /econ0/, they ha0 cleare0 a /wath o5 9ungle to the 0irt, with
the e7ception o5 a /1attering o5 very large tree/, a hun0re0 yar0/ 5ro1 where their /hip ha0
lan0e0 in a /wath a/ wi0e a/ their angle o5 view allowe04
The hail o5 pro9ectile/ cea/e04 :ol0ing their gun/ at the rea0y, they continue0 0own the
gangplank an0 began a /weep o5 the area aroun0 their /hip a/ the other /hip/ /ettle0 near their/4
They 0i/covere0, however, that any native/ that ha0 1anage0 to /urvive the 5ir/t retaliatory
/trike, ha0 0i/appeare0 back into the 9ungle4
%ati/5ie0 that theyP0 route0 the native/, at lea/t 5or the 1o1ent, they returne0 to await the other
Heuel wa/ not happy4 :i/ 5eature/ were tight with a 1i7ture o5 anger an0 0i/gu/t when he ha0
0e/cen0e0 the gangplank o5 hi/ own /hip an0 /urveye0 the clearing4
:e turne0 an0 5ace0 the troop/, hi/ han0/ plante0 on hi/ hip/4 QBhat part o5 P/tealthP 0i0 you 5ail
to un0er/tan0AQ he growle0, lou0 enough 5or everyone to hear4
=anika, %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all e7change0 unco15ortable glance/4 QBe were attacke0 by the
native/, %ir@ Be were not tol0 not to retaliate i5 we encountere0 re/i/tance 5ro1 the native/,Q
=anika re/pon0e0 unea/ily /ince no one el/e /ee1e0 incline0 to volunteer an e7planation4
HeuelP/ lip/ tightene04 QMou coul0 not interpret P/tealthP a/ an or0er &OT to return 5ire, Captain
:artAQ he growle04
=anika 5elt her 5ace heat4 $t occurre0 to her then that they 1ight have overreacte0 9u/t a hair, but
/he wa/nPt u/e0 to pri1itive/ lobbing pro9ectile/ at her@ Obviou/ly nobo0y el/e ha0 con/i0ere0
that a 5ew well place/ /hot/ woul0 have been /u55icient either4 Q%orry, %ir@ 3ut reaction4Q
Heuel /u11one0 her with a 1otion o5 hi/ han04 =anika 0i0nPt glance at her /6ua0 that ti1e, but
/he wa/ relieve0 when they 5ell into /tep with her a/ /he an/were0 the /u11on/4
Heuel /tu0ie0 the 1en 5or a 1o1ent be5ore he returne0 hi/ attention to her4 QThi/ /ite wa/
cho/en 5or the 5act that there woul0 be a1ple cover 5or the /hip/ /o that we 1ight e/cape the
notice o5 both the An0orian/ an0 the Con5e0eration,Q he re/pon0e0 5inally, ge/turing to
enco1pa// the 5lattene0 9ungle4 QBhat 0o you /ee here, CaptainAQ
=anika chewe0 her lip4 QAn open area, %irAQ
QAn0 what /houl0 we be /eeing, CaptainAQ
=anika cleare0 her throat4 QOungleAQ /he ha#ar0e04
:i/ eye/ narrowe04 Q.reci/ely4 %ince you have been /o help5ul, Captain, you are in charge o5
re/toring the 9ungle4Q
%he gape0 at hi1 in /hocke0 0i/belie5 5or a 5ew /econ0/ be5ore /he recovere0 enough to reali#e
he wa/ waiting 5or a re/pon/e**a po/itive one4 QMe/, %ir@Q /he /ai0, /aluting4 QGh 444 :ow 0o we
0o that, %irAQ
:e rolle0 hi/ eye/4 Q$ will leave that to your i1agination4 $ 5eel con5i0ent you will 5igure
/o1ething out4Q
=anika watche0 hi/ back glu1ly a/ he /tro0e away4
%he glance0 at %eth, /urpri/e0 1ore by the vehe1ence in hi/ voice than the Pwor0P4 QEy
/enti1ent/ e7actly,Q /he 1uttere0, relea/ing a hu55 o5 0i/gu/t4 Q$ gue// we nee0 to get /o1e o5
that /tu55 out there an0 replant it here4 $ /uppo/e we nee0 to /ee i5 we can 5in0 /o1ething to 0ig
with4Q %he con/i0ere0 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/4 QBePre going to nee0 to 5in0 water, too4 TheyPll 9u/t
croak i5 we 1ove the1 otherwi/e4 &ile/**you an0 =ane hunt up /o1ething to 0ig with an0
/o1ething to carry water4 Ee an0 %eth will 5in0 that /trea1 Heuel /ai0 wa/ clo/e by4Q
&ile/ an0 =ane looke0 at %eth 6ue/tioningly**which irritate0 the hell out o5 =anika4 %he wa/ /till
tea1 lea0er, 0a1n it@
QBe 0o not know that the native/ have gone 5ar,Q %eth /ai0 a5ter a 1o1ent4 QBoul0 it not be
better 5or all to go an0 /earch 5or the waterAQ
:e ha0 a point, 0a1n it@ QMou really think they /toppe0 runningAQ
%eth /hrugge04 QThey were bra#en enough to attack u/ a/ /oon a/ we lan0e04 Clearly they 0o not
care i5 we are o5 the Con5e0eration or the An0orian/4 They are ho/tile to all4Q
QMeah, but 4444 Ok@ Dine@ BePll all go look 5or the /trea1 an0 1ake /ure the area i/ /ecure4Q
$t wa/nPt 1uch o5 a /trea14 =anika ha0 /een 0itche/ that were 5ar bigger4 $t ha0 been hi00en by
the newly 1own vegetation4 %he 5oun0 it by /tepping in it an0 /prawling out on the bank on the
other /i0e4 %eth grabbe0 one o5 her ar1/ an0 =ane the other an0 haule0 her to her 5eet4 &ile/
collecte0 her gun /ince /heP0 lo/t her grip on it when /he hit the groun0 har0 enough to
te1porarily paraly#e her re5le7e/4 "1barra//e0, /he 5ocu/e0 on bru/hing the 0irt an0 water 5ro1
the 5ront o5 her hab*/uit4 QBell, we wonPt have to go 5ar to get the water4 3oo0 thing $ wa/
wearing 1y hab*/uit,Q /he a00e0 0ryly4 %he thought about that 5or a 1o1ent an0 her 5rown
0eepene04 QActually, it wa/4 Mou know the/e hab*/uit/ are really going to 1ake u/ /tick out in
the 9ungle4 Eaybe $ /houl0 point that out to HeuelA &ot that $ think thereP/ 1uch chance wePve
got anything thatPll work 5or 9ungle ca1o but 4444 the/e are blin0ing white4 Bell, 1ine i/nPt
The /uit/ ha0 al/o been 0e/igne0 to keep the1 war1 on the 5ro#en worl0 an0 Keno*!! wa/ clo/e
enough to the /un they all 0i/covere0 very 6uickly that what they nee0e0 were hab*/uit/ to keep
the1 cooler4 =anika wa/ rea0y to /trip her/ o55 by the ti1e theyP0 trekke0 out to the P/trea1P an0
back to the /hip in /earch o5 tool/4 %he 0ebate0 the 1erit/ o5 having /o1ething to protect her /kin
5ro1 the vegetation an0 the in/ect/ a/ oppo/e0 to keeling over 5ro1 heat/troke an0 0eci0e0 to
/ki1 out o5 the /uit4 :er T an0 brie5/ were a/ blin0ing white a/ the hab*/uit, but 1a0e o5 1aterial
that wa/ 1ore incline0 to ab/orb 1oi/ture an0 /he 0oubte0 tho/e woul0 be white very long4
$t tran/pire0 that /he wa/ right4 A5ter little 1ore than an hour /he wa/ liberally /1eare0 5ro1 her
neck to her boot/ with 0irt an0 the /ticky plant /ap that pro0uce0 /treak/ o5 varying /ha0e/ o5
green, purple, an0 yellow, an0 her pale /kin wa/ alrea0y turning re0 5ro1 the /unP/ burning ray/4
%he 0i0nPt know how it wa/ that the guy/ 1anage0 to work without looking like theyP0 been
rolle0 acro// the groun0 when /heP0 picke0 up a little o5 everything /he touche0@
Ok, /o /he wa/ having 1ore trouble walking through the 0a1ne0 tangle o5 0ebri/ than they
were@ %he /uppo/e0 that 1ight account 5or it4
%he ha0 to /ay one thing 5or the guy/4 Bhile theyP0 been 5ar 1ore re/pon/ible 5or clearing the
9ungle in the 5ir/t place, they were al/o 5ar 1ore e55icient in cleaning up their 1i/take4 Bithin a
couple o5 hour/ theyP0 gathere0 up the bo0ie/ o5 the native/ that ha0 attacke0 the1 an0 re1ove0
the1 /everal hun0re0 yar0/ 5urther into the 9ungle an0 tran/plante0 enough vegetation to 5ill in
the 5ir/t /everal yar0/ o5 the clearing theyP0 1a0e4
=anika wa/ pretty e7hau/te0 by the ti1e they were allowe0 to /top to re/t an0 eat the noon 1eal4
Keno*!!P/ gravity wa/ going to take /o1e getting u/e0 to a5ter the lighter gravity on Keno*!2**
an0 the heat4 But /he thought they woul0 have their pre/ence 1o/tly 0i/gui/e0 5ro1 at lea/t
ca/ual ob/ervation by 0u/k**0epen0ing, o5 cour/e, on how 1any hour/ o5 light they actually ha04
%he 0i0nPt have a clue a/ to how long the 0ay/ were on the planet4
%he 0i0nPt reali#e that Heuel wa/ watching their progre// until a little later when he /ent /everal
1ore /6ua0/ to help the1 with their ta/k4 %he wa/ grate5ul /ince /heP0 ha0 ti1e to reali#e that her
e/ti1ate o5 the ti1e it woul0 take wa/ gro//ly opti1i/tic4
Their new ba/e ca1p ha0 been tran/5or1e0 by the ti1e the /un /et4 The outcropping o5 rock that
ha0 attracte0 Heuel to the place to /tart with /ince it o55ere0 /o1e conceal1ent o5 their /hip/ wa/
0eeper than theyP0 at 5ir/t thought4 They were able to 1ove the large/t /hip al1o/t co1pletely
out o5 /ight beneath the overhanging rock an0 /everal o5 the /1aller one/ ha0 been partially
hi00en4 Tho/e not a//igne0 the ta/k o5 repairing the 0a1age to the 9ungle gathere0 a 1i7ture o5
the vegetation that ha0 been cut 0own an0 living plant/ to help conceal the /hip/4
=anika wa/ rea0y to 0rop by the ti1e they were allowe0 to /top 5or the night4 %he al1o/t 5ell
a/leep be5ore /he coul0 5ini/h her 1eal an0 a/ /oon a/ /he ha0, /he hea0e0 to the bunk /heP0 been
a//igne0, crawle0 into it, an0 5ell a/leep in all her gri1e4 %he wa/nPt up to waiting in line 5or u/e
o5 the 5acilitie/, though4
%eth obviou/ly 0i0nPt approve4 $t /ee1e0 /heP0 barely 0roppe0 o55 when he 0ragge0 her out o5 her
bunk again4 QThe 5acilitie/ are available now4Q
Q3reat@ "n9oy@ $P1 going back to be0,Q /he /ai0 in a /leep*/lurre0, 0runken voice4
:e caught her a/ /he /tarte0 trying to cli1b back into her bunk, /wung her into hi/ ar1/ an0
hea0e0 5or the 5acilitie/4
Q=a1n it, %eth@ $5 you throw 1e in the water $P1 going to beat the 5uck out o5 you@Q /he /narle04
:e chuckle04 $t wa/ /uch an une7pecte0 /oun0 that it brought her eye/ open4 QMou coul0 not beat
the 5uck out o5 1e i5 you were not e7hau/te04Q
A/ irritate0 a/ /he wa/, hi/ a1u/e1ent, in/tea0 o5 1aking her 1a00er, appeale0 to her /en/e o5
the ri0iculou/4 Q$Pll /till try4Q
QMou will 5eel better when you have bathe04 An0 you will /leep better4Q
Q$ wa/ uncon/ciou/ when you 0ragge0 1e out o5 the 5ucking bunk,Q /he 1uttere0, her ire ri/ing
to the 5ore5ront once 1ore4 Q$t canPt get better than that@Q
:e /too0 her on her 5eet4 Bhen /he wavere0 0runkenly, he /lippe0 one ar1 aroun0 her an0
pulle0 her clo/e again/t hi/ /i0e while he a09u/te0 the water4
=anika knew heP0 only 0one it to prevent her 5ro1 5alling4 %he knew /he /houl0 be way too tire0
to 5eel any intere/t at all in the 5act that /he wa/ pla/tere0 again/t hi1 hal5 nake0, but /he
/uppo/e0, later, that it wa/ the very 5act that /he wa/ too tire0 to think /traight to begin with that
1a0e her /o con/ciou/ o5 hi14 The war1th o5 /en/ual awarene// ha0 alrea0y begun to threa0 itP/
gho/tly 5inger/ along her nerve en0ing/ an0 /tru1 the1 be5ore /he ha0 ti1e to con/i0er
con/ciou/ly an0 1ake any 0eci/ion at all4 $n/tinct/ ha0 taken over4 :er wearine// envelope0 her
in a 5u##y /ort o5 cocoon that /hiel0e0 her 5ro1 awarene// beyon0 the two o5 the14
A/ /oon a/ the war1 water began to ca/ca0e over the1 an0 %eth began to rub hi/ 5ree han0 over
her the vague war1th 5lowere0 into 5ull blown heat4 =anika /wallowe0 a little convul/ively,
/truggling then to /hut her 1in0 to the 5eel o5 hi/ han0 coa/ting over her an0 the bru/h o5 her
/kin again/t hi/ with each breath /he took4
Belate0ly, rea/on trie0 to a//ert it/el54 :i/ touch 5elt goo0 an0 the 0e/ire 5or 1ore wa/ like a 0rug
in her /y/te14
But thi/ wa/ %eth4 They worke0 together**worke0 well together, /he thought4 $5 /he /teppe0
acro// the invi/ible line between the1 that woul0 change an0 /he 1ight not like the change4 An0
there woul0 be no going back4
$t woul0Pve been ba0 enough to con/i0er it i5 he wa/ a/ hu1an a/ /he wa/, but he wa/nPt4 :e
ha0nPt gotten the chance to 1ature naturally4 Bho knew what /ort o5 p/ychological 0a1age he
ha0 5ro1 what ha0 been 0one to hi1A Bho knew how he 1ight react**both in the /hort ter1 an0
long range 5ro1 what /he wa/ thinkingA :e wa/ /till trying to co1e to grip/ with everything el/e
that wa/ new to hi14
An0 yet, when he ea/e0 /lightly away 5ro1 her an0 looke0 0own at her, /he coul0nPt re/i/t
looking up at hi14 Bhen /he 0i0, rea/on 5le04 =e/ire 5lare0 higher a/ /he /tu0ie0 the har/h plane/
o5 hi/ 5ace an0 the 0arkne// o5 hi/ ga#e that tol0 her he wa/ a/ arou/e0 a/ /he wa/4
Dor /everal 1o1ent/, /he wa/ /i1ply en/nare0 by hi/ ga#e an0 the pro1i/e o5 plea/ure4 "ven a/
rea/on thru/t it/el5 5orwar0 again an0 her in/tinct/ pro1pte0 her to 1ove away 5ro1 hi1, he
lowere0 hi/ hea0 towar0/ her4
%he knew he 1eant to ki// her an0 her throat went 0ry with want4 %he he/itate0, reluctant to
1ove away then4
Ou/t a ki//, /he tol0 her/el54
:e 1ight be angry an0 hurt i5 /he re9ecte0 hi1 5lat out4
One ki// wa/nPt going to rock their worl0 an0 /crew everything up4
$t woul0 be awkwar0 an0 0i/appointing 5or both o5 the1 an0 then they coul0 get pa/t their
curio/ity an0 0i/co15ort an0 that woul0 be the en0 o5 that4
$t wa/nPt her he wante0, /he tol0 her/el54 :e wa/ 9u/t naturally curiou/ an0 /he wa/ available4
%he al1o/t 5elt like /heP0 ina0vertently /teppe0 on a livewire when their lip/ 1et4 The 9olt that
went through her /o thoroughly rattle0 her that her 1in0 ha0 turne0 to 1u/h be5ore he even
0eepene0 the ki//4 =arkne// threatene0 to ri/e up an0 engul5 her4
%he 0i0nPt even know how /he ca1e to be 5lattene0 again/t the /hower wall with %eth pre//ing
again/t her /o tightly /he 5elt like her bo0y wa/ 1el0ing with hi/4 %he wa/ certainly aware,
though, that the thick ri0ge o5 5le/h /he coul0 5eel wa/ 1ile/ 5ro1 where /he wante0 it4
"vi0ently, %eth reali#e0 that at about the /a1e ti1e /he 0i04 :i/ han0/ tightene0 at her wai/t an0
he hoi/te0 her up the wall4 %he loope0 her ar1/ tightly aroun0 hi/ /houl0er/ to keep 5ro1
/lipping 0own again an0 curle0 her leg/ aroun0 hi/ wai/t4
Gn5ortunately, /he coul0 5eel the hea0 o5 hi/ cock pro00ing her in the a// then**/outh o5
/ati/5action@ %eth 1anage0 to peel her wet T lo/e an0 pal1e0 one o5 her brea/t/, /6uee#ing it
lightly4 $t co1pletely 0iverte0 her 5ro1 her 5rantic /earch o5 her 1in0 5or the logi/tic/ o5 how to
1ount hi1 without lo/ing her grip an0 hitting the 5loor4 :i/ 5inger/ pinche0 the tip a/ he
1a//age0 her brea/t, /en0ing current/ o5 /en/ation /hi11ying through her belly4
Keeping her/el5 anchore0 to hi1 with one ar1, /he reache0 between the1 to try to peel her T*
/hirt up 5ar enough to give hi1 acce// to both brea/t/4 :e took the hint4 Breaking the ki//, he
/hove0 one han0 un0er her a//, caught her T*/hirt, an0 peele0 it over her hea04 $t hung by one
ar14 %heP0 9u/t /witche0 her grip to get ri0 o5 it when %eth boo/te0 her higher up the wall an0
covere0 one o5 her brea/t/ with hi/ 1outh**al1o/t co1pletely4
=i/concerte0 by how /1all her brea/t/ /u00enly /ee1e0, /anity e1erge0 brie5ly an0 /he 5elt
her/el5 cool by /everal 0egree/4 $t la/te0 until the 5ir/t pull o5 hi/ 1outh4 %ince the lava 5low that
create0 coinci0e0 with the abrupt reali#ation that %eth co1pletely 0war5e0 her /he 1anage0 to
re0irect her 1in0 5ro1 the 0i/co15iting /en/e o5 ina0e6uacy to the plea/ure he wa/ creating
in/i0e o5 her4 %he went back to 1in0le// appreciation 5or the heate0 current/ he wa/ /tirring
in/i0e o5 her an0 the /wi5tly ri/ing 0e/ire to connect 1ore 5ully with hi1 an0 5eel hi1 in/i0e o5
That thought, a/ /oon a/ it 1anage0 to connect in her 1u/hy brain, pro1pte0 a /earch 5or the
cock4 %he coul0nPt 5in0 anything but the by now /oggy brie5/ he wa/ wearing an0 coul0nPt even
i0enti5y what part o5 hi/ anato1y /he wa/ 5eeling beyon0 the 5act that it wa/ below hi/ wai/t4
Apparently her /earch put hi1 in 1in0 o5 what wa/ lacking, though4 :e began groping at
/o1ething below her an0 a 5ew 1o1ent/ later /he 5elt /o1ething that /ee1e0 to be vaguely the
right /hape**e7cept twice a/ big a/ /heP0 e7pecte0**pro00ing at her cle5t4
$5 /he ha0nPt been in the grip/ o5 high 5ever by then /he thought that 1ight have brought /anity
back4 Bell, the /i#e o5 it an0 the 5act that the entrance wa/ /till blocke0 an0 he wa/ apparently
too 5ar gone to 5igure out why he wa/nPt 1aking any progre//4 All /he coul0 really think about,
though, a/ he began alternately trying to /hove hi/ cock in/i0e o5 her an0 then trying to /hove her
0own over it wa/ that, even i5 he /uccee0e0, /he 0i0nPt want her 0a1ne0 pantie/ u/e0 a/ a
5ucking con0o1@
Q%eth@Q /he ga/pe0 hoar/ely4 QThe cloth@ Ey brie5/ 4444Q
:e relea/e0 the brea/t heP0 been /ucking, li5te0 hi/ hea0 an0 /tare0 at her blankly 5or /everal
/econ0/4 Abruptly, he /hi5te0 hi/ grip on her an0 gra/pe0 her brie5/, trying to peel the1 o55 even
though her leg/ were /till coile0 tightly aroun0 hi/ wai/t4
&aturally enough, that 0i0nPt work, but he 0i0 1anage to pull the1 0own enough to /hove hi/
cock pa/t the 5abric barrier an0 connect /kin to /kin4 Gnco15ortable, but va/tly relieve0 that he at
lea/t wa/nPt trying to /hove her pantie/ up her, =anika toye0 with the i0ea o5 0i/1ounting
co1pletely long enough to get ri0 o5 the 0a1ne0 brie5/ an0 0i/car0e0 it when he 1anage0 to
plow pa/t the entrance o5 her /e7 an0 we0ge the hea0 o5 hi/ cock in/i0e o5 her4
The burn o5 /kin /tretche0 to it/ li1it caught her attention an0 hel0 it4 %heP0 begun to think that,
0e/pite the natural lubrication all o5 hi/ ki//e/ ha0 pro0uce0, the 1ountain wa/nPt
/ur1ountable 444 5or her, anyway, when he 1anage0 to /ink 0eeply enough they pa//e0 the point
o5 no return4
.lea/urable heat rapi0ly overtook the 0i/co15ort a/ he 0elve0 0eeply, with0rew, an0 plunge0
in/i0e o5 her again4 The rhyth1ic gli0e wa/ 1e/1eri#ing, enthralling enough /he 1anage0 to
clo/e her 1in0 to everything el/e an0 5ocu/ on the buil0ing ten/ion in/i0e o5 her in re/pon/e to
hi/ pu11eling a//ault4 %he wa/ getting clo/e to her goal when /he 5elt hi1 /ti55en4 :i/ cock
twitche0 in/i0e o5 her in warning o5 i11inent e7plo/ion4
%he ten/e0, 5eeling a /en/e o5 0e5eat engul5 her a/ it hit her that /he wa/nPt going to 1ake it
be5ore he ca1e4
:e /toppe0 abruptly4 Breathing heavily, he he/itate0 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/ an0 began to /aw /lowly
in an0 out o5 her4
$t 5ru/trate0 =anika, but /he coul0 5eel the ri/e o5 hope5ul ten/ion once 1ore4 %he 9u/t nee0e0 it
har0 an0 5a/t like be5ore4 %he /truggle0 with the urge to 0e1an0 it, trie0 to hol0 onto her patience
an0 5ocu/ on the plea/ure /he 5elt4
%he wa/ rewar0e0 a5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/ with the rhyth1 /he nee0e04 :e picke0 up the pace,
boo/te0 her higher, clo/er4 :e increa/e0 the pace until he wa/ poun0ing in to her /o /wi5tly that it
/hot her towar0 her cli1a74 The wave/ o5 bli// that cra/he0 over her when /he abruptly reache0
her cri/i/ were /o har0 that /he coul0nPt /ee1 to contain it4 %he groane0, long an0 low, her crie/
gathering in volu1e an0 pitch a/ the convul/ion/ racke0 her4
A/ /he cre/te0, 5elt %eth begin to /hu00er with hi/ own cli1a7, /he /u00enly beca1e aware that
her 0elighte0 crie/ were bouncing back at her in the 0a1ne0 cha1ber4 $t brought her 0own 5ro1
her high /o abruptly it wa/ 0i##ying4

Chapter Twelve
=anika ha0 known /he wa/ probably going to regret giving in to her 0e/ire4 %he 9u/t ha0nPt
e7pecte0 col0 reality to hit her 6uite /o har0 or /o 6uickly4
Bhile %eth wa/ en9oying the a5ter1ath o5 hi/ cli1a7, /he wa/ li/tening 5or any /oun0 that 1ight
in0icate /heP0 been vocali#ing her plea/ure lou0 enough to wake the 0ea0**the /leeper/ in the
0a1ne0 crew 6uarter/ not ten 5eet 5ro1 the 5ucking bathing 5acilitie/@
$t wa/ /o 6uiet, /he knew i11e0iately that the /pray o5 the /hower ha0nPt been lou0 enough to
cover her yo0eling4 A/ that /ank in, /he 5elt her 5ace heat an0 the blu/h 0i0nPt /top at her neck4
%he 5elt hot all over an0 it ha0 nothing to 0o with 0e/ire at all@
QOh 1y go0@ Oh /hit@ 2et 1e 0own@Q /he hi//e0, /truggling to /hove %eth away4
:e leane0 away, /tare0 at her blankly 5or a 1o1ent an0 5inally pulle0 out, allowing her to /li0e
0own until her 5eet touche0 the 5loor4 %he wa/ /o wobbly legge0 an0 the 5loor /o /lick with
water, /he /ki00e0, bu1ping again/t the wall har0 enough the /oun0 echoe0 o55 the wall/4
%he cringe04
QBhat i/ wrongAQ
=anika /hook her hea0, /truggling to think o5 /o1ething /he coul0 /ay to convince anybo0y
li/tening that /he ha0nPt been /crewing in the /hower@ &othing ca1e to her4 QThat wa/ /tupi0,Q
/he 1uttere04
%eth caught her ar1 a/ /he looke0 aroun0 0i/tracte0ly, won0ering i5 /he /houl0 /tay in the
5acilitie/ long enough to creep back to her bunk an0 prevent everybo0y on the 0a1ne0 /hip 5ro1
knowing it wa/ her an0 %eth in the /hower4 That thought gave her /o1e hope4 All o5 the wo1en
were on the /a1e /hip, a5ter all@ $t coul0 have been any o5 the1@
The look /he /aw on %ethP/ 5ace al1o/t penetrate0 her e1barra//1ent4 :e looke0 444 con5u/e0,
hurt, an0 vaguely angry4 Q$ 0i0 /o1ething 444 wrongAQ
%he clappe0 a han0 over hi/ 1outh to /ilence hi14 Q2etP/ 0onPt talk about it right now, okAQ /he
:i/ 0ark brow/ /la11e0 together over the bri0ge o5 hi/ no/e, but he 0i0nPt atte1pt to /ay
anything el/e4
Q$ got a real proble1 right now, anyway,Q /he 1uttere04 QEy clothe/ are /oake04 $ 0onPt have
anything to put on4Q
%eth looke0 0own at hi/ own /hort/4
:e wa/ /till hanging out o5 the1, =anika 0i/covere0 when /he 5ollowe0 hi/ ga#e4 An0 he either
ha0nPt cu1 like /heP0 thought or he alrea0y ha0 another raging har0*on4
%he revi/e0 that once /heP0 pulle0 her brie5/ 0own an0 wrung the water out o5 the14 :eP0
0e5initely cu1@
The a//hole@
%he wa/nPt /ure /he like0 the way the 0a1ne0 thing ha0 leapt right back up@ $t /ure a/ hell 0i0nPt
/ee1 to in0icate a lot /ati/5action@
%he, on the other han0, wa/ co1pletely /ati/5ie0 an0 co1pletely unintere/te0 in whether he wa/
rea0y to go again or not@
:er T an0 brie5/ were /till way too wet to be co15ortable even a5ter /heP0 wrung a/ 1uch water
out a/ /he coul0 an0 /too0 in/i0e the 0ryer until her /kin an0 hair wa/ 0ry4 %he conte1plate0
/taying longer, but her /kin wa/ alrea0y /tinging 5ro1 the /unburn4
The up/i0e to the /ituation wa/ that /he 5igure0 everybo0y woul0Pve ha0 ti1e to go back to
/leep**/he hope04
=anika knew a/ /oon a/ they were /u11one0 to report to the 1e// 5or 5oo0 an0 then turn out 5or
work 0etail the 5ollowing 1orning that /heP0 been too horribly right4 %heP0 1a0e enough racket
to wake up everybo0y /leeping in the hol0</leeping 6uarter/4 Eo/t o5 the 1en /i1ply /tare0 at
her a/ i5 they were trying to 5igure out why /heP0 been caterwauling4 The wo1en either woul0nPt
look at her at all or they /1irke0 knowingly, which 1a0e her want to knock the /1irk/ o55 their
%heila wa/ the only one that ha0 the nerve to approach her 0irectly, however4
Q%o,Q /he /ai0 pau/ing on her way out o5 the 1e//, Qhow wa/ itAQ
=anika 5elt her 5ace 5la1e in/tantly4 QBhatAQ /he a/ke0, trying to preten0 /he 0i0nPt have a clue
o5 what the wo1an wa/ talking about4
%heila gave her a look4 QOh co1e on@ The /hower/ werenPt that 0a1ne0 goo0@ At lea/t not when
$ took 1ine4Q
%he /uppo/e0 i5 /he put her 5i/t in %heilaP/ 5ace it woul0nPt be con/i0ere0 a//aulting a /uperior
now that Heuel ha0 1a0e her captain 444 an0 it wa/ te1pting4 On the other han0, /he wa/ /till
1ore intent on preten0ing it ha0 never happene0 than re1oving all 0oubt an0 be/i0e/ that Heuel
wa/ alrea0y unhappy with her 0ue to the 5ire5ight with hi/ groun0cover the 0ay be5ore4
A/ i5 the thought ha0 con9ure0 hi1 or**horror o5 horror/ heP0 alrea0y hear0@**/he /aw Heuel
/tri0ing towar0 the /hip a/ /he le5t it4 %he wa/ on the point o5 trying to preten0 /he ha0nPt /een
hi1 when he li5te0 a han0 an0 /u11one0 her4
%he pre/ente0 her/el5 reluctantly4 QMe/, %irAQ /he /ai0 unea/ily4
QCo1e with 1e4Q
:e 0i0nPt wait to /ee i5 /he woul04 :e /i1ply kept going an0 /tarte0 cli1bing the rock/ towar0
the /u11it o5 the rocky crag theyP0 u/e0 to conceal the /hip/4 :oping he 0i0nPt inten0 to go all
the way to the top /ince /he wa/nPt really keen on height/, =anika 5ollowe0 hi14 :e pau/e0 on a
le0ge about hal5 way up, 1ove0 to the e0ge an0 /tare0 0own at their enca1p1ent4 Apparently
/ati/5ie0, he turne0 an0 ge/ture0 5or her to 9oin hi14
Curiou/, =anika 1ove0 clo/er an0 /too0 /taring 0own, a/ well4
Q$ have nee0 o5 the hu1an eye an0 $ tru/t you4 2ook clo/ely an0 /ee how well we have 0one in
concealing our pre/ence4Q
A/ co1prehen/ion 0awne0, =anika 5ocu/e0 on the view below in an entirely 0i55erent way4 $t
wa/ har0 to be ob9ective, /he 0i/covere0, when /he knew what wa/ below, but /he 5ocu/e0 on
looking 5or anything that really /too0 out4 Q$ 0onPt think anybo0y woul0 /ee it unle// they were
/peci5ically looking 5or it,Q /he /ai0 5inally4 Q$ 1ean the /hip/ or the e6uip1ent4 $tP/ pretty ea/y to
/ee everybo0y working becau/e their /uit/ are /o white an0 nothing el/e i/4 An0 $ think we 1ight
ought to get ri0 o5 the vegetation we cut 0own4 $ canPt /ee it 5ro1 here, but itP/ alrea0y /tarting to
look wilte04 $tPll look 0ea0 /oon an0 then itPll probably be a lot 1ore noticeable4Q
Heuel, /he /aw when /he glance0 at hi1, wa/ 5rowning4 :e no00e04 Q$P0 thought 1uch the
/a1e4Q :e pau/e0 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 Q%o1e o5 the1 know we have /hip/4 $ think we 1u/t
a//u1e there will /till be /urvivor/ when the Con5e0eration /hip/ arrive an0 that that will not
re1ain a /ecret long4Q :e looke0 0i/gu/te04 Q$ ha0 hope0 4444 But we 1u/t work with what we
have to work with4 2et u/ hope that the 0eter1ination o5 a 5ew to re/cue the wo1en 5ro1 our
5or1er battalion will not co/t u/ all**an0 work to 0o what we can to prevent that4
QBe 1u/t /ee what we can 0o about the /uit/4 %o1e o5 the vegetation /taine0 your /kin ye/ter0ay
when you were working4 Eayhap it can be u/e0 to 1ake the hab*/uit/ a little le// blin0ingly
whiteA $ will let you e7peri1ent with that4Q
=anika no00e0 an0 turne0 to go4
QAh 444 Captain 4444 Eayhap a little 1ore 0i/cretion ne7t ti1eAQ
=anika whippe0 a /harp look at hi1, 5eeling her 5ace heat4 Q%irAQ
:u1or glea1e0 in hi/ eye/ 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/ an0 then he looke0 away, /tu0ying the /cene
below the14 QThere are no 0oubt /trange an0 won0er5ul creature/ on thi/ worl04 $ believe $ hear0
the 1ating call o5 one la/t eve when $ wa/ 1aking 1y 5inal roun0/4 $ pointe0 it out to the 1en4
Q$t woul0 be 444 intere/ting to e7plore an0 1ayhap we will have the opportunity, but $ have grave
0oubt/ that that will be the ca/e4 A/ /ol0ier/ we have live0 each 0ay with the po//ibility that it
will be our la/t4 $ 5ear we will /ee 1any 1ore o5 tho/e 0ay/ be5ore we 5in0 a place 5or our/elve/**
a place where we 1ight have the peace to e7plore the won0er5ul gi5t o5 li5e with /o1e /urety that
we will have to1orrow/, a/ well, but then again that i/ all the 1ore rea/on to en9oy what we can
while we 1ay4Q
:e turne0 to look at her again4 QBithin rea/on an0 /o long a/ it 0oe/ not in0uce a lack o5 caution
or a break0own o5 0i/cipline or 1orale4Q
=anika no00e04 QMe/, %ir4 Thank you, %ir4Q
QMouPre 0i/1i//e0, Captain4Q
=anika wa/ too 5ocu/e0 on her e1barra//1ent a/ /he 1a0e the cli1b 0own to think about the
other thing/ Heuel ha0 /ai0, but a/ /he reache0 the ca1p area again an0 looke0 aroun0 5or her
/6ua0 the re/t o5 it began to tu1ble aroun0 in her 1in04
%he ha0 been in the habit ever /ince /heP0 been in0ucte0 into the 1ilitary to /i1ply 0o what /he
wa/ tol0 an0 look to the 5uture when /he woul0 be relea/e0 an0 allowe0 to return ho1e4 %heP0
known there wa/ a po//ibility that /he 1ight be kille0 in action an0 never go back, but /heP0
re5u/e0 to 0well on that po//ibility4 %he ha0nPt 5ore/een any other /ituation that woul0 1ake that
$t occurre0 to her abruptly, though, that /he ha0nPt ha0 1ore than a vague i0ea o5 what /he woul0
0o with her li5e when an0 i5 /he 0i0 get the chance to go back4 %heP0 5igure0 /he woul0 5in0
/o1eone to /ettle with, a li5e partner, an0 buil0 a ho1e/tea0 like her parent/ ha0**have chil0ren4
But there ha0nPt been anyone /pecial in her li5e when /heP0 le5t, no one to yearn 5or, no one to
picture at her /i0e a/ /he built the li5e her parent/ ha0 5or her/el54
%he /uppo/e0 that wa/ why /he ha0nPt been 0eva/tate0 when it ha0 been borne in upon her that
/he coul0nPt go back**the 5act that /he ha0nPt lo/t a 0rea1 becau/e /heP0 never really ha0 one4 %he
al/o ha0nPt really accepte0 that /he woul0 never get the chance to /ee her 5a1ily again4 "ven with
everything that ha0 happene0, /heP0 care5ully avoi0e0 acknowle0ging the i1po//ibility o5 it4
%he coul0nPt accept that now, but the likelihoo0 that /he woul0 1ake it ho1e again, /ee the
5a1ily /heP0 le5t behin0, 0i11e0 even 1ore4
%he /hook the thought o55, unwilling to 0eal with it until an0 unle// /he ha0 to an0, the go0/
willing, it wa/nPt /o1ething /he woul0 have to accept in the near 5uture4
Eaybe, /he thought, /he woul0 eventually 5in0 a way an0 i5 not ti1e woul0 allow her to accept it
without the /u55ocating /en/e o5 lo// that threatene0 every ti1e /he thought o5 her ho1e an0
$n any ca/e, the /ee0 Heuel ha0 plante0 when heP0 /poken o5 a place an0 a 5uture ha0 5oun0
5ertile groun04
%eth wa/ con5u/e0 an0 angry4 :e wa/ not entirely certain o5 why he 5elt that way an0 that only
0eepene0 the /en/e o5 444 in9ury4
:e wa/ not particularly plea/e0 when he 1anage0 to untangle yet another e1otion 5ro1 the
roiling 1a// that /ee1e0 to be buil0ing in/i0e o5 hi1 towar0 e7plo/ion rather than 0i//ipating4
Becau/e he wa/ not certain o5 why he woul0 5eel in9ure0 any1ore than he un0er/too0 why he
wa/ angry an0 5elt both hollow in hi/ gut an0 at the /a1e ti1e /o 5ille0 with wil0ly 0ivergent an0
power5ul, i5 uni0enti5iable, e1otion/ that he 5elt like he coul0 not contain the1 long without
:e wante0**nee0e0**to 0o /o1ething violent, he 5inally 0eci0e0, looking aroun0 /o1ewhat
hope5ully 5or a po//ibility o5 venting4 Bhen he 0i0, he 0i/covere0 that both =ane an0 &ile/ were
looking at hi1 in a way that provoke0 hi1 even 1ore4
QBhatAQ he growle04 QMou have a proble1AQ
$t wa/ too 1uch 5or =ane4 $t wa/ ba0 enough that he ha0 lain awake li/tening while %eth /e7e0
=anika a/ he ha0 been longing to 0o ever /ince he ha0 5inally 1anage0 to 0ecipher the urge that
1a0e hi/ 1in0 turn to 1u/h every ti1e he looke0 at =anika@ $t wa/ ba0 enough that he ha0
/carcely /lept at all a5terwar0 5or the pain in hi/ groin an0 the i1age/ that kept hi/ 1in0 alive an0
hi/ bo0y re/tle//@ But to be /narle0 at by the very ba/tar0 that ha0 taken what he ha0 wante0 wa/
the out/i0e o5 enough@ :e /wung at hi1 with every intention o5 taking hi/ hea0 o55 o5 hi/
%eth 0ucke0 at the la/t /econ0, in5uriating hi1 5urther4
Q&ot here@Q %eth growle04 QBe will en0 in the brig an0 then there will be no one to guar0
=anikaP/ back@Q
Q$ 0o not think that it wa/ her back that you were guar0ing in the /hower la/t eve@Q &ile/ /narle04
%eth 1a0e the 1i/take o5 grinning at &ile/ provokingly4
=ane u/e0 hi/ 0i/traction to trip hi14 %eth 0ouble*/teppe0, trying to regain hi/ balance, an0 &ile/
kicke0 hi/ other 5oot out 5ro1 un0er hi14 :e /la11e0 into the groun0 har0 enough he /ki00e0
nearly a yar0 an0 &ile/ an0 =ane e7change0 a look o5 /ati/5action4 QMou /houl0 watch your
/tep,Q =ane cautione04 QThe groun0 i/ treacherou/ here4Q
Q$t wa/ not the groun0 that trippe0 1e@Q %eth /nappe0 5uriou/ly4
Q$t looke0 that way to 1e,Q =ane retorte04
Q$ thought /o,Q &ile/ /econ0e0 hi14
%eth glare0 at both o5 the1 an0 /talke0 o55 into the 9ungle4 :e wa/ waiting 5or the1 perhap/ 5i5ty
yar0/ beyon0 the ba/e peri1eter4 2eaping out 5ro1 the cover o5 a tree when they were al1o/t
even with hi1, he 1anage0 to /lug both o5 the1 har0 enough to /et the1 back on their heel/4
Gttering a roar o5 rage, =ane, who recovere0 5ir/t, charge0 hi1, /la11ing into hi1 har0 enough
that hi/ weight an0 1o1entu1 carrie0 both o5 the1 /everal yar0/ 5urther be5ore they cra/he0
into the un0ergrowth4 %eth 1anage0 to twi/t a/ they 5ell /o that they lan0e0 /i0e by /i0e rather
than with =ane on top a/ heP0 inten0e04 They wre/tle0 5or 0o1inance 5or /everal 1o1ent/ an0
%eth 1anage0 to gain the upper han04 %tra00ling =ane, he began poun0ing at hi/ 5ace with hi/
5i/t/4 =ane trie0 to catch %ethP/ 5lying 5i/t/, but /ince the 5ir/t blow ha0 /plit the /kin above
=aneP/ eye, he wa/ too blin0e0 by the bloo0 5or that to be e55ective4 Bhen he 0i/covere0 he
coul0nPt 1anage 1ore than blocking one out o5 three punche/, he began poun0ing hi/ 5i/t/
again/t %ethP/ /i0e/ an0 trying to buck hi1 o554
A5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/ o5 watching, &ile/ /teppe0 5orwar0 an0 /lugge0 %eth on the 9aw, toppling
hi1 o55 o5 =ane4 =ane i11e0iately /cra1ble0 to hi/ 5eet, /crubbe0 an ar1 acro// hi/ 5ace to
clear hi/ vi/ion an0 charge0 %eth again4 %eth 1anage0 to get to hi/ 5eet 9u/t in ti1e to catch
=aneP/ hea0 in hi/ belly4 $t knocke0 the breath 5ro1 hi14 :i/ 5eet 5lew out 5ro1 un0er hi1 an0
he hit the groun0**rolling4
=ane 0ove at hi1 an0 only 1anage0 to plow the groun0 where %eth ha0 been 1o1ent/ be5ore4
Hegaining hi/ 5eet be5ore =ane coul0, %eth ai1e0 /everal well place0 kick/ at =aneP/ belly a/ he
pu/he0 hi1/el5 to hi/ han0/ an0 knee/, kicking hi1 har0 enough to li5t hi1 5ro1 the groun0 with
each blow4
A roar o5 rage re1in0e0 %eth that &ile/ /till waite0 i1patiently in the wing/ to kick hi/ a//4 "ven
a/ he turne0 to 1eet the new threat, &ile/ /la11e0 into hi14 They hit the groun0 together,
plowing up /everal 5eet o5 vegetation be5ore they /toppe04 &ile/, on top, 1anage0 to rear up 5ar
enough to /lug %eth in the 5ace /everal ti1e/ be5ore %eth threw hi1 o554
Gnable to prevent %eth 5ro1 pitching hi1 o55, &ile/ u/e0 the 1o1entu1 to roll up onto hi/ 5eet
an0 then /urge0 towar0 %eth a/ %eth got to hi/ 5eet4
=ane 5oun0 a place to re/t while he waite0 5or hi/ turn with %eth again4 :e wa/ win0e0**no
/urpri/e when the at1o/phere wa/ thicker than he wa/ accu/to1e0 to4 :e wa/ /till too angry to
be very aware o5 the pain %eth ha0 in5licte0, but neither coul0 he co1pletely 0i/1i// the
poun0ing in every area where %ethP/ 5i/t/ ha0 connecte04 %o1e /ati/5action 5ille0 hi1, though,
that hi/ 5i/t/ were al/o poun0ing with pain an0 the re5lection that heP0 in5licte0, not 1erely
By the ti1e %eth ha0 1anage0 to beat &ile/ to a /tan0/till hi/ pain ha0 rece0e04 Curiou/ly, hi/
anger ha0, a/ well an0 he 1a0e no atte1pt to get to hi/ 5eet to re/u1e the 5ight even though heP0
inten0e0 to when heP0 /ettle0 to re/t4 %eth, a5ter /taring at hi1 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/ to /ee i5 he
woul0 get up, looke0 aroun0 a little vaguely an0 5inally /taggere0 to another tree, plante0 hi/
back again/t the trunk, an0 /li0 0own to /it an0 catch hi/ breath4
=e/pite her 0i/traction, it 0i0nPt take =anika long to 5igure out that her entire /6ua0 wa/ 1i//ing4
=eci0ing that they 1ight have gone 0own to the /trea1 to collect water to 5ini/h the 9ob theyP0
been a//igne0 the 0ay be5ore, /he hea0e0 in that 0irection4 %heP0 reache0 the trickle o5 water
be5ore /he hear0 the /oun0/ in0icating a 5ierce 5ight4 :er heart leapt into her throat4 :er 5ir/t gut
reaction wa/ to /oun0 the alar1, but there wa/ /o1ething about the /oun0/ that gave her pau/e4
There wa/ no gun5ire, nothing but grunt/, growl/, an0 1eaty thu0/4
$t /oun0e0 like a 5i/t5ight, the /ort o5 brawl the troop/ ha0 in0ulge0 in 5airly regularly when
0i/cipline ha0 begun to 0eteriorate at the ba/e on Keno*!24
:er guy/ woul0nPt be 5ighting, though4
A5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/, /he 0eci0e0 /he at lea/t nee0e0 to check it out to /ee what wa/ going on4
%hi5ting her ri5le 5ro1 her /houl0er, /he began to 1ove /tealthily towar0 the /oun0/ /he coul0
hear4 $t took her a while to work her way to the area, partly becau/e o5 her certainty that /he
0i0nPt want to announce her approach 9u/t in ca/e it wa/ the native/ an0 partly becau/e it wa/
0i55icult in the 9ungle to be ab/olutely certain o5 the 0irection the /oun0/ were co1ing 5ro14
By the ti1e /he 5inally arrive0, /he 0i/covere0 that =ane, %eth, an0 &ile/ were all /itting4 Deeling
per5ectly blank, /he /canne0 the 1en an0 then the area4 $t wa/ clear not only 5ro1 their con0ition
but 5ro1 the con0ition o5 the 5ore/t that /he ha0nPt been 1i/taken about a 5ight in progre// but
/he 0i0nPt /ee anybo0y but her guy/4 QBhat the hell happene0 hereAQ /he 0e1an0e0 a/ the 5ir/t
/hock wore o554
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all looke0 at her with a 1i7ture o5 guilt an0 /o1ething el/e /he coul0nPt
6uite 5atho1 an0 then they looke0 at one another a/ i5 /earching 5or an an/wer4
QBe 0eci0e0 that we ha0 nee0 o5 practice at /parring4 Be have been i0le 5or 5ar too long,Q %eth
/ai0, /en0ing a glare in the 0irection o5 the other two 1en a/ i5 0aring the1 to 0i/pute hi/ clai14
=anika gape0 at hi1 in 0i/belie5 an0 then /urveye0 the other two 1en4 Q%parringAQ /he
re/pon0e0 0oubt5ully, cro//ing the clearing they ha0 1a0e to a/certain the e7tent o5 the 0a1age4
All that backbreaking work the 0ay be5ore ha0nPt been enough to relieve their bore0o1 5ro1
inactivityA Q2ook at the 1e// youPve 1a0e@ Be havenPt even 5ini/he0 4444Q %he broke o55 abruptly
a/ /he caught a glint o5 /o1ething through the bru/h perhap/ 5i5ty yar0/ or /o 5ro1 where they
were /tan0ing4 Docu/ing on it, unnerve0 at 5ir/t by the 5ear that /heP0 caught a 5la/h o5 /unlight
on 1etal**a/ in weapon**/he 5inally reali#e0 that it wa/ water4 Q:ey@ $ think thereP/ a lake over
=i/1i//ing the proble1 with the guy/ 5or the 1o1ent, /he began pu/hing her way through the
9ungle towar0 the bo0y o5 water /he thought /heP0 /pie04
%eth watche0 her 0eparture with a 1i7ture o5 wearine//, unea/ine//, an0 in0ignation4 $5 he ha0
not known better, he woul0 have thought that he ha0 only 0rea1e0 what ha0 pa//e0 between
the1 the night be5ore@ :e wa/ certain that /he /houl0 behave 0i55erently towar0 hi1 now4 :e
wa/ not certain in what way /he /houl0 behave 0i55erently, but they ha0 /e7e0 one another the
night be5ore an0 he 0i0 not 5eel the /a1e, there5ore /he /houl0 not 5eel the /a1e@
:e ha0 been certain that he ha0 plea/e0 her4 %he ha0 reacte0 9u/t a/ hi/ /i1ulation/ in hi/
progra11ing ha0 0e/cribe0 orga/14 Actually, not preci/ely but /he ha0 0i/playe0 behavior that
/ugge/te0 orga/1 444 e7cept /he ha0 not /ee1e0 to e7perience po/t coital lethargy or war1th
towar0 hi1, her partner4
That part ha0 been bothering hi1 /ince an0 he 5oun0 hi1/el5 unable to 0i/1i// it a/ i11aterial,
particularly now that ti1e ha0 pa//e0 an0 /he 0i0 not /ee1 1ore war1 an0 5rien0ly towar0 hi1
than /he ha0 be5ore4 %he 0i0 not /ee1 to be e7hibiting any behavior that in0icate0 that /he ha0
either en9oye0 it or ha0 intere/t in repeating the e7perience an0 he ha0 the unea/y 5eeling that
that 1eant /he ha0 not en9oye0 it an0 ha0 no intere/t in repeating the e7perience4
:e wa/ certain that he ha0 0one all the thing/ that were known to /ti1ulate plea/ure4
:e wa/ al1o/t certain4 There wa/ nothing in the /i1ulation/ to in0icate that he woul0 5eel
plea/ure hi1/el5 an0 he ha0 5elt a very great 0eal o5 it, /o 1uch, in point o5 5act, that he coul0 not
recall very clearly what he ha0 0one4
:e ha0 ki//e0 her lip/ an0 care//e0 her to arou/e her4 :e recalle0 that very clearly becau/e he
ha0 1ore than hal5 e7pecte0 that /he woul0 punch hi1 in the gut when he atte1pte0 it an0 ha0
been both very /urpri/e0 an0 very plea/e0 when /he ha0 not4 :e ha0 waite0 to /ee i5 /he woul0
pu/h hi1 away or otherwi/e in0icate that /he wa/ not willing to procee0 an0 /he ha0 not /o he
ha0 continue0 to care// her an0 ki// her4
:e 5rowne0, trying to recall what el/e he ha0 0one an0 5inally recalle0 that he ha0 ki//e0 her
brea/t/4 :i/ progra11ing in0icate0 that to be an erogenou/ #one with 1o/t wo1en4 %o1e were
1ore /en/itive than other/, but 1o/t 5oun0 it highly arou/ing an0 he thought her behavior ha0
in0icate0 that =anika 0i04
:e ha0 not 1ounte0 her until /he ha0 0i/playe0 behavior in0icating that /he 5oun0 the i0ea
acceptable an0 he wa/ certain he ha0 not 1i/rea0 her behavior4 %he ha0 clung tightly to hi1 an0
actually helpe0 hi1 rather than /crea1ing or 5ighting4
:e 5rowne04 :e ha0 replaye0 the 1e1orie/ over an0 over throughout the night an0 he /till coul0
not 5in0 anything to in0icate he ha0 0one /o1ething wrong4
An0 yet, he 5elt a/ i5 he 1u/t have4
Eayhap the proble1 wa/ that he ha0 only the ba/ic /e70roi0 progra11ing which only inclu0e0
two very /hort /i1ulation/A
Bhen he e1erge0 5ro1 hi/ late/t atte1pt to collate the 0ata he ha0 gathere0 into a
co1prehen/ible report, he reali#e0 that he coul0 no longer hear =anika very well**which 1eant
/he ha0 1ove0 5urther away than he ha0 e7pecte0 her to4
=e/pite hi/ wearine// 5ro1 /parring an0 hi/ /en/e o5 ill*u/age, hi/ unea/ine// 1ove0 to the
5ore5ront4 :e /urge0 to hi/ 5eet then, /training to catch /ight o5 her in the high bru/h4 All he coul0
actually /ee, though, wa/ the 1ove1ent o5 the bru/h to in0icate where /he wa/ an0 that in0icate0
that /he ha0 in0ee0 1ove0 5urther away than he ha0 e7pecte0 that /he woul04
Suelling the urge to call out to her, he /tarte0 a5ter her, 1oving 6uickly to clo/e the 0i/tance
/ince /o1e unna1e0 5ear ha0 grippe0 hi14 =ane an0 &ile/ both got to their 5eet an0 5ollowe04
:e ha0 clo/e0 perhap/ hal5 the 0i/tance that /eparate0 the1 when he hear0 a /erie/ o5 /crea1/
that /ee1e0 to electri5y hi1 an0 chill hi1 to the bone at the /a1e ti1e4 Al1o/t /i1ultaneou/ to
the /crea1/, he caught 1ove1ent an0 /aw creature/ /wing 5ro1 the tree/ on vine/4 :e 0i0 not
/top to analy#e the tra9ectory an0 a/certain their ob9ective4 :e knew what it wa/**=anika@
Gttering a challenging roar, he bur/t into a 5ull run4 The creature/ clinging to the vine/ re/pon0e0
by whipping /tartle0, open*1outhe0 look/ in hi/ 0irection but naturally enough they were
co11itte0 once they ha0 /wung outwar0 an0 coul0 not halt4 $n/tea0, they 0roppe0 5ro1 the
vine/ an0 0i/appeare0 into the high bru/h within yar0/ o5 =anika4
:e thought hi/ roar ha0 alerte0 =anika4 :e hope0 that it ha0 5or he hear0 /oun0/ o5 contact
be5ore he coul0 actually /ee anything4
:e ha0 counte0 /i7 o5 the creature/4 Bhen he arrive0 upon the /cene, he 5oun0 a heaving 1a// o5
5our4 Two were 9u/t picking the1/elve/ up 5ro1 the groun0 an0 /ince =anika wa/ nowhere to be
/een, he knew /he wa/ at the center o5 the 1a//4
$gnoring the two /ince he knew =ane an0 &ile/ were 0irectly behin0 hi1, he 5ocu/e0 on the
1a//, trying to 0eci0e how he coul0 re1ove the1 5ro1 =anika without cau/ing in9ury to her
hi1/el54 %he wa/ /horter than the creature/, though, an0 he 0eci0e0 that he coul0 /trike the hea0
without tran/5erring the power o5 the blow to her4
:e 0i0 not want to /pare the ti1e to try to 0eter1ine how power5ul a blow he /houl0 u/e4 A/ a
con/e6uence, hi/ 5i/t connecte0 with the hea0 neare/t hi1 har0 enough it e7plo0e0 like an egg
an0 /eparate0 co1pletely 5ro1 the bo0y4 The 5rag1ente0 /kull /la11e0 into the hea0 o5 the
creature ne7t to hi1 har0 enough to break it/ neck an0 the two bo0ie/ buckle0 an0 0roppe0 to the
groun04 The two that re1aine0 both hel0 long knive/ an0 he 5ocu/e0 on the knive/, gra/ping the
han0/ that hel0 the1 an0 /napping the bone/ that connecte0 the han0/ to the ar1/4 Both
creature/ /crea1e04 The one whoP0 coile0 an ar1 aroun0 =anikaP/ throat, however, li5te0 her
bo0ily, by her hea0, an0 trie0 to carry her away4 :e caught the creatureP/ wri/t an0 elbow an0
prie0 the1 away 5ro1 =anika, /napping the elbow4 A/ /oon a/ =anika 0roppe0 to the groun0, he
punche0 the creature that ha0 been hol0ing her in the 5ace an0 hi/ hea0 tore 5ree 5ro1 hi/ bo0y
an0 bounce0 away into the gra//4
Bhen a 6uick /urvey a//ure0 hi1 that there wa/ no longer any threat, he 0roppe0 to a crouch to
e7a1ine =anika4 To hi/ con/ternation, he /aw that /he wa/ unnaturally white an0 he 0i0 not have
to touch her to /ee the tre1or/ wracking her bo0y4
QBhere are you 0a1age0AQ

Chapter Thirteen
=anika /tare0 at %eth blankly at the 6ue/tion, trying to 5igure out what he 1eant4 A/ hi/ 1eaning
5inally 5iltere0 through her /hock, however, /he turne0 her 1in0 inwar0, inventorying the
poun0ing ache/ an0 trying to 0eci0e i5 they were actual in9urie/ that woul0 re6uire 1e0ical
attention or 1erely brui/e/4 Q$ think $P1 ok,Q /he /ai0 5inally, Q9u/t bange0 up a little4Q
=i/co15ort o5 a 0i55erent /ort a//aile0 her when /heP0 1anage0 to get /hakily to her 5eet4 %heP0
been 0i/tracte0 by her 0i/covery, but /he ha0nPt been that 0a1ne0 0i/tracte0@ %he 0i0nPt know
how a hal5 a 0o#en pri1itive/ ha0 1anage0 to get the 0rop on her4 %he ha0nPt hear0 the1 until
theyP0 been practically on top o5 her4 QBhere the hell 0i0 they co1e 5ro1AQ
QThe tree/,Q =ane /upplie04
=anika gape0 at hi1 an0 then looke0 up4 %he wa/nPt un0er any tree/@ %he woul0Pve e7a1ine0
the1 5or threat i5 /he ha0 been4 $n 5act /he ha0 /canne0 the area in an0 aroun0 the1 5or any /ign
o5 1ove1ent or lurking /ha0ow/4 The neare/t were at lea/t twenty 5eet away or 1ore4 %he
/houl0Pve hear0 the1**woul0 have, /he wa/ certain**i5 theyP0 charge0 5ro1 the tree/4
QThey u/e0 vine/ an0 /wung 5ro1 the upper branche/ like pri1ate/,Q &ile/ elaborate04
QThere i/ bloo0 here,Q %eth inter9ecte0 be5ore =anika coul0 co11ent4
%he looke0 0own in /urpri/e4 QTheir/, $ gue//4Q
Q&ot their/,Q %eth re/pon0e0 gri1ly4 QTheir bloo0 i/ yellow4Q
=anika blinke0 at %eth a couple o5 ti1e/ while that /ank in an0 then 5elt her knee/ abruptly
%eth caught her, lowering her /lowly to the groun0 an0 then opene0 the /uit to e7a1ine the
woun04 Q$t i/ not blee0ing ba0ly**now**but $ cannot tell how 0eep it i/ without prying it open or
a/certain whether organ/ were co1pro1i/e0 or not4Q :e 5rowne04 Q$ think it will be be/t to take
you back to the /hip to ten0 the woun04 They are na/ty creature/4 $ believe we 1u/t be concerne0
with in5ection4Q
=e/pite hi/ cool analy/i/ o5 the /ituation that /care0 =anika4 %he ha0nPt con/i0ere0 the po//ibility
that the pri1itive/ 1ight have anything capable o5 penetrating the hab*/uit/4 They were 0e/igne0
5or co1bat4 $n general, the light*weight ar1or coul0nPt be penetrate0 by pro9ectile/, even i5 they
0i0nPt e7actly repel the1 an0 a 0irect hit coul0 pack enough punch to kill the wearer at ti1e/4 $t
ca1e a/ a very unplea/ant /urpri/e to 0i/cover /heP0 been woun0e0 at all4 Hegar0le//, /he 0i0nPt
think the woun0 wa/ 0eep enough to have 0a1age0 her internally4 Gn5ortunately, in5ection wa/
another 1atter altogether4 $t took no 1ore than a /cratch to 1ake her vulnerable to whatever
bacteria 1ight have been on the weapon4
An0 he wa/ right about the1 being na/ty thing/@ %heP0 /1elle0 the1 be5ore they got clo/e
enough to attack4
Beyon0 that, thi/ wa/ an alien worl0 an0 coul0 be ho1e to all /ort/ o5 thing/ her i11une /y/te1
wa/nPt e6uippe0 to 0eal with, regar0le// o5 the i11uni#ation/ theyP0 been given be5ore they
/hippe0 out4 A5ter all, they ha0nPt been e7pecte0 to en0 up on Keno*!!4 TheyP0 been /hippe0 out
to Keno*!24
=e/pite her prote/t/ that /he wa/ 5ully capable o5 walking, %eth ignore0 her an0 picke0 her up to
carry her4 QThi/ way i/ 5a/ter4Q
QMou /ai0 it wa/nPt ba04Q
Q$t 0oe/ not appear to be,Q %eth correcte0 her4 Q$ a1 not progra11e0 a/ a 1e0ic*borg, however4 $
have virtually no 0ata regar0ing hu1an in9urie/4Q
Q&one o5 the other/ are either,Q =anika /ai0 unhappily4
QThi/ i/ not true4 There were two a1ong tho/e we 5oun0 at the /econ0 An0orian ba/e4Q
QHeallyAQ =anika /ai0 hope5ully4 QMou arenPt 9u/t /aying that to 1ake 1e 5eel betterAQ
%eth 5rowne04 Q$ woul0 not 1in0 /aying that to 1ake you 5eel better,Q he /ai0 he/itantly4
Q:owever $ 0o not /ee that it woul0 be help5ul to lie in thi/ circu1/tance4 Mou woul0 know a/
/oon a/ we returne04Q
Q3oo0 point4Q
=ane, who ha0 been broo0ing over the 5act that %eth wa/ alway/ 5ir/t to grab =anika up when
there wa/ a /ituation that allowe0 it, arrive0 at what he thought wa/ a logical argu1ent to
convince =anika to allow hi1 to carry her in/tea04 Q$ /houl0 carry you4 %eth i/ 5ir/t 1an4 :e
/houl0 take point /ince we cannot know that there will not be another attack, an0 &ile/ i/ thir0
1an an0 /houl0 bring up the rear a/ alway/4Q
%eth an0 &ile/ both glare0 at hi1, but he ha0 e7pecte0 they woul0 not be plea/e0 an0 he 0i0 not
care that they were not4
=anika, contrary to what he ha0 hope0, 1erely /tare0 at hi1 in /urpri/e4 QBhatAQ
:e 0i0 not know how /he coul0 have 5aile0 to hear hi1 when he wa/ walking 0irectly be/i0e
%eth, but he repeate0 hi/ a//e//1ent o5 the /ituation4 Q%eth i/ point 1an4 :e /houl0 take point
an0 $ will carry you4Q
Q$ 0o not 1in0 carrying =anika,Q %eth growle0, Qan0 /ince $ /parre0 with both you an0 &ile/, $
a1 weary an0 that 1ight a0ver/ely a55ect 1y 9u0g1ent or 1y re5le7e/4 Mou /houl0 take point4Q
QOh@ $5 youPre tire0, 1aybe 4444Q
Q$ a1 not that tire0,Q %eth /ai0 be5ore /he coul0 5ini/h4
Q$5 you are tire0,Q =ane /ai0 angrily, Qthen $ /houl0 carry =anika@ $t will not help her i5 you 0rop
her@ Then you can take rear po/ition an0 &ile/ can take point4Q
Q$5 $ a1 only thir0 1an,Q &ile/ /nappe0 angrily, Qthen $ a1 the lea/t valuable 1e1ber o5 the
/6ua0@ $ /houl0 carry =anika while the two o5 you guar0 our retreat4Q
QBhat a thing to /ay@Q =anika ga/pe0, appalle04 Q"very 1e1ber o5 the tea1 i/ valuable@ Eaybe
$ /houl0 9u/t walkAQ
%eth glare0 at =ane4 Q&ow /ee what you have 0oneA Mou have 1a0e her 5eel a/ i5 /he i/
co1pro1i/ing the tea1 when it i/ you who are the proble1@ Mou /houl0 be at point an0 on guar0
again/t the po//ibility o5 another attack in/tea0 o5 arguing@Q
QBe kille0 all o5 the1@Q =ane /ai0 angrily4 QAn0 then we checke0 the peri1eter with our
in5rare04 There were no heat /ignature/ in0icating the po//ibility o5 other/ nearby@Q
QThen it cannot 1atter who take/ point,Q %eth /ai0 /1ugly4
=ane glare0 at hi1, won0ering i5 he coul0 punch hi1 in the 5ace without ri/king 5urther in9ury to
=anika4 Dinally, reluctantly, he 0eci0e0 he coul0 not4
They 1et up with Heuel, who wa/ lea0ing three /6ua0/4 Heuel a//e//e0 the14 QThere wa/ an
%eth 5elt hi/ 5ace heat4 QAye4 The pri1itive/ attacke0 5ro1 above4 =anika wa/ woun0e04Q
HeuelP/ ga#e /earche0 her an0 ca1e to re/t on her 5ace again4 Q:ow 0i0 thi/ co1e aboutA Bere
you not wearing your hab*/uit at the ti1eAQ
=anikaP/ 5ace turne0 /o re0 it 5elt like it wa/ 5la/hing4 Q$ wa/, %ir4Q
QTake her to /ickbay4 Be will continue with a /weep o5 the area4Q :e 1et =anikaP/ ga#e again4 Q$
will e7pect a report, Captain4Q
QAye, %ir4 $ 1ean, ye/, %ir@Q
&ot /urpri/ingly, they create0 a /tir when they reache0 ca1p /ince =anika ha0nPt 1anage0 to
convince %eth to put her 0own4
&ot that /he ha0nPt trie0@ But he wa/ 0a1ne0 har0hea0e0@
A/ e1barra//ing a/ the encounter with Heuel ha0 been it pale0 be/i0e the 0i/co15ort o5 being
carrie0 into ca1p like /o1ebo0y 1ortally woun0e0 when /he barely ha0 a /cratch to /how 5or
her encounter with the pri1itive/**well, an0 a ho/t o5 1ulti*colore0 brui/e/ 5or1ing4 %he
0e5initely looke0 like /heP0 been in a 5ight but, 9u/t a/ clearly, /he wa/ /till pretty 1uch intact4
The 1e0ic looke0 0ownright con5u/e0 when heP0 /trippe0 her /uit to her wai/t to e7a1ine the
woun04 QThi/ i/ the woun0AQ
%eth glare0 at hi14 Q$ coul0 not 0eter1ine how 0eep it 1ight be or i5 it ha0 0a1age0 her
internally4 Beyon0 that, the weapon that cau/e0 it belonge0 to a pri1itive an0 $ a1 certain that
the woun0 1u/t be thoroughly e7a1ine0 5or 5oreign /ub/tance/ an0 the po//ibility o5 bacteria4Q
The 1e0ic glare0 back at hi14 Q$ a1 a 1e0ic4 $ 0o not nee0 in/truction4Q
%eth thru/t hi/ 9aw 5orwar0 belligerently, narrowing hi/ eye/ at the other 1an an0 clenching an0
unclenching hi/ 5i/t/ /ugge/tively4
=anika hel0 up a han04 QOk4 &ow that wePve e/tabli/he0 that 1y woun0 i/ probably tea1ing
with 5ilth an0 bacteria, 0o you think we coul0 5ocu/ on thatAQ
QThi/ wa/ a pro9ectile like tho/e u/e0 in the previou/ attackAQ the 1e0ic a/ke0 her4
Q$ 0i0nPt actually get 1uch o5 a chance to e7a1ine it 4444Q
Q$t appeare0 to be bone,Q %eth re/pon0e0 at al1o/t the /a1e ti1e4 QTho/e u/e0 be5ore were
tippe0 with /tone 444 1o/tly4Q
The 1e0ic glance0 5ro1 her to %eth an0 back again4
QThank/, %eth@Q =anika /ai0 hurrie0ly /ince it looke0 like the two 1ight be con/i0ering phy/ical
violence an0 it occurre0 to her that that 1ight e/calate into an actual e7change o5 blow/ once the
1e0ic /tarte0 probing her woun04 Q=o you think you coul0 wait out/i0eAQ
:e looke0 reluctant an0 /o1ewhat out0one that /heP0 /ugge/te0 it but a5ter a 1o1ent he no00e0,
turne0, an0 /tro0e 5ro1 the roo14
QThat wa/ help5ul at any rate,Q the 1e0ic /ai0 coolly4 QAt lea/t $ know what to look 5or4 The hab*
/uit i/ puncture0 but it /ee1/ to be intact4 $ 0o not believe the pro9ectile will have carrie0 any
5iber/ in/i0e, but $ will check 5or that, a/ well4Q
The /can, naturally enough, wa/nPt pain5ul, but /ince the 1e0ic 0i/covere0 that there were
particle/ o5 bone an0 a 5ew 5iber/ in/i0e the woun0, cleaning it out went way beyon0 a Plittle
0i/co15ortP4 =anika gritte0 her teeth while he /prea0 the woun0, probe0 it with /o1ething like
long twee#er/ an0 then poure0 it 5ull o5 anti/eptic to 5lu/h out anything he 1ight have 1i//e04
%he thought /he wa/ going to pa//*out when he clo/e0 it4
:e patte0 her /houl0er4 Q2ie here while $ e7a1ine the 1aterial un0er the 1icro/cope 5or
%he wa/ happy to 0o /o4 %he thought /he 1ight really pa// out i5 /he trie0 to get up4
:e wa/ /1iling when he returne04 QThere i/ bacteria pre/ent4 Be 1u/t a//u1e that we 0i0 not
re1ove it all4Q
QBell@ ThatP/ certainly goo0 new/@Q =anika /nappe0, both 5rightene0 by the new/ an0 pi//e0 o55
at hi/ cheer5ulne// in 0elivering the unwelco1e in5or1ation4
Q$t i/ goo0 new/4 The bacteria i/ 5a1iliar an0 you have been inoculate04 $ will give you a boo/ter
in9ection**9u/t to be certain4Q
The other goo0 new/ wa/ that the weakne// ha0 pa//e0**/o1ewhat**by the ti1e heP0 5ini/he04
Apparently, /he /till looke0 pale4 The 1e0ic 5rowne0 at her4 QMou 0o not have nano/4 Mou
/houl0 return to crew 6uarter/ an0 re/t the re1ain0er o5 the 0ay, $ believe, rather than returning
i11e0iately to your 0utie/4Q
=anika ha0 1anage0 to convince %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ to return to work an0 ha0 9u/t begun to
0row/e when /he /en/e0 a pre/ence that brought her awake again4 Heuel, /he 0i/covere0, wa/
/tan0ing be/i0e her bunk4
%he 9ackkni5e0 upright re5le7ively an0 then wince0 at the burning pull along her woun0 an0 the
prote/t o5 her battere0 bo0y4
QBe /till,Q Heuel co11an0e04 A5ter looking aroun0, he /ettle0 on the bunk acro// 5ro1 her4
QGn0er other circu1/tance/, $ woul0 allow you to re/t an0 report at /o1e later ti1e, but $ 5eel
that an attack /o clo/e to the ba/e warrant/ i11e0iate attention4 $t /ee1/ that $ un0ere/ti1ate0
the intelligence an0<or aggre//ivene// o5 the native/4 $ ha0 thought the retaliation upon our
arrival 1u/t 0rive the1 back 5or /o1e ti1e /o that we nee0 not concern our/elve/ with the1**not
at once, at any rate4
Q$ believe $ have 5igure0 out what tran/pire0, but $ woul0 like to hear your ver/ion o5 event/4Q
$t wa/ un5ortunate that it occurre0 to =anika 9u/t then**an0 not be5ore /o that /he ha0 ti1e to
invent a plau/ible /tory**that her /6ua0 ha0nPt been where they /houl0 have been or occupie0
with what they /houl0 have been 0oing4 %he 5elt her color 5luctuate while that ran through her
1in0 an0 /he began a 5rantic /earch 5or a re/pon/e that woul0nPt get the1 into trouble4 QBell 444
uh 444 a5ter $ got back to ca1p 5ro1 our 1eeting, $ notice0 the guy/ werenPt in the ba/e peri1eter
an0 5igure0 they 1u/t be out collecting 1ore plant/4 %o $ went to look 5or the14Q
QAn0 they were bu/y collectingAQ
=anika re00ene04 QGh 444 they ha0 0eci0e0 to get in a little /parring**to keep in /hape, you
QAh@ Be 1u/t certainly keep in goo0 5ighting 5or1@ %o that no 0oubt e7plain/ the newly cleare0
area beyon0 the peri1eter4 Continue4Q
QBell, theyP0 5ini/he0 by the ti1e $ got there an0 0eci0e0 to re/t4 $ e7a1ine0 the 444 uh 444 area 4444Q
QThe new area they 0eci0e0 to clearAQ
QGh 444 ye/, that one4 An0 $ wa/ 9u/t about to point out that youP0 /ent 1e to collect vegetation
anyway to /ee i5 we coul0 u/e it to ca1ou5lage the hab*/uit/ when $ happene0 to catch a glint in
the 0i/tance4 Ey 5ir/t thought wa/ that it wa/ 1etal, but then $ reali#e0 it wa/ a bo0y o5 water an0
0eci0e0 to inve/tigate /ince the /trea1 i/ har0ly /u55icient 5or our nee0/**$ 1ean with /o 1any o5
u/ now4
Q%o $ 444 uh 444 le5t the1 re/ting4Q
HeuelP/ lip/ thinne04 Q$n/tea0 o5 /u11oning your /6ua04Q
=anika /6uir1e04 QMe/, %ir4 %tupi0, $ know, but it 0i0nPt look that 5ar an0 $ ha0 1y weapon4Q
QThat wa/ the act o5 a green recruit**not a /ea/one0 o55icer**which you are now 444 or /houl0 be4
Mou have not /een enough co1bat to know better than to go o55 alone, CaptainAQ
Q$t wa/ poor 9u0g1ent,Q =anika re/pon0e0 unco15ortably4
QTery poor@ Be are in ene1y territory**/till4 The native/ ha0 alrea0y 0i/playe0 their ho/tility4Q
:e /too04 Q$ will hope that the woun0 i/ /u55icient to in/pire better 9u0g1ent in the 5uture4 $ will
not co11ent on the 5act that you le0 your /6ua0 into unnece//ary 0anger /ince, 5ro1 what $ can
0eter1ine, it woul0 be har0 to /ay who le0 who14 But $ will point out that your 9u0g1ent la/t
eve wa/ no better an0 that it i/ up to you to 1ake certain that your /6ua0 continue/ to per5or1 a/
a tea1 an0 0oe/ not 0i/integrate 0ue to 444 5avoriti/1**into warring 5action/ that will create
5urther 0i/turbance an0 coul0 en0anger not only your entire tea1, but other/, a/ well4Q
=anika wa/ /o /tunne0 by the accu/ation o5 5avoriti/1 that it took her a while to 5igure out what
he 1eant4 &ot that /he ha0 any trouble gra/ping that hi/ re5erence to Pla/t eveP wa/ an allu/ion to
her having ha0 /e7 in the /hower roo1 with %eth@ That ha0 in/tantly leapt into her 1in0@ %he 9u/t
coul0nPt 5igure out why he thought that ha0 ha0 anything to 0o with the attack4
Eaybe he knew /o1ething /he 0i0nPtA :e ha0 certainly 6ue/tione0 the guy/4 Boul0 he have
gotten the1 to tell the1 why theyP0 been 5ightingA
Becau/e /he 0i0nPt buy the /tory %eth ha0 cooke0 up about /parring4 %he thought it coul0 have
been po//ible, 1aybe even likely i5 they were hu1an /ol0ier/4 But they were cyborg/4 They
0i0nPt nee0 to practice4 "verything they nee0e0 to know about han0*to*han0 co1bat wa/
har0wire0 into the14
"ven /o, it wa/ ea/ier to accept that theyP0 been practicing than the po//ibility that theyP0 been
5ighting**at lea/t on one level4 %he 0i0nPt think theyP0 lo/t the ability to be logical an0 rea/onable
becau/e theyP0 gaine0 the ability to 5eel4 "ven i5 e1otion 0i0 clou0 their 9u0g1ent now, 9u/t like
it 0i0 with their hu1an counterpart/, what coul0 they have 0i/agree0 on vehe1ently enough to
5ight about itA
The /e7 thing, /he reali#e0, 0i/1aye04 %heP0 wante0 to 0i/1i// the /ugge/tion, but /he coul0nPt
think o5 another 0a1ne0 thing that 1ight have4 O5 cour/e, that wa/ a//u1ing that both =ane an0
&ile/ 5elt le5t out an0 wante0 /e74
Ba/il ha0 1a0e it pretty clear, though, that the cyborg/ alrea0y ha0, or were going, to reach the
point where they were a/ incline0 a/ any hu1an 1ale to 5eel that urge power5ully4
$t wa/ weir0 that /he ha0nPt notice04 %he /uppo/e0 that wa/ becau/e /heP0 9u/t gotten u/e0 to
thinking o5 the1 a/ tea11ate/4
"ither that or Heuel wa/ wrong an0 it ha0 ha0 nothing to 0o with the 5ight at all4
:e ha0 to be re5erring to that, though, a/ the rea/on 5or the /crew*up4 %heP0 gone looking 5or
the1 or they woul0nPt have been out there to /tart with, an0 i5 they ha0nPt been 5ighting be5ore
/he got there they woul0Pve 5ollowe0 her i11e0iately4
%he /uppo/e0 /heP0 e7pecte0 the1 to4 %he /uppo/e0 that wa/ why /he ha0nPt 5elt any real /en/e
o5 0anger4
.oor 9u0g1ent on the part o5 all o5 the1**which brought her to the ine/capable conclu/ion that
/heP0 /crewe0 up wor/e than /heP0 reali#e0 when /heP0 given in to her own urge/4 %he ha0
con/i0ere0 that it wa/ boun0 to change her relation/hip with %eth an0 that it 1ight not be a goo0
thing, but /he ha0nPt con/i0ere0 that it 1ight change thing/ between all o5 the14
O5 cour/e, /heP0 been /tupi0 enough at the ti1e to think nobo0y woul0 ever know but her an0
%eth an0 ha0nPt con/i0ere0 that /he 1ight nee0 to worry about her action/ a55ecting anybo0y
&ot that any o5 that 1attere0**now4 %he coul0nPt go back an0 un0o it /o /he ha0 to 0eal with it4
An0 there were only two option/ that /he coul0 /ee4 %he coul0 try to preten0 it ha0 never
happene0 an0 hope the guy/ got it through their thick /kull/ that that 1eant /he 0i0nPt 1ean to
repeat it**or /hare4 Or /he coul0 accept that her action/ 1ight have aggravate0 an alrea0y volatile
/ituation an0 that the be/t way to prevent 1ore violence wa/ to behave i1partially 5or the goo0
o5 all4
That woul0 work a/ long a/ no one wa/ e1otionally involve0 an0 it wa/nPt obviou/ to all o5 the
1en that /o1e o5 the 1en were /eeing PactionP while the 1a9ority 0i0 without4
$n other wor0/, the 1ariti1e /e7 act4
The proble1 wa/, the o00/ were way wor/e now than they ha0 been back at the ba/e at %laughter
Hi0ge4 $5 they were 0i/crete, it /houl0 keep her /6ua0 in line an0 5ocu/e04 $5 they werenPt, it
1ight /till keep peace within her /6ua0, but create /evere 1orale i//ue/ throughout the re/t o5 the
battalion an0 /he 0i0nPt think Heuel woul0 thank her 5or that@
An0 /he al/o 0i0nPt think the han05ul o5 wo1en whoP0 P9oine0P the1 woul0 appreciate being
5orce0 to 5en0 o55 the other cyborg/ or give in4 TheyP0 opte0 to 9oin the1 5or the /ake o5 /urvival
becau/e they knew their chance/ werenPt goo0 i5 they /taye0 on Keno*!24 Eo/t o5 the1 /till
looke0 upon the cyborg/ a/ 1achine/, though, an0 they woul0nPt /ee it a/ nece//ary to partner up
5or the /ake o5 1orale an0 peace a1ong the rank/4 $n 5act they 1ight be 1ore incline0 to u/e it to
create 0i/har1ony4
Bell, /he /uppo/e0 /o1e o5 the1 1ight 5eel enough o5 a bon0 with their /6ua0/ to 0o what they
thought be/t 5or the /6ua0**regar0le//4 But it /ee1e0 to her that 1o/t o5 the wo1en that /ee1e0
to be co1ing aroun0 to the po//ibility that the cyborg/ were living being/, not 1achine/, al/o
viewe0 the1 a/ alien an0 inhu1an an0 wante0 nothing to 0o with the1 becau/e o5 that4
An0 then there wa/ %heila who, a/ a non*co1, ha0nPt ha0 her own /6ua0 to /tart with4
=anika 0i/covere0 the ta/k Heuel ha0 /et 5or her wa/ un0oable**at lea/t with the technology they
ha0 at han04 The hab*/uit/ were 0e/igne0 o5 i1per1eable 5abric an0 that 1eant it woul0 not
ab/orb any kin0 o5 0ye4 Their brie5/ an0 TP/ were a 0i55erent 1atter4 The plant 0ye/ worke0 /o
well on the1 that no a1ount o5 wa/hing woul0 re1ove the /tain/ once treate0 with the
concoction /he ca1e up with an0 the /a1e, un5ortunately, wa/ pretty 1uch true 5or their /kin4
&o one wa/ particularly incline0 to co1plain even though their un0erclothe/ 0i0nPt o55er 1uch in
the way o5 protection 5ro1 biting in/ect/ or the occa/ional unplea/ant encounter with /cratchy
vine/ an0 branche/4 $t wa/ actually a relie5 to have an e7cu/e to co1e out o5 the /uit/ 0uring the
0ay while they worke04 Keno*!! wa/ orbiting in the co15ort #one aroun0 it/ /tar, but it/ rotation
wa/ /lower than "arthP/ an0 that allowe0 the 0ay /i0e to heat up to an unco15ortable ninety to
one hun0re0 0egree/ 0uring the 0ay4 At night, that al/o allowe0 the te1perature/ to 0rop to a
very unco15ortable 5orty to 5i5ty 0egree/, but the hab*/uit/ werenPt bright enough to pre/ent a/
1uch o5 a target once the /un /et either an0, in any ca/e, they generally worke0 0uring the
0aylight hour/ to con/erve energy4 Only tho/e po/te0 to guar0 0uty worke0 at night while
everyone el/e retreate0 in/i0e the /hip/4
Eo/t o5 their energy wa/ 0irecte0 at re/upplying an0 out5itting the /hip/ that ha0 brought the1
5ro1 Keno*!24 HeuelP/ plan<hope wa/ to e55ect a 5ull evacuation o5 the /y/te1 be5ore the
con5e0eration 5leet arrive0, with a /hort*ter1 goal o5 returning to Keno*!2 to re/cue anyone /till
/tran0e0 there that they coul0 5in04
They ha0 only one /hip capable o5 taking the1 beyon0 the /y/te1, however, an0 it woul0nPt hol0
even the people currently with the14 Bhich 1eant that they were /till, e55ectively, trappe0**
/itting 0uck/ when an0 i5 the Con5e0eration launche0 a /trike to recover or 0e/troy the cyborg/4
$t al/o 1eant that they 0i0nPt have the 1ean/ o5 even atte1pting to re/cue anyone el/e /tran0e0
on Keno*!24 $t wa/ high priority, there5ore, to co1plete the tran/5or1ation o5 the /hort*range
/hip/ to long*range a/ /oon a/ po//ible4
The attack on =anika 5orce0 Heuel to re*evaluate the level o5 threat the native/ repre/ente0,
however4 Their pri1itive weapon/ in an0 o5 the1/elve/ werenPt a /eriou/ threat, but not only 0i0
he not want to wa/te valuable, an0 currently irreplaceable, 1unition/ 5en0ing the1 o55 while they
co1plete0 preparation/ o5 the /hip/, he al/o /aw that they coul0 potentially be very 0i/ruptive o5
their e55ort/ to co1plete their 1ain ob9ective within the ti1e 5ra1e heP0 /et4 One attack upon
lan0ing wa/ an annoyance4 Two attack/ in a 1atter o5 0ay/ wa/ a proble1 that nee0e0 to be 0ealt
The 0ay a5ter the attack on =anika, there5ore, Heuel or0ere0 a co1plete /weep o5 the area4 The
ob9ective wa/ to eli1inate or 5orce a retreat o5 the native/ to a 1ore co15ortable 0i/tance4 :e
woul0 then /etup a /econ0ary peri1eter to keep the native/ at a 0i/tance4
The /un ha0 barely cre/te0 the hori#on high enough to begin brightening the /ky when they
launche0 their o55en/ive, which 1eant that the 9ungle /till lay in gloo1, a clu/ter o5 /ha0ow/
within /ha0ow/4 =anika wa/ ten/e4 %he wa/ certain /he woul0 have been anyway4 &ot knowing
where the ene1y lay in wait or even i5 they 0i0 or when they 1ight pop up wa/ unnerving4 Bith
the attack the 0ay be5ore /till all too 5re/h in her 1in0, though, /he thought /he wa/ 1ore ten/e
with e7pectation4 $t took a /trenuou/ e55ort o5 concentration to keep 5ro1 tightening her 5inger on
the trigger every ti1e /he hear0 the 5ainte/t ru/tle o5 vegetation or /nap o5 a twig4
TheyP0 5or1e0 a wall, al1o/t /houl0er to /houl0er, aroun0 the peri1eter o5 the ba/e ca1p4 A/
they 1ove0 outwar0, however, the line began to loo/en an0 /eparate per5orce to cover the
wi0ening circle they were /earching4 %heP0 or0ere0 =ane an0 &ile/ to keep watch o5 the tree/
overhea0 while /he an0 %eth /canne0 the terrain in 5ront o5 the14 %he knew their vi/ion wa/ 5ar
better than her own, particularly /ince they coul0 al/o /can in in5rare0, an0 it /till took an e55ort
to keep 5ro1 ca/ting glance/ upwar0 a/ they 1ove0 beneath the tree/4
%he thought /heP0 1anage0 to ac6uit her/el5 well enough the 0ay be5ore, particularly /ince /heP0
been heavily outnu1bere0, but /he wa/ /till /haken 5ro1 it4
They ha0nPt a0vance0 1ore than a 5ew yar0/ 5ro1 the ba/e ca1p peri1eter when they hear0 the
bloo0 cur0ling /crea1/ the native/ e1itte0 when they attacke04 :er an0 her /6ua0 5ro#e in place,
li/tening, /truggling with the or0er to hol0 their po/ition again/t the urge to run towar0 the 5ight
in progre//**or away 5ro1 it4 The hair on the back o5 =anikaP/ neck prickle0 the 1o1ent the
/crea1/ erupte0, her heart picking up it/ pace4
A hal5 a 0o#en la/er bla/t/ an/were0 the /crea1/ an0 then an eerie /tillne// /ettle0 once 1ore4
=anika glance0 at her 1en an0 then 0ragge0 in a /haky breath, wipe0 the /weat 5ro1 her pal1/,
an0 re/u1e0 the /low a0vance4 The worl0 aroun0 the1 lightene0 until =anika coul0 /ee well
enough to 0i/cern in0ivi0ual plant/ 5ro1 clu1p/ o5 /ha0ow4 The ten/ion began to 1ake it/el5 5elt
in whining 1u/cle/4
O55 to their le5t, they hear0 another attack**/crea1/ 5ollowe0 by la/er bla/t/4 That ti1e there wa/
enough vi/ibility to /ee /o1e o5 the action, although it wa/ 0i/tant enough they coul0 only gue//
at the nu1ber o5 native/ by the nu1ber o5 /hot/4
Bhen =anika glance0 at the 1en again, /he 0i/covere0 theyP0 1ove0 clo/er4 %he wa/ te1pte0 to
ignore it4 %he knew 0a1ne0 well, though, that they ha0nPt begun trying to bunch up becau/e they
were unnerve0 by the attack/**at lea/t not in the /en/e that they were worrie0 about their own
hi0e/4 Q=onPt bunch up@Q /he /ai0, keeping her voice low4 QBe 0onPt want to leave a gap wi0e
enough 5or the ba/tar0/ to /lip through an0 co1e up behin0 u/4Q
=ane an0 &ile/ glance0 at %eth an0 then obeye0 hi/ un/poken co11an0 an0 began to put a little
1ore 0i/tance between the14 By that ti1e, the line ha0 1ove0 5ar enough into the 9ungle that,
even with a couple o5 yar0/ between each 1e1ber o5 her own /6ua0, they ha0 twice that
between their /6ua0 an0 the neare/t 1e1ber o5 the /6ua0/ on either /i0e o5 the14 By =anikaP/
reckoning theyP0 covere0 a hal5 to three 6uarter/ o5 a 1ile, however, an0 Heuel ha0 only or0ere0
a one 1ile peri1eter /weep4
Deeling the beginning/ o5 relie5, =anika wa/ able to 5ocu/ 5or the 5ir/t ti1e on an overall /urvey
o5 her /urroun0ing/4 %he reali#e0 then that they were clo/e to the /pot where /heP0 been attacke0
the 0ay be5ore4

Chapter Dourteen
$t wa/nPt a co15orting 0i/covery, but it tran/pire0 to be 5ortuitou/ that =anika notice0 it at 9u/t
that 1o1ent4 $5 /heP0 been acting on logic /he woul0 very likely have 0i/1i//e0 the probability
o5 another attack in virtually the /a1e place a/ too a/trono1ical to concern her/el5 with4 The
attack leapt into her 1in0, though, an0 /he reacte0 in/tinctively4 %he glance0 upwar04 Bhen /he
0i0, /he caught 1ove1ent in the tree/ a /plit /econ0 be5ore the native /crea1e0 hi/ war cry4 %he
brought her weapon up at the /a1e 1o1ent an0 5ire0 even a/ he opene0 hi/ 1outh4 :er /hot cut
hi/ /crea1 o55 1i0 war cry4 Catching hi1 in the upper le5t 6ua0rant o5 hi/ che/t, the /hot it/el5
woul0nPt nece//arily have been 5atal, but the i1pact knocke0 hi1 o55 hi/ perch4 The /crea1 he
uttere0 on hi/ way 0own wa/ a 0i55erent pitch altogether an0 the /oggy /plat he 1a0e on i1pact
wa/ /ickening4
=anika only regi/tere0 it peripherally, however4 Bhen /heP0 /canne0 the branche/ o5 the tree/
overhea0, /heP0 gli1p/e0 what coul0 have been 0o#en/ o5 ar1e0 warrior/4 Be5ore /he coul0 call
out to the /6ua0/ on either /i0e o5 the1 to len0 a han0, /everal thing/ happene0 al1o/t
/i1ultaneou/ an0 barely a /plit /econ0 a5ter /heP0 5ire0 the /hot that knocke0 her target 5ro1 the
The warrior/ above the1 uttere0 their war whoop/ an0 attacke0, /en0ing a volley o5 /tone an0
bone tippe0 pro9ectile/ raining 0own on the 5ore/t 5loor4 %o1ething /1acke0 =anika in the back
har0 enough it knocke0 the breath 5ro1 her an0 pancake0 her again/t the groun04 %eth, =ane,
an0 &ile/ let out challenging roar/ that nearly 0ea5ene0 her an0 0rowne0 out the war crie/ o5 the
native/4 2a/er 5ire erupte0 5ro1 /ee1ingly every 0irection at once, an0 leave/, branche/ an0
native/ began raining 0own on the 5ore/t 5loor al1o/t be5ore the pro9ectile/ theyP0 launche0 hit
the groun04
Q.rotect =anika@Q %eth roare0, /everal 1o1ent/ a5ter the 5act, a/ it happene04
A/ /tunne0 a/ =anika wa/ by the blow, /he reali#e0 that it wa/ =ane whoP0 tackle0 her at right
about the /a1e ti1e /he hear0 %eth roar the or0er4
At lea/t /o1e o5 the pro9ectile/ 5oun0 their 1ark4 %he 5elt every i1pact travel through =ane an0
into her, hear0 hi/ grunt/ o5 pain4 %he 1anage0 to get her hea0 up 9u/t high enough to /ee %eth
an0 &ile/, racing /o 5a/t acro// the groun0 that 1o/t o5 the 1i//ile/ 1i//e0 the1 co1pletely an0
then both o5 the1 /hot upwar0/ a/ i5 theyP0 been 5ire0 5ro1 a cannon4
The look/ on the 5ace/ o5 the native/ a/ the two giant/ /hot towar0 the1 1ight have been
hilariou/ at any other ti1e4 A/ it wa/, all =anika coul0 think about wa/ that they were
=ane plante0 a han0 on the back o5 her hea0 an0 /hove0 her 5ace into the 0irt4
Q3o0/ 0a1n it, =ane@ 2et go an0 get o55@Q =anika growle0, /hoving at hi1 in an e55ort to
0i/lo0ge hi1, won0ering i5 he 9u/t 5elt like 0ea0 weight cru/hing her or i5 he wa/ 0ea04
Q$ a1 /hiel0ing you,Q =ane /ai0 in a paine0 voice4
QBell cut it out an0 get o55@Q =anika /narle04 QMouPre cru/hing 1e4Q
%he thought it wa/ the la/t co11ent rather than the or0er that convince0 =ane to 1ove4 :e
rolle0 to hi/ /i0e /o that the groun0 wa/ partially /upporting hi/ weight4 =anika /ei#e0 the
opportunity, or trie0 to, to /cra1ble to her 5eet4 =ane caught her aroun0 the wai/t an0 0ragge0
her back4 %he 1anage0 to at lea/t roll into a po/ition to u/e her weapon, however4
Gn5ortunately, /he 0i/covere0 /he coul0nPt get a clear /hot by that ti1e4 &ile/ an0 %eth ha0
lan0e0 on the branche/ an0 were engage0 in han0*to*han0 co1bat with the warrior/4 $t wa/nPt
1uch o5 a conte/t4 :aving /ei#e0 the warrior clo/e/t when they lan0e0, they were u/ing the1 a/
bat/, knocking two or three 5ro1 their perch at a ti1e, wa0ing through the warrior/ a/ i5 theyP0
been nothing but chil0ren4
Gnwilling to ri/k /hooting %eth or &ile/ by acci0ent, /he 5ocu/e0 on targeting the native/ that
0eci0e0 to retreat by way o5 the vine/4 %he 1anage0 to pick o55 three 1ore, but they were
/cattering in every 0irection4 Bithin a 1atter o5 1inute/ the /urvivor/ ha0 0i/appeare0 into the
%eth an0 &ile/ 0roppe0 to the groun0 when they ran out o5 opponent/4 Eoving 5ro1 one to
another, they coolly an0 /y/te1atically 0i/patche0 any o5 the1 that were /till 1oving4 2eaving
the clean up to the1, =anika convince0 =ane to let go o5 her an0 got up to e7a1ine hi14 %he
thought /he wa/ going to puke 5or /everal 1o1ent/ when /he ha04 Anger 0rove the nau/ea back,
however4 :e wa/ peppere0 with the 0a1ne0 thing/ like a PporkeyP, critter/ 5ro1 her worl0 that
clo/ely re/e1ble0 the porcupine/ o5 earth4 Dour with /hort, thin /ha5t/ were burie0 0eep enough
in hi/ back an0 buttock/ that nothing 1ore than the /ha5t wa/ vi/ible4 One o5 the larger /ha5te0
1i//ile/ wa/ e1be00e0 in hi/ right thigh an0 a /econ0 one in hi/ /houl0er4 :eP0 1a0e a per5ect
target 5or the ba/tar0/ /prawle0 un1oving in the gra// without any cover what/oever4
Becau/e he wa/ /hiel0ing her@
Q=a1n it, =ane@ Bhat were you thinkingAQ /he 1uttere0, /truggling with the urge to bur/t into
tear/4 QMouPre blee0ing all over the place4Q
=ane 1anage0 to li5t hi/ hea0 an0 /tare0 at her a little 0runkenly4 QThe nano/ will clo/e the
woun0/4 Mou 0o not have the14 $ ha0 to protect you4 $ wa/ clo/e/t4Q
:eartene0 by that re1in0er that they ha0 a built*in repair /y/te1, =anika e7a1ine0 the woun0/
1ore clo/ely, but /he coul0nPt /ee that the blee0ing looke0 like it woul0 /top4 QCan they clo/e the
woun0/ with the/e thing/ in thereAQ /he a/ke0 0oubt5ully when %eth an0 &ile/ 5inally arrive0 an0
crouche0 be/i0e =ane4
%ethP/ e7pre//ion wa/ gri14 Q&o4 Be 1u/t pull the1 out4Q
QOh 1y go0@Q =anika re/pon0e04 Q$n the 5iel0A Boul0nPt it be better to get hi1 back to the
1e0ic/ /o they coul0 cut the1 outA BonPt it cau/e 1ore 0a1age to 9u/t yank the1 outAQ
%eth li5te0 hi/ hea0 an0 looke0 aroun0, obviou/ly calculating the /ituation4 QBe 1u/t 5ini/h the
/weep4 Be cannot 5all back or we will leave a gap they 1ight u/e to /lip through4 Be are a 1an
0own4 $t will be be/t to leave hi1 here, co1plete the /weep, an0 return 5or hi14Q
=anika gape0 at hi14 Q2ike hell@Q /he growle04 QBhat i5 /o1e o5 the ba/tar0/ alrea0y /lippe0
throughA :e i/nPt in any con0ition to 0e5en0 hi1/el5@ An0 we 0onPt leave a 1an 0own@Q
Q$t woul0 be 1ore logical 4444Q %eth began4
QDuck logic@ $P1 not leaving hi1 here4Q %he glance0 at &ile/, who wa/ /tan0ing guar04 QMou take
hi1 back4 Ee an0 %eth will 5ini/h the /weep4Q
&ile/ /tare0 at her in 0i/1ay4 QMou will be 0own two 1en 4444Q
Q=o it@Q /he growle04 QMou can catch up to u/ when youPve le5t hi1 with the 1e0ic/4Q
&ile/ looke0 at %eth 6ue/tioningly4 =anika 5elt like punching both o5 the1 5or 6ue/tioning a
0irect or0er4 %he /till 5elt like knocking the /hit out o5 the1 when %eth agree0 with a no04 %eth
helpe0 &ile/ get =ane to hi/ 5eet an0 hoi/t hi1 onto hi/ /houl0er4
=oubt /hook her a/ /he watche0 &ile/ hea0 back towar0 ba/e ca1p with =ane over hi/ /houl0er,
an7iety that =ane 1ight lo/e too 1uch bloo0 be5ore he coul0 get attention an0 unea/ine// that
/o1e o5 the native/ ha0 /lippe0 through their net an0 1ight attack the14
There wa/ nothing el/e /he coul0 0o, however4 A/ %eth ha0 pointe0 out, all o5 the1 coul0nPt go
back without leaving a hole wi0e enough to 1ake the entire e7erci/e a wa/te o5 ti1e4
%truggling to 0i/1i// the1 5ro1 her 1in0, /he /traightene0 an0 /urveye0 the area aroun0 the14
QMou an0 &ile/ checke0 all o5 the bo0ie/ to 1ake /ure they were 0ea0AQ
%eth no00e04 QBy 1y count, nigh a 0o#en e/cape04Q
QBePll get the1 i5 they 0i0nPt run 5ar enough,Q =anika re/pon0e0 gri1ly4 HeuelP/ or0er/ ha0 been
to 0rive the1 back i5 po//ible, to kill a/ nece//ary4 =e/pite the two previou/ attack/, /heP0 been
1ore incline0 to hope they coul0 0rive the barbarian/ back without being 5orce0 to /laughter
the14 Thi/ wa/ per/onal now, though@ TheyP0 5ille0 =ane 5ull o5 hole/ an0 /he ha0 no i0ea
whether he coul0 /urvive it or not4 %he wa/ going to /hoot any o5 the1 /he coul0 catch in her
/ight/ an0 let the go0/ /ort the ba/tar0/ out@
%he an0 %eth /pace0 the1/elve/ a bit 5urther apart to clo/e the gap/ a/ 1uch a/ they coul04 $t wa/
i1portant to /tay within /ight o5 partner/ i5 po//ible, though, an0 they ha0nPt gone 5ar be5ore
=anika notice0 that %eth ha0 /houl0ere0 hi/ ri5le an0 wa/ collecting the native/P weapon/ a/ he
ca1e acro// the14 %he 5inally halte0 an0 trie0 to u/e han0 /ignal/ to 5igure out what he wa/
0oing4 $t 0i0nPt co15ort her when /he 0i/covere0 he wa/ out o5 1unition/4 %he wa/ le// than a
0o#en /hot/ 5ro1 e1pty her/el5 an0 then /heP0 be 0own to her kni5e an0 the 5ew /hot/ le5t in her
That e7plaine0 why &ile/ an0 %eth ha0 leapt into the tree/4 They ha0nPt ha0 anything le5t to
throw at the 0a1ne0 /avage/@ %he 9u/t wi/he0 theyP0 thought it i1portant enough to in5or1 her@
=a1n it@
&ot that it woul0Pve 1a0e any 0i55erence4 They /till ha0 to 5ini/h the /weep4
.u/hing that worry 5ro1 her 1in0, /he pre//e0 on, trying to clo/e the gap between the1 an0 the
other /6ua0/4
They ca1e upon the /1all pool /heP0 gli1p/e0 the 0ay be5ore4 $t 0i0nPt look to be 1ore than ten
5eet acro// an0 1aybe 5i5teen wi0e4 The branche/ o5 the giant tree/ /urroun0ing it 5or1e0 an
u1brella above it, which e7plaine0 why they ha0nPt /potte0 it 5ro1 the air4
Bater /pille0 into the pool 5ro1 the 1outh o5 what appeare0 to be a /1all cave, trickle0 5ro1 the
pool into a narrow groove on one /i0e that /he thought 1u/t be the /ource o5 the tiny /trea1
theyP0 been u/ing 5or water an0 /pille0 1ore gu/tily into a larger branch lea0ing o55 in the other
0irection4 =anika /toppe0, /tu0ying the black hole 5or a long 1o1ent, trying to 0i/cern any
1ove1ent an0 glance0 towar0 %eth4 %ignaling hi1 to approach 5ro1 the other /i0e, /he began
1aking her way care5ully aroun0 the pool towar0 the cave entrance, /urveying the area 5or any
/ign o5 the /avage/, or ani1al/, 5or that 1atter4 There were /everal 5airly large 5lat /tone/ near
the entrance that looke0 to be /taine0 with bloo04 %he coul0nPt be certain that it wa/ bloo0,
though, or think o5 an e7planation i5 it wa/ unle// the native/ ha0 u/e0 the1 when cleaning a kill4
=i/1i//ing it 5or the 1o1ent, e7pecting any 1o1ent to hear the war crie/ o5 the /avage/, /he
5ocu/e0 on approaching the cave entrance a/ 6uietly a/ po//ible4 Bhen theyP0 po/itione0
the1/elve/ on either /i0e, /he /ignale0 %eth to u/e hi/ in5rare0 vi/ion to /earch the interior4
:e ea/e0 clo/er, took /everal 6uick /can/ an0 then /teppe0 into the entrance4 $rritation 5lickere0
through =anika4 Q%ee anythingAQ /he a/ke0 on a breath o5 /oun04
%eth /hook hi/ hea04 Q=eep4Q
%hit, =anika thought, won0ering i5 they /houl0 take the ti1e to /earch it 5urther or 1ove on an0
return to /earch it 1ore thoroughly@
%eth 0i0nPt wait 5or a 0eci/ion4 :e 1ove0 0eeper into the /1all cavern4 =anikaP/ an7iety an0
irritation 0eepene04 A5ter /tan0ing in0eci/ively 5or a 5ew 1o1ent/ 1ore, /he /lippe0 6uickly
through the entrance, hugging the wall to keep 5ro1 /ilhouetting her/el5 in the light at the
entrance4 %he wa/ 9u/t in ti1e to /ee %eth 0i/appearing into the gloo1 at the back where the
cavern narrowe0 /o /harply there wa/ barely enough roo1 5or %eth to /6uee#e through4
Bhile /he wa/ /till trying to 0eci0e whether to 5ollow hi1 or keep watch at the entrance, he
returne04 Helieve0, /he le5t the cavern an0 /urveye0 the area in 5ront o5 it, 1oving clo/e enough
to e7a1ine the /tain/4
$t wa/ 0e5initely bloo0**yellow like the /avage/P**but then the bea/t/ /o1e o5 the 1en ha0
brought 0own the 0ay be5ore al/o ha0 yellow bloo0 /o /he wa/ no clo/er to an an/wer about the
pre/ence o5 the bloo04
%hrugging it o55 5or a later ti1e, /he an0 %eth 1a0e their way aroun0 either /i0e o5 the knob o5
rock that hou/e0 the cavern an0 continue0 their /weep until they reache0 the 5arthe/t point 5or
their /weep a 5ew yar0/ beyon04 They /ettle0 there to await 5urther or0er/4
QBhat 0i0 you 1ake o5 thatAQ =anika a/ke04
%eth glance0 at her but /hrugge0, 5ocu/ing on /canning the 9ungle beyon0 the14 QThere were
1arking/ on the wall/ in/i0e, 0rawing/4 $t i/ a place the /avage/ have been, but $ 0i0 not /ee any
/ign that they ha0 been there recently4Q
=anika con/i0ere0 it4 Q%o1e /ort o5 /acre0 place to the1, 1aybeA The pri1itive/ on 1y ho1e
worl0 built /acre0 place/ o5 /tone/ where they wor/hippe0 their go0/ an0 1a0e /acri5ice/ to
the14 Tho/e 5lat /tone/ at the entrance coul0 be altar/4 Eaybe that e7plain/ the attack/A They
0onPt want u/ clo/e to their /acre0 placeAQ
%ethP/ lip/ thinne04 QAn0 1ayhap they /i1ply 0o not want u/ here at allA %o1e o5 the 0rawing/
looke0 1uch like the An0orian/4 Eayhap they 1a0e 5rien0/ with the /avage/ an0 the native/ are
guar0ing again/t all other/AQ
%he /uppo/e0 one gue// wa/ a/ goo0 a/ another4
&ile/ 9oine0 the1 a5ter a 5ew 1inute/4
Q:owP/ =aneAQ
&ile/ 5licke0 a glance at %eth4 $t wa/ brie5 an0 =anika coul0nPt 0eci0e what the /igni5icance o5 it
wa/4 Q:e wa/ not con/ciou/ when $ got hi1 to /ickbay4 $ thought that you woul0 want to know
hi/ /tatu/, however, /o $ lingere0 until the 1e0ic ha0 0one a /can4Q
QAn0AQ =anika pro1pte0 hi1 an7iou/ly4
Q:i/ cha//i/ prevente0 1o/t o5 the pro9ectile/ 5ro1 0a1aging hi/ biological organ/4 Two
1anage0 to enter at an angle that allowe0 the1 to cau/e 1uch 0a1age4 The 1e0ic e/ti1ate/ that
it will take twelve hour/ 5or the nano/ to repair the 0a1age0 organ/ /u55iciently 5or the1 to be
5unctioning at /eventy*5ive percent4 $5 he 0oe/ not cea/e to 5unction 0uring that ti1e, he will 5ully
recover, but the nano/ are 5ully engage0 in working on tho/e repair/ an0 he 1u/t cut the other
pro9ectile/ out an0 atte1pt to clo/e the1 to /top the blee0ing hi1/el54Q
A knot the /i#e o5 her 5i/t 5or1e0 in =anikaP/ throat4 %he /truggle0 to /wallow again/t it, 5ought
to catch her breath4
%eth caught her ar1 an0 helpe0 her to /it4 %he looke0 at hi1 a little blankly an0 5inally
1oi/tene0 her 0ry lip/4 Q:eP/ /aying 4444 $/ he /aying =ane 1ight not 444A :e coul0 0ieA ThatP/
what he 1eant, rightAQ
%ethP/ e7pre//ion coul0 have been carve0 5ro1 /tone4 Q:e i/ /aying that it i/ po//ible4Q
%hocke0 0i/belie5 hit =anika like a phy/ical blow4 Q:e canPt 0ie@Q /he 1anage0 to /ay a5ter a
1o1ent, /truggling with the urge to 5all apart4 Q:e canPt4Q
&ile/ /ent %eth a look o5 con/ternation4 QThe o00/ cannot be calculate0 at thi/ ti1e when there
are /o 1any unknown 5actor/4Q
=anika blinke0 at &ile/, 5eeling a 5la/h o5 anger4 Q=onPt talk to 1e about o00/, go0/ 0a1n it@
BePre talking about =ane@Q /he growle04
:e looke0 0i/1aye0, glance0 at %eth a/ i5 /eeking help4
Q:e i/ our brother4 Be are not 444 in0i55erent4 $t will not help hi1, however, i5 we allow our/elve/
to be 0i/tracte0 an0 are woun0e0, a/ well4Q
Cha/tene0, =anika pulle0 her/el5 together with an e55ort4 %ni55ing, /he rubbe0 her /tinging eye/
an0 no/e an0 got to her 5eet4 QMouPre right,Q /he 1uttere04 QBe can check on hi1 when we get
back4 :ePll be alright4 :eP/ /trong4Q
The wor0/ 5elt e1pty, though4 They 0i0nPt rea//ure her4 %he /tare0 at the 9ungle, /truggling to
watch 5or the po//ibility o5 attack, but her 1in0 an0 heart were at ba/e ca1p4 $t kept running
through her 1in0 that he ha0 never truly live04 :eP0 e1erge0 5ro1 the lab/ o5 the co1pany 5ully
1ature0**phy/ically, at any rate4 :eP0 gone through training with her an0 then been /hippe0 to
hell**Keno*!24 ThereP0 been no ti1e 5or hi1 to en9oy any o5 the thing/ everyone el/e took 5or
grante0 an0 now 1aybe there woul0 never be one4
%he /aw when /he e1erge0 5ro1 her thought/ that %eth an0 &ile/ kept 5licking worrie0 glance/
at her an0 it hit her that the /a1e wa/ true 5or the1**5or all o5 the1**but /he 0i0nPt particularly
care about any o5 the other/4 %he care0 about %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/4 %heP0 thought about the 5act
that theyP0 bon0e0 a/ 5ellow /ol0ier/ in the 5ace o5 co1bat, but even then /he ha0nPt
acknowle0ge0 how 0eep it went4
They were 5a1ily4 They were the only 5a1ily any o5 the1 ha04 %he wa/nPt going to get ho1e
again, whatever happene04 %heP0 lo/t her birth 5a1ily an0 theyP0 never ha0 one4
$t /u00enly /ee1e0 i1portant to her to en9oy every 1o1ent it wa/ po//ible to en9oy an0 not 9u/t
5ocu/ on her 0utie/ a/ a /ol0ier or even 9u/t /urvival4 %he wante0 to /urvive4 %he wante0 all o5
the1 to /urvive, but what wa/ the point i5 they werenPt al/o living, en9oying whatever plea/ure
coul0 be ha0A
Heuel arrive0 be5ore /he coul0 0rive her/el5 cra#y won0ering what wa/ happening with =ane4
Bhen theyP0 given hi1 their report, he /tu0ie0 =anika 5or a long 1o1ent an0 then turne0 to
%eth4 QThi/ will be the guar0 po/t 5or your /6ua0**two on, two o554 Gntil =ane i/ able to re/u1e
hi/ 0utie/ the three o5 you will nee0 to rotate4 $ /ugge/t =anika return to ba/e ca1p now /o that
/he can check on =aneP/ progre//4Q
=anika wa/ /o relieve0 /he 5elt like ki//ing hi14 %he re5raine04 Bhen heP0 le5t, however, /he
/tartle0 %eth by /lipping her ar1/ aroun0 hi/ wai/t an0 hugging hi1 tightly4 :e he/itate0 an0
then loope0 hi/ ar1/ aroun0 her loo/ely a/ i5 he wa/nPt entirely certain o5 how to react4 QMou
0onPt 5eel like 1y brother,Q /he 1ur1ure0, leaning away to /1ile up at hi14
:e 5rowne0 6ui##ically4 Q$ 0o notAQ
%he /hook her hea0 an0 pulle0 away4 &ile/, /he /aw, wa/ /taring o55 into the 0i/tance, 5rowning4
$t /tartle0 hi1 when /he 1ove0 to hi1 an0 hugge0 hi1 a/ /he ha0 %eth4 Gnlike %eth, he 0i0nPt
1erely put hi/ ar1/ aroun0 her, however4 :e tightene0 hi/ ar1/ al1o/t cru/hingly4 %he 0i0nPt try
to pull away4 %he ba/ke0 in the won0er5ul 5eeling o5 /i1ply being hel0, in hi/ war1th, /oli0ity
an0 /trength4 %he 0i0nPt reali#e 9u/t how 1uch /heP0 1i//e0, an0 nee0e0, the /i1ple 9oy o5
touching an0 being touche04 Q$ 0o 5eel like wePre 5a1ily, though,Q /he /ai0 when heP0 relea/e0
her4 Q%o you guy/ be care5ul4 Batch your a//e/ out here4Q
&ile/ watche0 =anika leave with a 1i7ture o5 unea/ine// an0 444 hunger, he 0eci0e04 A/ 1uch a/
he ha0 en9oye0 e1bracing her, it ha0 le5t hi1 wanting 1ore4
:e glance0 at %eth 5inally, warily, won0ering i5 %eth woul0 punch hi1 a/ /oon a/ =anika wa/ 5ar
enough /he woul0 not hear4 :e looke0 1ore thought5ul than angry, however, an0 &ile/ rela7e0
All the /a1e, he thought it 1ight be wi/e to put a little 0i/tance between the1 /o he woul0 at
lea/t have /o1e warning i5 %eth 0eci0e0 to try to beat hi1 into the 0irt 5or e1bracing =anika4
QBhat 0o you /uppo/e /he 1eant by thatAQ
%ethP/ eye/ narrowe0 a/ he tran/5erre0 hi/ attention 5ro1 =anika to &ile/4 Q$5 you are re5erring to
the e1brace /he gave you, $ a1 certain it 1eant nothing4Q
&ile/ gape0 at hi1 an0 then /cowle04 QThen it 1eant nothing when /he e1brace0 you@Q
%eth gave hi1 a /uperior look4 QThat wa/ 0i55erent4 $ /e7e0 her4 That wa/ 444 a55ection becau/e $
ha0 plea/ure0 her4Q
Dury in/tantly /u55u/e0 &ile/4 Dortunately, he recalle0 that they were on guar0 0uty an0 that they
woul0 en0 up like =ane, or 1ayhap in the brig, i5 he gave in to the urge to knock %ethP/ teeth
0own hi/ throat4 Q%he wa/ looking at 1e when /he /ai0 /he 5elt like we were 5a1ily,Q he
%eth /hrugge04 Q%he tol0 1e that $ 0i0 not 5eel like her brother, though, an0 that coul0 only 1ean
that /he 5elt like we were 1ate/ /ince we ha0 /e7e0 one another4Q
Q%he behave0 a/ i5 /he 1eant that to inclu0e all o5 u/4 Bell, 1ayhap not =ane /ince he i/ not
here, but certainly 1e a/ well a/ you@Q
%eth glare0 at hi14 Q$ 0o not /ee how you can /ay that@ %he /ai0 to 1e that /he 0i0 not 5eel a/ i5 $
were a brother4 %he /ai0 to you that you 5elt like 5a1ily, which i/ to /ay that /he 0oe/ con/i0er
you a brother4Q
&ile/ plunke0 hi/ han0/ on hi/ hip/, angry, but uncertain enough that 0oubt ha0 begun to creep
in4 Q$ will go an0 a/k her what /he 1eant,Q he /ai0 5inally4
QMou will en0 up in the brig i5 you leave your po/t**or /hot@Q %eth /ai0 warningly4
&ile/ halte0, con/i0ere0 5or a 1o1ent, an0 5inally returne0 to hi/ po/t4 Q$ will a/k her when /he
return/4 $ 0o not believe that /he woul0 have e1brace0 both o5 u/ i5 /he ha0 not 1eant to inclu0e
both o5 u/@ An0 $ 0o not /ee where you got the notion that /he wa/ /ugge/ting that /he
con/i0ere0 you a 1ate4 %he 0i0 not /ay that@Q
Q%he 0i0 /ay that /he con/i0ere0 u/ 5a1ily an0 /ince /he eli1inate0 the po//ibility that her
a55ection wa/ a/ a /ibling that leave/ nothing el/e@ .articularly /ince we /e7e0 one another an0
that i/ what 1ate/ 0o@Q
&ile/ wa/ getting 0a1ne0 tire0 o5 %eth harping on the 5act that he ha0 /e7e0 =anika@ Q:u1an/
have /e7 5or 1any rea/on/**plea/ure, recreation, the relea/e o5 ten/ion, to barter 5or 5avor/ 4444 $
a1 /ure there are even 1ore 1otive/, but you cannot /ay that it 1u/t be 5or the purpo/e o5
1ating becau/e that i/ 5or procreation an0 we cannot procreate@Q
%eth took a /tep 5orwar0 an0 caught &ile/ on the /houl0er with a /harp 9ab o5 hi/ 5i/t4 Q%peak 5or
your/el5@ $ 0o not know that $ cannot@ %he 0oe/ not know that@Q
&ile/ took a /tep back to catch hi/ balance an0 punche0 %eth on the /houl0er4 Q$5 you can then $
certainly can@Q
QMou /ai0 that you coul0 not@Q
Q$ 0i0 not@Q &ile/ /ai0 in0ignantly4 Q$ /ai0 we cannot4Q
%eth, hi/ 9aw /et pugnaciou/ly, 9utte0 hi/ 5ace to within inche/ o5 &ile/P, an0 poke0 hi1 in the
che/t with hi/ in0e7 5inger4 QMou 0o not know what $ can 0o@Q he growle04
&ile/ punche0 hi1 in the belly4 QMou think your nano/ have grown /ee0 5or you an0 no one
QTen hut@Q
Both 1en 9olte0 in /urpri/e when HeuelP/ voice intru0e0, whirling to look at hi1 guiltily4
Heuel eye0 the1 with /eething 5ury 5or /everal 1o1ent/ an0 5inally li5te0 one ar14 QMou@ 3o
/tan0 guar0 over there@ Ten pace/4 Mou@ Over there@ Ten pace/4 =o not e7change one 1ore wor0
unle// it ha/ to 0o with /potting the ene1y@Q
Both o5 the1 /alute0, /li0 an accu/ing glare at each other, an0 then 1arche0 ten pace/ in the
oppo/ite 0irection4 Heuel /tu0ie0 the1 5or a 5ew 1inute/ an0 5inally turne0 an0 hea0e0 towar0
ba/e ca1p4
Bhen he ha0 0i/appeare0 into the bru/h, %eth /hot a bir0 at &ile/ an0 1outhe0, Q$ will beat the
5uck out o5 you later4Q
&ile/ /hot a bir0 back at hi14 QMou will get the 5uck beat out o5 you,Q he 1outhe0 back4
=anika thought /he wa/ going to totally lo/e it when /he got her 5ir/t gli1p/e at =ane4 :e wa/ /o
pale he looke0 bloo0le//4 :e wa/ /prawle0 5ace 0own on the gurney in the /ickbay an0 patche0
with bloo0 /oake0 ban0age/ 5ro1 /houl0er to knee4
QOh =ane@ That wa/ /uch a 444 brave, won0er5ul 444 ab/olutely /tupi0 thing to 0o@Q
:e /tirre0 at the /oun0 o5 her voice an0 /he ru/he0 clo/er4 Q$t wa/AQ he /ai0 a little 0runkenly4
=anika bit her lip4 Q=onPt you think it woul0Pve been better to look 5or cover than to let the1 444
1ake a pincu/hion out o5 youAQ
Q&o ti1e4Q
=anika glance0 aroun0 a/ the i1pul/e hit her to touch hi1, partly to rea//ure her/el5, partly
becau/e /he 5elt the nee0 to o55er what little co15ort /he coul04 The 1e0ic, /he /aw, ha0 le5t an0
the /ickbay wa/ e1pty e7cept 5or the two o5 the14 Eoving clo/er, /he bru/he0 hi/ hair 5ro1 hi/
5ace an0 then leane0 0own an0 ki//e0 hi/ cheek4 :i/ eye/ 5luttere0 open4
$t wa/ /uch a relie5, even though hi/ eye/ were gla#e0 with pain, that /he ha0 to 5ight the urge to
bur/t into tear/4 %ni55ing at the /ting, /he /1ile0 at hi14 QMou look like hell4 Mour beauti5ul
back 4444Q %he /toppe0 when that nearly /et her o55 an0 5ought another roun0 with her e1otion/4 Q$
hope you 5eel better than you look4Q
:e looke0 0i/concerte0 an0 1ore than a little con5u/e04
QThe 1e0ic /ay/ youPre going to be 5ine, though4Q
:e 5rowne04 Q:e /ai0 that 1y nano/ were overwhel1e0 by the e7tent o5 in9ury to 1y biological
organ/ an0 that $ ha0 a thirty to 5i5ty percent chance o5 recovery at thi/ point4Q
Q%tupi0 ba/tar0,Q =anika 1uttere0 angrily, wi/hing /heP0 known that be5ore heP0 le5t /o /he
coul0Pve /hot hi14 QThat wa/ be5ore4 MouPre co1ing along now, though4Q
:e looke0 /urpri/e0 an0 1ore con5u/e04
=anika looke0 aroun0 5or a place to /it an0 5inally /aw a /tool4 Bhen /heP0 pulle0 it clo/e to the
gurney =ane wa/ lying on, /he /lippe0 her han0 into hi/, giving it a /6uee#e4 A5ter /earching her
1in0 5or a 5ew 1inute/ 5or /o1ething to 0i/tract hi1, /he reali#e0 /he coul0nPt think o5 a 0a1ne0
thing to coa7 hi1 with e7cept /e7 an0 he /ure a/ hell wa/nPt in any /hape 5or that@ On the other
han0, they all /ee1e0 pretty 5ocu/e0 on it an0 a pro1i/e o5 it wa/ boun0 to 0i/tract hi1 5ro1 hi/
pain an0, hope5ully, the /tupi0 1e0icP/ progno/i/ o5 hi/ con0ition4 QEe an0 %eth 5oun0 thi/ really
cool cave4Q Actually, creepy, but %eth ha0nPt /ee1e0 to 5eel the /a1e way about it that /he ha04
QThereP/ a /pring in/i0e o5 it an0 a nice clear pool in 5ront4 $tP/ clo/e to our guar0 po/t an0 $ wa/
thinking it woul0 be a great place 5or 1e an0 you guy/ to u/e 5or a little H an0 H4Q
:e looke0 blank4
Q%e7,Q /he a00e0 bluntly4
That /tirre0 hi1 up@ :e /hi5te0 a/ i5 he wa/ trying to turn over4 %he tightene0 her grip on hi/
han04 QBe /till@ Mou arenPt up to that yet@Q /he /ai0 with a 5orce0 chuckle4 QAn0 you wonPt be i5
you 0onPt hol0 /till an0 let the nano/ 5i7 everything4Q
QBith 1eAQ
%he 5elt the urge to cry again an0 /ent a 5ervent prayer to whatever go0/ 1ight be li/tening that
he woul0 get the chance to 5in0 out that /he 1eant it4 QO5 cour/e with you@ Bho el/e woul0 $ be
talking aboutA MouPre one o5 1y guy/, rightA BePre a tea14 BePre /uppo/e0 to take care o5 each
other4 But a5ter 444 uh 444 well, $P1 gue//ing you know, Heuel /ai0 we ha0 to be 0i/crete4 $t i/nPt
like thereP/ any privacy on the /hip 444 to be 0i/crete4
Q:ell, $ wa/ even thinking, 1aybe, i5 we were going to be here a while we coul0 1ake u/ a little
ho1e/tea04 Thi/ place i/nPt hal5 ba0**plenty o5 potential**way better than Ouno, 1y ho1e worl04Q

Chapter Di5teen
=anika wa/ 5eeling tre1en0ou/ly relieve0 by the ti1e /he hea0e0 out to take her turn at guar0
0uty4 Tire0, becau/e /heP0 re5u/e0 to leave =ane until the 1e0ic ha0 0one another /can an0
in5or1e0 the1 that =aneP/ nano/ ha0 repaire0 hi/ organ/ enough that he ha0 5ar better o00/ o5 a
5ull recovery4 Gnea/y about the co11it1ent /heP0 1a0e, but relieve04
&ot that /he ha0 any intention o5 going back on her wor0@
%he ha0nPt actually 1a0e up her 1in0 about whether or not /he wa/ willing to take the guy/ on a/
/e7ual partner/ to keep peace within the /6ua0 be5ore the attack, but /heP0 been leaning that way4
&ow it /ee1e0 1ore like the right thing to 0o an0 /he 0i0nPt regret, e7actly, that /heP0 1a0e
=ane that pro1i/e4
$t wa/ 9u/t a little unnerving4
%he wa/nPt even /ure o5 why it unnerve0 her4 $t wa/nPt a/ i5 /heP0 never ha0 /e7 be5ore, a5ter all4
$t wa/nPt even a/ i5 /heP0 never 0one it purely 5or the /ake o5 /cratching an itch4
$t wa/ becau/e, 1o/tly, /he thought o5 that /ort o5 inti1acy a/ an e1otional a/ well a/ a phy/ical
$t wa/ becau/e o5 To11y =ancel4
%heP0 thought when /he gave her/el5 to hi1 in her 5atherP/ barn that it wa/ the beginning o5
/o1ething big, /o1ething la/ting4 %heP0 thought that every ti1e /heP0 /neake0 o55 to 1eet hi1 444
i1agine0 the two o5 the1 having chil0ren together, growing ol0 together 444 right up until /heP0
run into hi1 an0 Earcy EcConnell at the county 5air an0 0i/covere0 it 0i0nPt 1ean a 0a1ne0
thing to hi1 e7cept /e74
To11y =ancel wa/ the 5ir/t an0 only 1an /heP0 ever even con/i0ere0 a/ a li5e partner4 A/ hurt
an0 angry a/ /heP0 been when /heP0 0i/covere0 hi/ betrayal, a/ 0eter1ine0 a/ /he wa/ never to
5orgive hi1 5or it, /he ha0nPt 1et anyone /ince that /he even wante0 to envi/ion her/el5 with a/ a
li5e partner4
:ow cra#y wa/ it to o55er /uch a thing when /he knew the guy/ 0i0nPt have a clue o5 what that
kin0 o5 co11it1ent 1eantA TheyP0 never been a part o5 any kin0 o5 5a1ily4
%he /hook her hea0 at her thought/4
TheyP0 alrea0y beco1e a 5a1ily4 &ot in the /a1e way that her 5a1ily wa/, or even in the way
/heP0 thought /he woul0 one 0ay have a 5a1ily o5 her own4 They 0i0nPt know that they ha0 any
kin0 o5 5uture at all to look 5orwar0 to**any o5 the14 :ow /tupi0 wa/ it to worry about a 5uture
with the1 when the o00/ were probably a hun0re0 to one again/t having one at allA
$5 they coul0 en9oy anything about their /ituation, 0i0nPt all o5 the1 0e/erve whatever ta/te o5
happine// they coul0 1anageA Bhy worry about to1orrow an0 give up to0ay when to0ay 1ight
be all there ever wa/A
Q=ane i/ 0ea0AQ
%ethP/ 6ue/tion not only 9erke0 her out o5 her ab/orption, it knocke0 the breath out o5 her4 $5 /he
ha0nPt been /o worrie0 that he wa/nPt going to 1ake it, in /pite o5 hi/ progre//, /he 0i0nPt think
the 6ue/tion woul0 have thrown her /o o55 kilter4 But /he wa/ /till worrie0 an0 even though
0oubt/ an0 6ue/tion/ in/tantly aro/e in her 1in0 a/ to how they coul0 know 1ore than her when
/heP0 9u/t le5t /ickbay, /he wa/ in/tantly certain he ha04 Q:e i/AQ
%eth an0 &ile/ e7change0 a gri1 look4 Q:i/ nano/ coul0 not repair the 0a1ageAQ %eth a/ke04
$t hit =anika then that heP0 been a/king about =ane, not announcing hi/ 0eath4 =i/co15ort
wa5te0 through her4 QGh 444 %orry@ $ 1i/un0er/too04 Meah4 :eP/ better4 &ot out o5 the woo0/, yet,
but 0e5initely i1proving4Q
&ile/ 5rowne04 Q:e i/ in the woo0/A $ le5t hi1 in /ickbay4Q
=anika /tare0 at hi1 blankly 5or a long 1o1ent4 QMou guy/ have really got to /top taking
everything $ /ay /o literally**or better yet, get u/e0 to /lang an0 /tu55 like that4 P&ot out o5 the
woo0/P 1ean/ he i/nPt /a5e, but the 1e0ic /ai0 hi/ o00/ o5 pulling through are i1proving
tre1en0ou/ly4 $5 he 1ake/ it through the night, heP/ going to be ok4Q
%he 0i0nPt want to think about that, though4
%he change0 the /ub9ect4 QMou guy/ /houl0 hea0 back an0 get /o1e chow an0 a little re/t4Q
%eth /cowle0 at her4 QHeuel /ai0 two 1en on, two o554 Mou cannot take guar0 0uty alone4 $ will
/tay an0 &ile/ can return to ca1p4Q
&ile/ glare0 at hi14 Q$ will /tay an0 you can return4Q
QBill you guy/ knock it o55AQ =anika /nappe04
%eth /ent her a look o5 /urpri/e, /hrugge0, an0 belte0 &ile/ in the 1outh4
=anika /ucke0 in a /harp breath4 QBhat the hell 444AQ
&ile/ worke0 hi/ 9aw4 Q%he 0i0 not /ay that you /houl0 knock 1y hea0 o55@Q
Q$ 0i0nPt /ay either o5 you /houl0@Q /he /nappe0, narrowing her eye/ at %eth4 QAn0 $ 0onPt believe
you 1i/un0er/too0 1e@Q
%eth trie0 to look innocent4 Q:e i/ in9ure0 now4 :e /houl0 return an0 $ will /tay4Q
QThat 0i0 not hurt at all@Q &ile/ 0i/pute04
%eth punche0 hi1 again, har0 enough that ti1e to /en0 hi1 9ogging backwar0/ in an e55ort to
catch hi/ balance4 &ile/ uttere0 a /narl o5 rage4
Q$5 you two 0onPt cut it out $P1 going to /en0 both o5 you back@ The 0a1ne0 /avage/ will hear
you a 1ile away@Q
They e7change0 a /peaking glance4 QThe or0er wa/ to guar0 to be /ure the pri1itive/ 0i0 not
/neak into ca1p4 They cannot e7pect to i5 they know we are here,Q %eth /ai0 rea/onably4 Q$t
/erve/ no purpo/e, there5ore, 5or u/ to concern our/elve/ with 1aking noi/e4 They will try
another place an0 very likely tho/e on guar0 there will have a11unition4 Be have nothing but
the /pear/ 5ro1 the /avage/ we kille04Q
Q$ have a11unition,Q =anika pointe0 out4 QAn0 itPll be better 5or 1e to /tan0 watch now, while
itP/ /till 0aylight4 $ canPt /ee a/ well a/ you guy/ at night4Q
%eth /natche0 her ri5le 5ro1 her han0 an0 e7a1ine0 it4 QMou have twelve roun0/,Q he /ai0,
ignoring her look o5 outrage a/ he han0e0 it back4 QMou can only /hoot twelve**i5 you 0o not
1i// at all4 An0 they attacke0 each ti1e in the 0aylight4 $t i/ not rea/onable to /ugge/t we return
to ca1p now an0 leave you alone given the 5act that each previou/ attack wa/ 0uring the
That part wa/ inarguable**not that =anika wa/nPt incline0 to argue anyway**or or0er the1
/traight out to hea0 back4 But /heP0 ha0 plenty o5 ti1e to 0i/cover that they only obeye0 or0er/
5ro1 her when it /uite0 the1 an0 there 0i0nPt /ee1 to be 1uch point in challenging the1 now4
They werenPt PregularP ar1y any1ore4 =e/pite the 5act that Heuel ha0 1a0e her a captain in hi/
ar1y, they ha0 no ho1elan0 or govern1ent to /anction the1 a/ an ar1y4 QDine4 %uit your/elve/,
but HeuelP/ going to be pi//e0 o55 i5 any o5 the /avage/ break through our /ector becau/e you two
were 5ighting an0 not paying attention, or a/leep becau/e you were too tire0 to /tay awake4Q
They /at in /ilence 5or a while, /watting at the annoying in/ect/ that bu##e0 the14 .re/ently,
however, =anika recalle0 the thought/ that ha0 occupie0 her on her way back to the guar0
/tation4 %he looke0 at %eth an0 &ile/ /peculatively 5or a 5ew 1inute/, trying to 0eci0e how to
broach the /ub9ect4
Q$ 0onPt /uppo/e you guy/ have given any thought to what you want to 0o now that we arenPt in
the ar1y any1oreAQ
Both 1en looke0 /urpri/e04 QBe are in HeuelP/ ar1y,Q &ile/ re/pon0e0 a5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/4
That /ee1e0 to an/wer her 6ue/tion, but /he wa/nPt incline0 to 0rop it4 Q$t i/nPt like we were
/worn in or anything**or a/ke0 i5 we wante0 to 9oin4Q
QBe were not a/ke0 be5ore or /worn in either,Q %eth pointe0 out4
3oo0 point@ =anika thought that over 5or a 5ew 1inute/4 QMou know, technically, you guy/ arenPt
QThey will /hoot u/ anyway when they 5in0 u/,Q &ile/ re/pon0e04
QMe/, but, technically, you canPt be a 0e/erter when you 0i0nPt 9oin to /tart with4Q
%eth /hrugge04
3iven their re/pon/e/ to her tentative P5eeler/P =anika wa/nPt /ure /he wante0 to 0i/cu// the la1e*
braine0 i0ea /heP0 concocte0 in the hope o5 li5ting =aneP/ /pirit/4 %heP0 thought at the ti1e that it
wa/ /o1ething that woul0 li5t hi/ /pirit/ becau/e /he thought it 1ight be what he wante04
Heuel ha0 /ugge/te0 /o1ething along the /a1e line/ an0 no one ha0 /ee1e0 again/t the i0ea4
Bell, it wa/nPt like theyP0 cheere0 or acte0 e7cite0 either, but then again, they were all pretty
cool an0 lai0 back4
Eo/t o5 the ti1e, /he a00e0 when /he recalle0 the argu1ent4
Then again, they all ten0e0 to calculate the o00/ on everything4 Eaybe theyP0 thought the o00/
were again/t the1 having any chance o5 a li5e an0 theyP0 /i1ply 0i/1i//e0 itA
%he /uppo/e0 it ha0 been a /tupi0 i0ea, now that /he con/i0ere0 it4
Bhat wa/ /he going to /ay to =ane i5 he re1e1bere0A
Eaybe he woul0nPtA :eP0 /ee1e0 pretty out o5 it4
QMou 0i0 not think HeuelP/ plan ha0 1eritAQ %eth a/ke0 a5ter a little while4
=anika glance0 at hi1 in /urpri/e, thought about it, an0 5inally /hrugge04 QBhat he ha/ worke0
out /ee1/ /oun0 enough an0 heP/ i1pre//ive4 $P1 gue//ing he can pull o55 9u/t about anything he
/et/ hi/ 1in0 to4Q
QThat 0oe/ not /oun0 a/ i5 you agree,Q &ile/ /ai0 a5ter apparently turning what /heP/ /ai0 over in
hi/ hea0 5or a 5ew 1inute/4
=anika 5rowne0, thinking back over what /heP0 /ai0 an0 5inally grinne04 Q$ gue// not4Q
QThere i/ /o1e 5ault in hi/ logicAQ
=anika con/i0ere0 that an0 5inally /hook her hea0 an0 then /hrugge04 Q$P1 not /ure that $ agree
with hi1 about tho/e guy/ that went back to the ba/e at %laughter Hi0ge to re/cue the wo1en4 $
think he un0ere/ti1ate0 the govern1ent an0 they woul0Pve 5igure0 it out anyway4 Eaybe not a/
/oon, but theyPre going to /cour Keno*!2 when they get back to account 5or everything an0 $
0onPt think theyP0 /i1ply write o55 the nu1ber o5 1i//ing cyborg/4 TheyPre 0a1ne0 relentle//
about accounting 5or everything that co/t/ the1 1oney4Q
QThen you 0o agree that there wa/ no 5ault in hi/ logic in 0eter1ining the nece//ity o5 leaving
Keno*!2 a/ /oon a/ po//ible to avoi0 a con5rontation with the Con5e0eracyAQ
Q$P1 not 0i/agreeing with any part o5 hi/ plan4 :eP/ a lot /1arter than $ a1 an0 $P1 /ure heP/
con/i0ere0 every angle**everything he can con/i0er4 There are too 1any unknown/ in thi/
/ituation to 5igure it all out, though4
QA running battle<retreat i/ all he can 0o a/ 5ar a/ $ can /ee4 An0 he canPt plan on a place to go
until heP/ ha0 ti1e to 5in0 one4
Q$ 0onPt even 0i/agree that he 0i/1i//e0 the po//ibility o5 /ettling the /ituation in court4 $ 0onPt
think either the govern1ent or the co1pany woul0 ever let it get to court4
Q$tP/ 9u/t 444 They have a long reach**the govern1ent4 The co1pany, 5or that 1atter4 A really long
reach4 $tP/ a big univer/e an0 there are boun0 to be a hell o5 a lot o5 un0i/covere0 planet/, but it
coul0 be a long, long ti1e be5ore they 5in0 one where theyPll have a chance to /ettle like HeuelP/
talking about4 An0 in the 1ean ti1e, everybo0y i/ on the run4 Heuel an0 hi/ ar1y will 1ake the
bigge/t target4 &ot that $ think they wonPt be 0e0icate0 in hunting 0own everybo0y they 0onPt
account 5or on Keno*!2, but 444 Bell, /cattering woul0 1ake a /1aller target4Q
%eth 5rowne04 QThat will al/o 1ake the in0ivi0ual/ 1ore vulnerable,Q he /ai0 /lowly4 QMou are
thinking about returning to your ho1e worl0AQ
%urpri/e 5lickere0 through =anika4 QOh hell no@ $5 they co1e looking 5or 1e, thatPll be the 5ir/t
place they look4 $t woul0 en0anger 1y 5a1ily4 &o way woul0 1y 5ather 9u/t let the1 haul 1e o55
like they 0i0 be5ore an0 they woul0nPt /top at 9u/t knocking hi1 out like they 0i0 then either4
Q&o, $P1 in the /a1e /ituation you guy/ are4 &owhere to go4 An0 0onPt get 1e wrong, $
co1pletely agree with the plan to re/cue a/ 1any people on Keno*!2 a/ we can4 The cavalry
1ight arrive in ti1e to re/cue a lot o5 the /ol0ier/ 1aroone0 there without /upplie/**$ hope to
hell they 0o**but thatP/ 9u/t going to be a nail in the co55in 5or the cyborg/ /till there4 $ wa/ 9u/t
thinking about the po//ibility o5 /taying here when they leave**all o5 u/4 $ 1ean, the 1ore people
we re/cue the le// likely that wePll all 1anage to get o55 o5 thi/ planet anyway4 Heuel woul0 have
to capture a 5leet o5 /hip/ to get everybo0y out o5 here4 $t 1ight not co1e 0own to a choice o5
whether to /tay or go4 An0 it i/nPt a ba0 place4 $Pve /een a lot wor/e4Q
%he 5elt her 5ace re00en when %eth an0 &ile/ 1erely /tare0 at her, unco15ortable that /he
coul0nPt 5igure out what wa/ going through their 1in0/4
Q$5 you /tay, $ will /tay,Q &ile/ /ai0 a5ter a brie5 pau/e4
%eth glare0 at hi14 QBe will all /tay4Q
QOh 1an@ =onPt 0o that@ $5 you guy/ 0onPt think itP/ a goo0 i0ea, letP/ 9u/t /tick with Heuel4 $ 0onPt
want it to be 1y 5ault i5 they catch up to u/4 Anyway, Heuel ha/nPt been wrong /o 5ar an0 heP/
kept u/ alive4 $t wa/ probably a /tupi0 i0ea4Q
&ile/ /tu0ie0 %eth /peculatively, won0ering i5 he a/ke0 the 6ue/tion that ha0 been plaguing hi1
i5 %eth woul0 an/wer or /tart another 5ight4 :e ha0 not been in a very goo0 1oo0, to &ile/P
thinking, /ince he ha0 plea/ure0 =anika an0 that /ee1e0 1ore than a little illogical to hi14
:e woul0 not have been /urpri/e0 i5 %eth ha0 wante0 to talk about the e7perience, i5 he ha0 been
9oyou/, or 1erely content that he ha0 5inally a//uage0 both hi/ curio/ity an0 the urge/ that ha0
co1e with the awakening4 Any or all o5 tho/e thing/, to hi/ way o5 thinking, woul0 have been
The broo0ing violence wa/ not rea/onable at all4 The ea/e with which he lo/t hi/ te1per, the
0e/ire to poun0 on anything an0 anyone over the /lighte/t thing, wa/ not4
$t 1a0e hi1 won0er i5 the 1ere act o5 0oing it ha0 over/et the hairline balance between /anity
an0 in/anity that it /ee1e0 they ha0 all been /kating /ince the awakening, when e1otion won out
over rea/on 5ar 1ore o5ten than it /houl0 have4
$t 1a0e hi1 won0er i5 he wa/ wrong to connect the inci0ent to %ethP/ 5oul hu1or4
Eayhap he wa/ only thinking that inci0ent wa/ the root o5 the proble1 0ue to hi/ own
:e knew that he wa/ not the only one that wa/ beginning to have /evere concern/ regar0ing hi/
/anity /ince the change ha0 awoken the throbbing ba/tar0 in hi/ britche/, however4 :e knew that
he wa/ not alone in 5in0ing it nigh i1po//ible, 1o/t o5 the ti1e, to think o5 anything el/e 0ue to
the near con/tant ache 5ro1 the /welling4 &ot that the pain wa/ unbearable, but it wa/ 0a1ne0
har0 to ignore when it never really went away4
=e/pite the urge/ that tol0 hi1 what he nee0e0 to 0o to a//uage the pain, though, he wa/
beginning to think it 1ight be 9u/t a/ well that he ha0 not ha0 the chance to /e7 =anika4 :e wa/
a/ certain a/ he nee0e0 to be that /he ha0 en9oye0 it**accor0ing to hi/ 0ata her reaction con5ir1e0
that 1uch**an0 it /ee1e0 to have 1a0e her 5ar le// ten/e an0 5ar 1ore cheer5ul, but it /ee1e0 to
have ha0 the oppo/ite e55ect on %eth4
That 1a0e hi1 unea/y4 :e 0i0 not want to be in/ane**or to 0o anything that 1ight 1ake hi1
behave 1ore irrationally than he alrea0y 0i04 The thought/ that ran through hi/ 1in0 were
alrea0y illogical 1ore o5ten than they were logical an0 tho/e were har0 enough to 0eal with4
QMou have been in a 5oul 1oo0 5or 0ay/,Q he /ai0 5inally, 0eci0ing it wa/ worth the ri/k o5
another 5ight i5 he coul0 get the an/wer/ 5ro1 %eth that he ha0 not been able to 5igure out by
%eth narrowe0 hi/ eye/ at hi1 a/ i5 he wa/ conte1plating re1oving hi/ hea0 5ro1 hi/ /houl0er/4
Q$ have not,Q he growle04
That wa/ not at all help5ul, &ile/ thought in0ignantly, an0 it 9u/t went to /how that %eth ha0
cro//e0 the line4 :e wa/ no longer rational at all@ :e /houl0 have re/pon0e0 by /aying why he
wa/ in a 5oul 1oo0@ &ot lie0 about being in a 5oul 1oo0@
Eayhap %eth wa/ unable to gra/p the true 6ue/tion, though, becau/e he ha0 atte1pte0 /ubtletyA
QBhy are you in a 5oul 1oo0AQ
:e coul0 hear %eth grin0ing hi/ teeth together4 Q$ 9u/t /ai0 that $ a1 not@Q
The re/pon/e 1a0e &ile/ angrier, but he wa/ 0eter1ine0 to re1ain rea/onable even i5 %eth,
apparently, ha0 lo/t that ability@ Q$ have con/i0ere0 thi/ 0ata 5or /o1e ti1e an0 it /ee1/ illogical
to 1e that you are 444 not happy when you /e7e0 =anika an0, logically, /houl0 be4 Bhy i/ thi/AQ
%eth /urge0 to hi/ 5eet4 &ile/ in/tantly 5ollowe0 /uit, watching hi1 warily4 $n/tea0 o5 pouncing a/
&ile/ ha0 5ully e7pecte0, however, he turne0 on hi/ heel an0 /tro0e away4 A5ter a 5ew pace/, he
turne0 an0 /tro0e back, 1a0e an about 5ace 9u/t a/ &ile/ wa/ convince0 he woul0 attack an0
pace0 away again4 Drowning, &ile/ 1ove0 to a /a5er 0i/tance an0 watche0, 1ore 0i/turbe0 by
the lack o5 purpo/e than he woul0 have been i5 %eth ha0 attacke04 :e ha0 not even been or0ere0
to pace the peri1eter an0 beyon0 that he wa/ not walking the length o5 it, which he /houl0 have
i5 he ha0 0eci0e0 on hi/ own to 0o /o4 Acce//ing hi/ 0ata bank/, he 0i/covere0 that pre0atory
bea/t/ ha0 been known to pace**when cage0**a/ i5 /earching 5or a way o5 e/cape, but that 1a0e
no /en/e to hi1 even though he wa/ aware that part o5 the awakening wa/ 0ue to the
0evelop1ent o5 the part o5 the biological brain a//ociate0 with ani1al in/tinct/4 %eth wa/ not
cage04 Bhy woul0 he 5eel the nee0 to paceA
:e /toppe0 a5ter a ti1e an0 /ettle0 on the rock where he ha0 been /itting be5ore4 .ropping hi/
elbow on one thigh an0 /upporting hi/ chin on hi/ 5i/t, he glare0 at the groun0 5or /o1e 1inute/
be5ore he abruptly ten/e0 an0 looke0 aroun0 a/ i5 /urpri/e0 to 5in0 hi1/el5 where he wa/4
Drowning, &ile/ 0ebate0 whether to return to hi/ own perch or keep hi/ 0i/tance4
:e ha0 9u/t 0eci0e0 it woul0 be /a5e to /it 0own again when %eth /poke abruptly4
Q$ plea/ure0 her4 $ a1 certain o5 that,Q he /ai0, hi/ voice threa0e0 with uncertainty in 0irect
contra0iction o5 what he ha0 /ai04
Q$ 0i0 not 0i/pute that,Q &ile/ /ai0 cautiou/ly4 QAccor0ing to 1y 0ata bank/ her reaction wa/ one
o5 plea/ure4Q =oubt/ /ur5ace0 al1o/t in/tantly4 QGnle// 444 perhap/ /he /crea1e0 becau/e /he
e7perience0 a 1u/cle cra1pA Or /aw /o1ething that 0i/turbe0 herA Mou 0i0 not 0rop herAQ
%eth ha0 looke0 at hi1 hope5ully 0uring the 5ir/t part o5 &ile/P /peech, but a thought5ul 5rown
replace0 it an0 then an angry one4 QO5 cour/e $ 0i0 not 0rop her@Q he /nappe0 irritably, but then
looke0 thought5ul4 Q%he 0i0 not /ee1 to be in pain 444 or /tartle04 $ 0o not think it coul0 have been
QThen it 1u/t have been plea/ure4Q
%eth looke0 hope5ul again4 QMou thinkAQ
&ile/ 5rowne04 QMou 0i0 not interpret the /crea1ing a/ plea/ureAQ
%eth 5rowne04 Q$ wa/ certain it wa/ 444,Q he he0ge04
%eth wre/tle0 with hi/ reluctance to a01it that he wa/ not certain, in 5act ha0 5inally conclu0e0
that he ha0 not given her any plea/ure at all, an0 the vague hope that hi/ logic wa/ 5aulty an0
&ile/ woul0 arrive at a 0i55erent conclu/ion4 $n truth, he ha0 thought 5or a ti1e that he ha0 5rie0
both hi/ logic circuit/ an0 hi/ biological brain becau/e neither /ee1e0 to be working 9u/t a/ they
ought4 Q%he /ee1e0 in a very great hurry to leave when $ ha0 5ini/he0,Q he 5inally /ai04
%urpri/e 5lickere0 through &ile/, but he con/i0ere0 it thought5ully4 Q$ 0o not 5in0 anything in 1y
0ata to /ugge/t that behavior to be an ano1aly4 Mou plea/ure0 her4 %he wa/ 5ini/he04 %he le5t4Q
QEy 0ata /ay/ that al/o,Q %eth /ai0 /lowly4 Q$t 0i0 not /ee1 444 right, however4 $ 5elt plea/ure4 $
al/o 5elt a 0e/ire to /e7 her again4Q
QAt onceAQ &ile/ a/ke0 in 0i/belie54 QBhyA The /welling 0i0 not go 0ownAQ
Q$t 0i0, but it ca1e back al1o/t at once4 An0 it ha/ been 5ar wor/e /ince4Q
=i/1ay 5lickere0 through &ile/ but anger, a/ well4 :e ha0 thought that he 1ight 5eel plea/ure
an0 it pi//e0 hi1 o55 that he ha0 not even ha0 the chance to 0i/cover whether he woul0 or not
an0 %eth wa/ co1plaining becau/e he ha0@ QThat i/ 5ucke0 up@ Mou are /aying it 0oe/ not help to
have the /e7AQ
%eth /ent hi1 a /peculative look4 A look o5 cunning 5lickere0 acro// hi/ 5eature/ 5or a 1o1ent
be5ore he coul0 1a/k it with a look o5 concern4 Q$t 1ake/ the /welling wor/e4 Mou /houl0 not 0o
%o1ething about hi/ e7pre//ion in/tantly 1a0e &ile/ /u/piciou/4 Q$5 it i/ wor/e a5ter, then why
0o you want to 0o it againAQ
Q$ 0i0 not /ay that $ 0i04Q
QMou /ai0 e7actly that@Q &ile/ /nappe04 QMou /ai0 that you i11e0iately 5elt a 0e/ire to /e7 her
QThen,Q %eth clari5ie04 Q2ater, when $ ha0 ha0 ti1e to con/i0er the /ituation, $ reali#e0 that it
only 1a0e thing/ wor/e an0 that $ /houl0 not 0o it again 444 unle//, o5 cour/e, =anika a/k/4 $
woul0 not want to /ay no i5 it will help her4Q
That brought to 1in0 the 6ue/tion &ile/ ha0 wante0 to a/k be5ore an0, rather than pur/uing the
truth in the 5ace o5 the pack o5 lie/ %eth /ee1e0 0eter1ine0 to 5ee0 hi1, he a/ke04 Q%he a/ke0
you to /e7 herAQ
The 6ue/tion caught %eth o55 guar04 Truth5ully, he coul0 not recall how it ha0 co1e about an0 he
ha0 been /truggling to recall it /o that he coul0 convince her to allow hi1 to /e7 her again4 Q&o,Q
he re/pon0e0 be5ore it occurre0 to hi1 that it woul0 probably not be wi/e to a01it it4
Outrage 5lickere0 through &ile/, although, truth5ully, he thought he woul0 have been 9u/t a/
angry i5 %eth ha0 tol0 hi1 that =anika ha0 a/ke0 /ince /he ha0 not a/ke0 hi14 QMou a/ke0 herAQ
he 0e1an0e04
Q&o4Q :e ha0 thought about it**a very great 0eal**but there wa/ nothing in hi/ 0ata to /ugge/t that
that wa/ acceptable4
&ile/ gape0 at hi1, certain he 1u/t be lying4 Q$5 /he 0i0 not a/k an0 you 0i0 not a/k, how 0i0 it
co1e aboutAQ
:e 0i0 not know@ $5 he knew he woul0 have 0one it again@ :e wa/ not about to a01it that,
however4 $n/tea0, he /hrugge04
&ile/ /urge0 to hi/ 5eet4 QMou are /aying you 0o not knowA $ 0o not believe that@ Mou 9u/t will
not /ay becau/e you know you 0i0 not plea/e her an0 you are a5rai0 that /he will allow 1e to
5uck her an0 not you@Q
Bhen =anika returne0 /o1e 5i5teen 1inute/ later with the chow /heP0 gone to 5etch it wa/ to
0i/cover %eth an0 &ile/ on the groun04 %eth ha0 &ile/ in a hea0lock4 QBill you guy/ knock it
o55@ Bhat i/ with you latelyAQ

Chapter %i7teen
=anikaP/ 5ir/t inkling that Heuel ha0 i1ple1ente0 hi/ re/cue<retrieval operation wa/ when /he
returne0 to ba/e ca1p an0 0i/covere0 that hal5 the /hip/ were 1i//ing4 %he /toppe0 0ea0 in her
track/ an0 /urveye0 the co1poun0 again, thinking the /hip/ ha0 /i1ply been 1ove0 5or /o1e
rea/on, /truggling with the thought that a rogue 5action a1ong the1 ha0 /tolen the /hip/4 At the
/a1e ti1e that wa/ running through her 1in0, /he won0ere0 how they coul0 have taken o55
without her having hear0 the 0eparture**or %eth or &ile/4
Bithout a battle, 5or that 1atter, that woul0 have 1a0e enough noi/e to bring everyone 5ro1
their guar0 po/t/4
Their po/t wa/ 0eep enough in the 9ungle that they coul0nPt hear anything going on at ba/e ca1p,
but that wa/ becau/e none o5 the work being 0one at the ca1p pro0uce0 a great 0eal o5 noi/e4
The /hip engine/ /houl0 have 1a0e enough noi/e 5or her to hear it, e/pecially the noi/e three
/hip/ 1a0e taking o554
%he /potte0 /everal wo1en a1ong tho/e working, however, an0 /he thought that circu1/tance
eli1inate0 the po//ibility that any o5 the cyborg/ ha0 rebelle0 an0 taken the /hip/4 The only
/ource o5 contention, a/ 5ar a/ /he knew, wa/ the wo1en the cyborg/ ha0 capture04
Thank5ully, 0e/pite the 1o1entary 5ear that the /hip =ane wa/ in wa/ a1ong tho/e that ha0
0i/appeare0, /he 0i/covere0 very 6uickly that it wa/ /till parke0 where it ha0 been the la/t ti1e
/heP0 1a0e the trek to ca1p to get 5oo04 :urrying towar0 it once /he got over her initial /hock,
/he 9ogge0 up the gangplank an0 1ove0 bri/kly towar0 the /ickbay, arriving breathle// an0 on
%he got her /econ0 9olt then4 The gurney =ane ha0 occupie0 wa/ e1pty4
=e/pite the 5ear that ha0 been 5luttering in the back o5 her 1in0 5ro1 the ti1e heP0 been
woun0e0, the /hock o5 /eeing the be0 e1pty wa/ /o pro5oun0 /he coul0nPt 1ove 5or 1any
1o1ent/, coul0nPt think4 $t al1o/t /ee1e0 a/ i5 every proce// /hut 0own4 The burning nee0 to
breathe kick*/tarte0 heartbeat an0 brain 5unction, but /o 1any thought/ an0 5ear/ colli0e0 in her
1in0 at the /a1e ti1e that /he /till coul0nPt proce// what ha0 happene0 an0 arrive at any logical
The /ickbay wa/ co1pletely e1pty4 Bith no /ign o5 the 1e0ic*borg, /he coul0nPt even think who
to a/k about =ane or where to /tart looking4 %he 5inally turne0 on her heel an0 le5t4 %he ha0
al1o/t reache0 the gangplank again when it occurre0 to her that =ane 1ight have recovere0
enough to be 1ove0 to the crew 6uarter/4 %he 0i0nPt believe it4 :i/ con0ition ha0 /till been
/eriou/ the la/t ti1e /heP0 checke0 on hi14
But /he wante0 to believe it4
%truggling with the urge to /i1ply collap/e an0 let the grie5 threatening to overwhel1 all rea/on
gain the upper han0, /he turne0 5ro1 the gangplank an0 hurrie0 towar0 the /tair to the hol04 %he
nearly lo/t her 5ooting in her ru/h to reach the crew 6uarter/, but the near 0i/a/ter 0i0nPt pro1pt
her to /low 0own4 $n/tea0, /he /i1ply leapt over the la/t 5ew /tair/ when /heP0 caught her
balance, lan0ing har0 enough in the lower corri0or to rou/e the /ole occupant4
:e /at up in hi/ bunk4
Dor a han05ul o5 1o1ent/, they 1erely /tare0 at one another in /urpri/e4 Abruptly, =anika race0
0own the corri0or towar0 hi14
QOh@ Thank go0/@Q =anika ga/pe0 a/ /he neare0 hi14 Q=ane@ MouPre better@ $ thought 4444Q %he
coul0nPt get the re/t out4 Deeling her 5orce0 /1ile collap/e an0 her 5ace cru1ple with incipient
tear/, /he 5lung her ar1/ aroun0 hi1 an0 burrowe0 her 5ace again/t hi/ /houl0er4
=ane curle0 hi/ ar1/ aroun0 her, 0ragge0 her into the bunk an0 rolle0, we0ging her between
hi1/el5 an0 the bulkhea0<wall o5 the /hip4 %he 0i0nPt get the chance to pelt hi1 with the
6ue/tion/ that 5ille0 her 1in0, 5ighting 5or 0o1inance4 Al1o/t be5ore /heP0 /ettle0 goo0, he
5oun0 her lip/ an0 plante0 hi/ 1outh /oli0ly over her/4
Belco1e warre0 with 0oubt even a/ war1th 5ille0 her, but /he wa/ /o gla0 to know heP0
recovere0 when /heP0 5eare0 heP0 0ie0 that /he 0i0nPt 1ake any atte1pt to 0i//ua0e hi14 %he
ki//e0 hi1 back with enthu/ia/14
:er reception /ee1e0 to in/pire hi14 The 0oubt/ /war1e0 into her 1in0 again when /he 5elt hi/
han0 1oving over her in e7ploration, thru/ting her T*/hirt up to 1a//age her brea/t/ an0 her
brie5/ 0own to e7plore her 1oun04 :eP0 been at 0eathP/ 0oor only the 0ay be5ore4 :e /houl0nPt be
con/i0ering what he wa/ clearly intent on4
%he /houl0nPt let hi1@
Eaybe he 9u/t wante0 a thorough greeting with a little heavy petting, though, to re1in0 her /heP0
o55ere0 /e7ual recreationA
%he 5orce0 her/el5 to rela74 %heP0 9u/t point out that they nee0e0 to wait until he wa/ 1ore
recovere0 when he pau/e0 5or breath, /he 0eci0e04
Q=ane@Q /he ga/pe0 when he broke the ki//4
:e /hi5te0 0ownwar0 an0 covere0 the brea/t heP0 unearthe0 5ro1 her T*/hirt, 0epriving her o5
breath 5or /everal 1o1ent/4 By the ti1e heP0 thoroughly 5ine//e0 it, /heP0 5orgotten what /heP0
1eant to /ay4 %he /truggle0 to recapture the thought while he /earche0 5or the brea/t we0ge0
between hi/ che/t an0 the 1attre//4 %heP0 al1o/t capture0 it when he gave up on the brea/t that
/ee1e0 to be out o5 reach an0 returne0 to the 5ir/t4
HeuelP/ or0er to be 0i/crete poppe0 into her 1in0 when =ane gra/pe0 the wai/t o5 her brie5/ an0
yanke0 her pantie/ to her knee/4 %he 1anage0 to li5t one eyeli0 5ar enough to /can the crew
6uarter/ within /ight o5 =aneP/ bunk be5ore he 0ragge0 her un0er hi1 an0 plante0 hi/ 1outh over
her/ again4
%he wa/ /o 0runk with the en0orphin/ 5loo0ing her brain by the ti1e he broke the /econ0 ki//
that /heP0 not only lo/t all coor0ination, the only ob9ection /he coul0 think o5 when /he 5elt the
probe o5 hi/ cock along her thigh wa/ that /he wa/ boun0 at the knee/ by her brie5/4 %he
1anage0 to 0raw one knee up high enough to /hi5t the bin0ing to one ankle a/ he heave0 upwar0
in the bunk to align the hea0 o5 hi/ cock with the 1outh o5 her /e74 %he hear0 the 0ull clang o5
/o1ething har0 hitting /o1ething 1etallic4
Al1o/t be5ore it coul0 regi/ter in her 1in0 that it wa/ =aneP/ hea0 1aking contact with the bunk
5ra1e, he levere0 hi1/el5 up 5ar enough to 0rag her 0own the bunk, plante0 hi/ cock /oli0ly
again/t her cle5t, an0 began thru/ting4 Dor /everal 1o1ent/, all /he coul0 5eel wa/ the /tretch an0
burn o5 the /kin in her nether region/4 Dru/tration 5ille0 her4 %he wiggle0 her hip/, trying to
realign hi/ cock an0 then /truggle0 to reach between the1 when that 0i0nPt /ee1 to 0o the trick4
Abruptly, he broke i1pa//e an0 /peare0 into her4
A 1i7ture o5 relie5 an0 plea/ure replace0 her 5ru/tration4 Coiling her 5ree leg aroun0 hi/ hip/, /he
plante0 her heel in hi/ a// an0 gave hi1 a 5ew nu0ge/ 5or in/piration4 :e grunte0, 0igging hi/
toe/ into the 1attre// an0 /hoving har0er**har0 enough to pu/h her up the 1attre// /everal inche/
be5ore her lubrication coate0 hi/ /ha5t /u55iciently to allow hi1 to hit botto14 $t knocke0 the
breath 5ro1 her in an inelegant grunt when he 0i04
:eat wa5te0 through her when he retrace0 hi/ path an0 thru/t again, however, an0 it wa/ a lovely
heat4 Eaking a /oun0 o5 plea/ure in her throat, /he /truggle0 to encourage hi1 by curling her
hip/ to 1eet hi1 with each /ucce//ive thru/t4 %he gave up a5ter a very 5ew 1o1ent/, though,
when /he reali#e0 hi/ weight ha0 her pinne0 /o tightly to the 1attre// beneath her that /he ha0 no
roo1 to 1aneuver4 $n/tea0, /he /i1ply curle0 her hip/ until hi/ rhyth1ic thru/t/ were poun0ing
again/t her g*/pot, 0riving her towar0 cul1ination /o 6uickly that /he wa/ torn between the
0e/ire to reach it an0 the e6ual 0e/ire to hol0 it o55 to en9oy it longer4
$t wa/nPt a 1atter o5 choice, /he 0i/covere04 :e 0rove her to the brink /o 6uickly, /he wa/ 0i##y
with the cli1b, an0 pitche0 over it be5ore /heP0 har0ly reali#e0 /he wa/ teetering on the e0ge4
%he ga/pe0, groane0 at the inten/ity o5 her cli1a74
Thank5ully HeuelP/ warning echoe0 in her 1in0 be5ore /he coul0 e7pre// her 9oy 1ore lou0ly4
%he burrowe0 her 5ace again/t =aneP/ /houl0er to 1u55le her groan/4
"ven the pillow =ane ha0 burie0 hi/ 5ace in 5aile0 to 1u55le hi/ hoar/e roar o5 repletion when he
reache0 hi/ cri/i/, however4
%truggling to catch her breath in the a5ter1ath, /till pinne0 0own by =aneP/ 0ea0 weight, =anika
li5te0 her hea0 with an e55ort to /can the crew 6uarter/ again4
The 1e0ic*borg, /he 0i/covere0, wa/ /tan0ing at the 5oot o5 the /tair/, /taring 0irectly at the two
o5 the14
QOh 5uck@Q /he 1uttere0, allowing her hea0 to hit the 1attre// again4 At lea/t theyP0 only ha0 an
au0ience o5 one@
%o1ehow, /he 0i0nPt think that wa/ HeuelP/ i0ea o5 0i/cretion, though4
Q$5 you are recovere0 enough to 5uck,Q the 1e0ic*borg /ai0 coolly, Qyou are recovere0 enough to
return to 0uty4Q
=ane /truggle0 to pu/h hi1/el5 up an0 turn on hi/ /i0e an0 pro1ptly rolle0 o55 the bunk an0 onto
the 5loor, lan0ing with a lou0 cra/h an0 a groan**thi/ ti1e o5 pain rather than plea/ure4
%natching at the blanket to cover her/el5, =anika uttere0 a ga/p o5 0i/1ay an0 /hi5te0 to look
0own at =ane in con/ternation4
:e /tare0 back at her 5or a 1o1ent an0 5inally li5te0 hi/ hea0 an0 glare0 at the 1e0ic*borg4
The 1e0ic*borg glare0 back at hi14
Q$ tol0 you $ wa/ rea0y to return to 0uty,Q =ane /ai0 /ullenly4
QAn0 now $ a1 convince0@Q the 1e0ic*borg retorte0 an0 then turne0 on hi/ heel an0 0eparte04
=anika wa/ /till weak*knee0 a/ /he an0 =ane 1a0e their way through the 9ungle to their guar0
po/t4 %he coul0 well i1agine =ane wa/ in a goo0 bit wor/e /hape an0 /he 0ivi0e0 her ti1e
0uring the 5ir/t part o5 the trek between 5on0ly recalling the inti1ate 1o1ent/ theyP0 /hare0 an0
berating her/el5 5or 0oing /o1ething /o /tupi0 when =ane, regar0le// o5 hi/ /uperior genetic/
an0 a1a#ing recuperation, /houl0nPt have been e7erci/ing hi/ love 1u/cle4 :i/ 1ove1ent/ 1a0e
it clear that he wa/ /till in pain an0 /till weak 5ro1 hi/ or0eal4 "very ti1e he looke0 at her,
however, he grinne0 /o broa0ly that /he coul0nPt be entirely regret5ul about it**even i5 it ha0 been
$t occurre0 to her about the ti1e /he reali#e0 they were nearing the guar0 po/t that both %eth an0
&ile/ were liable to take it ba0ly i5 they 5igure0 out why =ane wa/ in /uch a great 1oo0, though,
an0 /he /earche0 her 1in0 5or a 0i/traction4
Q$ 0onPt /uppo/e you know where the other /hip/ areAQ /he a/ke04
=aneP/ /1ile vani/he04 QHeuel took a group o5 volunteer/ back to Keno*!2 to /earch 5or
=anika hate0 to /ee =aneP/ light 1oo0 vani/h /o abruptly, even though /heP0 thought it woul0 be
a very ba0 thing 5or the1 to arrive at po/t with =ane grinning like the cat that ate the canary4
QOh4 $ ha0nPt thought about that4 $ gue// $ /houl0 have /ince he /ai0 that wa/ 5ir/t priority**
getting the /hip/ rea0y 5or a 1i//ion4Q %heP0 ha0 other thing/ on her 1in0, though4 Q$ /till 0onPt
know why $ 0i0nPt hear the1 leave4Q
=ane /tare0 at her a 1o1ent a/ i5 won0ering hi1/el5 an0 5inally /hrugge04 QThey le5t in the
1i00le o5 the night when they thought it lea/t likely they woul0 be hear0, or /potte0 even i5 they
were hear0 leaving4Q
%he /uppo/e0 that e7plaine0 why /he ha0nPt hear04 %he /uppo/e0 /heP0 been a/leep, but not only
wa/ it har0 to accept that /heP0 /lept that /oun0ly, it wa/ unnerving to think /he ha04 $t al/o
irritate0 her that neither %eth nor &ile/ ha0 thought to 1ention it4
Q$ 0onPt /uppo/e you know when theyPll be backAQ
Again, =ane /hrugge04 QHeuel /ai0 i5 they ha0 not returne0 in 5our 0ay/, by thi/ planetP/ cycle,
that we /houl0 not look to /ee the1 again**perhap/ at all4 Be are un0er or0er/ to 0i/per/e4Q
=anika /toppe0 abruptly in her track/, gaping at hi14 Q=i/per/e to whereAQ /he 0e1an0e0 in
Q:e 0i0 not have /ugge/tion/4 :e 1erely i//ue0 the /tan0ing or0er that, i5 we were attacke0 by
the Con5e0eration, we are to 0i/per/e an0 0o our be/t not to 0raw attention to our/elve/ an0 to
blen0 in with the hu1an/ a/ be/t we can until the ti1e when he can 5in0 a place 5or u/ an0 gather
u/ together again4 Be 0o not have the 1ean/ or the re/ource/ to war with the hu1an/ even i5 that
wa/ our 0e/ire4 Eunition/ are very low4 Be will have to rai0 to gather even enough 5or a running
Q:ere we have 5oun0 /helter an0 5oo0, but there are no weapon/ or 1unition/ to be ha0 unle//
we can take a hu1an ba/e or one belonging to the An0orian/4Q
=anika /tare0 at hi1 in 0i/1ay an0 0awning anger4 Q"7actly when were we /uppo/e0 to be
=ane looke0 0i/concerte04 Q$ wa/ there to hear**a/ were the other/ who were o55 0uty 5ro1
watch4 Be were to in5or1 tho/e who coul0 not be there becau/e they were /tatione0 on guar0
=anika 5rowne0 thought5ully a/ they re/u1e0 their walk4 Q$t 0i0nPt look to 1e like very 1any
ha0 gone with hi14Q
Q:e took only enough to 1an the /hip/ /ince he ha0 hope o5 5illing the1 with /urvivor/4Q
Q3oo0 thinking@Q =anika /ai0 0ryly, /truggling with her anger4 QBut that leave/ u/ with way
1ore people than the /hip/ that are le5t can carry4 That 1ean/ all o5 u/ canPt 0i/per/e**not 5ro1
here, anyway4 $ 0onPt /uppo/e he ha0 a /ugge/tion 5or thatAQ
=ane looke0 /urpri/e04 Q:e a/ke0 5or volunteer/ to 0raw the Con5e0eration away**that i/ the
plan i5 they co1e here to look 5or u/4 Tho/e who volunteere0 will take the /hip/ up an0 5lee in
0i55erent 0irection/, in the hope o5 convincing the con5e0eration that all have le5t4 Al/o in the
hope that they can outrun the1 an0 /urvive the1/elve/4 $ 0i0 not volunteer our /6ua0 becau/e
you ha0 /ai0 that we woul0 /tay here an0 buil0 a ho1e/tea04Q
That /peech co1pletely 0eprive0 =anika o5 anything at all to /ay4 $t wa/ one thing to 5or1 a
hypothetical /cenario /he reali#e0 /heP0 never actually been /eriou/ about an0 another entirely to
5in0 her/el5 /tran0e0 on the 5ucking planet with no 0a1ne0 choice o5 whether to /tay or not@
:er an0 her big 1outh@
Both %eth an0 &ile/ /ee1e0 to take the whole thing in /tri0e**a/ i5 they alrea0y knew even
be5ore /he arrive0 with =ane an0 in5or1e0 the1 o5 the or0er/@
But then theyP0 both been awake when the 0a1ne0 /hip/ took o554
%he /tewe0 over it while they all /ettle0 to eat the 5oo0 /heP0 brought 5ro1 ba/e, 0i/covering it
wa/ a lot ea/ier to nur/e her anger than to allow the 5ear churning in her belly an0 at the back o5
her 1in0 to take hol04
:ow coul0 /he po//ibly have 5orgotten how 0a1ne0 literal 1in0e0 they were, /he won0ere0
angrily@ :ow coul0 they not know it wa/ 9u/t 444 a la1e atte1pt to 1ake her/el5 5eel better about
the go0/ aw5ul /ituation they were in an0 to cheer =ane upA
%heP0 only been trying to put a po/itive /pin on an i1po//ible /ituation, 0a1n it@ Boo/t 1orale@
"/pecially her/@
%he only e1erge0 5ro1 her internal rage when the 1en ro/e an0 le5t her4
$n/en/itive a//hole/, /he thought angrily@ Coul0nPt they /ee /he wa/ up/etA But in/tea0 o5 trying
to rea//ure her theyP0 all looke0 at her like /he wa/ bo1b about to e7plo0e an0 with0rawn to a
/a5er 0i/tance@
.eace, o5 a /ort, or at lea/t /ilence, reigne0 until they hear0 /o1eone approaching 5ro1 the
0irection o5 ba/e ca1p near 0u/k4 $11e0iately alert 0e/pite the 5act that the 0irection in0icate0 a
P5rien0lyP rather than a ho/tile, they all took up 0e5en/ive po/ition/4
The rattling o5 the bru/h /toppe0 while whoever it wa/ wa/ /till /o1e 0i/tance away4 Q$t i/ $,
Ba/il@Q the intru0er calle0 out4
$t took =anika a 5ew 1inute/ to 5igure out who the hell Ba/il wa/4
$t 0i0nPt take the guy/ even a nano*/econ04
QBhat the 5uck are you 0oing hereAQ %eth, &ile/, an0 =ane all growle0, al1o/t in uni/on4
:aving been haile0, it 0i0nPt /ee1 to bother Ba/il that it wa/nPt a welco1e4 :e continue0 hi/
approach4 Q$ have co1e to 9oin your /6ua0,Q he /ai0 cheer5ully when heP0 reache0 the14
=anika 1erely gape0 at hi1 in 0i/belie54
%eth, &ile/, an0 =ane bri/tle0 like cur 0og/4
QMou are not welco1e@Q %eth re/pon0e04
QBe have a /6ua0 alrea0y,Q &ile/ retorte04
QBe 0o not nee0 another,Q =ane a00e04
Ba/ilP/ e7pre//ion har0ene0, hi/ 5eature/ taking on a 1uli/h look4 Q$ have brought /upplie/**in
the event that they are nee0e04Q
QBe can collect our own go0/ 0a1ne0 /upplie/@Q %eth growle04
Q&ot i5 you 0o not return i11e0iately,Q Ba/il retorte0, Qan0 very likely not then4 They began to
0i/per/e the /upplie/ on han0 an0 no one 5ro1 your /6ua0 wa/ there /o $ gathere0 our /hare4Q
QThere i/ no PourP@Q %eth growle0 threateningly4 QMou are not a 1e1ber o5 our /6ua0@Q
QBait a 1inute@Q =anika /nappe0, /urging to her 5eet4 QBhat 0o you 1ean they /tarte0
0i/per/ing /upplie/AQ
Ba/il /et hi/ bur0en 0own4 QHeuel le5t or0er/ to 0i/per/e4Q
=anika gape0 at hi1 in outrage4 QBut 444 that wa/ only i5 they 0i0nPt 1ake it back in the ti1e heP0
/et, 0a1n it@ $t ha/nPt even been a 5ull 0ay /ince they le5t@Q
Ba/il /hrugge04 Q$5 they return a/ planne0, there will be no proble14 The /upplie/ that we have
will be /a5e4 Be 0i/cu//e0 the /ituation, however, an0 conclu0e0 that we coul0 not be certain
that Heuel 0i0 not lea0 hi/ group into an a1bu/h4 $5 that wa/ the ca/e, then we woul0 not have
5our 0ay/4 Be 1ight not have even one4 Be 0eci0e0 it woul0 be be/t to 0i/per/e /upplie/ now /o
that we woul0 not lo/e the1 i5 there wa/ an attack on our ba/e ca1p4Q
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all e7change0 a /peaking look4
=anikaP/ /u/picion/ were i11e0iately arou/e04 QThat wa/nPt part o5 the or0er/ that Heuel gave
be5ore he le5tAQ
Q&ot preci/ely,Q =ane re/pon0e0 a5ter a brie5 he/itation4
QBhat 0o you 1ean Pnot preci/elyPAQ =anika growle04
=ane /hrugge04 Q:e /ai0 that we 1u/t be prepare0 5or an attack in the event the Con5e0eration
ha0 alrea0y /ur1i/e0 that we ha0 co1e here an0 that we 1u/t act in our be/t intere/t/ in hi/
Ba/il no00e04 QAn0 we 0i/cu//e0 probabilitie/ an0 0eci0e0 that it woul0 be be/t to 0i/per/e
/upplie/ in hi/ ab/ence4Q
$t wa/ a logical 0eci/ion an0 =anika wa/ /till pi//e0 o554
Gn0er the circu1/tance/, /he 0i0nPt think they /houl0 be too ha/ty about running Ba/il o554 :e
ha0 con/i0ere0 the goo0 o5 their group, a5ter all, an0 collecte0 /upplie/ 5or the14 %he pointe0
that out4
%eth /cowle0 at her4 Q:e wa/ not con/i0ering the goo0 o5 our /6ua0@ :e ha/ nothing 1ore on hi/
1in0 than 5ucking you@ Be 0o not nee0 what he ha/ brought@ =ane@ &ile/@ Heturn to ba/e ca1p
an0 collect our /hare o5 the /upplie/@Q
=anika gape0 at hi14
=ane an0 &ile/ both looke0 torn between 5ollowing hi/ or0er/ an0 /taying long enough to run
Ba/il o554 A5ter a brie5 he/itation, however, they hea0e0 towar0 ca1p at a lope4
%hrugging, Ba/il looke0 aroun0 5or a prop, leane0 again/t a tree trunk, 5ol0e0 hi/ ar1/, an0
/ettle0 to wait4
%eth narrowe0 hi/ eye/ at hi14
=anika e1erge0 /u55iciently 5ro1 her /hock to 5eel the beginning/ o5 anger4 QOu/t what the 5uck
0o you 1ean by that, %ethAQ /he 0e1an0e04
%eth 5licke0 a /tunne0 look at her4 QBy whatAQ he a/ke0 blankly4
QThat na/ty co11ent@Q =anika growle04
%eth 5rowne0, obviou/ly reviewing the co11ent/ heP0 1a0e4 Q$ 0i0 not 1ake a na/ty co11ent,Q
he /ai0 a5ter a 1o1ent4
QOh, ye/, hell you 0i0@ Mou /ai0 all Ba/il ha0 on hi/ 1in0 wa/ 5ucking 1e@Q /he /nappe04
:e looke0 /urpri/e04 QThat i/ a na/ty co11entAQ
=anika glare0 at hi14 Q$t i1plie/ an in/ult@Q
%eth /tare0 at her4 Q$ 1eant to in/ult the ba/tar0@ $ 1eant to provoke a 5ight, but he acknowle0ge0
that he i/ a ba/tar0 an0 /ee/ no rea/on to 0e5en0 hi/ honor@Q
QMou in/ulte0 1y honorAQ Ba/il growle0, in/tantly bri/tling4 %urging away 5ro1 the tree, he
/talke0 towar0 %eth4 Q$ will knock your hea0 o55@Q
:e barely 1anage0 to get the threat out be5ore %eth /prang4 The two o5 the1 colli0e0 with an
i1pact that =anika 5elt certain coul0 be hear0 5or 1ile/4 Be5ore /he coul0 gather her wit/, they
were in the 1i0/t o5 a battle o5 titan/**/linging punche/ at each other, /linging each other aroun04
Bhen they 5lew pa/t her, bu1ping her har0 enough to knock her o55 her 5eet, /he /cra1ble0 5or
cover4 Q%top it@ %tan0 0own thi/ in/tant@Q /he bellowe0 at the14
"ither they 0i0nPt hear her or they werenPt incline0 to 5ollow any or0er/ at the 1o1ent that
e7clu0e0 poun0ing on one another4
Heali#ing there wa/ nothing /he coul0 0o but get out o5 the way, =anika looke0 aroun0 5or a
/a5er place to watch an0 5inally cli1be0 the tree /heP0 taken cover behin04 $t occurre0 to her that
5iring a /hot over their hea0/ 1ight get their attention, but /he thought they were alrea0y 1aking
enough racket to get the attention o5 any ene1ie/ within 1ile/4 Beyon0 that, /he ha0 very little
a11o le5t4 Ba/ting it in an atte1pt to break up the brawl**which 1ight or 1ight not work**
0i0nPt /ee1 like a goo0 i0ea4
%ettling on a branch, /he waite0 5or the1 to 5ini/h venting4 $t took the1 a lot longer than /heP0
e7pecte0 it woul04 They were /till 5ighting when =ane an0 &ile/ returne04
%eeing /he ha0 rein5orce1ent/, =anika calle0 out to the14 QEake the1 /top@Q
=ane an0 &ile/ looke0 up at her when /he /poke an0 then /hare0 a look4
QThe ba/tar0 wa/ right,Q =ane announce04 QBe coul0 not get 1uch4 Eo/t o5 the /upplie/ ha0
alrea0y been 0i/per/e04Q
QBell /hit@Q =anika e7clai1e0, in/tantly 0i/tracte04 QBhat 0o we 0o nowAQ
&ile/ /hrugge04 QBe have the /upplie/ that the ba/tar0 brought4Q
QThere will be plenty 5or u/ 5or week/ once %eth /en0/ hi1 on hi/ way,Q =ane agree0, no00ing4
=anika gape0 at hi1 in outrage4 QThatP/ 444 that i/nPt 5air at all@ :e brought the /tu55@Q
%eth an0 the ba/tar0**Ba/il**/he 0i/covere0, ha0 1anage0 to beat each other to a /tan0/till4 Both
o5 the1 were /till on their 5eet, but it /ee1e0 obviou/ to her that they were having trouble
5in0ing the /trength to continue to /wing at each other4 %he cli1be0 0own 5ro1 the tree4 QThat
/ettle/ it4 BePll have to take hi1 a/ part o5 the /6ua04Q
=ane an0 &ile/ e7change0 another look an0 =ane /tarte0 5orwar04 Q$ will beat the ba/tar0 a
while4 $ a1 not tire04Q
Q=onPt you 0are@Q =anika growle04 QMou 9u/t got well enough to get out o5 /ickbay@Q
=ane /toppe0 in hi/ track/ an0 /ent her an in0ignant look4 Q$ wa/ well enough to 5uck@Q
&ile/ /ent hi1 a look o5 outrage4 QMou 5ucke0 herAQ he /narle04
=ane gape0 at hi14 Q%he /ai0 that /he woul0 /e7 1e a/ /oon a/ $ wa/ well enough4Q
&ile/ punche0 hi1 in the belly4
Q=onPt you 0are punch hi1 444 there@ 3o0/ 0a1n it@ :e 9u/t recovere0 5ro1 internal in9urie/, you
Hu/hing to =ane, whoP0 0ouble0 over, /he e7a1ine0 hi1 5ear5ully a/ hi/ knee/ gave out an0 then
turne0 to glare at &ile/ 5uriou/ly4 Balling her 5i/t up, /he punche0 hi1 in the gut4 .ain e7plo0e0
in her 5i/t an0 paraly/i/ went all the way up her ar1 to her /houl0er4
%o1eone /nagge0 her aroun0 the wai/t an0 whirle0 her in a circle4 %he /aw it wa/ %eth when he
/et her on her 5eet4
:i/ e7pre//ion har0ene0 when he noticing that /he wa/ uncon/ciou/ly 1a//aging her ar14 :e
turne0 back to &ile/ an0 punche0 hi1 on the /houl0er4 QMou have hurt her, you /tupi0 a//hole@Q
&ile/ gape0 at hi14 Q$ 0i0 not hit her4 %he hit 1e@Q
QMou /houl0 have 0ucke0@Q %eth growle0 angrily, punching hi/ /houl0er again4 Heturning hi/
attention to =anika, he /hook hi/ 5inger in her 5ace4 Q=o not 0o that@ Mou will hurt your/el5@Q
%he cho1pe0 0own on hi/ 5inger har0 enough he /natche0 it back an0 gape0 at her in 0i/belie54
Q$P1 /6ua0 lea0er, go0/ 0a1n it@ $ /ay he 0e/erve/ a /pot in our unit@ :e wa/ watching our back/@
$ 0onPt care what 1otive you think he ha0 5or 0oing it4 :e /till 0i0 it@Q
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ all turne0 to give Ba/il a 1alevolent glare, but a5ter glancing at =anika
again, they allowe0 the ten/ion to ea/e 5ro1 the14
QAnyway, i5 we 0o en0 up /tran0e0 here, itP/ only going to increa/e our o00/ o5 /urvival with
another 1an in the group4Q
&one o5 the1 really looke0 convince0 by the logic o5 that co11ent but at lea/t they /ee1e0 le//
incline0 to /tart another 5ight4
=eci0ing the 1atter wa/ /ettle0, /he /ent Ba/il a /1ile that wa/ a 1i7ture o5 triu1ph an0
Ba/il gave her a rogui/h look that wa/ only /lightly 1arre0 by the battering hi/ 5ace ha0 taken
5ro1 %ethP/ 5i/t/4 QAre you in the 5ucking 1oo0 yetAQ
=anika wa/ taken aback 5or a 1o1ent4 Q&o@Q /he /narle0 at hi1 when /he recovere0 5ro1 her
/urpri/e, planting her han0/ on her hip/4 Q$ tol0 you $P0 let you know, 0i0nPt $AQ
:e looke0 /o cre/t5allen =anika wa/ al1o/t /orry /heP0 /nappe0 at hi14
%he 0i/covere0 that %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ were looking at her in0ignantly when /he turne0
aroun04 QBhatAQ
&ile/ glowere0 at Ba/il4 QBhen /he i/ in the 5ucking 1oo0 /he will let 1e know becau/e $ a1 a
1e1ber o5 thi/ 5ucking /6ua0 an0 you are not an0 /he ha/ not /e7e0 1e yet@Q
QBe5ore thi/ get/ any 1ore out o5 han0 we nee0 to get one 0a1ne0 thing /traight@Q =anika
/nappe04 Q$ will &OT be /prea0ing 1y leg/ any ti1e you guy/ 5eel like 5ucking, becau/e $
woul0nPt ever get the 0a1ne0 chance to clo/e the1 again@ Bhen $ a1 in the 1oo0, $Pll let you
know@ An0 i5 you 5our /tart pe/tering 1e, $P1 0a1ne0 well &OT going to get in the 1oo0@Q

Chapter %eventeen
3iven the or0er/ Heuel ha0 le5t, an0 the /upplie/ they ha0 on han0, =anika thought it be/t that
they hang on to what they coul0 an0 hunt 5or 5oo04
"veryone agree0 until they 0i/covere0 /he 1eant to leave two 1en on guar0 an0 take one with
her on the hunt4 That wa/ i11e0iately vetoe04 =e/pite the 5act that =anika ha0 knowle0ge an0
e7perience in hunting an0 none o5 the 1en 0i0 they were unite0 in 0i/agreeing with every
argu1ent /he 1a0e to /upport her i0ea4
A/ 5ar a/ they knew, there were /till ho/tile/ lurking in the area an0 they werenPt about to let
=anika go anywhere with only one 1an to guar0 her4
Bhile /he appreciate0 the 5act that they wante0 to guar0 her, it not only pi//e0 her o55 that they
re5u/e0 to /i1ply look upon her a/ one o5 the group, but the /u/picion that their 1ain concern
wa/ about the pu//y /he wa/ carrying aroun0 pi//e0 her o55 1ore4
QBell we canPt leave our po/t unguar0e0@Q /he /nappe04
They thought that over 5or a while an0 then %eth volunteere0 Ba/il to return to ba/e an0 in5or1
the1 that they were leaving their po/t to hunt 5or 5oo04
Ba/il i11e0iately looke0 0eeply /u/piciou/4
QBhen they /en0 /o1eone to take po/t, we will all go,Q %eth /ai0 coolly4
=anika wa/ al/o /u/piciou/, 1o/tly becau/e /he knew the guy/ ha0nPt accepte0 Ba/il even i5 /he
ha0 an0 ha0 tol0 the1 they 1u/t, but al/o becau/e %eth wa/ /o care5ul to look innocent when he
1a0e the /ugge/tion4 Dinally, /he /hrugge04 Q:eP/ right4 That woul0 be the be/t way to han0le it4
Heuel 1ay have pretty 1uch le5t u/ to our own 0evice/ here, but we certainly canPt leave po/t
without alerting the1 o5 the po//ibility o5 an attack4Q
%he 0i/covere0 that neither her /u/picion/ nor Ba/ilP/ were 1i/place0 when %eth got up not long
a5ter Ba/il 0i/appeare0 5ro1 /ight an0 collecte0 hi/ alien weapon/4
QBe were going to wait until he got back,Q =anika /ai04
%eth /hrugge04 Q:e ha/ ha0 ti1e to reach ba/e ca1p an0 alert the14 :e can catch up to u/ when
he return/4Q
=anika con/i0ere0 ob9ecting again, but the truth wa/ the ba/e wa/ on 5ull alert alrea0y 0ue to
HeuelP/ ab/ence4 Beyon0 that, /he thought the outer guar0 po/t/ were 1o/tly unnece//ary /ince
theyP0 0riven the /avage/ out4 They ha0nPt /een any /ign o5 the1 /ince**apparently none o5 the
po/t/ ha0 /ince they ha0nPt hear0 any /oun0/ o5 an encounter4
O5 cour/e that wa/nPt by any 1ean/ conclu/ive evi0ence that theyP0 0riven the /avage/ away 5or
goo04 %he 0i0nPt think anything /hort o5 annihilating the1 woul0 give the1 ab/olute certainty**
which 1eant they were alway/ going to have to be on the lookout 5or the pri1itive/4
%he /uppo/e0 that wa/ %ethP/ rea/oning, a/ well, which 1a0e her won0er why heP0 /ugge/te0
Ba/il return to ba/e ca1p at all /ince there wa/nPt actually an o55icer to report to4
%he 0i/1i//e0 it a5ter a 5ew 1o1ent/4 Ba/il coul0 5in0 hi/ way an0 i5 he 0i0nPt catch up with
the1, theyP0 ren0e#vou/ on their return4
Truth5ully, the new/ ha0 unnerve0 her4 %heP0 entertaine0 a 5anta/y o5 putting 0own root/ o5 /o1e
/ort an0 now wa/ looking at the /trong po//ibility o5 har/h reality an0 /he ha0nPt /een 1ore than
a 5ew acre/ o5 the worl0 /he coul0 be living on 5or 6uite /o1e ti1e4 %he 0i0nPt 9u/t want to check
it out4 %he nee0e0 to**becau/e i5 /he 5oun0 any na/ty /urpri/e/, /he wa/ going to have a place on
one o5 tho/e 0a1ne0 /hip/ when they le5t even i5 they 0i0 have to 0o0ge Con5e0eration 5ighter/@
They ha0nPt ha0 the ti1e to 0eter1ine 1uch about the vegetation**a/ in which plant/ woul0 be
e0ible an0 which were poi/on4 An0 their 5ren#ie0 activity an0 the battle/ theyP0 engage0 in /ince
lan0ing ha0 0riven 1o/t o5 the wil0li5e 5ro1 the i11e0iate area4 Their /upplie/ werenPt going to
la/t long4 %he wante0 to /ee what wa/ available an0 how har0 it woul0 be to catch4
%helter o5 /o1e kin0 wa/ al/o vitally i1portant4 The night ti1e te1perature/ werenPt /urvivable
in the long ter1 without /o1e kin0 o5 /helter an0 tho/e te1perature/ coul0 0rop even 1ore i5 it
happene0 that it wa/ /u11er on Keno*!!4
There wa/ the cave theyP0 5oun0, but that place gave her the creep/4 $5 pu/h ca1e to /hove, /he
woul0 en0ure /taying there rather than 5ree#ing to 0eath, but /he wante0 another option4 There
wa/ /o1ething about the place that 9u/t P5eltP like it wa/ a /acre0 place to the native/4 %he wa/nPt
/uper/titiou/, but the native/ probably were an0 i5 they 0eci0e0 to /6uat on a place that wa/
/acre0 groun0 to the /avage/ they were going to run into trouble really 5a/t4
They 5ollowe0 the larger /trea1 when they hea0e0 away 5ro1 their po/t4 $t wa/ a ru/hing /trea1,
which 1eant it 1a0e enough noi/e to 1a/k their progre// through the ru/tling bru/h at lea/t
/o1ewhat4 Gn5ortunately, that al/o 1eant it 1a0e it har0 5or her to hear anything el/e, too, but
although that a/pect unnerve0 her, /he 5igure0 it wa/ a worthwhile tra0e o554 They nee0e0 to be
watch5ul anyway an0 the /trea1 woul0 0e5initely be a place to attract the wil0li5e4
They trekke0 about a 6uarter o5 a 1ile through the 9ungle be5ore /he /aw the 5ir/t /ign that /heP0
been looking 5or4 %he /6uatte0 0own an0 e7a1ine0 the print/ in the /o5t /oil**/1all, cloven
hoove/4 Gnle// the creature 9u/t ha0 0ainty 5eet, /he 0eci0e0 it wa/ pretty /1all4 There were al/o
a goo0 nu1ber o5 track/, which /he thought coul0 in0icate /o1e kin0 o5 her0 ani1al4
%traightening a5ter a 5ew 1inute/, /he /tu0ie0 the 9ungle4 There wa/nPt a path4 =i/appointe0 /ince
/he thought that probably 1eant /he ha0nPt 0i/covere0 a /pot they u/e0 regularly, /he 1ove0 on
a5ter /heP0 thoroughly e7a1ine0 the area, watching the groun0 5or other track/4 The 5urther they
went, the 1ore track/ they 5oun04 The cloven hoove/ appeare0 to be the 1o/t proli5ic4 Bhatever
it wa/ that ha0 1a0e the1 appeare0 to be abun0ant4
There were other track/ here an0 there, a lot o5 the1 /1aller, a 5ew that looke0 like they
belonge0 to 1uch larger ani1al/4 .re0ator/ o5 /o1e kin0, /he 0eci0e0, 5eeling the hair on the
back o5 her neck prickle4
$t wa/ to be e7pecte0, o5 cour/e4 There wa/ alway/ a 5oo0 chain4 "very living thing 1a0e up a
link in the cycle4
%he 9u/t hope0 that they coul0 take top po/ition in that 5oo0 chain4
%he wa/ conte1plating calling a re/t break when one o5 the 1en, %eth, /he 0i/covere0 when /he
glance0 at hi1, abruptly clo/e0 a han0 aroun0 her upper ar14 %he looke0 at hi1 6ue/tioningly a/
he pulle0 on her ar1 in a /ilent /ignal to crouch an0 then 5ollowe0 the 0irection he in0icate0 with
a no0 o5 hi/ hea0 towar0 the li1b/ o5 the tree/4
At 5ir/t, /he 0i0nPt /ee anything at all**becau/e /he wa/ e7pecting to /ee the outline o5 warrior/ in
the branche/, or a pre0ator o5 a 0i55erent kin04 Bhat /he 5inally 0i/cerne0 a1ong the branche/,
however, wa/ regular /hape/ that werenPt nature 1a0e4
There wa/ /o1e /ort o5 /tructure ne/tle0 a1ong the 5oliage@ Bhen /heP0 5inally 5igure0 out what
it wa/ that /he wa/ looking at, /he 0i/covere0 other/**1any other/4 An0 vine/ woven into what
looke0 like /winging walkway/ or bri0ge/4
Deeling her heart leap with the threat o5 0anger, /he /ettle0 lower, /training to 0i/cern any
1ove1ent that coul0nPt be 0i/1i//e0 a/ the re/ult o5 air current/4 Eaybe twenty 1inute/ pa//e04
=anika 0i/covere0 /he wa/ hol0ing her breath an0 her heart wa/ beating /o lou0ly in her ear/
that /he coul0nPt hear anything el/e4
%he coul0nPt believe theyP0 walke0 /1ack into the 1i00le o5 a 5ucking village without any i0ea
they were /o clo/e to it@
%he 0i0nPt think they were 1ore than a 5ew 1ile/ 5ro1 the ba/e peri1eter theyP0 1arke0@
&o won0er the 0a1ne0 /avage/ ha0 attacke0 the1 /o 5erociou/ly@ TheyP0 /ettle0 in their
%he 5elt like kicking her/el5 that it ha0nPt occurre0 to her that there 1ight be a /ettle1ent
nearby**becau/e /he woul0Pve reali#e0 that i5 there wa/, they woul0 /ettle clo/e to a water
:er 1u/cle/ were beginning to cra1p 5ro1 the /train when %eth /ignale0 that he an0 the other/
were going up 5or a clo/er look4
=anika in/tantly wante0 to veto that plan, but there wa/ no getting aroun0 the 5act that the village
/ee1e0 to be aban0one04 They /houl0nPt have been able to walk right up to it at all4 A/ 5ierce a/
the pri1itive/ were, /he 5elt /ure they woul0 have ha0 guar0/ po/te04
Dinally, /he no00e04 %he wa/ the only one that ha0 a PrealP weapon anyway4 $t woul0 be better 5or
her to /tay put an0 watch 5or any /ign o5 a /urpri/e attack4
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ P1elte0P into the bru/h with /urpri/ing ea/e4 $t /urpri/e0 the hell out o5
=anika anyway4 They were a 5orce to be reckone0 with on the battle5iel0, but they were like
a//ault tank/**or /heP0 alway/ picture0 the1 that way4 %he ha0nPt ha0 the opportunity to 0i/cover
they actually ha0 /tealth capabilitie/4
%haking the ran0o1 thought/, /he 5ocu/e0 on /canning the tree/ 5or 1ove1ent4 $n a 5ew 1inute/,
the 1en reache0 the trunk/ o5 the tree/ an0 /cale0 the14 %truggling with the urge to 1erely
watch the1, /he 1a0e another care5ul /weep while the 1en 1ove0 /ilently along the overhea0
branche/ an0 0ucke0 into 5ir/t one hut an0 then another4
$n/tea0 o5 5eeling the ten/ion begin to ea/e a5ter theyP0 checke0 the 5ir/t 5ew, it 1ounte0 the
longer they /earche0, the /en/e growing that the /avage/ were waiting in one or 1ore o5 the hut/
to attack when the 1en /tu1ble0 upon 9u/t the right one4
A 5aint ru/tle o5 /oun0 behin0 her wa/ the only warning /he got o5 an approach4 The hair on the
back o5 her neck ro/e even a/ /he /wung into action4 A han0 cla1pe0 0own on the barrel o5 her
ri5le even a/ /he /wung to /hoot4
Q=a1n it, Ba/il@Q /he growle0 un0er her breath4 QMou /care0 the 5uck out o5 1e@Q
:i/ lip/ tightene0, but he 0i0nPt /ay anything4
%haking her 5ear an0 anger with an e55ort, =anika returne0 her attention to the /earch in progre//
9u/t a/ the 1en e1erge0 5ro1 the la/t o5 the hut/ an0 cli1be0 0own4
Q=e/erte0,Q %eth reporte0 when he reache0 her again, glaring at Ba/il bale5ully4 Q$ /ee you 5oun0
your way4 Mou are a 0i55icult 1an to lo/e4Q
Q=onPt be provoking@Q =anika /ai0 tightly4 QMou e7pecte0 hi1 to catch up4Q
=ane /hrugge04 QBut we ha0 hope that he woul0 not4 Thi/ place look/ a/ i5 it ha/ been
aban0one0 5or /o1e ti1e**0ay/, at lea/t4 $ a1 thinking that they le5t a5ter we 0i0 the /weep4Q
&ile/ appeare04 QThat /ee1/ likely4 $ 5oun0 a trail lea0ing northwar04 They ha0 1a0e a very
goo0 atte1pt to cover their back trail, but they were bur0ene0 with belonging/, very likely their
young, a/ well4 There i/ a goo0 bit o5 broken 5oliage that ha/ ha0 ti1e to 0ie an0 0ry up4Q
=anika 5rowne0, /tu0ying the hut/ above the1 /peculatively4 QMou think theyPre gone 5or goo0AQ
%eth /hrugge04 QThere i/ no way to 0eter1ine that4 Be 0o not know their habit/4 But they have
le5t nothing that appear/ to be o5 any u/e or value4Q
Q$ think $Pll go up an0 check it out,Q =anika /ai0 0eci/ively4
The 1en looke0 /urpri/e0 but they 5ollowe0 her4 %he 0i/covere0 they ha0 cli1be0 up by u/ing
vine/ that lay again/t the trunk/4 %hrugging inwar0ly with the thought that they /houl0 be able to
hol0 her weight i5 theyP0 hel0 5or the 1en, /he /houl0ere0 her weapon, gra/pe0 the vine, an0
ba/ically walke0 up the vertical cli1b4
&ot that it wa/ ea/y by any /tretch o5 the i1agination4 %he 0i0nPt have the upper bo0y /trength
the 1en ha0, even though /he wa/ e7tre1ely 5it, an0 her ar1/, /houl0er/, an0 leg/ were
/crea1ing with the /train by the ti1e /heP0 1a0e the twenty to thirty 5oot cli1b4
%topping to re/t an0 1a//age the ache when /he got to the top, /he /tu0ie0 the 0rop an0 5inally
conclu0e0 that the 5e1ale/ were either 1uch /tronger than hu1an wo1en, or there wa/ /o1e
other way the wo1en an0 chil0ren got up an0 0own4
%he 0i0nPt /ee anything to 0i/pute that 5ir/t conclu/ion a5ter e7ploring the village 5ro1 en0 to
en04 Clearly the /avage/ were /o1ething like pri1ate/**not 9u/t roughly hu1anio0**an0 the
5e1ale/ rarely le5t the /a5ety o5 the tree/ an0 the young le// o5ten than that4 $t wa/nPt 9u/t
acci0ental that the village coul0 har0ly be 0etecte0 5ro1 the groun04 "very e55ort ha0 been 1a0e
to in/ure that it blen0e0 with nature4 There were /till vine/ care5ully arrange0 in a nu1ber o5
area/ that looke0 like their purpo/e wa/ a/ a /a5ety line 5or younger, or at lea/t /1aller, tribe
The hut/ ha0 the /1ell o5 ani1al habitation**no /urpri/e when the /avage/ looke0 an0 behave0
1ore like ani1al/ that higher thinking being/@ They ha0 obviou/ /kill/, though, that no 0u1b
ani1al woul0 have4 The hut/ were well con/tructe0, very cleverly con/tructe0, actually4 They
were tight enough they /howe0 no /ign/ o5 0ecay 5ro1 a con/tant wetting by rain an0 yet
win0ow cover/ ha0 been 5a/hione0 /o that they coul0 be rai/e0 an0 lowere0 5or ventilation or to
let in light4 They were al/o /urpri/ingly /paciou/**probably at lea/t partly becau/e they were
co1pletely e1pty**but /he thought the /tructure/ 1u/t have hou/e0 1ore than one 5a1ily unit4
There 0i0nPt /ee1 to be enough o5 the1 to have acco11o0ate0 the nu1ber o5 warrior/ theyP0
alrea0y encountere0, an0 kille0, let alone wo1en an0 chil0ren unle// they 0i0 hou/e 1ultiple
Or there wa/ another village nearby4
The location an0 /ituation wa/ a goo0 one, =anika 0eci0e04 The tree 0welling/ were high enough
to protect 5ro1 all but cli1bing pre0ator/ an0 even 5ew o5 the annoying 5lying, biting in/ect/
/ee1e0 able to 5ly /o high4 They were cool, even now that theyP0 reache0 the heat o5 the 0ay
becau/e o5 the /ha0e 5ro1 the tree 5oliage an0 al/o the win0 current/4 %he thought theyP0 al/o be
tight enough once the /un went 0own to keep war1th in4
%he hope0 /o, at any rate4
QThi/ woul0nPt be a ba0 place i5 we coul0 get ri0 o5 the /tench 5ro1 the /avage/,Q =anika /ai0
a5ter /heP0 thoroughly e7a1ine0 everything4
The 1en all looke0 at her 0oubt5ully an0 /he /hrugge04 QAt lea/t te1porarily4 $t woul0 beat the
hell out o5 rolling in /leeping bag/ on the groun04 Be 0onPt have any /leepwalker/ a1ong u/, 0o
weAQ /he a/ke0 9okingly4
The 1en all looke0 at her blankly4
Q&ever 1in04 $ vote we 1ake thi/ our ba/e i5 the /hit hit/ the 5an4 2etP/ /ee i5 we can 5in0 out
how clo/e the neighbor/ are4Q
They 0i0nPt 5in0 any /ign o5 another village4 =anika wa/nPt convince0 that that 1eant there
wa/nPt another one unco15ortably clo/e, but they 0i0nPt have ti1e be5ore 0ark to e7plore a lot
%he wa/ /till plea/e0 with the re/ult/ o5 their e7ploration4 %heP0 /een /ign/ o5 a 5airly abun0ant
5oo0 /upply an0 /helter that appeale0 to her a hell o5 a lot 1ore than the cave4 All theyP0 have to
0o wa/ 5igure out how to catch the 5oo0 an0 5en0 o55 the native/ i5 they 0eci0e0 to reclai1 their
%he wa/ e7hau/te0 by the ti1e they reache0 their po/t again, too tire0 to co11ent on the 5act
that no one ha0 /hown up to guar0 the po/ition while they were gone4 %he wa/ /ure the 1en ha0
to be tire0, too, an0 wa/ /o1ewhat re/ent5ul that they werenPt /howing the /ign/ o5 5atigue /he
5elt, but /till grate5ul when they took over /orting the /upplie/4 Ba/il han0e0 out 5oo0 kit/4 %he
ate 1echanically an0 then curle0 up in her /leeping bag an0 pa//e0 out4
=e/pite the 5act that /he0 1anage0 to /leep through Heuel/ 0eparture, =anika 0i/covere0 with
relie5 an0 a great 0eal o5 annoyance, that both her /urvival in/tinct/ an0 her training were /till
very 1uch a part o5 her4
%o1ething touche0 her4
%he wa/ on her 5eet an0 /winging be5ore /he wa/ even con/ciou/4
"veryone el/e wa/ al/o on their 5eet an0 at 5ull alert the 1o1ent /he /prang into action4
$nclu0ing Ba/il, who caught the brunt o5 her 0e5en/ive 1aneuver/4 The pain o5 contact brought
her 1ore 5ully awake4 ?BhatAC /he 0e1an0e0 0runkenly when /he reali#e0 it wa/ Ba/il /he0
pu11ele0 an0 not a tree4
?Bhat i/ itAC %eth growle04
%till too groggy to 5ully a//i1ilate what wa/ going on her/el5, =anika looke0 aroun0 at the 1en
/urroun0ing her through blurry, watering eye/, trying to 5igure out what ha0 happene04 A5ter
rolling it aroun0 in her 1in0 5or /everal 1o1ent/, /he 5inally reali#e0 what it wa/ that ha0
awakene0 her 5ro1 0eep /leep4 ?%o1ething touche0 1e,C /he /upplie0 5inally4 ?$ know $ 0i0nt
9u/t 0rea1 it4C
%eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ i11e0iately #eroe0 in on Ba/il, narrowing their eye/ at hi14
?Ba/il wa/ on watch,C %eth growle04 ?Mou 0i0 not /ee anythingAC
Ba/il /hrugge0, hi/ e7pre//ion a 1i7ture o5 0i/co15ort, 0e5en/ivene//, an0 irritation4 ?$ 0i0 not4
$t wa/ $4C
=anika /tare0 at hi1, trying to a//i1ilate that4 ?Mou whatAC %he 5rowne0, reali#ing 5inally that
he woul0nt have caught the brunt o5 her a//ault i5 he ha0nt been 0irectly be/i0e her when /he0
launche0 her o55en/ive4 ?Mou touche0 1eA Bhat the hell 5orA $/ it 1y turn to /tan0 watchAC
?$ a1 ne7t in rotation,C =ane groun0 out4
Ba/il /hrugge04 ?$ thought that $ woul0 a/k i5 you were in the 5ucking 1oo0 yet4C
=anika gape0 at hi14 ?Mou woke 1e to a/kAC /he 0e1an0e0 0i/believingly4
&ile/ eye/ narrowe04 ?:e 0i0 not wake you to a/k,C he /narle04 ?:e thought to catch you o55
guar0 an0 /e7 you while you were /leeping@C
A/ i5 /he coul0 /leep through that@
%he woul0nt nee0 to, though, i5 /he wa/ 5ar enough gone by the ti1e /he 0i0 reali#e what wa/
going on to have no 0e/ire to ob9ect4
=anika wa/ awake enough by that ti1e 5or &ile/ a//e//1ent to 1ake co1plete /en/e >
particularly /ince /he0 ha0 ti1e to reali#e that the touch that woke her wa/ a han0 /ettling on
her brea/t4 Anger 5loo0e0 her4 ?Mou /care0 the pi// out o5 1e@ $ thought /o1ething ha0 crawle0
into 1y /leeping bag with 1e@C
?%o1ething 0i0,C %eth growle04
Euch o5 =anika/ anger 1elte0 away a/ %eth/ attitu0e 5inally penetrate0 her con5u/ion an0
irritation enough that /he reali#e0 the guy/ were 1ore pi//e0 o55 than /he wa/4 They were going
to be poun0ing on one another i5 /he 0i0nt 0i55u/e the /ituation4 %he hel0 up a han04 ?$t/ &ile/
turn,C /he /ai0 bluntly, in no con0ition to try to be 1ore tact5ul even i5 /he0 5elt like it;which
/he 0i0nt at the 1o1ent4 ?$1 not 0oing you be5ore 1y guy/ an0 $ havent 0one &ile/4C
F:er guy/ receive0 that in5or1ation with 1i7e0 5eeling/4
Ba/il wa/nt too happy about it 5or that 1atter4 ?$ a1 part o5 your /6ua0 now,C he pointe0 out
=anika /ighe0, glance0 aroun0 at the 1en again, an0 0roppe0 back into her /leeping bag4 ?Me/;
the key wor0 being now4 Ee, %eth, =ane, an0 &ile/ have been together /ince the /tart an0 it
woul0nt be 5air 5or you to cut in line4 %eth wa/ 5ir/t, =ane /econ0, an0 &ile/ i/ ne7t > then you4
An0 $1 tire0 an0 $1 going back to /leep,C /he a00e0 when /he 0i/covere0 &ile/ wa/ looking
hope5ul an0 %eth an0 =ane 0i0nt look any too happy about the arrange1ent/4
"veryone wa/ /till in a 5airly 5oul 1oo0 when they awoke the 5ollowing 1orning;inclu0ing
=anika although /he0 1anage0 to 0rop back to /leep 5airly 6uickly a5ter the Fepi/o0e4
"7cept 5or &ile/ who /till looke0 to be wavering between hope5ulne// an0 re/ent1ent that Ba/il
ha0 trie0 to u/e guerilla tactic/ to leap5rog over hi1 an0 get into her pant/ be5ore hi14
=anika 0i0 her be/t to ignore the broo0ing violence in the 5our 1en, but /he coul0 /ee that /he
wa/ going to have to take care o5 the /e7ual aggre//ion that wa/ boiling between the1 be5ore
they erupte0 or nobo0y wa/ going to be 5ocu/e0 on the i1portant pro9ect o5 /urviving@
%he wa/ aggravate0 enough, at 5ir/t, to con/i0er 0oing the F0ee0 9u/t to get it over with an0 /hut
the1 up;5or a little while, anyway4 Hegar0le// o5 the 5act that /he0 acknowle0ge0 that the /e7
thing, while not really what /he woul0 con/i0er a chore or a 0uty, wa/ 1ore in the nature o5
F1e0icinal, though, /he reali#e0 that it 0a1ne0 well wa/nt going to 1ake her happy to con/i0er
it in that light or, 1ore i1portantly, 5or the1 to4
Gn5ortunately, once /he0 reviewe0 the 0i/cu//ion the night be5ore, it occurre0 to her that they
1ight take it that way4 %he 0a1ne0 /ure ha0nt 1eant it that way@
:er interlu0e/ with both %eth an0 =ane ha0 been /pontaneou/4 %o i1pul/ive, a/ a 1atter*o5*5act,
that both ti1e/ it ha0 re/ulte0 in a goo0 bit o5 0i/co15ort an0 e1barra//1ent 5or her4 %he0
thought when the opportunity aro/e that it woul0 /i1ply happen;an0 hope5ully without the
e1barra//ing a5ter1ath /he0 e7perience0 both ti1e/ be5ore4
%he /uppo/e0, a5ter a little thought, that /he wa/ 9u/t going to have to 5orego /pontaneity, at lea/t
thi/ ti1e aroun0, an0 take the initiative4 Clearly, although neither %eth nor =ane ha0 le5t
anything at all to be 0e/ire0 once it ca1e right 0own to it, none o5 the 1en ha0 the 5oggie/t i0ea
o5 how to go about /e0uction@
%he toye0 with the i0ea o5 a three way a/ they /et out, once 1ore on the hunt 5or 5oo04 On /o1e
level/, the i0ea intere/te0 her4 $t woul0 be an e55icient way to wrap thing/ up, 5or one thing, an0
/he wa/ alway/ in 5avor o5 e55iciency4 Then, too, it ha0 a 0e5inite kink 5actor that appeale0 to her4
%he 0i/car0e0 the i0ea without a lot o5 reluctance when /he0 5actore0 in her aver/ion o5 the
inti1acy between the1 beco1ing anything approaching F0uty or Fchore, however4 %he care0
about the14 At lea/t, /he care0 a lot about her guy/4 An0 /he wante0 Ba/il to be a part o5 her
5a1ily4 %he woul0nt have /ugge/te0 it, 5air or not, i5 /he ha0nt 5elt like he coul0 very ea/ily
5in0 a niche in their group;an0 in her a55ection/4
Actually, /he /i1ply 0eci0e0 to /helve it 5or the ti1e being4 Eaybe when they got 1ore
co15ortable with one another it woul0 be /o1ething they0 all en9oy, but at the 1o1ent not only
0i0 it /ee1 too i1per/onal, it /ee1e0 like 9u/t the /ort o5 thing to /et o55 an all out war4
By the ti1e they0 /pent the better part o5 the 0ay tra1ping aroun0 the woo0/ in hope o5
/tu1bling upon /o1ething they coul0 kill an0 eat, /etting /nare/ a/ they went an0 even 0igging
/everal capture pit/, =anika 0eci0e0 /he wa/ going to have to 1ake an opportunity to take care
o5 &igel4
%he wa/nt incline0 to think o5 any o5 her /6ua0 1ate/ a/ /hy;per /e4 The inti1acy they wante0
wa/ 9u/t /o1ething /o 5ar beyon0 their e7perience, an0 the 0ata they ha0, that none o5 the1
really ha0 a clue o5 how to F/e0uce4
Ba/il, o5 cour/e, wa/ no wi/er;an0 no better at it, 0e/pite the 5act that he wa/ 1ore incline0 to
be e7cruciatingly blunt about what he wante0, but he at lea/t gave her /o1ething to work with4
%he wa/ 5airly certain that all /he wa/ going to have to 0o in hi/ ca/e wa/ /ay Fok4
A5ter a great 0eal o5 thought, /he 5inally 0eci0e0 that that woul0 probably work 9u/t a/ well with
&igel a/ Ba/il4 $t 1ight 1ake her unco15ortable, but /he /uppo/e0 /he 1ight a/ well get u/e0 to
it /ince it 0i0nt /ee1 likely they were going to learn /e0uction when they ha0 no one to practice
with but her an0 /he /ure a/ hell 0i0nt have a clue o5 how to Fteach the1 that@
Bhen they0 returne0 5ro1 their /econ0 5ruitle// hunt, there5ore, an0 eaten another 1eal 5ro1
their 0win0ling ration/, /he got up, /tretche0 an0 5i7e0 &igel with a pointe0 look4 ?$ think $ll go
0own to the pool an0 bathe4C
&igel /tare0 back at her unco1prehen0ingly4
?$ will go with you an0 watch your back,C %eth volunteere0 at once4
Annoyance 5lickere0 through =anika4 %he wa/ oh /o te1pte0 to let hi14 %he wante0 hi14 A/
1uch a/ /he0 en9oye0 /e7 with =ane, the /hower /e7 with %eth /till ranke0 a/ her nu1ber one
all ti1e 5avorite ro1p an0 /he0 been va/tly 0i/appointe0 0e/pite her e1barra//1ent that they0
broken thing/ o55 /o abruptly /he ha0nt even ha0 the chance to ba/k in the a5terglow;well, /he
ha0 broken the1 o554
A/ te1pte0 a/ /he wa/, though, that certainly wa/nt going to help &igel/ or Ba/il/ 5eeling/,
an0 it wa/nt going to cal1 the water/ worth a 0a1n@
%he /1ile0 at hi1 with an e55ort, 5eeling her 5ace heat with 0i/co15ort4 ?A/ 1uch a/ $ en9oye0
our la/t bath together an0 woul0 love to repeat it, $ thought &igel 1ight want to wa/h 1y back,C
/he /ai0 a/ tact5ully a/ /he coul04
%eth blinke0 at her, hi/ 9aw /agging /lightly in /urpri/e4
Bhich wa/ =anika/ 5ir/t clue that he0 really 1eant to watch her back@
Be5ore /he coul0 wallow in her e1barra//1ent 5or 1i/interpreting hi/ o55er, however, &igel /hot
to hi/ 5eet4
?$ will go4C
Helieve0 when no one el/e /ai0 anything, /he le0 the way 5ro1 their guar0 po/t, /truggling with
the breathle//ne// an0 the leap in her pul/e that in/tantly a//aile0 her, partly 5ro1 nerve/ an0
partly 5ro1 anticipation4 &igel 5ell into /tep be/i0e her4 ?$ will go ahea0 an0 1ake certain that it
i/ clear4C
=anika 5rowne0 a/ he /tro0e o55, won0ering i5 her none*too*/ubtle hint ha0 gone right over hi/
hea0, too4
$t ha0nt;e7actly;but he wa/nt convince0 he0 gotten the 1e//age either4 :e wa/ /itting on
one o5 the /tone/ near the cave when /he arrive0, 5rowning at the water lapping again/t the rock4
:e got up when he /aw her4 ?$ have checke0 the cave an0 al/o the peri1eter o5 the pool4 There
are no creature/ here that you nee0 be concerne0 about4C
=i/concerte0, =anika looke0 aroun0 a little vaguely4 ?Bell@ That/ goo0 new/@C
&igel 5rowne04 ?.ar0on > but 0i0 you /ay Fwatch your backA Or Fwa/hAC
=anika bit her lip, /truggling with a 1i7ture o5 a1u/e1ent, 0i/co15ort, an0 unea/ine//4 A
/e0uctre//, /he wa/nt, however, an0 the 6ue/tion 0i/concerte0 her4 Beyon0 that, /he ha0nt
actually given a lot o5 thought to the po//ibility o5 Fcreature/ o5 any kin04 %he0 /i1ply nee0e0
an e7cu/e to 5in0 a 6uiet place to be alone with hi1 to 0o the hori#ontal tango an0 a re1in0er o5
the nee0 to check 5or creature/ 0i0 nothing 5or her libi0o4
%he0 really hope0 he woul0 Fget it an0 they coul0 avoi0 the awkwar0ne// /he 5elt at that
1o1ent4 %ighing, /he 1entally brace0 her/el5 an0 peele0 o55 her T*/hirt an0 then her brie5/4
&igel/ ga#e in/tantly #eroe0 in on her;well, everything below the neck4 $5 /he0 been in any
0oubt o5 that, /he certainly wa/nt by the ti1e /he0 reache0 hi1 an0 li5te0 her han0/ to re/t
the1 lightly on hi/ che/t4
:i/ ga#e re1aine0 5i7e0 until /he wa/ too clo/e 5or hi1 to 5ocu/ on her bo0y any1ore4 :e li5te0
hi/ hea0 then an0 blinke0 at her4
%he 0i0nt know i5 it clicke0 in hi/ 1in0 then what the plan wa/ or i5 nature /i1ply took over,
but, to her relie5, her touch /ee1e0 to be all the pro1pting he nee0e04 :i/ ar1/ ca1e aroun0 her
like a trap /la11ing /hut an0 tightene0, bringing her 5ully again/t hi/ length4

Chapter "ighteen
Dor 1any 1o1ent/ &igel 0i0 nothing 1ore an0 the /u/picion ha0 begun to creep into =anika/
1in0 that he ha0nt gotten the i0ea a5ter all, 0e/pite the har0 log o5 5le/h that ro/e up between
the1, when he 0ragge0 in a /hu00ering breath an0 began to e7plore her with hi/ han0/4
?Be 0i0 not bring anything to bathe with,C he /ai0 in a /trangle0 voice4
=i/1ay 5lickere0 through =anika4 "7cu/e or not, /he0 5ully inten0e0 to 1ake u/e o5 the pool@
?%hit@C /he 1uttere04 ?Bhat are we going to 0o nowAC
&igel pau/e0 in hi/ e7ploration, clearly 0eliberating on the 1atter4 ?$ will go back an0 collect
what we nee04C
?$ve got a better i0ea,C =anika /ai0 a5ter only a 1o1ent/ thought4 ?Bhy 0ont we 9u/t /oakAC
&igel/ hol0 on her /lackene04 Be5ore he coul0 pull away, =anika grabbe0 hi/ Fhan0le4 ?A5ter
/e7,C /he /ai0, a1u/e1ent tingeing her voice4 ?$ 0ont know what e55ect that col0 water will have
on thi/ 5ellow, but $ have a ba0 5eeling he 1ight > uh > try to hi0e4 $ve hear0 they 0ont like
col0 1uch4C
&igel ca/t a rather 0e/perate glance aroun0 the area an0 5inally /coope0 her o55 her 5eet4 Carrying
her to an area where tall gra//e/ grew, he tra1ple0 a be0 in the 1i0/t o5 it an0 then /et her on her
5eet4 %he /1ile0 up at hi1 an0 then lay 0own, pillowing her hea0 on her 5ol0e0 ar1/4
&igel 5ollowe0 her 0own, /ettling partially on top o5 her4
?E11,C /he 1ur1ure0, ?That/ what $ love about you guy/4 Alway/ on top o5 thing/4C
:e /tu0ie0 her e7pre//ion 5or a long 1o1ent an0 =anika won0ere0 what he wa/ thinking4 A5ter
a 1o1ent, he li5te0 one han0 an0 began to e7plore her lightly, tracing hi/ 5inger/ over her brea/t/
an0 0own her tor/o to the light ne/t o5 hair on her 1oun0 an0 then back again4 ?To love i/ to 5eel
/trong a55ection,C he 1ur1ure04
=anika 5elt her a1u/e1ent 0ie4 :er throat clo/e0 a/ a 1i7ture o5 0e/ire an0 co1pa//ion 5ille0
her4 ?$t i/4C
:e 1et her ga#e again4 ?An0 thi/ i/ /o1ething that you 5eel 5or 1eAC
=anika thought about it;not that /he wa/ in any 0oubt that /he 5elt a /trong bon0 to each o5
the1, but /he ha0nt actually inten0e0 the co11ent a/ a con5e//ion4 %he reali#e0, though, that
/ubter5uge wa/ no 1ore a part o5 who they were than 0i/honor4 :e woul0nt try to u/e it a/ a
weapon again/t her4 ?Me/, it i/4C
:e /1ile0 abruptly an0 =anika al1o/t 5elt like her heart /toppe0 5or 1o1ent4 :er che/t
tightene0 unco15ortably4
:i/ /1ile wane0 an0 he /tu0ie0 her /eriou/ly4 ?Thi/ i/ /o1ething $ 5eel 5or you al/o4C
=oubt/ ro/e in =anika/ 1in04 :ow coul0 he even know what love wa/, /he won0ere0A But then
he ki//e0 her an0 /ilence0 the voice/ in her hea0, evoking plea/ure an0 war1th an0 then heat a/
he e7plore0 her all over with hi/ han0/ an0 hi/ 1outh4 $t wa/ al1o/t 1agical, the way he 1a0e
her 5eel;in /pite o5 the crunch an0 rattle o5 gra//e/ beneath the1;an0 the itch4 The glow o5
Keno*!!/ 1oon/ glinting o55 o5 hi/ /kin an0 her/, the play o5 /ha0ow/, pro0uce0 an inti1ate
cocoon an0 when he 9oine0 hi/ bo0y with her/ /he 5elt 1ore than pa//ion, /he 5elt > love04
An0 /he got her wi/h;a gloriou/ cli1a7 an0 the ti1e to /avor it a5terwar0 without an
e1barra//ing interruption@
Dor a /hort ti1e, they lay entwine0, en9oying /i1ply touching4 Dinally, &igel pulle0 away4 ?$ will
go back an0 collect what we nee0 to bathe4C
=anika wa/ reluctant 5or hi1 to leave, hal5 a/leep, an0 not particularly enthu/e0 about the i0ea o5
9u1ping into the chilly water now that the night wa/ rapi0ly reaching an unco15ortable
te1perature4 %he wa/ /till war1 5ro1 their love play an0 not an7iou/ to e7change plea/ure 5or
1i/ery4 :e ro/e an0 le5t be5ore /he coul0 ob9ect, however4
%he lay where he0 le5t her, 0row/ing, li/tening to hi/ 1ove1ent/, trying to 0eci0e whether to
get up an0 5ollow hi1 back or not4 %he coul0 alway/ bathe in the 1orning;when it wa/nt /o
cool4 %he ha0nt actually wante0 to bathe to /tart with4
%he /till ha0nt 1a0e up her 1in0 when /he hear0 hi1 return4 :e 0roppe0 0own be/i0e her4
?Are you in the 5ucking 1oo0 nowAC
=anika/ eye/ poppe0 open4 Bithout a great 0eal o5 /urpri/e /ince /he0 in/tantly recogni#e0
both the voice an0 the 6ue/tion, /he 0i/covere0 that Ba/il wa/ lying on hi/ /i0e be/i0e her, hi/
hea0 proppe0 on hi/ 5i/t4 $rritation wa5te0 through her, but /he wa/ too 1ellow 5ro1 her bout
with &igel to 5eel like bla/ting hi1 with her te1per4 ?Ba/il,C /he /ai0 a little te/tily an0 then
/toppe0, uttering a hu55 o5 irritation4 ?Me/4C
:e /tare0 at her blankly 5or a 1o1ent, a/ i5 he wa/ con5oun0e0 by her re/pon/e4 Be5ore /he
coul0 urge hi1 to 0o it an0 be 0one;which /he 5elt like 0oing, ungraciou/ or not, /ince /he 1o/t
0e5initely wa/ not in the 1oo0 having been thoroughly /ati/5ie0 by &igel;Ba/il cra/he0 over
her like a t/una1i4
An0 he 1a0e it clear very 6uickly that he wa/ 5ar 1ore intere/te0 in being thorough that /wi5t,
regar0le// o5 the obviou/ /ignal/ he gave o55 o5 hunger to the point o5 0e/peration4 Bith her /kin
alrea0y e7cruciatingly /en/itive, hi/ 1ini/tration/ ha0 her clawing at the cru/he0 gra//e/, an0
then hi/ back4 %he ha0nt thought he coul0 arou/e any war1th let alone heat, but /he0 begun to
pant, 1oan, an0 5inally growl at hi1 be5ore he 5inally got to the point4
%he grunte0, letting out a low, ani1ali/t groan when he /peare0 into her, /heathing hi1/el5
0eeply be5ore he /et a 5rantic pace that /ent her over the e0ge within a 1atter o5 1inute/4 :er
cli1a7 cra/he0 over her in wave/ /o inten/e that /he 5oun0 her/el5 ga/ping out hoar/e little
/crea1/ o5 1in0le// plea/ure an0 5inally hit a high note that echoe0 through the 5ore/t4 Ba/il
curle0 tightly aroun0 her a/ he hit hi/ own peak, /6uee#ing her until /he began to think, vaguely,
that he wa/ going to cru/h her4
%he wa/ too 5ar gone to worry about it over1uch4
:e nu##le0 hi/ 5ace again/t her/ an0 her throat when he0 caught hi/ breath4 ?Mou are /o
beauti5ul,C he 1ur1ure0 a little 0runkenly4
=anika 5oun0 her/el5 /1iling;1o/tly with a1u/e1ent, although it wa/ certainly nice to know
the guy wa/ hal5*blin0@ ?Moure /o /weet@C /he grunte0 a little breathle//ly, patting hi/ /houl0er4
?=o you think you coul0 get o55 nowA $1 having a little trouble breathing4C
=ragging in a /hu00ering breath, he obligingly rolle0 o554 Bhen he 0i0, &igel, who apparently
ha0 returne0 a/ pro1i/e0, kicke0 hi1 in the belly, a00ing enough i1petu/ to help hi1 roll
/everal 1ore ti1e/4
=anika 9ackkni5e0 upright4 ?&igel@ Moure back@C
:e wa/ glaring at Ba/il, apparently waiting to /ee i5 he woul0 get up an0 continue the 5ight4 Ba/il
glare0 back at hi1, /ee1e0 to con/i0er it, an0 5inally 1erely /prawle0 out tire0ly, rubbing hi/
&igel tran/5erre0 hi/ attention to her4 :ol0ing out hi/ han0, he helpe0 her to her 5eet an0 /tea0ie0
her when /he /taggere0 /lightly4 ?$ have brought bathing /upplie/4C
=anika pa/te0 a bright /1ile on her 5ace4 ?3reat@ 2et/ bathe an0 get back4 $1 0ea0 on 1y
=anika reali#e0 when /he woke that it ha0 been 5our 0ay/ /ince Heuel ha0 le5t4 Gnle// he0
returne0 0uring the night an0 /he0 /lept through it;which woul0nt have /urpri/e0 her
con/i0ering how e7hau/te0 /he wa/ a5ter her ro1p/ with &igel an0 Ba/il;he ha0nt returne0
an0 wa/nt likely to4 $t /ee1e0 inarguable that he an0 hi/ group ha0 run into trouble an0 Heuel
ha0 tol0 the1 he woul0nt lea0 trouble back to the14
Bhen they0 eaten, they gathere0 up all o5 their /upplie/ wor0le//ly an0 hea0e0 towar0 the
aban0one0 village4 =anika wa/ preoccupie0 with /peculation/ regar0ing the 1i//ing group
through the 5ir/t part o5 their trek4 $t wa/nt until /he e1erge0 that /he 0i/covere0 that ho/tility
ra0iate0 5ro1 every 1ale4
Deeling both 0i/1aye0 an0 0e5en/ive, /he e7a1ine0 their /ti55 po/ture/, hoping /he0 been
1i/taken4 &igel/ e7pre//ion lightene0 when he caught her glance4 A 5aint /1ile curle0 hi/ lip/4
Be5ore /he coul0 rela7, however, he 5licke0 a narrow*eye0 glare at Ba/il4 %he 5ollowe0 hi/ ga#e
an0 0i/covere0 Ba/il wa/ returning it > an0 then /o1e4 &oticing /he0 turne0 to look at hi1, he
grinne0 at her, waggling hi/ brow/4
=anika bit her lip an0 looke0 away4
:e trippe0 an0 /prawle0 out with a grunt4 %tartle0, =anika whippe0 a look at hi1 an0 then %eth,
who0 been 0irectly behin0 hi14 The /ati/5ie0 look on %eth/ 5ace wa/ enough to arou/e the
/u/picion that he 1ight have ha0 /o1ething to 0o with Ba/il/ Fclu1/ine//, but he wipe0 the
look 5ro1 hi/ 5ace i11e0iately an0 gave her a bright /1ile4
%he 5oun0 her/el5 /1iling back at hi1 0e/pite her /u/picion/, but /he coul0nt 0i/1i// the
un0ercurrent/ /he thought /he0 5elt even though Ba/il picke0 hi1/el5 up without a wor0,
bru/he0 hi1/el5 o55, an0 1erely glare0 at %eth4
:er 0e5en/ivene// ro/e another notch4 %he 0i0nt recall that any o5 the1 ha0 ob9ecte0 when /he0
tol0 the1 point blank that /he0 taken all o5 the1 a/ lover/;or at lea/t inten0e0 to4 %he0
e7pecte0 that to bring /o1e /ort o5 peace4 Apparently it ha0nt;not altogether anyway4
But 1aybe her guy/ were 9u/t re/ent5ul that /he0 inclu0e0 Ba/il when they /till con/i0ere0 hi1
an out/i0er an0 not really a part o5 their /6ua0A
%he recalle0 abruptly with a 1i7ture o5 0i/1ay an0 unea/ine// that &igel ha0 tol0 her he love0
her;well, not in e7actly tho/e wor0/, but wor0/ to that e55ect4 $t ha0 war1e0 her when he0 /ai0
it becau/e /he care0 about hi1, too, but although /he knew the guy/ behave0 a/ i5 they care0
about her, /he al/o knew that they0 been progra11e0 to take care o5 her4
%he ha0nt actually believe0 he 0i04 %he /till wa/nt convince0, but taking the1 all a/ lover/ wa/
certainly going to cau/e 1ore 5riction, not le//, i5 they 0i04 They were going to be 1ore
territorial, an0 not a/ a group that e7clu0e0 Ba/il /ince he ha0nt yet been accepte04
But 1aybe /he0 /i1ply 1i/interprete0 their ten/ionA Eaybe it wa/ /i1ply a 1atter o5 being
0i/turbe0 that Heuel ha0nt returne0 an0 all o5 the ra1i5ication/ o5 thatA
That wa/ certainly enough to 1ake everyone ten/e an0 on e0ge@
They werent too 0i/tracte0 to approach the village care5ully4 Once they0 0eter1ine0 that it wa/
/till aban0one0, they /et about 1aking the1/elve/ at ho1e4 A5ter checking out all o5 the hut/,
=anika /ettle0 on the large/t one that /ee1e0 to have been con/tructe0 be/t4
2eaving their /upplie/ at the ba/e o5 the tree, /he opene0 all o5 the win0ow opening/ an0 proppe0
the /hutter/ up to allow it to air out an0 /he an0 the 1en haule0 water up to /crub it 0own4 ?$t
woul0 1ake thing/ a hell o5 a lot 1ore co15ortable i5 we coul0 5igure out /o1e way to bring the
water up that 0i0nt inclu0e hauling it up with vine/,C /he 1uttere0 a5ter the 5our or 5i5th pitcher4
%eth, who0 been working with her, pau/e0, /tu0ying her 5or a long 1o1ent4 Or 1aybe he wa/
9u/t thinkingA
?Bater will not 5low up hill,C he re/pon0e0 a5ter a 1o1ent4
?=uh@ $ know that@ $ wa/ 9u/t thinking 1aybe we coul0 rig /o1ething up to catch rainAC
:e 1ove0 out o5 the hut an0 /too0 5or /everal 1o1ent/ with hi/ hea0 tilte0 back, /tu0ying the
canopy above the14 %he 0i0nt know how he coul0 0o that@ %he /waye0 the 1o1ent /he looke0
:e caught her ar1, /tea0ying her4 :e 0i0nt relea/e her i11e0iately, though4 :e /ee1e0 to be
/truggling with /o1ething4 ?Bhat you /ai0 la/t eve,C he 5inally /ai0, ?0i0 you 1ean itA Or were
you 9u/t /aying it to 1ake 1e 5eel betterAC
=anika /tare0 at hi1 blankly, trying to recall what /he0 /ai04 %he re1e1bere0 a/king hi1 that
when /he0 been woun0e0 an0 5or a 1o1ent that wa/ all that ca1e to 1in04
?Mou /ai0 that you woul0 love to 0o that with 1e again,C he pro1pte04
%he put the /hower /e7 together with her co1plaint about the water /ituation abruptly4 Be5ore
/he coul0 in5or1 hi1, te/tily, that /he certainly wa/nt in the F1oo0 at the 1o1ent, not a5ter the
/e7 with both &igel an0 Ba/il the night be5ore, /he reali#e0 that there wa/ nothing /e7ually
/ugge/tive about the 6ue/tion4 :e looke0 > trouble04
?$ 0i0 not > 0o anything > wrongAC he a/ke0, re00ening 5aintly4
=anika gape0 at hi1, 5eeling 0i/1ay, 0i/belie5, an0 e1pathy wa/h over her4 ?O5 cour/e not@
Bhy woul0 you think thatA Ey go0@ $ /crea1e0 lou0 enough $ woke up everybo0y in the crew
:e 5rowne04 ?$t 0i0 not /ee1 to 1e that you were > plea/e04C
=anika 5elt her 0i/1ay 0eepen4 $1pul/ively, /he 1ove0 clo/er to hi1, li5ting her han0/ to
capture hi/ 5ace4 ?$t wa/ won0er5ul4 $ love0 every 1inute o5 it4 $ wa/ 9u/t > unco15ortable when
$ reali#e0 how > uh > in0i/crete $0 been4 $t wa/nt you at all@ $ wa/ e1barra//e0 about 1y
:e 5rowne0, obviou/ly con/i0ering it an0 /till con5u/e04 ?Mou /ee1e0 > 0i/tant a5terwar04C
=anika gri1ace04 ?$1 /orry4 $ 0i0nt 1ean to 1ake you 5eel ba04 $ wa/ 9u/t > 0i/tracte04C %he
/tu0ie0 hi1 5or a 1o1ent to /ee i5 that ha0 /unk in an0 i5 it ha0 helpe0 hi/ 5eeling/4 ?:ey@ Mou
know 1e@ $5 $ think youve 0one /o1ething wrong, $ let you know4 $ woul0nt 9u/t keep it to
1y/el5 an0 be 1a04C %he /hook her hea0 at hi1 an0 then ro/e on her tiptoe/ an0 0ragge0 hi/
hea0 0own to plant a ki// on hi/ lip/4 :e took it a/ an invitation 5or 1ore an0 0ragge0 her tightly
again/t hi1, ki//ing her 0eeply4 %he wa/ /o 0i##y an0 0i/oriente0 by the ti1e he relea/e0 her that
/he woul0ve 5allen out o5 the tree i5 he0 let go4
%he /ent hi1 a rue5ul /1ile when /he0 caught her balance4 ?$1 cra#y about you, you know4 But
$1 going to be pi//e0 i5 $ 5all out o5 thi/ tree;a//u1ing $1 able to get up again4C
?$ woul0 not allow you to 5all,C he /ai0, /1iling 5aintly in return4
=anika chuckle04 ?$1 pretty /ure it woul0nt 0o 1e any goo0 i5 you 5ell on top o5 1e trying to
catch 1e either4C
To her relie5, he relea/e0 her an0 returne0 hi/ attention to the work o5 cleaning4 Bell, partial
relie54 %he really wa/nt in the 1oo0 5or /e7, but the ki// ha0 0e5initely pi6ue0 her intere/t4
They 0eci0e0 a5ter they0 0one what they coul0 5or the 1o1ent to i1prove their co15ort level
an0 eaten their noon 1eal to go out an0 check the /nare/ an0 the capture pit/ /ince they0 ha0nt
ha0 any luck /o 5ar in /i1ply /talking an0 bringing /o1ething 0own4 Three o5 the /nare/ ha0
been trippe0, but whatever it wa/ that ha0 trippe0 the1 ha0 been big enough to tear the entire
/nare loo/e an0 get away4
The capture pit/ were a bonan#a4 They capture0 three /1all, cloven hoo5e0 ani1al/ that looke0
like /o1ething between a rabbit an0 a tiny 0eer;an0 a wil0 pig4
An0 one o5 the wo1en 5ro1 one o5 the other group/4
:er 1en ha0 9u/t 1anage0 to e7tract her when =anika an0 her /6ua0 arrive0 to check the pit4
=anika a//e//e0 the /ituation 6uickly an0 0eci0e0 0iplo1acy wa/ nee0e04 ?%hit@ Tho/e 5ucking
/avage/ le5t trap/@C
All 5our o5 her 1en glance0 6uickly at her in /urpri/e, but, to her relie5, they 0i0nt /ay anything
;becau/e Oane an0 her 1en looke0 pretty pi//e0 o554 "/pecially when they 0i/covere0 Oane ha0
/praine0 her ankle in the 5all4 Dortunately, the 1e0ic*borg that ha0 atten0e0 =ane when he wa/
/o ba0ly woun0e0 /ee1e0 to have 9oine0 Oane/ /6ua0 an0 wa/ able to 0eter1ine that it wa/ a
/prain an0 not a break an0 not even a very ba0 /prain4
=anika 0ebate0 brie5ly while her 1en 5ought over which o5 the1 woul0 carry her back to their
ca1p, but /he covete0 the 1e0ic*borg an0 /he thought that tru1pe0 any o5 the re/ervation/ /he
ha0 about inviting the group to 9oin her/4 ?Be 5oun0 the village4 The /avage/ ha0 aban0one0 it
an0 the acco11o0ation/ arent hal5 ba04 $5 you guy/ want to 5ollow u/ back, you can check it out
your/elve/ >AC
The guy/ /ee1e0 1ore incline0 to hea0 back to the ca1p they0 1a0e, but Oane ni7e0 that4
?HeallyAC %he /ee1e0 to con/i0er it4 ?$ think even hut/ woul0 be better than 9u/t a /leeping bag4C
?Bell, they are hut/, but theyre pretty tight;goo0 0e5en/ive po/ition, too4C
%he 0i0nt think any o5 the 1en were happy about the /ituation, her/ or Oane/, but the 1e0ic
won the to//, hoi/te0 Oane into hi/ ar1/ an0 in0icate0 that he wa/ willing to 5ollow4
=anika 1a0e it a point to avoi0 the capture pit/ they0 0ug, but they ha0 three little bea/t/ 9u/t
waiting 5or the cook pot4 %he glance0 at %eth4 ?Mou think you guy/ coul0 co1e up with
/o1ething to corral our catchA $ 1ean, we 0ont have any way to keep our kill/ 5ro1 /poiling
e7cept the /trea1 an0 that wont keep the 1eat long4 $ think it woul0 be better to 9u/t pen the1
up until we nee0 the14C
%eth no00e0 an0 the 1en 0i/cu//e0 the po//ibility o5 0e/igning a pri/on 5or their pig*0eer/4
Oane, a/ /he0 hope0, wa/ thrille0 with the treetop village;not a/ thrille0 once the guy/ ha0
0evi/e0 a hoi/t to get her up, but =anika 5igure0 that wa/ 1o/t likely becau/e o5 the ri0e4 %he
/ettle0 on a branch, proppe0 again/t one o5 the trunk/ a5ter /he0 e7a1ine0 the hut =anika ha0
cho/en an0 0irecte0 her 1en in cleaning the one /he0 cho/en4
?=o you think that we can tru/t the1AC %eth a/ke0 when /he 9oine0 her 1en to /ee how they
were 0oing with the pen they were erecting4
=anika /hrugge04 ?$ 0ont really know Oane, un5ortunately, but /he /ee1e0 incline0 to be gla0
/he0 been ki0nap > uh > re/cue04 $ think it/ /a5e enough 5or now, anyway, /ince there i/nt a
ba/e anywhere near u/4 Be/i0e/, $ think having a 1e0ic*borg 1ight co1e in han0y4C
The 5ir/t 5inger/ o5 0awn were 9u/t lighting the /ky when =anika ca1e awake with a 9olt, arou/e0
to 5ull awarene// by a /oun0 that 0i0nPt PbelongP4 $t /till took her a 5ew 1o1ent/ to 5igure out
what the /oun0 wa/4 By the ti1e /he ha0, the 1en were alrea0y on their 5eet an0 ha0 ru/he0
"ngine/@ :ar0 on that reali#ation, /he hear0 engine/ roar to li5e 5ar clo/er4
The lookout/ ha0 /potte0 ene1y cra5t/@
The An0orian/ co1ing to clai1 the pri#eA
Or the Con5e0eration /hip/ arriving at la/tA
%he 5ro#e 5or /everal 1o1ent/ a5ter /heP0 gaine0 her 5eet, torn between a 5ierce 0e/ire to try to
1ake it back to ba/e be5ore the /hip/ took o55 an0 the certainty that it ha0 been too late by the
ti1e /heP0 woke4 Dinally, /he ru/he0 out/i0e to /tare up at the /ky a/ everyone el/e wa/ 0oing4 $n
the near 0i/tance, /he /aw the /hip/ /hoot /kywar04 Any 0oubt/ that the 5ir/t engine/ /heP0 hear0
werenPt a real threat vani/he04 A/ /wi5tly a/ their capture0 /hip/ a/cen0e0, 1i//ile/ an0 la/er/
began lighting the /ky above the1 like 5irework/**on /teroi0/4
Dor all that, they coul0nPt /ee 1uch o5 what wa/ happening4 The canopy o5 the tree/ 0i0nt 9u/t
prevent the1 5ro1 being /potte04 $t prevente0 the1 5ro1 /eeing 1uch o5 the /ky at all4 %train
though =anika 1ight, /he coul0nPt actually /ee any o5 the cra5t/ that /he coul0 hear in the aerial
battle4 %he 0i0nPt hear or /ee 1uch in the way o5 return 5ire, though**no /urpri/e /ince theyP0 ha0
very little a11unition 5or the /hip/P cannon/ either4 But /he al/o 0i0nPt hear any cra/he/ or
e7plo/ion/ lou0 enough to in0icate a hit4
:er hope/ ro/e that their /hip/ were going to break through the at1o/phere where their o00/ o5
e/cape woul0, hope5ully, i1prove tre1en0ou/ly given the agility o5 the /1all cra5t/ an0 the
i1prove1ent/ theyP0 1a0e to the14
QThey 0i0nPt even wait to /ee i5 the 0a1ne0 ca1o worke0@ The ene1y 1ight have pa//e0 over
without ever /potting the1@Q
QThey were un0er or0er/ not to,Q Ba/il replie04 Q$5 they were 5oun0 here it woul0 en0anger tho/e
who coul0 not leave4 The or0er wa/ to 1ake certain they were /een an0 to lea0 the Con5e0eration
away**i5 po//ible4 They cannot know how 1any are aboar0 the /hip/4 Thi/ way, i5 they /uccee0
in e/caping, the Con5e0eration 1ay a//u1e that all who are unaccounte0 5or have 5le04Q
An0 they 1ight not@ The 1ight 0eci0e it wa/ worth /earching the area@
The village theyP0 0i/covere0 /u00enly /ee1e0 way too clo/e to groun0 #ero4 Dear an0
5ru/tration a//aile0 her4 They0 9u/t begun to 1ake the place livable@ %he hate0 like hell to give it
An0 /he wa/nt going to, /he 0eci0e0 angrily, not unle// they ha0 to@
=anika ha0nPt actually e7pecte0 to be able to e/tabli/h a co15ortable routine4 %heP0 thought the
village hel0 out the be/t pro1i/e 5or /urvival, but /he wa/ happy to 0i/cover that /heP0
un0ere/ti1ate0 the /ituation by a 5ar piece4 2ittle by little, they 1anage0 to utili#e local
re/ource/ to 1ake their abo0e rea/onably co15ortable**5ar 1ore co15ortable, in 5act, than
anything any o5 the1 ha0 ha0 /ince theyP0 9oine0 the /ervice4
$t ha0 been touch an0 go 5or week/4 "ven though /heP0 known a goo0 bit about hunting, an0 ha0
e7perience, /he wa/ in a co1pletely 0i55erent environ1ent an0 hunting ani1al/ that were only
vaguely /i1ilar to tho/e /heP0 hunte0 be5ore4 A/ theyP0 beco1e 1ore pro5icient with the cru0e
weapon/ they ha0 at their 0i/po/al**or /he ha0**however, her luck ha0 i1prove0 accor0ingly4
%he0 taught the 1en how to 5a/hion the /nare/ an0 capture pit/ /he an0 her 5ather ha0 u/e0 an0
that cut 0own on the ti1e /pent /talking prey, particularly /ince they were 5ortunate enough to
capture enough ani1al/ alive to /tart a /1all her04
The water wa/ 0a1ne0 col0 5or bathing, but it wa/ a clo/e /ource 5or goo0, 5re/h 0rinking water
an0 the te1perature worke0 really well 5or pre/erving what they 0i0 catch an0 kill 5or 0ay/,
which wa/ a/ long a/ it la/te0 anyway**a 5ew 0ay/4
2e// than a week a5ter the P0ecoy/P le5t the1 in /ole po//e//ion o5 the area, i5 not the planet, they
ran into another group4 By the ti1e a 1onth ha0 pa//e0, theyP0 e/tabli/he0 a regular village o5
their own**well, they ha0nPt actually built a village, but they occupie0 it along with 1o/t o5 the
other/ whoP0 0rawn the P/hort /trawP an0 en0e0 up /taying on the planet4
=anika 0i0nPt actually con/i0er that theyP0 gotten the /hort en0 o5 the /tick a5ter a 5ew week/,
though4 %he 0i0nPt know how any o5 the other/ were 5aring**tho/e whoP0 1anage0 to leave the
planet an0 hope5ully the /olar /y/te1**but they werenPt 0oing ba0ly at all4
&ot everyone /hare0 her view4 %he 0i/covere0 that tho/e whoP0 /taye0 inclu0e0 all o5 the /6ua0/
that ha0 a 5e1ale /6ua0 lea0er an0 /everal o5 the wo1en, naturally enough, 9u/t coul0nPt be
plea/e04 Eo/t o5 the1 /ee1e0 to 9u/t be gla0 they werenPt living on the verge o5 0i/a/ter,
any1ore, an0 ha0 /o1e co15ort/4
They watche0 in vain, 5or a while, 5or the return o5 the Con5e0eration 5orce/ an0<or the return o5
the cyborg/, but theyP0 been there al1o/t hal5 a year be5ore they /aw any /ign at all o5
outworl0er/4 At that, they only /aw /hip/ 5ar into the 0i/tance, not clo/e enough to be a threat or
clo/e enough to i0enti5y, 5or that 1atter, beyon0 the 5act that they were 0eep /pace 5reighter/4
The /hip/ coul0 have belonge0 to either the An0orian/ or the Con5e0eration4
They 0i0nPt 5igure, even though it wa/ obviou/ /o1eone ha0 won the war 5or po//e//ion an0
e7ploitation o5 the planetP/ re/ource/, that they nee0e0 to worry about the threat o5 intru0er/ 5or a
while, anyway4
The knowle0ge even gave the1 a 1orale boo/t, a/ a 1atter o5 5act, becau/e they knew there
woul0 be /hip/ to leave the planet i5 that beca1e 0e/irable or nece//ary4 All they ha0 to 0o wa/
launch an a//ault an0 take one4
=anika 0i/covere0 /he wa/ happy enough to con/i0er the 5uture when an0 i5 the ti1e ca1e4 $t
took a while 5or the other/ to accept Ba/il a/ Pone o5 the 5a1ilyP but /he 5elt like /he ha0 a 5a1ily
an0, a/i0e 5ro1 the 5ighting 5ro1 ti1e to ti1e, it wa/nPt ba0 living with the1 at all4 $n 5act, it wa/
pretty 0a1ne0 5anta/tic4
%he love0 her guy/4 They were a 0rea1 tea1**a little pu/hy about /e7 now an0 then, but not too
0i55icult to han0le an0 there wa/ nothing they werenPt 5anta/tic at4
%he thought i5 Heuel ever 0i0 5in0 that worl0 he wa/ hoping 5or, that /he 1ight not be all that
keen to give up what they ha0 an0 /tart over4
On the other han0, /heP0 co1e to reali#e that ho1e wa/ wherever they were, her guy/4 $5 Heuel
5oun0 a place that the cyborg/ coul0 truly call ho1e, without the con/tant threat o5 a war with the
Con5e0eration hanging over the1, that wa/ the only thing that coul0 po//ibly 1ake li5e any
The en0

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