By Rachel Rossano
I spent all day performing the motions of monotony with a premonition of something being amiss. The usual Friday tasks, laundry and Emmie’s litheharp group, passed uneventfully. I even managed to fit in picking up Ruhan’s newly repaired hovercar. Yet, I couldn’t dispel the feeling of being watched.
In the house, all appeared familiar. Pristine kitchen and elegant dining room microdusted and ready for the evening meal, a version of archaic shepherd’s pie. I brought the recipe with me from Earth and Ruhan had taken a liking to it. I prepared it by hand once a month. The autochef never managed to produce a pie to please my eye or palette.
This evening’s pie smelled heavenly but tasted off. I sorted through the meat and potatoes on my plate.
“You are on edge.” Ruhan’s bass voice interrupted my thoughts.
The concern in my mate’s eyes scattered all hope of keeping my worry from him. But, how to express it?
“You aren’t eating,” He nodded to the strip of cold lamb dangling from my fork.
Emmie looked up from her vegetables. “Eat, Mommy, it’s good for you.”
I smiled at my three-year-old as I inserted the meat into my mouth. My stomach turned, but I made a production of chewing.
“Good job, Mommy.” Emmie stabbed at her meal with fisted fork.
What’s bothering you, Myah? Ruhan’s words pressed through the jumble of my thoughts. His towa communication usually drew me in, made me eager to reach out and touch him as only I could. This time my unease soured the joy of our uniqueness.
I don’t know. I just have an odd feeling, like being watched.
Ruhan stiffened. The warm entreaty in his eyes cooled. Did someone follow you?
Abandoning his dinner, he rose to stride to the interface panel set in the dining room wall. He palmed his communication patch, a diamond shaped panel on his uniform.
“Eminence?” a bodiless voice queried.
Did anyone follow you? Ruhan pinned me with worried eyes.
“You are frightening Emmie.”
Our little girl, suddenly wary, glanced from Ruhan’s face to mine. Her fork and impaled beans hovering above her plate.
“Answer my question.” Ruhan’s brown eyes darkened to almost black. “This is vital, Myah.”
“Eminence? Do you require assistance?” The panel flashed a warning that the connection would terminate soon.
Ruhan grimaced before turning away to touch the screen designed to translate his towa. “Evacuate and flood the outer dome immediately,” he ordered the guard on the other end. “Notify me of the intruders you discover.”
“But, Eminence, that requires…”
“I sent authorizations.” He terminated the connection, reaching again for his patch. “Ramend?”
My brother-in-law’s voice replied. “Awake. What?”
“That fear we discussed yesterday? It is happening now.”
What fear? I demanded.
Ruhan lifted a finger to stall me as Ramend’s voice yelled orders to someone off comm.
Emmie pressed against my side. I hadn’t seen her move, but she was there. Fear stiffened her narrow shoulders. I pulled her into my lap, burying my face in her thick curls and wrapping her around me in an embrace of comfort. Her heart fluttered franticly beneath my palm. My chest ached.
Ramend spoke. “Coming.”
Ruhan palmed the patch to cut the connection as a chime announced the nanny’s arrival.
Let Emmie go, Ruhan instructed. The nanny held out her arms toward her.
A six-four woman resembling the Amazons of myth, Joce was equal parts nurturer and defender. She would protect Emmie with her life and manage better than I could at my measly five-six.
Why? I demanded, anger eroding my fear now. What’s the danger? Why didn’t you bother to tell me?
Let her go. She will be safer.
I kissed Emmie and assured her I loved her. I released her to Joce’s capable care with the usual twinge of regret at being parted from her. A fresh fear twisted my heart. The door panel slid closed behind them.
“Now what’s so blasted dangerous to merit evacuation and gas flooding of the outer dome?”
Intent on giving Ruhan a set down for frightening our child with his theatrics, I was silenced by the anger in his face. His eyes focused over my head at the far doorway.
“What is your problem?” I spun to see what he was glaring at and the end of a trank pistol complete with silencer answered my question. My sister Kasy grinned at me over it.
“Ah, Myah, I have waited my whole life to render you speechless. Keep it that way and I might let you live.”
My sister’s mouth twisted into a grimace as she tweaked my nose with the muzzle of her gun.
Ruhan’s words faded, getting lost in my head. I turned to check on my mate, but Kasy caught my arm.
“Turn that pretty head, Myah, and I will plug you where it will ache months after you wake.” She glanced over my shoulder at her partner. “Restrain the fatch, Klye, they only want her.”
…will… I mentally reached for Ruhan’s next word, but it was like water through my fingers tangible, yet uncontainable.
“Secure,” Klye announced.
“Move it.” Kasy wrenched my elbow as she tugged me toward the door. I used the opportunity to glance back.
Ruhan sprawled unconscious on the floor.
I love you.
I knew he couldn’t hear me, yet.
“I warned you, Myah.”
Kasy jammed the muzzled into my shoulder. Thwack. The force of impact jerked my whole torso. Pain drove through me like a stake instead of a drug pellet. Ice radiated out, swiftly overreaching the pain and clawing its way up my neck. I fought drug-induced panic.
Driving my elbow into Kasy’s ribs, I pulled free for a moment, but she just laughed.
“Consider this a wedding present from Klye and me, dear sister.”
Ice raked my brain. Black pain rose from the floor and swallowed me whole.
Want to know the rest of the story?
He offers her escape, but at what cost?
by Rachel Rossano