Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Futuristic, Sci-fi, Paranormal, Romance, menage
A quick assessment confirmed that both men were still breathing and that she had two hours before they came back to consciousness, plenty of time for her to escape.
The lash of branches against her body irritated her, but while she ran, she kept an eye out for any kind of instrument or creation of nature that would allow her to strike the pressure plate in the back of her collar. Her newly honed eyesight found it in a spine that was reminiscent of a porcupine quill. With a grin, she stabbed it through the fabric of her wrap and ran.
By the time she was aware of pursuit, she had reached the tall trees. Picking a likely hiding place, she scaled a tree, coming to rest over forty feet in the air. Her expanded talent was actually coming in handy. Each time she used it, she had a better grasp of the world and its weaknesses. Handholds that would bear her weight appeared in places she would never have thought to look.
Balancing on her perch was tricky, but her pursuers wouldn't be able to find her unless they enjoyed craning their necks and squinting into the sun.
Her mind chortled with triumph until she remembered Nishino and how she had ended up on this planet.
The bastard had tied her to the passenger seat and flown her away from the station. She woke up with the station as a tiny mark on the navigator screen.
"Why? Why did you shoot Mari?" her voice was hoarse from her screams.
"She was carrying my child. I have sworn to only breed with a talented woman, so she was doomed from the moment she informed me I was to be a father and had to marry her." Nishino's hands were moving calmly over the controls and he turned to face her.
"I chose you as my breeding partner, but you were not receptive, so an alternate plan had to be created. My clan was willing to attack, so the station was targeted as a diversion." His too-handsome face was serious.
"I don't understand. Who was taken?" Her mind was having trouble grappling with his meaning.
"This was all about you, Nenita. Your talent for finding the sweet spot is a valuable asset for the raiders and we hope it will breed true."
She shuddered, the image of Mari's surprised face in her mind as she fell back at the foot of the shuttle steps. "Why did you have to kill her?"
"I didn't have to, but I swore to my clan that my first child would have a talent, so she had to die." He shrugged. "Tival don't have talents in their genes, so that means I require an extraordinary female."
Nausea forced her to gag. But with her body confined, nothing else happened.
"I don't understand your objection. I am very handsome and perfectly acceptable to the majority of women I have been with."
She swallowed. "Including Mari."
"She pursued me and I let her catch me. With you rejecting my advances, I was getting a little frustrated. I realized that if I let Mari start a relationship, you would drop your guard around me. Unfortunately, that wasn't quite correct. Why was that, Nenita?"
The icy silk of his tone ran through her. "You aren't right. Nothing about you feels right for me. You feel creepy."
He nodded. "Your talent at work, no doubt. You have no idea how hard it was to find a Terran who was not guarded. Most other species guard their talents, but yours puts them all over the Alliance and then depends on local governments for protection."
Nenita didn't bother telling him that her government had given her and almost two thousand others to the Alliance as a test. If those two thousand humans could meet their matches in the stars, integrate and grow, their race would be offered a welcome in the Alliance. Phase one was already complete, five champions had been declared in the human bloodlines, exceptional representations of their species.
Each of those champions was female and each had begun a family of her own. Some had been altered for the purpose of carrying babies who did not quite match their genetics, but all were sprouting babies who would have their own place in the stars.
She would cut her own throat before she brought a child of this murderer to term.
Shaking her head, she focussed on the sounds of pursuit from the forest beneath her. A vicious blue brute stumbled into the clearing and he raised his head to scent the wind. She saw, rather than heard, his snarl of frustration as her height scattered her scent to the breezes. The entire area smelled like she did.
She would have to return to the ground in a few hours, her thirst and biological needs would make sure of it. Despite the Terran male propensity for peeing on trees, she really had no urge to try it herself.
As she watched the blue man searching for her, another male came into the area, a wrist scanner on his arm. That bugger was
Nenita had hoped for more time and more sterile surroundings, but there was only one thing to do. With a deep breath, she pulled the quill from her wrap and tested it in the tiny hole in the back of her collar.
She stilled her shaking hands with a deep breath, placed a small branch between her teeth and bit down as she worked the quill into her collar.
The controls were fairly simple, but the retraction trigger was what she was after. Nishino had ordered the control installed when she tried to kill him when he untied her after their landing on this rock. The influx of his clan members saved him and restrained her, but her fury wouldn't fade.
If she struck the control in the correct place, the collar would retract the electrodes that zapped her when she got too close to Nishino. She wanted him dead and nothing was going to stop her.
She grimaced around the branch as she sought the right spot. If she hit the wrong spot, she would be paralyzed or worse.
The collar started chirping as she pressed the nodules in order. She swallowed and held her breath as she slid the quill into place. She saw two large feline predators on the ground beneath her and kept her focus on them while she pressed down and activated the centre of the wiring.
At first, she didn't feel anything and then a disturbing slither inside her caused a gagging reaction as the filaments retracted back into their metal housing. She removed the quill and popped the lock on her collar loose. Nenita looked down at the instrument of torture and control in her hands and scowled. What should she do with it now?
Drioth looked at his clan brother, Hexar. They could smell the female in the trees above them.
Should we climb?
No. She will have to come down eventually. We will just have to remove the competition in the area.
Hexar shifted his feline form into something more deadly with longer claws.
Drioth matched him, his collar stretching around the thicker cords of his neck. They no longer needed to track the Terran. They knew precisely where she was.
She would be safe in the tree until they took care of her other would-be-suitors.
* * * *
Nenita couldn't figure out what the newcomers were. If it hadn't been for their collars, she would have thought them to be native-but-familiar animals, but when they shifted and stood, all similarities between them and leopards back home disappeared.
The creatures stalked the two men who were arguing in the clearing. She winced when the blue male scented something an instant before he was forced to the ground, his limbs bleeding from the attack.
The other male tried to press keys on his armband but was distracted by his arm being ripped from him by the jaws of his attacker.
With their opponents incapacitated, if not dying, the two creatures turned back in her direction and shifted into their leopard forms. Huge, graceful cats approached her hiding place and they paced beneath her refuge in slow and lazy patterns.
Nenita looked down the expanse of the tree and swallowed as the two beasts lay down to wait. There went her chances of a bathroom break.
She settled back and watched them through half-closed eyes. Napping was dangerous in her position, but she rested as best she could. She wouldn't have a chance with both of those predators. Even the other males hadn't had a hope in hell of fighting the two shifters off.
* * * *
How long do you think she can remain up there, Hexar?
I don't know. She has been up there close to an hour if not over it, by my guess. The two that she stunned next to the pool were the first.
She did a good job on them. Brax and Neffer were always too full of themselves. It served them right to be taken down a peg.
You may want to clean the blood off your mouth before you shift. She probably won't enjoy seeing you covered in blood, Drioth.
You have a point. Clean your paws. You are covered with Henir's blood.
The two shifters began the arduous task of cleaning their fur. Blood stained horribly if you let it dry.
* * * *
Two hours later and Nenita couldn't stand it, she had to pee and there was no getting around it. The two cats had dispatched the other seekers with speed and returned to the small clearing near the base of her tree.
She moved her stiff limbs and turned to face the trunk, seeking and finding the path down with her arms shaking from fatigue.
If the cats came at her, she would try to stop them, but she really had to attend to nature first. She kept her collar looped over one arm. She would only have one chance to make her escape and until then, they needed to know where she was. The moment they came looking for her, she would have the collar back in place, but she would make sure that it didn't work the way Nishino anticipated.
The cats remained seated as she got closer to the ground. When her bare feet pressed against the moss, they watched her while she staggered for the cover of the shrubs.
Tears of relief sparked in her eyes as the torment of the last few hours was eased. Now that she had attended to the nagging need, she peeked back through the shrubs to her alert followers.
Nenita weighed her options. She could make a run for the tree, run off through the woods or confront her followers. Her limbs were too sore for running, so that left option three.
She took four paces out past the shrubs and faced them, hands on her hips. "Fine. You caught me. You win."
The cats looked at each other and stood on their hind legs, stretching into the form of well-toned men.
"Technically, you surrendered, we didn't catch you." The one with pale brown hair looked down at her with amusement in his blue-green eyes. The thick collar on his neck was banded for expansion and his trousers and boots seemed to be part of him, they shifted when he did.
"I am too tired to run."
The one with black hair and peculiar gold eyes smiled. "We will have to arrange for you to run at another time. We enjoy a good chase."
She rolled her eyes. Innuendo was not something she was in the mood for. "Wonderful. Who and what are you?"
"I am Drioth Nerosa, guardian of the Oefric colony on Mkara." He bowed, his naked torso rippling in the most fascinating of ways, his brown hair sliding over one eye as he stood.
"I am Hexar Wen, guardian of the Oefric colony on Mkara. What is your name, lady?"
She sighed and got it over with. "Nenita Chase of the Alliance Protectorate of Terra, assigned to Venith Station."
Drioth frowned. "You are the woman that the one known as Nishino was after."
She scowled. "Apparently. How long have you been here?"
Hexar grunted, "Six weeks. We were lured into a trap on Mkara and ended up here. They trot us out for sparring practice."
"I know why they wanted me, but why did they take you?"
Drioth answered, "They love to fight against natural talents. They work on enhancing themselves so that they can be more aggressive in their attacks. Well, that and the Tival constantly attempt to breed talents into their bloodlines. This way, they can try out their experiments on those they plan to attack."
She looked at their thick necks and licked her lower lip. "Is your collar wired into your brain?"
They blinked and as one, they noticed her collar on her arm. Hexar nodded. "Yes, they are. It causes us to seize when they trigger the pain."
"Would you like them removed? You can still wear them, but they won't work on you anymore." She quickly finished her last sentence when it looked like they would interrupt her.
Hexar quirked a brow. "How would you do that?"
She pulled her quill out of her wrap and looked up into his golden eyes. "Do you trust me?"
Hexar was in front of her and Nenita had to admit his back was truly a lovely sight. She stifled her hormones and examined his collar. It was a lot easier from this angle.
"The quill fits into this small space and with the correct pressure on the nodes, it retracts the filaments that are linked to your nervous system."
"You can do that with a small spike? It took surgeons to implant them." Drioth was watching over her shoulder.
"The collars seem to have a failsafe if you die or it needs to be removed in case of emergency. This tiny spot, the same size as the quill tip, is perfect for striking the sensor." She paused and asked Hexar, "Are you ready?"
"If it will free me from this control, I am. Drioth, keep an eye out for any additional visitors. I don't know if more suitors will be released to seek her out." Hexar sighed and leaned forward to give her complete access to his neck.
"Nenita, whenever you are ready." He let his air out and breathed slowly.
"I will tell you when to hold your breath, but this will be painful, so try not to shout and startle me." Her fingers stroked along the nodes activating the sequence that her talent told her was correct. It was different from the combination on her collar, but when the light began to blink blue on it, she inserted the quill and said, "Hold your breath."
He froze and she could see the tick on his forearms as the electrodes retracted. The moment it was completely free of him, he collapsed, leaving her to unlatch the collar and put it to the side.
Sounds of battle drew her attention. Drioth had found some more suitors and based on the snarls and growls, they were having a difference of opinion.