Authors: Taylor Dillion
“You mean Ashaa is an acronym?” he thundered.
“Yes,” she answered with puzzlement on her face.
“Then pick a name.”
“Ashaa is my name.”
“No, it is not. You are not a lab experiment here. You are an individual and a person. You will be treated as such here. Pick a name.”
“But Ashaa is the name I am accustomed to answering to.”
“I don’t give a damn. I am not going to call you some acronym someone assigned to you. What does the specimen aa part mean?”
“I am one of many that were created. The others had become deceased when they incubated my embryo and ‘birthed’ me. When specimen Zz became deceased after an experiment went wrong, I was brought forward,” she relayed calmly.
“What happened to that ‘specimen’,” he gritted through his locked jaw.
“She succumbed to an injury incurred while they were testing an extreme pressure change.”
“How many of the embryos do they have left in storage,” he seethed and already mentally planning a raid on the forbidden planet.
“If Nogith, the lead suPonick, was telling the truth about the destruction of the base: none. He indicated that when he saw me without my camouflage that he attempted to purchase me through barter with the humans. When they refused he said he did what any good suPonick would do and took. The base was completely destroyed in order to make it appear as an accident occurred with a weapon they provided. He said the ruse was necessary in order to attempt to remain a trade partner with that group of humans. After all, accidents happen. This would mean that all of Usholt’s DNA and all of the embryos would have been destroyed. When I mentioned this to Nogith, he was very aggrieved but had no one to blame but himself.”
“His name was Usholt?”
“Yes, that was the name he gave them,” she answered. “Did you know him?”
“No, he disappeared before my time but I know of him. Eat, you need your strength,” he replied.
They ate the meal in silence while Rev stewed. Furious at not only the way she had been treated but also the ease with which she accepted the behavior of those responsible for it. Part of him knew that anger would not have helped or prevented the treatment that she’d received but it didn’t lesson the irritation that he felt over her calm acceptance of it. He would need to work on that problem as he knew it was his own. As he went over her words in his head another thought occurred to him and he couldn’t stop himself from asking.
“Why was your camouflage off when Nogith saw you?”
“I had been shot with a high power laser repeatedly to see how much of the energy I could deflect before injury occurred,” she stated calmly. This response had Rev ready to hunt down the individuals responsible for treating her so and inflict as much pain as possible before he killed them. He fought to contain his rage. While working on the control, he stood and placed the dishes in the cleaning unit. Then after it cycled he removed them and placed them back in the cabinet. He felt her watching him.
“Are you angry?”
“With me?” she sounded puzzled.
He took a deep breath and expelled it before facing her. “Yes and no, their treatment of you was brutality of the worst kind and it enrages me to the point that I want hunt down those responsible and pay them back in kind. That you accept it so calmly is what angers me at you. While I know that anger would not have helped you, for you to have no sense of even outrage not only puzzles me but makes me so angry I have the need to beat on things.”
A slow smile spread across her face. She stood and came to stand in front of him.
“Does anyone you know have any idea of the depth of who you are?” she asked softly.
“No, and if you tell anyone, I’ll deny we ever had this conversation,” he grumbled.
She laughed and surprised both of them by putting her arms around his waist and leaning against his shoulder. He closed his arms around her and pulled her close. They stood that way for a few moments. She felt like she had known him forever though she could not have explained why.
“Come on, I need to put you to bed. You still need to rest. Tomorrow we can talk again.” He helped her into the bed and sat down beside her. “Do you need anything before I go?”
“Do you have to go?” she asked. He could see the uncertainty on her face.
“Is something wrong?”
“No…I don’t know. I…I..,” she stuttered to a stop and took a deep breath. “I just don’t want you to go and I don’t know how to explain why.” He watched her for a moment and then leaned over to unfasten his boots.
“Then I won’t go,” he said as he slipped into the bed beside her. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close in spoon fashion. “Sleep,” he told her and pressed his lips to the spots at the nape of her neck. She shivered in response as her spots flushed and then relaxed into him. Soon her even breathing and quiet mind told him she slept. He didn’t know how he was going to explain to Dezek that he had established a permanent connection with Ashaa. That she needed him to stay and couldn’t explain why along with the flushing spots said it all. The connection had failed to dissolve with physical disconnect. He too had found his mate but since Ashaa was so special how would the Fathers react. He reached for Vax and was shocked to discover that his brother contained an echo of the tiny red haired one named Rose.
I’m here. Is everything all right, Brother?
” was the concerned reply.
You have an echo of Rose like Lada and Tota do of each other,
” Rev told him referring to his parents.
I know. Rose and I made a connection, a permanent one.
Does Dezek know and what did he say?
” Rev wanted to know.
He said Lada was going to be very happy.
” Vax had a smile in his voice.
I hope he still says the same when I tell me that I just figured out my connection to Ashaa is also permanent.
” Rev heard laughter from the minds of both Vax and Rose.
He smiled at the joyous sound, cut the connection and closed his eyes. The smile stayed on his face as he drifted off himself.
Vax continued to smile after Rev left the connection.
Who are Lada and Tota?
” a sleepy Rose queried.
Lada means Mom and Tota means Dad in our language,
” he told her with a smile. Even as sleepy as she was the connection hadn’t severed or even waned slightly. “
I thought you were going to sleep?
I was but when he connected with you I felt your concern and it sort of roused me. Am I eavesdropping?
A little but we’ll work on it. I really don’t mind though. I like feeling you with me.
” She answered as she drifted back to sleep.
Sienna awoke with a warm, comfortable peace in her she hadn’t felt in a while. She realized there was heartbeat beneath her ear as well as the very warm hard body that went with it. She stilled. Events of the past month came back to her quickly.
“How are you feeling?”
Sienna sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. “I need to check on the others and see how Ashaa is this morning,” she told him as she climbed out the bed and went into the door on the left where she correctly assumed the bathroom was.
Dezek watched the door with narrowed eyes
Did she really think he’d be put off that easily he mused. He sent a mental message to Axon to find one of the crates of female clothing and bring it to the lounge. He would let the women go through it and find enough clothing till they could get to the next stop. They still had several stops before they could head home. He rose from the bed and went to the food dispenser and made her some breakfast. He heard the door open behind him a few minutes later and felt her pause. She hadn’t expected him to still be there. He turned and looked at her.
“You never answered my question. How are you this morning?”
“I’m fine. Why did you sleep with me?” she asked in irritation. She couldn’t believe she slept with a man she’d known less than twenty-four hours. She didn’t care what her mixed hormones and heart were cheering about.
“You needed me to be here with you.”
“No, I didn’t, I was fine and slept through the night, obviously,” she with irritation.
“Perhaps you slept so well because I was with you,” he said mildly and smiled again. Just like that she wanted to smack him. How one person’s smile could be so damned irritating was beyond her.
“Come eat. Then we’ll see about the others. Also, I am having Axon bring up a crate of clothing so that all of you can have more than what you’re wearing. We wouldn’t want anyone to think you were slaves or anything,” he offered with his ever present smile and winked at her as she sat across from him. “Then someone will show you how to use the cleaning units for the dishes, clothing, yourselves and show you how to use the recycling unit in each of your quarters. We recycle as much as possible and try to limit waste,” he told her as he served her food from the dish.
While they ate Dezek mentally reached for Rev, he wanted to make sure Ashaa was mending before he took Sienna to see her. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, Sienna couldn’t actually handle much more stress. Rev confirmed he and Ashaa were having breakfast as well and she felt much better although he still wanted Vax to see her again this morning. Dezek smiled, that Rev would seek out Vax on her behalf said volumes about his best friend’s already strong attachment to Ashaa. Dezek frowned as Rev relayed some of the other things Ashaa had told him during the night including that her name was actually a project acronym. He felt Rev’s rage and understood it. At least Ashaa was now safe from those who would inflict any more harm upon her. His smile returned as he realized Rev now contained Ashaa’s echo. Dezek wondered if his best friend who sometimes could be a little thick had realized the connection yet.
“Ashaa is awake and having breakfast with Rev,” Dezek let Sienna know as they finished breakfast. He took the dish the food dispenser had made for the hot cereal and showed Sienna how to place it in the recycler. He then showed her how to use the cleaning unit for the bowls and spoons they had used. “Ready to see Ashaa?”
“Yes, also I forgot to ask when Vax mentioned the pregnancies. How will all of that zapping to black us out affect the babies?” she asked worriedly.
“Fortunately, it shouldn’t affect them at all. The technology was designed to be used to control slaves. While it sounds horrible to say, the truth is no slave owner is going to want to injure a slave bearing him another slave,” he told her with a slight grimace.
“Okay, that’s good. That’s one less thing to worry about.”
“What else are you worrying over?”
She stared at him for a moment. He could see indecision in her eyes. She shook her head and went toward the door. “Nothing.”
He stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm. “I’m here for you. Let me help.”
“I just don’t know how I’m going to tell them all they can never go home,” she sighed heavily.
“Let me tell them: that will make me the one where they can direct their anger. Then you’ll be available for comfort,” he said in soft tone with a caring look on his face while he stroked a gentle finger over her cheek. “You don’t need to feel guilty for something you had no control over, you know.”
“But I did have control
took them to that base.
made the decision to take them all to that base. I did because I wanted to get set up and get out as quickly as possible. The place has always given me the creeps, even just driving past it on the highway spooked me. It was a selfish decision.” She had tears in her eyes as she delivered the self-recriminations.
“Sienna,” he said softly as he pulled her into his arms, “There is no way you could have known what would happen there. But if you felt that way about the place why did you take the job?”
“Because when the lieutenant called she offered to pay a premium since it was last minute, and with the off-season coming up fast, I didn’t want to say no to the money. The economy hasn’t been great lately and so even our busy season was a little sparse for all the businesses in town this year, even though I did better than some of the others because people have to eat. I don’t like cutting anyone’s hours during the off season. They still have bills to pay, too. Taking the job and doing it well might have netted us an off-season regular customer as well as base personnel coming in on their own. So I put aside my gut intuition and told myself if I took a full crew we’d be in and out in less than thirty minutes.”
“No one but you is blaming you and it wasn’t totally selfish. You were trying to save their jobs. That’s not selfish,” he told her as he rocked her slightly. “No one is blaming you.”
“Blanca is,” she said into his shoulder.
“Well, Blanca is a spoilt brat who probably blames everyone for anything she deems wrong in her life, Rose tells me,” he laughed.
“Wait, when were you talking to Rose?” Sienna asked with a puzzled look.
“While you were cleaning.”
“Rose didn’t wait for me?”
“Sienna, Rose wasn’t physically in the room. Rose is apparently capable of telepathing with most of my crew or as we call it ‘talking’. It is rare for a human to be able to telepath to those other than her mate and offspring but not completely unheard. Although, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a human take to it so quickly and easily. Her mind must be something else,” he told her.
“Oh, it definitely is. Rose is one of the ‘scary’ smart people, but back to Blanca.”
“Rose tells me that Blanca was only working for you because she was being punished for stealing. That she finally went too far for her doting father to buy her way out of the trouble. True?” he said.
“Yes, two of the constrictions of her probation are that she keep a part-time job and attend college at least part-time. The rest of the punishment involves community service, restitution, a curfew and a conditional restriction on her license to drive. She has definitely not been happy about it. The only reason she didn’t wind up in jail is because the judge was friends with both her father and the woman whose jewelry store from which the items were stolen. I hired her because it got me several tax deductions. Lately though I’ve wondered if it was worth it,” she told him with a laugh. Hearing her joke let him know she was beginning to feel better.
With his arm wrapped around her shoulder, he steered her toward the door. “Let’s go see Ashaa.”
Dezek and Sienna met Rose and Vax in the passageway outside the door Sienna had gone through yesterday to see Ashaa which turned out to be 18-7.
“I don’t give damn!” Rev was yelling at Ashaa in fierce growl as the four entered the room. “Choose another.”
Ashaa refusing to be intimidated by enraged giant simply looked at him with a calm demeanor and said, “No.” Rev growled at her, turned and stalked out the door without another word. Ashaa sighed.
“Wow! Scary!” Rose made a face at his retreating back. “What does he want you to choose,” Rose queried as she went to hug Ashaa. “You look much better green with spots by the way,” Rose told her with a cheeky smile.
“He wants me to choose another name. He does not like the fact that it is an acronym that the scientists thought up,” she said with a slight frown. “I do not know why it bothers him so much.”
“I do,” Rose laughed her hugging her again. “I’ll explain later.”
Ashaa apparently decided to let it go and looked at Rose and Sienna. “You both look much better yourselves today,” she said with a smile. “So the green doesn’t bother you?” she asked tentatively.
“Absolutely not,” both Rose and Sienna answered as one.
“You look beautiful,” Sienna told her, “and everyone else will think so as well. Besides look around: lots of green and dark green spots,” she gestured to Vax and Dezek.
“I worry about Holly, Wendy and Tabitha,” she said still uncertain. “They worked at the base. They were afraid of me in the beginning.”
“Holly already hugged you after the Mirkndaks dumped us on the slave trader, remember,” Sienna reminded her. “Holly, Tabitha, Natalie and Wendy moved you to a pallet so you’d be more comfortable after the trader zapped you. They’ll be okay with this, I promise.”
“What did they do at the lab?” Dezek’s question was spoken softly but with a dangerous tone to his voice.
“Relax, the three of them were only assigned to care for animals that were being used in other experiments. They fed them, cleaned them and their cages,” Sienna supplied. “They weren’t responsible for any of the horrors that Ashaa experienced.”
Dezek relaxed and nodded then he suddenly broke out in laughter. “Fazon has the rest of the ladies fed and waiting in the lounge and he said if we don’t get there now and get Blanca away from him, he will not be responsible for his actions. Vax, you and Rose take a look at Ashaa and then if you’re satisfied she’s up to it, bring her along. Sienna and I will go and rescue Fazon from Blanca.”
Dezek and Sienna entered the lounge a moment later and found chaos. Fazon looked ready to commit homicide just as Dezek had told them. Sienna put her thumb and index finger against her mouth and the resulting sound brought everyone to a standstill.
“What is going on in here?” she asked once she had their attention. Everyone starting talking at once and Sienna put her hands up for another stop.
“One at a time. Wendy?”
“Blanca seems to think that not only are the clothes not good enough for her but that she needs more clothing than anyone else and someone is going to need to do her laundry till we get home.”
do not do laundry and
wear the same outfit more than once every six months. I have servants. You people can live like savages if you want but I’m not doing it. I deserve better than this,” Blanca told them with a snotty tone and waved at the crate Axon had opened. Axon for his part said nothing but was glaring at the teen.
“She also informed Axon that he was now her personal valet and that she wanted him to use the gold tone all of you had when you first appeared at the market. She doesn’t like green apparently,” Holly snickered and Axon shot her a thunderous look. “Don’t look at me, I didn’t say it, I just repeated it.” Axon’s look slipped further toward homicide which sent Holly into a fit of laughs as she collapsed into a chair.
Dezek fought not to laugh himself at the murderous look on Axon’s face. He looked at Sienna and said, “I’ll handle this I think.” Sienna nodded and sat next to Samantha.
“Holly, if you can collect yourself for a few minutes.”
“Of course, my apologies,” Holly said with another smirk in Axon’s direction.
“First, Blanca, you are not anyone special here. You are a member of our group and you
pull your own weight, not be waited on. You will do your own laundry, dishes and pick up your own quarters. When we eat in the communal hall on Deck Seventeen once a week, you will take a turn at cooking, washing and serving just like everyone else including all of us,” he pointed at his own chest. “Second, the clothing in the crate was a gift of hospitality since we found you with nothing other than your own beings and the clothing you are currently wearing. If you do not like the clothing, then I believe Axon has a crate of sewing supplies and fabric also; you can make your own. Third, you will be assigned a job on board and I expect it to be done and done well. We function as a society. If you choose not to cooperate then I will lock you in your quarters until we arrive and then allow the Fathers to deal with you.”
“You can’t treat me this way! My father is the mayor!” Blanca snarled at him.
Dezek looked at Sienna for translation and she decided again sometimes the translators definitely missed things. “What does that mean?”
“Her father is the leader of the small town where we live. Mayor is the title given to an elected office that manages the town’s resources, establishes society rules and leads the people,” Sienna explained.