Challenging saber, p.14
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       Challenging Saber, p.14

           S. E. Smith
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  Taylor nodded. “I’m surprised they didn’t amputate your leg. I saw the scans. I’m not a healer, but I could see the extent of the damage. The nerves and muscles were in bad shape, too,” she said. “After your third surgery, the healer highly recommended removing it and fitting you with a robotic leg, but you refused.”

  “How did you see the scans?” Saber asked, scowling down at her. “Are you telling me that you’ve known all along what has been happening?”

  “Of course,” she replied with a sigh. “I had Jordan hack into your medical records. Every time any updates were done, I was sent a copy of it.”

  A grumble of disbelief escaped him. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He demanded, shaking his head.

  Taylor chuckled before she leaned over to brush a kiss to his lips. “Because I knew that you would probably have stopped going to the healer. You can be very hard-headed when you get your mind stuck on something. I was afraid if you knew, you wouldn’t let me come over anymore. I followed along with the recommended therapy from the healers. It was important to keep your other muscles strong. With the damage to your leg, it would throw off your posture and would affect the rest of your body,” she explained.

  “And if it was necessary…,” he paused and drew in a deep breath before continuing. “What would you have done if they had decided to take my leg?”

  Taylor leaned into him. “Love you, help you, be there for you, and love you some more,” she replied.

  “Shewta!” Saber whispered, shaking his head. “You must truly love me to have put up with everything I put you through.”

  Taylor chuckled. “Yeah, well, payback is a bitch and I think she had puppies in your case. I still remember your comment the day I left. I’ve had plenty of time to think of how you can grovel. I’ve come up with a ton of really good ideas,” she remarked with a teasing smile. “Is there any water?”

  “Yes, in the bag to your left. Get one for Lonnie, as well,” Saber replied. “The heat will dehydrate you both more than it will us.”

  “Show off,” Taylor teased before turning on her hands and knees to reach for the bag.

  A low rumble escaped Saber as his gaze swept over the curve of Taylor’s ass. He turned when he felt another set of eyes on them. Ace’s gaze was glued to Taylor as well. He shot the other male a look of warning.

  “She’s mine,” Saber snarled.

  Ace raised an eyebrow and looked at Saber’s wrists before he glanced over at Taylor. “I don’t see your mark on her,” he replied.

  Saber’s hand moved to the rifle at his side. “She’s mine,” he repeated. “Do not challenge me, Ace. I will kill for her.”

  Ace didn’t reply. His gaze flickered to where Taylor was sitting next to the boy. Saber watched the male until he returned his attention back to the landscape. Pulling down his MMOS, he zoomed into the distance. Over the fortress, he could barely make out a fighter transport firing down into the structure. It would appear Achler decided he didn’t want to take any chances.

  *.*.*

  Prymorus Achler leaned back in his chair and stared moodily at the holographic map. In the background, he could hear several men talking, including the Kassisan that had been ‘assigned’ to him. He didn’t trust the bastard. He fingered his drink as he thought about what had happened during the night.

  The Kassisan had saved his life, but if he expected any special consideration or appreciation for that fact, he was in the wrong company. The Waxians were mercenaries. They liked to kill and they liked to make money. Most of the time, they did it for both, but on a few rare occasions, they did it for pleasure. The one thing they never did was keep a dangerous enemy for too long.

  Cordus Kelman had done that. The Drethulans had hired a dozen Waxian warlords to do two things: deliver enough weapons to destroy the Alliance forces and discover the Trivator’s weakness. Kelman’s detailed records of the Trivator he used in the fight rings had shown them that when it came to fighting – and surviving – the warrior species were second to none. The fact that Kelman’s experiment earned him a fortune was proof of that.

  He had been doubtful when the other Waxian told him about his plans. Capture several Trivators and use them in the fight ring to observe how they fought, what their endurance and pain level tolerance were, and how long they could keep fighting.

  Prymorus had an idea that the Trivator would still be making Kelman credits if the bastard hadn’t killed him. The only good thing that came out of Kelman’s experiment was finally finding the Trivators’ one weakness… their females. The Trivators might protect those that are weaker, but as Razor had proven, they could also look the other way if it meant destroying an enemy – except when it came to a female that was under their protection.

  Which meant a mated Trivator would do anything for his female, including not attacking those that held her as a prisoner for fear of harming her, Prymorus thought, playing with the knife as he continued to study the map.

  “You appear deep in thought,” the Kassisan commented, walking toward the table where Prymorus was sitting.

  A flash of anger went through him when the huge bastard placed a bottle of his most expensive liquor down on the table and poured two glasses. He watched suspiciously as the man pushed a glass in front of him before sitting down in the chair facing him. His gaze was drawn to the man’s hands.

  “I don’t remember inviting you to partake of my best liquor, Dakar,” Prymorus snapped, leaning forward to snatch the bottle from across the table.

  Dakar chuckled, fingering the glass before slowly raising it to his lips and taking a sip. Prymorus watched as the Kassisan seemed to savor it before swallowing. A small part of him wished the fiery liquor would burn a hole through the man’s chest.

  “It is too good to waste sitting in a bottle and growing stale,” Dakar replied with a shrug. “The fighter transports destroyed the fortress, why waste time and resources on returning there?”

  Prymorus turned his gaze back to the map. “I’ve sent a patrol to make sure that nothing survived. I don’t want to take a chance of any of those Trivator warriors making it out,” he growl in frustration. “The girl was key to my plans. She is under the protection of two of the most powerful Trivators in the Alliance.”

  “Did you ever find out how she escaped?” Dakar asked, looking at the fortress. “It is a long way from the tower to the lower catacombs where the other prisoners were being held.”

  Prymorus’ gaze narrowed and he shook his head. “I was too busy trying to kill those Trivator bastards to investigate. It seems strange that they missed you as you were wandering around the fortress. They killed many of my men before the alarm was sounded, but somehow passed you by,” he observed.

  Dakar simply raised his drink and took a sip. The man was too cool, too controlled, and too lucky for Prymorus’ taste. Dakar had departed The Hole on the Bruttus Spaceport in the Tessalon galaxy shortly before the Drethulan, Jolin Talja, was killed. A group of Trivators had arrived to rescue the other caged warrior.

  Last night, Dakar had appeared out of the shadows and pushed him out of the line of fire that would have killed him. What bothered him was that he had seen the Kassisan in action. He never missed his target, yet last night he had missed every time he aimed at one of the Trivator warriors.

  “I’ve sent a patrol back to the fortress to make sure there were no survivors,” Prymorus added, sipping his drink. “I’ve also ordered increased patrols along the border. We need to harvest as much ore as possible.”

  “Production is at full capacity,” Dakar replied with a raised eyebrow. “The workers are already stretched as far as they can go.”

  “Extend their shifts,” Prymorus ordered, staring at Dakar over the rim of his glass. “I also have a mission for you.” Dakar’s lips tightened, but he didn’t say anything. “I want you to kidnap the Trivator Councilman’s woman.”

  Distaste flashed across Dakar’s face and a bored expression settled over i
t. Prymorus watched in amusement. He was curious to see how lucky the Kassisan was at infiltrating the Trivator forces. He was also testing the Kassisan. The male was always arguing with him about the mine workers.

  “I believe you killed her when you blew up the fortress,” Dakar finally said with a wave of his hand to the hologram. “That might be a rather messy mission.”

  Prymorus sat back in his chair. “Not that one, she was not his woman, merely one under his protection. I want you to kidnap Razor’s female.”

  Dakar grimaced. “It would be better to kill me now,” he replied dryly. “How do you propose I kidnap this woman? If I remember correctly from the reports, the last time someone tried to kidnap a Trivator’s woman, it ended badly – for the Waxian stupid enough to try it. What is the use anyway? Both Razor and Hunter are dead. The fortress, remember?”

  Prymorus’ lips tightened. “Are you refusing?” He asked in a quiet tone that held a hint of malice in it.

  Dakar released a deep sigh. “The Drethulans hired me to make sure you Waxians were following through with their end of the agreement. I do not work for you or any other member of the Waxian forces. The fact that I saved your ass last night was beyond my normal job guidelines. I simply did it so that production of the needed ore would not be delayed. Do not attempt to order me around, Waxian. Your species aren’t the only ones who enjoy killing.”

  Prymorus placed his empty glass on the table and stood up, his hand moved to his side where he kept his laser pistol. His focus remained glued on the steely-eyed male still sitting across from him. His fingers moved to his waist, but paused. Sweat beaded on his brow. The Kassisan was too confident, and a feeling that he was suddenly in mortal danger washed through him. His hand relaxed back down to his side.

  “Be careful who you threaten, Kassisan,” Prymorus growled in a soft tone. “The Drethulans can always replace you.”

  Dakar casually rose out of his seat, his own blaster in his hand. The smug smile on his face was not reflected in his eyes. Prymorus’ fists clenched by his side; he had been right. The bastard probably had his weapon trained on him the entire time.

  “All of us are expendable,” Dakar replied, not bothering to sheath his weapon. “I suggest you not forget that, as well, Achler. The Drethulans are expecting an update.”

  Prymorus watched as Dakar’s gaze flickered to the hologram image of the fortress once more before he stepped away from the table. The Kassisan didn’t turn all the way until he could step out of the room. Prymorus leaned forward, placing his hands on the table in front of him in aggravation. He angrily stared at the map.

  “I want a report from the patrol,” he ordered, turning his attention to one of the men directing movements at the communication console. “Tell them to sift through the rubble until they find every single one of the Trivators’ bodies.”

  “Yes, sir,” the man replied, turning and conveying the message to the patrol team.

  Chapter 20

  Taylor handed a nutrition pack to Lonnie. She smiled down at the boy. He returned her smile, but it quickly sagged in the intense heat.

  “It will cool off in a couple of hours,” she murmured.

  “I know,” Lonnie replied.

  She picked up several of the drink packs and carried them to where the men were standing, looking off into the horizon. Her eyes swept over Saber’s tall form. Pleasure and pride washed through her. A rosy blush that had nothing to do with the heat suffused her cheeks when he turned and watched as she struggled to climb the small sand dune.

  “I know you guys are big, tough warriors, but I also know that dehydration doesn’t care about that,” she said, smiling up at them.

  “Thank you, Taylor,” Hunter replied, reaching for one of the packs.

  “What’s wrong?” She asked, sensing the tension in the air.

  Saber nodded to the horizon. Taylor turned to see what he was looking at. Her eyes widened when she saw the thick, black sky. She had been on the planet long enough to know what it was – one of their intense storms. There had been a half dozen of them in the last six months. The worst ones happened in the Western region, but the East was not immune to them.

  “Oh, shit!” Taylor breathed out. “That’s a whole lot of sand.”

  Ace chuckled, reaching for one of the water packs. “Yes, it is,” he replied, ignoring the low growl of warning from Saber.

  Taylor wrinkled her nose at Saber. “So, what are we going to do?” She asked with a worried frown as she handed the rest of the men their packs. “It is too dangerous to remain outside. The sand will slice through us.”

  “There’s a cut in the sandstone,” Razor said, focusing in on the area. “Hopefully there will be a cavern cut out in the rock face. The nomads in the area use them.”

  “Can we make it in time? What about the skids? I thought they needed to cool off,” she said, turning to look at Saber.

  Saber’s grim expression was enough of an answer. They didn’t have a choice. If they didn’t make it, they would die. Turning, she jerked to a stop when she saw a line of dust rising in the distance in the direction they had come.

  “Saber,” Taylor whispered, staring in horror.

  She vaguely heard the men’s soft curses. They were trapped; in front of them, the massive sandstorm; behind them, the patrol.

  “Let’s go,” Saber growled, grabbing Taylor’s hand and pulling her back toward the skids.

  She half ran, half slid down the slope of sand to the bottom. Her gaze swept the area, focusing on Lonnie, who was lying in the shade under the catamaran. He crawled out when he saw them running toward the skids.

  “What is it, PT Taylor?” He asked in a frightened voice.

  “We’ve got to go, sweetheart,” Taylor replied in an urgent voice, releasing Saber’s hand so she could help Lonnie back onto the skids.

  Lonnie looked around confused and frightened. “I thought the machines needed to cool,” he said.

  “They should be cool enough to get us where we need to go,” Saber replied, turning and sitting down on the edge.

  “Go!” Hunter shouted.

  Taylor glanced around at the determined faces. Her lips curved into a nervous smile when she saw Dagger wink at her. She wrapped her arm tightly around Lonnie and held him when the skids jerked forward. Her eyes remained glued to the patrol moving rapidly across the desert floor until the skids passed over the dune.

  The landscape began to change. This area was more sand and less rock. It would make the journey more difficult. A half hour into their race across the dunes, Taylor almost lost her balance when the skid Cain was operating jerked and died. The sudden loss of power caused the catamaran to tilt to the left.

  “Stop!” Cain yelled.

  Razor turned, nodding when Hunter spoke to him. Dagger glanced over and shut down his skid. Saber jumped off the catamaran before turning to help Taylor and Lonnie.

  Taylor shielded her eyes from the spray of sand that was kicked up by the growing storm. She stepped closer to Saber so she could hear what was being said.

  “The engine’s gone,” Ace was saying in disgust. “Between the heat, sand, and weight, we are lucky we got this far.”

  Trig looked off in the distance with a grim expression. “There’s no way we’ll make the canyon.”

  “What about the other two skids?” Saber asked.

  Dagger shook his head. “Mine was overheating,” he admitted. “We’d have been lucky if it made it to the next rise.”

  Taylor saw Saber glance down at her. His mouth tightened into a straight line as he looked behind them, then at the storm. Her hand instinctively reached for his.

  “Razor, what about your skid?” Saber asked.

  Razor’s turned his gaze to Taylor and Lonnie. Taylor’s head was already shaking when she saw the intense focus reflected in them. She knew what he was going to say.

  “No,” she whispered, her throat tight with fear. “No, I won’t leave you
guys here.”

  “It will get Taylor and Lonnie to the canyon,” Razor replied in a calm voice. “We’ll pack enough nutrition packs to last her and the boy several days.”

  “No,” Taylor said again, turning to Saber. Her eyes filled with tears. “No! I’m not leaving you guys here.”

  Saber turned to her and gripped her arms. “You have to,” he murmured in a soft voice. “Think about Lonnie, Taylor. You have to get him to safety.”

  “What about you?” She asked, brushing an irritated hand over her cheek. “If I take the only working skid, there is no way you or the others will survive.”

  “The Mountains of the Crescent Moon are on the other side of the storm,” Saber said. “Get to the canyon. We’ll ride out the storm here. Once it is over, I want you to make for the mountain. We’ll catch up with you.”

  Taylor shook her head again. “You have the storm in front of you and the patrol behind, how are you going to make it through that?” She asked stubbornly.

  “Think of the boy,” Saber repeated, glancing at where Lonnie stood watching them.

  “I just got you back,” Taylor whispered, staring up at Saber. “I swear, if you don’t come, I’m going to come looking for you…” She paused and looked at the other men. “I’ll come looking for all of you. Jesse, Jordan, and Kali would kick my ass if I didn’t.”

  “Go, Taylor,” Hunter said, stepping up to her. “Jesse knows I will do everything I can to return to her.”

  “Just as Jordan does,” Dagger said with a grin.

  “And Kali,” Razor reluctantly admitted with a smile.

  “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if she is going to make it, she and the boy need to get going,” Trig said in a grim voice. “It looks like the storm and the patrol are both determined to find us first.”

  Taylor released a shaky breath and looked over to where Ace and Cain were unhooking the skids from the catamaran. Trig grabbed a box of nutrition packs and attached it to the back with some of the straps. Razor had picked Lonnie up and was carrying him over to the skid.

 
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