Challenging saber, p.15
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       Challenging Saber, p.15

           S. E. Smith
 
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  “Here, wear these,” Saber ordered, pulling his goggles off. “The cut in the canyon is programmed into it, as well as the base of the mountains. Find shelter and cover up until the storm passes. We’ll come to you on the other side of the border.”

  Taylor reluctantly reached for the goggles. She glanced up at Saber before throwing her arms around his neck and pressing a hot, demanding kiss to his lips. Sliding her hands back down his chest, she stepped back and stared at him for a moment before turning and climbing on the skid.

  “Be safe,” he ordered, staring at her like a dying man staring at a pool of water that was just out of his reach. “I love you, my Amate. I will come for you.”

  “You better,” she retorted in a thick voice.

  Her eyes glistened with tears. Reaching up, she pulled the goggles down to hide how much leaving him behind was killing her. Pressing the start button, she felt the skid power up. She twisted the handgrip and pressed down on the foot pads, gliding away from the men. She glanced at the rearview screen. The men were already preparing for the battle for their lives.

  *.*.*

  Taylor’s gaze flickered back and forth between the destination ahead of her, the storm, and the temperature readings of the skid. Without the extra weight, the skid was staying within the upper level of the normal range. She could feel Lonnie gripping her tightly around the waist, his head buried against her to protect it from the blowing sand.

  She had slipped on extra clothing and wrapped a scarf around her head. She had done the same to Lonnie, but the sand still found a way inside her clothing. It also found the small unprotected areas of skin. The small granules stung when they struck.

  Her heart lifted to her throat when the skid flew up the side of a dune and was airborne for a moment before it slid down the other side. She pressed the accelerator down as the wind grew worse. It was almost impossible to see now. She was forced to use the digital readout in the goggles. Turning to the left, she could see the entrance to the canyon up ahead.

  The skid flew into the narrow passage just as a massive wave of sand rolled over, darkening the day to night. She could feel Lonnie’s arms trembling against her as she leaned from side to side. A cry of relief escaped her when she spotted one of the narrow caves that littered the canyons to the right.

  She released her grip on the accelerator and tilted her feet back, slowly applying the brakes. Swinging the skid around, she ducked as she passed under the overhang and into the dark, cool cave. The goggles immediately switched to night mode, so she could look around her as she drew the skid to a stop.

  It was barren, with a few piles of sand that had blown in along one edge. Shutting down the skid, she felt Lonnie release her waist so she could slide off the airbike. She reached into the front compartment and pulled out a torch. Twisting it, she pulled off the goggles and held up the glowing rod.

  “It’s okay,” she whispered, her voice echoing in the shallow cavern.

  Lonnie blinked and looked around. “Why doesn’t the sand blow in here?” He asked, sliding off the skid and coming to stand next to her.

  Taylor glanced outside. Sheets of sand were blowing down the canyon, but the way the sand had cut into the walls, it had created a lip that steered the wind and sand away from the opening. Nature was a wondrous thing, no matter what planet a person was on, she couldn’t help but think.

  “It’s just the way nature works,” she replied. “Let’s push the bike to the back of the cave. We’ll need the tarp to help keep us warm. I can feel the temperature dropping already.”

  “Me, too,” Lonnie said with a sigh as he helped push on the back of the skid. “Do you think the warriors will be alright, PT Taylor?” He asked in a soft voice.

  “Yes,” she responded.

  She didn’t say anything else. She couldn’t at the moment. Just the thought of Saber and the others out there was enough to make her want to scream. She didn’t think her running around like a Dodo bird out in the middle of an alien sandstorm would help the situation.

  “Come on, let’s get the nutrition packs out and see what we’ve got,” she murmured. “Are you hungry?”

  “No,” Lonnie said, kicking the dirt. “I really miss my mom and dad.”

  “I know,” she said, squeezing his shoulder. “I still miss mine.”

  “Are your parents on your planet?” Lonnie asked, picking up several packs and carrying them over to Taylor.

  “You could say that,” she murmured. “My mom died when I was still a baby. My dad….” Her throat tightened again as she thought of him. Shaking her head, she forced away the sad thoughts. “My dad worked as a policeman. He was killed the first day the Trivator forces came to our world. It was just my two older sisters and me until Saber, Hunter, and Dagger found us.” She paused again and grinned. “Actually, it was my older sister, Jesse, who found Hunter. She saved him from a group of really nasty humans.”

  “Just like you saved me,” Lonnie replied with a grin.

  “Yeah, just like I saved you,” Taylor responded.

  Three hours later, Taylor stared out of the cave at the sandstorm. It was still blowing like crazy. She had found some old driftwood that had washed down during the days when rain fell in the area and had stacked it together to make a fire.

  She and Lonnie had curled up inside the tarp next to it. Lonnie had finally fallen asleep just a few minutes before. She leaned back against the wall of the cave. She reached over and pulled her backpack closer to her. Reaching inside, she pulled out the small notebook and pen. She knew it was old fashioned, but there was something special about writing things down.

  Biting the tip of the pen, she smiled. She refused to believe the guys wouldn’t make it. Her gaze flickered to the blasting sand and her lips tightened in determination. She knew Saber, Hunter, Razor, Dagger, and Trig. Those five guys were not only resourceful, they were smart and had tons of training. They were a combination of MacGyver and 007 all rolled into one.

  She opened her notebook to the page she had started the night she left, three months ago. At the top of the page, she had written Saber’s name and drawn all kinds of little doodles around it. She had been pretty pissed that night and there were a lot of flames around his name. Glancing down, she studied her list of things he could do to make up for being such a shit.

  He accepts that I love him unconditionally, but that I won’t be walked on. A yellow ribbon on the tree out front will tell me that he accepts that. If he doesn’t… I need to let him go.

  A dozen yellow roses, or equivalent alien flower, every day for a year.

  Him on one knee telling me he loves me.

  Ties, for him, so I can tie him down and have my way with him until he confesses he loves me forever and beyond.

  Me on top.

  Me on top.

  Me on top. P.S. I like being on top.

  Okay, him on top.

  Love making in the bathroom.

  Love making in the kitchen.

  Love making in the garden.

  Love making in the den.

  Him, accepting he is my Amate.

  Go airbiking together.

  Making love in every room of the house all in the same day, okay, week. I might not be able to walk if it was the same day.

  Taylor sighed. She doodled hearts around the page with her and Saber’s name on it. The list went on and on. Her hand shook as she reached down and added one last item to the list before she closed the notebook and set it aside.

  She blinked sleepily and slid down next to Lonnie. She wrapped her arm around him, just like Jordan and Jesse used to do to her. Drawing in a deep breath, she released it and relaxed. Her life was so different from anything that she could ever have imagined.

  “I love you, Saber,” she whispered in the dim light. “I hope you can feel it.”

  Her eyelids fluttered closed with exhaustion. A smile curved her lips as she remembered Saber’s kiss. He was going to come to her
. His kiss had told her that he wouldn’t stop until they were together again.

  Chapter 21

  Saber strained as he pushed up. Each man slowly emerged from the sand like ghost crabs on the beach, clawing and wiggling out from under the catamaran. He shook the sand from his hair before he slid out from under the taut, sand-covered tarp. He paused, listening before murmuring to the others that it was clear.

  It was just before dawn and a hint of the sun could be seen on the horizon. Saber nodded to the other men. They spread out, each searching for the patrol that had been heading their way.

  Saber topped a newly formed slope of sand and dropped down to lie along the rim. Less than a kilometer away were the remains of the patrol. He waited for several minutes, trying to see if there were any survivors.

  He turned his head when he felt Trig and Dagger slip down beside him. Trig slid his goggles on and focused. He was silent a moment before he muttered a curse.

  “I see at least three survivors,” he said with a shake of his head. “We could take them out, but I imagine they have already called for assistance.”

  “That is all the more reason to eliminate them. We need to get to the canyon,” Saber said, sliding down the sand before turning.

  A few minutes later, they were retracing their steps up the slope. Saber nodded when Trig raised three fingers. Focusing, they worked in sync, picking off each member of the patrol that had survived. Rising up, they approached the small cluster of transports. The air transport had turned around. They knew their airships were no match for the storm.

  Walking among the dead, Saber could see that most of the men were Waxians. They should have listened to the three survivors. They must be members of the Western resistance.

  “These guys look just as bad dead as they do when they are alive,” Ace commented, examining the almost skeletal remains of the Waxian where the sand had sliced through the flesh and tissue.

  “This one, too,” Cain called out.

  Razor and Hunter searched the remains of the other ground transport. Saber walked through the camp, pausing by the men they had just killed. He pulled the cover from one man’s face. A curse escaped him and he fell back when the creature suddenly turned on him.

  “Drethulans!” He shouted, scrambling backwards and pulling his rifle around.

  Saber fired at the creature as it began to shake and expand. Several large holes appeared in the tentacles that expanded outward from his assault. He fired again before it pushed down and disappeared under the sand.

  Rolling to his feet, he heard the others firing on the other two creatures. He moved, turning in a circle when he felt the sand under his feet shift. His gaze narrowed, following the slight movement of the granules.

  He flipped the switch on his rifle to full power. Stepping to the side, he followed the movement in slow, measured steps in an effort to minimize the impact of his weight on the sand so the Drethulan couldn’t tell where he was. Saber’s eyes froze on the sand two feet away from him.

  He rolled to the side as the sand exploded outward, showering him in its stinging rain. He waited until the Drethulan’s mouth opened to reveal hundreds of razor-sharp teeth. Saber rose up on one knee and aimed for the center of the twisting teeth.

  “I don’t think you, you ugly bastard,” Saber growled, firing a series of shots into the Drethulan’s mouth that was coming toward him.

  Saber rose to his feet and twisted around when he heard laser fire. He ran forward, jumping up onto the front of one of the transports and firing on the Drethulan that had come up behind Cain while he was firing at the third one.

  “Cain, look out!” Ace shouted.

  Cain turned, and his face suddenly paled with a look of shock as one of the Drethulan’s long tentacles pierced his chest. He stumbled backwards, firing on the creature, even as his knees gave out. Saber swung off the transport, firing point blank into the Drethulan’s limb.

  He ignored the Drethulans as he raced forward to catch Cain as he fell backwards. Regret pierced Saber when he saw the Trivator’s head roll to the side. His eyes stared blankly outward over the barren dunes. He carefully lowered Cain down to the sand and turned.

  “Cain?” Ace asked, running over.

  Saber shook his head. “The Drethulans?” He asked.

  “Dead. We checked the others. The rest were Waxians,” Dagger replied, staring down with regret at Cain’s lifeless body.

  “Shewta!” Razor exclaimed when he saw Cain.

  “He had no family,” Ace said in a quiet voice, staring up at the sky. “Perhaps in the next life he will be given one for his loyalty and sacrifice.”

  Saber nodded, looking at Hunter and Trig. “Did you find anything?” He asked.

  Trig nodded. “I found a working transport. Not in the best shape, but it started,” he replied, glancing down at Cain.

  “Ace said he had no family,” Saber replied, answering Trig’s unspoken question.

  Trig nodded. Each man made sure their laser rifle was at full charge. Stepping back, they aimed it at Cain’s body. Razor gave the quiet command to fire. Within seconds, the fine ash of Cain’s remains mixed with the sands of the desert.

  Turning, Saber stared down at his wrists. A wave of pain flashed through him when he thought again of the gift he had been given and how close he had come to throwing it away. A family was the greatest honor a Trivator warrior could be given. The urge to rejoin Taylor and sweep her away to the safety of his home on Rathon gave Saber a renewed determination to make Taylor his Amate as soon as possible.

  *.*.*

  Taylor slowly came awake. She was amazed that she had slept so well considering everything that had happened. She blinked in surprise when she saw a pair of glowing amber eyes staring back at her. A soft, unexplained giggle escaped her. She knew she should be terrified, but it was hard to be when all she could see was her dirty face reflected back at her.

  “Man, I need a bath,” she said in a voice husky from sleep. “I’m surprised you aren’t running screaming. I swear, I’ve got sand in places where no sand should ever be.”

  A slender hand reached up and removed the helmet, revealing the face of a young woman. She stared at Taylor before her eyes moved down to Lonnie. Taylor grabbed the woman’s hand when she started to touch him.

  “He’s under my protection,” Taylor said with a pointed look before she released the strange woman’s wrist. “I just want you to know that.”

  The woman turned her gaze back to Taylor. “You are either very brave or very stupid,” the woman responded, rising to her feet. “Bring her and Londius.”

  “PT Taylor,” Lonnie mumbled sleepily as he sat up. “What’s wrong?”

  “How did you know his name?” Taylor demanded, rising to her feet when two helmet-clad men stepped forward.

  “Maridi!” Lonnie exclaimed, rolling to his feet with a laugh.

  Maridi chuckled as she wrapped her arms around Lonnie. Taylor watched the exchanged, feeling very confused. Tucking her messy hair behind her ear, she folded her arms across her chest and scowled at the two embracing figures.

  “Ah, Lonnie, who is this?” Taylor asked, raising her eyebrow at the girl that wasn’t much older than she was. “She looks familiar.”

  “She should,” Lonnie replied with a huge grin. “This is my sister, Maridi.”

  “Maridi?” Taylor said, rubbing her forehead. “But, I thought your family lived in the Eastern section.”

  “That is what we wanted you to think,” Maridi said. “Come, our father and mother will be very pleased that my brother has returned.”

  “I bet,” Taylor mumbled, hurriedly reaching down to grab her backpack. “What about the other stuff?”

  “It is safe,” Maridi replied with a wave of her hand. “Come, we must move before the air patrols cross.”

  Taylor stumbled out into the bright morning light. She blinked several times to clear her vision before she could focus on where she was goin
g. This is one of those mornings when anything with a lot of caffeine might have come in handy. She felt like she had fog for brains at the moment.

  “Ah, Maridi,” Taylor called out. “Where are we going? I need to be heading to the mountains.”

  “I know,” Maridi replied as she picked up her pace.

  Taylor grimaced. The girl was really beginning to piss her off. She would have just told her to go on if it hadn’t been for the two guys behind her with the long poles that looked suspiciously like they could light up her ass if she wasn’t careful.

  Focusing on her breathing, she decided the best thing to do was make sure that Lonnie was safe, then see if she could steal some kind of transport and go find Saber and the others. A wave of guilt flooded her for a second when she realized that all her thoughts had been on Saber, not Hunter, Dagger, or Razor. Jesse, Jordan, and Kali would kill her if their men didn’t make it back. Knowing how she felt about Saber, she could understand why.

  Taylor slowed when she saw Maridi start up a long row of stairs. She stopped and blinked up in awe. At the end of the winding canyon was a monument of some kind. Huge statues stood like silent sentinels staring down at her.

  “Back off,” Taylor muttered when one of the men touched her with the end of the rod. “This is like – incredible. You can at least give me a second to appreciate it.”

  “Come, PT Taylor, my parents are expecting you,” Maridi called down with a grin.

  “It’s just, Taylor,” Taylor replied as she stepped up to the sand-colored staircase.

  Carefully climbing up the staircase, Taylor felt like she had just jumped from one movie set to another. She shook her head. Saber was never going to believe this! She paused at the entrance to look down the canyon. The tall walls concealed most of the structure. The only thing she could see was the narrowed area at the very end where bright sunlight shown down into the canyon. Swallowing, she cast an annoyed glance at the guards behind her before she turned and stepped through the massive stone entrance.

 
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