Challenging saber, p.16
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       Challenging Saber, p.16

           S. E. Smith
slower 1  faster
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  Chapter 22

  Western Region Council Offices:

  Prymorus stood at the window of the office he had taken over in the Western Council. He had sent the Kassisan on a mission to check the ore productions at one of the remote mines. He didn’t care that the man had proven himself to the Drethulan warlord that was overseeing this project. The bastard had saved his life as well, but that didn’t mean he trusted him.

  He turned when he heard the knock at his office door. Calling out a command for the person to enter, he stared coldly at the young officer that he had instructed to retrieve information on the bodies of the Trivators.

  “Well?” He demanded.

  The Disesian looked just over his shoulder when he responded. Prymorus knew the male was terrified. He could smell it, but he remained standing at attention.

  “Nothing, sir,” the Disesian replied. “The patrol reported that there were no remains of Trivators in the rubble. The report stated that the area appeared to have been pillaged. One of the hunters followed the tracks back to an underground drainage on the northeast side of the mountain. A second patrol discovered a number of captives trying to escape across the desert to the mountains and opened fire. The sole survivor stated before she was killed that the group had escaped from the lower catacombs of the fortress.”

  Prymorus’ features twisted in rage at the knowledge that the Trivators had escaped. His fists clenched. Striding over to his desk, he pulled up a map of the area.

  “Where is the patrol now?” He asked in a harsh voice.

  “They… They are dead, sir,” the male said. “The second patrol found them. It appears most of the men were killed during a sandstorm.”

  Prymorus’ head jerked up and his eyes narrowed. “Most?” He repeated.

  The male looked away. “Yes, sir,” he replied in a quiet voice. “The three Drethulans with the patrol were killed by laser fire.”

  “Get me the Kassisan, Dakar,” Prymorus ordered, sitting down at his desk.

  Prymorus looked up when the male didn’t immediately reply. His mouth tightened as he pulled up a message that had been waiting for him. The message was from three hours ago. He had heard it come in, but had ignored it. Pressing the control, he saw Dakar’s standard signature.

  I told you that I don’t take orders from you. Our work service has been voided.

  Rage pulled Prymorus out of his chair again. “Shut down all departures. I want that Kassisan’s head on my desk,” he growled.

  “He… He has already left the planet, sir,” the male stuttered.

  Prymorus walked around the desk with slow, purposeful steps, like a huge predator stalking its prey. A vicious smile curved his lips as he stared at the young Disesian with piercing black eyes. His hand moved to his hip.

  “Then, I guess your head will have to do,” he snarled, raising his laser sword.

  *.*.*

  An hour later, Prymorus stepped out of the cleaning unit in his office. He ran the towel over his bald head as he walked by his bloodstained desk. Tossing the towel to the side, he poured himself a glass of his favorite liquor. He had only taken a couple of sips of it when the computer on his desk chimed.

  Turning, he walked over to it and sat down, staring moodily at the computer before he leaned forward and pressed in his code. A message from his client immediately came up. He read the message through twice before he leaned back in his chair. Lifting the glass in his hand to his mouth, he quickly swallowed down the contents before ordering one of the guards to enter.

  “Yes, sir,” the guard said, not looking at the desk.

  “Have my warship prepared for immediate departure,” Prymorus ordered.

  “Yes, sir,” the guard said with a bow of his head.

  Prymorus waited until the door shut behind the guard before he turned to stare into the empty eyes of the young officer. A calculating gleam came into them. A Trivator values one thing above all else – his female, he thought. Bending, he stared into the sightless eyes.

  “I wonder if the Kassisan does, as well?” he murmured. “Just think – a new planet to destroy and perhaps a mate or two to go with it. What could be better revenge than that?” He asked as he reached out and closed the male’s eyes. “Yes, I thought you would agree with me.”

  *.*.*

  “Hold up,” Saber called down as the transport glided to a stop just outside the canyon.

  “What is it?” Razor asked, staring straight ahead.

  “Trig, scan for detection systems,” Saber ordered.

  “What is it?” Hunter asked in a quiet voice, standing up in the back next to Saber.

  “For just a second, I had a reading,” Saber murmured. “My gut is telling me to check it out.”

  Hunter leaned over and tapped Razor on the shoulder. He waved his hand across his throat for Razor to turn off the transport. Saber, Dagger, Trig, Ace, and Hunter climbed out of the transport.

  “Spread out,” Saber ordered. “Look for a low pulse system.”

  They spread out, not crossing into the canyon, but surveying the outer area. A low curse escaped Saber when he caught another glimpse of the pulse, but lost it before he could capture the frequency. It was an antiquated, but effective security system.

  “I’ve got it,” Hunter called out. “Switch down to two point one seven.”

  Saber nodded, adjusting the detection system on his goggles. He drew in a swift breath when he saw the extensive maze of red laser beams crisscrossing the canyon floor. Taylor wouldn’t have known to check. Hell, if he hadn’t caught a brief glimpse on the frequency scan in his goggles display screen, he would have missed it.

  “Hunter, can you bypass it?” Saber asked, staring at the red lines.

  Hunter shook his head. “Dagger, what about you?” He asked.

  Dagger raised an eyebrow. “You need to be talking to Jordan. She could do it. Me? I just kill things. She won’t even let me near the vidcom to watch a movie. She says I killed the last one,” he grunted.

  “I might be able to,” Trig replied, staring at the system. “There was one similar to this on a mission I did a couple of years ago. I need to see if we have the equipment to do it.”

  “Do it,” Razor ordered. “What do you need?”

  Trig snorted. “An electro-magnetic pulse controller.”

  Saber scowled at Trig. “Where in the shewta do you expect us to find one of those?”

  “You’re wearing it,” Trig replied, looking at Saber’s right leg.

  *.*.*

  An hour later, Saber stood next to Trig as he synced the controller for his brace with the security system. Trig explained that the signal that emitted the low pulses in the brace that enabled the contraction of the nerves and muscles in Saber’s leg were essentially the same frequency as the security system.

  “We need to stay as close to you as possible. The controller should keep the signal from being broken,” Trig explained. “The key is that it will only sync with the surrounding signal for about one and a half meters. We need to stay within that diameter.”

  “Let’s do this!” Saber growled, shifting uncomfortably.

  “One thing I forgot to mention,” Trig muttered as he gripped the rifle in his hand.

  “What’s that?” Saber snapped, glancing over his shoulder at Trig.

  Trig grimaced. “It is going to drain the battery life on your brace,” he muttered with an apologetic look. “You’re going to be using a lot more energy.”

  “What about his leg?” Hunter asked with a frown.

  Trig glanced down at Saber’s leg before looking up again. “It might get a little twitchy, too,” he added.

  Saber could already have told Trig that. At the moment, his right leg was tingling and felt like he had a line of those damn insects the humans called ants climbing up it. He had made the mistake of stepping in a bed of them when he was back on Earth. It was an experience he wasn’t likely to ever forget. Dagger and Hunter h
ad laughed their asses off when he stripped out of his clothes and ended up in a pool of water, at least until they joined him.

  “Can we just do this?” Saber asked through clenched teeth. “It feels like those insects from Earth are in my pants again.”

  “Goddess!” Dagger hissed with a shudder. “That was a miserable experience."

  “Yes,” Saber agreed. “Now, I’m heading out to find Taylor. If you are going, get in a circle.”

  Chapter 23

  “She and the boy were here,” Dagger said, glancing at the skid in the back of the cave.

  “I know they were here,” Saber said in aggravation. “What I want to know is why she and the boy are not still here or why she left the skid.”

  Ace glanced over. “The skid still has power, so that wasn’t the reason,” he added.

  Hunter knelt near the entrance. “She wasn’t alone,” he said, rising up and looking at the other prints. “There were at least three others here.”

  Saber walked over to where Hunter was standing. He glanced down, following the same tracks as Hunter. He knelt beside Hunter, wincing when his leg protested. His fingers traced one footprint.

  “It belongs to a female,” he said. “Look at the size and stride.”

  He rose, grimacing when he staggered slightly. He shook his head when Hunter reached out to him. Glancing around, he saw the remains of a small fire and the tarp he had given her to keep warm.

  “I don’t think she left on her own. She wouldn’t have left this,” Razor said, holding up Taylor’s notebook.

  Saber walked over to Razor and held his hand out for the notebook. His fingers wrapped around the strange writing pad with Taylor’s doodles all over it. She had several of them and she liked to carry at least one with her at all times. He remembered giving her a set for her birthday. He had begged Jag pick some up from her world and ship them to him.

  He caressed the cover before opening it to where the pen was stuck. Over the last five years, he had learned to read Taylor’s language. It had helped to pass the time and he found the flow of language unusual. He frowned as he read what she had written. A soft chuckle escaped him. She hadn’t been lying when she said she had been making a list of things he would have to do to get back in her good graces.

  “What is it?” Dagger asked, peering over his shoulder with a frown.

  Saber grinned. “She likes being on top,” he replied without thinking.

  Dagger chuckled. “So does Jordan,” he retorted in amusement. “It leaves my hands free.”

  Saber’s grin turned to a scowl when Hunter ripped the notebook out of his hands and scanned the page. He tried to snatch it back, but Hunter jerked it away. A snarl escaped him when Hunter continued reading it.

  “That’s private,” Saber snapped, finally retrieving the notebook.

  Hunter’s gaze locked on Saber’s face. “You will either claim her as your Amate or I will forbid you from seeing her again,” he growled.

  “Forbid me! I have already claimed her as mine,” Saber ground out, stepping closer to Hunter and glaring at him.

  “It is not official until she wears your mark,” Hunter replied in a hard voice. “She is still under my protection until then.”

  The fingers on Saber’s left hand tightened around the writing pad as he resisted the urge to plant it in the middle of Hunter’s face. Instead, he leaned his rifle against his leg so he could pull his shirt open far enough to slide the notebook inside. Refastening his shirt, he reached for his rifle once again before glaring at Trig.

  “We need to track where they were taken,” he snapped.

  Trig nodded. “Fortunately, the sensors don’t run more than a few meters inside the canyon. We can spread out. The fresh sand will work in our favor.”

  “I don’t think so,” Ace murmured, nodding toward the entrance.

  An expletive escaped Saber when he turned and saw the dark shapes of several figures standing just outside the opening, their weapons trained on the entrance to the cave. Shouldering his weapon, he watched as a figure stepped into the entrance. He couldn’t see the face of the person, but the figure was clearly that of a woman.

  Her hands rose and she slowly removed her helmet to stare at each of the men. She raised her eyebrow at the weapons aimed at her. Her gaze moved from one to the other before she finally spoke.

  “Which one of you is called Saber?” She asked.

  A frown creased Saber’s brow. “I am. Who are you?” He asked, not lowering his weapon.

  The female’s gaze locked on his face. “I am Maridi. Where is the other Trivator?” She asked with a frown. “PT Taylor said there were seven of you.”

  Saber lowered his weapon and took a step forward. “Dead,” he replied. “He was killed by a Drethulan several kilometers from here.”

  The woman’s mouth tightened and she nodded. “They are nasty creatures. I hope you eliminated all of them,” she hissed.

  “We did,” Hunter replied.

  Maridi nodded. “Very good. Follow me,” she ordered, replacing her helmet and turning on her heel.

  “Where?” Saber demanded, glancing out the door at the others with Maridi.

  Maridi glanced over her shoulder. A wave of frustration swept through him that he couldn’t see her eyes. His hand tightened on his weapon as he waited.

  “To where PT Taylor is,” Maridi replied before walking out.

  Saber glanced at Dagger and Trig as they stepped closer, their weapons still at the ready. He saw the wary expression on their faces. This entire mission had been rather unorthodox.

  “How the hell did they know we were here?” Trig asked. “I know we didn’t break the beam.”

  “I don’t know, but I plan to find out,” Saber muttered, turning his gaze back to Razor and Hunter. “What do you think?” He asked.

  “I think we are about to find out what is really going on,” Razor said with a grim expression.

  Saber nodded and drew in a deep breath before he stepped out into the bright sunlight where Maridi was waiting. Unease filled him as more guards filed in behind them. He had to hand it to Taylor. If there was trouble to be found, she would not only find it, she would jump into it feet first.

  I think I will be using those ties she wanted on her, Saber thought as he broke into an uneven jog.

  *.*.*

  A short time later, Saber stared up at the massive entrance at the end of the canyon. He glanced back and noted that it was well hidden by the winding passage and rock formations of the canyon. Turning back around, he climbed the staircase that was cut into the stone.

  He was surprised that their escorts had not confiscated their weapons. A grimace crossed his face when his right leg protested the movement of climbing the stair. So much for taking it easy like the healer instructed him, he thought.

  Maridi paused at the entrance and waved her hand. Saber suspected that there was some type of defense system in place because she didn’t move for several seconds. He glanced over his shoulder when Dagger leaned forward.

  “Something tells me we don’t want to just run through the door,” Dagger reflected dryly. “Either the Western region has technology that we weren’t aware of, or they have help from another species.”

  “I doubt it is the Waxians or Drethulans,” Saber replied before he stepped forward when Maridi turned to look down at them.

  “The Kassisans,” Dagger muttered before he followed.

  Saber glanced around the entrance. Maridi removed her helmet and tucked it under her arm before she turned to address them. He didn’t complain. It gave his eyes time to adjust to the dark interior.

  “Do not try to leave the complex without either myself or one of my guards. We are the only ones who know how to work the security system. Before you think to try to force one of us to reveal how it works, I can assure you we will die first. There is more to this fight than our lives. You will understand that shortly. I would like to welcome you to
the Dises V rebel base,” Maridi said in a calm voice before she turned and waved her hand again.

  Saber drew in a deep breath when the wall in front of them parted and a massive hanger appeared with a long line of fighters. He heard Hunter’s low curse. Something told him that there would be hell to pay when he got Razor alone.

  “Follow me,” Maridi said, turning and walking down the long, narrow bridge that led to the hanger.

  Saber glanced at Razor when he walked up beside him. “Did you forget to tell us something?” He asked dryly.

  “There is concern that the council might be compromised,” Razor replied bluntly. “The information was on a Need to Know basis.”

  “Did you know about this?” Hunter asked, waving his hand at the fighters.

  Razor’s mouth tightened. “No,” he admitted. “I knew about the base located in the mountains.”

  Maridi glanced over her shoulder. “This one just came online in the past month,” she stated. “It was important to keep it as secret as possible.”

  Razor’s eyes narrowed on several unknown warriors walking toward them. The one man and one woman had light blue skin and piercing silver eyes. His lips tightened when they returned his gaze with a cold assessing one.

  “Who are they?” He asked Maridi.

  “Elpidiosians. They are allies of the Kassisans… now,” she chuckled. “They are known for their fighting ability and technology.”

  “I believe I will be having a meeting with the Kassisan ambassador when I return to Rathon,” Razor retorted.

  “I have not met him, but my father has,” Maridi replied. “He said Lord Ajaska Ja Kel Coradon is a very astute male.”

  “Judicious enough to withhold information that should have been shared,” Razor said with a bite in his voice.

  “Saber!”

  Saber turned when he heard Taylor’s joyous cry. He handed his rifle to Hunter and opened his arms. A moment later, he had Taylor wrapped around him.

 
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