Marauder ramses, p.13

Marauder Ramses, page 13

 part  #4 of  Mating Wars Series

 

Marauder Ramses
 


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  My father is shielding himself and focusing on fighting Ramses rather than me – or so it seems.

  I’ll have to get his attention again.

  18 Elise

  There’s a purple blast, but the beam doesn’t erupt above us.

  Before Ramses can stop me, I run in a low crouch toward the ridge.

  “Elise!” he shouts, running after me.

  I fall prone behind a boulder and look out to see Grius firing toward Kain once again. There are more bodies on the ground, but not melted ones.

  “Kain is picking off more Darkstar soldiers,” I say. “Forcing Grius to deal with him.”

  Ramses crawls up beside me. “Shit...he’s shooting from deep within the ship! I can’t even see him.”

  “He knows we want the ship?” Elise asks.

  “Guess so. We’ll need to move up on him while Kain is still buying us time.

  “Stay close behind me.”

  Ramses raises his arm, and his bioglove forms a large half-sphere in front of us. I move up behind him and clasp his shoulder.

  “Closer,” Ramses says. “Wrap your legs around me and hold tight. Pretend that you’re holding on for your life.”

  “Am I holding on for my life?”

  There’s a pause, and then he says, “Yes.”

  I wrap my legs tight around his waist, and wrap my arms around him, over his broad shoulders.

  “Now don’t let go,” Ramses says.

  I feel my stomach drop, and when I look down, I see the steep, rocky hill below us. But we’re not falling down the hill, we’re...floating above it.

  When we’ve cleared the drop, the snow below starts coming up toward my feet, and I see several teal tendrils pressed deep through the snow.

  The tendrils lower us down until Ramses’s feet are deep into the snow. He presses forward, and the half-sphere shield cuts a path. I feel almost no resistance from the snow, but I see water seeping below Ramses’s feet.

  “You’re melting the snow with the shield?” I ask.

  “We gotta move fast,” he says, as if that answers the question.

  I hear a loud pling, and Ramses slows down--just a little.

  “Are they shooting us?”

  “Yes,” he says. “Just bullets though.”

  I never thought I’d feel relieved that the people shooting me were just using bullets.

  “Tell me what’s going on,” I say. “I can’t see anything.”

  “I can’t either,” he says.

  In front of us is the shield, and it’s a deep teal.

  “You’re running blind?” I ask, suddenly terrified.

  “The other side of the shield is white to match the snow. It’s why only one bullet has hit us. I can make the shield transparent, if you really want to see so badly.”

  “Why not?” I ask. “They know we’re coming, and the bullets are just bullets.”

  “When we get closer,” Ramses says, “The camo won’t do anything, just be patient.”

  I clutch to his body, and pretend that I’m riding on his strong back for fun. I pretend that he’s taking me to a romantic picnic, and he’s shielding the path ahead because he doesn’t want to ruin the surprise for me. The weight from the submachine gun on my back is actually a basket full of delicious, crusty bread; a nice wheel of creamy brie, and jam made of freshly picked strawberries.

  But after a few minutes, another bullet pings off the shield, and then another.

  The shield suddenly becomes transparent, and I see Grius. He’s standing only about a dozen meters in front of us, with a twisted grin on his face. The ship is just behind him. We’re almost there.

  Ramses digs his heels into the ground to stop us, but already I see tendrils launching from Grius’s biosuit. Straight toward us.

  I let go of Ramses, drop to my feet, and reach for the submachine gun.

  Ramses throws both arms forward, and the shield launches off of him. Grius’s tendrils begin to move around the shield, dodging it, and they snake back around toward him.

  The tendrils reach right past Ramses, and they lunge for me.

  The shield slams into Grius just as the first of the tendrils wraps around me, and he’s knocked backward.

  Ramses squeezes the tendril with his gloved fist, and it melts apart, freeing me.

  I point the gun at Grius as he falls and squeeze the trigger. The gun rattles off shot after shot, and the recoil is surprisingly minor. I see bullets cutting across the snow just in front of him, and I let go of the trigger and adjust my aim.

  I fire again and see dozens of sparks erupt across Grius’s chest as he stands back up. The gun does nothing to him.

  And then Ramses charges him. He runs full speed toward Grius, dozens of tendrils blasting out of his body as he runs.

  The tendrils slam into Grius, and both Grius’s suit and Ramses’s tendrils liquify. They start to merge together, and Grius’s eyes widen.

  “That’s a true Marauder trick, boy,” Grius rasps. “Not something a halfblood like you should--”

  “Get back, Elise,” Ramses shouts back to me. “I’m neutralizing his suit--and mine. Fall back to safety.”

  If he’s neutralizing the suit, then why the hell would I fall back?

  I see strain on Grius’s face, and suddenly the biosuits of both warriors drop off into teal puddles. They shoot toward each other, slam together between Ramses and Grius, and they harden into a teal sphere.

  Now Ramses and Grius are both naked, bodies tight and flexed.

  “Ready for a real fight?” Ramses says. “Or are you too old?”

  Grius scoffs. “I don’t care how young you are, my blood is pure, I’ll--Fire!”

  Grius drops to the ground, and suddenly I see two Marauders pop out from behind the ship’s landing ramp.

  Their muzzles flash, and Ramses goes down.

  Blood rushes to my head, my ears burn, and my chest goes cold with fear.

  One of the shooters falls--Kain--and the other dives behind one of the landing struts.

  Grius leaps to his feet and rushes toward Ramses.

  My hands are frozen cold against the grip of the gun, and even though time seems to be running in slow-motion, my body is even slower.

  With agonizing slowness, I raise the gun toward Grius, pointing at his wide chest.

  He’s almost on top of Ramses.

  I pull the trigger, and adjust my aim as the gun fires.

  The first several shots miss, but then I see blood.

  Two, three, four bullets hit Grius in his gut, but then he dives and rolls.

  He grabs the teal sphere, and the suit reforms across his body in less than a heartbeat. I fire more shots, but his suit hardens and deflects them.

  I look down at Ramses, and I see blood pooling below him, but he’s breathing.

  “We’ll get you a nice, full-blooded Marauder,” Grius says. There’s blood coming out of his mouth, and he’s walking in a slow daze. “It’s the least we could do for you.”

  “Fuck you!” I shout, pointing the gun right at his face. I pull the trigger, but it clicks.

  He laughs.

  “I hit your gut,” I say. “You’ll bleed out internally.”

  “My suit is already repairing the damage,” he says. “Though those were good shots.

  The Marauder taking cover behind the landing struts peeks out, and Kain blasts his head off.

  Grius shakes his head. “You turned my own son against me. You think I’d be angry about that, but I respect it. You used the resources available to you as best as you could. It shows strength and resolve…”

  Grius grasps his chest and starts to keel over.

  “Having a heart attack, old man?”

  Ramses says. His voice is a rattling rasp, barely audible.

  Grius opens his mouth, but blood spatters out onto the snow. He looks up with wide eyes, and then down at Ramses.

  He takes a step toward Ramses, his fist clenched and ready to punch, but he grunts and falls to his kn
ees.

  “Greedy bastard,” Ramses says. “I really didn’t think you were dumb enough to take the bait.”

  Grius falls forward onto his elbows and wails. He tries to stand back up, but topples down onto the flat of his back. His body convulses, and I see his teal eyes roll back into his head, and after several agonizing moments, he stops moving entirely.

  I fall down beside Ramses and put a hand on him. I look down at his chest. There are two bullet holes.

  “Can you get the suit to repair the damage?” I ask.

  “No,” Ramses says. “I used up the last of the energy to tear Grius up from the inside.”

  I feel tears welling up in my eyes, and burning anger fills me. “You asshole! You can’t die on me!”

  “I don’t plan to,” Ramses says. “And it looks like my cousin is here. Fashionably late.”

  He points up to the sky, and I see several ships in the distance.

  “You’ve got to tell her,” Ramses says. “Warn her about Harmony,” He coughs up blood. “And the antimatter.”

  “I’m not leaving your side,” I say, squeezing his hand.

  19 Ramses

  I wake up feeling warm. At first I think I’m underwater again, and that Gera will come in, but when I look around I see rusty bulkheads and shabby, utilitarian furniture.

  And Elise. She’s in a chair next to me, and her head is dropping down. She’s asleep.

  “Elise,” I say.

  She snaps awake, and a wide smile fills her face. “Ramses.”

  Then she starts to cry.

  “Ah,” I say, “Come on, don’t cry.”

  She squeezes me tight, and pain shoots across my ribs. But damn, the pain is worth it.

  I hug her back, and she kisses me.

  The door opens, and I see Sara walk inside. And just behind her, Kain.

  “Little Ramses,” Sara says.

  Her ears are much more humanlike than most Seraphim, and she’s tall and lanky from growing up on Mars.

  “Ah,” I say, “Come on, don’t call me that.”

  “Need your big cousin to save your ass?” She says, laughing.

  “Elise saved me,” I say.

  “You’ll deny the shame debt you owe me?” Kain asks, his voice incredulous.

  “And Kain,” I say, “I guess he helped. Though he had a clear fucking shot--”

  “I told you I wouldn't kill my own father,” Kain says. “Would you kill yours?”

  “My father isn’t a genocidal asshole.”

  “Fair point,” Kain says.

  I suddenly remember the rest. “Shit!” I sit up, and my ribs hurt so bad that I nearly black out. “The antimatter--”

  Elise, Sara, and Kain give each other solemn looks.

  “Tell me--” I start to say, but Elise talks over me.

  “We warned Harmony in time,” Elise says. “She intercepted the bomb.”

  I laugh, but pain cuts across me. “Fuck,” I say, clutching my ribs. “Remind me not to laugh. Of all the places to get shot… the ribs?”

  “Better than the liver--or the heart,” Kain says.

  “So we won?” Ramses says. “What is Earth going to do about Harmony?”

  “That’s the problem,” Sara says. “Harmony intercepted the antimatter. She controls it now, and said if she gets a hint that someone is going to pull the plug on her...she’ll use it.”

  “Fuck,” I say. “Though if you think about it, she probably always had the same kind of idea. Antimatter or not, she’d never have allowed anyone to pull the plug.”

  “It’s much worse now, though,” Kain says. “She could have crashed the economy, thrown Earth into a dark age, but now she can quite literally obliterate the planet itself.”

  “Maybe,” I say, “This will scare the habitats into actually working with us.”

  Elise scoffs. “Good luck with that.”

  Epilogue

  We lay in the shadow of the Aegus statue. The tall, colorful towers of the palace are above us. We’ve been in Sankt Petersburg--on Venus--for several months now. It almost feels like home. Almost.

  “Want some mango?” Ramses says, holding it out to me.

  “Mm, yes please.”

  I bite into the mango, and I can nearly taste the jungle. It’s not quite the grapes I imagined, but it’s just as good.

  “You need to eat well,” Ramses says, putting a hand on my stomach.

  The baby kicks.

  “She’s ready to come out,” Ramses says.

  “I’m ready for her to come out! I’m tired of being so...huge.”

  “You miss the jungle?” Ramses asks.

  “Uh,” I say, “Kind of?”

  The jungle was nice. Walking around naked, and being surrounded by naked people, was weird at first, but I quickly got used to it. The heat, and the rain, and the living in huts thing--not so much. After Atlantis, I thought that a tropical forest would be like paradise, but it turned out Sankt Petersburg is much closer to ideal for me. Air conditioning, cars, tall buildings--it’s all much closer to home for me.

  “You’ll hurt my aunts’ feelings,” Ramses says. “We’ll have to bring the baby there so they can gush over her.”

  I smile. The baby. I may never be able to return to Earth, but having a baby with the man I love can create a new sense of home for me. A family.

  I sense a presence above me, and when I look up, I see the Tsar. Aegus.

  I sit bolt upright. “Your Excellency--”

  “Elise,” Aegus says. “Please. You’re my daugher-in-law. You don’t have to call me that.”

  I nod, feeling embarrassed. In my head, Aegus had always been some type of historical figure, not a real person. Even after all these months, it still hasn’t gotten through to me.

  “You’re sure you don’t want to go, Ramses?” Aegus says.

  “And risk missing the birth of my daughter?” Ramses asks.

  Aegus smiles. “Are you sure Kain is ready?”

  “I’m sure,” I say. “He saved Earth once...he can do it again.”

  Preview of Marauder Kain

  1 Kara

  “Felicia,” I say, shaking my sister by the shoulders. “You have to stay awake.”

  Felicia’s eyelids flutter, but she groans and pushes me away.

  “Up!” I shout, shaking her more forcefully.

  Felicia’s face scrunches up, and she rolls away from me.

  The cold is seeping into my bones. We’re dying a slow death, but I have to keep her awake. There’s still a chance.

  I slap her face.

  She snaps awake and takes a swing at me. “What the fuck! Kara you--”

  “Stay awake, sis,” I say, looking her straight in the eyes. “You don’t want to die out here, do you?”

  “You were always an optimist,” Felicia says, rolling out of bed. She floats down slowly in the barely existing gravity, and lazily gets her feet beneath her, then stands and yawns.

  We’re on a planetoid a little bit further out than Pluto’s orbit. It’s not so much a planetoid as a big, ugly rock; but it’s full of big, juicy paydirt: gold, platinum, cobalt, iridium--the list goes on.

  “We’ll be rich, Felicia,” I say, shivering.

  Felicia shakes her head, but says nothing.

  Our mining drill blew a fuse. The fuse fried not just the mining drill, but also our engines... and the heat regulator.

  Our fusion reactor, mining drill, and oxygen is all still good to go. As is our distress beacon.

  “We’ve got a lot going for us still,” I say. “I’ll do it this time.”

  “It’s not your turn,” Felicia says.

  “Just relax,” I say. “I’ll do it.”

  She sighs, but doesn’t object again. Two weeks. We’re almost out of food. We can synthesize water and oxygen from the materials on the rock, but we can’t synthesize food. If my optimism turns out to be wrong, we’ll die of starvation.

  I step into the suit, and Felicia helps me in. She locks the arms into pla
ce, and then I put on the helmet.

  When the ship is working properly, the waste heat from the reactor is converted to microwaves, and beamed out into the cold of space. A tiny amount of that heat is reserved and used to keep the ship a nice, comfortable temperature for my sister and me. But that’s with the heat regulator working properly.

  Now, it’s either all waste heat pumping into the ship, or all going out. No in between. The only way to flip that switch, however, means suiting up, going through the airlock, and bolting a bunch of hoses on and off.

  When I’m outside, I hold up my big wrench and get to work on the first hose. Once all the hoses are in place, I’ll flip the switch. Within five minutes the icy-cold ship will be nice and warm. In ten minutes it will be a sauna. In fifteen we’d be dead.

  I bolt in the last hose, and then I double-check all of them to make sure they are tight and secure.

  I hit the switch, and put my gloved hand onto the hose to feel for vibrations. I press my faceplate onto the window, and I see Felicia huddled up against the heat vent. She gives me a thumbs up and flashes a wide smile.

  I start the timer on my suit’s wrist.

  At around the twelve minute mark I need to kill the heat. By the time I get back inside and have my suit off, it will still be slightly toasty, but it will quickly drop back toward below freezing. Then it will be Felicia’s turn.

  We’re both exhausted from this. Exhausted, sleep-deprived, and starving.

  While I wait, I keep looking up into the void, hoping to see a ship on the horizon. I’ve hallucinated seeing one often enough, that I don’t believe the light in the distance could possibly be one.

  I squint at it, and it seems to be moving. Yes. It really is moving. But it could just be a small piece of debris--or a distant comet.

  I don’t even want Felicia to see it. False hope is the most deadly thing for her right now. I move in front of the window again and start making stupid faces at her.

  She rolls her eyes at me, but I see her smiling. And soon I see sweat beads dripping down her forehead.

  When my watch hits the ten-minute mark, I turn away and check the sky again. It is a ship.

 
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