Marauder ramses, p.9

Marauder Ramses, page 9

 part  #4 of  Mating Wars Series

 

Marauder Ramses
 


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  Everything in front of me had been the brown of Ramses’s coat, and the white of the snow, but now there’s red.

  His blood is staining the snow, dripping out of his shoulder, but he’s still running forward.

  I stop dead, paralyzed by fear. My cop instincts are telling me to do something, but we’re in an impossible position. There are enemies on both sides of us, a sniper on the high ground, and we’re armed with rocks and a stun rod with an effective range of just over one meter.

  There’s another flash from the mountains, and this time Ramses falls down. Now his leg is bleeding.

  I cry out and start to run toward him, but his other leg explodes open, exposing the bone through his pants and skin.

  “Ramses!” I scream, running toward him, sliding down onto my knees, and pulling the blankets out of the bag. If the sniper wants to kill me, he can kill me, but I will do what I can to stop the bleeding while I’m still alive.

  9 Ramses

  The last shot hits a nerve cluster in my leg. I know because the pain explodes out across my entire body, and because the leg goes dead. I try to push on, but the leg just falls limp beneath me, and I crash to the ground. I can smell my own blood thick in the air, and I can feel it dripping warm across my arm and legs.

  Elise runs to me, and I try to tell her to run, but my voice just comes out as a low groan. She wraps something around my blown-out leg, and the cold starts to engulf me.

  I don’t know how much time passes, but I drift in and out of sleep. Each time I wake up, I hope that Elise has come to her senses and abandoned me, but she’s always by my side each time I open my eyes.

  And the last time I open my eyes, the sniper is standing above me.

  He’s a Marauder, but it’s not Grius. It’s a Marauder that wasn’t on the file my father had me memorize...he’s too young. He must have been a baby when the fleet first departed my father’s birth system. He hibernated through the flight as a child? And he grew up on Darkstar….

  “Ramses,” he says. “Elise.”

  He slams the butt of the huge sniper rifle down into the bloody snow. Elise clings to my body and looks up at the Marauder towering above us.

  “Who the fuck are you?” she snarls. “And what the fuck do you want with us?”

  “I’m Kain,” he says. “I’m supposed to kill this one.”

  He points down to me. His eyes are jade green, and against the snow they look as if they are almost glowing. His skin is a deep purple, and he’s wearing a long, white trench coat. His hood is covering his ears, but he has a strong jaw and calculating eyes.

  “If you kill him,” Elise says, crying, “then kill me, too!”

  The stun rod is poking out of my bag, but it’s about a half meter from my grasp, and I can’t feel either of my legs. I consider pointing to it, hoping Elise will use it, but I don’t want her to. If she goes for it, Kain might just kill her. It needs to be me.

  “I’m not going to kill him,” Kain says. “Grius, my father, wants me to kill him to hurt Aegus. But I don’t believe that the sins of the father should be paid for by the son. I’ll take you and leave him here. If he’s as strong as he claims, he may just survive. It’s the best I can offer him.”

  Kain holds out his hand toward Elise, “Come with me, please, and I promise you won’t be harmed.”

  Kain steps between me and the stun rod. “I see you eyeing that thing, Ramses. I’ll let you keep it. You’ll need it to survive here.”

  I snarl at him and dig my one good arm into the ground. I pull my entire body with just one arm, dragging myself across the bloodied snow toward the stun rod.

  Kain kicks me with his booted foot, slamming me in the chest so hard that I flip over.

  Damn it. I won’t be able to fight him. I won’t be able to stop him. I have to trust his word, that he won’t harm Elise. If she can survive until Sara gets here with reinforcements...she may just have a chance.

  “You promise you won’t hurt her?” I ask, lying flat on my back, pain lancing across every nerve in my body.

  “I promise,” Kain says. He seems like a total fucking bastard, but for some reason his word seems to carry weight.

  “Elise,” I say, my voice a rattling rasp. “Go with him. Forget me. You know you can trust me….”

  Grius and Kain don’t know that Sara is already on the way. I don’t want to tip them off to it either. I need Elise to understand, and –

  She dives for the stun rod, rips it from the bag, and rolls away from Kain.

  “No! Elise!” I try to yell out to her, but my voice is just a throaty whisper.

  Kain grabs his rifle, and I muster every last ounce of strength I have to pull myself on one elbow closer toward him.

  I hear the stun rod whirr as Elise hits the button, and she lunges toward Kain.

  He’s holding the sniper rifle by the barrel, and he swings it like a bat toward Elise. The stock of the rifle slams the stun rod as she lunges, knocking it out of her hand. It flies several meters through the air and disappears into the snow.

  Elise tries to run for it, but Kain flips the rifle around and points it at Elise’s back as she runs.

  “Elise, no!”

  I grab Kain’s ankle and start to pull, but he fires.

  Instead of a bullet, a net blasts out of the barrel, and it wraps around Elise. Magnetic balls slam together in front of her, locking her in. She tumbles to the ground, her limbs tangled up in the net.

  “I told you I wouldn’t harm her,” Kain says. “You probably will need to find a way to stay awake, Ramses, or you’ll never wake up again. Good luck.”

  He hoists the big gun over his shoulder and walks toward Elise.

  I hear her screaming my name as Kain hoists the net over his other shoulder, and he carries Elise away.

  I drag myself by my elbow a few centimeters at a time toward the pack. One of my legs doesn’t seem to be bleeding so badly, but the other is gushing out, and I’ll die if I don’t stop it.

  I keep an eye on Kain and Elise as they shrink on the horizon, but they’re leaving a clear trail for me to follow. I don’t know how I’ll follow with both legs blown out...but I will follow. Even if it kills me.

  I dump the bag onto the ground, and I grab the matches and a sphere-shaped piece of spider innards.

  I roll back onto my back and force myself to sit up. As soon as I sit up, I realize how much blood I’ve lost. I go completely lightheaded and nearly pass out straight away, but I bite down on my lip until it bleeds to keep unconsciousness at bay.

  I try to tear the spider organ open with one hand, but my fingers are numb and weak. I raise it to my mouth and bite it open. The ichor starts to ooze out, and I hold the thing above my wound. The ichor drips all over my gaping wound, and I move the organ around above the wound until the whole thing is covered in the sticky ichor.

  Then I drop the thing to the ground, push it about a half meter away, and light it on fire. I throw the blankets, twigs, and the bag itself into the flame, and it flares up. Heat starts to wash across me, but I’m not done yet. The worst is yet to come.

  I take the still-lit match, which has burnt down nearly to my fingers now, and I drop it on the ichor-covered wound.

  The ichor alights, and pain explodes across my leg. At least I can still feel it, but as it burns and cauterizes the wound, the pain completely overtakes everything, and the last thing I feel before passing out is the back of my skull slamming into the ground.

  10 Elise

  I fall in and out of sleep as Kain hauls me down the slope and toward the frozen sea. Ramses told me to trust him. He promised he’d protect me, and I have to think he meant he’d still do everything he could to fulfill that promise. But I’m more worried about him, and whether or not he will still be alive an hour from now.

  Kain seemed to think he had a chance of survival, but with two horridly injured legs, a shoulder wound, and sub-freezing temperatures with no shelter...I can’t help but worry.

  When we’re n
earing the sea, I finally see other Marauders – or maybe Seraphim – as dark silhouettes walking along the coastline.

  “Asshole,” I shout. “Tell me what is going on. Why keep me alive?”

  He already let slip that he’d disobeyed his father, Grius, and I want to try to get him to talk more before he’s back under their authority. Judging from the distance, I have maybe ten or fifteen minutes.

  Kain just ignores me, so I start to punch his back through the net.

  “Stop that,” he grunts. “It’s bad enough that I have to carry you.”

  “You don’t have to carry me,” I say. “You could just let me go.”

  “Not an option,” he says.

  “Why?”

  “I don’t know what they want with you once the baby is born,” he says. “But I’ll try to see that they let you go. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason to kill you.”

  “What baby?” I ask.

  “You could come with us,” he says. “That’s also an option. The baby will fare better with its mother –”

  “How the fuck do you know I’m pregnant?” I shout, jamming my elbow into him, aiming through all that thick muscle for his spinal cord.”

  “The gas,” he says. “Back in the train station. It modified your DNA, and made both you and Ramses extremely fertile.”

  “What the fuck?” I ask. “How could...your father wanted to set that gas off in the train station. There’s no way –”

  “Harmony is smarter than all of us,” Kain says. “Once we convinced her to help us, we told her what our end goal was, and she connected all those little dots way, way back – step by step – then we just had to do what she said.”

  Pregnant. With Ramses’s child? And now he’s dying out on the snow, and I’m being taken hostage to God-knows-where.

  “Just fucking let me go!” I start to kick him.

  He throws the net down on the ground and looks down at me. “Look, Elise. You know what our end goal is? It’s to get the hell out of this star system. We should never have come here at all. You can see it – even Harmony sees it. You know why she agreed to help us? Because she wants us out – gone. The fallen Seraphim are too much for her to deal with, and the cleanest solution she found was simply for them to leave.”

  “So fucking leave!” I shout.

  “Seraphim can’t hibernate,” Kain says. “More evidence we never should have come here. We have a whole generation of offspring who won’t survive a trip to another star, and all but a few original Marauders – me included – are young enough to make the trip. We need a fresh generation of real Marauders...and your child is the first of that.”

  “Ramses is a Seraph, you idiot –”

  “Yes,” Kain says, “but the gas modified your DNA. Your child will be able to hibernate, and we think we can replicate it – give it to the Seraphim – and offer them a chance to leave. Do you see? We don’t need to destroy you, we can just leave – become what we are meant to be again. It’s best for all of us. Now will you stop kicking me?”

  “No,” I say.

  11 Ramses

  I wake up in a bed. A real bed with blankets. I gasp and tear the blankets off. I expect to see two blackened husks of frostbitten legs, but they are the usual pink. And there’s not even a scar from where the ichor burned hot.

  Seraphim can heal fast, but not like this. Just how much time passed?

  I look around the room. Everything is an aqua-blue color, from the walls to the blankets to the door. There’s very little in the room aside from the bed. I see a small dresser in the corner, and the wall is covered with a projection of fish swimming in the ocean.

  “Where am I?” I say aloud. I expect my voice to be gone, but it sounds strong. I’m not even thirsty.

  Have I been in some kind of coma? Did Darkstar capture me and bring me back to their ships? Is there any chance Elise is nearby?

  “Let me the fuck out of here!” I shout, jumping off the bed.

  The door opens, and a human man with a tall nose, bronze skin, and strange clothes steps inside.

  “You’re awake,” he says.

  “You’re human?” I say. “I’m not on Darkstar?”

  “No,” he says. “Human...technically. You’re still on Atlantis. I’m Atlantean. I’m Gera.”

  “Where is Elise?”

  “They took her,” Gera says.

  “I fucking saw them take her,” I snarl. I get right up in Gera’s face, but his deep brown eyes just look at me, analyzing. He doesn't back away or show any fear.

  “You’re wondering why we saved you but not her?” Gera asks.

  “Who says you saved me,” I say. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here or why you took me. And yes, why did you let them take her?”

  “A long time ago,” Gera says. “Our ancestors made a decision which we have held to for thousands of years. When the agricultural revolution began spreading across Earth like a virus, kings and emperors soon rose to power, and with them slaves and suffering and war.”

  I start to connect the dots. “So you just gave up? You cut contact and ignored it, not your problem?”

  “That’s not how we would phrase it, but yes, that is more or less accurate.”

  I narrow my eyes at him. “Are you not human?”

  “We share a common ancestor,” Gara says. “Effectively we are human though, yes. Twin planets...or maybe even triplets. Perhaps Venus failed long before.”

  “It’s doing fine now,” I say. “Thanks to my parents.”

  Gara huffs. “More rulers. They are doing well enough, and maybe you’d do well too. But how long until one of your descendants becomes hungry for power?”

  “Where is Elise?” I say. “We can discuss the pros and cons of monarchy after I rescue her.”

  Gara nods. “We are underwater right now, and Elise is on the surface. The Marauders from Darkstar are setting up a camp. Elise is there.”

  “How many days have passed?” I ask.

  “Three. Your cousin will be arriving tomorrow.”

  “I can’t wait,” I say, “Elise may not have that long. And are you really going to let these bastards colonize the surface of your planet?”

  “They can’t colonize it,” Gara says, “Not enough technology can function on the surface. And they don’t plan to stay here. It’s a temporary staging area for their mass exodus. We are happy to let them use our planet if it helps to get rid of them.”

  “Get me to the surface,” I say. “And give me a gun.”

  “We don’t have any guns,” Gara says. “We isolated ourselves from Earth to avoid war and conflict.”

  “I’m sure you can fucking manage something. I counted six pods. I’ll need more than rocks to fight them and rescue her.”

  “What if we don’t want you to rescue her? She’s key to getting them out of the solar system. We don’t like the potential conflict these Marauders are creating –”

  Anger flares across my body, but I ball up my fists and count my breaths to force myself to calm down. I feel almost as if Gera is testing me, and he seems to hate nothing more than violence and conflict. If I lose it and attack him, he might never help me save Elise.

  “What do you want?” I ask.

  “Darkstar is a problem,” Gera says. “But Harmony is our true concern.”

  “So you are not willing to fight or do anything, but you want us to fight your battle for you?”

  Gera narrows his eyes at me. “It’s becoming more and more intelligent. It’s still possible to stop it, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will become.”

  “My family is powerful,” I say. “Help me rescue Elise, and we’ll help you stop Harmony.”

  Gera nods. “And if that isn’t incentive enough for you, you’ll probably want to know that Harmony is the one who tipped you off when you first arrived in Earth orbit. About the terrorist attack.”

  “If Harmony knew...then why –”

  “It wanted you to go after Sanga,
it wanted you and Elise to get exposed together, and it wanted you two to have a baby together.”

  “A baby….”

  “She’s pregnant,” Gera says.

  “I have to rescue her. Now.”

  Pregnant. We’re going to have a baby together. Nothing will stop me from rescuing her. Nothing will take our life and future away from each other.

  Gera nods and walks toward the dresser. He pulls out a small glowing orb and holds it in his palm. “You see...when Harmony is aware of all the variables – all the pieces in play – she can see too many moves ahead. She can orchestrate everything so that it happens exactly as she’d like it to.”

  “Fucking great,” I say. “Then I’ll just go ballistic...attack erratically so she can’t –”

  “No,” Gera says. “You don’t understand. Harmony doesn’t know we are still here. She can’t predict or control when there are hidden variables.”

  Gera squeezes the orb, and his hand begins to glow. He reaches down and grabs my wrist, and the glow floods into me.

  “Your bioglove will work now on the surface, and it’s fully charged. Harmony did not account for this. Now let me take you to the surface. You are our hidden variable.”

  Gera has me walk right into that screen with the fish. But it’s not really a screen – it’s a window. The window bulges out as I walk into it, and it surrounds me like an orb.

  The orb begins to fog up, until I can’t see anything through it.

  “We can’t let you see our city,” he says. “If you fall into enemy hands, it’s best if you know as little as possible. If you do end up in a situation where they interrogate you, please make use of your bioglove’s self-destruct function. It would be unfortunate if you let Harmony know of our existence. Good luck, Ramses.”

  I feel no motion within the orb, and I stand waiting. It must be moving, I just can’t feel it. I’m wearing a thick white coat to camouflage me in the snow and shield me from the bitter cold.

  After many minutes, the sphere becomes transparent again, and a map of glowing aqua-blue etches itself onto the surface of the orb as it floats through the sea.

 
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