Welcome to another free read Wednesday!
We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.
Each week, the contributing members write a chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!
After a sleepless night, Arad faces the new morning.
Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
Familiar heartbeat chimes echoed off the cargo bay’s walls. Shirt hem bunched in his hand, Arad wiped a barely-there layer of dust off the cryotube. Hachi slumbered, big bull face pressed against the plexiglass, floating unaware of Arad’s care in the early hour. And it was indeed early. Arad forced his voice to a whisper, despite how he couldn’t really disturb any DemiShou present.
“I’ve been a little busy lately, but we haven’t forgotten you guys.”
Still naked from bed, Roku burst into the room, exhaling in relief as he locked eyes with Arad. “There you are. I woke up and you were gone.”
Arad shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep.”
Without losing step, Roku swept Arad into his arms, rubbing his cheek and jaw along Arad’s. Gradually, his breathing settled into something less harried. His panicked edge made it impossible to enjoy his lack of clothing.
“I dreamt Hodge and his crew had stolen you and then you weren’t in bed. I almost grabbed some of Torrins’s weapons and stormed the Nightingale.”
Arad shuddered. While he’d never seen it, he could imagine Roku on a rampage would likely be bloody and unforgiving. Not something for the faint of heart. Arad had never been a violent man, even when pressed by the sort who truly deserved it. “That would have been bad. Really bad.”
“Extremely. I would likely be outnumbered and outgunned. I have the feeling that other than Yosei, the crew are ex-military or some other authority.”
“Makes sense. Bryce was definitely military. DemiShou conversion wasn’t open to civilians, so she’d have to be if she’d been on the list and got passed up.”
Roku growled. “The longer this goes on, the less I like it.”
“I’m sorry. I should’ve thought you might worry.” He hated being reminded Arad of the gaps in Roku’s memories. Without them, the connection should have been obvious. Arad squeezed Roku tight, hoping to ease both of their souls. Days with Yosei and the gang had gone well, and he felt guilty he wanted it to end. Survival on the streets left him poorly equipped to function in groups for long periods.
“All these extra people walking through our ship has me agitated.”
Arad caught the our in Roku’s comment, which made him smile inside, even as he noticed the tiger wanting to defend his territory. More of his animal nature peeking through, which didn’t bother Arad in the least. No matter how kind the Nightingale crew were, they would always hold a certain title of intruder to Roku. A strangely comforting thought since Arad wasn’t part of that crowd.
“It shouldn’t be much longer, then we’ll be on our way. I like them, but I’m not joining them either. We’re better off on our own.”
Leaning back, Roku palmed Arad’s cheek. “The Ansariland is my home.”
“Our home. Our ship.” Arad’s smile beat back any lingering negative thoughts. “They can visit on holidays.”
“They can send us holiday vid messages.”
“I find that option acceptable.”
Separating, they clasped hands as they circled the cryotubes, both men assessing the DemiShou. They examined the monitors and casings, looking for any flaw or degrading seams. All connections were solid, and the health telemetry appeared unchanged from before the Nightingale arrived.
Arad wiped dust from Shichi’s window. “You know, before you hatched, I used to spend all day in here watching over you guys while I read tech manuals, because I had the idea that if something went wrong, I’d be able to help.”
“You saved me.”
“I got lucky. I didn’t have a clue to what I was doing. I’m not sure I did the CPR thing right either.”
Roku squeezed Arad’s hand in support. “Yet here I am, alive and well.”
Arad paused, sighing as he reflected. “I just feel like I’m neglecting them lately. Like I’m doing something else instead of watching over them.”
“Staying out of sight is in their best interests. The Nightingale has been good to us, but the fewer people who know of their existence the better. We don’t need to pass out knowledge that can be used against us.”
They stood unmoving, side by side, as they continued to stand watch over their charges. One tube had been Roku’s and seeing them now with him by Arad’s side brought back all kinds of images, reminding him of how far they’d come and how far they still had to go. A solemn air passed over them, quelling any thoughts Arad had of Roku’s state of undress. He made an effort not to look at the mattress still lying nearby or the spot Roku originally awoke in an incoherent and horny daze and ravaged a Syn-high Arad.
Nope. He wasn’t thinking of that at all.
“We should go and stay away from this area for a while. I don’t want any chance of the others thinking there’s anything valuable in the cargo bay. Just in case they might be scanning us.”
With the sensors functioning properly, Arad had been checking for that all night. So far, no trackable signs. If he wasn’t going to sleep, he could channel the paranoid man who survived alone in Grey District. Being blindsided by events on this ship was a thing he had no interest in repeating. Enough surprises colored his time on board from the Midas Ascending to its current identity.
“Do you have any ideas on what to do after this is done?” Arad asked.
“I’m not sure. All I know, is the sooner we complete repairs and are on our way, the better.”
Arad sighed as Roku tugged at his hand, ushering them towards the exit. “Do you think we’ll ever save them?”
“If there’s one thing I don’t doubt in this universe, is your willpower to succeed. You’ll find them a new home. But first, let’s see if we can get this ship to right, so we have a way to get them there.”
“I like the way you think.”
Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!