I move more slowly after that, but it is infuriating.

How far ahead of me is she? Once she contacted her friends, did she fly to them, or is she still at the top of the ridge waiting for her rescuers to save her?

I growl. Once I get my hands on her, I’ll—

Some of the bite leaves my grimace. My fury has driven me this far, but what will I do once I find Giselle again. My poison-tongued would-be mate.

I will have my kit. That is a given. It is mine by rights.

As for her…

I growl again, enraged. The obvious move is to have her beheaded for her betrayal, and raise the kit in the old ways.

The fact that this is not still my first solution infuriates me. I have become as soft as this easily-burned human skin.

To be Draci is to be ruthless. The ends justify the means. I wanted a kit and I will have my kit. She is merely the vessel in which the kit grows, nothing more.

I tell myself this over and over, painful hand grasp by hand grasp as I haul myself up the wall. I’ve almost convinced myself I believe it by the time I reach the top. Huffing with exhaustion and pain—every muscle screams, not to mention my wounds. By the blood seeping down my chest, I know that my neck wound has reopened, and the broken joints in my wings lance pain with my every movement.

Still, I drag myself over the top of the ridge, first my top half, and then I haul a leg over. And finally I crawl and then collapse in an exhausted heap, the late afternoon sun still blazing down upon me.

I never want to move again.

A sick part of me wants to just lie here until the buzzards I’ve seen flying above begin to pick at my fallen corpse.

What is the point?

The thought of rising and seeking vengeance…

I’m so weary, exhausted down through my bones to my soul. The only reason not to die is that then I would be taken to my ancestors and there I would be reunited with my mother.

If I can even believe such a thing anymore. Everything that once seemed so clear has been covered over with mud. Would I even be welcomed into the realm of the ancestors, as the hybrid creature I am now? Should I appeal to human gods now? Or would they, too, shun me?

“Thraxahenashuash,” I whisper through dry, blistered lips. “The First.” What good is it to be First when at the last, I am alone?

But then I blink away the maudlin, human thoughts. For all I know, Giselle is sitting there less than twenty kronons away in the shuttle awaiting rescue.

The possibility alone is enough to have me ignoring the pain and aches to heave myself to my feet.

I stumble several steps forward toward where my shuttle should be when I pause and frown. The satchel I gave to Giselle is laying on the ground. I take several more quick shuffling steps forward and bend down. The medical device is half-spilling out of the satchel, and I pull it all the way free.

What is the meaning of this?

Holding the device in one hand, I walk forward, hand out for my shuttle.

But where my hand should touch the cool pyrthithium shell of my shuttle, it meets only empty air.

I storm forward, thinking surely I am mistaken. I expect to run headfirst into the shell of my shuttle. But I meet with no resistance, only more air.

I stomp furiously around the entire open space of the ridge, my energy returning with my anger. But after five minutes, it can no longer be denied.

My shuttle is gone.

Giselle not only called for reinforcements, when Shak or whomever he sent came, they took my shuttle with them!

I roar and fire spurts forth from my throat. I stop myself quickly, though, remembering the incident with the cougar when I stupidly spent all my fire in anger. I will not make the same mistake again.

I do not know why Giselle foolishly left the medical device behind. Perhaps some lapse in sentimentality on her part? I will make her regret any softness in her heart as she has made me regret the same. For she has given me the means to chase her down and take back that which is rightfully mine.

Taking one last deep breath, I fling my wings open to their full span.

And immediately fall to one knee as the spasms of pain hit. I grind my teeth against the excruciating agony and reach behind me for my left wing, the most malformed. I grab the wing where the joints were broken and I know they have begun to fuse back together misshapen.

I grasp the wing ruthlessly—and then rebreak the joint.

My scream echoes throughout the desert, but I have just enough energy to grasp onto the healing device which scans me head to foot. It detects the break and then, as the scanning light moves from head to toe, corrective laser surgery is done on my wing joints to repair the break.

Tags: Stasia Black Draci Alien Science Fiction
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