Terri’s whips snapped out, the blunt ends expanding into blades that barely seemed to score the metal as she dived out of the way of another swing of one of its lethal arms. She cried out as something crunched hard against her calf, dropping her to the ground in agony. Its massive arm rose again, swinging down. Her whips snapped out, coiling around the metal leg of another droid, the momentum and the whips’ quick retraction sending her skidding across the floor to the opposite end of the room.

Through eyes glazed with pain, she wheezed as she watched the droid turn once more toward her. Malraha attacked it from the side, but it flung her away effortlessly. Not even the plasma bolts from Azan’s blaster seemed to slow it as it advanced.


Awaste of time. It was simply what it was.

Veral despised wasting time as much as he disliked wasting resources, and within a relatively short amount of time, he concluded that the visit from Vazan amounted to exactly that. Little that Vazan had thought to ask Featha had differed from Veral’s own questioning, and those points which did were of such inconsequential detail that it was maddening.

What did it matter what exact needs Featha had for her supplies? Plants for the ever-expanding courtyard and household common goods did not require such detailed explanations. He had seen the records for himself and had noted that it bore little difference from her usual monthly expenditures. The minute details of how everything was to be used and their purpose had no bearing on his mate’s attack. It had taken all his self-restraint to keep from throwing the male out. He could have sent that information, along with his own data file preserved in his processors, to the head guard and saved everyone the time and effort. He could have been spared hurting his mate.

He knew within a .0043 percent probability that he had fractured the trust in their bond with his attempt to direct attention away from her. Although it had seemed necessary at the time, it now filled him with self-disgust. His sensitive hearing had registered her gasp, and he had covertly watched as she retreated into the safety of the compound’s labyrinth of corridors. She was safe from the guard’s prying and from the world outside the household.

But the cost was far greater than what was tolerable.

As attuned as he was to her vitals when she was near, he had been all too aware of the unsteady rhythm of her breath and the sudden quickening of her heartbeat. Her blood pressure had elevated as well. But it was the sound of grief and the patter of her stumbling steps as she fled from him that cut the deepest.

Because of this, he was angry at Vazan’s presence, but not nearly as angry as he was with himself.

Featha sighed impatiently, adjusting her robe over her lap as the Farhal finally stood with a respectful nod.

“I appreciate your time and forthrightness on this matter,” Vazan said politely as he tucked his datapad into his uniform jacket.

“My pleasure to assist,” she replied, her mouth thinning with displeasure as the male made no hurry to leave.

Veral was of the same mind. He twitched, his fingers digging into the back of the long couch on which his mother-kin sat in effort to not hurry the male out. He needed to seek out and soothe his mate, and that was not going to happen until the guard left the compound. Only then would he be free to amend things. The leisurely way the guard moved—stretching slowly as he glanced around thoughtfully—put Veral’s teeth on edge.

“This is concluded?” Featha finally asked, her voice sharp from her strained patience breaking the silence.

Vazan inclined his head, one corner of his mouth quirking.

“My apologies. I have not been able to help myself from admiring your household. It is truly one of the finest I have seen. It is just curious for a household suddenly taking in aliens that I have yet to see even one in service here.”

Featha shot Veral a dark look from the corner of her eye but straightened, her back stiffening at the male’s assumptions. True, they were ones that Veral had intentionally seeded within the male, but not ones that his mother-kin would tolerate.

“Who we have in our household and what role they have is our business alone. You doubtlessly have been on Argurumal long enough to know that our compounds are self-sufficient. We have no need for aliens everywhere. Our human guest’s position here is a private matter, like things among Argurma.”

“Of course,” Vazan said graciously, his smile widening. “I should have expected nothing else. Forgive me for my assumptions.”

“Is there anything else I may assist you with?” she inquired icily.

“No. You have answered all of my questions. Thank you,” he murmured as he stepped away from the seating area.

Featha inclined her head for an instant before dismissing the male altogether as she stood up and left to return to whatever duties currently occupied her time. Veral fell into step beside the Farhal, his vibrissae churning with impatience as he dutifully escorted the male from his mother-kin’s quarters.

The head guard gave him a sidelong look and sighed. “I appreciate your time and patience with this matter. Featha’s testimony regarding her errands just confirms what I have suspected, that the attack on the alien is a localized, reactionary incident. I will keep the file open in case we receive any more information on who is responsible so they can be punished appropriately, but it is safe to assume that the attempt on her life was an isolated event.”

Veral grunted. The guard’s conclusion was satisfactory, so why did he not feel appeased by the report?

He resisted the urge to run his hand down his face to relieve the tension pounding behind his eyes as he accompanied Vazan to the compound entrance. Without betraying a hint of emotion—neither relief nor concern—he inclined his head respectfully as the male muttered his thanks and drew up the high collar on his jacket to ward against the lightly blowing sand.

The Farhal stepped out, and an unsettling itch ran through Veral, forcing him to step out behind the guard.

“Shonk Vazan?”

The male glanced back at him curiously.

“Is there something else, Ahanvala Monushava?”

Tags: S.J. Sanders Argurma Salvager Science Fiction
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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