“Well, yeah, of course I’d do that for you—”
I grunted when I realized I had awakened to the words of my own dream. My face felt heated with embarrassment as I realized how much of an idiot I probably sounded. Fortunately, Killian wasn’t there to witness it. I had been talking to him in my subconscious mind, and we were having a continuation of our last conversation. In my waking life, he had asked me if I would have taken the risk to save his life. I had said yes, but that I would have had no other choice anyway.
Oh, gods, where was I going with this?
Now the dream was slipping away.
I cursed under my breath and slowly closed my eyes again. How could I still be having trouble? That damned gun. I knew what it was now. Killian had told me just a few minutes ago…or was it yesterday? I couldn’t remember. All I can recall is that the gun used on me was a weapon primarily used by Exogène. He said something about how it immobilized people and made them disoriented for a brief amount of time; something about how close-range shots could be fatal, especially when directly aimed at a vital organ, such as the brain. His way of explaining things made my head hurt. It made my head hurt now just thinking about it.
There was supposed to be a plan. What plan? He told me about it. At least I think he did. He stole a ship…no, that was when he was escaping Earth…
The plan was to jump buildings—hop from one place to another so that the chance of them finding us was very slim. Is that why this place seemed unfamiliar? Why, then, did the ceiling have stars on it? No, no, that’s the sky. So we were on a rooftop, then? Clever, indeed.
It’s bright, though. Why is it bright? A full moon tends to be bright, but surely not this bright. Is this what day looks like?
“I’ve lost my name again, Killian.”
He wasn’t there to hear me, but I could have sworn he was there before. I saw him with my own eyes. He was standing on the edge.
“Don’t forget, Hyler,” I said quickly, my eyes snapping open. “NaNa’s gone to Lithia’s and she won’t be back till Poppy has the house.”
Again, embarrassment. Did that babbling mess even make sense? Why does this keep happening?
“Focus, Jianna,” a familiar voice said to me.
“How do you do that?” I asked.
Killian looked down at me solemnly.
“Oh, yeah! We met in Jev City.” I giggled. “You threatened me.”
“We made a deal,” he corrected, but suddenly he was across the room.
Since when did we move?
“You’re kinda giving me whiplash,” I said, my throat swelling up.
Sometimes Hyler has three heads instead of one when that scene replays in my head…but the sound is always the same.
“Make it stop, Killian,” I wailed as tears streamed down my face.
My head—it won’t stop buzzing. Why can’t I just wake up? There’s a needle in Killian’s arm and some sort of glass tube with blood inside of it. What is going on?
“Stop, stop, stop!” I screamed.
“You’re going to be all right,” he said to me.
I felt a pinch on my arm, quick but lingering, and then—bliss. A strange sensation of warmth spread throughout my arm and dripped down to my legs and toes. Then my chest loosened as if someone had just untied the knot inside. I moaned when the feeling finally reached my head.
“More,” I mumbled, reaching my hand out to find Killian in the darkness.
His hand met mine and he locked fingers with me. My eyes fluttered open. There he was, face illuminated by the moonlight. I glanced all around me. We were on the rooftops again. Or had we always been there? My mind had been so muddled just now; all those hallucinations and horrible nightmares had come so close to driving me insane. I blinked up at the stars, now fully aware that it was not the ceiling. I waited for day to come, but it seemed to be on its regular schedule after a full minute passed and it was still dark outside. Then I looked back at Killian, who hadn’t teleported across the room like before. Everything seemed to be normal again.
“Glad that’s over,” I muttered in a hoarse voice. “I thought it would never end.”
“Welcome back,” he said.
The intense color of his eyes seemed to burn into me as he stared at me intently. I ignored it, though, and gave him a smirk.
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically.
I struggled to sit up, and he helped me by supporting my back.
“Why don’t we take things slowly?” he said.
I gave him a look.
“I’m fine. I’ve only slept for five hours or so,” I laughed weakly.
“You’ve been in and out of consciousness for approximately one hundred twenty hours.”
“What? W-what do you mean?”
He studied my face before answering, “For the past week you’ve been coming in and out of consciousness.”
“But…why? Why a whole week?”
“I underestimated that shot and it could have cost you your life. Fortunately, it only took five days. I had expected it would take longer. Then again, none of this would have happened if I had taken that patrol out while you were still gone.”
I swallowed hard, shaking my head. “It’s not your fault.”
“I am sorry, Jianna,” he said sincerely.
“What about my mother?” I said frantically. How could that possibly be the most important thing to worry about right now? “Time is running out and I’ve been sleeping it away like it’s nothing.”
“The fault is mine.”
“Oh, but it is, Jianna,” he argued. “It’s just like you said before. If I hadn’t come in to your life, none of this would have happened.”
“That was a long time ago—before I realized how much I really need you.”
“You don’t mean that,” he said timidly.
“But I do.”
I pulled myself up onto his lap, which was more difficult than I thought since I hadn’t used my legs in so long, but I managed to do it on my own. I held his face in my hands and I looked straight into his eyes.
“Killian,” I began, trying to search for words on the spot. “Think of all the things that wouldn’t have happened had you not been in my life. I would not have had any closure from my NaNa and Poppy. I would still be living alone in Jev City. At some point, I would have been caught stealing and thrown in a cell. I would have never come here to search for my mother. In many ways, you’ve given my life meaning. Before, I would have asked for a better way of living, but now…well, I could never ask for anything more. This is my life now, and I could never imagine it any different. Whether you like it or not, you are a part of me now.”
He seemed to ponder on my words for a long time before he replied, though what he had to say had nothing to do with my mini speech. I should have expected as much.
“You never wasted any time,” he said. “I’ve been looking for your mother while you were gone.”
I put my hand to my breast subconsciously.
“I didn’t take the picture,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I do respect your body while you’re unconscious.”
“How thoughtful of you,” I muttered. “Where did you look?”
The look on his face gave the answer away. I nodded my heading knowingly, curling my fingers in the fabric of his shirt.
“Thank you,” I said quietly.
There was an elongated pause.
“You’ve turned so soft,” he said.
“So have you,” I teased.
We grinned at each other.
“Although, truly, I am sorry for all of this.”
“Would you just shut up?”
He laughed, but I cut him off by pressing my lips to his. I kissed his nose, his eyes, and then his forehead. He was silent; however, I was fully aware that he had placed his hands on my hips in the moment. I pulled away and looked into his eyes again.
“Do you think she’s dead?”
He remained silent, but his eyes could not tell lies. I smiled sadly and shrugged.
It felt like I could cry. “What do I do now?”
He bowed his head and I felt his lips press against my collarbone. My heart throbbed at his touch and I stroked his temples with my thumbs as I closed my eyes, savoring his warm breath on my skin. He sighed into me, pressing his fingers into the flesh of my hips.
“Do as you wish,” he murmured. “I’m tired of fighting you.”
I grinned broadly. “Giving up so easily?”
I gasped when he pushed me off his lap and pinned me down to the pile of blankets I had been laying on before, all in one, swift motion.
“May I remind you that you were the one who was so eager to give yourself to me the other day,” he said, his face mere inches from mine.
“Yes, but I expected a little more from you, sir.”
His jaw clenched.
“Do you have any idea what that does to me?” he said, his voice slightly strained.
“I don’t understand, sir. What seems to be the problem?”
A sly grin spread across my face in triumph.
“Do you think this is a game, little girl?” he said, his eyes smoldering. “I am dancing on the line of self-control.”
“Well, I assure you, it’s a better party here on the other side,” I replied, pulling his hips down on me.
I was seriously asking for it this time.
To prove that statement right, he bowed his head again and started kissing, licking, and sucking on the skin just above my breasts, but he wouldn’t stop there. I whimpered, gripping at the waistband of his pants as I pushed myself up against him. He pulled the top part of my dress down so that I was completely exposed to the cold night air. I froze, unbelieving that he was actually going to—
“Hah!” I gasped as his lips captured my nipple.
His tongue flicked over it without mercy and I squirmed underneath him, gasping for air and completely red in the face. Was this really happening?
“Killian,” I whispered, struggling to make my legs work so that I could wrap them around his waist.
Gods, what was this feeling? One of my hands went up to caress his head while the other was busy tangling inside my hair. As if none of it was enough, his hips started rocking against mine in a steady rhythm, and that was when I thought I would explode.
“I only just woke up after a week of unconsciousness and this is how you treat me?” I panted.
“You deserve it,” he growled in my ear, resuming his torture immediately after.
I don’t know how long I endured being teased like that, but eventually, I had had enough. I quickly pulled up the lower part of my dress and almost had my underwear off when he quickly pulled away and covered me up again.
“KILLIAN!” I screamed.
He dodged my swing.
“Oh, Jianna,” he laughed. “This is just precious.”
“I fucking hate you,” I grumbled, trying to swing at him again.
He caught my wrists and placed them on his chest. I dug my nails into his skin.
“You look so flustered,” he said softly, his eyes raking over my body.
“I wonder why, you ass!”
He shut me up by giving me a passionate kiss and I bit his lip as hard as I could. I didn’t draw blood, but it was hard enough for him to jump back and give me a bewildered look.
“Did you just—?”
A knee to the groin had him wailing in pain. To make my point, I pushed him down to the ground where he rolled around like an idiot.
“That’s the last time you’ll do that to me,” I said, fixing my dress.
“I was still hard,” he grunted, still groaning.
“Sounds like a personal problem.”
“You just don’t do that.”
I shrugged, leaning back again to watch the stars.
“Shouldn’t do shit like that to me,” I replied with a satisfied grin.
He kept moaning to himself, but all I could hear was the sweet sound of victory.
“I made my decision a long time ago,” I said, propping myself up on one arm. “I trust you already know what it is?”
Killian had taken to lying lifeless on the ground next to me. I figured that since the sky was starting to turn a navy blue from the sun he would have finally recovered from the low blow I had given him. I had to admit, it was pretty harsh of me, but it was for the best. Honestly, it was bound to happen at some point.
He looked up at me and gave me a blank stare.
“Are you really going to give up on your mother so soon?” he said.
I sighed, “I thought we already went through this. Or did I just misinterpret you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m under the assumption that she’s as good as dead, am I right?”
“What makes you think that?”
“I asked you if you thought she was dead…” I said quietly, trailing off.
“I never said yes.”
“Why are we doing this? You said you weren’t going to fight me on this anymore.”
“Yes, but that was before you kicked me where the sun did not shine.”
A snicker slipped past my lips without warning, but I quickly bit my lip to compose myself.
“So you feel like you have something to prove?” I said.
“Precisely,” he said, looking straight up at the sky.
“Well, I’m ready to blow this planet.”
“No, Killian,” I said, cutting him short of his counter attack. “This isn’t your call. What I do with my life is my own business, okay? I don’t need your life lessons preached to me every time I go to make a decision. I really don’t want to hear whatever it is you have to say about true family or how you’re not good enough for me or how I need to make a life for myself here because I’ll just ignore them. I’m coming with you and that’s final.”
“There really is no stopping you, is there?” he said hopelessly.
I shook my head at him. “Nope.”
“No point in trying to convince you otherwise?”
He rolled his eyes at me. “Fair enough. But may I ask one thing?”
I shrugged and said nothing.
“Don’t you want to know about your past?”
I sighed, looking away to stare blankly at the horizon.
“I did at one point,” I said quietly. “I really did. Now, when I really think about it…maybe it was meant to be like this. Maybe I’m supposed to be focusing on my future.”
“If you really feel that way—”
“I do,” I said quickly.
“So come with me.”
I smiled at him. “I will.”
He took a deep breath before sighing.
“Get ready, then,” he said as he stood up.
“Wait, now?” I said, attempting to do the same.
My legs gave out from underneath me and he caught me before I could hit the ground.
“I can’t even stand on my own,” I mumbled.
“It’s only a minor setback,” he said. “However, if it really concerns you, maybe you should stay here.”
I scoffed at him and said, “Nice try, but you’re not getting rid of me so easily.”
“It was worth a try.”
He put my arm over his shoulders and allowed me to use him as a crutch as I hobbled my way over to our bags.
“I acquired two cloaks from an unsuspecting shopkeeper downtown,” he said. “They should help us to blend in with the crowd.”
“Yeah, by the way; care to explain how we’re going to escape?”
“Oh, it’s simple, really. Steal a ship and go.”
I flinched. “It’s not really that easy, is it?”
“It depends on how easy you want it to be.”
After he gathered our things, he climbed over the edge to descend the wall. I hadn’t realized how high up we had been. The building had to have been at least three stories. My palms began to sweat when I looked down and I held on to him tighter. He proceeded carefully, probably for my sake, and eventually, our feet were on the ground. I exhaled in one, big gush, unaware that I had been holding my breath that whole time. It was still difficult for me to stand, but I don’t think it was because of my lack of using them for nearly a week.
“How the hell did you get me up there before?” I asked.
“It’s a complicated process,” he replied, looking down at me with fire in his eyes. “Let’s just say it required you being strapped tightly to my body.”
I shuddered and he took my hand with a grin on his face. Then, we set out into the streets. They weren’t familiar to me at all, so I was completely dependent on him to lead the way. We flung our cloaks on and pulled up the hoods so that our faces were mostly concealed. He was right; we really did blend in well.
“There’s a space exploration facility disguised as a military base not far from here,” he said quietly once we were in the flow of human traffic. “It was difficult to sneak into, but I don’t exactly plan on playing spies when we go to hijack their ship. I need you to be able to run. Do you think you can do that?”
“Uh, yeah,” I hesitated, letting go of his hand so that I could walk on my own.
“You look like you were born with a neurological defect,” he said.
“That’s a big word,” I muttered, trying to concentrate on each step.
I don’t know how I was managing to keep up with everyone else. I suppose adrenaline does that to you. The suns were well above the horizon by the time we snuck away to the outer parts of the city. Killian brought us to a large field that slowly inclined to the peak of a large hill. Just over that hill, was the Military Academy of Acadia.
“I’ve heard of this place,” I said. “Hyler said that, after he got out of the smuggling business, he would join the ranks.”
“I thought there were no wars here,” he said to me with a confused look.
“Only with the Grimians. They’re the only race we have a problem with on this planet. For a while, after I fled to Jev City, I thought about joining it myself.”
“You would have never gotten the revenge you wanted. It’s all a fraud. Now it’s our only way out.”
We trekked through the tall blood grass until we reached the backside of the building. The walls were half the size of Nou Vil’s, and there were no windows to climb in through or look in to.
“How’d you manage to break in the first time?” I said, staring up in bafflement.
“I went through the door.”
I looked over at him to see him standing by the only entrance.
“Sounds easy enough,” I said, shrugging.
“I should think so.”
He turned the knob and that was that. We were actually inside.
“No security?” I said quietly, looking at the blank, white walls of the empty corridor.
“It’s unsuspecting,” he said, leading the way. “Hiding in plain sight. It’s brilliant.”
“So what do they do when there are people like us?”
“Kindly show them the way out.”
“And what do we do if that happens?”
“Kindly insist on staying.”
I grinned. “We’ll go out with a bang.”
“I’m surprised that saying exists here.”
It was like a never-ending maze. What was worse is that every hallway looked the same—same white walls, same height-and-width ratio, same distance. Killian was so sure of himself, though, so I couldn’t really doubt him. It didn’t take long before we heard a dull hum in the air. After one last corner, we finally made it to some sort of room with a dome-shaped ceiling. There was a large desk just ahead with an impressive stack of paper on top. Chairs lined the rounded walls, sitting closely together in perfect arrangement as if they were meant for decoration.
“The main office,” Killian said, heading straight for the desk. “All the information to this facility is recorded and discussed in here.”
I shook my head at him. “It’s too easy. Something’s not right. There has to be some kind of security here. Are you sure there aren’t any cameras?”
He shook his head and said to me, “There’s nothing. There’s absolutely no security. Not until you reach the main deck.”
“But they still lose,” I said as I approached the desk and started sifting through the papers. “Look at all this information. What if someone were to steal or burn all of it?”
“None of it matters. That’s the beauty of it all. The real prize—the only prize—is the mother ship. I’ve seen the floor plans of their most advanced spacecraft on this entire planet, and it’s located here, in this building, just on the other side of this wall. Skelts were put on this planet by humans as a test subject—placed inside a petri dish, if you will, and forgotten until a few years ago. You recalled that around that exact time, your planet had made contact with another race. It was Exogène who came to Acadia that day. However, it was not the first time they had been here. They were only revisiting your planet, as a follow up on your progress, after nearly eight hundred years of placing a genetically modified sample onto this planet. They proudly reported that the second strain of the human race had successfully caught up to speed in space exploration.
“It was astounding, even for me, when we realized how far you had come. It took us hundreds of thousands of years for us to get to the point we’re at now. However, it was clear that, unlike us, your technological advances had not spread evenly throughout the population. Places like your home region, Priar, were abused in the sense that you were so poorly advanced in your feats, you didn’t even have the most primitive form of cars. Initially, like Priar, Exogène suspected as much from the region of Saltsland and Nou Vil. But unlike other regions, Nou Vil was more than they had anticipated. In fact, it’s very much like this room here. It’s all for show. In reality, it contains a glorious secret. Why do you think this facility is so monstrous?”
My head was whirring. Thoughts flew through me faster than I could comprehend.
“I’ve never heard you speak so passionately about something,” I said quietly. “I guess I don’t understand how great all of this is—”
“Until you see it,” he interrupted.
I took a deep breath before exhaling slowly, then nodded my head.
“Then let’s go see it.”