Killian emptied the contents of his bag.
“These will finally be put to use,” he said quietly to himself.
“Wow. You definitely planned ahead.”
“Of course I did. I must if I have any hope of surviving.”
My eyes narrowed as I looked down at him.
“Was I part of the plan?”
He glanced up at me as he pulled a gun onto his lap and began assembling it.
“Not initially. However, you were a good addition.”
I bit the inside of my lip before I said softly, “Why did you pick me? Out of all the people in the market, you decided to follow me to seek out a safe haven. Why?”
He paused, avoiding my eyes. “Because you noticed me.”
My brows furrowed as the room fell silent, save for the clicking of metal against metal. Of course I had noticed him. As a thief, it was my job to notice police. At least, that was what I had thought he was at first.
“You’re really not that hard to spot,” I murmured.
“Correct, but it is difficult to notice me. You were very observant. Not only that, but I also gathered that you were a criminal like me. I thought you would understand.”
I laughed half-heartedly at that. “Have I failed you yet?”
“We shall see.”
He swiftly assembled two guns and handed one to me. It looked strangely familiar.
“It’s similar to the one the Exogène officer used on you,” he explained. I must have been giving it a strange look. “The one you were shot with is used to immobilize. This one is used to kill, so you need to be careful.” I nodded. “Have you ever shot a gun before?” Again, I nodded. “Then you should have no problem operating this. It’s much easier than the guns you use here. All you have to do is pull the trigger.”
Sounded easy enough, but then again, who knows what kind of hell we were about to go through beyond those doors.
“Listen to everything I tell you,” he continued, standing to full height. “If I tell you to hide, you hide. If I tell you to take cover, you take cover. When I tell you to run, it is vital that you do not hesitate to run.”
A small smile played his lips. “The mother ship.”
I agreed to his terms and prepared myself mentally for the fight. We left the remaining weapons in the bag, just sitting in the middle of the room. It seemed like a waste at first to have carried them all this way only to use two from a very wide collection. I figured it would be a little difficult to run with all that weight on top of me, so I didn’t complain.
When we approached the door to the main deck, the adrenaline pumping through my veins made time go slower. My vision was heightened, and I could see everything. The only thing I could hear was the rampant beating of my heart.
I barely heard Killian when he asked me, “Are you ready?”
With his hand poised on the doorknob, all I could do was nod. The door flung open, and a burst of energy shot through me as Killian ran ahead of me. I followed close behind him, and the moment we came into view, shots started firing. It was almost as if they were waiting for us. My first instinct was to run towards the direction in which we had come, but I fought the urge and shot back. After a few tries, it was clear I was out of practice, however, after a few more, I finally hit someone. He was a bit on the short side with long, dark, curly hair. His face had not yet lost all his baby fat and he hadn’t even had the chance to aim at me. I tried to ignore the fact that I could have just killed someone only a few years younger than me, and that his parents would have to accept that they outlived their child. Tears stung my eyes as we advanced upon them, diving for cover, just barely dodging bullets as they whizzed past us. A nervous laugh escaped my lips as I panted harshly through clenched teeth. Then I looked at Killian, who was having no trouble picking them off one by one. Is this what he’s use to? Was I ready for a life like this?
“There,” he said, his eyes locked on a rather large piece of machinery on the other side of the room. “The main control panel.”
“What does that do?” I asked, struggling to come down from my high.
“That is our ticket out of here.”
I would have breathed a sigh of relief had we not been under attack. My stomach was incredibly tight from the pressure of the fight and the strong will to survive.
“How the hell do we get over there?”
I was hoping he wouldn’t say that, but what other choice did we have? There weren’t that many of them in retrospect. Stilla, my old smuggling boss, had had more men at Lithia’s chasing after us than this.
“They’ve called for backup,” I suggested.
“Which means we don’t have a lot of time,” Killian said, looking at me. “Do you trust me?”
“Then listen to me very carefully. I’m going to sprint right through—clear over to the other side—and you’ll cover for me. After I’ve reached the panel, you’ll follow my lead and I’ll cover for you. This takes absolute trust, Jianna. You may not hesitate or look back—you run. Is that understood?”
Again, I nodded, but I found it hard to breathe as my heart beat savagely against my chest at the thought of running right through the battlefield. There was a question just waiting to slip off the end of my tongue as he cleared over our cover and began sprinting across the hangar. With no time to think—and certainly no time to ask questions—I peered out from over the edge and shot at anyone whose eyes followed Killian. He cleared the room in seconds. Literally, ten seconds at most, was all it took for him to run through this haven of spacecraft. Actually, I never really did get to take a look at everything in here. By the gods, it was all—
Killian’s voice had me stumbling forward and sprinting across the room. It was a clear shot to the main control panel. If I just push a little harder…
“Agh!” I grunted when someone dove at me from behind a pile of stacked crates.
We tumbled to the floor in a crumpled heap, rolling and wrestling with each other in a fight for survival. Killian would never get a clear shot of him, not with us moving around so much. Lucky for me, this wasn’t the first time I had had to do fend for myself. All it took was one clear shot to the head and he lay lifeless on top of me. With what little strength I had left, I shoved him off me. Just like that, the race continued. Obviously, it took me longer to reach the control panel, but all the same, he was waiting for me there patiently. When I appeared by his side, it was only then that I saw the bodies around him.
“You took all of them out yourself?” I panted, looking at him in semi-disbelief.
“Yes,” he replied. “Now cover me.”
“There is no one else,” I replied, realizing in that moment that the gunfire had stopped.
“Oh, but there will be more, and when they come, we have to be ready.”
“Ready? What for? Do your magic with the buttons and things and be done with it.”
“That’s not how this works. I need more time,” he said, his eyes scanning the dash.
“Aren’t you supposed to be a genius or something?”
“I hate it when you say stupid things like that.”
I rolled my eyes at him and turned to face the entrances. All was quiet except for the tapping of his fingers on the keys. I knew the peace would be short-lived, so I savored as much of it as I could. It seemed that the gods were not on my side this time, as it took no time at all for the first few soldiers to arrive.
“Killian,” I said, widening my stance.
“I need more time—just a little more.”
Entire groups came swarming in, overwhelming me to the point where I didn’t even know who to shoot first.
“There are too many!”
I heard him curse under his breath. “Go! I’ll be right behind you.”
I looked at him and stared with wide eyes. “But…you’re not—”
“What did I say?” he interrupted. “Do not hesitate when I tell you to do something, now go.”
This was it. This was the moment. I was about to leave this planet for good. Did I really want to leave, though? I suppose it’s a little too late for me to decide that now, but I couldn’t help but second-guess myself. I still had so many things to do here. I had to tell Na-Na and Poppy everything—I had to find my mother, even if she was most likely dead—and I still had my past to discover. No, no, no, I told myself. You said you would be better off not knowing…
Would I really, though?
“GO!” Killian roared, shattering my thoughts.
All the blood in my body ran hot as I jumped off from the platform of the control panel. I sprinted straight for the mother ship, which slowly lowered its ramp for me as I got closer and closer to it. Out of nowhere, two men started charging at me from both sides. Right before they collided into me, I shot the one to my right and whirled around to bash the other over the head. I continued running as fast as I could, feeling the connection between me and my home planet becoming increasingly thinner with each step. There was a loud clambering above my head, and I looked up to see the roof opening to the sky, allowing the suns’ shine to come through. With a growl, I pressed on, ignoring the singeing of the bullets on my skin as they whizzed past me—just barely missing me by millimeters. Is this the life I truly wanted to live? Is this how it would always be with Killian? The ramp was long, but I was so close. That was when the shit hit the fan.
I looked over my shoulder to see Killian running behind me. Beyond him was a swarm of Exogène officers. I screamed as a searing pain shot through my thigh and I fell to the ground faster than I could make sense of what had happened, scraping my hands and the side of my face on impact. I cried out, struggling to recover from the fall. Suddenly, I was lifted off the ground by someone incredibly strong, and I didn’t need a moment to realize it was Killian. I yelped as another wave of pain shot through me. Inside the ship, it was dark, and even while draped over his shoulder, I could still feel the rumble of the beast beneath us. He sat me down somewhere near the entrance, shielded behind something solid. Before I knew it, his shirt was off and he quickly knotted it tightly above my wound.
“Don’t move,” he told me before he got up and ran into the ship.
There was a loud noise, and the ramp started moving up slowly, gradually shutting out the chaos from outside. I glanced down at my right thigh to see a large, gaping flesh wound. Slowly, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It didn’t take long for Killian to return to my side. The shouts from outside eventually faded away as the entrance finally closed, and the only sound was our heavy breathing.
There was no going back now.
“I’m going to move you, alright?” he said to me. “It’s going to hurt.”
I nodded quickly, biting my lip to keep myself quiet. He got his arms underneath me, slowly lifting me up so that he wouldn’t hurt me as much. It failed. I gasped at the pain, turning my head so that it was pressed against his shoulder as I tried to block it out. He set me down in a chair, supporting my head as he gently leaned it against the headrest.
“I do apologize for this,” he told me.
Before I could even think to ask what he meant, his fingers dug into the bullet hold and I screamed, allowing my tears to fall freely. I could feel him grab hold of the pieces and move it around in the tangled mess of muscle and skin tissue. Finally, after several minutes, he got the rest of it out.
“Relax,” he whispered. “I’ll only be a moment.”
Again, he was gone, and I was left to breathe and tell myself that everything would be okay. A river of tears slid down my face, and I caught them with the back of my hand before he returned with an empty syringe.
“You want to know how I saved your life in Twixton?” he said softly, stretching his arm out as he stuck the needle in the crook of his elbow.
I watched as his blood filled the tube. He filled it about halfway before taking it out again and hiking up my dress so that the wound was completely exposed.
“Again, I am so sorry,” he said before plunging the needle right in the middle of it.
“Ah!” I gasped, gripping the arm rests to keep myself from moving.
However, the pain only lasted a split second before a familiar warmth spread through my thigh, then down my leg, and to my toes. I sighed, completely aware of how my muscles relaxed once the feeling engulfed my entire body.
“Stay exactly where you are,” I heard him say to me, but I was in euphoria.
“Killian…” I mumbled. “What is this?”
He ignored me as he turned his attention to some kind of control panel.
“Hush now. We’ll be far away from here soon enough.”
The mother ship revved to life, creating a vibrating sensation deep within my body. I moaned at the numbing feeling it provided.
“More,” I said as I relaxed into the chair.
Realization dawned on his face and his eyes grew timid before he returned his attention to the ship once again.
“No. You don’t need anymore. I’ve already given you too much. I don’t know what will happen if it overwhelms your system, but I can almost guarantee you would not enjoy the outcome.”
I squeezed my eyes shut as I bit my tongue to keep quiet. I knew it was wrong—no, weird—to ask something like that of him. It was weird enough that his blood had super powers, too, which gave me a strange thought.
“Are you mind-controlling me?”
He scoffed. “I believe that’s the most absurd thing you’ve said to me yet.”
“I’m serious. Since you’re superhuman, don’t you think it’s safe to say your blood is capable of doing more than just saving lives?”
He shrugged and I stood, pleasantly surprised to find that my leg didn’t hurt anymore, and wrapped my arms around his torso as I pressed my cheek to his back.
“So you mean to say that my feelings for you are real?” I murmured.
“Was there truly ever any doubt?”
I paused. “You told me that night in my bedroom that you never cared about me, and that you never would.”
“That’s not true.”
“Obviously,” he muttered, continuing to fiddle with the ship’s controls.
I let go of him to peek around his shoulder, peering at his face. He walked away before I could even get a glimpse.
“We’re just outside the planet’s atmosphere,” he interrupted without looking back at me. “I’ve activated the ship’s shielding mechanism so they won’t find us.”
“You’re doing it again,” I said. “You’re running from your feelings. You always do. I can’t help but wonder where you’re running off to this time.”
I watched as he clenched his fists and bowed his head. “The shower.”