The Exogène officers and their captain escorted us out of their small battle ship and into a massive piece of spacecraft, which could have been a city all on its own. They threw us into glass prisons where they could monitor us, take blood samples, and ask us several inane questions. The room was much too bright; the fluorescent lighting glared off the white walls and burned into my eyes as a sun would if you stared at it for too long. Seril, the dark-haired man that had detained me, was the one to interrogate me while the captain spoke with Killian.
“How old are you, Jianna?”
“Nineteen, give or take a few,” I said indifferently.
I never really have known the real date of my birth. My age was estimated to be about seven years old at the time when Hyler found me on the streets. Nana and Poppy always used the day I was found as the day of my birth. Seril gave me a confused look, pausing before he continued.
“How long have you been affiliated with the convict Killian Vermont?”
Vermont?I glanced at Killian. “Not long.”
The lie slipped easily off my tongue; however, it did nothing to convince him.
“This can only work if I have the full, honest truth, Jianna. Will you, or will you not, cooperate?”
Again, I stole a glance at Killian, who caught my gaze and nodded slightly before returning his attention back to the captain.
I sighed, then answered, “Long enough to know who the real bad guy is”.
Seril’s eyes narrowed. “Were you aware that he was avoiding prosecution for his crimes when you joined forces with him?”
I smirked. He made it sound like I drafted myself in a rebel army. “Yes.”
“Why did you initiate a relationship with him?”
"Heapproachedme. If anything, I tried to run from him.”
“Has he ever attacked you or caused you any physical harm?”
The answer was yes, but if I it was more complicated than that. In specific circumstances, I could understand why Killian had hurt me. It was mostly for the sake of self-defense. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to explain this to Seril. He would know if I was lying anyway, so I decided to avoid the question altogether.
“Are these questions relevant to the real problem here, or are you just curious?”
He said nothing, but stared at me. Then, the captain turned to us and put a hand on Seril’s shoulder.
“She’s clean,” he said to him. “Or at least she’s not a threat. I’ll need to hit Jimmy up on something in the meantime. Walk with me.”
He gave me a lasting look before leaving with the captain.
Standing in a jail cell was a tough pill to swallow, but when Killian didn’t make any signs of attempting to talk to me, I allowed myself to relax, taking in the view. In truth, there wasn’t much to look at. Out of all the things in this prison, I hardly knew what any of them were called and I couldn’t even begin to describe what they looked similar to, so I sighed and closed my eyes.
It felt like I had just skipped a somewhat vital moment of my life. Sometime between now and the time we arrived on Nadalion, Killian had engaged in a one-man battle against the Nadali and Exogène had swept in to take us away. For some reason, I couldn’t really remember all the fine details of the battle I had witnessed, nor could I recall what all took place on the tiny ship that brought us here, but there was one specific thing I remembered all too well. I haven’t thought about losing my purity since that day in the shower with Killian, yet as I thought about it now, it felt like I was reliving it. His strong fingers pressing into forbidden regions of my body, whispering things into the shell of my ear—kissing, touching, moving, andfeeling. My heart throbbed at the solitary thought of what we had lost, all in a single day. We had lost our barriers, our control of our feelings, all thoughts of doubt, and respect for our morals. We had sacrificed so much on this journey, and all for what? Revenge? Self-discovery? Love?
Unfortunately, all of it was somewhat in vain. Whatever relationship we had had in Acadia, it seemed like the both of us had disregarded it as if it had never existed. We weren’t exactly as intimate as we had been before, and I suppose there is only so much you can do while residing in separate glass prisons, but even the few days prior to arriving on Nadalion hadn’t been the most satisfying as far as dalliances go. Of course, there had been the morning after the night in the shower when he fucked me against the closet like…
When I opened my eyes, I found myself looking directly into Killian’s eyes. He stood there directly across from me with his head cocked to the side and the slightest hint of a smile pulling at the corner of his lips. That look would have been unnerving to me earlier in our relationship, but I’ve gotten used to it since then.
“What did you tell him?” I asked suddenly, distracting myself from the uncomfortable coiling heat in my stomach.
He slowly took a seat on the bench provided for him in his cell.
“Coordinates,” he answered. “Simple coordinates to give him a push towards the right direction. And, of course, a bit of advice.”
I frowned, also taking a seat on the bench beside me. “How long will it take?”
“Not long. I’d give it a few hours or so.”
I sighed, leaning my head against the wall, and closed my eyes again.
“This isn’t what I thought it would be,” I said. “Jail, I mean. Granted, it’s a bit different up here. Back on Acadia, jail is supposed to be the worst place on the planet, other than Grim. I’ve heard so many stories of torture, unbearable sadness…loss of life.”
“You won’t have to worry about that here.”
His voice sounded different. Though it was conversational, I could still sense a hint of venom in his tone. I looked at him to see that he was sitting ramrod straight on the edge of his seat, as if he were waiting to attack at any moment. I hated what this was doing to him. He wasn’t exactly the most relaxedperson I’ve ever known, but I’ve never seen him this tense before. I tried to think of something that would at least distract his thoughts for even a moment. The only thing I could come up with was:
The corners of his mouth twitched up as he tried not to smile and I grinned.
I chuckled, but soon found my happiness fading as he slipped away from me again through the cracks of the present, as if he was only a projection from a different time. Frowning, I looked down at my hands and started to pick at my nails. After a while, when my back started to hurt, I lay flat on the bench with one leg propped up and a hand on my heart. Closing my eyes once more, I thought about what the future would be like. What will happen if we pull this off? Where will we go? We’ll certainly not stay on Earth. I suppose there was always Acadia, but someone would always go looking there first. What other planets were out there? I felt like asking him, but I had to assume Exogène was monitoring our every word, so I kept my mouth shut. For the next two hours, I slept to pass the time, only to be awakened by the glamorous entrance of the captain and Seril as he walked close on his heels. I sprang out of my seat when I saw them heading straight for Killian’s cell.
“Do you know what you’ve done?” the captain snapped. “Do you have any idea?”
Killian didn’t even flinch. I knew then that we were all about to be on the same page.
“No, I don’t suppose I do,” Killian replied calmly. “Although if I recall correctly, your admiral needed an excuse to start a war. I suppose you’ve found it?”
A silence followed, ringing in resonance to the very power he presented himself to be—an instigator, a player, and a genius mastermind. Everyone froze for a one lasting moment. The scene resumed when the captain asked, “What the hell is that?”
“A military base,” Killian answered without hesitation.
“Admiral Hoss felt that he needed to respond to what you just found at those coordinates I gave you, and for that, he needed an excuse to declare war.”
My ears perked at this bit. Something was about to be revealed-something I was never told before.
“You’re suggesting that he violated the one thing he vowed to uphold simply because another race had more military strength than us,” Seril chimed in.
“Precisely.” Killian smirked. “Instead of keeping his own agenda at bay, he decided to drag me into it, disrupting my cryogenic sleep so that I could create the weapons of mass destruction he needed to wipe out the Nadali.”
“So what’s it to you then? What benefit is it to you if Earth goes to war with Nadalion?”
“Hoss used me. He plans to use more of the test subjects from the Superior Strain—to design weapons to help everyone realize his vision for Exogène as an ultimate state of power. But don’t you see? I never finished the weapons.”
“He just lured us behind enemy lines.”
The captain’s eyes widened and he slammed his fist on the glass. I jumped.
Suddenly a disruptive beeping intruded our thoughts. A voice, which seemed to come from nowhere, warned of a hostile ship nearby.
“Nadali?” the captain said. He looked at me. “Put them in the safety lock. Things are about to get ugly.”
“Yes, Captain,” Seril replied.
“Take Patch with you.”
A man in the corner of the room straightened, and I could only assume that he was the man named Patch.
“Would you retrieve Jianna from her room, please, Mr. Rosenberg?” Seril said.
Patch met my gaze, approaching me with hesitation. He punched a button on the wall beside the prison and just like that, the glass disappeared into thin air. I furrowed my brows, unsure if what I just saw actually happened. He gripped my upper arm firmly and marched me down a series of hallways, which all looked the same. Seril and Killian were right behind us, and when we entered, we were immediately placed on tables, which had stacks of paper on top and a couple lamps that provided the only light in the entire area. It was a decent-sized room filled with some type of machinery. I glanced over at Killian, but I didn’t expect him to give me an explanation, much less an acknowledgment of my presence. Seril and Patch stood in front of us, along with a few others, staring as if we would do something to try to escape at any second. We sat like this for a while, staring each other down with a tension hanging between us so thick that it felt like it was suffocating me. My nerves pinched with anxiety. What was going to happen to us now that the Nadali were here? Were we going to die?
It became very silent. No one said a single word. Then, a voice echoed throughout the ship. It was an unfamiliar language, but then I heard the captain speak to it over a sound system, I knew it had to be a Nadali. They spoke for a short time, but I couldn’t really listen to their exchange. I didn’t know if it was because of all the adrenaline clouding my mind, but no matter how hard I concentrated, I couldn’t quite grasp anything that was going on. It didn’t matter, though. One moment they were having what seemed to be a civil conversation, and then I felt the ship jerk underneath us. Several people lost their balance and I heard some of them screaming orders. I felt someone’s hand grip my wrist.
Somehow, I had blocked out all the chaos to latch on to Killian’s words. I felt his warmth beside me, and just like that, the muscles in my stomach loosened and I was finally capable of breathing again.
“What’s going on?”
“They’re firing on our ship.”
“And you’re saying it’s alright?” I said in disbelief.
The ship vibrated, clambering under the constant firepower that hammered against its outside walls, and after several shots, it suddenly stopped.
“Captain, what thehellis going on?” Patch yelled, holding what I could only assume was some kind of communication device to his mouth.
There was no reply. We sat in a cold, dead silence for a full minute before anyone said anything.
“Captain, I am inquiring as to why the Nadali have ceased fire on this ship,” Seril pitched in.
Seconds later, the captain came through the door with a hard look on his face. His eyes were focused on Killian as if he were the only other person in the room. He said nothing as he approached us, but once he was standing in front of him, all he said was, “You’re coming with me.”
It wasn’t a question, but Killian looked at him for a moment as if he was considering it.
“May I have a moment alone with Jianna before we leave?” he asked the captain.
“You may not,” Seril answered.
“Seril,” the captain scolded.
“Captain, we cannot allow the convict to conspire with his partner. It would be very unwise and it would cause a threat to—”
“I’m sorry if I made myself unclear,” Killian interrupted. “If you do not allow me to speak with Jianna, I will not help you.”
The captain glanced at both Killian and Seril before deciding, “You have one minute. The rest of you, clear out.”
As soon as everyone left the room, he stood and turned to me and leaned in to place a tender kiss on my lips, brushing his thumb over my cheek. A tiny hole was punched through my heart when he pulled away, and a single tear fell from my face.
“I won’t be coming back,” he murmured against my mouth.
“No,” I began to protest, but the rest was swallowed up by another kiss.
I quickly pulled away.
“Listen to me,” he demanded before I could say anything. “Are you listening?”
I nodded, blinking up at him with watery eyes.
“Do you see that chair over there?”
I looked over my shoulder to find the one he was pointing at and nodded.
“On the monitor in front of it, there will be a red button. Once you’re seated, press it. It will secure you if they open fire on this ship.”
"What?” I said with a trembling voice.
“Just trust me,” he whispered, holding my face in his hands. “When you feel the ship rumble beneath your feet and no one is there to lock you in place, you need to know how to do it yourself. I can’t risk getting you hurt.”
I felt like I needed to say something to change the course of the future, but I knew there was nothing I could do. The Nadali were here, and if Killian didn’t go with the captain, everyone on this ship could die.
“Okay,” I said, trying to sound confident, but my voice sounded weak.
He gave me a reassuring smile, but I could see the concern in his eyes.
“Everything will be alright,” he said. “I promise.”
I shook my head and said, “No. Don’tdothat. Don’t promise anything, just and come back for me, got it?”
He grinned. “I will.”
I flung my arms around him, squeezing him tightly. “I hate this.”
“I told you to stay home, but you wouldn’t listen to me,” he teased.
“Yeah,” I choked with laughter. “I knew what I was getting myself into, though.”
I pulled back slightly to kiss his nose, his eyelids, his forehead, and his cheeks, saving his lips for last. Then, I looked into his beautiful, aquamarine eyes, studying every line and shade of his irises to burn them into my memory, as if this would be the last time I saw him.
“Try not to kill anyone.”
“No promises,” he answered with a grin.
I rolled my eyes and smirked. At that moment, the door opened and the captain walked in with Seril and Patch. They announced that our time was up and I felt Killian slip away from me, allowing him to escape the cage of my arms. I felt hollow inside as he left without looking back at me. All I wanted to do was cry. It felt as if I had lost some apart of me—some large portion of my heart, or even my whole other half. There was no real reason to worry for his safety. There should be no doubt that we would see each other again. However, despite this reassurance, Ididworry and Ididdoubt, and I hated myself for it. I tried to convince myself that I was just being dramatic, but I couldn’t shake this nasty feeling in my gut. Something was about to go horribly wrong. Whatever it was, I was prepared to walk through thick and thin if it meant I would see Killian again.
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