Ellie couldn’t tell if hours, days or weeks had passed. Ronin had ordered Duncan to take her watch because he was convinced that Kai had either altered it in a way that it could be a communication device, or that it held some sort of files containing the intel he wanted. He simply shrugged it off when Ellie threw his words back in his face about having connections and resources enough to leave this planet. “Why not go, then?” she prompted. Ellie got nothing but seething silence in return. Ronin could bluff with the best of them, but she saw through him. He was a know it all jerk at best. Ellie wasn’t sure how much family Kai actually had. She’d never met his parents, only heard about them briefly. She’d met Ronin and Kai’s twin brother Kort in school, but Kai never spoke of them these days. Kai and Kort were identical and no one had ever been able to tell them apart when they were younger. She assumed that Kort still looked much like Kai, but she hadn’t seen the two of them together in a very long time. She wasn’t sure whether Kai had any sisters. From the outside, it appeared that Kai had at least a sizeable family though. She envied him that, at first.
Ellie had no one but Kai after she left the orphanage at 15, the age they deemed children independent enough to care for themselves and learn to work. Eventually, she realized all she needed was one person to care, to truly care, and he did. He had been Ellie’s best friend since the day they had met and she had never gone more than a few days without him. At the thought of him never coming back, tears began to slide silently down her face, which turned into body-wracking sobs, until she cried herself to sleep.
When they gave Ellie her rations of food and water, she’d eat and drink enough to keep herself alive, nothing more. And she only did that for Kai. Because she’d made him a promise. Nothing held flavor, the happy memories that should have sustained her washed away on the tides of fear, hopelessness, and exhaustion.
She spent who knows how long in and out like that, just living, barely existing. Duncan who was her constant watcher even became concerned. When he brought her dinner to her, he begged of her…
“Eat, Ellie, please. I know you don’t deserve this, I know that now, but my family needed the money and he pays well. I just…I’m sorry, I didn’t know his plan. I didn’t know he was going to keep you, not as leverage, not as a trap for Kai, none of it. As much as I hate Kai I don’t want this, but I can’t help you, he’ll kill my family and then allow me to live and suffer, but please, please eat. Kai wouldn’t want this.”
“Yeah well, Kai isn’t here, and he’s not … he’s not coming back, Duncan.” At that, she broke down again, inconsolable.
“She has information and I know it. She has spent far too much time around Kai for him not to have confided in her. That brother of ours is clever. I know he’s had the intel and the tech and he’s just hoarding it for himself.” Ronin paced the floor, emphasizing his points with his hands.
“You’re his twin, Kort. You mean to tell me that he told you absolutely nothing? Don’t you two have some sort of twin telepathic abilities or something?”
Kort bit into a sugary treat. “Nah, we’ve never really been that close. You know that.”
“Could you at least chew your food before you respond? I swear, sometimes you disgust me as much as them,” Ronin said gesturing toward the other quadrants.
“Well, if he hasn’t told you anything, he had to have told someone. And he trusts no one more than he trusts that wretched girl.”
“Her name is Ellie,” Kort shot back.
“Ohhh, that’s right. You’ve always had a little crush on the orphan girl, haven’t you? For the life of me, I’ll never understand why you and Kai feel such an attraction toward that which is beneath you. Ironically, perhaps, the only thing you share as twins.”
“She’s really a very nice person, Ronin. I’m sure if she could help, she would. Kai must not have given her any information. Maybe we should just let her go. They’ve been asking questions about her in the greenhouse, I hear. My people have informed me that her superiors aren’t buying our story about an illness anymore. They may start digging into places that we’d rather they didn’t soon.”
Kort was sure that no one would begin asking questions about Ellie. Resources weren’t usually wasted on people of her stature, but Ronin was right about one thing. He did always feel an attraction toward her. He’d always wanted her, but she had always been so attached to Kai that she hadn’t given Kort a second glance.
“Do you think me stupid, dear brother?” Ronin feigned offense. “We both know no one is going to look for the girl. You just want the opportunity to play hero in hopes that she’ll give you the attention you’ve always wanted.”
Ronin paced back and forth before stopping and turning toward Kort. “You know, you may get your chance, brother. I have an idea that could be mutually beneficial for the both of us.”
Kort stared at Ronin, slightly dumbfounded. “What?”
“It means that we both get something we want out of it, you twit! Now listen, you’re going to have to do exactly as I say if we want this to work.”