Korom slowed his pace as he let Tulip lead him down the long hallway that would take them to the main storage bay. He had to remind himself to stay calm and to not let the rage he felt show on his face. It took everything he had to keep his mist inside and not allow it to hunt down the Spinner and rip it apart from the inside.
What was Violet thinking allowing a creature like that to stay on this ship? Does the child not understand how dangerous just one can be.
Violet’s control over the Spinner must be real. If not, they would be finding mutilated bodies all over the ship. What is it eating? Is Violet feeding it, or is it hunting without her knowing.
The command vessel had over three hundred warriors that worked all over the ship. Perhaps one or two were missing and no one noticed yet.
The feel of Tulip’s warm hand in his made his mind calm again. She had asked him to trust her, and he would.
Never before would he have trusted someone with something like this, but because it was Tulip, he couldn’t do anything to hurt her in any way.
They turned a corner and Korom saw the large doors that led to the main storage bay ahead.
“Stay behind me when we enter,” He said, not taking his eyes off the doors at the end of the hall.
She gave his hand a soft squeeze, then said, “I’ve already been in there with it, Korom.”
He paused in the hallway and looked down at her.
Gods, he thought, Does this female have any idea how breathtaking she is?
“I know,” He said, his anger fading as he looked into her bright blue eyes, “But if you want me to stay calm once I see it, I need to know that you are safe. I do not think I will be able to control my other side if you go near it.”
She watched him for a few seconds, then nodded, “Alright. I’ll stay back and let you approach it alone.”
He let out a small sigh of relief, “Thank you.”
They started walking again, but after only a few steps, Tulip pulled them to a stop. He turned to face her, but frowned at the worry in her eyes.
“What is it?” He asked.
“Violet. I’m worried about her. She seems to be the same as she was before all this happened, but…”
“But also different.” He finished for her.
“Yeah. I know the poisoning did something to her, and until we understand exactly how it changed her, I’m scared she might get too far gone to help.”
Korom pulled her into his arms, loving the way her small frame fit against him. Her arms wrapped around his waist, holding him tight. She rested her head on his chest and pulled in a long, ragged breath.
“No matter what, I will do everything I can to help your sister. Toria has some incredible minds at the various universities, but the Decagon has hundreds of species in its science fleet. If the Torian’s cannot find a way to help Violet, then I will appeal to the Decagon to send someone. Either way, we will fix her.”
She lifted her head and Korom looked down at her watery eyes.
“What if there is no helping her? What if whatever happened to her will keep changing her until my sister is gone and all that’s left is some kind of mutated Human Spinner hybrid? I can’t lose her. I can’t…”
Her words faded on a sob as she burrowed her face into his shirt.
Korom closed his eyes, unable to bear the thought of her in pain like this. Tulip meant more to him than she would ever be able to understand. Her tears and fear for her sister cut through him.
She was right. If there was no way to stop whatever was happening to Violet, there was only one clear path that he could see. He wouldn’t mention anything to Tulip, not until they had exhausted every option.
“Let us deal with one problem at a time. There is nothing we can do to help Violet until we return to Toria. For now, let us deal with the Spinner.”
She nodded against him, sniffing as she wiped at her cheeks. After another moment, she pulled back and met his eyes.
He smiled. “No need to thank me. Come, let us get this done.”
He took her hand again and then walked towards the doors to the storage bay.
When he entered the vast room, all Korom’s instincts came to life. His body tensed, his mist sensing the danger in the room. He had to fight the need to let his mist out to search and destroy the danger, actively forcing back his darker side.
Tulip stayed back by the large bay doors, her eyes fixed on him as he scanned every inch of the space.
“Hey,” A soft voice said from his left, and he turned to see Violet shifting nervously beside a high stack of metal storage containers.
Even from several feet away, he could see the slight tremble in her body and the worried look in her eyes.
“Violet, are you alright?” He asked, moving his eyes away from her to study the crates beside her.
“I’m scared,” she whispered.
He turned back to her, truly noticing just how young the female was.
“I give you my word, Violet, you do not need to fear me. I swore to Tulip that I would not act until I knew everything. Where is it?”
Violet glanced back at Tulip, then lowered her eyes to the ground.
“Spot, come here boy,” She said in a louder voice that echoed in the vast space.
Korom tensed, preparing his body to fight. Clicking sounds came from high above them, the sound far too familiar to Korom. It was the sound of Spinner claws tapping on metal. The sound of death approaching.
He looked up, stepping back when he spotted the black legs of a large Spinner creep out from the top of the crate stack.
He waited, his hands fisted at his sides as his mist raged to be set free.
“Easy, Korom,” Tulip called from the doors, making his anxiety rise even more. He did not want her in this room, so close to a live Spinner.
He watched as the creature moved to the far end of the crates, as far away from him as it could get, then jump down to the ground.
The moment it left its high perch, Korom instinctively pulled the long, double edged dagger from his side and gripped the handle in a white knuckled fist.
“Slowly Spot,” Violet said, her body turned away from Korom to face the approaching Spinner.
The sound of the monster’s claws hitting the metal flooring sent a chill down Korom’s spine. So many lives had been taken by these creatures. Billions upon billions of people had been torn apart and eaten throughout the universe. And now, he stood still, waiting for one of them to come out of the shadows.
His eyes never once left the narrow passage between the stacks of crates, but he allowed a small part of his mist to ease out of him unseen and go to the two females in the room. He may have promised Tulip not to react without knowing everything, but he would do what he had to to protect them.
Once he was sure his mist was settled over their skin, ready to act if needed, he allowed all his attention to focus on the Spinner.
It emerged from the shadow, its movements slow, almost cautious as it approached Violet.
Every fiber of his being raged against the sight. It was wrong. It broke all the rules. It went against everything he knew of how Spinners acted. This beast looked… afraid of him.
He stood as still as he could, not wanting to do anything that would set it off. It stood far too close to Violet for him to risk it attacking.
“Please don’t hurt him,” Violet’s softly whispered words penetrated his battle focused mind. He raised his gaze to the young female and paused when he saw the red tears slipping down her face.
“Tell me, Violet.” He ordered, his voice harsher than he meant, but he was too close to the edge to control it.
“He won’t hurt you, I swear. He’s scared of you. I can feel it. He wants to obey me, to help me convince you that it has no bad intentions towards anyone on this ship, but he understands that a deadly predator just walked in.”
Korom’s eyes narrowed on the Spinner beside Violet. It stood as still as a statue, its white eyes fixed on him. He pushed back his anger, allowing his rational mind to take over.
The Spinner had been in the room with them for no more than a few minutes, and yet, if it had been a mindless killer like all the others, they would have all been dead and consumed by now.
He stared back into its eyes, trying to see what Tulip saw.
They stared at each other, neither of them moving. Then he saw it. In the white depths of the Spinners eyes, he saw the fear the creature felt. Not only that, but he saw the resignation. This Spinner knew that its life was now in Korom’s hands. That whatever Korom decided, would be the fate this beast would face… and it accepted it. He saw no rage, no anger towards him. He didn’t see the mindless hunger always present in the Spinners he fought in the past.
This creature was intelligent, there was no doubt in Korom’s mind of that fact.
He calmed his anger, relaxing his body before he eased the dagger back into its sheath.
“You have control?” He asked Violet.
With a nod, he took small, cautious steps closer, watching for the slightest of twitches.
As Korom approached, the Spinner lowered its head to the ground, its eyes moving down in a submissive gesture.
Korom called on his mist, making sure Tulip still stood far away. At the feeling of her tense body wrapped in a fine layer of his mist still at the bay doors, he eased even closer. Finally, he stopped beside Violet and waited.
“He won’t hurt you,” Violet whispered, “He’s scared and wants you to understand him. You can touch him if you want.”
Korom’s brows rose at her words.
She nodded, her nervous tick of twisting her fingers in her hands still present.
Before he could talk himself out of this madness, Korom raised his hand slowly, inching it closer to the large, scaled black head that was still lowered. Only the Spinners eyes had moved up to watch him.
He eased it down gently on the top of its head, unable to believe what he was seeing.
The Spinner didn’t move, only the faint tremble in its body could be felt in the touch.
Korom closed his eyes for a second, trying to wrap his mind around this amazing scene. Tulip was right. Having such a calm and accepting Spinner available to study and learn from could be invaluable to the Torian warriors that were usually the ones sent to fight them.
“Incredible,” he whispered before he could stop the word.
Violet beamed beside him, her whole body sagging with relief.
“It is,” She said, coming to stand beside the creature, “He’s really smart too. And he understands what people say. Ask him to do something.”
Korom shifted his gaze from the white eyes in front of him, to Violet’s blood red ones.
She gave him an encouraging nod, then turned to look at the Spinner.
Korom thought for a moment, then said, “Move away from the female.”
Without a second’s hesitation, the Spinner rose to its full height and moved three side steps away from Violet. It paused there, and waited, its eyes looking at Korom with a hopeful expectancy.
He moved towards Violet, slowly placing his own body between her and the Spinner, then said, “Move back more.”
It did as ordered, its heavy clawed feet clicking on the flooring.
A tiny smile pulled at his lips as his mind flooded with possibilities of what having an obedient spinner that followed orders could mean for Toria.
“It will do anything?” He asked without turning back to Violet.
“Yes. As long as you don’t ask it to hurt me, it will do whatever it needs to to prove to you that he’s not a threat.”
Korom turned back to Violet, “Go to Tulip.”
She frowned, “Why?”
“I wish to test a theory, and I do not want you to get hurt by accident.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, “I won’t let you hurt it.”
The bite in her voice made Korom smile. He really wanted to see that video of this tiny, young female bringing the Torian king to the ground. He could see it in her eyes. The inner strength she held not only in her mind and heart, but in her slim body as well.
“I will not hurt it, I give you my word.”
He waited, watching as she struggled with the decision, before she nodded and moved back to the bay doors where her sister stood quietly watching.
Once he was sure they were out of harm’s way, he turned back to the Spinner and pulled his dagger out as he said, “Prepare to spar.”
The Spinner lowered its body around its bent legs, the thick cords of muscles in its wide body tensing.
Korom grinned as he readied himself to attack. If this worked the way he hoped, then all the warriors in the Torian Kingdom would be training with a living Spinner.
Before he could think any more of the advantage that would give the males under his command, the Spinner sprang forward, its deadly claws curled back to avoid injury, its razor sharp fangs hidden behind thick black lips. It landed only inches away from Korom, its two front legs shooting out at a blinding speed as it knocked him back, before it leaped forward again, knocking him to the ground.
“Don’t hurt him!” Tulip shouted.
The spinner froze above him, the tip of his dagger pressed into the soft flesh beneath its neck, a tiny trickle of black blood oozing down the silver blade.
Amazement once again shook Korom’s mind. If this were any other creature, fighting a Torian warrior, his chest would have been ripped to shreds from the first hit, and his head removed before he could blink when it landed above him. Yet this spinner had done everything it could not to cause him harm even though Korom’s dagger was only seconds away from being buried hilt deep in its vulnerable neck.
“That’s enough,” he said, waiting for it to move off him. Once he got to his feet, he sheathed his dagger once more and nodded.
Yes, he thought, Tulip was right to not let me kill it.
With that thought, he turned and made his way back to the females.
“The king must know of this,” He began, halting Violet’s protest with a raised hand, “He must know, Violet. He is my king, and it is his planet we are heading to. It would be a crime punishable by death not to tell him of the threat this could pose to his home.”
“Spot’s not a threat!” She shouted, her face turning red in her anger.
“I know, little warrior,” He smiled, “Calm yourself. I will do whatever I can to convince Bor of the benefits this situation has for our people. But like I told Tulip, ultimately, it will be his decision and his alone. I can only advocate the Spinners case.”
He watched Violet, noticing the smile on Tulip’s face at his words. The youngest female stared at him with wide eyes for a few long seconds, before she threw her arms around his waist, hugging him tightly.
Korom froze, unsure of what to do. Human females seemed to like physical contact with males not their own. He would have to warn them of what might happen if they did this to a mated male on Toria.
He turned to Tulip to see if the embrace upset her, but just like with Bor earlier, he saw a pleased smile on her face at the sight.
He eased one arm around the female, holding her for a moment, then stepped back.
He was about to tell them that they needed to go speak to Bor, when the captain of the command vessel’s voice came over the speakers in the storage bay.
“All warriors prepare for disembarkment. We are home.”
Muted cheers came from the halls as everyone celebrated returning to their loved ones. With a long sigh, he looked at Violet. “We need to hide Spot. There is no time to tell Bor now. We will leave him on the command vessel until I am able to speak to the king and make arrangements for him. What have you been feeding him?”
“Just the meat packs from the eating hall. He really likes the blue meat.”
“Very well. I will make sure we leave enough for Spot to survive at least a month. Once everyone leaves for the planet, I will instruct the warriors to lock the ship down and make sure no one enters. For now, he needs to leave this storage bay. In a few minutes, there will be dozens of warriors here preparing to unload all of these crates.”
“Where can he hide?”
Korom took in a long breath, thinking. He turned back to the Spinner, who hadn’t moved an inch since their very brief spar and said, “Climb up the far right tower of crates. In the ceiling you will find a wide vent shaft. Follow it all the way to the end. Be as quiet as possible. At the end, you will find a small space between the bridge and the rest of the ship. It’s narrow, but it should be big enough for you to fit. Stay there until I come for you.”
As soon as his words were finished, the Spinner spun around, bent its long legs and jumped to the top of one of the crate towers beside it. It scurried over to the edge and leaped up onto the one Korom had told it to use to get out of this bay. Within seconds, the Spinner was scrambling into the vent, one of its clawed legs pulling the cover closed behind it.
Once it was out of sight, Violet asked, “Where did you tell it to go?”
“There is a blast space between the bridge and the rest of the ship. In the event of an emergency, the bridge and command center of this vessel can detach from the rest of the ship and function as a smaller emergency vessel if needed. It will be safe in that space.”
“Thank you,” Violet said. Those simple words held so much emotion in them, that Korom’s heart softened even more for the child.
“Do not thank me yet. Your Spinner’s fate is still not decided. But… for now, it is safe.”
With that, he led the females out of the storage bay and into the hall. Already, half a dozen males were making their way towards them to begin preparations to leave the ship.
They all lowered their heads in greeting and respect as Korom and the two females passed.
They escorted Violet to her room so she could pack, before entering the lift. Korom pressed the button for the top deck and waited as the doors closed.
“Where are we going?” Tulip asked, frowning up at him.
“My quarters,” He said, looking down into her eyes, “No one would dare interrupt us there.”