As Tulip stared at the white eyes of the creature behind her little sister, she knew she had to tell someone. No matter what Violet had made her promise, this was too big, too dangerous to keep quiet. Not only that, but there was no way she could help Violet get that thing down to Toria. Hacking a few cameras wouldn’t help very much, and if even just one warrior saw it, all hell would break loose. Also, Tulip wasn’t completely sure she wanted it on Toria.
The last time these creatures showed up on a planet, they killed almost every living thing they came across. What if this was a ploy to get onto Toria, then multiply and do the same thing they did to Earth.
No. She had to tell someone. And only one person came to mind. Violet would hate her for this, but hopefully she would understand in time why she had to tell Korom.
“Violet,” she began cautiously, “I know you think it’s your pet, but I can’t let you take it to Toria.”
Violet was about to protest, but Tulip held up a hand to stop her and continued. “There is simply no way to get that thing-”
“Spot! His name is Spot.” Blood red tears flowed freely from Violet’s eyes, sending an uneasy feeling down Tulip’s spine, but she had to make it clear to her sister that this was a very bad idea.
“Spot. There’s no way to get Spot onto a shuttle filled with dozens of warriors, past the planetary defense system that reads DNA signatures of everyone entering, to a planet where thousands of people will be gathered and waiting to see their King return with a new Queen. I don’t need to tell you what will happen if even just one person sees him, do I?”
Violet shook her head, the deep sadness in her unusual eyes almost undoing Tulip’s resolve.
Tulip went on, her voice lowering to a whisper, “It’s too dangerous to keep Spot alive, Vi. Look what it’s kind did to Earth. To billions of people-”
“It wasn’t Spot that did any of that. He wasn’t even born when the ship was attacked. He has no connection to a leader. As far as Spot knows, I am its leader.”
“And what happens when you get mad at me, or Rose or Lilly? What happens if it understands your snarkiness and bitchy remarks for an order, and it really does rip one of our heads off?”
Violet stayed quiet, her eyes lowering to the dark metal flooring beneath their feet.
“You know I’m going to have to tell someone about this, don’t you?” Tulip finally asked, her eyes darting back and forth between her baby sister and the massive creature behind her.
“No! Please, Tulip, don’t,” Her sister was crying again, her pained voice cutting at Tulip’s heart, “Please, don’t tell anyone he’s here. He hasn’t hurt anyone for over a week, and no one even knew he was here. Just… Let me find a way to release him somewhere. If not on Toria, then maybe there’s another planet close by where he can live.”
“Will you let me talk to Commander Korom about this? Show him what you showed me. Prove to him that it’s not dangerous? If anyone would know of a place for Spot to safely spend his days, it’s the Commander.”
Violet thought about that for a long moment, emotion making her face red as dark crimson tears dripped from her lashes.
Finally, after a long moment, Violet nodded. “Okay. But please don’t let him hurt Spot. I saw what he did to those other Spinners back on Earth. I can’t let him do that to Spot.”
“I’ll do what I can, but I can’t promise anything, Vi. Let me talk to him first, then you can show him Spot and let him see that he isn’t a threat, okay?”
Violet nodded vigorously, a small, hopeful smile spreading over her lips.
Tulip pulled her sister into a tight hug, her eyes landing on the motionless Spinner sitting only feet away. Its eyes watched their every move, but the razor sharp teeth remained hidden inside its jaws.
As Tulip stared into those pearlescent white eyes, she noticed something she never would have expected in a mindless, savage creature like this. Fear. Intelligence. Understanding. Spot understood what they spoke about. It understood that its life would probably end very soon. That it was feared and hated by all those around it... All those except Violet.
“Is it really that docile?” Tulip asked, more to herself than her sister.
Violet pulled out of Tulip’s hold and stepped back, wiping the tears off her face with her sleeve and leaving strange pink smudges on her face. She reached out a hand to her sister and waited.
Tulip looked down at her sister’s hand, then up at Spot once more, then into Violet’s eyes. It took her a long few seconds to build up the courage to move, but the promise she made to herself over a week ago came rushing back. She had to be more brave. To not let fear control her. After a long breath, she gingerly took Violet’s hand and let her sister pull her closer to the beast.
When they got to within a couple of feet, Spot lifted its massive head, almost scaring the shit out of Tulip. She jerked, trying to pull her hand free so she could run away, but Violet held on tightly.
“It’s okay,” Violet said in a calm voice, “He’s just excited to meet you, that’s all.”
“Excited… Right,” Tulip mumbled, relaxing her tense body and taking another tiny step closer. Her eyes remained fixed on the eerie white orbs that stared back at her.
When she was within a foot of its huge black head, Violet reached out and gently stroked the top of its oval shaped head.
“He’s actually really soft,” Violet said with a smile before turning to face Tulip. Her eyes held an expectant look, but she waited without a word for Tulip to make the decision.
Tulip could barely control the shaking in her body, but despite her fear, she had to trust Violet. They were family. Sisters. They were also the only four Humans they would ever see in their new home. If trust was lost between them, Tulip didn’t want to think of what would become of them all.
Raising her free hand, she very slowly inched it closer to Spot. The creature didn’t move a single muscle, just watched her hand with those shining white eyes.
Finally, Tulip carefully placed her hand on its head, letting out a small breath of relief that it hadn’t been ripped off, and began delicately stroking it. Violet was right. The hairless skin on top of its head was covered in tiny, dark scales that felt solid and thick under her palm. They were warm to the touch, and felt soft and smooth as she stroked it.
She couldn’t help but smile a little at the up-close-and-personal view of a real, living Spinner.
Idea’s raced in her mind. This might be a perfect opportunity to study the creature, to learn from it, and find better and easier ways to kill a horde in the future.
She definitely had to speak to Korom. He had to know about this. He would know if telling Bor was a good idea or not. She really didn’t want to be the one who brought the huge king this news.
Pulling her hand away, Tulip turned back to Violet and said, “I need to go speak to Korom. Don’t let anyone see Spot until I call you and tell you it’s time to introduce Korom to Spot. I don’t know how long it will take, so just be patient, okay?”
Violet nodded, pulling Tulip into a tight hug. When something hard pressed against their sides, Tulip frowned and looked over at Spot pressing his head into them gently, almost as though he too were thanking her.
With a shake of her head, Tulip let go of Violet and made her way back to her room.
How the hell was she going to tell Korom about this without having him lose his mind and mist off to hunt the thing down?
As she walked back to her room, she thought about the best way to broach the topic with him. The last time she saw him, she was butt naked in front of him, making out, and only minutes away from what she had no doubt would have been mind blowing, earth shattering sex.
Sighing, she entered her room, sat down on the bed and pulled one of the data pads onto her lap. Clicking on the communication icon, she found Korom’s name written in the strange squiggles of the Torian language and pressed the message icon.
Thanks to Wisp, she now had the standard QWERTY keyboard to write with. The system translated her messages before sending it out, and did the same with any she received.
The thought of Wisp brought her worry for her tiny friend back once more.
Focus, Tulip. One problem at a time.
With a calming breath, she turned to the pad and tapped out a quick message.
TO: Commander Korom.
I need to see you. It’s urgent. X
She pressed send, watching as her words morphed into the elegant alien writing, then vanished off her screen. Before she could put the pad down on the bed beside her, dark mist began filling her tiny room, growing solid in the small space between her knees and the door to her bathroom. A second later, Korom was kneeling in front of her, a worried frown on his face. His eyes scanned her from head to foot, then met her eyes.
“Are you alright?”
She smiled, “I’m fine. That was quick.”
He shrugged, a shy smile playing at the corners of his lips. “What’s wrong?”
Tulip sobered. “I need to talk to you about something very important. Sit down.”
She waited as he stood to his full, impressive height. He moved to her left and lowered his big body to the bed beside her.
She turned to the side to face him, loving how his large, warm hand immediately sought out hers.
“What is it?” He asked, his voice low and filled with concern.
“You have to swear to me you won’t mist out, not even for a nanosecond when I tell you. You have to listen to me, understand me, and trust me. Please, Korom, can you do that?”
Korom’s eyes narrowed, dark mist clouding around his thick lashes.
“Tell me, Tulip. Do not ask me to promise something I am not sure I will be able to keep. If you or anyone on this ship is in danger, it is my duty to act, swiftly and without mercy.”
Tulip sighed. She had to tread very carefully with this. She needed Korom to understand everything she said before he freaked out, but she also understood his need to protect all those he cared about on this ship. As much as she wanted to help Violet with Spot, and to have the opportunity to study a living Spinner up close and without the fear of it tearing her apart, she also understood that Bor, for all his kindness and gentleness with her and her sisters, was the king of his world. He had to be protected, at any cost.
“Tulip?” Korom pushed, his hand tightening over hers.
She met his eyes again, making a decision she hoped wasn’t going to cost her everything.
“If you really want to be with me… to start a relationship with me, I need you to be able to trust me. To trust that I would never do anything to hurt you or anyone else on this ship. I know I risked everyone when I let Kurmar onto the ship, but I had to help you. It was a calculated risk that paid off. I know you’re going to think I’m an idiot for what I’m about to tell you, but please… Please trust me. At least listen to me until you know everything before you make a decision. Once you know everything, and you’ve seen what I’ve seen, you can make an educated decision on the matter,” She shifted to face him, pulling her leg up on the bed and hoped he saw the plea in her eyes as she said, “I’m risking my sister by telling you this, Korom. I’m trusting you. Don’t let me down.” The last part was said in a whisper.
“All my life, my first and most important duty was to my king. It is the way of all the warriors on Toria. But I’m not Torian. Yes, I love Bor like a brother. He is my brother. The warriors on this ship are under my command, and their lives are in my hands,” He reached out and cupped her cheek, forcing her to meet his eyes, “But you are my everything, Tulip. My kind has only one thing in the whole universe that can keep us sane and whole. Now that I found you, I hold you above all others. I will give my life for Bor and his family, that will never change, but I want to live for you. Tell me, little one. You can trust me. I swear to you that I will not react until you tell me I have seen and heard everything I need to know.”
She nodded, her heart racing at his words.
“Okay. When Violet came to my room earlier, she had something very important to tell me.”
Korom smiled, “It better have been important. I still ache for you at just the thought of your incredible body, naked and presented before me. At what I wanted to do to you...”
Heat rose in her cheeks, but she pushed forward. Now was not the time to get all hot and bothered.
“Anyway… Violet asked for my help with something. She wanted to ask me to help her with something that will not only get her into a world of shit with Lilly and Bor, and probably you as well, but that is kinda dangerous.”
“Is she alright? Did someone hurt her?”
She rushed to answer, “No. I asked her the same thing. Besides, Violet is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. You didn’t see how she took Bor down in the medical room when he hurt Keel. No, she’s not hurt.”
One of his dark brows rose and a faint smile played on his lips, “She attacked Bor?”
“Yeah. He thought Keel had hurt her and he attacked him in the medical room. Turned out Violet just had a crush on him.”
“I will have to bribe Oris for the surveillance feed of that,” he said with a soft chuckle.
Tulip let herself smile at that, before she continued.
“Violet found something after the Spinner attack on the ship.”
Korom stilled, all traces of humor vanished from his features. His jaw tightened and his eyes took on an ice cold glare as he waited for her to finish.
“Remember what you said, Korom. Let me finish before you freak out.”
“I’m still here, little one. I gave you my word. I will listen to everything you have to say before I react. Tell me. What did Violet find?”
“An unhatched Spinner egg. One of the mutated ones that attacked the ship.”
“And she has this egg now?”
Tulip shook her head, “No…. It’s not an egg anymore.”
Dark puffs of mist burst out from Koroms eyes, making her jerk with fright. He still held her hand tightly, not letting her go, before he took in a long breath and drew in his mist.
“Violet has a live Spinner on this ship?” He asked in a cold, flat tone.
“Yes. It looks fully grown, about the same size as the ones that attacked Earth. It has a large white spot on its chest.”
“You’ve seen it?” His voice rose with anger as his entire body tensed.
She nodded, “Yes. Violet took me to meet it. It’s… different, Korom. It’s calm, and obeys her. It… I don’t know, it looked intelligent, like it understood what we said. It didn’t do anything to scare me. In fact, it acted more like a pet than a killing machine. I want you to come with me to see it. To see Spot and hear what Violet says. I know having a live Spinner on this ship is a huge risk to everyone, but…”
“Where is it?”
His voice was so cold, so emotionless that Tulip worried that she had made a huge mistake in telling him. Even so, she couldn’t lie to him.
“She has it living in the storage room at the far end of the ship. It’s been there since the day after the attack on the ship.”
“Take me to it. Call Violet and tell her to meet us there.”
He stood, letting go of her hand and turned his back to her. Pain tore at her heart at the thought that she had messed up any chance she and Korom could have had. He was so angry, his body so tense, it looked like he was made of stone. Thin wisps of dark mist flowed from his skin, a sure sign of his agitation.
Taking a risk, she stepped up to him and gently placed a hand on the center of his back.
“Please don’t be angry with me. As soon as I found out what she was hiding, I knew I had to tell you.”
He turned, his eyes softening as he looked at her.
“I am not angry with you, little one. Never with you. I am concerned about this situation. I can see by how hesitant you were to tell me that you do not want me to hurt this creature. I know that if I react the way my instincts are demanding I act, you may lose the trust your sister has in you. But I am also curious as to how a single Spinner is able to survive without its leader.”
“I think Violet is it’s leader. I know that sounds crazy, but there is no doubt she has a link with it somehow. When she was so sick, before the battle with the leader on Earth, Violet could hear the leader in her head. What if that opened some kind of telepathic link to the frequency used by the Spinners. And because Spot is the only one that survived from that hive, she is now its leader.”
“It’s possible. No one truly understands the Spinners. Studying them has been an extremely dangerous task. Many scientists lost their lives in the hope of understanding how the Spinner hives work.”
“Maybe this could be an opportunity. If what I saw of Spot is really how it is, then maybe learning about the species could be easier with a calm, obedient Spinner. If Violet really can control it like she says she can, then wouldn’t something like that be an opportunity too big to let slip away. If we kill it now, we may never get a chance to learn from it.”
Korom nodded, stepping closer to her. She arched her neck to look into his eyes, the heat of his body so close to hers sending goosebumps over her skin.
“I will go with you to see this Spinner with my own eyes. I will listen to what Violet says, but Tulip… It will be Bor who must make the decision of what to do with the creature. To study it, he will have to allow it to be taken to Toria. If it escapes and begins killing, he will never be able to forgive himself. I know the male, and I know how his mind works. I cannot promise you that I will keep it alive, and I will not protect it if Bor decides it must be killed.”
“I know. It will break Violet’s heart, but I do understand.”
He nodded, bending down to place a warm, slow kiss to her lips. Tulip’s body ignited at the contact, her every nerve alive with sensation as his tongue slipped over her lower lip.
With a small sigh, she opened for him, letting herself get lost in the moment.
All too soon, Korom broke the kiss, and smiled sweetly at her.
“Let us go see Violet. I assume she is anxious to learn the outcome of what you told me, and the last thing I want is for your sister to interrupt us... again.”