Subgalaxi: Ch 10

Subgalaxia: Legend of the Bai Book 4 by Chapel Orahamm, man in gas mask with hand gun and rifle sitting in front of ring and storm

“You sure you want to do this?” Ishan sat next to Fane on the firing range.  Fane had made sure the prince had been outfitted with a pair of mufflers. The bodyguard flicked a glance at Bern.  The highlander pulled in a breath and shrugged a little. “It’s up ta him,” Bern nodded at the redhead. Ishan stared at the man hard, pursing his lips.  Fane returned the shrug. He pulled on his mufflers.

“Dive in if you want. I’m shooting,” Fane muttered. He had taken an early morning run around the compound to wear out the pent-up energy that refused to let him sleep. He found a spare corner outside of the shorter side of the warehouse where he was able to stretch out after the three-miler. It was level enough to handle a few good tucks and backhand springs.  His splits were difficult in the trousers he had gotten out of the commissary, but he pressed through. The sunrise over the palms during pt was refreshing from the last couple of days.

  He had gone and met with some of the early bird machinists on the floor and found someone who’d be willing to split with some equipment for half an hour of rope climbing and rappelling practice in trade for helping them with some riggings.   That had been invigorating, even if it was a little out of his regular routine. He had returned to his room to find Ishan contentedly wrapped up in all the blankets asleep. He had quietly gathered up his soap and shampoo and made off for the bathroom, where he had subsequently run into Corbin and had to restrain himself from throttling the man.  Corbin had proposed an idea that Fane wasn’t sure was good but was willing to give a shot.

This situation was uncomfortable.  Having an audience in his brain after yesterday sounded repulsive.  He sat at the table, dressed in little more than his combat boots and cargoes.  Shivering as a humid breeze raised the hairs on his arms, Fane rubbed at his face. He was strung up with electrodes connected to a series of machines Sophia was pecking at.  With his scars on display, he felt raw and open.

Bern had decided it was better not to say anything about the marks on the Red Hare’s skin. The void made more sense as he looked at the map of scars. “Let’s start.” Bern was going to sustain the connection while Fane disregarded his subconscious.  Ishan placed a delicate, stilling hand on Fane’s left shoulder, the connection as subtle as he could fathom.  Bern placed his hand over Ishan’s, the heat of his pressing Ishan’s into Fane’s skin deeply. Bands of muscles contracted and rolled under his palm.

“We’re going.” Bern waved to Corbin, who was manning the target sheets.  Sophia put her thumbs up. Fane drew in a steadying breath and sited the target.  He breathed out slowly. He waited for that space between heartbeats to pull the trigger. The bullet flew down the course and hit the dead centre of the target.  A series of taps set off the other major markers on the paper. He flipped the safety and set the gun down before signalling Corbin to replace the sheet. He wasn’t sure how long Ishan and Bern would be in for, but he got comfortable, his racing heart slowing as he fell into his own pace.

Bern dropped Ishan onto the beach.  “Ye’ll have ta hold tight, Prince. This time he’s distracted.”  A deep mist was forming along the edge of the beach. “It’s even harder when I have ta go in without bringing them here,” the man muttered unhappily.  They approached the mist.  

Ishan drew in a steadying breath.  “He’s trusting you.” Ishan held out his hand to the man.  

“‘n he honours me by doin’ so.” Bern lifted his hand to the mist, willing a path that would lead them into Fane’s void.

The chamber was as nightmarish as Ishan remembered.  It took him a minute to put his heart back in his chest and settle his stomach out of his throat.  Collapsed against the wires, Fane’s eyes were closed in a restless sleep. The bleeding had slowed, and the pool was quiet.  Ishan flicked a questioning glance at Bern.

“I can feel him. He’s waitin’ f’r Corbin to change the target paper.” Bern sauntered forward to study the wires ensaring Fane.

“They sliced into his brain and put an amplifier in it to call that monster.  This is where it left him.” Ishan thought he understood what he was looking at now. He followed behind Bern, running light fingers along the metal strands.

“Some a’ these wires cannae be removed probably, or shouldnae be removed.” Bern nodded his head to a set of bolts protruding from Fane’s thighs and large rings under his collarbone.

“They’re permanent.” Ishan fought the heat that threatened behind his eyes.  Fane flinched, and his eyelids waivered.

“Get ahold a’ yerself, Prince.  Ye’re distractin’ him,” Bern crossed his arms as he followed a set of wires attached to a meat hook carrying the weight of Fane’s ribs.

Ishan sucked in a rebuke and stilled his feelings.  He watched the wires carefully, trying to see where they led.  One of Fane’s hands rested against a ball of wires, his other wrist wrapped around the golden rope, his fingers slack around the loop.  The knot of wires and chains dug into his skin and threw themselves out to the darkness. The other wires that didn’t appear to connect into the ball distributed across the void, pulling his skin taught yet cradling his weight.

“Now, watch,” Bern instructed.  A cold burn inched across his skin.  They both listened to the beating rumble from within the cavern.  It was Fane’s heartbeat. The man’s hand, the one free of the golden loop, flinched as the beat stilled.  His finger pressed gently against the wire. A single drop of blood fluttered from the cut, shifting into a blood-red snowflake that descended to the pool, where it floated for a moment before melting into the liquid.  Another moment passed, and the same action transpired.

“Corbin should be switchin’ ta the multi-target system in a second,” Bern cautioned as they watched.  Fane’s heart slowed even further. A creeping chill surrounded them. Ice formed a thin layer along the pool’s surface in refracting pink swirls.  Fane’s eyes opened just a crack. Frost ran up the lengths of the razor-sharp wire and swirled about the links of the chains. They listened for the pause in the heartbeat.  Fane yanked the rat’s nest of wires, slicing open his palm on the metal.

“He must have an ordered system ta these wires, ‘n the docs caught him up in ‘em to draw on that monster.  E’ery time he moves ‘round ta use his skills, he…it seems like this is how he calls that creature.” Bern caught a drop of blood in his hand.  It seared his skin. He flicked the drop into the pool.

“Can we do anything for him?” Ishan asked.

“There has ta be a way…” Bern searched the wires.  “I can only imagine what he’d be like if he were nae tangled in that,” Bern backed up from the pool to get a fuller view.

“Do you want to try seeing what we can do while we’re here?” Ishan pushed forward, looking for the closest hook he could get his hands on.

“We could put e’eryone in danger doin’ that.  You see how he’s directing the web under his hand, how there’s frost all over?  We’re nae sure what’ll happen if we move one a’ those wrong. As it is, the first time I came in here, I pulled that low wire over there and almost sent us all to the Woods,” Bern admitted.

“Let me try.” Ishan moved toward the wire.

“Ah’m nae keen on dyin’ today, Prince,” Bern growled.

“And I’m not leaving him here in pain,” Ishan bit back.

“Damn it, ye get killed; it’s nae me fault.” Bern came over to the wire, ready to help lift Ishan up to reach the offending hook.

Ishan drew in a steadying breath and laid a gentle finger on the wire, barely touching it. He crept his finger along the edge, tracing its curving path.  The further he followed the wire, the closer he moved to Fane without his notice. Bern was not about to interrupt the prince to point out he was floating.

Ishan traced the wire until it came to a particular hook embedded in Fane’s calf above the Achilles tendon.  He laid a hand on Fane’s skin above the hook. Fane flinched at the contact, his hand pulling hard at the golden rope unconsciously, taking his weight off the wires.  It was now or never. The void was growing too cold. Ishan steadied Fane’s leg and dug his fingers into the wound, pulling the hook out quickly, though rougher than he could wish.  Fane let out a ragged cry as his body strained against the wires. The hook fled away from Ishan’s fingers. A zing and pop echoed in the chamber. He looked up to see Fane’s body resettle into a different position.  A hook dangled at the edge of the rat’s nest he was directing. Blood started to drip freely from wounds in the new position.

“All right, Prince, time’s up.” Bern pointed to the swirling of the pool.  He pulled him from the void and out past the fog to the beach. From there, they came up into the shooting range.  Fane had laid his head on the table, a sheet of ice locking up the trigger on his gun. He turned to raise an eyebrow at Ishan when he felt his hand move from his shoulder.

“That was phenomenal!” Sophia yelled excitedly.  

Bern sighed with disgust.  Corbin waived his mark. Fane dismissed him from manning the targets. “Wanna tell me what exactly happened?” Fane gritted his teeth as he shifted positions, all his scars seering.

“Uh…you…well…” Ishan wasn’t sure where to start with that question.

“Felt like you tossed a wrench in my brain and pressed the spin cycle.” Fane pushed the gun back to the lineup.

“Sort of did..ish?  Wanna explain why your gun is frozen solid?” Ishan touched the ice on the grip.

“Good question.  ‘bout the time my head went slantwise, my skin started feeling pretty damn clammy and then this just kind of…oozed…out of my hands.” He grimaced at the ice block.

“That’s a nifty trick,” Ishan admired.

“Came with a nifty headache,” Fane sighed.  He left his head on the table. It was too heavy in the moment to think of moving it.  “So, find out what you needed to know?” He closed his eyes against the brightness of the Florgia morning.

“Hooks, we can get out. I think the bolts are permanent.  Those are probably from where that chip is in your brain. Might take a while ta undo all the wires that we can get access ta, but we might be able ta straighten most a’ it out,” Bern mused as Corbin walked up to them.

“That mean he’ll be all right, even if we use him for the jumps?” Corbin directed his question between Sophia and Bern.

“Hey, I donnae know jack ‘bout yer science experiment.  I’m a healer, albeit a couple centuries old at this point.  My goal here is ta nae leave a man like this,” Bern waived at Fane.  Fane raised a thumb in agreement. “Or do you want back in on that, Corbin?”

Corbin waived an absolute no.

“Appreciate it.” Fane’s stomach was headed for his throat.  He ignored the rolling conversation that dripped off his back. Corbin and Sophia had started talking shop again. More like yelling across the range. They were pretty sure at this point that the touch-based telepathy that both Bern and Fane could execute was based on nerve-ending communication.  From spikes in some of the graphs, Sophia was hypothesizing that the outward issuance of ice by Fane was both a metabolizing output in the same regard as sweat but also a perception enhancement of pheromones on surrounding individuals.  In layman’s terms, he could actually do what he just did physically but make other people around him experience it with heightened senses. His death cloak, as they liked to call his glare, was equivalent to putting off a small amount of chill and a bucket load of pheromones that would make people feel dread and anxiety.  Sounded like an interesting hypothesis, but that didn’t make his head stop hurting.

 Ishan had laid his head down next to him.  From the crows’ feet around his eyes, he looked to have as bad of a headache as Fane did.  Bern was in the midst of arguing with Corbin and Sophia when Fane held up a quieting hand.  Bern shot him a questioning look.

He had heard something on the other end of the firing range.  A rustling, consistent with many footsteps. “Shut it!” Fane hissed when Corbin and Sophia kept yammering.  A chill burst through the firing range. They both dropped their topic and stared at him, startled. Pheromones or not, it got the job done.

The rustling stopped for a second.  It began again. Something was climbing the back hill.  Fane pulled a Glock from his side holster and steadied it on the bench, sighting on the coming noise.  Black hair came into view. “Stop right there!” Fane ordered, his voice echoing against the buffer hill.  Ishan flinched. He hadn’t heard Fane use his drill-sergeant-level voice. The hair ducked behind the hill before rising again. This time a pair of black eyes met his over the hill.  “A girl?” Fane asked himself before he noticed the distinct sound of footsteps on either side of the hill. He pressed himself near Ishan.  “We’re surrounded,” he whispered.

A mournful howl permeated the clearing, sending shivers down their spines.  The footsteps dimmed to the soft click of paw pads on dirt. Corbin and Bern exchanged looks as a series of four massive wolves emerged around the sides of the firing range.  The girl raised a hand over the hill. “We’re unarmed! Looking for my godfather, Corbin Ziphle?” she called out.

“Who are you?” Fane demanded, never wavering from his sight.  

“Haniel Menzer, daughter of Robert and Laura Menzer.  Scientists for RanMon Inc.,” she yelled back clearly.

“My god, Haniel Menzer. Menzer from the Flock?” called Corbin excitedly.

“I fled the Flock.  My friends say that one of your men is extremely dangerous and don’t want me coming forward,” Hana’s voice range around the hill.

“Can you trust her, Corbin?” Fane hissed under his breath.

“I trusted her parents until they genetically mutated their adopted children, but that doesn’t matter, does it?” Corbin glanced at the man.  “Your prince will be safe, probably,” Corbin reassured as he dashed out to the middle of the firing range. Fane clicked the safety on but remained behind the gun, ever ready.  He muttered a myriad of curses as the scientist crested the top of the range.

“Bern! Bern get over here!” Corbin yelled from behind the hill.  Bern rushed forward to the call. Fane sat quietly, watching the wolves that all stood watching him.  He was being warned off. He counted two robust males and two females. Their size was at least twice that of a normal wolf.  He couldn’t shake the feeling of intelligence in their eyes. Three of the four of them had patches of fur missing, and all had bloody muzzles.  One had a freshly torn ear.

Bern and Corbin had disappeared behind the ridge for the better part of a minute before Fane’s anxiety bit into his neck.  The wolves refused to move. “Corbin!” Fane shouted for the man. Corbin popped his head over the ridge. 

“Get up here! Bring Sophia!” Corbin yelled back before disappearing over the ridge. Fane glanced to the woman. The woman shrugged, not really sure what was going on.  She got up from her terminals, locking the screens. Fane, wary of the wolves, stood up, flicking the safety off. Fane put Ishan to his back and a step to the side so that he could pull him in front of him in case the wolves tried to pounce them.  Ishan rested a hand at his lower back, reassuring.

They proceeded up the range hill to crest it and look out on the back end of the stagnant reservoir.  On the other side of it sat the girl with Corbin and Bern. Bern held what looked to be a massive white wolf in his lap.  A golden-colored wolf paced around Bern, rubbing against his back now and again. Fane glanced behind him. The four wolves had followed them up, netting them.

“He killed him, Corbin!” The girl was crying.  She was wrapped up in Corbin’s suit jacket, her legs and face bare and muddy.

“He’s not dead yet, lass.” Bern prodded along the wolf’s body.  He motioned Sophia over when she made it to the top of the hill.

“What’s wrong?” Sophia bent over the beast.

“Poor thing got the stuffing beat out of him,” Corbin supplied.

“Michael’s coming after him?” Corbin asked the black-haired woman.

“No, Cashia, Yeller took care of him,” Hana hiccuped.

“Yeller?” Sophia asked.  Hana pointed to the golden wolf.  The wolf continued its harried pacing, its tongue lolling out as it panted with stress.  Fane approached the group, aware of the press of the wolves at his back. He moved Ishan in next to him.

“The wolf going to be okay?” Ishan asked, leaning over to run a hand over its fur.

“I smelled Bai.  We hoped we could seek help,” the gold wolf spoke with an overwhelmingly thick accent of the Eastern European Block.  

Fane had to keep from jumping out of his skin.  By the other’s reactions, he was not the only one. “So that wasn’t you throwing a wrench in my brain, right?” Fane whispered to Ishan.  

Ishan had a puzzled look on his face.  “A wolf talked, right?” returned Ishan.

“I want to be over today.  I can’t do it anymore,” another one perked up; this one had a more feminine voice.  Fane looked around the group of wolves. Their tension was dissolving as they sank to the ground in exhaustion. Fane swallowed, pressing up against Ishan.  He wasn’t sure at that moment if he was being protective or protected.

“Can you lift him, Bern?” Corbin asked.  Bern bit his lip. “We need to move him in and get him washed, but I…I don’t want to hurt -” He looked up as large hands wrapped around the white wolf and gingerly lifted it out of his lap.  Fane brought up his gun, directing it at a naked young man who had appeared out of nowhere. He was built similarly to Bern, wide at the shoulders, narrow at the hips. A wheat-blonde shag fell around his jaws.  “I’ll move him; show me where.” The man’s soft western drawl was thick and rough. He was hiding tears.

“Who the bloody hell are you?” Corbin squeaked, pulling Hana away quickly.

“Yeller.” The blond started toward the firing range.  Fane dropped his gun, flipping the safety. Surely he was hallucinating, and now was not the time to be in charge of dangerous weapons.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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