Craved: Chapter One

 

Chapter One: Geir

“Quit fucking around, Xander.”

I knew he could hear me. We all have exceptionally good hearing.

But instead, Xander let the scrawny man with bad teeth keep throwing punches, not bothering to dodge.

Lorcan and I looked at each other and shrugged. No reason to step in.

In the two weeks since we’d been helping Granny Z clean up the mess that infested Orem Station under her grandson’s reign, we’d all had a chance of getting into a scuffle, blow off a little steam. Xander had a little more edge to burn off than usual, that’s all.

A number of trafficking rings had sprung up in the shadow of the Hunters’ activities. If you have one nightmare stealing women and children away in the dead of night, you don’t go looking for another.

“Bastards!” A bearded man who’d obviously been taking too much of his own product charged at me, wildly swinging a knife.

I waited, letting him come within range, then knocked him into the tangle of pipes that ran along each side of the twisted corridor.

He went down, stayed down so we moved on, stepping around the intersection where Xander toyed with his prey.

Further down the passage to the right, a clumsy mechanical lock held a thick door shut, but I tore it off the hinges, Lorcan spinning low and to the left while I swept up to the right.

The stench of unwashed bodies mixed with terror told me what we’d find before I saw them cowering in the corner.

Eight women, eyes vacant and tinged blue.

I scanned the room for threats then stepped back. Lorcan could deal with it.

Criminals pissed me off. I knew what to do about them. But the swath of destruction left in their wake, the addicts and the wounded baffled me. Not my skill set.

I pushed further into the gang’s nest, rooms and tunnels carved out from the hidden spaces between the decks.

Regular troops would be coming behind us, cleaning up what we left. But it’s always been my job to press forward, scout, and assess the threats that lay ahead.

While the entire Pack waited for enough data to strike, impatience prickling our skin, these skirmishes would be the best relief we were going to get.

There were no lights in this section other than a few pale flickering balls crudely wired into the station’s power lines. The faintly burning smell made me wonder how long it would be until the entire level burned.

A soft scraping sound, metal on metal, it was almost so minor that I could’ve written it off in the normal pops and hisses of the station’s engineering section.

But it wasn’t.

Cautiously, I eased my body between the rows of pipes to my left and eased back the false panel concealing the hidden room. More of a closet really, a last refuge for when everything’s hit the fan.

A dark-haired man, shoulders broad, muscle starting to run to fat glared at me. He wasn’t particularly interesting, but the knife he held to the dark-haired woman’s throat was.

This one wasn’t fogged by drugs. Her breaths came short and sharp with terror, her eyes clear, beseeching.

“Tell that bitch I want a shuttle off the station or this girl and the others die.” His lips pulled back from his teeth in a sad emulation of a snarl. From his clothes and weight, he was probably the leader of this particular band of scum. Thought I’d care.

Thought wrong.

It wasn’t worth answering. I waited for him to crack until a hiss in my ear told me his time was up.

“Lorcan, Xander, Gier.” Ronan snapped. “Nixie has info for us. Finish what you’re doing and get back. All hands briefing in an hour.”

Damn.

“Fucking animals, that’s all you are.” Flecks of spit flew from his mouth and his hand trembled.

“Says the man living in a hole in a maintenance shaft,” I tossed back.

His fingers twitched. There.

A twist of my hand released my own blade from the wrist sheath, and with a flick it soared across the room, piercing the asshole’s eye, knocking him away from the hostage.

The sound of the regular troops echoed down the shaft, and I backed away, leaving the woman for them to care for.

Muttering, I rounded up Xander and Lorcan and we headed out. Maybe, if I was lucky, we’d run into another group of dregs on the way, be late.

Because honestly, I’d rather be hunting down psychopaths then sitting through a briefing. Even if it did bring us one step closer to the truth.

***

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