Gate Jumpers Saga: Chapter Four


Kanthi smelled her just before he saw her. It was like there was an explosion of comforting scents in the darkness, a gust of breezy summers, sun-kissed fruit, and dirt soaked fresh from a light rain. Kanthi almost didn’t realize that he was getting those happy mental images because of what he was smelling – one moment, he was devising a strategy to break out, and the next, it was like he had been physically filled with hope and optimism, a kind that he hadn’t felt since he was a teenager and his people had finally been free of the Thagzars.

Before they had any knowledge of the toxin that would one day spoil their freedom.

When he found himself breathing deeper, loathed to exhale, he understood that it was his sense of smell, and that it could only be coming from the woman that the two reptilians had just shoved into the cage across from his.

Unlike himself, who was sitting in a silver cage pushed up against a corner of shadows, they had locked her in an antique, a bronze trap of bars strategically placed directly under a light. He could only figure that she was special to them, and that they wanted to keep an easier eye on her more than most.

As Kanthi inhaled another breath, he stared at her, watching her glare at the snakes as they jeered at her from beyond her cage.

“Such a pretty little Eiztar,” one of them hissed.

“A healthy slave,” the other agreed. “And no infection. She’ll make a delicious breeder, when we retake our planets.”

They left to walk further down the hall, their hisses echoing in the quiet. Kanthi, usually eager to be the first to bash in a snake’s head and silence them forever, found himself leaning after them, eager to hear more. What did they mean, no infection? Was this woman immune to the toxin?

He looked at her, leaning against his cage in the comfort of her scent. She shined in the fluorescent light, her olive skin giving off a beautiful sheen against the surrounding darkness. She was tall, for a woman similar to Kanthi’s race, with intelligent hazel eyes that searched the shadows. After a moment, she took to the ground, bending her knees to sit flat and closed her eyes. Strands of her long brown hair fell past her ears, though the rest stayed up, pulled in a high ponytail that kept her vision clear.

If Kanthi had to bet, he’d say that she was some sort of warrior.

He leaned forward, looping his arms outside of his own prison bars and considered talking to her. Perhaps she was even from his own planet, though her appearance was unusual for the women of Eiztar. But then, he hadn’t been home in years. Not since his voyage had begun to find the toxin and bring it home to craft an antidote.

Shuffling feet snapped Kanthi out of his stupor, and he jumped back against the far wall of his cage. He was in Thagzar territory – he needed to be on his guard.

“Well, well!”

Kanthi could tell it was a snake just from the hissing of its voice, but the light above the woman’s cage cut through the shadows to properly reveal it. It was a giant flat-face, jogging down the hallway with narrowed eyes on the woman. He went right past Kanthi’s cell to stop in front of the woman’s, his muscles shaking from the obvious run he’d just put himself through to get there. Kanthi raised an eyebrow as the reptilian clutched a deep plate and a filled glass in his hands.

So. He’d brought trouble in the guise of food.

Juggling the items, the alien pulled a black metallic square off of his belt, hitting a button on it that caused the door on the woman’s cage to pop open. Kanthi narrowed his eyes, already thinking of how to acquire it.

“Food,” the man hissed his offering, stepping into her cage as he did so. The woman didn’t move from the floor, but merely looked up at the intruder. A smart move, as it made her seem less threatening. “Take it,” he ordered, thrusting the plate and cup in her face. Eyes wide, the woman hesitantly accepted them.

“Good girl,” the man hissed, smiling down at her cruelly. Kanthi watched the Thagzar chuckle, a sudden anxiety in his gut. He’d been in his cage for hours before the woman had shown up, and he had yet to receive any nourishment. No, this scum meant harm.

The woman set the plate in her lap without glancing at it, but she eyed the cup, sniffing it carefully before taking a sip.

“You’re an Eiztar, aren’t you? Bet you’ll be real fun to play with,” he chuckled, reaching out a hand to touch her hair.

The woman dodged his fingers, and by the sudden stiffness of her shoulders, Kanthi wondered just how much Thagzar she really understood.

She growled in response, her own language a song punctuated with clicks and hisses. Kanthi didn’t understand a word of it, but her tone reminded him of rushing water flooding through a pebbled bed. Like the creek he used to play in, back before—

Kanthi mentally shook himself, trying to stay focused on the situation at hand. The Thagzar was full on smirking at her now, growing excited by her show of defiance.

“Oh? You sound against it. Yet I highly doubt—” as he reached for her again, the woman leapt to her feet, slapping his hand away as she moved. The snake only laughed, mocking her as he hissed, “You won’t have a choice anyway, my pretty little Eiztar.”

Kanthi felt his heart sink as the woman’s back hit the wall, and she stared at the cup in her hands. She must’ve loosened her grip, because it slipped from her fingers to shatter on the ground near her feet. Kanthi could see the clear liquid that splashed there – it looked like water. She said something then, her tone questioning as she panted slightly. She put a hand to her head, and Kanthi wondered if she had a fever.

She closed her eyes for a moment, and Kanthi moved to the front of his cage again, pressing his face against the bars. The Thagzar just watched her, perfectly content to see the horror and fear written across her face. When she opened her eyes again, Kanthi felt his heart stop as she stared straight at him and yelled.

She was calling to him. Kanthi cursed, retreating back into his cage, but the woman persisted, moving to the edge of her own prison. She yelled, her tone growing more and more desperate with every word.

The reptilian scum only chuckled at the scene she was making. “He can’t help you,” he hissed. “He’s the same as you, an Eiztar locked up for good. But if you follow my lead, then maybe you won’t end up the same as him. Maybe you can be spared.”

Kanthi tried to control his temper, doing his best to cling to every word the Thagzar spoke. He certainly liked to talk a lot, more than he’d ever really heard a snake speak, really, but perhaps he was just trying to impress the woman. Not to mention, why should he care what he said in front of a prisoner? Especially one sentenced to death, by the sound of it.

The woman was shaking now, her stress and fear cutting through her original scent of an Eiztar summer to emit a smell of gunpowder and the after burn of a laser – the smells of war. It was driving Kanthi crazy with bloodlust, starting with the fucker laughing at the woman in her cell.

“You can be mine, if you’d like. I could use an Eiztar – need something to keep me entertained,” the Thagzar continued, oblivious.

The woman was still yelling, completely ignoring her attacker as she kept her eyes on Kanthi. She was shaking, with fear or rage Kanthi couldn’t be sure, but her plea for his help couldn’t be misunderstood.

It was irrational, Kanthi thought to himself, to call on the help of someone in an equally pathetic situation as your own. The woman clearly wasn’t thinking straight, but then, neither was he – not with the way he was pushing and shoving at his own cage, desperate to get out and help her.

The realization made him pause, his mind reeling.

Could his body be initiating a bond?

“I can see that you need some time to consider my proposal,” the flat-face smirked, moving to the exit but never turning his back on the woman. “I’ll be back with another drink,” he said, glancing at the broken cup on the floor. “Think quickly, will you?”

He locked her cage with the same device that he had used to open it, and the sight of it calmed Kanthi down, making him refocus. He knew he needed to get that remote, preferably before something happened to the woman.

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