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Wanted by the Rakian Warrior: Chapter One

Sasha

“I don’t know if I’m ever going to like this,” Rhela said as she fired the blaster for the third time toward the target at the far end of the terrace.

Sasha shook her head and turned to look at the garden around her, gently illuminated by the fading light of the day.

Rhela was a sweet girl, who definitely had a way with plants. But, as far as Sasha could tell, didn’t have much in the way of common sense.

“I don’t know if any of us like it,” Esme answered as she took Rhela’s place, the bells at the bottom of her vest jingling as she raised a small silver oval to chest level. “I’d rather stick with my knives. But I’ve got to admit, the range of these things is better.”

Her aim was considerably more accurate than the younger woman’s, Sasha noted.

She glanced over at Nettie, who didn’t seem to be paying attention to target practice at all.

Instead, the borrowed blaster had been discarded in favor of an armful of fluffy black and white cat.   

Well, sort-of cat.

“Whether you like it or not, you’re all going to practice until you’re better. There are too many strangers around these days,” Coracle managed to get out between purrs. “From what we’ve heard about what happened to Matilde, we can’t take the chance of someone else from the Empire deciding to grab any of you in order to put pressure on the garrison.”

Sasha half-remembered the cats in her village. She’d always assumed that if they could talk, they’d still remain silent and aloof.

Apparently, that wasn’t the case.  Coracle was always happy to tell anyone around what they were doing wrong.

Except for Nettie.

With her, he seemed content just to stay close.

Right now, he twisted joyously as she scratched a particularly sensitive spot just above his tail.

“I’d like to see them try,” Zuri said. “We’re not exactly defenseless. We have our Gifts.” She gripped her blaster, then aimed it carefully at the target.

Her shots weren’t quite as good as Esme’s, but respectable. “Still, we’ll be ready to fight.”

“We are not just pieces to be captured and used,” Adena said grimly, her black curls braided back tightly. “But for too many people, that’s exactly what they’ll think.”

“I wish I’d had this thing during the flyer infestation at the lake,” Zuri said as she fired again, nearer the center this time. “That would’ve solved a few problems.”

Rhela raised her eyebrows. “But then what would Kennet have done? I think I almost saw him smile this morning. He looked positively happy. Well, happy for him.”

Zuri blushed, and her third shot was nowhere near as accurate.

As she moved away, Sasha took her place, rolling her shoulders a bit to loosen them in the comfortable shirt. She wasn’t sure why the others hadn’t adapted their wardrobes, but she had been thrilled to leave behind the confining skirts and gowns.

“They could try to take me. But I don’t think anyone would like the result.” Raising the blaster with her right hand, she focused on the center of the target.

An image of a man. Not real, just a shape, an illusion created by Ship.

Still, enough to set her memories burning and light a spark in her blood.

Blaster still raised, she released a focused stream of fire with her left hand until the image flickered and disappeared.

Adena shook her head. “You know, it’s really hard to put ash through the recycler and get anything useful back,” she said, laughing. “But seriously, what happens when your Gift is exhausted?”

It wouldn’t come to that. Sasha wouldn’t let it.

Suddenly, Coracle squirmed out of Nettie’s arms.

Nettie’s eyes, one dark blue, the other covered with a golden healing haze, widened in surprise but ,as usual, she didn’t say anything, even as he landed on the spongy turf that covered the terrace built into the side of Ship.

He paced, circling the women, head tilted forward to the right, ears cocked back.  The women moved closer, backs together, wondering. Waiting.

Finally, the cat spoke.

“Someone’s coming. And I don’t think we’re going to like it when he gets here.”

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