The Luxorian Fugitive

by J. Alan Veerkamp

$6.49

Trying to escape his tortured past, Sergeant Liam Jacks travels aboard the transport vessel, the Santa Claus, as the security chief alongside his best friend and captain, Marc Danverse. Having survived the Civil War, they shuttle amongst the Proxima Centauri planetary cluster, trying to find some modicum of peace. Something of which Liam is in short supply.

During a stopover on the planet Luxoria, they take on a mysterious passenger. Hadrian Jamison’s history is questionable and his effect on Liam is undeniable. The more they learn, the more questions they have. As they are drawn together, Hadrian’s presence threatens to disrupt the quiet.

When Hadrian’s past catches up to claim him, the ensuing conflict is more than any of them expected.

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The Luxorian Fugitive

Book Info

Author: J. Alan Veerkamp

Series: Centauri Survivors Second Chance Chronicles

Release Date: March 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948608-25-1

Format: ePub, Mobi

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Category: Romance

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Word Count: 76500

Pages: 210

Sex Content: Explicit

Pairing: MM

Orientation: Gay

Identity: Cisgender

Warning: Graphic Violence

Excerpt

The Luxorian Fugitive
J. Alan Veerkamp © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Have you found him yet?”

“We’re looking…”

“Hurry! We don’t have much time!”

“Scanner picked up the target in the crowd.”

“I have him in my sights.”

“Sergeant, terminate with extreme prejudice!”

“I…I can’t. You can’t ask me…”

“Take the shot! That’s an order!”

“Captain, you can’t be serious.”

“Pull the trigger, damn it, or we all die!”

“Oh God, forgive me…”

Cold sweat rolled off Liam’s body as he sat upright in bed, sheets tangled around his legs. His deafening pulse drowned out the soft whir of the environmental systems and the mechanical hum of the ship’s movement. There was a hollow quality to the titanium hull of his private quarters that seemed to amplify the resonance of the dream.

“Pull it together, Marine. You’re not a child.” The horror refused to recede even now that he was awake.

Liam looked around his room as his reality began to settle. The windowless space was nearly pitch-black; the only illumination came from the data screen on the wall, its soft cyber-green time code proof that he was not lost in the abyss. Yes, he was aboard the cargo vessel the Santa Claus. Yes, they were en route to Luxoria from Alpha Centauri Prime for a supply delivery and pickup. Yes, he was the security chief of the thirty or so men employed on the ship. Yes, the dream was of a harsh memory, but still just a dream.

“Mrs. Claus. Status report please.” Liam spoke in quiet, shaken tones while threading his unsteady hands through his hair. A synthetic voice, sounding like a middle-aged woman, hummed back in response.

“It is zero three seventeen, Sergeant Jacks. We will be docking at Luxoria Spaceport Alpha at approximately eleven fifteen. System sync to the Luxorian environment is in progress and will be complete in two hours and twenty-five minutes. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No.” His reply was brusque, but Mrs. Claus’s feelings couldn’t be hurt; she was artificial, after all. Normally, Liam found Captain Danverse’s penchant for ancient Earth history—including the ship’s name and the computer’s voice identity—endearing. Marc was his best friend, after all. But that night, there was no comfort in it.

Even without the nightmares, it was hard to sleep well when forced to acclimate to a new planet’s environment and timeline every time you came into port. The ship’s systems were designed to gradually shift the sleep cycles of everyone on board to match up to the active hours for each destination. Add the dreams into the equation, and his rest was as fractured as his self-esteem.

“Lights. Low.” Twin light panels on opposite sides of the small room began to glow. The undecorated metal walls were nothing more than panels hiding the storage spaces within. The large bed looked out of place in the three-by-four-meter space but at his size was required for any chance of a comfortable night’s sleep. Not that he’d seen many of those in a long time. A lone desk sat in the corner with a basic chair on wheels covered in dirty clothes. Several recessed shelves held stacks of paperwork, but the entire room was devoid of anything personal.

Liam peeled himself from the dampened sheets, the fabric refusing to release due to the tackiness of his salty skin. He knew he couldn’t sleep anymore, even if the bed weren’t already cooling and saturated. The ship ran warm, but he couldn’t suppress a slight shiver as the air hit his bare body. Even the dense pelt of hair that covered his chest, arms, and legs provided little warmth at the moment. He slid into a pair of cargo shorts and sleeveless shirt that were piled in the corner, too shaken to care if they were clean enough to wear. A pair of thick-soled sandals waited for him in front of the room’s exit. Out of habit, he picked up his communicator from the random pile on the desk and put it in his ear.

He placed his hand on the plexiglass palm reader embedded in the hull and the door slid open with a loud hiss. From the outside, he slapped the matching panel to close the door and trudged out into the hallway.

His footsteps gave a soft metal echo as he wandered in no particular direction through the dimly lit tunnel. This was no luxury liner; a subtle vibration could be felt at all times from the tech and mechanicals hidden behind the scuffed and weathered walls. The Santa Claus was sturdy, but not designed for creature comforts. Captain Danverse had purchased the decommissioned cargo ship nearly a decade ago and offered Liam a job when the pair had left the military following the Centauri Prime civil war.

Intelligently, Danverse had populated the Santa Claus with a crew of men who could stand the long distance between stops and appreciate the company of their fellow men. Ports were few and far between, and it was a small world to live in for an extended span.

The planetary cluster of Alpha Centauri’s binary star hosted an unparalleled fifteen or more planets that were capable of sustaining life, but travel between them could take weeks or months, depending on the quality of the ship engines. Faster-than-light capability was restricted to military-class vehicles. Subspace Link kept the information systems of every planet connected, and a space station-sized hub kept the entire cluster in range and part of a vast system of cultures and technologies. The current run to Luxoria had taken weeks, and they would only be docked for one twenty-four-hour cycle to load and refuel before making a return trip to Centauri Prime.

Danverse had chosen this way of life because, after the civil war, he had lost interest in planetary life, with its conflicting politics and the reminders of all the wasted lives. Liam had similar incentives to live off planet, bearing the invisible scars of a wartime job well done. He lived on the transport ship in an attempt to bury the memories, but the dreams always returned to reignite the guilt in his breast.

And he was remembering it oh so acutely at this late hour.

Liam knew the blueprint of the Santa Claus like it was imprinted in his brain, but that night, he wandered without recognizing what deck he was on or what passageway he was in. A strange sadness filled him, weighing him down as the confusion thickened. He knew he had ridden a lift and walked down several corridors, but he was damned if he was aware of where he was as he rounded a corner.

“Boss? You look like shit.” Mac knelt in front of an open access panel, various tools around his feet and hanging from his utility belt.

“Mac? What are you doing up?” Liam straightened to hide his fragile frame of mind. Even now, his military training was too ingrained to stop maintaining the illusion of rank.

Mac was a rugged, dark-haired man with a sturdy body under the dirty coveralls he wore as the ship’s head tech mechanic. Short and thick, with rounded muscles, Mac was smaller and less defined than Liam, but no less powerful. Dark hair covered his forearms and could be seen on his chest through where his zipper lay open. His youthful complexion was stained with machine oil and other occupational hazards—and too many hours on the job. Mac was the youngest man on the crew but made up for it in his diligence to his profession.

“Look who’s talking. I’m giving the systems a few checkups and prepping the environments on Beta deck. We’re going to have a couple guests taking the cruise.”

“Why don’t you let Mrs. Claus run the diagnostics and environmental presets and get some sleep?”

“First, I didn’t get this good by letting the tech take care of itself. Second, I don’t live on this boat because I trust anything to do my job, boss. That’s kind of the same thing, but that’s beside the point. Synthetic or not, if she strokes out on us, I’ll be the one who gets blamed when we all start screaming ‘Oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die.’”

Usually Mac’s crass sense of humor was infectious, but Liam was having difficulty holding himself together. A tremor was building, making it hard to stand still. Mac’s brow flattened, and his scrutiny only made Liam’s nerves worse. He could imagine the calculations going on in the tech’s mind; he couldn’t hide how disturbed he was. Mac couldn’t know the cause, but he had to see the damage as Liam’s facade started to erode.

“You okay, boss?” Mac’s genuine concern was clear. Still, Liam was not about to share his past.

“I’m fine.” He shifted his feet as he searched for a polite excuse to step away. The rising awkwardness only amplified his tension and made him pause when the ideas wouldn’t form.

“The gym’s always open. I bet no one else is up.” Mac picked up a small tool and began making adjustments to the open logic boards.

“Thanks, Mac. That’s not a bad idea.” Liam was relieved Mac let the matter drop. “Don’t take too long with that. We need you during the docking.”

“Don’t worry. I’m almost done. Besides, I only sleep about four hours a cycle anyway. My brain rarely shuts down enough. Too much nervous energy, I guess.”

“Sounds like you could use a workout, too.”

“How do you think I get the four hours in the first place?” Mac nodded down the hall. “Go on, boss. I have to get this finished, and you’re distracting me.”

Liam called out over his shoulder as he turned away. “All right. I’ll see you before we get to port. You do good work, Mac.”

“Go away, boss.”

It took a few moments for Liam to process his location and head toward the gym, a large section of Beta deck housing a sizable exercise room, connected with lockers, lavatories, and an open shower room for the entire crew and possible passengers. Since the Santa Claus was a former military vessel, most quarters did not contain private baths. The communal bathroom for thirty men was maintained in a near-pristine condition. Mac was obsessed with the sanitary and recycling systems working at optimal efficiency.

Liam stepped off the lift and rounded the corner, stopping in front of Captain Danverse’s quarters. Still haunted and fidgeting, he stared at the plaque engraved on the door. He knew he should go to the gym.

Fists tight, he resisted the urge to ring the door com. He should not be there. Not like this. It wasn’t fair to everyone concerned. He spun away, took one step, and stopped.

“Mrs. Claus, is Captain Danverse in his quarters?” He rubbed his weary brow with an unsteady hand.

“Yes, Sergeant. The captain’s status is marked as In and Do Not Disturb. Would you like me to contact him?”

“No, Mrs. Claus.”

He stood unmoving for countless minutes, admonishing himself over and over. The dream had left him so anxious he could feel his skin crawling. Muscles twitched in uncomfortable patterns as he barely held himself still. In the end, desperation and need won out.

Hands shaking, he turned and pressed the door chime. With his gaze to the floor, he waited the endless seconds for the door to be answered, his guilty conscience overwhelming his senses.

 

Captain Danverse awoke with a start. The last three cycles had been long, with little sleep, so he had marked himself out to get some rest before they landed on Luxoria. A chime rang in the room, making him growl. Someone was at his door. Can no one here read? He took a quick look at the clock. Son of a bitch!

Throwing back the light covering, he stepped out of the bed, wearing a pair of lightweight sleeping shorts. He only wore them when he was alone in bed, and lately that happened more often than he’d care to admit. Just another thing to be annoyed at tonight. After commanding the lights on low, he stalked to the door and struck the control panel with a closed fist.

“Who the fuck doesn’t know what Do Not Disturb means? This place better fucking be on fire.” Whatever fool was idiot enough to wake him was in serious trouble. The heavy door shifted open. Even clad in his shorts, he knew he exuded authority. Upon recognizing his security chief, Danverse threw out his chest and stretched up tall. The dominance display was so practiced he barely realized he’d done it.

“Liam? What’s going on? Do you know what time it is?”

Liam began to stammer. “I…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be here.”

Hearing the fracture in Liam’s voice and seeing the tremor in his stance, Danverse tamped down his intensity, his tone becoming one of quiet concern. “Are you all right, Liam?”

“I shouldn’t be here. It’s not fair. I just don’t know how to handle it, sir.” Liam’s hazel eyes were shining, rimmed in red, and he refused to look at Danverse. The sergeant’s breathing hitched, the ragged swell of his chest giving away the emotion about to crest over his defenses. Danverse knew what Liam was asking for.

Don’t do it. It wasn’t the first time Liam had come to his door. No matter how bad the idea was, his inner animal screamed to be let loose even as he tried to tell himself to send Liam away. But the hedonistic need wouldn’t stop its relentless pleading. So he gave in to it.

Standing up tall, he summoned an air of command.

“Get inside, boy.” Danverse placed a strong hand on the back of Liam’s neck. “I know what you need.”

A subtle pressure led Liam inside as Danverse reached out with his other hand and tapped the panel to slide the door closed. Liam made no effort to resist as Danverse held him in place, his authority well established.

“Mrs. Claus, captain’s privilege. Privacy mode on.”

“Yes, Captain. Door lock established. Soundproofing field on. Subspace Link firewall on. Surveillance scrambling field on.” Mrs. Claus listed the security protocols as they were established. No one could see or hear anything that took place within the room’s confines now.

The captain’s quarters were the largest on the ship and included a private bathroom and living space. The general architecture was identical throughout the ship, but Danverse made a point to make a home out of his room. A vidscreen lined the wall under a small seating area with a fabric-upholstered chair and matching settee. Artwork from his private collection decorated the space, immaculate and ordered the way he liked it. The light panels were already on low as Danverse looked at his charge and uttered a simple command.

“Strip.”

With his head down, Liam removed his few effects, folding each, and leaving them with his communicator in a careful pile near the door. Once his immense form stood naked and vulnerable before the captain, his breathing began to center itself. Danverse looked over the powerful man, admiring the swells of furred muscle and gruff good looks that made him popular with the crew. The sergeant’s sleeping cock lay nestled in a thatch of hair between a pair of chiseled thighs. Everything about the man was impressive. With Liam perfectly posed with downcast eyes and hands behind him, Danverse welcomed the surge filling his cock.

“Stay.”

Danverse walked over to one of the storage panels on the wall by the sleeping area and tapped a combination code on its keypad to open it. Reaching inside, he pulled out a series of leather straps and lengths of heavy metal chain. Liam didn’t even raise his head as Danverse buckled the thick collar around his neck. The collar bit into his skin; Liam’s eyes fluttered closed and a soft gasp escaped his lips.

Danverse spoke softly. “There are so many tech devices that can do the same thing, but I think the more archaic designs have a certain atmosphere.” He fastened additional straps with sturdy, built-in rings around both of Liam’s wrists. “The concept’s ancient, but the leather’s new. I had them made on our last run to Datham. They really outdid themselves.”

Danverse clipped the chains from each wrist to rings mounted into either side of the collar before adding additional lengths extending from the manacles like dual leashes. Carefully, he stepped up onto the chair from the seating area and removed a painting from the wall above it, revealing a large metal hook welded into the hull.

“Come.”

Pulling on the length of chain, he led the supplicant Liam to the wall. He stroked Liam’s high-and-tight auburn hair and around the back of his neck before raising the chain over his head and fastening it to the hook. Liam’s muscles stretched taut as he dangled, supporting his weight on the balls of his feet, arms raised like some obscene piece of art for Danverse’s amusement. Once Danverse was satisfied that Liam was secure, he moved the chair well out of the way.

“You have no idea what the sight of you like this does to me.” His words came out in a growl. “If the crew wouldn’t miss you so much, I’d consider leaving you like this for several cycles.” He roamed his hands over Liam’s chiseled flanks and buttocks, causing Danverse’s arousal to grow, his cock starting to leak. Without warning, he grasped a handful of auburn hair and pulled Liam’s head into an awkward angle as he hissed in his ear.

“But we’re not here for pleasure, are we, boy?” Danverse put as much menace into his voice as possible; Liam shivered in spite of the room’s warmth.

In one practiced movement, Danverse’s sleeping shorts landed on the other side of the room. Leading with his erection, he walked to the open storage, reached inside, and produced a coiled length of tightly braided leather.

“You’re here over the blood you’ve spilled. Nothing will ever make that right.” Danverse snarled as he allowed the braid to unwrap down to the floor, keeping only the thick black handle for himself. He stood surveying his prey, muscles going taut as he prepared to strike, his controlled breaths deepening in heat.

Liam yelped as the sudden hiss and crack left a deep red welt across his back. Two more searing strikes of the whip brought suppressed screams from his tight lips as he hung from the chains around his wrists and neck.

“The dead can’t speak for themselves, but I know what you’ve done.”

Another hard strike tore a forced cry from Liam. Sweat had already broken out in a thick sheen over his flesh, highlighting his glorious muscles. His strained shoulders pulsed with the series of quick, tight breaths he used to control himself between strikes. Danverse paused.

“If you need to cry out, go ahead. No one can hear you.”

The next stroke was hard, and Danverse gave thanks for the privacy field to contain Liam’s scream. Liam began to shake as lines of blood mixed with his sweat. Two more strikes punished his legs and buttocks. Danverse could hear Liam trying to restrain the emotions that were clawing their way out. This was nothing new. He’d seen it all before.

“I know what you need, boy.”

Hiss. Crack. Scream.

“You need to let it out.”

Hiss. Crack. Scream.

“You need to let it go.”

Hiss. Crack. Scream.

Liam struggled to stay balanced. Unable to place his feet firmly on the floor, he swayed limply from the chains. A shudder ran through his tortured anatomy as the dominant touch of Danverse’s hand stroked his head and neck and found its way into the sweat-soaked hair of his chest. Danverse cupped Liam’s hardened nipple in his palm, rubbing in slow, tight circles.

Danverse spoke firmly to be heard over Liam’s heaving breaths. “You can’t change the past. We all did things we regret during the war. You need to release it.” He moved his hand down the solid stomach and found Liam’s swollen sex. “In more ways than one.” Danverse gave a brutal grip to the steel-hard column, causing Liam to gasp and try to hide his face behind his suspended arm.

“I know you need this, boy.” He released Liam and took several steps back. “You’re here to be punished. I’m going to hurt you. I’m going to hurt you so you can’t think of what you’ve done. There is no safeword. I’m sorry it has to be this way, but an exorcism is never painless.”

Those were the last words spoken before the leather weapon truly came alive.

Danverse lost track of how many times the bullwhip blistered lines in Liam’s flesh. It made Liam wail, bleeding and sobbing into the soundproofed room. Danverse struck the giant marionette like a sadistic artist possessed, his own hard member leaking glistening streams down its full length and heavy sac. He watched his charge closely as Liam teetered on the brink, his cries shifting into tortured moans. It was all about waiting for the right moment. It needed to happen soon; his own control was beginning to fray. Liam was almost there. With one last strike, Danverse saw the shift in Liam’s countenance; the way his buttocks and hips flexed forward, the final precipice.

He dropped the whip and strode up to Liam, spitting into his palm and wetting his own flesh. Wrapping his brawny arms around Liam’s head and chest, he thrust his slickened cock inside Liam, burying himself to the base in a single stroke.

A new kind of gasp escaped Liam as Danverse claimed him; Liam’s passage spasmed at the intrusion and the quaking pressure on his rigid organ nearly brought the captain over the edge, but he held back. As satisfying as the sensation was, his own pleasure came second. Liam was here for a reason. Danverse understood that under the sobs and shame, Liam had a need to be broken. Pulling most of the way out before thrusting forward, he aimed his cock for maximum effect. No stranger to Liam’s body, he knew Liam was near the end.

Still crying and grunting like an animal, Liam found the strength to push back into each thrust. Every time, his volume and movements grew more and more out of control. So Danverse pounded him even harder.

Liam shattered. His orgasm tore free to the sound of exhausted, harried cries. Pearlescent streaks painted the wall high enough that Danverse could see the dripping lines even with Liam’s bulk obstructing his view. He continued his merciless rhythm for almost a minute until Liam’s plateau began to fall and Danverse allowed himself to roar, filling Liam’s channel with his own release, his arms tightening on Liam in surges with his own spasms.

As soon as he regained control of his body, Danverse carefully extracted himself. Holding Liam firmly with one arm, he unbuckled the straps around his wrists and neck. Long, thick rivulets of semen dripped down Liam’s thighs, his muscles incapable of stemming the flow. Liam’s head fell back on Danverse’s shoulder and his arms sagged to his sides; he was barely holding up his own weight. His heaving sobs had faded into exhausted whimpers.

“That’s a good boy.” Danverse placed soft kisses along Liam’s temple and stroked his chest. With a practiced hand, he turned Liam, who proceeded to curl forward and bury his ragged face into his superior’s neck and shoulder. The captain’s warm arms provided firm support as he sought to soothe Liam’s heaving breaths.

Shifting his weight, Danverse led Liam into his private lavatory, keeping his arms around his broken charge. Over the sink, he slid the mirrored panel open, and pulled his personal medkit out onto the counter. He opened the case with one hand and drew out a small, worn metal oblong with a few protruding buttons that fit into the palm of his hand.

With careful steps, Danverse maneuvered the two of them into the shower stall. He pulled Liam close, ignoring the blood and sweat still seeping down his back, as he kissed the side of his head once again.

“Shower on. Soft. Thirty-seven degrees Celsius.” A cascade of water washed over the pair. Danverse turned Liam around so he had access to his wounded back. He pressed a button on the device he carried, and an amber glow warmed the end.

He ran the device over the welts and lesions one by one, watching the marks fade and the flesh knit together. Under close observation, faint lines showed the remnants of earlier sessions to a knowing eye. The gentle shower washed away the blood as each wound was repaired. When the water ran clear, he turned off the device and traded it for the soap, carefully lathering Liam. With silent tenderness, Danverse washed the salt from every square centimeter of his friend’s skin. Liam made no more than soft whimpers as he floated in blissful half awareness, the only time he found true peace.

Once the shower was complete, Danverse dried them both with a blue square of hyperabsorbent fabric and led them back into the main room.

“Water. Cool.” The drink dispensed, and then he placed the glass to Liam’s lips. “Drink. You need this. Slowly.” Once Liam had his fill, Danverse finished the glass and dropped it into the washer/recycler. Then he led Liam to the bed, the covers still pulled back from earlier.

“Get in. I’ll wake you when we’re close to docking.”

Liam climbed into the large bed, facing the wall, with Danverse following him. He wrapped his strong arms around Liam, caressing the furred abdomen while pressing his chest into Liam’s back to comfort him. Danverse commanded the lights off and plunged the room into darkness as he relaxed.

He waited long minutes, taking in the sergeant’s scent as his breathing leveled and Liam fell into a deep sleep. Once he was convinced Liam wouldn’t awaken, he softly kissed the back of his head.

Whispering into the quiet of the still-soundproofed room, Danverse ran a hand through his hair as he settled into his pillow. “Damn it, Liam. Why do we keep doing this to each other?”

 

Rushed footsteps thundered in the still night air. Stopping for a moment on the walkway, he looked back at the sumptuous house he was leaving, excited and anxious. As he hesitated, he took in the texture of his hooded cloak with his fingers like a security blanket.

The hooded man’s gaze circled as if this was his first real chance to view his surroundings. A palatial mansion of metal and stone loomed in one direction and a massive, elaborate gate ended the walkway in the other. Rows of decorative trees manicured into perfect shapes lined the grounds as far as he could see.

Nervous, he turned first one way and then the other. With a resolute breath, he clutched the bag over his shoulder and strode for the exit. There wasn’t much time. With a tentative hand, he touched the gate and it sprang open. The electronic locks had been disengaged.

Stepping out, he surveyed the quiet street. The black vehicle he had been escorted in was no longer here. Only a dirty yellow transport sat along the curb with its lights on and engine running. Sturdy but unkempt, the vehicle looked out of place amongst the affluence of this neighborhood. He understood the feeling. It was perfect.

The window slid open, and the driver stuck his head out. He was older, common and working class, but that was unimportant to the hooded man right then.

“Are you my fare to the spaceport?” The driver’s voice had all the grace of road gravel.

The hooded man couldn’t stop looking around warily. “Yes.”

“Well, get in, already.” The passenger door levered open. “I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes. If this wasn’t paid for up front, I’d be gone by now.”

The hooded man quickly climbed in. The seats were made from cheap fabric and well weathered. Odd smells came to his nose, and he was thankful this was a one-way trip. With a soft shudder, the transport lifted from the ground and glided down the road.

“You going anywhere special?” the driver asked.

“Please, just drive.”

As a passenger without an escort for the first time in years, he couldn’t help rubbing his hands together with a nervous twitch, unable to calm himself. Scenery flashing by the speeding vehicle sought to entrance him but only succeeded in making him more agitated. Everything around him was alien; he had no concept of where he was. That was nothing new, though. How many times had he ridden in darkened vehicles, unaware of the path he was taking?

He caught sight of the driver in the mirror and noticed the man trying to get a look at his hidden face. He pulled on the edge of the hood to conceal himself better.

“I would appreciate it if you watch where you are driving.” He hadn’t raised his voice, but it was full of warning. It surprised him how easy it was—he was unaccustomed to asserting himself in public. Reluctantly, the driver focused forward, grumbling under his breath.

He hoped the driver couldn’t see his hands. In his discomfort, he couldn’t hold them still. Splaying them out wide and then closing them into fists over and over, he couldn’t stop looking at them. Were they stained? Were they covered in blood? In the night, it was impossible to tell. All he knew was that he needed distance from the mansion.

“How long will it take to get to the spaceport?”

“Spaceport Alpha is about an hour away.”

The hooded man nodded in the dark. “Thank you.”

He settled back into the dubious seat and tried to get comfortable. The plan was in motion, and he couldn’t arrive at the spaceport soon enough.

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