A brutal invader. A peaceful world. And one woman born to stand between them.
Ennet shuffled through equipment and parts on one of the shelves and produced a device about half the length of his finger. “You know what this is.”
Kara shook her head.
He fixed a long, inscrutable look on her. “It’s a comm clip. You’re to render it inoperative. Although how you’ll accomplish the task when you don’t even know the purpose of the device I can’t say.”
But I made that skimmer break! she wanted to shout. It didn’t matter what she did. However she succeeded, in his eyes she’d still fail. She took the comm and lifted it as if to fling it to the ground. Ennet caught her wrist, dragged it without effort back to the tabletop.
“I told you long ago,” he said through his teeth. “You will do what I say.” He twisted the comm unit from her fingers.
“I did what you said!”
He still gripped her tightly enough that her hand began to go numb. “You did nothing.”
“Nothing?” The old fury and outrage rose. Kara focused it on the comm, all her sense of injustice. “Is this nothing, too?”
A fizzle, a pop, and a ribbon of bitter blue smoke curled up. The stink of burning polymer suddenly filled the air. He dropped the device on the worktable and released her.
She flexed prickling fingers. White and red prints showed on her skin. She rubbed them and glared at him.
Ennet prodded the device with a tool. The comm’s crystal was cracked and smoky, and it was melted at one end. He carefully set down the tool and stared across the room. She had a feeling he didn’t see whatever he looked at.
“How did you do this?” he finally said.
“I did nothing.” She didn’t know where the perversity came from. Anger still? Or something else?
The lines bracketing his mouth deepened. His eyes, black and cold, pinned her. She didn’t allow herself to take a step back.
“You taunt me,” he said and paused.
She wondered if he were letting the foolishness of that sink in.
“And then the comm burns. This can scarcely be coincidence.”
“Maybe an accident?” she said.
He caught her wrist again, yanked her to him. “How?”
His grip ground her bones together. Kara thought about making a disaster, a small one. Or maybe it might not turn out so small. No, she decided.
“I don’t know.”
She clenched her fist. It was turning a mottled, purplish color. “I—don’t—know! If I knew, do you think I’d be here, having to obey you like some disgusting slavey? If I knew, you’d never have caught me in the first place. You’d never have been able to keep me.”
“You speak a child’s nonsense. A defiant child.”
“I wanted that comm not to work. And now it doesn’t.” She said each word as if speaking to someone deaf—or stupid.
Ennet barked a laugh. She’d never heard him laugh before. It was as cold and hard as everything else about him. “Wishes don’t make something so.”
She was trembling with anger and humiliation now. “Mine do.”
She flung her free hand at the skimmer on the other side of the smoke-tarnished glass.
A foomp of expanding air hit the metal wall and heavy glass. Molten metal spattered the glass, the walls, glowing yellow, then cooling to dull red and finally to grey. Pulsing light showed through a ragged, melt-edged hole in the skimmer. Something inside the craft flared again. Smoke exhaled and writhed behind the glass like a trapped spirit.
She rubbed her freed wrist again—she didn’t remember Ennet releasing it. That was easy, she thought wildly. Panic clawed inside her chest. She didn’t know why.
Like Selkellen had said. But Selkellen had rescued her—not prepared to drag her into deeper trouble.