Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. Some of the ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read. Enjoy!
My legs burned as I ran down the loading dock. There has to be a ship leaving. I glanced over my shoulder. No one followed me. Yet. But I clutched the microtube to my chest, tears welling in my eyes. You can’t breakdown now. Dad’s gone and if you don’t get your shit together, you will be too.
The last thing Dad told me was to get to Karman 5, where Cestia, my RBF (robot best friend) was at. He’d had enough time to slide his microtube to me, before the laser guns took him out. My stomach churned, remembering the stench of his seared flesh.
Ducking behind a space crane, I noticed the small cargo ship at the end of the ramp. The crew busied themselves loading metal crates onto an orbit-dolly. I slowed my pace, pretending to be a part of the ship’s crew as I grabbed a plastic case and walked up the ramp.
“Where do you want this?” I asked the guy near the door.
He glanced up, emerald eyes meeting mine. A shock of dark hair fell across his forehead as he nodded down the corridor. “Below decks.”
“Thanks.” I managed a weak smile. With a sigh of relief, I walked toward the back of the vessel. But before, I could slip away a hand clamped on my shoulder.
“I don’t recall seeing you on the flight over,” he said.
Shit. I didn’t have time for this. If I didn’t get off this planet, I was dead. It meant, I’d failed my dad. My people. And possibly several planets.
“Um—they had me below decks, keeping an eye on the cargo.”
His eyes narrowed. “Is that so?”
“Yes. God, you’re acting like a cosmic ass.” My pulse thundered in my ears.
His fingers dug into my arm as he ushered me to the underbelly of the ship. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but you’re not one of the crew.”
I swallowed hard. Okay, I could drop the case and make a run for it. But, if I did, I knew Melark’s men would catch me. And I’d suffer the same fate as my dad. “Listen, please. I—I’ve got to get out of here. Now.”
“Then you better hire yourself a transport. We don’t take stowaways. And we’re damn sure not a taxi service.”
Desperation clawed at me. “I—I’ll give you anything you want. Just get me to Karman 5.”
“Anything I want?” He grinned. “Don’t think you could afford it.”
A golden curl fell from beneath my helmet, brushing against my cheek. “Try me. I mean, if you’re into sexbots, I’ll buy you one. Or maybe you need a motorship to ride on the Silver Bridgeway.”
“Hey, Macon, you got your shipment loaded or not? I want to take off.” A gray haired man, poked his head down from above. “Seems to be a ruckus starting near the main transport gate.”
He never took his gaze from me. “Yeah, we’re all set. But I’m gonna need you to make an extra stop off at Karman 5.”
“What? That place is a crawling with Melark’s men.”
“Just do as I say.”
“Yes, sir.” The man disappeared.
Macon? Why did that name sound familiar.
Then it dawned on me. “Macon? As in Macon Arndt, General of the Uprising?”
He gave me an uneasy glance. “Who wants to know?”
I dropped the case I’d been holding, and sank against the metal sideboard. “I’m Dasha. Dasha Greenlake.”
“You’re Drake’s daughter?”
A lump formed in my throat as relief flooded through me. “Yes. Melark’s men caught him. That’s why I’m trying to get out of here. If they found out…”
“Shit. He’s dead?”
My lip trembled, but I fought to stay composed. “Yeah.”
“Jenson, get this ship in the air, now.” Macon grabbed my hand and dragged me to the main control area. He ushered me to a seat. “Buckle in.”
He plopped down beside me, while the door sealed shut with a hiss. I fastened my seatbelt, then held tight to the armrest. I so hated flying. And even though we’d lived in space since I was six, I never got used to it.
“Sir, looks like we have a squadron of Melark’s men checking ships on the dock.” Jenson’s voice came over the loud speaker.
“I know. Take off.”
The engines roared to life, and the vessel shook. “Shields up. Full thrusters engaged.” Jenson shouted orders from the cockpit.
The lights dimmed, then blinked like pulsating stars. Within seconds, we pulled away from the dock. Then we shot forward. The pressure forced my back against my seat. I squeezed my eyes shut.
When we stabilized, Macon’s fingers grazed my hand. “I’m sorry to hear about your dad. He was a good man.”
“Yeah, he was.”
“Were you with him when he died?”
I nodded my head.
“Then he gave you the microtube?”
“Yes. I have to deliver to Karman 5. We have to stop Melark.”
“So this is it? We’ll finally see an end to the terror. ”
“I hope so. My robot, Cestia has been working on Melark’s ship for months now. He’s taken a liking to her.” I cringed, not wanting to think about what the jerk off did with my friend.
“Does she know what’ll happen?” He squeezed my hand.
Warmth coursed through me. I cleared my throat. “She does. I wish there was another way.”
“Trust me, there’s not. Your dad and I have tried to infiltrate Melark’s main ship and planet for the last couple years.”
I sighed. “I know.”
But it was hard to cope with. Knowing the only way to bring Melark down, meant sending my best friend to their death. Even if she was only an android.
“Listen, you need to change before we arrive at the docking bay.”
I glanced down at my ragged gray uniform. Blood stained the arm and chest of it, where I’d held Dad against me. “I didn’t bring anything else.”
“We’ve got something below decks. Come with me.”
We made our way to the back of the ship, where Macon rummaged through a couple plastic crates. At last, he pulled out a long white robe, a gold belt, and a diadem. He left me long enough to change, then escorted me back to my chair.
After several hours, Jenson’s voice came over the intercom. “We’re approaching Karman 5. We’ll be docking in five minutes.”
Nausea coursed through me. I just had to make it past security and find Cestia. I took a deep breath and wiped my sweaty hands on my robe.
“Don’t be nervous. Just follow my lead,” Macon said as the ship slowed, spun sideways, and landed.
Once the vessel docked, the door opened with a low hiss. Macon offered me his arm and ushered me to the main hub of Karman 5, Melark’s space station. People, androids, and aliens bustled along the conveyor, which went into the Market District.
I kept close to Macon as we pushed through the crowds. Soon we came to the security checkpoint, manned by a T300 android.
“State your names and business,” the robotic voice asked.
Crap, you couldn’t give a fake name here. These droids could do a mind scan if they thought you lied.
“This is Dasha, and I’m Gen.” Macon smiled. “We’re here to retrieve the other half of her engagement band. Her father gave me his blessing, now we must get her mother’s.” He held up a golden clasp.
My heart leapt into my throat. Oh. My. Stars. He had my actual band. The familiar looping roses and vines, glittered beneath the violet lighting. Did dad really give it to him?
The android, glanced at the jewelry then at us. After a moment, he waved us through. No questions asked. I suppose it had to do with a lot of couples coming to Karman 5 to tie the knot. The space version of Las Vegas.
“Where are you supposed to find Cestia?” Macon said.
“Near the Golden Net.”
“Follow me, it’s on the other side of the alley.” He clutched my hand.
“How exactly did you get my band?” I glanced at him.
He grinned. “Uh—your dad gave it to me about six months ago. Believe it or not, he’d been meaning to introduce us.”
“So we’re intended?” My cheeks went hot.
He gave my fingers a squeeze. “Is that a bad thing?”
At last, I spotted the Golden Net, hanging from the ceiling, overlooking the space docks. And there, perched on top of it, was Cestia. Even from here her new golden shell and blonde hair glittered. As if sensing me, she turned toward me.
I wanted to rush to her, but I couldn’t make a scene.
“Cestia,” I said, stopped in front of her.
Her lips turned up in a smile, revealing her golden, metallic teeth. “Dear One, you’ve come.”
Tears burned my eyes. “Yes.”
“Then your father has passed?”
“And you’ve brought the microtube with you?” She looked at Macon over my head as if sizing him up.
“It’s here.” I slipped it from the sleeve of my robe and leaned in as if to hug her. I heard a small pop, and the grind of gears as the slot in her back opened up.
“Go ahead, Dasha, insert the microtube. It’s time.”
“But it’ll kill you.”
“And I’m ready to die. It’s what I was created for.”
“But I’ll be alone.”
Her metal hand rubbed my hair. “Nonsense. Macon will take care of you. In fact,” she pulled back, and grabbed something from her white purse and closed my hand around it. “This is for you. Your father and I both approve.”
I glanced down to find the other half of my engagement band. Macon moved behind me, placing his palm at the small of my back. “Melark’s guards are on the move. We need to hurry.”
Cestia touched my face. “Be safe, Dear One. Please, insert the microtube—then get out of here as quick as you can.”
“Is Melark here?”
This time she grinned. “Oh yes, I made sure of it.”
I swallowed hard and shoved the tube into her back. With one last hug, I turned away. Cestia was a walking time bomb. Literally. We had thirty minutes before she ignited this whole place.
Macon jerked me down the corridor and back toward the ship. My pulse sped out of control as we made it through the security checkpoints unscathed.
“Jenson, get this ship in the air. We’re on a time crunch.” Macon plopped back in his seat then reached across the aisle. He took my piece of the engagement band from me and secured it to my wrist, along with the section he had from my dad. “Cestia is right, Dasha, you won’t ever be alone. Your father intended you for me, and I plan to honor that.”
I brought his hand to my lips. “Thank you.”
As our ship jumped to hyperspace, I knew things would be okay. Melark’s reign of terror was over. And the Uprising would continue to protect its people. Cestia and Dad’s sacrifices would not be in vain.
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