Frias clicked on the autopilot and rubbed blearily blue eyes. His coordinates were set for home, the Hubris. The ship had become more home than he’d ever thought it might. He smiled as he got up and stretched, ruffling his spiky pink hair. Cayrd was on the Hubris, and Cayrd was waiting for him to return home.
He never thought he’d have someone waiting for him, eagerly if the messages he’d received while on com-silence were any indicator. Cayrd was a horny bastard, but there were sweet and romantic messages too. Frias found even the more lewd messages from the past month made him feel wanted, appreciated, and surprisingly loved.
Frias had been gone longer than usual this time and he was feeling the strain. Not physically, he was fine physically, but the long stint in the deep, sunless dark of space was draining for him. It didn’t usually matter, he was never far from a planet with the right kind of sunlight, or he could just jaunt home to Laot. This job though, the tracking and executions of the bounty, took him outside any solar systems, and he hadn’t seen a sun in almost a month. It made him tired and made his mind sluggish. He was glad the fancy ship he’d won in a fighting match was able to quickly fly home to the larger flagship on its own.
He needed a nap to stave off the effects of the creeping darkness in his mind. He wound his way to the sleeping quarters of the ship. He planned to fall asleep listening to Cayrd’s sweet and saucy messages one last time before he was home in Cayrd’s bed.
Cayrd chewed on a dried bit of jerky as he paced in his office again.
Frias was late.
He played back the lovey-dovey message Frias had sent letting him know he should have been back this shift. Cayrd wasn’t prone to worry, not this soon after a mission ended, but this was Frias. Cayrd had only just gotten used to telling the man he was in love with him, now the anxiety of him not being home when he said he would be was acute. It was new to Cayrd and it set him on edge.
“He’s fine,” Pelivlor said scratching their long floppy ear and twitching their bunny nose. Cayrd glared at the fluffy, cuddly looking alien. If you excluded Pelivor’s seven-foot height, or the poisonous spines hidden under the buttery looking fur, the creature looked downright adorable. Cayrd knew better.
“He’s late,” Cayrd snapped and Pelivlor sighed.
“Do ya want to go track him down? His ship’s online.” Pelivlor held up a data-pad showing star-charts and a small green dot that was the Mariposa. It was both a little comforting and concerning that Pelivlor had done that without being asked. Was his mood so attuned to Frias that his men kept track of the other man? Cayrd wasn’t sure he was okay with that. Still, Pelivlor had a point.
“Yer right,” If Frias’ ship was on-line and traceable, it was probably alright. Frias was just being held up by something, something that wasn’t discernible by a blinking dot on a star chart. Cayrd frowned, that could be a lot of things and none seemed pleasant just now.
“You know I can cover fer ya? Sir.” Pelivlor held the data pad out to Cayrd. Cayrd grumbled and grabbed the pad. He could trust Pelivlor to keep his people in-line, and all he could think of right now was finding Frias anyway.
Frias woke in a cold and dark place. He shivered and heard his breathing echoing around him like he was in a tight space. A brief wave of panic hit him and he jerked, reaching out around himself and feeling cold metal walls and a tight fitting metal ceiling. He felt his throat tighten and fought down the fear. Thrashing around wouldn’t help him here. He needed to keep his head.
Dark whispers curled around his ears. He tried to ignore it, but they were whispering such delightful things. Like revenge on whoever it was that had locked him in here. They were going to have a very unfortunate meeting with his hunting knife when he got out.
He started to work his fingers along the seems of the box, trying to find a chink in the container. But there didn’t seem to be any, like the box had been made from a single piece of metal. That set off alarm bells in his head. Boxes like this were specially made – for people like him.
Frias swallowed back panic again. He had to keep his head, to get out of here, and get home to Cayrd.
Cayrd docked his Fire Opal on top of Frias’ Mariposa. He tried to tell himself that Frias was just sleeping, which explained why Frias hadn’t responded to his com. He also tried to tell himself that the scorch marks on the side of the ship were old damage and not a sign the ship had been raided.
Once on the Mariposa Cayrd’s nerves didn’t settle. The ship’s controls showed a canceled flight plan set for the Hubris, and here the ship sat. Cayrd moved silently through the small ship, checking the sleeping quarters and the cargo hold. He saw the breach there. The ship’s life support had knit the hole with a force-field, stabilizing the interior. Cayrd swore and began looking around frantically. Form the looks of it, Frias hadn’t fought back. That worried him further.
Cayrd didn’t see any clue to who had grabbed him so tracing him that was out. He did know one more way to track Frias. Cayrd raced back to his ship to tune his sensors. It was a shot in the dark, but it was all he had.
Frias managed not to panic, the cost was falling prey to the voices in his head. The box was designed to bring that weakness out in the Laotian people. To turn them into blind killing machines. That was the idea anyway. Trained hunters like him, like most of his village, didn’t blindly fall victim to the voices.
They used them.
The lid of the box cracked open. Frias opened his eyes slowly letting his eyes adjust to the light.
“This one is defective?” A voice above him hissed. “Is asleep.”
Frias watched with slitted eyes as a leathery clawed hand reached down to poke him. In a flash, he reached up, gripping the wrist, pulling the creature down, and shoving his fingers deep into slit-pupil eyes. The creature hissed and tried to pull back. Frias merely held it in place with a gleeful laugh.
“Ya shouldn’t have opened the box,” Frias sneered, as he used the leathery creature’s body to pull himself out. The voices cheered him on.
Cayrd saw the man-hunter ship on his sensors. His he growled softly as he forcibly docked his ship atop it, setting the clamps to breach the hull. He paced as the clamps worked, brushing his hands over his blaster and then the hilt of the hunting blade Frias had given him. He clicked his teeth and activated his body armor as the crunch of the clamps confirmed the hull breach. He opened the portal that now separated him from the ship below and jumped through.
Opposing gravities fought for him until the man-hunter won out and he clicked to the grated metal floors and was able to walk inside. The new ship’s environment enveloped him and the smell of death slammed into him. His stomach sank, and he armed his blaster to high-stun, just in case.
“Frias?” He called out as he started to walk down the narrow halls. “Lover?” He knew how deadly Frias could be. He just hoped Frias would recognize him before attacking.
“Cayrd?” A form stepped out into the hall. A knife in one hand, and a head in the other. Cayrd paused. “Are ya really there?”
“Yeah,” Cayrd kept his blaster out and low. Frias warned him once about this, without giving him too many details.
“It’s happening again.” Frias dropped the head and knife and staggered towards Cayrd. “The voices.” Cayrd met Frias halfway, catching the smaller man as his strength seemed to give out. “I need sunlight.” Frias clung to Cayrd.
“Of course darling,” Cayrd lifted Frias’ blood covered body into his arms, carrying him back to his ship. He made for the nearest star, holding Frias to him, feeling him shiver.
“I did it again,” Frias moaned, hiding his face in Cayrd’s chest. Cayrd remembered the mysterious murders on the Hubris almost a year ago. They’d never fond the killer, though Cayrd had his suspicions.
“It’s alright Lover,” Cayrd said holding Frias tight. “No one will know.” He’d buried evidence he thought might lead to Frias before, he’d do it again if he needed too. No one would ever know.
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