Chapter Three: Lure
By late morning I am loping about in the forest in wolf form, leaping like a cub after a satisfying rabbit kill. I had kept my prey's body warm through the night and had felt her fever finally break at morning's light. I had left her sleeping deeply in the sun that lit the shuttle floor.
A Sleeping Beauty.
Harsh sounds leave my throat as I race back to the crater. They can only be described as a wolf's version of laughter.
At the crater's edge, I spot a scout waiting by my clothes.
"Your father wants to know when you will be bringing the prey in," the youth said, watching with detached interest as I turn from wolf to woman, and dress.
"Tomorrow. Noon," I reply. I take some supplies from him. I notice his humorous grin and then the boy indicates with his chin what has him smiling. I see a figure crouched at the shuttle's entrance, peeking in like a naughty schoolboy.
"Ublyudok!!!" I curse, setting off swiftly for the ship. The scout is not from the Russian house, but he needs no explanation for my outburst. His distant laughter follows me as I sneak up on my less than sneaky brother, still intent on peeking eagerly within the shuttle.
His broad face is a wreath of smiles as I drag him playfully from the door to wrestle him to the ground. He tries to suppress his laughter.
"Shhh!" I reprimand. "She's sleeping!"
"I saw her breasts!" he whispers triumphantly. Damn him, he is ever the pup. We roll about the hard earth, grappling further and trying not to giggle too loudly. Ganya is older than me, and much bigger, but I had always been the smarter one, able to top him in verbal arguments or witty exchanges. He has the dark brows of the Ivanov but his regard is much lighter than mine, a twinkle of trouble in his blue eyes. He does not brood, as I do. He is a cowboy, meant for the stars.
After a while of tussling, he finally lets me pin him, though with my bear of a brother, it turns more into a hug.
"I have to know how their pilot made it through our mine field," he finally tells me, after a moment of our catching our breaths. "I've been busy all yesterday reconfiguring their layout."
"And you came here specifically to ask my prey that?" I inquire, with an eyebrow raised skeptically.
"No, I came to see the human everyone in the clan is talking about," he grinned back up at me. "She is a very pretty female. Will we share?"
I beat on him a while for that cheeky remark.
Ganya finally leaves, hopefully in remorse for his teasing. The day he regrets pulling my chain is when I should ever regret hitting him for it. I suck on my skinned knuckles. I go to the shuttle entrance to see my prey.
She has awakened, and had moved about. In the recesses of the craft, the commode door is slightly ajar, attesting to its recent use. She sits up now, before the entrance, resting against the back wall where the bright sunlight hits it. She is enjoying its warmth. Her cut clothes lie open in an unself-conscious state, revealing her bra-clad breasts. Wariness is present in her sunlit eyes.
I enter boldly, low, hands and feet sliding my body slowly to her. What mirth I had indulged in only moments before has left my countenance to be replaced by a focused, intense regard of my prey. I pull my body up right where her long legs cross before her, the limbs tensing at my nearness. I am covered with dust and I am breathing deeply from my play with Ganya. She can see my bruises and cuts, for I had tumbled about the hard earth clad only in a bra top and my leather pants. My leather vest I had left rolled into a pillow for her head. She can sense the heat radiating off my body. I know she can smell me.
She stares into my eyes, silently unnerved by the intensity of my gaze.
She shivers. Despite herself.
"Don't worry," I murmur, low. "I've already eaten."
As I run my frank regard over her body, I feel her own evaluating stare over mine. Her pale face remains impassive, unreadable, but I do not disguise the appreciative appraisal evident in my own eyes. My eyes hood and I feel a soft smile curl my lips. I lean on my knuckles, taking an easy, deep breath as I enjoy the warmth and proximity of her. 'Pretty female' is not enough to describe her.
"You heal quickly," she says, the first words she has spoken directly to me. Her voice is husky and deep, with an underlining, rich vibrato quality. My lips purse at the subtly seductive sound.
I glance at my bare shoulder where her blue-gray eyed gaze lies. A bloody bruise has already faded, the skin smooth and fresh under the dry blood.
"Are you immortal?" I hear her ask, her question quietly awed.
I grin at such a thought.
"We can die," I reply.
"Have I killed any of you?" she asks next, and this time her question is....pained. I look curiously into her eyes, see the strange, self-fear in them.
I shake my head.
"One died from PPG fire, but you fired no gun," I confirm. "We are hard to kill."
The relief that enters her face as she breathes in abject release is interesting.
I turn, and retrieve the thermos behind me.
As I pour out the hot contents, the succulent scent of soup fills the air, and my prey leans ever so slightly in the direction of the aroma, watching the cup fill. I pull out a spoon, dip it into the liquid, then raise the steaming utensil to hang in the air before her.
She gazes into my eyes as I hold the spoon.
I do not coax. I want her to come to me.
Deliberately, slowly, she leans forward, gold strands escaping their place behind her ear to gently swing free and frame her face. As she watches me, I watch her, her mouth parting to close upon the spoon...feel her tongue lift it involuntarily as she takes in the contents. I tip the spoon and her mouth slides off the metal as she swallows.
I refill the spoon.
I feed her thus, for a long, silent while.
And as I feed her she warily watches me.
Finally, the cup is emptied and I screw it back on the thermos. Her eyes follow my movements and I know she wants more, but I think it best to let my prey have more later. She did not lift a hand to touch the spoon as I fed her but I saw one gloved hand leave her side once, leather clad fingers shaking ever so slightly. She has to get stronger by tomorrow.
"Who are you?" comes the soft question.
I slide the thermos behind me, contemplating her query. She is not asking about me.
"We are the Kin, the One House," I say. "To outsiders we are known only as the Lyra colonists."
"Of Vega sector... I had heard of you when I was in the Commercial Corps," she adds, interest sparking her eyes. "You are independent of Earth, a highly successful and powerful colony. You keep to yourselves."
"Did you not know what planet you crashed on?"
She shakes her head.
"Our navigation was damaged," she explains. "We took a chance through the last jump gate--our co-pilot keyed the coordinates before passing out. When we left jump, our pursuers forced us here."
"To die," I dispassionately add. I find myself hardly curious at the moment to know how or why she has come to us. As long as I sense her story is not fabricated, I am willing to hear the details later, before our House and council.
Her next words are wary.
"You kill....you kill any outsiders who set foot on Lyra," she states, but it is more a question.
"And in our space," I clarify, cocking my head to regard her with half-closed eyes. "It is our Law."
"Why did you kill our injured?"
I am surprised by this question, having expected that she would ask about herself, the future of her own survival. The telepaths who had been left with the craft when she and her patrol were in our woods had numbered three--all incapacitated by injury. They were disposed of quickly.
"We do not take care of what we intend to kill," I reply.
"They could not defend themselves," she points out softly, and I see the acute, incredulous sadness play once again on her face--the same expression when she had watched us carry their remains away.
Interesting. Must I explain then, the Way of the predator? Of how wounds and injury of our prey are the Way of taking them down, that the hunt is not mercy, but mercilessness?
"Would you do the same to children?" I hear her husky voice hesitantly ask.
"Those," I say. "Are taken into consideration."
She will have to accept that answer.
She has asked many questions. Now I will ask mine.
"Why don't you scan?"
Her head jerks back slightly in surprise, eyes wide with confusion. They narrow.
"How do you know whether I am or not?" she questions sharply.
"I know," I merely reply, my voice vibrating deeply. I lean in, resting my weight easily on my knuckles as I watch her. "Answer me."
Why this pain in her eyes? She cannot even hide it. It lines the smooth surface of her forehead, the soft, fair haired brows etched in an elegant, guilty arch of sorrow.
"I don't care to," she roughly whispers.
"Don't care to tell me, or don't care to scan openly?" I prompt, raising a dark, sharp eyebrow. It is a sardonic look. Briefly, she actually smiles at it, the edge of her lips curling only for a second before returning to a sad, soft line.
"I don't scan without permission. A Psi-Cop would have to order me to do so. I won't do it even in a situation like this," she finally says.
"Would you scan me if you suspect I would kill you.....now?" I inquire, watching her closely.
"I might," she slowly answers, the wariness entering her eyes.
"Would you scan to protect others from immediate danger?"
I reach out with a finger, and slowly trace the clean, cut edge my knife had made on the cloth of her splayed open uniform. I smell her warm, milk-white chest as it rhythmically rises and falls with her breath.
"Imprisoned...against your will," I continue softly, slowly coming close and allowing my breath to play a little on her exposed flesh. "Would you scan to escape?"
"Do you intend," her lips whisper back. "To hold me further...against my will?"
I relish the puffs upon my face her now agitated breath makes.
"I intend," I answer. "That you submit to my will."
Her jaw clenches.
I can't help smiling to see her fine, white teeth shut together in frustration. Her cast aside gaze as she turns abruptly from me is intense with self-righteous outrage. I nearly laugh.
I knew it would not be easy.
I leave her once again, laying a sleep roll out so that she may not lie once more on the unforgiving metal of the shuttle floor. Despite her anger with me, once she settles on the blanket she sleeps. With enough food and rest, my prey will return to full strength quickly; perhaps, even by tomorrow. Such thoughts keep me grinning. I watch the shadows shorten, the sun beating warmth above me as I replay in my mind's eye, a sweet chase through trees and across moist earth of a wind swift, gold haired female.....
At midday, I wake her to feed her. This time she sits up without help from me, scooting away to put her back to the wall. Still cautious, and I like it. She wants to take the thermos cup now in her own hands and I let her. When she is done with her soup, I let her walk herself to the shuttle's commode. It is when she emerges to access the vibe shower closet, where I decide to move silently to my feet and join her side.
"I don't need help," she protests, even though I can see that she is already tired, leaning heavily upon the closet's door as she holds it open.
"If you fall in there it would be stupid," I merely reply. I keep my hands out to lightly support her as she backs into the tiny, narrow unit. She leans on its back wall, arms lifted to rest on the near shoulder high support bars. She raises a weary, gloved hand to run through her hair.
"I'm tired of the smell of my own blood," she comments softly. I reach for the controls and key a gentle vibration.
As she leans within the unit, eyes momentarily closed in fatigue as the sonics thrum on her skin, I pull her cut clothes apart to bare her torso to the ministrations of the shower. I had programmed the vibes for a gentle cycle, mindful of her still vulnerable wound and the delicate stitches I had sewn there. I rub my fingers gently on the dried blood stains, breaking them apart enough for the vibrations to take care of the rest. Soon, her white skin is free of blood, though her clothes are still stiff and stained. When I glance up from my task, her lidded gray-blue eyes are smoky and enigmatic, watching me in reflective bemusement. I lift my fingers to run them through her hair and free the shiny strands for the shower to vibrate easily through them. I hear the contented, deep sigh she allows to escape her chest as she feels my fingers massage gently against her scalp.
I step into the tiny space of the closet, startling her, and utilize some of the vibrations on my own, sweaty and dirty body. I look down upon her as I wait patiently beneath the sonics and watch her lidded eyes.
Not now, I caution myself, even as I detect the moist, glistening of her lower lip, the enticing rise and fall of her bosom through the cut clothing. With her hands out, she is open to me.
But not yet willing.
Even as I sense that her half-lidded eyes hide an emotion she does not wish me to see, I know that my prey is still capable, with a mere thought, to send me hurtling from that shower stall and possibly right through the hull.
In that, she is very willing.
I relent. For now. I step back, allowing my prey room to rise from where she leans and exit the shower closet. As she slowly passes, I run a bold finger down her back, loving the line of her spine.
Her back stiffens, but she tolerates the touch.
She lies back down upon the sleep roll and falls immediately to sleep.
Near sunset, a small all-terrain vehicle approaches. The proud, erect passenger is one of the House elders--a descendant of the One Clan leader who first united the many Houses. I run up to give my respects.
Her pale eyes regard me silently from the weathered face.
"Tell me your reasons," was all her smooth, authoritative voice requests.
I know why she comes to speak to me personally. The Were prefer their conversations face to face, eye to eye, to assess with scent, sight, and hearing the truth behind words and postures. I make my decisions in much the same way in my business dealings.
"She is an exceptional fighter, and honorable," I say. "She refuses to misuse her power. She is a strong and bright spirit.....and she is in conflict with her Family."
The Elder leans on her cane, pale eyes intense.
"You know this?" she demands.
I think of the intriguing revelations made apparent in my prey's fevered ranting the night before.
"Yes," I confirm. "She is in conflict with the Corps."
"Very well then," the clan leader decides with an air of finality as she leans back in the seat. "I give my support. Half the council members want the telepath dealt with--telekinetic or no. But I am of the mind that if she submits to the One House, the Kin can benefit greatly from such a servant, just as the Argonaut mercenaries have, in their devotion, so benefited us."
I thank the Elder and she and her vehicle leave me to ponder her last words. I have very personal reasons for wanting to keep my prey alive. She is the most....intriguing individual, prey or Were, to enter my life in a very long time. Yet what the Elder says is true; since the One House adapted its ancient laws to accept humans into the Clan, the Kin has benefited from at least one exceptional alliance. The Argonaut mercenaries--an elite pack of cybernetically enhanced soldiers created in a secret Earth Alliance project--had sought out the Lyra colonists for sanctuary, having fled Earth and their former masters. It had been a tumultuous and hard won coalition that finally forged between the House and the human soldiers; the Council's decision to give safe haven to the altered humans was radical. But in time those soldiers proved our most devote defenders, their dedication and service to the One House as worthy of admiration as that of any Were's.
I jog back to the Psi-Corps shuttle. I believe my prey can make just as an exceptional servant to the House. She is practically the worth of the entire Argonaut pack.
The sun's last light blazes upon the reflective black of the ship's metal, revealing my prey standing openly before the entrance. Her quiet gaze follows the dust that rolls behind the Elder's car. She steps back into the shadows as I approach, and when I boldly enter she is already seated upon the bedroll, deep in reflective thought. I activate the portable lamp and pull a meal container out of my supply pack.
"Who was that?" she softly asks.
"You did not overhear us?" was my response. I unclasp the lid and reveal the steaming contents of freshly made meat stew.
"No," she says, her eyes momentarily mesmerized by the sight of food. "Is she....is she like you?"
"We are all Were here," I tell her, putting the container in her lap and placing a spoon in her gloved hand. "We allow very few humans. Those who do live on Lyra are servants to the House or specially bonded mates."
"I have to get used to the idea," my prey muses softly. "Of a planet of werewolves."
"The last human who called us that we ate," I quip. "Now eat."
She does as I ask, and for a long while there is only my silence as I watch her feed. Her movements contain none of the weakness of this morning. I am pleased. As she eats, she is thoughtful, her soft, gray-blue eyes regarding inward. She pauses suddenly in mid mouthful and her eyes focus upon me.
"What...what sort of meat is this?" she asks rather haltingly, trepidation becoming apparent in her eyes.
I cannot help a wicked grin, my incisors baring.
"Rabbit," I finally say. "Like it?"
"It's very good," she murmurs politely, demurely trying to cover a private realization I'd already surmised. Despite my assurance, she is reluctant to continue her meal. I grin harder to suppress my laughter.
"The Kin eat fresh kill, and that includes human prey," I clarify to her. "But we would not cook and feed you your own kind. That would be unnatural. Finish that." I add in a softer tone.
She returns to the stew, her cheeks lightly flushed in embarrassment, perhaps, at her ridiculous suspicion.
"Sorry," she apologizes quietly, with a self chastising sincerity that dashes my desire to mock her more. I'll forgive her silly ignorance this time, but if she is to live among us she will have to see beyond the foolish legends of evil mythical beasts.
Outside, in the black that is night lit only by the pale shimmer of our two moons, the howls of my Were mates echo. Their excited cries carry upon the night breeze and drift down through the forest, long, powerful, and beautiful. I watch my prey listen to our hunting song.
"What does your House want with me?" she asks finally.
"To renounce your former life and serve us," I answer.
She sighs heavily as she absorbs my words and leans back upon the shuttle wall, eyes resigned and faraway.
"The Corps may come for me," she says in a heavy tone.
"We kill any who comes," I simply inform.
"And does your House simply want a telepath, or a telekinetic enforcer?" she asks bitterly. "I'll not leave one Family just to unquestionably carry out the orders of another."
I move in closer, to catch her eyes and bring her back to me.
"The Kin are aware of the Corps' true nature within the Alliance," I say softly. "We make it our business to discern the real threats from the truly innocuous. The One House is ruthless, yes, but if you believe our nature is as dishonorable as your Family's, I shall leave you to die here, right now."
She gazes into my eyes then, intense with an inner struggle and a desire to believe me. She is not scanning--she refuses, and I find myself silently urging her to do it, for I want her to believe my words, I want her to submit. I do not want to see her fight all of us.
There was the slimmest of possibilities that even she could escape Lyra, but to what? To become a rogue telepath, forever hunted by her Corps? Here, though we are a planet of predators, longtime masters of humans, she would be prey elevated and most esteemed. She would become a pack member, no longer alone.
Here, she would be mine.
She gazes into my eyes and I realize that she is looking at me with her very heart.
"I don't want to return to the Corps," she finally states, her deep voice like a death knell upon her old life, her former self. "I'll serve your House."
She reaches for her left hand, and begins to strip the black leather from it. When her one, pale hand is bared, she does the same to the other. She drops the gloves with finality to the shuttle floor. She puts her hand to her dark green collar, where her Psi-Corps badge's bright, golden surface gleams. She grasps the Psi emblem and rips it off.
Naked now, hands and throat. She is simply a woman, though the Corps' deeply ingrained touch upon her spirit and soul surely remains. What they have irrevocably imprinted upon her will reveal itself in due time. There is a fierce and sad light afire in her glistening, blue-gray eyes. Her hand that clutches the shield, her badge, reaches out and my own hand moves forward to receive it.
"Do you forfeit your former life, all ties, all familial allegiance, and pledge your life and loyalty to the Kin?" I ask.
"I do," she whispers, and her trembling fist opens to drop the heavy shield into my palm.
She rises to her feet, and I rise as well and allow her to pass to exit into the cold night. She stands in the darkness outside her shuttle, hugging herself in comfort against the cold, against the painful, long desired, long sought relief and release her decision has brought her. She lifts her eyes to regard our stars and cries.
Her newfound freedom is baptized with bittersweet tears. She is right, she has traded one Family for another. And there is one more bond she must make before I'll let her rest for the night.
I step down from the craft and come up close behind her. Her breaths mist the air and she shivers slightly from the cold, night breeze. I run my hands smoothly upon her upper arms, touching her with my pleasure in mind, not to comfort. She drops her gaze from the sky and becomes still. My caress clearly communicates my intentions.
"Come," I say.
"Did I agree to this as well?" she demands, a hint of angered indignation in her husky voice.
"No," I simply reply in her ear, humor too apparent in my own tones. "But we can work that out inside."
She shrugs out of my light grasp.
Back within the shuttle, she goes to the bedroll once again, this time bristling with displeasure. She puts a slender, bare hand to her face to wipe away the last of her tears.
"You are arrogant," she simply says.
"And practical," I add, sliding boldly close to her. I do not touch, but I allow my hooded gaze to show my appreciative desire.
"You are a human and you cannot live safely in the Clan alone. You need a protector....a liege."
Her blue-gray eyes are incredulous. This information is unexpected, but I can sense that she accepts the truth of my words. She is listening.
"You intrigue me, and I believe you find me...." I grin darkly. "Tolerable."
I scoop her up suddenly, reveling in my own strength and presumptuous move. She makes a sudden sound in her throat and then shuts her eyes tight--obviously resisting an instinctive urge to respond telekinetically. This is what I want to see.
She is the most dangerous creature I have ever met in terms of physical threat, but tempered by her own ethical restraints, she is but a kitten in my arms. A kitten with, surprisingly, a strong instinctive trust of me.
I lay her gently back down upon the bedroll and she opens her eyes.
"Submit to me," I entreat softly, as I lay myself beside her body, one hand by her head to support me as my other traces the air around her breathing form.
"And when you tire of me? What then?" she suddenly asks quietly. My hand pauses--her question breaks my mesmerized appreciation of her beauty. Such a bold faced assumption. Yet appropriate. Were she anyone else, it was a possibility that could come true.
"You make your own way in the clan," I answer truthfully. "Without a protector, live or die it is up to you to survive."
"Bitch," comes her shockingly blatant response.
My hand clutches her by the throat of its own volition. No one can call me that.
"Brat," she whispers, challenging me with her eyes wide and bright with anger and reckless bravado. Intriguing--I realize suddenly that she is testing me; she wants to see if I will really harm her.
"Kitten," I murmur back. My hand relaxes only enough, to run my thumb in a possessive caress of her soft, vulnerable throat. I enjoy the movements of her convulsive swallow, lips pursing in resentment. They belie the reluctant pleasure I can see in her narrowing eyes.
"Would you take me against my will?" she whispers. Again, so frank. So honest.
"I would not," I whisper back, leaning in to trace my nose above the smooth surfaces of her face, smelling her.
"Would you convince me to submit?" I watch her mouth breathe, the soft parting of her lips revealing teeth clenching at my nearness.
"I would," I affirm, and deliberately place my mouth over hers. I convince her to accept my tongue. I convince her to respond, manipulating my mouth in sensitive ways that finally draws a deep, helpless groan from her throat. I feel its thrilling vibration beneath my palm. I taste her mouth again and again. I take her hands and make her touch me. She matches my passion and I touch her intimately. I play, and caress, and possess her body with mine.
I make her my lover on that shuttle floor.
"Do you...submit?" I finally remember to ask, late into the night, my breath too rapid for speaking.
"Yes," is all she breathes back.
Dawn; the fourth one to rise since she set foot upon my earth. It's bright dust particled light filters gold-like upon the shuttle floor, illuminating our twined bodies in the soft, fragile brilliance of pale skin upon skin. Her breath upon my chest changes from a deep, restful rhythm to a sigh, and I feel her awakening. Already her lids rise to reveal eyes still steeped in the dreamtime.
I watch intently, as recognition and realization replaces the remnants of vulnerability begotten of innocent sleep.
She gazes thoughtfully at me. Her sunlit eyes refract the blazing sky.
Do not change your mind, I find myself urging silently. Do not regret last night.
Her contemplative gaze finally breaks with a soft, resigned smile. A begrudging sort of smile.
I respond with a wide, fierce one of my own.
"What is your name?" I suddenly whisper, my hand finding her face to caress it.
"Talia," she responds softly. "I am Talia Winters."
I have to kiss her.
"Talia," I repeat deeply, once our lips part. "I am Susan Ivanova."
"Welcome to my world," I add with a grin.
"Delta leader to delta wing, show's over. Let's collect the stragglers and return to base." ( Signs and Portents )