10 – Zac
The first thing he noticed was that it was getting easier to breathe. When he could finally collect himself enough to stop shaking, he composed a buzz to Myranda and pushed the SEND icon. Now all he had to do was wait.
Zac raked his fingers through his short, light brown hair and took another deep breath. If Myranda didn’t cooperate, this whole plan would fall through.
Two minutes later, his vid-phone emitted a sharp beep and rumbled with vibration. He startled so hard a muscle twinged in his neck, and he snatched up the device with a self-chiding grunt. The message was short and exactly what he wanted to see:
On my way.
Zac smiled and turned his attention to Wyll’s sprawled form on the pale blue carpet. The pool of blood next to him was a little larger than he had anticipated, but that could only work in his favor. Since he didn’t know where Myranda and the others were, he couldn’t guess how long it would take her to get there, but he decided to take advantage of the down-time and get properly cleaned up.
He entered Jenna’s small bathroom, a clean but stark room, and opened the linen closet to get a towel. He couldn’t help but laugh when he took one off the top of the stack. “Guess you had a girly streak in you after all.” The towel became a bright pink blur as tears filled his eyes. He balled it up and pressed his face into it, letting the tears come. He owed her this. There was no one else to really mourn her, and only a hastily dug grave in Leo’s back yard to memorialize her.
“I’m so sorry, Jenna.” His voice was a hoarse whisper. How did everything keep going from bad worse? How did life get so turned upside-down so fast?
Berent Gaehts has a lot to answer for.
Once he composed himself again, he stripped down and opened the shower stall curtain. Here, too, were little hints of Jenna’s spunky personality, in the form of a wash mitt shaped like a skunk with the words ‘Funk Buster’ written across its belly in neon green letters, and bottles of the apple-scented body wash and shampoo she always used. He turned the showerhead on and stepped in, letting the hot water pelt his body.
He opened the bottle of body wash and inhaled the scent, remembering the first time he had met Jenna. She had had a proverbial chip on her shoulder the size of a city block, owing, he suspected, to her tomboyish looks and lower class upbringing. Not to mention the fact that she was an Egalian female trying to fit in on squad of mostly Sindrian males. She had seemed relieved to find out that Zac, too, was an off-worlder, and that there were many others in the Stell-Ore Security Compound.
But that didn’t mean that she’d ever stopped trying to prove herself the equal of him or any other man in the unit. She’d even punched him in the face the first time he’d accidentally called her ‘kid.’ But once he explained that that was his nickname for his little sister, and that she reminded him of her so much, she asked him to forgive her. She then said not to let it happen again, though, or she’d punch him harder next time.
That was pretty much the moment he’d adopted her as his responsibility and vowed to protect her.
He hoped, when he met her in the hereafter, she would forgive him for failing.
After ‘busting the funk’ off himself, he wrapped the pink towel around his waist and grabbed his clothes. The lingering stench of smoke from the Personnel Carrier Vehicle crash he and Wyll had staged wafted up from them. He frowned. There was a wash-dryer in the kitchen, if he remembered correctly.
But that meant walking past Wyll.
Clenching his jaw, he strode the floor straight to the kitchen without sparing a glance for his Lieutenant. He didn’t want to see how his eyes seemed to stare at him with rage, no matter where he stood. He threw his clothes into the wash-dryer and hit the start button. The small, cube-shaped appliance filled with the chemical-laced steam that cleansed the garments in a matter of minutes. The cycle then changed over to dry them in an equally short time.
In less than five minutes, he was dressed again. When he could take it no longer, he turned around.
Wyll was staring at him again.
“Don’t look at me like that.” He tossed the pink towel across Wyll’s face and stormed out of the room.
Chapter 9 Chapter 11