It was cold inside the transfer bay at the base of the TSS headquarters complex, the fluorescent overhead lighting lending a garish brightness, but zero warmth.
The engine block of his vehicle crackled now and then, the metal slowly cooling, the acrid note of its exhaust still hanging faintly in the air.
Rexall’s captive shivered, the links of her chains shifting about her rounded hips. Across her plump buttocks, she still displayed a pair of marks from her last appointment with the lash, the formerly livid stripes now ghostly hints of yellowish bruising.
He touched her hair, a gesture more possessive than affectionate. “Be still.”
The three men standing before them were dressed in standard issue TSS uniforms, gray and onyx, the crimson epaulets at the shoulders a trio of diagonal slashes as if a giant cat had rended them with its claws, leaving bloody furrows in their wake.
The central figure though, taller, the shoulders broader than the two who flanked him, he was special.
It wasn’t the first time Rexall had met Kaman, but it wasn’t exactly normal procedure for the leader of the entire Sixth Society to be present for a mere prisoner hand-off.
None of that mattered to Rexall, of course. Politics and protocol meant as much to him as mercy or compassion. Which is to say, very little at all.
Kaman’s eyes glittered as he gazed down at her, the neat, thick goatee at his stout chin as jet black as his eyes.
“She give you any trouble?”
Rexall shrugged. “Nothing that couldn’t be remedied. They all come around, sooner or later.”
Kaman stroked the woman’s cheek, the leather of his gloved fingers playing along the line of her jaw. “I wonder what Dawes would think now, knowing I had his daughter here, like this. Nothing but a chained whore, on her knees before his enemy? Poor bastard—I almost feel sorry for him.”
She looked at the floor, her blonde hair, limp and tangled, a shroud about her face. Her bound hands pulled at the chains binding them behind her back, the fingers twisting together.
Some reflexes hadn’t yet been purged from the former Maryanne Dawes, youngest daughter and confidante of Carlton Dawes, one of Chairman Kaman’s most dogged—and hated—political rivals inside the ruling party.
Shrewd, charming, and bright, she’d been an up-and-coming member of the nascent opposition movement, becoming her father’s right hand woman.
She went by Cunt now.
Rexall knew she wouldn’t say a word about what he’d done to her over the past ninety days or so. He’d trained her out of that particular inclination, to speak of things she shouldn’t. By dint of degradation, humiliation, and agony, he’d shown her the wisdom of keeping her mouth shut—unless it was needed for its one and only true purpose.
Pleasing a male.
“She disclosed everything. Quite the font of intel, actually. Contacts, plans, avenues of support. It’s all on the interrogation report I transmitted over this morning.”
“Yes, yes,” Kaman said, waving a hand. “I understand all of that.”
Kaman crouched down before the girl, grasping her chin. He forced her head up, until she had no choice but to meet his gaze.
“It’s all so much static compared to the value of this one,” the chairman said, staring into her eyes, almost nose-to-nose with her. “Imagine the terror rippling through their ranks when she’s returned to her troublemaking father.”
Her eyelashes fluttered, and her spine straightened ever so slightly, as if the possibility had never occurred to her that she might survive her ordeal.
Kaman thrust two fingers into her mouth then, pushing deep, until she gagged. He did it again, even harder, and her eyes squeezed shut as she choked and coughed, a fat tear sliding down her dirt-encrusted cheek.
“Yes, yes, she’s worth more than ten thousand confessions under torture. The imagination—and fear—pay far more dividends than any counter-espionage mission ever could.”
Kaman withdrew his gloved fingers, the girl gasping. He wiped them off with locks of her hair.
“No offense to your particular… skill set. Ravager.”
Rexall grinned. “None taken.”
Kaman returned his attention back to her, taking a pale pink nipple between thumb and forefinger, squeezing.
She bit back a cry.
“You, my dear. You’ve done a great service for your country, for the TSS. Even if it was the last thing on Earth you’d ever wanted to do.”
The chairmen released her tortured nipple and gave her breast a smack, sending it bounding into its twin. Then he rose, looking back over his shoulder. “Take her.”
“You don’t want me to deliver her back to Dawes?” Rexall leaned an elbow against the roll cage of his vehicle as he watched.
She yelped, terrified, as the two other TSS figures took hold of her under the arms, hoisting her up, her head drooping in shame, hair swinging wildly below her. They hustled her away roughly, pale buttocks jiggling, the chains about her ankles forcing her bare feet to drag along the cold concrete.
For a moment, Kaman watched them go. “I have… discussions still to be had with her. Dawes will have her back… in due time.”
Rexall noted the large bulge at the front of Kaman’s dark uniform pants. “Have an assignment for me?”
He was always impatient to get on to the next one. Despite the fact that for the past three months, he’d spent almost every waking moment with the luscious Cunt, he’d already begun to purge her from his mind.
She was an assignment, nothing more.
And nothing was better than a new one.
He never grew tired of new missions, of the chase—and the conquest.
For it was in his blood.
Kaman cleared his throat, glancing back at the receding guards hauling away their captive. It wasn’t until the trio had disappeared into the main building, the doors slamming with a sepulchral thud, that the chairman turned back to Rexall.
Kaman reached inside his coat, and handed him the disc.
To anyone else, it looked like nothing more than a miniature digital storage disc smaller than the palm of a man’s hand. But it was much more than it appeared.
“This one… is special. None know of its details, not even my personal Guard. The Director has already assigned the NAP solution to you. You must begin your mission no later than one week from today. Review the files, for now—you’ve earned the downtime. The mission parameters are very specific.” Kaman’s voice lowered, his eyes blazing. “But you must speak of this to no one, Ravager. You’ve never had a more important assignment. Failure will not be tolerated—not even from my best HKU.”
Any normal man would have been terrified under the basilisk gaze of the most powerful—and ruthless—man on the planet.
But Rexall was no normal man.
“I don’t need a week, Chairman. I’ll start right now.”
For the briefest of moments, after emerging from the hatch leading up from the vehicle bay, Yulia froze.
Part of her hadn’t really believed she’d ever make it this far. And yet, here she was, the cool of the forest all around her, the flitting insects, rays of gray daylight angling down here and there where the illumination had managed to sneak its way through the dense canopy overhead.
The air was humid, the earthy scent of the soil so refreshing she couldn’t help but draw a deep breath, savoring it, the staleness of the air handlers down in Gamma something she’d gotten so used to that only when exposed to the forest crispness did she realize just how dreary and draining it really was way down there.
Get moving, idiot!
The man hatches from the underground base at Gamma—the base she’d just escaped—were intentionally constructed to bring one out into the middle of the brush, to have one emerge directly into the depths of the Fen, thereby making detection highly unlikely, if not impossible.
Scanning the shadowed trees, she found no waiting sentries, no returning patrols. Only the buzzing, calming murmur so unique to deep forest.
In any other situation, she’d have desired to bask in it for a while, but in this case, such an indulgence was likely to get her thrown back in a hole—or much worse.
She’d spent enough time in that hole already.
Being held against her will was bad enough. Rotting in a cell built by her own side, her own people, made it so much worse.
Not knowing why was the cruelest of all.
But she was free, finally. Now she had to figure out how to not die.
The chain of events that had led to this moment had been shockingly fast.
Over and over, it played in her mind. The call, the confusion among the officers charged with guarding her. Then the mad rush to the base to find out what in God’s name had happened.
It can’t be true!
But it was. All of it.
Then they’d come for her, in the middle of the night, a black bag slammed down over head. Something heavy striking the back of her head, stars, and pain…then blackness.
She’d woken up in the cell—in Gamma’s own brig—and spent who knew how many days there.
Harling Fuller had done it to her. The actual base commander—and supposedly one of her father’s inner circle—had been the one to throw her in a jail cell.
He was supposedly a friend. But now she knew the truth.
Trying to remember what her father had told her, she kept to the shadows.
“Never stay directly on a path if you can avoid it. Skirt it, use it to orient, but never make yourself a target.”
Plunging through the understory brush, she hated the way the branches gripped and tore at her shift, but knew it was better that way.
The first time her father had brought her to Gamma, she’d complained that it was like being swallowed up by the earth, but he’d said that was exactly what made it perfect, that the TSS would never believe they were there, the forest above so tangled and dense there would barely be room for a one room shack.
But underneath that trackless waste was a sprawling rebel installation, complete with full repair and refit depots, massive supply caches, training facilities, and command and control capabilities. It was all there—but thirty-five meters underground.
To her though, for the past year and a half, it had been one thing.
Because her father had been there with her.
The twinge deep in her chest was something she knew she’d never get used to.
Part of her never wanted to get used to it, because it meant she would always remember him. That anguish gave her a reason to keep going.
And now the only thing she could do was flee the one place she’d felt safe.
As fast as she possibly could.
She hated them for it, at what they’d done, her anger never far from the surface.
Her rage at her situation was a crutch, a shield even, for it kept her from sliding into the depths of despair.
Her dad… he really was gone.
Benton Wyndham was his name, rebel leader, moral soul of The Awakening.
To her, he was just Dad, the kindest, gentlest, noblest man she’d ever met.
And they’d killed him.
The inner marker, what appeared at first—and second glance—to be a moss-covered boulder, was dead ahead. It was a welcome sight, and at the same time it filled her with a surprising dread.
For beyond would be somewhere she’d never been without either her father, or a patrol to guide her.
How was she supposed to make it through on her own now?
“Only one way to find out,” she murmured, plunging ahead, patting the rock as if it were a loving pet.
A last reminder of what she thought to leave behind forever.
Following the edge of the twisting forest path, she lost sight of it a couple of times, the tangled underbrush and humid mist that hung along the ground in places—as well as her desire to be as quiet as possible—making it difficult for her to stay moving in a single direction. Stopping when she needed to, she began to worry she’d misjudged the amount of terrain she’d need to cover. How much ground could she make before dark? Where was she going to sleep when the night, only a mere few hours away, finally settled upon her?
She had to hope her absence from her cell wouldn’t be noticed for at least a couple of hours, maybe more. Would he even put out an alarm if he didn’t see her return from topside? Would they send out a patrol?
She’d run into Private Hughes just before she’d escaped. Fortunately for her, the tall, red-headed guard hadn’t seemed to suspect a thing—and he’d let her go without so much as a questioning word.
Grif Hughes had been a friend of her father’s. How long could she continue to get that lucky?
She’d never been missing before, so she had no real idea what was “normal” for the guards at the entrance to Gamma.
Putting herself in Harling’s shoes didn’t help, because if she were in his place, she would call out a “rescue”—to keep up appearances—but when they found her, they wouldn’t bring her back to Gamma. They’d imprison her elsewhere—or worse.
What if Harling had concluded she was too dangerous, and decided to just have her eliminated altogether?
A chill ran down her spine at the cold realization that a bullet in her brain, and a shallow grave in the Fen, was likely to ensure Yulia Wyndham would never be seen nor heard from again.
Then she froze when she saw it.
“No… that’s not it,” she whispered, dread sinking deep in her belly. “There’s no way.”
It was the marker.
The same moss-covered boulder she’d passed hours ago.
Did it look different? The light was lower now, which could be playing tricks with her eyes.
Or just make the same fucking rock look different enough to fool you.
Her mouth went dry as she drew near.
It was definitely the same marker.
Which confirmed she’d just traveled in circles for hours.
And that meant she was much too close to Gamma. A “rescue” patrol could arrive at any moment.
Rescue, for Yulia, meant something quite different than being saved from her predicament.
Panic threatened to overtake her then, her heart beginning to pound. She pulled one of the sidearms from the folds of her shift, squeezing the grip tight, her palm suddenly clammy, slippery.
During her escape from captivity, she’d managed to disable one of the cell guards, knocking him out—and she’d taken both of his pistols—PSW-41s. Fortunately, it was one of the models of sidearms her father had taught her to use.
A muffled snap sounded from somewhere off to her right and behind her. She wheeled around, leveling the weapon in the direction she’d heard it. A rushing in her ears nearly drowned out the evening forest sounds.
There was nothing though, only the gathering of ground-hugging mist, lengthening shadows, and impenetrable brush crowding around massive, soaring tree trunks.
On instinct, she dashed headlong down the meandering path. Staying directly on it was going to have to be a calculated risk. She was in serious trouble, and separating herself—as fast as she possibly could—from the base, was her only real hope of getting out of this alive.
If she even managed to survive the night.
Her breath coming fast and hard, her feet beginning to scream at the pounding they were taking from the rocks and twigs scattered here and there across the trail, she kept running, trying to ignore the doom she swore was reaching out to her from the shadows of the forest, all around her now. Tears stung her eyes, her vision starting to blur at the edges.
Dad, please get me out of here! I don’t want to go like this!
The voice boomed from somewhere behind her, and she caught a toe on a root, losing her balance and sprawling forward, the gun flying from her hand and bouncing away as she crashed to the ground. She grunted at the bone-jarring pain in her knees and hip, the impact knocking the wind from her lungs.
Rolling over onto her back, she found herself staring up through the canopy, stars beginning to twinkle in the patches of darkening sky visible through the gaps in the leaves. It felt as if an elephant were sitting on her chest, her desperate gasps utterly silent as she arched off the dirt, trying to find even a little breath.
For a moment, she feared she would pass out right there. Then she drew a wheezing breath, and another, her muscles finally beginning to work again.
Rolling to her knees, she looked all about her, searching for him.
But there was no one there.
It was a male voice, deep—a tone she’d never heard before.
She had no idea. But while being caught by Harling again might be dangerous, being detected by the TSS meant certain death.
Wheeling around, she dashed back down the trail, her toe a throbbing ache, the soles of her feet burning hot now. It didn’t matter. If she died in the next thirty seconds, hurting feet were no longer going to be a worry.
Twilight was definitely gathering now as she made a turn down a slight grade, the path dwindling to little more than an overgrown hint of a foot trail ahead.
Were those footfalls behind her?
She chanced a look back as she ran.
Except the deep shadows of the forest, thick all around her.
The sound from behind her froze her right in her tracks, one of her feet slipping in the dirt as she skidded to a stop.
It was that same voice—and it was much closer.
Instinctively, she spun around, plunging a hand into the folds of her shift to retrieve the other gun.
But it was gone.
It had to have fallen out when she’d toppled to the ground.
A man—a very tall man—stood on the path less than twenty yards behind her. He was powerfully built, perhaps the equal of the largest man she’d ever seen. The jacket and trousers he wore were both a hunter green, washed out to almost gray in the dying light. The clothes were similar to something she’d seen some of the rebel patrolmen wear.
But somehow, she knew this was no patrolman.
His deep black beard and dark hair made the sparkle of his brilliant gaze appear as if there was almost light emanating from his eyes.
“Yulia Wyndham. I’m here for you.”
She was far prettier in person than her file suggested, a purity, an almost innocence to her that no rundown of statistics could ever hope to convey.
It only made him yearn to plunder that purity even more.
His cock had hardened the first moment he’d laid eyes on her.
The personal motion/IFR tracker he used on foot only had a range of about fifty meters or so, and he’d been shocked when he’d seen motion consistent with a human-sized return picked up in the accursed dense hell of the Emerald Fen.
While it could have been a large deer, or perhaps even a smaller bear, he’d ruled it out immediately, the movement too deliberate—purposefully following one of the numerous footpaths that crisscrossed the area, but not actually on the path.
Animals didn’t move in such ways.
What was more, he knew there was a rebel base nearby… and yet he had no memory of when he’d learned that.
And he had no real idea of where the base was, precisely.
It was truly strange, as if the memory was… shallow. Not fully realized. Like a vivid dream that seemed almost real, and yet threatened to fade if one didn’t replay it over and over in their mind.
As a result, he’d started there, in the general area of where he thought the base might be, utilizing a surveillance spoofer that would mask his heat and movement signatures from both TSS aerial units, and any possible rebel patrols.
He’d caught up to her doing exactly what he’d suspected: haunting the edges of a trail, rather than walking it.
Her clothing clung to her, hinting at generous but firm curves, the weight of her breasts plain in the jut of her bosom. The garment she was wearing was little more than sacking, something wholly inadequate for being outdoors even in the best of conditions—which those most definitely were not.
At least not for her.
Staying back enough to avoid spooking her—there would be plenty of time still to examine her fear much more closely—he observed her.
She was barefoot, which made even less sense than her inadequate clothing—and yet the fact that she was, that it made her that much more vulnerable, only stoked his desire further.
He had to have her.
Every second he delayed, every moment his target wasn’t in his clutches, the need gnawed at him more.
The sensation of it was familiar, but it didn’t make it easier to bear.
It was the Fire, the raw desire that he only managed to keep leashed some of the time. In the presence of such a specimen of feminine beauty, his urge to chase her down and pounce on her was almost overwhelming.
He remembered the times in the past, when he’d finally found his quarry, the pleasures he took in slaking his lust in their bound bodies.
Their lost cries of passion. Of pain.
The images of what he’d done in the past once he’d allowed himself to indulge in those urges played through his mind, but like the memory of the rebel base, something… wasn’t quite right. They were stronger memories, yes, but they were still… indistinct.
Had he used his captives right then and there? Stripping them and taking them? Or had it been more of a… dance? A prelude or tease before the main event?
Why didn’t he have that answer though? It was there, somewhere in his mind, and yet he couldn’t access it.
It unsettled him, the surge of dark lust within, his cock aching with it, as he remembered it. Had he really done that, or was this an impression, a synthesis of multiple events in his past—or even a melding of fact and fancy?
Perhaps his memory was simply playing tricks on him.
He moved closer, stepping carefully, watching her the whole time.
The pitiful cover of her dirty sacking barely reached halfway down her pale thighs, the flesh there mouthwatering. It wasn’t helping him leash his need.
“Who… who are you?”
“Stay right there,” he said, keeping his voice light, almost lilting as if calming a frightened animal.
Which wasn’t far from what this girl really was.
“You’re not… you’re no TSS scum.”
“No… not TSS.”
He took another step. His cock practically screamed now. He was so very close.
Her eyes narrowed—a lovely pale shade of azure he’d never seen before.
She turned and bolted down the trail, surprisingly quick, despite her bare feet, dust rising, a twig spinning up in the air in the wake of her footfalls.
It was like his instincts had been suddenly unchained, the adrenaline flooding his veins.
He caught up to her in less than thirty meters. For a moment, he drank in her form from right behind her, feeling the air pressure difference from her body so close, the strong, coltish pump of her legs, the way her buttocks bounded and flexed under the fabric of her clothing, the scent of her streaming behind her.
His senses heightened, and time slowed.
Rather than bring her down though, he reached out, clawing at the fabric at her waist, tearing it with ridiculous ease.
She reacted instinctively, jerking away from him, and in the process her feet tangling. She tumbled to the dirt, her breath bursting from her lungs in a loud unnnnfff as she rolled to a stop on her side.
But he passed right by her, pouring on all of his speed, and angled left, bounding into the thick brush, ignoring the sting of a branch grazing along his ribcage, plunging deep into the understory until he knew she couldn’t see him.
Though she appeared stunned for a moment, she scrambled back to her feet in swirl of dust, grabbing at the huge gaping opening torn in her clothing. The pale curve of her upper hip was revealed clearly.
As if coming to her senses and realizing she was still in very deep trouble, she dashed away again, in the same general direction, west along the trail, the thump thump of her feet strangely muted in the quiet forest.
He stayed out of sight until she passed out of view. He exited the underbrush, but rather than get back on the trail, he followed along the tree line, just as he’d observed her doing earlier via the motion detector.
It wasn’t long before he regained sight of her, and again, his need for her took over, urging him onward as he ran her down once more. She seemed to hear him coming, looking back over her shoulder just as he reached her, those striking eyes going wide, her lips a surprised O. She tried to pull away at the last second, but he was far too swift, too sure.
Hooking his fingers inside the front of the bodice of the sacking, a great tearing sound rung out as he ripped at it, sailing by her at a such a speed that it made it look as if she were standing still rather than at a full run herself.
“Fuck you!” she cried out behind him.
He stopped immediately, sliding to a standstill, turning back toward her.
She was trying to cover up her now bared breasts, her arm over them as she futilely clutched at the torn fabric.
“You’ll pay for that, you know.”
Her eyes shot up when she heard his words, and she stumbled backward. “Who are you, asshole?”
He advanced on her then. The chase was over.
“What… you’re not human. No man runs that fast,” she sputtered, backing away from him, a defiant jut to her chin.
He very much looked forward to seeing that same chin quiver as her tears cascaded down her cheeks.
“I assure you, I’m very much a man,” he murmured, so softly he wasn’t sure she’d even heard it.
She took off again, only this time, she made a break directly for the cover of the brush.
He followed only fast enough to keep her in sight.
Her yelp as she blundered into the bushes clustered around the soaring trees made him smile.
She was realizing she was in much too far over her head now.
The girl’s form disappearing, he rushed in, catching sight of her once more. Sprinting now, he caught hold of her as she tried to slip between two closely spaced tree trunks, the dappled gray light painting a crazed pattern over her bare upper back.
Her momentum carried her until he pulled back hard, and her feet came off the dirt, her breath leaving her in a long unnnnfff.
Spinning her about, he gazed upon her, his hands locked around her upper arms. The girl was far more beautiful than she’d appeared at a distance, her eyes bright, clear, her complexion flawless pale, her hair spun gold, made even more alluring by the way her flight had flung it about in a wild mess that only amplified her animal magnetism, the deep sensuality of her form. She had a patrician nose, perhaps a trifle too long for her to be outright gorgeous. The female was young. Maybe twenty. Very attractive indeed.
“Stop running, girl. You can’t win. You’ll only hurt yourself.”
The tension in her shoulders eased, if only a fraction, her hand wrapped about one of his forearms, her other clutching the torn bodice to her breasts. “I… okay… okay. Just… don’t hurt me.”
“I won’t do that until you ask me to.”
His cock pulsed at the way her long, dark lashes fluttered at the twisted promise in his words.
And it was a promise. He knew at that moment, that he’d take a different approach with this one. It would be far more satisfying to break her that way, until she begged him for it.
“A-ask? No… that’s… never.” Her lips were swollen, ruby red and lovely, color blooming at her cheeks. Her build, while slight, was lush exactly where it needed to be, her breasts far heavier than one typically saw for a slender girl like her.
It was one of the more luscious, nubile bodies he’d ever had the pleasure of conquering.
Hot, aching pain suddenly shot through his lower belly and testicles as her knee collided with his genitals.
Groaning, he dropped to his knees clutching his groin.
She wasted no time, darting away to the left.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye as she went, the girl looking back over her shoulder at him as she retreated.
Rexall needed her to think he was more disabled than he was.
Navigating around a thicket of brambles, angles and shafts of filtered, grayness illuminating its expanse almost like the stripes of a zebra, the girl disappeared into the shadows again, the only sign of her the snap of twigs under her feet.
Jumping to his feet once more, ignoring the pain—and his cock still hard, despite the shock from her knee—he dashed around the opposite side of the thicket, quickly gaining on her but staying out of her sight, the girl looking wildly around her as she crashed headlong through branches, and bushes, her clothing tearing still more as she went, a bright swatch of it swinging languidly upon a sharp branch.
Guessing where she’d emerge along the remnants of a rudimentary game trail, he stayed concealed behind a thick stand of ferns, keeping his eyes on her.
He’d guessed perfectly and as she stumbled closer, he burst out upon her, the girl screaming and stumbling again, falling against a felled log. He caught her around the hips just before she toppled over the other side.
She struggled, twisting and snarling, her nails leaving runnels of fire down the back of his hand as she clawed at him. Her face was red now, her eyes mere narrow slits, her reflexive, adrenaline-fueled rage giving her strength out of all proportion to her frame.
He gave that flushed face a quick slap, and she froze a moment, holding her hand to her cheek, eyes flying open in shock.
He slapped her again, harder, her head rocking toward her left, a gasp slipping from her lips.
“That’s enough from you, girl. You’re just making this worse for yourself.”
Giving her a sharp shake to make her understand instinctively that she couldn’t hope to overpower him, it appeared to get the message across, the lovely female going almost limp in his grasp.
Her surrender only amplified his lust.
Soon, oh yes.
He lifted her off the ground, her feet kicking ineffectually, and he brought her nose to nose with him.
Her left cheek was reddened in one small spot, a larger clear partial handprint visible on the right where he’d struck her the second time.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to pay for that knee too, bad girl.”