Title: Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Five
“Shit,” Agnieszka snarled against the rocky ground. “God damn fucking—” She lapsed into a language that Jonah didn’t understand but that he assumed was a continuation of her long string of swear words. “—pirates had to follow me down here too?” She bucked her hips. “Get off me, I’m going to kill him!”
“With what?” Jonah hissed, doing his best to hold her steady and keep her from damaging her shoulder any further. “With the gun you don’t have? With a bunch of angry words? ‘Cause that’s not gonna cut it, kid.” He could hear the man circling, drawing slowly closer, and he scooted them more to the side, tighter against the ruined pod.
“I’m a Federation officer, I’m in control of this situation, and I demand you let go of me!”
“I’m not in your chain of command, darlin’, and thank goodness because if I was I’d have to be real disobedient right now.”
“Let go of me!” she snapped. “Let go of me! Let…let go of…” As quickly as it had flared up, her anger fell away, leaving her shivering against him. “I have to fight,” she whispered. “I have to, I can’t go down like that again, I can’t.”
“It’s okay,” Jonah murmured. “It’s gonna be okay, just—”
“Tell you what,” the pirate called out. “If you just give me the girl, no fuss, I’ll consider letting you leave. She and I can find a way to fill a few hours before I get tired of her.” Agnieszka stiffened, but didn’t speak. “Not exactly a romantic locale, but then I’ve never been much for romance,” the man continued. Jonah knew he was only talking in order to distract them from the fact that he was getting closer, ever closer, but it was a hell of a distraction.
“Me, I like ‘em feisty and bound. That little look of hate a woman gives you when you’ve got her trussed up so tight there’s no escape…mmm, I love it. I love watching hate turn to fear. I love the sounds she makes when I use her and she can’t do nothing about it, and then when I’m done and I get ready to cut her throat…oh, there’s nothing sweeter. Most times she starts to cry, although some girls stay tough to the end.” He chuckled. “What do you think this one’s gonna do, huh?”
There was nothing left but to be reckless. Stupid and reckless and hopefully lucky. It was dark out, and Jonah had his flashlight. It wouldn’t be a permanent distraction, but if he could temporarily blind the man then he could close the distance and…and…and do something to the guy. He wasn’t the fighter Robbie was, of course, nowhere near, and he couldn’t even hold a candle to his husband, but he’d had some training alongside Cody as a matter of course after marrying Garrett. He could…
There was no more time for consideration. The pirate was too close, still burbling away about all the awful things he’d do to Agnieszka, how he’d have her sideways and upside down and everything in-between. Jonah took a deep breath, then turned his light on full power and rolled over onto his back, away from the dubious safety of the pod’s carcass and into the line of fire. A bullet hit the ground next to his head, but after another moment he had the beam of light focused firmly on the other man’s face. The pirate swore and ducked, and Jonah scrambled to his feet and threw himself at him.
The first thing he lost was the light, knocked out of his hand by a lucky kick. Jonah wrapped his arms around the guy’s legs and drove him to the ground, but the pirate was already reorienting on him, raining blows down toward his head while swearing up a storm. Fuck, what was he supposed to do once he got him down? He had to—okay, getting the fucker to stop hitting him was high up on the list. Jonah let go of his legs and climbed his opponent’s body, digging his elbows in every chance he got and biting down hard when a particularly persistent hand wouldn’t stop clawing at his face. He was bleeding—he could feel it, odd heat against the rest of his chilly face—but he didn’t stop, he couldn’t stop. He got on top and threw his own punches, some of them hitting, some of them going awry—fuck, he couldn’t see anything in this gloom and his light was gone, he had to—
Their positions were reversed in an instant, Jonah thrown over onto his back and straddled by the furious pirate. A fist impacted his cheek, stunning him, before the man’s other hand closed hard over his throat. The pirate bent close. “Dumb son of a bitch, you coulda walked away. Now I’m gonna rape you before I rape her, tie her up and make her watch me split you in half and then have her in a pool of your own bloo—”
Whatever else he was going to threaten was lost as a glowing wand suddenly struck the pirate in the back of the head, driving him over Jonah’s body and knocking his weight away. Jonah watched blearily for a moment before he realized that the wand was actually a light, his heavy, industrial flashlight, and the person wielding it was screaming with fury. Agnieszka followed the dazed pirate to the ground and hit him in the head over and over again with the butt of the flashlight, until his swearing turned to groans, then gasps, and finally nothing at all. Jonah finally pulled himself together enough to reach out to her, lay a hand on her arm, now covered in gore.
“Hey,” he said hoarsely. “Lieutenant, it’s okay. You can stop now, he’s dead. He’s dead, Agnieszka, he can’t hurt either of us now.”
“He deserves it!”
“I know.” Her arm trembled in Jonah’s loose grip, but had stopped striking.
“He would have done all of that to us, he would have done worse! You didn’t see them up there, the way they fought. They targeted pods, people trying to get away from the battle. I know these bastards, they killed—my friends, so many of my friends, they’re dead—I can’t—”
“You’re alive,” Jonah said gently. “We both are. We should try to stay that way, huh? Let’s leave him here.”
Agnieszka looked at him, her eyes huge and bright in the flashlight’s wavering beam. “Where will we go?”
Jonah smiled, distantly noting how much the motion hurt his mouth. Split lip for sure. “I’ve got a safe place.”
Berengaria had never been brilliant, like so many members of her family. She hadn’t inherited her father’s magnificent spark of charisma or turned out with her brother’s patient, insightful ability at manipulation. For so much of her life, she had simply been, had existed and been maneuvered like the pawn she was. Her earliest dreams of a life of ease and beauty had been dashed with the murder of her father, and as her own opportunities had quickly become circumscribed, she had withdrawn deeply into her shell. She’d created a false beauty around herself, a fake paradise that was as ephemeral and dream-like as her thoughts of independence, of fighting back. She’d tried, here and there, but most of her efforts had been blocked by her brother before they’d even manifested in the slightest bit of change.
Brilliance, she’d decided a few years ago, was overrated. She was never going to be a genius, but some of the greatest creations in the universe were the result of persistence, not inspired flights of fancy. So Berengaria packed away her hopes and dreams and settled into the banality of layering her actions so deeply that it would take her own brother weeks to sift through them all. Boring, dull, basic as could be—therein lay her camouflage. And at the very center of it, she employed a very simple trick.
It had taken a long time, and some help from Garrett and others, but at long last, Berengaria had laid out her own web. A combination of biological, mechanical and combination trackers, most of them so small they could barely be detected from her space-side prison, had been placed on each of her brother’s personal transports. The military ones were swept too frequently for bugs to stick, but Raymond was more arrogant about his personal conveyances. It had taken some of her bugs months to crawl their way into his life, but they were there now. She knew when they moved, and had metrics on how often, and where, and whether or not he was on board. That was the reason the biological ones were so important—they carried a little bit of her DNA, and pinged a match to Raymond when he was in range.
And now he was moving. Fleeing. And he was on the right side of the planet for Berengaria to do something about it. Perfect.
She wasn’t the smartest member of her family, and she wasn’t the most persistent either. But, she thought to herself as she started removing the failsafes on her little island’s directional controls, she might very well be the best at vengeance. Because if she only had one chance at taking out her brother, she wasn’t going to fuck it up.
See if he could dodge her entire space station when she dropped it on him before he finished clearing Olympus’s atmosphere.