The entire manuscript can be found here: Starblood Manuscript
“It’s done. We’re ready,” Dorian said.
“And right on time,” Arris answered, checking the time. “Where is Kadi?”
Arris turned around, and there she stood. She had the most beautiful straight black hair, but she was addicted to hair color. This time, Kadi’s hair had bold purple streaks. Her skin was an impeccable golden color, and her eyes were the softest gray.
“Your Translock is here?” Zeen asked.
“Of course it is. Here and charged.”
“The Translock doesn’t need to be charged, Kadi,” Arris replied dryly.
“It was a joke, Ris. Lighten up, this will work.”
Arris turned to leave the small circular enclosed room that led directly above ground. He walked into the only tunnel that left from that anteroom. His hands skimmed the walls of the hallway as his mind repeatedly reviewed the plan. He could hear behind him Kadi asking what had gotten into him, and Zeen replying that he’d met one of the victims personally. His hand melted into the dirt.
Arris’ eyes shut, and dirt slowly began to fill the hallway he was standing in. He silently stood there, as dirt began to bury him. He struggled to breathe. A soft, feminine hand held onto Arris’ waist as he slowly stopped breathing. He heard a muffled shout calling his name, over and over again. And suddenly he was gasping for air. His eyes opened, and instead of seeing dirt covering him, he saw Kadi’s face lined with worry. Her hands let go of his waist, and she smiled – a drop dead beautiful smile.
“You can’t do that here, Ris. You’ll get lost.”
“I know, Kadi. I know.”
“Where’d you meet her?”
“The girl who’s going to die. Catch up, Ris.”
“Sorry. At ECH, she and her friend snuck into the school.”
“Assets. She’ll be fine. She’ll have a new life on Scyther. I promise.”
“Anytime, Ris. In the meantime, keep your mind separate from your emotions.”
Kadi turned around, walking away, and Arris smiled, a bit ruefully, at her back. Kadi had the most stunning girlfriend back at home. They looked great together. But some primal part of him called to her. She was the most beautiful female Arris had ever had the privilege to lay eyes on.
“They’re starting, mate,” Zeen called.
Arris pushed out of his thoughts and turned to face Zeen. Zeen tossed Arris a gun, and an extra round of bullets. Arris slipped them into his back pocket and nodded to Zeen as he passed by him to get to his position. Arris stood near the hole in the ceiling where the Torri will drop down. He heard a man giving a speech to the onlookers, and then a girl, no less than ten years of age, dropped through the hole.
Her bright auburn hair caught the light as she looked to me.
I gave her a small smile and respond. “We are saving you. Follow that man over there.” I point her to where Dorian is standing, giving her an encouraging smile.
A boy falls through the hole, and Arris looks up in time to see his projected head fall to the side. He looks to me and wipes the tears that escaped his eyes. He waves, and runs into the entrance of the tunnel.
They all fall through, boys and girls, of different ages. But in a way, they all look the same. Half starved, frail, and empty. Arris wonders if maybe letting some of these kids die would be a mercy. Maybe having them live on would be more of a punishment than a gift.
And then he falls through the hole. YK. And Arris knows that it is a gift to some. His demeanor is different from the others. His spirit isn’t broken. There is a light in YK’s eyes that Arris hasn’t seen in any other Torri.
YK follows the trickle of people down into the tunnel. She is next to fall through the hole. Her face is paler than it was this morning. There are red marks marring her wrists. Her hands impulsively brush across them, probably because they are sore. Arris pulls her aside.
“What’s your name?”
“XS. And you’re Arris, from this morning,” she correctly recalls.
“Why am I not dead?”
“We’re taking you to a better place.”
“Anywhere is better than here.”
“This place isn’t anywhere.”
“I’ll take your word. Is YK here?”
She nods, and head into the tunnel.
Arris hears the crowd dispersing aboveground, and looks through his Translet’s lenses to be sure. The crowd is indeed dispersing. Except for this one Torri. He runs and picks up XS’ head, holding it to his chest. An ex-lover? Arris uses his Translet to make the head in the boy’s arms disappear. He looks to the hole in the ground and sees Arris. Arris beckons him over, and the boy slowly comes over.
“She’s safe. You wanna come?”
Arris knew that there would be repercussions to bringing this boy along, but he couldn’t resist asking.
Arris moves aside so that the boy can jump through. He jumps through the hole, landing on his feet. Arris takes the boys arm and begins to run into the tunnel.
“What’s your name?” Arris asks.
Arris hears footsteps behind them, and he draws the gun. He turns and sees one of the Aduran Mine Officers running after them. He aims the gun and shoots. The bullet punctures the man in his foot, preventing him from following after them. But by then, six more officers have dropped belowground.
“Don’t look back, but run faster.”
Despite what Arris said, AZ looks behind them and sees their pursuers. Arris feels a tingling sensation run through his entire body. ID scanner. They know who I am, Arris thinks. He turns and shoots the gun, minorly wounding three of the officers. 4 bullets used, 3 left. 6 enemies standing. A blinding pain shoots down his back.
“Ash, contact Kadi,” Arris mutters to his Translet.
“Contacting. Line Connected,” Ash answers in Arris’ head.
“Kadi, I’m shot, and I have a Torri with me. They also have my identification,” Arris tells Kadi.
“Burn my bones! I have enough room in the Translock for the both of you, Zeen, and Dorian. How far are you? And the wound?”
“Healed. No exit wound,” I answer. Then I say to Ash, “Ash, send my location to Kadi.”
“I got it. You’re only about two minutes out. I can wait,” Kadi responds a heartbeat later.
“And the men on my tail?”
“Zeen has a gun. He’ll shoot ‘em. I’ll contact him. Run like the wind, Ris.”
A couple seconds later, gunshots ring out in the tunnel. AZ flinches with every single one but continues to run.
The Translock is in Arris’ sight when a boy runs past him. Arris turns and sees YK running toward the final attacker. Six attackers, only five gunshots.
“YK!” Arris yells.
Another gunshot sounds and when Arris turns for the last time, YK is sprawled on the ground. AZ runs inside the Translock, directly to XS who is glued to the window. Arris reaches the Translock and shoots the final attacker in the head, and he instantly falls, dead. As the final gunshot sounds, the Translock closes its doors.
“Please, I need to see him,” XS whispers.
Zeen reopens the door, and XS runs to YK’s body. She cradles his head in her arms, tears freely flowing from her eyes. AZ drops down beside her and puts his arms around XS. She leans into AZ, her tears staining his shirt.
“Shoot me too,” she whispers. “Shoot me too.”
“No,” AZ whispers back. “Never.”
Slowly XS leaves both AZ’s arms and YK’s side. She walks into the Translock, looking as though her wish was fulfilled. She sits in the seat nearest the window, her eyes never wavering from YK’s dead body.
Once AZ walks in, Zeen shuts the door, and Kadi starts up the Translock. In seconds we’ve left the planet of Enquan, but XS’ eyes stay fixed to the window, as though she can still see his body, sprawled on the concrete.
Kadi’s Translock was smaller than the Areole, Lady Christine Shaxx’s Translock. It consisted of only a single room seating fifteen passengers. Arris sat down in a seat close to the pilot seat where Kadi was seated. As he sat down the bullet lodged in his back moved, and Arris winced. Kadi noticed it.
“You left it inside you?” Kadi asked.
“There was no time to remove the bullet before the healing kicked in.”
Zeen overheard the exchange and walked over to where Arris was seated.
“Cas, please do a scan on Arris’ back,” Zeen said to his Translet.
“Zeen. I’m fine,” Arris interjected.
“There is a bullet lodged in one of Arris’ ribs. There is minimal internal bleeding, but Ash has injected 20 mL of morphine into Arris’ system. I suspect that the bullet nicked the bone, and possibly hit an artery,” Cas told Zeen.
Zeen glared at Arris. “20 mL of morphine?”
Arris nodded. He’d first instructed Ash to inject the morphine, a couple of seconds after he was hit, to speed up the healing, but then he was in so much pain that he ordered another injection. Ten mL quickly became twenty mL.
“Are you still healing?” Kadi asked.
“Then we wait until we can find a hospital. We’re not doing that kind of surgery without some anesthesia.”
As the matter was settled, Zeen returned to his seat. A couple of seconds later, Kadi got out of his seat and opened the door of the Translock.
“Welcome to Syther,” Kadi said, her eyes fixed in the distance.