Genmate Forsaken by Cara Bristol
Mysk aimed his .45 semiautomatic at the Xeno woman’s face. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t blow your fucking head off.”
“Because we’re genmates.” Her voice quavered.
“Shut up!” No Xeno could be his genmate. As if he’d swallowed broken glass, horror and betrayal cut from the inside out. Last night he’d gone to bed with a Verital woman and awakened in the brutal morning light to discover the enemy sleeping beside him. “Don’t you dare say that to me!”
Kill her. Kill her now. His finger poised on the trigger. “Start talking. How many others are with you?”
“Just me. I’m alone.”
“Don’t lie to me!” He peered down the weapon’s sight. One bullet. That’s all it would take.
How dare she beg for her life after what her people had done? They’d annihilated an entire population, killed his sister, and she had the audacity to beg for her life? She expected mercy? Where was the mercy for the people burned alive when the Xenos ignited the atmosphere on ’Topia?
“It’s not what you think,” she said.
“It’s exactly what I think.” He’d caught himself a Xeno spy. He circled, taking in her scaly blue skin and ridged spine extending into a thick tail. Vertical pupils bifurcated her amber eyes.
How could he have forgotten Xenos were shapeshifters? Jag had tried to warn him, suggesting the lone woman on Laxiter could be a Xeno, but as soon as he’d seen her, his mating glands had swelled. Jag’s warning and Beak’s anomalous sensor results had flown from his head.
She is not my genmate. It didn’t matter what his genetics said. This…this Xeno scum could not be his genmate.
Naked, she stood motionless, except for the trembling. She should be scared. “I intended to tell you the truth.” Tears continued to leak from her eyes, leaving dark-blue streaks on her cheeks. She even cried blue. Where were the tears for the millions the consortium had murdered?
“Before or after we fuc—” He couldn’t say the word. Last night he’d believed an impossible dream had come true. He’d anticipated spending a long, happy life with her. And then, in the morning…he’d awakened to a living nightmare. In shock, he hadn’t believed his eyes at first. It couldn’t be true. Couldn’t be. Not only had she fooled him, she’d personified a Verital, a member of his own subspecies. The worst insult to an egregious injury.
No wonder she’d refused to communicate telepathically or use the med scanner.
“I feared if you saw me, you’d kill me,” she said.
“Well, you were right about that.” He caressed the trigger. “Where are the rest of your kind?” he repeated. The consortium would not send a lone female to Laxiter 4.
“There are no others.”
He stepped forward and pressed the barrel of the gun to her forehead. “Don’t. Fucking. Lie. To. Me.”
She shook so hard, the barrel stuttered against her skin. “I-I-I was sent here to scout. The High Council had suspected that some…some ’Topians survived the bombardment.”
Fuck, I knew it. All along, that had been his greatest fear—that the Xeno Consortium would figure out there were survivors and would hunt them down until they eliminated every single one. But getting the confirmation devastated him. While acting as if a grave threat existed, secretly he’d hoped otherwise.
“It’s…it’s only me.”
“Try again.” He shoved the barrel harder against her forehead. “How many others are on the planet’s surface? How many are on your ship?”
She swallowed. “If you’re going to kill me when I tell you the truth, then kill me now. Get it over with.”
“I’m going to kill you because you’re Xeno.”
“Then do it if you hate me so much.”
“Nothing would give me greater pleasure,” he said.
Her eyes met his with a brazen, accusing glare. “I was sent alone to scout. I have a small ship. It’s just me and an AI.”
Like picking wheat from chaff, he’d separate the threads of truth from the bullshit later. First, he had to get her to dump it all out. “And if you found a colony, then what?”
“My orders were to report settlements to the High Council—but I’m not going to do that!” she cried.
“You’re fucking right you’re not going to do that.” Kill her. He still had the gun pressed to her head. He caressed the trigger. Not yet.
He’d never deliberately terrorized anyone before, certainly not a female, worse—the female to whom his genetics had bonded him. By some horrible biological fuckery, he shared a mating gene with the enemy. Xenos lied—DNA didn’t. His mating glands had activated, swelled, and throbbed the instant he’d encountered her.
Lala swallowed. Her limbs trembled, pricking his conscience, as if he were the monster.
He stepped back but kept the gun aimed at her face.
Her bare breasts rose and fell with her exhalation of relief.
Oh, don’t be relieved. I’m not done with you yet. Not by a long shot.
Maybe he wouldn’t kill her…maybe he could use her. He raked his gaze over her naked form. A smooth patch, like a necklace of scar tissue, encircled her throat. He’d noticed it when she pretended to be a Verital, but it was more prominent now. He still couldn’t believe he’d had sex with her. His mating glands still ached. Goddamn his genetics. “When did you land?”
“Several hours before you did.”
Truth or lie? Truth probably. The Intrepid’s scanners had picked up residue from a Xeno ship. It hadn’t been long gone.
“Where’s your ship now?” Had she been left behind?
“Rayo moved it to the far side of Laxiter to wait out the solar storm.”
Fuck. That’s where the Intrepid had gone. Shit. With the solar storm casting out EMPs, all electronics were disabled. He couldn’t warn them. It was too late anyway. They’d probably encountered the Xeno ship by now. Sharp-eyed Beak and a crafty, decisive Jag would figure out what to do. But if something bad happened to them, he wouldn’t rest until he avenged their deaths.
“You said you were alone,” he accused.
“I am alone.”
“How many ’Topians did you encounter on Laxiter?”
“None. I only just got here like you did. I don’t have proof that they are here. My AI scanned the planet, but because of the solar storm and the composition of Laxiter’s crust, he couldn’t get a good read.”
“So everything you said about the ’Topians living in caves several days from here was false.”
“It’s where Rayo guessed they would be if they were here. The scan detected signs consistent with previous habitation—where I’d set up the MHU—but also an extensive cave system we figured they might have moved to. The topography didn’t allow me to land there, so I set down as close as I could. I intended to head there, but I had to wait out the thunderstorm.”
He’d found a child’s shoe of ’Topian design, so he knew his people had been here. Were they still here? Had they relocated to the caves she mentioned? Did the caves even exist? Or had the Xenos come and killed everyone? His gut clenched.
When he’d first encountered Lala and believed her to be a Verital, she’d claimed the ’Topians had spotted a Xeno team. She would have been better off to have never mentioned the consortium. Then when her personification failed, he might have bought the story that she’d come to Laxiter alone.
“Where’s your pod?”
“Hidden in brush not far from yours. We walked right by it.”
He’d saved her, pulled her out of the floodwaters and carried her to safety. He eyed the detritus of their romantic meal scattered around the mobile habitation unit, remembering how much he’d desired her, how he’d lunged for her, unable to wait a moment longer.
“What did you tell the High Council?” The first night he’d met her, they’d hunkered down in his pod to wait out the storm. They’d stayed in separate quarters. She’d had plenty of opportunity to alert her people. How many times had he mentioned Earth providing refuge to the ’Topians? He’d done everything except give her directions. Turn right at the Orion Spur. Third planet from the sun. His unwary loose lips had endangered billions because the consortium would eliminate the humans, too.
“Nothing! I didn’t tell them anything. I couldn’t even if I’d wanted to.” She twisted her hands. “Electronics don’t work in the solar storm.”
“Maybe the consortium has developed a new technology to withstand electromagnetic pulses.”
“They haven’t. And after encountering you, and hearing what happened on ’Topia, I would never tell them anything. I’m on your side!”
She expected him to believe that? “You are consistent in your lies.”
“I’m not lying!” For the first time, anger rather than fear flashed in her eyes. “I told you! I had a change of heart. Besides, my handheld was in my pack, and it got washed away in the flood. Unless I return to my pod, I don’t have a way to contact anybody.”
Like a good spy, she had an answer for everything—without actually providing an answer.
“So how many are on your ship? How many landed?” he repeated. An interrogator always doubled back with the same questions. It was the only way to get at the truth. You had to dig it out.
“I told you. It’s just me.”
She said nothing.
Kill her. Be done with it. He caressed the trigger of the .45. A little squeeze, and it would be the end for her. His heart seized with a sudden pain, and his nostrils flared with his labored breaths. Kill her. Do it. “Explain to me why the High Council would send you, a lone woman, to hunt down ’Topians.”
“Because my brother, Chameleon, helped them escape.”
Lala was Chameleon’s sister? He jerked in shock—and then recovered. Clever. He’d mentioned Chameleon on numerous occasions—how convenient she now claimed to be his sister. Until he could safely contact Chameleon from the Intrepid, he had no way to disprove her story.
“Because we’re related by genetics, the council believed I had the best chance of anyone to figure out where he might have sent them.”
“Chameleon never mentioned you,” he said coldly.
Lala flinched as if wounded.
Technically he spoke the truth. Not once in the three years had the other man mentioned Lala. But at the time he’d tapped into Chameleon’s subconscious to extract the coordinates of the haven planets, Mysk discovered Chameleon believed his sister was dead and had been wracked by guilt that his efforts to save a doomed people had resulted in her execution.
Chameleon would be overjoyed to learn she’d survived.
If Lala was his sister.
If Mysk didn’t kill her.
He’d been a hair’s breadth away from shooting her as she slept, but he’d wanted to look her in the eyes, so she would know her enemy. Then when she’d awakened, he’d held off so he could interrogate her. But now, he might have a better use for her. She might be worth more alive than dead.
“Mysk, I swear I didn’t know about the bombardment.” His name, falling from her lips like she had a right to use it, grated on his ears as much as her lies.
“You knew. Everyone in the consortium knew. The High Council would have wanted them to!”
“After it occurred—not before. They lied about their reason. They told everyone ’Topia had intended to attack Xeno, that they executed the bombardment in self-defense.”
He hadn’t thought it possible to hate the Xenos more than he did, but the fact they would accuse the pacifist ’Topians of what they themselves were guilty of was more than he could stand. How do you tell when a Xeno is lying? When he or she is talking. He forced himself to remain calm. “If Chameleon is your brother, I find it hard to believe he never shared his plans with you.”
“He suspected I would not be sympathetic to his cause—then. I wrongly believed what the High Council promulgated.”
“How did they learn anyone had escaped? And that they might be here?” Chameleon had covered his tracks, erasing data and records. Even he hadn’t remembered where he sent them. Mysk had had to pry it out of his subconscious.
“From the gaps in the unibase. They couldn’t tell who had escaped, but they guessed that some did. Which is why they sent me. I could only guess where Chameleon might have sent them. None of the other planets I scanned showed any signs of ’Topian occupation.”
Thank god for that—if it was true. He had only her say-so, which couldn’t be trusted. It was bad enough she’d found Laxiter, and he’d spilled the beans about Earth. That’s what happened when you relaxed your guard, when you failed to probe deeper than first impressions. He couldn’t forgive himself for what he’d already revealed; however, he intended to do everything in his power to rectify the damage he’d caused.
He couldn’t assume anything she was telling him was the truth, so he needed to find out everything she knew—if she’d encountered any ’Topians here or on other planets, the size of her crew, where they had been, and where they had planned to go next. However, she and her crew wouldn’t be going anywhere. Most critical—he needed to learn what the High Council already knew.
If it turned out she had come alone and hadn’t reported anything yet, he would wipe her memory of him and this planet, and implant a belief there’d been no sign anywhere…no. No, wait.
Better…he’d make her believe she’d discovered a crash site with Chameleon’s remains as well as a dead group of ’Topians. She’d found—and lost—a data chip indicating that they had been the sole escapees. He’d then send her back to Xeno to deliver her report and explain to the High Council how she’d managed to lose a critical data chip. The consortium would halt the search, and he could proceed with the plan to mobilize the ’Topians and then attack.
If he discovered everything she’d told him was a lie, and she’d contacted the High Council, then—
A pain stabbed through his chest as his heart contracted.
Then he’d kill her.