Break Out - By Nina Croft

Chapter One

Rico hurled himself behind the huge trunk of a tree and stood, back pressed against the rough bark as the missiles whizzed past.

An arrow thwacked into the wood behind him, and every muscle in his body tensed. He reached gingerly around and snapped it off. In the dim light, he held the shaft to his face and cursed loudly—wooden arrows. It was almost as though they were expecting him.

“Goddamn heathen peasants.” He might as well be back in the Dark Ages.

In the distance, a pack of hounds bayed for blood. His blood. And they weren’t getting it.

He braced himself and peered around the trunk, through the thick stand of trees, and spotted the crimson glow of a hundred torches not too far in the distance. Breathing in, he caught the oily scent of burning pitch.

A triumphant roar filled the air. The hounds must have picked up his scent.

Rico cursed and darted off again, weaving through the dense forest with blurring speed. He could outrun the mob and the hounds, but it was a damn poor way to end an evening.

When the sound of voices faded behind him, he slowed down and finally came to a halt. Time to get the hell out of there. Leaning against a tree, he switched on his comm unit.

“What is it?” Tannis sounded irritated, and Rico frowned.

“I need picking up.”

“It will have to be later—I’m busy.”

He cocked his head to one side, listening for the sound of the mob, judging its distance. His pursuers would be on him soon. Tannis had better get unbusy and fast.

“Tannis, stop whatever it is you’re doing, bring my goddamn spaceship, and pick me up.”

She was silent for a moment. “I’ll think about it.”

The line went dead. He stared at the comm receiver on his wrist. She’d cut him off. Gritting his teeth, he imagined the pleasure of tossing her mutant body out of the ship’s airlock. Only first, he had to get back to the ship. He pressed his finger down until he heard the line open.

“What?” she snapped.

“Tannis, are you aware that I’ve rigged The Cazador to blow if I don’t input a unique numerical code every twenty-four hours? Come and get me or the whole ship goes up.”

“Good try, but I don’t believe you. You don’t think that far ahead.”

He took a deep breath. “Do you remember that time last year?”

“What time?”

“The time I saved your worthless life. At great personal risk to myself.”

“Yeah. So?”

“So bloody well reciprocate.”

A shaft of burning pain shot through his leg and he jumped, then stared down in disbelief at the arrow sticking out of his calf, an inch below the knee. “I’ve been shot,” he said.

“Shot? By what?”

“By a big fucking arrow. Get down here. Now.”

He yanked the arrow from his leg and flung it to the forest floor. “Or you’re fired,” he added and shut off the connection.

His pursuers were close now, so close he could hear the fierce crackle of flames mixed with the rise and fall of excited voices. He ignored the pain in his leg and took off through the trees again. A few minutes later, he skidded to a halt.

Straight in front of him, the land fell away abruptly. He peered over the edge. A long way below, water roared. A lot of water. A lot of cold water. He hated cold water. He searched the sky for any sign of Tannis, but a thick layer of cloud obscured the moons and he saw only darkness. He jammed his finger onto the comm unit. “You here yet?”

“Have a little patience. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Great, just great. The problem is, I might not be here in five minutes.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic. Just hold on.”

He stared over the edge into the dark, turbulent water. “Hold on to what?”

A low snarl sounded behind him. With a sigh of resignation, he turned to face his pursuers. They emerged from the shadowy tree line, torches held in front of them, before fanning out to form a semi-circle around him.

One of the hounds crept toward him, belly close to the ground, growling softly. It reminded Rico a little of the dogs back on Earth, probably even had some real dog DNA in there somewhere. Rico growled back, baring his fangs. The animal got the message, turned tail, and ran.

A tall man stepped forward to stand at the center of the group. He wore the long black robes of a priest, and Rico groaned. Not heathens after all. Bloody religious fanatics. Copyright 2016 - 2021