Revenge by Ester Lopez
by Ester Lopez
Living a life of crime to support myself and my younger sister, I took the chance to turn my life around by working for the Interplanetary Space Patrol.
Keeping my dark secret and hiding my telekinetic power, I managed to finally fit in. Everything seemed to be working out just fine until I discovered the woman I love wants revenge for her brother’s murder, but she’s not the only one who wants me dead.
Sabotage and murder shake up the tiny Meta Base Station of the I.S.P. but a compromised mission in space and the death of an agent changes everything.
Denoy, Planet Tarsius
Mariposa frowned at Berto. “Did you get in trouble today at the Academy?”
Berto sat by the fire pit, cooking a wild taffit bird on a makeshift spit. He tore off a leg and handed it to his sister. “Don’t eat the bones, Mariposa, and no, I didn’t get in trouble.” He took a bite of taffit. The juices from the succulent bird dripped down his chin. He wiped it off with the back of his hand. He was hungrier than he thought. The sweet aroma of the roasting bird had his stomach growling but the luscious taste made him forget how he had to live.
“I saw you talking to Headmaster Torres.” She took a bite of the leg, glancing up at him.
“Headmaster Torres found a job for me. I start tomorrow after classes. I’ll learn how to fix wing ships, then maybe cargo ships.”
“What about me? Who is going to watch me while you’re gone?”
He bowed his head. Seven anos was too young to leave alone, but he had been orphaned at that age with an infant sister to take care of.
“Promise me you’ll stay here in the cave when you get finished with classes.”
“Aren’t you going to walk me home?” She bit her lower lip and raised her brows.
“Mari, I would, but the job is on the other side of Denoy. I would be late getting to work.”
Mari pouted, on the verge of tears.
“Look, Mari, it’s only for one day. I’ll ask my new boss if you can come with me. You can study while I work.”
“Can’t I go with you tomorrow?”
“No, Mari. I have to speak to the boss first to make sure it’s okay. Now, eat your taffit.”
Later, he tucked her into the makeshift bed of reeds and palms with a blanket he had stolen years before. He looked forward to the day he could pay for his food. When he couldn’t catch anything to eat, he’d stolen it.
He washed up by the small waterfall that trickled into a shallow pool. The coolness of the cave and the smell of wet rock was constant and kept out the heat of the day. The cave had been their home since he was seven. He curled up on the mat beside Mari’s and went to sleep.
The next morning, he dressed in the only clothes he owned—ragged pants and a stained shirt along with his worn-out sandals. Mari’s dress was short and tattered and her sandals no longer fit. Soon he would be able to buy her some clothes.
After gathering wood for the fire pit, he showed her how to use her energy to make a spark. Several tries later, Mari succeeded.
“Can I make the fire when I get home?” she asked excitedly.
“I’ll help you gather more wood so you’ll have enough.”
Their home was at the base of Dos Santos Mountains, hidden in the forest where there were plenty of dead branches to gather. The main trail through Denoy led to the next village, but the trail to their cave was concealed by trees and thick underbrush. He placed the kindling they gathered against the far wall of the cave.
He walked with Mari to the Academy through the woods as usual. He heard the birds chirping and small animals scurrying under brush. Denoy was set in a clearing, surrounded by the forest on three sides and the mountains on the other. Vaedra, their sun, was bright and warm as always in a cloudless sky. The homes were all dome-shaped brownish-red dwellings clustered on either side of a dirt road in the center. The road led from the forest and ended at the shipyards near the Academy. One of those homes used to be theirs.
He had to beg the Headmaster to let him bring Mari to class with him when she was an infant. He explained to Torres their only aunt lived in Eloy, another village on Tarsius. He hadn’t seen her since before his mother died and didn’t know how to contact her.
It took a while for Mari to adjust but the instructors had given him plenty of latitude when they learned his mother had died and his father disappeared on the same day. Eventually, the instructors got used to having Mari around.
# # #
The day dragged on. His studies held no interest for him. All he thought about was the chance for a better life and learning some new skills. Finally, the alarm sounded and the classes dispersed. He spotted Mari, heading down the steps of the brownish-red colored building. He hurried to her.
She turned at the sound of her name.
“Go straight home and stay in the back of the cave, Mari.”
“I will. When will you come home?”
“I’ll be there before dark. You can start the fire just before then.” Their lives would be different after today. Maybe soon they would have a dwelling to call home, instead of a cave.
He squatted down and hugged her. “I’ll be home as soon as I can. I love you, Mari.”
“I love you, too, Berto.”
# # #
He raced to the area that once housed a thriving ship-building business. Some time ago, something happened that caused them to stop production. Ignacio’s Repair Shop was just before the gated entrance to the Denoy Ship Yards.
“You must be Berto,” a short, round man said. Ignacio’s tan was darker than his own.
“Yes, sir. Headmaster Torres sent me.”
“Come, let me show you my shop.” Ignacio pointed out the sections of the shop where certain work was performed. There were women and boys, slightly older than himself, working in all the areas. The first was the navigation section, then a thruster section. Another section was devoted to cooling and heating, another for life support systems, and the main section was for engine systems.
“Since production was halted at the shipyards, I’ve been busy repairing all the old ships. I’ll start you off with the thruster section. I expect you to be here every day until dark. You get paid once a week. Do you have a place to stay?”
“For tonight, sir.”
“There’s Community housing over there.” He pointed to a tall, dome-shaped light brown building across the way. “They serve two meals a day. Do you have any questions?”
“Uh, yes sir. I have a younger sister that I’m responsible for. I was wondering if I could…well…bring her to work with me? I promise she won’t be any trouble. She’s quiet and she’ll study while I work.”
Ignacio studied him. “What about your parents?”
“It’s just me and Mari.”
“How have you survived?”
“I’d rather not say, sir, but we’ve managed. I really need this job.”
“You hiding something, boy. Doing anything…illegal?”
“No sir. It’s just…I don’t want to leave Mari alone. She’s too young.”
“Torres said you were a hard worker. I’m willing to give you a chance. All right, be here after classes tomorrow—both of you. Maybe I can find something for her to do as well.”
“Yes, sir! You won’t regret this. Thank you, sir.” He shook hands with Ignacio and hurried out the door.
Berto ran as fast as he could through the village to the path in the woods that led to the cave they called home. As he approached the rocky cliffs, he thought he heard muffled sounds. When he got to the mouth of the cave, darkness had settled over the forest.
A piercing scream cut through his heart. Mari!
The dim glow from the fire showed three shadowy figures about his size, leaning over something…Mari!
Oh God! One held her arms down, another held her legs. A third person was on top of her, trying to rape her. The boy’s white-blond hair and blue eyes marked him as Chromian.
“No!” Berto’s shout echoed throughout the cave as his anger and adrenalin surged through his body, his gut tightening. He lunged for the boy on top, but the energy built up inside him shot out through his hands before he reached him, throwing the boy across the cave, slamming his head against the wall.
As his rage built, his adrenalin pumped faster throughout his body. He reached for the boy holding down Mari’s arms, the energy surged again, throwing the boy against another wall. The boy hit the rock hard then slumped over.
He glared at the last boy, who held Mari’s legs, moving toward him. He fisted his hands at his sides to keep from doing more harm, but the boy ran out of the cave. The last boy and the second one, with their brown skin and eyes, were Tarsian, like himself and Mari, but he didn’t recognize either of them.
He scooped up Mari and hugged her tight. She clung to him, weeping. His heart pounded from the ordeal. His mind was dizzy with comprehension of his newly discovered skill. He had only pulled things toward himself or started fires with his power but this was new. He could feel Mari’s body trembling…or was that him?
“Mari, I promise, I will never leave you alone again.”
They were no longer safe here. He helped her dress, gathered the few belongings they had, and left the cave, carrying her in his arms.
Tinnian Space Port, Planet Chroma, 14 anos (years) later
“Give it up, Shey. You’re wasting your time,” her father, Kaal, said.
“Searching for my brother’s killer is wasting my time? How can you say that?” Shey responded.
“Kalen was a bad seed, like my brother. I tried, Shey. I gave him more chances than he deserved. Drop this search. If the Tarsian police had any leads, they would have found the killer fourteen anos ago.”
“My involvement with the I.S.P. will give me access to their databases. I will find his killer, Kaal, one way or another.” She put her hands on her hips. Whether Kaal liked it or not.
“Then what, Shey? What will you do?”
“I’ll make sure that justice is served.” Or the killer is dead.
“Will you? What if you find Kalen deserved his fate?”
“What do you mean?” Her heart skipped a beat.
“Check all the facts, Shey, before someone else’s life is ruined.”
She nodded and Kaal hugged her. How could Kalen deserve to be killed?
“I love you, Shey. You’re all I’ve got. I wish you’d reconsider and work for me. I could use a good pilot like you.”
Shey lowered her gaze. She wanted revenge for her brother’s death.
“Live your life. Don’t waste it searching for Kalen’s killer.”
“I’ll contact you when I can.” She kissed her father’s cheek. Slinging the duffle over her shoulder, she headed for Docking Bay Two.
The place was deserted at 0400 hours, Chromian time. Her steps echoed through the massive dwelling. She could easily pilot a small craft and fly to Tarsius herself, but she would have to abandon the ship for the duration of her training. Not worth it.
Her piloting skills and teaching background got her into the I.S.P., but it was her chance to find her brother’s killer that spurred her on. Her father’s words played over in her mind.
Thirty minutes later, the security checks finished, the commercial ship was on its way to Tarsius.
The spacious hall ways and and rich appointments throughout the ship were overwhelming to her. She was not used to such luxury, but since the Interplanetary Space Patrol paid for her trip, she couldn’t refuse.
She found her cabin on the lower deck. Tossing the heavy duffle on the floor, she plopped down on the richly covered, velvety bed, resting her head against the soft pillows. This was a new beginning for her and she looked forward to it.
# # #
Two days later, the cruiser pulled up to Docking Bay Five at the Quinna Space Port on Tarsius. A large holo flashed “I.S.P. Space Recruits Here.” This space port was crowded with various races of people. Chromians from her planet, Tarsians, Persians, Atrians, Vestrians, Plexians, and even Caucus people. Shey headed for the holo and the small group of people gathered there.
While she was a recruit, she would also be the fitness instructor. It meant a lot of time studying for her officer’s test, as well as learning everything else the recruits had to learn, but she was up for it. After all, she had sailed through the teaching Academy on Chroma and learned to pilot cargo ships at a much younger age.
“Good afternoon everyone, I’m Flight Instructor Bover. Follow me to Docking Bay Seven.” The Atrian, with his darker skin and short-cropped, blue-black hair, turned and headed toward Bay Seven with the small group in tow.
Besides herself, there was one other woman among them. A petite Tarsian woman of maybe five and half centikiks glanced up at her. Her short, spiky black hair with red tips reminded her of a fire stick.
“Are you a space recruit as well?” the fire stick asked.
“You could say that.”
“Well, at least I’m not the only woman.”
She looked tougher than some of the taller men who followed Bover. An assortment of Tarsian, Chromian, Atrian, and Vestrian men ensued. This would be an interesting trip if nothing else.
They reached the I.S.P. cruiser docked at Bay Seven. Next to Bover stood a Chromian with a comm-pad. He called out names and rooming assignments. The commercial liner she’d arrived on dwarfed the I.S.P. cruiser. Hopefully, the ride would be decent since Meta was a three-day trip.
“Tam and Shey,” the Chromian called out.
“Yo!” the fire stick replied.
Shey raised her hand.
“You two are on deck three, cabin three.”
“Thank you, sir,” Shey said. The Chromian handed each of them a yav.
“FI Bover will hold orientation in the eating hall in ten minutes. Welcome aboard.”
# # #
Meta Station, Meta, a moon of Plexus, 3 days later
Berto hadn’t seen Mari in four anos. She was only seventeen when he was forced to work for Dram. He had given her the money he received from the pirates to find their aunt and take care of herself. He would ask Howell if he could look for Mari after completing their first mission.
He carried a stack of towels to the fitness room. He heard rumors of Shey’s return. There was only one reason she would come back to Meta Station. Revenge. He had looked forward to some time off before her ship arrived but when he saw it hovering over the landing pad, his pulse kicked up a notch. As he rounded the corner, Law Enforcement Officer Danner hurried toward him in the hall, a comm-pad in hand.
“Just think, Berto, after today, no more grunt work. You’ll be a full-fledged recruit.”
“You mean it gets better?” Being a recruit was a step up in life. From now on, he would be working with the law instead of against it.
Danner shrugged. “It depends on how fast you learn. Lander has your comm-pad with the rooming list at communications.”
Berto nodded as he opened the fitness room with his yav, while Danner disappeared around the corner for final room inspection. Calling them officers felt strange. When he first met the men stationed here, they were all agents of the I.S.P. With Dram’s capture, the new program was born along with everyone’s promotion.
Berto set the towels on a shelf against the far wall in an otherwise empty room. Dram’s old room. Except for the new yellow coloring on the walls, the renovations hadn’t changed much of the look to the old slave trading compound. It would take time getting used to calling the place the Interplanetary Space Patrol, Meta Station.
He rubbed the back of his neck where the implant was located. He’d almost forgotten about it. A little gift from the pirates who paid him to steal the cargo ship that Dram stole from him. Well, after four anos, he should be safe by now.
He locked up. Pointless, he thought, since the equipment hadn’t arrived, but Lander gave him the order to do it. He headed toward communications.
# # #
“There you are,” Lander turned toward him as the door hissed open. Lander stood tall and stocky behind Communications Officer Derek, while Derek worked the Comm-board’s frequency module.
“Here.” Lander handed him the comm-pad.
Berto powered up the device and anxiously scrolled for the names of the new recruits. More than halfway down the list, her name caught his eye and gave his heart a hitch. Shey.
“Have you got all the rooms prepped?” Lander asked, pulling him from his memories of her.
“Everything is good to go.” He cleared his throat.
“The ship just landed. After Danner greets them, you can show the recruits to their rooms.”
Danner hurried into the room through the double doors.
“Ready, boys?” Danner glanced at both of them.
He wasn’t ready for Shey, that’s for sure, but she had been on his mind since the day they’d met, over two Meta-moon cycles ago.
The three of them stepped outside. The hatch lowered on the class C cargo transport and he held his breath as the first recruits stepped off the ship.
Shey stepped out on the ramp behind some of the taller men, glancing around her former prison. She repressed the feelings she had the first time she arrived here against her will.
“Welcome to Meta Station. I’m Procurement Officer Lander and this is Law Enforcement Officer Danner.”
She moved to her right to see who spoke and her breath caught in her throat at the sight of Berto. What was he doing here? The sight of him excited her. Then anger merged with it at the thought of her past abduction.
“Meta is the second I.S.P. training facility in the Vaedra System,” LEO Danner began. “You are all part of a special-missions team set up to locate and retrieve slaves who have been abducted from their home planets by the slave trader, Dram. This six-week program is geared to get you in shape and prepare you mentally and physically for the demands of the job.” LEO Danner paced before them as he spoke.
“After our evening meal, we will have a tour of Meta, then a small social gathering before calling it a night.”
He turned, gesturing toward her former abductor. “This is Berto. He’ll escort you to your quarters and later give you the Meta tour.”
How can a criminal work for the I.S.P.? Unless they didn’t know he was a criminal.
“Follow me,” Berto said. He cleared his throat as he walked through the outer door and into the communications room.
She would get to the bottom of this. Of all the people working on the mission, how could they let a man with a criminal past be a part of this? Her heart pounded at the thought of confronting him.
“This is Communications Officer Derek. He’ll give each of you a frequency ID so you can send and receive communications off Meta.”
Berto either deliberately ignored her or he didn’t recognize her. Maybe she read more into their brief encounters.
“I’ll have them ready by morning meal. You can check with me then,” CO Derek said.
Berto lead them through the double doors into the eating hall.
“As you can see, this is where we’ll spend some quality time, depending on the skills of the new cook.” He glanced at the group and caught her gaze. “You did bring a cook with you, didn’t you?”
Her heartbeat kicked up a notch when she realized he spoke to her. “He’s with the officers,” she replied, crossing her arms over her chest. He recognized her.
“At least we won’t starve.” He led the group through another set of double doors.
He pointed to the lounge area to the left. “This is our waiting area and beside it, Commander Howell’s office. Through the office, our only classroom. We’ll get to know each other well by the end of the training program.” He caught her gaze once more, a warm sensation running through her. What did he imply?
Continuing down the hall, he pointed to the rooms on the right. “These are the officer’s quarters. On the left, we have the fitness room and the female quarters.” At the T intersection of halls, Berto pointed to the four rooms and called out “Crocker, Dayton, Tibu and Kar. Your quarters, room one.” He pointed to the last door. Then he called out “Zed, Meffa, Talo and Grimm. Your quarters, room two.” He pointed to the second room from the left. Then he called “Coz, Sags, Telik. Room three. I’ll call for you all when it’s time for the evening meal.”
The group of men headed for their quarters as Berto turned toward her and Tam. Her pulse raced in anticipation.
“Tam, these are your quarters,” he pointed to the last room on the left before the intersection of halls.
“I have my own room?”
“Apparently,” he checked his comm-pad again.
Tam shrugged and entered her quarters through the hissing door.
Shey had to let Commander Howell know about Berto’s past. He could jeopardize the missions.
Berto locked gazes with her. “Why are you here?”
“I could ask you the same thing. I want to speak with Commander Howell.”
He turned, leading her to Howell’s office in silence. He hesitated by the door panel. She didn’t have time for this. She pushed past him, the door hissed open.
Howell sat at his desk, working from his processor when he glanced up.
“What is he doing here?” She pointed to Berto, throwing her duffle to the ground. Crossing her arms, she glared at Commander Howell. She recognized him as one of the men in charge of the rescue efforts on Vestra Minor and the one who recruited her. Certainly he knew about Berto’s past. Her heart pounded in her chest.
“Berto is a reformed criminal, Shey,” Howell began. “He is stationed here, along with everyone else, until training is over. Afterward, he will be on missions just like you and the others, searching for the slaves that Dram traded over the years.”
“How can you let him work here after what he’d done?” she demanded.
“He’s confessed his crimes and this is his punishment.”
“Punishment?” What kind of punishment was that? He should be serving time on Plumaris like other criminals.
“Can I speak, sir?” Berto asked.
“Go ahead, Berto.” Howell rested his elbows beside his processor, propping up his chin with his knuckles.
“Yes, go ahead. I’d like to know what makes you think you can be an I.S.P. agent after living a life of crime.” She shoved her hands on her hips. Abducting women and children was about as low as one could get.
“Look, I did what I had to in the past to survive, but I don’t expect you to understand that. My sister depended on me. Working for Dram was not my idea. I was blackmailed into it. Now it’s over.”
“I co-operated with the I.S.P. to capture him and a few of his employees. I volunteered to help locate all those he had sold into slavery until everyone is found, in return for my freedom.”
Freedom? What about all those abducted? What about their freedom?
“I expect to be here for as long as it takes. If that means for life, then so be it.” He turned toward Commander Howell. “And after our first mission, if it’s all right with you, sir, I’d like to locate my sister to make sure she’s taken care of.”
He has a sister that he cares about. She remembered her brother and how he spent time with her when he was alive. “That doesn’t excuse what you did to me and the others.”
“No, it doesn’t. I don’t expect you to forgive me. All I can say is…I’m sorry.” He held her gaze. “I’m really sorry, for everything.”
His dark brown eyes held a deep sadness she couldn’t overlook. Maybe he meant it.
Howell cleared his throat. “Everyone makes mistakes, Shey. I also think that people deserve a second chance. Now, can we get back to the business at hand?”
“Yes, sir,” Berto said, stepping back.
She studied him before crossing her arms again, her opinion of him softening. Never had a man apologized to her before.
“Berto will show you and the others to your quarters,” Howell glanced at his chrono, “if he hasn’t already done that. Later, he’ll give the group a tour of the grounds since he knows this place better than anyone. Tomorrow, he is a recruit like everyone else. I expect you to treat him like you would all the others. Is that clear?”
She swallowed. “Yes sir.” She grabbed her duffle and left. Berto held the door for her. Another kindness.
“Let me show you to your quarters,” he said.
“I think I can remember the way, thank you.” She trudged down the hall carrying her duffle over her shoulder.
Berto cleared his throat. She turned to glance back at him. “Your quarters,” he pointed one door past the fitness room.
“The old slave quarters are now the rooms for the male recruits. Your quarters are next to the fitness room.” He punched in a code on the door panel, then handed her the yav.
She let her gaze slowly roam up his muscular body, covered in the white unicrin of the I.S.P., before resting on his sad, brown eyes. “Thank you.” She stepped inside the doorframe and turned to face him. Something about him drew her like a magnet.
He crossed his arms, clutching his comm-pad, the muscles in his arms and shoulders stretching the fabric of his unicrin. She had forgotten how good he looked.
“Why are you really here?” he asked.
Her heart skipped a beat. While she never expected to see him again, she couldn’t tell him about her fantasies. She dropped her duffle on the floor, placing her hands on either side of the doorframe. “I have…unfinished business to take care of.” She lowered her gaze. After her outburst in Howell’s office, Berto wouldn’t want to be alone with her. Besides, her revenge was her own business.
“So you quit your instructor’s job at the academy and joined the I.S.P.?”
“Not quite.” She glanced up and caught his gaze. “They asked me not to come back.” She crossed her arms, the memory of that day still painful.
“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow.
“The headmaster said he no longer needed my services.” She clenched her jaw and leaned against the doorframe.
“Why? You did all you could to protect those girls.”
“That’s what I thought.” She straightened, uncrossing her arms. “The headmaster said that I should have stopped you from abducting us in the first place.” She lowered her gaze and punched the lock tab. The door closed in his face.
She leaned against the wall of her new home and let out a breath, fanning herself. The man still affected her. It was all she could do to keep from touching him.
Berto slowly exhaled. Shey’s unfinished business—most likely revenge against him. He couldn’t blame her. If she had tried to stop him, like her headmaster suggested, he would have had to kill her. His instructions were to pick up young girls on Chroma. A fitness instructor wasn’t part of the plan. But because she intrigued him, she was still alive.
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