Alien Apocalypse Part III
The NEW ORDER
“They were leaving. She was leaving Earth..."
Jet figures out fast that her new role as the prince’s consort presents even more dangers than just being a straight-up slave and Rings champion. For one thing, a lot more people want to kill her.
Worse, Ringmaster Trazen remains as obsessed with Jet as ever. If anything, he seems more determined than ever to put Jet in her place as a “mammal” and a slave.
As political intrigues heat up in the Green Zone and one of her human friends is given the death penalty for treason, Jet finds herself surrounded by strangers, enemies, fans and so-called friends, none of whom she fully trusts. Jet soon realizes that the only path to her family’s survival will be the one Jet carves herself.
NOW IN KINDLE UNLIMITED!
Jet stood on a high dais overlooking the steps of the main plaza in Green Zone, Hezeret, fighting not to think about why she was there. She tried instead to focus on the part of her that was just happy to be outside the palace walls.
Whatever her status with the Royals or the Rings or whatever else these days, they still rarely let her walk around without armed guards. The irony that the improvement in her position only worsened that trapped feeling didn’t elude Jet entirely, but it didn’t exactly help her, either.
Inhaling deep the smell of flowers and cut grass and the rising odor of cinnamon and baked bread from the cart sitting on the street below the wide stretch of lawn, she tilted her face up towards the sun, wondering if anyone would try to kill her that day.
So far, no takers, which made it a banner occasion.
She considered walking down to look at the cart itself, to maybe try and persuade one of the guards to lend her a few coins to buy one of those lizard pastries she’d developed a taste for, with the meat filling and the light-blue glaze on top, when a shadow blocked her view of the sun.
The height of that shadow forced her to blink, then tilt her eyes upwards, even as she raised a hand to shade her face.
Instead of Laksri, who she’d expected, Trazen stood there.
One of his human slaves had wrapped his muscular shoulders in a gold fabric that matched the tents standing behind them on the hill. The fabric also highlighted tiny, gold specks in Trazen’s dark eyes, which Jet had never noticed before. She wondered if he’d had those added artificially.
She doubted it. Whatever his other faults, it was difficult to imagine Trazen being vain enough to get a surgical procedure purely out of vanity. The guy might be a psychopath, but he didn’t really strike her as one overly obsessed with the opinion of others.
Maybe it would be better if he was.
Either way, she kept her thoughts to herself as she stared up at his muscular, dark-skinned torso, noting the position of his tail warily in her peripheral vision.
“Do you think it’s wise, princess?” the well-dressed Nirreth said.
He seemed to notice her looking at his size, and perhaps even his eyes and clothes. His lips lifted in a faint Nirreth smile. His English came out in a rolling hiss, his large eyes sliding down her in a decidedly more loaded appraisal.
“Is it wise?” he repeated slowly, his eyes still lingering. “…To be outdoors, in such a public venue? You are known here. You are known everywhere in the city now. Your face…your hair. Even before this announcement of your new status, you are likely to attract attention from your recent exploits in the Rings.”
Jet swallowed, but tried to keep her nerves off her face.
“What do you care?” she muttered. “One less mammal, right, Trazen?”
His dark eyes took on a more amused cast, even as he stepped closer to her in the pause, moving with such a gliding step that she didn’t have time to compensate until he was right up beside her.
“Do you think I could have your autograph, Jet Tetsuo?” he asked in a low voice, flicking his tail sideways as his eyes fell on her mouth. “I imagine it will be worth even more in not too long a time. Although I admit, I would probably not hold onto it for too long, mammal…”
He put a hard emphasis on the last word and Jet glanced up, narrowing her eyes.
“…Particularly given our new crop of female candidates for the Rings. I imagine the shine will go off your star soon enough, whether you survive being consort to the First Son, or not.”
He slid sideways, and once more, the sun blinded Jet’s view. She managed to keep at least half of her attention on the course of his tail anyway.
“Novelties,” he hissed softly. “After all, are only novelties until they are no longer thus.”
He spoke in Nargili that time, so he must know she was nearly fluent. She’d made an effort to learn it for real after her first Rings match, if only so it wouldn’t become a barrier to her in completing any courses in the future.
That had been five months ago.
Jet knew a little more about Trazen by now. As far as she could tell, none of it was good. She hadn’t even managed to discover anything about him that might be exploitable as a weakness. Even so, as the current Ringmaster and controller of the games, Trazen had treated her fairly in the Rings, as far as Richter and Laksri could tell. She’d managed to pass the minimum bar for points, at any rate, in every match since the first one.
As a result, the Boards classified Jet as undefeated.
Trazen was right about one thing; that fact alone made Jet a recognizable face.
She’d garnered mini-celebrity status after that first match anyway, and not only in Hezeret. She’d been invited to visit other Nirreth Green Zones in the intervening months, including one on a different world, in a different solar system than the one where Earth lived. Laksri had refused all of those requests, citing safety requirements for her personal guard…another perk of her new-found fame…or curse, depending on perspective.
That same personal guard, while getting her out of quasi-prostitution requests from horny relatives and business partners of the Royals, also forced Jet to endure a ridiculous amount of protection in the day-to-day as part of her new status within the televised sport.
She still didn’t feel safe enough to deliberately provoke Trazen.
She plastered a polite, if somewhat vacuous smile on her face.
“I only meant to see more of the town, Ringmaster Trazen,” she said, using the more formal version of Nargili. “…It is pretty here, and I get out so rarely.”
When Jet saw his tail coil in a sinuous curve behind his legs, darting closer to where she stood, she slid a few steps backwards, in spite of herself. It occurred to her that speaking to him in Nargili perhaps wasn’t particularly wise under the circumstances, but since it was already too late, she focused on maintaining a healthy distance between herself and the stinger she knew he housed in that snake-like appendage.
Trazen didn’t follow her when she retreated, but Jet saw him notice.
A thin, Nirreth smile again ghosted his dark lips, but he didn’t take his eyes off her, or off the dress she wore, the first they’d made her wear since Jet had arrived here, what must be over eight months ago now. Jet saw the look in Trazen’s eyes and felt herself tense. She knew what the look was meant to convey. She’d seen the same look in a lot of Nirreth eyes lately, ever since she’d become the newest rock star of the Rings.
Laksri had warned her more than once not to let Trazen sting her.
He’d warned her not to be alone with Trazen at all if she could help it, no matter in how public a place. She understood the reason for that warning, and took it seriously when he said it.
Now, however, right when Jet was in a position to take Laksri’s words even more to heart than usual, she found she’d already disregarded his advice, and let herself be alone with the giant Nirreth, almost without knowing how it happened.
Still, even she could tell Trazen wasn’t trying to offend her, or even scare her, per se. Rather, he was trying to charm her, a thought somehow more frightening than if he’d been threatening her outright.
In Nirreth-speak, he was flirting with her.