Klaid had no trouble subduing me. That last ten foot drop to the ground from the lowest branch of the tree didn’t do my broken ribs any good. And on top of everything else, I had smacked my head on a branch coming down. I could feel the blood dripping down the side of my face again. Klaid had both my hands clasped behind my back in one of his massive hands. He must have been at least seven and a half feet tall. I had to stand on my toes in order to keep my arms from being twisted in their sockets.
He jerked my head back to look down into my face. When I fought him, he grabbed me around the chest and squeezed. I moaned as he crushed my ribs further. He leaned down and inhaled. Before I knew what was happening he licked the side of my face where the blood oozed out from under the bandage on my head. I felt his rough tongue grate against the skin of my cheek.
“Nice,” he whispered in my ear. “AB Negative. My favorite type.”
When he looked up from my face I could see his canines and his forked tongue. I trembled in his arms. Fear and loathing coursed through me. Shit! He was a Xyron. A species I thought were extinct. Once they made it into space decades ago and the rest of the Verse found out what they were capable of, they were hunted down and killed. Xyrons were meat eaters and they didn’t make any distinctions between animals or sentient beings.
“This was what I was following,” he breathed. “I could smell your blood.” He leaned in close for another lick.
Arr growled deep in his throat.
“Arr,” Jake warned.
The young henu was being held by the bronkai, Klaid called Crackers, between two of his four arms. His lower set was tucked in his pant pockets. Arr’s right hand hung useless at his side. The screams Jake and I had heard earlier was one of this group crushing it.
Klaid pulled back and stared at the young henu. “Was that you, Red?” he asked. He dropped me. I crumpled to the ground.
“I wonder what you taste like.” He struck Arr hard in the face. The cut on his face split open further. Klaid ground his fingers in it bringing them back to his mouth covered in Arr’s blood. He sucked his fingers and then spit on the ground. “You’re a grazer,” he accused Arr and wiped his sleeve across his mouth in disgust. “You can have him Crackers. I don’t have any interest in something that tastes that bad.”
“Leave them alone,” Jake ordered from his place being held by what looked like an iiadtsu hybrid of some sort. Unlike a full iiadtsu with wings, this guy looked like he was molting. His face had small feathers around a hairline that should not have been there. He wore a long vest I am sure was fashioned so the sleeves would not interfere with the random, stray feathers spouting from the backs of his arms.
“You know that just isn’t going to happen, Harcourt,” Klaid sneered. “They’re here to make your life miserable. We’re going to see just how much the ‘Mercenary with a Heart’ can take when we hurt the ones he loves.”
Klaid went to his pack and pulled out two pair of electronic cuffs. He grabbed me by my hair and pulled me stumbling over to Arr’s side. He slapped a cuff on Arr’s left wrist and the other on my right. He then dragged me roughly by my left arm to Jake’s side pulling Arr along with us. I cried out in agony. Klaid placed one of the cuffs from the second set on my arm and the other on Jake’s right wrist. We were now cuffed in a line together with me in the middle. Klaid had planned well. The guys wouldn’t be going anywhere fast with me in tow.
The Xyron returned to his pack. He turned around with a collar attached to a long chain. He came at me. Both Jake and Arr, now momentarily free of Crackers and the iiadtsu, stepped into his path. Arr growled more fiercely then I had ever heard Kayo.
“Back down,” Klaid warned. “I don’t intend to carry her. You force me to stun you and by the time you wake up, she’ll be dead.”
Jake and Arr both backed up. Klaid slipped the collar around my neck and clicked the lock on it shut.
“You all walk or she get’s dragged,” Klaid sneered. “Now!” Klaid grabbed the end of my chain, wrapped it around his gloved palm and trotted off back the way we had come.
Crackers and the iiadtsu pushed Jake and Arr forward. They both reached for me and swept me off my feet.
“I can walk,” I objected as Jake swung me into his arms again.
“Not right now,” Jake said. “Rest while you can."
Arr draped his arm over Jake’s head and let it fall over his shoulders so he could walk by his side while still cuffed to me.
“We’ll take turns,” Arr said.
“Put that hand in you suit. Try to keep it up. It will hurt less,” Jake advised his partner as he indicated the injured hand with his eyes.
I reached up and held Arr’s hand on Jake’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, guys,” I apologized looking up into their face.
“Next time I tell you two to stay put, I want you to listen,” Jake said. The muscle in his jaw clenched.
“I thought I could slip up on them,” Arr said defending his actions.
“That’s what you get for thinking,” Jake hissed. “I knew who they were. You couldn’t have slipped up on Gathus. He has hearing almost as good as yours. He’s half iiadtsu.”
“Where do you know them from,” I whispered.
“We worked a mission a few years back. They’re ruthless and blood thirsty. I turned them into the Galactic Forces as not fit for duty under the Mercenary Code. Guess that pissed them off.”
“You think?” I asked sarcastically.
“Shut up back there,” Klaid shouted over his shoulder and yanked on the chain attached to my collar. He almost succeeded in pulling me out of Jake’s arms.
Jake picked up speed. “Kayo,” he whispered to Arr. “Quietly.”
Arr made a subtle jester with his left hand over Jake's shoulder. I caught Kayo’s head peek up over the tops of the ferns, than bobbed back down again. The pup had been watching for a sign.