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By Sara Reinke
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Sara Reinke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKat left the room and rushed down the corridor, almost running headlong into Frank as he ducked out of a neighboring storeroom.
"Where the hell have you been?" he asked, his voice low and sharp, his brows narrowed. He grabbed hold of her elbow and she frowned, flapping him loose.
"I fell asleep."
"Asleep?" His eyes flew wide and incredulous.
"Yes, Frank, asleep," Kat hissed, balling her fists. "That's what people do when they're exhausted-when it feels like their whole goddamn world is crashing in on them. They fall asleep. And then when they wake up, they're better."
His expression softened, growing sheepish and somewhat ashamed. "I'm sorry. I know this is hard for you. Do you think it's easy for me?"
He looked pained, genuinely distraught, and Kat sighed. "No, Frank. I know it's not."
"I'm trying to help Eric," Frank said.
"He's in the kitchen." Frank nodded down the hall. "If we're going to do this, then we need to now." He pulled something out of his pant pocket and offered it to her-a capped syringe. When she didn't immediately reach for it, his brows raised. "Kat, we've talked about this. I thought we agreed-"
"We did." Kat snatched the syringe out of his hand.
"It's what's best, Kat. He's hurting. He's in bad shape and he-"
"I know, Frank," she snapped, shoving past him and tromping down the corridor.
"Remember our plan," Frank said.
It's your goddamn plan, Frank, not ours, she thought, frowning. I'm just going along with it because it's what's best for Eric. God, please, it has to be.
She found Eric in the kitchen. He was leaning heavily-too heavily-against the metal cabinets, watching coffee drip down into a small glass pot.
"Hey," she said, and he turned, smiling at her.
"Hey, yourself." He was pale, nearly ashen, and his normally handsome features were gaunt and haggard. There were deep, cruel shadows around his eyes. He rested most of his weight on his right leg and hip.
"How are you?" she asked, but it was an unnecessary question.
"I'm okay. How about you?"
She walked over to him, ran her fingers through his tousled hair. "Much better."
His smile was weary, fragile. She leaned forward. "Oh, Eric," she whispered.
She kissed his mouth gently. He kissed her back, with no hesitation.
"I love you, Kat." He ran his hands up her back, tangling them in her hair.
She felt tears well in her eyes at this, and she struggled to contain them. "I love you, too, Eric." More than anything, Eric, please you have to believe me.
She forced herself to pull away. The longer she stood against him, the weaker her resolve became.
"Are you hungry?" she asked, and she walked over to the large, industrial refrigerator. She opened it and pulled out a small container of flour, and a small carton of liquefied eggs. "I thought I might make some pancakes."
"Man, I haven't had pancakes in forever." Eric folded his arms across his chest and watched her hunt for a mixing bowl. "I don't think since I was a kid. I'm not much of a cook on my own. Open a can of something and heat in the microwave-that's my idea of dinner."
Kat didn't look at him as she measured flour into the bowl. She blinked against the sting of tears in her eyes.
"My mom used to make pancakes for me and my brother," Eric remarked. "She'd put little blueberries or slices of apples in them. They always tasted best in the winter, on a snow day, when we'd get to stay home from school."
Kat couldn't look at him. She began to feel vaguely nauseous. She made herself to turn around, to put a smile and force a note of nonchalant good cheer into her voice. "Damn. Would you do me a favor and grab the milk out of the fridge? I forgot to grab it."
"Sure," he said, and when he moved, she could see his limp clearly, and how it hurt him to put weight on the leg. She could hear the hiss of the mechanics in his hinges and lifts. She wanted to warn him, to cry out, protect him, but that sound haunted her, silenced her.
He walked toward the refrigerator. "Does the name David McDonald ring a bell to you?" he said, turning to look at her. His expression had changed, his eyes growing troubled.
Puzzled, Kat shook her head, but then remembered. "Wait a minute. Yeah. Colonel David McDonald? He's a politician or something, isn't he?"
At the word Colonel, something in Eric's face had shifted. "Not a politician. He's the head of Legion."
"Legion?" Again, it took Kat a moment. She recalled a snippet from her conversation with Trina, less than an hour before the Daedalus had exploded. "They're a militia group, aren't they? The ones that tried to secede Texas? Trina told me they've been blowing up federal buildings back at home while we were all still in cryostasis."
"Yeah, I read that on the news feed before the crash." Eric opened the refrigerator door. She had no accounting for the troubled look on his face, the way his brows started to narrow. "Where's Frank?"
"He's ... uh, around, I'm sure." As she spoke, she saw Frank duck through the doorway, creeping into the room. She cut her eyes back toward the mixing bowl before Eric noticed her attention and followed her gaze.
"I need to talk to you later on, then, when he's not," Eric said, propping the refrigerator door open against his hip, an odd note in his voice. "In private, just the two of us. Maybe after breakfast?"
She looked at him. "What's going on?"
"Nothing." He shook his head, reaching for the milk. "I mean, probably nothing. I saw something today, this morning, a mark on his back. It looked familiar at the time, though I couldn't quite place it, but then I saw a book on his-"
Frank grabbed him from behind.
Startled, Eric dropped the milk, and it fell to the floor, splashing across his boots and the tiles.
"Kat!" Frank yelled. Eric struggled with him, fighting.
Kat slipped the hypodermic Frank had prepared out of her jumpsuit pocket and pulled the little plastic cap off the needle.
Eric saw the syringe and began to fight harder with Frank. "What are you doing? Kat! No! No, no, goddammit, let go of me!"
He managed to pull his arm away from Frank and accidentally hit Kat, knocking the syringe out of her hand.
"Goddammit, Kat!" Frank yelled.
Kat dropped down on her hands and knees and tried to reach the needle. It had fallen underneath a cabinet, and it was a tight squeeze. She looked up and saw Frank ball his hand into a fist and slam it into Eric's leg. Eric twisted, screaming, and immediately quit fighting. He slumped, limp, in Frank's arms.
"Eric!" Kat cried.
"Get the needle, Kat!" Frank was red in the face, breathing hard from the struggle with Eric.
Her fingers brushed against it and she grabbed it.
Frank twisted Eric's arm and forced it down across the countertop. "Do it!"
Eric tried to pull his arm away. "Kat, no!" He shook his head. "Please don't do this-whatever he's told you, don't-"
Frank clapped his hand over Eric's mouth, muffling him. Kat stuck the needle in his arm, deep into the meat of his muscle like Frank had instructed, and depressed the plunger. She glanced at his face, and that was a mistake. His eyes were wide and dismayed, screaming wordlessly at her, What are you doing?
She pulled the needle out and staggered away, horrified and disgusted. It slipped out of her fingers and bounced off the floor.
Frank let Eric go and he staggered against a nearby countertop. Frank reached for him, but Eric shrugged him away. "Don't ... touch me ..." he seethed. He directed his words to Frank, but kept his eyes pinned on Kat, hurt and bewildered.
"Eric, I ..." Kat began, but she didn't know what to say.
The drug worked fast, and he swayed, collapsing clumsily to his knees. Frank knelt beside him, and again, Eric tried to push him away.
"Don't touch me," he groaned, his voice breathless and slurred. "You ... you son of a bitch ..." He crumpled forward, slumping against Frank's chest. Kat watched as Frank gently lifted the younger man in his arms. Eric moaned lightly.
"Yes, I know," Frank said to him, quietly, soothingly, turning his face down toward Eric's. "I know that hurts."
Kat followed Frank as he carried Eric to the infirmary. She felt ashamed of herself for tricking Eric, for what they were about to do to him.
It's not too late, she told herself. It's not too late to stop it. You're still in charge. Frank will listen to you. Say something. Stop it now, Kat.
Excerpted from Tethers by Sara Reinke Copyright © 2006 by Sara Reinke. Excerpted by permission.
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