Fire Planet Warrior's LustBy: Calista Skye
(Fire Planet Warriors Book 4)
- Ava -
“Yeah, that has to end in tears.”
Ava wanted to turn away, but she couldn't, just like it's hard to look away from any slow-moving disaster. She put her hand on her forehead, ready to block her vision if she had to. And she probably would have to.
The shuttle hovered in space above Bosh, the Fire Planet. It was a funeral, and outside the window of the Earth shuttle the wooden box containing the dead Acerex warrior was being pushed out of another craft of Acerex design. The idea was to let it fall into the Fire as a suitable final gesture to a heroic Fire Planet Warrior who had given his life for his people.
It made a weird kind of sense to Ava. The Fire Planet was where most of the alien warriors had gone through their deadly Trials that changed them from scared boys to full warriors. So this was both an act of honor and of final defiance of the Fire, as if saying, 'Hey Fire, you didn't kill him, and his soul is safe with his Ancestors now, but here is his body that you wanted so much way back when. Is it everything you were hoping it would be?'
The Acerex both hated and loved the Fire, but only those warriors who explicitly wished for it got this kind of cremation. And Warrior Groti'ax must have wanted it.
Harper stroked her large pregnant belly. She was very calm. “Oh, I don't know. They usually don't go like this.”
“That's right,” Charlotte agreed. “They sometimes have accidents, of course, but this is more deliberate.”
Lily frowned with her coffee cup held halfway up to her mouth, momentarily forgotten. “Still, any time he decides to knock it the hell off and get back to safety is fine with me.”
The Fire pulsated a hundred miles underneath the shuttle, a bright band of white inferno against the dark jungle. If Ava hadn't know better, she'd have thought she could feel the heat from it through the hull of the shuttle and through many miles of airless space.
The casket was supposed to fall from there and down into the Fire, and that should be a simple enough task. Just open the cargo hatch, push it out and then slow it down so it would fall exactly where you want it.
But these guys were Acerex warriors. Doing things the easy way was not for them. So they had ten warriors in space suits lined up outside the other shuttle, as some kind of final honor guard. They were supposed to pull the coffin out of the cargo compartment and then push it backwards to slow it down. That way, its orbit would start spiraling inwards until it would hit the atmosphere and the air drag would slow it even more.
Nine of the ten guys were doing their job just fine, pushing the casket hard backwards from the shuttle and then staying put. But the tenth was not letting go. It looked as if he was determined to go with the casket down into the Fire. He was still hanging on to it as it slowly moved away, and they could see that it was already lower and slightly closer to the deadly planet beneath.
Still the warrior in his silvery space suit wasn't letting go of it.
“That is kind of weird,” Harper said. “They usually never go for these dramatic displays. I guess that one must really miss his dead buddy.”
The coffin and the silvery figure of the warrior slowly grew smaller, and the nine other men were clearly uncertain about what to do, because they pointed and made no effort to get back into the shuttle.
Seeing someone clearly killing themselves out of grief made Ava's stomach knot itself in both sympathy and horror. How could that man now be recovered?
Lily drew in her breath through clenched teeth. “Damn, he's dead, isn't he?”
Charlotte tapped her lips with one finger. “Not yet.”
And right then the slowly disappearing man was yanked off the coffin, which started to tumble slowly against the light from the Fire. The man had suddenly come to a complete stop in space and stretched his arms out towards the coffin as if trying to call it back.
“Ah,” Ava said with relief. “He had a safety line attached to him all along.”
“Looks like it,” Harper confirmed. “Still, it's not common for them to do things like this, even vaguely flirting with suicide. It's not their thing.”
Ava looked at her from the corner of her eye. Queen Harper of Acerex had matured so much these past couple of years, she could hardly believe it. When they were on Gideo Station, just observing the Fire Planet from a safe distance, she had been competent enough, but pretty excitable. Now she was as calm as a rock.