I Thought You Knew
“Can we hurry?”
Angela frowned at Kendle. They were already running through the hall. “Go on. It’ll cover my arrival.”
Kendle took off without worrying over Angela’s safety. She has more power than anyone else here. She’s covered.
Angela watched Kendle run to help a friend with their recharge, then she ducked into the privacy of the bathroom. She only had a few minutes left until Marc got to her cabin.
“I’m on the last bag.” Charlie kept going by the bathroom.
“See you later!”
Charlie grinned. “Yes, you will.” They were going to play chess again. Then he and Tracy were meeting in the mess to go over wedding plans with Candy. He’d had a good day.
Angela enjoyed Charlie’s happiness. Playing Santa was fun.
Angela flipped on the light and splashed her face with water from the faucet. She dried, watching her skin in the mirror. The power underneath had been fighting for release during her workout. The training had helped her, but not enough.
May I visit you soon?
Angela nodded into the mirror even though it wasn’t a doorway. She knew he was watching. “I’d like to bring a friend.”
“As you wish. Call me.”
Angela snickered at a private joke.
The King left her as footsteps sounded in the hall.
Angela climbed into the supply cabinet. She shut it just as the bathroom door opened.
“Who keeps leaving these lights on?!” Zack paused. “Well, while I’m here.” He spotted the empty toilet paper holder and rotated to the cabinet.
He opened the door.
Angela smiled at him. “Hello.”
“Oh, shit!” Zack stared at her, hand over his thumping heart.
Angela stared back. “Did you need something?”
“Toilet paper.” He grimaced. “I just shit myself.”
Angela handed him a roll.
Zack took it, questions forming.
Angela tugged the cabinet shut.
Zack stared. “...can I help you with something?”
Zack waited for her to speak again. When she didn’t, he looked at the toilet paper, then the empty stall. He put the paper on the roller, then went back to the cabinet. He opened it.
“Where did she go?”
He glanced around but nothing moved, not even the door. Is she gone?
Zack reached out and swiped inside the closet to make sure.
Angela slapped his hand.
Zack staggered back. “Why?!”
Angela shut the cabinet door again.
Zack heard footsteps run by. “Is that your shadow?”
Zack heard the steps slow and realized he was blowing the cover of a very well-hidden Eagle. He went to the sink to wash his hands.
Ian opened the door. “Anyone in here?”
Ian swept the small room, nodded to Zack, and left.
Zack shook his head. “Rookies never catch the tone of a snort.” He dried his hands. “Did you ditch him?”
“Who’s he looking for?”
“No one--just clearing the ship for Marc.” Angela emerged from the cabinet, thrilled with her experiment. The ship liked games. It had covered her presence. “Thank you for helping me with Cathy.”
Zack frowned at her in the mirror. “Yeah, what’s her deal?”
“She’s trying to live a little before she dies.”
Zack grunted. “Cancer too?”
Angela nodded, joining him at the sink. “Zack?”
He turned to her, not liking the tone. “Yes, Boss?”
She locked eyes with him. “Are you an Invisible?”
“Coming in.” Kendle didn’t wait for an answer. She slid between Morgan and Kenn, ignoring Marc.
Tommy glared at her. “Why are you here?”
Kendle sat on his cot, then forced herself to crawl onto his body and hug him. She was terrified of being rejected. “I had to come.”
Tommy let her stay. “But I don’t need her here.”
Marc was proud of Kendle and dismayed by a brief flare of jealousy. He motioned at Kenn. “You connect us this time. Morgan will do it for the last two sets.”
Both men liked getting in the practice.
Kenn connected them easily. “Let the flow even out; then we’ll give you energy hard and fast.”
Marc smiled at Tommy. “You’re getting special treatment because I need you.”
Tommy didn’t ask what for; he was just glad to hear those words from anyone, and with Kendle lying on his chest, the chaotic mind he’d been fighting since waking in the infirmary started to settle down.
“I’ll stay overnight if you like. I’m off duty until dawn.” Kendle waited, braced for pain.
“What about Quinn?” Tommy couldn’t handle any drama.
“He’ll whine for a minute, then be glad he knows where I am while he works and sleeps.”
Tommy sighed, enjoying her warmth too much to refuse. “This doesn’t change anything.”
Marc cleared his throat. “Yes, it does, but you can talk about it later.” He waved.
All three rechargers hit Tommy with a strong wave of energy.
Tommy’s normal human body should have filled up in seconds.
Tommy waited for pain.
Marc increased the strength, but there was no reaction. He let go, breaking the connection.
Kenn stared at Tommy. “What was that?”
Kendle sighed. “Me. I think I blocked it.”
“You didn’t know you’d have to be open too.” Tommy understood. “I’ll be okay. Just stay.”
Kendle nodded, letting go of the block.
Marc and the rechargers connected.
Tommy arched at the first contact. His energy banks refilled in seconds.
Marc kept going, following Angela’s suggestion.
Kenn and Morgan also kept going, but they watched for Marc’s call to stop.
Kendle’s arms tightened on him. “Just a little more...”
Tommy bit his lip to hold in the shouts.
Kendle shuddered. “Stop now.”
Marc kept going.
Tommy’s scream ripped through the halls.
Kendle rose, eyes glowing. “That’s enough.”
Marc stopped. She cares for him. Interesting. Angela was right again.
Morgan lifted a brow.
Marc stared at Kendle. “He’ll figure it out in about thirty seconds after we connect you to help him.”
Kendle buried her head against Tommy’s wide chest. “He already hates me. What’s one more layer if it saves him some pain?”
Tommy was already fighting the fire. “Tell me.”
“She wants to use Wade’s...method of suppression.”
Tommy’s body went rigid under her.
Kendle held on tighter as Marc headed for the door. She refused to move when Tommy cramped up and tried to push her away.
Marc held the door for Kenn and Morgan. “Can I give you a word of advice, Eagle?”
Tommy grunted. “I’m listening.”
“Love her when she wants it and find a distraction when she’s busy. No man on this ship can get her full attention; be happy with what she wants to give.” Marc shut the door, not saying the rest of that. They all knew who she wanted to, and who didn’t want her. Keeping her occupied was a favor to Marc.
Marc spotted Zack coming down the hallway, with Angela on his back. “What the hell?!” He stomped to her cabin and opened the door.
Tonya jerked awake. She spotted Zack and Angela, and rolled her eyes. “I only dozed off for a minute!”
Angela laughed, holding up a roll from the mess. “I wanted a snack.”
Marc chuckled, anger gone. She’d been with Zack; it was okay.
Zack slid her onto her feet by the cot. After nodding to Marc, he moved toward the door. He fought not to look at Allison.
Allison watched him with open want and pain. What did I do wrong with him? He said it was him, not me, but I know better...
Zack stopped. “Is the job done now?”
“Yes.” Angela settled onto her cot. “And you’re sure she can be trusted?”
Zack nodded, shoulders stiff. “I am. She’s one of us under all the female lib crap.”
“Fine.” Angela patted the bed, smiling at Marc. “Sit by me while I have my roll and Zack explains to Allison that everything with Cathy is a job I gave him.”
Allison stared. “Really?”
Kenn and Morgan dropped into chairs, content to wait since this was the last cabin.
Morgan was also tired. He was dreading, and looking forward, to the next recharge session. He was on that list.
Kenn grunted. So was he and so was Tonya.
Tonya rose from the chair, not looking at Kenn.
Kenn put hand out, barely touching her arm.
Tonya looked down at him, emotions in a flux.
Kenn spoke silently.
Tonya pulled away and left. She didn’t slam the door, but the silence echoed as if she had.
Kenn sighed. He looked over to see Zack kiss Allison. He was happy for them and miserable for himself.
Cathy looked into the cabin as Tonya left; she saw Zack wrap Allison up and lay her down on the cot. She got up and slammed her door shut.
Kenn assumed this was all for a good reason. He started trying to figure out why.
Marc waved him toward Allison. “Get it by the time we finish, or I’ll be disappointed.”
Kenn dug in deeper as Marc connected them.
Like Tommy, it didn’t take long to fill Allison’s energy banks, but Marc kept going with her too, hoping to push back the cancer eating at her body. Angela had done this for John; they knew it would at least slow it. Marc thought it might even do more because they were stronger now.
Allison screamed into Zack’s mouth. “Fire!”
Zack groaned with her. “Almost done, baby. Hang on.”
Allison’s screams blasted through the room as she tore her mouth away.
Marc let go of the cancerous thread he’d tried to tug out. He sent full strength energy at her, studying the place where the cancer met her lifeforce. He wanted to slice it off, but he didn’t know how to cauterize the wound afterwards. Descendant medical knowledge was limited.
Allison shuddered, crying. “Do it again! Pull harder!”
Marc was impressed and horrified that she was so scared the pain didn’t matter. “I can’t. I don’t know how to plug the wound if you start bleeding.”
“Fire?” Morgan was also studying the cancerous mass. He’d remained connected. “Angela’s fire hand after a hard, steady pull?”
Marc linked back up, shifting the x-ray-like image to see the other side. “No. See how it’s wound down into her intestine? It might rip her apart.”
“Then we have to kill it.” Morgan flipped through known descendant spells. “Ice? Warts used to fall off when frozen.”
“What effects on the other organs? We aren’t good enough to just get the spot we need.”
Morgan scowled. “We can’t freeze her organs. Okay. No burning, melting, blowing, flooding...” Morgan let go. “I’ll work on it.”
Marc watched the tumor pulse with Allison’s blood. “We have to make it sick, with something in her blood.” He looked at Allison’s hopeful face. “How do you feel about being our test subject?”
“Honored, scared, pissed.”
Marc nodded. “With every right. Tonya wants to start with foods instead of chemicals. We’ll need you to come to the lab once a day so we can look at it and see how each food is effecting it.”
“No more pain?”
Marc shook his head. “Not unless it gets worse.” He realized the pain did matter. She’s tough. “We need you in the Eagles. Fight hard; follow the diet she gives you.”
“I will.” Allison forced a smile through the shakes. “Thank you for helping me.”
“It’s my honor.” Marc looked at Kenn, brow lifted.
Kenn finished emptying his water bottle and belched. “Well, Cathy is thinking about sneaking into Wade’s cot later, so I assume we’re teaching her and the other cougars that Safe Haven’s men are not a threat.”
“We’re saving the teenagers from being sex-obsessed before they reach real manhood.”
“Why go to this trouble?”
“We need kids. It’s the breeding tree.” Kenn instantly started stressing over Tonya. She could have kids; all the men would want her, and Angela would encourage her to breed again after this. With James, maybe, since they have a spark. “Damn you!”
Angela met Kenn’s eye. “Maybe it’s time to make an honest woman of her.”
He laughed harshly. “She won’t say yes right now!”
“She might.” Angela pulled up her memory of him leaving for Charlie’s manhood quest. “If he talks to her.”
Kenn realized his entire future was in the hands of the horny teenager he’d abused for years. “He’s gonna love this one.”
Angela nodded, letting Marc cover her up against the coming chills. “Let him enjoy it.”
Kenn grunted as Marc connected them. “I will. When’s his wedding?”
“A week or so.” Angela shut her eyes. “Open the door.
Charlie grinned at him. “Boo.”
Kenn flinched. “You!”
Charlie laughed, joining Angela in the cot.
Angela tried not to cry as Charlie crawled into her arms. She held him, memorizing the good moment to use as a buffer. When the pain came, she barely noticed.
Marc shoved until he was drained, but nothing happened.
Kenn frowned. “Is she even getting it?”
Morgan understood what was happening. “Her banks were empty and they’re huge. She dwarfs the rest of us.”
Marc went to the door, refusing to wish for Adrian’s help. He opened it, scanning the hall. “Who wants to help the boss?”
People came from all the cabins; the hall door opened. Camp members entered, determined to do their share.
Marc’s heart warmed, but he also grew nervous. How do I connect so many people?
Wade staggered to Marc. “Use my draw.” Wade gave him a sympathetic glance. “Mine is like Adrian’s.”
Marc frowned as he connected Wade. He settled near Angela and shut his eyes as Wade went back out into the hall. He didn’t have to be near them to be useful and he wanted to be out here.
Angela and the others waited for his connections, nodding to each other, smiling. Her love still washed over them even without her gifts.
Kenn supplied cover for that. “Stop using it while we’re trying to refill it!”
Angela grunted. “Yes, dear.”
People snickered as Kenn flushed.
Marc let go of his tension and opened the connections.
Morgan knew the camp people needed instructions, but he wasn’t sure if it was allowed. The descendants didn’t want non-magic users having too much information.
Angela grunted through the connection. “That stings. It’s working this time.”
Everyone braced for secrets, for her pain.
Angela held onto her son and pretended the war hadn’t come.
Kenn noticed her chosen location was their old apartment, though he wasn’t in that picture. Marc was.
Marc and Charlie enjoyed that image until they realized she had shadows hiding in the curtains, under the bed, in the closest.
Angela didn’t change anything, though she refused to let the fantasy go into motion. Her mind was the one place where she could have everything she wanted. “Hit me.”
She did this so I won’t feel her pain. Marc realized it as he sent the first angry blast of energy.
Angela arched. “I deserve it. More!”
Kenn sent him an image of her kissing Adrian.
Marc’s rage flared, but knowing she wanted to be punished dampened the fire. “How about we do it this way?” Marc shoved his love at her.
People shifted uneasily. They approved his tactic, but it was still hard to feel.
Marc only cared about finding the energy to get her filled up. He concentrated on his obsession with her, not afraid of her seeing that it had grown since he became Byzan.
It still wasn’t enough. Her energy bank was a gaping pit of empty.
Marc grunted. “Make room.” He glared at Ivan.
Ivan, still twitching from his own recharge, slid against Angela with a groan. “Hang on. This will hurt.” Ivan connected his desire to Marc’s. His needs and secrets flashed for everyone, but Ivan didn’t care. His feelings weren’t a secret; the only surprise would be how strong they were. That still shocked him.
Angela screamed as Ivan’s energy slammed into her. Combined with Marc and Charlie, it was strong enough to penetrate the darkness around her heart. She screamed again as energy rushed in.
Kenn and Morgan shoved hard, trying to get it over with.
So did everyone else who knew to do it, hearts hurting as her pain rang through the room and filled the hallways.
Kids were pulled from their sleep. They gathered outside the crowded cabin, muttering. They didn’t like the alpha being hurt.
Angela’s shriek ripped through everyone.
Angela flashed him an image of his dream, where she was a hag being followed by the dead.
I’ll never let that happen! Marc broke the lock on his reserve and flooded her.
“Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!”
Tonya and the other women in the hall tried to comfort the kids.
The children allowed it, but their angry eyes never left the doorway holding Angela. Even Pam came from her misery, leaning against the wall. Her puffy eyes watched the kids, worrying.
“We’ll never get it like this.” Morgan kept trying, but Angela’s energy bank was barely registering a change now. And she’s still screaming. I can’t take that for long.
Kyle’s bark broke the connection and caused angry bodies to turn in his direction.
Kyle was carrying Jennifer. His face said it wasn’t his idea and he didn’t approve.
Jennifer waved at Marc. “Keep them under control until I get the door open. I’ve never done this before.”
People settled in, eager to see what Jennifer could do.
Eagerness changed to frowns as she kissed the tense man holding her.
Marc sighed, shaking his head. “Close the door. Kids don’t need to see this.”
Jennifer couldn’t access the mental door while she was nervous, and the only way she ever relaxed around other people was by concentrating on her link to Kyle.
Kyle refused to move. His hands clenched at his side; his face tightened.
As Jennifer’s desire flooded them and lit up the room in a bright glare, Morgan left. Light shined from under the door as he shut it. I can’t take that either. He spotted Wade staring into Samantha’s cabin. She and Neil were still together. Amy had left the door open when she came out to help. Morgan recognized the mirror of his desires. But unlike me, Wade has a shot.
Wade glowered at him. No, I don’t.
Morgan nodded. “Okay. So when’s the poker game start?”
Wade winced as Angela screamed again. “When we all recover from that sound.”
This time, it was Jennifer’s bark that cleared space for Kyle to march through.
Morgan spotted his clenched fists against her small body and forced a blank expression.
Kyle kicked the door shut.
Pam leaned against the wall, chuckling.
Morgan tucked her under his arm and led her toward the poker table. “Do you know how to play?”
Pam sighed. “Too well. I got tossed out of a casino once.”
Morgan chuckled. “Card shark?”
“Without knowing. Once they told me, I avoided those places.” She laughed. “I was hell in online rooms for a while.”
Morgan loved to gamble. He pulled out a chair for her. “Show me some stuff I can use tonight while you’re all crashed.”
They both froze as Angela’s whimper floated from her room.
“She’ll be better after this.” Pam already was. Marc’s magic was potent.
Morgan didn’t tell her it had taken all of them combined and then Jennifer’s special touch to help the boss. Gossip would fill her in later.
Pam settled in the chair, free from eyes for an instant. She let the crushing pain show. Morgan wants Jennifer; Shawn may not come back alive from his run. I can’t have kids. Misery just follows me.
Morgan knelt at her feet. “I’m sorry.”
Pam ran a hand over his rugged cheek. “I knew when we got started. I’ve always known.” She showed him their last moment together before the sickness.
Morgan winced at his mental images. In his mind, it wasn’t Pam.
“Shawn knows too. We talked about it once.”
Morgan was ashamed and concerned. “I never wanted anyone to know. It doesn’t matter.”
“Not to her, but it does to me.” Pam sniffled. “I thought it was a quick moment. A lot of the guys fantasize about random women in camp, but now... I thought you were mine. I know I’m only renting Shawn, but I thought…”
Morgan held Pam while she sobbed, heart breaking. What can I do? I can’t stop the way I feel. “I made a choice, Pam.” He tilted her head up and began wiping away her tears. “I could have tried, like Adrian, and ripped people apart for something I can never have. I’m an honorable man who walks away.” He leaned in. “That doesn’t mean you’re renting me. I love you. We’re a couple. Nothing has changed.”
She sniffled again. “I can’t give you kids.”
Morgan refused to think the truth and hurt her more. “Don’t want them, frankly. I have orphans to love.”
Pam hated pity and feeling like she wasn’t loved as much as someone else. “I don’t think we should-”
Morgan kissed her. For a brief instant, passion erupted from both of them.
It died as Jennifer’s moan rolled through the hallway.
Morgan stood. “I had to open my locks tonight, to help Marc. In a couple minutes, those nails will go back into the cages and you’ll never see another sign of it.” He turned toward the far door. “Don’t throw me away, Pam. I need you more than you know.”
Pam watched him go, certain it was because of Jennifer’s pleasure spiking. The muffled noises said she liked whatever Kyle was doing.
Kenn joined Pam at the table. “She did it on purpose.”
Pam stared at him as he began shuffling the cards, sliding them around like a pro. “Did what?”
“Got loud.” Kenn fanned the cards. “She knows how Morgan feels. She always has, I would guess.” Kenn shrugged at Pam’s dismay. “She had to open up too and let her anger over it show. She doesn’t want anyone but Kyle; it scares her to know others want his place.”
“Cesar hurt her-a lot.” Pam had been there for Jennifer’s wedding talk. “She’ll always be scared of men.”
“Maybe. Angela hasn’t had full time with her yet.” Kenn shrugged. “Neither has Marc or Adrian. Jennifer can still recover.” Kenn felt bad for Pam. He met her eye. “How can I help you?”
Pam drew in a ragged breath. “Can you make me forget this?” She smiled sadly, on the edge of sobbing again. “I was so happy…”
Kenn put a hand on her wrist. “Never without permission.” He sent a light wave of calm.
Pam relaxed, shoulders sagging. “Thank you.”
Kenn felt the eyes on them as Angela’s cabin emptied; he wasn’t concerned. “Accept his choice to be with you and live with the sour feeling in your throat, like many of this ship’s people do.” He let go and went back to fanning the cards. “Or be alone for a while and try not to go crazy while you wait on them to change.”
“What if Marc says yes?”
Kenn nodded. “Of course, but he won’t. Marc doesn’t believe in blocking the pain.”
“He would if it was…” Pam realized Marc had gone through this. “How did he survive it and come out on top?”
Kenn sucked in air. “Boo-ya.”
Pam understood that was the thread she needed to follow. She studied Marc as he emerged from the cabin.
Satisfied he’d done right by her, Kenn stood. He looked at Marc. “You done with me for the night”
Marc nodded. “Duty at dawn?”
“You got it.” Kenn headed for his bunk in the camp hall below this one. He didn’t speak to anyone.
Marc sighed. “Kenn?”
Kenn stopped. “Yeah?”
“Tonya’s crying in the mess, alone.”
Kenn headed that way.
“It nice of you to help him.” Ralph paused by Marc as the others headed for the lower deck.
“He doesn’t deserve her.”
Ralph chuckled. “We feel the same, but she loves him.” Ralph smiled at Daisey as she went by.
“You tell him yet?”
Ralph cackled. “Don’t nag me woman!”
Daisy clucked, heading for the ramp.
Marc laughed with them. He liked the older couple.
“We’re moving in together.”
Marc clapped him on the shoulder. “Nice.”
Ralph enjoyed the male bonding moment. He’d missed being around the Eagles. “We’re also getting hitched as soon as the boss approves it.”
Marc and the others clapped or cheered, sending goods vibes through the hall of restless, recharging people.
Charlie came from Angela’s cabin. “Do you know when? We’re planning our wedding; we can help you.” Charlie stayed with Ralph as he returned to the camp.
Ivan came from Angela’s cabin next, covered in her thick scent and the feel of her against him.
Marc understood the torment Ivan was carrying. He hated him for it.
Ivan leaned against the wall, brewing and stewing.
Wade came toward him.
Ivan punched him.
Wade staggered back and slid down the wall.
Ivan nodded in satisfaction and marched out of the hall.
Wade let the frowning women help him up, bell rung. Ivan has a terrific uppercut. “I think I need to lie down.”
Marc chuckled as the hens clucked over Wade. He peered into that cabin and found Kendle sleeping on Tommy’s chest. Tommy was holding her tight and pretending to sleep.
Marc tugged that door shut and went to the poker table. He shook his head at Pam.
Pam crossed her arms over her chest. The tears were gone; determination was in their place.
Marc felt her need, but he denied her again. “Ask the other boss. That’s not my department.”
“But you won her over!”
“No. I always had her. Trying to get someone to love you more never works out.”
“I can’t share.”
“Not even mentally?” Marc shrugged. “If a man here said that, the females would set him straight in a heartbeat.”
Pam knew that was true. “I deserve a full man, not one who’s only half mine.”
“You have two men,” Marc reminded.
Pam scoffed. “Shawn will be gone as soon as Missy grows up. I assumed…”
“You would get to grow old with Morgan.”
She nodded stiffly.
“And then the cancer diagnosis came. Now, you found out there won’t be a happy future for you, and you’re fighting for some way to save yourself.”
Tears rolled over Pam’s cheeks. “I hurt so bad.”
Missy came from the kid’s cabin and forced her way onto Pam’s lap. She hugged her, not talking.
Pam held onto the child, not realizing what Missy was offering.
Marc did. Missy wants a mom. He immediately encouraged that. “She loves you because you love Shawn.”
Missy’s grip tightened. “And she’s nice. We could be a happy family too.” Missy paused. “If she can love me. I’m awful bad sometimes.”
“You are not!” Pam cried harder. “Of course, I could love you.” She sobbed again. “And then I’ll lose you both.”
Missy put a hand on Pam’s wet cheek, ignoring Marc’s denial. “No, Pam. When we go back, Shawn and I will lose you.” Missy hugged her again. “But you save my Shawn. I couldn’t love you more.”
Marc left the table before he started balling. Why does this all have to hurt so much?
His demon was fast to supply the answer. Because it’s the apocalypse; I thought you knew.”
Shtf fiction, armageddon, nuclear war, post apocalyptic survival, dystopian military fiction, end of the world, science fiction series