Home > Worse Guy(4)

Worse Guy(4)
Author: Ruby Dixon

Novis gives her a thin smile.

"I see," the female says. The males look at her expectantly, but all she does is watch me.

I meet her gaze. She stares at me, unflinching. Of course she is unflinching—she is across the room and I am caged and cuffed. It is easy to be brave with two males and metal bars between us. I give her a toothy snarl, letting her see the blood coating my muzzle. Her scent does not spike with fear, though. "What sort of alien is he? I don't recognize it."

"He is a splice," Novis says flatly.

"What's a splice?" She looks up at him, all curiosity, and I admit, I would like to hear the answer to this, too. I have never asked what I am. I just assumed that all creatures looked different than me, but perhaps not.

"A splice is a genetically altered clone who has been crafted from multiple races, usually with the aggressive and dangerous traits enhanced. It's in an effort to create a superior gladiator that will win consistently for his owner. If not, the novelty of a splice at least provides good entertainment for those watching the matches."

The female's small nose wrinkles. "Is that what he is? A novelty?"

"He is a killer."

He is wrong. I am a champion. Bred and trained to be a champion. I was created to succeed. To destroy, if I must, but most of all, to win. To conquer.

She studies me, her round face thoughtful. "So what races is he?"

The guardsman loses interest. "Why does it matter? He is a splice. That's all you need to know."

"Yes, but if he is born with certain genetic traits, it'll help me understand him."

"Born?" he scoffs. "I told you. He was created."

"Of course you told me," she says politely, her tone incredibly sweet. There's an odd inflection to it, though, one that makes me pause and try to analyze. "How silly of me to forget."

"Quite," Novis says.

The female's smile grows broader but does not reach her eyes, and I bite back a laugh as I realize what her strange tone of voice is. She thinks they are idiots. She is humoring them. Mocking them quietly by giving them the words and actions they wish to hear, even if it is not what she believes.

I decide I like this female, even if she is working with them.

"Do you think he is part mesakkah?" she asks, her voice even sweeter than before. "I'm not familiar with a lot of alien races, but surely his coloring suggests that he has some of your blood?"

First Rank Novis gives a hard, unamused laugh. "Mesakkah? That thing?" He looks over her head and smirks at the other mesakkah guards standing nearby. "She thinks Crulden is part mesakkah."

They all laugh, as if this is hilarious, and the female's pretty eyes flash with annoyance, quickly hidden. Her gaze turns back to me. "But he's so strong and fearsome. I thought surely he got that from your people. Where, then?" She flutters her eyes, making herself seem helpless, and I bite back a laugh. She just insulted them and couched it in praise, and they are too stupid to realize it.

I watch as the commander straightens, puffing up with pride. "A common misconception with many of the smarter gladiators, but no. This one is a mixture of praxiian—that's the feline race—and moden, and a few other genetic tamperings I can't quite put my finger on. I doubt he's got any mesakkah blood in him at all."

Good, I think to myself. I want nothing to do with this fool.

"How interesting," the female says sweetly. "And the spikes he is covered with? The claws and tusks?"

"Who knows." Novis seems to be losing interest. He gestures for his men to bring something forward. "You'll be in this hallway while you work with him. See what you can do. Lord va'Rin is interested in his rehabilitation but if we make no progress, we'll have to let him know. You have a week."

"A week," she echoes, and watches as they pull a stool toward the windows that line the hall. "And I'm supposed to stay out here? What, do I shout at him?"

"You don't want to get in there with him, trust me."

"Why not? He's cuffed and he's caged. I'm not sure what you expect him to do.

"Neither one can hold him if he berserks."

"Berserks?" She tilts her head, gazing up at the captain, and for the first time, I realize how tiny she is. How unafraid. She is a small, soft thing amidst aliens that tower over her, and yet she shows no fear. Her scent has none. I find that very interesting…as well as the information they are giving her. Berserks? I'm not sure what they mean. Do they refer to my rages? I remain utterly still, in the hopes that they will continue to spill more of their secrets right in front of me, like the utter fools they are.

The captain nods. "Sometimes he loses control. You'll notice it when his eyes flood with red. If you see that, press the alarm, because at that point, no cage will hold him. His strength multiplies, and the adrenaline in his system surges to the point that he becomes a danger to everyone, no matter cage or cuffs."

"Then how do you calm him?"

Novis laughs. "Calm him?" He shakes his head. "We're doing good just to get out of the way. There's no calming him when he's like that. He's a monster. You call for help, and we sedate him with everything we have."

The female frowns at that. "I thought Lord va'Rin preferred non-chemical means of handling Crulden?"

"He also doesn't want his guards to die senselessly trying to help a creature that wants no help." The captain's face grows cold. "You have a week, like I said. If he kills anyone or anything—including you—we're going to put him down. I'm afraid he's costing too much in resources as it is."

"I see." Her tone remains sweet and she looks up at the captain adoringly. "Thank you so much for this opportunity. I'll do everything I can."

I don't know if I feel sorry for the captain, or the female. She sits on the stool, outside the window, and just stares at me, watching.

I close my eyes and pretend to sleep so I can listen to all their conversations as I normally do. If they won't let the female in the room with me, there's not much entertainment to be had.

 

 

3

 

 

BEE

 

This is definitely not going as planned.

I keep a cheery, positive smile on my face as I sit on my stool and watch Crulden from afar. They've set me up to fail, and I'm not entirely sure how to proceed just yet. I'm still digesting, and as I do, I watch the dynamics of the group from my spot outside Crulden's quarters (aka his cage).

The guards hate him. That much is blatantly obvious. They refuse to go into his quarters unless they're forced to. Crulden sits in his cage, cuffed and silent, and the guards mill about in the hall, behind me. When it comes time to feed Crulden, they elect one of them to go inside. The guardsman then takes a few steps in, slides a plate of dry-looking squares towards his cage, and retreats out once more. I frown at this.

I frown even more when I notice the dirty squalor of the floors. I can only imagine how bad it is near his cage. Crulden looks like a damn mess, his muzzle a darker shade than the rest of him. He remains in the same spot all day, his hands hooked to the front of the cage, and I can only imagine how uncomfortable it is. My ass hurts after sitting on this stool for a few hours, but Crulden never complains or says anything at all. When his eyes are open, he watches everyone. When they're closed…well, I get the impression he's still watching everyone, just a bit more furtively.

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