Infinitum Government Code 22.214.171.1242: Genetic Experimentation Shall Be Strictly Forbidden
No job is more arduous than that of Rehab Guard—those appointed to guard the many and varied prisoners within the Infinitum Government, the ruling power of a vast interplanetary alliance. To be a Rehab Guard requires very specific qualifications and years of specialized training. It is brutal, dangerous, and often thankless job—and there is nowhere else Sean would rather be. It keeps him safe, his deadly secret safely buried, and gives him a life as close to normal as he will ever come.
Until the day new prisoner arrives, a genetically-engineered Draconis with the ability to 'match' to a suitable magics-capable individual and boost his power. Convicted of murder, he is sentenced to Rehab for life, and no one has ever escaped from Rehab. But no one counted on the prisoner matching with Sean, who as a human should not be capable of magics...
Planet 5118208 (rehab), rehabilitation center 2.2, ward nine
"Hey, Cyan. What the hell is a Draconis?"
Cyan quirked a brow as he strode into the break room and dropped down on the small, battered couch against the far wall. His boots rang on the metal floors that were everywhere in rehab. "The dumb questions you ask, one would think you live in a closet."
"Damn fucking near. A closet full of violent assholes."
Cyan snorted. "You work on Rehab, Sean. You should know damn near every race in the IG. I know my training didn't fail, therefore you're an idiot."
Sean rolled his eyes. "Fuck you. Unlike you, Cyan, some of us don't think it's fun to memorize all those dry texts you insist on reading. There is life outside rehab."
"I prefer life in rehab," Cyan said with a shrug.
He started to taunt Cyan more, but it turned into a soft curse as his in-lens fritzed, the information in the thin device shooting sparks of pain through his eye.
"Problem, Sean?" Cyan asked, looking at him in concern and some amusement.
"In-lens has had it," Sean replied. Which could turn into a really nasty problem. He struggled not to panic. He'd known it was getting on, but pushed even though he knew the risks…so hard to get a new one, though. No help for it. He'd have to pop over to Mars at end of shift. "Guess that fucking hellcat in 9.1.2 nailed me harder than I thought."
Cyan snickered. "Yeah, I prefer being nailed by hellcats in an entirely different way."
"You and the rest of the stars," said a warm, amused female voice. Both men turned to look at Tiffany, the systems analyst for the sector nine, wing two secluded network. In the dingy gray and black coloring of the break room, her Helior-red hair was a near blinding beacon. "At least you're inoculated, Sean."
"At least it was a hellcat and not a fucking Sardoran," Cyan muttered.
"It's not funny," Cyan griped.
"That you seem to have some sort of 'come and get me' tattoo that only tentacle races can see? Yes, it is."
Sean just snickered again.
Cyan kicked him.
"Okay, okay," Sean said. He motioned to the file still in his lap, touching the screen to wake the datapad back up. "So what's a Draconis?"
"Surprised you haven't heard of them, actually," Cyan said. "They're causing quite the controversy in the IG right now. Genetically engineered race designed by the Coni. It's a magics capable planet in the third Quad. Their magics are diverse, ranging from basic elementals to defensive magics, but not very powerful. They created the Draconis to be legal supplements to increase their power. It's kinda cool what they did, actually."
Tiffany looked up from her own datapad, in-lens flashing as she kept constant watch on her systems. "Yeah, they mate and increase their partner's magics. So romantic!"
Cyan rolled his eyes. "Something like that."
"Mate?" Sean asked, looking back down at the file. The words Mateless – Keep Isolated were typed in green, rather than black like the rest. It meant 'fucking pay attention.'
"They bond and something in their make up sort of attaches to whomever they bond with and causes some sort of reaction that increases the magics of both Draconis and the person bonded. Most call that person a Draconis 'mate' though the term 'match' is also used since they can't bond with just anyone. No one knows why Draconis match the way they do. Not even the Coni."
Tiffany looked up again. "Part of the controversy surrounding them is that they should have only ever matched with Coni, but these days they're matching with species all across the stars. It's causing loads of problems."
"Yeah," Cyan agreed. "It would suck to be suddenly stuck with someone you never met and unable to separate – because with distance the magics fade. Can you imagine? Being a magics capable who suddenly can't use his magics unless the Draconis he got stuck with was nearby?"
Sean frowned. "It can't be that hard to live without magics. Humans have been doing it forever."
"Spoken like a true human," Cyan said lightly. "That's what they'd tell you, Sean. Humans don't have magics, so we can't understand. I say lucky us, but that's probably my human bias speaking."
Tiffany shrugged. "It all evens out."
"Debatable," Cyan said.
Sean cut them off before they could start arguing again. He didn't need to put up with yet another political debate. "This file says he's been arrested for murder. Ouch. Killed his father."
"Oh?" Cyan asked, leaning over to read the datapad for himself. "Huh. He's only half Draconis. Half human. That should be interesting. Father was the human."
"I wonder why he's all the way here in 9.9. He only killed one guy. Fuck, the Klorin in 9.8.2 killed six people and he's only got a life sentence."
Cyan tapped the bright green letters Sean had read before. "Unmatched. That means he could possibly match with anyone magics capable in here. Lists his magics as being defensive, meaning he can probably heal, stuff like that. Still, if he has anything that could help him escape…"
"They would have collared him," Sean said, grimacing at the thought of the magics-numbing collars, barely keeping from touching a hand to his throat.
"Yeah, but if he matched then his magics would quadruple in power."
"Ah," Sean said in comprehension. If that happened, his power would exceed the limits of the collar, which conceivably could allow the prisoner to escape. Not that he'd ever get off Rehab, not unless he had some truly impressive magics.
"So we're on break after this shift," Cyan said in an abrupt conversation shift. "Wanna take a jaunt somewhere?"
Sean thought a moment. "Sure. Got anywhere in mind?"
"Was thinking Bangkok, or we could rent a private ship and just cruise."
"Or we could cruise leisurely to Bangkok and back," Sean said with a grin. "Stars, I've been wanting a ship of my own forever. Just go wherever the hell whenever the hell I want. Got enough points for it, and a pilot license. Should get around to actually getting the ship."
Cyan's eyes began to gleam. "You should commission one. Get a sweet custom class with grade e materials. I bet you could even commission a Zero-caliber company to build it. Oh, man. Can you imagine? A gremlin built ship?"
"That would kick ass," Sean said, matching his eagerness. "Zero companies have serious waiting lists, though. I probably wouldn’t get it for at least a term." He grinned. "Would be worth the wait, though. Want to help me start designing it? We could cruise to Zero instead of Bangkok and look at the companies firsthand."
Access to Zero, the ruling seat of the Infinitum Government, had highly restricted access. As rehab guards, though, they had access to certain areas – including the commercial districts and shipyards. "Yeah, we'll get the clearance codes from the Captain before we leave."
"Men," Tiffany said in tolerant amusement. "If you're not discussing your dicks, it's weapons or starships."
"Hey," Cyan said defensively. "We have to know weapons. I'm wearing two dozen at the moment. It would be rather detrimental to my health if I grabbed a stinger instead of a painter when trying to put down a Traxen."
Sean winced at the thought, lightly touching the long, sharp baton slung into its loop low on his left thigh, then the thicker baton set with a nozzle right beside it. Yeah, didn't want to mix up those two, especially when a Traxen was involved. "Come to my house when we get out of here and we can start on the prelim work."
"Cool," Cyan said with a grin, right as their in-lens flared with an arrival alert. "Oh, hey. There's our Draconis."
Moving the break room door, Sean swiftly punched in the codes to let them out. No matter what, not a single door in rehab opened without proper codes. Even the locker room required codes for entering and leaving.
As the door slid open and he passed through, additional sensors scanned his in-lens and his blood for appropriate electronic and chemical keys. Behind him, Cyan was just as thoroughly checked.
Back in the main portion of rehab, they swiftly made their way down long halls, through rooms, ignoring the calls when they passed various cellblocks. The floors and stairs were all grated metal to make cleanup easier when things went sour with a prisoner.
They worked in sector nine, the hardest sector on Rehab – it was the sector reserved for the most dangerous adult male prisoners in the stars. Today they were assigned to wings eight and nine – nine being very small – and that meant all incoming prisoners for that section would be theirs to personally escort to his cell.
In this sector, things often went wrong. Men who committed murder and much worse had no compunctions against resisting arrest. It was only part of the reason rehab guards went through some of the most rigorous training in the Infinitum Government.
Finally they made their way through the maze-like halls, coming to a halt at the edge of Dock 5, where even now an Authority combat class ship was going through the last of its landing procedures.
"It's about time you two showed up," a man with a bald head and massive mustache barked. "McCracken. Noor. Where the fuck have you been?"
"Break, Captain Waters." Cyan replied, unfazed. "We get those. We're here on time."
"Insubordination," Waters muttered, but subsided. "Fall in."
Obediently Cyan and Sean took their places at the edge of the dock as the ship opened and a ramp extended.
The prisoner file hadn't included a picture and they'd moved on to talking about ships before Sean had thought to ask what Draconis looked like. Whatever he'd been picturing, it wasn't anything like the handsome thing which was led from the ship, hands bound and a thick magics-damping collar around his neck. The deep blue uniforms worn by the IG soldiers escorting him only brought out the brilliance of his scales.
Sean realized he was staring, but could not help it. He was tall, dark green hair about shoulder length, messy looking. He was bare-chested, as most high class criminals were. The Draconis's skin was human looking – a faint gold-brown to it, as though he had a tan. But over most of it, leaving only much of his torso, the back of his arms, and his hands bare, were rich green-gold scales They were beautiful, running down the backs of his arms, stopping just past his wrist. They covered most of his chest and all down his back, smaller scales curving along his cheekbones and brushing just below his green ey—
Pain shot through Sean's head, and he dropped to his knees clutching his head in agony.
People started shouting all around him, and he briefly heard Cyan call his name, then hands grabbed him roughly and he was pressed up against something unbelievably hot.
Then just as suddenly the noise died. He jerked away from what he realized was someone holding him – and realized it was the prisoner…and they were in the ship. He reached for his stunner, thumbing it to the highest level.
"Sleep," the Draconis said.
He woke with a groan, and realized almost immediately that he was tied up. Testing the restraints, he realized they were his own fucking cuffs. Rehab guards always carried four sets. He had one pair securing his arms to a pipe above his head, another around his ankles secured to the footboard of the bed.
So he was well and truly fucking trapped.
What in the fucking hell had happened?
The door chimed, then opened, and Sean stared wide-eyed. He remembered. Pain. Then the Draconis had taken him. "You!" he snarled. "What the fuck did you do? Why am I here?" He recoiled as best he could as the Draconis approached, realizing for the first time that he was dressed only in his black workpants and faded black undershirt. Gone were his jacket, all his weapons and keys, even his damned boots. "What the fuck is going on?"
"You're human," the Draconis said. "Yet we matched. I have never met a magics capable human, though I've heard before such mutants occasionally appear."
Sean went still, and wondered if it was actually possible for a person to feel himself going pale. "Magics capable?" He tried to activate his in-lens and realized he couldn't. He struggled to fight off panic. No, no, no. "How—" The words cut off, Sean unable to say them.
"How did I know?" the Draconis asked. "Like I said, we've matched."
"Matched?" Sean repeated, feeling sick as he realized what that meant. All that he'd recently learned from Cyan about Draconis came flooding back. "How did we match? I can't match! I'm not supposed to have fucking magics!"
His life was over. Done. They would kill him now. All his life he'd hidden his magics, done everything he could to be normal. He'd even tricked everyone and gotten into rehab, where he thought he'd finally be safe. No one with magics capability worked rehab, just like none of the ruling authorities in the IG could be magics capable.
"What are you going to do with me?" Sean asked dully. He wished Cyan were here. His oldest friend was calm about everything. The perfect rehabber. He'd probably already be out of his cuffs and taking over the ship.
Wait. This was an IG military ship. Combat class at that. No civilian should be able to pilot the damned thing. "How the fuck are you flying this ship?"
The Draconis smirked briefly, and did not answer the question. "What's your name?"
"None of your business," Sean snapped. What was he going to do? He couldn't call for help because the minute help arrived they'd kill him. There was nowhere else for him to go. How the hell was he supposed to start a new life? "I want to know what the fuck you're going to do with me."
"I don't know," the Draconis said, misery flashing across his face. "I didn't know I'd match with a rehabber. This sort of screws up all my plans."
Sean glowered at him. "Which were what?" he demanded. "You were going to rehab. Solitary confinement."
The Draconis ignored him. "I can't just dump you off somewhere, unfortunately. We're matched. I need my magics." He rubbed his forehead tiredly. "Damn it."
It was only adding insult to injury, Sean thought, that the prisoner was hardly a chore to look at. The more dangerous the prisoner, the less he wore upon arrival. That made for some hideous sights. The Draconis was a fine exception…or would have been, had he not cuffed Sean to a bed and was saying what sounded suspiciously like he would be kidnapping Sean for an indeterminate length of time.
"Are you going to leave me like this?"
"I should let you go?" the Draconis asked. "Not that stupid, thanks. I managed to put you to sleep once, but given we're matched that's not going to keep working. I'm a total civilian, you'd kick my ass."
Sean did not deny it. "So what? You just cart me around the stars in order to keep using your magics?"
"Once my mission is accomplished, I'm more than happy to let you go."
"You'd lose your magics."
The Draconis shrugged. "I'd learn to manage."
Sean was silent, not buying a word of it.
The Draconis started to speak again when his in-lens suddenly flashed blue. Incoming call, if it was on standard settings…though that begged how he was wired to the ship, but Sean realized tiredly that there were already a dozen mysteries pertaining to the Draconis. What was one more?
"This is Spring," said a sharp voice.
"This is Fall," the Draconis replied. "What's your location?"
"Close," the voice snapped. "What in the stars have you done now, Fall? This was supposed to be a simple matter and you've bungled it quite nicely. I wish Winter would give an order to wring your neck."
"I'm sure he will at this point," the Draconis said with a sigh. "It's not my fault I matched with a magics capable rehab guard."
Spring groaned. "Only you. Rendezvous in fifteen minutes. Be ready. Spring out."
The Draconis gave an affirmative reply, but Spring had already cut the connection. He looked at Sean. "I'm truly sorry."
"Yeah," Sean said tiredly. It wasn't the Draconis's fault he was magics capable. If what Cyan had said was true, it wasn't his fault they'd matched either. "There's no way to…unmatch?"
"No," the Draconis said. "I'm afraid we're stuck. It's part of the reason people hate us." His face twisted with anger and bitterness.
"So you turn around and kill them?" Sean asked.
Genuine hurt and agony filled the Draconis's face. Then it just turned bitter. "Not that I expect a rehabber to believe me, since no one else did, but I didn't mean to kill him. We were fighting, it got out of control."
"As pissed as I've been at my dad, I've never fucking killed him," Sean said. It was stupid to argue about this, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. If he stayed quiet too long he'd give in to his panic.
That handsome face hardened, but Sean could see there was pain as well. "Your father wasn't trying to destroy your entire race," the Draconis said. "Look, neither of us wants you here. I promise as soon as I can I'll drop you off somewhere and be done. Until then, stop throwing insults at me. I'm well aware I'm a murderer and escaped convict. I don't need constant reminding."
Sean nodded. It wasn't as though he could argue much, was it?
"I guess I'll have to put you to sleep again," the Draconis said with a sigh. "Stars, I really didn't need this."
"I'm not going to put up a fight," Sean said with a sigh of his own, conceding reluctant defeat. Really, it was better for him to be kidnapped. "Where the hell am I supposed to go? If they caught us, they'd lock me up right beside you – if they didn't drag me into a dark corner and kill me. I have no fucking choice, really, but to go with you. So just fucking unlock me. You don't hurt me, I won't hurt you."
The Draconis frowned at him, then shrugged and moved to undo his cuffs.
Sean slumped as soon as he was free, working the soreness out of his wrists and ankles.
Calloused hands, surprisingly warm, circled his wrists. There was a brief, tingling heat and then Sean realized his wrists felt better. He jerked his head up. "You…healed me?"
"Yes," the Draconis said. "You could heal yourself, you know. It's the magics you got from me. I got teleportation and shielding from you. Most impressive."
Teleportation? Shielding? Those were his magics? Pure defensive, and some of the more powerful defensive magics. Sean swallowed. He'd never known his magics; his entire life had been about hiding his magics, not learning them. "Thanks," he said, and pulled his wrists free of the Draconis's touch. "Uh. My name is Sean. Sean Noor."
"Mendel Ekard. I truly am sorry about this."
"It doesn't matter," Sean said tiredly. "Let's just do whatever it is we're doing. I'll figure out the rest later."
Nodding, looking as miserable as Sean felt, Mendel turned and led the way out of the room.