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The Vanished Specialist (Lost Planet #2)
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My lilapetal is dying…and I can’t save her.
The others believe my mate isn’t strong enough to survive. That she can’t breed and should be put back into cryosleep until she’s healed.
But I won’t allow it.
I will defy the only family I’ve ever known to save her.
She is all that matters and no amount of her protests will keep me from doing what I must to keep her safe.
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From my vantage point, I can see straight into the sub-faction. She—Emery, as they say—is so fragile. Like the fine petals of a lilabush. But unlike the healthy flowers that grow in Galen’s lab, this one wilts. With each passing solar, her skin grows more pallid. The tiny coughs rattle from her chest and her breaths come out labored.
Aria, the commander’s mate and leader of the human sub-faction, has been distracted creating the home for the humans and readying the space for the others to be woken up, but she is overlooking the needs of my lilapetal. She is letting her die before our very eyes.
As usual, when I’m stealing gazes of Emery, her yellow-haired nog will slowly turn and seek me out. She does not smile for she is too weak. She does not gesture in greeting. All she does is cry. Silently. Motionless. The tears I’ve tasted while she was in cryosleep were unlike anything my forked tongue has ever had the pleasure of licking. I crave to hold her in my solid arms and lick away her sweet sadness.
But I am not allowed to hold her.
Aria demands I keep my distance until Emery can decide these things for herself. They do not understand I’ve studied her expressions long before she became the next awoken one. I feel attuned to her. She coughs and sputters, and yet I do not fear the pathogens that litter the air around her. It is unimportant to me because her well-being trumps all. The idea of anyone else coughing like that is enough to have me running back to the lab and sitting under the equalizer to eliminate the bacteria.
Emery, I’d gladly catch whatever it is she ails from.
Then I could hold her while it stole us both from this life.
Nobody, especially Emery, deserves to die alone.
I won’t rekking allow it.
With my eyes locked on hers, I try to read her expressions. She’s sad but mostly worried. Using what little energy she does have, she tugs and twists at the zuta-metal that is around her arm. I feel like it unlocks an important secret about her. I’ve scoured through the test results Avrell has obtained from her and read through his notes.
For someone so brilliant, our faction’s physician is plagued with not knowing what to do.
There’s a name for her ailment. She spoke it to Aria and it’s been recorded, but it means nothing to us morts. Asthma. Inhaler. All we know is her lungs struggle even on her own planet, but at least there she had the proper medicine. She is too weak for us to try to send her back. It’s been discussed. With space’s compression on one’s lungs, she would not survive. That is written in Avrell’s notes as well.
There is only one thing left to do.
I study contagious diseases and pathogens. I find cures for our people. It’s what I’m good at. Like second nature. This will be no different. I won’t stop until I’ve done it.
I will cure her.
Quietly, I step into the sub-faction and stalk her way, thankful that Hadrian, our youngest and most talkative mort, is nowhere to be seen. Her eyes widen in surprise, but she does not call out. Something that resembles relief flashes in her bright blue eyes. It’s enough to fuel me forward on my mission—a mission that’ll no doubt get me locked away in a reform cell, should Breccan and the others intercept it.
I cannot fail.
Kneeling beside her, I hover my palm over her cheek, desperate to touch her. But Aria’s commanding words still ring in my nog. Her laws about only touching if they ask. Hesitation swirls inside of me like the stirrings of an epic geostorm.
“Help me,” Emery croaks out, her body shuddering slightly as she pleads. “Help me or I will die.”
I allow my palm to stroke the side of her face—and then I do the unthinkable.
I gently pull my fading alien into my arms, careful not to break her, and carry her out of her new home.
With haste, I rush back to my lab, where I will lock us away. They’ll find us eventually, but I will have to make sure they can’t get in. I’ll work relentlessly, undisturbed by them, until I find a cure.
I will rekking save her.
“Relax now, lilapetal,” I urge, my voice soft, just for her. “I’m going to heal you.”
Or I’ll die trying.
It’s dark, the room where they lead us and the hallway beyond. It makes me shiver even though it’s warm enough to make the bodies around me emit the rank, sour scent of sweat. The thin, threadbare gown they gave us does little to contain body heat, so I try to wrap my arms around my waist and get a sharp jab in the ribs for attempting to struggle through the handcuffs I forgot I was wearing.