Sleeping with the Enemy
Tales from the Gryphon Saga
By L.E. Horn
Copyright © 2016 L.E. Horn
All Art Copyright © 2016 L.E. Glowacki
2016 Sherrington Publishing
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior written consent of the publisher–or, in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a license from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency–is an infringement of the copyright law. All characters and character likenesses are the property of L.E. Horn and cannot be reproduced without the written consent of the author.
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people or places are used fictitiously. The persons, places, things, and otherwise animate or inanimate objects mentioned in this novel are figments of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to anything or anyone living (or dead) is unintentional.
DRAKE THE SLAVE thrust his sword, then followed the movement with a brutal slash of the knife in his other hand. While he was passably adept with the sword, he was and had always been deadly with a knife. Swords were not the weapon of choice during my four tours of service. I hadn’t even touched one until I joined this outfit.
Joined was a relative term. He had been out on patrol with one of his men when they had come across a group of Canadian soldiers escorting a family—complete with goats, chickens, and one ancient donkey—out of a hot zone. One minute he was offering them help, the next he was waking up as a slave in a metal cage. My gut told me not to trust those soldiers. They looked like friendlies but appearances were deceiving. Yet that was nothing compared to what was to come. If you’d told me a few months ago I’d end up sparring with a sword on an alien spaceship, I’d have set you up in a padded cell.
He ducked his companion’s swing and felt a tug on his hair as the wooden blade missed him by less than an inch. Some of these blokes are incredible.
He took in his opponent. Although of average height, Drake was the shortest man in the room. His companions were human, but they were different from him and similar to each other. Despite the variation in hair and skin color, they were the same: tall, broad-shouldered, long of limb, and well-muscled.
It runs deeper than just their looks, Drake thought. It was also the manner in which they moved—fluid and powerful—and so graceful they seemed never to have to watch the ground. When they fought, it was as though they had held swords all of their lives. Yet Drake knew that until their enslavement, these young men only read about swords in books. It made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end; there was something unnatural about their abilities. Something that involves the Fang.
The Fang were the aliens who now owned Drake and all the other human slaves. The rest of the cosmos knew them as Tlo%m; a name whose weird, double glottal stop tied the human tongue in knots. The human slaves called them Fang, which suited them well in every context of the word.
The collars Drake and the others now wore represented an accurate assessment of their creators: ruthless, deadly, and dominating. A Fang overseer stared at a collared slave and clenched one fist. It caused debilitating pain to course through the victim. Fang were about as nasty a package as Drake had ever met. Considering the conflicts that I fought in back on Earth, that covers a wide canvas. The only chink in their armor is most of them aren’t clever. As long as he wore the collar, that weakness was impossible to exploit.
“Whack!” The wooden sword impacted his ribs with the flat of the blade, almost knocking Drake to his knees. He spun to recover his balance and squared up again with the taller man just as a shrill whistle brought them all to a halt.
“Sorry, Cap.” His opponent gestured to Drake’s ribs.
“No worries.” Drake grimaced as he tossed his practice sword and knife in the bin near the center of the room. “All’s fair in love and war.” He knew his voice betrayed his Aussie heritage, although time had diluted the accent.
The others all called him Cap, a reference to his wartime experience back on their home planet. Drake was quiet and reserved by nature, but the soldier who had accompanied him into slavery was a different story.
Andrew spends too much time talking about our exploits back home. I don’t think they’re anything to brag about. I’ve seen enough fighting to last me a lifetime. He had meant to retire after his third tour, but after a failed marriage and a job that seemed destined to turn him to stone, he signed up for another stint. Little did I know that decision would end up with me in outer space.
It only took a few days on the massive alien ship before Drake recognized himself as a collateral victim. Andrew fit right in with the elite soldiers; the slavers targeted him, not Drake. Drake was not alone as a small group of ordinary humans had all been in the company of target men when their kidnappings occurred. His military experience made him one of the lucky ones—he at least knew how to fight. Most of the collaterals barely coped with the intense practice sessions, which did not bode well for whatever fate awaited them beyond this ship.
Utilizing as much leeway as the Fang would allow, Drake took those men under his guidance, trying to give them enough extra training so they could at least survive the practices. The Fang that supervised them seemed to understand Drake’s efforts benefited them. Most of the time, they left him alone when he stepped in to provide extra guidance.
Their master-at-arms was an older human slave and a capable warrior in his own right. His muscled body bore the scars of past injuries. Drake sensed a connection to the older man and would have given a lot for a chance to talk candidly, but their Fang overseers discouraged questions about anything other than fighting strategy. The reptilian aliens could barely speak English but understood it well enough to activate the collars when the slaves got too chatty.
The seasoned warrior stayed behind as Drake’s group left the large practice area and headed back to their tiny quarters to shower and rest. Each room housed twelve men. The doors to their individual quarters opened out into a small common area in the center. They ate within their rooms as well; the only time they left them was to train.
When the Fang had recognized Drake’s war experience, they shuffled the room assignments—he now lived with eleven other collateral slaves. It enabled him to coach them between fighting sessions.
Ugly and nasty they are, but there is a nifty brain behind some of these lizards.
In the privacy of his tiny shower, Drake sighed as the ultrasonic shower massaged his sore muscles and winced as the waves hit his bruised ribs. These whackers know enough to take advantage of my experience, but I’m not doing it for them. I’m helping these blokes endure because nothing in their life on Earth prepared them for this. Without my help, I doubt they would survive.
Drake leaned forward until his forehead was against the wall. Of course, surviving the sparring is one thing. Not even my training may help them survive what’s coming. Why develop elite soldiers unless whatever you’re facing requires them? If that’s true, all my experience may not help them. It might not be useful, even to me.
DRAKE THE TRAILBLAZER swung at the wall of branches and foliage. The machete was so coated with plant ichor it no longer gleamed in the beams of sunlight that penetrated to the jungle floor. Some of the sticky fluid was green and sap-like, but not all of it.
I’m not even sure some of these things qualify as plants. Do plants grab at you as you walk by? Drake grimaced and swung at a vine whose thorns ripped through fabric and flesh alike. If they drew blood, the wicked points seemed to absorb it. Like bloody vampires, they are.
The bloodsucking thorns and predatory vines were just the start of the weirdness on this alien planet. Drake’s learning curve had been steep, particularly as the Fang were not interested in teaching their slaves anything about this new world. Drake’s unit had lost four men in the first day’s march in the jungle. One died when bitten by an insectoid the size of a human hand. Two encountered vines that struck like snakes then wrapped around their victims before dragging them off. A creature that rushed them from out of nowhere tore the last man to shreds. The Fang commander had shot the creature with his laser rifle but not before it claimed a life.
Cold-hearted pikers couldn’t care less about us. We’re just a means to an end.
“Hey, Cap. I’m right behind you.” Someone said behind him as the thorny branch Drake just released whipped back to stab at him.
“Sorry,” Drake said to the man as he hacked at another vine. “Gotta duck faster, mate.” Behind and to each side of him, his fellow slaves worked to widen the path Drake created. Every so often his collar would tingle. If he didn’t work fast to change direction, he would be rewarded with a pulse of pain strong enough to drop him to his knees.
Drake’s small group had the unenviable task of creating a path through the jungle for the larger unit following a few hours behind them. The group had consisted of twenty men until the jungle denizens snacked on them. In frustration, Drake took over the point position, hoping his experience as a soldier might give him an edge in spotting trouble for the others. The Fang in command of their group didn’t seem to care who did what as long as they kept moving.
Drake’s alertness gave them a fraction of a second’s warning. On the down stroke of a machete swing, he caught the barest hint of color out of the corner of his eye.
“Down!” he yelled. The men around him dove into the bushes, all except one whose mouth opened in shock as a pink-stippled vine as thick as a human arm wrapped around his torso and yanked him off of his feet.
Not bloody likely! Drake pounced on the vine, hacking with his dull machete. Unperturbed, the vine dragged its prey back into the dense foliage. Drake turned and shoved his way through the branches, following the vine backward to whatever lay at the heart. He felt his usual stoicism slip from him as he thrashed his way through uncooperative foliage. With every swing of his blade, he cursed the vines, the jungle, and the situation in general.
To Drake’s surprise, the other men oriented on the cursing and followed him. He expected them to be zapped at any second by the collar, but for once the Fang let them go.
Maybe he’s tired of losing men? Drake thought. More likely he was daydreaming, and now we’re out of sight. The Fang required line of sight to activate the collars, although there was also an automatic proximity limit. As long as the soldiers stayed within the prescribed area from the Fang they would not get zapped. At least not until the scaly rooter catches up to us.
Drake lost sight of the vine. He struggled about thirty feet through the bush before stumbling into a small clearing—the home of a monster. At the center of some writhing vines sat a bloated, pear-shaped body in sickly hues of puce. Three thick, petal-like lips peeled back to reveal whippy tendrils. They reached for the lump within the wrapped vine now being dragged toward it.
Drake didn’t think; he just leaped over the seething vines and hacked at the tendrils. The other men followed in a full-scale assault, easily chopping them into pieces. A subterranean rumble emitted from the plant monster. It retracted its thick vines from their lurking places in the jungle.
Once those vines are back in the clearing, it’ll use them to defend itself. We have to end this before that happens. Drake redoubled his efforts, slashing and hacking.
Leaving the others to continue that assault, Drake renewed his attack on the vine holding the human. It had wrapped itself so many times around the body he couldn’t even see what lay within it. Chopping had little effect, so he straddled it and cut, using the notches worn into his blade like a saw.
Another rumble shook the ground beneath him followed by a sound like a hiss of compressed air. The vine beneath him heaved, knocking him sideways. Drake turned to see the remaining tendrils suck inward before the three thick lips snapped together. With a puff of displaced dirt, the entire bloated body sank backward into the earth and disappeared.
The vines went slack; the one beneath him unraveled. To Drake’s astonishment, the face staring up at him was not human but reptilian, with a toothy snout and red swirling eyes.
The Fang commander rolled to his feet as if almost getting consumed by a predatory plant was normal for him. He straightened to his full height, which put his gaze level with Drake’s. The two stared at each other for a moment, then the Fang turned and barked something to the other men, gesturing with one burly arm.
When they retraced the trampled path in the foliage, they found the original victim of the vine and the commander’s laser rifle. The human was bruised but otherwise unhurt. The monster must’ve released the bloke and grabbed the bloody lizard when we began our assault on the tendrils. No wonder the commander didn’t activate the collars. It was his own skin at stake. Drake cursed his luck. I should’ve let the thing eat him! He ground his teeth in frustration. These damned collars would hold us in place even if he was dead. We can’t stray farther than a hundred feet from him. We’d be stuck here while the plant thing picked us off one by one unless the Fang commander of the unit following us got here in time to release us. One dead Fang isn’t enough to free us.
They resumed their work clearing the trail. Several times Drake felt the eyes of the commander on him, burning holes in the back of his head.
Just what I need, Drake thought, brownie points with the Fang.
DRAKE THE FIRE-MAKER set his dull axe down on the ground and gathered the wood needed for the multiple cooking fires throughout the clearing. His small group worked to get the camp ready for the elite fighting unit.
Drake paused to watch them march into camp, just as he had often watched them while they trained back at the barracks, and before that, on the giant Motherships the Fangs called home. As much as he found the soldiers disturbing, the warrior within him could not help but admire them. As they walked by he nodded to those he knew from his days on the ship. Out of the corner of his eye, Drake caught his Fang commander looking at him and returned to his task.
His thoughts roamed. How long have the lizards been harvesting humans from Earth?
Members of Drake’s small group returned from a successful hunting mission. Soon afterward, everyone roasted their portions over open fires. The fighting units relied on the jungle for most of their sustenance. This permitted them to travel fast and light.
Human versatility at its finest, Drake thought as he sank down onto a chopped log. Fit as he was, his body still ached at the end of every day. I’m not old, but I’ve got ten years on most of these guys. The lizards use me like a, well, like a slave. We ordinary humans function as support crew to the elite. This translated to a lot of heavy lifting, from hacking pathways to chopping wood and hunting for food.
We are getting near the frontlines of the war.
Drake noticed how the foliage had thinned and the trees decreased in frequency and size throughout the day. Although he wouldn’t miss beating a path through those wicked plants, it was obvious they were running out of jungle. Out there, somewhere, is the Fang’s enemy. The Gryphon.
They’d all seen holograms of the Gryphon. The Fangs had a name for their foes that the human tongue couldn’t hope to pronounce. The humans called the creatures Gryphon due to their resemblance to the mythical creature of Earth. With their jaw that ended in a beaked tip and feathers on their heads and arms, the creatures seemed to fit the description.
The images Drake had seen made his blood run cold, and he knew most of the human slaves felt the same. The Fang were alien with their toothy snouts, red eyes, and scaly skin. Regardless, they followed the bipedal body plan, which added an element of the familiar. The Gryphon were totally exotic: massive with four legs, two arms, bright, patterned coats, and huge feathered manes. No amount of sparring with each other can prepare a bloke for facing one of those creatures. These soldiers are naturally talented, but they haven’t been blooded, and they’re fighting someone else’s war. We’ll see if fear of the collars will drive them forward when they face well-armed Gryphon.
DRAKE THE SCOUT was the first to contact the Tlo%m unit fresh off the front lines. He sent word to his commander, who coordinated a bivouac in a clearing surrounded by scrubby bush. While the Fang briefed each other, the elite soldiers of Drake’s unit hunkered down at one end of the clearing, staring at their blooded counterparts.
These blokes must’ve been one of the first slave units to take on the Gryphon, Drake thought. By the looks of the other unit, he couldn’t be sure who won the battle. Many of the human slaves sported wicked injuries, and some required assistance to walk. Drake glanced at the Fangs, who seemed preoccupied in their conversation. Then he dug through packs, retrieving medkits until his arms and pockets bulged with bandages and drugs. A moment later he was among the injured, doing his best to patch them up.
Surreptitious movement on each side of him revealed several others from his unit had joined him. He worked quietly, not wanting to draw the Fang’s attention. The injuries were at best nasty, and at worst, life-threatening. Only swords—and massive ones at that—would leave such wounds. If it wasn’t for the endurance inherent in the elite soldiers, they wouldn’t have made it this far.
While he worked, Drake whispered questions to the soldiers. He wanted their stories. Soon, we’ll be up against the same creatures. I need as much information as I can get for us to survive.
“They came up at us from below,” one soldier said as Drake bound the deep gash on his arm. “We walked right into them. They were everywhere.” He shuddered. “Huge. The images don’t do them justice. They have these swords, long enough to slice three men in half with one swipe.” The young man closed his eyes and leaned back against a tree. “I don’t know how we lived through it. I think we would have bolted if it weren’t for the collars. In the end, we got a few of them, but they got more of us. And then, they vanished without a trace.”
Other soldiers told the same story.
How can creatures so large pop up out of nowhere? They seem to employ guerrilla tactics. One of the most difficult and dangerous battles to fight, and to win, Drake thought as he tied off a bandage. He nodded to the young soldier and headed for another.
One soldier intercepted him. “My friend needs help.” He led Drake to a body lying prone in the bush. The injured man was barely conscious, and the bandage dripped blood.
When Drake unwrapped the wound, he forced his expression into a semblance of calm. The arm had deep slices that looked like claw marks, and skin hung in shreds. As he cradled the limb, he could tell the bones of the upper arm were also shattered. He could see small fragments scattered throughout the wound and blood pulsed from a lacerated artery.
“He got kicked,” his friend said. “I carried him for the last mile.”
Although the man moaned, Drake suspected the soldier couldn’t feel the small movements of the arm since it remained attached only by the merest shreds of muscle tissue. There was no way to save it. If the man was to survive, the arm must come off.
Drake steeled himself. In his time as a soldier, he had seen his fair share of blood and gore and even been forced to triage serious injuries when there was no medic available. The Fang had medical stations staged periodically behind the front lines, but this man would not get any farther unless they could stop the bleeding.
That means removing the arm, and sealing the artery, Drake thought.
The friend tensed beside him and at the same moment, Drake realized the harsh murmur of Fang voices had ceased. A heavy footstep behind him was his only warning.
The body beneath his hands convulsed as a massive electric shock shot through the injured man’s brain from the collar. The pulse of electricity backlashed from the soldier’s body into Drake, throwing him into the man’s friend. He rolled to his feet in time to see smoke issuing from the injured man’s ears and nose. The nauseating smell of burned flesh filled the clearing.
In the abrupt silence that followed, Drake heard the friend retching into the nearby bushes. Still tingling from the electric shock, rage flooded him like a tidal wave. Fists clenching, Drake turned to meet the Fang’s impassive gaze. He had never been closer to a suicidal move than he was at that moment. He struggled to regain control over his features as he met the red eyes of the Fang commander. Drake fought a grim war with himself. Wait. Not now. You’ll be throwing your life away. His fingers loosened, one by one. He forced his carefully schooled mask of indifference into place.
The Fang stared at him for another moment and then turned to move on, surveying the slaves in his unit, no doubt looking for others who might never again be soldiers.
Drake watched him go, his thoughts in chaotic conflict with his expression. Someday you rooting lizards will pay for this.
DRAKE THE SOLDIER moved through the scrubby bush in the dim light of evening, his every nerve on high alert. He sensed rather than saw the others advancing behind and on each side of him. Months of fighting on the front lines had weeded out any that were careless or distractible. The men pacing him through the bush moved with the silence of stalking cats, alert to every twitch of a leaf.
They were a very different group from the untested slaves that had set out six months ago. For one thing, they were now at half their original strength. Those that remained bore the scars of injuries new and old; their uniforms were now as worn and stained as their weapons. Perhaps the greatest change was written on their faces: their eyes devoid of life, focused on the task at hand with expressions permanently hardened into grim lines. They had no goal except to survive.
That Drake remained alive was due to his previous wartime experience. His instincts proved right so many times the unit relied upon them. Even the Fang commander considered Drake’s opinion worthwhile.
I’m sure he feels I’ve got a vested interest in leading the lizards to victory, whatever that means. In reality, I’m just trying to keep these blokes alive. At that moment, something undecipherable gave Drake pause. He hunched down into the scrub, scanning the terrain ahead of them. The surrounding men froze and dropped down in a disconnected echo of his movements. In the approaching darkness, it was difficult to see anything. Human eyes were disadvantaged in decreasing light. If I were Gryphon, I’d time my attack anytime now. That dark lump could be a rock, or it could be a Gryphon lying in wait. The cursed creatures are superb at resembling a bush until the last possible minute.
Drake’s collar tingled, and he cursed. Rooting lizard has no patience. He sits back there and pushes us into danger. He knew he had mere seconds to move on or the next pulse from his collar would be one of intense pain.
His eyes raced over the terrain. They were in a slight depression at the moment. Likely a creek during heavy rains. On each side the land rose to form rounded banks; Drake could see where water cut into the soft dirt, leaving small abrupt ridges around the boulders.
He rose and stalked straight across the depression to mount one of the hills. It was off course, and the hills were harder going than the creek bed with more boulders and bushes. Something about the dry creek makes me itch. He braced himself for a course correction from the Fang but for now, the reptilian alien seemed content to follow his lead.
They were still a few miles from the grasslands proper, where the bushes gave way to huge, grassy tufts and deposits of enormous boulders. Yet he knew from experience the Gryphon often moved into the scrublands that bordered the jungle, stalking the Fang fighting units that prowled there.
What the lizards hope to find in the grasslands is anyone’s guess. It was the most discussed issue among the slave soldiers. The Fang were slavers by profession, yet they obviously were not interested in acquiring Gryphon as slaves. So why are we here? What do the lizards want with this planet? Those are the million-dollar questions. Never to be answered.
They were working their way to the top of the hill when all the hairs on the back of Drake’s neck stood on end. He drew his sword and charged. Behind him, he heard the men following without question, abandoning stealth in an instant.
The bushes along the hilltop sprouted huge forms waving long, lethal swords. The Gryphon had lost the momentum of surprise. Instead of dropping down on their unsuspecting prey, they found themselves engaged while still rising from their hiding spaces.
Drake leaped onto a Gryphon that sported vivid blue striping on its glossy hide. It deflected his sword with a swipe of its own and clacked its beak at him, pulling lips back from the teeth that lined the jaw behind the beak tip. It leaped forward, and Drake barely ducked the swipe of a clawed foreleg, knowing from experience to shield his body with his sword. Sure enough, in a classic Gryphon move, it followed the distraction of the kick with a killer swipe of its long sword. The two weapons collided with a power that made Drake’s muscles shudder with strain.
Rooting sword will break if I push it much further.
He switched tactics and went with the motion instead of against it, letting the Gryphon’s sword push his around in a great arc. When the arc carried the massive sword clear of the creature’s body, Drake released his weapon and pulled his knife. He stepped into the opening created by the sword, driving the knife with all his strength forward and up into the Gryphon’s torso.
The creature’s huge eyes widened in shock. In desperation, Drake twisted the knife, and the Gryphon collapsed in on itself from its hind limbs upward. He yanked his knife free as the torso crumpled and looked to retrieve his sword.
He sensed a dark shadow rise behind him. Drake leaped to one side as a double-bladed axe crashed to the ground where he stood a moment before. He dove to grab his discarded sword just as another strike almost cut him in two. He fell short of his mark but rolled to his feet and spun to face his new opponent, knife drawn.
Before him stood the largest Gryphon he had ever seen. Its coat gleamed silver in the fading light, and it snorted steam as it loomed over him. Every feather in the dark mane bristled erect. Heavy muscles rippled when it pointed the blades of its axe at Drake’s chest.
It had him and Drake knew it. The reach of those long arms meant it could slice him in two before he could do more than twitch.
If I’d held onto my sword, I might’ve stood a chance, Drake thought with regret. I knew my preference for knives would get me into trouble one day.
A shrill whistle pierced the air, and to Drake’s amazement, the giant Gryphon hesitated. It tilted its head at him, the enormous eyes glinting violet in the setting sun. Then it nodded and stepped back. Keeping one eye on Drake, it backed to its fallen comrade and leaned down to heave the body across its own. Then the Gryphon left as smoothly as it had appeared, vanishing with the others into the gathering darkness.
All around him, Drake heard men taking stock of their injuries. The Gryphon had called off the attack because it seemed they’d lost the advantage. Slaves rarely gained the upper hand on the enormous creatures. The relieved men showed their appreciation by clapping Drake on the shoulder and praising his sixth sense for winning them the day.
Their attitude continued into the night. Drake helped gather enough dry wood for the fires then hunkered down with a chunk of meat skewered on a sturdy branch. As he watched the fat sizzle over the flames, he listened to the conversations that rolled over and around him.
They camped farther into the scrublands than usual and he would not rest easy tonight. Not with visions of a giant Gryphon looming over me. Why’d he spare my life? He must’ve seen me kill that other Gryphon. He had me dead to rights.
The surrounding chatter trailed off, and Drake looked up into the reddish eyes of their Fang commander—who glowered at him over the fire.
“You.” The voice was so guttural the English words seemed indecipherable. “Come.”
Drake’s heart accelerated, and he fought to keep his features calm. He handed his branch to the man next to him and rose to follow the powerful body of his commander. What did he want with him? Being singled out as a slave was never good. Try as he might, Drake couldn’t think of any reason the burly Fang would want to talk to him. His thoughts raced as they traversed the camp and walked out into the darkness. To his surprise, an unfamiliar Fang stood with the human slave sentry. This Fang did not dress like a regular soldier and looked younger than most.
“Go with,” his commander said, and then turned on his heel and headed back into camp.
Drake watched him go, struggling to keep his confusion from showing in his expression. I’m leaving? What the hell is happening?
The younger Fang transferred control of Drake’s collar to his own with a small handheld device. Then he gestured for Drake to precede him. As they marched past the camp, Drake felt the eyes of his comrades focused on him. Will I ever see them again? He thought of the many blokes lost to the blades of the Gryphon. Am I to become another statistic? Or do they have something else in store for me? He worried about the men, about whether they would survive without his guidance. They are more than competent. My absence will make little difference in their lives.
Drake and the Fang headed into the jungle. The darkness folded around them.
DRAKE THE CAPTAIN stood in front of the barracks window, contemplating the strange twist of fate that had befallen him.
Behind him, Jarzak paced back and forth behind the desk. Jarzak was one of the biggest Fang he had ever seen. The large male was imposing, but not as impressive as the Fang whose office Drake had visited earlier in the day.
The brain behind the brawn, he remembered with reluctant admiration. He had met the supreme commander, the war coordinator herself. She was taller than the males, with finer features and the gleam of intelligence in those reddish-orange eyes.
This new initiative was her idea, and Drake had to admit it had merit. Injuries plagued the fighting slaves on the front lines, and the medic bases were too few and far apart to solve the problem. The war coordinator was creating mobile medical divisions that could travel behind the battles, moving in as needed. She had provided Drake and the handful of other selected human slaves with the basic information about the new groups. Drake and the others would oversee several small groups of six humans that acted as support crew to two medics.
These new medics are genetically modified to heal with their minds. How the hell do they do that? The female Fang had not bothered to explain the specifics to a mere slave, even one handpicked to lead one of the units. I guess I’ll just have to see it to believe it.
Drake sensed the disapproval radiating from the big Fang pacing behind the desk. They waited for the two medics assigned to Drake’s division, but he believed that wasn’t what bothered the old Fang. He was sure something about the war coordinator disturbed the old commander. Is it her, or is it this new idea of hers? Or maybe he just doesn’t like taking orders from a female? Drake’s lip twitched. Maybe some biases are universal.
Movement in the doorway drew his attention from the window. He turned and forgot to breathe.
“This one Healer for you,” Jarzak said in garbled English, but Drake barely heard him. The creature that moved into the room was the most exotic thing he had ever laid his eyes on. She—and it was most definitely a she—wore a simple green tunic that did little to hide her curves. Her arms and legs had a soft haze of reddish hair, and she had a long tail that twitched once before winding itself around one leg. Her sheared head did not diminish the beauty of her heart-shaped face or her large tawny eyes.
Is she human beneath all that? Have the Fang changed her? The female—Healer, he corrected himself—looked miserable and refused to meet his eyes. Drake realized he was staring and that his mouth hung open. He closed it with a snap and schooled his face into its usual calm expression. His body was more difficult to control; his head spun, his skin felt like it was on fire, and he was having trouble breathing. She was the closest thing to a human woman he had seen since before his capture back on Earth. The war coordinator had not said anything about the Healers being female.
By the time the second Healer arrived, he had himself under control, although just barely. He heard himself make some inane comments to Jarzak, something like, “New recruits?” and “They’ll do, we need them,” as if his opinions mattered. He felt awkward, like a teenage boy introduced to a girl for the first time.
To recover his composure, he refused to look at either woman. It helped, and he kept it together until the Healers left the room. A short time later, he listened to Jarzak assign him the men to keep the Healers safe and cared for in the jungle. Drake fought to focus on Jarzak’s words.
Find, Heal, and Reactivate—Drake was now captain of a new division with a specialized purpose, able to move freely within a prescribed area without the direct supervision of a Fang commander.
For a Fang slave, that’s as good as it can get. He rubbed one hand through his dark curly hair. Although if the other men react like I did to the Healers, I will have my work cut out for me.
Imagine a world where legends run free and nightmares seek power. One where humans are enslaved and a living myth brings hope. The Gryphon Saga follows the lives of people kidnapped from Earth and forced to serve a vicious alien army fighting a war to acquire a powerful species. Their newly enhanced skills develop them into Healers and warriors while they struggle to survive on a hostile world. Yet they are not alone in their struggle, for this world is home to the unlikeliest of allies . . . a living myth that teaches them a simple secret: Freedom comes from within. Sleeping with the Enemy follows the adventures of an ex-soldier fighting in the Fang war. He proves the strength of the human spirit through his grim determination to find honor and integrity in a world devoid of both.