Click here to read Chapter One, if you missed it last Friday.
Alezandros shielded his eyes from the lukewarm sun. His two nephews, Karros and Madden, leapt over the barren ground like giant bulltoads. He smiled faintly. It’d been a while since they had a reason to enjoy surface time. Alezandros glanced over to his sister as he adjusted his bag upon his back. The breathing mask hid most of her expression, except for the twinkle in her green eyes.
“Look at them go! They have more energy than a red giant.” He nudged her arm with his elbow.
Quick, hissing laughter burst from her lips and puffed the mask’s soft material. “Little brother, you haven’t gotten that old, have you?”
“Of course not! Let’s show them what we Underdwellers can do.”
They jogged after the boys into the old city. Forgotten buildings stood as crumbled relics. Kaire and he had been the first generation of Underdwellers. Her children and her grandchildren would suffer the same fate, if they didn’t find a new planet soon. Despite their vast underground cities, living underground without a real sun depressed Alezandros. He would do anything to prevent his family from growing up under mounds of dirt and rock. A silent curse flitted upon his forked tongue, but he held it in. He saw no point in upsetting their outing.
Her gloved fingertips trailed along one forgotten wall while she hummed a simple tune. Oh, no. He knew that look. “Boys, not too far. Stay in our view,” she called to the children before cocking her head to the side. “Have you heard from Sophisa lately?”
Ugh, not this again. His eyes rolled, and he resisted the urge to smack himself in the forehead, or his sister for mentioning his former pairing. “There’s nothing we have to say about her.”
“Has she dropped by?” She halted beside him. “She was good for you. You shouldn’t have parted from her.”
He hadn’t had the heart to tell her that she parted from him. “She’s dwelling with someone else the last I’ve heard. And, no, I don’t know his name. Sophisa and I don’t talk. Final.”
She held up her hands. “Fine. Final. Not another word.”
“So when are you going to settle down?” She threw the question over her shoulder as she strolled farther into the city.
If she wasn’t his sister, he would strangle her. “Never, if I can help it. Besides, why are you so interested in this?”
“Well, I was thinking—”
“That’s dangerous for you, and the answer is no.”
She crossed her arms and huffed. “But I haven’t even asked you yet.”
“I’m sure it’s another screened pairing, and the answer is no.” It’d taken three months to get his singed hair back in place after the last one.
“Oh, come on, Alezandros. She’s really nice.”
Translation: She’s as boring as a hibernating slog. Were there any of those furry-stomach walkers left on the planet’s surface?
“No.” He leaned over and picked up a rusted bowl. If he could clean it, perhaps they could sell it on the market.
He tucked the object into his bag and ignored her question. She didn’t need to know his reasons. In fact, he should tell her, but he couldn’t. Not today.
She shifted closer to him. “What’s going on? You don’t pair up anymore. Surely you haven’t gone through all the eligible women in Medusa.”
“I’m just bored with them.” And he was. He needed adventure, excitement, a life above the ordinary. It’s one reason he took his family on these trysts to the surface. The women were boring, complacent, drained of all life from the drudgery of living underground.
“Bored.” She scoffed at him, and his fists clenched from a flash of anger. “Little brother, you just need to grow up.”
“I’m tired of this . . .” He spotted his nephews picking through a pile of rubble nearby and edited his curses. “. . . this stuff, Kaire. It’s why I’ve joined the army.”
Merdre! He’d told her his secret already.
Her eyes widened and she stumbled back as if he punched her. “The army? Why?”
“Oh, I don’t know. To serve my planet, perhaps. I’m training on the space cruisers.” Plus, he loved flying fast and hard.
“But they’re talking of war again, stealing a new planet. After what happened to mom and dad, I can’t believe you’d do this.” Tears brightened her eyes.
He expected anger but not that fear, that sadness. A lump formed in his throat as his heart cracked in two. “I won’t die like they did in the wars. I’m not a hands-on fighter, and I’m a merdre good flyer too.”
“Boys, come here now. We’re going back.” Her voice was shrill. She wouldn’t even look at Alezandros now.
“Aw, do we have to go?” Their voices chorused as one.
“Yes. Now.” She spun around and stalked off.
“We don’t have to leave yet,” Alezandros said when the boys passed him and neared their mother.
“Yes, we do.” She grabbed her children’s hands and left him to catch up.