Theta was the first dynamic to be revealed in a human infected with the Copper virus. A junior research assistant accidentally infected himself, or so it was alleged. Thetas are hyper-intelligent and driven toward the accumulation of wealth, prestige, or both.
Of all the dynamics, I believe the theta dynamic to be the most ruthless.
My wealth of personal experience has supported this conclusion.
~ Doctor Lillian Brach
The remote spaceport, Kix29
“Have you ever met a delta?” Jenna asked as our ship prepared to dock at Kix29, a space station in the middle of nowhere that was soon to be my temporary home.
The transport I’d been taking to Tolis, a perfectly habitable planet, had suffered multiple technical failures. I tried to ignore that I was floating around space in a hunk of metal that had problems, but it was hard when you wore magnetic boots because the artificial gravity kept failing.
“I thought gammas liked deltas?” Jenna asked, distracting me from my space phobia.
“I don’t know much about them,” I said honestly, focused on the small portal window we were standing beside, through which I could see the station umbilical heading toward our ship. The transport juddered as the metallic clips locked us into place. Kix29 wasn’t much better than a transport, just a bigger lump of metal floating around in the void of space now that I thought about it.
“You’re really freaked out,” she said, smiling now.
“I am,” I admitted. “I was supposed to be on Tolis a week ago.”
Jenna was one of life’s adventurers. A lota dynamic, she personified the caste with her unbridled curiosity for everything in life. We’d met during the two-week transit.
“I started reading about them after I met you,” she said. “Sounds fascinating. Did you know they have a hook?”
“I, ah, did hear about the hook.” Heard about it and dismissed it. Clearly it was anatomically ridiculous. I mean, the alpha knot made sense, since some animals had them. “I’ve never met a delta. I don’t suppose I ever will.”
“What about the online forums, where you can” —she started giggling— “hook up with them. Ever been tempted?”
I hadn’t heard about the online forums. I shook my head slowly, but my lips tugged up. “That sounds terrible.”
“Why?” She shrugged. “Apparently, it’s very pleasurable. Well, it’s also really kinky. All kinds of hot and steamy stuff goes on. Did you know they’re together? Deltas share everything, including each other and their chosen gamma.”
“I’ve never thought about that side of it,” I said because, unlike Jenna, I wasn’t curious, at least not about deltas.
“It’s all there in the paper I read last night,” she said. “I should have been sleeping, but sleep is so overrated. Lillian Brach, she’s a famous omega who used to be in charge of the viral research program until her theta subordinate snatched the top job. Thetas, they just can’t help themselves, full of elitist ideology. They really don’t play well with others. I’ve read plenty about omegas, and contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing to suggest they lose all mental acumen the moment they reveal.” She huffed out a breath and rolled her eyes. “Sorry, I’m getting distracted. Where was I? Oh, yes! Deltas. It was Lillian Brach’s paper—very detailed, and absolutely fascinating. You should read it sometime.”
I nodded vaguely, trying to catch up with all of that. I hadn’t mentioned that my parents were thetas. People tended to look at you funny when you said anything about knowing one in real life. And she was right—thetas kept to themselves and had a superiority complex a mile wide. My parents were comparably measured examples of the dynamic, while my older brother was closer to the god complex end of the spectrum. They didn’t really mix with other dynamics, although all dynamics were guilty to some extent of gravitating toward their own, except gammas, who were the rarest. Mixing with our own wasn’t practical. I’d never met either a gamma or delta.
“The hook part is just a rumor though,” I said confidently. I couldn’t imagine a viral doctor paying credence to gossip. I might never have met a delta, but I’d met plenty of alphas, and allegedly, deltas were much like them. More likely, it was the deltas themselves who’d started the ridiculous story.
“About the hook? Oh no, that’s definitely not a rumor.” She shook her head vehemently.
“A lot of safety checks,” she said, indicating the portal window and the umbilical cord connecting us with the station. A loud hiss signified that the umbilical had finally docked and the hatch had opened.
Meanwhile, I was having a minor mental breakdown about the delta hook. It had to be small, right? Where would it even go?
I shuffled forward under the swell of bodies that sought to exit the ship.
“I’ll send you the details of that hookup site,” she said, winking dramatically. “I can tell you’re curious now.”
“Please don’t.” I shook my head, although I was laughing too. They were really the worst source of humorous material.
We made our way along the umbilical and onto the sturdier space station. Several thousand people lived on Kix29, supporting the mining operation and the local planet below. I would be stuck here for a week until a ship bound for Tolis arrived, while Jenna was heading for Ridious and shipping straight out.
Jenna hefted her backpack higher onto her shoulder before offering me a wave. “If you ever meet a delta, I definitely want the details. Take care, Abby.”
I had a feeling the skinny beta prick was cheating me as I watched the hands being played. Kade was knocking back drinks like it was an Awakening Day celebration, but I wasn’t in the mood.
The spaceport, Kix29, was situated in the Sirius system, supporting a substantive mining operation. They liked to claim they were part of the Empire, but in truth, it was fringe.
How the fuck had we ended up here?
A long fucking story, but I suspected our boss’ hacker friend had something to do with it.
This whole operation had been bullshit from the start. My skin was itching, but I got like this sometimes.
The only thing that would make me relax was beating the shit out of someone.
The skinny beta was looking like a promising candidate.
Yeah, I understood that I was unhinged. A lifetime of therapy couldn’t sort my demons out, not that I was interested in discussing my feelings with anyone. I figured there was no point in trying, so I might as well embrace the dark and all that jazz. The bouts of insomnia weren’t ideal, but they hadn’t killed me yet. A few other people might have died because of my less than congenial mood swings, but hey, they’d had it coming.
Kade kicked me under the table.
“Got that eye twitch going on there, buddy,” he said, smirking.
I scowled at the fucker, although he didn’t lift his eyes from his hand of cards. Little punk knew that was baiting.
My communicator bleeped, so I excused myself from the next round, rising from the table where five other players sat smoking and drinking, and clipped my earbud in.
“What the fuck are you doing in Sirius?” Lucian demanded. Our boss was a straight talking alphahole with more money than god and a snarky attitude if things didn’t go to his exact plans.
He also had a hacker in his pocket that we’d nicknamed the Gecko because the freak was always going on about them and who delighted in making my life hell. I’d never met the Gecko, but I’d be sure to acquaint him with my fist if I ever did.
“Ask your dickhead gecko lover,” I snapped. I wasn’t one for mincing words either—not always the best approach with Lucian, but given he was light years away, I felt safe to vent.
“I’m gonna strangle the fuck,” Lucian snarled. I didn’t need the visual to know he would be prowling back and forth in front of the windowed wall that looked out onto his club, likely wearing a smart dark suit, hair impeccable. Depending on the time of day, a couple of beta pets might be waiting to attend to Lucian’s every need. Peppermint Moon catered to the dynamic elites and wannabes—just one of many interests the corrupt business mogul had on his books.
“You’re gonna need to get in the queue,” I replied. My eyes were on the table, where Kade was tossing down another lost hand. “We’ll be back in a week. Due to ship out tomorrow.”
“Got the package?” Lucian asked, all business again.
“Yeah, we got the package. Let’s hope it’s worth this bullshit.”
“Fine then,” Lucian said, and the communication closed out.
“Do you know any computer hackers?” I turned back to the table and pinned the slimy beta clearing up the shiny credits with a look.
“H-Hacker?” Bobby, Bobbit, Bobbin? Whatever the fuck his name was, he gave a telling stutter in his vague response. He didn’t know a hacker, but he was up to something here and had guilt written all over his face.
My eyes narrowed on the squirming man.
“Fuck, Jordan,” Kade muttered. “Can you give it a rest? He’s not here. These are real cards. Drop it, will you?”
My head swung in Kade’s direction.
He raised both hands in silent surrender. “Whatever,” he said. “Sorry, guys, we’re out.”
His chair scraped across the floor as he stood and pushed out the door.
I pinned Bob the beta with a glare before pivoting and stomping after Kade.
“You don’t need to be a dick all the time,” Kade said as I fell in step beside him.
I didn’t answer. He was mouthy when he’d had a drink, and I’d learned not to rise to the bait. He was built like a tank, so beating on him was spectacularly unrewarding.
“One of us needs to be a dick, or you’d have your ass handed to you daily.”
Okay, I’d gone there. We were deltas, a complicated dynamic. We were rare.
I was five years older than Kade. We’d both come through the orphan’s program on Chimera, the unwanted offspring of a drug addict and alcoholic.
Kade’s mother was a drug addict, but he didn’t do drugs.
My father was an alcoholic, but I didn’t drink. We both had plenty of other vices, so it wasn’t like we were missing out.
I was a lost soul until the day Kade’s scrawny ass was dumped in the home by law enforcement after they’d found his mother dead. He’d wanted to fight everyone, tried it too. He was nine, and I’d been fourteen. I’d let the little punk wear himself out by beating on me every day in the gym.
He’d had a lot of anger, but I didn’t care. I’d found my missing piece, and we’d been inseparable ever since.
That was the thing about deltas—we were always in pairs. Part of that was because we were rare, and part was because of our unusual situation regarding our most compatible dynamic partner.
Kade stopped abruptly.
“Did you hear that?”
I stopped too. “Hear what?” Before he could answer, my communicator beeped, and a voice that made me want to pummel on the owner said, “Incoming. It’s about to get busy.”
I fucking hated the Gecko, but there were times when he was useful…
The spaceport alarms blared, and orange ceiling lights began to flash.
“What the fuck is happening?” I snarled into the communicator.
“Raiders,” Lucian’s hacker said.
* * *
The spaceport, Kix29, in the distant corner of the Sirius system, supported the mining operations here. The location was almost fringe.
Okay, I was trying to make myself feel better. It was definitely fringe.
How had I, a therapist employed by the military, ended up here?
It was a long and complex story that began with an emergency diversion on a simple transit from one base to another during a three-month field trip, compounded by bad luck and a spectacular level of transport failures, and resulted in me being galactic miles away from my intended destination.
I should be in Chimera now, sipping on a latte between clients.
Instead, I was eating questionable food in a space canteen, surrounded by rough-looking mining personnel. I was used to the military, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch, but the whole place had an edge, like it was on the verge of catastrophe, and it was making me nervous.
I’d been stuck here for a week—a very long week.
I should have been shipping out today, but I’d just gotten news that I would be stuck here for another week.
The canteen was always busy. Thousands of people lived on this station permanently, and docked vessels could swell that number. Dozens of functional white tables and bench seating were lined up in rows, with a service area dispensing food along one wall and the cleanup area for after on the left. I’d found a seat in the middle because it made for a faster exit, and the less time I spent in here, the better.
On days like today, I questioned my career choice. My parents were both thetas and had been disappointed that I didn’t similarly reveal. Being a therapist and helping others was not a path they could understand in the broadest terms, but if I was going to be a therapist, only the highest, most elite kind would meet my parent’s expectations. The best paying customer, courtesy of the never-ending war against the Uncorrupted, was the military command on Chimera.
So here I was awaiting spare parts that were due in the next five days, unlikely to leave for Chimera in potentially another week, and bored out of my mind.
There was no such thing as day or night on the station, only endless, artificial, twenty-four-hour cycles broken into shifts. I missed natural air and the feeling of solid ground beneath my feet, especially since the springy, metallic floors and walls that predominated such stations made me feel at sea. I also missed my work, which was varied and interesting, with a good mix of other dynamics who were part of the Empire’s ever evolving military machine.
But as the alarm blared for the third time today, I would have gladly settled for a job somewhere mundane, with poor career opportunities that didn’t involve space travel…and specifically, finding myself on a remote spaceport with not even a token military presence.
The alarm continued a few seconds before cutting off, and then everyone went back to eating like this was perfectly normal. Perhaps it was. I had been here a week, and it sounded at least once a day. I’d be a nervous wreck if I stayed here much longer.
No sooner had it stopped than it started, again.
I glanced around the canteen at my fellow diners, meeting similar expressions of confusion.
“I don’t think this is another drill,” the beta male sitting two seats down from me said when the alarm continued to issue a bleep-bleep warning.
We were supposed to be safe. When the vessel limped into the space dock, I’d been told it had a state-of-the-art defense system that would protect us from our enemy, the Uncorrupted.
I was a gamma, which the virus revealed to me when I was seventeen. The Uncorrupted wanted to eradicate the virus. If they breached the station, I would be captured, taken away, and experimented on in their quest to find a contagion that would target others of my kind.
There were many and varied stories, both official and unofficial, about the Uncorrupted’s plans. None of them filled me with glee.
The bleep-bleep changing to a whoop-whoop tipped ice into my veins. Overhead, amber lights began flashing in the ceiling.
I shared a look with the beta, rising from my seat and hoping this was simply a more comprehensive drill.
There were two double door exits from the canteen, and I’d started to head for the ones on my left when the alarm abruptly ceased.
Another glitch in the system, maybe? After the previous false alarms, collective groans went up.
Staring at my tray of half eaten food, I wondered if I should tidy it up. A few people had sat back down, but the clink of cutlery and the chatter around me felt off. I didn’t feel like eating anymore. When no instructions nor explanation came, I grabbed my tray and headed for the disposal.
The double doors to my right suddenly slammed open, and a man in a brown flight suit, typical of the haulage operations, burst into the room. “Raaidddders!”
A blast sounded, a hole opened up in his chest, blood splattered, and his body collapsed facedown.
The tray dropped from my nerveless fingers to hit the floor with a crash. The lights cut to emergency mode, bathing the room in an eerie green glow as the collective occupants of the canteen ran in a crazed mob, fleeing for the opposite door.
I went with them, swept along in the rush. The row of tables and benches made obstacles of the worst kind as the emergency lights began to strobe erratically. Someone pushed me, shoving an elbow or fist to the center of my back. The blow sent me sprawling, and I landed in an ungraceful heap, where boots of stampeding staff pounded me back down. I scrambled to my feet, only to be bowled over again. My chin smacked against a bench. I bit my tongue and tasted blood.
The put-put of automatic weapons sounded unbearably loud through the screams and the ringing in my ears.
I staggered up for the second time and ran a zigzag path between the benches for the exit. People fell beside me, bullets tearing into flesh and sending great arcs of blood across the white furniture, floors, walls…and me.
The blood of ordinary people whose only mistake was to be present at this station.
The blood of people who were now dead or desperately injured and soon to be dead.
I didn’t want to be dead. I was too young, and there was too much I wanted to do with my life. I just wanted to live.
Blood made the floor slick and treacherous, and I skidded through the exit door, hitting the corridor wall so hard, I bounced off it. Dots swam before my eyes, and blood pooled in my mouth, where I’d bitten my tongue. Bullets tore up the wall beside me, twisting metal and sending sparks shooting. I pressed off the wall, dashing to the left, where the corridor led to the personnel quarters.
Most people veered right toward the docks, but I was committed to mindless flight mode and my legs only understood run.
Another double door waited ahead. A pace away, it sprang apart, and two huge men barreled through. The black formfitting uniform said they were security of some kind, maybe even soldiers. They were tall and built. Alphas, I thought. Conscription was mandatory, and they were invariably deployed in the war, which was odd because I hadn’t seen any alphas, military or otherwise, while stuck on this godforsaken space station.
Maybe a military vessel had docked? I felt my spirits lift.
The alpha on the left was dark blond, while the right-hand alpha’s hair was dark brown. Both were sinfully handsome… Death at the hands of a raider might’ve been imminent, but I still found the time to notice they were hot.
My legs started backpedaling, and my hands shot out. The dark-haired alpha’s eyes widened before my body crumpled into his.
I thought for a split second that he’d been a figment of my imagination and that I'd run straight into another wall.
“Whoa,” he murmured.
“Fuck!” the other said. “We need to back the fuck up.”
Fingers bit into my arm as dark and handsome shoved me behind his back just as gunfire opened up.
A terrifying battle cry came from the food court’s direction, a cross between a scream and a whoop. Ice flooded my veins, and my already frantic heart rate took another spike.
I couldn’t see what was happening around the towering alpha’s body. The world became a chaotic kaleidoscope that moved fast, then slow. More people surged into the corridor, their screams and shouts ripping into me as surely as a bullet.
“Shit!” the one holding my arm said. That was all the warning I got before he spun around and shoved me through the double doors he’d just entered by.
“This is your fucking fault, Kade!” the blond man rumbled at the darker one still fisting my arm.
The closing door shut out some, but not all, of the cacophony.
“My fault?! Like I’m responsible for raiders turning up. Don’t be a dick!” Kade, as I now knew him, snarled back.
Bullets reverberated off the closed doors beside us. My eyes shifted from Kade to his blond sidekick to the flimsy barrier between us and certain death.
“If you hadn’t insisted we spend our night drinking and playing cards, we might’ve had something more effective than this popgun.” Blondie waved the small handheld about while regarding it with open disgust. “I’m too old for this staying up all night bullshit. We should’ve been in the dock already.”
I’d spent most of my adult life studying human psychology, so I recognized crazy when I saw it. Only I could have the misfortune to be intercepted by two insane alphas. “This is not the time—”
“Too old! For fuck’s sake, Jordan,” Kade continued, talking right over me like there wasn’t an attack happening and our lives weren’t on the line. “You’re like five years older than me. That’s a long way off fucking old!” He turned and shot out the lock to the double doors beside us, and a safety deadbolt dropped with a mighty thud.
A sharp, terror steeped squeal escaped my lips. I tried to pry his fingers from my arm, since they were cutting off the circulation and the owner was clearly a pickle short of a picnic, as my grandma used to say.
“Not happening, sweetheart,” he said while glaring at the other man.
“Well, you act like you’re prepubescent most of the fucking time!” Jordan, aka blondie, snapped back.
I was inclined to side with Jordan at this stage…and I really wanted my arm back.
“We need to leave,” I said. I considered myself a true pacifist, but I was ready to stab something vital if he didn’t let me go.
Both heads swung my way, and just like that, the tension took on a whole new dimension.
Coming to Amazon on 17th November!
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