The Challenge

I’m exhausted.

With all the longer shifts getting food at night, I’m more tired than usual. I’m out probably past midnight and we’re up before everyone else is. All I want is quiet. And sleep. And maybe to stay in bed and jerk one off again. Shit, I just took care of it earlier and here I am, needing another release. Christ, have I gotten to this point already? I’m lame.

I probably could’ve stayed in if I wanted to… or gone out to the jungle with Sampson, but I’ve been doing that too often. I need to be here with the Rogues, keeping my presence a constant reminder who runs things. It’s not like anyone can forget—they move when they see me, always giving me access first, quickly. Sometimes I like it; sometimes it’s really annoying. They’re always watching me which means everything I do is on display. So even if I wanted to leave and rub one out, I can’t. They’ll notice I’m leaving before I’ve gone anywhere. So it’s either in my room or out around Ellae. And after the other night, it seems jerking it’s all I’ve been doing. Keeping these urges under control so I can stay away from her.


“She’s hot,” Jace is laughing with Harrison next to him. Able is on my left and we’re working the Gollop. It’s probably mid morning and I’m fucking exhausted. We’ve been out here a few hours and I’m already done. I could escape if I really wanted to, but I won’t. I need to be out here.  And to not to be constantly reminded of her. Guess they didn’t hear when me before when I said to just drop it. “She’s got Boss all stocked up,” Jace laughs again. “Haven’t seen him like this in a while. I keep telling him he should take care of it but he doesn’t want to.”

“Come on, Rox,” Harrison tries. “If you’re really that interested, why don’t you just…you know. Go for it? No one’s going near her. On your request.”

“I kind of want to meet her,” Able turns to me. He’s excited, like this is a new adventure for everyone. Maybe it is. “If she’s caught your interest like this.”

“Boss?” Jace laughs again. “You know I’m messing. You just look really strung out. I’m sure she can help with that…” his voice carries off. A beat goes by and I think about asking them all to just drop it. Again. I’ve made my decision concerning Fallon.

“Looks like she’s hot for you too, Boss, because uh…”Jace laughs, “she’s looking over here.”

My head snaps up, finally seeing something other than the silvery Gollop for a change. It takes a second to find her and when I do, I stop. She’s walking toward the Water Pole. A thousand excuses rush for me to drop the Gollop and run over but I bat them down one by one.

“Excuse me…” it’s Erglioff’s voice calling overhead again. Shit. This can’t be good. “I’m sure there’s a more civilized way to do this but as the news is already circulating, I believe you’re owed the truth. For over a week, we worked diligently, doing all we could to save her but… sadly, it was not enough. I’m sorry to inform you that one of your own—Hinson—has passed on.”

“Another one…” Able mumbles next to me. “Christ.”

“An unfortunate discovery in what had started as mere curiosity and a serious case of poor judgment, we thought we could help, if not save her, but in the end, the toxic berry juice stopped her heart and there was nothing to be done. Do not venture away. It is dangerous outside this gate, and in the jungle, it is deadly. Stay at the Castle—you’re safe here with us. And remember what’s most important for the human race.”

“Isn’t that Griffin’s girlfriend?” Harrison looks between me and Jace.

I nod, dropping my head as I remind myself to talk to him later. He’s probably taking this hard. Worse than hard. Griffin lived for Hinson. He’s probably devastated.

The hum of the Gollop carries on as Erglioff’s voice continues, “You may carry on with the Rebuilding.”

“And servitude,” Able mumbles.

“I think its slavery, dude,” Harrison corrects.

A long silent moment passes.

“Uh… Boss?” Jace starts, a nervous quiver in his voice. “Your girlfriend’s about to commit suicide.”

My head snaps up again.


Fallon is walking back to the Castle. She’s got to know that’s not allowed. I know Pratt’s educated her on how things work. Fuck…what is she doing?

“Put the Gollop down,” I order and the Rogues immediately obey. I can’t watch this and work at the same time. Fallon hasn’t stopped—she’s walking slowly, like she might change her mind, but she doesn’t. And everyone has noticed which means Tetlak has. She’s balls brave—I’ll give her that. But it won’t help her if she’s dead. Shit, what do I do? I can’t let her keep going. But if I pull her back, everyone will see and it’ll paint a target on her. They’ll think she’s with me. Maybe I want them to think that… No, because it’ll put her in even more danger.


“Uh… Boss?” Jace tries again.

Tetlak leaps from the end of the right flank, landing right in front of her. My hands turn to fists at my side. It takes everything I have not to race over and take that bastard out. He’s been asking for it for years. Sampson taught me enough to put him down. I could. And I would if it didn’t mean instant death for everyone here. Because if I go, the rest of the system crumbles.

“I’m going to collect some of Hinson’s things,” Fallon’s voice carries. Everyone has stopped working to watch, so it’s eerily silent. “I want to give her a burial.”


I’m heading over before I realized I’ve moved. Tetlak is too close to her. I can’t take it. I force myself to only walk and not run, my fists clenched at my sides. If he fucking touches her…

“We were close…” Fallon keeps her voice strong. “I’d like to gather some of her things.”

Tetlak leans in and I go rigid as I come up behind her. The Vermix’s yellow eyes flicker to me, questioning my sudden appearance. But he knows me. We have a history. If it was anyone else, we’d both be dead. But Tetlak understands the role I play. It benefits him so he leaves me alone.

Fallon fumbles back at his proximity and steps on my shoe. She spins toward me but I keep my eyes fixated on the Vermix. “Not this one.”

“Explain it to her then,” Tetlak growls, looking to Fallon again. “Get back to work.”

I slip my hand in hers, gently tugging her toward me. “We have to go.”

She doesn’t resist and I pull her from the scene quickly, finally calming down. Good. She’s out of there. Doesn’t mean Tetlak won’t keep a special eye on her. And now, so is everyone else. She may be brave as hell but she doesn’t understand the danger she’s put herself in. And now, with me coming to her rescue—again—people will speculate.

Her hands are soft. Softer than I would expect. For just a second I let myself pretend we’re anywhere from here, out together somewhere. On a date or something. I don’t know. It stirs something and for a brief moment, I give in, holding her like I want to rather than out of necessity. I soften my touch and brush my fingers against hers. It’s almost intimate. But then I remember everyone is watching us—really watching us—and I stop.

I should probably head back for the Gollop, but I need her to understand the situation. The danger. She has no idea what just happened—what’s happening now. Glancing at the Rogues, I swerve right and head for the ladder, ignoring their wide-eyed stares and open mouthed smirks. Yeah, they’re going to want to talk to me about this. Soon.

I climb down first and Fallon’s next, following as I head right back to her spot. It’s probably lame that I know where she was working earlier, but I keep tabs on everything. Everyone. Besides, Pratt told me—her assignment is to report on Fallon—so I already knew. Of course the Rogues were around when she did, and now Jace and the boys won’t let up. They kept persuading me to go back to my days of trench digging… I was almost going to give in, if only to shut them up. They don’t understand why I’m not perusing this.

Higgs and Baron are in Fallon’s place but once they see me, they move immediately.


Reaching her station, I pick up her Senz and start working. She looks confused, but eventually does the same. Solidly focused on the wall, it only takes a minute before my words come rushing out.

“You really must be suicidal.”

“I had to try.”

“Glad you got it out of your system?”

“It’s not out of my system.”

“Man…” I can’t help but laugh, “you have no idea how close you just came to being dead. That’s twice now I’ve saved your ass.”

“Twice? When was the first time?”

She’s hot when she’s feisty. I’ve got to be careful with this. I lean in, trying not to breathe in her scent. “Uh—does the other night ring a bell?”

She narrows her eyes, a faint blush rising to her cheeks. “So why don’t you stop then?”

“It’d be easy,” I inch closer, tossing a glob of gibb into the bucket, “if you didn’t act so rashly.”

“Hey!” she snaps. “I came back and I didn’t have to! I’m not going to sit by and let—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” I lower my hands, glancing around to see if everyone else is staring. They are. “Just saying…think before you make these decisions. That’s all.”

“I was thinking. I was thinking I don’t plan on staying here forever. And I’m not waiting for someone else when I can do it just as easy. I’m not thinking rashly. I’m thinking strategically. Long term, she holds my stare. “I’m thinking revolt.”

God, can I just kiss her? Right now? If I ordered everyone to forgot what they see—and they would, in fear of the repercussions—could I get away with it? But I don’t even know if she wants me to kiss her. Probably not. She hasn’t given off any signs that she would.

I turn to the wall and start digging again and she does the same.

“So…” I clear my throat, not even sure why I’m asking, “what do you think about the Rublies?”

“I—yes, they’re…” she gulps, another blush rising to her cheeks. She’s nervous and for some reason, it’s exciting me, “the Rublies are delicious. Thank you for all the food by the way.”

I nod.

“But you really don’t have to…”

“Sure I do,” I sneak a peek at her, wanting to do a lot more than just feed her. I want to get her back to her bedroom and… no. That’s not smart. Focus, Rox. Focus. I really do need to stay away from her. I can still feed her, but that’s it. “What kind of bastard would I be if I didn’t keep you fed?”

She opens her mouth to respond but her focus shifts over my shoulder, to Irie at my side. Of course he’s here—why wouldn’t he be? He blinks three times, pauses, then blinks twice more. Tucker wants to talk to me? Now? It’s about this. I know it is. And all I wanted to do was warn her. Explain the situation. About the dangers she’s put herself in. And will be in if she keeps pulling stunts like this.

I look back to Fallon, trying to decide how to end this. Has she been warned thoroughly? Maybe I’ll have Pratt get with her again. But I don’t want to keep sending Pratt. I want to talk to her. Fuck! What do I do?

“Look,” I start taking off the Senz, “try not to get yourself killed, alright? Strategizing is one thing but challenging Tetlak,” I shake my head, backing up, “instant death.” I scan her one last time, promising myself I won’t do it again. I have to leave her alone. “See you.”

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