Resisting Maxu: Chapter 2

The cruiser Maxu was watching paused in the middle of the road once more, and the corner of his mouth curled upward. He scanned the dozen or so other cruisers, whose progress had stalled as their safety functions kicked into action and they waited for the erratic one to clear off the road.

What they didn’t know was the cruiser wouldn’t be moving. He’d made sure that the transport would be harmless—yet irritating—for as long as it took authorities to show up, disarm it, and trace it back to him. It shouldn’t take long since half the guards in the city were on this very street today.

They wouldn’t be able to prove much. Maybe that he’d hacked into a control panel. He expected a few weeks in jail. A slap on the wrist. Then he’d be out and ineligible for marriage for another year.

On second thought, the Queen might be exceptionally angry about him pulling this today. After all, this was the start of her much-lauded human tour. Honestly, if he’d remembered it was happening today, he’d probably have picked a different location. Or done it another time. As it was, his little stunt was blocking the road so thoroughly that the waiting line of extra-large cruisers ready to transport humans across the world were all stuck in place, halted until his mess could be cleared.

He couldn’t bring himself to feel too bad, though. Parading the humans through secretly selected cities of Tremanta was offensive. Like these aliens were walking pieces of art for Clecanians to take in.

The crowd should’ve been annoyed the street was blocked in the direction the departing humans needed to go, but all he could see from his wall-leaning stance fifty yards away was smiles. Between a short break in the crowd, he spotted a tall female with dark curls and deep brown skin smiling and waving. A blonde followed behind, grinning just as broadly.

Maxu found himself squinting through the Clecanian swarm for glimpses of the humans despite his aversion to the parade. His Traxian half, a species far more tumultuous in their emotions and actions than his other half, Lignas, pushed him to feel reluctant curiosity about the humans.

Well, not about the humans specifically but about the possibility of a mate. He’d learned from an early age that temporary marriages weren’t for him. Trying to convince an emotionally distant female that he was worthy of attention was hard enough. But when his Traxian instincts kicked in and he found himself vehemently against letting his wife go at the end of their contract, he realized that he wasn’t compatible with temporary. He’d only been married once, but it had been enough to show him he never wanted it again.

Sure, he could have flings of a sexual nature with females. He enjoyed those. But when he connected with a female, when he smelled her on him for too many days in a row, something in him railed against seeing her move on with another male.

Matehood would be different. If he recognized a mate, they’d be bound together for life. He could be as possessive as he wanted since everyone would chalk it up to his mating instinct.

A cruiser flying high above the rest, indicating an authority vehicle, swooped above the throng of traffic. Maxu produced a wanget fruit from his bag and bit into it. How long would it take this time?

The device in his pocket could be traced quickly if the guards weren’t incompetent. He watched as one lanky guard barely out of husbandry school scratched his chin and stared at the malfunctioning cruiser now slowly twirling in the center of the road. He might be here a while.

He could go home and wait there, but then he’d have to disarm all the various snares he’d set in place to prevent forced entry while he was locked away. No, he might as well just wait.

His body tensed when a throng of guards rushed past him. In the epicenter of their circle strode Metli, the Queen’s right hand. Flaunting six-inch platforms and a skirt high enough to barely cover her ass, Metli glided among the guards, her pale blue brows slashed downward as she surveyed the mess of cruisers in front of her. Voluminous fabric puffed out from her neck and waist, giving her the appearance of a fluffy cloud with sculpted legs.

Vondalese. He smirked. Metli might have left her home city of Vondale half a century earlier, but she still dressed with the vigor of an ostentatious Vondalese socialite.

As if sensing his hard gaze, her eyes swiveled in his direction. Her frustrated glare flitted to the traffic jam ahead and then back to him, and suddenly a fire lit in her gray irises. She’d always hated him for the way he blithely undermined the Queen and the marriage ceremony.

But what was he supposed to do? The Queen hadn’t given him another choice. Males all over Tremanta were able to successfully exempt themselves from the marriage ceremony, yet since his parents had had six children, a staggering number by Clecanian standards, he was forced into it every year.

“You!” Metli hissed, charging toward him while her guards backtracked in order to follow her abrupt route change. “You did this! Today of all days?”

“Careful, Metli. That was dangerously close to a screech,” Maxu drawled, taking another bite of wanget.

Metli angled her face to the sky, slammed her eyes closed, and let out a slow breath before leveling him with a stare cold enough to make anyone shiver despite the dry heat of the day. “You don’t respect our Queen. You don’t respect our traditions. But are you really so thick as to not realize what this tour means to our world?” She spread her hands wide. “Do you know how many threats the Queen has received? Invasion. Murder. Beatings. Not just to her but to our people for supposedly hiding the humans away. You know what made the threats stop? Announcements of this tour.”

Metli spoke her words slowly, as though he were an imbecile. His wanget became pulp in his hand. “Empty political moves from a sly leader. This tour is a piece of cloth over a sliced artery,” he spat.

If there was a person more loyal to the Queen than Metli, he couldn’t fathom who. The ruffling of her slicked-back silvery-blue hair was the only indication she wasn’t completely frozen. Finally, she whispered, “Search him.”

Quelling the instinct to fight, he allowed two guards to grab him by the arms while a third rifled through his clothing. He held Metli’s stare until one guard rooted around his pants pocket and found one of the small devices he’d pinched from the cruiser manufacturing site in Braghon.

Metli held it to the sun, examining the small buttons and metallic prongs that fit perfectly in a cruiser’s control panel. He doubted she recognized exactly what the device was, but she was smart enough to guess.

Without a word, she nodded toward a guard. In an instant, Maxu had a magnetic cuff around his throat. The guard placed a similar cuff around his own arm, and as the guard stepped away, Maxu was pulled toward him.

“I’ll make sure you’re locked up for months this time,” she said, dangling the device between two fingers and waiting for a guard to take it.

Doubtful, he guessed to himself. All they could prove was that he’d used the device. They had no proof that he’d stolen it. And they wouldn’t. He was too good, and stealing had always been laughably easy.

As his hands were cuffed behind his back, Metli turned on her heel and marched toward the crowd in the direction of the Tremantian prison. Maxu couldn’t help but feel a slight sense of satisfaction. One more year without having to worry about the marriage ceremony. At this point in his life, these stunts had become more than just a way to circumvent marriage.

Though not normally a political person, Maxu hated being controlled. Every time he discovered a way to make sure he wasn’t paraded in front of waiting brides like a piece of meat with a set of grades tied to his collar was an achievement. The rush of that triumph would follow him to prison and bolster him for as long as it took the Queen’s ire to cool.

The scent of sweat and crushed ground moss filled his nostrils as he neared the group of gathered Clecanians. Cheers erupted, and his escorts paused, peering around for the source of the excitement.

Just like that, his cruiser had been cleared. The tour would be underway any moment. He watched a timid brunette with tanned skin, silky straight hair, and heavy bangs board one of the cruisers. The magnetic band on his guard’s arm forced him forward into a denser area of the crowd as he watched on. Before she disappeared into the black interior, she waved, and cheers sounded once more.

A burly guard with a scowl on his face joined her. Through the mass of onlookers, he could just make out what he assumed was another human female and guard boarding as well. Then their door slid closed.

Flashes of light glinting off the metallic surface of the cruiser lit the crowd as it pulled away. Another appeared in its place. Maxu’s eyes were focused on his steps, careful not to slam into people as he was forced along, but then a scent caught his attention. His shoulders and neck began to tingle, making him shiver.

The smell engulfed him, the spice of it settling on his tongue and reminding him of a steaming confection he might drink in the dead of winter. Sweet and warming. The scent crept down his throat, and he twisted his head to figure out where it was coming from.

Maxu hadn’t realized his steps had paused until he was wrenched forward by his neck and stumbled. He closed the distance between himself and the guard, a sudden panic making his heart ram against his ribs. He bobbed his head, trying to peek through the gaps in the shifting crowd.

What was happening? Where was the smell coming from?

He closed his eyes and inhaled. Between the tinge of perfumes and sweat wafting from the gathered people, he smelled it. His mouth watered.

“Stop,” he said quietly, a buzzing in his ears making it hard to think. “Stop!” he repeated in a shout that carried over the crowd.

Metli swung around. Irritation oozed from every clenched muscle in her body. “If you wanted to watch the send-off, you should have…” Her words died out as she caught sight of his wide-eyed, frantic gaze sweeping over the crowd.

Heat raced under his skin, perspiration evaporating in the dry air and leaving him clammy. For some inexplicable reason, his shaft stiffened in his trousers. The scent of sun-warmed nectar and sweet spice pulsed through the air now, overwhelming his mind and weakening his knees.

“Are you…?” Metli began. Maxu spared her a glance, then did a double take at her slightly parted lips and awestruck expression.

He couldn’t keep his attention from darting back to the crowd as he asked, “What?” Suddenly, a dark head popped into view between the shoulders of two men. His eyes latched on to the limited sight of soft black hair as if everything else were out of focus.

“Oh, Maxu.” There was far too much joy in Metli’s voice. He darted a look to her and found her giving him a wide grin, hiking a thin glitter-coated brow. “Have you recognized someone? Your eyes say yes.”

He blinked. The mask of indifference he liked to don was lost beneath utter shock. Had his eyes changed? A crack echoed from his neck when he jerked his head over his shoulder. He spun in a small circle, trying to catch sight of his hands. “Are they there?” he barked, whirling and presenting his back to Metli.

He didn’t need to elaborate on what he meant by “they.” Every Clecanian who’d caught even a bit of their conversation would know what he was asking. Had his marks appeared on his hands? Had he fully recognized the person the universe decided was his? Had he just found his mate?

Gasps sounded from a few of the guards, but a light chuckle was Metli’s only response. He rounded on her but was yanked back when his guard took a step away from Metli. “Looks like you have a mate out there,” she said.

Maxu’s pulse roared through his ears as his desperate gaze scanned the crowd for that short, dark-haired head. His mate was somewhere near the center, but that meant… Maxu’s breath caught in his chest and, without thinking, his arms strained against his cuffs.

She had to be human. And if she was human, that could mean she was leaving. Heading away from him on a three-month-long tour. The crowd closed in as the last cruiser pulled into place. He strained against the collar holding him back and leapt to see over the onlookers. Brighter and more clear than anything else in sight, his focus was immediately drawn to the back of a female’s head. A flash of short dark hair and a slender, pale neck were all he could make out before she moved forward and disappeared behind the crowd.

“Move!” he barked. A few of the Clecanians in front of him jumped and scurried out of the way, but most hadn’t heard his command over the din. His collar kept him from advancing into their vacant spots, so he snarled and whirled on the guard with the armband. But the male was ready for him, and Maxu’s collar forced him to stop as if he’d run into an invisible barrier, the magnetic tension both pulling him close and keeping him far enough away to not cause harm. Maxu roared at him. To his credit, the guard only flinched.

“Let me go. My mate is there,” he snapped at Metli.

Her grin faltered, then fell. “You’ve been balking at finding a wife for as long as I’ve known you. You’ve publicly disrespected the Queen again and again. And now, after you’ve slighted her on one of the most important days of her career, you expect us to just let you go?” Bitterness dripped from every one of Metli’s words. “You’ll serve your time, and then you can go find your mate. It’ll teach you an overdue lesson.”

Even now, Maxu could feel his mate moving farther away, as if a string connecting her to him was tied to his gut. It tugged uncomfortably in her direction, though he couldn’t see her. A dangerous growl reverberated through Maxu’s chest as he glared at Metli.

When he finally got out of these shackles, he’d tear Metli limb from limb. He began to tell her as much, but before he could get a word out, a guard to his left held up a canister of sleep spray. The fine mist burst into his mouth and nose.

He staggered toward the cruiser in a last-ditch effort to stay conscious. Grunts and squeals reached his ears as he crumpled into the crowd, asleep before he hit the mossy ground.


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