Resisting Maxu: Chapter 27


Meg forced herself to act normal. Look at the people talking. Lucy’s saying something—focus on her so it seems like you want to be here. Listen to their questions, dammit. What if they get to you and ask something related, and you weren’t paying attention?

This interview was turning out to be a constant battle. She’d known Maxu was a mercenary. She’d known he liked to set booby traps and steal things. But she hadn’t realized how dark his life had been. And worse still, Sikthand had kept her sequestered in their “meeting” right up until the interview had started, so she hadn’t even been able to speak with Maxu.

He was in the crowd. She’d spotted him as soon as they’d been led into the stepped seating area. One glimpse and she could see the misery sprawled over his features despite the indifferent mask he wore. What did that look mean?

Without being able to talk to him and hear his side, her mind was spinning, presenting her with the worst scenarios it could dream up. What if he had truly been a monster earlier in his life? He wasn’t that person now. At least…she thought he wasn’t. But how well did she really know him?

Should she just move on and forget about it? Should she move on only if he seemed regretful?

It didn’t help her anxiety that the Vrulatica interview was more complicated than normal. The citizens weren’t as harsh as the people had been in Kitibard, but their questions were laser focused on one topic—the Tremantian Queen.

“Next question, please,” Malinu prompted tentatively, gesturing to Meg, whose turn it was to respond. So far, Malinu and Kel had had to answer just about every question themselves as each subject had focused on plans for the Intergalactic Alliance.

A man with dark brown skin and an obsidian hood clapped his metal plated knuckles together—their version of raising their hands. “Why has the Queen refused to acknowledge the questions she’s been asked? She’s been silent for days now.”

Though Malinu had indicated Meg would answer the next question, the man was focused on the Tremantian representatives, knowing full well they’d be the ones to respond. She couldn’t blame the Vrulans for their frustration. The political nonanswers both Malinu and Kel were spewing would’ve made her annoyed too. What was the Queen doing?

Were Malinu and Kel refusing to give concise answers because they weren’t allowed? Or because they didn’t know?

Meg’s lips thinned in sympathy, and she peered over her shoulder with raised brows at Malinu, who’d released an almost inaudible groan. “As I’ve said, the Queen is organizing her plan in such a way as to release it to the entire planet at the same time. She’s hard at work, focused on getting her arguments ready for the leaders’ summit next month. Once Clecania’s rulers come to a consensus, more information will be dispersed. Until then, let’s remember that we have humans here already.” He grinned, but she noticed sweat beading on his forehead. “Isn’t there anything that you’d like to know about them?”

Another man with gray skin and a bright silver hood shot to his feet, his knuckles clanging together as an afterthought. “What could these humans possibly know?” he yelled, gesturing to Meg. She clenched her jaw. “They come here, and you force them to only talk about silly things,” he continued. “Our planet is dying, and we want to know what your Queen is doing about it, not listen to this female describe outdated sky machines.” His hand lifted to the air to emphasize his point.

Meg straightened, her chin lifting even as heat rose to her cheeks. Well, what the fuck had she been supposed to say? They’d asked her how people got around if they didn’t have wings, flying creatures, or cruisers, so she’d explained what an airplane was. Perfectly reasonable.

Some of the other Vrulans hissed at the man speaking and threw her pitying glances as if she were just a poor, dumb human who didn’t deserve to be singled out. Her lips remained pursed when the man himself muttered a quick apology to her before launching back into a rant directed solely at the Tremantian representatives.

Rude.

Meg sat up straighter, blood running cold. Oh no. He’d been rude to her. She searched the crowd for Maxu. He wasn’t about to attack that guy for aiming an impolite jab her way out of frustration, was he?

She spotted him, and a funny mix of attraction and nervousness swelled. While every other pair of eyes was focused on the humans or the Tremantian representatives, her mate’s blazing stare was directed squarely on the male still arguing with Malinu. Muscles tense, he gnashed his teeth silently, then a terrifying smile lifted a corner of his mouth. Shit.

Sikthand is going to throw you in jail if you so much as step on a bug, you dummy! Look over here, she silently urged. Come on.

“Meg, what is the most popular Earth metal?” Malinu asked the question slowly as though he already had and she’d missed it.

She turned back to Maxu and saw him staring at her. Everyone was as they waited for her answer. How the hell was she supposed to know what the most popular metal was? “Uh, actually Sophia really knows more about that stuff than me. Sophia?”

“What?” Sophia’s eyes were wide as she stumbled to answer, but Meg was already focusing back on Maxu now that she had his attention.

Vaguely, she heard Sophia in the background awkwardly listing metals. “Gold, uh, silver, platinum. Mm. Oh, tin! Uh, let’s see…”

Meg narrowed her eyes at Maxu until she had his full attention. She gave a brief shake of her head, jaw clenched.

His brows furrowed.

She checked to make sure no one was focused on her, then glanced at the curt silver man, then back to Maxu, raised her brows accusingly, and shook her head a bit more firmly. For good measure she mouthed the word no, realized his translator couldn’t read lips, and covertly crossed her arms in her lap to make an X.

His brows softened, shoulders dropping. He relaxed back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. He’d understood, but he wasn’t happy about it. She lifted her brows again, this time in a silent question.

He sent a glare toward the man, who was clearly unaware of Maxu’s simmering anger, then looked back at her. At length, he gave her a tight nod of ascent.

Meg relaxed. Focus on the interview, she prodded herself, recognizing that she hadn’t heard a word of what had been said in the last five minutes.

Realizing they were fighting a losing battle, Kel and Malinu devoted the rest of the time to answering the Vrulan questions as best they could, which wasn’t saying much. Meg got the impression they truly didn’t have answers, which only piqued her curiosity. She peered over to Camille, who was sitting next to her.

Leaning close while the crowd was occupied with mining any nuggets of truth they could, Meg whispered, “This is wild. None of the other cities have been this intense about this stuff before.”

Camille lifted a brow, her gaze ping-ponging between Kel and a bronze-eyed female glaring from the stands. “It doesn’t surprise me, with what happened yesterday.”

Meg tipped her head, wracking her brain, but couldn’t remember anything out of the ordinary. “What happened?”

With an eye roll, Camille shook her head. “Your head is always in that reading pad, but you don’t read the news posts?” Camille gave her a playful grin. “Or maybe you were too busy to read anything at all yesterday.”

Meg’s face heated, recalling the long bouts of writhing under Maxu she’d been engaged in yesterday when she should have been exploring the city and immersing herself in their culture.

Camille leaned in a little closer. “The city of Merinta announced they’ve cut off all trade to Tremanta until the Tremantian Queen steps down as the Clecanian Intergalactic Alliance ambassador.”

“Oh my God,” Meg breathed. She furrowed her brows, trying to work out what repercussions that could have. “They manufacture most of the solar tech, don’t they? But that won’t be a huge blow right away. Most places have all of that built into the sides of their buildings, no?”

Camille nodded. “From what I’ve gathered, the fear is that other cities will follow suit. I mean, imagine if Gulaid shut down trade. Or here? No more tech being made with fancy Askait metal?” She clicked her tongue. “If I were the Queen, I’d be coming up with a new plan and fast. This little PR tour clearly isn’t working. I wouldn’t be surprised if she cut it short, to be honest.”

Meg sat back, suddenly understanding how out of touch her description of airplanes had really been. She didn’t blame that guy for being annoyed.

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