Binding Moonlight

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 4 (v.1) - Chapter 4

Submitted: January 08, 2019

Reads: 21

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Submitted: January 08, 2019

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“Robyn is not gonna be happy about this,” Max said to Ekie as they got into their car. The old hunk of junk made some strange noises as Ekie started it, then rattled and clunked as it struggled to rise from the concrete.

Puffing a breath through her nose, Max sagged in her seat. Glancing over at Ekie, she couldn't help but smile. He had defended her at the bar. It hadn't been entirely necessary, but he had done it anyway.

“Thank you for sticking up for me,” she said to him.

Ekie's eyes darted toward her and he nodded. A tiny smile curled the corners of his mouth, but Max didn't realize it was because he was thinking about punching the guy in the face. All he knew before starting his job with Robyn Stamos was fighting. It wasn't something he enjoyed, but it was familiar. And this time he had done it for a good reason.

“What?” Max asked him, her own mouth curving.

Licking his lips, Ekie shook his head and focused on his driving. He hadn't driven many times, so he tried to keep his eyes on what he was doing, but Max kept fidgeting in his peripheral vision.

“Uh...can I ask you something?” she finally said. She was playing with her hair, which Ekie learned meant she was nervous.

He nodded.

“Okay. Well, I know you're a really good fighter, and I know Robyn can defend himself as well. I'm completely useless when it comes to that, so I was wondering if you could train me?”

Ekie's shoulders tensed at the request. He wasn't comfortable with the idea of teaching someone how to fight. Especially someone like Max. She should never have to be in a situation where she needed to fight for her safety. But if things were going to get as bad as Robyn believed they would, she ought to know how to defend herself.

“Please, Ekie? I'm a fast learner, and I think I could be of more use to Robyn if I know what I'm doing. I'm quick and flexible, but I have no skill.”

Inhaling deeply, Ekie nodded. He would rather not, but she probably wouldn't let the idea go. And Robyn would most likely suggest it sooner or later, anyway.

“Thank you!” Max grinned at him and put her hands on his arm. They were hot, even through his sweatshirt.

With another stiff nod, he returned the smile, but his was brief and tight-lipped.

“Are we almost home?” Max asked, giving his bicep a quick squeeze before dropping her hands to her lap. Staring out the window, she watched the buildings pass by and didn't notice Ekie actually opened his mouth to reply to her. He saw her attention was no longer on him, so he didn't bother. As they turned the corner, their building came into view. It appeared abandoned since they shut down the majority of the building to save power. The only light around was the lamp posts and day lamps surrounding the property. Ekie hated the place, but it was better than living on the streets.

Setting the car down in the fenced employee parking area, Ekie pocketed the key and locked his door after getting out. On the other side of the vehicle, he saw the top of Max's head briefly before she disappeared.

“Oww...”

Frowning, Ekie circled the car and saw Max sitting on the ground, her hand covering her knee. His eyebrow slid upward as he crouched before her. With a soft touch, he pulled her hand away and saw blood dripping down her leg. Shaking his head at her, he straightened up and helped her to her feet.

“I'm fine. I'll just put a bandage on it,” said Max as Ekie tugged her inside. “You don't need to worry about it, honest.”

Ekie ignored her as he pulled her down the hall to the small infirmary. She protested as he grabbed her around the waist, hoisting her up onto the exam table. Sputtering in disbelief, Max blinked at him, her mouth hanging open. She stayed put as Ekie removed his gloves. Opening one of the drawers, he pulled out an antiseptic pad and gauze.

“You really don't have to do this, Ekie. I'm not a little kid,” Max told him, her cheeks heating up as she watched him work. Concentrating, he used feather-light touches to dab the blood from her leg. His fingers tickled her skin as he cleaned the wound, but she couldn't tell him. And she certainly couldn't tell him the serious expression he wore as he taped gauze to her knee was absolutely adorable.

“Twice tonight you've helped me out,” she pointed out, hopping to the floor as he turned away to wash his hands.

Ekie's shoulders rose slightly at her words.

“Thank you.” Max smiled at him when he faced her again. Her teeth were perfect and white, and the corners of her mouth crinkled in amusement.

Ekie couldn't meet her eye, so he chose to stare at his feet, nodding in reply.

“So, uh, we should probably tell Robyn about those people at the bar,” she said, smoothing out the front of her shirt with one hand, swiping her other hand over the door control. Without waiting, Max went in search of their boss. It was getting late, but the man was still working in his office. Max hesitated before knocking on the door and wasn't surprised when he didn't sound very happy as he called them inside.

“Where the hell have you been?” he snapped at them as they stepped into his office.

Licking her lips, Max started to fiddle with her hair. “We followed the car from earlier.”

“Why?”

“Because I thought they were a threat,” she replied, glancing over at Ekie, who remained silent. His expression was blank as he kept his eyes locked on Robyn's desk.

Puffing out an annoyed moan, Robyn pinched the bridge of his nose. He took off his glasses, carefully setting them on his desk and closing his eyes. “Did I not tell you there was nothing to worry about?”

“You did, but—”

He held up his hand, cutting her off. “And did you not already have assigned work to complete?”

Max nodded hesitantly.

“Then how come you weren't doing those jobs?” Robyn leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“But Robyn, they are a threat!” Max exclaimed, hands clenched into fists.

Robyn merely raised an eyebrow at her.

Exhaling slowly to calm herself, Max met Robyn's piercing gaze. “One of them is a half-breed, and she knows you have the cure. She said you were going to pay for what you're doing.”

Robyn glanced at Ekie, who dipped his head in a minute nod. Putting his glasses back on, Robyn turned back to his computer. “Don't expect me to pat you on the back and say good job. You went and found trouble when it wasn't necessary. You will be putting in overtime tomorrow to make up for this. Now get out of my office.”

Max and Ekie left the man to his work.

“Robyn can be such an idiot. Don't get me wrong, on a personal level he's a nice guy, but I swear he thinks he's invincible because he's smart,” Max complained, turning the corner into the residential wing of the building.

Ekie smirked, slipping his hands into his pockets. Max stopped to tilt her head back and frown up at him. He raised his eyebrows, and after a few seconds she threw her hands in the air with an airy exclamation and kept walking. Shaking his head, he fell into step beside her. She seemed to walk a little closer to him.

“Max?”

The girl stopped dead, her jaw dropping, eyes wide as she turned to face him. “You spoke!”

Scowling, Ekie's gaze slid to the floor. Was it really so unusual? Did he speak so little it was a surprise when he did?

Max's laugh brought his attention back to her. She was grinning at him, her eyes glittering. “Sorry, I'm just teasing. I do like the sound of your voice, though,” she said. When she turned away, her smile slipped. Pursing her lips, she gave him a sidelong glance and noticed the crease of his brow.

“What is it?” she asked.

He looked down the hall, then back at her.

Pouting, Max squeezed her arms and shrugged. “I know it's silly, but ever since I was little I've been afraid of the dark. Pretty stupid for someone who lives on a planet with no sun, hey?” As she spoke, color rose in her cheeks. Even her ears turned pink.

Sighing inwardly, he put his hand on her shoulder. The gesture was awkward, but he was trying. He didn't know if it was a weird thing to do, and he hoped she didn't think he was being creepy.

“It seems all I'm doing today is thanking you,” Max mumbled as they walked toward her bedroom.

Shrugging one shoulder, he let his hand fall to his side. He really had no idea how to act around her, but she never seemed to notice his strange behavior. When they came to her room, he stood next to her, keeping his eyes on the floor as she entered her code.

“Goodnight, Ekie.”

He gave her a tight smile and waited for her door to close before retreating to his own room. Shaking his head, he flicked on his light and fell onto his bed. Tomorrow, he was going to start training Max to defend herself, and he didn't know how it was going to work. He was uncomfortable just standing next to her, which he could probably change if he was able to say more than two words to her a month. It seemed like his voice abandoned him, just like his memories had. He was a freak, plain and simple. And it was something which would never change.

 

***

Max was just tying her hair back when Ekie knocked on her door the next morning. She smacked the control panel, letting him into her room.

“Good morning!” she chirped, grabbing her running shoes.

Raising his hand, Ekie gave her a small wave while trying to keep his eyes off of her. Heat flushed his face when she bent down to tie her shoes.

Max stood up straight and noticed the color in Ekie's as he pointedly stared at the ceiling. She glanced down at her exercise outfit, which included a sports bra and shorts, and then back at Ekie.

“Oh, I am so sorry, Ekie! I didn't think about my clothes since I usually work out by myself,” she explained, throwing on a baggy tee shirt.

He shook his head, offering a twitchy half-smile as he turned back to the door.

“I'm always embarrassing you,” she said. “I really don't mean to, Ekie. I'm not the best at thinking before I act. Just ask my brother.”

Shrugging, Ekie opened the door to the gym. He followed Max inside, dropping his towel and water bottle on the floor before moving to the equipment rack.

“So, what's first?” Max asked, bending over and touching her toes. When she stood up, Ekie tossed her a jump-rope and picked one up for himself. “Warm up?”

Ekie nodded, stretching out the rope to start his usual routine.

They were at it less than five minutes before the door opened and Robyn sauntered inside. He was still wearing the same clothes from yesterday. His lab coat was rumpled, and he had dark bags under his eyes. A grin took over his features the minute he spotted Max.

“It's nice to see you so perky this early in the day,” he teased, watching her bounce up and down.

“Good morning, Robyn!” she replied.

Robyn's grin became impossibly bigger and he couldn't help but snicker. “You usually work out alone, don't you Max?” he asked, glancing at Ekie.

Max stopped, folding her rope up in her hands as she nodded. “Yeah, but Ekie said he'd train me.”

“Good idea, but it'll have to wait. I need you both to get to work on the security project. You can do this in the evening,” Robyn told them, crossing his arms.

Max's shoulders sank, and she pouted at her boss. “Really?”

“Really. We need to get everything in order ASAP,” he replied.

Inhaling slowly and deeply, Max crossed her arms. “Fine. We're going to pick this up later,” she said with a glance at Ekie as she scooped up her water bottle.

Robyn stared after her as she left. “What are you waiting for, Mr. Maxwell? You have a job to do.”

Ekie clenched his jaw, picking up his own things. Glaring at the man as he walked past him, Ekie resisted the urge to punch Robyn in his smug, lecherous face.

Robyn almost laughed out loud at the sneer Ekie gave him. The scarred teen hated him for reasons Robyn believed centered around Max. It was painfully obvious he was attracted to her, and Robyn found this absurdly funny.

Clicking his tongue, he decided to find something to eat before going back to his lab. A shower and change of clothes probably wouldn't hurt either, but he was eager to return to his work. Changing the virus strain was proving to be more difficult than he previously anticipated, and his progress had hit a wall. He had the computers in his office and the lab running permutations, synthesis analysis, and more of the tedious calculations he didn't feel like wasting time on, but it wasn't helping. Things had slowed to a crawl. It wouldn't be the first time his work hit a standstill, but it was worrisome due to the increasing number of lurkers outside during the day. All sorts of protesters were getting it in their heads to attack the facility, and soon someone would probably try something extreme. The grounds were adequately protected for now, but it wouldn't take long for someone to figure a way past the electronically guarded perimeter. This was the main reason he needed Max and Ekie to complete the upgrades swiftly.

Grabbing a snack and some much-needed coffee, Robyn returned to his office. Shrugging out of his lab coat, he fell into the desk chair and exhaled sharply through his nose. Glancing over at the framed photo of his father he kept on the corner of his desk, Robyn did a double-take. The photo showed a happy, smiling man. It usually did, anyway. Robyn could swear he was scowling today.

“Don't look at me like that,” he scolded the photo. “I'm doing my best. I wouldn't be doing it at all if it wasn't for you. No matter how hard I think about it, I still cannot understand why you went over there to fight. You had the option to take any post you wanted on Parset, but instead, you chose to leave your only child behind to go there.” Robyn shook his head and removed his glasses. “It's frustrating, you know? It's been so long since I last spoke to you, but I still get the urge to call you just to run my equations and calculations by you. They were always correct anyway, but those were some of the best conversations we ever had.”

Swallowing a lump in his throat, Robyn reached over and picked up the frame. He stared at his father's smiling face for a long while before returning the picture to his desk, face down.

“Sorry old man, but you're a distraction...” he mumbled as he turned to his computer. He needed to get some work done and reminiscing about the past was not helping. He'd face his father again after he made some progress.


© Copyright 2019 Kristin Kuffner. All rights reserved.

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