by Deborah Cullins Smith -
Jacian slipped into the bulky protective gear for his trek into the world beyond Zirconia’s shell. His heart pounded and his blood sang with anticipation of the venture before him. Cassie had bought that sappy line about making contact—she bought it hook, line, and sinker, as the old earth saying went. If all went well, she wouldn’t know his true intentions until it was too late. He smirked as he snapped and zipped his way into layer after layer of the pressurized gear that would enable him to walk on the floor of the ocean.
Cassie stuck her head in the changing room.
“Are you ready, Jace? We’ve got to hurry if you’re going to make it out there and back before the first shift arrives.”
Cassie had arranged to work this midnight shift alone, but it would only be seven hours before her relief crew started showing up. She had insisted he must be back—and gone—well before anyone else could find him in this restricted area.
“Yeah, Cassie,” he said, forcing that beguiling sweetness into his voice, even as he secured a short harpoon and a hunting knife to the side of his air tank. His body faced away from Cassie, so she couldn’t see what he had done. He still needed her to work the control panel and open the exit valves. Once he was beyond the city limit, she wouldn’t be able to stop him. If she called for help, she’d be in trouble for her part in helping him get outside. But she wouldn’t raise the alarm. Jacian had chosen her carefully. He had watched her for several weeks before trying that abortive attempt to sweep her off her feet.
She’ll never know what she missed, he thought contemptuously.
His thoughts turned to the hunt before him. After all, they were just beasts out there. No matter what the scientists and wizards said.
Jacian thought of the mounted insect heads on the walls of his father’s office. There were huge horned creatures, some with enormous glassy eyes; others sported pincers jutting from armored jaws. His father boasted to his business associates of his hunting prowess, but Jacian knew that his father had never killed in his life. The trophies—and the stories of the hunts—were bought and paid for. His father was a liar—a phony.
But Jacian was going to outdo him. Jacian was going to bring back a trophy for his own wall that would put his father’s collection to shame.
Jacian wanted the head of an angel.