Death’s Angel. A little more.

He had said she would be punished, called Azriel by her Angel name, not her unit designation given by the controllers. Did the centurion know of the mind link between Angels? Of the utter desolation of being cut off from the others? The hurt went far beyond any physical wound.
Azriel lay in isolated luxury, too weak to leave her comfortable bed. Not the med facility; this room and its contents, represented unimagined wealth. Around a metal table, embellished with lighter colored metal, were four padded chairs with ornate, shiny legs. On the wall behind, a large holo picture of a vast area of water crashing against rock, sending spray high, made a disquieting vision for anyone unused to freestanding moisture. The sky was the wrong color, a dull, almost liquid gray.
Set on the wall by the foot of her bed a deep porthole gave a view of endless stars stretching to infinity. The absolute isolation pounded at her sense of self, bringing despair. She willed someone to walk through the featureless metal posing as a door.
Covered by a blanket of natural fiber, Azriel shivered, used to warmer synthetics. The Outworlders had dressed her in a short, sleeveless wrap-around of a light weave. Clothes, being another luxury unextended to off-duty Angels, felt strange.
Time dragged by, ever slower. Silence bounced off the priceless walls. Azriel, alone with her memories, yearned for the other Angels, now lost to her. She desperately tried to concentrate on them and not the victims she had been forced to terminate at the whim of the controllers. When the door hissed open, she almost screamed with relief. The centurion strode through with a blaster leveled at her. He turned one of the chairs around, so the back faced her and straddled it, his weapon held ready. His incredible green eyes held no warmth.
“I’ve just come from an autopsy on your victim. Given your physically weakened state at the time of the incident, our conclusion is the female’s neck was snapped by someone who knew the exact angle and force needed.”
Azriel focused on the blaster, hoping he’d come to use it on her for executing the woman. He had more than enough reasons.
He sighed, not taking his eyes off her for a second. “We also extracted the makings of a garrote from your hair and secreted in your clothing two fixed- blade knives, one stiletto and an assortment of substances capable of causing an explosion. Comments? I know you can understand me from your thoughts.”
She didn’t give him the satisfaction of any reaction. Now he knew her purpose. Surely this must mean death in some form?
“Not talking? I can see strength enough for that if nothing else.” He uncoiled from the chair with a fighter’s grace and began to back toward the door, pausing in the now open threshold. “Food is coming soon. Should you decline, you will be force-fed. Your choice.”
Azriel bit back a cry when he turned to go. Something about the look on his face made her think he expected her to beg him to stay. She would get through this . . . somehow. Until this point, she hadn’t realized how much she relied on the constant mental presence of other Angels.
When the door opened next, Azriel struggled up into a sitting position. Pain slashing through her side, but she needed a shock tactic of her own. Perhaps the centurion watched her from the lens set just under the ceiling-mounted light unit. She had spotted the telltale glint immediately. It didn’t differ much from the vids used on Altair IV.
The young Outworlder with her son’s eyes suppressed a gasp. The tray he held shook. His lips tightened even as he strode forward.
“Our centurion says you understand us.” The door closed behind him with a gentle hiss leaving him alone with her. He came over to place the tray on her bedside table.
A pleasant aroma wafted from a bowl of clear liquid. Soup? Real food? Why had he brought her this when the other women were feed bland protein bars? She was hungry without the feeding pack wired into a vein they had removed. The choice of nutrition astonished her as much as the courage of the young Outworlder, well within her reaches. He had no reason to believe her incapable of another killing after her last exploit.
“I’m Nyka. I am ordered to make sure you eat.” He sat, somewhat carefully, on the edge of her bed, his eyes trained on her. “You’re not going to be difficult, are you?”
A tentative little boy smile caught her off guard. She didn’t resist when he reached for the bowl and began to feed her. The soup tasted like she had always imagined from the aromas wafting from the tables of the rich, a subtle blend of vegetables and seasoning. Nyka gave her time to savor, not hurrying her as if he had all the time in the universe.
Microanalysis of the soup indicated a soporific, and high nutritional supplements.
Nyka paused, his fine black brows coming together in a frown making the scales between his eyes catch the light. “You’ve tensed. Are you in pain? I can give you a shot.”
“Why kindness for a killer?” The centurion promised punishment, yet where were the pain amplifiers? Why send someone in to tend her when two Outworlders fed the other girls? Why give her real food?
Nyka’s face on hearing her speak almost compensated for her confinement. He might have witnessed a supernova by the expression of shock and wonder in his expression. “Finish your meal and I’ll trade you question for question if the answers you want are those I’m allowed to disclose.” He somehow managed to smile his devastating smile. “Thank you for talking to me.”
She wanted to believe, just for once, in kindness and yet she couldn’t. Angels weren’t real people. She pushed the spoon away.
Nyka’s smile faded, but not before Azriel noted his well-developed canine teeth, the mark of a carnivore species. Were the captives no more than livestock to supply the need for fresh meat? While she craved death, the thought of being eaten horrified her. It was what the controllers did with the discarded cadavers when they transferred Angels into new bodies. The discarded carcass was taken to the factory farms to be rendered down for animal feed.
“Azriel, I’m an Urak. Our Centurion is a Sidhe. His race isn’t known for patience. Don’t create problems for yourself.”
She eased down on her comfortable bed. Nyka had the leaf-shaped ears, not the pointed ones of a Sidhe, and the scales on his hide were pronounced. Why should she care if she displeased them? The end of life might come sooner if she resisted the centurion. Azriel turned her face to the wall.

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