Firebird- Part Six
Firebird copyright (c) 2006 T.A. Chase
Vlatko lay in his bed and focused on the warm body beside him. It was the thief, Rue and the skinny man snuggled closer to him with one leg thrown over his own hip.
He sighed. Running a hand over Rue’s back, he realized a decision would have to be made soon as to what to do with about the man. Should he do as all his years of training in the I.U.M. said he should do? Should he contact the Way Station and have them come to arrest the man?
He pushed his body up to lean on his elbow, staring down at the thief. Vlatko knew who Rue was, no matter how innocent the man pretended to be. Rue was one of the best thieves in the universe. Authorities first started paying attention to Rue when he was caught and branded at the age of ten. After that Rue had never been captured again and by the time the thief was sixteen, he was commanding large sums of inter-universal credits for hired jobs.
At twenty-four, Rue still looked innocent and so young, but Vlatko knew the man could be ruthless and cold-hearted when he needed to be. Vlatko ran a finger down over Rue’s nose. “Who paid your price for stealing the President’s Heart,” he wondered out loud.
“I don’t know. They never tell me their names,” Rue’s answer was sleepy and rough.
“Ah, so you were hired to steal it for someone.” Vlatko laughed.
“Shit.” Rue came wide-awake, swearing and pushing away from Vlatko. “I was just talking in my sleep. I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”
Vlatko pressed a finger to the thief’s lips. “Don’t. I knew who you were the moment I saw you tied to the tree. You don’t need to steal to survive anymore. You steal because someone’s paying you.”
Rue looked like he wanted to argue, but seemed to think better of it. “So are you going to turn me in? There’s quite a bounty on my head.”
Vlatko climbed out of bed. After stuffing towels and a bar of soap into a bag, he threw it into Rue’s arms. Then he plucked the man off the cot
“Where are we going?” Rue wrapped one lean arm around Vlatko’s neck.
“To clean up.” Vlatko shouldered open the hut’s door and carried Rue to a steamy pool of water.
“Clean up? I don’t see any sanitizers.” Rue looked around as Vlatko set him down next to the pool.
“You won’t see one. This isn’t a modern planet, Rue. In some places, indoor toilets are still things of the future.” Vlatko waded into the pool, holding out a hand to Rue. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe.”
The thief laughed. “Most men aren’t worried about my safety. They’re more concerned about getting the reward the I.U.M. is offering.”
Vlatko shrugged. “I’m not concerned with the reward.” He soaked one of the clothes and soaped it up. Taking one lean arm, he washed Rue.
Rue studied Vlatko’s primitive hut and gave a disbelieving snort. “Man, you live like a homeless man. If I were you, I would have called the I.U.M. the minute you saw my naked ass tied to that tree.”
Vlatko looked around, trying to see his surroundings through Rue’s eyes. So he didn’t have all the comforts of modern men. His house was a one-room hut. He had very little contact with the natives or any other people for that matter. He finished cleaning Rue. “I don’t need much. Money just gives you a false sense of worth.”
“Spoken like a man who doesn’t have any.” Rue’s amber eyes twinkled at him as a smile graced those plump lips.
“Maybe it’s just sour grapes.” He cleaned and rinsed himself. “I won’t turn you in.”
Vlatko could tell Rues was looking for the catch. “I don’t owe the I.U.M. anything. In fact, I’m a deserter.”