Saved by Venom (Grabbed 3)(7)

By: Lolita Lopez

As they neared the staging area, Venom noticed an agitated crowd surrounding the fence protecting the spot where a hastily erected stage now stood. Instantly he went on alert. His trained gaze scanned the crowd. They were mostly men in their late teens to early forties. Some of them were probably family members but it was likely there were troublemakers among them.

The Splinters operating on Calyx often chose situations like this to agitate the locals. The terrorist cell had so far evaded the Shadow Force operatives tasked with shutting them down but a few important captures had been made in the last few months. Two months earlier, Venom had been on a rescue mission for Menace’s wife that had gone to hell in a matter of seconds. They had managed to save her life but only barely.

She had averted a major crisis by recovering weapons stolen by the Splinters and sold to the Sixers, a gang operating out of The City. She’d also uncovered a nasty little bit of government corruption by finding piles of food supplies in the Sixer hideout. The two groups had been manipulating food supplies and costs in the capitol city and some of the outlying villages to foment revolution. Thankfully it hadn’t worked.

But this? Venom eyed the noisy crowd with apprehension. This could get ugly fast.

“Ace?” He called out to the pilot leading their men to the starting line of the Grab. Using hand signals, he gave a quick order that the pilot received with a nod. Some of the soldiers in their group glanced back at him for instructions. “Let’s keep it tight and keep our hands to ourselves.”

A round of yes sirs circled the small group. They formed double lines and kept close together as they neared the shouting throng. Venom had no doubt his fellow soldiers would maintain their formation. The discipline drilled into them from childhood would allow nothing else.

Venom’s ears rang with the nasty insults hurled their way. His jaw tightened but that was the only outward sign of annoyance he allowed. A fat, rotten fruit splattered on the back of a man in the middle of their group. The soldier tensed but didn’t break formation. The man behind him brushed away the foul, soggy flesh. Their heads high and their gazes fixed forward, they kept walking.

As if sensing their group wouldn’t be fazed by insults and rotten produce, the angry crowd changed their tactics. They chanted their filth even louder and moved in closer. Venom’s hawkish gaze took in the changing environment.

“Easy, men,” he said, his voice calm but clear. “Stay on track. Keep moving.”

A split second later, someone jumped out of the crowd and slammed into his shoulder. Venom had just enough warning to brace himself for the impact as the heavy weight of his attacker took him to the ground. On instinct, Venom threw up his hand and blocked the falling blows. He put a hand to the man’s throat and shoved hard.

Their gazes met and Venom’s heart stuttered. Despite the grizzly beard and wild hair, he recognized his assailant. It was Devious, a member of his academy class he hadn’t seen in more than ten years. The man had been one of the operatives chosen for the Shadow Force but he had been arrested and tried as a traitor. The transport ship carrying him to the Kovark prison system had been attacked and he had been freed and never seen again.

Until now.

Venom had never believed Devious would side with the Splinters but the evidence against him in his trial had been incredibly convincing. What if it had all been a show? Had it merely been the beginning of a deep cover?

Those questions wouldn’t be answered today—or maybe ever. Schooling his features, Venom showed only fury. He punched Devious in the temple and cheek before flipping their positions. They grappled and slapped at each other. Briefly Venom felt Devious’ fingers slipping under the cuff of his jacket and brushing the bare skin of his wrist. A moment later, the sensation vanished.

“Dev! Come on, man! Enough!” One of the protestors stepped forward to drag him out from under Venom.

At the same time, one of the soldiers taking part in the Grab snatched Venom by the shoulders and hauled him onto his feet. “Captain!”

“I’m good!” Venom shrugged off the soldier’s hands. He kicked snow at Devious and spit on the ground near him. “This traitorous piece of trash isn’t worth the disciplinary demerit.”

A faint, mischievous smile curved the likely undercover agent’s mouth as he wiped dirty snow from his face. “I’d rather be trash than a kidnapping, raping piece of shit like you.”

Even though Devious said those things to stay in character Venom still flinched. Was that what people down here thought of them?

“Come on, Captain.” The younger man tugged on Venom’s arm. “They’re waiting for us.”

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