He tried not to let his body go stiff, because he did understand her. Suddenly he understood better than he ever had before. In that moment, she was so tired she couldn’t hold back. She was raw. She was enjoying his touch, his company, the comfort he offered. For the first time he had a real insight into her inner turmoil—the desire she felt for him, the curiosity about what being with him would be like, and the need to remain aloof and professional to maintain both order and the respect of Ron and Ajaya—all were at war within her.
She’d given him a glimpse of her inner workings, and he wouldn’t disrespect that by pressuring her for more. Her inner life was just as complicated as his. What he got from this unguarded interaction with her was that if he could continue to show patience, he would eventually be rewarded in spades.
So even though his loins ached—which she acknowledged with chagrin—he just held her, moving his lips over hers, one hand roaming up and down her spine in a soothing motion that went nowhere near either a bra clasp or the round swell of her ass. He savored the moment and kept his lust in check.
She sighed with contentment against his lips and broke off the kiss, leaning into him more fully, her head coming to rest against his chest. Her mental state was suffused with dreaminess, and he slowly realized she was no longer in touch with reality. Her mind spun crazy webs of disjointed thoughts. He looked down, not really surprised to see her eyes closed and lips parted. She’d relaxed into their warm embrace and had instantly fallen asleep.
He huffed with disbelief and wondered what the hell he should do now.
He glanced back at the device with wonder. The thing was an artificial-wormhole generator. That in and of itself was freaking insanely cool.
But there was more. His heart thudded. There was an interesting side effect when the device was active, as it was for hours in preparation in advance of a jump, as well as for hours long after a jump had been achieved: the device created an electromagnetic field. Normally, when the enormous drawer housing the device was closed, it was locked inside a Faraday cage and therefore wouldn’t emit the EM field. But he’d opened it while it was still active, exposing them to it.
This EM field, he now realized, disrupted the reception of the quantum entanglement that allowed anipraxis with Ei’Brai. It was hard to translate Jane’s very alien way of understanding the tech to the way he had been trained to interpret the science, but it seemed that when the waves hit the organs in the brain that made anipraxia possible, they acted on those organs as if they were measuring the spin of the electrons, effectively disrupting the connection. That made sense because of the spooky way quantum entanglement worked—observation defined what state the entangled electrons were in, not allowing them to stay in a state of superposition—therefore creating a static outgoing signal and not allowing new throughput.
It was jamming the signal. It made the Squid’s telepathic Wi-Fi drop out. That was why Jane had been so disoriented. It wasn’t just sheer exhaustion, though that had played a role. She’d been kicked out of Ei’Brai’s anipraxic network.
If this device could do that… His thoughts raced as he considered the possibilities. He’d have to do some testing to figure out the specific frequency—easy enough to do with a wideband antenna and a spectrum analyzer. Once he did, he could reproduce it. And that meant he could actually relax without feeling like he was being watched by a squirmy, aquatic peeping Tom. That would free up some much-needed mental energy so he could focus on what was most important—mastering the alien tech.
He looked down on Jane, limp in his arms, and kissed her forehead before swooping to lift her legs out from under her—like a fucking hero—thinking about how she’d carried him around not so long ago. It was about damn time he got to return the favor.
Her lips curled up in a sleepy smile before she threw an arm around his neck and nestled her face against him. She’d heard his thoughts. She liked them.
“Thank you,” flitted briefly against his mind and then away as she went deeper into sleep, completely relaxed. His own lips quirked up on one side as he began to walk, carefully, hoping the slight limp from his cybernetic leg wouldn’t disturb her.
She trusted him.
Ei’Brai was there in the background, a distant brooding presence. Alan got the feeling that the Squid was just as exhausted as Jane seemed to be. Ei’Brai didn’t say anything, but his attitude was also one of gratitude. He was also glad Jane was resting. So the Squid was sensible about something, anyway.
Alan grunted. She was heavier than he’d imagined. He hoped like hell that he’d be able to manage carrying her all the way back to her quarters without mishap. The last thing he wanted to do was thunk her head into a door frame like he was in a bad slapstick routine in a terrible sitcom. He wanted to keep the moment sweet. He needed, just one fucking time, to feel like the good guy.