Chapter 1 – Clalls is Whining Again
Nova was feeling good. A few hours in the medbed, healing from a few broken bones, a dash of internal bleeding, were worth it. Killing the sneaky little bastard with black-wings and a spiked tail that lied to her boss about why he wanted to see the spaceport deserved the drawn out death.
Stalking the port for potential breeders to kidnap was breaking her rules so….she had to murder him.
Exiting the elevator she waved her video scrambler before exiting into the hall, she knew Clalls, her boss wouldn’t know she was coming – the way she liked it.
He was more agreeable when he was irritated.
Entering his office, she looked at every item she’d memorized to see if anything was out of place. Anything new or something missing was a clue when it came to Clalls’s complicated mind. “Your birthday’s hours away and you’re sitting in your office like you’re so busy that you can’t even take off for your own event?” she made a mocking sad face. “That overly busy cliche went out of style a million years ago.”
Clalls cast in his usual yellow light, was reading a hologram window, ignoring her because he foolishly thought it put her in her place.
No one could do that.
Pulling back a chair, she sat down and extended her leg so her boot rested on the edge of his fancy Minky desk.
“Off,” he ordered.
Pulling her boot off at the perfect angle so it scratched, she watched him cringe. She read the words backwards on the translucent image. Ship manifest lists, the male was so over the top it was amazing he didn’t suffer from ulcers.
“Worried someone’s going to sneak in an uninvited guest? I noticed Seso’s back at work, so it will be fine.”
“I’m never worried, that’s a Terran thing,” he said in true Demon deflect.
Clalls was a Night Demon, with long, sharp teeth, black sclera, and yellow irises. It made him look every bit the nightmare he could be. But he wasn’t. Never really was, and that’s what had attracted her to him all those years ago.
All his defiance, abhorrence, retribution, and need to conquer others did nothing to stop the unconscious nursing of his Yunkin heritage. Yunkins, the one race who’d found a way to breed in an honor code.
Of course, that made them unbearable snobs, in Nova’s opinion, but some people liked them. Specifically, Clalls, who’d joined the Federation, which was a Yunkin-influenced galactic military.
She peered over at Clalls’s memory box, which held his Federation jacket, his Commander of Communication rank insignia, and all his medals.
The male was an uncommon creature, that was for sure.
“I assume you came to vent or something girly you’re trying out,” he droned. “I know you’re not here to do my nails, because they’re still black.”
Nova smiled inwardly. He could pretend all he wanted, but she knew he liked their friendship.
More now that she’d turned it into a girls’ friendship.
Responding in her best snappy tone, she said, “Sometimes Clalls, girls just are bored and nosey. So,” she drew out, “what are you doing? And how can I make it about me?”
Clalls narrowed his eyes, then reduced the window and faced her. “It’s my birthday, and my rise to power, and today’s never going to be about you.”
His rise to power?
He may have crafted the blueprint, but she did all the hard work. If they weren’t good friends, she’d have been pissed he didn’t value the dirty deeds that were done to make his strategic takeover possible.
“We’ll see,” she said, noticing a flutter of movement in her periphery.
Instincts on alert she honed in to see a small creature move across a photo. It changed colors as it moved so it was hard to make out the eight tentacles, but she was able to count them out as it moved from one side of the abstract circle painting. The thing was inside a strange square tank placed over a painting.
It was an elaborate aquarium that connected to all the paintings he had.
No way did Clalls buy this for himself.
“Stop staring at my octopi, he hates that, and he will throw dead shrimp at you. He threw three at Dhak earlier.”
A vengeful octopi…
Her blood tingled under her skin. She needed one. Immediately.
And who the hell was Dhak?
Huffing a mock of disappointment she said, “I was wondering why it smells fishy in here. You know, I could fry him up and make us some calamari. I feel snacky.”
“If you fry him, I will make you very sorry. It’s my birthday gift from Avenell.”
Avenell? Clalls’s admin pet that got a promotion to the island of horrors?
The pet bought him…. a pet?
The Terran was going to get a visit from Nova very very soon.
Responding to Clalls with a snort, Nova said, “Your threats are getting weak. Pump up your killer quotes or everyone will notice you’ve gotten soft, and they will think it’s because you’re mated. Soft kings never conquer Kirca kingdoms.”
“My threats aren’t weak, I just have too many things I want to hurt you with that it would be hard to choose,” Clalls said.
He returned to whatever stupid thing he was doing.
Tapping the desk to enlarge the manifest list he pulled up, then, pointing at it, he said, “Sci and Sasha left their moon three minutes ago to respond to something that happened on Cerebral. Ansel’s not on the manifest. They left him on Serem moon but he needs to be here.”
Something happened on Cerebral? That’s suspicious as hell. Did Clalls plan that without her?
“He could have booked a flight on another ship. Did you check all the ships?” she asked.
“There are no other ships headed back to the Federation border. I checked.”
“Or, Ansel didn’t want to go in the first place because he thinks you invited the yellow eyed Cerebral that scrambled his brain. Plus, Ansel’s old now, no one will be impressed if he attends. And if he did, he’d probably bring his ugly pet.”
Ansel, was the genius Numan doctor who’d served with Clalls while they were stationed on Garna, the star carrier. He was thin with brown wavy hair, gangly hands with the creepy Numan purple nails.
Not her type.
“Ansel doesn’t age, you know that – and his pet is a niskie….and I agree it’s nightmarishly ugly and I have no idea why he always brought it to the reunions. No one who has a healthy dose of self-preservation would own a pet that could eat them if they got too hungry, or if they died in their sleep.”
“If that’s true, he didn’t miss the flight, he’s in the belly of the snake-dog.”
“He’s not dead,” Clalls snapped, “his stupid pet likes him. Go. Get. Him.”
Nova put a hand under her chin, mocking someone who’d done that once. “No.”
Clalls gave her a long, threatening look, like he was at his wits’ end and he wasn’t going to ask her again.
She ignored the threat, as one does, and asked, “Why does he matter so much?”
“Because he’s broken, and broken things are beautiful additions to my port’s ambiance,” he said with a hand flourish.
Nova didn’t bother calling out his lie, Demons were sensitive about that. Instead she guessed, “You’re going to send him to the island of horrors, aren’t you?”
Rolling his eyes, he said, “How can I use him if his bestie Sci is here too? The Cerebral would ruin everything.”
Sci wasn’t going to make it, if he had a planet to help. So she was right, Clalls was going to use Ansel. How boring.
“Except,” she challenged, as she reached over and took his mostly full Niffy from the desk, “you planned a travesty on Cerebral and made Sci turn around and go there, because he’s the closest co-ruler.”
His white brow raised. “Care to make a wager on that?”
That was Demon speak for she was a thousand percent correct.
“Yep. If I win, I get to attend the party as a guest.”
“Considering I know you’re wrong about everything, wager accepted.” Pointing to the door, he said, “Now, go get Ansel.”
Huffing, she stood up and mumbled loud enough for him to hear, “Reduced to a transport driver. It feels so wrong.”
“You’ve transported people before,” he said to her back.
Turning, she corrected, “Everyone I’ve transported for you took breaking into a planet, or killing off a mansion of bastards or a ship full of meat suits. This is just…boring.”
“It won’t be. I’m sure Ansel will be a hostile passenger.”
Oh, she truly hoped so. “You’re probably right. Old people get hostile when younger kids boss them around. It’s probably why you’re getting grouchier.”
“You’re annoying, get out of my face.”
“Now that I’m thinking about it,” she said, pretending she hadn’t heard him and gleefully pissing him off more, “I’ve decided to add a bonus to my services – I’ll make sure he has a date,” she said, thinking about what she knew about the Numan and what kind of female would be a punishment.
“You will only get Bonus points if Ansel falls in love with her and all his ills are fixed,” Clalls said sardonically as he pulled up more ships from other planets around the Federation side of space.
“Love doesn’t fix people…it didn’t fix you, did it.”
Clalls gave her a long look, “Ansel could have fixed himself years ago, but didn’t. That means he intentionally wants to be who he is, but everyone, including Chollar – the yellow-eyed Cerebral who took away his memories, wants to change him. They want him in a happily-ever-after life. They want him to be happy according to their terms. But he’s not them, and he likes being alone. He likes punishing himself. He’s just that way. So do the impossible Nova, find him the perfect date that makes him be less boring.”
“There-” she began but was cut off.
“Nothing’s impossible….remember?” the bastards said smugly.
Needing to destroy his good mood, she dabbed under her eye like she was letting another female know her makeup was smudged. “Touch up your makeup, sweetheart, your Yunkin side is showing again.”
He dropped his hands on the Minky desk with a bang and whipped his head towards her. “Everything inside me hates you.”
Underneath all his deceptive masks, was a Yunkin who desperately needed to avenge the wrongs of innocent people with all the passion and cruelty of a Night Demon.
Pleased at her success, she laughed as she exited the office and made it to the elevator. As soon as she was inside, she pulled up her flexible helmet that doubled as a hood and hit the invisibility program on her black leathers, then walked out, letting the doors shut.
Taking the hall to the emergency chute, she left the spaceport. Turning on her magnetic boot heels, she was pulled back to the outer hull layer of the port, where no one had bothered to install a video camera. Running to her ship, she entered through the chute and took off.
She needed every minute to research about Numans and their relationships as well as scanning as many females who would be able to deal with the old fashion-less lab mouse. Because she was going to the party as his guest no matter what.
Especially since she already bought her dress.