Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Adult, #Romance, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera
Pulling fire and redirecting it was her main joy, but when it was taken, she had to find somewhere else to fight the blaze.
Jimra was raised to do her best, perform her duty and fight fire with her own body. When she becomes a citizen, she wants to join the fire office and finds that there is only one thing standing in her way...her own genes. Her mother got pregnant on a distant world by their Guardian, and Jimra has to face the fact that she isn’t welcome on her world, but she might be welcome on her father’s.
Learning that he had an adult daughter had to be difficult for him, but he welcomed her to the Citadel on Ypra and her new position as a specialist.
Huros was an ex-Negotiator with a talent for analysis when he lost emotional control in the healers’ offices and a specialist was called in to help calm him. With one touch, she changed their fates and linked them forever.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Tales of the Citadel Book 44
The homeowner ran up the street toward his house. The blaze was roaring and threatening to spread to the houses to either side.
Graftic fastened his gear and prepared to go into the blaze in search of the life signs that had been there just five minutes earlier when the drone had flown in. The drone had been destroyed, but it had identified the one spot where someone could still be alive.
Graftic and his team faced the blaze and moved forward with their dousers when the flames went inward.
In under twenty seconds, there was no sign of the fire and the wood and steel were not even smoking.
“What the hell is going on, Chief?”
“I don’t know. Clear the house but be on alert. This could be the start of an explosion. We don’t know what is going on.”
A little girl ran out with a smudged dolly clutched to her chest. The homeowner rushed forward and hugged her.
“I was only gone a minute. I swear.” He sobbed and held his child.
“Was there any one else in there?”
The little girl nodded. “Jimra came in. She made the fire go away, but I think it made her sick.”
The father looked wary. “Jimra was there?”
“She said that the fire shouldn’t have been there. She said the fire was wrong, and then, she ate it.”
Graftic nodded and headed into the building. He identified the part of the building that had been available to a possible survivor and entered the room.
A young woman was on her knees, and she had her arms wrapped around her midsection. When she heard Graftic, she whirled. “I can’t hold it much longer.”
She stared at him, and he saw fire in her eyes. It began to leak out and skittered down her arm. “I can’t hang onto the fire much longer. It wants out, but there is no safe place to put it.”
He blinked. “You can release it?”
“I have to. I have never pulled this much fire inside. I have nowhere to put it.” Fiery tears tracked down her cheeks.
“Can I wrap you up in a blanket and get you somewhere you can let the fire go?”
She nodded, and she huddled in a ball at his feet.
He flipped out a fire blanket and wrapped it around her; the heat of her body registered through the insulation of his suit. Graftic used the com to get a vehicle out front, and when he had settled Jimra in the back seat, he pulled the skimmer up and headed toward the nearest stand of rock.
“Take it easy, little one, we are almost there.”
She nodded from inside the bundle. “Good. I can feel the power going.”
He didn’t know if that was good or bad, so he just gunned the engine and landed on the rock with a thud.
He picked the young woman up and carried her to the flat plateau. He wasn’t sure what made him warn her, but he said, “I am going to take the blanket off now.”
She nodded, “When you take it off, put it over you so I won’t hurt you. The fire is just going to come out. He shouldn’t have made it.”
“Who shouldn’t have?”
“Tiska’s dad. He made the fire. I don’t know why, but he made the fire. I am going to explode now.” She stood and flipped the blanket toward him.
Graftic covered himself in the blanket, and the roar of the fire made him feel that he was inside a building rocketing into flames.
His suit protected him from the damage, but the burn that was coming off the young girl still sent him tumbling to the edge of the cliff. The roar continued for several minutes, and it was with great relief on his part that silence fell.
He cautiously lifted his head and flipped the blanket back. The air shimmered with heat, but the fire was gone. The small, huddled form of the young woman was on the stone, and he wrapped the blanket around her again, this time to cover the body that had scorched off the fabric she had been wearing.
“Are you okay?” She whispered it as he lifted her and put her back in the skimmer.
“I am fine. How are you?”
“A little cold. Can you take me to my house?”
“I think you need to go to the hospital first.”
She sighed and nodded. “My mom won’t be happy. I was supposed to babysit Tiska today, but her dad cancelled. She called me when the fire started.”
“How old are you?”
She nodded off, but the blanket was rhythmically rising and falling.
Graftic took her to the nearest children’s hospital, and he was unsurprised to find that she was a known presence.
The medic checked the girl and wheeled her toward an exam room. “What happened?”
Graftic scowled and worked on the phrasing. “She ate a house fire and then had to release it.”
“Does her mother know?”
“I don’t know her last name.”
The medic smiled and went to the desk; he told the clerk, “Tell Dr. Artu that Jimra is in.”
The clerk smiled and picked up the interior com. “Please inform Dr. Artu that her daughter is here.” She paused and nodded. “Excellent. I will let the medic know.”
The clerk hung up and lifted her head. “She is on her way.”
“I will get Jimra into a gown.” A female medic came by and went into the exam room, closing the door.
Graftic scowled. “She comes here often?”
The first medic nodded. “Her father was a Guardian on Ypra, or so we have been told. Her development of a temperature talent was not unexpected.”
A woman in a black and silver physician’s uniform came up to him. “Fire Officer, what happened?”
“Are you Jimra’s mother?”
“I am. My name is Orden Artu. Please come with me and explain what happened.”
Graftic rubbed his forehead. “Aren’t you going to check on her?”
“You have brought her in and the staff was not alarmed. If she has had an episode, she will sleep for another hour. Now, what happened?”
The doctor scowled at him, so Graftic filled her in, distracted by the pale gold of her hair and the frown on her face.
He told her about the fire, about the young girl and about Jimra’s assertion that the father had started the fire.
“If she said that is how it started, that is how it started. Jimra is excellent with the forensics of fire. Now...what happened afterward?”
“She was crouched in the middle of the charred house, so I brought her to the lookout, and she released the fire.”
“Do you know how large the blast radius was?”
“Based on the char marks on my skimmer, about one hundred feet.”
Dr. Artu winced. “Damn. She must be exhausted.”
“She is. Now, why can she do what she does?”
The doctor tilted her head. “Why is it your concern?”
“Because she is brave, she is young and she saved a life today. This world isn’t ready for someone like her, and she needs to be protected.” He blurted it out.
“Are you offering to become her keeper?” There was a twinkle in her eye.
The doctor kissed him on the cheek, and he inhaled the scent of medical-grade soap and the lightest hint of flowers.
“Thank you for watching out for my daughter. She finds herself in the oddest positions, but she manages to thrive. I am going to use any means at my disposal to make sure it continues.”
The intent look she gave him before she left him was calculating and a little bit heated. Graftic had the funny feeling that he was going to become the means by which Jimra stayed safe.
* * * *
Orden stroked her daughter’s hair. Jimra stirred and smiled without opening her eyes.
“I am sorry, Mom. I felt the fire start, and I had to go.”
“I know, sweetie. You did good. You saved Tiska.” Orden stroked her hand down her daughter’s cheek, feeling the uncharacteristic normal temperature.
Jimra opened her eyes, and they were her normally passive pale lavender. “I am glad she is safe. He meant to kill her. Someone needs to get her safe.”
“I will have an officer look into it. The fire officer notified his team of your suspicions, so they will have started an inquiry. Fortunately, you probably consumed most of the heat before it could destroy the evidence.”
“I just tried to keep Tiska safe. It was hard. I had to pull the fire in and keep it from her at the same time. I haven’t done that before.” Jimra blinked slowly, like she was shocked at her own growing abilities.
“You did what was necessary. You always do. Did Huraka know that you left?”
Jimra bit her lip. “No. I didn’t tell her; I just ran out. I don’t even know if I put shoes on.”
“Jimra, you know you are supposed to tell her so that she can let me know where you are going.”
“I had to go.”
“I know. And I know you are going to have to go to dozens of occasions that I can’t be there for, more lives to save, more fires to stop. I have known that you were not going to be mine alone from the moment I knew I carried you.”
Jimra smiled. “You always tell me that. You also tell me that my father didn’t ask, so you didn’t tell him. It was your one snarky act in your entire life. The rest of it has been a pure and noble pursuit for the betterment of our species.”
Orden laughed and pinched Jimra’s slightly pointed ear. “That is correct. I bear the duty of you with joy and love.”
“And lots of tolerance.” Jimra giggled.
“That too.” She hugged her child. “I am so glad you are safe. Stop scaring me. My hearts pound out of my chest every time I hear Jimra and fire in the same sentence.”
Jimra nodded and squirmed against her. “Are we going to do the tests?”
“You bet. You are almost at a normal temperature. This is a red-letter day.”
Orden ran the scans on her daughter and was only filled with relief when everything came back normal, well, Jimra normal. It was as good as she was going to get.
Jimra stood in the front yard and called the blaze. She contained it all and rolled it inside her.
Her stepfather stood next to her. “What do you think, Provisional Fire Officer Artu?”
“I think it was started in the kitchen. A plain old accident.” She tasted the fire inside her, finding the most mature flames. “Wait. Electric. Faulty cooker. It spread to food and then the walls caught fire.”
He nodded. “Right. We will send the investigators for the workup, but if they agree with you, this with be the thirty-seventh confirmed identification to your credit.”
She grinned at Graftic. “Well, your credit. I am still volunteering.”
He chuckled and checked in with his teams. They were moving through the house in an organised manner and recording the damage. Lives had been saved that day, but it was the removal of the flame that let the identification of the source become easy.
“You make our job too easy, Jimra.”
She began to feel the burn of the fire inside her. “I need to let off some steam, Graftic.”