Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Adult, #Romance, #Science Fiction Opera
Iara closed her eyes and located Lock with her senses. She began to send her influence out over the city and the air above it. A dome of calm and serenity was in place in ten minutes. They could come any time. She was ready.
An hour after she began to create harmony in the centre of Deran, the delegates filed in. She went into her trance and time blurred as she dampened hostilities and made logic shine through without the burning need for advancement. They were politicians doing what was best for their people without thought for themselves. The negotiations began to make headway and Iara remained on alert.
Three days later, she felt the relief and joy as everyone in the room ratified the agreements. A flicker of relief entered her as well. She was only going to be on duty until the Naktu left, and with luck, that would be two days in the future.
Two incursions had occurred during the negotiations and Lock had stopped them both. He had also rested and she envied that particular luxury.
The negotiations had occurred in waves. Four hours on, three hours off. This allowed both parties to sleep and confer with their planetary representatives. It had slowly inched the talks along until they had finally created the first treaty that not only contained non-aggression, but also beneficial trade agreements with heavy penalties for either party if they reneged on the deal.
Iara listened to everything around her. No one asked if she was really there; they could feel her. Their minds were slightly different than others she had touched before, but they were still susceptible to her talent. She kept them serene and kept the process marching on.
The celebration began that evening, and she stayed on duty. When the Naktu made their way back to their world and they had cleared her influence, she sent out a locking wave into the city and started to move.
Lock was on the other side of the screen the moment she let out a soft cough.
“General, lower the screen.”
It receded with glacial slowness, leaving Iara looking at Lock in exhaustion. “They are gone. We are done here.”
“Right.” He shifted from foot to foot.
Iara smiled and carefully levered herself to her feet. She extended her hand, and he took it, bracing her with a hand on her elbow. Together, they walked slowly out of the council chamber and into the deep midnight of night on Deran.
Iara looked up and saw Naktu dancing in its endless rounds with Deran, progressing like two stones on a bolo, tied by a string that neither could see. They swung around each other, around and around.
“It is very pretty. Not too surprising that two races so close to each other would succumb to either love or hate. You can’t see something all the time and not feel strongly about it.” Her words were a whisper. Her throat was as tired as the rest of her.
Lock gave her a look of understanding, and he supported her to their transport and along the ride to their vessel.
When they stepped into the shuttle, she gave a long shudder. “Medical kit, please.”
He folded the med bed out of the wall and helped her have a seat.
She smiled brightly and prepped a hypo with shaking hands. She pressed it to her inner arm and waited for the effect. The moment she could feel the steadying effect of adrenaline, she moved quickly to put in an IV drip with a vitamin and hydrating solution. “Can you get me three ration bags of water, please?”
Lock moved swiftly and returned with the bags. She opened one and bit down on the mouthpiece, holding it between her teeth so that only a trickle of moisture made it in.
Sitting up, she threaded her arms through the takeoff straps and checked her connection to the IV. “I am ready for launch when you are. As soon as I rehydrate, I will sleep for a few hours. By then, we will be back at Zakaru.”
He gave her a narrow-eyed grin, “You knew you would be out for the trip back.”
“I suspected as much.”
“Specialist Iara, I never imagined that you were a cheater.”
She sighed as he headed to seal the ship. “Iara Hanikada.”
He paused, nodded and resumed his preflight prep.
He passed her on his way to the command deck and he whispered, “Rion Welnikat.”
She blushed at the moment that was almost more intimate than a kiss.
His lineage explained a lot. The Welnikat clan were forward thinkers and often worked as security for alien races. In the society of the Kozue, they were the thinkers and statesmen. No wonder Lock was so easily absorbed into the Sector Guard. His family was known for their even temperaments.
Sipping at the water, she hung on during the launch. When the ship settled, she drank as much water as she could, keeping one bag next to her for when she woke. With a deep sigh, she unravelled from the harness and settled on the med bed. It was time to reclaim her body and that meant sleep.
With her surroundings set for her comfort, she let her body take what it needed.
She was shifting, moving slightly as if floating through midair. Iara opened her eyes, and the air and sky of Zakaru greeted her. She was being carried on an airbed, and it was gliding into the medical centre via the outer entrance.
“Where is he?” She asked the medic next to her.
The young healer smiled, “He is speaking to his base on the com.”
“Great. Why am I on this bed?”
“You are dehydrated and malnourished. You need healing.”
“Not with pain, please. I have had a trying time.”
The young woman smiled, her green skin glowing. “I can do it with cold if you don’t mind.”
“Sure. Whatever it takes to get me up and around.”
The healer grinned. “You might be sorry you said that. We also have a teaching class in the infirmary today. This could take a while.”
Iara leaned back and groaned. “Fine. As long as I don’t have to get up and run around.”
The healer laughed. “No, but you may wish that you had run, Specialist.”
In the machine, healing was administered and then back under the diagnostic rays. Iara was exhausted by the time Healer Gwinka was finished and the class had completed their note taking.
Tether was standing in the observation area with Lock, and they were deep in conversation when Iara was finally allowed to walk.
Gwinka gave her a significant look.
Iara smiled, “Yes, Healer. I am heading for the commissary.”
“Good. My booster will only last a few hours, so you need to get something in your system.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She saluted and headed out the door, her white robes swirling around her.
Footsteps behind her hinted that she was being followed. She didn’t care; she wanted some fruit and some tea. Hopefully, one of her eager students would be swirling around and she could press them into service.
Through the halls, she kept up her stride until the smells of the commissary pulled her forward.
She grabbed a tray in shaking hands and whisked through the line with determination. When she had what she needed, including two cups of tea, she went in search of a table.
The weight of the tray kept her hands from trembling, but the moment she set it down, they resumed their vibration. She grabbed a fork and attacked the fruit, confident that it couldn’t outrun her.
“Were you trying to lose us in the hall, Iara?” Tether grinned as he slid down in the seat across from her.
“No. I was ordered to eat as quickly as possible, so I am.”
Lock sat next to her. “Are you healed?”
“I wasn’t injured. I was just enjoying the side effect of five days without food or water.”
Tether stole some of her fruit. “Then why did you just spend five hours in medical?”
She gave them both a smarmy smile, “Because one of you panics like an old woman.”
Tether grinned, his third eye wide. “Wow. You are in a mood.”
“I have just spent five hours being manhandled and I didn’t even get dinner first.”
Lock winced. “I am sorry. I honestly thought you were in danger. I couldn’t wake you.”
“I had just been awake for five days. I was a little tired.”
“How are you now?” He put his hand on the back of hers.
She brutally stabbed some melon. “Tired, hungry and ticked off, so there has been a change.”
Tether blinked and focussed on something behind her. “Don’t look now, but I think you are either in trouble or getting a promotion.”
Iara slowly turned and saw the familiar face of Citadel Master Lovey. She smiled and the woman waved for her to remain seated.
“Iara, I have heard you and Lock did excellently well on your assignment, but there has been a request for you. A long-term request.” Lovey sat at the table, as if she ate with instructors every day.
Iara sipped frantically at her first cup of tea. “What is it?”
“Citadel Lowel has requested you as Citadel Master. I have given my blessing if you agree.”
Iara put her tea down. “What?”
“You heard me. They will be doing many non-talented information sessions and lectures. They need someone with your talents on the planet to keep things on the scholastic side. Lowel is for training and learning. It needs to remain that. Your talent could keep it that way.”
“How long do I have to think about it?”
“Sleep on it. I hear you are overdue. Lock here will remain on site until you have decided on a course of action.”
“Does this mean I wouldn’t have to constantly run around from world to world?”
Lovey grinned. “It means exactly that. You can even request some staff members if you want to take anyone from here.”
Iara looked to Tether and he was nodding eagerly. “I might have a personal assistant in mind.”
He beamed at her, his third eye glowing with excitement.
She sent a sideways glance to Lock, and he was busy looking innocent. “You have been working on this the entire trip home.”
“Well, I know that they are looking for someone to head the Citadel, and you have both a head for organization and a talent for harmony. I think you would be ideal and I told them so.”
Iara sat back in amazement and kept chewing her breakfast. “A Citadel master. Huh. That was not something I had expected.”
“Sleep on it. You are going to need to make the decision with a clear head.” Lovey patted her hand and gave her a smile. “Come to my office when you have decided.”
Lovey rose to her feet. “Guardsman, come with me. You look as hellish as she does, so we need to get your visitor’s quarters sorted.”
Iara gave Lock a solid stare. He was pale, drawn and exhausted. She wasn’t the only one who had done hard duty on their assignment.
“Lovey, put him in my room. I owe him a few explanations, and the bed is definitely big enough. I can get my rest on the couch.”
The Citadel master looked between the two of them and nodded. “Right. Eat and haul him off for some rest. I will speak with you both in the morning.”
Lovey handed him a visitor’s link so that he could use the facilities of the Citadel as well as the lift to the Specialists’ quarters.
Tether grinned. “Come with me, Lock. You need a good meal as much as she does.”
Iara worked her way through her meal in silence. She gulped down her tea and hoped for the energy to take another pass at the food line.
She was waning rapidly, so when Lock finished his meal, she looked at Tether. “Nap time for us, I think.”
He gave her a grateful look. “Excellent idea.”
Tether grinned. “Do you need help?”
Iara slowly stood, and when she felt her body balance, she shook her head. “Nope, I am good. Can you take care of the trays?”
Lock rose to his feet and offered her his arm. “Shall we?”
She took it and used her grip to steer him through the common area and to the lifts. She was guiding and he was supporting. It was a fair exchange of strengths at the moment.
“Are you considering taking the position at Lowel?”
They stood and swayed as the lift came to a halt on her floor. As the doors eased open, they stepped out and she directed him toward her quarters.
“I am indeed considering the position, but my brain is a little muddled. I need to decide in the morning.”
They paused outside her door and she palmed the lock. The door slid back and the scent of her rooms came to her. Citrus and honey were her favourite scents. It reminded her of her room in the palace on Saroo. Her time there as bondservant to King Learith had been a learning experience, and she had enjoyed the opportunity to let her mind roam free through the books.
That was what came to her as she closed the door behind them and staggered inside. “You can have the bed.”
She shucked off her outer robe and loosened her suit at the neckline. With a groan of relief, she hit the couch and settled in on her side.
She heard him ask her a question, but she let herself fade in a healing sleep.
Waking fully clothed in her own bed was a little odd because she didn’t remember how she got there.
Iara sat up, looked at the rumpled pillow on the other side of her bed and shrugged, stomping up to the dressing table. With a groan, she unravelled her hair and brushed it before removing her suit and hanging it in the cleaner.
Naked, she walked to the lav and stopped short when Lock emerged looking clean and refreshed.
He froze in place, his gaze roaming over her from foot to the long waves of her hair. “Good morning, Iara.”
She squeaked, pushed past him and closed the door to the lav.
Her heart was pounding, and she stepped into the shower. She felt marginally more alert after her one indulgence washed over her. An honest-to-goodness wet shower was her sole request of the Citadel. The water ran over her and woke her in a way that no sonic or gel could manage. Her life on the Kozue warship had not included such luxuries, and on Saroo, she had enjoyed them for their difference from what she had grown up with. Now, the shower not only roused her but it also was a reminder of a time when she had first found her soul and revelled in it.
It was a lot to ask of a shower, but it had never disappointed her.
She let her hand glide over the hidden panel, and it swung open to display her collection of body gels and shampoos. She went to work on her hair and then followed up with a brisk scrubbing of the rest of her body.