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Authors: Viola Grace

Tags: #Romance, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Shapeshifter

HeartbeatofSilence (5 page)

BOOK: HeartbeatofSilence
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“I don’t think I am useful.”

“You will be. Now, come along for today’s lesson.”

She laughed and paused to pull on her boots. “I have to ask, why are we basically alone here? From what I know, there should be some kind of staff on hand. I mean Citadels are teaching facilities, are they not?”

“They are. Balen is just now opening for the Citadel and Sector Guard. There is a bunch of waiting staffers on the space station above us. When they were sure that you were coming, they held off to give you as much quiet as possible.”

She smiled. “Really? That was sweet.”

“More like they didn’t want everyone to have their minds rummaged through by an untrained telepath. It is very uncomfortable if you weren’t already aware of it.” He smiled and took her hand as they exited her quarters.

“I am aware of it. It became obvious after the first time my wave expanded outward. For each mind, there was a moment of resistance, and I just pushed right past it.” She shrugged. “I didn’t feel good about it, but I had no option and less control.”

They walked in silence until they were out in the garden once again. This time, they went deeper into the manicured space, taking a seat on one of the benches.

“Today’s assignment is to find one particular mind.” He raised his arm and a small screen flared into life on the arm of his suit.

“That is neat. Does mine do that?”

She groped around her wrist, and he snickered.

“It does, but I am not going to tell you how until we get this practice under your belt. Now, this is your target. Her name is Icon, and she is a member of Guard Base Balen.”

“What do you really want me to do?”

“Find her. She is waiting for the contact, so she will tell me the moment you make contact.” A sharp chirp broke the still air. “Just a moment, Veera.”

A feminine voice spoke from his neckline. “Guardian Stanik? This is Icon. Your student just made contact.”

“Thank you, Icon. Your service has been invaluable.”

“You are welcome, colour me impressed.” Icon’s voice was amused, and there was a grudging respect.

In her mind, Veera thanked Icon for her cooperation. Veera had never touched a shapeshifter before, and she had to admit that the highly organized mind was fascinating. Icon only let her in as a visitor, so it was now clear why she was the target.

Stanik worked on his wrist, and in a few seconds, the screen appeared on her forearm.

“Nice. Who is that?”

“Your next target. Tell me who she is, and I will tell you if you are right or not.”

The pleasant woman in the image had a smile on her face. She was wearing a bodysuit and standing on a space station. The orbiting bands around it indicated a research-style station.

With a short breath, Veera went looking for the woman in the image. She found her in eight seconds. “Haunt or Kaylee, the commander of Station 13. She is currently involved in cellular research with her husband, Dirven. They are in orbit around Balen.”

“Excellent. Another finding test. Find him.”

The image on the screen was a golden-skinned Wyoran male. “This is too easy. Dr. Effin Nywyn of Morganti station.”

“Why was it easy?”

“I simply checked the nearest minds to see if they knew him, and I found him.”

“Can you contact him?”

She blinked. “Okay. Just a moment. Should I have him contact you?”

He chuckled. “You won’t have to. Just contact him.”

She touched Effin’s mind, and he greeted her with a bit of surprise.

Hello. May I help you?

Um, I am doing control exercises, and I was told to locate and contact you.

Laughter spilled through Effin’s mind.
I am sure you were.

A noise got her attention. A woman’s voice came through. “Guardian Stanik, why is your protégé mind-speaking my husband?”

“An experiment, Relay, I do apologize. We are testing Veera’s range, and I would say that she is currently quite adept at distant communication and blind location.”

“It’s excellent, Guardian Stanik, but next time you want to use my husband, ask me first.”

“Yes, Relay.”

In her mind, Effin was still laughing.
Relay and I are linked in the same manner you are linked to Guardian Stanik. She knew the moment you touched my mind.

I see. That explains why she is chewing on him. Why is his title Guardian?

That is his rank. Your potential came to the attention of the Guard, but because of its nature, you cannot be a Guardsman. You are a consultant with a guardian who will watch your mind and protect your body.

I wish someone had told me. I would have ordered a sash and tiara.

His mind filled with mirth, and she disconnected the contact.

Stanik finished his conversation with Relay and turned to her. “Well, that is both impressive and horrific. Your mind covered six star systems and broke through the shields of a trained link.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

He shrugged. “You will be put into the field far before I thought you would. That means that the support staff will start arriving this afternoon.”

She brightened. “Does that mean that the dining hall will swing into operation?”

Stanik cupped her jawline. “Don’t you like the way I dial up appropriate meals?”

“Aw, Stanik. No one dials a meal like you do, but I am very interested in some of the fresh food that I saw in Icon’s mind. They have it at Balen base, and I think we might have a kitchen garden around here somewhere, masquerading as ornamental.”

He snorted. “Well, you have made any further experiments in tracking useless, so why don’t we go for a walk?”

She got to her feet and stretched. “Where shall we go?”

“A quick pass around the grounds and then out into the woods. I think you need to know what my other form looks like.”

She took his hand. “I have already seen Rhanos and Priina.”

“They are a different type of Lyran. In fact, Priina isn’t a Lyran at all.”

“What?”

“She is of a race that is susceptible to change.”

“How do you know that?”

“I looked up their records on the Citadel database. They are going to be permanently assigned to Citadel Lowel, but they came here to enjoy the forest so that Priina could shake down her new shape.”

“All that was on there?”

“Well…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I used your talent while you were sleeping to run through their minds.”

She sighed and shook her head. “No, you didn’t.”

“What?”

“You read my mind. I already had all that information, but I didn’t think everyone needed to know.”

He blushed. “I see.”

“Yes, if you want to share what you know, simply give it to me mind to mind. If you want to know what I know, ask me and I will give you full access. I have no secrets from you, and you can’t keep any from me. If my life is depending on this, we need to set an even relationship.”

He shuddered. “I apologize.”

Veera turned and gripped Stanik’s face between her palms. “Listen, because of you, I have a chance at a life. I am not a tool to be used. I am an agent to be sent out. You may be able to walk into my mind whenever you wish but that is because I let you. I can shut you out if I have to, but I don’t want to.”

“You think you can simply close your mind to me?”

She stroked his cheek with her thumb. “I can, and when I open it, it will expand and take my consciousness out to the stars, leaving my body to wither and fade. It is all up to you, Guardian Stanik. Opening my talent comes with a price.”

She turned and continued her walk through the gardens leaving him to ponder what she had said.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

She found the garden that she suspected was there. Veera nibbled at the leaves and filed the different spices in her mind. A decent cook could do amazing things with this garden. It was too bad that her own cooking skills sucked.

Stanik approached. “I offer you all that I am.”

With that sentence, he stretched and shifted until he was a beast on all fours as tall as she was.

Get on my back. We are going for a run.

The practical invaded her thoughts.
Where did your suit go?

It is a discussion for later. Hop on.

He snuffled at her body, nosing her toward his back.

She grabbed handfuls of silky fur and hauled herself into place.

Ouch. That fur was attached, you know.

You could have knelt, you big baby.
She snickered as he started to move forward slowly, and as he picked up speed, she leaned down, burying her face against the silky black waves.

He was entirely black except for his eyes. They were the same smoky grey that sent her senses spinning when they were above her and he was inside her.

She watched his pointed ears as he flicked them, listening to his surroundings. He made it down the steps off the plateau, and the moment they were on even ground, he started to run.

Holding onto an apex predator that was sprinting across the landscape took a lot of coordination. Veera held on with all her muscles tensed until she caught the rhythm of the body beneath her.

The sunlight on his black fur brought the scent of his body to her with every lunge. He left the edge of the forest and moved through the trees.

She had to admit that he was being exceptionally careful, only going under trees that would allow her clearance. No branches slapped her as he moved through the forest.

Where are we going, Stanik?

To a waterfall that Balen showed me the first time I was here.

When were you here before?

Two weeks ago. I came to learn the terrain and get a briefing from the Sector Guard. They are excited to have you on call, by the way.

I am getting that inkling. Why didn’t you tell me all of this up front?

The link was non-negotiable. You needed it to function on worlds that could be fully populated. Your skill at picking out individuals is astounding, by the way. Few telepaths could even go twenty miles from their location, let alone across the stars.

Is it easier for you to talk to me like this?

Yes, this form has no subterfuge. When you shift, your mind shifts with you. Being honest with you is easiest when I have to depend on my sense of smell, hearing and sight. There is no space left for concealing my emotions.

I will remember that.

I believe I just handed you a weapon.

You did. Thank you, Stanik.
She ran her fingers through his fur, and he growled low.

The light streaming through the trees flickered as he made his way toward the sound of rushing water.

Veera sat up straight as his gait slowed into a rocking walk. The forest parted, and they were on the edge of a large lake fed by a waterfall that was forty-feet high.

“Oh my. It’s lovely.”

She felt pleasure in her mind. He felt pleasure that she was feeling pleasure. It was a funny circle. He paused, and she carefully dismounted.

He shook himself, and his fur fluffed out from the points at which she had flattened it. Stanik burst into motion, and he jumped into the lake, splashing and frolicking in the water.

Shaking her head, Veera took a seat on the rocky shore.

Join me, Veera.

I can’t. I can’t swim.

His shock came through their link, and she laughed.

He paddled around for a few minutes and then joined her on the edge of the lake. He shook violently, drenching her with cold water. She cried out, and he shook again.

He shifted back into his normal form, and she scowled at him. “You just had to do that, didn’t you?”

He grinned and sat next to her. “Why can’t you swim?”

“I never learned. We travelled so much by spacecraft that there was never time to spend on a world to learn how to swim.”

“Not even when you were a child?”

“We lived inland. No lakes nearby, no rivers, no large bodies of water at all.” She shrugged.

“Wow. I can’t imagine not having a cool lake to jump into on a hot day.”

She laughed and stroked his damp black hair. “We don’t all attract solar radiation like someone with dark hair does. It is one of the perks of having lighter hair.”

“I like your hair. It looks like dark honey.” He lifted a few strands and let them float down again.

She stretched her legs out and sighed. “Now, show me how to bring up a screen and tell me about your suit.”

“My suit is Masuo. Every time you have seen me dressed, I have been wearing it. It shifts with my needs and turns into a small band around my left ankle when I don’t need it.”

“What is Masuo?”

“It’s a plant hybrid that can be grown and embedded with technology if done by the right people. It is very handy for shifters or for those who attend a multitude of worlds where a wardrobe needs to be varied and appropriate at all times.”

“Nice. I am guessing that I don’t get one.”

He put an arm around her shoulders. “It might short out when you use your talent fully. That would leave you naked, and while I would enjoy it, you probably would not.”

She laughed. “No, I would not. Do you think the Citadel has a pool in it somewhere where I can learn to swim?”

“Why not learn here and now?”

She shivered. “I am hungry and my head aches. While I can reach across the stars, it seems that it is a little tiring.”

She felt him touching her thoughts, and she felt his shock.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were in pain?”

Veera laughed tiredly. “Because you were studiously trying not to touch my mind. I wanted to see if it would leak over to you casually or if my barrier was holding. Apparently, the casual veil I drew keeps me from oozing over into you when you are doing something else.”

He cupped her chin, and his mind soothed the aches and pains left by her exertion. “I am going to try to keep myself under control, but it was just such a rush to have more than my own mind in contact with me.”

BOOK: HeartbeatofSilence
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