Authors: Bevan Greer
Tags: #Science Fiction Romance
BY BEVAN GREER
Avenge his homeworld, or save the enemy he’s come to love?
Naria Nightwalk has always felt out of place in the shadowy world to which she was born. Contrary to the way of life in Dark World, she dislikes causing pain—a tribute to her mother’s Offworlder blood rather than her father’s demon heritage. Needing to fit in somewhere, somehow, she knows that her survival depends on escaping the planet.
The moment she spies the light-haired captive in her father’s prison, she feels an unfamiliar excitement. The prisoner has not only survived his torture, he’s rebuffed her father’s powerful mental attacks—this prisoner may very well be the ticket to escaping her miserable existence.
Jace A’rel, captain of the recently captured pirate vessel, has no intention of remaining anyone’s prisoner. He’s on a mission to destroy the Cazeth, an evil that enslaved his planet, Mystique, years ago. Mystique is a sentient world, and as much a myth as her people, the Psi. Only those invited to the planet may visit. Jace has been honing his psionic abilities in secret for years, waiting to be called back to Mystique in hopes of saving it.
Neither Jace nor Naria can guess what fate has in store for them, and the mysterious space pirate and misfit Dark Worlder find they have more in common than they might ever have believed…
OTHER TITLES BY BEVAN GREER
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and plot points stem from the writer’s imagination. They are fictitious and not to be interpreted as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locations or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © April 2015 by Bevan Greer
Cover by Syneca of Original Syn
All Rights Are Reserved. None of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without express written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations used for reviews or promotion.
Table of Contents
Pith, Year 4043
In the quiet of the tavern’s dark corner, they sat across from each other at a small, scarred wooden table. Large Meklen warriors armed with rifles and Ziwi-steel blades surrounded the small space, seated at regular intervals around them.
“I don’t quite understand something here.” Beltor, the Meklen’s captain, eyed the tall blond male seated across from him with concern. Something about the space pirate made him distinctly uneasy. He studied the man’s firm mouth and unblinking black eyes. Seeing those eyes, Beltor did his best not to cringe, confirming the cause of his discomfort. The blond didn’t blink, and an odd source of power seemed to live in that stare.
No matter how stupid Beltor felt thinking it, he knew what he felt to be true.
“You’re wanting information on the Cazeth, a race that doesn’t even exist, and you’re willing to pay ten thousand beks for it?” At the pirate’s nod, Beltor belched and scratched his head. “Well, it’s your currency.”
“But I want to see the beks up front.”
The pirate reached inside his jacket, and under the watchful gaze of Beltor’s formidable warriors, withdrew a credit slip and tossed it across the table. Beltor ran the slip through a small device attached to his belt, nodding at the confirming buzz.
“Fine then. The Cazeth, according to my father’s people, have been around for at least a thousand cycles. Mind you, friend, these are just rumors,” Beltor warned, concerned the pirate might demand proof of the mythical beings. Or worse, demand his money back.
“Continue.” The pirate’s deep voice was a soothing timbre at odds with the dangerous gleam in his eyes.
“Aye, well…” Beltor paused to take a large drink of ale. “The Cazeth are rumored to be demon creatures, no human left in them. My father used to tell me they were men transformed by a black void beyond the System for their evil deeds.”
A chuckle from one of his men disgruntled him. He glared at the offender, and seeing his displeasure, his man subsided.
Beltor resumed his tale, confident the threat of a few lashes would erase any future amusement from his men. Though he agreed with them that tales of the Cazeth were foolish, he didn’t want to ruffle the pirate’s feelings and jeopardize such a substantial payment.
He continued, “They’re rumored to come from a number of places. Some say they secretly reside on Seven during the dark cycles. Others mention a wormhole around Dark World, while others tell of a thirteenth Nearworld planet that no one can find. Some even say they ravage planets and are capable of more destruction than the Ragil Horde ever were. As if you could believe that.”
To his dismay, he saw no reaction on the pirate’s face. In his brief conversation with the fellow, Beltor had yet to learn a thing about the man other than that the pirate’s black eyes glittered like deep space. Annoyed, he motioned for one of his men to refill his tankard, not pleased when the man across from him declined an offer of drink.
A refusal of simple courtesy didn’t bode well. Even thieves and murders had a code when doing business.
“Have you any knowledge of their whereabouts today?” the pirate asked, his voice like a melody Beltor had once overheard while enslaving a ship of operatic masters.
He shook his head. “I tell you, the Cazeth aren’t real. I’ve never in my life seen winged demons of blackened flesh and blood-red eyes. In my experience, nothing is indestructible. Really man, if the Cazeth were real, what chance would any of us have of existing? What would stop them from taking over the System, and our Nearworlds at that?” Beltor scoffed and swallowed another mouthful of ale.
A commotion to his right drew his attention. A large-framed man wearing indistinct space clothing muscled past two of Beltor’s warriors trying to dissuade him—an impressive feat for a non-Meklen.
“He’s with me,” the pirate said.
“Figured as much,” Beltor muttered under his breath and stared at his audience of one. “Cap’n, I got a feeling you’re nothing but trouble.” He tried to stare the fool down, but his sudden bravado faded as soon as it had come. A deep feeling of dread welled within him. When he tore his gaze from the pirate and immediately felt better, he decided to focus on the new man.
He had the look of the Bylaran about him and seemed somehow familiar. Dark haired, heavily muscled, the look of a man who knew his way with death… When Beltor saw the signature blade at his side, the bastard’s identity snapped into place.
He stood in a fury and bellowed, “You would
bring a Legionnaire here, and a Stalker at that?”
The space pirate stood slowly, reluctantly. “And things were going so smoothly.” He whipped out a phaser.
The dim tavern lit up as weapon fire blazed through the stale air. Screams of pain, anger, and vengeance echoed in the emptying bar.
“Sorry, Jace,” the Legionnaire apologized as he rolled and returned fire from behind a fallen table.
“Not now, Castor. We’ll talk about this later.” The space pirate—Jace—fired his phaser with lightning speed. An almost inhuman speed.
Beltor swore. Talk about his day going downhill fast. Castor Nizbe—former Legionnaire, elite Stalker, and second-in-command to Garen Vinopol—War Master of the Bylaran kingdom of Vinopol. Which made his companion…
Beltor shoved past his men and yelled for them to follow. Jace could only be the new captain of the
, a ship that was known as the scourge of the System. They looted, killed, and robbed anything not nailed down. And they had little tolerance for slavers.
Knowing he needed to get gone before Jace and Castor killed him and his men, he made a break for it, never so happy to see his ship—or his backup—in his life. He patted his waist and realized his bek collector had gone missing. He swore, long and loud. Jace and his misgotten demon of a Legionnaire thought to rob him?
Like the seven hels they would.
Jace said nothing as he cleared a path for them to leave the tavern. He’d been so close, so near information too long denied him. The Cazeth—his hated enemy—lived and breathed, whether anyone else in the System believed it or not. He’d witnessed the destruction they wrought firsthand and knew evil as it stared him in the eye. If only he could find some way to defeat them.
He swore under his breath as three Meklens not smart enough to follow their leader threw Castor against the wall, appearing out of nowhere. Confident that no one would notice his intrusion, Jace telekinetically shoved one Meklen against another, entangling their limbs and making them fall. Castor readily disposed of his third assailant, pocketed the bek collector Jace had surreptitiously stolen from Beltor then dropped, and then raced with Jace out the door.
“Clumsy bastards.” Castor ducked under a phaser blast.
“Come on, we’ve no time to waste.” Jace looked to his left and saw Beltor gesturing to a squad of Meklens in a frenzy. Within moments, the Meklens would be racing down the alley toward the back exit. Speeding for their shuttle, Castor and Jace quickly departed Pith and its drunken inhabitants, a fury of Meklen warriors hot on their tail.
The Nearworld System, one month later
“We aren’t going to make it if we don’t get out of here,” Nesham said quietly, seemingly unconcerned that despite his piloting skills, the ship was about to be blasted into the far reaches of space.
“By the Dark World, Jace,” Castor, second-in-command of the
, swore. “I told you those Meklens would be nothing but trouble.”
Jace A’rel, captain of the
, opened his mouth to respond and barely managed to avoid falling into the control panel as another laser blast hit the side of his ship. He swore loudly in several languages, then ordered Nesham to head toward Dark World.
“You’re kidding, right?” Koneru asked, his eyes wide. Normally the good-natured Rovi remained unruffled, catching him off-guard an almost impossible feat. If not for the severity of their situation, Jace would have laughed. Koneru stood heads taller than Jace, possessed thick, gray skin and a strength much prized in the System. He could literally rip people, metal, even stones in half. And even he knew better than to enter Dark World.
“No, I’m not kidding. Nesham, hurry it up,” Jace growled. “We can’t take much more abuse from these idiot Meklen rebels.”
If the Meklens had even one person with half a brain on board the vessels chasing them, Jace could have used his secret mental abilities to avoid this battle. But the Meklens were known more for their violence and strong-arm tactics than for their intelligence, and Jace’s charms hadn’t been able to save his crew from this unfair fight.
“What did you say to them on Pith to set them against us, anyway?” Castor grimaced and rubbed his head as he regained his balance from another shuddering blow to the ship. “I thought your work on that planet had been to gather information?”
“It was until you showed up and ruined things.” Jace glared at Castor’s now-apologetic face. Angered more at himself than his Second, Jace tried to contain his rage by speaking in calm, precise words. “For the past ten years I’ve been a successful purveyor of goods.”
“You mean pirate,” Koneru muttered then moved away when Jace turned that glare on him.
Jace faced Castor and continued, “You only joined the crew last year. Unfortunately for us, your reputation as a System lawman, a helspawn
, precedes you.”
Castor backed toward the exit of the control room. “I, ah, think I’ll go join Mikhel in the back.”
“Great idea.” Jace watched as Koneru fired the ship’s small store of weaponry back at the Meklen warships. The
had been built for stealth and speed, not for battle. They could have easily evaded their pursuers if the Meklens hadn’t taken them by surprise, blasting the hyperdrive beyond simple repair.