Some of you might have already read this in the back of Dorian and Gwen's story, THE SIREN'S CALL. If you haven't, this is the latest version in the raw sans editing. Enjoy the preview.
Chapter 1Chiang walked into the Liberator’s main conference room, saw Boca sitting beside Ania, and immediately went to sit in the vacant seat beside her. Glancing around the room, he didn’t see the captain. Perhaps he could get to the bottom of his greater concerns before the meeting began.
“Where were you last night? And how did you manage to stay one step ahead of where the computer said you were?” he demanded, leaning sideways to whisper his question. “I tried to find you to apologize.”
“No apology is needed. Nor have I requested one,” Boca said, staring straight ahead across the table.
“That does not change the fact that I behaved poorly. I interrupted your training with the ensigns, perhaps embarrassed you. Boca, will you at least look at me while I’m groveling?” Chiang ordered, his voice rising on the final complaint.
The room went silent in surprise at Chiang’s raised voice, everyone’s gaze turning to them. Boca lifted her chin, trying not to be mortified by all the attention.
“Your emotional state is not my concern,” she declared, hissing the words. “Now be at peace and let me do the same.”
Chiang drew in a frustrated breath and swore in his native Greggor tongue as he turned sideways in his seat to face her more fully. Just as he was about to demand a full explanation about her avoidance of him, the door opened to let in both Captain Synar and Malachi.
The demon came immediately to the empty seat on the other side of him and had the audacity to return his frustrated glare with a only a respectful nod. Chiang hated that the demon so thoroughly enjoyed his conflict with the stubborn Sumerian female.
“Our discussion is not over,” Chiang warned in a whisper, before facing forward to listen to Synar. He saw Boca glance at him briefly and swallow hard.
“Good. No one had conflicts today I see, not that I would have allowed any to prevent this meeting,” Synar said, his tone full of sarcasm, but he didn’t care. “This discussion is long overdue, and implementing my requests will take some time. So here’s what I’ve been waiting over a week now to inform you. No one—and I mean no one—is leaving the Liberator on any mission again until new tracking measures have been put into place.”
“Captain? I detect some very strong emotion in that order. Are you angry with our performance?” Gwen asked.
“Angry? No, not angry. Just finally exercising my right to change some things and run the Liberator as I see fit.” Synar pressed the com button firmly, looking at the group as he spoke. “Audio recording requested for this assembly. Grant general access to data. Record and distribute to all participants in the room at this time. Use visual scanning to determine full list.”
“Recording on. Visual scan commencing,” the computer responded.
Synar stood so he could walk around the table.
“After having three high ranking crew members and a guest on the Liberator captured, and some right off my own ship, I’ve decided changes are required. Up to now, I haven’t been much more than just the person who sets our course and arranges missions,” he said. “You are hereby put on notice that going forward I plan to be the person who makes the rules.”
“Again I ask, with all due respect Captain Synar, what the hell has got your shorts so twisted concerning us?” Gwen demanded.
“Despite your irreverent tone, that is a good question, Commander. For starters, I’m tired of my crew getting abducted,” Synar said. “We lost a crew member on Lotharius during the last mission there, which will not happen again if I can prevent it. In fact, we’ve spent more time recovering our own crew than abducted officials for several missions now.”
He turned his full attention to Ania. “Peace Keeper Looren, I let you talk me into going with Commander Jet on the Terris Rein mission without Malachi, convincing myself your Khalsa training would protect you, which it might have had you not been rendered and kept unconscious. My instincts were screaming at the time that it was a mistake, but did I honor my intuition? No I did not. I think we both know why—as does every other person in this room.”
“Do not blame yourself. I did not foresee my abduction either,” Ania said, trying not sound defensive. She still did not fully understand how she had been caught so totally off-guard.
“My point exactly—neither of us did. Dorian was unavailable. Gwen’s intuition was still not fully developed. From now on, Malachi will always accompany you, either in your body or as mist. Is that clear, Peace Keeper Looren? This is your captain speaking, not your mate,” Synar said for clarification, pointing to the com. “This order is being entered into the official record.”
“Aye—your commands are clear,” Ania conceded, mostly ignoring Liam’s attempt to use his authority. Both of them knew she was not an official crew member.
Technically, as Malachi’s host, Ania wasn’t a independent entity at all. Even her own planet had declared her dead. But she could see her ‘captain’ was as determined as her mate to have his way with her.
“Keep in mind that my capture was because they wanted the demon, not me,” Ania stated flatly. “Malachi’s presence may or may not have made a difference in that particular case.”
“This decision is not open for further debate. Malachi will accompany you on all future missions,” Synar repeated slowly and carefully.
Ania lifted a hand in surrender when she saw fighting would gain nothing.
Synar nodded at her gesture. “Good. Now for the next issue.” He paced down the table and away from the female who was always distracting to him.
“Having crew members abducted is bad enough, but not being able to locate a captured crew member is unacceptable. Boca Ador served as a senior medic at a facility that placed Sumerian agents in covert places. She and I have consulted about some alternatives that would make crew members traceable with a handheld device at planet ground level even when ID scanners on ships cannot find you. I’ll let her explain how it works.”
When all gazes swung to Boca expectantly, she swallowed against the tightness in her throat and lifted her chin. “There is an ink made from the Andrius plant that puts off a distinct and traceable biological signature that a handheld scanner can easily find. Sumerian agents often draw a design in this ink on their bodies, which looks like a normal adornment. When ID chips are scrambled or even removed, the ink allows the agents to be found anyway.”
Gwen laughed. “So what are you suggesting, Boca? We’re all supposed to get tattoos using this ink?”
“Tattoos?” Boca repeated, looking at Chiang in confusion.
Chiang calmly stood and pulled off his doctor’s tunic, turning his back to show Boca the markings on his shoulder. “A tattoo is just the Earthling word for this kind of body adornment. Mine is my Greggor family’s marking.”
Boca’s gaze fixed itself initially to the intricate design of the mark on Chiang’s shoulder, but she couldn’t prevent it from following the smooth skin down over the rest of his impressive back. When Chiang turned back to face her, his gaze holding hers to see if she understood, Boca had to swallow nervously again. She wrenched her gaze from his body when he tugged his shirt back on.
But the damage was already done.
Rampant unchecked desire to be with Chiang the Greggor was not unfamiliar to her now, but it was still unwanted. Her knees trembled and she pressed them tightly together to stop them. If he would have reached for her, she’d have crawled into his lap even with everyone watching. Her programming had already started to encode him on her energy. She was already tuning herself to him, involuntarily maybe, but it was happening nonetheless.
Boca had to clear her throat to speak again. Ironically, the gazes of others in the room no longer unnerved her. All could she think of was running her hands over the Greggor’s back and listening to him moan. Her husky voice betrayed her arousal when she finally spoke.
“The design need not be as large as Chiang’s family mark or cover so much area of the body,” Boca said, holding up her hand to Gwen and circling her palm. “This much is all that is needed. We will concentrate the ink in small designs for maximum effect and to be the least noticed as an adornment.”
Gwen turned and smiled at the incredibly handsome male at her side. “Looks like we’re getting tattoos, Zade. Can we get matching ones? I vote for kickass dragons.”
“Fictional Earth creatures do not appeal to me. Pick something alluring. Or perhaps symbolic of your beliefs,” Dorian ordered softly.
Gwen laughed at her mate’s order, promptly deciding she would talk her mate into the dragon tattoos later, when they were alone and she could have her wicked way with him until he agreed.
“So, Synar, I assume you want us all to get these marks?” Gwen asked, working hard not to smile.
“No one is leaving the Liberator again for a mission without a ‘tattoo’ in this ink,” Synar agreed, using Gwen’s word for the mark. “Not even Malachi.”
Malachi shrugged and smiled at the others in the room who looked at him in surprise. “For clarification, what our captain means is that my host body has to have a way to be found as well. I quite agree with him.”
“I thought you were invincible,” Chiang challenged.
“Energetically, that is a profound truth. Certainly not much can block me, or stop me, but there are metals like Ceruse that seem impervious to my energy. I would explain, but the physics are boring, and likely beyond the ability of most in this room to comprehend. You will just have to take my word for it Doctor, that to protect my hosts I would as gladly allow the mark applied to this body as well as to Ania Looren’s,” Malachi said, trying hard to sound patient, no matter how much Chiang’s derision was an irritation.
“Everyone that leaves the ship will be marked. This is non-negotiable. Pick a design and submit it to Medical by tomorrow. The ink arrives Friday on the supply ship,” Synar ordered.
“Any other decrees you want to drop on us today?” Gwen asked, grinning at her superior, mostly because he was acting more like one than usual.
“I have two more pieces of general information to share. The first is that a new Lieutenant will be joining us soon. Her expertise is in tracking which I deliberately sought. More about that after she signs her contract to serve on the Liberator. She was unavailable for general com interview, so you'll meet her when I do. The lieutenant is currently on the crew of the Paladin.”
Synar paused and looked between Chiang and Boca.
“The second and more important issue concerns our upcoming return mission to Lotharius,” he said softly. “Ensign Ador has asked that Ensign Karr be considered to accompany her on the mission as her owner mate. I am taking her request under advisement, along with all others that have been made.”
There was a moment when Chiang’s angry gaze fell on her that Boca felt a panic attack rising. She met Ania’s gaze across the table and watched her bow her head, showing respect for her decision in the matter.
“That’s all for now,” Synar said, hoping to defuse the situation before his new doctor ended up making a professional fool of himself. He looked at Dorian for support, but his counselor only shook his head. “The mission will commence near the end of next week. Our team will go in as soon as we get word the second ship is almost at the rendezvous point.”
As everyone stood to leave, Chiang turned to Boca. “It was decided. I am to accompany you as your mate. Why have you asked for this change?”
Boca lifted her chin. “I talked with the captain about the growing complications of our—situation—especially considering your intense reaction to my training. Ensign Karr shows no remorse in his interactions with me.”
“That young male is not going with you,” Chiang whispered, towering over her as they both stood. “I meant what I said, Boca. No one is going to control you. But if you must have a temporary torturer, then by the Creators, it’s going to be me.”
“I believe that is a professional decision for the Captain to decide,” Boca stated, hiding her trembling hands in the pockets of her Medical smock. Defiance was still very hard for her, but especially with this male. Her desire for him weakened her. “Now I must meet Lieutenant Zade for meditation practice. Excuse me, Doctor.”
“You can run for now, but this discussion is not over,” Chiang told her firmly as she turned to leave.
“Of course not,” Boca replied as confidently as she could. “Captain Synar hasn’t made his decision yet. Now I really must go.”
Chiang’s hands fisted at his side as he watched Boca flee, on the heels of Gwen and Zade. The masculine laugh near his ear had his hot gaze swinging to the male who owned it.
“Watching you and the lovely ensign fight your mating is nearly as entertaining as seducing her would have been,” Malachi commented. “She’s a determined female. And I do believe she is quite angry with you.”
“Didn’t she tell you about Sumerian females, demon?” Chiang asked, his tone flat and hard. “They can’t be seduced.”
“Boca lies to protect herself,” Malachi said with a grin, slapping Chiang hard on the arm and earning a searing glare. “But then, you already know that for a fact, don’t you? You both carry images of each other which are quite stimulating to the rest of the intuitives on this ship.”
Chiang took two cleansing breaths wondering what would happen if he punched the smirking demon just once, really hard. It probably wouldn’t hurt the foul mist he was, and then he’d also have to hear all the whining about the damage to the host body. Or worse—he might have to fix it.
“As much as I find your anger appeases my irritation that the lovely Boca is not meant for me, I have to ask you to set aside your possessive mate inclinations for the moment, Doctor. I wish to discuss the possibility of serving on your Medical team. Liam—I mean, Captain Synar—has given me permission to ask. To start my service, I could easily apply the tracking marks, even the dragons our adorable Earthling commander is secretly hoping to talk Lieutenant Zade into getting,” Malachi said, bowing his head to the Greggor male still fuming. “I didn’t mean to look at the images in Gwen’s head either, but she was so excited, I couldn’t resist.”
“Sounds great. Having you in Medical will ensure I always know what the Helios you’re doing. I expect you to commit to no mind reading as a condition, and I assure you that I will come up with many creative tortures to incapacitate that beloved host body of yours if you don’t behave yourself under my command,” Chiang said.
“Kinky—and very appealing since it’s been a while for me since I was properly punished as I am sure you are well trained in how to do. But I prefer females, so I must decline your offer of bodily torture,” Malachi said. “I assume behaving myself also includes stopping all attempts to seduce the delectable Sumerian you consider yours already.”
“You start work for me tomorrow,” Chiang said roughly, ignoring the comment about Boca being his, choosing to glare his agreement instead. “Your stasis unit is arriving on the Paladin which will meet us at the rendezvous point. If Captain Synar agrees, you can fly over with Zade to retrieve the unit, as well as our new Lieutenant. On your return, you can spend the required time setting it up. I’ll connect it to the Medical analysis system afterwards. We’ll do the testing as soon as it is functional.”
“As you wish, Doctor,” Malachi said, bowing his head again. “Thank you for agreeing to my request. You will find me an obedient medic.”
Not bothering to offer respect, Chiang turned abruptly and left, heading out of the conference room door to the nearest com port not in hearing distance. He wanted to know where Boca kept hiding and would enlist the entire Medical staff to help find her if needed, including the cursed demon who would no doubt enjoy the task.
The angry Greggor slamming the conference room door made Malachi laugh again. He turned to see Liam and Ania standing, arms crossed, both glaring at him. He couldn’t fight the additional laughter welling up inside at their matching irritation over his argument with Chiang.
Humor was such an odd sensation in a corporeal body, Malachi decided. Normally, he only experienced such things at the mercy of his host’s senses. He was still getting used to feeling his own amusement again after so many years of not doing so. And Conor’s body wasn’t used to feeling mirth, so he was double challenged.
“What are you two angry about now? Chiang the Greggor said yes to my offer,” he protested. “I will serve him well. I gave you both my word and swore by the Creators.”
Malachi couldn’t help laughing more when both his keepers rolled their eyes.