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Authors: Viola Grace

Tags: #Adult, #Romance, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera

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BOOK: Arguing the Basics
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“Oh, excuse me.” She backed up against her seat, and he stepped clear before he extended his hand to her.

“Come along. We need to grab your bag and take the zip to Lowel.”

“The zip?”

“It is a transport method that will take us through space in a pod from Udell to Lowel. Lowel is a domed settlement. There is no atmosphere to land in. The zip was created as a tetherless connection that uses two beacons and an energy line for secure transport. It is being used in at least three other sites for planet-to-orbital body transport.”

She put her hand in his and followed him through the ship, retrieving their bags before leaving via the attached door, entering an intermediate chamber that pressurised before they stepped through once again.

Once they cleared the entry tunnel, a medical team greeted them.

“Ah. Right. I forgot that you were coming from a world with agricultural interests. You will need to go through decontamination procedures.”

She sighed. “Of course. I was warned about this; I just didn’t think about it.”

“I will wait for you.”

Koara smiled shyly. “Thank you, Ioko.”

The medical team bustled her into a decontamination unit, she peeled off her clothing at their direction, and the scans went over her from head to toe over and over until they were satisfied that they had expunged the foreign bodies.

The suit that they handed her was a new design, sleeveless with a slick skin. It set off her loose tumble of pink hair quite nicely.

“This suit is wonderful.”

The medic nearest to her grinned. “We have a designer on staff. She does wonderful work.”

The medic completed the reports and smiled. “We will send the rest of your clothing along when it has been certified decontaminated. We try to be a little gentler with items that can’t heal.”

Koara nodded. “So, can I go now?”

“You can. Battle Master Hanikada has been waiting for you. He will take you to the zip and, from there, to Lowel.”

Koara followed the direction the medic was pointing and left the chamber opposite the door she had entered.

Ioko smiled and closed down the data pad. “Are you ready?”

“Apparently.”

“Let’s go then.” He offered her his arm, and she took it, listening to his short tour of the hallways of the Sector Guard Base Udell.

The zip terminal was a little bit odd. A small, clear plexi pod was sitting in the centre of the room, pointed at a flat panel on the wall. The low railing that it rested on was the only indicator that it was designed to move.

The pod opened as they approached, and she noted the two seats.

“What if there are more than two people?”

“They have to take turns.” He grinned.

She took a seat in the pod, and he settled in the seat behind her. The top of the pod sealed; it pressurised and started forward.

“Do I have to do anything?”

“No. The zip will just take us through space at a rapid pace that no ship could match. Hold on and remember to breathe.”

The door opened, and the rails elevated toward the heavens; the pod followed the path. Speed increased, and soon, they were ejected toward the stars.

Koara forced herself to breathe as they hurtled faster and faster toward the other end of the line.

It could have been ten minutes or ten hours. All she knew was that by the time they arrived, her head was spinning from the overstimulation and she wanted to feel ground under her feet.

The dome had opened and closed in the instant the pod passed through it; they were finally at Citadel Lowel.

When the pod opened up, she filled her lungs with desperation. There had been plenty of air in the pod, but she still felt confined and suffocated.

Ioko got out and reached in to help her out. “It takes some getting used to.”

She shuddered and exited the vehicle. “I cannot see getting used to that kind of thing.”

“Next time, you can put on a breather and tank if it helps.”

Koara gave him a narrow-eyed look. “I just might.”

A woman with a baby in a sling against her chest and a white creature on her shoulder came forward with a smile. “Koara Ulings of Trimel?”

“I am.”

“I am Iara Hanikada, Citadel Master of Lowel.”

Koara smiled. “And who is this?”

“The Yaluthu on my shoulder is Harmony, and this is my son, Agren.”

Iara pulled the fabric away from her son, and his little, feline-tilted eyes blinked slowly while he studiously sucked his thumb.

“I am very pleased to meet you, Agren of Lowel. I am pleased to meet you as well, Harmony.” She inclined her head toward the baby and then the bird.

The baby smiled behind his tiny hand, and the bird chirped proudly, fluffing her small wings.

A shriek of attention-getting demand came from the doorway behind Iara.

Everyone turned to look at the irate, pink fluff ball that was hopping toward them at full tilt. Koara was going to step aside, but as she shifted, the creature changed her trajectory until she was at Koara’s feet.

Iara snickered. “I think she has been waiting for you.”

“What does it want?”

Ioko grinned. “The Yaluthu are symbiotic. She wants to bond with you.”

“How do I stop her?” Koara stepped back, and the pink bundle of fluff followed.

Iara chuckled. “I don’t know. There isn’t really a choice. She will bond to you and engage in psychic healing.”

“I don’t need healing. I am fine.”

“Well, we have you slated for physical training, so you might be glad she is there. You can pick her up or ignore her, but she is not going away.”

Five pairs of eyes were focused on her, and Koara had no idea what do to next.

 

Chapter Four

 

 

The moment that she came into contact with the silky-soft feathers and fur, she knew one thing without doubt, aside from the soft pink colouration and the bright blue eyes, the creature in her arms thought of himself as male.

“Sookar. His name is Sookar.” The bright mind touched hers and chortled silently. He had wanted his name spoken, and she had done it.

Iara shook her head. “Smudge will be happy that he found someone.”

“Who is Smudge?”

They began the journey into the base itself, and Koara waited for the answer.

Ioko sighed. “Smudge is Harmony’s parent. The Yaluthu are self-propagating. They go through a life cycle until they are ready to evolve, and as they prepare to go into their final form, they have their children then use their fully formed predator bodies to feed their young.”

Iara chuckled. “Nice to know you were paying attention, brother.”

“As if I had a choice. Between Harmony and Watch, my first niece and nephew from you and Rion had fur and feathers.”

Iara laughed out loud, and her baby snuffled. She soothed him and began the tour. “These are the gardens. Several horticultural talents are working on developing new and sustainable plant species, but others are just fooling around with shapes.”

Koara held Sookar carefully as he shifted to take a position with his back against her chest and himself facing outward. She cradled him carefully and swayed as she realised that the first foresight she had experienced on the shuttle was coming to fruition. She was both terrified and cheerful.

To her surprise, she looked down to see Sookar looking up at her with happiness in his gaze. She now knew where the cheer was coming from. He was just happy to be with her.

“You are so lucky that you match my hair, Sookar. If you didn’t look like you belonged to me, you would be walking.”

He chirped softly and sent her a calming wave.

“Knock it off or you are walking.”

He withdrew the mental influence. Well, he reduced it to a low simmer. She could still feel him; she just wasn’t overwhelmed by his influence.

She looked up to see Iara explaining how to use the commissary.

Paying attention was definitely a better idea than negotiating with a fluff ball.

There would be time to work on emotional supremacy later.

 

As the Citadel Master, Iara could and did assign Koara to a workout regimen and a lecture schedule. She was going to become a fully trained member of the Citadel, and she was going to earn her keep.

Koara smiled and felt a small curl of pride as she realised that she was passing from being a kept pet of Trimel to a self-sufficient member of the Citadel. If she couldn’t have her home world, she would make a place for herself here.

Sookar chirped at her from his bed at the foot of her bed, and she snorted. “Yes, I saw the little stairs. It isn’t a miracle that you got up there, you little twit.”

He ruffled his pink feathers and settled down in a mild huff.

She turned back to the com unit and checked her schedule. Her first combat tutorial was to begin in half an hour. She had better get moving.

Iara’s assistant had delivered her bag from the station, so she dug a workout suit out of the fabric and changed into what she considered a suitable piece of clothing for having her butt kicked.

“Are you coming?” She put her hair up in a long tail and arched her brows at Sookar.

He chirped and flapped his stubby wings. She took the hint and scooped him up, setting him on her shoulder and waiting until he had his balance.

Whistling softly, she made her way to the gym and the workout mats where she was to meet her instructor. Tether was supposed to be there, all three eyes ready to analyse her moves and the rest of him ready to flip her around.

She waited in the gym for ten minutes, and when Tether didn’t show, she sighed and scooped Sookar up to leave.

Ioko walked in and headed toward her. “Tether sends his apologies. He has been delayed.”

She looked at Sookar and then at Ioko. “I am supposed to start learning physical skills.”

He smiled and took Sookar out of her arms. “And you shall. Let’s begin.”

“You are going to teach me?”

“I am going to help you begin. The Kozue are warriors before they are anything else. Let’s get you started, little warrior.”

He led her to the centre of the mat and used his hands to show her the proper stance.

It was the beginning of a very long hour. Despite his cheerful smile, he did not pull any of his punches as he taught her how to begin to defend herself.

After her last flip, she lay groaning on the floor. Ioko stepped toward her, and she lashed out with her foot, striking his knee and knocking him to the ground.

He landed a few feet away, but he bounded back to his feet immediately. “Well done, Koara. I believe you are done for the day.”

She rolled to her side and pushed up, feeling every twist, fall and contact strike under her skin. “I believe you are right.”

She got to her feet and swayed. “I think I need a dinner and a hot shower.”

“I will help you with the first, but the second portion, you are on your own.” He helped her to the edge of the mat as if he wasn’t the one who had been knocking her to the floor for an hour.

Sookar hopped over to her, and she scooped him up; the pain in her body immediately eased.

“Oh, that is what she meant.” Koara chuckled as her new companion snuggled against her. She could almost feel the bruising fade and the swelling subside.

“The Yaluthu can take quite a bit of your pain, but you need to remember that they don’t just ease it, they take it inside them and process it for you. If you are badly injured, only let Sookar near you for short increments. For training, cuddling with him should be fine.”

She looked down at Sookar, and he blinked up at her with those beautiful blue eyes, chirping with determination. He was confident he could heal any damage she incurred.

Koara understood in a rush. “I am going on field assignments.”

Ioko chuckled. “Of course. You need to see a society before you can direct it. Reading reports are so subjective. You need to live as they do, see them and understand what they need.”

“And I need to defend myself in case things go badly.”

“Correct. And now, you need a meal. Sookar’s job will be easier if he has fuel to build you new muscles.” Ioko smirked.

She walked with him through the halls toward the dining area. Her tired feet picked up the pace when the scent of food crept into her nostrils.

“I thought you would be returning to the Kozue.”

He shrugged. “I will be. Visiting my family is a perfectly acceptable thing to do between missions.”

“How old is Agren?”

“Three months.”

She finally asked a question that had been hopping in her mind since she met Iara. “How is it that your sister is a talent? I thought Kozue didn’t have talents.”

He made a face. “We normally don’t. Iara had the ability to calm things from an early age. Our parents did something unthinkable. They sold her to a king who used her as a bodyguard but educated her as best as he could. When he was dying, he sent her to Thoola. From there, she entered the Citadel, and here she is.”

“Who is the baby’s father?”

“Rion. He is a member of the Udell Sector Guard. He goes where he is assigned, but he always comes home as quickly as he can.”

There was something in his expression that told a story his lips weren’t mentioning.

“Your family watches out for him when they can, don’t they?”

He looked at her with surprise in his eyes. “You really are an excellent analyst.”

“It is a weird talent, but it is mine.”

Ioko helped her assemble her meal, so she was able to keep her grip on Sookar. He settled her at a table and headed off to get his own food.

They settled in, and she looked at the seed packet he had included on her tray. With a smile, she opened the packet and held it for Sookar with her left hand while her right wielded the utensils in turn as she ate her meal.

Sookar ate happily and sent her an image of a puddle when he wanted water. She lowered her cup, and he drank quickly. When he was done, she put her water glass back on the table and continued her meal.

Ioko returned, and he nodded with an impressed expression at the dent she had made in her meal.

“You are quite hungry.”

She chuckled. “Working class. I eat when I can. My muscles may not be great for combat, but they do a wonderful job in my daily life, and they need support.”

BOOK: Arguing the Basics
4.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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