Tags: #Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Table of Contents
Forced to retire, Jiska must leave her world to ratify a treaty by partnering with a man who sees the truth in everything.
Jiska has grown up as her people’s fiercest general. When peace breaks out, she is reassigned to Citadel Lowel and given a partner who needs a bodyguard. After a few minutes in his presence, she knows why. She is assigned to protect him, even if she wants to kill him.
Deskin is a Negotiator specializing in hostage situations. He needs a bodyguard to watch his back while he plies his trade, and General Jiska Irthano is far more than he could hope for.
Jiska has grown up denying her needs from clothing and shelter to companionship and love. The Citadel offers a solution to her denial in every category.
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Light of Battle
Copyright © 2013 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Light of Battle
Tales of the Citadel book 16
Jiska was six when the recruiters arrived at her home.
Her parents answered the door and stared at the seeker who led the military men to their door. “Yes, what can we do for you, Seeker?”
The seeker frowned. “I am here because you have a warrior in your home, and we require that warrior for training. You know that the draft is on and refusal to hand over fighters is a punishable offense.”
Her mother was confused. Jiska could see it from her perch on the stairs. “I don’t understand, Seeker. We don’t have a warrior here.”
“I can smell the fighter here. Allow us entrance, or go to prison.” The seeker exhaled and inhaled again sharply. “I am correct. The fighter is here.”
Her parents looked at each other and stood aside as the long-nosed seeker came into their home. The recruiters that followed kept her parents from interceding as the seeker sniffed and explored the main floor before heading up the stairs.
Jiska looked into the man’s dark brown eyes and nodded. “Hello.”
He paused and jerked back before sniffing again. “Hello. How old are you child?”
“I am six this month. I just had my birthday.” She sat very still. The man seemed jumpy.
“Your government needs you, child. Will you come with me?” He held out his hand.
Her mother gasped and her father held her tight, keeping her from running to Jiska or touching the recruiters.
“Will you leave my mom and dad alone?” Jiska narrowed her eyes.
The seeker paused and nodded. “We will leave them unharmed. I promise you.”
“Good. They didn’t know what I was.” She got to her feet and took the strange man’s hand.
He seemed surprised. “You did?”
Jiska looked at the man with the long, pointed nose and nodded her head. “Of course I did. I have to be careful when I play. The other kids aren’t as good at fighting as I am.”
He led her down the stairs, and she reached out to her mother. “I will be fine, Mom. Don’t worry.”
The seeker cleared his throat. “You can visit the training centre anytime you wish. She is so young that it will be years before she enters battle.”
Jiska looked at him and smiled. “I am glad you think so, but darkness is coming, and I am the light.”
She was put back on the ground, and the seeker took her hand to lead her out to the transport. When she looked back at her parents, her mother had tears running down her face and her father looked ill. The recruiters looked at each other as if they couldn’t believe what they had found, but Jiska knew the truth. They needed her to be the best fighter in the security force. She was going to be the best.
* * * *
“General Irthano, you are the best that the Urgat species has to offer, and your military record is exemplary.” The administrator in the centre of the judiciary panel looked nervous.
Jiska kept her eyes forward and her expression blank. She was the final member of the security force being dismissed, and once she was gone, the peaceful world that had come to treaties after decades of bloodshed would be able to pretend that she—and the other warriors—never existed.
“With the breakout of peace, I am sure that you understand why we cannot retain a military force in our cities.” The man was sweating, but the room was cool.
“What is to be done with me?” She remained at attention, her limbs straight and head high.
“We have made an effort to place our military with other colonies and the Alliance. They were interested in you, and you are being assigned to Citadel Lowel.” He brusquely moved his data pad and the judiciary watched her for any signs of attack.
She nodded her head. “I realize that this will be struck from the record the moment I leave this room, but I have served the government of Urgat to the highest of my ability for the last fifteen years. I am pleased to see peace in my lifetime, but I know that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Sending the military away and pretending that we were never here, never acted on your orders, is the height of hubris. When the next uprising happens, and there will be one, who will you turn to when there are no more children to train?”
She saluted the panel, turned on her heel and strode out of the room with slow, measured steps. Outside the judiciary, she relaxed her posture slightly but kept walking to her quarters. She closed the door and leaned heavily against it, looking at the remains of her life in service. Her rooms were sparse, spare and had no personal effects.
With shaking hands, she pulled off the uniform that she had worn with pride. Her civilian clothing hung in her wardrobe, and she pulled on the dress that her mother had gifted her with on her last birthday.
Jiska let her hair down and put on a jewelled clip that kept the strands from her face. She confirmed that she looked like any other woman in the city by turning front and back. As a final measure, she packed her bag and had it ready for her departure from her world. First thing was first. She wanted to talk to her mother.
Jelura Irthano met her at the door, her smile wide. “Come in, Jiska.”
Jiska smelled cookies, and as always happened she was a child again the moment that she sat at her mother’s table.
“Why the long face, baby?” Her mother had always remained true to her, no matter what the government turned her into. Her father had run off by the time Jiska was ten. He couldn’t handle the news reports with his little girl commanding armed forces.
“I am done. It’s over. They are trying to make the entire security detachment go away. Half of my men have already been transferred off world, and the others are just waiting for a berth on the next transport. I am nothing now.” She propped her chin on her fists and scowled.
Her mother stroked her hair. “You are not nothing. You are the youngest general in the history of Urgat. You have the highest commendations and the highest suppression rate with lowest kill ratio. And you have the prettiest hair.” Jelura chuckled and held out a plate. “Cookie?”
Jiska laughed and took a cookie. “You knew.”
“They ran it on the news vids. Your decommissioning was the final step to ratify the treaty with the Neccial. We are now officially at peace, thanks to you.”
She munched her cookie and frowned. “It still leaves me with nothing. All that work to build peace and now…”
“Peace has been achieved. It isn’t about you. It is about our world moving forward.”
Her mother poured tea and sat next to her, her hand on Jiska’s wrist. “You frightened them into sense.”
Jiska sighed and sipped at her tea, gripping her mother’s hand. “But what will happen when I am gone?”
For once, her mother had no answer.
The talk with her mother had eased some of her upset. Jelura had promised to keep in touch with Jiska no matter where the government sent her. Knowing that her mother was willing to pester the government was heartwarming to her jaded spirit.
Jiska waited on the tarmac with her duffel bag. Dawn was just beginning to creep over the hills, the smaller of the two suns pulling the larger in its wake. From the bright light of the sun, a shuttle appeared, and it grew larger with soul-shattering speed.
From the side of the tarmac, Jiska heard a sharp whistle. She turned, and her heart stuttered in her chest as fifty of her troops stood at attention in their civilian clothing.
The shuttle landed, and their stabilizers blew her hair around her in a wild halo. A door opened in the shuttle, and a man in a bodysuit came out, with a hand raised. “Jiska Irthano? I am are here to take you to the base.”
“I will be there in a moment.”
She turned and saluted the men and women who were there to see her off. They saluted her and moved as one, turning left and marching in step off the tarmac. Smiling, she headed for the shuttle and stowed her bag in the locker that her companion showed her.
She was in a seat and strapped in in under a minute.
The man who had called for her looked at her in surprise. “That was quick.”
She shrugged. “No time like the moment. Do you want to fly, or shall I?”
He took the hint and sealed the ship, lifting off the moment he got clearance.
She watched the controls and his handling of them. He had a light touch, which was to be desired on a ship with complicated mechanisms.
He spoke before she did. “So, what is your talent?”
She chuckled. “Don’t you know? I thought it would be common knowledge, considering my placement with the Citadel.”
He shook his head. “No. I didn’t inquire. I thought I would ask you. I know it is battle related, but that is it.”
“I am keyed to battle. When I activate my talent, I will continue to fight until I win. There is more to it, but that is the basic description.” She nodded. “Who are you?”
“Hostage Negotiator, Deskin Fewnor. I believe that you will be assigned as my bodyguard.” He smiled, and she took in his form with more interest.
He was perfect. There was not one flaw in him from his pointed ears, sharp teeth, dark hair, dark brows and eyes to his even skin and heavy jawline. He was definitely masculine, had a strong physique and his hands showed a grace and attention to detail that she had to admire.
“Why do you need a bodyguard?”
“When I am involved in a negotiation, not all parties are beyond using threats or violence. A bodyguard would deter that sort of attempt.”
Jiska felt her lips tighten at the moment of turning from a respected general to a babysitter. “When would our assignments begin?”
“Immediately after you get kitted out in a Citadel uniform.”
She had to admit to herself that the thought of a uniform was most pleasant. After the last sixteen years, she only had the clothing her mother bought her to get through her day. Today, a loose tunic and trousers were her options of choice. They were the most comfortable things she owned when it came to long flights.
“When will that be?”
“Well, Udell base is our first stop, so in approximately six hours.”
“How strange. Six hours to restart a life.” She shrugged. “It should take more time than that.”
He frowned. “When was your last day on duty?”
“Yesterday. My exit from the planet was planned before it was made official.” She sighed.
“You do seem very young to be in the military. What rank did you achieve?”
“General. I have been in charge of the Urgat army since I was ten.”
His eyes widened, and he turned to stare at her with his open dark brown gaze. “You are joking?”
She stared at him with a bland gaze. “I was the top strategist by the time I was seven.”
“I see. Fair enough.” He shook his head in surprise and turned back to the controls. “There is a data pad with the Citadel contract in it on your side of the shuttle.”
Jiska looked around and pulled the flat screen out, pressing her thumb to it to wake it. “I have to sign a contract? I thought that the Urgat just reassigned me here.”