Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #romance, science fiction
Turnari ran a hand through his hair. “All right. She is very attractive though.”
Hosh grinned and tried to ignore the pulsing in his groin. “She is, and her preference for little to no clothing is very distracting.”
Turnari chuckled. “I imagine it would be. It is distracting me, and I have never seen her in her natural habitat.”
Hosh groaned. “Don’t remind me, and please, call me Hosh.”
The honorific of Instructor Ender had been his curse since he tossed Turnari during a training course. He hadn’t meant to grapple with the Coordinator, but his student was in distress, and Turnari had thought that the signals were aggressive not nausea. Hosh had thrown Turnari against the wall just in time to save him from the acid reflux that melted the first aid dummy and part of the floor. The indignity had earned Hosh the name Instructor Ender, and it had rippled through the Citadel and into the Sector Guard.
It was a polite way of keeping those around him at their distance. He didn’t want that distance with Yavil.
Showering and getting dressed felt very peculiar, but she was up at Morganti dawn and trolling through the data system with glee. The specs for the halls were easily memorized, and she found the food court with ease.
Carefully, she eased out of her comfortable environment and into the hall where other Citadel occupants were heading for breakfast.
She met two cheerful women—Iyanna and Vesa—and they hauled her along for the meal.
When she saw the robes everyone was wearing, she blushed. She had forgotten to put it on over the bodysuit.
Iyanna patted her hand and smiled. Her smile faded, and she gave Vesa a sharp look. “So, you are an educator by trade?”
“I am or was. I am not sure what the Citadel wants me to do, but there was no future for me back home, so here I am.” She shrugged and ate the grain mix she had put on her tray. “What does an assessment officer do?”
“This and that. I check new intakes and try to see the potential of their talent, enrolling them in the appropriate classes to help bring that potential to the surface.”
Yavil ate another bite of the cereal. “So, what did you read when you scanned me?”
Iyanna blushed. “Sorry, occupational habit. I read that your talent is twofold, your mind and your voice combine to be a very powerful combination. You already have control over your talent, so you can proceed directly to instruction of large groups.”
“That is what I thought would happen.” Yavil continued to eat and tidied up her tray when she was done.
She checked a chronometer on the wall and decided that she still had enough time to make it back to her quarters to grab the robes before she joined Turnari.
Yavil made her goodbyes and promised to have breakfast the next day if she was able and quickly moved through the halls back to her room. She had just lifted the robes out of the wardrobe when a knock sounded.
She shivered and slid the robes over her shoulders, flicking them until they were straight. The knock sounded again. “Just a minute.”
Turnari was standing at her door, and he seemed surprised to see her awake. “I was just coming to see how you were.”
Yavil could see interest in his eyes. She held up her hand. “I have been up, had breakfast, met some nice personnel and am now ready for our meeting.”
He sighed. “Too bad. It would have been easier if no one had seen you.”
Turnari gripped her arm and pulled her tight to his body. She smelled something that reminded her of compost, and it was not the scent of the Dhemon’s body the day before.
She screamed, but he clamped a hand over her mouth before more than a squeak could emerge. Her mind started to catalog all his attributes as he dragged her kicking and flailing down the quiet hall and into a service lift.
She fought to get her mouth free in the lift, and the moment she could breathe, she started to whisper, “The morgar tree is the tallest tree in the Tebr forests. It has a root system that extends half a kilometre underground and diamond-shaped leaves that can be used as platters for large parties.”
The lift opened on a sub-floor, and she slowly stepped out of the man’s embrace while she kept talking about the morgar tree and its uses in medicine and music.
The man slowly followed her to remain in the sphere of her voice. She followed the lecture on morgar trees with a lecture on soil conditions on Tebr as compared to agrarian worlds in nineteen other systems. As she walked, she slapped her hands on every ID panel she came across until a person finally appeared.
She motioned to be quiet as she kept walking with the Turnari impostor following behind her.
The new man fell under her spell, but she followed his path to a stairway. Gauging her chances, she looked around for some other method of getting someone’s attention. A fire alarm was just the thing.
It would wake her students, but it might give her time to make a run for it. If only there was another way that would guarantee both she and the Citadel male would be fine.
She slowly moved up the stairway after deciding that running was her best option. Her voice kept droning on about crop conditions while her mind frantically scrambled for the most likely escape route. She looked at the clueless maintenance man and sighed mentally, she couldn’t just leave him there.
Yavil talked her way back to the service lift and coaxed the men gently inside. She keyed it up to the highest floor and brought her students with her while she entered Turnari’s office. His secretary looked at the men behind her, her eyes wide, and she immediately summoned Turnari from the inner office.
Sighing with relief, she stopped lecturing. “I am sorry for bringing them here, but I didn’t know what else to do. One was pretending to be you and tried to kidnap me, and the other stumbled across us in the lower level.”
Turnari moved swiftly toward his duplicate and knocked the other male out. The man on the floor shivered and shifted into a form that matched the compost scent he gave off. Grey-green and miserable looking, he lay back unconscious.
The receptionist walked forward and touched the arm of the man from the lower level. He shuddered and blinked. “Why do I know about the annual rain of Farthos?”
The receptionist put an arm around him and walked him out of the offices.
Turnari walked to the desk and pressed a button. “You did well, Yavil. He is a Herthon, but I have never seen one with a shapeshifting ability before.”
“What did you summon?”
“We have some of the most precise readers in this sector right here in this building. We will find out what he wanted and why you were the target.”
Yavil smiled weakly. “Good. I am wondering that myself.”
She took a seat in his office, and he dragged the Herthon into the room with them, setting it against the wall and pressing a button that fastened the creature to the surface with wide bands.
“Interesting office feature. Does it cost extra?”
He chuckled and sat behind the desk. “This is more excitement than I had planned for this morning. I was just going to offer you tea.”
She sighed. “You can still offer me tea. I am rather thirsty after all that talking.”
He frowned. “I am afraid that will have to wait until after we find out what he was after.”
“Not a problem. I can wait.” She was so thirsty that it was a blatant lie, but she was trying to be a good guest.
Two men and a woman came through the door. Turnari greeted them with a wide smile, and the woman stood guard while one of the men pressed his hands against the head of the unconscious Herthon.
The man pulled his hands back with a jerk. “They want her for massive indoctrination. It was worth it to risk one of their own in an effort to secure her.”
Turnari nodded. “How did he get in?”
“Under the supply shuttle. He was in a sealed suit and strapped to the bottom of the vehicle. He copied one of the maintenance staff and waited until Instructor Rikhana arrived. He tried to grab her last night, but you were in the hall with her.”
“Thank you, Arsos.”
The reader smiled and left the room.
“Can you keep him contained?” Turnari asked the remaining two.
“Of course, Coordinator. That is what we do.” The woman inclined her head. “We will take him to the Guard base, and they will process him.”
“Thanks, Yveena, Tawin. Confirm delivery and assist them if they need you to guard him overnight.”
He pressed a button on his desk and the unconscious creature dropped from the wall to the floor. The woman lifted her hand, nails extended, and she pressed those nails into the Herthon’s back. He jerked and twitched.
“There, he will be unable to shift for a few hours. Dr. Nywyn has my venom in storage if he needs more.” She hauled on the shifter and her companion did the same. Together, they dragged him out of the office.
Turnari exhaled and leaned back in his chair. “Well. That was entertaining. I am signing you up for combat training and having Fixer build some weapons into your suits.”
“I don’t think that it is necessary.”
“I think it is, and I am in charge here. You will learn to physically defend yourself. Your talent is extraordinary and the mass hypnosis that goes along with it is exceptional. There are a few Guardsmen who can force others to follow the sound of their voice, but none can place the idea into someone’s head and keep it there indefinitely.”
The receptionist brought in a tea tray. She smiled at Yavil and winked before she left.
“She seems like she is having a good time.”
Turnari smiled, “She and the maintenance worker are courting. She thinks I don’t know, but she has been sending him private messages for months.”
It was funny, but it explained the woman’s concern. “Good for her.”
He poured tea and handed her a cup. “How often did you socialize with the opposite sex on Tebr?”
She laughed. “Always and never. As an
I am always the odd woman out. My siblings tried to keep me with them, but many of the Tebr did not want a mutant out on social outings.”
“Mutant or throwback. The Tebr don’t have the equipment to look into it. Nor does anyone really want to get to the bottom of it. I remain a mystery, even to my own people.”
She inhaled the tea, and it took her back to her home for a brief moment. When she remembered that she was on an alien world and had no chance of being with her own kind, it did dampen her mood for the rest of the morning.
The morning went by with several pots of tea and a list of topics that the Citadel would like her to lecture on. He gave her access to all information systems that she would need and a schedule for her first speaking engagement.
Alien etiquette was an interesting topic, and it spoke to her on several levels. It was a lecture geared toward those in the Citadel who were going to travel the stars. They were representing an organization that was spreading across the stars, training talents and using the naturally occurring powers for specific tasks suited to them.
The course material was something that Yavil was looking forward to diving through. Her mind quivered with eagerness.
When Hosh appeared at the door, her eagerness shifted its focus. He had a worried frown on his features. “Yavil, are you all right?”
“I am fine. Is it lunch time?” She smiled brightly and tried not to fling herself into his arms. She had no idea how he would take that.
He scowled and walked toward her. When he reached her, he took her hands and lifted her out of her chair. She was in a hug before she knew what was happening.
His scent was wild, musky, and she buried her face against his robes while her own arms came around him.
Turnari cleared his throat. “I hate to interrupt, but if you don’t go to lunch soon, I am sure that Yavil will faint from hunger.”
She could feel Hosh’s laugh more than hear it. “Thank you for the gentle nudge, Turnari. We will leave you now.”
“Thank you for coming, Instructor Rikhana. I look forward to an update before your first lecture.”
Hosh released her and offered her his arm. Yavil waved farewell as she walked out of the Coordinator’s office with the only man who made her heart trip in her chest.
“So, he gave you an assignment?” Hosh was sitting across from her in the dining area, away from the folks who whispered in hushed tones.
“Yes, I have a lecture schedule for the next month. The Citadel folks are going to be cultured whether they want it or not.” She poked and prodded at the food that she couldn’t identify.
“If you don’t like the food, drink more water. You look rather pale after your adventure this morning. What did you teach him?”
She laughed and reached for her glass. “A bit of Tebr botany and some agricultural information on star systems near Tebr.”
Hosh frowned. “How did that work?”
“I talked, and he went into a learning trance. I walked, and he followed to remain in the sphere of my voice.”
“Do you do that often?”
“Nope, it was the first time. It did work, but now, I have to spend every afternoon in some kind of self-defence class.” She didn’t mention the weapons that were going to be built into her suit. If she didn’t talk about them, Turnari might just forget.
“You need to defend yourself if the situation arises.” He frowned. “I wish I had been there.”
“If you had, he wouldn’t have struck. He was trying to catch me alone, and he succeeded.” She nibbled at her salad and found it to her liking.
He tried to be casual. “I noticed that you didn’t fight my embrace.”
She smiled. “You didn’t fight mine either. Would it be horrible to say that I found the green of your skin comforting?”
His laugh was genuine. “It reminds you of Tebr, doesn’t it?”
“No. It reminds me of you.”
His gaze darkened into something that she wanted to drown in. She had seen lust a few times in her life, but it had never been directed at her before. She liked it.
He cleared his throat. “Would you care to go for a walk around the grounds? You need more daylight, I think.”
“I think that would be lovely. I never did get my tour.” She pushed her plate aside. She had eaten all that she could.