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Written and Edited by Dio Beckstead
Kari lounged in the plush red fold down chair with a meagre attempt at a smile pasted on her lush red lips. She watched with only half a concern as the large auditorium began to fill with bodies and the sounds of buzzing conversation all centred around the one person she was absolutely certain was going to cause some sort of trouble this evening. He had definitely not disappointed.
"Relax Dia, nothing's going to happen for a while, they're still connecting up the view-screen." Kari said to the nervous flight commander who sat on the edge of her seat, and who looked high-strung enough to bounce up at any time and physically pull Titus out of the next room where the semi-circle of glossy black simulator pods lay.
The jittery flight commander was nervously flexing her fists, and her gaze never left the Adonian's face. If Dia made it any more obvious what she was fuming about, Rom would have to call his security guards. Seelakk stood amidst a horde of techs who were busy setting up the towering viewing screen for the curious V.I.P's in the rapidly filling auditorium that looked like it could seat a hundred comfortably. "This was a bloody clever trap. I knew I shouldn't have left him alone in that bastard's clutches. He planned this I bet, that would be just like him. Just like the last time we came here, we left one person short." She moved to stand again, but Kari placed a gently restraining hand on her shoulder and tried her best not to let her smile spread any further.
"That was different. Jake mouthed off to a bunch of methane breathers. You know how touchy they can be about insults. And Jake could've just apologized, but he insisted on fighting." Dia was intent on ignoring the Captain's words, she trembled slightly under Kari's hand. "Well, look at it this way Dia," Kari said gently, "even if Titus loses he won't be dead exactly, besides, I'm sure we can work out a deal with Seelakk so that no harm comes to the boy." She let her hand drop away, and her face twisted for a moment before she tried reining her nagging annoyance at the two main troublemakers of this little escapade. Titus had some nerve insulting a general of the Imperiate, she'd give him that. Talk about the weather indeed, that's exactly what Titus had done, the brat. Worse, he seemed to be the cause of the giant thunderclouds above the portly general's head. The one person Kari had wanted to avoid all evening...and now this. Titus had about as much sense of caution as Archangel, who was always flying off the hook at the smallest provocation. Of course, Titus was from such a backwater spaceport maybe he had no clue about the tension between the Imperiate and the Free Federation of planets, not to mention Rom's constant meddling and the arms-race he had sparked. It could have been worse, Kari reflected, she was the one who should've responded to the challenge from the general since Titus was technically, and from a legal standpoint, one of her officers. The Adonian knew that of course, but that would have meant a duel aboard their respective flagships, something not easily televised for the night's entertainment. And having the Pegasus show up in the public eye would be rather inconvenient for her plans. It was pure chance Seelakk had gotten so besotted with the young man that he had `forgotten' that particular piece of etiquette. `All in good fun' she was sure Rom would say something like that.
Yes, it would be all in good fun when she got her hands on that man's slippery neck...
Dia, for her part, was shooting lasers from her eyes, trying to melt through the Adonian, who was now waving pleasantly back at the two Pegasus officers. "He's a snake, that Adonian." She muttered out of the corner of her mouth, "They all are. The galaxy'd be better off without them."
Kari returned the wave with a quick nod, "I'll add that to my to-do list Commander, but in the meantime will you relax? You're making me nervous and I'm just looking at you. I'm confident Titus will do just fine. Why do you think I asked him to be a pilot? There's more to that boy than meets the eye, he's more than just a walking sarcasm machine and mechanic."
Dia half-turned in her seat, "He's just a kid Captain, he's what? A little older than thirteen?"
"Try seventeen in two months, mature for his age. He's had to be if he wanted to survive in the world he got thrown into."
Dia shook her head undeterred, "Well whatever, he's still just a kid with little to no combat experience."
"Dia he's an ace, you're being ridiculous. He was trained in Kimmel's squadron, and Kimmel himself had a personal interest in the boy. He has more combat kills than all our rookies combined."
Dia rolled her eyes, and turned her steely glare back to roasting the Adonian's waggling backside—something he tended to do a lot of, much to the delight of most of the single female population in the crowd. "Then why isn't he still a pilot? Why is he greasing bolts and battling stubborn nuts and screws rather than sitting in a cockpit? I just don't-"
Kari sighed, "You don't trust him," she finished. There really was no arguing with Dia when she started to worry. The nagging feeling that Dia had some sort of personal attraction to Titus would not leave her either, he looked very similar to the type of man who would be worshipped on her home planet. And from the way that Titus walked around on pins and needles around the woman and jumped five feet in the air whenever she looked at him, Kari had a niggling suspicion that something had happened between the two.
Her home world was an outcast in the Alliance, a place most people pretended didn't exist. It was an odd planet Kari had always meant to visit. Apparently it was the Female of the species, an offshoot of the ancient human-race, which had evolved into the dominant breed. That would also explain a lot of Dia's sometimes odd protective urges. Kari could still remember the nickname the young woman had earned for herself before `Black Swallow'. She was still green and already worrying about anything and everything conclusively, and it had earned her the call sign `Father' before her exquisite flying skills and rapid promotion had buried the nickname in all but memories and a small note at the bottom of an old log that kept kill-ratios for all the new-blood pilots.
A electronically enhanced voice suddenly blared over the auditoriums sound system, silencing the chatter for a moment, "Betting booths are now closed, repeat, all betting booths are now closed." Small Pause. "Tallied odds are five to one in favour of the Alliance Pilot, Flight lieutenant Jacob Grolm. For those individuals with bets larger than one million equivalent Alliance currents, the payout for the winning pilot is decreased to one point three-three your original bet. For those who placed bets on the Pegasus Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Titus with values of one million equivalent Alliance currents, the payout will be reduced to triple your original bet. Normal payout calculations apply for all other bets placed. All bets are final. Please stand-by momentarily for a word from your host. Thank you for your patience."
Kari watched as the Adonian took his place on stage off to one side behind a small podium. He had somehow found the time to change between the last time she had seen him, his pants had somehow managed to show even more of his behind, if that were possible, a shiny black material that looked inspired from the flight suit she had seen Titus don before he had disappeared inside the simulator. Rom's shirt was now a soft violet, the same see-through silk that made Kari wonder why the Adonian even bothered, he'd get almost the same effect if he ran around naked instead. He was dwarfed by the two-story widescreen display; his voice amplified by a small, unseen microphone. "Welcome!" he said, gesticulating with spread arms, he giggled delicately as he turned his head this way and that, taking in the mostly filled auditorium that was strictly standing room only now. "I am pleased to host this official duel on the behest of two of our more prominent guests here this evening. The honourable General Grolm and the self styled Warlord Baker." He said nodding at someone portly taking up most of the front row with his entourage, and then nodding at Kari, whose seat was off to the right of the auditorium, and had a buffer of unused seats that people eyed warily, as if expecting the Pegasus officers to pounce on any who dared to attempt to sit within arms reach. Kari was fairly sure that was her flight officer's fault who was on the verge of snarling, although the Pegasus' pirate reputation might have had some hand in the matter.
"As stated before, this duel will comprise a one-kill space combat duel between the two representative pilots. Although, I'm personally rooting for the General's son for...reasons I won't go into..." The Adonian's over-excited wink caused a grin to spread onto Kari's face. He certainly wasn't lacking in the dramatic department that man. Although he made such a big deal about his younger companions, Kari knew from experience that boys weren't the only objects that suited his refined tastes, as Kari could attest. Titus wasn't even legally a child anymore. The age of majority was sixteen on the planet, galacticly it was seventeen, but that was recent, it had previously been much younger until the current conservative Imperiate had taken power after the Tri-World crisis and massive ripple of paranoia swept through the allied planets.
Kari tuned out everything else as the viewscreen turned on, giving a starry view of the simulated space. She prodded Dia good-naturedly in her side to get her attention. "Now pay attention Flight Commander, its not everyday you get to watch a legend being born."
"I hope you've thought up a plan if he loses, Captain."
Kari sat up and cocked an eyebrow. "You sound confident he's going to lose."
"He will. He's a kid against an academy-trained lieutenant. I don't care how good you say he is. He's going to be taken for a good schooling."
"Confident aren't you?" Kari said, "Well, no matter, Titus won't lose today. I'll even put some stakes on that. A month worth of back pay and a ten percent raise on your current salary."
Dia turned her head sharply to consider the Captain's mocking smile. She considered it for a moment, but her lips stubbornly refused to show her amusement. "You're on."
"And...in exchange; if I win you're going to give me back that case of Berullin ale you and Archangel stole from my larder last week."
Dia paled and her face sagged. She glanced uncertainly back at the Captain's unreadable face. "Y...you knew about that huh..."
The tension was broken when they were interrupted by a large figure flanked by two silver armoured guards that stalked up the row. The big man, his face hidden behind a generous beard that hung from his chin glanced at Kari, his two brown bushy eyebrows raising in mock surprise. His beard split as his toothy grin took in both her and Dia. He inclined his head slightly and settled into the seat with a grateful sigh beside Kari.
"Its been quite a while mon capitaine" the deep rumbling voice said, his eyebrows dancing appreciatively above familiar mischievous brown eyes "too long a while. Always finding more trouble to get yourself into aren't you?"
It took a moment for the shock to wear off. Kari scowled in order to cover her shock. "Magnus Thor, you are the absolute last person I'd believe would ever come to an event held by your rival."
The big man grunted ambiguously and shrugged. "I come with ill news. We must speak you and I." He was eyeing Dia suspiciously, "Alone I think. This news, for your ears only."
Warm. Soft. Silken. Moist breath on his lips.
Titus groaned as his eyes flew open. His head popped off the supple pillow and hit something...hard.
"Ow!" the thing said. And for some reason with which Titus couldn't fathom with his currently disjointed state of thinking and splitting pain in his forehead, something at the back of Titus' mind was screaming bloody murder.
"OW! What the hell?" Titus managed groggily as he sat up rubbing his forehead where he had just knocked the Adonian hard on his nose, which he was rubbing with one of his spidery fingers, hiding a sly grin that vanished as soon as Titus started to glare at him suspiciously.
"Ahh, the sleeping princess awoken with a kiss! Yes, this is just like that Earth Fairy tale I've been reading. Well, it's a prince in this case, but sleeping and beautiful still apply! Wonderful things fairy tales...such a pity really..."
"Sleeping...what? Fairy-whats? No...nevermind, I don't want to know." Titus tried to ignore the strange sweet taste that had somehow found its way into his mouth and his lurching stomach. "What are you doing here anyways? Come to gloat?" Titus snarled, which made his head spin suddenly and he had to plant his arms at his sides so he wouldn't topple over onto the floor.
The Adonian blinked solemnly. "Gloat?"
Titus didn't believe for one minute the Adonian was clueless about his predicament. Those eyes of his didn't miss anything. Not the way he was staring at Titus, that was for sure. "Yea, you won after all. Well I won't work for you or do anything for you for that matter, so you can forget it. I'll figure out another way to pay you."
"Pay me? Work for me?" the Adonian blinked slowly again, after a moment of studying Titus seriously the corner's of his mouth started twitching with a glimmer of glee that Titus missed as he was busy slinging his boots over the side of the bed and letting his head slump in his hands. "Yes, a terrible, terrible shame that battle." Titus heard him say, his voice filled with mocking laughter. The nerve of him! "I'm absolutely full of regrets! For shame, a beautiful dance if you ask me...for it to end that way-" But he was interrupted as another figure entered the room.
The fat General Grolm stomped into the room, his armoured retinue tagging along to the wide double doors where he waved them off impatiently and entered alone. He glanced around at the lines of beds littered about the industrial white and black walled infirmary. His scowl deepened as he caught sight of Seelakk. He marched over, his fat jowls quivering with rage. As he stopped in front of Titus, the boy noticed at last what it was he had clutched to his chest protectively: it was the magnificently jewelled las-sword the general had put up as stakes.
Titus forced himself to look up into the General's eyes, daring him to say anything at all. He would physically shove whatever the fat man said back down his throat...
Grolm's face reddened as Titus glared furiously at him, and he glanced at the Adonian, who suddenly found his fingernails most interesting, a small frown of ill-concealed impatience marring his normally smooth cheeks.
"Bloody bastard!" The general finally spat out, his fury turning his face a deep shade of purple. "Think you're so bloody clever playing around in the simulator like that, making a fool of my son like that do you?" Spittle flecked his lips as he spoke hoarsely, struggling to get the words out. He shoved the sword into Titus hands roughly and stepped back. "There, I'm a man of my word. A man." He announced glaring at the Adonian furiously, as if the point might be contested. "I was set up. You knew Adonian, didn't you? Thought you could get a new prize for your trouble did you? Be careful snake. You have made a dangerous enemy this day. And you!" Grolm turned to Titus and sneered savagely. "Whatever you think you have gained is easily taken again." He leaned towards Titus, looming over his slumped shoulders. "Nobody makes a fool of me! The Pegasus will never leave here in one piece; mark my words. It won't be long before I find you and burn you out into the open, I'll hang you for all the worlds to see. Mark me Boy, because the day you again see my face will-be-your-last."
"Always a pleasure Grolm, so I'll see you next year darling?" Rom called after the Citizen General as he stormed his way out of the room; away from the Adonian's limp waving of his delicate hand. The General's dramatic exit was hampered somewhat when the white sliding doors with small triangular windows failed to slam behind him, but rather slid shut noiselessly. His loud voice, now haranguing his subordinates mercilessly, came clearly through the door for a couple moments until he moved off.
Titus just stared blankly at the gilded sword in his hands. It was a ridiculous thing, Titus realised. Gold, silver gildings spiralled up and down its length, encrusted with jewels that sparkled whichever way he turned it in his hands. He had won.
He had won.
He didn't realize he had said as much out loud until a pair of arms slid over his shoulders and Rom draped himself once again shamelessly over him. "Gaudy darling, that's what they call that; come now, let's talk business. I want to make a deal with you, while we have this chance to speak alone."
Titus shifted nervously, but Rom was in his own little world as Titus felt the Crime-Lord's hot breath play off his right ear and the back of his neck. "A...a deal? You mean I won?" Titus said, shuddering. This was not the most comfortable position that he would have liked to be in. But for the life of him, he couldn't bring himself to shake the Adonian off him. "I don't understand...how did I win...the missile-"
"Yessss, you won, and yess, I want to make a deal with you Titusss." Seelakk whispered, his voice momentarily slid back into the more guttural hisses Titus had heard from the other Adonian, Freelaj, earlier in the night. "How you won is...unimportant—I'm sure your friends will be along shortly to explain it all to you. But before that—just one, that's all I want. Just a tiny one, that's all, it'll mean nothing to you in the long run. Give me my vice and you can kiss the Pegasus' troubles goodbye. You can have your fighters and your...shield generators if that's what you want. I'll give it all to you."
Titus squirmed uncomfortably, he was never more aware of the size-too-small pilot suit he still wore as he was at that moment, he had to resist the urge to pull the sleek tight material away from his crotch, which was again the cause of another painful wedgy. "W...what? I have no idea what you're talking about. If you want the sword you can have it! I didn't want it anyways." Titus heard himself say, desperate for any excuse to get off that bench. He jumped to his feet, nearly making the Adonian fall over the bed, and almost succeeded in upending him over the other side. "I won, didn't I? You were lying to me!" Titus said accusingly, holding the sword between himself and the Adonian, who made it look like he had planned to lounge over the bed like that all along, not the tiniest bit discomfited by Titus' reaction.
"When did I lie to you?" He had a note of amusement in his voice, Titus thought. "Tell me when I lied to you darling, you I would never lie to. From that look you're giving me, I'm guessing you've heard otherwise." His sigh was one of strained patience.
He spread his arms helplessly and did his best to make those eyes of his watery, "Yes its true, I'm not afraid to tell someone something they desire to hear when they need to hear it if it's to my advantage Titusss." He hopped up onto the table and swung his legs over to face him, displaying the bulge that had never quite been hidden in the first place. Titus tried his best to keep his eyes on the Adonian's face, his own face was burning, much to his embarrassment. "But to you I would never lie, not someone like you, Titus. Yes...Tituss," the Adonian said, tasting the words, and it looked to Titus as if he was sampling some sort of delicacy from the way his tongue played around his mouth. "I could tell from the very instant I saw you, that you were special. I have a head for these things you know." His long lacquered fingernails tapped his temple delicately, his toothy grin exposing those sharp teeth in what Titus thought was a very sinister manner. "If it's one thing I pride myself on, it's my absolute judge of character. I can tell who will succeed in the world, and who will fly too high—touching the sun and burning up in the stratosphere."
"Icarus." Titus said absentmindedly, as he eyed the Adonian warily, holding the las-sword more like a club than anything. He was damn well going to be ready for any sudden movement Rom made, even if he had no idea how to work the sword itself, it was just about the size of a good spanner, something he knew how to use for more than just fixing shuttles. "You know a lot about those ancient fables."
"I might have dabbled here and there in ancient texts." He tried to say solemnly, but his eyes betrayed him, they brightened with his enthusiasm. "I'm fascinated with the Human race actually. A thousand years ago you were light-years behind the rest of the galaxy as a species, but just as I might snap my fingers humanity became a superpower which now dominates the known galaxy." Rom clasped his hands innocently in his lap, staring at Titus intensely. "You thrive on destruction and treachery. Trading money for lives as soon as compromising. Fascinating actually, much like my own species I might add. But do you know what it is that we lack, why Adonians aren't the ones running the Imperiate, or the Free Alliance of Planetes, why it's humanity who has taken the forefront in running this galaxy?"
Titus shook his head slowly, cramming the jibe about Rom's sexual tastes firmly behind his tongue where it seethed and demanded attention. He had to remind himself just who Rom was—a weapons dealer, businessman, and brutal crime lord—not necessarily in that particular order either.
"It's ambition darling, ambition. Human beings are a cesspool of it. You have ambition in spades, pardon the human euphemism—I really shouldn't say it so flippantly—while the rest of us are left holding nothing but vacuum. If our ambition is the dream, humanity's ambition is the nightmare." He waved his hand around the sterile room, "Take this place, I have everything I need, I have an army, weapons, and most of all, I hold in my pocket fear. The fear that one day I will oppose the Free-Alliance, or the Imperiate—or even worse, I could pick one side over the other, and I could darling, ohhh I could. But I don't want to! That's just it; they let me make money, why should I tear down an institution I reap rewards from? But a human?" Rom shrugged, " Were a human in my place they'd tear down the government just on the principle that they could.
"I've read a lot of human history Titus, more than you might guess." He continued, idly tugging at the hem of his transparent shirt. "Throughout your history humans have done things that have no sense or logic simply because someone told them it was impossible. For instance: The aeroplane, cold fusion, the..." he giggled softly, his eyes sparkling with laughter. "lightbulb. It's why you've come so far so fast. You devour planetary resources with no thought of tomorrow or the future, because if you need more, you'll take more, that is humanity's hidden face--ugly isn't it?"
Titus did not share Rom's delight at humanity's plight. "You make us sound like parasites" he said, his hands tightening unconsciously around the sword in his hands. "We're not like that...not all of us. I'm not."
Rom was on his feet again, the corner of his lips twitching with amusement. "But of course not. Didn't I already tell you, I think you're different—a step apart sweet-cheeks. I've seen your file after all."
Titus had taken a step backwards at the Adonian's sudden movement, but the back of his knees caught on another low bed and he sat down, hard, his knees not even protesting. "Hold on...what? My...file? Who the bloody hell would have a file on me?"
Seelakk sidled over to Titus and sat on the corner of the same bed, unobtrusively trying to adjust himself as he did. "Well, I might have been a touch curious how such a young man had managed to squirm his way into the employ of this galaxy's most notorious pirate—Warlord Kari Baker. But I never expected to find such an interesting and utterly contradictory file on Kimmel's records..."
"Kimmel..." Titus mouthed softly, his discomfort momentarily forgotten as bitter memories seeped into his consciousness. "If you somehow managed to get my school files from Kimmel, I don't see how you could find me interesting—Kimmel hated me—the old bastard."
Rom opened his mouth then closed it, a look of reprehension on his sleek bluish features. "Titus, Kimmel is a military genius. He doesn't like anyone, but you don't have to like him to feel some sort of respect for the man. Gruff—certainly—too rough around the edges for my tastes—certainly. But he is an excellent judge of character. You'd be surprised at what he wrote about you darling."
"I can guess." Titus said bitterly. "I'm a coward and a fool. That's all there is too it."
"Wrong!" The Adonian was giggling, his face flushing a dark blue with pleasure as he observed Titus with those sometimes confusing colour changing eyes of his, which had turned a brilliant shade of orange. Titus wondered what the Adonian was feeling right then, he had never seen an Adonian with orange eyes.
"Wrong? Are you certain you grabbed the right file?" Titus said with no small part of his mind brimming with incredulity. The memory of his fights with Kimmel were still fresh in his mind. They had turned into minor legend before he had left the academy, loud and more often than not ended with some new portion of Kimmel's office being destroyed. Kimmel had been set on his becoming a pilot mercenary in his squadrons, but that didn't appeal to Titus in the least. For some reason he never liked killing other pilots, something that Kimmel never understood—six broken chairs, eleven broken snubfighter replicas and ten shattered vases would attest to that very fact under oath.
Rom's startling eyes were trying to dig into his thoughts, Titus was imagining. "So, he thought you were a coward, that was only a small part of what Kimmel thought of you. You're a pilot Titus, you're an excellent pilot. Your natural ability at reading a situation is head and shoulders ahead of any pilot your own age. You fight...you fight as if you had been doing it your whole life." The Adonian slowly edged over as he spoke, as if trying to soothe him into staying put this time. "Titus, my own pilot Freelaj told me in no certain terms that even he wouldn't want to duel with you, not unless he had a squadron at his back and an anti-snubfighter frigate backing him up and believe me when I say that he is very, very good at what he does."
Titus seriously thought about it then, am I a good pilot? But he couldn't shake his suspicion of Rom that easily. Rom would say anything if the situation warranted. Titus decided Rom was just like the others, like Captain Baker and Kimmel, they all wanted to use him for something, and they didn't care about Titus, they cared about what he was...what he could do.
He had promised himself that after he had left the academy and not looked back. Jeckt and company were the only men who had never used him, they had given him a life. It was all he needed.
Titus shook his head angrily, "D'you think I'm that stupid? You're just trying to get into my pants, aren't you? I barely beat the general's son, I don't know how you can say I'm such a good pilot with a straight face."
"I told you earlier Titus, that I would never lie to you-" he held up a hand as Titus opened his mouth angrily, "BUT...it's alright if you don't believe me, I'll leave this as it is Titus. Titus the mechanic, I guess you are. But you won't stay like that forever darling," he purred, his hand slithering up onto Titus' shoulder, which the boy pushed away, gritting his teeth.
"That's right! I'm a mechanic Adonian, a mechanic. You seem to know everything. Then you'll know that that's all I ever want to be. I'll live and die with a wrench in my hands, not...not a trigger or a throttle, but a spanner."
Rom sighed and let his shoulders slump. "Well, Kimmel was right about one thing, you're as stubborn as...what was it he called that animal? A mule? Ugly sounding name: a mule. You're not ugly though," he added thoughtfully, his hand again shamelessly straying towards Titus, but he hesitated as Titus growled at him, then he started giggling.
"Incredibly cute...oh Titus." Rom let a vexed sigh pass from his lips as Titus glared at him, the first sign he was even paying attention to Titus' reaction. "I spoke earlier about a deal. A kiss, that's all I want."
Titus nearly choked. "A kiss? With you? Nuh uh. No way." He was about to stand, but Rom was faster. His hand shot out and caught him by the wrist pulling himself up to stand in front of Titus, the boy firmly anchored in his grasp.
"Now, now Titus, you haven't heard me out as to the why you should let me kiss you. Isn't it common courtesy to be patient and listen to someone when they want to talk to you?"
Titus was half-tempted to just slam the hilt of the gaudy sword into Seelakk's stomach, but he resisted the urge. He was all too aware of the consequences of doing something foolish and hot-headed like that. He had already made that mistake once tonight, he wouldn't do it again...at least...not unless Rom forced him into taking drastic action. He settled for glaring stubbornly at the arms-dealer, cursing himself for ever accepting Captain Kari Baker's stupid fool of a deal.
"Well?" he growled between his clenched teeth, "I'm listening."
The Adonian smiled, showing off those terribly sharp looking teeth again, Titus was suddenly unsure, he didn't like when anyone smiled like that, but put that look on Rom's face and dread was unexpectedly seeping into his suddenly wobbly legs. The Adonian's eyes darkened ominously to a dull grey-black before he spoke in those patented sultry tones of his, "The instant you walked into my home my security was doing checks on you, they do it for everyone so don't you dare feel particularly special. You see Titus, I know everything there is to know about you. I probably know more things about you than you care to know about yourself, Kimmel's file non-withstanding. Well," he corrected with a narrowing of his eyes, "Maybe not know, but I suspect. Anyone Kari Baker is interested in, I become interested in. You might say I have a vested interest in all her affairs...she is after all, one of my more important customers.
"But imagine my surprise when Kari brings an unknown young mechanic from some rat-hole spaceport half-way around the planet? Can you imagine my surprise? I bet you can. Especially when this special young man is dressed up as a pilot acting the part of one of her crew—I mean please, when you were introduced Kari neglected to give your call-sign, you don't even have a call-sign do you?"
Titus felt himself flush, "Well—I...it's..."
"I didn't think so," Rom cut him off by raising one of his greased eyebrows quizzically. "So here I have a mechanic dressed as a pilot who, much to my surprise, has attended Kimmel's academy as the youngest student in its history, passed top of his class, and yet Kimmel ditched you by the roadside when he discovered he couldn't use you. Am I pretty close to the truth?" Rom asked, sarcasm weighing his words like giant blackholes to Titus' ears.
Titus didn't see the point in lying to the man, it was fairly obvious to him that Rom already knew way more than anyone one man should about him. For some reason that thought made his insides squirm. He forced himself to speak calmly, collecting his thoughts as he did. He refused to be used. "Maybe...Who's to say. I have a horrible memory. It might be as you say, then again, it might not."
Rom's laughter rang through the chamber and in Titus' ears with a sour note. "Please Titus. There's a time for subterfuge and diversion, a time for running, and a time for confession. Since you are a poor liar and you can't run, this is a time for the latter, come now dear, you look as pale as a Grovelling Piksqueet with your eyes wide like that."
"Yes," Titus replied, a bitter truth for his tongue.
"Yes what darling?" Rom asked, blinking away innocently.
Titus made himself stare back at the Adonian even though his confidence was long lost to the Adonian's verbal whittlings. "Yes I'm not a real member of the Pegasus. Yes, Kimmel kicked me out after graduation. Is THAT what you want to hear Adonian? That I don't like to kill people? That every time I climb into a fighter I feel nausea such that my stomach cramps up so badly that I've ripped muscles badly enough to be declared unfit to fly? Is THAT what you want to hear?" Titus said, his voice loud in the empty room, it echoed back at him, sounding weak and pathetic, which no doubt Rom was right now copying his thoughts. Weak and pathetic. That's all he was.
But what angered Titus even more, was that he couldn't figure out why it bothered him so much to tell someone else about his aversion to piloting fighter craft. He was glad to be out of that sort of business, and this little stunt was just so he could pilot one of the most agile craft in the known galaxy—A Wraith. It wasn't the flying part that made Titus sick, it was what Kimmel had wanted him to do in one of the machines that had sent him over the edge. He had gone over this a thousand times a thousand in his head. Fighter craft were just that—machines. It was what people did with the craft that made them into weapons.
"Fascinating," Rom finally said softly, pulling Titus closer, and inspected his face from several angles. Titus stubbornly avoided the Adonian's eyes as they probed his own. "Yet you had no such reaction getting into the simulator?"
"That was different," Titus said with as much patience as he could muster, once again squirming under the Adonian's grasp. "Getting into a simulator when I know no-one is going to get hurt is totally different from climbing into a real fighter, and going off to kill some person I've never met. It's just not the same."
"Ah, of course sweetness. So what was Kari's hook this time? How did she sink her little barbs into your supple flesh this time darling? A promise of some sort? Tell me."
The sensation of his face growing warm was unpleasant, "Maybe..." Titus was set on holding his tongue, but Rom's stare was piercing, and he said nothing in the silence, expecting and demanding an answer with no words, just that glare of his. It was irresistible. "She promised me I could fly one of the wraiths back to the Pegasus if I came along." Titus said grumpily, his lips pursing unconsciously.
"Oh darling...your naivety is off the chart—but that's done and gone I suppose. She made you sign something I expect, some sort of agreement enlisting you." When Titus nodded Rom's face darkened, it was a look that Titus thought certainly did not fit his face. "Of course," he muttered so softly that Titus nearly missed it, fingering the tight material of Titus' chest absently pulling invisible specs from it. "She'd have though of everything." Then louder: "And what signals termination of the contract darling? Delivery of the Wraith?"
Titus screwed up his face remembering the Captain's strong remonstration when he had asked a very similar question. "Well, no. She gave me her word she'd—why are you looking at me like that?" Titus asked angrily when Rom started shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
"I take it back Titus, your naivety is off the scale." He bent slightly so he could look the boy in the eye, his own filled with red fire now, a sense of dread filled Titus. "Her word," he scoffed dryly, "She gave you her word. Titus, honestly, you're a fish stuck in a desert when it comes to warring with words. Hurry now, what were the exact words she used, think hard Titus darling, this is most important."
"I...I can't remember. Something like, she gave me her word as Captain of the Pegasus that as soon as this was over and done, she'd release me. Why the freck would she want to keep me around anyways. I told you, I'm useless. There's nothing special about me."
The scowl that popped onto Rom's face made Titus jump. It was gone quickly though, as was the wrinkle in his brow which he smothered as soon as it appeared, his worry about his appearance obviously outweighing any annoyance he had with Titus. "Keep foul words out of this conversation would you tinder of my heart? And here I thought you were intelligent Titus. I thought you were sharp, but all I find it brittle steel beneath the edge." He stared into Titus' eyes for a moment longer, before his sly grin returned, a fluttering hand was quick to run over Titus' forehead in an effort to smooth his scrunched forehead. "Don't look so worried, I have a great plan."
Titus made a concerted effort to relax his forehead before the Adonian rubbed a hole right through his skull. His suspicion didn't abate in the least though, it was quite clear to him that in this strange world he had stepped into, everyone was out to use him somehow. At least Rom's intentions were so painfully obvious they were somewhat easier to deal with. But Captain Baker's angle? It eluded him completely. He had no idea why she would want a mechanic like him. His head was still aching from the bump he had received, he would have to think about that later. One problem at a time.
"You'd...help me?" he asked in a tone that made it clear he was dubious of the Adonian's intentions.
"I would help anyone, darling." Then after a slight hesitation where his hands tightened almost imperceptibly on his shoulders, "For the right price."
Titus was the first to break eye contact, wondering if this was such a good idea after-all. For all he knew the Adonian was just making all of this up. For all he knew, Kari Baker had every intention to keep her deal...but...Titus couldn't understand why he couldn't shake this feeling of unease that had his insides all-a-jumble, twisting and shivering as if in premonition whenever he thought about the Pegasus' Captain. Jeckt's legendary scowl kept interfering with his thoughts...what if he found out about this? A disaster, that's what this was. And all the blame fell squarely on his shoulders. Titus swore silently at his stupidity. So I guess the question is, is the Adonian the lesser of two evils? He asked himself.
Seelakk watched the inner battle of Titus' emotions solemnly for a while before he spoke again. "I could fix it all for you. A simple plan really. I'd give all the Wraiths to you. Not Kari, to you. A special once in a lifetime discount offer. Six Wraiths for the price of a kiss, Titus. I doubt you'll ever get the chance at such a deal ever again."
Titus made himself stare hard at the Adonian, trying to detect some sort of deception in the Adonian's eyes, a twitch of his eyebrows...anything that would make him suspicious. But his face remained tense, but open, as if he knew exactly what Titus was looking for. And he smiled.
"I-I'm supposed to believe you'll hand over six Wraiths, that are worth billions on the black market, to me, for a frecking kiss?" Titus tried to laugh it off, but the sound of his laughter was impotent, Titus desperately wanted to believe the Adonian, that would certainly solve most of his problems—well, minus the one with the Adonian. But that seemed less of a problem then the one with Kari and Jeckt.
Rom moved closer in the ensuing silence, his arms delicately encircling Titus' waist, pressing the pockets and clips of the tight suit into his sides uncomfortably. He lowered his head slowly. Gritting his teeth, Titus turned his head the other way.
"Naive...maybe you're right Rom," Titus tried to control the tremor running through his voice but he was sure the Adonian wouldn't miss it. "And maybe I can't just take you at your word."
He braced himself for the verbal onslaught, but it never came. In fact, Rom's pleased giggling was the only answer he got, and his long arms drew Titus closer, pulling them so Titus arms still clutching the sword were caught between their chests. He lowered his head even more so he could speak into Titus' ear, his sultry voice enjoying his obvious discomfort. "My back pocket Titus, a contract if you will. It already has my thumbprint. All you need to do...is get it."
Titus muttered beneath his breath, angry at himself for getting into this position in the first place, but he detached on arm from the sword and tentatively reached around to fumble around the Adonian's back, until he found the small pocket, right over what was unmistakeably one of the Adonian's buttox, which tensed as Titus grabbed the data-pad, and Rom groaned appreciatively.
Titus tried to bring the data-pad into view, but Seelakk was having trouble containing himself, he was guiding Titus over to the nearest bed, one of his hands detaching the gaudy sword from his grip while Titus was distracted trying to read the small card-sized pad.
I Seelakk Rom, do hereby give all rights and full ownership of six (6) Wraith Advanced Combat Starfighters to one, "Titus" mechanic at the `eight stars spaceport'. Said price is `one' (1) kiss to be...
The sword was gone from his grasp and the Adonian was growling deep in his throat as he pushed Titus down onto the nearest bed, "dammit Rom...wait!" Titus muttered, trying to frantically scan the rest of the document, his stomach felt like it was trying to leap up his throat.
...transaction is final...more legal mumbo jumbo...Titus looked hastily for the Thumbprint, which was there, at the bottom of the page, and he only got a glance at the confirmation seal that somewhere in the back of his vast memory, Titus recognized as a government approved analysis seal that this was indeed Seelakk Rom's thumb that had approved the contract.
And Titus didn't have time to do anything else. Rom's lithe body was pressed to his as he scooted up onto the table on top of him, his silken hands grasping Titus' head firmly, the tips of his long nails entwining bits of his hair. His hot breath, first nibbling on his right ear, then his left before he made his way down to his neck as Titus arched it in a futile attempt to squirm away, but stopped when the Adonian's bulge pressed firmly against Titus' leg. He went absolutely still, shock tearing through his body. Pinned he felt his eyes widen as he realized Rom was fully intending to do exactly what he wanted with him.
With the collapse of his weary defence, Rom lowered his face, flushed a dark blue, until moist lips touched his own. He was so eager, his wet satin tongue probing even before he had properly anchored himself. Titus' lips parted of their own will it seemed, and someone was moaning. It was sickly sweet, the kiss. Titus felt like he was outside, watching someone else. There was no way that he would be doing something like this...not...with someone...like...him.
Were all kisses so wet and so long? Some forgotten portion of his brain was asking. Someone moaned again. Titus wasn't sure if it was him or Rom anymore. Somehow the Adonian's tongue had battled its way past his once clenched teeth, and found his tongue, waiting. Was this what all kisses were like? Titus wondered again, then he just stopped thinking. Inside his boots, Titus' toes curled up.
It was over, Rom sat up, his legs still straddling Titus' slightly shorter form, his small cylindrical comm.-link in hand and a thunderous scowl on his face that was rapidly returning to its more normal pale-blue, his chest was heaving.
"What?" he rasped angrily, in a very un-Seelakk manner that shocked Titus enough to regain his senses.
He had...he had just...done...THAT...with an Adonian...with...with a...with a GUY.
Titus rose and tried to shove the Adonian backwards, which proved futile when Rom brushed his hands away as effortlessly as he might a nagging fly. Rom's face contorted with annoyance as he listened to the small buzzing voice.
"What? Yes...oh alright." He said angrily into the link. "Yes fine, let her know where we are darling, I suppose losing your head over this matter might inconvenience me." Rom clicked off the communicator and sighed, his voice returning to its bliss-like state, and those sharp eyes of his, a deep scarlet, locked onto Titus.
His tongue played over his lips slowly as he looked back down at Titus. "I had quite a few expectations Titus," he said slowly deliberately, his hands straying down to rest on Titus flat chest, covered with the tight black material of the flight suit, Rom grinned as he felt the yammering of Titus' heart as it beat in distress against his chest like a hammer and gong. "I must say, you've surpassed them all. You-" Rom's eyes narrowed as Titus opened his mouth, but nothing was coming out. "you certainly aren't an amateur. Who have you been practicing with darling, you're making me hard just thinking about kissing you again. I might," he giggled, "burst by accident if I'm not careful." To reinforce the statement, Rom tightened his legs, squeezing Titus' legs together in the process.
"Sh-shut up..." Titus finally found his voice, croaky as it was, rage replacing his shock. "Get off me Rom." And hated it when the Adonian managed to cock his head as if daring Titus to try and make him. Titus glanced around as surreptitiously as he could, but Rom had left the jewelled sword on the floor, just out of his reach. That sickly sweet taste he had in his mouth again made him positive the Adonian had already kissed him once before, just when he woke up. It wasn't the taste exactly that was unpleasant, rather the idea of who had left the taste in his mouth that was making Titus cringe inside.
"How about one more before Kari gets here?" The Adonian asked, his voice ringing seductively in his ears. For a moment Titus just looked at him.
Then he shook his head, angry for even contemplating it. "Get off." He growled again, "I'm serious Adonian, you had your...your..." Titus stuttered, feeling like a fool, and hurried over that part. "...and now you need to get off." His urgency fuelled by his imagination of just what might happen if Captain Baker caught him lip-locked to the shady weapon's dealer.
Rom sighed, and delicately squeezed Titus' flat stomach one last time before he reluctantly clambered off. He pointed off to an inconspicuous looking door to the rear of the room, "You can get changed in there, your uniform is waiting for you...although" his eyes turned a bright shade of pink Titus had associated with lust, "you may want to take a shower first..."
Titus just got up, grabbed the sword and stormed off into the back room, which turned out to be a large washing facility for the patients he supposed. But before he stepped out of his uniform and into one of the shower units he closed the door firmly behind him, and made damn well sure he could lock the door behind him.
"You've got balls kid, I'll give you that." Dia said not quite in an angry tone, Titus thought her voice was still rather neutral, all things considered. "Stupid, harebrained, inconsiderate, loudmouthed, rude among other choice descriptives I might come up with...but you've got balls. I'll give you that." She repeated again, in that voice Titus had begun to dread. She didn't yell, she didn't accuse. She just was stating facts, and every-time she spoke Titus cringed inside, as if Flight-Commander Dia somehow knew he had done something with the Adonian, who had been humming happily to himself and rocking back and forth on his heels when Titus had stumbled out of the shower to face not only Captain Baker but Dia as well. The relief of being out of that ridiculously ill-fitting flight-suit more than outweighed the nasty aftertaste the bar of soap he had scrounged had left in his mouth, or the shock of finding them all glaring at him. Then Rom had had the gall to wink at him. Ugh. Titus took comfort in the weight of his only remaining lifeline, which he had solidly stuffed into his back-pocket. A prize he had paid dearly for.
"Something wrong Titus? You're as jumpy as Doc when he gets into the goose-juice." Dia asked innocuously, and Titus started despite her low tone. His attention had once again...wandered off.
Ahhh, why can't I get the bloody Adonian out of my mind? HATE HATE HATE! Titus thought he was going to go absolutely nuts unless he told someone.
"What? Wrong?" Titus said quickly—doing his best to quell his rapidly heating cheeks. "Why the freck would you think that?"
Dia frowned, "Why would I think that..." Dia said softly, a dangerous glint appearing in her eyes. "You mean, aside from the blatant disregard for orders. After you were strictly told to mind your own business and not go charging off and making an ass of yourself in front of any Warlords, you throw away the rules and insult a general to his face." She said the last in a strange sweet voice that turned sour in his ears. It would have been easier if she had started yelling, Titus decided, because he felt like doing a little yelling of his own.
"I-It wasn't exactly like that..." Titus caught himself just in time, the larger woman's upper lip was quivering...quivering with some sort of emotion she was barely restraining. Since Titus was rather fond of his ears, he decided it would be an excellent time to change the subject. "Umm...anyways...I was sure I had lost that...I mean...when the missile caught me in the canyon. How did I win anyways?"
Dia glanced quickly over at where Captain Baker and Seelakk Rom were having a quiet, but heated argument. It wasn't as if their voices were raised, but Titus could tell by their body language. He knew what that straight back and icy glare meant on the Adonian's part, and Kari Baker was red faced, and looked to be talking out of the side of her plastic smile.
"Your opponent's wing collapsed when he tried to follow you down into the atmosphere of that moon. Granted, it wasn't much resistance, but it was all that damaged wing of his could take. The shear stress was just too high."
Titus' shoulders slumped and he averted his gaze away from her piercing stare. "So...it was luck after all..." he mumbled to himself. Dia must have heard, because her face grew dark.
"Bloody right that was luck! What the freck were you thinking Titus!? Dead-dropping missiles at full throttle—heat-seekers no less—and doing high-speed afterburner turns like you don't care whether your ship survives or not. I've seen animals with more sense. And then trying to escape a no-lock missile—one of your own I might add—by dropping into a canyon when you already had a damaged port stabilizer was not only stupid, it was selfish, reckless, and...and...STUPID. I mean, didn't your computer tell you how damaged your ship already was?"
The thought was so sudden Titus jumped again, earning him yet another frown from the red-headed flight commander. "I was desperate. I mean, hell, what the freck would you have done? It wasn't like I had it planned that way in my head okay?" Titus babbled, trying to refocus his thoughts. "But...now that I think about it, maybe that plan should have stayed in my head..." he finished lamely. HT had nearly completely left his mind. That annoying computer that Rom had forced on him. Was it another scheme to get Titus to lose, he wondered. Titus slapped his head in frustration, he would have to talk to Rom about that stupid promise...no Titus amended. He would not ask anything of the Adonian again. No, his price was much too high. Titus was terrified of what he would ask for next. The Adonian had made it quite clear that he was looking for much more than just an adventure with Titus' tonsils.
"It should have." Dia confirmed with a hard edge to her voice. "If that had been a real battle you both would have been toast, and I'd be the bloody person having to file bloody reports about how you bloody scattered yourself across the face of some moon no-one's ever heard of!"
Titus forgot his attempt at looking meek and scowled, "Don't act like I'm a member of the Pegasus, I'm not. I'd like to have that point clear. I won't let you use me." I won't be used. He told himself again. Not if he could help it.
Dia grabbed his collar and shook him...hard. Titus could feel his teeth rattle inside his head. "Not a member of the Pegasus, just what uniform do you think you're wear-"
"DIA, enough." The Captain's sharp order was music to his ears. He pushed Dia off him and got up to face the Captain, who had marched over, followed closely by Rom. If Titus had to guess, they both looked equally pissed off. "If what I've heard is true...Titus is no longer a member of my crew." Her smile would have turned cream into butter.
Titus' eyes widened and he glared at the Adonian, who broke out of his sombre mood to shoot Titus a wink Dia was sure to have seen. Titus raised his hands in a placating manner. "Now wait just a minute. I can explain."
"No need." Was her cold reply. Her features could have been carved out of ice, it chilled Titus to his bone and sent shivers down his back. "You don't trust me, and now you've let the Adonian pull you into his little schemes. Fine." She raised her head and stared into his eyes. Her voice taking on an official sounding tone, with which he had heard her issue countless orders to her crew. "Lieutenant Titus, you are hereby decommissioned immediately from the ranks of the Pegasus, I'll thank you to take off that uniform immediately since it obviously chafes you so."
Relief flooded through him. The giant boulder that had been hanging from his shoulders fell then. Titus took a deep breath. But before Titus could open his mouth to say anything more she had pivoted to face her Flight Commander, "I'll let you work out details with Titus," She stressed the lack of rank with a twist of her lips, "I have other pressing matters to attend to now. If you'll excuse me." And with barely a cool nod for the Adonian, she was marching away.
"Well, that went well." The Adonian said smoothly, waving as he turned to go as well. He paused though to throw one last grin over his shoulder at Titus. "We must do business again, you can find your star-fighters in hanger six, ask for directions from any of my guards, they'll show you the way." He bowed and winked one last time before he followed Kari Baker's exit.
Titus sighed loudly, and started when he realised Dia was still beside him, her eyes could have been throwing off sparks they way they glared at him so. " A fine mess you've made Titus."
Feeling a small amount of confidence from his victory, as he saw it, Titus shrugged. "Why? Because you can't use me anymore? Please, why does everyone think they can walk all over me, and they get all surprised when I do something to protest. It's like you don't even see me, you just see a set of abilities, or something that I am."
Dia's eyebrows shot up, and she pushed her hair back out of her eyes in disgust. "Everyone has a use Titus. If that makes us tools—all the better. Kari does what she does for a reason—we're fighting a war here—and here you are being selfish-"
“Selfish? SELFISH!? Please tell me you’re joking.” Titus chuckled, and he regretted it when her eyes started flashing dangerously again. Titus remembered a little late how Freelaj had said something about hidden weapons, Titus turned his laugh into a odd cough and chocking sound. “I don’t like it.” He said when he recovered. “I don’t like war, it has nothing to do with me. And I don’t have to like you, or the Captain, or Seelakk, because you’re all trying to use me just how you want. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t care. I was stupid for agreeing to this fool of an errand in the first place, and don’t try and tell me Baker wasn’t using me to soften Rom because I won’t believe it for one minute. If I could rewind time I would, and I’d tell her to shove that stupid contract up her…well anyways” Titus diverted what he was going to say, paling as Dia’s features hardened. “I was stupid, I admit that. But I’m not stupid enough not to figure out a way to get myself out of this jam.”
Dia eyed him solemnly for a moment and sniffed haughtily, wrinkling her nose as if smelling something foul. "Have you ever though, that this was all part of her plan?" Dia said offhand. She turned and started marching off, but after a moment turned when she didn't hear his footsteps following. "Well? Are you coming? Or are you going to stand their lollygagging all day? We have a schedule to keep, and now thanks to your little stunt, the Pegasus is in danger. Move it!"
Titus was on his feet, "What? What the hell do you mean?" But Dia wasn't stopping. "Hey...WAIT!"
Seelakk tore down the twisting corridors until he arrived in front of a set of thick plasteel blast doors. He spoke quickly into his commlink, and the doors were soon sliding open to admit him into a large control room filled with all sorts of different species operating the giant control-centre. Large viewscreens covered the front of the room, two-stories tall. Some were pictures of his various estates and factories, while some were pictures from deep-space. It was all his little eyes and ears he had strewn across the galaxy. He walked up to the communications officer and tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention from the giant earphones he had covering his ears.
Seelakk smiled, one that rarely anyone but his staff were permitted to see. A devious smile that had a distinct edge to it that would have sent many men insane trying to figure out just what the wily man was planning. His fingers drifted up to his mouth briefly, his thoughts turning to that sweet young man. Just thinking about his soft lips, and the way he had moaned. Was making him hard again. With no small amount of effort, Rom refocused on the confused looking communications officer who was leaning back in alarm, nervously glancing at Rom's rapidly enlarging crotch area.
"Get me Doctor Ven on a secure line to my office immediately." Then Rom whirled and made his way past the curious glances the many operators were giving him as he passed. They had not expected him to show up in the middle of his gala event surely. But something unexpected had come up. Something that required his immediate attention.
His office was sparse, as Freelaj often commented dryly. But Rom didn't like anything to distract him when he was working. Behind a black obsidian desk he sank into the unyielding high-backed chair and pushed a smooth looking panel on the top of his desk. A short whirring sound announced the arrival of a thin screen that blinked to life as soon as it had risen out of its hidden compartment.
"Seelakk? Just the man I was looking for." The doctor, a grey haired, kindly old human was on the other end of the communications. "I've got those results you gave me."
Seelakk tensed, he clasped his hands out of view of the small camera so Ven wouldn't see anything amiss. "And?" he prodded carefully.
Ven was stroking his white moustache absently, not really looking at the camera at all. "Well to be honest I'm baffled. I thought I had imprint records of all the genetic lines dating back to the founders, but this one has me stumped." He looked at the screen, his eyes narrowing slightly, "Who'd you say this sample was from again?"
"I didn't." Seelakk replied with a tight grin, "and good doctor? What conclusion have you come to?"
Ven grunted, but if he was flustered that Rom was withholding information, he didn't show it otherwise. "Well Rom, whoever you took that sample from doesn't belong to any of the six million bloodlines that colonized this part of the galaxy. Its either from a ship that wasn't on the records or..." Ven's brow furrowed in a manner that annoyed Rom to no end. He was only slightly comforted by the fact that the man's face was already well lined. He certainly hadn't hired the man for his charming looks. "But that can't be." Ven finished breathlessly.
The twinge of annoyance was returning, that was the only problem with scientist types, brilliant, for sure, but they never quite developed a knack for summarizing information. It was always a lecture, as if even the speaker had no idea of what they wanted to get across, they were just passing information. "The point Doctor, the point. I have little time."
"Oh, what?" Ven looked up, staring at the screen with surprise, looking for all the world as if he had forgotten he was talking to his boss. He probably had. Rom reflected with annoyance. "Yes, yes. It's a tiny chance but Rom, that hair you had sent to me just might have belonged to one of the ancient's themselves. Whoever it is might very well be a pureblood descendant."
Rom took a deep breath, savouring the moment—the thrill that ran through his stomach that was fluttering with excitement. This was what I have been waiting all these years for. The bulge in his pants was back, he would have to have that taken care of later. To think that he had somehow stumbled on the ancient bloodline... He clasped his hands in front of him. He needed to think. How dare Kari hide this from him. How DARE she, he fumed silently. They had had a deal. And she had been foolish enough to bring him right in here, wafting the boy under his nose, and he would have missed it, oh he would have, if he hadn't had his techs take readings of both pilots while they had been flying.
His techs had gotten flustered when the readings from one of the Sim pods didn't quite make any sense. It appeared that one of the pilots was reacting to the other pilot's actions, before they happened. That was impossible of course, but there was nothing wrong with the equipment.
She was clever, he'd give her that. Bloody Kari Baker, waging a war she could never win. And she had just made the biggest mistake of her life. She had crossed him. Well, two could play at that game.
"Rom?" Ven's tentative voice came over the screen's speakers. Seelakk Rom swore quietly to himself and smoothed his face as best he could.
"That will be all Doctor." He said extinguishing the screen. His next call was to a reedy looking Gnart. A bug-like species with six arms. They were known for their prowess with machines, and were the most efficient, and cheap labour around. Although they did require a diet of live flesh, which made them somewhat unwanted in most major planets. "Glixlix, that thing we discussed? Make sure it ends up in Titus' fighter. And make it clear to him that that's his personal fighter, and he's not to give it to Kari. Clear?" He'd better well keep it. It will be the only way to keep tabs on him.
The Gnart bobbed its angular head sharply, its pincer-like mouth opening and closing animatedly with a sharp clicking sound. "It...shall be as you say."
"It shall, or else I will be most displeased Glixlix. Don't make any mistakes." Rom clicked off the link and sat for a moment. He was torn. The next call he had thought to make was going to put his prize in a certain amount of danger. There were risks, but did the gain outweigh them? If Titus survived, he'd be all that much more valuable. Titus was the key to it all. But he was worthless if he didn't want to cooperate. He was also worthless dead. Seelakk frowned and to his horror felt his brow furrow. He took several deep breaths, concentrating his utmost to smooth it before his mind settled. Wrinkles were for worriers, he had always said, and smiles were for schemers. Yes, time to smile.
She would of course know what he would do next. She always did, that Captain Baker. Her powers of insight were frightening somehow, and she was absolutely incorruptible; an amusing toy. Rom felt a small sense of distaste to think that he was predictable, but it couldn't be helped. He typed in a complex code into the small keypad in front of the screen and the small image of his communications expert appeared on-screen.
"Get me a direct link with General Grolm's flagship; the Battleship Executor. Tell him...tell him I have an interesting set of coordinates he might want to peruse at his leisure. Tell him...tell him I've changed my mind about backing the dark horse..."
Wow, It's been quite a while since I wrote one of these huh? I hope you're enjoying Titus' adventure, I can only promise it will get better... ^_^
I am, as I have always been, eternally grateful for everyone's continued support, even in my lengthy absence of sorts. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas (or Happy Hanukkah?), and 2006 turns out better than ever~!
I'm sorta curious as to what sort of new year's resolutions y'all have come up with. So if you feel like letting me know, be sure to drop me a line over at my yahoo group (see link below). And even if you don't feel like talking, remember to check out my yahoo group if you find some time anyways! They are the first to find out about updates after all! Join up if you feel the itch, we're always happy to see some new faces! (Or have new people to argue with kukukuku~~~ stay tuned for more drama in the next episode of 'to sex or not to sex!?' I guess thats the question ^_^)
Take care until next time okay?
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