Sure enough, an unfamiliar man in a fleet engineer’s uniform with green trim was looking at the acceleration readouts, checking things over, and shaking his head. Kila stood behind him and folded his arms over his chest.
Adjust one thing, and I’ll take your head off.
Like most Nobeks, Kila moved silently. Chief Engineer Lokmi was also wearing ear pieces and humming along with whatever he listened to. He didn’t know he was being observed by his captain.
It gave Kila a chance to size the Imdiko up. From behind, Lokmi possessed an athletic build. Not too bulky, not too lean. Kila automatically checked out the man’s ass, judged it nice, and remembered chief engineers were the enemy.
He made himself look back up, at the back of Lokmi’s head. The Imdiko’s black hair was shoulder length, its gentle waves giving it a tousled look. An ‘I-just-rolled-out-of-bed’ look.
Kila thought about punching his own head and hopefully knocking such thoughts out of it. He hadn’t gotten laid since Piras several months ago, and that encounter had certainly not gone as planned. It was no wonder he kept thinking about sex.
Lokmi snickered at a reading and made a note on his handheld. He went to one of the accelerator chargers and removed a panel from the side. Kila stiffened as Lokmi ran his fingers over the bank of power modules.
The engineer turned and froze to see Kila standing there. He bowed to his superior officer. In a voice that approached a yell, he said, “Captain Kila, I presume?”
Kila nodded. “Chief Engineer, welcome aboard.”
Lokmi snorted and yanked the earpieces out. For a moment Kila heard the steady thud of rimnastin music before it switched off. “My apologies, Captain. I forgot I was wearing those.”
Kila smiled in pardon. Lokmi’s face was as pleasing as his backside. Handsome, firm features. He had the gentle expression that was the hallmark of an Imdiko…to a point. His eyes were piercing. Demanding. Unwavering. The direct stare was all Dramok.
So be it. Kila’s spine steeled for the inevitable fight. “I see you’re doing your initial inspection?”
“Yes sir. And may I say, your former chief should be taken out and whipped. The modifications I’ve found are a nightmare.”
“Those would be my modifications, Chief.” His voice steady and cold. His tone definitely don’t-fuck-with-me.
Lokmi didn’t react with the flustered anxiety Kila anticipated. He didn’t even blink. Instead, there was a slight grimace as he said, “It makes sense that a speed junkie would do this to his poor ship. Son of Clan Poc, aren’t you? The famous shuttle racing team?”
Kila wasn’t sure if he should be offended or not by the other man’s comments. “Did you look me up to impress me or are you an actual racing fan?”
Lokmi grinned. “Oh, I love anything to do with machines. Your Nobek father and mother are incredible mechanics. Geniuses, really. It’s no wonder your other fathers consistently place at the top of the standings when they race.”
The compliment seemed genuine. Kila allowed himself to relax a little. “Thank you, Chief. I happen to think they’re pretty good myself.” He couldn’t keep the pride out of his voice as he spoke.
Lokmi nodded toward the opened charger. “You’ve got a talent for tinkering too, but this ship isn’t a racer. The booster on the accelerator is asking for trouble.”
“Only if I engage it for more than ten seconds. Which I would never do. I know how to run my ship.”
Lokmi waved off the warning in expression and tone. “Sure you do. But what about the crewmember who has to pilot it out of a hairy situation before you get to the bridge? Or if you’re incapacitated?”
They always thought the captain didn’t have a clue. Lokmi’s observations would be valid with another captain, but Kila was confident in his abilities not only to modify engines but to anticipate trouble. “The crew is kept advised. I send out tutorials and instructions with every alteration I make.”
“To your enemies as well? What happens when a hunter-killer grabs you in a traction freeze field while you’re tearing around at top speed?” He made a sound like an explosion, flinging his arms out to further illustrate. “Or what if we experience a failure of the defensive field grid you’ve tied in to keep us from shaking apart for those ten seconds of thrill ride? The very same defensive grid that keeps us from blowing all to hell when a lucky shot hits the pulse drive system…which you’ve diverted to powering said grid for your joyride.”
Kila’s mouth stretched in a smile. Not his usual mocking smile, which he could help no more than Mostar could help his suspicious look. This smile was purposely big and dangerous, more a snarl than a grin. Most men had the good sense to back off when he looked at them like that.
Lokmi just looked at him, waiting for a reply. He had a ton of Dramok in him, all right.
No release date set.