Piras jerked in surprise as he looked at Lokmi. Kila felt a flash of amusement to realize he’d been right that the admiral had not noticed the Imdiko. With anger focusing his attention on Kila, Lokmi could have been standing there in a woman’s full-length gown and Piras wouldn’t have seen him.
The Dramok looked the chief over. Some of the wrath eased from his demeanor as he did so. For a moment, a look of recognition crossed his face, then it was replaced by momentary confusion. At last he settled on the bland, if slightly irritable, expression of a commanding officer on duty. In a reasonable tone, he said, “Chief Lokmi, isn’t it?”
Surprise jarred Kila. Piras knew his newest officer’s name? He remembered talking about the engineer to the admiral but couldn’t remember if he’d identified him.
At least Piras’s temper calmed as he continued to gaze at Lokmi. “So. The captain did not take kindly to your upgrades? Did he react as your report said he might?”
It was Kila’s turn to be angry. He snarled at Lokmi, his fangs unfolding from his palate. “You reported me? Before we even had the opportunity to discuss this?”
For once, the Imdiko didn’t look so sure of himself. Though he remained still, Kila got the feeling he wanted to cringe. His tone was the weakest Kila had ever heard him speak. “In all honesty, I anticipated you would throw me off the ship. I was putting my facts in place to keep that from happening. I most humbly beg your pardon, Captain. I was wrong to inform Fleet Command of my concerns.”
Kila had a delicious vision of tearing Lokmi’s throat out. Ripping it out with his fangs and watching the man’s arteries spurt blood all over the place. He shook with the desire to do just that.
Piras snorted. Kila looked at him to see the Dramok shaking his head. His expression was a curious mix of fury and amusement.
He told Lokmi, “You’re the dual breed, right? Imdiko and Dramok?”
“Do you make it a habit to go over your immediate superior’s head in order to bully your way around? Don’t answer that. I’ve seen your record and I know you do. Among other unsavory actions designed to intimidate.”
Lokmi’s jaw dropped. “Hey, Captain Kila has a reputation with chief engineers. He’s known for ignoring them, for disciplining them simply for doing their job.”
“And you’re known for being too aggressive against commanding officers. For instigating trouble instead of working with them.” Piras shook his head. “Did no one teach you how to properly demonstrate your Dramok side? Because tyranny and leadership are two very different things.”
Lokmi stared at him. “I – I just get tired of everyone thinking they can run over me because of my official Imdiko status.” He scowled at Piras. “You have a reputation of your own, Admiral. With respect.”
Piras arched a brow at him. “Somehow, I don’t think you’ve learned to respect anyone. You’re too busy fighting for it yourself. Or what you think equates as respect, which seems to be the idea that everyone should do what you say, no questions asked.”
“That’s not true.” Lokmi’s expression was hectic with anger and confusion. “People make assumptions. They don’t give me a chance. I have to be aggressive just so they’ll listen.”
“You’re not being just aggressive. You’re being an asshole. But seeing as who your current captain is, I can’t entirely blame you in this instance.”
Kila clenched his fists. “He had orders to consult with me before making any further alterations to the engines. I’m far from being in the wrong here.”
“Like hell you are,” Lokmi yelled. “The moment you knew I was on board, you came charging into engineering, demanding I touch nothing. That I don’t do my job as chief engineer, which is all I’m trying to do.”
Kila snarled, but he recognized there was some truth to the Imdiko’s assertions. Damn it, this was his ship, however. His engines. “You have still been insubordinate. I will have your hide for that.”
Piras looked from Lokmi to Kila and back. He barked a harsh laugh. “Wonderful. Just wonderful. I’m pissed off at the captain, and you two are pissed off at each other. Everyone wants to tear everyone else’s head off before the mission is even started. This is the crew that is to beat the Basma? Mother of All, we haven’t got a chance.”
Releasing December 16