Piras and Kila stepped up to the bottom of the dais. Piras’s sensitive sense of smell caught a whiff of a sweetish cologne that overlaid the sour odor of unwashed skin. He bowed in the traditional Kalquorian greeting to Copeland and the two men standing at his right. “Greetings, Holy Leader Copeland. I am Admiral Piras and this is the captain of my flagship, Nobek Kila.”
Copeland inclined his head, his smile benign. “Welcome, Piras and Kila. Dramok Sitrel has told me much of your bravery and ability to command your fellow Kalquorians. We are delighted to have you assist our holy war.”
Holy war? Was he serious? Earth was a dead rock in space, its people scattered among colonies, space stations, and the few ships that had escaped the war. Copeland and the Earther battlecruisers that remained loyal to him were now employed to help the Basma’s war against the Empire.
Piras shot a look at the Kalquorian standing next to Copeland. He’d recognized the narrow visage of Dramok Sitrel right away, the man who was the Basma’s right hand…and apparent representative for this part of the rebel fleet.
Sitrel bowed to Piras, his stark features pulled into an expression of irritation. In a placatory tone, he said, “We are delighted to help each other achieve our disparate but compatible ends. It is good to see you, Admiral.”
“At last, we make our personal acquaintance, Dramok Sitrel.” Piras was not about express delight at the meeting. The sight of the man with his beaklike nose and haughty demeanor made him want to give his fist a personal acquaintance with Sitrel’s face. Unfortunately, cratering that thin-lipped traitor’s features would make no better an impression than cracking Copeland’s skull open.
Such a pity.
Unaware of Piras’s fantasy of an impromptu face rearrangement, Sitrel managed a smile. With his long black hair pulled tightly back in a braid, it was like looking at a death’s head. “Your report on how you escaped Kalquor when you were found out as a spy has our forces very excited. How incredible that one vessel should remain mostly unscathed after fighting your way out of a cordon of the empire’s best destroyers. I told the Holy Leader that you should have been annihilated, but came away with only minor damage.”
Piras gave him a modest smile. “All the credit goes to Captain Kila and his engineering crew. Their upgrades to the ship made all the difference.”
Avarice lit Sitrel’s eyes. “Upgrades I hope you will share with the rest of us?”
Piras looked to Kila, who had managed to tone down his usual smirk to a politer version. “Certainly. Along with the training to handle such power. It does take a careful, judicious touch.”
Piras barely restrained a snort. Kila was not known for being careful by any means with speed or power.
And there was no way in hell they were giving the Basma’s fleet any of the secrets that made Kila’s destroyer so dangerous.
Releasing Summer 2017