One more DAY!!!
Check out Chapter 1 below…
Kat’Chinna Yarr stood on the observation deck of the Zantharian flagship, staring out at the much smaller vessel currently attached to the hull by a retractor beam. Her hands were clasped behind her back, and she hoped her stance projected the disciplined calm she was nowhere close to feeling.
Kat’Chinna used every ounce of her legendary control to keep her emotions in check. To keep her skin the even green her colleagues would expect from her at all times. None of the turmoil she felt inside could be allowed to show.
Major Ontarii, the flagship’s commander, and Kat’Chinna’s fearless leader, was at this moment exploring the small Earthling vessel with two of his security team. She’d been left behind in charge of the crew. As Major Ontarii’s second in command, it was expected that she be here to take over in case of any emergency.
Nevertheless, it still stung. Being left behind while Major Ontarii risked his life ferreting out the enemy caused her anxiety to rise.
The Hareema, Zanthar’s notorious shapeshifting nemesis, were able to hide in plain sight as anyone or anything. Your grandmother, your own child, even the floor you walked on could be an enemy agent. Her crew had picked up signs of Hareema DNA on the Earthling ship and they’d moved quickly to intercept the vessel. Now Major Ontarii and his men were interrogating the human crew.
Saying the mission was dangerous was an understatement. They’d been as careful as careful could be since the discovery of Hareema on the Zantharian home world. The six-foot blobs of jelly had even impersonated the Minister of Defense, brother to the Zantharian supreme regent himself. The minister was still missing, perhaps dead at the hands of the Hareema. If they had hands at the time.
What they were doing was of the highest importance. Kat’Chinna locked her hands tighter all the while trying to fight to keep her muscles relaxed.
Deep breaths, Kat, she told herself. Major Ontarii’s a big boy. He can take care of himself.
In the five years she’d served under Major Ontarii’s command, the major had time and again proved himself an excellent commander. He was strong, brave, and powerful, but at the same time respectful of his colleagues. He demanded the best from his underlings because he held himself to an even higher standard. It was an honor and a privilege to serve under him, and Kat’Chinna had never once been disappointed at being assigned to his crew.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s also handsome. And smart. And probably the most loyal and honest man I’ve ever met.
Although she would never admit this anywhere outside of her own mind, Kat’Chinna was half in love with the dashing Major Ontarii. He’d only ever been professional with her, so she couldn’t tell if perhaps her feelings would be returned. And because of her position as his second, they weren’t free to pursue a relationship.
That didn’t stop Major Ontarii from starring in her fantasies each night.
She’d always wondered what kind of lover he would be, even if her curiosity filled her with embarrassment. He was a man of quiet strength, one who had always been fair but firm with his crew. She wondered if that strength and firmness would translate to his lovemaking.
Kat’Chinna shook her head to clear it of such perilous thoughts. They had an easy working relationship, and the major trusted her with high-level, classified information. She couldn’t risk losing what they had by exposing her desire for him.
An alert sounded and she turned from the viewport, her body springing to action. In a few steps, she was out the door and headed down the corridor, toward the hatch that served as the entrance to the Earthling ship. It was heavily guarded, an additional membrane established to act as a quarantine in case any life forms attempted to invade the flagship.
As she approached, the membrane between the Earthling ship and hers opened. She watched as Major Ontarii stepped through, followed by three others.
Kat’Chinna made her way to the barrier, waiting as Major Ontarii breached the second membrane. She charged up her bioelectricity, seeing similar ripples tracing up the skin of the four guards gathered around the quarantined area. They would be ready for anything.
Major Ontarii cleared the second membrane and nodded at his crew. He then gestured for the humans to follow. As they stepped into the corridor, Kat’Chinna sized them up.
The first one through was small, with dark hair that framed her face. A female, Kat’Chinna surmised. All Zantharians officers were required to have a working knowledge of other species’ biology. Human females were generally smaller and more delicate than their male counterparts. The same was not exactly true of Zantharian females.
Next came another female, this one slightly taller, and with almost no hair on her head, just the barest hint of dark fuzz. She hurried to the other human’s side, putting an arm around her and staring daggers at the rest of the crew.
Kat’Chinna almost smiled. At least that one has some fight in her.
The last human pushed through the membrane, and for a moment all thoughts fled from Kat’Chinna’s mind.
A human male, tall and well-muscled (for a human), with hair that was cut close on the sides and neck, giving way to longer waves on the top. The color reminded her of the Southern Sea under moonlight, a glowing yellow that she’d spent long nights admiring during her training with the Zantharian guard. They’d done several night missions, long nights at sea, and that color had always brought her a strange sense of inner peace.
Kat’Chinna forced herself to continue her inspection, pushing away her wayward thoughts. The male’s skin was lightly tanned, and she wondered how he managed that while spending so much time in a starship. His eyes were a deep blue, and she noted immediately the intelligence she found there.
She realized those eyes were staring back at her and blinked, unsure why the human’s gaze unsettled her.
“I want these three taken to the brig,” Major Ontarii commanded, pulling her attention away from the male. Kat’Chinna was almost grateful for the distraction. She set her mind back to her duty.
Major Ontarii was already striding down the corridor, headed for the bridge. Kat’Chinna nodded at the guards to stay put, knowing they would keep an eye on the humans. She then jogged after her leader.
“Major, if you’ll excuse the interruption, we need to follow protocol.”
Major Ontarii turned back to face her. She was struck for a moment by the coldness of his expression. “Protocol, Yarr?”
Kat’Chinna swallowed. “Yes. We have to initiate the energy exchange.”
Major Ontarii cracked a small smile. “Worried I’ve been taken over by the enemy?”
Her brows furrowed. “It is protocol.”
“Of course. Follow me.” His strides resumed, and in another moment he was sliding through the membrane to the bridge.
Kat’Chinna ran after him, crossing the bridge right behind him. “Major, if you please!”
Major Ontarii stopped and nodded at her. “Of course, Lieutenant. Your devotion to duty is, as always, appreciated.”
Kat’Chinna let out the breath she’d been holding in. Her body rippled with the energy charged up inside her. She held out a hand, expecting him to accept the shock required to prove he was not one of the Hareema.
Instead, he turned to the bridge crew. “You,” he said, pointing to the navigator. “Initiate energy exchange.”
Kat’Chinna was barely able to stop her jaw from dropping. Why would he not accept her charge? They’d completed the energy exchange together countless time, per Zantharian protocol.
The navigator stood and held out his hand. Kat’Chinna watched as the charge arced between the two men.
Major Ontarii turned to her and smiled. “Satisfied that I am who I say I am?”
“I…I never doubted you,” she replied, confusion barreling around inside her like a circling school of shinerfish.
The membrane once again opened, the guards from the corridor escorting the humans onto the bridge. Major Ontarii scowled. “I thought I ordered the prisoners taken to the brig.”
“Prisoners? Now wait just a minute.”
Kat’Chinna watched as the human male approached her commander. His voice was smooth, but with an edge he didn’t bother to hide. “You never said we were prisoners. Captain Brooklyn trusted you to keep us safe while your crew and ours hunted for these supposed shapeshifters, but she never agreed that we were to be your prisoners.”
Major Ontarii’s expression betrayed his annoyance, even as his skin stayed an even green. “Your captain understands the situation. You’re no match for the Zantharian fleet. And whether you want to call yourselves our guests or our prisoners, the point remains that you will be kept here, under guard, until we get the answers we seek.”
The human women huddled together, their faces belying their fear. But no fear was evident in the male’s expression. His face was dominated by unbridled anger. “Take me back to my ship immediately!”
Major Ontarii ignored him, speaking instead to the guards. “Put them in the brig.”
While the guards attempted to herd the humans back toward the membrane, the male dodged around them, rushing toward the major.
Without thinking, Kat’Chinna stepped into his path, slapping both hands against his chest and letting loose her bioelectricity.
The human froze, his face a rictus of pain as the charge ran through his body. He dropped to his knees, his muscles clenching and unclenching uncontrollably. After a moment he slumped, his chin against his chest, his breathing heavy.
“Well, at least we know this one’s still human,” Major Ontarii said with a light chuckle. “Get them out of here.”
One of the guards pulled the male up and dragged him toward the membrane. The women followed, eyeing the guards warily and putting up no further protest.
Kat’Chinna watched them clear the membrane, then turned back to her commander. “What happened on that ship, Major?”
For a moment she thought Major Ontarii would ignore her. He pulled up his command console and began pressing buttons.
It was unlike him not to respond. He’d always shared everything with his second in command. Was that about to change?
“Things are still underway on the Earthling’s vessel,” he said at last. “I’ve spoken with their captain, and she’s agreed to help search her ship for any Hareema. I’ve left two of my best men behind to aid in the search.”
Major Ontarii’s eyes met hers. “Things are going to be different,” he said, not bothering to speak to her privately but allowing the whole bridge to hear his words. “The Hareema threat is worse than we could have thought, and we have no idea how these humans play into their plans. But make no mistake, the humans are involved somehow. It is imperative that we discover how.”
Kat’Chinna nodded, eager to show her obedience. “Your orders, Sir?”
“Find out what they know. The Hareema have been on that ship. I need to know how they got there. Don’t let up until you get me the information I need.”
“Understood,” she said, almost relieved to break eye contact and leave the bridge. Major Ontarii was never one to laugh at his adversaries.
He’s under enormous pressure to root out the enemy, she told herself as she headed toward the brig. Stress like that can have strange outlets. Stop worrying and focus on what’s at hand.
Kat’Chinna concentrated on emptying her body of doubt and anxiety. She’d been charged with a task. And by Noruma, she was going to complete it.