Beams of Power by Callie Bourde
Book One in the AIR Series by Callie Bourde
Light Sculptor An’Ish Dy is on Jump Station Beta for her big break — a major concert starring Klonee singer, Quuee. She’s met dishy Commander Mazim Edun and things are going well, until there’s a major construction accident.
Jump Station Delta, Delta Sector, Galaxia Alia
League Galaxia Commander Mazim Edun noticed her as she exited the ped-track. His initial observation was second nature. A security specialist, he was aware of his surroundings and everyone within. Always.
She had two travel crates and handled them like a pro. Further evidence of her experience, the crates were a heavy-duty matched set, designed to clamp together and travel as one unit. A quick glance showed that they were high-end and each had its own antigravity unit, so it didn’t matter which way they were stacked. They seemed to be marked on all sides — An’Ish Dy Light Sculptor.
She guided them straight to the cargo loading area. The attendant waved his identi-wand, said something to her and they laughed. She replied and turned away, still smiling. Seeing her smile, he straightened, his previously casual interest now more focused and personal.
He shouldn’t have been on this flight. He shouldn’t have seen her. In fact, if Trinee hadn’t insisted on the schedule change…
He put it in context. Forecaster Anurahdi Trinee had made the request. So, this likely meant something, and if he was lucky, it meant something significant.
As it happened, she took a seat across from him in the boarding area. She glanced around, and he felt her gaze pass over him like a caress. He’d heard about this — allun gonu — but hadn’t dared to hope that he would experience it himself. Thank you, Trinee. The thought was silent but heartfelt.
She was his potential mate, now all he had to do was convince her.
After her initial glance around the seating area, she ignored him and his League Galaxia uniform. He was amused to note his disappointment. While he didn’t consider himself vain, he was used to garnering attention, especially in uniform.
Her sparkling eyes, green skin, and dark red hair identified her as Chill’ra… and if he remembered his bio-geography correctly, the dark, almost emerald tones said she came from one of their outer planets. She wore a well-tailored charcoal gray jumpsuit, low boots with gripper soles, and had a beautiful but practical cross-body bag strapped across her chest. Her mode of dress indicated that she was prepared for unexpected gravity loss. She looked every inch the experienced traveler.
A short while later, the computer generated boarding announcement was made in Galaxia Alia’s approved six languages. Three different subtitles were displayed on the screens along with the standard percussion translation for those races that processed information by vibration. Jump Station Delta served four incoming jump points. Like all the Jump Stations, it acted as a major travel hub, so it hosted a myriad of species.
In response to the announcement, his potential mate leisurely finished whatever it was she’d been reading on her tablet and stowed it back in her cross-body bag.
When it was time to board, she was two passengers ahead of him and he noted that she didn’t even reach his shoulder. That surprised him. All the Chill’ra he’d known — male and female — were his height, or close to it.
“Welcome aboard Jump Shuttle 405…” The steward glanced at his chip and added smoothly, “Commander Edun.”
He nodded politely. “Thank you. Are we on schedule?”
“We are, with no delays expected.”
Jump Station Beta, their destination, was undergoing a massive expansion, and Mazim had run into landing and departure delays several times. He was happy to hear that none were expected today, but privately bet himself there was at least a 50-50 chance of an unscheduled delay.
He looked past the steward to see the light sculptor — his light sculptor — snag one of the workstations set in the outer perimeter of the cabin. Demand for the desks was usually strong because many commuters wanted to work during the flight. This flight was off hours, so there was less competition.
He chose a seat two rows over, but with a clear view of her.
Throughout the trip, she worked hard, her professional grade tablet fully extended and both screens active. She had the audio set to private and from what he could see over her shoulder, she was watching a performance of some type on one screen while taking notes on the other.
He passed the time gleaning as much information about his potential mate as possible. He started with a universal search for Light Sculptor. He hadn’t seen many live performances of any kind, and so that world was unfamiliar. Next, he added her name to the search string and discovered she was well known with an extensive work history, which obviously explained her travel experience. He visited her comm-net site which had a list of upcoming performances. She was scheduled for a series of concerts on Jump Station Beta, their destination.
He read with interest. She created the lighting for performers — singers, dancers, any kind of live performance. He noted that she also provided support for the Galaxia Alia Artist in Residence program. Based out of Delta Sector, she worked all across Galaxia Alia. No wonder she was a relaxed traveler.
He ran distances in his head and was amused to find that she’d probably traveled more than he had as a member of the League Galaxia. At the jump point, she’d ridden out the momentary discomfort as though it was nothing, and now he understood why.
As the shuttle approached Jump Station Beta, she folded her tablet into carry mode and pulled up an app.
The crease between her eyes implied that the app was unfamiliar. He was amused when she shook the tablet, her frustration evident.
Standing behind her as they waited to exit the shuttle, he could see two apps on her screen. One he didn’t recognize. The other was the familiar Station Positioning System app.
He passed through the gate and the attendant greeted him. “Welcome back, Commander Edun. I hope your trip was pleasant.”
“Thank you. It was. No delays.”
There were few travelers, and the attendant took the extra time to chat. “Yes, sir. We’re having a good day today. This station construction project has been a challenge.”
“And seems like it is going on forever?”
“Very much, sir. I’ve heard that it is 75% complete, but my bet in the station pool says the last 25% will take as long as the first 75% did.”
“I suspect you are correct, unfortunately.” With a final nod, he left the arrival gate and its attendant.
Throughout the conversation, he’d been unobtrusively watching his little Chill’ra. She’d just collected her travel crates, and consulting her tablet, she started to move.
Still intrigued, he drifted behind her, careful to appear unthreatening. He expected her to head directly to the luxurious main station, possibly to the large theatre at the center of the complex. Instead, she surprised him when she turned toward the utilitarian shipping bays.