Marks of Power by Callie Bourde
Book Six in the AIR Series by Callie Bourde
Working undercover in a band of marauders, Commander Lazo Arlin passes his allun gonu mate in a jump station corridor. Talk about bad timing! Now he must stay alive, complete his mission, and find his mate.
Disguised LG Shuttle, Planet Tetraam Spaceport, Planetary System Zeta Sector
The tall, broad figure was swathed in the dark, multilayered clothing favored by marauders, hood pulled up. The spaceport was surrounded by flat plain, and a cold rain dripped relentlessly.
A small, beat-up shuttle landed and the hatch opened. No one onboard was visible. Moving powerfully, the male climbed the ramp. The hatch closed creakily, then, with a shudder and rattle, the shuttle took off.
Silently, the marauder entered one of the two cramped cabins. Several minutes later, a League Galaxia Commander in full uniform stepped out of the same cabin.
LG Commander Lazo Arlin was a slick skinned U’ngoloph. He was a rare dark green, which was what had landed him his current assignment… working undercover in one of the most vicious contingents of marauders currently pillaging Zeta Sector.
He’d been undercover for the better part of a year, but if things went as planned, he was poised to take down the entire organization. Personally, he couldn’t wait for it to be over. It had been a long and bloody assignment.
Once on the bridge he said, “What’s with the shake, rattle, and roll?”
LG Commander Ennix Treesi, the pilot, was also in marauder disguise. He grinned. “You like? It’s a new option in the camouflage module.”
Lazo and Ennix had been close friends since their Academy days. He was Kh’Roch, one of the many reptilian based species in the Galaxia Alia. His leather-like skin was a mottled combination of green and brown, indicating that he was from the larger, cooler continent on his home world. An even tempered male Lazo trusted to watch his back, Ennix was not above flashing his terrifying dentition when it would have the most effect.
“I’m not sure I do like it. Too realistic, after some of the bolt buckets I’ve flown in recently.”
Ennix knew better than to ask for specifics, so he moved the conversation to more general terms. “We’ll be at the jump point shortly. You have an appointment with Commander Balle at sixteen thirty hours and I expect to get there in plenty of time. Since you need to keep a low profile, how about lunch at the LG Mess… my treat?”
Lazo scowled. “Your treat? What will it cost me in favors?”
Ennix flashed his sharp teeth menacingly. “A lot.”
Lazo relaxed back into his seat. “Damn, it’s good to be away from those maniacs.” He swiveled his broad shoulders. “So what’s been happening in the League while I’ve been off marauding?”
“We seem to be dropping like flies. At my last count, seven of us have found mates… And in an odd coincidence, most have hooked up with Artists from that new A*I*R program.”
As Ennix filled him in on the gory details, Lazo relaxed for the first time in months. It was good to be back in uniform and with an old friend who had his back.
Lazo tapped on his superior officer’s door. He and Ennix had had a good lunch, and, he reflected, meals were more enjoyable when you weren’t surrounded by cold killers.
To keep his cover from being exposed, they’d landed the shuttle in a League Galaxia bay after switching it over to standard LG insignia. From the bay, they’d been able to access the LG portion of the station, which kept interaction with non LG to a minimum. If he needed to go elsewhere, he’d use the access corridors. While there were never any guarantees, the risk that he’d be seen and his undercover work outed should be minimal.
Lazo’s direct superior, LG Commander Bisee Balle, a Shevaang, was seated at her desk. Looking at the formidable single crest, it was easy to see how her species had overcome the fierce climate on their sandy home world.
Like the Hreid, the Sheevang were strongly represented among the many species that had joined the League Galaxia. Lazo suspected that while their innate sense of honor drew them into service, it was a stronger sense of ‘get it done at any cost and damn the rules’ which drew them to the League Galaxia rather than the standard, more ‘by the book’ Galaxia Alia military or law enforcement.
Seated in one of the two chairs in front of her desk was a ZxYree officer Lazo knew by reputation, but had never met, LG Commander AndoinCoz. The Commander’s paddle like snout, invisible ears, and segmented, armored crest, as well as his webbed and clawed appendages, placed his species closer to their origin than most of the Galaxia Alia reptilians. He and Commander Balle were equals but he was in a different chain of command.
Commander Balle made the introductions and indicated for Lazo to take a seat.
“Commander, I want to start by thanking you for undertaking this assignment.”
Not sure where AndoinCoz was headed, Lazo kept his response minimal. Apparently he passed muster because the officer continued. “From info from other sources, we anticipate that you’ll be able to identify the outsider who has hired Death Eyes’ crew. As soon as you know who it is, we want you to get the fruk out of Zeta. We don’t need for you to gather evidence. We plan to do so, by working it from the other end.”
“You don’t need me to gather any evidence?”