Strands of Power by Callie Bourde
Book Three in the AIR Series by Callie Bourde
Artist Carlim Pa’Kelle has a beading shop on Jump Station Gamma and has just met vid handsome Commander Ruel Meelim.
Then, her decrepit holo-booth kra’aps out. Given an opportunity to use her DNA Manipulation certification, she and Ruel head to Delta Sector… What can go wrong?
Jump Station Gamma, Gamma Sector, Galaxia Alia
What the fruk?
League Galaxia Commander Ruel Meelim stood at the edge of the commerce court and looked around, unhappy.
Built to mimic a bucolic village on some unnamed planet, this shopping area was just one of many on massive Jump Station Gamma, providing food and entertainment for tourists and residents.
Privately, Ruel thought of the great Jump Stations as huge orbiting shopping malls. For the most part, they were the purview of the Galaxia Alia military, not the League Galaxia, so until now, he’d been able to avoid them most of the time.
JS Gamma was strategically placed in Gamma Sector at the nexus of three jump points. Essentially an artificially constructed planet, it supplied both temporary and permanent housing for the GA military. Economically, it provided trade and commerce interests in the vast emptiness of space, and served as a stop off for the big cruise-liners, with many thousands of tourists in transit every day. It was staffed by thousands of civilians and military personnel, living there with their families. Most important of all, it represented the might of the Galaxia Alia.
So… what was he doing here?
This morning he was multi-tasking, learning the JS layout and figuring out who he’d pissed off enough to get this posting.
He was League Galaxia — an elite of the elite in Galaxia Alia — so what the fruk was he doing here on a major tourist cruise hub?
Further adding to the mystery, he’d been sent here to Gamma Sector when his billet was in Beta Sector. Sector Commander Vurtau had barely concealed his amusement… In fact, Vurtau had practically smirked when he conveyed the orders.
He and Vurtau had always had a good working relationship. Both of them were Ap’Ulla and Vurtua had been Ruel’s first commanding officer. Which brought him back in an endless loop to the initial question… Why had he been assigned to JS Gamma as liaison between JS Security and the League Galaxia?
Ruel stood and glowered, arms folded across his chest.
The busy pedestrian traffic was giving him wide berth, the only bright spot in his day.
As per orders, he was not wearing his black and gold League Galaxia uniform, he was in a simple black civilian jumpsuit.
He could only guess that his predatory air, coupled with his Ap’Ulla ancestry and imposing build was making the civilians wary.
If he had to be League Galaxia Liaison for JS Security, he was perfectly happy to make the citizens quake in their boots. And, he congratulated himself, he hadn’t even unfurled his claws.
In the background, he tracked the security announcements and emergency calls coming through his unobtrusive in-ear receiver. They were expecting heavy cruise ship traffic and everyone was on alert.
Deciding on a change in perspective, he moved to the next corridor of the jump station, one of many that led from the food court.
Suddenly, across the food court, he caught movement and color. At the same moment, he felt an unfamiliar electric charge course through his body.
What the fruk?
A small female was leaving the no’odle shop. Her pink hair had drawn his initial attention. Oddly, she wore a skirt, rather than the jumpsuits favored by most genders when out in space. She had leggings under it, which he knew were to provide modesty, should gravity fail. He caught a quick glimpse of her face as she crossed over to the stair-mech.
Ruel moved to keep her in sight. One level up, she crossed the mezzanine, and entered a shop.
Every sense on alert, Ruel pulled out his tablet and checked the JS Navigation App.
On the holo-map, he located the shop she entered and opened the JS Security database.
The shop was a beading shop. Scanning the information, he discovered it offered retail sales of finished jewelry, beading supplies, and also beading classes.
He noted with interest that it was part of the new Galaxia Alia Artist in Residence program. He’d heard of the A*I*R program, but only in passing.
Carlim Pa’Kelle was the artist. She was TuraShenn. In her security photo her hair was the TuraShenn pale gray. Her eyes were the standard darker gray with vertical slits and no eyebrows. It was the woman he’d just seen. He had no idea about the pink hair. Could hair be dyed pink?
Ruel processed what he was feeling. The charge had settled down into a pulsing warmth centered in his chest.
This was unexpected.
In fact, it was so unexpected, Ruel almost brushed it off without bothering to make the final confirmation. He looked at the back of one hand, and with wonder, saw just the hint of an intricate pattern in his plush fur. Likely, if he hadn’t been looking for it, he wouldn’t have noticed.
Now, he stared.
Slowly he brought up his other hand.
It showed the same complex design, but mirrored. Both were faint… not noticeable to any average citizen of the Galaxia Alia. But to any Ap’Ulla…
Either way, pink hair or gray, Ruel now knew why Sector Commander Vurtau had been so amused. It would seem this little TuraShenn artist was an Ap’Ulla mate… In fact, she was his, Ruel’s, mate.
What the fruk?
His mind buzzing with the implications, Ruel headed to the no’odle shop.
It was time for some reconnaissance.