We’re continuing from yesterday’s installment as part of the Wednesday Briefers. Today we continue the remainder of the chapter and we’ll be back next Wednesday.
Finishing the chapter – looking to the future
Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
(…continued from yesterday)
Arad forced himself not to roll his eyes. Julian didn’t rub his more paranoid instincts the wrong way, so he’d agreed to let him pilot the Ansariland. A little stiff and set in his ways, he’d likely relax once they got to know him in tight quarters. Arad wasn’t too jaded yet to give him the chance.
“I still don’t see why we needed another pilot.” Yosei turned and stuck her tongue out at Julian.
“Because your brilliance is better suited keeping the software at peak efficiency, and Julian’s brilliance is his military piloting and navigational record. Make sure he has all the system privileges he needs.”
Leaning back in his chair, Julian crossed his arms over his chest and smirked at Yosei. “Oo-Rah.”
Her pink hair stood straighter at the taunt. “Don’t get snippy, spot. I’ll lock you in your room without your favorite chewy.”
“Oy! That’s speciesist.”
“No, that’s the truth of what I can do. As far as you’re concerned, I rule here, Mr. Oo-Rah, and don’t you forget it.” Yosei kept poking Julian in the chest. He didn’t flinch, barely registering the motion.
“Forget? I could sit on you and not even notice.”
Yosei lurched back in animated shock. “Making fun of my height? That’s low.”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
“I’m gonna airlock your kibble—”
And Arad left the bridge. The risk of being dragged into their squabble… no. Not today. That had better have been friendly banter between them. Arad crossed his fingers and hurried around the corner.
Paused by the shout, Arad found his chief mechanic jogged up to him. “Pakko, what’s up?”
“I wanted to catch you. Engine’s all tuned up. We’re good to go.”
More physically fit than before Arad’s death, Pakko’s stretch incarcerated hadn’t seemed to do any permanent harm. Head still shaved with matching dark subtle over his jaw, he looked energetic and ready to work. The darkness of the Nightingale appeared lifted.
Arad had been fortunate to visit Pakko in jail, which helped calm his prejudices of the prison system. He’d been well fed and hadn’t appeared to suffer any harm. If fact, he looked healthier than when they’d first met. Once he recognized Arad in his upgrading body, Pakko burst into tears and begged forgiveness for not saving him from Bryce and her insanity. Arad spent a lot of time assuring him he’d never blamed Pakko for that. They’d survived enough together, Arad could forgive.
“Good. We’ve got about forty minutes left. Is my jump drive working?”
“Hell yes. I wouldn’t go anywhere with you without it.” Pakko grinned, yet hedged his next sentence. “But seriously, thanks for hiring me right out of jail. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.”
Parole had been granted barely a week ago with minimal stipulations. With Arad as his sponsor, and a good word from Dr. Windsor, he’d been granted leave to accept a job which included interstellar travel.
“I spent weeks getting to know my ship, and you and Yosei figured it out in greater detail in days. I needed a crew that can keep us running smooth. It wasn’t that big of a leap.”
“Y’know, I don’t think I ever had a chance to say thank you.”
Tiny creases formed between Pakko’s brows. “The Nightingale. Hodge. All the crap I was involved in. You didn’t have to choose me for the crew.” Pakko inhaled, his eyes watering.
“Nope. But we all deserve second chances.”
“I won’t forget that. I swear.” Pakko discreetly looked around. Even though he lowered his voice, he barked out a laugh laced with happy near-tears. “I still can’t get over you getting turned.”
Chuckling, Arad gave a hearty pat to Pakko’s shoulder as he continued on his way. “Second chances, man. Second chances. Tell Yosei and Julian we launch in thirty.”
“Aye, aye, captain.”
A fleeting wind of guilt rustled his fur at the thought of Pakko walking into the potential chaos on the bridge, but it vanished just as quickly. Must have come from the ventilation system. Either way, he picked up his pace before anyone became wise.
Despite this, he made a stop at the infirmary, which now was a real live medical center under Dr. Windsor’s guiding hand. Somehow the ship renovators had increased the room’s footprint from the dismal closet space it had once been. In fact, he was pretty sure they’d somehow increased the overall size of the Ansariland in general.
He could almost see the old mountings on the wall for the old, pathetic first aid kit between a pair of panel monitors running final calibration tests. Efficient work surfaces and new equipment made it a place where real help could be provided. Dr. Windsor stood in the center, inspecting a series of medical tools Arad wanted no part of.
Arad rapped the door jamb because he had no interest in crossing the threshold. “We’re leaving shortly. Are you sure you want to come along?”
“I did not arrange all of this to be left behind. Besides, you deserve to have a proper doctor on board with proper facilities equipped to care for DemiShou.” New profiles had been uploaded to the medbed to prevent the “file not found” error loop which kept it from counteracting Shichi’s poison and led to Arad’s eventual death.
“Blame the crappy facilities on the previous landlord, not me.”
Windsor paused, watching him with an assessing gaze stand outside the door. She lost none of her casual elegance as she opened a drawer and swept all of her devices inside and out of sight. Arad felt a line of tension he wasn’t aware of dissipate.
“Perhaps, but I still want to be there when we find the first of Chakijane’s exiles. I’m better equipped to answer questions than most.” A number of the dignitaries who purchased DemiShou from ApexCorp had gone in hiding, taking their trophy hybrids with them. PlanetGenCo, on behalf of Dr. Windsor had, made deals with corporate authorities to be the point of first contact with the exiled DemiShou to let them know they had options other than quarantine or prison. When she pitched her plan to Arad asking to use the Ansariland and its crew as the ship given the mission, he thought she was crazy.
And he immediately signed the contract.
“I can’t say you’re wrong. It just seems an odd trip for the director of Moreau to be taking.”
“Didn’t you hear? I’m not director anymore.”
“You quit your job?” Arad was so stunned to hear the news, he almost stepped into sick bay.
Brow cocked, she crossed her slender arms over her chest. “I set aside my position so I could focus on the new mission and start bringing awareness of Moreau to more of the DemiShou population. People in my position don’t quit. We resign.”
“And you’re all right not being in charge?”
“You’re far more intelligent than you give yourself credit for and you’re a talented strategist. Your survival techniques should be in training manuals. We may not agree on every decision, but I will defer command to you. Unless, of course, you’re being ridiculous.”
“I do have the security chief on my side.”
“Repressing the serfs already? Your future as a despot is solid. Until that happens, I have a game of chess waiting for us. Assuming you won’t cry when an old woman spanks you.”
Arad’s ears perked up at the mention of chess. “Once we’re underway, you may regret those words.”
“I regret nothing. Your king, however, is going to be used like a two credit whore. Let me know when you’re free.”
Horrified by her trash talk, Arad left before she scandalized him further. The hallway circled past the crew quarters, the exercise room and the lavatory, thankfully now separated by a wall. Every area looked in better condition than he ever imagined possible.
Once he moved past the engine room, he stopped in front of the cargo bay. Touching the panel, the door slid open, no longer accompanied by the sound of scraping metal on metal. Automatics lights flickered into life and he stepped inside.
Crates no longer formed a wall to hide anything and he didn’t need to navigate the maze. Stacks of supplies lined the walls with room for potentially more in the open center. The cryotubes were gone as well as the mattress he used to lay on while reading manuals and keeping watch on the sleeping Demis.
So much orbited around this room over his time on the Ansariland. First it was the secret space he didn’t have access to, then the home for living contraband. So much violence. So much pain connected a cadre of thieves to the schemes he’d been entwined in. He was only supposed to be the cabin boy.
How things had changed.
Arad walked over to where the cryotubes once sat, shallow scuffs on the floor the only proof of their existence beyond his memory. Hours and days spent being their silent guardian, not knowing what to expect, or what would be required of him.
Massive arms surround Arad from behind. It didn’t startle him. He knew Roku’s scent, and his sharpened hearing caught the tiger’s soft footsteps. The days of his mate sneaking up on him had long since passed.
“Reminiscing?” Roku asked, rubbing his chin over the top of Arad’s head.
“A bit. A lot happened here. Sometimes I wondered what would have happened if I’d never had the urge to come in here after I ranked up.”
“Our lives would have been much different.”
“You probably would have died.” Arad reached up and squeezed the hard muscles holding him tight.
Roku’s chin ground Arad’s hair as he nodded. “Probably.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
“I am too. I wouldn’t have you if I did.” Roku gave Arad a sultry chuckle, pointing at the nearby drain. “I believe that’s where we met.”
“You mean the spot where you ravished my drug-addled body into being your willing sex slave?”
Finding Arad’s nipple through his shirt, Roku circled a thumb over the nub while pressing himself into Arad from behind. “Yes. I believe that’s exactly the spot I’m talking about.”
A purr rolled out of Arad at the tempting offer, but he forced himself to pull out of Roku’s grasp with a regretful laugh. “Oh no you don’t. We’ll be launching shortly, and I’m not about to be caught by anyone sneaking in a quickie before we go.”
“Are you sure?” Crossing his arms over that marvelous chest made Roku’s arms flex in a way he knew Arad liked. Since Arad’s conversion, Roku didn’t need to hold back his animalistic nature, and the result allowed him to relax and be more playful. A wonderful change of pace. He’d also gone back to wearing kilts, which Arad heartily approved of, especially his penchant for not wearing anything underneath. The slit up the side exposed his thick thigh and would give Arad ample access…
“Yes, I’m sure.” Arad adjusted himself. His trousers were too snug for this sort of teasing. “Later. After we get settled in, you and I will celebrate our first official day as owners of the Ansariland.”
“Technically, you’re the owner of the ship.”
Arad clasped Roku’s hand and drew him in close. His voice failed him once or twice before he finally forced out the words. “You’re my mate. Everything I have is yours. Anything I can give you, I will.”
“I would never abuse that trust.”
Now the declaration was out in the air, it all became easier. “That’s why I give it to you.”
Roku curled his shoulders until their foreheads touched. “I love you, now and forever, Captain Ansari.”
“And I love you too, Security Chief Eijiro.”
The kiss was sweet and simple, sealing a bargain they’d already made and would continue to make over and over again. Roku was patient every time, because Arad had difficulty sharing parts of himself because others had used him for their own purposes over the years. His parents. Davis. Torrins. All had their agendas. Arad knew Roku didn’t deserve to be compared to any of them, but habits were difficult to break, and he continued to work on it every day. Not everyone got a second lifetime to compensate for the first.
Arad playfully tapped Roku’s lips with a finger. “You know, my title doesn’t sound so bad when I hear you say it out loud.”
“Then I’ll have to use it more often.” Roku said as he kissed Arad’s fingertip.
“See that you do.”
Roku reached up and caught Arad’s hand in his own and stared deep into his eyes. “I love the brightness of your eyes, Captain Ansari.”
Opening his shirt with his other hand, he guided Arad into palming his chest and stroking the slabs of glorious muscle. “I love the way your fur meshes with mine, Captain Ansari.”
With Arad feeling the hard flesh, Roku wrapped his arm around Arad’s waist and jerked him up and on his toes, aligning their groins together. “I love the way you surrender when I press myself against you, Captain Ansari.”
The length of Roku’s organ snaked upward as it hardened. The pressure drew a husky gasp out of Arad. He rubbed his jaw along Arad’s head and neck, making Arad gently yowl.
“I love it when you take my cock, Captain Ansari.”
Arad found himself grinding into Roku as he whispered in his ear. “Roku… make sure the door is closed and serve your captain already.”
And he did.
Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is the end! 83 weeks to work through this story and I can’t believe it’s finished. Thank you all for following along and taking the ride with me. Be sure to follow my Twitter and FaceBook accounts (links at the top) to be kept up to speed with my future stories and general world view.
Thank you all!!!