Home > Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)(2)

Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)(2)
Author: T.A. White

Mighty big of him when he had driven a space cruiser through Kira's plans.

"This is a highly unusual ask," Jace said, carefully not looking at Kira. "We will need to contact our superiors. They need to be present for this conversation."

Raider crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, a neutral expression on his face.

Silas inclined his head. "We understand. The Emperor's Face anticipated this request and has a deep space connection standing by."

Jace's smile didn't reach his eyes. "How very thoughtful."

Graydon's lips tilted up the barest bit, warning Kira he found this entirely too amusing for her comfort. He must be doing cartwheels inside at having so thoroughly thwarted her. She'd be impressed if she wasn't so infuriated.

One of Graydon's oshota—elite warriors who were some of the deadliest fighters Kira had ever seen—stepped forward carrying what looked like a small rock. Amila's nod was respectful as she set the silvery amethyst stone in front of Jace.

They all looked at the rock. It sat there, doing what rocks do.

Jace's expression was befuddled while Raider raised an eyebrow.

The rock didn't move. No tricks were performed as it lay there—inert.

Jace cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I'm not familiar with this technology."

"Place your hand on it and think of who you want to contact. The anchor will do the rest," Amila said.

Jin made a fascinated sound as he drifted closer, pointing the lens on his front that acted as his eye, at the rock. It was an unnecessary affectation, an inside joke taken from old movies and TV shows from Earth. He had hundreds of mini-cameras built into his case, allowing him a 360-degree view of his surroundings at all times.

"It's mental-based, isn't it? Like the Nexus?" Jin asked.

No one answered for a long moment.

"Yes," Amila said when the silence deepened further.

Jace placed his hand on the rock, his forehead furrowing.

"This is the CSS Valiant. You're using an unauthorized channel," a disembodied voice barked.

"This is Rear Admiral Jace Skarsdale. Confirm voice ID print, code alpha, romeo, delta, sierra, one, niner, two."

"Stand by." The voice sounded slightly startled. Seconds later, the person said, "Code confirmed. What can I do for you, sir?"

"I want a link to Admiral Akira Himoto, top priority, highly classified," Jace said.

"Roger that."

There was a click, and then a man appeared at the end of the table, his hands folded in front of him, his expression contemplative.

Admiral Himoto had been part of Kira's life almost since the moment she'd freed herself from her childhood captors. He was a father figure and mentor all rolled into one. He was the reason she'd joined the Space Force and the person who had forced her to see her unique traits as tools to be used and embraced rather than fought and feared.

He’d told her that her abilities might have arisen from the evil acts of greedy men, but she could choose what to do with her talents. She'd never forgotten that lesson.

Forces outside her control might shape her, but she was in charge of what she became. No one else.

For that reason, she would always love him, even if she no longer trusted him.

He had the weight of an entire race on his shoulders. One lost lamb didn't outweigh the duties he wore like a mantle.

No longer the young man of her childhood, Himoto had aged in the years she'd been away. He was of Japanese descent, and his hair had more gray and white now than black, with faint lines riddling his face. Despite that, the impact of his gaze showcased that same forceful personality she remembered from their first meeting. Eyes that were calm, yet held a wisdom as deep as the ocean.

He didn't seem surprised by his abrupt summons, regarding them calmly. "Lord Graydon, to what do I owe this pleasure? I trust Kira hasn't been too difficult."

Graydon's teeth flashed. "You're a canny human. You knew exactly what we faced. A warning would have been nice."

Himoto allowed himself the briefest of smiles. "I did try. It's not my fault you refused to listen."

Graydon's chuckle was deep, but it didn't fool Kira. Despite the slight teasing, Graydon was a tiger with a man's shape, waiting for his enemy to show weakness. Only then would he pounce.

Himoto's thoughtful gaze moved over them. To Jace, he said, "I assume since you are calling me in this manner, things have not gone as planned."

"We've encountered a slight problem," Jace confirmed.

Himoto let out a weary sigh. "That is always the way."

Next to Himoto, a second man appeared. Younger than Himoto, his hair was buzzed close to his skull, creating the faintest shadow. A permanently dissatisfied frown had taken up residence on his face.

Himoto gestured to the second. "I've taken the liberty of inviting Admiral John Kent to take part in this conversation."

Jace looked like he'd bitten into a lemon.

It didn't take long for Kira to guess why when the man's deep brown eyes swung her way and his lip curled. "What did you do?"

Kira lifted an eyebrow, studying him for several long seconds. It was obvious this man disliked her despite never having met her. Why? An innate dislike for aliens? Or something else?

"That's some greeting you have there. Did you skip diplomacy school while becoming an admiral?" Kira drawled.

"Your reputation precedes you, Captain Forrest."

"Heh, and that makes you an expert," Kira guessed.

Raider's snicker was low, a smile playing over his lips before he looked down, hiding it. "He does have a point."

Jin chortled beside her.

Kira gritted her teeth. "Why are you here again?"

"To make sure you don't do anything stupid, remember?" Raider taunted.

"Good luck with that," Jin muttered.

Kira ignored both of them, studying Himoto instead. His lips tightened faintly. He wasn't thrilled with the other admiral's presence. That more than anything else told her something was going on at Centcom.

Politics. Great. As if she wasn't getting her fill of them already.

Graydon caught her glance.

"This isn't going to work," she mouthed at him.

"We'll see," he mouthed back. "It'll be fun watching you struggle."

Her eyes narrowed. Definitely a little bit of revenge in this ambush.

She caught sight of Finn's carefully blank face from his position against the wall. The oshota had shadowed Kira almost since her arrival on Luatha. She'd accepted him as her shield, which made them responsible for each other in some way Kira still didn't quite understand.

Finn's eyes met hers. He'd tried to warn her during her last encounter with Graydon that things weren't over. Kira should have paid more attention.

She tuned back in as Jace was explaining the situation. "The Tuann have graciously decided to keep their word; however, there is a problem."

"What sort of problem?" Kent demanded.

"We’re happy to give you the ships," Silas spoke up. "But you will find yourself unable to leave the planet with them."

Himoto's expression remained calm as Kent's eyes narrowed. "What good are ships if you won't let them out of your system?"

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