Home > Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)(7)

Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)(7)
Author: T.A. White

So why was she hesitant to take their help now?

"Take the hand they're offering you, Kira," Jace urged.

There was no choice, she realized. Even if Jin hadn't thrown his ultimatum, she would have had to take this road. She was stubborn, not stupid. No matter how much she wanted to knock Graydon and the rest of the arrogant Tuann down a peg or two, she wouldn't kill herself to do it.

"How are you going to fix me?" she asked.

Silas and Quillon exchanged a look. This time Quillon was the one to answer her. "Our species rarely spend extended time away from our planets. The Mea'Ave provides something vital so we can live. Those who have not had contact with it weaken. If enough time goes by, they eventually die."

"With enough time, the planet will heal me," Kira guessed.

"That is an oversimplification. A healer will need to guide the process, but yes. We are familiar with this ailment. It is something we can fix," Quillon said.

Easily, it sounded like.

"Looks like this round goes to you," Kira told Graydon. "Don't think you’ll always get your way."

Graydon watched her for several seconds. Kira could see the thoughts moving behind his eyes, the plots, the schemes. Graydon wasn't the sort to let life happen around him. He prodded and guided until he got the outcome he wanted.

She didn't know why he'd fixated on her, but she had no doubt he would try to figure out a way to make her stay. She looked forward to the battle.

"Good enough. There will be time later to change your mind," he promised.

She snorted. "Not likely, but you're welcome to try."

His smile was wicked as it curved his lips. "I look forward to it."

Shandry sat forward. "I have a healing regimen that should help things along."

Kira's glance was cutting. "You're not touching me."

Shandry's mouth dropped open, shocked disbelief on her face. "You can't mean that."

"I do exactly mean that. I don't trust you. It'll be a cold day in hell before I let you close to me." The tone of Kira's voice made the depth of her resolve unmistakable.

Quillon's nod was sharp, his expression understanding. "This is acceptable. House Roake has many skilled healers, including myself."

The tight ball in Kira's stomach loosened. Her history with doctors and the like was a complicated one. They were a necessary evil in her mind. She needed them; her life had been too dangerous not to. But they reminded her of a childhood spent being poked and prodded, experimented on like a common lab rat.

"Fine," Kira finally said, sweeping her gaze over the room. This wasn't what she would have chosen, but it was a path forward. Sometimes that was all you could ask for.

Adapting was one of the first tenets of warfare. She'd gotten good at that. The Tuann were about to learn how good.




A day later Kira stood in front of an archway that stretched three stories high, symbols and runes carved along its sides. Different metals were etched into the design, creating a complex pattern that wove between the symbols. Like most of the Citadel of Light, the structure was breathtaking. Awe-inspiring even. Impossibly delicate while at the same time speaking of strength and an endurance that would outlast even the fall of empires.

Humanity had many marvels in its history. All those achievements paled in the face of this.

A gate, designed to take you from world to world without ever setting off into space. An impossible dream that turned out to be all too real.

The physics of it was mind-boggling in the extreme. Kira didn't pretend to understand, but she didn't need to. All she needed to do was walk through when the time came. That, and pray she survived the experience.

Graydon and Silas had decided it was their best option for reaching Ta Sa’Riel. Traveling by ship was too dangerous after the incursion by the Tsavitee. Both Graydon and Silas's vessels were diplomatic ships, not equipped for war. They had their fangs, sure, but they wouldn't last long against anything over elite class.

"We have to travel through that?" Raider didn't bother to hide his skepticism as he set his duffel bag next to Kira’s and peered up at the giant structure. He shifted a second bag to his other hand.

"Doesn't really inspire confidence, does it?" he told her.

She frowned at him. "What are you doing here?"

Blue darted forward before he could answer, a small sound of wonder escaping her. "These runes aren't like any of the others I've seen in the Citadel. How does it work?"

Blue was short and wiry, her coloring pointing to an Asian descent. She'd been an orphan when Kira had found her and was now a Cur along with Raider. Her real name was Yuki, but everyone knew her as Blue.

The tips of her hair were the color of her namesake; a color Blue had used in one way or another since the day they'd met. Her bone structure made her appear delicate, and more than one person had mistaken her as weak.

Blue was always quick to teach them the error of their assumptions. She was a scrapper, and she didn't always fight fair. Actually, she almost never fought fair. That was one of the perks of being scary smart.

An ever-present curiosity lit her expression. Kira could practically see the gears turning as she schemed how to take the gate apart to pry its secrets from the scattered pieces.

Blue drifted toward the gate, almost as if she couldn't help herself.

"No touching, Blue. You know the rules," Jace ordered. "We can't afford to upset our hosts."

The look Blue shot him said she wasn't dumb. Kira hid her grin, knowing that was exactly what she'd been considering. Blue was nothing if not predictable in this. She had a bad habit of disassembling the things that interested her so she could find out how they worked. It had often led her into trouble in the past.

"The pathway to other worlds is one of the most heavily guarded secrets of the Tuann. You should count yourselves lucky to experience it," Liara said.

Kira could see why. Something like this would offer its owner a strategic advantage.

Liara moved toward them, dressed much the same as she'd been the first time Kira had seen her. The synth armor polished to a deep green that reminded Kira of the forest, a cape trailing behind her. It was far too long to be considered anything but a liability during a fight.

Liara's eyes were fierce and guarded as she studied the four of them. She was still pale but no longer looked as if she could be knocked over with a gentle push.

Kira frowned at Raider and Jace again, not having forgotten her question.

Raider jerked his head at Jace. "He managed to convince them of the necessity of joint training operations."

Kira considered Jace. Now, how had he managed that? The Tuann didn't exactly consider humans trustworthy—or even overly useful.

Jace lifted a shoulder. "It wasn't hard. The attack proved the Tsavitee aren't interested in only humans. They’ve made themselves everyone’s problem. It'll be a lot easier to deal with them if we work together. Familiarizing ourselves with the Tuann’s society and military capabilities can only help both of us in the long run."

Maybe so, but Kira doubted the Tuann would have accepted that argument so easily. They were nothing if not reclusive, and they didn't like others playing in their sandbox.

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