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Copyright ©2013 Declan Sands
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"We need a zero-gravity chamber in your house."
Matt grinned at Rum, his gold eyes crinkling with humor. "Not a chance. Your feet would never touch the floor again."
The fairy waggled his fine, blond eyebrows and turned back to the viewport to watch the home planet of the Authority looming closer. Much of the surface of Enitrus was blue, as a large part of the planet was water. The rest was black, because the soil was heavily comprised of black sand. Most of its surface was flat, but a high, uneven ridge of mountains made a strange fringe around the center of the planet. Like a hippo in a ballet tutu.
A dark shadow passed overhead and Matt looked up to see the wide, silver underbelly of a merchant airship skimming past high above. Blue lights on the sleek surface seemed to twinkle as space debris flashed past. Ahead and around them, colored lights and movement dotted the black airspace of the galaxy surrounding the lone planet. After days of shooting across empty space, accompanied only by large chunks of meteor rock floating lazily past, the traffic had grown steadily more dense the closer they'd come to the busy planet.
"Mr. Blood." Matt turned at the slightly high-pitched, breathy sound of Acting Commander Manchester's voice, and frowned. Manchester had been tapped to command the Authority airship Vibrance's mission to Enitrus at the last minute, when the ship's real commander disappeared without a word, and he obviously wasn't comfortable with his leading role. At that moment he looked especially out of his league. His customarily stoic expression was colored with worry.
The commander of the Vibrance threw a quick glance out the viewport, probably to see how close they were to docking. "It's Brand Lotus. His ship has been spotted about a light year from Earth."
"That's close, right?" Rum was a fairy and therefore used to flying, but his experience above the ground was almost entirely limited to the area within Earth's atmosphere. Intergalactic travel was a new adventure for him.
Commander Manchester slid a gaze toward Rum, his blue eyes narrowing with suspicion as they usually did when fixing on the fairy. "Yes. At their present rate of speed, they'll touch down in a couple of days."
Matt frowned. "Even if we turned around right now, we wouldn't make it in time."
Manchester inclined his head in agreement.
"Any idea what he's up to?" Matt asked.
"The communications we've intercepted seem to suggest he's got a target on Earth. Someone he considers collateral."
Matt threw Rum a look, reading the same alarm he was feeling in his lover's wide, turquoise gaze. "He's going after Littlejohn."
"Or Petra," Rum added. He shook his head, flinging his longish, blond curls around his head.
Matt looked at the commander. "We need to turn around."
The other man shook his head. "We need to dock at least long enough to restock supplies and replenish our fuel."
Matt swore, beginning to pace. He stopped after a moment and looked up. "Where's my brother?"
Manchester's gaze slid to the viewport and he inclined his head. "Our last report was that he and the Hell-hound were on Enitrus."
Matt's eyes widened in surprise. "Seriously?"
Manchester nodded. "Vacation, apparently."
"Shit!" Matt looked at Rum. "We need to warn Littlejohn."
Rum sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. "They won't stand a chance against Lotus and his hot puppies."
"They'll have to go underground until we can get to them," Matt agreed.
Rum thought about it for a moment. "Literally?"
Frowning, Matt asked, "What do you mean?"
"I think I know a place they can go underground for real." Rum smiled, obviously warming to the idea.
"You're thinking about the fairy mound, aren't you?" Matt shook his head. "The elders will never go for it."
"If it weren't for Petra and Littlejohn, there would be no mound. The fairies owe them," Rum argued.
Scrubbing his fingers through his short, brown hair, Matt started to pace again, his mind racing. "That might be true but from what you've told me, I don't think the elders will acknowledge it."
Rum started toward the oval-shaped doorway at the back of the control room. "You leave that up to me. I have something in mind that I think I can talk them into."
Matt expelled a breath, wondering how his sexy fairy was going to pull off the impossible task. He looked up as the door slid open with a whoosh. "Wait, where are you going?"
Rum stopped in the doorway and looked back, his smoldering turquoise gaze fixed on Matt. "To find a mirror."
Fairies communicated over distance through mirrors. Matt realized Rum was planning to contact the elders. He started to argue and then just sighed, nodding. "Thanks, babe." Watching Rum go, Matt dropped into the nearest console seat and scrubbed a hand over his face.
"It's their best chance," Manchester offered.
Matt blinked, having momentarily forgotten the other man was there. "I know. But there will be great risk to the fairies." He frowned, wondering how his favorite fairy would handle more deaths in his beloved mound. "I was hoping to keep the collateral damage to a minimum."
Manchester nodded. "We'll be docked on Enitrus a minimum of twelve hours. You might want to locate your brother and engage his help on this one. Lotus knows we're on to him now, and he's planning an all-out war. He has nothing to lose at this point and everything to gain."
Matt nodded. "I will, thanks." He swiveled his chair toward the view of Enitrus's busy docking zone, quickly approaching beyond the glass. His thoughts raced. He'd hoped they'd have more time to plan and regroup before taking on the powerful snake-shifter and his dangerous minions. Thank God his brother was very good at making plans.
He just hoped Cliff could forgive him for interrupting the vacation with his lover, Marshal Falen Scott, and dragging him into a new and dangerous adventure. Because their friends were in serious danger, and the two brothers and their lovers might be the only thing standing between them and certain death.