Thursday, January 29, 2015

April 22

I think I may need to spend another week in bed. Betra and Oses wore me out this morning ... in a very good way.

It’s nice having that Nobek around more often now that he’s on medical leave. I do enjoy our, ahem, therapy sessions. Hey, now that I’m well rested and my hypertension has taken a leave of absence, Tep wanted me to get some exercise. He didn’t specify what kind of workouts I should get. Sex works perfectly fine, thanks.

Besides, a Nobek has to be kept busy. Feru insisted Oses take leave while he deals with his issues of over-protectiveness towards me and the overall trauma he experienced from not being able to adequately keep me safe when we were abducted. Sex keeps Oses busy. I’m more than happy to be of assistance to him.

Captain Wotref has been amazing over the whole affair. He didn’t want to hear one word about Oses not being fit as his weapons commander. “Ridiculous,” he sputtered when Oses tried to resign his commission. “Lose the best man on my entire crew? I’ll cut my arm off first. You,” he pointed at Oses as he riveted a steely gaze on him, “will take all the time Feru says you need to. You will follow his instructions to the letter, get your head on straight, and bring your ass back up to the bridge as soon as he says you’re ready for it. Not one moment before that, and not one damned second later.”

Wotref then turned to me, Betra, and Feru. “If Commander Oses gives any indication he’s slacking off in his therapy, you will inform me immediately. You too, young lady.” The captain’s tone softened when he spoke to me, and he gave me a private wink to let me know the gruffness was all for show ... at least where I was concerned.

The captain turned back to the three men who were standing at attention before him. “As for anyone else, what’s happened is none of their damned business. This matter is between the five of us only.”

Betra cleared his throat a little. “Captain Zemos might be curious as to why the weapons commander kept one of the phase devices.”

Wotref grunted. “True. Zemos is no fool. Don’t worry; I’ll figure something out.”

“Tell him I kept it,” I volunteered. The men all looked at me.

“Well, it’s gold and pretty and I’m a girl,” I said, putting on a ditzy smile. “A pregnant girl. A pregnant Earther girl who everyone knows had an emotional breakdown. Who among you Kalquorians have figured out why my species does the things it does? Especially when an Earther is under such stress? Admit it; when it comes to understanding a pregnant Earther Matara, none of you has a clue.”

Betra and Feru snickered. Wotref gave me an appreciative grin. Oses looked horrified.

“I can’t allow you to take the blame for my actions, Shalia,” he protested. “You’re not one to act so foolish anyway.”

“You can and you will,” I shot back. “I need you back as this ship’s weapons commander, keeping me and all the rest of us safe. If this will do the job, I don’t mind if that Zemos person thinks I’m a giddy goof with light fingers. He’ll get over it.”

Okay, so I’m not doing much for getting Kalquorian men to treat Earther women with less of a paternalistic attitude. I’m probably setting us back ten years where that Captain Zemos is concerned, at any rate. But for Oses, it’s worth it.

Wotref laughed outright. He had such a careworn look to him that I was glad to provide some happiness to the captain. “He will ‘get over it’ as you say. Zemos will drop the matter in an instant when he hears such a story.” He turned to clap a hand on Oses’ shoulder. “You’re on leave. Take care of yourself, my friend. Get better because I need you.”

Oses still didn’t look happy with the situation, but he bowed with respect to his commanding officer. “With the help of Dr. Feru and my friends, I will. Thank you, Captain.”

So Oses’ pride and career are safe, I am boffing him as much as is medically safe, and he’s getting help. As for the others who saw the ‘ghost’, they have noted it’s not haunting the halls anymore. Candy is getting credit for her exorcism of the specter, and all are beginning to relax. Things are looking up.

The only other thing of note that has happened was what I walked in on two days ago. After a day of watching others work on our dance club (they still won’t let me help due to my recent health issues), I went in search of Oses and Betra. I found them in Oses’ quarters, which he’s given me automatic access to ... and the sight was something to behold.

Oses has a kind of bench in his room, sort of like a pommel horse that gymnasts use. I’ve been bent over that for a spanking from the Nobek before. I was startled to see it was in use again.

I was one step in, my greeting dying on my lips before I got the first syllable out. It wasn’t Betra tied to the spanking bench with Oses turning that gorgeous ass red. Nope, the situation was reversed.

I cannot imagine how Betra managed to subdue Oses and bind him to that thing. Then again, the Imdiko had warned him that one of his breed could be incited to take on a Nobek and win. I guess this was an example of such.

Betra grinned. Over Oses’ furious growls, he said, “Shalia! Want to join in?”

I saw the thick studded strap in my liaison’s hand, the pants puddled around Oses’ ankles, the deep red of the weapons commander’s ass – and his fierce erections – and I turned right back around. “Nope, I’m good. See you two later,” I called over my shoulder as I left the quarters, walking as fast as possible. Since I had no idea how rough the play would get, I figured I’d sit that one out. That strap looked like it could draw blood. After two days to think about it, I’m still glad I opted to leave.

I guess Betra and Oses are figuring things out. Maybe they’ll reach the point to where they won’t need me as a bridge to reach each other anymore. If that happens by the time they drop me off on Kalquor, I’ll feel good about the situation.

I certainly felt good about my situation this afternoon. After lunch, I left the dining hall. I wondered if Oses was available to give me some dessert – Nobek cocks in Kalquorian sauce, har-de-har-har. I thought I’d go to my room first and freshen up before searching the big guy out.

It turned out he was waiting for me, along with Betra. The pair sat side by side on my lounger, almost close enough that they could have reached over and touched one another. Yep, they’re figuring things out. Once upon a time, Betra wouldn’t have let Oses get so near.

“Well, hello,” I said. “Fancy meeting you in my rooms. What’s up?”

They favored me with smiles: Oses’ was exciting and dangerous while Betra’s beam was sweet and warming. My heart picked up its pace even as it melted.

Betra said, “We thought you were due some doting on. Or were you off to supervise the club construction again?”

“Dote! Dote!” I yelled, running over to bounce on the lounger between them.

They laughed at my silliness. Then dote they did. All at once, I was surrounded by muscled arms. Lips sought out mine as first one man kissed me and then the other. Hands moved over my body, touching, stroking, and exploring.

Oh my. We spent some time on that lounger petting heavily. Oses left Betra alone, and Betra didn’t have a fit when the Nobek accidentally touched him. They centered their attention all on me, and I was happy to receive it.

Bit by bit, clothes came off. At first the boys contented themselves with shoving my blouse and skirt up so they could play with what they wanted. I did the same with their shirts to trace those muscular torsos. As we heated up and excitement grew, I tugged the resealable crotch seams of their pants open. I filled my hands with hot, moist cocks that gave off that delicious cinnamon-y like aroma. That scent will make me think of sex for the rest of my life.

As I stroked hard lengths of Kalquorian, fingers traced through my intimate folds. I moaned into Betra’s mouth as he squeezed my breast. Billowing heat filled my belly, and my sex erupted with ticklish pleasure. My hips jerked when Oses rubbed his thumb over my clit.

We were in no hurry to rush to culmination, however. As if by some unspoken agreement, we kept teasing each other, doing just enough to make the other sigh with pleasure. I was the center of it all, with the two men concentrating all their efforts on me.

After some time, we were naked on my lounger, writhing against one another, still kissing and touching. It was like discovering and being discovered by others for the first time. To me, it felt all so new and pure.

“And to think I was planning on a shower when I came in,” I giggled to my lovers. “What was I thinking? This is much better.”

“Hmm, a shower,” Oses said. “This Matara wants to be bathed, Imdiko.”

“Oh, that would be nice,” Betra agreed. “Let’s do that.”

“That wasn’t a hint,” I said as Oses stood with me in his arms. “I’m perfectly happy with what we’ve been doing.”

My protest went unheeded as I was carried into the facility. Betra went ahead and began fiddling with the shower controls.

Oses stepped into the stall with me as the warm water cascaded down. He set me on my feet.

Betra said, “This afternoon, we want to take care of our Shalia. All your needs will be met. Be quiet and enjoy yourself.”

It was hard to argue with him when his fingers rubbed my scalp, massaging and shampooing away the tension I hadn’t realized was there. With Oses soaping my body at the same time, I was quickly overcome by their attention. Prophets be praised, I am one lucky girl.

They bathed me from head to toe. When the soap had been rinsed away, the kissing and touching started again. Oses spent as much time smooching my rounded tummy as Betra did. I still say when I’m as big as a house they won’t find me nearly as enticing, but for now it’s okay.

Those kisses headed south of the border. I found myself bracing my hands on Oses’ shoulders, since he was the one kneeling in front of me. He had one of my legs draped over his arm as he licked and sucked my clit. Betra was behind me, straining to get at my pussy while he supported my back. His tongue flicked in and out, lapping my cream.

I stood there, getting my pussy eaten while warm water ran down my back. Soon I didn’t feel the shower at all. My world narrowed to my sex and what the men were doing to it.

Kalquorian tongues are raspy, almost rough. The way Oses and Betra’s caught on my sensitive flesh as they pleasured me sent daggers of delight through my core. The friction was delicious. Erotic thrills made me shake all over as they drove me higher and higher towards nirvana.

My cries echoed in the stall. Heat gathered deep within, that final pulling together when rapture is like a ball in the gut, right at the threshold of release. I could feel it readying to burst wide open.

The exquisite spark lit, a bright single point with all the power of a sun. For an instant I poised on that star flare, balanced on its very tip. Then I tumbled. The star blew wide, stretching its force through me.

Contractions seized me, convulsions of enthralling bliss. I bowed to their power, letting them have me. Ecstasy pulsed, free to express itself for as long as it could. It was my master, and I, its willing slave.

I returned to my little world as Oses hefted me in his arms once more. He carried me out of the shower. Betra toweled me dry.

They combed my hair and put a moisturizing lotion all over my body, their big, capable hands smoothing it into my skin. Then my sweethearts carried me to my bed.

“Do you want us?” Betra asked as he and Oses stretched out on either side of me.

“Of course,” I breathed, looking at those beautiful, powerful bodies so ready for mine.

For once, there were no power plays. There were no games. There was only lovemaking, first from Betra. Oses watched while the Imdiko slipped inside me. The Nobek’s lips were parted as Betra’s wonderful length ran in and out of my pussy. He licked his lips as our moans grew louder and our bodies slapped together with more force. His groan joined our cries as Betra released inside me and my sheath clutched him, eager for all he could give.

Then Betra moved aside. It was his turn to watch as I opened to Oses. My breath caught as the Nobek’s thickness pressed into flesh already swollen from elation. With me, this man was not broken. He was still strong, forever undefeated. I saw it in his eyes. My protector was as determined as ever as he thrust within me, making me come yet again before adding his essence to Betra’s. I held them both. Again I became their bridge, their one path to an actual connection.

Afterward, they held me. We talked about everything and nothing. We laughed a lot. We grew serious sometimes. We ordered dinner, which the men fed me. We loved some more. At last, we fell asleep, ending the day in each other’s arms.

Parts of us may be damaged. One part will eventually leave the other two behind. That’s assuming we all get a tomorrow, which I know is not a given. I refuse to be sad over what may never come. For now, we have each other. Since now is all that is ever guaranteed, I’ll take a page from Betra’s book and be grateful for this gift that has been granted. 

End of 5th Storyline

Monday, January 26, 2015

April 17, part 3

Oses stared at me as I got up. Then he looked at Betra. “You ... how did you know?” he asked.

“First things first,” the Imdiko said. “Hand it over, Commander. Now.”

Oses reached into a pouch attached to his belt and withdrew a golden tapered tube. I recognized the Ofetuchan phase gadget. My heart gave a little flutter to see it again.

The Nobek gave it to Betra. He seemed at a loss for words, except for one. “How?”

Betra gave him a sad smile as he pocketed the phase device. “You left a piece of your uniform in Shalia’s closet,” he said. “I went into your quarters and found your uniform with the torn insignia. I also found Shalia's missing blouse.”

Oses’ shoulders drooped. “I wondered where I’d torn that uniform.”

“I know there are more important questions to ask,” I said. “But what the hell were you doing in my closet?”

He wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Stealing the blouse, of course. I thought if I kept something of yours close to me, the compulsion to constantly check on you would let me go.” He swallowed hard and finally looked me in the face. “I’m so sorry I scared you these past weeks, pet. It was the last thing I wanted to do.”

I had nothing to say to that. I couldn’t excuse Oses, but that he’d been lurking around the way he had told me something had gone really wrong with him. I couldn’t berate him. Besides, I wasn’t mad ... just scared as to why he was acting the way he was.

Oses looked at Betra again. “So that’s what gave me away? A little piece of a patch?”

The Imdiko shook his head. “Not really, although it put me on your trail. I’ve spent the day chasing my suspicions.”

Betra revealed to Oses what he’d figured out. The bit of red fabric could have come from a Ground Forces foot soldier’s insignia as he’d told me ... or a security officer’s Fleet uniform. When Betra realized that, he immediately thought of Oses.

“You were Shalia’s sworn protector on the Ofetuchan ship,” Betra said. “You were her Nobek. That’s not something a man like you can turn off just because you got rescued.”

Oses nodded. “I couldn’t get rid of the fear that I’d fail her again ... that she could be abducted right under my nose. I wanted to be able to check on her, to make sure Shalia was safe. I wanted to be able to get around unseen to pinpoint hidden threats. And I didn’t want everyone to know I had become obsessed over it.”

“Which is why you kept one of the phase devices and tuned it to your biology.” Betra patted his pocket where he’d put it. “You turned in all the rest of these to Captain Zemos. I commed him to find that out, to learn how many he had in his possession. He said there was a bunch of limited phase controllers, which was used by the imprisoned crew and security. Then there was the main one that you gave him, the one worn by Finiuld that permitted access to his entire ship. You never gave him the female Ofetuchan’s device. Zemos wasn’t aware there was a second one that had full phase capability. The only reason I knew was because Shalia told me about it.”

“I don’t remember telling you about that,” I said. “And Oses, you told me you turned in all of them!”

The Nobek’s gaze lowered in shame. “I lied.”

Betra turned to me. “Shalia, you told me about the second one while you weren’t entirely lucid, when we first got you back. You sometimes relived what happened to you while you were a prisoner. You kept saying, ‘I can’t get the other phase to work. I can’t get it to work. Oses says the controls for this one must be in Glidas’ quarters.’ You carried on about it quite a few times.”

Oses hunched his shoulders. “Before we left the Ofetuchan ship, I found the female’s room and control board for her phase device. I knew I was doing the wrong thing by keeping it, but it seemed more important to guarantee Shalia’s safety.”

“But why did you keep appearing?” I asked Oses. “Why did we keep seeing you ... or a shadow version of you?”

“Either there is a technical glitch or a distance parameter that we occasionally overreach,” Oses said. “The phase usually seemed to fail when Zemos’s destroyer fell back a little more from the transport. Since the Ofetuchan ship is on his vessel, I have to assume it’s a range issue.”

“Is that what happened that day when we were scouting locations for our dance club?”

He nodded. “I realized I was suddenly visible and that one of your companions saw me appear out of nowhere. I raced back and forth to keep from being identified until the phase took hold once more.”

“You showed up in Candy’s room one night,” I said, still trying to answer all the questions I’d had these past few weeks.

“Looking for you. When I didn’t find you in your room, I figured you were with her or Betra. I checked Candy's room first since it was closest.”

Betra’s expression was incredibly sweet. “You need help, Oses. You need to consult with Dr. Feru or one of his staff.”

“I already talk to Feru regularly. What I need is to be taken off duty. I am not fit for my rank any longer,” Oses responded. The only time I’d ever seen him more despondent was when we were prisoners.

“For being over-protective of a pregnant Matara? For being traumatized by seeing her threatened day after day and not knowing if you could get her out of there?” The Imdiko shook his head. “I think you’re wrong. Maybe Captain Wotref and Dr. Feru will insist on you taking some time off for more intensive therapy, but I can’t see you being stripped of your rank or position. The worst you’ve done is stolen a piece of alien technology and scared some people.”

Oses glowered. “All I can think about is how I must not fail in keeping Shalia safe. How can I be trusted to keep a ship secure when she’s more important to me than my job?”

“You seem to be doing fine with that,” I pointed out. “You’ve been pulling double shifts as well as constantly checking on me for weeks now. Talk about taking multitasking to the extreme!”

Betra grinned. “She’s right. You’re essentially doing the work of two men, sometimes three.”

Oses wasn’t mollified. He looked more humiliated than he’d ever managed to make Betra feel. He eyed the Imdiko. “How did you detect me when I came in here?”

“Captain Zemos again. I checked his reports on how he tracked the Ofetuchan ship. The sub-space field was disturbed by that vessel’s passage, which the destroyer’s motion detectors were able to pick up. I was able to do something similar with my handheld settings and a detection grid emitter.” Betra nodded to a small cube that he’d placed on a shelf prior to getting into bed with me. Candy would probably love one for her next ghost hunting foray.

Oses gave him an impressed look. “You would make an excellent security officer, Betra.”

Betra waved him off. “I prefer taking care of people. Like I’m going to take care of you.” He got that domineering tone he likes to use on me when we have sex. “Commander, you and I are going to Dr. Feru first thing in the morning. It's time to discuss this matter and start a new course of treatment. With his help, we’ll approach Captain Wotref and find out what has to happen next. From there, we’ll take it one step at a time until you’re back to your old sweet, smiling self.”

Oses had never looked anything like sweet. I still got the impression he was touched. “You’d think we were clanned, Imdiko.”

Betra swallowed, as if he’d just gotten slammed by some great emotion. He still sounded demanding, however. “Yes, you’d think so. Be warned, an Imdiko is never to be crossed when it comes to the welfare of his clanmates. He will take on even the toughest Nobek in that case. And Oses ... the Imdiko will win.”

“I see.” Oses almost did smile then. “All right, Betra. We will see Dr. Feru in the morning. And ... and thank you.” He then turned to me. “Will you ever forgive me?”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” I said. I went to Oses and wrapped my arms around his waist. “No more than you guys had to forgive me for hiding in the closets after I was rescued.” I smiled up at the Nobek. “You’re still my hero. You always will be.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

April 17, part 2

I stared at Betra after he told me all he’d done that day and what he’d discovered. I wanted to say it wasn’t possible. Hell, I wanted to scream that it wasn’t possible. Yet except for a few little details, it all made sense. In the end, I had to admit Betra was probably right.

“How bad is this going to be?” I asked him.

He shrugged. “It all depends on who has to get involved in the matter. I want to keep it as quiet as possible, at least for now. The biggest thing is to find out why this is happening. Once we know that, we can go from there.”

I set my dinner aside, half-eaten. My appetite was gone.

We had a long wait. Betra cleaned up after our meal, insisting I lie down and take it easy. “You’re off bed rest, but it could be late before he shows up ... if he shows up,” he told me.

“I’m sure he will,” I said. “If you’re right about all of this, we can pretty much count on it.”

“At any rate, you’ll wake up when the shouting starts. Feel free to sleep if you like.”

Betra got his room in order while I watched and worried. I’d never felt less like sleeping. Even three hours later when Betra switched off the lights and got into bed with me, I lay wide awake.

Would the ghost come? Would he take the bait and come searching for me?

My heart seemed to beat too fast. Thinking of the hypertension and how stress could put me in bed for another week or longer, I whispered to Betra, who spooned against me. “Can we talk while we wait? I need the distraction.”

“Of course,” he whispered back. “Everything is set for our guest’s appearance.”

“Okay. I’ve been talking to a clan on Kalquor. They’re in the lottery, and they had the highest compatibility rating on my list. They’ve checked out with my Nobek dad and Oses.”

“Really? Tell me about them.”

I was glad Betra didn’t mind me discussing Clan Seot. I had to admit, it was a little uncomfortable talking about potential clanmates with a current lover. I was glad I’d already had a conversation with Oses about them. Had the weapons commander not been so matter-of-fact about it, I never would have dared to bring it up to my more sensitive Imdiko paramour.

I even said, “If talking about them makes you feel bad, just say so. We’ll find another subject.”

Betra’s whisper held no hint of hurt or displeasure. “Not at all, Shalia. I’m glad you want to tell me about them. I’ve been worrying that I would know nothing about the men you might end up with.”

“It doesn’t make things harder considering what we have?”

He took a long time to respond. I felt he was mulling the question over. Is it strange that I was glad Betra didn’t just hand out a quick answer designed to make me feel better? I was grateful to get the truth, no matter how guilty it might make me feel.

At last Betra said, “I will miss you. When we part, you will tear a piece of my heart out. I’m sure it will be hard to find joy in my life for some time after that.”

“Ouch,” I said. “You’re tearing out chunks of my heart right now.”

He chuckled softly. “Don’t let it bother your conscience, please. Knowing that it is coming, I take nothing with you for granted. Besides, our relationship is more than I ever had a right to hope for. With no hope to clan or warrant a Matara of my own, this has been the greatest gift I could ever imagine.”

“Nine months,” I said, tears prickling my eyes. “Nine months in an entire lifetime. I can’t understand how you can be grateful for that.”

“You forget that I have been resigned to having nothing at all. You can’t imagine it, having been on Earth where there were plenty of men, plenty of opportunities for everlasting love. Even if I had been born able to enjoy sex with my own gender, I still would have had little to no chance of finding a female lifemate. That is why I can be thankful for the little fate has sent me.”

I sighed heavily. “I still hate the thought of you alone.”

“But I won’t be. I have Oses now.”

I turned my head, searching to see something of Betra in the almost non-existent light of the room. “Not really. You might like the humiliation thing, but it’s not real sex. Is it?”

Betra laughed softly. “It’s more than we had before. I can’t be everything Oses would like me to be, that is true. But we have something now. Take sex out of the equation, and I can love him as an Imdiko should love his Nobek. His welfare means everything to me. I feel how he wishes to keep me protected. When you take the lust out, that’s what a good clanship boils down to. That’s what I want for us, and I think we can have it. As for the other things I’m not good with ... I have some ideas.”

I couldn’t help sounding hopeful. “Ideas that I can play a part in?”

“Perhaps. You’ve already been a bridge for us.”

I smiled. I was glad to know that when they left me on Kalquor, Oses and Betra had a chance at some sort of decent relationship.

“Now, tell me more about Clan Seot. Particularly this Imdiko ... Cifa was his name?”

We spent probably an hour talking about my most likely suitors. Betra reminded me I needed to vet others as well, and I was glad I could report that I had sent out a message to a second clan. I should be hearing back from them any time now, if they have an interest in me.

Then we went quiet for a bit. I was still well aware we were waiting for the ghost to show up, but I started to get sleepy. I was warm in Betra’s arms. I felt good for him, for all of us. I thought we might be okay in the end.

A frantic beeping from behind me made my eyes fly wide open. It was Betra’s handheld computer he wore on his belt ... and it was telling us the ‘ghost’ was in the room.

Betra was out of bed and dashed to the door in an instant to block it. “Lights up half! Oses, turn the phase device off!”

A moment after the lights came on, Oses shimmered and appeared by the bedside. His eyes were wide with shock.

Monday, January 19, 2015

April 17, part 1

Betra and I caught a ghost. The mysterious haunting is over.

Betra was late showing up at my quarters last night. I’d gotten the crazy idea he was avoiding me because he somehow knew I was going to interrogate him. The moment he stepped in my sitting room, I bombarded him with questions: “Where have you been? Why are you late? What do you know about that scrap of material you found? Does it belong to the ghost? Why aren’t you telling me anything?”

He stared at me like I’d been yelling at him in Tragoom. Then he put his hands on my shoulders and eased me towards my lounger. “Why are you so upset? What’s happened?”

“What’s happened?” I could have cheerfully strangled the big lug. “You tell me! You found that bit of someone’s insignia and then became all mysterious and shit. You’ve been out of your office for most of the day. What’s going on?”

Betra took a breath and nodded. “What’s been going on. That’s an excellent question, Shalia. I believe that tonight we will have our answer.”

“Really?” I stopped acting like a nag in my excitement. “You know who the ghost is?”

“I think so.” A shadow of worry crossed Betra’s face. “Only it’s no ghost. The person who has been stalking you is flesh and blood and very much alive.”

My heart nearly jumped out of my chest at his words. “Tell me,” I begged.

The Imdiko considered. “We’ve got other things to do first. Get your stuff together to spend the night with me. For my plan to work, we need to move fast. Dinner has already begun.”

“Dinner?” I was completely flummoxed. “What does dinner have to do with anything?”

Betra shooed me towards my bedroom. “Almost everyone will be in the dining hall. The security guards switch out about now too. We may be able to get from here to my quarters with no one seeing us. Get a move on, Shalia. Figure out what you want so I can pack it.”

He was a man on a mission, and I could tell I wasn’t going to get anything out of him until I did what he wanted. So we packed me a little overnight bag. Betra already knew a lot of what I would choose to bring, so it was done pretty quickly.

Minutes after his arrival, Betra poked his head out of my door to check and see if anyone roamed the hall. The coast was clear, so we hightailed it to his quarters. He gave the surveillance vid recorder a little scowl as we went, and I wondered what the problem was. I was even more confused when I heard him mutter, “Well, there’s no help for it.”

We met no one on our way to Betra’s quarters. I guess we timed it just right on the guard change. Security in the Matara area had been enhanced since our ghost had started roaming about. Still, for those few seconds we were in the hall, no one was around.

Betra grinned at me once we were in his quarters, looking like he’d won a victory. “Great. I think everything should work out if I’m right about what is going on.”

“Have you informed Oses?” I asked. “Is he part of this?”

Betra shook his head as he set my bag on the bed. “Oses is working another double. Don’t worry, Shalia, I’ve got this handled. I think.”

I folded my arms over my chest. “Enough of this nonsense, already. What is it that you think you know?”

“Sit down and I’ll tell you.” He handed me a takeout container. “Eat your dinner while I talk.”

I perched on his bed, opening the container. I didn’t remember Betra promising me a special meal until just then. Even though we ended up eating in his room, my liaison made good on that promise. Ronka strips roasted to perfection, the most tender, flakiest pilchok ever to grace a tray, and chocolate cake with fudge and nuts were my reward.

It’s just too bad that Betra’s news was so shocking that I barely tasted any of it.