The Terran Empire is at war with The Rhimodian cyborgs. The Terrans believe the cyborgs have stolen a system of planets from them. At least, that's how it started.
Book 3 in the Galactic Storm Series
Peace negotiations are in place. It is time to bring a stop to this war that has raged on for far too long between the Rhimodian cyborgs and the Terran Empire.
Lady Bianca must travel to Sol before the peace talks to secure the Terran Ambassador's quarters and make sure that everything is ready for the coming negotiations.
Upon arriving on the scorching main world of the Rhimodians, she meets Harbin.
The cyborg is much taller than her, and almost immediately annoyed with meeting her. However she's not afraid. Maybe she should be. After all, she had heard all the stories of the robotic monsters, the Rhimodians, for the last decade. Arriving on their main world, a lava-filled volcanic world.
While only cordial at first, Bianca starts to get more acquainted with Harbin, and realizes he is much more interesting and desirable than she had ever expected. His suit was so tight, she saw all of his assets, and fine assets they were.
Irritated at his assignment, Harbin meets the Terran emissary, Lady Bianca. And is immediately drawn to her. He appreciates her candor and her curiosity about his people. They both have similar desires--to see the end of the war.
Harbin's Craving, however, makes it difficult to focus on what she needs because of what he wants.
He wants her.
Plain and simple.
He cannot get her out of his mind, she is there constantly until the day of her return with the Ambassadors.
Then an explosion changes everything.
Bianca is jettisoned out into space in an escape pod, and Harbin has to protect her from the attacking ships. Everything is turned into chaos, and she has to hide on one of the Sol moons, an ice rock where the Rhimodians mine. The frigid temperatures leave them both physically close to one another all the time in order to keep her safe.
A true test for Harbin's Craving, for certain.
And when others show up attempting to attack and kill Bianca, Harbin must do everything in his programming to keep her safe.
Even if it means sacrificing himself.
Harbin stepped onto the landing platform where the fighters were being inspected. The winds blew the scent of the sulfur and soot from the nearest volcano through the air. Beyond the flat field of starships sat the rough terrain of Sol-3, the main moon where the Rhimodian lived.
The dark burnt landscape was peppered with rivers of molten lava and the constantly shifting masses. It was the last thing most humanoids would consider a perfect homeworld base.
The Rhimodians, however, saw it differently.
Sol-3, right in the middle of the chain of moons, had active volcanos that were carefully monitored for their next eruptions.
For more than one reason. Scattered all around the moon, these volcanoes made great locations where the Rhimodians could process their lysteel for their cybernetic parts as needed. Rumbling black mountains that always spouted their red fury and trickling rivers of molten rock should have made Sol-3 a dark and depressing world.
In between the rivers and burnt land, however, the ash and soot made the ground incredibly fertile, so they could not only grow nearly anything but also made a good commodity to sell off-world.
Or, rather, it would when they stopped warring with the Terran Empire. Getting exports out of the Sol system without the Terrans attacking proved a challenge.
For now, though, the ability to grow almost anything they needed aided them in a way nothing else could. They did not have to worry that they would be blockaded and starved by the Terran Empire. They could last indefinitely behind their shields if they had to. At least that was the current working theory.
Harbin wasn’t too sure.
While he was skeptical about the talk of peace with the Terran Empire—that failed once, what would happen this time? — Something needed to be done to stop the death of his people.
Their population was dwindling, and with no ability to replenish it, it seemed the Terran Empire may win the war, if only by default.
Harbin didn’t think the Rhimodians could win against the Terran Empire. Terrans were infinitely larger and had more resources with an empire that spanned several sectors.
But until the Rhimodians had another option, they would fight for this system that they had terraformed and turned into a new home. It was the only home most of the Rhimodians knew.
Harbin was of an older generation of cyborgs. He remembered the previous home with the makers, but it was imperfect. It was a child’s memory when they were leaving and looking for a home.
He remembered the journey.
But the previous world? Very little.
Mostly just images that reminded him they were not native to Sol and that their technology truly wasn’t their own. They’d all been built by the makers on Orlicia.
Whatever the wording, it meant the same thing. The Orlicians took the Rhimodians and manipulated their genetics to create cyborgs. They were implanted with lysteel and nanites to maintain the systems. And from there, the Rhimodians developed into thinking machines.
Something the Orlicians had not expected. Built for strength and obedience, the Rhimodians were not supposed to be anything more than soldiers and laborers. Whatever the Orlicians needed.
In other words, they’d made their own slaves.
And when the Rhimodians figured it out, they fled, taking as many of their people—born and still embryonic—with them. Though the maker’s genetic toys were probably not going to live much longer if this war did not come to an end.
Harbin glanced at the number of fighters on the landing pad.
There weren’t enough.
Not nearly enough, by his estimation.
They needed five per squad to create their large dragon-class fighters. From his quick count, there were only forty on the pad. Other pads stored more, but each typically held sixty, yet only forty were here.
Some were in orbit, ready to be deployed. However, it still did not negate the lack of fighters.
Those missing fighters represented missing Rhimodians.
Some were dead.
Others had disappeared.
It was believed that the Terrans had some of their people as war criminals, they called them. Likely they were experimented on, and the Terrans tried to remove their technology.
Ironic, since the Rhimodians would have likely been willing to share their technology with the Terrans before the war if they had been nice about getting new neighbors.
A clank of metal made Harbin turn.
Two cyborgs worked on the systems, testing the shifting abilities of the fighters. Wings were disconnecting and reconnecting, melting and reforming as the techs worked on the morphing.
The ships were being inspected and reinforced. They were designed to take on whatever form needed to survive in a circumstance. However, regular maintenance was required to keep them functioning properly. The wings could move, wrap around the ship for additional shielding, narrow the vessel as needed, widen it, whatever necessary for survival.
Harbin walked past the ships, let his hand run over the underside while he passed, and walked out toward the edge of the landing platform.
“Excuse me, did you require something?” a cyborg that Harbin didn’t immediately know said to him.
He glanced at him.
The cyborg was large. Much larger than himself. He was young—probably a cyborg from the youngest generation.
“I am well. I do not know you.”
“Reedek,” he said.
Harbin nodded. "Harbin," he said.
He was correct. Reedek was the youngest generation—the same as Jedriek.
Reedek, though, did not have the same uncaring expression that Jedriek did. Instead, Jedriek carried an aggressive gene, one that seemed to get stronger the older he got. Harbin wondered about Jedriek sometimes. He worried he might tarnish himself young and be unable to recover.
Once a Rhimodian became tarnished, it was difficult to recover their shine in the best of circumstances. During war? The guilt could destroy someone. He hoped Jedriek would find his balance and be able to taper down his desire to fight.
A transport came into view, circling once before landing on the pad in a nearby open zone.
Harbin raised his eyebrow. “What is a transport cruiser doing landing here?” This was a fighters' pad, primarily used for military ships due to its prime location on the moon. The rocky terrain around the pad gave it a natural shield from observation, allowing the barrier to protect the installation just that much more.
Reedek took a step toward the square-shaped vessel. “Part of the peace talks,” he said.
Great, the peace talks, Harbin thought.
Master System rarely elaborated on instructions, but now he understood why he’d been asked to come out here.
Master System wanted his unit to be the escorts for the Terran Ambassadors in a few days. In some way, this arriving transport was connected to the coming peace negotiations.
The rear hatch of the boxy transport opened, and out came two Rhimodians. Each one hauled several large matching red cases. Buttons and latches in shiny gold metal adorned the boxes. Cases.
Whatever they were. The metal gleamed in the morning sunlight. The movement reflected the shine back into his line of sight
Immediately, Harbin's tech covered his eyes with a dimming panel so that the glare of the metal did not hurt his vision's acuity.
He studied the collection of cases the other Rhimodians were transporting toward the building. Many of them stacked so high that the cyborgs guiding them in on their floating pads had a hard time seeing around them.
They appeared to be simply solid red cases from a distance, but the closer they got, the more adornment he saw all over them. Carved patterns and intricate scrollwork.
Not something the Rhimodians would have, for certain.
It must be Terran.
But what was it for?
Reedek stopped them as they got close and held out his arm. His gauntlet's mode shifted and scanned all the pieces.
“What is all of that,” Harbin asked, staring at the cases and watching how each one was carefully scrutinized.
“It’s the Terran Princesses’ matched luggage,” one of the cyborgs said.
Harbin sighed. “Great. Just what we need. Terran princesses.”
He knew the ambassadors were coming, but he wasn't aware the actual princesses were part of the ambassadorial party. He assumed heads of state would be attending. Not girls.
'"Are they even old enough to be a part of this?" he muttered to himself.
Imperial Princess Caoimhe Bron will be twenty-three, and Imperial Princess Eleanor Bron will be twenty.
But no maturity. Just as he was grumbling over the matched luggage, another flash of red jarred his attention.
He turned and looked back at the transport ship.
Coming down the ramp was a humanoid.
He blinked. A female humanoid. Even with the hood covering most of her face, just enough peeked through that her feminine features were obvious.
She wore a long red cloak with a hood, the same shade as the luggage, and proceeded toward him.
Well, toward the cases, Reedek and him.
She walked with an assured step, the winds not bothering her. Not even the smell, which Harbin had heard could be very off-putting if one was not used to it. “I assume everything is in order?” she asked.
Reedek nodded. “Everything is as it should be.”
Harbin put his hands on his hips. “And who are you?”
“I am Lady Bianca. I am here to make sure that everything is prepared for the Terran Empire delegation to arrive in three days.”
“And what needs to be prepared?” Harbin asked. They were coming here. They should adapt to their home. The Rhimodians should not have to rebuild their facilities to accommodate the Terrans for a short stay. It was a useless waste of resources.
“The things that the Imperial Princesses need," she said, a smile on her face. Though the expression did not reach her eyes.
If anything, she looked annoyed that she was there.
Because Harbin was annoyed that he was there too. “And it is your task to take care of what they need?”
“It is my task to make sure they have whatever they require. That includes checking over the suite created for us to occupy while here and making sure everything is properly loaded and prepared.”
His opinion on the matter had not been considered the correct course of action. When the negotiations were first discussed, building a special suite for the Terrans was part of the preparation list, allowing them to have what they deemed appropriate living quarters.
Because it was believed that they would be there for a length of time. More than a few hours.
Something Harbin did not think was necessary. The Rhimodians did not want much. Mostly to be left alone to exist as they saw fit. So the negotiations would be about what the Rhimodians would concede to with the Terrans.
The Terrans wanted the system to add to their empire.
Which was not something the Rhimodians were willing to give up.
Finding the middle ground was the negotiation. Hence the desire for living quarters.
This was just one more thing, it seemed.
And he wasn’t particularly happy about it.
Especially when the last order came through from Master System.
Protect the Terran delegate.
Harbin's question was, from whom?
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