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 4 in the Galactic Storm Series
Imperial Princess Eleanor Bron wants to prove her worth. Though truly, what could she do, as a second child? She was not the heir to the Empire. She was merely the backup plan. While her sister Caoimhe never treated her as anything less, it was obvious that no one expected Eleanor to be more than bartering material for whatever merger the Emperor formed.
The peace treaty with the Rhimodian cyborgs is the first time Eleanor has ever been sent on any sort of diplomatic mission, and she's nervous. After all, their mother died on a diplomatic mission to create a peace treaty with the Rhimodians.
What could happen to her? The spare? The unimportant one?
Jedriek, the youngest in his unit, had initially been bored with the mission of escorting the Terran Ambassadors into the Sol system for the peace negotiations. He would much rather be out there fighting.
At least, that's how he felt about it, until he saw the picture of the Princesses.
Unsure which one is which, Jedriek finds himself immediately drawn to the one with the bright blue eyes.
When the Ambassador's ship explodes, Jedriek finds himself face to face with that very princess. And he is enthralled with her. Petite and curvy, she awakens his Craving like nothing he'd ever known.
More so than any previous experience, Jedriek knows that he will do whatever he has to in order to please her.
Fight the entire Terran Military by himself, if he has to.
When Eleanor crashes on Sol-2, a desert and mountainous moon, she finds herself teaming up with a giant cyborg. Even bigger than she'd been told.
And he stares at her like she's a prize. She'd been seen like a prize before, and she wasn't about to be this cyborg's prize.
So she does the only thing she can think of to save herself and her sister.
Jedriek crossed his arms over his wide chest.
One of the largest Rhimodian Cyborgs, his sheer size was enough to intimidate. He knew that because he intimidated many humanoids.
This time, his job was to make sure the buyers did not attempt to get away with anything.
Disguised Serenity remained the best place to take their wares in trade with other systems. Since the Rhimodians were not part of any particular government in the galaxy, they had no recourse but themselves, and places like Disguised Serenity were their best outlets.
As far as the Galactic Alliance was concerned, the Rhimodians were a colonizing species looking for places to live.
Which was enough of the basics of it.
They left their homeworld and looked for a new place to live. The Sol system had what they needed to survive. Not everything, but it had enough that they could make trades with others to get what they needed.
He glanced around the storefront they were in with their trades. Small stores, with displays and markets in the walkways. It started probably as crew quarters or some such, and the street was merely the wide hallway. After all, they were in a hollowed-out and rebuilt generation ship.
Disguised Serenity was all about recycling.
The entire station was abandoned ships. The lattice work of large cruisers and bulk freighters all patched together to make the now large, junk-pile-looking place that was Disguised Serenity.
In the distance, he could see a new section being attached to one of the ships.
Active scavengers looked for dead ships or bought them on the cheap and sold the pieces to Disguised Serenity. While Jedriek didn't know for certain, he imagined that not all were acquired through legal means. There were enough walks of life on Disguised Serenity, and all sorts of humanoids came there. Many lived. Many only worked and came in from some nearby solar systems because the station was close to one of the wormhole ports.
Jedriek liked the station.
There was always something to see or do there.
Different than being on Sol with all the other cyborgs.
Jedriek craved something. Not the Craving so many of his fellow cyborgs experienced. He had felt that before and had been able to utilize it, but it was more than that. It was a deeper sensation. A feeling.
And he was a cyborg.
He shouldn't have feelings.
Not like this.
The only space he found release was in the next battle.
The next place he could be powerful.
Though right here...
"I do not believe that is the negotiated price," Harbin said to the buyer, a very tricky humanoid called a Lovian from a nearby system. Distinguishable because of the spots on his brow and the ridges on his nose.
The Lovian, shorter than Harbin by a full head, raised his furry eyebrow. "This is what I can do. I cannot give you more for this. It's ruined blue grass," he said, the last part he whispered.
Jedriek leaned down. "If it was ruined, why are you not screaming that to all the other buyers here?"
The Lovian pulled back like he was shocked and offended.
"I merely chose to save you any embarrassment," he snarled.
"We are cyborgs," Harbin said. "We do not embarrass. Nor do we allow lies about our product quality. Our product is fine. It is you who is attempting to manipulate the price of the blue grass."
"How dare you!" This time, the Lovian got very loud. Others in market shops nearby started paying attention to Harbin and Jedriek. Jedriek could pick them out of the crowds. In fact, he already had. Some security for the Lovian slowly moved closer to them.
"I do not think we are wanted here," Jedriek said.
Harbin agreed. "We shall sell our blue grass somewhere else."
"You cannot! We have a contract!" the Lovian snarled.
Harbin blinked. "We do. And we cannot come to an agreement on payment. Therefore the contract is void."
"No, that is not what it says," the Lovian replied.
Harbin tapped his gauntlet and displayed the contract in the air between them, highlighting the words. "Since we are unable to reach a payment agreement, we are no longer bound to sell to you only here on Disguised Serenity." He picked up the case of blue grass and set it back on the repulsor cart with the other food stock. On its own, blue grass tasted terrible--do not ask Jedriek why he knows that--but it mixes with almost every kind of food out there, as a base component. Want to get some bread? It has blue grass in it. A pastry? Blue grass. Rations? Blue grass. It was in much of any humanoid's diet. One of the few natural components nearly every humanoid could ingest without issue. It was also hard to cultivate and could only grow on certain worlds.
Sol-5 had all the necessary components to make it a primary and most profitable export for the Rhimodians to fund their fight against the Terran Empire.
They kept up regular crops of blue grass to sell. One of the only benefits of the war with the Terran Empire, they had to put a shield in place that had to be opened for other ships to enter it. It kept out anyone who wanted to take their crops and sell them as their own. One of the concerns Master System had initially before the shield was created.
As such, they kept control of their crops as best as possible.
But the Rhimodians had also made deals with vendors over time to get lucrative deals for their wares. Not all the vendors they had worked with were of good quality. Unfortunately, it seemed this Lovian was not one of good quality.
The approaching humanoids, with angry expressions, wore uniforms indicating they were security. Very similar to the space station's security, but not quite right. Just enough to cause confusion between them and the local guard. They were there to protect the Lovian, but these humanoids were not there to protect anyone else. Likely the Lovian had already lined their pockets with plenty of credits.
"We shall move on," Harbin said.
Jedriek knew that four other vendors on this level would be quick to purchase their blue grass supply, and they had enough cases to sell at least a few to each one.
The Lovian's security unit however, was not going to let them get too far away.
"Where are you going?" One said that reached them.
Jedriek stood there and tipped his head to the side. "And you are?"
"Not my security."
The guard blinked. "You need to finish your business here."
"We are done," Harbin said and started to walk by.
One of the interesting parts of being a cyborg was how others always wanted to challenge them.
Perhaps it was ego that made other humanoids want to challenge the cyborgs. Did they think it would give them some kind of rank or position against their fellow humanoids? Or did it do something to make them feel stronger?
Jedriek had never quite understood it, but he always recognized it.
Whatever it was, it happened a great deal on Disguised Serenity.
Harbin started to move past the security guards.
They stepped in his way.
"Out of the way."
"You are not done."
"We are, in fact, done." Harbin pushed through.
Jedriek saw the assault coming from his position. It took him only a few moments to intercept. Two steps and a quick arm bar and the coming assault was averted.
"What the?" the humanoid said.
"We are done," Jedriek grumbled at him. He shoved the man away.
And the humanoid brought up a blaster.
Not the best idea in the cramped walkways of the space station.
Really not a good idea against Jedriek, who was ready for it. He had been craving some physical exertion on this trip. Though he had hoped it would be from the pleasure women on the other section of the station.
A fight, however, was almost as good.
Blaster hit the ground.
The humanoid hurt his own hand more than Jedriek.
He made a fist, ready to punch.
Another humanoid jumped in.
Now it was getting interesting. The argument blew into a fight which intensified into an all-out brawl. One that started to get out of hand.
More people who were not even a part of it were sneaking in and getting in on the fight, and it erupted all around them.
He might have enjoyed it if he hadn't seen what the fight was truly covering.
Two of the fake security were going after the blue grass containers.
"That is not yours," Jedriek said and flung one against the wall.
Blue grass spilled on the ground.
It splattered and added a haze into the air. The fighting continued while Jedriek took off after one more, who had gotten away with a case.
Around a corner.
Down a hall, he could barely fit through.
This one was nimble.
And quick, he thought.
The thief darted around all sorts of things, trying to get away with the blue grass.
He ran into a doorway and started to close it. Jedriek shot a barb into the door, blocking it from sealing fully. In a couple of steps, he reached him and ripped the door back open.
Inside was the thief.
A young man. Probably only a few years younger than Jedriek. Thin. Gaunt. Unhealthy looking.
With two younger kids.
And a frail elderly humanoid.
All of them were poor, it was obvious from the state of their things. Everything was worn out or almost worn out.
The younger kids, one was a small one, barely up to Jedriek's knee, and it started to snivel. The boy picked up the little one.
"Shh, baby girl." The boy looked at him over the girl's shoulder. "No one is going to hurt you."
Jedriek saw the crate with the blue grass.
It would feed this family for half a standard year.
If they sold half of the blue grass, they would have the funds to eat for many months.
Jedriek knew he had to change his program. He was one of the newer Rhimodians. He could change his program if need be.
This seemed to be a need.
"I am sorry. I am in the wrong place." He backed out toward the door.
The boy looked at him. Handed the little one to the other younger child.
Jedriek stepped out of the room. The door he'd slammed open was now jammed. Unable to properly close and keep them secure.
Drygok. He broke the door.
The boy stepped outside.
Attempting to look intimidating.
Though he barely came to Jedriek's chest.
"What was that?" he whispered. "You chase me all through the station and leave? Don't you want your stuff?"
Jedriek shook his head. "Keep it. You earned it outrunning me."
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