Something About Harry
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by Nicki Bennett, Ariel Tachna
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Desperate for an edge in the war against the Gavenelians that will keep the Confederation from losing as many ships to the sadistic aliens as they destroy, Sasha Dmitrov contacts the space pirate he knows only as Harry, hoping the mysterious engineer will be able to pull off one more miracle. Having been warned of Harry's disdain for the Confederation, Sasha is prepared for Harry to tell him to jump out an airlock without a space suit. The last thing he expects is an invitation to Nicodemus Vector, Harry's shielded planetoid. What Sasha discovers is an Andromedite empath who sees far too deeply into his soul. As they race against time for a breakthrough that will tip the scales in their favor, Sasha finds himself more and more attracted to the reclusive mercenary. But duty calls, and Sasha has a war to win before he can even think about returning to Harry's side--assuming that either of them will risk opening himself to the other's empathic touch. Read about Peter and Blaise in Hot Cargo and about Ryan and Juo in Healing in His Wings.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: April 2011
10 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [95 KB]
Reading time: 58-82 min.
Sasha Dmitrov sat at the desk in the captain's ready room of the North Star and wondered for the thousandth time what the fuck he was doing there. In the six weeks since he had become captain of the ship, all hell had broken loose. Repeatedly.
He knew the damn Gavenelians were sadistic bastards, and he knew their weapons were different from what the Confederation was used to--he'd seen the early reports when Admiral Keller was still at the helm of the fleet's flagship and Sasha was his exec during the initial attacks--but he hadn't been prepared for the carnage of facing them in battle. They didn't negotiate. They didn't warn. They didn't make demands. They simply attacked and then disappeared. He didn't even know what they looked like!
Blaise Risner, the only man known to have seen the Gavenelians and survived, had told Sasha over and over not to underestimate the power of the enemy ships, but Sasha had naively trusted in the size and reputation of the Confederation armada. He'd made all the updates Risner had suggested to their weapons--okay, Lieutenant Royce, the chief engineer of the North Star, had made most of them. Sasha had been a decent engineer before making his way up the chain of command, but Billy Royce was uncanny in the way he grasped concepts. He'd taken one look at the specs Risner had brought back about the enemy shields and had torn the ship's weapons system to pieces, reassembling it with the new technology.
Sasha thanked his lucky suns Royce had done so because they'd been the only ship whose weapons had worked effectively the next time they faced the Gavenelians. That hadn't helped Brian Dascoll or any of the crew of the Libra. Sasha had watched in helpless horror as the Gavenelian weapons ripped through the Libra's shields and destroyed the vessel in minutes, killing everyone aboard. Royce was still analyzing the data from the attack, trying to figure out how to boost their shields, but Sasha didn't hold out much hope. Sensor data was all well and good, but they needed to get their hands on the actual technology so they could take it apart and experiment with it. His request to remain in the battle area and salvage the Gavenelian wreckage had been denied, though--the Admiralty wanted the North Star and its other battleships actively searching for the enemy, despite the cost of their losses whenever they'd found any of the Gavenelian ships.
Sasha stared at the vid screen on his desk, willing it to light up with an incoming transmission, willing Risner to return his message from two days before. The former smuggler (Sasha hoped he wasn't smuggling anymore) had brought the Confederation the two breakthroughs they'd had in this war so far, and Sasha prayed he could pull a third from somewhere. Out of a hat, out of his ass, out of thin air, it didn't matter, as long as it gave Sasha a way to repay the Gavenelians for his friend's death.
The vid screen stayed dark, though, as dark as Sasha's thoughts. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head against the back of the chair and tried to get some rest.
An insistent beeping woke Sasha from his nap several hours later. He scrubbed his hands over his white skin as he tried to remember where he was and what was going on. Finally focusing his eyes, he realized the noise he heard was the comm informing him of an incoming transmission. With a bleary gaze, he looked at the signal identification and felt his heart jump. "Risner!"
"Hey, Sasha," the pirate's voice said, the vid feed coming into focus more slowly. "Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I haven't been on the Stallion in a couple of days. What's up?"
"Did you find the Admiral?" Sasha asked, thinking of the desperation he had heard in Risner's voice the last time they spoke, a misunderstanding having sent the smuggler and Admiral Keller flying off in opposite directions. The grin that split Risner's face was all the answer Sasha needed.
"Yeah, I found him. Your guess about asking High Justice Perry for information about his location was right. She gave me a lead on where to find him." Sasha smiled, glad his guess had panned out.
"How is he?" The last time Sasha had seen his former commander, Admiral Keller had been badly burned from a plasma explosion, the scars disfiguring his face and one of his arms.
"He's doing better," Risner replied. "Turns out he knows a really good healer who's helping him. He's having a treatment right now, but when they're done, I'm sure Peter would like to talk to you. I don't think you called to check on the Admiral, though. What can I do for you?"
"I need your help," Sasha said bluntly. "The technology you brought us is helping, but the Gavenelians are still destroying two of our ships for every one of theirs we take out. I was hoping you'd learned something new we could use."
"You know I didn't figure that stuff out," Risner reminded him. "I just delivered the information from a friend."
"Then has your friend learned anything new?" Sasha asked impatiently. "People are dying here. Good people."
The Admiral appeared suddenly behind Risner, pulling a shirt on over scarred flesh. The plasma burns had done more damage than Sasha realized, extending down Keller's neck and across his chest, areas that had been covered by his uniform the last time Sasha had seen him, though he seemed to Sasha to be moving more easily than when he'd left the North Star. Sasha's eyes bugged out when he caught a glimpse of another man behind the two familiar spacers, this one with huge, dark wings. "Who is that?" Sasha asked before he could stop himself.
Risner looked back over his shoulder as Keller smiled, the expression more open than Sasha could ever remember seeing. "That's Juo. Well, Juo-ta-dar-ri, my best friend's husband and the assistant director of the medical college here. He's helping me get better."
"He has... wings!"
"And you're albino and Andromedites have tentacles," Risner interrupted with a laugh. "It's a big, big universe out there, Sasha, and life comes in all shapes and sizes."
"And you've had enough intercultural training to know that."
Sasha had to consciously remind himself that the Admiral wasn't an Admiral anymore, that he'd resigned his commission and was now just another citizen like anyone else. It didn't make it any easier not to snap to attention at that particular tone of his voice. "I know, sir," he replied, the honorific slipping out unchecked. Sasha had lived in fear and awe of the man for too many years not to give him that respect now. "It's been a rough week, and I wasn't expecting winged beings. Dascoll is dead, sir."
Keller's face tightened noticeably. Brian Dascoll had served with them on the North Star for five years, until his promotion to captain of the Libra led to Sasha taking over his role as the Admiral's exec. Sasha wasn't surprised at Keller's reaction to the news, but he almost smiled at the immediate look of concern on Risner's face as he watched the Admiral. Not that Sasha had been actively worrying about them--he didn't have time for that--but it was still a relief to know they were together finally. "How?"
"The Gavenelians," Sasha said. "We lured them in using the homing device Blaise's friend picked apart. It worked, but they didn't just give up, and in the ensuing battle, they destroyed half the ships in the ambush."
"Did you get all of them?"
Sasha shook his head. "More than we've ever gotten before, but far too many still got away. That's why I contacted Risner. I was hoping he'd heard from his friend again."
"Harry doesn't work that way," the two men said in unison, surprising a laugh from Sasha.
"He's the most reclusive, antisocial creature I think I've ever met," Risner added. "He told me what he'd learned because of my history with the Gavenelians, but even that will only go so far. If the Admiralty hadn't paid him for his first discovery, I doubt he would have shared the second one, even with me."
"He got paid for that one, too, didn't he?" Sasha asked.
"Then maybe he'll be willing to talk to you again."
Risner sighed deeply. "He might if I could go there, but I can't, Sasha. I can't leave Petarus right now and it might be months before we can. Peter can't miss his treatments long enough for us to get to Harry's stronghold and back, and I won't leave without him."
"So the Gavenelians keep winning." The bitterness in Sasha's voice shocked even him, but he couldn't get past the image of the Libra exploding before his eyes.
"You could send Harry a message," Keller said to Risner. "He might be willing to transmit some information to you. Will you try? Please?"
Sasha was pretty sure he'd never heard that word come out of the Admiral's mouth in all the years they served together, but it had the desired effect on Risner. "I'll contact Harry and put in a good word for you," Risner offered. "The rest is up to you."
"Thanks," Sasha said.
Risner's expression tightened. "Wipe the Gavenelians off the face of the universe. Every last one of them. That's all the thanks I need."
Before Sasha could reply, the vid screen had gone black, just the coordinates of a comm signal flashing on the monitor. Sasha knocked his head against the chair. He hoped this worked because if it didn't, he was out of ideas.