“Korom will kill you for taking me, you know that, right?” Tulip asked as she reached for the steaming cup Lorzarian offered.
“Perhaps,” he said, easing down into the chair in front of her, “But he will first have to listen to me. There is something far more dangerous than Spinners coming for him.”
“What does that mean? What’s coming for him?”
Lorzarian sipped his drink, his eyes fixed on a spot behind her head.
“If you did all this to help your brother, then tell me.”
“He is not my brother.”
“Yes he is. You’re Talmur aren’t you?”
Lorzarian smiled, “I have not been called that name in a very long time.”
“But it’s still you. You still share the same blood as Korom.”
“His name is not Korom. At least it wasn’t what our mother named him.”
“What did she call him?”
“Rayus. Her little Ray of sunshine,” he mused, a far away look filling his eyes.
“He became Korom when his new life started on Toria.” Tulip said softly, curling her fingers around the warm cup.
“Yes, I know. When I learned my brother had survived, I searched for all the information I could find about him. He has done well for himself.”
“He’s worked his ass off for everything he has. He may have been lucky enough to be found by Bor’s father, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned his place at the Torian King’s side.”
Lorzarian studied her for a long moment. She couldn’t get over how much this man looked like Korom. There was absolutely no doubt in her mind that this was Korom’s brother.
“You care deeply for him,” Lorzarian stated, taking another sip.
“Yes,” Tulip answered without a second’s hesitation, “I love him with all my heart.”
Lorzarian nodded, a wistful look taking over his features.
“Please tell me what’s coming for Korom. If you did all this to get his attention, then I can guarantee that you have it. He will listen to whatever you have to say as long as he knows he will get me back in one piece.”
“No harm will come to you, Tulip. I never intended to scare you or to allow you to get hurt. But I do need your help with this. Korom and Bor will not listen to me when I tell them of the threat heading for Toria. If you speak on my behalf, explain to them what I’m about to tell you, they will have to take it seriously.”
She placed her cup on the small table in front of her and pulled her legs up to curl under her on the wide sofa chair. After the terrifying introduction on the bridge, Lorzarian had taken her to the med bay to help her arm heal, before he led her to a small lounge area not far from the bridge.
With a long sigh, he began to speak.
“Over a hundred years ago, my home world was destroyed. Did Korom tell you about that?”
She nodded, “He knows what happened to his home planet, but he doesn’t remember any of it.”
Lorzarian smiled, “It was destroyed before he was born. The last few surviving Miasm’s fled to distant planets to begin rebuilding our race. My mother and father were on a science ship that was meant to join the colony.”
“My father never intended to join the colony. He told the crew that his plan was to study an anomaly in the far reaches of Decagon territory before making their way to the colony but it was all a lie. After watching his planet burn and knowing that billions of people were dying, his mind snapped. He became obsessed with revenge. With finding out who was responsible for the attack.”
Tulip frowned, shifting to reach her drink, “But the Decagon’s official report says that it was a massive solar flare that burned the planet.”
“No. Miasm’s had dealt with many solar flares. Something so simple would not have wiped out an entire planet in minutes. My father was one of the few people in orbit around the planet when it happened. He saw the ship that attacked. He watched as a powerful weapon was fired at the heart of the largest city on the surface. Moments later, the core of the planet became superheated, burning everything from the inside out.”
“Oh my God,” She breathed, tears pricking her eyes as her mind made vivid mental images of the horror of what happened.
“I still have many of the holovids my father recorded. All his research was taken by the pirates that killed my family.”
“I’m sorry, Lor.”
He raised a brow, “Lor?”
“Do you know what Lorzarian means in the Miasm language?”
She shook her head.
“Bringer of death. Lor means something very different.”
He smiled, “Peace. It means peace.”
“What happened to you after you were taken?”
His eyes darkened, his smile fading. He placed his cup on the table, turning his face away from her.
“That is something we will not be discussing today.”
“I’m sorry,” She repeated.
He turned to her, “For what?”
“For everything that you went through. For all that you lost. For the time you missed out on with your brother. It wasn’t fair.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“Do you blame Korom?”
“I have nothing to blame him for. I am glad he survived, but if he had been taken by the pirates I would have killed him myself. No child should ever be raised like that.”
Emotion choked her as his harsh words penetrated her mind. The things this man had to have lived through. The things he would have been forced to do to survive broke her heart.
She hadn’t been around Lorzarian for long, but she could sense that he wasn’t a bad person. Dangerous, yes, but not evil.
“Tell me about this threat to Korom.”
Lorzarian relaxed, lifting one leg to rest his ankle on his other knee.
“My father spent seven years looking for the killers that destroyed everything. Ray- Korom was born on the ship. I was a young boy, but I remember the day my father came to me and told me I was an older brother. It was the first time after the attack that I felt hope. It was the same hope that he had survived that kept me alive after I was taken. When I finally got away from the pirates, I took this ship and disappeared. When I found the long forgotten data they had stolen from my father, I knew what I had to do. I began hunting the enemy myself.”
“And?” Tulip asked, unable to contain her curiosity
“I found them. They call themselves The Garamores. They travel in an enormous ship where thousands live and fight.”
“Are they Pirates?”
He shook his head, “No. They are far worse. They are destroyers of worlds. From what I could find, they are a mutated species that needs a very specific combination of gasses in the air they breathe. They travel the universe looking for a planet that can sustain them. When they find one with life, they test the air. When they realize the air is not right for them, they fire their weapon and destroy the planet. I have tracked their path of destruction back to four other planets. Only one was within the Decagon’s purview. The rest were small, sparsely populated planets with primitive life. Even so, billions died on each world.”
“Why would they do that? Why destroy the planet if the air isn’t right for them?”
Lorzarian shrugged, “Who knows. Anger. Disappointment. Desperation. I don’t care for their reasons. I only care to destroy them.”
“You said that Korom was in danger.”
“Yes. The Garamores may be savage killers but they are not stupid. They know that my father hunted for them for years. They do not like to be sought out.”
Tulip thought about what he said for a long moment. Something wasn’t making sense to her. He was either lying to her, or holding back all the truth.
“I don’t get it. I don’t see why they would want to hurt Korom specifically just because your father searched for them. There’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there?”
He grinned, “You truly are as smart as I thought you would be. Yes, there is something else. I fear telling you will make you turn away from Korom.”
“Never. Whatever happened, he wasn’t a part of it. Nothing could make me love that man less.”
“I hope that is true, little female.”
“When the Pirates took my fathers data, they stole it all, including the old archived files he had locked away. I broke into those files a few years back.”
“What was on them?”
“Disgrace. The reason for the death of my planet.”
Lorzarian stood, moving to the far window behind her. She couldn’t let him stop now. She had to know the rest. Getting to her feet, Tulip followed him and stood beside him. Placing a gentle hand on his arm, she said, “Tell me the rest. Please?”
He met her eyes in the reflection on the glass. The pain and shame she saw looking back at her broke her heart. What had this poor man been through. As far as she could tell, he was on this ship alone. Had he been dealing with all this by himself, with no one to lean on when things got hard?
“My father worked on genetic manipulation in weaker species. His focus was on trying to find a way to adapt a being’s respiratory system so that it could accept the more common form of breathable air found in the universe.”
Tulip paled. “No. Oh shit.”
His eyes lowered to the ground as he shrugged her hand off his arm.
“Yes. Many years before I was born, my father tested one of his formulas on a large freight vessel filled with Masmatok. They couldn’t breathe our air and had to have special apparatuses attached to their nose and mouth every time they docked with an oxygen based station or planet.”
“He changed them.”
“Yes. But in so many other ways as well. Their DNA absorbed the formula, changing everything about them. Gone were the small, gentle beings that loved to sing every time they docked. In their place were mutated, savage monsters that couldn’t breathe anything but the air they had to create for themselves. It was only after the captain of the ship decided that death would be kinder to his people, that he released the Rugor gas they had been transporting. It’s a highly deadly toxic gas used in the mining colonies to neutralize the rock fungus found in the mines. Their bodies were still mutating when the gas was released. Now, that is all they can breathe. My father destroyed one thousand, three hundred lives with his mistake that day. But he is responsible for the death of billions.”
“That’s why they want Korom. For revenge.”
“Yes. Four months ago, I got close enough to them to see their ship. I didn’t know that they salvaged every ship that got close to their floating home and used its parts to expand their ship. While I was trying to gather information, they attacked us. They killed everyone on board my ship. My entire crew perished. They took the main data core from the bridge. The one with all my fathers research on it.”
“That’s how they know about Korom.”
“Yes. As far as anyone knows, I died with the Pirate crew thirty years ago. But Korom is the right hand to the King of Toria. His achievements are well known throughout the Decagon. Finding him was easy.”
“And now they want to destroy Toria in their anger.”
Lorzarian just nodded, turning back to the window. Tulip stood silently beside him, trying to wrap her mind around everything she just learned.
She didn’t blame Korom at all for what his father did. She didn’t feel any different or love him any less for it. She couldn’t hate the man that made her happier than anything else in her life. And she couldn’t hate Lorzarian either.
Taking a huge risk, Tulip wrapped her arms around his waist and held onto him tightly as she said, “I’m so sorry that all this happened to you. You don’t have to be alone any more.”
Lorzarian stood frozen for a moment, before his arms gently wrapped around her, pulling her into a tight hug.
“My brother is a truly lucky male. Take care of him, little Tulip. He deserves a female like you.”
She stepped back, breaking the brief moment. “So do you. Don’t let this be the end of your story. Come home with us. There is a place for you with your family.”
“My brother doesn’t know me. He has a new, better family. He doesn’t need someone as broken as me in his life.”
“He needs you more than you think. He speaks of what it would be like to meet you often. He really wants to hear about his mother and father. About his home. I’ll help you convince Korom and the others of the threat coming for us, but you have to promise me that you will give your brother a chance. He really is a good man, Lorzarian.”
“If we survive what is to come, then I give you my word. To be honest, I am tired of fighting. After my prime I wanted nothing more than to go out and search for my Tamara, but I couldn’t. I had to kill every last pirate I could find. Now I just want some peace.”
“Where is your grounding force?”
He shrugged, “I do not know. I lost my mind for a long time while I went through my prime. Only my fathers long ago teachings helped me fight my way back. I’ve had flashes in my mind of her recently. She lives on a water world with vast blue oceans as far as the eye can see. I do not know where this planet is, but I hope to one day find it and perhaps find her.”
“What’s her name? Do you know?”
He nodded, a small smile pulling at the corners of his lips as he gazed out of the window.
“Yes, I heard her name spoken once in a vision I had late at night. I will never forget it.”
“What is it? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Alison. Her name is Alison.”
Tulip’s eyes went wide. “Alison? Are you sure?”
He turned to face her, his smile gone, “Yes. Do you know a female by that name?”
She shook her head, “No. But I do know of a planet that name is used on.”