Korom stared at the communication panel in front of him, counting the seconds in his mind. Tulip would call back soon. She had to. He couldn’t allow himself to think of any other possibility.
His mist had calmed from the uncontrollable storm from earlier. When Tulip called, he could hear in her voice that she wasn’t scared. She had sounded at ease, even laughing and joking with him.
Keel was trying to figure out where the call had come from, but whatever his brother had done to hide his signal, he had succeeded.
His brother. His own blood had done this. Why? What could be so important that Lorzarian would risk Tulip’s life?
The thought of meeting his older brother had his gut tumbling. He was the only link Korom had to his past. To his truth. Yet anger was all he could feel for the male right now.
When the hairs on the back of his neck rose, his mist surging to life inside him once more, Korom turned to the main part of the bridge. Bor sat in the captain’s seat in the center, a data pad in his hands. Keel and Tark worked at a station to the far right. He scanned the room, the feeling of unease rising with each breath.
A dark mist began to swirl in the center of the room. It seemed to appear from nowhere as it grew taller and thicker.
Korom shot to his feet, his own mist bursting out of him and soaring towards the intruder. As soon as it got close, it slowed and began to circle around the newcomer. He could feel the warm familiarity of Tulip within the dark depths.
Bor was on his feet beside him in seconds, his daggers at the ready. Keel and Tark took position on the other side of the mist, large weapons aimed at the boiling mass.
A second later, the mist receded and Tulip stood before him. Relief almost brought him to his knees when he saw that she was unharmed and still in the stunning dress she had worn to the celebrations. Her cheeks were a little rosy, but she looked fine.
He moved, swooping her into his arms before she had the chance to get her bearings.
Her arms wrapped around his neck, holding onto him tightly.
“Hey babe.” She whispered into his ear.
Korom took several long, deep breaths to calm his emotions before he was able to speak.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she said wriggling out of his firm hold. He placed her on her feet, but didn’t let her go.
He allowed a fine part of his mist to seep out of him. It flowed over her body, checking every inch of her. He could sense the other male’s energy on her skin, but she wasn’t injured. She had a small bruise on her arm, but nothing serious.
“Where is he?” Bor demanded, coming to stand beside Korom.
“Tulip, are you alright? Did he hurt you?” Her brother in law asked.
She turned to Bor, “I’m fine. He didn’t hurt me. He didn’t take me to do me harm. He needed to talk.”
“He couldn’t have called?” Bor growled, his eyes flashing with a menacing dark green.
“Would you have listened?” She shot back. Bor raised a brow, making Tulip shy away. She lowered her eyes, finding a speck on the floor fascinating as she said, “He’s… different, Bor. He did what he thought he had to.”
Korom turned her face to his with a gentle finger under her chin, “Where is he? You said he wanted to talk to us.”
“He does. But I need to make sure you guys aren’t going to kill him the second you see him.”
“He would deserve nothing less,” Bor mumbled as he stepped away.
“I gave you my word I would listen before I react. I cannot promise I will not beat him bloody after, but we will listen. If you say he is not a threat to us, I believe you.”
“I don’t think he is. I want to believe that he is what he says he is, but I don’t actually know him. What he has to say is very important, but I’m not an idiot. Listen to him, but be on your guard. Bor is a king, and he needs protecting. Even if the man doesn’t think so.”
Korom chuckled, “Very well. How do we contact him?”
She frowned, “I don’t know.”
“There’s no need to call, brother,” Lorzarians voice boomed from the front of the bridge. Koroms head whipped around as he pushed Tulip behind him. By the main view screen at the front of the bridge stood a large male in black fighting clothing. His hands were at his side and his back turned to them.
Keel and Tark moved fast, aiming their weapons at the newcomer as they got into position around Lorzarian.
Bor growled, his big body moving towards the view screen.
“I do not wish to hurt anyone, Lord Bor. Stay back and ask your warriors to lower their weapons.”
“They could kill you in seconds.” Bor barked back.
“It would take me half that time to tear you all apart. Lower your weapons,” He turned then, his eyes eerily familiar to Korom’s own, “We do not have time to waste.”
Korom stared at the male in front of him. He was taller, but not by much. They had the same thick dark hair, brown eyes and very similar features. Yet there was a dark, barely leashed edge to the male. He could feel it in the air around him.
“Bor,” Korom said without taking his eyes off Lorzarian, “Easy, brother.”
Bor growled low in his chest but took a step back. He motioned with his head to Tark and Keel. With a small nod, the two males lowered their weapons and stepped back.
Lorzarian slowly moved forward, his eyes fixed on Korom. He felt Tulip’s hand on his back as she whispered, “It’s okay.”
He needed that small contact more than she would ever know. She grounded him in so many ways.
He swallowed, gently moving Tulip to the side until he felt Bor pull her from behind his back. When he was sure his mate was protected, he eased one foot in front of the other as he approached Lorzarian.
They both stopped when they stood in front of each other, mere feet apart.
“You’ve grown,” Lorzarian said with a smile. His eyes were clear and focused, but Korom could see a deep emotion simmering just below the surface.
“I would hope so. The last time you saw me I was an infant.”
“Yes. And for the longest time I feared you had died on that ship. I had hoped for your rescue, but feared the worst.”
“The king of Toria found me on our fathers vessel. I was all that remained alive.” Korom spoke but his words sounded flat and monotone even to his own ears. He had so much going through his mind at that moment. This male before him was his blood. His real brother. His only true family.
No. That wasn’t right. Bor, his brother and sisters, and their mother were his real family.
Lorzarian blinked, his eyes shifting away, “I know. They forced me to watch as they raped and slaughtered everyone. When they didn’t find you, I… I prayed you would survive.”
“You survived as well.”
He shook his head. “No. I died that day too. The boy I used to be was torn out of me and slaughtered with the rest of our family by those monsters. I became who I am now. There is nothing of that boy left inside me.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Lorzarian narrowed his eyes, “You don’t?”
“No. If you were even a fraction like the pirates that stole you from your people, my Tulip would not be here, unharmed. She would not have asked me to help you. The child you were may be gone, but you are not the monster they wanted you to become.”
“We will see if you still think that way once this is all over.”
Korom didn’t want to get into this now. He knew they had a lot to speak about, but now was not the time. If Bor allowed his brother to live after the attack on the Keep, maybe they could discuss the past. For now, Korom needed to know why Lorzarian would put his mate in such danger. What could be so important.
“Tulip said you have important information for us. What is it?”
Lorzarian stared at him for a long moment, his eyes taking in his every feature, before he nodded and turned back to the others.
“King Bor, I fear there is an enemy heading for your home. They intend to destroy your world, kill your people and hunt down your… our brother.”
Bor stepped forward, pausing by Korom’s side. Glancing behind him, he spotted Tulip sitting in the captain’s seat with a small smile on her face. There was no sign of fear at all in her eyes.
“What enemy?” Bor growled.
Korom turned back to find Lorzarian standing by one of the communication panels. He tapped on it a few times, before the large view screen flicked with information.
Movement from the corner of his eye caught Korom’s attention. Before his brother could be ripped apart, he said, “No, Spot, do not kill him.”
Spot froze in his approach. Lorzarian glanced back at Korom then followed his gaze to the ceiling above him. Spot hissed at the male, baring razor sharp fangs. Now Korom saw it. That look of pure hate in the Spinners eyes that he had seen countless times in the past.
Tulip’s excited shout made them all turn. “Spot! Hey boy!”
Spot spun to look at her, his eyes softening as his fangs retracted. He scurried over the ceiling towards her, before he jumped off and landed in front of Tulip. He lowered his body down, bumping his head into her chest. A loud hum filled the space as everyone stared silently at the scene before them.
Tulip beamed up at Korom as she stroked the beast’s head, “Is it just me, or is he getting bigger?”
A deep chuckle sounded in the room and Korom turned to see Lorzarian smiling at his mate. The darkness around his eyes had lifted, leaving him looking younger. Korom would have worried about his intentions for Tulip, but when he looked back at his mate, she was watching him, not his brother. The love that shone in her eyes was undeniable.
“Show us!” Bor demanded, moving to stand in front of Tulip, hiding her with his big body. Lorzarian sighed, his smile faltering. He met Bor’s eyes, the darkness returning.
“Very well. I will start at the beginning, so you will all understand the reason for this threat. Korom,” He turned to him, “I hoped you would learn about our father and the male he truly was before you heard what he did. It will be hard to understand that he really was a good man. A good father. He just got lost. One day, perhaps you will let me tell you about him and mother.”
Korom nodded. He didn’t know what to say. It was something he wanted deeply, but wasn’t sure he was ready for it yet.
With a long inhalation of breath, Lorzarian began to speak.
Over the hours that followed, Korom grew more and more horrified with what he heard. His brother had shown them all the files his father had of the experiment he did on the freighter. All the video files of the mutated species he had created. The attacks on not just his world, but three others. He explained why and how this threat was now heading for Toria. The only advantage they had was that the enemy was slow. It would take time for them to get so far into Decagon territory as to reach Toria, if they managed it at all.
Yet Korom couldn’t discount the threat to the planet. If what his brother spoke of was the truth, then they had to do whatever it took to stop it.
When his brother was done speaking, Korom let out a long, exhausted breath and glanced back towards Tulip. She lay on the large captain’s seat, her legs curled up next to her and her head resting on the arm rest. She was fast asleep.
Spot stood over her, his six legs creating a protective cage around her as his big body hovered above. His large white eyes watched them as they spoke. Korom was sure the creature understood everything they had said.
From what Korom had figured out, Spot understood Violet’s language because of the telepathic link it had to her from birth. Lorzarian either didn’t speak Torian or he had spoken Tulip’s language for her sake. Either way, the meeting had been done in the Earth language.
“How do we find them?” Bor asked, rising from the chair to stretch.
Lorzarian sat back, rubbing a hand over his short hair, “Finding the Garamore's is not easy. They have tech unlike anything I’ve seen before. The weapon they used to… The one they fire at a planet is extremely powerful. As far as I am aware, nothing like it exists in the Decagon. They have stealth tech that is impossible to detect.”
“You said that you found them once before,” Keel leaned forward, his eyes running over the data pouring over the screen in the table between them.
“Yes. I was lucky. In my search for the Garamore ship, I received word that a small, isolated planet had been destroyed by what looked like a solar flare. I rushed to the scene as quickly as I could and saw the ship departing with my own eyes. My crew and I followed it but it didn’t take long before they noticed us and killed everyone on board.”
“You were not with your crew?” Korom asked.
Lorzarian met his gaze, “No. I misted to try get on board to gather information and plant a tracking device. While I was searching their ship, they were slaughtering my crew. Fifty three good males and females died. When I realized what was happening, I returned to my ship. Everyone was dead, and the main data core had been taken. The Garamore’s had disabled the main engine drive, leaving me stranded in a far away part of the universe.”
“Why didn’t you kill them when you had the chance? You were on their ship, you could have ripped them apart with your mist.” Bor asked.
“I tried. In order to kill, a Miasm’s mist needs to get inside a body. Normally, that isn’t an issue. But the Garamores are full of Rugor Gas in their blood. Even in our mist form, it burns and eats away at our flesh.”
Lorzarian reached down and pulled the hem of his shirt up. On his left side, just above the waist of his black pants, there was a palm sized scar. Dark red lumps were surrounded by white scar tissue.
“That happened when I tried to kill the first Garamore. My mist barely penetrated its skin when I felt the searing burn. I don’t think the Garamore even noticed.”
Bor grinned, his eyes lighting up. “Looks like we will have to kill these assholes the old fashioned way.”
Korom chuckled, unable to stop. “You sound more and more like Lady Lilly every day.”
“I enjoy some of the Earth terms. They are… colorful.”
“Yes,” Korom mused, “I do not believe the Torian language has a word quite as versatile and expressive as fuck.”
Bor laughed, “No. Maybe I should have the scholars work on that.”
“Can we return to the matter at hand?” Lorzarian sighed.
Korom was still grinning when he turned back to his brother.
“What more is there to say? There is a threat coming and it needs killing. That is what Torian warriors do. Until we find the ship, we cannot do much.”
Bor nodded, “I will have the Decagon on the lookout for this ship. My warriors will be made aware of the threat and to be ready. But until we have the Garamore’s in our sights, we cannot do anything. However,” He stood, “I do have a mate waiting for me at home.”
Before he could walk away, Keel said, “I have a question.”
Bor let out a long, annoyed sigh, dropped his head and mumbled under his breath. He turned, raised a brow to Keel, but returned to his seat.
“What question?” Lorzarian asked.
“Why didn’t your people mist away?”
They all frowned at him.
“When your planet was destroyed. Why didn’t all the Miasm’s simply mist to a safe place. Why stay on the surface when they knew it would kill them?”
Korom stilled. He hadn’t thought of that.
Lorzarian eased back in his seat, crossing his arms over his wide chest.
“I thought about that for many years. For the longest time I couldn’t understand why billions would choose to die, if they had a way to escape.”
“Did you learn why?” Korom asked.
He nodded. “Father did.” He leaned forward and selected a short video clip from the archived files Lorzarian had brought with him. He played it and stood, walking over to the view screen.
On the large wall in front of him, Korom’s fathers face appeared. He was an older version of Lorzarian, with lighter hair and a slightly crooked nose.
His eyes held so much pain, so much regret that Korom found it hard to look at.
On the screen, their father began to speak.
“I know how they did it,” His words sounded frantic. His eyes wild as they darted from the camera to something behind it. His hair looked too long, sitting on his head in a messy scruff. His face held the dark shade of three day old stubble and his hands shook.
“I finally figured out how they did it. I couldn’t understand it. Why? Why would they all just sit there and die? Why? But I know now. I understand what happened.”
A noise in the background sounded, and their father jumped, spinning around him with a weapon in his hands. He waited, staring at the door for a long moment, before turning back and laughing awkwardly.
“At first I thought it was fear. Fear of losing everything they had that kept them on the planet. But now I know,” He turned to look behind him again, then leaned in close to the camera as though about to tell them all a secret.
“It’s the weapon. The weapon they used to… to… Well, the weapon they used. I finally discovered what that feeling was. When I watched the attack on our world, I felt the weapon powering up before I ever saw it. Before I even knew they had such a large weapon. Thats why. The energy that is needed to destroy a planet is… its unimaginable. I’ve been running my own tests. At six hundred units, it was hard to take my mist form, but I could still do. At nine hundred, it felt like I was being torn apart inside when I tried. But at two thousand… nothing. Nothing at all. I couldn’t feel my mist inside me at all. It was like it was gone from my body. I know that’s not possible, because we are our mist, a species made of two states of matter, fused by-” The rest of his words were mumbled as he stepped away from the camera. When he returned, he held a screen in his hands.
“If my calculations are correct, then the weapon used on our world would have to have yielded at least three million units. That’s… I know that sounds impossible, but it’s true. The weapon is unlike anything we have seen before, so why cannot this be true as well? What power source could they use to generate such force? Crystal perhaps? No… Something more…”
His father paused, staring at the screen in his hands for a long moment. His face fell from the erratic excitement earlier, his shoulders slumping to a deeply heartbroken male. When he looked up again, his eyes were haunted by the deaths of so many.
“If this is true, then it is dangerous information. If any of my research got out, it could mean the death of my race altogether. Knowing a Miasm’s weakness like this…” He shook his head, “There are so few of us left. I cannot let anyone know about this. I must… No. I cannot tell her. She already thinks I have lost my mind. Our sons need her… need us both. I will leave this file in the archive. Perhaps Talmur will understand what to do with it one day. Rayus is still too small to know his father is… Forgive me, my sons. I do this all for your future.”