Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Romance, #Science Fiction, #Shapeshifter, #Space Opera
“Wow. Why didn’t anyone mention it?”
“Because she wants to show her support for a Wyfirth, though she is a Skarrow. It will do wonderful things for her public persona after she banished her masculine relatives and just resumed conversing with her daughter.”
“Okay, so I can see the point. She is using me because I won’t sue.”
“She is rerouting the money so that you won’t sue. If there is one thing I know about your grandmother, she keeps the family finances in view at all times.”
Niad leaned back against him and settled in for the rest of the short flight to the base.
“So, Niad, we have a day off.”
She blinked. “When?”
“Today. As soon as we finish our reports at the base. Are you still willing to walk out with me?”
“Are you willing to try and get a kiss?”
“Then, let’s go do some reports.”
She composed her observations in her mind, and the moment they were in the base, she was recording the events from the mission request to the flight home. Everything was out in under five minutes. She grabbed her credit band and popped out her lenses. Her normal, vivid colouring was now out for all to see.
She practiced a fun outfit with tights and a skirt that caught the breezes. When Tauron emerged, he was wearing a tight shirt and snug trousers to go along with his laced boots.
“Are you ready to go?” Tauron smiled.
Demsiac checked their reports and nodded. “You two are cleared for a day off. Tomorrow evening at four you need to be back.”
“Yes, sir.” Niad grinned.
Tauron helped her from her chair, and they walked out to one of the more city-friendly vehicles. He grinned, “Do you think you can fly it?”
“Oh, yeah. You still have to ride behind me.”
“Do you know where you are going?”
“Nope. You will have to point it out. Oh, and I overhauled the propulsion system. You are going to have to hold on.”
She revved the engine, his arms went around her and they headed up and into the sky.
He relaxed his grip on her after they achieved a suitable altitude and headed to the northern province and the promise of noodles. She had to admit that she was hungry.
“You look lovely tonight.”
She blushed. It felt weird being off duty with him and able to do such simple things as compliment your date.
“You look very handsome but still ready to run.”
“It’s what I do.”
She chuckled. “The handsome or the running?”
Niad redirected the conversation. “What is your family like?”
“Well, my mother is a horticultural talent, and my father is a legal alien. He took my mother’s family name when they married, and he works with animals.”
“He is a talent?”
“He is an Oefric. He can shift his shape anywhere and at any time.”
“I have met a few of them.”
He chuckled. “Oh, I forgot that you had been off world. What was it like?”
She snorted. “I have told all of you until I was hoarse. It was fun, exciting and wonderful to be accepted in a group of folks from all over the solar systems and the far reaches of other empires.”
Remik sighed. “I hope to travel one day.”
“Around the globe or off to the stars?”
“Either. Both. I just want to catalogue new experiences.” He pressed his lips to her neck and the runner wobbled.
She elbowed him. “Knock it off. I am driving here.”
He laughed. “You see that large green dome on the left? There is a tarmac behind it to land the runner.”
The huge, open fields full of green and growing things gave her the confirmation that Remik was a member of a high family.
She followed his direction and settled them down near a flotilla of other vehicles.
“I know you are an only child.” Remik got off the runner and offered him her hand.
She nodded and let him help her off the vehicle. “Right.”
She turned as a nearby door slammed open and folks started streaming out.
He chuckled. “I am not.”
She lost count of the lithe women and broad-shoulder siblings that Remik clutched. His family called him Arko, so that was odd.
An older couple came out, and the woman grinned. “So, you have finally made it home, Arko? What are we going to do with you?”
He grinned and pushed through his siblings to hug his parents. “I believe you will be happy to meet my companion. Mom, Dad, this is Niad Skarrow.”
His mother paused. “Skarrow? I thought you were bringing the other Guardian with you?”
Niad smiled and walked through the crowd of Tauron siblings, changing her suit as she moved to something a little less frivolous. “Madame Tauron, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
She was wearing a boiler suit, and Remik’s father’s eyes widened. “Masuo?”
She inclined her head. “It is. A gift from my grandmother to stop me from being abraded in the line of duty.”
His mother smiled. “Call me Nelfin, and this is my husband, Orkadic.”
Orkadic extended his hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Skarrow.”
She shook his hand and wrinkled her nose. “It is actually Citadel Mechanical Specialist Niad Wyfirth, but the Skarrow is the new addition, so I am getting used to it.”
Orkadic grinned. “You have walked the stars?”
“Walked, run and even puked twice.” Niad smiled at the spark that came to his gaze.
He laughed and looked over at his son. “Arko, why didn’t you bring her home earlier?”
Remik sighed. “I am beginning to wish I hadn’t brought her this time. This was our first day off together.”
Niad snorted. “Well, I am here now. Madame Tauron, is there anything mechanical you need a hand with?”
Two of his siblings immediately shouted about some kind of harvester.
She snickered. “Lead the way.”
In moments, she was hauled around the building and into a segment of the dome that housed large harvesters and other farm equipment. She was pointed to the first vehicle and climbed it easily, working on the engine with a smile and chatting with Ethoin and Miidal, two of Remik’s middle siblings.
“Why do you call him Arko?”
She finished the first vehicle and started it up, raising and lowering the offending threshing arm before climbing down and moving on to the second.
Ethoin watched her carefully but smiled at the question. “Oh, his legal name is Remik Arko Tauron, but my mom called him Arko after our dad, but he was named Remik to uphold Tauron tradition for the oldest son. Are you going to marry him?”
She was elbow deep in the next vehicle as she laughed. “This is our first date. I have no idea if we even get along romantically.”
She finished the minor repair and pulled herself out of the tractor. Hands helped her up and out.
“You don’t need to do that.” She was a little uncomfortable with the familiar grip on her hips.
She was turned, and Remik was looking down at her. “This wasn’t why I brought you here.”
His siblings appeared to have scattered. She looked around and then up at his face. At this close range, it was a little intense. “I know, but it is something that I can do for them.”
He leaned in and brushed his lips across hers. “I would rather you spend time with me.”
She looked up at him through her lashes. “And what would you like to do?”
He grinned. “I believe you should take up riding.”
That caught her by surprise, but she accepted his assistance in climbing down from the harvester.
On the hard floor of the barn, he chuckled. “You are not the only one with another form, and since you showed me yours, it is only appropriate for me to show you mine.”
She watched as he removed his shirt. She held her breath as she always did when he changed in her vicinity. Nudity was a side effect of being in and out of the suits all day, every day.
Her mouth went dry when he removed his boots and then peeled his pants off. When he was naked, he winked and then his body grew until she was standing in front of a beast made of shadow and fire. She stroked his head, and he nipped at her shoulder, nudging her toward his back.
Niad grabbed his mane, and she was no sooner settled when he bolted out of the barn and into the afternoon sunlight. A few of his siblings saw them and laughed, but Niad’s focus was on the bunching and stretching of muscles beneath her.
He ran between the flaring rows of leaves, his feet light despite the huge bulk of him.
She heard thunder and looked behind her. To each side of them, a wave of the same beasts was running through the grains, each a different power and colour combination.
She leaned close to his neck, clenched her thighs around his barrel and shouted, “Speed it up, Arko.”
He snorted fire, and they streaked through the crops, turned and bolted back to his family home.
The race was on, and his parents were standing near the vehicles, amongst small piles of clothing.
Arko ran up to them, reared and pawed at the air.
Niad hung on, and when he thudded back to all fours, she patted his neck. “Good boy. We won. Of course, we started early.”
He shuddered, and she took the hint, sliding off his back.
Her mount trotted off to the barn, and she dusted herself off before smiling at his parents. “Well that was interesting. So, all your children are shifters?”
Nelfin smiled. “They are, and when the time comes for you to ask for Arko’s hand, you may have it. I have rarely seen him so carefree since he joined the Guardians.”
Niad glanced back at the barn. “I think if I ask for it, I will want more than just his hand.”
Orkadic laughed; Nelfin snickered.
There was a familiar presence nearby, and she muttered, “He is standing right behind me, isn’t he?”
Nelfin leaned against her husband as the rest of her transformed brood thundered in. “He is. Come on. Let’s get ready. Orkadic makes the best noodles in the county, but even he needs a proper kitchen.”
His parents turned and left them, but Arko put his hands on her hips and whispered, “What parts of me are on the block?”
She blushed and turned in his grip. She kissed him and pulled back before she said, “What is on offer?”
He groaned and pressed his forehead to hers. “This is going to be a very long dinner.”
“Don’t be in a rush. We have until tomorrow afternoon.”
He hugged her and then kept one arm around her waist as they followed his parents around the dome.
Apparently, there was a living area somewhere, and the best noodles in the county were only a short wait away.
As days off went, it was a lot to look forward to.
“Guardian Wyfirth, I thank you for your service and accept your leave of absence.” The head of the Guardian program smiled at her.
Niad nodded and smiled in relief. “Thank goodness. I do want to get back to it, but it isn’t really practical right now.”
She was six months pregnant, and folks started to notice.
Guardian Tauron had also been granted his leave because they weren’t going to be operating without each other after three years working back to back.
Her Masuo was keeping up with her concealing fashions, but physics being what it was, she couldn’t hide that the next Skarrow heir was on the way.
They flew home on their runner, and Niada was waiting with cool refreshments, and Mlina and Nmir were there as well.
Niad landed the runner. Arko helped her off the vehicle. Her centre of balance was definitely off.
“Well, it is official; we are on a twenty-four-month leave.”
The juice cups were raised in the air, and Niad flopped down onto Arko’s lap, exhausted by the short day.
He grunted when she fell, and he stroked her hip. “Easy there. I am sure that things will work out for the best. You are just so off balance, things were getting dangerous.”
Niada smiled. “Well, you can practice with your little sister. She will get you nice and broken in.”
Mlina laughed. “Or, you can just get the nanny to help. It will be easier.”
Niad pressed her head to Arko’s shoulder. It was so tiring holding her body back all the time. It wanted to build the child immediately and that would take too much out of her. As it was, she would probably have the child in the next week, but that wasn’t something she wanted to tell her mom.
Four generations of Skarrows under the same roof. It was definitely a change from a few years earlier, but both the family and the business were soaring.
Arkady Skarrow was born whole, healthy and walking a month after she was born; from there, it was running, and it was a good thing that speed was on her father’s side. He needed it.
It took me a while to get back to the Citadel, but I made it. .
Thanks for reading,
Viola Grace (aka Zenina Masters) is a Canadian sci-fi/paranormal romance writer with ambitions to keep writing for the rest of her life. She specialises in short stories because the thrill of discovery, of all those firsts, is what keeps her writing.
An artist who enjoys a story that catches you up, whirls you around and sets you down with a smile on your face is all she endeavours to be. She prefers to leave the drama to those who are better suited to it, she always goes for the cheap laugh.