Home > Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)(4)

Age of Deception (The Firebird Chronicles #2)(4)
Author: T.A. White

"More like keep her indefinitely," Jin muttered.

"Is that a drone?" Kent asked, squinting at her friend. "What is a drone doing giving its opinion in a situation like this? Is that even possible?"

Kira's hands tightened into fists, no longer finding the brash admiral quite so amusing.

Kent didn't wait for an answer, flicking his hand dismissively. "It doesn't matter. This problem is easily solved. Take her. Rear Admiral Skarsdale, please accompany those ships home."

"No." Kira's words ripped through the air, forestalling the admiral from flicking off his screen.

He frowned at her. "What do you mean no?"

Kira ignored him, focusing on Himoto. "You asked for ships. I got you ships. You asked me to free myself. I did. My debt is paid."

Himoto didn't speak as he regarded her thoughtfully.

"You don't get to say no," Kent said disdainfully. "You're a member of the Space Force. You serve at our needs, just like every other soldier."

"Jin."

"Already done," Jin said.

"What are you doing?" Jace asked, his attention swinging to Kira.

"What I have to," Kira said, not second-guessing herself. She focused on Kent again. "Regulation 5.63—any service member who has served their first two tours can put in a packet to end their service if they have not been called to a combat rotation for the preceding three years."

Raider made a choked sound.

Kira took a deep breath. Was she really doing this? Yes. Yes, she was. She wouldn't bow to the dictates of someone like Kent.

This move was drastic, but it would give her room to maneuver. More importantly, it meant none of her actions beyond this point could be used against the Consortium.

"I won't be trapped again. I've defended humanity above and beyond what most ever hope to commit. I've sacrificed again and again. This was the last time."

"This won't work. That packet has to be hand-delivered," Kent warned.

"Nothing in those regulations says it has to be done by the person submitting the packet."

Kira and Kent were locked in a staring match. Each daring the other to blink. Only this time, Kira didn't plan for it to be her.

"You're bluffing," he said finally.

"Tell me again how you order me to give up my freedom for a few ships that won't even protect you when the Tsavitee come," Kira dared.

Fury and stubbornness lit Kent's eyes. He was going to do it. He was going to force her hand.

"Kira, think. You can't take this back," Raider said urgently.

"It should have been done a long time ago," she said softly. "There's no going back. Only forward."

It hurt to break Kent's gaze and look at her longtime friend, sometimes enemy.

Jace was silent, frozen disbelief on his face.

"You wouldn't dare," Kent said. He didn't realize she was a wolf whose leg was caught in a trap, willing to chew it off.

A knock sounded from out of sight.

Himoto met her gaze, his lips twitching. "This is unexpected. Quite the element of surprise."

"I learned from the best."

His head dipped in a nod. "Come in."

Kira thought she saw momentary surprise flash across his face before he composed his expression.

Graydon shifted, the tension rolling off him drawing Kira's attention like a bee to honey. His eyes were fierce, his shoulders tense.

That's right. Breathe it in. She'd outmaneuvered him.

"I win," she mouthed.

His eyebrows snapped together.

"That doesn't mean anything," Kent tried.

"For someone of your position, you're not particularly smart," Jin said. "The Tuann are sitting right here. What kind of people do you want them to think you are? The kind who would sacrifice your own people? The kind who lies for your own self-interests? You're not really presenting humans in a sympathetic light here."

"J1N, shut down," Kent snapped. "That's an order."

A chuckle rolled from Jin. "I don't take orders from you, meat sack."

Kira ignored the exchange.

Himoto looked considering before he speared her with a gaze. "Well done, dear, but I still have one move left. You really shouldn't have wasted time gloating."

Kira's lips parted.

Himoto didn't wait, reaching forward and tapping a button out of sight. There was a brief tone as Himoto's hologram snapped out of existence, leaving them staring at empty air.

Kira shook her head and blinked. She stood slowly.

He couldn't have.

A smile broadened on Kent's face. "Remember—last order given."

Then Kent's feed snapped off too.

Kira shook her head again. No. This wasn't happening.

"I'll be damned. That old fox outsmarted you," Jin said with awe.

Kira's teeth clenched; her gaze still focused on the spot where Himoto had been.

"The regulation you cited only works if you can confirm receipt of your resignation," Raider said thoughtfully. "Until you do, you're still considered active."

"Which means you have to obey the last order given," Jace finished.

And that was to accompany the Roake home.

Graydon's smirk caught her eye. He mouthed, "I guess it's still my win, coli."

Kira inhaled deeply. Strangling the Emperor's Face wouldn't help her situation—even if it would make her feel better.

Kira slapped her hands on the table and shoved her seat back. "No, I'll find him and cram that resignation down his throat."

Himoto wasn't winning like this.

"That would be considered leaving your post without orders. You'd be considered AWOL," Raider said, studying his fingernails. "They still court-martial for that."

"I don't care," Kira hissed, too far gone to care about the ramifications of her actions any longer.

"Oh, boy," Jin said. "She's snapped. Someone needs to do something before she does something drastic."

"You're dying," Shandry said, her words cutting through the drama.

 

 

TWO


Kira froze, her chest tight as her gaze locked on where Luatha’s healer had been sitting quietly until now.

Raider stiffened as soft realization stole into his expression.

Jin snorted. "No, she's not. Right, Kira?"

Raider held her gaze, reading the truth there before she could even think of denying it. Her silence was answer enough.

"But then, I think you know that," Shandry continued.

That drew the barest flinch from Kira.

Jin made a broken sound of denial.

"How long have you known?" Shandry inquired.

Kira placed her hands flat on the table as she urged herself to stay calm. She breathed in then out slowly, doing it again and again.

"Since Rothchild." Jin's voice held grim realization as he put the pieces together.

"Is this why you cornered me?" Kira asked, her voice deadly calm as she glanced at Graydon.

Graydon's expression was hard to read, but she caught a thread of irritation in the look he threw the healer. So—he hadn't planned to use this information against her.

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