Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Adult, #Romance, #Science Fiction, #Shapeshifter, #Space Opera
Zez’s ability to lock time makes her the ideal partner for a man who holds her past against her.
Zez joins the Citadel at age eleven, with a colourful history behind her. Her skills grow with every year, and in a decade, her ability to stop time in a confined area draws the attention of the Sector Guard.
Immune is paired with the young woman with the dark past, and he sets his mind to keep her under control and save the innocents she might sweep away with her actions.
Somewhere in the mire of distrust, a partnership is formed. The partnership has the potential to grow into something else, but resentments and accusations will slow the development.
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Dance of Time
Copyright © 2016 Viola Grace
Cover art by Carmen Waters
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Dance of Time
Tales of the Citadel Book 53
Zez heard the shouts, and she got ready. The swarm of small thieves stampeded past, and she did what she did best, she froze everyone else.
For thirty metres around her, time stopped. She quickly moved through the frozen and angry population, picking the pockets of all the witnesses. She had to work fast. She only had a minute.
The moment she had her take, she ran.
She was around three corners when she heard the distressed shouts from behind her.
She kept running until the world shifted under her feet.
She was levitated up over the rooftops and even the central tower. A pale-green woman with emerald hair sat there and applauded, a slow and even effort.
“Well, I see that the scouts were right. You are an impressive talent.”
Zez looked down, swallowed and tried not to activate her power.
“Yes, you have caught on. If you freeze me in time, my talent ceases to flow and you will drop like a stone. I must say, temporal manipulation is a definite boon for a pick pocket.”
Zez couldn’t really say anything. She had a dozen credit packs in her arms. It wasn’t like she had just picked them up.
“Not talking? No protestations of innocence? Good. What if I could offer you a life where you don’t have to steal for a living? Is that an idea that interests you?”
“Who would I be sold to?”
The woman gestured to her clothing and the robes that hung from her shoulders. “You would not be sold. You would be trained to work for the Citadel.”
“I would be free?”
“Free. Fed. Clothed, educated, anything you want could be yours, including using your talent for good, for the masses, to save lives and not pick pockets.”
“Can you put these credits at that corner?”
“Good. Do that and I will go with you. It should be enough to buy Mikki’s freedom.”
The woman arched a brow. “Who is Mikki?”
“My older sister. I have to pay for her or Toniak will turn her out.”
The woman scowled. “Where is she?”
Zez pointed to a building with a collapsing roof. “There.”
To Zez’s surprise, the woman pushed herself off the building, and they floated toward the rotted roof. “Let’s get your sister.”
Zez held the credits to her chest as they flew over the rooftops and then dropped through the roof.
Zez spoke immediately. “Toniak, I have the money.”
Toniak and his men were pointing weapons at them. “Zez. Who the hell is that?”
“She has offered me a job. Now, where is Mikki?”
The men looked at each other, and Toniak looked at the credits in her hands. “It isn’t enough. She is worth more than that.”
The woman with her said, “What do you want for her? I will see that you get it.”
One of Toniak’s men came up from the cellar where they were keeping Mikki. He was tucking himself into his trousers, and Zez smelled blood.
“No.” She ran at them, and Toniak shouted. Zez froze them all and moved past them.
There, on a filthy pad of straw, was her sister, torn and broken. Her body was already cooling.
Zez’s mind shattered, and she ran back up the steps, grabbing a blade and slitting every throat of every man who smelled like her sister. The scent of her sister’s blood was not something she would ever forget.
Zez stood next to the woman from the Citadel and touched her, deliberately breaking her hold on the woman.
“Take me out of here. There is nothing left for me here.”
The woman nodded and didn’t ask questions. Zez looked down at her sister’s blood on her hands. “We will bring her with us. I will carry her.”
They lifted off through the roof, and when they were far enough away, the sound of weapons fired once and then were silent.
“What just happened?” The woman from the Citadel carried Mikki and Zez through the sky.
“They took my sister’s life, so I took theirs.”
“She isn’t dead yet. I am trying to get us to my ship so I can put her in stasis.”
Zez looked at her sister and thought of what she would have to go through if she lived. She wasn’t completely sure that it would be a good thing.
Two weeks after they had arrived at Citadel Necridid, Zez went to visit Mikki to see how she was doing.
The woman sitting and talking with her was wearing the colour of the Minders. Mikki was bright and cheerful. Zez ran to her, the apprentice robes she was wearing flapped around her limbs.
“Mikki!” Zez grinned and skidded to a halt when she didn’t recognize the mind of the woman looking out at her. She turned to the Minder, “What did you do?”
The Minder glanced behind Zez’s shoulder and nodded.
The healer whispered, “Come with me, Zez.”
Zez followed Healer Vix, and the man led her to an office. He closed the door. “Please, sit down, Zez.”
She swallowed over the lump in her throat and nodded. “I researched the options for her condition. I know what was done.”
“She was suicidal. We repaired her body, but her soul was shattered. She was trapped in that attack, and she could not get out.”
“You scrubbed her.”
He looked shocked. “No! She was given a mind wrap. It is a calm personality overlaid on her own. Her memories are still there, but she will have to be ready for them. They will come back in time, but we don’t know when. This just enables her to begin to live her life.”
Zez blinked. “She is still in there?”
“She is. Your species does not respond well to mental manipulation, so this was all we could do. There was no way to scrub her without killing her. It was discussed and discarded as an option.”
Zez swallowed. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Because you are eleven years old. You should never have had to deal with any of this.”
Zez lifted her chin. “I am the one in charge. It was my carelessness that let Toniak get to her. It was my fault that this happened to her.”
The healer looked shocked. “It was not. It was evil that was visited on her. You did all you could. There was nothing that would have changed the outcome.”
Zez looked at him, astonished that he hadn’t figured out the obvious. “I could have killed them all sooner.”
He didn’t reply to that.
* * * *
Ten years at the Citadel flew by until the day that Zez and Mikki had decided was their birthday. They shared the day though they were seven years apart. It was just easier to sneak out together to giggle and gorge on pies bought from the nearby village.
While Zez bit into her pie, she looked at her sister fondly, remembering the day that the dam broke, five years earlier. That is why they shared this day. It was the day that Mikki had come back to her.
“So, now that you are officially an adult, are you going to start taking on missions?” Mikki mumbled around some pastry.
“Yeah. I am officially cleared as a Specialist. I feel all grown up and stuff.”
Mikki chuckled. “Excellent. Do you have a partner yet?”
Zez shrugged. “I have no idea. I know how to fly a shuttle, so I might be going out alone.”
“Doubtful. They tend to pair up males and females that they think are good matches. You might be in line for a permanent match.”
Zez looked at her sister. “Would you mind?”
Mikki waved her hand. “I have a life, a job and even a relationship. It is time for you to enter the real world and become a full-fledged person. You have been living to take care of me, and it is time for you to strike out on your own.”
“I want to make sure you are taken care of.”
“Penross takes care of me. The Citadel annuity that I get takes care of me. You don’t have to anymore.” Mikki grabbed her hand and squeezed it.
Zez sighed. “He’s a good guy.”
“I am glad you think so. We are having a baby.” Mikki reached for another pie.
Zez thought of a thousand things she could say, but she went with. “I am going to be an aunty?”
“You are. A very good, very powerful aunty. So, when you finish your missions, feel free to shop for baby presents. I hope that you are the type of aunty to spoil a little person.”
“Baby, Mikki. They are called babies.” She chuckled and lifted her glass of water. “To the sprout.”
“To the sprout.” Mikki smiled and raised her glass.
They drank and continued on with their pies. It was a wonderful gift for Zez’s birthday.
Now, she just had to find the little sprout a present while off working on an alien world. No problem.
Zez had her go-bag over her shoulder when she walked out to meet her new partner.
Instead of a Citadel vessel, a Sector Guard ship was sitting on the launch dock. A shadowy figure stepped into the open expanse of the cargo ramp. “Specialist Zez?”
She stepped forward. “That is me.”
A man in shades of dark purple emerged from the shadows. “I am Immune.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“My Sector Guard call sign. I am Immune to exterior influences.”
“Oh. Right. Well, I am just Zez.” She stepped forward. “May I come aboard?”
“Please. We have gotten a mission that requires your services.”
She blinked. “Really?”
“Yes. You can selectively freeze time?”
“Then come on. There are some issues that need your attention.”
She stepped onto the hatch, and it started to rise the moment she touched it. She hopped inward and stowed her bag in a cargo compartment.
Immune went to the command deck, and she followed him, settling into her seat for takeoff.
“Your folder is in the data screen in front of you. You might need to read up on the situation I am flying you into.”
She leaned forward and took the thin, transparent screen, using her thumbprint to activate it, and from there, she spent two hours going through the details of the riots that she was going to walk into the middle of.
“So, Immune is a very vague description.” Zez murmured it quietly.
“It is. Deliberately so.”
“Right. Of course. Sorry.” She got the idea that her new partner was not going to be the love of her life.
She twisted her lips. “You appear to be a Xrathat, correct? But you are not.”
He sent her a sidelong glance. “Correct. I am not a Xrathat, though I am surprised you know of the species.”
She smiled. “I took all the courses that the Citadel offered. Well, all the ones that I was capable of taking. Other species was one of my best courses.”
“I see. Well, all you need to know is that I am impervious to damage, and I should be immune to your influence.”
“Oh. Right. Of course.” She nodded and went quiet. It made sense that they would pair her with someone she couldn’t time-freeze.
“It is something you do not need to worry about. So, you are a blend of species?”
She sighed. “Born a slave, and my sister and I escaped to freedom. The genetic testing indicates that I am a blend of Nyal and Terran with a touch of Moreski thrown in.”