The Power of Three(7)

By: Kate Pearce

“Frek you.”

Esca wrenched open the door and slammed it shut as powerfully as his psychic shields. The door to his suite was ajar, and his bags sat ready at the foot of the bed. He picked them up and headed for the elevator. If he stayed here any longer, Ash would seek him out and he had nothing to say that wouldn’t provoke another argument. Soldiers were a superstitious bunch, and the last thing he needed when he was already nervous about a mission was someone foretelling his death.

Especially his own damned mate.

Frek him. Esca hoisted his bag onto his shoulder and stepped into the elevator. Whatever awaited him, it had to be better than that.

* * *

“…And the alliance troops are from Etrusca, a small militarized planet at the far end of our system. One thing to be aware of with this species is their aversion to psychics. Other than that, they have proven to be a most worthwhile fighting force.”

Esca blinked hard and focused on the screen as the ship’s captain brought him up to speed on the new mission.

“Why don’t they like telepaths?”

His cousin stopped talking and stared at him. “I don’t know why. Just don’t be obvious about communicating telepathically in front of them, that’s all. Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine. It’s just a lot to take in.” Esca sat up straight. “Where do you want my team?”

Trenx put up a map. “This is the military installation we’re planning on obliterating, so we need as much up-front intel as you can get us. We’re combining your team with the Etruscans to get the fullest coverage we can, but you’re in overall command.”

Esca studied the well-guarded facility set high in the mountains of the planet below them. “Not a problem.” He rose from his chair.

“You’re not planning on going on this one, are you?”

“Why not?” Esca could almost feel his hackles coming up.

“It’s only an exploratory expedition. If it’s successful, and depending what we find, we’ll want you down there to lead the first strike.” Trenx frowned. “Your team have worked with the Etruscans before—they won’t mess up. Captain Jong’s in command.”

“She should do a fine job. What time are they off?”

Trenx consulted the screen. “In less than an hour.”

“Then I’ll go down and listen in on the briefing.” Esca nodded at his cousin. “Thanks for the update.”

Trenx finally smiled. “It’s good to have you back.”

Esca made his way down to the launch decks and was directed toward a small room where he could already hear his second-in-command speaking to the assembled team. She sounded extremely confident, and why shouldn’t she? In his absence, she’d handled everything in a way that had made him proud.

And jealous as hell.

The whole room sprang to their feet as he appeared in the doorway.

“Major!” Captain Jong saluted him. “Good to see you back.”

He nodded, took a seat and gestured for her to continue. After a second, she did so, her delivery impeccable. He took a moment to check out the original members of his team and the new additions from Etrusca. There were about twenty of them in all, roughly half male and half female. He was so used to picking up other team members’ random thoughts that it was odd to have nothing coming back from half the room. How did they communicate in situations when they couldn’t speak? Telepathy was invaluable to his team and had saved their lives on more than one occasion. He’d have to ask Jong how they handled it.

As she drew to a close, Esca shifted in his seat and she looked inquiringly at him.

“Is there anything you want to add, Major?”

He stood and faced the room. “Just that I’d like to welcome the Etruscan members of our combined force.”

One of his first team members stood and saluted him. “Will you be leading us today, sir?”

“I don’t see any need. Captain Jong is capable of carrying out a surveillance operation such as this in her sleep.”

There were a few smiles, and he thought he detected a hint of relief in his second-in-command. “I will be coming on the next mission. I look forward to seeing how much you have improved under Captain Jong’s excellent leadership.”

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