Save for Shardae

By: Raelynn Blue

Chapter 1

“At ease, soldier, at ease.” Commander Ashe’s voice was raw enough to slice skin. “Update me on our progress. We ready to transfer the prisoners?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Shardae set her work pad against her chest. “We’ve got the A.I. monitoring the configurations for the force fields. We’ll rotate every three minutes to avoid someone hacking them. The A.I. will monitor any attempt to access the system by both IGO staff and outsiders.”

Commander Ashe nodded. “Sounds good. Did you reconfigure all the IGO fail safes? I don’t want anyone overriding my command codes because some techhead forgot to purge the system.”

Shardae held back the heated retort pressing against her throat. Of course she’d changed them. These bastards had been IGO. Not only that but they’d been anchored to The Discovery, the same spaceship The Explorer called home. “Yes, ma’am! I’ve been working on this for a month, ma’am.”

“I’m sure you have,” Commander Ashe replied, unsmiling. “But none of us are infallible. Check them again.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Shardae executed a sharp salute, and then headed toward the nearest console.

Halfway there, Commander Ashe called her back. “Simmons.” The commander’s face seemed distant. “I’ve just gotten new orders from Captain Reyes.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “We’re about to get a new driver for our trip to Titan.”

Shardae waited silently for the other shoe to drop. Commander Ashe wouldn’t speak about IGO business to just anyone -- even her security chief. Not like this --informal with a touch of anxiousness.

“Our new pilot is Zander Reyes.”

Zander Reyes! Shardae struggled to keep her expression neutral. Zander was the womanizing pretty boy and spoiled brat of Captain Reyes, Ashe’s boss. Having him stationed on their spacecraft meant nothing but drama. Zander being assigned to The Explorer now was horrid timing, but it wasn’t a security issue, so Shardae simply nodded.

Commander Ashe’s visage had become remarkably unemotional. “And he’s going to report directly to you.”

Like hell. Pilots were bridge personnel. Shardae battled back a scowl. Feeling the commander’s cold green gaze slice through her, she willed herself not to look away.

Commander Ashe waited for her reply. An uneasy quiet rose between them. “Speak freely, Simmons.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” She did have one question. “Why would you pick me? You have two junior commanders who oversee pilot personnel, ma’am.” She didn’t have time to babysit the captain’s spoiled son. Not with dangerous men to transport to the penal colony.

“Ah.” The pulsating blue light on Ashe’s earpiece spoke of constant waiting messages, but she ignored them. “We’ve known each other for a long time. You spent two years under Private Second Class Tate and Sergeant Zigler. You have a stellar record. You’re already in charge of the twenty-person security team. You can handle it.”

“Yes, ma’am, but it’s only going to compromise my time and with the cargo we’re carting to the penal colony…”

“I’m a straight shooter,” Commander Ashe continued, searching the brightly lit corridor of the force field encased cell, taking in the thin memory-foam bed in each stripped down room. “You’re a sharp soldier. I liked how you handled the transport of the prisoners last year. I don’t have time to babysit Zander. Neither do my JCs. I’m counting on you to manage him.”

Shardae knew she could handle him. She just didn’t want to. “Thank you, ma’am,” she replied dryly.

“You’re one hell of a soldier. Keep Zander on a very close leash,” Commander Ashe ordered, with steel back in her words. “Obviously, Captain Reyes saw his son’s placement on my ship as something he thinks will -- help.” Commander Ashe shook her head. “Just keep Zander out of my hair.” Commander Ashe grinned, then caught herself and coughed. “Meet me in my office at 0600 to debrief.”

Shardae released a breath. Damn. This was the last thing she needed. She’d seen images of Zander Reyes, had even brushed against him in one of the cafeterias on The Discovery. She was certain he was going to be a big distraction, whether she wanted him or not.