Galen propped his hands behind his head and stared down his bared torso at Onyx's bowed head as she patiently stroked his flaccid member. He was bored with her, he decided, realizing he couldn't summon a flicker of warmth, let alone heat. Time was when she could've had him hard in five sects flat and gotten him off inside of five septs. At this rate, it didn't look like she was going to even manage to get a rise out of him.
Galen frowned as the voice of his first officer abruptly intruded. He couldn't have a few fucking minutes to himself, he thought, feeling a welling of resentment? Nothing ever happened on the gods damned ship that his officers weren't perfectly capable of handling on their own. "You'd better have a gods damned good reason for bothering me, Ken-so," he growled at the man's image that appeared on the intercom console across his cabin on his desk. "If it's another brawl among the colonists, send the peace keepers in--if it's the gods damned swab jockeys, send the PKs and leave me the fuck alone! I'm off duty!"
"Sorry, Sir! You asked to be informed when we received first reports from the scout ships."
Even knowing they were only going to be exchanging the deadly boredom of life on the ship for what promised to be an equally boring, but far more uncomfortable existence once they reached their destination, Galen felt his heart miss a beat with a brief surge of something akin to excitement. Disgust followed that he felt even that much for the headache ahead of him. His lips thinned. "Unless there's something pressing...."
"The reports aren't good, Sir."
Galen stared at the first officer's face through narrowed eyes for a moment, trying to guess what might have brought about the look of panic in his eyes. A thread of uneasiness wafted through him. Ken-so was a soldier to the bone. He wasn't prone to get worked up over nothing. Abruptly, he sat up and shoved Onyx away from his lap. She sprawled on the deck beside his bunk in a tangle of lithe, naked limbs. He barely glanced at her as he grabbed his discarded uniform and shoved his legs into it. Standing, he pulled the suit up to his shoulders, shrugged his arms into the sleeves, and strode toward the door, absently smoothing the front edges of his uniform together.
"I'll be waiting here for you," Onyx cooed as he reached the door.
Having dismissed her from his mind, Galen halted abruptly in his tracks at the sound of her voice and swiveled around to look at her. His gaze flickered over her perfect face and then down her equally perfect body. He released a disgusted sigh. "Don't bother. We're done. You may return to the pool."
He realized as he strode purposefully down the narrow corridor to the lift that his pulse was pounding with far more excitement now than it had been when Onyx had been trying to arouse him. He supposed he wasn't really surprised. A steady diet of pleasure bots could put anyone off of them. It had been annums since he'd even been within sniffing distance of a real, honest-to-gods, flesh and blood female.
And, at that, he hadn't been much closer than that.
Not that that she-devil of an attorney he'd had actually qualified as female in his book. The conniving bitch had thoroughly screwed him over or he wouldn't be here now ... on the backside of nowhere, going nowhere.
Dismissing the thoughts as he felt his temper rising, Galen paused before the lift, stepped inside when the door dematerialized, and braced his legs slightly apart for balance, clasping his hands behind his back. "Bridge," he said in a clipped voice.
The sensation of movement was brief, the jolt when the lift stopped shimmying his knees despite the braced stance. Ken-so met him at the door as he stepped off.
Galen lifted his dark brows in surprise.
"We're missing a planet," Ken-so announced immediately in a low voice resonating with the panic Galen had seen in his eyes on the com unit, turning to follow Galen as he strode past him and headed toward the vid display.
Galen stopped and threw a disbelieving glare at his first officer, wondering if the wet-behind-ears recruits had wandered into the wrong solar system. "Missing...? How the fuck could we be missing an entire planet? Computer malfunction? Are they even in the right gods damned solar system?"
Tale Ken-so nodded vigorously. "I checked, Sir. The coordinates are correct. There's no malfunction. It's the right system, alright, but the fifth planet's gone. Nothing but a belt of debris where it was."
Galen's lips compressed in a look of disgust. "Any idea when it happened?"
Tale shrugged. "The computer is calculating maybe ten or twelve thousand annums--give or take. The orbits of the third and fourth planets are stable."
"About the time they charted the system," Galen muttered after a quick calculation in his head, turning and striding toward the vid display to study the system they were approaching.
"Sir? Should I inform mission control?" Ken-so asked, following his senior officer and hovering near his shoulder as Galen studied the display and finally took a seat before the console to read the reports coming in.
"Do you think they give a flying fuck, Ken-so?" In any case, they'd know by now. The sons-bitches-had probably observed the collision--or whatever had caused it--before they were halfway to their destination if the calculations were right, since their home system was roughly that many light-annums from the target system.
The question shut him up, thankfully. He was a good officer, just too damned fresh faced and eager as far as Galen was concerned--and at that he was a sight more mature and level headed than the majority of the men under his command.
It was a motley crew of soldiers and colonists he was leading. About half of them were like Ken-so. Young, eager, and stupid, buoyed by dreams of glory, they honestly saw this as a grand adventure that would earn them a place in the history books. There hadn't been an attempt at colonization in centuries. Once all the prime real estate in the closest systems had been settled, the government had been content to reap the benefits and ignore the more distant systems as too costly to bother with, whatever they might have of value. The war had changed that and the eager young recruits that had volunteered to man the colonization mission to the new star system they were entering would be the first colonists in generations. They were going to conquer the universe and all that rot.
Another quarter were blatant undesirables, men who'd already proven they were virtually useless to society. He strongly suspected they had been rounded up from the prisons and workhouses, and probably from the streets, from the look of some of them.
The mission was a good way to take out the trash.
The rest were screw-ups.
And he fell into that category.
Not that he actually had screwed up his mission. He'd done exactly as he'd been ordered by his senior officers. Where he'd screwed up was in failing to consider that, as the youngest admiral in the entire armada, he was going to end up being the scapegoat when the shit hit the fan--particularly since he already had one strike against him--his birth.
It galled the hell out of him that the others had not only dismissed his input when they'd been planning their battle strategy, but then they'd closed ranks afterwards and set him up to fall for their piss poor planning.
And that had left him in the unenviable position of accepting the leadership of the colony armada or rotting in prison.
Staring at the preliminary data, he almost wished he'd opted for prison. Ten annums wasn't that much now that he thought about it. He would've still been young enough when he'd gotten out to start over, train for a different career.
The five annums he'd already spent in prison had been pure hell, though. When they'd offered to let him lead the expedition, to reinstate his rank, he'd been ready to jump at the chance. Anything, he'd thought then, would be better than staring at four walls all day long--when he wasn't beating the other inmates off his food--and his body.
He should have known they wouldn't have offered it if it hadn't been worse than what he was already enduring.
Fucking bureaucrats and politicians and their gods damned wars!
They were always hot to send someone else in to die for the 'greater good', meaning them and their credits.
He wondered if the rest of the crew and colonists realized those brides the government had promised were never going to materialize. Short of shipping them out in chains, that is, because no female in her right mind was going to actually volunteer to be shipped out to the frontier to co-habit with the dregs of society the government had rounded up to colonize the distant system.
They'd be damned lucky if they got more pleasure bots.
"The scout craft that was to have set down on the fifth planet has diverted to the fourth."
Galen didn't glance at Ken-so that time although his lips tightened in irritation. "I haven't forgotten how to read, Ken-so," Galen muttered. "It's probably just as well," he added after a moment, though more to himself than to his first officer. "Wonder of wonders it didn't fair well after the collision that took out the fifth planet--no plant life, very little air or atmosphere. It's going to take a hell of a lot to bring it up to livable."
"The third planet still looks good."
Galen got up. "The scout ship hasn't landed yet," he pointed out.
"Preliminary readings, though...."
Galen shook his head. "We'll know when we know. It looks like we're going to be setting down on the third planet, though. Best-case scenario, it looks like it'll take a couple of annums to make the fourth planet even tolerable. Run some figures for me, Ken-so and see if we've got the resources to set up a base there."