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Who's tailing Mick?

"You gotta get at least one of them."

I blinked.

"A kill?" I asked.

"A confirmed kill. And since you're an ass backwards weirdo who decided to hit combat before you even started day one..." the lights flared on and Amelia sat there across the table from me, her hands set on a tray that contained a cake that looked as cheap as it was possible for a cake to look. Considering all the food had to be either grown on the HQ hydroponics decks or shipped here from Earth via the few FTL ships that the PsiCom had access too (the Stargate was a bit too dangerous to leave on for anything but the most emergency of transports), I was actually rather impressed with how good the cake did look.

I was also impressed by the smiling crowd surrounding me.

It looked like nearly every Lance that the ship flew with was here, including Lance-3, all of them giving me huge shit eating grins.

I sagged in my seat, laughing as Amelia spun the cake around and I saw what was written on it.

My call-sign.

Each member of each Lance had a call-sign, given to them once they finished basic braining and got their first confirmed kill. Well, I had finished basic braining. I had gotten a confirmed kill (or two) on the little misadventure that had gotten me and Ali together. And now, I was looking at my call-sign.

PIRATE MASK.

My brow furrowed. "Pirate Mask?"

Amelia held out a knife for me to cut into the cake, grinning. "You stole the heart of a princess. It seemed appropriate."

Neurons fired and my brow furrowed. "Wait...like...Princess Bride? Like Wesley? The Dread Pirate Roberts? Dude in a mask?"

"Yes, yes, now, cut the cake, Mask, we're all waiting," one of the older dudes from Lance-5 said.

I grinned, then held out my palm. "Watch this..." I focused. Honing my telekinetic talents, I created a series of razor thin wires of force, which skimmed through cake and frosting alike, then snatched up the pieces, sending them flying through the air. They slapped into plates and everyone cheered.

Fang grinned as he took a seat on the table, crossing one naked thigh over the other. He, like most people on the ship, ate fastidiously, since getting food on your bare skin was just...weird. But as he ate, he said: "Looking forward to your first mission?"

"Yeah..." I said, nodding. Then, quietly. "I hope Ali doesn't hate me." I looked at the cake.

I suddenly felt rather guilty.

We'd be fine.

I was sure of it.

***

Earlier, I said that there were three things that had drawn me to Ali when we had been stranded on an alien death planet shortly after first meeting. The first had been her amazing body. I could, like, make easily half of each paragraphs of this story about how gorgeous she was and still only get a fraction of the idea through to you. But, uh, I'm pretty sure that I'd start sounding like even more of a creepy stalker then. But the second reason why I was drawn to her?

She was a badass.

That was why, a week and two days after she started basic braining, she passed with every commendation that could get handed out. She took the physical training and adapted to it with the skill of a born predator. She took the psionic training and hit back hard enough that Barry actually needed to bring in other people to assist. She took the military training and absorbed it with the air of someone learning to read Korean after struggling through English.

Yeah, apparently, written Korean is, like, the easiest language to learn in the world?

But after the petrified and highly complex hierarchy of Doyen paladins - who were organized along familial, national, ethnic, and power based lines, with different levels of superiority and rank based off the situation, location, time of day and moods of the participants - the relatively straightforward organization of the United Nations, which was a direct descendant from NATO military organization, was like mana from heaven.

So, she kicked ass, took names, and joined Lance-3.

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