The peaceful respite for which Zeus and his intended, Dargon and Alpha, had been hoping is shattered when Zeus is unexpectedly drawn to the Waters of Poseidon and told that the safety they've been promised is a trap. But the Fal'Amoric aren't the only important cargo on the Oethra 7, and countless others are depending on the success of their mission. If Zeus hopes to break the silent siege on Valespia and protect those most precious to him, he will need not just powerful allies but the fortitude to survive overwhelming odds.
**Striker is a 93k sci-fi romance that has mature themes and content as well as a polyamorous relationship. This 2nd edition has been re-edited and 5k words added to add clarity.
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The view of the night sky alleviated Zeus's momentary doubt and confirmed where he was drifting. A blanket of midnight blue covered the heavens, bedecked with the brilliant points of stars, shining like precious jewels. The primary moon sat fat and heavy, with a red sliver of the secondary moon peeking from behind, reminding people that two moons hung in the Atlaintician sky. The pale, white glow of the primary caused the waters to appear slick and black. Zeus had awakened floating on the warm Waters of Poseidon. He did not know how he came to be in the dream, but instinct, or possibly his deep need for home, identified where he was. The waters that surrounded him soothed his longing for home.READ MORE
He searched for his sister, Shaneva. Only she brought him to float on the Waters. As one born with the Longing, the Waters became her permanent home when she turned fifteen summers. Strangely, the area appeared empty of people. Both times he had been called here, other souls floated nearby; not close enough to disturb them, but silhouettes drifting in the distance nonetheless.
"Shaneva sleeps this night."
Treading water, he turned toward the masculine voice. Not an arm's length away swam a bull unlike any Atlaintician Zeus had ever seen, visually intriguing and something… a distant recollection nagged at him. Though he had never seen the bull before, that voice stirred old memories he wished to forget, but still haunted his darkest dreams. Since none had met with harm while dreaming of Poseidon's Waters, Zeus momentarily put aside his anxiety and studied the being before him.
The stranger's body was covered in a combination of yellow, leathery skin and prominent green scales rimmed with a vibrant blue-green. The scale's pattern resembled sharp-tipped stripes flowing down his neck, arms, and what Zeus could see of his back. Stunning, large, green reptilian eyes stared at him from between long, thick eyelashes. Zeus decided the stranger's face appeared much like his own, with a small nose and wide, full mouth. When the bull smiled, his teeth were sharp, but not similar to the needle-like ones of Zeus's family. A thick ridge above the brow supported a spiked wreath which rose a couple of centimeters tall in the front, increasing in size to as much as six centimeters at the back of his crown. A deep red membrane made an arching bridge between each spike, giving the strange impression of a royal coronet.
"Why am I here? Shaneva only brings me here when I'm injured." Zeus frowned in thought. "There is nothing wrong with me."
The bull grinned. "As I am well aware. You found your life partners and soon will be a father. Congratulations, brother."
Warm affection blossomed in his chest at the thought of Dargon and Alpha. Zeus skirted his fingertips over the edge of the dark green dot on his forehead that proclaimed him a part of an Alpha Trine and allowed him to communicate with Alpha, Dargon's symbiote.
"You called me brother." He searched the face before him, looking for but not seeing anything familiar. The voice though; the sound niggled at his memory and yet he could not place the countenance.
"All in good time." The bull flashed his sharp teeth, humor lighting his green eyes. "I did bring you here for a reason. You need to warn our brothers that they are heading into a trap. The space over Valespia is no longer safe."
"What do you mean? What waits there?" Zeus asked in alarm. How did this stranger know where they were heading? He should be suspicious of anyone other than the crew of The Gorgon or the Oethra 7 knowing their destination. And yet, the sense of familiarity, the knowing that came from his gut caused him to want to trust this bull because—brother—did he dare to hope?
The bull continued, unaware of Zeus's inner turmoil. "What, indeed. V'Saar are slipping through the Imperial Defense Grid near the Milky Way, and they have partnered with at least one of the four Terren companies."
The V'Saar, commonly called ‘bugs’, voraciously consumed all in their path, and should be trapped behind a grid built by the Ancients. A long-ago treaty reinforced an uneasy truce between the Ancients and the V'Saar queen, Isolt. The Valespian Pact brought together the peoples of the Andromeda Galaxy and nearby sectors of the Milky Way on this side of the grid, requiring a triad of galactic emperors to power the grid that kept the V'Saar from overrunning the galaxies and destroying more innocent lives. But the Galactic Imperials were old, and as their strength waned the grid weakened. The control of the Imperial Defense Grid should have passed to the crown princes, allowing the next generation's youth and vitality to renew the shields, but the third crown prince, the Bespoken, had disappeared.
Zeus moved to float on his back as he turned the information over, the sky lightening with the colors of the coming dawn. For some reason, he trusted the bull next to him, who seemed more than simply a strange-looking Atlaintician. If what he said was true, then the V'Saar had gained allies, crossed Andromeda Galaxy, and lay siege to Valespia.
The bull drifted in the water next to him. "The V'Saar destroy or enslave all species they encounter. Why, then, have they not overrun the Terren's sector of the Milky Way? Space is big but news like that will travel the communication network quickly. You and our brothers will need to puzzle out the answer. What I do know is you need to seek the Feteine's help. If you decline to do so… no, you must. With their assistance, you can survive what will occur when you reach Valespian space."
Zeus turned to the bull and stared hard, and his heart squeezed with sudden recognition. He now recalled where he had heard the voice before. Many summers ago, when he had been thirteen summers, Shaneva brought him for the first time to the Waters of Poseidon in the dream, attempting to save him from suffering at the hands of Chtichlians. After being attacked and seriously injured by adolescent younglings, his father had insisted on repairing his blindness. But the Chtichlians used the procedure to steal something far more precious to him than his sight. Shaneva had not been alone. A bull had accompanied her. Certain of his identification, Zeus slid his fingers through Canry's slightly webbed ones, careful to avoid the wickedly sharp claws.
Zeus's hesitancy to trust the information given to him slipped away. "Is there anything else I should do?"
Canry drew in a shuddering breath. "You believe me?"
"Of course; you are our brother." Zeus shook with barely-controlled elation. He could not wait to tell his siblings and parents.
The sun kissed the edge of the ocean, washing the sky with brilliant shades of red and orange. "A storm is coming." Zeus glanced at Canry, who had echoed his words.
"You are more sensitive than you know, Zeus. If you must fight on land, find a pool of water. It can be as small as the size of my palm. Submerge your fingers and call my name. I will come to your aid. Promise me that you will." It was less a question than a demand.
He moved to tread water once again. "What do you see?" Since he was being warned of a future event, Zeus suspected Canry was touched by Poseidon like the twins and their father, and gifted with farsight. Though Canry's ability was vastly stronger. The others could only glimpse the future in varying degrees but never weeks ahead like Canry. He may have more information that would help Zeus on this quest to seek out the Feteine, or provide assistance on how to navigate Valespian space safely.
Canry mirrored his movements, his expression one of concern. "Only possibilities: ever changing, ever evolving. There are only a few constants. Please believe me. If I could tell you more, I would."
Zeus regarded Canry's earnest expression, realizing that despite the summers of separation, he trusted Canry—completely. He clearly remembered the last time Canry had come to his aid, and he knew he had nothing to fear from his brother. "I swear. If I am in need, I will call upon you."COLLAPSE