Point of Interest (The Obsidian #1.5) - Kate Pearce

1

EARTH

Nia glanced over at the tense faces of her passengers as she piloted the shuttle down the east coast of what had once been the Americas on planet Earth. Although the vast majority of the population had died or left the stricken planet centuries ago, it appeared the atmosphere had begun to recover. She could see patches of green and glinting water as she followed the flight path to the old docking station. If the planet had water, it could produce the fuel needed for space travel.

When they’d reached orbit, Peach had managed to raise someone over the comm who had given them permission to land. Nia had no idea if there was an imperial presence on the planet, or if whoever had answered had any authority, but they’d decided to risk it. Ten, Realgar, and Brec had accompanied her and Peach on the shuttle.

“Doesn’t look too bad,” Peach commented as Nia lined up with the surprisingly good runway. “Let’s hope the locals are friendly.”

“We’re zero for two so far, so don’t get your hopes up,” Ten said grimly.

“Preparing to land,” Nia said before she gently brought the shuttle down on the designated landing spot. “Disengaging engines.”

Ten insisted on exiting first along with Realgar to assess the risk before beckoning Peach and Nia to join him. Brec stayed behind to guard the shuttle. The air was surprisingly breathable and the climate mild and breezy.

A tall fair-haired guy in old body armor and two guards awaited them in the shadow of the docking port. None of them looked particularly welcoming, but why would they be? If they were anti-empire, they’d probably learned to be wary, and unknown craft were never welcome anywhere.

“Thanks for letting us dock.” Ten shouldered his weapon and offered a wary nod. “Ten Dravite.”

“Hal. What brings you here?”

Peach stepped forward. “We just want to talk.”

“About what?”

“Things we’d rather not discuss out in the open.” She gestured back at the shuttle. “And if that’s not something you’re interested in, then we still have stuff to trade.”

Hal pointed at the building behind him and started walking. “Come on in.” His blue gaze moved over Peach to Nia and he slowed until he was alongside her.

“You’re the pilot?”

She nodded.

“I watched your approach. You’re a good flyer.”

“Thanks.”

He smiled as he held the door open for her. “Welcome home.”

Nia looked up at him. “I’ve never been here before. It’s considered an unsecured area. The closest I’ve managed is Mars.”

“I guess we’re all from here originally.” He shrugged and went ahead to talk to Ten who was already inside assessing the building. Hal gestured to his left.

“You can wait in here.”

Leaving the two guards stationed at the door, Hal left. From long habit, Nia checked the exit points, considered the half-boarded-up windows, and concluded that if their hosts wanted to kill them, they were vulnerable. She relayed her unease telepathically to her bonded mate.

I don’t like it.

Ten looked over at her. Me neither.

Any way we can get out of here apart from the door?

His gaze flicked to the far window, which was the largest and least well protected. I reckon I can get us out through there.

Copy.

Even as Nia moved casually toward the window, the door opened, and Hal returned with two people who weren’t armed and who appeared to be smiling.

“Welcome to Earth.” The elder of the two spoke first. “I am Corun, head of the city council of Newk, and this is Alys, my deputy. I am both pleased and surprised that you made it this far.”

“You know who we are?” Peach asked.

The man chuckled. “Who does not know of you? Since you left Heliodor, you have blazed a trail of defiance, stolen the emperor’s spacecraft, and your pilot is the most hated Adamite female in the empire.”

Nia winced.

“He’s right,” Ten murmured as he went to stand beside her. “We haven’t exactly kept it low key.”

Corun bowed. “Please, join us for our midday meal, and then, if you feel comfortable, we can begin our discussions.”

“Sure,” Peach replied. “If you guarantee the safety of our crew and shuttle and allow us to leave regardless of the outcome of our meeting.”

“I promise that none of us intend to trap you or contact the empire.” Corun held Peach’s gaze. “If you doubt my word, I am willing to send my oldest daughter to your shuttle until we have completed our initial discussions. She is the most precious thing in my world, and I would not risk her life for anything.”

Peach shared a glance with Nia and