Time: A few days after the end of Shax's War
It was his office. The silver plaque beside the door read J. Parallax. He was so seldom in his office, though, it felt like foreign territory, and one of the new staff had been by already to ask him what he was doing in “Mr. Parallax’s office.”
The youngster slunk off red-faced and stammering when Julian held up his ID, still mortified after Julian explained it happened at least once every time he came in from the field. After that, the staff left him in peace. Reports – several. He knocked them out diligently. Intellnets – some interesting bits. He cherry picked through the bulletins and comm data he wanted, filing things away on some of the miscreants on his personal watch list. He messed about with the magnetic sculpture on his desk until it was vaguely hoverbike shaped. Stared at his messages. Spun about in his office chair.
It was only nine-thirty.
Julian groaned and slammed his forehead against the desk a few times for good measure. How did people survive this eight-hour slog every single workday? If it weren’t mandatory for him to be here between assignments, he sure as hell wouldn’t be. They were going to find him dead in his chair. Expired from boredom.
Just as he was trying to determine how bad the disciplinary action would be for lighting a fire in his waste disposal, an alert pinged softly in one of his files. Oh, please, please be something to get me out of the office. He flew through the layers of encryption and laughed in a mix of disappointment and sheer delight when he saw what the system wanted to tell him. The Brimstone had surfaced, requesting landing clearance on Amnesia several days before. Officially, ISE had no eyes on Amnesia. It was neutral ground, kept that way by agreement. With ISE’s hands off policy, every bit of scum and villainy eventually drifted to Amnesia’s spaceport making it a hotbed of unusual and hard-to-find information for intrepid dark operatives.
Unofficially, Julian had hacked the dock vids.
The vid cams didn’t show the Brimstone, of course. She was snug behind the blast doors in the spaceport proper. He let the feed play forward, patient now that he had something interesting to do.
The doors opened and Verin strolled out, the old bastard, chomping on a cigar and followed by…what in blazing quasars? The man wore a cowboy hat as if he were acting in a historical drama and he led an animal. A beautiful, prancing animal. Julian rifled through his brain cabinets and came up with the word—horse. A little surprising but the Brimstone had transported cows previously, after all. What shocked the stuffing out of Julian was when the cowboy tugged at Verin’s arm to stop him and instead of getting slugged, the cowboy got kissed.
Well. That’s new.
A few minutes later, Shax himself swaggered down the ramp into the spaceport wearing his captain’s jacket and his best “the universe is mine” smile. The graceful figure who followed confirmed some of the rumors Julian had picked up here and there of an angel joining Shax’s crew. Fallen, as it turned out, which made more sense. The fallen frowned at the walkway, checking both directions before following Shax. When he came aside Shax, his long, graceful strides easily catching shorter demon prince legs, Shax took his arm and leaned his head against the fallen’s shoulder.
So. Those rumors were true as well. Not just crew, but a new lover. From the looks of things, not the sort Shaxy was going to use for a weekend and toss away. Julian smiled at how sweet they looked together even as his stomach twisted in an unexpected proprietary knot. A rebellious bit of his brain insisted that was his demon prince hanging all over that ridiculously beautiful fallen angel.
Easy there, Parallax. Friends with benefits had been the arrangement with Shax, nothing more or less. They owed each other no explanations. They made no claims on each other. When they crossed paths, they engaged in some glorious fucking and exchanged stories. That was the deal.
A bright spot of color scurrying from the Brimstone yanked Julian out of his gloomy musings. Puzzled, he zoomed in. An eye-wateringly bright animal raced after Shax. Hedgehog, though much larger than Julian recalled other pet hedgehogs being. The streak of pink caught up, stood on its hind legs, and took Shax’s free hand.
Julian blinked, leaned back, adjusted the settings, and leaned closer to the screen again. Nothing changed the peculiar event to which he served as witness. He shook his head, chuckling.
Oh, my dear Shaxy, you have some explaining to do the next time I see you.