Excerpt: Broken Alpha

Korden pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger for what was surely the hundredth time in an hour and huffed out a burst of air. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. Devalgus Seven, though beautiful with its shimmering purple waters and colorful flora and fauna, wasn’t exactly the most hospitable planet he’d ever visited. For one thing, the temperature was uncomfortably hot, hovering in the high nineties even at such an early hour as oh-seven-hundred, with nearly one-hundred-percent humidity from sun up to sun down. Which led to the other issue—fifteen hours lay between morning and night. The resident Devalguns took it all in stride, but a week of negotiations was starting to take a heavy toll on the North Star’s crew. Well, all of them except Sokel.

Korden pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger for what was surely the hundredth time in an hour and huffed out a burst of air. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. Devalgus Seven, though beautiful with its shimmering purple waters and colorful flora and fauna, wasn’t exactly the most hospitable planet he’d ever visited. For one thing, the temperature was uncomfortably hot, hovering in the high nineties even at such an early hour as oh-seven-hundred, with nearly one-hundred-percent humidity from sun up to sun down. Which led to the other issue—fifteen hours lay between morning and night. The resident Devalguns took it all in stride, but a week of negotiations was starting to take a heavy toll on the North Star’s crew. Well, all of them except Sokel.

Korden regarded his reptilian healer—standing there at parade rest, completely at home in the heat as he waited for his fellows to finish getting ready for the morning meeting. Sokel shifted toward the window, and the early morning sun glinted off his soft green neck scales as he looked up and down.

“Ya take anythin’ for that pain?” Sebastian Rene Laveau, pride of the Empire’s Navigation fleet and Korden’s closest friend sidled up to him, his rich Human accent sliding over the words.

“Emperor’s sake, Seb, it’s a headache, not Turakian Plague.” Too late, though—he swatted at Sokel as the healer came near with a handheld scanner pointed at him. The pain was more than a headache, of course, but he didn’t need—or particularly want—the healer fawning over him in the middle of the negotiations. One more meeting. Just one more damned meeting and the talks would be wrapped up and he could put this whole situation behind him.

“That so, Doctor Korden?” Sebastian looked over at Sokel. “Hear that, Kel? Korden here’s diagnosed himself. Suppose ya might as well just head to the ship an’ turn in yer resignation.”

Korden rolled his eyes and shook his head, instantly regretting the action as a wave of dizziness stole his balance. He stumbled, and Sokel reached for him instantly.

“Captain?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” But he couldn’t suppress a wince as the healer’s grip tightened on his forearm.

A wince that Sokel, of course, didn’t miss. He pushed Korden’s uniform sleeve up, exposing pustule-covered flesh.

“Sokel…” Korden braced himself for the verbal onslaught. Sokel opened his mouth, but it was Sebastian’s voice that rang out loudly.

“Holy shit!” Sebastian barked.

He ought to be used to them double-teaming him like this by now. He really, really ought to.

“You were unaware of this?” Sokel’s frown deepened, the color of his eyes going from their normally neutral gray to distressed blue. Concern rolled off him in waves, turning his scent slightly acrid.

“‘Course I was unaware! Ya think I’d let him tromp ’round like this? If anythin’, ya should’a noticed it yerself. Yer the damned healer!”

Sokel stiffened and turned an icy stare on his mate.

“Oh, come on now, it’s not his fault, Seb.” Korden flared his nostrils. “Stop upsetting him. You know he smells weird when he’s upset.” He looked back and forth between his two officers—his two friends—as they glared at each other. To Sokel’s credit, he managed to keep a rein on his anger, letting it show in neither his eyes nor his scent. But, like Korden, he was an Alpha, and Korden could feel the desire to assert himself radiating off Sokel’s skin.

He suspected that something was off between the couple for several weeks, and that was confirmed when Sokel arrived this morning from another hut—he didn’t spend the night with Sebastian. Whatever was causing the rift, he hoped they worked it out soon. The last thing he needed was their cranky attitudes impacting the negotiations or rubbing off on the crew.

“When did this start?” Sokel asked quietly, eye color shifting to a more muted blue as he resettled his gaze on Korden.

Korden sighed. He should’ve known better than to try and hide his situation from them. “Yesterday night. I went for a swim. I was too damned hot to sleep, and I thought the water would help cool me off. After I swam, I sat down on one of the rocks for a while, just to think. Clear my head. The moss was itchy, but I didn’t think anything of it until I woke up later with these on one of my legs. They were small and there were only a few at first, but there’s more than I can count now, and they’re…everywhere.”

“Perhaps you should sit down.” Sokel tugged him toward a bench, but Korden pulled back.

“Ah…I do mean everywhere.”

“You’re running a fever. Did you not think to mention that, either?” Sokel folded his arms across his chest and leveled a glare at him.

“How was I supposed to know? It’s two hundred degrees!”

“One hundred two,” Sokel corrected.

“Exactly! You’re the only one not sweating his balls off down here.”

“You should’ve told me.”

Korden rolled his eyes again and nodded. “All right. You win. Have you got something you can give me for it?”

Korden pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger for what was surely the hundredth time in an hour and huffed out a burst of air. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. Devalgus Seven, though beautiful with its shimmering purple waters and colorful flora and fauna, wasn’t exactly the most hospitable planet he’d ever visited. For one thing, the temperature was uncomfortably hot, hovering in the high nineties even at such an early hour as oh-seven-hundred, with nearly one-hundred-percent humidity from sun up to sun down. Which led to the other issue—fifteen hours lay between morning and night. The resident Devalguns took it all in stride, but a week of negotiations was starting to take a heavy toll on the North Star’s crew. Well, all of them except Sokel.

Korden regarded his reptilian healer—standing there at parade rest, completely at home in the heat as he waited for his fellows to finish getting ready for the morning meeting. Sokel shifted toward the window, and the early morning sun glinted off his soft green neck scales as he looked up and down.

“Ya take anythin’ for that pain?” Sebastian Rene Laveau, pride of the Empire’s Navigation fleet and Korden’s closest friend sidled up to him, his rich Human accent sliding over the words.

“Emperor’s sake, Seb, it’s a headache, not Turakian Plague.” Too late, though—he swatted at Sokel as the healer came near with a handheld scanner pointed at him. The pain was more than a headache, of course, but he didn’t need—or particularly want—the healer fawning over him in the middle of the negotiations. One more meeting. Just one more damned meeting and the talks would be wrapped up and he could put this whole situation behind him.

“That so, Doctor Korden?” Sebastian looked over at Sokel. “Hear that, Kel? Korden here’s diagnosed himself. Suppose ya might as well just head to the ship an’ turn in yer resignation.”

Korden rolled his eyes and shook his head, instantly regretting the action as a wave of dizziness stole his balance. He stumbled, and Sokel reached for him instantly.

“Captain?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” But he couldn’t suppress a wince as the healer’s grip tightened on his forearm.

A wince that Sokel, of course, didn’t miss. He pushed Korden’s uniform sleeve up, exposing pustule-covered flesh.

“Sokel…” Korden braced himself for the verbal onslaught. Sokel opened his mouth, but it was Sebastian’s voice that rang out loudly.

“Holy shit!” Sebastian barked.

He ought to be used to them double-teaming him like this by now. He really, really ought to.

“You were unaware of this?” Sokel’s frown deepened, the color of his eyes going from their normally neutral gray to distressed blue. Concern rolled off him in waves, turning his scent slightly acrid.

“‘Course I was unaware! Ya think I’d let him tromp ’round like this? If anythin’, ya should’a noticed it yerself. Yer the damned healer!”

Sokel stiffened and turned an icy stare on his mate.

“Oh, come on now, it’s not his fault, Seb.” Korden flared his nostrils. “Stop upsetting him. You know he smells weird when he’s upset.” He looked back and forth between his two officers—his two friends—as they glared at each other. To Sokel’s credit, he managed to keep a rein on his anger, letting it show in neither his eyes nor his scent. But, like Korden, he was an Alpha, and Korden could feel the desire to assert himself radiating off Sokel’s skin.

He suspected that something was off between the couple for several weeks, and that was confirmed when Sokel arrived this morning from another hut—he didn’t spend the night with Sebastian. Whatever was causing the rift, he hoped they worked it out soon. The last thing he needed was their cranky attitudes impacting the negotiations or rubbing off on the crew.

“When did this start?” Sokel asked quietly, eye color shifting to a more muted blue as he resettled his gaze on Korden.

Korden sighed. He should’ve known better than to try and hide his situation from them. “Yesterday night. I went for a swim. I was too damned hot to sleep, and I thought the water would help cool me off. After I swam, I sat down on one of the rocks for a while, just to think. Clear my head. The moss was itchy, but I didn’t think anything of it until I woke up later with these on one of my legs. They were small and there were only a few at first, but there’s more than I can count now, and they’re…everywhere.”

“Perhaps you should sit down.” Sokel tugged him toward a bench, but Korden pulled back.

“Ah…I do mean everywhere.”

“You’re running a fever. Did you not think to mention that, either?” Sokel folded his arms across his chest and leveled a glare at him.

“How was I supposed to know? It’s two hundred degrees!”

“One hundred two,” Sokel corrected.

“Exactly! You’re the only one not sweating his balls off down here.”

“You should’ve told me.”

Korden rolled his eyes again and nodded. “All right. You win. Have you got something you can give me for it?”

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