Chapter One

Pacing on the bridge of the Athena, Talina couldn’t control her excitement. After months of planning and debates, the council had finally approved her proposition. They were just moments away from making first contact with the tiny blue planet beneath her.

Earth. Such a funny little world. Their day was much shorter because of the small size of their planet, but their population was over twice what Nian currently held. They were so young. Nian scientists predicted that they were many, many years away from prolonged space flight out into the stars. Normally the Nians wouldn’t even dream of contacting a race so primitive, they still fought each other for crying out loud, but Talina had been very persuasive.

Clenching her fists at the thought of all she had gone through to get to this moment, she found it difficult not to hold grudges against the council members that were just doing their jobs. Couldn’t they see what their rules were doing to the men on Nian? Even with their population measures in place, their world wasn’t close to recovering from the Olovian attack and it had been over a hundred years.

She felt hands on her shoulders and she tensed until she realized it was her brother, Zalier. “You worry too much.”

She snorted, “We’re about to make first contact with a world that can’t even agree on whether or not aliens exist. I think my level of worry is at appropriate levels.”

“If you don’t think this is a good idea why are we doing it?”

She turned to her brother and took his hands in hers. He was tall, but she was able to look him straight in the eyes when she answered, “I do think this plan will work, it’s the best plan we have, that doesn’t mean things couldn’t go horribly wrong. That’s why we have so many contingency plans and why we tried to think up every possibility.”

He leaned his forehead on hers and they both closed their eyes and took deep breaths. They’d been doing this since they were children and it never failed to help relax and center them. Stepping back he said, “Everything is going to be alright. Even if this fails at least we tried.”

Nodding she replied, “Exactly, plus the odds of this failing are slim to none. The people of Earth are in desperate need of our technology and it’s not like we’re going to tell them why we’re here. Not exactly anyway. We want to help them because that’s what we do and we’ll just take some land in payment. Land they can’t even use, but that our tech will be able to transform.”

“See, you’ve thought everything out. The Andovian input was a lot of help too.”

Her mind racing through each of the upcoming steps she missed the look her brother was giving her. “Yes, of course, their advice was invaluable.”

“Was there anyone in particular that was the greatest help?”

Frowning she brought her attention back to Zalier. “Sasha, I guess. Her legal background helped tremendously. Why are you asking?”

Shrugging he unsuccessfully tried to appear uninterested, “No reason. Has Sasha’s brother been any help since he arrived? Altan, was his name?”

“Prince Amiri, but you know that. Why are you asking about him?”

Sighing Zalier glanced around the bridge, but no one was close enough for him to try and deflect her attention too. Her eyes narrowed and she put her hands on her hips about to demand an answer when he finally replied, “I just thought there might be something there, between you too.”

Snorting she rolled her eyes at her brother, “I don’t think so. Prince Amiri has more important things to think about besides settling down. Plus he’s not my type.”

Curious Zalier asked, “Why’s that? Is it because he turns into a cat?”

Moving across the bridge to sit in her captain’s chair she started working on the tablet positioned there. Not looking at his face Talina finally answered, “I don’t care about that. I just think he should be putting his time to better use.”

Picking up on what she wasn’t saying Zalier slowly nodded his head. Sitting down beside her he whispered, “He’s not a coward. I’m sure he has his reasons for leaving Andove.”

“I know he’s not a coward, which is the confusing part. He should be fighting for his throne, Sasha doesn’t even want it she’d give it to him in a heartbeat.”

“We aren’t in a position to question the rules of another planet.”

Snorting she barely fought back the urge to roll her eyes at him again. “We aren’t, but he is. I can’t think of any good reason why he isn’t back on his home planet fighting for what’s right.”

“That’s who you are, though. Not everyone is a fighter.”

“He’s as much a warrior as you are.”

“Maybe he prefers to fight for others and not himself?”

Sighing she leaned back in her chair and thought about what Zalier was saying. She’d only known Amiri for a few weeks and despite her initial misgivings she was impressed by him. He had been brought up his entire life to rule the felines of his planet and because of that had received an extensive education. While it hadn’t included information on Earth, it had included information on many planets with similar histories. His help had been useful, which was surprising since he wasn’t a part of the Andovian group that was raised on Earth.

At night, when she should be sleeping, or at the very least thinking about their plans with Earth, she’d started to find herself thinking about him. He had lost his throne because Sasha had been ignorant of their customs and he’d yet to do anything about correcting that problem. Why?

Pushing her thoughts about Amiri aside, Talina tried to focus on the upcoming contact with Earth. She tried to think of anything they might have missed, but even their clothes had been meticulously chosen. They wanted to project confidence and intelligence, but not to the point where they seemed cold and calculated. They needed the earthlings to trust them.

Trust was going to be one of the biggest hurdles they had to overcome. She knew that she couldn’t trust the people she would be meeting with, but she needed them to trust her. If they didn’t get that trust, at least from the majority of the world, then their entire plan was ruined.