Lost in Barbarian Space

By: Anna Hackett

Chapter One

Her kick slammed hard into the spar-droid’s face with a satisfying thunk.

Honor Brandall pulled back, bouncing on the balls of her feet, before attacking again. Her roundhouse kick sent the floating droid rocking wildly away.

She rubbed an arm across her sweaty face. She’d been training in the ship’s gym for the last two hours. She had a few new moves she’d picked up from reviewing some historical military documents from Darrus III, and she’d wanted to test them out.

Conclusion: difficult, but effective. She bounced on her toes again. If she adjusted a few things, like her posture and positioning, she might have more luck with them.

The gym doors whispered open, and a fellow member of the security team entered.

“Hey, Derek,” she called out.

“Agent Brandall.” The young man headed for the free weights.

“Want to spar?” she asked. “Best of three rounds?”

He quickly shook his head, his straight, dark hair flipping back and forth. “I like my body parts where they are, thanks.” With a smile, he held his hands up as though to ward her off, and then turned to the weights.

Honor raised a brow and shrugged. Most of the security staff groaned in protest when she was in charge of their training sessions. At just shy of six foot, and with the strength and combat training to go with it, she was used to people—men and women—shying away from her.

She slammed a fist into the middle of the spar-droid.

She refused to apologize for her strength or her dedication to her job.

The gym door opened again, and this time, the person who entered made Honor snap to attention.

“Relax, Brandall,” the tall, lean woman said.

Nera Darc was Honor’s new boss. Honor had transferred to the Galactic Institute of Historical Preservation ship, the Magellan, just over a month ago. They were still settling into each other’s work styles.

Honor took in Nera’s black uniform. The standard Institute uniform was black and gray, but she’d never seen Nera in it. The woman had short hair the color of platinum, multi-colored eyes, and a face that could have put all the latest supermodels in the central systems out of business.

Honor was a military brat. Raised by a military father, she also had two brothers in the Galactic Security Services. Honor might work security for the Institute’s expedition ships, but she’d still had military professionalism instilled into her from a young girl. She liked rules and order.

Nera Darc, on the other hand—former treasure hunter and all-round badass—tended to disregard rules when it suited her. Most people were still reeling from the fact the woman had joined the Institute about eight months back—and some were still seriously hoping she would change her mind and leave.

But Honor suspected that would never happen. Not unless the new Director of Acquisitions—Dr. Niklas Phoenix—left. He was Nera’s lover…hell, that word didn’t even begin to describe what was between the couple.

Nik and Nera rarely indulged in public displays of affection, but Honor had seen the connection between them. It almost felt like something you could touch. She had no doubt that Nera would give her life to protect Niklas. And Nik might be an astro-archeologist, but he’d also been a treasure hunter with his infamous brothers. He could hold his own and, if needed, fight for the woman he’d made clear was his.

Honor fought the restless urge to shift her feet. She’d never seen a man love a smart, dangerous woman like that before.

For all of Nera’s lack of military bearing, she was a hell of a fighter and a good leader. Honor had learned tons from her already.

“We’ve arrived, Brandall.”

Nera’s voice broke Honor’s musings. She turned to look at the large, round window at the back of the gym.

And saw the perfect, blue-gray orb of a planet hanging in the blackness of space.

“It looks pretty from here,” Nera murmured. “The barbarian world of Markaria.”

Honor had done her research. Markaria was a rocky world, with small amounts of water. It had snow to the north, bands of dangerous, mountainous areas, and some gentler meadow areas with small lakes and some low vegetation. It was apparently populated by hordes of dangerous beasts.