“Kind of, yeah,” he admitted.

Cameron leaned in to Jessica, whispering, “What the hell is he doing?”

“I have no idea,” Jessica whispered back. “But this should be good.”

“But not for the same reasons as you,” Nathan continued. “I’ve got one goal and one goal only. And that’s to get my ship and our jump drive back to Earth, before it’s too late. Now as long as our individual goals are mutually beneficial, I’m willing to play along. But there are conditions.”

“Such as?” Jalea asked.

“Such as who the hell are you, Tug? And why do the Ta’Akar want you so badly?”

Tug sighed. “Because I was the leader of the Karuzari.”

“Whoa,” Jessica muttered under her breath.

For the first time since they entered the room, Nathan thought he saw a reaction of some sort on Jalea’s face. She wasn’t happy with his revelation.

“That would explain a lot,” Nathan said.

“Yeah it would,” Jessica agreed. “Like the shield, for starters.”

Nathan looked a little skeptical. “Isn’t Haven kind of far away from the action?”

“It did present logistical difficulties. But it was a necessary precaution.”

“And the power source you spoke of? Does it really exist, or was that just a ruse to gain our allegiance?”

“I assure you, Captain, the device is real, as is the threat posed by its completion. In this I have been completely truthful. And this is why I continued to lead the Karuzari for as long as I did, despite the objections of my late wife.”

Nathan noticed Tug’s steely gaze becoming more intense as he spoke.

“I fought the Ta’Akar for more than twenty years,” Tug continued. “Ranni is the third love I have lost because of the Ta’Akar-because of Caius. When I came to Haven, in much the way I described, I left that life behind me. But sometimes fate does not let go so easily. Sometimes it finds you, no matter how hard you try to hide from its cold embrace.” Tug took a deep breath, steadying himself. “It seems that fate has once again got me in its clutches, Captain, as I believe it now has you. So the question, Captain, is will we face ours fates together?”

Nathan looked at Jalea. Her big green eyes, as seductive as ever, beckoned him. He looked at Cameron. Her eyes showed grave concern. Jessica’s, well hers seemed more entertained than anything. “It seems that fate has placed us on the same path, at least for now. I cannot promise you for how long we will travel this road together. But for the time being, you may consider us your ally.”

“I am grateful for this, Captain,” Tug said.

“We have much to discuss in the hours ahead,” Nathan told him. “But for now, I have a ship to take care of, and you have daughters that require their father’s attention.”

Tug nodded agreement. “I am at your disposal, Captain.” Tug rose from his seat and departed the ready room, with Jalea following him.

“Damn, Nathan!” Jessica exclaimed.

Nathan looked at Cameron. “Well?” he asked.

Cameron just shook her head, breathing in deeply. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Nathan.”

Nathan leaned back in his chair. “So do I.”

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