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“We’ve found the source of the energy spikes.”
Andros retracted his fangs as the voice of his comrade, Ettore, echoed in his skull. His tongue followed the curve of his teeth, licking off the last of the captain’s blood. He let the body fall to the metal decking. “What is it?”
Ettore paused and for a moment, the last emotions of his victim flowed through Andros. The taste of fear and the hot hint of defiance mixed with the underlying flavour of his blood. The former captain had lived a well-provisioned life, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, water and fine wines had been thick in his diet. Andros frowned. His boot toed the still-warm body, meeting hard muscle. The hunt, the kill, the short, sweet hit of bliss had clouded his thoughts. The man wasn’t the usual freighter captain, all cheap and hurried rations, baked with stress. What had they captured?
“Ettore? What is it?”
“It’s a casket.”
“A locked casket.”
Andros held down a curse. He was their ship commander because he was the strongest vampire amongst them. He’d killed the previous commander who’d brought him aboard the Kosmos as booty. Eaten Jirkar’s heart and taken his ship and his crew. But the three-man crew didn’t trust him. A hard smile pulled at Andros’ mouth and he strode down the long gangway that opened up to a gantry stretching across the wide hold. Of course, he didn’t trust them either.
“Is there anything else of value? Report.”
“Crew dead. Every secured hold is empty.”
Mikolas’ low mental rumble vibrated against the vampiric metal—known as leech—laced through Andros’ muscle and bone. He rolled his neck, his fingers digging into tight skin. The captain’s energy had already dispersed and the old pain of being a vampire leaked through. He ignored it. For him there was always pain. Always would be. “No other cargo, just this casket?”
“This locked casket,” Ettore broke in.
Andros’ boots clanked against the thick mesh of the gantry and he swore under his breath. Ettore was a constant needle under his skin. He flexed his fingers, feeling the strengthening technology in his blood respond. His first mate had been at the top of his kill list for a while. “I’ll open it.”
The buzz of closed communication fizzed through the metal in his flesh. Did they think he didn’t know they talked about him behind shields? Before the bastard who’d taken him as a child and injected leech into his body, he’d been Zohar. Bright, shining, destined to work in the heart of a great ship with the code and power to its technology. He’d been an experiment. A failed one. Being Zohar made him ultra sensitive to the tech within the metal living in his body. Andros pushed the old bitterness down. His sensitivity caused his pain. And leech could never be removed or sated. He’d tried.
He took the grav-lift down to the lower hold and found his three men lounging against empty crates. Their cold eyes watched him stride towards them and habit flexed his fingers, heightening the power in his body. They were anything but relaxed. Power burned in the air and the hunger it brought to all of them fired tension. There was always the danger they would attack and try to overpower him when they thought his energies were low. And three of them full and fed? That would make them very confident.
But he knew that and he could combat it. Andros’ gaze darted to the locking mechanism of the casket. It glowed and the thrum of its power sharpened his hunger. “I take captain’s privilege.”