A/N: There is a three month timelapse between the last chapter and this one. Sort of like the three year timelapse in between my updates! Um, yeah, I apologize for that. Hope you guys enjoy.
Back on Earth was the last place she thought she'd wind up on her hunt for allies. But here she was, sitting next to a grinning fool in a dirty Earth café while they waited for their coffee.
Blackfire liked coffee. There was no equivalent on Tamaran; most Tamaraneans did not require additional boosts to their copious amounts of alertness and energy. But the taste was bitter and it was good.
The waiter arrived and Blackfire watched as her partner (dressed in dark glasses and civilian Earther clothes rather than his usual powered suit) added five sugar cubes to his coffee. Her lip curled and she forced herself to maintain a straight face. She had never had much of a taste for sweet things. That had always been more Starfire's area.
"Where is this contact of yours?" she demanded. "I thought you said we were late."
Red X - who still hadn't told her his real name, not that she cared - raised his eyebrows at her. "You can't rush perfection, Blackfire. Gregory isn't exactly the most punctual of humans."
"Humans?" repeated Blackfire distastefully. "How could a human be of help to us? Your technology is nowhere near the advancements of Tamaran's."
He laughed shortly. "Don't be cruel, I'm human, remember. And I guarantee he will help us figure something out."
"He'd better," she said flatly. Three months of searching for forces to rally to their banner and they had come up with nothing. Even the Citadel, longtime enemies of Tamaran who she had thought would gladly help to unsettle the incumbent monarchy, had turned them away after expressing doubts as to their capability and drive. It had made Blackfire's blood boil. There was nothing she wanted more than to unseat that old fool Galfore and have her sister up in irons. Nothing. Not in the universe. She dreamt of it every night. It was in her bones, the lust for power, for revenge, for death and glory. And they had just barely made it back here in the disgusting old Citadel shuttle provided for them - a gesture of good faith, their leader had said. I spit on your good faith, she had wanted to say. But if she was going to rule Tamaran again, public relations was an important piece of the puzzle. It would not do to needlessly offend the Citadel, especially given their formidable military forces.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a stranger. Human, as Red X had mentioned - that was obvious, from the smell. Dark-skinned, brown-eyed, with a charming smile. Blackfire smiled back, allowing the old Earther mask to slide into place. Perhaps mimicking some familiar speech patterns and cultural norms would set him at ease.
"Hey there," she chirped. "You wouldn't happen to be Gregory, would you?" She rested an elbow on the table and tucked some hair behind her ear. Earther males liked that, she'd noticed. Females playing with their hair. It was a strange draw, but she wasn't one to judge.
Gregory laughed, and his voice - Blackfire had to admit - was startlingly beautiful. For a human.
"You don't have to pull that stuff with me, sweetheart. I know exactly who you are and what you want," he informed her bluntly.
Blackfire let the mask fall. "Great," she said.
"So, Greg," Red X began. "What were you thinking? Resources, allies? I know you can get anything for the right price. We're kind of desperate here."
Blackfire glared at him, annoyed by his evident ignorance of the rules of negotiation, but he ignored her. Gregory scratched his chin.
"Well, if you're looking for a place to get started, I've been hearing some talk."
Blackfire leaned forward, eyes piercing into his. "Tell us." And as an afterthought, "Please." Humans appreciated a kind of courteous weakness in their speech. It was something she had never quite understood, even after living among them for so long.
He held up his hands as if to placate her. "All right, little lady, calm yourself down." Blackfire bristled at this - she was a queen, not some mewling child! - but before she could protest, he spoke again. "Been hearing about a war cruiser. Old junker, whizzing around up near Gyerrgorch Seven. Tamaranean make, but they've been a little sloppy on the upkeep since y'all acquired those Kirian jump drives and started making new ships. Right now it's running on a skeleton crew. Very poorly defended. Good sturdy ship. I think I could get you in there without too much damage - take out the crew, and you've got yourselves a ship." He leaned back and waited for his pitch to sink in. Everyone was silent for a moment.
"Are you joking?" Blackfire demanded. "One ship? That's all you can give us?"
"It's a start," Gregory pointed out.
"Yeah," Red X agreed, "I think we can work with that. What's the ship called?"
Blackfire wanted to scream in frustration. He was ignoring her. The rightful ruler of Tamaran. But screaming would draw attention in this relatively placid human setting.
Gregory nodded slowly. "Okay. It's called Didyme. I'll make some phone calls, hook you up with some raid equipment. Let's see where this goes."
Red X smiled. "Excellent." He and Gregory shook hands. Then Gregory looked at Blackfire and extended his hand.
After a moment, she sighed, reached out and shook his hand. Fine. If all went well, at least they would have a ship.