Home > Overlord (Galactic Kings #1)

Overlord (Galactic Kings #1)
Author: Anna Hackett

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

She jogged up the front steps of the modern, glass building that housed the Nynatech offices. Seattle had kindly put on a sunny day with a gorgeous blue sky.

Mallory West didn’t need to check her chunky Breitling Aviator watch to know that she was running late. She still had a few minutes to get to the pilots’ locker room. She’d gone to bed way too late the night before. After yesterday’s test flight, she and some of the other pilots had headed out to celebrate at their favorite little bar near Sea-Tac.

She’d only had one beer because she had a test flight today—a big one—but the others had gotten plastered and somehow managed to talk her into karaoke. She winced. It hadn’t been pretty.

Mal pushed through the revolving glass door. She hadn’t wanted to go out, but it had taken her mind off things and was better than sitting in her empty apartment.

Her gaze snagged on the coffee kiosk in the center of the huge atrium lobby. Nynatech specialized in experimental space technology and were rolling in cash. They’d spared no expense for their head office. Glass walls and ceilings soared upward, and on the back wall, images played, showing all the company’s products projected up in multi-colored glory. People in suits, or scientists in lab coats, bustled through, heading to the security turnstiles that led to the labs and offices.

Right now, all Mal needed was coffee.

There was only one person ahead of her in the line. She could nab a mocha with an extra shot and still make it upstairs before Dr. Francine Wheeler gave her hell for being late. The head of the Wormhole Drive project had a stick shoved up… Mal wrinkled her nose. The scientist was bossy, unfriendly, and didn’t bother to hide her disdain for those she considered beneath her intellect. The woman had very little time for test pilots. She treated Mal and the others on the team without PhDs like a necessary evil.

Mal didn’t give a shit. As long as she got her paycheck and got to fly, she was happy.

“Mallory!” Giovanni the jovial barista beamed at her. “Large mocha, extra shot, and extra chocolate?”

“Fix me up, Gio, my man.” Mal swiped her card on the machine. “I am in dire need of caffeine, and I’m late.”

“Oh, no.” The older man started up the beast of a coffeemaker. “Dr. Wheeler won’t be happy.”

“Understatement, my friend. But nothing gets between me and my coffee.”

“Big test flight today.” Gio waggled his bushy eyebrows. “Are you nervous?”

Some small flutters took wing in her stomach. “More excited than anything. No time for nerves when you’re rocketing through space.”

Gio laughed, big and loud. “Not many of us get to do that. A bit different from the Air Force, yes?”

Mal pasted on a smile. “Right.”

The flutters turned to knots in her gut. Her job now was way better than the rules and regulations of the Air Force. Mal loved to fly, and initially, she’d loved the Air Force. She’d been desperate to find her own place in the world.

But Mal was known for pushing the limits, especially as a combat pilot.

She’d disobeyed orders one too many times—for what she firmly believed were the right reasons. There’d been no way in hell she’d ever leave soldiers to die. She’d been dishonorably discharged for her trouble. Her gut soured. She wasn’t sorry to have left, but it still left a bad taste in her mouth.

Luckily for her, Nynatech hadn’t cared about her DD, and they liked that she pushed the boundaries.

“Here you go, Mallory.” Gio handed her the biodegradable take-out cup—one of Nynatech’s earlier inventions.

Mmm, the sweet, sweet scent hit her. The first sip was always the best.

Suddenly, she felt a sharp prick in her side.

“Don’t scream or make a noise,” a low voice said. “I want your security pass, now.”

Gio froze, the ruddy color draining from his face.

Mal looked over her shoulder. The man behind her was an inch shorter than her, a black ball cap pulled low over his face. She saw him swallow and noted the perspiration on his skin.

Her gaze dropped to the knife. “Dude, that is the sorriest excuse for a knife I’ve ever seen.”

The man jolted. He had wide-set, brown eyes, and a lot of scruff. “Just give me your pass.”

No doubt some guy with an axe to grind with Nynatech. Probably wanted to steal technical specs, or destroy something to stop the exploitation of space. It seemed like they had one or two crazies through here every month.

She saw the guy shoot some nervous glances toward the security guards by the turnstiles.

“Look, I can tell you’ve never used a knife for more than cutting your food,” she said. “You’re holding it wrong.”

“What?” He shifted, clearly agitated.

“Yeah, my stepdad was a bit of an expert. Worked in the stunt industry and trained every day. Knives, swords, you name it. My mom died when I was eight, so Rusty raised me. He wasn’t exactly sure what to do with a little girl, so he trained me to fight…with knives and swords, hand to hand.” Mal smiled. “So, unluckily for you, you picked the wrong person to join you in this little knife fight.”

The man blinked and swallowed again.

“And I was just about to have my first sip of a coffee I really need, and I’m running late.”

“Look, lady—”

Mal shifted back and kicked the guy in the gut. He doubled over with an oof. With her free hand, she landed a punch to his face, then as he dropped the knife, she caught it before it hit the floor.

“See, this is how you hold it.” She tossed the knife up, caught the hilt, and jabbed it in the air.

A solid front kick and the man flew into a display of chips and granola bars. Packets sailed everywhere, and the man fell to the tile floor in an ungainly sprawl.

She caught the gaze of the security guards and waved. Two sprinted over.

“You didn’t even spill your coffee, Mallory,” Gio breathed.

“Good, or I would have gotten really angry.” She set the knife on the counter and sipped her coffee.

Yep, that first taste was always the best.

“I have to run,” she said to the security guards. “You’ve got this?”

“Sure thing, West. Might need a statement later.”

“Roger that. After I get back from Jupiter.”

The guards grinned at her, hauling up her attacker between them.

Mal jogged to the turnstiles and swiped through. She decided the stairs would be quicker, and ran up to the pilot locker room.

Drinking her mocha as quickly as she could, she used her shoulder to barge into the locker room. Two pilots were sitting on the benches between the rows of blue lockers, chatting.

“West, you’re late,” one of the men said.

“Coffee emergency.” She set her cup down and opened her locker. The first thing she did was take off her watch and carefully set it inside. Rusty had given it to her when she’d joined the Air Force. The military had cured her of any shyness, and she quickly shed her jeans and shirt. She pulled her high-tech flight suit out.

It was a deep, navy-blue with a touch of metallic silver at the seams. It fit her like a glove.

She wriggled into it. Gregson and Parker were both ex-military as well, and married. The sight of her black sports bra and panties was hardly going to drive them wild. She zipped the suit up to her neck.

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