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Kor'ven (Warriors of the Karuvar Book 2) by Alana Serra, Juno Wells (1)

1

Kor'ven fer Zevar, Head Engineer of the Earth Waystation Selene, let out a note of agitation. Something wasn't adding up. Literally. He'd been staring at lines of implant code for what seemed like full orbits, poring over the data from Karuvar and human readouts, but still he was no closer to proving his theory.

As one of the foremost experts on implant technology--from an engineering standpoint; he left biology to those who could not comprehend numbers--Kor'ven dedicated his long life to understanding and perfecting the very thing that allowed his species to adapt and survive. For Karuvar, the implant was as vital an organ as a brain or a heart—never mind that parts of it were made of metal. Truly comprehending the nature of the device was integral to the continued evolution of all Karuvar, and yet Kor'ven's hypothesis directly challenged popular theory.

He believed that the Karuvar as a whole had tampered with their implants beyond what was practical for a healthy, functioning species. The proof was in the birthrates. With the exception of the new mating programs--and Kor'ven did feel those were most assuredly an exception--no Karuvar pair had been able to conceive a child in nearly two decades, as the humans called them.

Kor'ven knew why this was, but he was a scientist, and as such was not prepared to approach Pathfinder Drol'gan, the leader of the Karuvar, on belief alone. He needed hard data. Tangible facts. Preferably test subjects who could prove his theories even to the least scientifically inclined Karuvar.

And so he performed his duties amid the rest of the staff at Waystation Selene, fixing implant malfunctions and issuing upgrades to Karuvar and human alike. But when his expertise was not required for a more immediate task, Kor'ven locked himself in his office and lost himself in years and years of data.

Numbers had always been soothing to him. Many Karuvar found solace with a weapon in their hand, but Kor'ven felt far more comfortable with a working data set. Numbers were a universal, quantifiable way to understand everything about the universe, and in his very humble opinion, that knowledge was far more useful to the species as a whole.

Not everyone agreed, of course. The other Karuvar working at Waystation Selene, and indeed those that docked nearly every day, had differing ideas about the continuation of the species. Nearly one year ago, First Guardian Verkiir had found a mate in a human woman named Mei'gahn. They had a son now, Vazik, but rather than wait for science to prove the kit was viable, the humans and the Karuvar had colluded in creating a mating registry.

Now, each and every day, Karuvar and humans found hope in one another. It was a noble goal, but ultimately one Kor'ven felt was going to fall short if the matter of the implants wasn't addressed. The Pathfinder's implant had failed just last year, and there were reports of others doing the same. The time for one-off fixes must be at an end if they were to ensure the viability of the implants in a new generation.

He heard the swipe of what the humans called a key card, the sound drawing him back to the present. As only two other beings possessed such access to his office, he was able to prepare himself.

Either he'd been paid a surprise visit by Drol'gan, or it was merely his assistant, Teiv. The first seemed unlikely, but far preferable. As the door opened with a hiss, Kor'ven could already tell he was not going to get his wish.

"You will not believe my good fortune this day, Kor'ven," Teiv said, as chipper as the Earth songbirds that persisted amid the ruin.

"As I do not believe in serendipity, you are likely correct," he said dryly, recording a few more anomalies in the data.

Teiv ignored this, as he was quite accustomed to disregarding what he likely considered to be Kor'ven's lacking personality. He could not help it if he appreciated the solid, dependable nature of facts over fate, though.

"I have found her," the younger Karuvar exclaimed, coming to stand in Kor'ven's peripheral only because he could not insinuate himself directly between Kor'ven and the data.

He sighed, setting aside his work to indulge his assistant. Wide, amber eyes stared back at him, filled with what Kor'ven could only describe as unrestrained jubilation. It was enough to crack even his carapace, and he found a small smile tugging at his lips.

"Found who?" he asked, though some part of him was afraid of the answer.

Perhaps it would not be as he thought. Perhaps Teiv had tracked down some brilliant Karuvari scientist who could take him on as her apprentice rather than Kor'ven himself.

That hope was immediately dashed by the love-struck look that filled his assistant's eyes like a thick, sticky sap. "My mate!"

They did not speak of the mating project. It was not their area of expertise, and Kor'ven was not comfortable discussing it. The reasons for such feelings were not anything he had shared with his assistant, but he expected his desires to be respected nonetheless. As such, he returned his attention to his work.

"She is perfect, Kor'ven," he said wistfully, like a youngling who'd glimpsed his first female and had decided he would very much like one for his own someday. "Her hair is like spun fire, and her eyes are the color of a newly born galaxy."

Kor'ven doubted that. There was no way to adequately describe the birth of stars and planets, and he did not imagine they could be found in any female's eyes.

"I know you don't approve, but--"

"I have no opinion one way or the other," he clarified, "so long as it does not interfere with your work."

"--but my heart soars for her. I cannot wait until we are mated."

This, at least, was enough to catch Kor'ven's interest. His brow furrowed, scale plates pulling downward, and he looked at his assistant once more.

"Why are you not yet mated?"

It was a simple matter. Even if Teiv had met his supposed mate at Waystation Selene, there were plenty of rooms into which they might abscond. Mating was a biological process and could be achieved easily enough.

Teiv merely gave him a patient smile. "The humans are not like us, Kor'ven. They require more care. Human females are to be wooed. They need roh'manz."

Teiv struggled with the human words. To be fair, Kor'ven would have struggled with them as well, and he certainly had no idea what they meant. The difference was, he had no urge to find out.

He took no real issue with Karuvar males syncing up with human females, though he did wonder how much of it was authentic, and how much was a result of code-tampering. Human females were certainly nice enough. Soft. Pleasing to look at. Most of them smelled like some kind of freshly plucked flower.

But they were not for him. He dreaded the day his implant vibrated, alerting him to the presence of one who supposedly matched up perfectly with his own genetic code. He dreaded it because he knew how easily those results could be manipulated, and the last time his implant had vibrated…

Well. It was an abject failure, and nothing more needed to be said about it.

"So long as the pursuit of roh'manz does not interfere with your work," he said, more gruffly than he intended.

Teiv's ears drooped, and Kor'ven felt a pang of guilt. An unwanted emotion, but it accosted him nonetheless. He held no contempt for his assistant's potential happiness. Teiv was a bright and eager youngling--for he was not enough of an adult for Kor'ven to think of him as anything else. He possessed a sound mind, but also a heart that was the equivalent of the tender underbelly of some long-dead Earth beast.

Kor'ven knew what it was like to rest all of his hopes and dreams upon a specific outcome, and he knew what it was like to have that outcome fail him so horrendously.

So he would play the role of gruff, unfeeling scientist, and he would instruct Teiv in doing the same, should the time ever come. Though he deeply hoped it would not.

As for his own mate? Kor'ven had long given up hope of ever finding her. At this point, the chances of his implant resonating a second time--and the chances of that female being a true match--were unfathomably bleak, according to the numbers. And if Kor’ven knew anything, it was that the numbers never lied.