Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #sci-fi, erotic romance
Table of Contents
Sebena has spent her time in the Alliance using her accuracy to blow large rocks into tiny rocks suitable for refinement. When she picks up a heat signature she has to pursue it, even if it means doing it on her own time. Finding a life pod is not really a surprise, but having it functioning and its occupant alive is quite the shock.
Issul is the avatar of the planet Zeering and has been lost in the asteroid field for a century. Opening his eyes in the mining vessel, he sees his rescuer and both he and the world within him have a visceral reaction to her.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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A Terran Times Tale
Mining was a dirty job and being a mining gunner was far beyond what most of her co-workers were willing to do for the paycheque. Sebena Hadros had thrown herself into life as a gunner with gusto and she enjoyed every minute of it.
“All staff to stations. The ship is in motion.”
The disembodied voice rippled over her and Sebena walked down the hall with a relaxed stride, pinning her hair into place as she went.
The mining ship, Sheppan, was her home and her place of business all in one. She manned one of the guns that both guarded the ship and created the small bits of floating rock from the asteroid field that they flew through to gather the minerals. Blasting rock into bits had never been a career choice offered to her in high school, so hooray for the Alliance and the Volunteer recruitment centre.
She slipped into her gun and put her headset on. “Gunner Hadros reporting at station.”
Control answered. “Acknowledged, Gunner. We are looking for the following minerals today. Scan and target.”
Sebena watched the data roll over her screen and she programmed the info into her scanners. With her assignment given, she started to scan the asteroids for her targets.
She spent her day blowing rocks to pieces and listening to music from home. It wasn’t officially sanctioned, but she was allowed to blast tunes inside her gun turret as long as she didn’t miss her targets.
Once she shattered a rock, she filed a notice to Control and they sent collectors out to capture the minerals. It was almost boring for her by the time she was on her final scan pass of the day.
A blip that shouldn’t have been there caught her attention. “What the hell?”
She swung her scanner back and watched the image on the screen. There was no doubt she was seeing a heat signature in the asteroid field.
“Yes, Gunner Hadros?”
“I am getting a heat signature in the asteroid field.”
“You are probably reading one of our collectors.”
“No, it is deeper in the field. I am sending you the coordinates.” Sebena waited for a response.
“I cannot read anything in the area you selected. It must have been a sensor blip.”
Sebena had been staring into the field all day. She knew the ebb and flow of the rocks. If Control couldn’t read it, they wouldn’t pursue it but her shift was over and she could.
“Acknowledged, Control. Gunner Hadros leaving station.”
With a sigh, she removed her headgear and left her station. There was something or someone out there and she was determined to find it.
Sebena walked the halls, clasped hands with a few of the other gunners going off shift.
Nilia walked with her for a way. “Do you want to hit the gym?”
“No. I am going to take a zipper out to see something that caught my attention. Wanna come?” She smiled at the other woman’s look of horror.
“Why would you want to go out there when we spend all day staring into those lifeless rocks?”
“Because something caught my attention.”
“Good luck and have a good evening out there then. I am heading for the hot tub and that new gunner on number three. He seems to have an interest in me and I have no objections.” She stroked her hand down her lush hip and Sebena had to admit that it would take a powerful will to ignore her friend’s charms.
Nilia was a mind-numb Wyoran whose deep red skin and chestnut hair drew the attention of most males on a normal day. Now that she was entering a receptive phase, every masculine head in the ship turned when she passed.
It was funny to watch, but Sebena had other things to do. She had a life sign to find.
The launch bay’s monitor had looked at her in astonishment when she signed out a suit and a zipper. The small craft was designed for one person, but it had grapples to collect samples of any likely minerals.
Sebena had a collection of another kind in mind.
She snugged herself into the EVA suit and did a pressure check the moment she finished snapping her helmet into place. The suit held constant pressure, so she was good to go.
The Sheppan was locked in until the following morning, processing and parcelling the day’s haul. It would still be here when Sebena returned.
She locked herself into the zipper and left the launch bay. She typed in the coordinates that she had noted on her scans, adjusted for drift and hit the accelerator.
She skimmed around the floating mini-planets and large-sized rocks all moving fast enough to kill her on impact.
Her display told her that she had been flying for an hour when the blip appeared on her screen.
“Aha! Got you now.”
A slight turn to the left and she was right on the readings that were flaring up on her display.
An escape pod was lodged against a chunk of mineral. She used her grapple to attach the zipper to it and left her transport to examine her find.
The pod was bright with energy and it was registering as containing a living being, so she knew her duty. She returned to the zipper, removed a hammer and after she attached a tether to the pod, she started to chip it loose of the mineral.
Her oxygen supply chirped to let her know that she was down to half a tank. With stronger movements, she hacked the pod loose. The moment that it floated free, she fastened it completely to the underside of the zipper and she climbed back into her transport to head home.
“Control, this is Gunner Hadros. I have found a survival pod and am bringing it and its living occupant in for examination and medical treatment.”
“Acknowledged, Gunner. We will have medical staff waiting in the launch bay.”
“Thank you, Control.”
She hit the accelerator and tried to steer clear of the rocks trying to crush her. With the pod attached to her zipper, it was a little harder to manoeuvre, but she managed to get back to the Sheppan just in time for her oxygen supply to redline with warning.
She released the pod and it floated into the launch bay on its own, skidding across the surface and resting neatly on the metal floor.
Sebena’s zipper landed with less grace than the pod and she staggered out of her vehicle while the monitor sealed the bay and increased the gravity.
The pod was still sealed and she watched the emergency team put it on a lift and move it toward medical.
Sebena had to strip out of the EVA suit before she could follow her find and by the time she arrived in medical, they had the pod in isolation and there were staffers working on opening the unit.
She asked the observing physician, “What is it?”
He looked at her, “You are the one who found him?”
“It’s a him?”
“It is. We have contacted his planet. He was reported missing over one hundred years ago.”
She blinked. “A hundred years? What species is he?”
The doctor’s lips twitched. “It isn’t his birth planet that we are contacting. He is a planetary avatar. The mineral field must have broken the planet-mind connection. His world has had a reward for him that is astronomical.”
The technicians opened the pod and worked on the inhabitant.
A peculiar pulse under her feet came to her attention. “Why is the ship moving?”
“With the Alliance demanding his immediate delivery to his planet, the fastest way to get there is to take him ourselves.”
Sebena watched the male lifted from the pod and she had to hold her breath. He was lovely. His skin was pale gold and his hair a lovely auburn. His ears were pointed and he had the physique of a body builder. Whatever he had been before he became an avatar, it was a species she really wanted to meet.
As if sensing her, his eyes opened and his gaze fixed on her. She blushed scarlet in a second but wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or arousal, because both were warring in her system. His gaze was pure gold and as she watched, a dark blue began to swirl throughout.
Without a doubt, the planet had just regained contact with its avatar and they were staring right at her.
The doctor spoke to his technicians. “There is no risk of infection. Biohazard protocols are not necessary. Gunner, you have done well, you are dismissed.”
Sebena nodded and with a slight smile to the waking avatar, she left medical. Outside the closed doors, she leaned against the wall and took a deep, settling breath. She had rescued the avatar of a planet and he was alive and well…and gorgeous. The image of him was going to haunt her dreams tonight.
Sighing happily at a job well done, she wandered over to the dining hall to get some dinner. If the ship were moving, she would have the following day off, so she had better check the duty roster to verify it. A day off on the ship meant she could enjoy a little hot-tub time herself, preferably without a companion.
She was sitting at a table with some of the other gunners when a ripple of surprised voices got her attention. Sebena turned to see what was causing the fuss only to meet the amused gaze of the avatar.
“May I join you?” His voice was low and rich. It gave Sebena the feeling of being drenched in warm chocolate.
Her companions moved aside quickly and waved goodbyes as they took up a nearby table so they could watch.
“Of course. Please.” She waved at the seat across from her.
She blinked. “For what? Bringing you in? It is the responsibility of every Alliance person to offer aid to rescue pods.”
He smiled and the sharp curve of his elegant lips made her fingers itch to trace them. “And yet, they are not required to go hunting for a signal that was dismissed by their dispatcher. Thank you for following your heart to find me. My name is Issul and I am the Avatar of Zeering. He would like to speak to you if you would allow it.”
She smiled helplessly. “Of course.”
His eyes swirled from gold to navy. “Gunner Hadros, I would like to express my thanks in person, so to speak. This ship is bringing Issul back to me and I would like it very much if you would accompany him to the surface.”
She swallowed. “I see. I will have to request authorization for leave to a planetary surface.”
His smile was just as devastating when Zeering was the one speaking. Sebena tried to hide the way that her heart was pounding, but it was no use.
“You find his form pleasing?”
She blushed scarlet. “Yes, I do. He is very much within the mating ideals for my species.”
If being clinical could have squelched her embarrassment, that description should have, but instead, her mind scampered down the thoughts of how Issul would look unclothed.
“Excellent. He is interested in you as well, though he is irritated with me for mentioning it. Your facial symmetry is pleasing and your eyes remind him of the oceans of his birth world.”
Her blush tried to ratchet itself up several notches. “Which world is that?”
“It has no name, nor has his species. They are simply the people. He was captured and transported when young and he and his captors crashed on my surface. Issul was mine within hours and he wreaked his revenge on those who had taken him.”
“He didn’t want to return home?” She sipped at her water, trying to cool her over-heated system.
“There was nothing for him there. Once one of their kind is taken, they can never return. Their souls are considered tainted.”