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Authors: Clare Dargin

Tags: #Cold Warriors Series

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BOOK: Ice and Peace
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She knew from years of experience it would take an extreme amount of freezing to throw her into hibernation, otherwise it made her stronger. Though cold weather caused the human body to burn more calories than normal, it primarily kept her body from overheating and her from dying.

She held her rifle steady though the tension built up in her neck and shoulders. She moved her head from side to side to release the kinks that wound up at its base.

Steadying her breathing, she peered through the night scope.

All clear
.

The midnight incursion she and the rest of the base had just experienced was a sneak attack of the worst sort, causing the death of many. Who it could be, she did not know. The Verneans? Though Earth’s sworn enemies knew better than to try an invasion, it was common knowledge humanity would rather destroy the planet than be enslaved by the likes of them. Perhaps it was a new adversary, or maybe even traitors, humans siding with Vernean Alliance for profit.

Either way, they have to pay for this
.

She fumed. Her hands trembled. In order for her shots to be accurate, she needed a steady hand. She cleared her mind. So far, she and the other soldiers on base made some advances against their unknown foes by pushing them back to the facility’s outskirts. But considering the sporadic gunfire in the distance, it was obvious they were not in the clear yet.

“En-com’s in the Hole. Tango Line Ahead. Cross the Tee.” Her commander’s voice sounded cool and confident. No matter what was going on around him, he never lost his composure in battle. She liked that. It was reassuring. The com unit nestled in her ear crackled with static before falling silent.

She stood and cautiously walked over to a rugged old spruce tree and settled into position behind it. With a clear view of a large section of brush, she rubbed her nose, wiping away a bit of moisture at its tip.

“Eyes up,” her squad leader whispered over the com.

She spotted the shadowy images in the light of the distant moon. Raising her rifle’s night vision scope to her eyes, she checked for signs of the enemy. She saw nothing. The salt air rolled in off the sea and mixed with the scent of the Sitka Spruces around her, sweeping away the smell of ammo and carbine.

Something rustled the brush to her left. She trained her night vision scope on the suspect section of woods. A figure moved into the thicket. She adjusted the vision to get a closer look. A heat signature registered. Her right index finger squeezed the trigger slowly when she heard a clicking sound in front of her. It was a signal from her team member, alerting her he was with her team. She released the trigger, lowered her rifle, and waited.

Static from her radio broke the silence once again.

She pressed the tiny ear bud deeper into her ear. “Elvis,” the man’s voice said.

Caitlin let out a relieved breath. The barracks had been safely cleared and there were no more unfriendlies on base. The only thing left to do was “kick or kill,” meaning kick their asses out of the surrounding area or kill them all, whichever came first.

She licked her dry lips. Her body was beginning to overheat. Though Alaska in late autumn was cold, it was still not cold enough for her kind. Freeing one hand, she slipped it underneath her thin white coat and pressed the button of a tiny pump attached to her left hip. She gritted her teeth as the cool liquid rushed into her veins. The effects were immediate. Her body temperature lowered, making the air around her seem warm. Taut muscles in her back and neck loosened.

She inhaled deeply and relaxed then checked her surroundings again. Everything was deathly silent. No movement, no gunfire, and no engagement with the enemy. Had they ended the battle and forgotten to tell her? The wind shifted once again. She caught the faint scent of perspiration in the distance. She slowed her breathing and held her rifle up in firing position. Little by little she stepped toward it.

The snowy ground crunched beneath its feet. Caitlin concentrated and listened more intently. One step and then another. Each followed by a violent crunching of the ground.

Whatever it is, it’s bipedal, and it isn’t a bear
.

The footsteps stopped. She readied herself to fight. Using the trunk of a tree as cover, she eased toward her target.

She lowered her night vision goggles. The creature’s heat signature on the other side registered before her eyes. It was tall. Much taller than she. But it was the enemy and had to go. She holstered her rifle across her chest and pulled out her K-bar. The large knife was much better at dispatching something during close-quarters combat.

Her mind went blank as she reached up and grabbed it by the arm with all her strength, pulling it off balance. She glanced at the alien’s face. It seemed almost human except its skin was the color of a faded pink flamingo, its eyes like saucers. The knife cut through its muscled neck, causing it to shrill loudly and leap away from her. It spurted a pinkish fluid, which stained Caitlin’s white camouflage. Pushing away, it managed to run. Caitlin chased after it and peeled off several shots into its back, causing it to shrill again. But the thing disappeared in a grove of trees.

She heard only heavy breathing and panting. When she circled around, she saw no one then realized the sounds were coming from her. She looked down at the pink fluid staining her clothes. Repulsed by the milky pink blood, Caitlin squeezed her eyes shut. She’d give anything to be home with Keegan, but she still had to clear the area.

“Steel Sweep. Repeat Steel Sweep. Enemy in retreat. All personnel mobilize….” The voice crackled on the com unit just as a burst of bright light filled her field of vision, blinding her.

“Keep your eyes peeled until the area is completely cleared,” her squad leader said over the com.

“That’s an affirm.” She rubbed her cheek and looked at the tiny bit of blood on her hand. “Fuck.” She’d need to clean up before she got home to her husband, or she’d have to put up with his million questions. He already worried about her. With a sigh, she checked her surrounding one more time. “Hopefully, that’s the last of them or this is going to be a long night.”

Chapter Two

 

 

Fairmount, Montana

Weeks Later...

I’d like to have become a father
.

Medoro Keegan stared at the holo-com on his desk. The compact unit sat completely quiet, despite the disturbing news it just relayed. He glanced out the window beside him. The sun had long since set, taking with it the light illuminating the den. The wall sconces added a warm amber glow to an otherwise dark room.

Though he hated to admit it, fatherhood was a desire he’d had for a long time. He had been close to his father, fondly remembered the times when they sat around a campfire, listening to the howl of the coyotes and sharing the proud cloak of a long day’s hard work. He’d chosen to be a pilot because of his father. The many ribbons and medals he acquired over the years meant nothing compared to the pride he felt in serving the country and planet he so dearly loved.

But they were some of the things he wanted to pass on to a son.

Keegan smiled. A son. Like so many men before him, he’d hoped he would have a boy first. Even if he’d had a girl, he would have given her more love than he could have imagined.

It’s not like fatherhood was completely out of his reach. He was, after all, happily married to a perfectly healthy woman. Well, almost healthy. If it hadn’t been for the military that had brought them together, she would have never become a cryo soldier. And it was the same military pulling them apart.

Sitting in his favorite leather chair, Medoro Keegan waited for his wife to come home. She left just after lunch and had yet to return. He suspected she was at the base. Cole Naval Air Station, once a hub of activity in his youth and shut down a decade ago for lack of funding, was alive once again. Now home to the newly formed Cryo Command, its top secret mission was known only to the participants. Like the others involved, his wife refused to talk about it.

The front door clicked shut.

Finally
.

“It’s late,” he stated as Caitlin strolled by. Wearing khaki pants and shirt, with her hair pulled back in a tight bun, she would look like any other naval personnel from a distance. Except she was different. How? He didn’t quite know. Was it her beautiful dark brown eyes, caramel-colored skin, or full lips? Or her thick-corded hair she complained about whenever it got wet? Maybe it was her uncanny ability to get under a person’s skin with one word.

One thing he did know: he loved her with every bit of his soul.

“Hi,” she said, kicking off her shoes in the hallway.

“You missed dinner. Where were you?”

His slightly charred version of roast chicken and vegetables awaited her attention in the refrigerator.

“Out.”

Right
. “How was your doctor’s appointment?”

She stood in the doorway and shifted her stance. “Fine.”

He stiffened. Her deception hurt. For the last two years, they had hoped to find an antidote to the cryogenic cocktail of drugs that had become her lifeline, but his wife had been hesitant about it. “Did she have any news on a treatment?”

“Unfortunately, no, but she did get me in touch with a support group for cryos in the area.”

“Are you going?” He continued to test her.

“I haven’t decided. I’m still getting use to my life here. I’m not sure if I’m ready to start hearing about other people’s experiences yet.”

“You’ll know when you’re ready.” He studied her. How long she was going to keep up this charade? “Did you talk about what happened in Kodiak? I hope so, because you certainly won’t talk about it with
me
.”

She shrugged. Anger surged through him.

“Really, Cate?” He sprang from his chair. “You’re going to start this? You didn’t go to the doctor. They called to reschedule your appointment because you didn’t go.”

She remained silent.

He sighed and rubbed his hands through his hair. “You say we don’t talk enough and, when I try to talk to you, you say nothing.” He leveled a firm gaze at her. “You were at the base, weren’t you?”

“You know I can’t talk about it.” Her shoulders sank.

Ever since his retirement from the Corps, he had become a man out of the loop. Sure he loved his life as a civilian. But the veil of secrecy shrouding her was smothering him.

“How are we supposed to have a new life, when you won’t let us?”

“I don’t know what you want me to do. I can’t seem to make you understand…. I literally can’t talk about it.”

“Don’t say it’s the neurotransmitters because you know it’s not that. What do you think I’m going to do? Run off and tell the Vernean command?”

“Don’t treat me like a prisoner, Medoro,” she warned through gritted teeth. “I don’t need your interrogation, too!”

“I am not treating you like a prisoner! I am treating you like my wife! I asked you a simple question and I’ve been asking it. And you refuse to answer me. What are you hiding?”

When she didn’t say anything, he reached down to turn off the holo-com on his desk. “Well, at least one of us should be honest. I’ve been called back to duty.”

Her eyes grew wide, and her mouth fell open. “No, that’s impossible. You’re retired.”

“Not anymore.”

The anger he felt about the secrecy and lies surrounding her faded into sadness at the reality of their parting.

“What am I supposed to do without you?” Tears streamed down her face. “Can’t you say no?”

Though retired, he was still on the reserve list, meaning he could be reactivated at any time. He knew it, and so did she. Yet they’d never thought he’d be called, due to his record. And to be ordered to return without any restrictions was not only amazing but a downright miracle. Or was it? The communiqué stated he was to report to the USS Blanchard immediately with the status of observer and adviser.

Closing the distance between them, he smiled sadly. “I can’t.”

He’d often wondered how he would provide for them. Yes, he received a modest pension from the service, but it was not enough to give her the life he believed she deserved. Sure, there had been offers, a partnership in running a ranch, private security, and even running for sheriff. None of it fit. After everything they’d experienced, he secretly prayed for a chance to return to his ship to clear his record and for another opportunity to do what he did best.

“You promised you wouldn’t leave me.”

“I know. But this couldn’t be helped. Sweetheart, I will be back.”

Keegan pulled her into a searing kiss. Caitlin whimpered and gave into him. He longed to show his intense love for her. He raked his hand through her hair and craned her head back, running his lips across the soft skin of her throat and neck. Her exotic yet sweet scent reminded him of jasmine with a hint of spice. Needing more, he lifted her blouse to expose her soft flesh.

She could light a fire in him like no other. When he kissed her once again, she moaned softly, arousing him further. Filled with passion, he made quick work of removing her clothing. Going to their bedroom crossed his mind before he decided against it. The den floor was as far as they were going to get. Gazing at her beauty, his mind went blank. He ran his hand from her temple to her jaw, before he pressed his lips to hers again. He was going to give her a night she would not forget.

Chapter Three

 

 

Keegan stirred from his nap inside the passenger compartment aboard the British shuttle, the HMS Endurance. Awakened to a brightly lit cabin, he wondered how he had been able to sleep so well. He unbuckled his safety restraints and walked around the spacious, empty cabin. The cargo area toward the back was clear of seats. A single porthole allowed a view of the blackness outside. He walked to the opening and gazed out. He felt at home.

The ship’s com system clicked on with a hiss.

“Sir, we’re now in the Ross Sea,” the pilot said with cool nonchalance. “Status is weapons tight.”

BOOK: Ice and Peace
4.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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