Authors: Susan Hayes
3013: THE SERIES
By: Susan Hayes
Alliance Commanders Brandt Carver and Hawke Summers have a new mission. Take command of Space Station: Alpha X2, get it running smoothly again, and find out how the last station commander wound up murdered in the middle of a Krytos sanctuary. The two Elites are experienced trouble-shooters, specializing in fixing problems and putting out fires all over the galaxy, but this assignment is going to be the greatest challenge of their careers.
T’karra Ryvern runs the Black Hole bar, the Krytos sanctuary on X2. The bar is the only home she’s ever known and a safe haven for the Krytos who lost their planet to alien invaders more than a century ago. A proud warrior and pack leader, she offers protection to those who need it, but now someone has targeted T’karra and her family. With everything she loves in danger, she’ll do whatever it takes to end the threat. Even if it means working with two men she has no reason to trust.
The Commanders will do whatever it takes to protect T’karra, while convincing her that the three of them belong together. Will they uncover the truth in time to stop the attacks, or will they lose their chance at love when one of them becomes the enemy’s final target?
An Erotic Romance Novel.
3013: TARGETED by Susan Hayes
Copyright © 2015 Susan Hayes
First E-book Publication: February 2015
Cover design by Sloan Winters
Editing by L. Watanabe
Published by: Black Scroll Publications
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. It is fiction so facts and events may not be accurate except to the current world the book takes place in.
Books in the 3013 Series: (in order published)
3013: MATED – Laurie Roma
3013: RENEGADE – Susan Hayes
3013: CLAIMED – Laurie Roma
3013: STOWAWAY – Susan Hayes
3013: SALVATION – Laurie Roma
3013: MENDED – Kali Argent
3013: TARGETED – Susan Hayes
This story is dedicated to three real-life warriors: Lauren, Donna, and Brandie. May you all be victorious in your battles.
And as always, my thanks go to my parents for believing in me, and to Karen, for her unwavering friendship, support, and a decade’s worth of laughter.
The year is 3013.
Earth barely survived the Alien Wars that have ravaged the planet, and an unknown virus had nearly wiped out the entire population. On the brink of extinction, humans struggle to rebuild their civilization, although nothing would ever bring back what once was.
Enforcing martial law, a new age of mankind is born, where warriors rule and women are the ultimate prize. Only the elite earn breeding rights and are granted leave to claim a woman in pairs. Men dream of the day that they will be able to claim a woman to love, but for those chosen being claimed means the end of their freedom and a beginning to a lifelong bond with two strangers. The warriors may have the choice, but the battle for their woman's heart has only begun…
United Federation Command Alliance Commander Hawke Summers was about ready to climb the drab, gray walls of the ship’s lounge, and he wouldn’t even need to turn off the artificial gravity first. He and his partner had been trapped aboard the small freighter they had commandeered for over a week now, and the cramped quarters were rapidly driving him crazy.
“Just once, I’d like to actually travel in comfort on the ship we’re
to take to a new assignment, instead of sneaking in early on whatever available transport we could arrange at the last minute.”
Commander Brandt Carver lifted his gaze from his wrist-unit briefly to glance up at Hawke, a look of mild amusement in his aqua-blue eyes. “How long have you been holding that in? You usually start bitching and twitching from inactivity earlier than this.”
“I was taking your advice and trying to practice some restraint. For the record, I’m not a fan of the concept.” Hawke rose from his chair and started pacing the narrow confines of the ship’s lounge for the hundredth time since they came on board. At least it was one of the newer freighters, one with top of the line jump-engines and more creature comforts than some of the ships they’d travelled on in their time as Alliance troubleshooters.
They’d learned early in their careers that if they arrived as scheduled, everyone would be on their best behavior, which rarely helped when it came to tracking down the issues plaguing whatever base, ship, or outpost they’d been assigned to oversee. To learn as much as they could, they started arriving a few days early, doing as much intel gathering as they could before their official arrival time. It wasn’t always well-received by the ones they’d been sent to help, but the benefits far outweighed the deficits. As Brandt would invariably point out, they were there to fix what was wrong, not to hold hands or make friends.
“You’re never a fan of anything remotely resembling diplomacy, tact, or patience. It’s a source of never-ending amazement to me that you’ve managed to go this long without being shot or court-martialed.” Brandt turned his attention back to the latest reports to be forwarded to the two of them. Somewhere in the data, there were answers, and he was determined to find them. Pattern recognition and identifying weaknesses in infrastructure were what he excelled at, and this new assignment was going to be a challenging one. He loved a challenge.
“What I lack in patience, I make up for with an excess of charm, wit and style,” Hawke shot back, scrubbing a hand over his unshaven jaw. He’d be playing the role of a mercenary between jobs once they arrived at Alpha Station: X2 and had stopped shaving as part of his new look. Brandt knew his partner enjoyed stepping outside himself on assignments like this. Hawke had a flair for the dramatic, not to mention his temperament was really more suited to a mercenary than an Alliance commander. He was a maverick, but a very effective one.
And he was Brandt’s closest friend.
Hawke brushed his hair off his forehead and turned to look at his reflection in the forward viewscreens. He’d skipped getting a haircut before they’d left Earth, and his dark-brown hair was now long enough he no longer looked like a spit-and-polish Alliance elite. It didn’t hurt that he had a Krytos ancestor back a few generations, either. That heritage, combined with the enhancements given to all Alliance elites had resulted in Hawke standing a few inches taller and broader than most of his fellow soldiers, Brandt included. It was enough of a difference to let him pass as a mixed-breed soldier of fortune.
Brandt snorted in derision without looking up. “Charm, huh? Was it your wit or your charm that irritated the lovely Helios female back on X6, so much she threatened to castrate you with her bare claws?”
“It was a misunderstanding. Her language converter must have been malfunctioning.”
Brandt raised his gaze again and cocked a white-blond brow in Hawke’s direction. “Funny, she didn’t have any trouble understanding me. We had a drink after you left, and she offered me her condolences when she learned I was your partner. And speaking of misunderstandings, it might be wise to avoid any of those at our next stop. The Krytos sanctuary where the attack occurred has something of a …reputation.”
“From what I’ve read, it’s my kind of place. Rough company, good food, quality liquor, and a wide variety of entertainments. It may not be New Vega, but it’s good enough for me. I plan on spending the next few days there, sniffing around for information. I don’t believe the Krytos had anything to do with those mercenaries getting onto the station and killing the last commander, but it would be nice to be able to definitively cross them off list of suspects.”
Hawke considered himself human, but he knew enough about the Krytos on X2 to be fairly certain this was nothing they’d be involved in. Kidnapping, murder, and the violation of their home and sanctuary were not things any Krytos worthy of their ancestors would ever consider. There was no honor in such actions, and that species prized honor and bravery above all else.
“I’m still pissed three of our key witnesses left before we could debrief them. Who the hell authorized that?” Brandt had been unhappy since he’d learned that the target of the mercenary attack, Sonja Wilde-Storm, and her two bonded had already left X2. He didn’t like relying on reports and statements. He preferred to talk to people face-to-face.
Hawke shrugged. “Storm and Wilde left Alliance service, and their chosen is a civilian with more connections and money than half the fucking Council put together. We’ve got their reports, and apparently, Deacon Wilde used some kind of cyber implant to access the AI on the mercenary ship. Now, we know it came from the Shaula colonies located on Scoa Prime and its moons, which was more information than anyone else managed to find.”
“Yeah, I know. I just hate not having them around in case new questions come up. Reports only answer the questions that have already been asked, you know?”
“True. The two surviving mercs aren’t talking either. They gave up their employers quick enough, but then…nothing. Something stinks about this whole thing, but we’ll get to the bottom of it. It’s what we do, right? Fix the problem and then move the fuck on to the next one, forever.” Hawke hadn’t meant to say the last bit out loud, though he’d been thinking it for a while now. The constant moving from place to place was starting to wear on him. It had been years since they’d been back on Earth for more than a few weeks at a time, longer still since they’d been allowed the luxury of staying somewhere once the job was done. In the beginning, the travel was appealing, but after a while, all Alliance bases and outposts started looking the same.
Hawke’s small slip made Brandt sit up and take notice. This wasn’t Hawke’s usual grumbling about space travel, bad food, and cramped spaces. There’d been a note of real unhappiness in his friend’s tone. “I wouldn’t say forever. One of these days, we’ll make it back to Earth for good, and then we’ll likely spend nights reminiscing about the good old days when we were always on the move.”
“Maybe,” Hawke shrugged and prowled over to one of the cardio machines set up in a corner of the nondescript lounge. He set it to jogging speed and then hopped on before saying anything more. “Or maybe we’ve gotten so good at what we do they’ll keep us out here until we’re so far past our prime we’ll never find someone to share our lives with.”
Brandt had to admit, Hawke had a point. Their careers were demanding, and there weren’t many women who would appreciate the lives they led. Not that Brandt had given the matter much thought until Hawke had recently pointed out to him the fact nearly every other registered pair of their rank had already claimed a chosen and started families. While they officially had permission, the two of them hadn’t really put much effort into finding a scroll of their own. Their careers had always come first.
Since the Alien Wars, most women were born infertile, a lingering side effect of the deadly contagion the Zyphir brought with them when they attacked Earth. With the planet devastated and the population reduced to a fraction of what it had been, the Alliance had implemented sweeping laws to bring order out of the chaos, and to protect the future of the human race. In the fifty years since the Zyphir had been defeated, the Alliance had transformed the war-weary planet, slowly rebuilding what had been lost.
At the age of ten, every child was tested, and those tests determined their future. For the women, there was a fertility test, and those findings would be tattooed on their faces for all the world to see. While most would receive a simple star tattoo marking them as infertile, some would have a scroll tattoo placed beside their right eye, denoting their fertile status.
The Alliance was working to transform the people of Earth as well, taking the strongest and brightest of the children tested and giving them enhancements that made them bigger, stronger and faster than average humans. Elites healed faster, had superior endurance, and had the potential for a host of other gifts that could be unlocked only during the enhancement process. Only enhanced men were permitted to claim a fertile woman, and they had to do so in bonded pairs.
“Earth to Brandt, hello? If you’re not going to be part of this conversation, then I’ll save my breath,” Hawke called from across the lounge.
“Sorry, I got sidetracked thinking about Earth. We could put in for a transfer after this assignment, tell the higher-ups we’re ready to come home. We’ve been doing this so long they likely haven’t considered we might
to be planet-bound.”
“I’m not sure I want that, either. But I am sure I’m getting tired of bouncing around the galaxy. We work our asses off to get everything running smoothly, and the moment we’re done, we’re on to the next problem. Don’t you ever wish we could stay and actually enjoy running a place not on the verge of a meltdown?”
“What a novel concept,” Brandt deadpanned, but Hawke caught a note of agreement behind the sarcasm. Brandt was one of the most organized and capable administrators Hawke had ever met. He saw every new problem as a puzzle to solve, but it looked like even Brandt was getting tired of doing all the work without reaping any of the benefits.
“It’s something to think about. X2 is going to take us some time to figure out, but once we know we have things going in the right direction, we should talk about it some more and decide what we want to do before the Alliance makes the decision for us.” Hawke kept running, but his agitation was already fading. He knew it was because he’d finally voiced the feelings growing inside him over the last few months. He’d come from a loving family, and lately, the idea of having a family of his own had started to seem more and more appealing. He wanted what his parents and older siblings had: love, family, and a place to call home.
When this assignment was over, they could finally start considering the next phase of their lives. Brandt was more than his best friend. He was his partner and the brother of his heart. It was time the two of them began looking for the missing piece of their family, a woman they could both love and cherish. He couldn’t wait to get started on the hunt.
Now, all they had to do was investigate the murder of an Alliance commander, put a space station to rights, and find out how a group of armed mercenaries managed to cross the station and walk into a sanctioned Krytos sanctuary without being seen.
* * * *
T’karra was having the grandmother of all bad days. The Black Hole bar had a reputation for good food, strong drinks, and ample ways to indulge in every vice legal inside Alliance space. It’s what kept the place in business and made sure T’karra and her pack had a place to call home. Today, that reputation was coming apart faster than a satellite on re-entry. Her head cook was too ill to work, one of the other cooks had managed to cut themselves during prep and was in medical getting stitches, and now one of the sanctuary’s food consoles was malfunctioning. Instead of turning out perfectly prepared meals, it was producing plates of burnt offerings that looked like they’d been delivered fresh from the flames of the Tarin homeworld, Tartarus. The kitchen, which was normally only used to supplement the meals from the consoles, and to produce some of the more complex dishes, was now shorthanded and struggling to keep up with demand, which was higher than normal thanks to an influx of new ships from around the quadrant.
Soldiers, traders, mercenaries, and businessmen from planets and colonies all over the known space had arrived at Alpha Station: X2 in the last couple of days, and every single one of them seemed to currently be in her sanctuary. The sleek, black bar was thronging with thirsty customers, and every table and chair was claimed. The gaming tables at the far end of the space were doing a booming business, and every holo-room and private room in the place had been booked solid for the next few days. While she was grateful for the income boost, the frantic pace required to keep up with it all was starting to fray at the edges of her sanity.
She had no doubt many of her current customers were here to check out the rumors there had been an attack on the station not long ago. Word had spread, and there were be those who decided to come and see for themselves. Some simply for the notoriety of having a drink in the sanctuary where the station’s commander had been murdered, others would be there to see if there were any gains to be made while the station was leaderless. Commander Janes had been a decent man, fair but firm. Without his guidance, things around X2 had been chaotic, and T’karra didn’t like chaos. It cut into her profits. If the commander had lived, he would have never allowed so many ships to dock at once, or at the very least, he’d have controlled the flow of arrivals so the station’s resources weren’t overloaded.