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Authors: Katherine Allred

Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #General, #Romance

Close Contact

BOOK: Close Contact
6.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Close Contact

An Alien Affairs Novel

Book 2

Katherine Allred

For Heather Massey, owner of The Galaxy Express
blog, for her enthusiastic support of the science
fiction romance genre, and for all the fans who
took the time to email and tell me how much they
Close Encounters.
You guys are great!

And for Larry, always.


Chapter 1

Kiera Smith should eat worms and die.

Chapter 2

It was amazing how many colors jumpsuits came in, I…

Chapter 3

Time really flies when you’re immersed in learning about the…

Chapter 4

I pressed my back against the door, thinking faster than…

Chapter 5

The first rays of sunlight stabbed my tightly closed eyelids…

Chapter 6

I came around with Marcus gently tapping my cheeks and…

Chapter 7

“Treya told me what happened,” Marcus said, sliding a plate…

Chapter 8

“Are you out of your mind?” Lillith screeched. “You’re supposed…

Chapter 9

“You can’t.” I pushed my way between Reynard and the…

Chapter 10

I opened my eyes to the sound of hundreds of…

Chapter 11

The sun had barely cleared the edge of the planet…

Chapter 12

“You cut a hole in the wall of my storage…

Chapter 13

“Does Politaus know every single person on Madrea?” I asked…

Chapter 14

“Lillith, tell Marcus not to wait up for me.” I…

Chapter 15

I opened my eyes and then lay very still, listening…

Chapter 16

“Someone stole my knife.” I was more surprised than alarmed…

Chapter 17

I was chuckling as I popped back into my body.

Chapter 18

It was just getting dark when Marcus finally made it…

Chapter 19

I landed in utter chaos. It seemed that Marcus and…

Chapter 20

“Durtran!” Reynard strode forward and embraced the man, carefully avoiding…


The halls of the Bureau of Alien Affairs seemed strangely…


iera Smith should eat worms and die.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the most politic thing for someone in my position to say. But then, I wouldn’t be in this position if not for her, now would I?

Just because she saved the Buri from extinction, killed the bad guys, and gave the world Orpheus crystals is no reason for her to ruin my life.

Being a GEP, someone genetically created to do a particular job, just wasn’t enough to make me stand out from the crowd of Naturals I worked with. Neither, apparently, was my name, Echo Adams, which was randomly generated by a computer, as all Genetically Engineered Person monikers are, so none of us accidentally end up with the same name. Zin forbid the Naturals should get us confused. We look so much alike, after all.

That was sarcasm, in case you’re wondering. I look absolutely nothing like Kiera Smith. My hair is dark brown, my eyes are this weird greenish-gray color with a peculiar black ring around the pupil, and I’m average height. In other words, about as far from bombshell material as you can get. Most Naturals use the phrase “cute as a button” to describe
me. Personally, I’ve never seen a button I was that enamored of, so I simply clench my teeth and keep smiling.

Unfortunately, the computer that named me had a penchant for Greek mythology from Old Earth. Curiosity being what it is, I’d looked the name up and discovered that according to some Natural named Ovid, Echo was a nymph, a great singer and dancer. That I could live with. But she also scorned the love of men which angered a pervert god named Pan, who tore her to pieces and then scattered her all over creation.

As I walked through the halls of Alien Affairs headquarters, I knew exactly how that felt.

But I digress.

I’m a party girl. No, that doesn’t mean I was created to be a pleasure GEP, only that I spent a lot of time at parties. My creation was commissioned by the Galactic Federation’s Department of Protocol. I was responsible for planning, hosting, and officiating at ceremonial events for visiting Federation dignitaries and heads of government, as well as coordinating logistics for the visits, making sure they were on time and had everything they needed.

And I was extremely good at what I did.

I loved my job. I loved the hustle and bustle of living in a city that encompassed an entire planet the way Centaurius did, loved being at the center of major universal events and in the know about the latest political intrigue. I loved rubbing elbows with bigwigs from all over the Galactic Federation.

My idea of a good time is three hours at a spa, getting groomed, pampered and massaged, followed by a night of dancing and barhopping with the leader of an obscure planet. Or a planet that wasn’t so obscure. And I had no reason to believe that life as I knew it would ever end.

But then, thirty-two months ago—insert ominous music here—Kiera Smith’s journal was released to the public.

Suddenly there was a mass stampede to the GEP archives, as Naturals the Federation over dug into the origins of every GEP created. And of course, I won the schite-kickers’ lottery. My creator was none other than the infamous Dr. Gertz himself. Simon Gertz, the geneticist with a God complex who also created Kiera Smith, and did Zin knows what to the GEPs he designed, up to and including built-in psi abilities that no one had ever heard of before.

None of that woo-woo stuff from me, I assured my employer. I’m just your average, run-of-the-mill GEP.

But they didn’t believe me. They dragged me into the big boss’s office, sat me down, and explained they couldn’t have a mind reader on staff. Made the hotshot politicians nervous, etc., etc., and yada-yada. Didn’t matter one iota that I’d never exhibited a trace of psi talent.

Long story short, they sold my indenture to the Bureau of Alien Affairs.

I mean, come on. Me? Visiting newly discovered planets, hobnobbing with primitive aliens and eating Zin knows what, trudging through uncharted wilderness?

I am not a nature girl by any stretch of the imagination. I hate being dirty and hate animals. The thought of tramping through undisciplined flora where bugs abound makes me nauseous.

And yet, here I was, after completing months of grueling physical retraining—that I was amazingly good at, to my surprise—on my way to a meeting with Dr. Daniels, head of the Bureau of Alien Affairs, to receive my first assignment as their newest and best-groomed agent.

Yes, life sucks, and it’s all Kiera Smith’s fault. My only consolation is that I now know fifty-six ways to kill with one finger if someone pisses me off. Believe me; in my current mood, I’m not only dangerous, I could do it without batting an eyelash.

With a sigh, I stopped outside an ornately carved door of real wood bearing a discreet gold plaque engraved with Dr. Daniels’s name, and rapped sharply three times.

“Come in,” a voice called, muffled by the door’s thickness.

Grasping the handle, I shoved the door open and stalked inside. I’d expected to work myself through at least three layers of secretaries before actually reaching Dr. Daniels, and then being made to wait for at least thirty minutes, all of which was standard procedure for the Department of Protocol. Instead, I entered a homey, comfortable, medium-sized office with plush, well-used furniture in muted colors. But I didn’t let on like I was surprised. Instead I focused on the person who rose to his feet at my entry.

Dr. Jordan Daniels was an imposing man, tall and lean and nice-looking, despite his advanced cycles and silvered hair. There was a twinkle in his blue eyes that made me wary, like he knew something the rest of us mortals weren’t privy to.

I’d seen him before, although never up close and personal. About a month after my retraining started, I noticed he occasionally showed up and watched whenever I was working on my new and improved bloodletting skills. And it always unnerved me. Which made me even more upset than I already was.

Why was I being singled out, and why did I care?

Since none of the other newly acquired Gertz GEPs got an audience with the boss, I suspected I was about to find out the answer to the first part of that question.

He gestured to a chair across the desk. “Agent Adams. Please, have a seat. I’m glad we have this opportunity to chat.”

I sat and fussily smoothed the lines of the vegan silk business suit I’d chosen for this meeting. Not only did the brilliant red color complement my dark hair, but it also made me feel powerful.

When I was as comfortable as possible, I looked up and arched a brow at him. “I was ordered to this meeting. Don’t try to make it sound like an afternoon tea with someone’s great-aunt.”

With a chuckle, he resumed his own seat. “Quite right, Agent Adams. You were ordered here. So, shall we get on with it?”

He shuffled through a stack of electronic papers that were in front of him and pulled one from the pile. “Here we are.” Leaning back in his chair, he studied the data and then peered at me over the top of the sheet.

“Did you know that you tested higher for psi ability than anyone we’ve recruited since Kiera Smith was first tested?”

Shock ran through me, tinged with fear. Instantly I shook my head. “Your machine must be broken. I don’t have any psi ability.”

“You were tested three times just to be sure, and a different machine was used each time. They can’t all be broken.”

“Then someone fudged the results,” I snapped. “Don’t you think I’d have noticed if I could read minds, or move objects without touching them, or see the future? I can’t even pick up emotions like your precious Kiera Smith does. It isn’t happening and it’s not going to ever happen.”

He arched a brow at my vehemence as he replaced the data sheet on the desk. “Yes, I’m well aware of your supposed deficiencies in the psi area, as well as your aversion to having an ability. But we don’t always get what we want, and what’s intriguing in your case is that the testing devices couldn’t pinpoint where your psi talent lies. Apparently, they’ve never encountered anything like it before, and so have no way of extrapolating what it might be.”

“Well, there you go,” I harrumphed. “If we don’t know what it is and I can’t use it, then for all intents, I don’t have one and we can forget the whole thing.”

“Not quite. I’m hoping we can get a clue about your talent today.” He stood and pushed his chair back. “If you’ll follow me, we’ll get started.”

I rose gracefully and trailed him to the door, taking the opportunity while his back was turned to run my fingers through my long, thick hair, assuring myself that every strand was in its correct position. After all, I’d spent a whole five minutes in the styler this morning, taming the unruly locks into their current sleek shape and I didn’t want them reverting to form at the wrong time. “Where are we going?”

“Just down the hall.”

Unlike his office, the room we walked to was heavily fortified and required a prolonged scan of his biochip before the heavy metal plating swung inward to allow us entry.

Biochips are the height of technology when it comes to identification. DNA can be faked, retinal patterns copied, and fingerprints altered, but the microprocessors that are implanted at birth on Centaurius, for both Naturals and GEPs, are unique to the individual. They record every physical aspect of our lives so no two are alike, and if a person dies or the chip is removed, it self-destructs and therefore can’t be stolen. They can’t be replicated because there’s no way to make a fake chip match the real one. Our entire lives, including medical records, buying history, and available credits are on those tiny pieces of silicone. Only agents lack the chip, for security reasons. The Federation can’t have potential spies running around with their ID showing after all.

I surreptitiously rubbed my arm where the chip had once been, feeling naked and alone without it, then forced myself to concentrate on the here and now. Stepping aside, Dr. Daniels waved me through ahead of him.

“I don’t understand,” I said, uneasily eyeing the rows and
rows of display cases filled with quartz of every imaginable shape and hue. “I mean, I know they’re Orpheus crystals, but how are they going to tell you what my psi talent is?”

Dr. Daniels closed the door behind him before he answered. “We’ve come to realize that certain colors attract certain types of psi abilities. If you’ve read Kiera’s journal, you’ll know that Claudia Karle chose a green stone, even though she was never very fond of the color. Since then we’ve learned that particular shade of green is linked to a spatial psi talent. Which makes sense when you consider Claudia’s chosen profession was mapping.”

I looked dubiously at the rocks spread around the room. “What am I supposed to do? Whistle and hope one of them comes running?”

His lips twitched once before he schooled his expression and folded his arms across his chest. “Why don’t you walk slowly down the rows and see if you feel drawn to one?”

“Can I touch them?”

“If you wish.”

Okay, I could do this. Maybe when nothing happened, he’d accept the fact that there had been some kind of mistake on my psi test and leave me alone.

I started down the first row, trying my best to concentrate on the stones. Unfortunately, a low-pitched vibration coming from an ugly metal box standing alone in the corner made that hard to do. Why couldn’t they turn the fragging thing off for a second?

A quick glance at Dr. Daniels showed me he was paying no attention to the annoying buzz. Well, if he could stand it, so could I.

Pausing halfway down the first aisle, I picked up a royal-blue stone and turned it in my fingers. The color was fantastic and would set off my lightly tanned skin, but I felt no urge to keep it. I put it back and clenched my jaw at the
noise coming from the box. Was it my imagination, or was the damn thing getting louder?

I strolled to the end of the aisle, my Lista Bergen pumps clicking on the marble floor, and then stopped. This was ridiculous. How could anyone expect me to concentrate under these conditions? Why, that sound was actually making my teeth hurt!

“Look,” I called to Dr. Daniels, my voice echoing in the big room. “I’m not trying to tell you your business, but you really might want to get a mech in here to check that machine. It’s obviously broken.”

He stiffened. It was such a slight move most GEPs would have missed it. But having spent my entire life working with Naturals, I’m real good at noticing the minutest change in body language.

“What machine?” he asked.

“The metal one, over in the corner.” I pointed. “If it keeps making that Zin-awful noise it could shatter all the crystals in this room.”

He stared at me for a second, and then lifted a hand to wearily rub his forehead. “I was afraid of this.”

“Afraid of what? Don’t tell me it’s about to blow up or something.” I glanced down at my suit. If it got ruined I’d never forgive him. Even on sale it had cost me an arm and a leg.

Ignoring me, he went to a wall-mounted comm unit and pushed a button. “My dear, could you join me? I’m next door in the crystal room. It appears my suspicions were correct. We’ve found the one we were looking for.”

Who? Me? “They” were looking for me? It wasn’t like I’d been hiding, or anything. Dr. Daniels had certainly known where I was located when he ordered me to this meeting. I checked the rest of the room to see if there was someone I hadn’t noticed hiding behind a display case.

Nope, we were alone.

Across the room a recessed door slid open and the most gorgeous creature I’d ever seen stepped through. She was long, lean, and lush, with tanned skin and a thick blonde braid that hung to her waist. And she was half naked.

I didn’t blame her. If I looked like that, I’d run around naked, too.

Deep emerald eyes swept over me, and I instantly felt dowdy and uncomfortable. The second I got back to my quarters, I was going to burn this scritching suit.

Apparently dismissing me as unworthy, she turned her attention to Dr. Daniels. “You don’t mind if I leave the door open, do you? Thor is in a meeting, and Crigo is useless when it comes to corralling Teeah.”

A movement from the other room drew my gaze while she spoke, and my jaw dropped. Inside was the biggest fragging rock cat I’d ever seen. He was sprawled languidly in the middle of the floor with a black-haired toddler crawling all over him.

BOOK: Close Contact
6.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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