Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Sci Fi, Paranormal, Romance, Shapeshifter
Table of Contents
Setting up orbital stations was lonely, but not a horrible occupation. Raine has spent years organizing computers and systems to work in harmony, but when she is sent to a spa to wait for her ride, she learns that work is not the only pleasure in life. Orell has waited for her for centuries and he is not going to let a little thing like a Terran obsession with work get in the way of him claiming his true mate. He will use every amenity at the spa to wear her down and then he will swoop in for the kill, so to speak. What is a little death amongst friends and lovers?
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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 © 2011 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
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A Terran Times Tale
Raine Burke ran a final check on the station and smiled. "Defence systems are up, life support is up, the tank is ready and medical is in great shape. This relay station is officially available for an occupant. Now, get me out of here."
Through the connections wired into her skull, she heard, "Excellent, Agent Burke. Your pickup has been delayed."
"Aw crap." She rubbed at her forehead as her voice echoed in the control room.
Her control officer asked, "Is there something wrong with the station?"
"No, yes. There is a creepy resonance in the station that I can't track down. I have checked every instrument and the harmonics on the station and the sound strikes every time I try to relax."
"I think it may be stress related. The chemicals in your mind have been ramped high while you got this station running. Take some time on the resort planet below while you wait for the warship to come by. It has been delayed by an emergency and it will be back as soon as it has dealt with the life-or-death situation to give you a ride back to the dispatch centre. We have set up a reservation for you and you can simply enjoy yourself for a change."
Raine looked out through one of the view screens at the blue and gold planet below. Yosh was a pretty planet, but it filled her with the same trepidation that the singing in her mind did.
"Is there another option, Control?"
"Nope. Take some time. Lie in the sun on the planet with nothing else on your mind. You need some time to yourself and this is the perfect moment. It won't count against a scheduled leave and you can work on that tan you are worried about."
Raine chuckled. "Will do, Control. I will be down on Yosh when the warship comes back to get me. Ping the shuttle or the resort when they are on their way."
The dispatch officer chuckled. "Will do. You look like hell, take some time and enjoy the sun and sand."
"You can't see me, how can you know what I am looking like these days?"
"I know how many hours you have worked in that station getting it operational. You have to look like hell. Now, don't get your implants wet." The chuckle was friendly, but the dismissal was absolute.
Whether she wanted to or not, Raine was going to land on Yosh and have fun. She just wished that the sight of the world below did not send a strange anticipation and dread through her simultaneously. Despite what the Alliance scans showed, there was something beneath her on that planet and it was waiting for her. She knew it with every inch of her body and she was going to have to go and face it.
"Well, no time like the present." She got to her feet and removed her couplings, stowing the wires after she removed them from the ports on her skull and neck. Raine twisted her head from side to side, sighing at the relief of pressure now that the electronics of the station were not being routed through her mind.
Whistling in the empty halls of a station that she had set up was a tradition. She shut down and locked up each corridor after double checking that it was ready for an occupant at the drop of a hat.
An early life organizing things around her down to the last napkin at a family gathering was the talent that had earned her a spot as a Volunteer. Who knew that being able to quantify and assess everything around her was a desirable trait?
The station was dead silent behind her when she finished--heat, light, air, everything was running at minimal levels. The station was stocked with water and rations and every amenity that the caretaker of the relay would need. It got very boring on these stations, so making the caretaker comfortable was in everyone's best interest.
Her ship waited for her, the
. It was her most faithful companion and contained everything she had been able to bring with her from Earth. It was only one duffel bag of items, but each one made her smile and held a specific place in her heart. She had chosen the items with the same care that she used for each aspect of her occupation.
She closed the door to the station carefully, sealed the hatch of the
and got behind the controls to do the flight checks. It took several minutes, but when she was satisfied that she was fit to fly, she keyed in the access code and the outer hatch of the station opened, expelling her ship with the burst of atmosphere that had been in the bay.
Once she floated free, Raine fired the engines and turned toward the planet. Enforced vacation or not, the Alliance was only going to look for her on the planet. If she wanted to connect with a jump ship at any point, she needed to be somewhere they could find her and that somewhere was Yosh.
She settled in orbit and did a few scans, looking for the landing site. The resort was very low key, a subtle environment on the most beautiful coastline of Yosh. The beacon lit the moment that she sent out a probe and it led her in toward the dubious relaxation of the resort.
"I can always cancel my reservation and move along." She chortled at the sound of her own voice, but she was already used to speaking to herself. After a brief introduction to Alliance protocols, she had been offered implants to bring her attention to detail to larger items, buildings and small stations. Being in company while she did her work had never been an option, so talking to herself became second nature. She was immensely amusing.
A peculiar hum settled in her mind and she shook her head, promising herself that she would have her implants overhauled at the earliest opportunity. The hum had been prevalent in her mind since she started work on the station, but it was the fact that it grew stronger every day that had her worried. If her implants were degrading, she was going to be in for a very uncomfortable time.
"Welcome to the Yosh Resort, Madam Burke. Please be welcome and comfortable." The graceful woman greeted Raine the moment that she opened the hatch of her shuttle. Two of her four arms placed a ring of flowers on Raine's head and the others reached for her duffel bag.
"I can carry my own bags."
"It is not necessary and it is the function of the bellhop to carry baggage. You travel very light compared with the guests we normally take on." The woman's smile on her lavender face was genuine.
Raine stepped down and turned to lock her shuttle, the heady scent of the floral crown surrounded her. The attendant carried the bag easily, so Raine shrugged and walked at her side.
"Do you have many guests?"
"Currently, there are approximately a dozen other guests here. High season does not resume for another two months."
"Ah. What is your name?"
"Heela of the Mordichai cluster." The woman's elaborate black coronet bobbed as she inclined her head.
Raine was wearing her hair in her customary ponytails on either side of her head. They left her ports open for jacking in at any time. She couldn't help but admire the detail in the braiding and smiled at the knowledge that Heela was a married woman with her husband on the planet.
The detail of the braids indicated social standing, marital status and spousal occupation.
"Your husband works here as well?"
The woman grinned at her. "Yes, he is the manager at the front desk. If you need anything, ask for Tvoro. He will sort you out or I will be loosening my braids."
Raine chuckled. "Is that an offer made to any guests?"
"No. Most of them believe that there are no physical means for their services, everything happens by magic. It is refreshing to work for someone who works for a living."
They cleared the private landing area and when they rounded the corner, a glowing palace of crystal hummed in the afternoon sun. "Welcome to the Yosh Resort and Spa."
Every inch of the facility was spotless. Pale grey marble lined the floor, flowers bloomed everywhere and fresh breezes blew through, bringing the sounds of nature in from the bay and the gardens in the centre of the complex.
A handsome man wearing the tight braids of a married Vendu greeted her at the desk. "Madam Burke, welcome to the Yosh Resort and Spa."
"Thank you, Tvoro."
Heela winked and nodded. "I will bring these to your room while you check in."
Chuckling, she asked Tvoro, "Why do I need to check in when you have already assigned me a room?"
"Ah, Madam Burke, it is so that I can acquaint you with the facilities and amenities of our facility. Please, come with me." The man waved two of his four arms as he exited from behind the desk.
Bemused, she followed him to an open office with windows facing the interior garden.
"Here at the--"
"Yosh Resort and Spa. Yes, please, get to the point. I am rather thirsty." She waved her hand in circles to speed his speech.
"Please forgive me. Of course, you must be tired from your journey." He pressed a discreet button on the table and in less than thirty seconds, a woman appeared with a pitcher of iced water with slices of citrus and a glass.
"It isn't that I am thirsty from the journey, I have just been spending quite a bit of time in space. Water isn't plentiful on rations."
He darkened to purple. "I forgot."
"Don't worry, Tvoro, I am the forgive-and-forget type." She took the glass he handed her and sighed happily as the liquid slid down her parched throat. "This place is truly lovely. Why haven't I heard of it before I was sent to set up the relay station?"
He looked down. "This is an expensive and exclusive resort. Few Alliance members can afford it."
She blushed this time. "Right. I forgot that I was allowed to come here due to political manoeuvring."
He looked surprised, his black eyes widened. "On the contrary, you were invited by our management."
That shocked her to her toes. "I was?"
"Of course. You have the prime guesthouse. We had to extract a few of our regular guests to make that happen, but management made it worth their while."
She wrapped some hair around her finger and furrowed her brow in confusion. "I don't understand. When was this done?"
"Three days ago. The management insisted on nothing but the best for you and that is what we provided." His chest puffed out in pride. "The resort provides round-the-clock room service. Whatever your species needs, we can provide. There are full spa treatments available and you need only call the front desk to book an aesthetician and they will be waiting when you reach the spa."
She smiled and imagined the list. She jumped as it appeared and formed itself into Alliance Common behind her eyes. Her implants were picking up on the lists and she blinked frantically to clear the vision.
"What is it, Madam Burke?"
"Raine, please. The signal that provides your menus and lists is similar to the one for my implants. I am seeing the impressive list of options across your face."
He paled and immediately brought out a data pad, made adjustments to the pervasive field, sending the signal to all of the outlets. "Is that better, Madam Raine?"
She sighed as the signal shifted. "Yes. Now, all I hear is the static of my implants and I see nothing abnormal."
"We haven't dealt with any altered guests, so pardon the frequency."
"Of course. Now, what other amenities do you have?"
He smiled and began to go over the pools and gardens as well as the dining room. "We have a charming dining room and bar for those guests who wish to mingle while they dine. You are more than welcome to join any party you wish."