Authors: Pauline Baird Jones
Tags: #Sci Fi
By Pauline Baird Jones
Published by L&L Dreamspell
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Copyright 2012 by Pauline Baird Jones
All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright holder, except for brief quotations used in a review.
This is a work of fiction, and is produced from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real people is a coincidence. Places and things mentioned in this novel are used in a fictional manner.
Published by L & L Dreamspell
Produced in the United States of America
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* * * *
I’d like to thank both Lisa and Linda of L&L Dreamspell. Without them, you wouldn’t be reading this novel.
I’d also like to thank Ana Baird for her help in making this book possible.
I’d like to dedicate this book to my family, who have supported me through the ups and downs of getting this book done.
Ashe unhooked her munitions and strapped them together, while Lurch linked their timers.
We can’t afford a long count down.
Lurch knew that, but she thought it anyway. It kept her focused, helped keep panic almost at bay.
Using the last of the non-sentient drones, she anchored the bundle where—in theory—the main force of the time wave would strike. Lurch triggered the timer as she kicked away. First she felt the drag of the time tsunami and then the stream shuddered around her as if taking a blow from yet another source. The double hit stalled her thrust. She tried to angle sideways, tried going cross-stream, but instead of escaping, she was dragged toward one of the crevasses cutting jaggedly across time’s plain, pulled back into the path of the tsunami.
Dive into it.
For a second more she resisted the nanite’s suggestion, but there was no time to argue, no other option. It couldn’t get worse than the double hit—she relaxed, letting it suck her down, and found that it could get worse. Pressure, counter pressure and the drag from above yanked her in every direction. Only her time gear kept her semi-conscious and that wasn’t a blessing. On some level she sensed the wave gathering time into its giant fist. Counting down with the timer, she imagined the impact as wave met disrupter blast…
Tried to brace for the coming concussion.
Tried to dive deeper.
Expect the unexpected.
Ashe’s painful return to consciousness was not expected and shouldn’t have been. Why would she expect to survive a trifecta that included a time tsunami, their disrupter and a wonky time crevasse? Unless she hadn’t survived?
A long, scary long pause ended with the sense of something unfurling inside her, not unlike how it had felt when the nanite first blended with her.
Are you all right?
He felt as off balance as she did.
I am alive.
He did not feel thrilled by this. She shared that not-thrilled-ness. Should open her eyes, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to see where they were. It didn’t feel great. Hard, lumpy surface under. Hot, humid air over. Achy body in between. And, adding insult to time tsunami injury, the air reeked of sulfur and was thick enough to feel like a blanket she couldn’t kick off. She shifted to ease hard and lumpy—
Outrage popped her eyes open, though they probably shouldn’t until she got a better sense of who thought she was an it. The circle of faces looming over her jerked back, a thicket of weapons sliding into view. Would have been kind of funny if every barrel of every weapon weren’t pointed at her. Seven of them, she noted, hoping her math was wrong as she eased her hands up by her ears into the classic surrender position. Would they recognize or honor her capitulation?
On the ground, flat on her back—if she didn’t count the lumps—gave her a unique perspective on the boys and their guns. The weapons appeared high tech—an interesting contrast with their rustic garb. The boys were all young, square and stocky in build, kind of what she’d imagined dwarfs would be like, except they were too tall and had better noses.
Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy—
This is not the time.
Though she found herself finishing the list because she couldn’t help it when there seemed to be a face for each name…
Bashful, Doc, Grumpy and Happy
“It has eyes.”
It. Again. Their manners needed work, just in case the barrels in her face weren’t enough of a clue polite wasn’t in their skill set.
One of the boys licked his lips. “Do you think it’s dangerous?” His hand tightened on his weapon, the finger on the trigger twitching in a way she couldn’t like. Sucked to be called an “it,” though getting shot while being called an “it” would be worse.
Getting shot is worse than most things.
True. She’d picked a bad time to wake up.
“I do not know.”
The voice, calm and familiar, came from the region of her head.
Is that who I think it is?
Ashe did not mind the distraction from maybe getting shot by Dopey. And she’d rather hoped to run into him again.
Lurch sounded less than thrilled. Not a surprise. He had issues with Shan that trailed back into at least one alternate reality. Possibly more.
What’s his problem? I know he’s seen girls before.
You are wearing the Time Service uniform.
If her shields were offline, then so was her camo, which meant she looked shiny silver from head to toe. The suit’s compression factor made her a sex-less humanoid with eyes.
On a cracker.
The interjection almost made her eye twitch, though, on consideration, it rather fit.
Any idea where we are?
She felt his hesitation, felt a wave of panic slither through her insides.
You can’t connect?
Knowing everything was Lurch’s specialty. Sometimes that annoyed. This was not one of those times. She raised her chin, taking it slow, stopped when Shan came into view. Hard to figure out how she felt about this unexpected meeting with her head still spinning from her trip into, well, she wasn’t sure where they’d been or how they survived. She had no sense that Lurch’s databases had updated with current time data, which they should have as soon as they reintegrated with real time. Shan looked subtly different from their last meeting—which indicated the lack of update wasn’t because nothing had changed—while retaining those aspects she’d found a bit intriguing from their previous encounter on the planet of Kikk.
Ashe ignored this non-relevant interjection. She needed to study Shan as an aid to data collection, not because she liked looking at him. She ignored the internal and also non-relevant snort. The angle wasn’t optimal for a complete assessment of course, but generally he appeared to be as barbaric as she’d previously noted. She sensed he was more than he’d been before which was a bit wow, because he’d been pretty intense at their last contact. Tall and sharp featured with green eyes and dark hair, he exuded a bucket load of testosterone mixed with aggression that was a bit at odds with his stoic expression. The men of her time were more refined, more civilized. More boring. Apparently her hormones liked barbaric. And leather hugging broad shoulders, lean hips and long, strong legs. She took a minute to be sure. Yeah, all of her liked the leather.
Why are females of your species attracted to buccaneers in leather?
Lurch sounded more resigned than annoyed, which was a change. Because he refused to detail his issues with Shan, she couldn’t share them, though to be perfectly honest, even if he had she might not have shared them. She was a female of her species. And the leather was nice. She accessed Lurch’s information on buccaneers and could concur his definition fit Shan as well or better than hers. He was both rakish and swashbuckling. Had dangerous down pat, too.
Maybe I’m just relieved to find a familiar face.
They both knew she lied. Lurch knew exactly what effect Shan was having on her pulse, respiration and temperature—which he could have fixed if he weren’t in such a pissy mood. The thing was, she’d seen a lot of nice looking men traveling through time, but this was the first one to have any effect on her biologicals. Shan’s hands rested on weapons holstered at his narrow waist with a boldness that boosted those biologicals even more. She sighed. He buckled his swashes quite well.
You always did love armament.
Don’t love it when they are pointed at me.
Not when she had nothing to point back. A pity she’d needed to use every weapon she possessed in their time disrupter. She considered her situation for a couple of seconds and had to conclude that even her usual armament would not help much when she was flat on her back inside a pit of some kind. Lower than the low ground. Not in the same star system as the high ground. The weapon a few inches from her face wobbled and the boy’s finger tightened on the trigger.
Lower my headgear before he shoots me.
She had some slight hope that being a girl would help. It had in the past, or possibly the future, depending on where and when they were.
Also not responding
Of course it wasn’t. Be ironic if they survived all time almost ending only to be killed by this boy. She opened her mouth—the boy jerked in alarm.
“Don’t—” Shan snapped out.
Too little, too late. The energy beam hit her mid-section and with enough force to cross her eyes for several seconds. Would have knocked her on her ass if she hadn’t already been there. She whuffed a few times, trying to breathe again.
Your suit dispersed most of the charge across its surface, but you are fortunate it was set to stun.
Didn’t feel fortunate. Didn’t feel that dispersed. Ashe rubbed the spot. “That hurt.” A bit of a whine to the complaint, but she was a girl who’d just been shot. Whining seemed indicated and justified.
All the boys’ eyes widened and then her headgear decided now was the perfect time to retract. It triggered with a loud wheeze it hadn’t had before the tsunami ass kicking. While she didn’t mind the sudden flow of air around her neck, it should have stopped retracting just under her chin. It rolled down her chest on a path to over sharing, then stopped as abruptly as it started. Not that she felt cooler with the sun’s rays hitting her in her newly exposed areas.
She blinked, noting that all the weapons had lowered at same rate as her uniform. That was good. So had boy gazes. Not sure if that was good. Or if she wanted to know her level of exposure. Might be need-to-know. Ashe eased her chin down and took a quick peek. Could have been better. Could have been worse.
Didn’t realize I had a cleavage.
It is a combination of angle and compression from your uniform.
Trust Lurch to rain on her cleavage aspirations. The high sun—and seven sets of boy eyes—sent even more heat creeping up from that cleavage to spread across her face. She wasn’t sure if the over exposure helped or hurt her situation
. I thought you said it wasn’t working.
The energy surge seems to have powered the retraction function for a short time.
And if someone decides to shoot me again?
His silence wasn’t golden—not that it had ever been. Nor was his talking always that golden…
“Y-you speak our language,” the shooter said. His wide-eye gaze met hers, then trailed back down to the cleavage, a flush boosting the red in his ruddy coloring.
Keltinarian was among the billion or so languages at Lurch’s disposal—which put it at her disposal—so, yeah, technically she spoke his language. She half shrugged and the weapons lowered some more. Had a feeling their IQ’s did, too. Conflicted about that. Didn’t want to make them stupid enough to shoot her again, but it felt kind of empowering to cross their eyes like that. Almost as good as shooting them.
“I’d like to get up.” Lurch had eased as much discomfort as he could, but he wasn’t a pillow and neither was the ground with crap stabbing her in the back like a bad friend. Gravity had a good grip on her and the recent tsunami kicking had left them both depleted, so she was relieved when all the boys stepped toward her, hands reaching out—they jerked back like a row of puppets on strings. What—Shan stepped into view, his large, tanned hand extended. He looked mega-tall from her spot on the ground. Her eyes traced his well-made form without hurrying. So maybe the low ground had one bright spot—