Authors: D. R. Rosier
Author: D. R. Rosier
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Copyright 2015. This is a work of fiction. Names, Characters, Places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission.
Aide was launched from the Alion ship along with five of her sisters as it was hit by plasma bolts from the thirty surrounding Sthellan scout ships. Aide estimated a .0005 percent chance of survival for the ship and waited patiently for .04 seconds for the outcome. She felt nothing as the ship, and forty six Alion beings died in a large explosion of fire. She merely made note of it in her storage array.
The enemy scout ships fired at her and her five sisters, intent on catching them before they went to FTL speeds. She estimated they had a .5 percent chance of escape. She and her sisters were being launched to locations of probable civilizations, looking for allies in this war. This was in a last ditch effort in case the Alion ship couldn’t do so in person in case of disaster or enemy attack. She noted that three of her sisters had been destroyed. Ten of the vessels locked onto her, and she still had 4.2 seconds before the FTL field would surround her miniature vehicle and exit normal space.
Her chance of escape was now .04 percent, and she noted that her last sister was destroyed. The enemy fired on her position but in an unforeseen million to one chance, one of the shield generators from her mother ship passed, still with an active plasma charge, at the exact moment the enemy’s plasma reached for her small ship. The plasma exploded on impact with the shield which blinded all of Aide’s sensors along with the enemy’s for 2.3 seconds.
She started immediate diagnostics, not understanding how she could have missed that, she hadn’t calculated the possibility before it happened. A split second after the sensors cleared they fired again, but it was too late, she dropped into subspace and took off many times the speed of light. She noted they dropped into subspace to chase her, but at a significantly lower FTL velocity. She would reach her target just over two weeks before the thirty enemy scouts.
The target planet was far out on the galactic arm, an oxygen bearing planet, the third from a very young sun, only four billion years old. The chances for there being intelligent life was small, even smaller was the chance of finding an advanced civilization. That hardly mattered to Aide. She was an artificial intelligence designed to discern the state of things, and execute any number of options.
The Alion were desperate for allies against the Sthellan, so desperate there were some instances where full uplifting of the civilization was called for. The diagnostics came back and she repaired the error in her routines. She reached the target solar system and dropped out of FTL space, her ship took off at a good percentage of the speed of light. It would take three days to reach the third planet.
She noted two of the reaction drives failed just leaving one for her to slow down and achieve orbit. She ran diagnostics on her small ship; it was only one foot by three inches by six inches in size. It’s only function was to house and protect the microscopic AI named Aide.
Aide discovered she had .3 seconds before the third engine would fail. That left her plenty of time to map out all spatial and gravitation affects in the solar system and plot a course. With .12 seconds remaining she committed to her new route and activated the engine for .09 seconds.
There also seemed to be a power leak in the ship that was also drawing from her internal power. Aide estimated it would take three minutes longer than she had to replicate the nanites and perform the repair. Instead she isolated her systems from the ship, which would now crash land on the planet in four days. This would cut her lead back by a day, but she would still have thirteen days, twenty two hours, seven minutes, and forty five point zero two seconds to get this civilization ready for attack. Of course, that assumed she survived reentry, and found an appropriate power source quickly enough.
Unfortunately she estimated there was only a 3.5 percent chance of that happening.
Over the next two days she analyzed the radio signals coming from the planet. This was not good she decided, they were a paranoid and violent race. They also were too emotional; logic hardly guided their actions or decisions at all. That made them a possible future danger as well as a possible ally.
The full uplift protocols were cancelled, however there were other options. She didn’t have the emotions to care if anything happened to humanity, but her protocols were clear. The Sthellan would not be here if it were not for Alion. In the unlikely event she survived she would perform a partial uplift.
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The smoke from weapons fire and the dust from the vehicles made it virtually impossible to see anything. Sgt. Kris Miller, Special Forces, daren’t take his foot off the gas. He and his team had walked into a damned ambush thanks to the bad information from the intelligence branch. They were ten miles over the border engaged in covert-ops to free a few civilians from terrorist hands. Someone had screwed up because they’d been ambushed and he’d lost half his team in the opening shots and had been pinned down by intense crossfire.
They’d made judicious use of their grenades, liberated this jeep from the enemy, and had given up on any stealth as they tried to pull out. It was a major cluster fuck and he was pretty sure they were dead men. Even if they lived he’d be screwed, covert-ops didn’t exactly mean run the border. The dust and smoke cleared as the enemy stopped trying to shell the jeep and the border came in sight, his eyes widened at what he saw.
“RPG!” he screamed.
Tony was shot earlier, but he was still alert and took aim at the threat. A moment later the enemy holding the RPG went down with a hole in center mass. Tony continued to lay down cover fire as they approached the border, keeping the enemy from claiming the weapon. But the border guards all still had rifles and opened up on the jeep.
They tried to keep their heads down when they got close, Tony was squeezing off rounds blind to try and keep them pinned long enough to get through. Kris flinched when he felt the blood spray hit the right side of his face and heard the splintering of bone. He glanced over and saw Tony, his eyes wide and a hole between his eyes as he crashed through the gate.
Kris was in shock, it had been bad intelligence, but it was his fault, his leadership that got his whole team killed. He heard the whistle of air a split second before the RPG hit the back of the stolen jeep. The back flipped up and forward and the jeep flipped at an angle and rolled. He felt a sharp pain in his back that hurt more than anything he’d ever felt before and he was knocked out cold as his head hit the steering wheel…
He woke up in a cold sweat. The dream was familiar, he’d been having it every night for two months now. He’d expected backlash for such a colossal mistake, someone had to take the blame after all. But that hadn’t happened, the mission was hushed up and buried. Even the terrorists didn’t advertise, they must have been embarrassed he’d escaped.
He’d gotten a purple heart and a one way ticket to the states via honorable discharge. He’d taken shrapnel from the RPG that tore up his back and he had some nerve damage. He was lucky he wasn’t completely paralyzed, but he’d never be at a hundred percent again.
He had about 60% mobility and it wasn’t expected to get any better, but he ignored that and pushed hard in rehab. He’d be the best he could be, but in the civilian world now. The doctors all thought he was in denial, but he wouldn’t hear it. He had to get better than this, he could barely walk without a cane but he wouldn’t quit.
If he had to he’d make that sixty percent work forty percent harder. Even he knew it didn’t work that way, but it wouldn’t change his mind. He was stubborn and determined.
He was twenty six, had joined the army at nineteen when tragedy struck. It wasn’t violent what happened to his family. It had been horribly silent and peaceful as carbon monoxide took his younger sister and parents in their sleep while he was out camping in the mountains. He couldn’t deal with it or face staying at the horse ranch that he suddenly owned.
He’d gotten someone to run the place and took off as fast as he could and joined the military. Now he had no choice, he wasn’t good enough anymore to serve his country. After all, he was just half a man now. Plus, he’d lost another family now, his team. He had done his first four years in the Army and signed on for another when his time was up, but now it was time to go home.
He was wearing his uniform when he left the base hospital in Germany where he had recovered the last two months. It was all he had to wear as he hopped a military flight to the states. He was both excited to be going home, and intimidated to meet his old friends as he was now, he didn’t want to look… weak.
Stacey was his closest neighbor and he hadn’t been home in seven years. She had been best friends with his sister Claire who had been three years younger than him. He wasn’t sure why, maybe the shared loss, but he’d been writing to Stacey at least once a month since he left. She had surprised him with that first letter she’d sent to him, and wrote him at least as often as he wrote her. They’d kept in touch despite him running away from his old life.
They’d never been really close, but back when he was nineteen three years was a huge gap, and she’d been his sister’s friend, but they had talked on occasion. He remembered her clearly being cute and adorable when he left. She’d been in the process of growing curves but had some baby fat left. He supposed they kept in touch because of the shared loss of Claire. She’d be picking him up at the base, he tried to talk her out of it but she’d insisted on it both in e-mail and on the phone.
They hadn’t been close back when he left, but now that was no longer the truth. He hadn’t seen her in years, yet he counted her as one of his best friends.
Tony was the manager of his ranch. He was the most reliable hand when he’d taken off, and despite any misgivings the ranch had managed to stay in the black the last seven years, so he had no complaints. Tony’s wife Terry also worked there, doing the books. There were two other hands that he didn’t know all too well, that were hired after he left but he’d seen around in town on occasion.
From everything he could tell Bill and John were hard workers. They were older, late forties, and had one of those iron work ethics. They were all good people, and despite going home he had no intention of replacing or firing anyone, especially when he didn’t have his full range of motion or strength. There was no doubt he’d need the help.
The flight was quiet and he thought about his team and all they’d done together over the last couple of years. He could hardly believe they were gone even two months later and felt his mood sour as the plane started its descent.
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His first thought as he laid his eyes on Stacey was that she was no longer cute and adorable. Then his thoughts cut off all together as she practically tackled him and he had to concentrate on not falling backward.
He growled, “Easy Stacey, try not to knock me over.”
She kissed his cheek, “It’s so good to see you,” as she squeezed him hard.
He frowned and pushed her back a little as he felt his body respond. She wasn’t cute and adorable anymore. She’d turned voluptuous and oozed an innocent sex appeal without even trying. She wasn’t dressed in anything revealing, just a pair of jeans and shirt that hugged her curves, but she looked very good in it.
She wasn’t big, but she wasn’t a stick either, her body was very curvy and in just the right places. She had dark raven hair and green eyes. She was just plain hot now. He couldn’t help but stare for a second.
He wanted to flog himself as her face fell when he pushed her away. And not because she was hot, because they’d shared a lot in the letters. She was very important to him.
“It’s good to see you too, but I’m a bit fragile yet,” and he pulled her back into another hug. Her body fit against his a little too well and his mind screamed at him that it was his friend, his sister’s friend, and his libido better back up a bit. His body seemed to have other ideas and completely ignored him.
She said in his ear, “I’m glad you’re home. You ready… to go I mean,” she added archly.
She stepped back and winked at him, obviously she’d felt his response. He was relieved she didn’t seem to mind, but the flirting double entendre had shocked him. She wasn’t at all how he remembered her. Not that he was complaining.
He returned her smile, “I suppose I am. Lead the way.”
After a moment he asked, “You hungry?”
She nodded, “I’d love to get dinner with you, but Tony would kill me. He’s got dinner on and they’re all wanting to see you, should be ready by the time we get back.”
He replied, “Some other time then?”
She smiled and said, “It’s a date.”
It is? Despite the reaction he’d had to her he was still thinking of her as a friend. His little sister’s old friend, not…
Not what? He wasn’t sure exactly. He wasn’t sure he was… ready for a relationship. He thought she deserved more than half a man, more than him. He almost groaned as she beamed a smile at him that made a certain part of his anatomy jump. Apparently she wasn’t on the same page he was.
He felt a little awkward at first because of the conflicting thoughts, but after a few minutes he relaxed as Stacey drew him out. By the time they were close to his home he’d convinced himself they were just friends, and his reactions had been a mix of pure chemistry, and the fact he hadn’t been with a woman for quite some time. Surely that was all it was, she couldn’t possibly be interested in him that way.
It felt strange as they drove to his ranch, the mountains weren’t just beautiful, they were inviting, they were the home he grew up in and he found himself even more relaxed despite the bad memories. When they pulled up Stacey jumped out and grabbed his bag from the trunk. He was going to object that he wasn’t a cripple, but the look she gave him practically dared him to make an issue of it.
He frowned; both pissed off and a little turned on by the challenge. But his leg was hurting and he didn’t want to argue about it. She’d just picked him up and was one of the closest people that he had left. He wasn’t going to let it become a habit however.
They walked up and he felt like he should knock even though it was his own house. It would take time to get used to that he decided.
Stacey either didn’t notice his hesitation or ignored it as she pushed the door open and walked in.
“I’ll put this in your room,” and she walked away.
“Thanks,” he said grudgingly as his eyes roamed down her back.
He heard Tony’s voice, “Get in here and take a seat, dinner is ready!”
He started guiltily and reluctantly looked away from Stacey’s ass shaking back and forth, while she walked away, and headed for the kitchen.
“Hey Tony, good to see you,” he said a little stiffly and held out his hand.
Tony snorted and pulled him into a man hug, slapping his back a couple of times, “Good to see you too, about time you came home.”
There was an awkward silence as Kris’s face darkened, he couldn’t help but remember the screams of his team. Why he had come home and why he couldn’t have stayed back there.
Tony cleared his throat, “Sorry, but it is good to see you home. You know Terry of course, this is Bill and John.”
His scowl disappeared as he studied Terry, who looked to be pregnant.
“Congrats you two.”
He gave Terry a hug in greeting, then nodded politely to Bill and John. He felt a little overwhelmed, but tried to keep the smile on his face as he took a seat at the head of the table. It was a strange place to sit. It was his home but he hadn’t been there for seven years. He knew it was ridiculous but in the back of his mind he kept expecting his father to walk through the door and tell him to get out of his chair.
Terry said, “I cleared us out of the master bedroom, got clean sheets on the bed.”
Kris frowned, “You didn’t have to do that, you two need the space.”
Terry said stubbornly, “Nonsense, it’s your house. We’ll be fine, the house is more than big enough.”
That was true, the house had five bedrooms, and the master bedroom wasn’t much bigger than the one they moved into. It only lacked its own bathroom. It still felt odd to him though. He may have owned it, but he wasn’t sure exactly what his place was here. Tony had done such a good job running the place, he’d have to take things slow and figure out what he wanted to do. Or to be more honest, what he was capable of doing.
He couldn’t help but smile when Stacey came in and he noticed Terry giving him a speculative look. Once she sat they all dug in. It was quiet for the most part as they as they all focused on eating. He went back for seconds on almost everything.
“Terry, this is fantastic.”
Terry smiled, “Thanks Kris, glad you’re enjoying it.”
After dinner they had some pie and coffee and talked a little bit about the business. He decided in the beginning he didn’t need to be doing any one thing. He intended to learn the books from Stacey, the rest he already knew having grown up here, but he’d just pitch in where and for how long he could help. When Stacey said it was time for her to get going he walked her outside, she surprised him by heading for the stable.
He asked, “You didn’t drive here?”
She laughed lightly, “No, that was Tony’s car, I rode over.”
He nodded thoughtfully. They used to do that all the time growing up. The ranches were about two miles apart by horse trail, but a good six miles taking roads on a very roundabout and twisted road.
He watched as she saddled her horse and wondered what she was thinking about. He had watched her over dinner and caught the looks and clues that showed him she really did want more. It had come as something of a shock to him. He was twenty six, she was twenty three so there was no problem there anymore. But he was just having trouble wrapping his head around it.
She was gorgeous and an amazing woman, why’d she want him? He wasn’t a bad guy, but he couldn’t figure out why she was single, and why she’d traded mail with him so faithfully over the last seven years. Was there really more there?
She gave him another hug and kissed him on the cheek, this time his body didn’t betray him although he still enjoyed the feel of her against him, too much.
She said with a hint of annoyance, “So, when did you want to get together for dinner?”
He could tell she had expected him to go for the close on their date and wasn’t happy he hadn’t yet.
He froze. He could respond immediately to bullets and artillery, but her heated gaze and the expectation in her eyes had him frozen on the spot.
He cleared his throat, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I’m…” and he trailed off into silence.
He wasn’t quite sure what he was asking about. A date? Or was it more than that?
She said coldly, “I guess not, welcome home,” and she moved her horse outside and headed for the trail.
He watched her go as a sick feeling grew in his stomach. It was all too fast, a few hours ago he’d have sworn they were just close friends. He’d thought of her as a sister almost, but as he watched her go off on the trail he felt like a damned fool. Was it really that? Or was he just feeling sorry for himself. He hobbled back to the house deep in thought…