A new 3013 Novella, just for you!
Happy Fall, Y'All!
Tasked with traveling to Xenthian to find an antidote for the infertility plaguing Earth’s women, Lieutenant Astrid Strong first has to find a way to get there. Recruiting a capable pilot with a reliable ship is easy. Realizing the hybrid brings desires to the surface she would rather keep buried, not so much.
But fate is a funny thing, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun it, can’t hide from it. Caught between a painful past and an uncertain future, she’s plagued with doubts and insecurities, and only time will tell if Kylir will be her curse…or her remedy.
“Let’s have it.” He sounded resigned, but also…disappointed.
“What’s your mom like?”
“I—” He stopped abruptly and snapped his mouth closed. His lips parted, and he tried again, only to stop just as suddenly.
“Come on,” she encouraged. “Tell me. What’s her name?”
Finally, the steel in his eyes softened, and the tension in his shoulders melted away. “Her name is Soira. She’s smart and funny, and she has the best laugh. She’s a bit of a neat freak, but a terrible cook. She packs too much every time she leaves home, and yet, she always forgets something important. She always sang to me when I was little, and she still makes me soup when I’m sick.”
Astrid smiled, and her eyes welled with unshed tears. “She sounds amazing.”
“What about your father?”
“Ah, I thought you said just one more question?”
She laughed. “It’s more like 1-B.”
“All right, then,” he allowed.
It took him much longer to gather his thoughts about his dad, which told her a lot right there. “Start with his name.”
That got a small smile out of him. “Kasar. He’s smart, like my mom, but more disciplined. He’s fluent in three languages, and he’s embarrassed by the fact that he needs a language converter for the others.” His expression turned thoughtful, indulgent. “He’s competitive, but he always lets my mom win—games, arguments, it doesn’t matter. Every time he contacts me, before he says goodbye, he always tells me he’s proud of me.”
There was no stopping the tears this time. “You’re very lucky.”
“I know.” Sitting up straighter in his seat, he cleared his throat. “What about you? Are you close with your parents?”
Astrid used the sleeves of the borrowed jacket to wipe her eyes as she shook her head. “Not really.”
She didn’t have memories of her mother singing to her, and she had very few recollections of her fathers at all. They spoke on occasion, and she saw them during holidays. They didn’t even know about the hell she’d been through with Henry, and if she did tell them, they would no doubt blame it on her for being so weak.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
It was nice of him to say, but her reality didn’t sadden her. “We don’t hate each other or anything. They didn’t dump me at the Academy and disappear like a lot of other parents.” That had to count for something. “We’re just not that close.”
She wasn’t close with anyone. She knew people, worked with them, but she wouldn’t call them friends. Maybe that was why no one had noticed when she’d had a personality transplant while under the influence of the xili drug. No one knew her well enough to tell the difference.
Either way, dwelling in the past wouldn’t change anything, and she didn’t want to talk about her family anymore. Time to change the subject.
“Okay, if anyone can engage the autopilot to get from point A to point B, why do I need a pilot to take me to Xenthian?”
“Well, the most obvious reason is that it’s not your vessel.” He winked at her. “Otherwise, there are a couple of reasons. First, in case something goes wrong or the autopilot fails. Second, because Xenthian doesn’t have automated docking bays, so someone—meaning me—will have to set us down outside of the citadel.”
“They don’t have docking bays? What about landing pads?”
“Nah, nothing like that. Well, not yet,” he added. “Just a big, grassy knoll.”
Astrid frowned. For some reason, she’d expected the Xenon to be much further along in their technological advances. “You know a lot about it. Have you been to Xenthian before?”
Swiveling back to the console, he dipped his head. “Just once.”
“Oh, good.” She’d done as much research as she could, but there still wasn’t much information on the race. “What’s the protocol when I meet Vasili Blackthorn?” She inched to the edge of her seat and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Do I offer my hand? Lower my head? Not make eye contact?”
To her surprise and annoyance, Kylir laughed. “You’re meeting a king, not a stray dog.”
Oh. Right. Point taken. “So, should I bow?” She’d never met a king before, but that was what people did in those old fairy tales. “Yeah, I should bow.”
“I think you should probably just take a deep breath and relax. The Vasera is a former elite, and she’ll likely be the one to greet you.”
Commander Ivy Dalton of the exploration vessel known as the Dreamweaver.Crash landed on Xenthian. Mated to the ruler of the planet. Now, Vasera Ivy Blackthorn. A star—and infertile human female—who had recently given birth to the first Xenon-human hybrid in recorded history after being miraculously healed by something extraordinary on the planet.
It was a mystery, a puzzle to be solved, and the sole purpose for Astrid’s journey. If she could cure the virus left over from the war with the Zyphir, maybe things would finally start to change on Earth. If she could reverse the disease that still rendered so many women barren, there would be no need for fertility testing. No need to mark little girls as special or lacking before they really even knew who they were.
If any woman could conceive, the importance placed on fertility would be null. The special few who bore the scroll tattoo wouldn’t have to worry that a pair of elites might claim them against their will. Parents wouldn’t sell off their daughters. People would bond because of love, not duty.
Eradicating the virus was only the catalyst, though, the start to finding a solution for the real problem. No matter how long it took, she wouldn’t quit. She wouldn’t give up. Failure was not an option.
“How long until we land?”
In answer, Kylir pointed through the wide window in front of them. “We’re here.” He didn’t look at her, but the corner of his mouth curled slightly. “Welcome to Xenthian.”