Once a month the Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors showcase snippets from new work, WIPs, cover reveals or other fun things. The link is here for all the participants.
“I swear, you know as much as I do.” She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Drewson was boning Pirankai in the private cabin when I got to the shuttle, coms off, so if there were any bulletins, he missed them.”
“Idiot.” Red retreated a step or two, eyeing the door. “Well, nothing for it.”
“Are you going to break it down?”
Eyebrows raised, he gave her a glance. “Thanks for the compliment but it’d take a battle robo to get through this storm portal by brute force.”
He stepped to the keypad, flipping open the cover, and entered a series of numbers and symbols so rapidly she had no idea what the sequence might be.
“You’ve been here before?” Meg asked.
He shook his head. “Special Forces, Team Twelve. We each have a special access code enabling our entry into any door, ship, vault, or facility in the Sectors.”
The storm door jerked away from the threshold and then began to roll into the roof recess. The window shutters on all four sides of the building followed suit a moment later. Meg knew her mouth was hanging open. Biting her lip, she tried to make sense of this new information. “You’re on active military duty, but working as crew on a charter ship? Are you undercover or something?”
“Retired. Wasn’t sure my code would work, but we have a saying in the Teams—no one is ever completely released from service.” He grimaced. “Not until we die or the Mawreg have been erased from the Sectors. I should live so long.” He pushed the inner door open. “Let’s see what we have here. Stay behind me.”
The lights didn’t respond to voice command or their physical presence. “I guess the rangers powered down before departing. Shutters must be on auxiliary. I’ll have to check the situation out later,” he said, pausing on the threshold. “At least the windows let in enough ambient light for now.”
“How long do you think we’re going to be here?” Meg was disturbed by his mention of later.
“Depends on what the problem in orbit is.” He stopped, giving her a hard look. “Anything like this ever happen before?”
“No. Drewson is an idiot, but he’d never abandon us. And Captain Jonsle certainly won’t maroon us.”
“He may not have a choice. I don’t want to alarm you, but we could be in a bad situation here. I hope not, but just between the two of us, I’m not feeling too positive. Whatever spooked the TDJ captain into recalling his people had to be damn serious. I don’t want to alarm our passengers because panicked people are hard to handle. Drewson’s takeoff seems like the act of a panicked person.” He studied her face, the expression on his serious. “You’re not going to panic, are you?”
“Of course not.” She straightened her spine, irritated he would even ask.
He squeezed her shoulder. “Good. I didn’t think so. Stay here, let me check the rest of the place, and then we’ll bring Sharmali in.”
Moving so quietly she couldn’t hear his footsteps, Red left her. Meg sank onto the nearest chair, resting her head in her hands. If she and the people she was responsible for were in survival mode, even for a short time until someone sent help for them, she had to reprioritize her thoughts. By the time Red returned to the small lobby, she was on her feet, pacing, and making lists on her personal AI.
“Nothing left behind but the furniture as far as I can see,” Red reported brusquely. There’s a big conference room or maybe it’s a dining room, and a small kitchen, couple of offices.”
“Right. We’ll bring Sharmali in here, lay her on the couch. If you can’t get the power going, we can build a fire for tonight. The temperatures plummet after dark and the wind rises. There’s a fireplace in the conference room too, right?”
He nodded. “Plenty of wood stacked out back. We can do the rustic thing. Maybe the guests will enjoy the novelty of camping out tonight.”
“Hope so, as that’s their only choice. I think we leave the guests in blissful ignorance for now, until the Primary asks about missing the deadline for retrieval. It’ll dawn on them soon enough we’re marooned, if we truly are.” Meg checked his reaction. “Seem okay to you?”
His calm face betrayed nothing. “Yes, Ma’am. But eventually they’re going to get upset. Especially the Primary, Mr. Finchon. He has a short fuse.”
“He’s not in charge anymore, I am.” Meg dropped her AI into a handy pocket. “This is a survival situation and I’m the senior crew member.”
She half expected him to protest, but his eyebrows lifted in mock surprise and he agreed with enthusiasm. “Yes, you are. And I’m here to back you to the hilt.”
Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance.
Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.
But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised – the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.
Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?