By Nina M. Osier
Survey Team Leader Nora Falconi's closest friend, anthropologist Marcus Cranshaw, has disappeared on Class M Planet No. 8055. Nora must find and rescue him before a long-awaited treaty takes effect, and 8055 becomes part of Ast territory.
ISBN 1-59431-113-7 Science Fiction/Futuristic Romance
Cover Art/Maggie Dix
Also available in RTF and HTML formats.
"You can get out of here now, Rudy. No need to hang around, and have both of us in trouble if this goes bad."
When I said that to Technical Specialist Tasker, I wasn't a bit sure whether he would take me up on the offer or not. But I owed it to him, to give him an out; bringing me, his team leader, down in one of the Ishtar's shuttles didn't guarantee he'd get charged with breaking regulations. He could claim I'd given him a direct order, after all.
I wouldn't be able to make such a claim. I knew what I was doing from the second I began planning this little expedition, and I couldn't even bother to pretend otherwise.
It didn't matter. Either I would come back with my missing team member, my stray lamb as it were; or I wouldn't come back at all, and in either case the consequences of my actions would be mine to suffer.
But Tasker deserved an out, and I was going to give it to him if he wanted it. He stood there staring at me, both of us with our boots crushing the clearing's grass and sending up sharp aromas in the predawn mists, and I could just barely see his face as this world's sun tried to break through and reach us.
He looked so young. Just a kid, with dusky brown skin that hadn't a line on it yet--with big eyes, and full lips that trembled a bit even though he was trying to hide his feelings as young males always think they must.
Why hasn't that changed, in all the hundreds of years since humankind moved outward from Sol?
But maybe it's got nothing to do with gender, after all. Because now that I think about it, I used to try to appear totally calm, too, when I was Tasker's age.
That was a long time ago.
"How were you going to get back to the ship, ma'am?" Tasker asked me, with just a hint of a much older man's wry humor glinting in his dark brown eyes. "If I was gonna leave you here, I mean."
He was staying, and although I'd felt duty-bound to offer him an honorable escape I was only going to do that once. Because the truth was, I was going to need him in order to complete my self-assigned mission.
Even with him, I probably didn't stand much of a chance; but I was doing what I had to do. A team leader doesn't abandon one of her own, not for any power in the whole universe.
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