Ilandra (Leisure Planet 1)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2017 Alice Gaines
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Captain Samuel Mayfair would have aborted this disastrous exploratory mission and taken the entire squad back to the ship if his damned com-unit had worked. But the device had gone dead right after he’d realized most of his crewmates were missing, and his navi-unit showed every direction pointing toward the planet’s north pole so he couldn’t even tell where the hell he was. To top all of that off, the only member of the squad who did remain was the one person of the hundreds on the Stargazer who got under his skin with almost everything coming out of her mouth.
Dr. Ilandra Veran, his Sensitive Officer, didn’t seem the least bit phased by the situation. Instead, she’d affected her usual posture of pseudo-tranquility with her closed eyes and even breathing. Getting in touch with something’s vibrations probably, even though they were the only sentient creatures here — at least to the best of his knowledge. His intruder detector didn’t work, either.
And what a weird-ass place this was. Not a building in sight, just vegetation. Trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses. Veran called it “lush,” he called it green overload, city rat that he was. At least, his weapon seemed to function. He discharged it at a rock where the contact made a satisfying hiss and sent off a blast of heat.
The noise got the good doctor’s attention, finally, because she jumped and plastered her hand over her heart. “Did you have to do that… sir?”
He could call her on lack of deference to his authority, but to be fair, he shouldn’t enjoy startling her. “I wanted to see if any of my equipment worked… Doctor.”
She reached to her belt and turned on her matter-analyzer. All the right lights and noises went off. “This seems fine.”
“Good thing. If we can’t get the hell off this dismal planet soon we may have to find something we can eat,” he said.
“It’s not dismal at all, sir.”
He glanced around. The place was what lots of people would call lovely, if you liked that sort of thing. He’d had little experience with anything other than the depths of the metropolis he’d grown up in. The climate here was warm enough but not too hot, and the air hadn’t been recycled a dozen or more times. They were supposed to explore, but they’d accomplish nothing without communication with the ship.
“I suppose you like it here,” he said.
“I don’t want to be stranded, and the rest of the squad disappeared,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish for any of that.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Do I hear a ‘but’ at the end of your assessment?”
“Overall, I get a feeling of benevolence from this place,” she said. “There’s a definite hum. Kind of a silent planetary song.”
It was exactly that sort of statement that made him grind his rear teeth. If planets could sing, which they couldn’t, how would their song be silent? Sensitive Officers were all the rage with the chain of command higher than his pay scale. And he had to admit there was some evidence they had creative ways of processing information more hardheaded types, like himself, didn’t possess. So, he’d ended up with Ilandra Veran, PhD. And now she was staring at him with the expression saying she knew he didn’t believe a damned thing she said and she didn’t care. She didn’t have to care. He couldn’t fire her. If he’d had to end up stranded on an uninhabited planet with someone, why did the person have to be her?
Sure, she was easy to look at. Tall enough for her nose to come up to his chin, and with dark, wavy hair tumbling over her shoulders. She filled out her uniform in all the places that said “female,” and her lips looked uncomfortably kissable. And yeah, he’d had more than one hot fantasy about her, during which she’d remained silent. But the light of irritation in her green eyes kept her from being too attractive to resist. The feeling was mutual.
“Do you have any sense…” He put more emphasis on the last word than necessary. “… about what happened to the others?”
* * *
Miranda (Leisure Planet 2)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2017 Alice Gaines
Of all people to be stranded on a new planet with, Dr. Miranda Blake had to end up with the only two crewmates in the landing party who’d decided to snipe at each other — constantly and for no good reason. Ashe Gardner made most of the obviously aggressive remarks, but Ryan O’Malley countered with responses that on the surface might sound conciliatory. In reality, they were subtle digs, which only angered Ashe more. She was going to have to find a way to get them to stop the horseshit and cooperate so they could work together to find a way back to the rest of the crew.
But right now, she was a lot more interested in why the geology of this planet made no sense at all.
“If we’d followed protocol, we wouldn’t have gotten separated from the rest of the party,” Ashe said. He stared at Ryan the entire time, plainly indicating he knew who’d failed to follow protocol, and it wasn’t him.
“I did follow protocol,” Ryan answered. “And I’m sure you did, too.”
“You’re not accusing Dr. Blake of endangering us, I hope,” Ashe said.
“Miranda,” she corrected. “No need to stand on rank. And no one did anything wrong.”
She sat on a downed tree that lay incongruously in the middle of a field. No point standing if you weren’t going anywhere. She plucked a blade of grass and twirled it between her thumb and forefinger for lack of anything better to do.
“We must have failed somehow, or we wouldn’t have lost the captain and the rest,” Ashe said.
“Sometimes things just happen,” Miranda said. “And will you two sit down for a minute? You’re making me tense.”
Ryan sat first, of course, demonstrating that he at least wanted to cooperate. If you could call a man truly beautiful, the word would describe him. His strong jaw set off features that might otherwise seem feminine. Deep green eyes contrasted with the rich auburn of his hair, and his lush mouth whispered possibilities of sin. Right now, his lips were curled in a smile. She’d been staring… again… and he’d noticed.
“Come on, Ashe,” she said. “Humor me.”
Ashe grumbled, but he finally sat. Now the only two members of the security force were on either side of her, meaning the rest of the crew was unprotected other than their own abilities to defend themselves.
“Let’s assess systematically what our situation is,” she said.
“Right.” Ashe blew out a breath, perhaps calming himself so he could do his damned job. He was also a striking man, although no one would call him beautiful. His nearly black hair came to a widow’s peak over piercing blue eyes. High cheekbones made him appear fierce even with his features at rest. Right now, he was still scowling.
“Our weapons work,” Ashe said. “Our com-units don’t.”
“No shelter, and only the few rations we’re carrying,” Ryan said. “We’ll need to find water soon and some protection from the elements.”
“Luckily, the elements seem pretty easy to take,” Miranda said. In fact, this planet felt and looked like a paradise. The single sun warmed them but not to the point of overheating. The mild breeze held no chill, and after long days and weeks breathing the recycled air in the ship, this seemed like perfume. Almost intoxicating.
“Whatever we do, stay together,” Ashe said.
Miranda looped her arms through those of each of the men. “I’m not losing either of you.”
That got her a grunt of approval from Ashe and one of Ryan’s dazzling smiles. Maybe getting stuck with these two could become tolerable. After all, as members of the security department, they’d each pledged to lay down their lives to protect the crew, if necessary. Nothing seemed threatening here… so far… but who knew what would happen if they couldn’t get in touch with the captain or the ship?
“Water first,” Ryan said. “Doc, have you seen any geological formations that suggest where we might look?”
“Not a clue. This is all just… “She gestured around them. “… flat. And the one interesting formation I did notice didn’t make sense.”
“Explain,” Ryan said.
“The rock outcropping back the way we came. It had sedimentary material in the middle of igneous strata,” she said.
“Care to translate that?” Ryan asked.
“Igneous is volcanic,” she said. “Sedimentary is the result of material like sand compressing and turning into rock. They don’t belong mixed up together.”
Both men simply looked at her.
“Come on. I’ll show you.” She rose and dusted off the back of her uniform. The action got Ryan looking at her ass. He’d checked her out before but subtly enough that she shouldn’t have realized it. Unfortunately, she noticed virtually everything he did. Why did he have to be so damned good-looking?
“Follow me,” she said as she started walking back the way they’d come. Both men caught up with her quickly, and soon she was surrounded by some of the nicest male flesh on the crew of the Stargazer…
* * *
Celia (Leisure Planet 3)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2017 Alice Gaines
They were separated from the rest of the exploratory party, out of communication with their ship, and flat-out lost, and the woman kept acting as if she’d won the Andromeda Prize and landed in paradise. Well, she was a gastronomist not a scientist, so what did you expect? As Chief of Engineering, Judd Elliott couldn’t afford to oooh and aaah about this plant or that. He couldn’t enjoy the fact this planet looked like a goddamn nature haven, minus the tourists. He had to get them rescued somehow. Only trouble was he understood machines and engines, and there wasn’t one in sight. Except for his com-unit, which was as dead as dead got. At least, his weapon worked.
So, he sat on a rock and watched Celia Lane go from plant to plant as if each one had a hidden treasure hidden on it or in it.
She stood near a small shrub, fingering a leaf. “This resembles an Earth nightshade.”
“How can you tell without your DNA analyzer?” he asked.
She shrugged. “You get used to the look of leaves. Definitely a nightshade.”
“Poison, right?” he said. “No thanks.”
“You just dismissed potatoes, tomatoes, peppers.” She thought for a minute. “And eggplant.”
“I don’t like eggplant.”
“Then, you haven’t had it cooked properly,” she said.
Her answer to any food someone didn’t want to eat. If she cooked it for you, it would taste good. He had to admit the food on the Stargazer got better after one of her scouting expeditions. Admit to himself, that was. If he gave her the satisfaction, she’d never let him forget she’d been right about something.
At least she was easy on the eyes. When loose, her hair hung down her back in a waterfall of platinum. Even when she wore it up, as she did now, strands worked their way loose to frame her face. Her pale skin made her dark eyes stand out. But her mouth was her most engaging feature — plush lips of a deep pink. Not that he spent enough time staring at them to notice.
Though her nose came hardly came up to his shoulder, the energy with which she moved made her seem larger than she was. She seemed everywhere at once, declaring whatever she discovered great or fabulous or delicious. All the while her eyes sparkled and dimples formed in her cheeks. Too cute for words. Her body wasn’t hard to take, either.
Which he really didn’t need to be thinking about when he had to get them back to the rest of their party or, failing that, to the ship.
“I’ll take a cutting of this.” She snipped off a small branch of the shrub with the knife she carried for that purpose and slipped the vegetation into a plastic specimen bag. “In a few months, we should have something delicious to eat.”
“Maybe we should find something to eat for the near future,” he said. “We can’t wait months for you to grow our dinner.”
“We’ll be back to the ship before that.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “And how do you know that?”
She straightened and gazed around. She had that I-must-be-in-Heaven expression on her face again. Serene. As if she weren’t on an unexplored planet with no food or shelter and no means of communicating with the Stargazer.
The weather might turn and freeze them to death. A predator might tear them apart and eat their innards. Some disease might wrack their bodies. Had any of that occurred to Lieutenant Celia Lane? Not that you could tell from the look on her face.
He rose. “We’d better start looking for some shelter.”
“What did you have in mind?” she asked.
“A cave would be nice, preferably near a source of water,” he answered. “We won’t survive long without that.”
“Very wise, Chief. I’m sure we’ll find something to eat, too.”
Nothing was sure in exploring new planets, but maybe she was too green to realize that. He might as well let her hope for the best while he kept an eye out for danger. He didn’t need a crying, frightened female on his hands. He had more important things to do… like… what? He was an engineer and used to having tools and equipment. This planet offered plants. Period.
Still, he pretended he knew where he was going as they walked off together. She kept up with him and for the most part stayed quiet. At least she didn’t chatter.
They crossed a field of high grasses, and she skimmed the tops of the plants with her palm as they plowed through. The planet’s lone sun warmed their shoulders. The place seemed pleasant enough, and having a woman beside him brought up memories of a time he’d done his best to forget. Things had started off well enough with Susan before she’d decided he wasn’t any fun and divorced him. Maybe she’d had a point.
Oh well, he shouldn’t be thinking about another of the ship’s officers in sexual terms. If she didn’t return his interest, he could get slapped with a harassment charge. Just because she seemed so alive and happy to walk beside him didn’t mean she lusted after him. She probably acted enthusiastic about everyone and everything. She could very well have gotten a bunch of men in trouble when they’d read her wrong.
Then she started to hum, of all things.