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Alien General's Bride (Brion Brides 3)

By:Vi Voxley

CHAPTER ONE

Isolde



“Go to space,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said.

See all the new interesting things and other races and planets and whole systems beyond your imagination. The kind of stuff you could have heard in a Cold War era tech expo: space is miraculous and most certainly filled with whatever you personally want it to have.

So far, Isolde felt, space was just more of same old, same old.

She was also having a rare moment of thinking of herself in second person. Only Isolde Fenner would manage to mess up this badly. She stood and watched the ever smaller back end of her transport ship drifting slowly and peacefully away from the space station. It achieved a safe distance, turned its warp core on, jumped and was gone. Without poor little her.

Pitiful, silly Isolde, she thought. On Terra you were a sure bet to miss all of the 10 PM Washington to New York type of things, and it’s only natural that your inaptitude for being aboard a flight when it takes off would also translate to the intergalactic ones.

It was, of course, her fault. For some reason, her considerable skills in ethnographic research and her extensive knowledge of galactic languages – mostly theoretical – were of no help with her time planning.

Mother had told her that in dire situations it was best to laugh it off. So she had missed a one-time only flight to a newly discovered alien world, which had been damnably difficult to get permission for in the first place. Other than providing her expertise in the local language and its presumable dialects – and gather some much-needed field work points – she’d had a single job. To be on the ship with other researchers. Ha. Haha. Hahahaha…

Sigh.

“Excuse me…” Isolde began. She had learned that when you were about to bother someone with a problem that went tremendously over their authority and pay scale it helped to be meticulously polite.

The man before her smiled like someone who didn’t know their day was about to go to whatever form of Hell they believed in.

Terra’s orbital space station – lovingly named Luna Secunda by someone whose mother still told them they were special and so very funny – wasn’t just manned internationally, but intergalactically. Terra was the center of the Solar System, and pretty much every passably sociable species in the Galactic union   was represented on the station. Droves of agents under the command of their respective ambassadors usually worked with the transportation, travel, politics and general mayhem of matters that concerned their species. Isolde didn’t want to draw the attention of any of them. Instead, she went to the agents working directly for the GU. They were more likely to be impartial to her problem and therefore more likely to help.

The smiling agent looked human-like, but as soon as he replied, his accent labeled him a human-Palian hybrid. When he continued to speak without blinking, she was sure. That was fortunate. The Palians were a nurturing race down to their very genetics. If it was in his power to help her, he would.

“How can I help?” agent Perkins finished on cue, introducing himself and his function properly – an annoying, but useful habit of agents in such a mish-mash society as the station.

Isolde swallowed. “I... missed my flight,” she said. Better to get it all out at once.

“I see,” the agent said kindly. “If you tell me where you were going, I would be glad to help you book another flight.”

“Um,” Isolde said. “Yes. That is the problem, you see. I missed my flight. To Hive-231. The new world they call Rhea.”

Agent Perkins could have frowned, but instead he suddenly looked as though Isolde had told him the Moon was about to collide with the station.

“How is that possible...” he murmured. “I’m sorry, Miss. Your identification, please? And if you do not mind me asking, what was your role in the research team?”

Isolde fumbled through her pockets for her ID-card.

“I’m an ethnographer, and I have some skill with languages. I was supposed to give a report about this new culture and I would also have helped the researchers communicate in-between themselves.”

You neglected to say that you being there would have been extremely unorthodox, Isolde’s inner voice murmured. After the first team suffered an accident on their way to Rhea, the second was put together very hastily. And Terra got the spot on the team by – politely speaking – asking very vigorously. Then they picked you. Official job description: the glue in the research team as the only one to speak all of the four galactic common tongues. Analysis: bullshit, any trained monkey could do that.#p#分页标题#e#

Frankly, Isolde considered herself to be the perfect mix of both skilled and replaceable for the Terran government. If she sent back valuable information about the important new planet, all the best for them; and if something happened to her or she failed somehow, Terra wouldn’t lose one of their top people to a strange world on the other side of known space. They really did know how to make a girl feel special.

She had hoped someone aboard that now regrettably distant ship would have been able to relate and they could have brooded over bureaucracy together, but no, she had to be the weird one that missed the flight. Popular from the beginning.

Agent Perkins looked positively sick now. He scanned Isolde’s card and nodded his head in confirmation.

“This is an outrage,” he said, and for a Palian, even half-Palian, he sounded surprisingly upset. “That ship had strict orders not to leave anyone behind. This is a huge setback for the team. My ambassador will be furious.”

Isolde felt her stomach turn. She knew Rhea was important, but she didn’t exactly want to be in the middle of a galaxy-wide political fight. She wished she had run just a little bit harder – an awesome reminder of the fact she wasn’t exactly a small girl, by the way. Hooray for self-confidence!

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

Agent Perkins did a full 180° and flashed a true, if strained, smile.

“Miss Fenner, you did nothing wrong. Your ID tells the tale. Your shuttle came in from Terra on time. You passed the security search without problems. Then you went to clear your permissions with the emissary, still all fine. And you proceeded straight to the gate from there. You were but mere minutes late. Five to ten, judging by your electronic trail. The fault lies with the commander of your transport. What went through that head, Go’Ran himself knows… I would like to be present for his trial, when he tries to explain how he thought of shaving 10 minutes off a 20 light year flight.”

Isolde’s mouth dropped open. “Trial? But...”

The agent was serious again. “Do not worry for his sake, Miss Fenner. This is a huge blunder and we will try to fix what we can. But Rhea... Rhea is important. He should have waited for you, even if you had been a week late.”

He typed something into a console, pulled faces of which at least three bordered on disgust – Isolde would have to update her views on Palians – and finally motioned for her to follow. As they walked, Isolde composed a letter in her head to her professor back on Terra, the one who had sent her on this space adventure. It went something like this:

Dear professor Nagasuke,

I hope this letter finds you well and busy, as you love to be. Now, if you would please explain to me why you neglected to tell me that the mission to Rhea is important enough to create an intergalactic fuss over? That would be ever so wonderful.

Your admiring student,

Isolde.

They had to be joking. Isolde was prepared to admit she wasn’t known as the life of the parties, but she wasn’t completely bereft of a sense of humor either. Only this was something else. She didn’t even know if she wanted it to be a joke or not. Because if it was, it was a very odd one and someone was likely to die.

Agent Perkins, for example. Face to face with the most handsome man she had ever seen.

Bloody Brions.

Isolde found it surprisingly easy to laugh about this situation. She had messed up, so they punished her by – as far as she could tell – trying to dump her on Terra’s (and the galaxy’s as a whole) most volatile allies. Naturally. What could possibly go wrong? With Brions.

It wasn’t like they had only recently been let in the Galactic union  , after being denied twice because of some things headlines at home called “the unfortunate result of routine military exercises”. The joke being the Brions were somehow always in the vicinity of a brooding conflict and seemed to wait just until it boiled over so they could step in and break everything, later claiming the most innocent of intentions. Her professors had called the Brions “a bunch of brats who play at war, only some idiot handed them nuclear warheads and adamantium blades instead of sticks”.

She doubted if any of them would have loved to phrase that to the towering 6’4” mass of man meat trying to burn agent Perkins to half-human, half-Palian ash with his gaze.

To his credit, the agent wasn’t backing down one inch. Isolde found herself oddly charmed by confident men, although this one obviously harbored clear and untreated suicidal tendencies. Her knowledge of Brionese dialects laughed hollowly in her face as she caught only some of what the hunk (no better or more self-explanatory way of describing Brion men) spat at the unyielding agent. To be honest, she didn’t actually speak Brionese – very few in the galaxy besides the Brions did – but the simplified version of the language, which the man in front of him apparently neglected to resort to.#p#分页标题#e#

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