Nicolle James is far from her home in the human Sectors, kidnapped by alien scientists to be the subject of horrifying experiments. Her only hope might be a mysterious soldier she’d glimpsed outside the laboratory fence. She’d managed to sneak a few words of conversation with him when her captors weren’t watching but now the aliens were taking her inside the lab to begin the experiments.
Darik, a warrior of the genetically engineered Badari pack, is on a solo recon mission to check out a mysterious new lab high in the mountains. His orders are strict – do not engage. But when he has a chance meeting with the woman who might be his mate, he vows not to abandon her, orders or no orders.
Can he get inside an underground lab, find Nicolle and rescue her without getting captured himself? And when he learns the lab’s deadly secrets, can he get word to his pack about the new dangers?
Because the ruthless alien scientist running the experiments wants to get her hands on him too and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.
Darik measured the size of the huge paw print in the snow, comparing the breadth to his own generously sized hand. “Big predator, nothing we’ve ever seen before. Nothing comparable in the lowlands.” He took a deep breath of the crisp mountain air, automatically sorting the scents and savoring many new to him. Small furred creatures, towering trees, elusive woodland flowers and moss – he enjoyed all the novelties. It was still a rare luxury for him not to smell the hated disinfectants and chemicals of the Khagrish lab where his kind were created.
His metallic companion MARL12 shifted beside him, disturbing the air as the small alien device floated on an antigrav cushion. “Best to avoid an encounter with any predators.”
Grinning, Darik rose to his feet and eyed the miniature ovoid, now positioned a few feet further away, orange and pink lights flicking across its shiny surface in rapid patterns. The one tiny patch of green on the machine which he’d noticed was consistently present blinked in the lower rear quadrant of the Alien Intelligence unit’s silver skin.
Darik dusted snow from his palms. “Nervous? I’ll protect you, don’t worry.” He kicked loose snow over the tracks contemptuously. “Big as this animal may be, he’s not going to challenge a full grown Badari male like me. My talons are twice the size of his.”
“We can’t afford to be diverted from our primary mission—”
“Give it a break, MARL12. We’re in this animal’s territory and, unless he challenges me, I’m not looking for trouble. Live and let live.”
Darik had been dropped off at a higher elevation in the mountains so he wouldn’t be spotted by the enemy based in the foothills. He’d descended thousands of feet since his arrival, taking a circuitous route to his assigned target. Neither he nor his Alpha wanted any hint of a Badari presence in the area to become known. He relished the chance to hike through the old growth forest, alone except for his annoying AI companion.
“The sun will set in thirty two minutes and twelve seconds,” MARL12 announced in a crisp tone with no resemblance to the timbre of either human or Badari voices but was uniquely his own, as if a sizable bird had been given vocal chords.
Darik glanced at the small alien AI dispatched to assist him on this reconnaissance and decided to poke its emotional responses with a little barb. “I can see in the dark perfectly well. It’s a Badari attribute. Can’t you?”
A brief silence descended as the AI floated along on its antigrav cushion, bobbing over bushes and other obstacles. MARL12 might be a miniaturized version of its parent unit but the superior attitude was full scale. “I have complete visual acuity under all circumstances. My concern was for you to have a safe base camp established before dark.”
Pausing, Darik leaned in close.
The AI retreated a foot and hovered.
“I can take care of myself, thanks. I don’t need a minder.” Standing at his full seven foot height, Darik sampled the air again. “There’s no predator in this area capable of taking on a Badari and hoping to win.” He flashed his talons and fangs for the sheer joy of it. Leaping to the flat top of a nearby boulder, he surveyed the vistas ahead and expanded his chest with pleasure. This was the way for a man to live—free, with unlimited nature to explore. Of course, I do have a job to do. Aydarr didn’t send me here to have fun.