Alien in the Family
Available April 5, 2011 from DAW Books In springtime, a young alien’s thoughts turn to love. And marriage. And, as fast as possible, the baby carriage.
Dating anyone from a different culture can be hard. Try dating one from a different planet. Oh, and working with him, too. Every day. Every single day.
I like being a super-being exterminator. The hours are kind of random, but the benefits are great, especially the benefit of getting to live and work with the most gorgeous people on Earth. Sure, they have two hearts, can run at hyper-speed, and actually come from Alpha Centauri. But, hey, they’re just regular folks, for the most part.
On the other hand, planning a wedding with one of them is not the easiest fish to fry. Not, realistically, that frying fish is all that hard. Not that I would, personally, know, either, since I avoid active participation in all kitchens except under extreme duress. Okay, fish fry equals bad example.
But mixing wedding planning along with protecting the Earth from all the threats, internal and extremely external, that plague it on a daily freaking basis is not a piece of cake. Particularly when you already come from a religiously mixed family and are mixing in a third one. That you can’t tell your family about. No worries, been lying to them about my career change for almost a year, not like telling the grandparents another whopper will kill them. Right?
I’ll just keep them distracted with lots of double-speak and focus their attention on things like flowers and seating arrangements. Before they know it, the wedding will be over and everyone will go back to their lives, none the wiser.
Yeah, I know. It’s one of my plans. It’ll go all “Dog Day Afternoon” somewhere along the line. But, a girl can dream, can’t she?
“Why are we waiting out here in the middle of the night?” Martini asked for what, by my count, was the tenth time in less than an hour.
“Because Chuckie said there was something here we needed to see, Jeff. You know, like I’ve said for the past, oh, hours?”
“Why do you insist on calling him Chuckie?” Martini was really in a mood. Possibly because we’d been interrupted in the middle of a very romantic dinner by Chuckie’s phone call. To me, not to Martini.
“Because that’s what I’ve called him since ninth grade, and calling him Mister Reynolds seems sort of stupid, calling him Charles sounds like I think he’s my uncle, and if I’m going to call him Chuck, then I’m going to add on the ‘e’.” Of course, I knew the real reason Martini wasn’t happy. But I wasn’t going to bring it up. We’d had the jealousy chat months ago, and he was supposed to be working on dealing with the fact that other men occasionally found me attractive by not being a jerk about it. Tonight he wasn’t doing so well.
“Jeff, you know, you could go on back to the Science Center and let me and Kitty handle it.” Reader winked at me where Martini couldn’t see.
“Right, thanks for the offer, James. But just how would the two of you get out of here if there were any problems?”
Martini had a point. We were perched on the top of Animas Peak in New Mexico, staring at pretty much nothing. Reader and I, being human, would have a hard time getting anywhere fast if Martini or another Alpha Centaurion wasn’t with us. On the other hand, we could drive and fly because our reflexes weren’t so good that they destroyed Earth machinery. So we had that going for us.
On the other hand, we’d gotten to this point via a gate, which was alien technology that let you move hundreds or thousands of miles in seconds and had the added advantage of making you completely nauseous. On the other hand, because we weren’t aliens, neither Reader nor I could actually see the gate that had deposited us here, on top of a really high mountain, in the middle of the night. I thought about the drop and sidled a little closer to Martini.
My walkie chirped. “Kitty, you there?”
“Hi Christopher. How goes it at your location?”
“Dull, dark and boring. You sure the C.I.A.’s not trying to kill us or freeze us to death?”
“Somewhat positive. We’re supposed to see something. Soon.”
“I’m seeing my bed. It’s nowhere near me, but I can see it.”
“Hilarious. How’s Tim doing?”
“He’s as bored as I am. So’s Paul, should you care to know. ACE, however, seems fascinated.”
“Glad one of you, or at least part of one of you, isn’t sitting around complaining like an old lady.” ACE was a super-consciousness I’d managed to channel into Paul Gower a few months back as opposed to letting it accidentally destroy the entire world. ACE usually did its best to hang in the background, but whenever Paul was bored ACE tended to show up a little more.
“At least he’s stopped asking about our sex life,” Reader muttered.
“ACE is just interested in things.”
“Girlfriend, I don’t even want to get into how totally unromantic you get when you have to clinically explain kissing, let alone any other sexual act, to an entity that didn’t have a body for most of its existence.”
I thought about it. “Um, ick.”
“In a word, yeah.” Reader had been the top international male supermodel for several years running. Then he’d joined up with the boys from Alpha Centauri, or A-Cs as they called themselves. He’d been an agent longer than me, but had somehow become my best friend in my new life. We had a lot in common, including being in love with an alien. Reader and Gower had been a couple longer than I’d known them, which was going on a year. In that time, they’d fought all of once. I’d been with Martini almost a year and in that time we’d fought…a lot more than once.
I could tell Martini picked up my emotions, because he reached out and pulled me to him. As the most powerful empath on Earth, him doing this wasn’t a surprise. He didn’t go insane from all the myriad emotions batting around everywhere and from everyone because of the blocks and other empathic-protection goodies the A-Cs knew how to install in their brains and use. Martini didn’t have blocks up against my emotions. Sometimes I wondered if that was a wise choice on his part.
Sorry,” he said quietly. “I’m just tired and tired of waiting. And, you’re freezing.”
“A little.” Okay, a lot. I just didn’t want to complain. I was in the standard issue clothing for working female A-Cs -- white Oxford button-down, black slim-skirt, and a long, black trench, all Armani. I was also in Aerosole pumps because the A-Cs believed in looking good while feeling comfortable. But we were on top of a high mountain and while the guys were in their standard black Armani suits with their white Armani shirts and their long black trench coats, they seemed to shove off the cold better, even the human guys.
Martini opened his trench, pulled me against him, and wrapped his coat around me. “Better?”
I snuggled up and leaned my head against his chest. “Mmmm, yeah.” He was warm and I always found his body heat and double heartbeats soothing.
“Baby? Wake up.”
“I was awake.”
“You don’t snore when you’re awake.”
“I wasn’t snoring!”
Reader coughed. “Um, yeah, yeah you were.”
Martini’s walkie crackled. “Yeah, we could hear you snoring over here.” I could tell Christopher was snickering.
“You played my snoring for them?”
Martini shrugged. “I wanted to make sure they were awake. Not my fault you were sort of loud. You coming down with a cold?”
“No, I am not. Though if we’re here much longer I might.”
“Blame good ol’ Conspiracy Chuck. I’m not the one who suggested a romantic rendezvous out here.”
“You know, I don’t call him that. Only people who weren’t his friends called him that.”
“Which is why I feel great calling him that.”
I let it pass. I mean, I didn’t want to head into one of Martini’s favorite complaints, which was that I was far too willing to take Chuckie’s calls. “Besides, this isn’t a date.”
“I know. I’m really clear that this is not how I planned to end the evening.”
I pulled my walkie out of my purse. “Jerry, you guys okay?”
“Yeah, but why is it we got stuck on the coldest ridge?” Jerry Tucker was one of the Navy Top Gun pilots assigned to Centaurion Division in general and to my Airborne team in specific. He was on Chiricahua Peak in Arizona. Christopher’s team was on Big Hatchet in New Mexico. All high, all cold at this time of year, all lacking a C.I.A. operative.
“The lower ranking officers get the cruddy locations,” Reader answered into his walkie.
“Thanks. You know, Matt, Chip and I all outrank you, James.”
“Only in the Navy. Around here, experience and longevity count more.” Reader was trying not to laugh.
“Then how is it Kitty’s in charge of Airborne?” Tim Crawford, also part of my team, was laughing. Like Reader, Tim lived to be a smartass.
“Oh, shut up.”
“It’s worse over here,” Christopher snapped. “We’re on the edge of a knife. The rest of you at least have something to stand on.”
“That’s why it’s two A-Cs to one human over there. Stop whining. Jerry, anything over there? At all?”
“No, but I’m really glad you guys let Michael come with us.” Michael Gower was Paul’s younger brother, and was visiting us while on vacation from NASA. He was also an astronaut, but I doubted this was why Jerry was glad he was there. The idea of not having an A-C with you while on a scary high mountain had dawned on me already. “You know, Cochise’s ghost is supposed to haunt these mountains.”
“A ghost would at least be something interesting,” Reader offered.
We waited a few more minutes, then I heard something different. It sounded like a very muted sprinkler system had just started up. “Chuckie’s here.”
The sleek, black helicopter set down far enough away from us that we weren’t too windblown. A tall man, bundled up in a long overcoat, got out and sauntered over to us. I attempted to move out of Martini’s arms, but they were locked around me. I was cold enough I decided not to argue.
“Took you long enough, Reynolds,” Martini snapped as Chuckie got near enough to hear him.
Chuckie shook his head. “Always a pleasure, Martini. Kitty, how’re you doing?”
“Fine. Cold and bored, but fine.”
Chuckie nodded his head towards Reader. “Good to see you.”
“Damn, but you lie well,” Reader said with a smile. No one but me seemed to like Chuckie. Oh well. He didn’t seem to mind.
“If you two could detach from each other for a moment? It’ll make it easier to show you what’s going on.”
Martini let me go, slowly. I took his hand and gave it a squeeze. He relaxed a bit. “Chuckie, what is going on?”
He looked at his watch. “You’ll see in…oh…about a minute and a half. Might want to let White and your other boys know it’s almost showtime.”
“Christopher, we’re almost set.”
“Yeah, the C.I.A. graciously joined us just now.”
“Jerry, you have federal company yet?”
“Yes, ma’am, Commander. We are in position.” Jerry and the rest of my flyboys always went into Supreme Military Mode whenever we were dealing with anyone outside of Centaurion Division. No one in Centaurion liked having to deal with the C.I.A.’s ET division. Except me. I didn’t mind it if we were dealing with Chuckie, but only if we were dealing with him.
Chuckie reached into his coat pocket and pulled out some goggles. “You might want to put these on.” He handed them to me, and tossed a pair each to Martini and Reader.
I put them on, which, of course, required me to let go of Martini’s hand. Chuckie smoothly took the opportunity to take my arm as soon as the goggles were on. “You’ll want to pay close attention, Kitty.”
“Why me? I mean, over everyone else?” I was trying not to give off any kind of emotion other than professional interest. Being betrothed to the most powerful empath on Earth had a lot of advantages. But Chuckie had become an in-person part of my life again on a much more consistent basis starting when Martini and I had been in a very rough patch. I define ‘rough patch’ to mean he was drugged out of his mind by an alien-hating conspiracy and said conspirators almost murdered me in a truly horrible way. We were supposedly past all that, but since Chuckie had proposed during this time, and I’d considered it, Martini was never happy when Chuckie was around.
Chuckie sighed. “You’ll see.”
Martini was on my other side, and took my other hand. I held his hand tightly, but I could feel how angry he was. “Reynolds, you want to loosen your grip on her?”
“No. Though you should hold on tighter as well.” Chuckie reached out, grabbed Reader’s arm, and pulled him over. “Hang on.”
No sooner were those words out of my mouth, than we found out why.
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