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The human male standing near the San Diego pier never ceased to amaze Kindrist Trekaar after seven hundred and twenty-one days of observation. Jake Straightarrow was not as tall as the tallest earth male selected for service. Nor as attractive in his informal clothing choices based on earth’s current magazine trends. But he was cloaked in a mystique she couldn’t peg. Something, some force in the universe, drew her to him. Her comrades felt otherwise. His actions even labeled him a wild card among his own people. The man was volatile, striking without warning or notice. Yet, he struck with a conscience. That conscience made him a candidate for were-assassin duty.
Okay, in my eyes alone.
For a Nulvitian who had no family, no inhabitable home planet, nothing but ancestry to claim, the power of a man like Jake offered certain aspects of revenge to a woman orphaned from her wasted homeland. His raw brute strength and intelligence could save him from the perils of psychic war--those dangers mercenary mates couldn’t control. But could he truly survive covert psychic operations? He was the only Violet Child she’d seen who she dared parade before the sacrificial altar bound to her in a metaphysical web of soul-mate marriage. Here stood hope, or The Cause would buckle, and all sentient beings would fall under the dark power of Voldon.
Yes. Bonding with this earthling would end the ultimate War of all Wars.
“Trekaar, do you have the subject in sight?” Operator Forty Three’s thoughts penetrated Kindrist’s head in mindspeak.
Jake was anything but a subject. She focused, pushing a reply wave back to the operator’s mind and completed the two-way telepathic communication channel. “He studies a middle-class woman with her male child. Both toss food to sea gulls.”
The gulls squawked and dove for food.
A dirty human male, his clothes worn, his beard long and silvered with perhaps age, sat near the woman and child. He seemed to ponder the sunlight glinting upon the almost-non-existent swells in the water instead of the woman’s back turned to him. She and her child ignored the man or didn’t notice him as they fed the whirling mass of birds.
“Why do you waste valuable time on this human?” Forty Three chided inside Kindrist’s mind.
“The universe quakes as we speak. Forget him. Choose another subject for were-assassin duty. We must bring the neural network down. 2012 is upon us.”
“Do not patronize me. It is my right to choose my soul mate in my sacrifice to our cause. My freedom for the freedoms of a multitude in the universe, never forget.”
“How many more days will pass before young Red Kindrist Trekaar chooses her destiny?”
Jake stepped away from a food stand and carried a basket of food toward the woman.
How unusual for him to stop for sustenance before mid afternoon.
“What?” Forty Three demanded.
Why did operators have to listen to every thought when the communication channel was open?
“I wasn’t talking to you. But Jake is giving the food to the man.”
“No fighting? What’s wrong with your subject today?”
“Go away, Forty Three.”
“There’s no time. You must choose today.”
“Get out of my head so I can think.”
“If I leave you to yourself, the universe will fall to Voldon. No more delays. Choose. Today.”
For the love of blessed Devros, holiest sun of all suns. “I choose subject Straightarrow.”
Absolute silence resonated in Kindrist’s mind.
“I predict your feral fascination shall lead to the end of any semblance of peace in the civil universe, Red Kindrist Lotyl Trekaar, daughter of martyr Purple Trekaar. You are a foolish warrior who knows we’ve spent too much time here at earth this leg of the journey.”
Doubt me? “Straightarrow is no animal. My father would approve of this decision to save free-thinkers. And if you buy into legends, you will send the ship.”
Silence echoed again.
“Send the ship, Forty Three.”
“How will you bring Straightarrow over?”
“I will seduce him.”
“Blessed daughters of Ilak! The Day of Promise is upon us. And you choose seduction with this unpredictable subject? Not the best beginning to a marriage. Nor does he strike me as a man who appreciates being toyed with.”
“Send the ship.”
Jake left the dock after handing the steaming fried seafood to the grinning homeless Vietnam vet sitting near the snob and her brat kid. What were they thinking throwing food at gulls when a hungry man sat watching? What was the world coming to when good citizens ignored the plight of the less fortunate? He strode between two cars lined up beside parking meters.
The hum of an engine purred in the distance.
Lunch traffic. Folks just heading down to the bay for a bite to eat. Great idea. Buy food. Need money to buy food. Time for this guy to find real work and stop eating away at the emergency wad. He clipped across the street’s two lanes and onto the sidewalk.
A woman stepped onto the sidewalk before him.
Strange nocturnal number wearing what has to be plastic. Could she even afford leather? And who’d want to wear either in this early summer heat?
She walked toward him in the tightest black ensemble with a swing nobody could ignore.
The saunter could have been her body trying to shake off those suffocating pants.
Her clothing left nothing to the imagination. She was tall compared to the short women he grew up with on the reservation. But her hair was as straight and dark as any found among his People. A man would have to imagine what went on behind her pitch-black sunglasses. There was something else, something more to her that shouted outer space. Beyond the typical Goth-babe outfit. Maybe the hint was the knife’s hilt tucked into the shaft of her knee-high boot? What kind of idiot walked the streets of California with a weapon in plain view?
One looking for trouble.
Too bad, Babe. I grew up and changed my middle name.
She sauntered up to him, smacked her lips, and stopped.
What was going down?
“I locked my keys in my car. You know where I can get a hanger?”
That type of plight could happen to anyone. But she seemed the type to scratch the hell out of her car, get nowhere, and break the window in a last-ditch resort to reaching the lock. “You can call a locksmith. Save damaging your vehicle.”
She twisted her head an inch left. “Don’t have the time.”
Probably going to melt in the heat.
His gut cringed.
Intuition was never wrong. Maybe she had a real problem. Something bigger than getting sleep to bar hop all night. “Why the rush?”
“My sister needs the car to go to an interview.” She sighed and scanned the street. “I shouldn’t be wasting time. She’s got three kids to feed.” Well, a man could help or be shamed from letting the world fall into chaos. He shoved his hand into his pocket and grabbed the rolled-up bills he kept handy for emergencies.
She focused on him counting out the twenty dollar bills. “No. I don’t want your money.”
The woman would take the cash and leave him to his peace. He shoved a hundred bucks at her. “Call her a cab. Send it over. The taxi will be there long before you with your problem.”
“No.” She wagged her head.
Hell. Was a man to do everything himself?
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