An outbreak has occurred on Spaceport Adana. Allied Planets has quarantined the 'Port, blockading all space traffic.
Captain Arrah Crace has volunteered her cargo ship to deliver medicine and vaccines, but she needs a security officer, a butt-kicker to protect her vessel and crew. She meets drop-dead-gorgeous.
Intelligence operative Lash Trag has a mission. He's a Beguiler, a man able to control the output of his powerful pheromones. Captain Crace is the only ticket to Adana and using his gift is a real pleasure.
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Copyright ©2012 B.J. McCall
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Lash Trag answered the alert on his secure com-link. The face of Minister Warx of Arkos Intelligence appeared. The minister's face was thin, with a chin almost as sharp as the analytical mind working behind his bright blue eyes.
"Trag. Are you enjoying your vacation?"
Inside a massive space station orbiting Adalgo, one of the first planets settled by a scientific colony from Old Earth, was SolaWind Resort where everything was perfect--from the air and water temperature to the beautiful women strolling along the beach. A tourist had a choice of beaches built to resemble those of Old Earth. Lash had chosen Hawaii. But this trip hadn't been about wine and women. Lash had needed to relax and heal.
"I'm enjoying the beach."
"How's the arm?"
A pulse blast had hit Lash in the upper arm. A section of bone had been replaced and the torn muscles and ripped tendons had healed. The arm worked fine, but there were times the pain reminded him of the mission that had almost killed him.
Warx wasn't calling as a friend; the minister needed to know if Lash was mission ready. When the minister had a problem that didn't fall within the normal parameters of his agency, he required an independent operative like Lash. The political climate on Arkos was tense. The coalition government was fragile and the Allied Planets council hovered like vultures, waiting for the union to collapse. AP wanted unfettered access to Arkos' rich moons, and political chaos worked to the council's advantage. Warx kept Lash very busy.
The missions were demanding, the action at times death defying. Lash liked living on the edge, but his last assignment had forced him to reassess his occupation. Was the action and the constant travel what he craved, or was it what kept him from looking at the emotional emptiness of his life?
"The arm is good," Lash said.
"I've looked over your medical reports. Your doctor recommends more therapy."
Lash should have known better than to use an Arkosian physician. Information was Warx's god and his means and resources weren't always legit.
Lash flexed his arm. "I'm ready for a mission," he said, his response automatic. Physically, he was ready. Mentally, he wasn't sure. Maybe a mission was exactly what he needed to snap out of the melancholy.
"You've heard about the outbreak on Spaceport Adana?"
"I haven't watched the news. While on SolaWind, I try to forget the rest of the universe exists."
"Allied Planets Security is blockading Adana space as we speak. A full quarantine has been declared on the spaceport. The official statement will be made within a few hours."
"Since when does AP care about Adana?"
"They don't. It's Raxa virus."
The rare virus was deadly and had wiped out half the population on the three inhabited planets in the Raxane system before an antiviral drug was formulated to destroy it and a vaccine developed to prevent it. The virus hadn't been eradicated, merely contained to the Raxene system, until now. If it wasn't stopped, the virus would spread to the planets, moons and space stations throughout the AP system.
"How did a Raxa outbreak happen on Adana?"
"AP blames the contagion on a vessel smuggling goods from a Raxane port. By the time the ship arrived, the entire crew was ill. They've subsequently died and now the virus is spreading on Adana."
"That's a high price to pay to avoid Raxane's exit tariffs."
"Your medical record indicates that you've been vaccinated for Raxa?"
Lash wondered why his boss was concerned about Adana. The outbreak was an AP problem. "I have."
"The AP force is blockading Adana to all private and commercial traffic. Nothing is allowed in or out, except for a mercy relief flight carrying drugs, vaccine, supplies and a medical team. The ship is the Avira. I've sent an analysis of both the ship and Captain Crace to your secure link. I want you on that ship."
Lash stared at the azure water lapping gently against the white sand and knew he'd seen his last SolaWind sunset for a while. "Where do I find the Avira?"
"She's presently docked on Spaceport Thkar," Warx said. Thkar was just a short transport ride away. Lash opened the captain's file and initiated a holographic image. Captain Crace was a fine looking woman with straight, blonde hair that ended at her chin. Her skin was fair and her lips were lush, but it was her eyes that attracted Lash. He zoomed in on her face, saw a bit of mischief in eyes more green than brown in color.
In another image, gold streaks framed her face. Lash liked the look.
"Crace is human," Warx said. "She has no physical enhancements."
Lash switched to a whole body image. Crace's breasts were full and her legs long. He rotated the image and checked out her ass. With a body like that, enhancement was a waste of cash.
"The captain is of above average intelligence, educated, but hasn't any special powers. She shouldn't present a problem for you."
When Lash was a teenager, he had a way with women, of all types and ages. He had a sense of how people felt, if they liked him, and especially if they didn't. It wasn't until he joined the army that Lash found out he was an empath. The army put him through extensive testing and discovered he also had enhanced natural pheromones and the ability to control their powerful output. His ego took a bit of a hit upon realizing that women were more into his scent than him.
Having gifts made him valuable to the government. Warx snatched him from the drudgery of army life, trained him in languages, weapons, communications systems and a myriad of other talents required of an intelligence agent. Able to think on his feet and stay calm in dangerous situations, Lash was a very good operative. But he didn't like the structure and wasn't a team player.
Rather than lose him, Warx suggested Lash become a contract agent. The arrangement suited them both and the pay was more lucrative.
"Captain Crace is the means," Lash said. "Why am I going?"
"Larak Srak is on Spaceport Adana."