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The Key (Project Enterprise 1)

Project Enterprise 1

Author(s): Pauline Baird Jones

Dream Realm Award Winner, 2007; Bronze IPPIE, Independent Publisher Book Awards

A science fiction/action adventure romance novel

When Sara Donovan joins Project Enterprise she finds out that what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger…

 An Air Force pilot – the best of the best to be assigned to this mission – Sara isn’t afraid to travel far beyond the Milky Way on an assignment that takes her into a galaxy torn apart by a long and bitter warfare between the Dusan and the Gadi.

After she’s shot down and manages to land safely on an inhospitable planet, Sara encounters Kiernan Fyn – a seriously hot alien with a few secrets of his own – he’s a member of a resistance group called the Ojemba, lead by the mysterious and ruthless Kalian. Together they must avoid capture, but can they avoid their growing attraction to each other?

A mysterious, hidden city on the planet brings Sara closer to the answers she seeks – about her baffling abilities and her mother’s past. She has no idea she’s being pulled into the same danger her mother fled – the key to a secret left behind by a lost civilization, the Garradians.

The Dusan and the Gadi want the key. So do the Ojemba. They think Sara has it. They are willing to do anything to get it.

Sara will have to do anything to stop them…

Praise for The Key:

“This is a series that is a keeper for me and I will enjoy reading them all again. I did get The Key on Audible. I wasn't crazy about the narrator at first but she grew on me.  Or better... the story became so engrossing I didn't notice any more!  That is a sign of a really good story! This is a great series for anyone who likes sci fi action, like Star Trek or Galaxy Quest (funny movie!), with a clean, warm, intergalactic romance.” Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf

“From the beginning, action is non-stop and filled with suspense. Sara is more than the quintessential kick-butt heroine. She is the perfect warrior, a woman confident in her abilities in the air and on the ground, and so loyal to her country that she is willing to make personal sacrifices to ensure its safety. Peripheral characters are well-developed and the plot so thrilling readers will be reluctant to put the book aside. This sci-fi adds a nice dose of romance and a touch of humor, placing it at the top of the list for a danged good read.” Midwest Book Review

“Award winning author Pauline Baird Jones has created a dynamic other worldly story. Her characters are strong, well defined and interesting; capturing the reader on the first page. Ms. Jones has given her readers wonderful dialogue, adventure, humor, kick-butt action and thrilling romance; all set in alien territories. So, slip into another galaxy and revel in The Key by Pauline Baird Jones.” Single Titles.com

Excerpt


Kiernan Fyn heard the high pitched whine of a ship and could tell it was in trouble, even without the dark smoke trail spewing from the tail. It was coming in too fast and too steep.
The pilot must be dead—before the thought finished, the ship started a series of brutally sharp turns. Okay, not dead Yet.
Fyn strained with him through each turn, remembering how those turns felt, remembering trying not to crash.
And crashing anyway.
The pilot still hadn’t slowed enough, and if he didn’t turn soon, he’d go straight into the water. Kikk had a lot of water. Not a lot of ground. Only one place that was flat enough to attempt a landing.
The nose of the ship edged up a bit, but still not enough—it made sudden turn toward him. Okay, he’d seen the beach. Now he just had to make it. It dropped below the tree line, and after a bit, Fyn felt the impact ripple through the ground under his feet. The ship popped briefly into view again, then dropped out of sight. Another impact tremor. Longer this time, then…nothing.
No explosion. That was good. There’d be something to salvage.
He broke clear of the thick jungle and saw a deep hole in the sand. A break, then a furrow stretching down the beach so far he couldn’t see the end. He hesitated, searching the blue-green sky for any pursuit, but it was empty of everything but the drifting remains of the ship’s smoke trail. He jumped down on to the white sand and walked along the furrow. Soon he could see the downed ship, the front crunched up against a tree.
He approached cautiously, doing a complete circuit, looking for signs of a secondary explosion, but it just hissed a bit, then subsided into a resigned silence. It wasn’t like any ship he’d seen, though he liked the look of it. It was long and sleek and dark. He traced an odd drawing on the side, under some unfamiliar symbols. A small square of dark sky and stars, and a larger section of dark and light stripes. The damage from contact with the tree wasn’t too bad, but—he walked to the rear—weapons fire was. He bent close and sniffed. Dusan energy blast. There was another scorch mark on the side. That it had landed almost intact told him it was a tough, little ship—and a decent pilot.
He looked at the cockpit and saw a figure slumped over the controls. Fyn climbed up on the wing, studying the mechanism that kept the cover in place. After a few tries, it retracted with a loud, almost angry hiss. The pilot’s gear was as dark as his ship, his face hidden by a sturdy looking head covering. He also wore a heavy, dark flight suit, with the same symbols from the ship imbedded in the material. Some flexible tubing stretched from his face mask to the ship. Probably his air supply. Fyn felt along the side of the mask and managed to unhook it. Now he could see a gap between the suit and the head gear. He worked his fingers in until he felt skin and was surprised to feel blood pumping beneath the still warm surface. He found the strap, undid it and lifted the head gear off. The pilot’s head fell back against the seat.
A woman?
He’d never seen a woman fly a ship and he’d been all over the galaxy. Her hair was red, it was so many shades of red, it flashed in the sunlight, catching the rays in the strands and reflecting them back as fire. He touched it, almost afraid it would burn, but it was as soft as the skin it lay against. Matching lashes lay in neat half moons against pale cheeks.
She moaned and shifted, turning her head and he saw a nasty gash on the side of her face, near the hairline. Blood dripped sluggishly down the side of her face. A harness held her strapped in the seat. He explored the clasp for a few minutes and finally it popped apart. He felt along her arms and legs, then checked her ribs for damage, before easing her free of the craft and laying her in the sand. She was tall, but surprisingly light. Her suit made her look more bulky than she was.
Inside her ship, he found bandages in a box with a red cross on the outside. She stirred again, when he cleaned her wound, but she didn’t wake. Once he’d contained the bleeding and applied a covering, he went back and searched the cockpit again. He found a bag of what he assumed were emergency supplies and a couple of weapons. He would have liked to study it all in more detail, but the light was fading. He needed to get them both under cover before dark.
He carried her and her stuff back to his cave, lowering her onto his bed, a pile of leaves and vines culled from the surrounding jungle. He pulled off her heavy gloves. Her hands were narrow with long, well formed fingers. Her dark suit seemed constrictive, but was secured with an odd metal track that pulled down to below her waist. Under her flight suit, she wore clothing that was unlike anything he’d ever seen. It was mottled in the shades of the earth and clouds. This clothing had many pockets, filled with more stuff. No wonder she looked so bulky. He emptied the pockets, studying each item, before adding it to a pile. She also had a knife in a holder and what looked like a holder for the smaller of the weapons he took out of the cockpit.
Two of her weapons were curious. They seemed to operate on a projectile penetration basis, unlike his energy based ones. He tucked all three behind a boulder. No reason to arm her until he found how she felt about him. He settled down next to her, watching and waiting for her eyes to open, wondering what color they’d be. It was hard not to feel like the gods had sent him a gift for not giving up, but he realized she might not see her arrival in quite the same light. He ran a finger down the smooth curve of her cheek, then across her soft, full lower lip, relieved to see the slow rise and fall of her chest.
As light faded, worry replaced curiosity. Perhaps she had some injury beyond his ability to detect.  
He’d expected to die here, and to die alone. None of the Ojemba would look for him. Their numbers were not large enough to risk men in fruitless searches for lost comrades. Every time he went out on a mission, he knew he went out alone. Every day since he’d crashed on this miserable planet, he’d decide to get it over with. He’d stood by the ocean, telling himself to walk in and finish it. If he couldn’t fight anymore, what good was he? And each day he turned and walked back into the jungle.
Hope was a hardy plant, to keep growing in a place like Kikk.
It was a brutal, hostile place. In the season since he’d been stranded here, only the occasional Dusan patrol had come by and none of them had landed, just buzzed the surface. They came for the same reason Kalian had sent him here.
They were looking for the lost Garradian outpost. He could have told them, if it was on Kikk, it wasn’t on this continent. He’d had plenty of time to search for it.
Fyn didn’t believe in the Garradians or the outpost. He did believe in killing Dusan. Since they’d over run his planet, it was all he believed in.
But now, as he watched the woman, he remembered other things he had believed in, things he used to feel. He’d cursed the gods, and not just because they’d stranded him here. Why had they sent him this gift now? And what cost would they demand in return?
There was always a cost.
Just before the light faded outside, he pulled a weapon and fired it at the rocks, adding an orange glow to the deepening dark. It provided warmth, but also helped keep the biters out.
Finally, when he wondered if she’d ever wake, she began to stir. He retreated to the other side of the cave and waited...

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Genre: Science Fiction
Date Published: 11/15/2013
Publisher: Pauline B Jones

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