Authors: Lynn Rae
Love Under a New Star, Book 1
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2014, Lynn Rae. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Colan Nestor is a withdrawn mapmaker, finishing up his assignment on an isolated jungle world. He’s disgruntled when he’s assigned the role of liaison with an incoming crew of government workers tasked with setting up an administrative center to manage the settlement of the planet. Among the new arrivals is feisty Liliane Frei, a woman who effortlessly coordinates all the scheduling required for such an undertaking. She and Colan are forced to work together to ease the transition but find—as soon as they meet on the shuttle landing deck—their personalities clash as much as their attraction sizzles. Tension between the residents and newcomers rise and explosions rock the growing community. Will Colan and Lia survive the conflict and find happiness with each other?
With all the love in the galaxy, to my family.
Thanks to Peri Elizabeth Scott for encouragement and know-how, to Ridley Scott for giving me visuals that inspire, to Sigur Ros for the music, and to all those kids like me who spent a lot of their childhoods lost in a book on a lazy summer afternoon.
“You wouldn’t think people would get so upset over
Colan Nestor shrugged in response to Georgina Healy’s complaint. He surveyed the stumpy roofline of Pearl, a haphazard, unsanctioned settlement on the decidedly damp planet of Gamaliel. The girders of the rapidly rising structure gleamed in the sunshine. The new facilities crew had been working nonstop since they’d arrived on planet four days ago, and the first of their buildings was near completion. Georgina sighed as she looked over the same view. They were standing on her roof so she could talk with some semblance of privacy. At this point her two boys hadn’t figured out where their mother had gone, which meant they could continue a relatively adult conversation. He glanced over at the station’s head scientist and saw her frown at the new pumping station encroaching on old Tila’s backyard.
“They grumble so much it’s impinging on my research time.” Gina took a breath and turned her pale brown eyes on him. Colan braced himself. “That’s why I need for you to take on some community relations before the main group of settlers get here and overrun us.”
“No, Gina.” Colan shook his head. A buzzing whine from the crew working down below startled a few chickens, and they squabbled down the muddy street on fluttering wings.
“Yes, Tor. All I need you to do is work with the settlement team coming in tomorrow. There’s going to be a magistrate and whoever she has on staff to manage all of the building. It has everyone in an uproar—even more than the idea of extractors. Rue and Tun heard their house was going to be demolished in a few days. Poor Tila over there’s losing half of her garden to that new pipeline they’re putting in, and she’s going to petition the system governor for compensation. I’m sure they already think we’re primitives. The last thing we need is one of our people sending a bill for tomatoes and peas to Congress.”
Colan shook his head again, feeling exhausted just thinking about having a conversation with some bureaucrat from the core. He didn’t want to explain how important it was for people to have elevated beds to grow fresh produce or how their one restaurant made homebrew without possessing the proper distillation license.
“You can’t say no.”
“Yes, I can say no. I have to finish up those last monitors in the northern sector.”
“We have full satellite coverage of the planet as of two days ago. Therefore, you can do remote surveying from your hut, or a desk at the center, or over in the new admin building as you run interference with the congressional lackeys. I happen to read all the reports that cross my data pad. Unlike you.” Gina glared with prickly aggression, and he regrouped.
As head scientist, she was technically his superior; although her management style wasn’t particularly intense, which suited Colan ninety-five percent of the time. But today was shaking out to be a five percenter. He should never have sent that update about the sat coverage, but it had been so damned exciting to finally have an eye on the planet that he hadn’t been able to resist pinging the news to all and sundry. Then again, the final sat setup had been courtesy of the congressional crew moving in and needing reliable communications. Just like the impending promise of drains which didn’t back up and reek as if someone had left eggs out in the sun too long.
“Stars, Gina, can’t you find someone else? I’m not exactly the friendliest person in Pearl, you know.”
Gina waved her hand in the air as if she warded off a flivver. “I don’t want friendly. I want someone who is uncooperative and grumpy. That way we can delay this transition as long as we can, and I have time to formulate good data on the negative bio-impact this settlement plan will have. Riva’s convinced there is some collective sentience here, and you know how she is. We need data, analysis, and about a week. Since you’re the most taciturn and contrary man I’ve ever met, you get the job.”
Colan decided to stay true to his reputation and keep quiet. Maybe one of Gina’s rambunctious boys would crawl up here soon and distract her long enough for him to shimmy down a drainpipe and disappear into his hut. But since his place was in Gina’s backyard, she’d be able to track him down quick enough. Or send Ermil, her youngest, to fetch him. The kid had an uncanny knack for opening doors and windows Colan was sure he’d locked.
Gina took his silence for acquiescence and outlined his new duties. He was to greet the new organizational team when they arrived, be the guide for their tour of the town, take up an office in the new admin building, make himself available to longtime Pearlites with questions or problems, and act as the local expert for the bureaucrats. If one of the newbies wanted to tour the forests, he was to act as a chaperone. Gina paused for breath, and Colan looked for the closest drainpipe.
“I’m a planetary surveyor. What do I know about building a legitimate colonial outpost?”
“Nothing. None of us do, and that’s to our advantage. The more delays and issues we have here on the ground, the longer it will take before their infrastructure is in place and the settlers start descending.” Gina strode over the side of her roof and glanced around the perimeter of her yard. Probably looking for her sons or evidence of some misguided experiment in explosives or hydrology the boys had initiated while unsupervised.
“If Riva and I had even a quarter of the equipment we need, we’d be able to come up with unassailable arguments to stop this settlement before it even starts. When I think about our forests being overrun by these opportunistic extractors, I get nauseated.” Gina looked as if she wanted to punch something in frustration, and he took a step away, closer to the top of the ladder leading down. It was a tricky proposition; head to the ground and face the threat of two boys intent on mischief, or stay on this roof with their mother who was determined to thwart the will of the citizenry of the united worlds.
“The new magistrate, Moca Blakelock, and her transition team will be here in the morning, and you need to be at the landing pad at zero eight hundred tomorrow. Their new landing pad, not ours.”
, a moment of silence, and a high pitched laugh caught their attention.
“Blast, what are they doing now?” Gina muttered as she strode toward the ladder and swung herself over the side of the roof. “I’m counting on you, Tor. Tomorrow morning.”
Colan watched her descend and then heard her start shouting at her sons. He decided to stay on the roof a bit longer and watch the construction. Bots zipped along the exposed girders, dragging synthboard walls into place as a few human figures moved along and checked the installation. He hadn’t met the facilities techs, which wasn’t surprising. He’d been hiding in his hut or slumped in his favorite corner booth at Joli’s since he’d returned from his last survey. Adjusting to Gamaliel and all its peculiarities was hard enough for one person, for an entire contingent of neophytes it was going to be a nightmare.
* * * *
As soon as the shuttle doors opened, she smelled the fetid air of Gamaliel, and Liliane Frei knew she’d made a mistake. The long sequence of jumps to her new home planet left her groggy and exhausted, so it was no wonder when she finally spied the overgrown and muddy settlement, which seemed to sink into the planet’s peaty surface and the looming jungle behind, she was disheartened. She had to fight an urge to turn around and request a seat on the return flight to the clean ship orbiting far overhead.
Magistrate Moca strode out onto the textured surface of the newly installed landing pad, and Lia found herself following in her wake. Just like she had followed the other woman for the last few months—to innumerable meetings, parties, and training sessions—all in the aim of making the colonization of Gamaliel the most trouble free in the history of the galaxy. Moca was charismatic and relentless in her mission to bring congressional law and order to this backward and smelly place. Other members of the core staff exited and clustered around Lia in a loose semicircle, while one scruffy man in wrinkled clothes stood a few meters away and scowled at them. If he was the welcoming party, this was an unhappy settlement.
Her supervisor glanced around to find no one else waiting in the wings and walked over to the frowning man. There was a great contrast between the two people and not just in gender and height. Where the magistrate expressed upright posture, careful grooming, and general goodwill, the stranger slouched and exuded indifferent impatience. He seemed to embody the lopsided, cobbled-together appearance of the structures of Pearl tottering behind him. His boots were sprung and laced with mismatched wire, his stretched trousers hung loose as if he’d lost weight, and his shirt was ripped off at the shoulders, exposing far too much tanned and muscular arm for protocol’s comfort. He looked as if he’d shaved with sandpaper and had his hair barbered with a line laser. But it was his face which sent a shiver of foreboding down Lia’s back. He glowered at them as if they were there to steal his planet.
The magistrate introduced herself, and Lia found herself leaning forward to hear the stranger’s gruff reply.
“Tor is good enough.” Tor sucked in a breath and glared at the rest of them, his dark brown eyes flickering along the lineup of Dr. Polin, Tech Coordinator Tully, Security Officer Zashi, and finally Lia, scheduler extraordinaire.
Moca made the introductions, and Cit. Tor inclined his head a tiny degree at each of them.
“I thought we were meeting Citizen Georgina Healy, head scientist.”
“She sent me. Busy.” Cit. Tor shrugged as if it was all the same to him and gestured for them to follow.
With an uncharacteristic moment of indecision, Magistrate Blakelock paused and then followed along behind the shuffling man. She was probably disappointed there hadn’t been a bit more ceremony for the first time she touched Gamaliel’s surface. Lia knew the magistrate had hoped for some ceremony, because she’d helped Moca pick out her second-best cape for the occasion earlier that morning, before she’d put the final seals on her luggage and called in a porter bot to load it with the remainder of the payload.
The other senior staff shuffled away from the droning shuttle, and Lia cast a longing glance back as the porter bots quickly dumped their luggage off on the wet decking, just before the seals clamped shut and the vehicle’s engines began to rotate for takeoff. Goodbye civilization. Why hadn’t she been assigned to the Herald Park project she’d requested and dreamed about? She should be overseeing the construction of the lavish historical attraction built on a tropical island, the galaxy’s premier pleasure planet. Instead, she was stuck in a swamp.
A beam of sunlight struck her full on the face, and she felt as if someone had spiked a nail into her eye. This planet was supposed to be overcast eighty-three percent of the time, so why was it suddenly sunny? She had no idea where she’d packed her shades.
Swallowing hard and trying to ignore the slight whiff of human waste she’d noticed, Lia stepped carefully along. According to her firm schedule, the initial facilities crew should have put in functioning waste water treatment and plumbing by now. Chief Welti hadn’t filed a report yet today, but if the rank aroma was any indication, he was behind schedule—which might mean their living quarters weren’t habitable yet, a terrible thing to contemplate when all she wanted was a hot shower and about twenty hours of sleep in a clean bed.