Paradox Red Rock Alien Mail Order Brides 3
Time stopped when he saw her...
Alien supersoldier Vel Hacker is on a mission to save his people. Hiding out on Earth, the last thing he’s looking for is a love connection. When Time Runner Ellen Murphy is charged with evaluating him as a potential ally, he is unprepared for the cosmic surge of attraction he feels toward her and the undeniable knowledge that this human female is his future.
Ellen has long known that some space invader is supposedly her mate. But when she finally meets the ruggedly handsome Hacker, her senses go supernova. Their connection creates an intergalactic paradox that threatens the world, and unraveling it means they’re in for a close encounter of quantum proportions.
- Paradox is book three in the Red Rock Alien Mail Order Brides series
- Release Date: November 9, 2016
- Paradox is part of the multi-author Intergalactic Dating Agency series.
Excerpt from Paradox
"Put it back," Hacker said, his attention on the screen of encoded dispatches before him. In his peripheral vision, he'd spotted Raider, soldier-turned-space-pirate, deftly palm a plasma cutter and slip it into Sophia's bag.
"Seriously?" Sophia gave Raider a sharp, quelling look and huffed with frustration—it wasn't the first time Raider had planted stolen goods on her—and fished the cutter out again.
Raider shrugged. "What? They're useful."
"Uh-huh." Sophia slapped the cutter on the war room's table as Raider slid his arms around her waist.
The sleek, modern space was comfortable for Hacker, but three pod-grown, genetically enhanced soldiers, and two humans, along with all the Pact satellite receivers and the nitro-cooled scanner servers made the space feel crowded. Just how Hacker liked it.
"Sorry," Sophia told him.
"He's obviously not," Hacker observed while scanning the latest message.
This looked good. Enough to start with. Thirteen communities on five separate worlds were willing to allow Hacker to disclose that they were still allied with the Pact in the fight against the Consortium of Light. The new Pact, not the one in which some key insiders had secretly betrayed the rest of Pact to the Consortium for concessions and forgiveness. Cowards.
Hacker had originally been sent to Earth by the reconstructed Pact to look for allies among those who'd fled Consortium-controlled space after the war—deserters and pirates and opportunists who'd hidden on this fringe world looking for a quick way to make easy money. Later, his mission had changed to looking for allies among the humans themselves. It had taken him eight years of searching, but he'd found one incredibly powerful group...
The Verum was a secret, ancient organization on Earth who had used its ability to manipulate time to protect and sustain their planet. And now that the Consortium had finally taken notice of this world and were on their way, the Verum had the motivation to consider the Pact's offer of friendship.
Hacker glanced up at Sophia, who managed to glare over her shoulder at Raider while in his arms. "Do you know when your brother will get here?"
She shook her head. "He's been very mysterious the past couple of days."
Hacker felt a smile tugging at one side of his mouth. Excellent. Her brother Alex must have been meeting with his colleagues in the Verum. Considering recent events, it was a foregone conclusion that the Verum would be joining the Pact, despite Alex dragging his feet over the past couple of weeks.
"But he's coming?" Leif asked, tension threading his words.
Hacker slid his gaze up to assess his other Pact comrade, who stood staring out a window into the captivating Red Rock Mountains landscape. The assassin should be tense: he'd recently—and spectacularly—broken from the Consortium, and he was partly responsible for moving up the timeline of the looming attack on Earth.
Leif had a human mate to think of, too. This world was his home now.
Through the chambered suppression window, the huge, fiery juts of stone next to the intense blue sky were extraordinary in their beauty. With the exception of Red Rock area locals, those humans who lived in Sedona or Oak Creek, most of the inhabitants of this world had no idea that aliens lived among them. They had no idea that danger was coming. This pretty, blue globe was too precious a jewel to let it fall into the grasp of the Consortium.
"Oh, Alex will be here," said Nina, a long-suffering, wry note in her tone that communicated that trouble was inevitable, so, of course, they would all be present for it. And they'd handle it together. And it would be terrible, but they'd get through it.
Hacker watched Leif subtly relax. Nina, a human at ease with all things alien, was good for Leif. Kept him off the bloody edge he always seemed to be on, especially now with conflict on the way and family to fight for.
The quantum pull of the wormholes—four of them in the Sedona area—had brought the three surviving Pact soldiers together again on Earth after many years of wandering the deep black of space alone, starving for purpose, for a place to call home, and for a people to defend. The wormholes, what humans called vortexes, had also brought Raider and Leif together with their human mates, Sophia and Nina. The vortex energy harnessed powerful connections, like those between people, and especially between mates, and amplified them.
Hacker had concluded that there was no human female on Earth for him. Eight years he'd been here, and he'd felt nothing but a restlessness to get back into battle and defeat the Consortium once and for all.
Today was his day.
A scanner array signaled the approach of a vehicle, and Hacker switched the screen view to follow the progress of an Earth automobile—a black Escalade SUV—arriving at his base of operations, which appeared to humans as a ranch-style house tucked into the desert scrub of Oak Creek, Arizona. Unless he needed the house to be completely concealed, in which case, all they saw was the scrub.
The SUV stopped at the main gate, and the driver's-side window lowered to reveal Alex, staring intently at the domed receiver on the gatepost. He looked like he was struggling with some unseen force, but Hacker knew he was just trying to open the gate telepathically. It was off-world tech—most humans weren't able to do it. Alex had been practicing but still wasn't there yet.
After a few seconds, Hacker took pity on him and hit the release to open the gate. The SUV drove through and parked near the side entrance—a small, sealed room that looked like an entryway, but was really a weapons scanner.
Hacker stood as he watched Alex and what had to be his Verum representative—a female dressed in black combat fatigues—enter the scanning area. He assessed her while the scan initialized and began executing. She was fit, average height, good muscle on a feminine frame. Her light brownish-red hair was fastened back in what humans called a ponytail. She had clear skin, blue eyes, and a hard line to her jaw. A wary tension toughened her stance. She was ready to fight. Didn't like being here. Wouldn't hesitate to punch her way out.
Interesting. The Verum had sent a soldier.
Hacker knew how to talk to soldiers. This was going to be a—what did humans call it?—cakewalk.
The weapons scan returned eleven positive contact points—all on the soldier. No shock there. Hacker hit the override button to silence the alarm and open the door to allow them in. He was looking forward to this.
The Verum soldier walked into the room.
And she might as well have fired a plasma rifle at his chest because he couldn't breathe. Every nerve was ablaze. His heart boomed to compensate while his brain stuttered as if some sort of shrapnel had lodged in his gray matter. He'd been seriously wounded many times, but this time, he wasn't sure he'd ever recover, and he hadn't actually been hit with anything.
Is this what Raider and Leif felt with Sophia and Nina? The quantum pull of the wormholes that drew a couple together?
Because now Hacker understood.
"I've met with the elders of the Verum," Alex began. "I've explained about the Pact, your background and motivation to help Earth, and I've given my recommendations." Alex took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "They have decided to tentatively and carefully move forward with collaborating. A small mission at first, with as little exposure to the secrets of the Verum as possible." He gestured to the astonishing, strong, beautiful, wonderful woman next to him. "This is Ellen Murphy. She's one of the Verum's lead Time Runners, certainly the best. We have an operation we'd like to discuss..."
Ellen. The expression on her face was hard and uncompromising. If she felt anything for him, she sure wasn't showing it.
"Hacker?" Alex said.
"He's drooling," Ellen said to Alex. It came out like, He's worthless.
Before Hacker's eyes, a battle scene materialized. He could see them together, fighting in a desperate and bloody conflict as explosions shuddered the air all around them. They were heroes, charging up an embankment, plasma rifles hot in their grips. He saved her from an Entennian sniper. She saved him from a meta-tracker about to strike from behind. They reached the bunker at the top of the embankment—
"Hacker," Alex repeated, harder. "There's a mission."
Raider grinned. "The vortex of love has him."
—and after decimating their enemies, they'd be decorated with medals and have glorious sex with them still pinned on.
Leif frowned. "He's a fool."
Which made Nina smack Leif on the arm.
Leif glanced at her. "Well, look at him."
Ellen pulled a weapon from her tac vest and handed it to Alex. "Please, just shoot me now. In the head would be good."
Alex ignored the weapon. "Then Hacker is your ma—?"
"Not if I can help it, he isn't." She holstered her weapon and turned toward Raider and Leif.
Hacker couldn't help inclining his head to see around the war room's table. This view of her was impressive, as well.
She looked from Raider to Leif. "Do either of you have experience breaking into Consortium systems? They've got a custom SLSX-8 network that the Xanthians built just for them. You'd only have twenty-three seconds to do it."
A spark lit in Hacker's otherwise dimmed mind. Xanthian systems were almost impenetrable. But they always left a back door with standard authentication for their lazy sec ops. Twenty-three seconds? No problem.
Raider shrugged. "I'd probably just draw my plasma rifle and shoot the console."
"Not an option," she said and turned her attention to Leif.
Leif gave Ellen a narrow smile. "I can encourage someone there to help me."
"Encourage at the end of a blade," Alex muttered.
"That would take too long," Ellen said.
"I can do it in ten," Hacker said, somewhat dreamily.
Ellen swung her gaze back his way—she scowled—and then she settled her attention on Alex.
"Raider could get you in and out of a place in a pinch," Alex told her. "Leif is your man for wet work."
"Retired," Nina put in.
"But hacking is what Hacker was created to do," Alex continued. "Hence his name. It was his function as a soldier in the Pact war. He's a systems specialist."
"You really won't shoot me?" she asked Alex. "I thought we were friends."
"The Earth comes first," Alex said with a flicker of a smile. "Verum in perpetuum."
She backed to the air screen wall and punched in a low-level command string, so she had to have at least a passing understanding of how alien technology worked. On the light screen, a schematic of a Consortium ship appeared.
"I don't want to work with you Pact," she said as she added an overlay that showed the plans for infiltration and extraction. "You screw everything up. Using a Quantum Stone to save a few lives?" She glanced over at Raider. "If you're not smart enough to realize that no one or two—or even a hundred—lives are worth the value of that stone or the havoc you've wreaked upon the universe by using it, then you're not smart enough to be our ally. We can never know the extent of the ripple effects because those ripples will travel forever."
She looked to Leif, and Hacker could almost hear her say, And you.... "We do not use intel from the future to make huge alterations to the timeline. For example, suddenly and independently deciding to kill high-ranking officials within the Consortium. We make micro adjustments so that we can anticipate what is to come and plan how best to deal with it so that our ability to manipulate time is not discovered by our enemies. If any human child can understand that, why can't you so-called supersoldiers?"
Hacker was nodding vehemently at his comrades. He could've told them all of this if they'd bothered to consult him before acting.
"Listen to my mate," he told them.
Ellen's gaze cut his way, and he could've sworn she drew blood with it. "I am not your mate, no matter what you think you're feeling."
He opened his mouth to argue—because the wormhole energy was telling him she was—but then decided to close it again.
She took a menacing step toward him—blast it, he was in love. Big love. Bigger than the black sea of space. His chest was bursting with it.
"I am a time traveler," she said to him. "And I can tell you that nothing is set in stone. Nothing is predetermined. It's my job to change the future. To make sure catastrophic events don't happen. Not the Consortium's victory over Earth..." She gave a little laugh. "Certainly not me hooking up with you. Keep yourself buttoned up and on task, and maybe, if you're very lucky, you'll survive the day. That's the best you can hope for. Are we clear?"
Completely and utterly in love. This was his kind of woman.
"Are we clear?" she demanded again.
"Ma'am, yes, ma'am," he said. And out of respect, he forced his mind away from other contexts in which he wouldn't mind answering her that way.
"What about the axion decay?" Leif put in.
Hacker's good mood soured.
Right. Leif, or rather, future Leif, had travelled through time, and the axion decay had slowly eaten away at him.
If Ellen were a Time Runner, that meant she probably moved through time.
"Time travel is in my DNA," she said.
Alex addressed the room. "The Verum is a very old and secret organization. They've been breeding time travelers for thousands of years. But it's still an imperfect art. Going backward like Leif did is always deadly for humans. But jumping forward is possible for the rare few. Ellen's sister died on her first mission. Ellen is the only one of her bloodline to survive."
Hacker understood what kind of commitment that took, to live and die for a cause. He couldn't resist. "And if she were to mix her genetic material with, say, a Pact soldier's?"
Ellen drew her weapon again and pointed it at his head.
He smiled at her. He didn't usually boast, but he was about to make an exception. "I've been shot in the head before. Takes more than that to kill one of us."
"That explains a lot, thanks," Ellen said.
Hacker didn't understand. And when he did, he frowned. "My brain repaired itself!"
"If you say so," she returned.
But Leif wasn't smiling. "What's the mission?"
"At this time," Alex said, "the Earth's future is uncertain."
"As is our relationship with the Pact," Ellen added.
"We know war will come," Alex continued. "We know it's with the Consortium."
"But the rest," Ellen put in, "is blank because of your irresponsible impact on the timeline. We need fresh intel. I'm going to jump ahead and get it. But I need someone"—she scanned the room to include Raider and Leif—"to break into the network and help me retrieve it."
Hacker raised his hand.
She looked from Raider to Leif and back to Raider again. Then back to Leif again.
Finally, she settled her gaze on Hacker. "I'm not taking you unless you abandon all your ulterior motives."
"Abandon is a such a strong word," he argued.
"I've got stronger."
He was sure she did.
Alex knocked on the table to get their attention. "If this works out, the Verum would be willing to ally with the Pact against the Consortium. It needs to be a success. And please keep in mind, in spite of our ability to manipulate time, we don't have a lot of it to waste."
"I'm in," Hacker said as he forced his gaze away from Ellen and shifted it to Alex.
See? He had some self-control.
"If he tries anything," Ellen said, "I'll kill him."
Alex shrugged. "Seems fair to me."