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Draekon Abduction: Exiled to the Prison Planet

By:Lili Zander

Prologue

CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia.



When Roman Saint-Germain tells you to jump, there’s only one appropriate response. How high.

I’m outside my boss’s office fifteen minutes before my three-o'clock meeting. Smoothing my damp palms against my skirt, I inch up to his assistant. “Do you know what the summons is about?” Please let this be about Stone Mountain.

Laura Keys shakes her head. “You were on vacation, weren’t you?” she asks sympathetically. “Sorry, Liv.”

The door opens, and Roman stands in the doorway. I stiffen to attention as my boss’ slate-grey eyes run over me. I’ve worked at the agency for eight years, spending the last six of them in Roman’s department—Global Issues—and still my pulse speeds up when he nods in my direction. “Thanks for making it,” he says politely.

As if I had a choice in the matter. I follow him into his corner office and take a seat opposite him. For a few minutes, neither of us breaks the silence. Roman surveys me thoughtfully, and I fight the impulse to blurt out the first thing on my mind.

I lose. “This isn’t about Stone Mountain, is it?” I applied almost a month ago to work on the group’s marquee project, but I don’t need to use my agency-honed analytical skills to realize that Roman’s hardly going to call me back in the middle of my vacation for a routine assignment.

“Stone Mountain? No. I’m sending Johansen to Marrakesh.” He pushes a red folder across the desk. “This is something else.”

Ignoring the disappointment that floods through me, I scan the file, disbelief growing with each page I flip through. “Aliens? Are you joking?”

An eyebrow rises, and I wince inwardly. That was a stupid question. Roman never jokes. “Sorry, Sir. How do I fit in?”

“The aliens—they call themselves the Zorahn—are looking to barter. They’re offering a cure for leukemia, and in exchange, they want women.”

“Women? How many? Why?” Every bad 80s sci-fi movie flashes before my eyes. “To repopulate their world?”

“A hundred. According to the aliens, there’s a disease ravaging their people, and their scientists believe that human genetic material might offer a path to a cure.” He lifts his head from the desk and surveys me with cool eyes. “They want to take the women to their planet for six months. They promise everyone will be returned safe and unharmed.”

“And you believe this?”

“I don’t know what I believe.”

“We accepted the offer, I assume?”

He tilts his head to one side. “Why did you reach that conclusion?”

“It’s only logical. Thousands of people die every year from blood cancers. Compared to that, a hundred lives are a drop in the bucket.” I bite my lower lip and consider the wisdom of my next words. “There are rumors that the president’s daughter has sought treatment at the Mayo Clinic.”

“Indeed.” Roman doesn’t seem surprised that I know, neither does he seem perturbed. “The president was highly motivated to accept the Zorahn offer. This will go public in the next week. We’re looking for volunteers.”

Now it’s my turn to raise an eyebrow. “You think women are going to volunteer to travel to an alien planet from which they might or might not return?”

“They will.” His tone is implacable. “And so will you.”

My head snaps up. Of course. Why else would Roman call me in? “Me?”

“Of all the DNA samples we submitted, yours was the one they picked,” he says. “We think the Zorahn are picking women without family ties.” He leans back. “Pity. You wouldn’t have been my first choice for this assignment.”

My entire body goes cold. “I wouldn’t have been your first choice?” I try to keep my voice calm and steady. I succeed, but Roman’s grey eyes rake over me, seeing too much, like he always does.

“Olivia.” He steeples his fingers together. “You’re an excellent agent. Logical. Consistent. You’ll do well at the agency.”

“But?”

“There’s a critical difference between a good agent and a great one. A great agent listens to her instincts.”

I clamp my lips shut, biting back the protest that rises to my lips. Fuck this shit. There’s only one reason I didn’t get Stone Mountain. Because I’m a woman. I’ve fought to be the best at my job for eight long years, but even now, people can’t look past the boobs to see the agent.

But I don’t need to listen to my instincts to hear what Roman has left unsaid. I can go on this alien mission, or I can kiss my career at the agency goodbye.

I’m not ready to give up.

I lift my chin. “I look forward to proving you wrong,” I say evenly.

He inclines his head in a nod. “So do I, Olivia.”





1





Olivia:


We’re less than a week out of Earth, and already, things are a complete, total disaster. Let’s count all the ways Roman’s assignment has gone wrong so far, shall we?

1. Go to Zoraht.

Sorry, boss. I appear to have crash-landed on a different planet altogether, one the Zorahn scientists accompanying us are referring to as the prison planet.

2. Stay out of trouble.

My left leg is badly broken. My left fibula, if I’m remembering my high-school biology lectures correctly. It tore open my flesh as it broke, and if I undo the bandage that Sofia wrapped around the wound, I know I’ll see the white gleam of bone.

On Earth, in a hospital, such a break would be fixable. But as far as I know, there are no medical facilities here. Even worse, the planet outside is hot and humid, ideal breeding grounds for all kinds of nasty bacteria. If I don’t get help, I could lose the leg.

Stay calm, Liv. Panicking isn’t going to help the situation.

3. Keep the other women safe.

Death toll so far: One. Janet Cane. Two, if we’re counting the dead alien, Mannix.

Missing and possibly dead: Four. Viola Lewis, Harper Boyd, Ryanna Dickson, and Sofia Menendez. Before I passed out, the women had been talking about setting out to find food and water. How long have they been gone? I can’t tell. My thoughts are cloudy, and every nerve ending in my body screams with agony.

Hang on. My brain slowly starts working. The four women had stuck me in my pod before they set out. I’m in stasis. I should be out like a light. What woke me up?

Then I hear it. Noises outside. Two male voices, harsh and guttural. There’s someone here. I can hear the hiss of the air seal breaking as a stasis pod door opens. “What’s going on?”

That’s Paige’s voice. She sounds nervous. “Are we on Zoraht?”

The voices growl something at her. Why can’t I understand them? I feel in my ear for the small golden disk that Hector Schultz had stuck in my ear, his eyes glued to my boobs the entire time. It’s not there. Shit. That’s not good.

I had my translator when I got into my stasis pod on Earth. Did I have it when we first crashed? Ignoring the waves of burning pain that radiate from my leg through my entire body, I search my memories. Yes. I did. Which means it must have fallen out somewhere in this pod.

It’s dark. I can’t see. I run my hands over the small chamber, groping for the gadget. There’s more activity now. Raiht’vi, the female scientist, is awake. She snarls something at the two men, her voice angry and fearful. One of them replies, his tone laced with contempt. What’s going on? My pulse races. The door to my pod can’t be opened from the inside. They have to let me out.

My finger closes over something cold and metallic. The translator. Heaving a sigh of relief, I insert it into my ear, barely registering the jolt of electricity it produces as it connects.

It does its magic. The guttural sounds resolve into words. “Of all the people I thought I’d see on the prison planet…” The man—alien—sounds coldly amused. “So Brunox finally revealed the existence of his daughter to the High Empire.”

Raiht’vi inhales sharply. “Who are you? How do you know who I am?”

The man chuckles. “I’m Draekon, Scientist. That’s all you need to know. Lio, search the ship. Grab everything that might be useful.”

Ooh. Alien intrigue. This is exactly the kind of stuff I’m supposed to be recording. I commit the conversation to memory—despite what Roman said about me not being his first choice for this mission, I scored in the ninety-ninth percentile in the agency’s memory tests. His words still rankle, and I’m determined to prove him wrong. I’m going to ace this mission, and when I get back home, the CIA’s best eggheads can figure out what the information I’ve collected means. Who the Draekons are, and why Raiht’vi seems so antagonistic toward them.

If I get back home.

More doors open, and the other women are removed from the stasis chamber. I hear expressions of dismay, probably when they realize there’s a giant, gaping hole in the ship. “Where are we?” one of them asks. That’s Bryce McFarland, if I’m not mistaken. The bed-and-breakfast owner from Vermont sounds less nervous that I’d have expected. Good for her.

“You are on the prison planet,” one of the aliens replies. “Specifically, you are in the Lowlands, and any day now, the rains will fall, and your ship will be flooded. We must get you to safety.”

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