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Assistant For An Alien Ruler by Roxie Ray

 

Assistant For An Alien Ruler - I’m sick of being used.
A creepy boss and men who steal my work send me running to IEP and away from science.
I want a new life, and I’m going to another planet to find one.
One rule: no more science.
But when I end up on Macros, nothing has changed, and I’m forced right back into the lab.
I don’t want to be a biologist.
And I refuse to fall for my boss.
But Rahl is nothing like the guys back on Earth.
Maybe life on Macros is what I’ve been searching for after all.
Am I ready to become an alien’s mate?

 

Assistant For An Alien Ruler by Roxie Ray Book Chapter One

 

Rahl
“There you are.”

I went down on one knee and reached into the bush, groaning as the thorns pricked my skin. When I finally managed to get past the thorns, I pushed a few orange leaves aside to reveal a handful of goldenberries. I plucked some, and after pulling my hands back, turned the berries over in my palm, inspecting them for ripeness.

According to the local healers, goldenberries were useful in the treatment of minor illnesses. They were pretty much an open secret in some isolated communities, but as it turned out, no one had done any serious research on them. I was going to change that.

It was hard to tell what the results of further studies might indicate, but there was a chance I could harness the berries’ healing properties, if not optimize them. It was a long shot, but maybe I’d even find something that’d help with ache-death sickness.

“A long shot indeed,” I muttered under my breath, already plucking a few more berries and storing them inside a sterile container. I had spent most of my career studying ache-death sickness, but I had little to show for it. The disease remained as mysterious as it was when it first appeared on Macros almost fifteen years ago.

After that first outbreak, the same scenario continued to play itself out over and over again. Every year without fail, when the temperatures started rising, and while the farming communities geared up for harvest season, the disease got busy with harvesting lives. It killed hundreds of Macronites every year, and despite the efforts of the scientific community, no one had been able to change that.

One of the initial things I did back when I was first elected was offer more funding to the labs tasked with finding a cure. Still, no matter how much money I threw at the problem, the progress I hoped to see never really materialized. The disease that had killed my parents...was here to stay.

One day, though, I was going to change that.

Satisfied with the samples I had collected, I rose and dusted my slacks off. Carefully, I tucked the sealed container inside my backpack and started walking up the trail. Here and there, thick branches and torn vegetation littered the narrow path, proof of my passage here just a few hours ago. After the elders indicated where I’d find some of these berries, I had to brave the wilderness and hack away at the thick vegetation.

Not an easy task, but I didn’t mind.

Though I felt more comfortable in a lab setting, fieldwork never failed to energize me. Now more than ever. As the elected leader of Macros, my schedule was jam-packed with all manner of meetings, and I was always eager for a break that would allow me to spend some time outdoors.

Still, I didn’t resent my role—even though I wasn’t a fan of being stuck inside an office all day, going over budgetary concerns and rubber-stamping documents. I also knew I was good at it.

My rover, one of the many we had imported from Raider, sat beneath the dappled shadows of the tall pines flanking the dirt road. I hopped inside it, selected the coordinates for the research center on the console, and then leaned back. The rover’s engine came alive with a growl, and a cloud of dust swirled up as the hovercraft pushed itself off the ground. Five seconds later, I was on my way back, zooming past the peach and coral vegetation, its gentle tones offset by the complementary pale green skies above.

It was already noon when I reached the research station, the sprawling building stretching across the plateau until it met the cliffside. Most of its walls were of paneled glass, offering a view of the many corridors and hallways inside the station, and even from a distance I could spot research assistants wandering from lab to lab.

Despite how impressive the building was, though, most onlookers’ gazes would instead be drawn to the building right next to it.

Designed by Hollander’s architects almost a decade ago, the government’s main building looked more like a palace than a bureaucracy’s headquarters. The beams were made of a special alloy developed on Hollander, giving the building a crystal-like appearance, and tall spires jutted up from its domed center, reaching for the heights above.

As the head of the Macros government, I spent most of my time there. Luckily, the research center was within walking distance, which meant I could switch between being a leader and what I really was—a scientist.

Once the rover parked itself, I made my way into the research lab and dropped off the samples. Instead of diving straight into those—which I ached to do—I made my way to the cafeteria. My sister, Wisteria, was already there, sitting at one of the tables by the window.

She was training to be a soil and sky seer, which resulted in most people thinking of her as some kind of mystic, but the truth was she spent most of her time at the lab. A seer’s role was to consult on Macros’ weather and harvest seasons, and unlike what most people thought, it required a thorough scientific mind.

Of course, the job also demanded a sharp intuition, which was why Wisteria was perfect for it. Our parents had been the first to notice it back she was just a kid, and her sixth sense had quickly become evident to everyone that met her. A couple of months ago, she had even predicted that one of our close friends, Prince Soren from Hollander, would find a mate. And just like she had predicted, Soren had done just that.

She gave me a little wave once she saw me coming in, and after grabbing a bowl of vegetable soup, I joined her at the table.

“I was starting to think you wouldn’t come,” she said, tapping the screen of her Holopad. The screensaver was a digital clock, and it showed I was almost twenty minutes late.

“Sorry.” I gave her what I hoped to be a disarming smile. “Remember those goldenberries I talked to you about? I took the rover out into the valley and—”

“Are you serious?” She arched one eyebrow, looking at me as if I had admitted I had run over someone, and then burst out laughing. “Seriously, Rahl, what is wrong with you? It’s your day off and you decide to go into the woods to look for berries?”

“I’m not your stereotypical politician, remember?” I smiled wider. “I like to keep things interesting. Besides, it didn’t exactly feel like work. I really wanted to get my hands on a sample. Those elders I interviewed told me they’ve used these berries for generations and—what are you doing?”

Wisteria had narrowed her eyes, and now she was moving her head from side to side, making it look as if it was mounted on a swivel.

“I’m just trying to look for the ‘off’ switch,” she replied, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Classic Wisteria—despite how much of a hard worker she was, she never let things get in the way of her light-hearted disposition. That came in handy. She never let me completely disappear into whatever subject I was interested in, and she always knew how to rein in my obsessive moods. Not an easy task, but she did it brilliantly every time.

“You know me,” I threw back. “No ‘off’ switch to be—”

I was cut short by a gentle chime from inside my jacket, and I immediately reached for my Holopad and laid it on the table. There was a notification on the screen and, once I noticed the IEP logo, I felt a rush of excitement. It must’ve shown on my face, because the next thing I knew, Wisteria leaned forward, trying to peer at my screen.

“IEP?” she asked, frowning. “What’s that about?”

“I’m participating in an IEP auction today,” I replied, and she immediately perked up.

“An auction? Are you looking for a wife?” She waggled her eyebrows at me. “Maybe the mother of your future child?”

“Really? That’s where your mind goes?” I laughed, shaking my head. “Nope, definitely not, Wisteria. I’m just trying to hire a botanist. I need someone to help me do what I did today, especially if that someone has some of Earth’s knowledge.”

“You have a talent for sucking the fun out of things,” she said, clearly disappointed with my answer. Her reaction didn’t surprise me. All of our friends were starting families, and I was pretty sure Wisteria wanted me to be next.

I just shrugged.

“I need help with conservation measures,” I said. “And more importantly, I need someone to help me research the ache-death sickness. We need to be making progress there. Serious progress.”

“Do you think an IEP auction will help? They’re all about the bells and whistles of the contracts being auctioned.”

“I’m going to do it differently. I’m going to hire whoever has the best qualifications, and I don’t even want to know the person looks like before they land here.”

“Sounds like you’ve given this some thought.”

“Of course.” I nodded. “This position is vital, and I’ve been struggling to find someone who’s qualified enough for a long, long time. I need to find someone who’s an expert on botany and...well, at this point I think I’ll go for any well-qualified botanist.” I was about to go on a tirade about the importance of such a role when the Holopad started buzzing. The IEP was calling me. “Sorry, let me get this.”

“Go right ahead.”

Leaning back, I unlocked the Holopad and accepted the call. Almost immediately, the image of a man wearing an all-black suit filled the screen. He wore horn-rimmed glasses and his hair was slicked back, giving him an appearance of someone who wanted to be seen as older than he truly was.

“Good afternoon, sir,” he said, his tone neutral but polite. “I’m calling to inform you we’ve found someone with the qualifications you’ve specified.” He made a slight pause, and then leaned forward. “All the qualifications.”

“Really?” I’d put together a long list, in essence creating the ideal candidate on paper, but I had never expected the IEP would find someone who would fit the mold perfectly.

“Absolutely, sir. There’s a slight problem, though.”

“Go on.”

“The candidate’s first choice was Hollander, and despite the qualifications, this person has elected a job that has nothing to do with their education.”

That didn’t make much sense.

If this person was as qualified as the IEP rep had told me, why wouldn’t they want a job in their own field? I sat quietly, mulling it over, and the man soon hurried to fill the silence. I knew how the IEP operated, and I could sense what was coming.

“If you’re interested, there’s a way to solve this,” he said. “You could buy this contract out before someone from Hollander makes a bid. For the right amount, we can make sure this person will sign a contract with you.”

I pursed my lips, the gears turning inside my head. I wasn’t a fan of the IEP’s money-hungry tactics, but my back was against the wall here. I really needed someone qualified for this position.

“Are you certain this person matches what I’m looking for?” I asked, trying to ignore the pointed looks Wisteria aimed at me. Much like me, she didn’t appreciate some of the IEP’s underhanded tactics.

“Every single one of them, sir.”

“Fine.” I sighed. “I’ll lay out twenty-five percent extra on top of the regular buyout clause.”

“Well, sir…”

“Thirty percent, then.” I waved one hand at the screen, not bothering to hide my annoyance. “That’s the highest I’ll go.”

“Thirty percent,” the rep agreed, slowly nodding his head. He didn’t sound either excited or disappointed. It probably wasn’t the first time today he’d extorted money out of an IEP client. “We’ll be in touch.”

Once the screen turned black, I looked up at Wisteria. Her pointed looks had now turned into full-blown disapproval.

“You know that this is—”

“Yes, I know that it’s misleading,” I said, cutting her short. “But this is vital for Macros and our people. For our future. Besides, I’m going to make sure this candidate will be well-compensated.”

She shook her head and sighed.

“You know, it’s a shame you’re not this decisive when it comes to finding a mate.” She gave me a cockeyed grin, distractedly playing with the ends of her red hair streaked with natural green highlights. “I know you’re dying to be a father, just as much as you’re dying to have someone in your life, and the women from Earth—”

“They’re great, I know that.” I smiled, thinking about how most of my friends were now in committed and loving relationships. Niall, Kain, and even Soren...they had all found love with human women from Earth. “I know how much you love the girls, Wisteria, but I just have too much on my plate right now.”

“You’re a bore, that’s what you are.”

“Thankfully, you’ll be too distracted this week to notice how much of a bore I am,” I tossed back, knowing that Wisteria was excited about Soren and Maya’s upcoming visit. They had just gotten married a last month, and he had surprised her by arranging a month-long trip to Macros.

“Have they told you when they’re getting here?”

“According to Soren, the day after tomorrow,” I replied. “I’m going to pick them up. With some luck, the IEP will move fast on this and I’ll be able to pick up my new botanist too.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Maybe he could be a good match for you,” I said, grinning. “I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a guy since there aren’t a lot of women in the field.”

“Not interested,” she said, a tone of finality to her words.

“So quick to dismiss the idea?” I laughed. “Is there something you want to tell me?”

“I don’t think so.”

I wasn’t as good at reading people as Wisteria was, but I’d known her for her entire life, and I could tell when she was hiding something from me. What it was, though, I had absolutely no idea.

“C’mon, are you sure?” I insisted. “That’s not really fair. I mean, you’re trying to marry me off to some random woman from Earth, but you don’t even tell me what’s going on in your life?”

Judging from the sharp look on her face, she didn’t seem that inclined to keep on talking, and I knew better than to press her. Although something was definitely going on, I reined in my overbearing and parental instincts. Not an easy thing to do.

Despite the fact she was now a grown woman, I still looked at her as my baby sister, and I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to shield her from the world. Deep down, though, I knew Wisteria was no longer a child. She was also a sensible woman. Whatever was going on with her, she would do what was best.

“What do you think about dessert?” I asked her, rushing to get the words out so she wouldn't feel the need to answer my other questions. I pointed with one thumb at the dessert display. “I’m gonna grab some of those Hollander pastries.”

“I’m in,” she replied, and now there was no awkwardness in her tone. She was happy I had dropped the subject. Unfortunately for me, there was a matter I couldn’t quite forget. When Wisteria had said I was dying to have a family, she had been dead to rights.

I needed someone in my life. I just hadn’t found the right person.

It’ll happen, Rahl. Sooner or later, it’ll happen.
 

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