Mission Almost Impossible
Jerin sat in a booth in a tavern trying to drown his sorrows. He’d stopped into Norman’s Pub for lunch. It was three o’clock in the afternoon now. While lost in his thoughts time had moved forward relentlessly. His heart was heavy, despair was beginning to set in, and he was trying to forget about that too when he was filled with a sense that something was about to happen. Automatically, he was on high sensory alert. When the woman at the bar stood up and approached him, he took notice. Maybe she was the one he’d been searching for.
“You look like you’re down on your luck and could use a friend,” she said.
“Maybe, a little of both.” He lifted a bottle of Guinness to his lips and took a swig. “I’m between jobs at the moment,” he said by way of explanation. He looked her over, up and down, trying to gauge her intent.
“Now isn’t that a coincidence. I run a temporary service agency.” She smiled. “May I sit?”
“Be my guest.”
She slid into the seat opposite him. “I’d like to hire you.” She smiled at him pleasantly.
“How do you know I possess the skills you require?”
The women of Earth seemed to find him attractive. He’d been propositioned before. This might be one of those situations.
“I specialize in ‘men for hire.’ You’re a man. I’m pretty sure I have something you’re qualified to do.” She gave a little snort as if it were obvious.
He let his eyes rove over her body and then drew his eyebrows together. “I don’t do that—”
She laughed interrupting him. “That’s good because the Helping Hands Agency doesn’t do that either.”
He felt color rise to his cheeks. He’d been on Earth for ten years, and sometimes he still read situations incorrectly. “I apologize for my assumption.”
“That’s quite all right. If a man approached me in a pub and offered me employment, I would probably assume the same thing. My name is Rebecca Redburn, by the way, and you are?”
“I am called Jerin.” He extended his hand in the manner of people making acquaintance.
“It’s nice to meet you, Jerin.” She smiled. “Please call me Becky. I’m sure we will enjoy a mutually satisfying arrangement.”
That meeting had taken place two years ago. Becky had been correct. Their arrangement was mutually gratifying. Working for her provided him with a wealth of opportunities to meet a great number of people, mostly women, which could possibly enable him to complete his mission. Each job Helping Hands sent him on offered the potential to reach that end.
When would he complete this mission? He was one of the rare, one in four hundred thousand, that was born with the cryan gene. Any Seteran, male or female, born with the gene was duty bound to search out and find the connecting gene in another humanoid species. It didn’t matter how long this mission took. He could not despair.
The Council had summoned him when he’d come of age. He’d sat in the auditorium style briefing room, with about thirty others, listening to a lecture on the gene and what it meant to his species. He remembered looking around at the strangers in the room, all drafted into service as he had been. They wore the expressions that fit his emotions, confusion, fear, helplessness, ignorance and resignation.
The gene seemed to occur in a handful of people every second cycle and was no longer produced in those with the genetic background of a full-blooded Seteran. Three thousand years ago it had been determined that the loss of this gene would eventually cause the Seteran race to lose the ability to procreate. For the last millennia, Setera had been sending those with the gene out into the universe in search of the connecting gene in other species. Thereby guaranteeing the diversity their gene pool lacked and ensuring the continuation of their kind. They were given more facts about the gene, and the importance of completing the mission was impressed upon them. That being said, they’d been told it would be like searching for a needle in a galactic haystack.
At the end of the lecture, a question and answer session had taken place. There had been many questions, but extremely few useful answers. Pieces of the memory drifted into his thoughts.
A tall redheaded woman, her name tag read Pintle, asked, “Can the gene be synthesized?”
The shortest scientist, Professor Snow, answered, “No. It has been attempted with unsatisfactory results. We are still searching for the match that is required.”
A short man with a bit of a pudge around his middle and a head of frizzy red hair asked, “How do we find the gene?”
Professor Lankly, with his gray hair and face that looked like he was sucking on a lemon, answered with a rather abrupt, “Unknown.”
Jerin hadn’t been able to see the name or face of the man that asked, “How will we know when we have found it?”
Professor Snow answered, “That is an unknown factor. Contradicting reports have been compiled with no conclusive results. It has been said that when the genes come in proximity it feels like death. Others have reported that it felt like being born again. Euphoria, despair, contentment and agitation have also been experienced. Some have reported that “you just know.” The only thing that has proven consistent is the fact that once the genes are connected you and the mate that has been chosen will be transported back to Setera. The Council suggests that you prepare your mate for that eventuality.”
Someone two rows in front of him had asked, “What do we do if the chosen one is not willing to come?”
The third scientist, a female answered, “No one has ever returned with an unwilling gene partner. Therefore the answer to that question is unknown.”
A female voice from behind him had asked, “Does everyone return?”
Professor Lankly was quick to respond. “No.”
The same voice inquired, “Is that because they do not find the gene?”
Lankly’s sharp and sour reply summed up the session. “Unknown.”
More questions were addressed and more inconclusive answers were given. At the end of the thirty-minute question and answer session, with the word “unknown” ringing in their ears, they had been sent off. In his opinion, they were completely unprepared.
The transporters were programmed with the information that would be needed to survive in the universe or society into which each of them had been sent. When he materialized on Earth, he’d been given enough rudimentary knowledge about the planet to fit in. Well, almost. Over time, he’d learned that his need created the knowledge required to successfully overcome an obstacle. He supposed that the transporters had somehow given him that ability, for he couldn’t remember it being part of his makeup on Setera.
Jerin stopped his mind from wandering and checked the address again. Rebecca said he was to “house-sit.” The owners would be gone for a few months on an extended around the world luxury holiday. He was to occupy the residence and take care of any problems that may arise. He’d asked Becky why they hadn’t just hired a guard.
“They want the house to appear to be lived in.”
“Couldn’t a guard do that?”
“Jerin, my job is to supply the manpower. I’m thankful that they want to use my services. As long as I’m getting paid to do a job that’s legal, I’m not going to supply alternate means to my customers. That would be bad for my business.” She’d smiled at him and given him the look he’d come to understand meant “men can be really stupid at times.”
“I suppose it would.”
She’d handed him the paperwork, key, and the address and told him to get a move on.
It had taken him a while to find the place. The man in Petts Wood had told him it was just up the lane. Now, he understood why the owners wanted someone to live in the place. It was difficult to find and quite secluded, hidden as it was in a thickly wooded area. The bumpy and rut filled lane was actually the driveway that led to the house. Careful maneuvering was required to navigate the road. What felt like miles later his destination came into view. The house appeared to be more like a cottage. Its stone face front was almost hidden by the overgrowth surrounding it. If not for the purple door, standing brightly amid the trees, bushes and shrubs obscuring the building, he would have passed it by, that is if the lane had continued on. He parked his car in a flat graveled area that seemed perfectly suited to the task. “I guess this job won’t be getting me back to Setera,” he mused.
As he walked toward the door, he fished the key out of his pocket.
* * * *
Kaley went still as stone and felt the blood drain from her face when she heard the door creak open. Her heart began to pump a frantic rhythm. Quietly and with great care, she opened cabinet doors searching for a weapon. Breaths came in short pants as her fingers closed around the cast iron frying pan she found.
Her aunt and uncle were on holiday. They’d asked her to live in the house while they were gone. Initially, she’d refused thinking David wouldn’t like her being away from him for a few months.
She’d been wrong about that. Apparently, she and David were not on the same page where their relationship was concerned. She’d found him entertaining, and she used the word lightly, another woman in the apartment they shared as roommates two weeks ago. She flushed again thinking that she’d made love with the asshole on that same bed. It didn’t matter that she’d decided to have the “breakup” or “we need to fix our relationship” talk with him that very night. His betrayal had hurt. Her fingers squeezed the handle of the pan tightly bringing her back to the problem at hand. An intruder!
Silently, she padded across the kitchen floor and pressed herself against the wall near the doorjamb while holding the frying pan at her chest. She took a breath and closed her eyes trying to get control of her hammering heart. She peeked around the doorjamb trying to see the prowler.
The entrance to the house opened into a foyer, which immediately spread out to become an open landing of sorts. The kitchen was to the left on the landing. The sunken living room, with its enormous fireplace, was the focal point of the house and was located straight ahead. The bedrooms and bathrooms were to the right side of the landing.
The sound of heavy male boots crossing the foyer floor filled the air. It seemed to be a single perpetrator. Damn, he was taking his time. Something made a heavy thudding noise as it hit the floor. What was going on out there? She wanted to stomp her foot in exasperation. She pulled her head back and leaned it against the wall. The footsteps became louder, causing the rate of her breathing to escalate. She chanced another peek.
He stood in profile with his hands loosely settled on his hips as if he were surveying a new residence. The man had to stand at least six feet six inches tall with broad shoulders and muscled arms. His biceps flexed and filled his red and blue plaid shirt sleeve. Tight blue jeans showed off legs thick with sinew and hard flesh. The corner of his mouth tilted into a smile creating a dimple. He turned his head to the side just enough for her to see a lock of his black hair fall carelessly into the middle of his forehead. It was all she could do to stifle the gasp that threatened to escape her lips. He looked like Superman.
Too bad she had to bash him over the head. Her body was telling her it would prefer to be doing something else to him.
He took the two steps down into the sunken living room. If she were going to do this, now would be the time. At five feet nine inches tall, she was not a small woman. Truth be told, she was a curvy full sized woman and rather strong, more muscle than fat. Even so, she had her doubts about her ability to subdue this man. Kaley gripped the frying pan, knuckles turning white with the strain of it. Inhaling a fortifying and courage building breath, she charged. He turned and his blue eyes filled with surprise as the pan in her hands made contact with the side of his head.
The next moments seemed to happen in slow motion. The man’s arms moved upward in a reflex and defensive action. His hands gripped her upper arms. As he lost consciousness, the weight of his body pulled her off balance, sending her tumbling to the floor with him. Her head collided with his jaw. Dazed, she rolled off of him and struggled to her knees. Placing her palms on her temples she pressed, trying to ease the pain and steady the dizziness that was threatening to send her into the same state as the intruder. After three deep breaths, her eyes began to focus. The giant lay before her as still as death. A moment of panic washed over her. Had she killed him? She placed her ear to his chest in search of the answer. The steady thump thump of his heartbeat greeted her, and she sighed in relief. The overpowering need to vomit overcame her. She rose and scrambled to the bathroom.