Claimed by Noatak
Claimed by Noatak
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Marlis has a sixth sense for danger, a keen aim with her pistol... and a dream-crushing brain injury. Her dad wants to keep her on a leash. This alien pirate is going to help her break free...
- Fatal Attraction
- Badass Wounded Heroine
- Alien Hero with a Past
- What Would You Sacrifice For Love?
- Quirky Sidekick Characters
- Evil Corporate Intrigue
Once a sharpshooter with an unerring sixth sense for danger, Marlis's dreams were shattered by a debilitating injury. Disqualified from the military, she finds herself guarding an alien vessel. But it's not the thrill of space that reignites the fire in her—it's the massive, bearded first mate who tempts her in ways she's never known.
Noatak has a past haunted by shadows and the ship's medic has given him a dire prognosis: his life will end within a standard cycle. Yet, the appearance of the alluring human soldier complicates his acceptance of this fate. A bond with her promises passion, but it's a dance with death.
Each of them yearning for a future that seems just out of reach, can they defy the odds and carve out a small pocket of the universe just for themselves?
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
Marlis leveled her Blackstar E-11 and squeezed the trigger. The target at the end of the range flashed three times. Bulls-eye.
“Fuck them and their standards,” she muttered, pushing the target back another meter. She took aim and fired several more shots, each one flashing success. The E-11 zero-recoil pulse pistol had been a gift for her eleventh birthday, and after fourteen years and many other weapons, it was still her favorite. “I was even on time this morning.”
“Good shot, Marlis!” Marlis’s AI chimed from her wristband. The artificial intelligence was supposed to assist Marlis with anger management and lapses in memory, but its trite encouragements did nothing to assuage her today.
“Shut up, Twerp.” Marlis racked the energy coil’s cooling module and set the pistol aside. Picking up her customized Renegade MCS6 rifle, she reset the target for long-range and sighted in.
The lanes of the Syndicorp cruiser’s firing range were all occupied today, but she had eyes only for her target, imagining each bulls-eye as the face of the service recruiter assigned to her file. I’m Legacy, for fuck’s sake. Descended from a long line of trooper personnel with excellent records. And it wasn’t as if she couldn’t keep up during the drills. She could out-shoot, out-run, and out-wrestle every woman as well as most men on the squad. So what if she needed a little help to remember what day it was?
“Marlis!” a man’s voice barked behind her.
Gut tightening, she whipped the rifle around.
Her father’s narrow gaze flicked to the barrel, his mouth in a grim line as she lowered the weapon.
She refused to feel any regret about being battle-ready. Mom had died while she and Marlis had been on Pulati for a mother-daughter vacation. Ten-year-old Marlis had only survived the sudden terrorist outbreak by hiding beneath her mother’s dead body for sixteen hours.
Marlis had no intention of letting her guard down. Ever.
Dad crossed his arms over his chest, covering the service ribbons on the lapel of his uniform. “You missed your date last night.”
“That’s tonight.” Even as she said it, she realized she was probably wrong.
Twerp’s feminine voice rose from her wrist strap. “I informed you of the engagement at seventeen hundred yesterday and again at seventeen twenty. You said you were in no mood to give someone a blow job and directed me not to remind you again.”
Marlis’s face heated to match the rising flush in her father’s usually pallid cheeks. When would she ever remember to put in her earbud? Teeth clenched, she grated out, “Shut up, Twerp.”
Dad squared his shoulders, looking Marlis straight in the eye. “He’s a respectable young man, Marlis. From a good family. You couldn’t ask for a better match.”
“I don’t want a better match. I want to join the Troopers.” She turned around and took aim at the target once more. “Get me a date with someone useful and I’ll go.”
“I can’t rebuild the bridges you burn fast enough.”
Refusing to be distracted, she let out a slow breath and squeezed the trigger in rapid succession. The target lit up on all but the final shot. She lowered the rifle. “I’d be a good soldier, Dad.”
A gentle hand settled on her shoulder. “You blew up at your recruiter.”
Marlis fuzzily remembered her rage at the small-eyed, beak-nosed recruiter who oversaw the drills the troopers used to weed out unworthy candidates. He was supposed to test the recruits’ physical aptitudes. Instead, he’d thrown history questions at them. She seemed to recall a lot of swear words coming out of her mouth instead of answers. “What good is a history lesson going to do for me on the battle field?”
“He thinks you’re a liability. They want to rescind your weapon carry permit.” Dad’s voice lowered with unaccustomed softness. “I’m sorry.”
His words felt like a punch in the gut. Give up her pistol? No way. No longer able to focus on the target, Marlis shoved the E-11 into the holster built into the back hip of her pants and shouldered her rifle, turning to leave.
She continued walking.
“Marlis. Your rifle case.”
Face on fire, she halted; she might still have a permit to carry, but exiting the range actually welding a weapon, even on a military ship, was a big no-no. Stupid memory. Other AI models came equipped with a visual node to track items, but Marlis’s therapist claimed that requiring her to remember some things on her own would help her improve.
Squaring her shoulders, she spun on her heel and retrieved the case, visually verifying there was nothing else she was leaving behind. Her father’s watchful gaze made Marlis doubt herself. What else was she forgetting? Dammit!
Reacting to her elevated heart rate, Twerp vibrated against her wrist, encouraging her to remain calm, then came to the rescue with a reminder. “Marlis, you are scheduled for lunch with your sister in forty-three minutes. May I remind you that Attie is routinely early?”
“Thank you, Twerp.” She offered her dad a weak smile. “I need to go clean up. I’ll talk to you later.”
Passing uniformed personnel as she moved through the carrier’s corridors, Marlis silently repeated her mantra from years in therapy, there is no danger. Yet it was a hard mantra to believe when she’d just been told her right to carry a firearm was in jeopardy. She switched to anger does more harm than good. By the time she reached the family housing section and the modest quarters she shared with her dad and sister, Twerp had stopped buzzing.
She stowed her rifle and washed her face, then headed toward the mess hall on the lower deck where Attie probably already waited. Her big sister had been accepted into the Troopers over a year ago, quickly rising to Private First Class. The job left Attie little time to visit with family, although she made a point of having lunch weekly with Marlis. No matter how routine it might be, Marlis’s heart lightened at the thought of seeing her.
Uniform crisp and ash-blonde hair trimmed to short ringlets, Attie was already seated at their usual table. The huge room echoed with the predominantly human lunch crowd filling long tables, the homogeny interspersed by a few clusters of aliens. Attie’s head was down, eyes scanning the screen of a polycom as Marlis approached. A new gold chevron adorned the epaulet on her shoulder.
“You made corporal?” Marlis asked, unable to drag her gaze from the emblem.
Attie set the polycom aside and rose, brushing her fingertips over the rank badge before rounding the table to give Marlis a hug. “I officially got the promotion today.”
“Hugging’s against regulation. They’re gonna come take that chevron back.” Marlis squeezed her sister, trying to summon a sense of humor instead of jealousy. Her sister was so together.
Attie rolled her eyes and once more took her seat. She glanced toward the long chow line. “You want to go first while I finish these reports?”
Nodding, Marlis got in line among the uniformed personnel. Prior to this moment, she’d always strutted into the mess hall knowing she was among her people; it was only a matter of time before she had her own uniform. Now it felt like everyone’s eyes were on her; challenging her worth.
Putting two plates onto her tray, she selected the chicken curry and skipped the dessert section, opting for two coffees with cream instead. Although Attie never asked, Marlis always came back with food for both of them. It seemed like a waste of precious sister-time to send Attie to stand in line all over again.
Returning to the table, Marlis set both plates down. “It was this or something that looked like cat vomit.”
“Thanks.” Attie picked up her fork and poked at a sliced tomato, edging it away from her chicken. “How’re things with Dad?”
Something about the set of Attie’s shoulders had Marlis on edge. “He’s still trying to set me up with Colonel Yan’s son. Why do you ask?”
Attie shrugged. “Is he cute?”
Now Marlis’s warning bells began to chime. “Some people think so. Why?”
Taking a big bite, Attie chewed slowly before answering. “You turn twenty-six soon. You know what that means.”
Of course she knew. At twenty-six, she’d lose her status as her father’s dependent and all the perks that came with it. Unless she joined the Troopers herself, she’d be sent to ground, forced to join the civilians on one muddy planet or another. Trapped, just like on Pulati. Never, never, never. “Of course I do. What does that have to do with Colonel Yan’s son?”
“A lot of people enjoy marriage. It’d give you a partner.”
“Marrying some douche bag I could beat at arm wrestling won’t solve my problems.”
Attie tapped her fork against her plate nervously. “Marlis, you need someone you can rely on.”
“What do you mean? I have you. And I have Dad when he’s not being a dick.”
Setting her fork down, Attie took a deep breath, gaze locked with Marlis’s. “I’ve been assigned to the flagship Icarus.”
It felt as if someone had just opened the ship’s blast doors, sucking away all the oxygen. Marlis’s vision narrowed, the room fading around her. Attie can’t leave. Her sister was her rock. The one person she could always turn to. Twerp buzzed almost painfully against her skin, telling her to calm down.