(Galactic Dynasty #3)

by E. M. Lohr & Wendy Lohr

Lineage – For all of us, the link from past to present… and to the future. DNA that carries more than traits binds Rosa to her alien past, to a synthetic intelligence, and directly links her to both human and Metrusian races. The first to be of both worlds. An onus that she must embrace as fate will not have it any other way. Aliens, synthetic intelligence, and Earthlings – a lineage fusion of galactic proportions.


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Chapter 1 (Martin)

“Meredith, I’d like to raise my glass to you,” Martin Goodsbie declared in a warm, loving tone. Lifting his flute, filled with champagne, he held his wife’s gaze and toasted, “To the woman who has held my heart for more than twenty years. You have been and continue to be everything to me. I love you and look forward to sharing many more years with you. Happy Twentieth Anniversary, Sweetheart.”

Her face lit up with a brilliant smile, eyes shining as she raised her own flute and clinked it gently against his. Taking a sip of the bubbly spirit, she set her glass down and proclaimed, “I love you too, honey, and I’m looking forward to many more years with you.” Then she shook her head and gazed around the quaint restaurant as she shared, “I can’t believe you managed to pull this off, Martin. I mean, Venice for our twentieth? I was so sure ISA was going to call you up at the last minute and beg you to come into work.”

Chuckling, he responded mischievously, “That’s why I insisted we turn our cell phones off today and even remove the batteries. I also unplugged the phones at the hotel. I didn’t want any distractions while I’m celebrating with the woman I love. Especially not after you’ve had to put up with my crazy schedule for almost twenty years. This is our night, baby, and it’s just getting started.”

“I will definitely drink to that!” she exclaimed and they each finished off the champagne in their flutes.

Martin refilled their glasses and returned the bottle to the shiny silver bucket of ice to keep it chilled. After their meal arrived, the two ate in companionable silence for a few moments before he asked, “So, we’re here for a few days. What would you like to do tomorrow?”

She was thoughtful for a moment before suggesting, “How about seeing the city from one of those gondolas? I’ve always wanted to ride in one and we can get in some sightseeing at the same time.”

“Sounds perfect to me,” he agreed, his eyes drinking in how beautiful she was in the soft candlelight. Meredith was still as lovely to him today as she was when they’d first met during their senior year in college. With a grin, he asked, “Remember how we met?”

With a laugh, she nodded and replied, “I was getting a coffee at one of those kiosk carts on campus. And clumsy me spilled my change all over the sidewalk. You helped me pick it up but held the coins hostage until I agreed to go out on a date with you.”

“Hey, it worked,” he teased with a chuckle of his own. “You were so beautiful, Mer, with the snow falling all around you and your cute little nose all red from the cold. I would have resorted to begging that day if you hadn’t agreed to go out with me.”

“Oh stop,” she laughed, her eyes twinkling happily and added, “It was the best decision I ever made.”

“And deciding to stop for coffee that day was the best decision I’d ever made… that and proposing to you,” he shared in return, winking at her and reaching across the table to hold her slender hand. Lifting it to his lips, he kissed the back of it and confessed, “You know, I kept one of the quarters that fell out of your purse that day. I’ve been carrying it everywhere with me since then, even when I went to Mars.”

“Really? Why didn’t you ever tell me that?” she asked, surprise and delight lighting up her features.

“I don’t know. I guess at the time I felt a little foolish. And then after a while, it had become such a habit to pull that quarter out every so often when I was thinking of you that I didn’t think to say anything,” he responded with a sheepish grin. Keeping her hand in his, he used his free hand to retrieve the quarter from his pocket and showed it to her as he continued, “In a way, I feel like you’re always with me, Mer, even when you’re not.”

Giving him that amazing smile he’d fallen in love with all those years ago, she squeezed his hand and told him, “I love you so much, Martin.” Then she winked at him and teased, “You big romantic, you.”

He laughed as he put the quarter back in his pocket and joked, “Just don’t tell anyone else. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.”

She shook her head in amusement and they stared at each other like two lovesick teens before remembering they still had food in front of them. Sheepishly they returned to their meals. Finishing, they shared a piece of tiramisu before Martin paid the bill and escorted his wife out into the sultry Venice night.

Wrapping his arm around Meredith’s waist, Martin kissed her temple affectionately and they began to stroll at a leisurely pace. Other couples and small groups were promenading and laughing along the sidewalks and over the bridges, making the city feel vibrant and alive. After walking along for a few minutes and chatting about the dinner they’d shared, Martin spied what he was searching for and asked, “Ready to try something new?”

“Absolutely,” she responded eagerly.

Coming to a stop next to a gondola, he asked the operator if he could take them to or near their hotel. Martin could feel Meredith practically bouncing up and down excitedly and squeezed her to him for a moment as the man told them he could get them within a couple of blocks. Satisfied with that answer, he turned to Meredith and asked, “So, did you want to take the gondola tonight or were you set on taking one tomorrow?”

“Oh, hush. You know I want to ride in one now!” she exclaimed with a laugh, making him grin.

After helping her into the gondola, Martin cautiously stepped in and took a seat next to her, their backs to the gondola operator so they’d have an unhampered view ahead of them. As the man began to sing in a rich baritone, Meredith laid her head on Martin’s shoulder and shared, “Okay, I forgive you for every anniversary you had to miss or could only take me out to dinner for.”

Smiling, he hugged her close and enjoyed the ride as they slowly drifted along. It was amazing to him that Meredith had been willing to stay married to him all these years what with his hectic schedule and him not always being around. He’d missed more anniversaries than he cared to think about, but he’d been determined to make their twentieth special. And since Starward wasn’t due back for at least another year or more, he was relieved to be able to finally do what he’d been wanting to do for years for her and for them.

As the gondola came to a stop, Martin pushed thoughts of work and Starward out of his mind. Tonight was all about Meredith and he couldn’t wait for them to get back to the hotel. Paying the gondolier and adding in an extra hefty tip, Martin helped Meredith out of the gondola and got his bearings before putting an arm around her and guiding them towards the hotel.

Once back in their room, she went to the bathroom to freshen up and he plugged in the hotel phone long enough to call for room service. Ordering strawberries and more champagne, he hung up and unplugged the phone once more. Loosening his tie and removing his shoes and socks, Martin was shrugging out of his dress jacket when there was a knock at the door.

Opening it, he grinned at the sight of the champagne, strawberries, and ice bucket, impressed with the fast service. Motioning for the young man to set everything on the small table, Martin tipped him and waited for him to leave. Then he made sure the lock was secure on the door before turning his attention to uncorking the champagne bottle.

He’d just popped it when Meredith came out of the bathroom and his mouth dropped open. Staring speechless, he barely registered the overflow of champagne wetting his hand and dripping onto his bare foot. It had been a while since his wife had worn anything so provocative and he could feel himself getting aroused at the sight of her in the black negligee with red accents.

“Like what you see?” she asked, her voice a little husky with desire and he nodded slowly, his eyes drinking in every inch of her. With a laugh, she pointed out, “I think we’re supposed to drink the champagne, Martin. Not wear it.”

“Huh?” he managed to utter and then looked down to see that his left foot and hand was wet from the alcohol that had spilled over from the bottle. “Oh shit! Uh, right! Go on and get comfy, baby, and let me pour us some glasses. Um, I mean, champagne. Into the glasses. Right.”

Yeah, apparently his wife still had the ability to make him tongue-tied and he was enjoying every minute of it even though he was being made to sound like an imbecile. She laughed and sashayed over to the bed, distracting him again as he ogled the sway of her hips. Shaking his head and trying to focus on what he was supposed to be doing, Martin wondered for the billionth time how he’d gotten so lucky to have her agree to be his wife.

Pouring two flutes full of champagne, he carried them and the bowl of fresh strawberries over to the bed. While she indulged, teasing him by dipping a strawberry into the champagne and then biting into it sensuously, Martin hastily began removing all of his clothes except for the black silk boxers she’d bought him for Valentine’s Day. Eyeing him in the boxers appreciatively, she dipped another strawberry and urged, “Come over here, big guy, and let me feed you.”

Not having to be told twice, he joined her on the bed and happily accepted the champagne-dipped strawberry. Nothing else was said between the two of them for the next several moments as they fed each other. When their flutes were empty, Martin set everything over on the side table and pulled Meredith to him in a passionate embrace. She tasted of strawberries and champagne and Martin wanted nothing more than to devour her over and over again.

Running his lips to her ear, he heard her moan softly, “Make love to me, Martin.”

“With pleasure, my love,” he murmured back and slowly began ravishing her with his lips and tongue, tasting every inch of exposed skin. He was determined to take his time even though he desperately wanted her now. This was all for her and Martin wanted it to be one of the most memorable nights of her life.

Returning his lips to hers once more, he kissed her passionately as his hands began to seek out the clasp or zipper or whatever it was that would remove her negligee. He’d been too distracted to notice how it was supposed to come off, but he’d figure it out soon enough. Nothing was getting between him and his woman, not even a piece of sexy material.

Just as his fingers came into contact with a clasp of some sort, a firm knock sounded at the door in the adjacent room. Ignoring it, he continued to kiss Meredith while releasing the first clasp of the negligee’s bodice. Then the knock on the door became a loud pounding, extremely persistent, and a faint voice call out, “Sir, please open the door. We need to speak with you immediately.”

Martin tensed and pulled back just enough to look at Meredith. She looked as surprised as he felt and she urged softly, “Maybe you should go see who that is. What if something’s happened to Jake or April? We’ve had our phones off and they could have been trying to reach us.”

Hoping this didn’t have anything to do with their teenage twins, Martin let out a frustrated groan as he nodded and agreed reluctantly, “Alright, but don’t go anywhere. I’ll see what’s going on and try to get rid of them so we can pick up where we left off.”

“Sounds good to me, hot stuff,” she stated with a teasing grin that had him stealing another kiss even as the pounding started up on the door again.

Getting off the bed and hastily donning a bathrobe, Martin strode swiftly from the bedroom to the suite door, unlocked it, and yanked it open just far enough to see who it was. Observing two uniformed MP’s out in the hall, he groaned and demanded, “How did you all find me? I’m in the middle of celebrating my twentieth anniversary, dammit! Now what’s this all about?”

The MP’s exchanged uneasy glances before one of them spoke up, “We’re sorry to interrupt, sir. We were ordered to find you and deliver a message.”

“What can be so damn important?!” his ire almost out of hand.

In a low voice one MP shared, “There’s been contact from Starward. They’re on their way back, Mr. Goodsbie.”

Staring at the two men in confusion, Martin shook his head and finally sputtered, “That’s impossible! They’re not expected back for at least another year. If this is some tactic to get me to come into the office for some ridiculous reason, I’m not amused.”

“No sir. We have the recording here of the brief communication exchange between Starward and the space station,” the other MP spoke up and held out a recording device.

Taking it from him, Martin pressed play and heard Commander Natasha Vorsky’s voice, “Starward to International Space Station. Come in.”

“This is International Space Station, Captain Lars Johanssen speaking. Go ahead Starward.”

“It’s good to be in contact again, Captain Johanssen. This is Commander Natasha Vorsky reporting that Starward has returned to our solar system. Our estimated time of arrival at the space station is eight days. Further information to come. Vorsky out.”

Stunned, all Martin could do was stare at the device in his hand for several long moments. How was that even possible? Eighty-nine days into the mission, they’d lost contact with Starward and about a month later, the ship had completely disappeared from their solar system. One second they had them approaching Jupiter and the next, the ship was gone. So how was it that they were back again and were going to be docking with the space station so soon?

“When did this come in?” he finally questioned.

“This morning, sir. We’ve been trying to find you ever since,” one of the MP’s answered. “There’s a jet prepped and waiting to take you back to the States when you’re ready, sir.”

With a heavy sigh, Martin relented and uttered, “Alright, meet me in the lobby. Obviously I need to get dressed and packed.”

Seeing the men nod, he handed the recording device back to them and closed the door. Returning to the bedroom, Meredith gave him a wan smile as she surmised, “I take it duty calls, huh?”

“Ah, Mer, I’m so sorry,” he apologized and rushed over to her, pulling her into his arms. “Starward’s on its way back, way ahead of schedule, and I’m needed back at the office.”

“So soon? I thought they weren’t due back for another year or so,” her surprise matching his own.

“So did I. But apparently this mission is nothing but surprises. This morning Vorsky contacted the space station to let them know Starward has re-entered our solar system. And they’re supposed to be docking with the space station in eight days,” he shared, still bewildered by the news.

With a supportive smile, she kissed him and observed, “Well, I guess you’d better get back to work then, Mr. Chairman. I love what you tried to do here, Martin, for our anniversary, but I also understand. I do have a request, though.”

Seeing a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, he asked, “And just what would that be, my love?”

“Think we could join the Mile High Club on the way back to the States?” she questioned teasingly and he laughed, getting in an extra hot kiss with her.

“Well we are flying back on a private jet and it will be several long hours before we land,” he remarked naughtily and playfully tickled her sides, causing her to giggle in return.

Sharing a few more kisses, Martin reluctantly pulled away and helped her up so they could both get dressed and packed. He made sure to cork the champagne bottle and take it with them, determined to finish what he’d started with his wife even though it would be on a plane instead of in a hotel room. At least he would be making this anniversary memorable for her and that thought had him grinning all the way to the airport. And even more so when they finally joined the Mile High Club.

After his more intimate activities were over, Martin smiled at his sleeping wife and sighed, knowing he needed to turn his focus to the current issue that was sending him back to work earlier than planned. Utilizing the secure satellite connection on the plane, he began weeding through his e-mails and issuing instructions to his various staff members. He requested an official press release be drafted for his review upon his arrival and also got the ball rolling on setting up the debriefing sessions that would be taking place once Starward’s crew was Earthside. Seeing an encrypted message had come through from Starward, he sighed and knew he would have to wait until he got to his office to read that particular message since he didn’t have the deciphering software available to him on the plane.

After catching a couple of hours of sleep, they finally arrived back in the States. He kissed Meredith good-bye at the airport and watched as she departed in the limo (part of their anniversary package he had arranged) back to their home. Then he settled into the black SUV that was waiting to take him to the office and wondered just what other things he would find when he got there. As soon as the vehicle came to a stop at the ISA-owned building, Martin hopped out of the vehicle, impatiently waited for security to scan him in, and quickly made his way to his top floor corner office.

Saying hi to his administrative assistant, Sheila, who was busy at her desk, he took the paper she handed him before entering his office and settling into his leather chair. Waiting for his computer to come up, he skimmed the paper she had given him. It was the press release he had requested. It wasn’t bad and he laid it to the side for now and pulled up his e-mails. Opening the encrypted message first, he saw it was a report from Commander Vorsky. Using the software designed specifically to decipher the message, he read:

‘Mr. Goodsbie, I’m pleased to report that our mission has been a success beyond anything we imagined and I look forward to briefing you in person in a little over a week’s time. But first, I have a few items that you need to be made aware of before we arrive. We did, in fact, encounter a new alien species on this mission. They are called Metrusians and we were greeted by them at an outpost they had set up many centuries ago. During our time on their outpost named Vagar, we learned quite a bit and an exchange of sorts was proposed. All parties were in agreement, so I’m pleased to inform you that we have two Metrusian guests on board with us. In exchange, Dr. Anne Walsh and Captain Allen Bradshaw agreed to stay at the outpost. Dr. Walsh expressed a desire to learn more about the Metrusians and their culture and Captain Bradshaw agreed to stay with her in order to provide support as well as learn more about the aliens’ military and government set up.’

Pausing for a moment, Martin leaned back in his chair and absorbed this bit of news. So, aliens did exist and he would soon be meeting two of them. Taking a moment to write a few notes on the press release to address the imminent arrival of these aliens as well as the exchange of two of their own, he wondered how the world would handle the news. For him, it was both exhilarating and unsettling to learn that they were definitely not alone in the universe. Although the discovery of the beacon had answered the question of whether other races in the universe existed, no one knew for sure that whomever had placed it was still around, so to speak. Curious as to what these aliens wanted with the human race, Martin turned his focus back to the encrypted report and continued reading.

‘Because these two agreed to stay behind on the outpost, I respectfully request to meet with their families so I can explain in person their reasons for staying behind. The exchange was agreed to only take place for six months, so they will not be gone indefinitely and I would like to be the one to explain that to their families.’

Not seeing a problem with that request, Martin made a mental note to set that up and read some more.

‘Also, I have information I would like to share regarding Rosa’s involvement with this mission. But I would prefer a private meeting with you to discuss this matter. I am also requesting that Rosa meet with her family just as soon as we arrive as they will want to be made aware of this development immediately.’

Now what? Nothing about Rosa Martinez’s involvement with this mission had been normal and Martin wondered what could possibly have been discovered now. Maybe the aliens had been able to explain why her DNA had been so vital to this mission? Whatever it was, Vorsky apparently didn’t trust even the encryption software she was using to send this report. Making another note to ensure that Rosa’s family had a private meeting place available to greet their daughter, Martin kept reading.

‘Overall the journey was not without its quirks, but each new problem encountered was handled by this crew with an efficiency and professionalism that should be applauded. I will be sending more reports in the coming days to bring you up to speed on what all has occurred and will look forward to sitting down with you in person once we are back on the ground. Also, I have enacted a twelve-hour moratorium on the crew to give you time to prepare any initial press releases you deem necessary before they begin sharing information with their families and friends.’

Noting the time of when she’d initially transmitted this report, Martin did a mental calculation and realized he had maybe four hours to get the press release out to the world before that moratorium lifted. Feeling the pressure acutely, he decided he could rush a brief press release out and inform the public that he would be having a press conference the next morning. That would give him time to figure out how exactly to share this information with the world and it would head off any rumors that might get started due to information shared by the crew with their families. Running a hand through his hair and sighing, he finished perusing the report.

‘And one last thing I will leave you with is that the Metrusians are not the only species out there; according to them, there are three other known species as well and the four species together have developed what they call a Galactic Council. This was the reason for our mission, the reason the beacon was placed on Mars to begin with; to journey to Outpost Vagar and receive an invitation to join this Galactic Council. I’ll provide more details in the coming reports I transmit to you, but at least you will now have some solid information to share with the world. Commander Natasha Vorsky.’

A Galactic Council made up of four alien species and Earth was being invited to join it. The concept was overwhelming and Martin was impatient to learn more about it. His first instinct was to want to immediately agree to join, but he knew that nothing in life was ever that simple. The whole world would have to be informed and the decision would be up to all the world leaders.

Realizing that and recognizing how long their bureaucratic process normally took, he wondered if six months would be enough time. Perhaps just the exchange was for six months and Earth could take more time to reach a worldwide decision whether to accept or decline the invitation. Not wanting to get ahead of himself, Martin pushed that worry to the side and focused on what needed to happen right now. And that was to inform the ISA big wigs of the latest developments so they would not learn about it from the press. Plus he had to contact all the families so they would be here when the crew returned. And he had to figure out how to handle the press where the two alien guests were concerned.

One piece at a time, Martin, he told himself and took a few moments to re-center his focus. Then he began tackling the tasks in order, holding down his erupting excitement and eagerly awaiting more reports to be transmitted to him from Commander Vorsky.

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