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Authors: Viola Grace

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Hunting (The Nine)

BOOK: Hunting (The Nine)
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Ancient cities and the need to hunt give Nik a few clients who are out of this world.

 

 

Niika has a love for the land that goes bone deep. Even damaged by an old injury, she seeks out prey in the form of plants, animals and missing persons. Nik’s life revolves around her taking groups on tours of the wild and teaching them to live off the land that offers so much. Taking a group of aliens is a definite first.

The Nine need fresh supplies if they are to remain as a defense and an assisting partner to the people of Gaia. They also wish to know where their own people used to live and how. Cavos is a historian in search of the city of the Stone Folk, and he is quite surprised to find his mind turning from the past to the future when he meets the Gaian huntress who is leading him to his heart’s desire.

 

 

 

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

 

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Hunting

Copyright © 2013 Viola Grace

ISBN: 978-1-77111-519-3

Cover art by Martine Jardin

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by eXtasy Books

Look for us online at:

www.eXtasybooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting

Return of the Nine Book 6

 

 

By

 

 

Viola Grace

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Niika looked around and waited. The grass in the meadow was ruffling lightly and the trees bent and swayed as wind moved them in rhythm.

Niika crouched down and held her breath as the hoof beats of one of Gaia’s rarest creatures brought it close to her.

The beast broke free of the forest and its thudding feet brought it into the open. Niika couldn’t stop the grin on her lips as it lifted its head, shook out its mane and horn and its nostrils flared.

Niika held perfectly still as the beast came toward her. Her heartbeat was slow and steady, but he sought her out with alarming accuracy.

The horn speared through the brush and stopped an inch from her chest before it eased in to touch her. She held perfectly still until the horn retreated and the lovely equine head nudged her. “Hello, love.”

She felt the warmth of his mind in hers, and she laughed. It had taken her years of running through the Archives with Daphne, but she had found an obscure reference to a mythical beast. A unicorn was here on Gaia, and it made for an excellent companion.

Niika came out of cover and wrapped her arms around his neck.

He rubbed her back with his chin and snorted.

“Who’s a good boy?”

He made a peculiar chortling sound and stepped back into the centre of the meadow. He bounced up and down on his hooves, waving the deadly blade of his horn around.

To Niika’s surprise, another one of his kind slowly came out of the green shadows and moved to stand at his side. She was lovely, a silvery black to his blue and ivory. He rubbed his head along her neck, and Niika smiled. She sent him warm wishes, and he trotted back over to her, placing his muzzle against her palm.

His mate looked at her with shy curiosity. She came up and carefully extended her muzzle to Niika.

Moving carefully, Niika held her other palm out and let the female touch her. When the light contact was made, Niika curled her fingers and stroked the underside of the female’s jaw slowly. The unicorn’s lids lowered in enjoyment, and she leaned forward in silent demand.

A sound in the distance brought her head around, and she stared with the two beasts at her side. “I am sorry. It seems my survival group has woken up. I look forward to seeing you again when I am in your territory.”

The male shook his long, glossy mane out and steered his female back into the cover of the trees.

With the last look at their swishing tails, she turned and walked back to the campsite. Time to take her city folk back home again.

 

They were scuffed, they were grubby and they were ragged, but her group of survival-training enthusiasts were alive and very glad to return to their homes.

Niika dropped them off at the outfitting station and headed for the com station to get her messages.

Her eyes widened as she heard, “Sorry you missed it, Niika, but I was sort of in a hurry.”

Emharo was framed in the screen and smiling brightly. “Yes, Nik, I have gotten married to a member of the Nine. Rivvin is one of the Water Folk, and he is as crazy about the ocean as I am. Come by the habitat, and Mom and Dad will fill you in. I knew you would be gone a while and you wouldn’t begrudge me this, but I want you to meet him as soon as you can get some free time. Love you, Nik.”

Niika sat through the notices from her aunt and uncle, as well as a greeting from a male with a decidedly green tint.

“Greetings, Niika Baker. I am Rivvin Sequelar, and your cousin Emharo and I have become mates. Know that I will take good care of her when she needs it and get the hell out of her way when she doesn’t.” His smile said that he had already experienced that particular phenomenon at least once.

Niika chuckled.

“I look forward to meeting you. My wife says that you do on the land what she does in the ocean, and those are skills that are in desperate need at the moment. Ambassador Leoraki is assembling a gathering of those who wish to learn more of the wild, and he will be requesting that you lead them in their education. From what Emharo has said about you, there is no one better on all of Gaia.”

She blushed and looked from side to side to see if anyone was paying attention to the praise she was getting from her cousin’s new alien husband.

“Contact the ambassador or his wife when you are able, and they will have your next course ready to go. Again, I look forward to meeting you. Emharo speaks of you every day. She misses you.”

Niika swallowed. She missed Em as well. It was part and parcel of the residue of the Tokkel attacks that kept her moving through the woods, learning and seeking out whatever random idea sprang through her mind. She had sought out minerals, rare plants, animals that no Gaian had imagined, and she had done it all for the sheer joy of movement and life.

After all, she had almost lost everything with that one blast to the spine.

When the folk who wanted to take her course had been forwarded to the organizer, she made the call to Daphne Leoraki. “Hiya, Daphne.”

Daphne was wearing a lovely shirt embroidered with layer upon layer of vines and leaves. Her dark hair swung heavily down her back and over her shoulder. “Hiya, Niika. You look disgustingly fresh after your three weeks in the wild.”

Niika shrugged. She knew how to keep herself tidy. If her student’s couldn’t figure out how to shower in the woods after she had explained it to them three times, they could return home stinky but alive.

“Thank you. I do try. So, I hear you have a group for me?”

“Yes, some biologists and historians. Stone and Wilders for the most part. Are you free?”

Niika cocked her head. “Not free but reasonably priced.”

Daphne groaned. “That joke was old before you said it the first time. I will have the money transferred to your account immediately. I am guessing that two weeks in the wild will suit them. Will that suit you?”

Niika mentally grunted. “As long as I can have one day to shower and get a change of clothing, I should be fine. What are they looking for?”

“They will have to tell you. There are some things that even the Nine don’t admit to.” Daphne winked.

They finished their pleasantries, and Niika spoke to the coordinator, completing the reports on her students before getting her air-cycle out of the shed and heading for home.

The wind in her hair tasted of summer. It should be easy to find whatever the Nine needed, but first, she needed a tune-up.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

The moment she was in her small home, she powered up the lights and headed for the shower. Just because she could survive without a hot shower didn’t mean that she didn’t enjoy them.

When all her outside gear was gone and her underwear was in the hamper with everything, all that was left on her body was the Tokkel torture straps that kept her upright.

She stepped under the hot spray, breathing in the mist of the steaming water as she ran soap over every inch of her before she lathered her hair.

With the straps wet, she could twist in them, getting water under them to clean off any grime or oils. They were a prison and a memory of pain, but they were also the only way she could get around.

The bands held her upright, restricting movement but going around her spine and giving her the movement that the blast to the spine had taken.

Five years. It had been five years since she and her cousin had discovered the wreckage of the Tokkel ship and the crewmember still alive inside it. Emharo had gone for help, but the remaining thug had come out of stasis and shot her in the back before binding her in the torture harness to control her.

As she towelled off, Nik bet that the Tokkel had not had any idea his little sadistic game would cost him his life. It wasn’t the first throat she had slit, but it had left her with a body to destroy before her cousin came back with reinforcements.

Ularica had taken in the harness and modified it for Nik’s use. She wore it every moment of every day.

Whistling, she dried her hair and picked out clothing to take with her during her next jaunt. She was going to need a few changes of clothing and far more knives from what she had seen of the Wilders.

Tomorrow was going to be a fun day.

 

Four men looked at her with surprise. One was huge and silvery grey, one was smaller but of the same species, and two had the ferocious countenance of the Wilders.

She smiled brightly and said, “May I please see anything you brought with you?”

They blinked.

“I am Niika Baker, your guide and master hunter of Gaia. Please, your supplies?”

Bemused, they opened their packs, and she rifled through them as quickly as possible. “Fine. What are you seeking in the wilds of Gaia?”

One of the Wilders spoke. “I am Morro, this is Tidae, and we are biologists in search of some protein species that can be easily propagated in captivity.”

She nodded. “How many people are you feeding?”

Tidae cleared his throat. “Fifteen hundred? They need an animal-based protein at least once per week. Grown protein only gets us so far, and it has a detrimental effect on our instincts.”

Niika nodded, a list of species beginning to form in her mind. “Fine. I can show you a few things that may suit you. Do you have a measurement of the facility you would keep them in? I am assuming that you want them to be self-propagating.”

Morro cocked his head, “Not necessarily. We can butcher and store the larger animals quite easily.”

She nodded. “Very well. There are a few species I will point out not to touch, but other than that, I can find some likely herds that could use some culling. Stompers are especially easy to harvest if you don’t mind dealing with huge swaths of flesh.”

Morro and Tidae looked at each other and nodded. “That will be a good start. We have records from our ancestors, and I was wondering if the same species still run free here. I will show you when we camp for the night.”

The taller of the two grey men stepped forward and bowed low. “Miss Baker. I am Cavos vi Whyaner of the Stone people, this is my companion, Trusk er Vasku. We are historians in search of one of our ancient homes. I have heard that certain Gaians have a knack for locating the homes we once called our own.”

She shrugged. “Fine. Where do you want me to take you?”

They all huddled around a map of the area, and finally, Cavos circled one spot about fifty miles in circumference. “In here, I believe. What do you think?”

She closed her eyes and reached out to press her hand on top of his. His city, she was looking for his city. His hand moved with hers to the north, and when she opened her eyes, the point on the map was glowing with red ferocity. She dug her finger to the precise spot. “There. That is where we will start the search. It is rich in plains and forest animals as well as some of the more esoteric plants that are probably on your list. We have to go in by skimmer. It will take too long otherwise, and with that crevice there, we would never be able to hike it.”

BOOK: Hunting (The Nine)
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