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Opis ebooka Gracie’s Touch - S. E. Smith

Gracie Jones was little more than a child when the Earth was invaded, but by the time she is seventeen, Gracie turns the tide in the war against the Alluthans – she just has to give up everything and everyone that she knows to do it. When she wakes, she is on an undeveloped moon in a distant galaxy, and no one is coming for her.  Kordon Jefe, Commander of the Confederation of Planets, is absolutely astounded when he finds Gracie Jones, the Mother of Freedom, exactly the same as she was when she disappeared hundreds of years ago! Mysteries surround this legend out of time who fights and behaves unlike anyone Kordon has ever encountered before, and he can’t help being drawn to her like a moth to a flame.  Since learning that her old life is just…gone, Kordon seems to be the only one who can bring Gracie back from the brink of despair – until the moment Gracie discovers she is needed again when her old enemy resurfaces, stronger than ever. This time it is not just Earth in jeopardy, but the Confederation itself! Gracie may be just the secret weapon they need to win, but this battle will certainly not be easy, and Gracie has already lost so much…. Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of adventure and romance. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite! Main Content: 211 (6x9) pages, 71,326 words

Opinie o ebooku Gracie’s Touch - S. E. Smith

Fragment ebooka Gracie’s Touch - S. E. Smith

Gracie’s Touch

Zion Warriors Book 1

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Synopsis

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

22. Cumin System: Rim-Spaceport

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Epilogue

Sample of River’s Run

Sample of Indiana Wild

Additional Books and Information

About the Author

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend, Linda, who not only encouraged me to write, but who also read the manuscript. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Jackie, Christel, Sally, Jolanda, Lisa, Laurelle, Debbie, and Narelle. The girls that keep me going!

And a special thanks to Paul Heitsch, David Brenin, Samantha Cook, Suzanne Elise Freeman, and PJ Ochlan—the awesome voices behind my audiobooks!

—S.E. Smith

Montana Publishing

Science Fiction Romance

GRACIE’S TOUCH: Zion Warriors Book 1

Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Smith

First E-Book Published July 2012

Cover Design by Melody Simmons

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the author.

All characters, places, and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations are strictly coincidental.

Summary: Gracie makes a decision that she believes will be her last, and manages to turn the tide of the war between Earth and the Alluthans, but instead of dying, she ends up stranded millions of light years away and a hundred years in the future.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-62-7 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-25-2 (eBook)

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Science Fiction Romance. – Fiction. 2. Science Fiction – Fiction. 3. Paranormal – Fiction. 4. Romance – Fiction.}

www.montanapublishinghouse.com

Synopsis

Gracie Jones was little more than a child when the Earth was invaded, but by the time she is seventeen, Gracie turns the tide in the war against the Alluthans – she just has to give up everything and everyone that she knows to do it. When she wakes, she is on an undeveloped moon in a distant galaxy, and no one is coming for her.

Kordon Jefe, Commander of the Confederation of Planets, is absolutely astounded when he finds Gracie Jones, the Mother of Freedom, exactly the same as she was when she disappeared hundreds of years ago! Mysteries surround this legend out of time who fights and behaves unlike anyone Kordon has ever encountered before, and he can’t help being drawn to her like a moth to a flame.

Since learning that her old life is just…gone, Kordon seems to be the only one who can bring Gracie back from the brink of despair – until the moment Gracie discovers she is needed again when her old enemy resurfaces, stronger than ever. This time it is not just Earth in jeopardy, but the Confederation itself! Gracie may be just the secret weapon they need to win, but this battle will certainly not be easy, and Gracie has already lost so much….

Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of adventure and romance. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite!

Main Content: 211 (6x9) pages, 71,326 words

Chapter One

“Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to all the citizens of the world. This is Gracie, reaching out to touch each and every one of you with love and hope. The Freedom Five, along with groups from around the world, are pushing back against the Alluthans. Forces around the world have freed thousands of captives over the past several weeks. Over two hundred Alluthan fighters have been destroyed in the past week. Our fight for freedom is heating up, and we expect a breakthrough soon, so don’t give up!”

Gracie Jones leaned into the microphone attached to the bank of computers and continued sending out news, stories, and hope to the millions of listeners in fifteen different languages. She spent at least three hours a day during different times, sending the messages out. Adam worried it would open them up to attacks if the Alluthans traced the signal, but Gracie was a master at bouncing signals off the satellites the Alluthans hadn’t destroyed.

She was just ending her broadcast when Chance came in. One look at his face and she knew he was furious. She also knew what the cause was, Adam or Adrian had finally told him about her plan. She winced when she looked at his face again. The confrontation about to come was not going to be a pleasant experience.

“This is Gracie’s Touch signing off,” Gracie said in a husky voice filled with emotion.

Fifteen minutes later she was ready to scream. She’d known it was going to be difficult, but she’d never expected it to be this difficult! She turned to Adam, pleading silently for his help.

“It’s the only way! I’m the only one who can do it,” Gracie said again, looking intently at the four men standing around her. “There is no other way.”

“Like hell there isn’t!” Chance said fiercely. He jerked away from Adam, who grabbed at him.

“Chance…” Gracie began.

“He’s right, Gracie. There is no way in hell we are going to let you do this,” Mark said.

Gracie sighed again in frustration. “Adam, you talk to them. You know I’m right.”

Adam watched as Gracie rose gracefully from the chair in front of the row of computers. He shut his eyes briefly in an effort to get control of the rage burning inside him. He knew she was right, but he didn’t want to be the one to admit it. Adam opened his eyes and looked at his younger brother, Adrian, who hadn’t said a word throughout the whole argument. He had the same look of resignation in his eyes.

“Gracie is right. She is the only one who can do this.” Adam spoke quietly but with authority. As the leader of one small group of New York rebels known as the Freedom Five, it was up to him to make the tough decisions. He wasn’t sure he would be able to live with some of those decisions if they survived the fight for their freedom.

Five years before, Earth had been invaded by a group of ugly-ass aliens. There had been no warning, no promises of peace, nothing. The half-organic/half-robotic aliens had simply begun gathering up as many humans as possible and placing them in huge holding camps protected by a shield of some kind.

Millions perished from lack of food and medical care. It was later learned, thanks to the work of computer hackers—or geeks as Gracie liked to be called—that the aliens were planning on using the humans as renewable parts for their own deteriorating forms. The Alluthans were experimenting on the captive humans to test their limitations and compatibility.

Gracie lost her parents and an older sister when the aliens first attacked New York. Adam, his brother Adrian, and two other survivors, Chance and Mark, found her hiding in the old subway system six months later.

She had escaped with her laptop and some external hard drives, and had managed to tap into one of the maintenance room’s access points to monitor what was happening. The governments of the world finally banded together to fight the threat, but not before a devastating number of humans had died or were lost in the large alien holding camps.

Gracie was the youngest daughter of two university professors at NYU. Her ability to understand computer languages, and languages in general, was unbelievable. By fifteen, she had mastered eight different languages fluently and another seven on a conversational level.

She also used her skills at deciphering computer-generated languages to stay one step ahead of the Alluthans. For the past two years, she’d focused on studying the language and computer applications of the Alluthans so she could find a way to defeat them.

Adrian looked at his brother with a tense frown on his face. “You know it is suicide. She’ll never make it out.”

“That’s not true!” Gracie said, turning to frown at the four men towering over her petite five-foot-four frame. “I have an excellent chance of escaping.”

“And how, pray tell, do you figure that?” Chance growled, folding his arms across his massive chest.

“Chance, I can speak, read, and write their language. I’ve been studying it extensively, as well as their computer applications. Team Two has one of their supply ships in the old warehouse down by the river thanks to me. All I have to do is program it to autopilot to the mother ship.

“Once on board, I’ll upload the programs I’ve developed to bring down the shields protecting all their bases and prisoner camps around the world. Once it has downloaded, I’ll reprogram the ship to bring me back to Earth,” Gracie said with a plea for understanding in her voice. “I know I can do this!”

Chance walked over and drew her against him, holding her close. She was the closest thing to family he had left besides the other guys standing with them. He had lost his family also and had vowed to protect Gracie from the first time he saw her emerald-green eyes staring fearfully back at him in the dark tunnel five years ago.

He didn’t want to admit for a long time that as she matured, his feelings for her grew beyond a brotherly love. At seventeen, Gracie was still too young. Chance was waiting as long as he could before he claimed her as his own, but he feared he would never get the chance to tell her how he felt about her.

“What if they find you? What if it doesn’t work and you get trapped there?” Chance asked huskily as he held her against his hard length.

“They won’t. It will work. I’ve double and triple-checked the programs to make sure they would work. You saw for yourself how the shield collapsed, and I was able to take control of the ship and bring it down. The alien didn’t have a clue about what was happening,” Gracie said as she wrapped her arms around Chance. She wanted to give him reassurance, but she also needed it herself.

“When do we do this?” Adrian asked.

“Tomorrow morning,” Adam replied. “We’ve received confirmation from around the world that everyone will be ready.”

Mark nodded. “You better come back, little britches, or I’m going to be mighty pissed at you.”

Gracie smiled softly before replying. “I will, Mark. I will.”

Gracie slowly walked into the bathroom and stared at her reflection. She tried to calm the trembling in her hands as she pushed her short, thick strawberry blonde hair away from her face so she could wash without getting it wet. Gracie wouldn’t say she was beautiful—more like cute.

Her hair was cut in a bob that came to her chin; her eyes were too big and a deep, dark green. She had a short, button nose and lips just a little on the full side. She was very pale from having spent most of her time underground in the subway tunnels of New York. She was also very petite for her age, but that was mostly due to not having very much food for too many years.

The guys had finally set up grow lights in one tunnel, and they grew what they could. Mark had been the farmer of the group, having come from the Midwest in search of survivors. Chance knew a little, but that was mostly because of the pot plants he used to grow when he was a teenager.

Adam and Adrian were native New Yorkers used to the mean streets. They were the fighters of the group and had been instrumental in saving the lives of each of them on more than one occasion.

Gracie watched as her hair swished around her face as she leaned forward and drew in a deep breath. She tried to sound confident about what she was about to do, but in reality she was scared to death. She wasn’t sure it was going to work, and she knew if it did, there was an excellent possibility she wouldn’t survive.

She figured it would be a one-way ticket, but she also knew that if the guys knew that, they would never let her go. If there was a chance they could turn the tide of this war and defeat the aliens, she was going to take it.

The only reason she was the best candidate for this mission was because if the aliens figured out what she was doing and tried to stop her, she had a chance of counteracting their programming.

So, scared or not, she was it. She washed her face and brushed her teeth before pulling on a comfortable pair of worn jeans, an oversized T-shirt with a picture of New York on the front, and slipped into her running shoes. She grabbed some personal items and shoved them into her oversize leather bag along with an extra shirt and her hoodie.

Last, she grabbed her tablet PC and chargers. Looking around for the last time at the little bed set up against the stone wall, Gracie pulled aside the blanket she used as a door and walked down to the main staging area.

Chapter Two

Adam, Adrian, Chance, and Mark were waiting for her by the time she got to the center area they used as a main living quarter. Chance helped Gracie up onto the platform, then stood back as the other six men who made up Team Two looked her over.

“Not much to you,” one of the men said before he spit on the floor. “Maybe if they catch you they won’t think there is enough of you to eat. You sure as hell aren’t big enough for parts.”

Adrian, who was standing slightly to the left of the man, turned in a blur of motion and struck the man in the jaw, sending him to the floor on his ass. “Shut your mouth!” he snarled, clenching his fists tightly. “She is risking her life to do something no one else can, you piece of shit. Give her the respect she deserves.”

“And don’t spit on the floor. This is our living area,” Gracie said as calmly as she could.

The man’s words had sent a shiver down her spine. They frequently received reports that the aliens were using humans for parts to repair the damage to their own organic bodies. Gracie didn’t want to think of her family ending up that way.

Chance could sense how the words of the man upset Gracie, and it took everything in him to not just kill the bastard right then and there. He walked over and pulled Gracie close to his body, trying to give her what little protection and support he could.

“Gracie,” Chance called out quietly a few hours later.

Gracie and the guys had gone over the plans again with Team Two before calling it a night. They looked over every aspect of what they were about to do. It was essentially Gracie’s plan.

When she’d first worked out the programming to not only disarm the shields protecting the Alluthan spaceships, but also to override their system and bring it down using a simulator, she had been ecstatic. If a worldwide, systematic coordination of attacks could be organized, then it was possible to turn the tide of the war and possibly even bring it to an end.

It took over two months for Gracie to finally convince the four guys it was a possibility, and that only happened when she took over the supply ship now down in the old warehouse. The Alluthan on board had had no idea that it was not following a direct order from the mother ship.

Once Gracie proved she could override, control, and operate one of the spaceships, Adam began communicating with other rebel forces around the world through the ham radio and low-frequency signal setup.

Gracie knew she would never be able to sleep after the other team left. Crocker, from Team Two, said he would have the things she would need on the supply ship for her arrival at five the next morning. Everything was ready. Now she sat listening to the communications going on back and forth between the different bases of the Alluthans on the ground and the mother ship.

That is where their downfall will be, Gracie thought. They put all their eggs in one basket, or in this case, one ship.

The Alluthans believed the humans too primitive to attack them in space. Everything was run from the mother ship—all communications, orders, even power was distributed from there. If it was destroyed, then all their resources were gone.

Gracie started when she heard Chance’s voice call out to her. Turning, she watched as he came into the small computer room the guys had set up for her. She couldn’t help but smile as she watched him. She loved him so much. She had since the first time she saw him five years ago. His gentle touch had drawn her out of the alcove she was hiding in, and his strong arms made her feel safe.

She knew he loved her too. She’d tried to act upon their love six months ago, but Chance had said it was not the time. He had made a promise to Adam to wait until she was eighteen before he claimed her as his. She had argued, but Chance remained firm. Adam was the father figure to them all, and they respected him.

Adam wanted to make sure she was old enough to understand her decision. Gracie did understand. She also understood life could be short. With considerable reluctance, both she and Chance agreed they would wait until she was eighteen to act upon their physical desires.

Now, it looked like their love would become another tragedy in history—for she knew deep down she was never coming back. In a way, she was glad they had never made the final commitment to each other. Perhaps it would be easier for Chance to move on.

Gracie knew she would always regret not forcing the issue for her own selfish reasons, as she would have loved to have that memory to take with her when she died.

Gracie forced a smile on her face and rubbed the tears away as she looked at Chance’s worried face. “Hey, Chance,” she said in a husky voice filled with emotion.

Chance heard the tears she was fighting so hard to push back. Rushing forward, he wrapped his strong arms around her tightly. He pulled her close, holding her like he would never let her go.

“Let me go with you,” he whispered against her forehead. “Let me go with you, and we can both come back. I’ll tell Adam that you need me.”

Gracie squeezed Chance close to her and closed her eyes. “You can’t. I’m good, but not that good. The Alluthans scan each ship for heat signatures. If they pick up two signatures in a supply ship designed for one, then they will destroy it before it ever gets near them.

“Besides, Adam needs you here to help with the attacks. You are supposed to take out the camp holding my parents and sister. You promised to see if they survived,” Gracie said, looking up into Chance’s eyes, pleading with him not to argue with her.

Chance slid his arms up and gently cupped Gracie’s face between his large palms. He pressed a kiss to her lips, groaning when she opened to him. Tonight could very well be their last night together, forever. Chance briefly thought of his promise to Adam, then thought, To hell with it. Gracie was his.

“Come with me to my room. Let me love you, Gracie,” Chance murmured against her lips.

Gracie was torn between wanting to push Chance away from the hurt she knew he was going to feel when she was gone, and her own selfish desire to grab what little life she had left. The feel of Chance’s hand on her breast made the decision for her. She would be selfish and take what little happiness she could with her.

Chance squeezed Gracie’s hand as he pulled her after him out of the alcove set up as a computer room. He hated that he could not give Gracie a real bed for her first time or even the promise of a full night. Instead, all he could give her was a small pallet on a cold stone floor and a few hours at best. He resolved to make it the most beautiful experience that he could for her. She deserved that and more.

They had almost reached the area he claimed as his own when Adrian came running up to them. He was breathing hard and looked pissed as hell. Chance instinctively pulled Gracie closer as his stomach knotted. Something had happened, and it wasn’t going to be good.

“Fighters are headed this way,” Adrian blurted out. “Word is they are going to level this part of the city, including the holding camps.”

Gracie gasped. Her parents and sister, if they were still alive, were in the holding camp. If the Alluthans took out the warehouse down by the river, then their chance of bringing down the mother ship would take much longer and more lives would be lost.

“I have to leave… now,” Gracie said. “When are the fighters expected?” she asked as she pulled away from Chance.

“A couple hours at most,” Adrian responded grimly.

Gracie nodded and looked back at Chance one last time before turning to follow Adrian. “Gracie,” Chance said hoarsely knowing his time with her was coming to an end.

“I love you, Chance,” Gracie said, letting one of her hands run up and over his cheek as a single tear coursed down hers. “I always will.”

The next hour was a blur as the teams worked together to get everything in place. All those who could be evacuated were in areas outside of the attack zone. Gracie reviewed the instrument panel of the supply ship and hooked up her laptop to the control panel. The software program she developed quickly uploaded. She designed a type of dump upload, so the program uploaded immediately, then unpackaged. This made it easier to get all the files on the system as fast as possible.

Gracie nodded to the men from Team Two as they began filing out of the supply ship. Crocker looked at Gracie for a long moment before saying anything. Gracie waited patiently for him to say what he had to say.

“You know, if you succeed you’ll be a hero. If your program does what it is supposed to do, you’ll have saved the Earth and millions of lives,” Crocker said gruffly.

Gracie smiled at the big man with the gruff voice. “I don’t want to be known as a hero. Just as another human who refused to give up or give in. I couldn’t have done this alone. It took everyone…” Gracie’s voice faltered as her throat thickened with tears at the thought of all the senseless deaths, “… everyone who has lived and died over the past five years to get to this point. I just hope it works. I’m tired of being afraid,” Gracie ended softly.

Crocker leaned down and brushed a kiss across Gracie’s forehead. “It is Gracie’s Touch that has given all of us the hope of seeing that day. Take care, little girl, and come back home.”

Gracie nodded as she watched the big, gruff man walked off the ship. She turned all the way around and watched as the four guys who she considered her closest family walked onto the ship. Adam was first, followed by Adrian and Mark, with Chance coming up in the rear.

“You stick with the plan. If you have any problems, if you get even the weirdest feeling, you abort and get your ass back planet side, do you understand?” Adam said sternly.

Gracie smiled as she watched his Adam’s apple move up and down. It was the only way to tell when Adam was upset about anything. “I understand. I will, I promise.”

Adam hugged Gracie tightly to him and kissed the top of her head. The thought of never seeing her again and being the one to give the order for her to complete this mission was killing him inside. His arms tightened for just a moment before he released her and walked out without a backward glance.

Adrian cleared his throat. He was the quietest one of the group and held his emotions close to his heart, never letting on he felt anything. He stared down at her for a moment before saying anything.

“Come back,” he ground out before brushing a kiss across her cheek and turning to follow his brother.

Mark looked down into Gracie’s eyes and smiled. “Come home to us, little britches,” Mark said gently as he pulled Gracie into his arms and rocked her gently back and forth for a moment before kissing her on the lips. “Come home for Chance.”

Gracie’s eyes filled with tears as she felt Chance’s arms come around her and pull her away from Mark. She turned and buried her face in his strong chest. She wanted to remember what he felt like, what he smelled like, everything about him. She wanted… needed… this memory to give her the strength to turn away from him and leave. Gracie bit back a sob that threatened to escape. It wasn’t fair! She should be looking forward to having a future with Chance, not leaving him. She loved him so much.

“Gracie…” Chance choked out. “I… Don’t do this. Stay. We can find another way to defeat them.” Gracie was about to respond when the ground shook from an explosion several miles away. The attack had begun. She forced herself to pull away from Chance and looked up into his eyes one last time.

“I have to do this. Go on, go, while I still can. Go, Chance, please,” Gracie begged.

“Chance…” Adam called out from the platform. “Let her go. We need to move now.”

Chance growled out his frustration as he crushed his lips to Gracie’s in a brief, hard, passionate kiss filled with love, anger, and pain. “Come back to me, Gracie. You fucking come back to me,” Chance bit out harshly before he turned and walked down the platform.

Gracie pushed the control to close the platform door, watching as Chance slowly disappeared from her sight. She blew one last kiss to all the guys and smiled before the door closed, sealing her fate forever.

Chapter Three

Gracie moved into the pilot’s seat and strapped herself in. She could feel the vibrations from explosions, but ignored them as she set the supply ship’s course for the mother ship. She opened the front view screen panel so she could watch what was happening as she left the Earth’s atmosphere. The supply ship lifted off smoothly and moved rapidly upward following Gracie’s pre-programmed coordinates.

Gracie looked in dismay at all the destruction to New York. She could see the fighters in the northwest highlighted against the fires burning from their attack. She prayed everyone was able to evacuate in time. In moments, she was thrust back against the seat as the supply ship went through the Earth’s atmosphere.

As the blackness of space engulfed the small ship, Gracie got her first look at the mother ship. She stared at it in a combination of awe and despair as she saw how enormous it was. It had to cover at least the size of Manhattan alone!

Gracie knew if larger ships were coming, the Earth would never stand a chance. She needed to destroy this one. If she could take down the mother ship, it would not send for additional ones.

From what she was able to learn from the files she had accessed, these ships traveled great distances alone, one mother ship and its “offspring”—meaning the fighters, supply ships, and ground forces. If a planet was found to contain an abundant amount of resources, then the mother ship would send for more. If not, it would use what it needed before destroying the planet and moving on to the next one. Gracie needed to destroy it before it decided on either option.

She listened as the supply ship gave the needed code for admittance to the mother ship for refueling. As soon as the large panel doors opened on the outer edge of the ship, Gracie patched into the computer system through a backdoor she’d discovered a couple of months ago. The Alluthans were getting better at closing the doors, but they were still arrogant enough to think the humans too primitive to learn their language, much less their computer codes.

Gracie left a digital copy of her notes on deciphering both for Adam. She wanted to make sure all her work over the last five years was not wasted. That was one nice thing about having parents who were researchers, they believed in taking notes and showed their children how to do it also.

Gracie smiled as the virus she uploaded finished. It was a simple one that grew every time it was uploaded to another system, changing its signature to make it more difficult to detect. It would wipe their system clean once finished. The Alluthans would lose control of everything.

Gracie watched as the supply ship connected to a docking port, and an arm extended, recharging the fuel cells. She monitored the activity, frowning when she heard a disembodied voice on one channel, giving directions for the attack on specific sites around the world. They were pinpointing some of the major areas where the rebels were.

Patching into the channel, she watched as the programmed instructions flooded her screen. She frowned again as she focused on the rush of data scrolling down it. Her breath caught as she picked out keywords.

Typing quickly, she began redirecting the fighters to other areas away from the original commands. Most of the areas were over open water and shouldn’t pose a threat to humans.

A warning flashed at the bottom showing a probe flash as the intrusion was detected. Gracie glanced at her other screen. The program to disarm the Alluthans defense systems was almost complete. It was spreading, but not as quickly as she wished. Gracie quickly typed in a few commands and watched as the warning faded.

She continued uploading one code after another, determined that if the Alluthans found and stopped one virus, they would not be able to stop them all. She uploaded the last one and looked at the power-cell indicator. Refueling was done, and it was time to leave before they opened the platform to begin loading and found her.

Gracie punched in the release code and waited anxiously until she heard the sound of the fuel arm disengaging. She hit the program that would take her home with a sigh of relief.

Maybe, just maybe, I will get to be with Chance, she thought as a wave of hope swept through her.

She felt the thrusters kick in as she started to return the same way she had come, and was almost to the open panel doors leading out into space when a voice came on over her audio com. She listened as it gave a command for her ship to return to the docking port.

Gracie punched in a command to override the auto-command when the operator tried to take over her controls. She listened as the voice came over again.

“Supply ship 100982 return to docking port 2-225.”

Gracie smiled as she saw her programs kick in. She had an ace up her sleeve if she needed it, but she needed to be far enough away when she dealt it not to get caught in it.

Gracie flipped the audio and gave her announcement to the millions of resistance fighters on the Earth far below. Gracie’s eyes gleamed with tears as she gave the command that would hopefully bring this war to an end.

“Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. This is Gracie reaching out to touch you with love and hope. Today the people of Earth are ending the siege of the Alluthans. Rise up and fight, for freedom is ours. This is Gracie’s Touch saying, Freedom for all!” Gracie’s husky voice called out to all the millions on the beautiful blue-and-white ball below her.

She watched as lights flared all over the globe as the united governments and rebel forces joined together and made a decisive assault against the aliens who thought them too weak to win.

Gracie was about to hit the button that would speed her way home when the supply ship shuddered violently, throwing her to the side. Gracie’s eyes frantically flew to find the cause. She punched in the command to silence the alarms as she fought for control.

No fighters followed her as they were unresponsive due to the command to shut everything down. Gracie could see multiple failures occurring on the mother ship, but it would take longer for each system to completely shut down. The mother ship was turning to follow her. It sent out several bursts from its pulse cannons.

Her shields immediately came online, but the bursts took a toll on them, and they read eighty-five percent. Gracie felt dread seep through her. If the mother ship followed her and the self-destruct program activated, Earth would be in peril from the fallout. The only way to ensure the mother ship did not endanger the Earth was to lead them away.

Gracie quickly programmed a new route into the navigation system. Tears blurred her vision as she sent the command and felt the supply ship turning. She increased her speed, knowing it would not be long before the mother ship lost all power and the self-destruct initiated.

She braced her palms against the front console as another jarring jolt hit the supply ship. She was moving as fast as the supply ship could go without sending it into hyperdrive. The navigation panel said they were nearing Mars.

She didn’t know if the signal she sent would make it to Earth or not, but she had to try to send one last message. She had to tell them she was sorry and say good-bye. Gracie opened the communications program and typed in the password for one of the satellites she used to send her transmissions.

“This… this is Gracie,” Gracie waited a moment. She trembled as she continued. “Chance, this is Gracie saying I’m so sorry. I won’t be coming home after all.” Gracie drew in a shaky breath and forced herself to continue.

“I hope you get this message. I wanted to tell you I love you. I want… need… to thank all of you for saving me so long ago. Chance, you and Adam, Adrian, and Mark will always be with me. Please keep up the fight for freedom, knowing I’ll always be with you every time you think of me. Th-this is Gracie, saying goodnight and good-bye, my love,” Gracie ended the transmission as tears choked her and her vision blurred so badly she couldn’t see anything.

Impatiently, she brushed the tears away. If she was going to die, she was going to take those pissant aliens with her. Gracie programmed the supply ship to enter hyperdrive and set the mother ship’s navigation system to follow. She also set the self-destruct to half the time. Both ships would explode during the light jump making sure nothing else was damaged.

Gracie watched out of the front view as the stars seemed to blur together. Within seconds, she was pushed back against her seat. She closed her eyes and waited for the end. Everything seemed to slow as she felt the push from the mother ship as it exploded. The shockwave threw the ship forward with such force, the shoulder strap on the harness broke, throwing her forward. As darkness descended, Gracie drew a picture in her mind of Chance holding her in his arms and smiled.

Grand Admiral Kordon Jefe strode into the conference room in a dark mood, but his grim thoughts didn’t show on his face. He’d just finished reading the report sent in on the latest attack by a new alien species on one of their remote mining planets. Everyone was dead and the planet stripped of most of its resources.

The last message received from the mining colony was sent two weeks before. Some imbecile captain on the remote station of Atphlon didn’t think it important enough to investigate the emergency signals being sent out until two days ago. That captain was now washing floors on Atphlon as a private. Kordon didn’t tolerate idiots under his command.

He didn’t bother to nod to the other officers standing around the table waiting for him to sit first. He moved to the chair at the head of the conference table and sat, pulling the data grid closer to review the information the frigate sent to the site looking for survivors. He already knew every detail in the report; now he wanted answers.

“What have you to report?” Kordon looked at his head of security.

Chief Bran Markus cleared his throat before answering calmly. “Two hundred and fifty-eight colonists dead or missing, any resource worth having gone, the colony destroyed. The source appears to be the same as before. We were able to get a brief glimpse of some of the attackers and one of their vehicles before communications were terminated.” Bran nodded to a center screen displaying the mining foreman as he sent the distress signal.

“We are under attack by an unknown force. They… they have captured most of the men as they came out of the mines. All women and children have been killed.” The man wiped his face as sweat dripped down it. “Those bastards have some type of shield we can’t get through. We need immediate assistance.” A loud explosion could be heard in the background. “Th-they’ve breached the complex headquarters. Th—” The transmission ended as screams filled the air.

Captain Leila Toolas, his chief medical officer, responded. “From the details I’ve been able to retrieve from the bodies left, whoever was there killed any female not able to reproduce and the young children immediately. From the list there were fifteen females within a breeding range unaccounted for. The men…” Captain Toolas paled as she continued. “The remains of the men show body parts missing. Limbs and internal organs were removed with surgical precision.”

Kordon kept his expression blank as he took each report. He finally came to his communications officer, a Ta’nee. The Ta’nee were known for their language and communication skills. The rich red hair down the center of Lieutenant Mohan’s head flared with different colors as she spoke.

“I have never encountered the language or signals recorded by the mining foreman. It was very perceptive of him to record the communications being transmitted. It will take time to decipher it as there is no known database to compare it to,” Mohan said. The fur along her cheeks changing to a slightly darker color as all eyes turned toward her.

Kordon nodded, ignoring the changes. He knew the Ta’nee were very shy and did not like being the center of attention. He looked at each officer intently so they would understand what he was about to say. He had worked with all of them for the past twenty years with the exception of Mohan, whom he brought on board almost a year ago.

“I want answers. Find out if there are any signature marks from their ship. I want to know every ripple in space that has occurred in that region within the past month. Mohan, monitor all frequencies. Let me know if you hear anything out the ordinary.

“Toolas, get me a detailed report on the bodies. I want to know exactly what you know and what you think in the report. Bran, get me a report on the types of weapons that could have been used to cause that amount of destruction. I also want information on what types of shields they could have used. Report back in four hours.”

Everyone stood immediately as Kordon stood and strode back out of the conference room. He walked over to the commander’s chair on the bridge and gave the order to the helmsmen to proceed to the mining colony. He wanted to look at the destruction first hand.

Three years after crash landing

Gracie moved quietly, stalking her prey. It was a small creature not much bigger than a squirrel. She didn’t know the names of any of the creatures on the moon she had crashed on—in truth, she didn’t care… at least, not at first.

Gracie had woken up three years ago to the alarms sounding and a terrible headache. She finally managed to shut off the alarms resounding through the supply ship. She was amazed she was still alive.

When the computer indicated the supply ship had crashed on the surface of an unknown moon it took Gracie a minute to realize that something strange—besides not being dead—had occurred. It didn’t matter how hard she tried, the response from the computer system came up the same—unknown. Gracie shut everything down except life support, even though the system verified the atmosphere was suitable for her life form.

A week after she landed she was finally so sick of being confined to the small supply ship she would have fought a bear to get out of it. Her first step onto an alien world should have been filled with trepidation, but Gracie was beyond that.

She was alone. She no longer feared death, but welcomed the possibility. A part of her knew she was grieving the loss of Chance. It took almost six months for her to finally talk herself into moving forward, and to begin stretching out of her comfort zone.

The first six months she stayed close to the supply ship. She focused on finding enough food to supplement the MREs Crocker had stowed aboard the ship. It was strange, but it was almost like he’d expected her to need them. Gracie didn’t need much. She had gotten used to living on very little during the years they’d lived in the subway system.

As the months turned to years, she’d learned to hunt, gather, and forage for most of her food supplies. She often wondered if this was what early humans must have done and felt when they fought for survival. The moon had a few predators, but Gracie learned to avoid them. For the most part, they were primarily just small mammal-type creatures like the one she was hunting now. She made sure to only seek them out a couple of times a month so she would not reduce the population, although they seemed to be plentiful.

Gracie aimed the bow she’d made and let the arrow fly. It had taken her over a year to get any good with one. Gracie grimaced as she approached the dead creature. She still got queasy when it came time to kill and clean them though. It was only because she had no other choice that she did it. It was that or starve to death, which she’d come very close to doing.

She swung the bow over her shoulder and walked over to pick up the dead ‘squirrel’. She would have protein tonight. Working her way back to the supply ship, she marveled at how fast the plants on the moon grew.

In the three years she had been on it, there’d never really been a winter. The coldest it seemed to get was in the thirties, if she had to guess. Not near as cold as a New York winter, Gracie thought before she could stop herself. She fought against the wave of sadness that flooded her. This is why you shouldn’t think about it, she scolded herself.

Quickly, she pulled away some of the vines that threatened to cover the platform door before she walked down to a nearby stream. The water was good as long as she boiled it for at least five minutes first. She neatly and efficiently cleaned her supper and set it in a large container she used as a pot, to cook over the open coals of the fire she keptburning. Laser guns were good for starting fires, she’d discovered after several failed attempts to do it the Girl Scout way and in a fit of temper.

Several hours and one full stomach later, Gracie turned the supply ship’s power on. She did a systems check at least twice a month to make sure the fuel cells were not leaking and to check for any communications in the area.

She felt comfortable that the moon was uninhabited except for her and the few creatures she saw. In three years, not a single space ship nor communication had been seen or heard. She figured she must have traveled at least a fifty-mile radius from the ship, and there was also no sign of additional life.

Turning on the power, Gracie set a random pattern for the computer to scan for any type of signal. She leaned back and carefully pulled the last picture of her with the guys out of the protective sleeve she kept it in. Gracie smiled and gently touched the tip of her finger to Chance’s cheek. She wondered if they were all okay. She liked to dream Chance had found her parents and sister and moved on.

Perhaps the Earth was now free, and Chance had married someone else. He could have a child by now … one that looked like him. She imagined sitting with the guys, her and Chance’s son or daughter on her lap, while the other guys cooked barbeque and drank beer. She remembered her parents having friends over and she and her sister playing with the other kids. Gracie was so focused on her daydream it took a moment for the sounds coming through the communication systems to register.

Gracie sat up straight in shock as the voices came over the system again. She didn’t understand them, but she might be able to figure it out eventually. It sounded just like the chatter she used to listen to between the ham-radio operators. Her fingers trembled as she set the computer to record.

Gracie listened to the traffic for almost an hour before she made a decision. She could hear the different cadences and even laughter. Laughter was good, she kept telling herself. Looking around the small supply ship, she figured she had two choices—die alone on this small moon or try to find a way off it and back home. Either way, she would eventually end up dead.

Pushing the transmission button before she could talk herself out of it, Gracie leaned forward and began talking softly, hesitantly at first. “This is Gracie’s Touch reaching out to anyone who can hear this. I am currently stranded on an unknown planet or moon. If you can understand this, please respond. I repeat… this is Gracie reaching out to touch any friendly ship who could offer assistance. If you receive this message and can respond, I need assistance.”