Space Rep: Cool. What are you going to call it?
Liza: You'll find out when you get your tea out of my transporter and bring it over.
Space Rep: Ha! At least you got the name right today. You've called it a Transponder several times.
Liza: Given all the tea you've spilt inside in it, I should call it a Transoceanic nightmare. In case you haven't realized it, books do not like to be around water.
Space Rep: I don't spill my tea on purpose! And I had no choice but to give the machine a dual purpose. You wouldn't let me buy a microwave.
Liza: Well, set its main purpose and let's get this book over here. It sounds really good.
Space Rep: Got it. Uh oh...
Liza: What now?
Space Rep: It shrunk.
Liza: Kai...may I call you Kai. I am so sorry you were shrunk.
Kai: Whoa! Why is a human talking at me?
Space Rep: She's special. *rolls eyes*
Kai: Special how?
Liza: I can hear and be heard by books, even ones that Space Rep accidentally shrinks. I plan to interview you.
Kai: Wow, I've never been interviewed before.
Space Rep: Word of advice-- don't ask her questions that she doesn't know the answer to. It riles her up.
Kai: Thanks for the warning. How is she with check offs?
Liza: I'm right here, talk to me. And check offs are different, so I like the sound of them.
Kai: All right then:
Travel to a godforsaken planet on the outskirts of space.
Hold intrusive military types at bay.
Find an invisible man in a different dimension.
Easier Said Than Done.
Liza: Well, this does sound interesting! Tell me more.
Kai: Yanked back from their first vacation in ages, Jee and Dane get handed a top priority mission.
Liza: Hold on space cowboy. Tell me something about these two.
Kai: They are members of the Trace, Rescue, and Identification League.
Liza: That's impressive. Tell me more a bit more about TRAIL.
Kai: Their detractors say it stands for Thieves, Ruffians, Assholes, Idiots, and Liars, among other things. A TRAIL agent learns early whether to pucker up or duck.
Liza: I've not heard of them before. Where do they do all this puckering and ducking?
Kai: The agency operates with the Terran Crescent and the Colonies of Man, but has been known to venture into outlying areas. On my pages, they visit the planet Ust, a forgotten backwater planet close to the remnants of the Barrier.
Liza: And what is the Barrier?
Kai: The Barrier is a crumbling network of nav-scramblers set adrift in space. It was originally designed to keep humans on this side of the galaxy and non-humans "gens" on the other.
Space Rep: This sounds super cool! Can we buy the whole set of books?
Liza: Not until the interview is over. Continue with your story Kai.
Kai: The pay for this mission is better than any they've earned before. In fact, with this much money, they might not need to do anymore jobs.
Liza: Hold on. If they are good at their jobs, they'd miss them if they quit. Jobs give you a purpose in life.
Kat: They are the best there is, so you might be right. There isn't an item, person, or secret these two can't recover.
Liza: Then they should keep at it.
Kai: Still...locating this quarry might be a bit past even their considerable skills.
Liza: Hold on. You just told me they could find anything.
Kai: But, how do you find an invisible man in another dimension?
Space Rep: Duck! You just asked a question.
Liza: No. This was a fair questions. Finding an invisible man would be hard enough, but if he's hiding in a another dimension, that makes him doubly invisible. I'd say they have a huge challenge before them and will earn their astronomical pay if they can find him.
Kai: True, but I'm worried about who is footing a bill this steep? Certainly not the archaeologist in charge. The military wants to get involved, but they have no monetary stake either. So who -- or what -- is behind the request to trail Kaiwulf?
Space Rep: Why are you letting Kai asks questions? You hate questions.
Liza: Because he's not asking me to answer them. He's just stating his worries aloud, and frankly I think he has good reason to be worried.
Kai: I fear so.
Liza: Might I peek beneath your covers for a read?
Kai: Yes, of course. But be careful.
New Braeswyck, Colonies of Man
TRAIL Field Office
January 24, 15128 AD (151.28.24 New Terran Date [NTD])
The com unit in Jeff Thompson's office crackled to life. "Security here. Jee arrived, boss, and you were" -- The sound of splintering wood followed --"right. Oh, man! There goes another door. What'd you do to her this time?"
Thompson disconnected. He activated the monitors on his wall and stood. TRAIL Agent Jee Tonopah might be the shortest agent in the company, but she had enough temper for half a dozen.
Jee and her partner, Dane Raphyel, had passed through every scanner in the building to get this far into the enclave, yet right there in plain sight on both their hips sat weapons. Fat lot of good TRAIL's security did. The guards outside his office backed away from the pair without a challenge.
"What am I paying you clowns for? At least slow them down. Cool her off!"
But no, the outer door to his assistant's office banged open and thumps sounded on the floor. The lamp on Thompson's desk shook as if Jee had an elephant with her. Dane dwarfed his partner.
"Computer, unlock entry door." Jee would kick it in if he kept it sealed. Last time it had taken months to ship in replacement parts.
The BioMate embedded in Thompson's arm flashed a warning about heart rate, so he tightened his grip on the stress-soother stone in his hand. All it did was bruise his palm. He flung the rock aside.
The TRAIL agents blew into his office like twin whirlwinds.
Thompson forced himself not to back away.
"How dare you!" Jee dumped a tattered knapsack onto the floor. She kicked the visitor's chair out of her way, then slammed her hands onto the desk and glared at him like a dragon ready to flame him into a puddle of blackened flesh.
Dane folded his arms and leaned against the door, blocking any escape it might offer.
Thompson eased around the desk to survey the damage. "Fight fire with fire," his therapist had told him. Time to put it to the test. He pointed at the splintered chair. "I paid six thousand sig-creds for that. It's eleventh kilo-century Terran."
Jee snorted. "If you paid that much for a four hundred year-old chair you got taken, Thompson. Beats me why you'd admit to being so stupid."
Thompson dug his fingernails into his palms. A month of stress therapy trashed after one minute with this woman. It's only money. He sucked in a deep breath, held it for a count of three and exhaled. "No matter. My assistant found a craftsman to repair that rare Fellsian vase you smashed six months ago. Maybe this can be fixed, too."
Jee flung dark curls out of her eyes. "Do you have any idea how long it took to get reservations on a first class sleepliner to Earth? How dare you call me back here? TRAIL doesn't own me, Jeff Thompson."
"Now, Jee, I--
"I'd be half way there if it wasn't for you. How dare you cancel my leave? Who do you think you are?"
"Watch this holovid before you give me a definite no." Thompson initiated a life-sized holographic image of a youth.
"I'm not watching a thing. I..." Jee's voice faded as the holovid activated. "Whoa." She made a sensual growl, low in her throat. "Who is that?"
"Kaiwulf. Down, girl." He shot a knowing glance at Dane. "Excellent picture, isn't it? We don't get this quality too often."
Liza: Let's admire the picture of Kaiwulf again, shall we? He does look worth finding.
Space Rep: I can't find any buy link!
Liza: That's because it's not Feb 7 yet. You have to wait a few days.
Kai: That is true, Space Rep.
Liza: Perhaps you can tell us about your author.
Kai: I would love too. Kayelle Allen is a multi-published, award-winning Science Fiction Romance author. Her unstoppable heroes and heroines include contemporary characters, role-playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr.
Space Rep: I found legal stalking sites for her:
Liza: Great interview Kai.
Kai: Thank you. I enjoyed it as well.
Liza: Glad to hear it because we'll be keeping you until the day of your release.
Kai: But Kayelle has much to do and I want to support her.
Liza: Sorry, when Kayelle discovers Space Rep shrunk you, she'll probably send a TRAIL squad after me. I need to find another dimension to hid in myself... and invent an invisibility suit. Why don't you and Space Rep work on the latter, while I search for a new dimension.