Close Contact


Kiera Smith should eat worms and die.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's not the most politic thing for someone in my position to say. But then, I wouldn't be in this position if not for her, now would I?

Just because she saved the Buri from extinction, killed the bad guys, and gave the world Orpheus Crystals is no reason for her to ruin to my life.

Being a GEP, someone genetically created to do a particular job, just wasn't enough to make me stand out from the crowd of Naturals I worked with. Neither, apparently, was my name, Echo Adams, which was randomly generated by a computer, as all Genetically Engineered Person monikers are, so none of us accidentally end up with the same name. Zin forbid the Naturals should get us confused. We look so much alike, after all.

That was sarcasm, in case you're wondering. I look absolutely nothing like Kiera Smith. My hair is dark brown, my eyes are this weird greenish-gray color with a peculiar black ring around the pupil, and I'm average height. In other words, about as far from bombshell material as you can get. Most Naturals use the phrase "cute as a button" to describe me. Personally, I've never seen a button I was that enamored of, so I simply clench my teeth and keep smiling.

Unfortunately, the computer that named me had a penchant for Greek mythology from Old Earth. Curiosity being what it is, I'd looked the name up and discovered that according to some Natural named Ovid, Echo was a nymph, a great singer and dancer. That I could live with. But she also scorned the love of men which angered a pervert god named Pan, who tore her to pieces and then scattered her all over creation.

As I walked through the halls of Alien Affairs headquarters, I knew exactly how that felt.

But I digress.

I'm a party girl. No, that doesn't mean I was created to be a pleasure GEP, only that I spent a lot of time at parties. My creation was commissioned by the Galactic Federation's Department of Protocol. I was responsible for planning, hosting, and officiating at ceremonial events for visiting Federation dignitaries and heads of government, as well as coordinating logistics for the visits, making sure they were on time and had everything they needed.

And I was extremely good at what I did.

I loved my job. I loved the hustle and bustle of living in a city that encompassed an entire planet the way Centaurius did, loved being at the center of major universal events and in the know about the latest political intrigue. I loved rubbing elbows with bigwigs from all over the Galactic Federation.

My idea of a good time is three hours at a spa, getting groomed, pampered and massaged, followed by a night of dancing and bar hopping with the leader of an obscure planet. Or a planet that wasn't so obscure. And I had no reason to believe that life as I knew it would ever end.

But then, thirty-two months ago--insert ominous music here-- Kiera Smith's journal was released to the public.

Suddenly there was a mass stampede to the GEP archives as Naturals the Federation over dug into the origins of every GEP created. And of course, I won the schite-kickers lottery. My creator was none other than the infamous Dr. Gertz himself. Simon Gertz, the geneticist with a God complex who also created Kiera Smith, and did Zin knows what to the GEPs he designed, up to and including built-in psi abilities that no one had ever heard of before.

None of that woo-woo stuff from me, I assured my employer. I'm just your average, run-of-the-mill GEP.

But they didn't believe me. They dragged me into the big boss's office, sat me down, and explained they couldn't have a mind reader on staff. Made the hot shot politicians nervous, etc., etc., and yada-yada. Didn't matter one iota that I'd never exhibited a trace of psi talent.

Long story short, they sold my indenture to the Bureau of Alien Affairs.

I mean, come on. Me? Visiting newly discovered planets, hobnobbing with primitive aliens and eating Zin knows what, trudging through uncharted wilderness? What if I break a nail?

I am not a nature girl by any stretch of the imagination. I hate being dirty and hate animals. The thought of tramping through undisciplined flora where bugs abound makes me nauseous.

And yet, here I was after completing months of grueling physical retraining--that I was amazingly good at, to my surprise--on my way to a meeting with Dr. Daniels, head of the Bureau of Alien Affairs, to receive my first assignment as their newest and best groomed agent.

Yes, life sucks, and it's all Kiera Smith's fault. My only consolation is that I now know fifty-six ways to kill with one finger if someone pisses me off. Believe me; in my current mood, I'm not only dangerous, I could do it without batting an eyelash.

With a sigh, I stopped outside an ornately carved door of real wood bearing a discrete gold plaque engraved with Dr. Daniels's name, and rapped sharply three times.

"Come in," a voice called, muffled by the door's thickness.

Grasping the handle, I shoved the door open and stalked inside. I'd expected to work myself through at least three layers of secretaries before actually reaching Dr. Daniels, and then being made to wait for at least thirty minutes, all of which was standard procedure for the Department of Protocol. Instead, I entered a homey, comfortable, medium-sized office with plush, well-used furniture in muted colors. But I didn't let on like I was surprised. Instead I focused on the person who rose to his feet at my entry.

Dr. Jordan Daniels was an imposing man, tall and lean and nice looking, despite his advanced cycles and silvered hair. There was a twinkle in his blue eyes that made me wary, like he knew something the rest of us mortals weren't privy to.

I'd seen him before, although never this up close and personal. About a month after my retraining started, I noticed he occasionally showed up and watched whenever I was working on my new and improved bloodletting skills. And it always unnerved me. Which made me even more upset than I already was.

Why was I being singled out, and why did I care?

Since none of the other newly acquired Gertz GEPs got an audience with the boss, I suspected I was about to find out the answer to the first part of that question.

He gestured to a chair across the desk. "Agent Adams. Please, have a seat. I'm glad we have this opportunity to chat."

I sat and fussily smoothed the lines of the Vegan silk business suit I'd chosen for this meeting. Not only did the brilliant red color complement my dark hair, it made me feel powerful.

When I was as comfortable as possible, I looked up and arched a brow at him. "I was ordered to this meeting. Don't try to make it sound like an afternoon tea with someone's great aunt."

With a chuckle, he resumed his own seat. "Quite right, Agent Adams. You were ordered here. So, shall we get on with it?"

He shuffled through a stack of electronic papers that were in front of him and pulled one from the pile. "Here we are." Leaning back in his chair, he studied the data and then peered at me over the top of the sheet.

"Did you know that you tested higher for psi ability than anyone we've recruited since Kiera Smith was first tested?"

Shock ran through me, tinged with fear. Instantly I shook my head. "Your machine must be broken. I don't have any psi ability."

"You were tested three times just to be sure, and a different machine was used each time. They can't all be broken."

"Then someone fudged the results," I snapped. "Don't you think I'd have noticed if I could read minds, or move objects without touching them, or see the future? I can't even pick up emotions like your precious Kiera Smith does. It isn't happening and it's not going to ever happen."

He arched a brow at my vehemence as he replaced the data sheet on the desk. "Yes, I'm well aware of your supposed deficiencies in the psi area, as well as your aversion to having an ability. But we don't always get what we want, and what's intriguing in your case is that the testing devices couldn't pinpoint where your psi talent lies. Apparently, they've never encountered anything like it before, and so have no way of extrapolating what it might be."

"Well, there you go," I harrumphed. "If we don't know what it is and I can't use it, then for all intents, I don't have one and we can forget the whole thing."

"Not quite. I'm hoping we can get a clue about your talent today." He stood and pushed his chair back. "If you'll follow me, we'll get started."

I rose gracefully and trailed him to the door, taking the opportunity while his back was turned to run my fingers through my long, thick hair, assuring myself that every strand was in its correct position. After all, I'd spent a whole five minutes in the styler this morning, taming the unruly locks into their current sleek shape and I didn't want them reverting to form at the wrong time. "Where are we going?"

"Just down the hall."

Unlike his office, the room we walked to was heavily fortified and required a prolonged scan of his biochip before the heavy metal plating swung inward to allow us entry.

Biochips are the height of technology when it comes to identification. DNA can be faked, retinal patterns copied, and finger prints altered, but the microprocessors that are implanted at birth on Centaurius, for both Naturals and GEPs, are unique to the individual. They record every physical aspect of our lives so no two are alike, and if a person dies or the chip is removed, it self-destructs and therefore can't be stolen. They can't be replicated because there's no way to make a fake chip match the real one. Our entire lives, including medical records, buying history and available credits are on those tiny pieces of silicone. Only agents lack the chip, for security reasons. The Federation can't have potential spies running around with their ID showing after all.

I surreptitiously rubbed my arm where the chip had once been, feeling naked and alone without it, then forced myself to concentrate on the here and now. Stepping aside, Dr. Daniels waved me through ahead of him.

"I don't understand," I said, uneasily eyeing the rows and rows of display cases filled with quartz of every imaginable shape and hue. "I mean, I know they're Orpheus Crystals, but how are they going to tell you what my psi talent is?"

Dr. Daniels closed the door behind him before he answered. "We've come to realize that certain colors attract certain types of psi abilities. If you've read Kiera's journal you'll know that Claudia Karle chose a green stone, even though she was never very fond of the color. Since then we've learned that particular shade of green is linked to a spatial psi talent. Which makes sense when you consider Claudia's chosen profession was mapping."

I looked dubiously at the rocks spread around the room. "What am I supposed to do? Whistle and hope one of them comes running?"

His lips twitched once before he schooled his expression and folded his arms across his chest. "Why don't you walk slowly down the rows and see if you feel drawn to one?"

"Can I touch them?"

"If you wish."

Okay, I could do this. Maybe when nothing happened he'd accept the fact that there had been some kind of mistake on my psi test and leave me alone.

I started down the first row, trying my best to concentrate on the stones. Unfortunately, a low pitched vibration coming from an ugly metal box standing alone in the corner made that hard to do. Why couldn't they turn the fragging thing off for a second?

A quick glance at Dr. Daniels showed me he was paying no attention to the annoying buzz. Well, if he could stand it, so could I.

Pausing halfway down the first aisle, I picked up a royal blue stone and turned it in my fingers. The color was fantastic and would set off my lightly tanned skin, but I felt no urge to keep it. I put it back and clenched my jaw at the noise coming from the box. Was it my imagination, or was the damn thing getting louder?

I strolled to the end of the aisle, my Lista Bergen pumps clicking on the marble floor, and then stopped. This was ridiculous. How could anyone expect me to concentrate under these conditions? Why, that sound was actually making my teeth hurt!

"Look," I called to Dr. Daniels, my voice echoing in the big room. "I'm not trying to tell you your business, but you really might want to get a mech in here to check that machine. It's obviously broken."

He stiffened. It was such a slight move most GEPs would have missed it. But having spent my entire life working with Naturals, I'm real good at noticing the minutest change in body language.

"What machine?" he asked.

"The metal one, over in the corner." I pointed. "If it keeps making that Zin-awful noise it could shatter all the crystals in this room."

He stared at me for a second, and then lifted a hand to wearily rub his forehead. "I was afraid of this."

"Afraid of what? Don't tell me it's about to blow up or something?" I glanced down at my suit. If it got ruined I'd never forgive him. Even on sale it had cost me an arm and a leg.

Ignoring me, he went to a wall mounted comm unit and pushed a button. "My dear, could you join me? I'm next door in the crystal room. It appears my suspicions were correct. We've found the one we were looking for."

Who? Me? "They" were looking for me? It wasn't like I'd been hiding, or anything. Dr. Daniels had certainly known where I was located when he ordered me to this meeting. I checked the rest of the room to see if there was someone I hadn't noticed hiding behind a display case.

Nope, we were alone.

Across the room a recessed door slid open and the most gorgeous creature I'd ever seen stepped through. She was long, lean and lush, with tanned skin and a thick blond braid that hung to her waist. And she was half naked.

I didn't blame her. If I looked like that, I'd run around naked, too.

Deep emerald eyes swept over me, and I instantly felt dowdy and uncomfortable. The second I got back to my quarters, I was going to burn this scritching suit.

Apparently dismissing me as unworthy, she turned her attention to Dr. Daniels. "You don't mind if I leave the door open, do you? Thor is in a meeting, and Crigo is useless when it comes to corralling Teeah."

A movement from the other room drew my gaze while she spoke, and my jaw dropped. Inside was the biggest fragging rock cat I'd ever seen. He was sprawled languidly in the middle of the floor with a black-haired toddler crawling all over him.

Did I mention that children aren't high on my list of favorite things, either? And neither are rock cats that could swallow me in one bite and still be hungry.

Involuntarily, I took a fast step back and bumped into a display case, which caused both Dr. Daniels and the woman to turn and stare at me.

Wait a second. Abruptly, her words sank in. Thor. And Crigo.

Standing before me was Kiera Smith. My nemesis.

Instantly, all fifty-six of those ways to kill flashed through my mind.

She shot me a smile that was all teeth. "I don't think I'd try it if I were you."

Oh, yeah. I'd forgotten she was an empath, not to mention that overdrive thing she had going on.

"My apologies," Dr. Daniels interjected rather hurriedly. "Kiera, this is Echo Adams, our newest agent."

"The one you were telling me about from the Department of Protocol?"

"Yes, unfortunately." He sighed. "She certainly wouldn't have been my first choice for this assignment. According to her psych reports, she harbors a deep resentment toward you and the Bureau."

"Hey," I waved one hand. "Still in the room, here. And you're damn right I have a lot of resentment. I lost my job, my very way of life because of you two. Did you even once consider the ramifications for the rest of us Gertz GEPs when you released that journal?"

"She does have a point," the blonde goddess commented.

"Maybe." Dr. Daniels shrugged. "But it would have become common knowledge as soon as the scientists combed through Max's Orpheus archives, anyway. At least with your journal available, any wild speculations were squelched before they gained traction. And we did make provisions for any GEP affected."

In my peripheral vision, I caught a flash of movement and looked up just as a small iridescent purple creature zipped right at me.

"Eek!" I threw up one arm to protect myself, stumbled, and sent the display case behind me crashing to the floor.

"Peri, no!" Smith's voice snapped above the din of dozens of crystals skittering across the floor.

I peeked through my fingers in time to see the creature settle to another case in front of me, all four of its tiny feet gripping the metal rim.

"Sorry about that," Smith said. "Periwinkle is the only one we have left of Gem and Rayda's latest clutch. She hasn't decided on a companion yet. Her mother is the same color as your suit."

Okay, it was official. The suit, in flames, first chance I got. The thing was obviously cursed. Maybe I could get a refund.

Gingerly I lowered my arm, the better to keep an eye on what could only be a dragon bird. It was strutting along the edge of the case, moving ever closer to me, head cocked to one side as it looked me up and down. An oddly musical chuckling sound issued almost continuously from its small body.

"Shoo." I waved my hands at it, but it paid about as much attention to me as everyone else in this place did.

"Just ignore her," Smith said.

Yeah, easy for her to say. The woman had a giant rock cat for a pet.

And why didn't they turn that dratted machine off? It was driving me to distraction. If they weren't going to do it, I'd simply have to take matters into my own hands.

Warily, I edged around the dragon bird and marched to the box, stepping over the crystals that littered my path. "Where's the off button on this thing?" I asked, running my hands over its smooth surface. "I can't think while it's making that horrible noise."

"See what I mean?" Dr. Daniels commented.

"Yes, as usual, you were absolutely right," Smith replied. > She moved over next to me and did something I missed to the box. There was a whirring sound and a pedestal rose from the top. On it rested a teardrop-shaped black crystal twice the size of my thumb, attached to a silver chain.

My reaction was instantaneous and gut level. Moving so fast that even Smith blinked in surprise, I grabbed the stone and clutched it to my breast. The noise stopped and a warm contented feeling flowed over me.

Until I saw the way they were watching me. "It's mine," I said fiercely, "and you're not taking it away. So just back off."

"No need to scream." Smith held up both hands, palms out. "Wouldn't dream of taking it from you. It was created for someone here at the training center, we just didn't know who. Looks like you're the one."

Still grasping the stone, I turned to Dr. Daniels. "Does this tell you what my supposed psi talent is?"

"Regrettably, no. It only tells me what your first assignment will be."

"What will it be? And before you answer let me make one thing clear. I don't do swamps."

"Why don't we go into my quarters and get comfortable," Smith interrupted. "This is going to require some explanation."

While they moved toward the still open door, I paused long enough to fasten the chain around my neck and tuck the stone out of sight under my top. It took on the warmth of my skin, and seemed to pulse slightly in time with my heartbeat.

I'd just stepped over the threshold when it dawned on me that I was entering a room containing a toddler, a rock cat, and the dragon bird which seemed bent on following me.

I came to a screeching halt, staring intently at the rock cat. When he ignored me, I crept to the edge of the room on tiptoes in order to give him as much space as possible.

Smith's quarters looked even more comfortable than Dr. Daniels office, except all the furniture was oversized. I chose a chair as far from the cat as possible and sat down.

"Anyone want a drink before we start?" Smith asked.

"Cafftea for me, my dear," Dr. Daniels told her, taking the chair angled near mine.

"I'll have wine. White, please. Maybe a Sirius '45?"

She arched a brow at my exotic choice, but then moved to the food prep unit. "Coming right up."

I turned to check on the cat and came eyeball to eyeball with the dark-haired toddler. We ogled each other in silence, then she reached out and touched my scarlet clad knee.

"Pittie," she said.

"You like it? It's yours. I'll have it sent over as soon as I get back to my quarters. It'll save a lot of smoke damage."

"I don't think it would fit her," Smith chuckled. "But thanks for the offer. Echo, meet Teeah, my daughter."

"Let me guess," sarcasm dripped from my voice. "She's a super GEP, too."

"Not exactly." She scooped the child up and deposited her at a table with a plate of snacks on the surface. "Since she was conceived and birthed the old fashioned way, she's a Natural. On the other hand, Gertz ensured that our talents would be passed on to the next generation, so she has all my abilities."

"Wonderful. We really need a hundred or so like you around to mess up our lives."

"I think I like you, Agent Adams." She smiled as she handed over the drinks and then took a seat. "You say exactly what you feel, and it's rather refreshing."

"I live for your approval," I told her, taking a small sip of wine. Excellent. "Now, can we get this over with?"

"You know what the Limantti is?" She stretched out those mile long legs and propped her feet on the cat's back. The animal turned his intense amber gaze on me and my palms broke out in a nervous sweat.

"Large black quartz crystal infested with an alien life form that has enormous psi abilities," I said, trying hard to ignore the cat. "Everyone in the Federation read your journal."

I almost spilled my wine as the dragon bird jumped to the arm of my chair and started making that weird chuckling noise again.

"Well, I discovered after I wrote the journal that the Limantti reproduces through a process called mitosis."

"Cell division," I commented, trying to keep one eye on her and the other on the dragon bird and the rock cat. "It produces a perfect replica of the parent cell."

"Exactly." She beamed approval. "A few weeks after I finished my journal, the Limantti began the process of dividing. It started with a small bump on her surface. When the division was complete, the Sumantti, or Daughter Stone, was totally separate from the Limantti."

"Great. So it gave birth." I lifted a finger and pointed at the dragon bird. "Not to interrupt or anything, but what is this creature doing?"

It had stealthily moved up the chair arm until it was level with my head. Now its wings were half unfurled and it was sticking its chest out, the feathers proudly ruffling while its head bobbed up and down.

"She's displaying. That means she likes you."

"Well, tell it to stop," I snapped. "It's making me nervous."

"Sorry." Smith grinned. "Apparently she's decided you're her kind of people. I'm afraid you're stuck with her now."

"Oh, no." I scooted to the far edge of the chair. "I don't even like animals. She can just go find someone else."

"I've never known one to change its mind once it's picked a partner. Have you, my dear?" Dr. Daniels questioned Smith.

"No. They're very persistent. And I should tell you, they have rudimentary telepathy skills. After a week or so of bonding, she'll know what you're thinking, and broadcast her feelings to you."

"Nope, not happening." I turned sideways on the seat so my back was to the dragon bird. "Now, you were saying?"

She hid her grin by taking a drink from her cup before answering. "Yes, the Sumantti is currently smaller than the Mother Stone, and still very immature. Under normal circumstance, it would be cast into space to search until it found a quartz-rich world with a species advanced enough that it could chose one member to form a symbiosis with. The search would give it the time and experience needed to mature."

Putting the cup down, she straightened, her expression serious. "However, it took the Limantti so long to find a suitable world that she nearly despaired. She didn't want her daughter to go through what she'd suffered. Instead, knowing how vast our resources are, she asked us to study the problem and find the perfect place for her daughter. Once there, the Sumantti would do the rest. So the Daughter Stone was placed on a ship heading here, to Centaurius, so we could do as the Limantti wished."

"Unfortunately, the Daughter Stone never arrived," Dr. Daniels inserted. "At this point, we don't know if the stone was stolen or if it took matters into its own hands and fled. Normally, the Limantti could find her daughter by herself, but she says the crystal simply vanished from her awareness in the space of a single instant. Now, its imperative that we locate the Sumantti before its power falls into the wrong hands."

"So how do I fit into this plan?" I was doing my damnedest to ignore the dragon bird. No mean feat, since it had moved to the back of my chair and was now crooning in my ear.

"After the Sumantti vanished," Smith said, "the Mother Stone created that black quartz you're wearing. It's kind of a cross between the Rellanti, the stone used to form the mind bond for the Buri, and the Limantti. She says that once it's activated, it will help the wearer find her daughter. And she insisted that the person designated to wear it would be found here at the training center. Since today was the first time it's reacted to anyone, you're nominated."

My hand went protectively to the crystal lying under my silk top. "But I don't have any idea how to activate it. Or use it, for that matter."

"Honestly, neither do we. The Limantti has never made anything like it before. Auntie Em, the Buri elder, thinks it may be rather like this--" She held up her hand so I could see the black lines etched on the palm. "The Limantti gave me this so I could communicate with her no matter where I am."

I gripped the stone a little harder, my mind reeling. "So, I'm supposed to be a Shushanna to this Sumantti?"

"No, we don't believe that's the case. And I need you to understand this. If you try to form a symbiosis with the Sumantti without first being prepared by the crystals, you'll die. That's part of what your black stone is for. It should allow you to communicate with the Sumantti without actually forming the symbiosis. In other words, it will act as a buffer to protect your mind."

"And you know this because...?" I waved one hand in the air.

"The Limantti told me. Just think of yours as a mini-Mother Stone."

"Does it have a name?"

She nodded. "The Buri call it Imadei, or little sister."

"This should help get you started on your search." Dr. Daniels reached into his pocket and pulled out another sheet of electronic data. "It's a list of all the quartz-bearing planets that were in the vicinity of where the stone went missing. There are six of them, and we hope that when you get close, the crystal you're wearing will let you know if the Sumantti is there."

I stared at the sheet a second before taking it. "You knew it would be me. Why else would you bring this with you?"

"Let's just say that after seeing your psi tests, I suspected you might be the one. I also watched several of your classes. You did amazingly well for someone of your--shall we say--background?"

Before I could decide whether or not I was insulted, Smith picked up the conversational ball.

"How old are you?"

"Thirty cycles. Why?"

"Because I'm thirty-four. That means Gertz created you after me, and I don't believe for a second that he wouldn't have used what he'd learned from my process and even made improvements on it. Do you heal fast?"

"I don't know. I've never been hurt."

She arched a brow. "Never? Not even cuts, bruises?"

"No." I was frowning now. "It's not like I indulge in bar fights, you know. Where would I have gotten cut? Until recently the most strenuous thing I ever did was dance."

"How about during your combat training? Those instructors can be pretty heavy-handed, and they aren't prone to cutting the students any slack."

I stuck my nose in the air. "They're also so slow I could have run rings around them. It looks to me like the government would hire a better quality of instructors for this place."

Smith's lips turned up in a smile as she glanced at Dr. Daniels. "She's like me, all right. No doubt about it. At the very least, a normal GEP would take a healthy share of bruises during training. I suspect if one of the instructors did manage to get a hit in, she healed so fast no one noticed she'd been injured."

He put his cup down on the small table between our chairs and stood. "I'd better go order a ship prepared for her."

Was it my imagination, or did Smith's smile turn a bit nasty? "Give her to Lillith. I have a feeling they were made for each other. Plus, it will get the ship out of Max's hair. She has a horrible case of hero worship and is driving him to distraction."

"Excellent idea," Dr. Daniels said. "Agent Adams, you might want to return to your quarters now and pack. You'll be leaving first thing tomorrow morning."

I finished off my wine and set the glass aside. "Who, exactly, is Lillith?"

"She's an artificial intelligence Surge Zephyr, just like my ship," Smith said. "Oh, and when you're packing? You might want to lose the designer clothes and pack a good supply of jumpsuits. They'll last longer."

Right, I was going to take fashion advice from someone who stuck a strip of material between her legs and called it good.

Without further adieu, I took my leave. I was all the way back in my quarters before I realized the dratted dragon bird had followed me.

Ignoring the creature, I sank down on the end of the bed, my entire body shaking. Yeah, I put on a good show, but the truth was, I'd never been so scared in my whole life. I wasn't created to be an agent. I was created to excel at management and organization. Even with all my retraining I was doomed to fail, because I didn't have a clue how to go about this agent business. I was only bidding my time, pretending to go along with the status quo. GEPs are long lived, especially with rejuv treatments, and I figured sooner or later the furor over Gertz's creations would die down and I could go back to doing what I'd been designed to do.

I could go back to doing what I'd been designed to do as long as I didn't have any psi abilities. One whiff of talent and my old bosses wouldn't let me come back under any circumstances. Which gave me a huge problem if Doctor Daniels was right about those psi tests, a problem I was going to do my best to deny existed.

Faking my way through life wasn't helping my state of mind, though. For the first time ever, there was nothing for me to organize, nothing to manage. And I'd never felt so lost, so inadequate, so alone. Let's face it. I'm no Kiera Smith and never will be.

I desperately wanted my old life back. Instead, I was setting out for who knew where, to do who knows what, with an unknown psi ability waiting to ambush me and ruin all my chances at normalcy. The uncertainty was making me crazy.

Yes, Kiera Smith should eat worms and die. And take her damn dragon bird with her.

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