Icarus rising, p.1

Icarus Rising, page 1


Icarus Rising

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Icarus Rising

  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  Atlantic Bridge


  Copyright ©2010 by Bernadette Gardner

  First published in 2010

  NOTICE: This eBook is licensed to the original purchaser

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  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  About the Author:

  * * * *


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  Published by Liquid Silver Books, Imprint of Atlantic Bridge

  Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana.

  Copyright 2010, Bernadette Gardner. All rights reserved. No

  part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a

  retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,

  electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the

  prior written permission of the authors.

  This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and

  dialogues in this book are of the author's imagination and are

  not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events

  or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner


  To save a dying race, sociologist Caleb Faulkner will forfeit

  his humanity. He has volunteered to join with an alien

  creature in order to take part in an ambitious breeding

  program designed to spare the dominant race on the planet

  Icarus from certain extinction.

  Dr. Zara Abbott has spent months helping to prepare Caleb

  for the joining, hiding her feelings for the man who will

  become the mate to an Icarian female as soon as he receives

  his symbiotic wings. When the joining proves disastrous,

  Caleb and his alien symbion can think of only one thing,

  mating with Zara. After so long preparing to sacrifice Caleb to

  the Icarians, will she be able to refuse the man who makes

  her heart take flight?

  [Back to Table of Contents]


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  Chapter One

  With a sense of dread Zara Abbott eyed the brilliant blue-

  green Icarian sky and pursed her lips in disdain. Why couldn't

  yesterday's rare tropical storm have lasted a while longer?

  Guilt over her feelings about this day gnawed at her

  insides. A sip of chocolate-infused coffee from the dispenser

  in the lab cafeteria did little to soothe her unrest, so she

  dumped the cup of still-steaming liquid into the recycler and

  turned her gaze away from the tempered windows that

  looked onto the research island's northeastern facing beach.

  The weather was now perfect for the Icarian bonding ritual

  to take place. She sighed and headed back toward the small

  alcove that served as her office in the laboratory compound,

  still praying for a little more rain.

  Today was the day she would lose Caleb, and she just

  wasn't ready.

  On her way through the research station's infirmary, Zara

  ran into Dr. Raymond Danson. The geneticist headed the

  modest, twenty-person xeno-anthropology expedition which

  had been dispatched to the planet Icarus not only to establish

  a friendly relationship with the native inhabitants, but to help

  discover the reason why, on this pristine, primitive world, the

  population of the dominant intelligent species had suffered a

  steady and near devastating decline, leaving them with barely

  ten thousand adult individuals, most of whom could not



  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  "Isn't this exciting?" Danson asked when Zara passed

  within his field of vision. Like a small boy given free run in a

  toy shop, Danson seemed to bounce on the balls of his feet.

  His dark brown eyes sparkled with barely contained glee. All

  his research had led to this, and as heavy as the day's events

  weighed on Zara's heart, she understood the man's

  enthusiasm. If everything went according to his plans today

  and in the weeks to come, he would be credited with saving a

  dying race. Who wouldn't find that prospect thrilling?

  "Where is the man of the hour, anyway?" Zara hoped her

  change of subject would cover the fact that she didn't want to

  answer Danson's question. In a half-hearted attempt to

  appear both busy and anxious, she began arranging the

  equipment Danson and his medical team would be using to

  monitor the initial results of today's grand experiment.

  The geneticist tilted his head for a second, as if he really

  had no idea where his star test subject might be. Then he

  smiled and jerked a thumb in the general direction of the

  majestic arc of pale green sand that stretched nearly a

  kilometer between two rock promontories on the island's

  northern shore. "He's taking a swim, I believe. The Icarian

  cleansing ritual is the first part of the bonding."

  This was the first step for Caleb in trading a portion of his

  humanity away. Zara squelched the toxic thought. As a xeno-

  psychotherapist, she'd been trained to understand the

  thought processes of non-human minds, and she'd chosen

  this remote post specifically to help the man in question

  handle the monumental transition he was about to undergo.


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  Repressing her own feelings on the subject was part of her


  "I should go find him," she said, still fiddling with the

  placement of the rolling monitors around the extra-wide

  diagnostic bed, which had been placed in the center of the

  infirmary. "To make sure he's fully prepared."

  Danson made a non-committal sound that told Zara he'd

  moved past worrying whether or not Caleb Faulkner was

  ready for the bonding. Grudgingly, Zara had to admit she fully

  understood Danson's viewpoint. At this stage in his research,

/>   the man was incapable of accepting a delay or even the most

  remote possibility of failure. He'd worked too long toward his

  intended outcome. The insinuation, however subtle, that his

  human guinea pig might, at the last moment, change his

  mind, was beyond Danson's ability to consider.

  Zara decided not to pursue the discussion any further. The

  person she needed to speak to was Caleb. He was the star of

  today's show and the one with the power to make or break

  Danson's research, which had proven the Icarians could no

  longer reproduce due to a stagnation of their DNA. Caleb's

  health and safety, his desires and needs were paramount


  Danson's were secondary. Zara's weren't even a blip on

  the radar.

  She said nothing else to Danson. Leaving him to his final,

  meticulous preparations, she hurried through the infirmary,

  nodding politely to the few other research-station staff

  members she passed on her way out to the beach.


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  It didn't take her long to find him. Her breath caught when

  she saw him emerge from the gentle Icarian surf. When she

  realized he was naked and slightly aroused her face heated.

  Instinct bade her to turn away, but some repressed need

  made her indulge instead in a long, intoxicating look at the

  perfect muscular form of the man she'd lusted after since the

  day she first set foot on Icarus.

  Wet now and swept back from his clean-shaven face, his

  chestnut brown hair just reached his shoulders. Sculpted

  biceps and pectorals attested to the fact that, though he

  spent most of his time studying the culture and customs of

  the native Icarians, he didn't neglect his physical health.

  Daily swims in the warm, clear ocean water and

  weightlifting in the research station's modest gymnasium kept

  him stunningly fit. Even without the athlete's physique,

  though, Caleb would have inspired Zara's fantasies. The color

  of his eyes matched the mesmerizing blue-green of Icarus's

  planet-wide ocean. His voice, deep and cultured, made her

  knees slightly weak, and his self-deprecating humor made

  him approachable and easy to talk to.

  Like Adonis, rising from the primordial waters, he was

  perfect. Or perhaps, in this case, the name of the Greek man

  of myth for whom the planet had been named represented

  more precisely what Caleb would become. Today, when he

  accepted a genetic bonding to the winged Icarian bird called a

  symbion, Caleb would herald a new era on Icarus and

  hopefully become the first father of the race's new

  generation. Zara only hoped the ancient myth's modern

  counterpart wouldn't meet the same tragic fate.


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  Caleb Faulkner battled his natural tendency toward self-

  consciousness and forced himself not to run for cover at the

  sight of Zara Abbott strolling down the beach toward him.

  Rather than duck behind a nearby rock or scramble for the

  towel he'd brought along for his ritual skinny dip and spare

  them both an awkward encounter, he squared his shoulders

  and channeled his inner Icarian, the one he'd been trying to

  develop with Zara's help for the last twelve months.

  Members of the planet's dominant humanoid species rarely

  wore clothing. In the tropical latitudes where most of the

  population now lived, they didn't need any protection from

  the moderate temperatures, and their bodies were naturally

  immune to the effects of the strong sunlight. Once he was

  accepted into their society as a fully-joined adult male, he

  wouldn't be expected to wear them either, except of course

  when he returned to visit the research station.

  He had to conquer his modesty, and as much as it pained

  him, now was as good a time as any to begin. If only he

  wasn't getting a hard-on from just watching Zara walk, it

  might not be so bad. As usual, she looked fantastic. Her

  golden-blonde hair blew behind her in the gentle breeze off

  the ocean, and her stride, long and confident, accentuated

  the sway of her hips. She wore shorts that showed off her

  tanned legs, and a sleeveless shirt that pulled just tight

  enough across her breasts to make his cock sit up and take

  notice. At least once he joined with his symbion, he would

  gain the ability to control his bio-physical reactions. That

  would be a relief.


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  Right now, though, he could do nothing about his arousal.

  It was too late to dive back into the aquamarine surf and

  pretend he hadn't noticed her, so he drew in a deep breath of

  the magnificently clean air and met her curious gaze as she


  "Do you want me?" Caleb practically choked on his own

  tongue after the poorly phrased question slipped out. Clearly,

  he had no control over his brain as well as his body at the

  moment. "I mean ... um. Is Ray ready for me? Do you..."

  Zara laughed. Though she kept her hazel-eyed gaze fixed

  steadily on his, her cheeks reddened. "No. You still have half

  an hour before the ritual. I just thought you might like to talk

  before ... if there are any concerns you have. Anything you

  want to get off your chest."

  "Ah." Another year probably wouldn't be enough time to

  say everything he wanted to say about the experiment, his

  life, about Zara and how much she'd helped him prepare for

  this monumental decision. "Nope. I'm good. Ritual cleansing

  is out of the way. Now I just have to wait for Jidar and

  Namara to arrive with my wings."

  The light in Zara's eyes dimmed a bit at the mention of the

  Icarian tribal leader and his mate. As the ruling pair, Jidar and

  Namara had made the initial decision to permit a human to

  join with an Icarian symbion. They had accepted Caleb's

  petition to be the first test subject, and they would arrive

  today with the creature, a headless bird native to Icarus's

  isolated columnar islands. The animal would attach itself to

  Caleb's spine and give him not only the ability to fly, as all

  adult Icarians could, but the ability to mate successfully with


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  a full-blooded Icarian during the upcoming, species-wide

  mating cycle. In addition to the diminishing pool of DNA, the

  Icarian mating cycle, which permitted fertility only once for a

  few weeks every decade, had contributed to the attrition

  problem. If Caleb's joining proved successful, other humans

  could volunteer to be joined and participate in the upcoming

  cycle, thus ensuring at best a sixty percent increase in the

  Icarian population within a year.

  Caleb knew Zara wasn't completely convinced the

  human/symbion bonding was a good idea, but Ray Danson's

  research assured the xeno-team that human physiology was

  similar enough to Icarian to make the bonding
safe and


  Zara clasped her hands behind her back, as was her habit

  when she was trying to reign in her emotions. Caleb

  wondered if she knew the posture forced her breasts to jut

  out a little further and made his heart race a little faster.

  "Would you like to go wait for them to arrive, or do you

  need a few more minutes alone?" Zara tossed a speculative

  glance out to sea. On the horizon, the towering plateaus of

  the nearest columnar island chain caught the morning light.

  The Icarians would soon be sailing in on the last strong winds

  of yesterday's storm.

  Caleb considered her question. A few more minutes alone

  might give him one last opportunity to change his mind about

  the experiment. Danson had impressed upon him the finality

  of the bond. Once the neural connection between him and the

  symbion was complete, he would be changed forever. A

  surgical separation would kill the alien creature outright and


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  very likely leave Caleb permanently disabled, if he survived at


  Zara had stressed this in their therapy sessions. She had

  been determined to make sure he understood the gravity of

  his decision. To her credit as a counselor, he'd taken every

  option under consideration and came up each time with the

  same conclusion. Even if it meant losing whatever remote

  chance he had to take his relationship with Zara to a more

  intimate level, he had to go through with this. The future of

  the Icarian race depended on their ability to infuse new DNA

  into their mating pool. Caleb's future depended on his


  "I'm ready for the ritual. Let's go."

  Zara offered him her hand, a firm grip even though her

  fingers were delicate and graceful. He held her gaze as he

  shook her hand and tried to ignore the fact that he was still

  stark naked.

  "Good luck, Caleb. What you're doing today is very

  important and very courageous."

  He responded with a flat smile and bit back the response

  his conscience readily supplied. If only you knew what a

  coward I really am, Zara. If only you knew.

  [Back to Table of Contents]


  Icarus Rising

  by Bernadette Gardner

  Chapter Two

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