Borealis IX: Akira's Choice
by Vijaya Schartz
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When bounty hunter Akira Karyudo accepted her assignment, something didn't add up. Why would the TPP want a kidnapped orphan dead or alive? She will get to the truth once she finds the boy, and the no good SOB who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital. With her cheetah, Freckles, a genetically enhanced feline retriever, Akira sets out to flush them out of the bowels of the BOREALIS space station. But when she finds her fugitives, the kidnapper is not what she expects.
Markku, a decorated rebel soldier, stole his nephew from the authorities, who performed painful experiments on the boy. Stuck on Borealis, he protects the child, but how can he shield him from the horribly dangerous conditions in the lawless sublevels of the decrepit space station? Akira faces the worst moral dilemma of her career. Law or justice, duty or love. She can't have it both ways.
Two thugs stalked away to follow the cheetah.
"Go after that cat and you're dead!" The strong baritone voice came from a tall man aiming a blaster at the two hoodlums.
He stepped out of the shadows, in full paramilitary gear. His left hand held a long knife. He sidled toward Akira, circling the thugs, who started to retreat at the sight of his blaster.
"Mind your own business." Akira didn't appreciate unwanted help.
The man stepped closer. "These goons know nothing about civilized rules of fighting. They want your body, your hide, your cat for its meat, and your armor and weapons."
"I know that." Who did this man think she was? A neophyte? "There is no honor in killing defenseless creatures."
"There is no honor in this place." His gaze skimmed the sorry lot holding an assortment of blades and clubs, some with protruding metal spikes. "Believe me, they are far from defenseless."
The thugs kept their distance from the blaster aimed at them, but they did not retreat.
"Still. I refuse to kill if there is another way." None of those rejects would threaten her individually, but their number could present a challenge. As more joined the group, she counted two dozen.
The louts glanced at one another with indecision. At least, they understood the warning. She was trained and dangerous. Not to be trifled with. They widened their half circle in front of her, still hesitating, but they held their ground. Chikusho.
In a few long steps, the stranger joined her side. From his walk and the way he held his weapons, she could tell he had military training. He didn't look like a TPP soldier, though. Something wild lurked in his clear blue gaze. A free thinker. A bounty hunter like her? Or perhaps a rebel?
"You look like you could use some help."
"Do I?" Unbelievable. "Why should I trust you?" She couldn't help the derision in her voice. "For all I know, you could be their leader, luring me into a trap."
He chuckled and shook his head. "I'm not one of them, and you are in more trouble than you know."
"Get out of my way." Akira clicked open the metal claws of her forearm braces then unsheathed a titanium short sword and adopted a defensive stance. "I work alone."
He laughed. "And I'm telling you, this is no place for a warrior from a distant past. Especially, one who cares about something as futile as honor."
"I pick and choose my fugitives. I only go after real scumbags… Bottom line, no one tells me what's right or wrong."
With her cheetah—Freckles is a genetically enhanced feline retriever—Bounty Hunter Akira Karyudo has a high-paying job to do: apprehend an abducted boy and the scum who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital, right out from under the nose of the Trans Planetary Protectorate. But something hasn’t felt right about this job from the very beginning. The TPP wanted these two dead or alive, but why would they want a kid dead? She’s determined to discover the real truth behind this assignment when she finds the boy. And she will find him, along with the good-for-nothing SOB who’d grabbed him. As Akira sets out to flush the pair out of the decrepit slums of SL7, deep in the lower levels of the Borealis Space Station, rebel soldier, Markku, is busy secreting his young nephew away in Borealis’ lawless sublevels. He’s to meet with a rebel contact to arrange for their safe extraction off Borealis to someplace safe from the TPP. Shane is the only family Markku has left, and he’s not about to lose him to the TPP and their painful, experimental testing of the boy’s unique psychic abilities. When Akira finds the fugitives, she discovers the kidnapper is not at all what she expected. Markku is a caring, honorable man, who draws not only Akira’s respect but her affection as well. In helping him save Shane from the TPP, she faces the biggest ethical impasse of her career. Does she uphold TPP law or those her moral integrity dictates? In this, she cannot honor both her duty and have the man she’s coming to love. Which one will she ultimately sacrifice for the other?
Akira’s Choice is the ninth novella in the multi-author Borealis Space Station series and the second of these stories by one of my favorite authors, Vijaya Schartz. Borealis orbits a dead planet on the edge of space where the rebellion and the deceitful TPP battle for preeminence. Akira's Choice is a captivating story with interesting, appealing characters. Being a cat lover, I found the relationship, with its psychic element, between Freckles and Shane absolutely captivating. As always, Ms. Schartz’s solid plot and crisply-written prose incorporates a good blend of action and intrigue, but if you’re looking for a sweltering hot romance, you won’t find it here. The romance between Akira and Markku is lightly touched upon and certainly isn’t consummated. It’s sweet and fraught with lots of reasons why neither of them should enter into a romantic relationship. This story can easily stand alone, but there’s not a lot of back story to explain the war between the rebellion and the TPP or tell you much about reappearing characters from past books. I believe you’ll enjoy this exciting Sci-Fi series much more if you start reading it from the beginning, with Inamorata Crossing by PI Barrington, which you can find in Borealis: A Space Anthology, Book One. Overall, the Borealis series is a must read for all fans of Sci-Fi romance. Go pick them up and settle into your favorite armchair for some entertaining reading.
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