Survey Mission (MM)
Troy Iverson has fallen far because he kissed the wrong man -- from the flagship of the OriginCo corporation to Heavenhawk IV -- and he isn’t happy about it. So when he’s chosen as the botanist on a survey mission, he tries to keep far away from energetic entomologist Kipp Vaughn who won’t stop pestering him. There’s something about the man that bugs Troy.
Troy wants to get his job done and return to the ship, but survey missions never run smoothly, and a storm strands the team in a cave. With injured people, alien bats on the attack, and more deadly storms brewing, Troy and Kipp must return to the shuttle and contact the ship. If they can’t learn to work together, someone could die. But if Troy gets too comfortable around Kipp, he could lose everything this time.
Kipp did not argue. As Irene stalked back to Desmond and Teresa moved to see to Heather and Patti, Kipp crossed to where Troy was stacking the cases and exhaled loudly.
“Do I get the hot lab assistant to go with all these beautiful specimens?” he asked. Irene ignored him as Troy stiffened. Kipp reached in front of him and began rearranging the cases, placing those holding larger creatures on the bottom.
“I was into myrmecology, dipterology, a little dabbling in coleopterology -- the ants, the flies, the beetles," muttered Kipp as he worked. "Not vespology. Sure as hell not batology."
"Chiropterology," said Troy. It felt good to know something Kipp didn't. Kipp eyed him with a gaze that was more blue than green at the moment.
"Now how does a little old botanist know that?"
"Had a cousin who was a chiropterologist," he said. Unfortunately she'd died studying a new kind of bat on a recently colonized planet, bitten by a venomous variety. But Kipp didn't need to know that. "And don't call me old."
"Why? Afraid I'm not into older men?"
"No. I'm afraid I might punch you."
"Listen up," said Irene from the cave mouth. "Teresa says once this storm dies back, she'll be able to see whether we can get back to the shuttle. I'll be taking some of you back. Vaughn, Iverson."
Troy held back a groan. Irene turned to Desmond and Teresa, crouched by the shield. Desmond stood.
"I'll stay," he said. "I can make sure the shields work and Heather and Patti are comfortable."
Across the cave, Patti swore again. Irene glanced at Teresa.
"I can take more readings on the move," she said. "A better picture of any upcoming storms will help too. You don't want to move either of them."
"I gave Heather something to sleep," said Irene. She rubbed at her forehead. "Let's hope we don't have to move them." She paused. "Right, then it's me, Vaughn and your samples, Iverson, Peters. We'll contact the ship and bring back better first aid supplies."
She nodded to herself, satisfied she had things as much under control as possible, and turned to discuss with Desmond the shield holding the maybe-bats, maybe-wasps back. When Troy glanced over at Kipp, it was to see his eyes dart up from his ass. He forced himself to be angry instead of aroused.