Descended (Alien Mate Index #3) - Evangeline Anderson

Prologue

Location: Aboard Assimilation ship EOC-2789, the private vessel of Count Doloroso. In orbit around the planet humans call “Mars”.

Time: Several solar days following the death of Doloroso’s human host body and the subsequent acquisition of his new Majoran host body.

The new body was working out splendidly. Count Doloroso—for so he still preferred to refer to himself, despite his numerous recent physical changes— stretched his muscular arms with delight. He still couldn’t get over how much better he felt in the Majoran host than he had in the human one.

This body was young and strong and virile and best of all, it wasn’t orange. Well, not unless he wanted it to be. For Majorans were chromatacromes, able to change their hair and skin and eye color at will. It was the perfect disguise—really, he couldn’t understand why he hadn’t taken a Majoran as a host before.

It had been extremely lucky, his old host body dying just as a perfect new host was available right on his own ship. The little silver drone that carried his essence and injected it into new sentient host bodies had only had to fly a few feet to sting one of the Imperial Guards on the neck. No one had even noticed when he took over—the transition had been exceedingly smooth.

As for the other Imperial Guards, he had managed to lure them down to the stasis booths in the belly of the ship. One by one he had tricked them into entering the empty booths and one by one he had frozen them in suspended animation. Now he had enough hosts to last him for years! Count Doloroso felt positively rich.

Of course there was still one problem, Doloroso admitted as he paced back and forth in the control area of his ship—he still lacked a La-ti-zal to utilize in his new breeding program. How could he begin production of a whole new race of Organic Assimilated if he couldn’t get a La-ti-zal female to impregnate?

There was the one, of course—the last one of Zoe’s friends who was one of those females blessed by the Ancient Ones. But how could he get to her? Especially now that the Majoran captain of the Imperial Guard was watching over her? That was the question that had been occupying him for days as he orbited Mars, out of range of detection from his enemies.

A sudden thought made him stop pacing.

Then again, who said he had to get to her and take her away from Earth himself?

A slow smile curved his new lips. The Majoran captain would do that for him. Because he believed that Charlotte—that was her name, correct?—was the new incarnation of the Goddess-Empress. And so he would take her away from Earth and head for Femme One, where the throne and palace of the Empress was located.

Doloroso had a long history with the Empress—the old one, that was. She had been a La-ti-zal and a Seer—one who was granted visions of the future by the meddling Goddess of the Twelve Peoples.

Due to her unfair advantage, the old Empress had been able to wipe out his entire race. He alone had survived to try and propagate his species, that of sentient machines inhabiting living hosts. The Assimilation had once been a mighty force to be reckoned with and yet the Goddess-Empress had brought them low and all but wiped them out.

What if he returned the favor?

Doloroso’s smile became a wide, evil grin. If he could get his hands on the new Empress, what amazing things could he accomplish? He could impregnate her with his seed, yes, but the possibilities went far beyond a single pregnancy. He could hold her for ransom and demand anything he wanted—he could even demand that every La-ti-zal in the galaxy be brought to him for his personal use and delectation. He could have a whole harem of La-ti-zal brood mares—all impregnated with his seed—all incubating Organic Assimilated fetuses!

Doloroso rubbed his new, strong hands together in delight. Oh yes, he had plans for the new Empress. And he wouldn’t even have to go to the trouble of going down to Earth to find her. Captain Verrai would bring her right to him…on Femme One.

Quickly, he went to set a course for the Majoran capital planet. He would have to make excuses, of course, for his delay and the “loss” of the other Imperial Guards, but those little details could easily be explained. There was much to put into place, many preparations to make in order to