Life inside a self-sufficient military base and research center located in the middle of the desert sounded dangerous and impressive, but to Charlie Smith it was generally dull. People called the facility Dreamland, and most of the stories about it were dreams. Of course, the reality could be even scarier some days.
Day in and day out, routine was the key. Surprises weren't allowed, but the scientists monitored for possibilities incessantly. Sensors and a no-fly zone kept things predictable. The staff's work was important, and Charlie preferred this life to the alternative he'd escaped as a child.
Decked out in his usual security outfit of jeans, black shirt and belt full of weapons, he strolled into the biotech lab run by his dream girl. Meg Lyle leaned over a microscope on a lab table--not an unusual posture for her. Her tight rear end stuck out as she shifted from foot to foot.
"Hey, Meg. Adorable as always."
She grunted in reply and held up her index finger. The woman loved her work, and not much got in the way. Her cat and food were the only things for which Charlie had ever seen her pause. The alien-looking cat had no hair and was a purebred diva Meg called ET. Today, the cat yawned on a nearby metal table.
Charlie checked out Meg even further while she zoomed in on her slides. Meg was a creature of habit. Her hair was pulled back in a long ponytail that coiled to the small of her back, her glasses made her look like the geeky genius she was, and today, she wore a pink and blue floral-print dress that hit her knees and peeked from beneath her crisp, white lab coat. It made her look taller than she was though her shoes were flats that were broken in and kept her from slipping on the slick floors.
The dream of having Meg was shared by Charlie and his unit.
Sure, there weren't a ton of single women working in this top-secret military base, but it wasn't just her gender and unique looks that made them long for her. Meg's quirks ran deep, and she might just be able to handle three men. She was a civilian, for one, and acted like it.
The trio had plans, but with their Marine training, they could wait days without moving a muscle or years without making a move. Timing was everything. Meg clearly wouldn't figure out their interest until they were ready. Menage wasn't traditional, so Charlie could hardly blame her, but a unique woman like Meg was the type who could handle them once they broke the ice.
Charlie had grown tired of waiting and wanted to pounce now. The Christmas break might provide the chance the group had been waiting for. Meg was not on the list of people to fly to Vegas today. If she was staying, their boring security detail had new potential for fun.
With the snap of a control, Meg turned off the machine and smiled at Charlie. "Sorry, what's up?"
"You're staying in for the holiday?" he asked.
She nodded. "I've got this project, and the big boss doesn't want it put aside. Besides, what am I missing? My perfect sister's elegant holiday dinner is just an opportunity for my entire family to rub in that I'm still single. I can't even brag about my work. Everything is top secret."
"Don't worry. We'll be here. It can be fun when it's quiet." He leaned in. "What are you working on?"
"Abductions are up again." She shook her head. "I'm not sure what's going on, but I've been working on a biological countermeasure. The higher ups want me to refine it. I have no idea how I'm going to test it."
"Since all the aliens were moved to other locations, maybe the higher ups can do something remotely," Charlie suggested.
Her nose scrunched, and her glasses lifted. "No, this would completely incapacitate them and cause extreme pain. I can't do that to some refugee alien. Luckily for humans, it's totally harmless."
Charlie watched her close a tube of pale green powder and blow the excess off her table. The government had control of all the refugee aliens. Some had simply crashed to earth while others left the home planet of the Keelons because they weren't happy with the warrior life. The Keelons weren't expected to colonize earth, but they had abducted enough humans to be considered a threat. Charlie hoped the general human population never became aware of aliens amongst them. Panic on a massive scale would be dangerous.
He stepped away and tried to make it casual. Petting ET, he wondered what Meg would think if she knew the truth about the trio out to seduce her. Things weren't so simple here.
After washing her hands, Meg walked over and leaned on the table. "ET likes you. She's purring."
"I'm sure there's another way for you to test your project. A genius like you will figure it out. The idea that you design weapons does seem weird." Charlie loved her brain and openness, but she never seemed to look up from her work.
"That's just part of my job. Anything biological is my area." She rubbed the cat's ears. "So you and your pals got holiday duty? Bet your girlfriends are pissed."
Charlie grinned. Meg didn't flirt much, but every once in a while, he saw a glimmer of her personal side. Her tall form and subtle curves teased men, and she seemed clueless about it. Some guys thought she was frigid or a geek.
"No girlfriends. We don't have much of a life outside of work. Career military makes it hard. Leaving someone outside Dreamland for months at a time seems cruel. We were overseas for years, too. It's not right."
"Please, plenty of men do that. Too bad, there aren't tons of single women here. Statistically speaking, I should have plenty of male attention, but there are a lot of variables to analyze." She laughed, but Charlie sensed it was only half a joke.
"Come on, you don't have a boyfriend amongst your lab guys?" Charlie wanted to make sure.
She blushed and pushed her glasses up her nose. "No! They work for me. That'd just be wrong! It's hard enough to be a woman around here. I'm not going to invite trouble by sexually harassing my staff. The big guys scrutinize everything. They're reluctant enough to bring in women."
He leaned in close to her. "You really think they'd feel harassed? They'd be fighting to get your attention. I bet they all think you'd be offended because you are the boss. The rest of the guys, no doubt, believe you'd be taken by some hot genius who can stimulate your brain and your body."
"Stop teasing me. You, Henry and Ike can go and get all the girls you want in Vegas once the holidays are over. Then you'll have some vacation time." She picked up her cat and walked to the office conveniently built into her lab area.
Had he stepped on a nerve? Women were a mystery he'd never fully understand, but Meg was the only one he wanted to explore. She was the one woman they needed.
He followed her into the office. "Did I say something wrong?"
"No. I'm glad to have friends to get through the holidays with. But please don't start any rumors about me. I'm not dating anyone--no one here or outside. My work here is too important for me to have any issues. I don't want to be reassigned or fired." Meg opened a closet and pulled out some Christmas decorations. Digging through, she picked out a collar with jingle bells and put it on ET.
"Meg, you're a genius. Any think tank or university would give you your own lab and a ton of funding." Charlie had overheard some of the offers. The lab guys were jealous of her opportunities and genius.
"Our work here is far more important that anything I'd do out there. My staff is good, but none of them can think the way I do. People's lives and safety are most important. Commander Hastings thinks I'm a flake, but no one can do what I do here."
Charlie chuckled. "He does not. You're quirky. That's all. Most people here are military or former military. You tend not to follow orders all the time. In Dreamland, they need people who can think outside this galaxy, not just outside the box."
"They removed all the aliens, so who knows where I'll end up. My role is supportive and civilian. Following orders isn't my strength." She smiled and set out a little Christmas tree on her desk.
"I like a rebel." Charlie picked up a strand of silver garland and wrapped it around her neck.
Meg rolled her eyes. "I don't think I'm really a rebel. I was a good student, never broke a law that I know of and lead a very boring personal life. Rebel, no."
"I don't buy the sweet innocent act." He wanted to deepen the conversation, but without the other guys, it wasn't right. They all needed to be in on the move and to agree it was right.
"I'm not that sweet. Mess with my experiment or my friends and I'll stick your face in liquid nitrogen. Consider yourself warned." Meg winked.
"No problem. I'll steer clear. You have fun with your dust. But if you get bored, you can always join us for meals and movies. We'll keep you busy and full of holiday cheer." Charlie left before he said too much.