Chapter 1

Two years since the invasion.

Amy Myers couldn’t believe it had been two years since the invasion, and people still knew next to nothing about the aliens who had taken over the Earth.

Frustrated, she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes, feeling the strain from staring at the computer screen all day. Over the past two weeks, ever since she decided to prove herself by writing an insightful piece about the invaders, she’d poured over every bit of information available on the internet, and all she had were rumors, a number of unreliable eyewitness accounts, some grainy YouTube videos, and as many unanswered questions as before.

Two years after K-Day, and the Ks—or the Krinar, as they liked to be called—were nearly as much of a mystery as when they first arrived.

Amy’s computer pinged, distracting her from her thoughts. Glancing at the screen, she saw that it was an email from her editor. Richard Gable wanted to know when she’d have the article on conjoined puppy twins ready for him.

Sighing, Amy rubbed her eyes again. She had no idea why all the fluff pieces landed on her desk. It had been that way ever since she joined the newspaper three years ago, and Amy was sick and tired of it. At twenty-four years of age, she had about as much experience writing about real news as a college intern.

Fuck it, she’d decided last month. If Gable didn’t want to assign her real work, she’d find a story herself. And what could be more interesting or controversial than the mysterious beings who invaded Earth and now resided alongside humans? If she could uncover something—anything—factual about the Ks, that would go a long way toward proving that she was capable of handling bigger stories.

Putting her glasses back on, Amy quickly wrote an email to Gable, requesting a couple of extra days to finish the puppy article. Her excuse was that she wanted to interview the veterinarian and was having trouble getting in touch with him. It was a lie, of course—she’d interviewed both the veterinarian and the owner as soon as she got the assignment—but she wanted to avoid getting another fluff piece for a few days. It would give her time to explore an interesting topic she came across in her research today: the so-called x-clubs.

“Hey there, baby girl, any plans for tonight?”

Hearing a familiar voice, Amy swiveled around in her chair and grinned at Jay, her coworker and best friend. “Nope,” she said cheerfully. “Going to catch up on some work and then veg out on my couch.”

He sighed dramatically and gave her a look of mock reproof. “Amy, Amy, Amy . . . What are we going to do with you? It’s Friday night, and you’re going to stay in?”

“I’m still recovering from last weekend,” Amy said, her grin widening. “So don’t think you can drag me out again so soon. One night of Jay-style partying a month is plenty for me.”

Jay-style partying was a unique experience consisting of multiple vodka shots early in the evening, followed by several hours of club-hopping and a dinner/breakfast at a 24-hour Korean diner. Amy wasn’t lying when she said she was still recovering—the combination of vodka and Korean food had given her a hangover that was more like a bad case of food poisoning. She’d barely crawled out of bed on Monday to go to work.

“Oh, come on,” he cajoled, his brown eyes resembling those of a puppy. With his thick lashes, curly brown hair, and fine features, Jay was almost too pretty for a guy. If it hadn’t been for his muscular build, he would’ve appeared effeminate. As it was, however, he attracted women and men alike—and enjoyed both with equal gusto.

“Sorry, Jay. Another week perhaps.” What Amy needed to concentrate on now was her article about the Ks . . . and the secretive clubs they supposedly patronized.

Jay let out another sigh. “All right, have it your way. What are you working on right now? The puppy piece?”

Amy hesitated. She hadn’t told Jay about her project yet, mostly because she didn’t want to appear foolish if she couldn’t come up with a good story. Jay didn’t get a lot of meaty assignments either, but he didn’t mind it as much as Amy. His goal in life was to enjoy himself, and everything else—his journalism career included—came second. He thought ambition was something that was only useful in moderation and didn’t apply himself more than necessary. “I just don’t want to be a total bum, for my parents, you know,” he’d explained to Amy once, and the statement perfectly summed up his approach to work.

Amy, on the other hand, wanted more than to not be a bum. It bothered her that the editor had taken one look at her strawberry-blond hair and doll-like features and permanently slotted her into fluff-piece land. She would’ve thought Gable was sexist, except he did the same thing to Jay. Their editor didn’t discriminate against women; he just made assumptions about people’s capabilities based on their looks.

Deciding to finally confide in her friend, Amy said, “No, not the puppy piece. I’ve actually been researching a project of my own.”

Jay’s eyebrows rose. “Oh?”

“Have you ever heard of x-clubs?” she asked, casting a quick look around to make sure they wouldn’t be overheard. Thankfully, the office was largely empty, except for an intern working on the other side of the floor. It was nearly four p.m. on a Friday, and most people had found an excuse to be out of the office this summer afternoon.

Jay’s eyes widened. “X-clubs? As in xeno-clubs?”

“Yes.” Amy’s pulse jumped in excitement. “Have you heard of them?”

“Aren’t they the places those alien-crazy people go to hook up with Ks?”

“Apparently.” Amy grinned at him. “I just learned about them today. Do you know anyone who’s been to one?”

Jay frowned, an expression that looked out of place on his normally cheerful face. “No, not really. I mean, there’s always that friend of a friend of a friend, but no one I know personally.”

Amy nodded. “Right. And you know half of Manhattan, so these clubs, if they exist, are a closely guarded secret. Can you imagine the story?” In her best broadcaster’s voice, she announced dramatically, “Alien clubs in the heart

of New York City? The New York Herald brings you the latest in K news!”

“Are you sure about this?” Her friend looked doubtful. “I’ve heard those clubs are near K Centers. Are you saying there are some in New York City?”

“I think so. There’s some chatter online about a club in Manhattan. I want to find it and see what it’s all about.”

“Amy . . . I don’t know if that’s such a great idea.” To her surprise, Jay appeared more disturbed than excited, his uncharacteristic frown deepening. “You don’t want to mess with the Ks.”

“Nobody wants to mess with them—which is why we still know nothing about them.” Amy’s earlier frustration returned. It bothered her that everybody was still so intimated by the invaders. “All I want to do is write a factual article about them. Specifically about some places they allegedly frequent. Surely that’s allowed. We still have freedom of press in this country, don’t we?”

“Maybe,” Jay said. “Or maybe not. Personally, I think they erase whatever information they don’t want to be public. Used to be, once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever, but not anymore.”

“You think they might suppress my article somehow?” Amy asked worriedly, and Jay shrugged.

“I have no idea,” he said, “but if I were you, I’d focus on the puppy piece and forget about the Ks.”

* * *

It was almost eight in the evening by the time Amy came across it: a mention of the x-club’s location on an obscure online sex forum. It was buried within someone’s lengthy—and rather improbable-sounding—account of his hook-up with a group of Ks. The feeling of ecstasy the man described sounded suspiciously like a drug-induced high to Amy, though similar tales littered the web, giving rise to all sorts of rumors about the invaders . . . including that of vampirism.

Amy didn’t buy it, but then again, she had a natural distrust of rumors. She liked facts; that’s why she’d gone into journalism rather than choosing to write fiction.

According to this man’s account, he had gone to the club right after his dinner in the Meatpacking district. He named the restaurant where he had dinner, and then he wrote that the club was directly across the street from it.

Tags: Anna Zaires The Krinar Chronicles Science Fiction