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The Krinar Exposé: A Krinar Chronicles Novel by Anna Zaires, Hettie Ivers (1)

Chapter One

Two years since the invasion.

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

Frustrated, I removed my glasses and rubbed my eyes, feeling the strain from staring at the computer screen all day. Over the past two weeks, ever since I’d decided to prove myself by writing an insightful piece about the invaders, I’d pored over every bit of information available on the internet, and all I 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’d first arrived.

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

At least it wasn’t another one of those “sky is falling” emails from my mom.

Sighing, I rubbed my eyes again, pushing away distracting thoughts about my insane parents. It was bad enough my career still hadn’t taken off. I had no idea why all the fluff pieces landed on my desk. It had been that way ever since I’d joined the newspaper three years ago, and I was sick and tired of it. At twenty-four years of age, I had about as much experience writing about real news as a college intern.

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

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

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

I looked up at the familiar voice and grinned at Jay, my coworker and best friend, who’d just stepped into my tiny office. “Nope,” I said cheerfully. “Going to catch up on some work and then veg out on my couch.”

He sighed dramatically and gave me 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,” I said, my 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 twenty-four-hour Korean diner. I wasn’t lying when I said I was still recovering—the combination of vodka and Korean food had given me a hangover that was more like a bad case of food poisoning. I’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 seemed effeminate. As it was, however, he attracted women and men alike—and enjoyed both with equal gusto.

“Sorry, Jay. Another week perhaps.” What I needed to concentrate on now was my 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?”

I hesitated. I hadn’t told Jay about my project yet, mostly because I didn’t want to appear foolish if I 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 I did. 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 me once, and that statement perfectly summed up his approach to work.

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

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

Jay’s perfectly shaped eyebrows rose. “Oh?”

“Have you ever heard of x-clubs?” I cast a quick look around to make sure we wouldn’t be overheard. Thankfully, the offices around mine were largely empty, with only 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 leave early this summer afternoon.

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

“Yes.” My heartbeat sped up. “Have you heard of them?”

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

“Apparently.” I 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.”

I 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 my best broadcaster’s voice, I 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?” My 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 my 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.” My earlier frustration returned. It bothered me that everybody was still so intimidated 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?” I asked worriedly, and Jay shrugged.

“I have no idea, 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 I 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 me, though similar tales littered the web, giving rise to all sorts of rumors about the invaders… including that of vampirism.

I didn’t buy it, but then again, thanks to my mom’s obsession with wacky conspiracy theories, I had a natural distrust of rumors. I liked facts; that’s why I’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’d had dinner, and then he wrote that the club was directly across the street from it.

And just like that, I had a lead.

Jumping to my feet, I grabbed my bag and hurried out of the office, nodding to the janitor on the way.

It looked like my Friday night was about to get a lot more exciting.