Authors: Scarlett Grove,Juno Wells
Scarlett Grove and Juno Wells
Copyright © 2015 Scarlett Grove
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Lexi Garcia stepped off the bus and onto the street of the neighborhood she’d lived in all her life. The bus sped away up the street. In this part of town, the busses still weren’t retrofitted with the new alien hover technology she saw in the wealthier neighborhoods around her university.
The tall buildings thrust into the sky around her—red brick tenements that housed thousands of poor souls that would never escape the generations of poverty that had brought them here. Lexi had worked all her life to get where she was today, a top student at the best university in Seattle. She would make it out of here, even if her mother never did.
A couple of thugs standing on the street corner waved guns around in the air and shot off a few rounds. Lexi gripped her books to her chest and ducked into a doorway.
The men wore the anti-Draconian gang colors that so many people wore nowadays. She looked up at what they’d been shooting at. The wide wings of a dragon tilted above in the sky, maneuvering between buildings. She fixed her thick-lensed glasses and leveled her gaze at the young men on the street corner.
“You know your hand guns don’t have enough range to hit that thing, right? You’re more likely to kill yourself shooting straight up like that.”
“Who asked you?” one of them spat at her.
“You some kind of Dragon slut, or something?”
“Of course not!” she gasped, starting past them. Men like this were all over the place nowadays. She’d grown up on these streets, and wasn’t afraid of them.
She knew their mothers.
After she’d passed them, she turned and said, “Their hides are far too thick for regular bullets to penetrate. You should do some research if you plan to take down the advanced alien race that’s taken over our world.”
They postured and growled at her, but she giggled under her breath and hurried to the rusted chain link fence that surrounded her father’s house. Garbage had collected in the corners where fruit trees had once been.
But, that had been years before the Draconians had come.
The Draconians—a race of dragon shifting aliens who’d landed on Earth, demanding fertile women for their breeding needs. That’s when everyone found out that the legends about aliens had all been true—the Draconians had been here thousands of years ago to mate with human females.
Lexi pushed open the warped, wooden front door and stepped into the living room of her family’s three-bedroom house. Her father hunched over his computers—his screens moving a million miles a minute, his fingers moving just as fast over the keyboards.
Her father had always been technical. He’d once been an HVAC installer. That was before the great recession had landed him without a job. Before the Draconians had come and introduced their technology. Before her mother died.
Now, her father was like this. His eyes were covered with a pair of digital glasses that let him see the code he typed up close. He would be like that until late into the night.
“Hi Dad,” she said out of habit. But, he didn’t hear her. He was in his own world—the world of code and infinite connections. When he did bother to come out, she couldn’t tell if he was the same man anymore.
Lexi hurried back to her room, wishing she had the money to get herself a place of her own.
Unfortunately, the technology the Draconians offered in exchange for women hadn’t exactly had the massive positive effect many had originally predicted. Wealth inequality had become even wider. Illegal technology ran rampant in the mafia, and underground. New breeds of drugs, new areas to exploit. Lexi’s neighborhood had turned into a dystopian wasteland in just a few short years.
Still, the Draconians stayed and mated with their women. The mating lottery was open to all fertile females. If a girl was chosen, her family was given a massive dowry in exchange for the use of her womb.
It all made Lexi a little sick.
She dropped her backpack on the floor, and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. Setting her books on her desk, she sat on the rickety old chair and flipped through her notebook. She had a lot of homework today.
As a poor student, it was harder than ever to make it through school. Student loans had been all but frozen. She’d only gotten into school because she had a full-ride scholarship from an old fund. Lexi was a wiz with chemical compounds. Some corporate headhunters had already been at her door, hoping to use her mind in the development of the new technologies the Draconians brought with them.
Lexi wanted nothing to do with it. She wanted to do something noble with her abilities. Like cure cancer, or feed the hungry. Neither of which the Draconian technology had solved.
She pulled out a mechanical pencil and started writing out the first math equation in her homework assignment.
Lexi heard the sound of the door bursting open and loud voices shouting from the living room. She dropped her pencil on her desk, and jumped to her feet. The sound of her sister’s voice screaming, and low male voices shouting commands, filled her with dread.
Lexi burst into the living room to find her sister Melody being held by a couple of suit wearing thugs that Lexi recognized as men from the local mafia. This was bad. Her father slowly turned around and dropped the digital glasses from his face. The look of confusion in his eyes told Lexi that he was not quite with them still.
“Your past-due on your loan, Garcia,” the man holding Melody said.
“I’m almost done with this block of code. When I’m done with the data mining, I’ll be able to pay you back in full. I swear it,” her father begged.
“I’ve heard that way too many times from you, Garcia,” the man said, yanking Melody toward him. He wrapped his arm around her waist and sank his face into her neck, taking a long sniff. “Delicious,” he said. “I think I’ll take this one to repay your debts.”
“No!” Lexi screamed, reaching out for her sister.
“You have to give me an extension,” Lexi’s father said.
“I don’t have to give you anything,” the gangster replied, running his hand up Melody’s stomach, inching toward her breasts.
“I’ll pay you back! With all the interest, in one week,” Lexi barked, seeing her sister’s eyes wide with fear.
“But, this little girl is so much more valuable to me,” he said.
“She’s only seventeen.”
“My clients like underage girls,” he said. “But I’m willing to let you keep her,
you pay me back with all the interest in one week. If you’re late again, I take the girl.”
Lexi crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. He wanted her little sister, Melody, for his brothel. Melody was a beautiful girl, slender and pretty, with an innocent face. Melody looked more like their father, with light brown skin, straight brown hair, and a slight build.
Lexi looked more like their mother—short, curvy, dark skin, full lips, and thick hair. Lexi was also known for being a smart mouth on the street. She was not the type of girl Mario wanted for his brothel.
If Mario got ahold of Melody, he would destroy her sweet spirit. There was no way that a girl like Melody would ever survive. And, there was nothing they could do about it. If Lexi went to the cops about Mario, it would land her father in jail and they would all starve. The only solution was to find Mario his money, and never owe him another cent for the rest of their lives.
Mario threw Melody down on the couch. She landed with a thud and a shriek, and her father went right to her, putting his arm around her shoulders.
“You have one week, Garcia. One week, and I’m coming back for the girl.”
Mario walked out of the house, his goons following him. Lexi closed the door behind them, and went to sit with her father and sister on the couch.
“Girls, I’m so sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “Your mother would be so disappointed.”
“Let’s not bring Mom into this,” Lexi said.
“What are we going to do?” Melody asked, her voice trembling. Lexi couldn’t stomach the idea of her sister being taken to a brothel. The whole thing was just sickening. The fact that her father had taken a loan from a man like Mario was the last straw. He hadn’t been taking very good care of them since their mother died. Everything was an excuse, and it was getting really old.
“Are you really going to get money from data mining?” Lexi asked her father.
“Yes, but it is going to be at least one week. Maybe two,” he admitted.
“Why the hell did you tell Mario that you would have the money in a week?” Lexi shouted. She was so tired of her father’s bullshit, that she couldn’t take it anymore. If not for Melody, she would’ve left this train wreck a long time ago.
About six months after the Draconians landed and the deal for technology was set, an influx of illegal technologies had flooded the black market. Men like Lexi’s father had gotten caught up in the rush to utilize the new technologies for a profit. A black Internet had risen in the aftermath of the Draconian invasion. Men like her father had invested massive amounts of money into the new technology, in in order to make a living through data mining in the black Internet.
He had believed that it would be a good source of income for his family, but the investment to get started meant going to a loan shark like Mario Rici. Not only did her father need money to invest in his computer systems, he also needed a new brand of illegal smart drug that allowed him to work the long hours required to make any amount of money in his chosen industry.
Her father had gotten hooked on the drug, and was borrowing vast quantities of it just to stay productive during the day. He was barely breaking even in his data mining. He made just to pay for the drugs, but not the rent, or food, or any of the other necessities in life. And, he still hadn’t paid off Mario for his computer systems.
Basically, it was a big mess that could’ve been avoided if her father had just gone out and gotten a real job. Not that there were a lot of those available right now. The Draconian technologies had not created very many jobs. But, they had destroyed entire industries in the blink of an eye.
In the few short years since the Draconians had arrived, the poor had seen a greater loss in income than they in the last forty years. And, the Draconians were supposed to be the saviors of humanity. What a joke!
“I had to tell him something, Lexi,” her father said, sitting back behind his computer terminal. He was about to slide the digital glasses back over his eyes, when Lexi sighed heavily and he stopped.
“Dad, you have to deal with this. You can’t just go back into your digital world, and pretend like none of it is happening. I swear to God, sometimes I think you’re addicted to those drugs
to the black Internet.”
“Lexi, I’ll deal with it. I swear.”
Lexi put her arm around her sister’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Melody, I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Lexi was only three years older than her younger sister, but sometimes it felt like Lexi had to play the role of mother. Not that she minded—she loved her little sister more than anything. Seeing Melody happy and safe as an adult had become one of Lexi’s primary motivations and life. It was the biggest reason she worked so hard in school—so she could make a difference and help support her little sister through the trials of life.
“Do you promise?” Melody asked.
“I’ll do absolutely everything in my power to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to you again. Losing Mom was hard enough, for both of us. And, living alone with Dad these last years has been a challenge I wouldn’t wish on anybody.” She knew that she wouldn’t offend her father with her words, because he had already slipped back into his digital world.
Melody hugged Lexi tightly, and she began to cry on Lexi’s shoulder. Lexi patted her sensitive little sister’s hair and made cooing sounds, telling her that everything would be all right.
After Melody finally calmed down, Lexi got up and went into the kitchen, only to find the refrigerator and all of the cupboards completely bare. There was absolutely nothing to make for dinner, and both Lexi and Melody would end up going to school hungry in the morning. “Dammit!” Lexi swore, swinging the cabinet closed with a loud bang.
“What is it?” Melody’s startled voice came from the living room.
“We don’t have any damn food in the house. When’s the last time you ate?” she asked, standing in the kitchen doorway.
Melody stared at the space where the television had once been. They’d had to sell it to support her father’s drug habit months ago.
“This morning,” Melody said, hugging her middle.
Lexi’s stomach grumbled and she sighed, rolling her eyes up to the ceiling. She had so much homework to do. If she wanted to stay at the top of her class, she had to stay focused on her studies. The other students who were at the same level as her were all wealthy. They didn’t have to worry about things like where to find food, or how to keep their little sister out of prostitution.
Lexi’s mind wandered to the Draconian mating lottery. They offered a five hundred thousand dollar dowry to the family of the girl who was chosen by a Draconian male to be his bride. She bit her lip, thinking of all that money. It would definitely pay off her father’s debts. It would leave plenty of money for her and her sister to get their own place, and go to school. But, it would mean that Lexi would have to spend the rest of her life aboard a spaceship, married to a dragon shifting alien.
No, she couldn’t even consider it. She could never support the Draconian invasion, even if it meant an easy way out of her family’s debt to Mario Rici. She would just have to figure out something else.