Authors: Sarah Marsh
EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ®
Copyright© 2016 Sarah Marsh
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: Karyn White
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A huge thank you to Amy Herman-Paul for all her input on this story, it wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thank you also to all the wonderful staff at Evernight, and my editor Karyn for all her support!
Copyright © 2016
Ali stared out through her kitchen window while she cleaned up the night’s dinner dishes on autopilot. Her mind wandered back to all of the ridiculous dreams she’d had for her life when she was younger. She’d never wanted anything extravagant, just the same thing everyone else seemed to already have.
She had pictured a husband and partner in life, a home of her own and a couple of wonderful children whose faces lit up when they saw her. She’d dreamt of spending her days taking care of her family, gardening in the sunny backyard, barbeques and picnics, loud Christmas mornings, and romantic, quiet nights by the fire with a man who loved her more than anything.
“What a fool I am,” she muttered to herself, as she finished up the last dish and placed it on the drying rack.
Here she was, thirty-five years old, living by herself in a tiny cottage on the outskirts of town, because she couldn’t afford to rent a newer home on her meager salary. Ali made meals for one and spent most of her weekends alone rather than date one of the few single weirdos that her hometown had to offer. Her parents had passed away in a car accident over six years ago now, and she had no other family to speak of, which was one of the reasons she’d always dreamed of building a large family of her own.
Alison was sad, lonely, and now she was going to sit her ass in front of the TV and drown her sorrows in a tub of chocolate peanut butter ice cream just like any clichéd old maid would. Just as she was opening the freezer door, she noticed a bright flash of light through the side kitchen window.
“Damn teenagers,” she growled to herself, hating how old she felt saying it.
Over the last couple of months, she’d noticed the local teenagers cutting through her backyard to get to their favorite make-out spot in the woods. Unfortunately, they were cutting straight through her flower garden and ruining all the hard work she’d done this spring.
“Screw this, I’m going to scare the crap out of those kids so they finally learn to stay the hell out of my flowers!” she said, as she grabbed the old pellet gun she used to keep the raccoons away from her garbage cans.
She opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. Just as she prepared to get all “grumpy old man” on their asses, her eyesight began to blur. She narrowed her eyes, trying to regain her focus, and before she could do anything other than drop the gun to grab for the railing, she blacked right out.
As Ali started to come awake, all she could think about was how cold she was, and that she really needed to get a new couch because this one felt like a damned stone bench. Her head was killing her, and obviously, the fireplace had gone out because her living room felt like an icebox. Then she opened her eyes and realized that she was naked and sitting in a bare cell of some sort. She racked her brain trying to remember what the hell had happened to her and how she’d ended up here, but there was nothing after her memory of stepping out onto the porch.
The room was dark, except for, on the far wall, a barely functioning light, which was flickering periodically in its cracked and broken casing. She strained to see where she was, trying not to panic as she looked around, and came to the conclusion that maybe she was in a garage of some sort. The last thing she remembered before passing out was going out onto the porch with her pellet gun. Had she had a seizure or something? She sat up on the bench and rubbed at her bare arms. There were boxes and crates piled high all around her, and there was also a strange noise, an almost muted humming in the air like that of a generator or loud furnace running. Her breathing started to get shallow and faster as real panic set in. She didn’t know whether to start yelling for some help or if she should be trying to draw as little attention to herself as possible. Alison fought back her tears as the gravity of her situation sank in.
She jumped when she heard a door open on the other side of the room. As she saw a large misshaped figure step into the flickering light, her eyes opened wide and she started screaming.
“Damn, Conn, these Wargs have so much crap in this ship that I’m surprised it could still fly at all,” Kal said, as he tried to move some of the crates out of his way so they could get farther into the cargo bay to see if there was anything worth salvaging for their own ship.
Wargs were an aggressive species who pirated all over the universe, and this wasn’t the first time their clan had to kill to keep their own ship. Their planet of Dolak was a small one, and traditionally their people kept to themselves. Only a portion of the warrior class was allowed to venture out to trade. The high council on Dolak wanted to try to keep their way of life as secluded as possible as they believed that other species only corrupted with their influence. There were only a handful of other species that had emigrated to the planet decades ago, and they were actually the reason the high council had begun their trade corporation in the first place. Each year that went by, the younger council members saw the necessity to expand their horizons and move forward in their way of life, and slowly but surely Dolak was evolving.
Kal, Conn, and Tannen had all been eager to get out into space and see the universe. They had all joined the trade corps as early as was permissible. By the time they were twenty cycles old they had command of their own ship and were free to run trade routes away from their home world. The
was a small class one trade freighter, but she was a beautiful little ship and they were more than proud to have her. Being a secluded race was sometimes to their advantage, but other times it caused them trouble when those such as the Warg thought they were easy prey.
Since the dull, animalistic creatures had most likely never heard of their planet, they certainly didn’t recognize Dolak ship construction. The races that came into contact with them during trade deals knew they were fierce warriors. Most would have known they could never have won in a fight against the superior technology and military skills the Dolak possessed. But the stupid Wargs had attacked them hoping to salvage their ship and cargo for themselves. It hadn’t taken long to dispose of the crew that had attempted to hijack them.
That was how they found themselves up to their eyeballs in stolen goods and space trash.
“Kal, just look for the fuel cells and anything else we can obviously use. I’m not interested in hauling the rest of this crap back to the ship,” Conn told him as they rummaged through the crates.
“Wait, Captain,” Tannen’s voice came through the communications device. “There aren’t any more Warg life signs, but I’m picking up a very light heat signature in the back of the cargo bay that we almost missed. You should check it out.”
“We’re on it, Doc,” Conn replied, as he lifted his weapon and followed behind his security officer to the back of the bay.
“Son of a bitch, Conn, it’s a female of some kind in a slave cell, but she looks like she’s in rough shape.”
Conn could hear how furious Kal was by the tone in his voice. On their planet, females were precious and had a much lower birth rate than males. To treat one in such a careless manner, locking her in a cage like an animal, was beyond abhorrent to their kind.
“Her heat signature is very weak, Captain. You must get her on board as soon as possible.” Tannen sounded almost frantic.
Tannen’s training as their medic should have kept him calm, but they’d never found another living being other than Wargs on a pirated ship before. The thought of what the disgusting species might have done to a female was too horrible to bear thinking about.
Kal already had the lock on the cell door open by the time Conn made it to the back of the cargo bay. They approached the female with caution so they didn’t startle her, but it appeared that she was completely unconscious. Conn carefully gathered her up like a small child and stepped out of the cell.
“Kal, you finish up with your sweep of the ship for anything worth salvaging, and I’ll take her back to the
“Yes, sir,” Kal answered, rushing off to find the fuel cells.
Conn couldn’t help but notice as he walked back towards the docking airlock how delicate the small female was. She had long, soft brown hair and beautiful, cream colored skin, so much lighter than his own dark grey complexion. He wondered what color her eyes would be when she woke. The Dolak were a race fashioned in shades of grey and black. Their planet only had one small sun, and the surface flora and fauna had adapted to retain and gather as much heat as possible, so almost everything was black or grey. In their travels, they had seen beings of every color, some that looked more animal than biped, even some that were covered completely in hair. The universe was amazingly diverse. But Conn had never come across beings that resembled the lovely creature in his arms, and he wondered how far the slavers had traveled with her.
As Conn laid the small, chilled female onto a diagnostics table in the med bay, he was so angry he was shaking.
“Is she going to live, Tannen?” he asked.
“Just give me a few minutes to run a scan and I’ll hopefully be able to figure that out,” Tannen said, without looking up from his monitor. “It seems she has hypothermia and something else that is messing with her metabolism. The computer should have it in a minute…”
“Damn.” Tannen was just staring at the computer. Then he slowly turned to look at his patient and exhaled a large breath. “Those bastard Wargs must have been going to sell her to a brothel planet, because they infected her with the Seria 9 strain.”
“Fucking hell.” Both Conn and Tannen turned to the door where Kal had just walked into the room. “What does this mean for her, Tannen? Do you even know what species she is? How this might affect her?”
“Our records don’t have her species' exact DNA on file, but she has a similar strain to ours and, as far as I can tell, the hypothermia slowed down its progress. All I can do over the next couple hours as we warm her up is monitor her closely to make sure she’s okay. Most humanoid species who have contracted the strain have the increased sex drive, but they also get somewhat violent in the first forty-eight hours while their body adjusts to the extra stimulus,” he replied quietly. “I can give her the vaccine now, but without knowing more about her species, I’m afraid I can’t predict exactly what might happen.”
Tannen took another look at the small woman sleeping before him. She had a unique beauty to her small but curvy frame. Her soft brown hair was curling around her pale, freckled shoulders. She had a delicate nose and generous lips. But it was her creamy pale skin that drew his attention in a way no other female ever had, and he found his fingers twitching with the need to connect all the tiny brown flecks. A completely inappropriate thought to be having at the moment, but there it was nonetheless, he shook his head as if to remind himself of his duty. His Captain’s next words definitely worked to achieve that.
“Wonderful, now all we can hope is that we haven’t brought a violent, crazed maniac alien onto our ship.”
“Maybe she’ll only be a bit crazy but with the increased sex drive?” Kal asked hopefully, taking a quick peek under the blanket covering her before Tannen slapped his hands away.