Table of Contents
KUSAC HAD TO FIND HIS CREW MATESâ
He didn't know how much exposure his companions had had to the Valtegans since their scout ship had crashed on this planet, but it was obvious to him that this was the species for whom his people had been searching. And now it was even more vital that he reach the rest of his team because he'd just found out that their computer crystal was in Valtegan hands.
The only thing he was certain of was that his fellow Sholans were heading for the life pod left by a survey ship years before for just such an emergency as they now found themselves in. And he knew that they'd tracked the pod as far as the large forested region which began not far from the settlement where he had found shelter with the Human called Carrie.
Though he had not been listening closely to the conversation between Carrie and the town doctor, his attention was abruptly pulled back to it as he realized Carrie was about to tell the doctor of the Telepathic bond between them. Icy fear washed through him, and, with no time for subtlety, he sent a negative command to her.
Carrie suddenly found herself unable to talk or move. Kusac's fear began to resonate along with hers and sheer terror gripped her....
is proud to present
Copyright Â© 1993 by Lisanne Norman.
All Rights Reserved.
Interior map by Michael Gilbert.
DAW Book Collectors No. 936.
First Printing, December 1993
eISBN : 978-1-101-17415-9
For Mum and Dad, who taught me to love words and paint pictures.
For the members of ASTRA, too numerous to mention, but still appreciated.
For the many friends who pushed and supported me into finishing this, including An-drew Stephenson, Ken Slater, Anne Page, and Marsha Jones.
Thank you all.
Carrie slept lightly, on the edge of wakefulness as always when Elise was working at Geshader, the Alien Pleasure City. Despite the sleeping pill and her sister's mental block, vague images from Elise drifted through her sleeping mind, interweaving themselves with her dreams.
Once more dwarfed by the size of her parents, she tossed and turned in a sweat-soaked bed, moaning in agony as they and the doctor probed and pressed the livid bruises on her back and arm, looking for a more serious injury that didn't exist ... for her. Then they thought to check her twin.
They found Elise sitting placidly with her right arm at an impossible angle and blood from the lacerations on her back slowly seeping through her clothes into the sofa. She had been the one who had fallen out of a tree.
Carrie had hardly felt the sting of the hypodermic amidst the fire in her back and arm.
“It's the damnedest thing. Her sister has no sense of pain,” she'd heard the doctor's voice boom as she began to slip into unconsciousness.
“It hurts,” she whimpered, stirring fretfully in her bed.
Monsters lurked in the fever dream, lizards of gray-green on two legs, lumbering slowly after her with a ponderous determination as, utterly terrified, she fled down echoing corridors.
“Stop!” The voice was low and sibilant, the English distorted by a tongue not made to form the words.
She hesitated, every muscle still poised for flight, staring back to where her pursuers waited for her.
“Tell us where they are hiding,” one demanded.
An invisible hand closed viciously on Carrie's wrist, nonretractable claws pressing into her flesh. She jerked free, her other hand pressed to her mouth as the scene blurred.
“Valtegans,” she moaned, drops of blood pearling on her wrist and dropping to the coverlet.
She dreamed again of standing shivering in her underwear as she stowed her clothes in the small locker beside the coffin-shaped sleep pod, the chill caused by more than the lack of heating in the cryo level. Then lying down on the form-shaped interior, waiting for the medic to come and attach her to the life-support and cryogenic systems.
Carrie glanced at her brother Richard before turning to grin nervously at Elise through the clear perspex sides as sensor pads were attached. Their parents hovered at the ends of their pods, anxiously waiting until all three children were safely asleep.
She jumped as a hand touched her.
“Don't worry. It's only a sedative to help you relax,” smiled the crew woman, fixing the small adhesive patch to her arm. “Next thing you know, you'll be waking up in orbit around our new home.
“Just to remind you, the system is automatic so there is very little you have to do. If you turn your head to the right, you'll see it's printed on the plaque there.
“The main thing to remember when you wake up is to press that red button to release the pod cover, then take off the sensors. After that, you'll hear the instructions on the speakers.”
Already she could barely make out the woman's voice.
“Sleep soundly, children. I love you,” was the last thing she heard her mother say.
The cover slid into place over her and she began to drift gently, imagining herself surrounded by a soft, warm, gray mist.
Suddenly she was jolted to awareness by the sting of the hypo on her sister's arm.
The drug swept through Carrie's system, burning its way along her nerves, setting them on fire until her whole body was convulsed with spasms. She tried to fight it, to open her eyes, but all she could see were colors swirling around her until her stomach was heaving with vertigo. She felt herself slipping ... slipping....
she had screamed, her mind and body trapped in the slow time cold hell of cryogenics, unable to do anything as she felt at last her mother's blind terror at waking too soon.
She could sense her beating futilely at the walls of the cryo pod, trapped like a butterfly transfixed by a pin as she tried desperately to activate the release mechanisms that were locked in stasis.
Her mother's movements quickly grew sluggish, finally stopping as the limited air supply in the pod ran out.
“Mother! Don't leave me!”
Carrie screamed, desperately fighting the effects of the drug that this time dragged her down into darkness.
Carrie felt herself pushed and pulled in every direction. Scaled faces loomed at her out of the dim light, clawed hands grasped at her, pawed at her, making her flesh recoil from their sharp, cool touch. She stumbled against bodies that thrust her away to fall to the ground, only to be dragged to her feet again. Noise surrounded her, loud, sibilant voices shouting. Like the images, the sounds faded in and out with her consciousness.
“We have to fight them, Carrie. I can't do it passively like Dad. I'm leaving to join the guerrillas. The Valtegans are soldiers, not civilians, and they're Alien. We can't appeal to their better nature because they haven't got one.
“I'm leaving now, tonight, for Geshader.”
“Geshader? But ...”
“Don't try to change my mind, Carrie,” Elise warned quickly, “it's made up. As one of the women in their pleasure city, I can get close to the officers, a thing no man can do. And once I'm with them, I'm sure I can get access to all sorts of useful information.”
“But to become one of the prostitutes ... and with them! How could you?”
Elise gave her a wry grin. “Come off it, Carrie. It's the oldest profession going, and the women from Geshader that I've talked to say it isn't that bad.
“It isn't as if we can't keep in touch. There's our link after all.”
“You just take care, for both our sakes!”
“Do you mind too much? You know the risks we face, don't you?”
“I know,” Carrie nodded, “but you're the one taking the real risks. I'll cope somehow. Jack Reynolds is used to us by now.”
“At least you didn't pick up much when I was with that lad from Seaport this spring,” her twin grinned, “so with any luck you'll be spared my âworking experiences.' ”
Her voice faded, leaving only the impression of the grin behind.
“It's the only way I could fight them, Carrie.”
Figures jostled her again, dark red light on pallid skins, rough claws digging into her arms, drawing blood. Again, every nerve flared with excruciating pain and she tried to arch her body away from it, but she only succeeded in cracking her head against the wall. Stunned, she heard her own scream as if from far away as her hands tried to grasp for something concreteâanythingâto help her hold onto reality. She was aware of a sudden warmth running down her right arm. Blood.