Chapter Two: Shenna

“Thanks for letting me take Kalyn’s old bunk,” I said. “I think Maris was getting ready to exile Persephone to the galley.”

Upon hearing her name, the skinny calico chirped at my feet. I reached down and gave her a pat.

“What about Aryn?” Lynna asked.

“Aryn’s hardly ever in the room. I don’t know where she goes,” I explained. “Though, I don’t think she’s fond of the cat either.”

“No need to thank me. I like cats,” Lynna extended her hand for Persephone to sniff. “I’m so used to bunking with roommates, it’s difficult for me to sleep in a room alone now.”

“I know what you mean,” I nodded. “I haven’t had a room to myself in my entire life.”

My sister, Alista, and I had shared a room since we were little. Even when we had the option to sleep in separate rooms, we declined.

On Persephone Station, all of the lower level workers like me slept in one long room filled with bunk beds. If I were to have a room completely to myself, I think the silence would keep me awake. I’ve grown too used to the sounds of another person breathing and shifting in their sleep.

“That’s not your bed, silly,” Lynna cooed to Persephone who’d curled up in a ball on Lynna’s pillow.

“Sorry!” I quickly lifted Persephone into my arms. “She’s got it into her head that the entire Rogue Star belongs to her now.”

“It’s fine,” Lynna smiled. “As I said, I like cats.”

“I still have no idea how she survived on the station for as long as she did,” I marveled.

“I still can’t believe she survived the shockwave,” Lynna added.

“Don’t cats have nine lives?” I lifted Persephone so we were eye to eye. She wiggled in indignation.

“If that’s true, then Persephone is down at least two. Three, since she must have traveled via Flosh Drive to get to the station. A human can barely withstand that journey, let alone a cat.”

“I didn’t think I was going to live through it,” I recalled.

“You were unconscious for a full two days after your arrival,” Lynna said.

“I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that anymore.” I ran my palm down the length of Persephone’s back. She purred contently.

“Me too,” Lynna replied. “That was the worst part of the job for me. I dreaded opening the travel pods knowing that there was a good chance the person inside didn’t survive the journey.”

“How did you handle it?” I asked.

“I don’t think I did,” Lynna confessed. “I’ve sort of…blocked out that part of the job.”

“Whatever works,” I shrugged. All of us from Persephone Station had stuff we wanted to block out. If our lives were peachy and perfect, we wouldn’t have been on the station to begin with.

“Now we’ve got the Dominion to worry about though,” Lynna said.

“Do you really think they’re a threat?” I asked.

“You don’t?”

“I’m not sure.” I chewed on my bottom lip and tucked a strand of brown hair behind my ear. “After what happened on Dominion Outpost Nine, I definitely want to avoid them, but I don’t fully understand why they’re after us.”

“We’re in their system illegally,” Lynna replied. “But from what Kalyn overheard about experiments, there’s more to it than that.”

“Do you think it’s true?” I bit my lip. “Not that I don’t believe her, but maybe she misheard something? The translators might have messed something up, you know?”

“I think the Dominion officials really didn’t want us to leave the Outpost,” Lynna said. “I don’t believe they had any intention of taking us home.”

“Me either,” I confessed. “Maris seems to think that everything that’s happened to us since the shockwave has been part of one huge conspiracy.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Lynna chuckled. “I’m sure she and Aryn stay up all night coming up with theories.”

“What do you think?” I asked. Persephone dozed off, trapping my arm under her body.

“Everything lined up too perfectly for it to be a coincidence,” Lynna replied. “The shockwave, the ship that attacked us, and everything that happened on the Outpost feels staged. However, no one can figure out why the Dominion would do something like that, especially the shockwave.”

“Maris is certain the Rogue Star didn’t cause it,” I said.

“I’d trust Maris on that,” Lynna nodded.

“But it doesn’t explain why anyone would do that to us on purpose,” I replied. “Why would a governing force of an interstellar system want to take down a tiny station in a system outside of their jurisdiction?”

“That’s what Dejar and Kalyn have been asking themselves since we left the Outpost.” Lynna fluffed her pillow, shaking loose all of the hair Persephone left behind. “There’s no sense in it.”

“I feel like we’re missing a giant piece of the puzzle,” I sighed.

“More like we have only three pieces of a three-hundred-piece puzzle,” Lynna replied.

“I can’t stop thinking about that dark ship that attacked us. It was so fast! It came out of nowhere. What if it’s trailing us right now? Would we even know?”

“We aren’t carrying anything valuable. No one has any reason to bother us,” Lynna soothed.

“Except for the fact that we’re fugitives,” I replied.

“That’s why we’re going to Katzul,” Lynna said. “No one there is going to care that we’re fugitives. I doubt anyone will find out now that the ship’s registration has been altered.”

“I just wish we knew more.” I ran my fingers through Persephone’s fur. “I think I could handle just about anything so long as I knew all the information.”

“Try not to let it stress you out,” Lynna advised.

“Everything about this is stressful,” I laughed. “But at least we didn’t die in the void of space. And, I always wanted to travel.”

“There you go,” Lynna beamed. “Now you have the chance to see things people only dreamed about back in the Terran System.”

“The Terran System wasn’t that great anyway,” I shrugged. “I was going to spend the rest of my life on Persephone Station anyway. Pretty much anything is better than that.”

Persephone, the cat, started kneading my arm with her paws. Her little claws rhythmically dug into my skin. It was uncomfortable, but I knew perfectly well if I tried to move Persephone now, she’d only dig her claws in deeper.

“You don’t think you would’ve returned to your family?” Lynna tilted her head to one side.

Many of the women stationed at Persephone were convicted of crimes and were there to serve their punishments. My case was slightly different.

“No.” I let the silence hang between us.

My family wasn’t something I liked to talk about. Thankfully, Lynna didn’t press the topic.

“Aavat is supposed to give everyone proper jobs tomorrow,” she said brightly. “Are you looking forward to that?”

“I like the idea of having regular work,” I nodded. “I know I’m not trained for much. I’ll probably receive a job similar to what I was doing on Persephone Station.”

“I could always take you under my wing as a medical apprentice,” Lynna offered.

I gave her my most sincere smile. “Thanks, but I don’t have the stomach for that.”

“Didn’t you once tell me you wanted to become a vet?” Lynna asked, puzzled.

“I did,” I replied. “To be honest, I don’t think I have the stomach for that either. I wish I was born a few decades ago when zoos were still a thing on Earth. Taking care of animals in a zoo is the best job I can imagine.”

“Maybe they have zoos somewhere in Dominion Space,” Lynna said.

“Maybe.” I stroked Persephone’s fur absentmindedly. “I don’t think they’d hire me since I’m an illegal species and all.”

“Good point,” Lynna laughed.

“Aside from the space whales we saw a few days ago, I haven’t seen any non-intelligent life forms,” I said thoughtfully. “What if every planetary lifeform in this system has evolved to be intelligent?”

“It’s possible,” Lynna allowed.

“At this point, I’d consider anything to be possible.” I picked up Persephone, disturbing her nap, to hold her in front of my face. “You and the space whales could be the only animals in Dominion Space. How cool is that?”

Her expression revealed to me that she did not, in fact, think it was cool. I set her back down on my lap. She threw me a rueful glare as she climbed out of my lap and went to lay on my pillow.

“She looks like she’s planning to kill you in your sleep,” Lynna chuckled.

“That’s accurate,” I shrugged. “That’s half the reason Maris didn’t like having a cat in the room.”

“Only half?” Lynna raised one brow.

“The other half was because Persephone thought Maris’ curls were the world’s best toy,” I laughed.

“Maris never did strike me as an animal lover,” Lynna giggled.

“I think she likes animals. Just not that one.” I pointed to Persephone. Persephone stretched forward to push her nose into the tip of my finger before ignoring me once more.

And the plot thickens…. I’d love to know what you think!  Rogue Hunt is available for pre-order now!

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