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Freed by the Alien Bounty Hunter: Chapter Three

Tadraa

This rented ship was truly bottom of the barrel. It shook as I got up to speed, and red warning lights flashed tiredly across the dashboard. It looked like they’d been flashing for years without receiving maintenance.

The one positive about the ship was that it had an onboard spoofing system for the general channels.

Once I limped into the range of Omicron, I activated the faked ID. That made every other ship and station in the area see mine as, not a bounty hunter, but registered under a local galactic arm’s dealer.

It would not stand up to close scrutiny, but worked well to get into areas where I should not be.

The auction house was an independent space station which was currently in orbit around a local gas giant. It was a pretty vista for such hideous work.

Every specialized sensor went on high alert as I pulled my ship in to land.

There were advanced tech and weapon sensors onboard the auction house, as well as several high-end dampeners. It was obvious that the slavers in charge did not want to be seen or surprised.

It was also obvious to anyone with eyes that there was an event upcoming soon. Possibly, an auction.

My fists clenched at my sides, and I had to make an effort to relax them again. I would stand out in all the wrong ways if I was visibly angry, or the other patrons caught the death glares I sent their way.

Still, the thought of my sister being locked up inside this facility made me see red.

Somehow, I kept it together and got in line to be ushered into the main auction room.

Someone had made an effort to class up the place. There were stunning vistas of the gas giant outside the large floor-to-ceiling viewports. The planet’s violet and blue color scheme was matched in curtains and dim lighting within the interior. Instead of rows of seats, I took my place at a small table. There was an indicator light lit up in the middle. I assumed a prospective buyer would light up his table to place a bid.

The moment I sat, a young alien woman in skimpy clothing came to take my drink order. There was, she told me in a demure voice without meeting my eyes, a one drink requirement.

I would’ve snapped at her, but the poor woman had a slaver’s collar around her neck. She was only doing her job.

I ordered water. I needed my senses sharp.

As the room filled up, I realized that the lighting held a second purpose. Most of the crowd didn’t wish to be seen or identified by one another.

Was that out of a sense of shame, or paranoia?

I was pulled out of my musings when I caught sight of a familiar Mtoain woman. My heart stopped.

It was Tiyisi. True, she was several years older than I remembered, so thin she was nearly skeletal, with lines of care and stress around her mouth and eyes… But it was her, my sister. At last!

She moved through the crowd with purpose, and other prospective buyers gave way to her.

I had to resist the urge to leap across the table, grab her, and drag her away from the place.

But if nothing else, the last couple of years had taught me some small measure of restraint. Instead of acting immediately, I gestured to get her attention as if I had mistaken her for one of the waitresses.

In the dim light, it was hard to tell, but I think she might have turned my way. Then the lights dimmed to almost blackness and the stage in front lit up.

Some Uralah was more or less pushed onto the stage. She shivered so hard her claws crackled together.

Instantly, several tables lit up around the room, and the auctioneer began the bidding in earnest.

I barely paid attention. Tiyisi was headed my way.

I half stood, ready to take her hand and run, but before I could do so, my sister shoved me back into my chair.

“What are you doing here?” she hissed.

“Me? I am looking for you, of course.”

“Hey!” a man with a deep voice rumbled from behind us. “Down in front. I can’t see the stage!”

I turned around to snap something at the no-good slaver, but Tiyisi gripped my arm hard and slid into the chair next to mine.

“You need to leave,” she said in a low undertone. “Please, before anybody sees you.”

“Fine, we will leave before anyone notices you are missing,” I said, starting to stand but she had not budged an inch. I sat back down. “Tiyisi, come on. This is a rescue,” I clarified, just in case her brains had been addled. “You’re coming with me.”

Her expression was pained. “I can’t.”

“What do you mean —”

I stopped as the music up on the stage changed. Tiyisi’s head whipped around as the previous alien woman was sold and led off, and a new woman took her place.

It felt as if the entire universe had stopped.

The new woman was a… well, I wasn’t sure what species she was. I had seen a couple of them running around Station Four and knew that Khenja had one for a mate. Oh, that’s right. Human. They were eye-catching, but this one… she was gorgeous.

Soft skin, a fall of red hair that went halfway down her back and, although she was physically much shorter than the average woman of my species, her proportions were… quite pleasing.

She, too, was dressed to only hide the bare essentials, and for a moment, I could not tear my eyes from all the exposed skin.

I wasn’t the only one. Cheers and hoots rose up from the room all around me.

I wanted to commit murder.

“Tadraa, your chest,” Tiyisi hissed.

Finally looking away from the stage, I glanced at my sister to see her staring in a mixture of horror and wonder at my chest. I looked down. My amre had lit into a golden glow. It was so bright, the auctioneer pointed to my table as the first bid.

Quickly, I fastened my jacket to cover it.

The bidding around me grew fierce. I glanced up at the stage again, to see the woman looking down at me, something indefinable in her expression.

No. That was a lie. I knew exactly what it was, a plea for help.

I was no fool. I knew what the glow meant, and why it had arrived now. The woman was my mate, and she needed my help.

But I hadn’t come this far, for this long, to lose my sister now.

Breaking the gaze, I turned again to Tiyisi. “Come with me,” I begged.

The expression she gave me was both sad and resolute. She had seen the glow and knew what it meant, but she commented no further on it.

“I cannot,” she said, and with that, she turned to walk up to the stage.

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