Redeeming the Alien Bounty Hunter: Chapter Three


Sometimes, I dreamed.

I mean, everyone dreams. Even the weirdest looking aliens dream. Apparently, it was one of those hallmarks of intelligent life. The more you know.

But when I dreamed, sometimes it was of things that hadn’t happened to me yet.

For example, I’d dreamed of my abduction weeks before it had happened.

The real issue was there wasn’t any way of telling if a dream was of something that’d happen to me in the future—or if it was a regular old dream. I used to dream of car accidents I never got into, of failing tests for classes I hadn’t been to for years. Of falling and falling and never quite hitting the ground. Of having sex with gorgeous men I saw on TV. Stuff like that.

So mostly, I erred on the side of ignoring my nighttime visions.

Last night, for example, I’d dreamed about an alien the same species as Estor. He wasn’t as monstrously tall as my master, and his skin was more pleasant, like soft spring leaves. His eyes were golden and very kind.

What I remembered most about the dream was feeling calm and safe around him. He was my protector, my confidant, and I —

I cut the line of thinking off right there. There wasn’t any way I’d ever feel anything other than contempt for the people who’d taken me away from my home.

Shaking my head, I rubbed at my eyes, looking up to my strings of beads.

I’d started an empty line the night before. Before I did anything else, I made sure to string today’s bead on it. Today marked the first day of a brand new year.

Would I string these beads for the rest of my life?

I couldn’t allow myself to think that way. Rising, I quickly got dressed in preparation for my chores for today.

As I did, the odd dream faded back from my awareness.

I gathered Estor’s breakfast from the kitchen, arranging everything just the way he liked it — no different foods touching on his plate. If so much as a crumb from one item nudged the other, he’d send the entire plate back and I’d be punished with no meals for the day.

The eccentric, controlling bastard.

I found Estor in the main viewing area of his quarters. He walked up and down a line of what I gathered were new security recruits. Turnover was high in Estor’s organization. He constantly had to hire new bodies to replace those who quit.

It seemed the only ones who could stand to be around Estor for long were his slaves, and we didn’t have any choice in the matter.

I quietly set his food on a nearby table and set about preparing his breakfast drink. Some sort of tart juice that reminded me a lot of orange juice, except it was a vivid blue.

As I worked, I listened with half an ear as Estor laid out the rules — half berating the line of recruits for imagined slights even before they’d gotten started on their first day.

What a way to make a first good impression.

I glanced up and saw that one of the new recruits was a Mtoain like Estor. Then, I did a double take.

He was the man who’d been in my dreams. And he was looking at me.

Ingrained habit of not wanting to meet Mtoain eyes had me looking back down at my work. When I bared to peek at him again, his attention was off of me and fixed on Estor.

This was so weird. Had I managed to foresee him, after all? Or had I simply seen him around the station, and my subconscious picked out his features to star in the dream for some reason?

It didn’t matter one way or another. If he was a new guard, then he wasn’t any friend of mine.

Eventually, Estor wound down, dismissing his recruits. I stood off to the side, awaiting his next orders. Oftentimes, he found faults in the food that no one else saw, and I’d be sent back to gather a new plate.

However, Estor ignored me. He frowned at the new Mtoain recruit. Reaching out, he snagged his arm before the new recruit left the room with the rest.

“Your name was Tonzul, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, sir,” Tonzul said.

Estor scowled. “I need to see you in my office. Now.”

With that, he turned and marched into the adjoining room. The new recruit, Tonzul, looked briefly surprised, following after.

I heaved a sigh, collecting the plate and the glass of blue juice. I was well versed in this game. I’d have to follow Estor around from room to room until he was ready to sit down and eat somewhere.

I had rooms to clean, and he already put me behind schedule.

Entering the meeting room, I placed the food down on the desk, standing out of the way in the shadows, eyes downcast.

I might as well haven’t been there at all for all the attention the two males paid to me.

Estor turned to Tonzul. “Open your jumpsuit.”

“Excuse me?” Tonzul asked, coolly.

“You heard me. Consider it your first order from your new employer.”

For a moment, I wondered if Tonzul would object. Then, with a loud sigh, he reached up and unzipped the shirt of his jumpsuit.

Now I watched avidly. I’d never seen Estor treat any of his new recruits like this before. What was going on?

To my shock, a golden glow spilled from behind Tonzul’s jumpsuit. It was so bright, for a moment I thought he had an LED light or something hidden under there. Some kind of weird alien technology. But no, the golden glow came from his chest, lighting up a layer of skin just underneath. The glow was so strong, it seemed to fill the room.

Even more than that… As the light touched my skin, it felt, for a brief moment, like the gentle warmth of a sunny day.

“What do we have here?” Estor said, and by the tone of his voice, he wasn’t really asking.

Tonzul shrugged. “It started when I landed my ship on omicron.”

“Is that so,” Estor said flatly.

Another shrug. “It hasn’t marked anyone yet, and I have no intention of finding a mate anyway.”

“Bah,” Estor turned away in disgust. “You are useless to me. You might as well blow your own head off if you take a fatal injury. The last thing I need is a nywosi loose on omicron with a glowing amre.”

Amre? I thought. The universal translator in my ear dealt with most alien languages just fine. After all, Estor certainly wasn’t English. But occasionally, I heard a word that couldn’t be translated. What in the world was amre?

And why did it feel important?

“I certainly have more self-control than that,” Tonzul said, his voice cool.

Estor scoffed. “You say that now. Could you imagine what would happen? The other races would never trust a Mtoain again!”

It was fascinating, and by far the most I’d ever learned about Estor or his species. I hadn’t any idea that their chests could glow like that, or that it had something to do with them finding a mate. Other than the fact they seemed to be tree people, they were more humanlike than most of the species on the station.

“What is amre?”

Both Estor and Tonzul swung around to look at me, and only then I realized I’d been the one who had spoken. I covered my mouth with one hand, horrified I’d forgotten myself and my place here. Old habits died hard, and I’d spent the first twenty-four or so years of my life on Earth being able to speak my mind without being punished for it.

“What are you still doing here?” Estor demanded. “Are you spying on me?”

“How could the girl be spying?” Tonzul asked. “She’s stood there the entire time.”

“I… I…” With my hands shaking, I gestured to the plate of food. “I brought your breakfast.”

Estor’s expression only grew darker, and I knew I’d pay for this one way or another… Even though I’d followed his previous orders.

Perhaps he didn’t want to discipline his slave in front of the new recruit, or, more likely, he had more things to say to Tonzul.

Turning, he gestured for the door. “Get out of here.”

I hastened to obey.

It took a few hours for my hands to stop trembling. I hated how afraid I had become ever since I became a slave. There used to be a time when I was confident, when I could be — mostly — assured of my safety.

Hell, I’d been a digital nomad who lived by herself, driving from city to city. All I had with me was a map on my phone to guide the way.

Then, I’d been abducted, and my life had changed forever.

I went through the motions of cleaning the rooms on autopilot, pausing only to grab a quick snack for myself in lieu of lunch.

I’d just gathered up the garbage around Estor’s main offices, taking it to the trash receptacle area when I turned the corner and quite literally bumped into Tonzul.

He reached out to steady me before I fell back completely. Bumping into him was like smacking into a brick wall.

His hands were warm on my shoulders, but I found myself shrugging his touch away the moment I was steady again.

“Sorry —” I started to say, then stopped, squinting up at him. “You’re still here?”

I expected him to take offense. After all, I was a slave questioning a paid guard. Instead, he smiled wryly at me. “I talked myself into keeping my job.”

“I’m surprised. Estor doesn’t often change his mind.”

Again he smiled — it was an expression mostly in his eyes, then in his lips. “I can see that. What is your name?”

I froze like a deer in the headlights. Would he report me to Estor for talking about him?

Surely, if he did, I’d get into more trouble for keeping back my name. As a slave, I had to answer all direct questions. “Amy.”

“Hello, Amy. I am Tonzul.”

I didn’t tell him I already knew that — and I certainly didn’t tell him I’d dreamed of him for some reason last night. My brain screamed at me not to trust him, but… he had kind eyes and a fragment of the dream made me remember how safe he’d made me feel.

“What is amre?” I asked, abruptly.

Tonzul seemed startled by the question, but luckily not offended.

“Why do you ask?”

I shrugged, using my free hand to tap at my right ear. “The universal translator doesn’t have a word for it in my language. I’m trying to learn everything I can about my master…” I shuddered inwardly at the next words. “So I can better serve him. I just thought it’d be nice to know, is all.”

He tilted his head as he looked at me, and I wondered if he could tell that I fed him a complete line of bull shit.

“What if I offer a trade of the information?” he asked.

My breath caught in my throat. Was it my imagination, or was he slightly leaning towards me? I should’ve felt trapped here in a close corridor with a strange alien man so close to me… But for some reason, I didn’t.

My heartbeat quickened. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask, what do you want to trade, when the door at the other end of the corridor slammed open. We both jumped, turning to see another servant coming in wearing the smock marking him as belonging to a different slaver. He, too, carried garbage.

I turned back to Tonzul, only to see him striding the other way back down the hall.

I watched him go, wondering what the heck that’d been about.

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