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Reaver’s Claim: Chapter Two

Kyla

My dreams were filled with fire.

The golden glowing circle that wrapped around the passenger disc of the Seramiks Dream  spun faster and faster, brighter and brighter.

No matter how quickly my fingers danced at the console I couldn’t call it back, couldn’t change what I knew would happen.

Flame filled the screen as the shouts and cries of my friends echoed in my ears.

I couldn’t see them. Even awake, they hadn’t been where I could see them, touch them.

Somehow, even stuck in this never ending nightmare I knew that.

We had been left behind.

Worse, the passenger disc had exploded, and now no one knew where we were, what had happened to us.

The rest of the women were in their own individual escape pods, and we had been cast somewhere into the Void.

I struggled to wake, but the nightmare refused to let go of me, kept me pulled into its repeating hell.

After an eternity, something changed.

The light of the ship’s explosion flared once more, but this time faded, dimmed into nothingness.

The screams were silent now.

Instead, a thin line of warm light appeared at the edge of my vision, grew broader and brighter.

Until a demon leaned over the edge of the pod, flickering light dancing over his red scaled features, dark horns jutting up through his short black hair.

This time I was the one who screamed.

The sound of my voice in my ears shocked me back to reality.

This wasn’t a nightmare, this wasn’t some hell or some devil.

This was just another alien, like the dozens of species we’d met on the Dream.

I sat up, coughing, pulling my sweater tight around me.

“Thank you.” 

My throat was clogged from disuse. How long had I been asleep?

“Where is this? Where are the others?”

The demon guy stepped back from the sides of the pod, a blank look of incomprehension across his face.

Oh no. That couldn’t be right.

“Do you understand me?”

Nothing.

Right then.

There hadn’t been much in the manual about this.

Statistically it wasn’t totally impossible that the pod could end up on a world that could sustain intelligent life, yet hadn’t been contacted by the Galactic Alliance.

Heck, that would describe Earth for most of its history.

No Alliance, no translator.

Shit.

I struggled to get out of the pod and in an instant Big Red was at my side, arm out to assist me.

“Thanks,” I mumbled. “I’ve felt better.”

The manual talked about this. Disorientation and grogginess after the sleeping gas. 

That would explain the headache.

But all of that seemed minor compared to the larger issue.

“Where am I?”

Big Red didn’t answer.

Of course he didn’t.

As far as he was concerned I was some random babbling creature he’d pulled from the pod.

Except…

How had he gotten me out?

I took quick notes of my surroundings.

The smoothly curved walls were covered with a light colored plaster that reflected the warm light coming from baskets that hung at intervals around the room.

Further back a thick cloth curtain separated the rest of the chamber.

Definitely pre-industrial.

Then how had Big Red managed to get the pod open?

Blind luck?

There was something here I didn’t understand, and I couldn’t blame it all on the sleeping gas.

But investigating it might have to wait. I stepped away from the pod and my knees buckled.

He caught me before I hit the floor, one arm under my rubbery legs, the other around my back, cradling me to him.

“I’m not a child,” I grumbled, gut honestly, I didn’t have much more strength than one.

He spoke, his low voice rumbling in his chest and with a hopeful glance I checked my commbangle.

No happy blue light. Not even the circling indicator that would let me know it was processing his words.

Just a heavy hunk of metal around my wrist.

Well, that wasn’t encouraging.

The giant rumbled again, then with long strides carried me around a bend in the room that I hadn’t noticed.

This new section held a few more furnishings, but still everything was low-tech.

A wooden table with just one chair, a contraption that might be a stove set into an alcove of the wall, a dark oval high above it suggesting a chimney.

Placing me in the chair, Red turned his back to me, rummaging in a low chest for something.

“I don’t know what you’re doing,” I said as I rubbed my temples. “But I wish there was a way I could ask you for a glass of water.”

In moments he’d returned, a roughly fired clay platter in one hand. On it three small mounds were placed perfectly evenly from each other.

He set the plate in front of me and I peered at it warily.

One pile seemed to be of dried purple petals.

The second a dried shredded brown something.

And next to that an even more unappetizing looking sickly green paste.

My reluctance appeared to be mistaken for confusion because Big Red pointed in turn to each of the piles and then to his mouth, miming eating.

“I get it, I just don’t know if it’s a good idea.”

There wasn’t exactly something in the manual that covered this.

But wait!

I pushed back from the table, only stumbling slightly this time.

Red kept a careful eye on me while I returned to the pod, pulling out the packet of emergency rations.

As I unwrapped one of the silver bars, a flash of recognition seemed to cross his face.

I froze.

“Do you know what this is? Have you seen something like this before?”

Don’t be an idiot, Kyla. He couldn’t understand you five minutes ago, he isn’t going to magically be able to understand you now.

He tapped the bar, and scrunched his face up like a toddler, then pointing back to the plate, he nodded encouragingly.

“Emergency rations probably aren’t going to taste particularly good,” I agreed with him. “But I can at least be sure it’s not going to poison me.”

I tore open the packet, gnawed at a corner of the bar, and shuddered slightly.

It was like chewing chalk. No. That was a disservice to chalk.

Considering my options, I tried to take another bite. Failed.

The med kit in the pod had anti-toxins in it.

I knew this, because I had read the manual. For a moment my mind went blank.

But what about the rest of the girls?

They’d constantly invited me to be part of whatever social life we’d managed to eke out between our work shifts on the Dream.

Just because I hadn’t accepted any of the invitations wasn’t on them, and hadn’t stopped their good natured efforts.

But despite all of that, I couldn’t really imagine any of them taking the time to read the manual.

Not that it was doing me a whole lot of good right now.

I looked at the mystery piles on the plate again, weighed the risk against the horrible silver bar, then went back to the pod and got out the antitoxin.

The dried purple petals were bitter.

The shredded brown stuff seemed to be some sort of dried meat.

I glanced at my host.

I couldn’t exactly imagine him being vegetarian.

But the unappealing green paste was fantastic. Sweet and creamy, a little bit like mango pudding.

At my appreciative noises Red added more to my plate, but tapped the pile of jerky as well, dark eyebrows raised.

“Look, I’m stranded on a  strange planet, I don’t know where my friends are, our ship has been destroyed, and I don’t know how long it’s going to be until the beacons on the pods get through to someone to come and rescue us.”

I took a defiant bite of disgusting looking paste.

“If I want to have my dessert before dinner, today’s the day for it.”

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