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Reaver’s Claim: Chapter Four

Kyla

“Cats are cats everywhere apparently.”

I sank cross legged to the floor, hands still tight around the scruff of the cat’s neck.

Okay, probably not a cat. 

Whatever it was was orange, and the tufts at the points of its ears were far too long, pale golden strands shimmering in the light.

But I was going to roll with it.

Hissy, pointy and bitchy when disturbed?

It was a cat.

“Calm down little one,” I murmured, working the fingers of my free hand behind its ears.

It continued to glare at me for a moment, then its body relaxed beneath my grip.

“That’s a good girl,” I encouraged it. “Are you a boy or a girl? Or am I assuming some sort of gender binary when there isn’t one?” I chewed my lip, letting my brain wander off into the realm of xenobiology. Not my field. Maybe it should have been.

The creature squeaked in irritation as the petting slowed down. 

“I’m sorry kiddo, I’ve had a hell of a day. For now, you’re a girl.”

Ryven loomed over us, and I glanced up to meet his glare.

“Tali,” he pointed at the critter. “Ryven, Kyla, Tali.” And then muttered something that I was pretty sure wasn’t exactly a language lesson.

“Sorry about waking up your cat,” I said. “But I think he’s forgiving me faster than you are.”

Ryven threw his hands up into the air, then stomped back to the end of the bench he’d been at earlier.

“You ready to come with me?” Slowly I got to my feet, grinning at my success as Tali kept purring, arms wrapped around my neck. Small victory, but today I’d take it.

“Oof. You’re heavier than you look.”

Ryven went back to searching through the workbench for something. Whatever it was seemed important.

Maybe an english to big red hot guy dictionary? That would be nice.

Then I caught myself.

Hot guy?

I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the melting pile of fur in my arms.

Okay, for a certain kind of attractive, Ryven certainly would tick all the boxes.

Tall, there was no question.

He was at least a head taller than any human man I’d ever seen.

Chisiled jaw and cheekbones you could cut yourself on.

Bare chested, it was easy enough to see there wasn’t an ounce of fat on him.

And when he’d carried me from my escape pod to the table I’d  had a chance to be close and personal with the solid muscles of his torso.

But there was the little matter of those red scales. And the horns peeking up from the black wiry hair.

Let’s not forget about the horns.

Hot or not, at the moment he was clearly an alien on a mission.

He ransacked the workbench as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing.

Some of the parts were finely machined, the glint of fabricated metal and carbon glimmering in the soft light.

And that machine that I’d stopped to look at, the oval chamber resting against one wall kept catching my eye.

It almost looked like an escape pod, but on closer inspection clearly wasn’t… that certainly didn’t match the rustic quarters and furnishings.

A glimmer of hope bloomed in  my chest.

Maybe everything I had assumed was wrong.

Maybe this guy just lived off the grid or something. Maybe my bangle was damaged but someone here could fix it.

Then why doesn’t he have an implant? A small voice at the back of my head wondered.  I shoved it back down. Not helpful. Even if it was a little worrying.

I turned to study the rest of the workshop.

Machinery and devices I didn’t recognize, all in different states of disrepair.

In some cases, the pieces had been laid carefully to the side as if waiting to be reassembled, others were twisted and wrecked.

“Aargh!”

I turned quickly at the low moan behind me and the cat in my arms flexed his claws lightly into my shoulder.

But that was easily forgotten by the expression of devastation across Ryven’s face.

Spread on the table before him were shreds of blue and green thick paper.

He slid the pieces back and forth trying to reassemble it, but clearly some were missing.

I frowned, looking at the fragments.

It looked almost familiar.

His shoulders slumped as he met my eyes.

Whatever it had been, it was important.

I looked at it again, but the torn bits meant nothing to me.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” I caught myself, bit back laughter. “I don’t understand is sort of the understatement of the year, isn’t it?”

He reached forward, his large hand running down the side of my cheek, a wordless apology.

Then his eyes snapped to the not-a-pod in the far corner and he rumbled something, low and decisive.

“It’s nothing to get mad about, right?” I offered warily. He’d been kind. Sweet almost.

But suddenly I was very aware he could break me in half without trying.

I stayed very still as he stomped back to the open panel, glaring at the scorch marks inside.

Good. He was angry at a repair job, not me. 

I could sympathize with that.

“Are you trying to fix it? Looks like you’ve got something that burned out.” Carefully I set Tali down on the workbench where she happily batted at the scraps of paper.

One mystery solved at least.

Apparently whatever that important thing had been, a little orange fluff ball had decided to sharpen his claws on it.

Total cat.

Nothing I could do to fix that, but maybe I could help my rescuer with his other repair project.

“Can I help?” I said, squatting down next to where Ryven scowled at the opened side of the device.

Now that I had more time to study it, it really looked nothing like an escape pod.

Flatter than my pod, more like an oval coffin, hinged on one of the long sides.

I shook myself. Not really the most cheerful of comparisons. Maybe it was a replicator or food storage device.

Ryven glanced at me, but didn’t bother to say anything.

Just as well, since I couldn’t understand a word.

Instead he scootched over to make room.

I would take that as an invitation.

Pulling off the rest of the panels, he traced the circuitry and wiring for me, his massive hands surprisingly agile.

“So if that connects to there, then well, something really did blow out here didn’t it,” I murmured. “I wish we had a better light.” I craned my head to peer into the workings then sat back, frowning. “Can I use one of those?” 

With a nod Ryven rose to his feet, and in an instant I had one of the glowing baskets in my lap.

I blinked at the contents.

Worms. Somehow I hadn’t been expecting worms.

But that was the source of the light.

Well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen today.

Gingerly I touched one, bracing for pain, just in case whatever form of chemical luminescence at work here would burn my skin as well.

But despite their glow they were cool to the touch.

“Don’t think about it Kyla,” I muttered to myself and then gently lifted one from the basket.

By its illumination I could see the problem more clearly.

“Look at this.” I pointed to a small gap in the wiring where the scorching was heaviest. “Don’t you have a replacement?”

Huh. Apparently every species rolled their eyeballs when someone asked something stupid, even when the language itself didn’t come across.

“Right. If you did, you wouldn’t be stuck.”

Together we bent over the casing as I tried tracing an alternate route. “Is it really just the power source that fried?” I wondered.

Nothing.

There had to be a way to ask this.  

Feeling like an idiot, I took one of the worms and gently held it into place, right where it looked like the problem was.

Ryven’s boom of laughter caught me off guard, the warm sounds echoing off the walls.

This time it was my turn to roll my eyes. “Ok, obviously not with a worm, but you know what I mean, right?”

After he managed to get control of himself, Ryven waved me over to examine a small pile of parts.

With the casual movements of long practice he assembled them and it didn’t take long before I could tell it would be the perfect shape to fit in that spot.

“So that was what was in there, but it doesn’t work,” I murmured.

I reached for the component then paused, looking to him for agreement. Some people didn’t like you to just take something they were working on without asking first.

Like me.

Instead of being grumpy, he nodded. But the moment his hand brushed mine I gasped in surprise.

Just a bit of static, no doubt.

Nothing more than that.

Shaking my head to clear it, I studied the part more closely.

It was some sort of power supply, I was sure of it.

“I’m going to assume you don’t have a spare one laying around,” I asked as I took it back apart, peering at the insides, imagining how it would function when it was working.

“I guess if it just needs power, maybe we can make something else work.”

Replacing the component on the workbench I headed back to the second escape pod.

As I ran my fingers over the deep gashes running down one side of it my breath caught.

Who had been inside? Hannah or Sarah? Olivia or Charlotte?

I hit the emergency release and stared at the empty space within, hoping for clues.

Whoever it was had at least remembered to take the med kit and emergency rations with her.

But no scrawled message on the interior walls, no hints as to who had been carried here.

Whoever she was, she had a rougher landing than I had.

The light caught on a thin line near the head of the pod.

Throat tight, I reached in, pulled it out.

One long blonde hair.

But no blood. Whoever she was, I had to assume she was out there somewhere, safe.

Wherever she was, I couldn’t do anything to help her.

“This pod isn’t going anywhere ever again, no matter what I do,” I told myself, then knelt down at its side. “But maybe I can do something else with it.”

Tapping at the panel before me I mimed pulling it off. “Have any tools that could handle this?”

Ryven watched with narrowed eyes then nodded sharply, disappearing back into the depths of the workshop before reemerging with a long thin strip of metal.

Head tilted curiously, he put the tool in my outstretched hand.

“I’ll let you know if I can’t get it,” I promised him.

But even with a decidedly non-regulation wrench, the panel came off easily.

I pointed at the power unit. “Think we can make it fit in your doohickey?”

I chewed my lip, considering.

It wasn’t just a matter of making it fit. I had no idea if the two devices even used the same kind of power, much less voltage.

And from the looks of Ryven’s workshop, he wasn’t exactly prepared for building a converter.

Apparently he wasn’t worried about any little things like that, as his eyes glowed with excitement as he reached for the power unit.

I batted his hands away. “Hey, not like that. Watch me.”

He didn’t have to watch me demonstrate the proper procedure for uncoupling the unit for long before he’d finished on his side.

“Show off,” I poked his side. “I’ll be done in just a moment, you’re going to just have to wait.

Finally it was free, cables trailing from the shielded box.

“Let’s see if we can splice this in.”

Starting to my feet I groaned, legs stiff from sitting on the floor for so long.

With a smile Ryven stooped down, one broad hand at the small of my back as he raised me to my feet.

“Don’t get any ideas,” I told him “Usually I’m perfectly capable of standing. Walking even.”

But there hadn’t been anything usual about today.

Exhaustion gnawed at me, but I had no interest in sleeping.

Not after I’d been stuck in the pod for who knows how long.

And resting my head against his shoulder felt nice. A little bit of security.

Back at the mystery device we bent over the burnt out section, comparing what we had with what we might need.

Together we tackled the problem quietly, as if we’d worked together for years, tweaking and twisting the cables until they matched, or at least well enough.

I glanced up at Ryven’s face, intense with concentration.

If I had to be shipwrecked somewhere, this wasn’t the worst option.

A nice guy, a problem to sink my teeth into, and a sort of cat.

Tali had gotten bored of playing with the cables and had curled up to nap on the workbench again.

And then we had it.

The lights on the panel above where we worked began to flicker, cycling through shades of blue and red. A speaker at the other side emitted a long series of beeps before settling down to a steady hum.

Ryven whooped, springing to his feet and whirling me up into his arms.

“Take it easy, big guy!” I laughed, but his enthusiasm was contagious.

At least something was going right for someone today.  And maybe now that this was fixed, he could take me to whoever could fix my commbangle.

He set me back down and pressed a series of buttons.

I held my breath as slowly the door hinged open, and a bright smile lit up his face.

“Looks like it works after all!” I congratulated him. 

Ryven stepped to the side, pointing inside the chamber. 

“Is there something else we need to take apart?” 

I couldn’t see a problem, but didn’t really know what I was looking at. Just a long flat surface running the length of the device, swirling purple and silver lights sparkling along the interior.

“What’s the problem?” I asked, glancing back over my shoulder at him.

He pointed to the bench, then to me, then back to the bench.

“You want me to get inside?” I stepped away quickly. “I don’t think so. I’ve spent quite enough time locked up. Time for me to stretch my legs.”

Great. My nice guy had turned into a lunatic. Frantically I tried to remember where in the kitchen area I’d seen a door.

Shit. Groggy and achy from the sleeping gas, I hadn’t noticed one. That was alright, I would find one.

Big machines like this had to come in from somewhere, and wherever that door was, I was going out.

“Thanks so much for your hospitality, and it’s been fun, but I really have to-“

Ryven’s hands clamped down over my upper arms, keeping me from backing away any further.

Eyes wild, he picked me up, holding me in front of the gaping chamber.

“No. Nope, I really don’t want to do this.”

But it didn’t matter. Gently but firmly he placed me inside, holding me in place as the door began to lower.

And then he sealed me in, back with my nightmare.

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