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Reaver’s Prize: Chapter One

Hannah

I knelt on the cold hard floor, silently retching, feeling as if I’d been turned inside out and back again.

Wherever I was, it was dark, cold, the smell of salt in the air telling me I must be near an ocean.

Using the lip of the escape pod, I tried to pull myself upright but my legs weren’t cooperating.

Where was I? Where was Sarah? We’d gotten into our pods at the same time.

Had she made it?

My stomach flipped again.

Wherever she was, I had to focus on my own situation now.

As my eyes became accustomed to the dimly lit space around me I could make out the shapes of boxes, crates and bundles piled high.

Some sort of warehouse? 

Shivering, I forced myself to stand, then rummaged in my pod until I found the emergency blanket, pulling it around my shoulders tightly.

Note to self: The next time we’re faced with imminent destruction, wear more layers.

“Hello? Is anyone here?”

I’d meant to shout, but something about the oppressive silence of the room muffled my voice, made my words no more than a faint squeak.

An answer came, but not from anyone nearby.

A trill from the broad metal band around my left wrist startled me.

A flash of blue light.

A blast of static, then a voice. A human voice.

Kyla, one of the other girls who had been with me on the Smarniks Dream.

My heart soared. I wasn’t alone. Everything was going to be fine.

Get to the mountains. Assume everything here will try to kill you.

What?

Then a hulking shadow broke away from the surrounding darkness.

Man shaped, but far too tall, shoulders too broad, he was at my side before I had fully registered his presence.

One massive hand clamped over my wrist, covering the comm bangle, nearly muting Kyla’s message.

“Please,” I begged. “That’s my friend, I need to know what she’s saying.”

But that was as far as I got.

With a quick twist he pulled me tight against his body, my back to his chest, pressing his other hand over my mouth.

You must be silent.

I froze, rigid against him.

That didn’t sound good.

Not at all.

We were still, like statues in the dim room, until the eerie hush was broken by shouting.

Somewhere in the distance, louder now.

A beam of light played across the boxes, illuminating for an instant the hand wrapped against my arm.

I stared at it, blinked.

Three fingers covered my comm bangle.

Three long thick fingers, covered in silver scales.

I twisted in his grip, but couldn’t see anything else.

The shouts grew closer, the words harsh static in my ear as my translator implant struggled to keep up.

Where was I?

“Beast… wanted … pit…”

Hide.

He pushed me from him, turning his back towards me, ready to deal with whoever was approaching.

I caught a glimpse of his face for only a minute.

The silver scales were sprinkled over his cheekbones and jawline, curving up to hairless head.

Pointed ears and midnight black, pupilless eyes caught my attention and held it fast.

No alien I’d ever seen before. Not on the Dream. Not in all my years of studying xenobiology.

And then my common sense kicked my curiosity in the tail and I frantically looked for a place to hide.

Where? I looked around, searching for any place, before lighting on my pod.

Legs still trembling, I dragged myself in, lowered the lid on top of me but it refused to close all the way, a wide gap leaving me exposed.

My captor moved, the broad planes of his back filling my vision from where I crouched.

“You’re wanted in the pit, beast,” a newcomer’s hard voice echoed through my translator.

He didn’t answer, made no motion that I could see.

“Don’t think you can’t be replaced,” another voice snapped. “Lord Chris was your maker. He can make another. Maybe a more obedient version this time.”

My heart thudded in my ears.

But there was nothing I could do, no place I could run.

I’d trapped myself here.

I squeezed my eyes tightly, the childhood belief that if I couldn’t see the danger coming it couldn’t catch me too strong to adult my way out of right now.

It didn’t work, of course.

“What’s this?” The first voice asked. “What have you found this time?”

A hard smacking sound as if something hitting flesh drove me even tighter into the foot of the pod.

With a wrenching sound, the lid of the escape pod flew open, and despite myself, I looked up.

Four more of the strange aliens peered down on me, their faces twisted, jackets of grey and black with flashes of red highlighting their silver scales.

One smiled, like a child discovering an unexpected cookie, before reaching for me to pull me out from safety.

My alien swatted the threatening hand away.

“Careful, beast,” the stranger snarled, but he didn’t seem to expect a reply, merely moved back slightly.

Shoulders set, my alien held his hand out towards me, waiting.

Stay silent.

Not exactly comforting.

But there was nothing for it.

Taking a deep breath I slid my hand into his and let him lift me out of the pod and into the unknown.

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