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Reaver’s Prize: Chapter Five

Hannah

That didn’t exactly make things better.

But if Beast said the old silver guy in what was some sort of hoverchair was an ally, I should try to believe him.

Because right now it was clear I didn’t have a whole lot of friends in this place.

“And it doesn’t help that you can’t understand me either,” I grumbled.

Beast held his hand out, and without thinking I rested my own in it.

Come. 

The word echoed in my mind.

How did he do that?

Through a survey of the thousands of species that made up the Galactic Alliance, only a few dozen relied upon telepathy.

But this didn’t seem to be a species-wide phenomenon.

Beast’s was the only voice I heard in my head.

And I’d be happiest if it stayed that way.

Evras in the lead, we moved deeper into the massive chamber.

“What is this place?” I asked. 

Rows of vats of all shapes and sizes, from as small as my fist to even larger than the beast bubbles and sloshed all around us.

The fluid inside was thick, its movements slow, more like some sort of goo than water.

And every now and then I caught a glimpse of something inside the tanks.

I pulled my eyes away quickly and Beast squeezed my hand.

They cannot harm you as they are.

I would add that to the list of things that were not particularly reassuring.

After a final twist through rows of equipment we stopped in a slightly less cluttered space.

A broad table with tablets scattered over its surface. A single chair. A low cot pressed against the wall.

And to the side…

“Is that a replicator?”

I moved over to the device set into the wall.

It sort of looked like the ones back on the Dream, but the strange lettering that flashed on the screen made it clear things weren’t going to be that easy.

Are you hungry?

I nodded.

There were emergency rations back in my pod, but I had no idea how I would get there.

My body felt like it was waking up, bit by bit. 

The headache was fading and my stomach was empty. 

And… oh hell.

“Yes,” I said “but–”

This wasn’t going to be good. How exactly did you tell two aliens who had no idea what your language was that you needed to use the ladies’ room?

I looked around, but there was nothing that even looked like a chamber pot.

Beast watched me, frowning slightly, then moved to a section a bit further down the wall, tapped lightly on it.

The panel slid away, revealing a small room.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” I blurted as I rushed inside.

A few minutes later, feeling much more composed, I came back out to find Beast sitting in the chair while Evras lay stripes of transparent tape over the long gashes down his chest. 

Another pass with a small orange pyramid, and the tape glowed in response, the wounds below seeming to heal before my eyes.

At one end of the table was a bowl of noodles in a fragrant broth.

I grabbed it so quickly the broth sloshed over, nearly scalding my hands.

Beast was on his feet so quickly I did not see him move.

“It’s okay, I promise.”

With my free hand I pushed him back, carefully avoiding the crisscross of tape.

“I’ll be more careful.”

With a scowl he resumed his seat.

Evras looked between us, smooth expression revealing nothing other than curiosity.

“Forgive me if this seems intrusive, but at this point I think we could all use some information.”

I paused from shoveling noodles into my face and nodded, then caught myself.

Did they use the same nod and shake for yes and no, or was it reversed here? Most life forms with a single head used head movements to convey meaning, but I hadn’t been paying attention.

By Mendel’s Peas, was this going to be one of those cultures where the shake of the head declared war or something just as unpleasant?

But neither of the men were moving towards weapons, so maybe it was safe enough.

“I have examined or seen the records of nearly everything that walks, swims or crawls here on Thaxos,” Evras continued. “But I have seen nothing like you. Was there a secret city? One that escaped the Maker’s plague?

Beast looked interested as well.

Apparently he was perfectly aware of Makers and cities and plagues. But it meant nothing to me.

“No,” I said, shaking my head.

“Then where are you from?”

I dropped my noodles back in the bowl as my throat clenched,

I had been so busy being terrified I had not allowed myself to think for too long about what had happened to the Dream. To wonder where all of my friends were. 

Where I was.

Beast stood again, slowly this time as if careful not to startle me.

Cheeks flaming, I reached for his hand.

I should not be imposing myself on him like this.

He’d already fought to protect me.

My emotional baggage was my own problem.

But right now, if I had to think about what had happened on the Dream, I needed a little more support.

There was no reason for his touch to make me feel safe.

But it did.

Closing my eyes I thought back to those last few minutes on the Dream, all of us girls huddled in the rec room, the growing panic when we realized the ship was in danger.

But even running to our pods it hadn’t seemed completely real.

Sarah, my cabin mate and best friend, had said she’d catch up on her reading. 

Then everything ended in fire.

And Sarah was gone. Everyone was gone.

And I was here, alone.

You were in a room, with others like you, and  there was  danger?

Beast’s voice in my head was soft, gentle.

That was one way to sum it up.

I tried again, imagining the angled L-shape of the Dream against a starry sky, then the expulsion of the escape pods like dandelion seeds in the wind.

His fingers wrapped more tightly around mine.

A city in the stars that fell away, leaving only your metal box?

I couldn’t try to picture it any more.

Loneliness and despair washed over me, just imagining those tiny, fragile pods sailing through the Void.

Escape pods were programmed to land on the closest planet with an atmosphere compatible to the sentient being within.

There was no way of knowing how far I had traveled, how long I had slept.

Taking a deep steadying breath I blinked hard, forcing the tears back down.

It didn’t matter. Not really.

I was here now.

I knew at least one other of the girls had made it. I’d heard Kyla’s voice when I first woke up.

If she was here, I had to believe the others were as well.

Which meant I needed to do anything, everything possible to survive until I found them.

Beast must have communicated something of my images to Evras, for his chair rolled closer to me, his eyes alight, his thin, sick frame almost vibrating with excitement.

“A city in the stars? How did it fly?” He reached out to tap my comm bangle.”Is this something else from your floating city?”

How to explain a translation implant?

I pointed to Evras’s mouth then drew my hand back to the comm bangle, tapping it before pushing my hair back to expose the slight ridge behind my ear where the second part of the translator unit had been implanted.

Repeating the motions, again, and again.

Mouth, bangle, implant.

His eyes narrowed, flicking back and forth and I sighed.

This wasn’t going to work.

There was no way to explain something this complicated by charades.

“That device takes my words and then puts them in your ear as something that you can understand?” 

My jaw dropped.

Or maybe it wasn’t as complicated as I thought.

Beast traced the edge of the implant lightly, but ‘said’ nothing. Only a slow roll of anger that was quickly pushed away.

Before I could wonder about it, Evras was talking again.

“And that is why your words mean nothing to us, we do not have something that can translate them, put them in our ear?”

Well, yeah.

That was the big problem.

And I wasn’t sure how to solve it. 

From their confusion about what a spaceship was, it was pretty clear this planet hadn’t been contacted by the Galactic Alliance.

No Alliance, no translator.

Fingers tapping on the arm of his chair Evras rolled back and forth, and with a jolt I realized he was pacing in his own way.

I turned towards Beast, wishing I had a better way to read his expression. The strange, black eyes gave so little away.

Evras is clever. He will find a solution.

A flicker of hope rose in me.

“No one I know, no one I have ever heard of could build a machine like that. Not since the Maker’s time,” Evras said. “But if my friend’s words can reach you, it would seem your mind is not so different from our own.

He stopped rolling, pivoted to look straight at me.

“It is possible that you could learn to speak our language, without the need of such a device.”

Shooting to my feet I bumped against Beast’s arm.

“Yes!” I nodded, then turned to him, hoping I was conveying every bit of enthusiasm in the universe for this idea.

“No,” he answered aloud, his rough voice shocking me all over again. “It is not safe.”

“What if this stops working?” I tapped the comm bangle. “I would know nothing of what was going on. How is that safe?

Arms crossed over his chest, Beast didn’t answer.

“Khelos, if Isar tries to force her to speak and she is unable, you know what will happen to her.”

Evras’s voice was no more than a whisper but Beast recoiled as if he had been struck.

Wait, Khelos?

“She is not one of the clans. How do you know the teaching chamber will not harm her?”

Evras sighed.

“I don’t. I am only offering it as an option. The choice is hers.”

Teaching chamber?

Whatever it they were talking about was obviously dangerous.

Certainly Beast – no, Khelos –  thought so.

And I trusted him.

But the thought of being the only human here, completely dependent on my comm bangle to provide any communication, even one sided, with this world, terrified me more.

“Please,” I said, hoping, knowing he would understand me.

Was the only person who would ever understand me, if this didn’t work.

His face softened, then he turned his head to examine the translator implant again.

Lightly running his finger over it, he moved my hair to check behind the other ear.

Whatever he found, or didn’t find, seemed to make up his mind.

“We will go. But I do not like this.”

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