Planet K478, Year 2345, July 13
“I never loved anybody like I love you. Never knew I could.”
K’Aran ducked his head and let the curtain of black shiny hair hide his flushed face. A feat a bit difficult for a seven feet six giant. He couldn’t hide from me, he never could.
Pointy incisors pointed at me made me laugh earnestly.
“You’re an idiot, Than.”
“Takes one to know one.”
He stopped trying to impress me with his viciousness and cuddled me to his chest. It was a strange sensation, one I never wanted to be used to or take for granted. I was well over six feet myself but nowhere near his size. Not only was he freakishly huge by human standards, he had the muscles and the strength to go with his size. My man was massive. In all ways. I smirked and bit on the nearest nipple. Just because I knew how it made him squirm. We were too depleted of energy for anything else. Going at it for three rounds did that to a male. Be it human male or drakar.
“I don’t want you to leave. We’re better prepared now. Why do you...?”
My poor kadush.
“You know I have to. Arkana is on the right track but it will be years, decades until you are ready for it. And I’ll come back. I promised, didn’t I?”
“I don’t like this, Than. Why does it have to be you? There are others that could...”
I shushed him and kissed the pouty quivering lips. How he could look cute with his size and with his traditionally terrifying appearance I did not know. But my kadush, my husband and my heart always managed to pull it off when he wanted something. I caressed the soft leathery white-bluish skin of his cheek and smiled in his violet eyes. His black bat wings moved restlessly behind him as they always did when we were together. He had once explained that it was involuntary, similar to the way I shivered when he touched me.
“I’m the best qualified. The best adapted here. It’s just for a short while and then I’ll be right back here by your side.”
“I know, Than. I just worry kadush.”
He smiled at me and winked roguishly.
“I’m expecting you to take my mind off such nonsense.”
“That’s what I though I was doing during the last two hours,” I quipped.
“I’m really really worried. You should do it some more.”
He was joking but his eyes were betraying him. Silly of him, I would be fine. I tried to overturn him and get him on his back and laughed when I found myself under 300 pounds of granite muscle. Next to him, I felt almost fragile. My entire life I had been the one in control, it was liberating to have someone like him to lean on. K’Aran voice rumbled in my ear and my breath stuttered.
“Lift your legs up, my own.”
I obeyed before he finished giving the order, getting them wrapped up around his waist. I was still stretched from before and he slipped in easily enough the tip of his penis. He stopped to give me time to adjust but my formerly tired and content body was burning up and I didn’t have the patience to wait. I pushed on his ass with my heels, taking in almost all of him in one move. He was long, thinner at the tip and wider towards his pelvis. I loved to feel him stretching me, I loved the feeling of him moving inside me, I loved him.
I didn’t want to go.
“You burn me. You’re so hot inside.”
He pushed in the last couple of centimetres and groaned as his incisors scratched his brand under my ear. It was customary to drakars to brand their kadush with their personal crest. I remember thinking it was a form of torture or that I was branded as slave. He moved and my reminiscent thoughts scattered. My eyes flew to the mirror above.
“Kadush,” his voice broke on the endearment.
I was powerless, could only arch and whimper as I watched the flex of his buttocks and his majestic wings fluttering above us.
“My Than. Mine!”
He growled the last and I arched my neck, needing him. I felt him push harder and quicker, erratically so. Soon he was pounding me into the suspended sling, the only sounds heard the slap of our bodies and guttural animalistic sounds. My cock was aching and dripping, the red crown so different from the pointy purplish tip that was pressing on my prostate with every bottoming inside my spasming chute. I was close but still wanted more. My eyes were almost blind; their sole focus the glistering body pressing on top of me. I felt almost as if I was dissociated from everything, as if I was watching our writhing bodies from above, from that mirror. His sharp bite anchored me and I howled.
K’Aran didn’t stop. He seemed to become frenzied, pistoning back and forth, clutching my body close, his talon tipped fingers leaving dark red scratches on my hips and buttocks. His razor sharp incisors released my neck and he ravaged my mouth with the same intensity his body was owning mine. I was done for. My body tensed and quivered the pleasure too much to take. My blue eyes stared by at me from the mirror, the colour overpowered by the deep purple of my dilated pupil. My cock pulsed as I gasped and erupted all over my chest and abs.
“My God! If you get any better at this we’re in deep trouble.”
His rumble of amusement made me sketch a smile as always. I was too tired for more. Hell, I was too tired to close my own eyes.
“I think you broke me. I cannot move.”
“I broke you? You squeezed the life out of me, hadush.”
“Huh. You do know that your ass is mine for the next round.”
He laughed and I absently watched a drop of sweat sliding down his back. He was still on top, pressing me into the soft net holding us. His buttocks flexed and I felt him slip out of me. I was too tired to react any other way and I was drenched in sweat but didn’t want to move a muscle. It was warmer on Arkana. Different from Earth. Thank God for that! Or Gods, as they venerated multiple deities here. I found it made for a more relaxed and accepting society. They had temples but they were more like shopping malls, where you could find and purchase whatever you needed. Drakars didn’t have cities per se, only vast areas that were inhabited by more than one family. They were very territorial so usually each family held and protected a territory, depending on how powerful the alpha male and his family were. Another thing they did not have was females. Apparently the more submissive males could pop eggs. Eww.
Everything was different here. The light was purplish, apparently a weird type of shortwave light with a higher frequency that ever seen before. Or so our ship engineer had mumbled. Even the sounds were heard different here. I am different, I mused with my eyes focused on my face. My hair had somewhat retained the same dirty blond nuance if a bit lighter now but my eyes had transformed due some weird reaction to something on this planet. Probably the light. I had deep purple pupils now, a bit darker than the natives had but purple nonetheless. My skin was becoming lighter with the passage of time. It almost matched K’Aran’s skin tone now. My freakishly tall and buff husband had alabaster skin, light purple eyes and the darkest black hair I ever saw. It captured light and shone as if emitting the same blue-purple light specific to the two suns of Arkana. His wings reminded me of bat wings, but they were much more resilient and their softness deceptive. He was gorgeous. I was probably the sole human that considered drakars gorgeous but it was true. They were magnificent beings. Maybe resembled a bit the demons from earthian nightmares and fables but you would expect humans to be more accepting after more than three centuries of space exploring and colonisation. However, just how did I end up married to one of them was a mystery for me too.
I liked it here. I never wanted to go back. But I wanted less for them to come.
K’Aran probably sensed with his almost preternatural sense that I was brooding and gently licked my lips to distract me. His tongue was longer that mine and a bit forked at the end. That tongue should be declared a national threat with the things it could do. I turned my changed eyes to his dear face and my palms held his chiselled cheeks as I returned the invitation and plundered his mouth. His incisors were really sensitive. The small iridescent scales under his jaw more so. I threw a last look at my still alien reflection and got lost in the pleasure.
I was suffocating.
Where was I? It was dark and void. I could hear only the beats of my heart and my struggles to breathe. I could not move. I could not think. Where was I? K’Aran! He will know, he will come. He was a great warrior even among his people. He will not let me die, of that I was sure. That did not mean I was a weakling. After all, I had been a lieutenant in the AEF (Alliance Exploration Forces) aka the Alliance’s army before... Before? Before what?
My struggles to breathe renewed, this time fuelled by despair and pure unaltered panic. I knew it was important. I knew I had to open my eyes, to asess the situation and establish a perimeter of defence. I knew, I had been trained all my life to survive exactly this type of situations. Waking up in a strange place, immobilised, no memory of how I got there. It was like a reminiscence of the special training course I had taken after the Academy to qualify for deep space exploring. The memory of the torture they had subjected me and the others before embarking us on our first blind mission strangely calmed me. I forcibly regulated my breathing, taking smaller and smaller gulps of air. Now that I was calm, I could feel that something was terribly wrong. And it wasn’t just the deep feeling I had in my bones. The air was wrong, to thin and cold for Arkana. It resembled... cryo regulated air. They kept that thinner when resuscitating us, something about not shocking our lungs. Only it was for a couple of minutes at most.
My eyes did not want to cooperate. I needed to see. I smelt something burning and that worried me. Arkana was very careful about wild fire as they had their homes suspended among the forest of wild vegetation. An uncontrolled fire was certain death for the prey that sustained the population. They were absolute carnivores unlike humans. They needed the animals to thrive and survive.
The air worried me. A sick feeling started in my stomach but I still did not want even to suspect why that air felt so familiar. By now a couple of minutes had passed... Wait, why am I waiting for the flux of air to change? My eyes popped open and I screamed.
“No, no nonono!”
My fists hit the plexiglas of the lid and my breath ragged. I was suffocating again. The rational part of my brain knew I had to calm down and asess or I would be dead in minutes. The tiny crack in the transparent lid covering my capsule was not providing enough oxygen for a freak-out. I did not understand what was happening but I knew I would not survive if I did not calm the fuck down. K’Aran worried face flashed in my mind. He was depending on me to get through this and come back to him. I had promised. I’ve never broke a promise and I wasn’t starting now.
A sharp piece of metal had fallen on my capsule. It was my cryo capsule, I knew it. I saw the small paper photo, a silly ancient thing I carried everywhere with me, stamped on the left side of the lid. I remembered I had it there for all of my cryo sleeps, always in the same place. I knew I had put that there, it was arranged exactly how I used to when I worked for the AEF. Only... I had lost that photo when I... When did I lose the photo?
“I will not hyperventilate again. And I should stop talking to myself.”
I wondered if this was a scheduled interruption of cryostasis. Have we reached our destination already? I guessed not, the lid pointing red, not the unlocked green. Probably had something to do with the bigass piece of metal that had pierced the plexi, the tip just centimetres from my face. Ouch. I needed to get out of here and see what had happened to compromise the integrity of the ship.
“What ship? Drakars don’t need ships to fly!”
Regardless, I was on a ship. I had too much experience with intergalactic travel to not recognise when I was in space. And by what I could see, I was probably on Ariadna. I had spent five years on the ship, I was bound to recognise it by the look of the ceiling alone, but I could also read. And my capsule had Ariadna written on it.
Why? My ever dutiful brain supplied. I was after all on a mission to see what hospitable planets we could find in system K198547, my objective analyzing and, if possible, removing any possible threats to our colonisation plans. Yes, that right. I was in charge of subduing any local intelligent wild life form. And I loved my job, didn’t I?
“K’Aran! K’Aran K’Aran K’Aran! I love K’Aran!”
I hit the lid again, anger fuelling my sluggish weak muscles. I did not know what was happening, but I knew I was not okay. I needed to get out of that capsule. I was sitting duck in it for whoever had did this to me... to my brain. The emergency lever! I hope those still existed. We never used them as it could compromise the closing system of a capsule. We didn’t need to. We had the medical officer assisting us with stasis interruption. Obviously not now. And I was begging to be thankful for the capsule’s failure. My thoughts were scattered and confused. Somebody had messed with my brain and probably tried to reprogram my memories. I heard they did that sometimes, but only if it was related to national security or involved a lot of credits. I wondered which was now. Probably both, considering they had messed with my memories of Arkana. Bastards. Did they not know that I had promised to return? They could not mess with that. I clenched my teeth and calmed the fuck down. God! I had not sworn that much in ages! A part of my brain wanted to contradict me and tell me that I usually sworn even more. It had been true. Before K’Aran. He did not understand most of my swear words and after all I didn’t need them much around him. We were disgustingly sweet with each other.
I caught the small ridge and pushed my fingers in. It was a tight fit, they obviously didn’t care much if the people inside these death traps could open their coffins or not. I heard that at the beginning only one out of three survived the cryostasis suspension. The lid immediately slid down to my feet. I froze at the sound.
Ridiculous! my brain tried to convince me. Still, I had memory holes. I was in an unknown location with no recollection of being put in cryo. And the ship I was on looked like we had passed though a mine field. Or met some caraanin battle ships. Those were some wily fuckers but I doubt it was them. They never left anyone alive to tell the tale. I would treat the situation as hostile until I was with my kadush again.
I was in the medical bay. Rows of cryo capsules were all around, most of them intact. There were some that have been damaged by the ceiling tiles like mine had been, but none cracked. They were alive. My brain wanted me to feel relief and I was getting more and more confused. I felt like I was supposed to know all of this already. I didn’t understand... I didn’t know what was happening. I spied the hallways and after being satisfied that it was clear I passed to the next cryo room and checked that too. One of the capsules had the lid caved in under the weight of a large part of the ship’s ceiling. Nobody could have survived that but I still checked. Negative. I averted my eyes from the gory sight. As I moved my eyes around I spied another compromised capsule and felt the urge to puke. A large metal plate had fallen and penetrated the plexiglas right in the chest area. The metal had pinned the body to the cryo mattress. Straight through the heart. It could have been me.
I forced my legs to the next medical bay. It was where the higher ups where. The door was ajar and I once again froze. The ship was silent all around with lights flickering on and off. The systems were obviously down and I was surprised that we still had the life maintaining one on. I wasn’t surprised that I could enter the other room without having to bypass the locked system. All security systems disengaged all locks in case of malfunction on an AEF ship. That it all auto locks except those from the higher ups rooms and their cryo medical sector. That ajar door was still there taunting me. It had to have been opened from the inside; it was the only way to do it.
I was worried and even more confused. All my instincts were screaming at me that finding someone else out of stasis was a bad bad thing and my brain kept contradicting me. I had no reason to fear one of my colleagues. Another set of arms would be an asset with the state the ship was in. Hell, I should have probably thought already about waking up others to help defend out position in case we were breached.
“No, that’s not right. I... I need to do something.”
Have they programmed my brain? Did my subconscious have some sinister orders planted in? I did not know. What I did know is that I was not supposed to be here. Everything looked exactly like my last mission on Ariadna. Except for me. I was supposed to be on Arkana with K’Aran. A terrifying suspicion raised its ugly head and made me shiver in the rapidly cooling hallway. The life systems were probably starting to fail and I didn’t have the time to stand there like a moron and dig around my brain for answers. I entered and looked around. To my surprise everything seemed intact and everyone was in their capsules where they were supposed to be. To my distress, I got a good look at exactly who were the officers in cryo and for the first time wished I could faint or scream like a damned old damsel from the old Earth movies. Good news? I knew exactly where I was. I was indeed on Ariadna and these had been my officers. Had been. Before K’Aran.
* * * * *
Of course I hyperventilated again. Living la vida dolce with K’Aran had softened me. I needed to unsoften quickly. I pulled myself up from the floor, glad that nobody had seen my undignified faint. I leaned on a wall and took a deep breath. I could not screw this up, K’Aran was counting on me.
“I’m crazy. For sure.”
All indicated that I was on my last mission. I had a huge gap in my memory as to how that mission came to an end and how I found my way to Arkana. I was struggling, surpised that my chest wasn’t bleeding from the strong suspicions stabbing at my heart. No way, it was all a lie. But... I had heard about these things before, didn’t I? I’ve seen it happening. I bumped my head on the wall, trying to run out of my brain that insidious logical voice that I recognised as being my working brain.
I remembered Cary, one of the guys I used to hang out with. It was on another ship, on Kali. We had not been friends per se, but he had been a good kid and so young. We were put to cryo in the same medical segment. We had been awoken from cryo on the same day. Only, he was not the same. He had been... changed. I remember even now his shouts and cries of despair resonating through that sterile room until the medical officers had subdued him. We had been in cryo for 3 years. We thought that it was related to a chemical imbalance or something. Strangest chemical imbalance I ever saw. Why? He was calling for his kids and a woman, Shala when he had woken up. Only the kid didn’t have anyone, never had. He was yelling that he needed to return somewhere. He was desperate to return to the family he had never had.
Had they experimented on him while in cryo? I didn’t know. What I do know is that he had been quietly whisked away and released from duty. Heard that he died in some crash a couple of months after at the edge of the neutral zone, somewhere in system R342.
Was it happening to me too now?
“I am not crazy. I know what I lived for the last two years. I know my home. I know my husband. I am not crazy. And I’m going to prove myself that. Right after I find out who woke up with me and where are they.”
Maybe I should stop muttering to myself first. I rightened myself but kept my left hand on the wall. I knew I was still week and needed fluids fast if I wanted to avoid the fainting incident again. Some food would be good also.
The ship was big for an exploring vessel, but the important missions usually utilised bigger ships. We were an army ready to be unleashed with the firepower Ariadna had. Our armed forces numbered 500 trained soldiers and a team of almost 100 scientists. I remembered this mission. We were supposed to reach some solar system and establish perimeter until we got reinforcements and supplies. AEF always made sure the planets inhabited agreed to our arrival, that is, we made them agree to it. Like it or not. I sometimes felt as if we were wagging war on the planets we “explored”. I had acutely felt it after the fiasco on P384. That planet not only had intelligent life forms, they were humanoid also. Scattered all over the planet, the tribes hadn’t stood a chance against the organised forces of AEF. Ariadna had literary made a species go extinct. And why? Uranium, of course. That system was full of it. I made my way down the corridor, coursing the flickering lights that were making my head throb louder. Then I cursed the never-ending corridor. If I remembered correctly, the galley was two floors down and the commanding centre one floor up. The elevator should be right... There it was. Down we go.
“Shit, the ship is spinning around me.”
When I reached the galley I am almost sure that I was half dead. The state the ship was assured me that we had not been breached. Everything seemed to be accounted for if a lot bent and broken. The ducts were blown in places and I suspected a major circuit failure all around. Now the various bent and thorn panel worried me. Ariadna looked as if it had been in a battle and lost. The question was why the ship was still standing. Any galactic pirate or enemy vessel would have either stolen everything of value or simply wiped us out. Neither had happened.
“Food, I need food.”
I found quickly that the replicator was not working. It was either blown by a short circuit or the ship had been more damaged that I thought and there was no power. Either way I was screwed and limited to the stock of rations that were reserved for out of ship missions. Meaning those very tasty (not) little tablets that could replace the vitamins and calories of a meal. Pity they could not replace the taste also.
I took a couple and just swallowed them dry. I needed water too and I smashed the padkey lock on the emergency reserve and grabbed myself some bottles. After all, this was an emergency. Feed and a bit rested I sat down, next to a table and tried to put my brain into gear. The logical conclusion to all this was that I had been in cryo on Ariadna all this time and everything I had shared with K’Aran was nothing but a sick experiment or a delusion created by my brain. The fact that I didn’t remember how I had ended up on Arkana sustained the same conclusion. It didn’t exist, this was reality. The reality where I still was a soldier of the AEF, on a damaged ship and with a scrambled brain.
“No,”my whisper echoed a bit in the empty room and broke on a quiet sob. It did not feel like a dream and I never had that much imagination to begin with. K’Aran was real, I felt it in my bones. But this was real too. What had happened, how did I end up here? The last thing I remembered is passing out after the last round in our bed with K’Aran squeezing me to his chest. I swear the man must have some snake DNA and will end up squeezing the life out of me one day! I smiled and before I got lost recollecting last night, I jumped to my feet in a sudden moment of inspiration.
“I’m so stupid! Of course!”
The galley had next to it a large common waste room. Meaning toilets. Not that I suddenly got the urge but the toilets had preserved some of the old Earth customs. Among them being the row of mirrors placed above the germ neutralisers on one of the walls. I got quickly in front of one of them and just stood there like a moron trying to force myself to look in the mirror at my reflection. I had nothing to be afraid of. I knew K’Aran existed, I knew it was all real. This will be real too, right.
My eyes stared back at me from my pale and slightly grey reflection in the mirror. My ordinary, perfectly human eyes with the usual black holes in their centre. The pupils.
I screamed a muffled unarticulated sound that hid the sob and the despair ripping me apart. The mirror was fractured and my hand bleeding before I knew I did it. The door behind me crashed in the wall and registered a moment later but not a moment too soon.
* * * * *
“My capsule had been scheduled for stasis interruption. We’re at the middle of our journey, or we were supposed to be. It’s standard procedure.”
I clenched my teeth and tried to look normal and not like I was coming unhinged.
“I didn’t know anybody was awoken from stasis during a longer mission.”
Sam threw me a superior look and passed the medical scanner again on my hand. I apparently broke some hard to remember bone. I didn’t care.
“Only authorised personnel know about it. It’s for safety measures. That should be enough.”
The scanner beeped and I tested my hand. A bit tender but no pain. Stupid move on my part, to loose it like that. I studied my unexpected companion. Sam was a foot smaller than me, slender and bright eyed. His brown hair shined in the cool light of the medical bay, his eyes a very attractive deep green. He kept throwing me small looks from the corner of his eyes, measuring me up and down. It was unsettling. He was exactly my type. A bit twinkie, smart and feisty. And easy on the eyes with his lean swimmer built. Or would have been a life time ago. Now I only had one type: K’Aran.
“Not much one man can do in case of emergency.”
“I can send a distress signal with the best of them,” he smirked.
“So can the ship. Well, most times.”
Apparently we had passed though an asteroid field. An uncharted one. Either that field wasn’t supposed to be there or we were way off track. And considering celestial bodies don’t teleport to other galaxies usually, my bet was on us. Sam had been woken up by the computer just minutes before that and had witnessed it all. He had gotten green in the face when he had mentioned it.
“But it’s harder for the ship to repair itself. Especially when the power is down and the bots are inactive.”
“Point. So what else?”
He scrunched his eyebrows in thought. It was actually adorable but I didn’t feel anything. I would have been all over him a couple of years before. And those furtive looks were a sure signal of interest. The last time I caught his eyes he had blushed to the top of his ears. Cute. I needed something else.
“I’m the main engineer for this mission. I should be able to restore at least all the life sustaining systems. The data shows we have a breach in the haul somewhere in sector D. I closed that off already. ”
“Way off course, lieutenant. So far of course that I don’t recognise the galaxy. I should awaken our main navigator but without life systems functioning properly it’s not advisable.”
I controlled the twitch and frowned confused at my reactions. I did not want anybody else out of stasis.
“Probably best. Not that he can help much with the ship just falling through space like it does now. We need the engines repaired.”
He watched me for a second and I felt that I had betrayed myself somehow. My apprehension disappeared when he smiled in agreement.
“I was thinking the exact thing. Unfortunately, I already checked the engines and 80% of cells are burnt. Can’t do much about those. I’m trying to do something about our main control panel. It’s pretty much toast but I can at least try to repair communications and navigational systems. We don’t need crashing on some planet on top of all this.”
Crashing on some planet. I frowned again and nodded absently.
“Anything I can help with?”
“You’re with the tactics subdivision right? You probably know better than me what we need to do to survive this.”
His eager face turned to me looking for reassurance. A sweet boy, if he could be still called that at his 28 years. I should have an answer for him, it was part of my job to make plans and determine what needed to be done.
“You’re doing great on your own. As you said we need manoeuvrability of this ship and communications. I’m going to bring water, food and some blankets in the commanding centre. We’re probably not leaving that room until we figure this out. You’ll maybe want to cut off energy of all basic systems including life support, on the other segments of the ship. We need to concentrate on the medical bay and the cryo capsules and the commanding centre. Leave life support on from the commanding centre to the medical bay, cut the rest off.”
He was already up and ready to start. Right. We needed to... send for help.
“I’ll power up two or three of the bots to...”
We both jumped at my shout. I tried to calm down and think of a reason. Other that I did not want him to have help doing this.
“We need to preserve energy. Regaining control of our trajectory is a priority. Activating communications and the distress beacon is a second. Seal the other sectors. Deactivate everything but the medial bay and the control room. We’ll use the elevator shaft if we need to reach medical. Get the scanners back up, we need to see where we’re heading to.”
Sam looked like he wanted to argue and as a superior officer he could order me down and do as he pleased. I wondered what I would do if it came to that. To my relief he just nodded and left for the commanding centre. I felt restless and not myself. Not true. I felt like Than Argant, the husband not the lieutenant. What I was doing on this ship? I... It was real, wasn’t it? Being on Ariadna was more real than my life on Arkana. Had I dreamt everything?
I controlled my breathing, not needing another panic attack and started to gather the stuff we will need. As I finished, I found myself looking at my reflection once again. Nothing had changed. My pupils were still black, my skin a golden hue. I was looking at a stranger I once knew. I turned my back on my reflection and took another deep breath. I had promised, I always kept my promises. There must be an explanation for everything. I remembered talking with K’Aran about going somewhere. I remember feeling that I needed to stop somebody from coming to our planet. Not remembering the details was not a good sign. Not only my appearance was changed, my memories were fogged and like I had dreamt them. There were becoming moreso with each passing minute. Not good. I reached the sector that held my breached cryo capsule. The control panel seemed to still work and I hesitantly tapped at the menu. Did I want to know for sure that my time with K’Aran had been only a dream or worse, an experiment?
Yes, I did.
I tapped frantically at the screen, passing my medical records and my cryo evolution. I did not know what I was looking for. Anything out of ordinary I suppose. But the files had only numbers and medical values. I was not a doctor, but everything seemed to indicate a normal cryo stasis. No experiment, no elevated brain waves to indicate dreaming or hallucinating or anything. Nothing.
“That’s not right.”
“Do you want the bad news or the really bad news?”
I raised my throbbing head from the link I was tapping at. I may not be an engineer but I could put the ship computer to work with the best of them.
He looked at me funny and I almost wanted to smile. Sam was literal, I had discovered. It made for humorous misunderstandings.
“Why would you want me to...? Never mind. We’re heading straight towards a planet. At current speed we’ll reach its atmosphere in five hours. ”
“Tell me that was the really bad news.”
He nodded and almost bounced on his legs. It was exhausting just watching him and the energy he had. We had been working at repairing at least something on this ship for the last two days with no luck so far.
“Yup. The bright side of that is that it seems the planet has an atmosphere.”
“So we’ll burn when we pass though and crash.”
“But the air may be breathable. If we survive the crash.”
I clenched my teeth, refusing to loose my cool.
“We need navigational systems up and operating.”
He was shaking his head before I finished the sentence.
“That’s part of the worse news. That part of the systems is totalled, Than. But I could probably fix communications by the time we reach the planet’s atmosphere. ”
I felt something going off in my brain. A warning of some kind. During the last day, I had settled in the familiar environment and tried to banish any thought not related to immediate survival. Not that my kadush’s face didn’t haut every moment, be it awake or asleep.
He looked at me weirdly but I was beyond caring or trying to. His words came slow and measured as if he was talking to a child.
“To send a distress signal of course. We’ll need saving once we crash, Than.”
No, we didn’t.
I nodded, knowing it was expected of me and frankly he was right.
“We need to reroute the power and prepare a protective shield around medical bay. If we seal that sector, the capsules may survive the crash.”
“Already on it. I’ll activate it once we send the signal and we can even try to reach medical bay in time.”
His measuring look disappeared and he hugged me suddenly.
“Worst case scenario, you go and put yourself back in cryo while I finish here.”
I pushed myself from him, uncomfortable but sure of my words.
“I’m not leaving you here to die.”
My expression made him close his mouth with an audible click. I was scaring the guy but I couldn’t find the energy to care.
“Find a way.”
I though I heard him muttering something regarding my lineage as he turned back to the main panel and his lightning fast tapping.
I watched as he did something underneath the half thorn panel and he swore as some sparks flew. He obviously knew what he was doing. Those sparks meant that he had power running through some of the wires. Soon he’ll manage to fix somewhat communications and we’ll be able to send a distress signal. Better we do it before we crashed. Because it was certain. I had checked the data and Sam was right. We will crash. Now why was I contemplating how to cut communications before Sam managed to run that distress signal?
I continued to tap at my terminal, checking the changes he was making and being impressed with the man’s brain. I did not know how he was doing it but my data was telling me that the shield around the medical bay was almost done, the energy rerouted. It was just waiting for us to activate it. As our engines were not working, I knew we didn’t have a way so break our crash and we had zero chances of survival outside that protection field. I was determined that both of us will reach medical in time even if I had to club Sam and carry him there.
The planet was visible to the naked eye, already getting bigger and bigger with each passing moment. We had minutes, at most an hour before our course will take us straight into its atmosphere. Our already damaged systems will be beyond repair after that. Hell, Ariadna could disintegrate around the protection shield. If the shield held. If anybody survived to even think about doing those repairs.
The system we had entered was like nothing I had seen before. I doubted any of the planets gravitating around the two suns were capable of sustaining the rare intelligent life but I had seen weirder stuff in my travels. My eyes kept drifting to the viewscreen and the sight on it. At least our cemetery was gorgeous. Deep green mingled with indigo. I was curious about how the surface looked. I wanted to survive and explore. Sam had been right, the planet had atmosphere and the green I was seeing pointed at a luxuriant plant life. Plants meant oxygen. Hopefully breathable for humans.
“We should head to medical bay. We only have half an hour.”
“I need more time. I’m almost there... If I just... Fuck! You go ahead.”
I glared at the back of his head, my nonverbal threat totally lost on him. My eyes drifted once again to the marvellous sight on the viewscreen. I kept stopping to stare and get lost in the colours. Sam continued to struggle with wires and systems, trying desperately to send a distress signal, bypass codes and protocols. It was a long shot and we both knew it. Even if he managed, we hadn’t seen any trace of prior space exploring in this system or the systems we had passed. But then again, our scanners were barely working at all.
“Yes! Yes, yes. That’s it!”
My heart clenched and I had to hold still for a moment. What the fuck?
“You fixed it?”
He did not acknowledge me or my question. Sam continued to tap at the screen, tense and focused.
“Sam, the communications are...?”
“Don’t bug me.”
I practically had to squeeze the case of the terminal I had been working on to stop myself from going to him and stop what he was doing. My eyes drifted once more to the planet getting bigger and bigger on the viewscreen. The tug in my chest became stronger. I looked at the back of Sam’s head once again before I released the terminal and took a deep breath.
* * * * *
Sam was heavier that he looked. And carrying an uncurious adult male on my back through the elevator shaft was more difficult that I anticipated. Not that I had thought this beforehand. I could barely remember applying pressure to the engineer’s neck and cutting his air supply to make him faint. I just knew I had done it and now I needed to live with my choice. I had activated a small portable terminal so I could bring up the shield from inside the medical bay. Sam had not expected to survive this. He had not told me that the shield would disintegrate any organism trying to pass through. I should have known that. I had found it out from shadowing his moves on the terminal I was working at. I may be just a soldier but I was not stupid. I did though hide the fact that I had found in my searches a workable portable terminal. With the energy put into establishing communications not needed anymore, I could activate a couple of systems to take my activation order from the portable terminal. I could activate the shield from inside the medical sector. I had saved Sam’s life temporary but I may have killed any hope for any of us surviving after the crash. Nobody will be coming to rescue us.
I was strangely... glad.
Now that everything was finished and I couldn’t do anything to change how things will end up for my ship and my colleagues, I felt... happy. I knew that I was not thinking clear but letting go of the struggle and just accepting that my fate was in the hands of a higher power was calming.
I finally reached the higher ups cryo room and searched for the spare cryo capsules. The room was not wide but long, with a seemingly endless row of capsules turned to a viewscreen showing our final destination. We were so close to the planet now that I could see only a part of its surface. I had a couple of minutes at most before Ariadna entered its atmosphere. I settled Sam quickly, secured the lid and activated cryo. I took the next empty capsule just as our almost dead engines unsuccessfully tried to break our increasing speed. The rumble and vibrations made me almost drop the portable terminal that I was frantically tapping at. The shield came up not a moment too soon, I could already feel Ariadna struggling to keep her walls intact under the pull of gravity. My right hand pressed on the capsule’s pad and the lid slowly closed as the gas that will put me under activated. A special generated field kept me put and unable to move.
I tried to imagine my kadush’s face smiling at me as he had last done it. His image was hazy and slow in coming. I wanted to panic but I had set up and already activated the program and stage two was beginning. I didn’t care really. I knew I was not making a mistake. He was waiting for me. Be it dream or reality, it didn’t matter. I could feel it in my gut that everything will be okay now. Didn’t matter that I was going to cryo sleep in a ship rapidly crashing on an unknown planet. Completely delusional, but it didn’t matter. I felt that I was returning to K’Aran somehow. This delusion made me happier than any reality could. I blinked lazily, feeling the warmth of a sun shining through the bay’s viewscreen. How fitting. I was going into the light. The oxygen had decreased and by being slow to go under I still wanted to get more air in my lungs and ended up coughing weakly when I tried to laugh. It always felt that you were suffocating when you entered the stasis. Or awakening. I kept the strength to smile lazily. Today it felt so more than ever and I didn’t mind it one bit. If I found K’Aran and my beloved home on the other side so be it. One more flutter of lashes, my eyes unfocused, my brain fogged already. I saw the planet jumping at us, the ship entering atmosphere as the damaged engine weakly tried once more to break the fall. Beautiful. Shiny. I saw my drunken face reflected back at me in the capsule lid and my blue eyes stared for one moment at the dark violet of my pupils. I didn’t get to smile again but a last truth buzzed though my failing consciousness.
I’m coming home K’Aran.
Enchanting His Mate (Book 5 in Return of the Originals series) to be published January 17th!
Enchanting His Mate
Return of the Originals 5