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Authors: Berengaria Brown

Earth (3 page)

BOOK: Earth
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“We were farther from the river there,”
Raine
said, pointing. And then, “This part here where we saw the mountains should be
longer.”

“One day to the ocean. Maybe a day and a half if it’s difficult to get
down to the sea, and we need to spend time searching for a suitable pathway.
After that two days east, maybe only one. We didn’t diverge much from our
route,” Skye announced.

“As we walk we need to look for fibrous plants so we can make a net to
catch fish,”
Raine
said, not moving.

“Maybe we should collect fuel as well. Will there be timber to burn
beside the ocean?” Flame asked.

“We can collect fibrous plants, but let’s not carry wood yet. It’s
heavy and will slow us down. We do need to keep watch to make sure there are
plenty of trees as we go, though,”
Terah
said.

“Is there enough water left for us to have a drink? I’m thirsty,” said
Flame.

Raine
had taken her pack off before lying down. She looked in the cooking
pot and said, “Maybe half a cup each.”

Terah
was glad. She was thirsty, too, but they always saved the last of
their water in case someone really needed it. They only ever drank their fill
when they were beside the river. Water was heavy to carry and they had to
ration it each day.

Soon they were on their way again, each of them walking a little faster
now they knew the end of their journey was close. Going downhill always seemed
faster than walking uphill, but they still had to be careful not to trip over
buried rocks. At least it hadn’t rained for a few days. Walking in the rain was
annoying as it made the dirt into mud and even leaves could be slippery. One
day they’d stayed under a shelter instead of walking because the rain was very
heavy. The shelter was leaky and they still got wet but it was better than
trying to journey that day.

They arrived on the beach in the middle of the next day, and made
themselves a shelter between several huge rocks by laying two blankets over the
tops of them and covering the blankets with sticks, leaves, and plant debris,
even some old hollow bones they found on the shore.

They chose their stopping place because it wasn’t very far from where
the river fed into the ocean.
Raine
was confident that
would help them catch fish as well as have unlimited water to drink.

Raine
also discovered that standing in the ocean healed cuts and scrapes and
made her feel less tired, so soon they all copied her while they waited for
their nets to catch them their dinner.

Despite all the amazing things the ocean had to offer,
Terah
worried that there was no safety here for them.
Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run if the aliens came and tried to steal them to
make them into slaves.

“Tomorrow we must go. We have to find the safe place,”
Terah
said.

“I hope it’s close to the ocean. I love the ocean,”
Raine
said.

“I know you do. I think it will be because Old Anny said to stay by the
seashore and walk east or west. But I believe we need to be up on the land. Not
down here on the sand and pebbles.”

“Just as long as there’s water to drink as well. We can’t drink the
ocean. It tastes awful,”
Raine
said.

“I’m going to try to cook the water until just the salt remains. It’d
be perfect for seasoning meat,” Flame said.

“Are you sure there won’t be other things in it that are bad for us?”
Skye asked. She was always the most cautious one of them

“We can check by eating only the tiniest taste at first after I work
out how to do it.”

But first they had to get there and the gap between
Terah’s
shoulders was itching with worry. It was almost as of someone was watching
them, yet none of them had seen any pursuers. In fact, they hadn’t seen any
person—or any alien either—since they’d left the community all those days ago.
But here, on the shore of the ocean, when she should be feeling almost safe at
last, all
Terah’s
senses were alert, her nerves
fizzing with the need to reach shelter and safety.

“Tomorrow, at first light we leave here and complete our journey,” she
repeated firmly.

 

Chapter Three

 

Andreas sat in the pilot’s seat staring at all the equipment with every
sense focused tightly on the gauges and dials. Herman, his copilot sat beside
him, just as alert. All the other men would be watching on the screens in the
dining rom. The ship was slowing down and coming in to land. They’d pinpointed
the exact place they needed to land, and the images were amazing. It was an old
village that had been left to disintegrate under the weather. He’d run all the
checks three times, but there was so sign of any disease there so he could only
assume the people had fled. Right now Herman tested the ocean and the deep
village well for water quality. Any disease might have permeated the drinking
water. The ocean was unlikely to be poisoned. It was much too big for any
disease to penetrate. Well, that’s what he hoped, anyway. Although he supposed
the sand of the shoreline might be dangerous.

“Check the land besides the ocean is safe as well. Who knows what these
uncivilized barbarians might have done to it.

“You’re hundreds of years too late. Poisoning the land was a tactic of
war dating back well before 2030,” Herman said.

Andreas threw him a look and Herman added, “All right I’ll check
anyway.”

Very gently Andreas set the ship down in the only more-or-less flat
space large enough to hold it. He guessed this had been the city square
although there were no statues in it. Just buckled concrete with grass growing
up in the cracks. The area was surrounded by what had once been stores,
buildings only two stories tall and almost completely covered with green
plants, even over the roofs. Although many of the roofs had disappeared.

“Test the air quality. Are you certain we can breathe it?”

“Absolutely. Seventy-eight percent nitrogen, twenty-one percent oxygen,
one percent argon. Almost exactly what we were told to expect before we left and
very similar to Mu
Arae
7. The trace elements are
slightly different so air will taste unusual to us until we get used to it. But
it is perfectly breathable for us.”

“Good.” Andreas checked all his instruments again, and then pressed the
intercommunications speaker button. “Herman assures me the air, soil, and
water, are all safe for us. The instruments show no life forms in this area of
the village. There are some very small mammals at the top of the hill, probably
rodents. Chad and Erle check the north quadrant. Fletcher and Boris, take the
south quadrant. Take your communicators with you and Herman will send backup to
you if anything is worrying. Don’t wait for danger. Contact Herman the moment
anything appears unusual.”

Andreas couldn’t afford to have any of his men killed. Every one of
them was necessary for their mission to succeed.

“Duncan, you and I will disguise the ship. Gabriel, remain on duty with
Herman.”

Andreas stood to leave and said, “Your ship, pilot.” It was formal
acknowledgement that if anything did happen to him, Herman would be in charge from
now on. Not that he expected danger. That’s why they’d spent the past hours
checking everything. But it had to be said.

“Yes, sir.” Herman replied just as formally as he’d done.

Andreas left the pilot’s pod and hurried to the store room. Duncan was
already there taking out the camouflage net. It was very lightweight fabric,
yet would protect the ship from heat, cold, rain, and even snow to a certain
extent.

Andreas unclipped a ladder from the wall where it was attached, and
slung a reel of hair-thin wire over one shoulder.

Together he and Duncan stretched the net over the ship, hiding it from
the air, and from anyone standing on the top of the hill or on the roof of one
of the houses. They clipped the wire into tiny holes and then strung it well
above head height and bolted the net to the walls of the buildings on either
side of the square.

He grinned. He was using the word square loosely. It was more accurately
a slightly squashed rectangle, but he was sure it used to be the town square so
that’s what he’d continue to call it.

He and Duncan had just finished their work when Erle and Chad returned.

“Which quadrant do you want us to do now, east or west?” asked Chad.

“East. The hill might be dangerous. There are far more places to hide up
there, than down here. You’d better wait until Fletcher and Boris return and
take them as well.”

Just then his personal communication device beeped. “Human movement on
the hill overlooking the town. Four persons,” Herman announced crisply.

“Duncan, Erle, Chad, and I’ll go now. As soon as Boris and Fletcher
return send them after us as backup.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where are we going?” asked Duncan, helping him lock the ladder back
into place.

“Up the hill. Herman saw four people there.”

“Damn. Trouble already. I’d hoped no one would see us arrive,” Erle
said.

Andreas just grunted. They’d been seen and that was all there was about
it. The good news was that Earthlings had no technology anymore. All their
electronics had failed shortly after 2030, and their reliance on petroleum
products and gas had left them helpless almost immediately. Second, they were
frail and weak. Hardly a one of them was much over six feet tall, and the poor
nutrition here on Earth meant they weren’t very strong. The four of them should
be easily able to take out four humans.

“Split up and be silent. There’s one each,” he ordered.

Whereas most of the buildings in the town were creamy-gray old
concrete, with green plants growing over them, the hill itself was a riot of
brown and green. Their uniforms were in Mu
Arae
7’s
official color, purple, which didn’t blend in with the surroundings at all. But
they were all professional warriors and knew how to hide and how to make
themselves very difficult to locate.

Andreas kept his body
low
to the ground. Because
they were going uphill, the people coming down the hill would have the
advantage over them of being able to see them first. But difficulties were
merely challenges to overcome. No Earthling would hold him back from finding
his bride and saving their planet. That was his mission and he was going to
achieve it.

****

“Look. There are buildings down there. We’ll be able to sleep with
walls around us and a real roof over our heads again,” called Flame.

“Hold your excitement about the roof. Not too many of those houses have
one,” Skye teased her.

“But some do. Surely we can find one not too far from a river.”

Talk of a river worried
Terah
. They had very
little water left and the river was a full day’s walk from them now. She hadn’t
even seen a spring or the smallest of water sources. But Old Anny wouldn’t have
sent them here unless it was possible to live here so there must be water
somewhere nearby.

She stood on a small rise and stared at the town spread out below her,
looking at the houses, with their green plant coverings, checking the few that
still seemed to have part of their roof.

“Something is wrong in the center of the village. The buildings are
wrong there,”
Terah
said, worry itching at her and
tension filling her body.

Flame came and stood beside her, pushing her red bangs away from her eyes.
“You’re right. The center is different. The colors don’t match. They aren’t the
same plants.”

Raine
was sniffing deeply. “I can’t smell fresh water.”

Terah
took a deep breath in through her nose. “Danger. There’s danger here.”

She picked up her pack and screamed, “Run!” but it was too late. As the
four of them scattered, a horde of enormous aliens burst over the hill and captured
them. One of the giants grabbed her, sweeping her into his arms, and saying
something in a language she didn’t know.

Terah
kicked and screamed, struggling to get free from arms that were like
ropes around her body. His hand, twice the size of hers, covered her mouth and
nose.

“I found you and you are mine. By the laws of all Mu
Arae
I claim you.”

Terah
went limp in his arms. She was a slave. The long walk, the days and
days, hands and feet of them for her, for Skye, for
Raine
,
and for Flame, were all wasted. Instead of escaping from the aliens they’d all
been caught almost at the safe place. The aliens must have discovered it and
waited here to trap them. Now she was this man’s slave forever.

The man called out something in the strange language, and then there
was silence. He was holding her so tightly against his chest she couldn’t even
say goodbye to her friends. Tears prickled behind her eyelids but she refused
to cry.

Goodbye, Skye. Goodbye, Flame.
Goodbye,
Raine
. I hope your aliens aren’t too
horrible to work for.

The alien turned her in his arms and spoke slowly in English. “Do you
understand that you belong to me now?”

“Yes.” Her voice was soft and defeated so she immediately squared her
shoulders. She belonged to him and had to do whatever he told her. But inside
he couldn’t change her thoughts and personhood. She would always be
Terah
in her heart.

“You are my bride. We belong together. You will stay with me and we
will rebuild the land.”

Terah
didn’t understand the word
bride
.
But since she had to stay with him and work the land she guessed
slave
was close enough to the meaning.
At least she knew how to scavenge food and which plants they could eat. He was
so big she supposed it would take most of her time every day just to find
enough food to feed him.

He put her down and began to undress. His purple clothing looked very
strange to her, but then she’d never seen an alien before either. At least he
had arms and legs just like hers, and his hair was blond. His eyes were
different though. She’d never seen anyone with purple eyes before. When he was
naked, he pulled her closer to his body and dragged her shirt off over her
head. He pulled so hard she worried that it would tear.

“Let me do it.”

She stepped back and undressed, even taking her sandals off, and stood
naked before him. She couldn’t decide whether he was just looking to see what
he’d gotten, or if he was going to mark her in some way to show she belonged to
him, or whether he wanted to have sex with her. As his slave there was nothing
she could do to complain whatever he wanted to do with her. He’d told her twice
she belonged to him and she accepted that. She’d known the aliens were coming
looking for slaves. It was just bad luck that she and her friends had been
caught.

“You are too thin. You need to eat more,” he said.

Yes, well, that was only going to happen if he permitted her to eat
more, but it was a positive sign that he meant to feed her.

“Andreas.” He tapped his chest and looked at her.

Apparently they were exchanging names. “
Terah
.”

“Suck my cock.”

It was already very big. Surely it wouldn’t get any bigger? She was
going to have to open her mouth very wide to fit it inside.

Terah
squirmed. “I’ve never sucked a man’s cock before. You will need to
tell me what to do.”

She hoped he wasn’t going to be angry. He already thought she was too
skinny. Now she was going to have to admit she was completely inexperienced
with sex as well. Maybe he’d kill her and look for a better slave. She didn’t
want to die, and so far he’d been very reasonable. He hadn’t even hit her
although she clearly wasn’t his ideal woman. She could accept being his slave
even to having sex with him if that was what he wanted. It was much better than
dying.

He grabbed both of her hands, holding one in each of his huge fists.
“Are you a virgin?”

Oh no. Maybe he would kill her after all. “Yes, sir,” she whispered.

“Good. That’s very good. The power will be much stronger.” He picked
her up and laid her on his clothing. “I will teach you everything you need to
know.”

Terah
spent a few moments mourning her lack of freedom. It was so unfair to
walk so far, to try so hard to reach safety, only to be captured when they’d
almost arrived. But then life wasn’t fair. She wasn’t going to be free anymore,
but she was still alive and he seemed to be telling her he’d be a good master.
Her future wasn’t going to be what she’d planned, but it could have been much
worse. She would survive.

Terah
didn’t have the faintest idea what the
power
he’d mentioned meant but he wasn’t angry and was prepared to
teach her so it seemed he was going to be a kind slave owner to her. She could
live with that.

****

Andreas could hardly believe the gods had smiled on him so quickly. The
first human he found was his bride and not only that, but she was a virgin as
well.

BOOK: Earth
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