Copyright© 2014 Beth D. Carter
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: Karyn White
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Many thanks to Evernight for saying “yes” to this story, to my editor Karyn, and to Stacey.
But I have to give a special shout out to two people.
First, to Ashlynn Monroe, who was my cheerleader on this
Your help and wisdom are always priceless.
And to Erin M. Leaf who answered a lot questions!
Beth D. Carter
Copyright © 2014
“Where are we going, Geoffrey?”
“Come on, Keirah. We don’t have a lot of time.”
Keirah looked around the busy shuttle center trying to figure out what Geoff had done. A while ago they’d talked about leaving
New York City
, trying to find a place that wasn’t so dangerous to live, but the news reports broadcasting showed no place was safe anymore. They’d even seen internment camps for humans in some of the poorer sections of the world.
“Please tell me you’re not thinking about shipping me off to another planet without you,” she said, half jokingly. Two life sustaining planets had been discovered not that long ago, although only Planet Alpha had sent diplomats to Earth in a universal greeting. Little was actually known of their race, or of that of the other planet, Xyran, but just knowing aliens were real set off various doomsayers who blamed the new species for the decline of the Earth.
“Of course not.”
“Then what’s going on? Are we leaving the city?”
He turned to face her and put a finger to his lips before looking around, as if making sure they weren’t being overheard. “I found an auction house that will accept married couples. Rumor has it that the Alphan race has fertility problems and are seeking human women for mates, but there’s not a lot of room, and it’s first come, first served.”
“Oh my God, you really do mean to ship us off Earth.”
“We’ll probably have to make out some type of sharing schedule with whoever buys us, but we can escape here before Earth
“Sharing!” She shook her head. “No. I just want you, Geoff.”
“And I want you to live,” he said, taking hold of her shoulders. “I love you so much, Keirah, that I’d do anything to make sure you survive. I would’ve given you up if you agreed to go, but you didn’t so I found us a different way.”
“I don’t understand any of this, Geoff.”
“Women are needed on Alpha,” he said.
“No,” she said fiercely. “I’m not going to give you up to save myself.”
She and Geoff had grown up together, had survived losing their parents together. He was her best friend and husband all rolled into one, and she loved him. She would gladly live out her allotted time on Earth as his wife if that was their fate.
“Besides, this set-up probably isn’t legit.”
“Then why are we sneaking? Why is it so hush-hush?”
“Can you imagine the panic it would inspire if everyone realized they could have a way off this dying rock? They’d be storming to the shuttle right now.”
She took a deep breath and tried one last argument. “Geoff, don’t you get it? Infertility issues mean I’d be carrying another man’s child.”
Something dark passed over his face, there one second and gone the next, and she couldn’t help but wonder what it was. But she soon forgot about it when Geoff cupped her face and lightly kissed her on her lips. “Believe me, I do understand. I’ve thought about this so much, Keirah, and I’ll love you no matter what. I’ll love any child you have just as if it were my own.”
“You say that now, but I can only imagine how you’ll feel when I’m big and waddling and you know it’s not yours.”
He kissed her again, quickly, and then straightened and took hold of her hand. “Trust me on this. Okay?”
She didn’t like it, not one bit, but she nodded because she saw the determined light in Geoff’s blue eyes. They were off again, through the terminal, and she saw a plethora of people scurrying around. Most were humans, but the terminal was owned and guarded by Alphan soldiers, one of few such terminals on Earth, and she couldn’t help but stare at a few of the Alphans. They were big men, with bulging muscles and golden skin, but what made them truly unique were the small horns growing out of their heads. If she were completely honest, she found them fascinating to look at and wondered how they felt. Now that she knew they were after human women, well, she didn’t know what to think of them. If they were helping the human race, in return for helping their own race, then she figured it was a logical trade. All the religious and purists groups she’d seen on the broadcasts probably wouldn’t like interspecies mating, but she figured they were just jealous assholes whose dicks were too tiny to find, anyhow.
Geoff pulled her through Gate C, and suddenly there was the shuttle. It wasn’t that large, much to her surprise, and about a dozen couples were swarming around the ticketing agent. Maybe they were too late. Maybe they wouldn’t be allowed on and then they could go home and forget about this. Sure, Earth was a horrible place to live, but she’d rather die in Geoff’s arms than accept a stranger into her bed. She’d only ever been with one man, and it was the man she’d fallen in love with and married.
“We’re going by age,” the ticket agent stated loudly. “The requirements for relocation to Planet Alpha are based on fertility, so we’ll be accepting by age. Health cards, please!”
A collective groan rose from some of the older couples because it was clear the women were past the prime age for conception, but it made sense. Alphans would only want young healthy women who could breed. God, that word disgusted her. Geoff slipped a small plastic card in her hand, and it took her a moment to realize it was a medical card. It allowed officials to get their health information in a heartbeat, but the only thing was she and Geoff had never had one. They were expensive to obtain, and they’d never had any spare cash. One of the agents took her card, read it, and smiled.
“Congratulations, Mrs. DeWinter, please move into the shuttle and find a seat in cargo bay three.”
Geoff grabbed her hand and maneuvered their way through the throng of couples. Keirah held tightly to her bag since it carried everything she owned. Geoff had packed for her since she hadn’t known what was happening until they’d arrived at the shuttle terminal, and she could only imagine what he’d brought along.
“Where’d you get the cards?” she whispered.
So she didn’t. When his parents were murdered he was sent into the same orphanage as she, but he’d often escaped to the streets. She didn’t know much about his experience there because he’d asked her not to ask, but she knew he’d done some stuff he’d not been proud of and had friends that were shady. When they’d gotten married he’d vowed to walk away from that life, but now she realized he must still have connections.
The shuttle was long with narrow corridors. She made sure not to touch anything, but luckily cargo bay three wasn’t hard to find. A few more couples followed them in, and they all nodded to one another. Each person looked scared, and Keirah realized she probably had the same shocked expression on her face. Were they really about to blast off into space, heading to a new planet to live? Would she really have to sleep with a stranger and have his baby? How could she betray her vows like that? She’d promised love, faith, and fidelity to Geoff, and she was about to blast off for some clandestine meeting just to survive. It seemed like a heavy price to pay.
The minutes waiting in the cargo hold seemed to drag on forever, and after a while she took that as a sign they should get off and go back home. But just as she went to stand the doors slid shut and the light dimmed, signaling take off was imminent. Geoff grabbed her hand, and she realized this was it. There were actually going through with this plan of his, and nothing was going to be the same again. Tears rose in her eyes, and she impatiently wiped them away. She didn’t have time for crying, hadn’t had time since her parents died ten years ago. What she had to do was believe and trust in Geoff.
The engines rumbled to life, and Keirah wondered what it would feel like zooming through space. The concept was still foreign to her. Until Planet Alpha had contacted the Earth governments, humans still hadn’t perfected the technology of interplanetary travel. Sure, they’d had robots sent to Mars, but the life domes needed for a billion people were still a hundred years or so away from being operational, and frankly, she didn’t think the planet had that long.
The cargo bay didn’t have view ports so she couldn’t see out of the window, but maybe that was a good thing. Did she really want to see them leaving Earth behind? Where she’d been born, where she’d grown up, where all of her memories were stored? Perhaps remembering the crime and ugliness of the world would make these feelings of loss go away in time, but right now, she couldn’t help the sadness she felt.
No one said anything, not even amongst themselves. Keirah counted five other couples with them in the small room, making it feel almost claustrophobic. Why would an auction shuttle be so small? One would think they’d offer a larger, more comfortable ship to get a valuable commodity, like women, back to their home world. Alphans were ruled by a king and they traded in gems, so it seemed like they could afford a bit of a better shuttle ride. Unease slithered over her skin, and she sent a quick glance at Geoff, hoping he knew what he was getting them into.
“This is Shuttle Commander Jorg,” came a voice over the intercom. It was deep and scratchy and slightly scary. “We’re lifting off from the shuttle hub. In one minute prepare for jump drive to Alphan space.”
Prepare? How? If the commander’s next words were “assume the position” she was going to have to find him and slap him silly. And then suddenly she felt herself being pressed down into her seat as her ears popped from the pressure. Various thoughts streamed through her head during the trip, mainly centering around what man would buy them as a couple.
The words filtered to her, although she couldn’t really hear much over the drone of the engines. It was enough, however, to get the gist of what the other couples were talking about. Yes, it would be nice to find an Alphan male who would be kind, understanding, and caring, but she didn’t think it was going to be that easy.
“Are you scared?” Geoff asked, and she turned her head to meet his gaze. He was handsome, with dark red hair and blue eyes. She knew him well enough to see the underlining tension in his face and the uncertainty in his eyes.
“Yes,” she said, and it was the truth. “So tell me what else you’ve heard about Alpha’s need for women.”
“When Alpha had first contacted us, telling our so-called world leaders what they needed, scientists did all types of experimentation to make sure the two races could procreate together.”
He shrugged. “There were a few health concerns for the mother, but if the pregnancy stayed monitored then the babies were born perfectly fine.”
“Right. And how did you find all this out?”
“Information is easy to obtain if you know the right person to ask.”
“I’ve never asked you about your past, but I don’t trust this, Geoff. Something feels wrong.”
He took her hand in his. “It’ll be okay. Pretty soon you’ll have children, and Earth will be just a memory.”
She narrowed her eyes, not liking his dismissal one bit, as if talking about children would make everything all right. She and Geoff had talked about children once but had decided they couldn’t bring a life into the world knowing the world was going to shit. But now, well, she was basically trading her womb for protection, so of course she was wary and scared.
When the first jolt of the shuttle came no one reacted, but the second had the other couples murmuring to themselves and looking apprehensively around. Keirah heard words like “explosion” and “wreckage”, which did not help her anxiety at all.
At the third jolt the red klaxon lights turned, and everyone went into a panic. Keirah glanced at Geoff with wide eyes.
this would happen.
the shuttle would blow up at the moment she and Geoff tried to find a new life. Shit like this was always happening to them.
The shuttle rumbled again, and Geoff unbuckled his safety harness and stood up. “That’s weapons fire,” he said.
“Are you sure?” Keirah asked.
“Who would be firing on us?” someone else asked.
“Xyrans,” Geoff muttered. “They deal in sex slaves.”
A woman screamed, and terror traveled quickly through the room. Husbands rushed to assure their wives, talked about where they could hide, but where could they go? This was a shuttle, for God’s sake. As soon as she met Geoff’s eyes she knew he was thinking the same thing.
“Okay,” Geoff said. “There should be a weapons locker around here. It won’t have any anything big and heavy, but it should have a few stun guns and a maybe a blaster.”
The men began to search through compartments. As she pondered how Geoff could possibly know about a weapons’ locker on a shuttle, Geoff grabbed Keirah’s arm and brought her close.
“There’s a blaster in your bag,” he whispered in her ear.