Ethereal Lives (Ethereals Book 1)

By Gem Stone

Romance

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303
21 mins

Chapter 1

Ariane Wilson’s eyes shot open before quickly closing again to block out the stark white light. She raised a hand to her heavy head, trying to shake the fog that clouded it. She had been reading a book on the beach in Barbados. Did I fall asleep in the sun?
“Look, I know we were short on time, but Ax isn’t going to like this.”
The soft voice broke through her hazy mind making a dull ache prod her temples. “Go away, I’m on holiday,” she groaned.
When she opened her eyes again, she winced at the bright light and threw an arm over her face. She wasn’t on the beach now; she was sure of that.
“Well, it’s awake, so I guess we’ll find out what Ax thinks soon enough,” a gravelly voice replied.
Ariane attempted to open her eyes once more. The light didn’t seem quite as bright this time. A large lamp hung above her, reflecting off of white walls. Am I in a hospital? The clinical smell that you would normally associate with such a place was missing, but it certainly appeared sterile.
“Do you understand me?” the soft-spoken person asked.
“Err, yeah.” She glanced around the room in confusion, though there wasn’t much to see, just a door, tiled white walls, and two men standing a few feet away. “Where am I?”
“On our ship,” the taller man replied, as he stared at her quizzically.
Ship? She didn’t remember a ship. Yes, she’d been at the beach. However, she had no recollection of getting on a boat and why couldn’t she feel it rocking? The fog began to lift from her brain. “Okay, why am I on a ship?”
“You are our prisoner,” the shorter man said in his much gentler tone.
Ariane blinked a few times as she regarded them. They didn’t look like kidnappers. Yes, she’d heard about people being kidnapped, when on holiday, and sold as slaves but she felt pretty sure they didn’t get put in rooms this clean. If that had been the case, she imagined she’d be somewhere grotty, probably tied up, and the captors would be dirty and unshaven. These men were clean and well dressed. If you could call tourist shirts with parrots on them well dressed. One stood about a foot taller than the other and was nearly bald. The shorter man had big bushy eyebrows that joined in the middle. They appeared more like friendly uncles than sleazy people traffickers. Still, looks could be deceiving.
With caution, she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Both men jumped back slightly as if wary of her.
She frowned. That was a strange reaction for a kidnapper. It calmed her nerves and helped her voice stay steady. “Right, as fun as this has been I think it’s time to end it, so if you could just drop me at the next port, I’d really appreciate it.”
Baldy took a step towards her. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”
She leant back, relieved when he didn’t come any closer. “Of course.”
“Good, as I said, you’re our prisoner.”
Ariane fidgeted under the man’s stare. “Okay, is this a joke?” Her eyes darted towards the door, wondering if one of her work colleagues was waiting to run in laughing. “I know. It's reality TV, isn’t it? I bet I signed up by mistake, by clicking on one of those stupid pop ups on the PC.”
When the men didn’t respond and just continued to stare, she decided she might as well take a look at the room. After all, didn’t you have to complete tasks in these shows? Escape from a beach or eat bugs in a jungle. Maybe she had to get off their ship. Sliding off the bed, she placed a hand on the wall for support. Whatever had knocked her out earlier made her unsteady on her feet. The room spun; she swayed and her vision blurred. Taking a few deep breaths, she regained her footing, and her eyes came back into focus.
“You stabbed me in the neck.” She touched the spot she remembered stinging. The skin felt tender. When she had taken a holiday in search of excitement, this was not what she had in mind.
“We did not!” Baldy responded instantly.
“You did, I remember. I was on the beach, and you pulled me to my feet and stabbed me in the neck.”
“Since your neck is not cut open and bleeding I think we can safely assume you remember incorrectly.”
Ariane narrowed her eyes. “You stabbed a needle in my neck,” she clarified.
“Oh yes, we did that,” Mr Unibrow softly replied, smiling as if it was of no significance.
Okay, she was pretty sure they didn’t drug you on reality TV. Keeping an eye on them, she took a couple of steps to check her balance. When she didn’t fall face first onto the floor, and the men didn’t stop her, she decided it was safe to move around. “Where are we?”
“On. Our. Ship,” Baldy repeated slowly as if speaking to a child.
Ariane sent him a glare. “Yes, I got that bit the first time. I meant, where is the ship?”
“All around you?” Unibrow asked.
She blinked a few times before continuing to creep towards the door. Either this was a really poor joke or Dumb and Dumber here were literally the stupidest people on the planet. “Where is the ship currently situated?”
“Well, we can’t give you the correct coordinates from here,” Baldy said. “I’d guess about 700 miles from Earth.”
Ariane stopped abruptly and stared at him for a moment before laughing. “Oh that’s a good one, so this is a space ship, is it?”
“It is.”
She scanned their faces for any sign of humour but none appeared. “Great. I’ve been kidnapped by a mental asylum.”
Continuing her stroll around the wall, her fingers skimmed over what felt like a raised panel and she stopped to take a closer look at it. When she gave it a push the panel shot out to reveal clean bedding.
“Nifty.” Leaving the panel showing, she continued walking.
She got about three feet from the door when a voice spoke into the room. “Is it awake yet?”
Ariane jumped and looked around for speakers, a moment later Unibrow revealed a panel next to the door and answered.
“Yes, a few moments ago, we’re bringing it now.” He touched a button, and the door whooshed open revealing a corridor.
Baldy nudged her closer to the door. She gasped in surprise, not realising he was so close. For a tall man, he was quiet on his feet.
“Where are we going?” she asked, wrapping her arms around her middle to ward off a sudden chill. As her hands came in contact with the smooth nylon of her swimsuit she wished she hadn’t been sunbathing when abducted. At least she had a sarong around her waist, but it did nothing to warm her arms that were now breaking out in goosebumps.
“The captain wants to meet you.”
“The captain of the space ship?”
“Yes,”
Ariane eyed the two men who were now freaking her out.
What were her options? Stay here indefinitely or go with them? With any luck, this actually was a reality show, and she could be about to win a quarter of a million pounds. All right, maybe that prize fund did sound a bit extreme, but hey, might as well hope for the best. It was a better option than thinking of other possible outcomes. Like ones involving the ten o’clock news and body bags.
“Okay,” she said, standing straighter and giving her arms a brisk rub. “What the hell, this is a space ship and I’m your prisoner so, take me to your leader.” She accompanied the last bit of her sentence with the Vulcan, live long and prosper hand signal.
“Do you understand it?” Baldy asked Unibrow, who frowned, giving the impression he had a caterpillar running across his forehead.
Unibrow shook his head and exited the room. “Maybe Ax will. Come on.”
Baldy stood behind her and gave her a quick nudge in the back. She jolted forward then followed Unibrow down the long corridor.
Unlike the room, the walls of the corridor were silver. The only seam ran along the centre of the ceiling like the entire wall was one long sheet of metal. The ceiling arched reminding her of the church one of her foster parents had made her visit as a child. She pushed the thought away; her childhood was never a good thing to dwell on.
“What’s that?” she asked, pausing abruptly outside an open door.
“Recreation room,” Baldy replied before nudging her forward.
A few paces farther she stopped again. “What’s this?” She pushed a panel on the wall before they could stop her and gave a little squeal of delight when the lights turned blue.
“Don’t do that,” Unibrow snapped shoving her aside and changing the lights back. Seeing both men distracted Ariane pressed yet another panel and jumped back with a gasp when a stern voice said, “Yes?”
Baldy pushed her out of the way and spoke, gruffly, to the panel. “Sorry Sir, a little mix-up, will be with you in a moment. Now stop touching,” he ordered, grabbing her arm and dragging her down the corridor.
They stopped outside another door, and Unibrow revealed a brightly lit keypad. He pressed some buttons to glide a door open and then pushed her into a room.
With a yelp, Ariane stumbled forward only just stopping herself from falling face first onto the floor. She seemed to be in some kind of control room. Along one wall was a huge metal control centre, covered in flashing lights and buttons. Machines buzzing and beeping quietly were the only noise. A few people were seated around the room and in the centre stood a tall and handsome man who looked like he belonged on the cover of the book she’d been reading. His hair was short and dark, his eyes were a smoky grey, and his strong jaw was set in a firm line. Arms that bulged with muscles crossed over his well-defined chest. He was dressed in some kind of black leather trousers with a leather jacket on top, but no shirt.
“Hello gorgeous,” Ariane mumbled taking in Mr Tall, Dark and Handsome. Her eyes travelled up his body until they met his gaze. Unfortunately, she didn’t see any matching appreciation there, not that she was surprised. Men like him didn’t fancy women like her. Instead, he appeared rather annoyed and unimpressed.
His eyes travelled from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. Despite his obvious disdain, she felt herself shiver again as his gaze passed over her breasts. When they reached her hips, she became extremely grateful for the sarong that hid her cellulite.
“What is this?” he asked her abductors, in the same stern voice she had heard over the intercom. So this was the captain.
Baldy and Unibrow shuffled their feet as they avoided meeting his eyes. “An Earthling,” Unibrow said in a surprisingly confident voice.
The captain’s gaze travelled back to Ariane. “This is not what I asked for.”
“Well it’s the best we could do,” Baldy replied with a shrug.
“Did I not show you pictures of what I wanted?” He pressed a few buttons on the control panel, and a picture of a lingerie model appeared on a screen on the wall. “In what way does that,” he pointed at her, “resemble that?” He directed their attention to the screen.
Both men stared at their feet, apparently lost for words. Ariane studied the picture. The woman seemed to be a size six, a far cry for her size fourteen. Where the model had long blonde locks, Ariane wore her mahogany hair cut off at the shoulders and most often pulled back in a ponytail. Though she often wore lingerie like the ones in the picture, it didn’t look half as good on her.
“You know most normal women don’t look like her?” she piped up, wrapping her arms around her midriff self-consciously. All eyes turned to her. The captain took a final glance at the screen then walked closer.
Where the other two men had seemed puny and non-threatening, this man was the total opposite. He screamed strength and power. She took an involuntary step back as he drew near.
“Dyan, Brice,” he addressed each of the men in turn, “why did you bring this?”
Baldy, who was apparently called Dyan, ran his hand over his head before speaking. “It’s harder to get a female Earthling than you would think. It’s the only one we could find who was alone in such a short amount of time.”
The captain, once again, ran his eyes over her before turning away. “It will have to do, there are no more left. We’ll set a course for Xanlas to refuel, then we make our way to the Sixth Galaxy.”
Baldy, Dyan and Brise with the unibrow rushed to take seats at the control centre while the captain removed the image of the model from the screen.
“Wait… wait… wait,” Ariane said, waving her arms to remind them she was still in the room. “What’s all this Xanlas business? Who the hell are you? Where am I? No more what left? And will you please stop referring to me as it?” She took a big gulp of air when she finished speaking. Her eyes darted around the room in panic but avoided meeting any of the gazes sent her way.
The captain approached with steel in his eyes. He circled her again before answering, “Did I say you could speak, Earthling?”
The man was obviously trying to intimidate her. A little voice in Ariane’s head screamed at her to run. To find the first exit she could and get off this crazy train before it derailed. She stamped on it, crushing it under her foot.
She’d spent all her youth in foster care with people who liked to intimidate and bully her so she would toe the line. As soon as she became independent, she’d promised herself no one would walk all over her again and no one had since.
She crossed her arms over her chest and stood straightener, giving an impression of confidence she was far from feeling. “You didn’t say I couldn’t speak.”

Chapter 2

Ax stared down at the small human. When he’d sent his men to get a female Earthling, this was not what he had in mind. He’d seen pictures of them, and this one did not look or act at all as he expected.
“Do you know who you’re speaking to, Earthling?”
The human glared at him with blatant disregard for his authority. “Should I know?”
Ax took a deep breath. Never before had anyone dared to speak to him this way on his own ship. “I am Axermaxacorm Kas, captain of this ship and I demand respect. You are on my vessel, where we’re headed is no concern of yours, and I will call you whatever I wish.” He turned his back on the human. How dare it think to question him like that?
“And that’s the name you’re sticking with, is it?” she asked.
Ax twisted back to the human slowly, this was nothing like the submissive creature he’d expected to get from Earth. He hoped its attitude wouldn’t make it harder to sell. “I beg your pardon?”
The human shrugged and gazed around the room casually. “Just, not the sort of thing I’d have chosen for an alien name.”
Ax clenched and unclenched his hands a few times and concentrated on keeping his breathing steady. This had to be the most infuriating creature he’d ever encountered. It took a considerable effort to keep his voice even when he replied. “Well, let’s just be thankful I’m not you.”
The Earthling huffed. “Okay, I’ve had enough now. I don’t care how much money I could win, I want out. Let me off the ship, or whatever this place is. I want to go back to my holiday.”
He didn’t really understand all the words the human spoke, but it clearly had no idea of its current situation. “You can’t go back, there’s nothing to go back to.”
The human blinked at him in confusion. “What do you mean? Of course, I can go back, now let me off this ship right now.” It stamped its foot as it finished its speech.
Ax laughed at the human’s defiance. “What would you suggest I do? Shoot you out of an airlock? We’re in space.”
“No, we’re not.”
“I assure you, we are.”
The human raised an eyebrow and snorted. “Prove it.”
Ax could not remember the last time someone had questioned his word, but Earthlings were known to be simple creatures. “Fine!”
He activated the screens covering the front of the ship. They squeaked slightly as they opened, revealing the sky outside, black as night with twinkling stars all around. A gasp from behind him confirmed the human hadn’t expected that move. He smiled to himself, happy to know he had the upper hand.
“That’s amazing,” it said, surprisingly close to his left shoulder, “it looks so real.”
He frowned. “It is real.”
The human scoffed. “Of course, it is.”
“I assure you, it is.”
It gave another unbecoming snort. “If that’s real, and this is a space ship, what are you, an alien?”
He thought about its question before answering. “I think technically, now you are the alien.”
The human shook its head. “Come on, drop the act. You’re human just like me. Now I’ve had enough, take me back to Barbados or home, whichever.”
Ax crossed his arms over his chest with a huff. He’d had enough of its denial. “We may appear human, but I assure you we are not. This image,” he said, waving a hand in front of himself, “was merely to make you feel more comfortable, you are the only human here. In fact, as of five Earth hours ago you are the only human in the universe. Your planet no longer exists. You are the last human and my prisoner. As soon as we reach the Sixth Galaxy, you will be sold to the highest bidder, making me and my crew very rich.”
Many emotions flash across the human’s face before it finally settled on disbelief. It squared its shoulders taking a stubborn stance. “Alright, if you’re not human, show me what you really are.”
Glaring at the annoying creature in front of him, he thought through his options. He could show his true self although it wasn’t a good idea, or he could refuse the request. However, the human was obviously in denial about its situation, which made the thing extremely annoying.
They had discovered long ago that most species preferred to trade with their own kind, so they tended to adopt the image of whatever being populated the planets they visited. This system increased their business and earned them a steady income, yet, still allowed them to hide their natural form.
The next planet they would visit was Xanlas, to get fuel. Xans did not have the nicest of appearances. It would be the perfect image to prove his point.
In the blink of an eye, he changed forms. His height increased by at least a foot, and his skin turned grey. All his dark hair left his body, and his fingers grew to about three times their human length.
Shock appeared on the human’s face then seconds later it crumpled to the floor with a thud.
“What happened?” Sek, his second in command asked, crossing the room and nudging the human’s shoulder with his foot.
“I don’t know.” Ax activated a screen on the wall. Using the ships database he searched why humans would drop to the floor in such a way. “Apparently, it’s called a faint; they do it when scared or overwhelmed.”
He frowned down at the human. “How inconvenient, it better not think it can do that on a regular basis. Take it back to the infirmary until it wakes.”
Sek picked up the creature, throwing it over his shoulder and taking it out of the room, while Ax checked their course for Xanlas. It would take two days to get there, so he might as well get some rest. Noticing his Xan reflection in the window, he changed back to human before making his way to his quarters. He had to admit, he did find the human form rather comfortable.

“It’s awake, Ax.’”
Sitting up with a jolt, Ax scanned the room, before realising it was Sek on the intercom. “And?” he asked groggily.
“It wants to talk to you.”
Groaning, Ax climbed out of bed. Why were his men finding it so hard to keep a human quiet?
He could hear it talking before he even reached to the infirmary. Asking a number of questions about them, which Sek tried to avoid answering.
“You may go, Sek,” Ax said from the doorway. A look of relief passed over his second in command and best friend's face. Sek strode from the room, leaving Ax to deal with the human, who stood staring with open curiosity.
He returned the stare, walking further into the room. It was always best to stay silent whenever possible, to avoid saying something one might regret. As expected, the creature didn’t remain silent for long.
“What are you?” The question was asked with surprisingly little fear.
“That’s none of your concern, Earthling.”
It frowned. “Ariane.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Ariane,” it said again. “My name is Ariane, not human or Earthling, and I’m a ‘she’, not an ‘it.”
“Very well, Ariane,” he said rolling the strange name around him his head, and deciding he rather liked it, “you may call me Ax.”
She nodded in acknowledgement. “Well Ax, this has been lovely, but I want to go home now.”
“No,” he replied, short and clipped.
“Why not?”
Ax sighed. “Did you not listen to me earlier? There is no more Earth. Besides, you are my prisoner.”
She frowned at him. “What do you mean? Of course, there’s an Earth, I was just there. I was on holiday in Barbados, and I’d like to go back there, now.”
“You keep saying that, I don’t understand, what is ‘holiday’?”
“Wait,” Ariane said triumphantly. “If you’re not human, how do you know English?”
Ax shook his head sadly, Earthlings were so primitive. “We injected you with a translator by your ear canal. You now understand all languages downloaded into it, just as we do. Whenever someone speaks, you automatically hear it as your own language.”
Her eyes widened as she touched her injection site and felt the chip they had placed just below her skin. “Oh,” she said, taking a seat on the bed. Her eyes meet his as she seemed to remember something. “What do you mean, there is no more Earth?”
“Earth has gone. We took you off the planet seconds before its destruction.”
She shot to her feet glaring at him, her hands balled into fists at her side. “You destroyed my planet?”
Very few dared to raise their voice to Ax. She was one of the few, and he didn’t like it one bit. Humans were supposed to be meek and quiet, not loud and opinionated. “No, I took you before its inevitable destruction.”
Seeming to make a conscious effort to unclench her hands, Ariane rested them on her hips. “Okay, I think you better start from the beginning.”
Ax narrowed his eyes on the human, she was turning out to be a lot more bothersome than he had predicted. “Follow me. I will answer your questions and then you’ll be shown to your quarters for the duration of your stay here.”
The Earthling narrowed her eyes at him too but nodded, so he led her back to the control room. It fell silent as they entered, but he ignored the questioning glances. Pressing a few buttons, he brought an image up on the screen. “This is Earth as it was, which I’m sure you know. It resided on the border of space between Slanom and Persain.”
“Wait,” she interrupted, “what are Slanom and Persain?”
“Planets.”
“Then how come I’ve never heard of them?”
“Because you are an Earthling,” he said simply. “You were a very backwards race, slow to enter space, of no consequence to us, and very expendable.”
Ignoring the indignant gasp that left her lips, he continued. “Slanom and Persain could not agree on who owned Earth so the ‘Galaxy Order Defence Society’ decided the simplest solution would be to remove it, to maintain peace. At what would have been fourteen-hundred hours to you, on the ninth day of the eighth month, Earth time, your planet was destroyed as a resolution to prevent war.”
He produced an image of Earth exploding on the screen. The human’s jaw fell open at the sight. A heavy feeling settled in his heart. Watching your home be destroyed was one of the worst experiences ever, only surpassed by losing all your family. He only just stopped himself from offering sympathy. It wouldn’t do any good. The human had to accept its situation, just like he’d had to accept his.
“I was on my first holiday,” she murmured while watching the tiny pieces of Earth float off into space.
“You keep saying that word, what is ‘Holiday’?” he repeated, putting the word into his computer system.
“Holiday,” the system said after a moment. “British term for vacation, an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home.”
“Ah, you meant vacation.”
Ariane frowned. “No, I meant holiday. Do you mean to tell me you kidnapped me and didn’t even bother to get the right version of English to converse with me? I’m British, not American.”
Ax ground his teeth. He hated to be corrected, but unfortunately, the human was right. He had made a mistake with her dialect. “My apologies,” he bit out.
He swiftly told the computer to update their chips to British English. A moment later the chip by his ear beeped as it updated. Shock passed over the human’s face as hers did the same. “There, now we speak your dialect, are you happy?”
“Happy?” Ariane spat. “My planet has been destroyed because of a turf war, and you’re asking if I’m happy?”
Ax felt an odd tightening in his gut at her words. Of course, she wasn’t happy; everything she knew had been destroyed. “I’m not responsible for your planet’s destruction,” he said gently, “and I’m sorry for your loss, but what’s done is done.”
“Why did you take me?” Ariane asked after a moment.
Ax stared at her evenly. “You are the last human alive. That makes you valuable. We will get rich from your sale.”
“Yes, you said before, but why me?”
“You would not have been my first choice,” Ax said plainly, “unfortunately; my men were limited for time. You’re here now, so you’ll have to do.”
Hurt passed over her face, but it was quickly hidden. She straightened her shoulders and regarded him steadily before speaking. “I don’t want to be sold, what can I do to change your mind?”
He gave her a long hard stare. She stood stiffly her chest rising and falling rapidly. The heavy breathing belied the confidence she was trying the show. As his eyes focused on her breasts, the strange appendage between his legs twitched in his trousers. Was she causing that? He turned his back on her trying to stop it. “Nothing will change my mind. Take her to the quarters opposite mine, and secure her there, Sek.”
He heard Sek move across the room, and moments later the door swished open then closed again.
The thing between his legs now ached and seemed to beg to be touched. He frowned at this new occurrence. He would have to research it later when he was alone.
It wasn’t long before Sek returned. He joined Ax, who sat staring at the stars. “Have we done the right thing?” Ax asked after a few moments.
Sek took a seat next to him with a sigh. “I honestly don’t know.”
“I thought it would be easy to grab a human and sell it. I didn’t expect it to be like that.”
“What do you mean?” Sek asked leaning forward and resting his arms on his knees.
“It argued and asked questions. I expected some kind of docile pet that I wouldn’t mind selling. Granted I knew there were a few intelligent ones who made it into space, but on the whole, I gathered Earthlings were rather dense. Now I’ve spoken to one I feel a bit of unease about our plans.”
Sek grunted. “I must admit, I didn’t expect it to be quite so lucid. I thought it would just accept what we told it. Maybe we should have stuck to selling objects. I’m not sure we’re cut out to be kidnappers.”
Ax met his friend’s eyes. “I’m afraid we already are. We have no choice but to continue. It’s not like it can be returned and we have enough trouble hiding ourselves without hiding a human too.”
“This could get nasty,” Sek said, “what if someone found out we have her, we’re scavengers, not traffickers. We only have basic weaponry on board. It’s been a long time since we had to defend this ship. I don’t mind admitting this entire situation makes me uneasy.”
Ax digested his friend's words. “I know what you mean but what else can we do?”
“We could keep her, maybe she’s trainable.”
“No.” Ax shook his head. “Keeping a human would be too risky. I have a feeling it would be more hassle than it’s worth. Besides, we need the coin.”
He had no choice; they had to sell the Earthling. He only wished he didn’t feel so bad about it. When they first came up with this plan, it had all sounded so easy. He’d never expected his conscience to get involved.

Chapter 3

Ariane’s speed increased as she paced between the bed and table in her current prison. None of this made sense. People didn’t get kidnapped by aliens. Alright, some people claimed to be. You saw them in the tabloids, next to women who said they were having Bigfoot’s baby, but everyone knew they were residents of crazy town. She paused her pacing and glared at the four white walls. Her eyes ran to the small window, showing the stars outside. It appeared she was now a resident too, complete with a bus pass, library card, and straightjacket.
Ax had changed into a tall grey creature. The more she thought of it, the more her mind rebelled against what she’d seen. It wasn’t possible. Her hand shot to the injection site on her neck. Maybe she was hallucinating or still asleep. Yes, that’s it, she must be asleep, and the heat from the beach was giving her crazy dreams. All she had to do was wake up.
Rushing to the bed, she lay down, closed her eyes, and counted to ten in her head before opening them again. The same white ceiling was above her. Sitting up she fluffed the pillow, then tried once more. This time, she lay down, closed her eyes, and counted to twenty. Unfortunately, she still wasn’t greeted by clear blue sky when she reopened them. Trying one last attempt to wake herself, she pinched her own arm as hard as she could. The pain she felt confirmed she was awake.
It could only mean Ax was telling the truth. Earth was destroyed. Surprisingly, she didn’t feel as upset as one would expect. Yes, she had lost her home but what else? An admin job she didn’t much like. She didn’t really have any friends to speak of. There were a few acquaintances she was sorry to lose, but after a childhood of being passed from one foster home to another, she’d learnt not to get too attached to anyone or anything.
She had no pets, no family to miss. The only thing that really made her sad was the loss of her house. She’d just decorated it exactly as she wanted after getting a mortgage. It had been her sanctuary, the one place she wouldn’t be forced to move from, and it was gone. But then, she was the lucky one, she survived. Dampness developed in the corner of her eyes. She quickly blinked it away. Dwelling on everyone else’s fate wouldn’t help her now.
So, she was the last human, a prisoner to be sold to the highest bidder. Not really a future to look forward to.
A small smile curled her lips. On the other hand, being the last of her kind made her rare, expensive, and even priceless. The aliens wouldn’t risk hurting her. She was worth too much to them. Perhaps her future wasn’t quite so bleak after all, and if she could find a way to escape… the sky, or rather the universe, was the limit.
Climbing off the bed, she worked her way along the wall feeling for hidden panels. It wasn’t long before she came across her first. Giving it a push, it popped open, with a click, to reveal clothes. They were men’s trousers and shirts, both white. What was it with these people and white? How did they keep everything clean? Well, anything was better than being stuck in a swimsuit and sarong. Pulling the trousers on she tied her sarong around them as a belt to keep them up, then slid the shirt on over her swim suit, tying it loosely at her waist.
She continued feeling along the wall. By the time she completed a full circuit she’d discovered bedding, various items of clothing, a mirror, one of those nifty panels that changed the light colour, and a number of other unidentifiable things.
She returned to the panel by the door. Pushing didn’t open the doorway so it must be locked. The buttons beeped as she pressed a few experimentally, she jumped in surprise when a voice suddenly asked, “What are you doing?”
“Ax?” she asked, scanning the room.
“Press the yellow button,” he said in an exasperated voice.
She pressed the small yellow button in the right-hand corner. “Can you hear me now?”
“What do you want?”
Ariane frowned at the unfriendly tone of the voice. She’d actually just been trying to open the door, but she wasn’t about to admit it. “I’m hungry.”
A groan came over the intercom before he replied. “Hold on.”
Her heart pounded in her chest when the door whooshed opened a few moments later. She scurried back to the bed in surprise.
Dyan, Mr Baldy, who’d abducted her entered. Closing the door behind him, he placed a tray on the table, without taking his eyes from her. Relaxing marginally, she watched him leave the room, without saying a word. She decided the best thing she could do on this ship was to be confident. Make it clear she would not accept her fate meekly.
The food he’d put on the table was nothing familiar, some green mush and a bright yellow vegetable, but it did smell divine. Her stomach grumbled loudly telling her she really was hungry. Starvation being her only other option, she hesitantly tried the food.
It tasted as good as it smelled. Flavours like chicken and something similar to carrots exploded on her tongue. In no time at all her plate was empty.
Once done, she revealed the panel next to the door. Within seconds, she repeated the actions of Dyan and the door whooshed open. Surprisingly, no guards were posted outside. However, Ax had made his opinion on Earthlings clear. He probably assumed she would be too dumb to open the door.
Taking a few cautious steps, she entered the corridor. She knew the left went towards the control room so opted to go right, passing many closed doors before reaching an open one, which appeared to lead to a kitchen. A long table occupied the centre of the room, and unusual appliances were around the edges, the smell of food was unmistakeable. Walking over to what appeared to be a fridge; she opened it and glanced inside then peeked in drawers and cupboards. All things seemed to be opened by pushing them.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a soft voice asked behind her.
She spun to find Brise in the doorway, his unibrow furrowed.
“Does Ax know you’re here?” he asked
Ariane smiled innocently. “Oh, I’m just looking around. What does this do?” She hit a red button on the appliance closest to her.
“No!” Brise shouted, shoving her out of the way to turn the thing off. Just as he got to it, it began squirting out green liquid, drenching him from head to toe.
Ariane let out a giggle. “Oops.”
Fury filled his eyes as he took a menacing step towards her. “Don’t touch what you don’t understand,” he bit out before grabbing a towel to wipe his face. “I think I’d better return you to the captain.”
Grabbing her arm, he stormed down the corridor, while rubbing his black hair with the towel.
“What’s going on?” Ax asked as Brice dragged her into the control room. His gaze lingered on her latest guard. Ariane thought she saw his lips twitch as he watched green goo drip from the man’s hair onto his cheek, but the expression vanished when his eyes met hers.
“I found her touching things in the food prep room,” Brise said, releasing her arm.
Ax walked closer, looking over her changed appearance. “Well, you’ve been busy, haven’t you?”
Ariane shrugged. “I was cold.”
“How did you get out of your room?”
She thought of telling him the door was left open but didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, as so far she had been treated rather nicely by everyone. “It was simple to figure out.”
“And what did you hope to accomplish wandering around the ship?”
She blurted the first excuse that came to mind. “I was trying to find the bathroom,”
Ax stared at her in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“The bathroom,” she repeated.
He looked at his men, but they only shrugged, so he returned his gaze to her. “What is this bathroom?”
Ariane felt her cheeks warm. “Well, it’s where you go to… you know.” At his frown, she fumbled for the words. “Well, when you need the toilet, you go there. Can’t you look it up?” she finished when he still appeared confused.
He raised an eyebrow before turning from her and typing something into the control panel. Information came upon the big screen informing him what a bathroom and toilet were in graphic detail. He turned back to her, horror on his face.
“You do that?” he asked in disgust. All the men in the room appeared equally horrified. Some had even turned slightly green in the face.
Ariane frowned. “Well of course. Don’t you?”
“No!” he practically shouted. “Any waste our bodies produce is naturally reabsorbed back into our system to be recycled. That is disgusting. I’ve seen similar things on other planets, but I never imagined that’s what they were for!” He pointed at the screen showing someone sitting on the toilet.
Gazing at his men, he was met with more shrugs. “I never knew what it was for,” Sek commented.
“I always thought it was for washing your feet,” said Dyan.
Ariane knew her cheeks must be bright red, but what could she do? It was a natural human bodily function. “Well, that’s what humans do,” she said crossing her arms over her chest and pushing her embarrassment aside.
Ax’s jaw tightened. “Not on this ship you won’t.”



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