Stranded with A Space Marine
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Keslid unclicked his straps and stood on the wall, face to face with me. "The shuttle's damaged. Communication with the Mercy will take time to set up, and for now we're moving on emergency power only. We have food, but not much. Gravity's off. Shield's shot. And we're stuck in the orbit of an unfamiliar planet."
When I first woke up the other day locked in a sleek gray cell, reality had turned itself on its head. UFOs were real. Aliens were real. And for some reason, they had an unhealthy fascination with me.
Breaking out of that nightmare was only the beginning. It turns out we're too far to turn back. The one man I'm forced to depend on is green-skinned, ambitious, and the sexiest thing I've ever seen. He swears he can get me home without my captors finding me, but sometimes I'm not sure if I even want to go back.
Release date: October 9, 2021
Print pages: 117
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Stranded with A Space Marine
Last night, reality flipped itself on its head. I used to consider myself sane—normal, even. I lived in the very medium-sized city of Concord in New Hampshire, and the most unusual things I ever saw in the sky were fireworks for Independence Day. Warp speed and hunky green alien guys were way out of my league.
But let's back up a bit first. My name is Rhea. Rhea Shorn. I live (or rather, lived) in a tiny, one-room studio apartment in the middle of Concord, down the street from my grocery store, the nearest Circle K. I worked in a print shop downtown, and my social life either consisted of movies for one, meals for one, or arguing with strangers online about whether their sources were reliable. This had been true especially since my parents died six months ago in the freak cooking fire in their home. Yep, I was an orphan now, and I didn't have any close friends to cry with. That should have been a warning sign to me that I'd be an easy target.
The night before my abduction--because that's what happened, they abducted me and floated me onto their ship just like in an old science fiction cartoon--I remember thinking I wanted the blinds drawn when I slept. Usually I left them open late at night because the morning sun helped me get up earlier for work and I didn't need the brash singing from my phone to wake me up, but last night, things just seemed different. I was afraid of something. Of course, I didn't question my instinct at the time. I chalked it down to the trauma of so recently having lost my family. There was a part of me that still felt like a little kid being tracked by a horrible orphan agency or hiding from a potential foster family who wanted to beat me up and abuse me.
My sleep that night was normal. Well, I had one weird dream. I remembered lights and something standing over me, like in those sleep paralysis hallucinations. But even that I didn't remember too well, and I still don't know how much of it was real and how much of it was just a dream. But the eyes of the creature stood out. They were black and large and completely lifeless.
Then I woke up, and that's when my old life ended for good. Forget normal, forget my apartment, forget Concord and the print shop and the raccoon digging through trash in the alley outside. Something was happening to me, and it wasn't good.
First I felt the warm metal strap around my neck. My gut impulse was that I'd been kidnapped, and that was enough to wake me up completely. I remember seizing against the strap, which was metal and had rough enough edges to cut marks into my neck and probably bleed as well (not that I could see any of it).
My arms and legs and waist were all similarly strapped down. I couldn't sit, couldn't even turn my head because of these blinders on either side of me. The ceiling was white and sterile, but my gut told me that there was something very, very wrong. I wasn't in a hospital or the basement of a serial killer creep. I didn't know how I could tell at first. Maybe it was the stale metallic smell around me or the fact that the wall and ceiling curved into each other instead of meeting at a proper right angle. Then I noticed it. The gravity was off here. It was heavier--I was heavier--than normal. My chest rose and fell as if a strange weight were pressed on it, and I soon realized that even if I were released, I wouldn't be able to run fast or far without getting worn out.
Screw it, was this the den of a mad scientist?
By now, I was already beginning to feel the truth. I considered crying or screaming, but I've never cared much for being a damsel in distress. If I wanted something to happen, I argued for it. "Hey, anyone there?" I called out, waiting for a confrontation.
A low hum indicated that yelling was the wrong move. Someone was here, or would be here shortly, and this someone wasn't on my side.
I swallowed and glanced around, thinking of how I could weasel my way out of this one after finding my way back home.
Sorry I came in late to work, Mr. Ryan. You see, I woke up last night and found myself on an alien starship, abducted, and I think they were going to perform some kind of experiment on me...
Yeah, the thoughts vanished. I still felt like I was dreaming, half asleep after eating that set of stale egg rolls for supper.
Then I heard the footsteps. They were tight and even, almost too perfect to be human. It turns out they weren't. Instead, I found myself face to face with the same creature I remembered vaguely from that dream the night before, a small gray alien with a rounded head and large oval eyes. The thing that scared me wasn't so much the appearance of the alien or even its eyes, this time, as the fact that its face didn't have any cavities. No ears, no nose, no mouth. I guess I assumed they needed to breathe the same way we did. It didn't have any facial expression but held up a sleek black headband with wires woven throughout it. The alien slipped the headband around my temples, centering it over my forehead, and a set of fine wires poked clear into my skin.
"Ouch--ouch--ouch! What are you trying to do, kill me?" I started as the ring around my scalp began to burn. Everything in my head screamed with pain for a moment, but fortunately it didn't last. The sensation faded, and instead I felt a strange weight pulling down on me.
"Awake, are you?" the creature asked. Well, I assumed it asked, though I couldn't tell why for a moment. No mouth meant no proper voice. "You can call me Dr. Reesal, and I have come to examine you for delivery."
For delivery? What? I couldn't think of any way to interpret that terminology that wasn't downright creepy.
"Let me out of here, and then maybe we can talk," I said, swallowing a wad of spit in my mouth.
"Testy, aren't you?" There was no expression in the voice and no hint of emotion. I realized that I wasn't hearing it so much as I was sensing it through the headband. Creepy.
"Let me go," I said.
"One moment and I can grant your request," said the alien.
My stomach tightened as reality began to set in.
Again I realized that this was not a dream or a drill or anything. Sheesh, I shouldn't have worried about anything when I was alone in Concord. At least serial killers are still human, you know? Right now everything was an abyss of the unknown. I couldn't see if there were any exits to bolt through, and frankly if he wanted to execute me here and now, he'd have the ability right at his fingertips. I resolved not show him any signs of weakness.
"How many people live with you?" asked Dr. Reesal.
"Five." Well, there were four people who lived in the apartment below me, to my knowledge. And they counted.
"Where are your parents?"
He was leaving them out of this if I had any say in the matter. "Dead," I admitted brazenly, blinking my eyes with a sense of resolve.
"Are you married?"
"What kind of interview is this?" I asked. "What's the reason behind this? Are you guys going to do something to me? Strap me up? BDSM? Alien... probes?"
The questions didn't faze the one interrogating me.
"You appear to be in good health and good spirits," he said, still expressionless. I almost wondered if he was a robot given an organic sack to wear as a body. "I believe you are fit to leave this place."
Oh good. Good. I couldn't wait to wake up in my own bed at this point and realize it was all a dream. The blinders went down, and I got my first true glimpse of my new surroundings. "Well, thank you," I said with every ounce of sarcasm I could muster. "No, really. I want to be returned to my bed as soon as possible. When I wake up, if I have any luck, I'll be able to convince myself of this all being one lone weird dream, and I'll never eat Chinese again."
Then he grabbed onto my arm. The alien's grip was firm and cold. It felt more like a metal glove than a hand, and while I instinctively pulled back and tried to wrestle my way out, he flipped me to the ground with nothing more than a slight shake of his wrist and then pulled me up again. He looked at me, and for a moment I thought I saw a spark of facial expression. "You will not resist me or anyone else on board this ship," he said through my head, and suddenly the wires from the headband burned against my skin and tightened into my skull.
"Ow!" I screeched.
"Please follow me," he said, stinging me again.
I reached up and tried to pull the headband off. There was no way I could without spilling my own blood everywhere. The wires were too deeply embedded. I hated this thing.
Dr. Reesal led me around the room and through a long curved hall. I noticed that there didn't appear to be any sharp angles in this ship, assuming we were on a ship. The gravity still felt off. "Are we still on Earth, by any chance?"
He turned to me and stopped walking. "You've left your own solar system for the last time. We're leaving for the Pax genetic market now."
I was genuinely surprised that the alien was so candid with me and actually agreeing to speak, but that didn't change the fact that I couldn't understand his words.
"What do you mean?" I asked. "A Pax genetic market? Is that like... organ harvesting?"
"The Pax are our business partners and our top clients," he said. "You would do best to cause as little trouble for yourself as you can."
He paused inside of a small, indented cave-like nook that was an offshoot from the long white hall we were walking down. I looked at it. Everything was white or silver, and by "everything," there wasn't much.
"You will receive your nourishment at night while you sleep. We have less resistance that way, and you will be spared the memory," he said. "There is a bed for you, and there is the toilet."
"Out in the open?"
He paused, and this time he waited several seconds before continuing. "You will stay on this ship until Captain Selinor decides he has found a client who pleases him, and then you will be sold. You are free to try on any clothes you find in the closet and apply the cosmetics as suited. Your chances of leaving are much higher should you choose an attractive look."
"Wait, what? What kind of market are you talking about?"
He threw me into the room without answering, again by only slightly shaking his wrist. What a grip!
I stumbled forward, landing precariously on my hands and knees, and my effort at making a superhero-style three-point landing proved to be nothing more than a fantasy in my head. I rolled over, grabbing and rubbing my arm where he had held it, and by the time I turned around, the doctor alien had already left.
My heart started pounding.
That would be the adrenaline, I reminded myself. Of course, it wouldn't kick in earlier. I didn't think any of this was real, earlier. But right now I had to realize that I'd never had a dream half this realistic in my life.
I took stock of my surroundings. Of course, before I did that, I tried to leave, to walk out the way I came in. Then I discovered that an invisible wall was keeping me in place, a force field like they used to have on Star Trek. Swell. I tried again to remove the wiry headband and realized that this time it came off easily. The wires had retracted without so much as a dull itch. I threw the band toward the hall, and it fell a pleasant distance from my cell. Great, so apparently they customized the wall for me.
The "toilet" was nothing more than a small tube opening presumably to the vacuum of space. There was no furniture, only a thin futon for a bed, and otherwise just a white floor and the smooth white walls and sturdy metallic bands placed several feet apart on a horizontal axis. I tried not to breathe too hard. This couldn't be all that bad, could it?
Then I found the break in the metal bands. I soon identified this break as an opening, a sleek door, and when I pulled it open, I realized what Dr. Reesal meant when he told me about the closet. This thing was incredibly shallow, not something I could hide in or cry in or sleep in if I didn't want to be found. Again, my prison was nothing more than a smooth indenture into the wall, and I started to wonder if maybe these people hadn't discovered proper geometry yet. Who says you need to know what a right angle is to get into space and start abducting young women, right?
All I found were some slips of lingerie in various colors (mostly a lacy, revealing style) and a clear plastic bag with a giant assortment of makeup, the largest collection of cosmetics I'd ever seen outside of a store.
I decided that the ratty shorts and tank top I went to bed in would do for now, as well as my natural skin and face. All the same, I smirked. Why would they put something like that in here? Clearly these aliens knew nothing about human cosmetics or attractiveness or general culture. They must have found it somewhere or seen it on TV and assumed that all human women dress like that all the time.
Then I remembered the words the alien told me. That putting that on would guarantee me a better chance of getting out. That they would wait for the right client to stop by. The genetic market. That... My heart skipped a beat. No. No, no, no. This wasn't a part of some sick alien breeding program. I heard about those once on a late-night TV program, a conspiracy show. It couldn't be. My breath soured in my mouth at the thought.
I thrust myself again at the force field holding me in as if I were a human battering ram. It buzzed, and I didn't hear or feel anything painful, but I hit it the same way I'd hit any other wall. My breathing turned into pants. I needed to get out of this. Solutions were what I needed. I needed to find out who was responsible for this mess and force that person to help me.
"I know you're out there!" I shouted down the hall. "I know you can hear me, and I know that you probably have cameras all over this place so that you can keep an eye on me. So I'm challenging you not to hide away. I have a right to know what you're doing with me here, why you kidnapped me out of my home, and what you intend to do with me if I change into those slutty rags you brought here!"
I heard nothing at first. I re-thought yelling and wondered if maybe it would have been better if I had worked on a stealthier strategy. But I didn't have any other strategies. My cheeks burned. I pinched myself so that I wouldn't cry and told myself that this would all be really funny when I woke up in the morning and realized the whole thing was a dream. But it wasn't.
Soon I heard footsteps coming down the hall. Another alien appeared, identical to the first but wearing a bright red tunic and possibly a little taller. It held the headband in its hand, and before I had a chance to ask about it, it slipped it around my head. "What's the deal?" I asked.
"It will enable you to understand us," the alien replied curtly.
I rolled my eyes. "So are you going to let me out of this thing?"
"The enclosure is fully necessary as a bulwark against any rebellion you might try on us," said the alien, so nonchalant that it only made me more furious.
"Like what? If I'm stuck here in space with you bozos, I don't think there's a lot I can try."
"Be quiet, human girl," the alien muttered. "We have a representative from Pax boarding our ship now, and he'll want to examine you as a possible trade offer. Our Captain Selinor has been very particular in how we deal with you. You know, your parents might have been proud of your resisting our efforts, but we won't accept it."
My parents? What could these monsters possibly know about my parents? I decided it had to be a scare tactic to throw me off guard. I did tell them that my parents were dead earlier. I should have guessed that they'd use the information to manipulate me and throw me off guard if they thought I was being too pugnacious.
"I'm sure I can give your guest a good word about these swell accommodations you've laid out for me," I said. "Five stars. Really. Especially the food part. I can't wait to see how you guys inject me or force-feed me to get anything down my throat--in my sleep, without my consent."
But already the alien was walking away, leaving me alone.
I huffed. I removed the cylinder from my forehead and wondered if I could put it to any better use. I didn't have a lot of props. Maybe I could tie the lingerie into a rope and use it to somehow get out and form an escape ladder, but I didn't see what that would do against the force field.
I paced back to my little closet and flung the door to the side. "Lace. Weak. Ugly. More lace. Yellow. I get that these guys probably raided a top-notch Victoria's Secret, but that's not going to help me." I decided that somewhere here was a tool or a clue I could use to get out. I mean, I wasn't literally going to die like this. This wasn't how things were going to end. I wouldn't let them.
As I stood there with one nearly transparent blue dress hanging off my arms, I noticed that the lighting in the hall was changing. It was growing brighter, and as I waited and paused I could hear footsteps. I tossed the dress into the closet and closed the door, pressing myself as close to the force field as I could as I peered down the hall and fixing the headband onto my temple for good measure. A team of gray-headed aliens moved down the hall, almost floating like those European dancers that make the rounds online every now and then, with tiny steps in silent slippers. And with them was the most gorgeous man I'd ever seen.
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