Content Notes: alien abduction ‘romance’, no adult content
She stood before him. A literal sacrifice to save her world. Though very far from virgin. Behind them, hundreds of news cameras watched, projecting her fate to the world in live HD.
She hesitated. The watching newsies gave her, for the last time, some external power. She could use that. Maybe.
“My name is Jessica.”
He loomed over her. “I don’t give a damn what your name is. Kneel.”
“You say that you aren’t barbarians. Just different. You say that you don’t wish to harm anyone, but you are desperate.” He raised his hand. She spoke faster. “You don’t want a scene here. All I want is for you to use my name.”
He snarled. She braced herself for the blow. “Very well. Kneel, Jessica.”
She slipped easily to her knees and smiled up at him. “Thank you.”
Inside she was cheering. She had made him bargain with her.
The shuttle lifted, whisking them into orbit. She felt his eyes on her. He had to know what she looked like. They had asked for her specifically. Breaking the silence would put her at a disadvantage. She leaned back in the seat and recalled the plot of her latest story. Her fingers twitched, needing to fidget. A strand of hair to twirl settled them, and she distracted herself figuring out why her heroine refused to cooperate with the storyline.
“Tell me a story.” The sudden demand jarred her out of her thoughts.
“Um… what kind of story?”
“Like the stories you write.”
“Oh.” She sighed. Of all the things he would ask. “I can’t. I wish I could.”
He snarled. “You will do what I tell you.”
“I can tell you a story, but I can’t tell those stories. I’ve tried storytelling, but it’s very different from writing. I can tell fairytales and myths and fables and personal experiences. But the stuff I write is too intricate. I’m not a good enough storyteller to spin that kind of yarn.
“What I could do… what is your name?”
He glared. She waited. “What could you do?”
Damn it. “What I could do, Man With No Name, is….
The shuttle docked, and she followed him out into the bay. “Strip.”
She’d been half-expecting it. But she hadn’t been able to come up with any way to turn it to her advantage.
She turned around and undid the fastenings on her suit. One by one, the pieces fell to the floor until she stood wearing nothing. Not even a hat to cover her hair.
He led her through the bay and into the ship. They passed many men but no women. Where were they? Did these people segregate by gender? If they did, she was screwed.
All the men they passed stopped and saluted. Many of them stared at her hungrily. She shivered and did her best to ignore them.
They finally entered a large room where another man waited.
“So this is our female,” he said.
“We are not barbarians. Her name is Jessica.”
Yes! It worked. She might be in their power, but she had established herself as an individual. Time to ride that wave.
She extended her hand and stepped toward the new man. “Hi. It’s nice to meet you…”
“Alec,” the leader said behind her. “His name is Alec.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Alec.”
With a pensive sigh, she traced the ridge of his eyebrows. They stood out so sharply from an otherwise flat face. She had never seen anyone with such a face.
“Jetal, come on!”
She flushed and hurried away from the unconscious supplicant.
“Really, Jetal,” Senior Penitent Rasha said, “You need to stop mooning over the supplicants! It’s unseemly.”
Jetal kept her eyes down and murmured, “Yes, Senior Sister.”
She heard Rasha sigh. “Well, come on. We don’t want to keep Initiate Marga waiting.”
“No, Senior Sister.”
Jetal kept her expression calmly attentive through the ensuing history lesson. She had spent hours in the library, reading the history of the Temple and the Goddess’ Chosen. She never understood how Initiate Marga managed to make all those fascinating stories so BORING.
When the lecture was over, she tried to disappear out the door without being noticed.
“Junior Penitent Jetal!” The sharp voice froze her in the doorway. A living obstacle for her fellow Penitents to flow around.
She turned and re-entered the lecture hall. “Yes, Initiate Marga?”
“The Matriarchs have noted your interest in the Supplicants.”
Jetal winced, waiting for the reprimand.
“They have determined to assign you two hours a day aiding the Sisters in charge of the Supplicants. There is a shortage of hands in the Supplicant quarters, and perhaps exposure will wear away your fascination.”
Even the sting of the Initiates final words couldn’t keep a grin from spreading across Jetal’s face. She bowed, “Thank you, Initiate!”
The aging satellite had circled the small green and white planet for millennium. It observed the rise of a dominant species, evolving from primitive bands to stone cities. The domestication of animals, the beginning of organized war.
Its masters, presumably, received the reports it beamed back, but no response ever came. It circled on, becoming erratic and unreliable. Micro pitting damaged its processors, batteries ran down, and, as the solar cells lost alignment, did not recharge.
More years passed, the civilization below continued to evolve. Finally, the satellite stopped working entirely. It floated in space, an unusable collection of circuits and metal. Without rockets to stabilize its flight, its orbit degraded—a long, slow fall to the planet below.
Berchad was plowing his field, getting ready to plant the mage-touched rhubarb seeds. He ignored the flash of fire high above. The High Mage and Regus-the-Bastard had been fighting for a week already. He figured they’d still be going at it come harvest time.
If he’d looked up, he might have had some warning of the pile of molten metal which was about to crash into his just-planted turnips.
Frank looked over the long line of people stretching ahead of him. The foodbank doors hadn’t even opened yet, but already the line of people waiting stretched around the block. In the West, the sun sank steadily towards the horizon. He could feel the blood moon’s call itching between his shoulder blades.
Next to him, a young woman bulging with pregnancy explained to an older couple how the foodbank worked. In front of him, a man and woman chatted in sign language, the woman occasionally calling a greeting to people who passed. Ahead of them were boxes of books, dumped on the sidewalk after the church’s latest rummage sale. Several folks cautiously left their spot to dig through the boxes.
Frank’s cupboards at home weren’t empty. But he couldn’t afford to buy more food until the foodstamps came in next week. And the cubs needed meat to stay healthy. According to social services, he made enough money to supplement foodstamps with cash, but the money he sent to his ex as child support each month wasn’t counted in his “expenses.” That $300 bite out of his paycheck left things… tight.
It would be another two months before bow hunting season. And with the bloody supermoon tonight only an idiot would hunt on four legs.
He glanced at the clock on the church tower. Half an hour until the doors opened. An hour and a half until moonrise. Three hours until the eclipse started.
He couldn’t afford to be out tonight. The chance of being away from home—hell the chance of still being at the foodbank–when the moon rose was too great. But the cubs needed meat.
Ridge and Space Junk are two more from the Second Life writing group. Reverse Stolkholm and Werewolf foodback are my own brainstorms. With Reverse Stolkholm I was playing with the ‘alien abduction’ subgenre and how the captive in such a story might turn the tables on her captors, rather than submitting to them. Werewolf foodbank has a bit of a more prosaic background — some years ago there was a supermoon/blood moon on a night the local foodbank was open. How could I not?
Next Tuesday we’ll be starting a new story, First Came Trust, and Friday we’ll be resuming What You Will. Thanks for your patience during this hiatus.
First Came Trust is the, well, first, in a trilogy about three siblings surviving and rebuilding among strange people in a strange land.
Lilah knew ey was dead the moment ey met the creature in the woods. Ey never expected eir doom to overtake eir siblings as well. A stranger on the road may offer salvation, but is it worth the price?