Marauder Cygnus: A Scifi Alien Shifter Romance (Mating Wars Book 1), page 1
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“Aura! Aura! Wake up! You’ve got to see this!”
It’s Seth, the Zephyr’s on-ship computer. Even though he’s just a floating voice with no physical presence, he sounds excited.
I wipe the sleep out of my eyes and unzip the big glorified potato bag that I sleep in. It keeps me strapped to the wall so that I don’t float around in zero-g.
I kick myself off the wall and float to the ladder. In zero-g there’s no up or down, so I just pull myself steadily along the ladder, which runs through the ship like a spinal cord, until I reach the pilot’s seat at the front end of the ship.
The Zephyr is small, but it’s my home. The ship is shaped like a small high-rise building with four main stories. Each story is its own room, and each room can function in zero-g or under the artificial gravity of acceleration.
We’re not accelerating now though, so I buckle myself into the pilot’s seat and see what Seth has got for me.
My augmented reality lenses flood my vision with the full Heads-Up Display. The HUD shows me where we are in the belt, and it indicates there is a small spherical object flashing green up ahead of us.
“See? See?” Seth says. “Let’s go grab it!”
“It looks like we’ve got everything pointed at it? Full juice?” I ask Seth, pulling up the power distribution chart.
“The sphere is made of some exotic material,” Seth says. “It’s reflecting our pings, so I’m diverting all of our instruments toward it, but we’re still barely getting a reading! Anything less and we won’t get a reading at all. I can’t tell what’s inside, but I bet it’s exciting if it’s trying so hard to hide from us!”
I sigh. “Okay, we’ll ping it like this for five minutes, but then we need to get our guard back up.”
If I keep everything pointed on the sphere, a pirate ship can be right on top of me before I even know it’s there. The sphere is small enough to just scoop onboard into the containment bay, but the “exotic material” worries me. It could be radioactive, or worse, a biological weapon. Best to figure out what it is before scooping it up.
Bio signatures start to pan across Aura’s vision. “Shit! It’s alive?”
“Looks like it,” Seth says. “But the pulse is...barely there.”
I have Seth run a full gamut of tests, and within minutes he rules out any radioactivity.
“Test for known pathogens,” I say, yawning.
“How can you yawn? This is probably the most interesting thing we’ve ever found,” Seth says.
A composite image of what is within the sphere starts to fill in across my HUD and on various screens within the cockpit.
“The lifeform looks human,” Seth says. “Almost. It’s slightly different, look at the ears—”
The five-minute timer I set starts beeping. “Five minutes is up. Reorient the instruments and scan for hostiles.”
“We’ll waste so much time re-pointing the instruments, Aura,” Seth says. “Two more minutes, please?”
“No,” I say. “Reorient, now.”
It takes two or three minutes for the instruments to reorient for a full 360-degree scan, and I look at the data Seth has gathered so far while I wait.
“This...guy...looks to be seven feet tall,” I say. “Is that right?”
“I don’t think it’s a human,” Seth says. “It’s probably genetically modified. Some kind of super soldier.”
I lick my lips. “Sounds valuable.”
I’ve been a scrapper for two years, and I’ve gone on dozens of runs. After paying for fuel, repairs, maintenance, food, and water, I barely break even on each run. I have very little to show for spending two whole years on the outskirts of civilization. I spend time between each run hawking my wares on Mars, but there’s no time in that harsh place for romance. Seth is the closest thing to a man in my life, and that’s only because I programmed his voice to sound like one.
My HUD shows all clear, and I let out a big sigh of relief. “We’ll hold like this for a few more minutes, just to be sure, then we can figure out what’s up with this sphere guy—”
A klaxon rings and my HUD flashes red.
“Pirates!” Seth says. “They’ll be on us in...um, minutes.”
“Give me a way out,” I say. I’m doing everything I can to keep calm, but acid is rising in my throat and my hands are trembling.
“No chance of evasion,” Seth says. “If we scoop the sphere, we can stop them from blowing us up.”
“Uh,” I say, “how do you figure? I know it’s a big loss to abandon it, but I’d rather be broke than dead. Let’s just full burn out of here, and hope they want the sphere more than they do us.”
“Aura,” Seth says. “If they realize it’s a super soldier, or something of high value, they’ll chase and kill us so we can’t tell anyone what we saw, and then they’ll go back and grab the sphere.”
Every second I waste is making things worse, and knowing that a torpedo could kill me at any moment has me racked with paralyzing fear.
“Aura?” Seth says.
“Scoop it!” I shout.
Gravity surges back on at 1g as the thrusters ignite. My stomach churns and my cheeks vibrate. The green outline of the sphere grows larger as we begin to approach it.
There’s nothing for me to do but pray as we accelerate toward the sphere, and when we close in to 200 meters, the Zephyr’s grappling net launches. I fire it from the side as we zoom past the sphere. If my aim is off, we’ll be out of range for another attempt.
The net blasts wide-open a few meters from the sphere and wraps tightly around it. I let out a relieved sigh.
Nothing happens for a while, but when the cable runs out of length, I feel a jerk as the Zephyr starts to drag the sphere along with it.
“Reel it in,” I say. “Continue full 1g burn.”
I unbuckle myself from the seat and climb the ladder. The Zephyr’s engines jut out the side of the ship, and when we accelerate at 1g, the acceleration makes it feel like I’m experiencing Earth’s gravity. It helps keep my bones and muscles strong for the five-day trips back and forth from Mars to the belt.
I climb the ladder as fast as I can; I want to see this “specimen” with my own eyes. If I’m going to die, I at least want to see the thing that is respo
Capping off the front—or top, depending on how you look at it—of the ship is the cargo bay. While I’m cramped into a tiny four rooms, the cargo bay is twice as tall and twice as wide as the rest of the ship. If my living quarters is the handle of the hammer, the cargo bay is the hammer itself. The Zephyr is a scrap ship, so it needs to be able to carry a lot of scrap.
The net is reeling the sphere in toward the cargo bay’s airlock. It will need to pass through the airlock before I can get my hands on it.
I sit down in the cargo bay and focus on my HUD while I wait for the sphere to finish getting reeled in.
Seth has mapped out the situation, and the pirates are burning faster than me—at 1.5g—and it’s only a matter of time before they catch up to us. It’s not just a small asshole pirate ship either, but it’s one of their capital ships. It can hold a handful of smaller craft and dozens of crew members.
“We can threaten to destroy the cargo,” I say, “or offer to sell it.”
“Hmm,” Seth says. “Selling it might work—just don’t expect a good price—but they might kill us anyway after they have what they want from us. We have no real leverage here, Aura.”
I can see the sphere through the window now. The airlock is open on the top end, and it’s only a few meters from entering. The airlock is above me, like an attic, and there’s a built-in hydraulic lift to lower cargo down while under acceleration.
Once the sphere is reeled fully inside, the airlock closes. I watch the gauges.
“Fully pressurized,” Seth says.
“Open it,” I say.
The hatch opens, and the lift starts to lower down into the main area of the cargo bay. As soon as it reaches eye-level, I walk toward it, looking for a window or a hatch. The lift touches the ground, and I walk around it, examining it from all sides. There’s nothing at all but smooth metal. It’s windowless and seemingly doorless.
“Should we cut it open?” I ask Seth.
“That could kill whatever’s inside,” Seth says.
I shake my head. “Hail the pirates, tell them we want to make a deal.”
“They’re...not accepting our hails,” Seth said. “Oh my, they just launched grappling hooks. You might want to hold onto something.”
I rush to the wall and hook myself in. Moments later the ship jerks. I feel my stomach churn as the g-forces fly back and forth between zero and 1g.
“Kill the engines,” I say. “We’re not getting away.”
The engines die, and the g-forces start to drop. The pirate ship must be initiating reverse burn, breaking us back to zero-g.
I unhook myself, push off the wall, and start punching the shit out of the sphere. The stupid valuable piece of shit is going to get me killed. What’s the point of it being valuable if I never even get to sell it?
It feels good to hit it, but each time I punch the sphere, the force from hitting it makes me float back away and I have to push off the wall to strike at it again.
When my knuckles start to hurt, I rest my palm on the sphere and say, “You got me killed, you know that?”
And then, in an instant, the sphere changes from fully opaque to transparent. The sphere becomes so transparent that I’d think it had disappeared, if not for the fact that my hand is still pressing onto its hard metal exterior.
What I see inside makes my heart race—and for all the wrong reasons. I blush profusely as I gaze onto the specimen floating before me, seemingly suspended in mid-air. It’s not quite a man, yet it’s bigger and more masculine than any human man I’ve ever seen. Its skin is purple, and the ears are on the top of its head rather than on the side. The ears are not quite pointy, but appear more rounded, like a bear’s ears. It has medium-length, dark black hair, which is human-looking save for the ears poking out from it.
From the neck down, it’s all a man’s body. And what a man! The shoulders are wider than Saturn’s rings, the chest is as big and imposing as Olympus Mons, and the eight-pack abs are perfectly sculpted—and glistening—like Earth’s glaciers.
I look further down its body, and now I really blush. The dick is almost human, but it’s so much bigger than anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s teal-colored. The whole body is purple, but the cock is teal.
“What the hell,” I say, almot forgetting that pirates are about to kill me.
“I think it’s an alien,” Seth says.
“You don’t say?”
“What are you doing, brother?” I hold my blade out to him.
“Cygnus,” he says. “You know what I’m doing.”
My brother, Aegus, has stolen supplies, and he’s loading them into a scouting pod.
Our Marauder fleet has already spent 20 years accelerating toward the humans’ home system of Sol, and we’re flying through the void at 80% of light speed. We’ve all woken up from hibernation long enough to turn our fleet around and run the engines in the other direction for another 20 years. Long enough to break and slow down our ships down enough to stop in Sol, rather than fly right through.
The engines are about to fire on, and all Marauders should be hibernating by now.
But not my brother Aegus.
“I know what you are doing,” I say, “but I don’t understand why.”
Aegus is up against the wall of the scouting pod, and I push the blade up against the skin of his neck.
“I believe breeding with the humans will bring about the Seraphic Form,” Aegus says.
My ears stand erect and I wiggle them in frustration. More religious bullshit.
“The Seraphic Form is like light speed,” I say. “We strive for it, but can never reach it.”
“But I believe we can,” Aegus says. “And if the humans are the end of our journey, we can’t invade them like normal. We have to treat them as equals—”
I slam my fist into the pod, and press the knife into his skin until I see a few small drops of blood trickly down his neck.
Aegus has pretended to be a model Marauder. He’s strong and fights nearly as well as I do. No one suspected him. No one but me.
“You fooled everyone,” I say. “Almost.”
“I’m going to take the pod,” Aegus says. “Separate from the main fleet, and continue on at 80% of lightspeed for several more years. I’ll reach Sol many years before the main fleet. I’ll prove that I’m right, and message the fleet before you arrive. You can do with the information as you please.”
I’m holding the blade perfectly steady, as any slip would slit my brother’s throat. Despite my steady hand, I’m anything but calm.
I narrow my eyes until they’re nothing but slits. One thrust of the knife and I can do what I’m supposed to. I can kill my own brother to ensure the survival of my race. We know the humans are advanced, and if they resist us, it will not be an easy victory for us to win. If Aegus arrives years ahead of the fleet, the humans will gain a tremendous edge.
I look into Aegus’s green eyes, and I see complete conviction. He truly believes in what he’s doing, which is more than I can say for myself. All that drives me is the need to mate. And to kill anything that gets in the way of that.
The bear DNA that has been spliced into us to allow for hibernation heightens our need to mate and protect those we care about. My brother included.
I pull the knife away, and I study the blood dripping off the blade. It’s our family’s blood, and I realize that if I kill my brother, I don’t deserve to mate.
“You truly believe?” I ask him, still examining the bloody knife.
“Trust me, Cygnus, Sol is the end of our race’s long journey.”
“Go!” I say. “I’ll follow you.”
Aegus hugs me, then jumps into the pod. “I knew you’d do the right thing. Take that pod,” Aegus says, tilting his head toward an adjacent pod. “I’ve loaded it with biofuel for you.”
“You knew I’d follow you?” I ask him.
“I prayed you would,” he says, before slamming
As soon as his hatch is sealed, a robotic arm grabs hold of it and carries it toward the bay where it will launch out and continue on toward Sol.
“What the fuck am I doing?” I ask myself, still holding the bloodied knife.
And then three fellow Marauders float into the room behind me, their blades drawn.
Aegus sabotaged the security systems before his escape, and I only followed him because he’d been acting erraticly since we’d awoken from hibernation. I didn’t think anyone else had followed us, but I was wrong.
“Cygnus!” Zarek shouts.
Zarek is my friend—or he was, at least—and he’s with Tager and Gent.
“I’m going with my brother,” I say, holding up the knife. “Will you stop me?”
The marauder fleet only goes through a one-week period of zero-g. Just long enough for all the ships to turn around, check their engines, and initiate a braking burn. Most marauders neglect to train for zero-g combat. Not me. I live for combat, and wanting to be as deadly as possible in all situations means I’ve trained hard at zero-g.
An alarm wails across the room. “Two minutes until engine burn. Last call to hibernate.”
If I were a coward, I could jump into the pod and run, but the three of them might be able to blow up both my pod and Aegus’s pod before we got away.
Gent starts to turn around, and I see him pushing off Zarek. I realize he’s going to run. Tager and Zarek will fight me, while Gent makes sure someone blasts my brother’s pod into vapor.
No time to think.
I throw the blade.
In zero-g, there’s no need to arc it, and though Gent is over twenty Marauder lengths away, the blade flies straight and true.
I kick off the pod and fly toward them, floating just behind the blade, which jams right into Gent’s spine. He twitches violently for a few moments, and then falls dead still before zero-g causes his body to float away, lifeless.
Moments later, Zarek is right in front of me—or under me—it’s hard to tell in zero-g. Zarek is holding a blade, but not for long.
AYA MORNINGSTAR SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Marauder Kain: Scifi Alien Invasion Romance (Mating Wars Book 5)Marauder Fenrir: Scifi Alien Invasion Romance (Mating Wars)Unbearable Heat (The Grizzly Next Door 2)
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