Marauder Ramses, page 14part #4 of Mating Wars Series
If it’s a ship, it must have heard our distress beacon. Real hope is in sight.
But I still have to get the hoses off, or Felicia will cook.
I try to ignore the ship as I work, but my mind is racing.
Best-case scenario is that it’s a perfectly upstanding crew--maybe a Martian military craft on a scouting mission or patrol. Second-best case is another mining ship, and they would be happy to rescue us if we hand over most of what we mined.
After that, the less optimistic possibilities begin. It could be pirates. They’d likely take our haul and leave us for dead. And if it’s particularly nasty pirates, we’d wish they’d left us for dead.
Worst case...what is the worst case? Darkstar Marauders. No one knows for sure where Darkstar is. It could be about as far out as we are now, or it could be halfway to the Oort cloud. Some people think it’s even in the Oort cloud. One thing is for sure though: Darkstar Marauders hate humans, and we’d be lucky if they gave us a quick death.
I put the wrench onto the third hose and start to turn, but it doesn’t move. I go a bit harder, and still it doesn’t budge.
I calm my breathing and try not to panic. I check my watch. Eleven minutes, thirty seconds. Plenty of time...as long as I don’t lose my cool.
I re-adjust the wrench for more torque, get both gloves firmly on, and pull.
My feet slip out from under me as the wrench moves, and a pressurized blast of heated air shoots out from the socket.
It blasts the wrench out of my hand, and it flies out of my hand. I watch as it gleams in the floodlight from the ship, and then disappears into total darkness. The gravity is so slight that--while it will land, eventually--it might not land for several hundred meters. Maybe even a kilometer.
Twelve minutes, thirty seconds.
I don’t even know which direction to look in. In this suit--and with this little gravity--even if I knew where the wrench landed, it would take me twenty minutes to reach it, and twenty to bring it back.
I look up toward the ship, and see that it is a ship. It’s close now, and it’s definitely coming toward us.
“Please don’t be a Marauder,” I whisper to myself as I try--hopelessly--to get the hose off with my gloved hands.
I never thought I’d have to go back there. I felt--for the first time, however faint--the sun on my skin on Atlantis, the frozen planet. And then I traveled to Venus, where the sun’s energy is trapped by the thick atmosphere, and I felt warmer than I’ve ever been.
Darkstar. The sun’s rays barely reach it. A barren rock, cast out from the sun’s inner circle. My former home.
All the other Darkstar Marauders sent with me to Atlantis were killed. Including my father. I killed over half of them--but I didn’t kill my own father. That was a shame debt I could never take on, even if my father was a genocidal monster. I couldn’t pull the trigger to end him.
I’ve betrayed Darkstar and become a peacekeeper. My first assignment? To go back there. To pretend I never changed.
The computer beeps.
“Kain,” it says, “There’s a distress beacon from a nearby planetoid. We should ignore it.”
“How nearby?” I ask.
“It’s close enough to reach, but we’re too close to Darkstar now. You need to keep your cover.”
“I can reach it and get back on course to Darkstar? There’s enough fuel?”
“Do it,” I say. “Change course.”
The computer goes silent, and I feel the ship start to rotate, then change trajectory.
“Mining vessel,” the computer says. “Two humans requesting evac.”
My ship could hold two humans, but what then? On Darkstar, humans are sterilized--so the disease of humanity will not spread--and then used as sex slaves. If I rescue these humans, I can’t bring them to Darkstar.
But I can’t just leave them to die.
Maybe I could fix their ship. Or give them enough supplies to make it until a human vessel can rescue them.
I sit back and wait. There’s no use planning with such limited information. I’ll save my energy until I know what I’m dealing with.
After over an hour, the ship’s display shows me a magnified view of the planetoid. It zooms in further and shows a ship. It’s a mining ship, and the drill is still deep in the rock. The ship’s floodlights are on, and there’s a suited figure standing outside the ship. It’s...struggling.
“Zoom in more,” I say.
“We’re at maximum zoom,” the computer says. “We’ll have to get closer to see more.”
The ship is already slowing itself down as it nears the planetoid, preparing for a touchdown.
As we get closer, I see that the human is trying to remove some kind of pipe or hose from the ship. But they have no tool, and the pipe is not coming loose.
“Why are the humans outside the ship?” I ask.
“Analyzing,” the computer says. “Hm…”
“Don’t ‘hm’ me,” I grunt. “What is it?”
“It’s a thermal distribution hose connected to the tokamak reactor via the heat regulator.”
“It makes the ship hot,” the computer says.
“Then why is she trying to pull it out?”
“It seems the interior of the ship is nearing the limits of human tolerance, and another woman is still inside.”
“They’re women?” I ask, feeling my chest tighten.
“Yes,” the computer says. “And one is going to die if that hose is not removed.”
“Hard landing!” I shout.
“Kain, that will use too much fuel--”
“Hard fucking landing! Now!”
The ship’s engines cut off.
“What? No...no...no... please!”
But then I realize that the engines were facing me. Meaning they were being used to slow it down. So if they cut off...it means the ship is coming even faster toward me.
I don’t know what to make of that, but without the engine burn, I can’t see the ship at all. I start to worry that I hallucinated it all along.
I give the hose another good turn, but it doesn’t budge. I feel the veins in my neck bulge as I tighten my grip and give it everything I’ve got. My stomach flexes, my thighs burn--every muscle in my body goes to work, but nothing moves.
“Fuck!” I shout, falling ever so slowly to the ground as I collapse from exhaustion.
I pant until I have my breath again, and I stand up to check on Felicia.
She’s chugging water, and her skin is red. Her hair is matted onto her forehead, and it’s soaking wet from the sweat.
Okay, she needs hope now. Even false hope is fine.
I tap on the window, and point up to the black sky.
She gives me an exasperated look that makes it seems she has no idea what I’m saying. She holds up two hands as if she is gripping a hose, and she rotates her wrists in opposite directions, miming a hose disconnecting.
I hold my hand up like I’m still holding the wrench, and then I use my other hand to mime an explosion. I hit the explosion to the invisible wrench, and I show her the wrench had drifting away up, and up, and up.
She slams on the glass, and her mouth moves.
I’m not good at lip reading, but it looks like three syllables. Idiot, maybe?
I point up again, and then I see the engines flare once again. The ship is right above us.
The light from the engine burn nearly blinds me, and I shield my eyes.
The ship is settling down only about one hundred meters away from me, and directly below it rocks are flying everywhere. The gravity is so low that small pebbles and even larger chunks of rock slam against our ship.
I check through the window and see Felicia slouched down against the wall. Her skin is red like a crab, and she’s not even
“Shit...shit!” I slam my hand against the window, but her eyes don’t open.
I look back and see that the ship has landed. It doesn’t look like Martian military, maybe it’s Venusian?
The landing ramp hits the ground, and one figure begins walking down.
His suit is tight, form-fitting teal. He doesn’t even walk all the way down the ramp. He leaps from the top of it.
I see him floating through the microgravity, straight toward us. He floats through the air--but really is just falling extremely slowly--for many seconds, and his feet hit the ground just a few meters from the other side of our ship.
I try to get a look at his face, but he disappears behind my ship before I can see him.
Moments later he comes around the corner, and God, he’s fucking tall.
His faceplate goes transparent, and I see that it’s a Marauder.
I hold my breath, maybe because I’m terrified, or maybe because he’s so fucking handsome. His cheekbones are razor sharp, and his eyes are vibrant green. There’s a kind of tortured darkness hiding behind his eyes, but the worried look on his face shows true sympathy.
He’s the youngest Marauder I’ve ever seen. Marauders can’t mate with other Marauders, they can only mate with humans, which produces pink-skinned Seraphim. The Marauders entered our solar system just over 25 years ago, so most of them are pushing 60 by now. But not this one--he barely looks 25, he must have been a baby when they arrived.
He points to the hose, and steps toward it. I take a step back out of his way.
He grabs the hose with his gloved hand and twists. He pulls the hose right out.
Then he flips the switch.
Now all the waste heat is beaming out as microwaves, and not into the ship. If I had flipped the switch without removing the hose, the microwaves would have cooked Felicia just as bad as the radiated heat.
The Marauder narrows his eyes at me, and even though it’s hard to see through his faceplate, I swear I see him grin.
He reaches to the airlock and starts to turn it. It takes me almost two minutes to turn the thing enough to open the first door, but he does it in just seconds.
He gets it open, but there’s only room for one of us inside. He looks at me, nods, and points inside.
I nod to him, and he shuts the door.
I exhale. Had I really been holding my breathe that whole time? The look he gave me...it was like he was telling me with just one look that everything would be okay. And there was something else behind those eyes. Something I don’t dare to even think about.
I shut the outer door of the airlock, and it cuts me off from the woman’s beauty. It’s like cutting myself off from the sun, but more painful. First I have to save the one inside, and then I’ll get to the one outside...and...and what?
The hard entry used up so much fuel that I can’t make it to Darkstar. I’m trapped here with these two unless I can get their ship running again. If I can repair their mining drill, I might be able to refuel my own ship too.
And then...leave them. I couldn’t even see her body through that bulky space suit, but her face was all I needed to see to know. To know deep in my bones. In my heart.
But I have to go to Darkstar. Cold. Devoid of light and hope. The opposite of her.
I shove open the inner door of the airlock, and I see the second woman flat on the ground, drenched in sweat. Her eyes are closed.
I remove my helmet, and heat worse than the floating jungles of Venus crushes me. I drip with sweat immediately, but I pull out my heat sponge. It’s made of nanoparticles that can absorb incredible amounts of heat into a small, dense sphere.
I pull the tab on the sponge, and it activates.
I feel no difference at first, but after only ten seconds the brunt of the heat is gone. In twenty I feel a slight chill, and I push the tab back in to shut the sponge off.
The inner door’s handle starts to rotate, and I tug it impatiently. I pull the door open and see her again.
Her mouth drops open as she looks at me, and I lick my lips with my tongue.
She looks down at the other woman, then back up at me.
I hold up the heat sponge, though I doubt she knows what it is. It’s advanced Marauder technology that isn’t widely available outside the richest human settlements and habitats.
She narrows her eyes at me, and I gesture to her to remove her helmet.
She looks at her wrist, which displays the internal temperature, and her eyes widen. She reaches for her helmet, twists it, and pulls it off.
We look at each other in stunned silence, and suddenly her feminine scent floods my nostrils. My tall ears pull back and wiggle in ecstasy, and I breathe her in deeply.
“We…” I start to say. “I need water, a towel.”
She nods and rummages through a drawer. She pulls out a towel and holds it under the faucet. She hands it to me, and I put it onto the unconscious woman’s forehead.
“Human bodies are weak,” I say, offhandedly. “They can only survive within the thinnest margins. Not too hot. Not too cold. But she should make it.”
“Goldilocks,” the woman says.
“Goldilocks,” I whisper.
A beautiful name. It must refer to the golden locks of her long hair.
“Goldilocks,” I say, louder, “I am Kain.”
“Oh,” she says. “I’m Kara.”
She gives me a nervous smile, then holds out her hand.
I remember the proper human greeting and take her hand rather than her forearm. It’s soft and warm, just right.
“Is this one Goldilocks?” I ask, pointing down at the woman with the sponge on her head. “Her hair is black.”
“No,” Kara says. “Goldilocks...it’s a kid’s story. She breaks into someone’s house--three bears, actually--and she eats their food and sleeps in their beds.”
“Humans have strange stories for children,” I say.
“There’s three different sized bears, one’s stuff is too small one’s is too big...and the other’s is just right.”
“How can a bed be too big?” I ask.
“Uh,” she says, “I don’t know...I’ve only ever slept on a bed that was too small.”
“And how can there be too much food?”
“I’m starving,” she says.
Marauders are always hungry.
“How does this story end?” I ask.
“The bears come home and find all their stuff ransacked, and when they get to the beds, they find Goldilocks asleep. She gets scared, jumps out the window, and runs away. No one ever sees her again.”
The woman on the ground opens her eyes and murmurs. “Goldilocks zones...that’s what we call the distance from the sun that a planet can be habitable. Earth, Mars, and Venus are all in the Goldilocks zone…”
“Felicia!” Kara says, dropping down beside her. “You feel okay?”
“Yeah,” she says, “Thanks for rescuing us…”
“Kain,” I say.
“You two are sisters?” I ask, looking down at them. I can see resemblance.
“Yeah,” Kara says. “You saved my sister. And me.”
When should I tell them that I do not have a way to get them off here. Or that I am headed to Darkstar. I should tell them the first piece of information now. And I should never tell them the second.
“I have some unsettling information to share,” I say.
They both look up at me with wide eyes and gaping mouths.
“I mean,” I say, struggling to remember the way that humans phrase things. They are weak when it comes to the harsh truths of reality. “I have good news...and bad news...which would you like to hear first?”
They give me the same worried stares.
“The good news,” I say. “The heat sponge can be toggled on and off. It will drastically reduce the frequency with which we need to toggle the hoses.”
“Why would we need to toggle hos
“I burned too much fuel to rush my landing. But my engines are still functional. Given enough time, we could harvest the necessary minerals to produce more fuel.
“You’re an optimist too,” Felicia says.
I raise an eyebrow at her.
Felicia smiles, looks at me, and then at Kara. “Good fit.”
“Shut up, Felicia!” Kara says.
“I was on the brink of death,” Felicia says, “And that only buys me a few precious minutes without you being mean to me?”
Kara grits her teeth and huffs.
I’m fascinated, and turned on. Human females’ display anger in the most interesting ways.
I feel my ears poking straight up, and I catch myself smiling.
Felicia laughs, and Kara balls up her fists and pretends to busy herself with another towel.
“It’s already getting cold in here,” Felicia says, “I don’t need another towel.”
“Fine,” Kara snaps. “Take care of yourself then.”
“You are the older one, Kara?” I ask.
“Of course,” she says.
Felicia rolls her eyes.
“You both feel cold?” I ask.
Marauders do not have such a small “Goldilocks zone,” and I feel fine. I won’t be able to tell when the humans feel discomfort.
“Here,” I say, handing the heat sponge to Kara. “If you feel cold, you press this tab in to release the heat. If you feel too hot, pull the tab all the way out to suck it back in.”
I hand it to her, and she nods. “Thanks. I wish we had this thing weeks ago.”
“You’ve been here for weeks?” I ask.
“I heard Marauders eat a lot,” Felicia says. “Do you have--”
“Ah,” I say, “Yes, I have plenty of food.”
Their eyes light up.
“I’d invite you to stay on my ship, but it’s much smaller. It could not fit us comfortably.”
“Well,” Kara says, “That’s fine...but if you have food to spare, and if you don’t mind, we’d be so grateful if--”
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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