As she ran and weaved, explosions shuddered the ground under her boots. Blue skidded to a halt, heaving in air and looking back. No one followed. The climb down the hull of the giant landship had been mildly perilous. The invading Scav warriors had left ropes and she could’ve descended the ancient metal blindfolded, but she hadn’t been sure who might decide to shoot at her. Once or twice, bullets had spanged off the hull next to her, their spiraling trajectories marked by tendrils of sparkling cerulean dust.
Apart from that...she was fine.
Little mechling robots had scampered over the hull, repairing, thinking robot thoughts she caught glimpses of in her mind. Harmless critters.
Another explosion rocked the earth. Spent shrapnel and dirt flicked her cheek.
With rockets and guns, the attacking Scavs blasted the sky-towering landships and the soldiers spilling from them. Plumes of black and orange smoke twisted skyward from wrecked trucks and aircraft. The Mekkers had launched some flying vehicles that swooped through the smoke firing at the Scavs. No doubt they’d fire at her too, if they saw her, and guessed she was escaping.
“Crazy fuckers.” She coughed, recovering. Fit as she might have been, being kept a slave on the Mekker landship, being drained of precious blood, not allowed to exercise, meant the sprint had exhausted her.
She’d stolen pants and shirt from a dying Mekker she’d stumbled over in a corridor on the way to the landing bay. Her collar marked her as a slave...ex-slave. That collar, plus wearing the flimsy clothes they gave slaves, would’ve drawn attention. She’d draped another shirt about her neck.
Sweat pouring across her eyes, Blue jogged past abandoned trucks. Some were burning. Bodies were strewn about. A glimpse of dashboard told her she could read the labels. The languages the Mekkers had force-taught her had stuck.
She still wasn’t sure how to drive anything here.
Wasn’t sure of anything at all on this misbegotten world.
Why did they grab her?
Getting home again was a goal she’d work toward, somehow. First, get away, be free. Figure out how this collar attached. It pulled at her skin, reminded her that a tube was stuck inside her – just so they could get at her blood. Her lip curled. Fuck them. Hopefully these Scavs would crap all over them.
They were losing though, far as she could tell.
She wanted to go back and chuck a nuke under the landship. Watch it fall, crumble. There were thousands living in there but almost none were worth spit.
The rolled-up cuffs of her pants dragged in the dirt and she had to periodically yank on the pants so she could run.
A grove of trees lay ahead. Blue picked her way through and a ravine opened up. She followed the slope. The battle sounds faded. At the least, she could hide here, for a while.
She paced onward, trying to settle her breathing, listening for others.
She needed a weapon and a way to travel that wasn’t just running. The stolen boots made her feet ache.
Then she turned a corner and found men facing her, waiting, as if they’d heard her coming.
These weren’t Mekkers.
These fair-haired warriors would be Scavs and they carried an arsenal of pretty-colored rifles. A few smiled but without much change in expression; the rest simply stared.
No surprise showed on their faces – they’d definitely heard her coming. Then she heard footsteps behind her.
She swallowed past a tight throat. “Hi.”
“Human,” one man croaked, then he spat. “The bright hair.”
“Blue hair and fingernails?” another ventured, his froggy smile threatening to split his face. He advanced a step or two, as did others.
“Yeah. The portal did that. Coming here.” She shrugged, her gaze darting from one man to the next, despite knowing it made her look anxious. “Except it grabbed onto my hair dye and now I look like a doll with a bad hairdresser on crack.” She chuckled. Fuck, she should be running, but she wasn’t sure they wouldn’t shoot her in the back.
“I’m not your enemy.” These were the enemies of her enemy and that was supposed to be good, but they didn’t look at all fucking friendly. Was anyone on this stupid world her friend?
They levelled weapons at her.
Blue splayed out her fingers. Don’t shoot! She counted how many were in front of her, smiling, and not smiling. Four. And one behind her.
“Lie down, girl.”
There was the answer to her question. Not friendly. Panic mode kicked in, skittering through her and singing la la la to her brain. Fuck. What do I do? What. Do I do?
Cautiously, she went to hands and knees, though her brain screamed at her not to.
She couldn’t outrun bullets.
As they surrounded her, she waited, knees trembling. A muzzle poked her side.
She went flat, to her stomach. Without warning, they grabbed her hands and began to tie her wrists together. A boot landed on the small of her back – she thought the foot belonged to the man who’d poked her. With her head to the side, because her courage had been whirlpooled into a black hole, she wasn’t certain.
This wasn’t what was supposed to happen when she ran.
“Look at that ass.” Hands pulled and wriggled her stolen pants, then her panties, to her ankles and beyond, dropped them aside.
She tensed, dreading their next move.
“You’re not doing her here. We have to leave.”
She crammed shut her eyes. Dirt under her cheek, men’s boots all around her. No way to get out of this. The battle noises lessened.
The men stilled, as if listening.
“We do, but she’s human. You’ve heard what I have. She’ll make your cock explode like no other girl.”
“Explode?” Another man snorted. “We can all fuck her once we get clear and safe, then we’ll test that out.”
“Or sell her. This ass...” The boot rocked her. “Is worth a year’s take.”
“Truly? Fucked or unfucked?”
Speak. Nothing to lose. If she said nothing... These men were an avalanche going downhill.
“Please.” A whisper. Begging made her feel nauseous, but what else could she do? “I’m not your enemy.” Blue twisted her head and stared at the guy with the boot on her back. “I’m theirs.”
“The Mekkers. I’m their enemy. I hate them. They sucked out my blood. They brought me here from my world without asking me. They kept me as a slave. I hate them.”
Tears dribbled from her eyes. She blinked them back.
“Everyone does,” he drawled. “But you’re a pretty human and you’re going to make my cock explode.” He looked away. “Let’s go.”
“Shut up.” He stomped on her and knocked the air from her lungs.
Shocked, she almost choked at the unfairness, the awfulness.
Twenty-eight days since they pulled her here through the portal, but already she knew it all. She knew the language and who to hate: everyone. Who to run from: everyone. And she knew she would never get used to this world of Aerthe.
They dragged her to her feet and took her to a truck – a battered, grimy thing the color of a dead toad. They dumped in the back, heaved her legs in, tied them. A new man appeared at the rim of the ravine.
Purple long gun in hand, his hair a dark halo, he was big enough to eclipse a good part of sky. He scowled at her new enemies.
“Where are you going with her?” he asked, half-staggering, half-jumping down the embankment.
By then Boot Guy had his hand between her legs. He snatched away his hand and grabbed his gun, slid from the back of the truck, lining up with the other four to face the newcomer.
“She’s ours, Sassik.”
“What’re you doing with her?” The man’s shoulder-length curls were in stark contrast to the purple beauty of his gun. A kid with crayons couldn’t have done better. Were those flowers on the muzzle? What the fuck was she thinking? Her situation was dire. They were all distracted. Which had to be good?
Boot Guy shrugged.
Her ankle ropes seemed loose. She wriggled and felt them slip, pulled out a foot, slowly inched away until she could crawl her back up the seat behind her.
Fuck, they knew each other. She tried to worm her hands loose. Now was a good time to dive into the driver’s seat and drive away. Her wrists were hurting from the cords rubbing on skin, but she kept twisting them.
“Hi, Boda. So you’ve what...? Caught a Mekker blood slave? Selling her?”
“Sure are. After we all fuck her a few hundred times.”
“Don’t you think she’d be better sold unfucked? You’ll tear her open if you all do her like that.”
Boda scoffed. “Doubt it. I’d offer you a piece but...no. No hard feelings but friendship only goes so far.”
Crouching, Blue thought of wriggling over the seat and trying to drive, using her teeth to drive. Desperation fed her imagination. As if. Nothing gave and her wrists burned more than ever. She sat again and managed to worm her hands across her ass then to the front of her body, threading out one leg at a time. Now she had a chance. The advantages of being a gymnast.
She flopped over into the driver’s seat and stared at the unfamiliar dials, buttons, pedals. The steering wheel was a half circle. How did you start this thing?
“I don’t want a piece of her, Boda. I’m chaste since my family died.”
Someone grunted. “Good. Then we’re done.”
“No, we are not.” Sassik sighed.
Even she froze. There was a world-weary resignation in that sigh and it shook her. Violence was imminent. Blue wasn’t sure how she read that from a sigh.
If they shot at each other she’d get caught in the crossfire.
She pressed a pedal and grabbed the half-wheel. Pressed a button. Nothing happened. Eyes wide, she stared at the console, smacked the wheel thing, then went from dial to button to switch. Which goddamned button started this thing?