The roles have been reversed in this newest, purple alien, romantic comedy.
It’s not fair that only males get to go out and pillage the universe. Being born a female automatically means staying home and birthing the next generation of warriors.
Not me. Azteriya has other plans.
She has a dream of traveling the galaxy and exploring strange new worlds. Fighting fierce foes. Of clubbing a viable male to bring home to her mother so that her transgression is forgiven.
When a chance to escape arises, she takes it, but what will Azteriya do when she not only finds the adventure she’s been seeking but love too?
Expression creased in concern, Dorrys addressed Azteriya. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Very sure. Mother brought around three suitors to weigh my worth as a mate,” Azteriya muttered. All of the male warriors born of acceptable families. Each one of them holding the opinion that a female’s only worth existed in her ability to birth and cook.
“Three?” Dorrys sounded impressed. “How many does that make now that she’s paraded you in front of?”
“Too many.” Spoken in a grumble. “She’s threatened to find even more if I don’t choose soon.” The fact that none of them appealed didn’t dampen her mother’s zeal in the least. She kept persisting in the erroneous train of thought that eventually Azteriya would meet the one that made her forget all her dreams.
Not likely. What she wanted couldn’t be found on Aressotle. Hence why she’d hatched her latest plan to escape.READ MORE
This time I won’t fail. Azteriya leaned against the large shipping container behind which she and her closest friend hid. The busy hangar, situated planet side for intergalactic vessels retrieving local goods, didn’t have many spots to conceal them in. If they were caught…someone would call Mother, and that wouldn’t bode well for Azteriya.
A moue pulled at Dorrys’ lips. “At least your mother is proactive about finding you a mate. Mine keeps telling me to shorten my hems and flirt more.”
Azteriya snickered “On account you’re the seventh daughter. She’s worn out from all the mating feasts she’s had to throw for your sisters.” Said teasingly, and yet Azteriya envied her friend. Being an only child put a lot of pressure on Azteriya. It would be up to her to continue her family’s line, to birth the next generation so their name didn’t die out. Something her mother repeated over and over. Azteriya’s reply of, “If you just want me to get impregnated, then why don’t I visit the clinic for a fertilization injection?” didn’t go over well.
Dorrys worried her lower lip. “This is a bad idea. If you must leave our world, then at least get your father to take you.”
“I tried.” Tried talking and arguing. Even resorted to weak tears. Her father resisted all emotional outbursts and logic.
As to her attempts to stow away? Each time Father found her and, with a shake of his head, said, “Your mother would kill me.”
Probably very accurate. Mother might look genteel on the outside, but she could wield a knife and kill with a single stroke. Azteriya had seen it! Mother eschewed the local butcher, preferring the meals she made to be fresh.
Dorrys still argued. “What if this commander tosses you out of an airlock when he finds you aboard his ship?”
“He won’t.” Azteriya had watched the big armored fellow, at least fifteen handspans tall and yet not overly rough with those he dealt with. Just big.
“Are you sure you can even survive on board? What about breathing? Or food? What if nothing on his ship is compatible?”
Dorrys referred to the fact the commander wore a helm with a breathing apparatus, odd considering the logs Azteriya had accessed showed a gas ratio on his ship that she could breathe.
“I’ll be fine. He’s got a culinary unit on board.”
“What if he tries to defile you? Have you seen the size of him?” Her friend looked genuinely concerned.
That caused her to smile. Azteriya patted her hip. “If he tries, I’ll gut him and take over his ship.”
“What if he kills you instead?”
Then she wasn’t the warrior her father had raised. “I’ll take that risk. Or would you rather see me sunken in the sea of tears?” Convicted of gutting the mate her mother kept trying to foist on her.
“Or you could just accept your fate.” The moment she said it, Dorrys bit her lip. “What am I saying? Of course you won’t. I wish I had your courage.”
“Since when do you want to travel the stars and fight?”
Dorrys shook her head. “I meant to boldly find what I need in life. I’ve all but given up hope of finding a mate here.”
“The perfect male is out there for you.”
A heavy sigh left her friend. “I wish I believed that. I’ll miss you.”
“As will I, dear friend.” Azteriya clapped Dorrys on the arms, giving them a squeeze. “I’ll try and message you when I can. But don’t expect them too often. I shall probably be very busy having grand adventures.”
“A part of me, a small part,” Dorrys quickly added, “almost wishes I was going with you.”
Her friend shook her head. “Unlike you, I can’t fight, nor do I want to. But if you find a warrior out there who needs a mate, give him my coordinates.”
“I promise that if I find a suitable one, I’ll drag him back.” Maybe she’d drag back a pair and stop her mother’s complaints. A male that would stay at home and take care of the babies while she went off and pillaged the galaxy.
Excitement hummed inside her at the thought of finally achieving her dream.
A peek around the corner of the container had Dorrys squeaking. “The commander is on his way!”
Sure enough, the door to the Attlus began to lower, finally allowing access to the vessel. The commander obviously didn’t trust anyone in port.
Paranoia, a bad thing if it controlled all your actions, but good if it saved your life. A lesson her father taught her.
Azteriya quickly hugged her best friend. “Remember, don’t tell my parents what I’ve done until the ship jumps out of this sector.”
“And tell them it was the Zonian vessel searching for that missing chit to slow their pursuit.” Because Mother wouldn’t just let her only child run off. She’d send Father to fetch her.
Dorrys sniffled. “Promise to send me a message as soon as you can.”
“I will!” Azteriya actually couldn’t wait to send her first message home detailing her adventures. I will achieve a glorious name for myself. Make my father proud. Surely, in time, her mother would forgive her.
“Get ready to run.” Dorrys pulled something from her pocket, a pink furball with four floppy ears and three giant eyes, all of them open wide and unblinking. Dorrys murmured to it.
A mouth suddenly slit open in the furry face, displaying pointed sharp teeth. With a wiggle, the Ygestas took off, sliding down Dorrys’ arm, hitting the floor, and, with a scamper of tiny legs, zeroed in on the lumbering commander heading to his ship.
A second later, Dorrys, holding her skirts hiked high at the side and showing off nicely rounded mauve calves, raced out of hiding, squealing. “My Ygestas! It escaped. Someone help me catch it.”
As Dorrys chased Bunbun, her pet, round and round the commander, who spun away from his ship, Azteriya darted to the open hatch, legs pumping, not daring to look back but listening for any signs of alarm.
No one shouted, so she could only hope it meant no one noticed. She slipped inside the Attlus and then cursed as she saw the shut door leading from the airlock into the ship proper.
She’d not expected it to be closed. She shoved at it. Put her shoulder to it. The yells outside continued. She glanced around and saw a console. She slapped it, muttering, “Open, damn you.”
A light flashed, and a sound bonged, the kind that didn’t open the door probably on account the unit didn’t recognize her biometric signature.
Surely there was a way past it. She couldn’t fail. If Mother found out Azteriya had tried to escape again, she might actually resort to the chains she’d threatened.
Azteriya slapped at the panel again, even if it was probably useless.
To her surprise, it pinged and the door opened. She didn’t question her luck, especially since Dorrys’ excited tone sounded closer, which probably meant the commander neared too.
She moved deeper into the ship, a big ship for one creature, at least only one that she’d seen. Spying meant she’d noted only the commander disembarked, and the terminal scans showed no other large life forms on board.
The commander sailed the galaxies alone. Surely he would welcome some help. At least, that was one of the arguments she’d prepared.
Since remaining around the entrance would get her caught too quickly, Azteriya jogged down the long hall, relying on her memory to guide her straight. She’d studied the design of the vessel, memorizing the layout and plotting out the best locations for her to stow away.
She eschewed the power lift and chose to pop open a compartment hatch. She clambered down the ladder within, traveling two levels before exiting the slim access tube into the engine area. The moment she popped open the panel, the hum of machinery filled the air.
The ship she’d chosen for her escape was a steady older model. However, it featured a new, revolutionary super-dynamic gravitational drive. Which, in simple terms meant no need for wormholes. The ship created its own slips through space, making galactic travel quicker.
The Attlus could skip through galaxies at many times the speed of most vessels, and it would take some time before her father could catch up. Hopefully long enough for her to prove she could be a warrior.
Azteriya tucked herself in a corner, a place tight enough to keep her from getting tossed around during the ship’s ascent through the atmosphere. The dense magnetic fields in this section would skew any biological sweeps the ship might make, and this area was out of sight of any visual recording equipment.
In spite of her training in patience—galactic units spent in one position in a barren wasteland waiting for her hunting target with her father, long moments spent in silence, body still, muscles cramped less they disturb their prey—waiting took its toll. Excitement didn’t want to sit still. Worry, that as with previous times, she’d get caught kept her tense.
No one came to drag her out of hiding. Not a single alarm sounded.
The engine revved faster, the sound an auditory-numbing roar as the ship prepared for take off. She held her breath as the vibration of the craft let her know they’d lifted from the surface.
The Attlus didn’t shake as much as the small vessels her father had taken her on when younger to visit the moons. Mother had halted those trips after Azteriya’s first fight to go further.
The Attlus obviously had excellent seals and environmental controls because her ears didn’t plug with pressure. Her stomach didn’t drop out. The only way she knew they popped free of the atmosphere was because the slight trembling of the starship ceased. For a moment, gravity didn’t exist and she floated, the weightless feeling never failing to bring a smile to her lips. She could still recall her father leaving the gravity off on their trips that he might teach her how to coil her legs and push off using walls. “Weightless doesn’t mean useless.” All his lessons came with an expression. She memorized them all.
Thump. The gravity module kicked in, and her buttocks hit the floor. Her breath whooshed out.
She’d made it off planet.
But it still wasn’t safe yet. They were still too close to Aressotle. Close enough that if her disappearance was noted, an armada might be sent to fetch her. Father had connections.
Azteriya hunkered down in her secluded spot, nestled in her cloak. She shut her eyes and took some rest because, as her father had taught her, When on a mission, remember to sleep every chance you get. Fatigue could be a warrior’s greatest enemy.
Her eyes shut, and she managed a decent nap before she heard it, the heavy tread of footsteps, boots on the perforated flooring.
A glance at her wrist unit showed the elapsed time. By her calculations, they were almost far enough from her world for the super-dynamic gravitational drive to activate.
So close to freedom, but the steps neared. Came toward her despite all her precautions.
While still out of sight, a voice barked, deep and guttural.
Her embedded translation unit gave the words meaning.
“I know you’re there. Show yourself. Now!”
Discovery meant no point in hiding. The moment to explain her intent had arrived. Azteriya stood tall and faced the pale and hairy creature confronting her.
She let out an unwarrior-like screech.
By all the moons of her planet, it was hideous!
Of all the things Jedrek expected to find on board—a critter that hatched from one of the cargo containers, a ghost, which was more common than people knew—a woman, tall and shapely, her skin a vivid purple, her hair a shocking white and bound back in braids, wearing warrior leathers wasn’t on the list.
It didn’t help she screamed at the sight of him and brandished a knife.
“Foul creature, I shall dispatch you.”
“Don’t you point that thing at me, woman!” he snapped. Nothing like having an attractive gal call you foul. He’d bathed recently; however, he might not have shaved in a while.
“It speaks!” Such surprise in the tone.
“Of course, it speaks. Not all of us are brain dead idiots.” Jedrek hoped his pointed glare let her know who he referred to.
The knife lowered but remained unsheathed. “I was not aware the commander of this vessel kept a pet.”
Did she seriously just say that? “Not a pet, princess. A person.”
“Are you a mutant?”
“No. I’m a human, from Earth. And enough of your questions. You’d better start explaining who you are and what you are doing on the Attlus.” And more importantly, where was her accomplice, because Jedrek was acquainted enough with the Kulin and their culture to know they kept their women secluded. It was one of the few civilizations that still treated them little better than chattel.
So the knowledge discs claimed. They’d obviously never met this woman.
Her chin tilted imperially. “I don’t answer to slaves. I will speak only to the commander.”
“Not happening, princess. I’m not letting you anywhere near him until you tell me where your accomplice is hiding.”
“I am alone.”
“Bullshit.” The expletive, probably not easily translated, made her brow furrow.
“I believe you are accusing me of lying. Yet, I speak the truth. I am alone. I give you my word as a warrior.”
At the claim, Jedrek scoffed. “You’re a Kulin lady,”—known for their skills of manipulation behind the scenes—“not a warrior, and even if you were, your word means shit to me. I don’t know who you are—”
“I am Azteriya Gaw’dessa, daughter of Zuz’eteran, known through the galaxy as the Punisher.”
“Never heard of him, or you, nor do I care. You’re going back home.”
For a moment, he thought she’d stomp her foot. “You cannot return me. I have a glorious destiny awaiting.”
“I’m sure you do. But it won’t be on board this ship.” He jerked a thumb, gesturing for her to get moving. “March that purple butt out the door, princess. I am not starting a war with your planet because you’re having a hissy fit and want to piss off your parents.”
“I am not a princess!” she stated, quite indignantly. “I am the—”
“You already told me, and I still don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a hassle I don’t need.”
She crossed her arms over a bosom impressively encased in molded black leather—a bosom with only two breasts. Interesting given most Kulin females sported three. It probably indicated some genetic mixing down the line.
“I am done speaking with you.” Spoken with the imperial authority of a queen. “Take me to your commander.”
He remained unimpressed. “The commander will tell you the same thing I just did.” With a few added choice words. “You’re going home.”
“If what you claim is the truth, then he can tell me himself.”
At her continued stubbornness, Jedrek sighed. “Why must you make this difficult?”
“The only one being difficult is you, barbarian.” Her lip curled. “I begin to see now why your kind is considered of lower status. It would seem humans have difficulty in recognizing their betters and obeying orders.”
He blinked at her, the arrogance in her statement stunning, and from such a beautiful woman. Yet, her attitude didn’t detract from her looks. He couldn’t help but admire them. How could he ignore the fine lines of her high cheekbones, the bright blueness of her eyes, the toned, yet slender muscle of her arms, the indent of her waist, flaring over narrow hips and her legs, long, lean, and encased in crisscrossing straps lined with sheathes.
A good thing he stared. It meant he saw her foot rising to strike him.
Oh hell no. He caught it and meant to toss her on her ass, except she moved and, somehow, he was the one flying.
Crash. He hit a wall and slid down, narrowly missing burning himself on the hot coils of the magnetic gravity system. “Holy fuck, princess. What is wrong with you?”
“I am perfect. You, on the other hand, have some evolving to do,” she shouted.
“I need to evolve?” he sputtered. “You’re the one that just tossed me like a fucking ball.”
“You attempted to touch me.”
“Because you kicked me first.”
“You deserved it.”
“For what? Trying to evict a stowaway from the ship?”
“I am not a stowaway. More like a surprise guest.”
He leaned on his elbows, still splayed on the floor, and snorted. “You just defined intruder.”
“Not for long. I am going to meet your commander, and he will gladly offer me a spot on this ship.”
“Like fuck he will.”
“You’ll see.” She sprinted away from him.
Jedrek jumped to his feet, but she was out of sight, disobeying and escaping. But to go where? Princess was on a bloody ship in space.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Get back here, goddammit!” His roots emerged in his speech, the words of Earth rising despite the two decades spent in space.
The female didn’t reply. But he knew where she was going. To find the commander.COLLAPSE