The redhead—whatever Baak said his name was—didn’t bother to even say ‘hello.’ He clutched Eliza’s forearm and forced her to jog at his pace.
Don’t let him cower you, she thought as she stumbled at his mercy, unaware of where he led her, or of what would happen to her. She just needed to stick to Baak’s plan and find out if this alien showed any emotion at all, easy. So she cleared her throat. “Excuse me.”
“Can you please free my hands? They are hurting,” she insisted.
He didn’t look at her or even gesture; instead, he continued to drag her across the hangar, and she understood that being polite was not effective, not with him. Then, biting her lower lip, she gave in to her new reality—whatever it was destined to become, for now.
She observed the alien.
His crimson hair, cropped to a little under his cheekbones and neatly held behind his ears, shimmered under the silvery lights like lava at night. He wore an entirely black uniform, hoarse and fitting, that resembled crocodile skin. His boots, black and knee-high, clanged with each step he took. A strange golden symbol etched on his right arm caught her attention. She’d seen it before, somewhere, of that she was sure. It looked like an infinity symbol positioned vertically, but instead of having two holes, it had three.
After escorting her across the technology show-off room, he halted in front of a boomerang-shaped ship and pushed her aside; she tripped, but didn’t fall. Anger welled inside of her.
I would beat your ass if I wasn’t captive.
He brushed the gleaming surface of the vehicle, dusting it. “I am Anzu, in case you might wonder.” He looked her in the eye, packed a strand of hair behind his ear, and his lime green, nah, neon green eyes sparkled, like for reals.
Eliza pressed her lips together and gave him a ‘yeah, great, nice to meet you…um… what was your name again?’ kind of look and stabbed her gaze to the floor. She couldn’t let his good looks interfere between her and reality; she was a hostage and, he was the enemy—wasn’t he? To her disgrace, she couldn’t stop feeling dazzled by the wild combination of vivid red, pale skin, and vibrant green. How could there be aliens like this? A little self-entertainment wouldn’t harm her anyway. She’d gladly bother the hell out of him. Round one in one, two—
“Climb,” Anzu said, motioning the way.
She shook her head no and darted her glare across the hangar. Where am I? And where am I going? “Please, no.”
He raised his eyebrows and pointed the way for her to get inside the alien, flying machine.
She looked behind her shoulder and took three steps back.
He pulled at her wrist and turned her around by the shoulder.
He freed her hands.
“You are so kind,” she said. “Thank you.”
Eliza wanted to run, but she couldn’t commit the same stupid mistake again. She would find a way to figure this guy out and get the hell out of here.
Then Anzu shoved her into the craft, as if she was a sack of potatoes.
“I’m walking, right? Don’t push me, man,” she said, looking him in the eye.
He released her. “Very well then, climb.”
The steps were thin and made out of some type of crystal material. She took one step up, and an aqua light gleamed around her boots.
When she entered the ship, she noticed that from the outside, it had appeared not to have any windows, but from the inside, she could see everything in all directions, like being inside of a glass ornament. She didn’t like the idea of sitting anywhere near this dude, but where else could she go?
Two glass chairs hovered. Anzu, once more, pulled at her wrist. Then he sat her down and eyed her thighs. “Open your legs.”
“What?” She grimaced. “Why?”
Anzu grabbed her knees and forced her legs apart. She froze and couldn’t find her voice. Terrified, she tried to tell herself that they probably didn’t even think like humans.
“Do not move,” he said, and touched a gleaming, green button.
The craft’s floor opened and Eliza leaned back. He held her legs still.
“What the fuck is that?”
Something like Medusa’s hair appeared slow and secretive as they made their way between her legs, inch by inch. They looked like a collection of black snakes. She pushed her back against the seat and her chest heaved. Up and down. Up and down.
Eliza glowered at him. He raised his eyebrows, bangs falling wildly below his cheeks.
The blob of tentacles locked on between her legs and separated into three other snake-like things that continued their way up around her body. Two of them bent to the sides near the extremes, securing her lap. The others escalated to her chest and stopped a couple of inches below her neck, only to divide itself once more. They adjusted and pressed down while the new divisions crept over her shoulders. Eliza tried to bring her body forward, but the straps had done an extraordinary job. She sat glued to the seat.
He pulled and pushed onto the straps, then slapped the metallic ceiling of the ship. “Enjoy the ride.”
“Wait, you are not—”
A door from the rear glided. He shrugged, a devilish smile on his face as he disappeared from her view.
Eliza looked around. This guy is going to kill me and is he supposed to be smiling?
He appeared from the other side, sat on his seat, and let the straps do their work on him while he looked at her with a see-they-are-just-straps expression.
To hell with politeness, this alien freak needed a slap across his face.
“Stupid freak,” Eliza said, holding his gaze, trying to get him mad.
“I suppose I am, creature,” he replied, swiping the foot-long touch screen in front of him, an alien cockpit.
She gasped. “Creature?”
“Yes; lower life form, creature, brute, ignorant.”
“You really are one hell of a fucked up freak.”
“You’ve met many offensive-word up freaks, haven’t you?” he asked, serious.
“Whoa, you sound like a robot who can’t curse.”
Eliza was doomed. She had no idea where they were headed, where she was, and what were the intentions of this arrogant, red-haired pilot. Baak had probably fooled her by giving her false hopes of freedom to calm her down.
Then the lights dimmed and darkness lurked. He breathed next to her, and she picked up his otherworldly scent. “Did you roll in a garden before you got your red ass here?”
“Creature, if you are going to open your mouth, please make it relevant,” he said.
Then a dim, blue light turned on. Anzu manipulated the holographic screen in front of him.
She didn’t want to admit it, but he looked like one of those anime figures brought to life, but way more dazzling. ‘He is just a distraction,’ she repeated to herself. He was young too, perhaps her age, maybe a couple of years older.
She didn’t want to ask him, which would be too obvious. It would be like, ‘hey buddy tell me your age, and you know we can grab some ice cream…you know… me you, you me.’ Nope. Not happening. Not in a million years. Yuck, he could be a thousand years old. Well, Earth years. Did it matter?
Without allowing anguish to settle in, for she had this creepy sensation warning her that she probably was on another planet. So she faced him, and asked, “Where are we going?”
“Out of here.”
Well duh. What was he going to do? Catapult his ass, and hers, out of a volcano?
He continued to swipe his fingers across the screen, uniting symbols she had never seen before.
“Where are you from?” Eliza asked. “Are you even from the Milky Way?”
He said nothing and acted as if a ghost sat next to him.
“You probably come from the shittiest planet out there, right?” Eliza asked, shaking her head. “Maybe one that houses criminals, and thieves, and lunatics.” She looked around. Still no reaction.
He glanced at the ceiling and pressed a red, ticking symbol that looked like an inverted ‘V’.
Her gut clamped as the craft slowly took off vertically. “I’d really appreciate it if, next time, you let me know when you are going to maneuver this piece of cheap metal you call a vehicle.”
“Be quiet, creature.”
She clamped her lips, gripped the straps.
The craft stopped, slow and steady, and continued horizontally as Anzu talked in his weird language, peeked around and manipulated the holographic three dimensional image of a planet.
She wanted to jump out or squeeze something, but she couldn’t constrained to the seat. So Eliza took a deep breath and glanced at the planet depiction, trying to distinguish Earth’s features on the map. She failed.
“Are we on Earth?” she asked.
He raised his eyebrows, eyes focused on the screen, hands uniting symbols.
“Please, tell me.”
Of course, he won’t tell me!
Red lights flashed; she held her breath. If only she could understand their unusual writing, she would know where she was going, and where she was. At this very moment all she wanted was to faint and wake up somewhere safe…but with the alien, of course. She would tie him up if she had the chance and keep him like her own personal pet. Or best yet, she would mount him on a rodeo horse and bet on his ass. If they had abducted her, and had done as they pleased, why couldn’t she take him and do as she pleased? Shit, she’d make boatloads of cash if she charged curious people to have a quick look at this unusual alien. Want to touch the alien? Double the price.
Then the craft jerked and rattled to the sides. She clenched her hands, firecrackers exploded inside of her, not of excitement, but of fear to the unknown, of uncertainty. She gripped the straps, tight, very tight, very, very, tight; her knuckles turned white and her fingers, numb.
Then a huge door slid upward, fast, too fast for her to catch her breath. “Holy fucking shit….”
A blue world painted with swirls of white and green lay beneath. It tugged onto the boomerang shaped ship as it deorbited. The craft, in turn, rotated rapidly. The planet appeared on top of her, below her, and back on top of her. It continued to roll that way. It wasn’t Earth. It was another type of Earth. The pressure in her head grew. Now the vision flickered between space, and the planet, space, and again the planet. Eliza wanted to puke the emptiness in her stomach. It burned. Her forehead cried for a release of pressure as the dizziness aggravated her nausea. What the heck did she do to deserve this?
Then the straps punched at her ribs as the boomerang erected itself from its upside down position.
Eliza screamed her life out as the planet’s massive force pulled them into its womb without giving her a chance of redemption. The emptiness in her stomach made her shrink in her seat.
Unable to move forward to contrast the ticklish sensation of speed and void, she held her breath, clenched her stomach, and shut her eyes as hard as she could.
Eliza couldn’t take the vertigo anymore and shouted very loud, “Please stop, please stop, please stop…”
“Breathe,” Anzu yelled over her loud pleas of fear. She didn’t.
She screamed and screamed and screamed; uncontrollably and out of air, her throat began to close. Her chest heaved high as she tried to take in air. Black spots appeared in her vision.
“I can’t breathe!” she yelled. “Please stop—”
He slapped her cheek. “I do this every day, calm down or you will die.”
She closed her eyes, cheek burning, yet she had to admit the slap did help her bring her back to consciousness, but fuck no. So she glowered at him and smacked him back, hard. “Like how it feels, freak?”
He glared at her, shook his head, and swiped his fingers across the hologram. “Stop screaming, or I will eject you.”
Before she could answer the freak, the boomerang came to a perfect angle, and the world sank. Her guts seemed to crawl up her throat.
A pinkish haze formed around the ship, then it quickly turned into a reddish pink, orange, vivid red, and then the ship caught fire. She sat in the middle of a blazing fireball ready to plunge into an unknown world.
“It’s gonna blow up. It’s getting hot,” she shouted.
“What if this thing explodes?” she asked, kinda guilty for losing control on what must have been a difficult task for him. “Is it reliable?”
He ignored her; she needed answers.
“Fuck man! Answer me! If you are capable of traveling god knows what distances through space, it should be reliable, right? Answer me. Yes, it must. It should. It will.”
Then the flames ceased. There was not one shape in the land below that she recognized. It was mainly ocean with some scattered islands around the equatorial areas and the poles. The land took the tone of various shades of browns and greens, but one island in particular, which caught her eye, had purples and pinks. On the other side of the world, the land glimmered in neon orange, green, and blue.
Below her, an immense mat of puffy clouds extended all the way to the horizon. Some clouds were gray, others an ethereal white. Her feet appeared to surf on top of them as the ship drilled through the clouds. The currents brought the ship up and then bang, bang, bang, back down.
It became dark. Rain slammed the windows. Anzu tamed the storm in silence. Lightning cut the atmosphere horizontally and vertically. The craft shook from left to right, up and down.
This planet had to receive her with severe weather. How pleasant. The descent from wherever she was, probably an orbiting station, became too quick for her to consider her situation. There was no escape; she flew through the skies of an alien planet. The enemies’ planet. What for? She had no idea. Worse yet, she had no clue where in the universe she was. How would she ask for help and to whom? To the red-head? Impossible.
Eliza broke into tears. She battled not to let her anxiety take over, to not let her fear eat her up, but this it, she thought. Right here, in the middle of an alien thunderstorm, with a fiery haired alien, she had to let her emotions burst. She cried and cried and cried, shaking. Her nose became stuffy.
The knot in her chest grew. She wanted to hit him, hijack the ship, and head back to Earth. If only she knew how. What if they were going to torture her, who would she ask for help? Would they bring her back home? She wanted to ask him, but no, it was overwhelming. He would never tell her the truth either.
He glanced at her and raised his eyebrows.
Eliza turned her head and looked out the window. She didn’t have the drive to make him mad now.
Baak would have to wait. Maybe losing her emotions would allow her to cope with whatever they had planned on doing with her.
Then the ship stopped in midair and descended vertically. Boring fog took over the landscape.
Anzu took a deep breath. What a trip, he thought as he opened the secret communication line with Damkina. “Commander, this is Anzu, the human is on Zaoni ground.”
“Aha! Well done. Bring her quick and avoid eye contact with her. Humans are dangerous.”
What harm will this creature cause me?
He deactivated Eliza’s straps, then his. But Eliza doubled over. Grabbing her by the shoulder, he pushed her back against her seat and brushed her brown curls off her face.
Rubbing his forehead, he looked at her cry and cry. Honestly, he wanted to tell her it would be okay, but it wasn’t true. Her life belonged to the scientists, who eagerly waited to begin the bio-program production, and to him afterward. He had to kill her, her people too.
“Get that water off your eyes,” he said, and reached out to help her wipe her tears.
“Don’t touch me,” she said, slapping his hand away.
“Look. I have other duties to fulfill. But considering your absurd behavior, I will give you some time to recover.”
She gasped. “We’ll see who will have to recover after I get what I want.”
Understanding her pain, he climbed off the craft and gave her some time to pull herself back together. As he looked at the crystal dome in the distance, where Damkina waited for them, he thought of how it must had been brutal for Eliza to get abducted and flown here.
She was fun, though, nothing like his people.
He wished he could stay all day teasing her, so she could fire back at him with profanity. The thought of having a human friend invigorated him inside. A feeler, one that could understand the situation he was in—in a way. Yet he played a big part of her new misery.
Then she walked out of the craft, astonishingly determined. “One small step for Eliza, and one heck of a step for Earth, for the women of Earth,” she said and darted her glare in all directions. “If I’m here, then I shall live burdened with glorious purpose…Where’s Loki?”
He wanted to laugh, but he leaned against the thin edge of the ship instead and crossed his arms. “Welcome to Zaoni.”
She packed her curls behind her ears, but the wind blew them away. Her eyes spat fire as she walked towards him. “Oh, so that’s what you call this fog-covered shit planet. What now?”
He just had to wait for space sickness to hit her. It did, and quick.
Then, grabbing her stomach, she knelt. As he expected, this poor creature vomited her life out. She lay on the ground unable to pick her head up. For his entertainment, he let her give into the physical agonies of first time space travel. After all, she did cause him to almost crash his ship thanks to all the senseless screaming. But he couldn’t let her damage her stomach like she was about to now, so he walked back to his craft and got some medicine.
On his way back, Eliza reeled on the ground. He squatted next to her, and, with care, he turned her around. “Open your mouth.”
She pinched her lips shut and shook her head.
He squeezed her cheeks and forced her to swallow the nausea medicine.
Eliza spat it out; a rebel, something he couldn’t afford being.
“Get up, creature,” he said, a little after the medicine did its work on her; its effect, swift and effective.
She stood up, staggering, and came face to face with him, on her tip-toes. “Listen to me you disgusting piece of red-haired shit.” Her finger pointed at his nose. “It’s not ‘get up’, or ‘climb’, or ‘open your mouth,’ or ‘open your legs.’ Manners. Did they teach you that in your, I don’t know, messed up Earth-Zaoni relations course?”
She came back to her heels. “Next time, and for your own good, use ‘please’. Got it? And I’m not a creature. My name is Eliza.”
She’s lovely. Damkina’s going to have a hard time with her.
He raised his eyebrows. “Walk, creature.”
“Shit, who are you?”
Eliza gasped, and he had no option but to grasp her arm and drag her to her destination. He walked her through a secret path in the middle of a forest. Green, glowing flowers shone, merging beautifully with the purple foliage of the trees as thunder rumbled in the distance. Light snow began to fall, coloring her brown curls.
Then, jerking her arm, she said, “Let go of me. Where do you think I’m gonna run, huh? Hop like a happy bunny across this forest?”
Anzu looked around, afraid of being watched by spies and released her arm. “Don’t make me chase you.”
She smiled, the wind pushed her hair back. He could tell she marveled at the forest’s colors; after all, Zaoni was exotic and primitively beautiful, in equilibrium with nature.
Then she stopped and touched a pink, glowing flower; it turned purple. “Why do they glow?”
As he watched her heave to her feet and sway her curls off her face, his chest tightened. “Generally, these flowers compete with each other, so they must glow brighter, even more exotic than the rest, to attract insects.”
“Why do your eyes glow?” she asked, inching closer.
“They give that illusion, but they don’t. Now walk.”
Her pleasure wouldn’t last long. Beyond this short trek, Ymono’s Military Headquarters would emerge, a gigantic crystal sphere with other smaller crystal spheres around it, each illuminated with different colors, but today it would be purple.
Soon after, without her noticing, he caught glimpses at her. The dim rays of Ningub, Zaonis sun, pierced through the fog, illuminating her skin. Freckles dotted her face like stars did in the night sky.
He rubbed his forehead. It wasn’t proper for him to even notice her. But he had to admit she had the most beautiful dark brown eyes he had ever seen.
Then, cutting him off his thoughts, she asked, “Why are you so human?”
Trying to make understand her senseless impression of him, he halted, yanked her wrist, and brought her close. “You cannot be serious.”
“Why not?” Eliza tried to shake herself out of his clutch, glaring at him, fearless. “You react just like a human would.”
He tightened his grip.
“Freak,” she said, and jerked her arm, trying to push herself away.
I could never kill you, he thought, looking her in the eye.
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