Wednesday, April 6, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 9

An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.   

Catch up on the first 7 chapters of this exciting alien abduction sci-fi romance here: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8.

CAPTIVE

Chapter Nine

 

“Tell me,” Addy demanded when they were back in Duncan’s kitchen.

“Hrmph.”

“Why are you being stubborn?”

“What’s all the shouting about?” Tess emerged from her room and joined them at the knee-high eating table.

Addy ignored her. “I’ve obviously done something to tick off Black Fur. Why won’t you tell me what it was so I don’t repeat it?”

“Who’s Black Fur?”

“Xanthrag,” Duncan said.

Tess pulled out a cushion from under the table and knelt on it. “What happened?”

“First, tell me who this Xan-whatever is.”

“Xanthrag,” Tess enunciated the name. “He’s a big-time survival race breeder. He owns the Yard, HuBReC, and half the humans here. His gladiators have made it to the championships every year for as long as I can remember and have won most of them.”

Great. Somehow, she’d inadvertently pissed off a very influential alien. That couldn’t be good. “What did I do to make him mad, Duncan?” When he harrumphed again, Addy slammed her fist on the table.

“Would someone please tell me what happened?”

Addy recounted her training experience. When describing the way the aliens put fingers to lips before placing palms onto the other’s chest, Tess’s eyes bugged. “That’s a Hyborean accord.”

“A what?”

“A mutual agreement. A binding contract.” Tess leaned over the table. “Hyboreans are compulsive gamblers. There isn’t anything they won’t bet on: sports, careers, the weather, you name it. When they agree on a bet, they make an accord.” She mimicked the Hyborean gesture. “I always imagined them saying, ‘My word I give to you,’ and when they cover the other’s hand, ‘I hold you to your word.’”

“Fascinating. But what does it have to do with me?”

“Och, lass, they were wagering on ye.” Duncan got up and poured a drink.

“On whether or not I’d come?”

“No. On who ye’d go to. Xanthrag wanted ye. Ferly Mor didn’t want to give ye up.”

“How do you know this?”

“The closer I am to Ferly Mor, the better I can interpret him. Ye made a wise choice, or ye’d be sharing the same master as Regan now.” He drank like it was water, not whiskey.

“That doesn’t explain Xanthrag’s anger.”

Duncan choked and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Sure it does.”

“Do you really expect me to believe a ten-second conversation about owning me caused Xanthrag’s rage and Ferly Mor’s panic? No way. Ferly Mor was begging. And you”—she pointed an accusing finger at him—“practically had a heart attack out there. What aren’t you telling me, Duncan?”

He threw back another shot. “There’s nothing else to tell. Hyboreans are nasty gamblers. That’s all.” His guilty gaze dropped to the floor before he crossed the room.

“Da. What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” He took his cloak from the rack. “The survival race party should be starting soon. I, for one, don’t want to miss it.” He slapped the button to sublimate the door to Ferly Mor’s apartment, then disappeared through the white gas.

“You’re right,” Tess said after the door stopped crackling. “He’s keeping secrets.”

* * *

Hiding behind the evergreen plant in the corner of Ferly Mor’s room, Addy watched the party of Hyboreans gathering around a long table piled high with food. The mouth-watering smells permeated the air, thankfully overpowering that black licorice Hyborean scent. Boisterous “noise” filled the apartment, though the only audible sounds came from clinking dishes and human conversation.

Duncan and Tess seemed to be enjoying themselves in the midst of the action, mingling with the people brought by their Hyborean masters.

The cold temperature of Ferly Mor’s apartment didn’t bother her now that the alien had outfitted her in a white, two-piece thermal suit, the kind a downhill skier might wear, only thicker. It was surprisingly comfortable with its spandex-like material that moved with her body and covered her from toe to neck. All the other humans wore them, too, except for Duncan, who preferred his own clothes and his cloak. The stubborn Scot.

A reddish-brown Hyborean knelt opposite her, blocking her view of the party. She—since the aliens didn’t wear clothes, it was obvious this one was a female—held out her hand to Addy. She “heard” the alien’s gentle coaxing but didn’t move.

Damn her curiosity. Why didn’t she hide in the bathroom while Duncan and Tess went to the party without her?

Ferly Mor approached from behind the female, a goofy expression on his face. Reaching out with a tentative hand, he touched the Red Hyborean on her shoulder. Startled, she turned. Her face lit up when she saw him, but then she quickly looked away.

Their body language spoke of shy desire, and a familiar, peaceful feeling embraced her. For a moment, it was spring and she was home.

Ferly Mor caught Addy behind the plant and then handed her over to Red, whose big smile set her pulse racing. Did he just give her away as a token of his affection?

With refreshments in hand and humans in tow, the aliens filed upstairs and entered a room the size of a basketball court. Shimmering white snowballs—or maybe they were more like beanbag chairs—lined the perimeter like bleachers facing the empty court.

Excitement grew around her as everyone melted into a snowball chair. Red sat Addy atop her lap. The observation walls darkened until they blocked out the sun. The interior lights dimmed like a theater. Then suddenly the court transformed into frozen tundra.

Forty fierce-looking men appeared before her on a starting line, seemingly unaffected by the snow and wind whipping around them.

She jumped out of Red’s lap to touch the closest one, but her hand penetrated the ghost. Silent laughter met her before alien hands picked her up. Ferly Mor brought her back to his snowball and settled her on his lap.

Duncan and Tess joined her. “Hyborean technology is verra impressive. Aye? They’re holograms.”

“They look real. Everything is detailed and clear. It’s like we’re at the race.” She shivered as if able to feel the arctic temperature.

“This is no’ an ordinary survival race. The Survival Race Championship is more like a holiday to the Hyboreans than a sporting event.”

Energy sizzled through the air with the thrilling intensity of a summer electrical storm. The lightning and thunder weren’t real. It stemmed from her perception of the Hyboreans’ excitement. Some of the aliens snapped their fingers in applause as a camera focused on Regan dressed in a tight-fitting, black thermal suit and swimmer’s goggles. His attention was focused on something before him.

The camera panned the line of men until it stopped at another face she recognized. Her side of the room erupted with more thunderous energy and “cheering.” Ferly Mor’s vigorous finger snapping bounced her on his lap.

The gladiator’s long, dark hair whipped in the wind. “Max.” She spoke the name with half surprise and half relief. He was alive and looked all the more powerful with clothes on. The room suddenly grew warm.

“What’s wrong with him?” Tess said. “He’s not as intense as usual.”

“I’m sure I dinna ken, lass.”

Nerves flooded Addy’s stomach as if she were the one on the starting line. If something was wrong with Max, hopefully she—and what happened in the breeding box—wasn’t the cause. Not that his forced seduction was excusable. But after spending two days in this bizarre world, perhaps it wasn’t entirely inexcusable, either. Studs were forced to mate. By choosing to stop, Max had wittingly risked punishment.

If the aliens mistreated him because he refused to rape her, then how could she not feel a slight guilt?

At the sound of a gong, the men took off running over snow-covered permafrost.

“They’re pacing themselves,” she said. “How long is this race?”

“As long as it takes,” Duncan said. “It’s been as quick as four days and as long as three weeks.”

“They have to run in the snow for days?”

“Och, no. Ye got it all wrong. ’Tis more than a foot race.”

A collective roar of anger from Ferly Mor and his friend group surrounded her. Their humans shouted at the holograms, and Addy drew her attention to Max, facedown in the snow. A man wearing an ice-blue thermal suit got off of him and took two steps before swearing and dropping to the ground. Two Hyboreans jumped off their chairs and pointed to a third Hyborean, who shook his head. Addy sensed their jeers and laughter at the other’s expense. “What happened?”

“Penalty,” Tess said. “The guy in blue tackled Max.”

Max got up and continued running. Blue tried to get up, but before he could get to his knees, he clutched his collar and collapsed in the snow. Other racers passed him. Finally, he stood and started running again, though noticeably slower.

“Hrmph. If ye ask me, they should have zapped him longer for cheating. He’s no’ even in last place.”

The loud breathing plus all those feet thundering over hard snow sounded like an avalanche. A competitor spit in her direction, and she flinched before remembering it was a hologram. Ferly Mor held her tighter on his lap. She didn’t mind, actually. His body gave off a great amount of heat.

“Look,” Tess said. “There’s the first checkpoint.”

In the distance, two green flags flapped in the wind. The camera angle changed, and the men sprinted head-on toward her.

Regan was in the middle of the pack and entered the checkpoint area about fifty meters ahead of Max. The competitors picked at the food table. On the ground opposite the table lay backpacks of varying colors and sizes. Regan stopped next to an old, worn black one that had a patch she couldn’t quite make out. He stared it down.

Someone across the room shouted, “Don’t touch it!” He was one of the men Regan had practiced with the other day.

After a pause, Regan hocked up phlegm and spat on the bag. He picked up a different backpack, moved to the food table, and stuffed the backpack full before slinging it on his back and running from the flagged area.

The Hyboreans were out of their seats, touching their lips and slapping each other’s chests, making their accords. She had to admit the excitement grew contagious. It was like being at a Hyborean Super Bowl party.

A constant parade of racers entered the first checkpoint, each grabbing a bag, filling it, and continuing on. Max entered, squatted to retrieve his bag, and saw the spit. He glanced up to see Regan running from the checkpoint. Max’s muscles bunched, his jaw set, his nostrils flared. Behind his goggles, dark-green eyes blazed with the same heated anger he’d had for the Hyboreans.

How could this powerful, formidable warrior be the same man who had whistled and danced and joked about squirting cubed fruit on him?

“There’s that intensity,” Tess said as the room erupted with noise—cheers from Max’s fans and snide comments and boos from Regan’s fans. More Hyboreans stood, and the betting continued.

“What’s up with the backpacks?”

“In the first part of the race, competitors canna touch each other or items that dinna belong to them in the checkpoint area.”

As the other men grabbed food and rushed off, Max took his time at the table.

Her heart pounded for him. He dropped five more places. He better get his head in the game if he wanted to beat that arrogant jerk Regan. Of the two, she’d rather see Max win the trophy or ring or whatever the winner received. “Come on, Max.” Her frustration came out in a shout. “What’s taking him so long?”

“Max isna always the fastest or strongest, but when it comes to strategy, I have no’ seen his equal.”

“Duncan, you suck at explaining things.”

“This is the only food they’ll be given for the entire competition,” Tess said. “They must choose wisely.”

Max filled his backpack half full before running from the checkpoint area.

“That’s not going to last him four days, let alone three weeks.” How was he going to maintain his energy and strength if he didn’t consume enough calories? And what about water? They had no canteens. Would they eat the snow and risk hypothermia?

For the next twenty minutes, gladiators climbed, jumped, and battled their way through a frozen terrain park. The course looked like an adventure race on steroids: challenging but kind of fun. 

In the distance just beyond the next checkpoint’s flags, sunlight glinted off metal objects littering the packed snow.

It couldn’t be. Could it? “Are they weapons?”

“Aye. The gladiators must make their way through the ice den.”

Regan picked a broadsword and a dirk. Other men picked up bows and arrows or clubs or knives of all different shapes and sizes. Most chose more than one.

“There aren’t enough for everyone,” she said.

“That’s a wee incentive to get to the checkpoint first.” Duncan winked.

Using his dirk like an ice pick, Regan chipped out a chunk of snow, ate it, and took a moment to catch his breath. Some men did the same. Others went right out and climbed down into the ice pit, which was marked off in red flags.

Large catlike creatures, each slightly smaller than a lion, emerged from their lairs. A moving close-up camera shot started at the creature’s short tail and scanned its powerful legs, muscular neck, and curved, serrated canine teeth that had to equal the length of a steak knife.

“Is that a saber-tooth tiger?”

“They’re called smilodons,” Tess said.

The first two men sneaked across the ice pit and made it nearly to the opposite side before an animal spotted them and chased. The men sprinted to the wall and climbed. The smilodon pounced. It missed. The two escaped unharmed.

Other men weren’t that lucky.

As they entered the pit, four...five...six more cats emerged from the lair.

The competitors ran, kicking up ice chips each time their crampons shattered the frozen terrain. The smilodons chased and attacked, and men went down. From the cliff’s ledge, archers loosed their arrows into the beasts below. Weapons clashed with claws and teeth. Blood—both human and beast—spilled. A few warriors made it across. Others didn’t make it at all.

“They’re killing those men,” Addy cried.

“Aye, lass. The last man alive wins.”

The cats roared. The competitors grunted or screamed. The human guests shouted and cheered. The Hyboreans continued to bet.

Addy’s lunch curdled and threatened to abandon her stomach. “This is sadistic.” She clutched her belly. They wanted her to breed babies for this gladiator barbarism? She couldn’t stay another second. She couldn’t watch Max—or anyone—die.

She jumped off Ferly Mor’s legs and raced to the door.

“Let me out.” She pounded the door until someone sublimated the bottom enough for her to crawl through. She raced downstairs and into the safety of Duncan’s cage.

 

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 A couple of weeks ago I asked how you'd feel being a human pet. If I could be a spoiled human pet, it might not be bad. However, I wouldn't want to be a gladiator forced to fight to the death. I'm sorry you're in this terrible position, Max. Find out what happens next week in Chapters 10 & 11

 

Stay safe out there!

K.M. FAWCETT

Romance with a rebel heart

www.kmfawcett.com



 

 

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