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Alien’s Captive: A Dark Sci-Fi Romance by Samantha Madisen – Sample

Chapter One

“Reverse thrusters to eighty percent. Approaching soft and easy. You picking anything up?”

Kat’s tinny voice drifted through the comms. It was ratcheted up to her most insufferable tone: professional chirp with a chance of meltdown. She didn’t like this mission, and she was going to do a great job of hiding that from Sonya by speaking an octave above her usual terse tone.

Sonya scanned the readout on the panel in front of her and shook her head. “Negative,” she replied. “You sure we have the right co-ordinates?”

A momentary silence passed. “I mean, I don’t know what to tell you. They were uploaded while we were still docked at the orbital. I didn’t, like, do them on the back of an envelope or anything.”

This was also very Kat. Sarcasm meant to obscure her disapproval.

Sonya chuckled. “Thanks, Kat. Appreciate the sarcasm.”

“Anytime,” Kat came back. “Plenty more where that came from.”

Sonya tapped the tiny red dot at the center of her screen. The spot where they were supposed to have landed. The spot where there was supposed to be a ship, roughly twice their size. A spot where she could see nothing but rock and sand.

“What the hell is going on here?” she muttered.

The sound of the thrusters grew as Kat reduced speed further. A moment later the shuttle settled on the surface.

Sonya smiled. “You do that like you’re putting a baby into a cradle,” she said into her mic.

“Don’t know how any other way,” Kat replied, but she was already moving on to other things. “You want me to log the no-show, fire up, and head back?” she asked, as if the two sentences were one.

Sonya furrowed her brow and shook her head. “We can’t just do that,” she said. “They have to be on the planet somewhere. We can’t just give up without even trying to find them.”

A silence passed. “Due respect, cap, I’m not sure what all we can do. Circumference twice the size of earth? We’ll burn through our whole fuel load before we get a quarter ways around.”

Kat’s dismissiveness poked a finger of irritation in Sonya’s guts.

“They’re people, Kat. Same crew as us. We might not know them all too well, but they deserve more than us just blowing this mission off.”

It would have been nice, Sonya thought, to just for once hash these arguments out before a crucial point in the mission. But that wasn’t how Kat operated. She was all in on chain-of-command and rank-and-file and keeping her opinion to herself when everyone was watching.

She waited until the shit hit the fan to offer her misgivings.

Kat’s silence was longer this time. She was getting irritated, Sonya could tell. She chewed on her lip, waiting for Kat’s reply.

“Nobody’s blowing anything off,” Kat finally said. “We were sent with one directive. Visually inspect the coordinates of their last known signal. We have done so. No one is here.”

“Wow,” Sonya replied, voice low. “That’s harsh.”

“Protocols say…”

“I know the protocols, thanks,” Sonya snapped, more abruptly than she’d wanted. “I know the protocols,” she said again, softening her tone. “Nobody back up top’s going to blame me for getting out and poking around. It’s not like we’re burning anything just sitting here.”

“Poking around?” Kat asked. A hint of panic crept into her voice.

Sonya would have been lying if she said it didn’t thrill her a little bit. While Kat was all low-risk and protocols, fly-the-ship-and-don’t-ask-questions, Sonya was a known—and proud—shit disturber.

She liked to look under rocks.

“I’m going to put on a suit and step out.”

Silence again. Then, “Uh… captain, I do not think that’s a good idea.”

“Yeah,” Sonya said, sighing. “How did I know you were going to say that?” Kat was about to mount a serious legal case. She could tell because Kat was using “Captain” and not “Cap.”

“Captain, we were sent here on a recon and re-contact mission. That’s why there’s only two of us. I’m required by law to stay at the controls of this ship. If you go poking around out there and something goes south, you have no backup, no rapid intervention team, and no fucking—pardon my language—hope beyond the crappy exo-suit we’re carrying. I’d like to once again, strongly, urge you to stand down on this. Protocol says we get a search team geared up and they take over from here.”

Sonya rubbed a finger against her forehead. Everything Kat was saying was right. Absolutely to a T. Well, the exo-suit wasn’t as rinky-dink as all that. Sure, it wasn’t weapons grade, but it would stand up well enough for a quick stroll. Maybe she could see something the cameras and sensors weren’t picking up? Some trace of what the hell had happened to a dozen crew and their ship?

The question made her insides twist. She’d been playing scenarios over and over in her head since the previous team had first dropped off the radar. Every rabbit hole she went down ended in the same place. They’d found something out here. Something or some… one, if that’s what they’d call extraterrestrial life.

And now they were missing.

The thought sent a chill down her spine. Decades of searching the cosmos might have finally paid off in the most ominous way possible.

“Not sure I like all that quiet thinking going on down there,” Kat said from up top.

Sonya smiled. She took a breath and chewed on her lip for a moment. “Kat,” she finally said.


“Let me be Sonya for a second,” she replied.

“I don’t like the sounds of that. Not very professional if you ask me.”

“Imagine it’s you and me on that crew. Imagine we’re not here, not at the landing coordinates, but somewhere close. Somewhere where we can see the recon mission that just landed. We can make out the ship, but for some reason, can’t get to it.” She heard Kat sigh over the headset. “Now imagine what it would feel like to watch that ship taking off without even trying to find us.”

“Captain… Sonya, you’re being crazy about this. That mission was a volunteer job. Everyone knew what they were signing up for. They knew the risks. They knew… hell, we all know there’s always a chance we might not come back. If it were me on that crew and I saw an unsupported astronaut going for a stroll in a hostile environment, I’d be pissed she was putting her life on the line. The possibility of another casualty, or whatever, another stranded astro? No. What you’re proposing is wrong. I’m going on the record saying this. We log the no-show and burn back up. Report to command. They’ll send a bigger, prepared, team down. I bet you could even get on, if you wanted. That’s the right thing to do. That’s protocol. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.” She paused, which was rare with Kat when she got going on one of her diatribes. “But you’re the captain. So you do you. Whatever that ends up being.”

Sonya rolled her eyes and looked out of the porthole at the windswept sands in front of her. Kat was a good pilot. But she was no scientist; curiosity never got the better of her. She was also as robotic as they came when it came to protocol, which was a fine quality in a pilot and something Sonia valued about her, but was also the reason Kat would remain a pilot and never be given any command. She couldn’t think outside the box.

Sonia spoke authoritatively. “Listen to me. I’m putting the exo on. I’m going to head twenty paces out and circle the ship. You sit tight. I’ll be back before your pre-flights are done.”

When Kat came back, her voice was tight and laced with resentment. But this wasn’t their first disagreement, and in the end, Kat always deferred to rank. “Aye, aye, cap,” she replied.

Sonya unbuckled her seat straps and hoisted herself out of the chair. She walked to the glowing blue capsule next to the plank and pressed her palm against the scanner. As the capsule swung open, she turned around and settled into the back of the exo-suit. The front of it lowered into place, clasps latching and a quiet hiss sounding as the seal formed. The first breath took a little more effort as the rebreather kicked in. She tapped the side of the helmet.

“You got me on comms?” she asked.

“Strength five,” Kat came back.

“Seal the airlock please,” Sonya said. Another hiss sounded around her. She stood up and walked the remaining few steps to the exit, pressed the scanner next to it, and waited as it lowered, forming a gangway between the shuttle and the planet.

Excitement spiked through her. She’d been on exploratory missions dozens of times. But they’d all been dead planets. Nothing had happened. Something was happening here, and if she was lucky, she was about to find out what. She looked around as she descended toward the swirling sands.

The funny thing was this planet looked as dead as any. No signs of water. No signs of vegetation. No signs of life. She wasn’t even sure why the admiral had sent the first mission down to what they’d classified as Ab-904. He’d said it was a hunch. From seeing the readouts, she’d thought it was a waste of resources. But as she took her first steps on the foreign body, a rush of adrenaline shot through her.

There was something here. Now that her boots were on the soil, she was sure of it.

Kat’s voice over the comm, startling her, and she jumped.

“Everything okay out there, cap?”

She nodded, turned and looked up at the porthole Kat was peering through. “Everything’s fine,” she said, giving a thumbs up. She turned and counted twenty paces out from the ship, looked around for a moment, then turned and started walking a wide circle around their spacecraft. Everywhere she turned was barren. Nothing in the soil. No landing tracks. No evidence the exploratory mission had even made it this far.

It made no sense. The logs had clearly registered a landing. There were five minutes of radio communications between the lander and the orbital before they went dark. They couldn’t have just disappeared without a trace.

She didn’t understand how Kat could just leave something like that, with no answers, and no attempt to get them. Kat was totally correct that the rescue team was better suited for the humanitarian aspect of the mission, but that wasn’t what was really driving Sonya out of the ship.

It was the question. The thrill of finding the answer, the solution to the mystery.

She felt it long before she saw anything, and even before Kat’s panicked voice came over the comms. She felt it like ice crystals forming just beneath her skin, forking into every sensitive void.

Something was coming up from behind her, and it was fearsome.

“Oh shit,” Kat’s voice crackled through the headset, filled with terror. “Captain get the fuck back here. Now! Life… life… lifeform… detected…”

Even Kat could be rattled, it seemed.

But it was seeing the thrusters lighting up that really put the fear into Sonya. It was an egregious violation of protocol, firing up the engines with an astro outside the hull. Kat was breaking a cardinal rule because there was something behind her.

She knew she should listen to Kat: break into a run and pound back as fast as she could to the spacecraft. It’s what Kat would have done if the situation had been reversed.

But she wasn’t Kat. She was Sonya. Sonya with the mind that wouldn’t stop asking questions. Sonya who’d dreamed of exploring the cosmos as a little girl, whose fantasy was not a wedding or meeting a handsome prince, but making first contact with a new intelligent species. Sonya who obsessed over each new finding and discovery. And now there was something novel behind her. Dangerous, obviously, but new and fresh enough to make Kat sputter and break protocol.

Lifeform. The word swirled in her thoughts, rising to stand out from everything else. Sonya was running, and she knew she should, but the promise of a new lifeform tugged at her even through the panic.

Don’t do it, she told herself, even as she felt her neck turning her head. It was the oldest, stupidest pitfall in the history of humanity: looking behind you when you were running away. But she was going to do it anyway.

The shape loomed over her, its movements rough and powerful. Just the sight of its shadowy bulk, the strength of it evident in its movements and speed, squeezed the blood from Sonya’s head and made her stomach hollow out. It was twice her size. Bi-pedal, humanoid in shape. Its arms were pumping at its sides as it thundered toward her. It was feral, fast, and wild, and it plucked at a primal cord of fear in Sonya’s gut. Adrenaline surged into her blood, her vision narrowing to a single focus: escape.

She turned and ran from it, faster than before, faster than she thought possible. She was scrambling, her thoughts moving quicker than her body. She had seen its face: dark eyes with a watchful intelligence had stared right into her from beneath a furrowed brow. Its features were human-like: a nose and a mouth arranged where they were expected to be. A pleasant combination of features, actually.

But the creature’s human appearance was more disturbing than it was reassuring, especially because of its size, its jagged, animal motions. The grunts, the speed, the singular focus in its eyes: that of a hunter, after prey.

To her horror, she was turning her head again. She felt detached from her body as this happened; her mind was willing one thing, and her flight instinct was willing another.

It was much closer this time. Thick ropes of muscles flexed in its arms and legs as it ran, the dark eyes hovering over the snarling, open mouth nestled in its facial hair. Its skin filled her vision, strangely illuminated and faintly blue.

Her curiosity was like an anchor, dragging behind her. She stumbled, whipped her head back toward the ship, and urged herself to run faster, even as she hesitated. She was pulled like a magnet toward the creature, unable to look away.

It was sentient life. Finally. And she was discovering it—

“Captain get the fuck back onto this ship!” Kat screamed over the comms.

Kat’s shriek worked like a slap to the face. It wacked the awe out of Sonya’s chest and squeezed her amygdala. The tunnel vision narrowed; the curiosity evaporated. She had one goal in an instant: flight.

She spun around, boots digging into dust and arms pumping hard at her sides.

She could feel the creature’s heavy body pounding the ground behind her. The vibrations traveled from the soles of her feet, up through her legs, rattling her teeth. The fear inside her became black and all-consuming.

Closing the distance to the ship seemed to take an eternity. She lunged, five feet from the gangplank, which Kat had already triggered to retract from up top. She fell flat on her stomach, arms splayed at her sides, and started clambering up, when she felt the alien grip her ankle. She panicked, waving her arms frantically, clawing hopelessly at the ridged walkway.

She was being pulled back. The force of the alien’s pull was so strong, so obviously superior, that Sonya gave up within seconds. Her fingers ached, jammed into the grate of the gangplank, and she knew she wouldn’t win.

In that terrifying moment she had the revelation, the one she should have had from the beginning. It was this, whatever this was, that must have been the cause of the exploratory mission’s disappearance.

Even if she were to die, at least she wouldn’t have to live with the mystery of what had happened. A sense of mild satisfaction—inappropriate, and useless, but satisfaction nonetheless—came over her.

She liked solving mysteries that much.

The satisfaction stayed with her as her fingers slipped and the tendons in her arm strained. She was definitely going to be pulled away, and now it was only a question of within how many seconds.

She craned her neck to look up at the top of the shuttle. “Take off, Kat. Go. Get this data back to the ship, send a—new—team—”

“What the…?” Kat’s face appeared in the porthole up above. “What? No! Fuck!” she screamed.

Sonya’s fingers were screaming with pain now, slipping from the grate. She looked back at the creature, kicking her feet. Her kicks were half-hearted: she had resigned herself to her fate, and even she knew it.

The creature met her eyes. It was a terrifying moment, but for a split second, she really believed she saw something human in them. Whatever it was, it worked its way inside of her, turning things upside-down for a split second. That was all that was needed for her fingers to relax and slip from the plank.

The creature instantly pulled her harder, so there was no chance to catch another row of grating. She regretted the moment of softness immediately and let out a shriek as she flew over the gangplank and then over the rough ground, being dragged by her foot at an unimaginable speed.

She looked at the ship: it was disappearing into the horizon, sinking away like a stone dropped into a pool.

“Go, Kat!” she screamed, but by then she was hundreds of meters from the ship. “Tell them what you saw! Come—”

The ground that had been rushing beneath her as the creature dragged her disappeared suddenly, and only a void replaced it. Her attention snapped to where the ground had been, beneath her. She thought she saw falling rock at the edges of the blackness. The terror of falling gripped her, and she opened her mouth to scream as the sensation of a rapid fall shoved her stomach to her throat.

She twisted in the air. A whirl of images: the shuttle against the low-slung green sky, the hand of the creature, bare and wiry with strength, on her ankle. A thought about dying. A sense of calm.

Then everything went black.

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