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Primitive: A Dark Sci-Fi Reverse Harem Romance by Piper Stone – Sample

Prologue

Earth—2122

“We will make Earth great again. We are the chosen and we will command the Universe!”

Dr. Steve Forrester allowed the political promo to continue as he walked into the room, taking his usual seat. He was confident as well as arrogant, his project nearing completion after years of dedicated work. The select few would never understand his greatness or the sacrifices he’d made.

“Dr. Forrester, what is the status of our… project?”

He sat at the head of the table, looking out at the extensive group of other esteemed colleagues, including his investors, or what he liked to call snakes. This was his baby and the stench of their greed formulated vile thoughts in his mind. He’d been forced to play politics in a time when the world couldn’t afford the luxury. People were dying, civilization on the brink of anarchy. And still, he’d learned how to play the game with flair.

Soon the entire world would bow down to him. There was one more test to go through, a very personal endeavor.

“The facility has been up and running for months, our finest scientists already in the process of finalizing the DNA compilations. The beasts I designed have risen and a full schedule of training will begin within one month. If all goes well, which I anticipate it will, the creatures will be fully capable of completing their functions.” His answers were succinct, skirting over the truth. What he was attempting to do was to play God, but there was no other choice.

At least in his mind.

The entire room full of people seemed to grow more uncomfortable.

“But they aren’t human,” one of the doctors chirped. “They’re… monsters. That’s what we’ve been led to believe. Your account isn’t what we were told in the beginning.”

“And how did you manage to get the volunteers to agree to this?” another demanded.

“Wouldn’t you prefer to ask about the real experiments behind our project?” Dr. Forrester asked, snickering as he glanced from doctor to doctor. They had no idea how far he’d already come with the testing cycles. Ah, the element of surprise. His work was brilliant, far superior to any scientist’s in the world. They would exalt his heroic efforts with a kingdom of his own, creatures serving his every need. Only the finest humans would receive his glory, by his criteria of course.

“Just answer the questions, Dr. Forrester,” the minion from the government agency interjected, looking far more relaxed that the others in the room. “There is nothing to hide.”

Dr. Forrester chuckled as he rapped his fingers on the table. Bullshit. There was everything to hide. “Criminals. The most vile and murderous criminals known on Earth were given an opportunity for a new life. They eagerly agreed as you can imagine. As far as the others, well, you can see for yourself.” He noticed the disbelieving look amongst the other scientists. No one understood how vital this mission was. “They still have human characteristics for very important reasons. They will be our new generation of workers. As our success grows, we will bring others to Earth Two.”

The whispers in the room were full of disrespect, but he’d been prepared for their animosity as well as their lack of understanding. “Why don’t you see for yourself.”

With a simple wave of his hand, the compserve unit flashed brilliant pictures in vivid colors, splashing across the screen. “As you can see, my expectations have become reality. The next step in our process, one very special human female. We will ship others within two weeks if my calculations are correct. They will… let’s just say cohabitate.” He placed his finger on his personal compserve, flicking his fingers. Her beautiful face appeared on the screen, her lovely lavender eyes shining brightly from laughter.

She was the one.

She’d always been the one, groomed from the beginning, a special prodigy.

Now, she would serve her rightful purpose.

“Oh. My. God.” A doctor’s strangled mutterings brought his attention back to the larger screen. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m deadly serious,” Dr. Forrester stated with authority.

As the writhing bodies of the beasts cavorted, twisting and morphing, their soulless eyes staring into the webcam, he heard the first sounds of… disgust. Within five seconds, several left the room, racing out with their hands over their mouths. They had no desire to grasp the validity of his project.

He sat all the way back into the soft leather, staring up at the ceiling as he twisted his chair.

Back. And. Forth.

And he laughed.

And laughed.

When his communication band rang, he glared at the indicator before answering. “I hope you are ready because your work is vital.”

“You mean my deception.”

“You know what must be done in order for us to survive. No matter what you have to do.” Ending the call, he was satisfied that his directions would be followed. After all, he was true commander of Earth and if they didn’t heed to his command…

They. Would. Die.

Chapter One

Earth Two—2122

Cassia

Damnation and death.

I was headed for both.

The words shot through my mind, pinpricks from hell. The thought had filtered through my rattled brain several times since leaving Earth.

“A few of them look almost human. Don’t they?” The male voice was husky, clearly amused. “Dr. Forrester thinks he’s God. Doesn’t he? I don’t know how you tolerated working with him.”

As we broke into the atmosphere, an unsettling feeling created a wave of nausea. The shuttle shifted, shaking for a few seconds. Normally I had no fear of flying but today, everything seemed off. Foreboding. “I’m sorry?” I knew his name was Samuel, Dr. Samuel Winter. He’d introduced himself in a manner that suggested I should kowtow to him. All men thought that way these days, as if women were their property.

Not a chance in hell.

“The sample creatures. Many of them look, well, human, which I’m certain the doctor you work with takes all credit for. Makes you wonder what’s out there in the universe. Must be varied species living on Earth Two. Get this, they’re bred to be dominant in their behavior,” he said, chortling in a disgusting manner. “Can you imagine what the hell that means? Oh, I guess you know that already. Big mother fuckers but at least humanoid in design. Shame they’re nothing but animals.”

An unsettling feeling trickled into my mind, pulling me into the same kind of vision I’d had before. Why here and now? I closed my eyes, desperately trying to shove the images into a locked box I could hide from, but they refused to be denied.

“Little Cassia, I will dominate you in every kinky way possible. You will learn to obey my every command.” His gruff voice sliced across me like smooth velvet. As the creature stepped forward into the light, I dropped to my knees, crawling toward him on my hands and knees. He leered down at me, growling in a savage manner. He was brutally handsome, his massive cock throbbing, swollen balls hanging between his muscular legs. I was his property.

I lowered my head out of respect, trying to control my breathing. I’d been taught never to cry or to make any noise, but I knew he would punish me, spanking me for defying him. I bit my lip to keep from crying, but the tears betrayed me, sliding down my cheeks.

“You were disobedient.”

“Yes, Master. I’m so sorry.”

“You will pay for your sins, little one.”

I expected to feel the lash of his strap, but instead, he lifted my chin with a single finger, forcing me to look into his shimmering green eyes. Desire nearly ravaged my body, my pussy clenching and my nipples aching to the point of anguish. I studied his face, ashamed at both my sins as well as the intense yearning, but wanting him. I longed to please him. His long hair hung down, framing his chiseled face, dirt from the battle unable to hide his masculinity. I was mesmerized by the way he looked at me, raw and visceral, his hunger unbridled.

He would devour me.

My master jutted his hips forward, slapping his cock against my face.

Shaking, I took his cock into my hand and ran my fingers along his bulging shaft. Shivers coursed through every vein as I crowded between his legs. My pussy clenched again, almost shoving me into a powerful orgasm. I couldn’t. I wasn’t allowed to come.

“Take me into your mouth,” he instructed.

I obeyed instantly, opening my mouth wide, my tongue darting around the bulbous head. The taste of him was ripe with a burst of tang and as he filled my mouth, planting his hands on my head, I accepted my place.

His possession.

His slave.

He pumped into my mouth, fucking it long and hard until I gagged from the girth. He was so large, but I wanted nothing more than to take every inch. He issued a series of guttural sounds coming from deep within his belly as he face-fucked me, using me just as he’d told me on the day he’d captured me in the forest. Water came to my eyes, forcing me to blink.

Finally, my throat relaxed and I closed my eyes, performing my duty. It wasn’t long until I sensed his climax. Clamping down around the thick invasion, I swirled my tongue back and forth as beads of saliva dripped from both sides of my mouth.

Hissing and growling, he threw his head back and roared, spewing his seed deep within my throat.

When he finished filling my mouth, I cleaned his cock as required, licking and sucking until he was satisfied. Pulling me onto my feet, he dragged me toward the godawful bench, the crude wooden piece the thing I hated the most. As he secured my wrists and ankles, I wanted to beg for forgiveness, but there was no such thing in this primitive world.

I stretched against my bindings only once, fearful the round of discipline would be lengthened. The whooshing sound of his favorite strap forced a single moan and I only prayed that he hadn’t heard. I braced for the pain, the agony that would come.

And it did.

Luscious. Delicious. Intense.

Shameful.

I was so ashamed that I was his possession, humiliated I was being treated like a child.

Even as my pussy clenched, almost climaxing.

He issued several harsh smacks in succession, slapping my bottom over and over again. The pain was blinding, even as my pussy slickened the cool wood as I undulated my hips, grinding until there was pleasure. And I kept repeating the same mantra over and over again.

I belong to him.

His property.

You want this. You crave him.

I noticed the others waiting, their cocks standing at full attention. They were all beasts, every one of them ripped from head to toe.

And they were hungry, famished to feast on my body.

I was unable to process my emotions, confusion mixing with temptation. I didn’t want any man or beast to control me. But my body betrayed me, longing for his firm touch and the feel of his thick cock being shoved into every hole.

The cracking sound of the thick leather echoed in my ears as the wave of anguish curled my toes. I clenched my fists, gulping for air to fill my lungs, to provide some sense of understanding.

And peace.

My master stopped, the sound of his thudding boots drowning out my moans. The second his finger wiggled into my asshole, I closed my eyes.

“We will take you in every manner, brutal and without compromise. You were meant to belong to us.”

The sounds of the others snarling and growling as they advanced should have produced utter terror. Instead, I was wet with anticipation.

Jesus.

Where in the hell had that come from? I was cognizant that my nipples were very hard, pushing against my shirt. I imagined the brute sucking on them, biting down with sharp teeth. I could almost feel his thick, long finger thrusting into my asshole. “God.” The word escaped my mouth and I could almost taste trickles of the beast’s cum. I was fucking losing my mind. We’d been in space too long, the trip arduous.

“Did you hear a word I was saying, sweetheart?” Samuel snipped.

Damn it! I glanced at the screen he was pointing to, sighing as he flipped from one grainy photograph to another, blinking several times before I realized the haze had nothing to do with my eyes. Whoever had taken the pictures required a lesson in photography, but the monsters’ rugged features were easy to see.

Big, brooding, and rock hard.

And exactly like the roughhewn creatures in my vision.

My pussy quivered from the thought.

Shifting uncomfortably, I reminded myself why I was here. I was a scientist as well as a psychiatrist with a job to perform, one of few women allowed on Earth to do so. Everything had changed in a few short years, men dominating in every manner. For a few seconds, I’d thought this assignment might mean more freedom.

My gut told me I was wrong.

I took another glance, grimacing. Samples. The poor bastards secured deep within the bowels of Earth Two’s scientific facility didn’t even have names, merely the word ‘sample’ and a number. “Yeah, sure.” I was forced to look past him in order to steal a single glance out the window. He was a highly respected doctor, well versed in metaphysics and the kind of man who required women to fawn all over him.

Another rumble of the engine was followed by a nasty dip to the right.

“Shit!” I realized I’d grabbed his arm, digging my nails into his jacket.

He leaned over, whispering in a husky voice that he believed to be sexy, “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ll protect you from them. You’ll be in very good hands. All you have to do is obey.”

Obey. In my mind, I’d already ripped out his throat. Another creep I didn’t need. I’d had my share of them hitting on me in the past.

“Trust me, sugar cakes. I don’t need anyone’s protection. I do dandy all by myself.” I allowed him to see the sneer, even though I was shaking in my boots, pushing limits that could result in banishment from the mission. As if I cared. I hated to admit that creepy crawlies had stayed with me from the second I’d walked onto a ship that had certainly seen better days. Granted, the mouthy doctor was handsome in some regards, thick wavy black hair and large doe eyes mostly hidden behind thick glasses, but his outward flirtation had plucked my last nerve.

“Be careful, Dr. Bloom, men still run the world,” he whispered as he grabbed my arm.

I promptly jerked it away, refusing to give in to his implied threats. “Not here. In space we’re all equals.”

He snickered, flicking his tongue across his teeth. “Have it your way, sweetheart, but they’re still monsters,” he said absently, closing the screen. “Violent, murderous creatures that I wouldn’t trust outside of a cage. Dr. Forrester is an idiot. Maybe you can actually get through to them. In your way.” He laughed again, his dark eyes twinkling.

“They are genetically engineered creations designed to help colonize a brand spanking new planet in order for humans to survive. The wonderful people who volunteered for the experiment are heroes. Don’t call them creatures.” My retort was met with a nasty smirk, although the surprise in his eyes was exactly what I was going for. There had been a few leaked reports that several samples had gone rogue, murdering two of the people assigned to the scientific facility, but they’d been unsubstantiated rumors.

“You’re a fool if you think that, Dr. Bloom. The volunteers are prisoners from Earth offered a special deal. And there’s more. Want to know what that is?” The news reporter in the group offered the information with a sneer.

I didn’t believe a word he said.

The air seemed thin, suffocating. My skin crawled just like it had since I’d been ordered on the mission then forced to endure all types of medical testing. Checking for diseases. Checking for heart abnormalities. Checking for fertility. Everything had been a blur. I’d been poked and prodded for two solid days, leaving me drained and antsy, and allowing the visions to take over, vile and horrible dreams that I had to believe were premonitions. I should have refused. I should have quit. That couldn’t have happened. My mind reeled from the sickening patch of images rushing forward, an omen of what we could expect.

Blood and death awaited our arrival.

I was as certain of this fact as I’d been of anything in my life.

The shuttle hit a patch of extreme turbulence, bouncing up then swinging down at least five hundred feet. Every passenger groaned, having endured a bumpy flight beginning only minutes after liftoff.

Six scientists and one reporter were headed to the scientific compound, our two-week stint considered a reward for hard work and well documented respect highlighted in every government report filtered to the press. That was all bullshit. The others had blatantly spoken out against Earth Two for various scientific reasons, the reporter the only man who’d had the balls to suggest the political hype regarding colonization was flagrant crap. His articles had caused near mass hysteria more than once. This trip was an attempt to regain favor. I grimaced at the thought, rubbing my tired eyes.

I’d worked side by side with Dr. Forrester, a man who’d been my caretaker as well as mentor, my expertise in human anatomy and metaphysics kept on the down-low. No one was supposed to learn about my credentials. Top secret, or so Dr. Forrester had barked several times. The experiments I’d witnessed had left me in continued shock as well as anger. I loathed what the scientific world considered the next step in evolution. Creatures immune to disease, their minds programmed against warfare. How many humans had lost their lives in an effort to recreate what God had done millions of years before? A cold shiver trickled down my spine. I had no idea where Dr. Forrester had acquired the volunteers needed and in truth, I didn’t want to know. His secrecy as to certain details had heightened his self-designated holier than thou stature.

I had a minor in psychology, an innate ability to get into the minds of the technologically perfect concoctions of science. What a crock, but that was the excuse to bring me along. Spliced DNA. Growth cells. Advanced metaphysics. All in an effort to continue the human race, but on this trip? I was assigned to study the minds of the new breeds on a secret mission. Supposedly few in the government knew these beasts existed.

In other words, I was to ascertain whether or not they were nothing but vile killers. Jesus.

And what if they were human monsters waiting to wreak havoc? There was no other recourse for people on Earth. All the rumors about other life beings from distant planets ready to take their share of humans had been unsubstantiated. No little green men had flown into Earth’s atmosphere, initiating conversation or friendship. But I wondered why the sudden need to visit the facility on Earth Two, the decision seemingly made overnight. What did I know?

Earth was a ticking time bomb for annihilation.

Governments were falling, tyranny and greed encompassing much of the world. Everything I’d adored as a child was gone, ripped away by wars that had also forced our kind into extinction. We were nothing but drones, going through steps of living without really doing so.

Murders.

Rapes.

They were an everyday occurrence. Perhaps that’s why I’d followed the orders, allowing myself to become a pincushion. Now, I sat on a shuttle with ranking scientists, the most brilliant in the country, some considered the most influential on Earth. In truth? I couldn’t care less. The foreboding in my mind continued. Dr. Forrester’s lies were close to the surface. I’d seen real fear in his eyes. He was scrambling to conclude his project before his deceit was discovered. He had no idea I’d found out at least some aspects regarding what he was doing, the horror keeping me awake at night. Still, I had few answers, only questions that riddled me with nausea. The bulk of truthful information had been enshrouded behind padlocked doors, only Dr. Forrester and one other unknown accomplice allowed behind into the hallowed corridors.

And I’d tried more than once.

Suddenly, a face floated in and out of my mind’s eye, a slight glimmer just like in my dreams. Or what most would consider nightmares. His face. Rugged. Handsome. Dangerous. The visions had to serve some kind of purpose. My eyes ached, my hands trembling. I was overwrought and filled with trepidation.

The brutal trip certainly hadn’t been on my radar. I couldn’t stop asking why without ever receiving a decent answer. I’d never had any desire to leave Earth, even with the horrific difficulties and political strife. I still envisioned the world I’d only briefly caught a glimpse of as a child, sun-filled days of adventure, laughter, and freedom.

As if that was ever going to happen.

I wasn’t an explorer. However, as the hospital administrator and head of my department, Dr. Forrester had demanded my attendance. He’d been the man responsible for paying for medical school, and I had thought he was my friend, but in the last two weeks, I was no longer certain of anything. I’d speculated he’d selected me because I had no family, no boyfriend, and zero plants to take care of. No one would miss me if the shuttle crashed. I hissed and clenched my fist at the thought. Two weeks of intense testing on other beings. Fabulous.

Why did I have the feeling no one would make the return trip?

“Sorry about the bumpy ride, folks. Weather conditions are shit. We’ll be fuckin’ lucky to land in one piece. Cocksuckers who sent us have no…” The pilot’s husky voice shot through the cabin, the words trailing off as he snapped off the communication device. I’d read Greg Marlin’s resume, a glow and show of accomplishments, including his status as a war hero. He was also considered a rebel, a man not to be trusted, at least according to the hype. However, his flying stats were legendary.

“That’s confidence for you,” Brenda Atkins huffed under her breath. As the only other female traveler, she’d kept to herself, refusing to sit beside anyone in the battered shuttle. Her face held a green tint, a small airsick bag firmly planted in her hand. Dr. Atkins was brilliant, but her people skills were almost as Neanderthal as Samuel’s. Still, I was surprised they’d asked her to come. Maybe her brilliance outweighed the typical male need for power.

How in the hell was I going to get through two weeks with these people?

The shuttle dipped to the right, the angle severe enough that anything and anyone not battened down was pitched to the outer wall. Brenda wasn’t the only one moaning this time.

“Why the hell are we doing this?” Samuel muttered, taking several deep breaths.

Mr. Brave had turned into Mr. Chicken.

“For science. For humanity.” And a huge paycheck, or so we’d been told. As long as we followed the government’s rules, reporting our findings in a positive light, our bank accounts would be padded. We’d be considered rich.

Another lie. The others had been stupid enough to buy the line of bullshit.

We were nothing but guinea pigs.

There was some truth in what we’d been told in an effort to coerce. The Earth’s atmosphere was eroding, some scientist predicting only two or three years before a full collapse. This was entirely our fault. Every human was to blame. Earth Two was our only viable chance at survival. The creatures created in a lab would help formulate the new world, including all phases of infrastructure. They would be able to endure the harsh elements with limited need for food and water in order to build cities, creating a safe world to bring everyone from Earth. That was the pitch we’d all heard during the past two years. Something seemed off to me, as if the success of the experiments held an entirely different meaning, but I was nobody on this trip.

An after-note.

“This shit better matter,” another male voice penetrated the space. The statement was a chilling reminder of the necessity of the trip.

“So since you didn’t ask what else there could be to slicing DNA with convicts, I’m going to tell you. You do realize that this planet is inhabited by an ancient alien species,” Shane Bullock commented casually. Everyone looked in the reporter’s direction. He grinned in response. “Where do you think they’re getting their other volunteers from? Perfect if you ask me. Convicts and aliens. Dandy. However, my guess is the aliens aren’t happy. The Republic doesn’t want you to know any of this, of course. The aliens already living on the planet are violent and very dangerous. They are also cunning, and my guess is that they have plans to colonize Earth. And do you know what I heard? They have plans to take over the universe as well. There’s even some chatter that they are the reason for Earth’s declining condition, something they can rectify.”

“What the hell?” Samuel huffed. “That’s not what we’ve been told.”

I shifted my gaze in his direction, a lump forming in my throat. My illustrious caretaker had vaguely suggested there were others living on the planet, just like the media. But this? I found it difficult to believe. Maybe not. I thought about what few secrets I’d learned. Maybe the reporter was onto something.

“Uh-huh. I suggest you open that very closed mind of yours,” Shane retorted. “Do you really think we’re the only civilized race in the universe? Wait a minute,” he said, laughing. “We’re not civilized, more like animals fighting to procreate.”

His words were off the cuff, but I could tell he believed them. Another red flag.

A moment of searing heat engulfed the shuttle, another surprise given the expansive shields the shuttle was required to maintain. I could see the scorching sun as it reflected off the windows, blinding as well as gorgeous. Shielding my eyes, I dared to lean over the doctor, hungry to take in the desolate landscaping.

“Hotter than Hades here, twenty plus below zero just over those mountains. Then it can switch on a dime,” Samuel chuckled. “Should be a fascinating planet to colonize but imagine the cozy nights sitting around a fire, a nice bottle of cognac.”

I didn’t bother answering, even though his stiff cock managed to dig into my side. I’d had a crash course in learning about Earth Two, studying everything I’d been given. My work had been sequestered, keeping me locked in labs for the past two years, Dr. Forrester providing information only on a need to know basis. However, the dichotomy of the radical weather conditions was well known, making travel in certain areas treacherous. The zones were much more pronounced than Earth, but humans would learn to adapt.

Or die.

“Buckle up, ladies and gents. It’s going to be a rocky landing at best. We’re heading into a near blizzard so batten down the hatches.” Greg’s tone had a singsong lilt. The man actually enjoyed this. For all his commendations, very few agencies wanted to work with him. The particular facility had no other pilot providing supplies or travel.

Maybe that should have been my warning to steer clear.

“Blizzard?” Dr. Chen managed. Even from where I was sitting, I could see the terror on his face. He’d been a last-minute replacement, coming on board only minutes before takeoff. His reputation was stellar, but from what I’d heard, his personality caustic.

“Those extreme weather conditions,” I answered, already able to see the change, mountains covered in snow. We sat in silence as the skies darkened. As ice began to pelt against the windows, the shuttle’s engines labored, rumbles occurring under our feet.

“Please, God, don’t let me die!”

I didn’t want to hear Brenda’s horror-filled exclamations. When we’d been coerced on this mission, every one of us were told the obstacles we’d be facing. Weather conditions were capable of changing within hours, not seasons, another reason for the brutes being manufactured. I couldn’t think of them any other way. They were mere slaves.

And I’d been taught slavery had been abolished centuries before. Who would actually volunteer for such atrocities?

Another hard lurch was followed by a slowing of the engines. Snow whirled by the windows, the immediate drop in temperature creating an ice fog. Everything happened quickly, the shuttle shaking violently.

We hit the ground with a brutal thud, skidding forward several hundred feet. The whir of the engines was followed by a cracking sound.

Then silence.

Eerie silence.

“Thank God,” Samuel said, exhaling a heavy sigh. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”

“I’m perfectly fine and if you call me sweetheart again, I’m going to rip your throat out.” Lashing out wasn’t in my best interest, but he needed to know the score from the get-go.

“Jesus. No need to be a bitch,” he muttered. “I don’t want to have to report your behavior to the authorities.”

Go the fuck ahead.

I pretended I wasn’t paying any attention, instead peering out the window, an unsettling feeling pooling in the pit of my stomach.

Visibility was zero, the world a white blur. I could only hope the pilot had been able to get us close to our destination. We heard footsteps seconds before Greg took long strides into the passenger area. A grin popped on his face. Dressed in army fatigues, two guns secured on his belt, he looked as dangerous as the persona preceding him. “Well, we safely landed. That’s the good news.”

“And the bad?” Dr. Chen asked as he struggled to his feet.

Greg didn’t as much as give him a single glance. “The bad news is that there’s damage to the fuselage that I’m going to need to repair before we can return. Two weeks should take care of it. Maybe a little longer.”

I heard the hesitation in his voice. “And?” I asked as casually as possible.

He shifted his gaze, glancing up and down the length of me. “And we’re still two miles away from the facility, which means we get to walk. Ain’t gonna be pretty. That much I can tell you. Fuckin’ blizzard.”

A collective groan occurred.

“Doesn’t the compound have vehicles? Can’t they come retrieve us?” These were the first words Dr. Consuelos had offered since leaving. Martin Consuelos was a biologist, a man who’d been at odds with Dr. Forrester on more than one occasion. While I admired him, I had several questions about why he’d even agreed to the mission.

“They have several all-terrain vehicles as well as snowmobiles, and there’s a chance I could convince them to collect us if I could contact them. All communication is shot as well. We’re on our own, but we can do two miles in a few hours if we stick together.” Greg glanced out the window. “And we need to stick together and arrive at the compound before dark.” He moved toward a small cabinet near the front, keeping his back to us as he unlocked and opened the door.

“Why?” I asked, moving closer until I was able to see an entire cabinet full of weapons and my guess full military grade. “What aren’t you telling us?”

Turning, he closed the distance, towering over me and inhaling. “A little lady like you needs to be protected.”

“What the hell are the guns for?” Samuel demanded, turning his skeptical attention to Shane. “I didn’t think this planet had criminal activity.”

“I told you,” Shane snarked.

Greg snorted. “You’re going to learn the real story the hard way.”

The man was a true pig, but we all needed him as a guide. I stood my ground, lifting a single eyebrow. “I can handle myself, including the use of a gun. I brought my own.”

Greg seemed amused then gave a respectful nod. “Good to know.” He finally glanced at the other passengers. “You want to know what kind of critters live in the mountains and forests? Well, I’ll tell ya. Dangerous man-eating beasts. They will hunt you for nothing more than enjoyment of the act. They are predators unlike anything you’ve ever known. And if they catch you, you will die.”

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