Excerpt for Alien Bride: An Alien Mates Adventure SFR (Taron Invasion Series) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Alien Bride
Taron Invasion Series Prequel

A.J. Daniels


Orlando, Florida

Copyright © 2017 by A.J. Daniels

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission.


PO Box 540375

Orlando, FL 32854

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

Alien Bride/A.J. Daniels -- 1st ed.


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Chapter 1

Mission Interrupted

~ Nick ~

Music Mix

Intent on earning his Trident, Nicholas Blake jerked slightly in the water, realizing that he was starting to feel lightheaded. Flicking the small gauge attached to his scuba suit, he watched the needle slowly bottom out. It was an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes gauges got stuck, even the ones on high tech military issued equipment. Tamping down his annoyance, he ignored his quickly depleting oxygen supply and doubled down on the mission.

Grasping onto his underwater dive propeller, Nick toggled the speed higher and kicked his webbed feet, putting on a burst of speed. The slight jerk of the nylon reinforced composite handles pulled him forward sharply as the unit vibrated in his hands.

His target was a gigantic dark form, drifting ever closer. The wealthy arms dealer luxuriating on the forty foot yacht overhead had no idea what lay in store for him tonight. The man might think he was a big deal, but to the US military, he was one of many small fish destined to share their innermost secrets regarding local arms trafficking in the region.

The moonlight danced eerily across the water’s surface casting odd shadows, fit to make a lesser man pause. However, Nick was a Navy Seal, and they never broke formation or strayed off course. He cut the engine on his sea scooter, before quietly breaking the surface. Switching on his body cam, he hauled ass up a ladder through some unnaturally thick fog. The shit seemed to have a mind of its own. Rather than dissipating when he moved through it, the mist circled lazily around his limbs infusing his clothing. Since fog didn’t behave that way, he pushed forward. It must be his mind playing tricks on him, brought on by his brush with oxygen deprivation while submerged. Landing noiselessly on the deck near the rear of the luxury craft, he was pleased to find no one around.

Quietly ditching his gear, he crept forward. The gun in his hand didn’t feel right. Then again tranquilizer guns never did feel quite right in a soldier’s hand. However, that’s how it had to be because command wanted him alive and zero collateral damage on this one. Military intelligence had already verified that Jax Santiago was on board with five support staff following a meeting with a Russian wholesaler interested in purchasing grenade launchers.

Nick moved silently through the small yacht until he’d neutralized the entire crew, most while they slept. Moving towards the master suite, his ears began to ring. Shaking it off, he eased the door open. Raising his gun, he pulled off a clean shot and watched the man drop to the ground with a satisfying thud.

Blinking once and then again, Nick tried to make sense scene before his eyes. A nearly naked person was tied with their arms to the ceiling. Though her form would strongly suggest she was female, her light blue skin, pointed ears, and black hair were singing a different tune altogether. Her eyes shone like obsidian orbs and were about four times larger than human eyes. Those beautiful dark eyes held a note of panic at the moment.

Since what he was seeing was not remotely possible, he pulled out his radio and called in his mission.

“Eagle Eye, this is Seal One. Do you copy?”

His radio blew up with a bunch of static interference. Looking down at the fog swirling around his legs, he gave his head one hard shake as if to clear his thoughts before trying to raise his command again. “Eagle Eye, this is Seal One. The package is secure. Calling for pick-up. Over.”

“Jesus, it’s really you?”

“What the fuck. Use appropriate…”

“It is you. God, I never thought I’d be the one.”

“This is a secure line. I don’t know who you are, but you’re interfering in…”

“A military mission to arrest Jax Santiago. And you’re Nicholas Blake…The Nicholas Blake. Everybody knows about the two of. Jesus, you’re both fucking legends. I can’t believe I’m talking to you.”

Looking at the criminal on the floor, Nick stammered. “This is all FUBAR. The fog, the woman, you…nothing is what it should be.”

Suddenly, the young man’s voice got serious. “It's because you aren’t in 2017 anymore, sir. It’s the year 3039. Your present is my history. You always talked about how hard this moment in time was for you, and I’ve honestly tried to imagine it a million times. The frightened woman in front of you is Miss. Acacia and she is going to become very important to you. In fact, you named her that yourself, ‘cause you never could pronounce her name in her tongue.”

Nick watched the slender female jerking in her bonds. “My oxygen malfunctioned. I’m hallucinating.”

“Dude, you’re not hallucinating. Pay attention. We don’t have much time, and I have a message for you.”

“You have a message from my navy commander?”

“Look dude there’s no Gods damn command. The US Navy was integrated with the Earth Gov military almost a thousand years ago. The message is from the future you.”

“How did you get a message from me if you never met me?”

Sighing, the man spoke calmly as if he were explaining something to a child. “You’re the reason Earth survived when no other world did. Every kid memorizes your letter in first grade along with the Earth Gov Unification Pledge. Jesus dude, they make story books about you and Jax. Just let me tell you the message, and then we can talk until they arrive. I’m going to read it directly from the data stream, so I don’t miss anything.”

“Go ahead.”

“Nick, you stupid son-of-a-bitch, get with the program.”

“Wait. They taught you to curse in first grade?”

“Dude those aren’t even curses anymore.”

“Fine, get on with the message.”

“In a few minutes some really ugly aliens are going step through that door to shoot you with a stun gun, and you’re going let them. The only thing standing between the Taron battle fleet and Earth’s total annihilation is you and the clueless dude lying on the floor. Jax will turn out to be the one person you can count on to have your back, so take good care of the stupid fucker until you figure that shit out. It’s critically important that you get taken to the mother ship because they keep a large number of slaves that decide to join forces with Earth when the battle starts. Without their assistance, every man, woman, and child on Earth will be killed or forced into slavery. I remember thinking that I must be hallucinating, but this is real, and you have got to kick start your brain right damn now soldier. I struggled with how to end this message so you would believe me, and one thing came to mind. I remember going to the cemetery every year when I was really little to put flowers on dad’s grave. I thought it was disrespectful that the spiders keep on growing right on top his grave like it didn’t matter that he’d died. That’s all I got. Do the right thing. Save our people.”

There was a brief pause, and the young man asked quietly. “Did that mean anything to you, sir?”

Finally snapping out his shocked trance, Nick took a deep cleansing breath. “Yeah, the fucking message sounds just like me and that cemetery part is aces. So as weird as it sounds, it looks like I’m doling out missions to myself now. Does this ship ever get back to my timeline?”

No, sir. It’s listed as lost at sea.”

Well, in that case, there’s no need to try to write a message to my commanders. Answer me something else. Who are the Taron?”

“I’m not supposed to tell you anything that might change the natural order historical events. We were told just to give the message.”

“I can’t believe Earth is still using primitive communication lines?”

Laughing the youngster replied. “We’re not. I belong to the Order of the Guard. We’re what you would think of a cross between gamers and hackers. Since we spend most of our time submerged in the data stream, we use special programs to scan for old Earth radio waves, each of us hoping that we’ll be the one to make contact with you. Even now thousands are gathering in the stream to hear our interaction.”

“What’s your name kid?”

“I don’t think it would be a good idea to say. If I told you and you let it slip, it might change history, and I wouldn’t want to chance it.”

“Fine, tell me about the Taron.”

The young man replied hesitantly. “They’re a race of aliens who target innocent worlds based on the natural resources locked beneath the surface of their planets. During your time people thought Earth was about mined out, but the Taron could see things humans couldn’t, using their advanced alien technology. The ship in orbit right now is just a scout ship, but when word gets back to their fleet about Earth, they will make their way here. It takes them another fifteen years or so, but they do come for us, sir.”

“Any other information you can share about my new mission?”

“The historical records show that you talked a lot about wanting to stop the scout ship from giving the Taron mother ship Earth’s coordinates. I’m begging you not to do that, sir. Earth will be the first world ever to turn back a Taron invasion, and our success leads to the formation of trade and military ties with other worlds that enable Earth to survive when our ozone layer finally goes belly up. Kalian scientists help us design a shield to protect our world. In fact, other worlds are so grateful for our help, they share all kinds of technology with us. It ushers in a new golden age for our people.”

“So I’m going to be spending fifteen years on a slave ship with a beautiful blue woman and arms dealer. I’m supposed to survive, rally the other slaves to revolt, and somehow warn Earth of a pending invasion when the time is nigh. All based on a conversation with a faceless guy who won’t even give me his name. What the hell is with this fog? It feels like it’s trying to get into my clothes and molest me.”

The other man laughed. “It is because the scout ship has you in the outer regions of its force field. The fog facilitates electromagnetic pulses that assist with the time jump. According to the historical record, something went wrong, and they jumped time instead of space.”

“Any idea what brought them to our world?”

“They came for the woman, but unfortunately for them, they got you and Jax in the bargain.”

Just then the door slammed open. Nick backed up slightly, placing himself between the very ugly blue aliens and the woman. He had only a moment to take in their large bobble heads and long spindly arms before one of them pulled a weapon. It took every ounce of self-control he could dredge up not to react. The creatures were slow, and when they spoke, it sounded like a cross between a screech and a tiny dog barking.

Chapter 2

Earning His Trident

~ Jax ~

Music Mix

Trying to open his eyes, Nick slammed them shut again when pain went lancing through his head. Sighing, he wondered what kind of wild one he tied on last night. His pounding headache was being aggravated by barking dogs; barking dogs that kicked like a marine. Rolling over, Nick instinctively grabbed one black boot and tossed the person across the room. Before the room could clearly focus, a searing pain radiated down from his neck to his toes. After a few heart pounding seconds, it abruptly stopped.

The barking dogs were back, but they clearly weren’t dogs. As he rolled to his feet, the whole horrible message from the future came crashing through his memory like a runaway truck. The huge bobbly head creature snorted deservedly at him before stalking off. Sliding down to sit with his back against the wall, Nick tried to pull his thoughts together. Blocking out everything else, he tried to recall the details of his conversation with the disembodied voice from earlier.

A pair of bright red sneakers skated by and a man’s heavily accented voice sang a song he vaguely recognized from before his time. “Macho, macho man. You’ve always got to be a macho man.”

Looking up at the man dancing around, Nick mumbled under his breath. “You’re pretty fly for a white guy.”

Stooping down, the brown eyed man with scraggly dark hair waved a hand in his face. “You awake, dude? You’ve been waking up, fighting the big blue fuckers, and getting your ass shocked for a day and a half now. You need to get with the program or your body is going to shut down on you.” Sniffing, Nick could still see white dust in the man’s nose. “Know what your problem is, macho man? You’re a straight arrow. If you did a little dust, the alien shit wouldn’t mess you up so much.”

Suddenly the nice blue lady kneeled at his side, forcing a drink to his lips. “Sweet Jesus, this tastes awful.”

Jax suggested helpfully. “Hold your nose when you drink it. I’ve tried everything, and that’s the only way to get it down without gagging it back up.”

Shaking his head, Nick shoved himself to his feet. “Any idea where we are?”

“You are a figment of my overactive imagination, dude. It’s a place where for some godforsaken reason the women are hot, and everyone is obsessed with you.”

“You’re not making any sense. You know that, right? I mean, why would your subconscious have picked someone like me to be in your dream?”

Tilting his head sideways to look out a portal at stars flying by, the man replied objectively. “See, I have been thinking about that. I believe this dream about alien abduction is a way for me to live out all my wildest fantasies. Unfortunately, my mama took me to church as a small boy and father Jonas stuffed my mind with a bunch religious stuff while trying to teach me to be a good boy. Therefore, I’ve created a world where beautiful mostly naked women don’t want to know me, and there’s another man who’s foolish enough to get himself beat up all the time instead of me.” Shrugging, the man added. “Besides the lack of good drugs, the dream’s been really fun.”

The tone of the arms dealer’s voice told him whatever had been going on for the last day and a half had been anything but fun. Cutting to the chase, he took two steps forward and punched the ridiculous man right in the face. Bending over his prone body, Nick stated earnestly. “This is not a dream, dimwit. I need you to listen carefully. If you were dreaming, don’t you think your subconscious mind would have protected you from getting hit by me? Of course, it would. Every man has a survival instinct.”

Reaching out a hand, he pulled the man to his feet. Jax didn’t react well to having his only coping mechanism ruthlessly snatched away. “Aliens aren’t real, man. Everybody knows that.”

Pulling the woman over, he turned her to face Jax. “Does this woman look human? If you’re not dreaming and she’s an alien, that means this is as real as it gets.”

Staring between Jax and the now squirming woman, Nick sighed. “Tell me what you know.”

Slowly bringing his hand to his left ear, he explained quietly. “When they first brought us here, I woke up first. They gave me a shot behind my ear, and after hearing them talk for a while, I could understand their words.”

“Mind telling me what they said?”

“They kept calling you a hunter, ‘cause I guess you stunned me the way they do. They keep coming to check on their hunter like you’re somebody important. They pretty much ignore me and seem to actually hate her. They debated about whether to kill her but decided to keep her because they think she’s your breeder.” When Nick shot him an angry look, Jax held up both hands. “Their words, not mine. Jesus, shake it off man. You are wound tight.”

“Are they monitoring us?”

“I don’t think so because sometimes you woke up and they didn’t come. It feels like they come at certain times.”

Lowering his voice, Nick quickly explained. “I have intel that they are going to attack Earth soon. They’re a race of conquerors, and no world has been victories against them.”

“Well, fuck that. You got a plan super cop?”

Edging the woman aside, Nick shoved his finger in the other man’s chest. “I’m no cop, you ass hat. I’m a goddam Navy Seal, earning his Trident.”

“Well, excuse the fuck out of me. What you going to be is dead if you keep rolling up on me that way, Hero. Now, do you have a plan, or don’t you?”

Smirking, Nick nodded. “We get ourselves out of here, mix and mingle with the other abductees, and learn everything we can about the Taron.” Lowering his voice even more he whispered. “When the time comes, we use it against them.”

“That’s not the best plan I’ve ever heard, but it will do until we can figure out something better.”

Both men turned to see the door being jerked open. Several bobble heads stepped through the doorway, eagerly looking where he had been lying. It took them a second to realize he was standing across the room.

Jax advised quietly. “Be a good boy, so you don’t get zapped again.”

Shooting him a dark look, Nick stepped forward to greet his abductors. His plan to keep his expression blank almost faltered when Jax spoke. “Be sure to bow. The big heads like humiliating display of submissiveness.”

Glancing over his shoulder, he responded. “You don’t sound much like a gun runner.”

“I’m an arms dealer, nimrod. There’s a difference.”

One of the aliens approached him with a syringe. Floating inside was a clear liquid with a little bead.

Jax muttered, “It’s the translator. Just let them shoot it in your neck.”

Standing before the tall sentients, Nick turned his head to give them the access they needed. The instrument jarred against his neck, and he felt a thick needle shoot out, puncturing his skin. The alien looked curiously down at him, blinking slowly.

Nick shoved down the need to gut the creature where he stood. Knowing what they had in store for Earth and that they’d wiped worlds clean of intelligent life galled him. A burning sensation drifted from the injection site to his head and rapidly spread to his chest. Gritting his teeth, he waited for the needle to come out.

Once the alien stepped back, still holding the poised injector, the others began to speak. At first, it was all just barking and screeching, and then the sounds morphed into words. Without willing it so, his mind clicked through their phrasing to select the right words.

“The fighter…hunter…warrior has woken.”

“I mental…think…wonder if we are a scared…terrifying sight to know…see…behold.”

Staring at the creatures intently, Nick zeroed in on understanding their words.

“I do not care for the way it sees…looks…stares. Does it not know we are Taron elite?”

“It is an animal. The Taron will be fortunate if it can know…Comprehend even part of what we say.”

Forcing his mouth to make the unfamiliar noises that his brain identified as correct, he spoke in a growly voice. “I know your words.”

The moment he spoke, all hell broke loose. The Taron began speaking so rapidly, it was impossible to follow, one drew a weapon, and before anyone could fire upon him, the door burst open.

The person who stalked through the door took him by surprise. If a Taron could be considered intimidating with their oversized head and long spindly arms, this one came close. He was taller than the others and wearing a stark black uniform. When he spoke, it was with the calm indifference of a military commander. “You will not harm the humond.” The man’s strange articulation of the word human led Nick to think maybe they didn’t know much about Earth or the human race.

“The animal speaks. It is not natural.”

“You will load him with a language program for the top five species aboard this vessel.”

“That will certainly kill the creature.”

Smiling malevolently, the military commander replied. “If it dies, then that is evidence of its weakness. If it survives, it will be our voice among the many.”

“I do not understand.”

“The Taron have long wished for a program that would afford full communication with our slaves.” Gesturing towards Nick, the commander’s face contorted into a mask of disgust. “Its brain must be different from the others. If it accepted one language program, perhaps it will accept many. The Taron only keep slaves that are useful. Properly conveying our wishes to the horde of slaves is of use, for it will relieve the Taron of the need to interact with them.”

Nick wondered why the aliens kept referring to themselves in the third person. It was kind of weird.

The aliens stood for a brief moment before their commander barked. “The Taron command has spoken. All Taron will obey.” His harsh words sent them all scurrying from the room.

Chapter 3

A Rocky Start

~ Nick ~

Music Mix

As the door shut behind them, a feminine voice broke the stillness of the room.

“If you have a God, now is the time to pray to him humond.”

Both he and Jax looked at the blue woman with new eyes. “You’re Taron?”

“I am as the gods have made me.”

“What the hell does that even mean?” Jax’s crudeness aside, Nick was eager to hear her answer.

“My father was Taron, and my mother was…something else.”

Nick approached her, giving her another once over visually. “You don’t look like them. Your skin is smoother and lighter blue. They don’t have the big head or points on their ears like you do. Your body is shaped…”

“I am aware of my flaws, humond. I do not need you to articulate them for me.”

“No need to get testy, mam. I was simply pointing out that you’re damned beautiful compared to the other Taron. Why do they have you locked up with us slaves? Did you do something to piss them off?”

Backing up against the wall, her eyes slid away. She looked a bit demoralized. “I dared to take my first breath. In their eyes, one such as me ranks lowest among the slaves. They will find a reason to destroy me soon. I can tell by the look in their eyes.”

Jax sniffed again. “What’s your name, Doll?”

Closing her eyes for a brief moment, she whispered. “I am called Zaphredinelyn.”

“That sounds beautiful when you say it out loud but can we call you Zaph for short?” Jax’s perfectly serious question, almost made him smile.

The woman stared at Jax for a long moment. “The word means mixed biology. It is the name the Taron use for the few of us who are not pure bloods. The Taron despise half breeds.”

Nick stepped closer to her. “I---you are going to become important to me, and I don’t like you being called that. How about we call you Acacia? In our language, it’s the word for a beautiful flower.” Running the tips of his fingers around the shell of her pointed ear, he watched in fascination as she trembled beneath his touch. “The name suits you because you’re perfect.”

“Never heard of it.” Jax’s disgruntled voice broke into their special moment.

“It’s like a mum, you philistine.”

A small voice drew his attention again. “You think I’m perfect?”

Nick allowed his eyes to roam over her delicate face, down to the swell of her breasts pushing against the coarse material barely covering her slight form. Her slim arms and legs were something straight out of fashion magazine. The long black hair, grazing her now flushed skin seemed soft and fine. Sifting his fingers through the side of it, he realized the texture was indescribably luxurious.

“Look, I’m not good with words. I’ve spent way too much time toting a gun and visiting all the wrong kind of places. But I gotta say, you’re prettier than any female who ever crossed my path.”

“Hey, I called dibs on that cute elf a long time before you crossed either of our paths.”

Shooting Jax a furious look over his shoulder, he bit out. “I still haven’t forgotten that you had her tied up back on your boat. I’m gonna tag you for that when you least expect it.”

“It’s was a yacht, not a boat. And I didn’t have much choice. Kitty’s got claws, and she ain’t afraid to use them.”

Turning back to the woman still pressing herself back against the wall, he leaned forward on one arm, practically pinning her to the wall with his muscular body. Reaching for her hand without breaking eye contact, he brought it up for inspection. Each elegant finger was tipped with a long nail. They were a little thicker than human nails. The thought of her running them down his back as pumped into her flew through his mind.

Bringing the hand to his mouth, he kissed each nail, in turn, murmuring quietly. “Are you going to uses these on me?”

Staring up at him, she jerked when he ran his tongue tenderly over one knuckle.

“I am in my mating phase. If you do not step back, you will lose yourself to the lust my pheromones provoke.”

For some reason, a beautiful woman thinking he needed mating pheromones to want to have sex with her struck him a funny. Snorting a laugh, he ran his face down the side of her neck.

“If you wish to take me, I cannot stop you.” Her voice sounded like a strange mixture of fearful, needy, hopeful and anxious.

“Sweetness, when I take you it will be because you asked nicely, not because I forced myself on you.” Making himself step back, he spun on his heel to face Jax.

The other man was standing across the room, leaning one shoulder on the far wall. Nick wasn’t sure exactly what his facial expression was communicating, but if Jax’s response was any indication, it must have been something close to furious.

“Hey, I didn’t touch her like that. I was gonna try to get her interested, but you interrupted us. There’s no need to turn all super soldier on my ass.”

Stalking up to the man, Nick slammed him right back into the wall with one powerful slap to the chest. Jax’s shocked expression told him that was the last thing he had expected.

“We don’t call dibs on women like they’re fucking cherry popsicles sitting in a cardboard box waiting to be selected. You got that?”

Yeah, I got it, big guy. Want to ease up off my ass for a second?”

Slamming his hand into the wall beside the snarky man’s head, he gritted out. “If you even think about touching her or any other woman without their express verbal consent, I’ll drop you on the spot, stamp mission accomplished across your ass, and toss you in the alien equivalent of a trash compactor. Sound off if you understand what the hell I’m communicating to you.”

Shoving him back with two hands, Jax stared him down. “I’m hearing what you’re laying down, you stupid fucker. Now let me tell you something. If you keep rolling up on every damned situation spitting God and glory, you’re not going to last long. Dial it down a fucking notch or two, brother.”

“Brother? We are definitely not brothers. I call men in uniform brothers. You know, the ones who have sworn themselves to a greater cause; men who care about something besides making a fast buck. You’re just a two-bit gun runner in flashy sneakers with delusions of grandeur.”

Sneering at him, Jax shot back. “You think your shitty little insults are gonna cut me to the quick or put me in my place? Boy, you have no fuckin’ idea who you’re dealing with. I was raised in a crack house by a woman who thought skittles was a good breakfast food for four-year-old. I’ve survived police raids, gang wars, and being knifed by a junkie lookin’ for a fix. And that was all before my tenth birthday. I’ve got survival skills they don’t teach you in boy scouts or whatever shitty little military academy your rich parents sent you to when you were little.”

“I’m a United States Navy Seal, and that’s the last time I’m telling you.”

“Well, you’re also a pompous, arrogant asshole who needs to work on his people skills. That hero complex is gonna get you killed, and then you won’t be saving nobody.”

Shaking his head, Nick stared at the man standing defiantly in front of him. “I’ve been told we’ll probably end up being best friends or some such shit like that. I have to say, I’m not seeing that right now.”

Snorting a laugh, the other man stated flatly. “You listen to me; you live longer, Doctor Jones.”

Turning back to Acacia, Nick muttered. “Crazy fucker’s quoting vintage movies during an alien abduction. Why am I not surprised?”

The door open and shut several more times that day and before it was all over Nick was balled up in the corner, sweating as his body tried to process the several shots of their translation cocktail. The injections were causing him to go into hypovolemic shock. Nick became aware that Acacia was holding him in her arms, trying to get him to drink some kind of drink that tasted salty. She removed part of her barely there clothing to mop the sweat from his forehead.

Chapter 4

Stark Reality

~ Jax ~

Music Mix

Huddled in the darkness, Jax watched Nick moving restlessly on Acacia’s lap. Wrapping his arms around his stomach, Jax tried to forget all the horrible things he’d seen since being brought aboard this ship. Unfortunately, every single time he closed his eyes, the images of wholescale death and destruction reigned supreme.

Growing up in a crack house had come with its own set of challenges. Humans thirsting for a fix could be some of the most despicable creatures imaginable. He could get his head around addiction. People physically needed a drug, and they would do absolutely anything to get their next fix. What he couldn’t understand was the Taron. The big-headed fuckers would kill a person just for looking them in the eyes, or getting in their way while walking. Hell, he’d even seen a man get killed for absolutely no reason anyone could figure out. Life meant nothing to these people.

He watched Nick wake to their dimly lit alcove. He’d been stripped down to his boxers while the fever burned itself out. Acadia had taken really good care of them both. Her small bowl of water still sat nearby with a dingy scrap of cloth floating in it. Nick’s expression became confused as he pushed up off the cool metal flooring.

Though he was a little unsteady on his feet, Nick began to stretch out his muscles.

“Thank God, you’re awake, Hero.”

Seeming to notice him sitting in a shadow in one corner of the room, Nick retorted sarcastically. “I thought you didn’t need a Hero?”

When he moved forward into the dim lighting, Nick froze.

Dropping to his knee in front of Jax the shocked man mumbled. “Jesus, what happened to you? You look like a fucking scarecrow.”

Scrubbing both hands down his face, Jax sank back against the wall. “We ain’t gonna make it, dude.”

Quickly sitting beside him, the man stared at him. “I need a Sitrep. Tell me everything you know.”

Rubbing his temple with one dirty hand, Jax couldn’t find it in him to laugh. “It’s really goddamn cute how you’re still being a good little soldier and all.” Feeling a tear slid down his face, he wiped it away with the back of one hand. “We ain’t never getting’ home, soldier boy. You said they’re gonna attack Earth, but they got some crazy system where they go rank planets according to how rich in natural resources they are. We ain’t even in the top ten.”

“They are going to attack, in fifteen years. When they approach Earth, we have to…”

“We ain’t gonna last fifteen months, much less fifteen years. They’ve killed millions while you slept.”

“How the hell long was I out?”

“It’s hard to tell time here. I’m guessing a little over a month.”

“It’s not logistically possible to kill…”

“It is. I watched it happen. The mother ships surround the planet, they have some type of particle beam weapon that destroys whole cities.” Jax knew his voice sounded flat and wooden. He could hear the hopelessness loud and clear.

A warm hand landed on his arm. “Don’t they feed you? You’ve lost weight, and you look like hell. Talk to me, brother.”

Taking a deep breath, Jax spoke, trying to keep to the major issues. “They fabricated some type of language program from your blood, imprinted on bacteria or something. Naturally, they gave it to me. It didn’t’ knock me out like it did you, but it’s been pretty hard on my system. They feed us, but nothing you would recognize as food. There are thousands of us slaves in the lowest level of the ship. They take us out when they need cheap expendable labor.”

“Are they working you to death? Acacia looks fine.”

Shaking his head, he responded. “They work us hard, food is tight, so I do extra chores for other slaves in return for extra things we need.”

“Shit, I’ve been down for a while. The two of you have been doing extra to get me well again, haven’t you?”

Jax swallowed thickly, refusing to look at the man who seemed to be everything he wasn’t. “There are only a few ways for a man like me to earn.” His mouth went dry before he could get the words out.

“Whoring is nothing to be ashamed of if it keeps you alive.”

Jax found his humor. Snorting a weak laugh, he pushed the words out. “Women are few and far between on these ships. The few there are, will not be interested in weak ass human men.”

Grinning, Nick flung back. “Speak for yourself.”

“Anyways, the men are pretty desperate for company.”

“Male whoring is a tough road for a man to hoe. If you got yourself a boyfriend, well that’s just fine by…”

Laughing, Jax shoved the ignorant man, “Shut the fuck up and let me get through this.”

“Yea, yea, there are lots of men and no women. Naturally, men are interested in getting some. Get on with the story before I fall asleep.”

“You know how we always wondered if there was intelligent life in space. Come to find out, there are lots of different species. So far, I’ve met about twelve different kinds of people, and two of them are single sex.” Holding up his hand when Nick opened his mouth, Jax explained. “They seriously don’t have males or females. They’re literally all one gender. There are several races where the men prefer other men and most of the other ones just swing all ways. The bottom line is none of the males are going without, so they ain’t gonna be interested in trading scarce resources for what they’re already getting for free.”

“That’s all fucking fascinating as shit, but can you cut to the damn chase. What do they value enough to trade?”

“You aren’t going to believe me, but I’m gonna tell you anyways.”

“Spit it out or so help me…”

“Blood. I’ve been trading blood, maybe a little too much.”

“You…say what? Repeat that please.”

“The most resilient and adaptable creatures on this vessel live off the blood of others.”

Nick immediately held his hand up to Jax’s forehead. “You don’t feel like you have a fever. How many fingers am I holding up?”

Staring at the man holding up three fingers like a moron, Jax shook his head. “I didn’t believe it either until I saw them feed. They bite you on the neck, just like we think of vampires.”

“And the bobble heads just let them wander around turning everyone else into creatures of the night? That does not make rational sense.”

“It’s not like that. They’re just a species of people who get their primary nutrition from drinking blood, like a tick or a mosquito. Only the Vampiere are really nice people. Hell, I’d describe them as shy even.”

“They call themselves the Vampiere?”

“Vampires are real, dude. I think we got the stories because some of them crash landed on Earth a really long time ago. How else would we know the name for them?”

Nick’s face scrunched up into a disapproving scowl. “Be honest, are you shitting me?”

Pulling up his sleeve, Jax showed him delicate bite marks from a recent session of feeding. “I have arrangements with a family to feed their little one. Kids drink from your wrist. Adults drink from your neck. Don’t ask why, because I honestly don’t know.”

Nick muttered thoughtfully. “I guess that isn’t so fantastical. You look anemic.”

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

“Twice as long as you thought you could, cause I’m on the job with you now.”

“Like you’re gonna let a vamp drink from your body. That’s seen as a sign of weakness here.”

“Think I give two hoots in hell what they think? For me, this about us sucking it up and saving Earth. If I have to save our goddamn planet with a little vampire attached to my wrist, then that’s what I’m goddamned doing.”

“I can’t see us being able to save Earth. You don’t know what their weapons can do. That last planet they took was a hundred times more advanced than Earth. They had a defensive shield around the entire planet and thousands of space fighters. Taron just blasted right through all of it. These fuckers don’t invent anything themselves. They steal technology from every world they conquer, growing stronger and more unstoppable with each attack. How can anyone compete with that?”

“Oh, we’re going to kick their asses alright, ‘cause Earth has something no other planet did. They’ve got us. You and I are going to make all the difference.”

Yeah hero, whatever you say.”

“I can’t do this alone, Jax. We have to do it together.”

“I thought, I was just some slimy good for nothing gun runner.”

Mimicking Jax’s former outrage at being called a gun runner, Nick spat his own words back at him. “You were an arms dealer. There’s a damn difference, you know.”

“Whatever, man. I’m gonna get some sleep.”

Grabbing Jax’s arm, Nick jerked him back down. “I wasn’t gonna say anything, but we need to be on the same page. Back on the boat…”

“It was a goddamn yacht, not a boat.”

“Whatever. Look, when I stunned you and tried to call for a pickup, they told me your yacht had jumped into the future because of some malfunction with the alien ship.”

Jax sank back down into his former position, as shock ripped through his chest. “Shit, that actually makes more sense than you know. I heard each ship has a crazy pilot and they use some type of mutagenic substance to move the ship through time and space. They were complaining about some unauthorized jump when we came on board. The big heads were the most freaked out that I’ve ever seen them.”

“Well, I spoke to a guy from over a thousand years in the future, and he said you and I are in their history books. They called us legends, ‘cause we pulled together, stayed strong, and gathered up enough intel on the big blue bastards to turn the tide of war. I know we can do this because we’ve already done it.”

Sitting up straighter, Jax felt a surge of pure adrenaline spike thought his system. “Fuck yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.”

Giving him a swift jerk of his chin, Nick stated smugly. “Glad to have you on board. Think about it for a minute. I’m a goddamn Navy Seal, and you’re the most notorious arms dealer in the entire world. Though we come from very different backgrounds, you and I were created for mission impossible.”

“I’m in one hundred fucking percent, man. Now, where do we start?”

“No idea.”

“Didn’t they tell you what to do?”

“No, the message was actually one I left behind for myself. It was one of those get your head out of your own ass and save the world speeches.”

Yeah dude, Iv’ve noticed you’re real good at those. However, motivational speeches ain’t gonna be particularly helpful in terms of figuring out the nuts and bolts of overthrowing an invincible enemy.”

“No enemy is invincible. You just have to find their weaknesses. Everybody has them.”

Rubbing his chin, Jax responded thoughtfully. “I’m supposed to feed Dracon’s little one in an hour. Maybe if we get there early, we can bend his ear. He’ll help us if he can.”

Pulling on his clothing, Nick asked, “What about Acacia?”

“Life in the underworld is unpredictable. Let her sleep.”

“What’s the underworld?”

“It’s where we are, nimrod. The Taron ships are huge, and the most vulnerable part is the lowest level.”

“So naturally, that would be the very place they select to house their slaves.”

Snorting a laugh, Jax answered sarcastically. “Well they sure as hell ain’t gonna house their elite soldiers down here.”

Nick shook his head, responding harshly. “I feel like that dude who fell asleep for thousand years and just woke up.” A sly smile slid onto his face. “It would really suck, only I have bestie, a beautiful blue babe, and the mission of lifetime on my hands. It’s enough to make a guy like me just real damn happy.”

Gesturing towards the slumbering woman, Jax quipped. “Well, the beautiful blue babe’s real nice. And she already told everyone that she’s yours, so there’s that to look forward to.”

Jax thought it was funny just how quickly that bit of information put a smile on the battle-hardened soldier’s face. The difference between having Nick at his side and struggling through the situation alone was profound.

Before, he’d forced himself to carry on only because he’d worried about what would happen to Acacia without his help. Jax was ashamed to admit it, but he had dreamed about all the ways he could put an abrupt end to his miserable existence. There were times over the last month when it would have taken so very little for him to have crossed that final line, times when the darkness of death beckoned to him like a long lost lover.

In the blink of an eye, his world had righted itself. Now, he had hope and purpose, and it was because of one man, who challenged him to be better than he was before. Holding his head up, Jax felt genuine pride growing in his chest for the possibly the first time in his entire life. It was something his soul badly needed, and he knew in an instant that he would fight like hell to keep it.

Chapter 5

A Warrior For Me

~ Acacia ~

Music Mix

Drifting in an aimless slumber, Acacia dreamed of dark times. On a planet, deep in the Hellion system, she was at her mother’s side harvesting food. Though the work was difficult and the hours long, they enjoyed the brief reprieve from being on the mother ship. Her mother’s pale white form moved noisily among the bushes as her hands flew, picking fresh berries. It was at a time in her life when her father could still protect her. Stooped on a nearby cliff, his job was to monitor the slaves. Even at a young age, she could see the large warrior’s eyes only ever rested on her and her mother. Basking in the warm glow of his approval had meant everything to her.

Her tiny hands drifted over the bushes, and she greedily popped one plump berry after another into her small mouth. The slight curve of her father’s lips told her that this once it was okay. It was her one perfect memory, the one right before everything in her world turned upside down. The storm clouds rolled in incredibly fast on that world. Before her father could even make it to them, the skies had opened and dumped a deluge upon them. Her mother’s long, white hair clung to her slight form. Her eyes turned worried when they saw the lightning in the sky. The thunder was even more terrifying, for it shook the ground with each deafening clap.

She could remember running to her mother on shaky legs. This was always where the dream turned strange. The clouds morphed into a dark fog that grabbed and grasped at her small body. It was thick and smelled strange to her small nostrils. As her mother struggled to reach her, the ground began to move, and she slowly began to move away.

The other slaves were panicking, and her father ran full speed down from the cliff, scooping her into his arms as he made for her mother. To both their shock she slid over a rocky embankment even as his hands reached for her. He stood holding her in his arms, forcing her head away from the sight of her mother’s mangled body below. Acacia could remember watching the mud and strange fog swirl around his big black military boots. If only her mother had been wearing a pair, the ground might not have carried her away.

Jerking from her dream, she wrapped her arms tightly around her body, as the full force of her aloneness in the universe came crashing down around her. Her father was no longer able to spend time with her. His token visits were always so bittersweet.

Holding her hand down onto the floor where her human had been laying, she found it held no trace of his body heat. Being certain that Jax would have woken her if he’d taken a turn for the worst, she felt that he had taken Nick to meet with Dracon. Getting up, she cleaned herself and hurried to the Vampiere’s quarters.

The Vampiere were housed in a huge cargo hold, but over the years they had managed to collect enough space junk to create individualized family units. For some reason, the Taron separated out their slaves according to species. Since Jax and Nick were the only humans, they got a tiny room, which she suspected had once been a utility substation before the ship underwent a modern retrofit. It was glaringly obvious that they didn’t bother with the one and only Zaphredinelyn onboard their vessel. Jax had insisted she stay and she’d had no mind to argue the point.

Stepping to the huge cargo hold, she couldn’t help but notice her human was looking much better. He was sipping a nutrient packet, and his body was a lush cream color rather than the stark white she’d come to expect. Nick was a handsome male by any female’s standards. Slipping into a squatting position, she admired the way he interacted with the other males. Where the Vampiere were naturally quiet and reticent creatures, her warrior was bold and easily spoke his mind. He moved through the verse with confidence, sure of his purpose. He had a charm all his own, and she would be proud to call him her own. A tiny doubt lurked in the back of her mind that he might not want her. She shoved it away, certain that he had touched her skin and told her she was beautiful in his eyes.

Suddenly, he was standing before her. Reaching down, he pulled her to her feet. “Hello, beautiful. Sorry, I passed out for weeks.”

“You are lucky to be alive.”

Drawing her into the tight circle of his arms, he pressed his forehead to hers. “Thank you for taking care of me. I owe you and Jax my life.”

Smoothing her cheek over his, she murmured. “I was so worried for you.”

“I’m aces, I promise.”

Nodding, she swallowed thickly, shoving her worry aside in favor of meeting his needs in the here and now.

Wrapping an arm around her, he returned to the small group of vampires.

Dracon dipped his head in recognition. “What you suggest has never been attempted.”

“Which means it will be the last thing they expect. We have the element of surprise on our side as well as time.”

“Of all the aliens aboard this vessel, I believe the Vampiere would be least welcome among your people.”

“You have no idea what we’re capable of. Do you know that I probably could have overwhelmed the slow moving Taron who took me? I didn’t because they were intent on taking me right where I needed to be.”

The vampire made a sound of disbelief. “If what you say is true, you are the first to offer yourself voluntarily into slavery.”

“Slavery is nothing more than a state of mind. They can hold us, force us to work and even kill us.” Tapping the side of his head, Nick stated with conviction. “We are the ones who make ourselves their slaves by believing their garbage about owning us.”

Jax spoke up. “What he says is true. I feel differently now that I know we are destined to change the course of history in the verse. I imagine a universe without the Taron in it, and my spirit soars. To be able to put a stop to their killing makes life worth living for me.”

Her beautiful warrior spoke words meant to shake the hopelessness of slavery from a million minds. “Think of your little one living among my people. She could go to school with other children, grow into a woman with real choices in life and have a home of her own. My world has over seven billion humans. She would never have a problem finding a willing feeding partner with so many to choose from. Hell, none of you would ever have to worry about that again. My world will welcome any alien willing to fight by our side. I will see to that myself. Isn’t that worth risking your life for?”

Dracon lifted his chin. “It’s something worth dying for if it gives my daughter true freedom.”

“Will you speak to your people?”

Nodding, the man watched his little one crawl from a small flap in his door. “I will do all within my power to aid you in your mission.” Picking up his little one, he gazed at Jax. “Are you sure you are well enough to trade?”

Before he could answer, Acacia spoke up. “If you will accept me, I would be happy to give in his stead.”

Staring at her for a long hard moment, Dracon nodded. “As you wish, among my people females are often preferred feeding partners for children.”

Drawing the tiny child into her lap, Acacia offered her wrist. The little one struck hard and fast, sinking her teeth into the pale blue flesh. Vampire children often didn’t have the finely honed and disciplined feeding skills of adults, so Acadia wasn’t too surprised, that the little one acted impulsively. Pulling back the child’s long hair, she relaxed into the experience. Her ears overheard the males speaking again.

“My people are not used to having a formal leader. You must prove yourself worthy of being followed.”

“Look, when it comes to fighting, I’m highly trained. Seals are the Navy’s elite fighting force. Though there are few of us, we are the ones called in when the situation calls for extraordinary skill.”

“You certainly brag like a warrior.” Dracon’s humorous reply seemed to offend her new mate.

Staring at the man, Nick jerked his head one time before speaking. “The chances of being abducted by a stranger on my world is one in a half of million. The chances of getting abducted by aliens are too astronomical to even speak of. Yet here we are, standing on an alien space ship and I’m already running the odds on this conversation with you going bad.”

“I don’t understand.”

“My best-educated guess is there is a one in about hundred thousand chance our conversation will end in violence, maybe a little less because your child is present. If you attack me, there’s a good chance the first indication will be you dropping your left leg back into a formal fighting stance. I noticed you’re right hand dominant so, you’ll to brace yourself to attack with that hand. Since you’ve received formal military training, you’ll turn on me when I least expect it and go for any vulnerabilities, you pick up on as we fight. If you’re your left leg goes back, I’ll spin around and take out your knee with the heel of my right foot. It’s the quickest way to defuse the situation.”

The man gasped, “I would never do such a thing.”

“It doesn’t matter if you do. I’m specifically trained to test my opponent’s responses, recognize fighting patterns and anticipate my opponent’s moves. Since I’ve been talking to you, I’ve run scenarios on at least half a dozen potential threats. It’s so deeply ingrained into my personality that I do it without even thinking about what I’m doing. The fact is, I’m not just a warrior. I’m a US Navy Seal, earning his Trident. I’m the evolution of thousands of years of formal military expertise condensed down into one human form. I’m seriously not bragging when I say that comparing me to any other warrior is nothing short of an insult.”

“I believe what you say is true.”

“I honestly don’t care if you believe it right now or not. By the time we reach Earth, you and every other hostage on this ship will be a believer. Let your people know that gathering intel on the Taron and protecting Earth is their ticket to freedom. They can die in the air with the Taron or enjoy a new life on my home world.”

A alarm sounded off, and everyone in the room stood up and turned to the door. Though Nick seemed confused, everyone else knew the alarm was meant to alert them to present for the Taron elite. Dracon shoved his little one behind him and took a protective stance in front. The room became eerily quiet.

Acacia didn’t have to wonder what they wanted. There were here for Nick. The collars they all wore monitored their movements, and they would, therefore, know he was now up and moving around. The door slid open, and three Taron elite walked in. Nick stepped out to meet them, with Jax at his back. Reaching out, they slapped a metal cuff on each man’s wrist. Squawking something that sounded like you work now, they turned on their heels and left.

Nick sent her a questioning look. “That was all kinds of weird.”

Sighing she approached. “It is a communication device like the Taron use to communicate with each other. They hate interacting with slaves and I believe they mean for you two to relay information to the slaves. We have developed ways to communicate among ourselves, but no one can speak the snarls of the Taron except the two of you. They will want regular reports on the progress of whatever duties you assign.” She watched the units begin to vibrate. A micron later, a small holographic image appeared. They watched an assortment of cargo being moved from area to another. An image of a crate being popped open and the contents being scanned danced through the air.

Dracon immediately volunteered. “The Vampiere usually perform such functions. Would you like me to assign a crew?”

Nodding, Nick responded. “Yes, please do.”

Holding up his wrist he gestured to the device. “This worries me. It doesn’t come off, and if they can send messages to us, they can probably listen to what we’re saying.”

Dracon nodded. “We will see to that. In the meantime, we need to get the assignments done. Slaves get eliminated if they are not useful.

Jax’s communicator buzzed. Another three-dimensional image jumped up into the air. It showed a huge spill getting cleaned with little cleaning bots. Acacia headed for the door. “I will see to this situation. I recognize the section and have released the cleaning bots many times before.”

Nick started to object. Before he could get too wound up, she stated soothingly. “This is our life. Do not worry for my safety, for none here would harm me but the Taron and they loathe the underworld.”

“Come straight back, okay?”

Nodding, Acacia took comfort in his protective stance. Perhaps he was growing real feelings for her. Her spirit soared at the thought of them being mated for life.

Chapter 6

Pushy Women

~ Nick ~

Music Mix

Being alone with the woman who’d announced to the underworld that she belonged to him was difficult for only one reason. He wanted her with an overpowering need that was becoming ever more difficult to resist. The woman smelled like cotton candy, and her potent mating scent filled the air. She was light on her feet, graceful and totally fixated on him. Those were good qualities for a female to have in his humble opinion.

Her quiet voice pulled him from his internal thoughts. “Why do you fight so hard against something you clearly desire as much as I do?”

Glancing behind him, he caught her dark eyes upon him yet again. “You don’t really want me.” When she opened her mouth to object, he pushed his bare feet against the floor, turning to face her. “I’m aware that you think you want me. The fact is, you’ve only known me for a few months, and you don’t really know me.”

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