The knock at the door came just as Melissa was reaching into the microwave to retrieve her plate of macaroni and cheese. She frowned. How had her caller got past security? No one had rung the buzzer from the ground… what was going on? She glanced at the screen mounted above the door that was connected to the hallway camera. Damn. It was the military. Two soldiers dressed in camouflage fatigues waited outside her door, automatic weapons dangling from their belts. So that’s why there had been no buzzer—the military could go anywhere they pleased; they didn’t concern themselves with trivialities such as ringing buzzers to request permission to enter a secure building. They just flashed their ID and were admitted instantly.
What on earth did they want with her? She racked her brains trying to figure it out. She lived a quiet life, she kept to herself. She hadn’t even had so much as a speeding ticket in the last year or so. She was a law-abiding citizen, she had a good job… She knew the military often turned up on people’s doorsteps for no reason whatsoever, but so far, it had never happened to her. Usually, they only showed up when someone was wanted for an arrest, or to collect unpaid debts—neither of which was applicable to her.
She contemplated escape. The problem was, where would she go? She was on the twentieth floor of an apartment building; she couldn’t exactly jump out the window. The only door was the one the military men were waiting outside of. There was nowhere to go. Hurriedly, she looked around for somewhere to hide, but found nothing. That was the downside to being a minimalist—there was no excess furniture, no clutter in which she could disguise herself.
“Open the door, ma’am, before we bust it down!” came the shouted instructions.
“Bloody hell,” Melissa muttered, leaving her steaming dinner where it was and slamming the door of the microwave shut with a bang. There really wasn’t anything else she could do—she’d have to let them in. She’d opted for the cheaper rent with the standard doors, and while they seemed to be sturdy enough, she knew they were flimsy in comparison to the steel-reinforced doors in the more secure units. If the men really wanted to, she knew they would be able to break it down. And with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide, she was out of options. So she took a deep breath, crossed her fingers for luck, and stepped toward her door. Unlocking both deadbolts, Melissa stepped aside as it swung open to admit the two men.
“Melissa Malone?” the first man asked, swiping a chip reader behind her neck. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and muscular, and his jet black hair was graying at the temples, giving him a suave, distinguished look. He was clean-shaven, and his eyes were hard as they bored into her. He pocketed the small black device as the other man clamped his hand around her upper arm.
“You need to come with us, miss,” the shorter, fatter man informed her, his grip on her arm tightening when she refused to move.
“I don’t think so,” she argued. “What’s going on?”
“All will be revealed in due course,” the stout man informed her, giving her arm a sharp tug that nearly made her lose her balance. She tried to jerk her arm back, to stay where she was, but the man was much too strong for her.
“Who are you? What do you want with me?”
The stouter of the two flashed his ID badge at her. “Military police, miss. We’re here on official government business.”
“You are required to accompany us, ma’am,” the taller man told her firmly. “It is the law. I can force you, but it’s better for everyone if you come willingly.”
Melissa sighed. He was telling the truth. If she didn’t go, he would simply arrest her, then she would have no choice. She could barely remember the time when normal citizens could do as they pleased; the military had been in power her entire adult life. No matter that she hadn’t done anything wrong; the military had summoned her, and she had to go. She couldn’t even deny her identity—the microchip that was inserted between the shoulder blades of every baby at birth contained all the information the military could ever need to know about her, including her DNA, and it was impossible to remove. Plenty of others had tried, and failed, and been jailed for their efforts.
The pungent aroma of processed cheese assailed her nostrils and she remembered her dinner that was sitting in the microwave, no doubt congealing into a sticky mess by now. As if to remind her that she hadn’t eaten since the sushi she’d had for lunch more than six hours ago, her stomach growled. “I was about to have my dinner. Can I eat quickly before we leave? It won’t take long, I promise.”
The shorter man relaxed his grip on her arm, but tightened it again as the taller man, clearly in charge, snapped the order: “No. Leave it. We need to move.”
“But I’m hungry!” she objected.
“I said, leave it. Move.”
“But…” She lurched forward as the smaller man pulled on her arm, propelling her quickly down the hallway. It was obvious she wouldn’t be eating anytime soon. She heard her apartment door slam and heavy boots echoing on the slate floor behind her as the second man followed them out. At the elevators, instead of going down to the ground floor, they went up. Neither man spoke as she watched the floor numbers flash by in neon green digits on the small screen above the door: 23… 24… 25… all the way up to the roof. The soldier to her left never let go of her arm the whole time, even though they were the only ones in the elevator and the bigger soldier was blocking the exit.
“Where are we going?” She was afraid. Used to being in control, issuing orders and spending her entire working day making important decisions, being confined in an elevator with two military policemen unknown to her was a foreign experience. She felt helpless, frustrated, and slightly claustrophobic. She wanted to kick her feet and scream, but she knew it would be pointless. Behaving like a child wasn’t going to help her any. Her question remained unanswered. She struggled to keep her breathing under control as her heartbeat quickened in fear.
As soon as the elevator doors opened, she was ushered into a waiting helicopter and buckled securely into a seat. The shorter man looked grim as he strapped himself in next to her while the taller man took the controls. Even with the huge headphones, the noise of the helicopter was deafening as it roared into life. She could hear the pilot talking to the control tower but none of it made sense to her; he might as well have been talking gibberish. She still didn’t know where they were taking her. Then, within seconds, they smoothly lifted off the roof and were in the air, sweeping speedily above the city as they left the helipad on the roof of the skyscraper she lived in far behind. She watched, fascinated, as her building fell away below them, the cars traveling the motorway resembling Matchbox toys. The people clogging the streets were so small they could have been ants. Her heart was in her throat as the chopper picked up speed.
“Can you please tell me where you’re taking me?” she begged them, wringing her hands in front of her nervously. There was an uncharacteristic whine in her voice, but she didn’t care. She was too angry and too scared to care. These men had just uprooted her from her home with no explanation! What was going on?
The soldier at the controls ignored her, but the smaller man glanced at him briefly before answering. “You’re coming to our headquarters. Government orders,” he snapped brusquely.
“But why?” She racked her brains trying to think of anything she’d done wrong. There was nothing. She prided herself on being a model citizen. She didn’t break any laws, she worked hard. She couldn’t think of a single thing she’d done that would warrant her being escorted by military policemen to the government headquarters. “I don’t understand. What have I done wrong?” she asked, close to tears. She swallowed hard and fought to keep her emotions in check. It had been years since she’d cried—no way was she going to give these brutes the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
The soldier seated next to her patted her hand gently and smiled kindly. “Don’t worry,” he told her gently. “You haven’t done anything wrong. You’ll find out soon enough what this is all about. Just relax, we’re not going to hurt you.” His soft tone was in stark contrast to his curt order of only moments before, but it wasn’t at all comforting.
She didn’t believe him, but what choice did she have? Closing her eyes, she leaned back in her seat and tried to calm herself down. Taking deep breaths, she tried to focus her mind on anything but her current circumstances. It wouldn’t do for her to lose the plot now.
* * *
She awoke to the taller soldier shaking her shoulder. “Get up,” he ordered her. Blinking her eyes rapidly, she got to her feet and was ushered out of the helicopter, trapped between the shorter man in front of her and the taller one behind her. She wasn’t restrained, and neither of the men were touching her, but she knew that she couldn’t escape—this was just an illusion of freedom. She had no doubt that if she hesitated in her stride or took the tiniest step sideways she would be handcuffed and maybe Tasered as well. The soldiers would not want to lose face here, in front of their colleagues, by letting their prisoner escape.
They waited briefly as the soldier in front flashed his ID badge in front of an electronic reader mounted at the side of the path and the door in front of them slid open. She was escorted through the door and down a long, deserted hallway, into a huge room filled with people who were sitting silently in rows of chairs all facing the front. The shorter man disappeared into the crowd while her taller, broad-shouldered escort behind her pushed her down into a straight-backed chair at the edge of the back row, seating himself next to her. As he sat, he gave her a hard glare that was clearly a warning of some sort… but a warning for what?
“What are we…” she started to ask but she was rudely cut off by the soldier. Putting one hand behind her head, he clapped the other one over her mouth. “Mmmmmmf!” she yelled against his hand. She wriggled, trying to squirm out of his reach, but her indignant protest came out sounding too muffled to be recognizable, and the grip he had on her was too strong for her to escape from.
“Quiet!” he hissed. “You’re about to find out. Just wait.” With a stern glare, he removed his hands from her person and rested them on the front of his thighs.
“But…” The word had barely escaped her lips when her burly companion clapped his hand over her mouth again.
“Shush.” He glared at her even more sternly than before. His hand pressed firmly against her mouth; the pressure almost hurting her. Melissa was outraged—she had never been manhandled like that before, and she wasn’t used to being told what to do. But she realized that fighting him was getting her nowhere, so she nodded meekly. Being so effectively gagged by his huge hand in front of so many people was embarrassing. She’d be quiet for now—she needed his hand off her mouth. Satisfied, he took his hand away and sat back in his chair.
True military, he sat with his back ramrod straight, his feet planted firmly on the floor in front of him, legs slightly apart. His upper arm brushed her shoulder and her knee rested against his thigh. She could feel the hardness of his body beneath his military-issue clothing and her breath hitched in her throat. It had been a long time since she’d been with a man and this one was causing feelings within her that she didn’t want to acknowledge. Aside from the coldness in his eyes and the complete lack of kindness in his stern demeanor, she found him quite attractive. She tried to force that thought from her mind. She was doing it again—lusting after the wrong man. Why did she do that, time after time? She’d been introduced to countless nice men, successful men, quiet well-mannered men, but she just wasn’t attracted to any of them. Instead, she fell for the harsh ones, the men with the no-nonsense attitudes, just like the one sitting next to her. All her friends had been in happy relationships for years, but so far, she hadn’t found the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She was beginning to think he didn’t exist. And while the pleasure robots she’d been passing the time with were good, very good in fact, they just couldn’t do for her everything that a man could.
Her attention was diverted from the man beside her to a huge screen mounted on the wall at the front of the room. She jumped as a tall military man with medals decorating his lapel fiddled with the microphone, making it squeal. The screen lit up.
“You are all gathered here today for a very special reason,” he informed them. He turned toward the screen and waited a split second as a satellite view of space appeared, to be replaced quickly by a diagram of the solar system. “NASA has been concerned for some time now about the presence of a huge asteroid, roughly the size of England, which is heading straight for Earth. Many attempts have been made to deflect it, but because it is so big, these attempts have, so far, failed. We predict it will hit us in just over a week.”
Melissa gasped. The silence in the room was deafening as people stared at the screen, speechless. How could it be possible?
“This is, of course, top secret,” the speaker explained. “You can imagine the sort of panic we would have on our hands if this information got out.”
Outraged murmurs and mutterings started to fill the room as everyone started talking at once, rising from their seats in confusion and fear.
“Order!” the man at the front shouted into the microphone, but he was ignored as pandemonium erupted. Melissa stayed glued to her seat in shock as the soldier who had escorted her leapt to his feet, his hand on his weapons, assisting the other military personnel in calming down the crowd. Melissa remained where she was—she was numb. She couldn’t believe life as she knew it was about to end. All the people she knew and loved—what would happen to them? Which raised a very important question: Why had she been chosen to come here, and what purpose did bringing her here serve?
“And this is where you all come in,” the man at the front intoned, once order had been restored in the room. “There are several options available to us that we hope will be successful in saving our planet—one of which is using new technology to try again to alter the course of the asteroid. We could also attempt to blow it up, to destroy it in space, but that brings with it its own risks, including asteroid showers raining down on Earth, which could cause any amount of damage.” Pulling a small laser pointer out of his pocket, the speaker pointed at the screen, showing the audience exactly where the asteroid was, its size in relation to Earth, and its expected impact point. Even from where she was sitting, and with her limited knowledge of astronomy, it was clear to Melissa that they were in trouble. The asteroid was huge—and it was headed straight for them.
“If we are unsuccessful in our endeavors, life as we know it could be wiped out almost entirely. Using the data we have on record for you all, we have carefully selected the two thousand people in this room—a thousand men and a thousand women—who will be responsible for ensuring the preservation of mankind. We have chosen you for several reasons, most importantly for your DNA—your genetic background is impeccable, you are all young and of good health. Also a requirement was your single status and the fact that you all live alone so you won’t be missed immediately. Selecting couples would have raised too much suspicion—it is much harder for two people to disappear than one.” The man spoke matter-of-factly, as though the whole thing was done and dusted, all arranged, not open for negotiation. “We have chosen people of above-average intelligence, thinking people, courageous people. You are all professionals with a wide range of jobs—your career choices range from lawyers to doctors, nurses, a computer genius.” He stopped talking and looked directly at her, catching her eye, before continuing. “Teachers, builders, engineers—all the skills that will be needed to keep civilization going.” He stopped talking and looked around the room proudly, as if he had accomplished something great. Then he waved his arm in a broad sweeping gesture across the rows of seats.
“The future of mankind lies with you all here today—you will board space shuttle Rosa 710 immediately and will be sent to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, to establish a temporary colony. Europa has water, but we don’t know what else is there. We don’t know if there is any form of life on the planet at all. However, we have prepared…” Melissa tuned him out as the speaker droned on and on, detailing the provisions that had already been sent ahead in a separate spaceship, everything necessary for them to survive. Her mind was awhirl. So this was her fate—to be sent to somewhere in outer space so she could be nothing more than a walking, talking uterus?
She was jolted back to reality as the soldier to her right jabbed her in the ribs with his elbow. “Pay attention,” he hissed. She jumped in fright, outraged afresh at his callous treatment of her.
“Hopefully the underground bunkers the government has built will work as planned, and we will be able to make contact with Europa within a fortnight via satellite. There are enough provisions to last for two years,” the speaker was saying. “After that, if you have not been successful in making contact with Earth, you may need to return regardless, and see what you find.”
Melissa felt like she was drowning, flailing around, trying to swim upstream through thick muddy water while the current kept dragging her backwards into this crazy abyss where nothing was as it should be. She was trying to make sense of everything she’d just been told, but it was crazy! How could this even be happening? Was the military seriously just going to save a select few, and themselves, and let everyone else die? And what kind of crazy notion was it that she got sent among two thousand people to a far-off moon that may or may not be able to sustain life? What if she didn’t want to go? What if she wanted to remain instead, and risk dying, with those she loved? Surely this was a dream—a nightmare? There was no way it could be reality. It was just too bizarre!
She was oblivious to the room erupting into chaos around her; she didn’t notice as civilian after civilian was forcibly restrained by the accompanying military police. She couldn’t hear the angry shouts, the protests, the wailing of some of the women. She was numb, scarcely able to believe what was going on. This was crazy. Was this really how life as she knew it was going to end?
“Ma’am?” She felt a touch on her shoulder and the deep voice belonging to her escort sounded concerned. “Are you okay, ma’am?” he asked. “You’ve gone very pale. Are you going to faint? Would you like a glass of water?”
“Water?” Melissa sputtered at him incredulously. “The whole world has been turned on in its head and you offer me water? Are you mad?”
The hard, cold eyes turned on her with a furious glare. “Count yourself lucky, miss,” he snarled. “You’ve at least got a chance at life. Everyone left on Earth is likely to be killed. The chances of blowing up the asteroid are slim, and the underground bunker may or may not be successful. And even if it is, civilization as we know it will probably be finished. Even the people who survive the impact might die anyway.”
She looked at him. His fists were tightly clenched into balls at his side and he looked like it was taking all his self-control not to hit her.
“You can go in my stead, if you like,” she offered. “I’d rather take my chances here on Earth. I’m really not the adventurous type.”
“I’ll be piloting Rosa 710, the space shuttle we will be evacuating Earth in. But you’ve got the wrong attitude—you’ve been picked for a reason,” he growled. “A lot of criteria must be met to be suitable to make this trip to Europa and most people don’t fit it. Make the most of your opportunity—you’re a lucky woman. Everyone else will be left behind, most likely to die.” His words were sobering, and very true, and she felt a momentary pang of guilt for her bitterness. He was right—she should be grateful, but how could she be? She didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay on Earth and take her chances.
When she looked at him again, the coldness had softened in his eyes just a bit, but a hard glint still remained. He was obviously not a man to be trifled with, and for a moment she almost felt glad he was going too—at least there would be someone who wasn’t a complete stranger on this mission with her. She took a deep breath, trying to force the reality of her situation from her mind.
But there was no time to think about things for too long—within seconds, the group of civilians gathered in the room were surrounded by armed military personnel, ordered to be silent, and ushered down a long, narrow, dark corridor to where Rosa 710 was waiting.
Damian hurried down the corridor. Commander Zuss had requested his immediate presence more than half an hour ago, and the commander was not a man who liked to be kept waiting.
Commander Zuss hadn’t always been in charge. Once, he’d been simply a high-ranking Mojazi military officer, but something had happened to turn him rogue. Damian had no idea what caused it, but these days Commander Zuss was a renegade outlaw, raiding planets and stealing women to sell as slaves all over the galaxy. An undercover officer with the intergalactic police agency, Damian had managed to do the unthinkable: he’d infiltrated Zuss’ ranks, and he was sending information to his superior officers while waiting for his chance to bring Commander Zuss and his entire organization to justice. Unfortunately, it was taking longer than he’d expected it would to overthrow Zuss; the intergalactic police force had underestimated Zuss’ power. Still, it would only be a matter of time. Every day, he was feeding his superiors new information that would help them win this battle against the outlaw.
Throwing open the door, Damian entered the room, his frustration at the interruption to his day hidden with practiced ease under a neutral expression. “You summoned, commander?” Damian greeted the man.
“A shuttle is leaving Earth,” Commander Zuss got straight to the point. “A thousand women will be on board, bound for Europa. Europa!” he repeated, shaking his head in amusement at the stupidity of the Earth people. “Apparently they think Europa is habitable—they are actually trying to send people there!”
As was expected of him, Damian smiled at the commander’s amusement. “Why would they want to go there?” he asked, chuckling. “Good luck to them!”
“An asteroid is heading straight for Earth,” the commander said. “So the Earth government is sending two thousand people—a thousand men and a thousand women, to Europa to reproduce and repopulate the Earth after the people there get wiped out by the asteroid.” He laughed, clearly finding the very idea of attempting such a thing very humorous indeed.
As if on cue, Damian smiled again. “I see. And you want me to…” His voice trailed off; he had no idea exactly what it was the commander was asking of him. Surely he hadn’t called him here to gloat?
“Intercept the shuttle!” Commander Zuss roared excitedly, as if the plan should have been perfectly obvious to Damian right from the start. “Blitz the men, bring the women here for testing. The premarital testing can be carried out on the vessel. Like always, the useless ones will go as work slaves; we’ll select only the best to sell for breeding.”
“Why don’t we sell the men, too?” Damian suggested. “After all, they must be worth something.”
Commander Zuss shook his head. “Too much trouble.”
“We may as well get what we can for them,” Damian argued. “There’s a demand for work slaves; the women aren’t strong enough to work in the mines, and no one wants to do that dangerous work. You might be surprised at the price we get for them.”
He held his breath as the commander thought it over. Commander Zuss’ penchant for killing was something Damian would never understand. In the right hands, the blitzer was a very effective weapon. But Zuss used it purely for causing death and destruction wherever he went, leaving a trail of terror in his wake.
Zuss nodded, just once, and Damian exhaled loudly in relief. “Okay, capture the men too. The chief medical examiner and Lucas can go with you; gather as many men as you need to take over the shuttle successfully.”
Damian sprang into action. As he hurried back down the corridor to gather enough men to do the commander’s bidding, his wristwatch vibrated with an incoming message. Scowling, he pressed the button irritably. What did they want now? He would never complete his mission if his superior officers kept interrupting him! As he scrolled down the screen reading the coded message, his scowl got deeper. New information: Mission changed, he read. Scrolling down further, he shook his head. Computer genius. Claim her as your wife and keep her safe. Escape ASAP and bring her to Mojaz.
No way. They could not do this to him! How was he meant to keep one particular woman safe among the one thousand they would be capturing? And how would he even know which woman was his? And what did he want with a computer genius? The wristwatch vibrated again and a picture flashed up on screen. It was a woman’s face, a very attractive woman’s face, in fact, along with her name and quite a bit of biographical information. His scowl faded, slowly becoming replaced with the faintest hint of a smile as it dawned on him just how useful Melissa Malone could be. If she was as good as his superiors seemed to think she was, she would be another weapon with which to fight Zuss. And she certainly was very attractive, he acknowledged. He’d had worse assignments; if Melissa Malone was as good as he hoped, this mission wouldn’t be so bad after all.
* * *
Melissa had expected that flying on a space shuttle would be much like flying on an airplane, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. For starters, there were no windows. She supposed that was a good thing; traveling at the speed they were, being able to see out probably would have caused everyone to suffer an extreme case of vertigo. The flight deck was separated from the cabin by a screen that folded back concertina-style, and all the seats faced backwards. There were no seatbelts, and only suitcase-type handholds mounted on the edge of the seats to hang on with. She certainly didn’t feel very secure as the space shuttle lurched sideways and upwards as it took off into orbit. Surprisingly, it was silent. There was no engine noise as they blasted off into space; the shuttle left the Earth quietly.
There was an almighty jolt as they accelerated away from their initial orbital trajectory, and Melissa closed her eyes, held her breath, and gripped the handholds tighter as some of the passengers screamed. But after a few seconds, the ride smoothed out again and they continued their journey.
“It is expected that we will reach Europa in a little over a week,” came the pilot’s deep voice over the loudspeaker. “So sit back and relax; it should be plain sailing from here on out.”
It was hard to sit back and relax in the upright seat, but Melissa did her best. Surprisingly, everyone was silent. She wondered why nobody felt the need to talk, to question, to revolt against the military. Were they as shell-shocked as she was? She still couldn’t believe it. When shaking her head to wake herself up from the nightmare she was trapped in didn’t work, she resorted to pinching herself on the arm, instead. “Ow!” she yelped as her nails dug into her bare skin, leaving perfect ovals in their wake. Nobody noticed her cry. An overwhelming feeling of desperation and hopelessness settled over her as she realized that this was real. She really had left everyone she loved behind. She really was on a space shuttle being spirited away to the edge of nowhere. Would she ever see her loved ones again? She had no idea.
* * *
She was awakened to screams of terror. The passengers around her were rising from their seats in panic, trying to flee, but there was nowhere to go. They were completely surrounded by armed men dressed in white suits, carrying weapons the likes of which she had never seen.
“Nooooo!” Melissa threw her head back and screamed in abject terror when a huge hand was clamped over her mouth and she was forced into a headlock. She struggled blindly, almost hyperventilating in fear. She was going to faint out of sheer panic. What was happening?
“Don’t worry,” a deep voice said beside her, just as her whirling mind was filled with bright light and an overwhelming sense of peace surrounded her. She stopped struggling. Looking up, she gazed straight into the strangest set of eyes she’d ever seen—they were a bright purple color, almost neon. They were glowing, but as she felt herself relaxing under his hypnotic gaze, the light in his eyes dimmed, like a torch going out. He removed his hands from her but stayed where he was, blocking her path, effectively trapping her in her seat. She sat up, confused, but unafraid. Quickly, the men shepherded the women onto one side of the space shuttle, separating them from the men. There should have been absolute chaos, but there wasn’t. Did all these men have the power to create calm where there should be none?
It took less than a minute for the two thousand people on board to be separated by gender, and only a few seconds more for the men to be marched away. Melissa stayed where she was, still trapped in her seat by the man dressed in white, as she watched the men file out of the room and disappear from sight. There were no protests, no stalling; the men filed peacefully out like lambs and the women were powerless to stop them.
Terrified, wondering what fate awaited the men and even herself, Melissa screamed. All the women screamed. But again, there was that bright light infusing her mind slowly, chasing away her terror, filling her with a peaceful calm that had no right to be there. Her memory of the previous minutes was erased. She felt dizzy, then sleepy.
When she awoke, it was to find herself being herded with the other women down a dark corridor. She shuddered to think of what fate awaited her at their destination and she wanted to resist, but it didn’t seem as though she had much choice—there was a burly man at her elbow who looked as though he would be fairly difficult to shift. She followed the other women down the long, dark corridor, up a step and across the threshold of a different vessel. The temperature changed as they left Rosa 710 behind. She stopped, but the man at her side gave her a gentle nudge.
“Come on,” he murmured softly. “You have nothing to fear.”
They were taken into a big room where a tall man, clearly a head honcho of some sort, stood on a podium overlooking the gathered women.
“Welcome to our vessel,” he announced, his voice resonating throughout the big room, although he had no microphone to help his voice carry. “You have been brought here today to undergo testing to determine whether or not you are suitable for breeding.”
Melissa’s hands flew to her mouth in disbelief as she gasped in horror.
“Don’t worry,” her companion reassured her. “You have nothing to fear. I believe you will pass the test.” He smiled kindly at her, squeezing her shoulders in a manner that she supposed was meant to be comforting, but that actually hurt. His hands were huge and his grip was strong. And his eyes were that unbelievable purple color. But aside from his eyes, he was very handsome, she noticed as she looked him up and down slyly. The white suit clung to his muscular body, with a black shirt emphasizing the broad expanse of his chest and shoulders. He wore a silver tie that ended just above the silver belt buckle holding up his pants, which hung sexily off his lean hips. His jaw was square, indented with a dimple right in the middle of it, and when he smiled his mouth had laughter lines at the corners that lent expression to his otherwise severe face. His dark hair was cropped short, sticking up all over his head in short spikes. He was well over six foot tall, and had she been on Earth, browsing through an online dating site, he was a man she would have checked out. He was definitely attractive, and he seemed to have some kind of peculiar power over her. She knew she should have been terrified, but in the presence of this man, she was completely unafraid.
“I am Damian,” he drawled, his deep voice rumbling through her in waves.
“I know.” The smile he gave her told her that he truly did know. “I know everything about you,” he informed her. “You are under my protection.”
“Are you an alien?” she blurted out.
Damian smiled. “No. Not in the way you think, anyway. I’m a human, just like you, but a more advanced species of human. We evolved differently to the humans on Earth, to adapt to a different kind of environment. Our technology is far superior; our planet is still pristine, much as Earth used to be, thousands of years ago, before the industrialization of mankind ruined it. You will enjoy it on Mojaz, I think.”
She was silent for a moment, trying to digest what he had told her. “And if I don’t?”
He just grinned. “Give it time, I think you will.”
* * *
If Melissa had thought it was bad before, it was about to get a whole lot worse. The test wasn’t a test at all, but an embarrassing medical examination, conducted by men she didn’t know; men she had no desire to get to know. Damian wasn’t present. She wished he was. Although she barely knew the man, his presence would be a welcome comfort. He gave the impression that he would keep her safe, that he wouldn’t let any harm befall her, but her gut feeling told her she couldn’t say the same about the men facing her now.
“Take off your clothes and lay them on the chair,” the man who had identified himself as the chief medical examiner commanded her in a gruff tone. Her stomach churned as she looked at him. He didn’t look kind—his eyes looked hard and cold and his expression was stern.
Melissa shook her head. “No way.” She tried to back out of the room but was stopped by another man, every bit as big and burly as Damian, but nowhere near as handsome. He pushed her back into the center of the room. The order was repeated.
“I am not undressing for you!” Melissa yelled. “And you can’t make me!” Fear was making her brave.
The chief medical examiner chuckled, but the smile that had briefly lit up his face was gone as quickly as it had appeared. “You’re not on Earth now, little girl. Things are done differently here. Lucas—rip them off.”
“Damian!” She screamed his name in a panic, desperate for him to come and rescue her. Surely there was some mistake? These men didn’t really intend for her to shed all her clothing right here, did they? But Damian didn’t come.
Immediately, the man who had stopped her escape moved forward and tore her outer garments from her in a series of swift motions. She fought him crazily as she stood there in her underwear, but he simply held her wrists in one hand and used a small knife to slice her bra and panties from her. Melissa screamed and clutched her hands in front of her, desperate to preserve her modesty. She tried grabbing at her ruined clothes, but Lucas held them out of reach. And still, Damian didn’t come to her aid.
“Up onto the examination table.”
Melissa was frozen in place, unable to even shake her head in refusal, her whole body trembling. Her legs were like jelly—she couldn’t have obeyed even if she wanted to.
Smack! Lucas’ hand came crashing down against her bare bottom with such force that she was propelled forward toward the table. She was too shocked to react. When she didn’t immediately comply, he smacked her again, even harder.
“Ow!” she yelled. “Stop hitting me! You have no right!”
“I have every right.” He whacked her twice more, once on each cheek, each smack landing with a resounding crack that echoed around the small room.
Forgetting about modesty, her hands flew to her backside in a futile attempt to rub out the sting. Her bottom was burning!
“Get up on the examination table,” the chief medical examiner ordered her again. “If you don’t, I will have Lucas cane you. And then you will get up on it anyway.”
“I… I can’t,” she pleaded, stuttering. “My legs… they won’t work.” She dissolved into hot tears of humiliation and frustration, wiping at them with the back of her hand, but unable to stem the flow of them.
“Here, let me help you,” Lucas said, taking her arm. He led her to the edge of the table, then lifted her effortlessly up onto it, laying her on her back. He lifted her feet up and secured them in stirrups, strapped her wrists in leather cuffs that hung above her head, and buckled a stiff leather belt over her abdomen, holding her down and rendering her completely immobile.
She wished she had a hair tie—her long blond hair was sticking to her tear-wet face. She’d pulled out the tie that had been restraining her hair into a respectful ponytail so she could relax properly aboard Rosa 710. The tie had been digging into the back of her head, and letting her locks free had been so much more comfortable. But now, with long strands making her face itch and getting in her eyes and mouth with no way to get rid of them, she wished she hadn’t done it. She blew upwards at the loose strands, but they were stuck fast.
Removing a clean, starched white hanky from his breast pocket, Lucas wiped her eyes and nose, then brushed her hair off her face back behind her ears with gentle fingers, giving her a small, reassuring smile.
The chief medical examiner stepped forward as Lucas stepped back.
Melissa came to her senses. “I do not give my consent for this!” she yelled, trying to sit up, but failing.
“I do not need your consent,” the chief snapped. “All I require is your compliance.”
“I will never comply!” Melissa screamed in a panic, thrashing about violently in her bonds, desperate to break free.
“You will be forced to.”
She watched in horror as the chief pulled on some white disposable gloves, flexing his fingers inside the rubber.
“What are you going to do to me?” she cried, her voice high-pitched in fear.
“A medical examination,” the chief informed her.
Lucas stepped forward and laid his hand gently on her shoulder. “Just relax, miss,” he encouraged her. “It won’t take as long if you cooperate. I’m afraid that if you don’t, I will be forced to punish you.”
Melissa flattened herself against the examining table, shrinking away from his touch as best she could. It wasn’t far enough.
“Get away from me!” she shrieked, panic overwhelming her. She flailed around desperately, but she couldn’t move. Her bonds held her fast.
“Where’s Damian?” she asked, her voice shrill with fear.
Lucas shook his head. “He’s not coming. These examinations are exclusive to medical personnel only.”
So Damian wouldn’t be rescuing her. She really was alone in all this; she really did have to face this humiliating violation all by herself.
The chief stepped closer, right up to the edge of the table, as close to her as he could get. He leered at her, raking his eyes over her naked form. She looked good; she knew it. Hours in the gym had seen to that. She instantly regretted the laser hair removal treatment she’d undergone when she hit twenty—some of her friends still preferred a bikini wax, but she’d opted to get her pubic hair permanently removed. She liked how sensitive her pussy was without that light smattering of hair covering it. But now she felt so naked, so vulnerable, she wished it was there now, for a shield against the chief’s prying eyes.
He touched her pubic bone with two fingers. She stiffened, afraid. But as she did so, she sensed that bright light in her brain, soothing her; she started to get dizzy, then the dizziness faded, she shook her head, and she was calm.
Running his hand down lower, he inserted one finger inside her, thrusting it all the way in, the knuckles of his hand pressing against her pussy lips as he moved his finger around inside her, stimulating her. The tip of his finger brushed the little spot deep inside her that sent waves of ecstasy shuddering through her. She gasped. Despite her position, despite her humiliation and fear, the pleasure was very real, and for just a moment, she forgot where she was.
The chief nodded in satisfaction, withdrawing his finger. She watched him, his face impassive, as he held his finger up in front of his face, the glove glistening with her juices. Touching her again, he inserted two fingers this time, and she felt her traitorous pussy clench around him, pulling his fingers in deeper, as he moved them in and out, fucking her with expert precision.
She moaned. How could this feel so good? No man had ever made her feel this way before, although plenty had tried. He reached up with his thumb to rub the rounded nub of her protruding clit, sending tingles pulsating through her. She bucked on the table. More—she needed more.
Abruptly, he withdrew his fingers, wiping her wetness over her pussy. She moaned softly at the spasms in her pussy as he touched the outside of her, spreading her wetness over her juicy lips, running it down between her legs, rubbing it around her tight bottom hole.
She clenched her bottom cheeks together as he touched her there, trapping his fingers. She was jolted back to reality with a start. Shame washed over her; she had become aroused in front of these men! She couldn’t hide her nakedness; she couldn’t hide the wetness that was spread all over her most intimate parts. And now there was a finger pressing against the entrance to her virgin hole. It was too much.
“Noooooo!” she wailed, distressed.
Lucas touched her shoulder again. “Relax,” he commanded softly. His bright green eyes glowed and she started to feel that same bright light infusing her mind, but she forced it away. She wanted no part of the peace he offered—she wanted to be fully aware and conscious of what they were doing to her.
“I can’t!” she cried. “Don’t let him do this to me!”
The chief scoffed. “This has barely started.”
Melissa screamed, trying desperately to twist her body out of the way, but failing. The hard edges of the leather across her stomach bit into her and she yelped.
“Stop fighting it,” Lucas murmured gently. “It’s not so bad.”
“But it’s not happening to you, is it?” she screamed, outraged. She started to wish she had let Lucas calm her after all; maybe it would have been a blessing.
The chief’s finger was still against her bottom hole and he pressed harder. Soon the tip of it was inside her, violating her. She swore at him at the top of lungs, letting rip with a string of expletives that she hadn’t used in years. She’d had no need to—she’d never before been in such a helpless, vulnerable state as she was now, completely at the mercy of a total stranger who clearly didn’t have a merciful bone in his body.
The chief stepped back. “Lucas!” He snapped the order. Lucas left his position at her head and stepped forward, ready to do the chief’s bidding.
Moving to her side, Lucas adjusted the position of the stirrups so that her legs were pulled up and back toward her chest, leaving her bottom spread open and her pussy and anus even more fully exposed than they had been already. Without further delay, he drew back his hand and began spanking her bottom hard, over and over again, peppering her bare backside and the tops of her thighs with wicked slaps that stung and burned. Melissa wriggled and fought as best she could, but the belt around her waist restraining her bit into her and the cuffs around her wrists held her fast. She was completely captive.
The spanking went on and on. With her legs spread wide apart as they were, she made the perfect target, and Lucas’ hard hand landed quickly and precisely, reddening every part of her backside. His fingers even spanked inside the cleft of her bottom, stinging so much more on the tender skin there, and he spanked the very tops of her inner thighs as well, right up high near her pussy. Melissa wanted to die. She was mortified. Who were these people, these men, who thought they had the right to do this to her?
Melissa sobbed, her breath coming in ragged gasps as she cried. Never in her life had she been spanked before, and her tender skin felt like it was on fire under the onslaught of rapid slaps Lucas was raining down on her.
Lucas stopped spanking immediately at the chief’s command, and stepped back.
“Her skin is very red now; she has had enough. Now let’s see if she will comply.” The chief spoke with confidence, as though he was certain she would obey, rather than questioning whether or not she would. He moved forward, back to his position at the end of the table between her thighs. He inserted two fingers into her pussy again, his thumb just barely rubbing her clit. It only took a few seconds for her traitorous body to react to his expert ministrations. She felt herself beginning to relax; she could feel the wetness growing between her legs again. How was that even possible? How could she be so distressed one minute, then behaving like a wanton hussy in the next?
Her pussy was hot and throbbing. She arched her back as far as she could in her restraints and let out a guttural moan. The chief continued stimulating her a few seconds more, then abruptly withdrew his fingers, spreading her dewy wetness over her pussy again, and down around her bottom hole, lubricating her with her own juices. She was sore where Lucas had spanked her, and it stung as the chief rubbed her juices in circles over a wider area than before, touching where Lucas’ fingers had landed near her anus. He pressed one finger up against her tight hole again, and again she clenched involuntarily. He pulled away.
“Lucas!” he snapped.
Her eyes widened in horror as she realized what was about to happen. “No!” she gasped. “I can’t take any more! I’ll be good, I promise!” With great effort, she unclenched her buttocks, forcing herself to relax as the chief touched his finger to her entrance again. She sighed in relief as he withdrew his finger a moment later, but sagged back against the table in defeat when she realized what he was doing. Lucas was holding a jar of lubricant, and the chief was oiling his fingers, spreading the thick substance liberally over her sensitive back hole.
“No,” she begged, her pleading tone barely more than a whimper. “Please don’t touch me there.”
Both men ignored her. They didn’t even look at her. Instead, the chief reached down again and patted her rosebud with the pad of his finger, circling her opening with his thumb. He took his time, rubbing, patting, pressing his finger there, allowing her to get used to the different sensation. Slowly, he inserted his finger up to the first knuckle and she winced at the burning ring of fire that erupted. The pain receded as he eased his finger further in, exploring inside of her with a gentle circular motion. It felt so erotic that Melissa gasped. The chief varied the speed of his movements, moving his finger in and out, up and down. Her hips gyrated excitedly against his finger.
This is crazy! Melissa’s inner voice screamed, horrified, but she wasn’t paying any attention. All she could think about was the primal, aching need deep within her that was getting stronger with every movement of the chief’s finger.
Shudders racked her body as the chief slowly removed his finger.
“Arousal at both holes,” he informed Lucas, who nodded seriously.
Removing his gloves and discarding them carelessly on the floor at his feet, the chief moved up the table, standing beside her to grasp her breasts. He held one in each hand, squeezing them, rolling the nipples between his fingers, weighing them in the palm of his hand. Melissa didn’t even bother to squirm; after what she’d already been subjected to, this was nothing.
The chief squeezed her nipple firmly, watching as it puckered and went hard. He flicked his finger against it, and she felt an aching tightness there. He did the same to her other breast.
“Perfect breasts,” the chief pointed out to Lucas, who nodded seriously again.
“Now for the internal exam.”
“What?” Melissa struggled against her restraints again, trying desperately to sit up, to get away. “What do you mean? You’re not looking inside me!” she declared. “Who do you think you are?”
The chief looked at her incredulously for just a moment, then he offered her an indulgent smile. “Did we fail to introduce ourselves? How lax of me. I am the chief medical examiner and this is my assistant, Lucas. And to answer your other question: yes, I will be looking inside of you. How else I am supposed to determine whether or not you are suitable for breeding?”
Melissa closed her eyes. She had to be dreaming, surely. This had to be a nightmare.
She struggled furiously as the chief approached her with a device that looked very much like a camera attached to a screen, on a very long stick.
“Noooooo!” she screamed in a long drawn-out wail that echoed around the small room. Although her legs were secured in stirrups, she could still kick her feet, and she did so now, aiming right at the chief’s head. Her aim was good. She only got him a glancing blow, but it was enough. The chief medical examiner dropped his device and it clattered to the floor as he clutched his head in his hands with a groan.
“Lucas!” he bellowed. Instantly, Lucas was by his side, peering at the head of his colleague.
“You do appear to be okay, sir,” he conceded.
“Punish her!” the chief roared, still clutching his head pathetically. “Harshly!”
“Yes, sir,” Lucas nodded. He walked over to a cupboard against the wall and took down a narrow leather strap with a wooden handle on the end.
“I’m sorry!” Melissa shouted, but it was too late. Lucas stood between her legs and he raised the strap high. He smacked it down directly onto her pussy and Melissa screamed. He strapped her again, hitting her pussy lips with the wicked lash twice more in quick succession. She could feel her pussy pulsating, swollen and sore. Lucas whacked her pussy one more time, this final blow the hardest yet. She tried desperately to close her legs, to protect her intimate parts from further punishment, but the stirrups held her fast. Sobbing and crying, she felt like her pussy was on fire and she had no way of dousing the flames.
Moving slightly back and to the side, Lucas lashed the strap against her bottom and the very tops of her thighs, wielding it with such force that she heard the whoosh of it flying through the air before it landed. He strapped her thoroughly, first on one cheek then the other, moving down, then up, then down again on an angle, crossing the strap over the welts that were already there.
Melissa couldn’t even scream any more, she was simply lying limp, sobbing, her breathing coming in rapid gasps. How much more of this could she take?
Raising the strap high again, Lucas brought it down hard on her recently violated asshole, igniting a fire there as well. He lashed her again and again, waiting until her asshole finished clenching before applying the strap again. He was slow, methodical, and precise. His aim was sure. Her virgin hole had now been thoroughly violated, first by a finger, and now by a stinging strap. She watched in morbid horror as he raised the strap high again and thrashed it down hard once last time before touching his finger to her lightly. She flinched. Even that light touch was too much.
“She is ready, sir,” Lucas announced, stepping back.
Desperate to avoid further punishment, she remained still when the chief medical examiner placed the device at the entrance to her vagina. He deftly inserted it, swiveling it as he went, observing every nuance of her insides on the small screen at the end of the stick. It was only a small device, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable, especially not after the punishment Lucas had just delivered.
Finally, the chief was done. He withdrew the device, passing it to Lucas to deal with. Stepping back, he straightened up to his full height, puffed out his chest, and glared at her fiercely. “Aside from the quite serious behavioral issues that can most likely be trained out of you, I am pleased to announce that you are indeed fit for breeding. I will send Damian in immediately to tend to you, since he has claimed you for himself, which is his right as one of Commander Zuss’ most trusted lieutenants. From this point on, you are his property.”
Melissa knew this was supposed to be good news, so she tried to smile despite her tears. Wait… property? “Did you just say property?” she asked the chief. “Am I supposed to just belong to someone? Like a pet?”
“Yes,” the chief agreed amicably. “Just like a pet. Although, you will get far better treatment than the average pet; Mojazi men take very good care of their women. You will never want for anything.” He turned his back, striding toward the door.
“Except freedom!” Melissa retorted.
The chief stopped in his tracks and turned to face her. He nodded slowly, smiling. “Yes,” he agreed amicably again. “Except freedom.”
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