"Great, this is just what I need," Callie Randall mumbled to herself as the sky opened up to release a torrential downpour. She absolutely hated driving in the rain, but it couldn't be helped. One of her babies was sick, so she'd risk a hurricane if that's what it took to get her little one to the doctor. She hoped her neighbor would be all right with Paris while she was gone.
Taking a quick look in the rearview mirror to check on London, Callie smiled. The little girl was sleeping without an apparent care in the world. Sometimes Callie wished she could be two all over again, with no cares or worries, instead of being an unwed mother with twin daughters, a heavily mortgaged house and struggling dance studio.
Though she didn't regret having her beautiful daughters, she often wondered what might have been if she hadn't fallen for Terrell's bullshit. She'd believed that he'd stick by her, but the minute he learned of the pregnancy, he couldn't dump her fast enough. On top of that, he was living out her dream in Europe with the dance troupe she'd worked so hard to be a part of.
Life wouldn't be such a struggle if he occasionally sent child support, but that sorry bastard always had an excuse. He'd only seen his daughters twice in the two years since their birth and then completely disappeared from their lives.
When she found herself alone and pregnant, Callie had left New York to go back home to the small North Carolina town she'd grown up in, only to hear her parents say they told her so. The first year had been a struggle, but when she got a small inheritance from a distant relative, she used it to get her own place and open up a dance studio. She had a few students and hoped she'd eventually have more, but until business really picked up, she moonlighted as a waitress on the weekends.
Breathing a sigh of relief when she pulled into the doctor's office, she shut off the engine. Once she got an umbrella out and shrugged back into her raincoat, Callie walked to the rear passenger side to unbuckle London. "Baby, we're here."
London opened her big brown eyes, a dazed expression on her face, before she started to cry. "Hurts, Mommy," she whined, cupping a small hand over her ear.
Callie suspected her daughter had an ear infection. Paris had had the same problem just a couple weeks before. "I know it hurts, baby. That's why we're here at the doctor's office. Now hold onto Mommy's neck while I lift you up."
"Do I get a lollypop?"
"Only if you're really good. Can you be Mommy's big girl today?"
London nodded, her pigtails bobbing. "I want a red lollypop."
With her daughter in one arm and her umbrella in the other hand, she raced to the big stone building, trying not to get wet. Once it was London's turn to see the pediatrician, it was just as Callie had suspected -- an ear infection. Not only did London get her red lollypop for being such a good girl for the doctor, she got a blue one to take home to Paris.
Callie felt a lot better once she and her daughter were back in the car, although the rain hadn't subsided a bit. London sat strapped in her car seat, happily licking her red lollypop while gripping the blue one tightly in her other fist. When Callie had suggested putting the extra lollypop in her purse, London adamantly refused, wanting to be the one to give it to her sister.
London was the younger twin by ten minutes, but she was the nurturer of the two, always making sure her sister was taken care of and content to let Paris take the lead. Paris was the more assertive twin, but just as sweet and caring.
Callie didn't realize she could love two people as much as she did her twins. People often asked why she chose to name them after European cities, but in her mind, they seemed to be the most logical choices. After all, had she not gotten pregnant she'd be in Europe, dancing. She might as well have the next best thing, and Callie knew she wouldn't trade her little treasures for all the trips to Europe in the world.
Callie couldn't wait to get home to see Paris. When she was away from her kids, she always missed them. Halfway home, she decided to take a shortcut on a back road. Just then the rain let up. "That's good at least," she muttered to herself. It was getting dark and driving at night was bad enough without the slashing of water on one's windshield.
"How are you doing back there, London?" she asked, looking into the rearview mirror again to check on her daughter.
"Good," London answered between licks.
Callie glanced over her shoulder to make sure London wasn't making a mess. When she looked straight ahead again, she was surprised to see a blinding white light. It was so glaring, in fact, she couldn't see where she was going and ended up swerving off the road. Panic sliced through her as she lost control of the vehicle. The more she tried to right the wheel, the more out of control the car went.
In the backseat, London began to cry, obviously sensing her mommy's plight. "Hold on to your seat tight, baby." Just as she got the words out, she felt a falling sensation. Callie didn't know exactly what had happened, but as the little economy car landed with a loud crash, she thought about her beautiful baby girls.
Callie woke up with a pounding headache and lights shining in her eyes. She winced as she turned her head away. Where was she? Her last coherent thought had been that she was a goner, but somehow she was alive. Or was she? Had she died and gone to heaven? For some reason, she didn't expect heaven to be quite like this. And what was that funky odor?
When her eyes finally adjusted to the light, they widened in surprise and fright. Standing over her were two creatures that looked like they'd stepped out of a horror movie, with their orange skin, green tentacle-like hair, and large teeth that stuck out like a wild boar. Their faces were covered in blue dots, and instead of noses they had snouts. What the hell? This had to be a nightmare!
The problem was, a dream never smelled quite like this. It was a pungent cross between sweaty feet and ass. London was nowhere in sight. Where was her baby?
Shooting to an upright position, Callie tried to slide off the metal table, but large hands pushed her back down. One of the monsters began to make slurping and snorting noises. She wasn't sure if he was trying to communicate with her or eat her.
"Where's my daughter?" she screamed, panic starting to take over.
Again, the creatures grunted and made those strange noises. She nearly passed out when one of them put its forehead against hers, its green eyes starting to glow. Fright stilled her movements, but only for a moment. Struggling against the hands that held her tight, Callie's maternal need to be with her daughter overrode any fear running through her. "London!" she yelled.
There was no response.
She prayed to God that her daughter had survived the crash. The thought of losing her child made her shudder. The orange men grumbled. When one of them pulled out what looked like a piercing gun and placed it against her arm, she screamed.
The creature pulled the trigger, and it felt like receiving a tetanus shot. What had they just done to her? Had they just infected her with some alien disease? Would the anal probing come next? She clenched her ass for self preservation.
"Stop struggling, human, and you won't be harmed."
To hear the deep foreign sounding voice stunned her. What the hell? The creature still made those strange grunting noises, but this time she understood exactly what he said. Licking suddenly dry lips, Callie trembled. "What... what do you want from me? Where's my daughter?"
"Any questions from here on out will be asked by either Rzxie," the apparent leader said, pointing to his companion, "or myself. I am Theki and you will address me as Master until you're sold to a new Master. I expect obedience in all my slaves. As for the young one, she's resting. She'll remain unharmed as long as you're cooperative."
"What have you done to her? Slave? Are you kidding me? Wait a minute... I understand you. How..."
Theki rolled his eyes, a look of impatience on his face. "At least the language implant chip is working. As I said before, you will be silent and speak when you're spoken to, or I'll make sure you'll work in the teriulium mines."
Callie wanted to protest, but what she had to say was halted with the stern look Theki shot her way. If this was a nightmare, she wished she'd wake up from it.
"Do I make myself clear, human?" the alien asked.
She could only nod, her mind racing a mile a minute.
Theki's beady eyes narrowed to slits. "I don't read minds. Do I make myself clear?"
"Y-y-yes," she stammered.
"Yes, Master!" he roared, making her jump.
"Yes, Master," Callie obediently repeated, though she was seething inside.
The creature turned to his companion. "Rzxie, this one is feisty. Her mouth says one thing, but the eyes say another. Perhaps we should keep her for ourselves and break this spirit of hers."
"Theki, stop trying to frighten the child."
It surprised Callie to hear a feminine voice emitted from her second captor's throat. On closer inspection, she realized the one called Rzxie was shorter. Her slender build was graced with gentle curves. Other than this, she looked exactly like Theki. What were these things?
"You know as well as I that human women are highly sought after in Thorzak, especially the exotic ones. Look at her dark skin and eyes, and this hair." Callie had to hold herself tightly so as not to flinch when Rzxie reached out and touched her hair. "It's so soft. This one will fetch us a high price indeed."
"I'll have no more of her lip. I must see to the rest of the cargo. Tend to her wounds and see that she's fed," Theki instructed his partner before turning back to Callie. "I had better not hear of any more transgressions, or you'll regret it." Then, without another word, he swept out of the room, leaving her alone with Rzxie.
Callie didn't realize she'd been holding her breath until she released a long sigh. Did she dare speak to Rzxie? She certainly didn't seem as stern as her counterpart. Thoughts of her daughter gave Callie the courage to voice her fears. "Please, could you tell me what's happened to my daughter?"
The alien gave her what looked like a smile. "She's sleeping now. I gave her a light sedative to calm her down. When your vehicle crashed, you got a pretty nasty bump on your head. But because the little one was strapped tightly in the back, no harm came to her. She was crying when Theki and I came upon you. Don't worry about her. She's been fed and well taken care of."
"How can you tell me not to worry when you won't let me see her and plan to sell me? And what the hell is that damn smell?" Callie could contain her curiosity no longer.
This question seemed to amuse the alien because she laughed. "We're Adieaen. I suppose our scent would probably take some getting used to as you're human. Thirty-three percent of our make-up is sulfur."
Rzxie claimed only a third of their bodies was made of sulfur, but Callie's nose said one hundred percent. She tried desperately to keep the bile from her throat, but found herself gagging.
As though sensing her predicament, Rzxie handed her two small white balls. "Here, put these in your nose and the scent shouldn't bother you so much."
"This is going to work?" Callie asked, eyeing them suspiciously.
"Of course they work. I'm wearing them now. You humans smell awful, but don't feel bad. It's the preservatives in the foods you eat on your planet. Once you've been detoxed, the odor won't be as offensive, and you'll garner a high price on the auction block."
She stunk? Callie didn't know whether to take issue with that or laugh. She supposed to these Adieaens she was the strange one. Taking Rzxie's offerings, she stuck them up her nose and, within seconds, the air seemed more bearable to breathe. "That's much better, thank you. I need to see my baby and make sure she's all right."
Rzxie shook her head. "You're going to have to take my word for it. She's being well taken care of and, as Theki said, it will remain that way as long as you cooperate."
"Where are you taking us? Why are you doing this? I need to get back to Earth. I have another daughter waiting for me to get home. She'll be worried. Please. Is there anything you can do? I'll give you all the money I have, if that's what you two want."
"Don't be silly, human. Your money is no good to us. I may not yet be a mother myself, but I can understand the concern you have for your little ones. Unfortunately, we can't go back. We've already crossed over the threshold of our universe and should reach Adlene shortly."
"But I want to go home -- need to go home. My baby is back there. I can't just leave her."
"That can't be helped. You belong to Theki now, and it's his decision what to do with you."
"But have you no say? Can't you help me? I don't think you're evil."
"Of course I'm not. I'm just doing my job."
"And your job is kidnapping innocent people to sell them?" Callie challenged.
Rzxie's lips tightened and her snout flared. "Watch your tongue, human. I may be a little more lenient than Theki, but modulate your tone with me."
"You and your friend must be out of your mind if you think I would just sit here calmly when you tell me that you've taken me away from all I know and love, and plan to sell me to God knows who. Hell, aliens aren't supposed to be more than a figment of a bunch of sci-fi authors' imaginations."
"I can understand your anxiety, but there's nothing we can do about that. I can assure you, however, that if you behave, you'll be well taken care of, as will your child."
"Why?" Callie asked, trying to make sense of this entire mess.
"It's what we do. Theki and I are Hunters. We scour the different planets for slaves to sell on the market. At the moment, Earthlings have become a hot commodity in our universe. Humans are one of the few species who are sexually compatible with most of the beings in Thorzak."
"Sexually compatible? I'm not sure I follow you."
Rzxie sighed, as though she were trying to explain a simple matter to a small child. "Let me think of a way to put it in terms you'll understand. You know how your kind has different antigens in your blood?"
"Type A, B, AB blood, that kind of thing."
"Oh yes, of course."
"It's my understanding that humans can donate blood to each other, but it has to match. Am I correct in that?"
"Yes, but I don't know what that has to do with anything."
"Most blood groupings can only donate to those with the same type. However, O negative carriers can donate to anyone. Humans are like type O negative blood. Not only are you equipped to mate with most species in our universe, you can also successfully carry their children. On the planet Tetian, for instance, chemical warfare has left many women barren. Couples wishing to have children take human females as slaves to bear them children. On Gusitivus, it's forbidden for women to go to their mates as virgins. To learn the art of pleasing men, the girls are trained with human males. There are a handful of other planets that use humans for many purposes. And there are even some beings that look humanoid in appearance. Perhaps your new owner won't look much different than the men on Earth. A beauty like you normally has no problem finding a good home. On many planets, concubines are treated like queens."
Callie's mouth gaped open as she tried to take all of this in. Was this for real? These aliens had kidnapped her for the sole purpose of selling her on a slave block like a piece of meat. At this point she would have preferred the anal probing. At least that way when they were finished with her, she'd be free to go home and pretend this was all a bad dream.
"Are you telling me that I'll never be able to go back home? You've taken me and my child against my will, just because you can?"
"That's not true. We're taking you because you happen to fit what we're looking for. Dark-skinned women have increased in popularity on the auction block. For some reason, their look is in style right now. Perhaps in another year or so fair-skinned women with pale hair will be the rage once again. For now, we go with what will bring us the most money. You'll fetch us a pretty penny -- you and your girl child."
A tear seeped from her eye when Callie thought of the possibility of never seeing her precious daughter, Paris, again.