Seized By the Alien Pirate by Celia Kyle

Chapter One





Kintar



The Ancestral Queen groans and shudders as another impact rips through her outer hull. Deck plating bucks and ripples, sending me sprawling. When I push off the golden plating, a stream of crimson spatters from my cut lip, forming a bizarre abstract design.

“Kintar. Kintar.”

That’s Swipt, dragging me to my feet with a frantic light in his eyes. Why is he not on the bridge trying to fly us out of this mess? And why is he wearing the dark crimson Alliance uniform rather than his usual brocade coat?

“Come on. Get moving, Lieutenant Commander. We’ve got multiple hull breeches and the Flame Lickers are on our asses harder than ever.”

“Flame lickers?” I allow him to tug me along in his wake as another impact forces us to stagger and catch our balance on the wall. “We’re under attack by Ataxians? In League space?”

“Ataxians, Project Blue Dawn, Star Crushers, what difference does it make?” Swipt’s face blurs oddly, seeming almost human for a moment before returning to its correct, golden-skinned Kilgari configuration. “Our escape pods are jammed. What are your orders, sir?”

“My orders?” I shake my head, putting my hands on my face. “No, I’m… I’m a simple steward, Swipt. Go ask Solair.”

“Who’s Solair?”

Again I get the feeling something isn’t right. This looks like a corridor on the Queen, from its color scheme and artistic etchings along the wall, but I’ve never been in this specific place before. And I know every inch of this ship like the back of my hand.

“What the hell…” I feel my forehead and realize I’ve forgotten to file my horns… for a long time, it seems. They’re fully grown, curving around in grand style that would be the envy of any Kilgari. “What’s going on, Swipt? Why do I feel so… so… strange?”

“Sir, your orders? Should we make for the shuttle bay or attempt a sea landing?”

“I—I don’t…” suddenly everything snaps into focus. I know where I am, who I am, and what needs to be done. “Forget the shuttles. The first shot from the Cruiser took out our magnetic coupling circuits, and they’ve likely been bashed about in the bay to the point of being scrap. Our only chance is to put this hulk down on the sea.”

I join Swipt in running toward the bridge. Ahead of us, Vander and Grantian work frantically to repair a power relay so we don’t lose life support in half the ship. Another shuddering impact causes me to catch weight on a support strut while Swipt cracks his head hard on the deck plating.

A hole appears behind Vander and Grantian, revealing the inky blackness of space. Their screams cut off as the sudden vacuum sucks them right out of the ship. A force field appears, shimmering and blue a moment later, but it’s too late to save them.

“No… not again.” I shake my head to clear it, but everything’s murky. I can’t recall how I even got on this part of the ship or how I entered battle at all. Picking up Swipt under the bicep, I drag him groggily to his feet and then tug him along.

“Come on. We can still catch everyone else.”

Dragging Swipt in my wake, I pass by the twisted ruin of Varia’s body. Her eyes stare at the ceiling, but see nothing at all. Solair will be devastated—if indeed he’s still alive.

Then we reach the bend in the corridor, the last curve before the bridge doors appear. Swipt stumbles and then falls prone, his hand wrenching out of my grasp.

“Get up, come on.” I turn to assist, but emergency bulkheads clamp shut along the corridor behind us. I know it’s only a matter of seconds before we’ll be trapped here.

I make a split-second decision, one that turns my stomach, but one I know to be correct. There’s no time to rescue Swipt. I have to run if I have any hope of reaching the bridge and saving not only my life, but the lives of the rest of the crew.

“No, don’t leave me, Commander!” Swipt’s features twist into a mustachioed human male, a face I know intimately from my nightmares. “Don’t leave…”

The bulkhead slams down in front of him, sealing him into the damned section of the ship. Tears stream out of my eyes as I rush to the bridge doors and take a seat at the pilot’s console. Solair, our captain, lies sprawled over his own console, blood covering its silvery surface.

This doesn’t look like the Queen’s bridge at all, but there’s no time to question it. Neither is there time to question why Marion is on the bridge when she has no duties here.