he Terran female
was holding the lifestone.
Her gaze spoke louder than any voice Tieran had ever heard. The look in her beautiful green eyes was terrible to behold. They were filled to the brink with the power the stone instilled in her, the mineral itself reflecting its sparkle on the surface of her eyes.
She was a vision.
Standing there, bathed in the gentle light of the lifestone, Audrey Price looked divine. Not only breathtakingly beautiful – although he couldn't deny she was – but infinitely powerful as well.
Her long silver-blonde hair reminded him of daylight shining through snow and ice, the smile on her lips making his heart beat faster than it had been when he was fighting the mech-Fearless.
All of that passed through Tieran's mind without him ever stopping. The second he saw the governor holding the stone, he ran. Paying no attention to the Jorcossi, he dashed to her, knowing he had seconds to save her life.
But even his best speed wasn't enough. Audrey's eyes opened in terror as the stone's power threatened to undo her, but the enemy came to her aid. The big Jorcossi splitter knocked into her and the stone fell from her limp hand as she fell.
Copyright © 2016 Vi Voxley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Alien Paladin's Woman
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Jack of Covers
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he ground was shaking
beneath Audrey's feet. And above her head, for that matter.
There was something wholly apocalyptic about the feeling of the world trying to shake her loose. It told the young governor in no uncertain terms that she and the rest of the colonists weren't welcome.
The only problem was, Audrey had no intention of taking orders from a capricious rock in space.
"Brace for the aftershock!" she howled over the noise of the machinery and the earthquake attempting to bring the mine down upon their heads.
"Audrey, watch out!"
Glancing in the direction of the sound, Audrey frowned. Her brother Gil appeared from somewhere in the smoke and shadows and flashing lights, just in time to pull Audrey into a nook in the rock wall. A second later, a large chunk of the cave ceiling crashed right where she'd been standing.
"Fuck," Gil panted. "We need to get out of here!"
"Yeah," Audrey agreed, grinning. "Indoor meteor showers really aren't a sign of things going well, are they?"
"This is no time to be joking!" Gil screamed over the heart-stopping cracking of the rock above their heads.
He looked entirely shocked and more than a little pissed at how lighthearted she was about it all. What with being almost made an intergalactic pancake, one would assume that the situation would warrant a bit of seriousness, and a whole lot of running toward the nearest way out.
"I disagree," Audrey yelled back, dodging smaller pieces of the collapsing mine to run for the exit lift, Gil behind her. "This is the perfect time to joke! We might never get the chance to do it again!"
She couldn't hear Gil's response, but Audrey thought she caught the word
. It only served to make the smile on her lips even wider.
Her miners were rushing past her as Audrey stopped to make sure everyone got out. The governor's eyes drifted over the gigantic main hall of their excavation.
Precious metals lined the walls, already disappearing from sight, buried under tons of rubble falling from above. The gargantuan machines around the hall were roaring, smoking, creaking and craning, but holding fast.
It felt like an eternity had passed since Audrey had ordered the mechanics to give the metal beasts a new task of trying to secure the ceiling, but in truth it had been mere minutes ago. She knew it was ultimately futile, but it was buying precious seconds for the personnel to escape.
"Governor," the comm link beeped in her ear. "The station's shields are down. We are at the mercy of the winds. The landing bays won't stand this for long."
"Copy that," Audrey replied, her voice already hoarse from trying to be heard over the thundering ruckus. "Stand steady! All power to the lifts! Keep me updated! I want to know the second all workers are out of here!"
"What about you–" the command center began, thousands of feet above her, but Audrey cut the connection.
It hurt to watch. It hurt like a bitch to see her work taken down like that, but there was nothing to be done. Audrey knew that better than anyone.
She had chosen the planet Ulor exactly for that reason. Every last one of her eight interviews to get the position had begun the same way.
It will not be easy. And sooner or later, you will have to leave it behind.
That was it. From day one, Audrey had been aware that Ulor was a dying planet, on the brink of tearing itself apart. They were never going to get everything the rich world had to offer. Their job had been to take all they could.
For two years, Audrey and everyone else under her command had worked day and night to ensure that their best was worth it.
She could imagine the cargo lifts being emptied up in the station, the ships scrambling to get away from the capricious rock. To safety, before it took them down with it.
On that note
, Audrey thought as one of the huge cranes smashed down right beside her.
What am I still doing here?
"Gil?" she called, looking around in the hall, not seeing her brother anywhere.
There had been a moment when he slipped away, but time was losing its meaning in the chaos.
Audrey felt her heart skipping a beat.
"GIL!" she screamed.
Fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck. Mom and Dad are going to kill me if anything happens to the baby bro.
Audrey hesitated, not finishing her thought with equal parts of
and I’d never be able to live with myself
She knew there was no way Gil would have gone up without her. The young man had stayed by her side staunchly from the moment Audrey had finally relented and allowed him to accompany her.
Looking on as the cave floor shook so hard it appeared to vibrate, Audrey regretted that decision from the bottom of her heart. Of all the places she could have taken Gil, she'd let him come to Ulor.
Then she heard a cry, coming from the black smoke of the burning machines. Fires were starting up one after the other, some of the minerals evidently flammable. Audrey choked, her eyes watering.
The cave was large, but it was filling up with acrid smoke fast. Soon, there would be no air to breathe, but she needed all energy to go to the lifts or they'd be dead either way.
"Audrey!" Gil roared again. "We're here! There's a woman..."
She heard him coughing, biting her lip in helpless anger as she stood rooted to her spot. Audrey couldn't see a damn thing and running headlong into the cave was likely to get her lost. She looked around desperately, trying to see anything that might help her.
And a miracle presented itself.
"Where?" she called back. "Gil, where are you? Give me a sign! You have to keep talking!"
But forming words was becoming no small task. The protective suit she was wearing was tight against her skin, pressing down on soft tissue, making her sweat in the rising heat of the cave. It was getting harder to breathe by the second and it felt like a boulder was behind balanced on her vocal cords.
She ran out from under the protective shield of the lift, right to one of the larger excavators. There was no way she could find him under all this rubble fast enough without using something far more powerful than her own two hands. Climbing into the cabin, she winced when her fingers touched the heated controls, practically glowing red. She bit her tongue, refusing to let the pain register.
When Gil answered, his reply was more like a scream than words. Audrey gritted her teeth, aiming the bucket of the machine in the direction of her brother's voice. She blinked away tears that kept coming as the fires burning all around them suffocated her.
There were oxygen masks somewhere in the cave, but there was no time to search for them. It had all happened too fast.
Ulor had had enough of its intruders and there was nothing else to do but run.
I should be running
, she thought.
But I'll be damned if I leave someone behind. Anyone.
Her comm link was beeping again.
"Governor!" the command center called. "There are only a few ships left! You have to come up! We can't delay them much longer!"
"Give me five minutes!" Audrey bellowed into the link, but it sounded more like a whisper.
The bucket of her excavator uncovered something. Through tears and smoke and fire, Audrey thought she saw movement. She locked the machine into position and dashed out into the cave again.
"Stay under cover!" she yelled, running over the floor that had turned into a mountain terrain in three minutes.
The ceiling was collapsing way faster than she would have liked. Her heart thudded in her chest, seeing as a huge boulder crashed down a few feet from the lift. The elevator was well-protected, but there was a chance an unlucky avalanche could bury the exit before they got there.
She kept running.
Gil was crouching in a small ditch, almost covered by rubble, cradling a female miner with a head injury. Audrey jumped under the protective bucket right when the rock rain hit. Paying it no attention, she dug.
"This fucking landslide," Gil coughed, paler than a ghost. "I was trying to help her, but she was unconscious already and then..."
His leg was crushed and Audrey could see already that it would need serious medical attention. He was in no state to help anyone but himself. But they didn’t have the luxury of choice on their side.
"Don't talk," Audrey said quickly. "Breathe. Calmly."
They dug in silence. With pieces of metal and their hands, Audrey finally managed to pull Gil out. Looking behind her, she saw that the lift was all but blocked already.
"We have to go," she said. "I'll carry her. You, run."
"I can't let you–" Gil protested, but Audrey's glare stopped him.
"We run or we die," she coughed. "Go!"
They ran from cover, although it looked more like limping. Audrey was stronger than she looked, but carrying an unconscious person while not being able to breathe was nigh impossible.
The comm link started beeping again, but she ignored it. Gil came to her aid anyway, despite her orders. She would have been lying, had she said she was anything but grateful.
Somehow, Gil could help with carrying the miner just enough for Audrey to take longer steps, getting all three of them out of there faster. Together, they stumbled from one machine to another, looking at the lift like it was a gateway to heaven.
Only a small entrance remained as they got there, right under all the unstable rock. Audrey knew it was against every safety regulation to stick her head in something like that, but there was no alternative way out.
"Go!" she ordered Gil, continuing before her brother could protest. "You are stronger, you can pull us through."
Gil knelt down and squeezed himself through the narrow path. Audrey pushed him along as well as she was able, keenly aware of the fires being so close now they burned. Rubble rained down on her freely now as the planet shook. Soon, even the lifts would no longer hold.
"Come!" she heard Gil calling.
Audrey pushed the female miner into the passageway. She had to wait a long, agonizing moment, thinking whether Gil could reach the woman. Then the miner moved as Gil dragged her through as fast as he could.
She went in last, cursing herself.
For years, she had preached practicality before everything. How everything had to serve a reason. Her only true show of keeping something completely impractical for a governor of a mining world was her luxurious mane of silver-blonde hair.
And now she had to remember every single word she had spoken against lopping off her locks.
The long strands of hair got stuck between the rocks and the sharp metal edges of whatever the rocks had broken as a small avalanche tumbled around her, bringing down more rubble and almost crushing her. Audrey crawled, seeing the interior of the lift in front of her already when she no longer could.
For one horrible moment she was sure she'd killed herself as she couldn’t move an inch anymore. Her hair was so thoroughly tangled and caught that she couldn’t rip herself free, no matter how much she tried.
"Give me something! I need to cut my hair off!" she called to Gil, reaching her hand out to him.
Gil gritted his teeth, yanking a knife off his belt and handing it to her. He couldn’t reach far enough to help her cut it, she had to wiggle free herself.
The pile of rocks above her shook as Audrey reached up and hacked at her hair. It hurt, since she had to cut so close to the scalp that at times she could feel the blade biting into her scalp. It was more like tearing.
Audrey almost jumped into the lift when the last strand of hair gave out and Gil yanked her forward by her hand.
She hit the button, feeling the lift take off with nauseating speed. Audrey slumped into one corner, distantly hearing Gil telling the station to wait to receive them.
I did it.
The lift rumbled up towards air and freedom and new challenges as Ulor collapsed under them.
"You were right, sis," Gil said, panting heavily as he sat down next to her. "I don't think this is for me. How about you? I think I have had enough excitement for one lifetime."
"Not me," Audrey said, a tired smile on her lips as she let her head loll against the metal wall of the lift. "I will make sure you have a good job on a tectonically stable world. But me... I can't wait to see what else is out there."
“You’re insane,” Gil said with a shake of his head.
“I just don’t want to die without feeling like I lived,” Audrey shrugged in response, her gaze tracking to the young miner, sprawled out and unconscious.
And she meant it. The last ship carried the governor of Ulor away from the planet and by the time her hair grew back, Audrey was already given an even more challenging world.
Nothing could have delighted her more than that.