Chelsea River blinked back tears of pain and tried with wild desperation to calm the panic that was threatening to choke her. She was clamped, from the chest down, inside the engine of Zeldae’s ancient colony ship. She’d come in the engine room to hide, but hadn’t been prepared for them to make some adjustments somewhere that had sent the machine into motion, crushing her painfully between two sections of the mechanism. The most pain was in her abdomen and her left leg, where large warm metal pieces were jabbing into her. She thought she could feel blood trickling down her leg, but she wasn’t sure because the pain was so intense.
She couldn’t even take deep breaths to calm herself because there wasn’t space to breathe deeply. She tried to concentrate on something that didn’t hurt, and slowly curled and uncurled her hands. The movement helped a little with her feelings of claustrophobia, but not with much else. The pain was too much. She was surprised she hadn’t passed out.
And the worst thing was that all she could do was wait and hope that they moved this part of the engine back before she bled to death or died of dehydration. If she cried out, the Zeldae would find her and kill her, so there was no point in trying that.
And there was no one to help her. No one to rescue her like their would have been if life was ever like a storybook. She was completely alone, not only on this space ship, but in the whole solar system. She was probably the first human to ever be on this ship, and she should take some comfort in that achievement, she knew. But she also knew that all this was useless if she didn’t accomplish what she came here to do.
The moments slid by slowly, accompanied by the steady rumbling and clacking of the huge machine.
When she tried to focus her mind somewhere other than her immediate situation, she right away thought of her brother, Jayden. She wondered how he was, or even if he was. Life was far too dangerous to count on even the basics. But if he was still alive, she wondered if how often he thought of her and if he missed her as intensely as she missed him.
When she had barely escaped with her life from a Zeldae extermination wipe three weeks earlier and everyone had presumed her dead, a terrible idea had come to her. If she no longer existed in the Zeldae’s records, might she be able to do them more damage than when she was a known threat? The trouble was, that between spies and regular capturing and torture of Black Steel members, no information was safe with them. So she had decided to stay dead. To everyone. Even her own brother. But maybe it was better that way, she thought wryly, as she waited her fate, trapped in the heart of the engine. That way she wouldn’t die twice.
Jayden cut himself a nice little opening in the barred entrance to his cell and crawled out. The passageway was empty, for the moment, and he crept down it as quietly as he could. He found, to his frustration, that he had to pause and lean against a wall to catch his breath. The torture had really taken it out of him, and he noticed that his knees were a little bit wobbly as he pressed on.
He suddenly heard footsteps coming down the hall adjacent to this one and he was just beginning to run in the opposite direction when the scent of lilacs overwhelmed him and Malta entered the passageway.
“Oh, hello there,” she said. A bright little smile spread across her pale lips. “I was just coming to get you, and it seems that you were on your way to see me.”
Jayden had very few options, so he decided to take the only one that made sense to him at the moment. He turned and ran.