It’s time to share the first chapter of Alien’s Heart!
I’ve had soem set-backs with catching covid, but I’m recovering and should be able to wrap up this book very, very soon. I could have cried frustation when I got sick. I was 2 chapters from the end!
The normal warnings about typoes and things changing in edits apply.
Pre order your copy of Alien’s Heart, coming November 21st.
Four Months Later
Being abducted by aliens was not as exciting as Miriam expected.
After being snatched, she had been kept in a freezer– sure there was a technical name but it was a freezer— for three years. Three years! While she slept with the popsicles, she missed out on a train robbery, fists fights, high speed chases, stealing shuttles, getting tossed in jail for stealing shuttles, and then busting out of jail.
Did Miriam get train robberies or even a little grand theft auto? No. She got to haggle over falling-apart books in a perfectly safe marketplace in the perfectly safe human refugee enclave, all while her babysitter watched.
Perrigaul folded his arms over his chest, scowling at everyone in the vicinity and generally radiating menace. He had a face made for menace, lizardy and covered in red scales. He wore a wide brimmed hat, which kept his face in shadow. A thick red tail swayed behind him. Miriam wondered if the swaying tail was a sign of agitation like in a cat.
Her charming babysitter.
Nothing exciting ever happened for Miriam– other than the abduction, obviously. Ever since her friend Alice found her and woke her from the deep sleep, she’d been kept in a secure compound in a mountain settlement. She wasn’t allowed out of the compound unsupervised– hence her scowly, scally babysitter.
Of course she was thankful she was safe. She’d been grabbed by aliens to be sold at auction to be a pet or a sex toy, slept through the terrifying parts and post traumatic stress, although dark confined spaces freaked her out now. She skipped right to living happily ever after. Only this didn’t feel like the end of her story. How could this be the end when she never even started?
Sure, interesting things and people were all around. She was on an alien planet with aliens from all over, even other humans. A surprising amount of humans, to be honest.
How many people vanished and no one noticed?
A chip implanted in her head allowed her to speak and read almost any language. She had a literal galaxy of new books to read. It was a book nerd’s dream come true.
“You have a good eye,” the merchant said from across the tent. The tarp kept off the worst of the summer sun, even though it was stiflingly hot without a breeze.
The merchant had wings tightly folded against her back, a crown of horns on her head, and stone-gray skin, and she wasn’t the strangest alien she’d seen. When Alice opened the stasis chamber Miriam had been stored in for three years, she barely believed what Alice told her. Abducted by aliens. Sure. Miriam would have believed they were sharing a hallucination brought on by funny mushrooms on the pizza– the guy at the pizza shop was dodgy that way, but aliens? Come on. Miriam was open minded but she wasn’t gullible.
Except all the evidence pointed to them being a spaceship. In space. Her head had hurt, making it hard to think, and everything felt like she was swimming underwater, and then the giant red lizardman walked through the door…
Miriam might have barfed and fainted. Not her proudest moment.
Look, she had a bad reaction. She was also sick from weird drugs. That didn’t mean she was delicate and couldn’t handle dealing with the world. She could. She was dealing. She was dealing so well.
Miriam turned the book over in her hands. It was a field guide to herbs. As curious as she was about the local planet life, she didn’t want to appear too interested. Apparently on this planet, no one believed in simply putting the price on the product.
“That is a very rare and valuable volume,” the merchant said.
Cracking open the book, she pointed to a scrawled name next to a stamped logo on the flyleaf. The book was issued by the company that ran the place back when it was still a prison planet. Hardly rare and this lady wasn’t a bookseller. She operated the equivalent of a flea market, rolling into the settlement once every few weeks with a new collection of odds and ends. The books were stuffed into a single crate.
Miriam said, “You had a different copy of this book when you were here last month. The inscribed name is different.”
The merchant’s wings fluttered, giving her an annoyed air. Perrigaul must have thought so, too, because he placed a hand on the holstered weapon on his hip.
The wing fluttering ceased. “How observant, human.”
Miriam lifted a shoulder in a shrug. The gesture probably failed to translate– different cultures, different bodies– but she didn’t feel like explaining herself. She was a librarian, not that her profession gave her super observation powers. She had a good memory for recalling what she read, which was extraordinarily useful when pulling references or helping a student find a book “that had a bridge and a dog” that they read last year but couldn’t remember the name.
Not that any of her former life helped her now. Reazus Prime had no libraries. Schools, if they even existed, were informal and small. Actual physical books were scarce. Most data and literature was digital, read via tablets and specialized devices, which were pricey.
Alice shared her tablet with Miriam, but two voracious readers sharing one tablet was a recipe for trouble. She should ask for her own but Alice and her alien mate, Faris, had already done so much for her. They pulled her from the stasis chamber. They gave her the deluxe translation chip that allowed her to speak and read more than a dozen alien languages. They even gave her a modest allowance and didn’t expect any labor in return.
Miriam couldn’t ask for more.
Not even when she was bored out her skull, sitting inside the compound, reading the same books day after day. When she tried to help chop veggies in the kitchen, Perrigaul took the knife from her hand. When she tried to clean the bathroom, Perrigaul hustled her out, claiming that the chemicals were too caustic. When she tried to pull weeds in the garden, Perrigaul loomed overhead and told her that exposing herself out of doors was unsafe.
It was exhausting and suffocating.
Alice got the same treatment but Alice was pregnant. Apparently that was a thing that could happen. Humans were universal breeders.
Getting with an alien didn’t bother Miriam so much. She read certain books; watched certain movies. Her first childhood crush had been the entire cast of a popular show about mutant kung-fu turtles. She was okay with inhuman love interests. Perrigaul was even sort-of good looking when he wasn’t being all “No, fragile human, why do you insist on almost dying?”
The constant babying had to stop. It was fine for Alice. This was her first pregnancy and she was growing something more complicated than the basic human model. Miriam was in the splash zone– so to speak– and did not appreciate being drenched with secondhand overprotective care.
In the four months since being pulled out of the stasis chamber, everyone still treated her like she was ill. True, sometimes she stumbled into a gap in her memory or struggled to find a word for a thing she should know. Sometimes her mouth said something completely disconnected from what she was thinking. It was a side effect of the stasis chamber. Anesthesia induced short term memory impairment. Brain fog. She wasn’t ill. The physical side effects vanished after the first few weeks.
All that was left was the brain stuff. She didn’t need a babysitter.
Miriam knew what it was to be seriously ill. She survived childhood leukemia. Even after the treatment finished and she had been given the all clear, there were still endless checkups and tests. Every bruise, every fever, and every time Miriam felt tired was met with overreaction from her two mothers. If they could have wrapped the world in bubble wrap, they would have. Instead, they swaddled Miriam to the point of suffocation. No sports, no playing outside, no dance, no karate, and absolutely no doing anything that could remotely be fun.
Could anyone blame Miriam for going to a school on the other side of the state and immediately enrolling in martial art classes? Some people rebelled with alcohol and tattoos. She rebelled with distance and self defense lessons. Every bruise might as well have been a tattoo with as much defiant pleasure she gained from the mottled black and blue marks.
“I think you are looking for something more intriguing,” the merchant said.
“I’m looking for something to read but you keep hauling back the same old box of tatty books,” she replied.
She grinned, her stony skin stretching for a toothy and remarkably unsettling display. “Those? They are garbage. Let me show you a true, one of a kind tomb.”
“Tome,” Miriam muttered, filling in the mistranslation. At least, she really hoped this gal didn’t mean tomb.
She disappeared behind a curtain, reemerging with a small, flat box.
Miriam recognized the shape of the archival box, or her brain slapped that label on the box. The merchant could have anything in there: buttons, kittens, cigars. Okay, probably not kittens. The box was way too small and lacked air holes.
The merchant set the box down on an overturned crate with dramatic flair. She lifted the lid to reveal a tattered leather journal. “Behold, the personal diary of Kiani Mer’len.”
The khargal merchant was insufferable. The female played Miriam, showing her the obvious junk, then dazzling her with more junk, disguised as promised treasure.
“Merlin,” Miriam repeated, like the name was magical.
“Kiani Mer’len, one of the original Overlords on Reazus Prime. He tamed this wild planet with hard justice and even harder labor,” the merchant replied, turning up the drama to ridiculous levels. She held the journal in one hand, flipping through the pages. “Mer’len plundered Reazus Prime for his own gain and his lavish tastes were well known. He surrounded himself in an opulent palace, spending his fortune on treasures from all across the quadrant. The Emperor’s Eye of Nakkon. The Exiled Heart of Duras. The Key of Evil. When the Overlords fell, he vanished but not before securing his treasures in a hidden location. Did he leave clues? Perhaps. Can you puzzle out the clues with the journal? Who can say?”
It took all Perrigaul’s control not to laugh. The Key of Evil? That was not an actual thing.
Miriam, the poor female, leaned forward, absolutely enraptured by the merchant’s falsehoods.
“That is fake,” Perrigaul said, standing over her shoulder.
“I assure you, it is the genuine article,” the merchant said, placing the journal back into the box. She slammed the lid shut, acting outrage.
“No, wait,” Miriam said, her voice too eager.
The merchant’s wings fluttered.
The price just doubled, Perrigaul knew.
“How much?” she asked.
Rotza. The female was too soft for this planet.
Perrigaul pulled her away and hissed, “Is this your first time at a market?”
“It’s my money. I can spend it on what I want.” She jerked her arm away.
Tripled. The price just tripled. The merchant practically rubbed his hands together with glee.
“It is actually my currency,” Perrigaul said, and immediately realized his mistake.
Miriam’s back straightened. She stared directly at Perrigaul, stubborn resolve burning in her eyes. She asked in a loud voice, never breaking eye contact with him, “How much?”
She was rather intriguing when she was stubborn. For a scale-less human.
The merchant quoted an eye-watering figure.
Miriam had a small allowance, taken from the group’s shared funds. He had not been consulted on this so much as told. Miriam needed to feel independent and in control of her choices, Alice had lectured him once when he grumbled. Giving Miriam her own supply of credits gave her a sense of security. He could appreciate that. He valued his own security and wellbeing. Having a generous reserve of credits certainly made him feel secure.
She slapped down a credit chip on the crate. “Toss in the guide book and we have a deal.”
His heart sang for the wasted credits.
“Miriam,” he said, stressing each syllable to give her as much respect as possible. “Do you know how much ore, weapons, or engine parts that amount of credit can purchase? Because I do.” He stole them, after all.
“I don’t want weapons. I want to find Merlin’s treasure.”
He ran a hand up the back of his head, fluffing the feathered quills. “You must learn better bartering techniques. Do not tell the merchant how much you want the item, or the price will increase.”
“I have another party interested–” the merchant started, but stopped when Perrigaul placed a hand on his holstered weapon. “Thank the stars we have already agreed to a price. I would not dream of charging you more.”
“Liar,” Perrigaul muttered, removing his hand.
Miriam’s eyes went wide, then they narrowed. “Was that necessary? Are you going to start shooting people because they’re trying to make a living?”
“A living? No. Robbing me blind? Yes. Your heart is too soft.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my heart.” Her tone sounded particularly brittle. She grabbed the journal and the previous book, a tattered field guide to Reazus Prime plant life.
This was going to be a problem.
Tell me what you think!
Keep scrolling for art of Miriam and Perrigaul!
A former prison planet is no place for a soft heart.
Perrigaul’s a survivor. He’s also a thief, a con artist, and very occasionally a murderer. What he is not is a nanny, yet here he is stuck with an impossibly tempting human female.
Miriam is soft and kindhearted and completely unsuitable for this outlaw planet.
Ruslana Shybinska did an amazing job.
One thought on “Alien’s Heart Sneak PeEK”
I am hooked. Can’t wait to continue when I get the book.