I held the Arkiv in front of my face during the trip out of the facility, trying to ignore the metallic stench of blood filling my nose. The Lo'Rahni continued talking to each other as if I weren't even there. The man with the spiral horns was named Rha'han and he was the captain of the unit that had attacked us.
"How many were recovered from this site?" Rha'han said.
Korath tapped away on a tablet of his own. "Fifteen Terran females, eight of breeding age. One Candarri female, of breeding age, but not biocompatible with Lo'Rahni. Two very unhappy Tu... Tu..."
"Tufblachan," I supplied.
"What she said. Maybe."
"What do you mean, maybe?"
"Most humanoid species don't possess the physiology to produce the sounds found in the Tufblachan language. Those two communicate with others exclusively in writing," I said.
"Let me guess. Not biocompatible?"
I snorted. "My guess is no, but the tentacles could be interesting."
Rha'han shuddered beneath me. "Distribute the seven. Put the others and the Candarri in bracelets to be sold later. Deliver the other two back to an appropriate station."
"Don't you mean eight, Captain?" Goat Boy said.
He patted my ass again. "Nope."
I pinched his ass. He didn't even miss a step. I fought off the yelp of pain in my throat as he pinched mine so hard there would probably be a bruise later.
They deposited me in a cell with the rest of the women, who all started talking at once as soon as I landed on the ground. I noticed several were already wearing metal bracelets. Some still had their Arkivs.
"Where are the others?"
I looked down. "The men are all dead."
There was a ripple of horrified gasps. "But why? Why keep us?"
I looked to the Lo'Rahni, who were assuming their places on the ship's bridge.
"Tell them to keep it down, Terran." Rha'han said without looking at her.
Oh, hell no. I turned back to my coworkers. "I don't know why they attacked us, but the ones in bracelets are going to be sold as slaves. The rest of us are breeding stock."
I turned back around to lean on the bars, smiling flippantly at Rha'han as the cacophony of angry shouting erupted behind me. He whipped around, eyes narrowed. Litai started up this high pitched screech that reminded me of a bird.
"Tell them to stop. Now." His eyes flashed with fury.
I twisted my mouth in thought. I kept our gazes locked. "He wants you to quiet down." I said, barely audible in the din of their outrage.
His golden eyes twitched almost imperceptibly, his mouth thinning to a hard line. He rose from his seat and stalked toward the cage. The angry women around me shrank back as he threw open the door. He wound my braid around his fist, forcing me out of the cell before hurling the door back into place, the mag lock clicking shut. They watched us in silence now as I was pushed into a nearby corridor off the bridge and out of sight.
The relentless march ended in him tossing me into the interior of a cabin. The door slid shut behind him. He turned and placed a finger on a scanner, followed by a beep and another click. He turned back to me, his expression stony.
"You are terrifically bold for a captive. Do you not care what cruelties you might face?" he said, stepping closer.
I remained still in the face of his approach. The cabin wasn't that large. There was no place to run. No place to hide. Even so, I couldn't hope to outrun him anyway. He was long-legged and thickly muscled. He reminded me of a creature from the ancient mythologies. A minotaur, I think it was called, or a satyr. Perhaps a combination of both. The brand on the back of my neck tingled.
"I'm not unfamiliar with your kind. I know what you value. I know that females are rare among your species, which forces you to interbreed with other species. You won't harm me." I lifted my eyes to look at him, but did not lift my head.
"Harm?" he said, rolling up his sleeves. "No."
Rha'han snatched me up and sat down on the edge of the bunk, throwing me effortlessly across his knees. He snaked an arm around my waist, pinning me to his lap. Another hand gripped my braid again, and pulled, lifting me into an arch. His hand fell across my ass with unrelenting force. The sting of it bit through the thin fabric of my trousers. I had expected something like this, but the pain of it still shocked me. I kicked and bucked, trying to throw myself off his lap. He stopped for a brief moment to grab my ankles and resume his assault. Calm and silent, he landed blow after measured blow, giving no hint of respite.
Somewhere in the middle of it, I started crying. I hated myself for it, but there was little else I could do besides dig my nails into the coarse fabric covering his legs. I lay limply across his thighs, only marginally aware that he had stopped. I felt my hair being lifted away from my neck. He ran a thumb over the brand there.
"Where did you get this?"
I sniffed. "It was given to me as a child, when I spent a year on a Lo'Rahni ship after my home station was destroyed by a rogue comet."
"Shit. That makes this far more complicated." He stood quickly, tossing me over his shoulder.
"Where are we going?"
"I don't have a micro brand in my cabin."