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Chapter 5

Andromedan Millitary Base 2234

Juliette gazed with unblinking eyes at her dismal cell that was as dark and empty as her soul. Everything was in a distant haze, as though she were in a dream or a nightmare. Maybe this was all a nightmare. This couldn't possibly be real. It was just a horrible dream and soon she would wake up to the voices of her loved ones. She could almost hear their voices whispering words of comfort in her ears. If only she could see their loving faces once more, if only she could feel the touch of her mother's nurturing hands. She looked down at her own hands she held cradled in her lap. The hands that she had once taken for granted were now the most precious gift her mother could have given her. As were her father's eyes, her grandmother's nose, and her aunt's silky brown hair that used to brush against her face when they embraced. They all were passed on to her and belonged to only her now, for everyone else was gone. Why had she lived? Why had they left her behind to suffer here now. This was not living; she would have been better off dead. Life was a cruel punishment bestowed upon her for reasons she could not understand. What had she done to deserve this?

A clattering behind her disturbed her restless thoughts and she blinked as if breaking from a trance. Juliette turned slowly to see a hideous beast with piercing yellow eyes and dead skin disabling the restraining forcefield of her cell. She turned away in fear and loathing. He placed a tray of slop by her bedside. When she made no move to eat it, he shoved it in front of her face and yelled at her in a strange, satanic tongue. She did not flinch and only sat motionless with her eyes stubbornly fixed on the wall. He gave up, smashing the tray down in a thunderous rage and stormed from her cell, enabling the forcefield behind him.

She was alone once more with the darkness. She wondered why it was so dark all the time. There was no light, no hope. Juliette closed her eyes and returned to her thoughts of her family and times long ago. There had been light then. Her memories took her back to a day in the park they used to go to. Children laughed and played with glee as parents watched with careful eyes. The sun shone brightly in the sky that day. Her mother and father were sitting on a blanket beneath the old weeping willow, holding one another close. Her sister was lying in the grass nearby, making a necklace out of dandelions like she always did. Juliette was exploring as usual and to her delight, found a small hollow in the side of the mountain. She crawled inside and began her childish search for precious rocks and dinosaur bones.

Then the beautiful scene mutated into a battlefield of horror and destruction. Fire descended from the sky onto distant buildings, turning them into fiery towers. The weeping willow cried as it burned to the ground and people were scrambling in terror. She heard her sister shriek and turned to see her charred corpse lying mangled on the burning patch of dandylions. She stayed huddled in the shelter of the rock face, watching through the tears as the remains of her life blew away before her eyes. Then everything went dark and she was back in her cell. She tried to remember more, but the gateways of her mind sealed themselves shut and permitted no further passage. Just those few horrible images had been enough to make her collapse into deep, heartwrenching sobs. She cried until her eyes could spare no more tears and she soon drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

Juliette opened one eye and saw blackness. It made her think that perhaps she had not opened her eye at all and so she opened them both and peered through the darkness, searching for clarity, some shape or form for a focalpoint. Slowly, her feeble eyes took focus, though there was little to focus on. She rubbed her face to wash away the sleep. Sleep had come surprisingly easier than usual, probably due to such an exhausting mental exertion from the night before. Slumber had fogged her memories and somewhat dulled the pain, but it would soon return.

Juliette traced the lines of her face with her hand and slowly moved it down her swan-like neck to the familiar leather strap that hung there. She picked up the tiny pouch attached to it and tremoved the smooth stone from inside. It glowed comfortingly in the warmth of her hands. Her mind took her back to the day she had first seen the precious stone. Her aunt had returned from her geological expedition on some distant planet. She remembered her excitement that day and the smell of dust and sweat on her aunt's clothing as she hugged her. She loved her aunt dearly. She was the one member of her family to whom she could truly relate. They were much alike. Both quiet on the surface, but bustling with thought beneath. And, of course, there was their passion for adventure. Juliette would sit and listen to her aunt's daring and incredible journeys for hours. When she saw the stone that her aunt had brought for her, she was beyond words. The gentle glowing entranced her and she cherished it as if it was her sole possession. She laughed dryly at the thought that now it truly was her sole possession. That was the day she swore that she would become like her aunt and travel to exotic places, unearthing rare and ancient stones like the one that she had recieved. She realized now that she could never fulfill her dream.

The hum of the forcefield was interrupted and one of the hideous aliens entered the cell. He grabbed her by the arm with such a tremendous force that she let out a small squeak. He seemed annoyed by the noise, but did not loosen his grip. He led her out of her cell. The sound of their footsteps hitting the metallic floor echoed down the hallway as they walked. Juliette wondered where he might be taking her. Was he going to kill her? That prospect might have frightened her a week ago, but so much had happened that she was now numb to fear, especially fear of dying. In fact, she would actually welcome death. \par \tab They came to a crowd of humans and she was placed among them. Their faces looked guant and their clothes were ragged, much like herself, but she was glad to see her own kind again. She looked curiosly around the room and studied the strange beings that held them captive. Their haunting golden eyes terrified her and yet, at the same time, enthralled her. She found that no matter how much she tried, she couldn't help looking at them. One of them looked straight at her with an evil smirk. Their eyes locked and she desperately struggled to turn her glance away, but the yellow eyes drew her in. She felt like the prey of a wild animal, or a deer mesmerized by the amber lights of an oncoming car. Finally the eyes set her free from their grasp and she swiftly turned away.

The aliens divided them into groups and soon began leading groups of them out of the building, if they were going to be killed, sold or sent to some other base she did not know. They were talking one another in their peculiar language. Juliette wasn't sure what they were saying, but it was obvious they were contemplating what to do with each group. Before long, Juliette's group was the only one left to deal with. It was soon clear that their group would not be leaving the base like the others. The creatures assigned them all to perform different tasks. The language barrier was a problem, but in the end, everyone understood one thing: they were slaves. The men did most of the hard labour while the women cooked and cleaned for the soldiers. Juliette was forced to work in the kitchen where she prepared their revolting food, served it to the aliens and cleaned the dishes.

The first week was soon over and Juliette was amazed at how quickly it had gone. She hadn't enjoyed working everyday until her body ached, but it was better than staring at the wall of her cell all day. She though about her day uneasily as she lay on her hard bed, looking into obscurity. The soldiers she served hassled her constantly and today had been worse than usual. They would make remarks that she did not understand and then laugh. Their laughs were full of vice, everything about them seemed to be. Each time they stared at her, she felt as though their amber eyes were piercing her very soul. The thought of them made her skin shiver and crawl.

Finally, she decided to close her eyes and wait for sleep to find her, but it did not come. Something was wrong. She thought she heard a sound like footfalls in the corridor. Her ears strained to listen, but she heard nothing this time. It must have been her imagination. Then they came again, this time she was sure. Her heart began to beat faster and faster still. It was pounding like drums in her chest. She held her breath and closed her eyes. For the first time since she arrived, the numbess had subsided and she was frightened once more. The forcefield to her cell deactivated and three figures entered. As they hovered over her, she was silent and scared to move a muscle. Then they threw her on the ground, her head hitting the hard floor as she fell. She struggled, but they pinned her down. One of them came closer to her so she could smell his foul scent and feel his breath on her face. He tugged at her clothing and fondled her bare flesh which writhed at his touch. She could taste bile rising in her throat as he raped her, stealing her innocence with each powerful thrust. She felt as though her insides were being torn apart and she whimpered in fear and pain. A forceful strike to her face abruptly silenced her. The leather pouch around her neck came lose and the gem fell to the ground. Frantically, she rummaged through the dark for her lost jewel. She saw a gentle glowing just within her hand's reach and quickly grabbed for it. The smooth stone was then safe in her palm and somehow she felt safe as well. She remained quiet and detached from her body, as if she was floating overhead, watching the horrid scene carry out.

Each of them had their turn, and when they were done with her, they left her with only the darkness as her companion. She managed to drag her battered body into the corner of her tiny cell. Blood and semen ran down her legs and her broken, her gory head throbbed with pain. Huddled on the cold, hard ground, she wept in silence and desolation. She wept for all she had lost. She mourned the irrivocable pieces of her life, like shattered glass of a once beautiful vase, now a jumbled mess that could only cut her with its sharpness. It once held her lifeblood and her future, but those were gone, splattered on the floor as her blood was now. She was empty and alone.

Juliette scrubbed a dirty dish harshly until it sparkled anew. She then handed it to a young woman who dried it with an old cloth. The woman looked over at Juliette with curiosity as she picked up a pot and vigorously scoured the grease away.

"I think it's clean," she said with a smirk.

Juliette blushed with embarassment and quickly eased on her overzealous washing. She liked cleaning the dishes, it was a way of venting her emotions without hurting anyone around her and it got the dishes squeaky clean at the same time. Today had been a particularily bad day so far and she had plently of emotions to vent. There was a flu going around as there often was. Infection spread like wildfire in such confined quarters. The whole morning she had been fighting waves of nausea. Hopefully this flu wouldn't last to long.

Her dish partner looked around eighteen, only a couple years older than herself. She had been on dish duty with her for the past week and in that time, they had spoken no more than a few short sentences to one another. The girl was unusually attractive, even with her scruffy clothes and unkempt hair. Her skin was slightly darker than Juliette's and her hair and eyes were dark and mysterious.

"What's your name?" the young woman asked, Juliette thought she caught a hint of some foreign accent. She scoffed at the thought. Foreign. They were all foreign here.

"Mine?" The girl laughed melodiously. "Yes, of course yours. There's no one else around, is there?"

"No, I guess not." She smiled shyly. "Juliette," she said, looking up again."

"That's a pretty name," she said sincerely, "mine's Vida."

Juliette smiled at the name. "Vida," she repeated, letting it roll of her tongue and past her lips. She liked it.

"How old are you, Juliette?"

"Sixteen."

Vida cocked an eyebrow. "You're so young," she said with a hint of pity in her voice.

"I'm not," she replied defensively. She thought of the night the soldiers came to her cell. Two months; had it really been that long ago? It was still so vivid in her mind. "I've had to do a lot of growing up since I came here."

Vida smiled, but her eyes were pools of sadness. "We all have."

Juliette and Vida spent as much time as they could together. The difficulty was finding time to talk, but as the days passed, they became familiar with the base and would often hide in remote places like vents and storage rooms where they knew the aliens never ventured. Juliette loved listening to Vida's stories of her life before the war and Vida would listen attentively as Juliette talked of her family. It was exciting and daring, not to mention surprisingly easy, to slip past the Andromedans. That was what the Humans called them now, after the "Andromeda galaxy". Their species had another name, but no Human bothered to call them by it. Just as the Andromedans never called Humans by their proper name and addressed them solely as slaves.

Juliette loathed all Andromedans except for one. His name was Narvac. He often collaborated with Humans in secret and smuggled in supplies for them. There was even a rumor that he had helped a group of Humans escape from the planet. His reasons for risking his life for Humans was unclear, but Juliette admired his courage, for she knew that if he was ever caught, he would be executed.

Narvac had brought Juliette a journal so that she could write down her thoughts and experiences. She hadn't asked for it, but it was exactly what she needed and she was thankful that he had thought of it.

Juliette sat on the harshly uncomfortable bed in her cell with her journal lying outspread upon her belly, its pages shifting as she breathed in and out. She rested unmethodically, slipping in and out of consciousness. Bizarre dreams intruded on her shallow sleep. As she awoke, she lazily ran her fingers over her body. Her hands were her eyes in the darkness. She felt the firm muscles of her arms and the soft curve of her breasts. They were full and womanly, no longer pointed girlishly as she remembered. Her fingers glided towards her belly; it too seemed different. There was a definite mound that had not been there before. The pieces fell together in that moment and the blood drained from her face. No. It couldn't be. But it was. She clutched the swell of her abdomen where something evil was growing. The product of that horrifying night when the soldiers had raped her. They had left her with more than the fear, the anguish and the sleepless nights. This was something that went much deeper. The notion that a part of them was inside of her made her sick. She wretched again and again until her throat was raw. Her panic rose; she wanted to rid her body of the malignance that grew like cancer within her. Her shriek rang out in the blackness, but no one heard.

Juliette crouched in an air vent, waiting for Vida to join her. She was awkward and uncomfortable in the small space with her large belly pushed up against her thighs. The alien baby had grown rapidly, stretching and distorting her body. Soon it would be born and she would be rid of this creature inside her. Still, she couldn't help but wonder what would become of it. Would it grow up as a slave and not ever know what it was to be free? She would never wish that on anyone, not even an Andromedan. Yet, she reminded herself that this baby wasn't just an Andromedan, it was her creation as well. She gently stroked the bulge and felt a movement within her. She gasped and smiled with excitement. It was a curious sensation, as though it was trying to reach out to her from beneath its blanket of flesh. How could she let her child live such a hopeless existence? But it was not her choice, there was no way to prevent it. She couldn't bring herself to end its life before and she wouldn't end it now. There was nothing she could do. Or was there? Maybe there was a way.

There was a clatter in the vent and she saw Vida scramble into the narrow passageway.

"Hey," she whispered and then patted Juliette's tummy, "how's the little one?"

"Fine, and healthy, I think," she whispered back. "You should have felt how hard it kicked me."

Vida\'s eyes widened with delight. She was more excited about the baby than Juliette was. She had been there for here through the pregnancy as much as she could. She had told Juliette many times that she wanted a child. Once, she had been pregnant, but she had lost the baby early on.

"I was thinking," Juliette said rather casually, "of talking to Narvac about a way out of here."

"What?"

"I don't want this baby to live here. Who knows what they'll do to it when its born."

Vida looked at her with concern. "No, Juliette, they'd kill you. You're not going to be able to help this child if you're both dead."

"I know, I know," she muttered, not wanting to think of the consequences, "but, I I have to try. It's better if I die trying than let my child live in this world. There's something special about this baby, you know that. I didn't think this could even be possible, but it is and this is the only proof." She looked down at her stomach.

Vida nodded her head and put her arms around Juliette. She could feel the baby sandwiched between them. "I understand, I'm just worried about you, that's all. I'm going to miss you."

"Come with me, please."

Vida let go of her so she could see her face. "Come with you?"

"Yes,"Juliette told her, "please, I can't do this alone"

"I don't know if I can."

"Just say you'll come with me," Juliette's voice was impatient and there was a wild look in her eyes that Vida had never seen before.

"When do we talk to Narvac?"

"Oh, thank you, Vida," she said, hugging her again, "You don't know how much it means to have you with me."

The time soon came for them to carry out their plan. The preparations had to be done quickly in order for the escape to take place before the baby was born. Narvac had sent out a distress signal specially designed to elude Andromedan sensors, and only be picked up by those of wanderers. No one returned their signal and all hopes of escape were beginning to dim when someone finally answered their signal and were willing to assist them in their escape. Thrilled at the news, Juliette and Vida prepared to depart the following day. They would sneak through the ventilation system, as they had so many times before, and clamber to the docking bay where their ride would be waiting. They had a narrow window of time, Narvac could only interrupt the alarm for thirty seconds, so they had to work fast.

"This way," Vida pushed her onwards, "hurry up."

They shuffled through the metal tunnel without looking back. Juliette never wanted to lay eyes on her past again, for she was headed towards the future and the future of her child. There would be no looking back, not now, not ever. Her back ached from the weight she bore. In her swollen hands, she carried only the small journal and she made sure that the amulet was secure around her neck. Her blood raced with adrenalin.

Vida struggled to open the grid of the vent. It rattled and shook from her force and finally she was able to pry it open. They descended into the docking bay. It was empty and silent, there were no ships scheduled for today.

"Where's the ship?" Juliette asked with and edgy tone as she paced back and forth. "It was supposed to be here."

Vida wasn't ready to panic yet. "Don't worry, it'll come. We're just early, that's all."

"What about the alarm?"

"It won't go off until the docking bay doors are opened. Stay calm, Narvac said he could delay it for long enough and he will."

Juliette nervously ran her hands through her knotted strands of hair. It had lost its shine and fineness. Juliette rarely washed her hair and when she did, it was with the hard detergents that used for washing dishes.

There came a humming sound from the outside. Juliette's head lifted and she listened intently, making sure that what she heard was real.

"Do you hear that?" She whispered excitedly to Vida.

"Shh," Vida hushed her and cautiously approached the door where the sound was coming from with Juliette following closely behind.

With a thunderous blast, the colossal doors opened. The two girls used their hands as sheilds against the gusts of frigid wind that buffeted their flesh. Juliette watched with squinted eyes as the ship docked. The rumble of the powerful engine was almost deafening to the ears and its noxious fumes spread throughout the bay. When the vessel appeared to be docked, Vida and Juliette hustled towards the ship's entrance. They could hear the alarms now, which made them quicken their pace even more. A man appeared at the hatch of the spacecraft, signaling for them to hurry. Juliette ran as fast as she could, despite her heavy load. She panicked when she heard the shouting of the guards behind her and stumbled to the ground. Defeat overwhelmed her. Her hopes for her baby's future were crushed. She tried uselessly to lift herself back up and just as she crumpled to the floor in failure, she felt Vida's arms urging her onward.

"Get up, quickly," she shouted forcefully over the engines and pulled Juliette to her feet.

Juliette ran to the ship, each step seemed to take an eternity. She made her way up the ramp and into the arms of safety. Gasping with relief and depletion, she looked out the closing hatchway to see Vida's body sprawled out on the ground, a wound from an Andromedan weapon blazed in her back. Her heart, that for a brief moment upsurged with joy, now sank once more into despair.

Juliette slept on a bunk bed in the back of the ship, disturbed every now and then by a fleeting image of the dead. So many ghosts haunted her and she longed for peace. Peace not only for her, but for the ghosts as well. Their souls had been ripped from their bodies prematurely by the demons called Andromedans. She thought of her child. She feared that it would have the same callousness. She could only hope that this was not so and that she wasn't bringing another cold blooded killer into existance.

A hand touched her and she let out a startled breath.

"Hey, sorry," said a man's voice, "I didn't mean to scare you. You were talking in your sleep so I thought I'd better wake you up. Were you having a nightmare?"

"I guess you could say that."

He sat down on the bunk bed beside her. "I'm sorry about your friend. That's really too bad she didn't make it."

Too bad? Her best friend had died saving her life and all he had to say about it was "too bad"? It seemed so cold and insufficient. How did he expect her to respond to such a meager comment? A lump grew in her throat and she could feel hot tears forming in her eyes. No. She wasn't going to cry. Not now, not here in front of this stranger. She turned away from him to hide her face. She said nothing, afraid that if she spoke, her voice would falter and break into sobs.

The man knew he'd said the wrong thing. He fumbled awkwardly for some way to redeem himself without falling deeper into the hole he created. "You must be hungry, why don't I get you something to eat. I make a mean chili."

Juliette just shook her head and managed to say, "I'm not hungry, thank you."

"Um, okay. No problem. I'll just get out of your way, then. You can use the intercom to call me if you need anything."

"Wait," she called after him as he went to leave. He turned his head. "Thank you," she said, trying desperately to keep her voice steady, "for rescuing me. I know you risked a lot by doing that."

The man simply smiled and nodded, knowing not to try to open his mouth again. Then he proceeded out the door, leaving her to grieve in solitude.

Juliette wrote words in her journal. Sometimes words didn't express her feelings the way she wanted them to. Eloquent thoughts inside her head would stumble onto the page and lose their beauty and power. But she did her best to make her words memorable. She knew that they would most likely be looked upon by eyes other than her own. Perhaps by the eyes of her child. She wanted to capture a piece of herself on the pages of her journal, so that others might know her pain. It was the only way to truly preserve her memory. Memory is such a fragile thing. It is easily altered and warped by the mind. The past is percieved diversely by different individuals. Many pieces of the past are lost and others kept for no apparent reason. By writing down her experiences, she was keeping her past intact in a way her memory never could.

There was a strange pain that ran through her body. Then as quickly as it came, it subsided. She thought nothing of it. She'd been having these cramps and aches all day. It was most likely indigestion or stress. She continued writing until another surge of pain ran up her spine. The pain was much stronger this time. She began to worry; it was too early for the baby to come. It wasn't due for at least another month. She hit the intercom button by the door.

"What is it?" A garbled voice came through the speaker.

"I think you should get in here," she moaned as another contraction came on, "I think I'm about to have a baby."

There was a silence on the other end.

"Hello?"

"Uh, hold on, I'll be right there," the man's voice sounded distressed.

The door opened and a rather frightened-looking man stepped into the room. He rushed to her side and looked at her with wide eyes.

"What do you want me to do?"

"I don't know, I've never done this before."

He paced back and forth with a worried hand on his forehead. "Don't panic, don't panic," he said quietly, more to himself than to the pregnant girl.

"I know, why don't you lie down."

He helped her onto the floor and propped her up with some pillows. Juliette tried breathing heavily, like she'd seen other women do when they were in labour. It didn't seem to help much.

"This hurts like hell!" Juliette wailed.

"Focus on something," the man suggested, "maybe it'll take your mind off it."

"That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard. Nothing could take my mind off this, trust me."

The contraction ended and Juliette relaxed for a moment, and so did the man.

"What's your name?"

"What?"

"You're delivering my baby and I don't even know your name."

"Oh," he said with a smile, "my name's Quinn. What about you? I don't know your name either."

"Juliette," she held out her hand for him to shake.

As he shook her hand, she dug her nails into his skin as another contraction wracked her.

"Ow, ow! That hurts!"

"Well, it can't possibly hurt as much as this does," she snapped, then took some deep breaths and released her grip on Quinn's hand. "I don't think I can do this."

"Of course you can," he assured her, though he appeared just as worried as she did. "We'll get through this, you're not alone."

An hour passed, and then another. The contractions grew worse and Juliette weakened. Quinn stayed by her side. As a wanderer, he had gotten himself into many exciting and dangerous predicaments, but never one quite like this. He was scared, and he didn't scare easily. She was loosing a great deal of blood, far too much. He wasn't ready to give up yet, although Juliette appeared to lose hope.

"Come on, Juliette," he coaxed her, "just a little longer, you're almost there. You can do it."

"No, I can't, I can't," she gasped. "I feel like I'm coming apart."

"I can see the head!" Quinn shouted with amazement. "Push, Juliette, push."

She pushed with all the force left within her, scarcely hearing Quinn's heartening voice urging her on.

"It's a girl," she thought she heard him say.

She felt herself slipping away, but her baby's cry gave her strength to hold on. She held her creation in her bloodsoaked arms and wept. Quinn stared at her with awestruck eyes and she grabbed his hand. With the last of her breath, her lips formed a name. Vida . My beloved one.

End of Chapter 5. Click here forthe next chapter.

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