Slavery Ch. 15bypoison_alice©
Alana was horrified to see the table before her splattered with blood. Her first thought, as she continued to cough, was TB. Her second thought was for her baby. Alana felt her body begin to tremble. Brint lifted her quickly, not speaking to her, but rushing her to the bathroom to clean her of the blood that marred her pale skin. Alana wanted to question him, but she couldn't stop coughing long enough to speak. Brint was becoming more and more agitated and Alana clung to him. Her body didn't seem to be working properly, her lungs refusing to take in enough breath to sustain her. Soon, dizziness engulfed her, her body refusing to remain conscious as it suffocated.
The rash, when it appeared, was mottled and black. It was less like a rash than a bruise really, thought Alana, a huge bruise that continued to spread across her chest and stomach. It trailed up her throat, but hadn't yet reached her face. Alana was too weak to move from the bed she had woken in. Brint had informed her that she had collapsed. Her body was swollen and stiff, burning hot to the touch. She struggled to remain conscious long enough to speak to anyone, but seemed to fade in and out of the room.
"She's awake," came a soft voice that at once made Alana's heart tight.
"Mother?" she croaked.
"She hallucinates," her mother muttered. "The condition is advancing quickly. Is there anything we can do?"
"It will ravish her," her father replied. Alana tried to sit up to see her parents. All of her strain did no good, however. She was desperate to look upon their faces, her heart aching with the desire.
"Daddy?" She whimpered.
"Do you know what she is saying? The language is not familiar to me." Alana strained to hear a response. Instead, she heard people moving from the room. Alana couldn't find the strength to call them back, but instead lay in the hope that they would return.
"Does the baby live?" Alana tried to focus on the conversation. She knew the voice, but couldn't place it.
"There was a lot of blood." Alana realised the voice was Kalen's. She tried to speak his name but her throat was too dry.
"Your child is as strong as your lover." Content that her child would survive her illness, Alana allowed her thoughts to wonder. Kalen's voice continued to wash over her, soothing her of the aches and pains her body was riddled with.
"Do you think the delivery method we discussed is possible?" Alana's ears pricked up at Kalen's question.
"I'm not sure," the stranger sighed. "If done too early then the baby will die, and if left too long the baby may cause her permanent damage." "It has to be worth a try. She will certainly die otherwise." Kalen's voice was heavy with grief. Alana longed to talk to him, and to try and soothe his pain.
"Yes, but the baby will live, and it's the child that we are interested in." At this statement, Alana knew it was time to fight for full consciousness. Agony tore through her as she tried to move. Not a sound escaped her lips as she tried to speak. Whatever was wrong with her had left her helpless to question the stranger's intentions towards her child.
Alana dreamt. Murky brown water swirled around her. Her eyes could barely see two feet in front of her. Cold seemed to be seeping in through her every pore. Alana's chest was burning from the lack of oxygen, but she knew to take a breath would be the end of her. Fiercely, she thrashed her arms and legs about in an attempt to struggle to the surface. If she was honest with herself, she wasn't quite sure where the surface was any longer.
Eventually, nature took over. Alana's body betrayed her, forcing her to suck in a lungful of foul, freezing water. Spluttering didn't help as she continued to gasp and pant. Her chest felt heavy, her vision blurry, and her head was ringing from the lack of oxygen.
"Alana, swallow." The voice seemed to come from a great distance. Continuing to struggle, Alana ignored the advice. She worried that hallucination meant the end.
"Alana please, you must swallow." The voice sounded familiar. Impossible. There was no one familiar left. With that thought, Alana remembered why she had jumped, and with her resolve set firmly on death, she swallowed.
"Alana, look at me." Alana spluttered, her eyes meeting scarlet orbs filled with concern.
"I was drowning," Alana croaked. As soon as the words left her lips she realised that her suicide attempt had been close to a year ago.
"Drink again." Alana did as she was told without question. She felt dazed, confused. The liquid was cold and bitter, making Alana cough as she swallowed. Her coughing reminded her that she had been ill. Heavy limbs and a fluttering heart told her she still was.
"Kalen," she croaked. Alana reached out to touch his face as he hovered over her, but was unable to lift her arm more than a few centimetres off the bed. "Am I dying?"
"No, Alana. You're getting better. The drink will help you." Kalen smoothed hair from her face. It stuck to her damp skin.
"How?" Alana felt confused. He had told her that there would be no medical help.
"It seems that mother can be quite resourceful, for the right price." Kalen's voice sounded angry, bitter. "Let's just focus on your recovery for now, though. You must sleep." Kalen eased himself onto the bed next to Alana. Looking up at him, she realised that she was still exhausted. Curling up against his warmth, Alana found her thoughts untangling. It was hard for her to follow anything through to conclusion. Something was niggling at her, but as Kalen's hand started to smooth her hair from her forehead, she slipped into sleep.
Three days passed with Alana drifting in and out of sleep. Feeling better, she had started to get restless just laying in bed. Propped up on pillows, she gave Kalen a genuine grin when he entered the room with a pile of books.
"Neekesh thought I should bring these from mother's," he said, gesturing to the books as he placed them on the end of the bed, just out of reach.
"Neekesh? I'm surprised he's considering my entertainment needs," Alana said. She was still smiling, but as Kalen's face stayed serious, her smile started to slip.
"I was surprised, too. However, he thought I would be interested in the content of your reading material. Your choices seem rather narrow in breadth." Alana winced. She glanced nervously at the books on shuttle maintenance, the surrounding planets, fuels, navigation, and maps of different solar systems.
"Kalen, I can explain-"
"- Whatever you were planning Alana, I don't need to hear it. I want you to keep studying these books, and when you finish, I will buy you some more," he interrupted.
"I changed my mind," Alana insisted. "When we moved down here I-"
"It doesn't matter. Just promise me you will do as I ask. For once, just do as I ask." Struck by the emotion in Kalen's voice Alana promised. It was a promise she certainly intended to keep. She no longer longed for escape; her freedom underground was enough to keep her happy. Still, she didn't want to spend the rest of her life there, and hoped her and Kalen could have adventures. She loved to fly, and would enjoy teaching their child. Alana refused to consider that she wouldn't be alive to raise it.
"Will you tell me what's wrong?"
Shaking his head, Kalen replied "Not yet. Things are not certain enough. I want to be prepared, though. Brint will be here soon. I have to go."
"Why did you ask him to sleep in my bed?" The words were out before Alana could sensor herself.
"What?" Kalen snapped, instantly attentive. He closed the gap between him and Alana quickly. She gasped as he grabbed her wrist. "You spent a night with my brother?"
"The night before I fell ill, he told me you had told him to sleep in my bed. I tried to argue, but he was certain it was what you wanted. I trusted him." Alana was starting to panic.
"Did you have sex with him?" Kalen's face seemed to be carefully blank. Alana knew he was holding back his anger. She had thought that the request had been strange for her jealous man.
"No. I swear."
Kalen nodded, then pecked Alana on the forehead. He left without another word. Feeling nervous, and more than a little confused, Alana reached for a book. She felt guilty for getting Brint in trouble, yet had been bothered by Kalen's treatment of her. She was sure his brother had only meant to offer her comfort, but it had sat uncomfortably with her that Kalen would have asked him to.
What bothered Alana more, though, was the fact that Kalen had asked her to continue her study. She wanted to know what was happening, and had a horrible feeling that she knew. It was like having pieces of the puzzle, but not knowing what the picture should be. There were snatches of conversation that she could almost remember, but not quite. Frustrated, Alana determined to ask anyone who came to visit what was going on.
"Finally dragged your lazy arse out of bed, have you? Here, grab this," Harold ordered, thrusting a sweeping brush at Alana. Feeling a little shaky, she gripped it with both hands leaning as much weight on it as she dared. If it slipped and she fell, Harold would have no mercy.
"What are you doing here?" She croaked.
"Fucking fine welcome that is. Still, I don't know what else I expected. Valued member of the family my arse." Well used to Harold's moaning and muttering, and knowing that his complaints held only affection, Alana plonked herself down on the nearest chair.
"Is it just us?" She hadn't seen Kalen for days now. Neekesh had been banned as his interest in her pregnancy made her uncomfortable, and Brint was taking his life in his hands if he crossed the threshold. Olivine was still angry, with Akia showing her lover strong support. Kalen's mother had never been overly friendly, and Yrin was at the shop.
"I have to split my week, apparently. Cleaning one home just isn't good enough."
"I'm sorry," Alana replied. She felt like she should apologise though she wasn't sure what for.
"It's not like they'll have been looking after the place while I'm away either. Mark my words; there'll be days' worth of washing up festering away when I get back." He sighed. Harold met Alana's eyes for a moment before he swept his eyes over her body. "You look like shit."
"What's going on, Harold?" Alana sank further back into the chair cushions, dragging the brush over her lap.
"I'm fucking cleaning your house." He stood, hands on his hips, glaring at Alana. She smiled a little, then outright grinned. Finally, she burst out laughing. Thankfully, Harold did the same. When he had calmed a little, he continued. "If I'm honest, I've got no fucking clue. They've all gone a bit crazy. On another note, you really need a bath."
Sniffing herself, Alana couldn't help but agree.
As she sunk into the bath she started pondering her pregnancy. She had worked out that Olivine must be about three and half months by now. Alana had no idea how far along she was herself. She thought that perhaps six weeks was about right, maybe seven. Her hands slowly explored her body under the water. She had certainly lost weight after being ill again, but her lower abdomen seemed a little rounder. Bringing her hands back up, Alana cupped her breasts. They seemed fuller, and a little tender. She could just be imagining it, she thought. Surely her body shouldn't be showing signs before two months?
"I hope it's thoughts of me that have you squeezing your breasts like that?" Alana jumped at the voice, turning guiltily in the bath. If her cheeks hadn't been flushed already from the heat, she just knew she would be bright red.
"I was thinking about our baby." Alana spoke softly, not wanting Kalen to leave again. She missed him desperately whilst he was off doing secretive things.
"There is someone willing to try your method of delivery." He didn't sound happy, Alana thought.
"A caesarean, really?" She almost winced at the sound of the hope in her voice. It was true she was desperate, but should she let him see that? She still wasn't sure what was going on.
"I only came back for clothes, Alana, and to tell you I love you."
"Wait, please. Can't you tell me-"
"No. I will be gone until tomorrow night, and then you shall know everything." Studying the man before her, Alana gulped. He looked so alien right now, so distant. Apart from the moment of tenderness when she awoke from her illness, he hadn't shown her any affection. Was he preparing himself for her death, distancing himself so that it was easier? Forcing a small smile onto her face, Alana nodded. She didn't trust herself to speak.
"Harold, I want to visit Yrin at the shop. Will you come with me?" Alana waited for a refusal, and had already steeled herself for an afternoon in doors. After her bath she had felt much stronger, but so lonely.
"You can bloody go yourself," Harold hissed as he scrubbed the stone floor in the kitchen. His long, thin arms looked surprisingly muscled with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
"Am I allowed?" Alana hoped Harold didn't notice the shock and doubt in her voice.
"Why the fuck wouldn't you be? Now piss off and leave me to my cleaning, you nightmare of a woman. Oh, and if you pass the market, I need something to cook you tonight, as if I don't already have enough to do." Trying to stifle a grin, Alana practically skipped from the kitchen. She couldn't leave the underground, but freedom was freedom and she would take it any day.
Working her way through the bustling crowd, Alana realised how ill she still felt. She was relived to arrive at Yrin's shop, perching on the stool behind the counter as Yrin made her a drink.
"I've missed being here."
"As I've missed you, Alana," Yrin replied. He squeezed her hand briefly, before retreating to a safe distance. Alana hadn't considered whether she was contagious before, but she guessed she might be. Seeing her frown, Yrin smiled, "I don't want to give Kalen a reason to be angry towards me. He is on edge enough as it is."
"You're gay!" Alana couldn't help but laugh. Yrin shrugged, dragging a stool over to sit a little closer to Alana.
"Your lover is not a happy man, Alana. He has so many balls in the air at the moment that, if he takes his eye from them, he is bound to drop one or two." Yrin was uncharacteristically sombre. Alana was used to him being serious, but there was usually an underlying positivity. Today, that was gone.
"Can you clue me in on what some of these plates are?" Much to Alana's surprise, Yrin nodded.
"To start with, there is Olivine. She is angry with you, and is threatening to deny Kalen access to his child. He is trying desperately to placate her."
"I've really messed things up, haven't I?" Alana couldn't look anywhere but at her hands as the clasped each other on her lap.
"Yes." Alana's insides squirmed at Yrin's bluntness. "Alana, you have made things very difficult. Another ball is your health. The most important thing to Kalen is keeping you alive." Yrin stood and came to stand beside Alana, his arm wrapping around her shoulders. Still not looking up, she leant against his side, enjoying the heat.
"Kalen's mother agreed to help with your health care. The price was that the men who helped you would gain custody of your child. Obviously, that is not something that Kalen would have agreed to. It was decided behind his back."
Alana knew that all of the colour had drained from her face as Yrin's grip on her became almost painfully tight. The world seemed to sway a little as she absently stroked her slightly swollen stomach.
"He won't let it happen Alana," Yrin soothed. "Brint's lover, the one his mother denied him, her family wants a peaceful world with a government rather than families with large territories and constant war. They also disagree with using cross-bred babies to further the world's military might. Kalen is trying to gain their assistance."
"Yrin, I know nothing about babies being used for war." Alana felt sick to her stomach. She wished she hadn't come.
"When we have conquered other worlds, we have studied the products of interspecies mating. If they are strong, they are used to help our warriors. They are kept as slaves, trained to fight, to die. They have been incredibly useful as they are often immune to diseases that our warriors succumb to. The offspring of humans that have mated with our race develop few human characteristics. The ones they do develop are very valuable; our race is short of intellectuals, scientists, and many lack any social grace. The babies that come from human mothers often have these traits, but are not weak like you."
"That is why they want my baby?" The shock made Alana's voice empty, monotone.
"I can only assume so. Your death will not matter to these people, Alana, not after the foetus becomes viable."
"I have to go." The shop seemed suddenly hot. People knew about Alana's pregnancy, something that Kalen had warned against. She couldn't be out of the house. Stumbling from her seat, Alana all but ran to the door. Her heart was already hammering in her chest from the small exertion, but she didn't stop. Weaving through the shoppers, she didn't stop until she had slammed to door to her home. Her body was trembling all over. Knowing that Kalen wouldn't be back to ease her worries until the next night, Alana decided she needed to brush up on her reading.
"Your mother is selling our baby!" Alana yelled, throwing a book at Kalen. She had repeated to him the conversation that she had with Yrin, and he had tried to placate her. It wasn't working.
"We won't hand the child over, Alana. They will help you, and then we will kill them." Alana shut her mouth with an audible snap. That would certainly solve their problems. "We have months to plan this, my love. Please, stop worrying. This is why I didn't want to tell you." Kalen approached Alana wearily. She glanced at the pile of books on the bed next to her and grinned, then giggled. Her mood swings were becoming ridiculous, but she was certain that her hormones were to blame. She was pregnant, after all.
"I'm sorry, Kalen. I do trust you to care for me. It's scary though; I'm so helpless." Alana's giggling had stopped as suddenly as it had started. She held out a hand for her big, handsome alien. He took it, finally smiling at her.
"You aren't completely helpless, you know," he said reassuringly, his hand stroking her hair. "All this reading means that if things go wrong you will be able to escape. After our child arrives, there will still be danger."
"There is one thing I'm confused about. Why is Brint's girlfriend's family being involved?"
"Yrin told you that they disagree with the treatment of the cross-bred children, and their parents. They have offered to protect you and our child. It is possible that you will stay with them during the last few months of your pregnancy, and the first few months of motherhood."
"Kalen, this is something you should have asked me about." Alana was pleased that her voice sounded steely. In truth, she was barely concealing her fear. Kalen looked surprised for a moment, his face twisting in thought.
"Yes," he replied slowly, "I suppose I should have." Surprised by his agreement, Alana sighed and cuddled closer to him. Things were improving in their relationship, even if it was somewhat slow progress.
"I don't want to fight," she whispered into his shoulder. Alana's chin was tilted up gently. Kalen kissed her softly, his lips prying hers apart to gain access to her tongue. Alana shivered as his tongue caressed hers. His lips then trailed across her jaw and down her throat. Moaning, she pressed herself against him, his muscles feeling solid and safe beneath her fingers. She tugged at his clothing, desperate for him to remove it.