Humanity has used every natural resource the Earth has to give and is now a generation from extinction.
When Bethany is offered a position in the botany lab aboard one of many space stations, she is elated. Not only will she be able to help mankind, but generations of her family will find a home on a new planet. However, everything changes when an explosion hurls her through space and into the arms of five alien creatures who claim she is their Other. For the first time, Bethany feels as if she's found a place of acceptance and love...but it comes at a price. How can she choose between happiness, family, and the survival of humanity?
Bethany sipped her rapidly cooling mint tea and glared at her data pad. She had a presentation in the morning and had nothing positive to report. The genetically altered vegetables were not growing as planned, and they were behind schedule with the oxygen trees. "Fuck."
She tapped the screen and pulled up a video of the plants’ growth. Two were already dead with the rest following days behind. Her thoughts turned to her family, who depended on her for their survival. But they weren't the only ones. All of humanity would benefit from her work. Earth was dying and soon would no longer sustain human life. From orbit, when she chose to look, Earth no longer looked like the lush green and blue planet from history books. There were no clouds, and with the ozone all but destroyed, most humans now dwelled underground or in specially designed shelters. Even after all the warnings humans had been given, no one believed the Earth would really stop giving. Now there were twenty space stations orbiting Earth working day and night to build an escape for what was left of humanity.
A dull headache started at the base of Bethany's skull, and she sat her cup on the table and bent, cracking her back, hoping to relieve some pressure.
"Just the way I like to get my morning started," a familiar voice said from behind her.
Bethany slowly stood and turned to glare at the man who made her wish she had never volunteered for this job. He stood a few inches shorter than her five ten and had the little man syndrome. His dirty blond hair was kept in a crew cut, his clothes always perfect, and his smile too fake.
"Jose, I've asked you not to make comments like that. One more time and I will have to report you."
"Beth, have you looked down at Earth lately? We may really be the only humans to survive." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Don't you want to help humanity continue? We would make some pretty babies."
"If you were the last man on Earth, I would still find some other way to have children." Bethany backed up as he walked the rest of the way into the room and passed way too close to her on his way to his station. "Maybe I should message your wife and see how she and your children are doing."
"I think she would understand the need to save humanity."
Bethany put her data pad into sleep mode and picked up her cup. "I'm going to eat and try to get some sleep before we have to give our report."
"I just woke up and came straight here," Jose said. "If you give me a second, I will accompany you." He waved his data pad. "We can always pretend it's for work if it will make you feel better. Then after we can pretend in my room."
Bethany took a deep breath, followed by another. How such a slimy, disloyal man had made it into the program was beyond her. If it came to saving himself or the world, she was sure he would choose himself.
"This is the last time I will ask you to stop. We are co-workers and that's all we ever will be." She shook her head. "I'm going to make sure we are on different generational ships so I don't have to wake up to you asking for a quick fuck."
"You really think we are going to be allowed on them?" Jose laughed. "You are delusional. They are only going to let the rich and powerful on those things. We are just the slaves to make sure they make it."
"I have to believe they will honor the contract we signed." She rubbed her temples. "My family depends on me and will be tossed out of the Gate if I don't deliver." She gave him a pointed look. "Don't forget yours depend on you, too."
"My wife doesn't let me forget every time I message her." He gave a full body shake. "The way she goes on it’s a wonder I don't just leave them there and start a new life. She's a viper and will find someone to take care of her and the brats."
"Jose, just do your job, please." Bethany rubbed her temples again as the headache intensified.
"I will. I just hate how they expect us to find the solution to humanity’s problems when it took generations of humans to destroy it." He sat down at his station. "I'll take over while you get food and rest. Maybe I will have a breakthrough."
"Maybe. All I learned is that the plants need the polluted air to grow. I've tried using the seeds from the Seed Storage but they are not growing. The soil, even after being purified, is still not what they need."
He laughed with no humor. "It's not like we want to bring that on the generational ships and to our new home."
"My thoughts exactly." Bethany cracked her neck before walking toward the door. "Ill be back before the presentation."
Bethany left Jose bent over his station and walked with purpose toward the mess hall. She was tired of working with him and his swampy come-ons, but she had no choice. She shook off the dirty feeling talking to him always left and concentrated on where she was. It was amazing the accomplishments the human race had achieved while still destroying their planet beyond repair. She stopped at the large floor-to-ceiling window and stared out across the vastness of space toward the nearest space station. She could just make out the skeleton of the generational ship attached to the haul. When she was in her room at night, she loved to dream of her family waving as the ship took off for galaxies unknown. Unlike what she told Jose, she was not all that sure she would find a place on one of the ships.
A loud rumble of her stomach caused her to continue walking, but a clanging from down the electronic hall turned her that way. If she was lucky, her friend Amanda would be ready for breakfast and she wouldn't have to eat alone. Bethany stopped in the doorway and laughed as she watched Amanda wiggle her ample butt out of a tube set against one of the walls.
"You know we have machines that do that, right?" Bethany snorted as she tried to stop laughing. Amanda jumped and bumped her head as she backed the rest of the way out.
"Bethany." Amanda spun around and rubbed the back of her head. "Just the person I wanted to see."
"Me?" Bethany pointed at herself and looked around as if there were someone else named Bethany around. "You know I barely know how a light bulb works. What can I do?"
"I just want you to do a victory dance for me." Amanda waved behind her and a smile lit up her face. "I know there's a space station dedicated to the status problem, but I've been working on it in my spare time."
"You have spare time?" Bethany demanded. "I swear I work in my sleep."
"My job is to make sure this station is running efficiently, and if I do my job right, I don't have to watch it all the time. So do you want to know what I found?"
"You know it." Bethany stepped into the room. "But please hurry, I really need breakfast."
Amanda spun around and picked up her data pad before turning back to Bethany. "So one of the main problems we are having is keeping the human body strong while in stasis. Our bodies are not designed to be frozen and defrosted, but I think I have a different way. You know that jelly that we use to keep our food fresh on Earth?"
"Yes." Bethany made a face. "It still comes out tasting gross."
"Yes, but we are not going to eat each other so the taste is not an issue."
"Speak for yourself." Bethany laughed at the look of horror on Amanda's face. "I'm joking. Continue."
"I just had the worst picture in my head of people eating each other, thanks." Amanda did a full body shudder. "So back to my finding, the jelly can be used to put us into status for over fifty years."
"Fifty years?" Bethany threw her hands in the air and shook her hips. "You deserve the best dance for that."
"Best dance." Amanda laughed and waved her hand for Bethany to stop. "I guess I should have known you can't dance."
"You should have. So how about we catch some food and tell the others. Wait," Bethany raised an eyebrow, “are you going to report this to Earth or let the other station know first."
"If I tell the other station they will take the credit, but if I report it my family will be guaranteed a place on the first ship," Amanda said. "There's no question I'm going to report to Earth. I can't allow my family to stay on that planet any longer."
"Well do it now. You don't know how close others are to this discovery."
"I will." Amanda typed something into her data pad and bit her lower lip. "There, I can't change my mind. Now let's go see what delights they have defrosted for us."
"You realize it’s the same crap every day?" Bethany gagged. "I swear they are trying to kill us so they don't have to offer us a seat."
"I can pretend that I will get a choice?" Amanda asked as they left the room and met Ruth, a security officer, as they made their way to the mess hall.
"Hey it must be feeding time." Ruth wiggled her eyebrows. "Ready for slush?"
Bethany laughed and snorted before covering her mouth as the other two girls started laughing. They were unlikely friends, and Bethany bet if they had met on Earth they would have passed each other without a second glance. Ruth was a tomboy who loved cargo pants, white tee-shirts and combat boots. She kept her hair chopped short and refused to wear any type of makeup. She could also be found in the gym during her down time. Amanda had a short afro, dark skin, and an apple shaped body. She loved flowing dresses and anything girly. Bethany was the middle ground between them and they never let her forget it. As the only girls on the space station, they were also the butt of every joke and got hit on by everyone from the station chief to the janitor.
"Have you kicked anyone's ass today?" Bethany asked Ruth.
"Not today, but it's still early," Ruth answered. "I'm still amazed at how backward most of these men are. I'm starting to think we should start a new world with sperm and women."
Bethany shrugged. "If we get vibrators, I'm all for it."
"You two are bad." Amanda bumped them with her shoulders.
When they entered the mess hall, Bethany was happy to see only two others and that they were older men. They grabbed their plates of gray blob and went to their customary table in the corner.
"Did you hear one of the space stations have found an air purifier that runs on solar winds?" Bethany asked. "I heard they tried to keep it quiet."
"We already have that technology, why are they trying to keep it quiet?" Amanda asked as she shoved a spoonful of mush into her mouth.
"Yes, we do have solar power technology, but not the type that can be charged from solar storms in space without being near a star."
"Again, there's no reason to keep it quiet," Ruth said around her mouthful. "The Russians just announced their new engine design. I wish humanity would come together. Maybe we could have saved our world."
"There is no saving Earth." Bethany tried not to gag at the feeling of the food in her mouth and swallowed. "We can only hope to escape with as many as we can."
"I hear that," Amanda agreed. "Let's just hope the everyone gets on the same page. I have a contact on that station, maybe I should reach out."
"Yes, you should," Bethany agreed. "If the stations worked together, maybe those on Earth will follow."
"We can only hope to lead by example." Amanda swallowed some food. "This shit is gross."
"It's no better than the crap people are eating back on Earth," Ruth said around a mouthful.
They all looked up and groaned. Brian was one of the youngest males on the space station, and arrogant. For some reason, he saw the word no as a challenge and was always trying to get into one of their pants. Since he was on security they had to keep changing their door code so he couldn't get in. Bethany had asked for him to be removed but the station boss had passed it off as a prank. She now slept with a knife under her pillow.
"Brian." Bethany nodded at him. "What can we do for you?"
He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "There’s going to be a meteor shower in a few hours. Would you ladies like to join me on the observation deck?"
"No thanks." Bethany rolled her eyes. "We're here to work, not vacation. I really don't want to watch Earth get pelted by rocks and know they have no real protection."
"All work." He pointed at the empty space next to Bethany "Mind if I sit?" He was already making himself comfortable before she could say no.
"If you want to hear about girl talk." Bethany wanted to laugh at the look of horror as she continued. "We are talking about how our periods are starting to sync. Maybe yours have, too."
"You're a bitch." Brian stood and picked up his plate. "That's why you are here and don't have a man." He leered at Amanda. "Maybe we can conserve water and shower together later."
"Over my dead body," Amanda answered. "Also remember we are on our periods."
Bethany watched as he stomped away and turned back to see her friends laughing so hard tears were flowing.
"Does he really think that pickup line will work?" Amanda asked as she tried to stop laughing. "I swear the idea of an all women world is starting to look better."
"Right." Bethany wiped the tears from the corner of her eyes. "I'm glad we are on birth control because if we had to go through PMS and deal with these guys, there would be blood."
They finished their meal in peace and went their separate ways. After a quick shower, Bethany climbed into bed and set her alarm for two hours.
Bethany moaned as the figure over her licked her peddled nipple and sucked it into a warm mouth. A gasp escaped her lips when thick fingers found her dripping pussy and pushed in, filling her. She had almost reached release when the sound of a sonic boom jerked her away and she hit the floor. Pushing herself to her feet and she started coughing as the smoke filled her lungs. Panic started to rise, but she pushed it down at the same time dropping to her knees.
"Amanda, Ruth?" She crawled to the other women's bunks but found them empty. She must have slept longer than she was supposed to and the other women were at work.
"All personnel, please put on your mask and make your way to the pods. This is not a drill."
Bethany's heart lurched when she heard the station boss’ voice. She needed to move before she was cut off from escape and died on this station. Bethany felt along the wall until she came to the emergency case and pulled it off. She flicked it open and pulled out the face mask and attached it. It hissed as it started to work and she stopped coughing. Next, she pulled out the fire blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders before crawling toward the door. It slid open and she breathed a sigh of relief that there wasn't a blaze outside. She continued to crawl as she had been trained, following the flashing yellow lights along the bottom of the wall.
Before she turned the corner toward the escape pods, she saw a pair of shoes and crawled toward them. If someone was trapped she had to try and help them.
"Hello," she called out and coughed, talking wasn't encouraged once the mask was on. "Hello." She crawled closer and swallowed hard, turning away. The shoes still had feet in them but weren't attached to anything. She backed up until she saw the flashing lights again and turned left. The smoke became thicker and she rapidly blinked her eyes.
"Should have grabbed the goggles, too." She coughed. The warning lights turned red as the door to the pod room opened and she picked up her pace. She input her code into one of the pods and tumbled in. Designed to carry one person and programed to return to Earth, it wasn't very comfortable. A hard bench seat with straps and an emergency kit would be her companions until she reached home. As her doors closed, she saw Amanda crawling toward a pod. She tried to call out but the door sealed and she was ejected into the void of space.