Anna grabbed Brendan from behind, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. As she caught her breath, she peered up at the ship. The air smelled like soda, lots of sticky sweet soda. Stairs and ladders traced the entire length of the tube, spiraling down to the base. The lights were no longer visible, since they formed the base resting on the grass. Markings engraved the metal from base to tip. There were no flags, no words of any language she knew.
“Wow,” exclaimed someone from behind her. It jarred her from staring at the rocket. The townspeople around her were pulling out their cell phones, taking pictures and recording videos.
“Come on.” Anna twisted Brendan’s collar in her hands, and he looked her in the eye. “Let’s go.”
He gestured to the ship. “No, but—”
The corners of Brendan’s mouth and eyes turned down. Anna didn’t care; she had to get him
away from whatever just landed in town. Brendan took one long look at the rocket. She took his hand and pulled him through the crowd. They strode about fifteen or twenty feet before the scraping of metal-on-metal screeched. They stumbled, covering their ears. Though she wanted to get Brendan a safe distance away, her curiosity overcame her, and they swerved around.
A metal plank slid from the rocket toward the ground. Once it extended, a light flashed at the point where the plank met the rocket. Part of the wall disappeared, revealing a gaping, octagonal hole lined with neon-blue lights, giving her a glimpse inside a smooth metal hallway.
Some of the crowd backed away, each of them stepping back up Main Street a few paces. “It’s a space ship.” Brendan cried out. “We’re going to meet aliens. Real aliens.”
“Shut up. You’ll scare everyone. We have no idea...” Anna’s admonition died on her lips Men emerged from the doorway. Human men, or at least they looked like humans. Anna
sucked in a breath as she gripped Brendan’s hand. The men paraded two by two in unison. They wore red shirts and pants, with gold breastplates that came down to their waists. Gold and silver, rectangular shields rested at their sides. The Roman legion was paying them a visit. She blinked but the odd vision stayed the same.
This couldn’t be a hoax--it was far too elaborate—but she wouldn’t admit this was an alien spaceship, even to herself. She didn’t have a single logical, coherent explanation to grasp onto. Adrenaline sped through her veins, sending her into near panic. It didn’t matter what this was or wasn’t to her as long as she kept Brendan safe.
“It’s an army.” Brendan clutched at her hand
She pushed him behind her, ready to run at the first sign of trouble. Every muscle tensed, waiting.
The two columns of soldiers stopped after about two dozen men exited the plank. All at once, the two lines shifted to face each other, forming a pathway lined with soldiers.
At the top of the plank, a lone soldier appeared. He surveyed the town, squinting in the early light of dawn. Tall and muscular, he filled the doorway with his frame. His sandy-brown hair, cropped short, accentuated his square jaw. He wore the same body armor as the others, yet a red sash across his front extended into a short red cape behind him that snapped in the breeze. The man’s eyes settled on the crowd of onlookers before he walked down the metal plank.
Anna couldn’t tear her eyes away from the scene. Still, she pushed Brendan up the street toward the house. A streak of movement caught her attention, and she jumped. She almost yelped, but the blur that ran up to her came into focus
“What’d I miss? What’s happening?” Hannah skidded to a halt beside them
“Shhhhh,” Anna continued to push them all back.
“They’re aliens,” Brendan whispered
Anna squeezed his hand in warning. Hannah’s eyebrows lifted and light danced in her eyes. She
swung toward the rocket and the strange soldiers. She bounced on the balls of her feet, as if Christmas had come early. It was the most exciting thing to happen in Sparta since the founding of the town.
When the last solider reached the others, they raised their arms in a strange salute and he strutted straight through their ranks. He stood in front of the waiting crowd. He studied every face. The townsmen stared at him, stepping backward up the street again, away from the gleaming invaders
“Greetings. My name is Varick. I am searching for the one you call Anna Cora.” He rested his hands on his hips
Anna froze and then shook her head. She couldn’t have heard that right. Her heart tumbled over itself. She feared she would faint before she got Brendan into the house when the tingling at the top of her head blurred her vision.
“Can you tell me where to find Anna Cora?” Varick asked the crowd.
Everyone in the town turned in her direction. Her breathing became heavy. His gaze followed their line of sight and met her eyes. She thrust Brendan’s hand toward Hannah. She didn’t know why this stranger was looking for her, but if she could distract him, it would buy Brendan and Hannah a few minutes to run. She stepped away from her brother and best friend, raised her chin, her eyes wide and unblinking.
“I am Anna Cora.” She sounded far bolder than she felt. A flash of pride tightened her chest
Varick smiled at her. He motioned to the soldiers behind him, and they rotated in unison once again. He marched toward her, his soldiers in his wake. Anna willed herself to stand perfectly still, desperate not to shrink from this man. Stopping less than a foot from her, his smile broadened into a grin, and a small measure of her fear dissipated.
“Your Majesty, I am your new Protector. I have come to take you home.” He knelt before her on both knees, his palms upturned and resting on his legs. The soldiers followed suit.
She didn't know whether to laugh or run, so she did neither. She eyed Hannah, who had pulled Brendan off to the side of the street. Hannah shrugged.
Genre: Science Fiction / Romance
Anna keeps to herself in rural North Carolina, raising her younger brother and never dreaming she might not be human. A ship descends from the sky and the handsome alien, Varick, proclaims that she is the long-lost ruler of his planet, forced to flee from their world by an experiment gone wrong. Determined to discover her heritage, she journeys with Varick to their abandoned planet. Along the way, Varick strengthens her belief in herself as she struggles to be the leader her people need. Anna discovers that as soon as they return, the Council will force her to marry a man she’s never met, even while her heart is drawn towards Varick. A romance between the Vadana and her Protector is forbidden above all, and can only end in Varick’s death. A prophet warns Anna and Varick that they can heal their solar system, but they can’t let anything stand in their way. Their growing love for each other will either save their world, or bring about destruction.
Rachel Mannino is a passionate writer who creates characters and settings that allow readers to explore power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. Rachel also uses her writing skills to raise thousands of dollars for entities that enrich our lives and create community change around the world. She has worked for the Peace Corps; the Humanities Council of Washington, DC; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; and the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events in Boston, MA. Her first novel, Love or Justice, was published by Limitless Press in November 2015. Her second novel, Fractal, will be published by eTreasures publishing in September of 2016. Rachel has a BA in theatre studies and writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College, and she has used it every day since graduation. She lives with her husband, author Christopher Mannino (http://www.christophermannino.com/); their son, Gavin; and their adorable dog and cat in College Park, Maryland.
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