Resisting Maxu: Chapter 1

Nine Months Later

“And you’d pay me?” Meg gazed at the elegant older woman across from her—the Queenand tried not to let her bubbling excitement show on her face.

Not only was she speaking with the ruler of Tremanta but also three other high-ranking officials.

Metli, the Queen’s right hand and self-proclaimed protectress.

Vila, a contrary woman. Meg couldn’t understand why Vila was invited to these types of meetings since she tended to spend her time questioning every word out of the Queen’s mouth. Unsurprisingly Metli and Vila didn’t get along.

The last woman present was Asivva, an Intergalactic Council representative who’d made it her business to see to the humans, always making sure they were comfortable and understood the complicated world they’d been dropped into. She was gorgeous, with dark hair swept into an elegant bun, pale skin, and periwinkle eyes. Her plain outfit did nothing to detract from her beauty. She wore a simple beige jumpsuit outfitted with a large golden kite-shaped pin. The pin contained five circles of varying sizes organized vertically through the middle—the planetary symbol of Clecania.

Meg still couldn’t believe it. Not nine months earlier, she’d been praying for another chance at life, and now look at her. Swept into an adventure so incredible, she half thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

The Queen raised a manicured white brow, and the faint dark circles under her eyes hollowed. “This is very important. More important than your trip to Sauven. You may find some enjoyment on the tour, but it’s also a job. I have expectations. It will be difficult at times, and I want to make sure you’re compensated for those”—her lips thinned ever so slightly—“challenges.”

Meg’s instinct was to shrug off the ominous comment, but she forced herself to think through the warning. If the Queen of a freaking alien city was urging her to take the opportunity of a lifetime seriously, she probably should.

Since being abducted from Earth, Meg had been through the wringer. She’d been kidnapped by a radical group of aliens set on finding reproductively compatible females, locked in an underground bunker, rescued from said bunker by non-radical aliens, and shown a whole new world that clashed with most of the beliefs she’d grown up with…and she’d never been happier in her entire life.

The only downside of her time here was that apart from a four-day trip to the forest city of Sauven, she’d been confined to Tremanta. Shortly after her rescue, one of the other human women who’d been abducted had mated with an alien man and become pregnant. The magical event of mating had been lost to these aliens for hundreds of years, so when the Queen had found out one measly human had made sacred and elusive mating marks appear on the hands of a guy named Theo, well…it had been a big deal.

Concern that the citizens of the planet would find out and tear down the city of Tremanta in search of the other humans had forced Meg and her fellow rescues to remain cooped up in hiding until the Queen had been able to figure out how to best announce their exciting discovery without causing a riot.

Earth was considered a Class Four planet. This planet, Clecania, was a Class Two planet. Class Fours were off-limits in a big way. Like, intergalactic laws that wouldn’t affect one rule breaker but an entire planet of people big. From what Meg could tell, the process of getting Earth’s status switched to a Three would be a delicate political chess match. Having a slew of desperate Clecanians illegally flock to Earth to pick themselves up a mate of their own would not help their cause one bit.

As of now, Class Four meant no one was allowed to make contact with Earth. They couldn’t even fly close to it. Humans were still developing, and there were strict laws in place to keep that development happening at a natural pace.

Meg had read one account of interference from eons ago, where the primitive species went mad after being introduced to a visiting species of aliens keen to make contact. Yet another account had shown how dangerous the uneven power dynamic was when advanced races with advanced weapons showed up on a planet and took valuable resources. Countless interactions like this had resulted in a law that clearly forbade interference with planets whose species had not yet evolved to the point of deep space travel.

Meg didn’t care if Earth was ever switched over. It’d take them a million years to get to evolve to a Class Three status if she had it her way. It left a tight knot in her throat to know that her old miserable life was still out there, waiting. She didn’t want it back.

On Clecania, they provided for her. They gave her housing and clothing and food. And not just the bare essentials. Good stuff. They’d offered to train her for whatever career she wanted for free. The first step had been learning to read their language.

Implanted translators had made it unnecessary to learn the spoken language, but Meg had leapt at the opportunity to master Clecanian writing. Studying each vertical loopy symbol into the wee hours of the morning, she’d picked up on the written language faster than anyone else. For the first time in her life, she was proud of herself.

Unlike some of the rescued humans who spent their days shuffling around drearily in mourning for their old lives, Meg had flourished. At least within the confines of the Pearl Temple, where all the women lived. But now she wanted to flourish elsewhere too. After months of studying, she felt like she’d been kept in a holding pattern. Stuck in limbo between moving away from who she’d been and discovering who she was.

A few months ago, when the announcement had been made to the planet that humans existed, the Queen had started dropping hints that she wanted to schedule a tour of sorts for a select few humans. A trip around the world, where curious Clecanians could meet humans and ask questions. Meg believed the Queen hoped that having a taste of the humans would help tide the surging discontent running through the planet.

From what she understood, many cities were furious that Tremanta had sheltered a large portion of the humans for as long as they had. They felt the Queen was keeping the humans to herself, hoarding them for her citizens alone and not allowing other cities’ residents their chance at recognizing a mate.

Many discussions of how a tour like this might be accomplished had been held over the last few months, all of which had actually included a group of interested humans. Meg had been thrilled and baffled to be invited to these talks. At first, she’d felt out of place. She’d barely graduated high school. She’d never had a job or any practice with the complicated political maneuverings of a city with a highly sought after resource.

But after a few meetings where not only the other women but the Queen herself had listened to Meg’s suggestions, her confidence had been bolstered. She’d promised she’d be a different person in her new life, and by God, she would be.

She’d be brave and confident. No one knew her here. It was an opportunity to remake herself. Who’d know the difference? Opinionated, well read, and—hopefully—well traveled. She’d started dressing the way she’d always wanted. Showing off more skin than would’ve been allowed back home. She experimented with dying her hair blonde before changing it back to brown and chopping it off. Now she styled it to look sexy and a bit rumpled, like the carefree French exchange student, Monique, who’d gone to Meg’s high school for a year and driven all the boys to distraction.

Drinking and cursing had been next on her list of things to try, and she’d found she liked both. Meg had even begun testing out her flirting abilities on a few of the men in town who’d approached her. Her skills were rusty, to say the least, but the men seemed to find her charming anyway. It made Meg feel powerful and confident to know that she could turn a head, even if she didn’t want to take it any further than that quite yet.

Though she mooned over all the gorgeous, perfectly sculpted alien men in Tremanta, she knew most were far more interested in recognizing her as a mate and building deep, meaningful connections than they were in having no-strings-attached flings. So flirting was all she could do without getting their hopes up too high, and she was fine with that. Ten years stuck with Jeremy made the mere idea of being married again as foul as rotting fish.

This was her time to learn who she was and live life to the fullest. No slipping into old habits.

With a start, she realized the Queen was still studying her, seeming pleased with the long time she was taking to give her answer. Meg lifted her chin and nodded as if she’d thought it over carefully and come to a well-reasoned conclusion.

In reality, she’d started reading everything she could about every single city on Clecania as soon as the Queen had mentioned her tour idea. If anyone was getting picked to take an all-expenses-paid trip around the world, she’d make sure she was prepared enough to be on a shortlist.

“I think even with the challenges, this trip will be fantastic for everyone. Other cities can have some of their curiosity lessened and hopefully learn a little more about Earth and why swarming the planet might be a bad idea.” Meg tried to keep her focus on the Queen and not on Metli, whose nails were clacking against her screen as she took notes.

Vila folded her hands in front of her. Meg chewed the inside of her lip. How could someone with a bright blonde pixie cut, a frilly high-collared mauve shirt, and warm honey-yellow eyes look so severe and intimidating? “You’ve declined participating in every marriage ceremony. Is that right?”

Meg straightened in her seat, taken off guard.

Though the Tremantian marriages were temporary and less disagreeable than the “till death do us part” Earth marriage she was used to, a cold sweat still broke over her chest at the thought of them. They were geared toward finding a man worthy enough to have a child for, and one thing Meg did know about herself was that she did not want to have a child right now.

Marrying some random guy and having him shower her with attention and gifts and fine cooking sounded heavenly, but she wouldn’t do it. Not when she was one hundred percent certain she wasn’t ready for a kid.

She didn’t explain all of that to the women staring at her, though. “That’s right,” she said instead. Her toes curled in her shoes, her body stiffening with every thunderous tap of Metli’s nails on her screen.

Would they think she was rebuking their customs by not taking part in the marriage ceremonies? Would it ruin her chances of being picked to go on this trip?

Suddenly, this felt far more like a job interview than it had before. Meg’s mouth went dry.

“There is a possibility that you may be recognized while abroad. Are you comfortable with that possibility?” Vila pressed, her painted lips turned down.

Meg’s gaze flitted to Asivva, who gave her a reassuring nod.

“Oh, yeah. Sure,” she said, smiling. She waved her hand.

Metli paused her typing to peer up at Meg. Had her tone been too flippant?

When the Queen’s purple eyes narrowed on her as well, Meg explained. “It’s just, I’ve been studying matehood and how people are recognized. In the past, it seemed that it could happen whenever or wherever. After just a smell, even,” she added. “But I’ve also been researching how it’s happened for the humans, and everyone I’ve contacted has said they were with their guys for a while before they were recognized. I believe…” Meg could hear her own tone and wanted to cringe. It was true she’d done a lot of research on this very point, but was she really trying to lecture her case to a Queen? She cleared her throat and when on. “I believe that since humans are more distantly related to Clecanians, it takes longer for us. You have to be around a person for a while, maybe even be intimate with them for recognition to occur. The shortest time I heard about was with Alice. Luka recognized her in only a few days, but…” Her knee bounced under the table. “There were extenuating circumstances there.”

Asivva, Luka’s sister, nodded with understanding, and Meg was beyond grateful she didn’t have to further explain that the drugged-out primal state Luka had been in when he’d recognized Alice had probably helped his mating instinct along.

Wrinkles appeared between the Queen’s eyebrows as she mulled over Meg’s argument.

“My plan is just to not spend more than a day with any new person if I can help it. No one will recognize me, then,” Meg added in a rush. Perhaps she was trying to assure herself as much as she was these women. If she thought for a moment this trip would result in a lifelong commitment to one man, a veritable stranger, she’d have to seriously reconsider going. But how could she pass up this opportunity? Denial and delusion. That’s how.

The Queen tipped her head at Meg, studying her with slightly bloodshot eyes. Concern leaked into Meg’s mind. Over the last month, the Queen had been looking more and more stressed. Meg couldn’t even imagine the amount of pressure this powerful woman must’ve been under. How to keep an entire world happy while also being fair to the humans. It was a balancing act that required far more care than Meg could dream of.

Suddenly, she felt sorry for wasting this impressive leader’s time. Did she really deserve a face-to-face interview with someone who had that much on the line? Not even a little.

“It’ll be okay,” Meg assured. She let out a slow breath, hating the words about to come out of her mouth, even knowing they needed to be said. “If I am recognized, I…well, I understand what that means and what I’ll have to do.” If—and that was a big if—she was recognized as someone’s mate, she’d need to stay with that person. Anything else would be cruel. Once recognized, a Clecanian would slowly wither if not near their mate. Whether it be physical or mental illness, it was a torturous thing. Since the Clecanians all recognized each other, she’d only ever read accounts of mates being separated by death. She couldn’t imagine how much worse it would be if a human chose not to be with their mate.

“I’m glad to hear that,” Vila commented, not sounding glad at all.

The Queen eyed her for a moment longer. “I believe we’ve asked all of our questions.” The women rose from their seats.

Meg shot up from her chair with far less grace than the Queen. “So…do I have the job? Officially?”

An actual smile formed then. “Yes. I’d be delighted to have you represent our city and your planet.”

She wanted to squeal. But that would be weird and immature, right? Instead, she just grinned like an idiot and, through a tight throat, said, “Thank you.”

Metli stayed behind as the Queen, Asivva, and Vila swanned out of the room. “You’ll leave in one week. As I understand it, you’ve requested Daunet to be your escort?”

Her eager nod would rival any bobblehead. Daunet had accompanied her to Sauven six weeks ago. They’d bonded while sharing a small two-room nest, though she was sure Daunet had wanted to strangle her by the end of their trip. Apart from their excursions to watch the famous Sauvenian marriage games, Meg had complained constantly about not being allowed to tour the rest of the city.

“I’ll make the arrangements and send her your official itinerary in a few days.”

Itinerary. I have an itinerary! Meg couldn’t remember ever hearing a more exquisite word. She could only hope the skyscraper-long list she’d made while researching each city on the planet would coincide with at least a few things on her itinerary. She covertly chewed the inside of her cheek and recited the word in her head a few more times.

“I have to say, it’s wonderful to meet a human who’s so excited to explore our world. The shock of being abducted has dimmed most of your people’s curiosity. I don’t blame them, but…it warms me to see your enthusiasm.”

“You have no idea,” Meg all but shouted.

With a last nod that made Metli’s cool-blue hair bounce, she crossed to the door and left Meg to celebrate the second successful job interview of her life.


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