Groaning, Ava woke again, feeling a blanket on her body. She curled into the sheets, keeping her eyes closed. Maybe she hadn't been captured. Maybe it had been just a bad dream.
However, the sheets were silky, and the smell was all wrong. Ava still kept her eyes closed, hoping she'd wake up.
"Don't pretend to be asleep."
Ava darted upright, the lights dimmed. "What the hell?"
A figure stood, "You are safe; no need to be frightened."
She looked closer. It was him! The one who gave her food before she passed out. "Did you drug me?"
"Only to sneak you off the mother ship." He turned up the brightness. "I do apologize."
Ava turned her head, "So where am I?"
"At the rebel base back on Earth."
"What is this, Star Wars?"
He cocked his head. "You have attitude." A smile curved his mouth. "I like it."
Ava crossed her arms, "Glad I can please you."
He sat at the foot of the bed. "Not all of us believe in kidnapping humans."
She scooted away from him. "Why should I trust you? You drugged me."
As if on cue, the door opened, a human girl with blonde hair walking in. "Nash has rescued many of us, bringing us here."
Ava narrowed her eyes. She didn't fully buy what they said. She'd seen a lot of messed-up shit happen in a short amount of time.
"Not all the Wanderers are bad." The girl smiled, "I was just like you when Nash took me from the ship and brought me here, but I quickly learned many of them are good."
"Besides, I haven't lied to you." Nash leaned toward her. "Nor do I intend to."
"Well, you did admit to drugging me."
"Which I am sorry about."
Ava forced herself to relax her shoulders. "Fine." She blinked, "Wait, I'm back on Earth?"
"I want to go home."
"You can't. It's not safe."
Okay, she'd give him that. "Where am I, though?"
"One of the recovery rooms." The girl grabbed a bag, walking over. "Hold still. I need to measure your vitals."
Nash rose, "I will leave you to it, Doctor."
When he left, Ava released a breath. "Are you really here voluntarily?"
She laughed, taking her vitals, "Yes, I like helping these deviants and the humans they rescue."
"Will I meet the other humans?" Ava ached for human contact.
"When I'm done examining you." She put a blood pressure cuff on Ava's arm, squeezing it tight. "I'm Christine."
"Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too."
The rest of the examination went without a hitch, and after handing Ava some vitamins, Christine led her to the main compound area.
Outside, the sun beamed down of them, warming the air and her skin. It'd been a while since she could freely stand outside. She took a moment to enjoy the sunshine before shifting her attention.
Ava was surprised by how many humans were around, how many were women, and by how they worked side by side with the Wanderers. Huh. Her imagination failed to give her this possibility.
Christine grinned, "Everyone's first reaction."
"Do you blame us?"
"No, but it's still funny to watch."
Ava smirked for the first time in weeks. It felt good. She rolled her shoulders and neck.
Another woman bound toward her, her skin tan. "Is this our newcomer?"
"Ooh, pretty." Lola wrapped an arm around her. "Let me show the base."
Ava turned back to Christine. "Aren't you gonna help me?"
"I'm the doctor. Lola is our rep, and she's much more equipped to help you now." Christine waved, walking away.
Lola laughed, "Don't worry, no one's gonna hurt you here."
That wasn't what Ava worried about, letting the excited girl lead her around.
"Our base is becoming too crowded," Dae'lon, the leader of the rebel group, stood at the front of the room, his arms crossed. "We have to do something about it, or the soldiers will find and attack us."
Nash sat in the back of the room, pressing his lips together. It was true. The more humans they rescued, the more room they needed, and the bigger of a target they became.
However, Nash wasn't prepared to stop his efforts. Humans were still being captured. And it wasn't in his nature to turn a blind eye.
"We have to do something," Mark, a human male and one of the team leaders, leaned forward in his seat. "Can't you build more structures?"
Dae'lon made a face, "Not without attracting the wrong attention."
As it was, they occupied most of the premade buildings in the abandoned town the rebel group settled at, adding their own structures.
"We could repair some of the other buildings and houses to use as storage." Nash raised a hand. "Free the bigger ones for the people."
Dae'lon stroked his chin. "Very well. Mark, lead this project."
Mark nodded, he and his group exited the room, Nash hiding a smile. Mark always led the construction projects, having been raised in the town.
Dae'lon dismissed everyone else, but held Nash back, speaking their native tongue. "I need to speak with you."
"I know you love rescuing humans from the mother ship, but until we create more room, I'm stopping that portion of your mission."
Nash frowned, "Not sure I can do that, sir."
"Yes, I'm aware of your rebellious nature, but this isn't permanent."
"Excellent, you're dismissed."
Bowing his head, Nash meandered outside. He stopped, allowing the sun to touch his skin. The star for his homeworld was dim and didn't generate the warmth the sun did.
He quickly spotted Ava, which he now knew was her name, being led around by Lola. She appeared rather uncomfortable, turning her head every few seconds.
Nash headed in her direction, hands in his pockets. "Hello there."
The females stopped, Lola grinning, "Hey, Nashboy."
Ava waved but said nothing.
"May I give her the tour?"
Lola nodded, "Sure."
Thank you, Ava mouthed as she skipped away.
Nash winked, "I saw you wanting to run." He held out an arm, having read about many human behaviors and customs. "My lady."
Smiling, she hooked her arm through his, her warmth pleasing him.
He smiled, "Let me show you everything."
What seemed like hours later and after a complete, thorough tour of the compound, Ava sat in their version of a cafeteria, eating dinner. She hadn't realized how hungry she was until Nash concluded the walk around.
As she ate, Ava noticed her Wanderer guide didn't have much food on his tray, and what was on there was soup and salad. Where was the protein?
He tilted his head, "What?"
"Where's your meat?"
"Wanderers don't eat meat."
"Yes, with the exception of certain fish."
"So," Nash leaned forward, "what do you think of the base?"
"It's nice." Although not very homey, but that wasn't a deal-breaker. "How did you guy set things up so fast? It's only been weeks."
"We have systems and technology which allow us to quickly build the structures we require." Nash sipped his drink. "What does your necklace represent?"
Ava clutched the heart-shaped pendant. "It's been in my family for generations."
"But what is it."
She laughed nervously, "Oh, it's a heart."
"No, it's not."
"Not an actual heart, no, but a different, more loving version of a heart." She examined it, smiling as a lump formed in her throat.
"I see, so it's an emotional symbol."
Nash looked contemplative, "We have symbols like that too, although I don't have any heirlooms to show you."
"Not all heirlooms are jewelry. It depends on the family." Ava finished her meal. "So do the Wanderers actually need women?"
"Yeah, we do." He folded his hand. "Years ago, a virus decimated our female population, either killing or sterilizing them. And while a portion managed not to become sick, there aren't enough unaffected females to support us anymore."
"Oh my God, I am so sorry." She had the urge to take his hand but wasn't sure it was appropriate, not knowing Wanderer customs.
"And human females are genetically compatible, although some assistant might be required to produce offspring."
It made more sense why they wanted young women now. "Why attack us, though?"
"Our rulers don't respect humans."
"Of course not. We are backwoods primitive creatures who don't have spaceships after all."
Nash smirked, "You have much spunk."
"I know." Ava grinned. "No one can take that away from me."
"No one should either."
She was starting to like this Wanderer. Maybe she would like it at the compound after all.