Alien Warrior’s Second Chance by Sue Mercury
“Raiders! Raiders! Raiders!”
The panicked voice carried through the trees just before gunfire rang out. Anguished screams followed, and eventually, one final blast that echoed through the night.
Raiders. Oh God. Not here.
For several long moments, fear paralyzed Karla. She could scarcely breathe, let alone run and hide. She sat frozen on the sofa as a sudden breeze entered the open windows, ruffling her hair around her shoulders.
Thankfully, her survival instincts soon kicked in, and she managed to reach over and turn off the lamp. Coldness gripped her as the living room was plunged into darkness.
She hated the dark. Always had. But she resisted the urge to turn the lamp back on or reach for a flashlight or a lantern.
Tonight, the darkness might save her.
Maybe the raiders wouldn’t notice Karla’s Kove if there weren’t any lights on. By some stroke of luck, no guests were staying at her bed and breakfast right now. That meant she didn’t need to worry about anyone else turning on lights or making noise that might attract the raiders.
But maybe being alone was worse—if the raiders descended upon her home, who would help her? Her next guests weren’t due for three days. Would they arrive only to discover her cold body sprawled on the floor? A wave of nausea followed the morbid thought, and she suppressed a shudder.
She set the book she’d been reading aside and rose to her feet, then ambled through the house as her eyes adjusted to the total lack of light. Once in the kitchen, she pulled up a loose floorboard and felt around for the box hidden within. She flipped open the lid and withdrew the contraband blaster—a very illegal weapon that used Vaxxlian technology. As she clutched the blaster to her chest, she took a few deep breaths, trying to settle her nerves.
Aside from the occasional breeze, the night had never sounded so quiet. It was eerie as fuck. Even the waves lapping at the dock seemed muted.
Tension wound through her. She needed a better hiding spot. If the raiders came calling, they would undoubtedly visit the kitchen—food replicators were hot commodities these days. Even though she didn’t own a replicator (she served nothing but homemade meals at Karla’s Kove, thank you very much), the thieves would certainly check.
Still holding the blaster, she stood and considered her options. She could hide in a closet, the basement, or maybe the attic. But her thoughts of hiding insidethe house halted when she spotted a red glow amidst the trees, and the next gust of wind brought the unmistakable scent of smoke.
The raiders had set a house on fire.
Her stomach plummeted to the floor. Judging from the direction of the glow, it was probably Hector and Gloria Smith’s residence.
The screams from earlier replayed in her mind, as well as the gunfire. Had the raiders killed the whole Smith family?
She relocated to the porch and peered into the night. Near the mailbox at the end of the gravel lane, the large ‘for sale’ sign flapped lazily in the breeze, its hinges creaking faintly with every swing. Her heart ached as it always did when she looked at the sign, and she quickly averted her gaze.
It had rained around dinnertime and the cloud cover apparently hadn’t moved on yet, for she had no view of the stars or the moon. Of course, the heavy pollution sometimes obscured the night sky anyway. A completely darkened sky at night wasn’t unusual.
Her grip on the blaster tightened. She scanned the trees, searching for any movement—the raiders or perhaps a member of the Smith family who’d escaped the attack. But she saw nothing, not even an owl or a deer or a fox. The absence of life furthered her unease.
It was just after ten. Normally, her neighbors’ homes were still lit up at this time, but the only light was the glow of the fire. That meant her nearest neighbors had likely gotten the same idea as her after hearing the screams and gunfire—turn off all the lights and keep quiet.
Normally, Karla’s Kove was a bright shiny beacon in the night here on Bitterroot Lake, with fairy lights decorating the wraparound porch and the main areas of the house illuminated as well. But not tonight. Thank goodness she didn’t currently have guests, which would have necessitated all the extra lighting. Even though she didn’t like the darkness, she tried to use as little electricity as possible when she didn’t have guests, as the power bill wasn’t cheap.
The glow from the fire strengthened, allowing Karla to easily navigate her way to the boathouse. She slipped inside the old but serviceable building and crouched behind a rack of kayaks, resisting the urge to groan as her body protested the uncomfortable position. Seriously. She was too old for this shit. Her pulse pounded in her ears, making it difficult to listen for approaching raiders.
Please don’t let them come this way.
The act of hiding caused dark memories to resurface. Suddenly she was thirty years old again, holding her breath in the back of a cluttered closet, praying her drunk, angry husband wouldn’t find her.
She heard the familiar hum of the all-terrain gliders that were frequently used in this part of Montana, followed by voices and bawdy laughter, and just like that she was brought back to the terrifying present.
Thanks to the glow of the fire, they wouldn’t miss Karla’s Kove as they passed through this part of the lakeside community. The hum of the gliders grew louder, and her stomach flipped.
Would they ransack her house for valuables before setting it ablaze?
Her heart swelled with despair. The possibility of losing everything was almost too much.
The ‘for sale’ sign continued flapping in the wind, the faint creaks a reminder that if the bed and breakfast burned to the ground, she would be left with nothing. Her insurance had lapsed over two years ago—she hadn’t been able to keep up with the payments. It was all she could do to pay the power bill each month.
The raiders glided directly by the boathouse, and she counted their shadows as they passed. Four. Only four of them.
Could a scared (but super pissed off) sixty-two-year-old woman with a blaster take on four raiders?
After several minutes of indecisiveness, she peeked out the window and saw the gliders lined up near the house. A heavily bearded raider stood on the porch smoking a cigarette, an old-fashioned shotgun slung over his shoulder. Apparently, he was the lookout. His friends were probably inside tearing her house apart searching for valuables. Her heart sank when she thought about her grandmother’s box of jewelry.
But anger flared inside her when she heard the distinct sound of breaking dishes and glasses. Before she realized what she was doing, she was already marching out of the boathouse, holding the blaster high as she approached the porch. Those bastards were wrecking her kitchen.
The man with the cigarette looked at her and laughed. He didn’t even reach for his shotgun. He just laughed. Another asshole who didn’t see her, a jackass who didn’t think she could possibly be a threat because of her age and sex. Never mind that she was holding a blaster.
She hated feeling invisible, or useless, and she was annoyed that this scumbag couldn’t even be bothered to reach for his weapon. She was livid and holding a blaster—a little fucking reverence would be nice.
She swallowed hard and aimed the weapon at the bearded man who’d resumed smoking his cigarette. He’d stopped laughing, but even in the dim light she could see he wore a smirk. She was a joke to him, a minor inconvenience at most. Her fury increased.
“This is a blaster,” she said, her finger on the trigger, “made with Vaxxlian technology. One shot and you’re toast, fuckface. Now, I want you and your friends to leave my property at once. I won’t ask twice.”
The humor faded from his dark eyes, and he shifted uncomfortably in place as he stared her down. He nodded at her blaster. “Bullshit. That’s just a toy. Nice try, old hag.” He gave a great, belly-heaving bark of laughter, then dropped his cigarette onto the top step and smashed it under his boot.
“Could a toy do this?” Karla fired the blaster at the top step, a few inches from his foot. The red beam struck the porch, leaving behind a deep smoking impression in the wood. She lifted her chin and reveled in the look of shock that replaced his smirk.
What happened next would haunt Karla for the rest of her life. Sometimes she would convince herself she ought to have remained hidden in the boathouse. Other times, she would tell herself she’d done the right thing, or that she’d had no choice.
But she couldn’t change the past.
She could only live with what she’d done.
When the bearded man reached for his shotgun, she blasted him through the front door with one pull of the trigger. When his three friends spilled outside to see what was happening, all holding weapons of their own at the ready, she repeatedly pressed the trigger, sending red beams of death at the remaining raiders. One of them managed a few shots in her direction, but thankfully he missed.
When silence once again descended upon the quaint lakeside retreat that was Karla’s Kove, all that could be heard was the lapping of water against the dock and the creaking of the ‘for sale’ sign in the wind.
She stared at the blaster in her hand as the gravity of her actions settled over her. She’d taken out four criminals who would’ve killed her if given the chance, but she’d done so using an illegal weapon.
The friend she’d bought the weapon from had pressed upon her the importance of never getting caught. If the authorities discovered she had a blaster in her possession, the best she could hope for was a lifetime jail sentence—the laws pertaining to alien weaponry were that strict.
She swallowed hard and moved closer to the raiders. She wasn’t strong enough to drag their bodies away, so she couldn’t hide all the evidence and pretend none of this had ever happened. If only.
But an idea came to her just as sirens sounded in the distance. She ran to the end of the dock and tossed the blaster as far as she could.
She stared across the dark lake and summoned her best acting skills. Maybe being an older woman—an invisible woman—would work to her advantage in this situation, and a plan formed in her mind as the sirens drew nearer.
I’ll claim a fifth raider took out his friends with a blaster after they all got into an altercation. I’ll sell Karla’s Kove as quickly as possible, even if I must sell it dirt cheap.
Then I’ll run far, far away.
I’ll finally leave Earth.