1 Prologue

Floating through the vacuum of space wasn't Tejeda's thing. Not knowing which way was up or down made him want to puke his guts out. But he couldn't. Not in that spacesuit. That would have meant staying in his own puke indefinitely. The image made him want to vomit even harder.

What was the point anyway? Weeks, months, or even years could pass till a spaceship would drop out of hyperspace in this god-forsaken part of the universe. It would have been best to take out his helmet and breathe in the void. But the cold touch of the spoon that hung on his neck strengthened him. Tejeda's resolve was mightier than ever. He wasn't about to let his poor lovely Carmen float in space forever.

The Nubilae slowed down his breathing to preserve the oxygen and entered a peaceful state of meditation. His plan to pass as a human hadn't worked out too well for him and led him into this predicament. Tejeda sighed. He should have known better than that and not mess around with his prey.

The contemplation of previous events was abruptly interrupted by a ragged ship that passed by at impulse speed. A beam of light caught him in its gentle embrace, moving him towards the ship's hangar bay. Tejeda came close enough to observe that numerous patches covered the vessel's exterior. It had more stitches than he got after his body was almost torn apart in his fight with the Alpha Pirates.

Once he reached the entrance to the hangar bay, the beam dropped him from two meters above the floor. The familiar feeling of gravity was a delight. As a result, Tejeda overlooked the little back pain produced by the fall. This would not have been an issue if he had been in his normal form, since he didn't have a spine to maintain. Humans were such fragile beings!

The Nubilae took off his helmet and took in the air from the ship. It was better than the one from his spacesuit's tank, but it had a horrid taste of mold. Was that what glued this ship's pieces together and kept it running?

When he shifted on his side to get up, Tejeda glimpsed a pair of black boots. As he slowly raised his head, a woman's figure came into view. Her bodily shape was flawless even beneath the ragged grey uniform. Several thoughts raced through Tejeda's mind, most of which revolved around the physiological differences between males and females.

'Maybe next time, I will try to turn into a woman. That would be interesting.' As this idea rooted in Tejeda's brain, a dumb smile appeared on his face.

"Get up, scumbag!" The woman's voice was rough and showed she was accustomed to giving orders.

Two other men dressed in similar grey uniforms helped him get up and out of his spacesuit. The woman measured Tejeda from top to bottom with a disinterested look. He was tall and a bit muscular, his shoulders broader than those of the men next to him. Was that a good thing? Was he handsome? Tejeda never understood the standards of human females.

"I am Shayla, and I am the second in charge of this ship," the woman introduced herself. "Who are you?"

"Tejeda." He gave her a plain, simple answer. If she wanted more details, she would have to ask.

It was not long before she raised another question. "What is that?"

The woman vaguely pointed toward his neck. For a second, Tejeda wavered. Had he lost his human form? Moving a hand to his neck, he found his beloved spoon and laughed. "Oh, this? Shayla, meet Carmen, my trusted companion."

The second in command raised an eyebrow before asking, "And what exactly is Carmen?"

Tejeda giggled, remembering that almost no one knew what a spoon was since now the air provided the needed nourishments directly into the body and eating had become obsolete. "Carmen is an ancient tool used to insert food into the body through the mouth. It is called a spoon."

The mere mention of inserting food into the mouth caused Shayla to gasp in revulsion. She clicked her tongue and gestured to one of the men to come closer. "Trey, check Tejeda to see if he is a Nubilae. We can't have those bastards infiltrate our ship."

The smile on Tejeda's face widened before he opened his mouth, letting the man check his mouth's palate. The guy gave the verdict. "He is clean."

Of course, the Nubilae was grinning. It wasn't for nothing that he extracted the poisonous fang that was growing on the palate of each member of his species. Without that surgical procedure, Tejeda couldn't properly do his job. Indeed, he had fewer weapons at his disposal now, but to hear how people cleared him out every time because of this made all the pain worthwhile.

Shayla gestured for him to follow. The inner part of the ship was in even worse shape than the outside. Wall panels hung off from their hinges as wires sparkled electricity into thin air. Maybe Tejeda was better off drifting in space than being crushed inside this vessel when it would fall apart.

The woman stopped when they reached a vast cargo hold which had been transformed into an arena. More than a hundred people crammed next to the walls leaving the center of the room free for something.

A man even taller than Tejeda came next to him. The man was more of a monster than a human, showing muscles in places where the Nubilae didn't think he needed them. Shayla pointed to a weapon's rake. It was full of axes, swords, spears, and other stuff that Tejeda couldn't name. He smiled, thinking that humans were still using ancient weapons to inflict pain, but they had forgotten what a spoon was. Their sadistic tendencies were interesting indeed.

"You two will fight to the death. The winner will become a member of the crew. The loser will be floated. Pick a weapon." Shayla gave her speech and then joined the crowd.

The muscle man picked a hammer. Tejeda smiled and liberated Carmen from the chain around his neck.

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