Stars Passing By will tell the story of Tripp and Rosie, two of the original characters from my Starship fanfic Learning to Dance. You can find parts 1-11 here.
Thank you, always, for reading! This chapter picks up exactly where the last left off… hope you enjoy!
The march to the altar room was the longest walk of Rosie’s life.
The other two Rangers, women she knew by name and rank and blood type, were struggling, but Rosie didn’t see the point, not when your captors were eleven feet tall, and that was excluding horns. She walked as primly as she could, step after step, a steady pace, a determined one. She’d already imagined all of the things the cow-men might possibly be interested in using human women for. She put them from her mind now.
The bricked floor beneath her feet rumbled as they drew nearer to the assembled lowing. Rosie kept her eyes forward, watching the square of light drawing ever closer. Her heartbeat throbbed in her ears, her pulse elevated, but she did not want them to know. She would not give them the satisfaction.
A momentary flash of light, down a dark hallway as she passed, nearly caused her heart to stop altogether.
It was so brief, but she’d know those eyes anywhere. Her heart seemed to beat out the rhythm of his name. Tripp is here. Tripp is here. Tripp is here. She didn’t know whether to be relieved for herself or fearful for him.
The sound once they reached their destination was deafening, a hundred cows bawling out all at once in impossibly deep voices, a wordless cry to her ears, over and over and over again. She and the other two Rangers who’d been selected were pushed toward a great altar, formed of stone and elaborately carved with the image of a woman with horns, dressed in finery, a cruel and mighty look upon her face.
Rosie and the other Rangers were tied one by one to the three poles that lined the altar. The gathered cow-men were lowing, fists raised, and there was bloodlust in their eyes.
A sacrifice, then.
It wasn’t until the first, curved scythe fell upon her comrade’s neck that the reality of the situation they were in hit her, sharply and suddenly.
She gave a cry, and turned her face away as the Ranger’s blood splattered the altar. It felt warm upon her skin. Feeling suddenly weak, she sagged against the ropes that held her.
The cow-men roared.
And then another sound, one she recognized. A human roar to answer that of the beasts, a man with everything to lose but not before raining destruction upon those who would ruin him. Rosie raised her head.
Tripp was coming for her.
He led a contingent of Rangers from the Eagle – every man that had been left behind, or so it seemed to Rosie – zappers firing, voiced raised in a defiant challenge. The cow-men were slow to react, but they were strong, and it seemed to take a lot of zapper fire to fell them. Commander Up was there, and Sam, and oh, gosh, even the cook – but Rosie’s eyes were locked on Tripp, as if she could keep him safe simply by willing it so.
He was a blur, a blue-uniformed, angry blur. Somehow he’d gotten hands on one of the cow-men’s scythes, and it was proving to be a much more effective weapon than the Ranger’s zappers as he sliced and ducked and whirled his way through the crowded altar floor. The Rangers pressed on, but the cow-men’s resistance did not falter. It was not enough.
Then a door on the opposite side of the room burst open with a rush of angry screams. Rosie smiled.
“Good girl, Audrey,” she said.
It had taken all of the precious few seconds she’d had before being dragged away to whisper a few rushed instructions in her medic’s ear. Audrey’s tear-stained face had barely seemed to register her words, and Rosie had worried that the bride had been too much in shock to follow through.
She needn’t have.
The women of the Eagle, armed with their captors’ own weapons, threw themselves into the fray, and now the cow-men were surrounded, pressed on both sides, impaled upon their own scythes. Rosie struggled against her restraints, and then all at once Tripp bounded out of the mess and onto the altar where she stood, breathing heavily, his borrowed scythe dripping. They stared at each other.
He was going to kiss her.
She was going to let him.
He had begun to move toward her when Audrey, her wedding dress now beyond recognition, clambered onto the altar. “Rosie!” she gasped, and Tripp froze. “It worked, your plan worked! When I got the word round that you had disabled power to the prison gates and weapons room-”
She stopped, eyes darting between Rosie and Tripp, and flushed as red as her dress.
Tripp was looking at her in awe. “You disabled the power? To the prison and the weapons room?”
Rosie was secretly pleased.
He moved closer, carefully maneuvering the scythe to sever her restraints while Audrey did the same for the other Ranger still alive on the altar. When she was free, she flung her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder, in the crease of his neck that was made just for her. He held her tightly, his head pressed against her own. Tears hung from the edges of her eyelashes.
“Now!” bellowed Commander Up, and they broke apart from each other to look, Rosie hastily wiping her face. The cow-men were completely surrounded, Rangers holding scythes and zappers all around them. The Commander’s face was dangerous, his voice low but carrying. “You will explain.”
He had his own scythe pointed at the throat of the one who appeared to be the head cow-man, or at the very least, was wearing more gold than all the rest of them. He had fallen to his knees, and looked at Up with a combination of hatred and despair.
Tripp took her hand, and Rosie could hear the translation of the cow-man’s words through his communicator.
“We are the slaves of Bata,” he said in a clogged, rough voice. “We have lost everything – our home planet, our livelihood, our females-”
“Yeah, because you sacrificed them all?” Tripp muttered under his breath. Rosie squeezed his hand.
“- in our search for the promised land, the great Milky Way! Bata has been angry with us – we only offer females to placate her-”
Up held up his hand. The anger in his voice was clear. “You may have found your promised land if you had chosen another path,” he said. “If you had chosen friendship and peace. But you did not, and now you will suffer, you and your dying race.”
He turned to an officer beside him. “Disable the ship. Engines, communications, shields, everything. Take anything they might use to fix it. Leave only food, and the means to survive. Only to survive.” He turned back to the cowering leader before him. “We will not kill you, or your herd,” he said. “That would be too kind.” He raised his voice so that all could hear. “Instead, you shall float, a dead ship in space, powerless, friendless, alone, to face the doom you have brought upon yourself. You shall never hurt another person again. And you shall never forget why. Take him away.”
“Why would they have done this?” Rosie whispered. “How could they have believed in something so much that they would destroy their own race, brutally attack innocent others?”
“I wonder how many they’ve killed before,” Tripp said. He was still shaking, still clutching tight to the scythe in the hand that wasn’t holding hers. She reached up and gently touched his face.
The newly-wedded couple reunited, pressing frantic kisses to each other’s faces, pulling back to make sure the other was unhurt. “I thought-” Audrey said, her voice trembling. “I thought-“
“I know,” Sam said, crushing her to him and looking for all the world like he was never planning to let her go.
“I couldn’t have raised the attack without Sam, you know,” Tripp said loudly. “He went back to the ship to recruit the others while I gathered the team here.”
“And Audrey rallied the prisoners on this end,” Rosie added. “I think you both deserve promotions.”
“I’ll be sure to mention it to the Commander,” Tripp said. Sam and Audrey looked at each other proudly.
“Did you leave anyone behind to protect the ship?” Rosie asked, as she took the scythe from Tripp and lay it carefully on the altar.
He smiled ruefully. “Nope. Not a single man would stay. Don’t tell the cow-men, though.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist and buried herself in his warmth, in his strength, in him once more.