Sofie sprang to her feet as Andromeda Five stalked away. Her eyes stung. That searing pain in her ribcage intensified. She couldn’t stand it, the empress brushing her aside. Not like this. Not like this.
“Listen,” she pleaded. “It makes so much se–“
The massive ship lurched.
Sofie stumbled, crashing to her knees. A pained yelp squeaked out of her mouth. Heavy metal twisted and groaned all around them. The ship shuddered and rolled, sending them both slamming into the bulkhead. The distant screeching of an alarm competed with the staccato beat of weapons fire. Nauseating pain registered. The lights went out inside Sofie’s head.
When she regained consciousness, the chaos had settled, but everything had changed.
Someone was calling her name. Sofie’s eyes opened but it was bright, so painfully bright. Her eyes squeezed shut. She tried to move. She couldn’t. Her heart was galloping. She couldn’t steady her ragged breathing. Her skin was crawling with nerves. Again she tried to move. Again it was no use.
She tried opening her eyes again but the blinding brightness burned. The pained whimper that escaped her parched lips was feeble and croaky. She could vaguely remember the sensation of someone kneeling over her. Flames bursting to life all around her. The sound of gunshots drawing near. She got a flash of a moment of absolute quiet. The floor littered with broken bodies. Her body soaked in their blood.
She tried to think. Pain exploded in her head. Her stomach lurched. Something wet dripped on her face. Sweet, metallic flooded her nostrils. She dared to open her eyes again. Andromeda loomed, shielding her from the worst of the light.
Tears trickled from the empress’ eyes. Ruby red tears. They dripped down her cheeks, staining the neck of her turquoise cowl. Andromeda Five brushed at her eyes with her bare hand. She seemed vaguely taken aback when it came away smeared with her own blood.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sofie frowned, straining to get her uncooperative limbs to work. “Why can’t I move?”
“Fluctuating graviton restraints.” The empress answered. “I can’t allow you to move about freely on this ship anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” Sofie demanded. An unsteady, throbbing she couldn’t place wreaked havoc with her eardrums. “This violates the terms of–.”
“The blood contract is void.” Andromeda Five shook her head. “I’m truly sorry, Sofie.”
Her regret seemed genuine. This only made Sofie even more confused.
Gazing intently at the ancient one, Sofie noticed something disturbing. She could see Andromeda Five’s pulse beating at her throat in tandem with the beating noise. Heartbeats. She realized. She was hearing the distinct sounds of two hearts beating.
“What did you do to me?”
“There was an incident.” Andromeda Five said in a low voice, knowing fully well that wouldn’t be enough to satisfy her human charge.
Sofie’s voice rose as her panic heightened.
“What did you do?”
“The Celeste was under attack. Pirates,” Andromeda Five explained. “My crew fended them off but you sustained a fatal injury.”
How was that even possible? Sofie felt fine. Better than she’d ever felt in her whole life. Her eyes went wide as the only available possibility hit home.
“You made me one of your kind.” She breathed then her brow furrowed. “But you refused when I asked before.”
“This is not what I wanted for you, Sofie.” The empress shook her head, sorrowful. “This isn’t what I wanted at all.”
Andromeda Five blindsided Sofie with her stark honesty. “I didn’t want you to die. So, I broke a vow I’ve kept for over two hundred years.”
The empress’ misery was palpable. This made that bruised feeling in Sofie’s heart rear its ugly head.
“You gave me exactly what I wanted.” Sofie declared in a soft, hurt voice. “Was it really such a terrible thing?”
“You became very violent after I turned you.” The empress hissed, scowling. “You killed many of my crew.”
Andromeda Five slit her left wrist open with a long, sharp nail. Blood bubbled up to the surface of her skin. She held her wrist over Sofie’s mouth, just out of reach.
The enticing scent tickled Sofie’s nose. A fiery sort of hunger blossomed. Sharp, deadly fangs exploded in her mouth. She strained to reach it. She heard herself growl low in her throat. She needed it. She’d absolutely kill for it.
“You see, Sofie?” Andromeda Five murmured, turning away.
The direction her own thoughts took made Sofie’s blood run cold. She had. Hadn’t she? Thirsted for blood. Killed for it. The horrifying sights and sounds came tumbling back into her memories. The screams. The taste of human flesh. The blood. The absolute thrill of hunting down her prey.
“No! I didn’t do that.” Sofie’s voice trembled and broke under the weight of her own helpless and escalating horror. “I couldn’t have…”