Melanie is an author, designer, photographer, and flight attendant all rolled into one. She has told stories all her life and finds her passion in sharing the plots that spin through her head. She now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her two dachshund-chihuahua dogs. She loves the beauty of the Pacific Northwest that feeds her imagination.
The whirring of machinery disrupts the peaceful spring afternoon, and my gaze snaps heavenward. Two heartbeats later an imperial jumper transport appears above the village as though materializing from the clouds. Steam bursts from its sides as it settles in the meadow just outside the village.
Silence grips the area until the transport doors open, and armed Opprimere soldiers emerge like cockroaches from a rotten shed. Gasps ripple all around me and the pungent scent of sweat fills my nostrils.
It’s been five years since they last came to collect their human tax for the Empire of Mericon. There’s only one reason I can think of why the Imperial Opprimere have returned?
I hold my breath as the woman stares at her screen. I can’t read the words on the screen, but the light near her head remains red. My heart pounds in my chest. Will she stop Leahli? Will the Opprimere come and take her away? The light turns green, and the metal bar swings open. I motion Leahli into the crowd. She needs to get away from the gate before any soldiers appear.
The metal bar blocks me from following her. I try not to fidget as the narrow green light moves down my body. A beep sounds to my right.
“Eridale Storm.” The monotone voice spits out my name unemotionally.
A hush sweeps across the crowd, and every pair of eyes in the immediate vicinity turns toward me. The muscles in my jaw tighten, and my gaze meets with Leahli’s. With a nod she blends with the people on the other side of the gateway. The woman at the computer stares at me, her eyes wide and her mouth open. My heart jumps into my throat. Even the guards start to notice the unnatural silence.