Guide to some non-English words in this chapter:

Aha: an alien lord or esquire.

Qmalo: The country on the alien planet to which Mia is taken.

Qmalian: Natives of Qmalo.

Please note use of the word Purchase: Qmalians sometimes use it as a noun describing the victim they have bought at the market.

1.1

Misty bands of grey light swirled into Mia's brain like smoke entering a broken window. Everything seemed fuzzy. She groped for certainty. 'My name is Mia. Sure, I am a woman. I got breasts. I have a face with a nose and a mouth.' She tried to feel herself as she said those words, but her hands were bound.

Phantom sounds droned in her head. A meaningless blend of tones ranging from low to high. Her left ear whined. She felt like she was being transported on a wave, like she could suddenly be thrust into a void. Time and distance had lost meaning, everything merged into one confused hopeless fog.

Her eyes opened without her bidding, and the gray shadows that'd been whirling in her head shifted to the corners. A new world fixed itself before her, hazy at the edges, but not so blurred as to prevent her making sense of it.

"She is awake," a strange, hollow voice sounded. "Now, Aha, you can take a good look at your purchase in her conscious state."

"No need to worry," another of those scary voices replied. "She is the correct blood type and that's all I need. She will relieve the pressure on my organ waiting list."

'Organ waiting list?' Mia shuddered as those words tore into her confused brain.

Before she could let out a scream, a flurry of movement broke. Heavy steps and light ones. A hand passed over her face and landed on her shoulder. Its touch felt cold, as if it were that of a monster who'd just crawled out of a pile of snow.

"It's time I got going," that gravelly voice spoke again.

A few more beams of light pulsed into her eyes, and then everything went dark. Time and distance again became one thing that was just plunging and plunging.

'How the hell did I get here?' she asked herself. 'And for that matter, where in hell is this place I'm calling 'here'?'

She raked her brain for memories. Scenes from what she could hazily recall as the last four hours of her regular celebrity existence played back in snowy vignettes: the limo ride from the glitzy hotel to the entertainment venue. The throngs that greeted her and her entourage as they emerged from the gleaming sliding doors of stretched Lincolns. The walk over the red carpet, into the seductively lit venue. Little had she known…

"Help me lift her. I have to be on my way." That ghostly voice reverberated once more.

1.2

'Organ waiting list,' the words still rang in her head as that sensation of rough hands holding her returned. Now it felt like she was being raised but that didn't last long. She soon heard a thud, and felt her body crush onto a surface. A pain plowed into her as a result of the jolt, but a minor compensation of it was that her vision returned in full. She no longer glimpsed mere shadows and hazy balls of light, but full figures of objects and ornaments. Presently, an image of a nasty-looking mustached man filled her vision. The man's head was closely shaved and he had scary grey-yellow eyes. He wore robs which made him look religious. His skin was a sickly pale orange, and that gave him a ghost-like look.

"Who are you, and where am I?" Mia held up her bound hands to the man. "Where are you taking me to?"

"Call me Aha Ishobad." A crooked smile came over the man's pudgy lips. "Welcome to Qmalo. Enjoy the ride. It's your last."

"What's Qmalo, and who are you?" Mia tried to bark but the words came out weak.

"I'm your new owner," the man growled, erasing his crooked smile, and that sent needles of fear into Mia's stomach.

"My owner?" Mia bristled. "What do you mean?"

"I just bought you. Weren't you awake when I sealed the deal?"

"That's ridiculous and inhuman. Let me go."

"No, I won't," the strange man retorted. "And you are right, I am not human. I'm proudly Qmalian, and I now own you."

"Rubbish. I demand you untie me; I want to go back home."

"Earthling, why would I want to let you go. I have a long list of patients waiting for organs."

"Organs! Now get serious," Mia jerked in her bondage. "Just where the hell do I fit in that business."

"You will see." The man looked at her as though she were stupid. "I have a list of very noble and respectable citizens who could use your body's parts."

Courage had been building in Mia, but now it drained away as she saw how resolute the man was. He turned his face away from her, fetched a set of keys from the pocket of his robes and started an engine.

'Damn, I'm imprisoned inside a vehicle.'

"Stop, don't take me away." Mia flexed her arms against the cord tying her wrists. "Get me out of here." The cord was too tight, though, and it bit into her skin.

She kicked her legs against the rope strapping her ankles. That one wasn't too tight, but it still didn't come off.

"Don't even bother trying. You have no way of escaping."

Hopeless, Mia slumped back onto the uncomfortable surface.

The vehicle started moving and then gained speed as its engine got louder. The floor she lay on creaked and heaved. Soon the man pulled a lever and the vehicle leaped into the air. The roughness of the movement made Mia's stomach sick.

As they nosed farther up, it became clear there would be no quick return. She lay back in resignation. As she became still, more images from her last hours in New York City streamed back into her consciousness. She saw herself getting into the club on Manhattan's glitzy 10th Avenue, all dressed for a night-long gig in a glinting outfit with chains and sequins and studs. On her head she had her signature kitten ears, and on her feet some long, pointy heels. Then the music clicked in and she wowed the crowd. Just like she loved doing. Just like she got paid a million a gig to do. Then probably just one sparkling hour down the line, the music suddenly went dead. The lights blinked and the whole club went dark. For a moment, she and the audience thought it was a joke meant to scare everyone, but soon learned it wasn't when strange noises began to emanate from the ceiling and from backstage. The doors flew open. Fans began to scream with fear…