Priina lived on a farm, and one night, she broke the laws of Cial and ventured through the wall to find some lost herd animals. She finds the remains of her beasts and is attacked by a creature that is far beyond her experience.
She survives the encounter but is changed forever more by the exposure to the alien beast. Her people ship her off world so that her contamination will not spread into a susceptible population.
Six years at Citadel Thoola gives her an education, self-control and an appreciation for the variety of species in the Alliance with their differences embedded in their very genes.
She is summoned to active duty at Citadel Lowel and the man sent to collect her is the one who saved her six years earlier. Can Rhanos induce her into a partnership when she refuses to let her instincts rule her, even a little bit?
Priina watched her flock, counting carefully. Two missing. “Damn it!”
She climbed down from her perch and walked against the wall, looking for the spot where her beasts had slipped through. Her mother normally had the task of seeing to the wall at night, but when she fell from the stones and broke her leg Priina had been forced to leave school to help out at the farm.
The coppery smell of blood sent a sense of unease through her. She flashed her light over the base of the wall where it met the field. Her beasts had clawed a hole, and something on the other side had finished it.
She knelt and shone her light through the gap. Priina struggled out of her tool belt but took her light with her. She had to find out what happened to her varek. If there was a predator near the wall, her people needed to know.
Struggling through the two-foot expanse of stone, Priina crawled on her belly toward the exterior of the wall. The blood lined the curve of carved stone under her, and she knew that varek bodies were what she was going to find.
The moon and starlight was different when she exited the hole and stood. She kept her light off and at her side while she got her bearings. The wet trail of blood extended off into the night, so she followed with her senses on high alert.
The remains were in savaged condition. Priina winced and realized that the warnings she had been given her entire life were not simply empty threats. There was something huge and dangerous outside the walls of the inner country, and she had just walked into its hunting ground.
Having confirmed that her animals were slaughtered and did not need rescue, she made her way back to the wall, clinging to the edge and trying to blend in.
She was ten feet away from the hole in the wall when she heard the low growl far too close to her.
Instinct screamed at her to run, but she moved slowly, carefully feeling her way along the wall. She felt the first claw tear through her clothing and mark her arm. The second spun her around to face the long muzzle, red eyes and furred bulk. The long claws were covered with blood, as were the lips and jaws.
Pain was burning her limbs and the scream froze in her throat as his gnashing teeth closed an inch from her neck.
He struck her with his claws again and again when she didn’t react the way he wished her to.
The only noise in the night was her ragged breathing and the harsh gasps of her attacker. Another growl suddenly sounded in the darkness, and her attacker was removed from her with the sweep of another clawed hand.
Priina was beyond pain. She crawled back toward the hole and shifted herself through, inch by inch. Sobbing was no use, so she struggled to haul herself free of the gap. She grabbed for her tool belt and pulled the sealant free. Her hands slipped with blood, but she depressed the sealant and shot the entire canister in the gap.
Now that she was free, she gasped and sobbed. Priina lifted her tool belt and hit the emergency signal. The beacon would bring help, and hopefully, she would survive to see it.