When a piece of the Sanctuary 69 station crashed to Earth, Meichol finds himself on the outskirts of a destroyed desert city. Wounded, he prays he can find more suitable shelter before night falls. Before he can get far, though, he meets Nick. The human nurse helps Meichol back to a basement shelter with other survivors, and they strike up a friendship--and mutual attraction. But the struggle is far from over, especially when another meteor strike lands another Sanctuary denizen named Corin practically in their laps. The three men, from very different cultures and races, somehow manage to find a way to work together while struggling to survive.
Meichol Yssiu climbed out of the hulking wreckage of what had been a piece of the Sanctuary 69 station. Every square inch of his body ached, and he tasted blood. He glanced back into the gaping hole. Smoke billowed out, but Meichol didn't hear or see anyone else. He hadn't been the only one in that section. He started back toward the hole and peered inside. Waving a hand to dissipate the smoke, he called into the wreckage.
"Is anyone alive?"
No answers came. Meichol tried to get back in, but a twisted steel beam dropped over the opening. He attempted to move it, tucking his shoulder under and pushing up, but the beam didn't budge. When he turned, pain shot through his side. Hissing, he pressed a hand to the cut and watched blood trickle through his torn shirt. He backed away slowly.
Clutching his side, he managed to climb up to the lip of the impact crater and surveyed his surroundings. More craters dotted the landscape, most of them burning. In the distance, he spotted tall buildings of what must have once been a majestic city. Now the buildings smoked, broken and crumbling from the impacts of countless meteors. He knew he was on Earth, but he had no clue where.
He ascended the side of the crater, the rocks threatening to slide beneath his booted feet. The horizon burned, and the smoke from countless fires wafted up into the sky. He'd landed in an open field of dry, cracked soil, reddish-brown in color. Scorch marks on the ground were the only hints of any plant life--before impact, anyway.
Meichol sighed. He couldn't stay out here, exposed to whatever elements Earth had to throw at him. After taking stock of his surroundings, he spotted tall hills in the same direction as the city. He started walking. Every step shot sparks of bright pain through his side. He moved his hand and groaned as more blood seeped through the cloth of his shirt. Had it been a superficial wound, his body could have been well on the way to healing now.
Something rattled and rumbled in the distance. A cloud of dust billowed up and headed toward him. Meichol winced as he lifted both arms to show he was unarmed. The dust cloud gave way to a vehicle--a bizarre contraption with two handles and a slender body. A figure sat astride it, wearing a black helmet. The vehicle slowed and finally stopped, sending tiny pebbles scattering on the dry ground. The rider removed the helmet. Dark scruff covered the man's jaw, and equally dark eyes regarded Meichol cautiously. Shaggy black hair framed the handsome face. The man looked to be about Meichol's age of thirty-two, though Meichol had no idea if humans aged the same way Polarins did.
"Everyone within one hundred miles of the city has been evacuated." The man studied Meichol for a moment, his gaze settling on Meichol's side. "You need a doctor. I'm a nurse, but I don't have any supplies on me. I can't call anyone because cell phone service went down when the first ones hit."
"It's not too deep," Meichol said.
"Judging by the amount of blood, it still needs stitches." The man reached behind him and patted what looked like a secondary seat. "Hop on. I'll go slow. Some survivors set up a makeshift camp not far from here. I can tend to your wound there."
Having no other option, Meichol approached the vehicle. When he hesitated, the rider glanced over one broad shoulder.
"Never ridden a motorcycle before? Just swing your left leg over, sit down, and snuggle close. Keep your hands on my waist and lean when I do. Here." He handed the helmet to Meichol. "You're wounded. I'm not. I only have the one helmet."
Meichol put on the helmet and did as instructed. The man's warm body nestled against his own sent a shiver through Meichol. Beyond a simple handshake, he hadn't touched another living soul in what felt like ages.
"You good?" The man started up the motorcycle when Meichol nodded. "Hang on tight. Remember to lean when I lean."
Meichol gasped softly when the machine sped off and the motorcycle rumbled low beneath him. He tightened his grip on the stranger's waist. The land flew by them, mesmerizing but lifeless. Meichol had no idea how long they rode or how far they traveled. The entire area seemed devoid of anything but destruction.
Before he realized it, they were slowing down near a building that was missing part of a wall. The motorcycle stopped, and a man walked out of the building through a section of the broken wall.
"Took you long enough."
The driver slipped off the helmet and gestured over his shoulder at Meichol. "Found a survivor."
The man nodded and held out a hand. "Darin. Pleasure to meet you."
Meichol shook his hand. "Likewise. I am Meichol Yssiu."
"You're lucky Nick found you."
Nick, the motorcycle driver, got off the vehicle after Meichol did. He took the helmet from Meichol and hooked it on one handle. "Come on," he said, removing his black gloves. "Let's get you below so I can take a look at that cut."
Meichol followed Nick through the open wall. Darin wheeled the motorcycle to a small alcove before joining them.
They stepped through a wooden door and descended a set of metal steps. At the bottom, the place opened up into a large central room. Other people sat in pockets throughout, most of them wounded. Nick led Meichol to one corner and gestured to one of two empty cots.
"This is where I sleep. The second one is empty now, so you can take it. Have a seat, and I'll get my supplies."
Meichol sat on the cot, relief and worry coalescing into an unwelcome ball in his gut. He still had no idea where he was, and now he was surrounded by complete strangers. What would they think if they discovered he came from one of the meteors that had destroyed their city?
A young woman approached him, carrying a tray. "Are you Meichol?"
He nodded. She crouched beside his cot.
"I'm Anna. Nick asked me to get started while he cleans up." She put on a pair of thin, plastic-looking gloves. "Where are you from?"
Meichol had no idea how to answer her. He lay back when she motioned for him to do so, and she lifted the bottom of his shirt. "Nowhere, really," he lied.
"Ah, a wanderer?" She smiled. "We've had a few others here." She tore open a small package. "This might sting a little." She cleaned the wound while he watched, grimacing when the extent of it became clear. "That's a bad one. What happened?"
"One of the meteors crashed near me," he said. It wasn't a lie--not really. "I guess I got hit with shrapnel."
"It's going to need stitches." She turned a little. "Nick, you ready?"
Nick joined them. "Yeah, that's...bad."
Anna got up, and Nick took her place by the cot. She retrieved another tray for him, laden with several medical tools, thread, and gauze.
"How's your pain tolerance?" Nick asked.
"Anna, see if we have any morphine left."
"No," Meichol said quickly. "I'm fine." They both looked at him, dubious. "I don't like to be drugged."
"Suit yourself," Nick said with a shrug.
They fell into silence as Nick began working. Meichol didn't flinch whenever the threaded needle pierced his skin. Nick occasionally glanced at him before resuming the task of closing the wound. Anna had moved on to another patient.
"So where are you really from?" Nick said quietly.
Meichol didn't want to answer, but something about this man made him feel more at ease than many others he'd met on the station. "Sanctuary 69. The station was attacked. We made a hyperspace jump and set course for Earth, but our force fields failed. The station broke apart."
Nick nodded and clipped the excess thread when he finished. "I can't imagine there were many survivors. I'm sorry."
"You don't seem shocked."
"You aren't the first I've run across. We've had a few come through here since the first few meteors hit. They didn't stay, though."
Meichol wasn't terribly surprised that others from Sanctuary had found their way here. "How did you know I'm not from Earth?"
"You mean besides the fact that I spotted you crawling out of a meteor?" Nick glanced up, a small smile on his face. "Intuition, I suppose. Gut instinct. There's something...different about you, but I can't put my finger on it."
"I didn't want to say anything. For all I know, I--and others like me--will be blamed for all of this."
Nick shrugged. "I highly doubt you steered that giant hunk of rock into the ground, but others may not be so understanding. Bottom line: I think everyone's got more to worry about right now than how this all happened."
Meichol figured that made sense. When Nick sat back, Meichol touched the stitched wound gently. The gauze covered it, but he felt the stitches through the cloth. "Thank you."
"It's my job," Nick said. "Look, I don't blame you, but I can't speak for the rest. I'd like to think they'd keep their mouths shut and focus on the important stuff, but humans can be stupid. If I were you, I'd keep quiet about the truth. If anyone asks, tell 'em you're from the West Coast. You certainly look like it."
"California. You got the surfer look going, despite the dark hair. You're toned, tall, slightly tan. You could pass for a surfer, even one with no accent."
Meichol nodded. "All right. So I'm from California."
Nick smiled and put his tools back on the tray. "So are the other...aliens like you?"
"Not really. Sanctuary was a melting pot of various races and cultures. I fled my own planet, Polaris Alpha, during a war. I'm no soldier."
"So what did you do, job-wise?"
"I studied our history, the language, that sort of thing."
"So you're a historian?"
Instead of leaving, Nick sat back, propped on his hands, legs crossed. "No one else needs me at the moment. You mind if I hang out?"
"Of course not," Meichol replied.
Nick's smile made him even more handsome. "Did all the aliens on Sanctuary look like you? Humanoid?"
"Not at all. Even though we resemble humans, my people differ from yours in several ways."
Nick's gaze swept over Meichol. "You look perfectly human to me."
Meichol smirked. "The primary difference isn't visible unless I undress."
Nick's expression changed, subtle but a definite shift. "I'd ask, but that's edging into highly personal territory, I think."
Meichol chuckled. "Believe me, you aren't the first to wonder. My kind has had to answer many questions, even from others on Sanctuary."
Someone called Nick's name, and he sighed. He stood and picked up his tray.
"Well, that's my cue to get back to work. Guess I'm needed after all. Maybe we can talk more later?"
Meichol smiled up at him. "I'd like that."