A/N: I know. I have several stories to finish, but I couldn't resist writing this.
The world is loosely based off of Pet. I've created a race that compares to the Fith (pack oriented, white skinned and arctic) but that's where the similarities end - this is a different world - and I hope you enjoy it 💙🐾
"Please proceed to the emergency pods." A calm and androgynous voice repeated, as the ship shook and screams sounded all around them.
"Stay together!" Their mother shouted, and clutched Matthew's hand hard enough to bruise.
Matthew gripped his seven year old brother's hand tight and his big sister, Lucy, was right behind them. The crowd jostled hard and suddenly one of his hands was holding empty air.
"Jamie!" Lucy exclaimed, and lunged for their little brother, but his arms weren't strong enough to hold on and he was torn away.
"Wh...?!" Their mother cast a panicked look back, before the horde surged a second time, and she disappeared.
Lucy swung around, and fought through the masses, in the direction Jamie had gone. Matthew instinctively sought towards the youngest member of their family too.
"Jamie!" He screamed and an elbow smashed into his face.
The ship shook around them, and people screamed, pushing with renewed force. Matthew was swept along blindly, spots dancing before his eyes, and warmth running over his mouth and chin.
A large man gripped his elbow and pulled him through the crowd. "Come on, boy!"
"Lucy?" Matthew's shout was smothered in another person's shoulder and a jolt in his back pushed the air from his lungs.
"Come on!" The man jerked his arm violently and, in the next instant, Matthew was standing in front of a clear blue wall; shielding the black escape pods.
"This one has room for one more! Women and children first!" A blue suited guard shouted and people slammed their fists against the wall, screaming and pleading.
The man shoved Matthew forward and the guard's dark eyes locked on his face.
A blue clad arm went clean through the wall, seized Matthew's arm, and dragged him through a gap that flashed for an instant.
"No! Wait!" Matthew shouted, but he was pushed into a pod and the door slammed shut, lock flashing red, as the aircraft lifted.
"Sit down!" A guard inside ordered, and Matthew squeezed shakily into a seat beside a mother and her two children.
He watched through a tiny window as they flew away, along with several other escape pods, and saw a huge part of the ship was burning up in flames.
The little girl beside him wailed and her mother pressed the button to cloud the glass.
They had to be around seventy people in one pod and the space was small and hot. Matthew wiped sweat, and dried blood off his face, with his sleeve and accepted a bottle of water from the guard.
"We'll arrive at Kanzir station in two days time." The guard announced and the passengers responded with a mix of relief and annoyance.
"Are you okay?"
He looked down into the girl's large brown eyes. Her black hair was in two pigtails and she had a bruise on her cheek. She reminded him of Jamie and Matthew felt his lip tremble.
"Your nose is bleeding." The girl's eyes widened. "Are you crying?" She patted his leg with one small hand. "Does it hurt bad?"
"Sarah..." Her mother chided gently and smiled sympathetically at Matthew. "You'll see them at the station." She assured.
The boy nodded tightly and turned away to lean against the window.
She was kind, but his chest was shuddering too hard for him to speak.
This was supposed to be their family holiday. A trip on a Stella ship, to visit the beaches on the tropical planet Solis. One their single mom had saved up for years to afford - and then an asteroid had struck.
An incident like that was so rare; they hadn't even considered it a possibility.
The escape pod was equipped with rations of vit-protein bars and cups of salty nutrient soup.
Matthew was nibbling a bar half-heartedly, tasting nothing, when an alarm sounded and an orange light flashed. The pod rocked hard and he hastily grabbed the wall.
"We've been hit by debris from the ship." The pilot announced. "Prepare for an emergency landing."
People exclaimed in horror and Matthew's blood ran cold. Debris. The Stella ship had exploded.
"Remain in your seats!" The guard ordered and opened a pad on the wall to swipe in a code. A strap fit onto Matthew's waist and tightened.
The children were situated too high, on their mother's lap, to fit into the automatic straps - and she struggled to hold them, while the pod shook violently.
Matthew grabbed the girl and wrapped his arms tight around her. The woman flashed him a wan smile and gasped at a second jolt of turbulence.
The girl gripped Matthew's waist, pressed hard into his chest, and wailed. He wouldn't let go of her. He wouldn't.
A terrifying twenty minutes later the turbulence eased and Matthew cleared the glass to stare at an icy landscape. Snowy peaks stretched on for miles and his breath caught.
"We've arrived at Nival." The pilot announced. "An arctic planet with no intelligent life. We'll stop shortly, until the debris has cleared."
Unease rippled through the crowd. The girl cried for her mother and Matthew passed her over with trembling arms.
There was a light pressure as the pod landed and the guard undid his buckle.
"I'll need a few strong men and one small to check the engine and fuel tank." The guard announced and opened a cupboard to put on a black heat suit. "The air pressure is a little low, but nothing we can't handle." He zipped up his suit and turned expectantly.
Four men stood, but the rest were women and children. The guard selected two and looked around. "You." He pointed to Matthew and threw him a packet.
The boy numbly ripped the plastic and unfolded the papery suit. It felt thin, but it was enforced with heat patches that activated when exposed to the cold. He stepped into it and it suctioned onto his clothes.
The door opened in a rush of icy air and several passengers gasped. Matthew was waved out first - and he took a breath and jumped the short way down into soft snow.
He staggered, momentarily blinded by white, and the chill air stung his lungs, before his suit warmed.
Icy cliffs stretched on for miles and they appeared to be on the largest one - but there still wasn't much room for the pod - and it was a tremendous drop below.
The remaining men jumped out and the guard led them around to the back of the pod.
A large part of the underside was dented and there were some unsettling tears in the aircraft's glossy side.
"The fuel tank should be green." The guard said and gestured to Matthew. "Climb in and check."
The fuel tank was sealed away during travel. But there was an emergency duct that was just big enough for a small man, or a teenager, to climb into. Matthew wormed his way inside and soon saw the screen flashing purple.
"I-it's purple!" He shouted and heard the guard curse.
"That means it's leaked." The man shouted instructions for an engine check and Matthew heard steps crunch through the snow.
He hurriedly shuffled out of the small space and squinted against the blaze of snow. Movement flashed on the cliff above them and he gasped.
The two men stepped past him, carrying a large black cylinder, that they pushed into a slot beneath the ship.
"I saw something!" Matthew said and the men looked at him.
"Saw what?" A middle-aged man, with greying hair, wanted to know.
"A...A white figure."
The guard pressed his hand into a hold and a snap sounded, followed a hiss of air. "It's probably just a goat." He said dismissively. "They're big, but skittish. Go and check it now."
Matthew rubbed his freezing hands and looked back uneasily, but there was nothing to see, and he climbed back into the duct.
"It's green!" He called and heard panicked shouts outside. The cliff suddenly groaned, ice cracking, and Matthew's heart briefly stopped beating.
"Get out, boy! Get out now!" A man shouted and steps ran.
Matthew hurried out, and fell in the snow, when the cliff tilted to the side.
"Boy!" The middle aged man shouted and Matthew had just enough time to see horrified blue eyes watching him, before the door to the pod shut, and the aircraft lifted.
The cliff crashed into the peak next to it and, Matthew screamed as he rolled over the edge, and plummeted into the abyss.
There was a moment of terrifying weightlessness, before he sank into a deep plume of snow. Going down. Down.
Until he was cushioned in the dark.
Matthew dug into the snow above him, and beside him, praying fervently that he didn't start an avalanche.
A half hour later he sat exhausted and panted the thinning air around him. He had to calm down. He didn't know how much oxygen he had left.
The thought only made him breathe harder and he curled up to cry exhausted tears.
The suit circulated warm blood into his fingers, and prevented frost-bite, but the skin had turned blue and his nails were starting to bleed.
Suddenly he heard furious digging above him and he stiffened.
The being was moving fast. Like an animal. Or a machine.
A painful spark of hope lit in his chest. Had they come back for him? He didn't think the pod could fit between the icy peaks. But maybe they had other ways to reach him.
He knelt tensely. Hardly daring to breathe.
As the harsh sounds neared he became more and more convinced that this was a living thing. And his heart hammered.
The snow trembled above him and abruptly crumpled in a shower of ice. He shielded his head and heard a gasp.
He looked up and stared into a boy's face. Except he wasn't human at all.
His skin was pure white, eyes solid black ovals, and hair like a fuzzy white cloud. He also had two huge ears on top of his head - similar to those of a fennec fox - and his arms glistened with a dense coat of icy fur; like a seal.
The boy snarled savagely, revealing long fangs and a black tongue.
Matthew fell back, throwing up his arms, and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Hey!" A voice shouted and Matthew whipped his head up in shock.
The boy jumped back, then cautiously scuttled back down, ears flattened against the narrow entry.
"What are you?" The boy demanded and Matthew's jaw dropped.
He spoke. He spoke a language that Matthew's translation chip acknowledged and that meant he was intelligent.
"I...I...Hi." Matthew said numbly.
The boy barked excitedly - scuttling back up and quickly down again - sending another shower of snow down on the human's head.
"What are you?" The boy repeated and Matthew wiped the snow from his face, yelping when he pressed his broken nose carelessly.
"I'm a human." He said and grit his teeth against the throb.
"How old?" The boy wanted to know and tilted his head enquiringly.
The boy blinked those inky eyes and moved even closer. "You're young! So am I!"
Matthew's hope began to rise again. He'd seen aliens a far sight scarier than this one, on the screens back home, but seeing one in the flesh was still unnerving. Even if he was young...and strangely pretty.
"Did your pack fly away?" The boy asked.
Matthew frowned briefly, before the alien's meaning registered, and his eyes abruptly filled.
"I don't know if my family is still alive." Matthew choked and the alien's eyes widened. "I escaped a burning ship."
At that moment fierce digging sounded around them, and the boy produced sharp animal barks in between words. "Wait! He's not a threat!"
Snow crashed down on Matthew's head and the surface beneath him gave away.
"Help!" He screamed and lunged for the boy.
A black clawed hand gripped his arm and he was hauled through the crumpling tunnel. Matthew flung his arms around the boy's sleek body and felt the alien dig upwards with hands and feet.
"Stop!" The boy shouted, barking louder, and the digging around them ceased.
Soon the air became stronger and Matthew gulped in huge lungfuls, before they surfaced - and his chest clamped tight.
They were surrounded by lithe white aliens. And these were older. Larger. And some even carried vicious looking spikes on their backs.
"Mian, get away from that!" A deep voice boomed and Matthew's heart stuttered at the sight of a massive male baring his fangs.
"He's weak and hurt!" The boy, Mian, shouted right into Matthew's ear and his head rung. The alien's vocal chords were strong and high; made to carry over long distances.
"He lost his pack, Talan! He's young!" Mian continued and some of the aliens visibly relaxed. Ears lifting curiously.
The male, Talan, snarled and lifted from his crouch to tower above the rest. "Come here!"
Far from being intimated, Mian caught Matthew around the waist and moved forward eagerly. The boy stepped easily on the soft snow, but Matthew's shoes sunk right through, and Mian had to drag him up.
Talan strode towards them and Mian hastily stepped away; leaving Matthew to stand frozen with terror.
A taloned hand promptly shoved him in the chest and Matthew crashed into the snow. In a flash, teeth set against his neck and the boy's eyes went wide.
Hot breath dampened his skin and those teeth felt very sharp. But they didn't bite down. Not yet.
Time passed, while the alien growled, and Matthew began to feel faint from holding his breath. Finally, the teeth withdrew.
"Weak." Talan agreed, with a satisfied note, and he reached down to pull the stupefied human to his feet.
"You lost your pack?" Black eyes cut into him, from well over six feet of height. Talan's seal hide chest was bulky with muscle and his crotch was covered by white bands of leather.
Matthew nodded jerkily and a rush of dizziness clouded his eyes. "The ship was burning. I don't know if they made it." He rasped and coughed to clear his dry throat.
"And your people abandoned you." Talan sneered derisively, and the aliens around them bared their teeth or growled.
"They didn't have a choice." Matthew whispered hollowly. The surface of the cliffs wasn't safe to land on.
The male barked scornfully and the aliens around them echoed it. "There's always a choice. What did your mother call you?"
"My mother...uh...Matthew." He stumbled, exhausted mind taking longer than normal to interpret the strange wording.
Talan flashed Mian a hard look. "You found him, you keep him."
Mian's ears lifted and his fuzzy white tail started wagging excitedly.
"...Keep." Matthew repeated thinly, but Talan was already loping away to climb up a cliff.
A/N: Story fact: The name 'Nival' is Latin and means "living in or under snow."
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