“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Blue light illuminates the specks of dust floating in front of Harry, the glow of his sister Gemma’s old lava lamp just bright enough to let him see the coursework he’s attempting to finish at his desk. So far, it’s not going too well. With finals coming up next week, his shoulders have been incredibly weighed down by stress; he doesn’t want to be pessimistic and give up any hope of passing, but with the way things have been going at home, he hasn’t been able to focus on his studies enough to safely say he’ll get good scores. Gem and their mom have been fighting non-stop lately, arguing over his sister’s decision to marry a boy she’s only known for four months. Mom is completely against it, begging Gemma to call off the engagement and take things slow, but Gemma has been getting increasingly agitated by the resistance and is only more determined than ever to marry John. Harry isn’t even sure if it’s because she loves him so much or because she hates being proven wrong or admitting defeat even more.
The lava lamp’s azure light melts into violet. It’s a bit too dark of a color to cast any helpful light on his textbook, so he resigns himself to his fate of failing out of school and lays his head down on his desk, arms hanging down beside his chair. His butt has gone a bit numb from the amount of time he’s been sitting here without any breaks.
Deciding to give the calculus a rest for now, Harry pushes his rolling chair away from the desk and stretches languorously before getting to his feet. He peers out the window towards the sky, mid-sunset and painted in all shades of red, orange, and pink, and contemplates the pros and cons of getting his camera out and going outside to take some shots of the view. It really is quite pretty and he hasn’t been photographing much lately, too preoccupied with getting to graduation and ignoring his family’s issues.
As much as he needs to prepare for his exams, though, he’s going a bit stir-crazy in his bedroom with nothing but a boring textbook and a phone that doesn’t ring to keep him company. He can clearly hear another argument gaining momentum across the hall, and despite his own need to concentrate and get this work done, he figures taking a short break to get some fresh air and snap some pictures can’t hurt. Anything to get out of here for a little while.
Flicking off the lava lamp, which has turned a bright red, he picks up his camera, a relatively new Canon T3i named Daisy that he got for Christmas, and tucks it into his beige knapsack, the wrappers of a few granola bars crinkling under its weight. It’s the backpack he took with him the last time he went hiking with his friend Tara, so it still has some bits and bobs inside it, like unopened snacks and a change of clothes. He manages to sneak past the open door across from his where he can see Gemma glaring at their mom, but he does run into his mom’s boyfriend Peter downstairs as he’s slipping on his white Chucks.
“Hey, Harry,” Peter greets him amicably. “Where you off to at this hour? Got a hot date?”
Harry smiles at his teasing and shifts awkwardly. He likes Peter well enough and thinks he treats his mom well, but he also doesn’t spend a lot of time with him, so he’s still not fully comfortable with the man. “No, just going out to take some pictures. Need to get some fresh air.” He gestures to his camera as if to emphasize this point. “I should be back in an hour or so, probably.”
Peter nods. “Okay, well. Be careful, come home before curfew, don’t talk to strangers, and so on.” He sends Harry a teasing grin, saying goodbye before he heads upstairs, most likely in an attempt to diffuse the situation in Gemma’s room.
Harry grabs his keys from the small bowl beside the door and locks it on his way out.
Ever since he was little, Harry’s loved going into the woods beyond their backyard. The forest is lined with sturdy, tall oaks, but it gives way to skinny birch trees and scattered shrubbery the further one goes. Closer to the center is a small clearing that houses a murky pond, mostly ignored by hunters but still a pretty enough sight. Harry likes to visit it sometimes when he needs to clear his head and just be by himself for a bit. Right now, with the sun hovering just above the horizon and the crickets starting to chirp away happily, that’s exactly where he’s headed.
He has to duck under several hanging branches on his way there and trips over hidden tree roots at least five times, but he’s only a little dirtied when he arrives. A sweet doe drinking from the water gets startled and scared off by him stumbling into the clearing, but he just sighs at the missed photo opportunity and makes his way to the pond.
There’s a small patch of ground where the grass is flattened down and a bit more sparse from the number of times he’s sat in this spot, which he chooses to do now. Shedding his shoes and socks and dropping them onto the grass next to himself, Harry then rolls his jeans up to mid-calf and cautiously dips his toes into the water. It’s lukewarm, thankfully, and he knows from experience that it’s pretty shallow water, so he feels okay about letting his legs sink deeper until the water is almost lapping at his jeans. With a heavy sigh, he retrieves his Canon from the knapsack and sets it down beside his shoes. Once he’s turned it on, he falls flat onto his back, feet swaying in the water, and aims it towards the sky.
It’s lucky that he’s chosen now to point his camera towards the clouds, he soon realizes. He’s only been taking pictures of the trees and sunset for few minutes when he witnesses a very bizarre sight: an indistinct ray of silver shoots down from some point in the overhead layer of pink clouds, slicing across the sky and disappearing behind the trees surrounding Harry. Strangely enough, it doesn’t quite look like an actual beam of light, such as a bolt of lightning or a shooting star, but more like a shimmery disturbance in the sky, as if a tiny ripple in the atmosphere is distorting its appearance. It’s brief and quick enough that he would have missed it if he’d blinked, but there’s no way he could miss what occurs directly after he sees it.
Only a second after it disappears from his sight, he’s jostled in the grass by a violent tremor ripping across the ground below him. The earth quakes wildly beneath his fingertips, vibrating his entire body and causing the water to slosh and ripple around his ankles. He quickly extracts his legs from the pond and scoots back across the shaking ground, but the moment he tries to stand out of simple instinct and panic, he almost immediately falls back down, scraping his forearm on a stupid twig. It’s an extremely shallow gash, just a tiny amount of blood bubbling out of the small cut, but he still hisses at the sting of it. With an unsteady hand, he touches the shallow injury while he waits out the earthquake, but the vibrations jerk his fingers and causes him to just smear the blood a bit, which only makes it look worse than it actually is. He checks his camera and thanks God that it appears unscathed, tucking it back inside his knapsack away from potential damage.
Harry’s always prided himself on being a smart person, even if it’s not the kind of smarts that always earns him good grades in school. He has common sense and generally thinks things through before making a decision. He’s a contemplative person. For some reason, though, the next decision he makes is done without thinking.
From the direction of his home, he can hear a faint voice shouting his name. It sounds like his mom, her muffled voice telling him to come back inside with clear panic clinging to her words. If Harry were thinking logically, that’s exactly what he would do. From the opposite direction, though, he can see a strange silvery glow emanating from a bit deeper into the woods, gleaming between the columns of tree trunks. Before he can stop himself, he pushes himself back up and starts staggering towards the light, having enough sense to grab his backpack but not enough care to get his shoes.
A bit of mud seeps into the spaces between his bare toes and dirties the soles of his feet, a few straws of verdant grass sticking to the dirty skin as he stumbles on unsteady legs. The earthquake is over, but he’s still shaken and the sheer anxiety is making him feel a bit dizzy.
The closer he gets, the brighter the light becomes, blinding enough that he can’t quite make out his surroundings and ends up scraping his arms far more than necessary while approaching it. It’s strange, really, how easy the decision is for him to make, even though he rationally knows that it’s stupid and makes no sense for him to be practically seeking out trouble. If talking to strangers is dangerous, then he doesn’t even know what approaching a mysterious light right after it possibly caused an earthquake would be considered. Probably nothing good, he’s sure.
For some reason he can’t fathom, Harry feels drawn to the light, like a moth to a flame or a bee to a flower. Panic is welling up inside, but he can’t force his feet to turn around and head back home. He keeps stumbling along until the trees peter out into a wide open field that he knows is uninhabited.
When his entire vision is cast under this veil of white light, he comes to a stop, wondering if he’s gone blind from looking directly at it. He can’t ponder it for much longer, though, because only a few anxious moments pass before the light abruptly dims and plunges the forest back into darkness. The sun has descended over the horizon, the sky is a bruised shade of blue, and all Harry can see is a massive silver monstrosity sitting in front of him, right in the middle of the field.
The last thing his brain registers before a sharp pain radiates from his head and his eyes close against his will is a strangely-hued figure with vibrant blue eyes.
When he stirs awake next, the first thing that registers is the strange draft cooling his body. The second is the touch of hands across his bare skin.
He jolts out of his slumber and forces his eyes open as fast as possible, blinking rapidly as they adjust to the bright lights that immediately assault them. Everything is a bit hazy at first, but he brings his surroundings into focus after a moment, heart racing at a ridiculous speed when he realizes that he not only does not know this girl who’s trying to undress him, but he also has no fucking clue where he is.
He’s enclosed on all four sides with slick white walls, round purple lights planted in the ceiling in rows. The floor matches the walls, cold underneath his bare toes as he stumbles off of the clean cot he’s apparently been sleeping on. His jeans are still on, feet noticeably devoid of the mud that was previously caked onto them, and his band shirt falls from where it was resting on his bare chest. He swoops down to grab it and yank it on as quickly as possible; he’s never had much of a problem with nudity, but that was also generally in front of people who actually looked human. This girl appears to have green-tinted skin and eyes that are entirely metallic silver with small white pupils in the centers, but that can’t be right because no one fucking looks like that.
Harry is hallucinating. He must have fallen in the woods and hit his head and now he’s having very vivid hallucinations of what appears to be either an alien or a demon. It’s the only thing that makes sense and the only thing that’s keeping him from spiraling back into unconsciousness out of pure panic.
The girl, black hair pulled back in a thick braid, wrings her hands nervously in front of herself, taking a step away from him. The pleated hem of the simple blue dress she’s wearing swishes around her thighs as she shifts. She opens her mouth, revealing two rows of terrifyingly sharp teeth, and starts speaking in some sort of language that Harry couldn’t decipher or mimic if his life depended on it.
“What the fuck?” He backs away from the bizarre girl in front of him, hoping to God that she really is just a hallucination because those teeth could dish out some serious damage and he can’t figure out if she would wish to harm him or not.
The girl widens her eyes, creeping Harry out a bit because they were already quite large. She says something else in that strange language before holding her hand up, palm facing Harry as she backs away a bit more, making her way towards what appears to be an intercom on one of the walls.
“What are you doing?” Harry demands, frowning even harder when she doesn’t say anything back this time. Anxiety is pumping through his bloodstream, swelling in his veins, and he can’t get his hands to stop shaking as he watches her press a white button and murmur something unintelligible into the intercom.
Seconds later, a part of the far wall shifts, nearly startling Harry out of his skin. A block of the wall retracts and slides away, hidden, to reveal a narrow doorway. He takes one step towards it, rejoicing at the sight of a possible escape, but he has to stumble back only a moment later when he sees the creature coming through it.
If he thought the girl with the razor-sharp teeth was frightening, then this creature is downright piss-your-pants terrifying. It is almost too tall to fit through the doorway, having to squeeze its mass through the thin passage in order to enter, with its massive body made entirely of what appears to be jagged copper. There’s a protective white helmet over its head, a nearly opaque black cover shielding its face, and it wields a long red gun in its gigantic hands. It looks like a golem crossed with a Stormtrooper and Harry feels like he’s about to pass out again.
The girl jabbers incomprehensibly at the golem creature, and Harry watches as it nods and ducks back out of the room for a second. It reappears moments later with a new person in tow, a young man with lavender skin and light brown hair tinged with gold at the ends. He shoots Harry a friendly smile, blue eyes lighting up, and heads over to him. His shirt is plain and the pants he’s wearing look a bit like maroon cargo shorts, except they bunch up around his calves and the belt around his waist carries a row of various small devices, almost none of which Harry recognizes. When he begins to speak, it’s in the same language as the girl, but Harry is so distracted by his purple skin and odd language that he doesn’t notice the taking something out of his pocket and abruptly stabbing his neck with a syringe, injecting an unknown substance into his system.
“What the fuck did you just put in me?” Harry yells, shaking his head side-to-side frantically as if it will expel the substance. Probably poison. Fantastic. Harry’s going to die.
The man doesn’t stop speaking, none of it understandable until. Until suddenly it is. “…your lab report, and your immune system is very intriguing, I must say--”
“Wait, what?” Harry is so fucking confused. There’s a pounding ache growing in his head, like tiny fists are banging against his temples incessantly, a strange ripple along the veins in his neck making him uncomfortably aware of his own blood flow. He’s almost ready to cry from the sheer discomfort of it, even if it isn’t particularly agonizing, when the ache suddenly vanishes and the odd sensation dissipates.
The lavender-skinned man frowns. “Did it not work then? I could have sworn--”
“Did what not work?” Harry questions, eyes flickering over to the golem creature and then the toothy green girl. He wonders if he would be able to understand them now as well.
Lighting up, the man claps his hands excitedly. “Oh, good, you can understand me! So the serum did work. I was worried for a second there that I’d have to reprogram it again. Such a pain in the ass to do it.”
“What? Serum? I don’t…” Harry trails off, puzzled beyond belief by everything that’s happened thus far.
“Yes, it’s a new microtechnology. We inject something known as a ‘ken serum’ into your body, which releases a stream of extremely small bacteria into your bloodstream. These microorganisms read and mimic the protein markers on your body’s unique cells to make your white blood cells identify them as nonthreatening, and then they make their way into your brain and latch onto some of your neurons. They rewire them to allow you to decipher and translate our language and get a relatively advanced level of fluency. As long as the bacteria are attached, they maintain commensal symbiosis, meaning they shouldn’t cause any harm to your brain or affect its processes. Think of it as installing a new program on a computer. We’d try letting you learn the language gradually on your own, but that’s pretty time-consuming and this is much more effective anyway. Oh!” The man jumps a bit, seeming startled by himself. “Sorry, I never introduced myself! I’m Niall, one of the biomedical technicians aboard this ship.”
Harry’s pretty sure he only grasped about ten percent of what this man just said. He was never very good in biology class, so none of those terms mean anything to him. Besides that, what the hell is a biomedical technician? And what ship is he talking about? Last time Harry checked, his home was incredibly far away from any bodies of water large enough to accommodate a ship or even a small speed boat. There’s no fucking way he’s on a ship right now. He refuses to believe it.
“We are not on a ship,” he protests, crossing his arms over his chest in a defiant stance, which he immediately drops when the golem thing takes up a defensive stance by the doorway in response. The green-skinned girl is still standing over by the intercom, speaking quietly into it every now and then, but mostly keeping her eyes trained on Harry and this strange man named Niall.
“Well, not a watership or an airship, of course,” Niall agrees. “But we are on a spaceship.”
Harry stares blankly. “You’re fucking with me.” He looks at the other two again. “You’re all fucking with me, aren’t you? Please tell me you are.”
“Afraid not,” Niall chirps, sounding anything but apologetic. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions, Harry--”
“How do you know my name?”
Niall ignores him and continues speaking without pausing. “--so Mera here will show you the way to the prince in a minute. We just need to get you set up with an identification profile first, otherwise you’ll be fucked once you get to the capital. I’ll take you to the control center to get you sorted, and then you’ll follow Mera. Okay?”
Harry blinks, his brain a mess of confusion and disbelief, completely dumbfounded by the surreal situation he’s found himself in. Maybe he’s dreaming. Or having an out-of-body experience. Or dead.
“Am I dead?” he thinks to ask, eyes flickering over to the green-skinned girl whose name is apparently Mera, if this Niall person is to be believed. She looks perplexed, which is wholly unfair, considering he’s the one who just woke up in an unfamiliar room filled with strange-looking lunatics.
Niall snorts. “I certainly hope not. That would be pretty detrimental to the plan.”
“What fucking plan?” Harry demands, his tone bordering on whiny from the astounding lack of answers he’s receiving. This man sure knows how to be successfully evasive.
Niall opens his mouth, either to finally give an explanation or to just change the subject again, but Mera chooses that moment to interject, stepping away from the intercom to face them. “Niall, the workers down at the control center are ready for him.”
“Oh, good!” Niall says cheerily. He moves closer to Harry to throw a discolored arm around his shoulders and begin steering him quite firmly towards the doorway. Despite his inner turmoil and general emotional distress over the situation, Harry knows that getting out of this room would at least give him a better chance at escape, so he allows the young man to guide him out of the room and down a narrow hallway lined with smooth metal walls. Footsteps trailing behind them lets Harry know that the other two are following closely.
They pass a number of doors, all of them sealed shut and requiring passcodes to enter, if the small keypads and scanners beside them are anything to go by. Eventually, they reach a set of large double doors, made of glass opaque enough that Harry can only make out blurry shapes. His eyes fix steadily on Niall’s free hand as it pulls a thick card away from where it was resting on his chest. He waves it front of the door’s scanner before letting it fall, suspended on a white lanyard.
There’s a soft whir as the scanner seems to process whatever was on the card, presumably proof of Niall’s identity, before the doors slide open, disappearing into the hollow insides of the walls. The sight that greets Harry from beyond the doorway makes him pause, taking time to process this absolutely necessary at this point.
It looks a bit like an oversized version of a space shuttle’s cockpit, except the round, expansive room is devoid of any windows and all of the technology is spread out across the large space. Monitors are attached to various workstations, along with sleek keyboards and panels of buttons. In the very center of the room is a round table with a particularly tan, pointy-eared woman sitting in the middle, sorting through papers. It looks like a reception desk of some sort, and Niall tugs at Harry’s arm to lead him right towards it.
Harry is almost hyper-aware of the gazes lingering on him and his mini entourage as he walks unsteadily, eyes of varying sizes and colors following him as if he’s some sort of anomaly. As far as he’s concerned, he’s the most ordinary creature in here, surrounded by incredible beings of different complexions and forms. It’s unbelievably overwhelming and he has to take a second to stare at his moving feet to compose himself to the best of his ability, willing the sting in his tear ducts to fade.
“Horan!” a hearty, feminine voice calls out as they slow to a stop. Harry looks up and sees the darker-skinned woman stand up, the sharp tips of her ears poking out from a soft mane of black hair. Other than the ears, she appears to be mostly normal. Except then she stands up from her seat and reaches out and oh, wow, both of her arms are almost entirely covered in glittering red scales.
“Nelson!” Niall exclaims in return, sounding as happy as can be to see her. He leans across the desk to give her a kiss on the cheek, stretching his neck out to reach her. It’s then that Harry finally notices the faint lines marring the sides of Niall’s neck. It takes him a minute to figure out that they’re most likely gills. Harry feels like his head is flooding with syrup, thick and foggy and in desperate need of a reprieve from this bizarre situation.
“Is this him then?” the woman (Nelson?) inquires, gesturing to Harry. Her nails are abnormally long and taper off into pointed black tips.
“Yes,” Niall confirms with a jovial nod. “Harry, this is Jesy. She’s the assistant of the control room’s supervisor, who’s on his dinner break right now. Jesy, this is the one the prince chose.”
“Prince?” Harry repeats under his breath, already weary enough without throwing strange foreign royalty into the mix.
“Fascinating,” Jesy breathes, her brown eyes widening as she rakes her gaze over the length of his body. He suddenly feels self-conscious of his muddy bare feet, rolled-up jeans, and ratty band shirt. “What made this one so special?”
Harry doesn’t appreciate them talking about him as if he isn’t right there, but he stays silent, still trying to process everything.
“I’m not sure, actually. The prince wouldn’t say.”
Jesy hums noncommittally before turning towards the other two beings hovering behind them like shadows. “Ah, Felkan, good to see you!” she says to the orange golem creature before turning her smile on the green-skinned girl. “And you too, Mera! How’s Vita doing?”
For the first time since he’s been here, Harry sees Mera’s mouth transform into a smile, silver eyes twinkling happily. Her teeth are still as sharp as razors, not unlike a great white shark’s, but when they’re gleaming from a delighted grin, it’s much less alarming than before. “She’s doing great! Almost made a full recovery so far.”
“I’d love for all of us to chat for a while, but we’re actually in a bit of a hurry,” Niall says, his expression apologetic. “Prince Louis requested to see him as soon as possible, so we just need to get his identification papers sorted and then we’ll be on our way.”
“Got it,” Jesy responds with a nod.
Pressured by Niall’s firm hand on his back and the hulking creature, apparently named Felkan, hovering a bit intimidatingly behind him, Harry lets Jesy lead him over to a small area away from all of the machines that’s separated by a single, wide curtain, behind which sits a metal desk. With Jesy’s legs exposed below a pair of what look like leather shorts and no longer hidden behind the other desk, Harry can see that her legs are covered in the same sort of scales with feet that look remarkably reptilian, claws digging into the floor with every step she takes. Even so, he does have to admit that she’s a gorgeous being, even if he has no fucking clue what kind of being she is.
She sits down at the metal desk and clicks on the trackpad of a pull-out keyboard tray, causing a semi-transparent screen to be projected above the desk, facing her. From Harry’s vantage point, he can’t tell what any of it says, but she starts scrolling and changing the screen as she types on the sleek keyboard. Without lifting her gaze, she asks, “Full name?”
It takes him for a second to realize that they’re expecting him to answer, and he intends to stay silent, not wanting to just hand out his identity to random strangers who don’t even look human. However, when he doesn’t say anything for a bit, Felkan shifts a bit closer, his giant hand clenching, and Harry’s frightened enough by the massive creature that he finally stutters out, “Ha-Harry Edward Styles.”
Jesy appears to type that down. “Features?”
Niall peers over at Harry, making him feel a bit uncomfortable with the intensity of his scrutiny. “Race, Terran. Eyes, green. Skin, yellow. Hair, brown.”
“Has he been given the necessary vaccinations?”
Harry’s brow furrows, trying to recall if he’d gotten his flu shot this year, but before he can even try to construct an answer, the lilac-skinned man next to him nods. “All thirteen of them, I believe. George administered them when he was unconscious in the clinic.”
Jesy finishes typing and looks up at Harry. “Can you step up onto that scale, please?” She gestures to a glass scale that Harry hadn’t noticed, off to the side with the glowing lines of a measuring rod projected from one end of it. Tentatively, he steps over to stand atop it, wondering how difficult it would be to just run and take his best shot at getting out of here.
Before he can make an attempt, Niall follows him and reads the measurements aloud, using units he’s never heard of and numbers that would sound ridiculous if they were in terms of inches and pounds. Jesy clicks away on keys before she stands and instructs Harry to stand off to one side, grabbing something that looks like a pen and holding it up to aim it directly at him.
At first, he’s a bit worried, afraid that it’s some sort of weapon, but when she tells the others to move out of the shot, understanding washes over him: it’s a camera.
He can feel his pounding heartbeat in every part of his body, fingertips quaking where they hang limply at his sides. Harry clenches his hands, looking around with frantic eyes at the creatures surrounding him. A colorful array of silver eyes, crimson scales, purple skin, orange bodies, and limbs that are decidedly not human. He thinks of his own plain eyes, human skin, human hands, human body, and the following thought strikes him with such force that it propels him into action: he does not belong here.
Let it be known that Harry is not one to pass up a golden opportunity when he sees it.
With Felkan and Mera at least a couple meters away from him and Niall standing off to the other side, leaving a path wide open that may or may not provide a successful escape route, Harry takes only a second to steel himself. Fists clenching, he bursts into motion when the others seem to least expect it. In the muddled chaos currently clouding his head, he knows he has an extremely short window to make his escape.
Without the freedom to even remotely waste time, he forces any hesitation out of the way and breaks for the open path in his vision, reaching out as he passes a stunned Niall to pull at his lanyard, ripping the key card off of it with more aggression than he’s felt in a long time. The impact of the tug staggers Niall, his head ducking under the weight of the lanyard digging into his neck, and Harry feels a brief pang of guilt, but he doesn’t have time to focus on that now.
He keeps running.
Yells of his name and shouts for someone to stop him reach his ears, but the sounds only motivate him to push himself harder, calves burning with the exertion. Several bodies advance towards him, hands outstretched to try to either stop him or attack him, and he dodges them the best he can, shoving a long-clawed hand off of where it catches on the side of his white band shirt, tearing the fabric a bit.
Harry can hear the rush of his bloodstream in his ears, muting the sounds of people frantically trying to catch him, feet thumping behind him. His fingers are shaking even harder than when he first woke up, pure adrenaline propelling him onwards as he waves Niall’s card in front of a random door scanner, a different one than the door they originally came through. He panics for the moment that it takes for it to process Niall’s identity, a moment in which he’s almost certain that they’ll catch him, but the doors slide open and he dashes between them the moment he can fit through.
“Don’t harm him!” he can hear Niall’s distressed voice call after him, presumably to the freaky creatures chasing him down. He appreciates the sentiment, but the thought that they might have hurt him had Niall not said that sends goosebumps rippling down his arms.
This hallway already appears incredibly different than the last one. For one thing, it has windows.
Harry slows to a standstill a couple yards in, just as more frightening monsters that look like Felkan pour out of a door further down, making a beeline for him. Eyes transfixed on the view before him, he’s too preoccupied to worry about them.
When Harry was a little boy, only about six or seven years old, he’d had such an affinity and childlike wonder for astronomy and outer space that his mom had decided that a kiddie telescope was a perfect birthday gift. For the following year or so, Harry would go outside almost every night right after dinner and his nightly episode of Spongebob. There, he’d stay perched out on the deck for an hour at least, just staring up at the sky through his telescope. He begged for an astronomy book for Christmas that year, determined to teach himself the different constellations and stars. He could find and recognize Cassiopeia, Orion, Ursa Major and Minor, and sometimes, if he searched for long enough, he could make out Aquarius.
He was always so filled with awe at the vast sky looking down on him, all of the fiery balls of gas and stardust twinkling greetings and farewells as he studied a simple star map. Even after he grew out of his space phase, he still loved glancing up at the stars every now and then to see if he could still distinguish those few constellations, and it never ceased to amaze him how constant yet everchanging the sky was. All of those burning stars stayed up there in the sky from the moment they were born to the moment they died in flaming explosions.
Never could he have predicted that he’d ever actually be up in space with them, staring out at a vast collection of shining stars and glittering patterns through windows on a legitimate fucking spaceship.
The sky is blacker than he’s ever seen it from down on Earth, which he can’t even locate from his vantage point and probably wouldn’t be able to find even if he could scan the entire sky right now. Can he even call it the sky? Isn’t the sky what you look up at from the ground? Up here, it’s just… Space.
Attention still caught on the celestial sight, Harry is at first only faintly aware of the monsters’ close proximities, personal space diminishing until they’ve crowded around him and grasped him by the arms and shoulders. One of them is gripping onto his bicep too tightly, little pinpricks of pain mottling his nerve endings as he jolts back into focus, his heart still tripping in his ribcage. A frown is etched across his mouth and brow as he squirms a bit, trying to loosen their grips on him, but they don’t let up until one of the hulking creatures has managed to clasp his hands together in front of him and lock handcuffs onto his wrists. They look like they’re made of glowing white bands, and when he wriggles his hand in them to see if he could get free, the strange, indistinct material just buzzes gently against his skin and refuses to yield.
He feels like he’s stuck in a sort of trance as they disperse a bit more, Felkan and one other of the beings each taking an arm and holding him in place. Despite his confusion at basically everything and his powerful desire to get the fuck out of here, he does feel slightly abashed when Felkan looks down at him, appearing to be almost disappointed.
A crowd is gathering in the doorway from the control center, Niall popping up beside them with Mera and a new young boy in tow. The boy looks like he must be around twelve years old, only coming up to Harry’s chest with mottled black and red skin, his blue eyes almost normal if it weren’t for their slitted, narrow pupils. Other than these features, he appears relatively normal. No claws or flesh made of metal, rock, or scales, at least.
“Harry,” Niall addresses him, his voice a bit more steely and cautious than before. His posture is less relaxed and he seems a bit sullen as he speaks. He gestures to the young boy at his side, who’s staring Harry down as if he’s personally offended him. “This is Ciol, Prince Louis’s personal aide.”
Harry splutters in surprise. “But he’s only a child!”
Both Niall and Ciol glare at him, though the former’s glare is remarkably less volatile than the latter’s, while Mera sighs beside them, the sound light and almost watery-sounding. “He is a very respected figure aboard this ship and the prince’s planet, so I would suggest you treat him accordingly.” Niall pauses, seemingly waiting to see if Harry will say anything further. He doesn’t. “Okay then. He’ll be accompanying you and Mera to the prince’s chambers.”
Harry notices that he neglects to acknowledge the bulky aliens attached firmly to his sides, but he remains silent, letting his anxiety simply brew and boil inside of him.
Many of the aliens continue to watch and observe nervously from the control center’s doorway as Felkan and the other golem thing start to lead him down the hallway, Mera and Ciol leading the way in front of them. To his surprise, Felkan actually leans down a bit, or at least as much as he can when he seems to be made of hard copper and has a body about three times as big as Harry, and speaks in a low, gravelly voice. “Please do not try to escape again.”
“Why?” Harry shoots back, the anxiety starting to bubble over. He tries to keep it contained, at least until he can speak to the leader of these people and convince him to take him back to Earth, but it’s difficult when he’s so extremely fucking out of his element and nothing he sees is even remotely familiar or normal. “So you guys can run experiments on me or something? Are you going to kill me?” he demands, faintly aware that it’s a bit ridiculous to ask these questions.
Felkan startles, but maintains his hold on Harry’s bicep. He’s surprisingly gentle with Harry. “No, we will not. We only want peace. We would never try to cause you harm.”
“Physical or emotional?” Harry grumbles back.
It silences Felkan for a bit. The group takes a turn down another corridor, one with no more windows to peer out. “This is Fhali,” Felkan says, gesturing to the large creature on Harry’s other side. It looks like it’s made of some sort of solid mercurial material, all sleek and silver with deep fissures over its body and around its joints. Behind the helmet that matches Felkan’s, Harry can barely see the silver one’s dark eyes flicker over to them. “She is very nice. We only want to make everyone safe. We only want peace,” Felkan repeats.
He’s this huge hulking thing, a monster in almost every respect, but the way he speaks is simple and plain, the way he moves is gentle and languid, and he seems to bear no ill regard towards Harry, despite his rather shitty attitude and behavior, all things considered. Relatively, he’s a pretty kind creature.
“What are you?” Harry asks, curiosity getting the best of him. He glances over to Fhali as well, wondering how in the world these things even have genders when they all look about the same.
Fhali opens her mouth this time after a couple of seconds, but strangely enough, her voice isn’t much different than Felkan’s. It’s just as deep and gravelly, no typical femininity in there that he may have expected; only her inflection and the way she words things differs. “Our kind is known as weyrans. We’re from the planet south of Groghan, which is where Niall hails from.”
“Many of us choose to take jobs as guards and protectors so we may help in bringing peace and keeping people safe,” Felkan adds. He practically radiates friendliness, but Harry is still highly uncomfortable being sandwiched between two gargantuan creatures that could easily crush him without even breaking a sweat.
He still prickles with unease. “Yeah, well, I don’t feel very fucking safe,” Harry says under his breath, his muscles stiff beneath their grasp. They turn another corner and only walk a few more paces forward before Mera has to scan them through a door. It only leads to yet another hallway, though this one has a floor that looks and feels like silver velvet under Harry’s naked feet, the walls a simple white with semi-transparent photographs projected onto them in intervals, each of different strangely-colored aliens that Harry supposes look noble in their own ways.
At the end of the hallway is a tall, imposing door, the same color as the floor with the same designs as the walls carved into its surface. Beside the door, a small plaque is attached to the wall above a scanner and an intercom, something printed in an unfamiliar foreign language. After a moment, the words seem to distort themselves, shifting around until it clearly reads, “ROYAL CHAMBERS.”
As Ciol steps up to the intercom to press a button and start talking, Mera turns around and faces Harry with a nervous, almost shy look on her face. Her eyes still send a chill down his spine, but he tries his best to bear it and show less weakness.
“Jesy managed to get your photograph before you ran off, so…” She trails off, fidgeting anxiously, and then reaches into a small pouch slung around her body like a purse, digging inside for a moment until she pulls out a card like the ones Harry’s seen everyone else carry around. It’s attached to some sort of lanyard that appears the same as the handcuffs restricting his hands right now, bluish white with a fuzzy glow surrounding it to blur out its shape. Her eyes seem restless, the slim pupils flicking around the hallway as if she can’t bear to maintain more than a few seconds of eye contact with him. After a moment, she steps forward and drops the lanyard over his head, letting the card fall against his chest. She scurries away again before he can even react properly.
A few feet ahead of them, Ciol turns around, his youthful face fixed in a carefully composed mask of indifference. “The prince will see you now.”
Fuck. Okay. He can do this.
The door slides open slowly, most of the room’s interior blocked from Harry’s sight by Ciol and Mera, who are both taking up the front of their group with Felkan and Fhali behind Harry. Harry feels like his heart is in his throat, having absolutely no idea what he should expect from this supposed galactic prince who everyone has been building up. For all he knows, this prince is a total douche and might sentence him to a brutal death if he even looks at him the wrong way. Still, though, the fact remains that Harry simply does not belong here. He needs to try his best to get home, even if he gets hurt trying.
Regardless of his possible doom, his best bet to getting out of here as safely as he can is this prince, considering he’s clearly the one in charge around here. If anyone can convince these creatures to let him go, it would be their leader.
The silver velvet continues into the large room they enter, and with just a glance, Harry knows that this room is clearly fit for royalty, alien or not. A severe-looking guard is stationed in every corner, all of different sizes and species yet all wearing the same stern expressions. The floor contrasts sharply with the glossy finish of the walls, which appears to be made out of black glass or something of the like, glistening beneath the glow of small wall lanterns. Adorning the slick walls are projected images in the same fashion as the ones in the hall, but instead of simple portraits, Harry’s eyes fall upon gorgeous, colorful paintings of otherworldly landscapes and almost ethereal vistas. Harry finds himself particularly enraptured by a painting of a gaseous planet colored pink and blue, almost like a swirling sphere of cotton candy, dotted with white every so often. Set against a black backdrop, the effect of it is stunning.
His eyes snap back to attention when Mera and Ciol move aside, Mera shifting to join Harry’s side as Ciol hurries over to one of the guards, a frown imprinted on his childlike face. With those two out of the way, Harry is given a clear view of the center of the room, a sight that screams pure luxury.
Pressed against the farthest wall is what he can only describe as a sleigh bed, made out of the same black glass material as the walls, suspended at least three inches above the ground by sturdy poles stemming from the ceiling. In front of it, a plush, rather thick fur rug is set on the silver floor, its jagged outline telling Harry that it most likely came from an actual animal. The issue he’s having digesting this is that he knows of no animals that bear an indigo-colored coat. Thick, soft sheets and blankets are piled atop the bed, a small crystalline chandelier hanging above the rug.
He realizes, after a moment, that nobody regal-looking is actually occupying the room.
“The prince appears to be away at the moment,” Mera mutters, somewhat to herself, though Harry hears her. “Maybe he’s, ah…”
She trails off just when a door on the eastern wall slides open, silence capturing the room at large, even an irate Ciol over by the corner. Harry feels like he’s about to shit his pants when a figure strolls through the doorway, one that he can only assume is the prince, given the way everyone else straightens and regards him with reverence.
Whatever Harry had been expecting flies straight out the window when he rests his gaze on the prince. He doesn’t look to be a day over twenty, his skin smooth and as gray as solid stone, contrasting starkly with vivid nearly turquoise eyes and lines of blue paint streaked diagonally across his cheeks. Dusky hair, too ashen to be considered truly brown, falls across his forehead in a sharp, feathery fringe. When Harry’s eyes trail south, scrutiny clear in his eyes, he notices that the prince is wearing nothing but a deep red robe draped haphazardly over his shoulders, revealing pronounced collarbones and a great amount of skin. He looks vaguely familiar, for reasons Harry can’t immediately pinpoint, but after a second, he realizes it’s because this man was the same figure that Harry saw before he fell unconscious in the woods.
“Why is he in restraints like this?” the man demands, his voice sharp and striking. Frown lines appear between his eyes, his face crumpled into a scowl, as he motions at the two--what did they call themselves?--weyrans behind Harry. “Release him at once. We’re not barbarians here.”
Immediately, Felkan reaches forward to tap a massive finger against the small device that lies between each cuff encircling Harry’s wrists. After a brief second, the glowing bands seem to disintegrate into thin air, leaving only the lone device to fall into Felkan’s giant palm. Finally free of the handcuffs, Harry shakes out his hands, rolling his wrists a few times and stretching out his fingers.
“Now,” the prince continues. “I trust you’ve had a warm welcome, aside from the shackles?”
A frown settles into the line of Harry’s mouth. He opens it to speak, maybe just jump right in and demand to be taken home, but he chokes on the words stuck in his throat when he looks back up to the prince.
As mentioned before, Harry usually doesn’t have a big problem with nudity. However, random aliens and strangers are entirely another matter.
Apparently, the prince deemed it appropriate to simply drop his robe without a second thought, regardless of the number of people in the room who could see him. He lets it fall to the floor in his wake as he continues on his way towards one of the doors on the western wall. Harry gets an eyeful of smooth gray flesh and a round ass as he sputters. As far as Harry is concerned, nudity is almost never appropriate within the first minute of meeting someone.
The naked prince disappears through the doors, rummaging around for a few moments before he emerges again in a set of dark blue and black clothing, fitting snugly to his form. He heads over to the group at last, greeting a stoic Ciol kindly before he turns his attention onto Harry, raising his eyebrows questioningly. “Well?”
Harry’s brain is melting. He feels like his brain is definitely melting into a puddle of confused goo and overwhelmed synapses, nothing left in his head but a pile of mush. He wants to answer smartly in the hopes that they’ll realize he is a rational, intelligent being who deserves to be placed back on his own planet, but he just gapes for a few seconds longer. Eventually, he just blurts out, “I want to go home.”
Prince Louis’s expression falls, marred with puzzlement. “But you can’t.”
“I want to go home now,” Harry insists, taking a step towards the prince. At once, one of the guards moves closer from its station in the corner, a strange amphibious creature that takes up a threatening stance.
“That’s close enough,” the guard snaps, looking like it’s about the raise its weapon.
“Oh, leave it, Ral,” Prince Louis dismisses, seemingly unperturbed by Harry’s proximity as he steps even closer, a pleading look on his face.
“Please, take me home,” Harry starts to beg, his tear ducts stinging as a fresh round of tears forms a wet sheen on his eyes. He blinks away the growing moisture, desperation pounding through his bloodstream with a quickened heartbeat. “Please. I don’t belong here, okay? I-I won’t tell anyone what I saw, just take me home.”
The prince appears torn at this point, biting his lip and glancing over at Ciol and then back to Harry. “I’m… I’m sorry, Harry, but I can’t do that. We need you.”
“Why the fuck would you need me?” Harry cries out, his chin quivering as he expends a great deal of his effort in just suppressing a helpless sob. “What in the world could you need me for? Why am I here?”
His outburst apparently alarms some of the guards because the amphibious one, Ral, and the other closest one, move even nearer, only a couple feet away as if preparing for Harry to lash out and attack someone. The thought isn’t as ludicrous as it might have once been. There’s aggression in his bones right now, spurred on by the helpless kind of desperate confusion that comes with a person’s reality being completely turned inside out and upside down. He’s not so sure himself that he won’t snap and try to hit something or someone.
The prince looks back over to Ciol, murmuring over to him, “Can I…” He trails off as the short boy gives a curt nod, not looking pleased in the slightest. He looks rather annoyed, in fact.
Appearing reassured, the prince faces Harry head-on, his expression apologetic but firm. “We need you to be wed to me. It’s our last resort to maintaining peace between us and Earth.”
Harry feels like the floor’s dropped out from underneath him, leaving him to spiral down in a bottomless vortex. “I--What?” A drop of moisture threatens to spill over, only getting the chance to soak his eyelashes before his hand flies up to wipe it away. “I’m barely eighteen, I-I can’t--can’t fucking get married. Especially not to some stranger, and an alien, to boot.”
“I’m sorry, Harry Styles, but it’s our last attempt to hold back the war your people are so keen on starting with us,” the prince says. “If it’s any consolation, I’m apprehensive about being wed to a stranger too,” he adds, his expression turning just the slightest bit hopeful, as if that tidbit of information is going to make Harry feel any better about the situation.
“Fucking--consolation? You think that--” Harry cuts himself off, body snapping like a rubber band pulled taut. Before he can stop himself and think it through, he’s lunging forward with wild fists, trying to claim purchase on any part of this jackass’s body. Rage and pure distress course through his veins, fueling his turbulent actions as he swings at the prince, but before he can land even the lightest of blows, he finds himself once again stopped by strong arms as thick as tree trunks.
“Please don’t hurt him,” he can hear the prince say, sounding rather disquieted beyond the guards who Harry continues to struggle against, thrashing his limbs madly.
He feels like his heart is going to shove its way out of his chest, rattle his ribcage, and it’s then that he starts to truly cry, restrained between four sets of arms trying to hold him still in a room fit for a king, in a spaceship far, far away from his home, in the middle of fucking outer space.
It’s then that he starts to wail, toe-curling screams ripped from somewhere deep in his body, the kind of anguished screams that are expected when a loved one dies. He feels like he’s just felt every single person and thing he’s ever loved on Earth being severed from him, torn away like a million bandages on fresh wounds.
He feels enraged, he feels despair, and then he simply feels nothing but the sharp pinprick of a needle sliding into the base of his neck. It doesn’t take long at all before his vision darkens to black, blurred at the edges, only aware of the salty taste of tears slipping down his face and across his tongue.