He stood on the edge of a high-tech chamber out of place on a primitive world such as this one. Ringing the room were strange displays, blinking lights, roving green beams, unknown instruments. The sophistication of the technology was well beyond anything the Sectors had achieved, let alone the dwellers of this planet. Nate spared only a second to glance at these wonders. His attention was caught and held by what occupied the center of a large alcove directly across the room.
The cubicle was lined in shiny metallic material and from the floor rose a graceful pedestal of the same material, topped with a thin platform at waist level. Neatly arranged on a layer of dark purple padding lay a woman, apparently asleep. She certainly wasn’t from this planet, nor any world known to Nate. This mysterious female had ivory skin with the palest of lavender undertones in her cheeks.
“I’ll be moon-damned.” Thom’s attention was riveted on the sleeper as well. “An Ancient Observer?”
“Can’t be—no one’s ever found actual remains,” Haranda said from the other side. “Although this room certainly suggests a high level of technology, it’s not AO. Another sophisticated, highly advanced forerunner civilization. The galaxy is a big place after all.” Roused from his state of funk, he studied the walls, apparently more interested in the devices and displays than in the woman. “I minored in AO studies at the Academy.”
“I don’t think she’s a well-preserved corpse.” Nate couldn’t take his gaze from her, not even to watch what their captors were doing now. He took himself sharply to task for the lapse. What if we’ve been brought here as a sacrifice? He had to be mentally prepared to fight, not gawk at a pretty girl. But the next moment he found himself studying her again, unable to keep himself from indulging in another view.
The woman was tall, probably his equal in height, definitely humanoid. She lay pillowed on her own hair, a thick, sweeping fall of glorious blue mixed with amethyst purple, set here and there with twinkling jewels. From his location across the room, he couldn’t see whether she was breathing, yet he had a definite sense of a living presence.
Her clothing was a simple, silvery white and lavender sheath, like finely woven metallic thread had been spun to make the dress. Thin jeweled straps held the garment at her shoulders. The finely pleated fabric clung to her curves sensuously. She lay on her back, arms stretched out a little on each side, her graceful, six-fingered hands spread open on the cushion. She wore no jewelry save for an elaborate bracelet on her left wrist, studded with colorful stones whose facets caught and amplified the lights in the main room.