The dream becomes reality... - Broken Vow
The dream becomes reality... -

PHOENIX RISING:  BROKEN VOW


1     Joniel laughed as Kyla splashed him with a spray of water. His muscular frame glistened in the sunlight, his blonde curls now dripping with salt water. His eyes flashed with mischief. The sea around them was a radiant blue and the white sand below the waves and occasional shell was visible through the crystal clear water. The sun beat down from a cloudless sky, its bright blue hue reflected in the gently lapping waves. Joniel dived at Kyla, catching her around the waist and pushing her under the water before lifting her up and throwing her so that she landed in the gentle waves with a splash. On the beach two beautiful young women, one blonde, one brunette, were sunbathing. They heard their father laugh and looked up in time to see their mother fall flailing into the water. The blonde haired sibling laughed, sat up and turned to her sister. “Aliniel, I love to see them together. We have been very lucky. I love it here but I heard them talking last night. They were talking about taking us back to where they came from.” Aliniel smiled and lay back down on her reed mat. Her dark brown hair almost tumbled off the mat onto the fine white sand. “You shouldn’t have been listening into their conversation my sister. If they decide that is the right things to do, they decide. I wouldn’t question either of them. Arla, well, what do you think? Do you want to leave here?  You must have an opinion or you wouldn’t have mentioned it now when they are not able to hear what we are saying.” Arla was picking up handfuls of sand and letting the grains and minute shells run between her fingers before falling back onto the beach. Her body was well toned and muscular which was quite a contrast to the more delicate physique of her sister. “We’ll do what we have to, we aren’t children any more. That is probably why they are thinking that it is time we saw the real world. I have loved it here but I can’t help feeling that there is more to life.” Aliniel closed her eyes and felt the warmth of the sun on her face. “This is our real world. Why can’t it go on forever? You know we can never come back if we leave here.” Arla laid back and closed her eyes too. “I know, but some things aren’t meant to last forever.” Joniel and Kyla ran out of the water and up the beach until they disappeared into the green leafy undergrowth of the thick jungle. They emerged an hour later dressed and a lot drier. Joniel ran over to the two girls, Kyla following. He laughed and shouted. “It is time for your training. You will hunt us today.” He grabbed Kyla’s hand and ran back into the Jungle. Once in the jungle they split up. Both shinned up a tree with great ease and ran along the branches, jumped to the next tree and the next. Then they ducked down and hid. Arla and Aliniel counted the usual amount they had done hundreds of times before at the start of their hunt and kill game and then set off after their parents. They ran up the beach leaving a trail of disturbed sand. They entered the jungle carefully and followed the tracks that had been left. They both found a tree that had tracks leading to it though those tracks to most people would have most likely have been undetectable, particularly Joniel’s. They moved along the ground carefully, hiding in the undergrowth. They then scampered up a tree each. They crouched in the branches, balancing unaided as they smelt the air and listened.  The animals were disturbed.  Birds squarked and twittered their annoyance at the disturbance in their territory.  Somewhere a long tailed Ekalan squeaked its shrill cry and they heard it crashing through the greenery as it swung off using its amazing striped prehensile tail and long gripping arms.  Its long nose would be sniffing out the best place to go, its long tongue flicking out to scent the air in order to avoid danger.   Both sisters remained motionless until they were certain of where they thought their prey was hidden and the animals had calmed down. Then they moved fast, jumping from branch to branch. Kyla heard Aliniel coming as she darted through the trees and swung down from her branch and climbed down the tree. Aliniel was faster, she climbed down the other side of the tree and by the time her mother was at the bottom she had her dagger at Kyla’s throat.” They both laughed and hugged each other. Arla knew where Joniel was but she also knew that in speed and dexterity he was much faster than she was. She cursed not finding her mother, someone she was much more evenly matched with. She didn’t head directly for him but jumped to the tree to the side and climbed into the upper branches. She could feel him watching her. She climbed and then leapt from the branch. She thought she had caught him completely by surprise as she landed on the branch where he was crouching. One arm wrapped around the tree, the other around him and she suspended him off of the branch. Joniel laughed and she looked down, he had his dagger pointed at her heart and his other hand had a firm grip on the tree. “Sorry, Arla, but that was close, really close. You are getting better.” Arla laughed and they climbed down the tree together and ran back to the beach where Aliniel and Kyla were laying on the mats. That night was stormy outside the cave system they called home.  The wind lashed the trees and drove the sea onto the shore with a ferocious power. It howled in the entrance tunnel and water pooled on the rocky floor. The family had retreated to their caves, used to the regular storms, and the girls were in their room. Arla sat on the bed, Aliniel was standing beside an ornate dressing table with a huge mirror which reached almost to the top of the cave.  Around them they had an impressive array of make-up and dresses. Arla looked up at Aliniel who had just finished dressing up in a fine ball gown. “It was good of Uncle Nai to bring these for us. He always brings such wonderful presents.” She picked up the ornate lacquered box that he had brought them the new makeup colours in and put a few things back in it. “Do you think he’ll take us to his realm one day?” Aliniel smiled and unzipped her dress. “I’m sure he will. He told me he would years ago. Now that we are older perhaps we will meet a Fey Prince and live happily ever after?” Arla laughed. “You are such a dreamer. I think what Nai has told us of his people should be enough to put you off. They are dark, dangerous and eternal. Forget those story books that he brought us as well. The human’s view of them is so different but I find it amusing, don’t you?” Aliniel smiled mysteriously. “Yes, I do. Well we can be dark, dangerous and eternal too. Are you going to accept father’s bite when you are old enough? Would you claim that immortality that is your birth right?” Arla looked thoughtful. “I don’t know yet. I don’t have to decide for five years, you six so I wouldn’t worry about it. It depends who I fall in love with. If it is one of our kind then yes, I suppose I would. If I love a human or other race then perhaps I would choose to grow old and die with him. I really don’t know.” Aliniel looked thoughtful. “I am worried about going back with our parents.  They haven’t said anything yet and I think that is more worrying than actually having to face the prospect. I know we’ve been trained to deal with the politics and I really can’t wait to see my first state ball but life is simple here. That I could meet someone, settle down here and be happy to the end of my days, why should I want for more? I can’t see why they want to leave. They have everything here and they are so happy.” Arla looked down at the makeup she was putting away in her box. “For us, so that we can find the love that they have.  Where are we going to meet anyone here? Also I would think that it is because there are people dying out there and people suffering when they think that they can help. We might be able to make a difference.” Aliniel slipped her dress back onto its hanger and back into the zip up wardrobe. “I don’t think we have a choice anyway. I’ve seen it in their eyes, both of them. They feel guilty for their happiness here. I know that a lifetime here is but a minute there but it weighs on them sometimes. I’ve seen them in the evenings when they sit outside beside the bonfire on the beach. They talk about life back there and they go over and over plans of what they can do to help. I’ve seen that dark shadow come over father’s face.” Arla closed the lid. “They can go back any time, they don’t have to go back now.  Father has told me that he is different there. Here he is happy and with the woman he truly loves. They are not threatened and they don’t need to be the people they are back there. Back there he has to be a commander, a warrior and by what I can work out one of the most feared assassins on many galaxies. Here he is just father, we love him and he loves us.  I can’t imagine him being anything else than that.” Aliniel shrugged. “But what would we be if we went back?  We’ve been trained.  You could be a great warrior.  Both mother and father have said so.  They are training us so I’ve always known that we’d go back one day.  Didn’t you?  So is that what you are going to be? Will you be a freedom fighter for Mission Command and fight against the religious controls of the evil Followers?” Arla laughed. “If I had a choice then that is probably what I’d do, join mother and father and try to help them. No, that won’t be possible, we know that. When we return we will have to be presented at Father’s home court. One or other of us will be married off to someone there or for some political alliance.” Aliniel smiled. “We don’t have to be. I spoke to mother about that subject ages ago. Father has seventeen children, six of them are women and they have already been married into the Court. We may well be free to love who we want to and do what we want to.” Arla smiled at her sister. “Oh sister, you have such romantic ideas. We carry mother’s royal bloodline. Don’t you think that is going to be a bargaining point? From what I’ve heard about the family our great grandmother will want to make as much of that as she can.” Aliniel looked thoughtful. “But it does mean that they will accept mother and that she may be with father when he is back on his ship even though she was not born into his family.  The rules are complex but I’ve spoken to her.  She’s worried about going back obviously.  She has always said that it is years in the future and not to worry about it.  I know that she does though.” Arla also looked thoughtful. “I suppose so. But what if they don’t accept her? I know that father is important but there are older members of his family.  I can’t imagine anyone choosing not to love mother but then I’ve only seen her here. It will be strange to actually have to put into practice what we have learnt. Deep down I suppose I can’t wait.  I’m of course terrified about the idea.” Aliniel smiled. “I could wait forever to avoid all that in fighting and watching my back though. I really can’t imagine what that will be like.  I love the idea of the grand balls on father’s ship and the elegance of living in such a gracious way. They will probably think us complete barbarians if we cannot meet their high standard of manners and etiquette.” Arla smiled back. “We will cope won’t we sister? We are going to take that Court by storm.  We knew we were going to be presented one day, that day may well be sooner than we thought.” Aliniel looked serious. “That is unless great grandmother takes a dislike to us.” Kyla stood at the cave entrance. They hadn’t heard her arrive and had no idea how long she had been there listening to their conversation. She was dressed casually in a long deep blue velvet robe, her hair was loose and wavy after being braided since she got back from the beach. “What isn’t there to like? You are two beautiful girls and we have taught you etiquette, manners and I would put my money on either of you in a fight. Do not worry your heads about it and has someone been listening at cave entrances again?” Arla looked down at her box as Kyla came to sit beside her on the bed. “You and father have everything you want here. Why leave?” Kyla looked down, initially with a knowing look but then they saw the sadness on her face. “We do have what for us is a perfect life here. But life can’t be like that, not for people like us. Your father has a duty and I will follow him. I too have a duty and your father will support me. Even if we can have forever here before going back, we would forget what we were fighting for. Time will erase the anger of what the Followers are doing and the sadness of losing our friends. That is what makes us strong when we have to fight the radicals.  They have their passion, we have to have ours. Anyway, it is time you two experienced life and found yourselves loves of your own. You are eighteen and nineteen now. You must choose your futures and whether to accept your father’s gift or not.  That is another choice you must one day make.  If you stayed here then you could have an eternity of happiness but it would be lonely. There is more to life than our little family group.” Aliniel looked down at her mother while tying the belt on her silken robe she had slipped on after taking the ballgown off and carefully hanging it with the others on a rail suspended from the ceiling. “Why can’t you give us the gift? Why can’t you bite us if we want to take on the immortality?” Kyla smiled. “I am an immortal because I followed the path of the White Lady and trained for many years to accept her gift. I am of Joniel’s race now because I accepted his blood. I cannot pass my blood on to anyone else because it carries the markers of the White Lady which prevents that. I have given you the royal bloodline as you are my daughters.  That is all I can do for you. If you wish to choose Joniel’s gift or curse you must accept his bite, if you would follow mine you must train for years and then be accepted by the White Lady as a true believer. Now I think it is time for you both to get some sleep. Joniel is going to put you through two days of intensive training and testing before we have to leave and he does not tire. If you don’t get your sleep he is going to really make you suffer for it.  As you have already overhead what we were saying there is no point in us discussing this.  It is your father’s decision and I have to say that I agree with him.  It is time you had a wider experience than this island.” Kyla kissed her daughters goodnight and left the room. In their room Joniel was sitting on the bed. He had his head in his hands and he was thinking. He looked up when she came in. “Are they happy with our decision?” Kyla smiled and kissed him. “I didn’t have to tell them. They had already overhead what we were talking about. I think so. I overheard a fair bit of their conversation before they noticed I was there. It is time that they made their own way and found their own lives before it’s too late. We can’t keep them sheltered here forever. I just hope we have trained them well enough.” Joniel kissed her passionately. “I just hope I’ve trained you well enough to survive the family. That is my greatest fear. I trust you to know what to do and I have complete faith in you that you will take them by storm. You have elegance and I know you can play politics or at least keep out of it. I don’t trust them, not in the slightest and neither must you. What I do trust is that you are bright enough to deal with them. I am myself here, we can love and laugh and I have been truly happy. There I must be the person I have to be. Whatever I have to do and however I have to appear, never for one moment doubt that I love you.” Kyla smiled. “If we could stay here I would but we must return with our daughters.  I’ll keep saying it and then it may seem real. It doesn’t at the moment. I did think through sending them with Nai for a while first to get used to bloodthirsty politics.” There was a flicker of hope on her face. Joniel looked down at his hands. “I would not send my two beautiful daughters into that pit of vipers without my protection. You still do not grasp the true darkness of that place. Under the elegant beauty beats a heart of true blackness. Well not all of them but some, and it is hard to tell the difference. Our family’s code of ethics is built up on strength, manipulation and status. In those things you can trust in a way.  Nai’s people can be and do anything, the chaos and randomness makes that place very, very dangerous. I believe our girls can survive going back but I wouldn’t want them to do it alone. You haven’t met grandmother but you will have to. She scares me totally. If I am going to be able to have you with me on the ship she is going to have to accept you. She is a master political strategist and a purist. You are of the blood now but you weren’t born that way. She will want to speak with you and on that conversation will hang our future together and possibly our lives. I will not live without you. They may not let me live with you and their solution will be swift and if we are lucky painless. So now you know why I have doubt about going back.” Kyla smiled at him. “I am going to be positive here and say that I can handle your grandmother. Are you going to tell her we’re already married?” Joneil smiled and looked up at her. “I’m not that brave. We’ll leave that one unsaid as she would probably not accept a marriage performed by two of the Old Ones. She must see our laws carried out. It is the only thing that has held the Enclaves together through the millennia. Now my love, I suggest that we set worries aside and enjoy the last of our time here. I have summoned Nai.” Two days of intensive training later Nai arrived.  He was expected and knew exactly when to make his entrance.  He did this with his usual style, a blue flash, a little smoke and his long robes shimmering in the sunlight.  He’d left it until they had done their packing and what possessions they wanted to keep and take with them were neatly put away in boxes ready for the move.  This packing had been done in silence and they now waited with their boxes. The girls had packed up what they wanted to take with them which was pretty much everything that Nai had given them. Joniel and Kyla had very little to take. The two girls were elegantly dressed which looked totally out of place in the clearing outside a cave on a deserted island stepped out of time.  Their jewels glittered in the sun, the tiny elegant tiaras crowned immaculately dressed locks, pulled up into a bun at the back with neat twirls hanging down either side. Joniel was feeling far too hot in his black velvet tail coat.  He nervously fingered his cravat which sat amidst the ruffles of his white wing collar frilled shirt.  He cast a nervous look at Kyla who looked elegant in a body hugging evening dress.  She self-consciously smoothed down the fabric and looked hopefully at Joniel who smiled.  In the sunlight his pantaloons were immaculate.  His polished boots had taken him a long time.  He’d been polishing the buckles on them all morning.  Kyla wasn’t allowed to touch him and he’d moved all the boxes before changing.  Now he fidgeted and couldn’t stand still as he felt totally uncomfortable. Nai was sombre, the full weight of what he was doing showed on his face. “Are you sure about this? Do you really want to go back?” Joniel smiled ironically. “No I do not want to go back.” He smiled at Kyla. “But I must go back.  It is the only choice really as the girls are getting older.” Nai tried to smile. “I really don’t understand why you have to do this yet. You could have many more years here and then go.  If you gave them the gift then you could pretty much have forever.” Kyla put a hand on his arm and he looked down at her gently. “If we stay here we could have a wonderful life, I agree. The memories of the pain and the loss fade daily in all this beauty and I blessed that to start with.  But, nothing changes back there if we go back the moment after we left.  For us it has been years and holding onto the memories and the information that we need is getting harder every day.” Nai sighed. “That I can well understand and I do realise why you want to go back now. I have enough trouble remembering the password for my computer if I don’t log on for a few days. I can’t imagine what it must be like to try to remember all those details for nearly twenty years.” Kyla smiled and raised an eyebrow. “I expect I have forgotten a lot. But I will remember.  I’ve got to.” Joniel was watching them as he stood between his two girls.  He looked from one to the other approvingly. “I think we had better go straight to my ship. There would be no forgiveness from my family if we didn’t. I don’t want that mistake hanging over them, or me, sorry, or us. It is time to go.” Nai took them directly to Joniel’s flagship and they arrived in the middle of the empty ballroom. Nai bowed to them all. “Well, that’s my task done. I have to get back to the Prince.  If I’ve got it right they have just arrived back at the new building they are using as Headquarters and I have to inform him that you have returned. He has the MacJoniel so you don’t need to hurry. I wish you luck and I must bid you farewell.” He turned and hugged Kyla. “Farewell my friend, we will meet again soon.” He touched his wrist and disappeared. The two girls were looking about the room in wonder. They felt the solid wood floor under their feet and the warmth of the room. They were itching to dance on the smoothly polished floor and all the gloriously elegant balls they had been told about seemed to play out in their memory.  It was real now, they were here after hearing about it all those years. They heard a sound. They all turned as they heard the footsteps behind them coming across the floor from the doorway. A young woman dressed in a long black velvet evening gown approached and Joniel stepped to meet her. “Ralissa, my sister in law, it is a pleasure to see you again. May I introduce Kyla and my two daughters by her Aliniel my eldest and Arla. I will explain later but I have had twenty years of life in the last few minutes here.” Ralissa smiled at Joniel and then looked around the assembled group. “So it would appear. I am very well and so is your bother. I didn’t know we were to expect guests. Jaz is overseeing the ship powering down and we’re off of battle stations now. I will see that someone arranges rooms for your guests.” She was casting a critical eye over Kyla who looked very uncomfortable. She was thankful that they had dressed appropriately before returning. She, like her two daughters, was also now dressed in a long black evening gown and their hair had been dressed and curled.  It had felt so out of place on the island but it was so right now. She could feel the stiffness on her face caused by the makeup that was layered on in a similar way to Ralissa’s and she felt very uncomfortable wearing the high heeled stiletto shoes. She was good at balancing but to walk in them and do much more was proving difficult. The floor was well polished and it looked like an impossibly slippery challenge to even walk to the door. Joniel looked serious. “I need you to arrange a meeting for us with grandmother. It is important.” She smiled and walked briskly away on impossibly high heels without even a wobble. “I bet you do. It has been nice knowing you. She arrived just after we came off of battle stations.” Joniel turned to Kyla and looked visibly nervous. “I just can’t get my head around it being twenty years since I walked out of this place and to them only a matter of days. Still, it will be easier when we have explained it and I must speak with grandmother first. She must not hear any of this from someone else or my life will be forfeit. She must be the first to know.” A tinkling bell sounded and a man’s voice filled the air. “Would Lord Joniel come to Matriarch Jerissa’s rooms immediately.” Joniel looked worried. “Oh well, if I don’t make it back it was a pleasure.” He kissed Kyla’s hand and hugged his two daughters. “I’ll have to leave you here and I am hoping that someone will come for you soon to bring you to grandmother or I will return and take you to our rooms. If they don’t then you will know that you are in trouble, get yourself to the shuttle bay and steal any ship you fancy, Kyla you have my code, and get out of here quick.” Joniel strode off out of the room, he could hardly breathe, and ascended the sweeping red carpeted stairway. Once at the top he strode along the right hand corridor and stopped outside an ornate gold filigree door. He knocked and a stern voice inside called. “Enter.” He opened the door and stepped smartly inside. He took a deep breath as he did so. His grandmother was sitting on a high backed, black carved chair. Her long blonde locks flowed around her immaculately white shoulders. Her black lace ball gown filled the chair and accentuated her impossibly slim waist. She looked up at Joniel and smiled, her eyes sparkling blue, her alabaster skin flawless. “Joniel, I hear you have guests with you?” Joniel looked stunned. “I wish to present Kyla and your granddaughters to you at your bidding. They are my two daughters and their mother. I am here to tell you the full story and I have much to explain to you.” Jerissa smiled. “You do not. I have been speaking with Nailindris who visited me on my ship on the way here. He is the reason that I am here to make sure that this matter is handled appropriately.” Joniel gasped and tried not to let his emotions show. His grandmother allowed a slight flicker of a smile to cross her lips. “King Nailindris has explained the situation to me and I am extremely proud of you. I would not have imagined you could have made such an impressive political move but now that you have, rest assured that I will be seeing you in a totally new light from now on. It was an amazing stroke of genius that you managed to get a child of the bloodline to love you. That you could master the manipulation of those emotions is testimony to your discipline and study. Not least one of the High Priestesses of the White Lady. We will surely benefit from having a priestess of the only Order that can heal us under our control. A very valuable pawn in the years to come I hope. Your assistance to the Prince will certainly bring us advancement in status. I have seen your daughters on screen, they are indeed most magnificent. I will be able to achieve much with them. I trust you have trained them?” Joniel took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I am pleased that you approve. Both of my daughters are trained in etiquette, dancing, assassination and combat. They have had the benefit of two very attentive teachers.” Jerissa gave him a strangely wicked smile. “Good so one or the other would make an excellent bodyguard for the Prince. Should that arrangement become a union then we would have one of our own on the throne. I will arrange a welcome ball where you may present your daughters and their mother and I will of course welcome the Prince and your other friends should you wish to invite them.  I seriously suggest that you do. It is wholly appropriate and proper that your daughters be presented to the Enclave in such a fashion. I would also insist that you make your union with the woman known as Kyla more permanent. She must also be presented to the Enclave tonight. I will inform the elders that they are to vote on her acceptance as your wife. I have been informed that she has already taken your blood. That is good. Her daughters will be accepted as part of the family and once you have given them the blood as well there can be no challenge to their rank and position.  I realise that they are not yet old enough.” Joniel looked at his grandmother wide eyed. “I thought you couldn’t stand the sight of her and wanted me to keep away from her?  How many arguments have we had about this?” Jerissa smiled. “Yes, but then I thought she was unworthy of you. I am sure she is absolutely charming and I look forward to meeting her at the ball when she is presented to me. I will hear no refusals. She no doubt has nothing appropriate to wear. I have taken the liberty of choosing something appropriate for all three of them. I have had the dresses laid out in your room and in the two rooms I have suggested for your daughters. She smiled. Nai did me the good service of returning to me shortly after you left and explaining all this to me. He knew I would want to know this news immediately.” Joniel glared moodily at his grandmother. “I didn’t know that you knew Nai so well?” Jerissa smiled. “In my position I have to know a great many people. Now, leave me, I have plans to make. Which of your daughters have you chosen for the Prince?” Joniel gave her a very wicked glare. “I would let my daughters decide.” He turned and left. Jerissa smiled. “It is of no matter, either would do.” Her eyes twinkled as she said the words, her mind racing as she made plans. Joniel returned to the ballroom and found Kyla sitting on the window sill. His daughters were looking out of the window at the stars. He walked slowly over to Kyla and held out his hand. “Come with me now, all of you, we will talk in my private rooms.” He led them to his private sitting room and showed them inside. Kyla gasped as she saw the room. It was every bit as ornate and elegant as the main room downstairs had been and had the same deep red décor and drapes which adorned the windows and the carpet was a similar deep pile. Joniel stepped inside and they followed. He shut the door and took out a device which caused little popping sounds around the room. Wisps of smoke emerged from the bugging devices that he had destroyed. Joniel smiled to himself. “When will they ever learn?” His daughters were looking around the room. They smiled and were about to open drawers when Joniel coughed. They froze and went to stand beside their mother. Joniel half smiled. “Good, well now that I have your attention it seems that grandmother now likes you Kyla. She is delighted with our two daughters as well. She is arranging a welcome ball for us which will also be a celebration of what was a successful mission.  This will be your chance to be introduced to everyone.” Kyla had just spotted the black velvet and lace ball gown hanging on a stand by another door to the room. Joniel spotted it as well and picked it up gently and held it to his face, smelling the fabric. He looked wistful for a moment then laid it over a chair back. “You will look beautiful in this, as beautiful as my mother did when she wore it. I think that dresses have been laid out for you in your rooms. I am guessing that you have the two empty rooms on this floor.  I designed them so I hope you’ll like them. Would you like to go and have a look?” They both bowed and ran out of the room. Joniel turned to Kyla. “I know this is a lot to take in. It is a lot for me to take in too. I left here thinking that I could never be with you, I’ve returned and suddenly you are accepted, we are together, we have the daughters.  It is so much to come to terms with.” Kyla smiled. “I am just happy that we can be together. It would be good to see the others again soon and to have time to adjust before we go back to active service. We haven’t discussed that. What are your plans?” Joniel looked down. “In all these years I’m surprised we haven’t discussed it.  I don’t have to go back as the Prince’s bodyguard. He has the body double and I was thinking of suggesting that one of our daughters takes my place. That would leave me free to come with you and we can then join up with Kel and the others. Is that acceptable?” Kyla took his hand. “Why wouldn’t it be? That sounds perfect.” Joniel looked a little sad. “No, perfect was the island. This is probably going to be a mix of hell, wild excitement and a little piece of heaven occasionally. I think that grandmother has her mind set on a wedding as well. How do you feel about that?” Kyla smiled. “Are you asking or telling?” She looked serious.  “I don’t know what a wedding here would entail.” Joniel’s smile fell from his face. “I’m saying we’ve both been told. I don’t think that a choice comes into it.” Kyla looked serious as well. “We can’t let your grandmother rule our lives.” Joniel smiled again. “She won’t. Well, she will try but she does not hold sway here although you may think she does and she certainly thinks she does. She has her own ship and she will be returning to it shortly.  If she feels as though she does rule our life she won’t fight us.  We just have to make sure that her decisions for us are the ones we would make for ourselves.” Kyla smiled. “But are you asking and am I forced to accept?” Joniel grabbed her around the waist. “I would be very, very disappointed if you refused after nearly twenty happy years of marriage on the island. What difference does it make to us anyway? It would also ensure your safety if something were to happen to me. A wedding would be a fantastic affair and our anniversaries would be magnificent.” Kyla gasped in horror. “Don’t you ever talk about something happening.” Joniel grabbed her arm. “It is always a possibility. We have dangerous lives and one day something could happen. Now I have something to show you.” He led her to the first of two other doors in the room. He opened the ornately carved wooden box on the wall and put his hand on the lit up panel.  It did an identity check and the red light also in the box flicked over to green and they heard the slight click as the lock opened. “This is a room I have never used before. I hope you like it. I designed it in the hope that one day we would be able to live here.” The door swung open to reveal a large room. In the centre was a heavily carved ebony wood four poster bed with black velvet drapes. Dragons climbed up the posts, watched by faerie creatures who sat in the carved trees at the top of the poles. Walls and ceiling were painted with rich dark oil murals depicting country, woodland and the seashore. The artwork was superior quality and seemed to take on a life of its own. All the furniture looked antique but it was all in immaculate condition and obviously handmade, carved with intricate detail and magnificently finished off. Joniel smiled. “I have collected furniture from some of the most elegant houses on the planets. Some have been gifts for services rendered, some I bought. I have never slept in this room. I created it for us. Do you like it?” He stood in silence, looking slightly nervous. Kyla looked around in wonder, trying to take it all in. “I love it. It is truly beautiful and an absolute work of art.” Joniel smiled. “For now we must attend to business though.  This is a dangerous day still. Grandmother may be on side but that will bring us enemies just because she is. There are some who would seek to advance their position by what they see as an opportunity. We must be seen to take our position here without any lack of confidence.  I must get to the deck and take command again. It has after all only been moments and the people here do not know we’ve had so long. I need to remember what was happening before we went. Later you can take a closer look at this room, it is ours, nobody else goes in here and I can have some time off duty to actually enjoy it. I will also have to contact the Prince. He’ll know by now that I’m healed and back but we should visit him and see what we can do to fit into their general plan. I would rather that our friends met our girls privately than at a state affair. Particularly knowing what our soirees can be like. I’ve told you enough about them and I have no reason to believe that this one is going to be any less deadly. The number of people around will make any direct attack impossible. There will of course be political manoeuvring and we’ll have to be careful that none of us fall into any traps.  I think we should see the Prince sooner rather than later. Grandmother wants the Prince to come here.  I’m not altogether sure that is a good idea but I will leave that to him.” Kyla nodded, Joniel found the girls and brought them back to the room and they all stepped closer together and grabbed Joniel’s arm as he programmed in the location and touched his wrist device. Prince Anathorn was seated in his new meeting room in Kilaniak Palace on Althaeus Minor on the edge of the Selaron Nebula. The palace had been commandeered at high cost from a noble who had at least four other palaces, didn’t need it and who was more than happy with the monetary reward he had got from relocating to another one of them. He’d been more than happy to leave enough furniture behind for the Prince and his entourage and he had left quickly enough for everything to be carefully checked out for more than woodworm. Kel sat on his left hand side, his feet on the table, expensive gold leaf carved chair tipped back onto its back legs. The Prince scowled at him but Kel shrugged. Rennon was seated on the other side of the table. He sat neatly, feet on the floor, papers neatly placed around him.  He had his laptop laid out on a place mat and was clicking away on the keyboard. The body double Joniel stood silently behind Anathorn but Intendi was nowhere to be seen. Kel was dressed in his tribal tunic and loose fitting trousers.  Rennon was dressed in a casual suit, no tie and the top button of the shirt was undone.  They all jumped as there was a slight clap of thunder and the four arrived. The Prince jumped up and Kel drew his blaster. Joniel acted swiftly and put his hand up to stop Kel from firing. “It is only us.” The Prince looked stunned. “I thought you were staying on the island? You are walking. How are you?” He rushed to get Joniel a chair. Joniel laughed. “It was twenty years ago that we parted company even though it has only been a few hours for you.” The Prince looked stunned. “Only twenty years, why are you back so soon? You haven’t fallen out?  Has something happened?” Kel looked up hopefully. Kyla smiled. “No, we haven’t fallen out. We just felt that if we stayed any longer in that island paradise we’d forget what is important.  It was getting harder and harder to even think of coming back. Also, we would like to introduce you to Aliniel, our eldest daughter and Arla, our youngest. We came back as they are of age and although there was much the planet could offer there were other things that it could not.” The Prince stood up and walked over to the two girls who smiled nervously at each other as he approached. He took Aliniel’s hand and kissed it and bowed his head. He then took Arla’s hand and similarly kissed it and bowed his head. “It is an absolute pleasure to be introduced to two such beautiful young ladies. Your parents must be very proud of you. I am delighted that they chose to bring you back to our world and time rather than to have allowed Nai to choose any of his people for them to meet. I am deeply honoured.” He looked meaningfully at Joneil who shifted his feet slightly. Joniel smiled and the Prince visibly relaxed. Joniel sat down at the table, Kyla joined him and the Prince escorted the two girls to the table and pulled their chairs out for them. They were awkward, nervous and slightly clumsy until Kyla glared at them and they looked away from Anathorn and concentrated on what they were supposed to be doing. They then were able to recover their composure, their dignity and their elegance. When they were seated Anathorn poured them all a glass of a blue liquid from the decanter on the table. He hesitated before pouring the first of the girls’ drinks and looked up at Joniel who nodded, so he poured them each a glass. “Well, here we are. I cannot say how glad I am to see all of you, old friends and new. We’ve just got back and I’m reviewing information. So you haven’t missed anything but I’m guessing you have forgotten a few things. Sorry Kel, this is not going to be a lot of fun for you as it is likely to be a very political time as I’ve just had my Council of Elders wiped out in that terrorist attack. I need to organise their state funeral and to oversee the appointment of new members. As you can imagine after the brutal way in which they were removed takers for those positions are not going to be as easy to find. If they are then I will have to be naturally suspicious of them. Joniel, I trust I can count on your support and I am going to make an unprecedented move. I would like to offer a seat on the Council to you for one of your chosen elders. Similarly Kyla I intend to invite Maran to sit on the Council. I value their opinion and if we are to hold all the galaxies together we need to have a Council of Elders that is representative of as many of the planets and galaxies as possible.” Joniel smiled. “I am sure that competition for that position will be enthusiastic and deadly. I will propose it to the Enclave.” The Prince smiled. “As you are still alive I assume that introducing your family to the Enclave has been successful? Or have things changed since we last spoke about it?” Joniel looked down. “They haven’t changed at all. My grandmother says that she has accepted the situation and that we have her blessing.  That means she is either happy with the political power Kyla’s bloodline offers or she will arrange Kyla’s death as soon as she can. There is a possibility that she will use the situation to unbalance the other matriarchs.  Whatever ideas she has, she will be using it to her advantage. I really need to consolidate my position within the Enclave though. I’ve made a few moves lately that are against tradition or just plain frowned upon and my position isn’t that strong if some of the political players start sticking the knife in. I think I am giving my elders severe worry lines over some of the things that I am doing. I ought to make an effort to appease them. If I can do that I’ll be free to join you.  I think it is going to be a busy few days.” The Prince raised an eyebrow. “I had assumed that you would have matters to deal with there. May I ask what your plans are?” Joniel looked at Kyla who smiled at him reassuringly. “Initially I plan to return to my Flagship and to establish Kyla and my daughters within the hierarchy of the Enclave. Then I intend to leave the Flagship in the able command of Jaz, my son, and return here. Kyla and I have discussed this. You have the Unit here for your protection and we would like to propose that you accept one of our daughters as a bodyguard. We have personally trained both of them in all aspects of civic duty and protection. One excels in her mother’s fighting skills as her prime talent. The other has excelled in my skills.” The Prince looked at the two girls and smiled broadly. “I would be delighted to accept either one of you as my bodyguard. I am happy for the choice to be yours. I would suggest that we get to know each other a little better before we make such an important decision. I also want to know that you would accept the position of your own free will.” He smiled at the girls and they both looked captivated. Joniel caught their gaze and glared at them. They both looked chastised and chose a more sedate and aloof expression. Arla looked directly at the Prince. “I am sure we are both very able to undertake whatever duties you would ask us to perform.” Joniel coughed. “That would be in your protection, not in undertaking the sort of missions you used to send me on. My daughters are not going to be following me into my chosen profession.” Kel grinned. “I’m sure they won’t. Well why doesn’t one of them stay with the Prince and the other be assigned to our missions?” His interest in Arla was obvious, he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Joniel smiled knowingly at him. “That may well be the final solution. It is a good idea Kel.” Kel grinned widely. “My grandmother is organising a ball to welcome Kyla and the girls into the family and so that they can be presented to the Enclave. You are all most welcome. It would be an opportunity for us to open diplomatic channels between yourself and the rest of my people. I speak for only a small proportion, those in my fleet. Our nation is vast and there are many commanders. But grandmother commands them all and few would speak against her, and live. So I don’t need to tell you what forming an alliance with her would mean.” The Prince ran his fingers through his hair. “I would be delighted to accept although I am guessing it is one of the most dangerous things I’ve agreed to do this year. I realise now how much my days are likely to be taken up with politics and meetings. But a ball might at least be pleasurable and the chance to accompany such beautiful ladies should never be passed up. As you say I do have the body double to take on my duties here and I would be delighted to have one of your beautiful daughters by my side. So, Joniel and Kyla what are you going to do?” Kel was looking intently at Kyla. She noticed his gaze and smiled at him. He looked away. Kyla then turned to the Prince. “I would like to re-join my unit. Specifically I would like to be able to join up with you, Kel and Rennon again.” She smiled at Kel and Rennon. “I would also like to propose that Joniel be permitted to join us too. We have discussed this and we do not want to be apart anymore. Is it likely that we can return to the Argo and continue with our quest?” The Prince looked stunned. “Joniel, you! Take orders! Become part of an official organisation? What is going on? I would of course be delighted to have you with the team. If it is your wish, consider it done.” Joniel smiled. “It is my wish.” The Prince smiled and looked around the assembled crew. “Well, it looks like we will have one last mission together before I bury myself totally in politics. Joniel I for one would be delighted to attend the ball that your grandmother is proposing.  As to the Argo, we’ll have to work out what is happening there.  It was sent on a deep cover mission with a new crew.  Many of the old ones are still there and the last I heard they were being extremely successful in wreaking havoc in Follower territory.” In the darkness of space two ships were still docked. Their immense bulk blotted out whole star systems from view from the planets many light years away. Osiris handed the command console position over to his second in command, a dog headed creature in black body armour and stepped from his ship and strode down the connecting corridor to where he knew his queen would be. He threw open the door and marched over to her, grabbed her and pushed her up against the console. “So you got your way in the end.” Isis smiled. “Is it not your way as well? Have you not fought against yourself on this matter for years? It was the way life would always be.  Eventually we had to be together. That is an impossible force to resist. It would destroy us if we didn’t accept that. Our battle is outmoded. The reason for us to be apart is no longer relevant. I have had too many years without you that I’ve even forgotten what our original argument was about. I think it is time to put all that aside and be together.” Osiris glared at her. “That is all very well but will you release the wandering one? Will you let her lead her own life?  We still cannot directly intervene, would you leave her free to make her own decisions?” Isis glared at him. “I cannot. She was born of a deal that was struck. I cannot break it as her mother kept her side of the bargain. Her mother has however now told the woman part of the story as much as she knows it. Then again, why should I?” Osiris gripped her even more tightly. “Because of the confusion you have caused by it. Your political playing and convoluted plots have caused many great distress. I won’t say you haven’t been remarkably successful in intervening without directly taking a hand but it all could be simpler.” Isis tried to pull away. “You are quick to blame me but you were swift enough to create your own wandering one. Would you release your essence as well? Would you let your servant be free? You trapped part of my essence, I trapped part of yours. Isn’t it time that we let those entities live out their own lives?” Osiris smiled. “No. But why did you bring my incarnated earthbound essence back as a woman to force me to bring yours back as a man?” Isis’ expression softened. “Do I have to spell it out to you my brother, lover. Have you enjoyed an eternal lifetime of being able to touch but not enjoy that one act that makes us one. I brought your wandering one back as a woman so that was again possible for them. Even if it is denied to us.” Osiris released his grip and hugged her. “One day they might find each other. We may be denied some things but I will always love you. They will come together. Every time they come close there seems that some act or circumstance makes sure they don’t meet.” Isis smiled. “I’ve played my cards to try to bring them together, the path is laid out but it keeps getting muddied. It is romantic that they will only feel a passion for each other, time with anyone else will pale into insignificance and when they find each other they will be a force to be reckoned with.” Osiris looked at her gently. “Or they will find the peace they have both been looking for. They have got a lot done for us though haven’t they? It was worth it. Then they might just fight like we do and find what happiness they can in the times that they do not.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
2
 
 
Kel was just leaving the training room in basement of the Prince’s new palace on Centra Lakural. He carried his sword rolled up in a towel and he was heading for the shower room. His loose fitting fighting robes were stained with blood from cuts on himself and his opponents. He was soaked in sweat and there was a fairly deep cut on his right hand. He was deep in thought and he didn’t see Joniel coming until he was right next to him.
Joniel smiled a little nervously and struggled to think of something to say. “Been sparring?”
Kel jumped slightly and grunted. “Yes.” He glared at Joniel.
Joniel looked at him sincerely, evaluating his face and body language. “Kel, we need to talk.”
Kel pushed past him even though the corridor was wide enough to easily pass without touching. “No we don’t.”
Joniel fixed him in a moody stare. “If I have offended you I am sorry.”
Kel matched him with an equally moody stare. “I have nothing to say to you.” He looked down and walked past.
Joniel caught his arm and pulled him back. Kel spun around and aimed at punch at Joniel’s face. Joniel nimbly dodged. He turned on Kel. “Well that said volumes. Perhaps this is something we need to take in to the training room to work out. I don’t know what I’ve done to offend you but tell me and I’ll put it right if I can. I can assure you I have done nothing intentionally.”
Kel grunted. “You can’t put anything right, so leave it unless you want trouble. Don’t push me.” There was a lost look in his eyes that turned to hatred as he looked at Joniel.
Joniel glared at him. “It is Kyla isn’t it? Do you feel I’ve wronged you in some way?”
Kel grunted and turned away. Then he turned back. “You turn up here and any chance I had with her went out of the window. She is my race, not your race, we could be the last of our kind. Doesn’t that bother you at all? She is mine by right. Then you go and turn her head with your pretty boy looks and moody stares.”
Joniel viewed Kel with complete contempt, sufficient to actively make Kel jump. His glare was icy. “She is not anyone’s by right. Kyla has made her own decisions.”
Kel laughed. “That is easy for you to say, you won! You wouldn’t be saying that if she had chosen me. So she was a healer who healed you. You owed her a debt of honour, you came back and then you helped to heal her. That should have been an end to it and I was happy for you to do that.  I didn’t see your slithery plan until it was too late. Your debt was paid so why didn’t you just walk away? Why did you want more? You were released from your life debt. You had to carry on and take what should have been mine.”
Joniel’s voice was flat and cold. “I could not walk away for the same reason as you can’t accept the truth now and maybe you won’t. You certainly haven’t seen the truth for yourself. You are talking about things you know nothing about. For your comments to me you don’t deserve the truth but as you are Kyla’s friend I will tell you. I met Kyla when she healed me. To heal me was against her creed and she risked being banished from her Order for doing it. It was a very difficult decision for her to make and I trust you respect her enough to realise that it wasn’t something she undertook lightly. She took pity on me when I was dying.”
Kel shook his head. “Big deal, she’s a kind person, so what? You paid her back, surely that should be the end of it.”
Joniel smiled coldly. “She healed me and she looked after me. I was arrogant and made her life difficult even though she did her best to make me comfortable while I was healing. That was despite knowing what I was and who I was. That was despite the fact that I had taken her as a slave. She had seen me kill in cold blood but she still took pity on me. That takes a very special woman.”
Kel laughed. “Yes she is and that was all that it was, pity. You won her over because you were an arrogant pitiful creature. You are evil Joniel, you are a cold blooded killer. Why do you think that you deserve her?”
Joniel caught Kel by surprise as he caught his arm and pushed him up against the wall with strength that Kel had not expected. “I do not deserve her, I never have. Our union was forbidden and we had to live with that. My wife had died and I defied our law by refusing to take another all these years as there was only one woman who could ever fill that gaping hole in my life and she was denied to me by my own people. So if we want to claim ownership, and I never would, she was mine before you met her.”
Kel spat at him. “A few years of lost romance and you think you can take the last chance of rebuilding my race from me. Look at yourself? What can you offer her? It was pity again wasn’t it. It was just pity for a poor broken creature laying there paralysed in the cave. Look at yourself Joniel. Cold hearted, political, untrustworthy. You’ll find something else that takes your fancy soon, someone with more power and you’ll be off. If you hurt her I will kill you.”
Joniel released Kel and he took another swing at him. Joniel grabbed his fist and used the power behind it to unbalance Kel and throw him to the ground. “No you won’t and I find your words offensive. I’m telling you this as the alternative would be to kill you where you lay. I should have killed you already for your insolence. You are going to have to accept this. Our union was not on a mere whim and it is you who is the shallow one. If you call nearly seventy years “a few years” then you are a fool. I suggest that you look at yourself. Was it guilt for having nearly killed her? Was it that she was something pretty? Was it that she was of your race? What you are feeling is an infatuation. It is lust. You are definitely not the last of your kind, you’ll find others. You are going to have to get over this or it will become a problem.”
Kel struggled. “You only got to be with her because I had been drugged and controlled to attack her again.”
Joniel released Kel and let him get up. “I want you to stand in front of me like a man when I tell you this. There is no point trying to attack me and that will solve nothing. I will tell you our story. Yes I was dying when she met me and we spent many months in that cave while she nursed me back to health. In that time we talked and we came to realise that there was something between us. That was something lasting. Not built on any physical lust although I would never deny that I have always been attracted to her. We had to wait all those years and that is a long time to wait when you love someone that much. Yes we were together that night when you were injured.  It was the first time after so many years of waiting but only because we found out that we could. You cannot help who you love Kel and you certainly cannot make someone love you. You can make them notice you. You can give them time to get to know you. But you can’t force the river. If they are going to love you they will. If you are going to love that person then you cannot stop it, however hard you try.”
Kel made a lunge at Joniel who jumped aside.
Joniel spoke softly but there was a certain menace in his tone. “Alright pal if you can’t stand and hear this like a man.” He grabbed him and threw him on the floor and held him down. “I got to be with Kyla that night because it was the first time I could. You were acting without knowing the information and that is your problem Kel, you don’t look and you don’t listen. When you don’t want to hear something you completely ignore it. Kyla and I have been lovers for more than eighty years, unable to see each other more than fleeting moments when we happened to be in the same place at the same time. We often had to ignore each other on purpose just to keep each other safe. Can’t you get the message Kel? It was forbidden by her order for her to be with a man until she attained her first mastery, it was forbidden by my family for me to be with her. Even when she had attained her first mastery it was impossible for me to physically join with her. This is hard Kel, you really are making me put this into words. If I made love to her I would kill her as I would not be able to control myself at that moment of euphoria. I cannot explain what it meant to find out that I could finally touch her after all those years. I have just had twenty years of total happiness with her and I’ve given that up to come back here because what we are doing here is important. So don’t you dare to judge me. Don’t you dare put your petty wants and needs above what is really important. We have to work as a team. Can we do that?”
Kel looked stunned. “I didn’t know. You seriously had to wait all that time?”
Joniel managed a smile as he felt Kel relax. He stepped back and offered the big man a hand up. He took it and stood in front of Joniel. Kel looked down. “I feel really stupid now. And you really don’t know how much respect I have for you now that I know.”
Joniel shook his head. “You were defending something you believed in and on the face of it perhaps it did look like I walked in and ruined your chances. We had to keep our love a secret. There is no need now. My family have accepted her and she is a Master of her healing arts and can make her own choices.”
Kel looked up. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
Joniel smiled. “You needed to say it and I needed to tell you. You need to work on that aggression my friend. I would suggest that you try sparring with Arla.”
Kel smiled back. “So you think she’s good?”
Joniel smiled and rubbed his side where a bruise was still hurting. “I know she’s good.”
Kel looked down. “Thank you.”
Joniel smiled. “I see a lot of Kyla in her. I wouldn’t kill you if you wanted to try your luck with her. She is still mortal. She hasn’t taken the blood. She doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to. So you could have a whole lifetime of happiness together. That is if she doesn’t break you first.”
Kel thought for a moment. “What would she want with someone like me?”
Joniel laughed. “If you are asking that question then you might just deserve to find out. You’ll have to bear this in mind though. If you ever upset her, she will kill you.”
Both Joniel and Kel’s pagers went off at once. They looked down, then at each other, then checked the screen. Then they ran together to the Prince’s meeting room.
The Prince was sitting at the head of the table. He had paperwork laid out in front of him and he looked worried. Kyla was sitting beside him looking at one of the sheets of paper. She looked up when they came in and smiled. Kel went to sit opposite her, letting Joniel take the seat next to her.
Rennon came in about ten minutes later. “Sorry it took me so long. I was in the middle of amending something and I had to save it and I had an experiment running. So, what’s up?”
The Prince picked up the papers, put them together and tapped them so that they were neat. “It seems that the Followers have perfected the drug we found at the Research Establishment and they have infected Selurious Nine. Reports have come in of an almost total population infestation. We have a base there where they are researching the pods and looking for a serum to counteract the Follower drug. I need you to go in on an extraction mission to rescue Dr Eli Colt’s team. They are sealed in a chamber in the Caverns of Ek’la’nadeem. We received a communiqué from Dr Colt earlier this week that he had developed a drug that can counteract the one the Followers are using. He has now activated his emergency beacon and reported the outbreak. The base is in lockdown but the beacon is still transmitting and will do so until all in his group are dead. While we hear the beacon we know there is still hope. Also one of the pods we found was en route to him. I have lost contact with the courier but I have to assume that it arrived. I need you to find out what happened to him and retrieve the scientists and the pod. If that falls into the wrong hands the results could be devastating.
Rennon, I want you piloting and to stay on the ship. Under no circumstances are you to go down onto the planet. Kel you are going to have to stay on ship to defend it as well. I want you on board in case the mission sends you anywhere else. Joniel and Kyla, I want you to go in and deal with it. Only you two are immune to the infection.
If we are too late and they have been taken over and you can’t safely extract Dr Colt’s team I want you to wipe them out and retrieve what you can. This could be a trap but I don’t have to tell you that. Joniel, I want you to go down ship to planet with your teleport. I’m fairly sure there is an infestation.  If not, report and I’ll send further orders. If you see any sign of the carapaces developing on the scientists get out of there and we’ll have to blow that planet out of existence. So be ready to get out quickly.”
Kyla looked up, her brow furrowed. “Is there any chance of saving anyone else? The population on that planet is nearly two million?”
The Prince looked down. “I’m sorry, no. Once they have changed, they have changed. As we aren’t getting full life readings they are most likely already too far gone. Even if they aren’t we wouldn’t be able to find a cure in time. I would assume that the Followers are also sending a team in to capture Dr Colt and his team. I want you to get there first. The next best thing would be to catch them on the planet and take some of them out when we destroy the planet. We’ll take that decision when it comes to it.”
They walked in silence to the equipment room. They kitted up, ran to the hopper and leapt on board. Rennon did the pre-flight checks in triple time as he’d written a sub routine that meant he just had to flick one switch.
They sat in silence as Rennon took them out of orbit and initiated the Eion Drive and they leapt into the dimensional corridor and sped to the planet. Half an hour later they jumped out of the dimensional corridor and hovered above the blue and green ball floating in space. It had a moon in orbit around it and seven other planets in orbit around a double sun. They went into orbit around the planet on the far side of the moon.
Rennon activated the sensors and began his scan. He furrowed his brow. “I’m getting semi life signs on the planet, lots of them. Not human life signs. I’ve compared the signatures with what I would have expected from the locals and there has definitely been a change. I’m afraid you are dealing with converts. So it is an extraction and destruction for the base, just as we had feared it might be. It looks like there are many groups but they are nowhere near where the caverns are yet.
That is curious. I’m running an analysis of the atmosphere. We’re shielded so they can’t detect us. I’m waiting for the results back but it won’t take long. Saying that, here they are. The atmosphere is thick with something that shouldn’t be there. I can’t detect exactly what it is without a sample so I’d appreciate it if you could get me one. With extreme caution of course, that is what has probably made them change.  Don’t worry, we’re on a closed atmosphere here, nothing out there will mix with the air.
If the air is the catalyst or cause then those people on the planet didn’t stand a chance. I’m guessing that whatever is down there is something that the Followers have created. Probably all part of their super soldier research. The life signs are strong, too strong for a human. Take this scanner.” He handed Joniel a wrist strap. “I’ve been working on it and it seems to work perfectly. You can activate it without someone knowing you are scanning them. It could be useful if they are infected and you don’t want to let them know that you know. Are you ready? I’ll hold this orbit. Don’t trust anyone.  As far as I can see everyone is infected on the surface but the base may have a closed atmosphere.  It depends if they have activated that or if they were on normal air harvesting.”
Kel was pacing. Joniel took the offered wristband and put it on. Kyla put a hand on his arm. “There are going to be places you can go, this isn’t one of them. You have to understand. In a combat situation a hazmat suit could be breached.”
He looked down at her and smiled. “I feel useless.”
Kyla smiled. “Well get those hazmat packs out for me. I need four, let’s be optimistic.”
He got the packs out and helped Kyla and Joniel on with theirs and put the other four into the backpacks. Kyla put her hand on Kel’s chest. “Thank you, now we’ll see you later.”
She stepped over to Joniel. He put his arm around her, keyed in the location and pressed his wrist transporter and they disappeared.
They appeared on the planet’s surface almost instantaneously and a few hundred yards from the mountain where the cave was. They immediately crouched down into the long grass and began running at superhuman speed. They ran then stopped, ran then stopped, listening and watching for any sign of other movement. Joniel caught Kyla’s arm and pointed out a group of locals who were milling about. It didn’t look as though they had been noticed as the locals seemed to be walking and milling, walking and milling and making their way slowly. Joniel pulled out a small stick camera and took a few shots of the people milling about.  He also pulled out a scanner and took a reading. He pressed the hazardous sample button and the reader took a sample of the air.
The creatures were obviously what had once been the locals. They were still wearing their everyday clothes or the clothes they had been transformed in. Many were in their nightwear and at least two were wearing nothing at all. One of these was wandering aimlessly holding a bath brush and what looked like a bar of soap. They were grey skinned and staggering around in an incoherent group between where Kyla and Joniel were and where they wanted to go. Joniel indicated that they should go around the group so they ran, silently and crouched in the long grass. Joniel left no footprints, Kyla although fast was struggling to keep up with him.
They got to the trees. Kyla realised first and touched Joniel’s arm. He turned and she pointed out the band of locals who were shambling in their direction. They looked strange, different from the others, but from that distance they couldn’t tell specifically what made them different. They weren’t moving like the others had done, these were fast and they were covering the ground between them at an alarming rate. Joniel and Kyla turned and ran and took a path that was in a different direction from the one they wanted to go but it did take them up onto the mountain.
They both found some undergrowth, hid and froze. Staying still until they were absolutely sure that they had not been spotted. The locals who had been following them seemed confused.  They were now milling about and looking blankly all around them. Then following Joniel’s lead the couple made their way to the right and circled the group, keeping to the undergrowth where their outline couldn’t be fully seen. This seemed to work, the locals didn’t seem to be able to spot them. Though they couldn’t work out how Rennon had missed them with his scan.
They moved slowly at first, cautious and trying to avoid any sound or too swift a movement that would get them noticed. Once away from the imminent danger and out of sight of the group they sped up until they were able to run and they then managed to get to the base of the mountain where they had originally wanted to be.
The mountain towered above them. Seemingly impossibly high but at the same time an amazing challenge which incorporated rock, vegetation and all the ingredients to instil sheer blind terror even in an experienced mountain climber.
Kyla took a deep breath and fear gripped her. She had thought about the climb but not in such minute detail as to imagine what it would actually be like. Now that the sheer rock face towered above her it was real and she had to face it. She looked at Joniel who was evaluating the climb as well. She knew his mind would already have sorted out the handholds, footholds and any possible hazards. She just didn’t have that knowledge and deeply wished that he would just say they could use his wrist device. But, she knew better than that, without knowing the specific layout of where they were going they could materialise in solid rock and that would make for a slow death and a very short mission.
Joniel was a lot more confident. He strode up to the rock and seemed to glide gracefully up, his hands moving to holds as if drawn there by some magnetic force. Kyla was not so skilled. She took a deep breath, partly grateful that he was above her and couldn’t see what she was doing. She looked and she struggled to find easy holds. It was slow going for her, every handhold seemed unreliable and she was trying one or two before she put her weight onto it. Similarly with her footholds as they seemed unreliable.
She was concentrating and didn’t notice Joniel watching her from his vantage point at their destination. He smiled and climbed back down beside her and put a gentle hand on her back. She looked up at him, the concentration and fear was now obvious to him. He reached into his pack and pulled out a rope. “I forget sometimes my love. You haven’t done this before have you?”
She shook her head and clung to the rock.
He looped the rope around her. “There is no shame in telling me. I don’t expect you to have done the things I have done. We’ll do this together.”
He shadowed her, climbing beside her and telling her where to put her hands and feet. When there wasn’t a good handhold he supported one for her even though he seemed to be able to climb where there was virtually nothing holding him up.
Then Kyla grabbed a rock which came out in her hand. She slipped and began to slide down the slope towards what was by then a hundred foot drop. Joniel deftly caught her by the back of her suit and pulled her up to put her hand on solid ground. Once she had her footing again they moved on and crossed an almost horizontal rock face.
They climbed over the ledge outside the cave entrance they had been looking for.  Kyla sat for a moment, catching her breath as she looked back down the near sheer mountainside she had just climbed up.  She also allowed herself a moment to look out at the breath taking countryside.  The towering snow covered mountains sinisterly pointed to the sky, the rolling hills below such a contrast of what would have been peace if there hadn’t been people wandering around aimlessly.  Their plight soon brought Kyla back to the moment and she looked around the ledge.
It was swept clean of any debris or fallen rocks and had been worn smooth by many boots over the years.  The cavern itself was remarkably small, hardly big enough for one or two people.  It opened out into a tunnel which went off into the blackness. Joniel sniffed the air and listened. He pushed Kyla behind him as a creature leapt out of the darkness. It was man sized and in the moments she had to evaluate the situation it was obvious that it was a man, but covered from head to foot in a carapace. The transformed man was impossibly fast and strong. He caught Joniel in the chest and pushed him back. He rolled with the push and ended up back on his feet just as Kyla drew her sword and just before he went over the edge. With a single smooth stroke she took the creature’s head off and the head and man fell to the ground. Joniel circled her took up a position on her right hand side as they entered the cave entrance. Joniel stepped ahead and went first, Kyla turned and followed him, back to back.  She could feel his solid muscular back against hers and focused on his movements to be able to keep contact with him. She matched how he walked as she could feel what he was doing so she didn’t need to see where she was going. They synchronised their movements and moved swiftly.
As they progressed Kyla heard the advancing creature before she saw him.  His feet made a dull flapping sound as the bare flesh and carapace ran over stone.  Joniel felt her tense as the creature came up behind them. He didn’t turn, he kept watching the cave opened up into a cavern ahead, watching now with the ability to see shapes in the darkness, a talent that he knew that they now both had.
Kyla could see the creature attacking her as a silhouette against the sunlit background of the cave entrance. The creature crouched and got ready to spring. Kyla braced herself as it sprang towards her but rather than leaping directly it bounced off of the wall which caught her by surprise. Its clawed hand bore down on her but she moved with lightning speed and cut the hand off. She stepped aside and cut its leg off with the back swing. It crumbled to the ground and began to crawl towards her. Its razor sharp fangs were snapping with impossible speed. She balanced herself, watching it for any sign that it still could spring then stepped forwards to get the right angle and cut its head off. As the head rolled away it lay still. Without a word she backed to where Joniel was waiting, watching for any shapes that may be moving towards them in the darkness.
One creature bounded down the tunnel out of the blackness towards Joniel. As it leapt to attack, Joniel tensed and Kyla turned as he bent down and crouched under her swing. They both lunged and caught the creature off guard.  Its prey was now moved and it met with Kyla’s sword which sliced across its chest and Joniel’s which cut its leg off. Joniel took up his position watching Kyla’s back as she stepped forwards and impaled the beast and then decapitated it. It fell to the ground, its black blood running into the dust of the cavern, its white carapace almost shimmering in the vaguely lit darkness.
Kyla spun around and Joniel rotated with her so that he led the way and she followed up, watching their back. The tunnel was almost silent.  The silence was broken by a slight buzz from their communicator which was on semi-silent. Kyla grabbed her communicator from her belt and Rennon’s voice came over the crackling line. “They are moving in on you. Something is attracting them.”
Kyla swore. “We are about to have more company.”
Joniel moved faster down the corridor until they came to a metal door at the end. He punched in the code. The door opened. Kyla already had her backpack off and threw it to him. She smiled. “I’ll stay here and fend them off.”
He closed his eyes momentarily and took a deep breath. “Be careful.”
She smiled. “I always am.”
Joniel grabbed both of the backpacks and jumped into the lift and entered his code. The door shut and the intercom crackled into life. “We recognise your code as friendly. Help us, please help us. There are only three of us left. We are having severe malfunctions here.” The lift sped down the shaft and the door opened. Joniel threw the backpacks through the door as it opened and the three scientists stood looking at him. He ran his scanner over them. The scanner indicated slight changes but Joniel didn’t react.
The scientist who stood in front had a box in his hand. “I’ve got the pod. We need to get this off base. I’ve also got my work on here.” He held up a memory stick. “I’ve been scanning the planet there is no life out there now that isn’t infected. You need to get us out of here as soon as possible. There is some sort of other new creatures out there though. They are scanning strangely. I can get no data on them.”
Joniel levelled a cold stare at him. “Get the suits on and follow me.”
The scientist spluttered but took one look at Joniel’s mean and moody look and undid the pack. Joniel caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Instinctively he ducked as two throwing knives flew over his head. He leapt forwards, put his foot on the back of the scientist who was bending down and leapt over him, twisting in mid air to land facing the room. The knife thrower was momentarily disorientated, that was all it took. Joniel leapt across the room, knives appeared from what seemed like thin air and the knife thrower hit the ground, his red blood splattering the immaculately clean white floor. The scientist with the box laughed and opened it. He grabbed the pod that was in a protective padded area inside and thrust it at the other scientist but it never made contact. Joniel’s dagger flew through the air and the hand and pod hit the floor as Joniel followed it up. His long knife moved like a blur and the scientist fell to the ground. He pushed the two remaining scientists back and knocked the pod back into the box and snapped the lid shut.
He felt the air moving as one of the two scientists took a swing at him with a scalpel he had pulled from his pocket. It cut empty air as Joniel ducked. With a swift upwards movement he brought his knife around and slit the scientist’s throat. Once on his feet he ducked instinctively as the second scientist lunged at him with little skill. He cut the hand off that held the kitchen knife as he spun and then cut across the scientist’s throat.
The room was silent. The bodies lay on what had been a clean white floor. He heard a click and instinctively grabbed a backpack, the memory stick and dived back into the lift and hit up. As the lift sped off it was rocked by an explosion below. The lift jolted violently and Joniel was thrown off of his feet. The lift kept rising as he pushed the box into the backpack and slung it onto his back.
The lift doors opened. He could see Kyla fighting the creatures that packed the tunnel in front of her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a metal ball and threw it. As it fell he slipped his arm around Kyla’s waist and hit his wrist. As they disappeared the tunnel erupted in flames incinerating anything in the blast radius.
They appeared back on board the Hopper and the auto sanitiser hosed both of them down with a blue and slightly cold blast of chemically enriched air.. Rennon screamed. “Hold onto something we’ve got incoming.” Out of the front window they could see a ship which had just appeared and was spewing out smaller, close combat, fighter craft. They were needle like planes which headed towards their ship at an alarming rate. Rennon pushed buttons. “Kel, I need you on guns. See if you can cut us a path to get into the corridor.”
Kel leapt into the seat, grabbed the gun console controls and began firing. He cut a swathe through the oncoming planes as Rennon made the calculations and switched switches and pushed buttons. The Hopper jolted violently as it took a direct hit which took out the shields. Rennon keyed in the home channel and clearly announced. “Mission X567, Planet Compromised. Initiating Clean Sweep.” He took out a silver device that looked like a scanner, flipped up the lid and pressed the blue button. Their hopper was rocked by the wave of energy that came from the planet as it exploded. He pushed a series of buttons and switches and the Hopper lurched forwards. It was knocked sideways by a volley from one of the fighters but it managed to keep enough momentum to get into the corridor that had opened up and the gap closed behind it.
Rennon hit the red button and put the ship onto auto-return. He revolved his seat to face the others. “Well, what happened?”
Joniel levelled him with a cold stare that made him visibly shudder. “The base has been compromised but I have the pod. I wouldn’t trust this memory stick though. The scientist said it had his work on it but that was just before he tried to kill me.”
Rennon took his scanner out and ran it over the memory stick. All expression fell from his face. He calmly turned to Joniel and stated clearly. “Put that by the back door, quickly.”
Joniel did what he was told and as soon as he had stepped back Rennon brought down the blast doors. He then opened the back door just as the device exploded. The explosion forced the Hopper forwards a little but the blast doors held fast and damage was minimal as the explosion vented out of the open back door. When it was spent he shut the doors, checked the pressure and raised the blast doors. The back door was blackened and charred a little on the edges but the outer hull hadn’t been breached and they had not lost any structural integrity.
Joniel swallowed hard. “Well I guess there wasn’t any information on there that we needed. Ok, well at least I know the pod is in the box. I’ve no idea why the scientist was trying to infect his colleague when his colleague was already infected.”
Renon was scanning everything. “Probably because he assumed he was the only one infected. Well, that is assuming that he actually knew he was infected at all. He’d just be acting in a way that he thought was right. We’ve no way of knowing what instructions any of them had been given.  We don’t even know how the pods work.  It could be a hive mind, where they all know the same information.  It could be a control and they receive messages subliminally.  It could be that they receive direct orders.  I just don’t know.”
Even though the scanners said they were alright and they had been initially sanitised they still stripped off their overalls and threw them into the hazardous materials bin to be incinerated in the ship’s afterburners, just in case. They made use of the black flight suits on board which fitted them, although Kel was a little broad shouldered for his. Rennon scanned everyone and took blood samples to make sure that they were not infected. By the time they arrived they were silently sitting waiting to land.
On arrival Joniel grabbed the box which Rennon had also scanned and took it to the Secure Items Unit. Rennon put it in a concrete box, put the lid on and keyed in his code so that it became sealed in a force field. He looked up at Joniel. “Well you can’t be too careful. Guess we’d better report back. Looks like that one was a trap.”
The Prince was waiting for them when they got back. They went directly to his meeting room. Aliniel was sitting with him and they broke off their conversation as the crew knocked and entered. Aliniel smiled, bowed slightly to her father and left the room. Joniel noticed the smile on her face as she passed him and caught her arm. She looked up at him, blushing slightly. She hesitated, the smile falling from her face as she looked up at him nervously. Seeing his eyes looked kind and he was smiling she relaxed. He nodded slightly, let her go and she relaxed and left the room.
The Prince turned to face them. Joniel stepped forwards. He spoke slowly and quietly. “The base had been compromised as we feared. The scientists had been turned and attacked me. The memory stick I got off of them was an explosive device but the pod doesn’t scan as being any more of a threat than it already is. It is in a safe box awaiting investigation. It looked like it was a trap.”
The Prince turned to Rennon. Rennon stepped forwards. “Our scans showed very little. There is a new creature that they seem to have developed. It is not indigenous to the planet, it does work by transforming ordinary living people and seems to be created using the carapace created by the pod.”
The Prince shook his head. “So many dead. I’m assuming you cleaned the planet.”
Rennon nodded. “With extreme prejudice.”
The Prince nodded. “Very good, at least we put them out of their misery.”
Kel stood at the back of the group, arms folded, looking moody.
An emergency claxon went off. It cut through the silence and its repetitive sound was loud enough to be felt on their chests. The Prince stared around their faces. “We are under attack. Now that can’t be a coincidence.”
Rennon grabbed his scanner. “There’s no way there could have been a tracker on board. I scanned the hopper, we used your devices and I scanned everything that came back onto the hopper.”
The Prince grabbed the scanner off of Rennon and pulled the battery case off of it. He swore as what looked like a sheet of blue plastic fell out. “Damn it, we have a spy on base. You can’t trust any of your readings now.”
Rennon bent to pick up the sheet but the Prince grabbed his wrist. “Don’t, I’ve been getting reports of all manner of new inventions and devices being used and they are almost all either explosive or trapped in some way.” Rennon looked down at the plastic which had begun to bubble. The prince grabbed his sword from the table behind him where he’d left it and flipped the plastic into a metal wastepaper bin where it ignited the paper inside and the sprinkler system went off locally to put the fire out.
The Joniel unit in the corner stepped forward and began to speak. “Poisonous gas detected, suspicious electronic activity, evacuate the room.”
They dived out of the door. Kyla was last out and jumped through as they shut the door. She rolled and regained her feet and they ran down the corridor followed by the Joniel unit.
The Prince was looking at his scanner. As he ran he opened the back, it was empty. The scanner showed that they had an incursion on the planet. Troops were being dropped from ships and they were focusing on their base. He skidded to a halt beside a green glowing panel on the wall. After flipping it open he keyed in his personal code and put his palm against the scanner. Once done the glow turned to blue. He cleared his throat and pressed the big red button. “This is Prince Anathorn. Code Black, I repeat, Code Black. We are under attack. All personnel to attack positions.”
They headed for the armoury and joined the stream of people collecting weapons.
Kel grabbed a semi-pulse rifle. “Shall I encode it?
Anathorn was grabbing ammunition for his favoured weapon and shouting orders to the men and women who were picking up weaponry and loading ammunition. He turned to Kel. “No point, this planet has atmosphere and I have a feeling that we’re going to be moving on after this anyway.”
Once they had as much weaponry as they could carry they left the armoury at a run. They took up a strategic position in the main corridor and waited, aiming at the entrance. All over the base other members of his team did likewise. They didn’t have to wait long before the door blasted in and after the dust had cleared they could see foot soldiers flooding through the gap. Their black carapace armour almost a signature that told them they were dealing with Followers, not drug crazed converts.
The first wave was taken down and died in a hail of blaster and gunfire, then the next and the next. They blasted and blasted until their weapons ran out of power and ammunition. One by one they threw the weapon aside and then the foot soldiers pushed their advantage forwards.  They stepped over their dead without a look down.  More and more flooded from the breached door.
The Prince’s entorage were forced back by sheer weight of numbers even though Kyla and Joniel were almost accounting for one per sword stroke. As they retreated past a side corridor Kyla leapt to the side, flipped her sword, cutting the soldier’s arm off along with the rifle in it. She stepped forwards over it and kicked the rifle back to Kel while pushing the slight advantage.
Joniel climbed up the smooth wall where there seemed to be no handholds and disappeared into a observation panel which lifted up above, leaving Anathorn to hold the invaders back by almost constant laser fire.  When this was out of power he held back the advance with his sword while Kel fired over his shoulder and around him. Moments later there was a scream as Joniel opened the panel above the intruders and dropped a portable blanket force generator down on them. The loop opened wide and fell down over them electrocuting anyone who was caught within its environs. Joniel followed it down, knowing exactly when the force field was spent. He landed gracefully and didn’t spare a moment before his daggers flashed at an impossible speed in the circle the net had left amongst the soldiers. They were too tightly pressed to use their rifles and too surprised to react after their comrades had fallen so quickly.
Kyla screamed to Kel, “I need a hand up.” She took a run at him and as she jumped Kel caught her and threw her up so that she could catch onto the roof beam. She pushed up the soft tile which made the decorative ceiling and used the supporting strut to propel herself forwards so that she flew over the heads of the shocked soldiers and landed beside Joniel, kicking a few of the soldiers in the head on her way through.
Joniel and Kyla fought back to back and then worked their way out, cutting down the line of soldiers. Kyla grabbed an armful of weapons and leapt up into the roof space. She was thrown slightly off balance as one of the gouts of flame from a flamethrower one of the Followers was using enveloped her. With lightning speed she rolled up into the roof space and fell onto the unprotected sharp metal edge of the support in the space above. She bit her tongue, rolled and kept climbing along the supports carrying the weapons under one arm.
The soldiers fired upwards but she leapt down next to Kel and the Prince and handed them rifles. Kel had a few more shots in the rifle she had given him before that ran out and he was able to grab one of the new ones.
Joniel got caught in the chest by a pulse rifle which a soldier had swung like a club when it had run out of ammunition. He reeled sideways and fell. Kyla saw him fall and screamed which stunned the soldiers enough that they didn’t react when she leapt and swung along the underneath of the roof struts and landed next to Joniel. He managed to catch his footing as she began firing with her pistol, taking out the front few as Kel and the Prince cut through the rest. The last soldiers fell and they were able to get to the entrance where the infiltrators had got in. Rennon re-activated the force field on the door and locked it as the Prince activated his communication device which linked him to the main computer. He looked at the readings and swore. He then pressed a combination of buttons and the readings came up on the screen. He stepped to the communicator on the wall and when it was blue he spoke calmly and clearly. “This is Prince Anathorn. The base has been overrun. Code Purple, I repeat, Code Purple. Evacuate the base immediately. Take only essential equipment with you. I repeat Code Purple.”
Joniel looked over to Kyla and they both headed off down the corridor in the opposite direction. “Well meet you back at your hopper or the ship. Get back there as fast as you can. We’re going to get the girls. We’ll use the transport to get up to you.”
Kel turned and ran with them. “I’ll help you.”
They ran down the corridor. Gunfire and blasting was heard all over. There was a loud explosion and the infrastructure shook. Masonry started falling around them and the walls started to crumble. Kel grabbed Kyla as a wall collapsed next to her. She was knocked sideways by the rubble. He lifted her up and over it and they kept running.
They rounded a corner and came up behind Arla and Aliniel who were holding a corridor by themselves.  They were fighting what looked like ordinary people, dressed in black.  There were none of the armoured Followers with them.  Although they had some blasters they mostly fought with rifles and a varied selection of bladed weapons including wood axes and machetes. Arla blocked the corridor with the flashing blade of her sword, pushing her advantage and pushing the soldiers back on the rank behind so that those with rifles had no room to fire. Aliniel was throwing her home made firebombs over the top. They exploded with different colours, illuminating the corridor with a myriad of sparkling lights.
Kel stopped in amazement. He couldn’t help watching Arla as she expertly wielded a broadsword as if it weighed nothing. He came up behind them. Aliniel backed off and let him in when she noticed he had a blaster. Kel then began blasting around Arla. She cast a quick look over her shoulder, realised it was Kel and kept fighting.
They worked their way down the corridor until the enemy they were facing backed off into a hall.  That gave them an advantage as more of them had the opportunity to fire at once. Kel then threw his spare blaster to Arla and they walked together down the corridor blasting at anything that moved. They kept the men pinned down in the outer room until they got to the security lock. While Arla kept firing Kel put in his security code and the heavy metal security door came down locking the soldiers out.
Arla turned to face Kel. That was when he saw the patch of red that was blossoming on her side. She collapsed and he caught her. The blaster hole in her jump suit was obvious by the black charring on the fabric. He grabbed one of the bandages he kept in his pocket and bound it so that it kept pressure on the wound. He then held it to help stop the bleeding. He screamed at Joniel. “She’s been shot, can you give her some blood or something.”
Joniel took a transport device from his pocket and put it on Kyla’s wrist. She grabbed Kel who was carrying Arla and pressed the buttons, they disappeared. He then grabbed Aliniel and pressed his key pad and they too disappeared from the base.
They appeared on the shuttle where Rennon and the Prince were running the gauntlet of the fighter ships that had been deployed by the ship that had followed them from the planet. He was just about managing to cope with the controls and the automatic firing mechanism that kept the ships at bay.
Kel laid Arla down on the padded bench. Joniel came over and took a look at the wound. He took the medical box down and got bandages out. Kel caught his arm. “You are quick enough to give Kyla blood when she needs it, why not your own daughter?”
Joniel glared at him. “I do not do it because it would not help her at all.” He continued to bandage her. “This will hold until we can get her medical help.”
Kel frowned. “I don’t understand. Surely she is your daughter, she’s like you.”
Joniel shook his head. “Kel, I mentioned this before but I don’t think I explained it well enough. She is but we all start our lives as something like human. It is when we come of age that we choose to either accept or reject our father’s blood. It is the gene that we carry that allows us to turn that infection into something that gives life and strength that makes us different. When she is of age it will be her choice but she hasn’t chosen yet. I will not choose for her, particularly over a wound like this. It is clean, just a blaster wound and it will heal. I didn’t give Kyla a choice because I would have lost her if I hadn’t done it. It was made with a fair bit of prior knowledge. I’d already had her blood tested so I knew she could accept my blood. I made the decision for her but she had asked me before and I had denied it to her. I got it right, I could have been wrong and it isn’t something you can go back on.”
They fought their way through wave upon wave of fighter planes but found their escape route cut off by the main ship.
Joniel put his hand on Rennon’s shoulder. “Do you mind if I try something?”
Rennon jumped up and out of the seat. “Be my guest.”
Joniel started pressing buttons. “I’m going to try that manoeuvre we pulled off on Keraximus Seven. “
The Prince looked horrified. “We got lucky then.”
Joniel smiled. “Well let us hope we get lucky again.” He took the controls and typed furiously, keeping them just out of the way of the ever increasing amount of firepower that was being directed at them. As ships erupted into cascades of stars their path got more difficult as more of the fighters turned their attention to the little craft. Joniel looped and moved until he had a trail of fighters following him. Then he flew directly at the gas output on the main ship. It was the port where the overload of heat was vented from the Eion Drive on the star ship. He flipped the controls just as he flew into it and the ship flipped upwards and rolled over and over passing just above the port. The following ships were not so lucky. They couldn’t stop and they either ended up in the blast or ran into each other.
Joniel didn’t look at the rear camera screen, he flipped the levers as the Prince made the calculations and took them into the corridor.
Intendi stuck his head out of the cargo hold. “Can I come out now? I did what you told me to do my master, I have stayed in here for days.”
The Prince glared at him wide eyed. “I’ve been looking for you for days as well. Why have you been here?”
Intendi looked at him mystified. “You said go to the shuttle.”
The Prince laughed. “I said go on scuttle, I meant hurry up and go off somewhere and do something Intendi like.”
Intendi looked confused. “I still have some problems with your phrases, is there a manual I can download?”
Joniel looked up. “Rennon, can you take over now please.” Rennon took the controls. Joniel got up and went over to Kyla who was leaning on the wall of the shuttle. He turned his back on Kel who was cradling Arla’s head on his lap. “Are you ok? Did you get hurt at all?” He put his arms around her and his hand felt damp on her back. He turned her around and saw where her back had been sliced open.
She smiled. “I guess I wasn’t so careful.” She swayed slightly and Joniel caught her as her legs gave out.
Kel looked away. “I guess we know what happens next.”
The Prince smiled. “They do fight well as a pair, don’t they?”
Kel glared coldly at the Prince. “They probably do everything well as a pair. I’m not watching this. They should keep that sort of thing in private.” He watched the Eion particles floating past the window making rainbow patterns on the glass. The Prince on the other hand was fascinated and watched with curious interest as Joniel offered Kyla his neck. She smiled, licked it and bit down, her fangs piercing deep into Joniel’s vein and his lifeblood flowed into her, healing her. Joniel felt the euphoric release from the pain as she released the anaesthetic and felt the blood pumping into her mouth.
Joniel looked up at Anathorn, his eyes blood red and his teeth beginning to extend. “If you don’t mind.”
The Prince looked away. “Sorry, it’s just different, couldn’t help looking.”
Joniel cradled Kyla in his arms, taking care not to put any pressure on her back. “I thought we’d got away with that too lightly.”
Kyla choked slightly as he pulled away from her. She licked his wound so that it sealed up quickly. He looked at her back, it was beginning to heal although the wound was deep. He smiled at her. “Well that is going to need medical treatment as well. It is starting to heal but it was deep.” Then he took a quick look around the shuttle and saw that Kel wasn’t watching so he kissed her. “It is time to go back to my home darling. We have a fabulous party to attend. Although with that wound I’d rather take you anywhere else in the Universes than back there.”

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