EKI

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Chapter 5: Tolui

Rowan and Brannoc emerged from the stable into a small courtyard. She noticed that two men were stationed on the wall above a heavily armored door that was just large enough for the horses to exit through. Brannoc motioned for one of the men to open the door. The man began to turn a large wheel and the door slowly began to rise accompanied by the sound of groaning gears and heavy chains as a handful of pigeons flew up into the mist above the castle wall frightened by the sound.

Brannoc turned to Rowan.

“We will ride to the stone circle at Callanish. We must try to make it as quickly as possible before news of my presence here spreads; there are some here at this point in time who would love to get their hands on me. When this happened before I was on my home planet and the Thracians had moved far into our territories here. When we reach the stones I can send a hyperspace message requesting assistance. The equipment I have on me right now is not strong enough to send the message without the power boost at the stones. Just follow me and try to keep up.”

He kicked his mounts sides and rode through the door just as he had enough clearance.

Well here we go, thought Rowan. She gingerly kicked Dove and leaned forward. It was a good thing she leaned forward because Dove took off with a leap. Rowan ducked just in time to keep from being knocked to the ground by the door lintel. Soon the mare was running alongside the sorrel; Rowan was holding on for dear life.

The road was nothing more than a rutted dirt path. When they first left the castle they followed the rough path through a large open field but now they were heading into a rather dense forest. Brannoc slowed the pace a bit and Dove matched it as they followed the path that twisted and turned around ancient trees. The sun was not up but the sky had begun to glow in the east and the forest was soon filled with an eerie glow as if it were about to catch fire. They rode hard for about an hour and Rowan knew she was going to be so sore the next day she doubted she would be able to sit down.

Brannoc finally slowed his horse to a walk.

“We should rest the horses. There is a good place to stop just up ahead,” he said.

They stopped by a small spring. A tiny stone altar sat above the spring where offerings of flowers, colorful rocks and bread were piled around the small statue. It was so old and worn it barely resembled a human but it looked like it had been a female figure. Rowan stiffly dismounted. Brannoc laughed as she groaned,

“Sit and rest. Hand me a piece of fruit from the bag,” he said.

Rowan reached into the leather bag and handed him a pear.

“I think I might just stand awhile.”

Brannoc laughed again as Rowan rubbed her back side and frowned.

“How much farther?” she asked.

“We are not far now, maybe ten more miles.” Brannoc answered her with his mouth full of pear.

Rowan paced around a bit and then sat down gingerly on a large rock next to the spring.

“Why do we need to get to the stones?” she asked.

Brannoc furrowed his brow as if the answer was difficult.

“Well this is a total simplification but the stone circles and other monuments on this planet were erected by various races as energy conduits. Some are many thousands of years old, some more recent but they mark points called nexus in the earth’s magnetic field where the field is the strongest. They once formed a global web that provided energy for everyone since the monuments act as amplifiers of the planet’s almost endless power source. The collars, such as the one Sukh was wearing, are not only power supplies but also portable amplifiers but their power pales in comparison to the immense fields generated by a planet. Earth has a particularly strong field because of its double core. I can use a nexus point to send hyperspace messages over a great distance using the power boost provided by the magnetic field.”

“So you plan to call for help?” Rowan asked.

“Basically yes,” Brannoc answered, “and a jump home.”

*

After their short rest they rode for perhaps an hour more mostly through fields and over rocky outcroppings. Occasionally they would see someone in the distance, an old woman bent with age gathering firewood, two young boys following a small flock of sheep, a lone man with an ox cart loaded with peat but no one that seemed to concern Brannoc.

The sun was up in the sky now and Rowan was astounded by the beauty of the land. No buildings, no noise, no cars, the peacefulness was hypnotic. They came over a rise and she could see the standing stones on the perched on a distant rise like a crooked crown. Brannoc motioned for her to follow and they rode to the edge of a wooded area.

“We should stay out of sight up to the stones.”

He motioned for her to follow behind him.

They rode along the edge of the woods staying out of sight until they had no choice but to ride through the open field into the circle of stones.

“Ride quickly, dismount when we enter the circle,” Brannoc ordered.

He looked very tense and on alert as they urged the horses across the open field and into the circle of the standing stones. Brannoc dismounted before his horse had come to a stop; he immediately began to press on the screen of his wrist device even before his feet hit the ground.

Rowan got off her horse more slowly. She slid down onto the ground hoping that her legs would still hold her up; she found that they were wobbly but still functional. She paused to give Dove’s nose a good rub, and let her drop her head to munch on the high grass beside one of the stones. Rowan turned towards Brannoc and took a few steps.

Suddenly the air around her turned bright blue and she could no longer move. The air around her was thick and sound was muffled. She had been looking at Brannoc so she could see what was going on around him but she could not turn to either side nor could she look behind her but she assumed she was completely surrounded by whatever was keeping her from moving. Six men had appeared or stepped from behind the stones; Rowan was not sure which.

They surrounded Brannoc.

They were definitely Thracian, fangs and all.

Brannoc was enveloped in a shimmering ball of light that Rowan assumed was some sort of shield. The Thracians were firing on him with the wrist weapons. Energy bolt after bolt hit sending crackling light across the perimeter of the shield. Rowan could see Brannoc inside the energy bubble working on the screen of the wrist device. She could tell that the repeated hits from the Thracians weapons were causing the shield to get closer to Brannoc. He did not seem to be fighting back just concentrating on his wrist device. Suddenly a bolt pierced the shield and Brannoc went down. Rowan could see a large burned spot on the upper right shoulder of his leather suit. The Thracians stopped firing and walked over to his body.

“I can’t believe the luck,” the tallest of the six said as he kicked Brannoc hard. “We have captured Lord Brannoc Tong Durai himself and his earthling mistress. Our Intel said he left earth over a month ago .What is he doing here with no support and no sender?”

The other five laughed.

“His mother will pay an empress’ ransom for him,” one of the younger Thracians added.

“Indeed she would, if for no other reason than to kill him herself,” said the taller man, “but this bastard belongs to our Empress and to no other. She will decide his fate but not before we have our way with him.”

They all laughed again.

The Thracian that seemed to be the leader pressed on his wrist device and pointed it at Brannoc. A film began to appear around him that looked to Rowan almost like cellophane. It quickly thickened until he was encased in a gelatinous looking cocoon.

Rowan realized he had been encased in biogel. You don’t want to be encased in biogel, Rowan remembered him telling her. You can breathe through it but you won’t like it. Good thing he is unconscious, Rowan thought.

The group then turned as one and looked directly at her.

The six men walked toward Rowan. She tried to look unafraid but she wasn’t sure her face could even move. Suddenly she realized that she could hear what the youngest looking one was thinking.

She is a beauty, so young and fragile. No wonder the Fadian bastard is so fond of her. I hope I can get her alone on the ship. He looked straight at her and smiled.

Rowan tried to hear the others. She got a few thoughts from one, something about how it was a shame they could not ransom Brannoc and another was intrigued by her red hair but none came in as clear as the lecherous one. Rowan was trying not to let them know she could hear them. She wasn’t sure how to do it. She just tried to do the opposite of what she had done in the parking lot with Nuirgun. So far it seemed to be working.

The leader of the group waved his arm and the blue light dissipated.

“She’s a tall one” he said as he pointed his hand at her.

The cellophane began to spread around her at first as thin as a spider web and quickly thickening. It grew around her like a cocoon covering her mouth, nose and eyes. She had managed to close her eyes, not that it was really better; she had just done it out of reflex. She kept repeating the words, you can breathe through it, over and over to herself but panic was quickly taking over.

She could hear the Thracians laughing and she heard the younger one’s thoughts. I love to see them squirm the first time. She felt his excitement at her fear and she realized that it aroused him sexually.

Rowan felt the panic of not being able to breathe like having a pillow over your face but at the same time she felt something familiar, the tingle that she had experienced when Brannoc had biogeled her wrists. She felt the little sparks of life present in the nanocytes making up the gel. The gel was alive in some way, maybe synthetic life but it was alive. It tickled her, caressed her skin. In an odd way she felt safe as if she was wrapped up in a snugly old quilt. The nanocytes calmed her and she let them course around her. She felt like she was being nuzzled by a million puppies, tiny soft and innocent beings that loved her warmth and life force.

“Why doesn’t she fight it?” the younger one asked, the disappointment in his voice was palatable.

“She must have been gelled before or maybe she fainted, “one of the others suggested.

They sounded so far away to Rowan as the nanocytes hummed around her. A very bright light shone through her eyelids and she felt herself being moved; like going up in an elevator but much faster.

*

Rowan felt as if she had lain on her back for hours as the nanocytes soothed her, lulling her in and out of a peaceful sleep until eventually she sensed two individuals near her. She could clearly hear the thoughts of one. He was the younger one from earlier and he seemed genuinely frightened as he spoke to his companion.

“Gan nearly killed the Fade. If the commander finds out she will punish us all.”

The other spoke up.

“He will recover. His biocytes will repair him. Don’t worry Vashir she will understand; Gan’s whole family died in the attack on Erdene.”

Rowan felt a wave of relief from Vashir and when he spoke it was with more bravado.

“Let’s undo this lovely package so we can question her and have some real fun.”

Rowan felt the biogel began to dissolve. The nanocytes departure left an aura of sadness on her skin like lips feel after a sweet kiss; they left her alone and unprotected.

She was on some sort of platform; not soft enough to be a bed more like an examination table; she sat up slowly letting her legs hang off the edge. She looked Vashir straight in the eyes. His slanted eyes were black as Rowan figured his soul must be. His face was thin and pale; his eyes darted back and forth giving him a sneaky feral look. His mouth was slightly open and Rowan could see his fangs. She could tell by the way he was breathing that he was looking forward to whatever he planned to do to her; it excited him greatly. She started to try and look into his mind and see what he had planned but there was no need it was written on his face.

She turned to the other man. He was taller than Vashir and looked older. His eyes were bright blue and his fangs were very visible. He looked uneasy and his eyes darted from her to Vashir. He seemed to be about to say something but held back.

Vashir smiled a crooked evil smile.

“You can make this easy for us and yourself. In fact this could be quite the pleasant experience for us all,” he said to Rowan as he reached out to slide his hand up under the felt tunic. The older looking man reached out to grab Vashir’s hand but he was too far away.

Rowan flashed Vashir a brilliant smile which he took as an invitation. The split second distraction was what Rowan had hoped for. She took the offending hand and promptly broke his fingers in one smooth motion. Vashir screamed in pain.

Rowan projected her thoughts as clearly as she could.

Lay another hand on me and I will make your eyes explode in your vile skulls.

She wasn’t at all sure she could do that but the older Thracian stopped in mid reach and Vashir stopped screaming and simply stood with his mouth hanging open.

She projected her thoughts again.

Move back.

Neither moved so she shouted it in her mind, move back!

Just as she had done to Niurgun they were both thrown back against the wall, hard. Rowan smiled again.

Now it is my turn to ask questions boys. Where am I?

Vashir’s mind was a terrified jumble. She could barely pick up a coherent thought and the older man seemed just as terrified. Rowan realized that they could hear her but maybe they could not answer her. Brannoc had said that the ability varied greatly among them. She guessed that with some work Vashir could do it considering how well she could read him but the other only seemed to have the ability to receive.

“I will ask again,” she said this time out loud, “where am I?”

The older man seemed to have recovered some of his composure.

“Forgive us Tolui, we believed you to be an earth girl, a collaborator with the Fades. Had you told us what you were we would have never dared touch you.” He then took up a kneeling position on the floor and drug the still slack jawed Vashir down with him. “We beg mercy in light of our ignorance,” he added in earnest.

Rowan wondered why the word Tolui had not been translated by her lingual nanocytes. As soon as she had the thought she had the answer. A voice in her head said, there is no corresponding word in English, the exact translation of the word is mirror, but to the Thracians it is a term of status reserved for the highest ranking in their society. They see you as a mirror that can see their souls.

Thank you, Rowan found herself communicating with the nanocytes again. How handy, she thought, it is like having an onboard computer.

She turned her attention back to the prostrate men.

“Is it common practice among this crew to violate prisoners?” she asked.

The older man answered.

“I had no idea what Vashir had planned until just a few seconds ago. I only came along with him because he said you were incredibly beautiful.”

“So you only violate your beautiful prisoners?” Rowan answered.

“Yes, I mean no, I mean of course it is forbidden to violate female prisoners. Again Tolui I beg your mercy.” the man was pleading now.

Rowan was trying to keep the conversation going until she figured out how this was going to get her and Brannoc out of here. She went with a hunch.

“What ship am I on?”

“You are on the Cruiser Juchin.” answered Vashir.

Who is your commander? Rowan asked Vashir in his mind. His eyes widened again. Answer me with your mind, she demanded. Rowan knew that speaking to him this way terrified him and even though she hated to admit it she was enjoying terrifying him.

Battle Fleet Commander Unegen Qura, he whimpered in his head and as he thought of his commander Rowan could see an image of her in his head.

“Bring her to me now,” Rowan commanded.

Vashir was out the door almost before it had opened. Rowan turned her gaze to the older man. He had the look of one who had seen many hardships. His hair was an auburn color cut to shoulder length as seemed to be their custom. His face was broad and rugged. He didn’t look to be more than thirty but his eyes seemed to carry the weight of many, many years.

He is young and foolish you have no excuse, she thought to him and he lowered his head to the floor.

Rowan felt his fear. She also felt his awe of her. She realized that it was not her ability to receive their telepathic thoughts that made her different it was her ability to enter their minds at will and basically rummage around unchallenged. She realized that normally they can shut off their thoughts to each other and communicate when needed. Young ones like Vashir have less disciplined minds and transmit much of what they are thinking without control.

Without even thinking about what she was doing Rowan began to search through the older man’s thoughts. His name was Gal. He had been stationed on this ship on this backwater planet for three hundred years. Gal would be eight hundred this year. Rowan was amazed. She shifted through his everyday life. When he ate, when he slept, his likes and dislikes. He had deep resentment for being passed up for promotions. He had served the Division well for half his life and he felt unappreciated. Gal very much admired the commander in fact Rowan realized he loved her. They were separated by rank and this was slowly destroying him.

His essence began to flood through her mind more quickly than she could process it. Hundreds of years of living flashed through her head. Rowan felt loneliness, years, and years of loneliness. Life was hard in the service of the Thracian Space Corps and it offered few pleasantries. He was a soldier who had been away from home for a very long time, forced to work beside the woman he loved and never show it.

Rowan slowed the images down until she found the one that all the others seemed to spin around. Gal was a very young boy standing on a vast plain. Above him a single magnificent bird circled in the violet sky. He watched the bird and held out his arms as if to fly. Joy was all he felt as he watched the bird. It rose and fell on the currents of air and Gal’s heart soared with it. I will fly like that one day, he thought. I will soar through space. He had spent the following years working and striving to become a commander of a battle craft and eventually his dream had become his prison. Centuries passed as he labored for his empire.

Rowan found that when she became Gals mirror she could not hate him. He had never done anything like this before. Vashir had truly tricked him and Rowan could see that he would have stopped Vashir or died trying. A moment ago she had been ready to stop his heart but now she knew him like a brother. Rowan took the memory of the bird and sent it back to Gal.

How light was your heart this day? She reminded him in his thoughts. “Remember the bird Gal. You were once full of hope and life. Time has changed you but it is not too late. I have seen your heart and it is not completely hardened. Live to soar again.

Rowan realized Gal was sobbing. Not from fear but apparently from joy. He was reliving one of the most joyous moments in his life. Gal crawled across the floor and began to kiss the tops of Rowans doe skin boots. While this made her very uncomfortable she felt to stop him might violate some custom and she didn’t want to give herself away.

Gal finally managed to speak.

“We intended to do you harm and you show me such kindness. You could have shown me horrors for I have seen many but instead you remind me of the joy I felt in youth, my love of flight, the freedom of the skies, and my home world before the war. All this I had forgotten. You are truly Tolui and I am forever your servant.”

He began kissing her boots again and custom or not Rowan insisted he stop.

“That’s enough now, please get up Gal. Promise me that you will never behave in this way again. I have seen your soul and it is good but I have my doubts about Vashir. Watch him,” Rowan commanded.

“Yes Tolui.” Gal said as he stood up and wiped his face.

The door slide open with a slight whoosh and there stood Vashir and a surprised Commander Unegen.

The commander was an incredibly stunning woman. Vashir’s mental image of her had not done her justice, Rowan thought. Her long dark hair set off her bright blue, almond shaped eyes perfectly. She was quite tall with a slender athletic build. She radiated confidence; her mere presence demanded attention. Unegen glanced nervously at the tear stained face of the battle hardened Gal and looked back at Rowan. Rowan saw that Gal’s feelings for his commander were not misplaced; she cared deeply for him as well.

“How may we be of service Tolui?” Unegen bowed her head. “I apologize deeply for your treatment but my men had no idea of who you are. I too am surprised at someone of your rank being so far away from the capital and in the company of a Fade. Am I to understand that Vashir’s fingers were broken because he put them somewhere he shouldn’t?”

Rowan thought quickly. If I implicate Vashir it will be hard for Gal to explain his involvement. Gal’s head was lowered as he waited for Rowan to shame him in front of the one he loved.

“Vashir is young and impetuous,” replied Rowan. “He was very eager to interrogate his prisoner to please his commander. He laid his hand upon me and I broke it. He should learn patience.”

Unegen looked harshly at Vashir and back to Rowan.

“Are you certain that he did not intend to touch you in an improper way for if so say the word and he will not draw another breath?” Unegen spoke with absolute intensity as her hand went to a small object attached to the thigh area of her uniform.

Rowan held Vashir’s life in her hands. He stood motionless, hands by his side, eyes to the floor.

“No, he did not.” Rowan lied.

Gal let out the breath he had been holding.

“I would however like to see Vashir alone, before I leave,” Rowan added, “I believe I could help him learn restraint.”

“Of course Tolui it will be arranged but for now I insist you let me take you to more comfortable quarters. I am shamed by having someone of your importance in an interrogation room.”

Unegen smiled at Rowan. She was even more beautiful when she smiled; her full lips curved up gently and two deep dimples accentuated her blush colored cheeks. It was not only a beautiful smile but also a sincere smile and Rowan returned it. Vashir on the other hand looked furious and terrified at the same time.

Good, thought Rowan, I hope he is terrified.

Rowan tentatively tried to look into Unegen’s mind. What she felt from Unegen was comforting. The Fleet Commanders mind was orderly and calm. She had been a commander for many years and she loved her ship and crew. Rowan sensed she was a good woman, honest and fair. I think I like these Thracians, thought Rowan, at least some of them, she gave Vashir a sideways glance. Rowan felt a sense of belonging with them, an instant connection.

Rowan hated to lie to Unegen it seemed like such a betrayal. For a split second she considered just telling her the whole story. Rowan suspected she would have a place of great esteem with these people but this was not her time. A gut feeling told her that she had to get back to her time and she felt like she needed to help Brannoc. She had brought him here somehow and she should get him out.

*

Unegen held out her hand and Rowan took it. They held hands as they left the room and went into the corridor. A strange custom, thought Rowan, but certainly not unpleasant. She had not held hands with another woman since she was a small girl.

The ship seemed rather dark to Rowan. Glowing panels ran down the ceiling and the rib shaped struts but overall lighting was low. The ship’s walls appeared to be metallic but as Rowan looked closer it looked like skin, like sharkskin.

She stopped and Unegen stopped with her. Rowan reached out her free hand and rubbed the surface of the wall. The tingle of life force ran up her arm. The ship is made of nanocytes, Rowan thought. It’s alive. She felt more than just the nanytes there was an organic element to the ship as well.

Unegen smiled and said “she is a beauty is she not,” as she pressed her free hand to the bulkhead.

Together they stood, holding hands and touching the ship. Rowan coursed the life force of the ship through Unegen; Unegen gasped .The ship recognized Unegen like a faithful dog knows its master. The ghost in the machine, thought Rowan. She pulled her hand from the wall.

Unegen smiled again.

“Thank you. I have never touched the soul of the ship so clearly.”

“Tell me about the ship as we walk,” said Rowan.

Unegen was more than happy to talk about the ship. She spoke as if she was a mother bragging about a child.

“Well of course she obviously is a fifth generation nebula class bionanyte cruiser. Her hyperspace drive is a gravitational field engine and her shields have been upgraded to the latest ......,”

Rowan let Unegen continue while she looked deeper into the commander’s mind. Rowan realized that she probably should know these things already so she figured she would distract Unegen and go looking for real answers. The answers were somewhat shocking. The ship was alive, very much so. It had been grown just as much as it had been built. The whole ship was basically a modified organism that existed inside a mechanical shell. It circulated fluids like a body circulates blood. It healed itself when injured. It thought; Rowan sensed a sentient mind.

“Well here we are” Unegen waved her hand over a small panel and a large door opened.

They walked into a richly appointed room. Unegen took Rowans hand in both of hers and squeezed.

“You are my most welcome and honored guest. Simply ask and if it is at all possible I will see that you have whatever you desire.”

Rowan sensed her sincerity and honest affection. Apparently among Thracians women really do like each other, how different than earth women, thought Rowan.

“I would like for you to call me Rowan.”

Unegen beamed, “you honor me Tolui, I mean Rowan.”

“One more thing,” Rowan added. “Where is the Fadian Brannoc?”

“He is in a holding cell recovering from his interrogation. I am afraid my men were rather harsh with him. Usually they would be disciplined for such behavior but in light of the recent attack on our home world I am being lenient with them; many lost their families. He is really lucky they didn’t kill him. I must ask Tolui, I am sorry, Rowan, why were you with him? Were you being held prisoner?”

Rowan had to think fast.

“Uhh…no I am undercover.”

Unegen looked confused as she scrunched up her brow.

Rowan reworded it.

“I am a spy. I was asked by… uhh… Niurgun Bootur to infiltrate the royal house of the Fadians. Brannoc does not know of my Thracian blood and he must not know. He must believe that I am simply a girl from earth that he is fond of, nothing more.”

She had decided it was best not to mention the actual reason Brannoc had come for her since she wasn’t exactly sure what being a sender meant yet.

“I see,” replied Unegen, “this is a very dangerous mission for one of such value.”

Rowan sensed that Unegen did not approve but Niurgun’s name had carried the weight she had hoped it would.

“I think I would like to rest for a while,” Rowan said as she sat down on the beautiful bed.

Unegen looked concerned, “of course you need rest and you must be starving, wrapped up in biogel for hours. That must have been simply dreadful. I will have a dinner prepared. The crew will be so thrilled to meet a Tolui. Would you like a change of clothes? Not that what you are wearing is not beautiful. It is Scythian is it not? Did you know that many of the Scythians are the descendants of Niurgun’s uncles that remained here on earth many years ago?”

Rowan shook her head.

Unegen softly ran her hand along the lines of the embroidery. She paused at the image of the rider with purple eyes.

“They do such amazing work. That necklace is very unusual as well.” Unegen added.

Rowan reached up and held the small egg in her hand.

“Oh this was a gift from my mother. It is very dear to me.”

Unegen smiled, “Well please rest and if you need anything just call.”

Unegen glanced at a small silver orb sitting on a table beside the bed. Rowan guessed it was a communication device.

“Oh and Unegen, please make sure Gal sits beside me at diner,” said Rowan, “he is a very special man.”

Unegen smiled and as she stepped out of the door she turned and said, “Yes he is, he certainly is.”

Finally alone, Rowan suddenly realized how exhausted she really was. Apparently this mind reading business can really wear you out, she thought. She looked around the room. One third of the room’s wall space was taken up by a huge viewing window. Rowan was looking down at a dizzying view of Earth.

Low lighting was achieved by more of the light panels running down the walls. The furniture was large and made of beautiful dark wood. Images of animals that looked like deer and dragons were carved on most of the pieces. Their eyes were inlaid with stones and they glinted as if they were alive. The huge bed was covered in an intricately woven tapestry that showed scenes of hunting. Riders on what looked like horses were running down fantastic animals with small dragons, the workmanship was amazing. Rowan was reminded of the beautiful tunic she wore that Margreth had embroidered; the styles were very similar.

She noticed a door beyond the bed and Rowan was thrilled to find that it opened into a lovely bathroom with an amazing stone tub. Well I have always wondered if everyone went to the bathroom, now I know and this sure beats that damp stone privy at the castle. She touched the stone tub and it was delightfully warm.

One wall of the bathroom was also a window and Rowan could see the ice cap of the North Pole below her. It seemed like forever since she left the bar in Pittsburgh and the thought of a hot bath was irresistible. With a little trying Rowan figured out how to fill the tub. The water bubbled up from the bottom and apparently was set to stop at a certain point. For a few minutes Rowan had been worried that she might flood the bathroom but the water stopped on its own. How embarrassing would that be, she thought. Your first time on a spaceship and you flood the bathroom. Rowan almost laughed out loud. She laid her clothes on the bed and stepped into the tub. As she relaxed in the hot bubbling water she looked down at planet earth.

Exhausted, Rowan closed her eyes and thought about the last twenty four hours. She needed to form a plan to get Brannoc off the ship and back to the Callinish Stones. The waters soon had her so relaxed she dozed off.

*

Rowan wasn’t sure how long she had slept but something woke her. She opened her eyes and saw someone behind her in the reflection in the huge glass window. She stood and spun around standing fully naked before the intruder. The intruder was Vashir and he had a very thin wire stretched between his fists.

Her state of undress distracted him for a split second and that was all she needed. With just a thought she slammed him into the beautiful stone wall. He crumpled to the floor as she jumped from the tub and tried to run into the bedroom but the wet stone floor was like glass and she slipped, hitting the floor so hard her breath was knocked out of her.

As Rowan gasped for air Vashir recovered and threw himself on top of her. His sick grin swam before her eyes as she tried to breathe. He let loose of the wire with one hand and he roughly grabbed her breast. He held her throat with the other hand keeping her from catching her breath.

“I believe you wanted to see me alone,” he growled and leaned forward until his face was only inches from hers. “I want you to know before you die that I plan to fuck your dead body.”

Rowan was beginning to lose consciousness. She felt Vashir fumbling with the front of his pants with the hand that was not pressing against her throat. She could feel his hard cock pressed against her. He bit her viciously on the neck tearing deep into her throat; she felt the blood running down her shoulder onto the floor.

The bite was a mistake however because it jolted her back from near unconsciousness and in that split second of clarity Rowan reached into his mind.

Here there is no time, Rowan thought. No need to hurry. She calmly looked into his soul and what looked back at her was pure evil. Gal’s mind had been full of memories both good and bad but not dark. There was darkness in Vashir’s mind coiled and twisted into his very psyche like a parasite. Rowan realized with horror that it was an entity unto itself.

Images of Vashir’s visits to earth poured into her head, small villages where he would pick out young children, girls or boys it did not matter to him. He would wait until the rest of the soldiers were unaware and he would take them and do unspeakable things. Rowan saw him rape them in every way imaginable and then mutilate them. Making sure they died slowly and then he would violate their dead bodies in ways worse than when they lived. She also saw that his most treasured fantasy was doing all this and more to his commander Unegen.

The black specter in Vashir’s mind came at Rowan. It pushed against her mind and she felt it trying to gain access to her consciousness. It was very strong and as cold as the breath of an arctic wind. It was nothingness, howling, and frigid, writhing nothingness. It began to push her back. It wanted her; she felt it. It wanted her so much more than Vashir wanted her. She did not know how to fight it. It had no conscious mind that she could sense. It was a seething mass of hate and rage and lust.

How do you fight hate? Rowan thought.

Instinctively she filled her mind with the warm glowing love that she had of her parents. The blackness recoiled in a screaming rage.

Rowan seized the opportunity. She did just what she had told Vashir earlier she would do. She exploded his eyes in his vile skull. She wasn’t sure exactly how she had did it but she visualized it and it happened. He recoiled, screaming and clutching his face. Blood and tissue sprayed everywhere and Rowan watched in slow motion horror as a squished eyeball slithered down the viewing window like one of those sticky octopus toys you get out of a gum ball machine. She slipped and slid in his blood and hers as she clawed her way out from under Vashir.

Rowan stood up and looked down at the writhing man. She imagined his heart in his chest and she crushed it in her mind; suddenly he stopped thrashing, his empty bloody sockets stared out at the beautiful planet below. Rowan walked, naked and bloody to the table beside the bed.

She touched the small silver ball and said one word,” help.”

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