“Do you understand me?”
Kira took a shaky step forward. The girl pushed against Ni’ev, but his arms were bands of steel around her.
“You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. I’m sorry you’re being restrained, but we want to make sure you don’t hurt anyone or yourself.”
She didn’t reply, but her her panic was apparent even through her dirt-streaked cheeks and wild hair.
What happened to her?
Kira wouldn’t be able to diagnose her. Psychology wasn’t her science.
“Do you want food? Water? Are you hurt?”
The girl’s brown eyes flickered down. Kira followed and found that she was protectively cradling her stomach.
“Oh… I’m not mad at you for touching me, or taking food. No one is.”
The girl’s eyes widened, proving that she was the thief, and that she understood English.
Kira gestured behind her. “This is my daughter and… husband. I don’t know what you went through, but women are protected here. We’ll take care of you, but it would help if you spoke.”
Instead of calming her, the words sparked another rebellion. The woman thrashed against Niev, trying to claw herself out of his embrace.
“Just– just wait a minute,” Kira tried again. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”
She fought until she was panting from exhaustion.
“We should take her to a room and bring her food,” Kira told Ni’ev. “Who knows how long she’s been in there.”
Ni’ev lifted her. Her fighting became weak. It was the strangest thing, seeing her fight with fury in her expression but shut lips. Why wasn’t she screaming?
Kira turned and found a handful of men standing there. Tall, half-naked, and clutching deadly weapons.
“Please return to your posts. Give us some space,” she told the small army.
It took them a few seconds to snap out of their shocked gaze and disperse. Kira expected nothing less. For fifteen years, women were extinct. Now, they were literally popping out of every crook and cranny.
Once the room was empty, Ni’ev left. Kira took Terra from Vrox’s arms and placed her in the bassinet. Then, she hurried after Ni’ev.
“Did you see anything else down there?” she asked Vrox. “Any more women?”
“No. We will have to get more men down there to investigate the pathways. None of my brothers or Council members knew they existed.”
“This place…” she looked over her shoulder and stared at the pyramid’s peak. “We’re trying to make it our home, but it’s like its fighting back.”
Vrox wrapped an arm around her and kissed her temple. “Come. We have work to do.”
They followed Ni’ev to his room, who set the girl on his bed. She was now against the wall, cowering like a scared animal.
Kira sat on the edge of the bed but kept her hands away.
“Ni’ev, can you wait outside, please? Just so that there’s less male presence in the room.”
Both of the men tensed, understanding her insinuation.
“I will be outside,” Ni’ev grumbled.
Kira turned back to the girl. “Okay, sweetheart. I’ll give you space in a few minutes, but you’ll have food and water. You can take what you need. Ni’ev will be outside to look after you. He’s my brother-in-law, and he’s trustworthy. If you need me to come back, you can just say ‘Kira’ and he’ll understand. Will that be okay?”
As usual, there was no reply.
“There are other women here, you know? There’s Nebula and Lamara. They’re around our age. You can meet them later. If you can’t speak, we can find some other method of communication.”
With a smile, Kira picked up Terra from the bassinet. She took the baby’s arm and made her wave. Kira was hoping that this made the stranger feel more comfortable. There was nothing threatening about a cute baby waving at you.
“Remember that I’m here if you want to talk. I’ll return tonight to check on you.”
She left, Vrox hot on her heels. After summarizing everything to Ni’ev, she rushed to the common room in search of Nebula and Lamara.
“Kira, why are you rushing with a baby in your arms and another one growing inside you?” Nebula reprimanded.
“Oh, hush! You sound just like Vrox.”
Vrox grumbled something behind her, but she ignored it and plopped down next to the women.
“Another one showed up.”
“Another baby? Don’t tell me you’re pregnant with twins.”
“No! Another woman! She was living in the fucking walls. She looks like a mess, and she smells like she’s been in there for a while. I had to give her space because she looked like she was about to have a nervous breakdown and–”
Nebula raised a hand. “Another woman? Out of the walls?”
Nebula sighed. “Vrox, come get your girl and put her to bed.”
“But… out of the walls? How the fuck did she get there? Is she the one who…”
“Yeah. I think it was her who snuck up on me that one time I was sleeping and pregnant with Terra.”
“Is she okay?” Lamara asked.
“I don’t know, but I figured she needs space. Why don’t you guys help me bring her food, water, and supplies later tonight?”
That afternoon, the women hunted blankets, meats, fruits, juice, soap. They packed enough for a village, wanting to make sure their mysterious female visitor had everything she needed.
Vrox raised a hand and waved the warrior over.
“Hello High Mother, females, Commander.” Terson smiled, and the scarred part of his face pulled.
“Hey Terson,” Kira greeted, while Nebula and Lamara nodded.
“Has your behind recovered from the beating I gave it last sparring session?”
Terson laughed. “You won the fight, but took a few gulps of dirt in between them.”
Kira shook her head. She often saw Vrox sparring with Terson. The violence made her squirm with worry, but the warriors always laughed through it as if they were playing in mud.
“Come to the next Council meeting,” Vrox ordered.
“Council meeting? Have I done something wrong?”
“No, my friend. You are getting a promotion.”
Terson’s eyes widened, his scarred skin pulling some more.
“You’re not going to produce eye-water, are you?” Vrox chuckled. “You have earned the position. Follow me, we have much to talk about.”
“Actually,” Kira interjected. “Why don’t you talk to him tomorrow morning?”
Vrox shrugged. “I will see you later, then.”
“Thank you for the honor, Commander.”
Once he was gone, Vrox turned to Kira. “Why did you want him to leave?”
“His scarred face,” she sighed. “Look, I know Terson is funny, trust-worthy, and hard-working, but his face is… bad. It’s really damaged. I don’t want the girl to get scared. I don’t know how she will react to the sight of his face.”
Vrox nodded. “It makes sense to keep her away from as many males as possible. We do not know what she encountered.”
Kira bit her lip, feeling awful. “Let’s go, then.”
Vrox carried the bucket of water while the women carried the food and Terra’s bassinet. When they reached the room, they found Ni’ev sitting on the floor and looking into the room.
He stood up to let them through and then continued his guard. There were some lamps lighting the room, but it was still hard to make out the woman’s expression.
“Hi,” Kira said, setting the bag of Ezronian mangoes down. “My friends and I brought you some stuff. We’ll leave soon, don’t worry. This is Nebula and Lamara.”
“Hi,” both Nebula and Lamara waved.
The woman remained in her corner, only staring warily.
“We all came from the same place – the NASA headquarters, when the portal activated.”
There was still no response.
“Well, we hope you enjoy this stuff. The water is still warm.”
With a sad smile, Kira bid her goodbye and followed the other women out of the room.
“What do you think?” she asked the others.
“She definitely went through some shit,” Lamara replied.
Nebula mumbled her agreement.