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Divine Charity

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Chapter Two: RESCUED

Lena heard voices. Felt hands on her body. A pink flash of light so bright it lit the surrounding air. The smell of smoke. The taste of blood. Confusion. Noise. Cold. Moist air permeated every inch of her. She couldn’t move. Her vision blurred and her ears buzzed. In and out of consciousness she floated.

Sasha cried out in the distance. Lena’s eyes flew open in horror when she tried to call out, but couldn’t; tried to move, but was immobile. Panic flooded her. Her babies! Where the hell were her babies?

“She’s awake!” a female voice said, laced with urgency. Lena tried to focus on the woman, but quickly gave up when all that floated in front of her was a pink ethereal light.

“Kravan’n? Kravan’n? Where is he?” The male voice was anxious, thickly accented.

In her confused state, Lena couldn’t place the accent and the thought of attempting to do so exhausted her. It was all she could do just to keep her eyes open. Why couldn’t she move? Or speak?

“She needs blood!” The woman spoke again, her tone commanding.

“By the All! Rescue the bantlings!”

“Where has he gone?”

“Hold her still.”

“They’re in shock.”

“By the Eternal One, I cannot find him!”

“Nor can I. Where has he gone?”

Lena tried to move her head to see who was speaking over her, but the night was too dark. Fog or smoke - she couldn’t tell which - obscured her already compromised sight. She could only make out moving shadows. A different blackness tried to steal her sight, but she fought against the faint. She needed to know if her kids were okay. Her heart cried out in desperation.

“Calm yourselves,” barked a voice of command. “I am well.”

An enormous shadow of a man hovered over her, and she tried desperately to make out his features. Even in her confused state, she recognized his air of authority. Whatever happened to her now was up to him.

A worried female voice spoke. “She’s fading fast. We have to go. She needs blood and even then, there is no guarantee. I’ve never seen a head injury this severe where the patient survived.”

“Yet she is with us still. Do not will her into the grave with your words. Give her my blood.”

“I can’t! It could kill her!” the woman balked. Her southwestern accent came across clearly in her agitation.

“Do it now!” the large man instructed, his tone brooking no disagreement.

Lena tried to focus her vision. Her gaze landed on the shadowy male figure above her, but darkness swallowed her. When she woke again, nausea assailed her just before an oddly soothing cold settled into her bones. She was too tired to fight against the darkness.

That feminine voice came to her from a distance. “Shit! Shit, shit, shit ... I’m losing her.”

Lena fought for breath, and the effort was too difficult. She was tired. So tired. Gasping for air was almost more than she could muster as darkness flickered all around her, drowning out the pink light. A small pinch in her arm, like a needle, caught her attention right before pain soared through her, fully rousing her from her unconscious state. Lena cried out a sob as acid filled her veins and burned her flesh.

My babies! Let my girls be ok. Please!

Hush, Farran. Your bantlings are well. You must calm yourself else you will go into a cardiac arrest. The pain from being given my blood will ease. Breathe. The deep voice seeped deep into her mind. It was the man that spoke with such authority earlier. He seemed to bring sanity back into her chaotic, jumbled mind.

Comforting warmth blanketed her as if someone were trying to soothe her from inside of her very being. My girls? Where are they?

Alive and well, Farran. They are sleeping, completely unaware of what is transpiring.

I heard Sasha cry. Is she okay?

Quite well. She will remember nothing.


Quiet your mind. Sleep.

She felt those phantom hands on her body again. Her sightless eyes drifted shut against her will. The sensation of floating. Blinding white drowned out the pink light. A shrill noise echoed in the air, then darkness once again.

Space: Charity

Khamuel stared moodily at the ceiling, his thoughts not for the female who lay naked and slumbering beside him. Kiara, the beta-Dracona “doctor,” whom Noah gifted him with three Earth days ago, spent hours fighting for the ind-Earth woman’s life. Kiara’s every medical skill was tested as she fought to save the lady, and in so doing, earned Khamuel’s respect. Yet, now, he only longed for her to leave his bed.

Rising quietly to dress, Khamuel glared at the lithe, curvaceous female. It was almost time to wake the twins who slept a few doors down. There was no wisdom in allowing the ind-Earth bantlings to see a woman rising from his bed. “Kiara, it is time. You must go.”

The synthesized sun had not yet risen in the Ka’al habitat, but Khamuel was impatient. He’d had enough of the female and her irksome allure. That she used it against his will angered him. When she did not stir, he raised his voice slightly. “Kiara, awaken.”

Like a sinewy snake, the beta-Dracona stretched her limbs. Yellow eyes with red flecks opened and trained on him. A satisfied smile slithered across her full mouth. “Good morning.”

“It is time,” he said again. “You must leave.”

Rising from the bed, she took her infernal time to dress.

“Do you need help?” she asked. “I can make the twins breakfast while you get ready.”

“Nay, there is no need. I will care for them.”

Pouting, Kiara donned her grey and white medical uniform. “I can help you, Kravan’n.”

“I am not prone to repeating my directives, Kiara.” His tone was harsh, every bit of his impatience evident. Khamuel didn’t count himself as callous, yet the woman was a bane he no longer wished to suffer. He counted the days until her oestrus would pass and she set him free of her allure. Thank the Eternal One for the foods that kept them all from producing progeny from circumstances such as these.

After Kiara left, Khamuel made his way down the hall to where the ind-Earth bantlings slept. He silently thanked his sister, who had the forethought to dress the bantlings in the clothing they would need that day before putting them to bed. This was a most uncomfortable situation.

The bantlings did not wake easily, and eventually Khamuel gave up, lifted them in his arms and made his way to the control room. Sasha refused to be put down. Leila assumed his commander’s seat and promptly began drooling on the armrest in slumber. The indignity!

Shortly after the accident on Earth, Khamuel sent an emissary to Noah. A mere formality, as Khamuel held no allegiance to Earth. Yet, Noah was friend enough that Khamuel felt it just to inform him of what transpired with the crash. Khamuel did not expect Noah’s response. Noah decreed the three females needed to be taken aboard Charity and that they should remain permanent cargo. Khamuel did not understand the need to keep the females aboard. Yet, he would not balk. It was no hardship to keep the females aboard Charity.

The adult victim of the near-fatal crash called out to him repeatedly in her unconscious state, sending garbled messages into his mind. Even in her stupor, she clung to her memory of him. In her mind, he was larger than life; her protector; a man with a booming voice who controlled the chaos around her and brought her to safety. She expected he would allow no harm to come to her while she lay defenseless.

It both humbled him and annoyed him.

With no concept of reality or time, she often called for his attention at inopportune moments. Because of the injury to her brain, her words were often thoughtless, incoherent, or overtly emotional. Khamuel could not fault her for seeking reassurance. The injuries she sustained were his fault, and so, he would care for her as was just. If only Olaf lived!

A frown marred his forehead, crinkling his branding. Thoughts of his near-son pained his heart. Khamuel often held Olaf as a bantam, had fed him and once even changed his soiled swaddling clothes. He wanted to rail and find fault with any he could, simply to release his rage upon them. To force someone to hurt as he did. Yet, he could not; would not even if he could. The r-RED completed their investigation and found no signs of foul play. Olaf died of natural causes.

Humans died. They always died. It was no fault of their own. Humans were frail. Temporary. Mortal.

Are you there?

Her voice floated softly inside of Khamuel’s mind. He welcomed the distraction. Always. How do you fare?

Are you real?


What’s your name? I feel like I should know that. You’ve told me before. I know you have.

The frustration and sadness in those words tugged at him and Khamuel softened towards the ind-Earth. He focused his thoughts, then rather than repeating his words, he imprinted them onto her mind so she would not forget again. I am Khamuel Vordlunn Und Kravan, ’N of Ka’al. I am addressed as Kravan’n. You now belong to my clan.

Yes. Yes, I remember now. Thank you. My name is Lena.

Khamuel nearly rolled his eyes when he realized that he never thought to ask her name. He supposed this was good information for him to have, considering.

Where am I? she asked.

You are aboard Charity, a ship capable of interstellar travel, receiving medical ministry by my people. ’Twas another question she asked repeatedly. He knew he would repeat his answer many more times until she was no longer sedated. The woman was a novice in this psychic ability to converse with him. He could not continually imprint things on her mind. Psychic connections were dangerous for the untutored.

Oh, that’s cool.

His lips twitched at her serene acceptance due, he knew, to the curatives flowing through her blood. Ind-Earths were skeptical of life from other planets. What would her unfiltered reaction be upon awakening?

The amusement quickly died away. She amused him now, yet once she was well, it would be unseemly to continue sharing their thoughts in this manner. It would give him an unfair advantage over her. An advantage he wanted, yet would not accede to. His oath to protect without coercion forbade it.

Lena’s cloudy confusion whirled within Khamuel. One moment she was nearly fully aware of her situation, and in the next her thoughts swayed, splintering apart until she didn’t know what was real or what was dream. I will come to you now. Rest easy.

He retreated from her mind and raised his mental guard. As the woman had no real understanding of her psychic ability, she often flooded him with her thoughts and emotions. Her confusion could infect his thinking and he did not relish the thought of wandering aimlessly should he get lost.

Charity, summon my sister to me.”

Pnina arrived quickly, eager for an opportunity to be with the twins. As he transferred the sleeping Sasha into his sister’s arms, the bantling woke and clung to him. Innocent eyes filled with fear at the thought of being separated from him. Bantlings, even ind-Earth bantlings, found comfort in him, ever drawn to his light. They saw him for what he truly was.

It made rescuing them easy, for they did not fear him. He, himself, freed them from the mangled chariot. Taking one look at him, the girlings clung to him easily, touching his face and hair in awe. In return, he filled them with his light, gently lulling them into a restful sleep. Their little heads fell to his shoulders in sweet, peaceful slumber. Since that moment, they wished for no other to guard them and did not easily separate from him. They were with him always.

Tsking softly, Pnina encouraged, “Come, hertlyfa. I will care for you. We will play a game do you wish. Come.”

For a moment, the child’s eyes glistened with tears. Khamuel was struck by her tiny face as she looked up at him with such pleading. “I want Mama.”

Khamuel smiled gently, kissed the girling’s tiny forehead and said, “I pray soon, you will be reunited. I will return to the grants the moment I am able. My oath.”

Bravely blinking away her tears, the girling shifted her weight and went to Pnina. He noted the slight tremble of her chin before she tucked her face into Pnina’s neck.

Poor, sweet bantling.


As he walked through the ministry doors, he was most relieved Kiara had yet to make an appearance. Instead, his old friend Avem, the chief medical minister, sat at her workstation prepared to greet him. An average woman with pretty, pale hair and clear pale blue eyes, Avem was an accomplished minister. Khamuel shared a long, comfortable history with Avem. He sat next to her, tugging a lock of her hair gently.

She attempted a smile.

He noticed her tear-stained face and reddened eyes. Empathy filled him. His fingers grazed her cheek. “You should be resting, Avem. Go grieve for your son.”

Avem’s breath shuddered, rocking her frame. “I can cry no more, Kravan’n. I need to keep busy.”

“Olaf was a good man,” Khamuel said. “May the All ease your suffering.”

Avem gave him a tight-lipped smile and turned to her work.

Khamuel hesitated. While he grieved Olaf’s loss, Khamuel knew there was naught he could do to heal a modirz heart. “If there is aught I can do, please inform me.”

“Can you bring him back?”

His chest constricted. “With all my being, I wish it so. Shall I give you my light?”

“Nay. Please, leave me to my work.”

Khamuel squeezed her shoulder and left her. When he reached the bed upon which Lena lay, Khamuel allowed his eyes to travel over her. Her color was better and her minor injuries already healed, though medical equipment was attached to various parts of her tiny form.

He cursed the Maravana. Had it not been for their spiteful jealousy, he would still have the ALF-HealingS. That device would have had Lena on her feet and in perfect health within hours of being laid within it. Those bastards had not only killed off over half his population, but had stolen the machine and left the remainder of his people struggling to survive the aftermath.

Khamuel, though, was no pacifist lead. He exacted vengeance with little thought of collateral damage and an eye to maximum destruction. The Maravana ship and all its crew were no more.

He shook those bloody thoughts away to focus on the sedated woman. She was small by Ka’al standards, yet perhaps average height for an ind-Earth female. Long, black, ringlet curls were tamed into a braid that lay draped over one shoulder, the hair so long it reached her waist. Curly tendrils escaped, framing her forehead and face. Her hair alone was quite pleasing to look upon, yet when he took in the whole of her, he was forced to admit her loveliness. Her skin was a rich golden brown with a hint of burnished tones. A heart-shaped face, adorned with brows that were straight slashes above her eyes and lifted mischievously at the ends. A pert nose with a slight flare complimented bow-shaped lips, that though not overly plump, looked sweet and soft.

Her slim neck bore a scar from ear to ear. Anger pulsed within him at the evidence of attempted murder. Khamuel could not fathom such. She was woman. She was modir.

He noted another scar on one of her slim forearms that laid over the temperature-controlled blankets used to ward off shock. The scar traveled up high, deforming the musculature, making a deep indent in her bicep, and disappearing toward her shoulder, which was covered by the medical gown. On her other arm, he noted colorful art painted on her skin. He wondered what significance the art held. It was a bird of some kind, surrounded by fire. Both arms were well-muscled and her small hands were not the hands of a pampered lady. There were faint scars there as well, littering her knuckles and fingers. He suspected if he turned her hands over, he would note callouses on the pads.

Khamuel ignored the urge to remove her blanket and further inspect her for more scars and artwork. It would be improper to look upon her while she lay so vulnerable. Yet, the woman had a tale to tell. A violent tale. Was she in danger? Was she a criminal? The curatives flowing through her veins would temper much of her character and carnal nature. The wildness he felt within her could very well be a shadow of more violent tendencies. Or perhaps the wildness was born of her need to be saved. He took stock of the time he spent in her mind.

She left no darkness within him.

He concluded she needed his protection; the one thing he had been created to do. He could provide her that protection.

A small sound from the machine helping her to breathe caught his attention. She was attempting to rouse herself from her medicated slumber, to breathe on her own. He opened his mind and eased his calming influence into her. When she was calm once again, he looked at the machine. The blinking lights steadied.

Khamuel allowed his fingers to trace lightly over the scar on her arm as he noted her remarkable healing progress. Her brain had swollen so severely from its injury, there was need to remove a portion of her skull. Mere hours later, the swelling receded, her skull cap replaced. There were no visible scars where the minister’s blade cut into her skin. One lung had been punctured so badly it needed to be reconstructed. Again, within hours of aciurgy, her skin was seamless.

No fresh scars.

Superhuman healing.

Earth born she may be, yet ind-Earth she was not.

Relief. He did not relish the thought of being bound by an’thee to a human.

A gentle butting in his mind made him aware of her thoughts once again. She was looking for him, seeking his comfort and company. With the ease of practice, he eased into her thoughts gently. What can I do for you, Farran?

What does “farran” mean?

’Tis an endearment. How do you feel?

Why can’t I move?

We are keeping you in a medicated semi-stasis to help you heal. He feared her memory might be affected after all this, despite Avem’s claims. A few more days, I am assured, and we can fully revive you. It is why you struggle with your thoughts. Drugs make you … loopy, I believe is the English word.

Are my daughters okay?

Quite hale.

Am I going to die?

Nay! The denial was vehement in him as he looked down at her. What a travesty it would be if she lost her life due to his negligence.

Her mind drifted.

Khamuel stayed longer than intended, comforted by her nearness. Too soon, it was time to leave. Even Ka’al needed sleep. Yet, as he rose from his seat, her voice floated into him. Don’t leave. Here, pet the cat. Don’t touch her whiskers though, the butterfly will cry.

Khamuel just barely held back a sardonic retort, yet sent his words patiently. I will not leave. Here I will stay until you open your eyes.

Don’t take me back.

The sudden fear in her voice startled Khamuel. Her mind was frantic as panic rose inside of her. He stretched his arms so that his hands hovered inches above her head and let his inner light free. The emotions of security and warmth poured from him in a soft stream, illuminating her body with an inner glow. When she was calm, he settled back and asked, Why do you not wish to return?

This time, her voice was a sedate, melodic flow, completely at odds with the words she sent. Oh, well, because it’s dangerous. Bad things happen there. I don’t want to go back.

Khamuel’s brow furrowed as he looked once again upon her scars. Like what, Lena? What bad things happen?

Promise me. Promise me you’ll keep me and my girls here?

According to Noah, Khamuel had no choice. Of course, he would keep her. You ask for asylum?

Yes. Please.

Tell me what you fear.

She was gone.

Khamuel headed back into the receiving room of the ministry. Perhaps Avem would have answers.

The minister activated the patient log and searched for the information Khamuel requested. A moment later, the transparent screen lit up with letters and numbers that made no sense to someone who did not work in medical ministry.

“Hmph ...” the thoughtful little sound pricked his curiosity.

“Speak,” he said.

“As you know, she is healing remarkably. In fact, I would say, she isn’t healing as much as regenerating.” Avem touched the screen, scrolling through the report. “She …”

Khamuel looked, but could not make heads or tails of what he saw, and his patience grew thin. “Tell me.”

“By the Eternal One. Her blood is powerful.”

“I suspected,” he said drily.

“There is barely any trace of corruption except in the most recent maternal lines. Her modir was part ind-Earth, yet her sire ... she is a direct descendant, but that cannot be. No one would abuse the progeny of sephira.”

Khamuel did not know what jest the Eternal One played in putting a descendant of such an ancient bloodline in his path. What more in making her the catalyst to his an’thee, yet he would not question it. Over time, he learned-

Avem’s words sunk in, and cut into his thoughts. His mind instantly went to the scars he witnessed upon Lena’s person. Her plea for asylum played in his thoughts. “Abuse?”

“Aye Kravan’n, here.” Avem pointed to some acronyms. “Someone severely neglected her as a bantling. She went hungry so often, her bones and brain were affected. With her ability to regenerate, it is not her current biological structure which tells her tale, but her cells. If she were wholly ind-Earth, the lady would not have survived infancy. As she grew older, the abuse became physical. Her body scans show many old injuries.”

Knowing just enough biology to understand common terms, as a man of political bent rather than scientific, Khamuel was thankful for Avem’s courtesy of speaking in plain terms.

She pointed again. “Here shows more recent injuries.” Avem viewed the screen with dispassion, forgetting to whom she was speaking, oblivious to the impact her words had upon him. “Her muscle tone and bone density speak of an athlete or a warrior. She suffered trauma, perhaps … a few years ago? A blast of some sort? She should have died then as well. Almost all of her internal organs were affected, along with a few broken bones.”

“A blast?”

“Aye, Kravan’n.” Concentration consumed Avem as she continued to study the chart.

He hesitated at the icy glare of her expression. “Is there more Avem? More that I should know?”

“She carries the blood of Sariel, though what that relation is remains unclear. We are attempting to break down and read more into her DNA, yet it is too dense even for our capabilities. The blood of sephira always takes time. We could only cipher Sariel’s blood as we have his genetic material archived. There is another line of sephira as well. Whomever it is, will need to be researched. I will send a transmission out to neighboring ships. Perhaps they will have the answers we need.”

His brow drew together sharply and his body stiffened. “Sariel? The Sariel?”

Avem nodded once.

Royalty! And not some cloddish, terra-bound royal family. Damn the All! She was a bloody Watcher by birth. Chosen.

But chosen for what?

Khamuel kept his annoyance to himself. “Seal her record. As of now, you and Kiara are the only ones to have access to her without my permission.”

Avem shrugged her acceptance.

Mind reeling, Khamuel walked back into the convalescent room. Lena was well and truly asleep, beyond even the dreamworld. The woman held none of the characteristic features of her exalted line other than her burnished skin and night-colored hair. He wondered why she had been traveling at such a time of night with two bantlings.

Were she and her progeny in danger? It would certainly be no new circumstance for one of her ilk or apparent past of abuse. Her fear was palpable as she sought his reassurance. She did not know where she was, or what was happening around her. All she seemed to grasp was that she was in a “hospital.” A modern English word he did not understand, though it seemed to comfort her. It was well he found her. She obviously needed caring for.

You left me.

Only for a moment. I was checking on your progress with the “doctor.”

Progress? A relative term at this point.

Nay, you are doing well, he reassured her.

I’m going to live?


Thank you, Kraven.

Her attempt at calling him by his title gave him pause. With her poor pronunciation, she inadvertently called him “husband” and the mistake made him grin wryly. I receive your gratitude. And please, call me Khamuel. I prefer it.

They’re a handful, she said, referring to the twins.

So my sister claims. Yet no hassles have they given me.

You’re sure I’m going to be okay?

Aye. Your father passed you his gift for healing.

My father? A bitter laugh floated in his mind. That man gave me nothing but a death sentence.

What Khamuel remembered of Sariel was not in keeping with the woman’s words. Sariel was many things questionable, a delinquent father not being among them. Which meant Sariel could not be her father. The progeny of Sariel loved and revered their father.

Why can’t I move?

You were made full of curatives to keep you still so you may heal.

There are so many horses here! Why is that tree pink?

Why do you seek asylum, Lena?

Where are my girls?

With my sister. What do you fear?

Are they…?

She was gone again. Bound by his word, Khamuel hunkered in. He shifted with mild annoyance until he was comfortable in the ridiculous chair by her bedside. His gaze settled on her delicate features one last time before drifting closed.


Faded memories of bright lights, loud noises, and pain filled her drugged consciousness. My girls! Where are my girls? She tried running to them, but she was trapped. She sobbed pitifully. Footsteps sounded. A comforting, cool hand soothed her brow. “Shh. Calm down.” The soft feminine voice held a reassuring note. “It’s okay, you’re safe now.”

Lena came to confused wakefulness. She didn’t want to see what she feared most. In a panic, she flailed wildly. “Sasha! Leila! Girls, are you okay?”

Someone slipped their hand into hers. Lena clasped onto it like a lifeline. She felt the tears on her cheeks and licked her lips nervously. “I have two little girls in the back seat. Are they okay?”

“Yes, lady. They’re just fine. We rescued you. We’ve got you in a nice cozy bed.”

“Were they hurt?” Lena whispered.

“Bumps and bruises only. They’re perfectly healthy. Open your eyes. It’s okay, you’re safe.”

Lena took a breath and slowly opened her eyes.

She gasped.

It wasn’t the fact she felt pain that caused her to gasp. It was her eyesight, and maybe her mind! She never expected to wake up to a face tinted green!

Those eyes! Yellow with red flecks. Contacts? Despite herself, Lena smirked and closed her eyes tiredly. “Must have been some party. You Roswellians are pretty creative. I love your makeup!”

Some time passed in quiet when Lena’s eyes closed, her mind floating in the way of a person waking from a medicated sleep. When she opened her bleary eyes, she met the strangely pretty gaze of the stranger. The other woman blinked in apparent concern and Lena froze.

The woman smiled kindly. “I’m not wearing makeup.”

“Blink again,” Lena whispered disbelievingly.

“I guess I forgot for a moment you were raised as an ind-Earth,” the woman said with a grin and an obliging blink. Just for good measure, the pale green woman blinked again and smiled engagingly. “Trippy, huh?”

Lena sat up abruptly. “Again!”

Instead of taking offense, the other woman obeyed, blinking one more time. Lena watched in wonder as the pale green woman with the slightly darker band of green across her brow blinked her odd eyes exactly the way a reptile would. Then, showing off, the woman stuck her tongue out. It fluttered teasingly just before it shot forward and touched Lena’s nose lightly.

Lena gasped again, her hand covering her nose and jerked back. “Did you just boop me … with your tongue?”

The other woman giggled as she stared at Lena, gauging her reaction while she took her pulse. “I believe I did.”

“I … um … I …”

“It’s okay,” said the woman. “I’ve never met a completely terra bound ind-Earth before. I think we’re each other’s first!”

All Lena could do was stare.

Taking pity on the small woman’s confused state of mind, the pale green woman explained. “Okay, my lady, let’s just get to the meat and potatoes, shall we? We hit your car with one of our foragers when we lost control. Your girls were fine, but you almost died, so we didn’t have a choice but to bring you aboard. I am Kiara, newly a citizen of this ark, but born and raised in good old New Mexico. And yes, I’m a Reptoid-Human hybrid, a beta-Dracona. I’m also the pediatrician, for, well, the entire ship for now.”

Ship? Ship…

Something inside Lena tugged at her. What couldn’t she remember? She knew she was on a ship, didn’t she? Or had that been a dream? Her brow furrowed as a wisp of something tickled her memory. “Charity?”

Kiara grinned broadly. “Yes! This vessel is a charity ark and has a significant history and tales of heroism tied to it. I was born and raised on Earth, but until a few days ago, I never left the confines of Area 51. Well, the real Area 51. Not that backdrop the government built to convince the locals we just test jet engines and stuff. I mean, we do that too, but you know … anyway, we’re maybe like, um … a bajillion miles from Earth? Well really, I don’t know how far we are. This star-travel stuff is beyond me. I know we’re behind the moon, though.”

When Kiara looked as if she would continue speaking, Lena waved her hand in denial, her eyes wide and disbelieving. “You sound like a fucking lunatic.”

Kiara cocked a perfectly arched brow, then slithered her tongue and blinked for effect. “Do I?”

Lena’s mouth dropped open. “I can’t … I …”

“I knew you would be difficult to convince. Humans are still struggling to believe they aren’t alone. I was raised around this stuff and it still trips me out. I’m actually on Charity! To you, it doesn’t hold much significance, but it’s … awesome ... in the old-world sense of the word.”

Lena took a shuddering breath, her eyes never once leaving the face of the pretty girl. Without warning, Lena leaped from the bed. “Where are my daughters?”

If Kiara was surprised by her outburst, she gave no indication. She watched with amused curiosity as Lena searched the ministry. “I don’t think the Ka’al would hide a couple of kids in a medicine cabinet. Although,” she laughed, “stranger things have happened.”

“I’m looking for my clothes, smartass.” Lena spun around in agitation, then stilled. The word Ka’al rang in her head like a gong. She fell to her knees as sudden pain exploded in her head, and a voice sounded in her mind like a distant, but very tangible memory. “I am Khamuel Vordlunn Und Kravan, ’N of Ka’al. I am addressed as Kravan’n. You now belong to my clan.”

The message was concentrated. The voice itself existed inside of her mind, imprinted solidly onto her brain, branded there like a tethering. Foreign sensations of psychic vibration roiled inside of her mind. She doubled over and fought against it, even as her stomach clenched at the unfamiliar energy. Without warning, she was sick all over the floor. Her hands covered her ears, attempting to block out the sound of the powerful male voice imprinted in her thoughts.

Finally, she could speak, her voice hoarse. “Who is Khamuel?”

The self-proclaimed reptoid-hybrid clucked a mild reprimand. “We don’t call him by name. We address him as Kravan’n.”

Lena shook her head in negation. “He doesn’t like it when I call him that.” How do I know that? “He spoke to me. I can hear his voice inside my head. His words ... they’re imprinted inside me. That’s impossible!”

Kiara’s brow shot up, and her mouth formed a small “o” before she collected herself. “He gave you his blood to help ensure your survival,” she explained. “It makes sense you’re connected on a deeper level. Think of the Ka’al as … well, they’re sort of like a physiological Wi-Fi. They can communicate telepathically. With his blood coursing through your veins, it seems plausible it would open up a line of communication between you.”

“No!” Lena’s denial was more forceful now. “You’re … this can’t be real. This is crazy. I’m still drugged up.”

Kindness appeared in those yellow eyes. “Well, yes, you definitely still have plenty of drugs in your system, but look at me, lady. Really look at me. If what I say is a lie, how could I be real?”

Small bots exited the walls, drawing Lena’s wide-eyed attention. They zoomed around cleaning the mess left on the floor. Kiara took Lena’s arm, gently urging her forward. “Go back to your bed, lady. Give yourself time to digest what you’ve been told. I’ll bring you the clothes we found in your car.”

Numbly, Lena sat down on the bed. The male voice in her head kept pinging around inside of her mind. The energy of the branding sapped at her inexperienced body, draining her of energy so quickly that Lena felt a momentary spark of fear. She tried to speak, but only a small choked sound escaped her. Kiara’s voice took on a buzzing quality as Lena fought to remain conscious. Cool, reptilian hands kept Lena from pitching forward.

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