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All characters in this publication are fictitious, any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Hena Day Two

Copyright © 2018 Odette C Bell

Cover art stock photos licensed from Depositphotos.

www.odettecbell.com



HENA

Day Two


The invasion continues, but so too does the resistance. Hena has saved Nick, but that is all she can do. For now. When the disparate group of alien survivors is thrust together, things change.

For now, Hena’s hands are tied, but soon, she will cut through those ropes, and she will rise….

Chapter 1

Hena

This was not ideal. This was far from ideal.

She’d intervened.

But what choice had she had?

“We have to get back down there. You have to do something,” the Rayar said for the thousandth time.

The only reason he could still speak, despite how high up they were, was because she’d extended her light form to him.

The other man with him – the Centauri – didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to, did he? Unlike the Rayar, he already knew exactly what was going on.

Hena ignored the Rayar.

For now.

There would be a finite amount of time that she would be able to do that.

The rules around the Rayars were clear. When you found a Rayar in trouble, it didn’t matter what your previous mission was, you had to protect them.

And yet the rules around the Accords were clear, too.

And both were equally as important.

“I said you have to get back down there,” the Rayar demanded.

“Leave her,” the Centauri said.

“No, it’s clear she can do something. So she has to do something. You know how many people are dying down there?”

“Approximately 50 just died within the last minute,” Hena replied.

There was a still silence. One that was reflected through the Centauri, even though their race usually had a good hold on their emotions.

The Rayar suddenly flared with anger. “What kind of a monster are you that you can casually count up lives?”

“The kind of monster who has had to deal with many lives and many deaths in her time. Now be quiet, Rayar.”

“You’ve got no right to tell me what to do. Now, if you have no intention of saving those people, you put me down. You hear?” he said, his voice arcing up louder and louder.

“Nick, calm yourself,” the Centauri said. “There’s nothing you can do to change the Peacekeeper’s mind.”

“Peacekeeper? We’ve got those here too, you know. And down here,” Nick ticked his head down, obviously indicating the planet below, “Peacekeepers do one thing – they keep the peace.”

Despite herself, Hena twitched. It was a full-bodied move, and even if she tried to keep it from Nick, the Centauri picked it up.

“Calm yourself, Nick,” the Centauri advised once more.

Hena’s life would likely be over if she allowed a Rayar to come to harm. But the lives of her people would be over if she intervened in the war.

“I told you to put me down. Just drop me from here. I’ll survive,” Nick spat.

“Incorrect. The only reason you are still breathing is because of my light form. Though Rayars only require infrequent respirations, the pressure up here would be enough to rupture you.”

Perhaps she should have phrased her words more eloquently, because they had a measurable effect on the Rayar.

Though Hena had been gripping his hand ever since she’d flown up here, suddenly Nick’s fingers wrapped around her wrist.

Perhaps he thought he was demonstrating strength. He would need a grip thousands upon thousands of times stronger to even dent her light form, let alone damage her flesh beneath.

It had the desired effect, though, and it got her attention once more. Slowly she tilted her head down.

She looked into the eyes of a Rayar.

Technically, Rayars were born to rule the universe.

They were one of the very first races.

Apart from the Peacekeepers, that was. But the Universal Senate did not count the Peacekeepers as a distinct race. They were a nuisance – not a necessary part of universal tradition.

The Rayars were technically one of the very first races to ever ascend to interstellar travel, bar some of the now extinct races like the Tau. and they’d made their mark on the universe. They’d seeded many planets, even brought civilization to whole galaxies.

And that, according to tradition at least, meant they had the right to rule. It was in their blood. It was in the blood of the universe.

And that blood was not something that she could ignore. For long, at least. She could only be thankful that this Rayar obviously had no idea what he was, and the ruler inside had only woken up once the invasion had begun.

But that brought her attention once more to the blood that covered Nick’s shirt. The same blood that was crusted along the back of his head.

“Did the Cartaxians attempt to assassinate you, just as they attempted to assassinate me?” she asked, derailing the conversation as she appreciated this fact was far more important.

“They tried to assassinate you?” the Centauri asked, his usually steady voice shaking. “Do they have a death wish?”

“Their scanners picked me up as a sophisticated non-human bipedal. They had not bothered to scan further,” she answered.

“What are you two talking about?” Nick demanded.

“You know how many other of us survived?” the Centauri asked. “Around the world. How many other aliens—”

“I have not kept track. However, there are others. But we must return to my original question. Did the Cartaxians attempt to assassinate you, Rayar?”

Nick kept thrashing around, but one thing he didn’t do was ever loosen his grip on the Centauri.

Which was good. Because Hena would not carry him. It wasn’t because she had no intention of saving him – it was because she had no right to.

The Rayar was her sole concern, and the sole concern she could legally have under the Accords.

“Answer the question, Nick,” the Centauri said, his voice calm. But more than that, calming. It was obvious the Centauri had already established a connection with the Rayar. Which was thankful. It was probably the only reason the Rayar was still alive.

“Yeah, they tried to assassinate me. I was at Heathrow. Some guy lured me into some plant room and smashed my head against the concrete. I… I think I died.”

Hena focused her senses, concentrating on the growing biological processes happening within Nick’s body. “You did die.”

Nick stiffened, his muscles practically twanging as his blood flow suddenly increased. “Then how the hell am I back?”

“Your human body was designed with insurance. One the Cartaxians obviously did not pick up on.”

“What does that mean?” Nick demanded.

“That either the Cartaxians did not know who you were, or they did not know the insurance placed within a Rayar,” she commented.

“I think it’s the latter,” the Centauri replied. “If they’d known he was a Rayar, they would have focused harder on the airport. By the sounds of it, they only sent one guy. He wasn’t even in full armor. That’s right, isn’t it, Nick?”

“Do you think I care? The only thing I care about is getting back down there and saving lives,” Nick spat, his passion steadily growing.

For a flickering second it almost reminded Hena of her own. Albeit a far hotter version of her passion. For, over the years, the Peacekeepers’ sense of injustice had been whittled away. It had been buried deep, deep down. For there are only so many worlds you can watch crumbling, only so many civilizations you can face turning to dust until one death becomes excruciatingly similar to another.

One injustice turns into another injustice. And the cycle of war continues.

But that still did not stop her from seeing the similarity between the passion in Nick’s words and the passion that should still be in her own.

“Just answer the question, Nick. She can help us. Or at least she can help you,” the Centauri explained.

This got Nick’s attention. He swiveled his head down to the Centauri. “What the hell does that mean, Amal?” He snapped his head back up to Hena. “You’re going to drop him, aren’t you? The only reason he’s with us is that I’ve got my hand on him.”

Hena stared back at him impassively. She nodded. “Correct.”

“You goddamn monster. Put us both down. If you have no intention of helping us – put us down.”

“She’s not going to do that, Nick. You’re a Rayar. She’s obliged to save you. Just as I am.”

“You think I need to be saved by a monster? All I need to do is get back down there and do what I can,” Nick kept repeating that, over and over again, but if you think that meant his passion started to dwindle, you’d be wrong. Somehow, every single time he repeated that phrase, it grew stronger and stronger.

But the strength of one’s words and the strength of one’s actual capacity are two different things.

Nick could believe all he wished that he could make a difference down there.

But he wouldn’t be able to.

“Stop calling her a monster,” Amal corrected.

“Why the hell not? I was always taught that if you could act, you acted. And she can clearly do something. If she’s not, that makes her a negligent goddamn monster. You think I care about my life? You think—”

“Others care about your life,” Amal answered quietly. “If you do not understand your worth, that is ultimately irrelevant. Both of us are bound to protect you.”

Nick became quiet. For all of about half a second. Then she could feel that tide of passion rising in him once more, almost like lava getting ready to spew from a volcano.

But this time he didn’t swear at her. He simply locked his fiery gaze on her, almost as if he were attempting to bore through her light form with nothing more than his eyes.

For… just a second, she saw something staring back. And again she recognized something in him she should still recognize within herself.

Then she pulled herself together. “We cannot stay here. We need to get to a ship. We need to get you off world.”

“There is no damn way I’m gonna leave Planet Earth. This is my home,” Nick said, his voice rattling down, punching low, despite the fact that up here, technically the air was too thin for anything to reverberate.

“You will have to. I’m obliged to get you to safety,” Hena stated flatly.

“And I am obliged to do everything I can for these people,” Nick said. For the first time, he didn’t sound like a petulant, passionate, desperate human. On the words these people, his voice extended, and so too did his power. Authority seemed to rise in his chest just like a hand reaching for the sky.

Amal noticed it too. Even though she was not technically connected to him, her senses were always locked on him, and she could appreciate that the emotion-sensing Centauri vibrated with recognition.

It took Nick a moment, then he shook his head. “Humans. My people,” he corrected, voice shaking, making it obvious he had no idea why he’d said what he’d just said.

But he had.

His Rayar side was shining through.

“It’s critical that we get you somewhere safe. I need a ship. I will transport now to find one.” Hena began to extend her senses.

“What do you mean transport?”

“If you…” Hena began, but she stopped herself in time. She’d been about to say that if Nick wanted Amal to come along, then he’d have to keep a firm hand on him.

“Don’t lose hold of my hand,” Amal said after a long pause.

“Why? What’s going to—”

Hena pressed a hand to the side, allowing her light form to build across her palm, to pick up over the fingers, and to flicker along her flesh. Just at the same time, she saw jets scramble overhead.

She fancied two picked her, Nick, and Amal up as they swerved close by.

If they thought they could close the distance and get a closer look, they were wrong. For a second later, she opened a hole in space, and she transported.

It was time to find a ship and get off Planet Earth.

There was nothing she could do for the humans. Their destinies would be up to them.

Chapter 2

Kim

Something wasn’t right. The reason he could tell something wasn’t right was because the Cartaxian attacks had grown infrequent.

It was almost as if the Cartaxians were pulling out of downtown completely.

Which was not a good sign.

Kim had been in more than enough wars to appreciate that even though he was putting a good dent in the Cartaxians’ forces, they still had the upper hand. Literally, as their strike ship still hung low over the city.

Or at least, it did for a few more seconds.

As Kim tipped his head back, he appreciated a change in wind direction and pressure. One that was not caused by an incoming front.

“What the hell are you up to?” he whispered to the skies as he watched the strike ship start to shift. Its massive belly pulled up into the night sky.

He had several seconds to stand there and watch it, then his endoskeleton’s sensors picked up another incoming vessel.

Small and fast.

Neither of which were good things.

He ticked his head to the side, his onboard processors suddenly scanning through literally millions of possibilities as to what the Cartaxians were up to.

Though it had been a long time since Kim had been trapped in a battle like this – considering he’d been stuck on Planet Earth for over 20 years – he’d never lost his senses. Nor had he lost his keen awareness of the flow of battle.

Something had just changed. His fortunes, to be precise.

“Dammit,” he spat as he pivoted on his foot and looked for somewhere to hide.

But there was nowhere you could hide when your enemy had ships capable of scanning through matter.

Deep – he had to get deep underground.

Even that might not be enough.

As Kim ran through the city, he picked up a sudden communication.

His phone beeped, to be precise.

He doubted it was his aunt asking when he was coming home for dinner.

“What the hell?” Kim managed as he ticked his head to the side and wirelessly communicated with his phone.

He received a call.

He hesitated but patched them through. “Who is this?”

“My name is Linh. Or at least my human name is. I’m a battle brain. I’m here to warn you.”

“Battle brain?” He found the time to whistle. “They must’ve come after you hard.”

“Not as hard as they came after you, I imagine. That’s not the point. They’re sending the gate ship in to pull you out of there.”

Something clicked in Kim’s head. He didn’t swear. There was no damn point. “That would be the small, fast ship headed my way, ha?”

“Bingo. We’re coming in to save you, but we won’t reach you in time. You’re going to need to evade their sensors for 50 seconds. Got that?”

50 seconds?

On the face of it, that hardly sounded like any time at all. 50 seconds was just a drop in the ocean.

The problem was, 50 seconds of evading advanced Cartaxian sensors was about as likely as winning the lottery 5000 times over.

When he didn’t reply, Linh practically growled. “Don’t you make me waste my effort here. I’m risking my ship.”

“You’ve got a ship? What kind?” Kim couldn’t keep the curiosity from his voice. His people were known as keen engineers throughout the entire universe.

“You can salivate over the engine design if and when you survive. Now stay alive for 50 seconds,” she repeated.

With that, the battle brain signed off.

Damn.

So there were more like Kim, ha?

Statistically, he appreciated that there would have to be other aliens who’d survived their assassination attempts. But a battle brain? They were rare these days. Practically hunted to extinction by some of the original eight, he would never have imagined one would be on Earth.

She could make a difference, right?

“Or at least her ship could,” Kim commented to himself as he latched a hand on his chin and tapped his fingers there.

At the same time, he ran.

50 seconds really didn’t sound like much, but it would be the longest damn 50 seconds of his life.

Technically his endoskeleton would be able to tell if somebody was getting a scanning lock on it. Even if that somebody was an entire Cartaxian gate cruiser.

And technically, technically if Kim moved fast enough just a microsecond after they got that sensor lock, he would be able to disrupt it.

But he would have to do that over and over again. And there were a lot of damn microseconds in 50 seconds.

If Kim were human, this would be where his heart would likely give up and his brain would melt out of his ears.

As it was, he kicked his armor into full gear. He also shoved a hand into his pocket, grabbed every single Q crystal, and ground to a stop in the middle of the street as he opened his chest.

Several soldiers standing behind a barricade stared out and watched in awe as Kim shoved a hand full of glowing crystals right into his chest cavity.

Technically he should take the time to connect them correctly. Technically, he shouldn’t shove 13 alien crystals into his chest without doing full diagnostics on them.

Technically? It was this or death. So he chose this.

Seconds condensed down into a point as his long-range scanners told him that that gate ship was half a minute from the city.

It would have to get right overhead.

The process of opening a gate was not a simple one.

Transportation was different. Transportation was point-to-point in ordinary space. Gates were more like holes tunneled right through every layer of subspace.

Technical stuff, but the take-home message was this – you had to be damn precise about your incoming and outgoing coordinates. Get them wrong, and you could end up warping yourself. And that would neither be a pretty nor healthy thing.

As Kim slammed his chest cavity closed, his shoulders jolted back as his endoskeleton accessed the power of the Q crystals.

He slammed his fists together, once, then twice, ignoring the jolting energy that traveled through his body as his endoskeleton struggled with connecting to all the crystals at once.

Finally, he turned to the soldiers on the opposite side of the street. “Get the hell out of here,” he boomed.

They didn’t question.

They turned tail and ran.

Right.

Time to do this.

Kim ticked his head back just as the ship came in low overhead.

He concentrated with all of his mind on his endoskeleton – on the incoming scanner feeds.

The Cartaxians didn’t waste any time.

They instantly got a lock on him. A microsecond later, Kim threw himself forward with all of his speed. He traveled 50 meters down the road in a split second.

And that was all it took for the scanner lock to break. But a split second later, it locked on him again.

It was going to be a long damn 50 seconds.

Chapter 3

Linh

“Come on, you bastard. Hold on. If anyone can do it, an Endo can,” Linh commented to herself, practically incapable of stopping as the rest of her mind ran at 150 percent.

She was vaguely aware of the fact that Harry was watching her. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her, in fact.

She was also aware of one other fact.

He looked… proud of her.

Once upon a time, Linh’s race had been celebrated, right throughout the universe. With a unique ability to lock onto flow, and their even greater ability to replace AI systems in complicated ships, they alone had been responsible for ending so many wars and expanding the known universe.

Then the eight had turned against them.

The modern universe was built on the superiority of the eight original races, but Linh knew the truth. They were neither superior, nor were they necessarily the original races. Yes, they’d technically seeded the modern universe, but what did that mean?

Her own people had been sophisticated for millennia upon millennia. They simply hadn’t chosen to leave their own solar system. They’d found enough within that they hadn’t been pulled into the rest of the universe. And unlike some of the eight races – like the Cartaxians – they hadn’t run through their own resources and been forced to look for other planets to pillage.

That wasn’t the point.

The point was once upon a time, people had been proud of Linh and her people.

But then that pride had turned to greed, and that greed had turned to anger, and the anger had turned to violence.

Even remembering it now, Linh curled her fingers in, clutching them harder around the side of her armrests. Her connector tubes reacted, wrapping tighter around her wrists and ankles. But they didn’t feel like chains locking her to the chair. They felt like arms wrapping around her, connecting her to the ship, to a greater purpose. One, that if only she threw herself into, she would forget the trauma of her race.

Harry didn’t say a word. He obviously erroneously thought that to speak would be to interrupt her. But Linh could process so much more.

And she would have to.

The Cartaxians had finally picked her up.

“You might want to hold onto something,” Linh suddenly said.

He paled. “Why? What’s going on?”

“Two Cartaxian light cruisers have just locked onto us.”

“God, are we going to die?”

“No, I’m gonna turn off non-essential systems to increase propulsion.”

“Nonessential systems?”

“Gravity.”

“… Ah, gravity?” Harry’s voice shook. “That’s not non-essential.”

“Just hold onto this,” Linh snapped as she sent one of her connector tubes pushing over the floor. It latched hold of Harry’s ankle, locking him to the spot.

Fortunately he didn’t try to push it off. He just looked back at her with wide eyes.

And in the center of those wide eyes, there was Harry’s ubiquitous hope. But there was something more, wasn’t there?

Pride.

Maybe pride was the wrong word.

Thankfulness.

… She didn’t let it touch her for long.

Linh concentrated.

She switched off gravity.

She felt her hair float, but that was it.

Harry gasped, then quickly stifled it and kept silent.

Linh locked all of her attention on the battle outside.

She became her ship, her sense of self simply melding with it until it was as if she was floating through the air, speeding as fast as she could toward South Korea.

Behind her, two light cruisers spun in from the side, shooting from the belly of one of those massive clouds.

Though technically her vessel had weapons, she wasn’t going to bother using them. It would be an unnecessary waste of energy. And right now this ship’s sophisticated propulsion systems were her only edge. That, and her own mind.

She kept connecting with her vessel, more and more, until she pushed down through the layers of metal. Fortunately her vessel had been designed by her own people, and thus, she could connect to it entirely. It wasn’t made out of ordinary metal, and rather, every single substance in the ship had been permeated with special quantum anchors her mind could latch onto.

The next thing she knew, she became the connector tubes – long, flexible, and cold. Then she became the metal floors and walls. Stiff, but movable under command.

She became the engine, she became the outside hull – she became all of it.

And all moved as one.

Maybe Harry expected the ship to be pulverized under fire, because he winced every now and then, but when nothing nefarious happened, he fixed his attention on her.

She never lost sight of those strike ships.

They were flying low over the coast of China. Though it would only take another minute until they reached Seoul, it could easily be the longest of her life.

Because three more light cruisers suddenly joined the Cartaxian ships.

She didn’t bother to spit. She didn’t swear. Even though it was a human behavior she had grown to enjoy.

She banked to the side, shifting so hard, she dodged two Cartaxian ships as they shot up from the side.

The three to her left started shooting, their guns blazing, white-hot pulsing light spreading over the sky.

To the humans below, it would look like some kind of light show.

If there were any people left along the coast, that was.

If they were smart, they would have moved inland.

Just when Linh thought she could make a run for it, a cloud appeared right in front of her, punching from the massive cumulonimbus above Korea.

This time Linh swore. A single bitter word.

It echoed through the bridge.

The ship in front of her was no light cruiser.

It was one of the 10 strike ship’s that were initiating the invasion.

She had time to appreciate it was over.

Then she closed her eyes.

Chapter 4

Kim

Something was wrong.

He was only 30 seconds into this mad dash, but he could tell that.

Call it instinct, call it intuition. Call it a sense that sat just above his endoskeleton’s unparalleled computing capabilities.

She wasn’t coming.

He doubted the battle brain had lied to him, changed her mind, and decided to make a run for it on her own.

The Cartaxians would have intercepted her.

Which meant Kim had to pull his own solution out of his own hat.

All while keeping on the move.

The one thing he couldn’t afford to do was stop moving.

But the constant activity was costing him.

He might have shoved 13 Q crystals into his chest, but considering his armor had never been designed to work on them, he was chewing through their energy faster than you could say boo.

So there was only one thing for it.

Something insane.

Something that would likely cost Kim his remaining energy and leave him as nothing more than a limp sack of metal, but it was the only thing that would stop the Cartaxians from getting their clutches on him and tearing him apart, strip by strip.

Kim paused. Not for any great length of time. He didn’t pause for a second. He didn’t even pause for half a second. He paused for a nanosecond. The smallest unit of time. And in that pause, he redistributed his weight and energy.

It was time to give the Cartaxians exactly what they wanted. Time to allow them to open a gate.

Just not with him in it.

“This better damn work,” he thought to himself in another nanosecond.

Then Kim thrust a hand into his chest. He locked it over the case that would allow him access to his energy reserves.

And he pulled.

The entire unit clicked out. Just as a gate was established right on top of him. The sensors went wild, warning him of what had just happened.

Technically Kim’s endoskeleton could operate without a power source. It would operate using the energy of his body, instead.

But it would not be able to operate for long. Nor would it be able to produce much power.

It would be a smidgen of what he was usually capable of, but that would be all that it would take.

Just as a gate opened above him, space slicing around in a two-meter circle that looked like a pillar of light, Kim threw his energy case up just as he pushed his body backward.

He maintained a wireless connection to his energy case, just as his body thumped against the pavement, the remaining energy of his endoskeleton pushing through the gate lock.

“Go to hell,” he muttered up at the ship as he pushed onto his hands and ran.

Now the gate was established, the Cartaxian ship could not turn it off. Which was a real problem. As they didn’t have him – they had a bomb.

Kim would not be alive for much longer without finding a new energy source. He’d be able to jerry-rig something if he found enough Cartaxian Army units, but even then, it wouldn’t be ideal.

Screw ideal.

He’d be alive.

He ran with all he had, feeling that unique sensation as his armor started to break down his biological body, greedily lapping up the processes of every cell while it should have been harnessing the energy of pure ore from his home planet.

He didn’t turn over his shoulder.

He didn’t need to.

He swore he could feel the Cartaxians’ desperation from here. It ripped through their ship, as every single person aboard that gate vessel realized what the hell was about to happen.

And it happened. Half a second later, just as Kim managed to push out of the blast radius, the gate ship exploded.

It didn’t blast through Seoul, leveling every single building, even though an explosion like that should have taken out half of the country.

Fortunately all gate ships have emergency shielding to prevent explosions from jumping from ship to ship. The last thing you want is for your armada to be taken down just because some smartass enemy managed to take down your gate ship and use the ensuing quantum explosion to level half a frigging quadrant.

A blast of pure white light sailed over the city, and behind Kim he heard one very unique sound. And that sound was the lack of sound altogether.

Kim didn’t stop running. Until he had to stop running. Until his endoskeleton shut off, lest it start to break down the muscles of his multiple hearts.

He staggered to the side, planting a hand on a charred car as he gasped.

Then he finally turned around.

The ship had been obliterated into a point. A singular black point in space. One that would exist long after the Earth itself had fallen into the sun.

Kim locked a shaking hand on his mouth and smiled.

If that had been the original gate vessel the Cartaxians had used to penetrate the Fold and invade Planet Earth, then he’d just done humanity a hell of a service.

He just hoped it was one they could repay.

Kim fell over, slamming into the car, his now unprotected body like jelly as he fell into a pile beside it.

Chapter 5

Hena

“Found one,” Hena muttered under her breath.

Nick had finally stopped screaming at her that they had to go back to London.

She could tell why. He was overcome by the process of transportation.

Even Amal, the Centauri, was overcome. Though he wasn’t displaying his emotions nearly as readily.

She could appreciate that for other races, frequent transportation could be confusing.

It did not affect her senses, and never would be able to. Transportation was a feature of her biology – a unique capability created when she opened up to her light form.

To other races, transportation – or the capacity to obtain it – was always an important indicator that they were finally ready to graduate to the modern universe.

Hena had just transported over inland China.

And that’s when she felt it.

Though technically her long-range scanners could operate at an astronomical range, the Cartaxians had interference fields around the Earth. They were being produced by the 10 strike motherships.

Though technically they should have stopped her from scanning anything at all, they simply reduced her range.

But now she was here, they couldn’t hide it from her.

She detected it.

A ship that was not Cartaxian in design.

Instead, it belonged to the Covax – a hunted, maligned race that once sat at the heart of the modern universe. A race renowned for their ability to establish flow from facts.

It was curious that such a ship would be here. Far more curious that on board would be a Covax herself.

Hena paused for several seconds, assessing the situation.

The Covax vessel was being pinned in by five Cartaxian light cruisers and one strike ship.

That meant one thing. The Cartaxians had redirected one of their 10 strike vessels to take down this ship.

The ship, and likely the Covax on it, were therefore critical.

For a split second, the Peacekeeper within Hena wanted to react.

She could see an opportunity.

To protect. To make a difference.

But then it reminded her that it was a difference the greater universe would not want her to make.

Once upon a time, the Peacekeepers believed that they had a moral obligation to use their greater power to protect others.

It didn’t matter what the race was, if they faced extinction, the Peacekeepers would make whatever difference was required to see them survive.

But not everyone saw saving others as a positive. Many saw it as interfering with the natural order.

But what was wrong with that?

What was wrong with assisting others, when nobody else could come to their aid?

Now was not the time to question.

“What the hell is that?” Nick finally found his voice, his head ticking toward the massive mothership.

Though his Rayar senses were undoubtedly far more superior to his human senses, he would not be able to pick up the tiny black dot between the mothership and the other Cartaxian light cruisers.

“It is your salvation,” Hena managed.

She closed her eyes and transported once more.

Right through the Covax ship’s defenses, and right into its bridge.

Chapter 6

Linh

All it took was a single second for the course of this battle to change.

The inevitability of death broke, and Linh’s sanity momentarily broke with it.

She felt a huge change in chance – a massive stone thrown into the pool of possibility this war had produced.

And she felt it a split second before something transported onto her bridge.

Harry screamed, trying to jolt back as three people appeared in a blazing hail of blue light several meters from him. But he couldn’t jerk back – he was still anchored to the floor with one of her connector tubes.

Peacekeeper.

There was a Peacekeeper on Linh’s bridge. More than that, there was a Peacekeeper on Earth.

This… changed everything. Everything.

When Linh had come back to Harry based solely on his claim that she should have hope, that hope had not penetrated that far. Though she’d seen the possibility that humanity could pull through this invasion, it had been infinitesimally small.

Now it changed. It flipped. In an instant. And all it took was that Peacekeeper as she took a step forward.

But then realization struck Linh. The Accords would prevent a Peacekeeper from doing anything here.

So she was after Linh’s ship.

“What the hell?” one of the men with the Peacekeeper demanded in a thick American accent. “What is this thing? Who are you people? What’s happening to that woman?” he demanded as he pushed a finger toward Linh.

“Who are these people? What’s going on? Are these more of the Cartaxians?” Harry blathered.

“You can’t have my ship,” Linh snarled as she sat straight and faced the Peacekeeper with as much defiance as she could muster.

“I am requisitioning it on behalf of the Senate,” the Peacekeeper claimed coldly.

“You’re here to steal this ship?” the American human demanded.

The other human didn’t say a word. And that’s when Linh appreciated that he wasn’t human at all. Based on his sense of emotional flow, he was a Centauri.

What the hell was going on here?

“Your ship must be requisitioned on behalf of the Senate,” the Peacekeeper demanded.

“Isn’t there a full-on battle happening outside?” Harry demanded. “Stop distracting her,” he added protectively. “She’s the only thing keeping this ship and all of us on it alive.”

“They’ve stopped attacking, Harry,” Linh said quietly.

“What? Why?”

“The Peacekeeper,” Linh said, her lips pressing in, her words whispered hisses between them.

The Peacekeeper faced Linh, and Linh faced the Peacekeeper.

The Peacekeeper took a solid step forward.

The American human reacted. He bolted forward, and he wrapped a hand around the Peacekeeper’s elbow.

Which meant two things. One, he was an idiot. A real big idiot. But more importantly, it meant he had no idea what she was. Every single person in the universe understood what a Peacekeeper was.

So he had to be human.

But he couldn’t be human.

Not considering the emotional reverence the Centauri was showing him, and, more importantly, not considering the fact the Peacekeeper had brought him aboard.

“What’s going on here? You can tell me that,” Linh demanded, not removing the connector tubes from around her.

“I am requisitioning this ship—” the Peacekeeper repeated.

“She’s trying to protect me. I’m a Rayar, whatever the hell that is,” the human spat.

Linh stopped. Slowly, she turned to him. “Rayar? You’re a Rayar?” She made no attempt to keep the awe from her voice.

The guy swallowed, obviously uncomfortable. But then, just as obviously, he pushed that discomfort away as he shook his head and tightened his grip around the Peacekeeper’s arm. “You’re not stealing these people’s ship.”

“They’re not people. Though that man is a human,” the Peacekeeper said as she pointed a finger toward Harry.

Harry paled. Fortunately, he’d stopped demanding to know what was going on here. Obviously he had a good enough sense of self-preservation to appreciate something was wrong.

“What’s a hidden Rayar doing on Earth?” Linh demanded.

“That fact is irrelevant to you. I am requisitioning this ship,” the Peacekeeper repeated.

“I told you you’re not going to do that,” the Rayar spat as he let go of the Peacekeeper’s arm and took a solid step in front of her, positioning himself between the Peacekeeper and Linh. “You think I’m gonna let these people’s lives be on my conscience? Like all the lives of every person in London?” he spat.

“The majority of people in London remain alive,” the Peacekeeper noted efficiently. “And your conscience is irrelevant. What is relevant is getting you to safety. And this is the only ship in the vicinity that can punch through the Fold using the Cartaxian gate. Though—” the Peacekeeper stopped.

Her gaze focused to the side, and though lesser races wouldn’t be able to notice this, Linh appreciated a sudden difference in the light form that covered her body.

The Centauri stiffened. “What have you just detected?”

Linh opened her mouth to demand the same thing. Then she detected something too. “All six Centauri ships outside have just redeployed to South Korea,” she stuttered.

“I thought you said they weren’t going to attack while the Peacekeeper was on board?” Harry pointed out.

“The gate ship has been destroyed,” the Peacekeeper finally revealed.

There were only three people – or at least, aliens – on board the ship who could appreciate what that meant.

And right now, even though Linh didn’t owe the Centauri or the Peacekeeper anything, she stared at them, and they stared back.

Because this changed everything.

“What’s going on?” the Rayar demanded.

“What is going on is that we can no longer leave Earth. This vessel cannot punch through the Fold without accessing an existing gate,” the Peacekeeper pointed out.

It took the Rayar a moment, then his face twitched. “So you’re saying that somebody destroyed the gate ship? Who and how?”

“I think I can answer that. The who is an Endo,” Linh muttered.

The Peacekeeper darted her gaze – her keen gaze – over to Linh, but didn’t say anything and didn’t react in any other way.

The Centauri looked shocked, then thankful.

The Rayar simply stared between them. “What’s an Endo? And how can they take on an entire ship?”

“Presumably by almost killing itself,” the Peacekeeper pointed out.

Linh reacted. She’d had all of a few seconds’ worth of conversation with that Endo, and yet, she still somehow felt connected to him. Connected enough that the news that he’d sacrificed his life to save humanity affected her. She shook her head. “If he’s dead, why would the Cartaxians be redeploying?”

“I said by almost killing himself,” the Peacekeeper corrected.

“Then we’ll go pick him up,” Linh stated flatly. “That was the mission I was on before you interrupted.”

“You mean before I transported on board and stopped the Cartaxian mothership from obliterating your vessel?” the Peacekeeper corrected.

Linh bared her teeth and snarled. There were so many damn reasons you should not snarl at a Peacekeeper, but to hell with them.

To hell with everything.

All that mattered right now was that they had a chance. And Linh didn’t simply mean Harry and herself, she didn’t even mean the people on this ship – she meant everyone on Earth. Every human, every alien, every animal, every plant.

If the gate was down, the Cartaxians would have to change their attack entirely. They would have to scrounge together the resources on the remaining strike ships to build another gate, and that would take time, energy, and most importantly, attention.

It would leave them wide open to a counterattack.

These thoughts and more flashed through her mind as quickly as sparks from a firecracker.

“We’re going to pick him up,” Linh demanded once more. As she did, she flashed her gaze toward the Rayar.

She correctly identified him as the weak spot.

It was clear that he hadn’t regained his full memories of who he was – if he had, indeed, regained any memories at all.

She could tell from his sparking personality that he wanted to do something – anything – to help.

And yet at the same time he clearly didn’t appreciate that he was the only person who could help.

The Peacekeeper was bound to save him. It would outstrip any other obligations she had to the Accords.

So Linh put all of her effort into staring at him. “Tell the Peacekeeper what we’re going to do. And if she doesn’t comply, threaten to kill yourself,” she stated flatly.

The Centauri took a sudden step toward the Rayar, and even if the emotion reader hadn’t reacted, Linh appreciated that that statement had a special meaning to the Rayar.

He paled. She could tell from the redirection of his blood flow that his body suddenly doubled down with shock.

The Peacekeeper took a single step toward Linh. “Don’t interfere—”

“Fine,” the Rayar said. “If you don’t—” he began.

The Centauri pushed a hand forward, locking it on the Rayar’s shoulder. “Nick, calm yourself. Calm your mind. Your emotions are raging.”

“I don’t care what my emotions are doing. The only way to make that thing,” he pointed a finger at the Peacekeeper, irreverently referring to her as a thing with the same spitting vehemence you’d use to mark out a target on a range, “help is to threaten to kill myself, then fine, I’ll kill myself. And everyone will blame you,” he said as he turned on the Peacekeeper again. “I get it now – you have some kind of obligation to protect me. And if you don’t protect me, there’ll be consequences, won’t there?”


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