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Excerpt for Gandrine Book 4 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Gandrine

Book 4



By A. K. Nord

Copyright

This is a work of fiction. Names, Characters, Places, and Incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual Events, Locales or Persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Gandrine Copyright 2018 A. K. Nord

Cover Art Copyright 2018 Sycra Yasin

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents


Title

Copyright

License

Start of Book 4

About the Author

Chapter 1

Aeona was the first to step through the passway to Thargoul. Matt was close behind her and ushered Caitlin through. They stood in the center of the old platform, right beside the old frame Aeona spent so much time building and improving. Their arms carried as much as they could of Kay's belongings. Aeona looked around and used telepathy to connect with Casper and Griffin. It didn't take long until she connected with Casper.

"Good morning, Aeona. You've been back to your old place?"

"Hi, Casper. Yes. It's quite dark here. It's morning, isn't it?" She nodded in her silent dialog with Casper. Matt and Caitlin were oblivious of their conversation.

"Yes. I just woke up. Maybe your passway does that to me." He giggled. "Where did you show up this time?"

"We're at the old frame. Matt and his sister Caitlin is here too. We're staying here now. At least they will. We lost Kay over there, so we're not the merriest lot."

"You lost Kay? I'll make a new body for him right away."

"No, Casper. I couldn't find his energies, and I think he went through a passway before I understood what happened. He was in an accident with his car, and I couldn't feel a single trace of his energies when I reached it. Caitlin needs a little extra consideration and time through this. They were … special to each other. I believe he already has a new body and that we'll meet him soon, so we're confident about it even though Caitlin is confused." Her eyes went to the other two.

Caitlin was distant while her eyes took in the alien environment. The dim light only added to her questions and feeling of loss.

Matt looked at Aeona. "We're gonna stand here all day?"

She smiled at him. "No, I'm talking to Casper. He's on his way. We need somewhere to stay, but my place up the ceiling is dangerous for both of you, so we need a lodging."

Matt nodded, and his eyes jumped between the girls.

"I have some ideas about fixing up Thargoul, and I think you can add a lot to it as well." She let the box float to the floor and relieved Caitlin from her load.

Matt helped himself with his load.

Aeona took a last view of Kay's living room through the passway. Stray lines of morning light stretched through the windows. The view disappeared with her sigh when she closed the passway. Her eyes went to the floor, and while she swallowed the lump in her throat, a clatter and rattle followed by a light humming reached them. Casper came driving around a corner of an apartment cluster in a transporter, one arm waving above his head.

"Looks like he's here now." Matt giggled at the sight of him. "He's an odd creature but kind and fun. A true friend."

Caitlin found the strength to let a smile out and grabbed Matt's arm. She goggled Casper. "What is that?"

Casper jumped up to the platform and bowed before Caitlin with one arm on his stomach and the other straight back. "Caitlin was it? Thargoul is honored by your arrival." He gave her a smile.

Caitlin giggled and blushed. "Wow. I've never been greeted like this before." She pulled Matt's arm in front of her. "Thank you very much."

Aeona stretched a hand toward Casper. "This is Casper, my savior and the creator of the body I now have, and Matt's. I owe him everything." She turned to Casper. "Casper, this is Caitlin, Matt's sister and the …" Her lips clamped, eyes went up to the dome's ceiling. "She's Kay's love."

Casper bowed again. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience his absence causes you. I'm confident he will show up." Then he stretched a hand toward Matt. "Hey Matt, welcome back."

"Thanks, Casper. Good to see you again."

Casper stretched his back, and his eyes hopped between them. "I hope you'll settle soon and make many friends here in Thargoul. I'll find a place for you to stay." His hand swung in a wide gesture toward the transporter. "Put your belongings onto the transporter presently."

Aeona's fingers rubbed her brow. "It's actually Kay's stuff. All of it. We didn't bring any of our things."

Casper's hands clasped. "So we store them?"

"Yes. We just want to start with taking a look around, and I'd like to see my sister. Was it yesterday I was here last time?"

Casper giggled and nodded frantically.

"Thank you. It's tricky to keep track of days when you get around like I do." She shook her head and bit her lip before she took to telepathy to talk to Casper. "I notice Kay's energies aren't here. Have you seen him here anytime other than when I brought him here?"

Casper understood he wasn't supposed to show he was discussing Kay with Aeona out of respect for Caitlin. "No. But I still think there's a connection between Kay and Alomsor. Since Alomsor is on Kournobi, we should get over there and find out if there is a connection or if everything is a misunderstanding."

Aeona stopped while she hovered Kay's stuff onto the transporter's bed. "Right. I'm certain Alomsor is Kay, and I know for a fact that Kay is my brother, so I really want to see him as soon as possible. Actually, I want him here right now. There's so much I want to know."

Casper sat behind the controls. Looking confound, he spoke so everyone could hear. "We have to wait to get you somewhere to stay. There's an apartment section being restored. It should be ready in a few hours. It is made for a family of Jarrads, but they kindly agreed to wait a few days, so you get somewhere to sleep. Their place is worn down and needs to be replaced, but they're used to it."

Aeona looked up. "Jarrads?"

"Yes, they're a calm and lovely species. They're not that many here, but they're intelligent, very short, and they have compact fur. You've met a few of them. They're the ones with a long snout."

"Oh. Tell them we're grateful for their sacrifice."

"I will. The living quarter is like a … a box. High enough for you and it has everything you need in the beginning. Four separate rooms with beds, a larger room in the center with entertainment and a round place to sit. It also has what you call bathroom, but I think it will be awkward since it's adapted for the Jarrads. It'll work for you anyhow, and you will have to figure out how to use it yourself."

Caitlin wiped her red eyes and tried to get in on the social bit. "Is this … Is the section standing by itself? Like a house?"

Casper turned around a workshop for another section of the dome. "Yes. And because we can stack them on top of each other, they can also be apartments. This one will be situated a bit on the side from the rest. We haven't planned that section yet. Oh, and there are attachments around the door for a staircase when it's stacked. You can get hurt if you're not careful. I'll tell them to cover those."

Matt was interested in the maneuvering of the transporter. He muttered since he was ignored by Casper when he tried to get him to explain the controls.

Casper stopped outside their lab. "Anyone hungry? Tired?"

Caitlin and Matt shook their heads. Aeona told him they had breakfast not long ago and that their appetite probably would be affected for a while.

"We need breakfast, so I'll pick up Griffin and take you to Ana. You can stay there while we eat."

"I could have a chat with Roger if you're going to his diner. We'll be staying here now so we can go see Ana after breakfast. We all need clothes. I hope Ana can help us with that."

Griffin joined them outside the lab.

On their way to the diner, Caitlin saw a few of Thargoul's different species. She asked about them, and Casper did his best to answer her questions.

Chapter 2

Roger hadn't had a chance to take care of his diner and excused himself for his lack of faith.

"Stop it, Roger. I was here yesterday, remember? You'll soon get it as nice and cozy as before. Probably even better. We'll look forward to that." She introduced Caitlin to him.

Caitlin was confused by the new environment, but she tried hard to learn which kept her busy and helped her deal with her situation. She was mesmerized by Roger's appearance, and twitched and stared at the creature that spoke English as well as she did. She slowly took a step closer but stiffened when Roger put a finger on her shoulder.

Roger chuckled. "I see. You have a fresh soul and healthy body. I know what I'll create for your lunch."

Caitlin took a step back, eyes wide open, while Aeona laughed at her.

"Easy, Roger. Everything here is new to her." She turned to Caitlin and took her arm. "Roger's the best chef you could ever dream of. He senses what you like with that single touch. He knows what you need now and if you lack something. Like vitamins. You're going to have a fabulous lunch. You'll see."

Caitlin tittered in confusion, and her eyes couldn't leave Roger. "Can I …" Her hand went out toward his ears.

"You're welcome." Roger leaned forward and laughed.

Her fingers wandered over his ears and head. They went over his mane over to the back. "What a strange feeling. He's like a combination of a dog and horse and the fact that I can talk with him makes this an absolutely stunning experience." She took a step back and crossed her arms over her stomach. She trembled out of excitement. "Thank you very much, Roger. I like you."

Ana came out to meet them when they arrived at her place. Somehow she had sensed Aeona's arrival and knew they would be three.

Caitlin gasped when she saw her. "Wow! Anyone can see she's your sister, Aeona. She's lovely."

Caitlin and Ana made friends instantly. They chatted gleefully and disappeared into their own world. Matt strolled around on his own. When it was time for lunch, Casper came back to pick them up for their apartment.

Aeona and Caitlin each got a huge bag, filled with clothes. Matt was measured and had to settle for a pair of socks, a tee, and underwear since Ana had to make his clothes from scratch. Jeans were not readily available, so she examined his. Most clothes were made of leather or natural fibers from plants around Thargoul. His grin when he learned that he had to settle for a pair of leather jeans made the girls laugh.

Their temporary home lacked almost everything that makes up a home, but none of them cared. All they bothered about was to find Kay. Their quarters still had some space above Matt's head when he stood up, but it wasn't much. Aeona peeked into each room and asked Casper if the box they'd have would have a higher ceiling.

"Absolutely. The ceiling shouldn't be lower than double the height of those who live in them. It's healthy with some space above the head, or whatever is the species highest part of their bodies." He let his hands up and shrugged his shoulders.

Caitlin's frustration got to her again, so she dropped to the couch in the middle of the central room. She hid her face and started bawling. Matt went to sit beside her.

Casper looked at her, and his hands fell to the sides. "It hurts not being able to help."

Aeona went up to him and laid her hand on his shoulder. "It happened only a few hours ago. I know he got through somehow and I have to find out what happened. His body disappeared right before my eyes, and then someone put a charcoal body back. Someone also left an information pod on my table last night while Matt and I slept." She looked Casper in his eyes.

"Information pod? While you slept? How?"

"It must have been through a passway." Her lips pouted. "Know anything about that?"

Casper shook his head. "No. Nothing. I promise." He stared in front of him. "A passway?"

"Yeah. It wasn't mine."

Matt came up to them with a confused face. "Is there a kitchen in this place?"

Casper looked at him. "Why would you want a kitchen? The diner is just around the corner."

"It would be nice to have a snack at hand and not having to walk over to the diner if you're not hungry but still want something." He glanced at Caitlin.

Aeona leaned toward Casper and whispered, "Like a freezer filled with ice cream."

His face lit up. "Right. I'll get it done right away. And I'll get you ice cream right now. Anything you prefer?"

Aeona shook her head. "It doesn't matter."

"Vanilla for us." Matt's hand hinted toward Caitlin.

Casper nodded. "It's on its way." He went to the wall beside the door and pushed lightly on a panel that slid open. "This is a remote that controls the environment in here. You can program every room to react on whatever you like. Turn on and off the lights, control the temperature, humidity, and if you want the media unit to play music in any room or run a show on the screen. You will also have this in the house that's being assembled for you right now." He pulled out a slim and shiny device and handed it to Matt. "I'll show you how to use it. I assume you and Aeona want to share a room?"

Aeona gave Matt a glance. "Caitlin might not want to be alone right now. We'll sort it out, Casper."

Matt nodded and curiously stretched a hand out for the device.

Casper placed it in his hand with a smile.

The light went out, and music started at once. A cool breeze went through the room, and Matt tossed the remote to Casper like it burnt him.

Casper giggled while the music turned off and the lights came back. "It connects with your brainwaves. It's adjusted for the Jarrads so it's a bit sensitive. Their brainwaves are weaker than yours. I'll have to adjust it in the lab. It should adjust itself, but there are other things that are more important around here."

The door opened, and a droid came in and stopped right inside the door.

Casper signed for it to come in. "Here's the ice cream now."

Aeona took the tray from the droid and nodded. "Thank you."

She got a beeping sound with a springy echo in return before it left.

"Cute."

Matt grabbed Casper and moved him over to the couch.

Aeona brought the tray to the table and sat beside Caitlin. She handed her a bowl. "Here you go, sweetie. Eat as much as you like."

Matt leaned back and let his bowl be. "This place is crazy."

Aeona's eyes were locked on the ice cream, her mind was elsewhere.

Caitlin poked around in her bowl without eating. She sniveled, and her tears kept running, chin trembled, and her head sunk again.

Matt let an arm around her shoulders. "We'll find him, sis."

Casper got up and excused himself. "I'm needed in the lab. You can reach me anytime, Aeona." He held the remote up. "I need to fix this and catch up on Griffin."

Aeona nodded, gave him a look and a hint of a smile. "Thank you, Casper. It's good to be home again. Catch you later."

Casper looked her in her eyes for a few seconds before he left. His words echoed in her mind, "I'll prepare the frame for Kournobi. Remember the council needs you as soon as you return from Kournobi."

Aeona took Caitlin's bowl and placed it on the tray before she got up.

Caitlin let it all out in Matt's chest while Aeona's eyes went to Matt's anxious face. Aeona pushed her hair back and started pacing the room. Her thoughts were a mess, and for once, they didn't clear when she was on her feet.

She stopped in front of them after half an hour and bit her lip.

Matt looked at her again and nodded. "Go, honey. I know you won't stop until you find him. I'll stay here with sis. We'll be fine."

Caitlin's face was mostly covered by her hair. Her hands wiped her tears and moved the hair to the sides. She swallowed and cleared her throat. "You think you can find him?"

Aeona sat on the table and took her hands. "I know Kay is Paul and he's my brother. I can't sense him here, but I think I know where he is. Last time I saw him, he was on a planet called Kournobi and called himself Alomsor. It's very, very far from here, and I'm sure Kay is Alomsor. I'm certain he is. Things he said, how he felt and one particular thing he did tells me he is. But you have to know something, Caitlin."

Caitlin's lips trembled. "What?"

"If he is Alomsor, he came here around … It was four hundred years ago, and he had no way of getting back to us then. He has suffered the loss of you for years upon years already. You're probably a faded memory to him, and he must have moved to at least two new bodies since we last saw him." She looked at their clasped hands and wetted her lips before she continued. "He has changed, Caitlin. So even if you meet him again, he will be different. If Kay is Alomsor, and I have no doubt he is, he will remember you, but I can't say how this will turn out. Maybe he already knows you're here. Maybe he has known since long that you will come here now. Maybe he has no clue. He knew I'd be back here and that Matt would follow me. He knew you wanted to go here but maybe thought you changed your mind after he disappeared. Whatever the case, I'll go to that planet now, and I'll find him. I'll bring him back here so you two can meet again and we'll see what happens. OK?"

Caitlin's lips pinched, and she nodded.

"When I practiced on my passway, I accidentally opened it to an earlier Thargoul. It looked like a startup settlement. Only a few domes and only one of those high cylinders. Yes, you have yet to see the outside. Sorry. I bet he was there at that time, without any of us knowing we both were there. I closed it, and if I didn't know better, I'd try to get back to that point in time and get him back, but then I wouldn't have met him on Kournobi, and things would have turned out completely different." She saw in Caitlin's eyes that she had lost her. "I know it's confusing, sweetie. I've just barely begun to grasp all this jumping back and forth in time. Stuff we do now affects things later. If I go back and stir things up, it would change other things later which is old history for us now."

Caitlin shook her head. "Can you go get him? I want to see him, and it would feel a lot better if I know he didn't die."

Aeona nodded and squeezed her hands. "Sure, sweetie. He's my brother, and we have a lot of catching up to do." She got up. "I want him here as much as you do and I'm not the only sister he has."

Chapter 3

Casper and Griffin were working on the frame, and the gatekeeper was on his way. Aeona landed by the side of the frame and scared the two. Casper flew up in a huff. Griffin dropped an instrument in a yell.

"Hey, guys. Good to see you again."

Griffin looked at her and then at Casper before he remembered that she had been in Eugene for quite a while. "Ahm … I met you yesterday but then again, who knows for how long you've been gone and now you're leaving again. Don't you like it here?"

Aeona chuckled and held up a finger. "This is my home, Griffin. Where's the gatekeeper?"

Casper sat in the control seat and fiddled with his fingers. "On his way. We've postponed everything with the frame since we learned that the passway is a personal ability. He is probably out of shape by now, but he's been working on opening one by himself. Without any progress, I might add."

"Casper, you sound different. Where did you pick that accent up?"

"Oh, must you know? We have all kinds of movies here. One I liked a lot is about something called autobots and there was that chap, merely a heap of junk, that called himself … What was it now?"

Griffin laughed. "It was fun, all right. Allspark." He giggled. "If they only knew."

"No. It wasn't Allspark. That was the cube, silly." Casper threw a tool at him.

Aeona stared at them. "What is this drivel of yours?"

Casper goggled her. "And now you start. Contagious, this is. This movie, dear, was done in the future of yours. Thus none of this is within your grasp."

Griffin whooped and threw the tool back at Casper.

Aeona tore her hair and stomped her foot, but they kept acting.

Casper finally stopped and looked serious again. "No. I can't remember his name, but he did what you do, Aeona. Took his friends to another place in a snap." He got to his feet, trot around the frame and pretended to inspect it.

The gatekeeper came shambling, overdoing a yawn.

"There you are. Are you really in shape to control the passway now?" Aeona crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a glare.

He jumped the last steps to the control seat and nodded. "I am, Governor. I was sleeping after a long session trying to figure out my own passway. I'm stuck at the moment, but this is easy now." He casually waved a hand in the direction of the frame.

"Good. I need to get over to Kournobi right away." She took a step toward the frame and looked at Griffin kneeling by its side. "If you guys are ready with what you're doing now, I'd like to open it."

Griffin gathered his tools and got up, puffing and huffing.

"You windy?"

He was dead serious. "Long time since I had a good laugh, Governor."

She nodded. "We all need a bit of a good time." She turned to Casper. "That new weapon you mentioned before. Could you let me in on the details when I come back?"

"Yes. I'll notify the scientists you want to know about it. I don't know much about it other than it will be absolutely devastating." He tried a smile.

The gatekeeper sat in the seat and relaxed. Casper gave him a nod. It took the gatekeeper mere seconds to open the passway frame. Flashes went off, and sparks flew like in a welding shop. The other side was seen through the passway in seconds.

Aeona peeked through and turned to the gatekeeper with a smile. "That's a great improvement. Very good. I'll help you find out how to do this without the frame later."

The gatekeeper smiled and stretched his hand toward the frame.

"I'll open it myself if it takes long until I'm ready over there. It shouldn't take long so just leave it open." She turned to Casper again. "If I'm not back soon, take care of Matt and Caitlin and Ana. OK?"

Casper's head tilted. "Don't be long now."

Aeona checked the frame and stepped over. The arena was dark and humid, but her abilities gave her complete knowledge about everything around her. She shouted through the noise, "Keep it open as long as possible."

One of the stars was on the horizon when she stepped out from the old arena. She was still trying to even out the difference in air pressure, and couldn't resist using her telescopic sight to take a look at the elders' tower across the field. Her senses extended, and she picked up the vibe she recognized from Kay. Her shoulders rose when she gathered energy to allow her the jump across the field. Right before she was about to push away, she changed her mind.

Since the gravity was less than on Earth, it was a perfect opportunity to try her flying again. It took her a couple of tries before she felt how the bands of energy formed around her. She leaned forward and stretched her legs when she lost contact with the ground.

At three hundred feet, she leveled out and enjoyed the wind in her face. When the rampart's archway was visible, she aimed at a point ten feet in front of it, right at the top of the walkway.

But then she wanted a look of the building and yard before she landed, so she rearranged the energy flow to take her around the tower, right above the rampart. Aeona came back to the front of the tower when she heard shouting from the yard. She recognized the voice and smiled when she descended to land in front of Pilteran.

He stretched his arms out and laughed. "My dear friend. What a surprise. Now you can fly too? When did you learn that?"

"Hey, Pilteran. It's a long story. I've been gone for quite a while. How are you and how are things here?" She felt a disturbing field of negative energies around the building and squinted at him.

"It's a bit confusing. The oldies are up to something, but they don't share much so we, the younger elders, have no clue what they're up to. Other than that, I'm fine, Berin's fine, and the last I heard, Alomsor is fine too."

"I know he is. I barely felt him when I arrived, but I did sense him. He knows I'm here now and he should also know why I'm here." She let her senses scan the whole building.

Pilteran's eyes widened. "That's impressive. Your progress leaps like nothing I've seen."

They started toward the entrance. "You mean that I could sense he was here and that he's all right?"

"I meant the sensing you did. I picked that up now that I'm calm and in balance." His finger went to a point on his forehead, and he smiled.

"Nice. And Berin's fear?"

"Traces. But I think he'll be out of it soon."

The pillars were overgrown again. All the small animals buzzed around the flowers as always. She went up to a flower.

Pilteran slowed down but didn't wait for her.

She carefully picked it and jumped to his side. "What do you call these?" She studied the yellow stamens and the purple petals with the white patches. She took the beauty of the flower in before she held it to her nose.

"You traveled sixteen billion light years to smell a plant?" He giggled.

"This flower is worth it." She had another sniff before she stretched it toward him. "Does it have a name?"

"It wouldn't surprise me." He gave her an embarrassed smile and resumed his walking. "Care for something to eat?" He turned his face to her for a flick. "I guess Berin's clearing the table right now, and I'm hungry."

She smiled at him and bridled the flower into her dirty and raveled hair.

Pilteran stopped beside the doorway and turned to Aeona with a hand toward the room. He whispered, "Berin," and smiled.

Aeona nodded and placed herself in the doorway. Berin was sitting in his chair, stuffing food in his mouth. The fireplace was dark and cold. The pile of ash spoke of the night she was there. It hadn't even glowed since then. Streaks of daylight reflected in the flying dust.

She casually hovered herself into the room, but Berin didn't bother to look up until she was at the end of the table. His black pearly eyes went up, and his red face slowly brightened with a smile.

"Aeona? What brings you here?" He scrambled to his feet so fast the chair fell over. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that I'm not glad to see you. This is great. Wonderful to have you back again." His four arms went out to hug her.

"You remember the hug, Berin?" She chuckled in his arms.

"Of course I do. You've been on my mind since you left. How have you been? Please, have a seat and let me know."

Pilteran entered the room with his carefree laughter. "Guess who came flyyying when I was in the yard."

Berin stared at her. "Nooo? That too?"

Aeona shrugged her shoulders and nodded. "Can't be satisfied you know."

Pilteran walked up to his usual chair, but Aeona went straight up to the higher end of the table and made herself comfortable in Alomsor's chair.

Pilteran pointed at her with a smile.

Berin stared at her and was about to say something when Aeona cleared her throat.

"Masters of being stuck in habitual thinking, I claim this chair until Alomsor shows up."

Pilteran shook his head. "This is bad. He never let anyone sit in his chair."

She stretched and raised her voice. "It would surprise me if he didn't allow me to use his chair when I traveled sixteen billion light years to see him."

Berin held two of his hands across his chest. "I don't think he likes it, no matter how far you have traveled."

"I hope he shows up soon. The passway is still open, and I want him to follow me to Thargoul. At least for a while. We have a lot to talk about." She floated pieces of zoltor and fruit to her plate. Berin filled her chalice with beer.

She noticed pearls gathered in Berin's face. Pilteran kept glancing toward the door. She felt Alomsor's energies got stronger, but he wasn't physically closer. His mental energies soon filled the room, but they were weak.

Pilteran looked down and whispered, "He's here, Aeona."

"I can sense him, Pilteran. Calm down." She took a bite of zoltor and moaned while she chewed it.

Berin didn't move at all.

Her mind sensed Alomsor's presence, and she let him know she knew he was Kay. The response confirmed her suspicions, and it was an overwhelming feeling of warm energies and happiness. Her eyes welled, and tears ran down her cheeks. She tried to communicate the way she did with Casper, but it didn't work so she let her feelings speak for her. She noticed he could sense them. She felt he knew she wanted him there, in person and she felt he wanted it too, but he couldn't come. It was confusing, so she shut him out.

"Do any of you know why he can't come here at this time?"

She got no answer, so she kept eating while she went through their minds. They felt her trawling and tried to shut her out, but they couldn't handle her penetrating powers. She gathered a fuzzy image of Alomsor being held in a force field.

"Is that correct? Is he held captive? I thought he was a highly regarded Elder when I met him up in that court room, or whatever it is. Would you clear this up for me or do I have to find it out myself, again?"

They sat in silence, and stared at their plates like scolded children.

She lost her temper for a second and slammed her palms into the table. Plates jumped, and the two twitched and glanced at her. She felt their fear.

"Even you, Pilteran? You told me you don't feel fear. You fear me, or is it something else?" She felt it was something else. Her shoulders were on the rise, and her tension mounted.

Pilteran raised his head to meet Aeona's eyes. She instantly knew that the three elders who forced her to submission during her last visit were involved. She gave him an almost unnoticeable nod and got up. She pushed her hair back, strode to the window and leaned out to watch the yard.

Chapter 4

Berin blew through his nose and got up. He threw her a glance and strode out of the room.

Aeona watched Pilteran's back while he slowly rose.

He pulled his hood up. "I'm sorry I can't be of any help, Aeona. Things have changed since your last visit, and we no longer have much of a life. I have no idea how that could change." His fingertips rested on the table. He didn't leave.

"Thank you for being honest, Pilteran. I appreciate it. Is it possible to know where he is and if I can see him?"

"I'm afraid that could only be answered by the oldies. They have formed an alliance inside the Elder's Guild. The rest of us is not allowed inside their circle." His head sunk.

"And if you persist, you get punished? Is that what happened to Alomsor?" She let her feet slowly take her up to Pilteran's side while she used her senses to poke around in his mind.

He didn't speak, but let her know the answer with an opened mind.

She nodded. "I see. The situation is … complicated." She turned and started toward the window again. "Would it be possible for you to come to Thargoul again? Officially as my mentor, of course."

He raised his head and inhaled until she thought his lungs would explode.

She faced him again. "That would be a problem as well? I understand. I'll ask them, and if they disagree, I know they're up to something really bad." She sat in Alomsor's chair again and had a fruit. "Please, sit or leave the room if you must. I prefer your company if it's possible, Pilteran."

He remained at his place, standing with his head down.

"If you must leave, do so. I understand it is not your choice." She looked at him for a minute before she let her teeth forcefully into the fruit. The cracking cut through the silence in the room like a whip. Juice splashed over her lips, and she savored the relieving sourness in her mouth.

Pilteran hesitated but eventually sat again.

She cleared her mouth and smiled. "The rebel in the lines? Pilot's old habits?"

Pilteran's lips hinted a smile. "I just remembered that we don't die and that pain is only a part of our own, schemed perception. What you have accomplished during such a short period is far more than what I have achieved during all of my turns. The Elders are lost in their own confusion. I'm with you, Aeona. Whatever it takes. But you should know that I am, in fact, afraid."

"Let your anger up to balance it." She held her chalice high and nodded. "To the rebels."

He raised his even higher. "Honor and glory."

They drank and slammed the vessels to the table in unison.

Aeona laughed. "This ordeal will be sorted out, somehow."

Pilteran grunted, "Hopefully without losing anyone."

"Killed is not lost. Michael found me again. After eighty-five million years and countless amounts of lives. Or turns as it's called in this realm."

Pilteran gasped. "What are you saying? He … He found you?" He goggled her. "How? What happened?"

She shared the story while Pilteran stuffed his mouth, eager to hear her out. But she didn't tell him that Matt was in Thargoul.

He shook his head. "You are getting so fascinating it's beyond imagination."

Her brows crawled to the middle. "Pilteran." She chuckled.

He had another piece of zoltor and giggled.

"Anyway. We have a problem. One that seems to grow by the minute."

He chewed away and raised his brows with his head leaning.

She slumped back in the chair. "Matt has a sister. Her name is Caitlin, and both of them followed me to Thargoul this morning."

Pilteran stopped chewing. "So … Uhm …" He cleared his mouth. "Michael is in Thargoul? Now?"

"He's Matt now, and he can't remember much of his time as Michael. He has a new body, of course, so he doesn't look like Michael either. And yes, he's in Thargoul with his devastated sister who's in love with Kay." She took a deep breath. "Who now is Alomsor." Her fingers tapped the table lightly.

He shook his head. "I must say, your life is a rapid series of breath-taking events."

She nodded. "And, although reluctantly, I also want to tell you that … Kay and I had his first years together. Kay is my little brother."

Pilteran's hands hit the table. His face was wide open. "Are you saying … Alomsor–"

"Is my brother. Yes. Alomsor is my brother. I've come to bring him to Thargoul and Caitlin. After four hundred years. Which is nothing compared to what Michael had to go through." She got to her feet and rounded the table. "In for some action?"

He slowly got to his feet and stretched with a little sparkling in his cat-eyes. "I believe I am. I was getting bored here, but when you show up everything changes to the better. What do you have on your mind?"

"We need to find out what the Elders are planning, where Alomsor is held, and how to get him out of there. We should do our best to avoid a fight, but we have to be prepared for attacks, both mentally and physically." Her feet took her pensively across the room. "How's your mental and physical shape, pilot?"

He bowed and assured her it was fine, but admitted he was in need of fine-tuning.

"Walk with me." She was already by the doorway.

A gentle, warm wind swept the dust away behind their feet, and the field lay empty under the sun. Aeona kept the pace up, submerged in her thoughts. Pilteran got windy after ten minutes and started to fall behind. She kept the speed until he started whining about her pace. She used her powers to stop like she had walked into an invisible wall. Pilteran couldn't stop as fast and staggered five paces ahead of her. He leaned with his palms to his knees to catch up on his breathing.

Aeona waited, hands on her back. "I think you've been lazy in more than your thinking. How's that, by the way?"

He chuckled. "I've made progress, but I feel … infected. I see now how I'm affected by the way I think and I'm observing the pattern." He stretched his back and faced her. "You were right, and I've come to understand what you mean, but I still need a lot of practice before I'm out of that habit."

She smiled and nodded. "That's great, Pilteran." She strolled up in front of him while she gathered her thoughts. "I'd like to tell you about what happened after you left Thargoul and what I discovered."

His eyes slowly went to her face while she was looking at a distant cloud. "OK. I'm listening."

She looked down and told him about the days in Thargoul before she left for her vacation, about the sadness and confusing weeks in the jungle, and when she found the cave.

"Sounds like you had a shitty time. Why did you leave alone?"

"I had to be alone. I had to find something out, but I didn't know what at the time of leaving. What I realized in that cave is quite disturbing. I think those older Elders that now have an inner circle are planning to take over something but I don't know what, so I need your knowledge about the guild's hierarchy beyond what I've learned so far. Could you share your knowledge about it?" She took up a stroll, further away from the old tower.

Pilteran glanced over his shoulder and went up to her side. "There are several levels above the one that is the top here. I don't know how many there are. During our … During their history, since I haven't been included for very long, it has always been internal fights about getting higher up and take over the power."

"So there is a higher level of Elders than those that scolded me last time I was here?"

"Yes. I've heard about one higher, right here. Elders don't fraternize with Elders at lower levels so the higher you seek, the less you are informed."

"They don't socialize? I got the impression that they took on apprentices and had mentors. Sure, that's not comradeship or brotherhood, but it should allow for it. On the other hand, it actually explains why your and Berin's progress have stalled."

Pilteran stopped and gaped at her.

She looked at him under her bangs. "What?"

"I don't understand how you can conclude so much so fast. All that is obvious now that you mention it."

"Bah. Be mindful, keep an open mind, observe, and conclude at every instance of time and you'll get there. You're stuck in your way of habitual thinking. I'm stuck in mine. They simply differ." She held a hand up to show him she wanted to continue.

They strolled for another five minutes while Pilteran fought to remain silent.

Aeona stopped and faced him. "What I realized in that cave was that there's a take-over from the Elders here. Maybe it's something else, but that's what came to my mind. Do you think I might be right?"

He nodded. "That is likely to happen. I am certain it is not originating from our level. From us. You, me, Berin, and Alomsor. Not even Belagur, despite the time he spends with them. They disdain him. Certainly even the rest of us. But I think you are very close to entering their level."

"Alomsor told me they were pleased and impressed with my progress. Did he lie, did they lie to him, or has their opinion changed?"

"Alomsor don't lie. That was either their initial opinion, or they lied to him. They're cagy, and they're good at lying."

"Good at lying." Her eyes went to the ground, and her feet took her slowly around Pilteran in a circle. "What if I lie as good as they do? Do you think I could get accepted into their circle?"

Pilteran crossed his arms over his chest. "I can't say. I really don't know how advanced their minds are and I think you would have to prove something to them. Like pitching us against each other, or even kill one of us." He shook his head. "It's really dangerous, Aeona. The force we are facing is incredible."

"I'm not convinced the force is incredible. I've already lied to them, and that turned out good. Or do you think they knew I lied and that it was they that tricked me?"

"I don't know much, Aeona. Maybe I'm to no help here."

She gave him a glare. "Don't fail me already. We haven't even started yet. We have to go through this. It's just the beginning, and when we're clear about what's going on, we'll know how to act. We need to discuss every possibility we can think of."

He nodded again. "You're right. I'm still scared." He chuckled nervously and looked to the side.

"It's great that you admit that. Let it go. It's of no use, and we're learning here."

"Then again, if it's merely a takeover, why would we bother? It's been going on for as long as there have been Elders. It's evolution."

She laughed. "It's simply not the way of a higher consciousness. Besides, I need to …" Her face tensed and her voice got fierce. "Free. My. Brother."

Pilteran backed a pace and turned his face away before he looked at her from the side.

Her skin had a faint glow, her eyes were black, and her nose creased all the way to the tip.

"Right now, I wouldn't be surprised if you could kill those Elders in one blow, Aeona. Right from here. You scare the hell out of me."

She calmed, straightened, and took a deep breath. "I might not be that scary to them. I need to get closer and learn their powers. It'll take a while, and I need to get back to Thargoul now."

"I had hopes that you could stay longer."

She turned toward the tower and started toward it.

Pilteran's arms flew out. "You're leaving today? Now?"

"I have to. I thought I'd find Alomsor here and could bring him over to Thargoul, but since he's locked up by the older's idiocy I have to get back without him. I'll be back to find out more about those Elders and their powers. I'll be practicing at home." She stopped in her tracks.

"What now?"

"Did you hear that?"

He listened for a few seconds, and his eyes went full circle around them. "What? I heard nothing?"

"What I said."

"Oh. What did you say?"

"Home. I said I'll be practicing at home and I meant it." She chuckled.

His shoulders dropped. "Oh. What about it?"

"It's always been my house or my place. Never home. I finally have a reference outside myself that I feel being my home. Thargoul is my home, Pilteran." She had to wipe a tear from her cheek. "I've said it before, but it never felt this strong. I was taken aback."

Pilteran watched her with a smile. "I remember now. We talked about that. On your deck under the stars. For half a night."

She turned to him and laughed. "I feel stronger now. It's like I suck up energy like never before." Her eyes took to the sky, and her arms went out.

Pilteran watched her. His eyebrows curled as he tried to understand what she was doing.

Aeona gasped. "I … I sense him. I can sense him, Pilteran."

"Who?"

"My brother. Alomsor." She faced the tower. "He's not even on this planet. I have to locate him. What I sensed was distant, but still strong. He can't get through to me all the time. Something blocks him completely, but only intermittent. I feel that now. It's pulsating."

"What's the pulse?"

"Why?"

He grabbed her arm. "What's the pulse, Aeona? Just tell me."

"It's slow. Goes from close to nothing to very strong. Strong enough to block our connection. If it wasn't there, I should be able to open my passway to him."

"Yes, but can you tell me the frequency?"

"Oh. Very low. Maybe three seconds per cycle."

Pilteran's eyes widened. "That's the cycle of the stars' interference."

"Stars have different frequencies, Pilteran. I thought you knew that."

He shook his head and pulled her arm like I little schoolboy, begging for candy. "No, listen I'm talking about those." His arm stretched toward Kournobi's twin suns.

She squinted toward the two stars. "It's their frequency?"

"No. It's the interference between their frequencies, and since they're pretty close compared to any other star, I think Alomsor is also pretty close. There are five other planets in this system, and only two has an atmosphere. The other is not healthy, but Alomsor's body can handle it. That particular planet is on the other side of those stars."

Aeona's skin prickled, and she faced one of the stars. "So he's in this system."

"Yes. He must be. He has to be on that planet."

"They opened a passway, tossed him over and …" Her lip went in.

"They say he isn't that good with passways."

"I guess he's not. But who was in my living room then? And who replaced his body in his car?"

She took up a high pace toward the tower.

"Could you share your thoughts, please?" Pilteran had to run to catch up with her.

She pointed at the stars. "They're in the way. I can't get my passway open to him through those stars. If it had only been one, it wouldn't be a problem." She stopped. "But I can sense him, Pilteran. Strongly. I thought he was here when I arrived. Like in that tower. Maybe if I get into that tower, I can open it to him." She took a jump and was a hundred feet ahead of Pilteran in a second.

He shouted to her to wait, but she kept walking so he had to run as fast as he could.

"You can't jump?"

"No. Not like you. Teach me that."

"I will. Just not now. Focus on energies. Besides, I've got an improved vehicle so you might never get there unless you get an improved vehicle." She giggled.

Pilteran got windy again. "I can't keep up. You go ahead but don't leave without letting me know."

She stopped and faced him. "You know, you're a very good friend, and I missed you terribly when I sat in that cave. I'd like you to come to Thargoul."

"I can't. Not now. I have to stay here and figure out what's going on. I'll get over to Thargoul when I know. OK?"

"That'll be perfect. I'll try the passway to Alomsor from inside the tower. If I fail, I'll fly from that tower to the arena and get back to Thargoul right away. If it works out, me and Alomsor will walk across the field to the arena. I'm not able to carry any weight yet, or we've been in the tower right now. Is it all right with you if I say good bye for now, here, and say thank you for being a great friend?"

Pilteran's shoulders dropped, and he looked down. "I guess. I'll miss you, but I promise I'll show up as soon as I'm certain what is going on here." He took her hands. "Good bye for now. Be careful and say hi to Michael. I mean … Matt … Was it?"

She nodded. "I'm afraid he can't remember you. It may come back to him later, but I'll tell him you said hi. Thank you, Pilteran. See you around." She pressed her palm to his chest and smiled before she turned to the tower.

Her energy gathering strings went out to connect with the energies around her.

It took her three seconds to get ready. She jumped right up into the sky, leaving a swirl of dust above the ground. Then she turned toward the tower, leaving a thin line of condensed air behind her. Pilteran smiled and shook his head. The awe in his eyes could be seen from miles away.

She landed with a laugh in one of the windows of the high chamber in the top of the tower. It was empty, but she felt the elders had been there recently. Their energies still lingered in the walls. She stepped down and walked to the center of the room, shaking her arms to relax.

Her head fell back when she tried to get the homing string to connect with Alomsor. It wasn't steady enough to get the connection string up. No matter how many times she tried, it didn't work. The two stars blocked her. She had to get around them somehow.

She saw Pilteran shambling across the field with her telescopic vision. "You need to exercise, my friend. Or you need a new body. I have to ask him how long he's had that one. It might be time to replace it with an improved one right away."

She returned to the center of the room and tried a few more times, but it was a waste of time. Her senses went out and connected with Alomsor. The passway should work through the stars, she mused. They can't block it. They shouldn't be able to block my passway. This is something else. Not the stars, but I can't say what it is.

She got back to sense Alomsor. He was all right and calm but alone.

"Great. I know he's alone now. That simplifies things. No guards or anything. I hope the Elders have no clue about my passway skills." She felt another energy in the room besides those left behind. She recognized one of the older elders on Kournobi. He's scanning this room, she thought and jumped to the window.

She leaped from the window toward the arena. Pilteran waved a hand three hundred feet below when she passed him. She didn't bother to make a nice landing, so her feet stirred up a lot of dust when she slid right through the door into the arena. It took her three minutes to fly the two-hour walk. She looked over the field and couldn't help herself. She yelled and laughed.

The frame was dark and chilly when she entered the stage, but she had it starting up in seconds. Soon, the platform at Thargoul lay on the other side of the frame. Right when she was about to step over, the frames dislodged. She stopped at the threshold, swaying like in a storm. She took a step back and let it close.

The same energy from the tower was around her in the arena. She focused on it and managed to close it out. "Damn you. I have killed before, but I've never enjoyed it. This time will be different." She knew they both knew what happened. There wasn't any way a lie could cover her attempt to open a passway to Alomsor, but they couldn't know her reason.

Chapter 5

The passway was soon opened again, and nothing could disturb it. Aeona stepped over and closed it with a smile of confidence.

The gatekeeper nodded and got up. "You took your time. Couldn't find him?"

She shambled to the platform's edge and sat with her feet dangling. "No, I did find him but he was on another planet, and I couldn't get there. I couldn't open my passway. It's blocked, either by the two stars of Kournobi or the influence from one of the older Elders." She leaned back on her arms. "I need to find a way to get around them, but I haven't even thought about things like that before. Any ideas? Questions might help too."

He sat beside her. "No. I haven't even managed to open mine yet, so I'm of no help, but I'll keep it in mind. I'll let you know if I come up with something."

She sighed and jumped down to the floor. "We'll figure something out. Strange things are going on over there. Can't say what, but Pilteran is trying to figure it out. He might show up here anytime. Help him find me when he shows up. Open the passway a few times an hour in case he needs to get over fast. It's good practice too."

"I will. And when you find the time to help me with my passway, I'm ready." He smiled and waved her off.

Matt signed to her to be quiet when she peeked through the door. Caitlin was sleeping on the couch. She signed to Matt to follow her to their room. His face told her he already figured out she couldn't get hold of Alomsor.

She sunk down on the bed. "He's not on Kournobi."

Matt sighed. "You know where he is?"

"He's on another planet in that system. I can only sense him. Can't get to him. Kournobi's two stars interfere with my passway to that planet, or it's an older Elder."

"What's he doing there? I thought you said he was on Kournobi."

"I thought so, but he pissed some of the Elders off, so they've incarcerated him on that other planet. It's opposite of Kournobi on the same path. I mean, the stars are in between. You don't remember that place." She sighed and waved her hands. "He never got anywhere with his passway, so he can't escape that place. That also tells me it wasn't Kay who put that info pod on my table and it wasn't Kay who replaced the body in the car right in front of my eyes. I need to get to him, but I don't know how. Not yet."

Matt sat down beside her and laid his arm over her shoulders. "Well. At least we know where he is. Can we figure out a way to free him? Any ideas?"

She shook her head. "No. Pilteran is trying to figure out what's going on over there and he's also figuring out how to free him, but I can only hope he figures out what's going on. He'll get here when he finds anything out. Those Elders are extremely advanced. Their minds are completely twisted, so we're facing some really odd shit."

"So we go on without him here. For the time being. You break this to Caitlin? She's gonna be a handful." Matt's eyes were blank.

She got up and sighed. "I'll do it, honey. I owe her that since I failed to bring him back."

Caitlin was struggling to get up from under the blanket when they shambled into the central room. Matt sat beside her.

Aeona sat on the table in front of her. "He's all right, Caitlin. He's just not available right now. We have to wait as he's stuck on another planet in that system."

Caitlin lowered her eyes. "Are you sure it's Kay?"


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