Circles - Part Two: Space

[06.16.01] » by Chad Harger

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter I: Ready, set. . .

Five years passed as the people of the awaited for word with held breaths that it was time to leave the doomed planet. Citan and Aria quietly went back to their duties as doctor and healer. Citan wanted to help with the construction with the ships but by the time he would have caught up with current technology, his help would not be needed.

Emeralda became a worldwide diplomat. Going to each country with news of the construction and giving help reassuring the population that everything would be fine.

Miang, with a lot of controversy and rumor, was eventually permitted to help with the construction of the ships. What she remembered of the original ship moved the construction ahead by five years.

Citan hid his nervousness well. "You want me to go up there?" he asked pointing at the sky.

"Yes," said Emeralda. "Aria left a few hours ago and you and I have to be there on time."

"Its big," muttered Citan.

"Citan, everyone is scared the first time. Even Josef Balthasar was scared. Even I was," admitted Emeralda. "But you lived in a flying city for crying out loud."

"We also had a sense of up and down," said Citan. "From what I read in some book, in space there is no up or down. I find that a scientific impossibility and frightening."

"Well I can't doing anything about the latter but for the former, let's go see if you are right or not," said Emeralda. "You are highly curious and you can't let not knowing something go."

"Alright," said Citan even though he was not going to admit Emeralda was right. He had to experience this for himself to find the answers.


Emeralda had to use all of her control not to laugh. "Citan, you can open your eyes now."

"No," said Citan. He gripped the arms of his seat tight and kept his eyes closed.

"We are not high enough," said Emeralda. "Its still fine."

"You are lying," replied Citan.

"Humans lie," said Emeralda. "I've always disagreed you with on the point that the Gazel Ministry were not human. They still lied. I have a computer mind like one of those robots Miang mentioned. I'm incapable of lying."

Citan knew her logic was right. He opened his eyes and gasped. Below him the planet passed by. It was amazing, incredible, and Citan never felt so small in all his life. He turned his head and looked at Emeralda. "You lied," he said in disbelief.

Emeralda smiled. "I have a computer mind that is basically human. I don't lie unless it is necessary. In this case I had to get you over your fear."

"What else have you lied about?" asked Citan who not pleased with the concept.

"Your location while you were asleep," answered Emeralda. "I doubt you'd be surprised at the amount people who were not happy with your sentence. I feel guilty every time I lie. I'm not perfect." Emeralda laughed. "The price of being human I guess."

"One the behalf of humans everywhere, thanks for the compliment," said Citan dryly.

Emeralda turned the shuttle and they faced the giant space docks that orbited the planet. There were three and inside them the ships that would carry the population away were being built. "They are almost done," said Emeralda. "Just have to go through the final tests. Because of the size of the ships, the tests will take six months. We had hoped to do flight tests but we underestimated the growth of the nanomachines. Its all or nothing. We either stay behind and die or take the risk."

Citan did not reply. Instead he watched the space docks. They entered and Citan's breath was take away. The ship was bigger than Merkvana when Deus took it over. "How big?"

"The other two ships are five miles in length, this one is two miles," said Emeralda.

Emeralda brought the shuttle closer to the ship. She flipped a switch and said, "This is Ambassador Emeralda to the Eldridge II requesting landing."

Citan gave Emeralda a sharp look. "Good lord! What are the name of the other two?"

Emeralda smiled. "The first one is the Abel and the other the Elhaym."

Citan took it all in and decided it was best to let things come as they did. Sometimes it was best not to ask questions too soon or at all.


Citan stepped off the shuttle and his first step carried him three feet into the air. "Emmy!" he yelled in a panic.

"Sorry," said Emeralda. She jumped to him and helped him regain his balance. "I forgot to tell you that up here gravity is lighter. There is a lot of touchy construction going on and the lighter things are the better."

Citan practiced walking in the lighter gravity. "That is better," he said.

They walked out the hanger and entered an elevator. They exited near Engineering and sat in a waiting room. "Someone will come get us," said Emeralda.

"How long has construction been going on?" asked Citan.

"From the moment we found out what Deus had done," said Emeralda.

"This ship is the one going to the planet of origin," observed Citan. "Its smaller and most likely faster."

"You're right," said Emeralda. She turned to Citan and looked at him. "Citan, I was asked if you wanted to be part of the expedition."

Citan was as surprised as Emeralda when he said too loudly, "Oh hell yeah I will go!"

The door opened and an old friend entered. "I heard shouts," said Miang. "Is everything alright?" She wore a beige one piece jumpsuit with pin in the shape of a gold shuttle engine showing her to be in the Engineering Department.

Citan's face turned red and Emeralda laughed. "Citan agreed to our proposal."

Miang smiled. "I knew he would join us."

"You both are going to origin planet?" asked Citan.

"Yes," answered Emeralda. "I'm basically the liaison for the council. They expect me to take over the operation even if the slightest thing goes wrong." Emeralda eyes narrowed and looked Citan and Miang. "Of course in my opinion the slightest thing will be the death of the captain and first mate."

"Understood," the other two said at the same time.

"For me it is a quest to find answers," said Miang. "That planet is my home and I need to know." Her pale face reddened a little bit. "I became Chief Engineer for this ship when people discovered that I already knew this ship inside and out. It is basically a double of the Eldridge." Miang smile faded and said, "Citan, I'd like you to come with me. I think you need to see. . .something."

Emeralda swallowed knowing what Miang was going to show Citan. She had almost walked away from the whole thing when she saw it.


"I remember when the Gazel Ministry brought the Eldridge back to life. When we went inside it was huge. I expected the same thing here but everything is smaller," said Citan clearly confused.

"I felt the same way when I read those old reports," said Miang. "I tried to think of how it was possible then I remembered what happened to me. The question maybe simple but the answer can be quite complex."

They stopped outside the doors that led to Engineering and the heart of the ship. "Miang," said Citan. "How have you been handling all of this?"

"It was hard at first," admitted Miang. "Sometimes I'd awake in the middle of night screaming. It took me forever to even touch a simple display screen. But as someone once said on the planet I came from, 'I like, totally got over it.' I'm fine now, just the occasional bad dream."

"Citan," warned Emeralda. "When we enter do not be surprised at what you see."

"Ok," said Citan wondering what she meant.

Miang opened the doors and they entered. Citan followed behind and looked around seeing people busy at work. Some people looked over and smiled at Miang and waved. She smiled back and Citan was happy Miang was accepted here. He heard a strange humming sound and looked for the source. He saw something in the center of the room. His mouth fell open. He raised his glasses and lowered them again hoping he was seeing things. He realized he was not breathing and forced himself to do so. He looked at Miang and then at Emeralda with horror. "They built one of those things!" he managed to say.

He backed away from them. He ran out of Engineering feeling sick to his stomach. In the center of Engineering a giant golden rectangle floated gently in midair. Each ship carried one. It was the Zohar Modifier.


Citan stood in the corridor looking at the stars. He drew no comfort. 'I used to look at them and now they do not answer.' He was angry with the whole world. Was the need for survival so great that they had to take such a risk? Did they even understand how it worked? Citan sighed wondering what to do next when he saw another reflection in the window. "Hello Doctor," said Citan.

Aria shook her head. "I thought I told you don't have to call me that. Mom and Miang told me what happened. I figured I'd talk to you."

"As my friend or as my shrink?" asked Citan, his voice sarcastic.

"All true friends are shrinks," replied Aria. "Don't be angry at them. When I was younger, mom found out that the Council was going to build Zohar Modifiers. I thought she was going to start a revolution. Eventually she came to understand that is was necessary." Aria stood by Citan and looked up at him. "How did you feel when you discovered your Omnigears were part of Deus?"

"About the same as I feel now," replied Citan. "Except for Maria, Emeralda, and Fei, we were all nothing more than cogs. Of all wounds we got in battle, that revelation was the worst cut of all."

"What did you do after you lost the original Omnigears?" asked Aria.

Citan rolled his eyes knowing he had acted foolish. "We used nanomachines to rebuild our Gears and turned them into replicas of the Omnigears we lost." Citan looked at Aria. "You know, you are too smart for your own good."

Aria smiled. "My mom is a good teacher. She said she learned quite a bit from you."

"I better go apologize," he said.


Citan stood in the Captain's office. He was surprised when he heard a captain was not picked yet. "Sorry for my reaction," said Citan, his head lowered.

"Its ok," said Emeralda. "Everyone has the same reaction." She looked at Citan and wondered how she was going to say what she was about to say. "Citan, the council asked me to ask you for, well, a favor."

Aria and Miang were also in the room and knew what was about to happen. "Uh," said Aria. "I don't know if you know or not Citan, but I'm the Eldridge's Chief Medical Officer."

"Congratulations," he said.

"I still have equipment to set up," said Aria. "I'll see everyone later."

"I have to get back to Engineering. Emmy, Citan," said Miang. She followed Aria out of the room.

Citan watched at the two women leave. "They left in a hurry." He looked at Emeralda and saw a look he and Yui had many times when they were afraid something bad had happened to Midori. "You do not approve of Aria's position."

"I wouldn't mind if she was the Abel's or Elhaym's Chief Medical Officer but I'm not at all happy with her taking this ship's position."

"As a parent, I wish could offer good advice, but. . ." Citan's voice trailed off.

"I understand she has the right to do what she wants," said Emeralda. "I've taken risks that would've set off my own parents."

"Like fight a war," replied Citan.

"Yeah," replied Emeralda. "At least we knew what we were up against. . .well sort of. This ship will be going into uncharted territory. It scares me in a way."

"I felt the same way after I agreed to join this ship," said Citan. "I know I have been wondering what the planet will be like. I am surprised Miang is not crawling the walls with anticipation." Citan pushed what the future held back to his mind. Right now he had more important things to worry about. "Aria and Miang left in a hurry. I think you have something to tell me."

"It was something else the council wanted me to ask you," said Emeralda. "I was approached but I can't do it. I can't seem to think around corners with problems that could arise. For what is needed that ability is a must." Emeralda cut to the chase. "Citan, the council wants you to be the captain of the Eldridge."

"Me?" replied Citan. "I am honored, but I have never really wanted a leader. I am more of an advisor than a leader."

"You are also the most qualified person in the world," said Emeralda. "Weren't you the second in command during your time with the Elements?"

"Jessie was really the second," said Citan. "But there were times when I had to be in charge."

"Exactly," said Emeralda. "We live in a time of peace. There are no more warriors, of course that is not a bad thing. When and if this ship ever ran into trouble we need someone with military experience in control."

"I will think about it," said Citan.

"Just don't take too long or make a decision too quickly," suggested Emeralda. She got up and left Citan. He laughed as she muttered that one nice about being on this ship is that she would not be running back and forth for the council. Citan wondered when Emeralda got sucked into the trap of red tape.

Citan looked around the office. He sat in the chair behind the desk. It felt good even for someone who did not like to be behind a desk. He looked at the blank walls and saw a good spot for his sword. It came to Citan he really would like to be the captain. All his life he wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. From his appointment as Guardian Angel to one of people who saved the world. Now he wanted to be part of something grander than what he experienced before and he would be at the forefront.

Citan leaned back and started to think. He thought about the mission at hand. The mission to get the colonists to their new home and the mission that followed. Both missions could be fraught with danger. Citan recalled the sign that hang above the entrance of the Jungend training facility, 'Better safe than sorry.'

Citan tried to use the communicator but was not cleared at all. He was even locked out of the computer. He went to find Emeralda himself to deliver the news that he would be the captain.

Citan left the office and heard Aria shouting near the bridge.


Aria returned to sickbay and remembered she forgot to give Citan his appointment for his physical. She tried to use the communicator but doubted that Citan was cleared yet.

She walked back to the bridge when she saw someone she did not recognize standing by the pilot's station. "Who are you?" she demanded.

The man turned and looked at Aria. "Hi," he said. He was disheveled. His shirt was dirty and his pants had holes in them. His light auburn hair was unkempt and he had three months worth of beard. His mustache covered his upper lip.

"No civilians are permitted on the bridge," said Aria.

The man shrugged and walked toward Aria. He carried a duffel bag that seen better days. "SOP," said the stranger. He looked over Aria and smiled. "You're cute."

Aria's face reddened. She sputtered something and became furious. "Well you're cute when aren't looking like some freaky Wel," added the stranger. He walked passed Aria and into the corridor.

Aria turned and ran after him. "Stop!" she yelled.

The man stopped and turned. "Aren't we full of fire," he said with a huge grin. The only thing that was clean was his white teeth.

Aria got up into the man's face. "You listen well mister. I'm the ship's doctor. If you aren't off the Eldridge in five minutes, I'll have security shove you out of the airlock. Then I'll have to treat you for vacuum exposure. It won't be a pleasant experience!"

"What is going on?" demanded Citan. He walked up to Aria and the stranger. Citan looked at the stranger. "Who are you?" he asked in a tone that brooked no foolishness.

The stranger was not impressed. "I was just checking out the bridge. No harm, no foul." He looked at Citan. "Who are you, the head janitor?"

Citan's eyes narrowed. "In about fifteen minutes, I am going to be promoted to captain."

"Ah," said the stranger, his face reddening a little bit. "Sorry about the janitor crack." He opened his duffel and handed and Citan a couple of crumpled papers. "Sorry about their condition. I was camping and para gliding. Really haven't had time to get cleaned up."

Citan took the papers from the strangers hands. As he read the papers his frown gradually faded and surprise took over. "He is the ship's pilot."

"What?!" demanded Aria.

"Lieutenant Commander Mikhail Balthasar reporting for duty," he said giving Citan a salute.


Citan told Emeralda he would be the captain. They returned to the Captain's office and talked about Mikhail and Aria.

"I'm surprised Aria didn't follow through with her threat regardless," said Emeralda.

"I am surprised I did not help," replied Citan. "I just hope he is not as bad as he seemed."

"I met him before," said Emeralda. "He does seem roguish and a trouble maker but when it comes down to it, he is the best pilot the Balthasar's ever had. Eccentric as all get out though."

"Makes me wonder if he does not have some of Bart's blood in him," replied Citan. He sipped some of the tea that came from the drink dispenser. At least he could use those. "Before I actually follow through with this, I need three things in return."

Emeralda shook her head. "Why am I not surprised?" she asked. "Ok, what are they."

"The first thing is this," said Citan. "On the way to the colonist's new planet, if we run into any trouble I am in total control. That means the captains of the other ships have to listen to me. You wanted someone with military experience and I want to be able to use that without getting into any arguments. That includes the council."

"They won't like it, but it makes sense. I can't make any guarantees," she said. "What's condition number two."

"I want you to be my second in command," said Citan. "The council already has you set up to take over if something happens to me. Being my second will make it easier."

"I see," said Emeralda without much enthusiasm. "What's your third condition?"

Citan finished his tea and told her. Emeralda shot out of her chair. "Were you exposed to hard vacuum?!" she yelled. "There is no way they will agree to that!"

"I am. . .scared," admitted Citan. "Scared of what we will find on the second half of our mission. That is not an easy admission for me to make. With those, I will feel more secure."

"They don't even work," pointed out Emeralda.

"I think with some adaptations we can use cold fusion to power them. It will not be as effective as Ether, but it should get the job done. This also has to be kept secret. You, Miang, and I will make the necessary adjustments. She is almost done with her duties here and you and I are not needed." Citan leaned forward in his chair. "Better hurry Emeralda. Time is ticking away."

Emeralda looked at Citan with disappointment. "I never thought I'd see you use such heavy handed tactics."

"It would not be the first time," said Citan. "I doubt it will be the last."


"Next," said Aria. She would be glad when she finished everyone's physical. A man walked in. Aria looked at him and knew him from somewhere. He was very handsome. Aria got over her initial surprise. "Your papers, please," said Aria.

The patient nodded and handed them to Aria. She read them and gave the patient a dirty look. "At least you've cleaned up Mr. Baltazar," said Aria dryly.

Mikhail smiled broadly. "Eh, what's up doc?"

Aria rolled her eyes. She read Mikhail's papers. "You're in excellent shape."

"Have to be to be a pilot," replied Mikhail with plenty of confidence that bordered on arrogance in Aria's opinion. "So you want me to take my shirt off? Got to check my vitals."

Aria read further into Mikhail's medical report. She smiled and said, "Not just yet."

Mikhail gave Aria a questioning look. Aria placed the papers in a folder. She looked at Mikhail and asked, "Why are you here?"

The pilot looked at Aria as if she was crazy. "They needed someone who was the best for the Eldridge II. I'm it."

"That's not what I mean," said Aria. "Why are you a pilot? You are insubordinate and a risk taker. You have more solo missions than the norm. There are only two people who are like that. People who are suicidal or who would rather be doing something else. You aren't suicidal. So once again, why are you here?"

Mikhail's smile vanished. He had underestimated the doctor. "As I already told you, they needed me."

"You don't want to be here," said Aria. "You'd rather be somewhere else."

Mikhail started say something sarcastic then changed his mind. Even he knew he had to be serious. "You're right," he said. "I never wanted to be part of the family legacy. You know what I wanted to be? A farmer. If there was ever an extreme opposite of a pilot, that's it. Don't get me wrong, I love to fly. What I don't love is the expectations because of my last name. My first dream was shattered because of what Deus did. Now everyone wants me to do something I really don't want to do. I'd rather go with the colony and be a farmer. No, I have to risk my neck like everyone else on the Eldridge II. Excuse me if that doesn't make me do back flips. The reason I act like I do is my way saying, 'Hey, you wanted me, you got me. Now you have to pay the price.'"

"You're scared," observed Aria. She was him a different light. In a sense he was responsible for every life on the Eldridge II. One mistake and-

Aria shuddered picturing the shuttle crash that claimed her biological parents. "You alright?" asked Mikhail who was really concerned.

Aria looked at the pilot and smiled. "As I was saying, you are afraid. Afraid of making a mistake that will hurt or kill everyone."

"How did you feel when you lost your first patient?" asked Mikhail.

"Like hell," admitted Aria. "Couldn't sleep for days."

"That's something I don't want to go through," said Mikhail. He smiled broadly. "Now that you are done examining my mind, what about my body?"

"I have to go do something," said Aria. Her smile became cold. "If you think I'm going to give you the satisfaction, then forget it."

Aria left and a wall of a woman entered. Mikhail swallowed hard. The nurse had more frown lines than Old Man Bal. "What are you looking at?" said the nurse in deep voice Mikhail thought impossible for a woman. "Take your shirt off or I'll do it for you."

Mikhail pulled his shirt over his head and smiled. Aria had nailed him good. She was right and he was a risk taker. He decided to take the greatest risk of all and decided he wanted to get to know the spit brand of a doctor better.


Citan frowned upon entering Engineering. There was something on his mind that he could not pinpoint. He knew it had something to do with the Zohar Modifier. He looked at it as he would examining a patient. His frown deepened as he looked at the smooth features. Citan stopped in mid thought. He went to a nearby technician and asked him to tell Miang to meet him in the Captain's office right away.

Fifteen minutes later and Miang entered Citan's soon to be office. "I take it you accepted the captaincy."

"Yes, with three conditions," said Citan. He saw Miang had a look of victory. "You look happy."

Miang smile widened. "Emmy and I had a bet. She said you wouldn't accept the captaincy. I said not only would you accept it, you would have conditions that would most likely give the council a collective heart attack."

"Heh," said Citan. "What was at stake?"

"Dinner at Fatima's," answered Miang.

Citan whistled. Fatima's was a restaurant in Bledavik and cheap is was not. "That is a pricy wager," said Citan.

"Yeah," said Miang. "What did you need by the way?"

"I wanted to talk to you about the Zohar Modifier," said Citan.

Miang sighed and said, "I don't think you understand the Modifier completely. I'll explain it to you. It has two purposes. The first as a power source. It draws energy straight from the vacuum of space. It's the cleanest source of energy you'll ever find. Basically it's a fancy perpetual motion machine. Its second purpose is that it allows ships to fly faster than light."

"I read all of that," said Citan.

"Good," said Miang. "According the original Eldridge's logs, the Zohar Modifier was activated too close to the planet's gravity well. I think when my computer was corrupted it tried to access the Zohar Modifier. For some reason it caused the Zohar Modifier to go to light speed mode. I'm surprised that did not cause the ship to be destroyed right then and there." Her eyes narrowed at Citan. "Never, and I mean, never attempt to go faster than light speed while inside a star system. That is one order I will disobey."

"That is because the warp field will not be stable so close to a gravity well," said Citan.

Miang smiled with approval. "Among other things. The warp field imbalance must have caused the dimensional rift. And since the Zohar Modifier draws energy from the strongest vacuum point at the moment, it latched onto the rift and also sucked in the Wave Existence."

Citan agreed. "There is something else. When they recreated the Zohar Modifier, they used the blueprints from the Eldridge. There is something missing. Where is the image of the eye?"

"An eye?" repeated Miang. "There was never any eye."

"I will bring up the files," said Citan. He tried accessing his computer and swore when nothing happened. "They still have not cleared me."

Miang laughed and went over beside Citan. Some of her hair she kept tied up in a bun fell loose and brushed against Citan's face and he swallowed hard. Her hair was impossibly soft and warm. The shampoo she used smelled good.

"I linked my computer to yours," said Miang. "You can bring up what you need."

Citan was startled and his face was flushed. "You alright?" asked Miang.

"Yeah," he said. He brought up the files he was looking for. "Here is the visual record from my Gear when we discovered the Zohar Modifier." Citan turned the monitor to show Miang.

"Good lord," whispered Miang. "Another mystery. Maybe the Wave Existence created the eye. Sort of a window to the outside world."

"According to Fei, the Wave Existence was basically blind. He also said that when Abel saw the Zohar Modifier for the first time, it had an eye," clarified Citan. He shook his head in frustration. "As much as I like a good mystery, there are too many questions and not enough answers."

"Then we will find those answers," said Miang with determination.

Chapter II: The Journey Begins

Like many exoduses of past history, people were frightened, stressed, yet hopeful of a better life. The shuttles flew back and forth from each ship to the planet and back again. Crowds of people lined the corridors. Aria along with her staff, along with the other ships' medical personal, worked hard in getting the colonists prepped for the voyage.

The only thing working on the three ships was the gravity, life support, backup lights, and communications. One of the tests that needed be made was a total shut down and restart of all systems. Before the ships could leave dry dock, Miang and the other engineers wanted to preform that test.

Emeralda was on the Abel with the council going over last minute details and making sure everything was going smoothly with each ship. Emeralda was smiling the whole time. She was happy that everything was going well and even more happy at the thought of not having to be the council's errand woman for much longer.

Mikhail spent his time tracking the best course of the system. The main problem would be flying through the asteroid belt. The Eldridge II was bad enough. Mikhail was very thankful he was not the pilot for the other two ships. He talked with the other two pilots and plotted a course that was basically 'over' the asteroid belt.

On the day of the launch the last of the shuttles were boarding the Eldridge II. That ship carried no colonists, just ship personal. There was only one person left to join them and that was the captain. He had something he wanted to do on the surface before he left the world he helped save.

Citan stood before the grave of his wife and daughter. He remembered the smoothness of Yui's skin and verbal and mental laughter of Midori. "I'll be leaving soon," said Citan. "I wish I could have been able to bring your remains with me so I could place them on the new planet. If I requested that then everyone else would have done the same. I guess what the Holy Book says is true. 'Let the dead bury the dead'. There will always be a place in my heart. Yui, I understand why you wanted me to find someone else to be with. Midori, I wish I could have been there to say how proud of you I am."

Citan touched the tombstones one last time. "Goodbye."

Citan went back to the shuttle and flew to join the living.


Citan boarded the Eldridge II. He went to his quarters, showered, and went to the bridge. He stood silently at the entrance to the bridge. He smiled at technicians performed final tests and saw Mikhail programming their course. At the captain's seat, he saw Emeralda talking into the communicator.

A technician saw Citan. "Captain on deck!" she announced.

Everyone stopped what they were doing, stood up and saluted him. "As you were," said Citan. "Please, you do not have to salute either." He promised himself he was not going to run a tight military ship after he was far away from the council.

He walked to his seat and Emeralda looked at him with a smile. "This is a comfy seat."

Citan returned the smile. "You want it? Its yours," he asked.

Emeralda shot up out of the seat as if she was burned. "Hell no," she said. She looked Citan over. "So how are you?"

Citan eyes sparked with renewed life and vigor. "Alive," he said. "How long till departure?"

"We still have to get word from the other two ships. They are much larger and will take longer to get ready," answered Emeralda. "The council wanted to go over some final details with you."

Citan rolled his eyes. "The one saving grace about second half of our mission is that we will be far away from them."

"Everyone feels the same way. Klais was here earlier micromanaging the command staff. It was a toss up between Aria, Miang, and myself who going to dump him out of an airlock," said Emeralda.

Citan got up from his chair. "Nice uniform," said Emeralda sarcastically.

"Tell me about it," said Citan tugging on his uniform. It was a color of brown that did not exist in nature. Citan privately thought it looked like the brown stuff someone would regurgitate. He leaned close to Emeralda. "Do not tell anyone, but after we begin the second half of the mission, I am killing the dress code," he whispered.

Emeralda looked at Citan with surprise. "Why?"

"I have been thinking about how Bart ran his pirate ship. It was pretty loose for a military group but still ran well. With the exception of the command and bridge crew, no one has any military experience. There will be discipline but not as strict as the military."

Citan walked toward his office with Emeralda beside him. "I will talk to you later about it," he said. "I better see what the council, namely Klais in all likely hood, wants."


After listening to the Klais' bureaucratic banter, Citan went for a walk. He decided to stop by Engineering to see how things were going. He entered and was greeted with fifty salutes. 'Remember to make a ship wide announcement to order people to stop saluting me!'

He found Miang hunched over a display. "How is it going?" he asked. With the exception of her ugly uniform, Citan was just noticing how attractive she was.

She looked up and smiled. "Everything is green across the board, Captain," said Miang.

"You do not have to call me that," said Citan.

Miang shook her head. "I figured as much," she said. "Come with me."

They entered Miang's office and Citan and was impressed. She had monitors and keyboards all over the place. He was halfway tempted to ask if she wanted to switch offices.

Miang poured some tea. "Sorry its not the good stuff," said Miang. "We're both on duty and that is another rule I will not bend."

Citan did not say anything. When Cain told him about Miang, one of things he found out was that she did not drink. At first he thought she was faking her unwillingness to drink but apparently not.

Miang sat in her chair. "Citan, this isn't the Elements."

Citan looked at her with confusion. "I thought you were going to object to calling me by my name?"

"Out there with my people, yes," said Miang. "It would look awkward for me, my people, and for you. It would look like you're playing favorites. As I said, this isn't the Elements with three people with one leader. I remember how loose we were to the point of being unmilitary in looks and behavior. You have to realize this is a very large crew. Everyone of us is under you."

"We are not military," pointed out Citan. "I am not going to pull surprise inspections and expect everyone to have their shoes spit and polished every morning."

"The crew does not expect you to do so," said Miang. "Another thing, and I'm speaking from experience. When I first took charge of Engineering, I was making people very nervous. At first I thought it was because of who I was. Later I found out I was micro managing my people. The same rule applies to you also. Every department has a department head. Let them do their job without you watching every move they make. Everyone is settled in and getting along. Just give it time and they will get used to you and vice versa."

"Thank you," said Citan. He looked around Miang's office and was jealous of the equipment. "You know I might just visit you a lot. I wish I had a setup like this in my office."

"The only thing those computers are good for is a reminder of how far behind I am with paperwork," laughed Miang. She stood up and went to the door. "If you need any advice, ask Emeralda. She's pretty good with managing people."

"Thank you," said Citan. "I think I will but first I need to go back to my own office. A good captain has to give a speech of some kind before a new ship is launched."


Citan finished his speech quicker than he had thought. He sat in his chair on the bridge. He played with the buttons and was flipping through personal files while trying not to fall asleep. It did not dawn on him until he finished the speech that the council had gotten him back for all the demands and threats he had made. Citan was basically a desk jockey and hated it. Now he knew why Queen Zephyr and Emperor Cain, while he could still walk, never sat in their respective thrones that much.

Citan felt himself dozing off. "Captain," said Mikhail.

Citan opened his eyes. He looked around and noticed the bridge was empty. "Where is everyone?"

Mikhail smiled. "We got our preparations done twenty hours ahead of everyone else. Everything is on automatic. Miang said something about running tests on the auto system. Emeralda gave the bridge crew time off until tomorrow. I was going to eat then get some sleep."

"Ok," said Citan. Citan felt a little hurt that Emeralda did not ask him first about letting the bridge crew off early. He sighed knowing she was in the right. "Mikhail, I read over your records."

Mikhail gave Citan an uh-oh expression. "Do not worry," reassured Citan. "Do not be too opinionated with me while other crew members are nearby. I just want to know why you never accepted the rank of captain."

"With due respect sir," said Mikhail, his voice dry. "You know the Balthasar legacy well. We are flyers and dreamers. To stick me in the center chair would be a waste of my talents."

"In other words you do not want to be a desk pilot," said Citan.

"I'd rather suck vacuum," said Mikhail. "Zeck and Klais approached me with the captaincy of the Elhaym. The way I laughed in their faces I thought they were going to charge me treason."

"I just hope you are good as you think you are," said Citan.

Mikhail looked at Citan as if he just slapped him. "I'm the best."

Citan raised an eyebrow. Mikhail must have some of Bart's blood to be that arrogant. "One other thing," said Citan. "Did a Balthasar marry a Fatima while I was frozen?"

Mikhail raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You don't know, sir?"

"No," said Citan. "And call me Citan when we are alone, off duty, or in a meeting with the command staff."

Mikhail's smile returned. "Maria had to marry someone."

Citan jumped halfway out of his seat. "What about the matter of age?" asked Citan. Emeralda did not mention that. Of course Citan automatically figured Bart would marry Margie and did not bring it up.

"Not when they got married," answered Mikhail. "Bart and Margie were married for a short time. The distance from Bledavik and Nisan was too great and they were separated by the distance. It was best in the long term. Maria was running a shuttle business in Bledavik. They met, fell in love and had kids. The rest is history and here I am."

"Oh," said Citan. "You have things you wanted to do. Get rested up. Tomorrow is a big day."


Citan sat in the his chair on the bridge. He was surprised at how calm he was. Around the bridge crew sat in quiet anticipation. The only person who spoke was Jorgan, the communication's officer. "Abel reports successful shut down and restart of all systems and are ready to go," he said. Ten minutes later he said the same thing about the Elhaym.

"That's a coincidence," said Mikhail.

"What is," said Emeralda.

"When the original Eldridge crashed, Abel was the first reported survivor, then Elhaym according to Fei."

"That is not funny mister," warned Citan.

Mikhail looked at captain in all seriousness. "It wasn't meant to be," he said turning his attention back to his station.

"Bridge, this is Engineering," said Miang through the bridge's communications.

"Go ahead," said Citan.

"We'll be starting total shut down," said Miang. "That includes life support and gravity. I hope everyone is strapped in."

"There is something I need to do first," said Citan. He turned to the communication's officer. "I want intraship and contact the Elhaym and Abel. I want everyone to hear this including the colonists."

"Yes sir."

Emeralda gave Citan a questioning look. Citan looked at her and smiled. "This is an old tradition." Citan was worried the other two captains would object. They not only agreed but threw in their support that if any major emergencies arose Citan would be in charge.

Citan got out of his seat and started to pace. "Sorry for the delay," said Citan. "There is an old tradition that before a sea going vessel took before its maiden voyage, the captain would give a speech."

"Damn it Citan, what in the hell are you doing?" said the voice of councilman Klais.

"Giving a pre voyage speech," replied Citan, his voice near ice. He did not like being interrupted at all.

"We'd like to leave sometime," said the overbearing councilman.

"Oh shut up Klais," said Dorothy.

The bridge, and most likely everyone all three ships broke out in laughter. Klais started swearing in a combination of Shevat and Solaris.

"Watch your mouth!" piped in Zeck. "Now shut up and sit down!"

Klais could be heard saying something incoherent.

"Captain, I'm sorry," said Dorothy. "Go ahead with your speech."

Citan waited for the laughter on the bridge and the other ships to die down. Citan took another breath and began. "When some of the truth came out about humanity and the planet we are leaving, we were scared. . .I was scared. I know those who know me know that is not an easy admission for me to make. We knew we had, and to be blunt, a snowball's chance in Hell of defeating Deus. I never really thought about the battle until after the war. Yes, Emeralda and I along with those who are long gone defied the odds and defeated a terrible evil."

"We were not the only ones who were fighting. It was the whole world. The doctors and healers who helped the people who were going through pain as they mutated. Loving families who did not care what their kin turned into. For them blood was thicker than water, no, oil. Armies who were at one time bitter enemies who caught up the innocent in their battles, protected the innocent."

"When I was told about what Deus had done to the planet out of spite, I was horrified. I read that the citizens found out about it, I was amazed that chaos did not ensue. The willingness to come together and build these ships shows how much we have grown as living beings. The Holy Book says, 'A house divided shall fight among itself'. I think our unity is a sign from the true God that we are together in more ways than we can imagine."

"We brought aboard something more important than the supplies or knowledge we are taking with us. We brought aboard our courage, convictions, loyalty, faith, and love. These things are stronger than any weapon or Omnigear. Yui once told me something Queen Zephyr told her. She was told that God provides, faith prevails, love is in all of us, to never give up."

"Now lets us journey to a better home. A home that is not threatened by darkness or past evils," said Citan. He sat down and to his surprise the bridge crew stood and applauded. Over the speakers he heard the same sound.

Emeralda came over and said, "Well done. I'll bet that took awhile to write."

Citan's face blushed. "Actually I scrapped the original speech and made it up as I talked."

"Then it was spoken from the heart," said Emeralda.


After the applause, Citan sat back down and strapped in. He pressed a button and said, "Engineering."

"Engineering," said Miang. "Good speech by the way. Well done."

Citan's face really turned red at Miang's compliment. Someone snickered on the bridge and Citan shot them a dirty look. "Thank you," he said trying not to sound angry. "We are ready for shut down and restart."

"We will perform shutdown and restart in ten seconds," said Miang. "Startup will take another ten seconds. Just don't panic."

"Its in your hands," said Citan.

Everyone on the ship waited. They silently waited for everything to go dark. Finally at the ten second mark everything went black. The constant humming of the computers died down. The running gag was that all three ships were on life support during construction. They would be taken off life support and the Chief Engineer would perform CPR. Even the Zohar Modifier's glow faded to nothingness.

Miang held a flashlight over the switch. She thought how something so insignificant could be the most important thing on a two mile long ship. She silently counted down. She pressed the switch and there was a clicking sound. She saw the computer display light up. The lighting system kicked on. Around her computer systems lit up and the steady hum of life support returning. Outside the ship, running lights came alive in unison. Eight large lights lit up the word Eldridge II that was painted on both sides of the ship.

Miang sighed a breath of relief. She turned and saw her staff stand near her. They were all smiling then they broke out with applause of their own meant for Miang. She smiled knowing she found her place in the Universe.


On the bridge, Citan looked at the flight pattern and thought it was strange. "A reverse triangle Mr. Baltazar?" he asked skeptically.

Mikhail did not turn around. He was busy getting ready. "I don't want them behind me," he said.

"In other words you don't them running up our tailpipe," said Emeralda.

"Whatever a tailpipe is," said Mikhail. "I just don't wanting those novices giving us an enema."

"Remind me to tell you how Bart used to pilot a Gear," said Citan.

Mikhail did not reply to the insult or the laughter. "We got the green," he said instead.

"All yours," said Citan.

Mikhail rubbed his chin. "Which button makes this ship move?" He smiled then said, "Oh yeah, its this one." He pressed the button on his display and the ship moved forward.

Everyone was silent as the ship moved out of dry dock. They saw the infinite sea of stars. "It's amazing," said Emeralda who was in awe.

"Indeed it is," said Citan. "Mr. Balthasar bring us into flight position."

The stars whipped by as Mikhail brought the ship about. The ship took its point behind the other two vessels. "We are in position," he said.

"Then plot our course out of system," ordered Citan. "Ahead full speed."

Mikhail grinned and the ship moved forward.


On the planet humanity just left, a lone figure stood by the stasis pod that kept Miang prisoner. His white robes flowed gently in the breeze. He smiled as he was able to hear Citan's speech. "You were always a good speaker," said Krelian.

Without disturbing the grass that grew around him, he walked around the stasis pod. "Here is were it began, not once, but twice. I had hoped when you awoke things would not turn out as they might."

Krelian turned his attention back to the sky. "Remember what you said Hyuga. You have more faith than you even realize and you shall need it. When you discover the truth about the world you are seeking and more importantly yourself, I pray that you can handle it better than I did when I turned my back on God."

Krelian felt something beneath him. He looked down and saw the nanomachines eating away at the ground. Krelian shook his head. What was happening to the planet was partly his fault. God had forgiven him though and that was what mattered.

Krelian spread his wings and was lifted up by an unseen Force.

The Elhaym and Abel were going to their new home. The Eldridge II was returning to the planet of origin after the Elhaym and Abel reached their destination safely. Krelian was returning to God. None of them would ever return.

Chapter III: Fast(er) as (than) light

Mikhail sat slumped in his chair. Sweat poured off his body and his uniform clung to his body. His breathing labored. His hands were trembling. "I never, ever, want to do that again," he managed to say.

He and the other pilots were off in their calculations by one million kilometers. They had to fly through the border of the asteroid belt. It took all of their skills and a lot of fancy flying to evade the bigger asteroids. Some of the smaller rocks bounced of the Eldridge II while a behemoth of a asteroid, two and half miles in diameter, almost hit the Elhaym by meters. The Elhaym almost rammed the Abel while evading the asteroid.

"Damage report," said Citan, his own voice shaking. His skin was chalk white. He was not used to taking these kinds of risks.

"We were lucky," said Miang over the comm. "Some structure damage but no hull breaches."

"How will it affect the ship when we go to light speed?" asked Citan.

"We better repair the damage. I'm more worried about micro meteoroids at this point," replied Miang.

Citan sighed. "How long?" he asked.

"Ten hours," answered Miang.

Emeralda looked at Citan and frowned. "Ah, no offense Miang, but are you multiplying your estimates by two?" she asked.

Miang laugh was forced. "Ok, you caught me. Five hours, maybe five and a half."

"How did you know?" asked Citan after breaking contact with Miang.

Emeralda smiled and said, "My father used to do the same thing to mother when he was creating me."

Citan knew the engineer's motto well. Every timetable was multiplied by two. Citan turned his attention to Mikhail. "You alright Mr. Balthasar?" he asked.

Mikhail rubbed his temples. "I'm fine. Just a little shook up," he said his voice weak.

Citan frowned and the doctor in him took over. He knew shock when he saw it. Mikhail's pale skin was a sure sign. He also knew the pilot would not admit to it. "Report to sickbay," said Citan with enough of an edge to make it an order.

Mikhail turned and smiled weakly at Citan. "Yes sir," he said. Still shaking, he got up and left the bridge.

"This is not a good sign," said Emeralda. "He's a pilot and that shook him up pretty bad. What happens if things ever got worse?"

"He will be fine," said Citan. "He handled himself well all things considered. Its not everyday someone flies through an asteroid belt."

"But the simulations," said Emeralda.

"Mean nothing in real life," cut in Citan. "One thing about our pilot is that he is a fast adaptor. If we go through something like this again, he will handle it with ease."

Emeralda was still not convinced but Citan was the captain. She hoped he was right.


'I para glide for crying out loud', thought Mikhail as he entered sickbay. He looked around and some other crew members who were banged up. He smiled weakly at a pretty young redhead from the science department. Normally he would have flirted with her and bragged about how he flew the ship through the asteroid belt. The experience left a sour taste in his mouth among other things.

Mikhail waited both patiently and impatiently for his turn. When he was the only one left, a nurse came and got him. He entered the examining room and sat on the medical bed waiting for the doctor.

Aria entered and gasped. "What happened to you?" she asked.

"Our captain slash doctor thinks I'm in shock," said Mikhail without much humor.

"He's right," replied Aria. She took a air syringe and injected Mikhail with a relaxant. "That should calm you down."

Mikhail felt himself stop shaking. "Thanks," he said. He still felt chilled to the bone. He smiled ruefully at Aria. "Got anything to warm me up?"

Aria looked at Mikhail with an raised eyebrow because of the way he was looking at her. "Yes I do, and no, its not going to happen in your lifetime," she said with sarcasm.

Aria walked over to a locked cabinet. She entered the combination in a keypad. She opened the cabinet and took out a bottle and two glasses. She poured the drinks and went over and handed a glass to Mikhail.

The pilot took the glass and looked at Aria skeptically. "Isn't mixing booze and drugs a no-no? Besides, I'm still on duty."

"This much won't have any affect," said Aria. "And you are off duty until you are rested up."

Mikhail took a sip of the drink. His stomach felt on fire as it went down. "Gads, Doc, what is this? The lubricant they used in the SOL 9000 to keep it from rusting?"

"Something like that," said Aria with a smile. "It's a drink the Chu-Chu's gave my mother before they vanished to who knows where."

"This stuff is rare then," said Mikhail with appreciation.

"Its easy to make," explained Aria. She drank the rest it in one quaff. "Not many humans can handle it," she said with a huge smile. "It even effects my mother which should be impossible."

Mikhail remembered reading something in history about a woman who was the last person to see the Chu-Chus. It clicked in his mind and he looked at Aria with his mouth open. "You're Emeralda's daughter?"

"Adopted," answered Aria. She placed her glass back in the cabinet. "So tell me about what happened."

Mikhail shuddered. "It wasn't nice. All those rocks coming toward us. I'm surprised this ship is as maneuverable as it is."

Aria shook her head and became serious. "That's not what I mean. I'm talking about the shuttle accident."

Mikhail nearly dropped his glass. "There's nothing to say. The shuttle crashed and through some miracle I was the only survivor."

"You also developed a fear of being responsible for passengers. That's why you only took solo flights after the crash," said Aria.

Mikhail wanted to leave but knew Aria would only keep hounding him about it. That was one thing he liked about her, she had a fiery passion like himself only she kept hers more guarded. "Fine then," he said. "We hit a storm that knocked out the controls. I was gliding the shuttle toward a beach near Nisan. The shuttle hit the beach and skipped across the water. Earlier strong winds and g-forces ripped out the windows. The force of the shuttle skipping across the water. We hit small sandbar. The force tore my seat out of the floor and physics took over. I flew out of the shuttle head over heel and landed in the water. Somehow I ended up facing the shuttle. The last thing I saw was the shuttle slipping off the sandbar and sinking."

Mikhail took another sip of his drink. "Did you know they never found the shuttle?" he asked after a long silence.

Aria placed a hand over his and squeezed gently. "It was an Ether Storm," she said. "You know what they are."

Mikhail snorted. "Yeah, every pilot's nightmare. Concentrated pockets of Ether left over from the explosion that took out Deus. When conditions are right they manifest into a nasty storm."

"They're also utterly unpredictable," said Aria. "They can't be traced no matter what. It wasn't your fault."

Without thinking, Mikhail flipped his hand that Aria's own hand was resting on and took hold of it. They looked at each other neither saying anything.

"Ah," said Mikhail. "I think I better go get some rest." He quickly got up and left.

Aria looked at the ceiling. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," she muttered.


The repairs were made to the hull. Mikhail returned to duty being his usual flamboyant self.

The three ships stopped, or as stopped as they could get in space, and waited for the jump to warp.

Miang ran and reran computer simulations ten times. She was as nervous as Mikhail was during the flight through the asteroid belt. Her assistant kindly suggested that enough tests had been run. Miang agreed and went over to the Zohar Modifier controls. "Prepare the shield and tractor beam placements!" she yelled.

She turned her head and watched energy shimmer around the Zohar Modifier. Invisible hands reached out from the ceiling and held the golden rectangle in place. "Everything is set," someone announced.

Ming nodded and pressed a button. On the ceiling, a portal opened exposing the vacuum of space. "Shield is holding," said Miang's assistant with a great relief. If the shield ever went while portal was open, they were all doomed. "Zohar Modifier is channeling energy as per the predicated rate and everything is clear."

Miang contacted the bridge. "Its all yours, Captain." She paused then said, "Don't be surprised by what you see when we enter warp."

On the bridge, Citan smiled. "Is it a good or bad thing?"

"It will be an unusual thing," answered Miang. "Engineering out."

"You know," said Emeralda from her station. "With all the mysteries we need to solve, we don't need another."

Citan smiled but did not comment. "Mr. Balthasar, whenever you're ready."

"When the other two are at warp, we'll be ready to go," he said.

On the viewer, they watched the other two ships get into position. Without warning their engines glowed. They stretched like taffy as they moved forward. A white light appeared in front of the ships and they vanished.

Everyone looked at the screens with their mouths open. Emeralda contacted Engineering. "Did you see that? Was that normal?"

"They're fine," said Miang. "The stretching effect is just an optical illusion. We'd better hurry if we want to catch up. . .and Mr. Baltazar, no going faster than warp one!"

"No sense of fun," muttered the pilot. Out loud he said, "Here we go!"

The ship quickly moved to the speed of light. Mikhail engaged the Zohar Modifier and in Engineering, the Zohar Modifier became a pillar of golden light. The ship then moved faster than light. On main viewer, stars flew past like streaks.

"How fast are we going?" asked someone on the bridge.

"We are going one time faster than light," said Mikhail.

Miang called up from Engineering. In the background the sounds of cheering could be heard. "Quiet down!" laughed Miang. "Bridge, we need full stop in one minute to meet with the others. We don't want to over shoot them by a light year."

"I'll be glad when these tests are over," said Emeralda.

"Well, I still have to pick the colors for the exterior," teased Miang.

"We're near the exit mark," said Mikhail out loud. Without further word he dropped out of warp. In front of him the other two ships waited. "We're here, we passed the tests, now can we please get to where we are going?"

"That was unnecessary," said Citan sharply. He then turned to Emeralda. "Chief Miang, Commander Kasim, there is a time and place for loose banter. You both should know this is not one of them."

"Yes sir," they said at the same time.

Citan was not sure how they reacted on the inside. Emeralda and Miang were close friends. He hesitantly looked at Emeralda. She nodded in approval knowing what she did was wrong and he was in the right to tell her so.

Citan sighed knowing there was so much to get used to with such a command. Miang was right. He could not play favorites and there were times when he had to make demands or say something to his closest friends that might just cause a rift.

"The other two ships report they are ready to continue," said the communication's officer.

Citan snapped back to attention. "Mr. Balthasar, if the Zohar Modifier is ready to go, you have the green," ordered Citan.

"Aye, sir," replied Mikhail. He watched the other two ships vanish into faster than light speeds. Then the Eldridge II followed heading toward humanity's new home.

Chapter IV: One Mystery is Solved

For three months the ships flew six times faster than light. It was quiet on the three ships and no one minded that in the least.

On the Eldridge II, Citan smoothed out his command style and as Miang predicted the crew got used to him and he got used to them. Once a week we would go to each department personally to check things out. It was not so much as an inspection, but his way of seeing how well everyone was doing physically and mentally. He knew Aria and her staff could not be everywhere. Citan ended up with the nickname Captain Doc.

Emeralda, much to her regret, was swamped not only by her duties as the second in command but also as the person who had to keep the Captain of the Abel and Klais from strangling each other. Emeralda was so fed up with the councilman, she printed out a picture of Klais and drew a bulls-eye on it and framed it on her office wall. When she was bored she would throw darts at it.

Mikhail was busy trying to get to know Aria better. He ended up being her second shadow and she evaded him like the genetic disease that wiped out the civilization her adoptive mother was created in. Aria even tried to tell him that they had a doctor/patient relationship and it would be wrong. Mikhail remedied that by using a little known and used ship rule and switched doctors much to Aria's surprise and regret.

Miang spent her time in Engineering. She was at peace but there was one thing on her mind. As much to her surprise, she was discovering she was having feelings for Citan. First there was what happened in the forest when he gently rubbed her back and the other time in his office when her hair brushed against his face. When Miang discovered the feelings she was happy her dreams were no longer nightmares about the Gazel Ministry.

Then one day the three ships and the people aboard them arrived at their new home. At least that is what they believed.


The three ships came out of warp at the same time. "Geez Louise!" yelled Mikhail.

"Collision alert!" yelled Citan.

Proximity alarms went off as Mikhail turned the ship. The Eldridge II almost rammed another ship of unknown configuration.

"Is everyone alright?" asked Emeralda. She saw the communication's officer on the floor favoring his shoulder.

"What was that?" asked Mikhail.

Citan looked at the viewer, his mouth open. A ship of unknown configuration hovered in front of them. It was much smaller than the Eldridge II. Its was light blue and shaped like a scarab beetle.

Emeralda was busy contacting sickbay. "We need a medic up here and a new communications officer."

Citan turned to Emeralda. "Can you run the comm system?"

Emeralda nodded. "I can run all the systems," she said in her matter of fact tone.

"Good," said Citan. "Contact the other two ships and tell them to stand by and do not do a thing. Wait for the alien ship to contact us."

"Mr. Balthasar. Nudge us to point," said Citan. "Make it clear we are the ones they should be interested in."

The Eldridge II flew closer to the alien ship. The reverse triangle became a normal triangle.

"We are being scanned," said Emeralda, who returned to her station. "They are also accessing our files."

"Two can play that game," muttered Citan. "Engineering, we need to be able to scan the other ship and their records."

"Aye sir," said Miang's assistant.

Citan frowned. "Where is the Chief?" he asked

The assistant coughed lightly. "Uh, she was on a ladder when she fell. She's ok, but her bracelet broke. She said she had to get to sickbay right away."

Citan's face turned red. When Deus or whatever force recreated Miang from a paralyzed woman to the ideal representative of womanhood, she ended up with glands that produced pheromones that had an affect on men. The bracelet she wore produced nanomachines that kept the chemicals the glands produced from leaving her body. He pitied any male she ran past in the corridor. "Can you do to the ship what they just did us?"

"Yes sir," said the assistant who relished at the idea of causing some kind of havoc.

"Why should I be nervous?" asked Mikhail.

Citan remembered the times he himself caused trouble when he was an engineer. "Never mess with the people whose job it is to keep the ship running," said Citan. "Making them angry is a bad thing."

"Sir, we are being contacted by the Abel," said Emeralda. "It's the council."

"Tell them this is an emergency and I'm in charge," said Citan. "Then tell the captain of the Abel that if any of them attempts first contact to throw the lot of them in the brig. Also tell the captain do not reply or contact the Elhaym unless its an emergency."

"We don't have brigs," pointed out Emeralda.

"Tell them they do," said Citan. "Tell the captain to use an airlock as a makeshift brig."

Emeralda did not smile. "Yes sir," she said. She thought about Citan's warning about heavy handed tactics and shuddered.

As if picking up her thoughts Citan said, "This is an alien intelligence and we do not know their language. One wrong word and they could attack. Ours is the only ship that is armed."

"Bridge, this is Engineering," said Miang who was catching her breath. "We are ready to scan."

"You alright?" asked Emeralda.

"I'm fine," replied Miang, her voice even, an indication she did not want to talk about it. "Whenever you are ready to scan."

Emeralda scanned the ship. She looked at her display and frowned. "Its alien alright. . .strange, its sort of familiar."

"Split the viewer and put it on," said Citan. He watched as the screen split and ideograms he did not recognize appear. "I've never seen anything like that. Commander are-

"Sir, we are being hailed!" exclaimed the new communication's officer.

"Put them on the viewer if possible," said Citan.

Space and the ideograms vanished. An alien appeared and everyone looked at him with open mouths. "Oh my god," someone whispered. Citan was about to tell them to keep quiet until he realized he was the one who said it.

On the screen was one of the answers to one of the many questions. The alien was Zevsehn.

"Get Xi'Del now!" ordered Citan.


There was plenty of shock and confusion between Xi'Del and the Zevsehn Captain. There were too many centuries between the lost Zevsehn and their home and the language barrier was too great. For now everyone had to wait until something could be done with the language barrier.

Xi'Del took a shuttle to the Eldridge II. After a shaky first encounter, she sat in the conference room with the command staff. "What's the human saying, 'So close, but so far away'?" she asked bitterly. Small wisps of smoke raised from her eyes. Zevsehn's tears were instantly evaporated by the heat of their eyes.

"At least they are peaceful," said Emeralda.

"For that I am thankful," replied Xi'Del.

"How come we didn't know they were here in the first place?" asked Aria.

"The telescope that was used to search for viable humans was looking for planets," explained Miang. "When I was playing catch up with the construction, I was told that whatever charts were left from the first Eldridge was used. The telescope just showed a planet humans could live on."

"How are the Zevsehn's on the Elhaym and Abel doing?" asked Citan.

"Surprised and shocked," answered Xi'Del. "They are wondering why they cannot meet them."

Emeralda nodded. "Just explain to them that we are working out the details."

"I will," said Xi'Del. "In the meantime, what can we do?"

Citan said one of the few things he hated. "We wait. For now its up to them how we proceed."


The Zevsehn Captain did take the initiative. He sent computer simulation showing him arriving on the Eldridge II on his shuttle. Citan returned the message of one showing him standing in front of the other Captain in the Eldridge's shuttle bay.

Hours later, Citan, Xi'Del, and Emeralda were just doing that. The Zevsehn Captain stepped off his shuttle. He was a head taller than Citan and had muscles rippling up and down his body. He looked at all three of them with curiosity.

Finally he went over to Xi'Del and held up his hand, fingers slightly bent like a claw. Xi'Del relaxed, thankful that the cultural rift was not that great. She smiled and made the same motion with her own hand. She touched the captain's fingertips with her own.

He smiled and handed her a device. He placed a similar device in his ear. Xi'Del did the same. "I am Captain Del'Doun." He looked at Emeralda and Citan then at Xi'Del again. "I do not remember hearing of any contact with other races."

"Ours is a long story," replied Xi'Del. "It is like a dream among us." She stood proud and gestured at Citan and Emeralda. "These two people are those who fought a war whose enemy threatened us all."

Del'Doun looked at Citan and Emeralda. He offered them to more devices. Citan took his device and placed it in his ear. Emeralda looked at hers and turned it over. Her palm darkened and her nanomachines raised up and absorbed the device. Del'Doun and his crew gasped and took a step back.

Emeralda blinked after absorbing the device and adding the information into her collective consciousness. "It alright," she said flawlessly in the Zevsehn tongue. "If you want, I can replicate the device if you'd like," she said.

"That is alright," said Del'Doun with wonder. "You look like you are of Citan's race, yet are not."

Emeralda smiled at the captain. "Yes and no. My parents were not able to have children. They created me to be their child and a ray of hope for a troubled time."

"I see," said the captain. "I would like to talk to you more about your parents. Family honor is important to us." Emeralda blushed and everyone laughed.

Del'Doun walked over to Citan. Citan made the same hand gesture. Del'Doun smiled approvingly. "You know our customs well," he said.

"Actually I do not," said Citan. "Humans usually bow or shake hands depending on the region. I did not know if either actions would be considered an insult, or worse, a sign of war."

"Actually a bow means nothing, but a handshake, well I prefer females myself," he said turning his head enough to look at Emeralda.

"We have much to discuss," said Citan trying his hardest to remain calm without laughing. He know had a good idea how Aria felt whenever Mikhail around. "We had believed there was a planet in this area of space that was uninhabited. We were going by ancient records and primitive telescopes."

"I see," said Del'Doun. "I have a feeling this will be a long story. I am curious Citan. Are you the leader here?"

"In a sense," answered Emeralda. "I am an unofficial ambassador and the Eldridge's second in command, but in cases like this or any emergencies, Captain Uzuki is in charge. Overall he has the most life experience."

Citan knew Emeralda was purposely understating her skills. The way his counterpart was looking at her, he had a good idea why. "I think it is best that the Ambassador talk with you for now. I should contact the other two ships and give the news." He turned to Xi'Del. "I think your people will be eager to hear about their homecoming. It has been a long time in coming."


"It is dim," observed Emeralda. He looked around Del'Doun's ship. He colors were mainly white, gold, and blue in various hues and contrasts. The lighting system was low.

Del'Doun shrugged. "By your standards, yes. For us it is perfect. Our eyes generate enough heat and light that we need very little light."

Emeralda looked at Del'Doun with a raised eyebrow. "You are curious how I can see?"

"Yes," said Del'Doun. "I-We have never seen anything like you."

"Do you know what a nanomachine is?" she asked.

"Machines no bigger than a molecule? Our scientists did try to create them. They were unsuccessful with their attempt."

"Before you ask, no," said Emeralda. Every time she admitted what she was the first question was, "How do you work?"

Del'Doun laughed. It sounded like a deep sounding flute. "Do mean concerning your blueprints, as it were, or asking you to join me for dinner."

Emeralda stopped in mid stride. "Dinner?"

"Don't you eat?" asked Del'Doun.

"I can," said Emeralda. "I have foods I like and foods I don't."

"Would you like to tell me which ones you like, say over dinner?" asked Del'Doun.

"I have to meet with the council then meet with Captain Uzuki later," smiled Emeralda. Emeralda instinctively stuck her hand to shake his hand then pulled it back when she realized her mistake.

Del'Doun laughed. "I believe I'm getting, what is the human phrase? Mixed signals?"

"Uh, sorry," muttered Emeralda. I. . .I have to go." She turn and walked away faster than she wanted.


"Its incredible," said Miang. The Eldridge's command staff sat in the conference room talking about everything they found out. "Their planet is farther away from the sun. They receive very little visible light. Hence the reason why their eyes are like they are. On top of that their planet is somewhat cooler than what we are accustomed to."

"How cooler?" asked Mikhail.

"About forty degrees," answered Miang. "Hope everyone brought jackets."

Citan nodded and asked, "Emeralda, what did you find out about their ship?"

Emeralda looked distracted. It took her a moment to realize Citan was talking to her. "Ah, the ship. Their ship is well can be considered pretty by our standards. They place a lot of emphasis on blue, gold, and white. Like their home planet, the ship is dimly lit. It won't take much to for human eyes to adjust so there shouldn't be any problems. Technology wise they the ship is as the same as ours. They also have a device that allows them to go faster than light."

"If any of them visit our ship, we should accommodate the visitors by lowering the ship's lighting system. I'm surprised the captain and his crew don't have headaches by now," said Aria.

"Its sad," said Mikhail.

"What's that?" asked Aria. "None of their women haven't hit on you yet?"

Mikhail shot the doctor a dirty look. "No," he said. "Xi'Del and her ancestors. It must've been hell for them. Living in an area that is hotter and brighter. I'm surprised they aren't blind or having heat strokes every ten seconds."

"Oh," was all Aria could say.

"Emeralda," said Citan. "I want you go to the council and tell them what we found out. I am going to visit their Captain Del'Doun and see if we cannot do something about this mess."

Everyone looked at Citan wondering what he meant. "We are so wrapped up with this discovery everyone forgot something important," he said. "Where do the human colonists go now?"

Chapter V: Alone No Longer

"Mom, are you ok?" asked Aria. She noticed her mother was distracted in the meeting and decided to pay her a visit.

"I'm fine," replied Emeralda. "I have to go pay a visit to the council. You know how that makes me feel. By the way, nice way of keeping Mikhail away."

Aria frowned at her mother. "I was stupid and I'll apologize to him later." Aria's features softened. "Del'Doun is handsome. Even Xi'Del said he was very attractive."

"I'm not attracted to him," muttered Emeralda.

"Was he that special?" asked Aria.

"Who?" asked Emeralda.

"Robert," said Aria. "To know such dedication from one-

"Enough!" snapped Emeralda. "What do you know?!"

Aria looked at her mother with concern. She never talked like that. Not to her, not to anyone. "Mom," said Aria carefully. "Even Citan is moving on with his life. As much as it must be pulling him apart what he is doing will do him good in the long run."

"Its not like that," said Emeralda calming down. "None of you can understand what its like."

Aria reached over and took her mother's hand in hers. "No we can't. In our brief lives, this is all we have," said Aria, gently squeezing her mother's hand.

"I admit, I am attracted to Del'Doun," said Emeralda. "Yet I have the memory of Robert. I loved him with all my being."

"You are conflicted," said Aria. "Did you know that Yui gave Citan permission to remarry?"

"Yes," said Emeralda. "Of course he has been a little busy as of late."

Aria nodded and did not say anything. She knew what was between Citan and Miang even if they did not. "He'll be fine. Robert told you the same thing as Yui said to Citan."

"Yes he did," said Emeralda.

"How long ago?" asked Aria.

"A long time ago," said Emeralda. "There is something I should tell you. You must never tell anyone. This is an order from your mother and superior officer."

Even though Aria was technically the highest ranking officer because she was the only one who could even give Citan an order when his mental or physical health was at risk. "Yes ma'am," said Aria.

"Father gave me a choice," said Emeralda. "A choice to have a. . .limited life span."

Aria's eyes widen. Her mother always said very little on how she worked. What she learned about the darker side of humanity and being exposed to Krelian made her very cautious. "At any time can you do this?" asked Aria.

"There were times when I would be near making that decision but a crisis of some kind would appear," said Emeralda.

"What is the other reason?" asked Aria.

Emeralda laughed. "I guess keeping anything from you is pointless. I learned to value life so much that if I chose a mortal life I might be throwing my potential away. That is wrong."

"There is nothing wrong with loving again," said Aria. "Robert and Yui both understood that. It seems Robert loved you as much as Yui loved Citan. They did not want the persons they loved to alone without an intimate partner. Do not be afraid of destroying your commitment to Robert. Live as he wanted you to and honor him."

"Thank you," said Emeralda. She tilted her head slightly. "Now about Mikhail."

Before Aria could reply the red alert alarm went off. Emeralda contacted the bridge. "What's going on?" she demanded.

"There's a whole bunch of ships out there," said the communication's officer. "They are all armed and are demanding our surrender."

"Get the captain now!" ordered Emeralda.


The two captains walked down the corridor toward the Eldridge's engine room. The hallway's were dimly lit. "Thank you," said Del'Doun.

"For what?"asked Citan.

"For making my visit comfortable," said Del'Doun. "After our initial meeting on your ship, I ended up with a headache."

"We did not know at the time that bright light was bad for your people," said Citan.

"Its alright," said Del'Doun. "I'm surprised you did not though. Our people have lived with your for a very long time."

Citan stopped and sighed. "Their ancestors had a rough time on the planet. They were not. . .treated well."

Del'Doun looked at Citan with a questioning look. Citan also saw a hint of anger. "As you can see we are getting along. Right now I am having the records of the planet's past put together for you to read. Some of it may seem incredible and others unbelievable. For as strange as it all is, it is all true."

"You are a warrior," said Del'Doun. "I see it in your eyes and the way you walk."

"I was. . .a soldier," said Citan not wanting to add more than that.

"Captains," said Miang.

The two men turned and saw Miang walking toward them. "Sir," said Miang to Citan. "I've finished talking with the other engineers. We have a plan for a lightweight outfit for cold climates. If anyone visits the Zevsehn home world will be warm without the extra layers of clothes."

"Very good," said Citan. He turned to Del'Doun and said, "Captain Del'Doun, this is Chief Miang, the Eldridge's chief engineer.

Del'Doun raised his hand and Miang returned the gesture by touching his fingertips with her own. "I am honored to meet you," said Miang.

"Thank you," said Del'Doun. He looked at Miang's hair with wonder. "Your hair. . .if I did not know better I'd say you had some Zevsehn in you. He laughed then stopped noticing the two humans were not. His eyes glowed in surprised. "You mean?"

"Yes," said Miang. "In a sense I'm a hybrid of our two races."

"As I said, the planet we left has an amazing story," said Citan.

"Would you like to see our engine room?" asked Miang.

Del'Doun was still trying to grasp the revelation about Miang. "I-I'd like to," he stammered.

"Its right around the corner," said Miang.

They entered Engineering and Del'Doun looked right at the Zohar Modifier. "What, how?" he asked. "I've seen many remains of lost civilizations but nothing ever pointed at that."

"Basically it draws power from the vacuum of space," said Miang. "It also permits us to travel faster than light."

Del'Doun whistled. "We use a quantum anomaly on our ships."

Del'Doun's communicator beeped and he muttered something that the translators that Miang and Citan wore did not translate. "What is it?" asked Del'Doun not happy at being disturbed.

Citan and Miang stepped away to give Del'Doun privacy. They watched shock slowly form on the Zevsehn's face. He signed off and walked over to Citan and Miang. "I'm sorry," he said. "There are. . .elements in my society that are not happy that you are here. Even less happy at what you have on board your ships." He pointed out the Zohar Modifier.

Citan stopped himself from swearing. "What will you do?"

"I have to go back to my ship," Del'Doun. "I have a feeling something terrible is going to hap-

The captain was cut off as two things happened. The red alert alarms went off and Miang screamed and started to fall.

Citan caught her before she fell to the floor. He had a hard time keeping her calm. Her enhanced strength was not making things easy. Del'Doun went over to help. "No!" said Citan. "Go back to your ship, they need you!"

Del'Doun was a soldier himself and understood. "Agreed. Take care Citan and pray we meet again."

"Someone contact sickbay!" ordered Citan. He tried his hardest to keep from hurting the both of them while wondering what was going on.


Citan ran to the bridge trying to be calm. First, Miang collapses at the worst possible time and now he faced his first real trial as captain.

He entered the bridge and everyone looked at him. They were scared and at the same time hopeful that Citan could get them out of this.

Citan sat down and looked at the screen. Behind Del'Doun's ship was a flotilla. "How many ships?"

"Twenty five," said Emeralda. "All have shields and weapons online."

"Contact Del'Doun," ordered Citan.

"I'm trying, sir," said the communications officer. "No reply."

"Jamming?" asked Emeralda.

"No, ma'am. They just won't return our hail."

"Damn it," muttered Citan in one of the rare times he would swear. "I think they are jamming us in a way we do not understand. What is going on over there?"

Citan's got his answer by an incoming message. "On screen," said Citan.

Another Zevsehn appeared on the screen. He wore heavy blue and gold robes. Zevsehn ideograms were sewn on the robes. "How dare you!" demanded the Zevsehn. "You bring a demon to our world to destroy us!"

Citan looked at the Zevsehn's expression. It was one of anger and something else. Citan's frown deepened as he realized the other expression. Arrogance without bounds. Citan knew such people very well. Rule one of diplomacy, treat rudeness with kindness. "I am Captain Citan Uzuki and I have not had the honor. I do not know your name."

"I am Zern Ke'Verack of the Baris Order," said the Zevsehn.

Citan took a risk and hoped Zern was his title. "Honored Zern, we mean you no harm. We were journeying to what we believed was an uninhabited planet."

"And if it was inhabited you would make sure to make it uninhabited," replied Zern Ke'Verack.

Emeralda mouthed the word, "Ehtos," and Citan nodded. Difference race, different name, the same arm twisting arrogance.

Citan stood up and started to walk back and forth. He knew of only one way to deal with people like this. "Ke'Verack," said Citan foregoing the man's title. Citan smiled as the Zern clenched his teeth. "It is strange that your own government and military has welcomed us. On top of that this world is not viable for humans," continued Citan putting emphasis on the word military.

Ke'Verack smiled which caused Citan to frown. "We are not part of the military or the central government," said Ke'Verack.

The screen suddenly split and Del'Doun appeared on the right side of the screen. "Thank you for the admission Zern Ke'Verack," he said holding his own temper in check.

"Del'Doun," said Ke'Verack, his tone full of ice. "You are no longer part of this. The Zriath have agreed."

"I haven't received my orders," said Del'Doun. "If someone would stop jamming then maybe I would. Of course without communications, you could always claim they attacked and I was destroyed. I would be dead and you would most likely advance in your. . .order. . .as it is. I've read the same records as you have concerning humans. They and our people went through so much on that planet. Should they be destroyed by the people they put their trust in?"

"I'm guessing these demons are the devices that allow us to go faster than light and power our ships," said Citan.

Ke'Verack nodded. "Those who build the demons must be cleansed by fire."

Both Emeralda and Citan felt cold. On the planet they left the Ethos cleansed the Wels who were really mutated humans by killing them. Del'Doun answered before Citan. "Cleansed by fire? Those words have not been spoken by any Zern for almost five centuries. What did you want them to do? Die along with the planet they left?"

"Its better to die than to give in to temptation," replied the Zern.

Citan knew the so-called holy man's words were hollow. Such words were spoken in the Holy Book but they were spoken by someone who spoke the truth with conviction. "Is there not another way?" he asked. "We do not want to fight. If you wish we can even leave the system and go our own way."

Ke'Verack turned his head and said something that was not in the translator. He turned back to the viewer and said, "No."

Citan knew two could play that game. "Commander, what do you think?" he asked in a perfectly flawless Solarian dialect that had not been spoken in almost one hundred years.

Emeralda smiled and said in the same tongue, "They are arrogant like the Ethos. We have to tread lightly."

"He is afraid of something," replied Citan. "If it was something with the Zohar Modifiers we would have been in this mess way before now."

"Keeping secrets?" asked Ke'Verack through clenched teeth.

A plan was already forming in Citan's mind. It took root and grew. He sighed and slumped in his chair. He looked at Emeralda with a look of despair. A look he did not have since Deus awoke. He looked back the screen. "Del'Doun, I thank you for your hospitality. Ke'Verack. . .I surrender."

"No surrender," said Ke'Verack.

"You do not understand," said Citan. "My life for everyone else. There is no need for bloodshed. I am in charge and have to be responsible for my people's actions. That includes the actions taken before the Zohar Modifiers were put in the ships. Allow the rest to leave unharmed and you can do with me as you wish."

Ke'Verack looked at Citan to see if he was lying. He bit his lip in thought. "Yes," he finally said. "We will also need our lost people returned."

"They are staying anyway," said Citan. "This is their home. I will go to Del'Doun's ship. We all will meet on your home world."

"I also suggest the colonists come on my ship," said Del'Doun. "Their representative and I have talked. I believe they would be more comfortable on my ship. They have gone through so many. . .tribulations. They should be treated as heros."

"Indeed," said Ke'Verack. He sighed and said, "So be it. You have two of your hours to be on Del'Doun's ship."

The transmission was cut and Emeralda went over to Citan. "So when do we pull the big rescue?"

"There is not going to be no rescue," said Citan.

Everyone on the bridge looked at Citan. "That is a direct order," said Citan. "Commander when the Zevsehn colonists and I are on Del'Doun's ship you are to turn our ships around and go to warp."

"Captain," said Mikhail, his voice near pleading. "I wouldn't put it past those jokers to blow you out of the sky along with us if they got the chance."

"It will not come to that," replied Citan. "They are after something. What I do not know. They are using the Zohar Modifiers as an excuse. What matters is that the colonists are safe."

"With all due respect," said Mikhail. "They can commit the perfect murder and cover the truth."

"No one would be worried our fate. He could say we were keeping the Zevsehn colonists hostage and they were left with no choice. I know that," Citan got up and walked to his office. The doors opened. "As for the truth, well, the truth always come out," he said as the doors closed behind him.


"W-what happened?" asked Miang. She sat up in the medical bed.

Aria stood by the bed. "The red alarm went off and you panicked."

Miang smiled ruefully. "I don't think I'm as over my past as I thought I was."

"The red alert alarms went off on the original Eldridge?" asked Aria.

"All the alarms went off. Even the ones the normally would not have," answered Miang. "On that subject, what caused ours to go off?"

"The Zevshen idea of the Ethos popped up," said Aria. "They want to blow us up because of the Zohar Modifiers."

Miang went from surprise to anger. "They aren't getting away with it." She got up and started to walk out.

"You aren't going any where," ordered Aria.

Miang smiled. "I'm fine mentally and physically. I promise it won't happen again."

Aria was not able to look at Miang. "Citan already took care of it. He also said not to do anything rash."

"He's doing something stupid like sacrificing himself so we all live," said Miang. "He was known for doing that in the Elements. Well there's nothing I can do except pray for him and go back to Engineering."

Aria knew Miang had feelings for Citan for some strange reason. They were both enemies at one time and from what little Miang said of her past they hated each other. Aria shook her head not sure what to tell Miang as she left.


Citan entered the shuttle bay and walked over to the small ship. He sighed and traced his fingers along the hull. 'Well. . .this was a quick trip. At least for me anyway.'

He lowered the ramp and started to walk up it when Miang called out to him. "I'd say it's a nice day for a flight but the traffic looks nasty."

Citan turned to her. "Miang. How are you feeling?"

"Right now, anger. I'll feel embarrassed at what happened in Engineering later." Miang walked over to Citan. "Citan, with all due respect, what in the Gazel Ministry's rotting bodies are you doing?!"

"I am saving everyone's lives," replied Citan, his voice angry.

"That's not what I mean," said Miang. She shook her head and looked at Citan. "Citan. . .you and I have more in common then we will ever believe."

"No we do not," said Citan.

"That's a load of Gear exhaust!" shot back Miang. "We both have enough blood on our hands to drown in it. I can see it in your eyes old friend. You pulling the same damn stunt you used to do in the Elements for the wrong damn reason. I think you're doing this because what you did in the past not to make sure everyone gets out alive at the cost of your life. You paid your dues in a court of law."

Citan shook his head and laughed. "When did I become so. . .readable?"

"You always were," said Miang. "Everyone besides Emperor Cain and most likely Yui were afraid to tell you these things to your face."

"I was that bad?"

"Uh-huh," answered Miang. "We all were. For me at least, I know I can change."

"You are right," said Citan. "Thank you. Time to do this for the right reason." He continued up the ramp and Miang followed him. "What are you doing?"

"I'm coming with you," said Miang.

Citan turned to Miang and became like he once was with unruly people in the Solaris Court. "You are going back to Engineering, Chief. That is a direct order. Not even you disobeyed one of Kahr's orders."

"Not in front of everyone, no," replied Miang. "In private was another matter. There were times when we had some nasty arguments that when I used my telepathy to sooth him his shielding would be as strong as the Emperor's. I have to go."

"For what reason?" asked Citan.

Miang raised her eyebrow. "Didn't you forget what we talked about with Del'Doun? I'm a hybrid and am honor bound to go."

"I agreed that myself and the Zevsehn. You are not of either worlds and are not bound by the agreement," said Citan.

Miang sat in the co-pilot's chair. "Nice try. If you are trying to insult me its going to work in the way you don't want. You know you can always try to remove me forcefully from the shuttle."

Citan shook his head. And Emeralda accused him of heavy handed tactics? "If I did not know better I would have to say you are slipping into old habits."

"I'm supposed to be the embodiment of womanhood," said Miang smiling at Citan. "You know women always get what they want. Especially this one."

Citan's gulped and powered up the shuttle. The look in Miang's eyes was what? Enticement? Hope? Seduction? Citan knew there was one mystery that would never be solved and their representative was sitting next to him.


Without any ceremony, Miang and Citan took their first steps onto an alien ship. "I wonder how they felt when they first stepped onto a Devshen ship?" asked Miang.

"Who is that?" asked Citan.

Miang smiled and said, "I. . don't remember the original contact."

"That's alright," said Citan.

"Then again I was just a baby at the time," added Miang. "I wonder if it isn't me they are after. I gave some thought to the problem. The Devsehn idea of the Ethos wants something else."

"I know," said Citan. "Their idea of religion is called the Baris Order."

"Whatever," said Miang. "They're trouble no matter how you look at it."

"I see my people are not the only ones who have to suffer such things," said Del'Doun walking toward them. The smile he wore was forced.

"Del'Doun," said Miang putting on her best smile.

"Chief Miang," said Del'Doun. "Why are you here?"

"She has some idea that because she has Zevsehn blood she needs to go with the Zevsehn colonists," answered Citan who was not happy with the concept.

"And she might be right," said Del'Doun. "I thought a