Authors: Nazarea Andrews
“I KNOW, DADDY. I understand. I’ll be home soon.” Sadi glares at her
commlink as the Senator starts berating her again. Finally, she holds the
device out to Brando. “He wants you.”
The bodyguard doesn’t say anything as he turns and walks away, listening
to whatever the Senator is bitching about. I frankly don’t care. But I reach
for Sadi’s mind anyway. -
Why is he upset?-
-Because in less than a month I managed to get
kicked off Cenktari.
And we’re headed to
the blood sport Capitol of the galaxy.-
I shrug. -
What’s the worst he can do?-
She swivels in her chair to gape at me. Beside her, Tin glances briefly
at us, but doesn’t interfere. Smart man
. -The worst? Cut me off, I suppose.
Although, he would never do that. His constituents adore me. He could always
confine me to New Earth. Don’t think he wouldn’t do the same or worse to you.
threatening to send you
back to Eleyiar.-
-That is hardly a threat,-
observe and she snorts.
-It is if he does it before we find Chosi’le.
The Pente will never allow you to buy her. For that matter, they may not allow
Fury simmers in my veins but I take a deep breath, pushing it away. -
not worried. They’ll sell her, or I’ll burn the jakta to the ground. I don’t
care who or what is destroyed as long as I get my sister back.-
She’s staring at me, and I can feel the revulsion and confusion in her.
I don’t point out that I am what circumstance has made me. That I was never
violent on Eleyiar, or before being Taken. Sadi would find no comfort in that
Brando comes back to the Leen’s bridge, and hands Sadi her commlink. I
watch, amused at how he carefully avoids touching her. “Your father is unhappy,
She shrugs, though I can feel the tension rolling off her. “I need to
find his sister, Brando. I promised.”
Unable to help myself, I touch the blank wall that is Brando’s mind and
Think of it as a kind of duty. Maybe that will help.-
He flinches. “Fine. But Tinex and I will be with you at all times on-planet,
and I reserve the right to hire more security if I think it’s needed.”
“I don’t want more security,” she snaps. “I don’t want the new security
It’s a well-aimed blow, and on the heels of mine, Brando stiffens and
glares at both of us. “And I want the full truth. Is the romance between you
and the Eleyi more than a public show?”
She smiles, a cold, impersonal smile that hints at nothing she feels.
“That is not your business. Your
concern is my safety—and Juhan does nothing to jeopardize that.”
He doesn’t react to her words outwardly, but I feel the whiplash of pain
that he struggles to suppress. And then it’s gone, and he nods with respect.
“Fine, Ms. Renult. What are your plans?”
She swivels to look at Tin, and he clears his throat. “We hacked the
Yalten Queen’s records and found a name.”
Brando frowns. “How do you know who the queen is?”
“It’s Xtenanya,” Sadi says, and I feel the disgust in her, the sharp
surprise from Brando as he processes this.
When he finally speaks, his voice is controlled, vicious with barely
leashed anger. “You bought a slave from Xtenayna? Sadi, what the fuck?”
She meets his gaze, defiant. I touch Tin’s mind. -
Why does it matter?
What is so horrible about Xtenanya?-
He flicks a glance at me, unnoticed by the others. -
It was never
proven, but Brando always believed she was behind the kidnapping.-
My blood freezes at that, and I close my eyes, briefly. -
Why did you
go to her?-
-Sadi’s choice. She’s known for discretion, and
we needed that.-
He shrugs. -
Hell, because she knew if Brando
ever found out, he’d be furious. Looks like she was right.-
“I should drag you back to New Earth and your father,” Brando says.
His expression is tight, and I’d be amused at
the situation, if I weren’t so irritated we were still arguing instead of
“You’re welcome to try,” Sadi snaps, twisting to the controls, “but
explaining this to Daddy isn’t something you want to do, is it? Tinex allowed
me to go. You hired Tin and gave him control of my security.”
He’s silent, and I feel the frustration boiling in him, feel the angry
glare directed at me for a heartbeat before he snarls, “Plot your course, Sadi,
before I change my mind.”
To her credit, she doesn’t gloat. “Leen, plot a course for Pente,” she
orders, adjusting something on the panel.
“We will need fuel and provisions,” the ship says calmly.
Sadi mutters something under her breath, and the ship chirps, “Does not
“Fine. Take us to the nearest IPS planet. We’ll resupply. From there,
plot to Pente.”
The ship is silent for a long moment and then a brightly lit path
through the starry space shines on the screen. “Course set. We will arrive in
“Thank you,” Tin murmurs to the ship’s AI.
Sadi looks at me, eyebrow raised.
“We’re on our way, Juhan. Are you happy?”
I stand and turn away—I’m deliberately being disrespectful. I wonder
when Tin or Brando will have enough, who will pull me back into line and make
me obey my owner.
I wonder if Sadi will allow it.
A part of me—a part that is growing louder every day—hates forcing this.
I straighten, and as I stalk to the cargo hold, I throw the thought over my
I won’t be happy, Sadi, until I have my sister.-
The planet looms brilliant and large in the Leen’s view finder, a
shimmering sphere of silver and teal.
“The closest IPS planet,” Brando says, his voice flat. “You didn’t think
to specify any further than that? Maybe to a non-hostile planet?”
Sadi frowns. “It belongs to the IPS. How hostile can they be?”
We all stare at her until the Leen answers, “Renlarte are known through
the IPS for their fierceness, the disinclination to accept visitors on their
home world, and their undefeated military. Secondarily, they are known for the
small psychic abilities in their young.” Sadi colors a little, toying with a
I pause at the computer’s words.
The Renlarte are hostile—very much so. No one has ever enslaved a
Renlarte for an ability they were born with. Because the first time Others
landed their space craft on Renlarte, every person on it was slaughtered. All
but the two children of the captain, who were sent back to the IPS with orders
never to invade their atmosphere again.
“We could go to another planet. The ship has enough fuel to get us to
Ecklon 2,” Tin says.
“How long would that take?” I murmur
“Forty hours,” the Leen answers without pause. Sadi glances up at me,
and I can see her thinking.
“No. We’re here. We’ll follow their laws and we’ll leave,” she says
finally, turning back to her control panel. “Tin, open a line of
Brando is quiet, but I can feel Tin’s worry as he keys up a vidcomm
The Renlarte who answers is briskly efficient. “State your name and
reason for entering our atmosphere.”
Sadi doesn’t point out that we haven’t, actually. She smiles brightly at
the pale-faced Other, and says, “Sadi Renult of New Earth.” She pauses, almost
as if waiting.
“Reason for coming to Renlarte, Ms. Renult?” the alien says, its voice
“To resupply my ship, and purchase fuel.”
The alien looks over something—I’d bet my freedom it is a summary of
Sadi and her craft. “Declare all persons with you,” it says.
Her eyes flick to me, and she licks her lips, a wash of nerves hitting
me. “Juhan’tr of Eleyiar, my bodyguards Tin Watson and Brando Miltar, both of
The elongated androgynous white face frowns, its eyes suddenly cold and
angry. “You bring a slave? We permit no slaves on Renlarte,” it says.
“He isn’t a slave,” she counters. “He’s my consort.”
The Renlarte pauses, and I feel a delicate tickle in the recesses of my
mind. Then it’s gone. “You and your ship are permitted for a twelve hour
cycle,” the Renlarte says. “Please open your ship systems to receive
Sadi keys a command in, and the Leen announces, almost proudly, “Route
accepted. Arrival in one hour.”
“Be warned: violence is not tolerated on Renlarte,” the alien says, his
tone severe. The statement is so laughable I think we all do well by our lack
of reaction. “Leash your bodyguards, Renult. Your father’s name will not protect
them if they break our peace.”
She nods, and the display comm blinks to black.
“Sadi, this is a bad idea,” Tin says in the silence.
“Shut up, Tinex. It’s the best option we have. It won’t be difficult for
you two to behave, will it?”
Brando eyes her, amusement flickering in his eyes for a moment before
it’s gone. “What of the Eleyi? He’s a slave, whatever you tell them. And if the
Renlarte look closely at us, they’ll find it in his mind.”
“Why would they?” she asks.
Brando smiles. “That you’re Senator Harvine’s daughter could have
something to do with it. They might not care much for politics, but they still
answer to the IPS and they won’t want to antagonize your father.”
She nibbles her lip and looks at me. -
Can you do this?-
I nod. -
I need the hour.-
In my tiny bunk, I sit with my legs crossed under me. It is so easy to
let myself get caught in the waves of anger coursing through me. Benlet’le did
not tell me, when he was mentoring me, how potent anger could be, once I gave
in to the lure. I take a deep breath, and force my wings to relax, lie flat on
my back, my muscles to unclench, slowly relaxing each part of my body until I
slump on the bed. My back aches. The anger has left me strung so tightly, it
hurts to relax. I close my eyes, slip deeper within myself, until there is
nothing but my mind, empty and waiting, and the blank space around me, devoid
of the sparkling stars that are my people. The Renlarte psychics gleam, a muted
jeweled light, concentrated in a single area of the planet. It is slightly to
our left as the Leen approaches the space port we have been sent to.
I gather all my anger, all my fury at Sadi and my slavery, my regrets
surrounding Chosi, all the bitterness and rage, and wrap it tightly in a tiny
ball, tucking it so deep behind my mental walls it should never be found. I’m
strong enough that the Renlarte should never be able to touch that thought, not
buried deep in my mind.
As I sit back, surveying my mind absent of the anger, it occurs to me: I
could leave it there. I could leave the anger and Chosi’le, the truth behind
everything where it is hidden. Sadi flashes in my mind, and it startles me to
realize I could be happy with her, if I set aside my anger.
A few deep breaths pull me back to myself, and I feel lighter as I
“Sadi would like you to dress,” the Leen states and I nod.
I shower and let the ship dry me, stepping back into the tiny cubicle to
find a set of clothes: a pair of tan synthetic linen pants, and a cream tunic
that hangs open.
Sadi is waiting, wearing a loose, flowing cream dress that brushes the
tops of her knees. She glances back at Brando and arches an eyebrow. “Ready?”
Brando pauses, studying me, and then pulls out a laser blade and hands
it to me. Conscious of Sadi’s curious gaze, I crouch, tucking it into my boot
before I straighten and give them a tight smile. Brando nods at Sadi. “We’re
She rolls her eyes, but I can feel the anxiety crackling off her psyche
like lightning. I reach for her, twisting my fingers with hers as the Leen’s
bay doors slide open and we walk down the ramp together.
The Leen is the only ship without Renlarte markings, and I wonder how
many Others are on-planet right now. Then a group of Renlarte jogs up to us and
I focus on them. The Renlarte are
vaguely humanoid, with elongated, sexless features, stocky bodies and
sharp, bony ridges on their arms. The ones approaching us are military,
identical in their sleek gray uniforms. It’s a small unit—five—all carrying
long staffs, short, curved swords hanging from their belts.
Soldiers. Low ranking ones, from the simple knots in their hair. All
have the milk-white skin, long, straight, black hair, and the androgynous
features that make it impossible to tell their sex.
One steps away from the other four, and I glance at its hair. Slightly
higher rank. “Welcome to Renlarte. We will be your escort for the duration of
your stay. If you could tell us what you need, we will see to it that it is