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It was the worst roller coaster ride Shanti had ever been on in her life. The ship bumped up and down, went faster, rose higher, dipped lower. Shanti gripped her stomach certain she was about to lose the lentils she’d eaten for dinner at the ashram.
Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up into the large eyes of Niao.
“Do not be afraid.” The little boy entwined his long fingers with Shanti’s. “All will be well.”
Calmness washed over Shanti. Like, literally, washed over her. She felt it creep through her fingers and up her arms.
Shanti yanked her fingers free. “What are you doing to me?”
The child looked guileless. “Giving you zen.”
Another bump sent Shanti’s stomach lurching. She reached out for the boy’s hand. Upon contact, her stomach relaxed, her nerves calmed. She looked again into this child’s eyes. Eyes so much like Chen’s. The same wide-eyed wonder. The same welcoming smile.
A movement to the side caught her attention. The other one, the darker one, braced himself in the middle of the floor, his hand on a staff, a scowl on his face.
Silence reigned for long moments until Shanti could take no more.
“So you guys are aliens?”
“We are Eloheem,” Niao answered. The fingers of his free hand reached out to pet Shanti’s wrists as though she were a frightened child and he was the adult to soothe her fears.
“And you’re twins?”
“We are brothers. Eloh are born in pairs.”
Shanti watched the boy’s mouth, noticing that it did move as he communicated with her. But it moved as though she were watching a poorly dubbed Saturday Morning Kung Fu movie. “You’re not speaking English, are you?”
“No, I am speaking Eloh.”
“Am I speaking Eloh?”
“No, you are speaking your Earth language.”
“How am I understanding you?”
“You have entwined with Chen-Na.”
Shanti assumed entwined was their idea of having toe-curling sex. But she was not going to ask for clarification from two children.
“The exchange of essence allowed him to connect with your mind, including your language. Chen-Na showed us your speech pattern. We can communicate telepathically now. Language is easy for younglings. Our minds are still forming. The adults’ brain patterns are largely set in their waves and new patterns are hard to form.”
“So I don’t have to speak to talk with you?”
“You are too weak,” this came from the darker twin standing guard. “You don’t know how to block all of your thoughts.” He glared at Shanti. “Unfortunately.”
Shanti was not about to let a child talk that way to her. She jumped to her feet. “Now listen here, you need to check that attitude.”
In response, the boy puffed up his chest. “Hsing-I put me in charge-“
“What’s your name?”
He frowned at her interruption, but answered. “My name is Nse.”
Nse bristled as Shanti advanced. “Nse, where I come from, little boys get spanked if they dare to raise their voices to adults.”
Time outs were one new age band wagon that Shanti’s parents never jumped on. Nse narrowed his eyes at Shanti as though he read her mind.
“Where’s your mother?” Shanti asked.
“Dead.” Nse was emotionless as he said it.
Shanti recoiled. “I’m sorry. What about your father?”
“My father is the one that is attacking us.”
Though there were no windows, Shanti looked around as though she could see this irate parent intent on their destruction. “Did Chen abduct you too?”
Nse crinkled his nose in disgust. “Hsing-I and Chen-Na saved us after our father went into madness. He is our father no more. If he saw us, he would snap our necks without a care, such is the way of the Marred Ones.”
Another bump wracked through the ship as though to punctuate Nse’s points. Then the ship stopped shaking, but Shanti’s world did not. This is not what she signed up. She’d come to India to figure out what to do with her life. When she’d agreed to come with Chen, she’d let her hormones do the heavy lifting of the decision. But she was thinking very clearly right now. What Shanti knew for sure was that she did not want to be on an alien spaceship in the middle of a domestic despute.
“I want to leave,” Shanti took a step towards the door. But Nse stepped into her path.
“It is not safe. Hsing sent me to protect you.”
“You’re a child. You can’t protect me. You should be taking a nap.”
Nse’s eyes narrowed. He stepped back from her and spun his staff. Shanti watched wide-eyed as this child went through a series of martial arts moves that would put Bruce Lee to shame. When he finished he stamped his staff into the floor.
Shanti raised an eyebrow. “Okay, so you have some skills with a staff.”
A gleam of pride showed at the corner of Nse’s eyes, but he quickly wiped the look away and returned to his scowl.
“But I still want to go,” Shanti said.
A hand came to rest on Shanti’s shoulder and with it a return to peace. “My brother is right, Shanti,” said Niao. “It is not safe right now. Chen-Na sent us to keep you company. Your bondmates will not let anything come to harm you.”
“It seems to me that Chen bringing me onto this ship put me into harm’s way.”
“Hsing-I will thwart the Marred Ones,” said Nse.
“I thought you said your father was attacking us.”
Nse nodded. “Our father is marred.”
“It means,” said Niao, “that our father has lost both his brother and our mother. When an Eloh male loses his brother or his female, he can become unbalanced. If he loses both, he can lose his grasp on reality.”
“So what you’re saying to me is that your brand of aliens don’t do break ups well?”
Both children looked at her in confusion. Nse relaxed his stance at the door. “We are safe now.”
“How do you know?”
“Our father is gone.” There was no sadness or inflection in Niao’s voice. “Your bondmate is here.”
Chen? Chen had come back. Shanti hated that her heart skipped a beat at the thought of him. He’d kidnapped her. Abducted her. Took her on a ship and promptly gotten into a fight. But now he was back.
“I look forward to speaking with you again, Shanti.” Niao took her hands once more. Then both of the boys moved to the door as it opened.
There wasn’t a handle that turned. The door simply dematerialized before her. Had that happened when she’d come in with Chen?
As the door faded away, Shanti caught the sight of Chen’s robes. Then his long fingers that had brought her to orgasmic heights she’d never reached. Only…those hands were darker.
Shanti looked up into a face, a scowling face with narrowed eyes and a darker shade of blue.
“Greetings, Hsing-I,” the boys said in unison.
Hsing-I’s eyes were on Shanti, roving up and down her body. Shanti wanted to grab a sheet and cover herself.
Hsing-I looked down at the boys. Niao grinned openly at Hsing and then went off down the hallway. Shanti saw a break in Nse’s scowl as he looked up at the older male. Hsing gave the boy an imperceptible nod. It was as though the sun broke on Nse’s face and the smallest of smiles turned up the boy’s lip at the acknowledgement. Nse bowed the upper half of his body and then trailed after his brother down the hall.
Hsing stepped into the room crowding Shanti in. The door reappeared solidly behind him. His broad body offered her no escape.