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“No no no no! Chen!”
The agony in Shanti’s voice chilled Hsing’s blood. He pulled her to him and buried her face in his chest so that she would not have to look at the sight any more. Before them was a debris field of metal. It was a Grey ship, blown apart by sonar blast.
“No, he’s not gone,” Shanti sobbed.
With the ships innards floating around in the abyss of the Heavens there was no way that any life on board had survived.
When Hsing’s parents were killed by their marred brethren he’d felt an emptiness open and threaten to swallow him whole. He didn’t feel that now. He just felt numb.
Part of him wanted to shove Shanti away, fearful of what his first action as a marred Eloh would do to her. But another part of him, a louder part, clutched her to him, unwilling to ever let her go.
Hsing turned his head at the sound of Pakua’s voice.
“The Grey ship that destroyed this one can’t be far. We’re still in danger. We have to get out of here now.”
Pakua was right. Hsing had a responsibility to his people. He’d kept them safe this far. He’d first have to get them to safety, and then he would have to turn over leadership in preparation for his demise. Pakua was the best candidate. Although Eloheem tribes were communal, there had to be one voice, one mind that spoke above others. It was the way of things.
“Hsing.” Shanti tugged at his attention.
Hsing looked down into her lovely face. He ran his fingertips over her eyelids, felt her breath on his palm. He’d just lost his brother and now he had to give this up too. Giving her up would surely be the thing that broke him.
“He’s not gone,” she insisted.
Hsing wanted to tell her all would be well, to use comforting words with her as Chen would do. But it was not in his nature. He only knew how to speak whole truths. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come out.
“There’s else something there.” Pakua peered out of the bay window. “It’s the Greys, another ship.”
Hsing released Shanti and dashed over to the command. “They have to have seen us. We can’t outrun them.”
Hsing turned at Shanti’s raised voice.
“Chen is on that ship,” she said. “Can’t you feel him?”
Hsing turned back to the ship. It sat still in the Heavens, not advancing nor retreating. A very un-Grey-like position. The ship was dark, as though powered down. From this distance, Hsing could just make out scratches and dings on the ship. The damage looked as though it had been from small debris, like discarded satellites. Which meant that his brother and the Marred Ones were on this other ship and the debris field was a different Grey ship.
Hsing reached out. And there he was. He felt his brother. Alive.
They were close enough to communicate, but Chen didn’t answer Hsing’s psychic hail. Along their connection, Hsing felt pain, despair, shame. And then Chen shut him down.
“Pakua, take the command. I’m going to board the ship.”
“I’m coming with you.” Shanti made to follow him.
Hsing put a hand out to stop her, but before he could she stopped him.
“Did we not just have a whole heart to hearts conversation about this?”
Hsing didn’t have time to argue and compromise with her. He had to get to Chen. It was his responsibility.
“You are not alone,” Shanti continued. “I’m with you.”
Those words warmed Hsing’s hearts. He wanted to crush her to him, but he steeled his features to impassive. “It is too dangerous. The Marred Ones can hurt you through me.”
“Then you take on the Marred Ones and I’ll find Chen. You can’t do this alone.”
She was right about that. Hsing raised his head to Pakua.
“No,” said Shanti. “You can’t ask him to go. If for some reason you fail, then his brother will be hurt as well. Its you and me.”
Hsing sighed. He realized she was right.
“We’re going together,” Shanti said. “And we’re bringing him back.”
Shanti led the way to the heliopad. With a small smile on his face, Hsing followed behind. She stepped aboard the pad, then turned and held her hand out to him. Hsing took it, then wrapped her body into his.
“Once we’re on board,” he said, “you’ll follow my lead.”
“If I see that its too dangerous and I say return to the heliopad without me, you’ll do it.”
She hesitated., shut her eyes. When she opened them, she nodded. Hsing saw the truth in her eyes.
They landed onto the ship’s landing pad to no ceremony. Looking over at the command, Hsing saw the reason why. There lay Ngai, Niao and Nse’s father, slumped over the command. Hsing assumed his demise had been from the blast of the other Grey ship. He saw that he was wrong when he saw the dagger sticking out of Ngai’s back. This had to be another Eloh.
Cold dread went down Hsing’s back. He recalled Chen’s feeling of shame. Could his brother be capable of such a thing?
Hsing reached out for his brother. He felt him deep in the ship. With Shanti tucked at his back, he found his way down.
Chen stood in a room with three cowering human females. The women shook further when they spied Hsing.
Chen looked up to see his brother. There was something hollow, dead in his eyes.
Shanti flew past Hsing and into Chen’s arms. Chen closed his eyes and breathed her in. Hsing felt the strain melting away from his brother.
Hsing stepped further into the room. In a corner, he saw the slumped figure of NAME, a dagger on the floor beside him. Hsing’s eyes connected with his brother’s.
“He’s not dead,” Chen said. “I subdued him.”
“He took these women?”
“We’ll return them to Earth.”
“We can’t. More Gray ships will surround the planet once they find both these ships. We have to return to the Mothership.”
“But you said we could go home,” wailed one of the women.
Shanti stepped up to the women. “I’m sorry. But its not safe. We have to go now.”
Shanti helped the women up and out of the room.
Chen went over and lifted Ngai’s body.
“What are you doing?” asked Hsing.
“He’s coming home with us. There is redemption for him, I know it.”
“Chen we can’t-“
“I was prepared to sacrifice my life for you and Shanti. But I was also prepared to kill him to protect the both of you. I thought through both scenarios with a rational mind. And when presented with the opportunity, I chose forgiveness. Both light and darkness exist within us. If there’s a chance for him, we have to give it to him.”
Tune in next week for the FINAL INSTALLMENT!