Leto passed by Foley's rooms on his way to the review chamber. He was as eager to see how his setup performed against his friend. He had little doubt that Foley wouldn’t be taxed by his creation. The simple fact of the matter was that he enjoyed building things, and he enjoyed building things for his friend even more. The two of them had become thick as thieves in their time together at the Center. Foley wasn't a talker and having his company in the shop was like having a cat in some ways --companionship without the distracting chatter. Plus with Foley's superior motor skills and coordination, he'd been a valuable help on finer parts of building, for which his hands were too large and clumsy.
Leto had been part of the Rakshasa Program, an illegal Eugenics attempt in Northern Hong Kong. The program had been shut down after being compromised by a UED raid with the aid of the Chinese government. As a test subject, he'd been marked as unsuccessful. He had superior size and strength, but lacked the aggressive programming that they were looking for. A mistake in genetic sequencing had given him superior intellect rather than a more aggressive nature --making him unsuitable for practical application. He called himself a "thinking man's giant." Leto was well liked by many of the students there but as far as he was concerned --Foley was his closest friend.
He'd long since reprogrammed the locks in the facility to be hard encoded with his bio signature. He could enter any room in the facilities without a passkey, much to the frustration of the Center's security. He particularly enjoyed trying to scare the crap out of Foley because he liked to see him spring and leap out of the way –part of the cat in him, he supposed. He was headed towards the media room to view the footage of the exercise, confident that he'd lose the bet and have to start work on putting a proper jungle gym in Foley's rooms. Little did his friend know that his plan had been all along to do this so that he could install laser guided paint ball shooters into his design that would fire at Foley at random intervals whenever he was there. Foley would appreciate his idea of a joke.
Foley's rooms were unconventional. He lived in a former gym on the premises because of his aversion to smaller spaces. The space was subdivided by suspended platforms, stairs and glass baffles to dampen sound. The entire space was open and light, filled with many plants, and one very lazy tomcat. Together they built a fountain in the center of the gym which actually doubled as a small scale swimming pool. He divided the space with things that did not enclose and Foley seemed to appreciate the effort, which was enough for him. Plus the lack of proper walls and ceilings made for a more comfortable experience for one his size. He passed his door intending not to stop, but he heard something thud within. Either Morris, his orange tabby cat, had knocked something over or Foley was back unexpectedly for some reason. He unlatched the door and swung it open.
He looked straight at an unconscious Foley, cradled in the arms of a beautiful young woman. She turned quickly towards him, jolted to attention by his entrance. They were both covered in dirt an pieces of debris. The slight woman had been trying to move him, towards his rooms. He could tell from the drag marks on the floor and the smears of blood that he was injured. Iridescent blue eyes locked with his, pleading silently for his help.
"Foley!" He shouted.
He rushed to her side and hefted his friend as if he were made of paper mache, and bounded towards his room. Their rooms were all equipped with passive monitoring systems --as most residents of the center were all prone to some sort of medical distress of one kind or another. Foley's bedroom monitors were the only ones in his space that weren’t turned on. Getting him into his bed turned on more active scanners, but they weren’t' connected to the automatic systems like the others. He would have to summon help the old fashioned way. She reached his bed before him and stripped away the sheeting as he laid his friend down to the center of his bed.
"Get off his clothing!" She ordered.
Leto looked at her and realized that in an instant, she'd taken command of the situation. He stripped off Foley’s shirt, shoes and pants. As he was doing so, her hands moved over his body feeling for breaks, or tears in his skin. She was a flurry of tightly packed panic and concern --her touch was urgent but she took great care to guard against accidentally doing anything painful.
It didn't take a genius to figure out that whatever her role in this. She was desperate to save him. After she quickly examined his front, he turned his friend over without needing to be told. And then they both saw it. There was a deep gash crossing downwards on his back to a gouge in his lower back just beneath the base of his ribs. It could have been deeper but it was clearly a serious injury. She gasped at the sight of it, but did not recoil from the sight of his hurt.
Leto turned to get water. As he left the room, he could see that she'd quickly begun to remove her suit, and he blushed. She hadn't been wearing anything underneath. His mind raced and he almost forgot the need for water and aid. He bounded across the space to the kitchen, and grabbed a stainless steel mixing bowl from above the sink, and turned on the hot water. He grabbed clean towels from the drawer to help stop the bleeding. He rushed back grabbing the phone from its perch as he did so. She was straddled his back, with her fingers probing the wound, pulling out fragments of glass and steel. Her back was to him, but he got more than an eyeful of her proportions. She took the bowl from him and set it beside her without flinching at her nakedness in front of him.
Leto hit the panic button on Foley’s phone. The phone was encoded to their individual rooms so the medical teams would not need to be told where to go. He turned back to them both and watched as she placed hands on his back over the wound. At first he thought she was applying pressure to stop the bleeding, but then he saw the particles of light begin to dance from her fingertips into the wound on his back she closed her eyes and tilted her head back slightly, chanting something inaudible. There were pops and crackles as the energies within her began to mend him. He watched in amazement as the flesh repaired itself under her power until it was little more than a pink scar across him.
As the light subsided she fell to the side of him, passing out from either the strain of her efforts, or whatever circumstance brought the two of them together. He covered them both with sheet and closed the door, behind him, standing guard until the rest of the help he'd summoned arrived.
Renata had made her way back to the compound, after receiving a text that Foley was safe back at the Center. She brushed off the paramedics as soon as they told her that she'd sustained nothing worse than minor lacerations and a slight concussion from getting thrown through the plate glass window. She'd already taken the liberty of removing the flash memory storage from the camera systems and replacing it with the time stamped duplicates that would cover up what actually happened to the authorities. Since Foley wasn't found on the scene anywhere, their involvement could be minimized. Though they did not go completely covert, all of the Center Caretakers knew the value of discretion.
She clicked the speed dial on her cell as she got into her sedan and put the car in drive. Harlan wasn't going to be pleased at the disturbance, but since the footage clearly shows a justified reaction and action on their parts, it was something they could deflect with relative ease. But with the incursion of the girl and her otherworldly pursuers --she knew she was going to have to debrief the military at some point. The phone was answered on the first Ring.
"You should have the low res video of the incursion. Local authorities are searching for a cause, but I don’t think they got whiff of what’s going on." She said
“Make sure that you get the recordings off—“
"I have the originals. Dupes are in place. "
"Good girl." She hated it when he said that. She was almost thirty. "B-line back here. We have partial containment of our guest here, but we have no idea of the whereabouts of the other players. I’ve put a pursuit team on it –Brent. He’s good.”
“Yeah.” She said. “Best we’ve got when it comes to tracking. You sure we don’t want to clue anyone else in on what’s going on?”
“They wouldn’t be prepared for this kind of pursuit. Best we handle it. I’ve already made some preliminary calls. We shouldn’t have to worry about interference.”
“Right. I’m on my way back.” She replied.
“We're assuming that there will be some kind of response --so be on your guard."
"Got it, Dad." She clicked off her phone.
She'd arrived at the Center's campus in just under 10 minutes with her lights and sirens on. She didn't bother to pause at the gate --the encoded transponder of her vehicle had already informed them of her arrival. The gates clicked open and she sped on towards the Dorms. Foley had been impulsive and reckless in intervening, but that was what she loved about him.
She skidded to a halt after reaching the doors to his rooms. They were in the process of sealing the doors. Leto, Foley and the alien were inside as a precaution. She halted them and stepped inside herself before having them seal the doors. They'd be there for at least 48 hours while the treat of foreign contaminants was analyzed and eliminated as a possibility. Foley and Leto had actually been the only two to have direct contact with her. She went inside because she wanted answers, but also because she was worried.
"Seal us in" She said as they closed the doors behind her.
His eyes fluttered open slowly. He was on his side facing the nightstand, the position he usually assumed for sleeping. His back ached fiercely. He was having trouble focusing his eyes, so he closed them again and concentrated. He was in his bed; he didn't need to see clearly to see that. He smelled the smell of lilacs again and felt soft, warm flesh pressed against his back. His eyes bolted open and he tried to turn his head behind him. He felt her arm hooked under his with her other arm loosely wrapped around his neck, cradling his head. He tingled in every place that she touched him. At first he thought it was a stirring desire, but then he realized that his flesh truly was tingling. It felt like the tapping of thousands of tiny needles. It was alarming, but not altogether unpleasant.
When he'd tried to move, she pulled him back to her, and raised her head softly. "Be still, Ahema.... Please...." Her words were gentle, but firm and her tone allowed him to relax somewhat. “Your body is healing, now but it will take time. You must be still”
He couldn't remain still. He'd blacked out fully expecting to come to still underneath the rubble. Only this was not underneath the rubble. Ithica. Her name was Ithica. She didn’t tell him, but somehow he knew. He struggled with his conscious mind trying to focus so that he could speak to her. He had to know why. He had to know how they made it to safety. He had to---
"Ahema, we are safe. I brought us here to the place in your mind. When I am in danger, I may access Ellah and fold space. It is difficult and taxing for me. I cannot do it again for many days, perhaps weeks. The stress of it takes a toll on my body. Leto helped me get you to the bed and here we must stay for a while. "
He was still struggling to form the first question in his mind. The concept was there but it was so hard. He exhaled and tried to quiet his mind, but he could not. Everything about her was intoxicating. Her touch was indescribable to him. He was not a stranger to physical sensations. His friends had largely learned to accept his limitations and somehow not being able to speak makes other people reach out and connect to you in other ways you might not have guessed. He'd been touched by women before, just not like this. He knew what he wanted to ask her. She pressed her head against the back of his neck and spoke barely above a whisper --a lyrical, beautiful whisper.
"Ahema has many meanings on many different worlds. To most, its meaning is lost through the ages. To us --the Daughters of Ellah, the word represents only one meaning. Everything."
She answered his questions without him speaking them aloud. It was frightening but strangely exciting as well. Everything.
"When I came through the portal, I was running from Norza, the woman you fought. We were not prepared for the attack. Such a thing as attacking a Daughter of Ellah has not happened for many hundreds of generations. Any member world of the Vaelor Confederation would fight to the death to protect us. Any member world that allows harm to come to one of us would be completely obliterated by all the other member worlds, thus the balance is maintained. Norza would not have acted on her own she is what your world calls a mercenary.
My crew fought bravely to protect me, winnowing down her forces to merely a handful of men... But they succumbed to her ferocity. I'd made it to the airlock, but my suit had been damaged. It is my first duty to safeguard the Ellah, but I was frightened and not thinking clearly. I could have jumped to one of the other ships but I had no way of knowing if any of them would be worse.
I was particularly vulnerable." She pressed closer to him. "I had not been mated. I was heading to Uras, a planet beyond the system of Vaelor many hundreds of light years away, to be mated. You see, if we are mated to someone, then the system of Ellah is protected. None but my mate, my Ahema, could command me to access Ellah. Had I been mated to one of them, I would have given them access to all of Ellah --the knowledge and wisdom of all the worlds of the Vaelor, including the Ancients who came before.
I was prepared to die rather than let that happen. I punched the airlock release when she lunged for me and let myself be sucked out into space. Each of the Daughters of Ellah can perform Pazha Maha, a failsafe jump that transports a Daughter of Ellah to the nearest, safe member world. Somehow this did not happen the way it should and I ended up here. Ellah does not always make things clear in a way that we can understand. I trust in the wisdom of it, but I do not understand."
"You look so different than before,"he thought.
“Yes. When you touched me, I was mated to you. I can choose to reject or accept any chosen for me; but when I accept my mate, I bond with him or her on a genetic level. My body by touch absorbs his characteristics in a complimentary state of existence. My body is reformed in a manner that is pleasing to my Ahema. We call it translation. Once translation occurs then the knowledge inside me is made safe. Only you can command me to access the system of Ellah. The Daughters of Ellah are the doorways to near infinite knowledge. The Ahema is the key."
"But you didn't accept me. You changed as soon as I touched you."
"My choice was overridden. It has only happened a handful of times over our entire history. Something in Ellah knew that you would be a worthy key, and bound me to you. We call it Preemption."
"That's how you can understand me?"He thought.
"Yes, Ahema. I could not at first, but as you are calmer now and things are quiet I can understand you. "
"My God..." escaped his lips.”Can it be undone?"
"No, Ahema. No one known to Vaelor can undo this, save you."
"What would happen to you if I did?"
He could feel her shiver at the question. "If you reject me, then I will ... not survive. A portal without a key is useless. "
He cringed at her answer. It was too much to process. As near as he could tell she was telling him that she was his wife in their equivalent. She was telling him that Ellah, whoever it was, had mated the two of them together in the blink of an eye. He felt as though his life had been spun off course by some faceless power he did not understand.
“Why me?”He asked.
"I cannot answer. I do not know why you were chosen for me, Ahema. I trust in the knowledge of Ellah that you are meant for me. In the instant that we touched, I know that I was meant for you and you alone. I believe it with all my heart."
He had to see her face. He wanted nothing more than that at this moment. She raised herself slightly as he turned over to look at her. What she'd said rang true in his heart. She'd become human before his very eyes, and now his eyes were opened to an entire universe of possibilities. She looked into his eyes and it seemed that it was as though it was for the very first time.