Disclaimer: Aliens can't own Twilight.


10

Cairo, Terra, 2621

Astra was proud of her foresight while designing her uniform, because unlike the other officers around her, who were sweltering beneath the Egyptian sun while waiting to board the Nova for the test flight, she was perfectly comfortable beneath her temperature-controlled cloak, the hood drawn up to shade her delicate lily-white skin. Though it was early spring and the perpetual chill on the on-setting ice age was present, the desert outside of Cairo's city was barren, dry, and hot from the high sun beating down on the sand dunes. Ja'asper, in particular, seemed to be struggling with the temperature – from an ice-planet, of course he was – while Emet was thriving. Khai, predictably, appeared to have no physical reaction or any mental indications that he found the weather disagreeable, aside from the indication that he thought she was being illogical by having this particular train of thought.

She looks away from her adun, and back at the towering starship, white and gleaming almost silver in the sun. It was spotless, pristine, and intimidating, all sleek lines and curved walls, and so much larger than Astra remembered it being. Completed, the Nova was easily one of the most beautifully designed starships in the Federation fleet, with three thrusters, twelve decks, and bump towards the front of the ship, where the bridge was located, subtle and complimented by shining windows that enabled the crew to see over 180 degrees. Something fluttered in the pit of her stomach – excitement.

We will board shortly, adun'a.

I know, she says quickly. I know. But I want to go now.

Very briefly, Astra catches a stray thought from Khai; he found her excitable youth to be amusing. Had he been Terran, he might have used the word "adorable"; being Giidas, he used "fascinating". Astra was astute enough to translate and hid a smile, until she spotted Captain Godric moseying towards their slightly separated group.

"Captain," Khai greets stoically, blinking at his superior emotionlessly. Through the bond, Astra was able to discern a wave of respect and admiration and her heart felt light, knowing that though Khai suppressed those emotions, he still felt them, and that was more than enough for her.

"Commander Khai, and Lieutenant Emet, nice to see you," Captain Godric says with a smile, nodding at both aliens, before turning his gaze on Astra. "And look at you. A Lieutenant already; I know how to pick them."

"I'm glad to see you, Sir," Astra says.

Captain Godric shakes his head, wincing. "None of that, now. You call me Charles."

"Can I call you Charles?" Emet asks eagerly.

"No."

Rosy rolls her eyes at Emet's expression, and turns back to her conversation with Lieutenant Angela, who appeared as unruffled as ever, even given the extreme temperature; Astra thought that maybe, working on the Engineering Deck made Angela a bit more acclimated to hotter climates than most officers.

"How've you been, Khai?" Charles asks, a familiarity in his posture that Astra hadn't noticed before. Charles Godric was perhaps the most comfortable Terran she'd ever seen around Khai, which was good. Khai needed that.

"I have been well, Captain," Khai responds blandly. "I am now married," he adds and, almost as an after thought, glances at Astra for a long moment.

Charles' eyes widen and he notes the careful foot of distance between his First Officer and his Lieutenant of Communications. If Khai hadn't said anything, he wouldn't have been able to guess.

And, as it turns out, neither would any of Astra's friends, except for Mari'Ahlice, who smiled serenely, as if knowing that this very moment would come, as Rosy looked sharply at Astra, and Ja'asper seemed to be a little amused by the notion.

"Married? When did this happen?" Rosy demands, her hands moving to rest on her hips, scowl in place. Beside her, Emet suppresses a smile, and mimics Rosy, placing his hands on his hips; the sight was more comical than intimidating, with Emet's hip jutted out to the side, and a twinkle in his bronze-gold eyes.

"For the record," Ja'asper injects wryly, metal joints and tattoos glinting in the high sun. "I'd like to know, too."

"After graduation," Astra says calmly.

"That was a week ago."

"I knew of the nuptials," Mari'Ahlice tells the group.

"And you didn't tell me?" Rosy asks, rounding on Ahlice and shooting a weak glare at Emet when she sees his mimicry posture, which he quickly drops with a sheepish smile.

"You did not tell us when you mated Emet," Ahlice reasons. "I did not feel it was my place to inform you."

Rosy snaps her mouth closed and shrugs. "Yeah, fine. Right. So, we're both permanently off the market."

"I am, as well," Ahlice reveals, turning her rose-quartz eyes to gaze softly at Ja'asper with a gentle smile. Ja'asper's cool demeanor softens just a bit, his hand curling over Ahlice's shoulder.

"When did the Academy turn into a finishing school?" Charles wonders, muttering to himself, staring at this group of young people who were all excellent in their fields and who had all managed to get on the Nova's test flight, as well as the Nova's commission. "I didn't get hitched when I graduated."

Doctor Carl, who had been content to watch the scene unfold, as it distracted him from the terrifying fact that he was about to be in space, covertly glances at Nurse Esmeralda, tapping his fingers against his thighs, and wonders why they didn't get married, because it seemed like everyone else did. He blanches as he realizes that he didn't even think about asking. He'd have to remedy that soon.

"Must be something in the water!" Emet says happily.

Khai frowns, a tiny twitch of his lips. "There have been no artificial supplements added to the Academy's water filtration system that would induce a phenomenon of romantic entanglements."

Emet snorts, reaches over, and claps Khai on the back. "You're hilarious."

Adun'a. I am unsure as to why-

He was being facetious.

Illogical.

Captain Godric shakes his head with a sigh, wiping a bead a sweat from his brow. "Now that everyone's secrets have been revealed," he begins, gesturing over to the Nova. "I came over to escort you onto the ship myself."

Astra's heart leaps in excitement and she falls in line slightly behind Khai, deciding the moment that her foot touches the boarding ramp that she never, ever wanted to leave this ship. Khai responded to this thought with a twitch of agreement and, in that tiny moment, Astra realized how much Khai loved to be on a starship. Until that second, Astra had not appreciated Khai's feelings on the matter – because despite being a weapon and sold to the Federation, Khai truly did enjoy his occupation, the reason why he was created, as much as a Giidas could. He liked being in space as much as Astra wanted to be in space.

Inside, the Nova is bustling with movement, lower-ranking ensigns and petty officers bustling through the wide, oval-shaped hallways, which were a crisp white, the floors smooth and spotless, but textured with bare hints of friction resistance; on either side of the wall, there were twin strips of silver-black metal, which Khai indicated were built-in gravity-correction fields. As their group walks onto the first deck, which was used for storage, Charles explains that the Nova had twenty different decks and twelve sub-decks, which were used for crew housing. The tour of the Nova, now that it was completed, was much different than the one preview Astra had been afforded several months ago; it was surreal to see the entire starship completed and ready to be navigated through the known universe, especially since the last time she'd seen the ship, the majority of the walls had been open, exposing hanging wires and machinery that Astra was unfamiliar with.

Charles takes their group on a brief tour to each of the decks, introducing the fledgling crew to their new home – of which certain crewmembers, like Lieutenant Angela and Lieutenant Junior Ben stopped off at certain decks - before finishing at the bridge, which was already stationed with seasoned officers. Astra gravitated towards the Communications Desk, glancing at the console over the shoulder of an officer she didn't recognize; Khai approaches his empty station with ease, tapping on the holo-screen to personalize the system, a quarter of his concentration devoted to his adun'a's mesmerizing excitement.

Captain Godric steps onto the platform that housed his chair and console, and spins on his heel, mustering up authority befitting a captain. "Crew. This is the test flight of the United Federation Starship Nova. Today, we have guests aboard – fresh graduates from the London Academy, who will be on the Observation Deck. Let's make this run smoothly."

Astra takes a step back and rejoins her small group, casting a glance at Khai, who was watching her with a blank expression. I guess I'll see you later.

Enjoy this experience, t'hy'la.

A smile spreads across her face in response to his words. Khai had just abandoned logic for her by being nice. It brought back memories of the first time Astra started feeling something for Khai, inducing a warm, fluttery, buttery feeling that spread from her side of the bond to his. I will, she tells him, following Mari'Ahlice and Ja'asper onto the turbolift.

The Observation Deck is designed for dignitaries, with the idea in mind that a completely unhindered view of the space outside the ship would make for a wonderful story to tell later on; the deck is the upper-most area of the ship, about quarter of the size of other decks, and furnished with lavish, cushy couches, a long, low table with a Replicator built in, and softened lights mounted on the floor, bathing the deck in a gentle glow that did not compete with the clear dome that made up the ceiling or the otherwise utilitarian design of the room.

Astra and Mari'Ahlice were charmed by the deck; Rosy was busy examining the construction of the dome; Ja'asper simply draped his lanky form over one of the couches; and Doctor Carl, with Nurse Esme by his side, turned right back around and tried to step back onto the turbolift.

"Carl?"

"It's not safe! I can see the sky!"

Astra glances over her shoulder, taking note of the gentle, familiar way Nurse Esme rubbed her hand over Carl's shoulder. She sighs and, with a smile, approaches her over-protective brother-figure, exchanging an exasperated look with Esme. "This is totally safe, Carl."

"What if we're attacked? We're not protected! Oh God. We're going to be in space! Space! People can't fly! This isn't right! It's unnatural! I'm going to be sick!"

"Snap out of it, Doc," Rosy says from across the room, her tone unapologetic. "You know what you signed up for. This is it."

Doctor Carl is not comforted by the engineer's words, and he appears positively green when a smooth vibration begins below their feet; the starships thrusters have just been turned on.

"I changed my mind," he says, eyes wide. "I want to go back. Do you know how many ways you can die in space?"

"It's just a test flight, Carl," Astra tells him. "We'll be back on Terra before you can finish your panic attack."

Adun'a.

Hmm?

It is recommended that all personnel be seated for take-off.

Right. Astra directs her group to sit on the couches, making a point to sit beside Carl, idly thinking how convenient it was to be able to communicate instantly with Khai on the starship; she imagined that during emergencies, this asset would be especially helpful. Khai agrees.

Carl leans over, putting his head between his knees while Nurse Esme rubs his back. Astra raises a brow, silently asking if Carl would be okay, and Esme responds by tapping on Carl's spine in a familiar pattern – tap-tap, tap-tap. He seems to relax slightly in response.

"Just breathe, Carl," Astra tells him.

On her other side, she hears Rosy ask Mari'Ahlice if the Doctor will be releasing the contents of his stomach at any point during take off; she's relieved that Ahlice indicates, in that cryptic way of hers, that they will be safe from Carl's reversible digestive system.

"We won't die, right?"

"We're not going to die," Esme reassures him.

Astra isn't sure that her comfort is as effective as it could have been, because in the next moment, the Nova's thrusters propel the starship from the ground with one jolt, which is more of a lurch, and then she can almost feel the smooth glide as the starship fires faster, pushing upwards through the atmospheric layers of Terra. Her full attention is dedicated to watching the hot red burning of atmosphere friction as the Nova breaks through and into space; she smiles at the actual feeling of zero gravity, which fades rather quickly as the starship engages Terra gravity on-board. The entire liftoff might have taken around an hour, but it was over far too quickly for Astra – except, now she was face-to-face with the stars. She stands, walking to the edge of the dome, pressing her palm against the translucent material.

I'm really in space.

Indeed, adun'a. The Captain indicates that he would be receptive to-

Khai's thought cuts off.

His thoughts never do that.

Instantly, Astra is on alert, her body tensed – the military training of Ja'asper's Me'atal tutoring bleeds into her posture, and Ja'asper is halfway across the room in a moment.

"What is it? Astra?"

"Shhh," she hushes, holding a hand out, palm up, head tilted to the side.

Distantly, she realizes that the rest of the observation deck is breathlessly quiet, watching Astra's suddenly odd behavior with a healthy dose of hesitance. Something was wrong.

Khai?

Adun'a…

What's happened? Astra demands. It was frustrating to her that she couldn't get a grip on his fast thoughts – they were moving too quickly for her to even glimpse, but she knew something was happening, something was wrong, and she had a feeling that she would be needed to fix it. Tell me, adun.

It is another starship.

Astra's eyes dart to the black void beyond the observation dome, looking for the threat, because the way Khai said it, it made it sound like this starship was not familiar to the Federation. And, as far as Astra knew, there was only the Federation.

Something else was out there.

Waiting for them.

"Astra?"

It takes a long moment – too long, really – before she spots the ship. It's much smaller and darker than she was accustomed to, which is why it took so long to find it; the starship is a sixth the size of the Nova, and black, armed with moving spikes that glow red and orange. From the design, Astra guessed it was some sort of military ship – the only reason the Nova was so large was that it was an exploration ship with the side-occupation of transporting dignitaries. The Nova had to be nice, and large enough to house the crew required for such a massive ship, as well as the labs required for missions.

This other ship, though…it was designed with efficiency. It was designed to kill.

And despite its size, Astra was certain it was designed to kill them.

"What is that?"

Astra hardly has the chance to form her thoughts before, with a speed that surprises even Khai, the foreign starship shoots yellow-orange beams towards the Nova, and everything seems to be intangible for a prolonged, terrifying moment.

Khai's thoughts reach out to her as Astra opens her eyes, immediately searching for the threat of the foreign ship and-

What is that planet?

Behind the small black starship, a planet roughly the size of Terra sits in the abyss of space, and looks to have, at one point, supported life; the large chunks of land are blackened and brown, and the seas are awash in worrisome dark green and blue; the atmosphere is thick and dark; and the planet itself is surrounded by chunks of asteroids and meteorites, which surround the planet in a desolate ring of destruction. For a moment, Astra wonders if she is seeing the future of Terra, because the similarities between the planets are astounding, save for the fact that this planet looks dead.

Behind her, Astra hears muffled groaning, and turns her neck, surprised to find herself seated on the floor, leaning on her knees – Doctor Carl and Nurse Esme are clutching each other against the couch, Ja'asper has Ahlice pulled tightly against his chest as he shields her body with his own, and Rosy is rubbing the ridge of her nose, shaking her head. It took no more than a second for Astra to deduce that the Nova had been transported – somehow – to another region in space. She was willing to bet that this particular region was previously uncharted by the Federation, which would explain why the Federation didn't know there were things other than the Federation, which begged the question of where exactly they were and – her thoughts were too jumbled, so she greeted Khai's with a warm wave of affection, flavored by a base amount of fear.

Adun'a – what is your status?

Khai…I…we're all alive. Are you-?

The bridge crew was sufficiently protected during the transit, as well as the rest of the crew on-ship. We are operating with the bare minimum of crewmembers, so it is taking more time than projected to check each sector of the ship.

But you are okay?

I am satisfactory.

"What just happened?" Rosy demands, pushing up from the floor, one of her hands falling to the subtle tool belt around her waist, as if preparing to fix something.

Astra shifts onto her feet. "I think we've been transported."

"By what?"

"A very small ship," Astra replies, her expression as blank as any Giidas. Her eyes are locked onto said ship, which appears to be as benign as imaginable.

Ja'asper stands, holding his hand out to Ahlice, who takes his metal-jointed fingers daintily. "Do you know what is going on?"

"Fate," Ahlice replies simply.

"You knew this was going to happen?" Rosy demands, her bronze-gold eyes colder than ice, and her expression hard, unforgiving; Astra understands her point, however unspoken.

Ahlice chooses not to answer.

Overhead, the ship's AI system beeps on, and Captain Godric's voice sounds over the speaker. "This is your Captain speaking. A foreign vessel has transported us to an unknown quadrant and it has come to my attention that the engine thrusters were damaged during transport. All crew remain at your stations and prepare for battle – be on standby. We're not going down without one hell of a fight. Godric out."

Rosy lifts her chin, turning away from Alice's serene face. "They'll need me in Engineering," she says, moving towards the sliding door. "I can get the thrusters online faster than just about anybody."

Doctor Carl, who had stood up sometime during Captain Godric's announcement, nods, a trickle of nervous sweat running down the side of his face. He looks at his nurse as they flee out the door. "We should get to the med bay, in case there are injuries."

"Astra," Ahlice begins, her tone as faraway as her eyes. "You will be needed on the bridge. Ja'asper and I shall accompany you."

Astra nods, ignoring the fact that she was directly disobeying orders from a superior officer – but Rosy was right to leave the Observation Deck in favor of a part of the ship that actually needed her and Astra was sure that her particular skills would be better spent on the bridge. And, if Mari'Ahlice said that Astra needed to be on the bridge, then that was exactly where Astra was going to go – she trusted the Piarie psychic with her life.

The bridge is in full-motion when the turbolift doors open, officers frantic at their control systems, which appear to be malfunctioning to a certain degree. Astra is sure the foreign ship is the cause of that – perhaps they have another piece of technology that renders the Nova helpless. It's a frightening thought.

Khai, who had been minutely aware that Astra was going to board the bridge, is standing in front of a dozen holo-screens, each a slightly different color, an almost-frown on his face. Through the bond, Astra could feel his caution, which was laced with fear for her, though not for himself. He knew the protocol for a situation such as this, but he wasn't sure protocol was appropriate; the protocol, of course, was designed for areas of space that the Federation was exploring, not for when the Federation was transported into foreign space. There had to be a specific difference in the way this particular issue was dealt with.

Captain Godric, on the other hand, didn't seem to care too much about protocol, at least from what Astra could tell. He was leaning over Emet's shoulder as the navigator beside Emet hurriedly tries to specify the Nova's location, without much luck. "You get us home as soon as the thrusters are repaired, Emet, because I don't want to start a war, but I will fire at that ship, no questions asked. No alien is going to come and transport my crew and get away with it."

"Captain, we cannot engage weaponry maneuvers without further provocation," Khai injects from across the bridge, his smooth, monotone baritone carrying across the space. "Such action directly defies the Prime-"

"Khai, screw the Prime-"

"Captain, it would be most logical to-"

"Take your logic and shove it up your-"

"That is not anatomically possible, Captain-"

"You wanna bet-"

Astra steps onto the bridge, cautiously, eyeing the arguing Captain and Commander; it was faintly amusing that they chose now to argue, but, more than anything, it was enlightening. Captain Godric was so Terran, letting his emotions fly free – it was what made him a great Captain – while Khai, in contrast, was refusing to let his emotions color his actions. They balanced each other out. She wondered how often they argued in the past, because the last few lines seemed almost routine.

Disagreements of opinion happen on board frequently, Khai concedes through the bond. You should not be here.

Mari'Ahlice says that I will be needed. Until then, I won't take up too much space.

Khai says nothing in reply, but she senses his acceptance as he continues to argue tonelessly with Captain Godric, while another part of his mind appears to be doing rapid, complicated calculations.

And then – "Captain!"

Half the crew turns to look at the officer sitting behind the Communications desk. Up until that point, she'd been relatively ignored; now, one hand was pressed to the tiny ear-microphone, the other tapping against the holo-screen, confusion on her face. "I don't recognize this language," she tells the bridge, voice frantic. "I don't know this language!"

"They sent a communication message, Captain," Khai states, moving across the bridge to stand behind the Communication Officer's shoulder.

The Captain follows, standing beside Khai. "Do you know the language?"

Khai's answer is quick and certain. "I do not."

"Great," Captain Godric says, pinching his nose in frustration. "These aliens sent a message that we can't even read and-"

"I can read it," Astra interrupts.

The bridge goes silent, peering at Astra with disbelieving eyes.

Through the bond, Astra senses Khai's resounding NO, and promptly ignores it. Instead, she looks to Mari'Ahlice, who nods once, the jingle of her belled circlet echoing in the relative silence of the bridge. This was the exact reason that Ahlice thought Astra needed to be on the bridge, then.

Astra moves to stand between the Captain and the Commander, suddenly sure of her status as a Lieutenant – she had the authority to be on the bridge, to be performing this task, and she relayed that logic to Khai through the bond, which quieted his protective protests. She peers at the holo-screen. The letters appear similar to Arabic, though the structure is more similar to Korean. For a moment, the letters simply look like odd lines with no pattern – and then, her head pulses.

A trickle of blood, a single line from her nose – more purple than red, matching the lilac-pink flush on her lily-white skin as fever rises along with the onslaught of the language she was rapidly learning. Her head hurts. Everything is fuzzy and hot and too loud. The bridge spins, though Astra knows she isn't moving. Is she?

Adun'a!

Oh. There's a voice in her head. She knows the voice – loves the voice. Loves the man attached to the voice.

But it's so cold, now. She shivers, wipes the blood from her upper lip, blinks at the bright green holo-screen in front of her. The lines don't look random – of course they aren't. Those are words. Important words. And where is her li'lute, she always has it-

"Astra," the voice says, except this time the voice is on the outside of her head. She misses hearing it inside. Large, too-hot hands grasp her shoulders gently, turning her until she is eye-level with a lean, familiar chest, and then one of those hands moves, and two fingers press against her temple – and then the voice in her head is louder, and stronger, and something moves through her mind with speed and efficiency, and it's cold and calm, like steel.

And the pulsing pain in her head, the heat and the fever – it all disappears. The fog clears. Astra can literally feel Khai disturbing her metabolic functions through the bond, intrusive yet healing, fixing her suddenly overwhelmed mind. The blood from her nose stems, and he wipes that away with the tips of his fingers. Later, they will have to discuss this psychic healing that Khai is able to do; she was sure the incident with the saber was a fluke, and Khai had admitted to having no idea how he'd done it. Obviously, he'd figured that out.

For now though, she sighs in relief, her mind sharp with clarity, body balanced. She sends a wave of love and gratitude through the bond, and opens her eyes – she doesn't remember closing them. The bridge crew is looking at Astra and Khai with something akin to shock and she, very belatedly, realizes it's not because of what just happened to her – no, the shock is because Khai was behaving in a decidedly un-Khai way, with the touching, and everything. Astra was sharp enough to realize that, to a certain degree, Khai felt that, basically, they just had sex in the middle of the bridge. It was easy to forget how modest the Giidas race truly was.

But that has to be ignored now – because she understands the message from the small black ship, now. She knows the language.

And the message is disturbing.

"They call themselves the Republic," Astra announces, glancing once again at the harsh language on the holo-screen; in the context of the language, they message was actually cordial, but compared to other languages, this one was all about anger. Silently, she rolls the words on her tongue, feeling the sharp cut of her teeth against air as she mouths the message. "They'd like to speak with us."

"Set up a communications vid to-"

"No, Captain," Astra interrupts, her stomach falling at the expression – the knowing - on Mari'Ahlice's face. "They want to speak in person."

"Can't do that," Charles argues. "I won't. I can't leave my ship or my crew, not in this new space. And I damn sure won't let them come aboard."

"Logically," Khai asserts. "I am the best option to transport onto the Republic ship. I am built to-"

"But you don't know the language!"

Astra glances at Mari'Ahlice and finds guidance in those rose-quartz eyes, which have likely Seen every possible option of the future. "I'll go. I can translate."

No!

Khai has no visible reaction, though his mental one is startlingly loud.

Astra ignores him.

Captain Godric looks skeptical. "I know you want to help, but I'm not sure you're medically fit to be transported. You were just bleeding, and-"

"Khai fixed all that," Astra tells him confidently. "I'm more than ready to do this, Captain. And, I should add, I'm more than qualified."

Astra will learn, later on, that Captain Godric was a good captain because he trusted his gut – he didn't hesitate and he operated on what was best for the majority. If he had to sacrifice one life in favor of several, then he was willing to do that.

And that is why, ten minutes later, Astra and Khai are sent down to the transportation deck, right after Engineering had settled the warp core enough that the on-ship transporter was operational. While she and Khai were on board the Republic's ship, the Nova would be undergoing various repairs while trying to get in contact with the Federation. She only hoped she would be able to understand why the Republic had done this in the first place – and why the Republic had been hiding.

But first…You know, you're going to have to deal with this overprotective, macho thing, Khai. It's sweet, but this isn't the 19th century anymore. I'm more than capable of taking care of myself.

Khai's thoughts, which had been analyzing the upcoming situation from every conceivable angle, come to an abrupt halt. Astra can almost feel him tracing her thought pattern back, trying to find when her thought stemmed from the situation at hand, and becoming puzzled when it seems as if this line of thought came from a tangent out of nowhere.

I am…aware of your capabilities, adun'a, he says after a long moment, turning to look at her with solemn steel-toned eyes as the turbolift comes to a halt, opening to the Transporter Room. It is difficult.

Astra caresses the edge of Khai's mind through the bond in assurance. Work on it, okay? Bickering over what I can and can't do, when I know what I can do, only wastes time.

Wasting time is illogical, he agrees tonelessly, before stepping out of the turbolift with a stony face, hands clasped behind his back, the façade of Commander Khai sliding right onto his skin, not unlike his black armor. He held such quiet authority that even Astra, who knew Khai in the most intimate of ways, who knew his mind as well as his soul, was intimidated, naturally falling half a step behind him as he quickly quizzed the transporter technicians, setting up emergency scenarios that were standard procedure. Astra hung back, silently taking stock of her own preparedness; her saber was ready, as was her li'lute, which was tucked into the inner pocket of her cloak; her body was limber, ready to fight at a moments notice; and, most importantly, the unnamed language that she had just learned was settling deep into her mind, no longer causing fever or delusions thanks to Khai's quick actions.

By the way, she calls silently, grabbing his attention as the transporter technicians quickly set to work and they step onto the square white platform. The healing…?

I am unsure as to how I discovered the method which unlocked that particular ability, he says uncertainly. The instinct merely merged with my conscious will and I accessed our bond to fulfill the requirements of the aid.

Astra thinks that, maybe, Khai is admitting, in his own way, that he doesn't even know how he did it. And she accepts that because – what was that old Terran idiom? Don't look a horse-gift in the mouth? She thinks she heard that in the Americas at some point during her childhood.

Okay, she says, glancing at him, noticing through, through Khai's detailed observations, that her eyes are shining the bright, clear blue that meant insight. Let's do this, then.

Khai nods once at the technicians, and then they are weightless as the transporter beam locks onto the little black Republic ship. She again reflects on how much she hates the sensation of being transported – but this time, it's something different. Something inside her protests at the disturbance of having her cells reorganized for several long seconds.

She can't think on that, though. Doesn't have the time to, really, because her feet touch down onto solid, smooth ground, and her body shifts into a subtle defensive stance. The room they land in is not unlike the room they left – except, where the Nova is all sleek and white, this ship seems to be all chaos and dark, with countless exposed patches of wiring, and a distinct lack of clear light. It's incredibly disorienting.

From the shadows, a handful of bulky figures emerge, crude versions of laser-rifles slung across their shoulders and aimed directly at Khai. Their appearance is startling, mostly because Astra hadn't expected them to be so…ridged. Their cheekbones, noses, brows, temples, all ridged with harsh bones, and faint cracks of flesh that revealed bronzed metal beneath the skin, something akin to the Me'atal silver joints, but much more primitive. Their skin ranged from light to dark, with the lightest being the shade of Egyptian sand. They had no formal uniform or set color – simply dark. And each of them glared, though Astra had the notion that the expression was through no fault of their own; the entire race likely had similar facial features.

One of them, the one closest, grunts at them and slings his gun behind his back, nodding his head back, as if gesturing to the dark door behind them. Khai steps off the platform first, then Astra; she remains calm as the other soldiers surround them when they leave the room. They are being escorted. And she has nothing to fear – yet.

Given that the Republic ship is significantly smaller than the Nova, their walk through the narrow hallway is short. The first solider stops and slams his fist into the wall beside a door a few times, most likely because the computer system appears to be ancient, practically non-functioning. Astra was sure that, even if Captain Godric had wanted to pull up a communications vid, this ship would be unable to do so.

The soldiers step to the side as the door slides open with some effort and, from inside, a rough voice calls out a brutal phrase. Only, Astra knows that the words spoken are rather indifferent, not angry at all, and she quickly translates that through the bond she shares with Khai, because she had sensed that he'd automatically shifted into a battle-ready stance.

"Come in, already," the voice had said.

Astra prompts Khai to step forward, quickly taking stock of the young foreign alien standing before them. He is built only slightly stockier than Khai, a few inches shorter, with closely cropped blond hair and deeply tanned skin, with bronze metal peeking behind the skin of the heavy ridges on his face. He was handsome in a way that was overly familiar to Astra – handsome in a designed way, just like Khai.

And his next words seal the thoughts flying through Astra's head; his next words connect the final dots, revealing that whatever was happening with her and Khai, was so much bigger than they ever thought.

"Welcome big brother," he smiles, teeth sharp, reddish eyes glinting. "And little sister. A nice surprise. I am Jaimes of the Noh'med Republic. Do you like my ship?"


A/N: I don't know why this chapter took so long. Just…whatever! This is cut in about half, because the last half of this chapter is being a PMS-y bitch and I don't want to talk to her right now.

About updating – updates for the holiday season will be less frequent. Obviously, with the amount of time it took just to get this chapter to you. I've been busy. I'm going to be busy. Also, mid-terms are next week, and I have finals right after Christmas. The "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" has turned into "The Busiest OMFG Can I Take a Nap Time of the Year". But I'll try to get in at least two updates before Christmas.

Shout out to the first 10 reviews of the last chapter –

Snippets Of Whimsy – Right? Like, I want a finger-kiss damnit! Lol

Love M Go Blue – They totally will share quarters on the Nova, mostly because I want them to have starship sex!

CdrIvanova – 10 points for Promotions!

***Monique1991 – Okay, ranks! And this is for everyone, and yeah, I'm pulling from both Star Trek and whatever I learned from Saving Private Ryan, and no, it's probably not that accurate:

-Cadet (in-training officers)

-Ensign (cadets who have just graduated but don't have commissions or aren't skilled enough to work outside of an office)

-Officer (Emet, Ja'asper, Rosy, Mari'Ahlice)

-Lieutenant Junior (Ben)

-Lieutenant (Astra)

-Lieutenant Commander (what Khai used to be)

-Commander (Khai)

-Captain (Charles Godric)

-Sergeant (Dmitri)

-General (…I don't have a General yet? Huh)

-Admiral (Aro and Caius)

And then, like, doctors and scientists, or whatever. But those are different ranks.

I Heart JuJuBee – Hmm, I dunno. Are they preggers?!

mamacat20 – Oh boy am I throwing them a curveball!

YesMyRealNameIsBella – We won't be seeing the classy retractable peen for a while!

almazuna18 – I love sci-fi! I'm happy to share! Thanks for reading!

Siobhan Whitlock - *sly grin*…IMPENDING FATE!

Leigh Caulder – As in, you figured out the metaphor!

Merylin – No, you're right. The last chapter was sort of a filler! But I have to have build-ups!

Koba – LOL You made it sound so dramatic, I love that!

Leslie E – Yes! Come to the Face-Book! We have memes! lol

Super special shout out to the first review of the last chapter – Pumpkinmykitty – That's the exact argument I always use! AND science has proven that women have higher pain thresholds, so, fuck yeah! Feminism!

As always, be brutally honest. I can take it.

~cupcakeriot


P.S. – Before anyone freaks out, no body is related by blood. This is not an incest story. Jaimes is just an ass like that, and he has a thing for family bonds. Astra has Astra's family. Khai has his test tube. They share no blood between each other or between Jaimes. Calm yourself!