The Double Blind - Part 3 of 3
Posted on Wed Oct 16th, 2019 @ 7:36pm by Captain Enalia Telvan & Az'Prel & Riov (Captain) Dalia Rendal & Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Commander Sonak & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox & erei'Riov (Commander) Arrenhe t'Suil & Jaeih Dox-t'Aan & Artan Pirate Helev t'Liun & Deihu (Senator) Verelan t'Rul
Edited on on Mon Oct 28th, 2019 @ 9:57am
Location: The Delevhas Compound - ch'Rihan
Watching as Sonak began first with her mother, instituting a mind meld to confirm both the elder Rihannsu’s identity, and that she was in control of her own mind, Mnhei’sahe’s own mind began to question what was going to happen next… but not to her. Turning back, she looked at her grandmother laying there on the platform of the Delevhas Compound on ch’Rihan, stunned and unconscious.
“Hnaev…” She muttered at herself as her mind raced. She could maybe talk Captain Telvan into taking her with them to save, but doing so would doom the woman. Steal away her life in the same way Verelan had tried to do to Dox. They could save her from the mental reprogramming, but at the cost of everything the elder Senator held dear. To say nothing of the intergalactic incident that doing so would incite… kidnapping a Senator from ch’Rihan would start a war for sure.
However, Dox couldn’t stay behind. All that would do was ensure that Rendal would finish her work, rewrite both of their minds completely. Which would end with both would of them doomed, and the rescue efforts would have been for nothing. Besides, there was no way Mnhei’sahe was going to turn her back on this family or the wife she had back at home on the Hera, pregnant with their children. The connections she had clung to the hardest to maintain her own mind through the month-long ordeal.
As she stood there, her mind ran through every possible option she could think of in what was little more than a brief moment of time in reality. She thought of the kidnapping. As horrible as it was, she truly believed that her grandmother thought she was doing the right thing. She thought of the weeks where the woman had reached out and helped Mnhei'sahe reconnect with her own past and family. What she had done might have been wrong, but Mnhei'sahe couldn't harbor any anger for the woman anymore. After a few seconds, she hung her head slightly and whispered an apology to her grandmother in her native tongue across the platform, “Usaen, Hu’nanov…”
But she thought of Mona again and that light she kept inside her heart… that light that had saved her from the Neural Extraction Converter… and that piece of herself that her Miradonian bond-mate had given her… and Mnhei'sahe's eyes went wide with a thought. A possibly crazy thought.
Turning to Enalia who was watching Dox with a concerned expression as they both waited on Sonak, who had just finished and confirmed Jaeih’s identity, Dox sounded desperate. There was the hint of an accent Enalia had never heard before in the young Rihannu’s voice as she spoke in Federation Standard again for the first time in weeks, “Captain… I know we don’t have much time… and it’s hard to explain… but I need to try to help her. Even with what she did, she’s… she’s my grandmother. I HAVE to try. Please, trust me.”
It didn’t take long for Enalia to think it over and nod her consent. “I trust you... but you only have a few minutes before we have to pull out. Whatever it is, make it fast.”
Having no idea if those few minutes were going to be enough, Dox didn’t waste any time as she replied, “Thank you.” Then, the anxious Rihannsu Lieutenant glanced over at the crew as they were preparing to depart as the large, green shuttle that had brought them there identical to the smoking wreck in the center of the landing platform) returned to hover at the edge of the platform, extending its ramp to extract the team. Turning to Sonak, the man that trained her own mental disciplines that had enabled her to resist having her own mind re-written, she spoke with firm determination.
“Trensu Sonak..” She called him, not by rank but with the Vulcan word for what else he was to her: her master and teacher, “I need your help.”
Stepping over to where her grandmother lay, unconscious, Mnhei’sahe Dox got down on her knees and looked up at the Kolinahr master and her teacher in the training of her own mind, Sonak, “Rendal used a device on her… the Neural Extraction Converter. It overlaid mental instructions in her mind to control her, but she’s still in there beneath it. You taught me how to resist that and I did… but I can’t… I need your help to link our minds. You’ll be in there and can confirm that I’m still me at the same time.”
The extensive training Dox had received was almost exclusively focused on mental defense. In truth, she had no idea how to mind-meld. “Once in her mind, I can help her. I can give her what you showed me to be able to break that control." Then her tone shifted to one of concession and the truth behind her request. "I... I doubt you really need me for it... but... she's my grandmother. I... I need to try I need to see if I can reach her one last time.”
the Kolinahr master Sonak contemplated for a moment, staring as if measuring Dox's resolve, then nodded.
''I understand. The bond of the blood is not merely symbolic, but one that has actual basis in genetics; just as do psionics," the repository of the wisdom of thousands of years of discipline and training explained. "There are certain disciplines that build upon the natural link within a genetic line; the majority of such disciplines are used pirimarily for healing purposes, particularly for ailments of the mind. Your request is therefore soundly logical. These disciplines take several decades to master; but with a mind-meld between the three of us, myself acting as both conduit and anchor, you could reach out to her through your natural bond... and attempt to free her, as you once freed yourself.''
Joining his hands, Sonak looked straight at Dox with his penetrating grey eyes, the timbre of his voice deeper than usual.
''But I must warn you; this is no ordinary mind-meld. I can only support your effort. You alone will have to remove all the layers of mental conditioning, and restore the integrity of her thoughts. You will have to face this battle alone... again. If you falter, we will share her fate; all three of us.''
Looking down at her grandmother, then back up to Sonak, Mnhei'sae took a breath. You can do this, Mnheisahe. she thought to herself. They had that machine at full power. It was draining power from the rest of the SHIP trying to break you, and you broke IT! You did that and you can do it again. You HAVE to do it. You can't leave her like this. If there's even a chance that you can help her... then you don't have time to doubt yourself. You can... you WILL do this.
The risk to Sonak was her main concern now, but she didn't have time to doubt herself. Looking back up at the somber Vulcan scientist, she was terrified. Not for herself, but for her grandmother. For Sonak. For the rest of the crew, waiting on her decision, with the clock ticking. Under her breath, she muttered to herself, evoking the words of the image of Rita Paris she had only imagined talking to her in the brig, weeks ago, "Time to pull on the officer panties, Mnhei'sahe."
Then she looked back up at the man that trained her mind. and knew its capabilities better than anyone else. Logically, Sonak wouldn't have even offered to help her if he doubted her, so she nodded, takling her last bit of needed confidence from that fact. "I will not falter, Trensu."
Sonak had Dox and her grandmother placed each side of him. For a moment, he seemed to be daydreaming and then, slowly, delicately, he put a hand on the old woman's forehead. just as deliberately, his other hand went to the skull of his shipmate. He didn't say a word. he closed his eyes, lowered his head and took one long, deep breath.
Something felt, yet unheard and unseen, filled the space between them, like static electricity. But within their minds, something akin to a light was coming on, as three consciousnesses became one. One mind trapped within the mental barriers of a psychic prison whose walls were slowly closing in.
The trapped spirit of Dox' grandmother stirred as that of the younger woman touched hers. Sonak's presence could be felt between the two of them, but more like an unseen observer they couldn't locate but knew was there. It was up to Dox now.
Blinking, Dox opened her eyes. She could feel Sonak's presence in her mind, but she could no longer see him as she looked up into the turquoise sky above her. She was still on ch'Rihan for sure, but as she slowly sat back up and got to her feet, she wasn't sure exactly where. All she knew for sure was that she was no longer on the landing platform of the Delevhas Compound. And she was no longer in the black turtleneck of the partial Rihannsu uniform she had been wearing. Looking down, she was in her own crimson, Starfleet uniform. Her proud, lieutenant’s pips on her chest, opposite the silver and gold Delta.
When she trained to discipline her own mind with Sonak, she would do so by climbing the steps of Mount Selaya on Vulcan. And while Mnhei'sahe had never been there in reality, her vision of the place was created by Sonak in perfect detail. The sky, the wind, the heat… all of it was perfectly real to her in her own mind. But wherever she was, this wasn't her mind. This was Verelan t'Rul's mind. Before her was a wide, grand plaza of broad, white flagstone flanked by buildings that looked old. Centuries, perhaps millennia old. White marble buildings with long, grand columns stretched down the main road into the distance.
"Grandmother!" Mnhei'sahe called out, but heard nothing but her own voice echo back down the empty streets. But she felt something. She felt the presence of another mind from behind straining to reach to hers as clearly as she could feel her own or Sonak’s supporting her. As she did, she turned around to see where she was. Before her now was a set of great marble steps stretching above her up towards a great domed edifice that loomed upwards. Ringed by shining, gilded columns that seemed to extend far taller than should be possible. This was the Imperial Senate of ch’Rihan. And these were the steps she would have to climb.
Taking a breath, Mnhei’sahe knew this was good. The need to climb steps was a part of her training. That this was here meant that the mental training that Sonak had once imparted to her, was taking root in her Grandmother’s mind. It took on a different form, one familiar to the mind they were in, but the idea was the same. Closing her eyes, she felt the internal glow of the swirling lavender energy that was her own spirit, fused with the energy of her bond-mate, Mona. That part of Mona’s love that would forever be a part of her that had given her the strength to overcome Rendal’s attempts to chain Mnhei’sahe’s own mind.
“I didn’t fail before… I didn’t fail myself. I won’t fail either of you now.” Mnhei’sahe said as she began to climb. As she did, she felt it. The rush of heat and pressure beginning to build. The pressure from the barriers that caged her grandmother’s mind. The invasive programming threatening to overwhelm them all with greater strength with each step Mnhei’sahe took.
Here, in her grandmother’s mind, that horrible programming had succeeded. Rendal’s machinations had found purchase and it was fighting back against the force that was Mnhei’sahe’s own mind. But the young Rihanna woman was determined and pressed forward. With each step, the pressure grew, trying to push her back down to her knees. Trying to keep her away. “I… will not falter.” Mnhei’sahe said firmly as she walked.
Her legs felt heavy as if arms were pulling hard against them to keep them from advancing as she felt a massive wall of heat and pressure form instantly before her. Instinctively, she threw up her arms to protect herself as a wall of green flame erupted on the steps above her that seemed to shoot up high into the sky. The first barrier. The first wall of programming that kept Verelan’s mind caged. And looking at it through squinted eyes, Mnhei’sahe sneered slightly. She felt the blast of heat come off of it. But to her… compared to the heat she had felt in the Mount Selaya in her mind that forced her to her knees over and over, this was nothing. It HAD to be nothing. In her determination, she refused to let it be anything more. And she climbed.
She felt her skin go flush with the heat of the flames as she stepped straight into the wall of fire as the pressure became far more intense. It pushed hard against her like a great hand. She felt herself break out in a sweat and it felt as if her skin would blister off, but she kept walking, momentarily blinded by the flames, until she found herself on the next step, the flames gone. Letting out a breath, she kept walking.
As she did, the pressure began to come in greater and greater waves, now. Each one hitting her harder. And with every few steps, came a new wall of flame. Each on hotter and more intense than the last. Though it was only within her grandmother’s mind, she felt her crimson uniform burn upon her each time. She felt the flames lick her face, bite into her flesh and blister her skin each time. She felt herself come aflame, but she refused to burn. She emerged each time whole. Protected by both her mental training and the lavender light that seemed now to radiate outward, beyond the heart in her side. A living thing that wouldn’t allow her to give up.
While she knew that in the real world, she was given only a few minutes to do what she needed to do, time seemed to stretch in front of her as long as the steps themselves. All the time in the world to do what she needed to do. And finally, after what felt like a climb that had lasted forever, she pushed with all of her strength, through the last wall of green flames to step onto the platform at the top. Her knees felt weak and she wanted to collapse, but she had made a promise to not falter. And for her mind, and the minds of Verelan and Sonak, she would not. So she stood again, straightening herself and taking a breath. Before her, the grand double doors of the senate themselves. Behind her, she turned to spared a glance for the view of the city of Ra'tleihfi. The glistening Capital of ch’Rihan she had never seen, but was now looking at through the prism of her grandmother’s memories.
Sparing a slight smile, she was exhausted, but unbent. And she knew that while the climb might be over, she had at least one more obstacle to overcome. She could feel that pressure again, cutting into her from behind. Turning to face the doors again, there was now a form standing there. The form of a woman. A woman made of green fire that stood before her, blocking the grand double doors, sword in hand… staring at Mnhei’sahe with raw hatred in her glowing, emerald eyes.
It was the form of Riov Dalia Rendal. The woman who had caged Verelan’s mind. The woman who had murdered Mnhei’sahe’s father. The woman who had tried to break the young Rihanna woman. And ultimately, the woman who had failed to do so.
Stepping forward without hesitation, Dox pressed ahead towards the flaming apparition. And as she did, the Green, flame Rendal lifted her sword high and swung down in a mighty stroke at the advancing Starfleet officer, letting out a guttural, raging roar. But as Dox walked forward, she refused to flinch or hesitate. She made no motions to protect herself or dodge the strike. She simply... walked through it.
This wasn’t Rendal. This was the last barrier. The final bit of programming, too weak without the others to stand. An immaterial thing that broke across Mnhei’sahe like a gust of hot wind that did nothing to slow her advance as it scattered like dried leaves against the young Starfleet officer in red, dissipating behind her into nothingness. Now, standing before those great doors, Mnhei’sahe paused again for one last moment. The pressure was gone. The heat and barriers were gone. She could feel a cool breeze float in from the city and she took a breath, allowing herself to taste the sweet air of a home that had forever been denied her. A home… but not hers.
Grasping the handles, Mnhei’sahe pushed forward. At first, there was resistance as if each great, ancient wooden door must have weighed as much as a starship. But Mnhei’sahe could move Starships… and so here, she could move doors. And slowly, as she strained and pushed with all of her strength, the doors began to part. And from within, came a light. A brilliant light that the red-headed young pilot winced slightly against. And then the light softened.
Gone were the doors and the grand columns and the massive city at her back. Looking around her, this wasn’t the Senate. At her feet were dark red floors of maithe wood stretching down a long hall. On either side, ornate wooden steps leading up to the second floor of a house she had only seen images of on a screen, weeks ago with her Grandmother. On the walls to her sides, painted portraits of family and ancestors, long gone, but never forgotten here.
This was Verelan’s mansion on the plains of Ihhliae. This was her grandmother’s home. The home that could have been her own in a different life. Looking up, Mnhei’sahe saw the golden light of Eisn streaming in through the windows that peppered the dome at the top of the house. And looking forward, to the end of the great hall, she saw her.
Standing before her now, in dark purple flowing robes, looking as regal and elegant as she ever had, was her Grandmother. Verelan had a look on her face of shock and disbelief as she blinked, looking at Mnhei’sahe in silence for a long moment.
“You… you came for me… in my own mind? How…?” the Senator, slowly recovering her faculties and adjusting to the dream-like state of the mind meld, could not only see her granddaughter, but feel her as well. In that moment, their thoughts were joined, and the two women, separated by a generation, both knew one another in a manner far more intimate than most.
On her end, Mnhei’sahe Dox knew Verelan t’Rul’s hopes and dreams for the future, the aspirations she had for her granddaughter, the hope that it stirred in her for a brighter future. She felt the respect the woman had gained for her, now growing even further. She knew the regrets and sacrifices the elder politician had endured, over the deeds of the past that she was trying to atone for in her somewhat Machiavellian, yet so completely Romulan manner. Dox knew the elder woman had hope- hope for the future of her lineage as well as the planet that she loved, even though it had been twisted and warped by the Tal Shiar’s xenophobic and expansionist policies.
And on the other end, Verelan t’Rul could see into her granddaughters mind as well. She could see the young woman’s fears and anxieties. Her need for family and acceptance, and her fear of failure and abandonment. But she also saw Mnhei’sahe’s unwavering sense of responsibility. Her loyalty and sense of duty to a purpose greater than herself, that gave her pride and had led her to the Hera. Most of all, she knew without a doubt that her own mind had been freed from the inhibitors and controls that had been so painfully put in place by Rendal by her granddaughter’s efforts. Sharing their minds, she understood it was the Vulcan Kolinahr master who had accommodated it, and she herself took one step closer to reunification with Vulcan.
For it is difficult not to believe in the benevolence of a people, when one had risked his very existence, simply to take a chance that one generation might rescue the next.
Taking it all in, knowing what they all knew, as their minds were one, Verelan t’Rul’s heart swelled, and she was empowered once more.
“You are leaving… I know that now. But you endangered your own freedom, the mind of the Vulcan, all of your friends… because you could not bear to leave me this way?” the silver-haired Senator asked, knowing the answer. “Truly, you live up to your namesake, d'paenhe. I will honor your sacrifice, and I will make a difference here on the hearthworld. I swear it. Because… you will not be here to carry on my work. I know this… and I understand.”
Nodding, Mnhei'sahe stepped closer, a smile on her lips and tears building. She knew that their thoughts were one, but she still wanted to speak. And it felt good to hear her grandmother's voice again, whole.
"I have to. You've seen what's been in my mind. What I have to protect. But beyond that… you know what I have to go back for now." And immediately, what Mnhei'sahe was thinking about was shared between them. Her love for Mona Gonadie… the love that gave her the strength to endure the worst Rendal had to offer and more. And with that image in her mind, Verelan thought of the wedding bracelet she still wore on her arm in the real world that she had kept safe for her granddaughter.
And then, in her mind's eye, Verelan knew fully what Mnhei'sahe couldn't have told her about before. That her granddaughter was to become a mother herself, three times over. Knowing that truth was now something shared between them, Mnhei'sahe smiled. "I know you can make this a world I can share with them one day, Grandmother. I want them to know you."
“I want that as well, child,” the elder Rihannsu beamed proudly at her granddaughter. “Promise me this, in this fleeting moment that cannot last. Promise me that you will not forget what I have taught you, and that you will someday return to ch’Rihan to continue my work- OUR work. The work of our family. To restore our world to what it should be, what we as a people could be. To import that outsider’s perspective to the home you have never known, and bring about the change that must come for our people to become truly noble once again.”
Stepping into the personal space of her last living relative, Veleran summoned all of the dignity and presence she would have displayed on the floor of the Senate, and made her request. “Swear this to me on your honor, as a proud daughter of ch’Rihan, and as an officer of Starfleet. I can carry that hope with me, to sustain me as I scheme to outmaneuver the puppeteer in her games here at home. If you swear it to me, I will believe you, and it will light my darkest hours in the battle for the soul of our hearthworld.”
In this context, with their minds as one, there was no lying between the two women. No half-truths nor half measures- only the purest honesty and truth. In that moment, Mnhei'sahe found herself almost surprised when she found the words came to her with such ease. In her heart, she truly wanted what her grandmother wanted for her.
While she didn't know when or how, she knew that if it was in any way possible, she would return here, to try and make this world what it should be. What it once was and could be again... the home she had always dreamed of. She had responsibilities and a career and a life still to live on the Hera- but someday, she knew that she would return to this place. Rendal was right about ch'Rihan being a part of her; just not in the way she thought. "I will remember what you have taught me. On my honor as a daughter of ch'Rihan and the house Rul, and as a Starfleet officer, I swear it, grandmother."
Then the crimson-clad officer smirked slightly, looking up at her taller elder, "As for exactly HOW, I'll figure it out. After all, I have excellent guides."
The elder Rihannsu smiled, and wrapped her granddaughter in an embrace. “Try to make it within my lifetime, blood of my blood. Because I would very dearly love to see you again in this life, and not just the next. May Al’thindor guide you and keep you and yours safe… until we meet again. Please, take your wedding bracelet… it was all that I could do, but consider it my last gift to you… for now. Until we meet again, Mnhei’sahe.”
Releasing the shorter woman from the embrace, Veleran t’Rul- member of the Imperial Senate, mother to a murdered son, kidnapper, revolutionary and proud Rihannsu grandparent smiled, a wry and wistful smile as she took in the sight of her granddaughter one more time… which she fervently hoped would not be the last time. “Now go, before you are captured and all of this will have been for naught. Go, and live, and be free. Carry those lessons within you when you return, to share them with all our people.”
Standing up a bit straighter, Mnhei'sahe nodded and smiled a smile, not unlike the one opposite her on the face not unlike her own. As she did, she tugged on her uniform tunic, even though she knew it technically didn't exist as she replied, expressing a sentiment that a month ago would have seemed an alien concept to extend to the woman who had kidnapped her: love.
"Ie, Hu'nanov. Jol hwi arhem."
As she spoke, Mnhei'sahe closed her eyes and dipped her head to concentrate as she reached out to Sonak through the Mind-Meld. An instant later, in the real world, the young Starfleet pilot's eyes opened again, looking up again at the very real, turquoise skies of ch'Rihan, this time with a smile on her face. Slowly, she sat up and took a deep breath as she felt her mind become her own once again, though, inside both women, they would now always carry that small piece of each other that had connected within.
Standing up, Mnhei'sahe reached down and gently removed her wedding bracelet off Verelan's wrist and slipped it back onto her own. Then, picking up her twin blades that she had dropped earlier, brought one up and sliced off a lock of her own bright red hair and, just as gently, placed the curls in the pocket of her sleeping grandmother's robes. As she did, she nodded and turned to Sonak, Enalia, and Rita in the Cyclone and spoke, "It's done. Thank you."
At the affirmative nod of the Kolinahr master, which spoke volumes to any involved, the familiar voice came from the lead Scorpion, making a joke at a time when tensions and sentimentality were running high, even as the danger mounted. “Miss Dox? Mrs. Dox? We’ve come rather a long way to give you a lift… so how about we load up and get out of town before the welcome wagon arrives, shall we?”
Smiling, Mnhei'sahe had not realized just how good it felt to hear the voice of her Commander and bond-sister again. It was a voice she thought for a time, along with the others standing there with her, that she never thought she would hear again outside the confines of her own mind. "Aye, Commander. Let's get out of here."
At the edge of the platform, Az'Prel helped Jaeih up the ramp of the shuttle, Thex and Varnok already on-board and waiting as the Rihannsu Intel operative chuckled slightly, "Oh, by all means, lets. I've had my fill of 'Romulan' hospitality for two lifetimes."
One of the Scorpion fighters lowered itself to the landing pad in front of Dox, and the canopy raised, showcasing the very non-Romulan interior of the Cherry Bomb. On the one hand, separating the landing party was a risk. Additionally, Dox was only just recently freed from captivity. She could be damaged, traumatized… she might even make a break for it and change her mind. There was an inordinate risk in extending that trust and letting her pilot her own vehicle.
But trust had to be offered, and it had to be felt. In her heart, Rita Paris suspected the moody and emotional pilot likely needed one thing even more than that trust extended to her- and that was to feel in control of her own destiny again, with a flight stick in her hands and starship engine propelling her toward the future. So it was a risk… but the Earth girl from a long time ago in a reality far, far away was accustomed to taking risks on people, and having them prove those instincts were right. On Mnhei’sahe Dox, she had gambled many times before, and while this might just doom them all, it also might just restore some much-needed confidence to the sister she’d crossed time, space and dimensions to rescue.
“C’mon Dox… let’s fly some escort duty and get everyone back where we belong,” came the voice from the empty, open cockpit.
Looking first at the open cockpit, then at Rita's Cyclone, then back at the ship, Mnhei'sahe's face spread into a broad smile as she climbed into the cockpit. "Aye, Commander."
That same hint of an accent she had when she spoke with Enalia was still there, but if Dox realized it, it didn't show. Instead, she secured herself into the customized starcraft with an interior and flight control interface designed specifically by Mona Gonadie for her bond-mate. The seat felt like a hug and the familiar controls felt like home. Smiling, she performed a quick flight systems test as was protocol and called over, "All systems green. By your lead, Commander."
”It’s a long way home, Miss Dox. Let’s get started,” came the voice of Paris. Not an inspirational speech, not an encouragement, just an acknowledgment that it was time to go home.
In tandem, as Enalia and Sonak boarded the Shuttle, the trio of Cyclone fighters swung about and flanked the escape craft in perfect formation. As the crew of the Hera lifted up and away from the landing platform, leaving behind the Tal'Shiar compound that only an hour ago, Mnhei'sahe felt like might have been the place where her mind and freedom would be lost forever.
Soon, Mnhei’sahe would have to make her reports. She would sit down and tell the Captain and Rita everything that had happened in exacting and likely painful detail. Then she would have to repeat the tale, likely for Starfleet Inquiry boards and for competency hearings and counseling and more. But those were concerns for later. Concerns she could push aside as she flanked the port side of the Charon-Class shuttle as it ascended higher into the Rihannsu atmosphere towards the stars. Running a hand across the controls of the Cherry Bomb, she still couldn't believe that she was free.
Looking over her shoulder, she watched the cities recede into the distance. The hills and fields of the lands that she had promised to return to growing more distant as the blue-green skies of her homeworld slowly faded into the midnight-black of space. When Dox would return, it would be on her own terms. But for now, she turned back towards those stars where she knew the home she had chosen was waiting for her.
Quietly, she whispered into the stars in front of her, speaking the Rihan word for 'Angel Bird', the private name she called her bond-mate, Mona, "I'm coming home, Jhu Dhael."
Somewhere, across the cosmos, she could almost hear the reply, "Hurry home, my Minay."