Jenchae did not want, in his final hours, to go back to being what he had been.  He had consecrated his life to overcoming his hatred for Ash’tor.  Yet here, on this prison ship, in the black-walled bareness of this cell, he knew he had never overcome it completely.

No more thoughts: only the floor against his back, his hands on his chest.  From the ceiling, twilight lamps looked down like facets of an insect’s eye.  The ventilation system whistled airily.

He jerked at the grind of the cell door rolling open, a sound he’d have recognized in his sleep, though he’d only ever heard it when he’d entered this cell.

Since that day, the ship had been still, grounded at the space port, not even en route for the Death Planet yet.  It could not be his time to die. . .

Whiteness flared into the room.  A weapon?

Just the light from the corridor, normal illumination slicing the cell’s honeyed brown.

A yearning to dash into that light flooded him — and a terror of the ones who barred the way: a slight man in black prison coveralls and a guard behind him, gun at the ready.

Jenchae sensed fear leaking through a closed mind.  The guard’s, he realized with a start.  The guard was afraid.

By a force of will, Jenchae steadied himself.  Over the protest of arthritic joints, he sat up, outwardly composed.

The guard pushed the prisoner into the cell.

A dangerous man.   Or dangerous only to Ash’torian domination?

The door clanked shut, plunging the cell into darkness.  As his eyes readjusted to gloom, Jenchae stood.  The newcomer was looking at him darkly — no, not at him: at the place.

The stranger was a sverra: a species engineered from humans but stronger and longer-lived.  He had a sverra’s eyes, black, too large, and a sverra’s white, gleaming skin.  Yet he was also part human, his hair a human shade: blond or brown — hard to tell in the dimness.

And he’s here.  The simple fact struck with the force of revelation.  He’s here with me.  I don’t have to face death alone.  Not yet.  

Posted in Excerpts