The Bond Line
Title: The Bond Line
“So the baby’s healthy?” Xander asked as he slid off the examining table.
His aunt smiled as she put her medical implements away. “Yes. The cells are dividing normally. You and your mate will have a healthy and strong child in less than seven months. And from the readings I’ve gathered the child will be just as gifted as you are.”
“Damn.” Xander said with a mix of daze and awe and maybe a little bit of freak out.
“Speaking of your mate where is he? What IS he? What’s he like? Does he make you happy? Have you talked to him about the family? Does he want the public to know about him? Can he protect you when it’s needed? Are there any illnesses in his family we must know about? How will he take to fatherhood? Does he make you happy?” Prince Sanotio asked with a worried look on his face as he looked at his youngest child.
Xander looked at his father with big eyes. “Ah?”
“Well?” Sanotio’s long red tail waved behind him like an angry snake, the gold bangle attached to the end clinking like a rattle. “I want to know more about this man, this Riddick. How did you meet? Did he-”
Luka covered his worried mate’s mouth with his hand and smiled. “What your overprotective father is trying to say is that we would love to meet our new son-in-law and welcome him into our family.”
Jarith grinned. “Yeah! I would like to interrogate him.”
“Jarith!” Luka said sharply as he snapped a narrow look in his son’s direction.
“Did I say interrogate?” Jarith’s grin went from roguish to goofy. “I meant question heavily under duress.”
Jarith smile widened. “I mean have a friendly conversation all alone in a room with no windows and only one exit.” Jarith said with an innocent look on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
“That does sound slightly appealing . . . we could use my study high in the west tower.” Sanotio said thoughtfully.
Luka sighed and rolled his eyes toward the heavens then looked into Xander’s wide eyes with a shrug. “You’ll have to get used to them. Jarith’s new mate isn’t allowed outside without bodyguards even though the world doesn’t know about him yet. And you’re pregnant. Sano wouldn’t let me walk on stairs without his help and watched my diet like the food was going to come to life and take a bite out of me. You’re also our long lost baby returned to the living as if by magic. You’re going to be lucky if you can go to the bathroom without someone waiting at the door.” Luka’s bright blue eyes looked into Xander’s with pity and a silent Greg patted his tense shoulder.
“Oh, with all this excitement of learning about the adoption of little Oren and the health of the pregnancy we never got to finish learning about Xander’s journey to Helion Prime!” Xander’s eyes widened with more than just a little bit of horror and Illiann’s eyes glowed with dark amusement as she rubbed her very round belly.
“Oh, yes, my clever twin you’re right.” Crown Prince Sanotio looked at his youngest child with apologetic eyes. “I know how you hate cryo but I hope the trip and then the nasty business with the temporary kidnapping wasn’t too traumatic?”
Illiann grinned and eyed her uncomfortable nephew and sweating mate. “Oh, they simply MUST tell you about their lovely side trip to a very sunny planet on the way here.”
Sanotio frowned and all three of the other male milithre mouthed the word ‘side trip’ with questions in their eyes. Alarm bells sounded in Xander’s head telling him to get his kid and ‘RUN’! Out of the corner of his eye Xander could see Greg slowly making his way to the exit of the healing room. “Um . . .” Was all Xander could choke out under his milithre families protective gazes. He had a feeling that he would be stuck story telling for quite a while.
One very long hour later
“I’m going to have that planet blown up.” Sanotio said firmly.
Luka rolled his eyes and patted his tense mate’s shoulder. “You can’t blow up a planet, love.”
Sanotio looked at his mate with wounded eyes. “Why not?”
“Because your father King Sanotus wants to improve our kinds image from super powered bloodthirsty slaves that kill their masters and uprooted people from a planet and horder of 1/6 the galaxy’s precious minerals to something a little less negative. Destroyer of a planet will not give us a better image.”
“Really? That’s what people think of milithre?” Xander asked softly. He couldn’t remember anyone shying away from him since he got here.
“It’s what many thought during the overthrow when our kind took back Emfrine. It took 13 years of planning for the King to overthrow the slavers. They didn’t know much about our kinds physic abilities.” Luka said.
Sanotio nodded. “The slavers only knew about the healing and the poison in our tails. The tail used to be cut off and the end burned so it couldn’t be healed well. Some of our oldest elders still have docked tail. The slavers didn’t know some of us could speak to each other with telepathically. With telepathy and note passing a network of key milithre attacked and killed their masters and took over their properties. There are a lot of metalworking factories and mines on Emfrine.”
Xander curled his tail around his waist, he couldn’t imagine being without it now. “What do people think now?”
Luka smiled. “To keep the Alliance of Planets and the APF (Alliance of Planetary Forces) from interfering King Sanotus honored the contracts that the slavers formed. Our planet continues to provide metals and minerals for ships and medical aid. The temples that serve all the people used to be slaver run hospitals for the rich. Did you know that an infusion of milithre light can smooth out wrinkles?”
“Um . . . now I do.”
Jarith snorted. “Yep, in gramps time our auntie’s holy temple of healing was once a youth spa for ugly old rich people.”
Illiann came into the room with a frown. “Speaking of old people the Council of Elders wishes to speak with Alea`xand`r.”
Sanotio frowned. “About what?”
Illiann looked worried. “I do not know but they said they wish to speak to him alone. No one else.”
Sanotio’s tail flicked like a snake and his eyes narrowed to slits. “Too bad.”
Council of Elders
Flanked by his father, brother, other father, and aunt, Xander expected a cold dark room with a high table of judging eyes and a low pedestal for him to stand on. Like a court room from the medieval times. Only to enter an open fire warmed room with low tables, large comfortable looking colored pillows, and seven milithre looking up at him with neutral expressions on their faces. A small hunched over female with fuzzy blond hair and a cream colored scarred tail raised a brow as the group entered. “We Seven only asked for the young Prince Alea`xand`r, Crown Prince.”
Sanotio stood tall. “I know, but if you wish to speak to my child you will tolerate my presence. It’s my right.”
“If we must then we will, Crown Prince.” A short burly milithre male looked at the royal family with amusement glittering in his cloudy blue eyes.
Some of the elders frowned while others nod their acceptance. A plump male milithre with greying black hair cleared his throat as he looked Xander straight in the eyes. “This Council of Seven wishes to speak to you about your rumored mate.”
A tall withered red head tilted her head to the side and looked Xander up and down. Xander felt tendrils of power brush over him trying to find cracks in his shields. Xander slapped the tickling power away and both the tall red haired female and the plump male jerk back as if slapped. The fuzzy haired blond milithre tightened her purple shawl and laughed loudly. “You’re gifts are strong.” Then she looked at the two milithre who still seem dazed. “You should know better than to probe a Lith`Halo’s mind.”
Sanotio and Illiann look caught between smug pride and protective anger. “I will not tolerate unnecessary probing of a mind within the walls of my temple, Elders.” Illiann snapped.
The plump male glared as he rubbed at his forehead. “I assure you, Priestess, it was not curiosity that urged me to seek answers that way but a need for a question answered.”
“So ask me.” Xander said firmly as he placed another layer of shields over his mind. Everyone in the room felt an already closed door seal tight.
The thickset greying milithre in brown robes chuckled and shook his head. “You may not know it young one but you insulted those two by tightening your shields. The mental slap was a harsh warning but the tightening of your shields mean you don’t think they have the will power to leave you be. “
The fuzzy haired female giggled and some of her beauty that had been washed away by wrinkles and time showed through. Her eyes glittered like green glass in a blue sun branched stream. “It’s like shouting to the room that you think they have the willpower of a small child.”
The plump male and tall female had sour looks on their weathered faces. “Quite. I’m sure the young prince didn’t realize . . . Never mind it. We are off topic. We’ve heard whispers that the young prince is mated.” The tall redheaded female said as she plucked imaginary lint off her beaded blue dress.
“Mated without blessings of a Council! Milithre law it not a true mating claim!” Snapped a pinched faced balding elder in grey robes and clouded eyes.
Xander stiffened and so did his family. Xander felt his heart beat hard, is this group of old bones going to try to take his mate away? Xander’s tail spike snapped out of its sheath and he started to growl softly. He’d leave before he let that happen. An old woman with a smooth face and long white hair looked at the aggravated family with calm eyes. “This Council of Seven has also been informed that your mate is here on the planet and a wanted criminal by the APF.”
Luka tipped his head to the side. “And where did the Council of Seven hear such a thing, aunt?”
The smooth faced female looked smug. “This Council of Seven has ears and eyes past these walls so this council is never blindsided by new comings. Now let the young prince speak, nephew.” She looked at Xander with a frown. “One of our council sent to greet the prince halted because he recognized a dangerous man among your group. Tell us Prince Alea`xand`r are you mated to The Riddick?”
Riddick easily slipped into Xander’s fancy foo-foo assigned room without being seen by the milithre guards and healers that walked the halls. Somewhere deep inside Riddick bulked at leaving something that was his with such mediocre protection . . . but then again not many had Riddick’s talent for getting into and out of places. He walked across the soft and thick sage colored carpet to a rocking cradle shifting gently in the evening breeze. He pulled the fine silk curtains aside to see Oren sleeping peacefully inside with the nipple of a half empty bottle resting against his parted lips. The warm wind blew again rocking the cradle waking the dark hair baby up just enough to start sucking on the bottle again, he sucked for a moment, made a content noise, and then stilled. Riddick watched this go on twice more with amusement glittering in his eyes. “Greedy little catfish.”
Placing the tightly wrapped parcel among the child’s many new toys Riddick was gone before the nanny came to check on the boy.
Elder Council room
“And if I am?” Xander said with narrow eyes.
The plump male spoke. “Then he must come before this council and the Alliance of Planets board and explain himself. There are bounties on his head and rumors that he has killed over a hundred innocent people!” The plump milithre’s face went red and he slammed his hand down on the low table shaking a fine tea set and scattering a plate of small coin sized cookies. “That is hardly a mate fit for a prince.”
Xander narrowed his eyes. “I can assure you anyone my mate killed was hardly innocent. Riddick would never harm a child or someone who could not fight back.”
The fuzzy haired blond milithre clapped her small hands once to gather everyone’s attention. Her green blue eyes twinkled as she smiled at all those around her. “You see? Rumors. All just rumors to scare and make wary the common folk.”
“Be that as it may he’s still a wanted man, one that displeases the APF. They do not take kindly to deserters.” Said the tall redhead with a sneer on her thin line of a mouth.
“He’s a criminal and a coward! He doesn’t have the right to mix his blood with the blood of the royal line!” Shouted the hotheaded elder as he hit the table again spilling his honey colored tea.
Sanotio placed a calming hand on Xander’s shoulder when he started to growl loud enough for those around him to hear. “The blessing of the Elders is something of the past the milithre people hardly follow it anymore. Why do you disapprove of my son’s mate? My wife too had a shadowy past, she was an infamous mercenary. She had blood on her hands and broken many laws. Once she became a princess all of that was washed away as if it never was.”
“Your late wife’s crimes were minor compared to this Mr. Riddick’s.” Said a soft voiced dark skinned elder with grey eyes and a deep scar across his nose and upper cheek.
“I have spoken to friends among the government here. Not all of The Riddick’s crimes can be washed clean easily. He was a soldier in the APF and got others killed on an important mission. They told this council that he must serve his time in prison for that crime at least.” Said the fuzzy haired blond sadly.
Xander stood very still and grit his teeth. “And how long would that be?”
The plump male with deep crow’s feet around the eyes looked happy. “Fifteen years.”
Xander only had one phrase to say before he stormed out of the room. “Fuck no.”
Sanotio looked at the council with stormy eyes. “I will speak to my father about this!”
Xander stood on the balcony and held the railing as he breathed hard. Xander had been counting on immunity for Riddick. He had foolishly thought everything would go well. Xander grit his teeth and growled under his breath. Now what was he to do?
“Don’t worry kid. Dad will fix it. He’s already having words with gramps.” Jarith said as he slapped Xander on the shoulder.
“And what will I do till then? Let the government take my mate away?”
Jarith gave Xander an ‘Are you stupid?’ look and huffed out an annoyed breath. “Noooo. We take you and baldy to a safe place away from the Helion planets. The AP government is strong here but on other worlds not so much. They’re going to wave their dicks around for a while then give into the Milithre Royal Family. They like getting their pretty metals and their broken bodies healed fast. It’ll all work out.”
Xander wasn’t so sure.
Jarith grinned. “Hey, we go to Emfrine soon! My mate’s there, you can meet him”
A messenger stepped onto the balcony and bowed to the princes. “The Council of Seven wishes to speak again with Prince Alea`xand`r.” The short white tailed messenger bowed again and left.
Jarith frowned. “Wonder what they want from you now?” Jarith checked his watch then looked at the darkening sky. “It’s late, like super-old-people-bedtime late. Wonder what they want that can’t wait till morning?”
Xander shrugged. “When you’re popular.”
They turned to go inside neither one noticed the shadow that followed them down the hall. What little light there was glinted off reflective silver eyes.
Council of Seven
Xander entered the room to find his father arguing with the blustery round elder. “You must do what’s right for the people, Crown Prince Sanotio Jarrin Lith`Halo! And what is right for our people is working with the Alliance of Planets!”
Sanotio’s eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared as he let out a loud angry breath. “You mean what is good for you and your mate, Elder Artan! Having a healthy prince, continuing the Lith`Halo family line, and not bowing down to the APF’s every whim is right for our people!”
The blocky old man stood up with a clatter of dishes and teacups as his face turned an ugly purple. “How dare you! I was fighting to free our people when you were nothing but a wishful thought in your parent’s heads!” Artan buried his hands in his robe and grabbed for his tail hidden under the folds. He held the yellow furred tail with its shiny top of pink scarred skin up like a prize. “I sacrificed for the Milithre! What have you done, Prince-of-the-first-free-generation?”
Sanotio stood tall and straight. “While you were here drinking tea and filling yourself with credits and desert I was fighting a war. I was pushing back the Parth, keeping Emfrine a part of milithre territory. I was doing that while my child lay far away in a coma! I have fought in many wars and won. Now what you did helped my father’s rebellion, Artan, it did help but you didn’t fight. If it wasn’t for your telepathic abilities you wouldn’t even be a foot note in milithre history or on this damn council.”
Artan snorted like an enraged cat with a hairball and opened his mouth to say more when the small fuzzy haired blond cleared her throat. “Artan sit down and act your age. Prince Sanotio please keep a civil tongue with an elder of this council.” The woman spoke softly but they all heard the edge of steel and obeyed.
“Of course, Elder. Forgive my tone of voice.” Sanotio said with a nod in her direction.
“Yes, High Elder Murwinee.” Artan bowed deeply and sat with a soft thud.
High Elder Murwinee frowned softly then smiled when she noticed the two young princes by the door. “Hello, Prince Alea`xand`r and Prince Jarith. Please come in. We must speak again.”
Xander entered cautiously. “What about?”
The tall redhead frowned deeply. “Your troublesome supposed mate of course.”
Elder Artan glared at Xander. “He must serve his sentence if he is to be here, young prince.”
“And why should Riddick listen to you? He’s not a milithre.” Xander crossed his arms over his chest.
The burly elder with large shoulders and cloudy blue eyes shook his head. “If you take him as mate he falls under milithre law and becomes a citizen. A milithre by bond, child. That is why Artan wishes you not to claim him as mate by word or paper.”
“Elder Teneth is correct. A few in this council wish you to ignore all claim . . . but some do not. Mates are special, a gift from the light, a grounding for our powers. Whatever difficulty shrouds your mating can be fixed. I’m sure there’s a compromise we can reach.” Elder Murwinee said softly.
The tall redhead shook her head and gave everyone in the room a worn look that screamed ‘everyone is a fool but me’. “Imprisonment is the only way.”
Elder Teneth frowned. “Perhaps just confinement? I believe no one here wishes to see Mr. Riddick in a prison like Butcher Bay.”
Elder Artan laughed. “Of course not! He escaped Butcher Bay. He must go to a triple max prison, one he’s not familiar with. Perhaps Caryahik? It’s an island surrounded by nearly endless ocean. Not a soul has ever made it to mainland alive and in one piece. I hear they have a program there on Cary to rehabilitate the criminals. 1/8 of them come out completely changed.”
“No!” The thought of Riddick being different horrified Xander. Xander’s nails bit into his palms and he had to use every ounce of his willpower to keep still and not rip the sneering old man a new one.
Elder Artan’s eyes glittered with amusement. “Cary not what you want? How about Crematoria? It gets lots of sun. And has a solid down to earth community, right, Elder Louisa?”
The redhead raised and brow. “I hear it’s a lovely hole in the ground.”
Xander wanted to snarl.
“Enough! Elders if you speak that way to my child again I will have you thrown off this council and out of this building!” Sanotio barred his fangs. Both Elder Artan and Elder Louisa lowered their eyes under the disapproving gaze of the royals and council.
“It was just a jest, Crown Prince.” Elder Louisa said softly. “Mr. Riddick must be dealt with today. A young girl and a citizen of Helion training to be a bounty hunter was killed in the market today. Reports claim The Riddick did it.”
Xander paled. “The dead girl was it Jack?”
High Elder Murwinee frowned and opened up a folder before her. “No. The girl’s name was Nula Renee Voss from the Cloupuc satellite.” The old woman held up a halo screen on it was a pixy blond girl with a wicked little smirk on her face.
The smooth faced elder that Luka called aunt spoke. “Show him the picture of the dead citizen. The APF don’t care about the girl.”
High Elder Murwinee tapped the screen and it showed a nicely dressed young man in a blue suit with white hair pulled back into a tail. “APF Sargent Ronald McKoon’s son Ronny. Witness’ say Mr. Riddick flew into a rage when the child stole from him and Ronny McKoon tied to stop him and capture Riddick alive so he could claim the bounty on his head. They say Mr. Riddick killed McKoon and the girl and fled with another bloody child on his back. His bounty has doubled from what it was before.”
“Riddick wouldn’t kill a kid!” Xander said with a touch of frustration in his voice. “Is this why all of you are here now? Because of some merc? Mercs die all the time.”
Elder Artan stood. “Not influential APF officer’s sons!”
“I won’t let anyone put Riddick away!”
Silent as a jungle cat Riddick slipped out of the hall and away from the sound of voices. The meeting he just listened in on only confirmed what he already knew. He had to go. He had to leave before . . . before . . . something bad happened.
Prison would be annoying but he been there done that. He firmly believed there was no prison built that could hold him, that could keep him longer then he wanted to be kept. Prison, the dark, other killers, he could handle. It would be like returning home. Prison would be easy.
Mercs were always in his life since he first spilled blood. Nothing new. He can slice um, dice um, and serve them cold with a cold beer. They were easy too. Sometimes pathetically so.
Riddick looked back at the door that lead to what was his. He could hear his boy snarling in his defense. The something bad was always happening to the ones that hung on to his leg. They came into his life and were out of it just as fast. Sometimes by his own hand. Everything ended with a shiv.
Fry with her wide blue eyes, Johns with his shit for brains smirk, the foster home with the kids that depended on him, and his unit of young soldiers with their fucking trusting eyes and solid loyalty flashed behind his eyes.
At one time he wanted to fuck Fry, to see what she was made of under the uncertainty and guilt. He felt kind of kindred, killer to killer. After all she did ghost over a dozen people saving her own ass. He would have done the same. He was going to let her tag along, he knew she wanted to, only to have her fuck it up! She wanted to add a notch to her tally and picked the wrong one. No one ghosts Riddick’s property.
Johns was so fun to play with. Such a bright eyed fucker ready to save the world from bad guys like him. All it took was one tiny bit of metal and a shit load of greed to turn him into a dime store knock off. From promising bounty hunter to dirty junky merc. It was lovely and Riddick planned on pulling the asshole’s chain for a few more months maybe years. He died quick and better then he deserved.
Riddick pushed the memories of children with sweet dirty little faces and smiles away. Nothing would make him think about The Home. As far as he was concerned his teenage years never happened. He didn’t work on the street doing whatever and whoever and steeling that or this to feed mouths, he couldn’t for the life of him recall names now anyway.
Getting busted and sent to APF army for training was a blessing covered in blood and broken glass. It helped him refine his art, gave him something kind of like a family, than took it away just as fast. Barraso. Ark. Torren. Lander. Sheppard. Reese. Tran. Harper. His team dead and him the only fucker to blame. They had his back and now they’re dust.
Anyone on his leg would end the same. Blood. A shiv. Broken. Dust. Gone.
Without a soul seeing him Riddick left the temple of healing and headed for the ship yard. This was just better for his people.
A gentle wind blew through the meeting room shifting the thin red hangings about. A blind mostly skeletal elder clutched at a cane of knotted wood as he spoke. “Trouble this causes our people, long have we talked to gain peace and equal ground with the Alliance of Planets. All a waste if solution is not found. Struggle with allies the milithre cannot have now!”
High Elder Murwinee bowed to the mostly blind one to her left. “Elder Yar is right. I think I may have a compromise that will work for all of us."
Xander narrowed his eyes at the old woman. “And what would that be?”
“We limit Mr. Riddick to the confines of the castle on Emfrine. To a tower wing. He will not leave it and he could stay with his budding family.” Murmuring went around the room some nodding and others frowning.
Elder Artan snorted. “Incarcerated in a beautiful castle wing rich with splendor? Next you will reward the wolf for eating the sheep or celebrate a burning house or laugh while someone throws a baby off a building!”
Xander thought about it for a moment then shook his head tiredly. “It would still be a cage, a gilded one but still a cage.”
Sanotio and Jarith looked at how tired Xander was and frowned at the grousing elders. This wasn’t getting anywhere. Jarith lifted his arms up high and yawned annoyingly loud. “Wow! Look at the time! I’m tired! We have a battle ship that needs to head back to Emfrine and I’m one of the pilots. Might hit something in the void of space if I don’t get my eight hours. I think it is bedtime.” Jarith grabbed Xander’s arm and started pulling him to the door.
“And where do you think you are going great nephew?” The smooth faced white haired elder asked.
Jarith grinned. “Why great auntie Oota didn’t you hear me? To bed.”
Elder Oota narrowed her eyes. “With Prince Alea`xand`r?”
“Can’t sleep unless I know my baby brother is tucked in.”
Elder Oota snorted. “Really?”
“I have to agree with my son. It’s late and my family needs rest. We can continue our discussions on Emfrine.” Crown Prince Sanotio said firmly.
The other elders were about to speak when the only elder to say nothing through the meet beat them to it. “That seems fair, Crown Prince. Have a good night.” Said the dark skinned white/black tailed elder bowed his head and waved them away.
Sanotio smiled and bowed. “Thank you, Elder Nathis.”
Elder Nathis nodded. “This meeting is over. The next we speak it will be in our homeland Emfrine.”
The royal family left a silent room.
Xander made his way toward his room and was disappointed when he found no sign of Riddick being there. Xander set his shoulders in determination and made his way to Oren’s cradle. If Riddick wouldn’t come to him then he would find him. The little catfish was awake on his belly gumming on a paper parcel. “Where did you get that?”
Xander pulled it from his grasp and opened it. Wrapped it a cloth that smelled of Riddick was a sheathed silver shiv. It was well made and very sharp. A slip of paper slipped out of the sheath with three words on it. ‘Watch your back.’ Xander frowned and concentrated on the knife and cloth in his hands. It all circled to one simple word no matter how much of his empathy he used. Goodbye . . . Goodbye . . . Goodbye.
Xander dropped the knife and the cloth and bolted for the door. He almost bowled into his aunt on the way. “Where are you going?” She gasped out.
Down the street Xander ran to Imam’s new house and pounded on the door. “Imam!”
Imam opened the door only to get pushed aside by a crying Jack. “It’s your fault he left! He can’t hide here because you’re some kind of poufy fucking prince dude! It’s your fault he left!” Jack hit Xander’s shoulder then tried to kick him in the leg as she pushed him out of her way. “You made him leave!” With that said Jack ran down the street and disappeared into the night.
“Jack!” Imam yelled as he ran after her. He returned a few moments later with a slump to his shoulders and sweat on his brow. “She doesn’t understand that it’s no one’s fault but maybe Riddick’s himself that he must leave.” Imam handed Xander a paper with Riddick’s wanted picture on it. “They already know he is here.”
Xander crumbled the paper in his hand. “He’s still on the planet; he’s not leaving without seeing me.”
“And will you wonder aimlessly like young Jack? You will not find him that way.” Imam shook his head.
“He’s my mate Imam; he’s not leaving without me.” Xander prodded the bond and forced it open as much as he could and followed its soft tug to Riddick. It tugged him down the street to the ship dock then suddenly pulled painfully up in the air. Xander choked on a gasp as he looked up as the familiar ship became smaller and smaller. He clutched at his chest as a slight ache throbbed with his heart beat; he could feel a vast emptiness forming between him and his mate. The bond drew tight like the skin of a balloon with too much air, the stretch almost too much for the fragile connection. Feeling overwhelmed by the loss of Riddick’s presence Xander slowly slid to the ground clutching at his belly. He watched the afterburners of Riddick’s ship ascend high into the dark sky and disappear behind shifting clouds, he watched until he could no longer feel the tug of the bond. Xander moaned with loss and the vibrant little life within him echoed it.
Xander wanted to laugh at that, the first time he felt that carrier-child bond has to be on such a sucky day.
Sanotio and Illiann stood just outside of Xander room and watched him pack a bag for travel. “You’re going after him.”
Sanotio nodded. “Luka and I ran after your mother when she left too, it’s the way were built. We don’t like being away from our mates especially when the bond is new.”
“You can’t leave yet.” Illiann said softly but firmly.
Xander stopped packing and glared at his aunt. “Why? Because of the Council of Oldies don’t like it? I don’t care what they think! Because I’m a prince? I don’t care about that! I’m going to find Riddick.”
Illiann huffed out a breath and picked up little Oren and held him close to her breast. “He’s too young to planet hop or stay in cryo and he can’t be left behind. At least not yet. He has a parent bond with you, a strong one. You need a smart ship with an AI auto pilot and a good crew. There’s no such milithre ship on Helion, we need to go to Emfrine.”
Xander looked at little Oren as he played with his aunt’s hair with small clumsy fingers and made ‘mum-mum’ cooing sounds with his mouth. The little catfish was bonded to him and would not survive well without him. “Ok.”
His aunt placed a hand on his arm and smiled. “Don’t worry we will help you. You won’t be running around in the dark directionless. The Light will help you.”
After breakfast Xander boarded the Blooded Siren a large fighter ship charged with transporting the Royal Family to Emfrine. Jarith smiled at Xander as they all made their way to a lovely lounge area. “This ship is one of the fastest made so we should be out of Helion and into Emfa territory within three or so days. Can’t wait to get home!”
Xander’s shoulders slumped a bit. ‘Four days! Might as well be four months.’ Xander could just imagine the fruitless search ahead of him.
“I’ve made this trip many times. As the High Priestess of Helion and only Princess of Emfrine I am needed by both. We should be at Emfrine in four days. I’m glad the journey isn’t so dangerous now that the Parth have quieted.” Said Illiann as she rubbed her big belly.
“Why were you guys fighting the Parth?” Xander looked at them with questions in his sad eyes.
“The Parth were the slavers.” Jarith huffed.
“Not all.” Said Luka. “Most of the slavers were Parthish but some were old blood human families from money. Parth is a large moon that circles Emfrine’s sister planet Emfu, but unlike the richness of our home Emfu is a savage water planet and collecting what riches it does have is very dangerous. Parth is a swamp moon and they have few ways to collect their natural resources to harvest unless they risk going to Emfu or damaging Parth. The Parthish feel the milithre were favored too much by the Gods. Things have been strained between our kind and theirs for a long time.”
“Selling your neighbor to slavery tends to do that.” Jarith sneered. “They tried to get aggressive with us again but luckily for milithre everywhere our uncle is the wizard of strategy and dad is pretty cold hearted with enemies.”
“So he’s real good?”
Jarith grinned. “The best! You’ll love uncle Taris!”
“Cool. I’m going to go to bed, k. Feel kind of wiped.” Xander said with little energy. Even learning more about his kin couldn’t hold his attention and keep his thoughts from Riddick and this prince mess.
“So I guess were not doing a good job keeping his mind off his mate, huh?” Jarith mumbled.
Xander stilled in his unhappy shuffle for a moment then walked on. Xander just felt out of sorts, like the world was tilted or like he was out of faze with it or swallowed to much cold medicine. He felt slow and cold and his head felt full of cotton like he was catching the flu. He just didn’t feel right. Hadn’t since yesterday.
Sanotio smiled at his youngest son as he stepped onto the bridge room of the great ship. “Hello, Xan.”
“Dad.” Xander looked at the control room with its round shape and chrome colored control stations. It looked like a cross with a fancy office and the set from a Star Trek movie with the captain’s chair the center of attention facing a big screen. “You wanted to talk?”
Sanotio nodded. “Yes. My ships sensors found this in its scan.” Sanotio handed Xander a screen pad the size of a sheet of paper.
It was just a picture of two streams of colored particles. “What is this?”
“I think it’s the ion trail from your mate’s ship.”
Xander looked at it more closely as if it could tell him some sort of secret. “Are we going the same way?”
Sanotio nodded. “We are. Emfrine is a stepping stone to the backwater planets and the Coltisack system. The UV planets are also just beyond the meteor belt.”
“So he could be just in front of us?” Xander asked hopefully.
Sanotio sighed he didn’t want to get his kid’s hopes up. “There’s a lot of space out there, son, a lot of space to hide in. He could be in front of us or he could be anywhere else. There are pit stops all along the system, satellites and asteroids that hold cities and ports. He could turn off at any of these or ditch his ship if he thinks any of you might follow.”
Xander’s shoulders drooped, that sounded like something Riddick would do.
A glass shattered and Illiann made a pained noise as she clutched at her belly. Greg was at her side in an instant and supported her wobbly frame to a chair. “Are you ok, baby?”
“Babies. Looks like they want to be born in space.” Illiann said with a slight smile. “I’ve been feeling back twinges all day just thought it was normal false alarm pains.”
Greg looked around him with a little panic in his eyes. “Babies? Today?” He squeaked.
In the hall waiting with his fathers and brother Xander tried not to turn green every time his aunt screamed. He was just thankful he didn’t have to be in there. His aunt screamed again loud and high pitched as a second baby cry sounded. Everyone winced. Just as Xander was going to thank all the gods out there in the universe that he was in the hall sitting in a nice comfy chair and Greg was in there dealing with blood and baby goo his aunt screamed and it sounded like his name.
No she wasn’t calling for him, it was his imagination.
Still green Xander peeked inside to see an equally green but proud Greg holding two small bundles. A doctor with bloody thick gloved hands rushed over to Xander. “Come. She wants you to be the first to touch her son. Hurry, my prince.”
Xander stood by the nurse and doctor’s side unsure what to do and just waited for them to tell him. His aunt looked at him clearly very tired with sweat dripping down her brow, she spoke between panting breaths. “The doctors and nurses wear special gloves so that their power doesn’t touch the infant. When they hand him to you place a hand on him.” She groaned and started pushing.
The baby wailed and the next thing Xander knew he had this small towel wrapped wriggling being in his arms. He does as his aunt asked and placed a hand on the baby’s small head. A spark flashed between them and tingles shot up Xander’s arm and into the crying baby. The baby’s small red face scrunched up and he quieted to a soft hungry whimper. Xander looked at the baby and blinked with a bit of confusion. He was sure that when he was handed the small bundle that his hair was a fine smooth almost invisible blond but now it’s a fuzzy curling black. Xander handed the squalling baby to his aunt. She looked down at the fussing baby with a tired smile then looked at Xander. “Thank you for sharing your light with him.”
The rest of the family flocked in and Greg and Illiann smiled brightly as they showed off the new babies. Illiann pointed at the quiet bundle in the hold of her right arm. “My first born Lillia, named after my mother Illia.” Then she pointed at the small bundle in Greg’s arms. “Our second and Lillia’s identical twin Grace, named after Greg’s mother.” Then she shifted so everyone could see the last bundle held in her left arm. “My youngest Alea`x, named after Alea`xand`r.”
The little black haired boy scrunched up his face and started to wail again after only being quiet a moment. Startled his small blond red faced sisters cried just as loud to match him. Sanotio grinned and brushed a finger over the fussy baby boy’s soft cheek. “I have a feeling sister that you two are going to get little rest. They have powerful lungs.”
Later that night Xander pulled out his old cracked vid and looked up births and the sharing of light. ~The sharing of energy is one of the oldest traditions of the milithre people; it is believed to be a tradition as old as their power. One that started out involuntary but became necessary as their power grew. Like how an infant’s eyes changed to their permanent eye color so too does a milithre infants power and minor physical characteristics. After the child is born it is given to its sire or a chosen relative to be given a spark of their energy to stabilize the child’s budding gifts. A very minor bond will form and the child will take on one of two character traits from the giver like taste in food, power, personality, or coloration. A relative chosen by the parents is seen in high regard and is given the title of protector/godparent of the child. A relative is chosen for every third child as a sign of good luck and health for all the children in the family. ~
‘Wow. Now I have three new cousins and I’m a godfather to one of them.’ Putting his vid away Xander wrapped his arms comfortable around his own sleeping baby and went to bed. With little hands that could now support the bottle Oren snuffled and cuddled into Xander’s warmth as he sucked on his bottle. Xander didn’t leave his bed for a good seven hours.
Just as his aunt said they reached Emfrine in less than four days. Sitting by a large window twice as tall as him he watched an Earth sized blue and green gem become larger with each minute that passed. Luka sat by Xander’s side feeding little Oren a bottle. “It’s beautiful, yes?”
“Wait till we go down there, it’s like getting hugged by your whole family at once. All milithre have a deep bond with Emfrine.” Luka said as he looked at the planet with fondness.
After a while of silence Xander spoke. “Why was I at a hospital so far away?”
“Safety mostly. The Parth would have been quite happy to have a helpless royal hostage. The hospital you were at was the best with head injuries too. You were kept on Helion for a time until the death threats and attempted assassinations started. We didn’t want anything to happen to you.”
Jarith practically skipped into the room as he made his way to the window. He glowed with happiness and his eyes danced with excitement equal to that of a child in a toy store. “Once we dock at the station we’ll take my cruiser down to the planet. We’ll be at the palace in less than half an hour!”
Luka smiled. “It has been only three weeks since you saw your mate, Jari. Calm yourself.”
Jarith grinned brightly as he looked at them both. “Can’t help it. My mate is great! He’s calm and quiet and he’s a musician. He’s lithe like you little brother but shorter. He’s great; you’ll be best friends by the day’s end.” Jarith shifted from foot to foot for a moment more then rushed to the door. “I’m going to prepare my ship!”
“The way he acts you would think they bonded just yesterday.” Luka leaned toward Xander like he was going to tell him a big secret. “I fear your brother is a big mushy drama queen.”
Xander smiled even though the talk of mates depressed him. “Really? I couldn’t tell.”
Luka stood with Oren cradled in his arms. “Come. We should go to the landing ship before Jarith comes back to drag us.”
Luka and Xander laughed when they heard a shout from Jarith for them to hurry up. “He was coming back for us.”
“Yes.” Luka nodded. “Jarith has always been excitable and overemotional. His mate’s a perfect match he’s calm and strong.”
Luka smiled. “His mate is of few words too, though I think it’s natural for Daniel.”
Luka was right. Landing on Emfrine was like a warm hug. It was soothing. The planet’s energy felt like gentle sunlight, like the embrace of a mother. Xander felt like a pitcher getting filled with sun warmed clear and clean water, renewed of the energy he spent since his waking from a coma.
The cruiser landed on the castle grounds and a flood of people met them as the docking gear locked. Jarith was the first off and he ran through the crowd and practically tackled a short blue haired man to the ground.
Queen Illia smiled at her grandson as he stepped off the ship. “I know it’s hard for you this separation from your mate but I’m so happy to see you, child.” The woman that looked like an older taller Illiann hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek.
The King with his darker eyes, graying dark brown hair, and crown of gold gave Xander a bear hug then gave him a once over. “Shurar Ithrue come in handy, boy?”
Xander touched the hilt of the sword on his back. “A life saver.”
“Good.” King Sanotus nodded. “I had a feeling you would have need of it.”
Jarith bulldozed back to Xander with a slight man over his shoulder. “Here’s my mate!”
Xander blinked as the man was set down in front of him. “O-oz?”
Oz blinked. “Xander?”
Xander felt panic build in him. What the hell? What the hell? Oz is here! Here, real, and his brother’s mate! Xander could feel a dizzy spell coming on and sat down in the first chair he could find. What the hell? Why was Oz here? Could the others be here? Were they here to screw up his life? Did that mean everything here was false?
Xander bit hard at his lip and looked all around him at the laughing and talking people. He looked at his family celebrating his return with a banquet, a ball really. Long tables that stretched from one end of the cavernous room to the next full of delicious smelling food, a band made of colorful instruments making exotic sounding music, streamers, balloons, and a whole town of people dancing. Xander looked at all the finely crafted food with its sugar flower garnishes and the happy faces and fancy clothing and felt like being sick when his eyes met Oz’s.
Oz extracted himself from his clingy mate and slid into the seat next to Xander. “Breathe.”
Xander let out a gust of air he didn’t realize he was holding. “Uh?” He choked out.
“It’s all real. The wish made it real, dude.” Oz said as he patted Xander on the shoulder.
“Then why are you here?” Xander narrowed his eyes.
Oz smirked. “Me and Giles.”
“G-man?” Xander squeaked. “How?”
Oz shrugged. “Girls were under a spell. Bad mojo. It wasn’t supposed to make you gone. They said you were never supposed to tell about Angel right then. You were a piece in the game, not king or rook or queen like the girls but you were a knight.”
“R-really? So why aren’t the girls h-here?”
Oz shrugged. “Too important to the past. Might see them again through.”
Oz patted Xander on the shoulder. “You’re a heavy hitter here. It’s all real. Apart of a new game now.”
“So where is G-man?”
Oz smirked. “With Prince Santaris and Jeara`Kadel the reincarnation of Jenny Calendar.”
“I-in the castle?”
Oz shook his head. “On honeymoon. Ship. Will be here tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Xander said in a daze.
In the center of High Temple of healing Queen Illia and Princess Illiann lead Xander to a sacred room. A room called the Heart of Sah. Pushing thick white doors open Illiann waved a hand about at the crisp white stone walls and soft touches of blue drapes. “This room is very special and important to our people, Alea`xand`r. Many come here to hope, pray, love here, it could help you find your mate.”
Xander looked around at the paintings of milithre dancing joyously, healing with compassion in their eyes, loving with intense passion, and caring for their families tenderly. He looked at the lovely stained glass with a large bursting blue star of light and the wide bone pale ceiling. At an altar of thick white stone rested a round glowing object on a large powder blue pillow. “It’s a nice room but how is it supposed to help?”
Queen Illia gently picked up the stone like it was made of thin webs of spun glass. “This is the stone of Sah the first milithre given the light. Stories say at the moment of his death the stone formed in his place. It’s very powerful and those who connect with its power can instantly connect with their soul mates. That the connection weaved or strengthened with the stone are visible behind the mates closed eyes.”
The princess gently brushed a finger over the surface of the glowing blue stone. “Lost ones come here to connect with the stone to gain peace and strength.”
“Lost ones?” Xander asked as he looked at the stone with hope. Could it tell him exactly where Riddick was?
“Lost ones are those who live many years without meeting their mate. One milithre lived most of his life without ever feeling a bond. It makes an instant connection and points you with a thread one can see in the mind, like a clear path in the forest.” Queen Illia said softly. “Such instant bonds are against the Alliance of Planets laws but for milithre it is sometimes necessary.” She gently placed the ball of rock in Xander’s hands then led him to a corner of plush pillows. “Think of how a bond feels and push the light into the stone. We will wait outside.”
With that said Illia and Illiann left him alone.
The stone felt like a ball of static in his hand and when he brought up his power it felt like a spark meeting gasoline. Like a whip cracking two ropes of sweet and painfully gold light formed inside him. Mates. He had mates. Two. It felt so good like sunshine and yet painful like a muscle not used to stretching. There were two paths both lead to a mate but only one to Riddick.
Opening his eyes Xander gently place the stone back on the altar and dug in his pocket for a coin. One line lead to the UV planets and the other the Coltisack planets. “Heads the Coltisack and tails UV.” Xander flipped the coin and watched it spin in the air. His heart pounded in his ear but felt like it was making a home in his throat. He closed his eyes again and looked at the two glowing ropes of gold light. His mates, they were his and he’s going to find them whether they like it or not.
Deep in space on the merc ship
Froom-swishhhhhh-pop! The hatch on a white pod connected to dozens of wires opened. Inside slick with healing gel laid a dazed woman. “Wha?” She groaned.
“Well, bout time you got done. Was about to leave you here all on your own too.” The smarmy curly haired merc chuckled.
The woman blinked at the man in confusion as she wiped the thick clear fluid off her naked body. “What happened?”
The man smirked. “I’ll tell you what happened. I saved your sweet ass is what happened! The name’s Toombs and bounty hunting’s my game.” He held a hand out for shaking.
She narrowed her eyes. “I’m Fry. Where’s Riddick?”
“Now that is the million credit question, baby! Want to find out?” Toombs held out a vid with a tracker dot blinking away on it.
“Yeah, yeah I do.” Fry said breathlessly as she focused on the dot and grinned.
MerKat:Wow, this one is done! On to the next! CoR here we come! ^_^