Earth - Chapter Three

This serial is presented in draft form and will be updated each Thursday. Your comments are always welcome!

Ch 1 ~ Ch 2 ~

Zephryn made a noise as he came awake. It was not as manly as a groan, but he refused to believe the involuntary sound that escaped him was as girly as a moan. His head hurt. So did his chest. And as he became more aware, a myriad of smaller aches and pains made themselves known.

He stopped trying to move and blinked several times, trying to get his vision to clear. A frown furrowed his brow. All he could see was green. Granted it was a soothing shade of green, but it definitely wasn't his cabin on the ship. Where was he?

More importantly, where was his ship? He had definitely been on his ship. Da'nat had been with him. They'd been on a mission, a mission to . . . what?

Air hissed between his teeth as he levered himself up to a sitting position. They'd been on some mysterious mission following a glowing ball of energy through space. Da'nat had been acting very strangely, and then the energy ball had . . . attacked them.

He remembered fighting with the controls of the scout ship, but he didn't remember landing. Obviously he'd landed safely though.

"Da'nat?" he called tentatively, not really expecting an answer.

The room he was in was small, holding only the bed he was in, a dresser, a small table beside the bed, and a chair that had clothes draped over it. Zephryn's eyes widened and he lifted up the blanket covering him for confirmation. The clothes on the chair were his clothes.

As he opened his mouth to call for Da'nat again, someone stepped through the open door. Zephryn's mouth shut with a snap. It was a woman, dressed in nothing but a dark brown towel. Another smaller towel was wrapped around her head. He couldn't have stopped the slow smile that slid across his face if he tried.

"Hello," he said.

She let out a squeak and jumped, nearly losing her grip on the towel.

"Oh! You're awake. I'm sorry, I didn't expect you to wake up so soon. I just--" she pulled clothing out of the dresser at random. "I'll be right back," she said, and fled the room.

Zephryn's grin widened and he moved himself into a more comfortable seated position in the bed while he waited for her to return. This could be very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

She was quicker than he expected, and he was disappointed to see she was fully dressed in a pair of dark trousers and a shapeless brown shirt. Her hair was pulled back and neatly confined, still dark with dampness. He guessed the colour would be a coppery brown when it was dry. But though she was able to hide her body, there was no hiding her face. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, staying in the doorway.

Even her voice was beautiful, low and husky, sending a shiver right down to his groin.

"A little sore," he admitted, "But I think I'll live. Where am I?"

"You're in the Righteous Angels mining colony on Belspar. Do you remember what happened to you?"

"Yes, I crashed," he said ruefully. All at once he remembered Da'nat, but as he opened his mouth to ask about the Illezie, a voice filled his head.

Do not tell her about me, it commanded. And do not tell her what we were doing in this region of space.

Zephryn projected with his mind. Is that you?

Of course it is me, who else would be bothered to waste their energy communicating with you? Ask her about the ship.

"What about my ship, is it all right?" Zephryn asked.

She shrugged. "It appeared to be intact, but I know nothing about the inner workings of such things."

"What is your name?" they asked at the same time.

Blushing, she looked at the ground. "Chloe," she said.

"A beautiful name," he told her, causing her blush to deepen. "I'm Zephryn, Chloe. Were you the one who pulled me from my ship?"

"I--yes, that was me. I used the anti-grav sled from your ship to bring you here. Then I had Granny look at you to make sure you weren't too seriously hurt. She said you'll have a bruise across your chest from slamming into the restraint on your ship and you have an unaccountably hard head." This last part was said with a flicker of a smile.

She seemed shy, which he found utterly endearing. "Thank you for rescuing me, Chloe," he said. "And thank your granny, too."

"She's not my granny, she's just Granny. She's the closest thing we have to a healer without having to see the mine doctor. She sits with my mother when I have to work in the mine."

"You work in a mine?" he repeated, not sure he heard correctly. How could anyone put such a delicate creature to work in a mine?

"Just about everyone works in the mines on Belspar," she told him. "It's all there is. Granny said you could have some broth when you awakened. I'll go fetch you some," she said abruptly. And with that she was gone again.

Zephryn stared after her, bemused.

I can see where this is going to be quite the struggle to get you to pay attention to the task at hand. Da'nat's voice in his mind was filled with a touch of amusement.

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