Faye ignored the shadowed night and leaned against the café’s glass door curtained by a flowered cloth. She peered into the dim interior. A figure shuffled about inside. After a timid knock, she stood back, waiting and watching.
Riko froze and frowned at the door. Sucking in a deep breath, he gripped the edge of the Dustbuster tucked into his side pocket and marched forward. He yelled at the door. “It’s past closing time; try again in the morning.”
Clutching every ounce of confidence she could muster, Faye lifted her voice. “Riko, it’s me—Faye. Let me in. We need to talk.”
After swinging the door wide and sweeping his gaze up and down the quiet street, Riko tugged Faye inside. “At this hour? What, you hear something?”
Horrors had haunted her too long, Faye sighed. I can’t just stand by and let it happen…not again. Using every ounce of her innate courage, she shoved images of her destroyed home world from her mind. “Not from Cerulean or the others.” She leaned in. “But I have a plan, and I need your help.”
Scowling, Riko slapped his hands together and turned away. “By the Divide, I always attract troubled females.”
Faye trotted after him. “No romantic interludes! I want you to help save Newearth.”
With long strides, Riko sauntered into his immaculate, well-organized kitchen, crossed through a narrow passageway, opened a door, and then stepped into a soft-lighted living room. Two plush chairs faced each other, while a holographic game station stood against the left wall. A computer console sat embedded in an uncluttered desk with a screen hanging from the ceiling. Two other passages led into dark interiors.
Faye stepped forward, scanned the environment, and ambled toward a colorful holographic space sector ensconced in a wall niche. An incense burner with a cold mound of ash sat at its base. She lifted a tentative finger and caressed the edge of the hologram. “Was this your home world?”
Riko tilted his head, staring at the 3-D image. “Once upon a time.”
With one raised eyebrow, Faye frowned at Riko and then gazed around the room. With a slight gasp, she glided near the right passageway and stopped before a golden brazier and a minutely detailed icon hanging on the wall. It depicted a young Uanyi woman with brilliant, laughing eyes, a determined chin, and broad shoulders. She almost looks like she has my sister’s honest eyes. “Is this—?”
Riko stepped up and clasped his hands in a meditative posture. “Mom. An extraordinary person—everyone thought so.”
Faye’s gaze darted between the icon and Riko. “I see the resemblance. You are definitely your mother’s son.”
Chuckling, Riko turned away and flopped down on one of his over-stuffed chairs. “I don’t know who else would have me. Okay, flattery will get you a comfortable seat.” He pointed to the plush chair. “So, what can I do for you—after I’m done saving Newearth, of course.”
Faye perched on the edge of the chair frame, trying to keep from sinking into its depths. “You remember my friend Taug?”
Riko snorted. “No one could forget Taug. He’s infamous.”
Attempting to lean forward and make eye contact, Faye had to content herself with staying upright. “Well, he’s going to save Newearth. I mean, he’s going to figure out how to stop Cosmos so that she can’t hurt us.”
Riko leaned back and let the chair swallow him. “Then, you don’t really need me? Oh, blast, I was looking forward to a little excitement.”
Faye wiggled to her feet and smoothed down her blouse. “I’m not explaining myself well. Your job is to save Taug.”
With a jerk, Riko shot forward, his gaze fixed on Faye “Okay, enough joking around. I can’t imagine what you’ve got up your little Bhuaci sleeve, but I bet it’s wild—and dangerous.”
Faye wrinkled her nose, a charming affectation that usually worked. “It might ruin your life. But considering that we’re facing death anyway, I thought you’d be interested.”
Riko rotated his hand in a so-so gesture. “Go on…”
Scooting off the chair, Faye wandered over to the portrait and stared at the figure she wished she had known. “Taug is a worthy Cresta, more so than most. I’d trust him with my life. But”—she turned and peered into a dark shadow—“not with everyone’s.” She sighed. “We all have our weaknesses. I’m afraid that Taug wants to regain his former position so much that he might let certain scientists know what he’s doing.”
Taug stroked his chin. “And that’s bad?”
“Crestonian society sees Newearth as a source of wealth—a living laboratory. They’ve never valued non-Cresta lifeforms; that’s not in their interest. If Newearth were eaten—say—it would be unfortunate, but that’s all. Those who succumbed to cruel fate would be the acceptable price one paid for scientific exploration.”
Riko heaved himself from the chair and paced across the room. “They’d want to preserve Newearth resources, surely.”
“Observing Cosmos devour her latest snack would be quite informative. They’d have to destroy her, certainly, but only after they’d completed their tests.”
Halting in front of Faye, Riko gripped her by the arms. “Even Crestas aren’t that merciless. They want to help us.”
Faye pulled free and returned to the portrait. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Who killed your mother?”
Silence fell like a knife on a chopping block.
After a long moment, Riko’s breathing rose directly behind Faye, who stood facing the portrait of his mother. “It was a civil war. A long and terrible story.”
Turning, Faye stared into Riko’s eyes. “If Ingots can kill their own kind, a Cresta could surely watch aliens die.”
“If Taug is no good, then why trust him?”
“Oh, but he is good. I just need someone to keep an eye on him.” She reached out and clasped Riko’s hand. “Oh, and he needs a lab—a very expensive lab—where he can work without any interference.”
Riko peered down at her petite hand clasping his. “You need money?” He shrugged, disappointment as clear as a snuffed candle. “I don’t have much.”
Faye let his hand slip away. She lifted the brazier and placed it under the portrait. With a snap, she lit a cube of incense. Gray curls of smoke wafted before their eyes, and a heavy scent filled the air. “You have what we need. The café’s collateral will cover the expenses.”
Riko squeezed his eyes shut.
However necessary, cruel demands still cut deep. Before his pain became her own, Faye hurried out the door and into the dark night.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 16 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
A prelude to the Newearth series, Last of Her Kind by A. K. Frailey opens with a powerful premise: humans are becoming more and more infertile, a trend that might as well spell extinction. Cerulean is an alien watcher from the planet Lux and fascinated by Anne, he is determined to save the human race…but with conflict deepening in his own world, what are the options for the guardian-alien?
“Newearth is a place to start over…gives us a chance to re-think many of the propositions that we take for granted, a chance to discover anew what is needed in order to live a good life.” ~Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight