KnM Blade - In Destiny's Way

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Kixi Rajki, a professional high speed racer, is a seemingly average citizen of the United Systems of Sol in the 31st century. Going by the alias of Kay Blade, she is also a secret agent for an underground resistance cell intent on bringing down the powerful freedom restricting government. Mako Jhasmin Zaneca, alias eM Blade, and Kixi's lover, recently trained up as an agent, is also an expert computer slicer and hacker in her own right. She must accompany Kixi on what will be her first mission, and with all certainty, an extremely dangerous mission. Choosing arrest in order to save her lover, the two narrowly escape death, and consequently trigger in motion an unprecedented course of events. Unwittingly, her actions will forever change the balance of power, and with it the face of humanity as a space faring species.

Author's note

All my completed professional published eBooks can be found on my smashwords.com site below:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Kixi

Books are available in ePub, Kindle and PDF. These books are part of Smashwords' "Premium Catalog" and have been approved to ship to retailers that Smashwords works with. These then get distributed to online book stores such as Apple, Amazon, Kobo, Scribd, Ficton DB, Livraria Cultura, Barnes & Noble, that's just naming a few. :-)

Also note that for the proper published books for this title, each "Part" is published as a separate title and all in progress parts such as part 3 and the eventual part 4 will be separate titles as well. The professional published versions are also called just "KnM Blade" rather than KnM Blade in Destiny's Way.

Information regarding timelines of the KnM Blade universe including proposed timelines, current titles, in progress titles and other things about me can also be found on the site below:

https://kixi-rajki.wixsite.com/knm-blade
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107. Imogen - Part 3

Chapter 88: Imogen - Part 3.

 

I felt untethered in a vacuum. I’d relied on people, I’d counted on people, and although there had been times where they had inevitably let me down, I’d never been outright betrayed. My fiancée had warned me not to allow my emotions to get in the way of choosing who to trust, yet time was of the very essence that I’d ignored all precautionary measures. I’d been so fixated on finding and rescuing Imogen, that I’d driven myself blindly with passion, adamant that the threat of any SkySec intervention was next to nothing.

After a moment of tense, agonising silence, I spoke. “Why?”

Erica had the gall to look slightly guilty at the expression on my face, but the blaster didn’t waver. “Come on,” she said. “Don’t look at me like that. For someone that is on SkySec’s most wanted list, you shouldn’t have been so naive.”

“I’m so sorry about all this, but it was the only way we could stop SkySec from slaughtering us.” Veronica said, leaning forward a little but still keeping her distance. She didn’t look sorry at all, but instead looked like an actor reading hurriedly through a script to get to a good part. “We had to do whatever we could to survive. So after your boss contacted us regarding the hyper-fuel and I realised he was actually going to send you,” she added clapping her hands together once, as if shaking her own hands on a deal with herself, “I then made General Dekker an offer that he couldn’t refuse, ultimately buying us a vital lifeline.”

I stared at the desert out the window and gulped before looking back at the others. Still holding her weapons, Veronica sat and relaxed on the couch. Imogen sat ramrod-straight beside her. I looked sidelong at her as I felt my heart cracking like glass, spreading its pieces throughout my body. I could hardly bare the sight of my little sister mixed in with this evil mob. It felt as if my bright world had gone dark, like a big curtain being pulled across the sky. I stood there longing for us to be together; away from this troubled world. The feeling of my uncertainty or anguish, could she sense it? Possibly? Yet my heart sunk; all she saw was the grievance of a complete stranger; not her big sister, but a nobody.

I glanced from Veronica to Imogen and took one step, but Erica stepped forward, not only raising the blaster, but retrieving a second blaster with her other hand.

“No, no, no, step away from them.” She walked closer to me, both her guns now pointed at my chest. As a consequence, that action briefly put eM at the edge of her peripheral vision and crucially for my fiancée, out of her crosshairs. The two enforcers however, watched eM carefully; she could feel them watching her very closely.

Veronica sat back, grinned and looked over at Imogen. “My heart is broken, it really is. What would you do if someone you trusted betrayed you?”

She paused, watching her. Imogen thought for a moment. “In a situation where you already hadn’t told her why, I’d want to know why she did it,” she finally said. “If it was a moment of weakness or something else… and then I’d ask that person to prove their loyalty by sacrificing something they love.”

Imogen’s eyes locked on me for one agonising moment.

I swallowed and looked at Veronica. “The truth is that I never really came here to steal your money. Sure I lied about having the hyper-fuel you needed, but the truth is, I came here for one thing, and one thing only.”

“Is that so now?” Veronica said looking doubtful and barely moving a muscle in her face. “Well wouldn’t we all like to know what that is—“

“— Imogen. I came here to take her home.” As the words left my mouth, I felt lightning crackle through my veins and time slowed down. 

“You’re out of your mind if you think I’m going anywhere with you!” Imogen snapped back, yet there was a strange emphasis to her tone. Despite her outburst she didn’t really seem angry but rather swept off her feet.

We stared into each other's eyes before I looked away from her and turned back to Veronica. “You are false Veronica, you and all those that you serve.” I said forcing a smile that I was sure had come out more like a grimace.

At my statement, Veronica stood from the couch and followed Imogen’s eyes and smiled at me. “Your persuasion attempts are futile. She won’t come with you. Besides it would be a shame if she did; Imogen and I make a helluva team.”

I shook my head, sighed and looked at Veronica. Erica thought for a moment both her blasters were still out, and for a moment I wondered if she had any regrets about what she was doing. She gave me that withering, exasperated look she enjoyed so much before turning her attention back to Veronica. “She denies ever wanting to swindle us and claims she really came here only for Imogen— oh the great lengths that people will go to when desperate truly amazes me.”

“Agreed,” Veronica said, nodding. “And it would also be unwise to keep General Dekker and SkySec waiting for their prize.” Her eyes flicked back up to meet mine, and she was smiling with her lips closed. “It’s time I start seeing our guests at the cocktail party next door out,” she said coolly.

It was only then that Erica noticed movement in her peripheral vision. She’d been so concentrated on me that only now, and all of a sudden, she’d felt the grip on both her pistols loosen. eM held out both her empty hands at her; seconds later; both blasters flew into her hands; the weapons now in her grips she fired them with machinelike precision. However, the deadly fire was not aimed at Erica, for she was now unarmed, but rather at the newly arrived enforcers. One of the surprised enforcers across the room was thrown against the wall with the force of the blasterfire. Erica wisely stepped away from the other enforcer so eM could do away with him without her being in the crosshairs. She dodged the flying air-flotsam as the enforcer’s body crashed to the ground— and immediately sought the opportunity to take back her guns. Erica did exactly that by spinning around behind eM, and hitting her across the back of the head with a roundhouse kick. As eM stumbled, Erica dashed forward and struck her again across the side, this time with a heavy fist, sending her off balance, and then delivered a swift blow to her chest with yet another kick. Falling to the floor, eM groaned in pain and dropped the blasters. Without hesitation, Erica was quick to retrieve them.

“What the fuck!” Veronica screamed, kicking the chair beside her desk and then storming to the middle of the room. At the same time, eM felt the agonising effects of the beating she’d just received as she slowly got back to her feet. She could feel the vibration of it shudder all the way through her body, which only made the pain ten times worse.

“This little bitch has telekinetic abilities, but don’t worry, she won’t be trying that shit on me again.” Erica said, this time training both her blasters on eM. “I’d keep your sai firmly trained on Kay, too. If eM has telekinesis, Kay probably does too.”

“Thinking,” Veronica said. “In that case you better make sure that this time, you properly hold on to your weapons.” She then pointed one of her sai at eM and said, “I should kill you where you stand for what you just did.” Her eyes narrowed to crinkled slits as she turned her head ever so slightly to stare at me. “Personally if it were up to me, I’d have Erica shoot your precious little partner, or whatever she is to you— dead! I’d gladly make you suffer while you watch her die. She wouldn’t hesitate on my command. And as for you Kay, after your precious is dead, I’ll have Imogen come across and kill you too. She will comply with my orders the moment I command it— if she knows what’s good for her.” She scowled pointing the sai in her right hand first at me, and then at eM. “Fortunately for both of you though, Dekker wants you alive, and I have no choice but to deliver you both to him in that condition.”

eM gave me a look but didn’t say anything. It was pretty obvious, though. How were we going to get out of this wrinkle?

“Senior Lieutenant Kai, I think the Gexin Combine can do with an extra ship. These two women won’t be needing theirs anymore.” Veronica said walking to the window, sidestepping the shattered crystal on the floor as if it were no more than a puddle of spilled water. Her gaze shifted, and she stared into the distance and smiled. “Go take possession of their ship,” she continued as she turned around to face us again. “You’ll obviously need it’s security systems bypassed so take eM with you. She will then do exactly that and anything else you tell her to do.” Her voice was low, rumbling, but louder than she had intended. “If she refuses, shoot her! If she tries to resist or tries to pull another stunt like she did before, shoot her!” She scowled at eM as she stood there almost frozen. Her frown deepened into a glower of resentment. “And after you’re done, bring her back here to me— hopefully alive.”

“Good idea,” Erica said. She holstered one of her blasters but still kept the other pointed at eM. “Looks like you’re coming with me, freak.”

eM blinked as Erica’s words struck her, and took a small step away from her. She looked at me and said, “I love you,” there was a hint of a whine in her voice, and I was grateful that neither Veronica nor Erica spoke Zorugo. I nodded sympathetically. I would think of something. eM would just have to trust me.

Yet I still couldn’t help but shake with rage. “eM is more than just my partner. If any harm comes to her!”

Erica looked at me, eyebrows raised. “Or what? You’re not exactly in any position to make threats. But don’t worry, so long as your precious here cooperates, then you have my word that she won’t be harmed.”

“Your word? That means absolutely nothing to me.” I clenched a fist in anger. “— You’re making a horrible mistake, Senior Lieutenant Zai.”  

Erica shrugged amiably, as if all this was nothing. “Could be. Won’t be my first.”

“It’ll be your last!” I said, my toothless threat falling flat.

“Maybe, maybe not. Don’t be so negative.” She nudged eM towards the door. “Besides if I were you Kay, I’d worry about your own immediate problems.” Erica gave me a little rueful salute with her blaster and then nodded at Veronica. “See you around.”

Slowly, Erica guided eM to the door, eyes darting from me, to Veronica, to Imogen. They would have to pass through the main area; through to where the cocktail party was at before they reached the lift. Yet it would have no bearing on them; for anyone who dared question Veronica’s senior lieutenant would ultimately have an unconscious desire for their own death. A blaster was pointed at eM; the other which Erica had once again unholstered pointed somewhere amid the curious onlookers at the cocktail party, ready to aim at anyone who made any sudden or unwise movement toward them. But no one did; no one was that stupid; those that were looking, wisely looked away as they both got into the lift.

 

***

The door hadn’t even closed fully before I was moving. I dashed across the floor and dropped, skidding toward the dead enforcer on the far side of the room. His blaster was still there, sticking out from under the body. I grabbed the barrel, tossed it in the air, caught it, and spun to face Veronica.

In a perfect world I would have caught Veronica still recovering from the shock of my trick. But I had learnt by now that I lived in a far from perfect world. Veronica had been going for her own weapon, the double-bladed laser-edged sai with a grip in the middle that she had only minutes earlier mounted by Ilias Iklipso’s trophies. She looked like a woman mad with a brain parasite, finally allowed to let her rage free. She stormed toward me, intent on carving me into pieces.

I fired, but Veronica wasn’t so blinded by rage that she wasn’t able to act defensively and dodge, rolling to the side and knocking over a display case, showering the floor with glass. I took a crouch behind a display and waited, blaster ready.

Veronica spoke into the silence from somewhere near a formerly pristine set of Za’ha’meon armour. “Kay, I think it’s time we reevaluate our relationship.”

I kept low. “Yeah?” I asked.

“What do you say we join forces, form an alliance and go fight Skycom together?”

After everything that had happened today, this woman was suggesting we trust each other? I nearly laughed. “Yeah, let’s definitely do that.”

I jumped up to fire and Veronica was there, an arm’s length away, trusting me about as much as I had trusted her. I had no idea how she’d moved so silently across the broken glass, but I didn’t have time to question the woman. Veronica slashed with her weapon, the laser edge coming close to my face, and I danced backward.

As if I had asked the question anyway, Veronica said, “Okinawa Kobudo and karate. I’ve become something of an enthusiast.”

“That’s really wonderful,” I said, dodging the bladed laser tip extensions of her sai again.

As if to show off the martial art in more detail, Veronica incorporated kicks and punches into her attacks, some landing, some not, always pushing me back. I focused mostly on staying away from the weapon, which made it easy for Veronica to pummel me without mercy with all of her other attacks. A fist to the side of my head made the room spin momentarily, and a well placed kick sent all the air out of my body. It also drove me farther backward, which was nice since I got a respite for a split second.

It was that split second when I realised I’d lost the blaster somewhere in the scramble. I hadn’t even noticed it was gone— probably because my hand was numb from one of Veronica’s kicks. Seeing I was unarmed, Veronica launched herself at me, but I grabbed a club from one of Ilias’ displays and blocked her.

I was hoping to shatter the woman’s leg, but apparently the display version of this weapon wasn’t as strong as the real thing. Still, it kept me alive a moment longer. I grabbed my blaster and rolled behind a couch, catching my breath and taking inventory of my limbs. They still all seemed to be there. Good.

“You can’t win,” Veronica said, her voice amused. “Even if you do, you won’t only be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life from Skycom and the Drex Dynasty, but the Gexin Combine too.”

“I’m kinda getting used to that,” I said. All of the plans I’d walked in here with had crumbled when reality hit them. Nothing left but to start blasting.

I jumped up and levelled my blaster, but found that someone else in the room could also move quickly and silently, because Imogen now blocked my clear shot at Veronica. She had the cutlass that an enforcer had once held, and with a whirl she knocked my blaster out of my hand, tucked the hilt between my feet, and twisted with a quick movement. I tripped and fell onto my back, staring up at her with genuine shock.

She levelled the blade at my chest. “I don’t think so Kay Blade!”

Veronica’s voice remained amused, which was really starting to annoy me. “Imogen has only been a part of the Gexin Combine for a very short while. But she proved her worth when she rescued me from Skysec. I must say her bravery is most commendable, rivalling the likes of scum like you— except she’s not scum like you! Once you are part of the Combine, you never leave and she will prove it because everything eventually has its end— yours is imminent!”

Imogen’s face was a storm of emotions. Grim knowledge that Veronica was right. Genuine grief at what she was about to do. Anger that her life had put her in this place. She gripped the cutlass tighter and the cords in her arm stood out, emphasising the Gexin Combine brand on her wrist.

“It’s not true. I know you, and you know me,” I said to her. “Your bravery stems from the same family— search your feelings my little sister.”

“Little sister?” Imogen questioned, shaking her head slightly, eyes locked on mine. "No," she said, barely moving a muscle in her face. "That's impossible." 

Veronica’s face appeared over Imogen’s shoulder, purring like a lover. “She’s desperate, she will say anything, clearly she isn’t your sister. You Imogen, are loyal to the Gexin Combine. Prove it to her. For me,” Veronica said.

“No Imogen. Wait!” It was now or never— I had to show her who I really was, and I had to do it now. “I can prove it.” I said, my voice no longer the altered sound of my alter ego, but rather a voice that she, without a flicker of a doubt recognised from her childhood. 

Shock crossed Imogen’s face, her mouth dropping open slightly while Veronica’s eyebrows rose in surprise as I triggered my NFV to revert my face back to that of my real self. I looked into both their faces and noted their rounded eyes, raised brows, and slack expressions, as my face absorbed itself into my skin. The facial image of my alter ego lost its humanoid form, melting into a gelatinous form, and then reformed itself into another face within a matter of seconds— my never seen before facial shapeshifting abilities had surprised them both— Kay Blade’s true identity was none other than I, Kixi Rajki. 

“Kixi! Oh my God, it really is you!,” Imogen told me. “No, I’m not scum like you.”

In an instant I realised she wasn’t talking to me. Imogen spun and her blade caught Veronica in the shoulder, tearing her shirt and opening a wound in a spray of blood. Veronica gaped at Imogen, stumbling backward out of her range and bringing up her weapon.

Imogen leapt at her, and now it was Veronica on the defensive, facing a young woman with nothing but murder on her mind. Veronica managed to deflect most of Imogen’s attacks with her laser sai, but she was a focused force of nature, barreling down on her. Veronica struck once and Imogen whirled around, the sword hitting Veronica’s arm and driving her own sai into her chest, the laser edge slicing easily through her clothing.

Veronica gasped and fell back, her face still contorted with shock from the betrayal, and then she went limp.

Imogen straightened and let the weapon drop, hands shaking slightly. “K-Kixi,” she whispered, reaching out to touch my cheek. “I h-had to k-kill her.” Her emotions were as complex as the maelstrom as she straightened and looked down at Veronica. Relief that it was over; she was free from the Gexin Combine; and from Veronica Sage; she felt the grim satisfaction that she was dead.

My eyes were wide as I looked from her to Veronica on the floor, before finally grabbing her and crushing her in a hug, my brain short-circuiting and unable to say anything. She remained silent but hugged me back.

“I-Imogen,” my throat tightened. I couldn't hold back the tears much longer. I swallowed slowly and looked into her eyes as I began to speak, and as I did, my legs buckled and I dropped to the ground on my knees.

My breathing grew ragged. The tears came slowly at first, then faster. I wasn't one to cry. But now, I couldn't stop myself— couldn't hold back. I broke into sobs, and the sound of my tears rang out through the otherwise now silent room. 

Imogen was crying too. Her cheeks were wet and dripping with tears, as she clung to my shoulder.

I didn't hold back. I let it all out— every feeling of grief and anger I had experienced for more than a decade. Everything I had held inside, I let out now in the form of tears.

Finally, the tears began to subside and I slowly rose to my feet. My hair was a mess. My face was red and puffy from crying. Imogen looked like she wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words. She was never good with words.

“Smile,” I said, feeling my own spread across my face.

Confusion however, fed her need to ask the inevitable. “How did you change your face, Kixi.” She started slowly, watching me with eyes that were so gentle that I almost couldn't keep looking at her.

However a broad grin spread over my face. “It’s what’s called a ‘Nanotech Facial Veil.’ It consists of thousands of tiny nanites or nano cells implanted inside the spores of my skin. The nano cells hold the genetic coding of my real face, and that of my other created self— my alter ego— Kay Blade. It’s a technology that originated from the Sajnen Confederate, a secret experiment now abandoned. I am one of three people known to have this facial shapeshifting implant. The other girl, eM Blade has it too, and she is my fiancée. The third person who has this Nanotech Facial Veil was in fact the original experimentee. Apart from the fact that he was male, not much is known about him— his whereabouts or if he’s still alive.”

“So... that other girl is Mako Jhasmin?”

“Yes Imogen, that is indeed her.” She met my gaze and saw the confusion that crossed my features. “How... did you know that?”

“I’ve watched you race, I actually know a lot about you.”

“So why didn’t you come to me?” I squinted at her like my braincells went out of focus. “I’ve missed you so much, Imogen.”

“I was scared Kixi. My life has been kinda shabby. I didn’t wanna ruin your life— your career. So I thought I’d stay away, for you. I had no idea you lead a double life— that you out of all people could be the ballsy and venturous Kay Blade.”

I looked at her like there was no one else in the world. It made her ache. “— Imogen, I thought you were dead, I grieved your loss— for years. Had I known that you were out there somewhere— that you were still alive, I would have come for you a long time ago.”

“I know you would have, and now… You have.” She never doubted any of this, and even while the details of the fact that I was Kay Blade and had acquired facial shapeshifting abilities shocked her, it didn’t surprise her that I was capable of such a rescue. Whether I was the warrior Kay Blade; or just Kixi an everyday law abiding citizen, I was still her big sister and had always been protective of her; had always had her back.

“Imogen, just promise me one thing— if we’re ever separated or lose contact with each other again, if you know where I am, that you come to me no matter what trouble or mess you’re in.” My hands cupped her face, thumbs feathering gentle and attentive along the papery thin skin beneath her eyes, catching the salty liquid that once again tumbled free. A rough whimper clawed it’s way out, and then another, until she was crying anew, gasping for breath as she fell into the circle of my arms. “Family comes first... always. Don’t you ever forget it sister.”

Her fingers hooked into the fabric of my shirt and I cradled her body as it shook with the shudders of her croaked sobs.

“I won’t, I promise,” she croaked, her breath hot and stuttering against my neck.

I smoothed a hand through her hair, kept my palm at her nape. “Whatever you need, don’t be ashamed to ask me.”

Her head finally lifted from my shoulder. She swallowed thickly, lifting trembling fingers to rest on my cheek while she slowly searched my face with heavy eyes until she finally nodded.

“I won’t. Although whilst on the subject, I’m curious to know. How did you eventually learn that I wasn’t dead?”

I wanted to tell her about my apparition regarding our father, and how he’d fascinatingly guided me to her. But time was of the essence and there was someone else that was in urgent need of my assistance. “Actually, that’s a long story little sis, one I’ll happily explain to you once I’ve gotten my fiancée back and we’re safely away from here.” We let go of one another and as I took a step back from her, I grabbed her shoulders. “eM— Mako Jhasmin and Erica. I have to go after them.”

“Don’t you mean ‘we’ have to go after them?”

I grinned back at her, that cocky, lopsided grin, confident that I could beat anything, and then get away from anything. Imogen watched in awe as I transformed my face back to that of my alter ego and then guided her toward the door. As we walked to the lift, no one at the cocktail party seemed distracted by our sudden appearance, nor it seemed, that they were aware of Veronica’s demise. Once we got to the lift, the doors closed and I was off with my sister to save my fiancée.

 

***

With little effort, I was able to get back my X- Plasma Blade after handing in the matching token to the attendant at the entry of the star yacht. Reclaiming Mako’s phaser pistol also proved to be an unchallenging exercise; he knew Imogen’s position and didn’t dare question her authority when she told him that Veronica had requested he hand it over to her.

From there, finding eM and Erica wasn’t going to be a problem; Veronica had ordered Erica into seizing my ship and forced eM into doing it.

I’m coming to rescue you, Mittens, I thought as I ran up the small precipice where the star yacht had been moored. The uphill dash ultimately made for a more difficult task in overtaking them and catch Erica by surprise, but she hadn’t anticipated that I’d escape from Veronica’s clutches, thus, she had taken her time and walked.

A sprinting dash behind, and then past Fort Starfall’s buildings swiftly followed. Erica spied me, then, and grinned. “You’re relentless, girl, I’ll give you that.”

Being the only one around without a weapon, eM edged away a fraction and rumbled something to me.

“Came as fast as I could, Mittens,” I said.

Erica took in my disheveled state, the glass on my clothes, and the fact that I’d convinced Imogen to actually come with me. “Sage dead?”

“Yeah,” I said keeping my eyes on her. 

“Imogen kill her?” She glanced over at Imogen and then back at me.

I stared at her. I was somewhat hurt that Erica didn’t assume I had just come from a successful fight to the death to rescue my fiancée, and then get off this moon now that I had gotten back my little sister.

Erica grinned at me. “Do you really think she’s gonna stay with you? You don’t really get it, do you? She acts like a goodie two-shoes, but she’s ambitious. She just killed her boss, that should be enough of a warning should it not?”

I frowned. “No Erica, that’s not it.” I said not hesitating to trigger my NFV, and changing my face back to that of my real self. The look on Erica’s shocked face when she saw my face melt into itself, and then reform itself into a different face was totally priceless. 

“— What the fuck?” Erica exclaimed in disbelief.

“This is my real face; my real name is Kixi; Kixi Rajki.” It was a classic jaw-dropping moment as Erica leered at me. “Yeah, Imogen is my sister and we siblings stick together.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of you, and seen you before,” Erica said quickly pulling herself together. She shifted back and looked me up and down, clearly taking stock of what she saw. Now that she knew my true identity, she made it obvious with her eyes that she didn’t see much there. “Well what do you know, you’re not really a Skycom bootlicker after all, but rather a wolf in sheep's clothing. Congratulations girl, you’ve fooled me, them, and very much all of society, but now, I hope you’re still paying attention, because I’m about to tell you the most—”

One thing that was for sure was that Erica was quick with a blaster, yet, she had underestimated me since we’d met. Mako’s phaser pistol kicked in my hand as I pulled the trigger, and Erica stopped speaking, eyes going wide from shock and pain.

Erica’s blasters dropped from her hands as she dropped to the ground, realising what had happened to her. She looked down and registered the smoking hole in her chest.

I leapt forward and caught Erica before she fell, easing her down and cradling her head. There was no other way this could have ended. If I hadn’t killed her, she would have killed me.

Erica looked at me, her eyes soft. “I underestimated you.” She managed to say, grunting with the effort. “Long live your resistance.” She grimaced, and then her eyes went out of focus. Her body, which had been rigid with pain, relaxed.

In light of her demise, I didn’t expect the fierce wave of grief that crashed over me. She had fought me to the bitter end, and then a change of heart in her final minute. I held Erica for a moment longer, and then I gently laid her back on the ground, stood up and glanced at eM. “Imogen knows,” I said, “show her your real face. I told her who you really are but she had kinda guessed once I had revealed my own true identity to her.”

eM’s gaze strolled over Imogen’s face and then she nodded to me. No less amazed than when she witnessed me do it several times already, Imogen watched her perform the same facial shapeshifting technique, reverting her face back to that of her real self, to that of Mako Jhasmin Zaneca. In an instant, Mako outstretched her arm toward Imogen and introduced herself. “I’m Mako Jhasmin, it’s a pleasure to meet you Imogen.”

“And likewise,” responded Imogen, delighted as she shook hands with Mako, a grin stretched across her face as Mako let out a slow chuckle.

I however, couldn’t resist putting a hand on Mako’s shoulder to swivel her around, and then wrap an arm around her waist. Suddenly feeling at ease in Imogen’s presence, she allowed herself to be taken away. She did not expect my kiss though.

Feeling how she wasn't responding to the kiss, she distanced herself a bit and chuckled. 

"What's with that face?"

She blinked, a bit in a daze. "I wasn't expecting that."

She chuckled yet again and I leaned forward for another kiss, but she took a few steps back.

"Imogen, does any of this bother you?" Mako asked her as she simply watched on.

Imogen however looked lost. "What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean," she gestured at me and then to herself, rolling her eyes and making a face. "Me and your sometimes immature big sister kissing in front of you like we just did."

"Don’t worry Mako,” Imogen winked and then laughed. “You’re both so adorable so it’s all fine by me.” 

“Ah... Coolies.” She replied, surprise clear in her voice.

“Jhas, after I’ve sorted a few things out with Imogen, what do you say about a nice relaxing trip somewhere— with your sometimes immature fiancée— on planet Earth preferably, before we depart for our big interstellar mission?”

“Sure Kiks, that’s the word. Whenever I imagine myself off with you on some adventure, it always makes me smile.”

I snorted and couldn't help but let escape a few giggles. Mako laughed at my reaction; the same laugh she had heard many times during our time together. When had she started to love those laughs more than anything else?

"Jhasmin," I said once the laughing subdued, "I love you." I took a step closer. "More than anyone." I wrapped my arms around her waist again. "You will be mine." My forehead went to touch hers. "Forever."

"I love you too. Always and forever." She whispered back.

I smiled and kissed her. I quickly broke the kiss and turned my head slightly to look at Imogen. I’d only just been reunited with her and already had almost forgotten that she’d just been standing there, watching me kiss Mako with a passion that my fiancée could more than handle.

“You two make a lovely couple.” Imogen said winking at us. “You are perfect for each other. Kixi, Mako is one helluva girl. Now you had better always treat her well, or I’ll make you regret you ever finding me.” She said jokingly, prompting Mako and I to chuckle in unison. 

“Thank you,” I said after I had stopped laughing, smiling a warm thanks to her and winked as I then said, “and you Imogen make for an awesome sister, and an awesome sister in law to my future wife.”

“Thank you Kixi,” she said with a small bow of her head, “and yes, I’ll be honoured.”

“— Hey listen up, we best get going as it isn’t safe for us here,” Mako said with a sudden urgency in her voice. “As soon as the Gexin Combine discover Sage’s body and realise that her senior lieutenant is missing,” she pointed at Erica’s lifeless body which lay only a few metres away, “we best be elsewhere when they come searching for us with all guns blazing.” She lifted one hand to rub her chin thoughtfully. “Come to think of it, it will be even worse if SkySec turned up too. Kixi, even as your real self, you’ll still have a lot of convincing and explaining to do.”

“I doubt I would be able to explain myself so let’s go.” I said and then turned my head ever so slightly to stare at my sister. “Imogen and I will have plenty of time for catching up and story telling during our journey back to Earth.”

Minutes later, we were safely aboard the Artemis. With Mako at the helm, the unmistakable sound of the ship’s engines firing followed, and then a rumbling sound as it lifted off.

For just an instant, while the ship quickly gained altitude and broke away from Oberon’s atmosphere, it felt as if Imogen was watching me, trying to convey everything she felt in a single moment. Life had undoubtedly been difficult for her in the years that we’d unjustifiably been separated, and truth be told, neither one of us might ever understand why things happened the way they did. However, thanks to a phenomenon; a power best understood by the Züncålazin; by my father, my subsequent reacquaintance with Imogen would be the first of many steps to come in mending our kinswoman relationship.

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