CHAPTER TWO

Naia was quickly becoming tired of the maze, tired of her own reflection. She stood perfectly still for a long moment, listening carefully to the sound of her own breathing echoing in the glass chamber. She let the darkness fear creep into her blood, pretending to hide from a deep biter, watching in her mind's eye as the creature's long body swooped and undulated, its jaws opening wide to catch the scent of her fear in the water. Slowly Naia drew in a deep breath and threw her head back in a panic scream. The pitch elevated quickly, becoming a piercing shriek, sharp and shrill. The mirrored walls began to reverberate with a low hum and Naia raised the tone and volume a final time as the deep biter's heart exploded within her mind. At the same time the mirrors cracked and shattered in an explosion of glass all around her. When the shards settled and her scream's echoes stilled to silence, Naia opened her eyes and looked around. Through a large hole in the wall, Naia saw Tegan Kenn seated at a large desk with a small blond woman perched on the corner, twin looks of shock on their faces. The man recovered first.

"'I'm lost' works too," Tegan drolled.

Naia was surprised to see a human. She wasn't sure what she had anticipated, but the gruff military man at the desk with a cigar between his teeth was the last thing she had expected Tegan Kenn would be.

"'Please' had no effect, Captain," Naia returned, angry. "How could we know anything else would work?"

Naia stepped carefully over the glass shards with her bare feet into the office and moved to stand before Tegan and his assistant.

"Would you say this qualifies as 'finding you'?"

Tegan stared into the Krell's eyes and was pleased at the determination he saw.

"It qualifies," he nodded. "Let's start with some answers."

Naia tilted her head and held Tegan's gaze. His eyes, an odd shade of pale green, reminded Naia of a snake's, mesmerizing yet hiding nothing.

"Proceed," she answered at last and moved to sit on a glass covered chair, perching carefully.

"Okay then," Tegan leaned forward, placing the cigar in an ashtray. "The veils. Take 'em off. I like to see who I'm doing business with."

Naia tilted her head, considering the man before her.

"The veils cover my deformation-"

"'My', princess?" Tegan broke in. Behind her veils, Naia grinned and the human watched, fascinated, as her eyes swirled and flashed.

"We are… different from other Krell. Sometimes our words display how wrong we are."

Tegan's eyes narrowed and he leaned back in his seat. Something was wrong about the girl, undoubtedly, but he had the feeling that her appearance was the least of it. Game time was over.

"Take them off, or negotiations are done now."

Naia looked from Tegan to the young woman perched on the edge of his desk. Also human, the girl lacked whiskers and ear fins. Her hands showed no signs webbing and her shoes, uncomfortable things Naia had never seen a reason for, were far too small for her toes to be webbed either. In all, although the girl was various shades of pink all over, except for her hair, Naia felt that their physical appearance was not excessively dissimilar. Perhaps the captain would not turn in disgust.

Naia inhaled deeply and, with a shaking hand, reached up behind her ear to unhook the face mask from the headpiece, pulling both away in one smooth movement.

Callum pulled Brom to a stop outside the cantina. Hacking the security vid-system had failed to produce the veiled Krell, but her companion had been easy to find. Sitting alone in the Southern B-Deck Cantina, the young Krell looked unhappy about being left alone.

"What are we waiting for?" Brom hissed over his shoulder.

"Wait a second," Callum answered. "Make sure she's alone."

Callum scanned the interior, ignoring Brom's muttering about the girl having been alone on the vid-feed.

"Okay then," Callum said gravely. "Let's – "

"Excuse me," a gentle voiced tinkled through the air. Callum and Brom stepped back to allow three ambassadors from Anchel to pass, their luminescent wings shedding the delicate glittering dust that made an Anchellan in flight a truly awesome sight.

Brom fought laughter as Callum blushed at the wink one of the ambassador's threw him when he muttered an apology.

"Shut up," Callum pushed his grinning friend. "Let's go."

Esil shifted in her seat, thoroughly uncomfortable. She could feel the faintest echoes of Naia's moods and movements, but being this far away, she was unable to respond. It was maddening.

"We do not like this," she growled at the beverage she had ordered.

"And what, exactly, don't you like?"

Esil's head snapped up as two men claimed the seats across the table. Her eyes opened in shock and fear when she recognized their uniforms, and the face of one man in particular.

"Callum Faal!"

"Relax Krell," Brom growled. "We're only here to talk."

"Triss do not talk," Esil spat back. "They only fight and make trouble."

"Don't frighten her, Brom," Callum broke in. "And please," he turned to Esil. "Try to remember who made us what we are. We really do only want to talk."

"About what?" Esil eyed the men warily. Callum Faal was easy to recognize, his extraordinary height and piercing brown eyes made him stand out, even among the Triss. His friend was no less remarkable, though a bit smaller, with shocking red hair and pale brown eyes.

"We want to know what two young Krell women could possibly be doing on Diroc Station."