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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #1163728
Half-Human Ep. 1: Kyra's frustrations with her family. 1st story in an Anime-style series.
Half Human


Episode 1: "Pay No Attention To The Cat-Girl!"


         "Dad!" Kyra yelled. It was wasted effort; she established his full attention on arrival by slamming his bedroom door behind her.          

         He looked up from his computer desk, undisturbed by the racket. She must have walked straight up the stairs from the front door, because she still wore the white shirt, plaid skirt and black shoes of her school uniform, and still had her backpack slung over her shoulder. Actually, the way she was huffing, more likely she had run up the stairs.          

         He smiled warmly. "Yes, Kyra?"          

         She brushed her straying red hair back over her shoulder, closed her eyes, took in a deep breath and declared in a steady voice, "I can tolerate my little sister's obsession with swords. I can accept my little brother's three-manga-a-week habit. I can sort of overlook my mother's tendency to disappear for weeks on end, and I can even deal with how you seem to have a different job every month ... but that's as far as I go! I demand that this family get no weirder!"          

         Now that she was in her second year of high school, Kyra was becoming considerably more assertive. She was also becoming considerably more attractive, which reminded him that they were probably due for some problems with her. Just be patient, his wife's voice counseled him. She's going to have a lot of adjustments to make.          

         He scratched his graying beard, then faced his daughter with folded hands. "Alright, Kyra. We'll see what we can do to accommodate you. Do you have anything particular in mind?"          

         She glowered at him for a heartbeat, then jabbed her finger downward, in the general direction of the living room.          

         "That!!"          

         "The floor?" he asked innocently.          

         She closed her eyes and breathed in again, clearly controlling herself as best she could. "I'm pointing at the cat-girl in the living room!"          

         "Ah," he answered.          

         Her expression went from indignant to something more like enraged as her eyes flew open. They were becoming much more violet, he noted. Yes, she's growing up, isn't she?          

         "'Ah?' Is that all you can say for yourself? 'Ah?!'"          

         "That's just one of your sister's friends," he assured her, lying to her because she wasn't going to believe the truth, anyway. "She wants to show off her new costume."          

         Kyra's eyes widened and her voice went up a half-octave. "That woman has gazongas the size of Peru! Leisha is not old enough to have a friend with a rack like that, Dad!"          

         "Your brother ordered another Anime figurine?"          

         "She's life-sized and she answered me when I asked who the hell she was, Dad!" Kyra declared with increasing fury. "She said, 'Nyaah'!!"          

         He pursed his lips. "She's a friend of your Mom's?"          

         "Dad, I ... okay, for Mom, maybe I almost can believe that,... but Mom's been gone for a week! Tell me the truth!"          

         "Okay. You're an alien." Hey, she asked for the truth.          

         Kyra opened her mouth for another retort, then closed it again. After a blink, she replied, "You meant to claim that she's an alien, right?"          

         He shrugged. "Well, that, too, but what I actually said is more relevant."          

         She folded her arms with dramatic resolve. "I am not an alien, Dad."          

         He nodded. "Well, true. Since I'm from Earth, you're actually only half-alien."          

         She stared at him for another few seconds, her angry breath very audible, then wheeled and exited, slamming the bedroom door again on the way out.          

         Four seconds later, an additional door slam announced her retirement to her own room.          

         He sighed and shook his head. "I told you she wasn't going to be happy."          

         I know that, dear. You'll need to go talk to her once she calms down.          

* * *


         Kyra lay on her bed, fuming, her uniform scattered on the floor. She knew the tee-shirt she had forcefully yanked on was inside-out, but frankly, she didn't care, yet. Geez, that guy!...          

         She didn't know which pissed her off worse, the fact that he had some fetish-junkie woman sitting in their living room like she owned the place while her mom was absent, or the fact that he had the stones to feed his own daughter one B.S. answer after the other,... and exactly what was that woman doing in their house, anyway?          

         I'm 'half-alien', am I? Geez!          

         It wasn't the first time he had pulled that line on her, either. He told her she was an alien on a regular basis. This time, she couldn't even see how it would be relevant, which was worse. Every time things get weird around here.... Her phone rang, interrupting her funk. She found her purse and dug it out.          

         "Hey, girlfriend!" came Ronni's voice. Based on the background noise, her friend was calling from a car.          

         "You're yakking and driving again," Kyra accused.          

         Ronni made a noise with her tongue, in lieu of sticking it out, and disagreed. "Nah, I'm at a light right now. I'll hand the phone to Caeleigh if it turns green, okay?"          

         "Caeleigh?..." She was confused for a moment. "Oh, the new girl."          

         "We're coming over to pick you up. Time to get back to the mall. We aren't keeping up with our quota!"          

         She snorted. "Really? How do you know?"          

         "Oh, the folks at the mall call me up and tell me when it's been too long. Be there in five to pick you up, okay?"          

         She stretched, scratched her head, yawned and thought about passing, then remembered how much she wanted to get away. "Yeah. I'll be ready."          

         After switching the tee-shirt for something more boy-friendly, adding her latest jeans and just the right belt, she sauntered downstairs in a reasonably good mood.          

         It didn't last. Miss 'Nyaah' still sat on the couch, watching 'Animal Planet'. She scratched her enormous gray ear with a tabby cat's paw mitten. How in the heck did she operate the remote with those things on? The rest of the woman's wardrobe was just as bad... a short, bright blue velvet dress that seemed custom designed to show off her perfect legs and huge bosom to the maximum possible advantage within the bounds of decency, a blue ribbon around her neck, tied in a bow, tabby cat boots to match the mittens and ears, and a ridiculous matching tail that she had somehow rigged to move. Kyra tried not to make contact with those gorgeous eyes of hers, but the woman looked up too quickly, giving her a bright smile. Her tail twitched.          

         So did Kyra's cheek. She glared at the woman and declared, "My friends are coming to pick me up. Keep your mouth shut and don't do anything weird, okay?!"          

         "Mew?" Cat-girl inquired with large eyes and an innocent tip of the head. Kyra growled softly and stormed past her into the kitchen.          

         The door-bell rang just as she retrieved the drink-pack she was after. She beat a hasty trail to the door before Psycho Lady got the idea to answer it. Thankfully, it was Ronni and Caeleigh. Ronni had really done herself up, like she was ready for an Ebony cover shoot. Caeleigh had a crazy look going, but she always did. At school, her uniform seemed fitted to someone three sizes larger. Now, she looked like she had pieced her outfit together from stuff retrieved out of dumpsters. Her huge pigtails were tied with mis-matched scrunchies, and her dark eyes darted around everywhere, rapidly recording everything. In all, she just looked a little... odd.          

         "Hey, girlfriend!" Ronni greeted her. "Ready to go?"          

         "Yup," she replied. She already had her purse, wanting to get away as quickly as possible. As she pushed past them, she growled, "Pay no attention to the cat-girl."          

         Ronni looked puzzled. "To the what?"          

         She glanced over her shoulder to see that the woman had made herself scarce. Well, at least she had one shred of decency. "Never mind."          

* * *


         She's very upset, Dear.          

         He shook his head. He would never successfully explain it to her, would he? "Why shouldn't she be? She probably thinks I'm cheating on you, now."          

         But, why would she think that? his wife wondered with sincere naiveté.          

         He burst out laughing. "Oh, man. Have you seen the stuffing in that outfit? Why wouldn't she think that?"          

         He felt her sigh. I guess it's like you always say. Some things I will never understand.          

         "Well, that is something you'll never need to understand, Gorgeous... and because I am married to you, Kyra doesn't have a thing to worry about."          

         Her musical laughter filled his skull like bells. Oh, looks like Leisha and Brett just arrived. Hope it goes better with them.          

         "Pretty much guaranteed. Brett's gonna love it."          

* * *


         Dirk and Perry weren't regular mall rats. Life, Perry liked to say, was too interesting to waste in a mall. They had a mission today, however... a very critical mission, vital to World Peace... at least for that part of the world Perry inhabited. Domestic tranquility depended upon them finding a birthday present for his sister.          

         His bargain-sized friend sighed, and complained, "You've known this was coming for like, what, a year? How did you end up leaving it to the last minute?"          

         He looked up from the rack of fashion jewelry with irritation. "Mom didn't tell me until today, alright? Get off my back!"          

         The big guy shook his head smugly, then picked out a pair of very large, tortoise-shell earrings and held them up to his ear. "How about these?"          

         Perry glanced over and appraised. "Dirk, they're you."          

         He snorted and put them back on the rack. "As is of course, obvious, I meant for your sister."          

         "Nah. I think I need to find something a little more classy. She's like, nineteen years old tomorrow."          

         Dirk tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, check it out."          

         Naturally, he was indicating something on the other side of the rack which, with more than a foot of extra altitude, Dirk could see over. Perry moved to the end and peered past, pressing his glasses back up his nose.          

         He spotted Kyra with a couple friends and brightened a little. Good man, Dirk! "Ah ha!... the princess and her court!"          

         She was looking really fine, today. A flimsy top cut so that just a little midriff peeked out, a fine pair of jeans... of course, she looked great in everything, but observing long enough to notice her outfit was always worth it.          

         Dirk scratched the back of his neck. "You wanna go try to hang with 'em?"          

         "Dude, you just want to see me embarrass myself again, don't you? She'll just dis me like every other time." He looked a moment longer, then returned to studying the rack. It was about then that he wondered ....          

         He glanced up to Dirk, who was still able to see them, and asked, "Who was that other girl with her?"          

         "You mean, other than Veronica?" The big guy scratched his nose. "Ummm ... I think it's that new one. Kelly, or somethin'."          

         A stone appeared deep in Perry's stomach. "Caeleigh. Crap. Dirk, you follow 'em, alright? I'll catch up with you."          

         As he randomly grabbed five different pairs of earrings, Dirk frowned. "I don't understand."          

         Perry strode quickly toward the checkout counter. "Just go. I'll explain later. I gotta go pay for these."          

         Dirk hesitated, still puzzled, then shrugged. "Okay. How you gonna find me?"          

         He looked upward at six foot and eight inches of heavily muscled living statue, and shook his head. "You, I can find. Go."          

* * *


         Kyra spent her first ten minutes storming the mall like she was on a military expedition. Her friends finally had her calmed down at about the third store.          

         "So, are you gonna tell me what has you ticked off?" Ronni inquired as they walked away from the food court. They had hit the new juice counter, which turned out pretty cool. At least Ronni and Kyra both liked it. Caeleigh hadn't liked the look of anything, and wound up scoring a shake at the next place over.          

         Kyra shook her head. "Too embarrassing. Where we headed now?"          

         Caeleigh spoke up, which was a rarity. "There's a place down this way I'd like to go."          

         "Oh yeah? Where's that?" This oughta be interesting. What kind of a store would she choose?          

         Kyra almost choked on her juice when Caeleigh led them to a popular lingerie chain.

         "I gotta admit," Ronni declared, equally surprised, "this, I did not expect out of you."          

         Caeleigh blinked at them, as if confused for a moment, then shrugged and explained, "Well... I didn't want to go in there by myself."          

         Kyra snorted. "Needed someone else to help you get your courage up, huh? Fine. Let's go, girls!" She linked her arms with both of them and started marching forward.          

         Ronni giggled as the three walked into the store side-by-side. Kyra, however, glanced over her shoulder and spied Dirk, the lumbering giant from school, taking a seat right in front of the store.          

         "Crap," Kyra declared, letting go and forging her way farther in.          

         Ronni glanced to see where she was looking. "Oh, hey, it's Dirk! We should go say hi!"          

         Kyra rushed back to her with astonishment and pulled her along. "No, we should not! Where there's a Dirk, there's a Perry!"          

         Ronni chuckled. "Ah, girl, you shouldn't be like that. Perry's nice, he's not bad looking, and he likes you a lot. Everyone but you knows what a cute couple you two would make."          

         Kyra looked daggers at Black Beauty, who just laughed more. She put her hands on hips and insisted, "The last thing I need is for Four-Eyes to see me coming out of this store so he can go home to fantasize about whatever he thinks I bought here! Geez, I bet his glasses steam up!"          

         Caeleigh had browsed ahead. She was returning from the back carrying a bra-and-pantie set and grinning. "Hey, guys, there's something you should see back there!"          

         Just then, Kyra saw that Perry had arrived out front. "Ah, crap! There he is." He was looking in, right at Caeleigh, and he had a weird look on his face.          

         Ronni, who hadn't noticed, point the direction Caeleigh was suggesting. "You wanna go check it out?"          

         Caeleigh had a strange look, too, though. She had seen Perry and looked nervous about his presence. "Umm... how about another time? I think it's time to go."          

         She dropped the clothing on a display counter and dashed on out, Ronni and Kyra trailing. They worked their way through a few more stores, but Misters Super-size and Bite-size kept on happening to be around. Kyra finally had enough of the game and demanded to go home, with Caeleigh in full agreement.          

         "They were stalking us, Ronni!" she insisted after her friend started griping about it on the way home.

         "He's not stalking you, Kyra, he's just trying to get a chance to talk to you. You should throw him a bone."

         "What is it with you about me and Perry? Do you not see the same nerdy tool I do when you look that direction?"

         Ronni pursed her lips and grew a sour look. "Kyra, you don't know how many girls in school hate you because that boy won't look at anyone else. He's good looking, he's smart, he's strong and despite all that he's not full of himself at all. He gets along with everyone. Heck, even back in elementary school, he was always protecting other kids from the bullies."

         Kyra blinked at her. "Huh? Are we talking about Perry or Dirk?"

         She looked puzzled. "Perry! In fact, that's how Dirk started hanging with him. Back in fourth grade, Dirk was a foot taller than anyone else and mean as hell, but Perry beat the crap out of him anyway. Really straightened the big guy out."          

         That surprised her. Even though she knew the two boys went to the same martial arts school as her little sister, she always thought of Perry as a weedy little bookworm. She couldn't imagine him beating up anyone, never mind a guy the size of Dirk. It just seemed so out of character.

         Fearing what the girls might see waiting for her inside, she had them drop her off at the curb. However, rather than waiting, it turned out Dad's new toy was busy cooking. Incredibly, she was managing kitchen utensils without removing the cat's paw mittens. Leisha was in there with her, chopping vegetables. Cat-girl looked up and greeted Kyra with a "Nyaah!"          

         Kyra turned on one heel without a word and walked instead into the living room, where Dad was contentedly sitting with his martini in front of the TV, watching cable news. He smiled up at her as she walked up and stood in front of him with folded arms. "Hello, Kyra!"          

         "She's still here!" Kyra reported, angrily, "and she's cooking!"          

         He nodded and smiled. "That's right. She's teaching Leisha how to stir-fry."          

         She jabbed her finger in the direction of the kitchen without looking. "Dressed like that!"          

         He nodded, chuckling. "Yeah. She had a maid outfit she wanted to wear, but I told her you would probably blow a cork if she wore it."          

         "What do you suppose I'm doing now?!" she demanded.          

         Her father sighed and shook his head, "I told your mother you wouldn't like it."          

         Her eyes grew as round as she had ever felt them grow, as she felt herself hitting the boiling point. "You want me to believe that Mom knows about this?!"          

         "Well, duh," Brett announced as he came down the stairs. He was rolling his eyes when Kyra glared his way. "Of course she knows!"          

         She looked back and forth between the two men in her life, the middle aged jerk and the thirteen-year-old jerk, and exploded.          

         "Did you two perverts even stop for a second to think about what kind of warped effect you're having on that ten-year-old girl in there?!"          

         "Probably not. They never do," Leisha commented from the archway into the kitchen, where she had moved to listen to the discussion. "But somehow, I'll get through it, Sis."          

         Kyra drew in a deep breath, wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to keep herself from screaming.          

         "Mew?" the cat-girl asked from behind Leisha.          

         She let out a shriek and ran upstairs to her room.

* * *


         We have to ride bikes while they drive, Perry groused privately as he pumped along. Life is not fair.          

         "Are you going to tell me what you're worried about?" Dirk asked as he pulled even with him. Perry shook his head.          

         "Look, Dirk, I've been thinking... you shouldn't be involved in this. It's not your problem."          

         "You think Caeleigh is some kind of threat to Kyra and Veronica, right?" Dirk pressed. "Is she another alien thing, like that problem your sister had?"          

         He looked over at his larger friend. Dirk was the only one among his Human acquaintances that knew where his family came from. "It's Kyra she's after, but Ronni's in danger as long as they're together." He return his eyes to the road right away. They were riding too fast to look away for long.          

         "Then it's my problem," Dirk stated, with Dirk's special tone of finality that Perry knew he couldn't win against.          

         He tried anyway. "Dirk, this is another 'someone could get killed sticking their nose into it' problem."          

         Dirk didn't take his eyes of the road. He just set his jaw and prompted, "And?" as if he were waiting for Perry to make his point.          

         Perry shook his head. "Fine. Listen carefully. This involves Argovos. That makes it a whole new level of dangerous."          

         Dirk frowned. "Argovos? That's your dad's planet, right? You've told me before he was here to guard someone. Is it Kyra?"

         He nodded, "He's here to guard Kyra's family. My father is Captain of the Royal Guard of Argovos."

         Dirk frowned, concentrating as he put it together. "Royal Guard. So, when you call Kyra 'princess'..."          

         He gave a sheepish grin. "Right. It's not my nickname for her. She's the Crown Princess of Argovos. Her mother is the Queen."

         "What are they doing here on Earth?"

         "Back before we were born, Kyra's grandparents decided to make Argovos a democracy. The whole family exiled themselves to Earth without abdicating their throne in order to force the issue. As long as the Crown stays here, the Argovians have to rule themselves. The Royal Guard relocated here as well."          

         They had finally made it to Kyra's house. Perry was in a hurry, so he just dropped his bike on the lawn and rushed to the door. Dirk lumbered up behind him as the door opened.

         Kyra's father surprised him by recognizing them. "You're the boys that assist with Leisha's Kendo class. Are you here about the school?"

         She was actually the assistant in the Kendo class they attended. Maybe Mr. Forth thought he would be embarrassed about being taught by a ten-year-old. "No, sir. Right now, I'm here as the son of Chuck Hannick. You know my father."

         He didn't know if that was true, but Mr. Forth would at least know the Hannick family name. Sure enough, his smile disappeared as he caught Perry's meaning. "What can I do for you?"          

         "Has Kyra come home from the mall yet?"          

         Mr. Forth nodded. "Yes, she has."          

         Perry breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness! We were on bikes and couldn't keep up. Look, sir, I annoyed her pretty bad at the mall. There was a... threat, and I didn't have any choice except to tail her. She won't want to see me. I've called my sister to get Dad over here. Until he arrives, I'll guard from outside."          

         Leisha appeared from behind her father and saw them. "Hey, guys! What's up?"          

         Her father glanced at her, then looked back to Perry. "Boys, come in and explain the situation. Please." He stood aside and gestured them in.          

         Perry hesitated, but Mr. Forth wasn't giving him any choice. He entered the house and was momentarily startled by the cat-girl setting the table in the dining room. He figured it out quickly and grinned. "That's quite a morph!"          

         Dirk stared, completely flummoxed by the sight.          

         Mr. Forth waited with folded arms in the middle of the living room while Kyra's brother joined the gathering. Once everyone was assembled, he asked, "Now, what is going on?"

         It was a little unseemly to have Dirk openly gawking, so Perry placed his hand behind the big guy's shoulder and pushed until he was facing Kyra's father. Perry heard the catgirl make a little laughing "mew" sound as he began his explanation.          

         "A new girl named Caeleigh started attending our school last week. My father has reason to believe she's a Vaxrene. The Vaxrenes have no legitimate operations in the LA area, so she must be either a criminal or a ... private operative."          

         "A mercenary," Mr. Forth translated, in a tone that said he expected Perry to continue.

         The Royal Guard seldom briefed anyone in the Royal Family about the various security risks they were tracking. For Kyra's father to understand why some random mercenary was a cause for concern, Perry would have to say a lot more.

         "Her Majesty's Government on Argovos has uncovered Opposition plans to depose the Queen and install the Crown Princess in her place. They may have enough supporters and a workable plan, but they need to have the princess on hand on the home world to make it work. Dad thought it was just Opposition hot air until Caeleigh showed up. Since one mercenary can't do a whole lot by herself, my father has been working to determine who her accomplices are."

         The catgirl stood in the dining room entryway now, attentive and serious, confirming his assumption about her. Leisha and Brett both had very intent looks as well, but their father just looked mystified.

         "If I understand correctly,the Opposition opposes the Queen's effort to push the Argovos Cluster out of Monarchy into Democracy, and so ...  out of loyalty to the Crown... they plan to depose the Queen and install my daughter as their puppet?" He ended with a tone that suggested the Opposition wasn't making much sense.          

         "Yeah. Something like that." Perry scratched the back of his head and grinned. He immediately returned to being serious. "The thing is, Caeleigh was hanging with Kyra at the mall, and tried to get her to the back of a store that's a known contact point for Ghalzites. When Dirk and I showed up, she rushed out of there, so I think we spooked her in the middle of her plan."          

         "Ghalzites?" Mr Forth's eyes widened and his voice weakened. Even though Vaxrenes mercenaries were notorious, Ghalzites were considerably more dangerous.          

         Perry nodded, but he was getting nervous about being in the house. "Look, I gotta get out of here before Kyra comes downstairs and sees us. She'll freak if she finds me here...."          

         He broke off when Mr. Forth held up a hand and shook his head. "She's not here anymore, son. She left a little while ago for Veronica's house, to spend the night."          

         Perry felt himself go pale. "What?" Close to panic, he looked over at Dirk. "You know where Ronni lives, right?"          

         "Um... yes?" Dirk nodded.          

         Perry grabbed his arm and pulled him toward the door "We gotta go! Mr. Forth, please wait for my father or my sister!"

         They jumped back on their bikes and pedaled hard. Dirk and Ronni had lived in the same neighborhood since grade school so he took the lead, navigating them to the old two-story where Ronni lived. The entryway was hidden from the road behind an enormous lemon tree. They walked their bikes up and set them on the lawn next to it.          

         Nobody answered the door at first, so Perry put his hand on the door and concentrated.

         After a few seconds, he grew puzzled. "Several people are inside," he noted. Perry had pulled enough similar tricks in front of Dirk that his friend didn't question it anymore. He dropped his hand quickly. "Okay, someone's coming."          

         'Someone' turned out to be Mrs. McKinney, Ronni's mom, who smiled a little nervously at them. He greeted her and asked, "Is Veronica home? We need to talk to her."          

         Mrs. McKinney hesitated, then shook her head. "Um... no, she... went to the mall."          

         Perry did his best to look disappointed instead of suspicious. "Did Kyra come here? We were looking for her, too."          

         Her nervousness was getting more evident. She shook her head. "No, no, it's just me here right now."          

         "Sorry to bother you then, Mrs. McKinney. Bye."          

         While they quietly picked up their bikes and walked them to the curb, Perry thought furiously about what to do. Dirk kept quiet.

         Perry decided not to speak out loud. In a previous situation, he had made Dirk hear him mind-speak, so he decided to give it a shot again. Dude, if you can hear me, just nod.          

         Dirk nodded, much to his relief. They got on and began riding down the street.          

         Cool. Don't forget, you don't know how to send, so I can't hear you answer, and if you get more than a few feet away, you can't hear me.

         Dirk nodded again.

         Mrs. McKinney was talking total B.S. just now. I think someone was holding a gun on her. I counted seven people in the house. We're going to circle the block, sneak up behind the house, and see if we can find out what's going on.          

         Dirk nodded again as they turned the corner at the end of the block. Perry kept thinking furiously, all the way around the block, but he was coming up empty. Dirk pointed out a spot in the alley where they could tuck their bikes, and he nodded. Our assets are a short half-Argovian, a rather large Human, two black-belts, a cell-phone and two bikes. Any ideas?          

         Dirk grinned, but shook his head. Perry shrugged and pulled out his phone. Texting my sister to tell her where we are. After that, we're on our own.          

         He wished he could reach into the house and mind-speak to Kyra. If she were an adult he could do it easily, but both of them were still too young for that kind of range. From what he had heard, she didn't believe in any of it, anyway. If he mind-spoke to her, she would think she was imagining things.

         They crept down the alley and found the back of the house, looking for a way to get closer that wasn't exposed. He shook his head and turned to show Dirk where they would go.          

         A hulking humanoid the size of a small tank held Dirk slung over his shoulder. He had a weapon aimed at Perry's face.

* * *


         Kyra had never really been terrified before. She'd been on amusement park rides, of course, so she thought she knew terrified.          

         Nope. Wrong. That wasn't 'terrified'. This is terrified. Bound, gagged, and seated on Ronni's living-room floor, she waited helplessly, hoping for someone to maybe explain what the hell they were doing.

         It hadn't been strange for Veronica to call her to come over, only five minutes after dropping her off, right? No, of course it was strange. If she hadn't been so pissed off when Ronni called, she might have realized it. Instead, she'd just hopped on her scooter and rode over without a thought.

         Well, she didn't think she would have guessed Caeleigh was making Ronni call at gunpoint, in any case.

         Caeleigh came back into the room with a self-satisfied smile on her face. She closed her cellphone and leered down.          

         "Comfy, Your Highness?"          

         Kyra would have stuck her tongue out if it weren't for the gag. She had to content herself with a dirty look. Ronni, equally bound and gagged, looked fearfully from her to Caeleigh and back, clearly worried about what their captor would do next. Only Mrs. McKinney had been left free, to be available to answer the phone and door.          

         Caeleigh grinned a sort of lopsided, ugly smirk and shrugged. She picked up a water bottle, reached out and undid the gag. "Thirsty?"          

         Kyra looked away and refused to say anything. Caeleigh shrugged and went over to ungag Ronni, making her the same offer and getting the same result.          

         "Look, my employers are not going to be happy if I deliver you dehydrated. They're actually quite fond of you, Your Highness."          

         "Why do you keep calling me that?!" Kyra demanded.

         Caeleigh rolled her eyes. "Stop playing dumb. It's annoying."          

         The largest of the gigantic thugs working for Caeleigh walked in with a limp body over each shoulder. The girl grinned down at her. "By the way, we captured your little Royal Guard and his pet ape trying to sneak in through the alley."          

         "I don't have a 'Royal Guard'," she insisted, but Caeleigh wasn't talking anymore.

         "Geez," Kyra breathed, as the seven-foot-tall giant set them down and she recognized Perry and Dirk. "What were they doing here?"          

         "Looking for Your Highness, as you perfectly well know," Caeleigh replied, then told the thug, "Get them tied up quick. The Argovian will recover faster than the Human, I expect."          

         Kyra wondered briefly which of them was supposed to be which, then got angry with herself for getting sucked in even for a second. They're both 'Human'!          

         ...And they both looked half-dead. "Caeleigh, what have you done to them?" she worried, fearing for them.          

         Caeleigh put on a look that Kyra assumed was suppose to be reassuring. "Just a stunner, Princess. My employers insist we try to avoid killing any of your friends or family. Too bad; it would be nice to have something to take my frustrations out on, after he screwed up my plans and forced me to improvise like this at the last minute."

         She grinned at Perry. "He came riding to the rescue of his fair lady too. What an idiot." She shook her head and looked back to Kyra. "Human, Argovian, It doesn't matter. All you two-gender species are the same --" She leaned forward and tapped her skull. "-- messed up in the head."

         The ropes pulling tight around Perry's wrists revived him. As he woke, he gave the giant who was binding him a sour look and muttered, "I thought I smelled a Ghalzite. You guys should shower more often. You might get rid of that used-motor-oil stink."

         The giant didn't reply, just jerked Perry upright and sat him next to Kyra. The other two thugs walked in as the seven-footer moved over to bind Dirk. They huddled around Caeleigh and spoke in low tones. Whatever they said, Kyra had the sense it wasn't English, but it was too quiet for her to be sure.

         It was a little weird seeing the high-school girl ordering these huge men around. The three were all different sizes, from six feet tall to seven, but they all towered over the diminutive girl.          

         Perry shook his head sorrowfully. "Sorry, Kyra. I screwed up. They had some kind of surveillance equipment watching for us."          

         "Perry!" she hissed at him, "What were you doing here?"          

         The other two left the room again. He looked up at her and grinned. "Trying to rescue my princess, of course."          

         Her concerned was instantly replaced by irritation. "You're not playing that game, too, are you?"          

         His eyebrows shot up. "Did you take a good look at those Ghalzites? Does this look like a game? Your Highness..."          

         She interrupted him through gritted teeth. "Do not call me that!"          

         He sighed. "Look, Kyra... whatever you think about me doesn't matter. I did what I had to do."          

         So, what the hell is a 'Ghalzite'? She was beginning to add things up and become suspicious. "Perry, are you and Caeleigh working some kind of scam together?"          

         He was shocked. "Good lord, no!"          

         The giant pulled Dirk upright, bumping him hard into Perry, who struggled to stay upright with hands to steady himself. Dirk made a deep grumbling noise as he began waking up.

         Caeleigh studied them with folded arms, tapping her foot and shaking her head. "I don't like having them together like this. We should separate them."          

         "Ah," Perry nodded. "You must have a few more people working for you, then."          

         Caeleigh looked irritated. "What are you talking about?"          

         He looked up at her, mildly surprised. "Hmm? Well, obviously, you need someone to guard Mrs. McKinney, and someone to guard us. You split us up and you need someone to guard each of us. That adds up to more help than I've seen." He looked at the thugs.          

         Caeleigh looked at him with a sour expression. "You're bound up good and tight, Argovian. You're not going anywhere. I just don't want you guys working on some kind of plan together."          

         Perry laughed at her. "You know that Argovians are shape-shifters, don't you? Maybe the princess and I will morph into something that can slip out of these ropes while you aren't looking... and are you really sure Dirk is Human? Have you taken a good look at the guy? He might just have a surprise up his sleeve, too."          

         She grinned and leaned close in. "You're still children. Everyone knows Argovians can't shape-shift until they're adults!"          

         He grinned right back at her, without any humor at all. "I'm half Human. Do you have any idea how that changes the life cycle? Take a look at my eyes, Vaxrene. Don't they look just a little... purplish?"          

         Purplish? she echoed to herself as panic set in. Her eyes had been changing color lately. They had been blue, but lately they were turning a bright violet color, the same weird color as her mother. Were Perry's eyes doing the same thing?... and hadn't he just claimed to be half-alien, just like Dad said she was?          

         Get a grip, Kyra! It's a bunch of bull!          

         Caeleigh looked uncertain. Perry had given her reason to doubt what she knew, and Kyra was certain that's what he wanted.

         She turned to look at the seven-footer. "Keep them together, and keep a close eye on them."          

         One of the other thugs came in to the room. "We have another visitor," he announced with an odd-sounding voice, then wheeled and left.          

         "Dammit! When is that transport going to get here!" she fumed, then turned to the giant still in the room. "Gag them again."          

         The giant strode back over and crouched down next to Kyra. Caeleigh turned to Mrs. McKinney and ordered, "Come with me, Human!"

         The giant pushed Kyra's head down to retie the gag. He was working rapidly, so it was a little rough. Perry grew angry. "Ease up on her!"          

         "You're in no position to issue orders," he rumbled as he gagged Dirk.

         Perry looked up at him with murderous eyes and spoke with a cold, emotionless voice. "Get rough with her again, and I promise I will knock your head off, Ghalzite."          

         The thug made no reply as he moved over to gag Perry. Kyra had the impression he tied it extra tight.          

         She heard Mrs. McKinney go through the same routine at the door as she had with Perry. She hadn't been able to tell his voice from out on the front step, but she knew this one. Her eyes grew wide as she heard her little brother speaking.          

         No, Brett! Not you, too!          

         Your Highness? she heard inside her own mind.          

         Was she hearing voices now? She tried to pretend she hadn't, but it spoke again. Your Highness, please listen carefully.          

         Oh, God, I'm losing my mind! she thought, fearfully. It really had sounded like Perry's voice.          

         If that was you trying to answer, I couldn't quite understand. I'm afraid you haven't learned how to send yet. Just listen carefully. If you can understand me, look over to me and blink.          

         It really was Perry's voice. She turned fearfully to look at him, and he really was looking back at her.          

         I can't do this. It's crazy!          

         He raised his eyebrows, seeming to prompt her. She blinked slowly, then looked away, feeling like an idiot. Just as she turned, she realized his eyes really were the same weird color as her own.          

         She could feel the relief in his silent 'voice'. Great. I was afraid you wouldn't hear me. I psyched Caeleigh into keeping us together just in case we could do this.

         Somehow, the feeling of Perry organizing his thoughts came across, without any words. She suppressed a shiver.

         Now listen carefully. I can't explain everything right now, so I will just hit the highlights. First of all, I can't really morph. That was more psyche. We're too young for that, just like she said. Your mom, my dad, they change shapes. That's how they can look Human. For us half-human kids, human is our natural form. Our parents' natural form is ... different.          

         She shot a confused look at him.          

         Don't look at me. They'll figure out we're talking. You want proof of what I'm saying? Her Majesty... I mean your mom ... disappears every couple months, doesn't she? She does that because she can't hold her human form permanently. She has to revert to Argovian form, and maybe change to something else for a bit, for two or three weeks, to rest her gene matrix. After that, she can go back to being Human for a few more months. It's the same for my dad.          

         She was feeling very cold now. How can this be happening? If he knew about her mom's regular disappearing act, if he had those violet eyes, and if he was conducting this telepathic lecture… no, she had to be going insane.          

         You're a very important important person to their customers, but you don't mean anything to these mercenaries personally, and I'm afraid if they run into trouble and can't finish the job they may simply dispose of you. I can't let them put you in that 'transport', whatever it is. Also, I'm worried they'll do something to Ronni and her mom, however things go. So here's the plan. Dirk and I are going to fight them, and you are going to escape while they're occupied with us. Dirk's untying the ropes right now.          

         She glanced over and saw Dirk deep in concentration. All she could tell was, his effort was making his huge muscles flex. She wasn't sure exactly what he was doing.          

         This is very important, Your Highness... She shot a dirty look at him, and he shook his head, just barely. Kyra, then. They didn't tie Ronni's feet, so as soon as you're free, grab Ronni and her mom and run. Getting yourself and the McKinneys away from here is more important than anything that happens to me or Dirk. Don't stop to help us even if it means letting us die.          

         Die?! Her eyes grew wide just as the other two thugs, Caeleigh, and Mrs. McKinney came back into the room. She forced her expression back to neutral. "No, we couldn't keep the other Forth kid here, because his parents sent him over," Caeleigh was saying. "I'm gambling that the Guard kid followed us on his own. Our friends have the rest of the Royal Guard distracted, but if we aroused suspicions by keeping their prince, they'd all come running."          

         She looked over at them and frowned. "Are you sure those bonds are secure? The big one looks..."          

         Dirk came bursting upward, in one motion turning the move into a hard kick at the biggest thug. To her amazement, Kyra felt her bonds fall away at the same moment. She had no idea how he had done it, but she didn't stop to ask. She jumped up and ran to get Ronni and her mom.          

         Ronni stayed frozen to her seat in terror. She wouldn't budge. "Come on!" Kyra tried to yell through the gag. She looked back to see the boys hard in battle against two opponents each. Dirk hadn't untied Perry's hands, but Perry was doing an incredible job with just his feet.

         Go! she heard Perry yelling at her. She tried again to pull Ronni's arm.          

         A loud popping noise and a nasty electric smell... and to her horror, Perry slumped to the floor. Caeleigh screamed at the Ghalzite with the weapon, as she pulled something out of her purse. "You idiot! He'll just recover! Set that damned thing to wound him at least!"          

         The thug started fumbling with the settings on the weapon as Caeleigh did something with the object in her hand. A moment later, she held a sword.          

         Incredibly, Dirk held two 'Ghalzites' in headlocks, one under each arm, even though the biggest one was at least four inches taller than him. He gave a loud roar and threw the shorter of the two at Caeleigh. She narrowly avoided stabbing her own guy with the blade, then took a swing at Dirk, who somehow managed to dodge the blow while still gripping the tallest thug. As her follow-through carried the blade past him, he landed a nasty kick on her and sent her flying backward.          

         Ronni finally came to her feet but it was too late. The thug Dirk had thrown was already back on his feet and he was looking straight at Kyra. Caeleigh picked herself off the floor and opened her mouth to say something.          

         Instead of Caeleigh's voice, Kyra heard shattering glass. A figure in a familiar blue-velvet dress came cannon-balling into the room through the picture window.          

         "MERRRROWWRRR!!!"          

         She stared in shock as Cat-girl slammed into the thug pointing the stunner at Perry, pinning him to the ground. Leisha came bounding in after her with a katana, immediately locking swords with Caeleigh.          

         Kyra stared in shock at her two bizarre rescuers, and nearly didn't see something like a human-shaped amoeba leap through the window behind them. It wore women's clothing, it had bright purple eyes, but it was very obviously not Human. It landed a punch on the thug that had been about to come at Kyra just after it landed.          

         For a short period of time, the fight proceeded, while she and the McKinneys stared in shock. She was terrified that Leisha might be skewered with the nasty blade in Caeleigh's hand, but her katana ... she hadn't known that any of Leisha's collection were the real thing ... sliced in on Caeleigh's sword arm and her foot flicked out to knock the 'Vaxrene' off her feet.

         Within a few seconds, the fight seemed to be over. Caeleigh was on the ground, gripping her wound with her good arm, two thugs were on the floor and apparently out of action, and Dirk still held the tallest thug in a headlock.

         A popping noise announced another stunner firing, and Dirk slumped floorward. Tallest thug dashed toward Kyra and grabbed her by the hair, holding her before him as a shield, chin down, with the weapon to her head. She stared down at Perry, now laying at her feet where the tallest thug had wrestled her around. Oh, God, is he even breathing?!

         "I've switched it to a heavier charge," the alien rasped with that weird voice. "It wasn't enough to kill the big one, but it's plenty enough to do the little princess. We are going to wait until the transport arrives, then I will be leaving on it with her."          

         Kyra managed to look up slightly. Leisha fingered the grip over her sword with agitation and shifted her stance slightly, but other than that, all remained still. Cat-girl balanced on her toes, looking daggers at the alien and ready to spring, her mittens showing bared claws. She no longer looked at all cute. She looked lethal.

         Recognition finally hit, as Kyra realized that they weren't 'mittens' at all, but the woman's real paws.

         "Excellent," the thug stated.          

         Hold still, Princess came a familiar voice in her head.

         She froze. In the next instant, she became aware of rapid movement from below, as Perry's foot came flying straight up. She heard a terrible shattering sound as his foot and his leg broke right through the hand holding the weapon.          

         As the gun went flying away from her, the thug screamed with rage, and wrapped the injured arm around her chest, squeezing her with impossible strength. He backed up, still grasping her hair.

         He yelled "I'll kill...," but Perry was now in the air before them, mid-leap, rotating as his kick came around and through. She felt the wind as it passed just above her head. In the corner of her vision she saw an object flying off to one side as he landed.          

         The thug fell backward, his arm still gripping her chest, pulling her over on top of him as he hit the ground.          

         She knew what she would see when she looked in the direction the object had flow... but she didn't expect it to speak. Lying on the floor against a cabinet and looking at them, the head of the Ghalzite snarled "Damn you, Argovian!"          

         "You got rough with her again. I knocked your head off as promised," Perry replied. "Believe me, next time."          

         Realizing now that she was sprawled on top of a headless body, Kyra fought her way loose of the arm and off the thing in a wide-eyed panic. Perry grabbed her by the shoulders and stopped her from running. "It's over, Highness! Calm down!"

         "That thing can still talk!!" she gibbered in terror, but he kept holding her firmly.          

         His voice flooded into her mind, again, strong and calm. Ghalzites are a race of machines. Robots. Their brain cases are self-contained units. It's still active, but it's harmless without its body.          

         She stared into his violet eyes, panic still raging, but the calm wave of reassurance he was enveloping her mind in overpowered her. It was the safest spot nearby, so she huddled up against his chest, trembling as he wrapped comforting arms around her, his thoughts continuing to do the same for her shaking mind.          

         Dirk sat up, groggy but unhurt, as the human-shaped amoeba coalesced slowly into a human girl with violet eyes. Perry nodded at her. "Thanks, Sis!" Then, he looked around the room. "And Leisha... and Your Majesty..."          

         She looked up at him in shock. "Your Majesty?!" He had been looking straight at....          

         "Nyaah!" declared Cat-girl. Kyra turned to look at the bizarre woman.

         It couldn't be, but now it had to be. This creature was…

         "Mom?"          

         Cat-girl, whose eyes were indeed the same purple as her mother's, answered with a head-tip and a "Mew?"          

         Perry chuckled. "She tells me she has been trying to talk to you since they arrived, but for some reason you still don't hear her. She cooked up this morph to try to get through to you, kind of a shock-value thing. Apparently it didn't work."

         She looked up at Perry. "You're not trying to tell me that an Argovian looks like that?" gesturing at her... mother.

         "No, thank goodness," he laughed, and then pointed at the ex-amoeba girl. "My sister was in native Argovian form when she arrived. She just learned it a few weeks ago. Her body can take more punishment in a fight using Argovian shape. They're tougher than Humans."          

         He looked over at her mother, grinned and nodded, then looked back to Kyra. "Your mom tells me she imitated the cat-girl form out of one of your brother's manga"          

         "I should have guessed," she muttered, then looked at the woman again. "If you're Mom, how come all you say is 'mew' and 'nyaah'?"          

         "Um..." Perry hazarded. "I think the morph would be too human-like if she could talk. Wouldn't qualify as 'resting' from human form."          

         She heard Ronni giggling and looked her way. Her friend smirked at her. "Look at you! I told you that you two would make a cute couple!"          

         She realized she was still clinging to Perry, who was still holding her. Her first impulse was to break away in embarrassment.          

         No, she decided. Not just yet.          

         "Silence," the princess ordered, and chose to remain where she was.          

End Episode One




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