Captured Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

Eight years after coming to Earth, I sat at the dining table of our home in Emeryville, California pretending to do my schoolwork. Every time my adoptive mom, Tina, wasn’t looking, I’d switch back to my newest videogame. I was determined to beat before any of my friends did.

As mom bustled about the kitchen preparing a delicious smelling dinner, she hummed her favorite eighties tune. Though a bit past middle-age, she was beautiful. She had huge, soft brown eyes, long raven-black hair, high cheekbones and a brick-red tan. Laugh-lines made up her only wrinkles.

The doorbell rang and my adoptive dad answered it.

“I’ve come for my daughter,” my real father’s voice resounded from the living room.

I hadn’t heard a thing from him since being sent away. I twisted in my chair to look at Tina. She and Bill had taken me in when I’d come to Earth. They’d adopted me a few years later when he’d failed to come and claim me. Now my nice comfortable life with parents who loved me might be over.

Tina stood frozen, mixing bowl in hand. Her tan face was sheet-white.

“Where is she?” my father, Ebon Milett, demanded.  

Tina glanced at the kitchen door and then back at me in panic. “Twyla, stay here,” she ordered in a hushed tone. She set the bowl on the counter with a clatter and rushed into the living room.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Bill’s voice sounded unusually harsh as he asked, “Who are you?” Beyond the anger, I could somehow tell he knew exactly who this guy was and it terrified him.

"I know Twyla's here," Ebon said. To me, his voice was like a song I hadn’t heard in ages but could never forget. It both thrilled and terrified me. I entered the living room despite Tina’s effort to turn me back. Ebon stood at the front door of our apartment with Bill blocking his entrance.

I stepped toward them. “Father?”

He’d changed. His black hair was now almost completely gray. Dark bags under his eyes and a horrified expression marred his once handsome face.

A wave of revulsion washed over me. It wasn’t my own emotions I felt, it was his. My empathic powers were back. Suddenly, I knew that he’d come with the hope of reclaiming his little girl, but now he couldn’t stand the sight of me. I reminded him too much of my mother.

Memories of my life before coming to the Splendors flooded my mind. They hit me like waves, knocking me out of the present. Suddenly, I was reliving the day my parents split up.

My father, a brave and decorated officer in the Zartous military, had completely crumbled under my mother’s empathic onslaught. At seven, my mental shields weren’t developed enough to block the stabbing penetration of her empathically raping him. I felt every thrust as she tore through his mind. Once she was done, I’d gone to him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and tried to comfort him. Cassie wrenched me away and hauled me out the door kicking and screaming. I hoped against reason he’d do something to stop her from taking me away. But he did nothing.  

Tina hugged me tightly against her, breaking me free from the flashback. She rocked me side to side and whispered in my ears. Her soft, sweet voice anchored me to the present. I collapsed into her embrace sick from the mental anguish I’d just experienced.

I'm not sure which hurt more: feeling how much my own father hated me, or knowing the fact that I could sense his feelings meant my empathic abilities were back. I was like my real mother, Cassie. I was a monster. The Kobbi race had been banned from the Paraxous Star Cluster by Sovereign Zartous because our empathic powers were just too dangerous. I had been glad they’d been blocked before I was sent to Earth. Now those powers were back and I couldn’t control them.

Tina started to usher me down the hall toward my room. Bill stepped aside to let my father come in. "I'll deal with our guest," he said, giving Ebon a wary glare.

"I am Colonel Ebon Milett and that is my daughter. Hand her over." For a second, he became the man he used to be. His sharp steel-grey eyes narrowed. He might not have been wearing his uniform, but his posture and bearing shouted military command.

His revulsion at the sight of me still twisted my gut. It wasn't just that I had the same dark auburn hair and pine-green eyes as my mother, I was the very image of her as a young woman.

"Why should they hand me over to you?” I screamed at him. “You don't even want me!" Tina tried to get me out of the living room, but I refused to go. I broke from her grip and charged at Ebon. "I can feel it, you son-of-a-bitch! I can feel everything now."

"Twyla," Bill and Tina said at the same time. I wasn't allowed to use such language.

I felt them both trying to force back their panic. Their emotions had a distinctly different flavor than Ebon's. They loved me so much it squelched my temper’s fire. I gave in to Tina's embrace. "Make it stop,” I sobbed. “I don't want to be a mutelouge."

She stiffened. Apparently, she knew mutelouge was a profane derogatory term used for hybrids in the Paraxous Cluster. A strangled cry escaped her, but it was Bill who spoke. "You are not a mutelouge. You are a Kobbi. It's going to be okay, Twyla. We knew this day would come."

"We just didn't think it would be so soon or that your powers would come back so suddenly," Tina said, glaring accusingly at Ebon.

His expression changed from disgust to confusion. "What the hell? Are you telling me she'd lost her abilities?"

As Tina turned me and led me away, Bill explained in his deep, rich voice, "She was sent to us with all her empathic powers blocked. Seeing you must have somehow released them."

"Ah, hell. You mean she could have been normal?” I heard Colonel Ebon Milett say before Tina closed my bedroom door.

She sat me on the edge of my bed and knelt in front of me. She was saying something, but I was lost in the whirlwind of emotions emanating from her. I tried blocking it without success. It was inside of me and I had no clue how to get it out.

Tina called to me. I followed her pleading voice like a lifeline. She saw she had my attention again and gave me an encouraging smile. "That's my girl. You can control it. You just have to learn to feel where your mind and emotions end and where the empathic energy of others begins."

I understood the concept and tried to separate what was me from what was her. But it was no use. Love and fear poured from her in a tidal-wave. It overpowered me, engulfed me, drowned me. I couldn't breathe.

"Just go away," I gasped. "I need to be alone."

We went back and forth a few times. She wanted to stay and comfort me, but I needed to be by myself. Shouts from the living room ended our debate. She told me to stay in my room and hurried out.

My cat, Little Miss, crawled out from under my bed and jumped up beside me. We'd gotten her years ago, not long after my arrival, when she was just a kitten. Now that the tuxedo cat was over twenty-two pounds, the name was a bit ironic. She rubbed against me, purring.

My cell phone rang. I ignored it. A moment later it beeped, letting me know I had a text. Out of habit I glanced at it. It was my best friend, Vance, asking my ETA. We were supposed to get together to watch a movie this afternoon.

If there was anyone I could have talked to about all this it was Vance. We were both refugees from the Paraxous Star Cluster living in hiding here on Earth. He was the only one of my friends that knew the truth about me being half-Kobbi. But right then I was too worried that my empathic powers would go all berserk to risk talking to anyone, even him. I replied that something had come up and I couldn't make it.

I curled up with my back against the wall and Little Miss in my lap just staring out the window. Pixar Studios, where my mom worked, was visible, so was the bay beyond, but my mind drifted back to a different time and place. Back to the last days I'd had with my brother, Terrel, on Oweena.

 I’d spent a lot of time staring out his window and could picture the view: several moons in the sky, enormous buildings with people of different avian races flying between them, and hover-cars zipping by above.

My mind slipped from just memories to flashbacks of all the abuse Cassie had put me through. Since the day I'd woke to find that I'd been smuggled to Earth, my previous life had grown so distant I'd almost forgotten the pain. Of course, the years of therapy with some dweeb from the Paraxous who specialized in post-traumatic stress disorder had probably helped.    

But all the therapy in the universe couldn’t change the fact that my mother belong to an illegal, genetically engineered race. Worse yet, she was a mind-raping Dashia. The sect of Kobbies had abused their empathic powers for their own gain to the point of nearly ruining the Paraxous Cluster.

My parents came in to find me crying, a very rare thing for me. Punishments from my birth-parents had taught me to be tough. Cassie would send out a mental slap of annoyance whenever I cried, and Ebon forced me to stand silently at attention until I stopped. They’d never comforted me the way Bill and Tina did.

Unfortunately, the empathic connection between me and my adoptive parents immediately reestablished itself. Their fear of losing me invaded my own thoughts and feelings. Through it I sensed their desire to undo the damage that had been done and stop the pain I was going through.

"Twyla, it's going to be okay," Tina said.

“Stop saying that!” I shouted, “It’s never going to be okay!”

“It’s just going to take time--"   

“Time!” I shrieked. “Time isn’t going to change the fact that I’m a vreking mutelouge.”

“Twyla,” Bill said in the firm parental tone he reserved for when I really got out of line. “We understand you’re upset. You have every right to be. But that’s no reason to yell at your mother, who loves you very much, or to use that word.”

I felt him calculating the best way to cut through my hysteria. He continued with a speech he’d obviously prepared for the day my empathic abilities resurfaced. “You are a Crean-Kobbi, a race that proudly served the Paraxous Star Cluster for centuries. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of.”

"You want me to be proud of being a monster?" I cried in disbelief. They obviously didn't know the true story of my race. We were a genetic experiment gone wrong. All this time, I'd hoped those powers would never return. I had hoped being only half Kobbi would save me from that curse.

"You are not a monster," they answered in unison.

"You're not from the Paraxous Cluster. You don't understand!" I hollered at the two people I loved the most and started knocking knickknacks off my bedside stand. Little Miss gave an irritated meow. She jumped off my lap and onto the floor. After giving me another disapproving meow, she scampered under the bed. I was too deep in the storm of a tantrum to care.

"I should just go with my real father. That way you won't have to deal with me," I yelled, then immediately wished I could take it back.

Mom started crying. My anger fled. “I’m sorry. I guess I just can’t understand why you’d want to keep a mutelouge around.”

Bill bristled at the term but his tone was more exasperated than angry. “Twyla, stop saying that. We may be Earthlings, but we do know something about the Cluster's history. The Kobbi were heroes--Guardians, leaders, who bridged the gap between the races. It was and still is the Dashia who abused their power.”

"And my mother is one of them," I shot back. The memories of all the times she'd invaded my mind in order to punish me slammed into my gut. I threw up without warning.

Bill grabbed a trashcan and shoved it in front of my face catching most of it. He helped me to the bathroom and brushed my hair back as I knelt at the toilet.

Tina appeared a moment later with a syringe in hand. "This will help your body recover from the trauma," she explained. She pinched my forearm and jabbed me with the needle.

After a minute, I stopped throwing up. After another minute, I sat back on my heels, feeling a bit more normal. "Will it stop my empathic powers?" I asked.

"No. The medicine slows their return and makes it easier for you to control," Bill said.

"Can you just keep giving it to me?" I begged, looking desperately at mom. She was usually the softer touch.

Tina looked to Bill. Finally he said, "For a while. Just until you have a chance to adjust." He saw that I was about to argue and raised a hand to stop me. "We can talk about this later. Right now, I need to know what to tell...what to tell Colonel Milett."

Anger exploded within me. “Wait. My father's still here!” I got up and stormed toward the living room, ready to tell Colonel Milett what I thought of him. Bill and Tina held me back. “You can tell him that I hate him and I never want to see him again!” I yelled loud enough to make sure the man who’d deserted me to the mercies of a Dashia could hear.

“No! Twyla. Stop.” Bill took me by the shoulders and knelt in front of me. “That man had his mind wiped so Cassiopeia DeConnett wouldn’t know what he’d done. He knew a Dashia Hunter was after your mother. He convinced the Hunter to rescue you instead of killing her. It's because of his sacrifice that we have you.”

Tina continued the story. “He was fully aware she’d know he was hiding something, but if the memory itself was gone, she wouldn’t be able to find out what he’d done no matter how deeply she dug. He was in a near vegetative state at a mental reconstruction center when the Dashia Hunter brought you to us. He wasn’t expected to recover.”

The weight of my previous anger crashed back on me. My shoulders sagged with defeat. I went into the living room to apologize only to find he was gone. I ran to the front door, opened it, and looked both ways down the hall. I was about to call out for him, but Bill yanked me back inside.

He closed the door. "We can't draw any attention to ourselves. I know how to contact him. So if you wish to reconcile with your father, we can arrange it."

My earlier words about Ebon Milett being my real father bit at my conscience, but there was no bitterness in Bill’s tone. There was a universe of fear in his next statement, though. "The real question is: how did he find us? And since he did, how long before Cassiopeia DeConnett does?" 

Tina took Bill’s hand and gazed up at him, her laugh lines now creases of worry. "What are we going to do?"

He gazed back at her with a peaceful smile. His hazel eyes held a depth of wisdom few could match. I'd always thought my adopted dad looked a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only a bit more handsome. "We go ahead just as we’d planned for when this day came."

Tina blanched and I felt a wave of grief for the life we'd have to leave behind. Then her expression and her emotions became almost as serene and determined as Dad's.

"Do you think we should cancel tomorrow?" I asked. They both winced. I added, "Sorry, but you guys aren't that good at being sneaky. And Vance has been acting suspicious for days now and wouldn't tell me what was going on. So it was kind of obvious you were planning a surprise party."

Tomorrow wasn't my actual birthday. It was the anniversary of the day Bill and Tina took custody of me when I was seven. They'd chosen that month and day for my fake birth certificate and so as far as everyone knew I turned sixteen tomorrow.

Bill considered things for a minute, then answered, "No. That'd be too suspicious. We can't let on that anything's wrong. It'll take us a couple day to make arrangements, so until then it's business as usual." With a reassuring smile he said, "Besides, the nearest Paraxous planet is over a week away. Even if Cassiopeia gets word that your father found you, it'll take her a while to get anyone here. We'll be long gone by then."

"You mean we're leaving Earth?" I asked in dismay.

He forced his expression to brighten. "I've always dreamed of seeing the Paraxous Cluster. I guess now's our chance."  


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